It’s All About Design

(#Bloggermore2015 12/26)

Just recently I’ve been consumed by design. In part this is because my wife wants to spend $50000 on a redesigned bathroom. Yep, you read that correctly, $50000! (Like all good husbands, I used the only two words I’ve ever needed, “Yes Dear.”) But, I’ve also been focusing on design aspects related to both this blog and education in general.

If you look to the top of the sidebar you’ll see that I have a newly designed, professional logo for “The Connected Teacher.” (Alix Schuppan is a colleague and a gifted graphic designer, you’ll find her website at http://www.schuppandesigns.com/) Of course, if you’ve been here before, you may have noticed that I also have a new, customised theme. This is all part of a process to redesign and lift my digital presence. In the months to come I will be launching a website under my recently acquired business name, “The Connected Teacher.” Was that a sharp, expectant intake of breath I heard? I make no apologies for setting out to build a “corporate image” online; I believe it is necessary for my future plans.

Buddy the Elf responds to the announcement of a Connected Teacher website Image from www.redbubble.com

Buddy the Elf responds to the announcement of a Connected Teacher website
Image from www.redbubble.com

I have also, of necessity, been putting a great deal of thought into learning design. (see my Simon Breakspear inspired post immediately below.) Next year, my school will be ditching iPads in favour of a laptop program. As I’ve stated previously, my greatest fear is that teachers will not know how to unlock the potential for improved student learning within these, admittedly, very different devices. I’ve realised that the most immediate need is to have teachers (everywhere) accept the difference between digital and digitized learning design. I could go into a long explanation, but here is the distinction perfectly captured in a great graphic from Dr. Tim Clark on www.byotnetwork.com

Digital .v. Digitized Learning Design

Digital .v. Digitized Learning Design

And the other need … accepting that I will now design online, digital learning for teachers. This year, as eLearning Manager, I’ve published a fortnightly newsletter on all things learning tech. I’ve also conducted some (sparsely attended) voluntary after school PD. Teachers are “time poor” and taking our PD digital will provide them with more opportunities to tap in. And that is part of my overall plan; designing online professional development for teachers. I also know that in some education systems, teacherpreneurs are already working to create digital products for others to employ in their classrooms. So, stay tuned for “The New Adventures of The Connected Teacher.” Anyone want to buy a TShirt?

Keep It Simple, Simon

(#Bloggermore2015 11/26)

… Please insert here my usual apologies and weak excuses for not blogging recently …

I’m quite used to being the smartest Simon in the room. But then, I’m also, most often, the only Simon in the room! Recently however, I attended an exceptional seminar conducted by Simon Breakspear (@SimonBreakspear on Twitter) at Prince Alfred College. There were three Simons in the room that day and I have serious doubts that I even ranked number two in the “smart stakes.” Of course, I was easily the best looking! No … well, I was the oldest!

Simon’s chosen focus on the day was “Redesigning Teaching and Learning for Innovation.” He said so much that resonated with me that I know a short blog post will do him a great disservice. So, I’ve decided to focus upon just one aspect here. Simon (the smart one!) firmly believes that any effort to redesign a school must be guided by four key questions:

1. What can stay the same? 2. What should be removed? 3. What needs to be tweaked? 4. What needs to be radically redesigned?

I have long been frustrated with colleagues who seemingly don’t share my passion to harness the power of technologies to transform student learning. Then, Simon introduced the term radical incrementalism, a process of innovation that honours the past, and I had some form of an epiphany. Well, more of a recurrent epiphany. For too long I have wanted to change too much too quickly; and too often I forget this. (Have you ever seen too used four times in a single sentence?) Revolutionaries are rightly known for their passion and enthusiasm but these qualities can be counter-productive. As “Simon says” … JOIN THE EVOLUTION!

“Transformative practices need to be simple, reliable and effective. Don’t aim to change the ceiling until you have the foundation and floor in place.” 

Now all I need to do is work out how I am going to re-imagine and re-design teacher professional development at my school so that we radically transform student learning, a little bit at a time. I just need to constantly remind myself to “Keep it simple, Simon.”

Viva La Evolucion (Created with the PhotoFunia iPad app)

Viva La Evolucion
(Created with the PhotoFunia iPad app)

 

The iPad is Dead; Long Live Laptops

(#Bloggermore2015 10/26)

OK, time to smash out another post because my #Bloggermore2015 project is almost dead in the water. I always have an excuse, but this time it’s a legitimate one rather than pure fantasy. I have spent considerable time these past few weeks looking at my school’s IT plan for the next three years. At this stage we have all Year 8-10 students with their own iPad provided at parent expense. Our senior students are involved in a loose, informal BYOD program. But now, that’s all going to change.

Those of you who read my rants on a regular basis would know I am an unabashed fan of the iPad as a classroom device. My wife likes to refer to my iPad as the “third person in our relationship!” However, my colleagues, our students and their parents have now voted overwhelmingly for a full, school wide laptop program. My reaction was calm and understated …

If only I still had hair to pull out! Image Sourced from www.wordstormpr.com.au

If only I still had hair to pull out!
Image Sourced from
www.wordstormpr.com.au

So, “The iPad is Dead, Long Live Laptops.” I fully expected objections from parents and teachers. The surprise was certainly the reaction from students who declared that they found their iPad a distraction and would much rather carry a laptop. One particular student survey response had us all rolling in the aisles.

“Please get rid of the iPad, it’s so distracting. If you don’t get rid of iPads I will not do well in school, resulting in bad grades, which means no good paying work, ending in not having a home, and then being homeless. IF YOU DONT CHANGE THE DEVICES IN THIS SCHOOL I WILL BE HOMELESS, I WILL BE LIVING ON THE FROZEN OVER CEMENT STREETS OF AND IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT. Thank you for your concern.”

It seems that the students still see iPads as a consumption and entertainment device. Personally, I see it from a slightly different viewpoint; teachers have failed to demonstrate for students how to unlock the full learning potential of their tablet device. This is not a criticism; the pace at which technology continues to advance will inevitably leave time impoverished teachers struggling to keep pace.

My next problem; what to do now to ensure that laptops are used to redefine student learning? (Please send your fully comprehensive programs to me by November … oh, go on, please!) Otherwise, here is my Plan B.

PLAN B Image Sourced from timenerdworld.files.wordpress.com

PLAN B
Image Sourced from timenerdworld.files.wordpress.com

“You have to believe me Your Honour; they all just spontaneously burst into flames!”

Lemon-ADE 2015

(#Bloggermore2015 8/26)

I have always loved a good title; I’m a Haiku Deck Guru, an iAnnotate Power User and I’ve even been labelled an iPad Ed Evangelist. I hope that one day I will even be considered part of the Twitterati but, the one title I know I will never claim is that of ADE; an Apple Distinguished Educator. Earlier this year I invested many hours in my application to be part of this year’s ADE intake. I know it is a highly competitive program but I thought I had a genuine chance of success. After all, I’m an atypical applicant; in my fifties and living in regional Australia, I believed I could make a real impact in my new Barossa Valley location.

Of course, I can’t know how the selection process works. But I bet (like everything Apple does) it is highly secretive. I had a quite unique, even disturbing, experience in 2014 when an Apple employee threatened to evict me from their secret Brisbane office if I revealed its location in a tweet. Yep, that secretive!

What's the Big Secret Apple?

What’s the Big Secret Apple? Image Sourced From: https://arewenewatthis.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/secretive.jpg

After a wait of nearly two months, I received the expected reply, that I had been “unsuccessful” in my applicationThe emailed rejection was as cold and soulless as every other form letter.

“Thank you for your interest … blah, blah … a record number of applicants … blah, blah … unable to provide individual feedback … BLAH, BLAH …”

My major objection to Apple’s rejection; the fact that a mega-company, which has profited so vastly from education, fails to see the critical importance of feedback in enabling growth and future success. But, they did still “… applaud (my) efforts …” and suggested that I visit ” … one of … over 450 Apple Stores worldwide.” Yes; I could drive 90 kilometres to my nearest Apple Store; maybe one of the 19 year old geniuses could tell me why my application failed.

Wait; is that the disembodied, mechanised voice of Darth Google I hear, inviting me to the dark side. No, no I say, I love my iPad and my Macbook Pro. But then again I could become a Google Certified Teacher, or a Google Trainer or own Google!

Created using PhotoFunia and Text On Photo (on my iPad.)

Created using PhotoFunia and Text On Photo (on my iPad.)

 

You Can’t Have STEAM Without HEATT

(#Bloggermore2015 7/26)

I’m seriously behind in my endeavour to publish 26 blog posts in 2015. Four months in I should have posted at least eight or nine pieces; this is only number 7. I certainly have plenty to write about but once again time has become that elusive commodity. Before moving on to new pastures I just want to have one final rant about STE(A)M and its prominence in educational dialogue. Just last night I came across several tweets bemoaning the fact that STEAM is lagging behind in Australia. I certainly don’t object to multi-disciplinary approaches. In fact, at this time, I am involved in teaching an inquiry based amalgam of Year 9 History and English under the title of “Making a Better World.” I won’t say anything further here about MBW as we call it … it’s the focus of my next piece in Australian Teacher Magazine (so, stay tuned!)

However; rather than write a fresh rant, I have decided to (cheat and) include a short section from my recent HTAWA Keynote. Clever, eh! (The blog post you ‘write’ when you’re short of time!)

“In the US, STEAM is gaining immense bipartisan legislative support and significant funding to run decade long programs. The fastest growing employment area in the US over the next decade will be in the field of statistics, growing at two and a half times the rate of other careers. The US Bureau of Labour believes there will still be a shortfall of 190000 people with “deep analytical skills.” Now, I wonder where else you might acquire those skills? … Surely, if we endorse an educational system that is fixated solely upon employability in an imagined, technologically rich future, then it will be at the expense of so-called traditional subjects such as History. The real challenge is to transform the image of History as a subject, to demonstrate its value and relevance in a connected, digital world. For a decade, Dr. John Newton was, until the end of 2014, the Headmaster of the prestigious Taunton School in Somerset. He is now Principal of Scotch College, Adelaide and an internationally respected educator. He has rightly pointed out …

“The key to new directions in IT is original, often
tangential thinking. The study of Literature or History and the
encouragement this gives to forming one’s personal views
will help the builders of new digital systems.”

Yes, the entrepreneurs of the future will need STEAM skills but to be true visionaries they will also need the thought processes and communication ability cultivated through studying History.”

Yep; it's a "Shameless Plug."

Yep; it’s a “Shameless Plug.”

And now for a quick, shameless plug. I am now running a secondary Twitter account @HEATT2015 and I certainly need more followers. So if you’re into the possibility of History Education Advanced Through Technology (HEATT) … do join us. After all, I firmly believe, you can’t have STEAM without HEATT. If you join and contribute just a few out of school minutes each night to tweeting your ideas, it will change your life. I promise; just look below!

Bring the HEATT Become a ninja

Bring the HEATT
Become a ninja

I Was That Guy

(#Bloggermore2015 6/26)

Friday, March 27 2015

One day in late June of 2013 I had a revelation, or an epiphany or maybe it was an aneurism! Up until that particular day, I typically referred to myself as “just a teacher.” I certainly knew more than most about educational technology but I didn’t categorise myself as anything special. The Banyo Campus of the Australian Catholic University had chosen me as one of several, experienced classroom teachers to become sessional tutors. As a group, our main responsibility was to help prepare pre-service teachers for their first practicum. When my passion for EdTech was discovered, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture. On the appointed day, a senior member of the Education Faculty introduced the guest speaker and each statement was met with a murmur, a comment or the occasional, “Wow!” Clearly, the attendees viewed their guest as someone special and … I was that guy. I realised that surviving over 30 years in the classroom was an achievement in itself and these young people were a willing audience.

In the subsequent two years, I’ve become increasingly “sought after” as a speaker and writer. Indeed, these first two hundred words (well, 197 actually!) were written on a plane to Perth where, tomorrow, I’ll deliver my first Keynote address at the annual HTAWA (History Teachers Association of Western Australia) State Conference. So, how did it all go?

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Wednesday, April 1 2015

I was pleasantly surprised by both the size of the audience and the number of familiar (Twitter) faces. My chosen focus “Turning Up the Heat: Teaching History in a Connected Digital World” was a “nice fit” for the conference theme of Connect, Engage, Respond. I did my best to provide attendees with a clear vision of what I believe a modern history classroom should look like. Most were duly impressed with the various apps and Web tools that I introduced: Haiku Deck, ThingLink, Trading Cards, TimeLine HD, Pinterest, Zaption, Nearpod and more. My main purpose however was to unveil a secondary Twitter account that I have called HEATT. As much as I normally loathe acronyms, this one stands for History Education Advanced Through Technology. (Clever, eh!) My idea is to make it a space for all History teachers to share digital resources. You can join that account @HEATT2015 It is an attempt to chip away at the image of History teachers as “parroters” of content. History must now be about collaboration and content creation. I would like to say more, but I will eventually upload the full text of my keynote.

Overall, I was pleased with my first effort as a Keynote speaker; I certainly received positive feedback. But, I was over-prepared and over-length. I lost some of the “natural ease” which I think is one of my strengths as a presenter. Either that or Alzheimers has rocked up! I do know I want to do more and better on a wider stage. After all, I am “That Guy.”

BYOD: Bring Your Own Deceit

(#Bloggermore2015 5/26)

Self Deception Image Source as Cited

Self Deception
Image Source: www.alameleadership.com

Interesting title, you say! Unfortunately, the deception is mine; but let me explain. The IT Strategic Planning Committee at my school has decided the time is right to go BYOD. Or possibly BYODD or even BYOT. Lord, how educators love their acronyms. While the decision can be relatively simple, I’m sure you’ve all heard BYOD called “Bring Your Own Disaster.” Trying to get my head around all the possible advantages and pitfalls, I wrote a guest post for my good friends at Fractus Learning. So, to the deception; the next paragraph is a short extract from my article “BYOD: Bring Your Own Disenthrallment.” By pasting the extract here I will cleverly create the illusion of having done another blog post. Deception! And, by then directing you to Fractus Learning for the remainder, I create traffic to my full article. Deception!

“I fully understand that teachers are entitled to work/life balance; their own children have to be taxied to dance lessons, there’s grocery shopping or a well-deserved rest. But, it would seem to me, that teaching is one of the few professions where individuals do not see it as imperative to keep up to date with the latest trends. Just yesterday I visited the dentist for a filling. How would I have reacted if he had performed dentistry without anaesthetic and wielding a rusted, nineteenth century implement? (BYOD: Bring Your Only Dentist!) The teachers at my school are by no means in a unique position; I have come across this same dilemma before. But, by the same token, the claim “I don’t have time for this” simply no longer holds … My day has the same 24 hours gifted to everyone else.”

To read the remainder, please use THIS LINK to take you to Fractus Learning.

BYOD: Bring Your Own ...

BYOD: Bring Your Own …

This weekend I am off to Perth to deliver my first conference keynote. I promise to be back next week to comment on the experience and give you access to the presentation. Honest, NO deception. And, of course, as always, I would be delighted to receive your feedback and comments.

 

My Top 5 iPad Apps For 2015

(#Bloggermore2015 2/26)

To Australian readers … I hope you are enjoying our national holiday; even though, in most parts of the nation, tomorrow will see students returning to school for the first day of the new school year. I thought this might be an opportune time to share five of my favourite iPad apps; apps that will have a big role to play in my year. One is new (at least to me) while the rest are returning for another year of great service.

1. ThingLink continues to introduce new features at regular intervals. The ability to take an image or video and add a variety of links (such as further images, information, video or questions) has countless possibilities in the classroom. I have found ThingLink particularly useful for teaching visual literacy and interpretation in Senior History. If you’ve never seen a ThingLink, this link will take you to one of mine

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/311319169452736514

2. Socrative provides teachers with the opportunity to quickly create quizzes or polls. Students can easily respond either from the companion app or from any Web browser. Socrative will even email you the results with valuable analysis. Great too for exit tickets and for younger students there’s the Space Race game … which I’ve been known to play with very enthusiastic Year 12s!

3. Trading Cards quickly became one of my favourites. As the name would imply, teachers and students can make trading cards for a range of uses. The cards are especially useful for student revision but are also a novel way to deliver otherwise “dry” content. A great app from ReadWriteThink; the partially completed example below shows you the possibilities …

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

4. Weebly will undoubtedly be familiar to many of you and it continues to be my “go to” app for building websites. You will also find that students quickly adapt to the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design method. Once published, the site can be accessed from any device. The available features in Weebly are too numerous to list here but the link below will take you to one of my sites as an example. (*You should consider, as I have done, buying a PRO subscription for even more features.)

http://elsinoreinashmore.weebly.com

5. Workflow is the new kid on my block. I’m certainly not an experienced user of this app but I’m excited about the possibilities for time impoverished teachers. Workflow allows you to “connect apps and actions together to automate things you do on your device. To build a workflow, just drag and drop.” You can add any workflow to your home screen as an “app” and then launch it with a tap. Check it out; I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and excited (or is that relieved?) as I am.

Well, that’s it for #Bloggermore2015 2/26 … I’ll be back within two weeks for another exciting instalment.

The Year Ahead: #Bloggermore2015 1/26

It’s been a big few months; new address, new state, new job, new-rotic! (You knew I would get a joke in early.) Most of my long service leave has been devoted to renovating and painting our 1930s cottage in the beautiful Barossa Valley of South Australia. I’ve even discovered that YouTube is a great resource for the DIY challenged like myself. It seems there’s a “how to” video for just about any repair job around the house … and some even ended up looking (vaguely) like the picture.

I didn't do this ... honest!

I didn’t do this … honest!

But now, my new position as eLearning Manager at Faith Lutheran looms large on the horizon. Yesterday I spent an hour in discussions with the school’s new principal and was certainly encouraged by his focus on learning and the significance of educational technology. My main responsibility will be to mentor my colleagues in the use of technology in order to redefine and enhance learning. No wonder I’m excited; but I’m also realistic about how much time I’ll have to devote to this role.

I also have two “big gigs” booked for later in the year. In March I will be delivering my very first keynote at the State Conference of the History Teachers Association of Western Australia. (HTAWA) I will also be returning to EduTech in order to present alongside fellow History teachers Jacques du Toit and Matthew Esterman. So, by now you’re probably wondering (at least I hope so) about the rather obscure hashtag in the title of this post. Yes, it is a direct nod to the J.K.Rowling website Pottermore but it is also a challenge to myself. Though, of course, you might want to join me! Over the past year my blogging has become, at best, irregular. What I plan to do, therefore, with time at a premium, is to share the details and observations of my year in a series of 26 posts … one per fortnight with an aim of restricting myself to an achievable 200-400 words in each post. Please keep me honest and on track.

The New Kid in Town (… and how Twitter found him a job.)

Four years ago this month, my wife and I purchased a house in Australia’s iconic Barossa Valley. For the overseas, uninitiated reader, the Barossa is unquestionably the nation’s best known wine producing region. We were attracted to the idyllic scenery, the wine (well, of course) and most especially the small historic town of Angaston; population 1909. (Or maybe it’s now 1911.)

Angaston, SA ... our new hometown. Image sourced from www.flickr.com

Angaston, SA … our new hometown.
Image sourced from www.flickr.com

As much as we were keen to take up immediate residence, we had to wait for our two children to …

  1. Finish their schooling or
  2. Leave home or
  3. Be kidnapped (think Liam Neeson in Taken, but without the rescue) or
  4. Be imprisoned

Thankfully, our daughter is now pursuing a career in theatre (she was always a Drama Queen) whilst our son has a girlfriend (he doesn’t know how!) and has completed an engineering degree (we don’t know how!)

Not long after we purchased our house, the very first iPad appeared and my career as an educator underwent an unexpected transformation. At 55 years of age with 33 years in the classroom behind me, I am an unlikely iPad Ed Evangelist. (Thanks Branchfire for labelling me as such, I do like a title.) Earlier this year when I announced on Twitter that we would be moving to the Barossa I was pleased though not surprised by the assistance I received. My South Australian tweeps were quick to offer advice, links to job websites and even the offer of a “Welcome Reception.”

The process to register as a teacher in South Australia was reasonably straight forward and indeed my biggest concern … “Who’s going to employ someone who is 55?” A colleague in the Barossa advised me, via Twitter, that a position would be available at his state high school in 2015. I firmly believe that I was given an interview because I was a “known figure” on Twitter. I’ve invested many, many (my wife would say too many) hours in Twitter. Over the past two and a half years I’ve amassed in excess of 2500 followers; all of them a part of the educational sphere. This has led to me being offered the opportunity to present at conferences and to write for more than one magazine. I was honestly “blown away” to be offered the job; especially after more than 25 years in Catholic education. Yet, astonishingly, within the next half an hour, I was offered interviews at two further schools. (Way to confuse a man and simultaneously boost his already hugely over-inflated ego!)

I declined one of these offers on the simple basis of distance; I didn’t want a 100 kilometre round trip each day. The other I gladly accepted. When I arrived at that interview, I recognised the Acting Principal and the panel chair as another member of my PLN. The interview was certainly exhaustive at nearly one and a half hours but it was a great experience to talk with like-minded individuals who share my EdTech enthusiasm. Later that same day I was offered and accepted the position for 2015 and 2016. I was flattered to be told, “we were so excited when your application came in. We recognised you.” Within hours, several members of the staff had followed me on Twitter after hearing of the appointment.

YEAH ... Thanks Twitter! Image Sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk

YEAH … Thanks Twitter!
Image Sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk

So, thank you Twitter. Thanks to being a self-professed “big deal” on a social media network, I will be assuming the newly created position of eLearning Manager at Faith Lutheran College in Tanunda. My only genuine concern now is if I will be able to live up to the Twype (it’s my new word for Twitter Hype!) in the real world of a new school.

PS: Damn and blast … Twype is already in the Urban Dictionary to describe the “excessive hype built up around the Twilight saga.” Well, that’s done now, Edward creeped me out and Bella was so “wet!” They don’t need the word anymore, so it’s mine.