Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

Web 2.0 usage in the classroom

This is the year of web 2.0 usage in the classroom.  Teachers have avoided using technology in the classroom and have stated that the failures in the past is a justification for not using it in the future.  I'll put my hand up and say that I was one of those.

Then I did a host of research for my "on again" masters.

I think the time has come that we give this a good look.  The failure of learning management systems (LMS's) can now be overcome.  Social media applications provide the gloss that engages students online.  It gives them reason to revisit and get access to information that they require at critical times during their "learning journey" (bleuch.. writing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth - but best describes what I mean).

Online applications are now reaching the level that they can be useful in the classroom and superior to direct instruction.  There is enough competition that application vendors are willing to listen to classroom requirements, assist teachers with implementation and work towards a successful implementation (rather than an "overstate the possibilities, take my money, dissappear" approach.  I'm sure this sounds familiar to many of us).

Web 2.0 extends the classroom beyond four walls - blogging, microblogging, social networking, cloud computing are being used effectively in higher education and there is little reason it shouldn't be used in primary and secondary settings.  Not doing so causes equity issues for our students when they enter higher education.

Students are now IT literate in ways that can be useful to implement in the classroom.  We're not teaching mail merging, Excel and Access usage anymore.  We're talking small bites of IT understanding and using it to directly aid classroom progress.  Microblogging (short notes sequentially placed on a wall similar to facebook) attaching IWB notes for revision, getting a better idea of progress through online marksbooks, providing tools for online collaboration and creating active subgroups within a class, shared development of documents through googledocs, improved organisation through calendars, online project submission,  annotation reducing paper usage, creating digital rather than paper notes using applications such as notability or goodnotes, classroom monitoring software, vod and podcasting - these sorts of things take small amounts of time to implement, are typically free and can make real differences in results, it's now accessible, cheap and works.  These things can be done now, not tomorrow, enabled by tablet and 1-1 laptop access.

I'm not glossing over the learning curve for us, or the overhead of starting the progress but.. if it can clearly be shown that these techniques are superior, it is worth the effort.  I think this time has come.

Even in Math, technologies are starting to mature that reduce IT overheads and improve the classroom experience especially in revision, organisation and note taking.  It's time that schools and universities embrace what can be done to improve teaching pedagogy where new technologies drive student performance. Perhaps we could give less prominance to engagement and self esteem.  These two come primarily as a result of performance and to get engagement with web 2.0 in a class, I think it has to be shown that performance is the primary result.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Interactive Whiteboard usage

I have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom.  It's a 2.1m wide Promethean with a short throw projector.  I was reticent about getting an IWB as I had one in the past and it was smaller than a normal whiteboard, laggy, difficult to see in full light, was easy to cast a shadow upon while writing and had little in the way of usable technology for mathematics.

5 years later and things have changed.  My old whiteboard was only marginally larger than my new IWB.  The lag is gone (.. well .. nearly).  The short throw projector casts a minimal shadow.  The basic software is more functional than ruler and pen.

I'm not singing the praises of Promethean, I haven't used a Smartboard or its software since my awful introduction to IWBs five years ago.  I can just see how it helps deliver my material.

I can step forward/backward through slides
I can draw axes, coordinates and lines with ease
I can annotate graphs (such as those drawn by Autograph) for regression/seasonality and functions work (with a little difficulty)
I can share and store successful lessons more easily
I can write solutions digitally for sharing for small group moderation
It saves a few dollars in whiteboard markers (but will probably cost more in power and projector globes)

The advantages make my day more pleasant.  The downside is that lessons take considerably more time to prepare initially because you have to think of ways to use it effectively, whereas those methods already exist with a whiteboard.

There is also a short term motivational increase evident in student behaviour (which I expect to dissipate with familiarity).

I am guilty of not using the IWB to its fullest, but after 1 term, it is proving to be an integral part of my classroom, being used in every class.

The apple macbook powering the board has caused some problems.  The obvious being the difficulty in running PC software (such as FX draw and Classpad manager).  These we're slowly overcoming.  A big advantage of the mac is the fast powerup.  I have a backup PC on my desk and the thought of waiting for SOE4 to boot is enough for it to be an absolute last resort.

The big question is does it improve the results of my students?  The answer is.. well.. maybe..   I can more easily use some interactives for aid in learning but I haven't seen any great improvement in results.  The cost to implement is around 7-8K at present which is not a huge impost (compared to some of the money the government is throwing around) but as an insight into department funding - it is more than the entire 8-12 math budget for last year.  I couldn't really use student improvement as a justification for installing IWB's in schools - there are more reliable ways of raising student performance than IWB's.

Implementation (after installation) has gone smoothly with good support from the school technician.. I won't say great support or he might get slack :-)..  Now as a mature technology, opportunities are available to improve teaching practices further and collaborate with a much wider group of teachers.

I would probably still get an IWB if I was given the option.  The collaborative opportunities are just too many to ignore and are relatively easy to implement, even if the student benefit is harder to quantify.  Reviewing student board work or examining teaching pedagogy in particular becomes much simpler and is more easily recorded.  Unlike 1-1 laptop rollouts, surprisingly I think I currently fall in favour of IWB rollouts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Phones, Cameras and Facebook.

Not so long ago, the fight club issue was raised with kids after school organising fights and filming them. The infamy caused through posting these film grabs on u-tube and the damage to local schools needs to be acknowledged. It took these incidents to change the current policy (or perhaps enforce an existing one?) on mobile phone use in schools.

When mobile phones were first allowed on campus my initial thoughts were that this was a bad idea. It has proven true with sms bullying, filming of teachers and posting them on the Internet, sms'ing during class, loss and theft of phones and the like. Teachers spend a portion of each day confiscating phones and returning them, facing a barrage of abuse and pleading from students.

Information technology and personal technologies have other negative influences. The insular antisocial behaviour such as being constantly on an IPod cannot be measured. In many cases it is a way of managing a lone student (allowing them the dignity of choosing to be on their own) rather than facing the real issue of an isolate in the playground and assisting with social integration. The lone student is often subject to the worst kinds of bullying in the form of exclusion and schools must respond to this kind of treatment or face the extreme measures taken by lonely students in other areas of the world.

Facebook is another tool that causes concern. I started my own Facebook page and have had 'friend' requests from students. I declined these obviously, as a teacher is not a friend. A friend has to face issues that a teacher does not and vice-versa. To transcend this relationship is fraught with danger. Yet I had to think - am I being old fashioned? Has friendship been redefined by Facebook and become some sort of watered down acquaintance? Could it be a way of hearing about their successes and failures post school? Being conservative by nature, my original position stands.. as a male teacher, I don't think you can be too careful - watered down friendship or not.. it crosses the line.

The Internet itself in general is the great time-waster. Setting firm guidelines is required to keep students on task and maintaining standards of behaviour requires strong penalties. Yet the greatest penalty (denial of Internet) is often removed as an option as multiple classes require students to use the Internet and the same student performs the same misdemeanors in each class as they know the penalties are light.

Technology is a wonderful thing but to use it effectively is a skill. I am not sure education institutions have spent the time to master this skill and I would like to see some real evidence of where and when it is used to improve results of students.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Technology in education

My main criticism of technology in the classroom is that good uses of technology are few and far between. My secondary criticism is that support for hardware (computer/printer/network/projector/smartboard) and software(installation/functionality) in schools is reasonably poor reducing the required success rate well below 100%.

Here are some of my favourite issues:

  • Smartboards where lag between writing and displaying occurs or light levels need to be too low for students to be able to write without damaging their eyes.
  • Use of preprepared powerpoint presentations that direct students down a path with little concern for what they are learning - eg. with little interactivity.
  • Research time in libraries where learning time is spent preventing student access to inappropriate websites, online games, Facebook and mySpace - especially where students are clearly unable to research online efficiently when ontask.
  • Anything with the words 'intranet' or 'extranet' that students try to use as excuses for not handing in work due to technology or internet access failure.
  • Not having direct access (as a teacher) to web proxy logs for students during class.
  • Issues with students not having funds to print.
There are some great and time effective uses of IT in a normal classroom:

  • Graphics calculators and teaching statistics/quadratics/algebra/trigonometry
  • Teaching of area and bird's eye view using sites such as
  • Report writing in Word at the end of a project/assignment using preset templates
  • Brainstorming using Powerpoint and Inspiration
  • Exploring critical paths using Gannt charts in MSProject
  • Flow charts in Visio

There are some great uses of IT in an extension class I have experienced with students specifically interested in computer game design:

  • Teaching 2D geometry/linear algebra with Java (computer game design)
  • Teaching 3D geometry with Blender (animation)
  • Exploring mathematical modelling with The Sims/Civilisation/SimCity

The thing to note about effective use of IT is that it is directed at specialised tasks with either highly motivated(extension) students or students that are given limited opportunities for distraction (such as with a graphics calculator). Punitive action needs to be restricted as removing access from students(eg. stopping internet access) will hamper progress in other classes. If something can be done faster without IT, we should not use IT purely for the fallback 'but there's higher student motivation', 'it promotes reuse of materials', 'it produces materials that can be provided to absent students'. We should simply use our whiteboards/paper handouts and not change where change has a lower net learning output.