Posts Tagged: #how

How to make a slide deck using @fiftythree’s Paper app (updated)

Constructive Dialogue Cards

Three things I’ve learned about change-making

In my first year at Mulgrave we:

  1. completely refreshed our printer fleet and moved to a 100% networked print management environment
  2. completed an 1:1 iPad pilot with about 60 Grade 3 students
  3. set up an 1:1 iPad program for Grade 3 through Grade 6 students for September 2012
  4. set up a BYOD program form Grade 7 students for September 2012
  5. set up the school on Google Apps for Education

…a lot of innovation, a lot of change for a school with an historically conservative habit with educational technology.

I’ve learned a couple things watching how people react to innovation and change in general.

Mind the gap.

There are five kinds of people, distributed under a normal curve, called the Innovation Adoption Curve, as shown above. The methods you use to appeal to one group won’t work for the next group to their right. Also, there is a significant gap between Early Adopters and pragmatists. It’s easy to reach the first two groups; indeed, they pretty much lead themselves. Crossing over that gap is a big step up in leadership.

By the way, everyone gets invited to the party. Each group has a critical role to play in making the change successful so all groups must be valued equally important. Without the institutional knowledge and sober second thoughts of the Conservative and Sceptics, the Innovators and Early Adopters would have everyone chasing fads. And vice versa: without the Innovators nothing would ever move forward. New education is now an emergent culture and all five groups are needed to make it successful.

Change takes time. Time takes patience.

The adoption curve seems to be about 4 – 5 years wide. A couple days ago I came across this great post by David Truss in which he contemplates the blurring lines between his off- and online lives and generates a fair bit of mainstream commentary around his reflection. I remember having a similar conversation at Northern Voice two years ago. I mean no value judgement–only to say that that conversation started two years ago. I think I’m making reasonable assumptions in slotting in Northern Voice as a forum for innovators and early adopters and and the Truss commentary as forum for more pragmatic sorts. The time lag suggests to me that it wil be another two years before the sceptics have come to terms with the blurring social lines. I think this pace holds constant for all innovations.

(As an aside, I never could understand why anyone ever thought those two things were separate. Even though we temporarily suspend disbelief, we really have no doubt it is an actor and not a real Jacques who says, “All the world’s a stage, And the men and women merely players…” I don’t know that I ever made a distinction between my life as a teenager on the telephone and my life as a teenager hanging out in the school parkling lot, either. But that wonderful scene in Downton Abbey when the telephone is installed suggests that Bell’s device in its day was similarly confusing.)


The adoption curve is static.

This has important implications: it means that the curves always exists, that there will always be innovators and always be sceptics and always be those in between. As I said above, all groups are needed to make a successful change. Note how different that is to saying all groups need to change. The leader’s job is not to make sceptics into early adopters. That, in fact, would be counter-productive and unhealthy for the individual as well as the organization. The leader’s job is to move the whole curve forward. (Actually, the leader is moving the innovations through the whole oprganization. It just looks like the curve moves.)


Best way to manage 100 iPads? Give them to 100 managers #edchat #connectedca

We’re wrapping up a very successful iPad pilot program with two Grade 3 classes at Mulgrave School. The experience has given us the confidence to go 1:1 with the device for Grade 3 through 6 next year. That will put a little over 300 iPads in our junior school, including staff devices. We expect to expand that as soon as possible to upper grades.

The student experience has been all-positive. Read about that in the student survey here.

From the IT perspective we’ve learned a valuable lesson that has given us the confidence to expand our iPad program (an begin implementation of our BYOD program) a year ahead of schedule.

The best way to manage 10 or a hundred or a thousand iPads is to let 10 a hundred or a thousand people be managers.

The IT department set up the iPads on the wireless at the start of the year and that’s pretty much been the extent of the required support. We had a brief honeymoon where we sorted out our expectations for the studnets, but since then we’ve had–as fas as I know–no breakages, no one coming to class with an uncharged device, no one coming to class missing a critical app. Remember these are Grade 3 students!

Pedagocially, it doesn’t make sense to manage the device centrally: the iPad is a personal device and a mobile device and placing them in carts just kills that.

Our expereince tells me there is no practical need to manage it centrally either.

Update June 12, 2012: I’ve just been told that we have in fact lost 3 iPads to failure/damage over the course of the year. Two were replaced by Apple, no questions asked, one was broken by a student. The classroom teacher says this posed little interruption. The issues never hit the IT department.

Integrating iPads into language education: tech newbie shows how its done.


One of our Mandarin teachers, Tania Wei, walked into my office this morning with a couple technical questions about the iPad and her posterous blog which she uses to post Show Me and YouTube videos of her lessons and her students’ work.

Now, I had no idea Tania had even set up a blog for her class. She’s a tech newbie. But she’s also an exceptionally professional–meaning fearless–teacher. So she’s figured out how to set up a blog and two different video accounts and record and uplaod video to them.

I see three great things happening here:

  1. As Tania says, the kids scramble to be the ones recorded and shared on the services: “The students are more engaged and practice more,” she says. 
  2. Tania posts videos demonstrating proper pronunciation of Mandarin and proper form of characters. This is important, she says, because many of the students have no Mandarin speakers at home.
  3. Tania is a tech newbie. Increasingly, I find, these are the best users of technology. Experts are often distracted by the tool itself. For Tania, and others like her, the technology is just a means to an end. Though she’s using the iPad for leverage, she’s kept her work focussed on her teaching and her students’ learning. The technology in her classroom is invisible and transformative.


Taking the (too) short-view of education reform.

In a recent blog post, online learning insights, quotes former Harvard president Lawrence Summers saying education changes little over time. Indeed, as the post-writer says, education is perceived to be highly resistant to change.

That percerption is based on a too-short, toonarrow view of education. Education today looks nothing like the sort of teaching that went on in the agora, for example. And I don’t think that is too remote to consider. It ‘s a general problem these days that we are ignorant, or at least choose note to consider in our contemproary talk about reform, the 2500-year old conversation about edcuation.

I am reminded of a sharp comment by Zhou Enlai to Richard Nixon. During that president’s visit to China in 1972, he asked the chinese premiere what he tought of the effects of the French Revolution, arguably the mother of the United States.

It’s too soon to say, he replied.


Re-wiring the IT department: 6-month update on building trust

A little short of six months ago, we laid down an energy line (an idea we borrowed from the creative folks at Behance) to monitor the work we do in the IT department.

Here we are now:


The maintenance taks, in blue, haven’t moved much–that’s the nature of maintenance, I suppose. I’d like to see more creative tasks (in green) which are under-reported here, as are the fires (in pink) the team has put out since school start in September. Really, the problem is we feel disinclined to stop work and write out an index card partly because we’re busy, partly because we’re modest.

But it’s not a trivial exercise. We’ve made working transparently a core value in IT and that practice has helped earn the department considerable goodwill. When I arrived at Mulgrave last fall, the team had never in its history come together to talk about strategic planning, which is surprising given the central importance of IT in contemporary schools. There was just no way anyone here could see letting all the IT support leave campus at the same time. Yet a week ago I was able to ask the faculty and students for a half day to take the entire IT team off site for a much needed retreat.

We got away yesterday, even though the school had an important function that afternoon which normaly required IT to be on standby. The message from faculty and students: you leaving is an inconvenience and we understand your need to plan together to build what we need for the future. So, off you go.

In return, of course, we have to show we spent…I was going to say our time, but it was theirs we took..their time profitably. I think we did. We were able to clarify for the team the strategic plan of the school, translate that into goals for the department for the next three years and map out specific, critical objectives for the next six months. We recorded all of this on a 10m mural we’ve posted in the IT department and invited everyonbe to stop by and ask any questions they like. (I’ll share this in another post soon.)

–frrom a culture of “Yes, but…” to one of “Yes and…” in under six months. I like that. Thanks to everyone involved.


iBooks Author best tech tool for teaching yet

I am tremendously excited by the launch of iBooks Author today. Two or three years ago I was looking for some easy way for students to create their own course content; not just collections of note, but material worthy of study and worthy of sharing.

Immediately after Apple’s announcement a few tweets popped up saying, rightly to a degree, that Apple seemed a bit short on pedagogy, that textbooks–paper or electronic–are still old paradigm. I’m not so sure about that. Dramatically cutting the price of a textbook makes a significant difference in the large scale deployment of resources and that has an effect on education overall. Mostly though, there is nothing inherently wrong with textbooks themselves; it’s how we use them that is the problem (else we would have to say all books, even great novels are flawed, wouldn’t we?). the question we ought to ask is how iBooks 2 might change how we use them.

But the potential revolution comes through iBooks author. What happens to education if students make the textbooks themselves?

In traditional schooling, education is seen as an artefact or object that is passed on from a knower to a learner. Education is seen as knowledge transfer. Even everyday language reflects this: we say “I have knowledge,” or “Let me give you some information.”



Collaborative learning looks dramatically different:



(Both images from an excellent read by Richard Alder and John Seely Brown, Minds on Fire.)

I’m not suggesting Cartesian or didactic teaching is wrong. Indeed it can be a very efficient and sometimes extremely enjoyable way to learn–I’ve been to hear some stunning speakers over time. Rather, I want to say that while Cartesian models are necessary, they are not sufficient. We need to develop social or collaborative learning. (Do you think we can use those terms interchangeably?) The Finns have a good handle on this.

Below is a model methodology I developed when traveling the world with THINK Global School. We had 15 students from 11 different countries and lived and studied in three different international cities (Stockholm, Sydney and Beijing) during the year.

Our experience suggests something like this is culturally and gender neutral: it lets all students engage naturally. I believe it’s scalable to any size project. And it provides for long-term engagement.




Starting on the left there are three levels of learning:<  

  • B: Baseline literacy, or the grammar of each subject; the basics you just have to know
  • A: Application of that baseline literacy.
  • E: Extension of B and A into real world problems

As metaphor, think of preparing a team for the World Cup. Baseline work is fitness training, passing drills etc. Application is the practice games. Extension is the final FIFA tournament–a real world, high stakes event. The baseline work is necessary for effective applied work and the practice gained in the applied work prepares students for big event.

What we found in our travels at THINK Global School was that at the Application stage, we could view all work as something like field research. Sometimes that was obvious as when we were taking physical measurements of the Great Wall of China, or recording a guest speaker. But we felt we could also consider reading a chapter in a novel as the same sort of thing: data gathering.

Next, when we had a chunk of data, we took it to the So What? stage at the bottom of the loop, and applied an analysis: Is the information accurate, comprehensive? do we have follow up questions. Once we were sure of all this, we’d tag the data and store it. We might use it right away, or much later, but in either case we could rest assured we had good data. In effect, we were creating our own course content. 


(The SM curving off to the right is our social media feed. After the data had been vetted in the So What? stage we found we had a lot of good material for promoting student work as well as the school itself. Our communications and marketing team drew on this content.)

But I wanted to push this farther. I feel it’s important that students create work that has intrinsic value, that is, work that has value for something more than the upcoming test. If all students feel they can throw out their notes at the end of the year, we’ve done something terribly wrong in our classes. So, at the end of the day students need to either find and solve original problems or participate in the solving of other problems. For example, TGS students took part in a longitudinal study counting sea urchin populations in Sydney Harbour during their stay in that city. The statistics they gathered were an important addition to a study set up by the Sydney Harbour authority. 

To help students and teachers identify problems for solving we can apply this flow chart to the data we gathered in Application and So What stages:




I need to spend some time thinking about what this looks like in broader practice, especially across all the grades. But I’m suggesting that as the students consider the questions in the diamonds, they must do some hard thinking. They would also have to think carefully–critically–about where to get help. I can see links to building social networks and teaching social search here.

I am especially interested in the final question–“is it worth keeping?” That question, essentially, replaces the final exam. (There’s probably another loop in here that asks if we ran another iteration of the problem would we find a better answer.) 

Students also have to consider how they will store that data for later use. I favour a bucket to hold huge piles of unstructured data that users can can reorder as they need, hence my note to tag rather than file. It seems the semantic web, which would be ideal here, is still a ways off, but there are ways to set up unstructured data collections even primary students could use. We had a custom-built prototype bucket at THINK Global School and I am pretty sure one can build a good workarounds using a combination of off-the-shelf tools. Blogs come to mind because they are already set up around tags and categories

The key is at each stage students are in charge of organizing the work, assigning student roles, leading the evaluations in the So What? stage and determining the quality of the emerging problems. I think in a collaborative project, these roles could be distributed between schools to great effect.

Notice, too, that the loop in the methodology diagram feeds back onto itself. This is to show that the results of the Extension work, i.e. the solutions to problems, ought to create more questions and data for yet more applied work and so on. I think here is the point where we could see long-term collaborative work.
Now, finally, back to iBooks Author. This, and derivatives of it, would be an ideal tool for working at the “So what?” and “Extension” stages of this methodolgy. If they answered yes to the question “Is it worth keeping?’ tehn an ebook would be a great place to put it and a great medium for sharing socially cosntructed knowledge.

Do you include Twitter mining as a 21C skill?

Twitter is heating up. It expects to hit 500 million users sometime in February.

We’ve seen Klout and Peerindex. But in the past couple weeks two new, slick and different Twitter analytic tools have appeared: Spot and SocialBro’s realtime analytics which allows you to see who’s online in realtime–kinda neat when you’re monitoring a hashtag around an event.

With this news and Twitter’s already established reputation as a news source and help desk, I think we ought to adding Twitter search/mining skills to our 21st C skills curriculum. (That’s different than learning to build a PLN.) It has to be at least as important as teaching Google search skills. You’re doing that already, right?

For fun, we might think about teaching ifttt as well so kids can automate some of their research. There are more than 5,000 Twitter recipes in multiple langauges there already, but there’s nothing stopping students from creating specialized ones for there own work like say automatically dumping all tweets with a particualr hashtag into a shared Evernote notebook used for research on a collaborative class project. 

Time and money don’t make change happen. People make change happen. #edcampdelta

At #edcampdelta (and plenty of other places) I heard people say again and again that they’d love to see more change and make more change in schools, but they don’t have either the money or the time to do it. 

Yet the edcamp happened on the day of the first snowfall in B.C’s Lower Mainland and still something like 150 people turned up at Delta Secondary School. (Thanks for hosting!) Everyone there–teachers, administrators, students and parents–took a day without pay and a day away from family to gather and share ideas for edcuation reform. That’s remarkable!

And it should put paid, as it were, to the idea that time and money are roadblocks. 

Yes, we need time and money, but it’s mostly already there. What we really need now are people who will reallocate how both are spent. Those are people who ask tough questions about fundamental structures and assumptions about schools.