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Technology for learning: Technology experimentation across the Colleges

From the Guest Editor:

In this section, four case studies of experimentation are presented from around the group. Alex Smith (DCS) assesses the use of OneNote (Microsoft Office 365) to improve communication and sharing of feedback between teacher and student. Claire Phillips (DCB) compares the use of Plickers and Kahoot applications as effective means for formative assessment. Kieron Norris and Claire Synot (DCSG) investigate how iBeacons can be used to deliver individualised learning in the classroom and beyond. Andy Brown (DCSL) experiments with the use of iPads in Art, using the Brushes App.

  1. Using OneNote

by Alex Smith at Dulwich College Shanghai

Alex started his career as a Web Developer working on large corporate websites, developing video content and AJAX functionality within existing systems. After determining he had progressed as far as he could, Alex moved into data analysis and eventually consulted on data trends with senior management. In 2011, he followed my heart to start teaching ICT and has since moved into ICT integration to modernize and enhance the ICT curriculum.

In international schools in China we have a dilemma: how do we replace Google tools that teachers have started to use with minimal effort with something similarly user intuitive? For Dulwich College Shanghai and other schools in the Dulwich group, one answer to this question has been Office 365. Of all the problems teachers face, marking is consistently prodding at the back of the brain. Two problems exist here - getting the student to submit the work in the first place and dealing with the ever-growing pile of work left for the teacher to mark. Microsoft has developed a key tool for this battle, OneNote Notebooks.

By developing student notebooks, teachers at DCS have been able to create an effective repository of homework tasks, to which all students in their class have access. Unlike a Virtual Learning Environment where pages must be created, requiring the teacher to dedicate time to the formation of a professional look and feel, OneNote allows teachers to attach their existing worksheets to a tab, which students can then download directly from the Internet. If the student has trouble remaining connected to the Internet (a common problem in China), the free OneNote app can be downloaded for Microsoft and Apple operating systems and will synchronise whenever an Internet connection is available.

Once a student has completed the homework, a simple upload of the completed task can be added to his or her own area. This is visible only to the student and the teacher, who can communicate directly. One of the most interesting results to come from this is that the student is responding directly to teacher feedback and creating a dialogue based on marking. As a teacher, I found creating this dialogue to be one of the hardest parts of feeding back to a student. Generally, feedback was given at the start of a class to all students, and because they were among their peers, students were reluctant to demonstrate their weaknesses. In an online setting, a feeling of comfort seems to settle over students, who know that the only people participating in the discussion are trusted to react with the requisite empathy and support.

Teachers have found that, as well as being used for homework submission, the collaboration area of OneNote to be a useful tool. It has its problems, not least managing to focus students on the task at hand, instead of adding casual “hello” and “lol” messages to the screen. But used in a constructive manner, teachers have managed to get some useful collaborative class brainstorming from students.

It’s not perfect, and no one would claim it to be, but introducing a group of novice users to OneNote and having them using it within a short period of time is incredibly useful. The short learning curve from having a product that is essentially Word with sharing helps teachers to quickly grasp the key concepts and feel comfortable using the technology with minimal training in front of students. If you’re looking to introduce something that can be adopted fast, and runs with minimal technical problems, you could do worse than to consider OneNote.

  1. Technology in formative assessment: comparing Plickers and Kahoot

by Claire Phillips at Dulwich College Beijing

Claire Phillips is currently Key Stage 3 Coordinator of Science at Dulwich College Beijing. She read Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham. She has an interest in Excel spreadsheets and all things technology.

Assessment for Learning strategies are evolving as technological advances make using formative assessment in the classroom more fun and engaging. Two platforms launched in the past three years, Plickers and Kahoot, are vying for our attention as teachers. Both use the idea of multiple-choice quizzes but with different foci.

Figure 1 Plickers QR codes from plickers.com

 

Plickers is a class voting system that uses QR coded cards to allow students to vote anonymously. The teacher displays the web-based question on the projector, and students rotate their cards 90˚ in order to select the correct answer.

Figure 2 Plickers application from plickers.com

 

 

In order to record the answers, the teacher needs to use a smart phone and the Plickers application. The students individual answers are then stored on the website and the teachers smartphone for later analysis. You can therefore plan your activities according to the outcomes. Hinge Point questions are an ideal application of this. By designing questions to specifically address misconceptions, teachers can quickly sort the students into groups after the question to address issues or extend their knowledge. The dilemma of where to store the QR codes has a number of solutions depending on the age group. To have named cards works well where there is only one group of students in the room such as a Key Stage Two class. In Senior School, you can either issue paper cards that students stick in their exercise books or make re-usable cards that are stored in the classroom and used by multiple classes.

Kahoot was developed at the same time as Plickers, but views the enjoyment of the activity as paramount. Kahoot relies on there being a one-to-one Internet-capable device-to-student ratio. This can be an issue with younger students, but generally at Key Stage Three and above students will either have a laptop or a smart phone. The teacher creates or selects an existing quiz at https://create.kahoot.it and displays it using the projector. A game login PIN is displayed as students go to https://kahoot.it/ to enter it and create their nicknames. This gives the students the feeling of a gaming community and they seem to really enjoy being creative with their nicknames. It is evident that the site is designed with teachers in mind, as it gives the original quiz selector the ability to reject nicknames if they are unsuitable. The questions are quick fire; the faster they are, the more points the students collect. One of the benefits of this is that the report produced at the end enables the teacher to identify students who might have an issue reading questions under pressure. The major advantage is the level of engagement this produces. This can be seen by the wide variety of emotional responses that students exhibit while playing. Students often shout with excitement, groan with the dawning realisation of their mistake or are unable to sit down in anticipation of the next question. Other ways the site encourages engagement is through incorporation of YouTube videos or tension-building music.

Staff and students may prefer one platform over the other, but I like the flexibility of being able to choose the right type of quiz for a specific question, class or student. In the 12 months I have been using these platforms, both have made substantial improvements to functionality and features. Often these changes have been driven by feedback from educators. Technology in the classroom has never been more dynamic, adapting to teacher needs at a phenomenal rate. In fact, in the time between writing this article and editing it before final publication, another platform, Quizlet, has developed a new in-class activity: Quizlet.live. I am excited to see where these sites will go next, and what the next site will add to my classroom.

  1. Using iBeacons

by Kieron Norris and Claire Synott at Dulwich College in Singapore

Kieron Norris is currently Director of IT at Dulwich College in Singapore. Previously at Dulwich College Suzhou, Kieron has been in the Dulwich family for more than five years. Kieron has a passion for IT and is keen to encourage students to explore different ways of accessing technology. Integrating iBeacons into the learning environment can promote the redefinition of tasks and can spark learning opportunities that were previously unachievable.

 

Claire Synott has been teaching with Dulwich College International for four years.  She initially worked at Dulwich College Suzhou where she taught in Years 6 and 4 and held the post of Head of English.  She is currently teaching Year 3 students at Dulwich College in Singapore and acts as Assistant Head of Year.

iBeacon is the name of Apple's technology standard, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons.

Fig.1: A Dulwich iBeacon (wall-mounted or placed on a desk, 7 cm in diameter, US$10/unit)

Introduced in iOS 7, iBeacon technology uses an underlying communication tool known as Bluetooth Low Energy. The technology allows us to “pin” multimedia content to a beacon that might be located in a class, as part of a learning wall or as part of a school tour. Content such as images, video clips and audio can be “pinned” for a defined period, allowing mobile devices to display the content when they are in range. Students with iPads or parents on tour with personal devices running the eLockers App or the Dulwich College (Singapore) App will see items pop-up when in range of a device.

We have already begun to investigate how iBeacons can be used to deliver individualised learning within the classroom. Because iBeacons transmit signals to mobile devices and the content can be controlled, different learning zones can be set up within the classroom, differentiating and customising the learning for individual students. Additionally, the direct access supports eSafety protocols; students are guided to content that has been verified by the teacher or to websites on which they may search safely.

For example, a classroom learning wall showing the life of Ghengis Khan might include a traditional display of written work, pictures, texts and QR codes alongside  beacons that make the journey come alive with more depth and interaction. Utilising the “pinboard” concept within eLockers, teachers can quickly and simply “pin” any content to a beacon. The content might be a springboard to further learning or a question posed by the students.

Beacons have also been used successfully in directed research. Set up with pre-selected content pinned to the noticeboard, the beacons direct selected groups of students to specific resources. This allows teachers to differentiate the task, for example, students researching the same weather topic can be directed to different sources of information appropriate for them. It can also support students researching different topics.  In a class where groups of students were creating presentations about different volcanoes, the beacons directed each group of students to appropriate pre-selected websites.

A clear benefit is timely accessibility to content: as soon as students enter a learning zone, the beacon provides an instant pop-up “noticeboard” directing them to the lesson content, learning tasks and resources. Students can simply pick up their devices, know immediately which applications or websites they need and access them without having to type in a website address or scan a QR code.

Fig.2: Screenshot of eLocker content accessed from an iBeacon from a mobile device

A more sophisticated use could involve parents or students being guided on a tour according to their interests or needs. The route for the tour would be based on a digital map of beacon locations. While this is someway off in terms of logistics, the capability is already in place. To read more about the concept please see the link below:

http://www.specialistapps.com/news/20140819-ibeacons.html

 

  1. iPads in Art: using the Brushes App

by Andy Brown at Dulwich College Seoul

Andy graduated from Loughborough University with a BA in Fine Art Painting in 2002 and received his PGCE from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2003. Originally from London, Andy has taught Art and Design at Dulwich College Seoul since 2012. Before working in Seoul Andy taught Art and Design in Busan. He is a keen artist regularly exhibiting in Korea and in the UK.

In the spring of 2012 I found myself queuing for two hours in the rain without an umbrella. It was the last day of British artist David Hockney’s “Bigger Picture” exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition was notable for Hockney’s huge painterly landscapes of the Yorkshire countryside, along with the first showing of his new works, created entirely on an Apple iPad. The pictures depicted beautiful “electro blobs” capturing the countryside near Hockney’s home town with the detail, tone and mastery seen in any Master’s oil painting. Hockney has always been an innovator and has used the modern technology of the time, from polaroid cameras and fax machines in the 1980s, to a simple, free App on the latest tablet, to produce his unique brand of imagery.

Hockney’s exhibition inspired me to try this new medium for myself, firstly drawing on my phone and then on my tablet, using various colours, pens, brushes and layers to create artworks. This year in Seoul, Primary art teacher Laura Ni Fhlaibhin and I decided to increase the use of ICT across the art curriculum, focusing on using the Brushes painting App.

Since August 2015 we have used Brushes with students across Key Stages One to Four. To evaluate the use of the iPads within our curriculum, we assessed the students’ views on work produced in a recent Year 9 project where students created images for the Lunar New Year assembly. Students in the class completed a survey and were interviewed. The results of the written survey are below.

 

 

I enjoyed using the Ipads

I feel the quality of my work was higher than usual using the Ipads

I would like to use the Ipads more in art lessons

I prefer using the Ipads compared to a pencil and paper, paint and other more traditional art materials

Strongly Agree / Agree (%)

92

33

58

13

Disagree / Strongly Disagree (%)

0

29

17

63

It was noticeable that the use of the iPads engaged the students’ attention from the very first lesson. One student said, “It was the first time we had used the iPads in Art, so therefore it was new and exciting.” In our subsequent conversations the boys also stated that they enjoyed using a device they use in so many aspects of their day-to-day lives in a new way. The boys did concede that if they were only to use the iPads, their enthusiasm and enjoyment might diminish over time.

The “reversibility” of the App raised a key issue. The “undo” button at times stifled, not enhanced, the creative process. However, it gave some students the freedom to experiment. “I can try it [the drawing] out, and change it. I did things I wouldn’t normally do, as I don’t need to start from the beginning again.” Using this tool gave students the freedom and confidence to take risks with the work, because, as one student put it, she did not have to  “think too much about the dire consequences if I failed.”  This is clearly a great benefit to those who are disappointed by the gap between the quality of their work and the standard they would like to reach.

Looking at this and other iPads projects across the school, it is clear that the students have found a new medium with which they can engage and experiment.  Whether the students are using the layers in Brushes to illustrate rockets whizzing through space, animating etchings of fantasy animals, or drawings monkeys for the Lunar New Year assembly, there is a freshness and reinvigorating quality to this new medium. The work has not always been to the same level as that expected in more traditional materials, but with time and practice this gap will be eliminated.

Ultimately the most important point is that this has given all our students the chance to experience another way of working creatively, and has possibly inspired students who may not be as comfortable using more traditional tools. We will not leave brushes and pencils behind, for as Hockney says, the fundamental skills and techniques must still be developed, but diversity in format and approach seems to be the key to a good curriculum filled with many learning opportunities, and one we will look to continue here in Seoul.