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.

Course 3 Final Project

I began the final week without a clear idea of what I wanted to do.  I had started by creating a basic infographic based on Seth Godin’s  “Here, I made this” post, as promised last week:

here-i-made-thi_17051997_1b4de737762b742848e2c8000cde4249d1c5add2

*not quite happy with the unbalanced white space, but it was an “icongraphic” created from scratch (no template) so I’ll let that go.

I didn’t think this was enough and it was more for fun than anything, so I continued to think.

I’d already revamped a variety of presentations for earlier posts this course, and I’ve had my fill of relatively recent film projects (I took on the rather ambitious task of creating a Goodbye Video for 9 leaving staff members, enlisting the help of remaining staff on two campuses to combine and edit footage of staff and students), so I decided to choose the 3rd option, Create an About Me Page.  I had a look at Sonya terBorg’s example and loved the revamp of her resume, and wanted to do something similar…but less “resume-ish.”

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I am mostly an infographic newbie and wanted to further explore and play about with visually representing My data, ideas, interests.  

I had earlier mucked about with the All About Me Template on Piktochart, and noticed with each draft, the visuals improved considerably and the information was more tailored to what I wanted to share and highlight.  

I’ll start with my thinking behind the Design Elements:

I started with my most recent New and Improved All About Me as a template:

My second version of the infographic

Infographic I shared with students in My Design Club

but in the end, little remained of the original.  I loved the warmth of the rustic wood background–although somehow a juxtaposition to my “tech-y” role, I still wanted to keep it, feeling it complemented my focus on incorporating Tech in the Outdoors and my school’s Reggio Inspired approach to Early Learning.

I played about with the colour scheme some, initially wanting a gender neutral, but funky melon/orange and blue/green mix…I pulled the melon colour from the dress I am wearing in the photograph and peppered it around the page.  (The colour of the ‘Likes and Skills’ icon is fixed, so that colour is a bit off, unfortunately.)

The page is divided into threes, a design feature in homage to the rule of thirds. I also paid close attention to the CARP design principles:  I made sure to add features that would provide enough Contrast (colour blocks behind text to make it easier to read) which at the same time helped with Proximity–by grouping like information (Job History; Current Job Focuses; Interests & Skills.)  I used icons representing my interests in the bottom right and a head shot in the top right for compositional balance.  

Many of the icons had a cacophony of default fonts, which I had to change and resize in order to Repeat the basic two I had chosen (Copse and Deconeue). The Data Charts’ title and legend default font could not be altered, unfortunately, resulting in a 3rd font that doesn’t quite fit with my typography attempt at “a palette with wit” combining tough (Deconeue) and sweet (Copse).

Finally, much fine tuning went into making sure the Alignment was as good as I had the patience to make it.  Sometimes simple movements of .1mm would cause all the text boxes that had been “moved to the front” to disappear, resulting in my near loss of sanity.  

Deciding what ‘hard data’ to share in my infographs and how to share it was also a stickler.  I started off with the traditional resume summary of where I had worked and in what roles, but with a twist by using this data to create a “timeline/percentage bar graph of places worked.” I didn’t give it a title and hope this is evident without explanation.  

The other ‘infograph’ within an infograph (chart where data is entered) was the breakdown of my current focuses/time spent/head space allocated within a typical work week.  Of course this varies, and some weeks Coetail’s % is considerably higher…

new-and-improve_16953691_7a43fa9cd17016e258156fe774565942e1eba88d

The first part of my Revamped All About Me Page.

The second part of my All About Me Page is a live Google Map of my Resume, or my “Learning Journey.”  I loved this idea from the last week’s readings and decided to try it out myself.  I also like that it is a live document, so I can continually add or edit items without having to re-save/download and upload to the blog (as required by the free version of Piktochart…I wonder at the paid version’s sharing options).

I added traditional elements like my schooling &  places worked, and hope to add more “places” and descriptions as they strike me and photos as I stumble upon them. I also added a few key personal and exotic experiences that helped shape where and who I am today (meeting my future husband the day after a sketchy late night stranding on the side of the road in Zambia…)  

I did have an All About Me Page previously, with a headshot and a wordy paragraph about my new role and focus. Unfortunately I forgot to take a screenshot before all the changes, but needless to say, it is much improved. I am not planning on using it for recruitment purposes anytime soon, and am not entirely sure of the immediate applications with either students or teachers I work with. Does this make the process of doing it any less valuable? Absolutely not. As I write this, I am flipping back and forth between my Infographic and Map and reflecting and changing and improving things (and my thinking) ever so slightly. I am experiencing a renewed appreciation of the fact that documenting learning and reflecting on learning is learning.

I am reminded of George Couros’s archived post from my Feedly this week with a brilliant quote from John Dewey:

 

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

 

Confessions of an Infographic Newbie

 

I am an infographic newbie.  (Mostly.)

I first tried one out last week in my Digital Design Club. In the spirit of getting to know one another better, while simultaneously teaching safe online sharing, I  asked the students to create an All About Me Infographic using a template from Piktochart. I played around with it a little before giving them this task, of course, but my playing around was more along the lines of how to… 

The template from Piktograph

The template from Piktochart

 

  • edit text boxes
  • insert a head shot
  • change graphics/colours/fonts
  • share and export

 

In other words, this Tech Integrator focussed on the Tech side of things…or the graphic in infographic.  

 

My first rushed job of basic manipulations of the template

I didn’t spend too long thinking about the information side of the equation (not to mention design) And that, I quickly realised, is at least half of the battle:

“What should I put down?”  “What do you want to know?”  “But I only know one language.” (in reference to the template’s graphic representation of language spoken) was heard throughout the room.

Later, giving it a second go myself,  I scratched my head wondering what to share and how to best to show that graphically.

My second version of the infographic

My second version of the infographic, more carefully thought out

I have spent a good deal of time thinking about design elements when creating presentations or possible infographics…And this visual does it very nicely…but it’s the what to share aspect of creating an infographic that is challenging, and needs just as much time as the how.

As fellow Coetailer Christopher Panna describes in his post :

They were initially excited at the opportunity to use this format, until they realised it would be just as much work as a writing project. Sketching a concept for their graphic, using the right kinds of charts, visuals, and colours, PLUS doing the research was no small task. “

He offers a book recommendation- Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures  where the first line of the promotional tag gave me a #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm kind of thought.

“There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it.”

People often describe the ability to teach (well) in the same terms.

So…I realised I sometimes get lost in the tech side of things and focus more on teaching the tool than on how to best use it to teach something arguably more important.

20 Minute Teaching Time Limit Dilemma…this is an After School Club, after all:

Teaching technical skills involved in manipulating an infographic template  vs presenting safe and interesting information worth sharing about oneself visually...all while incorporating design principles?

The more I think about it, being able to present key information graphically/visually can be paramount to others’ actually understanding that information.  

Just today I kept re- reading Google Support to check sharing settings when sharing things with colleagues vs students vs blog. But it wasn’t until I saw this visual grid comparing each sharing setting that it suddenly became clear:

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-40-01

Thank you, Saikat Basu, from 10 tips for managing files in google drive. I love my top 10 lists!

Finally, this is a bit random, but here are some more #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm moments I had while perusing this week’s readings:

  • This infographic showing How Productivity Works.  It  visually compartmentalises different areas of life (mindset-habit-body-”life hacks”) and how all work together to aid or impede one’s productivity…(and I wonder, happiness?)
  • This post from Seth Godin and the power of the words, “Here, I made this.” 
  • Here, I made this. Photo, Pixabay.

    Here, I made this. Photo, Pixabay.

“These four words carry generosity, intent, risk and intimacy with them.”

*If I had all the time in the world for this post, I would try to make an infographic or visual representation of Seth’s currently-all-words-concept.  Perhaps that’s my final project.

 

Digital Stories Revisited

In 7 essential skills that aren’t taught in school, there is an Andy Warholesque 15 minutes of fame kind of quote:

“Your goal is not immortality,

but a momentary piercing

of the ever-shifting zeitgeist.”

I would argue that one of these of these essential skills is being able to tell a story and spread your message not only digitally, but in a way as to engage and influence people.  

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Last year, I began to explore this idea with my small group of Early Years students with a vengeance.

With only 7 children, and a relatively open curriculum, I had the luxury of working individually with each of them (or in small groups) on different digital storytelling projects throughout the year.  Using Book Creator, we began by creating class ebooks based on books read in class.

*Note: I am a huge Book Creator fan.  I have been introducing it to all the first grade students (and their teachers) this past week using this short presentation. Feel free to make a copy/download.

One of these ebooks was our own version of Todd Parr’s, “It’s Okay to be Different.”  Students thought long and hard about what made them different from other students in the class.  One said, “It’s okay to speak Spanish.” Another declared, “It’s okay to call your dad  Mausi.”

IT”S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT:

Once downloaded as an epub to our ibooks library, and shared to our class blog, the students could view the digital book at any time, just as they might a real book.  They could then view and revisit the ebooks they had created on the ipads, on the desktop and projected onto the wall.

When revisiting their digital stories, I noticed that different digital viewing formats offered different possibilities and extensions of the learning experience. 

Projecting an ebook onto the wall initiated a re-arrangement of chairs for ideal viewing (theatre style.) This sudden re-arrangement of the room provided a provocation for different feelings and connections. The children suddenly felt the seating reflected a train journey, leading to a mini inquiry into riding trains.

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The viewing experience of projecting eBooks onto the wall prompted a completely new inquiry: riding trains!

img_1787

Students became focussed on creating their own tickets–those with little interest in print now had an authentic reason to practice their SBB’s. (Swiss Rail System.)

We projected clips of moving trains onto the wall and the children rehearsed packing bags , catching trains, and punching tickets…eventually making their own tickets, using the local Swiss SBB logo as our guide.

Of course this spin off was unrelated to our ebook…but the process of revisiting our work and the way in which we viewed the book prompted an entirely new and unexpected learning inquiry.

We also re-visited our Books as epubs in the iBooks library. (Books created on different iPads were eventually Airdropped onto all other iPads so the students could access all books on any iPad, acting as a traveling library.) The portability of the iPads allowed us to bring them to our Buddy classes.  We shared the stories with a wide range of ages—all of them impressed by our school’s littlest learners.  It also prompted discussion: “Wow, how did you do that?” and provided an opportunity for the students to develop their oral skills.  Other class teachers—viewing over the students’ shoulders, learned something, too and were motivated to create their own ebooks.

We also uploaded all creations to our class blog so they could be shared at home with family members, or at school assemblies.  All comments made by others were revisited in class, helping to build the confidence and perseverance to make more ebooks.

Finally, viewing the ebooks on the desktop helped build other skills—the understanding that different devices provide different views of the same thing, but perhaps more importantly– the patience and fine motor skills required for small hands to maneuver and click with an aging mouse!

With each new ebook we tried to blend a different app or or learn a new process.  

With our next ebook, we focussed on another element of our “All about me Unit”–our favourite things. The children explored the instant alpha tool in a separate photo editing app, Juxtaposer.  We developed our fine motor skills and attention to detail further as students carefully traced around a photo of their bodies to erase the background, before adding it to their favourite page in the book about favourite things. 

ALL ABOUT ME:

Next, we blended video, pictures and sound and tried out the (then new) comic book feature in Book Creator when we made a Quiet and Loud book.  The students needed to think of two juxtaposing ideas for the book–(doors are quiet, but slamming doors are loud…very challenging for 4 year olds–they needed help with this. )  Now familiar with the book making process, the students slowly began taking more ownership of the design elements of making a book—selecting the colours of their page, their font and basic layout:

QUIET AND LOUD:

It was around Thanksgiving when my fabulous Ed Tech Coach, Jocelyn Sutherland brought us an iPad stand.  We immediately jumped into playing around with Stop Motion.  She initially tried a simple claymation technique using playdough…

…which we eventually modified to create the word ‘Happy’ as the “intro” to our class Thanksgiving ebook.  The students developed many literacy and digital skills while making the “title page” alone–

  • letter recognition/formation–we created the letters we used to make the stop motion video in Letter School and learned to take a screen shot
  • importing screen shots into Pic Collage for easy printing
  • more letter formation using playdough
  • intro to spelling–that the letters that make up Thanksgiving must go in certain order
Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Interested students learned the process of making stop motion videos using Stop Motion Studio App with the help of our fifth grade buddies.  I documented the entire process in our class blog here.

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.  I plan to continue to document and reflect on the learning process in future posts.

Finding My (Presentation) Zen

I admit that up until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to the visuals in my presentations, much less presentations in general. I didn’t typically use them in my teaching. Our play based approach to teaching Early Years  had been my excuse. We didn’t “teach” in the sense of teachers standing at the front, lecturing or presenting.

Reconciling Play Based Learning with Teacher Presentations

 

So, I didn’t create presentations…”the kids can’t “read” them, it’s too much trouble to look for appropriate images, the kids can’t sit still long enough to justify going to all the effort…” etc.

 

I cringe at my earlier thinking.  Of course young children can “read” a visual message.  Finding great images is easier than ever.  Kids can “sit still” or focus on and understand a message–if it’s appropriate and delivered appropriately.  Teacher-delivered presentations in the form of “mini lessons”–tiny nuggets of information or ideas, is still acceptable in a Play Based Environment.

 

Based on this week’s readings, I considered the different ways I could have incorporated more visual literacy into my teaching:

A new way to teach Early Literacy in Early Years?

Play and Literacy unite, photo my own

Play and Literacy unite. Photo, my own

 

Had I known about the Takahashi Method of Presenting (large “King size” text, filling the screen, but only an idea or word.) I might have given this approach a go.

His slides, though they are all text, are visual, visual in the sense that (if you read Japanese) they are instantly understood and support his talk. -Garr Reynolds

When working with those in the early stages of reading, this approach could work well, otherwise–as Takahashi himself says, “If you have bullets or sentences, the audience will read those and may miss what you are saying.

 

A new way to teach Numeracy in Early Years?

For those savvy early counters, I ought to have jumped in with The Kawasaki top ten method:

…I’ve developed a Top 10 format. All of my speeches are in Top 10 format, because if you think I suck, I at least want you to be able to track my progress through the speech so that you know approximately know how much longer I’m going to suck.”   –Guy Kawasaki

 

Is teaching selling an idea?

I could have utilised slides with Large contrasting images representing ideas or methods, to sell an idea, a technique employed by Seth Godin.

 

It seems to me that if you’re not wasting your time and mine, you’re here to get me to change my mind, to do something different. And that, my friend, is selling. If you’re not trying to persuade, why are you here? –Seth Godin

All kidding aside, the before and after slides shared by Presentation Zen slides really drove home the idea that VISUALS MATTER.

 

This year, I am out of the EY classroom and beginning to create presentations for a variety of audiences and purposes.  My first challenge was a staff presentation to Early Primary, selling/highlighting a  school wide e-portfolio initiative using Seesaw:

 

Digital Portfolios using SEESAW

First staff Presentation “selling” e-portfolios, using Seesaw. Created with Adobe Spark Page.

Currently, I am using a “Seesaw Introduction to K-5 Presentation” from the Seesaw creators themselves.  I am constantly tweaking it to suit the purpose and audience, based on my reflections about how it went over in class that day, and the needs of each grade level.

 

My tweaks are not so much in terms of visual appeal and more in terms of clarity of message–is the font large enough? Have I included enough info/instructions?  Now I am thinking there is too much info…young kids will forget anyway and ask for verbal clarification.

 

At this point I have so many versions and copies of copies that even I am having a tough time keeping them all straight.

 

For my Digital Design club, I have created this short Intro to Sharing Information Online, utilising SlidesCarnival as I promised I would last week:

 

In future I will continue to be mindful of the techniques mentioned in 6 tenets of design:

 

Design 

Decoration, for better or worse, is noticeable, for example — sometimes enjoyable, sometimes irritating — but it is unmistakably *there.* However, sometimes the best designs are so well done that “the design” of it is never even noticed consciously by the observer/user. –Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind

Story 

Sharing Online – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Play

The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.  –Brian Sutton-Smith

There is both joy and work involved in this play. Photo, my own

There is both joy and work involved in this play. Photo, my own

Empathy

Empathy allows a presenter, even without thinking about it, to notice when the audience is “getting it” and when they are not. -Garr Reynolds

Symphony

Symphony…is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.”  -Dan Pink

                                   

Meaning

Few things can be more rewarding than connecting with someone, with teaching something new, or sharing that which you feel is very important with others.

A student proudly shares his dinosaur stop motion movie with his peers. Photo, my own

A student proudly shares his dinosaur stop motion movie with his peers. Photo, my own

 

Finding Photos is Easy. Crediting them is Hard(er)

Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.

-GUY KAWASAKI

The above quote found at the bottom of the article, The State of Storytelling in the Internet Age. This sums up my efforts at putting together a blog post for this week.  

I did a lot of reading and note-taking and summarising before actually looking at this week’s assignment: use a CC image in class and describe how I plan on using it. Hmmm. Scratch most of what I have been working on.   

My “Digital Design” after school club comes to mind. Last week I challenged them to “make their mark” as part of  International Dot Day. We all worked “collaboratively” on a Google Slideshow (big learning curve here, as many slides were accidentally deleted by students, brand new to the Google Environment).

I initially asked them to explore the possibilities within Google Slides, by using shapes, text and animations. Immediately, some of the older, more experienced students asked if they could create their mark in a different program and import it into the slideshow. I told them this was fine–I was curious to see what they came up with.  

Our final product:

I was excited to see how some had created animations on the ipad using ABCYa! Animate; others created a simple animation Hopscotch. Most followed my guidelines and played about with animations within Slides.

I did notice that some students had searched in images for “dot” animations/gifs and inserted them into their slides. I wondered how many of these images were CC, and wasn’t entirely sure how Google Slides image search engines operated.  

So, after a little digging and clicking, I noticed this:

I thought inserting images into Google Slides was too easy...

I thought inserting images into Google Slides was too easy…

Hmmm. So, it seems the kids were freely using pictures–Slides makes this very easy!– but they were missing the attribution part. I used a few of the gifs the kids had selected and tracked down their attributions.

I’ve come up with a new quote to complement the first:

Finding/Inserting Photos in Google Slides is easy.  Properly Crediting them is hard(er). 

I decided to create a short presentation for my club about CC images and how to attribute them. I included this useful Edugraphic: You can use a picture if…

When creating the slides, I kept in mind the CARP elements of Design:

  • Contrast –bright background, red circling/arrows and dark text
  • Alignment — bullets lower left, titles in the center
  • Repetition –background colour, font
  • Proximity –again, same kind of info/directions in the same place (mostly lower left corner)
Great Repetition. I love you Unsplash.

Great Repetition. I love you Unsplash.

Options to further jazz up this or (more realistically) my next presentation:

  1. I could add some free CC youtube musica super great find in my readings this week.
  2. I could save myself the trouble and utilise the beautiful pre-made slides from SlidesCarnival  –I will have to find a way to use the Halloween Themed Deck at some point…too cute!
  3. I could look into the art of combining fonts –an art form I wasn’t even aware of before viewing Kerri Lee Beasley’s Google Slide Design Secrets.  
  4. Pay closer attention to the Rule of the Thirds, when designing my slides, as well as include more “insanely great visuals” — any of the links from “stock photos that don’t suck” will do.  
Alignment. Cool Photos that don't suck. I love you Unsplash!

Alignment. Cool Photos that don’t suck. I love you Unsplash!

I am not sure how this presentation will go over with my grade 3-5 students –I hope it doesn’t kill their enthusiasm. I will simply repeat my made up mantra, “If we use it, don’t abuse it, we must credit it.”

 

 

** I am experimenting with images from unsplash.com .  Here is their Attribution policy:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

10 Things I will Change About my Blog

 

Thanks to the article, How we read online, I will strive to apply much of my new learning in this and future blog posts.  Here are my top 10 changes:

  1. I will keep my sentences short and to the point. See any Seth Godin post for great examples. 
  2. I will leave plenty of white space and avoid large chunks of text, since People shudder large blocks of text; I know I do. 😉
  3. I will employ more
  • Lists
  • Bullets
  • Occasional Bold
  • Sentence fragments

to make reading easier for the typical online reader.

4. I will change my blog’s theme to one with (IMO) a “cleaner” font and alignment, one that allows for more white space.

5. I will change the cover image (the magnified lady bug was too blurry, red colour too “angry”) to one that better suits the length of the header.  Image is still student created, but with more colour variety and uses Repetition as a design element. See below.

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BEFORE: Too much red? I’m not angry…

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: My new Header Image

AFTER: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: My new Header Image

6. I will more thoughtfully consider the design principles in C. A. R. P. /CRAP when creating, (Design Secrets Revealed by Kerri Lee Beasley is a fabulous e book/resource!)

CARP Posters, courtesy of Kerri Lee Beasley. Feel free to download a copy here.

CARP Posters, courtesy of Kerri Lee Beasley. Feel free to download a copy here.

7. I will become a better expert at “detecting crap”, according to Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner.   (The two “Contrasting” Dove and Greenpeace videos in the intro of Questioning Video, Film, Advertising and Propaganda: Deconstructing Media Messages are excellent examples of the “C” in CARP…or Crap?)

8. I will try very hard to avoid puns (but just can’t seem to resist.  See above.)

9. I will not freak out when my not yet 3 year old twins spot the Golden Arches (A relatively simple design, with far reaching symbolism) from across the road and immediately beg for “donald’s,” and instead be impressed with how their “keen intellects are hard at work decoding their environment.”  

Golden Arches courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.

Golden Arches courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.

10. Finally, I will write more about the things I really want to write about–mainly my reflections on finding my bearings in my new role as Ed Tech Coach at my new school.

If things get personal, that’s okay, because in all likelihood, you, the reader, aren’t reading everything anyway,  since:

 

“[U]sers (readers) are selfish, lazy, and ruthless.You, my dear user, pluck the low-hanging fruit. When you arrive on a page, you don’t actually deign to read it. You scan. If you don’t see what you need, you’re gone.”  -according to Jakob Nielson

And you generally prefer shorter articles over long(Note: I didn’t actually finish this article.)

Finally–you  may have simply glazed over the words and bullets that formed the F shaped pattern:

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 14.58.20

Eye tracking Studies reveal the F shaped way our eyeballs view a webpage. Screenshot courtesy of the article “F shaped pattern For Reading Web Content”

This is why Headers &  Subheaders,  along with

  • Lists

  • Bullets

  • Numbers

are employed with abandon:  they form the letter F.  Although to really draw the you in, I ought to include pictures of 

noun_624281_cc

Faces grabs your eyeballs

or

Cleavage grabs your eyeballs

Cleavage grabs your eyeballs…more low hanging fruit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep apologies for the above, I am merely illustrating the F shape, the eyeball theory and testing my readers’ ability to detect crap.

Tuned In, but Tapped Out

Definitely having trouble with this last post.  Not because I haven’t been reflecting and giving a ton of thought, time and electronic back and forth with my Course 2 Final Project Collaborators…but because of it.  I’m all tapped out.

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Tapped out. Image from Pixabay (Attribution Free)

This course I have not spent as much time keeping up with the weekly readings and ensuring I make lots of comments on fellow Coetailers blogs as I promised I would (Networking is High Maintenance, and you get out what you put in…So, I am going to  step up my game in the karmic commenting department myself.” ).  One of the main reasons for this lack of commenting is simply because all the collaborating that I also promised I would do is so time consuming!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 14.31.34

First unsuccessful attempt

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 14.31.20

Second attempt (mixed results…)

There's a bite!

There’s a bite!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 14.31.48

Collaboration? Helping a colleague on another campus and learning something in the process? Check!

 

Some attempts this year at collaboration have panned out well: fellow Coetailers are highly motivated to collaborate as part of this final project, but they also accept and embrace the collaborative mindset.  (I notice my fellow collaborator Amber Dryer already uses Skype in her classroom as a tool to connect to and learn from the outside world. Both Amber and another collaborator, Linda Grunwald regularly tweet about current events coming out of their classrooms.) Coming up with a truly successful collaborative project, where all parties see the true purpose, are equal contributors, and feel the collaboration “supports and complements” what is happening in each classroom, is more challenging.  

 

Amber has involved her tech coach, Andrew Chiu in our process, who kindly offered to set up our shared blog, Little Idea Swap.  Lengthy email discussions about purpose and logistics of students groupings began in earnest.  Andrew, keen to involve others, invited more schools to our idea swap.  

 

So far, the idea swap has consisted of Amber’s and my students making brief video introductions and sharing what we like to play at recess.  When I shared Amber’s anecdote that children in Hong Kong play on the rooftops (due to limited space in the city for playgrounds), my 4 & 5 year old students couldn’t move past the (to them) dangerousness of this situation.  See their funny video response here.

"Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know." -Gabi, 4 years old

“Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know.”
-Gabi, 4 years old (Attribution free) Image from Pixabay

As our project is in its infancy and we have yet to hear from some of the schools, it is difficult to judge its success or effectiveness. I myself am a bit hesitant at so many schools being involved, and even keeping track of the two that we will ultimately communicate with can be daunting…especially when I want to ensure it is much of a relevant learning opportunity for them as it has been for me!

 

Certain things that one takes for granted when working with older students, one has to stop, consider and do a lot front loading with younger ones.  Telling my students we have friends in China really means nothing to them–hanging a map and putting pins where our collaborators live (de)evolves into a huge side tangent inquiry into where we all live/are from (because of course each of my 7 students come from somewhere different, and they haven’t seen where they come from in relation to each other represented on a map before.)  

Learning about maps...Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

Learning about maps…Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

This of course gets into a discussion about the symbolic representation of land, space and distance on the map in the first place.  As adults we are used to this abstract representation of political boundaries, but to a 4 year old it really doesn’t do justice to just how far away our buddies in China actually are, or what a miracle it is in the first place that we are communicating with them so easily.  

 

Other attempts at collaboration with colleagues from my school (different campus) have not fared so well.  The few posts on our Collaborative Padlet that children from our other campus posted didn’t happen until I physically went there (on a job shadowing morning with our current tech coach) and worked directly with the children…Disheartening, but I have recently had interest from another teacher in China (see tweet above) who will join us, and we will begin our “Look Closer” photography collaboration next week.  

 

This kindness from strangers reminded me of the many words of advice I received from Learning2 Colleagues for my role next year:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 15.38.25

Thanks Learning2 community!

These challenges don’t dissuade me at all, but make me realise that ensuring a global/local collaboration is meaningful and purposeful (in the way we intend) for everyone is no easy feat. So far my students and I have learned tons–just not (yet) what I had assumed we would.  But, I have been looking at “failure” in a new way…as an opportunity to find growth…to identify ways to see failure as a learning opportunity…and to create and tell myself new stories about my own learning.  

Here is the final project for Course 2:

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

At the start of this school year, The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe was reaching its pinnacle in terms of media attention and pleas for support.  A parent was involved with “Backpacks for Syria” (similar ideas, with different names have spread all over Canada and the US) and wanted us to ask the children to bring in backpacks/items to donate to refugee children.  Rather than simply write a note to parents with this request, I knew it would be much more powerful when the requests were coming from students’ mouths themselves:

Screen shot from bunkr Slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items to backpacks for Syria

Screen shot from bunkr slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items for Syria

  After a successful haul as a result of our plea, I’ll be honest and say the day to day demands of the classroom, (not to mention Coetail obligations!)  pushed charitable thoughts from my head. Recently, while attending the Learning2 conference in Milan, the idea of students “making a difference” was re-ignited by Warren Apel’s keynote:

 

 

Warren’s talk and subsequent blog post ( Keep it Real: Authentic student publishing can raise money to change the world)  describe the idea much more eloquently than I will here, but I will summarise: It is about moving from the traditional bake sale method of raising money for a cause to harnessing  the power of student’s creativity by publishing and selling their work to an authentic audience.

“Teachers know that students do their best work when they have a real audience. That’s why we have them blog.

“But what if we could publish and sell student work, generate income, and use that money to help people? What if we could use the same real platforms that professionals use to publish and sell their own works?” -Warren asks us to consider a new model:

By publishing and selling student work through a variety of online companies, (Amazon, Google Play, Etsy) students create for a real purpose and audience, and possibly, they can more effectively raise money, and with organisations like Kiva: Loans That Change Lives, they can choose to send their money directly to those in need, and to projects that directly support curriculum, or school initiatives, like environmentalism.

“Instead of collecting dust, we could be collecting momentum.”

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Warren suggests that rather than allow children’s art projects to gather dust in an attic, their enthusiasm and creativity gains momentum, in that they see true purpose and value in their work and contributions. Nothing is more powerful than that.

 

 

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.  Oddly, the folks at learning2 and Coetail think alike…

 

I will focus on the overlapping word, Empower, highlighted in this week’s TedX video resource: “Extracurricular Empowerment” about student empowerment through extra curricular (i.e., self directed) learning projects, like the lead story about a high schooler’s critical, funny and engaging blog about her school’s lunch program.  Her blog ultimately garnered enough attention (some good, some bad…although as the saying goes, “any press is good press”) to force the school to make real changes and improvements to the food.  How empowering for her and ultimately beneficial for those students!  

"Get out of their way and let them be amazing." From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

“Get out of their way and let them be amazing.” From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

 Engagement, Empowerment and Evolution through Collaboration:

Tom Whitby says in his article, The Connected Educator begins with Collaboration:  “The idea of collaboration requires a mindset of believing there is room to learn and grow. It is also a belief that we are smarter collectively than individually.”

I would argue these same qualities that make an educator connected and relevant, are the same qualities that empower both the teacher and his/her students.  

He  and Steven Anderson wrote the book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, and list several qualities of the  Connected Educator.  The 3 that stick out for me:

  • Is a relevant educator, willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So far my email dialogue with fellow Coetailer Amber Dryer and her Tech Coach Andrew Chiu about  course 2’s final project  (A collaborative blog/space to start a discussion about environmentalism where we live) has been about just that: exploring, questioning and advancing ideas.  So far the connections my students have made beyond our classroom have been very empowering for my students.  What we ultimately come up with together, will be greater than what any of us could have come up with alone.

 

  • Views failure as part of the process of learning  

8489654285I love A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s  (FAiL: First attempt in Learning”), and “NO” “Next Opportunity.” Despite feeling frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm over my proposed Photography Collaboration with colleagues from my other campus, I am trying hard not to see it as failure, or their lack of response as a “no,” just that I need to re-examine my approach, and to keep looking for that meaningful “Next Opportunity” to connect and collaborate.  

  • May put creation over content, and relevance over doctrine.

Our Early Years programme, (I have to say nicely complements my general philosophy and approach to teaching) has 4 loose, year long inquiry units and a play based/student interest driven approach.  It really allows much more emphasis and value on the process of (relevant and timely) learning, creating and formative assessment, rather than on product, prescribed content/curriculum and summative assessment.

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

And finally, there were so many great descriptions about the web as a collaborative and empowering place from the lovely little gem of a website, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A unified theory of the web by David Weinberger.  (The website actually serves to advertise the book by the same title, and is itself is a bit outdated, but the ideas presented are so, so relevant.)

“The Web gets its value not from the smoothness of its overall operation but from its abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets.And, most important, the Web is binding not just pages but us human beings in new ways. We are the true “small pieces” of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.”

The kids version of Small Pieces is great, too, and summarises the kind of web we all should aspire to be a part of: 

“So, here we have two worlds. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the

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The Web helps us to become better people, according to Small Pieces Loosely Joined

vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together – they connect – because they care about the same things.

 

The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web – built out of hyperlinks and energized by people’s interests and passions – is a place where we can be better at being people.

And that is what the Web is for.”

Empowering?  I think so.  Now, off to sell Art and save the world, one small piece at a time.