A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the PoriruaNet Cluster conference, to facilitate a couple of workshops on Enabling e-Learning and blended professional learning for schools.
It was great to see four schools coming together to explore the way they were using technology for learning - and the day was kicked off by Mark Osborne (Albany Senior High School - see picture right) who explored several aspects of how his school has integrated technology into their curriculum and learning philosophy.
At Albany, for students who have any device, they can bring it in and the school will make sure the network is available. But their vision for students means that they should be able to learn in the way they wish - which may not involve technology. We should remind ourselves that learning is a social activity, so screen time needs balancing with peer work, and their suggested optimum ratio is 1:3 around a single device.
The goal at Albany is for any browser to be able to access the web, using any device, anytime, anywhere. This requires huge commitment to the network and infrastructure. 400-500 devices are on the network during the day.
For every personal device that comes in, a school computer is freed up for a student who needs it. Software access can also result in inequity, so they chose to use open, free, powerful software that anyone could access. E.g GIMP instead of Photoshop; Open Office, instead of Microsoft Office. To download new apps, the library offers QR code-tagged apps to take students to relevant download pages. In terms of storage and security, the school provides personal lock-ups, with power points, managed by the students.
Recording and reflecting on their own 'Impact' projects (e.g. Students monitoring waterways, starting bands, designing rockets, creating art) can be challenging for teachers who also have to support rigorous assessment. How to assess fluid, self-chosen learning? e-Portfolios allow for flexible conversations around learning, amongst students, parent and teachers.
Collaborative, peer-tutoring can occur in the cloud. Mark described the power of Google docs, citing an example of over 40 teachers using them at the ULearn11 conference to collate notes during a keynote. These tools allows for differentiated approaches, peer review, structured and scaffolded approaches, and tracking for individual involvement. Many classes use Facebook pages, often administered by both teacher and students, focused around different topics and questions
Mark quoted Bishop, and the importance of tuakana-teina. All good teachers keep learning. He advocated for active reciprocal learning (touching on the Learning Pyramid).
At the start, Mark reminded us of Papert's quote - "Of course technology doesn't work. Technology doesn't do anything; people do." - and asked us to consider the challenges in our classroom that we are hoping to solve. It was a good reminder to set aside the shiny tools and focus on a clear vision and learning goals for our students.
The keynote was a really useful set of touchpoints for BYOD, that put the learning and the curriculum in the foreground and spoke strongly to the importance of clear vision and strategy.
The e-Learning Planning Framework: Leadership dimension might be a good starting point for other schools looking to review the way they interate technology with their curriculum.
Thanks to Mark for sharing Albany Senior High's experiences, and to PoriruaNet for hosting us:-)