Sunday, 20 November 2016

Hyperdocs - the start of a journey

The newest arrow in my eLearning quiver is Hyperdocs. It started a few weeks ago when one of our teachers came to me to ask for help with digital worksheets. She pdf'ed one of her existing worksheets and posted it on Classroom, and it was a complete flop. So she wanted to know what she did wrong. 

I asked her if she would mind giving me the worksheet and a few weeks to do some research. Then I will redesign it for her in a way that I think would be more efficient. 

Let's start with what went wrong:
She converted a paper worksheet to a digital worksheet making some adaptations, like googling for pictures but she gave little thought to how she wanted the learners to complete the worksheet. Some printed the pictures, others saved it on their devices, while others printed it and stuck it in their workbook and other 'found' pictures but didn't think to save them somewhere. 

This became my first attempt at a hyperdoc or a purposefully designed digital worksheet.

The first question I asked myself was, where and how do I want the learners to answer this? Keeping in mind that I want them to have concise and clear notes that they can study from later. 

One option was to do it in their exercise book like they used to when it was a paper worksheet. But I want them to move away from printing pictures.
So I decided to design the worksheet in such a way that they could answer it on the worksheet. 
Initially, I was thinking a slideshow with each question at the top of the slide and their answers below. But as soon as I started to play around I wanted to do better. In the Hyperdocs Handbook, they describe a slideshow not as a presenting tool, but rather as a stack of cards with notes on. Once I started to think about it that way it was easier to design the worksheet. I tried to stick to the questions that were on the original worksheet, OK I couldn't help myself I added a few items to make it more fun. The biggest change was that the answer now went with the question, whether the answer is typed text or a picture. 

Once I got to the end of the worksheet, I was still not satisfied. Even thought the workflow was much improved and learners got a chance to apply their knowledge, they still did not create anything. 

That's when it hit me, why not design your own room by using the principles that you just learned. A quick search later I had found a few websites that allow you to create a room and voila I had my final activity. 
I could have left it to the students to find their own design websites, but that inevitably leads to a waste of time. One of the biggest complaints that I get from teachers is that when they learners use the internet, they get lost in the vastness of it. It takes them hours to find a decent website and by that time the lesson is over. Hyperdocs is a way to deal with that problem. Instead of the learners spending hours searching for an appropriate website/tool, you can direct them to a good site that you have already tested. 

I will be the first to admit that my hyperdoc is still very basic. I am already playing with ideas of doing a version 2.0 where the whole activity is designed around creating your own room/house. But before I do that I need to practice my hyperdoc skills a bit. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review: The Hyperdoc Handbook

Something that has been plaguing me for a while is: How should an electronic worksheet look?

When I started with eLearning my primary focus was substituting what I already had. Electronic worksheets meant a pdf of an existing worksheet. But as I was starting to get the hang of this eLearning thing I wanted to do more than substitute. And then they Hyperdoc Handbook came across my path. At first, I did not want to buy it, after all I know how Google Apps work. But then I got curious and decide to spend the money and believe me it was money well spend.

The Hyperdoc Handbook is not a thick book, only 122 pages, but it is crammed with great ideas and examples, and it completely changed the way I look at designing activities. For the first time, it feels like I understand the difference between working on paper and working digitally.

The fist few chapters deal with the theory of eLearning, and although I am familiar with most of it, it was good to read through it again. But it is the second part of the book that I found the most valuable. In describing how to create your own Hyperdoc they authors share so many of their ideas and examples. I just wanted to start creating new activities.

If I can give one piece of criticism, it is that nowhere in the book is a clear description of what they consider a Hyperdoc to be. Given that Hyperdocs are a very fluid term and each teachers Hyperdoc will look different, but I was half way through the book before I started to form a picture in my mind of what we are busy with.

As you would expect The Hyperdoc Handbook was designed to be read as an ebook, with lots of interactive links that you can just click on. However, I decided to buy a hardcopy, mainly so that I can share it with my colleagues and use it as a reference. I was pleasantly surprised at how user-friendly even the hardcopy book was. I downloaded a QR reader on my phone, and whenever they were referring to an example, I quickly scanned the code and voila I have it on my phone.

If you are in any way involved with designing teaching activities for learners with personal devices, I would suggest you get on the internet now and order your copy.

For more information click here.

The Hyperdoc Handbook - Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps
by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis
Softcover, 122 pages
Publish in 2016 by EdTechTeam Press

Sunday, 23 October 2016

How much should it matter what the kids like?

"Children like to use technology..."
"Add Kahoot to your class because the kids will like it..."
"The learners prefer to write their answers..."
"I asked the learners to research a topic, and they said they prefer that I teach it to them..."

I can go on and on. Comments like these are common in staffrooms and even more widespread at technology conferences. Both sides of the technology camp call on kids preference to prove their point. 

I used this image recently at a training session, and it was the start of an interesting conversation. But that is a post for another day. Today I am pondering why are we putting so much emphasis on what children like when it comes to technology. 

As teachers, we are educated professionals, with training and experience in both our subject and how kids learn, so why are we letting teenagers dictate what happens in class? 
As you know by now, I am a huge fan of using Kahoot. And yes part of it is because the kids enjoy it. But there are only a few topics in maths where I find it useful. So even though the kids often beg me to play Kahoot, we don't always, because there would be no educational purpose to it. 

But the opposite is also true. Recently I had a conversation with a fellow teacher where she told me that she does not make use of the available technology, because her students prefer her to teach them, instead of researching the topic themselves. 
Off course, the students prefer her to teach them. Not only are they familiar with her style of teaching, but it is the road of least resistance. But the more effort you put into acquiring knowledge, the better you retain it. The road of least resistance is seldom the best from an educational point of view. 

So can we please stop putting so much emphasis on what learners like and what they dislike and start basing our decisions on educationally sound principles. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Nobel prizes

The 2016 Nobel season has started, and during the last few days, I was fascinated by the impressive work that people are doing in the different fields of Science. But as I was reading through the news articles I realised that almost none of the prizes was awarded to one person alone. 

"The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".

And so was the Chemistry prize:
"The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".

The 2016 Nobel prize for medicine was an exception, as it was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi "for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy". But if you look back then you will find that this is the first time in 5 years that the medicine prize went to a single individual. 

Even the Peace prize has more often been awarded to organisations than individuals. The only exception to this trend is the Literature prize.

People often ask me why is collaboration such a buzz-word in education? Because, everywhere, everybody is collaborating. When you think about scientists, you might think about this person sitting on in their own lab doing research. The reality is far removed. Research fields are so vast that it is no longer possible for people to work alone. Collaboration is needed if new discoveries are to be made. 

But collaboration does not come naturally to everybody and our current school system put lots of emphasis on individual working, with collaboration left to group work projects in subjects like Creative Arts. So it comes as quite a shock when you enter the workplace, and suddenly you have to work with people. Teachers are actually the worst collaborators. So often you find three different teachers setting up three different worksheets on the same topic. And then I have not started on how often people refuse to share their work.

There is a old African proverb that says:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


Wow, in less than 10 months I have manage 10 000 views.

Keeping this blog has been an amazing experience. Not only did it force me to reflect about the things I do in my own classroom, but I got to share those experiences with the rest of you.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Why should anything change?

When I talk to teachers about the ways in which technology can change your classroom, I often hear the unspoken question.
"Why should we change the way we teach just because technology has made tremendous strides over the last decade?"

Before I answer the question, I want you to imagine for a moment what your reaction would be if your doctor tells you. 
"There is technology that would allow us to save your limb, but I don't think it is necessary to change my methods just because medical technology is improving, so I am just going to amputate it."  

If it were me, I would be out the door before he has finished his sentence.  So why should teaching be any different? As a teacher you want your learners to learn as much as possible and prepare them as best as you can for the world out there. And that should include harnessing the best techniques out there, whether they are new or old. 

However, it is important to realise that teaching should not change just because technology is changing, that would be the tail wagging the dog. But on the other hand, we can not continue what we are doing just because we have always done it this way. Our current system has been in dire need of change for years.

Fifty to a hundred years ago all knowledge was contained in books and books were expensive and difficult to come by. In this context lecturing was the most efficient way of distributing knowledge.  

In this video clip by Ken Robertson, he explains how the context of the then world influenced the design of the 20th century classroom. 

But teachers have long since realised that standing in front of a class, lecturing, is no longer the most effective manner to get kids to learn, long before technology started to play a role.   Many teachers have started to reject the lecture-based model in favour of learners taking an active part in their learning.
Teachers have found they achieve more if they take the role of educational guide, instead of the fountain of all knowledge. However, there were logistical difficulties that made it difficult for teachers to change their teaching model. This is where technology comes in. With the advance, especially in personal devices, for the first time in the last century teachers are in a position where they can ask themselves, "How would the kids learn this best?" and then have the tools to make that happen. 

So getting back to original question, teaching does not need to change because we have some cool new tools to try or because the school management says so. Teaching has to change because the learners that leave our schools are no longer well prepared for the world they are going to face. The world has changed and so much we. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fast finger catastrophe

My colleagues often comment on how quickly I can do something on a computer. And most of the time I have to admit knowing your way around a computer is useful. Using things like keyboard shortcuts can be very handy. But I can also tell you from personal experience that it is not always a good thing. 

Sometimes quick fingers can press send, when you should rather have read that email again. 

Sometimes my quick fingers can send the wrong document on Classroom, and cause lots of embarrassment. 

So rather take a extra moment and be sure that what you are sending is really what you want to send. Because once it is out there, it is out there and not everything has an undo button.