Last Friday we announced the winners of this year’s iPad Photography Competition. The judges had quite a task to judge the winning entries, there were so many stunning photos.
A HyperDoc is a Google platform to encourage deeper learning and ensure that sound pedagogy is at the centre of learning tasks. It can be in the form of a Google Doc, a Google Slide Deck, a Google Map or Google Sites. Recently educators have also been using other tools such as Book Creator and Deck.Toys (an interesting new tool that has been brought to my attention) to deploy their HyperDocs. Teachers are innovative beings and it is for this very reason that HyperDocs appeal to them. They allow for creativity in design and offer students an enriched learning experience.
Originally developed by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, HyperDocs have been around for a little while. However, as with anything technological, especially in education, they took a while to gain momentum, particularly in South Africa. However, after attending the last Google Summit, I just knew I HAD to share HyperDocs with our teachers. I knew they would find them exciting, and I wasn’t wrong.
To prepare myself, I bought my own copy of The HyperDoc Handbook written by the three ladies I mentioned above. I was very excited when it arrived and I had reason to be. What a well-written, clearly explained, hands-on book it is. There is no way you can go wrong if you follow the steps in the book. There is solid pedagogy behind the concept of HyperDocs.
HyperDocs are NOT worksheets. They do not replace worksheets. Although they might sometimes look like worksheets, they demand far more from both the teacher and the student (if correctly constructed).
A HyperDoc is:
- a launch pad or platform for engaging teaching and learning – almost like a stepping stone to deeper learning.
- “A great interactive and engaging platform that should be used to launch a learning rocket!” – I loved this quote from one of my colleagues made after our first HyperDocs session. I think he summed it up beautifully.
HyperDocs should contain or reflect:
- sound pedagogy.
- a learning cycle – either the HyperDocs Learning Cycle or another of your choice.
- the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning – communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
- scaffolded learning in cleverly designed tasks – both on paper and including the use of various tech tools. Not everything has to be done on an iPad!
- interactive opportunities for the students, including videos, texts, links and other resources.
- possible differentiation for students to work at their own pace.
- vibrant, attractive appeal for students – no more boring worksheets! The possibilities are endless.
- adaptability to the needs of both the teachers and the students.
- a greater understanding of the SAMR model and encourages moving through the different levels to Redefinition.
After the very first session in which I introduced our teachers to HyperDocs, I could see that I had offered them something that really sparked their interest, and that evening, even though I had not yet completed the HyperDoc training with the staff, I already had the first one shared with me by one of the teachers! That has never happened before. Since then we have completed the HyperDocs training and a number of the other teachers have also created and shared their home-grown HyperDocs with me. Are they perfect? No, they aren’t, but they are certainly on the right track and with guidance they will get there. Their lessons will evolve, problems will be ironed out and their teaching and learning will change in ways we never imagined. The important point to note is that the students enjoyed the new approach and enjoyed participating and completing the tasks set by the teachers. Should all lessons now be presented in HyperDoc format? No, I don’t think so. They lend themselves to a project-based learning approach and so themes and concepts that require deeper learning that can be spread over a longer period of time are most suited to this approach. Having said that though, there is no harm in creating a short, punchy, to-the-point HyperDoc to cover a single topic or smaller section of work.
The authors of the HyperDoc Handbook have created a website full of resources, examples, tips and advice for creating HyperDocs. I urge you to go and take a look, but beware – it’s like jumping down a rabbit hole! You won’t be sorry though.
This July marked the three-year anniversary of the introduction of our 1:1 iPad program at the Senior Primary.
What a challenging, interesting and eventful three years it has been! It has been a steep learning curve for the teachers, as they adapted their teaching to include the use of the iPads. For some it was easier than others; some faced personal fears and technology inhibitions, but they all embraced the iPads and invited them into their classrooms, embarking on a journey of discovery, learning and innovation. It has not always been an easy journey and tough questions have been asked along the way, but after three years we can honestly say that we are not sorry that we made the decision to infuse the use of technology into our teaching practices and we certainly do not regret that the iPad was our device of choice. While there is much competition now from other tablet brands, it is still the leading tablet used in education around the world.
The implementation of Google’s G Suite and Google Classroom has completely changed the way in which teaching and learning happen in our school. To assist our teachers we implemented Friday FaceTime sessions in which professional development around the use of technology in the classroom takes place. These sessions have been invaluable in informing the teachers about best practice and focusing mostly on pedagogy, not the technology. Most recently the teachers were introduced to HyperDocs, a Google platform to encourage deeper learning and ensure that sound pedagogy is at the centre of learning tasks. The teachers were enthused by HyperDocs and many of them jumped at the opportunity to create their own. It was wonderful to witness their excitement and it really drove home the point that teachers are lifelong learners.
Our school is considered to be a leader in the field of technology use in the classroom and we often get visiting teachers from other schools who pop in to come and talk about our approach and how we have implemented the use of iPads over the years. It is only when we have these conversations that we realise how far we have come since our pilot project was launched in 2012. We definitely do not profess to getting it right all the time, and our journey is far from over. As a school, we constantly reflect on our practices and question our methods and intentions. In a recent teacher survey, the teachers were asked to look back at the past three years and reflect on their learning and teaching with the iPads. Here are some of their comments:
- The constant training and support available for the teachers are wonderful.
- In my class technology is always used constructively. We have never just ‘played’ on it.
- I think we have a lovely system is in place. The children use and look after their iPads as if they are part of them. They have become part of our learning day. The children understand when they are to be used as an educational tool and there is a very definite line when they can be used for other purposes.
- The discipline and problems with games have improved over time. The pupils are more confident using technology and are in touch with using their devices on a daily basis.
- We have a balance between iPads and working in books. iPads have become a necessity in our teaching. They make lessons interesting and enable children to create in different ways. Google Classroom is a great platform for sharing.
- Looking at learners coming in from other schools, we expose our children to amazing technology usage and skills.
- We are constantly improving and moving forward. Integrated Learning Tasks and Deeper Learning Tasks are wonderful. Having someone push us and keep on track is important.
- The students coming up now are way more competent than in previous years. Reliable Wi-Fi has made the world of difference.
- The Technology Superhero Stop Motion project is excellent!
- The children understand that the iPad is a tool that must always be at school, and many of the tasks both teach the kids and make them excited to be involved.
With the arrival of iOS 10 late last year, some of the older iPads were dealt what seemed to be a death knell, even if it was not an immediate one. Initially we thought it only applied to the iPad 2, but it later became clear that the iPad 3 and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were not included in the iOS 10 roll out because they simply do not have the processing power to run iOS 10 and they cannot keep up with the latest app requirements. As a school we were immediately faced with a problem – what would we now do with these devices? We have a bank of 25 iPad 2s in daily use and not all of our students have the latest devices either. In a school environment this could be very annoying. Would we have to replace our devices immediately?
Realistically one can understand this step taken by Apple. The iPad 2 was first launched in March 2011. At the rate that technology improves and rolls over these days the fact that it was still holding its own in 2016 as a five-year old device was impressive. At some point a device will go to technology heaven. The iPad 3 was launched in March 2012 with the same processor as the iPad 2, but with improved graphics. The first generation iPad Mini was launched late in 2012, also with the same processor, so now in 2017 these devices are by technology standards, “old”.
It is not all bad news, however. After doing a little research, it turns out that these devices will still work for the foreseeable future. How long exactly is not clear, but they will in all likelihood still receive app updates and be able to download older versions of most apps (the trend thus far has been two years). However, no apps requiring iOS 10 will be compatible. The latest iOS update for these devices is 9.3.5, but while these devices will need to be replaced eventually, this means that we can continue to use these devices as we were for a little longer, until planning and budgets allow for device upgrades. I believe there are still people using their old first generation iPads (2010), although the apps are now very limited. Typical issues displayed by an aging device are poor battery life, slow processing speed and inferior graphics.
Some of the latest, most current apps require serious processing power as only provided by the later iPads, the iPad Air and iPad Pro. One such app is the Apple Coding app, Swift Playgrounds which was launched in late 2016. We found out the hard way, unfortunately. After attending an Hour of Code workshop at a local Apple reseller in early December, a colleague and I were enthused and fired up to roll out Swift Playgrounds with our students in 2017 (our students used code.org last year). It soon became clear that the iPad 4 (Nov 2012), despite running iOS 10 with a faster processor and more RAM, would not run Swift Playgrounds either. We will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan, as there are a fair number of our students still using the older devices, especially the iPad 4.
To find out what model iPad you have, look on the back of your device. It is written in microscopic lettering. Alternatively on your device, go to Settings/General/Regulatory and you will find your model number at the top. Below is a useful table from www.macworld.co.uk which will clarify which model of iPad you have:
Our students use iPads in the classroom. From Grade 1 to Grade 3 they use class sets and share devices, and from Grade 4 to Grade 6 (at our Senior Primary School) each student has a privately-owned device in a 1:1 environment. This means that our students have the benefit of a very powerful device as an additional tool in their learning toolkit. And that is exactly what it is – another option, along with the books, paper, pencils and crayons they already have. The iPad does not replace any of these and it should not.
In our 1:1 roll out we have been very intentional in stressing to our teachers that basic skills such as reading and writing are still very important in the whole education of a child. In designing and planning their lessons, our teachers are tasked with ensuring that they make use of the best tools available for that lesson – the tools that ensure the best outcome for the students and the most learning. If that means that a more conventional non-technology lesson is what is required, then that is the way to go. However, since our teachers are also striving to use the technology to modify and redefine their lessons (driven by the SAMR model), it also requires them to rethink their own teaching methods and styles and reimagine their lessons. That is a good thing! In doing so they incorporate many of the vital basic skills into their iPad lesson design and so our students are still reading, writing, drawing, counting, discussing, debating, contributing and LEARNING.
We do not stipulate the number of lessons or hours we expect our teachers to use the iPads in their teaching. Regular teacher reflection (vital for successful teaching regardless of methods or tools used) and open discussion takes place to keep the balance. Balance is extremely important and in a world where children are glued to screens for a large portion of their free time, screen time in school needs to be highly effective and for the best reasons. Our students need to use their iPads to create, show their thinking, collaborate, design and showcase, so typing up of documents and filling in online worksheets is not high up on our priority list.
Our whole approach is about balance and best practice – and so it should be.
Recently we ran an iPad Photography Competition at our school for the first time. It was a great success and the students took the most amazing photographs. We certainly have some budding photographers! (See the winning photos below). It also showed us what an iPad camera is capable of.
This is how we went about creating the competition and communicating with the students using the Google tools available to us as GAFE school:
- Set up an iPad Photography Competition Google Classroom.
- Create a QR-code for the Class Code to join the Google Classroom if they wish to enter the competition.
- Design a poster to advertise the competition, showing the QR-code and the competition closing date.
- Decide on the categories and number of entries allowed per category (we decided upon one entry in a maximum of three categories). We had a panel of four teachers working on this competition, so it was a collaborative decision. Share this to the Google Classroom in a view-only Google Doc for the entrants to access.
- Create a Google Slides entry template, upload it to the Google Classroom and set it to download one copy per student. By creating a template with a place to insert the photograph and a prepared text box for the student’s name, class, category and photo title, it saved us a lot of time at the end when we saved the presentation as a PDF for judging, and all the important information was already on each slide.
- Draw up a How To Enter document with clear guidelines and upload it to the Google Classroom.
- Find sponsors for the prizes. This year Digicape was very generous in sponsoring six R1000.00 gift vouchers – one for each of the category winners! The school sponsored the runners-up prizes with six iTunes vouchers.
- Launch the competition in style! We are fortunate to have a student teacher at our school who is a very keen photographer. He gave a presentation on how to take photographs, what to look for, what to avoid and other tips and hints, so the students were well prepared. It was clear to see which students had taken his advice with their photographs – and who had not! He also shared some of his own beautiful photographs with the students. The presentation created and air of excitement and as soon as the advertising posters went up, we had scores of students signing up to the Google Classroom.
After the competition closed, we were able to save the individual entry slides into one big Google Slides presentation and then we exported it as a PDF (to prevent any accidental loss of information or images) for judging. It was then easy to scroll through the whole presentation and see each image displayed full screen via a projector. The judging, done by five judges, including one of our Grade 11 Visual Arts students, took many hours and some tough decisions, but finally six winners, six runners-up and a number of highly commended photos were decided upon.
Why Google Classroom?
- It is available to all our students and they are very familiar with how it works, as it is widely used by staff in our school.
- You can create an assignment when sharing the Google Slides entry template and set a due date for the competition closing date.
- All supporting information (categories, how to enter etc.) can be shared in one space, so that the students can easily find all the information they need. They then require no other teacher input (such as class teachers), as they can ask questions publicly or privately within the Google Classroom.
- All the entries are submitted in one place, in the same format.
- Any late submissions are marked as late, so you will know who missed the deadline.
- If there are any additional announcements, they can be posted in the Classroom and each enrolled student will receive an email update.
Was is a success?
You judge for yourself ! Here are the top entries, including the winners and runners-up (click on the image):
Thank you very much to Digicape for the fantastic prize sponsorship and well done and congratulations to the winners! This competition will definitely be repeated in 2017. Watch this space!
On Thursday another of our Grade 6 classes participated in a Mystery Skype, this time with a class in Israel. I put a call out over social media for a Mystery Skype partner and in no time, I got a response from a number of keen teachers. Unfortunately time zone differences made it very difficult to connect, but one connection really suited us well. Israel is an hour ahead of South Africa, so that was the deciding factor. We set up a date for 11 August and in preparation the Israeli teacher, Gali Lev Ari, shared with us the questions that her students would ask us. I shared these with the Grade 6 Kites class teacher, Mrs Kent, and she prepared her class for the Mystery Skype.
On the day the we had a crystal clear connection and immediately got to the task of finding out where in the world the other class was. Using iPads, Google Earth, Atlases and a good old-fashioned world map, our students put their heads together and got searching. It did not matter that our Skype friends were only in Grade 3 (from the Happy English School in Tel Aviv – they were participating in summer school, as it is actually their summer holiday now) and that English was not their first language. Through clever questioning (only yes/no answers allowed), slower speech and well phrased answers we were able to communicate well. Eventually, a clever guess led our students to discovering the location of the other class – in Israel! Just a few minutes later the other students found us in South Africa and then we ended off the Skype call with a question/answer session about our different countries and cultures. They were amazed to find out that we celebrate Christmas in summer!
Once again, through a simple yet structured activity, our students were able to call on map work (and other) skills learnt in class and apply them to find the other class. What a wonderful learning opportunity with many possibilities for future connections. The Kites class loved every minute!