What’s Up, Doc?

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The world is flat! It’s spinning faster than ever before. We should be saying “There aren’t enough minutes in the hour.” Technology has changed our world. I started teaching in my present school some fifteen years ago. We were a Mac school then and we are a leading digital school today. Fifteen years ago, we had one computer lab. Today we live in a 1:1 environment. To be more accurate, we are rapidly becoming a 2:1 environment, that is, many members of our community have two devices for accessing the Internet. And we seem to be moving in the direction of mobile learning, particularly with the aid of the iPad.

We have been giving serious consideration to what our teaching/learning environment will look like in twelve months’ time. The term “flipped classroom” is now spoken about openly and, thankfully, with critical awareness. We are also speaking about online learning as if it is the expectation and soon to be a major part of our teaching and learning. Already, course outlines can be accessed online. The number of teachers using Edmodo is growing. Many members of our community make use of wikis. And we are experimenting with our own WordPress-style blogs.

We have three portals: one for staff, another for students, and a third for parents. In the last six months, these have undergone continual development.


Creating content web apps for Religious Education

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Last year it was iWebkit 5. This year it is jQuery Mobile. I’m referring to my journey into the world of web apps, although I do question the validity if the “app” label. What I am trying to do is deliver content and guide learning with the aid of mobile devices, such as the iPod/iPad and smartphones.

I started with my school’s prayer file, which I had converted to a PDF and uploaded to our school’s server. This year, I branched out and created a web version using jQuery Mobile – HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.

I “tinker” with things. I have always done that, even from an early age – meccano sets (I still play with one from time to time.), crystal radios, guitar amplifiers, computers … And now it’s writing “apps” to deliver content for Religious Education.

I am an advocate for disruptive innovation. That is why I am convinced that we are headed in the direction of the deployment of mobile devices in the classroom. Believing this to be the direction of technology in education, I have been working on skilling myself with using my iPad to create web resources for students to access.

At present, I am learning as much as I can about gaining the most from using Touch App Creator. This app uses jQuery Mobile as its base and makes it easy to create the web apps I want to use with my students – well, almost.

Using my iPad, I am able to create apps that look like this:

This is a screen shot of a web app in preview mode. In edit mode, it looks like this:

The following screen shot will reveal some of the functions used in creating the app, which is about people who have worked for justice.

As “web creation” apps go, this one is quite powerful. This screen shot shows some of the functions available for use:

It is quite easy to embed movies in the app that you create. For instance, in an app that was created to introduce students to online aspects of the course I was teaching, I embedded a QuickTime movie about how to join the Edmodo group I had created for them.

What I would like to do is to build apps that have a notebook in them where students can paste quotes and then edit them into a summary of the content they have been working with – and then to email their notes to themselves, or to me – or, better still, to be able to post them to their space in Edmodo.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

What the future holds?

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Do my Year 12s represent the future? Obviously, they do, but so do I. So the future will always have those who want to teach and those who want to learn – and those who are unmotivated. There are some of us who want to argue that technology in the hands of students equals motivation – and there is some anecdotal evidence at least to support this.

So, let’s go for a wander through my classes, starting with my wonderful Year 12s. There are the boys who are looking at cars on their laptops, but that hasn’t changed. I recall Year 12s, 30 years ago, drawing their favorite cars during RE lessons. There are others, some struggling, some working away with ease, producing work that I would have been proud of early in my university life. Occasionally, I come across a student who is far more skilled than I am with creating content with their lap top. And then there is our PhD candidate – I told her that at a Parent-Teacher meeting because I believe it to be true – she’s sitting at her desk with her iPhone in one hand and brio in the other making notes from a resource she has accessed. Most of my year 12s work well about half the time, but they do find it hard to motivate themselves. More about that later, and also some of my “strategies”.

And now we enter my Year 11 class: an engaging group of young men and women. I’m convinced that some have chosen the subject for the wrong reasons and that is why they are spiralling down and often seemingly out of control. We use iPads. I spend my time writing ePubs and web apps for them to use. Like my Year 12s, we use Edmodo as a primary means of communication on the digital front. Most use their iPads well, sometimes taking photos of board work when I become pre-digital, but unlike my Year 11s in 2010, they haven’t discovered the back-channel. I was surprised to find that no one had told them about Fliq Notes when they were in Year 10. The content my Year 11s create is often done using Pages. With group work, they have been publishing directly to our Edmodo page so that everyone can benefit from discussions and research. Posting assignments to Edmodo is becoming more acceptable and I am developing my skills at marking online. The future looks good!

And there are my amazing Year 10s, most of whom will move to other classes for the second semester – not happy, Jan! Lap tops, Edmodo and MentorMob: a recipe for success. Happy, relaxed and respectfully noisy – a great group to be with when you’re older than 64!

I have started delivering content through MentorMob’s playlist. I have been fortunate enough to have been given a Pro account to trial, which was subsequently upgraded to a University account. And MentorMob made me one of their “Innovators” – an honour I will live up to. By the end of the term – a disrupted and chaotic affair – we had reached the point where students were editing our playlist by adding their content. Not every student achieved this, nor every group.

I have found that my Year 10s are not unlike my Year 12s. Those who are “naturally” academic, that is, those who find “school” learning easy make good use of technology to assist their learning. They are easy to motivate because learning is a challenge they enjoy. My challenge for the next 10 weeks is to construct learning opportunities that EVERY student in my classes will enjoy.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Stories of virgin births

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We were meeting today to work on adding aspects of the new national curriculum to our middle school courses. Discussion turned to the meaning of the “immaculate conception” and to the birth of Christ. I made the point that the “virgin birth” of Jesus was not a unique story. It was a common theme in ancient near eastern cultures. The following website will give you a neat summary of some of these beliefs: http://www.hope-of-israel.org/originsVBmyth.html

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

On creating a pedagogy wiki

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We need a stimulus to promote excellence in third millennium pedagogy. I propose that the stimulus be a wiki created to reflect on the use of web 2.0 tools in the classroom, particularly those that highlight the use of mobile technology.

While we currently make use of wikis at my school, they are generally used like blogs, thus robbing them of the power of collaboration and the learning that can take place through collaboration. Therefore, I propose that the wiki be part of a larger collective, such as wikispaces.com. This widens the audience to include teachers from around the world.

What should be the focus? Well, I would like to see something done about the marriage of web technologies with social theory in the context of evangelization. I am sure that there will be other thrusts from other learning areas (mine is Religious Education). I am also concerned to explore how we can make the most of mobile technology in cooperative learning situations.

If we use a wiki to carry out our reflection and study, then our work can be peer reviewed and we can be assured of a more powerful account of learning in the 21st century.


My iPod Blues

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I have been using iPod Touches in my Year 12 Religious Education class.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Going Mobilely Digital in Religious Education

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This blog will be about my experiences of going mobilely digital with my Year 12 Religious Education class. Because two thirds of the class have access to either iPod Touches or iPhones, I have sourced a set of iPods for those who don’t own one or the other. It is my intention to teach the Religion and Life 1C/D units using iPod/iPhone technology. I will survey and interview my students over the twenty weeks that will make up their class time up to the end of Term Three. In Term Four, I will publish the results of my research.

In a digital society, learning becomes increasingly mobile. Mobile digital communication devices are just like a writer’s notebook, but with the potential to lay bare the world’s treasures – and also its shame. The world of the writer who makes copious notes throughout the day can become the norm for the student. The practice of texting friends can become the practice of note making as students think about the focus of their learning adventures.

I plan to produce readings as PDFs, which they will be able to load into iBooks via iTunes. One of the first activities will involve them in the task of copying a PDF to a reader, such as USB disk, or GoodReader Lite, both being free apps. Then they will be directed to copy parts of the document and pasting them into a note which they will make, first in Evernote, and second, in Springnote.

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