Breaking Out Collaborative Problem Solving in the Classroom


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

One of my goals at the recent GAFE Summit in Melbourne was to delve into BreakoutEDU. I had long wondered about the concept, having read various reflections. However, it is one of those things that can be hard to make sense of without actually experiencing it. Basically, the session has a central narrative which drives the problem

The first thing that stood out in the session was the place of the teacher in the room. Although it can be easy in the traditional classroom to fall back into the default role of the ‘sage on the stage’, BreakoutEDU simply does not allow for this. With the focus on participants working collaboratively to solve a series of problems in order to unlock a collection of locks attached to a box located in the room, the learning is centred on the learner.

The role of the teacher in this environment is in creating a learning sequence that includes tasks and challenges that are neither too easy nor too hard. One of the suggestions given is to start out small, maybe just a couple of problems over a short amount of time, and as students develop stamina and resilience increase the length of time. There is also the opportunity for documentation, whether this is taking notes or recording video.

The problems themselves involve a range of resources and stimuli to support the learning, ranging from decks of cards, computer, infrared torch, USB disks with information, coloured paperclips, QR codes and Google Docs. The limit is dependent on your imagination. For example, one case study provided was of a teacher who incorporated Google Cardboard into the activity. While in regards to the locks, there are a number of options, including those controlled by directions, traditional key locks, number and letter codes, as well as a iOS app for something different. Each allows for the creation of different problems to work through.

The reality is that the whole classroom truly becomes a learning environment, both virtually and physically. Anything and everything can be incorporated as a part of the process. With this in mind, it often needs to be specified what maybe out of bounds, such as a permanent screen or teacher’s computer.

In regards to the learning sequences, there are already a range of ready made puzzles which you can use or repurpose based on your context. However, I see the real potential in making your own story to fit your needs. Maybe it is:

  • Reimagining the immersion process to a unit.
  • Exploring computational thinking without a computer.
  • Revising a semester of work.
  • Developing congeniality amongst staff.
  • Focusing on general capabilities, such as thinking skills and teamwork.

What needs to be remembered is that it is actually the process and reflection which is most important. Although there maybe some sort of reward within the box, this is not the focus. (Nick Brierley shared how his students have gotten to the point where they no longer need or expect to find anything with the box.)

Personally, I was left thinking about my experience of teaching biomes. Although students engaged with their ecological projects, the immersion process did not carry with it the same enthusiasm. I had attempted to develop a series of flipped videos exploring Brazil. However, students were still left consuming content, making sense of the different biomes. In teaching the unit again, I wonder if it could begin with an activity where together they need to ask and answer a series of puzzles and problems in order to unlock the box. To me this takes some of elements of hyperdocs and combines them with the detective elements of Carmen Santiago. At the very least, students could work together through a digital version, as demonstrated within this example. While Tom Mullaney has also written about how to use both old and new Google Sites.

Although creating a scenario from scratch has its challenges in regards to developing a compelling narrative, teachers already have much of the content from the planning documents that they use. For example, when preparing using Understanding By Design teachers identify the intended understandings, questions, content and skills in a process of working backwards. I also wonder if there is potential of students actually developing their own scenario?

For some more ideas and inspirations around BreakOutEdu, checkout this video and website:


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Communities, Networks and Connected Learning with Google

This is based on a presentation at the Melbourne GAFESummit held at Xavier College on September 19th and 20th, 2016.


There have been many changes to learning brought about in the past decade, from MOOCs to social media, often though there are so many options that it can be hard to know where to start and more importantly, why. Technology enables us to easily develop digital communities and networks inside and outside of the classroom. The reality though is that connected learning is as much about creating spaces for learning and building on that, so let us start there.

Continue reading


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An Introduction to Google Drawings


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Session Description

For some Google Drawings is just a dumbed down version of Paint not allowing for much. However, the collaborative and constrained nature opens up so many different possibilities. This session will explore some of the different possibilities associated with Google Drawings from making collaborative brainstorms to developing complex flowcharts to creating engaging graphics. It will be jam packed with practical samples and examples. Aaron hopes to spur on new ideas and start the conversation about why you should start using Google Drawings more today.

Often Google Drawings is overlooked as being a simple graphic program, offering not much more functionality than Microsoft Paint. You are able to add images, text, shapes, links and lines, while in regards to images, you can crop, re-colour and adjust the basic image settings. That means no touch-ups, no effects, no textures. However, what makes this more than Paint is the collaborative nature. The ability to easily share opens up many possibilities, whether it be working on a project, creating a brainstorm or just sharing a file to be remixed. In some respect the perceived limitations of Google Drawings are often its strengths.

For example, there are some out there who use Drawings to create eye catching visuals. Bypassing the many applications, instead using Google Drawings to create infographics. Tony Vincent has made a fantastic video documenting how he did this to create an infographic associated with Periscope.

Features of Google Drawings

Google Drawings has many features, this is a list of some of them:

  • Resize the canvas, either by manually dragging the edge at the bottom or in Page Setup within File to make something specific.
  • Insert a range of objects, including text, images, shapes, word art and tables
  • Draw lines
  • Format shapes: This includes colour fill, as well as width and style of the border.
  • Group, order and arrange objects
  • Access different fonts from the Google Fonts Library
  • Edit images, including cropping to a shape, adding borders, inserting links and adjusting the colour settings.
  • Red and blue guidelines helps you to organise the different objects both in regards to alignment and size.
  • Share shapes with other applications using web clipboard in edit
  • Publish to the web, not only is this useful in its own accord, but it also provides the means to embed within a website.

For a thorough step-by-step introduction to Google Drawings, I recommend looking at Kasey Bell’s Cheat Sheet.

Tips using Google Drawings

Here are some tips to help working with Google Drawings:

  • Holding SHIFT will allow you to make finer adjustments, constrain movement to the nearest axises and maintain relative proportions when resizing.
  • Holding down Ctrl allows you to choose multiple objects, when clicking and dragging off an object it allows you to create a duplicate, while when adjusting the node of an object allows you to maintain the dimensions
  • Holding ALT temporarily disable ‘Snap to Grid’
  • Canvases are transparent, but will turn to white if you download them as a JPEG. If you want to change the background colour, right click on the canvas to get the different options.
  • Clear formatting can be useful when copying in text to clear the formatting
  • Replace image, not only will this keep the same dimensions as the previous image, but it will crop it to fit
  • Use the workspace around the canvas to store elements and instructions offstage.
  • For my tips, here is an extensive list of shortcuts

Ideas for using Google Drawings

There are many ways of using Google Drawings. It like to break it down into six categories:

Graphic Organisers

Drawings provides the ability to create and collaboratively complete graphic organisers. This can be anything from a Venn diagram, to seating plan to a sporting line-up. Eric Curts has created a great collection of templates to easily copy into your Drive.

Visualising Thinking

By using shapes, lines and texts Drawings allows you to create brainstorms, concept maps, timelines, flowcharts and infographics with ease. What is good is that you can easily build upon past designs.

Digital Manipulatives

Whether it be working with a fraction wall,, making messages with magnetic poetry, moving the hands of a clock to tell the time, or organising different shapes into categories, Drawings allows you to create resources that allow students to engage with.

Web Clipboard

Using the line tool, create arrows to the different parts and then add text to describe them. This can be particularly useful when creating diagrams or annotating images for tutorials for Docs, Slides and Sheets. Using web clipboard, images can be created using Drawings then transferred to other programs. The benefit is that unlike copying a finished image, you are able to continue to make changes and adjustments. See Andy Hair’s course diagram for an example.

Desktop Publishing

Building on the idea of Web Clipboard, you can use the full suite of applications to create merges for any situation. Sylvia Duckworth provides a tutorial for how to quickly and easily create personalised cards.

Avatars and Images

Through the use of shapes and lines, you are actually able to make a wide range of images. From cartoon characters and vector portraits, to visual quotes, memes and motivational posters. What is great is the ease in which you can just remix an old design.

Activities

Wanting to explore Google Drawings, have a go at the following activities:

  • Create a Visual Quote: Use the ingredients provided to create your own visual quote.
  • Design a Flowchart: Choose one of the ideas provided and create a flowchart describing how you could use it in your own classroom.
  • Make your own Avatar. Using James Peterson’s tutorial as a guide, have a go at creating a new avatar by taking a picture and turning it into a vector image.

General Resources:


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Google Slides 101


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

GAFE Summit Session Description

For some Google Slides is just a dumbed down version of PowerPoint. However, the collaborative nature opens up so many different possibilities. This session will explore intricacies associated with Slides from sharing presentations, to changing themes, to importing media, to creating ebooks. It will be jam packed with practical samples and examples. Aaron hopes to spur on new ideas and start the conversation about why you should start using Google Slides more today.

IDEAS:

There are many ways of using Google Slides. It like to break it down into four sections:

  • Presentations. Just like PowerPoint, Slides provides an easy way to use the templates provides to present information. However, going a step further, using the shapes, animations and image manipulation, Slides allows you to create a Comic Strip. See this example from Eric Curts to make more sense.
  • Collaboration. What makes Google Slides stand apart from other platforms is the ability to collaborate. At a simple level, this involves develop ideas together. For example, Karly Moura uses it to introduce blogging with Google Slides. Going a step further, Slides provides the means to give feedback during the editing stage, as well as critique of ideas  and information. Jon Corippo uses this ability to collaborate to facilitate Iron Chef lessons where different student’s form different groups and take on different roles.
  • Interactions. Going beyond the basic presentation. Slides provides a means to create interactive presentations. For some this means games. See for example Eric Curts remake of Jeopordy. In addition to this, the ability to create links provides the means to create Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Animation.
  • Publishing. Another possibility that Google Slides makes possible is desktop publishing. Whether it be creating a newsletter, a mock-up for a website or an an ebook. What makes Slides different is the ability to embed these files on the web.

ACTIVITIES:

Have a go at completing one of the following activities:

RESOURCES:

Google Slides Cheat Sheet – A great introduction by Kasey Bell covering all the key features

Tips for Anyone Making the Switch to Google Slides – Some tips and tricks from Jayne Miller to help switch, including using shortcuts and templates

Using GAFE for Interactive Stories – A presentation from Sylvia Duckworth looking at creating interactive stories using a range of applications, including Docs, Slides and Youtube

Jeopardy Game 5-Topic Template – A template created by Eric Curts for creating your own game of Jeopardy

Way More Than a Slide Show: Creative Ways for Using Google Slides – A good introduction to Slides from Jesse Lubinsky, especially useful in regards to making interactive presentations

Slides Carnival – A collection of free templates for Google Slides

Iron Chef Style Lesson A lesson plan from Jon Corippo and Iron Ed-tech Chef a great example from Anthony Speranza and Riss Leung

Student Guide to Collaborative Google Slides – A guide for students from Alice Keeler to support students will collaborative assignments

Editing Images in Google Docs and Slides – A resource from Kasey Bell unpacking some of the intricacies associated with editing and manipulating images

Using Google Slides to Teach – A crowdsourced document collecting together a range of ideas for how to use Google Slides created by Alice Keeler

Google Slides as Newsletter Platform – A guide from Miguel Guhlin on using Google Slides to create a newsletter

Mawhera Taniwha: Google Slides and Google Drawings – A reflection from Allanah King on using slides and embedding this into a website

Create an eBook with Google Slides – The Gooru explains how to resize a Sheet to quickly create an eBook that can then be downloaded as a PDF

10 Google Slides Activities to Add Awesome to Classes – Another useful collection of ideas from Matt Miller

Creating Interactive Google Presentations and Google Slides for Student Created Storybooks – Guides to making different types of interactive presentations from Eric Curts

Website Design with Google Slides – A video from Josh Pomeroy demonstrating the potential to use Google Slides to create a mock-up for a website

Google Demo Slam: Epic Docs Animation – An amazing animation created by a group of people over three days using Google Slides

Learning Google Slides and Advanced Search Through Star Wars and Jurassic Park – Jeff Bradbury uses Slides to create animations.

How to Create an Interactive eBook with Google Slides – Rob Kamrowski provides a series of guides for using Google Slides to create an eBook.

8 interactive Google Slides activities for classroom excitement – Another collection of ideas from Mitch Miller, including a collaborative slide book and an online course.

Game Based Learning: Google Slides Coordinate Plane Battleship – Alice Keeler provides a different take on Slides, describing the possibility of creating a collaborative work space.

Presentation Zen – A joint effort between Heather Dowd and Patrick Green unpacking how to make a great presentation.

Adding and Modifying Charts in Slides – Richard Byrne provides an introduction to the new function of being able to use charts from Sheets within Slides.

Google Slides – Using templates – Baz Roberts goes over the intracies of using templates with Google Slides.

Q&A and Google Slides – Jordan Grant outlines the new question and answer function associated with presenting using Google Slides.


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Ask and You Shall Receive – A Reflection on Personalised Professional Development

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/15133211880
 
I was left challenged recently by a post from +Dean Shareski who questioned the focus of conferences on ideas and instead argued that we should be looking for connections. He made the statement that “if you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.” This has been my goal of late, to create a space where people can connect, rather than provide a list of links and ideas.
 
At Melbourne Google Summit, I felt I did this by creating an activity where participants collaboratively curated a guide of how to introduce Google Apps in order to make learning and teaching more doable. A point that +Bill Ferriter suggests when he states, “technology lowers barriers, making the kinds of higher order learning experiences that matter infinitely more doable.”

 

To me change isn’t just about bringing in Google Apps and enforcing it on everyone from above, it is just as much about the small ideas that help others buy-in to the benefits in going Google. I therefore thought that if we bring together the collective knowledge of the room that those there would not only have a great resource to take back to their schools, but a range of connections to continue learning with. For as +David Weinberger puts it, “The smartest person in the room is the room.”
 
What eventuated though as I roamed the room was that I ended up helping people with a myriad of other problems, from having two accounts linked to the one email account, how to use Google Groups to make sharing easier and downloading the new Google Slides app on iPad. This was awesome, for just as we need to be open as learners to new opportunities and connections, so to as teachers do we need to be open to adjusting the focus based on the situation at hand. However, would this have been the case if those in the room were not willing to raise their hand and admit that there is something that they don’t know? Admit that something isn’t necessarily working the way that it is meant to?
 
It occurred to me afterwards in reflection that just as it is important to leave a conference with one or two new connections, I feel that it also important to come away with a small win, a solution to a conundrum that has really been bugging you. Something personal, something important to you and your situation. This is especially the case at a technology conference where what is on offer is only the tip of the iceberg to the potential of what is possible. The big challenge then is asking, for it is only if you ask shall you receive.
 
For those interested, here are the slides to my presentation:
 

Introducing Google Apps One Win at a Time – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
 
While here is a link to the awesome presentation that those in attendance made: Introducing Google Apps – A Crowd Sourced Guide

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