Unpacking TPACK: What is it and how does it work?

CLASSROM DIGITAL PEDAGOGY

Unpacking T-PACK: What is it and how does it work?

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

As technology becomes a bigger and bigger element of the modern-day classroom, there are education specialists who have developed technology specific pedagogical approaches to for the use of digital technologies in educational programs. In another series of articles, we have explored the SAMR model by Dr Ruben Puentedura, a popular and very powerful digital pedagogical approach to technology in the classroom however the SAMR model is not the only framework that is designed to help schools and teachers integrate technology into their classrooms to create effective learning experiences. Therefore, in this series of articles, we will unpack another popular and powerful approach to digital pedagogy – TPACK.

Before we dive in it is worth noting that TPACK, Like SAMR is a large model and as such we would not do it any justice in trying to tackle all its elements in one single article. So, like our approach to unpacking the SAMR model, we will explore TPACK over a series of articles so that we can gain a strong understanding of this model and how it works in the classroom – but today we are going to gain an understanding of the framework, its components and how they intersect to help teachers develop their teaching experiences.

What is TPACK?

Put very simply, TPACK is a framework that is designed to tackle the nature of knowledge that is required by teachers and educators for the successful integration of technology into their classrooms. Divided into 3 domains of knowledge (TK: Technical Knowledge – PK: Pedagogical Knowledge – CK: Content Knowledge), TPACK explores how their complex interplay and intersection of these 3 domains allow them to effectively teach and engage students with the learning using technology. Combining the ideas of what teachers know (Content Knowledge), how they teach (Pedagogical Knowledge) and the role that technology plays in the learning (Technological Knowledge), TPACK aims to assist teachers to improve student learning outcomes and better impact student learning that is occurring in their classroom

What is the difference between SAMR and TPACK?

Well to put it simply, SAMR is designed to provide a high-level gauge of the degree of technology used in learning activities and lesson units where as the TPACK model is designed to provide map for the integration of technology into classrooms more effectively. To read about SAMR please review the series of articles on our online educational journal that unpacks the SAMR model in detail.

The first level of TPACK is looking at each knowledge domain individually to understand what the focus on.

CK – CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

This can be very easily explained as “the WHAT” or your understanding and expertise of subject you specialise in. This could be an individual specialisation like music, arts, or physical education, or all the core curriculum areas like literacy, numeracy, science, and humanities. It is the knowledge, facts, concepts, and theories that are related to a specific discipline.

PK – PEDAGOGICAL KNOWLEDGE

This can be very easily explained as “the HOW” or the art and science of teaching itself. Including theories and models for teaching, pedagogical knowledge is about the understanding of how people learn and the different tools, theories, instructional designs, and strategies that teachers use to ensure that they are learning is effective to the student undertaking it. Pedagogical knowledge also includes methods of assessment, so not only is it for the transition or ‘consumption’ of knowledge but also the ability to assess if understanding has taken place, and the depth of understanding that has occurred.  A teachers understanding of a variety of pedagogical approaches will ensure that they can successfully design and implement effective learning experiences for the students in the class, tailored to the ways in which they learn.

The first two domains were based off American educational psychologist Lee S. Shulman’s study where he identified that “teaching at its best” lies at the intersection between a teachers Pedagogical Knowledge and Content or ‘Subject Matter” Knowledge intersection. Building upon this idea, education scholars Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehlr from Michigan State University in 2006, added a third domain of knowledge to bring Schulman’s method into the 21st century – Technological Knowledge.

TK – TECHNOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE

TK is the knowledge that the teacher has about the tools that are used to deliver effective teaching and learning in their classrooms. This includes how teachers select, use, and integrate technology into the delivery of content and curriculum in your lessons. TK also includes the assessment of quality of content that students access through the internet, software applications, games and other digital resources that are used for learning.

Now that we have an understanding the 3 knowledge domains and how they came about, we now can explore a brief overview of the second level of TPACK – intersection of 2 domains

PCK – PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

The intersection of the pedagogical and content domains, this knowledge is the specific knowledge that a teacher has in engaging students in learning that is specific to their own specialised content area. For example, a music teacher has specialised content knowledge around music theory and its application on an instrument, and as such, their knowledge and skill as a musician can allow them to tailor the pedagogical approach to either differentiate or scaffold the learning style to ensure a deeper learning experience and to assist the student to achieve a successful outcome.

TCK – TECHNOLOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

The intersection of Technology and Content knowledge explores how teachers and students have used technology in specific content or subject areas, like music, art, or science, for deep and lasting learning. Examples like this would explore the use of technology in the use of data collection, analysis, and presentation in a learning lesson. Application of the technological tools can help students deepen their inquiry and understanding within a lesson or unit of work.

While teachers have a need to bring their classrooms into the 21st century, there is an entire new layer of knowledge and expertise that is required to be able to do this effectively.

TPK – TECHNOLOGICAL PEDAGOGICAL KNOWLEDGE

This intersection is about how teachers choose and manage the technology being used by students in a lesson to achieve the learning intentions and outcomes. What tools will benefit their workflow and learning journey through the lesson? How can technology be used to share their work with others, fostering collaboration both in and out of the classroom and how can technology assist with the chain of feedback on the students progress to assist their development. The understanding of technology and how it intersects and interlocks with pedagogical decisions will assist teachers will advance a teachers practice.

Now that we have covered the first two levels of the TPACK framework, we can now explore the final stage, the TPACK model as whole…

TPACK – TECHNOLOGICAL, PEDAGOGICAL AND CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

The third and pivotal element of the TPACK framework is the centre area, where the 3 domains collide – the centre of the model which supports teachers understanding of how tools can enhance teaching and support students learning in more deeply and effectively. The core of TPACK is how students can use technology to dive deeper into the exploration of a topic, allowing them to develop they ways in which they display their knowledge and then connecting to source and experts outside of their classroom to validate their work and support their findings. This “dynamic interplay” of the 3 knowledge domains is TPACK and is argued to be the heart and soul of innovative teaching.

THE DOTTED FRAME

In any classroom and in any learning situation, regardless of where you are around the world, context is the key to ensuring that any framework or model fosters effective learning for students. The TPACK Model acknowledges this difference, symbolised by the dotted frame, it outlines how the TPACK framework applied in a classroom will change from one classroom to another, in the practical sense impacted by teacher and student skill, knowledge and ability, classroom and school climate, and available resources.

So how can you use TPACK?

This framework is designed to scaffold how you can build effective lessons for your students, starting with your content and pedagogy knowledge and then layering in technology

You can use TPACK as a basis for your professional practice review, to assess your own knowledge and understanding of the 3 key knowledge domains, Content, Pedagogy and Technology and identify areas of strength and weaknesses in your practice. Alternatively, you can use the TPACK framework to create professional learning communities (PLC’s) with other teachers to combine your strengths. This approach can allow you to create PLCs with members who have expertise in each domain, or across multiple domains, to ensure that the lessons you are creating are powerful, engaging, and effective. Too often student learning objectives are missed when lessons are designed around a piece of technology and lesson activities become more showcase and “fluff” then effective learning experiences. The TPACK framework reminds teachers that technology is just part of great teaching, an element that helps us achieve the learning outcomes we design for our students and that true innovation in education lies in the intersection between the 3 knowledge domains.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Now that we have formed an understanding of the framework and how it is designed to work, we will spend the next couple of articles unpacking examples of how TPACK is applied to the classroom, to help you have a better understanding of each stage and to model examples of how this can assist you and the learning that is happening in your own classroom.

Questions that can drive your exploration of the T-PACK framework and how it can impact the learning in your classroom

Q1

How can you use the TPACK model to reflect upon your own teaching practice? How can it be used to inform your Professional Development Plans and review documents?

Q2

In what ways has the exploration of the TPACK framework made you question the ways in which you are incorporating technology into your classroom and pedagogical practice?

Q3

Has this article, and in turn understanding the TPACK model changed the way in which you think about technology integration in your classroom? How?

Q4

What are some areas where the traditional method of teaching this lesson that could stretch and extend the students learning? By using a digital learning solution, can you use this framework to redesign the task to take the learning in a brand-new direction that extends the learning experience.

Q5

Could this framework assist others in your school / teams? How?

What is TPACK?
BY: Teaching Teachers for the Future

The TPACK Framework
By: TPACK.org

Image References
All images used in this document were created by the PAVE Academy for the purpose of publishing. 

SMART Learning Suite Online is getting a NEW NAME!

GENERAL NEWS

SMART Learning Suite Online is getting a NEW NAME!

For those of you who are users of the SMART Learning Suite, you will be aware that your annual subscription gives you access to the full version of SMART Notebook as well as access to the powerful online software SMART Learning Suite Online or SLSO and as of June 26th 2021, there is going to be a slight change to one of theses two elements – the SMART Learning Suite Online (SLSO)

In a press release that was emaikled to all SLSO users on Saturday the 29th of May, SMART finally acknowledged something that has been a little issue for all the users, the name of the online version. SMART Learning Suite Online was always a mouthful to say, and while SLSO was a lot easier, for new users to the platform, this acronym sometimes made it a little tricky to understand what was being talked about. With this in mind, SMART have decided to rebrand the SMART Learning Suite Online (SLSO) to:

In the press release, SMART goes on to tell us the meaning behind the new logo:

“The little firefly in the logo represents the luminescence, spark, and aha lightbulb moments the software is designed to enable your students and teachers.” 

So, from June 26th 2021, your SMART Learning Suite subscription will provide you with access to the following two amazingly powerful education software platforms

1 – SMART Notebook (downloadable software)

2 – Lumio (Online/cloud based learning platform)

*Note – The logos for SMART Learning Suite and SMART Notebook will not change, so the icons that identify the software that you have come to know and love will stay the same – the only element that is changing is the online version of the software. 

To try and assist teachers and schools with the transition, we have provided some questions and answers that may answer any concerns that you may have in the space below.

WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE MEAN TO MY SUBSCRIPTION?

In short… absolutely nothing. 

Currently, your SMART Learning Suite subscription provides you with access to the full version of SMART Notebook as well as access to SMART Learning Suite Online and as of June 26th this access will not change. You will still be able to download and unlock the full version of SMART Notebook as well as being able to sign onto your SMART Learning Suite Online account – the only difference will be the name on the SLSO page.

WILL THE RESOURCES, GAMES AND OTHER FEATURES IN SLSO CHANGE TOO?

No they wont. 

All the features that you know and love in the SLSO platform will stay the same. There will just be a new logo sitting at the top of the page.

DOES THIS MEAN I WILL NEED TO RESUBSCRIBE AT JUNE 26TH – EVEN IF MY SUBSCRIPTION IS DUE YET?

Absolutely NOT.

If you have a current subscription, it will just roll over into the new Lumio product. You will have the same digital classroom id and all your lesson files will be stored in your dashboard/account. 

The only differences will be:

  1. the logo that sits at the top will now be Lumio with the firefly
  2. when it comes to renewing your SMART Learning Suite license with Pro AV Solutions the language on the renewal notices will change from “accessing SLSO to accessing Lumio”

WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS MY SLSO/LUMIO ACCOUNT WITH OLD URL?

Yes you will.

If you have bookmarked the https://suite.smarttech-prod.com so that you can quickly and easily log into your SLSO account then don’t worry, this URL will still be active and you can use it to log into the new Lumio portal. 

DO THE STUDENTS STILL USE “WWW.HELLOSMART.COM” TO ACCESS MY DIGITAL ROOM?

Yes they do – this element of the platform has not changed.

For those of you who have been around long enough, you will realise that “hellosmart.com” was once called “classlab.com” and while SMART made the transition to “hellosmart” a few years ago the original classlab.com URL still works today – redirecting students to the hellosmart.com student access portal.

So, just to reiterate, the students access portal is exactly the same as it was.

WILL MY LOG IN DEATILS CHANGE?

No they wont.

The signing in process for Lumio is exactly the same, with the same usernames.

WILL THE HOME PAGE LOOK DIFFERENT?

Maybe…

While SMART haven’t said anything about this in their press release, we expect that when you type in suite.smarttech.com to sign in to your SLSO/Lumio account, there will most likely be some changes here. There will definitely be the new logo featured prominently on the page, and there may be some additional videos and resources that explain the change. 

We don’t think there will many changes to the dashboard when you log in. Outside of the new logo, the PAVE Academy expect the layout to be exactly the same. 

If you have a question about this transition that isn’t answered in this article, please reach out to our Education Specialist Ben Pisani on 0411 148 950 or ben.pisani@proav.com.au and he will answer all of your questions.

References

Transformation in Progress
Press Release dated Saturday 29th May 2021
By: SMART Technologies

SMART Learning Suite Online: 2021 Updates (Part 2)

GENERAL NEWS

SMART Learning Suite Online: 2021 Updates (Part 2)

Introduction

In our last blog article, we discussed 6 exciting new updates to the SMART Learning Suite Online platform that really transformed how teachers can use the platform, however as a pleasant surprise, SMART have graced us with some new additional updates that have increased the power of the platform even more, and we are going to discuss them here to give you the in-depth understanding of what they are and how they will help your teaching.

Before we begin, a quick recap on the 6 areas we covered in part 1 of our SLSO updates article:

  1. Explore Resources – a mini smart exchange in built right into the SLSO platform
  2. Words Search – a new game added to the online Game Based Learning tools
  3. Updates to existing games – including online image browsing and a zoom function allowing students to zoom into images that you use as elements of the games to get a better look!
  4. Shout it Out Updates – including adding a question text bar to the top of the screen so students can see the prompt and being able to customise the backgrounds of the note boards!
  5. Editing Handouts & Workspaces – previously, when you converted a page into t workspace or handout you were stuck with the choices that you made… well this is no longer the case as you can quickly and easily edit these tools.
  6. Training resources – along with the explore resources button, there is a new training button that allows you to access quick guide video resources to help you maximise your use of the platform.

If you would like to read up on these elements, please CLICK HERE

Now, without further ado, we will now discuss the second wave of new updates, updates that will transform the way that I, and other teachers will use the platform.

Importing Resources

This has been a very important element of the SLSO platform, as you have been able to import SMART Notebook, PowerPoint and PDF files directly into your SLSO dashboard, however the first element that I want to draw your attention to is the fact that you can now choose if you want to upload your resource from your local disk (your computer) or your library (SLSO dashboard) – yes that’s right, you can now import lessons from your SLSO library into a new lesson….

If you click on the green “ADD ACTIVITES” button on your SLSO dashboard you will see, as you have always seen, the Import Resources button, however when you click on this now, a drop-down menu will appear that gives you options as to what you want to import – a file from your computer or a SLSO lesson.

Importing from “Local Storage”

This element is not new, it just means that when you select this option you are uploading a file from your computer. This will open the file explorer or navigation window where you can navigate to the SMART Notebook, PowerPoint, or PDF file you want to upload to your SLSO dashboard like you have always done.

Importing from “My Library”

This is the new element to the update, and it will revolutionize how you use lessons in your SMART Learning Suite Online platform. 

When you click the “My Library” option in the import resources menu you will see a new window that lists all your SLSO lessons and shows their thumbnails. You can scroll through these to select the lesson that you want to import into your new lesson.

Once you select the lesson you want to import the SLSO platform will process the import and then show you another new screen, which allows you to select which pages from the SLSO lesson you want to import into your new lesson… Yes, you read that correctly, you can now import either a full lesson (all the sides/pages) or selected elements (games, slides, videos, anything) from one lesson into another! 

So, you no longer need to hunt for that YouTube video again or recreate that game, you can just import it from one lesson to another!

WHAT A TIME SAVER! But wait, it doesn’t stop there. 

The second element that is even more exciting is what you can do INSIDE your SLSO Lessons.

Editing your SLSO Lessons – Edit Mode

I don’t know about you, but when I have been building lessons in SLSO, or even when I import a Notebook or PowerPoint file, I have always wished that I could add a page or element from a different file. I found it frustrating that if I wanted to add a slide from a different notebook or that I had to recreate a game that I had used in a different SLSO lesson… well that frustration is NO MORE because the import resource is now available INSIDE lessons as well.

The process is exactly the same as what we discussed earlier in this article, but it means that I can import either elements from SMART Notebook, PowerPoint or PDF files into a lesson and add them to the work I have already completed OR I can take elements, including games and videos, from other SLSO lessons and use them in the lesson that I am working with or building.

The second small, but powerful update is what you can do for each slide in your lesson.

Editing your SLSO Lessons – Presentation Mode

This update is really powerful because you can now edit your lesson while you are in presentation mode. So, if you are teaching a session and you come across an element of your presentation that you want to change, you can do so quickly and easily.

Clicking the Hamburger icon in the top left-hand corner of the presentation screen will bring up a menu that will allow you to quickly jump into the “Edit Lesson” window where you can make changes. Once you have finished making your changes, the “Finish Editing” button at the top of the screen will take you back to your presentation view for your lesson.

Not only can you edit the lesson, but in this menu, you can also click on the share option which allows you to share the lesson with other teachers so they can use it in their classrooms, or create a student link which will allow them to access the lesson outside of the classroom. 

You can also use this menu to make a copy of the lesson or request a feature which is your direct pipeline to SMART about what you would like to see happen in the SLSO platform.  

The final update, which we are going to discuss in this article is one of the most awesome!

Have you ever been in a session where you get to a slide/page and you think, “man I should have made this a handout or workspace activity?” (remember a handout is an individual activity for students to complete on their devices and a workspace activity is a collaborative activity or shard document that a group of students work on collaboratively). Well now you can.

Clicking on the “people icon” where you would traditionally change the lesson pacing (teacher/student driven), have students connect to your classroom and see who was connected, now has the functionality of converting the page you are currently on into a handout or workspace activity.

So, no longer do you need to click into the edit mode and then create the activity, you can do it within seconds right in presentation mode. This conversion will trigger a change on the students’ devices which will allow them to click the Start button and then interact with the newly created activity within moments.

In Summary

While these updates may not be flashy new elements like a new game or the ability to customise your shout it outs, they have revolutionised the ways in which I, and other teachers are using the platform in their teaching. The ability to add files and elements of other SLSO lessons into my current lessons is amazing, not to mention the fact that we now can create handouts and workspaces on the fly. These elements transform this already amazing learning platform into the next realm

Questions that can drive your integration of the Modification into the learning in the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues

Q1

How am I/could I use the SMART Learning Suite to increase student engagement and digital literacy in my classroom?

Q2

How can the updates listed above improve my use of the SLSO in the learning that is occurring in my classroom?

Q3

What can I do now that I couldn’t do before and how will this change my approach to using this tool in my class?

Q4

What current lesson/unit of work could we explore using some of these updates to change the way in which I deliver learning in my classroom?

Q5

What are our current strengths and weaknesses as a team that would affect the roll out of our exploration of the SLSO and the elements listed above?

References
All images used in this article have been taken as screen shots from the PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online portal.

SMART Learning Suite Online:
Link: https://www.smarttech.com/smart-learning-suite/

2021 SLSO Updates:
Published by: SMART Technologies

Image References
All images used in this article have been taken as screen shots from the PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online portal.

SMART Learning Suite Online: 2021 Updates (Part 1)

GENERAL NEWS

SMART Learning Suite Online: 2021 Updates (Part 1)

2021 has seen the introduction of lots of new elements to the SMART Learning Suite Online platform. The first thing you will notice is a new look landing page. For those of you who have not used this solution before, the new landing page provides users with an overview of the platform as well as a variety of different references and resources. The new landing page also offers a brand-new feature for new users – a ‘freemium’ version. This new ‘fremium’ version gives teachers the opportunity to try out the SLSO platform, offering you all the elements of the software but with one small catch – only 50MB of lesson storage. This storage limitation will fill up quickly and will limit users to very few interactive lessons saved in the SLSO dashboard, but it is a great way to taste all the elements of this amazing platform. Teachers and schools who want to move from the ‘fremium’ version to the full version which places no limits on lesson storage they can purchase a license, which are available through the PAVE Academy and Pro AV Solutions.

In our article “SMART Learning Suite Online – a blended learning and hybrid classroom tool for teachers” we explored the power of this amazing education software and how it can help you create a powerful, engaging, and interactive hybrid and blended learning environment. However, in this article, we are going to unpack some of the exciting new developments and upgrades in this platform that can take your lessons to the next level.

#1 – Explore Resources

There is a new button which has been added to the top of the SLSO dashboard. The explore resources button takes teachers to a selection of ready-made resources which can be added to your dashboard with the simple click of a button. Embedding the power of the SMART Exchange directly in the SLSO platform, this section seems to take its design from the television streaming services which means that it is familiar and easy to navigate around. 4 collections (Distance Learning, Manipulatives, Emotional Literacy and Manage Your Classroom) are featured at the top of this section and clicking on these buttons will open folders that house resources shared by SMART Technologies and will soon have other resources shared by SMART affiliated teachers and associations. Underneath these 4 collections, there is a series of streams of subject related lessons covering elements like STEAM, Fractions, Reading/Writing, Multiplication, Sight Words/Phonics and Art/Music.

This new section is a great way to support new users and teachers with the idea that using the SLSO does not mean that you must start from scratch. The embedded tools allow you to engage with the platform in your classroom quickly while developing your understanding, skill, and confidence with this amazing tool. I highly recommend spending some time exploring the different tools that are available in this space, you will not be disappointed.

#2 – Word Search

The SLSO already has a great selection of engaging and interactive Game-Based Activities, but the 2021 updates see the addition of a Word Search or Word Find. Designed to reinforce vocabulary and spelling for any subject, the very easy to use game builder allows you to add 20 words into the game, adjust the grid size between 8 and 18 letters and control the level of difficulty from 3 levels (easy: vertical and horizontal words only / moderate: vertical, horizontal, and diagonal words / difficult: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and backwards words). There are also 4 themes or templates to choose from (future-bots, monsters, pirates and simple) which allow you some customisation as to the look of the game. In summary, this new game, coupled with the fantastic SLSO game building wizard will allow teachers to quickly and effortlessly build work search games which can be pushed out to their students’ devices.

#3 – Updates to existing games

The things that make SMART Technologies such a powerful force in the education sector is not only their ability to create effective products, but also their willingness to listen to feedback and recommendations that are provided by the teachers who use their products. With this as a key element of their movement forward, SMART responded to the recommendation from teachers and have improved some of their existing games to allow a deeper level of customisation.

In some of the games you have the ability to insert either words or images. In the games that allow you to use images, the new update provides you with the ability to either upload and image from your device or you can conduct a “Bing SafeSearch” directly from inside the game building wizard, making it easy to find the images that you require to help build or adjust the game for your students. The other element that is worth noting is that not only are you conducting a SafeSearch meaning that only appropriate content will be shown, but the search also accesses only creative commons images, meaning that you don’t have to worry about breaching any copyright laws with your games as only images that are licensed to be shared and reused for free will be shown.

The second upgrade is the ability to customise the theme that you are using. All the SMART Game-Based Activities came with a selection of themes which change the appearance for the students, however the new upgrade allows teachers to move away from the standard themes and create customised themes of their own. Available in most of the games in the SLSO Game-Based Activity suite, teachers can alter characteristics like backgrounds, edit text, change the layout, as well as card and icon images, allowing games to be customised and targeted towards the specific learning needs of the students in the classroom.

The third upgrade is based specifically around games that use images as their answers. Previously, images were quite small and at times were difficult to identify however the new 2021 update has added a zoom preview button allowing students to have a large preview of pictures within the game.  As shown on this card taken from a Music Symbol “Flip Out” game that I created, you can see the broken box icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the card. Clicking this button creates a larger screen preview of the image that was used, meaning that teachers can now use images in their questions and answers without having to worry about image size or legibility.

The fourth update to the existing SLSO games is the ability to add images to the questions used in Game Show and Speed Up. These great games have now been made even more powerful with the ability to customise questions to include images or text. Like the other image upgrades, teachers can either upload an image directly from their device or they can conduct a Binge SafeSearch directly from inside the game building wizard. The true beauty of these tools are that you do not have to choose just one or the other question type. Your Game Show and Speed Up games can bounce between text-based questions to image-based questions, giving you true flexibility with the interactive and engaging summative or formative assessment tools.

#4 – Shout It Out Updates

One of the favourite tools in the SLSO for teachers all over the world is the Shout it Out. This virtual sticky note tool allows you to capture student voice in your classroom quickly and easily. Now with fully customisable backgrounds, teachers can customise the look for their single or category screen shout it outs. Worried that there may be an inappropriate comment shared by a student, well this has been addressed too, allowing you to drag and drop these comments directly into the bin on the screen. The final upgrade to this amazing tool is one of the simplest yet something that transforms this interactive tool. By adding a simple question line to the top of the shout it out screen, students can have the catalyst on the screen for their constant referral during the activity.

#5 – Editing Handouts & Workspaces

One the elements that made SLSO so powerful was the fact that you could turn any page that you created or Notebook/PowerPoint/PDF file that you uploaded into a digital handout or collaborative workspace for students to access and engage with on their devices, however in the past once you had ‘converted’ a page into a handout of workspace you couldn’t edit any elements in the activity… well that is no longer the case. The 2021 updates have now given teachers the ability to go back and edit their Handouts & Workspace activities meaning that you can continue to reuse lessons and activities well into the future without fear of the inability for editing and future customisation.

It is worth noting however, that if you edit the activity, you are changing the page from an activity back to a ‘normal page’ which allows you to conduct any editing that is required. This action means that you will lose any activity results or responses that may have been submitted by students in the past. While editing the activity does remove the interactive layer to the activity, it does not remove any elements that you had previously added to the activity, meaning that any images, text, or infinite cloner tools that were used will still be available.

A few other simple but effective updates to the Handout and Workspaces tools are that there has been the addition of a ‘preview’ button, allowing teachers to view the handout before pushing it out to students. In addition, there has been a quick view addition made to the background of the activity, providing teachers which a quick glance view of the activity (if you look at the image above you will see the background is a sample of the activity page).

#6 – Training

The final update that we will discuss in this article is the addition of the training button, added to the top of the SLSO dashboard. Here you will find quick reference assistance for using different elements of this educational software. Great for a quick reference guide to ensure you are able to achieve what you are after for your lesson; these videos and resources will walk you through building the tools and interactive elements you need.

Don’t forget that the PAVE Academy also has a variety of different on demand courses available for you to access, specifically around the use of the SMART Learning Suite and the elements in the SLSO platform. These free courses, all mapped against AITSL standards, will provide you with resources, how to guides as well as give you a certificate of completion which you can use as evidence for your professional development requirements for your annual teacher registrations. Go to https://www.paveacademy.com.au/learning-academy/ for more information.

 

In summary:

While these 6 updates are taking an already powerful educational software and making it even more valuable to teachers all over the world, the best thing about these updates for me, is that most if not all of them came directly from the feedback provided to SMART by teachers. This shows me that SMART are not only dedicated to creating great classroom digital education resources but are honouring their ethos of listening to the teachers and using their advice and expertise to continually update and improve their products.

If you would like to explore the SMART Learning Suite Online (SLSO) platform I suggest you read our other article on the SMART Learning Suite and then check out the fremium version so you can see exactly what it can do. If you would like to purchase an unrestricted license for either yourself or your school, please use the contact us page to explore how we can assist you.

Questions that can drive professional discussion with your teams and colleagues in meetings and workshops.

Q1

How am I/could I use the SMART Learning Suite to increase student engagement and digital literacy in my classroom?

Q2

How can the updates listed above improve my use of the SLSO in the learning that is occurring in my classroom?

Q3

What can I do now that I couldn’t do before and how will this change my approach to using this tool in my class?

Q4

What current lesson/unit of work could we explore using some of these updates to change the way in which I deliver learning in my classroom?

Q5

What are our current strengths and weaknesses as a team that would affect the roll out of our exploration of the SLSO and the elements listed above?

References

SMART Learning Suite Online
By: SMART Technologies

2021 SMART Learning Suite Online Updates
By: SMART Technologies

Image References

All images used in this article have been taken directly from PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online Account.

Lumio by SMART- a blended learning and hybrid classroom tool for teachers

BLDENDED LEARNING & HYBRID CLASSROOMS

Lumio by SMART: a Blended Learning & Hybrid Classroom tool for teachers!

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

In our last article we unpacked the differences between hybrid classrooms and blended learning and developed an understanding around how these two approaches to digital learning differ (if you did not get a chance to read the article please go back and take a look because it can make your movement forward into the blended learning environment much easier). In this article, we are going to explore a specific tool that can be used both for Blended Learning and Hybrid Classrooms – a powerful tool that will drive your success in this pedagogical area – the SLSO or the SMART Learning Suite Online.

The SMART Learning Suite Online, or as it is otherwise known as the SLSO, is a relatively new instalment from SMART Technologies as a part of their SMART Learning Suite, and specifically the SMART Notebook software. A powerful interactive learning software on its own, SMART Notebook has been around for many, many years and has provided millions of teachers around the world with the tools to be able to create highly engaging and interactive lessons that can be driven directly from their front of classroom SMART Board interactive screens. However, in 2017, SMART Technologies shifted their focus from the downloadable NOTBOOK software and launched the SMART Learning Suite Online platform, a cloud-based platform that extended student and classroom engagement from their front of classroom displays to the student’s individual devices. No by no means has this shift in focus meant that SMART is no longer supporting or developing their Notebook software, in fact this is far from the case, this shift into the cloud-based platform was designed to enable teachers to effectively engage in interactivity in a ‘blended learning’ environment, and if I am honest, I think that this is one of the best blended learning tools available for teachers today. Why you ask? Well, let us unpack the SLSO in stages and you can see for yourself.

Accessing and using the SLSO:

The first thing that makes the SLSO so beneficial is the way in which students and teachers access the digital classroom space. In the following section of this article we are going to unpack the different ways in which you can access the SLSO and how teachers can use this tool to develop powerful interactive lessons. 

Teacher Access:

As the SLSO is a cloud-based platform, this means that all teachers need to create highly engaging and interactive lessons for their students is an internet connection, access to an internet browser and a SLSO license (we will unpack that a little more later).  

Logging onto the platform is easy, all you need to do is go to suite.smarttech-prod.com, click on the ‘sign in’ button and using your school email, you gain access to a easy to use dashboard where you can access a variety of different learning tools and elements.

Once you are logged into the dashboard it is easy to start developing lessons and creating interactive activities for your students. 

The big green “+” button (shown on the image above) allows you to access a variety of different lesson tools that you can use quickly in your classroom, tools and activities that we are now going to briefly overview:

1: IMPORT RESOURCE – this tool allows you to upload any existing lesson content quickly and easily you may have developed as a PowerPoint, PDF or SMART Notebook file straight into the SLSO platform. Once uploaded the lesson appears in a “slide deck” format which you can edit or add SLSO learning elements into the lesson and then instantly delivery to the students in your class.

2: YOUTUBE – this tool allows you to search for and publish YouTube videos directly in the SLSO platform. The YouTube search is called a “white hat” search which means that it filters out any inappropriate content and also strips off any ads or banners that appear in the videos. This tool also plays the video in the SLSO app meaning that students are not redirected to the YouTube app in the lesson which can prevent any detours is engagement and focus – a very useful tool for showing videos to your students.

3: NEW PAGE – this tool allows you to add blank pages which you can build in the SLSO platform by adding images, text and other tools.

4: SHOUT IT OUT – one of SMART’s brilliant student voice and engagement tools, you can quickly create an interactive student activity that captures their voice, ideas and opinions and shares them with the entire class.

5: RESPONSE – a formative or summative assessment tool, this element allows you to create interactive quizzes and assessments that can not only test your students understanding, but when set up correctly, can mark the work for you, provide the students with instant feedback as well as give you a spreadsheet of data and results to export for reflection and future planning.

6: GAME BASED ACTIVITES – is another of SMART’s brilliant assessment tools. Highly interactive and easily customised games, there are currently 11 games available to insert into your lessons to increase student engagement while triggering a variety of different teaching and learning strategies.

7: READY MADE RESOURCES – these tools have been developed by SMART for teachers to drop quickly into their lessons. Divided into 4 categories (Activating Prior Knowledge, Questioning & Reflecting, Graphic Organisers & Manipulatives), these tools can help teachers create powerful interactive learning activities for their students.

Please Note : To assist teachers with their use of the SLSO platform, the PAVE Academy have developed a series of on-demand courses that focus on the the Game Based Activities, Shout it Out and Ready Made Resources in the SLSO. These courses are all available for teachers and educators to access through the Learning Academy element of the PAVE Website – all you need to do is register to become a member of the website using your school or government issued email address and then you are ready to access and explore these resources – all free of charge!

The other key element that is available for teachers is the explore resources button at the top of the SLSO Dashboard.

This resource provides teachers with a wide variety of different pre-made resources which they can add into their classrooms quickly and effortlessly.

Divided into 4 categories Distance Learning, Manipulatives, Emotional Literacy amd Managing your classroom or presented in “streams” or “feeds”, teachers can browse through the catalogue of predesigned tools that can be quickly and easily added into your lessons. All in all, the SLSO dashboard is a very powerful and user-friendly digital teaching platform that is designed specifically for teachers to ensure their ease of use and access.

The big kicker for this learning platform, for me, is the HANDOUT and WORKSPACE elements. The SLSO platform allows you to quickly and easily turn any page of your digital class presentation into either an individual student HANDOUT or a group collaborative activity called a WORKSPACE by just clicking the option at the bottom of your slide.

Once you have made this conversion the students can interact on their own devices directly with each activity… but to help you get a better understanding of these amazing, blended learning and hybrid classroom tools, I will unpack each of these elements separately:

HANDOUTS:

Let’s say you have a PDF of a worksheet that you usually print out and give to each student to complete. The SLSO allows you to upload this PDF and convert it into a HANDOUT.

 This handout, embedded into your digital SLSO lesson, can be accessed by each student on their own device and completed using either a writing/pen tools, a text tool or by searching for and adding images from their devise directly into the handout.

Students click the START Button their devices and then they start working through the activity individually. Teachers have the ability to view the students work in real-time from either the front of classroom display or their own device and can provide feedback which will appear in real time directly on the students’ screen. Teachers can also skip from one student work to another allowing them to keep tabs on how engaged the students are with the activity. The added bonus to this is there is also a “teacher version” which allows you to bring up a clean version on the front of classroom display so you can teach the answers or explain the process without showing students work to the entire class.

WORKSPACES:

Another common experience is a collaborative activity that you may have designed and saved as a PDF, which you then print out and give to students to work in groups to complete. Well the SLSO platform allows you to upload that collaborative PDF activity to your dashboard, convert it to a workspace and then push it out to students to work in groups. When you activate the activity in the lesson, the SLSO workspace wizard prompts you to choose how many groups you want to have in the session (or if you want the entire class to work on the same task) and then auto-populates the group members for you.

You can customise the group members and move them around as you require and then once you activate the activity, the students can start interacting with the members of their groups on their own devices with each person’s work updating in real-time on their screen. Like the handout activity, teachers can switch between groups to see what they are doing with real-time updates on either the front of class display or their own laptop. Teachers can also include feedback to the group to help direct their continued work on the activity.

There is also a “teacher version” which is a clean activity which can be used to further explain the task and/or teach the answer without having to broadcast a groups work to the class. This truly digital collaborative learning tool cannot only provide you with highly engaging content for your lessons, but it can also save you time and budget by cutting down on the amount of printing and paper that you are using in your lessons.

Hopefully, you can see why I think these two elements are such an important element of the SLSO platform, but the benefits don’t end there…

Student Access:

The other HUGE benefit of being a cloud-based platform, is that with each SLSO license, a teacher gets a unique digital classroom code, which students can connect to through the hellosmart.com portal. Accessible through an internet browser, and yes you read that correctly – there is no need to download any special application just a standard internet browser.

All students need to do to access your digital classroom is go to www.hellosmart.com and either sign in (using their school Microsoft or Google email account) or join as a guest. The difference between these two systems is that if a student signs in to the system you can track their engagement and work, whereas joining as guest is only session by session based. Once they have chosen their signing in method, all they need to do is enter in your unique digital classroom number which is given to you at the top of your SLSO dashboard:  and then they are connected to your lesson.  

Once they are connected, each student can use their personal device to:

  • See the lesson content you are presenting on the front of classroom screen
  • Play the games and answer the response activities you set in the lesson
  • Engage in classroom discussions through the shout it out activity
  • Watch YouTube videos you embedded into the lesson without leaving the SLSO platform
  • Complete handout and workspace activities
  • Move from one slide to another – once the lesson has been changed from teacher to student driven – so that they can personalise their learning journey.

There are a huge number of benefits for both the teachers and the students for using a tool like SMART Learning Suite Online in your teaching. It allows the lesson to be completely interactive from all seats in the class, and it gives teachers the opportunity to differentiate the ways in which they are delivering content and students are engaging in the learning that is occurring. It allows teachers to move between student paced and teacher paced learning while allowing them to access a wide variety of digital tools which can help students gain a stronger understanding of the concepts they are learning.

SMART Learning Suite Online is truly one of the powerhouses with regards to classroom blended learning activities!

How do I gain access to the SLSO platform?

SMART Learning Suite Online is a paid license service that is embedded as a part of the SMART Learning Suite which also includes the SMART Notebook and SMART Ink Software programs. This blended learning works through individual licenses which are purchased by individuals or schools and are provisioned against individual teacher email addresses. Once this provisioning has occurred in the SMART Admin portal, the teacher is free to log onto the SMART Learning Suite Online platform or to download the SMART Notebook Software and log into the account menu tab to unlock the full capabilities of the software.

Having said all that, SMART do offer teachers the opportunity to try the SMART Learning Suite Online platform for a free, but it comes with limitations to the amount of lesson storage that you have. You can also download the SMART Notebook Basic software from the SMART website, which is a free version of their popular interactive teaching software. While the basic version of the software does have some of the premium elements stripped out, it, like the free access to the SLSO platform  can provide you with a great example of the powerful tools that can be available for you in your teaching.

Licenses can be issued as 1, 2 or 3 year lengths and they can be purchased through Pro AV Solutions and the PAVE Academy as we are premium SMART Technology resellers and work closely with the SMART Technology ANZ team. If you would like to explore using the SMART Learning Suite Online platform in your teaching, please feel free to contact us to explore how we can assist you with your license purchases.

5 Questions that can drive your thinking around blended learning and hybrid classroom tools that can spark professional discussions with your colleagues

Q1

What blended learning or hybrid classroom tools are we currently using in our teaching practice?

Q2

What of the tools listed above excited us and could really make powerful changes in our students learning?

Q3

What benefits to our students could the blended learning experience bring?

Q4

What current lesson/unit of work could we explore using a blended method?

Q5

What are our current strengths and weaknesses, as a team, that would effect the roll out of our exploration of blended learning or hybrid classrooms in our practice?

Please Note : To assist teachers with their use of the SLSO platform, the PAVE Academy have developed a series of on-demand courses that focus on the the Game Based Activities, Shout it Out and Ready Made Resources in the SLSO. These courses are all available for teachers and educators to access through the Learning Academy element of the PAVE Website – all you need to do is register to become a member of the website using your school or government issued email address and then you are ready to access and explore these resources – all free of charge!

References

SMART Learning Suite Online:
Link: https://www.smarttech.com/smart-learning-suite/

Blended Learning:
Link: https://www.smarttech.com/en/blended-learning

Blended Learning with SMART:
Published by: SMART Technologies

Image References

All images used in this article have been taken directly from PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online Account.

Blended Learning & Hybrid Classrooms – what are they?

CLASSROM DIGITAL PEDAGOGY

Blended Learning & Hybrid Classrooms: what are they?

By: The PAVE Academy

2020 was a challenging year on many fronts, especially for those working in the education sector. Overnight, teachers in Victoria found themselves shifting their lessons into the digital space, and while some were able to do this quite easily, for others and dare I say most teachers, this posed quite a challenge. Some may think that moving the learning from a classroom to the digital space on the surface seems like not such a big deal, students will log into a Webex, Zoom, Google or Microsoft Teams session, the teacher will share their screen and off they go… but as any teacher will tell you, things are not that easy. While the above scenario may be true for a year 12 student who has the maturity to be able to take responsibility for their own connection, there are many other factors that go into the learning dynamic of a classroom. Factor in young primary aged students at the beginning of their schooling journey who are not developmentally ready to be responsible enough for their own learning? Or the students who are disconnected from school and struggle to be motivated to learn? Or the students who don’t have the financial support to be able to afford a device let alone a stable and unlimited internet connection? Or the student who has learning difficulties and requires additional supports to assist them with their learning? Or… and the list goes on and on. In truth, the modern-day classroom is made up of such a wide variety of different learning needs that the overnight transition into the virtual space provided teachers and schools with a world of issues and problems, problems that, in some part, were ironed out and solved as time went on which not only improved the learning experience for teachers and students but also opened the door for the next evolution of education in Australia, blended learning and the hybrid classroom.

If COVID-19 brought anything to the forefront of the education sector, it is that the future of education can leverage the hybrid or blended learning realm, but what is that exactly? Well while these two terms share some commonality, there are some distinct differences between these two terms that we must understand.

What is a Hybrid Classroom?

A hybrid classroom, sometimes called a ‘hyflex classroom” combines the idea of having students live or face-to-face in the classroom with students who are connected virtually.  There are many different takes on what a hybrid classroom actually looks like, and schools are starting to define this term in ways that best suits their needs and the needs of their students. Some schools are combining face-to-face interaction with a virtual interaction simultaneously, having some students live in the room while other students dial in virtually to experience the lesson from their home. This option provides students to access the learning regardless of their geographical location, but in times like we are experiencing now, it allows teachers to control the number of students in one physical learning space at a time. 

Another option is a variation of the scenario explained above, creating a roster for students to alternate between face-to-face and virtual attendance, giving all students access to both styles of learning balancing that with COVID-19 protocols and safety measures. Some schools are exploring mixing or rotating the two learning methods, having some elements run in the virtual space, like explicit teaching or lecture styles presentations with face-to-face workshop style learning events, meaning that students alternate between working from home and coming into school in response to the style and/or delivery of the learning that is occurring. Regardless of the “version” of a hybrid classroom, there are a series of pros and cons that this approach raises, and which need to be considered as we move forward.

Let’s take a look at some positive elements of hybrid classrooms as well as some drawbacks to understand both sides of the issue:

Some positives to Hybrid classrooms:

Flexibility

The one key benefit to the hybrid classroom is flexibility. You can schedule and timetable lessons more easily than you can in the face-to-face environment with restrictions like room bookings/size/location all becoming irrelevant. In addition to this, the flexibility allows students to manage their time more effectively, arranging classes and lessons around their other responsibilities.

Adapting for Diverse Learning Styles

The hybrid classroom can allow schools and teacher to adapt their delivery for the diverse learning needs of students in their classroom. For example, the virtual learning space can assist students with anxiety issues, allowing them to engage in a lesson free from the pressures of sitting in a classroom with other students. Or a student with auditory processing difficulties could benefit from the ability to stop, rewind and re-watch elements of a recorded virtual session, or visual learners can pause the session to study slides or elements of the presentations. Combining that with the more traditional, face-to-face elements of the classroom, we can ensure that the learning needs of all students are catered for and supported.

Transitioning students for their future pathways

Many tertiary institutions are moving into the online learning space, especially for their lectures, and as such having students experience this style of learning in their secondary years through the hybrid learning environment will prepare them for the learning that may lie ahead of them in a supported environment.

Keeping students “up to date” when they are unable to attend school

One of the biggest challenges for teachers is catching up students who missed school due to absences. Some students who were ill fall behind quite quickly and can miss the core elements of the ideas, skills and knowledge that were taught while they are absent from school. The hybrid classroom can allow them to either watch the learning from home and participate if they are able, or it can provide them with a recording to be able to watch at a later date to ensure that they don’t miss out on the key ideas being taught during their absence. While this will never be a replacement for the learning that takes place in the group, the ability for students to see what they have missed and witness the discussion that occurred in the lesson will make their ability to “catch up” a lot easier while also taking the pressure off the teacher to ensure that the “missing elements” in their learning are filled.

 

Some drawbacks to Hybrid Classrooms:

Students require a sense of responsibility, self-drive and organisation

The big drawback to the hybrid classroom is the need for students to have a sense of responsibility, self-drive and organisation. This means that students need to take responsibility to log on to the lesson at the correct time and to not be distracted by elements outside of the learning, and these are huge challenges that teachers faced during the COVID-19 remote learning experience. To be effective in this space students need to have a level of maturity that allows them to ‘step-up’ and do what is required of them when it is required of them…

Limitation of student technology

Regardless of how ‘cheap’ technology is becoming, there are still a large group of students who do not have access to appropriate levels of technology or internet connection that will allow their complete and effective engagement in the hybrid classroom. Students require reliable internet access as well as devices that can not only process the audio and video stream but also allows them to interact and engage simultaneously, and unfortunately this is not always the case due to geographic or economic reasons.

Are teachers and schools ready?

For the hybrid classroom to be effective, both the teachers and schools need to be ready to make drastic changes in the delivery of their lessons, their administration tasks and their pedagogical approaches to the students learning. To do this schools will need to make investments in software and hardware to ensure the teachers can effectively do their jobs and the students can complete the learning. Teachers need to rethink the ways in which they deliver content, tailor and structure lessons and how the students demonstrate their knowledge. Assessments may need to be redesigned to ensure that the work can be authenticated as the students’ own. For schools to move forward with this method of learning, there needs to be processes and plans implemented to ensure the learning is powerful and effective.

Loss of personal interaction

While there are huge benefits to flexibility and use of time, there is one huge loss to moving learning into the virtual space, and that is the physical contact and interactions when working with people in the face-to-face environment. Those incidental conversations that occur when people are working together, those nuances that are picked up about a person’s personality that come from being in the same physical space, the relationships that are built from these interactions struggle to be replicated in the virtual environment and can be a huge loss for the learning as well as the students’ development.

If you look over the positives and drawbacks above, you will see that there are strong arguments for both sides. Regardless of where you fall in this debate, it is safe to say that in the post-covid era, the hybrid classroom will be something that is talked about for years to come and is an area that a variety of schools and institutions are actively exploring.

What is a Blended Learning?

If you think about your teaching practice, you use a combination of different teaching approaches, activities and resources that were designed to assist students with their development and learning. From instructional teaching models, paper-based assessments and activities to online tools, digital games, and websites as well as video, audio and research. Theoretically, these tools, when used in combination for the delivery of a student’s education is called Blended Learning. While this may be the core understanding of blended learning, the concept of blended learning differs slightly from place to place which can make the idea of blended learning a little ambiguous.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training state that ‘blended learning refers to the planned implementation of a learning model that integrates student-centred, traditional in-class learning with other flexible learning methodologies using mobile and web-based online (especially collaborative) approaches in order to realise strategic advantages for the education system[i] while the Tasmanian Department of Education e-School defines blended learning as ‘a range of learning opportunities, e.g. online, face-to-face, community and home to achieve curriculum diversity and promote student enthusiasm.’[ii] The Australian National Training Authority state that blended learning is ‘the integrated combination of traditional learning with web-based online approaches’[iii] and the United States of Americas International Association for K-12 Online Learning states blended learning combines online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to

personalise learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student to student across a diverse group of learners.‟[iv] In short, it could be said that blended learning is the idea of face-to-face or in-class learning supplemented by digital activities designed to strengthen a student’s understanding as per the design of the teacher or teachers who planned and developed the lesson.

For some, the blended learning approach may be a regular occurrence in your teaching practice, for others, the concept can pose a selection of challenges but wherever you stand, the concept of blended learning tasks are ones that will be pervasive in the movement forward for student’s education. It will change the ways in which teachers plan, design, deliver and assess student learning that is occurring in the classroom.

 

[i] Blended Learning: a synthesis of research findings in Victorian Education 2006-2011, By: Department of Education & Training Victoria, pg6
[ii] ibid
[iii] op.cit.
[iv] op.cit.

What is the difference between the two?

While they do seem similar, there are subtle differences that must be outlined for these methods of learning to be successful.

In short, blended learning is the mix or combination of online and offline resources used to teach a student in a unit of work or module or assess their understanding, the mix of physical and digital learning tools used to facilitate the learning.

Hybrid classrooms are an educational approach to the way in which the learning is experienced, with some students engaging in the learning in a face-to-face classroom while others engage in the learning through a video conferencing system.  

While both approaches mix physical and virtual learning, it is worth noting the key difference between the two is that in the hybrid classroom, the physical and virtual students are different people, experiencing the learning in the different ways, whereas with the blended learning approach, an individual person experiences different methods (physical and virtual) of learning in a lesson.

So why did we spend time unpacking these two ideas today? Why is it important that we understand their differences and what does it mean to your teaching? Well, if COVID-19 and the year 2020 taught us anything, it is that technology is going to play a much bigger role in the delivery of education in the future. Be it more lockdowns with remote learning situations or the blurring of our classroom walls to have one teacher engaging with students from a wide variety of locations, how we leverage technology is going to have a significant impact on our movement forward. A wave of change that we can ride, by understanding the key ideas and changing our thinking around how we can develop our pedagogical approaches, or a wave of change that can pull us into its undertow and makes it difficult for us to come up for breath.

Questions that can drive your integration of the Modification into the learning in the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues

Q1

Have I created a blended learning environment for the students in my classroom?

Q2

What digital tools am I using that support individualised and student-centred learning?

Q3

How did I find the “remote classroom teaching experience”?

Q4

How did the 2020 remote learning experience change my thinking about my approach to learning in my classroom?

Q5

What areas would I need to improve on to ensure the hybrid learning environment was a success in my classroom in the future?

References

What is the hybrid classroom?

By: Catchbox

Image References

Image 1: https://www.bridgeteksolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Hybrid-Learning.png

Image 2: https://elearning.adobe.com/files/2018/11/1031477.png

Gamification & GBL – Tools for Teachers​ (Part 2)

CLASSROM DIGITAL PEDAGOGY

Gamification & Game-Based Learning - Tools for Teachers (Part 2)

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

We are going to continue our exploration of Gamification and Game-Based Learning (GBL) activities that you can use in the classroom. Our first article in this collection discussed 4 SMART Learning Suite GBL Activities (Fill in the Blanks, Game Show, Match Em Up & Monster Quiz) and how they can be used in the classroom. As there are currently a total of 11 activities in the SMART Learning Suite, we will explore the remaining 7 in this article and unpack how they can be used to engage students in assessment tasks but also provide teachers with powerful data that can inform your future directions for the learning in your classroom.

Game-Based Learning activities are highly engaging and entertaining for all ages, getting people actively engaging with each other, negotiating, planning, critically-thinking, analysing, and most of all strategizing, all very powerful learning skills. The added benefit of GBL activities in the classroom is that with the students engaged with the task and the learning, classroom management becomes a non-issue, with even the most challenging students disconnecting themselves from their regular behavioral patterns and focusing on the learning. With that in mind, I encourage all teachers, whether you have used GBL in the classroom before or not, to seriously consider incorporating GBL into the regular planning of your classes, because if done effectively, and with the right tools, you will not only see a huge improvement in the student’s engagement in your class, but you will also see improvement in the students learning outcomes. So, we will continue exploring the GBL tools available in the SMART Learning Suite with the intent to give you enough of an overview so that you can make the informed decision as to whether these tools are the right ones that will help you achieve the learning intentions that you are working towards.

Like the games that we discussed in the last article, these SMART GBL Activities can be accessed either at the SMART Board or on the student devices by connecting to your digital classroom through the hellosmart.com internet portal.

Game 5 - Flip Out

Flip Out is a great game for students to improve their recall, vocabulary, and one-to-one correspondence skills. This game allows students to see cards on the screen that can have words or pictures on them. They then identify associations to those terms/images and then click the card to reveal the answers. A fantastic tool for assessment revision, or for learning associations between symbols/images and names, or words between different languages, the use for the Flip Out game can be endless. As you can see in this example, I have created a game that students use to recognise the different symbols and notes used in music, designed so they can learn their correct names. The other added benefit is that it provides the students with an opportunity to self-reflect and assess their understanding and identify weaknesses that need future improvement.

The game wizard makes building this game quick and easy. Add images or text to each column, choose your theme and then publish the game – it’s that simple. You will have no problems building and delivering this game to the students in your class and you may even find that it becomes a staple resource to use for developing this element of your students’ learning.

Game 6 - Label Reveal

Much like Flip Out, Label Reveal is designed to help students with recall, memory, and deduction by having them name different parts of an image. Whereas Flip Out has images or text on a card that is turned over, Label Reveal has teachers identify different elements of an image that they want students to identify and then click on the areas to reveal those names. The added benefit is that not only does this game allow students to identify names, but teachers can also include short descriptions. Students engage with the task by clicking on the “?” to reveal the label. If a description has been added to the label a “+” will appear which can be revealed as a second stage to the action. Perfect for students who need to learn components of a whole and summarise what those elements do, this interactive recall game can induce student’s self-assessment and reflective actions which can foster positive growth.

If you have access to a digital image/photo you can easily upload it to the game and add labels and descriptions. Using the game building wizard, you can quickly and easily upload an image and then start adding in labels and their descriptions. You have a total of 10 labels that you can add to any image and you control where you place the descriptions by dragging them around the window – a fantastic tool to help with any content area at any year level.

Game 7 - Rank Order

Do you have a lesson where students are required to learn a sequence? Rank Order is a great game that allows students to develop skills in education, comparison, and sequencing. With a variety of different fun themes, students can use Rank Order to explore their learning around sequences in the coursework. The added bonus to this game is that you can trigger Metacognitive Strategies using feedback. The game building wizard gives you the opportunity to choose when in the gameplay students receive feedback. If they receive the feedback instantly, wrong answers will shoot out of the “answer zone” and back into the “option pool”. This action will have students thinking about why their choice was wrong and then using what they learn from that instant feedback to inform how they move forward with the learning task. However, if you choose to have the feedback shown at the end of the task, students can self-reflect upon the actions that they took while playing the game and then use that reflection to inform choices that they make when they make required adjustments to achieve the correct order. Either way, these Metacognitive Strategies can deepen the learning experience and help students evaluate the decision-making process they undertake when completing such a task.

Once again, the activity building wizard is a user-friendly tool that allows you to quickly add text or images in their correct order. Once this information has been input into the wizard, choose the point where students receive feedback (through the check answers section), choose the theme and you are good to go. Some themes, like the basketball theme will have animations that enhance the feedback when “instantly” is selected in the check answers section.

For example, when using the Basketball theme, when an answer is put in the correct location the shooter makes the basket, whereas when an incorrect answer is placed in the wrong location, the shooter misses the goal. This can be an effective way of softening a “blow” when students receive an incorrect answer, especially those who might need a little bit of support and nurturing when they are attempting assessments like this.

Game 8 - Memory Match

This fun game allows students to play solo or in pairs, and they are required to turn over cards to find matching pairs. The key difference is that you can personalise what are on the backs of each card for students to pair up. You can have students’ pair 2 of the same images, or pair an image with its name in text, or as you can see in the example I have provided, have students pair elements with the symbols that represent them on the periodic table.

A familiar activity building wizard for those who have used Match Em Up and Rank Order games, the wizard requires you to add text or images into a table and then match the correct answers up. There is no theme variation on this game, with the traditional animal cards being used, but it is a game that will surely get all students, regardless of their age-fighting to find all the pairs.

Game 9 & 10 - Speed Up, and Team Quiz

These two games are very similar, with just slight variations in the game play separating these two games. Like Game Show and Monster Quiz (that we covered in our last article), these two games are quiz-based tools that can be used as formative or summative assessment tasks in the classroom. The activity building wizard allows you to input true/false or multiple-choice answers with no limit as to how many you use. The major difference between these two games, other than their look is how they are played.

Speed Up has characters zooming around a track in a “car race” style game. Up to 4 people can play at a time and they have pods at the bottom of their screen that allows them to select the correct answer by pressing the A, B, C, D button as well as pressing the “zoom” button to give their character a power boost when driving between questions. The premise is that the person who answers correctly and the fastest gets more power boost for their character and crosses the finish line first.

A great game to play either at the board or on student devices, this game gets students focusing on the learning that has happened in the classroom, reflecting on their understanding, and making quick decisions. The interesting element of this game is the way in which feedback is issued.

If the students answer incorrectly their character ‘spins out’ which slows them down in the overall race. While there is no allocation for students to attempt the question again, like in other quiz-based games, it does provide a chance for reflection at the end of the game where the analysis of responses is provided. This is a great opportunity for teachers to unpack the process that students took when answering the questions.

Team Quiz is a game that is best played with student devices. Students are divided into groups and they work collaboratively to answer questions that colors in their team’s colored icon. The first team to successfully complete their colored icon, by answering all the questions correctly is awarded the win. The key benefit to this game is that students are working on their own devices to answer questions while being a part of a team.

The gameplay and the layout are pretty much the same as Monster Quiz, with the only difference being you are trying to color in your team icon instead of breaking your monster out of a crate/enclosure. 

Having said that, this is still a fantastic assessment tool that you can use for both formative and summative assessment tasks, and not only will it get students engaged in the assessment process, but it will also provide you with data that can be used for analysis for your future teaching.

Game 11 - Super Sport

The final game in our SMART GBL Activity collection is the Super Sort. A game that develops students’ understanding of classification, grouping, and logical thinking, this game sees students take elements (either text based or images) and sort them into groups. The interactive element of this game provides students with instant feedback that either reinforces their decisions or makes them think about the choice that they made and why it might be wrong. There are a variety of different themes to choose from which are all fun, with special mentions going out to the knight vs dragon and rock concert themes, but if I am honest, my favorite is the pirate theme – 2 ships firing cannons at each other, for correct answers, and cannons backfiring when the answers are incorrect.

Like Rank Order, Match Em Up, and Memory Match, the game builder is the familiar and user-friendly table-based tool where you can add images and/or pictures to the category table. This is then used to populate the answer options and provide feedback on correct and incorrect answers. A fantastic tool that students of all ages will find fun and engaging while providing them with valuable experience in applying their knowledge and feedback on how they are using it.

The 7 games that we have discussed in this article, coupled with the 4 we covered in the previous article can be accessed through the SMART Learning Suite Online platform as well as the SMART Notebook software. Students can engage either at the SMART Board at the front of the classroom or these games can be pushed to the student’s personal devices for personal or small group interaction. To explore these games, you can visit the link below and sign up for a free trial. Once your trial has expired, please reach out to us at the PAVE Academy or to our parent company Pro AV Solutions to explore how you and the teachers at your school can access a license for these games as well as the other amazing tools that are a part of the SMART Learning Suite platform.
In our next article, we will explore some other game-based tools that are not SMART related, that can be really powerful for your classroom. Stay tuned!

Questions that can drive your integration of Gamification and Game-Based Learning into the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues.

Q1

What am I doing in my current teaching practice that is the gamification of learning?

Q2

Can I use GBL tasks as formative assessment tools in my classroom?

Q3

How could I use one or all these 7 games in my classroom to increase student engagement and improve student learning outcomes?

Q4

How can I transform a current learning activity or project into a Game-Based Learning Task?

Q5

How can GBL help me plan and execute cross-curricular activities in my classroom?

References

SMART Learning Suite Online
SMART Technologies

Image References

Flip Out – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Label Reveal – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Rank Order – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Memory Match – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Speed Up – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Team Quiz – this image was taken as a screenshot from the display video within SLSO for the game

Super Sort – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Gamification & GBL – Tools for teachers (Part 1)

CLASSROM DIGITAL PEDAGOGY

Gamification & Game-Based Learning - Tools for Teachers (Part 1)

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

Having developed an understanding of what Gamification and Game-Based Learning (GBL) means in our previous article, we are going to start to unpack a variety of different tools that teachers can use in their classroom and look at now only how you can use them, but also the pedagogical benefits that can help improve the students learning outcomes. In this article, we are going to start looking at the SMART Learning Suite and the first four tools in the collection of 11 Game-Based Activities that are embedded into that educational software platform. The SMART Learning suite is a fantastic educational software platform that is designed with educational pedagogy as its driving force. There is a huge suite of tools available in both the online (cloud-based) and notebook (downloadable) versions that can be utilised in the classroom to create a powerful, engaging learning environment, but in this article, we are going to focus on the Game-Based Learning and how they can be used by teachers across all ages to enhance the student learning outcomes. 

As a teacher, I worked for most of my career in a secondary school, and regardless of the year level I taught, from year 7 to year 12, all students loved it when we incorporated GBL into the classroom. Especially in the higher years of secondary education, students are quickly excited by the opportunity to step out of the routine, “serious” nature that is the VCE/HSC and experience their learning in what they perceive as a fun, non-academic focused way. Be this using games or even getting them to make a poster or something creative like a podcast or short film, students of all ages love to get involved in activity based, hands-on learning activities and if you are looking to inject a sense of fun, boost student engagement in your classroom while strengthening the learning and understanding of the content being delivered, GBL can be the right tool to help you achieve this. The SMART Learning Suite has created 11 GBL Activities that teachers from all year levels, from prep/foundation to year 12 can easily incorporate into the learning that occurs in their classroom.

Before we start to unpack the SMART Learning Suite GBL Activities, it is important to understand how these can be used in the classroom. While the SMART Learning Suite has been designed to work effectively with the SMART Board front of class interactive displays, there is a fantastic added benefit to this educational software platform. The SMART Learning Suite software has the capability for students to play these GBL Activities (as well as interact with other key elements of the software) directly on their personal devices. Connecting to the teacher’s digital classroom through the unique SMART Class ID, teachers can have students engage with the lessons, and specifically for this article the GBL Activities, through the hellosmart.com or classlab.com internet portals meaning that all the students can engage in these learning activities simultaneously. Now that we understand that we can start exploring the first 3 tools teachers can use in their classroom and how they can impact their pedagogical practice.

Game 1 - Fill in the blanks

Fill in the Blanks is a fantastic learning tool that allows teachers to easily write or paste a 300-character statement into the wizard, highlight or identify 10 words that will be marked as blanks, choose a theme, or look for the game and then publish it for students to engage with, at the SMART Board on their devices through the hellosmart.com classroom web portal. These words appear at the bottom of the screen and students can drag and drop their answers into the locations that they think are the best fit. Fill in the Blanks is a fantastic tool that focuses on the development of student’s deduction (the process of reaching a decision or answer by thinking about the known facts), composition, and memory. Also inbuilt into this tool is the element of feedback allowing you to choose how and when the student receives feedback (when prompted or instantly).

The variety of feedback delivery times can trigger metacognitive strategies at different times throughout the activity, which can impact the way in which the student develops their understanding of the topic being covered. Instant feedback will trigger the student to think about their thinking at the time that they put the answer into the phrase – why was that wrong and what do I need to change in my thinking before I make my next answer choice? This can be a very powerful tool for having students to self-assess their learning and the choices that they make during the process.

Moving the feedback to the end of the activity, students could conduct a self-assessment of the choices that they made and then adjust their choices before resubmission and reassessment. This can be a very powerful learning tool for students to learn from the choices they made and then think about the process that they undertake or implement to reach the correct answer. Overall, this GBL Activity can be a great formative assessment tool that students can access throughout their learning to demonstrate their understanding of the learning being undertaken.

Game 2 - Game Show

If you have been looking for ways to transform that end of unit multiple choice quiz into fun and interactive games, then look no further than SMARTS Game Show. This fantastic tool takes the multiple-choice quiz and embeds it into a fun traditional game show platform where students answer questions for points, spin the wheel to earn powerups, and even steam points from their opponents when questions are answered incorrectly. Played as either an entire class activity or in small group collaborative stations on their devices, students put their understanding of a topic to the test in this competitive and fun game show scenario.

The user-friendly game building wizard gives teachers the opportunity to choose between multiple-choice and true/false question types, type in questions, or copy/paste text from an existing word document and select the correct answer for instant correction. Adding as many questions as they like, teachers can also randomise the question order so you can use this assessment tool more than once. As either a whole class or small group collaborative activity, where students can discuss and negotiate answer within their teams before inputting them into the game interface. 

The user-friendly game building wizard gives teachers the opportunity to choose between multiple-choice and true/false question types, type in questions, or copy/paste text from an existing word document and select the correct answer for instant correction. Adding as many questions as they like, teachers can also randomise the question order so you can use this assessment tool more than once. As either a whole class or small group collaborative activity, where students can discuss and negotiate answer within their teams before inputting them into the game interface. This collaborative interaction gives students experience in the act of negotiation as well as developing communication skills like explanation and justification. The students also receive instant feedback from the Game Show host, triggering metacognitive strategies. In the event they answer the question correctly, it reinforces the process they implemented to choose the correct answer and in turn solidifies their learning, however when an incorrect answer is entered the opposition team has the chance to steal the points and the students could conduct a self-assessment as to why their answer was incorrect.

The review process also allows teachers to identify deficits in the student’s knowledge and use that data to reapproach ways in which they teach the content in the future. It can also be used as a teaching tool to help students identify errors that were made and to identify ways in which they can adjust their thinking for future learning activities. Used as either a formative or summative assessment tool, teachers can quickly and easily build and delivery this highly engaging and effective GBL Activity in their classroom.

Game 3 - Match Em Up

Have you been looking for ways to understand relationships between different elements of the coursework that you teach? Well, look no further than SMARTs March Em Up game. This is a fun way to get students to understand relationships between elements of their learning, be it periodic symbols and their names, animals and the sounds that they make, food and their dietary categories, anything that requires students to understand relationships can be taught using this game, a great way for students to explore one-on-one correspondence as well as developing their working memory.

The platform also provides you with a variety of different themes, from the knight fighting a fire breathing dragon, rock guitarists rocking out on stage to superheroes fighting a robot who is trying to take over the city, there are a variety of different themes that can create an exciting and engaging experience for your students.

What makes this Game Based Activity even more enticing is the ease at which it can be built. The game wizard provides you with 2 simple steps to building your game – the first is importing images or writing text into the table to identify which pairs go together, and the second is choosing your theme. From there you can easily connect your students to your hellosmart.com digital classroom and have them engage in this activity directly on their own personal devices

Game 4 - Monster Quiz

Much like Game Show, the Monster Quiz game allows teachers to assess students’ understanding as either a formative or summative assessment task in a fun and engaging way. Asking either Multiple Choice or True/False questions, students are broken into teams and they work collaboratively against other teams, trying to answer the questions the fastest to free their monster. This highly engaging game not only encourages their participation but also provides feedback on answers that are both right and wrong as well as triggers metacognitive strategies. When students get questions incorrect, they move on with the rest of the quiz later coming back to the questions they had trouble with later in the game, however, when they revisit the challenging questions, the answer they originally selected have been blocked out, triggering the thought process to analyse why they selected that answer and what was wrong about it.

They then can reassess the options and choose again. This valuable feedback and analysis tool allows students to learn from their mistakes and make choices from those errors that can assist with their future development, creating positive work practices for their future learning. 

As monster quiz is based on the same wizard builder as a game show, users will see a familiar and simple layout that allows you to either write in questions or utilise and existing quiz you may have developed by copying and pasting questions from a document that you may have had already developed – just remember to mark which answer is the correct one so that the program can mark the questions for you!

At the end of the session there is an opportunity for teachers to review the students’ answers and as a class, unpack not only the correct answers but also explore the processes that students employed to discount the incorrect answers. This valuable assessment analysis can help students with future assessment tasks and develop their analytical and critical thinking skills.

The 4 games that we have discussed in this article can be accessed through the SMART Learning Suite Online platform as well as the SMART Notebook software. Students can engage either at the SMART Board at the front of the classroom or these games can be pushed to the student’s personal devices for personal or small group interaction. To explore these games, you can sign up for a free trial via the link below. Once your trial has expired, please reach out to us at the PAVE Academy or to our parent company Pro AV Solutions to explore how you and the teachers at your school can access a license for these games as well as the other amazing tools that are a part of the SMART Learning Suite platform.

Questions that can drive your integration of Gamification and Game-Based Learning into the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues.

Q1

What am I doing in my current teaching practice that is the gamification of learning?

Q2

Can I use GBL tasks as formative assessment tools in my classroom?

Q3

How could I use one or all these 4 games in my classroom to increase student engagement and improve student learning outcomes?

Q4

How can I transform a current learning activity or project into a Game-Based Learning Task?

Q5

How can GBL help me plan and execute cross-curricular activities in my classroom?

References

Deduction
Published: Cambridge Dictionary

SMART Learning Suite Online
SMART Technologies

Image References

Fill in the Blanks – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Game Show – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Match Em Up – these images were created from PAVE Academy activities

Monster Quiz 1

Monster Quiz 2

Term Dates for 2021

GETTING READY FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR

Term Dates for 2021

Introduction

With the start of the school year not far away and with teachers starting to think about planning out the year that lies ahead, we thought it would be helpful if we shared all the 2021 school term dates with you so to assist with planning your schedules.
Below is a list of all the term dates for each state in Australia, listed in alphabetical order (along with the state/territory flags and some background information for a bit of fun and learning thrown in as well).

We hope that all of you have a very productive and happy new school year and please remember that Pro AV Solutions and the PAVE Academy are here to help you in any way we can. Please keep checking back to read our blog (new posts weekly), engage in our free webinar series or if you are a partner school and have purchased Education Technology through Pro AV Solutions, engage with our On-Demand Micro PD Courses or our free Professional Learning and Coaching sessions. And remember, if you are looking for any Education Technology solutions please do not hesitate to contact us and see if we can be of assistance.

ACT

  • T1: 1st February to 1st April
  • T2: 19th April to 25th June
  • T3: 12th July to 17th September
  • T4: 5th October to 17th December

 

Source here 

Designed by local artist Ivo Ostyn, the ACT Flag was adopted on the 25th of March in 1993 and feature the heraldic colours of the Commonwealth of Australia. The shield displays a triple-towered castle with a sword of justice crossed with the parliamentary mace just above. The rose beneath the castle reflects the 1927 opening of the old parliament building by the then Duke of York

NSW

  • T1 (Eastern Division): 27th January to 1st April
  • T1 Western Division): 3rd February to 9th April
  • T2: 19th April to 25th June
  • T3: 12th July to 17th September
  • T4: 5th October to 17th December

Source here 

The NSW badge, a golden lion (passant guardant) surrounded by 4 8-pointed stars on the St George Cross, was adopted on 18th February 1876 and is like the unofficial coat of arms that was displayed from 1821. It is suggested that the lion signifies the vice-regal authority of the governor

NT

  • T1: 1st February to 9th April
  • T1 (Remote Schools): 2nd February to 9th April
  • T2: 19th April to 25th June
  • T3: 20th July to 24th September
  • T4: 11th October to 16th December
  • T4 (Remote Schools): 11th October to 17th December

Source here 

The NT flag was adopted on the 1st of July 1978 when the NT was granted self-governing status. The flag features a stylised version of the Sturt Desert Rose and is said that the white petals around the black centre reflects the commonwealth star. The southern cross uses the Victorian configuration of the constellation to reflect the Victorian artist Robert Ingpen’s design.

QLD

  • T1: 27th January to 1st April

  • T2: 19th April to 25th June

  • T3: 12th July to 17 September

  • T4: 5th October to 10th December

Source here 

Selected by Governor William Cairns and adopted on the 29th of November 1876, the flag features a crown in the centre of a blue Maltese Cross with the crown changing to reflect the regent who is sitting on the throne. It is suggested that the design either reflects the vice-regal authority of the Governor or to represent Queen Victoria whom the colony had been named for

SA

  • T1: 27th January to 9th April
  • T2: 27th April to 2nd July
  • T3: 19th July to 24 September
  • T4: 11th October to 10th December

Source here 

South Australia was the only state that decided to obtain and adopt a new flag badge at the time of federation and officially adopted this flag on the 14th of January 1904. The white backed magpie in a heraldic pose has been attributed to the arms of Prussia, sitting on a yellow disc it is said to signify the golden rising sun of the federation

TAS

  • T1 (Schools): 3rd February to 31st March
  • T1 (Colleges): 3rd February to 1st April
  • T2: 21st April to 2nd July
  • T3 (Schools): 20th July to 24th September
  • T3 (Colleges): 19th July to 24th September
  • T4: 11th October to 16th December

Source here 

The Tasmanian flag displays a red lion (passant) which was originally designed as the symbol of the Governor and not as the symbol that represented the colony. However, after some alternatives were rejected due to the fact, they did not comply with the British Admiralty pattern for colonial flags, this flag was adopted on the 29th of November 1875

VIC

  • T1: 27th January to 1st April
  • T2: 19th April to 25th June
  • T3: 12th July to 17th September
  • T4: 4th October to 17th December

Source here 

Dating from 1877, the Victorian flag has undergone two changes over its lifespan, with the crown changing to reflect the regent who sits upon the throne. The stars in the Southern Cross uses different numbers of points to reflect their relative brightness in the night sky (8, 7, 7, 6 & 5).

WA

  • T1: 1st February to 1st April
  • T2: 19th April to 2nd July
  • T3: 19th July to 24th September
  • T4: 11th October to 16th December

Source here 

Originally the Swan River Settlement, the Western Australian flag features a black swan on a golden disc, designed to reflect the states origin. The oldest state flag in Australia was officially adopted on the 3rd of January 1870, and originally had the swan facing away from the union hack but was changed on the 10th of November 1953

Gamification & Game Based Learning – What is it and how it impacts student learning

CLASSROM DIGITAL PEDAGOGY

Gamification & Game-Based Learning - What is it and how it impacts student learning.

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

Video games have come a long way since the introduction of the Commodore 64 and Atari systems in the ’80s and they are having a huge impact on the ways in which we spend our leisure time. According to the 2018 Digital Australia Report, video gaming has become a key element of the typical Australian home with 97% of Australian homes that have children have computer games as a part of their landscape and 80% of those households have more than one gaming device.

Australians play video games for an average of 89 minutes a day (all gameplay) citing “passing time and having fun” as the key reasons why we engage in this form of past time, and with this knowledge, the question needs to be asked, why are we, as teachers, not regularly embedding games and game-based learning activities into our classrooms? If Australians are spending as much time play games as this report suggests, we must find stimulation and engagement in this kind of activity, and with an ever-increasing challenge of capturing and keeping students engagement and attention in the classroom, should we actively embed games and game-based education into our classrooms to combat this issue and should this be happening as a regular element of our pedagogical approach to student learning? Even Albert Einstein understood the importance of games, indicating that “they are the most elevated form of investigation…are avenues for something deeper and more meaningful than a childish waste of time” In the following series of articles, we are going to dig deeper on this topic and unpack tools and strategies that we can implement in our classrooms to engage students through this style of the pedagogical approach. But before we start, there are 2 key terms that you may come across with regards to games in education – they are gamification and game-based learning – and we need to unpack these so that you have a strong understanding of what they are.

‘Gamification’

‘Gamification’ is the application of typical elements or mechanics of game playing into an activity and this is something that teachers have been doing for eons. So, what are ‘game elements’ that can be added to gamify a lesson? Game elements or game mechanics can include:

  • Storytelling
  • Problem-Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Aesthetics
  •  Trial & Error
  •  Rules
  • Collaboration
  • Competition
  • Reward Systems
  • Feedback


If you have a look at that list I am sure that you have a little voice in your head saying “I do that, and I do that…” and it is completely true because teachers do all of these elements in their daily teaching, but the question is not whether do them or not but are we drawing the students attention to them as gamification and will this drive an increase in their engagement? While I type this, I think back to my Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Manners who, on each Friday afternoon would have us line up between our desks in 2 lines and we would compete in our time’s table races. She would call out a times table and the two students at the front of the lines would take turns in running through the time’s tables as fast as they can while she timed them. The winner would stay, and the next student would come to the front and try to dethrone the reigning champion. This sense of competition – a race with a winner and loser, is an example of Gamification in learning and as I mentioned before, is something that teachers have been embedding in their teaching practice for eons. Another example is the ways in which teachers use a points system to reward good and penalise bad behavior. Like the gold star chart at the front of the room where when a student reaches 10 gold stars can have a kind of reward or the adverse where strikes are placed against students for bad behavior resulting in punishment if they get to 3 strikes. A more popular example is the house points system referred to regularly in the Harry Potter saga (which funnily enough always seemed to be a race between Slytherin and Gryffindor for the house cup) where students were awarded house points for completing achievements or for good behavior, or points were taken if a student broke a rule. These examples show how schools and teachers have been using Gamification in the classroom, but it has never been something that was necessarily promoted, more used as a learning activity or a behavior management tool – which makes me beg the question, what could happen to student engagement if we changed our thinking on this and maybe promoted this pedagogical approach as a game, how could something simple as changing this approaches label change the ways in which students viewed these experiences in the classroom and would it drive their intrinsic motivation to be engaged and immersed in the learning that is happening?

Gamification can also be the awarding of badges for the achievement of particular elements of programs. Take a look at the bottom of emails that you receive from people – can you see any badges there? I know my email signature has badges from Apple, SMART Technologies, and Sphero and they were awarded to me for completing or being a part of different education programs. These badges are examples of where companies, like Apple, Google, SMART, Microsoft, the Kahn Academy, and millions of others, have ‘gamified’ elements of their program, creating levels of connection and participation achieved by meeting requirements/conditions and demonstrated though displaying the badges. This symbol of “leveling up”, as you would do in a video game, is a key component of Gamification which has been adopted across a wide variety of companies and industries around the world. I think about my time in scouts when I was a kid, where I earned badges for completing various tasks that my mum would sew onto the sleeves of my uniform – this is an example of gamification. Recently I attended a SMART Technologies Global Summit, and due to the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions, the conference was held digitally in the SMART 360 Platform. Each interaction in the space earned the attendees points, so if you went to an auditorium session you earned X amount of points, if you went into the exhibition hall and watched some videos or downloaded some resources that were X amount of points, and there was a leader board that displayed attendees and their accumulated points for the day with the top achievers winning prizes

There were even scavenger hunt style games throughout the day, my favorite being the hunt for the SMART Monsters who were scattered throughout the 360 platform – with each find earning you X amount of points. You could sit there and say that this insensitive based approach to engagement can be seen as “tricking” the attendee into getting involved, but I honestly believe that this approach made the day more exciting. Yes, there will be some people who get caught up in the “winning” element, and for full disclosure, I did get a little caught up in finding all the 9 monsters and was getting a little frustrated when I couldn’t find that last one, but this form of engagement can also be seen as rewarding, a way of giving back to those who were going to engage anyway and using positive reinforcement to support their engagement.

This makes me think about the ways in which we reinforce behavior in the classroom. I have had many a conversation with teachers, and graduates especially, around ways in which they manage the student behavior in their classrooms and how I was able to have minimal classroom management issues in my own class. While I didn’t necessarily gamify all the learning in my classroom like we are speaking of here, I did positively reinforce good behavior and achievement, which drove students towards practicing good behavior and achieving personal successes. Does gamification in the classroom achieve the same outcome?

Another example is how Kahn Academy are gamifying their courses. On their Kahn for Educators webpage, the Kahn Academy is helping teachers engage with their learning programs through the use of gamification elements like a scavenger hunt and downloadable certificate templates that can be presented to students for achievement. This celebration of achievement allows students to drive their involvement and work towards small goals. Yes, this element is embedded into the platform to encourage students to engage with the Kahn Academy regularly, but if you step back and think about the bigger picture, it is teaching students to break down large tasks into smaller “bite-size” pieces and then is rewarding them for achieving each small goal along the journey to overall success. 

This practice is a very important lifelong learning strategy to ensure that students are able to undertake and complete larger tasks once they are out of school and actively engaged in the workforce. So, at this point in the article, you may be thinking “ok so now I get Gamification, but what is Game-Based Learning?” To be completely honest, these 2 terms are very similar if not the same in their meaning. Game-Based Learning (GBL) is where the characteristics of games and their principles are embedded into learning activities with the key focus of driving student engagement and motivation, so I guess the key difference between the two terms is the use of the word “learning” – Gamification being for activities and Game-Based Learning being for learning activities…. The use of GBL in the classroom creates a highly engaging, and motivating learning environment for students, promoting authentic collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills as well as fostering teamwork and peer leadership. It can also extend out to Game-making where students can develop their own educational based games to display their own learning and understanding.

One key element that needs to be considered if you are going to adopt a GBL or gamification element into your classroom is the WHY! While they can be effective engagement tools, it is important to ask yourself if the gamification is actually improving the learning, or is it something that you are doing just for the sake of it? Too many times have I seen teachers and schools adopting what could be categorized as “the latest trend” to ensure that they stay up to date with educational developments without thinking about the effect it has directly on the learning. Yes, gamification is a fantastic tool and should be used in the classroom, but it needs to be used at the right time and in the right way. It should only be used if it helps the teacher and students achieve the learning intentions or the WHY. This is the most important element and if we get distracted by activities that are “on trend” then we will have a highly engaging learning environment that has a group of highly driven and motivated students who go nowhere because the learning is not pushing them to develop and improve. Like I have said before, a hammer is a fantastic tool for pushing a nail into a piece of wood but is a terrible tool for dusting fine china on the shelf – as teachers we need to ensure we are choosing the right tool that helps us get the job done, and done well.
In all forms of education, gamification has been included but most of the time we don’t acknowledge it as a “game”. Is this a mistake? Does the idea of games have a negative connotation when related to something as serious as “education and learning”? I encourage all of you to think about ways in which you can include gamification and GBL in your future planning and lesson delivery and explore ways in which you can use it to create powerful, engaging, and inspirational classes that have students not only achieving their learning intentions but also pushing the boundaries of their potential.

Questions that can drive your integration of the Substation into the learning in the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues.

Q1

What am I doing in my current teaching practice that is the gamification of learning?

Q2

Would the use of GBL help motivate my students to learn? What element of the curriculum could this have the biggest impact on?

Q3

What are my colleagues doing in their lessons that I might like to adopt into mine?

Q4

How can I transform a current learning activity or project into a Game-Based Learning Task?

Q5

How can GBL help me plan and execute cross-curricular activities in my classroom?

References

DA:18 Digital Australia Report
By: J. Brand, S Todhunter & J. Jervis
Published by: Interactive Games & Entertainment

12 Examples of Gamification in the Classroom
By: Ryan Schaaf & Jack Quinn
Published by: Teachthought.com

Encouraging student motivation with Kahn Academy
By: Meaghan Pattani
Published by Kahn Academy

Game-Based Learning
By: Top Hat
Published by: Tophat.com

Game-Based Learning – What Is It?
By: Digital Technologies Hub
Published by: Digital Technologies Hub

Game-Based Learning
By: Annie Pho & Amanda Dinscore
Published by: Association of College & Research Libraries & American Library Association

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