How Edmodo helped me return to school when I hadn’t returned to school.

This year didn’t start out the best for me, or my staff and students. IIMG_7524 sustained a back injury during the school break which didn’t allow me to return to work on day one, or day 2-16!

My staff had to hold fort and began the year well, which is always one of the most hectic and stressful times of year. Then, and reports time.

For my students though, especially my senior furniture students, not having me return day one left them a little lost in their process. They ended the last school year researching and designing their Major Project for their final year of school. They were turning in their research and planning to me last year via Edmodo, so I knew where they were headed, but new discussions were needed at the start of this year to ensure they were on track.

So my advice to my staff, and the teacher who would be looking after my seniors especially, was to make sure that the students got onto Edmodo and ask me questions if they had any and I would check in when I could. I would check their work, download attached SketchUp, Excel or Word files, look over them and reply with my advice. I had a few students who relished this connection and made the most of it. This felt good that I was able to help keep them on track.

On a few occasions I managed to log on while my classes were happening and my students got to ask me questions like I was right there with them. One occasion was on my iPhone while waiting to see the Dr. Thankyou Edmodo.

When I eventually returned to school, I was able to continue conversations with my students that were recent, rather than months old.

I know that some teachers don’t want to be available to their students 24/7.

Connecting with your students via Edmodo doesn’t mean that you are available 24/7. But it does provide the opportunity for students to ask questions when they think of them, especially if they have the app. It also gives you the opportunity to pose questions to your students when you think of them, rather than waiting till the next class. In my school, we don’t see the same students every day, so it may be days between lessons. That’s plenty of time for that bright-spark question to disappear.

Do you use Edmodo with your students to maintain a connection or just “in class”?

MrB

Using Mobile Devices on Excursions & Field Trips

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How often have you been on an excursion with your students and you see students from other schools walking around with worksheets on clipboards?

Have you created worksheets to justify the educational purpose of your excursion?

I know personally that my students hate the idea of worksheets when they’re walking around a new environment that isn’t at school. That could be related to their age group, as I mainly teach 15-18 year old boys in practical based subjects like woodwork and construction.

However, I do want to able to justify my excursions and I do want to know what my students gained from their day away from school. One way of doing this is to harness their attachment to their mobile devices, namely their phones. It’s a camera, video and voice recorder and with the power built into the latest devices, small content creation tools.

Let me just say that at the beginning of every year I actively encourage my students to install the Edmodo app onto their device. I encourage them to use their device as a learning tool, because it means that they have a capture device, word processor, camera and content creation tool with them at all times, and with the addition of Edmodo, they have a means of handing their work directly to me no matter where they are. My students love the fact that I am giving them ‘permission’ to use their phones in class.

Because I do this, when we go on excursions I create an Edmodo group for the trip and I create small activities for them that they can use their device to do. I find that if I create a selection of activities for them to choose from, I can cater to the differing learning styles of my students.

  • Some, but not many, like to write a recount of their day. They can use Pages, Word, Notes or Google-Docs to do this and make them presentable for submitting.
  • Many like to create slide shows of photos with descriptions of what they saw. Again, Google-slides, Keynote, PowerPoint and apps like ExplainEverything allow them to do this.
  • Some enjoy recording videos and editing them together. Some even include a round-up of their day where they talk to the camera. iMovie and any number of free video editing apps can allow them to make very attractive and engaging short videos.

I don’t know about you, but my students will often describe to me what they did all day, breath by breath, on the train trip back to school. I believe that while this is awesome, it’s often a lost opportunity for them to demonstrate their learning to others, not just me. This is why I encourage creating video or voice recordings which they can turn in via Edmodo posts. Being video or voice, it also means that you can capture the excitement and engagement of the student, which a written report just can’t convey.

Using Edmodo, I can also cater to the student’s level of “outgoing-ness”. Students who are very outgoing can post directly to the group wall so that all their classmates can see what they did. Students who are a bit more reserved can turn them in directly to me to satisfy the task requirements without the fear of peer judgement.

I also use Edmodo to engage with the students throughout the day. I’ll take photos and videos of things that I see and post them to the group wall. I’ll then pose questions to see if the students can tell me where I am, kind of like a treasure hunt. It also gets them to travel more around large events instead of just staying at one display all day. I’ve had some students post their own videos back when they get to the same place. Some enjoy the fact that they “found me”.

This type of use of mobile devices may not work so well with younger students, but with mid to late teens who often want to feel more independent, activities like what I’ve mentioned above, allow them to engage with their surroundings and the learning process in a less formal way. And because it encourages them to “play” with their phone, they feel more enticed towards “doing the work”.

Using worksheets often places an expectation that it must be all filled in by the end of the event. Making use of mobile devices & Edmodo means that some of the activities can carry over to school after the excursion is finished, for example, the editing and sharing of videos. You can have a lesson where you recap the day, viewing videos, photos and slideshows submitted to the Edmodo group. This not only legitimises the excursion and the activities that you set, but it allows the students to see things from the excursion that they maybe didn’t get to experience due to time or they just didn’t come across them because they were involved with something elsewhere.

I guess my final points on this post are this:

  • Mobile devices are here to stay.
  • They are getting more powerful and more useful with every updated model.
  • They fit in a pocket.
  • They’ve almost become an indispensable extension to our body! (How many people do you know who freak out if they can’t find their phone?)
  • Many students have devices of their own.
  • There’s an “app for that”, and Edmodo is one of them
  • Today’s learners have grown up in a world of connected devices. They don’t “remember a time” when mobile devices didn’t exist. Why wouldn’t you use them in your teaching?
  • They’re “mobile”, so why shouldn’t you use them when you venture out of the school?

Have you used mobile devices on excursions? Share your experiences in the comments.

Mr B

 

An argument FOR using mobile devices in a school workshop environment

 When I first began my career as a technology teacher I was excited to try to include computer use in my classes in some way. Graphics classes got to experience CAD programs and industrial design classes got to use the PC lab for online research and portfolio creation. As the years passed by, the school received more PCs and everyone wanted to use them in some way, but usually for Internet use and word processing.

After several years I moved schools, and the drive to include computer use in meaningful ways at my new school included identifying specific software programs for each faculty to focus on. This was good in one sense, as it made staff think carefully about why they wanted to use the computers, but my faculty felt put out by being allocated PowerPoint. Of course design students needed to present their ideas in creative ways, and PowerPoint could help with that, but they also had to research, design, experiment, document, cost, evaluate, create etc. Our students had to become competent with many software tools and thankfully, my staff felt comfortable guiding students in using all of these. So we lead the charge to become inclusive technology users. However, this meant trying to gain access to the computer labs much more regularly with each class.

Jump forward a few years and the Government of the day began a program of giving a netbook to every Year 9 student. My staff and I relished the new found flexibility with our classes. We could incorporate research tasks, design activities and documentation tasks more seamlessly into our lessons as the netbooks became a useful and required tool. However, some faculties saw them as a distraction as it moved away from the traditional pen & paper too much, which resulted in students not feeling the need to bring them as they weren’t being used enough to warrant the extra weight in their bag. This made our own programs suffer somewhat.

A few more years pass by and the Government pulled the plug, so to speak, on providing laptops for students, instead saying that schools should foster a BYOD environment.

Thankfully, our Principal saw the benefit of technology in the classroom and decided to trial buying iPads for our Year 12 students. Again, some faculties were sceptical, but I was excited at the prospect. I no longer needed to take my Industrial Design class into the PC lab once a week to work on portfolios. They had already completed all of their design work using Google Sketchup and now only needed to do follow up research, create costing spreadsheets and maintain a portfolio. The iPads became an essential, every lesson tool. While some students were engaged in project construction in the wood workshop, others were able to carry out further research, or they could continue with their folio instead of having to wait for the designated PC lesson. With the aid of the iPad’s camera, they could take photos of their projects progress, or get photos taken of them doing specific machine processes. Because the photos were on their device, they could insert them directly into their project portfolio that they began maintaining using Pages. They could spend a few minutes each lesson recounting what they did, directly into their folio, rather than taking written notes to type up at a later date in a lab. They could create interesting title pages using unique design apps. They could adjust cutting and costing lists using Numbers, while in the workshop, so that they could continue with their practical in the same lesson. Because of the immediacy that the iPads provided them, they were able to maximise their practical project and portfolio creation, as they decided what to focus on each lesson. Throughout the year they could submit folio components to me via Edmodo assignments, which I could look over on my own iPad and suggest edits. No more wasting paper printing out multiple drafts. In the end, they would format their final portfolio in Pages, export it as a printable PDF and submit it to me via Edmodo. I would then print out their high quality colour portfolio for submission to our external project assessors.

Due to the success of this class use of iPads, and the successful feedback from other Year 12 teachers, our Principal is continuing the program with the new Year 12. My faculty and I are enjoying the flexibility that mobile devices provide so much that we have begun encouraging students in younger grades to use their own devices in the classroom as learning tools. iPhones, iPods and Android devices are being used for documenting project progress, creating unique digital projects, doing in class research and accessing online tools such as Edmodo and OnGuard (an online safety instruction and documentation site). Students are consuming demonstration videos that we have created and hosted on Edmodo & YouTube. They are experimenting with creating video and audio responses to assignments. We’ve even found that some students who traditionally don’t enjoy doing written work, are engaging in the content more, consuming it more readily and creating their own work in response to it.

It’s my view that the students of today are growing up as digital natives. Yes, this may be a generalisation, but you may find that many children can manipulate an app successfully before they can talk. If we don’t harness that “natural” ability, and create learning environments that are in line with their out-of-school lives, then we aren’t truly preparing our students for life after school. While many people see mobile devices as a way to consume content, the truth is that they are often a more powerful content creation tool than some of the desktop PCs in school labs and they are usually more intuitive in their use.

As teachers, let’s not be afraid of the “distraction” factor and focus on the learning “engagement” factor that mobile devices can provide.

MrB