Category Archives: eLearning

Our Approach to Managing iPads and Apps

This post provides a summary of our school’s solution to managing our mobile devices and apps. It is appropriate for both school owned and students owned devices and deploying both free and paid apps. It is also a very simple way of easily maintaining a record (i.e. an asset register) of all your computers and devices including their serial number, model, OS’s etc and additionally being able to perform actions remotely to them.

In our situation we have school owned iPads, ASUS netbooks and iMacs in classes, a range of iPod Touches and iPads through BYOD, and MacBook teacher laptops. We wanted to monitor school owned devices and be able to deploy apps to school and BYOD iOS devices. This will outline what we do to achieve it. There are probably better ways, but when you are just a small school with no technician and the principal assumes the role network manager, service manager… you find something that saves time, you go for it. Is it perfect? No. Has it saved time and centralised control of devices and apps? Yes. Any advice is welcomed.

What you need:

What we did:

  1. Create your school Apple Store Apple VPP account. We created two school email addresses (and Apple IDs) for this purpose, one for the VPP Manager (e.g. vpp@yourschool.school.nz) and one for a VPP Facilitator (e.g. vpp-fac@yourschool.co.nz). The VPP Manager gives the authority for Facilitators to purchase apps for the organisation. This could be an existing email/Apple ID but we created another specifically for this purpose. The Facilitator Apple ID is the one you used to make Apple VPP purchases and we also use it for our  Apple Push Certificate registration.
    • Tip: When setting your Apple IDs, make sure you uncheck the Apple News and Announcements, New on iTunes and Other iTunes Offers, always enter the same security questions and answers, DOB etc
  2. Create your free Meraki Systems Manager account. Just use your normal school email address (i.e. principal@…). When you have access to your Dashboard, navigate to the MDM (Mobile Device Management) section and to Add devices. Download the software installers for Windows and OS X and also note down your Network ID for enrolling your iOS devices.
    • Tip: Don’t use a name based email address (i.e. nick@…) as these do not always have a life beyond the user who may not be around for ever.
  3. Create and set up your Apple Push Certificate. Step by step instructions are provided via the Meraki Dashboard (go to Organisation then MDM) and the Meraki Knowledge Base.
    • Tip: Use your VPP Facilitator Apple ID for this purpose.
  4. Set up your OS X and Windows devices by installing the downloaded software from Step 2. Once installed, the devices will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under Monitor and then Clients. After a while all the machine’s details are visible in the list and you can then explore the additional functionality of Meraki. This is all you need to do for your OS X and Windows environments.
    • Tip: For OS X machines, this software can be installed and deployed when you re-image a machine. Rather than plodding around and installing this one by one, just wait for the next re-imaging.
    • Tip: Unfortunately, for Windows machines, it’s not so simple as it doesn’t work from an image and you need to remotely/manually install it.
  5. Use Apple Configurator to create and set up your school owned iOS devices. There is plenty of online support for this as well as the the built in Help. We have one profile for all devices which includes a range of free apps and settings etc that are common to all devices.
    • Tip: One thing we do in Apple Configurator is to assign each device/iPad to a ‘user’. The user names are sequential (i.e. ODS iPad 1, ODS iPad 2 etc) and have a user profile picture (the school logo). What this means is that when you turn on/wake up your device, it displays the school logo with its unique name – a really simple way of labelling devices.
    • Tip: To keep the iOS device management separate from other uses for our computers, we set up a new user/account on one of our laptops exclusively for using Apple Configurator. This keeps it clean and tidy and avoids clashes between personal Apple IDs etc.
    • Tip: If you don’t have a syncing dock/cart for your devices, get yourself a decent USB hub that allows you to configure multiple devices at once. Being restricted to do only one or two at a time is not good!
  6. Create an email address for each of your iOS devices which will be used for their Apple ID. Super easy in GAFE by uploading the template .csv file with multiple user info.
    • Tip: Keep your emails aligned to your device name e.g. if you named your devices iPad 01, iPad 02 etc then logically emails will be ipad01@…, ipad02@… etc.
    • Tip: An extra step, not absolutely necessary but in the long term will save time, set these email accounts up so they forward all emails to a catch-all address. We use the VPP Facilitator email to receive all the forwarded emails.
  7. Once you have prepared, supervised and assigned your iOS devices we need to setup their unique Apple ID. The best way we have found to do this is by manually completing the process on each iPad. This way you can avoid the step of having to enter in any credit card details. Simply go to the App Store on the iPad and find a free app you want to download (or any free app as you don’t actually have to download it). When prompted for an Apple ID, follow the prompts to create one, using your email address created in the previous step. You need to authenticate the email address, so log in to your catch-all Apple ID email and complete the process.
    • Tip: As already mentioned, when setting your Apple IDs, make sure you uncheck the Apple News and Announcements, New on iTunes and Other iTunes Offers, always enter the same security questions and answers, DOB etc.
  8. Now we need to enrol the devices in Meraki Systems Manager. Open up Safari on the device and navigate to m.meraki.com and follow the prompts to enter in your Network ID and install your Meraki profile (if you want to deploy apps to student owned devices you need to complete this step on those devices too). Once this process has completed, the device will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under Monitor and then Clients. You can then edit the device details by adding tags, owners etc.
    • Tip: There is also a QR code in Meraki Systems Manager to enrol devices.
    • Tip: Tags are really important as this is how you deploy apps out to devices. Take the time to think about how you will tag them. We tag them predominantly by room, as our iPads are based in rooms but also tag them individually for finer deployment as required.
  9. Now you are all set to go and manage your devices and deploy apps both paid and free.
  10. To deploy free apps, simply go to your Meraki Dashboard, MDM and then Apps followed by + Add new. Search for and then add apps and assign them to iPads using tags. Meraki will push these apps out to the assigned devices. The devices will automatically prompt for the Apple ID password and the download will commence.
    • If the process doesn’t work for any reason, you can re-push out apps to the devices at any stage.
  11. To deploy paid apps, purchase them through the Apple VPP site. We exclusively use Managed Distribution which enables us to assign apps to individual Apple IDs/devices. That way we retain ownership of all apps, allowing us to revoke and reassign them as needed, even to BYODs. Once a VPP purchase is confirmed, it will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under MDM and then VPP. Then you can assign it to an Apple ID, add it to your apps list and push it out to the devices.
    • Tip: On the devices you can also go to the App Store app and find your list of purchased apps (i.e. those assigned to you). They will be listed there and you can initiate the download manually.

That’s the basic outline of what we do. Hopefully you may find it useful. As mentioned, any advice as to how we can streamline the process further would be great!

More on Student/Learner Agency

In a follow up to a previous post, my old colleagues at CORE Education via their 2014 10 Trends and their EdTalks portal, have shared two valuable resources re learner agency.

The first features Derek Wenmoth giving a great overview of learner agency. This extended my thinking and made me reconsider the scope of learner agency beyond just the student and their self-regulated ‘power to act’.

Ten Trends 2014: Agency from EDtalks on Vimeo.

In particular, that agency is interdependent and has a dimension of social connectedness. i.e. It is:

…not just about a learner in isolation doing their own thing and what suits them. Learners must develop an awareness that there are consequences for the decisions they make and actions they take, and will take account of that in the way(s) they exercise their agency in learning.

Every decision a learner makes, and action she or he takes, will impact on the thinking, behaviour or decisions of others – and vice versa. You can’t just act selfishly and call that acting with agency.

I had not considered these areas within the domain of agency. I had only really considered agency from the learner as an individual – thanks for prompting me to make these connections! Thanks for the new word too – agentic.

A second resource via the 10 Trends site is Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice, with the Executive Summary being a quick and easy read. The graphic on page 3 captured simply the degrees of student voice in school activities – an easy starting point for professional discussion and review. Where would you place our school on this continuum? Where would you place your classroom? What changes would you need to make in your practice to move from Expression to Partnership? From Participation to Leadership?

sv-spectrum

A challenge for me from this report was the discussion based around students having the ability to disengage with digital distractions.

Recent research has shown that the “noise” of myriad digital distractions threatens productivity and cognitive complexity in learning.

Recent brain research reveals that our brains are indeed capable of doing many things simultaneously as long as those things do not require much complexity and the costs for making errors is low… …In short, multitasking hinders the deepest forms of engagement our brains need to learn complex things.

Challenging because of my firm beliefs around the effective use of technologies in teaching and learning. It would seem as though technology is taking the blame here for students being unable to develop their own self-regulatory competencies. Surely though, students have been distracted from their learning long before the prevalent use of technology in schools? The key for me is that there is still a need for the deliberate teaching and/or supporting of students to develop these skills and awarenesses but not, I would suggest through strategies such as “…outside restrictions via teacher (and parent) monitoring”.

I think that a read of the full report may shed some more light on this area.

A good connection though was the the discussion around “…helping students to experience their own minds in this way is one of the most powerful contributions we can make to their development and learning.”I can see some parallel threads of thinking here from another current read, Quiet Leadership by David Rock, who asks, “How can I best help you with your thinking?”

So what/now what? Currently as a staff and community we are heading into some deep thinking about our core beliefs and approaches to teaching and learners i.e. those foundation principals that drive a school’s curriculum design and approaches to making our students develop the knowledge, skills and competencies for life-long learning. To me, learner agency, and everything that is required to scaffold students to get there, is one core belief/approach that will enable our students. These resources will be a great starting point for discussion and direction.

Software agreements for NZ schools and mobile devices

Had a good discussion recently with my old principal at Russell Street School. We were talking about where to next for the school in regards to elearning and supporting infrastructure.

Like many schools, Russell St is exploring the potential of iPod Touches and iPads to support learning. An interesting question was raised in relation to the current and future software agreements. For those of you who are not sure what the agreements are all about, the Ministry of Education negotiates on behalf of schools in NZ, licenses with software vendors, to provide schools with computer operating systems, office suites, anti-virus and web filtering software at no cost to the school.

Before the question is posed, let’s take a moment to look at the anticipated changes to the tools that students and teachers will learn with, moving away from desktops and laptops to smaller mobile devices and increasingly BYOD.

The Horizon Report:

Immensely portable, tablets serve as e-readers, video repositories, and web-browsing devices with instant access to thousands of apps…

CORE’s Ten Trends:

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices

UNESCO:

…it is likely that mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will soon overtake personal computers as the information appliance of choice in the classroom.

So the question is…

When the next software agreements are negotiated, will the increased use of mobile apps be recognised and included in the deal?

Why? Let’s put that question in a context:

A school has trialled the use of iPads and iPods in their school, has realised the potential, seen the impact on teaching and learning, and has aligned their strategic plan and infrastructure purchasing around this. The purchasing over the next 3-5 years will take the school to a position where these devices out number the desktops and laptops in the school. They would like students to be using iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers & Keynote on these devices (totalling NZ$54.95) i.e. the mobile app equivalents for the same applications the school receives now for no cost  under the current software agreements.

What do you think? The solution of course is complex and is simply not a case negotiating with the Apple reseller here in NZ. Issues already surround  licensing of any apps for NZ schools with a lack of volume licensing among other things, ably outlined in this blog post by CORE colleague @warrenhall.

I know that plenty of you out there will be saying things like AndroidGoogleopen source… and fair enough to in a number of respects.

The point is, new software agreements should reflect current and planned usage and recognise what is clearly an increased use of mobile devices in NZ schools, especially the iPad and iPod Touch.

Dimensions and Dashboards

I have been doing some reflection recently around eportfolios and the different flavours that are out there to select from. I have categorised each flavour  as a ‘dimension’ below.

The basis for this discussion is really considering what an eportfolio should be and defining a tool that is as authentic as possible. The problem with most eportfolio systems is that the eportfolio is not the central working (learning) space, it is generally a space where learning is brought to and then shared and reflected upon. There is a lack of authenticity here and often a double handling of learning artefacts. So the question… is there a dimension of eportfolios that removes or minimises this issue? Enter the Google Teacher Dashboard, more on that below.

In a traditional sense this is a similar conversation to the portfolio book vs. book look debate. In this situation a dedicated book or folder is the portfolio and examples of learning are filed or glued in or completed directly on the page. A book look is just as it seems, students share the books they use during the normal course of their learning. The first could be considered as being artificial, the second authentic, one manufactured, the other raw…

When we consider this difference in a digital frame, what does it look like? Are current methodologies of eportfolio use really authentic? Do they clearly show the learning process? Are they capable of supporting all learning? Are eportfolios a true representation of the learning or just a snapshot?

Perhaps some clarity around this can be found in the dimensions…

Dimension 1: The Dedicated

A dedicated eportfolio system such as Mahara.

Dimension 2: The Managed

The eportfolio functionality or module built in or attached to a learning management system such as UltraNet, KnowledgeNet, Moodle etc.

Dimension 3: The Blogged

ePortfolios that are contained within an online tool such as Blogger, WordPress, Wikispaces, Weebly etc.

Dimension 4: The Mashed

An eportfolio that is not contained in any one place. It draws on the functionality of several online spaces and web technologies, using the best features of those tools to create and share learning. An example could be this netvibes dashboard.

Dimension 5: The Saved

ePortfolios that are created using desktop software and are not online. They are typically shared after being saved to a disk. Common software for this includes PowerPoint, Keynote, iWeb etc.

Dimension 6: The Integrated

ePortfolios that are seamlessly integrated into the way students are learning. It is a direct reference to the work being done by Hapara with their Teacher Dashboard.

You may consider the Teacher Dashboard as not being an eportfolio at all, more a customised Google LMS. I too do not see the Dashboard itself as an eportfolio, more a window into a student’s eportfolio. The more I think about it, the more I realises that the Dashboard is integrated into what can be seen as an extremely powerful eportfolio system, one that re conceptualises current frameworks. Current eportfolio systems (i.e. dimensions 1 -5 above) have not really done anything radically different in terms of presenting an eportfolio. I know that fans of Mahara and its views would probably disagree with that, but current eportfolios are still spaces where the learning is (generally) taken to, rather than produced and there is so much learning that is ‘missing’.

The Dashboard is built on students working in the cloud, learning with tools provided through the might of Google Apps. The Dashboard is the teacher’s window into this cloud, enabling managing and tracking these spaces with ease but more importantly seeing every step of the process, identifying progress and enabling more personalised and just-in-time feedback.

Student control and sharing is not lost with the functionality of sharing docs, sites or your blog retained, both within and out of the domain as per a normal Apps or Blogger account. The Dashboard and the behind the scenes set-up provides a framework for students to work and share in. Schools determine the framework for how the student environment is organised and what is seen in the Dashboard. Additionally, the Dashboard draws in other student data by integrating with your SMS.

So as a potential eportfolio system it is different… the key difference for me is that the central working (learning) space is accessible and therefore builds in more capacity for support and learning conversations than conventional eportfolio tools. This is the closest digital version of a book look I have seen.

Is the Dashboard the future of eportfolios? Take the time to read the post on the Hapara blog. Consider the potential. Don’t think of it with your current eportfolio hat on, look beyond that and what an eportfolio will look like when students are increasingly working online.

What makes the difference between the Dashboard just being a great way of managing and monitoring student activity within Apps and also being a great eportfolio system? Perhaps this hinges on access. If students are learning in a highly digital environment with 1-1 or similar access and in Apps, then it will work like a dream. To be honest even if student access is not that high, I would still grab the opportunity. If you have Google Apps for your school, you are going to want Teacher Dashboard. Whether that fits your eportfolio framework and dimension is over to you but the potential here is huge.

Laptops? Desktops? Making choices…

I am often asked my opinion about what to buy or how to organise technology in schools. I am in a privileged position working with 17 ITCPD cluster around NZ. That is a lot of schools I am lucky enough to visit and a lot of teachers and principals I converse with. I see an huge range of different set-ups in schools from the traditional computer suite to 1-1 programmes.

What works best and what would I recommend? Well that’s a really hard question to answer as I have seen every scenario work really well and allow for the integration of technology into learning but equally have seen the other side of the equation where the same set up in another school is not effectively used. We know that it is not the technology that makes for effective elearning pedagogy. Sure the access to technology is a factor but it is the understanding of and deliberate acts of teaching using technology that make it happen successfully and seamlessly.

It is hard to recommend any particular setup. Do you have 2 or 3 desktops in classes supported by mobile pods of laptops? Do you use netbooks as learning is increasingly happening in the cloud? Are laptops the only way forward? I know schools that only have 1-2 computers in each class that do amazing stuff, and then know schools that have huge almost unlimited access to computers who do pretty ordinary stuff.

What leading schools are clearly doing is projecting the way the want technology being used in classrooms in 2-3 years which is predominantly cloud based and increasingly mobile. If you look at the trends from Horizon reports, UNESCO or BECTA they support this direction as well.

My current line of thought is a little different. I am really keen on giving teachers the flexibility to makes these decisions themselves. i.e. If you have a clear budget, why not ask a teacher how they want to spend their allotment, so that the purchase clearly aligns to their pedagogical approach. They may choose laptops or even ipads, whatever. While this can be complicated and comes with lots of questions, is there really a one size fits all to a technology roll-out or should a teacher have the flexibility to choose what they use, just as they do with every other resource they use in their teaching?

Does every classroom need to have an equal share. I know that in the past I have certainly gone about strategic planning by stating, “Every class will have 3-4 desktops supported by a mobile pod of ten laptops for each team.” etc.

But should we have moved beyond this now?

I had a recent conversation with a principal who is establishing a new school. He can’t decide on IWBs or the flat screen teaching stations, so instead appointed staff will possibly get an allowance of $4000 to use either way they see fit. I think taht is just fantastic.

Sure there are lots of questions raised by using this approach. What happens when the teacher moves on? How do you manage and support a range of different technologies? What if a teacher makes the wrong decision? What happens if the need for a certain technology is no longer relevant? and so on.

But I am looking at it from this perspective: They whole process of deciding what to buy fits directly in the ‘teaching as inquiry‘ approach and would really make teachers examine their elearning pedagogy. The use/purchase of technology would be directly related to the needs of the students and the teacher’s approach/pedagogy. The teacher would be required to research, visit and answer any questions to reinforce their decision.

30 ipod touches may be a much better investment for students lacking fluency and comprehension skills rather than 6 laptops and a projector.

Have we depersonalised our teachers own elearning pedagogy by deciding what technology they should use?

What do you reckon?

The Non Negotiables

Late last year I read with interest a post by Dorothy Burt titled eTools – As Basic as Breathing. This post described the the expectations of what new teachers at Pt England need to know:

But to function effortlessly in the 2010 environment we WILL presume the following:

All our teachers are able to:

  • check an email account daily and manage it efficiently
  • use a computer or laptop and trouble shoot basic functions ie on/off, connect to printer, connection to internet
  • use the internet to search, find information and to communicate
  • particpate in online environments eg blogs or forums or Nings or Trademe or Facebook etc
  • manage music files in software eg in iTunes
  • manage photo files using software
  • download photos from a camera
  • use a word processing document efficiently
  • store and retrieve data from a hard drive eg your computer
  • access Google Docs
  • edit a short video clip using simple software

Dorothy continues on with of a list of skills teachers would need to learn, with support, as quickly as possible. Included here are such things as using presentation software, administering a blog, using Google Apps… the list continues.

I would encourage you to read this post and apply it to your own situation in your school. What would your non negotiable elearning requirements be?

Soon after reading Dorothy’s post I read this one from Kim Cofino titled Making the Implicit Explicit. Kim (who is soon to begin a new position at Yokohama International School where I coincidentally used to work), describes skills that are often taken for granted but are incredibly important, yet as she mentions often unidentifiable:

  • knowing to hold your mouse over an icon or a link to see what it does.
  • understanding that the menus for any program are at the top of the screen, that they are usually very similar, and generally what you find within them (for example: “view” usually means how you see things on the screen and that menu is found in almost every program).
  • recognizing when something is lit up (or underlined) on a website, you can click on it.
  • knowing that the cursor changes when held over different parts of the screen and what that means (the little arrow turning into a hand over a weblink for example, or being able to stretch out a picture when it turns into the double-sided arrow).
  • using tab to move from cell to cell or box to box on forms or websites.
  • being able to recognize drop-down menus – and that they hold additional features.
  • understanding that right clicking on things brings up more options.

We don’t need a list of skills for each application, or checklist that ensures we have taught how to change the font in Word or add a transition in Powerpoint. What we need to be doing is to reinforce these elearning operational concepts. In other words, arm teachers and students with a transferable skill set that enables them to better navigate their way online and in applications to solve problems and perform tasks independently. I still have conversations with teachers who want checklist of what skills students should know at the end of a particular school year. I have always been opposed to a prescribed list of skills that end up dictating what is taught to students rather than the learning driving the use of the technology. I remember buying a computing skills checklist back in early 2000, developed by another school in NZ. I came across it just the other day, unused, but such an interesting read!

Jill Hammonds, one of my colleagues at CORE, often discusses the need to do aware with a lot of the how-to workshops that are often prevalent in ICT professional development. These instead are replaced with 2 or 3 sessions that teach the operational concepts/skills required in order for teachers and students to successfully explore, problem solve and teach themselves. It makes sense really and as Kim mentions in her initial list, menus in screens are very similar in all common software packages.

Having an hour long PD session on learning how to use an application or online tool is an overkill. I would be the first to admit that I have done this myself many times. Instead, giving taster sessions to teachers on various etools, showing them what can be possible, combined with the focused teaching of computer operational concepts and skills that are transferable across applications and platforms, is time better spent. Quality time can then be spent on the pedagogy required to integrate these tools effectively into teaching and learning.

For all those little tricky bits and time saving short cuts in applications, nothing beats the the notion of just-in-time learning and ongoing networking of ideas between the staff and in their PLNs.

The follwoing flowchart cartoon, embedded into Kim’s post, reinforces this notion beautifully.

Thanks Dorothy and Kim for both of your respective posts. The combination of the two will initiate many good discussion amongst the principals and facilitators I work with.

Checklist photo courtesy squeaky482 on flickr.

Hot Potatoes

Last term saw a focus on building vocab understanding and use with all students across our senior team based on the results of our PAT Reading Vocab test which weren’t quite as sharp as we wanted.

One could take the traditional route to building vocab which is generally done through the spelling or word study classroom programme but to be honest the old spelling notebook home on Monday and back by Friday for a spelling test with word activities in between does not really engage me or my students (and also is not pedagogically sound according to this).

I immediately thought of an old favourite I have used for the past 7-8 years, Hot Potatoes, a suite of six applications “enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web.”

Hot Potatoes, available for Mac, Windows and Linux is not free (but will be from September 01, 2009) however educational and not-for-profit organisations can apply for and receive a licence for free right now “on the condition that the material you produce using the program is freely available to anyone via the WWW.”

So we have used JMatch, JCloze, JCross and JQuiz this term as part of the literacy/reading programme. Students selected reading material based around our context of ecological sustainability, read and discussed the text, drafted and then created the hot potato quiz, published it to their eportfolio and then it’s ready for others to solve, including teachers, peers and parents.

Here are some to try: JMatch, JCloze & here, JCross and a JQuiz. The last example shows the flexibility of Hot Potatoes to embed web content, such as a YouTube clip, to add interest or for future projects where the quiz questions relate to the embedded content.

As we all know there are plenty of web based tools for creating similar puzzles and quizzes online and then linking to or embedding them in your site. However the degree of customisation you can have with a Hot Potato makes a great all round solution.

Admittedly, it is not without a few issues, the main one being that within the save dialogue box on a Mac, you can’t save directly to a networked folder. This creates an extra step when students save to their folder on the network. Also, making the files available to link from the student blogs, required the files to be FTP’d to a directory on our school’s web site due to our blogging provider, and all file hosting sites that I tried, not allowing .html uploads and links. Neither are big issues, but it would be great to see the saving and exporting directly to a networked folder, or even FTP’ing to a remote server, made possible.

Download it and give it a go.

Next Generation Learning

Scrolling through my feeds I came across this video which I was hoping might back up my thoughts from my last post.

After watching it, it doesn’t go quite far enough for me as there are still views of children sitting in rows, idle computers and the overuse of interactive whiteboards. However, there are plenty of parallels I can make with my own thoughts. It will certainly provoke discussion within our staff as to how it relates to our school.

This is just a snapshot of the work being done in the UK where the government is backing Next Generation Learning to

inspire children’s learning with better technology in schools and at home.

Plenty of other great reading and viewing there.

eLearning Expectations?

Within our school leadership team we have been having a few interesting conversations as of late centered around the current immersion of elearning at our school. Not the run of the mill use of technology, but the really powerful higher order or  integrated project based use. Our discussions have caused us to look honestly at our school wide practice and realise that a cohesive understanding of our beliefs and to a certain extent our expectations of technology usage and the direct planning of, needs to be looked at and discussed.

We have excellent access to ICTs throughout the school. Our digital classes are highly immersive environments. We have sent teachers to iSchools, Apple Bus Tours and ULearn conferences consistently over the last 4 or  5 years. We have a handful of staff who also participated in the ICTPD cluster we lead from 2001-3. While PD in elearning has not been a priority for a number of years, we have maintained fortnightly iTips sessions throughout the year.

So why is it that when walking through some classrooms, computers are wearing out their screensavers? Why in some classes is there not a sustained use of technology throughout the day? I will be the first to admit that there are some parts of learning that are simple best done in a blended approach or traditional ways with no use of technology. However, for me this is still not a valid reason for having times throughout the day when technology is not being used, apart from of course those whole class teaching/discussion situations. The concept of the 21st Century classroom and learning removes that traditional approach where all students are involved in the same learning at the same time. A multidimensional approach to facilitating learning allows the teacher to orchestrate learning that sees different ‘packages’ of learning, for want of a better word, happening simultaneously. Why can’t a group of students being researching and creating knowledge digitally while others are working with the teacher in numeracy. Why can’t students be blogging while others are completing art or following up their numeracy with an activity or game? At the very least, if all students are, for example, working on their written language, why isn’t there one student on each computer completing this digitally? When you complete handwriting, or should that be, if you complete handwriting, why are there not students practicing their typing on the computers? Is one not the digital equivalent of the other?

Does this interpretation of the 21st Century learning environment, that simultaneous multidisciplinary approach to facilitating learning, mean relearning classroom management strategies? Taking a whole new approach to planning and implementation? Modeling and facilitating independence, self-management and thinking in students? Yes to all. Unquestionably.

So am I actually talking about elearning expectations here? Is it best looked at as 21st Century learning environments? Do we need PD in and/or develop a school wide vision/guidelines/expectations in what learning looks like in our 21st Century classrooms? Is that being too prescriptive? Our school already has assessment guidelines, describing clearly what assessments are required and why, we have an AtoL booklet that describes what formative teaching looks like in our classrooms and the learning language we will hear. Is it time for 21st Century learning expectations, of which elearning becomes a strand, intertwined with a formative approach and other skills and competencies? Is that any different from unpacking and implementing the NZ Curriculum?

As a side thought this is where I have problems with the way that some learning, such as numeracy, is demonstrated and described as best practice and what you should see when numeracy is happening in a classroom. I really bothers me that the ideal model of numeracy teaching sees all students being ‘numerate’ at the same time. To me this leads to a poor use of elearning where students use the technology for computer directed instruction, completing drill and practice activities or ‘games’ that are ultimately controlled by the computer. I don’t want this. I want my students being innovative, creating their own knowledge and sharing it with others.  Don’t get me wrong, I value numeracy very highly, but simply don’t agree with they way I have interpreted the perceived numeracy programme model classroom.

Another bug bear I have at the moment is with the one off use of an application or tool. While it is OK to try out something new, such as a new Web 2.0 site, how often are these tried but not sustained over a long period of time to really embed a deep learning intention or big concept? This thought was backed up by a statistic I recently read that stated that 60% of Twitter users quit within the first month of signing up. Do we jump on band wagons too quickly?

I think it is the sustained use of a technology or software that really makes us understand how it best can be integrated. I have always held the belief that a core number of applications for the students is best. It allows them and the teacher to become really proficient in their use, building a skill capacity to a high, independent level over a number of years. In my experience, when students are given the choice about how they will present and share their learning and new knowledge digitally, they always choose the tools they are most familiar with and enjoy using. While once this frustrated me as they chose not to use that really cool Web 2.0 tool I had given them a snapshot of the week before, they are happy, engaged, being successful and creating. I guess that is what we mean at our school when we state that the use of ICTs is normalised. It is part of everyday learning and how our students learn not a showcase of the latest and greatest.

So what am I trying to say here? As usual I have asked a lot of questions and provided few answers.

I believe elearning is a vital component in the 21st Century classroom. I have championed the idea that the effective use of ICTs provides the catalyst for teachers to change from traditional models of teaching. I look back over the years and see how professional development has moved away from the skill based technology first->pedagogy second model to the elearning pedagogy first->technology second model. That is the way I interpret the difference between ICT and elearning. ICT is about technology, elearning is about learning in new and different ways.

Will having a document describing elearning expectations really promote change? It may well do but only on a surface level, but for a deeper use rich in effective pedagogy it is that concept of the 21st Century learning environment that really needs addressing.