Key notes on a Keynote

A reflection on a mini-keynote I delivered for a two day, whole school technology focused CPD event.

Today marked the second day of our whole school CPD event focusing on learning technologies. To kick off the day, my fellow coaches and I were given two slides and a few minutes to address the whole school with what we felt would be pertinent. This is a short post on the key  topics I touched  upon  during  this  micro-keynote.

We are very fortunate at RCHK to work within such a technology enhanced learning environment. We have access to handycams, professional microphones (Clip on, shotgun and handheld) and a green screen recording studio. We have dozens of makeblock robots, Micro:Bits, Arduino’s and enough Lego Mindstorms for 2:1 use across an entire year group. We have Macbooks and iPads available on loan and Adobe products to download and use… But I’m just labelling STUFF.

These are just things, and when we focus too much on the things the conversation starts to turn towards technology implementation. People ask questions like “What can I have?” before they have figured out what they need.

Instead, I urge colleagues to draw out the concepts that the new technology represents. The new ways of thinking or enhancements to their teaching and learning. When we focus on the concepts, the conversation turns towards technology integration. We start asking questions like “How does it allow me to better connect with the pre-existing learning outcomes?” or “What new ways of thinking does it achieve that could not be achieved without it?”

So before our administrators, budget holders, teachers, support staff and technicians went forth to attend workshops designed to show off a myriad of wonderful shiny new technologies, I had one simple piece of advice:

Remember that it will be the successful integration of technology into our teaching and learning that drives successful implementation of technology into our learning spaces, not the other way around.

Later on in the day I was part of an evaluation meeting for our CIS accreditation self study when the following “Essential Question” from the evaluation rubric was shared with us:

“How is the school’s approach to teaching and learning influenced by digital resources and technology?”

Sensing the long road ahead I sighed and patiently uncapped my pen to put the horse back before the cart…

“How is the school’s approach to teaching and learning digital resources and technology influenced by digital resources and technology? teaching and learning?

Instructional Technology Coaching: A Framework for Curriculum Planning and Development

This is undoubtedly the most important series of posts in this section. Here I am attempting to create a framework for coaching across a secondary IB school.

‘Instructional Technology Coach’ is a nice title because it puts the instruction before the technology, so we’re on the right foot immediately. You see, I would like to start by addressing the misconception that LT Coaches are primarily teachers of technology or worse, as it removes us from teaching completely, IT support. If a school is sufficiently technologically enhanced then IT support should be available elsewhere within the school.

Continue reading “Instructional Technology Coaching: A Framework for Curriculum Planning and Development”

Festive Turtle Art

A Christmas tree drawn with Python Turtle

This month I have been working with one of our technology superstars in the mathematics department to see if we could enhance a preexisting unit on angles by introducing the students to the Turtle library in Python. Each lesson would begin with a structured introduction to the math, followed by either an introduction to new Turtle commands or a deconstruction of an existing Turtle program and finally a challenge that required students to draw a word, shape or pattern.  For building the challenges we are using Repl.It

The students took to the code a lot faster than we expected, which I think is a credit to the work being done in our primary school. The students already have three years of block based coding experience under their belt and my general impression from time spent within classes was that the students were very well prepared for transitioning to typed code.

To celebrate our students successes and the approach of the winter holidays, we challenged students to create some festive art using the knowledge and skills they have learned throughout the unit so far. The code for the christmas tree drawing shown above was shared with the students and deconstructed to introduce the functions in Python Turtle and to revisit the idea of a loop. 

The tree could be broken down into the following four parts, each of which allowed us to discuss a little math, and a little syntax in Python Turtle:

  • The tree trunk – This was a simple square drawn once; it allowed us to remind students of the use of loops in Python Turtle.
  • The green triangle – This was defined as a function and called three times. It was the most complex block of code as it involved writing a function that called a loop and used the correct exterior angles for an equilateral triangle (See code below)
  • The star – This was an interesting block of code because it involved looping five times and again turning the value of an exterior angle for a five point star. I was happy to be teaching alongside a mathematics teacher when introducing this shape!
  • The baubles – These were a single function to draw and fill a circle, that was called at random locations around the tree.