Tom Crilley

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November 7 , 2016

Alpha Squirrel Guest Post: Using Technology To Improve Math Education In Brazil, Part Two

This is the second of a three-part blog series* featuring Alpha Squirrel EdTech Expert Marc Faulder. Marc is an educator and Interactive Technologies Leader at Burton Joyce Primary School in the U.K. He has spent the past two years working with the University of Nottingham in England on a research project about closing the math gap for marginalized students using tablets and math apps. They used math apps from onebillion, a London-based nonprofit, to measure the impact that this intervention has on learning.

Marc is traveling to Brazil with his team to continue the research project and scope out the possibility of launching the onebillion initiative in Brazil. They’ll also train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom. Read part one of Marc’s journey.

Learning Gains in Brazil
It was a successful first week in Recife, Brazil, and our agenda took new directions each day. Our time was flexible because we initially dedicated much of it to observation and knowledge exchange. We were able to follow the lead of our local partners to maximize the opportunities for this scoping visit.

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Projects Shared
During the first week, we met with teachers, researchers and professionals from various organizations and schools. Marie Neves from CESAR was instrumental in initiating these relationships, arranging meetings with ABA Global School, DAMAS School and The British Consulate. In all three meetings, we spent time learning about their positions in this region. We also agreed to visit a rural school based outside of the town of Escada, Brazil.

With each partner, we shared three of the projects that we are bringing to Brazil:

  • Closing the Gap in Math – How can mobile technology and the onebillion software support marginalized learners?
  • Stories of a Lifetime - How might we keep local legends, myths and fables alive while also sharing our place in the world?
  • Connecting Classes Across Continents - How might we develop deeper understanding through the use of global connections to broaden learners’ perspectives?

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DAMAS school picked up two of the three projects we presented. They are particularly interested in joining the global research project in Closing the Gap in Math, as well as Stories of a Lifetime. ABA Global School will be joining us on all three projects. At The British Consulate, we gained expert advice on how best to scale up these projects in Brazil and who to approach for support in further developing our outreach here in Recife.

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One school visit we made on Friday was extraordinary. Driving inland, we saw life in rural Recife and found our way to the town of Escada. Just beyond the town, we stopped at a village built by a sugar cane factory. The villagers work on the planation, and the State of Recife provides schooling for the children at Dr. Jose Henrique Municipal School. Local people helped us find the school and introduced us to Regina, a school coordinator. She was very welcoming and showed us around. We met other staff and children at the school. It was a good opportunity to make the comparison between city and rural life in Recife. We also had a chance to share the onebillion math project with the head teacher, who had never used tablet technology before. Amazed by what she saw in the Portuguese version of the app, she agreed that this would transform math learning in her school.

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This visit allowed me to make use of the Book Creator text that the Burton Joyce children authored for ABA. The staff and children at Dr. Jose Henrique Municipal School were able to step inside Burton Joyce through the use of technology and see what life is like elsewhere in the world. The U.K.’s green fields and open spaces were a contrast for them but similarities were drawn from soccer and music. After an hour at the school, we exchanged contact information, and we plan on working together on a project in the future.

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Knowledge Exchanged
Meeting Roberta Ferraz at ABA Global School has been a highlight of my trip. Roberta is the Educational Technology Coordinator at this primary school and is a passionate educator who brings new ideas to the school curriculum. Working on many initiatives herself, including podcasting programs and student cinema projects, she was very inspired by Stories of a Lifetime and Connecting Classes Across Continents. Roberta will coordinate the pilot study of the cross-cultural math evaluation of the onebillion software.

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Leading up to my visit, children at my school authored a Book Creator text about Burton Joyce Primary School and life in their village. Roberta invited me to co-teach with her when I return to the U.K. next week and share this book with students at ABA. We have organized a FaceTime call between our classes at Burton Joyce and ABA so that children can connect over this personal text. Following this lesson, students will begin working on their own book about ABA school and Recife, which will be sent to us at Burton Joyce. This exciting project builds on the work I did with St. Francis Xavier School, Goa, back in 2015. I look forward to publishing a second global book in this series at the end of this collaboration, as well as extend the reach of the Connecting Classes Across Continents program.

Daniella, a coordinator at DAMAS school, is going to bring Stories of a Lifetime to her school alongside Roberta at ABA. Stories of a Lifetime celebrates local legends, myths and folklore in localities. Children who work on this project will research, script and illustrate their retelling of this local story. This can be in their first language with English subtitles or told in English. Once their story project is complete, teachers upload this three-minute video story to Vimeo and share the link with myself and ADE Jason Milner. We embed their video story in their country portfolio on the Stories of a Lifetime website for other schools to use as a learning resource. Those schools who access these stories are encouraged to respond in their own way via their school blogs and share this work as comments on the school’s Vimeo profile. You can find out more about this project on YouTube. 

Professional Learning
Daniella (DAMAS Coordinator) and Roberta (ABA Coordinator) have invited me to visit their schools next week to provide training to their staff. I will help their teachers learn how to best utilize their tablets so they can work with Stories of a Lifetime. We will also train staff to use the onebillion software and show them how to implement this teacher-led intervention in their part of this cross-cultural study. Roberta is very keen to develop the use of technology in early years at ABA, and I will be showcasing my class’s work with iPads to the ABA teaching staff.

My own professional learning has benefited from working internationally. There have been many opportunities to reflect on my practice and learn how best to collaborate with teachers abroad. As an Apple Distinguished Educator, I am experienced in collaborating with teachers inside of this network. To apply this skill internationally, as an educator visiting from abroad, has been very useful to me. With four days left on this trip, I look forward to a week of professional development and project implementation with our new partners.

*Marc submitted this post to Squirrels on October 31, 2016. You can contact Marc and follow his adventure on Twitter

November 4 , 2016

Reflector Student 1.1 for iOS is Now Available

An update to the Reflector Student iOS App is now available in the App Store. Reflector Student is a Reflector 2 companion app that helps students connect to Reflector 2 over restricted school networks. It also shows students the devices that are mirrored to the teacher's computer. No matter where a student is seated in the classroom, they can open Reflector Student on their iOS device to see the other devices that are displayed on the teacher's computer screen.

Reflector Student 1.1 update notes: 

- Improved catch-up performance when a screen stream is behind
- Improved performance when running on 32-bit devices
- Resolved an issue where rebroadcasting would not work properly on iOS 10
- Resolved an issue where some device screens would be shown in the wrong orientation
- Miscellaneous performance and stability improvements

You can grab Reflector Student version 1.1 for free in the App Store.

November 1 , 2016

Why Higher Education Is Investing In Smart Classrooms, and What’s Missing

The college experience is gradually starting to resemble an education utopia for students. Higher education institutions are becoming a place where young adults can grow as individuals while surrounded by on-demand conveniences and like-minded peers. State-of-the-art leisure facilities and smart classrooms filled with collaboration and presentation technology are abundant.

That comes at a price, though. The cost of tuition has been increasing and state funding for higher education institutions has been decreasing ever since the recession. As tuition costs rise, high school students must make tough decisions when deciding which college to attend. This leaves schools looking for ways to add value and differentiate their offering from competitors to appeal to prospective students.

Funding down, tuition up
On average, states are spending 18 percent ($1,598) less per student, and annual published tuition at four-year public colleges has jumped by 33 percent ($2,333) since the 2007-08 school year. So how do schools differentiate themselves and show value in marketing materials for prospective students?

Lavish recreational facilities, apartment-style dorm rooms and pristine landscapes can all add value to a student’s educational experience. This is true of smart classrooms, too. It’s why higher education institutions are devoting more resources to equip learning spaces and offices with technology that facilitates collaboration, presentation and instruction.

According to The Center For Digital Education, higher education institutions will spend $10.8 billion on IT support and services this year. Network upgrades are a top priority on the agenda. Increased connectivity on college campuses can help educators reach students with modern teaching methods such as blended learning, personalized learning and competency-based learning.

The typical list of amenities in “smart classrooms” on college campuses looks like this:

  • MacBook or PC laptop
  • Projector
  • Large wall screen or TV
  • Apple TV/Chromecast
  • Microphone
  • Lighting controls
  • Speakers
  • Document camera
  • HDMI/VGA cables
  • Interactive white board
  • Wireless presentation pointer

What’s missing
While this technology contributes to a smart classroom, it doesn’t create a truly wireless or collaborative environment for students. It doesn’t do for instruction what a rec-center sauna does for the “college experience.”

Wireless content sharing is a common problem for higher education institutions. Imagine if every building on campus – academic buildings, administrative buildings, university libraries, student centers, conference centers and residence halls – had one simple and universal way to wirelessly display computer screens to TVs and digital projectors. Wouldn’t that be....convenient?

The key word there is “simple.” A school’s IT department must operate within a range of technical know-how that varies greatly among staff, students and faculty on campus. What’s common technical knowledge to a computer science professor may be a completely foreign concept to an adjunct journalism professor. This creates a barrier in the adoption of new tech services and solutions.

Collaborating in smart classrooms
The theoretical simple and universal screen-mirroring solution for college campuses mentioned above? Yeah, it exists. Think of it as a facilitator that’s used to display content in meetings, lectures and presentations. It makes HDMI/VGA cables obsolete and allows any student, teacher or faculty member to present from anywhere in a given room.

Content sharing is never going to be viewed as a game changer from a student’s perspective, and it’s just one component of an advanced smart classroom, but it’s an important feature of any room intended to foster collaboration. You can’t have a truly smart, collaborative and connected classroom until every individual in the room has the ability to quickly display his or her screen at a moment’s notice.

What makes your campus stand out?
While per-student funding decreases and tuition costs increase, higher education institutions will continue to look for ways to differentiate from competitors and add value, from campus technology offerings to student lifestyle enhancements.

What are some ways your school has tried to differentiate itself from competing schools? What’s in your school’s smart classroom? What type of technology would you like to see introduced to the classroom, lecture hall or administration offices?

October 31 , 2016

Meet The Fall 2016 Class Of Alpha Squirrel EdTech Experts

Become an Alpha Squirrel at alpha.airsquirrels.com!
The fall 2016 Alpha Squirrels class includes 26 EdTech experts from four countries and 14 states. We’re excited and honored to introduce them as part of the fourth class of Alpha Squirrel EdTech experts.

This group of education thought leaders from the U.S., U.K., Canada and France is made up of teachers, technology integrationists, technology directors, assistant principals and more.

Check out our full list of Alpha Squirrels team members!

These individuals are considered experts and advocates in the global EdTech community. Alpha Squirrels attend and speak at education conferences around the world to share their expertise and introduce fellow educators to the Squirrels suite of classroom technology solutions. You can catch some of them presenting at FETCTCEA and many other edcamps and conferences around the world in 2016 and beyond.

Alpha Squirrels might use or highlight our classroom technology such as ClassHub, Reflector or Ditto during a presentation, but sometimes they aren’t included in the presentations at all. We simply offer Alpha Squirrels the opportunities to be heard and learn. Our goal is to assist them in their professional development journey and provide them with resources to help other educators improve the student learning experience. We value their input and often look to them for ideas and inspiration as we move forward with new initiatives.

In addition to Squirrels-sponsored conference attendance and speaking engagements, Alpha Squirrels receive:

  • First access to unreleased Squirrels products
  • Squirrels welcome package – T-Shirt, coffee mug/tumbler, sticky notes, water bottle, headphones, pens, pencils, etc.
  • Video interview opportunities
  • Free AirParrot 2 and Reflector 2 licenses
  • An Alpha Squirrels member certificate
  • “Alpha Squirrel” signature badges for Twitter, Facebook and email
  • Product training, press kits and talking points
  • A chance to visit Squirrels Headquarters
  • On-demand interaction with Squirrels product designers and managers

Congrats to all of our new Alpha Squirrels! We’re proud to have you represent us in the EdTech community.

Are you a teacher or EdTech professional interested in becoming a certified Alpha Squirrel? Contact Emily Carle Hafer at alpha@airsquirrels.com for information about our next class of Alpha Squirrels.

October 27 , 2016

Alpha Squirrel Guest Post: Using Technology To Improve Math Education In Brazil, Part One

This is the first of a three-part blog series* featuring Alpha Squirrel EdTech Expert Marc Faulder. Marc is an educator and Interactive Technologies Leader at Burton Joyce Primary School in the U.K. He has spent the past two years working with the University of Nottingham in England on a research project about using tablets and math apps to close the math gap for marginalized students. They used math apps from onebillion, a London-based nonprofit, to measure the impact that this intervention has on learning.  

Marc is traveling to Brazil with his team to continue the research project and scope out the possibility of launching the onebillion initiative in Brazil. They’ll also train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom.

The Journey to Brazil
Today I travel to Recife, Brazil, and it feels like the beginning of a great adventure. But whilst I wait for my connecting flight to Sao Paulo from Amsterdam, I look back at the 18 months which led up to this moment.

Unlocking Talent Through Tablet Technology
Unlocking Talent is a research project supported by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and the Norwegian Government. Led by the University of Nottingham in England, the project evaluates how onebillion is using innovative math apps to give marginalized children access to this critical math education. The apps allow children to learn at their own pace and in their own language. Beginning in the African country of Malawi, this research found that from six weeks of using the apps, children received the equivalent of 18 months of learning gains in math skills.

As this research continued, the university and onebillion questioned whether or not this way of working could be replicated beyond Malawi. This is where I joined the team. We ran a pilot study across the schools in the federation that I work for. We found similar learning gains here, as well as in other small-scale pilot studies from U.K. schools. In June, we launched the U.K.’s first large-scale evaluation of tablet technology and math attainment.

The apps are used with Early Years children that have been identified as working below age-related expectations. They work on activities set by the teacher in the app for up to 30 minutes a day. The learning is 1:1, personalized and self-paced. These children use this app as well as normal teaching practices and traditional interventions. When combined like this, the learning gains have been huge.

The findings from the initial U.K. pilot studies can be found here.

A Cross-Cultural Study
Today I travel to Brazil with Dr. Nicola Pitchford, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, and Laura Outhwaite, a Ph.D. student in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. These two have been instrumental in the success of the research in both the U.K. and Malawi. Our initial trip to Brazil is a scoping visit and came about following a visit from researchers from CESAR Recife, an innovation centre that promotes transformation through technology, back in January. Marie Neves and Flavia Nascimento came from Recife to Nottingham to observe best practices in my classroom using both onebillion software and iPads to enhance learning. You can read more about this visit here: https://enabling-environments.co.uk/2016/01/19/brazil/

MarcFaulder

Inspired by what they saw and with a good knowledge of the schools they work with in Recife, Marie invited us to partner with CESAR and look into the possibility of bringing onebillion to their schools.

During our initial trip this November, we’ll meet with teacher training institutions, local and state government representatives and Portuguese schools in the area. Marie and I have also organized a conference for 30 teachers where they can learn some ways to best use iPads in the classroom and how to maximize learning gains when embedding this practice in a learning environment.

A Chance to Reflect
There is much to learn on this visit. Plenty of time in this trip has been dedicated to meeting professionals and observing current practices in Recife schools. This visit is about hearing teachers’ stories and learning about their ways of closing the gap in math. Our purpose in these conversations is to exchange knowledge and share what we are finding in the U.K. and Malawi.

The most exciting part of this trip for me is looking at different learning contexts from the same perspective; closing the gap in math. It’s easy to look beyond your home country and see what is different. But to make comparisons based on learning gains for math provides a common ground for any teacher, no matter what the context is. What are we doing to support the children who are working below age-related expectations? Whether this be 10 children in a class of 30 in the U.K., or 80 in a class of 100 in Malawi, teachers are united by the way in which will tackle this issue. Being able to share the same resources to close our gaps is such an exciting way to collaborate and bring these school contexts together.

I look forward to sharing more of my visit with you as it unfolds over the next two weeks.

*Marc submitted this post to Squirrels on October 24, 2016. You can contact Marc and follow his adventure on Twitter

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