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Apr 23 / Justin

A-PDF

APDF

I’m a big believer in efficiency and finding tools to make mundane administrative tasks easier. Its why I love technology, why I wanted to become a programmer, etc. So this weekend at the reThinking Literacy conference when we needed to create individual PDF’s of a mail merged pages document of presenter certificates I couldn’t stomach manually splitting the PDF. There HAD to be abetter way.

Turns out there was – the software is called A-PDF and it makes splitting a PDF based on rules in the content very easily. After setting up the rule which took no more than 5 minutes I was able to create more than 100 individual PDF’s all with the correct unique file name.

The software has tons of other features too that if you needed would be quite useful like being able to automatically split based on folder detection, etc.

Check it out!

 

Oct 28 / Justin

Successful Inaugural EduLAN in Seoul

10-15629940155_0d137690c2_oJustin Hardman, Director of 21st Century Learning
Cross-posted on 21c-learning.com

On October 25 2014 75 Educators from around Korea gathered for one day to learn from one another, develop closer ties between schools and go back Monday inspired to used technology in meaningful ways to improve student learning.

The organizing group started out with the following objectives and organizing principals

Objectives

  • Increase participation in education technology learning experiences for K-12 teachers and leaders
  • Enable more teachers to develop presentation skills by presenting at conference
  • Connect educators living in the same country

Key Constraints/Organizing Principles

  • Keep cost as low as possible for attendees, whilst still maintaining a quality conference experience
  • Support and nurture teachers presenting and sharing their learning
  • Majority of presenters should be practitioners working in classrooms

Feedback from the event has been overwhelming positive with people already asking when next years event will be.

Of course no idea is original and we need to give credit where credit is due. We were extremely fortunate to have Kim Cofino as a keynote for the event who’s keynote presentation “Transforming Your Classroom” provided the overall theme for the conference. The highly engaging keynote set the right tone for the event. We went right from that into SpeedGeeking. I had seen SpeedGeeking work really well at the VinTech conference and immedialy though

The Future

21st Century Learning created the brand of EduLAN because we believe that all teachers should benefit from the immense power that in person edtech professional development experiences can offer. Seoul is the first EduLAN conference but we hope it is not the last in Korea or elsewhere. If you are interested in hosting a edtech conference in your city please get in contact with us. We are can provide the expertise, branding and organizational support whilst the local organizing committee works on the ground to ensure the conference is a success.

You can view photos from the event on Flickr

Sep 6 / Justin

Advice on Phone Purchases

smartphones

One of the more challenging #firstworldproblems many of us need to contend with is what smartphone to buy. With the new iPhone coming up soon I know it is something on many peoples minds. A good friend recently asked a question of a few people by email. I gave a brief response. My wifes response was much more thought out than mine (not a big surprise there for anyone who knows her!) and I thought it deserved a wider audience.

I’ll paste verbatim below:

Needs: Skype, What’s App, Evernote, email, photos – to this I’d add general web browsing, Facebook, Dropbox access (read only mostly), and other SMS (KakaoTalk and We Chat). Despite the limited number of applications here, video is a high-frequency use case, so chipset, processor and GPU cannot suck. I am not a patient girl and I don’t deal well with lag and I can’t imagine that the Jeff who is incensed at HSBC does either. Hence I’d limit the choice set to the upcoming generation of phones or one generation back.

Phones under consideration
Newest generation
  • iPhone 6 – 4.7″ (TBA Sept. 9, likely available in HK shortly)
  • iPhone 6 – 5.5″ (TBA Sept. 9, likely available in HK shortly)
  • Galaxy Note Edge (just announced, likely available in HK shortly)
  • Galaxy Note 4 (just announced, likely available in HK shortly)
  • Galaxy S6 (TBC May)
  • Mi4 (TBC this fall)
One generation back
  • Mi3
  • Galaxy Note 3
  • Galaxy S5
  • iPhone 5
I’m personally not interested in the Sony Xperia series nor the Moto X so I left these off but you might include them if you’re looking to explore your options.
Arguably the most important factor is screen size, so I’ll group these into 2 sets: Phablets and Non-phablets. As a Note user, the choice for me is clear, but for you, this is less obvious. The iPhone 4 (is that what you had before?) is 3.5″ and the iPhone 5 is 4″. 4.7″ will put you in Samsung S series territory (approx 5″) and 5.5″ would be a few tenths of an inch shy of the Note’s screen size. Despite claims to the otherwise, phablets are definitely pocketable across a range of men’s clothing (pants, shirts, blazers inclusive) and the real estate is excellent for getting stuff done on the go.
 
Phablets: iPhone 6 – 5.5″, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Note 4, Mi4
Non-Phablets: iPhone 6 – 4.7″, iPhone 5, Galaxy S5, Galaxy S6
 
Amongst the phablets, I’m torn. The curved edge display on the Galaxy Note Edge looks like it could afford some interesting UI alternatives that I feel I should be familiar with, but is likely to be expensive. Also the stylus experience has improved to the point where I’d actually miss the pen if I didn’t have it. Mi4 is probably gonna be unibody so no replaceable battery (big negative) but cheap (big positive) and I love the idea of playing around with the MIUI and getting a better sense of what’s got all the nerds so excited. I agree the iPhone 6 – 5.5″ (and 4.7″) will be the conservative option. To me not that exciting. Oooh, thinner, big deal (Apple may prove me wrong), but it’ll be a solid phone offering a known experience.
Non-phablets: here the choice drivers are price (correlated with generation, i.e. old vs. new) and OS (Android vs. iOS) and to a lesser extent, screen size. I’m not really considering non-phablets but for you, Jeff, I think I’d stick with iOS go for iPhone 5. Would be a good mix of improved performance (slightly bigger and faster) and price, since it’s not the iPhone 6. If screen size is an issue for you though, switch over to the Galaxy S series as tackling the Android learning curve would be worthwhile.
Lastly, an aside re: wearables — no. The specs on smartwatches are not yet good enough to be standalone. They’re mostly designed as companion devices and the app experience isn’t robust enough yet to support the usage you describe in a non-annoying way. My tune may change after Sept. 9, but we’ll see.

Keep me posted on your research. I’m holding off to the iPhone 6 and Mi4 announcements to make my decision.

Aug 28 / Justin

Finding Balance

Finding balance

A word you hear a lot nowadays (particularly in EdTech circles) is “Balance”

Usually it’s invoked in conversations around allocation of time between work and personal/home life. Certainly that is the main one most of us need to think about.

However, I find the challenge to balance is something that comes into almost everything I do. It would be easy if the only balance we had to worry about was between work and life. If that were the case the classic 9-5pm thing would work as a solution. However, I find my days are a constant dance between competing commitments. In particular with work. I  co-manage an educational startup which means there is always something to be done and a million other things I could be doing. A choice to do one thing is a choice not to do something else. Sounds trite, but it is meaningful when ultimately decisions impact on one’s own livelihood and even more so when others are counting on you. This is something that you can only really understand having done it I think. So it’s not just balance between work and “life” but within work as well.

005_DSC_1114The same is true within my personal life as well. My wife and I have been given the gift of a beautiful new baby daughter. To say it is “life changing” to put too fine a point on it! It’s life transforming and in a great way. Of course having a daughter is wonderful but just like competing work requirements every minute spent with her is is one minute my wife and I don’t have together anymore, and I miss that private time with her. Of course we are a family now which is a different kind of wonderful, but things sure are different. This is worth of a whole blog post (probably a whole blog!)

At times the search for balance can be disheartening. Sometimes it is easy to think all the energy I’m putting in is “a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Janet is a great source of support in these moments (which probably come too often). However, today while writing an email to a group that required me to list all the various events 21st Century Learning International has coming up this year I came away feeling pretty great (and frankly kind of amazed) at what we having going on. Of course there are a ton of other things I want to be doing but reflecting on things I can’t help but feel proud of what our team has been able to build over the past couple of years.

This inspired me to write a post (which this turned into) with a list of all the projects we are involved in:

CONSULTING

We have done quite a bit of consulting over the past year with several projects ongoing including with schools such as Dulwich College International, Shanghai American School, International Christian School (HK), United World College (HK) and more. I’ve enjoyed the consulting work a lot (the major downside that it takes me away from my family). However, the learning has been immense. It is clear there is a need for these kinds of services for International Schools as leaders work through the various challenges of making meaningful use of technology.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

We are working on a major survey of parents and students in Hong Kong with a bespoke survey instrument. We are hoping that in the long haul this can become a country by country or regional survey. Schools need better and more accurate data on student and parents skills, attitudes and behavior with technology. I’m confident that in partnership with the consortium we have assembled (in partnership with ISF HK) we will do that.

AWARDS

It is the second year of our 21st Century Learning Teacher and School of the Year awards. Those are that have submitted entries are great and I’m looking forward to meeting the finalists at the conference in December.

EVENTS

This is certainly our biggest year ever with tons of PD events lined up in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Seoul and Perth.

SEPTEMBER

Shanghai TeachMeet (Free)

We are trying to create these free events in as many cities in the region as we can. They are basically get together with teachers and edtech folk from schools to socialize and share good ideas. You can come just to visit but are encouraged to present either a 2 minute or 7 minute presentation. Best part is that we sponsor the drinks and some snacks!

http://21c-learning.com/sh-teachmeet/

IPad Art Workshops with Cathy Hunt. (BJ/SH/Perth)

Suitable for secondary art teachers or any primary teacher. Cathy is a dynamic and engaging presenter.

For Beijing go to this link to register but first find out below which is the right workshop for you!

  • Teacher Workshop – Primary  – 22nd September
  • Teacher Workshop – Secondary – 23rd September

For Shanghai go to this link to register but first find out below which is the right workshop for you!

  • Teacher Workshop – Primary  – 24th September
  • Teacher Workshop – Secondary – 25th September

OCTOBER

Hong Kong and Singapore TeachMeets

Both are on October 9th this year and are the third and second ones we have run in these cities. In the past they have had great attendance and those that have come along have had a great time.

Transforming Your Classroom Workshop

Led by Kim Cofino this workshop is ideal for teachers looking to amp up their technology integration. Framed by essential questions: “What does transformative learning look like?” and “How can we transform learning for all students?” Teachers attending this workshop will walk away with new tools and frameworks to amplify their use of technology.

http://21c-learning.com/21cl-edulan-keynote-kim-cofino/

Seoul 21CEduLAN

This is a pilot event for us – a low cost grassroots EduTech conference in Seoul. It is intended for educators in Korea, but if you are based nearby and want to catch a short flight we won’t refuse you – there are already a number of educators coming from Thailand!

http://seouledulan.org/

NOVEMBER

Music Education Workshops

There are two individual one day workshops to choose from suitable for music educators or classroom teachers that are looking to support more dynamic multimedia projects.

http://21c-learning.com/music-education-workshops/

DECEMBER

Ed-Tech Staff Job-a-like

This year there is a really special added bonus to attending the annual conference. We are proud to be hosting a EdTech staff job-a-like that is being organised by schools in HK/South China region. This event has been going on now for the last 2 years and last year had over 100 attend. 21C has taken over the logistics of the event and we are inviting Tech Directors and their staff to come to HK on December 10th – one day before the pre-conferences begin. The event is priced very competitively at $12USD to encourage schools to bring their entire tech team. There are three tracks – Tech Directors, Tech Coach and Technical Staff (for IT managers and front-line staff).

7th Annual Conference

This is our biggest event yet with over 10 pre-conference events, 5 outstanding keynote speakers and 30+ practitioners workshops.

Visit the URL below for more information:

http://hk.21c-learning.com

Jun 18 / Justin

Focusing on What’s Important

E000001

I think we are really in a time of tumult when it comes to technology in education (well education in general really as it is really meaningful to talk about one without the other?). I don’t have any single article to back me up on this but the general trend I’m seeing is more and more people talking about the need to educate our students with the digital skills to work and thrive in the 21st Century. We have been saying for a long time that “its not about the technology.” Thats usually code for “Learning about technology is not the important thing, its a tool that we use to (fill in the blank)”. This is still true up to a point. However, I also think this “truism” of ed-tech is also very dangerous and if followed too strictly could cause us to miss some giant things happening around us. The funny thing is we say the same thing about about almost any subject area in school. For example – at a certain point biology is not “about the biology” but really more about “thinking like a scientist.” However, we still structure learning/courses around content areas and as long as we do so I think we’ll be caught to some extent of thinking about technology as a means to and end rather than a potential end in itself.

Students that are fluent and confident in digital tools to think and create will be in a much better position to thrive in the world now being created. We have talked a lot about looking hard at curriculum to de-emphasize content and whilst we have done so in some ways how serious have we been about being intentional about the things that supposed do matter – soft skills and media skills (or new media literacies)

This is “old” now but in my mind still captures it really well

http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/

How many schools purposely plan and structure learning about learning these important skills? Most often we about about our programs being “aligned” with them, or that teachers address them whilst teaching core subjects. This strikes me as really odd. In what other human endeavor would we spend so little time and energy on being purposeful about doing what we think is most important?

We need to redefine what it means to be literate and actually change schooling to reflect that.

The plain fact of the matter is the world is being remade by and with technology.

Case in point

The individuals that are behind this revolution do so with profoundly deep digital skills. These are not skills that they attained “using technology” to reach traditional “core” academic subjects. If we keep doing that we’re not going to graduate students that are “doers” in the modern technology landscape. Well, not on purpose anyway.

Jul 22 / Justin

Reflection on ADE Cork

DSC_0044

I write this from Dublin, Ireland. I’ve taken a couple of days after Cork before returning to my new home, Korea, to see a bit of the country that hosted this years “ADE Global Summit.” Whilst here in Dublin I’ve taken it fairly easy and consequently had a bit of time to reflect. This reflection led me to realize that its been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog – not quite enough to actually post though, mind you. No, the straw that broke the camels back on that front was that the majority of most Twitter posts seems to be mainly about cheese right now. Need to change the conversation..

A good topic whilst it is still fresh is learnings from the ADE event I just attended. I was lucky to be selected to attend this event which was held in Cork, Ireland from the 15 – 28th of July 2012.

My mind is still swirling a bit from all the interactions and presentations during this event so rather than try and sum up I’ll unload them in no particular order below

  • Apple is certainly a company that understands very well the needs of educators. When I say they understand I mean more than simply their products fit well in schools (more on that in the next point) but that the employees of the company and the consultants it employs (for example Bill Frakes the photographer) speak the language of educators very fluently.
  • It gelled with me more at this event than ever before that the tools of technology today are ideal for learning but not necessarily ideal for education (at least as education is often configured). This is where tools like iTunes U and iBooks are so key. They allow for the potential to bridge the gap between devices that are ideal for individual learning and productivity with the needs of an institution/teacher to package and “manage” learning activities and resources. I’m not sure iTunes U goes far enough with this but I’ll reserve judgement until I have more experience.
  • I have big questions about the future of the LMS. Not that it is going away but rather the function it will perform. One of the focus areas for this event was “open learning resources” I thought this was great. In a way a little ironic given that iTunes U courses and iBooks (in particular) are exclusive to iOS devices. It would be great to see if there was a way to publish iTunes U courses not through the iTunes Store or if there was a iTunes U API. I can imagine a LMS of the future being able to create an iTunes U course (and maybe even iBooks) on the fly from a more generic learning database. In this way the LMS is the “uber” database for learning content for a institution and iTunes U is a “channel” whereby this content is distributed.  I love iOS devices. However, I can’t also help feel that BOYD should be the future, if so the content can’t be tied up in a platform specific context.
  • Cork was a great location for the event. I really relished to opportunity to visit Ireland on this trip. The Irish are great hosts and Apple chose a wonderful venue for the event. I wish I had more of an opportunity to speak with the Irish educators at the event – my fault entirely as I found myself handing with the “usual suspects” (and having a great time)
  • There is a need to repackage content – Everyone left the event on a project team that is supposed to put something together for iTunes U. Many of these projects are essentially repackaging “good content” from online sources. I found this interesting. I’m excited about the project my team is working on. Essentially an “Admin Leadership Technology Integration Toolkit.” There is a lot of good content out there but I’m not sure it has been put together for the particular audience we chose.

    Our project description is as below:

Educational leaders at all levels have always needed to make curricular and instructional design decisions. The current context is one where mobile technologies have the ability to transform curriculum design and pedagogy. Therefore educational leaders need to embed decisions about technology into existing curricular design processes. Our iTunesU/iBook will provide resources to help the architects of student learning make decisions to integrate mobile technology to support students in reaching learning targets.

I’m sure this will evolve but that essential idea will remain as I think it is a resource sorley needed. I look forward to posting a link to it from here in the fall.

Tomorrow I head back to Seoul. I’m conscious that my friends in schools are probably getting close to being “anxious” about the new school year. Particularly those in Admin roles. Its strange (and welcome) to have this feeling absent. There is not a lot I can do, I guess except send good vibes their way. Consider them sent.

Feb 12 / jahardman

Moving to Korea

Kimchi

I’m moving to Seoul, South Korea!

The immediate reason for the move is that my wife will be joining an internal consulting division of a technology conglomerate in a role known as “Global Strategist” which, I think, is probably the best job title ever. I like to imagine that she’ll spend most of her day looking over a giant table featuring a world map, pushing little figurines around.

The move is exciting one. I’ve never been to Korea so there will be a lot to  learn and new experiences that will come with the transition.

At the same time there is never a good time to go, and I’m sorry to be leaving HKIS and the people here. As I’ve shared with many over the past month and half since the decision was announced, HKIS is much more than simply a job for me. I attended the school as student (as did my sister) and my parents both worked there for many years. HKIS is, to some degree, part of my DNA. I’ll be forever thankful for the opportunities I’ve had at HKIS. Most immediately I’ll miss a great team full of bright, passionate people, all dedicated in their own way to solving the puzzle of how to best leverage technology to enhance student learning.

Working on my resume (gasp – a long time since I’ve updated that thing!) has been a good reflective exercise.  I feel good about what we have been able to achieve at HKIS over the past few years. Working with a committee to put together HKIS’s strategic technology plan, implementing the HKIS 1:1 program with our ICT Facilitators, collaborating with Simon Lau (HKIS Head of ICT Infrastructure) to build a technology infrastructure to support all of our learning aspirations, pulling together YH Gan and Mandy Lai to refine and expand myDragonNet, the HKIS learning platform – these have all been fantastic experiences. For now my focus is on ensuring current HKIS initiatives are on track and there is a good plan moving forward.

I’m also reviewing my options for next year. I like the idea of being a part of many projects. Some of the things I’m looking at are:

  • Continuing to grow 21CLHK  – I think the growing interest in our conference is clear evidence of the need for an organization in Asia to connect those engaged in 21st century learning;
  • Consulting for schools – I’d be open to opportunities to help other schools think through the strategic and operational aspects of their technology systems and initiatives;
  • Working for a school in a educational technology leadership position; and
  • Commercializing some kind of online service for schools.

One thing is true – there never been a better time to be in the world of education technology and I’m excited for the future.

Stay tuned.

Dec 29 / Justin

Individually qualified with Google Apps

Recently I completed six exams and became individually qualified with Google Apps. This is the the first step in becoming an official Google Apps trainer.

I did this along with all four of the HKIS ICT Facilitators to support our school’s rollout of the Google Apps suite.

The process to getting the individually qualified certificate is completing six online tests each of which lasts for a maximum of one and half hours. All the material to study and pass the tests is conveniently put together in one easy to navigate site (hosted on Google sites of course!). I would estimate that 60% of the answers I knew without need for any study as I’ve been using Google Apps for quite awhile and also because I was leading an implementation of Google Apps at my school. However, you need 80% to pass and some of the questions even a seasoned expert is not likely to know the answer right away. The testing system does not stop you looking up the answers as you take the exam which I assume Google doesn’t mind as a search company. So the tests besides being good at testing Google Apps knowledge are also good at testing your search strategies.

One word of warning to those attempting the tests – there is quite a lot of content on the tests that is out of date since Google Apps evolves so quickly (thanks Google!). So when you take the tests put your “2009” hat on in terms of the size limits and features of the product. Some of the products tested have been been discontinued by Google (i.e Video). I suppose that is why the certificate has a one year lifespan.

Dec 4 / Justin

Reflection on Online Educa

Flynn Effect

Flynn Effect

From November 29th – December 2nd I attended the Online Educa conference in Berlin. Online Educa is a educational technology conference with a focus on eLearning. It covers the education, government and corporate sectors.

The conference is interesting in that it brings together a wide variety of different groups. In doing so it provides a window into learning outside K-12, particularly K-12 international schools.

Two things stood out for me as trends in educational technology in the higher ed and corporate sectors. The first is games-based learning and second experiential learning via simulations and virtual worlds. In both of these cases rather than traditional print or even digital text materials coordinated by instructors there are companies and schools developing the expertise to build digital simulations that enable students to “do” what they are learning and get instant feedback on performance, for instance, a courtroom simulation for a law student or a hospital for a nurse. For now the adoption of these types of simulations is constrained by their high development cost which limits their use to the higher education and corporate sectors. However, in time, the costs to produce these will come down making it feasible for their use at the K-12 level.

Aside from this what were the big picture trends and ideas?

This is one area of the conference that I felt didn’t come together. However, there was one idea raised in a keynote session that I did find thought provoking.

That is that human beings, over time are getting smarter. This is the so-called Flynn effect. The Flynn effect postulates that general human intelligence overall as measured by IQ tends to increase over time. One speaker in the keynote session posited that this may be in part to due technological effects on how we use our brain.

It all has to do with what is referred to in neuroscience as transitive memory. Transactive memory is when you off-load some memory function out of your own brain –  today this is something we certainly do with computers. However, this was true even without computers. For example in a relationship between a husband and a wife each will tend to take on specific memory functions for the combined unit.  The wife might, when traveling, be responsible for remembering flight numbers and times, whilst the husband might be responsible for remembering what bills need paying and when. We do this as it helps keeps the number of things we need to worry about in our head to a manageable minimum. If you need to find out when a flight leaves, or how much rent is, consult your partner.

In a large sense this is what we have done with almost everything in the age of Google.

This has been empirically proven – In a Columbia experiment scientists recorded brain patterns whilst asking students to remember facts and later recall them. When quizzed on the facts they had been asked to remember  the students immediately thought of Google. In other words if the student believed that later they could easily look up the information their brains learned to not remember the facts.

Roddy Roediger, a psychologist at Washington University, told Science, “Why remember something if I know I can look it up again? In some sense, with Google and other search engines, we can offload some of our memory demands onto machines.”

Our transactive memory now has instant access to so much more than ever before. In this way our brains are left for cognitive processing rather than data retention. Thus, it is more important that we are able to effectively use our transactive memory than actually remember factual information. And in the age of digitization our transactive memory is huge! Google has scanned all books you can get a picture of this with the Ngram experiment which reveals the frequency of certain words in all books over time.

More practically? The world’s classrooms are going digital.

In South Korea all classrooms will be paperless by 2015. There is a push for all citizens in Europe to have an electronic portfolio. These are seen as national or regional priorities in an increasingly globalized world.

Where does that leave international schools that are simultaneously blessed but also perhaps hurt by not being captive to legislative and regulatory obligations? The answer is not inaction. We can see where technology for learning is heading by looking at what is being adopted in corporate and higher education. The impetus at the government level is towards increased engagement with digital learning. Why? Because it is physically altering the way we remember and access information – the way we think.

May 16 / Justin

Presentation at HK Education and IT Conference

Screen shot 2011-05-15 at 10.53.37 PM

Two weeks ago I was honored to present at the HK Education and IT Conference. I was in two sessions at the conference. The first was  a panel on continuous improvement in education and IT and second was a keynote on how HKIS uses IT in its college preparatory classes.

I modified the keynote topic somewhat and chose to speak about  how technology is being used at HKIS (from a fairly high level) and how we support our teachers.

I’ve posted my talk below:

From student to teacher from Justin Hardman on Vimeo.