10 steps to successful tech integration…

It’s an expectation that every class at my school will have a blog by the end of this year. We thought it best to invite people to start when they are ready, offering individual support as required. We’re only three weeks into our school year and it’s exciting to note how many teachers already have blogs up and running, even if some are still at the stage of learning how to post. It was also great, during planning sessions last week, to hear several previously tech-resistant teachers suggesting ways to incorporate new tools to support learning. While we still have a long way to go before technology is seamlessly integrated into the learning throughout our primary school, it’s encouraging to realise how far we have come.

Here are some tips, based on our experience:

1.  Start with two people.

Ideally you need a technology facilitator and another teacher whose focus is more on learning and pedagogy. That way, it’s never lonely when there’s resistance, there are complementary outlooks and more hands are available to help.

2. Invite volunteers.

Don’t try and force anyone to implement technology before they are ready. Work with a small group who’s willing to give it a go. Gradually others will come on board, when they see what’s been achieved by their peers or when their students initiate it. Don’t even think about presenting tech PD to large group of teachers all at once.

3. Offer plenty of support.

Once teachers have seen a tool demonstrated, they will need support practicing and applying it. Don’t be judgmental. Differentiate. Everyone can learn, but we all learn in different ways and at our own pace. It looks like thisAllow for it. Team teach. Offer to go into a class with a teacher who’s ready to give it a go. Demonstrate. Solve problems. Be there.

4. Aim for ‘just one thing’.

Don’t expect teachers to be experts. They just need to be willing. Make them aware of that. Aim to get teachers to try just one new thing. The concept is expressed really well here!

5. Get teachers teaching teachers.

Once teachers have used a tool to enhance learning in their classes, provide an opportunity for them to show others what they did. Have a show-and-tell session where ideas and examples are presented by teachers for teachers. Invite teachers to show others how to use tools they have already mastered.

6. Start from the learning.

This one is the most important. Tech for tech’s sake is a waste of time. Teachers are far more likely to integrate technology if they see the educational purpose. Begin with your learning goal, then plan your learning experiences and see what tools might support or enahnce the learning. See an example here.

7. Bring Admin onside.

If the heads are not leading the way themselves, invite them to training sessions. Invite them to classes. Show them what’s happening. Talk about what’s possible. Tell them what you need in order to move the school forward. Share examples from other schools. Share examples from yours.

8. Involve the students.

Teachers don’t need to know how to do everything. Kids will readily and enthusiastically help both the teacher and each other. Encourage teachers to release control to their students and become learners themselvesHere’s one teacher’s take on it.

9. Follow-up.

Create a wiki for teachers to refer back to. Add the tools they have learned. Include examples of how the tools can be used for learning. Add written instructions to which they can refer back if they are stuck. This is our wiki, maintained by the inimitable Linda (@lindawollan)

10. Be persistent.

Never miss an opportunity to suggest a way in which technology could enhance the learning. Offer to take care of the tech side yourself, if it means teachers will try something new in their teaching. Never, ever give up.


Why do I need an interactive white board?

I still don’t get the point of  IWB’s. I’m open to being persuaded since I have one in my classroom. The things I use it for could just as easily be done with a data projector though.

It seems like a tool which promotes the sort of teaching where kids  face the front and focus on the teacher. It doesn’t seem to encourage interaction, collaboration, creativity or thinking. I’ve been told that it doesn’t need to be teacher centered. I’ve been told that having kids come up to the board individually or to work in a group is engaging. But what’s the rest of the class doing meanwhile?  It would surely be less costly and even more engaging to give the kids iPads or laptops and have them interacting in groups.

IWB By whatedsaid | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had any IWB training. Maybe it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough. Or maybe it’s because they don’t quite fit with what I believe about learning…

I believe that learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving. I believe that learning for understanding includes acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts. I believe that learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction. I believe that learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.

Could that be why I haven’t seen value in IWB’s?

If you really feel they add something to learning, please convince me!


What Teachers should be able to do…

Guest post by Linda. @lindawollan

After reading the post 10 Things A Teacher Should Know How To Do, by Andrew Garcia, my colleague Ed asked me what I would put on a list of tech skills for our teachers. What things would come first? At our school, many teachers can do none of the things on Andrew’s list. Some can do a few. Some wouldn’t know what most of the list means.

It’s a great discussion to have. The successful use of tech tools comes down to a willingness to explore, either independently or at least what you’ve been shown.  You need to be willing to try new things, and willing to put in some time. The particulars depend on the needs of your class. If you are an active user of a class blog or wiki, then you need the  appropriate tools and should be motivated to learn them. At the very least, collaborate with your friendly tech support teacher to make sure your students don’t miss out!

My list looks something like this:

  • Know what a blog is and start reading some – subscribe to those that interest you.
  • Spend personal time exploring the tools you have been shown, to reinforce your learning.
  • Create a wiki or blog for your own class (it’s a big ask to expect both, though both have a role).
  • Be able to embed video and web tools in a blog or wiki.
  • Take the initiative in looking for/locating appropriate tools for your students by… starting at point 1 again.
  • Knock down your classroom walls – collaborate with people outside your school using eg Skype or Voicethread.
  • Join Twitter – get the best PD of all from the contacts you make in the educational community all over the world.
    double standard

Of course as well as knowing about Web 2.0 tools, make sure the basics are in place. So before we even get to the list above:

  • Know your way around Office tools
  • Read/use your email regularly. Know how to set up a group in email (your first group should be your class).
  • Be able to use the school intranet proficiently.
  • Use the multimedia tools that come with your interactive whiteboard. Make it a student tool as well.
  • Be a confident web user – be able to search efficiently.
  • Understand copyright issues on the web, and make sure your students are copyright aware.
  • Use online bookmarking, so that your bookmarks are available wherever you are

So- What’s on your list?


What my typewriter can do…

PLN My 89 year old mother declared that she used to have a typewriter too, but she didn’t sit and look at it for hours on end!

A colleague remarked this week that she doesn’t like sitting at the computer more than necessary, the way I do.

A co-teacher said we shouldn’t be encouraging kids to sit at the computer, they should be out playing.

See the common theme? Sitting at the computer is a passive activity.  None of them is even beginning to envisage what’s going on here…

In the past few days, these are just a few of the things that I did, while ‘sitting at the computer’ …

  • Kept in close touch with my son and daughter-in-law who are currently volunteering in India.
  • Published a blog post in which I shared a wonderful global collaboration between 5 year olds, the result of a chance meeting while ‘sitting at the computer’ with a like minded educator in the US
  • Interacted with children in India on Skype through the SOLES and SOMES project, which I found out about ‘sitting at my computer’.
  • Actively participated in the blogging conversation with people in Australia, USA, the UK, Brazil, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Singapore and more.
  • Established a connection with a PYP teacher in Thailand, whose Year 6 students have offered to share their PYP exhibition experience with students at my school in order to assist with their exhibition unit.
  • Interacted on Twitter with educators from all over the world, learned from them, followed links to new learning, gave and received help and encouragement.
  • Engaged in conversation with  my friend in India, whom I met ‘sitting at the computer’ and have since met twice in person.
  • Maintained my connection via Skype with a co-teacher who’s studying in Israel for a year and collaborated on a project for students at my school.
  • Learned more from my online PLN than I have ever learned in any professional development session or course that I have ever attended!

That’s just a taste… I’m sure there’s a great deal more I could add. But I don’t want to sit here at my computer for too long! Going for a walk around the park 🙂


Past, present, future of education…

Scene 1:  The past

Students learned from the teacher.  Facts were learned from text books. Learning took place in the classroom.  Teachers asked questions and students answered them. Information about far away places was found in books.

Scene 2: The present

Students learn from the teacher, each other, the internet, books, movies, people inside the school, people outside the school, people in other countries.  Students learn through inquiry. They ask questions, wonder, explore, experiment and investigate new ideas. They make online global connections and learn about far away places directly from people who live in them! Here’s an example, where one thing lead to another…

  • Our school has recently established a kitchen garden program. Our students in Year 4 and 5 explore related issues in their units of inquiry.  On alternate fortnights, the children either have lessons in the garden or in the kitchen.
  • A TED talk by Jamie Oliver prompted me to blog about our kitchen garden program.
  • One of the comments on my post was from Bernadette, who’s school in Kansas, USA has a similar sort of kitchen garden program.
  • We engaged in conversation via Twitter and email and considered the possibility of a collaboration. This one hasn’t happened yet, but it will! We hope to start an ongoing collaboration about how our gardens grow and change during the year.
  • However, we have established a connection between our prep children (they call it kindergarten) . Our little ones  learned that there are children just like them far away in another country. They answered the questions sent to them by their new friends in Kansas via Voicethread and thereby began an ongoing conversation…

Scene 3:  The Future

Teachers from Scene 1 could never have envisioned what’s happening in Scene 2.  I can imagine the immediate future, since there are many inspiring educators who are already way ahead of our school in creating global connections and collaborating across the world in all sorts of exciting ways.  They are motivating us to flatten our classroom walls still more.  And after that…the possibilities are endless!

i love technology!

Yesterday I blogged  ‘I hate technology’.  As predicted by the first comment on that post, today I love technology again!

We recently acquired a set of iPod Touch for classroom use.  As a way to encourage innovation, the principal had offered a $5000 grant for each of 3 projects to enhance student learning.  We put in a submission for a set of iPods and were successful!

They have just been set up and I decided to give them a try today.  The Voice Memo app seemed like a great way to practise second language skills.   For a few dollars each, we have bought tiny microphones like the one in the picture.  The task was to interview a partner in Hebrew,  based on the current topic of study, incorporating newly learned vocabulary. The kids were extremely excited, very little explanation was required and they went off to their corners to record.

Here’s what the students said:

  • I never imagined the school would get ipods! (Jay)
  • It was fun and a different way of learning. (Lele)
  • It was a good way to learn the new words by actually using them, while having fun at the same time. (Tahni)
  • When we played it back, we could hear our mistakes and correct them. (Allegra) (That one is my favourite. Ed)

My observations:

  • I love the iPods (and Apple in general, I assume) for sheer ease of use.  None of the usual teething problems when trying something new.  No delay for logging in as we have on the school computers. No time was wasted and the task was done really quickly!
  • The kids were really engaged and self motivated and had lots of fun learning! I could have packed up and gone home and no-one would have been any the wiser.
  • Why would we need to use Audacity for podcasting, unless we want to do something more complicated? This is just so simple. Even non-techy teachers will cope… well, they won’t have to, they can hand over to the students.
  • Fiona used the Voice Memo app in the library for some book discussion today and was similarly successful. Kids from both classes were heard continuing to discuss their experiences in the playground at lunchtime. Always a good sign!
  • I’m looking forward to using them for other things…  So are the students!
  • I predict that mobile devices will be used more and more at schools.  This is technology the students are already comfortable with and extending its application to learning simply makes sense.


Identity crisis…

Some days I am confused as to who I am…

At school, I am seen as a bit of a technology expert.  I have integrated technology more quickly and more readily than some of my  colleagues.  I have explored a variety of web 2.0 tools with my students and discovered great ways to use them to enhance the learning experience.  I had a class wiki before most others knew what a wiki was.  I have my own blog.  I have enthusiastically encouraged my colleagues to join me on the journey.  I have supported Linda, our ICT teacher, in sessions for teachers to learn and experiment with new tools.

But then I see what educators are doing across the globe and I feel quite inadequate.  I thought I would gather teachers interested in Skype connections, then discovered others are already doing this far better than I could.  There are teachers in my PLN on Twitter who use terms I don’t even understand.  There are learners using tools I have never heard of,  in ways I hadn’t thought of. There are inspirational collaborations taking place and new, exciting kinds of learning happening every day.

So who am I?

I know something .. but not everything.
I have made some headway… but realise there’s a long way to go.
There’s a lot I can do … but there’s much I don’t know how to do yet.
There are people I can help… but I need others to help me.

I’m  eager to investigate new technology and to learn from those who know more than I do.  I’m happy to encourage and assist others.  I’m willimg  to integrate, collaborate and create.   I’m  prepared to take a step back and hand over control to my students.

It’s an ongoing process.  When I created the slideshare below, I didn’t realise that you don’t really reach the other side… or if you do, you can’t relax there for long…


A personal learning reflection…

We’ve come a long way from…

… to this…

For me, the journey started when I read an extract from ‘Navigating through the Storm, Education in Postmodern Democratic Society’ by Ron Aviram, head of The Center for Futurism in Education, in Israel.

Then I attended an IBO conference.  It wasn’t so much the content, but the opportunity to network with educators from around the world and see the things that teachers have done in their classrooms and schools, that motivated me.

I started looking online for web 2.0 tools and began to discover some of the inspirational education blogs out there.  Soon I had subscribed to quite a number and was reading regularly online about educational issues and how others were integrating technology into their classrooms

The next step was to start implementing tech myself.  I introduced my class to ToonDoo and Voicethread and Wallwisher to enhance their learning. We learned together.  As I discovered new and useful tools, I shared them with my class and with other interested teachers at school.  I set up a class wiki and before long every child had their own page and they were finding ways to share their learning through this medium.

Next we started a voluntary tech group for interested teachers to experiment together every fortnight before school. Our ‘Thinking group‘ which meets on the alternate week had been sharing readings and implementing Visible Thinking and soon the 2 groups began to merge as a 21st century learning group.  Discussions centered on making learning relevant and authentic, including incorporating technology. This is my in-school PLN.

I joined nings, such as Classroom 2.0 and Educators PLN and PYP Threads and began to participate.  The next step was  when a friend encouraged me to start writing my own blog. At first I didn’t think I had anything to say. Then I didn’t think I would have any readers. But I pushed forward and was soon addicted.  I had more things to write than time to write them.  I didn’t care if I had an audience or not, the process was part of my own learning.  My early readers were my colleagues at my own school and I saw them as my target audience.

And then, by far the best thing happened.. . I had dabbled in Twitter but not yet seen the point. But,once I figured out the benefits of following educators and discovered the #edchat hashtag, I was on the road to the best learning yet!  I have developed an amazing worldwide PLN. I think I have discovered and uncovered more through Twitter than any other way.  Interacting with educators worldwide and sharing resources in this way has been my most powerful learning experience this year.

And finally (only so far!)  I have joined Kelly Tenkely’s blogging alliance. I have discovered some excellent blogs this way and connected with other educators through commenting on each others’ blogposts.  This has turned out to be another great way to network and has opened yet another channel for learning and collaboration.

What next? 🙂

PYP Key Concept: Reflection. Series of posts through the lens of  key concepts of PYP.

Posts relating to other key concepts:  FormChangeConnectionPerspectiveResponsibility, Function.