ISTE2015 – Day 1 – The Immersion begins

As I sit in my hotel room, reflecting on my jam-packed full day, there is fireworks going off out over the Delaware river.  It is reflective, ironically, of the way my brain kinda feels at the moment.  Today is only day one of ISTE2015 here in Philly but I am so pumped to learn more about how they are doing things in education here with technology.  Already I’ve had some great conversations and learned about areas of education that Australia could really benefit from adopting, and perhaps areas that America could learn from us about too.

My morning was spent learning about Hummingbird Robotics, and learning the fundamentals of robotics and how to program simple expressions and sequences of expressions.  It was much easily to do than I originally thought and I loved the ideas many others came up with when making their own group project robots.  There was all sorts of use of the light sensor to trigger flashing lights and movement of parts.  The imagination of some of my colleagues in that workshop was great so I can only imagine what our students would do if let lose with the same equipment.  We often forget as teachers, that students will learn these things faster than us, and that they still have an imagination that is not bogged down in administrative duties etc that we might get weighed under.

I am full of hope and excitement about taking what I have learned about robotics and applying it in a MakerSpace environment that I really want to get running at my current school.  It is such a fantastic way of engaging the disengaged amongst our student population and I cannot wait to see untapped potential fulfilled more through new opportunities this might present to them.

A20150628_124346fter that workshop I went and experienced more of Philadelphia and went to The Franklin Institute to check out The Art of the Brick exhibition that was AMAZING, and made entirely of Lego.  Artworks such as The Scream and the Mona Lisa were replicated, using only Lego pieces, and they were phenomenal!  I love Lego and this exhibit was Lego at its best. The rest of the institute was great, and I can see it being the perfect excursion venue for schools to bring students too but the highlight for me was definitely the Lego.


Tonight’s keynote speaker at ISTE2015, highlighted for me, the importance of the teacher in recognising potential in students and in providing unique opportunities for all students to experience learning in multiple ways, not limiting them because of who they are seen to be or who they think they are.  The short Ignite session brought to us prior to the keynote was so poignant in also highlighting the significance of diversity in education.  We fail to cater for the diversity that does exist within our school systems so much.  We try to cater well for those with diagnosed learning difficulties and physical disabilities, but what about those who are from a low socio-economic background; who do not have literate parents; who are isolated; who are without the basic necessities in life; who have had little exposure to other cultures or demographic groups; and, so many others types of diversities that exist? Do we bridge the gap, only to create a new one?  I feel we do.

By @jmattmiller

By @jmattmiller

Soledad O’Brien was our keynote speaker tonight, and she was very inspirational.  Her parents were married in the late 50s, at a time when it was illegal for a ‘white’ American to marry a ‘black’ American.  They suffered prejudice and discrimination but did not let it sway them.  She spoke about how technology can be leveraged to bridge the gaps of diversity, and how it can be leveraged to provide greater opportunities for students to reach their full career potential, even for careers not yet heard of by them.  She shared a story about a group of American students who went to help a community of students in South Africa, even worse off than they were, and how the laptops that Dell provided them, gave them a voice in the projects they were working on in South Africa.  The key here for me is, it gave them a voice!  Do we allow our students to have a voice?  Or do we place to many rules and restrictions around them that it neglects to leverage any benefits from technology whatsoever?  I think this is a big point we need to consider in Australian education with technology.

More tomorrow…


BYOD vs 1:1 – What do you consider in making the decision?


This is a question I’m pondering more and more at the moment… what is the best device for educational implementation?  But today, I thought a little deeper and took it down into the level of, what is the ideal format for device implementation pedagogically?  BYOD or a 1:1 program?  I know that digital pedagogy involves a lot of scaffolding, but would it if students were able to BYOD, a device they were more familiar and comfortable with? Should the ideal mode of implementation take into consideration things like the Quality Teaching Model?  Productive pedagogies?  Effective instructional design?  These questions only give way to more and more questions, however, I would like to say that from my experience, I am leaning more towards BYOD now because personal learning through digital technology should be facilitated through a device of personal choice.

When I started uni, the NSW Quality Teaching Model (QTM, 2003) had just been delivered and I was spoon-fed portions of it for my full four years at Newcastle Uni, and by the authors themselves as well.  I still refer to it now on many occasions and when I started thinking about BYOD vs 1:1 it came to mind again.  The three core elements of the QTM are intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance and these are foundational aspects of the pedagogy in all educational institutions, whether referring to the QTM or not.  It is the 18 sub-elements within these three categories, I feel, that would inform and assist me in making the decision about BYOD and 1:1.

Essentially, the elements underneath both intellectual quality and quality learning environment are supported by both BYOD and 1:1, however, it is when I get to the significance element that I start leaning towards BYOD, let me explain why.  Significance is an element underpinned by these sub-elements: background knowledge, cultural knowledge, knowledge integration, inclusivity, connectedness and narrative.  If a students’ background knowledge and cultural knowledge are to be considered in creating new learning experiences, would it not seem right to take into consideration that they may not have experience with the device you choose for a 1:1 program and therefore not have the necessary background or cultural knowledge needed to competently take it up as a learning tool?
The digital revolution is a cultural shift, its perhaps not often thought of when we think of the cultures in educational settings today, however, the “digital natives” have created their own culture of LOLs and selfies that need to be engaged with sometimes.  Students are attached to their device in a “culturally ritualistic” and significant way and disentangling them from these under any circumstance can prove very detrimental.  I don’t have any hard facts or research stats to support this right now, I am merely making observations and conclusions based on the context I work in, but I believe I’ve seen evidence that would suggest that if you try and change this culture of who their “learning buddy” (their device) is by dictating a particular one, then their is a loss of confidence in learning that wasn’t there before.  If we don’t let student pick the device they use for their learning, are we being culturally ignorant?

However, then I came across this post: “Are BYOD programs simply an excuse not to fully invest in 1:1?“, and was forced to think of it another way.  Are BYOD programs just a lack of commitment and laziness on the part of educational institutes?  I personally think not, but someone thought it.  If you read the comments on the post mentioned above, it is interesting how the world of business comes into play as well.

I’ll leave you with this video as a final thought… what do you think is the right decision for all?



Flash a-ah! Android goodness galore…

Testing the Samsung Galaxy Note more, seeing how it does everything I have regularly done on my iPad Air, has been very fruitful.  I have successfully accessed documents stored on a USB by connecting a Micro USB Combo by Amicroe to the Samsung.  I found that the USB wouldn’t register, however, if the USB itself was not already attached to the combo in one of the USB ports.  I was then unsure as to how to disconnect the USB safely but discovered that if I swiped down and got the notifications menu, then tapped on the USB notification, it disconnected it safely so I could remove the combo from the device. When the USB registered in the device initially, it automatically pulled up the My Files app and revealed the USB and its folders within the app.  The files were all easy to navigate and search too.


What I then wanted to be able to do was open a PDF in S Note and annotate it.  This was a little tricky to figure out at first but I soon realised that if I went into S Note and then tapped on the Menu button, it would bring up options that included Import.  After tapping on Import I was given three options, Google Drive, Samsung account or My Files.  I tapped on My Files and then on PDF file and selected a PDF file by tapping on the select circle.  (Tapping on the file itself opened it in a preview sort of version and didn’t import it.)  It then successfully brought the PDF file into S Note and enabled me to annotate, highlight and write on the PDF file.  This is brilliant and so much less fuss than the way I’ve tried to facilitate this process being done on iPads at school this year.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.10.26 pmNow the cream on the coffee! Flash a-ah! So many iPad users, particularly educators, lament over the lack of Flash capabilities on the iPad. Flash is not intuitively part of the Samsung either, however, I installed the app Photo Flash Player & Browser.  Once I started this app, and tapped on a small lightening bolt icon in the bottom left hand side of the screen, I was able to start a Flash-based session on the Internet.  So I went to my Jacaranda Plus account bookshelf and successfully opened up the Knowledge Quest game online, which is entirely flash-based.  It worked great!  The only potential problem with using this app would be the RAM and CPU it takes to run and the pressure that it would put on the wifi and bandwidth, however, it is very helpful and will facilitate better connectivity to valuable resources.

Yay! A transparent filing system on tablets…

In my comparison of iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Note, there is one thing that really makes the Android experience even better.  The transparency of the filing system!! It is brilliant!!  For years I have used the iPad and tried to navigate numerous apps in the hope of figuring out an easy file management system and workflow for completing school documents etc.  Students are always dealing with documents such as Pages, Keynotes, PDFs and images but they have no one place where they can manage and store these with ease and use them in other apps without having to re-download them.  Yes, you can store everything in your Google Drive and use them as you need from there, however, you then have to download them again and this requires an internet connection.  I’m sure there is things that the iPad can do that manage files better, however, file management and storage should not be something a user has to think twice about.


A default folder amongst the apps and folders on the Samsung reveals the above apps.  All of them are very useful but for now, I am loving the My Files and Downloads apps.  On my MacBook, I have my Desktop, Documents, and Downloads folders etc, but these are not something found on the iPad.  However, on the Samsung, I can find these within the My Files app and the Downloads app and what that visually looks like is a lot more intuitive and transparent, almost like it were a computer desktop.

Screenshot_NormarAppImage (2)

Not only does the file system/folder on the Samsung organise my files into categories accessible from one app, it also links to my Dropbox and allows me to easily navigate those files and open them on my Samsung tablet.  It’s so much easier to manage!  The breadcrumbs underneath the categories (seen above) are also very helpful for navigating the file system.  Another huge benefit too, is the fact that the space taken by each category of items/files stored is clearly visible, which makes the management of my 16GB tablet’s storage a lot easier as well.

I haven’t played around with all of the features yet, but I have the ability to create my own folders within this filing system and create shortcuts as well.  Another thing I have yet to explore is the connectivity with a USB and an external microSD card to add further storage space to the device but I will cover that one soon.Screenshot_NormarAppImage (1)

I’m converted… from iPad Air to Samsung Galaxy Note

I’ve been a Mac/Apple ‘convertee’ since about 2009 when I got my first MacBook, and as far as computers go I am still convinced that the MacBook is definitely the best way to go for laptops… HOWEVER… drumroll please…. after being so immersed in the world of iPads as the ‘tool of the future’ for education, I am now convinced that Android, and particularly Samsung are superior in the affordances and features it offers for classrooms and students.

It’s only taken one night of playing on my new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1″ last night to realise what should’ve come a lot sooner had I not be ingrained in the sect that is allegiant to Apple only.  I have never used an Android device for more than a few minutes of maybe trying to hack into my sisters Facebook on her Android phone (before I convinced her to go Apple iPhone ironically), so last night was a totally new technical experience and I must say that the UX was fantastic!!! I struggled a little sometimes but overall, I was getting so excited by the way I was able to get timely responses from the device and all of the functions and features.

Anyways, I got a lot more playing to do with my device and there will be MANY MORE posts to come about this flip from Apple iPad to Samsung Galaxy… feel free to share tips, tricks and comments galore…

The Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Changing roles of teachers

I love reading the Horizon report each year and getting a glimpse of what educational research is saying will be increasingly adopted within various educational contexts.  Reading through the 2014 K-12 report recently, I was intrigued and captured by the ‘Elements of the Creative Classroom Framework’ (ECCF) and how it outlines the dimensions dealt with in the report.  (I also loved it because I am a very visual person.)  The ECCF elements include: infrastructure; content and curricula; assessment; learning practices; teaching practices; organisation; leadership and values; and, connectedness.   The report deals with each of these elements within it as they pertain to trends, challenges and emerging technologies, however, most particularly on policy, leadership and practice.


A fast trend that was identified that I believe was crucial to include in this report is ‘Rethinking the roles of teachers’.  More than ever, technology has changed the role of the teacher in 21st century classrooms.  Gone are the days of teachers being the source of all information, the ones to lead activities and instruction.  The Horizon Report says:

“The integration of technology into everyday life is causing many educational thought leaders to argue that schools should be providing ways  for students to continue to engage in learning activities, formal and informal, beyond the traditional school day.” (p. 6)

The video above is an oldie but a goodie, looking at the roles of 21st century learners, requiring that teachers: be lifelong learners; be apart of a larger network of professionals; make connections between learning in all different contexts; create long-range goals for technology integration; be competent will digitally-enabled pedagogies; and, so many more aspects not yet identified perhaps.  Classrooms need to be student-centered more than ever because I believe students are engaging in more informal learning than ever before, e.g. watching YouTube to learn new things.  Teachers need to adopt teaching methods that students of the 21st century are familiar with to a certain extent and that is through videos and games more than ever.

Some key points made about the role of teachers include:

  • Teachers are no longer the primary sources of information and knowledge for students
  • Teachers need to reinforce the habits and discipline that shape life-long learners
  • Teachers are increasingly expected to be knowledgeable on the practices, skills and resources that will be useful to students as they continue their education and seek gainful employment.
  • Incorporating entrepreneurship into education will help teachers to bring technology into the classroom and into developing lifelong learners.

The report identifies the key to nurturing the new 21st century roles of teachers as being in professional development.  I believe this to be true to a degree, however, school policies and strategic plans need to cater for the change in pedagogies and classroom structures as well.  Such drastic changes in teaching methodology will require changes in organisational structure and culture, which cannot happen immediately but can begin to cater for 21st century needs over time.  School structures are still very hierarchical and traditional classrooms have operated in the same way essentially, with all students answering to an authority-figure who is in charge.  Do school structures need to change a little bit to distribute power more evenly?  At the school where I work, teacher professional development often occurs in areas that students can see, in order for students to see their teachers as lifelong learners as well.  I think that this strategy is one great way that reflects 21st century paradigm shifts.  Will continue to reflect more on teacher’s roles…

SAMR Model explained

I’ve been trying to think up ways to get the SAMR Model out to my colleagues more and help them start thinking more about how they are using the iPad in the classroom.  It isn’t about using the iPad to replace traditional tasks and activities with a digital way of doing things but to me its about extending the opportunities students have to demonstrate higher order thinking skills in the reproduction of what they have been learning.  Yesterday in my music class, I was teaching programme music to Year 7 and I could have easily given them a well-rounded and precise definition of what programmatic music is, however, I didn’t.  What I did do was recap what they knew about instruments of the orchestra from a recent excursion and then introduce the topic of programme music.  I then asked them to use their iPad to research and discover what programmatic music is and create a visual poster or other representation that told me and the other students in the class what they had discovered and determined was the meaning.  They demonstrated creativity and a great understanding of the topic, in approximately 10 minutes, and then we moved onto exploring it in practice with a viewing of Peter and the Wolf on YouTube.

Well, back to the SAMR Model, I created this infographic and have displayed it in the staffroom and have put up my own examples so far, but hoping to prompt more thought on how the achieve modification and redefinition even more over the rest of the year.

Click on image to view in presentation mode.

Click on image to view in presentation mode.