Global Book Clubs – Redefinition

Just as we use student data to inform our instruction in the classroom, the same is true for our own learning journey.  The last five years have been a steep learning curve with respect to the use of technology in the classroom.  I’ve moved to a more transformative and thoughtful practice because I’ve had time to explore its application and follow the results in the classroom.

Photo Credit: ASB
Photo Credit: ASB

Increasing the use of technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning has gone hand in hand with a shift in my own education philosophies and a shift in my role in the learning environments. The growth of accessibility to and diversity of tools and connections has led to an increase in the acquisition of information available to both students and teachers. Therefore, my role as a teacher has changed to a co-constructor and co-connector of student learning.

What’s been helpful throughout this time is the implementation of structures to support the intentional and appropriate use of technology to enhance learning.  For example, for the past four years my school has been auditing technology usage in the classroom primarily around the ISTE Standards for Students and also later Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.  Data collected and analyzed with the support of tech coaches has allowed me to see the areas where I use technology the most and the areas that were missed.  For example, the data showed that students had many opportunities to conduct research for projects, create content, and to communicate and collaborate with peers in their class. However, application to a global community was lacking and there was no intentionality about digital citizenship.  This lead to the formation of goals in subsequent school years and I was able to ensure there was more balance to my program.  It also led me to seek out appropriate professional development to support me in my goals and that’s when I enrolled in COETAIL.  Goal setting in response to data and personal reflection has been key in leading change in my practice as an educator.  It helps in all areas of my practice, but was very instrumental with respect to a focus on the use of technology for learning.

This intentional look at technology usage to enhance student learning also helped me to choose a direction for my COETAIL final project.  I took an aspect of the reading workshop (Book Clubs) and a writing unit (Student Blogging) and transformed it with my new understandings of technology integration. I wanted to redefine Book Clubs in a way that could layer in multiple areas that I’d previously identified as my goals (global collaboration and digital citizenship) as well as enable me to apply what I’ve learned about  Visual Literacy, Connectivism, and Integrated Technology whilst hitting many of the ISTE Standards for Students.

Back in Course 2, I wrote about participating in Global Collaboration Project and that I’d like to organize my own.  Well I did just that with this project – on a small scale – but powerful none the less. Here’s the UbD plan which has all the planning documents linked in and any subsequent lesson plans that were developed along the way to support my learners.  

 

The Global Book Club project is officially done; however, the experience still lives on in the classroom. The biggest transformation has been the level of student engagement. It was like everyone sat up straight and rolled up their sleeves.  It came at the perfect time in the year as we, as a class, were very comfortable with our small group of peers. The new audience heightened everyone’s focus.  That is the power of audience. Here’s the final video which documents the main parts of the project:

There was lots of hidden challenges (hence learning) along the way that is not evident in the video. There was a huge amount of communication in getting it set up and maintaining the project.  Working around time zones, and different school schedules meant that skyping happened at weird times of the day.  Ideally, book club discussions using SKYPE would’ve happened during the Reading Workshop, but our schedules and times did not line up.  Students in China were heading home as we were beginning our Reading Workshop.  A great degree of flexibility was required by everyone involved.  Even the kids didn’t mind when they had to come in during a recess break to have their Skype discussion.  Everyone made it happen.

As well as feedback from students, teachers also provided feedback along the way and at the end.

“We had a fantastic time doing this project. I can not believe how much my kids and I learned in such a short period of time. The lesson ideas were great. I also noticed that the engagement was so much more authentic!. The students wanted to be prepared for the other groups. They experienced what it is like to have a responsibility to others. They were motivated to think deeper and create high level questions and responses. They really liked the Skyping piece. I was surprised how shy they seemed at first. However, they never mentioned being nervous, only excited. When we discussed the Skyping, they all wished they had had more Skype sessions. Maybe a Skype session at the very beginning would help with making group connections (I know scheduling is tough and the Padlet is a great alternative).”

The desired accomplishments of this unit were met in ways I didn’t imagine.  Students communicated their ideas using a variety of media.  In addition, the depth of their writing increased. Student blog posts are evidence of writers who can construct and organise blog posts about their reading and thinking whilst incorporating features of blog writing (e.g. hyperlinking) and showing digital citizenship (appropriate register of writing and correct attribution of image).  This blog post shows a reader who is going beyond the text with their thinking and supporting evidence.

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Created with Tagul.com with text collected from student feedback

This project created an environment in the classroom which grew student agency as a result of the authentic audience and through the use of technology.

3 Cs – Collaboration, Citizenship, & Copyright

Citizenship is a core part of education.  With our changing learning landscape digital citizenship has taken its own place on the stage and warrants its own space in the curriculum.  It is one of the 6 ISTE Standards for Students and is the heart of COETAIL course 2.  The use of technology to enhance learning has become an ever increasing focus in my practice and COETAIL has really encouraged a reflective look at my practice.  One realisation is that I’ve spent considerable time thinking about the use of technology to promote creativity and innovation, as a vehicle to facilitate communication and collaboration, and as a research tool, but I have not given the same attention to aspects of Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship – Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behaviour.  And as this realisation has bubbled over the last 7 weeks of the course, I’ve seen others grapple with similar issues of recognising its importance but wondering how to be explicit in its integration into the curriculum.  This is in part how this final project started for me as a need to change my mindset to teaching aspects of digital citizenship proactively rather than reactively.  I began to realise that I was not arming my students with the information, skills, attitudes and mindset to live the life of a model digital citizen. One aspect of digital citizenship is the safe and legal practice of information.  It’s been my experience (and those I worked with on the final project) that many students reach the end of primary school without a proper understanding of copyright or citation and it was this commonality that drew us together.  For the final project, I teamed up with Angela, Leah, Rob on a project that stemmed from our personal experiences in our day to day teaching lives regarding the teaching of copyright.

Image by author
Image by author

And as the seeds were planted our project grew.   The core aim of our collaborative project was to inspire a whole school/primary school initiative to create guidelines and resources for age appropriate citation (including books websites, blogs, photos, youtube, tweets) and resources to support this aspect of digital citizenship in the classroom.  This project is all about setting teachers and students up for success.  As resources started to be created we realised we needed a place to document and share everything.  We created a website for both students and teachers to access and utilise.

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The resources created included posters to be accessed in the classroom by teachers and students.  They are in both printable and digital formats.  In addition, we thought it was important to support these resources with frameworks.  We created two UbD plans to support the use of the guidelines and resources.  Our initial UbD plan documents the thinking behind the project itself and the process we went through.  It can be used by other teachers/tech coaches/coordinators when implementing a school wide approach to copyright and citation.

The second UbD plan was developed to help teachers or a team of teachers integrate the use of the resources into a unit.

A big focus was making the content accessible to K-5 students.  Much of what we’d seen used
was too complex or text dense.  As I’ve been informing myself about copyright issues I realised how complicated it was.  I spent a long time studying the copyright flowchart created by Meryl Zeidenberg and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.  It is a great resource for teachers but overwhelming for young students.  This inspired us to create a flowchart suitable for elementary students.  And hence just another example of how one idea sparks others as we all share our content and ideas online.

Copyright Flowchart2 2
Image by Tracy Blair, Rob Langlands, Amanda McCloskey, Leah Bortolin

It was also important for us to connect our work to a wider focus which is overall citizenship by making connections to the IB PYP Learner Profile.  We added further resources to support the unit such as Visible Thinking routines and student and teacher assessment tools.  As well as using this website and resources ourselves, we hope that others will find it useful and provide us feedback. We are sure it can continue to grow and we really had to force ourselves to stop so we could wrap up our project.

This project was as much about being part of a professional learning network and global collaboration as it was about the content of our work (copyright and responsible use of information).  It was challenging to find a group initially as the steps I took to connect with others resulted in dead ends.  It reminded me of my childhood  PE days waiting to be picked by the two students selected as captain by the coach.  This first hand experience has developed my own skill set for finding connections and sparking collaboration.  The collaboration aspect was very rewarding. As well as needing tools to facilitate global collaboration, I’ve learned it’s important to have structures or systems in place to facilitate the work (like group agreements, agendas collaborative planning documents) just as I would in a school collaborative situation. Reflecting on the process has allowed me to think about what really worked and things I would do differently next time.

The benefits were immediate as we could use our different strengths. I found that we generated a lot of ideas; and new ideas arose as a result.  In fact we never stopped coming up with new ideas.  A strength of the group was the division of tasks, following time lines, replying promptly to comments and emails and being flexible with each others’ schedules.  What was challenging was working on our project at different times.  Sometimes I wanted to ask a quick question or seek feedback on work but had to wait.  It was good practice in patience, being organised and working ahead of schedules to leave plenty of time for discussions and reviewing our work. We used a variety of mediums to collaborate – email, collaborate planning document which had a lot of commenting during all stages of the project, and google hangout for face to face discussions.


Next time I would structure the shared planning document in a better way to record our ideas.  Here’s a short video of us using Google Hangout to plan and organise our work and shows us pulling our ideas together.  This was my first experience using Google Hangout.  Next time, I would use it more as I always felt more informed after the face to face conversations as ideas could be clarified right on the spot.