January 11, 2018

The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on what was and look forward to what is coming.

2016 – Looking back at a year gone by

2015 – Where it all started

For me and Butterfly Classrooms, 2017 was filled with important events, and 2018 is going to be filled with even more new developments.

Looking back at 2017

For those of you that have only recently joined me on this eLearning road, 2017 was the third year since we have introduced personal devices (tablets) into the classroom. Our guineapig class, was now in grade 11 and except for the grade 12’s all learners had devices in class.

Like most things in life, there were some great wins…

  • Every teacher created a Google Classroom for every class. This might seem obvious, but for me, it was a big win to get everybody to at least generate a Classroom for their classes.
  • The learners are starting to use the technology. For the first time, the matric committee came and asked if I can help them vote for their matric jersey on Google Forms. Our Learner Council created their own Youtube playlist. The head girl of the choir convinced the choir teacher to put the sheet music on Classroom. (Something I could never convince her off) I can go on and on. I can really see that next year’s matrics are the group that have started with tablets and G-Suite. It has become part of how they think.
  • Innovative staff training. We decided to go a different route with training this year. In the past professional development consisted of getting a trainer in to do a 60-minute workshop or sending one person to an eLearning conference. This year we wanted to get as many teachers involved in training programs that pique their interest and are targetting their skill level. Teachers were offered the opportunity to sign up for one of a selected number of online courses. This way more than 60% of our staff completed some eLearning course.
  • Google Certified Educators. This is something that we should have done a long time ago. But at last a group of 9 teachers got their Level 1 certification. We hope to add to that number in the new year.
  • A few sparks of innovation. While the majority of staff still using the devices to substitute what they have always done, I have started to see flashes of innovative new projects. One teacher tried her hand at class blogs, while another organised a wellness week using Slack.  

And some areas that we still need to work on…

  • Too many teachers have a Classroom but don’t use it. Like I said, just having everybody create a Classroom was a win in my eyes, but there are still too many that has Classroom but never use it.
  • Too much still get photocopied. Whenever I stand at the photocopier, and I see photocopies of notes that could be posted to Classroom, I just want to cry. It takes time to digitise all your resources and too many teachers put it off in the beginning so instead of having everything in digital form by now, they are still relying on printed copies.
  • Tablets are only used to Google. While the teachers are getting better with making use of online resources in their teaching, very few are giving learners the opportunity to use the available technology to learn, create and share, that is except for the odd Google search here and there.

    …One fail…

    One of the things we wanted to investigate is whether a website with a database of questions like Siyavula or IXL will be able to replace textbooks, especially in maths and science. An online textbook provides lots of advantages of which the most important is intelligent practice, immediate feedback and better record keeping.

    We did a trail in maths and science with our grade 10 learners. The feedback from both learners was far from overwhelming. While they liked it as an additional resource, both teachers and learners agreed that it is not an ideal replacement for the traditional textbook.

    If you are interested in more detail about the fails and successes, watch this space, I will post a detailed review early in the new year.

    …And lots of new opportunities

    For myself and Butterfly Classrooms 2017 was a year filled with new directions.

  • Training, training and training I have been receiving more and more requests to come and do training at schools and for the WCED. So much that it was becoming more and more challenging to balance my teaching load and the training requests.
  • A brand new look. When I started Butterfly Classrooms, I knew nothing about websites or blogging. I just made it up as I went on. But as the interest in technology integration and eLearning started to increase I decided I need a more professional look and website. Thanks to the lovely ladies at Letterchef and Red Swirl Design I got a new logo and website. I was such an exciting and enriching journey to learn how to create a site and manage it myself.
  • Better communication. Alongside the new website, I also introduced two new avenues to make it easier for you to stay up to date with what is happening. You can stay up to date with the latest tips, tricks and ideas by following my Facebook page or subscribing to my mailing list.   

Even bigger changes in 2018

I started Butterfly Classrooms as a blog to provide other teachers with information and ideas when it gets to technology integration. But as more and more schools are beginning to use personal devices and online platforms like Google Classroom, just posting information once a week is no longer enough to meet the need.

So I decided to take the jump, resign my teaching post and make Butterfly Classrooms my full-time focus. This is scary but also very exciting; I have so many ideas that I can now focus on. For more information on the range of service that I am now able to provide, have a look at my SERVICES page.

I am also launching a range of new projects to help teachers wade through this brave new world of teaching with technology.

Here are a few of my new projects:

  • Getting Started with Google Classroom – a FREE email course to introduce you to the basic features of Google Classroom. This is ideal for new teachers joining a school that uses Classroom, or somebody that just want to see what Classroom is all about. It can also provide excellent support for teachers who have been asked to use Classroom, but they still don’t feel confident about it.
  • Advanced Course in Google Classroom  – Google Classroom could be so much more than just a glorified photocopying machine. In this six weeks course, we will be using Classroom to learn how you can get the most from Classroom. While you will learn a lot about Classroom, you will learn even more about teaching in the 21st century. Watch this space for more information and dates.
  • More than Maths – The internet is filled with great (and not so great) resources, activities and videos. But finding the right thing is often time-consuming. More than Maths will be a monthly newsletter with a selection of the best activities for you to try in the coming month. For a start, it will only focus on Gr 8 – 12 maths, but in the future, I am planning to expand it to include primary school as well. Sign up here to receive the first three editions for free.
  • Technology Treasures by/for Teachers – we all know the best place to learn is from other teachers. I will be launching a Facebook Group where we can share our ideas, successes and the lessons we have learned with each other, but most importantly where we can ask advice.

As you can see 2018 is going to be an exciting year filled with lots of new challenges and developments.

Happy 2018!!

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