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Technology…Amirite

Month

September 2015

Hii Reaching

In my last post (see Hii Achievers) I introduced my big digital idea – Hii Skills. Before I go into greater detail regarding the finer aspects and practicalities, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the reasons behind the creation of Hii Skills – the unfortunate reality that teacher aides trained specifically in HPE are few and far between. To be clear, I am not suggesting Hii Skills is 100% better for students with special needs than having regular access to teachers face to face. Instead this project allows for fully and specially trained teacher aides to be more widely distributed to more students in need by decreasing barriers such as travel time and limited resources. Put simply, Hii Skills is a tool used to address and combat personnel limitations in remote areas and understaffed metropolitan areas.

‘So what does it look like?’ you ask. Hii Skills can be imagined as a fusion of Skype and Wii Fit/Wii Sports presented in a school and student-friendly program. Let’s break it down into the projected student and tutor experiences.

Students would log onto Hii Skills and be met with a main home screen divided into two parts – one half providing a video link to their tutor (through their webcam, a cheap and common device found on most computers) and the other displaying the student’s personal goals, achievements and character (which they have personally designed and created). The tutor would then introduce the session, a typical establishment of objectives and task outlines to ground the lesson. At the tutors control, the screen would then transform into the activity for the day. Each activity would be controlled by the tutor, appropriate for the class objectives and student ability levels. As the activity is completed and requirements fulfilled using Wii controllers and balance board, students receive instant rewards and responses from the tutor icon on the side of the screen. Immediate verbal or non verbal feedback (in the form of audio or SMS type messaging) is provided in relation to their performance. As the student progress through their program, visible results of their own improvement can be seen through increases in their characters ability levels.

On the other end of the line, the tutor would receive a live video stream and concurrent data of the student’s participation and progress in the form of time on task, centre of balance or specific movement records. Based on this feedback tutors have the ability to manipulate the activities and goals depending on student achievement. This wide-reaching control over the program is incredibly important to maintain the individualized nature of each student’s learning experience (that can otherwise be lacking in distance education scenarios). Characteristics as small as the kinds of ‘rewards’ students receive (ie  gold stars as opposed to coins) to the types of activities incorporated (snowboarding as opposed to tightrope walking for balance) would further assist in the personalization of the program.  Tutors may also influence the types of graphics based on student understanding of personal movement awareness and reflection.

Now let’s talk cost. Let me guess, at this point you’re thinking ‘Surely this will cost some big bucks!’ That’s where I can happily tell you that this isn’t the case. To get started, schools simply need some form of internet connection in order to communicate with the tutor. A Wii Balance board costs $20 new ($10 pre-loved) and 2 wireless remotes for $35. For a grand total of $55 schools are able to implement the Hii Skills program, enhancing the education of numerous students with special needs.

This is the foundation of what I believe to be a strong idea, an idea that could help to address the issue of limited trained personnel and resources across schools. I’d love for you to put yourself in the shoes of the tutor and think about what controls and information would be most important to have access to. Please leave any comments or suggestions below!

Productive Procrastination

So last blog I talked about my way of helping teachers cut down the time spent outside of school planning and learning content. In case you can’t remember that far back (I definitely struggled) I proposed using YouTube to group together the collective knowledge of the internet into one channel aimed at helping teachers learn and plan faster. But why is You Tube the best place to do this. Why not make a Wiki or a tag onto a drop box that already exists. Well I have a few reasons.

The first reasons is that YouTube is already the most use source in young teachers. In a survey conducted on 3rd year teaching students asking their preferred resource for lesson planning 22 of the 38 votes went to YouTube. I believe that this is because YouTube is a simple video platform its so quick to find what you want. This easy of use is what students value the most. When I approach Uni Work my first thought is usually how fast can I do this. Through a You Tube tutorial you can learn the basic techniques of a sport in around 3 minutes. It has so much content as well search any sport and there will be hundreds of people giving tutorials for the different techniques required and this adds to the efficiency because you are never left searching around trying to find a suitable resource. That brings me to my last point suitable resources with content so easily made experts in their field are making videos all the time. Channels like Smarter Everyday where you can be taught science and physics by an actual rocket scientist, and Veritasium where a university lecturer travels the world answering science questions sent in by viewers. It is very rare on that on You Tube you are unable to find a quality resource. If successful the YouTube channel will have chosen the best videos anyway. All you’d need to do is search the name or the subject or sport and playlists of all the suitable resources will be there. Making an already popular and efficient resources even better!

Lastly I’d like you to check out the two YouTube channels mentioned above they have been hyper linked so next time you are procrastinating on YouTube at least you will learn something.

Student Sliders (Not of the burger variety)

We need to be able to check for student understanding.

Students could tell us rather than us guessing.

This is a worldwide studied issue.

There are some solutions.

These are what we have talked about in the last few weeks. Now we want to look at a targeted solution. Building from other solutions to sketch out a tool that will be most effective at allowing teachers to understand where their students learning is at.

Last week we examined 3 established solutions. Thumbs, Clickers and GoSoapBox’s Confusion Barometer. The common theme of potential improvement throughout these was that we could go deeper. We could offer students more options to provide feedback on and more of a range to articulate their understanding. The common themes of success were ease and speed of use. Suggesting that any solutions needs to be un-obtrusive and simple to use.

The solution? ‘Understanding sliders’ linked to class learning goals and assignments. Meaning that students would be able to move a slider to indicate how well they understand each of the days learning goals. Students would be able to update this as they go, and it would be kept anonymous from their peers. Fulfilling needs of speed of use and anonymity to ensure more accurate student responses. The data from students would be fed directly to a teacher who would be able to see trends in student understanding and what students need help.

Further from this students would also be able to move sliders to let the teacher know how well they understand their assessment items. This would help teachers to know how much explanation is required of class tasks so that students are given the best opportunities to succeed.

Access to this tool could be through either an app on student devices, logging onto a website at the beginning of classes if using school devices or finally potentially having software embedded into either school devices so that it is on screen or into a school website such as blackboard. The students would then open a tab that would have listed the learning objectives for the day, and from there they could report on their understanding as the class and term progresses. Ideally the technology should be available for use on a number of platforms so that it can be used with school and personal devices or across a range of technology devices.

The collated data would help the teacher find what methods work best for improving student understanding and provide a snapshot of what material may need revision come the end of the semester.

This is the bones of what I think could be a major step forward for checking for student understanding. I would invite readers to look at the potential picture of the interface and suggest names and improvements that may further develop the concept.

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Idea Sex

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One idea that has been noted is a very simple and easily applicable solution, combining all these great aspects from each existing program and creating a brand new system that is for both teachers and students. This is a similar concept as to the blackboard system we here at university use however applied in a different way to target different areas. Obviously communication between teachers is something that needs to be done to share ideas, explain situations, share knowledge and resources on topics and students. This can take the burden off of many teachers in subject areas they don’t know overly. Having all this information at their finger tips should reduce the time they would normally have to research and  comprehend certain aspects when their fellow teachers have all the resources they need. This could be a great tool used within any school system and something very achievable that could be implemented very easily. The concept of “idea sex” is something that has benefited our culture and society for many years. Without this concept of sharing and combining ideas with others, simple things like the ‘computer mouse’ would never have existed.

The following Ted Talk video in short sums up the concept of sharing and combining ideas which is where my own idea for a new system incorporating all/certain aspects of others was derived from:

http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex?language=en#t-10931

How do teachers already facilitate a flipped classroom?

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In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how there is a lack of resources available to assist teachers facilitate a flipped classroom, hence the reason why I proposed my website/app dedicated to the flipped classroom.  However, there are some similar applications which possess some of the same qualities as my idea.  These include, but are not limited to: YouTube, Blackboard and Dropbox.

YouTube-logo-full_color

YouTube is an online video sharing service where its users upload videos and can share it’s amongst the world.  Many teachers that use the flipped classroom technique use YouTube as a resource.  However, it can also be used as a distraction to the students, as they can easily get side-tracked with recommended videos being displayed in the side bar.  Furthermore, if the video is on a sensitive topic, inappropriate videos could then be recommended to the students.

Blackboard_Logo_235x227

Blackboard is an e-learning system that allows online learning experiences, assessment resource and learning material resources on a web-based application.  It also allows for students and teachers to communicate online and provide online assessment items such as tests and electronic submission.  Many schools have already been using the Blackboard system, providing students with course readings and class materials.

dropbox-logo

Dropbox is an online storage/sharing service, which allows its users to save documents and files online to be readily available.  If you are a member of a particular group within Dropbox, you can upload and download any files that members upload.  These files can then be changed by other members and the updated versions can be downloaded and viewed.  However, it lacks to communication tools such as the ones used in blackboard.

 

These applications all share the same principle of being able to access content freely and instantly.  However the major difference between these, in a flipped classroom scenario, is the ability to communicate between teacher and student.  My idea is a combination of some of these applications, drawing on the ability to instantly share video and resources and communicate between the students.  More specifically, the ability of students to have quick communication access to their teacher, also making the website more student friendly.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog which will outline this resource.

Computing Outdoors: Now That’s an Interesting Topic

Ever tried to catch some rays while studying or assignment-ing on your laptop out in the nice, warm Queensland sunlight?  Chances are you were a) potentially blinded by the sun, or b) not even studying at all because you could no longer see your screen.

Now if we’re going to try and look at a solution to bringing indoor classroom technology out onto the oval, there are evidently a few environmental factors that we might have to consider first.

To date and from my research it seems there is yet to be a portable, outdoor-friendly computer system or similar smart board device, which can be viewed by the whole PE class when outdoors. To address the issue of computers outside, there are a few solutions which have been proposed…

On the website PC World, I found a page titled ‘How to Work Outdoors’. Below are a few of author Christopher Null’s suggestions:

  • Utilise a portable, folding shade visor for computers like this one below, for example:

shade

  • Purchasing from the small laptop market of “indoor/outdoor” displays
  • Increasing screen contrast on devices

and possibly,

  • Investing in an electronic ink device such as Amazon’s ‘Kindle’ (see below)

kindle

The website Gigamon suggested:

  • Working in the shade under an umbrella or awning
  • Wearing polarised sunglasses
  • Fixing an anti-glare screen on your device
  • Utilising a laptop sunshade, similar to the one mentioned above,

and finally my favourite…

  • Give up, have a beer, and decide that the summer sun is more important than work.

All of these ideas are fairly practical and inexpensive.  However, in considering a solution for outdoor technology I think there is the potential for a combination of these ideas.  A deice which utilises a brim/shade like structure, with a high contrast screen could potentially work. What’s more, imagine if the deice had the functionality to switch between a high contrast full colour display, and a kindle-like electronic paper display. When photos/ videos are needed, the screen could function in full colour.  If utilising the drawing functionality on the electronic board like it were a whiteboard, a kindle display would be effective for this time.

Now, latest technology to incorporate projection on a laptop/tablet device is the Yoga Tablet Pro 2 with built in projector.  An article about this device can be seen here. Basically, the article explains Lenovo have created tablet with a built in projector, reportedly to target uses who view media, watch videos and play games on their tablet devices.  Essentially, it’s reported the device has transformed from a tablet with TV capabilities, to a full home theatre projection experience, equipped with its own sound system and subwoofer.  Suggested uses of the tablet include projecting at business meetings, for example, providing handy, on-the-go functionality.  While this device certainly has its benefits, it still would be unable to function outdoors due to environmental factors such as brightness. Check out the device below.

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Looking across contexts briefly to the similar and related field of of outdoor education, it’s apparent technology has been utilised in a number of ways. This has been namely through mobile apps, GPS units, digital cameras, and digital weather stations among others, according to ex-outdoor educator and technology teacher Jackie Gerstein. While these technologies can enhance outdoor experiences in specific ways such as tracking locations, geo tagging, increasing safety, and documenting and learning about the environment for example, it’s evident that there are still issues with outdoor electronics and computing, as previously discussed. The product I hope to develop aims to cater to this niche in the market, though how exactly will I achieve this?

Better tune in next week to find out…

Sporter.

Same Same BUT Different

Technology now days is meant to make life easier, do things for us that would usually take up a lot of our time like research, communication and even organizing dinner. The same can be said for the education sector and its use of these technological advancements. There are a series of already existing tools out there for use by teachers that were made and put in place to ease or target reducing teacher work-loads in the school setting. Some of these systems are already in education settings such as Oneschool, OnePortal, and the use of a school intranet for data sharing and in school apps for anonymous bullying reports from students to teachers. All these systems play big roles in assisting how teachers tackle their classes, dealing with behavior management, plan their lessons and make a safe and productive learning environment for their class.

Oneschool in particular has many advantages facilitating teachers with the means to fill out risk assessments, dealing with troubled children, providing background information on students through past results. It provides an avenue for reporting of behavior issues by allowing teachers to report incidences that occur during their lessons in an “incident report” that is filed and documented. OneSchool provides the opportunity to work smart, effectively and efficiently while data is being integrated to provide the whole student profile and to engage with parents. Schools are using the functionality specific to their type of school. Schools liked the consistent nature of the application and able to utilize OneSchool as it suited their school. As a result it can be seen that it plays a large role in many schools with the blessing of many staff and teachers.

Similar to this is the OnePortal system, this is like the OneSchool although used to handle issues that are not as severs in nature. OnePortal is the department’s intranet for all school based staff. It provides a gateway to information and resources providing access to information needed to do their jobs and a range of online communication and collaboration tools that are ideal for team work. OnePortal has become the ‘virtual front door’ to all web-based and departmental content.

The benefits of OnePortal – QLD SMARTclassrooms:

  • Enhanced productivity and greater sharing of knowledge.
  • Increased independence in sourcing information.
  • Improved communication, collaboration and decision making through better access to information.
  • An area customised to your needs and interests.
  • Centralised point to access other departmental systems and resources.

These ideas are all great on their own but there is much that can be done to improve them and enhance their functionality by combining some aspects of each. The hope is to create one system that takes care of all a teacher’s needs and is still very easy to use, a one stop shop for teachers if you will.

Just YouTube it ?

Just Google YouTube it ?

In my last two blogs I have discussed the challenges teachers face in finding time to properly learn the content they are expected to teach. They do so much else outside of school that learning new content for classes is just adding to the work load. I think all teachers and preservice teachers would agree that learning this content quicker will be beneficial to everyone involved. I have an idea that I think will help teachers out in this respect. I want to make a type of resource data base for teachers to look up relevant content. I know what you’re thinking “That already exists!!!!” And I hear you there are plenty of them out there, but if it is out there then why are teachers using it? My thought is that the learning methods are a bit dry…. The one school data bases and other similar resources are mostly about providing information and resources through text. My plan is to have a YouTube channel set up with libraries of helpful videos on every subject a teacher may need. Such as chemistry, history, English, HPE, etc. These subject folders would then have video playlists on each topic relevant to teachers in Australia. By using content that has already been produced and is popular on YouTube. Teachers can learn the content they need to in a more engaging and enjoyable way, hopefully cutting down the time spent reading documents in the topic. This concept is quite similar to a channel called Crash Course where two brothers do a series of videos on a subject or topic aimed at teachers and students. However this content is created by the YouTube channel and they can only cover so much. So far they have covered the sciences, literature and history. This means that they are missing lesson and resources for teachers in PE or maths for example. With my channel there will be content from creators all over YouTube providing expertise in many subject areas and presentation styles giving teachers more choice in how they learn the content.

So there are educators all over YouTube I would love it if you could have a look and post a channel you have found. Help me get started with helpful content.

Hii Achievers

In this day and age I think we can all agree that technology and innovative ideas have advanced in leaps and bounds, transforming all aspects of society – directly or indirectly. I believe this exponential growth can be harnessed and used as an equalizing tool for individuals with disabilities.

Imagine yourself standing in an open space facing a large screen. At your feet is a Wii balance board, fastened around your wrist is a Wii controller. With that small device, you have more than just a say in your journey, you have control. Looking up at the screen ahead, you recognize the familiar smiling facing that greets you by name and welcomes you back. This is the smile of someone completely invested in you and your learning journey.

Now take a step back. You’ve just placed yourself in the shoes of a student involved in the program Hii Skills.  So after much thought and deliberation I’d like to properly introduce my Big Digital Idea.

Put simply, Hii Skills is basically the combination of online distance education, wii sports and special education aiming to combat issues involved with inclusive education and the limited teacher aide sources. Hii Skills aims to oppose traditional practices by providing appropriate levels of physical activity and individualized achievable goals using digital technology and one-on-one attention.

Hii Skills is targeted towards students who have difficulty obtaining general motor skill development and awareness. Instead of being restrictive and therapy focused, Hii Skills provides engaging learning experiences which foster positive attitudes about physical activity and address physical issues such as; poor muscle tone, motor planning problems, hand function problems, poor balance and limited hand-eye coordination – skills that can be transferred across multiple contexts.

Hii Skills would also address the balance between appropriate levels of inclusive practices and the need for specialized attention. Now, I’m not proposing students who would benefit from this program would participate in Hii Skills instead of regular HPE. On the contrary, there are many incredibly important benefits to inclusive education (such as socialisation) in HPE. Instead, Hii Skills would replace 1 lesson per timetable rotation to allow the student to focus on individually relevant developmental skills.

With proper planning and reflection, I hope to develop Hii Skills from a small idea into a fully formed and functional teaching resource.Wordle

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