Friday, 9 May 2014

Hapara - A God Send

My Absolutely Brilliant class have been working on close to 200 google documents already this term.  Without Hapara I can only imagine the nightmare of requiring each student to share these with me, the never ending task of duplicating and sharing documents to send out to students and the ongoing battle with physically visiting individual blogs to check for updates and comments.

Hapara Google Dashboard makes my life (and therefore my students life) so much easier. Inspired by a bunch of digitally minded NZ teachers.  Hapara is hands down the one piece of software that makes this BYOD class tick over smoothly from day to day.  Hapara is my portal to everything going on within each students google account.  On one screen I can check when all students have last made a blog post and view it with one click. I can see who has commented on their posts, when they commented and what they said.  I can see if they have any unread emails and if need be (have never needed to yet) can view the emails they are sending and receiving.

This is all great and super handy!  However the best and most valuable aspect of Hapara is the interaction with google docs.  My students use docs to draft all their writing.  Gone are the days of taking stacks of books home, trying to write a meaningful comment with both positive feedback and next steps, not to mention that feeling when you realise you've just counted 6 times how many books you have left and its still more than you've done.  With Hapara I can see on 1 screen the documents in a students drive, click to open, highlight to comment and away I go.  Students are receiving far more feedback in general because of the speed and they can see easily where exactly I am referring to.  They can reply to ask for clarification and can resolve the comment to show they have actioned any further steps.  This leaves valuable classroom time for working alongside students and home time for rejuvenating and planning more exciting lessons.  I remember the piles I used to make - needs help, needs to do more, going well, finished etc.  Hapara even allows you to group by colour each student which is proving valuable to link students that could benefit from working together or remind me who to catch up with the next day.

No Hapara don't pay me to say all of this, but there's an idea and I do believe they are hiring at the moment.  Couldn't do it without ya Hapara!

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Challenges

Now we are into Week 7 of our BYOD journey we have ironed out many teething issues and have learnt a lot from each other along the way (I'm arguing who has learnt the most, me or the kids).  However as usual with most technologies interacting with each other there are a few challenging issues we are yet to overcome - currently looking for assistance/advice so feel free to lend a voice.

  • Google Drive App VS Drive via Google Chrome
    • Drive App supports easy editing, easy sharing, easy viewing etc
    • Drive App does not support text to speak (built in iPad function) or spell check
    • Drive via Chrome supports text to speak & spell check
    • Drive via Chrome is a bit trickier to share and edit docs especially when collaborating live.
  • Blogger App and via Browser
    • App doesn't allow for easy addition and resizing of images. (Must change default size in settings)
    • Browser often freezes when commenting (keyboard freezes) &  deletes comment drafts.
  • iPad and Ultranet
    • There seems to be a few issues with editing content using the iPad.  This should be solved shortly thou as we had no problem doing the same last year using school iPads.
  • Sharing content (teacher-students & student-student)
    • Ultranet has been great for teacher uploading and student downloading.
    • Hapara dashboard is a godsend for keeping track or students google docs.  Some choose to write in their books this week - I forgot how time consuming marking these is!
    • How to share photos, videos, projects etc
      • Emailing can get overwhelming to manage.
      • Yes we could upload to drive - but are they still editable then? & are all file formats compatible?
      • Thinking a class dropbox account might be the go here. That way we can retrieve when required etc.  Any thoughts on this?
      • Anyone used Showbie App?  Looks like this could work also and allows for ongoing commenting (text and sound) to be linked to each file.  Appears to be only between teacher and student however.
Off to do some more goggling !   "Google three before me" - Thanks Kate @ Bamford for my new favourite saying.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Unexpected

WOW! I am overwhelmed with how easily and enthusiastically these learners have taken to digital learning. The things I have been amazed with the most are not the things that I planned or expected (although these things have gone well also). The things that have given me the "wow" moments are the things that my learners have done on their own accord as a result of having ongoing access to their iPad device.

  • Timers - simple but so useful.  Reading for 20minutes has never been so accurate.  Seeing this tool spread throughout the class with no input from me has made we really believe that these learners can manage their own learning if they just have the tools to do so.  No more reading reminders! They simply see they need to read and before I know it, its done.
  • Before School Learning.  Gone are the days where my learners arrive at 8.30 and head straight out to play.  I now have a classroom full of learners who check their emails, read the notices, check what their Must Do learning tasks are for the day and get started with their learning.  Yes thats right - GET STARTED - BEFORE THE BELL.  The flipped classroom approach has helped immensely here as learners can learn without the need for the teacher telling them where to start.
  • Wanting to Write - no this is not a typo!   Our first blog posts were written in record time and I struggled to get children to head out for lunch as they wanted to keep writing!  Yes we still use our books just not all of the time.  These are becoming more of a planning and note space so we can have them on hold when we type. This week many learners discovered how to share a google doc with a buddy so they could both work on it from opposite sides of the classroom.  They are still working together but have time to both contribute before they discuss their ideas in person.  Text to Speak and spell check are allowing children to have full control over their writing while the comment feature in docs and teacher dashboard allows me to quickly leave feedback and next learning steps.

There have been far more WOW moments than this!  More in time, off to plan some more learning as they are getting through it so fast. In the meantime these are some shots from before the morning bell.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The fun has started

6 days in to the new school year and what an absolutely brilliant start !  The children have been amazing and are really thriving in this environment.  Room 1 is just a buzz every morning as learners check their email, read the notice and begin learning - yes begin learning - before the bell!

We experienced a minor authentication issue with the wireless where children needed to re authenticate as soon as their iPad went to sleep. This meant they where needing to do this numerous times throughout the day.  With help from Ruckus Wireless this issues seems to have been resolved.  Besides this we haven't really had any issues, we have learnt that viewing and editing some google spreadsheets are quite different on the iPad than a PC/Mac but once someone is in the know it doesn't take long for tips to spread.

A lot of learning time has been allocated to slowly introduce different apps and features, i.e: email, calendar, google drive etc.  I have found the fastest and easiest way for introducing something new is to model (using Apple TV) and as soon as a couple have caught on ask them to show a neighbour.  This has proved far more successful than me attempting to get everyone on the same page at the same time.  When it comes to different apps, I set an initial task of creating a presentation "About Me" to introduce the themselves to the class.  Enthusiasm was huge from start to end with learners finishing days before the due date (apparently it was fun to do it at home - no way!).  The peer teaching was a huge aspect and i found myself redundant.  I am excited about using this extra time for quality 1 on 1 or small group teaching in the future.  The standard of work was high and many produced presentations using skills and functions that i had never used before just from exploring and helping each other.

A lot of time spent on digital citizenship also as i believe it is highly important for these learners to create a positive and respectful digital footprint right from the word go!  More on this later.

This week is all about using google docs and blogging.  Check out our classroom below

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Setup

Click here, click here, enter this, select this.  22 out of 32 iPad devices have been setup.  I must thank the fantastic parents and learners who gave up some of their holiday time to pop in and load their settings.  Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm they have was priceless!  What exactly was required.

-Recording the devices Wifi address and entering into our school firewall settings.
-Individual Wifi usernames and passwords for learners.  (This was a change for us to allow more security to both uses and the school.)
-Turning all these off.  32 incoming emails along with keyboard clicks would drive me insane.  Glad i remembered this one.
-Email etc easy as due to using GAFE.  We will also be using the calendar and blogger through google.

5 days and counting till i see if all the hard prep work will pay off.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ready or not ...

So .... a huge amount of learning has gone on over the last month !

After some sandpit time in 2013 I decided to go with GAFE (Google Apps For Education) over Office 365.  I still think 365 is worth trialling throughout the year as it offers many benefits over google but for now and with having dabbled a bit Google Apps it is.  The great people at Hapara and Cyclone computers have been a huge help when it came to setting everything up.  As have our IT crew at Smartcom.  From creating google accounts, installing dashboard to make managing my 32 students easy and creating personal logins to the school wireless, I would not be where I am without the help of these people.

I am today looking at setting up blogs for each student.  Once again someone who has been there, done that has come to my rescue. Thanks Effective Blogging from Pt England School, I am sure your instructions and tips will help greatly this afternoon.  My intention is for these blogs to become a positive and motivational outlet for students to share their work.  We will see......

One initial concern from parents was device security so as I type the tote tray cabinets from my classroom are off getting a face lift to make them lockable.  I like this solution more than locking the class at break time as it only restricts the use of devices and not other resources, spaces etc.

Another big task has been ensuring learning is provided in a digital way.  To start  I have spent many hours updating my Ultranet classSpace to ensure it could be the first point of call for students and their parents alike.  Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done & simply "digitally" listing the "non digital" activities is not what i have in mind but one need to start somewhere and this was a clear and easy step to make classroom time more hands.
Check it out here.

Next week I am off for a final break away for some much needed relaxation before the actual work starts.  For now though its off to create blogs.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Green for go !

Wow, what a journey it has been already.  Two years ago I set foot in my very own classroom.  Fresh out of teachers college I was (and still am) enthusiastic and rearing to go.  Rearing to make an impact in the lives of young people.  I knew back then I would be an e-learner and a e-teacher so it made sense to take steps in that direction.  After managing the roll out of 40+ iPads across the school I began to gain confidence and a real love for iPads and their use in the classroom.  The easy to use, quick to start up, engaging nature that attracted all learners, both reluctant and those wishing to challenge themselves made them a great choice.  Through the daily use of these school owned iPads I began to ponder the potential benefit to students of having their OWN iPad.  Work that remains quick and easy to access (without uploading, drop-boxing or emailing), ability to continue learning at home, increased engagement and the huge potential to individualise learning even further.  How would it work? Who would buy/own the devices? Did it need to be iPads? What would parents think?  Would it really have worthwhile benefits?  All these I needed answers to.  Blogs, forums, the forever helpful VLN network and local Christchurch schools all came to the rescue.  But were we ready as a specific school community?  After some well thought out queries and concerns from our school BOT and some further research it was time to put the idea to our wonderful parents.  What did they think? They asked some important and challenging questions, some of which i could answer and others that can only be answered as we move further along this trial journey.  A great turnout to a parent meeting was followed with over 40 parents putting their children's names forward to be part of our 2014 Year 5/6 trial class.  Wow it was really happening!  I will start the year with 32 eager to learn, bright eyed and bubbly students.  Agreements have been signed, App codes (purchased through VPP) are being issued as I type and excited students are looking forward to Santa visiting.  Now.....for me.....planning for their use, setting up internet & email access, systems and routines, digital citizenship, access to 24/7 learning.  It's going to be a busy holiday period!