Project Blog 4: Feedback and Changes

Welcome everyone,

For this final blog post of the semester I had planned to focus on the student feedback we had received regarding our Digital Hall Pass Project. However, as of 30 minutes before the writing of this blog, our project has undergone a massive change.  Allow me to explain:

Over the previous six weeks of this pilot project, we have been using Google Forms, where the students would sign out using the last four digits of their student number. This step was causing some issues in terms of time and accuracy, because some students could not remember their student numbers and other students were intentionally entering the wrong student ID number. However, with one small change we know can eliminate both of these issues.

From Google to Microsoft

While discussing the hall pass results with a teaching colleague, I was lamenting how often we have to remind students of their student number and how that really slows the process down. This teacher suggested that she has used Microsoft Forms in the past and that has eliminated some of the troublesome issues. We continued to discuss and thus, a new version of a project has been born.

By switching our operations to Microsoft Forms, we can set up our questionnaire in a way that forces the students to log in using their student username and password. The reason this is so effective is because Regina Catholic Schools use Microsoft Office 365 and every student has their own unique username and password. So now, when students sign out to leave the classroom, their name is used rather than any number they may have chosen to use. This development will be incredibly beneficial in terms of the accuracy of our data. I look forward to continuing to develop this idea moving forward.

Student Feedback

The feedback focused on five different questions, followed by an opportunity to provide individual feedback. Let’s take a look at the results:

While I am very pleased with the stats and feedback, and the fact that 85% of the students find this system easier to use than the paper logs, there is some debate as to whether system makes students leave the classroom less often. Furthermore, was this even the purpose of the project?

I believe that the project was never designed to scare the students into leaving the classroom less often. However, one aspect where it has been successful is reducing the length of bathroom visits. Because there is a timestamp created every time they leave the classroom, the students seem to be more willing to get back to the classroom more quickly.

As well as the above feedback, we also provided a space where students could write unique feedback. The following statements came from the students:

  1. “writing on paper is better because logging into the wifi takes extra time”

  2. “I feel like the electronic hall pass should be used by everyone”

  3. “Change to an app”

  4. “Make sure everyone knows their student number because that wastes a lot of time”

All of these are very valid points and I want to finish by addressing their ideas. The first idea regarding wifi is a valid concern. Not all students have cellular data on their devices and if they are not logged in to the wifi when ready to leave the classroom that can add a minute or two to the process. The second idea makes a great point as well. The only way to ensure consistency and build skills for all students is very every teacher to be adopting this practice. The 3rd point about changing to an adapt is an interesting idea, but somewhat harder to pull off in practice. However, one workaround that we have been trying is creating a shortcut from the phone’s browser to their home page, which will speed up the process. The final point was a real concern for a long time, but now has been changed because now students will sign out with email and password which every student already knows.

This has been an excellent journey and if anyone has further questions about this project in the future, you can comment below and I will help you out with everything I can.

 

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International Level: A Hopeful Future

Throughout this semester, we have focused on a number of challenges regarding the implementation of technology, with a focus on leadership. At the school, division, and provincial level there are a number of hardships and opportunities involving technology, as far as the affordability of its access and the effectiveness of its implementation. However, for today’s blog we will focus on a positive and hopeful future. We are going to examine one of the most positive and inspiring technology stories I have come across. Let’s begin with a video introduction:

For Owura Kwadwo Hottish, he has accomplished a near impossible task. He managed to teach his students technology without the use of technology. This following article from the NPR provides some further details from an interview with Owura:

You’ve captured the world’s attention for using a chalkboard to teach a computer program. What do you make of all the hype?

I was really surprised. I wasn’t expecting my Facebook post to go that far.

Your story has been shared all over the world. Why do you think people are so fascinated by it?

It’s because of the chalkboard illustration of Microsoft Office. How I detailed it.

Why didn’t you just teach them on a computer?

There is no computer and I had no choice but to draw for them.

While we certainly have financial issues that are hampering technology use in our city, there is no comparison to the lack of technology for these students in certain parts of Africa. However, rather than bemoan this fact, Owaru worked to find potential solutions. He wanted his students to be able to have technology skills, so that if they left the village to work in a larger city center, they would be prepared and familiar with Microsoft Office.

There is a lesson here to be learned for all of us. There are hardships that all of us must face in regards to technology access and integration, but if we can work to find solutions instead of complaints we can be amazed by what we come up with.

As an update to Owaru’s story, we have a happy ending to report. In a follow-up article from CNN, we learn that has received donations of technology from people around the world, including from Microsoft, who promised to equip him with state of the art computers for his classroom. This is an extremely positive solution, because now he will be able to provide even more technology teaching to his students.

Let this serve as a motivation for all of us, the more that we can continue to adapt and create unique lessons with technology, the more success we will have as well as our students. Reading these articles has helped me feel more positive and hopeful for the future.

 

 

Project Blog 3: Time for Teacher Feedback

Welcome back everyone,

Today’s blog post has been long anticipated because it finally allows us to gather some feedback from the teachers we work with.  At this morning’s staff meeting, Mike Wolf and I presented our project and explained the rationale behind it and our early thoughts. We showed a picture of the QR Code, and demonstrated how quickly and efficiently the Google Form could be filled out. Upon completion of our presentation, we took some questions from the staff, asked for volunteers, and sent out an anonymous form for teachers to provide feedback. I will use today’s blog to break down each of these sections.

Part 1: Teacher Questions

I was hopeful to receive meaningful feedback and questions from my fellow colleagues and I was not disappointed. The first question (from the Law teacher of course) concerned student privacy. She wondered if teachers have access to the comings and goings of students at all times, if there was any concern about student privacy. This is certainly a worthwhile question and one we have considered. Our final response is that the student locations could always be known in the past by looking at teacher’s hall pass logs, the online version has just made this more efficient. However, we will still run the privacy question past our administration. The second question ADD SECOND QUESTION FROM TAMMIE

Part 2: Anonymous Feedback

At the time of this blog writing, there have been seventeen responses to our anonymous feedback Google Form. The questions were as follows: Do you currently have a paper log for students to sign in and out? Based on the short presentation, do you think you would be open to trying an electronic hallpass log? Do you have any additional comments based on what was presented?

The above photo was certainly an encouraging sign. We were relieved to see that (on average) 75% of teachers were willing to try that program. Most helpful though, was the additional comments that teachers had. Three of the first four comments all focused on the pushback about having phones in class. These comments were not surprising and this is where I anticipated the biggest fight because a number of teachers do not allow phones to be seen once students enter the school. The next batch of comments were very positive and focused on teachers who were willing to try out the procedures.

Part 3: Volunteers

In a somewhat surprising and positive turn of events, teachers were overwhelmingly in favor of trying out the new hall pass log. As of the writing of this blog, we are up are to 30 teachers trying out the program, up from the original two of Mike and I.  We are very happy with the development that our colleagues are willing to support us and see the value in this new plan. The goal now is to use this program, with these 30 teachers for a couple weeks and then send a feedback form to them, to hear their thoughts, both positive and negative.

A Look Ahead to Final Project Blog Post

The final blog post will contain an element that has been missing so far. And that is, the feedback of the students. Mike and I have created a Google Forms Feedback page where students will be able to anonymously respond about the new process, whether they found it more efficient, did it change their hallway habits, and any other feedback they would like to share. I look forward to gathering that information in the next week and sharing it with you.

 

Provincial Level: From Dreams to Reality

For years now, the issue of technology has been at the forefront of Educational Issues at every level. The Provincial Level is no different. Our goal today is to highlight a few interesting ideas from the Ministry and examine the differences between their goals and classroom realities. Let’s Begin…

  1. Equity

The Ministry document states: “Learners, regardless of location or ability, benefit from equitable access to educational opportunities, technology tools and resources, and a technology-infused learning environment.” There is no argument that this is a meaningful and well-intended initiative. Unfortunately, in reality there has been, and likely will always be a gap in technology with our students based upon their socio-economic background. The Digital Citizenship article states one of these issues, regarding the idea of BYOD (Bring your own device):

Although BYOD policies have a number of advantages, they also have several downsides, which need to be addressed and considered as part of a digital citizenship policy. First, schools must take into account issues of equity; school leaders and staff should be prepared to supply devices to those students who do not have their own, and ideally these students should be able to bring the devices home or provide some after-school access in order to replicate the advantages of the BYOD model.

The idea of BYOD has often been considered a cure-all when discussing a lack of technology access in the classroom. As a Connected Educator, I am lucky enough to have access to laptops for every one of my students. Therefore, BYOD should not be needed in my classroom because all students have access to technology. However, many students eschew the laptops in favor of working with their phones, which are far superior technologically. So while all students in my class do, in theory, have access to technology, the students who cannot afford to have the newest and best phones are stuck on inferior devices and thus have to work at a slower pace.

2. Professional Competence

The ministry document states: “Technologically fluent educators and administrators are guided by technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in making choices about the appropriate use of technology in support of student learning.” Once again, it goes without saying that this is a worthy endeavor. However, I would like to examine a few of the hiccups that occur as this plan travels from the Provincial Government down to teachers in classrooms. There is no denying that technology can aid student learning, but too often it is used as a replacement for teaching and the device becomes no more than a word processor. Now some teachers will push back and argue that there is not enough support for the numerous technological ideas that are presented and without proper training and time, teachers are left to fend for themselves as best as they can. I cannot argue with this line of thinking. The only way we can ensure professional competence and buy-in from teachers is to provide them with suitable training. This training absolutely MUST go beyond the basics of the program and really allow time for teachers to collaborate and create something meaningful to them. Sending teachers to PD for half a day twice a year is not enough for them to learn anything more than the basics and if that is all they learn then there’s no chance of real implementation.

However, this lack of training comes down to a lack of funding. So if the Provincial Government is serious about true professional competence, then they have to be willing to invest seriously in education.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Project Update: Beginning Steps a Glimpse into the Future

Greetings and Salutations everyone,

Today’s blog post will serve as an update on our major project, the Digital Hall Pass. As you’ll recall, our initial plan was to work with a company that would provide the service as a pilot project, but would ultimately charge between $2-3 per student per year, which was never a viable option. Therefore, my partner Mike Wolf and I decided to pivot and create something that would accomplish almost as much, while not costing anything.

We ended up with creating a QR code, taped to the wall in the classroom. This QR code sends students a Google Forms Page where they enter their student number, teacher name, period, and where they are headed. Once this is complete, they leave their phone and take a hall pass to the washroom. When they return, they use their phone to enter the Form once again, re-entering the information and this time stating that they are returning to class. Each of these entries are compiled and displayed on a Google Spreadsheet, with timestamps attached.  This allows the teacher to tell how long and how often students are leaving the class.

Early Thoughts/Feedback:

Currently, I am about ten days into this project with my students and early returns are encouraging. Students are becoming used to the routine and are fully capable of accessing the Forms page without any help from me. The only hiccup is students who do not remember their student number, but after providing it to them once they usually remember. One of our initial concerns was for students who do not have cell phones or a device in class, but this has not been a major problem. Of my 100 or so students, 3 do not have cell phones and when they want to leave, I keep the Google Forms page open on my laptop so I can enter the information for them. Therefore there is nothing holding students back who do not own personal devices.

Another change we’ve made is simplifying the Google Forms Page. Initially, the students were required to type the name of their teacher and this lead to several amusing misspells.  We adapted the process and now have changed the teacher selection to multiple choice. This makes the step easier for the students and makes the results easier to compile.

The other concern/discussion point was who was the data for and how would it be used and this is still to be determined. After only 10 days of implementation, there is not a ton of information to be gleaned from the data. However, after a few more weeks I hope to have more definitive answers from the information.

The final, and perhaps most interesting discussion point is how the school staff will react when/if this was implemented school-wide. After discussing this project with our school Administration, they asked Mike and I to run the program for a month or so and then report back to the staff on our impressions. In any school, there are teachers who are comfortable with technology and those who are not. As well, there are some teachers who allow students access to their phones during class and those who never want to see a device. I anticipate there will be some pushback on these issues when we explain this to our colleagues. I believe this will be our most meaningful feedback and I look forward to discussing this in the future.

Division Level: Regina Catholic Innovation

Greetings everyone and welcome back for my Division Blog. For this blog, I will focus on Regina Catholic Schools as that is the Division that is lucky enough to employ me!

I am currently employed at Miller High School, teaching Math and English. Also, I am lucky enough to be a Connected Educator (as Bart Cote describes in the video), so I have a class set of laptops to be used exclusively by my students. As a Connected Educator, the responsibilities extend far beyond just receiving the laptops. We must continue to develop our skills through online and face to face Professional Development sessions, along with submitting assignments to a public database that all Regina Catholic Teachers can access.

These lessons must truly emphasize the use of the devices and cannot simply have them operate as word processors. In other words, they must exist in the higher levels of the SAMR Model. The following video explains the SAMR Model in the best way possible, through the voices of students.

One of the key tenets of the Professional Development sessions facilitated by Bart and his colleagues is that change does not happy quickly. No one expects that once teachers receive a set of laptops that suddenly every lesson will be in the Redefinition area. Instead, we are asked to make a gradual change, to focus on creating quality worthwhile lessons and continuing the evolution towards the transformation stage, rather than trying to rush their quickly. With the support of Bart Cote and the people that work with him, I continue to feel supported as a Connected Educator and motivated to create unique new lessons for my students.

Part 2:

Image #1: How can we be better?

While all the pictures were great at identifying issues and areas of improvement in Technology within the School Division, the one that stuck out most to me was the first image.

Too often, technology is seen as the solution to a bad lesson plan, rather than treating it as an tool to augment an already strong lesson. In my experience, I have had teachers ask to borrow my laptops if I am not using them and when I ask what they are working on, too often they reply with “I need students to type their essays” or “we’re making a powerpoint”. While I always try to offer my colleagues the technological support if I can, I can now point them to this poster, and ask them what is the purpose of the powerpoint? Are we making it, just to make it, or are we trying to inspire change?

Once again, I need to refer back to the Connected Educator Program run by the Regina Catholic School Division. They are in their third year of the program and each year new teachers are added to the process. The benefit of growing the program in this manner is that it allows the early adopters to act as advocates and technology supporters in their individual schools. By showing our colleagues the benefits that technology can contribute and how we can take our lessons to a new level, we can be technology catalysts in our schools.

I am, and will continue to be a technology catalyst and advocate in my school. By pushing my students to use the technology to ask questions and change minds, I can inspire my colleagues to become connected educators and embrace the change as well.

Project Beginnings: A Change in Focus

Welcome back everyone!

I’ve received some great feedback in regards to our project outline for Digital Hall Passes and now as we prepare to begin our project we have undergone some significant changes.  In this outline, I want to highlight some of the changes that have occurred and the reasons behind them.

#1 Cost – Is there a better way?

It turns out, yes, there is a better way. The previous solution we had targeted for a pilot program was likely to cost $2-3 per student per year. Given the current financial climate in Saskatchewan schools, this was never a reality. Mike and I decided that to make this project more meaningful, we had to come up with a method more sustainable and realistic for the school to undertake. What follows is our solution.

Solution:

Our solution to this problem follows this route:

  • We have created a QR code that is posted in the classroom near the existing paper hall passes.
  • This QR code links the students to a Google Forms page where they fill in the following information: Last 4 Digits of their student number, where they are headed in the school, and the name of their teacher.
  • After filling this out, the students leave their phone and take the hall pass to their desired location. Upon returning to the class, they resubmit the Forms page, this time, choosing the option “returning to class”
An example of our Google Forms Page

The purpose of this method is that each submission of the form creates a timestamp so teachers are aware of exactly how long their students are out of the classroom. We believe this is important, because the best learning occurs when students are in the class and actively engaged. If the spreadsheet shows that students are outside the class for too much time and too often, then privileges can be lessened.

#2 Privacy – Is it worth the trouble?

One of the major questions we received with our previous proposal was the question if the added safety/security was worth the Big Brother aspect of the program. We agreed to a certain extent and have made changes accordingly. The new Digital Hall Pass, is really just an extension/evolution of the paper hall pass logs that we used to keep. While students are still required to state the reason they are leaving, they are not being tracked in any way after leaving the classroom. There is still an amount of autonomy and trust given to the students.

#3 Data Access – Who is Accessing and for what reason?

Thankfully, Google has changed from previous confusion and now explains to you who can access your files. So now the only people who can access the files are the teachers you have given access to. If this were adopted school-wide, I would assume that Administration and Student Services would have main access to the file as they would be the ones dealing with any potential issues that could arise. The benefit of not hiring a company to manage the hall passes is there is no outside organization with access to the files.

An example of the data, please note that these are samples and student numbers are made up

So where do we go from here?

This is the magical question and cannot be answered until we are further into the program and can analyze what pros and cons have arisen. So I’ll check back in a few weeks with a further update.

Ciao