Friday, 20 December 2013

iTunesU problems UH OH

Disclaimer: Firstly I love iTunesU and it has changed the way I teach. I love creating and leading my courses there and I know the user experience is equally positive. I feel more confident in my teaching now that I have all my course units in one place. I love being able to send notifications through iTunesU and students have reminders pop up when they have deadlines and when new posts are made. I love it being on my iPad and I love how simple they are to create... However....I do have a bone to pick with iTunesU...all about sharing public courses!

I find it very disappointing that you can not create public iTunesU courses unless you institution signs up to iTunesU. Also courses shared public are for the students, why don't we share courses that can be adapted by teachers? There are a number of problems with both of these things:

-Some people don't work in tech-friendly schools, but are still creating incredible courses. 

-Some people want to retain the courses as their own. When teachers move from school to school they take their resources and lesson plans with them, so why shouldn't an iTunesU course be the same?

-When a teacher leaves an institution they can of course send the course to their new apple ID or duplicate the course, but if that course has been made public who owns it?

-When you put a lot of effort into a course you feel a certain responsibility and connection to it. By giving it to your institution you are handing over responsibility to them.

-I would love to be able to decide on teaching a particular skill, such as coding, and be able to simple search for courses made by like minded teachers!

-Similarly it would be fantastic to have template courses ready to go - courses you can manipulate as a course manager.

-I would also love to be able to share my courses not just as public, but for course managers to take and adapt themselves. 

-Information should be shared widely and freely! I don't want to hold onto my resources and information tightly, I want to spread them around for others to use! I want feedback and tips for improvement and collaboration from my peers! 

-When applying for jobs or when searching for employees, it would be fantastic be for potential employers to be able to look through courses created by an individual. To actually see all the resources they have created, as well as feedback from those who have taken them.

Possible solutions

-Let anyone create public iTunesU courses. 
Individuals working in and out of education and non-educational companies. We are missing out on a wealth of fantastic resources by restricting who can share there. Imagine YouTube without public content! Imagine a world where the only educational blogs were created by schools and not by teachers.

-Curate the main page
Why not have the main page looking a bit like the iTunes Store, where you have lots of iTunesU courses highlighted. Here you could highlight the best blogs made by prestigious institutes as well as ones made by individuals. 

-Change the function of courses available
-When I submit a course to the iTunesU catalog I would like to have two options. I would like to be able to submit it as a course that people can sign up to and take AND I would like to be able to submit it for other course managers to take and adapt to suit their needs!

I know that there have been some changes with iTunesU and we have only recently been able to send courses to other people. However I really hope more changes are made to make it a place where we can all be contributors and not just consumers!

I also think that schools worrying about sharing courses, especially private schools, are worrying for no reason. The courses that teachers share will be very similar to the sorts of lesson plans and resources teacher share...they are nothing without the teacher to deliver them. Firstly I am a firm believer in sharing information for free anyway. Secondly downloading an iTuneU course is no substitute for being in a classroom with a teacher deliver the course.

If a school's teachers are making iTunesU courses that their students can do completely independently, with no class activities, discussions, interaction and without the aid of a teacher, then maybe they have employed the wrong sort of teachers. I would love to make some iTunesU courses that people can enrol on and do in their own time, but those would not be the courses I would deliver in school. I may make some for students who want an extension on a particular topic, so maybe a more advance coding unit - and also I have my library course, which is really just lots of resources for people to dip in and out of. My iTunesU courses that I teach are aimed to show the structure of the course and to pool all the resources students and teachers need together and to start discussions. The courses don't show everything done in class - for one, teachers adapt their lesson, depending on the achievement and needs of the class - also teachers add in activities and resources - I don't share my TED ED lessons, VoiceThreads or GoogleForms in the iTunesU courses - and I often change the activities in class based on suggestions and ideas from my students.
They need a teacher's input.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

How Do We Learn?

I have been working on my iTunesU courses for next term. Grade 7 and 8 will both be doing a whole unit on coding. They will not only learn how to code, but they will teach coding. A massive part of the unit is trying to get students to use different teaching methods, to suit different learning styles and to keep the lessons interesting. I created this video to give them a very basic understanding of some of the different learning styles. 

As a class we will also discuss things like needing print outs or listed instructions, how different fonts and colours can help people with Dyslexia, and we will discuss how we know when we work well with another person! We will also look a stereotypes in learning - (mostly in relation to women in STEM/women coders).

The enrolment code for my iTunesU courses will be posted on here soon and I am doing my best to make them public. If you ever want to have access to my course as a course manager, so you can change and adapt them to suit your needs, just drop me an email or send me a tweet.

Dewey Success

My cut out stop motion animation about the Dewey Decimal System now has over 2000 views! I have a whole bunch of ideas up my sleeve for more videos and already have the cut outs for one about medical/science museums in London! Watch this space!

Fancy Pants

I now have a fancy pants domain!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Changing the Assessment Format

I tend to do a wide variety of different types of work in class - from class presentations to video creation. My assessment work almost always ends up as a written piece of work, either an essay or questions and answers. Although they get to showcase a lot of the other work they have done in this, it does seem to get a bit static and seems to benefit only students with one type of preferred learning style.


For the last assessment this term I have decided to let grade 6 and 7 create videos. I gave them interview questions about their product and put them in pairs. It created a great buzz in the classroom and students were really happy about the work, even if it was an assessment piece! I  saw students who often panic about their assessments lighting up and talking excitedly about their work!
The only issue so far has been the videos being too long to upload or students not knowing how to. However I have sat with all the students who have asked for help and guided them through this process. Next time they should be able to do it easily!

For grades 8 and 9 I simple gave them a check list and told them they could either use them to write an essay or they could turn them into interview questions and interview each other. I think giving them the choice and the flexibility to write how they wanted or to ask what questions they wanted, (as long as it matched the checklist) was really crucial for engaging the older students, as it gave them a sense of ownership over their work and freedom to evaluate their work how they wanted to.

So far marking the work has been very rewarding. Often I see some students put less effort into their written evaluations, failing to promote the fantastic work they have done in class, but with my new flexible assessments I have not seen this!

For the MYP Technology course students must work on five areas their Investigation, Plan, Design, Creation and Evaluation, (and 'Attitudes to Technology' in the Next Chapter). They create folders in Google Drive for this and then pull the information into their assessment work. I thought about getting them to upload a zip of each folder, along with a short evaluation, (2/3 minute interview / page long essay) to accompany it. I will trial this with the older grades next term and will let you know how I get on!

Has anyone found any other ways to do assessed work? 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Debate Day Review

The whole school Debate Day was a fantastic success. I expected a few students to become shy and deliver very short speeches or to not help their team, but every single student participated and put in loads of effort! I have even had students asking if we can do it every week! It was supposed to be an annual thing, but I think it will not happen once a term!

Before lunch all eight teams took part in two debates each. They knew the motions in advance, but not what side they were on, who who they were against. Team captains had been sending their teams emails with news articles, YouTube videos and even ideas for team names and uniform!

Students met in the Hub in the morning where we watched the following video. We also watch a video showing the speaking order/rules, which the Debate Club created.

The first two motions:

"This house believes in one universal language."

As an international school it was very interesting to hear students debate this! One team even decided to deliver their speeches in different languages!

"This house would reintroduce national service."

This was great and some students even interviewed our security guard who did national service in Israel

After lunch only four teams made it through to the semi-final. In the morning only two teams won both debates, so I met all the judges to decided on the other two teams to go through. We looked at style, content, teamwork, manners and debate skill-it was a very tough decision as the teams were brilliant!

The semi final: "This house would replace teachers with computers."
This was my favourite debate, because they brought so much humour into it! I loved how they buttered up the judges, (teachers) and by this point the students were very confident. I thought this debate would be a little silly, so didn't chose it for the final, but regret this decision! Next term I will put a fun motion for the final!

The final took place in the hub, with all students watching, as well as board members, all teachers and parents.

The final motion was "This house would introduce a universal health care system."
They had some amazing research - even though they only had 25 minutes to prepare. Both teams were incredible, but the proposition blew everyone away, becoming Debate Champions! This was also the first debate where we allowed floor speeches -we had some incredible ones from staff, parents and students!

The winners, appropriately named 'The Best Team', received a pizza party with me after-school on Monday - we really stuffed our faces - it was brilliant!

This was a fantastic day, and showed our students working beautiful together. Teams were made of a mix of grade groups, mother tongue languages, abilities and with members of non-members of the debate club. I was also very pleased to see the captains looking after their teams!

If anyone would like the resources I shared to make this happen/shared with our teachers, (rules, tips, times, etc), then please email me or tweet me! and @missedutton

Hour of Code

I will be teaching coding to my grade 9s tonight for part of HourOfCode! I am very exciting. I'll be using the resources available on as I can track student progress. Also I think because it uses characters they are familiar with, such as Angry Birds, they will enjoy it! I will obviously start the lesson with this fantastic video:

Tomorrow we have the fabulous Kuato Studios coming in to work with our grade 7 and 8s on coding, using their app Hakitzu Elite! They will be shooting a video of our students too - because my students are the best!

Next term I will be doing a whole unit of coding with grade 7 and 8. To fulfil the design requirements for MYP IB Technology students will be designing lessons and tutorials for others. Grade 7 will teach grade 6 and grade 8 will teach teachers! We will be looking at different learning and teaching styles. I am pretty sure the grade 7s will use Hakitzu to teach grade 6, as the game is right up their street! Grade 8 might use a different kind of app to teach teachers!

ALSO I will be teaching my 7 and 11 year old brothers to do a bit of coding over Christmas - I will experiment then with Hopscotch for my youngest brother Tommy.

In the new year expect to see lots of reviews of this apps and websites!

I'm excited to hear what everyone else gets up to for HourOfCode too!