Last December, I presented at OEB in Berlin. It was a crazy time of the year – flat out at work and too busy on my return to post anything meaningful about it. Then when I did have time, the lead up to Christmas saw me preparing frantically for that and focused on family activities. Holidays saw me do something I hadn’t done in the longest time. Down tools and rest.
I needed it. Last year was time of great change for me. New school, new routines, new challenges. New, but similar to to what I had worked on for nearly three years at Toorak College in my position as Director of ICT and eLearning. What I presented at OEB is outlined below in the abstract I wrote for the conference proceedings and is a summation of that experience.
At its essence is what I think is the need to upskill the technology skills of everyone in your school, not just the early adopters, the willing few. If you hold a position of responsibility in the eLearning space, there’s a need to build the capacity of the many, not just the few. To do this takes strong resolve and a need to work strategically. In my view, you need to identify the platforms that will best suit the educational outcomes your school is trying to achieve and you need a focused approach to implement effectively, supporting your staff through the process and building a sense of community around the professional learning required to bring people with you.
I’m fully enmeshed in this challenge once again. I’m now working across a multi campus school and rolling out the curriculum component of another LMS. This time, SEQTA. The challenge is bigger with a staff four times the size of my previous school, but the premise is the same – build teacher capacity at scale. I have a good team around me – let’s see if we can pull it off.
In the meantime, read the abstract. My blueprint.
What does it take to scale adoption of technology in your school?
In 2013 I was appointed to the position of Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College in Melbourne, Australia. Toorak College was a 1:1 Laptop school where pockets of innovation were occurring with use of technology, but many staff were using computers at what Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model would describe as substitution level. Use of Microsoft word processing tools were mainstream and a Learning Management System running off Sharepoint was used but wasn’t fulfilling the purpose of being the common place for delivery of classroom content.
Prior to gaining this position I had read Michael Fullan’s book, ‘Stratosphere’. Within it he identified four criteria for technology and pedagogy to maximise learning.
“It must be irresistibly engaging; elegantly efficient (challenging but easy to use); technologically ubiquitous; and steeped in real-life problem solving.” (Fullan, Stratosphere)
This formed the criteria for my approach to the introduction of new platforms to aid in building capacity with new learning technology tools at a level of scale for both teachers and students within the school.
Toorak College had identified new strategic goals that included the following:
One school – greater communication across a Junior and Senior campus and a unified approach
Quality Teaching and Learning.
To help meet the achievement of these strategic goals, 2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (a product called Schoolbox). This platform enabled teachers to create class pages where they were encouraged to explain what was happening in class each week (or lesson) and to populate this page with the resources students would need to undertake learning tasks. Homework needed to be posted and assessment task due dates needed to be visible. It was an expectation that every teacher use this platform to enable students to have a ‘go to’ point to know what was happening within the school and to keep abreast of what they needed for their classes. The developers of the system responded to critique we levelled at their product concerning the fact that the forums didn’t provide threaded comment trails and there was little opportunity for students to add content and co-create curriculum. They developed a page component called ‘Social Stream’ that enabled students to post comments and upload files and web content. This addition vastly improved the system and saw teachers encouraging their students to pose questions and add resources that could enrich the curriculum. This enabled two way communication and collaboration rather than just a one way teacher directed approach to curriculum delivery.
During 2013, investigation into Google Apps for Education began. Decisions to move staff and students in Cloud Computing (SAAS) solutions are complex and require thoughtful planning and consideration. Google Apps for Education was considered for the following reasons:
- the collaborative nature of the docs – the way students can work together and co-create
- the visibility of works in progress when shared with teachers
- the ability to provide feedback and formative assessment easily at point of need, when students are in the process of writing
- the cloud storage provided to users – unlimited storage for each user
- providing staff with a cloud storage option that sits within a school domain, instead of staff opening their own cloud storage accounts eg: Dropbox, and sharing school documents outside of a school domain
Extensive investigation into Google’s security measures and the SLA (service level agreement) offered to schools was entered into, with the reference point for this investigation being the Australian Signals Directorate’s (Defence Force) Cloud Computing considerations. This process is documented in a blog post called, ‘Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? Coupled with this was investigation into Hapara Teacher Dashboard. Hapara is a third party application used with Google Apps for Education. It provides an instructional management layer for teachers. Teachers access their dashboard and are given a snapshot view of student activity across Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Sites. Any time a student uploads a file to a folder that is visible in the teacher’s dashboard view, that document is instantly writable by the teacher. This enables teachers to access student documents easily and they can provide formative assessment on work in progress. When a teacher leaves a comment on a document, the student receives email notification. If the student replies, the teacher is sent an email. This enables a quick feedback loop for students.
A report tabled to the School Executive led to agreement that Google Apps for Education combined with the management layer of Hapara Teacher Dashboard was an appropriate platform that had the potential to improve the technology capacity of teachers and students and develop a collaborative culture that would help meet the school’s strategic goals.
2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across Toorak College. Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices were introduced in the Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. Professional development opportunities and support in the LMS online environment were offered to build teacher capacity. The College wide move to Gmail as part of this initiative was instrumental in seeing adoption and understanding of Google Drive. Staff members’ need to understand the new mail interface spawned opportunities to discuss mail’s integration with Google Drive. This led to strong adoption of the platform, reinforced by the leadership team’s use of Google Docs as a means for sharing of key information and for collaboration for meeting notes.
Feedback about Google Drive and Hapara Teacher Dashboard from staff and students can be seen below:
“Hapara has changed my life in the classroom immensely. I love it”
“It works really well for individual or group tasks. In group tasks I can see if all students are doing an equal share of the work”.
“Google Docs works best for my teaching style, it has changed my work load for the better”.
“I love the quick feedback”
“I love the accessibility and the accountability”
“I like that I can easily back up my work”
“Google Apps works well for school, because it allows me to have my work constantly backed up. It can be used offline, so the use of internet browsers doesn’t restrict my ability to work. It is easy to organise my work with and has all the capabilities of programs on my computer, but with the ease of mind of constantly backed up work and the ability to work from my phone or another computer”
2015 saw consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. The LMS was fully integrated into school life and all teachers had a presence and the skills to create class pages. The focus for staff development was in seeing full integration of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard into everyone’s practice. Continued professional development sessions were offered and analysis of platform use enabled identification of staff members with little presence. This led to focused professional development opportunities.
The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition describes “Scaling Teaching Innovations” as a “Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address”. Having a coherent strategy around technology platforms to utilise in a school or district system goes some way to meeting the challenge of scaling teaching innovations. When teachers are provided with the tools that allow for collaborative practice, quick and easy insight into student work in progress, ease of providing formative assessment, tools that allow students to become creators of content and the ability for group work to be managed effectively, there lies the potential for teachers to have opportunities to rethink their pedagogical practices. When everyone is utilising common tools, you are speaking the same language and can support one another in gaining a deeper understanding of the tool’s potential to facilitate richer learning experiences and become a normalised part of the teaching and learning process.
(2014). Cloud Computing Security Considerations: ASD Australian … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.asd.gov.au/publications/protect/cloud_computing_security_considerations.htm.
Luca, J. (2014). Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? | Lucacept … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from https://jennyluca.com/2014/04/03/moving-to-the-cloud-what-should-you-consider/.
Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.amazon.com/Stratosphere-Integrating-Technology-Pedagogy-Knowledge/dp/0132483149.
(2015). NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition | The New Media … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/.
Puentedura, R. (2012). The SAMR model: Background and exemplars. Retrieved June, 24, 2013.
(2011). Schoolbox Learning Management System (LMS) & School … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://schoolbox.com.au/.