Category Archives: Teaching

Optimal Workflow for Digital Storytelling

Just ran another session on digital storytelling. The big takeaway is that good workflows can maximize your students’ productivity. Teachers will already know how to teach the writing process, but transforming that into a multimedia production can require a lot of time teaching tech. By breaking the process down into distinct tasks, we leave time to focus on what matters the most: the message.

From HB243: Digital Storytelling:

Continuing on our theme of visual literacy, this session focused on how you can use video to practice research and citation skills, narrative or informational storytelling, and to provide students with an alternative, media-rich way to demonstrate knowledge of content standards. The vehicle for doing these things isdigital storytelling, which strictly speaking is using a combination of images and voiceover to tell an aspect of your life story, but can be more loosely thought of as using images and audio to communicate an important message to an audience.

AISB 2.0: Completing the Research and Vision Phase

This year’s focus for the school has been student empowerment and service learning, and we continue to find ways to integrate these into our planning for 1:1.

Visualizing our research has helped to process all the moving parts that go into a 1:1.

At this point in the planning process we’re conducting research and building relationships with stakeholders. Students have been interviewing their peers at other schools (TAISM, AIS Kuwait, IS Dakar, UWC-SEA, SIS, UTB Helsingborg, and ICS Addis; with some help from me for Episocopal Academy and AIS Lusaka). This has required them to apply their skills in collaboration, communication and research in an authentic context.

They’re also going to present their research to a forum for parents and faculty this week and get their feedback. In addition to the obvious cross-curricular applications of skills involved here, this empowers the students to express their own opinions and have a say in the future direction of the school.

It has been a challenging sustaining student interest. I’ve now got a core of six committed students who are coming on Mondays after school to work. Developing a comprehensive plan is a challenge, and developing several competing proposals as I’d like to do would require more time than any of us have. More labor is needed. Somewhat coincidentally, the school has decided to run a service learning project the last week of this semester (in January), and we’ve found a way to take advantage of this.

We’ve designed a service learning project for the entire senior class where their task will be to synthesize the research and feedback so far into either a plan for the secondary school or elementary school. We hope to have two competing proposals in each area. The students will need to evaluate the data collected so far; learn about professional grant-writing, budgeting, and the concept of total cost of ownership; and then write a proposal encompassing all of the components of a 1:1 program. Done right, it will bundle very authentic skills into a project that will have a very visible impact on student learning in the school – a senior gift with lasting meaning.

Philosophizing on Education

I started out in education as a high school history teacher. Indulge me for a moment and forgive some negativity – there’s a silver lining soon – but one aspect that stood out to me was how disinterested many teenagers were in school.

After three years I became a K-12 technology coordinator. I taught elementary schoolers how to search and present, and middle schoolers how to design. I saw a whole other side to school – a wonderment for seemingly mundane things (geology!) in elementary, and a dazzling passion for life in the first years of middle school (We get to do our own mini TED talks?!?!).
What changes as students get older? Developmentally and culturally, of course, students begin to conform themselves to the world instead of the world to themselves. So should we as schools be trying to maintain that sense of wonderment and passion; the curiosity and creativity?

Absolutely. It should be at the root of what we do.

It’s sad that “curiosity” and “passion” aren’t measured. They aren’t quantifiable. Nevertheless, we teachers need to enable curiosity as the bedrock of lifelong learning. Curiosity is the spark that ignites the tinderbox of latent potential; it pushes us to achieve great things just because we can. For all that pundits deride technology as only a distraction, there is no better time than now for schools to fan our students’ curiosity. Wondering what Paris is like? Tour it in Google Street View. Want to know the cultural practices of Dogon Tribes in northern Mali? Get your students to do a Hangout with mine – they can tell you.

And then consider passion. When you see a student engage with a lesson, they produce remarkable work. Last month I watched a 3rd grader give a 20-minute presentation on fossils. Then consider the limitless ways that technology helps us express that passion. Students can record their own songs, produce their own movies, design their own solutions. They no longer need to perform for an audience of one (their teacher), but an audience of tens, hundreds, thousands.

The point, then, is not the standards and curricula. They are important and necessary. But they are but crude attempts to capture the infinitely more important, and commensurately less quantifiable, capacity of human beings to learn for its own sake, and to achieve great things because they can.

Recipe for Innovation at AISB

At last week’s #learning2 conference in Addis, @mscofino emphasized how five factors contribute to a “recipe for innovation” that schools can use to reshape their learning environments:

These five factors were:

  1. Look outside – study how other schools have changed, which you can accomplish through correspondence, inviting them to your school, or going to theirs.
  2. Listen inside – involved faculty, parents, and students in the process to develop a set of shared expectations
  3. Empower students – get them especially to buy into the process and leverage their expertise and enthusiasm
  4. Customize for your environment – what works for others won’t for you, and vice versa. That’s okay. Take what you need and change it to fit your specific circumstances.
  5. Evolve – the only constant is change, and you will need to adapt your plan to the vicissitudes of the modern era.

While I was away for the conference, there was a heated “traffic jam” over teachers trying to reserve labs and laptops for their classes. When I came back, I noticed again just how many of our students were bringing their laptops to school and using them in class, despite us not having a formal BYOD policy. There were other things that nagged at me. Our student numbers were climbing back up to pre-coup levels, Malitel was digging trenches for fiber optic cables all around town, and our school community was organically working and learning in ways that pushed the limits of our resources. I realized that it was time for us to innovate – it was time for us to go 1:1.

Our staff’s response to Learning2 principles. Three initials for every faculty member – we have a small staff.

So our first day back, having looked outside at Learning2, I made my pitch to the faculty. I presented a list of Learning2 principles that my extended session attendees had brainstormed and listened inside by inviting our teachers to add to and modify it. We then voted for what we felt was most important by initialling three principles. I plan to take these and articulate them into a list of specific learning activities and then use that list to draw up the devices and software that can help us achieve them.

The next day, I sat down with the PTO and gave them the same pitch, inviting them to join me in developing and articulating these values and goals as well. I hope that a few of them will step up or find someone from the community who will. Since I play so many roles at the school I need to outsource some of the work.

Finally, this week I’ll ask our advisory teachers to see if any students are interested in being involved in the process. We recently moved to a new student leadership model based on AES-New Delhi’s approach, and it is perfect for getting interested students to help provoke meaningful change.

Clearly these steps won’t be sequential. I’ll continue to look at models of other schools, and the community engagement process with extend for weeks, if not months (not that it ever really stops).

Stay tuned for how things develop.

Summer Reflections

A dilemma of being an international school teacher is that when you return to your home country in the summer you’re more often than not homeless and relegated to crashing on couches or begging rooms from family. And you’ve got to meet the obligation of seeing family and friends, even when that takes you across the continent in the few short weeks you have.

This year I spent a week in Belgium visiting a friend and enjoying Kasteel, Delirium Tremens, Leffe, and Hoegaarden before heading off to DC for the week-long JOSTI conference, a series of technology-oriented seminars sponsored by the State Department for international school teachers. Like other conferences I’d been to, this one had a mix of valuable and forgettable sessions. Some were useful hands-on demonstrations of a teaching practice like the flipped classroom, while others were merely presentations of lists of apps, tools, and websites that we might find useful in the classroom. I found that the most useful sessions had four components:

  1. A summary of relevant standards, philosophies, and other pedagogical considerations as background.
  2. A demonstration of the tool or activity
  3. Hands-on activities where teachers relate the presented information to their own classrooms
  4. A summary of best practices related to the tool or activity

It’s hard to fit all that into 90 minutes, but the conference did an excellent job of giving teachers time to process and network, and this is where the real value of the conference was. From the pre-conference happy hour to a baseball game to exploration of DC landmarks, the JOSTI organizers made sure not only that we had fun but that we had plenty of time to compare notes and make connections while doing it. The State Dept also selects a very diverse group of educators, both foreign- and local-hire from every geography from Caracas to Curacao, Bamako to Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur to Manila. Considering that it’s room, board and tuition paid, I think tech-oriented educators should really consider it, especially those at schools far from big regional tech conferences.

The rest of the summer was spent shuttling between WA, BC, ON, and NY visiting family. We learned that BC wineries make some delicious Gewurtztraminers, Rieslings, and Madeiras among the stunning hills overlooking the Okanagan Lake; that Mt. Rainier boasts the highest snowfall in the continental US; and that France requires you to clear your pet through customs when making any connection through Paris. This created quite a snarl in our travel plans since we learned of the requirement too late to secure the requisite paperwork to clear EU customs, so instead of flying my girlfriend and dog through Paris via JFK as planned, we were rebooking her flight a day before her scheduled departure. In the end I ended up driving her 10 hours to DC to pick up an Ethiopian flight to Bamako via Addis Abbaba, and then driving another five to New York to catch my flight from JFK. We met safe and sound in Bamako, glad to have the world’s worst itinerary behind us.

I got better.

I’ve always found it difficult to know when I’m doing a good job. Teachers have such a diverse audience in their students and, realistically, parents and administrators. And while we are supposed to advocate for our students, it is not they who evaluate us. Unless you let them, of course, which is why I give out end-of-the-year surveys.

The nice thing about these is that they tell you how you can modify your pedagogy, and by keeping the questions consistent from year to year you can track your progress. I use Google Forms and follow the following guidelines:

  • Book labs /set aside time in the last two periods before exams so that I give students dedicated time – this gives me a pretty high response rate, except for the students who choose to skip class before exams – and if they choose to skip, then their feedback may not what I should listen to anyway.
  • I make it clear that their responses are anonymous and leave the room while they fill out the surveys.
  • I try to keep the questions as consistent as possible from year to year.
  • Most questions are a scale on 1-5 or 1-10 if I want more detail. I include two free-response sections.

This year I improved in 17/20 metrics. Some highlights:

What I did well

93% of students – and 100% of my gifted/talented ones (I had a class that happened to have mostly G/T kids, and while the surveys were anonymous I did ask for the students’ period) – say I’m knowledgeable and well-prepared. Most importantly, perceptions of me being fair and respectful increased by 25% this year, and my approachability increased by 12%, while the number of students who thought I needed to be more lenient decreased by 36% and the number who thought I needed more strict decreased by 27%. Clearly I’m working towards a good balance in my learning environment and impress the students with my instruction.

What I need to work on

In my comments the kids mentioned my sense of humor numerous times, but as a whole I apparently got less funny  – perceptions of my sense of humor went from 85% to 78%:

“last year you were less serious in the class so when I had to get used to the new style of your teaching it was interesting and effective. (even if it did get really annoying sometimes.)”

while ratings of my explanations (of assignments, but my questions may have been ambiguous and respondents may have been referring to content explanations) went from 85% to 81%. Ratings of my willingness to help went from 70% to 66%. The last figure is the most troubling for me. In his inspiring Google Teacher Academy Application videoDavid Theriault talks about being a champion for students, and the downward trend suggests that I have some work to do there. I know why I got that rating – teaching 6/8 blocks, coaching, and keeping time set aside for myself doesn’t leave a whole lot of extracurricular time for me to work with individual students outside of class or devote my entire attention in class.

I’m also too nice; one of my growth points is to become more assertive:

“I think Mr. Kelsey is tooooo nice, not that he should be very mean, he should be in the middle; fun and entertaining when the class is respectful, disappointed and a bit strict when the class is disrespectful”

“Our class had a lot of rowdy boys and sometimes you would allow their “lack of intelligence” ,for the loss of a better phrase, disrupt the class. “

And what you’re going to want to argue with me about

I’m good at lecturing and it works for my kids. It was the highest-rated instructional technique that I used, and 100% of my G/T kids thought it was valuable (vs. 67% agreeing that discussions were valuable). It’s statistics like this that make wary of dismissing direct instruction in favor of the flipped classroom and collaborative learning models – it’s not that the latter aren’t great ways to teach, but I don’t see why I should deny students the choice of learning in a way that clearly appeals to them, since my students say things like this:

“[Mr. Kelsey] allows us to come up with our own conclusions and then we branch off from them as a class to narrow subjects and think more critically.”

“[Mr. Kelsey] makes the lessons very fun and interesting… even the boring chapters. In addition, he gives us a fair amount of independence and guidance.”

So what do we do when our desire to differentiate and give students choice in how they learn conflicts with the cutting edge of educational thought? And lest we consider technology a panacea, consider this:

I probably think that anything that has to do with internet or computer typing should be removed. Because, some students aren’t really the technical type. They work better with a textbook, paper, and pencil.



A Republican View on Motivation and Collaboration

Sorting through the post-exam detritus strewn about my classroom, I encountered a curiousity: an exam study guide created by an enterprising freshman (download link). It was notable not just as a fine example of preparation, but also as a public work: it had been created by a student in a section that I didn’t teach and distributed to one of his friends in one that I did. Printed in color, with large attractive images, it seemed more like a published work than an amateur effort.

Zayd Rajab on Motivation and Collaboration

What possessed the student to go to such lengths? I sat down with the author, ASK freshman Zayd Rajab, to discuss motivation, collaboration, and achievement. Below are some excerpts:

2013-06-11 14.07.46
Yes, that is an 18-page exam study guide created on a student’s own initiative.

A big challenge for lots of 9th graders is being willing to put in the time and effort to prepare thoroughly for an exam. What motivated you to go to such lengths?

The way I study for exams is to make a study guide so I have everything in one place, so I can do it all at once rather than bringing all those messy notes. It’s neat and clean. What I did is use this application called iBooks Author, and it makes a really good template you can use.

How did you decide to share it with other people?

I made a good study guide – it wouldn’t be nice just to have it all to myself, so I sent it out.

Did you ever consider working with another person to make your guide?

No, because when I work with other people I get distracted, so I like working by myself.

Zayd demonstrated the initiative and compassion that we'd like to develop in all of our students.
Zayd demonstrated the initiative and compassion that we’d like to develop in all of our students.

How would you feel if a teacher put this on Moodle?It would be great – people could use it and it would help them a lot. If they can study better, they can get a better grade and that would make me happy.

What if a teacher assigned this as homework to do throughout the year?

If I’m going to do it as homework, I’d find it a bit of a pain, because when you do it as homework you’re being forced to do it. You won’t put 100% effort into it. But when you know there’s a reason (and you’re doing it on your own), you put 100% into it.

For the people you gave it to, did they ask for it? Did you think they hadn’t studied on their own, and were using it as a crutch or an excuse not to study?

A lot of people aren’t studying, and if they do they’re just looking at messy notes. I think it’s better if you do the study guide yourself. But if you do have my study guide, you’d have extra help, but you’d be more lazy.

Do you think this will inspire people to do their own next time, or will they be waiting for you to give them one?

They’ll be waiting for me to do it.

In a nutshell, Zayd showed a lot of self-motivation, but his interactions with his peers motivate him as well – not just from the recognition he receives, but from the satisfaction he gets from helping others. Teachers love having students like this – he exemplifies the “Learn for Life” and “Make a Difference” qualities that we value.

A (Grossly Stereotyped) Republican View on Motivation and Collaboration

Zayd’s last remark summarizes the problem I struggle with regarding collaboration. For background, modern educational thought holds that collaboration must be a pillar of education because a) it helps students develop interpersonal relationship skills, and b) it leads to “deeper scholarship,” for example by letting students compare multiple perspectives and tackle more complex problems (Davis).

At least three issues make me question how universally we should apply these assertions:

  1. Zayd’s observation that group work is a distraction
  2. My own observations that in a collaborative setting, oftentimes the strongest student functions as a “crutch” on which the others allow themselves to depend,  a supposition supported by Zayd’s comment that his study guides allow other students to avoid doing the work.
  3. The fact that for higher-level students, “Mixed ability cooperative learning plans should be used sparingly for gifted students” as research “indicates that—for gifted students—cooperative learning seems to produce fewer academic benefits than [similar ability] grouping plans” (as cited in Davis, Rimm, and Siegle 15).

Why make students work together if the strongest one is going to do all the work? In the same way that Republicans rail against handouts to the “needy,” teachers implementing collaborative teaching strategies need to rail against handouts to the academically or motivationally challenged. Don’t let the strong subsidize the weak, because such subsidies don’t inspire the weak to succeed – they enable them not to.

It’s an ageless teaching issue that hasn’t been addressed in all the reading and talk about collaboration that I saw through my experience in the COETAIL program and Gafesummit. James Kulik appears to have done extensive meta-review of the available research and concludes that similar-ability groups benefit the most advanced students while being no different in terms of achievement than mixed-ability grouping for low- and intermediate-level ones (Kulik).

I’m not advocating that we should abandon those lower- and intermediate-level students, nor do I mean to dismiss all mixed-ability groupings as a form of intellectual parasitism. Rather, teachers need to carefully think about how we allocate and ration our time, and more importantly, focus our attentions on how we design collaborative learning, not what technology we use to achieve it. The discussion about using Google Apps and all these other tools for collaboration must be inseparable from the conversation on appropriate instructional design and must be accompanied by practical examples of how to design groups and hold them accountable for their work – and it is the responsibility of tech integrators to make sure this is the case.

Works Cited

Davis, Gary A., Sylvia B. Rimm, and Del Siegle. Education of the Gifted and Talented. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2011. Print.

Davis, Matthew. “How Collaborative Learning Leads to Student Success.” Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation, 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 June 2013.

Kulik, James A. “An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives—NRC/GT.” An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives—NRC/GT. Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, n.d. Web. 12 June 2013.


Showcase: Google Docs for Group Project Coordination, Redux

A year ago I reflected on how I used Google Docs to coordinate year-end group projects for my 10th grade World History students. They used a spreadsheet to keep track of their work and typed up their notes and created their presentation in Moodle. It was a substitution, or perhaps an augmentation, of what they would have been able to do without Google Docs (now Drive). This year I thought about how I could make the experience not just easier in terms of workflow, but also in terms of learning. I accomplished this by focusing on feedback and motivation.

Better use of comments helped students get feedback and validation of their work.

Working from the premise that the quality of work improves when 1) students get prompt feedback and 2) feel they are creating something for an audience other than their peers, I changed the structure of project to incorporate additional components:

  • A research skills component that required students to evaluate the credibility of the sources in another group’s bibliography and share their feedback with that group (next time I’ll have the kids leave this feedback as comments within the bibliography rather than a separate document so that it’s immediately apparent)
  • More rigorous feedback on my part, using comments within Google Drive to give praise and constructive criticism promptly and regularly
  • Regular showcase demonstrations of exemplary work to the class as we passed each checkpoint, which I could do since each group kept their work in a folder that was shared with me.

These three components required students to create for a peer audience and also gave them numerous opportunities, along with concrete examples, of how they could improve their work. Kids also appreciated being showcased and it created a real sense of camaraderie. There’s something really cool about having an entire class applaud someone’s work.

I felt I got closer to a redefinition this time around – not because leaving feedback is novel, but because giving intra-class peer feedback between 20+ students at a time is impractical to the point of impossibility. It’s just another way that Google Docs helps streamline the process of learning: it helps you get away from getting kids to DO things and lets you focus on getting them to LEARN things.

Intellectual Property Rights In Real Life

It’s hard to teach students the rationale for proper attribution and citation when the only contexts and consequences they experience exist at school. If they copy a paper, teachers tell them it’s dishonest and unfair to the original author, but the punishment comes from us. There is no tangible victim with whom students can empathize, nor a punishment that is meaningful in the real world (many of my students do not consider grades part of the real world).

Today I got an opportunity to give my students a real-world lesson in intellectual property rights and infringement. They’ve been working on propaganda video projects for the past three weeks as part of our interwar years unit. Today they submitted them and we spent the class period watching and critiquing their efforts. I required the students to upload their videos to YouTube to eliminate problems with incompatible file formats – every year a student uses Windows Movie Maker and copies the .wlmp file instead of exporting it as an AVI or MP4 (.wlmp is the index file that simply references the media; it’s similar to an iMovie project file). Most students were able to accomplish this, but one group uploaded their work and rushed to class, only to be met with this screen when we tried to play it back:


Unauthorized user. Access denied!
Unauthorized user. Access denied!

That’s right – just like TurnItIn scans student papers for plagiarism, YouTube scans media files for copyrighted video or audio and automatically strips them out. Other students received similar warnings about copyright infringement due to background music, without their videos actually being blocked.

I explained to the class that this was a real world consequence of their plagiarism, and that this was why we teachers valued originality of words and ideas. Even when done without malicious intent, copying was considered copyright infringment (akin to plagiarism), and businesses cared about it, too. The group whose video was blocked was really disappointed that they weren’t able to showcase their hard work and get feedback from the class, and were shocked to learn that if they had infringed in the course of paid, commercial work, they or their employer might be liable for thousands of dollars in penalties. It was a meaningful consequence and a lesson that they will remember for their next project.

This wasn’t the end, though. The group was able to export their video from a laptop to a flash drive, so I played it locally from my computer towards the end of the period, bypassing YouTube’s content checking. When we watched their video, I saw that they had taken many separate clips – no more than 30 seconds each – and remixed them into an original piece that did a fairly good job as a propaganda video. Once we watched the video, I asked the students if the work did, in fact, constitute plagiarism/infringement. The class agreed that the group had created an original work without using substantial portions of any one clip. So the lesson turned into one about corporate overreach and the challenges that artists and creative minds face in the digital world. Not too bad for a 10th grade project on totalitarianism and propaganda.

#Gafesummit Reflections: Six Selections, from Student Showcases to Haiku

The UAE GAFE summit was held at ASD this year.
The UAE GAFE summit was held at ASD this year.

As a teacher in Kuwait, I always relish the opportunity to escape Kuwait whenever possible and spend the weekend drinking Belgian beer meet other like-minded teachers and learn practical applications of 21st century pedagogy. The selection and quality of the keynote speakers and keynotes at the UAE Google Apps for Education Summit at the American School of Dubai made this one of the best PDs I’ve done to date. A few highlights:

1) ASD Showcase

ASD hosted a showcase on the first day to highlight their students’ achievements using technology. They were predominantly examples of how technology had modified assessment: PSAs created in Final Cut Pro by the video production class, virtual posters made on Glogster by 5th graders, Lego programming with Scratch done by 4th graders, various presentations in Prezi and Google Presentations, and short history graphic novels designed using Comic Life. Other displays highlighted how technology had truly redefined instruction: a 1st grade class used Explain Everything and shared their work by miroring their displays to a projector with AirShow, while the PE classes used iPod touches to record video to peer-evaluate form and technique.

2) Chromebooks

See how many students in ASD’s showcase used tools in the cloud made me reevaluate my stance on Google’s Chromebook line. I had previously thought that they were limited to surfing the web and doing Google Docs, since there are no local apps and everything is done through the browser. But hey, it turns out that you can edit videos in the cloud using YouTube and Animoto! Chromebooks still aren’t appropriate for heavy-duty digital media, but at a $200-$250 price point they don’t need to be. For schools on a budget who want to go 1 to 1 but don’t want to do a BYOD policy, I’d tentatively recommend them – specifically Samsung’s $250 model for a 7-hour battery life or HP’s version for a 14″ screen.

3) Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard

Hapara’s third-party addon for Google Docs gives teachers a dashboard where they can see all of their students’ recent work/emails/blog posts/blog comments at a glance. It’s $4/year/student, but it makes Google Drive’s interface a lot more manageable and injects a measure of accountability into the “wildly creative” and independent nature of collaborative learning.

The ASD Showcase spanned all grade levels and content areas - even PE!
The ASD Showcase spanned all grade levels and content areas – even PE!

4) Infrastructure tour

ASD has a university-quality network setup thanks to the planning of IT Director Grant Weaver. It’s been key to the success of their 1-to-1 program, which is just about having an internet connection for every student as it for having a device for each student. The highlights for me included:

  • PFSense boxes that aggregated 11 DSL lines into a single pool of bandwidth for the campus
  • An Aruba WiFi implementation that allows them to manage number of devices connecting, allowing students and faculty one laptop and one other mobile device (the Aruba controller can tell the type of device connecting to its hotspots)
  • Linux-based print controllers running PaperCut connecting to each shared laser printer, which require users to be physically present to release their print jobs and thus cuts down on paper wastage
  • Palo Alto application-based firewalls – this allows them to, say, restrict Facebook at all times except for lunch, or limit YouTube streaming to 1Mbps instead of cutting it off completely, or block torrent downloads during the day but not overnight.

5) E-portfolios

I saw two ways of creating e-portfolios using Blogger and Google Sites. For a portfolio made for a single deadline, I’d recommend using Google Sites since it offers more control over the organization and layout of your site. Blogger is more oriented towards a chronological series of posts and makes it harder to control the layout and organization, but that same attribute means it’s good for capturing a students progress over time, such as over the three years of middle school

6) Haiku LMS

Haiku's LMS gives you more control over the layout of your online courses.
Haiku’s LMS gives you more control over the layout of your online courses.

ASD decided to use Haiku as their Learning Managment System (LMS). Its featureset is pretty similar to Moodle, but the interface seems simpler and more polished, it offers Google Apps integration, and crucially it offers much more control over the appeaance and layout of individual courses. This makes it more useful for disseminating general information about a class. At ASD, the elementary school has one course set up for each grade level that functions as a portal for parents. This implementation is slowly replacing the previous internal community portal powered by Google Sites.

Five Sessions I Wish I Could Have Attended

I couldn’t fit all the sessions into my schedule, but if I could have then I would have added a few more:

  • 20 Top Apps Workshop: this apparently was like a mini Google Slam, where 20 useful tools were demoed in about 3 minutes each.
  • Visual literacy workshop: I’d better get on board with this if I don’t want to miss out on the wave of the future. Farewell, print literacy!
  • Youtube workshops: I’ve always thought that iMovie was THE way to edit movies, but between YouTube and Animoto there are more and more ways for students to create multimedia stories. I’m assuming this is what you’d use to edit video on a Chromebook.
  • Digital Citizenship: I wish I did more in my classes to develop the children as individuals, not just as students. I attended two previous NESA conferences to get a Habits of Mind certificate, and this falls into the same vein.
  • Google Apps Mashups: Because anything I can do to make my planning and teaching workflow more like DJ Danger Mouse and Girl Talk must be a good thing. Also heard that this was a popular (and therefore overcrowded) session.

 Here’s a link to the online presentations from many of the sessions.

“You must harness the wild, unpredictable creativity of my children through authentic and collaborative assignments, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

I was already familiar with many of the pedagogical concepts presented in the sessions and keynotes (a wild era of creativity, the necessity of collaboration, etc etc etc) but the showcase and infrastructure impressed one thing upon me as a classroom teacher and future IT coordinator: the technology needs to be a seamless part of the learning process; it must be transparent and effortless. Asking student to open their laptops and start writing a collaborative brainstorm is vastly different from explaining the task in class, having them gather materials, taking them to a lab, and then getting them set up again. Even mobile laptop carts don’t match the seamlessness of a 1:1 program – there’s still overhead in the setup and takedown process. Next year, as the IT Coordinator of a small school, I’ll look to implement this philosophy wherever I can.