Each year, I eagerly await the release of both of the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Reports, the Higher Ed Report and the K12 Report. I enjoy seeing what new items are added to the list and which items move up or quickly accelerate upwards on the list. In years past, they have identified the move towards cloud computing and the shift towards mobile devices including tablets (iPads, Androids, etc.). As an educator and technology leader, I feel that it is important to not only focus on what we are doing today, but to keep mindful of change for the future.
In March, the Higher Ed Report was released. Here was their list:
Adoption 1 Year or Less - Massively Open Online Courses and Tablet Computing
Adoption 2-3 Years - Games and Gamification and Learning Analytics
Adoption 4-5 Years - 3d Printing and Wearable Technology
MOOCs (Online Learning), Tablet Computing (iPads, Andriods), Games and Gamification (Badges), Learning Analytics (Individualization and Personalization), 3d Printing and Wearable Technology (Innovation Lab) made the list. What is exciting is that these are the same areas we have identified in the Vision 20/20 Technology and Learning plan we are working on this year. It is nice to get affirmation that the areas of investigation and study are those which we selected in October are the same ones that NMC is suggestion that universities and colleges keep their eyes on.
This past week, the K12 Advisory Board announced its short list as presented at the COSN Conference. Here is the list released:
Near Term, 1 Year or Less - BYOD, Cloud Computing, Mobile Learning, Online Learning
Mid-Term, 2-3 Years - Adaptive Learning and Personal Learning Networks, Electronic Publishing, Learning Analytics, and Open Content
Long Term, 4-5 Years – 3d Printing, Augmented Reality, Virtual and Remote Laboratories, and Wearable Technology
Again, these are the same areas we have identified for investigation for our Vision 20/20 Technology and Learning Plan, plus several of the areas we are implementing for the 2013-14 academic year.
I look forward to sharing our plans for the upcoming year.
I have been given responsibility to manage a number of our upcoming summer projects. I know that in terms of keeping track of complex projects like these, being as anal-retentive as I am and enjoying a visual representation of what is going on, I love to create and use Gantt charts. In the past, I have used an Excel extension to manage projects like these.
Since I have moved to Google Apps and loving the collaborative nature of Google Sheets, I wondered if there was an App Script that would enable me to have this functionality. In the Script Gallery, I found one from Forscale (http://www.forscale.nl/index.html) that looked like what I wanted, but the documentation was in Dutch. I did open the pages in Chrome and translated them, then clipped the pages to Evernote, but the template was in Dutch and I felt lazy and did not feel like drudging through the scripts to find the code to change the formatting (date and currency) and names of the document.
After emailing the authors of the script, I found out that there was an English version of the template and script available. After downloading and using it for part of the day, I know that this will be an indispensable tool for me and my team. Not only can I create tasks, shift dates, it automatically creates the Gantt chart I was looking for. It is easy to use and very functional. As part of Google Sheets, I was able to share it with my team for viewing.
So, if you need to plan and organize a project, or know someone who needs to and you use Google Apps, I would highly recommend this script. And contribute to the author as well while you are at it. It is well worth the price.
The Pew Research Center, part of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University has released its 2013 Teens and Technology Report. In this report, the researchers survey and report on how teens (12-18) access technology and what devices they do so with.
Highlights of this year’s findings include:
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone and almost half of those own a smartphone (iPhone, Android, or the like)
- 37% of all teens have a smartphone, up from 23% in 2011.
- 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population
- 93% of teens have access to a laptop or desktop computer at home. 81% of the of the younger teen users (12-13) rely on a shared computer.
- 75% of teens say they have access to the Internet on cell phones, tablets and other devices (Xbox, etc.) at least occasionally.
- 25% of teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users, far more than the 15% of similar adults. Among teen smartphone users, 50% are “cell-moslty”.
- Older girls, ages 14-17 (34%)are more likely to be cell-mostly users compared to teen boys (24%)
95% of teens are online, a percentage consistent since 2006. Yet, the nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically during that time – from stationary connections tied to desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day…The patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.
One of the presentations I have done in the past at conferences such as the Laptop/Learning Institute and the Global Education Conference was entitled, “Smart, Mobile, and Digital: Are These New Devices the Next Computing Platform?” This new report identify the new types of questions we need to be asking and studying:
How does this increased, always available access, change the way that students learn?
In what ways should our learning environments change to support this new way of learning?
Instead of purchasing and making available a variety of devices, why are we not asking students to reach into their pocket and use the technologies that they already have?
Since I began giving that presentation, many obstacles and hurdles have disappeared. Many schools are rethinking and rewriting their cell phone policies. But these are usually for use during free periods and downtime and often not discussions on how to leverage these tools for learning. Yes, I agree we are better off today compared to five years ago, but for many, this movement are more like baby steps and not giant strides.
We really need to stop and ask ourselves, are we best serving our students?
Core to my philosophy as a teacher, I strive to create an environment in which I provide the tools and opportunities that will allow students the freedom to explore. I want to provide my students some background and then get out of their way as they build and construct their own knowledge. This year, I have created such an environment introducing Minecraft to both myself and to Quest Academy.
Last year, my webcasting partners, Alex Ragone, arvind grover, and I began exploring the role of programming and games on our webcast, 21st Century Learning. It was in the spring of last year that Alex and arvind devoted a show to interview Joel Levin, the Minecraft Teacher after seeing him at the NYCIST fall meeting. While I was not able to participate in that discussion, when I did listen to it, I knew that I wanted to explore how to incorporate Minecraft in the future. I filed the idea in “Follow-up” folder.
Now, fast forward to this year. I have moved to Quest Academy, with its preschool (3 year old) through 8th grade population. In November, while researching the great work that Kevin Jarrett had done transforming his computer lab into a STEM lab, I found out that Kevin was going to lead a Minecraft after-school club. Remembering the interview with Joel Levin, I decided that I should really investigate offering a similar opportunity at my school.
What truly tipped the balance was gathering registrations for the Students Involved in Technology (SIT) Conference. As the eighteen students began signing up, two groups of our fifth grade students proposed sessions on Minecraft, one describing what Creative Play was and the second on What To Do and What Not To Do In Multi-Player mode. I realized I was behind the students and I began to make plans to offer an after-school special at Quest to allow students an opportunity to teach me about how Minecraft could be used educationally.
So I began researching and making plans. I created my proposal for the class and it quickly filled up. I had 38 students, ranging from 2nd grade through 8th grade sign up for one of the two sessions, on Monday and Thursday. From both conversations with Kevin, Jeff Richardson, who I met at EduCon, and delving into the MinecraftEdu Google group, I quickly determined that I was going to use MinecraftEdu. For me, the advantages of using MinecraftEdu are:
It was built by teachers for teachers – I love the fact that this was teacher built and tested by Joel Levin, who uses it with his 2nd and 3rd graders.
Licensing could be shared – I love the fact that not only are the licenses discounted, but they can be shared. Essentially, you are paying for the number of concurrent users/seats. So if you wanted to use it for a class, you simply buy enough licenses for that class or your lab. These licenses will have generic usernames, they will have to be shared from period to period, and they cannot be transfered to students, as they are the property of the school. However, they are full licenses of Minecraft and can be used to log into any public server, anywhere in the world. Having this flexibility will allow us to build a MinecraftEdu server or a regular Minecraft server and students will be able to log into them.
The MinecraftEdu servertool – There are many reasons to love the Minecraft Server mods that you can purchase. First, you can create a LAN world which students in your class can access even without activating and using the “public” accounts that you have purchased. This allows you and your students to begin jumping into the experience quickly, even as you are setting up and determining how you are going to allocate your accounts.
Additionally, there are several server options that you can set. When you start up with world, you can begin using a tutorial world which will help guide players new to Minecraft learn how to navigate in-world. There are also a number of tools which can be helpful for classroom use, the ability to freeze all players, mute their chat, and the ability to bring them all back to the spawn point, the location they enter the world. As a system administrator, you also can give assign everyone a resource, set the mode (survival, creative, or hard-core) for the world to meet the needs of the students you are going to play.
A Great Network of Other Educators - Through my research, I have found a wonderful network of other teachers developing for these worlds. One such is Eric Walker, who is a teacher at the American International School in Kuwait. He has created the Wonderful World of Humanities , a world that will allow you to explore a variety of historical areas, from the ancient library of Alexandria to ancient Greece and Rome. There are a series of challenges based material that many schools study within their curricula.
The opportunity to flip the roles in the classroom - As I admitted to the students in each of the meetings last week, many of the students, some of the 3rd through 8th graders, had significantly more expertise than did I or the other students new to Minecraft. I have challenged them to become the guided mentors and teachers for the group and have set the expectation that we will all be open and share our learning freely with each other. It is the only way that we all will be able to grow within the game.
Last week was the first meetings of the ten week after-school special. In the process, I have learned a tremendous amount about Minecraft. I have created a blog, Minecraft@Quest (thanks for the inspiration, Kevin) to share with others our experiences.