Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why have I enrolled in Post Grad learning?

Last week I began the Post Grad Certificate in Applied Practice, by Mindlab. One of the first tasks on the first day was to try and articulate the reasons for enrolling in this course. For me that was pretty simple.

The reasons for my enrollment are twofold:

  1. To expose myself to a wider range of eLearning strategies; particularly the change to apply those skills consistently.
  2. To expose myself to more Academic theory around eLearning, and the effectiveness of it to specifically improve student achievement. 
I am really hoping to clarify and consolidate my own understanding of these two aspects, and I hope that my new learning will be directly applicable in my position. 

On a slightly lighter note, check out our groups quickfire video about the purpose of education....

Climbing the SAMR Ladder

One of my on-going goals is based around the successful implementation of eLearning into my teaching of Year 13 Geography. In my role as eLearning integrator at the College, it is important that I am seen to be visible in this area, and that I can show that I too am implementing some of the strategies and tools that I am advocating to other staff.

1. Scanning: 2015 was my first year at StAC and therefore my first year teaching in a 1:1 laptop environment. The class taught last year was a very mixed ability Year 13 Geography class. After my early expermentations with OneNote I had high hopes that there would be dramatic time savings in my teaching program as I was not requiring students to copy notes off the board to the same extent as I had previously done. One of my major reflections at th eend of the year was that I did not find this the case - I simply could not account for that extra time. Students were not copying notes down, so what could be done with that time in a more deliberate way to raise student engagement? There is much research about the benefits of students taking notes, such as here and here. While I still believe that there is some benefit from students copying notes, I am also interested in the benefits of students having more time to deliberately apply their knnowledge to gain deeper understanding of the concepts being presented in class. 

2. FocusingThe topic in the year 13 course that has the most 'traditional' note-taking aspect to it is 3.2: Demonstrate understanding of how a cultural process shapes geographic environment(s). In this standard students must develop a thorough understanding of how the process of Tourism Development has operated, and what effects are visable in that particular environment. Traditionally this is a content heavy topic, where many students are interested in being feed the information ready for them to regurgitate for the examiner in November. For this reason I want to reinvigorate this unit and try to effectively plan for the extra time that I know I should have as a result of students accessing content notes on OneNote.

3. Developing a Hunch: I have been aware of the SAMR for a while, and I feel as though the deliberate application of it may be beneficial for me to ensure that my students can be challenged and exposed to a grater variety of learning activities to help expand, and consolidate their knowledge. To help support me to further understand the SAMR scale I was stoked to see that the founder of the scale, Dr Ruben Puentedura, was the keynote at the Leadership and Learning day, run by Apple NZ, on Thursday, May 26, 2016. 

4. New Learning:

The SAMR Model
SAMR is a popular model used to help teachers infuse technology into teaching and learning. The man behind the model is Dr. Ruben Puentedura, an Argentinian academic. The SAMR model is based around a planning progression that aims to transform learning experiences so they result in higher levels of achievement for students. We have previously blogged about the SAMR scale here – a great post that thoroughly describes the model.
Hearing Dr Puentedura Explain his Model
Early in Term Two I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Dr Puentedura here in Christchurch. During the presentation he spent time analysing the structure of the SAMR model, by modeling how the model could be used in the teaching of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The way we were challenged to think about the model was as a SAMR Ladder.  A unit of work must involve a deliberate progression through the stages of the SAMR model, with each learning activity building on the complexity of student understanding generated by the last.  This ladder analogy was the crucial aspect of the presentation for me, and really consolidated my own understanding of the model and the most appropriate way to implement it.
The second part of the presentation was time spent working in small groups implementing the model into a unfamiliar situation. In my case it was helping Year 5 students consolidate their understanding of correct notation in Mathematics. While, as a senior Geography teacher, the context was unfamiliar, this actually proved beneficial as the exercise consolidated my understanding of the importance of a deliberate progression of learning activities required to move through the ladder, thus improving student engagement and understanding.
Takeaways from Presentation
I found Dr Puentedura’s presentation the most engaging I have attended recently. On reflection, my main takeaway’s are:
  • The SAMR model is designed to be implemented progressively across a long unit of work, rather than used to justify the planning of an individual task.
  • Think of the SAMR model as a ladder, and plan to progress your students and their learning.
  • The challenge for teachers is to move beyond Augmentation to Modification

5. Taking Action – Queenstown Tourism Development Unit
My Ideas for a SAMR Unit on Tourism Development
Upon returning to school I felt compelled to put my new learning into action. Next week my Year 13 students begin work on a new unit of work; Tourism Development. The aim of the unit is to help students demonstrate understanding of how a Cultural Process shapes a Geographic Environment; in this case Queenstown. During this unit they will study the historic and contemporary role that Tourism Development has played in the life of Queenstown.
Whilst technology has previously played a part in my teaching of this unit, this will be the first occasion where I plan to implement the SAMR model this deliberately throughout a unit.
Four levels of Task Development
Because OneNote plays such a big roll in my class it was easy to identify tasks in the unit that are clearly Substitution. Particularly with the recently added Classroom Notebook Add-in to OneNote it is now incredibly easy to ensure that class notes are easily distributed to all students in an organised, and deliberate way.
The second level of the scale is Augmentation. These are tasks that technology acts as a direct tool substitute, but there is a level of functional improvement. A good example of this will be a task that I have previously used during this topic where students use the Placemark functionality within Google Earth to investigate the Spatial Patterns of accommodation and attractions in Queenstown. This task could just as easily be done with a paper map and felt pens, but the functional improvement comes from the ability of students to turn the different layers on and off, and add text detail to each of the Placemarks.
Task Modification is where the real challenge lies for me in this unit. Google Earth makes another appearance on this list, as the program is so useful for students to visualise an environment such as Queenstown; so there are two further tasks that utilise its potential. The third task is aimed at utilising the potential of the site Canva which we have recently discovered in our team as an easy site to use to create visuals.
The final step in my ladder is based around task Redefinition. At this level the technology must allow for the creation of a new task, one that was previously inconceivable. In this case I plan to have my students create a revision website that will be made public. We have previously blogged about student produced websites and I feel that this is an authentic purpose for the students to challenge their organisation and, most importantly, their learning.
The unit of work is planned to take approximately 5 weeks of class time – and with the amount of content material that is demanded of Y13 students it will be interesting to see the progress that I am able to make through this plan. I feel particularly optimistic at this stage however, as the substitution aspect of my providing notes for students to annotate, rather than copy, frees up huge amounts of time to complete more in-depth tasks.

6. Checking
1/11: Upon completion of teaching, and assessing student performance in this standard it is an opportune time to reflect on the impact that the teaching changes implemented in this inquiry have been effective. This evidence will take two forms; first my own reflection, and secondly student feedback in the form of a short survey.  
The original aim of this inquiry was to implement a clear SAMR ladder approach to the teaching of this unit. This happened to a certain extent, though unfortunately (as I think perhaps was to be expected) when the pressure off examinations arrived it was the redefinition task which was neglected.
Positives: The Spatial Variation component of this unit was particularly successful. Because students spent much less (almost zero) class time copying down note, I found that I could dedicate a week of class time to the activity. It was a great way to allow students to discover for themselves. I blogged about the success of this teaching here. In the student survey the class was asked "During the teaching of 3.2 you used Google Earth to investigate the Spatial Variation of TD in Queenstown. How effective was that activity?" Student responses are below:
Because we could keep this for our final exams and keep referring back to it
Yes it was very helpful for providing a physicial representation
Was very effective. Helped to remeber where everything was located 
very effective
Really effective!!!!
very helpful visualises a better picture of qtown
it allowed us to clearly see how attractions and features were dispersed through the Queenstown region 
yes as it is going to help me with my external study
Somewhat helpful, was good seeing the content at the time making it although have not found it incredibly useful in revision.
Very effective, clearly showed us the spatial variations
Effective, but I felt like if I got behind or missed one listen I would struggle to catch up.
Very effective
 I think that this is very good feedback and shows the effectiveness of this activity. I was also encouraged that the other two Year 13 Geography teachers invited me into their classes to do the same thing with their classes, and gave positive feedback about the effectiveness of it, it also a positive. 

Impact on assessment results:
The original aim of this inquiry was tofold. On the one hand I wanted to more deliberately implement the SAMR model as a ladder during a whole topic. As discussed above I believe that I partially fulfilled this aim.

Secondly, this standard has traditionally been one where there are high numbers of SNA and N grades in the school, and NCEA examinations. This was something I wanted to address. By actively incorporating the SAMR ladder more deliberately, I was hoping to engage students in the content, and have more time to actively prepare them to achieve to their potential.

Obviously, it is always difficult, and potentially misleading to compare academic results across years. the dynamics, prior experience, and academic ability are always different, and it is hard to get a clear control group, in most cases. despite this, I feel that the results of the students so far - even when compared to the PEP for the standard; my students have performed well.
Although the Merit and Excellence grade numbers are lower than I would like - I feel very positive that their were no student who either did not attempt, or did not Achieve, the paper. It is these students who most often will choose to SNA the paper - so them tasting some success in the school examination should hopefully relate to a zero SNA rate in the NCEA examination later this month. As shown by the PEP below, this standard has relatively low rates of M and E anyway. (reminder than the SNA grades are not included here - so a PEP is always biased towards the performance of more able students. 

Future Steps:
In 2017 I think that this approach is worthwhile continuing with. I think that students in my classes are beginning to respond to meaningful use of technology to support their learning. Next year I will focus more on implementing the higher order activities, and I will attempt to implement some such tasks that are incorporated into the unit, rather than as a summary task. Being a summary task this year meant that it was realistically unlikely to be completed under the time pressures of the end of the academic year - it was simply easier to return to a more tried and true revision program.