Why I’m not suffering from ‘Technostress’

I was reading an article in  TechnologyEd (part of Australian Teacher magazine) about ‘Technostress’.

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Here is the workflow of my Year 9 lesson on Friday (note: we are a 1:1 laptop school).

Prior to class updated class page on LMS (Learning Management System) to let students know what was happening for the class. Loaded a YouTube link in the collaborative space (social stream) on the class page to spark discussion for the start of class. 

Start of class. Linked my screen to IWB using the Apple TV (we have put them in all classrooms to eliminate need for cabling and to provide a method for mirroring that will enable devices to connect regardless of ports they have – Air Parrot helps us to connect PCs via the Apple TV)

Opened LMS class page – showed the YouTube video. See below. 

Sparked a great discussion about sexualisation of young girls and entrepreneurship. Not specific to what we are focused on at the moment, but I’m a great believer in starting class with something that prompts thinking and sets the climate right for the rest of the lesson. Brain juices were flowing. 

Last student group were presenting a project. Opened my Hapara Teacher Dashboard and went to the student grid view – found the student’s Google Slide presentation and opened it so it was viewable to the class. 

After presentation, opened my Google Drive to create a collaborative doc that students could work on to provide feedback about what elements were necessary for an effective presentation. Pasted link in LMS class page so all students could access it quickly and begin offering their thoughts. Advised them to write their name in the doc so that they could ‘pin’ a place in the doc for their input. 

Had the doc viewable on the screen so that we could all see the doc forming. Set a time limit to encourage them to get ideas down quickly. 

Students identified elements of effective presentations and explained their choices. We then did some verbal analysis of the presentations they had been delivering in previous sessions and identified what they did well and what could have been done better. 

Sent them to the LMS class page to click on the link to another page developed to support our Pecha Kucha task  – they were just being introduced to the idea. A link to the Pecha Kucha site was on the page. We looked at the page together and played a couple from the most viewed section to learn about the technique. 

Class ended. Students were reminded to add comments to the Social Stream on the class page in response to the Tree House Dolls video and to add anything there they see that they think may be worth us looking at as a class. 

While I understand that there are teachers who feel stressed by the introduction of computing into classrooms and our constant availability when online spaces become the norm and expected practice in your school, I think some of us who have adapted would find it more stressful to have the technology removed.

Personally, I can’t imagine working differently from the way I’ve described above. I’m not sure my students want to work any differently either.

But I do want to qualify this: our school has strategically provided the systems we need to enable a workflow like mine to be possible. Teachers need support to understand how systems can work to complement one another enabling technology to become normalised practice within a classroom.

I’d recommend a read of the TechnologyEd edition. They do make some good points about the use of email in schools and the changing expectations of school community members when we are contactable 24/7. There was a suggestion teachers might want to delete their Twitter account – not happening here anytime soon!

Normalisation

I had one of those moments in my Language of our Times class today when you know technology has become normalised within your classroom.

Poet Alicia Sometimes was visiting, running a workshop to help my students gain insight into how to begin writing Spoken Word poetry. After watching a couple of examples from YouTube and discussing how they might get started, they launched into groups to begin the writing process.

What happened next?

Google Drives were opened, members of the class created a Doc and shared it with others in their group and the writing process began.

Just like that. No prompting. No suggestion that Google Docs would be a good way to collaborate. Nothing.

Normalisation of technology use.

Technology as facilitator for learning.

As it should be.

How an internal Teachmeet can help forge a professional learning community

One of the things I set out to do when I took on the role of Director of ICT and eLearning at my school, was to find ways for our staff to share what’s happening in their classrooms. Despite the fact that we often are working in environments with large numbers of staff working within very close proximity of one another, teaching can be an isolated and sometimes lonely profession. Very often, we’re unaware of what is happening in peoples’ classrooms and it’s difficult to find moments where we can get together en masse to share.

In our meeting schedule, we scheduled a Teachmeet as our last staff meeting for the term. I love the idea of Teachmeets, but I’ve yet to attend one. They are informal gatherings of teachers where strategies, new approaches etc are shared and most of them take place on weekends in locations close to the city. I find it really difficult to get to them given the demands of family life and the sheer fact that I’m pretty tired from the working week and need the weekend to recuperate (and do the washing, vacuum the floors etc etc). Last year, when I attended ISTE in San Diego, one of my Australian friends shared how they have Teachmeets with their staff so I thought this would be something we could replicate to bring people together and help to build our professional learning community.

I’ve been very fortunate to have fifteen teachers from across the school volunteer (with a bit of coaxing!) to be eLearning coaches, and seven of them, along with myself, agreed to run a 7 minute information sharing session about something they’re doing. We ended up with a line up that included the following:

Infographics and how to use and create them

iPad/iPhone apps and their use in a Maths classroom

Using Edmodo as a virtual learning platform for your class

Backing up data – what are the options

Flipping your classroom and using a blog to share information (two teachers demonstrated what they’re doing using these methods)

Using Skype to connect with other classrooms and Ning as a platform for teacher resource sharing

Scootle and how to use it to support Australian Curriculum implementation

In my email to staff about the event, I said the following:

There’s a requirement that this will be a fun event, so bring along your good humour, great catching skills and supportive smiles as your peers share their practice with you.

The great catching skills were needed for the lolly throws that took place between presentations, and the supportive smiles were absolutely necessary to help staff present in front of their peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather address an audience of 200 strangers than I would the people I work with on a daily basis. I think we were all feeling a degree of stress about the afternoon, but it was unfounded. Our peers were very supportive and got into the spirit of the afternoon. Lollies were caught, laughter was shared, music was played in between presentations and sessions provoked discourse between participants.

The feedback from the Teachmeet has been fabulous. In the hours after I received emails from staff saying how much they’d enjoyed the meeting and that it was fun and engaging. This continued throughout the week when people approached me saying how much they’d taken from it and how the format was perfect for a positive end of term meeting celebrating what’s happening in the school. Our eLeaning coaches who presented have been approached by staff who want to know more about what they’re doing and want opportunities to learn from them.

Sometimes we neglect to explore the expertise that exists within our own staff. We send people out to expensive external professional development where they hear from others when it’s quite possible similar expertise is being played out in classrooms next door to them. Becoming a professional learning community within the walls of your school means finding opportunities like internal Teachmeets where people can discover the experts among them, and build the rapport and professional dialogue with peers that can become a model for others to follow.

Schedule an internal Teachmeet with your staff next term – I don’t think you’ll regret it.  They’re becoming a permanent fixture in our school calendar!

 

Wallwisher for collective intelligence

I’m trying this year to make a concerted effort to shift more of my teaching into collaborative sites to make the most of collective intelligence. I’m really pleased that the Year 9 English team I work with has once again enthusiastically embraced the use of Ning across the year level to support our learning. What’s even better is that the Yr 10 teachers have decided to use a Ning platform across their English classrooms as well. I’m especially pleased about this because the students who enjoyed writing in the Ning last year have some continuity and input into their learning.

I’ve known about Wallwisher for awhile but didn’t see a use for it with the work I was doing with my students. I don’t like to use applications like this gratuitously; it has to be meaningful to what we are doing in class. This week we were doing character analysis and it came to me that Wallwisher might be useful to track our thinking. Our task has been to find quotes from the novel we are reading (Bye, Beautiful by Julia Lawrinson) that help us with our understanding of the characters. We’ve created walls for Sandy, Frank, Billy and Marianne and the links to these have been pasted into a text box on the Ning so that everyone has easy access to them. Here’s an example of the wall with quotes applicable to Sandy;

What we are doing is leveraging our collective intelligence for the good of the group. Eventually, we’ll be writing an essay related to this text and the students will be able to access these walls to see if there may be quotes there that are useful to use as supporting evidence for the points they are making.

I can see Wordle would be useful to create a word bank of descriptive terms related to the novel and specific characters. If you’ve got ideas for other sites I could be using I’d appreciate leveraging the collective intelligence of my readers!

Tiny Chat – good fun

A couple of weeks ago I had a go at using  Tiny Chat. It’s a very cool little tool that enables you to create your own chatroom and invite people to share chat with you by sending them to a link that you are provided with. Here is what it looks like when you get into the site;

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You don’t have to sign up for anything, just click on create my chatroom and you will be provided with a link that you can share with whomever it may be that you want to chat with. Everyone who has the link  just needs to click on the link and they’ll  be taken to the room that has been created.

I used it in my Yr 9 class the day after I’d had a play with it. I created the chatroom and sent the link to all the class members. I posted a discussion topic and our aim was that we were going to use the chat to post our thoughts. We would then be able to see the updates on the screen we have at the front of the room (we have a data projector).

We met a hitch when not all students found themselves in the room together. About 15 of us were sharing the same chat, but some others were in the chat with only a couple of others. Weird. I’m not sure what went wrong but it was interesting seeing how it might work. I’m going to give it another go at some stage. The students certainly were interested in the idea, maybe because it gives them the means to set up chats themselves. 

I know that Tiny Chat  works well with one or two participants; maybe having 21 in the chat was being a bit ambitious!

Meetsee for collaboration

In the Oz/NZ flashmeeting the other night, Dean Groom took us into his Meetsee virtual office space. I found it very interesting and have been thinking about how appealing it would be for use with secondary school students.

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I could see my students finding this kind of meeting space meaningful. It’s probably suited for collaborative work across schools or even perhaps year levels. At the moment I’m struggling to find suitable times for teams of teachers to meet -perhaps we could arrange meetings in a Meetsee space and we’d have more success. I need to play around with it more, but I love the fact that you can use the television screens in the room to upload presentations or YouTube videos.

The best thing I can do is direct you to Dean Groom’s blog where he has written a post about the features Meetsee has. I laughed when I read this;

Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.  

I have to admit I was wondering why Dean was wandering around the space as a female avatar with his head uploaded. I thought it was another manifestation of his sense of humour!

I think Meetsee looks really promising. You can sign up for free and get an office space that can host up to 15 participants. I saw in a comment on Dean’s post that they are looking at developing an education version and would be interested in receiving feedback. Could be even more promising if this pans out.

From little things big things grow

Funny how life is isn’t it. Sometimes a smallish idea can manifest into something that could be great. Sue Tapp set up a Flash meeting tonight for Oz educators as an  opportunity to touch base and make some connections outside of our blogs and twitter. She planted a seed and didn’t even know it. It was great and I want to publicly thank Sue for making the effort to get this meeting organised – 20 people participated and it was useful but we did have problems with the setup. This led to the always thinking Sue Waters moving to ustream and then elluminate to see if they worked any better.

Once in elluminate the seed started to grow. I came in late after attending to homework and kid’s bedtime and the discussion was in full swing. Vicki Davis was acting as moderator with Sue Waters and the discussion focused on  digital citizenship and the best way we could educate our students, parents, colleagues, administrators and education departments about the value of participating as global citizens via digital means.  As a reult of the discussion, a Google group has been set up  – Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety and Success. If you’re a Teacher-Librarian join and contribute to the discussion. This is an area where TLs should be active and an active TL is their own best advocate. We don’t need policy documents drawn up to prove our worth -we need to be active in our schools and leading the charge in terms of modelling and no-one will question the need for TLs in schools.

There was a lot of energy in the session and twitter talk was buzzing afterwards. It’s promising to have a global group forming and will give people an avenue through which ideas can be shared which may affect perception and initiate education and change. Let’s see what kind of tree grows from the small seed. (Being an Aussie seed it’s bound to be a eucalypt – huge with lots of vigorous growth!)