Technology Explosion

The last two months have swirled by on a sea of technology-enriched learning experiences.  Technology usage and integration has exploded in my classroom and this blog post documents some of the tools and experiences that students have been engaging with.

Book Creator for Math Reflections
Students at the American School of Bombay are expected to keep a digital portfolio  “The purpose of the ES ePortfolio is to provide tangible evidence of student growth, understanding and reflection. The ePortfolio provides ownership for students’ learning and the direction for establishing new goals.”  I was noticing that students were tiring of creating the same kind of reflective posts within their ePortfolio so I was looking for a different way that they could document their learning journey for a multiplication unit.  I decided to use Book Creator and was happy with the result as it:

  • allowed students to tell a learnng story,
  • focused on process over product; and
  • allowed the integration and practice of other skills (fluency, visual literacy, digital citizenship)

I had worked with Book Creator in the past with students creating narrative stories and on reflection I thought that their learning is also a story to be told so why not create it in a book format.  Here’s a finished product:
How have you used Book Creator in a different way?

To really maximise the experience, my students need more opportunities to work with this tool so they can enhance their own skill level.  As you can see from the example, there are areas that I could coach into with this student regarding layout/placement of images and other tips and tricks of Book Creator. 

However, my goal is to build student Tech Toolbox.  I want students to know that this tool is now in their tech tool box and they can continue to build their expertise by using it for other purposes.  When needed, they can make an informed choice of what tool to use to suit their objectives.  I want to student to ask themselves, “What tool would best suit the situation?”  In a busy school year, I often find students are often taught to use a tool once in a particular unit and move onto the next without getting more opportunities for using the tool.  

Image by author
Image by author

Applying Our Coding Skills
Last year, my students participated in the Hour of Code and I saw how engaging and challenging this was for my class.  I wanted to build on this and use their developing coding skills to investigate patterns of the multiplication tables.  Students had previously created Spirolaterals of the times table (2-9) by hand and looked for patterns across different tables.  


flickr photo shared by Natural Math under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

This was challenging as students had to follow a sequence of steps and repeat (kind of like a code right?).  They were kind of coding themselves to make a pattern by doing a series of steps repeatedly.

Image by author
Image by author

This gave me the idea that they might be able to write a code using Turtle Art to create the spirolateral.  Some students found it easier to do it by hand, others found it easier to do using Turtle Art and this was an interesting class discussion in itself.  More about Spirolaterals for times tables.

Image of student work by author

 

Global Book Clubs
Students have also been using technology to participate in Global Book Clubs which is my Course 5 project.  Full details to come in a later post, but just as an update, the project has been very successful.  There was a visible increase in alertness in the classroom as they interacted with students from other international schools.  Audience matters as was evident in their efforts to produce blog posts and conduct discussions with depth and precision.  There has been a lot of blogging and commenting going on the last few weeks keeping me very busy as I’ve myself been captivated by what students are saying about their books.  There were also opportunities for students to skype with their groups.  

Home-School Communication
Lastly, with all the awesome work happening in the classroom I was feeling thankful that I was a part of a wonderful group of kids and getting to see their learning in action. I really wanted parents to see inside the classroom a bit more and see what I see. They get the weekly newsletter from me which gives a lot of detail of the learning that is planned for the week.  I decided to create a Closed Facebook group in order to post images and videos to bring the learning alive.  This has allowed for better communication with parents of the day to day learning moments.

Screenshot by author
Screenshot by author

Last Thoughts
Our school hosted a conference in February (ASBUnplugged) and I caught up with an old colleague.  I was telling him about the Global Book Club project that was getting started in the classroom.  He asked a very good question and that is:  “How do you make these kind of experiences part of the curriculum so that it doesn’t leave when the teacher leaves?”  This question or idea has been playing over in my mind since we talked.  It’s a valid and relevant question and at the time I didn’t have an answer.

My COETAIL course 5 project aims to weave technology integration, digital citizenship, global collaboration, visual literacy, English Language Arts standards and redefine practice; Then shouldn’t it (or something like it) be happening in all the fourth grade classes each and every year?

I’m wondering how our new approaches garnered through our professional development experiences are sustained and not left to become a once off.  I’d like to get some good discussion going on this point as I think it is probably relevant for all of us taking COETAIL course.  You may be thinking of this already and have plans to how you can take your new learnings, skills and understanding to a level beyond your own classroom and I’d love to hear how you plan to do this.

 

Tech Integration

There is much out there describing tech integration – what it is and what it isn’t – and the shape that technology is taking in the classroom.  Some key words you’ll come across include:  routine, transparent, daily, ongoing, continuous.  Definitions abound including that of wikipedia.  Here is one of my best fit definitions:   

Seamless integration is when students are not only using technology daily, but have access to a variety of tools that match the task at hand and provide them the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of content.“ Edutopia, 2007 

As an educator, I’ve spent significant time overthinking the definition in an attempt to figure out if I am really doing IT <tech integration>.  I’ve spent many hours thinking about it and wondering ‘Am I integrating?’ thinking to myself that there would be some magical moment that I would suddenly feel like… I was NOW integrating.

I would beat myself up thinking I was not doing enough, not planned enough, not current enough and failed to see that all this time I’ve been on an integration continuum.  There is not a discrete point in time (from yesterday to today) that I will be able to say that yesterday I was not integrating but today I am, because it really is too fluid and multi-faceted to think one act or characteristic of integration would be enough.

What I can say is that it will keep changing as what satisfies me today will not be enough tomorrow; that the goal post will keep moving – again it is not a discrete point in time.  Going back to the definition, I gravitate towards this one as it is vague enough and open to interpretation and focuses on deeper understanding – which is the goal with or without technology.

But to satisfy myself, I’ve created my own self assessment around tech integration and I think these points will stay true even though other things may change (like the tools I use, the planning of the use of technology etc).  If these six things are happening I know that I have the foundations in place for technology usage which enhances learning.  These are my key indicators…

  • Technology usage happens on a routine basis.  It is not on the schedule.
  • I am the primary technology teacher.
  • The use of technology in my classroom supports the school mission and our student-generated classroom goals.
  • Students don’t ask ‘Can I do this on my computer?’
  • Students are creators and consumers and connectors.
  • Students use a variety of tools to investigate, organize, collaborate, communicate, create their knowledge, skills, and understandings.

Other tools that are helpful to evaluate technology integration are the SAMR model, and the TPACK Framework.  The SAMR model is my preferred choice due to its four levels.  But it wasn’t enough until I started to look at it with concrete examples in mind. I struggled  to think of my own examples of redefinition and therefore this level was put way out of my reach.  This was until I read of lessons transformed through SAMR and practical examples on the difference between transformation vs enhancement  that I could see that I was already well on the way.

The power of technology integration lies really in the hands of the users – that is the teachers and students.  It is going to look different in every single classroom, in every single school as it is the sum of the philosophies of the teacher, the school vision and values, and the current context.  

What does technology integration look like in my classroom?

  • Students in charge of establishing agreements for tech usage
  • Students choosing from a variety of tools to learn
  • Students choosing from a variety of tools to share their learning
  • Students learning from each other

What are my next steps

  • students using technology to connect with a global audience
  • look for new ways to redefine old lessons and units
  • students continue to build their tech toolbox
Photo by author.
Image by author.

 

Edutopia. (2007, November 5).  What is Successful Technology Integration.:  George Lucas Educational Foundation.  Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description