Community Cloud Learning Platform and BYOD

An exciting development at last week's Digital Learning Forum was the announcement of the OSAPAC cloud pilot. This could potentially affect 2 million students in Ontario. Currently, software delivery is IT intensive, and complex (testing and verification of computer images which need to be updated maybe twice a year).

The cloud would include full virtualization of the software environment using Microsoft (AZURE) - connects to windows back-end server to deliver applications. It could potentially be less expensive because one pays for the time when the server is being utilized and which software is being used.

Students and educators can access the cloud from home or school when they log in to the Forefront unified access gateway to enter their board credentials. Group policy processing is applied and distributes all of the applications which run off the cloud server.
Cloud computing image

Links to websites can also be included and because this model is platform independent (applications run on a remote server) this enables users on iPad and iPhone devices to access digital resources based in Flash (the large majority of activities in the Ontario Educational Resource Bank.

There are several advantages to this model;
  • single sign-on (no need to remember multiple logins for different websites)
  • IT personnel can spend more time on training as opposed to maintenance
  • IT departments get valuable hard-drive space back that would have been needed for software images
  • upgrades to software is immediate - no software shipping costs 
  • reduced network bandwidth requirements
  • a great enabler to Bring Your Own Device (less powerful devices can be used to access software and websites)
I am looking forward to seeing the proof of concept for this model because there are so many exciting possibilities.

eLearning and Collaborative Inquiry

Yesterday's session on eLearning and Collaborative Inquiry by Rachel Sillen and Dan Bodkin HPCSB did a very effective job of modelling the process for professional development favoured by the Ministry of Education. We responded to the questions used to facilitate CI by posting and responding to the discussion in our LMS. This achieves two important things - educators see first hand what kind of forethought is required to effectively use instructional technology in their teaching and secondly they see how asynchronous discussion can be used to encourage reflection and scaffold learning using the ideas of peers.

Professional Learning Cycle

During the first session, educators are asked to articulate their 'ideal classroom'. Here's what Mike Redfearn and I came up with; We would have one device per student connected to WiFi (combination of tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops) to collaborate on documents/ presentations (Google Docs, Prezi) and use Apple TV to present to class. Educators and students would access content from the OERB and LMS as a source of information, but activities would be student-directed (Flipped Classroom) i.e. teacher would facilitate the presentation of lessons by students.

Teachers could use the money available through our association PD fund to apply for release time to undertake the Collaborative Inquiry process. Ideally it would be spread out over a period of 4 half days to allow enough time to reflect on each stage.
I have already started this with a couple of teachers, but it needs to be more formalized and include a larger group. I would love to use the same approach of modelling the process within the LMS so that teachers could become familiar with the tools as well.

Elementary interface provincial eLearning strategy

The idea is to have a carousel of learning resources that elementary students would access when they login to their network at school. The carousel uses login-logic which relies on integration on the back-end between the LMS and the SIS to seamlessly present the learning objects for the specific courses the student is taking designed to meet the strand and expectation they are working on. There are six subject packages for Junior and Intermediate students but the traditional interface is difficult for Primary students. Hence the idea of a carousel that presents objects from the Ontario Educational Resource Bank in a user-friendly interface that involves less clicks (lots of audio & visual elements using play and inquiry based learning models). This project is pioneering the area of blended learning for elementary students because there is not a lot of experience and research in this area. Another potential application is the ePortfolio feature in the LMS to illustrate their progress through their elementary academic years.

Science and Technology activities

Math Homework Help website video

One of my roles is to introduce teachers and students to the Math Homework Help website the Independent Learning Centre and the Ministry of Education has created to tutor students in real-time using a chat room and an interactive whiteboard. My colleague Darrin Hughson and his team at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have created a video that provides a great overview of the features of the website. In addition to being tutored my a real math teacher, students and parents can access a variety of interactive tutorials and lessons to help them with homework assignments and test preparation.

Mobile Learning and Professional Development for Teachers

UNESCO's report on Mobile Learning For Teachers In North America > Exploring the Potential of Mobile Technologies to Support Teachers and Improve Practice identifies that;

Mobile devices can enable teachers to participate in PD more frequently and with more
flexibility than traditional training sessions that are constrained to a particular time and place.
They can also strengthen collaborative PD by facilitating communication among peers and
mentors. Many education leaders anticipate that teachers will soon be using mobile
technologies to access widespread professional communities and engage in collaborative
learning online (Bjerede et al., 2010).

This is consistent with the Ministry of Education's desire to provide more professional development opportunities for teachers within their working environment to take advantage of the contextual elements that would make it more meaningful. It is a shift from the one size fits all model of professional learning.

What I really like about the case studies highlighted in the report is the following;

Teachers were not just taught how to use a specific mobile device but were encouraged to think critically about how mobile technologies can provide new and better opportunities for learning. Rather than adopting mobile technologies wholesale, teachers exploring mobile learning need to consider whether using mobile devices adds value or efficiency to particular lessons or activities, or whether it could be distracting.

When I consult with educators this is a critical step - this kind of forethought is required in order to determine how the teaching needs to change in order to maximize the integration of the technology so that it enhances learning and effectively differentiates the instruction. 

Bjerede, M., Atkins, K. and Dede, C. 2010. Ubiquitous mobile technologies and the transformation of schooling.