Monthly Archives: December 2016

Final Project, Course 4: An ePortfolio Proposal

I’ve done a lot of inward and outward groaning this past week trying to grapple with my final course 4 project–and ostensibly my course 5 project.  ‘Why did I do such ambitious final projects in the earlier courses?’ I’ve moaned. ‘Now I need to top/go above and beyond what I did earlier…the project needs to be bigger, better…’ etc.

I’ve looked at several course 5 final project videos and descriptions, trying to get a handle on some that fit within my role as Ed Tech Facilitator/Coach for Early Primary and Early Years Teachers.  

I’ve lamented that now being out of the classroom, I have less control and can’t actually implement a redesigned unit plan, without at least first convincing a class teacher–or even more problematic/challenging–but potentially transformative– an entire grade level, as my school tends to strive for consistency across grade levels.

Even if I do manage to convince them of some great re-designed tech infused unit plan, I will be challenged to be available to document all the wonderfulness. Most teachers receive tech my integration ideas well, but they tend to be ‘one-off’ ideas, and aren’t looking to completely revamp an entire unit.  Some ideas, like using a few select apps to tell stories/communicate/reflect on learning (Spark Video or Book Creator) have certainly gained a lot of mileage with teachers, but I don’t (quite) see their implementation as a final project idea.

One area that I and most teachers have focussed on a great deal this year is the effective implementation and use of Digital Portfolios to highlight student learning.  I am thinking that this is the topic/project that I want to use as my final project.  I am just not sure how yet.  

I was initially reluctant to choose this as a topic, since two other Coetailers at my school have just both recently finished their own projects on the topic and I wondered how I could approach my own project from a different angle.  (I haven’t yet see either’s project’s in their entirety–just pieces, and I actually don’t even know their “angles.”)  In any case, their projects are about their own understanding and context–not mine.  

Looking back on the Seesaw Implementation Plan, a Google Doc about my school’s chosen e portfolio platform, Seesaw, created by my wonderful predecessor, I note that after January (January’s goal: possible introduction of the blog feature, or looking into quadblogging) the implementation plan is blank.  Obviously it is left up to me to drive the direction and next steps of the plan.

 

The more I think about it, figuring out how/when to best document and share student learning –and using this process as formative assessment both of/for and as learning has ultimately been and continues to be the bulk of my job.   Documenting my own, others and the students understanding of the process of (digitally) documenting learning and pushing both the understanding and the process of documentation itself to its highest potential will be my project.

Reaching the Highest Potential. Unsplash: No attribution required.

  1. Describe the project: What will your students do?

*I will include teachers as “students” throughout my project–as I work more directly with teachers and other staff than with particular groups of students.

The on-going examination and documentation of my school’s eportfolio story:  how to best share student learning–using our existing platforms–Seesaw for lower primary, blogger for upper primary (and Schoology as an SMS).  

Students and teachers will develop and practice their digital citizenship skills by actively seeking the feedback of and engaging with an authentic audience (students, parents, school community members and ideally, people beyond our walls).

Encourage teachers (ideally one rep per grade level at a minimum) to begin to use additional platforms more effectively by developing an online PLN to learn and share beyond our walls.  

  1. How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

Coetail has taught me the importance of establishing a positive digital footprint by being more thoughtful and skilful in what we chose to share with the world, that developing key digital citizenship skills are paramount to success now and in the future.   I have experienced first hand the benefits of seeking, developing and engaging with an online PLN–which lead to the exposure to new ideas and connections and to see the value in sharing–that sharing is in fact our moral imperative.  

Through the act of blogging, I have become more reflective about my own learning and teaching practice.  The more we understand the significance of and engage with an authentic audience, the more careful and thoughtful we become about the learning we are sharing.  I hope to take students and teachers through a similar reflective journey via their portfolio platforms.

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

My Project Goals:

  1. Teachers will improve in their ability to document a wide variety of student learning and will use this documentation more meaningfully in the classroom to enhance student learning.  Reluctant ‘posters’ (to Seesaw) will post more often. Frequent posters will post more reflectively.  Reflective posters will include more range in the technologies they use to document the learning.

2. I hope to use the blog feature of Seesaw in some of the classes/grades and to promote its use as a collaborative learning and reflection tool for students.  

3. I would like for the  younger students I work with to also use both the digital portfolio (and/or blog feature) more independently and reflectively.  

4. I hope to encourage more teachers to join Twitter, (or other online learning communities: e.g., Facebook groups or Google +) and for those that are currently using the platform, to use it more interactively & proactively by sharing examples of student learning.

Making those PLN Connections

  1. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

The digital documentation and curation of student learning is now a school wide goal and expectation.  Many teachers are new to the process and are looking for guidance.  Speaking from an early primary perspective, I can say that so far this learning journey for (most) teachers has been embraced enthusiastically.  But, many need new ideas, strategies and assistance in this process.  It continues to be a big focus for many teachers and most young students are just beginning to develop their own understanding of the process and its benefits.  Students will need additional and continued guidance, too, in order to be more reflective about their learning and autonomous when sharing/posting their learning.

  1. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

(Not really a unit re-design, but more a thinking about teaching and learning and documenting re-design: this year my school has moved away from Paper portfolios, but some still cling to old ways and ideas, and making this an effective transition and an actual pedagogical shift takes time and constant inspiration.)

One thing I really do want to push/introduce/explore, according to the Seesaw implementation plan, is the blog option and helping classes connect with other classes–whether that be simply within our own school, or globally.   That  being said, many are not (yet) willing to branch beyond our chosen platform of Seesaw (for lower primary) or Blogger (for upper primary) in order to share learning more publicly via local/global collaborations using (public) blogs, or making/sharing learning more publicly (via Twitter, Google +, etc.)  Many feel that this year they have had to learn one too many new digital platforms (and they have–new student management systems, reporting systems, parent conference systems, etc.) and that picking up and maintaining yet another is just too much.  A few teachers have Twitter accounts, but most tend to use them for consumption purposes.  An even smaller number of teachers have started their own blogs to document their professional learning.  

This other aspect of pushing the digital platform to its highest potential–the making Learning Visible–i.e., public, is a big ask, and many teachers don’t (yet) see its value vs risk/extra work.   I hope to encourage more teachers to branch out of their comfort zone (which is typically private, what happens in the classroom, stays in the classroom, except for sharing with parents)  and expand their learning in the form of public sharing of both student and teacher learning and developing (and understanding the value of) an expanded PLN.  I’m not sure if this is actually a second idea, and worthy of another project entirely, but it is also something I hope to pursue.

  1. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

I hope to learn how to maximise teacher and student learning using Seesaw by becoming  a Seesaw ambassador. I am hopefully accepted into this program, which will not only get a me a cool badge to put next to my name–but ultimately complement other course 5 goals–which are participating more fully in my own PLN in order to promote its effectiveness with teachers, and of course directly benefit teachers and students I work with by learning more about Seesaw’s possibilities via webinars and twitter chats and determining how to best share/relay/implement this information, as part of being an ambassador. So far, I have dabbled/lurked in webinars and Twitter chats, but I would like to further develop my own confidence when using these learning tools, and promoting their use with my staff.

Since I ultimately work most often with teachers rather than students, these aren’t technically shifts in pedagogy, but I will be looking at different ways of spreading information and improving my oral and visual communication skills and ability to influence teacher practice.

  1. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Teachers (and eventually students) will be more frequent/thoughtful/creative posters of student learning in Seesaw.

Teachers will (begin to use or) improve their use of social media/other digital communication platforms to share best practices and share student learning.
(Again, I am not entirely sure if these 2 areas of exploration are one in the same or if they are indeed two separate goals and ideas worthy of further exploration, but this is my thinking so far…and this being the first day of my well deserved Christmas break, I think I will leave it at that.  I am sure, with time away from the daily grind, this will encourage further reflection and I will continue to develop my project ideas.

Unsplash: No Attribution required. Happy Holidays!

The Future of Education

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

I certainly hope so!  

Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

I know my teaching practice has changed in the last few years.  3 years ago I might not have seen the value in bringing in noisy, blinking, programmable  and modular robots* (*a month ago I didn’t really know what that meant, either)  into an already chaotic classroom, but now I do!

2 years ago, would I have considered maintaining a class blog or joining, let alone joining and extending a High School blogging challenge (An Open Invitation to Collaborate)  or co-creating a global collaboration with my young students and several others groups on the other side of the world? (Little Ideas Swap)? Probably not.  (Thank you Coetail for the kick in the pants). The article A Communiqué from the Horizon Project Retreat  describes the top ten trends from around the world, with the number one trend:

“ The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.”

Even 1 year ago–would I have been seen as “The IT expert,”–where people come to me with their tech problems and questions.  All of these changes in my teaching and my career have evolved because of new technologies. And as we are beginning to grasp that  technology advancement is exponential, I can only wonder at what is around the corner.  

One thing that is incredibly slow to change (at least in all school’s I’ve worked in), and a thought I’ve had over and over is how we are still teaching in (mostly) isolated, individual classrooms and almost exclusively  by age cohorts. Prakash Nair, in The Classroom is Obsolete: It’s Time for Something New, addresses these issues:

Almost without exception, the reform efforts under way will preserve the classroom as our children’s primary place of learning deep into the 21st century. This is profoundly disturbing because staying with classroom-based schools could permanently sink our chances of rebuilding our economy and restoring our shrinking middle class to its glory days….

“As the primary place for student learning, the classroom does not withstand the scrutiny of scientific research. Each student “constructs” knowledge based on his or her own past experiences. Because of this, the research demands a personalised education model to maximise individual student achievement. Classrooms, on the other hand, are based on the erroneous assumption that efficient delivery of content is the same as effective learning.”

The article mentions that Environmental scientists have published dozens of studies that show a close correlation between human productivity and space design.  Classroom design is something I have always found to be both intriguing and challenging (in another life I would love to be an interior designer.)  

I know how a space looks and feels goes a long way to making me feel a certain way (my crowded, cluttered office doesn’t make me feel particularly creative) but if it is indeed so closely linked to productivity, shouldn’t there be a lot more care and effort ($) put into our Learning/Working/Living Spaces?

What could these revamped learning spaces look like??  The answers to this depends on your answer to these questions:

How should students learn?

Where should students should learn?

With whom should students learn?

Nair says, “We may conclude that it makes no sense to break down the school day into fixed “periods,” and that state standards can be better met via interdisciplinary and real-world projects….

How often have we as teachers, pulled children away from work that they are completely absorbed in, have found their flow,”simply because it is time to go to music class?

It’s Time to get rid of schedules: Photo: Unsplash

Nair says “we may not necessarily get rid of classrooms, but instead redesign them to operate as “learning studios” alongside common areas reclaimed from hallways that vastly expand available space and allow better teaching and learning. In many parts of the country, limited classroom space can be significantly expanded by utilising adjacent open areas while simultaneously improving daylight, access to fresh air, and connections to nature.”

Authentic Music integration while breaking down classroom walls: All of Kindergarten joining in song at the end of Outdoor Learning.  Photo credit: an unknown sneaky monkey who borrowed my iPad.

When discussing forward thinking considerations towards space, the Reggio Emilia approach cannot be omitted.  Google “Environment as the Third Teacher” and you will find dozens of blogs and pictures showing beautiful arrangements of materials and gorgeous, light filled spaces.

Beyond the Four Walls: The Piazza Common Space, in a Reggio Emilia PreSchool. Photo by Vincenzo Mainardi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17908980
The Future:  Open, flexible Spaces with access to Outdoors.  Photo By Caterooni – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49340739

ISZL’s Early Years approach is certainly Reggio inspired, in terms of our consideration of materials, time and space. Our Swiss environment and the local culture place a huge importance on playing outdoors, so the children have upwards of 2 hours a day outside in fresh, mountain air, with regular visits to a nearby forest.

Future of Learning: Early Years students in the forest. Photo source: Shared EY1 Google Drive. Collaborative teaching and photo sharing!
More authentic learning spaces in ISZL’s Early Years Playground.  Photo: Holly Fraser

Our youngest students’ walls have expanded as their teachers have carefully considered and chosen to allow all of their students to mix and mingle and choose freely to visit the different classrooms, each set up with a different focus: The Role Play Room, Art Studio or Construction Room (typically with a STEM focussed provocation).

I see this model spreading to other  parts of the school (kindergarten has reclaimed a boot room and transformed it into a shared Art Studio) and can only hope the trend continues.

Another hope for future change is a move away from a focus on grades and other external rewards.  Our current practice, according to Dan Pink’s research, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, has serious implications. His research finds that rewards can improve performance when it is a mechanical skills, but when a task requires “Rudimentary cognitive skill,” performance is impeded when reward is introduced. “When a task is simple, algorithmic, if you do this then you get this…yes works, but when task is more creative…rewards do not work.”

If future success requires our students to be creative and use more than “rudimentary cognitive skills” then we need to seriously reconsider our reporting and grading systems.

There are numerous obstacles, but I see the future of school as bright, but change is necessary and incredibly slow.  

Young Students Making Meaning with Makey Makeys

Young students Making Meaning using Makey Makeys

Playing the “playdough piano”    

Good speakers are key for using makey makeys in a loud class!

Rocking out to Billie Jean:  Getting the beat just right is highly entertaining and motivating.

Students figure out how things work by playing with them & developing theories.    

“It doesn’t work…”

 “Because we don’t have the bracelet!” (the ‘grounding’ wire)

Students jump on an aluminum foil ‘Dance Floor’ and Makey Makey to play Super Mario Bros and build perseverance and confidence.

“I did it without falling!”

Students then play with their older buddies and learn more about electricity and conductivity: by holding the alligator clips, we are conductive and can become the piano, too!

A HUMAN PIANO?!

Exploring and learning about electricity, energy, sound, conductivity and circuits is fun with Makey Makeys! Learning from older buddies is helpful and motivating, and older buddies have the opportunity to explain their thinking.  Both groups are co-constructing their understanding.

Developing an understanding about how things work and how energy travels is accessible for ALL ages. They may not understand exactly how electricity works…but then again, do you?
 
 
 
 

 

My 3 year old twins exploring, testing theories and making sounds
 
 
Does a pencil work as well as my finger?
 
 
Let’s try it out and see.