Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Years Resolutions. Will we keep them ?

With the ending of the old (2012) and the start of the new (2013) , everybody discusses what they are going to attempt to do in “education”. The reason I put it in quotation marks is because - although we are talking education - for the purpose of this blog - I am referring to education with a technology bent or using technology to achieve my aims in education.
I want to be better organised this year ( don't we all ! ) and use technology more efficiently. 
I have mentioned a few program's that I tend to favour but this year I want to take this even further. 
So what am I planning ? 
This year I hope to utilise Evernote a lot more productively. I already use this for my private use and have it installed on all my devices. I use the web clipping function for clipping articles I read, putting them into related Notebooks ( mac shortcuts, educational theory, ipad use etc). The email function to send things directly to Evernote and so on. 
Inside my Evernote  - for classroom use, I have set up a Notebook for each student labelling them with the students name. I have one large Notebook called "Year 5 2013". Inside this one I have a Notebook for each student labelled with their name ( Fred Smith etc). This is where I will keep records on my students. One note will be for monitoring ( any observed behaviours, meeting with parents, health issues). Other notes will be per subject, where I will have work samples and observations.  Therefore an English note will contain an example of their book work, photographed using my phone or ipad - whether it be handwriting or grammar (because the program is on all devices it will go directly to that students folder. You don't have to save it elsewhere and move it).  They can email work samples from the computer and I can attach them. Over the semester I will build up enough samples and observations to make report writing easier. The killer feature - all in the one place.  
The other aspect I have done is to set up each student with their own account. Because cloud based solutions are a legal nightmare for students under 13 ( in other words - all Primary School students) I sent a note home to parents explaining what I hoped to achieve and asking permission to set up accounts for the students. This will be followed up by a parent information evening in the first weeks of term. I contacted Evernote and teachers are able to set up accounts ( with parent permission). I chose the free accounts for this as I am not totally sure how this aspect will pan out over the year. I asked permission from parents before the holidays (and all agreed) and will have them set up before he new school year starts. Probably the biggest educational push here is going to be “organisation” . Teaching the students have to organise Notebooks and keep subjects in order. 
I have used Edmodo for the past 2 years and it has replaced my class website/blog. For those who don’t know it - it is a virtual classroom facebook type program (available on all platforms). My aim is to use this more efficiently. I hope to be better organised on assignments and quizzes. The beauty of Edmodo is that it keeps tack on students scores -so you can build up a record for report time. If a student submits an assignment, you can mark and comment on it within Edmodo. Last year I found the students submittted their assignments in different forms. Word (can comment in Edmodo)  Pages, (cant ) and PDF (can). My aim this year is that all students will submit their assignments in PDF form. Therefore they can use any platform and Edmodo can read it. I am also going to set up a sub class for an extension group (something I didn’t have before). Students enjoy the facebook/blog aspect of Edmodo (it is totally closed by the way - no one can see in - therefore safe and don’t need parent permission. Although you can give parents a code to view what their children are doing). Although I won’t limit their posts - I will clean them out one a month - just so it doesn’t get too cluttered. 
I run an “iPad User Group” for educators in my district. We have a wiki for information and resources - but it tended to get cluttered, disorganised and a general “dogs breakfast”. I will examine the possibility of setting up an Edmodo classroom for our group. Some groups use it for teacher PD but I’m not 100% sure I will carry this through.

On a more creative note (so it doesn’t appear it’s all about grades, scores and assessments) - I plan to set up an “Internet TV channel”. Sounds grand - doesn’t it ? Last year we purchased a green screen and lights. The two mac classes have flip videos and tripods. The idea is that the students will be able to give news reports, show projects being worked on etc. The editing will be done in iMovie (both macs and ipads). A channel will be set up on YouTube and linked to the school website. This will be totally students work. To make it “doable” I am only think of maybe three postings a term. Otherwise it becomes a headache and doesn’t get done at all. 

We have already started using Apple TV’s (ATV) in some classes. It appears to be ok but with a few minor hitches. The advantage of the ATV is that you can show anything on ipads or macs. I need to follow through with this to ensure that every student can immediately show their work from their laptop. I will post more about this at a later stage.

iBooks Author and iTunes U. This year I need to get serious regarding iBook author. This is  such a fantastic program that I really haven’t fully explored and followed through with (laziness , time - I can give a thousand excuses). It is a fantastic way of presenting a unit of work combining reading, pictures, quizzes - I do really need to follow through. I also want the students to have a go at iBook Author to construct their own texts. My class have produced ebooks for the younger classes through Pages. The younger students view them  on the ipads. iBook Author (which I have installed on all their macs) can take this to a much more interesting level. I want to experiment with iTunes U as well. Maybe a unit of work that can be repeated in following years or shared with others. 
I am basically setting up my delivery to be usable on both computer and ipad. The reason is that we are finishing our 3 year cycle with the mac laptops. Do we replace them for the senior class or go with ipads ? I am hoping to trial a class of one on one ipads later this year. In the meantime we have 15 ipads which I can borrow from the Infant classes so I can experiment. 

I continue to do most of my planning and day book through Growly Notes  .I still wish they would make an ipad version - I really love this program and use it a lot !  I may introduce this to the students for their macs. 

These are just a few of my New Year Resolutions regarding Technology in Education. I have only mentioned a few, with the aim of, hopefully, carrying them out. One of the bug bears we all have as teachers - is over planning ! Or not carrying through with ideas. I am hoping that these will all come to fruition.

What are your New Year resolutions ?