Sunday, June 16, 2013

Transition Years

The Manaiakalani Schools are in their 4th year of a programme designed to ensure all Year 5 to 13 students in the area own their own digital device, enabling them to participate in a digital learning environment. 

2010/11 were pilot years, and 2013 embedded this approach.

Now the focus has moved to the younger years with emphasis on preparing our students in the transition year (in most schools Year 4) to feel at home in the digital world when they first get to purchase their own device.

The leaders of the junior classes have been meeting together and in Term 1 they brainstormed this list of actions they would like to experiment with as they implement "Learn Create Share":

  • Start individual blogging younger
  • Use desktops and tablets more efficiently and effectively
  • Have an older Buddy class
  • Have a Chromebook pod available for Year 4 classes
  • Training/support to the Year 4 teachers, including release to observe in Chromebook classes
  • Observe the impact on younger siblings skill level as Chromebooks go home - meaning more digital access at home now
  • Typing/ keyboarding preparation

We met again last week (June 2013) and many reported back that they had been successfully working through the bullet points above.

Two schools, Tamaki Primary and Pt England, reported back on the positive difference it was making having a pod of five Chromebooks allocated to their classes for their children to share. They also have shared desktop computers and iPads as well as the teacher laptop and a data projector.  The teachers had ensured the children were confident at logging into their Google Apps accounts prior to introducing the Chromebooks and had access to Teacher Dashboard so they could monitor student progress and activity.

Kirsty Macfarlane from Room 10 at Tamaki Primary School has been sharing posts like this and this. These students clearly are enjoying their opportunities.

I took the photos (slideshow below) in the two Year 4 classes at Pt England School as Keri Barks and Lisa Walters were teaching their students.  I loved the blended approach with some children totally digital while others were having quality micro-teaching experiences in a small group with their teachers.

For anyone interested in exploring this further:
One of our MITA Fellows, Joy Paton, has chosen to investigate 'From Zero to Hero - how to implement a digital learning environment with students who have no prior digital experience" as her inquiry for the Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher Academy in 2013

A few snapshots from a quick walk through of Rooms 11 and 12 at Pt England School in June 2013.

These teachers each have a pod of 5 school-owned Chromebooks to supplement the Macs, iPads, teacher laptop and data projector. We are hoping to do an even better job of transitioning the Year 4 children in to Year 5 (2014) when they will own their own device and have a digital learning environment

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Next Step: ChromeBooks

Manaiakalani Schools ordered 700 Chromebooks for the start of the 2013 school year. These have been spread across 11 schools and bought by children 8 - 18 years of age. Most of the uptake of Chromebooks has been either from students recently enrolled in our schools or the youngest students entering a 1:1 class for the first time.  The remaining students in that age range are still using the ASUS eee (with Ubuntu OS) netbooks we first introduced in 2010. A handful have talked their parents into ‘upgrading’ to the latest device, but most are seeing out the 3 year purchase contract on their first device.

Hard to believe it is June and I have yet to post a reflection.  Enough to say it has been a very busy year so far!

I have blogged extensively about our move to 1:1 beginning with a post outlining the vision and many posts followed commenting on our experiences.
During 2012 we went through what has become an annual cycle of deciding what device to purchase for the Manaiakalani schools for the coming year.  Students are very much included in this decision making.  The outcome was a consensus that the time was right to move to Chromebooks and we were supported by the Asia Pacific team at Google to be the first schools in the OZ/NZ region to do a Chromebook rollout.

We chose the Samsung 500 (Wifi only) model.

Our experience
The out-of-box experience for our users (children and teachers) was delightful to witness.  That 8 minute boot, the ‘switch it on and it connects with the wifi and logs you into your account’, no fuss and start learning was such a pleasure to be part of.  The teachers and principals who have experienced other IT rollouts were extremely positive about the start up -  I include the wide-ranging device and OS types used by adults and students across our schools in this comparison.

And six months down the track, a check this week with teachers continues to report a very positive user experience.

We did have to get our heads around a different way of viewing technology and our digital learning environments. For example
  • We can’t load lots of desktop apps such as our much loved Hyperstudio! We need to find web hosted alternatives or Chromestore apps
  • We have 16 GB of storeage space on the device BUT 100GB in their Google Account. This actually means way less angst if the device requires a restore than with our previous models (kids who have downloaded way too many GBs of songs and movies resist a reimage!) but still requires a shift in thinking.

Adam Naor said at the recent Google Apps Community Event in Auckland, “The Internet is the platform for learning”, and this device choice has helped us all make the move to digital learning environments much smoother.

Because we were first off the block with this device, we did learn some lessons the hard way - through human error! The licensing and enrolment process this time round was different again from previous tech rollouts in our schools. We appreciated the support from the Google team (Inam, Adam and Suan) and our colleagues in the USA (including Donna Teuber, Technology Integration Coordinator at Richland School District Two).

As always, teachers and students have posted about their experiences, so check some of these out:

Room 14 at Pt England School

Tamaki College Years 9-13

Check out the parent's comments under this boy's post

Marilyn's delightful post - nine year old girl reports her out-of-box experience