Sunday, 7 October 2012

Digital Leaders in the Modern Classroom.

I remember when I was a primary school student and the buzz that surrounded the arrival of a computer to our small village school. It think it was an Acorn BBC Model, which at the time was a big deal in the UK. I remember the thrill and excitement in the school community about this new, intriguing and somewhat alien arrival. The individual classes got the computer for one week a term and what a week it was! It was indeed a brave new world in education.

A cartoon from 1986.

However, by high school, the image of the "computer geek" had been born and most students at my school didn't choose to do "Computer Studies" nor were they encouraged to do so. Indeed there were more students in my Latin class than there were in CS. Most of us were beginning to get technology in our homes (my first computer was the magnificent Toshiba T1000) but this and my academic life were distinct and separate. Computers were eventually part of university life of course, whether it was Word for the work and Doom for the play but even then, my knowledge of this area was solely for my own use. Only recently have I been sharing what I know (and often admitting what I don't) with my peers and students as a tech mentor and I have been wondering what I could have learned and shared before now.

In the past few months I have read numerous blogs and articles about "Digital Leaders" being appointed in schools. These are students that can offer insight into what they think is important in their digital learning. They give advice to teachers, discover the new things that we as educators do not possibly have the time to do and are committed to peer to peer mentoring in the classroom.

In short, not only are they being chosen for their love and interest of all things technological but they are being celebrated for this. One school has even started this in the infant school. The teacher created a blog asking children if they would like to be a Digital Leader. The response was overwhelming, even from the younger children. One child simply stated that they want to be a digital leader because "I like helping people. I like meetings. I like computers." (Note the order!)

Scouring the web, we can find a remarkable amount of blogs and references to students in similar positions in schools. They are proud of their role, committed to becoming part of something innovative and exciting and happy to be an active participant in their own learning. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Research Skills for our IB Diploma students

Throughout the past few months the Digital Literacy Team has been working with the Secondary Library to deliver a series of workshops to all Grade 11 students, about research skills and information literacy. It is a central aspect of the UWCSEA Profile that our students are able to critically solve complex problems based upon informed and ethical decisions. Part of this theme relates to the ability of students to analyse and synthesize information which is a constant part of their IB Diploma course work, including Extended Essays and writing in the Theory of Knowledge course.

The resources for our workshops at the following public site. Please have a look at this website, explore some of the tutorials and discuss some of the material with your child.


The first workshop looked at potential sources of information focusing on academic sources including electronic databases and academic journals. We outlined the available databases from within the UWCSEA website portal (Encyclopedia Britannia, SIRS, NewsBank) and then looked at the eResources available from the Singapore National Library.

The Singapore National Library subscribes to a vast array of scholarly articles and also several more mainstream publications such as Time Magazine and The Economist. Our Grade 11 students have all registered for a Digital Account with the National Library, allowing them full access to the eResources section. Whilst this may not be something they will access very often, it is a good point of reference when they begin writing about more in-depth and focused topics such as an Extended Essay. This resource is also available to parents who can sign in with the relevant ID Card or FIN pass at the registration page.


The second workshop looked at referencing and academic honesty. We covered the principles of quoting, summarising and paraphrasing and reinforced referencing styles. The main form of referencing used across the High School is the Modern Language Association style, unless guidance is provided otherwise from individual teachers.

A key tool introduced in the second workshop with all Grade 11 students is an application called Zotero. This is citation tool that helps students collate sources of information as they progress with research. They can either manually add a reference by typing in the essential meta data (author, title, publisher, date) or use the connector within an Internet Browser. The connector is a nifty gadget that grabs data from a academic journal about the author, title, publisher etc, and places it back in the student's Zotero library. It also attaches a PDF of the original journal.

The final wow factor is left for last. Zotero will let students to extract a bibliography in their format of choice from the collected resources, and a small plug in allows students to complete the in-text references. Whilst we still focus on teaching the principles of referencing, tools such as this help student's manage the process and focus on the analysis and evaluation skills.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Assessment for Learning and Socrative

Throughout our Middle School we have been referring to the PIPE lesson structure, where teachers focus on the following techniques to support learning and to develop enduring understanding.
  • Preparing the Learner
  • Input new learning
  • Practise
  • Evaluation and Feedback
Online tools such as Socrative, support teachers in setting quick exit quizzes, or to set more in-depth open questions to elicit deeper thinking. Any quiz which is created can be archived for future use, or shared via other teachers who have a Socrative account. At the end of the quiz, you can receive a copy of the results in a spreadsheet or anonymously show responses through the projector. 

The product is free and does not require student login. Bonus!!



You need to sign into the Socrative website to create and share quizzes. When you sign up you are allocated a class number, which is the unique code students use to access your online room of quizzes. Students complete quizzes by visiting the website and then type in your number.
  1. Click on the button to Manage Quizzes
  2. Click to Create a Quiz
  3. Name the quiz, then click to add questions. You have two options, either an open question or multiple choice question.
  4. You can click on the correct answer and also give students optional feedback on each question. This is a nice tool to experiment with and give rich feedback.
  5. Once you have finished click the save button.

Once you have saved a quiz, you can click back to the main screen.
  1. Click on Start Quiz
  2. Choose you quiz from the drop down
  3. Select the option of either Teacher Paced or Student Paced Quiz. Teacher paced is nice if your using in class and if you want to stop and show the results mid survey. Student paced is good for quizzes that are focused on deeper thinking or longer multiple choice assessments. Either format gives you the same spreadsheet at the end. 
  4. Once kids have entered the room using the link and your code you can begin the quiz.
  5. You have the option (if plugged into the projector) to either show or hide the results, once the students have begun. This is nice if you wish to stop and discuss the outcomes and link back to prior learning. 


One nice idea is to gather student responses and then select the text and then copy into a website like Wordle. This will show the pattern of responses and be a great discussion point, or poster for the wall. Plus the kids will think your are amazing :)

Apps not Abaci: Using iPads in the Primary Classroom

This term, Grade Two have embraced iPads in the classroom and are trialling, testing and reflecting on their use. It is easy for the hardened iPad lover (like myself) to see the good in every aspect of tablet use in teaching and learning. From simple planning on "Notes" for Writing Workshop to assessments using "Screen Chomp" and don't forget the wealth of number apps- "Math Bingo" anyone?
But as with all things new and shiny and Apple's desire to "reinvent the textbook" it is easy to forget the bigger jpeg. Are the students actually learning by using tablets instead of textbooks, apps instead of abaci?

It is very encouraging to see the first rounds of data coming from the USA indicating increased Literacy scores in Kindergartens that use tablets:

The downside of course is to consider the schools that need help with raising Literacy scores are the schools that have limited access to technology. Does E-Learning come at a price, saved for the "E-lite" learners? Time will tell.