November 16, 2016

Oh, Brazil: Alpha Squirrel Guest Post, Part Three

This is the third post in 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 and part two of Marc’s journey.

Oh, Brazil
Our time in Brazil wrapped up with a visit at the mayor’s office and a meeting with the University of Pernambuco at the British Consulate. Both of these meetings were organized to plan for the future. Great progress has been made with local schools and partners here over the last 13 days. Moving forward with the onebillion math intervention seems likely. On my final visit to ABA Global school, I was presented with a gift from Francisco Gomes de Matos, peace linguist and President of the Board at ABA Global Education:

“Oh, Brazil, about you what can I foresee well? You will be internationally admired. You will be educationally developed. You will be scientifically and technologically advanced. You will be interculturally comprehended.”

This resonates with me and our trip here. This articulates our goal to work with Brazil and assures me that Brazil makes a perfect partner for our projects and research.

In my first blog post, I explained three projects we brought to Brazil:

  1. Closing the Gap in Math – “How can mobile technology and the onebillion software support marginalized learners?”

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In March 2017, Laura Outhwaite (Ph.D. student in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham) will return to Recife, Brazil, to work with ABA and DAMAS schools to pre-test children. Teachers will then implement the math gap intervention for 12 weeks. This will happen in English, Portuguese and with a control class – a design based on an international model used in England, Canada, South Africa and Malawi. During my visit, teachers have been trained to use the onebillion software. They are excited about this intervention. The teachers have also had a hand in designing the study so that it works with their curriculum and timetable. Laura will return again in June 2017 for a post-test and to receive feedback from teachers. Afterwards, the findings will be included in an international, cross-cultural evaluation of the software. And as the research is teacher-led, the schools will continue using the software and support the likely expansion of this project in Recife. Beyond the pilot study, there has been great interest with other partners in this work. We look forward to the possibility of expanding this project beyond the pilot study.

  1. Stories of a Lifetime – “How might we keep local legends, myths and fables alive while also sharing our place in the world?”

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ABA and DAMAS schools both joined the project, and in our second week here a third school, Red Balloon in San Paulo, Brazil, joined as well. These three schools will use the project with different aged children who will research and retell folklore from Brazil and Recife. On my final project day in Recife, I taught a group of children at ABA Global School. Part of this lesson time introduced them to the Stories of a Lifetime project. They learned the story of Robin Hood, designed their characters and retold the story in their own words using Puppet Pals. I will share this response to the story back in my school with Digital Leaders and upload this work to the Stories of a Lifetime website.

  1. Connecting Classes Across Continents – “How might we develop deeper understanding through the use of global connections to broaden learners’ perspectives?”

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In my second week, I returned to ABA Global School to work with a group of Year Five children on this project. They spent time with me learning about Nottingham and they read the book about Burton Joyce, authored by Year Six children form my school. They met with the Burton Joyce children over FaceTime and exchanged knowledge about their place in the world. Following this visit, they will work on their own school book to share with Burton Joyce children and a second call will take place when I return to work. These two books will be combined as a case study text and published to the iBooks Store in the same style as the collaborative book my school published with St. Francis Xavier, Goa.

I have learned that visiting schools is a great way to share knowledge and expertise. Being in a setting gives many more opportunities to collaborate and provide practical ideas bespoke to that place. I’ve learned this through my own consultancy role in England and from managing the Apple Regional Training Centre in Nottingham. Applying this to an international context has been a beneficial way to further develop my skills as a leader and advocate of educational technology.

An international visit is much different to working with schools at home. Even though we had an agenda planned, opportunities arose that were unexpected. New relationships brought about detailed discussions that allowed our plans to evolve quickly. We had no contacts to rural schools before this trip, but we were able to make a visit because of the relationships we formed in our first few days. The advice from The British Consulate gave new avenues for collaboration beyond our visit. We have so many more contacts and ideas to explore now.
Meeting teachers in schools with technology gave new opportunities for me to share my projects and develop them in new, exciting ways with educators beyond the Apple Distinguished Educator network. Our priority was to launch a pilot study of the onebillion software in Recife, and this was finalized by the end of our trip with training provided to teachers and an implementation designed with school coordinators.

MarcF3.8Working with researchers and academics has been very interesting as well. My partnership with The University of Nottingham began over 18 months ago with the evaluation of the onebillion apps in the U.K. I’ve been involved in study design, implementation and evaluation of this research in the U.K. To have an involvement in the beginnings of a new pilot study in Brazil is very rewarding. I offered my own, first-hand knowledge and experience as a teacher and leader who has implemented a similar, successful pilot study. I explained the positive impact this study had on the children that I teach in math and other areas of learning. I look forward to offering support to these educators as they begin implementing their pilot of the onebillion software in Recife.

Working internationally has taught me three things:

  • Time is precious
  • Relationships are key to success
  • The work is hard

Moments of high energy and inspiration are met with moments of complications or exhaustion.  Problem solving, decision making and patience are needed as agendas change and challenges arise. Our plan altered on a daily basis. We were always on the go preparing for the next unexpected meeting whilst reflecting on the one we had just had. But when you see the children who deserve quality education, and you believe that technology can unlock talent, you know that the hard work for these children will pay off.

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Jose Guido Correa de Araujo, Emeritus Professor, International Relations Officer, University of Pernambuco

As I board my first of three flights back to the U.K., I leave Recife looking forward to collaborating with all of the friends I have met here. I look forward to seeing Connecting Classes grow with a new link school and case study publication growth. I look forward to seeing Brazilian legends told in Stories of a Lifetime. And I look forward to working on Brazil’s first pilot of the onebillion software in March 2017.

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“Oh, Brazil, what will be your legacy to every coming generation? Oh, Brazil, may all of these things happen to you; may you inspire Brazilians only good things to do” 

I would like to thank Squirrels for their support with this visit, for sharing my story and showcasing what is possible when technology enables quality learning. I need to thank the Apple Distinguished Educators who work tirelessly on projects which have a truly global reach. I thank them for committing their own time to these innovations and for encouraging me to share them beyond our community. I also send much love to Marie Neves for her friendship before, during and after this trip; see you in December! And also to Ricardo; our dedicated driver, intelligent interpreter and gracious guide.

I must end with a thank you to my partners at The University of Nottingham, particularly Dr. Nicola Pitchford. The time that you invest in my work, and the support you give me, means so much. This trip has been a career highlight. Thank You.

*Marc submitted this post to Squirrels on November 3, 2016. You can contact Marc and follow his education journey on Twitter

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

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/

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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

August 31, 2016

Attention Educators! It’s Time to Vote for Alpha Squirrels at SXSW!

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The seventh annual SXSWedu will return to Austin, Texas, in March 2017. SXSWedu showcases four days of compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, engaging learning experiences, mentorship, film screenings, startup events and much more!

We are lucky enough to have three Alpha Squirrels in the running to be speakers at this prestigious conference. Speakers for these programs are selected in part by PanelPicker – a two-step, crowd-sourced platform that enables the community to have a voice in the programming selected for SXSWedu 2017.

SXSWedu empowers the community to use this platform to submit innovative session ideas by filling out a digital proposal. The public is then given the opportunity to provide feedback and vote on the collected submissions.

The following Alpha Squirrel EdTech Experts have submitted proposals to present at SXSWedu:

Richard Anderson (@techatwis) – Curriculum Mapping with Google Apps for Education

Katrina Keene (@techintechgal) – Adapting a Learn – Play Balance in Classrooms

Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliamsEdu) – Conversations on Diversity with Young Learners

So, what does this mean for you?

You can vote for our Alpha Squirrels by clicking on their respective session links above. Voting ends this Friday, September 2. Every vote counts! Help our Alpha Squirrels get nominated for an experience of a lifetime!