Application of Learning – Final Project

For the final project I chose a grade 4 unit that I am currently teaching and will teach again next year in order to provide an opportunity to revise a unit and apply my new learnings and understandings from Course 1 while it is fresh in my mind. Some of the changes I’ve been able to implement for this year as the timing worked out and others will be included next year. Right now, students are at the point of designing their own projects so I’ll be able to reflect further in a couple of weeks and perhaps share out some of their work. I wanted this unit to reflect my key learnings for Course 1 which include:

  • my understanding of the connected nature of the internet and its potential and power to transform learning
  • the importance of developing a technology-enriched environment
  • an understanding of the characteristics of the digital natives we teach and learn with every day, and my growing awareness that they have unique funds of knowledge which we can help develop, enhance and build on
  • a focus of intentional planning of the use of technology so it can bring added value to already great teaching and learning environment but in addition provide opportunities to do new things in new ways as well as old thing in new ways

I also wanted to be intentional and aware of my decisions of technology usage (how and when) in this unit and how it connects to various ISTE Standards. While I could see evidence of the standards at various points I wanted to be conscious of it so that I could not only ‘use’ it but also assess students abilities or applications of the skills in order to inform myself about them as a learner and possible next steps in learning. I wanted to hit on multiple standards even though I was only assessing two. In addition, I wanted to be sure the technology was used purposefully throughout the unit and not just at the end so I looked for opportunities where the use of technology would enhance during the research stage as well as used for collaboration, publishing and communication.

As I wanted the learning to be personally meaningful to students, they each developed their own GRASPS project. This is itself was a big learning opportunity as it brought up many conversations about setting a purpose (what’s our goal), and therefore what would be an authentic way to inform/persuade my audience about the topic. So this lead to big discussions and really pushed students into thinking beyond just using a Google Presentation which is their go-to tool. It also encouraged students not to start at the point of choosing a tool. Instead, like when teachers are planning we are starting by thinking of goal or what we hope to achieve and then think how best can I get there and how best can I show/share learning.

Later in the process students did some brainstorming of ways to inform so we could get the idea that there are many ways to share information and we should choose the most appropriate based on our goal and audience. We turned it into a A-Z of tools. I think it is something to leave up for the year as a tool to refer to when thinking about sharing content. I also wanted to be mindful of not starting with a tool/product (e.g. make a video to share learning) as I don’t believe this would allow for true alignment between the goal, role, and audience.  Some of their ideas included:  website, video, blog, presentation, Digital Photostory, Infographic, article.

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Here is the revised unit:

PLN & Learning Landscapes

I’m excited to be participating in my first global collaborative project (GCP).  I’m just as excited as to how it got started as it really reinforces one of the central ideas of Course 1.  This is the idea around the connectedness of the internet, and the power and opportunities that it provides. The opportunity to participate in a global collaborative project presented itself through a Twitter post.

Now we are in Week 1 of the global collaborative project If You Learned Here and I’m sitting back in awe at the level of organization, collaboration and communication involved in setting up and facilitating such a project.  When you stop to look at the level of detail, planning, and time management you can see how participating in such a project allows students to also engage in these skills.  In addition to that, the project facilitators exhibit the technical knowledge and attitudes promoted through the IB Learner Profile and attitudes.  Again, providing wonderful models for all those involved in the project. 

I’m realising that global collaborative projects are multi-faceted learning experiences with powerful benefits for all involved both teachers and students and when well planned have the power to promote the PYP transdisciplinary skills and attitudes as well as many of the ISTE Standards for students. Given that, I’m wondering why I’m only now involved in a global collaborative project.  Some of you may have guessed already.  Lack of a ‘working’  PLN.   I hadn’t previously taken PLNs and social network sites seriously nor realised their potential.  Thanks COETAIL & Twitter.  I’ve seen the light.

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This current project has really inspired me to learn more about global collaborative projects.  As a participator I’m going through step by step just following the prompts and any directions given. But I’m also really paying attention to processes and structures that support these projects.  It all starts with small steps and I feel like Course 1 is a series of small steps in the direction I want to go with respect to the use of technology in teaching and learning.

Designing my own GCP is on my to-do list, and quite near the top.  Thanks to Kim Cofino for the useful step by step guide.  That really helped me; especially to see the process framed through the lens of UbD – Backwards By Design, as that is very familiar to me.  I’ve got tons of ideas for projects centered around our PYP units of inquiry and literacy units.  I can’t wait to engage with those around me including my grade level colleagues, and tech coordinators both as supporters and contributors. The more I read the more excited I become, and the more ideas for projects I get.  Being intentional is important to me so I appreciated the laid out plans suggested by Kim Cofino to ensure alignment of teaching objectives, the place of assessment and how it fits into the purpose of the project.  It’s my normal style to make sure everything has been planned, cross referenced and aligned especially when embarking on something new.  This is great practice, but on the down side it sometimes takes a long time to get new things started.  I learned a few years ago that sometimes you have to dive into new things with a few question marks and uncertainties lurking around.  For example, when I shifted to my current school all students were expected to own, contribute to, and manage an ePortfolio.  I wasn’t new to using portfolios as a tool for students to reflect on work, track growth, or showcase specific work; just the electronic medium part was new.  Initially I found myself stuck: new school, new class, new portfolios.  After a couple of weeks of grappling with it, I just decided to block a regular time on the schedule, list a few criteria (when, what…) and jump in with the students and figure it out. And we did.  My point is sometimes it is okay to get the feet week and jump in.  There are safety nets.  That’s real life.  Sometimes you don’t have all the answers or information and you learn to problem solve in areas of uncertainty.  It’s good for students to do that too with the safety and support of the teacher and their learning environment.

The Flying Trapeze - Amusement Park

Photo Credit: Robin Kanouse – https://www.flickr.com/photos/15327252@N00/4341928156/”>Rockin Robin</a> via <a href=”https://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a

As my experience with using social networks grow, I’m beginning to understand that such networks can powerfully contribute to my own professional development and to the learning of students.  I no longer have to wait for the yearly conference or workshops or wonder if the PD budget will stretch to another course.  There is literally people, ideas, and information right at my finger tips.

LegoTeamMe with my PLN

Here’s a quote that I like to keep close in my mind.  While maybe not written with our technological decisions in mind, I like to use it in most aspects of my life and given the changing nature of our learning landscapes I think it fits well:

“When you are faced with decision, make that decision as wisely as possible, then forget it. The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.”  From the poem:  Live each day to the fullest by S. H. Payer

So readers, what’s your next step for GCP?  Ideas, thoughts?

Change is in the Air

Change – it’s an interesting thing and there’s plenty of it going around.  Teaching and learning is changing with new tech tools.  And at the halfway point in Course 1, it’s a good time to reflect on my own personal change.  I haven’t changed much of my day to day practices in the classroom as a result of the course yet. But I can definitely feel a change in my thinking around the role of technology in teaching and learning.  In Shaping Tech for the Classroom Marc Prensky describes a four step process of the adoption of technology in schools:

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

I think in my teaching career I’ve seen this process in myself and in the schools I’ve worked in.  In the beginning everyone was dabbling – it was new for everyone.  Reading his descriptions I would say I am now at doing old things in new ways.  I’ve probably been here for a while, but over the last few weeks I moved closer to the edge.  I feel like I am standing on tip toes right at the edge of a great precipice.  For me this gap (or this next step) seems biggest out of all of them.  I moved through the first three steps pretty seamlessly as a result of the people and school environment around me.  However, I feel this next step is going to take more from me; more intentionality and maybe more from my new connected world around me.

I’m lucky.  As a school, we are doing new things in new ways thanks to an active Research and Development department, but I also want to contribute at the classroom level.  I don’t want to wait for findings – I want to be part of the findings.

So what will push me over?  Why have I been standing at the edge for so long?  Prensky states that there are two major factors that get in the way of technology adoption:  “One of these is technological, the other social.”

Since the technology side of things are in place in my school, I presume it has something to do with being a digital immigrant.  While I wouldn’t say I am resistant to change as Pesky generalizes of educators, I would say I need guidance with some changes.

There is a place for doing old things in news ways – these may be the things that make us more efficient learners or educators – we can communicate/connect with others faster, get information faster, and cross reference and share information.  I write about how BYOD has enhanced and personalized the learning experience of elementary students and describe some of the benefits.  But I believe there is still a shift to be made.  I believe there is more.  I haven’t been able to visualize it yet.  I want enhanced learning not just teaching or learning made easier.  I want transformative learning not just increased engagement in teaching and learning.  While engagement and ease are important, these are already in place.

Tools like Blooms Digital Taxonomy give us hints about what could be core aspects of ‘new things in new ways’.  Jeff Utech pens Prensky’s steps into questions to help administrators evaluate teachers.  And within each step there are more specific questions or things to look for in ‘new things in new ways’ which give me clues about the direction I need to head in:

  • learning from people previously not available
  • students interacting with information in a meaningful and new way
  • allowing student to create and share knowledge with a new audience

But perhaps before I look for ways to do ‘new things in new ways’ I need to take a look at and reflect on my role as a teacher.  Mark Prensky talks with Stephen Heppell about the changing roles of the teacher and the attributes they need.  Maybe it is more important for me to start here – and that last step will follow.

 

So I’m at the edge.  I need a parachute, a zip-line or a couple of concrete examples of ‘new things in new ways’ to give me that push.  I’m looking for new things in new ways – transformative lessons/projects/units.  Is there anyone out there ready to give me a push? Do I have the courage it will take to transform my role as a digital immigrant teacher of digital native students in the 21st Century?

 

Prensky, M.  (2005) Shaping Tech for the Classroom – 21st-century schools need 21st-century technology. https://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom

Same, but different

A major goal for me over the past two weeks has been to build routines and habits around the use of digital tools (Twitter, Flipboard, Feedly) with the purpose of getting informed and connected.  I knew early on that this would be important for me if I wanted to maximise my growth from this course, and to internalise new practices and for these new practices to continue in my life after the course has finished.  It has become my habit to flip through Flipboard, Twitter and Feedly on the commute home each day.  I look forward to skimming over the ‘cover stories’ and seeing what catches my eye; reading some articles in depth and scanning others; scrolling through the twitter feed, and in some cases exploring the links to more information.

It was while I was out for my evening walk (the time away from iphone, ipad, and computer – the time when I start joining the dots with what’s happened in the classroom and what I’ve been reading and learning) that a realisation hit me.  That is:  forming routines and habits around information is not a new phenomena at all.  I thought back to my childhood and clearly remember dad coming home from work every night around 5:30.  His routine was to grab a drink and sit and read the town paper.  There was even a procedure about this.  Start with the headlines, sport section, weather, birth and death notices, and who’s selling what.  A little later it would be time for the 6:00 news – a chance to get the most up to date information on the headlines and of course more information about the weather.  The next morning, the radio would be on while we got ready for school/work and on in the car on the way to work; again more information.  Dad was staying informed and connected to his immediate world around him and beyond.  Seeing the parallels in my dad’s habit and my own felt reassuring.  But I also began to look closer at what’s changed?  What’s different?

What’s changed is that information it is now a two-way process.  We can now participate in producing news and content; no longer only a consumer.  Another change is the volume of connections between the information, and people and the doors that open as a result.  It was on a ride home this week that a door opened as the most recent tweet caught my eye.

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Three words stood out:  globally collaborative project.  I’ve been looking for something meaningful,  that fits in with existing curricular objectives and suitable for my age group.  This ticked all the boxes.  I’m signed up for this project and excited to be starting.  But the aha moment was that this opportunity came as a result of a system and routine.  System:  Twitter – set up to follow people working in my profession and areas of interest.  And a new routine – reading Flipboard and Twitter on the way home .  Had this came out three weeks ago, I would’ve not seen it.  Had I not started a new routine with checking in to Twitter I would have missed it.  I did no go looking for it.  I did not spend hours searching the internet for such a project; it found me (with the help of the system and routine).  Now I see the potential in these social network sites.  A real purpose and reason for using them has formed.  And for any learner this is key.  It has to be relevant and meaningful and with purpose.

Twitter is still a little alien to me.  I’ve been browsing a lot not only to see who’s saying what, but to see how.  I’m still in the deconstruction phase of Twitter: meaning the phase of the learning cycle when students are considering “What is the social purpose of this genre?  Who uses it? and Why?  What are some of the language features?  What is the relationship between writer and reader?  I have tons of questions.  There are heaps of good resources to help, plus willing colleagues (@morzh @MumbaiMaggie) who answer my questions.

Same but different.  The new feels more comfortable when you can connect it to the old.

Connect the Dots

Do you remember the connect the dots activity from your childhood?  You draw a line from 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and so on until the picture was revealed and you sat back proudly at your accomplishments.  This week I’ve been connecting the dots and while the complete picture is not fully developed, I am beginning to see the start of it.

Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo
Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo

Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo

These past two weeks, I’ve devoted time to setting up a RSS Feed (Feedly) and Flipboard and hours reading/scanning the content flowing in, but the dilemma faced is when to stop reading and start writing. Exactly which of the many interesting ideas, theories, or new thinking do I want to zoom in on and share?

I feel like I need to stop working to have enough time to read all that is out there on education, technology and the role of technology plus many more interesting related and somewhat unrelated topics.  However, without my present and future students, and educational decisions in my daily life, it would quickly lose relevance.  It’s all about the information you need now.  ‘How best to meet the needs of the students in my class?’ is what I need now.  No students.  No need.  This is what resonated with me after reading Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.  His conclusion nicely tied everything together (remember the dot picture) and what has left an imprint for me is the idea around access versus possession of knowledge.  “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”  “Access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”  So many conversations turn to or linger too long on what to teach; let’s remember the conclusion of George Siemens and perhaps ask ourselves “What skills am I building through what I am teaching that will allow students to access what they need when they need it?”

 So if all that I’ve read this week are the dots (Connectivism, Using Scratch for digital storytelling, Superheroes of the maker movement, Copyright issues, Recruiting Using Social Media,  Blooms’ Digital Taxonomy Map, Planning lessons around technology, and many, many more) what picture is forming?  The picture that is being revealed is that the landscape of information is constantly changing and we need to be smart about that.  We need to build systems to help us maximise the landscape (not just survive it).  Using tools like Flipboard can help as it flips the process of me finding information to information finding me.  That’s been a major focus for this week as I’ve set up RSS feeds and Flipboard.  I’ve been creating systems and I’ve had to think carefully about what’s important information for me right now.

 What picture have you uncovered this week as you’ve joined the dots?

 References:

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens

 

Diving into a Sea of Content and Connections

The internet has always been about communication – communication of information and data – so in its earliest form there was content being communicated.  Over time, a mass of content grew as well as an ever increasing group of consumers.  Web 2.0 has moved the internet to become a mass of connections between people, groups and the content.  So at its core, the fundamental principle hasn’t changed, just who, what, how, how much, when and where.

I’ve realised I’ve stayed in the consumer role way too long.  I love getting lost in all the available content on the internet and this course feeds it well as I’ve been exposed to hundreds of new blogs alone in just this past week.  However, it is time to start connecting with the mass of content and its producers, and start making a mass of intentional connections both for my own development and for that of my students.  It’s time for me to remix and produce my own content and embrace the true potential of Web 2.0 and yes… become a PROSUMER.  Today is my first step by posting my thinking as unevolved as it may be.  Let’s see where it goes.

I must admit I’ve never heard of the term Prosumer before.  Turns out it is not so new.  I did some digging around and found a couple of explanations about this term and how it has been used in the past and now in the present.  I instantly started to think of prosumers I know.  People who, unlike me, are already prosumers.  Check out these inspiring prosumers Maya Penn and Sylvia – two girls who are creating new content and making connections with the world.

This leads me to reflect on my classroom practice; how much consumption is going on and how much production?  How intentional am I being in teaching my students the critical 21st Century Skills needed by the prosumer?  Even though I have all the tools around me to be a prosumer, I am truly a consumer and that may spill over to my students.  Well, I suspect that is about to change with the start of COETAIL.

One important aspect of education is communities.  With a simple definition “A group of people having common interests”  (Reach, 2010) it shouldn’t be hard to create communities.  The importance of communities in a digital setting is discussed in REACH (2010) as well as distinguishing communities with networks.  In addition to this course, my other major area of professional growth this year has been around building classroom/school community through the Responsive Classroom approach.  One of the four key domains is Positive Community – “Teachers nurture a sense of belonging, significance, and emotional safety so that students feel comfortable taking risks and working with a variety of peers”. School-wide training has been completed and I have been intentionally incorporating the aspects and approaches to build a positive community.  I’ve watched the resulting benefits unfold.  Yes, building a community is extremely important and sets us all up for success as learners and people who share many hours together each day.  But I believe layering in digital communities needs the same level of intentional implementation.  As Jeff says in REACH, “We have been creating them since the beginning of time” and we will continue to do so in an ever changing digital learning space. In addition, in his talk “Community Trumps Content” Utech stresses that we “need to understand that it is communities and not content that changes learning”, and therefore “it is the  communities we need to be building in our schools”.

So I’ve formed a classroom community.  But how about networks?  These are the more specific groups with the characteristics of a group providing assistance and support to others.  Are there networks inside my classroom community?  Are there fluid groups interacting and providing support and assistance?  Yes, but did they form by themselves?  What role did I play?  Looking forward, I’m interesting to start talking about communities and networks within the classroom and beyond.  I think it is also important to think about what this means for different age groups.  Let’s talk about what a digital network means for 9/10 years olds and other age groups.

Me personally, I am a joiner of communities.  But my next steps are to reach out and become an active participant in a network in order to benefit from the “real learning and relationships” that comes from being part of a network.

Reference

Utecht, Jeff. (2010).  Reach:  Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development.  San Francisco, California.

Community Trumps Content:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8djV8slDN0