Monday, June 24, 2013

Surface Pro tablet - first impressions

Finally got my hands on a Surface Pro last week and have had the weekend to work with it. The tablet comes with a scribe and we also purchased the keyboard cover for one of the surface pro tablets.
The kick stand is handy but typing on the tablet is not comfortable with the tablet sitting up with the kick stand. When the keyboard cover is on, and everything is lying on a flat surface, typing is comfortable. However, the keyboard cover is not really designed for laptop typing. The table with kick stand open is top heavy and does not sit well on ones lap. So far, using the keyboard cover makes it difficult to enter my password (sigh) and I have found typing on the cover to be slower than typing on the on screen keyboard. So in general, unless I will be doing lots of typing, I will not recommend purchasing the keyboard cover.

Battery life seems to be less than for my ipad. A couple of hours of looking through the app market, downloading apps and updating the tablet, saw 40% of the battery used. The tablet also gets quite warm. Ok at the moment in wintry Christchurch but less welcome in the summer. The battery icon is also not visible on the start screen, you need to go to eh desktop screen where the battery icon will then be on the bottom of the screen or to settings.

Have just about got used to the Windows 8 interface and installed a trial version of office to work with Word and Excel. The scribe sits into the port that also takes the recharge connection. The scribe provides the option of writing on the tablet and I down loaded the app ‘ handwriting’ and found writing on the tablet to be a quick way to input text. The app also allows for painless and relatively fast conversion of handwriting to text. So a recommended app. One note also has similar capability and Word has writing to text ‘input’ option. The ability to handwrite and convert to text is another reason not to have to invest in the keyboard cover.

Transfer of files across my office PC to tablet is also straightforward with a Microsoft account and Skydrive. Or you could also transfer via the USB port.

Videos run well as per Ted talks. Overal,l not many relevant apps for vocational education but seamlessness of access to standard PC files via skydrive or memory stick means various learning resources can be easily ported across. Will test the tablet with various datashows and touch TV screens this week.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spotlight on Tertiary Teaching and Learning - 14th June

Presented and assisted with the organisation of the Spotlight on Tertiary Teaching and Learning event organised by Ako Aotearoa and the Ako Aotearoa Academy. A gathering of 90 tertiary educators from across the tertiary sector, mostly Christchurch but presenters from Dunedin and attendees from Nelson as well. Ako Aotearoa Academy members form a core of presenters with Supreme award winners, Dr. Rhiannon Braund, Selene Mize and myself and award winnners Eric Pawson and Stephen Hickson.

The Friday afternoon event was held at University of Canterbury (UC) with nibbles and drinks provided through Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and catering industry sponsorship.

The event opens with a mihi and short welcome from Bridget O'Regan, southern hub manager and then brief welcome from Dr. Rhiannon Braund, 2012 Prime Minister 's award for tertiary teaching excellence. Rhiannon spoke about her passion for teaching and how it is important to share that passion with students and help them gain an interest in their work as well. 

The first stream is on student engagement, chaired by Jennifer Leahy.

First up, CPIT's teacher education programme leader, Lyn Williams on 'embedding teacher professional development as business as usual'. Connecting things new teachers learn while learning how to teach. Teacher education is not at the centre of the new teachers' universe, they are workplace learners, with many challenges associated with changing from one occupational culture to another. So teacher education is making sense of current understanding of how learning occurs and how they as teachers can help students learn. Need to recognize the diversity and multi literacies in various disciplines and how to help new teachers learn how to be learner centered teachers. Agency - access and negotiation by individuals and the work environment. What are more experienced teachers doing to assist new teachers to ensure they are able to apply their agency in a supportive work environment. 

Jen Halliday Lincoln University on 'engaging students in active communication'. Modelling an engaging presentation On how to involve students and how to elicit responses from students. To educate is to draw out. She then went through the structure do the presentation - to grab attention, use what learners already know and then make it participative. 

Then, Dr. Richard Manning ,UC with presentation with 'place based education- pathways to partnership'. Presented on why a placed based education course about the Treaty? Cultural differences between Pakeha and Maori means that both do not have similar understanding of the Treaty and why the treaty negotiations took place. Most schools still have a Eurocentric focus and therefore NZ young people not exposed to NZ history from both sides of the story. Using place as a starter for both cultures to share the history and understand each others perspective.

Dr. Rhiannon Braund presents on 'beyond dispensing knowledge: how to engage pharmacists in training'. How do we view teaching? Empty containers, pre- formulation or ready to use. Some students find ways to take shortcuts through Flip learning requirements. How do we make sure students do the work before workshops? Use peer activities as other students are less tolerant of students who do not prepare. Having to answer to peers is more effective.

John Morgan presents CPIT work on 'innovative teaching style for kinesthetic learners'. Changing original programme to emphasize the learning of practical skills. Literacy, numeracy and theory concepts were embedded and integrated around practical workshop practice. Projects used to provide a focus for students learning.The presentation is based around the manufacturing team's IGNITE project.

After a short break, two streams commence. Professor Eric Pawson chairs and presents in the learner centered learning stream with 6 presentations.  

I present on 'situated technology enhanced learning' and chair the second stream on technology enhanced learning. Brief notes from presentations in TEL include:

Jocelyn Howard from UC takes us through 'online polling and collaborative note taking using google docs'. Used Socratic to demonstrate how online polling can be used to engage students, have a sense of level of understanding of a topic and review learning. 

Stephen Hickson, UC, shares some things to do with iPads. Presented on how to capture worked problems as per using overhead projector. Using a special scribe from adonit.  Notes are then emailed to self and posted on moodle for students to access.  Also introduced a few other useful apps. App hits, speak up and good notes.

Mary Kensington, Lorna Davies, Julie Richards and Rea Daellenbach share CPIT midwifery section work on their blended programme with 'birthing a new programme: hearing a new heartbeat'. Provided structure of programme before and after. In blended deliver, there is f2f, online , practice and portfolio. Online with tutorials using adobe connect, learning packages and discussion for which are student led but tutor directed. Important to support the social side of learning. Weekly tutorials have become the most important learning space for student to share, reflect on and review practice.

The official programme ends with short overview by Dr. Peter Coolbear, Ako Aotearoa director and De. Hamish Cochrane, academic director at University of Canterbury. 

Networking session closes the event.

All in a well-attended event, moved along by short, sharp 15 minute presentations. The majority of attendees were from the Adult and community education (ACE) and private tertiary education (PTE) sector, signalling a need for professional development events for these two sectors.The Academy will need to encourage and support more applicants from these two sectors to apply for the tertiary teaching awards to widen it's representation and support of all tertiary educators.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Modern learning environments open day expo and speakers

On Saturday, i attended the CORE education open day on modern learning environments. The event had a schools focus but as always, good ideas are generalisable across sectors. About a dozen booths featuring various hardware, infrastructure and furniture feature in the trade booths. I was interested in the various half hourly presentations featuring a range of overseas and local speakers. The presentations featured a few researchers in the area of learning spaces and various school principles and teachers sharing case studies of how their schools have developed and established new learning environments.

Speakers programme opened by Derek Wenmoth.

Professor Stephen Heppel on the international perspective on modern learning environments. Stephen is based in in the UK and Spain, Madrid. Some good ideas from a range of other countries who have either been far sighted enough to change not only the pedagogy but also purpose-built schools to support new learning approaches OR had to reconstruct due to disaster, natural or other. 
A smorgasbord of ideas presented in an engaging manner.
Large group teaching in shared learning spaces have many advantages including catering to mixed learning abilities / stages. Ideas to change shared spaces into continuous learning environments include computer screens on all walls with a folder allocated to each learner to archive exemplars. When screens not used, learners' work is displayed. Also, importance of taking acoustics, and allow students to use free decibel meter app to measure and moderate classroom noise!
Important to adapt the best ideas that have been tried out by other people. For instance, one day timetable so students concentrate on one subject each day. Vertical divisions removed so students can accelerate or be retained as required. 
Staff rooms that allow staff to share readings, ideas etc. Need to have students drive the learning environment design. Use colours of furniture for formation of groups or to mark activity areas or zones. Writable surfaces need to be supported with capture system I.e. phone!
Design for learning not just for energy, resource efficiency.

Hamish Whyte from furnware with a shortened presentation on how they gathered ideas from students to help produce furniture designed to meet the needs of primary age learners. The bodyfurn in desk storage system was used as an example of a participatory action research project to produce the most practical shelving to be fixed to the side of student desks.

Chris Bradbeer, Charlotte Hinge and Sheena Campbell from Stonefields School in Auckland via live Video conference. A video taken on a school day to show how the learning hub is used begins the session. Learning hubs are composite classes all working within one large space.  Asnet product allows video conferencing via iPad set up from Chch and through to Auckland. 
The school has 4 days school curriculum 1 day for students to work on their own interests. Both physical and virtual environments help teachers, students and parents work on visible learning. Chris provided overview of school philosophy and the two teachers provide a guided tour of the learning hubs and their change in teaching practice. 

James Petronelli, Clearview School, Rolleston, present on a before and after story. How can schools change to keep up with rapid technological and social change. Classrooms need to support learning and provide the environment with resources that fit students ergonomic and learning needs. Open out and break down class level and room barriers. Provided the story of moving from quite an open learning centred approach to a modern learning environment. Combining studio learning approaches with flexible learning spaces. 
Inspiration from northern beach Christian school in Sydney.
Collaborative teaching can be supportive, parallel, complementary and team. All of these forms of teaching afforded by MLE to teach and learn in purposeful spaces. Connected to delivery style, small group withdrawal, knowledge grouping, student choice, peer teaching, whole group teaching. 

Ministry of Education provided the research background informing the MLE. The site provides access to resources, exemplars,moderation tool and research papers.

Dr. Julia Atkin - designing from the inside out: the complexity of transforming spaces for learning. People who are going to work with MLE need to learn from the actual implementation so that they take ownership. Therefore learning spaces need to be build from the aspirations of learners and the community they live in. Provided examples of how learning environments based on understandings of the nature learning are designed from the inside out. Whole package design needs to occur, taking in the influences and work through them. The work of Mary featherston design used in many Australian schools.
Learning spaces need to have purpose and be activated, otherwise they become storage added ons and not complementary learning spaces. Do not start from floor plan but from what will be the learning experience. Transformation in pedagogy needs to be complemented by supportive learning environments. 

Paula Eskett from National Library of NZ on moving school libraries from transactional to transformational. Provided an overview of how library services have changed to assist learners and teachers to create and archive knowledge asnitnis being created. Collaboration, co creation, networking. Therefore a change from transactions with physical resources to facilitators of learning. Change in thinking to assist students, teachers and librarian to work together to assist learning. No longer a set time for library but a place to drop in to access learning resources including hardware, apps, multimedia etc. resources from this presentation available on national library excellence in practice site. Think of the library as a colaboratory.

Jasmax shared the work they are been involved with in the design of new schools and redevelopment and rejuvenation of existing schools. How where and when we learn. Used workplaces and the changes taking place there in moving to collaborative teams. Primary schools include Elim Junior campus, Stonefields, Ngatea ( a repurposed older school). Secondary schools include Awatea ( with 10 community bases), Te Whanua O Tupuranga, Ormiston, Santa Maria, Avondale, Albany Senior, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate. 

Rhonda Duncraft provided the early childhood perspective on post quake changes, challenges and opportunities. Her story was based on where they were (top down management), how they had to change due to earthquake forced move and where they now hope to get to. New premises precipitated a rethink and change to more collaborative participation between management, parents committee and staff. 

Neil O'Reilly from Windsor School presented on the relationship between MLEs and modern learning pedagogies. We now know much about how learning takes place but classrooms and how teaching occurs still unchanged from last 100 years. School should be where learning takes place. Teachers need to be proactive as changing the learning environment does not create any change. Rules and regulations should be replaced by responsibility and respect. NZ curriculum enables change but we need to grab the opportunity. Recommended flipping the curriculum to base learning on real life problem solving, using technology, drive learning on ecology and human sustainability and community supported learning - learning when ever and where ever, not just at school. Flexible learning, environments and resources. 

On the walls, description of the studio concept of learning and spaces that allow creativity (sandpit), meditation (cave), celebration (mountain top), sharing (camp fire) and meeting (water hole).

My thoughts on the bike ride home was that we need to maximise our current 'situated learning' environments', the workrooms, workshops and simulated restaurants / clinics etc. that form much of CPIT based learning environments. We tend to use the workplace as the baseline and research shows that workplace learning can be challenging! So how do we evaluate the efficacy of our current situated learning spaces and ensure that are learning environments? The NZ Ministry of Education provides an 'assessment tool' that could be a useful starting point for adaptation to our context. Providing the environment can be seen to be a beginning, structured and planned active learning approaches still need to be implemented. We still have much to do with regards to building staff capability to maximise notional hours through flipping the classroom, flexible learning and assessment activities based on students' work (especially for our part-time students who are already working in the industry they are studying for qualifications in) and distance delivery.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

HP elite pro tablet - try out

Our IT division is shuffling Windows 8 tablets across as they come available for evaluation. We hope to purchase at least four windows tablets to complement the iPads and Android tablets we currently use for various situated technology enhanced learning projects at CPIT. The HP elite pro tablet comes 'naked' or with a protective case with a booster battery or a keyboard cum case arrangement. Both arrangements work well but I was keen to see how the keyboard worked. Generally positive reviews from the UK register and the UK PC review and also from NZ business review and PC world.

Key board that comes with the tablet is well designed. The table slips into a rubberised holding sleeve. The keyboard has chiclet style keys which are comfortable to type on. The whole arrangement sits comfortably on a desk but feels top heavy when perched on your lap.When not in use, the pseudo laptop closes up neatly and weights about the size of my present netbook.The tablet itself does not have many ports, so the keyboard or protective case, adds usb ports. No HTML slot but an adaptor is available.

Tablet has front and back cameras. Easy to use and photos can be stored in the pictures folder, on the cloud in skydrive or emailed. Intuitive to work out, especially for people used to the windows interface.

As a whole, the tablet touch interface is responsive and the tiles front page is generally intuitive to use. The ‘desktop’ tile brings you into the familiar Windows desktop area and working with Word and Excel and apart from touch screed access, pretty much similar to working from a desktop.Searching within windows store requires pressing the windows and q keys, not obvious immediately and I required a google search to find out how. Will need to explore more of the windows short cut keys when we have the purchased tablet.

Pairing the tablet with the keyboard brings up the perennial question of whether going for an ultra book or laptop running the windows 8 system should be the way to go.I use a zaggmate keyboard attachment for my ipad when i need to do lots of typing but have found the arrangement to be less effective than using a netbook or laptop. Mainly due to the fragile nature of the connection between the ipad and the keyboard.However, the HP tablet's keyboard case is designed for a more stable fit although the arrangement is top heavy sitting on one's lap. 

All in, IT is happy to support the device so we will purchase a couple to add to our inventory. One with a case and one with a keyboard. I will bring the tablets to the manufacturing team for them to use with their integrated project-based teaching approach. The workshop environment will be a good test for the tablets' resilience and the ease of syncing files through skydrive.