Friday, May 10, 2013

Edutouring 2.0 - Learning by Doing and Design Thinking at Nueva School

Nueva School is a private California School that provides a constructivist education for gifted students. That said, what they actually provided was a programme that could (and should) be offered to any student. The school's motto is to "learn by doing, learn by caring" with students engaging in project based learning, integrated and thematic studies and as much real world learning as possible. Across the programmes students apply a Design Thinking process that insure learning is built around inquiry. 

Nueva School has been open for 45 years and has traditionally been an elementary and middle school only (same as a full primary in NZ), however they are just about to launch Nueva High School so as to provide a complete educational journey for their students.Students take a range of seemingly traditional subjects such as Maths, Science, Technology (IT), Literature Studies, Humanities and PE. They also take Design Engineering which seemed comparable to the equivalent of all NZ Technology subjects being integrated in a single monster Technology course delivered in a Maker Space (woot!).

I have to declare at this point - I loved this school. Particularly as it was the first school on this tour where they approached technology (and actually the whole curriculum) in a way that I relate to - this school wasn't an Apple school, they weren't a school that put the technology up front all. This school was about outcomes for learners. Technology (in its widest sense) was a tool to be used when it makes sense, as the Principal said - don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

This didn't mean technology wasn't being used, it was, a lot. All students used MacBooks, they also had an incredible iLab which struck me as the ultimate "maker space" with 3D printer, laser cutter, desktop computers, sewing machines, glue guns, paints and a range of hard technology tools and work spaces. Work tables were on wheels to allow quick rearrangement of spaces. 

Nueva School is passionate about Design Thinking and Design Engineering. They have a Design Thinking Institute and Innovation Lab led by Kim Saxe. To me, this aspect of the school was the key to its success. It was also the aspect of the school which in a sense really exemplified what the NZC is all about. Students in this space developed Key Competencies. Their focus on real world learning and focus on empathy meant that it covered the Values and Principles as outlined in the NZC as well. The Design Thinking process they use has been developed by Kim Saxe, based on the Stanford model. It is a inquiry model and thinking process, not unlike the one used in our Technology curriculum. It is however a process that can be used across the curriculum. The real point of difference (for me at least) was the inclusion of empathy in the cycle. A great example of this was the 6th grade Health Innovation programme where students work with a person with health issues, identify needs of health care. Whilst students are not expected to find cures, they do focus on the human experience and identify issues that may have solutions. In one example given, a number of students happened to be working with people with similar illnesses and discovered that each suffered as a result of having to work through a number of different treatments to find which one suited needs, the students identified that if the patients had been informed of all choices up front and able to choose, this could have prevented much of the "trial and error" the patients experienced. 

The focus on empathy and social action is woven throughout the curriculum at Nueva. Students don't just take "Business Studies" they instead learn and explore Social Entrepreneurship. They also learn a language of choice throughout using this as a platform for exploring world issues and social action on global level. Students learned about the country of their language and even engaged in a longterm in depth inquiry around designing and building an Eco house in the country they were focusing on. In the final year of the middle school, all students then spend two weeks in that country, one with a host family and the other exploring the country itself.

Inquiry was everywhere at Nueva. All students engaged in inquiries for each of the subjects, with much of the final two months of the school year being dedicated to inquiries in preparation for their "culmination" presentations which (I think) were basically an opportunity for students to present and celebrate their learning. Another core value of the school is collaboration and "collective knowledge", therefore presentations may be in groups or individual depending on how the learning took place.
Students also engaged in a passion project in Middle School. The project was based on something the student is passionate about and also betters the world (that component is optional but 2/3s still opt in).
Students have a mentor outside of the school and the project is very much based in the "real world". Students also participate in self-initiated projects that they engage in at lunchtime.

In summary, this was (to me anyway) genuine 21st Century teaching and learning in practice. Forget the fact that it is pitched at gifted students (it needn't be) or the fact that it is private (this could easily delivered in any public NZ school) - this school put their learners at the centre, put inquiry at the centre, put social action at the centre and they provided educators that worked alongside learners as facilitators of knowledge rather than teachers. 

We could all afford to do a whole lot more learning by doing and especially learning by caring. 


Edutouring 2.0 - iPads in the land of milk and honey at Monte Vista

On arrival at Monte Cristo Christian School we were greeted by the charismatic Headmaster Steven Sharp. Turned out in loud yet stylish shirt and matching black and white shoes. Steven was a sign of things to come, this place was, as he was - loud yet stylish, passionate, caring and generally pushing the boundaries of what a school should look like and feel like. The sprawling campus covers 102 acres in Watsonville, California. The facilities have to be seen to be believed. Classrooms have been decorated to resemble hunting lodges...complete with taxidermy, the library and student spaces resemble Abercrombie and Fitch...minus the shirtless men, the student cafeteria is a 50s diner complete with chequered floor and music. Facilities include a horse ranch, a football stadium, softball and baseball diamonds. This definitely felt like the land of milk and honey...with just a dash of Vegas.

But we weren't there to simply appreciate the decor, we were there to check out the learning and in particular e integration of e-learning. Monte Vista is passionate about e-learning, passionate about iPads and working hard to move to being entirely paperless in the middle school. As we moved through the school we saw plenty of this in action. 

In the Music suite the teacher shared his favourite apps and demonstrated how they were using Sound Note to allow each student to record an individual track whilst sing as a group. Each student sang holding their iPad, recording their voices and with a touch of a button emailed the file to their teacher, enabling him to feedback on individual performances in away that could only have been achieved through single performances in the past. I'm not a music teacher, but it looked pretty cool to me.

The Math teacher came and shared his favourite apps as well. He shared with us a great online resource called The Fuse, which appeared to be a fantastic series of interactive online Maths text books - stunning in the sense that they had moved well beyond a simple PDF version of a print text book, offering next steps, hints and spaces for working out and sharing with the teacher. These aren't available in NZ, but if I were a NZ maths textbook developer, I would be looking at these very closely! 

In other classes we saw plenty of students making great use of Notability to write up work and share with teachers and each other. We saw classes using e-Clicker to administer quick quizzes and others publishing work n Keynote. Tis was a school committed to using their technology and using it well to enable efficient and sustainable practices for students and teachers alike. 

On many levels Monte Vista impressed, it was buzzy, it was glossy and it even smelt good (with Vanilla scent wafting through the hallways). However, interestingly, the longer we stayed the more we realised that take away the shiny surface features that we what were seeing was simply good integration of technology. It was a school that liked the iPad and used it well. The desire to go paperless was great, however the pedagogy for the most part was no different than any good classroom I have seen anywhere (with or without technology), the lessons were still teacher-centric and on reflection even the decor was about the adults rather than the students. 

That said, there was much to enjoy about Monte Vista and there is no doubt, those teachers and students were receiving an excellent deal in the land of milk of honey.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Edutouring 2.0 - iDreaming at San Antonio Elementary School

San Antonio is a low decile elementary school in San Jose. Whilst it is a long established school, it was in a sense recreated two years ago with new buildings and the launch of the iDream programme. The programme involved funding from Apple for a full technical set up across the school, including wifi infrastructure, Promethean whiteboards in every room and all students being provided with either iPods or iPads in school time. Like the school we visited before it, and much like many of the schools in NZ, San Antonio was at the beginning of implementing change, enabled by technology.

In terms of preparing staff, teachers at San Antonio had a week of training with a MacBook and iPads. They were shown how to use a range of apps. The school now has an Apple Resource teacher to support staff. Initially the IDream programme was meant to be able to offer a full time Apple support person and days of professional development. But like so many promising initiatives this dwindled actually down to 16 days of a Apple resource person on staff. Now it's down to staff to work out best use. The technical support person is at district office, working across 25 schools.

Students don't have the device at home, they are kept in the lock box over night.

In terms of student use, they would usually spend 25-30% of the day using devices with 5th graders using iPads 50-60% of the day. This certainly represented the tiny snapshot we saw whilst touring the hallways of San Antonio. The last class of our tour was definitely the highlight - a groups of 4th and 5th graders passionate about learning and equally passionate about their iPads. As we walked into the room we were greeted by an enthusiastic young man desperate to share us his iMovie about his culture, another young lady was desperate to share her inquiry project and then a third wanted to demonstrate how she was using EduCreations and KeyNote to show her working in Math. These students were awesome and there was no denying that technology (undoubtedly supported by an excellent passionate teacher) was playing a central role in igniting the students passion for learning.

At the moment teaching and learning across the school hasn't really changed, the Principal was the first to acknowledge this. However, like any good school the Principal was looking at ways that they could move along the SAMR continuum. Adding to the challenge of leading change, there was also the issue of disconnectedness at home - students were unable to take devices home (as letting them do so in he past had resulted in damage and loss) and most homes had no access to the Internet at home. I couldn't help feeling like this school needed to talk to the Manaiakalani Cluster who strike me as dealing with a similar community and similar challenges. It also made me reflect upon how fortunate we are in NZ in terms of the ground swell around using Teaching as Inquiry as a means of lead change, particularly as I could see the challenges that they were facing in realising that technology doesn't change pedagogy....changing pedagogy changes pedagogy....if that makes sense. Added to these challenges was also the fact that the iDream programme really only funded the set up, the challenge of sustaining the immense shift taking place was purely in the hands of the school and community.

I sort of got the sense that, unless they work bloody hard, this school may be be forced to wake up from their iDream.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Edutouring 2.0 - Same same but different at St Ignatius College Prep

Our first stop on our TTS US Ed Tour was St Ignatius College Prep - a high decile Catholic school in San Francisco. The intention of the tour is to visit a range of schools who represent the spectrum of e-learning (and for the most part Apple) integration. In many ways St Ignatius was a lovely place to start with the school being at the beginning of its journey as a 1:1 iPad school, just finishing the first year of implementation. Like many NZ schools they are at the point of trial and error, learning with their students how to make the best use of the technology.

So how are they going about it?

All students are provided with a leased iPad which they treat as there own device. They pay a bond for insurance, but the cost of the iPad is actually covered by school fees. Students were issued their iPads at the beginning of summer, so as to give them time to familiarise themselves before the school year began. They also completed a two hour class to set up iPads, showing them how to use email, apps, Dropbox etc. Paul the Vice Principal and our lovely school tour guide admitted that they (the staff) are learning as they are go, particularly with this being the first year.

The students use Dropbox over WebDAV, as they want to move away from school maintaining files, the students need to be ready for college, and quite rightly they want do not want to get into the business of taking care of files.

An interesting thing to note is that the faculty had the iPads for a year before introducing to students. This gave teachers the time to explore and become confident with the device. In that time the staff also came up with a list of recommended apps which included: uPad, Penultimate, Notability, Pages and Keynote. The school then buys the app and students can buy them through the college bookstore at a discounted amount. N.B.This facility is not available in NZ. (Boo)

On the school webpage the school provides some great info about their iPad programme, including recommended apps for students, FAQs as well as the rationale for going 1:1 and choosing iPads.

At the same time as they introduced iPads, the school also changed timetable to longer periods, with Mon/Tues having 80 minute periods and Wed/Thurs/Fri having 60 minutes (all periods used to be 50 minutes) with the hope of enabling more student centred practice - this is of course, still a work in progress.

In terms of preparing the staff, each staff member have had a two day orientation about the iPad and teacher laptop. They also have a tech person on site, as well as subject specific mentors. Some staff go to sessions at Apple and other visit other schools. When they first introduced iPads, they had an in-service day with Apple trainers and gave iPads to faculty before students. Similarly to what I have seen in NZ schools, there was and is some resistance. When they started the programme 60% teachers were against using iPads in the classrooms and even now 5% remain anti-iPad. The school has decided to let them be. There is a large group that sit in the middle, using the iPad sometimes, there are also some high flyers. As I mentioned in the title, much of this felt same same same but different. It is comforting to see that all schools, irregardless of geography, face similar challenges when implementing change. It is good to hear as well that the school is keen to ensure there is still a variety of pedagogy, not all iPad focused.

Whilst it might've been easy to right off the situation as simply the same, it was still an excellent opportunity to learn. We could all learn and be reassured by the very fact that their successes and challenges felt so familiar. We also learned many other things, such as double the bandwidth you think you need (you will always need way more than you think), divide up the network for Apple TV, as they read all of the local traffic, Apple TV wasn't built for enterprise, but you can also use a reflector app or remote access to laptop which is connected to data show work and media as a work around.

There final piece of advice? Teach students how to back up data!

In summary, St Ignatius was a great start to out Edutouring 2.0. It allowed us to begin our journey in a familiar place, gaining reassurance that schools in NZ are well placed on the e-learning world stage. We learned tips and tricks and gained insight from a school willing to share not only their successes but their challenges too.

All in all, same same but good. Thank you St Ignatius.