Monday, 7 December 2015

Digital Bytes - Christmas Edition - December 7th, 2015

With Christmas just around the corner, here are some fantastic gifts for those kids on your Christmas list. Also, this week is Week of Code where students are challenged to spend an hour writing code. Check out the amazing activities on or Khan Academy.

Technology Will Save Us
I really love the options available on this site because there is a mix of technology and hands on.
Purchase a kit that will enable you to create a speaker out of a balloon, or take Play Dough a step further with Electric Dough. There really is something for everyone.
Get the whole family involved in a hands-on project.
Sphero, Ollie or Drone
If you haven’t heard of Sphero, Ollie or mini Drone, it is time you did because this will be the most fun you have this Christmas. Combined with free Tickle app will have your kids enjoying coding and learning. What more could you ask for? Or you could go for the epitome of cool and get the BB8 sphero. If you wanted a cheaper option or something for younger kids, then check out the Ozobot.
Low Tech, but Tech Thinking
There are a ton of great products out there that you and your kids can use to help support logical thinking and reasoning.
Christmas Games
A number of free games which challenge you to explore and solve a problem.
They are free and fun for an individual or small group of kids.
Week of Code
This week is the week of Code where everyone is challenged to spend an hour writing code.
Try out the Star Wars challenge where kids have to try to use code to move BB-8 and R2-D2 through obstacles or take Steve and Alex on an adventure in Minecraft. Also take a look at the activities on Khan Academy.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Digital Bytes November 30, 2015

flickr photo by rahego shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Making Icon-nections - An Inquiry Into Icons
Integration Specialist at Taipei American School, Pana Asavavatana, has written an excellent post about getting young students inquiring into common icons across core apps her school uses. Workflows, student samples and clear instructions will help you follow along easily. Kindergarten and Grade 2 modifications are included in her post. Check it out!
Split View and Slide Over
A great new feature in the newest iOS for iPads allows you to do have two windows open and running at the same time.
Depending on the app, you can adjust the size of the windows so they are split half and half (split view) or one larger window and one smaller window (slide over).
15 Features of Google Docs You Didn’t Know About But Should
One great thing about Google Docs being an online platform is that it is easy for improvements to be made and rolled out.
Here are 15 great features of Google Docs that you might not know about but should.
From the navigation sidebar to the research tool and voice typing, there is something new for everyone.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Digital Bytes - 16 November 2015

How to Provide kids Screen Time that Supports Learning
Kids are now spending more time on devices like iPads than watching television. “Children not only need to learn how to decode the letters and words they read, but also to gain an understanding of what goes into creating information and stories of all kinds.” This article talks about the three C’s: Content, Context and Child and the importance of balance.
9 Videos on News Literacy
Our students are increasingly getting their information from videos. How are we supporting them in this form of literacy?

This article examines what you as a teacher can do to help your students be more critical of the videos they watch.

The videos range in topics from how to choose your news to why the news isn’t really the news.
Classroom Eye Candy: A Flexible Seating Paradise
The personal touches in this English classroom make us feel we would like to be a learner in this space. The teacher also shares some excellent tips on how she rotates students through the “best” areas over time. Classroom Eye Candy will be a great inspiration for your flexible learning space.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Digital Bytes 16th November

How to Use Instagram in the Classroom
Connecting an idea with a visual is an important 21st Century skill. Instagram is a great platform for the classroom because of its ease of use and ability to be accessed by all. Here are 10 ways of using Instagram in the classroom. Don’t forget to include our hashtag #uwclearn when you post! You might like to follow other educational Instagram accounts like @timlauer or @venspired

10 Fun-Filled Formative Assessment Ideas
Checking for understanding is a crucial part of being a successful educator, and these great tips from the folks at Edutopia will refresh your existing toolkit. Explore these 10 fun-filled formative assessment ideas.

7 Tools for Building Infographics
In the world of information, getting your message across in a way that your audience understands is essential.
Infographics are a fantastic way to share information. Students use a huge number of skills to summarize, categorize, prioritize and collate information into a visual resource.
This article shares seven great tools for building infographics and even includes a short video of the process.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Breakout EDU - engaging students through collaborative challenges

UWCSEA Tech Mentors collaborate to solve an online puzzle. Photo: Dave Caleb
"A black-hat hacker has created code on a USB drive that threatens to destroy all digital mapping and navigation software currently in existence. Just think about that, no Google Maps, no in-dash GPS, no airplane autopilot, no more Uber. His claim is that they're making us lazy and mush-headed, lacking essential skills and understandings like latitude and longitude, map reading, and navigating by bearings. You an your teammates are our last hope. Can you solve the geography challenges presented to you and prove your worth in time to find the drive and destroy the code? You have 45 minutes to find out. Your time begins now..."

About Breakout EDU

This is a typical prompt in a game designed for Breakout EDU, an collaborative challenge where groups solve a series of both physical and online puzzles to open locks and ultimately, a box, before time runs out.

Breakout challenges exist for a variety of age groups, from Primary grades through adults. All of them can be adapted and modified for a variety of learners and topics.

A typical session involves the game facilitator reading the scenario to set the scene, defining the objective, and stating the boundaries of where clues might be found. The countdown timer starts and players gather clues and solve challenges. Along the way, additional clues are revealed. Players normally have two "lifelines" they can use to ask for clues from the facilitator if they're stuck.

Working on the directional lock. Photo: Dave Caleb

The learning

The role of the facilitator is key to successful learning in the game. The facilitator will be actively engaged in keeping players involved, recognizing the flow of the game (who did what, found what), and leading the debrief at the end. This is where the learning really becomes present. During the debrief, the facilitator will go through the puzzles that were solved step-by-step and will talk about actions or non-actions that particular players took.

Breakout games are especially well-suited for introducing new topics as well as reviewing concepts where you're either setting the scene or pulling together disparate pieces to show how they're connected. All participants will likely not personally engage with every puzzle, but the learning from others, in authentic collaboration, is made present for everyone during the debrief.

Content learning is only (a small) part of the Breakout experience. The thinking and processes of collaboration, communication and problem-solving that participants engage in present fantastic learning opportunities. Facilitators can support participant's metacognition by giving them thinking prompts individually and then leading the group through a process where choices players made are discussed and analyzed. Participants reflect on their own behaviors and the behaviors of others in supporting the solving of the puzzles. In doing so, they become better problem-solvers, collaborators, and communicators. 

Thinking like a designer

Breakout EDU is an open source project. That means that there is an active community of educators all creating, collaborating, and sharing ideas and games. Teachers and students can design their own games using the Breakout model and a template to guide the process.

The creation of puzzles gets people thinking like designers, really taking into account how the players will interact with the game. Challenges need to be difficult enough to be compelling yet solvable within the constraints of the game. This makes designing Breakout games a fantastic exercise for professional development.
Since puzzles can be online and physical, it really promotes the authentic use of technology. There is no "Ok, take out your laptops" in the typical Breakout game. Rather, participants draw on all resources they have available including internet searches. Because of this, you can't simply ask "Googleable" questions. Incorporating technology also means the sky is the limit for the kinds of puzzles you can make. From using clues hidden in Streetview images to assembling circuits, using drone photography and programming, the possibilities are only limited by one's imagination and willingness to explore.

UWCSEA Tech Mentors solve the challenge. Photo Dave Caleb


We have equipment available via the Digital Literacy Coaches. Please contact us if you'd like to play.

We can point you in the right direction and help you select or develop a game to play with your group, help you set it up and facilitate.

 Breakout is a great activity for mentor groups or with your teaching team as well as with a subject specific class.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Digital Bytes - November 2, 2015

The haze we have experienced over the past few months in Singapore has brought the conversation of palm oil to the front of everyone's thoughts.

This website does an amazing job of exploring the use of palm oil and uses a variety of media such as videos, infographics, sounds, text, photos and interactive elements.

We can clearly see when a variety of media are mixed, students will engage with the information and learn quickly and easily. This is a fantastic mentor text for our students.

Many of you may know that you can drag an image into Google and it will search the web for that image or images similar to it.

What you may not know if that there is so much more to Google's ability in this image search.

This short video does a fantastic job of showing some of those features and how you might use it in the classroom with your students.

We all have students that need a little or a lot of help in our classes.

Here are 8 Chrome extensions to help those struggling students in your class. Everything from Ad Block and Readability to help students who have trouble focusing or get off task easily to Read and Write for Google which allows students to highlight text on web pages.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Digital Bytes October 26th, 2015

15 Great Chrome Extensions for Educators

Chrome Extensions can help to make our lives easier and there are some great ones available for educators.

Have a look at 15 great chrome extensions for educators including Pixlr Editor, Padlet, Exit Ticket, and Multi-Highlight.
The Psychology of Selfies

Selfies have become part of our lives and our students' lives. Read about why we love looking at faces, how looking at faces creates empathy, the pros and cons of selfies, and tips on how to take a great selfie. There are also some excellent infographics.
How to Use Text to Speech on the iPad

An incredibly useful feature on the iPad is the text to speech feature.

This article takes you through how to set it up and some tips for using it.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Digital Bytes October 5, 2015

This week's Digital Bytes will change your life!

There are 3 fantastic articles: Converting photos of text into actual text using Google Drive, the importance of school leadership understanding the digital world and 33 digital tools for formative assessment.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Approaches to Learning: Looking for evidence on the OLP

The Online Learning Platform provides our students with opportunities to exercise their approaches to learning: collaboration, communication, and self-management.

If you've got healthy discussion going in the posts on your class feeds, you may wish to check on the contributions of individual students. Here's a few approaches...

Class Stats

You can click on the chart icon on the left of your class and see an overview of each student's participation. You can select different options and see the results such as Units read, posts participated. 

Individual Stats

You can click on any of the member of your OLP classroom and see their profile, selecting the "stats" tab shows you an overview of their activity. 

Filtering the Class feed

The previous statistics provide a pretty blunt measurement of student activity. To get a good grasp on the quality of participation, you can filter the class feed to see participation by individuals. This sorts and highlights the participation by only the selected student allowing you to quickly scan their posts and comments.  

Monday, 28 September 2015

Digital Bytes 28th September 2015

This week we have an article about how multimedia storytelling can change people's perception and develop empathy, a post on a hybrid model of assessment, blending analog and digital tools, and a response to the OECD article that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Response to Recent News Articles on the OECD Report "Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection"

Many people have seen news articles about a new report from the OECD in recent days. A typical article and headline is this one from the BBC - Computers 'do not improve' pupil results, says OECD” This headline is followed by the opening line: “Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils' performance, says a global study from the OECD.

Firstly, I would always advise caution when looking at news headlines. The purpose of a headline is by its nature to grab attention, not to necessarily give a balanced viewpoint. Counterpoint the BBC’s headline and opening line with the OECD’s from their own press release:

New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools
Schools have yet to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom to tackle the digital divide and give every student the skills they need in today’s connected world, according to the first OECD PISA assessment of digital skills.

The full report - titled “Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” can be found here.

Digging in to the BBC article and the report itself, shows very clearly that the intent of the OECD report is not to advocate that schools do not use computers with students, it is rather that educators need to get better at using computers to yield improvements.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.” Quote from OECD press release

“....Mr Schleicher says the findings of the report should not be used as an "excuse" not to use technology, but as a spur to finding a more effective approach.” Quote from BBC article

This is a sentiment that the College very much subscribes to and one that we believe we are robustly implementing. The College, and more importantly our teachers, are very reflective in their use of technology to support teaching and learning and are constantly looking for uses that show real value add over traditional approaches.

Something that the article does not do is to question the method that the report uses to measure educational success. The measure of educational success used is the OECDs PISA tests. There are reasons why we might question this as a baseline.

The first one is the assumption that the purpose of using computers in schools is to improve academic results in traditional science, english and maths tests. Certainly at UWCSEA, we have never stated that the purpose of using technology to enrich teaching and learning is about improving test results. Rather the stated aims of the original iLearn initiative were to “ to improve learning and develop skills through:

  • Flexible Progression
  • Critical Thinking
  • Unhindered Innovation
  • Collaborative Learning”

For a complete overview of the original initiative please see here. Please note that these outcomes are now embedded into the UWCSEA Profile.

The PISA tests simply do not measure these skills and qualities, so they are not a valid measure for many of the desired outcomes that technology use can bring to teaching and learning. Nor do they test digital skills, which are in themselves a desirable outcome and for many a requirement for future preparedness in our students.

Further to this, there are many noted academics who question the value of the PISA tests even for their own stated aims. One of the most well known and a frequent guest speaker for the Singapore Ministry of Education, is the American Professor Yong Zhao; Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon.

"PISA, the OECD’s triennial international assessment of 15 year olds in math, reading, and science, has become one of the most destructive forces in education today. It creates illusory models of excellence, romanticizes misery, glorifies educational authoritarianism, and most serious, directs the world’s attention to the past instead of pointing to the future."

For more information you can read Zhao’s blogposts here.

So in summary, the College has found that much of the press coverage of the research has been misleading. We are fully supportive of the recommendations in the original report, although we feel they have limited relevance to our situation. For a full discussion of the report it is also necessary to question the use of the PISA tests as a measure of educational success, particularly as regards the success of “21st century pedagogies.”