I’ve been mulling over the Final Project since Course 4 started. I have had a mosaic of ideas rather than one clear direction. I’ve tried approaching my ideas from different angles to see if I can see a clear path but without much luck. As I am working in a BYOD Grade 4 classroom in a school that promotes and gives full support and resources to the use of technology to enhance student learning, many of my units of inquiry have tech integrated into them both for the process of learning and product. While they are not perfect and could be reworked, I felt it wouldn’t push me enough outside of my comfort zone, nor allow me to apply many of my new understandings and skills from COETAIL.
One of my main goals is to push myself more into the redefinition stage in some aspect of the curriculum as a lot of my current tech usage supports enhancements (which is not a bad thing – it allows us to be effective learners). For these reasons, I want to choose a unit from core subjects such as reading, writing, math which tend to be more stand alone units. I think I will choose a literacy focus as the use of technology for literacy has normally come in the shape of an add on at the end (e.g the unit continues as normal and I add on a tech tool at the end for publishing. Yes – using technology for publishing is great as it gets a more polished product and perhaps a wider audience, but again there could be more value added by using authentically throughout. Also I was inspired by @snideralexis who showed how technology could be infused throughout a literacy unit and not tagged on.
In the past year, I’ve participated in my first global collaborative project – If You Learned Here and I saw the benefits of having an expanded audience and witnessed high student engagement. From that, I felt inspired to be a part of more GCP and perhaps one day create my own. So my reflective thinking over the past 6 weeks on my own work and the work of other COETAIL members has lead me to this point and below are details of two options for the Course Five final project. They are very much in the ideation stage and I’m going to spend time thinking over the holidays about which one to choose. No matter which one I choose I want to be sure to include elements of all for COETAIL courses including aspects on Digital Citizenship, Visual Literacy, Connectivism and Global Collaboration, and Integrated Technology and highlight many of the ISTE Standards for Students.
Idea #1: Global Collaborative Digital Book Club
In this project, students will be part of a global collaborative book club. I will find other upper elementary classrooms to partner for this project. As this is my first time to organize a GCP, I will start with only a few school (perhaps 3-4). Students will read books and have book clubs with children from other schools. This will allow students to gain awareness that kids have a lot in common, but may also have differences depending on their location in the world and their cultural contexts.
Many COETAIL learning objectives could shine through this project including a chance to connect and collaborate with people from around the world using a variety of tools (Skype, Padlet, Blog, google apps). Also, students could demonstrate digital citizen and bring to life many of our past classroom discussions about digital profile and etiquette within an authentic opportunity.
Every year we set tech goals using the ISTE-Teacher Standards. After reflecting on my use of technology in the past, I realised that of the 5 standards I felt very comfortable on #1, 2, and 3 and could articulate clearly how these were actualized in various units throughout the school year. However, #4 Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility was a gap. There had been no intentionality in addressing this standard. So it is my goal for this year. In particular 4d – Develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital-age communication and collaboration tools. This project definitely gets at the heart of this Standard.
I think this project is a good option as the use of technology will be multifaceted and be able to highlight many of the aspects from COETAIL including opportunities to connect with learners in different places of the world (only able with technology).
While I see many positive outcomes from this project, I have a number of concerns about proceeding with this option. The biggest concern I have is firstly finding teachers/classes to collaborate with and secondly finding the ‘right’ teachers/classes for this project. I would be looking for classes in different parts of the world to offer diversity and different perspectives, compatible time zones, and willing and able to follow a timeline. The other area I am thinking about is picking the right books for this project to engage students. I have some ideas and I have people who I could consult for this area.
This project will create a shift in my pedagogy because I will be relying on my own personal network to get it going. ‘Have I become a connected educator as a result of this course?’ This was one of my goals. If I can get this project off the ground by using my social networks developed through this course, I will feel successful. In addition, I think this project really moves in the direction of redefinition because students will be using technology to do things that they previously could not do.
Students will be challenged by this project and will require them to be open-minded, curious, patient and flexible.
Idea #2 – Redesign a traditional geometry unit.
In this project, I would redesign a geometry unit which focuses on the learning the names and attributes of 2D and 3D shapes. I’m thinking this would be the perfect unit to try out a PBL approach. Traditionally students have learned a bunch of geometric terms and their attributes. Even though my intent was to give them an authentic application, in the past we’ve run out of time and felt rushed to move on to the next unit. This was partially due because the application part was not planned out in advance. I think redesigning the whole unit and focusing on an application from the start will be more engaging and authentic for students. One idea for the project is for students to use geometric concepts to design either a piece of jewelry or a logo.
I think that this unit redesign highlights my growth as an educator from the handing over more responsibility and ownership to the students. Letting go of some control is needed in a project or problem based unit. I think the COETAIL experience has given me the confidence to do this.
I hope this unit would lead to higher student engagement of all learners and I think it is a good option for the Course 5 project because
My primary concern for redesigning this unit are the timings for the unit. This unit is scheduled for April which is later than I would like. Secondly, I’d have to decide whether to do this unit alone if the other grade 4 teachers did not want to try it.
I think this unit will allow students to use technology to acquire content which I think will allow students to work at different paces. There is always a high variability of students’ skill/knowledge/understanding level. The flexibility of the project could allow some students to more – Also, teachers could be free to support those students needing additional support with content. It could be a good opportunity to have some flipped lessons so content is readily accessible and can be revisited as needed. Again, this allows students to be independent learners.
I’d hope that my students would be flexible and patient as their teacher tries something new. I see many opportunities for students to be in position of peer teachers in this unit and show empathy for each other’s learning situations.