Friday, 18 January 2013

Navigating the Digital Learning Environment - Middle School

The increasing use of digital tools for students organize, create, and communicate in schools brings along a fair share of change from "normal" schooling. Typically, parents could expect to see notes scribbled in a paper planner or notebook for each class of the day. They could look inside the binders and see the paper assignments being passed out along with worksheets or class notes. Homework was written out on the worksheet or in a spiral notebook and would return, sometimes crumpled up, in a few days with red ink on it, an indication that yes, someone had read it.

That's all changed in a big hurry for our parents as we're in the midst of the second year with 1:1 laptops in the secondary school. But, it's not all doom and gloom. The "ins" you had with your children still exist, they're just on a different medium, a digital one. Here are some ways that you have the conversation with your children about their learning and sound like you know what you're talking about.

Disclaimer: our main objective is to produce independent, well-rounded learners. 
I mention this because you shouldn't be inclined to use the following info to "spy" on your child. 
It's meant to be a way to start a conversation about them as a learner.

Across our secondary school, teachers maintain class pages for their students. They communicate their homework and assessments on these pages using either a Google Calendar, an Announcements feed or a mix of these. Students know that they can go to their class page and find the necessary information they need. Many of them subscribe to the class calendars so that any updates appear on their calendar automatically.
The class pages are designed to be a communications channel between students and their teacher, but parents can access them as well. Check out this guide to navigating and bookmarking your child(ren)'s class pages.

Talking points:
  • Sit down with them as you look through their class pages together 
  • Ask how they're transferring this information into a "to-do" list and how they prioritize it
Our students produce a range of things to show their learning. Many of them, we'd all be familiar with - papers, posters, brochures, dioramas. Some products though are things that wouldn't leave a visible trace which can make you wonder "what have you been doing in there for two hours?" 
Our students produce an increasing amount of their work digitally. These products are most often shared with their teacher directly as they are being created via the Google Drive. 
Typically, your child will have a folder in Google Drive that they can save work to that is also shared with the teacher. Sometimes the products they're working on are collaborative with one or more peer and they can all edit together in real time. 

Talking points:
  • Sit down with your child as they're producing their work and watch
  • Ask them to show you their finished work on their laptop or have them share it with you if you're keen to try Google Drive yourself
  • Go back though their "to do" list to double check with them
Though we're just beginning to see a shift in the kinds and frequency of feedback given, there are some excellent examples emerging from our innovative teachers. We are very positive on formative, or "in the moment" assessment. That is, the best time to give feedback is as the learning is taking place. Some teachers are giving regular feedback on student's Google Docs by using the comment feature which allows them to highlight text and record a comment specific to that text. 
The tricky thing for parents can be that the work is never "returned." It was never actually even handed in.  Feedback is shared, revisions are made, more feedback is given, this is the cycle that is emerging.

Talking points:
  • Ask your child how they're doing in class and how they know this to be the case
  • When asking them to share feedback, it's OK if they don't read word-for-word. Maybe ask for "two highs and a low" for a particular assignment
Hopefully this will help you kickstart the conversations with your child about their learning. Please comment if you've found other strategies that could be useful to others.

Additional Resources:                
Healthy Tech Use                                                              Laptop School Use Survey


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sharing Student Work on Google Sites

At UWCSEA we use digital tools frequently for student learning. Grade 3-5 students have a Google Site which they are using to house their digital content. Below are some workflows for sharing student work to Google Sites easily.

From Pages/Keynote

Google Sites does not integrate easily with .pages or .key files, but there is a work around. Follow these steps to get your Pages/Keynote documents onto Google Sites

1. Open your Pages Document and click on File -> Export -> PDF

2. Click Next

3. Save to your desktop

4. Open Google Drive

5. Click on Upload -> Files and select PDF to upload (or, simply drag PDF into Google Drive)

6. Click on Share, and make your document viewable to anyone at UWC with the link, or Public on the web

7. Click on File -> Embed this PDF File

8. Copy the HTML Code

9. Go to your Google Sites, and start a new post for the work you want to share.

10. Click on the HTML button

11. Paste the HTML code and click Update

12. Your document will be visible once you press Save.

Here's a quick video to show the process if you prefer.

How to Embed a PDF into a Google Site from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.


Google Drive can help you embed your movies, if they are in .mov or .mp4 or .m4v format. Follow these steps:

1. Open Google Drive

2. Click on Upload -> Files and select Movie to upload (or, simply drag Movie into Google Drive)

3. Click on Share, and make your document viewable to anyone at UWC with the link, or Public on the web

4. Go to your Google Sites, and start a new post for the work you want to share.

5. Click on Insert -> Video -> Google Docs Video

6. Search for the video you wish to include by typing its title.

7. Click on the video and press Select 

8. Deselect Include Title, and press Save

9. Choose how you want it aligned on the page. When you are ready, click on Save or Save Draft to see the embedded video.

Google Docs

Google Docs are the easiest to embed in a Google site. Follow these steps:

1. Go to your Google Sites, and start a new post for the work you want to share.

2. Click on Insert -> Document

3. Type in the title of the Doc you want to insert. Tick the Doc you want and click Select.

4. Deselect Include Title and click Save

5. Choose the alignment you would like. When you are ready, click on Save or Save Draft to see the embedded document.