In2edu I.C.T. Resources Enhancing Education & Learning

Nervous iOS 7 installs

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6:45 NZ time:
So a quick run down on my experiences so far. Downloaded iOS7 software six times on iPad before download success on iPad mini. Five attempts to install but software can't verify with the Apple Store.
Backed up iPhone - IMPORTANT. Connected iPhone to laptop to update to iOS7. Download failed once and then second time went through fine. Install starts, install fails halfway through and my phone now has to be put into recovery mode - I have a brick. Heart failure - but saying to self that I trust the recovery process! Recovery mode goes through fine and my phone restarts with iOS7. iPhone needs to be activated. Tried on phone 3-4 times, and then on iTunes 3-4 times before I finally slip through to iTunes store and get my phone activated. Now I can begin restore from backup.
7:39
Restore still going…. waiting for all the apps on my 64GB to sync. Will post update when done.
7:52:
Too many apps (232) still awaiting for the App sync to finish.
8:27
iPhone all restored and working fine. Getting used to the new icons. Next step back to the iPad Mini.

Thoughts:
  1. Maybe best to do installs via iTunes at first while Apple servers are creaking under the mass of early updaters.
  2. Don't have heart failure on bricking your iPhone…. wait to see if it (and then you) recovers.
  3. Give yourself some time…. don't try to install just before you go to work!
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Favourite Chrome Extensions

When it comes to using Chrome (now my default browser on my Mac), extensions are what makes it my preference. In my one to one laptop class I have directed all boys to use it also. The main reasons are a couple of extensions and use with Google Apps.

Extensions that we/I use
Chrome extensions
Comment Save: Saves copies of comments made on websites. Great to see what pupils are posting and to see the progress made in their commenting on other peoples work.
Watch Doc: Watch all the docs you are subscribed to/have been shared or have created and see which have been updated recently.
Silver Bird: Still works with being able to post to Twitter and to catch up on your latest news
Feedly: Feedly is a news reader for creative minds. Seamless migration from Google Reader. Read RSS feeds.
Awesome new Tab Page: Enhance your New Tab Page with ultimate customizability and power.
Google Drive Quick Search: Search your google Drive from your search bar

Some I turn on and use every now and then
Bookmark Sentry: Scan for duplicate and bad links in your favourites/favourites/bookmarks
OpenDyslexic: A font that makes it easier for those with Dyslexia to read a page.

Great compared to other browsers:
  • Extensions
  • Compatibility with Google Apps
  • Ability to sync easily across desktop Chrome and mobile Chrome.
Not so Great:
  • Only a 32 bit browser
  • Slightly slower than Safari now
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Badges Systems (Mozilla) Easy to Setup and Use

Badge systems have been receiving a lot of internet attention lately. A number of people see these as the future of learning with micro units of competencies or skills being awarded to a set of criteria or competencies in a robust but easy way. Some even ask the question will the badges replace degrees and other formal learning down the line. These awarded symbols would then flow through to a backpack (journal) where pupils can display their learning. It is hard to find a system that is easy to use, setup and manage with a number of pupils.

I had created an ICT badge system for our 1:1 laptop use that needed to use badges but I trialled a number of sites and found them far too complex to use and manage. Finally, I found forallbadges (sister site forallrubrics) and I set my system up within their website. I now have over 100 badges online tied into my badges system. The ability for pupils to self award at a lower level and for it all to be tracked is fantastic. They have an iPad app to support quick awarding of badges and token systems that can also award badges.

I then moved on to use forallrubrics which is also amazing. The two sites are two sides of the coin making for great rubrics, rubric tracking and then you flip to award efforts. Simple easy to use rubric designs, tracking back into a combined workbook with self and peer assessment also catered for. You can then specify a badge that can be awarded via the rubric when a certain level is attained. The oral presentation rubric below was one we used for student led conferences that I held recently in my class. The following day the boys self-evaluated and then we discussed their award. We could alter and make notes about changes as needed… they loved getting the badge if they had made the required level which we all had previously agreed upon as a class. All the boys badges and rubric assessments get captured in their LEarning Journal which provides a great way for them to reflect on their learning also.

Other features of forallrubrics are: sharing (via creative commons), printing to PDF, result analysing at a simple level, ability to tag, ability to make multiple notes, ability to award weightings in rubrics, easy reordering and changing of rubrics, easy duplication of rubrics or sections within rubrics AND FREE!

Highly recommended!

Things to watch out for as time passes on:
Will you be able to export your badges from one system to another?
How robust is the system on passing badges to Mozilla backpack?
How easy can your data be exported? For individuals, groups and whole school?
How easy is it to share and collaborate your rubrics?
Can you tie in rubrics to Learning Standards easily?


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Apple Maps Replacement for iOS6

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I installed iOS 6 on a 3GS iPhone and immediately on startup was struck by increased speed… unexpected. My use of iOS 6 has been enjoyable apart from the one problem faced by many, the replacement of Google Maps with Apple Maps. While I understand the reasons behind the move, less reliance on Google for mapping which is a core feature of a cellphone these days, but I really can't use Maps here in little old N.Z., Christchurch as it is just not accurate enough. I use the NavFree GPS (different versions for different countries) for turn by turn which does a great job at an amazing price - it uses Google search and open map data. However, sometimes the Maps app with quick search, birds eye and location is what I am after, so I hunted for replacement map Apps.
I looked for accuracy and clarity of maps included, ease of use of GPS pulse on a map, calculating rout
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es and general ease of use of the App. I tested maps with place names within city and outside, including one with a recent change. Essentially data for most comes from Google Maps.
Searching for maps gives thousands of entries but here are some selected options:
  1. Add a Google Maps link by visiting Google Maps which will take you to the mobile version. Bookmark it and add to your home screen etc.
  2. Wait for the Google Map App to be released.. apparently not far away.
OR look for another App - tried searching under maps in the App store, installed a number and here are my picks.
  1. Bing App if it can be installed… not available in NZ, apparently is good. I was not able to test this.
  2. Fine Maps (version 3.1) Quick, easy to search.. quick reference to other information on your destination. (Pencil notes crashes the App each time). You can draw your own ruler on screen for distance. Uses Google Maps but can change to Bing. Route planning not that easy to use.
  3. Maps+ (version 1.3.2) (my choice) The lite version has enough to keep you happy in the main. Ability to turn GPS locator on and off in the maps and customise where your own screen buttons are. Leaves more screen available for maps, no ads or ongoing annoying reminders. Reliable.
Apps I wrote off for obtrusive ads, lack of features or poor user interface (ui): My Places, MapsWithMe, Road Tripper, MapPocket
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Cyber Digital Citizenship Practical Activities

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My latest resource for offline reinforcement of Digital Citizenship learning (4MB PDF). Over 20 cards covering scams, spam, Facebook and social networking, making decisions through real life scenarios. Feel free to comment below to add your own ideas for cards and I will pop them into this format and extend them.

My full Digital Citizenship resources, activities and learning ideas page can be found here.
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Disasters: Flight, Freeze or Fight.

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Disasters… belonging to Christchurch N.Z. means you know a little bit about earthquakes. Since September 4th 2010, at the time of writing we have had 10379 earthquakes, and as I wrote this another (3.9M and 5km deep) shook the house.. the biggest in a while. ( See http://www.christchurchquakemap.co.nz/ for details.). So we decided to look into disasters in our school a little more. Click on the image above for the banner for our unit or here (to download get a free registration here). My I.C.T teaching and learning site in2edu.com has a rich inquiry topic based on this topic here.
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Track goals across a number of people, staff following a personal learning plan.

Great site for following a pupils personal learning plan. Not sure how long it will stay free, as it is in beta stage right now.

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ICT Competencies for Teachers

Here is a continuum we are developing for our school. Is it too much? What do you think? Do you have other models?
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Boys: Statistics Point to need for Educational Change

This video adds to the many other voices that are saying we need to do something for boys. As a part-time youth pastor, I deal a lot with teen and young adult guys and would echo many of the comments within this video.
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Musings about Finland's Education and Learning Success

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Twenty years ago, Finland was under the international educational average in testing and had large gaps between affluent and poor schools. Today, it tops the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), a test of fifteen year olds covering literacy, maths and science. Finland is a small country of five million, with industry comprising of services 65%, manufacturing and refining 31.4% and rates reasonably well in innovation indexes also. It is a strong welfare state with high taxes, a high respect for education by Finnish parents and society in general with surveys demonstrating Finns trust public schools more than any other public institution, except the police.

pupils
Recently, I spent a couple of weeks, on and off, looking at videos, reading blogs and investigating various websites that had information to convey about the successes of the Finland education system. The most prominent feature of Finnish students’ performance in PISA, is its constant high level of results combined with small variance. Finland stands out with its weak performers, scoring in all domains, 66 to 91 score points above the mean for the lowest 5 % of students. Their top 5 % surpassed the OECD mean of its group only by just 31 to 47 score points. It was interesting teasing out the factors that I think have combined to produce their high international results. My perspective is from the context of New Zealand education, a country that has also scored highly on these same international tests.

Society Statistics
  • Family statistics 2010 66% married couples, 22% co-habitating couples, 12% one-parent families
  • Crime statistics Generally, on the low side in most categories
  • Child poverty statistics 4% child poverty in Finland. Very low compared to other countries.
  • Current % of government (public) debt to GDP is 48-50%
  • Median age 41 years (the oldest of most European countries)
  • Low infant mortality, high productivity and relatively high taxes
  • Happiness index 5th on table, Happy Life Years 9th on table (see World Database of Happiness)
  • Judged to be the world's least corrupt country (Transparency International)

Finland's Education History
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In the 1960's, a 9 year plan was adopted with the goal of "education for all". Significant teacher training was carried out, especially to accommodate whole age cohort teaching (a Finnish teacher in the primary area will teach the same children from 7- 16.) The system was government centralized with a detailed curriculum prescription. By 1985 municipal and school level freedom was allowed around a core curriculum. The Education Law of 1999, established a new evaluation policy with sample based NBE-implemented evaluations in key subjects, obligatory for the sampled schools but also available by fee for others for internal use. This lead to local flexibility and diversity with a strong emphasis on basic literacy and numeracy concurrent to provide wide-range education for all.
Finland, possibly has a narrower focus in the breadth of its curriculum than other countries. PISA examinations are similar in contract to the style of the curriculum that FInland focuses on which may also give its pupils an advantage in the PISA exams.
See also this very good overview of the history of education in Finland.

Notable Features

Philosophy as I summarize
  • No pupil should be left behind
  • Equity
  • Trust
  • Free education, including university and polytechnic

Education Statistics

  • Typical class size 18-20
  • Teachers work about 40% less class hours than US teachers do. Average 570 teaching hours a year for teachers in Finland (1,100 hours in the US)
  • 27 % of students having received some form of special support for their learning during basic education.
  • School year 190 days
  • Average spending on education compared to other OECD countries.
  • Zero illiteracy
  • Homework is minimal with an emphasis on extra-curricula
  • Pupils spend the fewest hours in the classroom
  • Finland has more than 4,000 comprehensive schools, 750 upper-secondary schools, 20 universities, and a great many other educational institutions.
  • 99 percent of students now successfully complete compulsory basic education, and about 90 percent complete upper secondary school
  • Two-thirds of these graduates enroll in universities or professionally oriented polytechnic schools.
  • More than 50 percent of the Finnish adult population participates in adult education
    programs.
  • Comprehensive network of libraries
The Flavour of Education in Finland
  • Informal atmosphere in the schools.
  • No formal exams and ranking of schools. The outcomes of all Finnish nine-year comprehensive schools are followed by sample-based surveys. The results are published only on the system level. Formal examination grade 9 (leaving high school) the National Board of Education makes occasional assessments in other subjects and at other grade levels in representative samples of schools and pupils and, lately, longitudinal assessments in key subject. There is no separate school inspection and inspection visits to school are no longer held. Self-evaluation and external examination are emphasized. Emphasis on formative assessment.
  • In Finnish culture, significant political conflicts and sudden changes in educational policy have been rare
  • Teachers and schools are autonomous from state education system. Devolution of power.
  • Teachers are trusted to do their best as true professionals of education. They are entrusted with considerable pedagogical independence in the classroom, and schools have likewise enjoyed significant autonomy in organizing their work within the national curriculum.
  • Finnish teachers set high standards.
  • Flexible, school-based and teacher-planned curriculum along with student-centred instruction, counseling, and remedial teaching.
  • Schools coordinate with social service providers.
  • Teachers all require a masters degree with thousands turned down for training each year, 10-15% of those who apply are accepted. They see teaching as a life-long career. The teaching force is 100% unionized.
  • Starts with preschool (kindergarten), school starts at seven. The emphasis is on, "play". In 2006, 63 % of three-year-olds were in day-care, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.
  • Finnish high schools have two clearly separate streams with both academically oriented general upper secondary schools and vocational institution. Most young children will stay with the same teachers for their entire education, up until 16 when they go to high school.
  • Free daily school meals
  • Right to attend closest school with school based curricula
  • Performance based funding for universities and polytechnics based on: Effectiveness (job placement and further studies); Processes (dropping out, % ratio of qualification certifications holders to entrants); Staff (formal teaching qualifications and staff development).
  • Emphasis on broad knowledge within a depth of curriculum rather than a wide curriculum. Equal value to all aspects of individual growth and learning: personality, morality, creativity, knowledge and skills.
  • The phonetic character of Finnish language makes decoding easy, leading to easier literacy success.
  • Finland emphasizes research and development (around 4% of GDP).
  • Each family gets three free books on birth of child…. for parents and child.
The Gotchas
Cost: the teasing out the figures of the Finnish education finances may enable others to see the split between education department costs and school costs (frontline). It will also be important to see how education budgets integrate with funding from other areas such as Social Services. Secondly, Finland is a homogenous society. It has not had significant migrant or multi-cultural change over last twenty years. However, recent immigrants have become part of Finland's current success and Finland certainly out-performs other homogenous societies.

Off the top of My Head

Relationships, however, are the deal-breaker in the success game. Relationships have driven a systematic reformation of the Finnish education philosophy. It started with leadership and co-operation between professionals to change a failing education system and the ongoing change has had a lack of political interference to derail it. Relationships also drive the start a pupil has in education, from the play in pre-schools to formal "primary" schooling (ages 7 to 16). Having the same teacher, who gets to know their pupils intimately (what happens with the personality conflicts I wonder?) over the eight years they teach them, means that relationships become core to the child-teacher-parent partnership. Relationships between parents, teachers and pupils show a general trust and professionalism.





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Possibly, due their tough environment and limited natural resources (except for large forest reserves), Finns have made a priority of investing in education. It seems they still have a strong family emphasis that must contribute to the stable and measured start that their children get to schooling. Finally, the lack of formal testing allows schools to develop programmes of learning that balance competition, equity and child-centred needs within the values they wish to emphasize, time is spent on learning and not on testing. For those in management who worry about this… just look at Finland's results and see that it works.

Resourcing and relationships summarize the keys of success in Finland. It would be interesting to explore further how, with an average OECD spend on education, Finland has free education, pays teachers well, provides free meals, gives teachers excellent non-contact time and has class sizes of 18-20. Although it is a state with high taxes, Finland does seem to have a stable government debt to GDP ratio of 50% at this point in time.

Sources - Check out more
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