Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Google Drawings with Chrome Remote Control for a Kickoff Activity

At my high school of 2000 students, we have adopted many common classroom structures so that students moving between classes will not have to do any more code switching than is already required of them by the subjects themselves. One of these structures is a kickoff activity that begins immediately at the start of class before any preamble.

In physics, we frequently ask our students to draw annotated diagrams. 'Draw an annotated diagram,' is one of the common prompts on IB exams, and we use the kickoff as an opportunity to practice doing this. Since we are one to one with Chromebooks enrolled in our GAFE domain with Teacher Dashboard sitting on top, we ask them to use Google drawings to make their annotated diagrams. It is amazing what the students have learned to do by layering simple shapes and extending line segments.

With the Teacher Dashboard Chrome extension that allows for remote control, and snapshot-viewing of student browsers, we can see what the students are drawing as they draw it. Toward the end of the kickoff, I will scan the student drawings (all visible on a single web-page as thumbnails), identify very quickly what misconceptions exist in the class, decide if I must re-teach the concept altogether, or simply pick my focus for a debrief.

For example, today I asked students to draw free body (force) diagrams (example above) of two steel marbles; one dropped from the height of one meter, the second launched horizontally from the same. Since the prompt specified that both objects should be in mid flight, many students (including the one who did the drawing above) aired a common misconception that the horizontal force lingers after launch. I decided to focus my debrief on that exact misconception because I quickly identified that 15 of my 32 students held this belief.

There are still things that are better drawn by hand than with a mouse. For now, to maintain a digital record of all student work, we ask students to use the built-in camera on their Chromebooks to take snapshots of their drawings and insert them into a document, site or blog.

Email me if you would like more information about how to take advantage of Google Drawings and Remote Control of Chromebooks at

Friday, 30 November 2012

Resources for Schools That Have Gone Google

There are many benefits for educational institutions that adopt Google Apps for Education. Many of the benefits are not visible right away, however. There are online resources and communities to help us find the hidden gems and guide us in best practices. In this post I will list all of the support structures that I am aware of, and that the few folks I consulted on this shared with me. Undoubtedly there will be many that we missed. Please tell us of other resources in the comments and I will add them to the original post as they come in.

From the Mothership
Google’s Guide to Going Google
Technical Support for GAFE Admins (the technical heroes that make it happen in the background)
Google Chromebook Schools Google Group (Mostly technical discussions and requires membership)
Google in Education Google Plus Page
Google in Education Website
Eduonair Online Hangout Series
Google Apps Regional Google Groups

GAFE Summit Series (Hosted by Edtech Team)
GAFE Summits (Hosted by others)

Trainers and Training
Become a Google Apps Certified Trainer
Directory of Google Apps Certified Trainers
Google Teacher Academy
Eduonair Online Hangout Series (double listed here again because this is a great resource)

Tips and Tricks Websites focussed on GAFE and Chromebooks
Google Gooru
Jennie Magiera's Chromebook PLC

Google+ Communities
Google Apps for Education community - Everything GAFE
Google Chromebook community - discussion about Chromebooks for Edu
Hapara Google Apps for Education
Using Google Apps as a Free LMS
Google Certified Teachers (anyone can read)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Purpose of the ePortfolio

For my part, the real value of the ePortfolios is in the reflection and the learning. Making the connections between the ePortfolio and learning is paramount.

" The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one's accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication." - Paris & Ayres (1994)

" The e-portfolio is the central and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, .not just a store of evidence.".. (Geoff Rebbeck, e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, (quoted in JISC, 2008)

The whole purpose(s) behind asking students to keep ePortfolios must be developed in collaboration with all involved - the teacher, the student, the parent. The purposes need to be clear, and uppermost in the development of the ePortfolio - if there is no real reason for doing something, then the act of doing it needs to be questioned.

Our purposes for our student ePortfolios include:
- reflective thinking and goal setting
- personalising learning
- development of formative assessment
- student voice
- creativity
- building a learning community
- celebrating success
- collaboration in learning
- providing a tool to facilitate lifelong learning
- understanding future steps of own learning

NEXT in this series - The Importance of Reflection

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Types of ePortfolios

ePortfolios can take on different formats and can serve many purposes.   The ways ePortfolios are used can vary greatly from owner to owner, and is dependent on the needs of that owner.

Some may wish to create an ePortfolio to deliver a personal brand.   This type of ePortfolio would typically showcase the skills of the owner and would include samples of work that show those skills.   It could be used as a CV for prospective employers or customers.   This type of ePortfolio helps to build the personal identity of the owner.

Others want to create an ePortfolio that documents achievement.   It would show ratings against standards or criteria, and would need to include a system for the collection of that data.

Thirdly, the ePortfolio for learning would provide a platform for reflection and metacognition.   Reflecting of current learning and the setting of goals would be paramount.  This type of ePortfolio is not so focussed on outcomes and assessment, but would show progress over time, and the processes used during the learning.

There is also a place for a combination of two or all of the above types of ePortfolios.   The format can be quite fluid and reflect the needs of the owner at that particular point in time.   Most students at school would use a combination of all three at some point in time.

For instance, a student's ePortfolio for learning may involve some goal setting and reflection of a current unit of inquiry.  Included in this would be the process of conducting the inquiry, the progress made during the inquiry, the outcome of the inquiry and the product (or summative task) after the inquiry was completed.   The audience for this series of ePortfolio entries would change from self to others during the course of the inquiry, and likewise the feedback would fluctuate between formative and summative depending on the stage of the task in hand.

NEXT in this series: Why Keep an ePortfolio.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

ePortfolios: Hype or Help?

This is the first in a series of blog posts discussing pedagogy and purpose of ePortfolios.

“An e-portfolio is an electronic format for learners to record their work, their
achievements and their goals, to reflect on their learning, and to share and be
supported in this. It enables learners to represent the information in different
formats and to take the information with them as they move between institutions.”  
     (Banks, (2004) e-Portfolios: Their Use and Benefits.)

ePortfolios are more than a buzzword. At the moment there is much talk and debate about them, but in reality an ePortfolio is able to create the environment to develop self-directed learners who are responsible for their learning.  The many types of ePortfolios reflect the many needs of learners today.

ePortfolios can provide evidence of learning and be used to support learning that is driven by goal setting and reflection, helping students to understand their next learning steps.   It is useful in developing student engagement, understanding and enabling student ownership of the learning process.

They can empower students to take responsibility for their own learning and can improve student self-esteem through providing the students with an portal through which they can display, and take pride in, their work.

The advantage of the ePortfolio is in the ability to gather all evidence of learning together in one place, regardless of the format of the evidence (text, image, media, etc) and being able to hyperlink the evidence so that it makes sense to the learner, who is able to identify with the connections.    

The real learning comes not from the inclusion of the evidence of learning which is simply the finished product, but from the rationale, understandings and significance it has for the student.

NEXT in this series: Types of ePortfolios and their purposes.