Stop doing I.T. wrong! by David Morgan (@lessonhacker)
Stop doing I.T. wrong by David Morgan.
Digital learning is not something to be scared of or to be worried about.
It’s just learning.
No one called it ‘Pen based learning’ when we moved away from slate tablets, but I’m sure there were a few people reluctant to change their ways, or that didn’t quite ‘get’ the point of pens. In any case, digital learning is here to stay and should be a part of every lesson in some form, if only because it saves you time!
What not to do.
We’ve all seen the classic ‘do a PowerPoint’ lesson. *Sigh*. Yes, you know what I’m talking about; it’s the end of term, you’ve got a section of work on something researched based so you say the immortal lines, “Do a PowerPoint on it”… and four weeks later these digital natives have done two slides that make the content appear one letter at a time.
If students *are* digitial natives then should a PowerPoint take four weeks?
There is life after death by PowerPoint, and it’s all about the amazing things you can do with digital learning. In this workshop we covered my top-tips for getting started:
1. Get over yourself – you will never be as much of an expert in the technology as a student can be because they’ve got unlimited time to learn it. You have to just plan around that and have strategies for finding out: Classroom Genius: find someone in the class who’s the ‘genius’ at the tech you’re using and get them to be the first port of call for non subject specific questions.
2. The connected student – they’re being pinged all the time by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not leverage the fact they’ve trained themselves to respond quickly to notifications by doing that yourself? Using a tool like edmodo to push out work and ask questions turns simple things into pings that use the same action-reward mechanism that replying to a tweet does; and most importantly, it gets things done!
3. Print on Demand – I’ve covered this in my blog [http://www.lessonhacker.com/print-on-demand-for-better-learning/] but essentially it boils down to getting custom printed exercise books so you can force student to improve skills you want them to focus on.
4. Blur your classroom – Use a VLE of some kind for taking in work (I wrote about this in the most recent Teach Secondary magazine) and then mark using your mobile device whenever you’ve got some down time. Stood outside Next waiting for your other half? Whip out that phone and mark one or two. Waiting in the car for the football crowds to let out? Your mobile is your friend for quick marking. This means that your work life balance gets much better because whilst you might be marking more often, you’re doing it in ‘dead’ time and suddenly you don’t need to sit down and mark in an evening anymore.
5. Record a learning dialogue – using many online tools it’s easy to record the feedback and conversations your having about work and display the progress over time to that tricky Ofsted lot. One piece of kit I’m enjoying at the moment is Kaizena [https://kaizena.com] which allows you to record audio annotation over a Google doc. This is the quickest marking ever because you can highlight a section, click record, then just speak your feedback. Wowzers.
6. Record everything – use the video camera in your phone (or something fancier if you have it) to record anything you think is useful, even yourself. This gives more flexibility in the type of lesson you can teach because if you spend five minutes recording yourself work through a particular exam problem then you can reshow that video almost indefinitely. Take a look at my youTube channel for some more examples of where you can take a lot of the repition out of your teaching. [http://www.youtube.com/lessonhacker]
7. X-Factor your lessons – Why not use instant poll software like PollEverywhere [http://www.polleverywhere.com] to allow X-Factor style text voting in your lessons. AFL has never been so much fun. It means students can reply anonymously so closed questions work better, but it does have a free text response option which all updates live as a student texts in. Pure magic.
8. Plan for epic fails – so what’s going to happen if the computers don’t work? Make sure you’ve got a second strategy, an offline ‘go-to’ just incase because the very worst thing you can do in a lesson is wait for the IT guys to come along to fix things, you’ll lose your class’ attention almost instantly if they have any downtime, have something to do that requires dead-tree-tech so you can jump to it in an emergency. This doesn’t have to be well planned, just planned.
9. If you use new tech, use it more than once – because let’s face it. You’re probably not a Computing teacher, so if you do us a favour and teach a bit of software use then why not get a good return on your investment? Use the same tech three of four times, at least, which means that students stop asking you how to use it, and ask you what to use it *for*.
10. Sometimes you can do too much – I once had a year 13 student ask me, exasperated, if they could “just do things on paper today sir?”; so please don’t imaging that I expect every lesson to be an all singing, all dancing digital learning machine. No. What I’d like to see is more teachers using tech day-to-day and not worrying about it.
At some point we’ll forget we ever called it digital learning and find the very idea that we differentiated between eLearning and Learning as a bizzare artifact of a bygone era. When even the most old fashioned teacher in the class thinks nothing of slapping on a pair of video-recording glasses and rocking out an epic lesson.
'twenty seven' - Takeaway Mathematics Homework
...I've finally had a chance to sit down and create my own version of Ross McGill's (@TeacherToolkit) brilliant 'takeaway homework' idea.
If you haven't already read his excellent '100 Ideas for Outstanding Lessons' then you must go and sort this out. This idea came from that very book (idea #56) and Ross blogged about it, and all those teachers already using their own, on his blog at:
This is well worth a read to get the background information on the idea and to see what else is out there that can be used/'magpied'.
Being the insomniac that I am, I have just created my very own takeaway homework menu and can't wait to introduce this to my students when returning to school, well, I suppose...tomorrow! I would like to introduce my new takeaway restaurant...'twenty seven'...
FUN FACT: Did you know, 27 is the only 2-digit number whose sum of its digits is equal to the sum of its prime factors?!
I started scribbling some ideas and tasks for my takeaway menu on my 'Penultimate' app on my iPad and then, having got the basics down, created the above logo. It's pretty much steamrolled from there. I looked at a lot of the other takeaway menus already out there and took inspiration from many of them when creating the rest of my menu. Thank you to all of you who see something similar in mine below! I'm surprised at how much time I've put into the layout and design of it, as well as ensuring the content is sufficient and varied.
Here's how the 'front' looks...
and the 'back'...
I decided to have the menu fold into thirds. After I had designed it and was happy with the layout, etc, I printed it off to see what it'd look like. Here are a few images of the folded version that I'll be handing out to students/having on display in class...
I'm really pleased with how the menu has turned out and have now turned my attentions to ensuring I introduce it to students in the right way. I want to make sure I cover any questions they may have about how we're going to be using it.
The thoughts I've had are as follows:
I'll need to see, from them, a piece of homework each week, or at least evidence that they are working on one of the more demanding tasks (a 'main' or 'special'). This way I'll still be 'setting' homework in line with my school's homework policy and the students will be getting the required amount each week/fortnight.
By insisting on students achieving at least 12 chillies throughout the half term this covers the above too.
The students will get full choice over what tasks/combination of tasks they complete and I've tried to include a range of tasks to suit all students interests. Equally, for those that don't have access to certain equipment they'll still have plenty to choose from. This was another reason I chose the name 'twenty seven' - lots of choice!
The tasks are all pretty standard and so should allow students to choose any of them for a particular topic they are studying. I didn't want to have to create one of these takeaway homeworks each week, for every new topic we looked at, and so kept the tasks generic. Mine could probably be used for most subjects - there's only a few 'subject specific' tasks in there.
Equally, students can now take their own 'spin' on the tasks and adapt them as they feel necessary.
This is something I'll look to share with the rest of my department/school after I start seeing the results of it, the homeworks start coming in, students' reactions etc.
In order to track what each student has/hasn't done (chilli wise) I'll add a column to my markbook and update this each week when 'reviewing'/collecting in homework. I'll also need to explain to my classes (the ones I choose to run this with initially) that the same expectations apply in terms of not meeting the required standards. As there is the goal of achieving 12 'chillies' over the course of the half term, I will also have some sort of 'progress check' week whereby students will be reminded of how many chillies they still owe.
I intend on putting a copy of my takeaway homework on the school's VLE for them to refer back to each week. I'll also create a display in my room for them to look at a few laminated copies of the menu and for them to see examples of homeworks completed (as I get them in). I'll share these on here too...watch this space!
In terms of the tasks that are on the menu, I've thought about having exemplar materials to show the students the type of thing I'm looking for with each task. Some of this will naturally come into play when some homeworks start coming in, but ,initially, they may be unaware as to what is expected? Do I need to spend a good half of a lesson explaining the tasks? Now, I don't want to limit what they are capable of here and so feel this will only really be needed to explain the more unusual tasks - tasks like the hexaflexagon and crossnumber (for those students that haven't done one of these in class with me before). I also feel it'll be important to show students examples of 'good' homeworks as they come in to get the class excited about what is being done by others and get them to think about what they can do with the task, how they'd do it differently, how could it be made better etc.
I'll also have to think about how I 'mark' each piece of homework and what 'success criteria' my marking will be based on. Perhaps I'll discuss this with each individual class and together agree on the criteria to be assessed against?
Lots of things to think about. Lots of things that will probably come out of trialing it for a few weeks and seeing where it takes us. Nonetheless, I'm excited about the impact it can have on my students. Homework, at present, is something I set because I'm told I have to. It's something that has become quite predictable in that it'll be a 'complete your mymaths tasks' or 'do this worksheet'. By giving my students the choice of what they do, as long as they do something, it should improve return rates, engagement and (of course) their learning.
Please let me know your thoughts if you're one of the many teachers already using Ross' idea. Let me know what you think about my menu too.
Comment below or find me on Twitter (@mrprcollins)
Check out the progress I've made with the #takeawayhomework by viewing my subsequent blog post - 'takeaway homework-the initial phase' --> http://goo.gl/eAFUie
If you'd like a copy of my menu it can be downloaded from my TES resources here.