Friday, September 26, 2014

Troubleshooting In a BYOD-Google Apps Classroom: Lessons From the Fire Swamp!

Yesterday, I had a chance to help some of our 6th grade students set up folders in Google Drive and share those folders with their teacher. It took a bit longer than I expected, but for the most part, the kids did a great job. Still, when I was done, I felt like I had survived this scene from one of my favorite movies!

In The Princess Bride, Wesley and Buttercup learned three lessons on how to survive in "The Fire Swamp." Hopefully, surviving in a classroom isn't like surviving the Fire Swamp, but here were the lessons I learned that may help you when teaching in a BYOD classroom with Google Apps for Education!

Lesson 1: Students Didn't Bring Their Device
Fortunately, we have a supply of laptops and Chromebooks available for students to check out for the day if they come unprepared. Our goal is to help students come prepared every day with a fully charged device, but some days, they forget. Having extras allows them to still take part in Digital Age Learning.

Lesson 2: Personal Google Accounts
Often students will not be able to access the files we know they should. Most likely, this is because they are logged in to a personal G-mail account. We try to remind students that their Google Apps for Education account is their "professional account," that needs to be used when working on school related activities. Given that many have G-mail accounts, it can be difficult, and often they forget to switch. By checking in the upper right corner to see which account they are logged into, you can help them get to the right one and get on task.

Lesson 3: Google Apps on an iOS device
One of the students in class was trying to utilize her iPad as her primary tool. Using Safari in the mobile version of Google Apps did not allow her to complete the tasks as easily, and she quickly got behind. While I think the iPad is a great tool, with many redeeming qualities, it doesn't always play well with Google Apps. In our eLearning2 initiative, our minimum requirement is a device that will run the Chrome browser. Those who choose to use an iPad, do so with the understanding that they need to be able to figure out a workflow within our ecosystem.

Hopefully these three lessons will help with troubleshooting as we move forward. I chose to leave out the fourth issue I dealt with, the parent who locked down the child's computer so that they couldn't get to Google Apps. I'll leave that one for another post...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of eLearning2

On September 23, I took a random walk around classrooms in our secondary schools, 4 weeks in to our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning Initiative. Here is what I observed...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Eighth Graders....A Student Shares Her Insights on Our eLearning2 Initiative

Collaboration at South View MS-Courtesy @lakesmpls
Earlier this week I sent out a survey to our students, getting feedback on our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative. As outlined my post from yesterday, we have moved to 1:1 this year through a hybrid BYOD system, where students are encouraged to bring a device from home, or check one out from the district.
One of the questions I asked in the survey was:
How has using your device impacted your learning this year?
Most students responded positively, with stories of "being more organized," appreciating accessing content in our Moodle learning management system, collaborating on Google Docs, and creating projects for a global audience. I was pleased to see all aspects of our digital age learning framework being addressed. 

There was one response, from an 8th grade student named Annika, that stood out from the rest. She graciously gave me permission to share it in this post.She began by mentioning things that most of her peers had said:

I find it helpful in some ways, like the ability to work on online assignments through Moodle during school hours, and since more people have access to devices, you can work in class for projects needing the computer. You also can use the Web 2.0 tools more often for projects, which is also nice.

Then she noted something that I haven't necessarily thought of as a "problem:"

Some problems I have though are that it kind of defeats the purpose of the computer labs... Students will only be going to the labs for standardized testing.
I have been saying for years that "going to the computer lab to do technology projects is not authentic. It's better to get the technology out right in the room when it is needed, and put it away when it isn't. Going to the lab takes time away from the lesson and implies that technology only happens in a certain room in the building." It's one of the main reasons I have advocated for us to be 1:1.

But then Annika continued...

I also find that school is changing all so much, I remember elementary school when it was always fun getting to go to the media center to work on computer projects, it felt like a little treat, and Internet usage was used respectfully more often than not, because it was a gift to get the time to use the computers, but now that it's just here, and it's now an everyday thing, it's not so special, and having it there so often makes it tend to be a distraction to some students, and ends up being used disrespectfully at times. I believe this is more of a personal problem on my part, but I do feel like I should share this with you.

Annika's thoughtful response was a new twist on the "lab" idea, that I hadn't considered. To my way of thinking, we needed to "blow up" the labs, or at least repurpose them for other things. It hadn't made the connection between the lab being a "treat," and thus devices used more responsibly.

Earlier this week, Dean Shareski wrote about "Putting the Laptops Away," during class. Here the week we had finally become 1:1, someone I respect was saying to put the devices away! Perfect timing! But in the post, Dean notes this:

This is about recognizing what types of learning you are doing in class and when technology makes it richer and when it dilutes.
 I still believe in what Chris Lehmann says about technology,
 "It should be like oxygen: ubiquitous, invisible, and necessary." 

As we progress in our implementation, I hope that our staff and students begin to see when it makes sense to have the devices out, and when it would be better to put them away. As we continue to focus on the learning, the laptop may disappear, but I hope that the "treat" of digital age learning will not!

Thanks, Annika for pushing my thinking.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

eLearning2: Impacting Learning and Living in Beta

Edina Public Schools is now starting year three of our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative
We began giving students the option to bring their own device for their learning during the 2010 school year; we saw slow growth the first two years. At that time, the program was called "Go Wireless," and I chronicled our progress in posts here and here

In December of 2012 the district joined a partnership with Best Buy to provide the services of a Web store for families, and Geek Squad support for student devices two days a week in each of the three secondary schools. In return, families would see a significant discount on the price of the device when they checked out. For the last two years, we saw roughly 60% of our families in the grade levels eligible take advantage of this opportunity, and students would then bring a device for their learning. In addition, the district provided a Chromebook computer to all families of need. This partnership was the first of it's kind, and Best Buy is beginning to work with other districts around the country on similar models.

While the increased access was encouraging, and we saw pockets of transformation, the effect of an optional program was two-fold: 

  1. Many staff were reluctant to include activities if not all students had a device
  2. Students felt that if not all staff were utilizing the devices, why should they bring them to class?
We were BYOD, but not truly 1:1. While there were pockets of great things happening, and we were able to supplement somewhat with carts for those who didn't have a device, we weren't meeting our mission of "All for All." While eLearning2 has always been about personalizing learning and transforming instruction, lack of a requirement for students to bring a device and teachers to implement digital age learning meant we weren't where we needed to be.

No Longer Optional
This year, we have moved to a hybrid BYOD model. We opened up the Web store for families in grades 6, 8 and 9 to purchase their own device. We are continuing to provide a district provided Chromebook for families in need, and in addition: all students who either chose not to purchase a device; or those who purchased a device they are unsatisfied with; or a device that broke, are being provided with a district provided Chromebook. We have also changed from saying bringing a device is optional to making it a requirement that all students have a device. In addition, we have declared that the minimum device is one that runs the Chrome browser and has a keyboard. This means that phones are no longer considered a primary device, and can be used only at teacher discretion. So far, staff feel that this policy has been working well. If a student needs to take picture or video for a project, they ask for permission to use the phone. We also require that all secondary staff utilize our ecosystem of Moodle and Google Apps as their primary learning platform. 

For professional learning, we are focusing on a definition of Digital Age Learning that incorporates Content, Collaboration, and Creation.

We have been utilizing Carl Hooker's "Swimming Pool" model of SAMR in our discussions with staff, noting that SAMR is not a ladder to climb, but a pool to swim in. We are also saying that some days, it's ok to not get in the pool, but:
"It is no longer ok to never get wet!"
Not every lesson is going to get to the "redefinition" level, and that is ok! 
Staff have appreciated this model as it encourages growth, but, also doesn't force them to use one pedagogy. Just as we are trying to personalize learning for our students, allowing them to use the tools that will work best for them, we are trying to do the same for our teachers. 

Living in Beta 
For our district kickoff this year, my colleague, Molly Schroeder reprised her excellent TED talk on "Living in Beta." Molly noted that we are living in a world of constant change, where the tools we are using and our pedagogies are "in beta." It's ok to not know everything, and more importantly it's ok to fail! She says that the classroom is now a "community of problem solvers."

After hearing that talk, many staff have commented on how liberating it was. Along with the district endorsement, it has freed them up and given them permission to try new things and "live in beta!" It has truly been liberating, and staff are pushing themselves to try new things such as Google Classroom. There may be issues, but together, we can solve any problems and learn as a community.

So Far...So Good
So far, the school year has started out really well! Our media staff did a great job checking out Chromebooks to those that didn't have them, and our staff set an expectation from day one that students have a device for their learning. 
In talking with Shawn Dudley, principal at Valley View Middle School, she noted of the 13 observations she has done this year, "12 staff have included a digital formative assessment exit card. And none of them were the same! Some used Google Forms, some Socrative, and others KahootIt's been one of the best starts ever!
Staff have utilized our planning document along with a suggested road map for the first six weeks as they begin the year 1:1. Some quotes from staff include:
I'm able to have students work independently more often as we move through the first unit, allowing me to spend more time with students who are having questions, and letting students learn at their own pace.
On the second day of class, I had students logged into the network, joining Google Classroom, and working with Google docs. Brand new students have been logged into the network the day they start. These 6th graders are the most tech savvy crew I've ever had and have taught me a few new things in the first week. The kids couldn't wait to use their devices and students who were loaned devices had huge grins when they came back from the media center with their devices; I don't anticipate making many, if any, copies this year. 

Students have commented that:
I am much more organized, and I can understand what I am doing much better.
My device helps a lot, I'm able to create quizlets, write essays, store pictures and writing digitally and make presentations. 
Many teachers are taking advantage of having us take online notes, and utilizing Internet quizzes and tests. Teachers make us turn in homework online, and we have been using Google Sites to post our learning to the public. 
Here are some additional observations as the year has started:

Moving forward
As we move forward, we are continuing professional learning for staff on digital age learning, including after-school drop in sessions, individual meetings, online courses as well as another Technology and Learning Cohort where staff have the ability to earn a Technology Certificate through Hamline University, another one of our partners.

I recognize that while we are now truly 1:1, we need to continue to help staff get into the pool, try the deep end once in a while, and help students have authentic learning opportunities. As Patrick Larkin notes in this great post, we need to "stay uncomfortable!" Larkin mentions the work of Amy Edmonson, who defines different zones of implementation: the Apathy Zone, Anxiety Zone, Comfort Zone and Learning Zone. At this point, I would say we are in the latter stages of the Anxiety Zone. 

As we begin to implement our Next Generation Educational Competencies, I see many ways that Digital Age Learning will positively impact the ability of students to demonstrate mastery of these skills. 
Edina Next Generation Educational Competencies
I look forward to supporting staff and students "living in beta," helping us progress into the "comfort zone," and continuing forward into the "learning zone." Stay tuned!