Archive for the tag “teachers”

Pokemon Go.

damoballI’ve got another Pokemon Go article happening over at FindingDamo.com. I just wanted to look at it from an educational perspective as well, a year on from my last look at the subject.

A year later, my huge dreams have come to nothing. I haven’t created an AR scavenger hunt. I haven’t made the virtual St James College Paintball stadium.

But I’m still playing Pokemon Go.

It hasn’t lost its fascination for me. A year on, I’m still walking ten kilometres over a weekend to hatch some eggs (and to stay fit). I go on raids with total strangers to catch legendary monsters that I can’t fight by myself.

The concept is a good one. The merit of game-play that doesn’t rely on controllers or even being inside the house is excellent. Surely it is something we can use in an educational setting.

Imagine (and feel free to make these apps happen with my blessing):

What’s that bird? 

You hold your camera up to a bird in the wild, it scans the shape and colour and if it finds a match, adds it to your Bird-watching field book. Gotta see ’em all!

Ghosts of the past

A virtual historical landscape that overlays our actual world. Hold the phone up and see what your block looked like one hundred years ago. There are apps out there like this already – the Vic Heritage app on iPhone shows you pictures of places around Melbourne when you get close enough – but it isn’t augmented reality as much as it is pop up photos using GPS.

With the focus on STEAM and Digital Technologies, there is an excellent opportunity for keen teachers with time on their hands (ha!) to work with their students to create games that don’t just emulate stuff already out there in the world, but to create something completely new, with an educational bent.

How about virtual art galleries? I’ve been working with our Art department on trialling QR codes and AR hotspots to bring up explanations, rough sketches and videos relating to student artworks in the College gallery. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could lift your phone to an artwork and see it in sketch form? Or see a video of the creator explaining their process?

We’re only scratching the surface of the possibilities here. Mostly because any teacher interested enough to make something like this happen already has too much on their plate to take on something new.

But still, have the conversation. Delegate. Get the students to do it as a project. They’ll probably do a better job than you would anyway.

And keep playing Pokemon Go. That Lugia won’t catch itself!

PS. Check out TheSTEAMReport.com.au – I am editing this for Minnis Publications and you can subscribe for a monthly (soon to be bi-monthly) email newsletter containing bitesize articles for your STEAMy pleasure.

Creators not Users

I usually talk about cyber safety. Today I say to you: the best way to be safe in the cyber-world is to be a creator and not just a user.

creatorsThe new Digital Technologies curriculum is coming into place next year. ICT capabilities (using word processors, spreadsheets, answering emails, creating wikis) will be incorporated into the rest of the curriculum. It is now assumed that students will know these things but if a History teacher wants a Word document handed in, they’ll have to check to make sure that the student is using styles for headings and not just pressing space a hundred times to get the heading into the centre of the page. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can you get Word to auto-create a table of contents using the headings from your report?
  2. Could you create a budget in a spreadsheet program that automatically updates as your financial situation changes?
  3. How would you find out what the Iranians called the Iranian Hostage Crisis?

This is stuff the students should know by the time they hit Year 7. Obviously, that means the teachers need to know it as well. That’s beside the point. We’re not teaching this stuff in IT any more, unless we need to as students hand in reports on the new DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES curriculum.

The idea behind Digital Technologies is that in a rapidly changing technological world, teaching students how to use Word is teaching them software that will be outdated by the time they hit the workforce.

We need to teach them how to think. That’s the concept that underpins Digital Technologies. Students are going to become creators rather than users.

If you know how to break down (decompose) a problem into smaller manageable pieces, and then create a series of steps (algorithms) that can solve each of the steps in an ordered way (computational thinking), allowing for the possibility of change in scope, then little things like working out how to do a mail merge in Word become easy, because you know the steps to solve that problem (Google it).

http://xkcd.com/627/This cartoon by XKCD sits above the desk in my office. It is guaranteed to turn anyone into an IT support person in seconds. Live by it. (link: http://xkcd.com/627/)

The easiest way for students to demonstrate computational thinking, decomposition and the creation of algorithms is to code. There has been a massive push in around the world to make sure the younger generation can code. It has finally made it to Australia and from next year (if they haven’t already started) students in primary school will be coding as part of their curriculum.

Where does that leave us? The secondary classrooms that haven’t been explicitly coding? We need to do some catch up. It might take a few years for us to be teaching the Year 7 curriculum. And that’s fine. It won’t take our students long to pick up on the concepts they missed out on.

And why am I doing this spiel on a blog? Because as parents (or teachers), you can help. Let’s get our students introduced to coding in a fun way before they need to do it in class. Start them on the basics so that they can take on the more structured lessons as they progress.

Here are some resources being thrown about at the high school level:

  • https://www.codecademy.com/ – This is a great resource we’ve been using with our Coding Club. It has courses in Javascript and Python – two very popular languages out in the world.
  • https://codecombat.com/ – learn to code while killing goblins and orcs! You tell your character what to do using code and learn while you’re at it.
  • http://Code.org/learn – The Hour of Code is a fantastic starting point. There are coding hours starring characters from Star Wars, Frozen, Minecraft and Angry Birds. Students can create their own Flappy Bird game, mazes and puzzle games as they progress.
  • https://bitsbox.com/ – good for Year 7s, but probably not much further on from there. You can subscribe for printed booklets with hundreds of little coding activities.

 

How to annoy a teacher

There are hundreds of ways to annoy a teacher. Sometimes it depends on whether the annoying person is another teacher, an administrator, a reporter, parent, relative or person on the street.

My uncles delight in telling me that I can’t complain because I have too many holidays. I could argue that until the cows come home and it wouldn’t make a difference, so I won’t bother.

I get annoyed when meetings are called (or cancelled) at the last minute. I get annoyed when I don’t see a class for three weeks due to unfortunate timing of holidays and sports days and correction days and any other multitude of days. But it’s something that happens. I’ll live.

I was unnecessarily infuriated when another teacher told me that one of the extra-curricular activities I undertake was part of my teaching loadangry teacher. OK, annoyance again was warranted but the strength of my reaction was a bit over the top.

If you’re not a teacher, or not a secondary teacher, here’s some background knowledge. Primary teachers all over the country will look at what I’m about to say and join my uncles in telling me secondary teachers are paid too much, but here goes.

We have a teaching load. Looking at my timetable I have 19 periods of teaching a week which is 15 contact hours (I think). I have five yard duties and two emergency yard duties over a fortnight. I have a couple of possible extras a week. I have time allocation for my Position of Leadership, and a couple more for IT-related work. The rest of the time we’re at work is planning, marking and other teaching miscellany. I totally admire the primary teacher who has their classes all day, except for specialist times.

We also have responsibilities. We have to show up to meetings – staff meetings, beginning and end of term training days. We have to attend some information nights and we are expected to participate in certain extra-curricular activities related to our discipline. For example, I am part of the Arts faculty, and therefore I take part in the College production. More to the point, I love the College production and therefore I take part in it (but I would be expected to do so even if I didn’t).

I teach at a smallish school. We have a dedicated staff and we’re never short-handed for any activities that are run. Because we like to get involved. Because we like to do things to enhance our students’ learning experience.

Not because we’re being paid to do it. Not because it’s part of our job description.

I’m not getting paid any more than the teacher who gets in at 9 and leaves at 3.30. This morning I started work at 6.45am and I’ll finish at around 11pm.

It’s not part of my load. And it devalues what I choose to do to say that it’s part of my job description. It took me awhile to figure out why I was so angry at the suggestion, but there it is.

This next bit will sound a bit more like a resume letter than a blog post, but I think it’s important to blow your own trumpet every now and then. Not for other teachers, who already know how much work is involved in what we do, but for my uncles.

Here’s the short list of my extra-curricular involvement at the school:

  • Debating coach (five evenings, plus finals, plus lunchtime planning sessions, plus research and planning, plus professional development and the associated catchup)
  • Creative writing club (lunchtime meetings, plus excursions, plus research into competitions and publishing opportunities, plus proofreading and lesson plans – purely for the boys’ enjoyment and not part of school, plus Write-a-book-in-a-day (8am-8pm))
  • College radio before school at the community radio station (getting up before 6 for a 7-8am show, once every three weeks)
  • College production (don’t even ask, especially on years where I have a more active role)

Not paid for any of it. And apart from the College Production, not even expected to do any of it.

And I really don’t care. I love doing it all. I love being a part of these activities and I don’t begrudge the time spent making them work well (although my wife might sometimes).

But I want to be a bit selfish. I want people to look at what I’ve done and say “look at what he’s done for these kids – that’s pretty special” rather than “meh. It’s part of his job.”

OK, rant over. I just wanted to work my way through an extreme reaction to a simple comment.

my jobAnd now, back to work. Playing with Lego, making movies, creating robotic animations, printing out 3D Pokéballs and taking photos.

My life is soooo hard.

Technology and Distractability

I’m writing this at parent teacher interviews. As an IT teacher, I’m not in as high demand as the English and homeroom teachers. Most of the students in my class are there because they want to be. So I have time.

I can mark work, prepare lessons and write articles.

When I do manage to talk to a parent, sometimes they’ll find out that I had a lot to do with implementing the iPad program at the school and invariably I’ll get the comment: “How do I stop him from wasting time on the iPad?”

There are a few options here, depending on how diplomatic I’m feeling. For the most part, these work both in the classroom and at home.

1. Not at all diplomatic: You’re the parent. You rule the roost. Put some rules in place that mean that he doesn’t do things he’s not meant to do.

2. Slightly more diplomatic: Have a conversation with your wayward child. What are they using the iPad for? How important are the various different activities? How much time does he realistically need to properly stay in touch with friends and have some leisure time? And then come up with a mutually negotiated timetable for class use versus leisure use. And of course, if the timetable isn’t upheld, you stop being diplomatic and go back to step 1.

all the wonderful things an iPad can do.

3. Very diplomatic: If the work your son is required to do on his iPad isn’t challenging enough or hasn’t been explained properly, then a confused student is a student who ends up on social media. Tablets are incredibly powerful machines. With the proper motivation, students could be inspired to create a movie, make an interactive app or design a scavenger hunt. With no motivation, they can Google the answer, copy and paste work into a Keynote and hand in a Pages document called Blank 43 (which is probably very accurate).

The reality is somewhere between all of that. You are the parents, and you do have the ability to place restrictions on your child’s use of technology at home. The teachers at school are in a similar situation. Any restrictions placed on a student should be made in conjunction with the student, to limit the amount of resentment and rebellion involved.

Your job as parents is to be aware of what your child is meant to be doing and what they’re actually doing and modify the ratio between the two so that the work gets done.

Our job as teachers is to make sure that the work that they do on their tablet is valuable and stimulating and not just busy work that we don’t want to mark as much as they don’t want to do it.

Sorry, did that answer the question?

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