Monday, 28 July 2014

Inking: The Undiscovered Country

I have a dream.  A tech-agogy dream. (Just made that one up.  It sounds like it could be the name of a Japanese internet cafĂ©, but I'm considering it "a technology implementation that betters my pedagogy").  The dream isn't flashy.  But it is something I have longed for.

Recently, I went back and read some of my first blog posts.  I did that because I had been losing my blogging focus and I always make it a practice to start from the top and read over my work whenever I get stuck or off track.  The other reason is that I love taking a peek back to where I've been.  I do this both professionally and personally.  It is like time travelling.  I get to re-experience what fears, hopes, dreams, desires, prayers I had back then, and then get to celebrate where things have gone since.

Here is a dream I blogged on Feb. 20th, 2013 -- a year and a half ago -- in a post called: If I were a kid in my own class:

First Block: Math - Here is where paperless society meets UDL. 

I scan the QR code my teacher has on the wall as I walk into the class.  It gets me to the learning intention for the day: Adding mixed numbers.  I read the teaching notes and slip on my headphones.  There are two Youtube videos my teacher wanted me to view before I "play" with the manipulatives sitting on the table.  The teacher texts me saying that it is now time for a mini lesson at the front.  Anyone who doesn't get the lesson comes up.  I figure I know what I am doing so I start demonstrating 2 1/2 plus 3 4/6 with pattern blocks.  I take a picture of my answer.  I use the pattern blocks to try a few more questions.  I check with a student at my table if I am doing it right.  She figures I get it.  I watch her and it seems like she gets it too.  My teacher comes by and I show my pictures.  I get the nod and I move from manipulatives to models.  I "open in" the PDF set of questions in PDF Max Pro and start inking my answers with my stylus.  The teaching notes say I don't have to answer the questions by drawing just pattern block shapes.  I can use whatever shapes that I feel work.  I figure I'll draw pizza slices.  Next, I have to add mixed numbers without pictures.  There is a link for a video but after watching it, I still don't get it.  I put my name on a cue list for some help.  While I try another question, my teacher comes by: "You wanted some help?"  "Yah."  I get my questions answered and I continue on with the practice.  When I am done, I upload the PDF to the hand in box in my teacher's virtual classroom.  The teaching notes tell me which IXL sections are for homework and I work on a few questions before the bell rings for Nut. Break.

At the time all this was but a dream--a brainstorm of possibilities.  Since then, I have gotten a chance to see some of my dream come to fruition.  I have been using Edmodo to streamline workflow (I share about it here).  This allows for students (and parents) to access the teaching videos and criteria sheets I post for learning at their leisure.  It opens up the doors for students to learn in a social context. They can ask school-related or non-school related questions of their peers or myself from home.  Students can also do work on the device of their choosing and submit it.  I can annotate work electronically, giving them feedback to propel the student toward mastery.  Feedback, marks, questions, and answers are all kept in an accessible location.

I have also used QR codes to take students quickly to where I want them to go for the day.  Though, I haven't used them to bring students to a daily learning intention, the QR codes lead students to a site I want them to visit or a Today's Meet location to support leveraging the back channel. These discussions can take place while students are with me in the class or even different rooms.  The discussion can be stored for future reference and referred back to.

But I feel there is still a basic techagogy with which I haven't dealt. There is a place I want to go that isn't as snazzy as some of the places I've been but it seems to be a place I can no longer ignore: I want to find an inking workflow solution.

Now some might say that a workflow solution for inked documents doesn't lead to better pedagogy.  But consider this:
  • an inked document has so much more flexibility than the typical document.  Pictures, diagrams, doodles can mingle, then be stored and shared -- this allows students to communicate their ideas more clearly; it supports students who don't fit in the "typed document" mold
  • Inking has quick drag-drop and cut-paste properties. You can't select and drag on a piece of paper. A whole new world of editing possibilities open up for the student.  
  • an inked document has all the benefits of an electronic document: it can be indexed, tagged, organized, and accessed by the creator, peers and teacher
  • skills in artistry, hand dexterity, use of handwriting all become possibilities
  • Drawing pictures, creating diagrams and sketching tables are all a part of numeracy.  If we are asking students to go paperless, these skills could be left by the wayside without a good inking solution
  • Imagine: the teacher could take the inked work and screen cast comments.  Couldn't a video of teacher feedback working directly on a document improve learning?
A few provisos
  • the solution has to work on the many types of tablets I might see in my class. I want to focus on the big 3 to start: Surface, Android, Ipad
  • The solution would need to fit into existing structures well.  I plan on using Edmodo in the future but could be swayed in another direction if the benefits outweigh the losses
  • What should I do with the student toting a laptop without a touchscreen?
Now, as always, I am sure others have tackled and beaten this challenge.  But this is the gauntlet that I throw down . . .before myself.  Thoughts?