Thursday, 6 December 2012



From: Wendy French
Date: Sun, 13 May 2012 at 12:19pm
I just thought I would share a few thoughts that I have had this week.
One of the things that I realised this week was just how much easier and less stressful having one to one devices that the children have personal ownership of is, than having a set that stay in school.  Some of the things that used to cause us problems such as charging (which used to be difficult to manage), storing personal work (the i-pads were often borrowed and it was really difficult to manage getting back the same one to finish off work on), expectations of people who wanted to borrow could sometimes become quite disruptive (yet I wanted other teachers and classes to use them to see the benefits) and having to finish things in class time - have gone.  
Learners experimenting at home has fantastic benefits in the classroom.  We now know more about what particular apps can and can't do because the children have time to play with them at home.  Learning then becomes even more of a partnership because they are teaching each other and me.  I still provide the focus in their set tasks, with negotiation, at times, on topic and method of presentation but they are also experimenting freely with what interests them.  Lots of them are really interested in i-Movie trailers, which they are working on collaboratively and which help to develop a number of skills including, planning, negotiating, thinking about genre, storyboarding, considering what their audience will enjoy, editing.  A bit of a downside of this is that they are desperate to share what they have done and we all really enjoy sharing times but they are difficult to squeeze into a busy timetable (a few times this week we ran over the bell and into our lunch break).  One solution may be to focus a series of lessons on what they are doing to develop their skills further.  I thought we could perhaps do this with the ghost story movie they are making for the Sciennes 120th Anniversary i-Book.  However, I would like a film-maker's input into this as I think this will develop both the children's and my own understanding.
One thing that has been stressful though is the workflow issue.  In some ways I wish that some of these issues had been explored prior to the project (perhaps they have and we just need reminded of where this information is).  It is a lot of work to start looking at your learning and teaching and think about how the devices can be used to enhance things that you already do, and completely change others.  It is a lot of fun and I am really grateful for the opportunity but this is enough on it's own without having to fiddle about with issues around storing work from pupils.  I don't think there is, or should be, one perfect solution but I think that we do need support with this.  I think Fiona's point about the U.S. is really important.  They must already have come up with workflow solutions and we could do with these presented to us so that some of the leg work is done.  I am sure that Cedar school have also come up with some solutions that would be good to share.  It seems fairly pointless and demotivating to spend hours searching for solutions when some must already be out there. I think it is fair to say that both Fiona and I got a bit burned out trying to search for and set up solutions this week.   I do accept that my thinking has to change about the need to file everything and that things can be filed within apps but I still need to have checked work that the pupils have done and given feedback.  Obviously, the children sometimes do this for each other when they self assess and peer assess but even then I still like an overview.  My class each have a personal email and have been emailing me work which I open, look at send them feedback on and file in Readdledocs, however, I am already behind on this and am feeling the weight of this with the knowledge that we are approaching the deadline for handing in part 3 of 30 personal learning plans/reports.   Also, it is annoying that Pages documents can't be sent to Dropbox and that formatting goes all over the place if they send it in particular formats.
 Luckily, we have a very supportive management who have recognized this extra work and are going to give us time out to help with this.  Thank you also to Fiona and Jenny from our council who are looking into issues such as secure sharing of video over Vimeo with us.  
Another completely unintended consequence of the project that has come at me from the blind side is the effect on my daughter who is the same age/stage as my class.  She has increasingly become annoyed and obsessed with the fact that my class are getting to work on the ipads and her school and class aren't.  She has decided she wants to write to her local council to ask them when they intend to get ipads for her class and has talked about how she will list the benefits as she sees them.  

David McKee Mon, 14 May 

Useful stuff Wendy, both key observations:
1. 1:1 with personal ownership does make a huge difference. It's that passing of responsibility, for the practicalities of the devices (charging etc) but also for the potential benefits to extending learning, in a seamless way, that changes everything. I think for many of our more reluctant teachers, it's this passing of responsibility that they feel most uncomfortable with. I've had a several folk say to me "well, they'll forget to bring it to school, they'll forget to charge it, they'll do bad things on it etc etc". It's a very negative perspective of course, and ignores the potentially huge benefits, but glad to hear your pupils are rising to the challenge. This will be useful evidence to convince the naysayers!
2. Workflow on the iPad specifically does worry me. It has always struck me that you need a robust and well structured online system sitting behind 1:1 - eg when we ran our 1:1 project in my school in London, our use of the Fronter MLE mushroomed. It became a/the core tool across the school. Really the success of 1:1 and a (good!) VLE/MLE are mutually dependent, IMHO anyway. 
And of course Glow doesn't meet that need right now. 
It has become fashionable of late to say there's no need for a VLE/MLE/Learning Platform and that we can do all the workflow stuff we need with existing tools like Dropbox etc, but I don't buy it, especially for say a large secondary school where teachers see hundreds of pupils a week. There needs to be a structured way to for teachers to collect, assess, feedback, store and collate work on an ongoing basis, and I just don't think email is in any way the answer to that. And Dropbox and the like are just too flat. 
The new Glow will provide us with tools that may take us more in the right direction but I worry about 2 things:
1. It won't be structured enough (out the box anyway) to meet the need of large scale digital workflow, particularly in secondary schools.
2. The iPad's particular method of file handling will be difficult to integrate with it. 
As you say, many schools must be managing somehow (Jenni is off to ESSA Academy tomorrow so we'll see what they do), but personally I still think we're waiting for the killer app for iPad workflow in schools. 

Fraser Speirs Mon, 14 May

Hi David, Wendy,
Totally agree that storing documents in email doesn’t scale. Email is a good and reliable transport for small to medium files but the end presentation is poor. One approach that has helped some of our teachers is to set up email filtering into specific mailboxes for each child or class. That’s not intended to solve the storage solution as much as to avoid the inbox being bombed every time a submission comes around.
One of the early changes that we came to appreciate was that pupils will generate a ton of data on their devices (one girl in Andrew’s class is currently toting around 5.5GB of Brushes documents!) and that it’s important to be selective in the things that you personally file.
Secondly, you can trust the device. Data doesn’t often go missing on an iPad (and you have a backup when you sync) so it’s often OK to just check the work on the device and leave it there, knowing that you can get it back if you need it later.
Perhaps this is one of the early results of the pilot: that any modern VLE for use with 1:1 iOS setups has to support document upload via email?
It’s really important to me to gather all the feedback I can on this issue so, if others feel similarly, please add your insights here. I can feed this back into Apple at a very high level and get some attention on it – unfortunately I’m not sufficiently embedded to promise fixes but if we can identify the issues it will be a very valuable outcome.

Lucy Gallagher Tue, 15 May

We have been full pelt since the inspiring Coatbridge kick off and the staff have achieved amazing things in a short space of time. All still motivated, but a dip is to be expected from time to time. Workflow has caused a bit of a dip for us and I think we’re all feeling the workload at the moment. Still enthused but am concerned about the extra pressure on staff especially when they are completing personal learning planning reports for their pupils, on top of everything else already. I encouraged Wendy and Fiona to abandon their weekly logs last week – although I note that both completed them over the weekend. We are arranging some time out for them - though typically both declined an offer for Monday because they want to be in class to work with the children on particular lessons they have both planned. Fiona has designed a fantastic WikiSpace for Reading Conferencing and VCOP Big Writing but has been frustrated by the limitations of uploading Pages docs to it. Wendy has explored myriad solutions and is currently using Readdledocs. I’m extremely impressed with all that they’ve achieved.
Fiona Hunter and Jenni Robertson ICT D.O.s called in on Thursday and it was great to see them. They have given us very useful advice about workflow and continue to do so. Peter Lennon and Richard Burgess are also looking into webdav for us. Jim and Jamie, Edinburgh DOs, Connected Flow and Kevin have been wonderful and I am thrilled that now Basecamp is open we have begun to have access to help and advice from our partner colleagues too. John Johnston has been posting really helpful information. We have managed to get up and running extremely quickly and we recognise that part of the pilot is trial and error in exploring different solutions for workflow, but not yet having this finalised is impacting on time management and efficiency, so I hope we can move forward with all the advice on this and that I can help shoulder some of the weight.
I agree that a sturdy, flexible VLE is a crucial element for sustainable workflow. 
Thanks, all

David McKee Tue, 15 May 

"that any modern VLE for use with 1:1 iOS setups has to support document upload via email?" 
Yeah, maybe, but I'm not sure if that is only thinking within the paradigm that the iPad (currently) forces you into. ie utilising email. Consider this routine scenario:
History teacher sets tasks for his S3 class, say 1 a week. For each task, each pupil must submit something - might be written, graphical, video, audio etc etc. 
Teacher needs to be able to collect this work, comment on it, mark/grade it. Teacher wants to hold onto this work, and pupil needs to be able to easily access teacher's comments and grades. Teacher wants an automatic comment/gradebook to build up over the term that links to each item of work. The teacher needs to see the whole class's work/comments/grades, but the pupil should only be able to see their work/comments/grades. 
The teacher would also have multiple, discrete containers where he could do this for each of his classes. Even better, once the number of tasks set becomes large, the teacher could collect multiple tasks together into a folder hierarchy.  
It should be a simple process for the teacher to set a piece of work for their class. When it was set, pupils would automatically be notified of this work, including (if desired) a deadline for submission. It would also be a simple process for pupils to submit work directly into the appropriate area for the teacher to be able to comment on it and mark it etc. 
What I am describing here really is standard VLE functionality, using a (non-iPad) client, and it has been available via decent VLEs (eg Fronter which I used previously) for years. Not perfect, but in my experience, it worked pretty well. You might say it is a relatively traditional approach, but it allowed me to easily work completely digitally with all my classes, in terms of setting, collecting, recording, assessing and accessing their work. 
Don't get me wrong - I love my iPad, but we are jumping through some pretty convoluted (ingenious, but convoluted) hoops to try to carry out anything like this kind of workflow, as I said before, for 2 reasons: 
1. We don't have a decent VLE in place at a national (or, in our case anyway, local) level. Not the problem of this pilot, but a national one that the new Glow will probably not address.
2. Even if/when we do, the iPad's file management system makes interacting with any kind of cloud-based system like this pretty difficult.
What we need is a robust, modern VLE (maybe call it something else since many folk think of Glow Learn when they hear VLE!). Alongside that, we need a properly integrated client app that allows full interaction with this VLE. Maybe this can be done with Moodle, or maybe Studywiz, or Edmodo? (Or what happened to Powerschool?) I know these systems have iOS client apps, but can they do what I describe above for both the teacher and the pupil?  Maybe, but I've not seen it. 
It just seems ironic to me that we're struggling to find a seamless way to do what was possible on good VLEs with a Windows/Mac/Linux client years ago.  
So yes, if there's something that Apple need to hear then it's this - where is this education-focused killer app?! 
Or at a more basic level, just give us an iPad-based File Manager (a local 'eLocker', to pinch a Studywiz term) that is accessible from the browser. Every app gets a 'Share to eLocker' option, Safari gets access to the eLocker. Simple. :-)   
Who knows, but we're not there yet with a robust method for addressing school's digital workflow needs.  

Lucy Gallagher Tue, 15 May 

Hi Dave
I was a great fan and supporter of Studywiz (and its eLocker) but jumped ship to Glow because it seemed a bit of a no-brainer at the time not to opt for a national and 'free' VLE. Not so sure now... but seems a good time to capture teacher and pupil needs to inform future provision. What a good idea to come up with a new name! I have a feeling that the webDav in Glow I'm trying to get my head around - with lots of help from John Johnston - might be a plausible eLocker solution, but yes it does appear circuitous.

Fraser Speirs Tue, 15 May 

Had another think about this today. David, you’re right that there are two sides to this:
1. iOS currently sucks at uploading arbitrary files to arbitrary web sites over HTTP.
2. Even if iOS was currently good at that, we don’t have any clarity about where or what we’ll be uploading them to come September.
Perhaps if I explain how I and some colleagues do it today, that might be useful.
For distributing work to pupils, we currently use email but will be switching to iTunes U in August. iTunes U allows you to upload lessons, files and other content and have pupils subscribe. When new content appears, their devices get a push notification and assignments and deadlines are shown in a collated view (some explanatory screenshots are here).
What iTunes U doesn’t address is the submission part. Currently I use email and filters for this: pupils’ work will come from their email address into our Google Apps. I have created filters to apply a label to each pupil or class when I receive an email from them that contains an attachment. That makes their emails appear in individual folders on the iPad.
Unless I need the native file format for some reason, I usually ask them to send a PDF or JPEG version of the file depending on the app. When I open their file attachment in Mail, I save it to PDF Expert on my own iPad and use the annotation tools there to mark up the document.
At this point, I have a permanent copy of the pupil’s work on my iPad. PDF Expert can also connect to several types of cloud storage for off-board sharing or storage. It’s also possible to build up a folder hierarchy inside PDF Expert. I will then either print and return the document for feedback or email it back with the annotations embedded in the document.
The major limitation of this system is if the pupil needs to submit a file that’s greater than the 25MB attachment size permitted by Google Apps. In this case, I’ll use PDF Expert’s device-to-device WiFi transfer to move the file – which means I have to do it in school but so be it, for now.
Hope that helps, at least a bit.

Lucy Gallagher Wed, 16 May 

Hi Fraser
Lots of interesting, useful ideas here. While we're interested in longterm solutions what we really need now is a simple, easy to manage system to see us through until the end of term. Come September we'll all have to look anew but an interim workable workflow solution is most pressing for us. I'm away for the holiday weekend and the teachers are also time poor, particularly because they're working on PLPs, but will try and get something in place that takes up a lot less of their time.
We really appreciate this community and highly value the opportunity it presents not only to share ideas but also workload.

David McKee Wed, 16 May

Hi Fraser,
That's sounds interesting, particularly the iTunesU bit, although as you say that a 1 way rather than 2 way process. Obviously there are lots of great tools out there, and innovative teachers will always find ways to do what they need to do, in the short term with these pilots anyway.  (I'd be interested to hear about how large secondaries are managing workflow too though as I think scale presents a whole new set of challenges. What does a teacher who sees 200 pupils in a week do? What are the Bellshill guys doing? )
I'm interested really though in thinking about the longer term, in terms of an approach that is easily understandable and useable by your average teacher, beyond pilots and early adopters like we all are. I think if we're going to really embed 1:1 in the day to day activities of 'normal'  teachers, we'll need something more structured. 
VLEs seem to be thought of as a bit passé these days, but actually (IMHO anyway) their mass adoption failed because they came too soon. Really 1:1 is the lever for real success with a VLE, and vice versa. But what we need is a VLE that works seamlessly with iOS.  Are any 1:1 schools (Mac-based as well as iPad based) in the US using VLEs successfully? I suspect we're only really having this debate because iPad integration with existing VLEs is troublesome. 
Anyway, enjoying this discussion, and there's no quick and easy answer I don't think, but if anyone is putting pressure on anyone that has any sway anywhere(!), I think this is the missing link with iPad in schools. Folk are having success with iPad despite this missing link, but with a fit for purpose education-focused solution, we'll find it much easier to move 1:1 into the mainstream for everyone. 

Fraser Speirs Wed, 16 May 

Relevant to this discussion, I received this link from a friend who is an Apple Consulting Engineer in the US. Here’s a detailed writeup of various approaches taken, abandoned and settled on in the Chicago Public Schools iPad deployments:
David, I totally agree with you in your comments on VLEs. I would also say that the was probably too much initial focus on replicating things like email and calendaring, and other services done cheaper and better elsewhere.
I note that Fronter now have a basic iOS app available too.

David McKee Fri, 18 May

That looks really really nice. I like that it's an education focused solution and has integration with AD.
One thing though - I've only looked at it for 10 mins but it looks like you can only submit work in the form of photos or videos from the iPad. If you watch the video you'll see the bit where they submit work, they do it from a Mac. What if it's text, or indeed any iWork document?  That's quite an important thing obviously. 
Definitely worth looking at it further though I'd say. Is this  Studywiz with a different badge?

Lucy Gallagher Fri, 25 May 

School eLockers looks like it does have the hand of lovely Geoff from Studywiz upon it
Studywiz is a great tool and was silk compared to Glow cotton. I still feel guilty about changing my allegiance from Studywiz to Glow but at the time I did, like others, believe Edinburgh would be out of sync with the rest of Scotland and incur an unnecessary additional cost. The way things have panned out I'm not so sure now. It would be great to see a demo - if Geoff is still talking to us!

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