A couple of blog posts ago, I shared the results of one of our 1:1 pilots we ran in semester 1. In that post, I also indicated that we were going to start another pilot, but I would share the details of that pilot at a later date. Well, I am finally able to say that Riverside is the first school in Canada to partner with Samsung and launch Samsung School. We have been working with Samsung School in a physics 11 class since the end of January 2013. While we have played with numerous devices and ecosystems over the past several years, what Samsung School does is offer a management solution that brings seamless integration and convergence to a safe and secure environment.
In our pilot, we have been using 31 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1’s, a 65 inch digital e-Board, dedicated server, and Samsung School software. What I like about Samsung School is that it is designed around an ecosystem that recognizes the importance of collaboration. Students can share screens with each other or the teacher. The teacher has the ability to view any student’s screen from the teacher’s device to see how students are doing and what they are working on. The teacher is also able to interact with that student via his or her device with the simple touch of a button. With the touch of another button, that student is able to project what is on his or her screen to the main e-Board for everyone else to see. This means that a teacher is able to respond faster to a student who may be struggling or off task, as well as promote a classroom culture where students become teachers and experts. Imagine the quiet or not so quiet student who takes their seat at the back of the classroom, hoping to “hide” from the teacher in order to cover up any difficulties they may have. Now, the teacher is able to recognize when this particular student needs immediate support and provide this support in a very non-intrusive way. The solution also builds in a polling feature. There are many apps that do this, but this feature is built into the software. Again, what I like is that students are able to be more honest about what they do and don’t understand than in the traditional classroom where a teacher may ask for hands or thumbs up. The software also allows teachers to create and post quizzes or tests, push out content, notifications or messages to the entire class, lock screens, bring in relevant apps, track attendance, and keep a markbook. In essence, the solution is bringing what many of us are doing with several different pieces of third party software into one location.
Samsung has thought about the solution from both the teaching and learning perspectives. While the solution is focussed on building an interactive classroom that is efficient (intended to accelerate learning) and secure (a fairly enclosed ecosystem so no worries about FOIPPA), it also takes in mind the importance of immediate feedback, increased student responsibility, and increased ability of the teacher to monitor what students are doing with their devices during the times that students are assigned to their Samsung School Class. What I also appreciate about Samsung School is that it still enables teachers and students to move beyond the software into the full capability of the Galaxy Note where students can access further apps, expand their research, utilize social media, create and publish content, Skype with peers and experts, and take advantage of the S-Pen technology, which is the best stylus and app I have seen on the market. In this 1:1 environment, students are able to take their learning beyond the classroom to any space, any time, in a variety of ways. From the screen casting apps, to share understanding of solutions or ideas, to the documentation of learning through video, photo, or other digital recordings, we are better able to gain insights into the thinking and learning process of our students. We are no longer as interested in the final product as we are about the journey to the destination. This is exciting as it enables us to be better at identifying misconceptions, typical content or skill areas where students often struggle, or recognizing the depth and breadth of a child’s understanding.
Riverside will be moving to a 1:1 environment for all grade nines next year. Currently, we have a team of approximately 18 teachers who will lead this initiative. This group meets weekly to share ideas regarding digital fluencies, content development, infrastructure and device fluency, security, assessment, and teaching/learning strategies that will reshape our current mindset for how we educate children. The knowledge we are gaining from our pilots, research, and experiences will assist us in ensuring that we deliver a learning experience to students that is engaging, enriching, exciting, and authentic. Our challenge is to prepare our students for a future filled with possibilities and opportunities that do not yet exist. In speaking with a group of students at Riverside, President and CEO of Samsung Canada, HT Kim, said, “We are looking for those who are unique, different, creative. We want people who can innovate.” As Will Richardson says in his recent article in Educational Leadership (Vol. 70, No. 6), “Learning is now truly participatory in real-world contexts…where learners outside school walls can converse, create, and publish authentic, meaningful, beautiful work.” In this educational setting, the walls are blurred as learning happens everywhere at any time with anyone, teachers are learners, learners are teachers, learning is about inquiry, and collaboration is the norm. This is an incredible time to be an educator and a learner.
Riverside will begin a series of Open Houses to share what we have learned about Samsung School. Anyone interested in attending one of these sessions can rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The demo days are scheduled for April 9, April 30, and May 29. Space is limited. All seats have been filled for April 9th, but we are now taking registrations for the other two sessions. I hope you can join teacher, Deb Nordheimer, myself, Adam Rogers from Samsung, and some of our wonderful students involved in this pilot!