Category Archives: Course 4

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.

“Just” Playing?


“They’re
just playing,” is a sentence I hear again and again.  I’ve uttered it myself, despite my own beliefs in its importance.

MindShift’s The Power of Play in Learning,  an article where everything is quotable and tweetable, describes play this way:

“Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill…To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful.”

Aran Levasseur

Play and games help us prepare for the unexpected. Photo: Pixabay, no attribution required.

I have written much about my school’s approach and philosophy with regards to how young children best learn: through play.

Children in Early Years (3 years old) through Kindergarten (5 years old) and even into first grade are provided with ample opportunity for free play, both inside and outside in well thought out, rich and inviting environments.  (The following images were taken from the EY rooms in my school.  All credits, Holly Fraser)

Materials are selected based not only on their aesthetic appeal, but also their flexibility or open-endedness.  What possibilities do they present?  Teachers refrain from direct instruction/direction as much as possible and instead present “learning proposals,” or open invitations to investigate, explore, and play.

Levasseur says in his article,

One doesn’t read “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” to develop strategy before playing the game. One starts by playing. This is true for all video games. You start by exploring the world with curiosity and begin to develop a hypothesis of what you’re supposed to do. Through trial, error, pattern recognition, logic and chance you continually reformulate your trajectory.

Just like this view of learning to play video games, children at my school and in my class are encouraged to construct their own meaning, in groups or individually, and their working theories are honoured, questioned and documented.

Levasseur continues:

“This model of learning is not only effective for video games but for all digital tools, and I would argue that play — especially in the digital sense — is emerging as a pedagogical keystone for education in the 21st century.”

Students need ample time to play with new technology.  Photo credit: Holly Fraser

I know myself, with any new tool, app, robot, device, etc.that I’m shown/hear about I immediately want/need to go and play with it.  Just like the young children we work with, we need ample time and freedom to explore and play around with a new ‘material’ before we are expected to produce “results” or come to any new conclusions.  

We also need to ensure our students feel welcome and comfortable in their play environment in order to learn optimally. In Play is Hard Work, by Bud Hunt, play is described as finding freedom in the face of constraint.” Students don’t tend to learn in any environment where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or or unwelcome.  I’ve had similar thoughts myself as a Specialist teacher going into classrooms–some where I am expected and welcome, others were I feel like an afterthought, ignored or met with resistance.  In which rooms do I feel free to try new things, be creative and take risks?  (All necessary for learning.)

Hunt cautions that play isn’t always “fun,” however…. “I think you can play with really serious ideas and concepts.”


I’ve often divided the kinds of play I see in my own classroom from previous years into several categories:  

“Flitting butterfly” playing: aimless, jumping from thing to thing, not settling or focusing on anything, moving on once something is deemed too challenging…(although this “flitting” about is often required before finding something to settle on.)

“Role play/Imaginative” play: (relationship building, problem solving, story telling, negotiating)

Role Play/Small World Imaginative Play. Photo Credit: Holly Fraser

“Object” play (manipulating, creating, building, trouble shooting)

Object Play: Blocks. Photo credit: Holly Fraser

“Physical” play  (gross motor skills; risk taking; balance; endurance)  

Physical Play: Boy enjoying nature. Photo credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

All but the first kind of play (which some kids can unfortunately get stuck on) can and should eventually lead to a deep play, a higher quality of play where they enter into the “zone” or “flow.” This kind of play really does become serious and absorbing-and challenging –but not too challenging–and where real learning takes place.

Getting into the zen like zone of deep learning. Photo, Pixabay, no attribution required.

Nathan Maton’s article,  How Games can Influence Learning describes how “the best games challenge the player at exactly the right level and in the right way to keep the player playing….A well-designed game offers an intricate balance of challenges and rewards that continually pushes players to, and then beyond, the limits of their knowledge and skill.”

New York Times Magazine: Taking Play Seriously looks at play from a scientific point of view, from its evolutionary roots and to the discovery of its role in brain growth and development.

It was fascinating looking at how most mammals engage in play–despite risks (animals–and people– risk injury and even death, the need for play is so strong.)

Research shows play is essential for brain development and growth. Photo Credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

The very extensive research suggests that, “that play contributes to the growth of more supple, more flexible brains.”

‘‘I think of play as training for the unexpected…Behavioural flexibility and variability is adaptive… it’s really important to be able to change your behaviour in a changing environment.’’

-Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado

This constant reiteration of play as training our brains to prepare for the unexpected in an ever changing world makes we wonder why it isn’t given more value, more time, more importance in school and at home–in all our lives.  The time to do so is now.

PBL and how things have(n’t) changed

“The first thing you have to do is to give up the idea of curriculum.”  Dr. Seymour Papert

My heart did a little flip when I read this statement in Seymor Papert’s Project Based Learning, an article 15 years old and yet many of the ideas are still so true and relevant, and sadly have largely yet to come to fruition.

Papert clarifies the above statement by wanting to do away with students learning a particular thing on a particular date, often for no particular reason.  Instead he insists learning should happen in context, with real problems and with immediate application.

Over the years my students of all ages have always done some sort of environmental unit or focus on a problem: litter; energy consumption; e-waste. These “problem topics” naturally lead to students wanting to find a solution, or to find out more about the problem.

Last year my Early Years students (4 & 5 year olds)  looked closely at how our devices and electrical items are built by taking them apart. They noticed all the waste and electrical pieces that came with a broken item.  

Now these children couldn’t solve this problem–but we upcycled by making all sorts of structures and robots out of the pieces and later visited a local recycling centre.  We learned more about what materials can be recycled, and we were happy to note batteries could be recycled.

We also learned more about the metals and minerals in our cell phones with the help of our 5th grade buddies who were studying similar problems for their Exhibition Project.  We worked together as a class learning about these problems, articulating them in different ways and documenting our learning together with the App, Adobe Spark.  

PBL in Early Years: Look Closer… at our Devices

I think about how our cross grade learning supports Paperts bold suggestion of doing away with grade/age segregation altogether:

“We’ve given up the age segregation which is just as, I think, wrong and harmful as any other kind of segregation….Kids working in communities of common interest on rich projects that will connect with powerful ideas.

Great minds working together.

Great minds of all ages working together. Photo courtesy of UnSplash.  No Attribution needed. 

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) Introduction to PBL “defines standards-focused PBL as a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks… students are pulled through the curriculum by a Driving Question or authentic problem that creates a need to know the material. “

My school’s PYP curriculum with its Central Ideas and Lines of Inquiry can potentially complement this definition, but at times I have struggled with feeling like I have successfully implemented PBL in my classroom.  It’s the assessment piece and still having to report on a set of Learner Outcomes that I feel can hinder teachers from feeling free (enough) to explore PBL. Papert goes on to discuss portfolios as an improved form of assessment:

“ So, as I see it, the trend towards portfolio-based, so-called authentic assessment is very good, but it’s very limited unless it goes with throwing out the content of what we’re testing.”

My school’s portfolios are a move in the right direction.  First of all, we have portfolios as a form of assessment (in addition to traditional report cards, and formal and standardised tests, etc.) with basic agreements about what goes in them to maintain some consistency.  We are currently in the process of moving away from paper based portfolios to digital portfolios.  Teachers are spread out on the continuum of acceptance & readiness, oddly enough, it is our Early Childhood Educators leading the way.  

On the path to success.  Photo courtesy of Picography, by Dave Meier. http://picography.co/

On the path to success. Photo courtesy of Picography, by Dave Meier. http://picography.co/

This is perhaps not so odd, when one considers we had been looking for a platform that would support our focus on Documentation of Learning that was individualised, & often child directed, and with a focus on concepts and skills over specific “Learner Outcomes.” The assessments are on-going, formative and include elements of a project based or problem solving approach. Early Years teachers quickly embraced the platform Seesaw, which allowed them to document all of the above.

Many teachers in the primary school, whose teaching may be described as more traditional (all students working on same task) are working out how to best use the platform.  Many are taking photographs of pencil and paper assessments and uploading them to our digital portfolio system where there are right/wrong answers.  Some are beginning to show pictures of kids actually doing, solving, creating, inventing, making meaning, etc. But many are reluctant to get too creative with posts as they want to know the portfolio system inside and out before introducing elements to the the kids.  They are not (yet) open to the idea that they could be learning right alongside the kids and figuring it out as they go.

Which brings me to Papert’s idea of the importance of teachers learning alongside the students:

“What we need is kinds of activity in the classroom where the teacher is learning at the same time as the kids and with the kids. Unless you do that, you’ll never get out of the bind of what the teachers can do is limited by what they were taught to do when they went to school…. We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.”

We must be open to new ways of teaching and learning.  Photo courtesy of Picography, by Tasja. http://picography.co/

We must be open to new ways of teaching and learning. Photo courtesy of Picography, by Tasja. http://picography.co/

How true the above statement is: How often have I avoided introducing a topic or tool to students when I wasn’t fully comfortable with it yet myself.  This is only natural, but with the pace at which things change and technology develops, this practice and mindset needs to shift.  Teachers need to be seen as co-learners and co-constructors of knowledge, not simply bearers, because we can’t possibly know it all, and the curriculum can’t possibly keep pace with today’s changing world and reflect the interests and abilities of its students.

I can only hope that 15 years from now someone will read this post, find it true and relevant, and note how much things have changed.

SAMR and Tech Integration

In my opinion, “Best practice” for Tech Integration is when it is natural and authentic, used to teach digital citizenship & literacy skills, embedded in all/many aspects of curriculum, developmentally appropriate and works to augment, modify and (ultimately) transform teaching and learning.

Does it always look this way?  Definitely not. Do I keep striving to make it this way?  Definitely yes.

Striving. Courtesy of Unsplash (no attribution needed)

I wasn’t entirely sure what my school’s belief of technology integration to be, and how closely my personal beliefs were in alignment. I asked another Ed Tech Coach at the school and we realised that we weren’t entirely clear on what our school’s philosophy statement was, or even where it might be located in our crowded Google Drive.

If I as a (new) Ed Tech coach am unclear, then there is a very good chance most other teachers (and therefore students and parents) are not, either. This is “clearly” something our Ed Tech team (along with Administration and Curriculum to aid teacher buy in) needs to revisit.

I recently I shared some of my “Tech Integration Comments” used in previous years in report writing with colleagues.  As I read through them, I  thought I had done a decent job at seamlessly embedding them into into each of our 5 curricular areas.  Mind you, our Early Years reports are already very transdisciplinary skill focussed rather than traditional subject focussed, but still, I’d managed to embed a Tech themed comment into each of the five areas: Communicator, Thinker, Self-Management, Social, Researcher.  

So when I read  Edutopia’s Technology Integration Guide Description :

“When technology integration is at its best, a child or a teacher doesn’t stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool — it is second nature. And students are often more actively engaged in projects when technology tools are a seamless part of the learning process.”

SEAMLESS. Tech integration at its best. Photo Courtesy of Unsplash. No attribution required.

And again, Kim Cofino’s post, We Are All Technology Teachers:

“I firmly believe that technology is best taught within the context of the core curriculum. The natural use of authentic technology within the classroom setting, just like the way we use paper and pencil without any second thoughts, is always what I’m striving for.

I couldn’t help but think I managed to achieve that in my classroom last year–at least some of the time 🙂  This year feels a bit different, being the Tech Coach, or the “iPad lady” or the “Seesaw Teacher” or the “IT” person.  I am noticing that tech is definitely not yet an embedded or natural practice within most of the classrooms I visit.  (Also I tend to cause mayhem and desperation when I do bring out iPads–the students often aren’t “allowed” to use them at other times.)

Kim also does a nice job likening our changed responsibilities with respect to EAL teaching –we are all EAL teachers, and expected to employ strategies and best practices used by EAL teachers….(simply giving oral explanations day in and day out isn’t enough.) She states:

“It’s the responsibility of the technology facilitator (or coordinator or integration specialist or whatever they may be called) to help their colleagues build their understanding of successful technology-rich teaching practices.”

I’ve been having some discussions with another Early Years colleague about the appropriateness of Technology integration in an early years, play based classroom.  I am constantly wrestling with the best way to do this.  I felt much freer to be spontaneous and try things and experiment when I was a classroom teacher.  Now I often have multiple discussions beforehand about a technique/provocation/app/introduction, etc. The extra discussion and reflection, however, can be beneficial.  Recently we were discussing the SAMR model in relation to best practices surrounding tech integration.  

I admitted to occasionally using an app as a simple substitution, or for consumption mainly (letter/shape recognition/addition practice games, for example).  Sometimes this is a place to start.  

Sometimes a simple Substitution (using a drawing app, like Drawing Pad rather than traditional pencils and paper) has its place and can easily become an Augmentation when used with intention. Of course, this is only one app, and like any tool–when used with intention it can be used to create something great, or, for simply playing about (always necessary when introducing an app).  It is hard, however, for young children to understand this difference, and as a teacher, to know when and how to guide/direct this intention in a play based environment.  

Arguably, there are many Augmentation features to using this particular app: Digital literacy skills are gained: learning how to locate, read and select appropriate symbols associated with different commands; deciding whether to save, share/export, or start over. With some guidance the stamp feature also becomes an Augmentation feature–children who are not yet able to accurately represent objects now can add the stamps to a background to create a much more detailed scene than they could have before. The children can quickly fill a page with rich colour to express a mood. Of course, they can do this with paper, too, but many young children give up this task before finishing as the amount of time and pressure required on their drawing utensil to achieve the same result is too much.

Pencils. An outdated technology? Photo Courtesy on Unsplash, attribution not required

pencils

Pencils. An outdated technology? Photo Courtesy on Unsplash, attribution not required

The downside when the app is viewed through the lens of simple Substitution: fine motor control relating to pencil grip and pressure on paper is lost.  I would argue a different (and equally important) set of muscles are required to draw with one finger, or to select tools, swipe, pinch, etc…which the way things are going with the ubiquity of mobile devices, these muscles will ultimately serve them more often.   

This potential loss of skill reminds me of AJ Juliani ‘s article SAMR is Missing a Level, where he describes E for elimination, located right at the top:

“What happens when technology is no longer “integrated” into what we do, but instead Eliminates what we do because of the advancement?”

He gives the example of school children no longer needing to learn the Dewey Decimal system in favour of Augmented Reality to help locate a book–or even more drastic–eliminating the need for libraries at the University level entirely–at least in the traditional sense– in favour of online journals.

The future? Photo courtesy of Unslpash, no attribution required.


I told my colleague, who was becoming more skeptical as to tech’s value in Early Years, that ultimately I was sold on tech integration when I began to see its true power in two areas–(where I saw us moving along the
SAMR continuum to modification and transformation) documenting and sharing learning in our class blog and when creating digital stories.

Passionate about Tech Integration. Photo Courtesy of Unsplash. No attribution required

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my class’s learning journey with digital storytelling using Book Creator, ending with:

“This began our lengthy exploration into Stop Motion as a digital story telling tool and prompted the evolution of moving from ebooks to pure movie making magic.  Stay tuned for future posts regarding this process.”

I do want to describe/reflect on this a bit more…but not here, not now. I’ve got a Tech Integration Philosophy Statement to think about.