Learned much you have…

Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology (Doak), Jenkins 2013; Willms et al 2009

It perhaps comes as no surprise that the Jedi order crumbled. Their insistence on holding onto an archaic educational model where the teacher delivers lessons to a student without an opportunity for questions does not seem as though it would provide a rich learning environment. Instead, it is possibly to the Sith, we should look to for inspiration. Here, students are encouraged to ask questions of their mentor, to form a close bond as teacher and student push each other in order to reach higher achievement, and their one-to-one mentoring program is second to none. Although, the whole rule of two thing has been known to backfire from time to time. Intergalactic space wizards aside,  opportunities for deep learning are being created through New Pedagogies that encourage closer human connections.

time lapse photography of man dancing
Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unplash

Shifts

When I joined my current school there was a huge pedagogical shift taking place where the focus was moving towards student-centered learning. Over the past few years, it has been an exciting time to be working as an educator. The difference at a student level of moving away from a traditional model of education has been one of more open collaboration and excitement, particularly where new technologies are involved. I run a design and coding club for students where the emphasis is on students learning from one another and sharing ideas. I found Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology (Doak) affirmed the approaches I was trying to take. When discussing Distributed Cognition Doak referenced a case study in which students used flow charts to construct robots with LEGO Mindscapes. These flow charts offloaded some of the cognitive work which then allowed them to solve more complex problems. I am currently using SAM Labs which allows students to create and program a variety of different systems. I have found that by using flowcharts the students have been able to apply what they have learned to solve increasingly difficult problems. Last week, for example, the students created a system where a car would move when an RGB LED turned green. The students were then asked to work in teams to create a 4-way intersection where vehicles would stop at a red light and go on a green light. It was exciting to see the students step up to these challenges and even try to take it further by, in the case of one group, by adding an encryption sequence to initialize their system.

Learning Theories in action

Personally, when I think of new pedagogies one of the first educators who really made me reflect on my own teaching was Dan Meyers.

His 3-Act Math tasks have an incredible impact on the classroom and it’s amazing to see a shift in student discourse from simply trying to solve a problem to really considering what the problem is asking. I think his quote, “The math serves the conversation, the conversation doesn’t serve the maths” is profound and it’s something that I’ve tried to carry over across other subject areas. During my maths classes it was apparent how the students had displayed both situated cognition and socially-shared cognition (Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology Doak) and, in my opinion, this is what it means to have an authentic learning environment where students are taking an active role in their learning communities. Even students who typically struggle with maths were engaged and able to participate, even when they needed additional support in the computation.

(As a brief aside Dan’s blog largely lists 3-Act tasks for middle and high school but there are other educators such as Graham Fletcher who took influence from Dan and created their own lessons. Fletcher’s blog can be found here.)

Could there be issues that arise from new pedagogies?

More than ever, my school have a lot of emerging English speakers joining the upper elementary grade levels and even into middle school. For many of these students, teachers will ask other members of their learning community or paraprofessionals to translate instructions. In some cases, however, this approach to inclusivity is having the adverse effect of some students using their home languages more than English. At recess times we are seeing a split community and so I would ask what other schools have done or if this has been an issue? Our language policy is centered around honoring the home language, but perhaps too much so? I find myself wondering how it is possible to honor the home language while simultaneously ensuring that English becomes our shared language.

 

 

Seeking opportunities to go One Step Beyond.

What a difference a week makes

red tulips on yellow tulips field
Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Technology integration has always been important to me and it is the reason I joined COETAIL. I incorporate a lot of technology into modifications and accommodations for students to find success in the general education setting.  For example, I have some students who are using Dragon dictation software for speech-to-text. I have other students who use Storyline Online and Epic to access books and have texts read aloud to them. I also have some students using Lexia in order to further develop their reading and phonics skills at home.

One of the reasons I feel that technology integration is vital to the classroom is that “research has suggested that technology-enabled project learning has the greatest benefits as these allow students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what real-world problems look like.” (Brian Host, Education Technology, May 2019).  I want my students to feel empowered to participate and collaborate so I embrace the opportunities that tech integration, through mediums such as video production or Flip Grid, can offer students. This year, however, I have been faced with the challenge of time. I often feel that I do not have enough contact time with students and so I have been limited in how I integrate technology in my own classroom.

TPACK

TPACK model diagram
Image by tpack.org

In this video, Jen Lehotsky mentions that the three circles in the Venn diagram will not be of equal size as those pertaining to pedagogical and content knowledge will be larger than technological knowledge. If you were to visit my classroom a week ago, however, you would have seen that all tech integration that was happening was set firmly in the substitution or augmentation brackets of SAMR.

Image from Transformation, Technology, and Education (Ruben R. Puentedura)

I found learning about both the SAMR and TPACK framework really interesting. I knew that there was an element missing from how I was integrating technology into my classes but I couldn’t label it, now I can. Moving students’ work into Modification and Redefinition has been the biggest hurdle for me this year. I feel pressured by a lack of contact time with students and using a dedicated reading program that they are comfortable with. As a homeroom teacher, I had more opportunities for authentic and creative tech integration which has been lacking this year.

Something Changed

This week, however, I had the opportunity to include some video production in one of my classes. I have a student who is struggling to make progress in maths. She is able to solve grade-level maths problems, however, when she is working at home she has a lot of anxiety and doubts herself. In order to help her, I worked with her to create a video detailing the process for a 2-digit division. She talked herself through each step of the process and then edited the video using iMovie. I am excited to hear how this process helped her on Monday and, if it was useful, I will continue to help support her in creating tutorial videos.

I feel as though I am starting to see more opportunities for going (at least) one step beyond substitution with tech integration that will support my students’ progress towards ILP (Individualized learning Plan) goals. Time will always be a challenge, however, I am now feeling more confident in finding times when I can use technology to further support students. I am looking forward to hearing my students’ reflection and now thinking about ways that, if she feels confident, she could share her video tutorials with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course 3 Final Project

Made It!

UBD planner

SlideDeck presentation

Rubric

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind but here we are. I really enjoyed this collaboration with Shalene and Julija and I learned a lot from both of them. We chose Option 1 this time around as, previously, we had all worked on other options. My personal goal was to create an authentic learning experience that would help students make progress towards their literacy goals.

Growth

geen plant sprout
Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

I did far better this time around with finding other members of my cohort to work with. We set up four meetings over four weeks to discuss ideas and develop our plan over Zoom. The most difficult part with connecting this time around was the time difference. I am currently five hours ahead of my teammates. With that said, I thought we worked well at remaining flexible with each other and rearranging meeting times when needed.

Excitement

blue and white amusement ride
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

I have not yet started this plan with students but I will this week. I am really looking forward to seeing their creations in a few weeks. I think that both Thinglink and Book Creator are excellent tools for our lesson and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn about them. In students, I hope to see gains in confidence with literacy. The video blog entries on Flipgrid will be useful for monitoring the student’s own feelings towards their progress and, I hope, a meaningful record for them to look back on.

Relating to Course 3

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

While my main goal for students working through this unit would be to see growth in their literacy skills I think that it also provides an opportunity for them to take on the role of designers. The rubric requires the students to select images that are related to their stories. Last year I used Storybird as part of our poetry unit. While many students enjoyed the experience my school did not have a subscription so we were limited by the choice of images available to us. This led to some students choosing images that had little to do with their final written pieces. I believe that Book Creator would allow students more agency when choosing images that helped bring their stories to life and so make the experience even more meaningful.

 

 

Givin’ a Flip

I’m the mother flippin’

It had been a while since I last posted anything on Flipgrid and boy did this week’s activity take me back to distance learning. During the Global Read Aloud last year, my class connected with a school in the United States and students had the opportunity to share reflections and opinions of The Front Desk by Kelly Yang. This provided a great opportunity for students to share insights into what lives were like in their respective countries and helped provide a deeper understanding of how the protagonist, a Chinese immigrant, felt.

While I love the app and the possibilities it allows for collaboration, unfortunately, it has become more unreliable in China. There are times when both myself and the other students could not access our grids or those shared by others, which was frustrating. I would be really excited to hear from anyone who knew of alternatives to Flipgrid just in case we have to return to distance learning in the future.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Flippin’ the script

This was my first time working through a text rendering protocol and I thought it was brilliant. I am already thinking of how to use this strategy with my students to help with reading comprehension and allow for deeper discussions about a text. Flipgrid was a perfect tool for this as it helped bring other educator’s ideas to life and it really helped me think deeper about what I had read about The Cycle of Socialization.

This week’s reading really hit me hard. Last week I was watching a documentary that included sketches from Not the 9 O’ Clock News, a British comedy show that ran from 1979 – 1982. Some of the shots from 1980’s Britain looked remarkable similar to scenes we are seeing played out on current BBC news reports. More than ever I think teaching students how to ask questions and reflect is important if we want to avoid being stuck in the same cycle.

Our Lower School student council was recently presented with some social issues from our school. They immediately began to discuss what could be done to make changes happen and independently emailed our admin team to arrange a meeting regarding school-wide expectations. Change is possible and we need to encourage students to question systems as well as find solutions.

Here is a QR code to my response posted on FlipGrid.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Have I learned nothing?

Last week I gave a presentation on how to set goals for struggling students. That presentation involved the use of a certain, popular Microsoft presentation software. The picture above is a slide I actually used with my colleagues. Today I showed it to a friend of mine whose responses included, “Wordy,” and “Lacking clear structure,” although my favorite was “Your definitions are just examples and they’re jammed right in there, aren’t they?” I am planning on giving the same presentation again to a different group of teachers in a weeks’ time. Clearly, something has to change.

Purpose

The purpose of this slide was to review the different ways we can measure students’ growth. This is a slide designed to remind and jog memory after having previously covred different ways of measuring progress with definitions. After she looked at it for around 2 minutes and delivered her all-too-honest assessment, I turned my laptop away and asked my friend what the slide was about. She looked at me as though I were a fool and said, “Well I didn’t read your title because it was just, like, a lot of words at the top.” Clearly what David JP Phillips was talking about Working Memory in his TEDX presentation, How to avoid death By PowerPoint, is all too true.

 

So I turned myself to face me

I tried to apply some of the principles from What is good Presentation design? Presentation Zen. I think my finished result is much better than before.

I tried my best to simplify and streamline all that I was trying to convey before. I am yet to receive feedback but I feel as though my ego can handle the assuradly tough love my friend likes to give. I am still finding it difficult to analyse my own work and apply all of the design principles. I find myself staring for far too long at a single images and thinking, “Does this work?” The first tip in 10 tips for Improving Your Presentations Today Presentation Zen is to turn off the computer and sketch an idea. This may be a good starting place in the future, trying to have a clear idea of what I want the final product to look like before starting.

 

WARNING! May contain Graphic Content

I used Piktochart to create my infographic and I was surprised with just how easy it was to use. I really wanted this to be meaningful but I struggled at first with who my audience was going to be and what I wanted to share with them. Each year students from Grade 2 and up take the NWEA MAP test in reading, language usage, and maths. As a school we do not teach to these tests nor is there pressure put on teachers or students to achieve highly. To be honest, many teachers (myself included) often ask why the students take these tests when the overwhelming opinion is that we do not use the data.

I decided to try and make the data mean something, or at the very least put it to some use.

When I was designing my infographic I really wanted to give as much information as I could that could be viewed at a glance. I took data from our recent MAP tests and wanted to show each grade level the areas that the largest percentage of students struggled with.  I felt that by limiting the information teachers were looking at they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed, and instead might actually use this as a tool.

I found that Design Secrets Revealed (Keri-Lee Beasley) was really useful as a starting point. One part that really resonated with me was the importance of inclusing repetition. The colors I chose to illustrate each bar are the same as those used in the MAP reports so that if teachers wanted to cross reference the infographic or dig deeper into data then my hope was to build familiarity.

Asking for feedback

I finally asked a coworker for feedback yesterday. We have been asked to do a presentation on the NWEA test for parents in a couple of weeks and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show my infographic. My coworker’s response was positive although in our discussion we decided to delay using it with teachers just yet. We are going to use the data from May’s NWEA test in order to help teachers identify the areas of their curriculum that may need developing for the 2021 school year. We have had a lot of changes this year in both Upper and Lower School and we don’t want teachers to feel as though they are having yet another thing forced upon them.

 

 

Stop. COLLABORATE and Listen

Ice ain’t back with a brand new invention (thankfully)

 

 

This week I wanted to set up a collaborative approach to editing written work in the classroom. I have two emergent writers who I am helping support at the moment, one of whom is in Fifth Grade and the other in Third. I decided it would be beneficial to have the older student act as a mentor to the younger student, in order to build confidence and help him to see the progress he has made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The goal of this lesson was to help students notice the differences between spoken and written English. I wanted to provide an opportunity for discussion in which students justify the changes they made to a text. Both students have been working on biographies over the past few weeks. Now that they had completed a draft, I wanted to help support them as they moved onto the next stage of the writing process.

 

Benefits and drawbacks to using technology

While both students have demonstrated that they are willing to work for longer periods of time, when typing their work, editing and redrafting can be frustrating for them, when using the computer. This is particularly true for my younger student, as he is working towards extending his writing stamina. Both students planned and drafted their work using Microsoft Word and were able to edit synchronously using two devices.

A great benefit to using technology was that students could see edits that were being made in front of them. I asked the students to highlight parts of the text I wanted them to edit before making changes so that they could go through our chosen thinking routine. I had to help support my Third Grade student in locating the different tools in Microsoft Word as he is still familiarizing himself with how everything works.

Throughout this activity, both students were in the classroom discussing changes made face to face. If we were forced to return to distance learning, however, I would feel confident that the students would be able to follow the same protocol online using either Zoom or Teams to communicate.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Making thinking visible

In order to help support the students’ rationale for their changes, we made use of the What makes you say that? visible thinking routine. I felt this worked well as it required both students to work on editing the document whilst simultaneously ensuring that they were giving justification for the changes they made. One of the reasons I felt that this protocol was so useful was that once my Third Grade student started to hear the reasons for edits to his work, he began to make them himself and provided good reasons for making the changes.

Reflections on my blog

Reflections on my blog
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

 

 

School is back in session and everything feels like it is slowly returning to normal in Hangzhou. The barriers in the cafeteria have been taken down, students are not required to wear masks when entering or leaving school, and many of our students who were “locked out” of China are starting to make their way back. My role has changed this year from being a homeroom teacher to working as part of the Student Support Team and we have had a really dynamic start to the year, which has been exciting!

 

Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

New School Year

A new school year has also meant the start of a new COETAIL course and I took the opportunity to look back over my blog after reading this week’s articles. It was eye-opening, to say the least. I remember throughout courses one and two trying to keep a balance of images and videos which, in my mind, would help create a visual hierarchy of sorts. How wrong I was.

Today I looked at my blog as if I were a reader and it looked like a list. My eyes were not particularly drawn to anything and instead, I felt overwhelmed by a stream of text. Clearly things need to change here and so I began by thinking about what made some of the blogs I use most so approachable.

 

 

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Looking at other blogs

I started thinking about two of the blogs I look at most often. These are COOKIE + Kate and Smitten Kitchen. I have been using both of these blogs for a few years now to get recipes and inspiration for meals and sometimes the food I cook almost looks like the photographs. Looking at the visual hierarchy of these blogs they have a number of things in common. They both use black text on a white background which makes the blog feel very clean, obviously appropriate for a food blog. This is paired with large photographs of the food they have prepared, drawing in the readers’ eyes. Around the images and text, there is a substantial amount of negative space which, as Alex Bigman mentions in his blog post 6 principles of hierarchy for designers, gives the “content ample room to breathe.

The changes I want to make to my post then come from inspiration from these blogs alongside Whitney Museum for American Art. I want to try and use more negative space to allow my blog posts room to breathe. I find the visual aesthetic of black and grey text on a white background very attractive so I want to continue using this but think more about how text size can be used to draw in the reader. Finally, I want to try and give more prominence to images I post to help them stand out more, rather than being lost in the text.

After playing around with some new themes and trying to scan as both an F-scanner and a Z-scanner I have come to the conclusion that I need to start including more images to break up paragraphs. My hope is that this will help

 

 

Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash

A work in progress

After spending far too long with various settings I am yet to find the right aesthetic for me. One issue is that, in the past, I have neglected to include enough images so I am trying to remedy this. I hope that by including more visuals it will help to make my blog stand out more. I would love to be able to play around with the presentation further and start to include elements that would help throw-off particular scanners, however, I feel as though my grasp of graphic design is still very much at the early stages. For the first time, I have started to use the preview button on WordPress to look at what my post will look like before I post it.

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6: Final Project

My group worked together to write a plan for a PD session centered around the themes we had been learning about from this unit. Here is a link to the finished plan.

On reflection, I feel I left finding a group to work with far too late. I was keeping an eye on Twitter and checking comments on my blog posts but I didn’t hear from anyone. I assumed that many of my cohort were in the same position as myself, feeling overwhelmed from work and behind on everything else. It wasn’t until I saw a post from a cohort member on Twitter saying that their group was almost done that I realized I should have been more proactive in my search.

Fortunately, I received an email regarding a member of our cohort who was in a similar position to myself and we managed to quickly start connecting and collaborating. Working with my group was really easy. The time difference between the places we live is only an hour so it was easy to meet up and check-in with how we were doing. We used Google docs to write our plan both synchronously and asynchronously over a couple of weeks. At my school, we meet to plan collaboratively almost every day so that aspect of the project was fairly easy. We divided up the ISTE standards we wanted to hit and then came up with some ideas. After checking in with each other we fleshed out our plan and delved into the various activities we felt would benefit teachers most.

In terms of the activities we chose, these were largely based on our own feelings about what made other professional development sessions useful. In addition to our own reflections we talked to other teachers at our schools about what they felt made professional development sessions a success. As much as possible, I tried to keep this feedback in mind when planning the activities the teachers would take part in.

When thinking about what to talk to teachers about I thought about the things I had found most useful and engaging from Course 2. I wanted to put together activities and resources that teachers could put into action immediately. One difficulty I encountered was there are so many different resources to pull from that I didn’t want to overwhelm teachers with too many resources or too much research. One of the huge personal benefits I found to this end of unit project was that I ended up rereading quite a lot of the articles from this unit. There were a few snippets I had missed or didn’t remember from the first time through and I’m happy I reread my blog posts too.

I have not had the chance to facilitate this PD yet, however, my vice-principal is a COETAILer from a couple of years ago and he asked me to share my plan with him after reports are in. Similarly, I am looking forward to talking to our head of technology tomorrow about the possibility of drawing up a new AUP for Lower School with some student input. The last few months have been a whirlwind but I’m looking forward to the challenges of next year and Course 3.

The acceptable face of policy

After reading through my school’s acceptable use policy I was struck by just how little it mentions social media use. There is a lot on digital citizenship and expectations students should be upholding, however, when it comes to empowering students to connect across global communities there was very little outlined in the school’s policy. Our AUP does lay out expectations regarding the creation of responsible user IDs. It also asks students to consider who they are communicating with before giving out personal information online. Additionally, there is a paragraph on how students are expected to protect themselves on the web and report malicious attacks or inappropriate material.

The acceptable use policy is available through the school website and is reasonably easy to find. A quick GOOGLE search will also allow access to the document. All teachers ask students to sign an agreement at the start of the year where they promise to adhere to this policy. I have tried to always tie this into our digital citizenship unit and encourage students not to sign the document until they feel comfortable with what it says they need to do. I haven’t had to review the policy yet with any students, however, I know that there have been instances where students have had to relinquish control of their device as they did not follow the procedures set out in our AUP.

In times when students do not follow the AUP and misuse technology, they can find themselves banned from having access to tech for a given number of days or weeks. I sometimes wonder if a blanket ban really does anything though. I can’t help but feel that, at times, it introduces the idea that technology is to blame for the actions of a student, rather than the student themselves. If a student hits another child with a ruler we don’t ban the use of rulers in class. Part of the reason this for this is that rulers are not seen as a privilege but rather as a tool. Is technology a privilege or a tool? Rather than taking away complete access to technology, should we instead explore the possibility of restricting access to certain apps or internet sites?

Empowerment

My school’s AUP uses a lot of negative language in order to set out its guidelines. After reading Scott Mcleod’s blog I feel that an Empowered Use Policy should become the norm in schools. Students have a desire to be curious and to mess around with technology. I feel that when a school’s acceptable use policy is worded in a legalistic way it could make students feel less willing to try out new programs or apps. Speaking personally, I want my students to have the confidence to take risks and show off their creations, an EUP could help with this. I also like how simple the language is. It is far more approachable and student-friendly than my school’s current AUP. The other difference in having an EUP is that I believe it would help students know that they will be supported when something does go wrong. Our current policy seems to insinuate that students are wholly responsible for anything that goes wrong with their devices.

In order to make students feel truly empowered I am now wondering if they should have more of a voice when it comes to drawing up an Acceptable Use Policy. I feel as though this would make an AUP more relevant and meaningful to all students. I believe too that the language used would become more positive through having students set out the guidelines for other students. I want to talk with my school’s tech director about the possibility of having our Lower School student council draw up and present the policy after the summer vacation. I would be really excited to see what they come up with.