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Final Project, Course 5: Inquiry into ePortfolios using Seesaw

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be nearly done with Coetail.  Don’t get me wrong–it has been an amazing learning journey.  I’ve made many great connections and pushed myself professionally way beyond what I would normally do as a direct result of Coetail. But being new to my role as Ed Tech Coach, at a new campus, trying hard to prove myself, as well a being a mother of young children, I have found it very hard to achieve a work-life balance.  I am looking forward to reclaiming my weekends.  (And not being literally locked in my bedroom, hacking out a weekly blog post while my husband tries desperately to prevent my exuberant 3 year old  twins from banging on the door.)

That being said, I am extremely glad I went through this process.  Things that have happened as a result of Coetail:

-#GlobalEd Projects

-Regular Twitter User

Connections with inspiring educators across the globe

-Better slideshows (Thank you Course 3!)

-Greater awareness of my digital footprint–don’t wipe it out–make it positive!

-Improved writing/blogging skills

-Improved confidence when sharing my ideas in larger groups

These are some of my immediate reflections about Coetail in general, now onto my final course 5 project in particular.

 

It’s hard to come up with more that hasn’t already been said in a variety of posts I’ve written throughout my process (see links here,  here & here) and /or in the video, but nevertheless, I will try.

I had a look back on my course 4 project proposal:

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

So, let’s  look at Goal  #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.”

I will admit, it’s a bit loosey goosey.  How exactly am I measuring’ improvement’ and ‘meaningful’ and ‘student learning’.  Those are the million dollar questions.

In terms of actual numbers, I can  look at Seesaw analytics for ideas as to how often we post as a school.  (I can only see when individual teachers sign in–when I see ‘last signed in 11 weeks ago’ I feel a bit deflated.)

Here are the stats of Seesaw posts from when I started Course 5 to the end.

Looking at weekly items doesn’t really help much. A quick look at the dates tells me teachers post most often in the week or two before school breaks– (and not at all during breaks.)  They posted rather obviously right around Student Led Conferences on March 23.  

I had to go back and check our e portfolio staff meeting dates (Feb 1 and March 1) and could see there seemed to be a building enthusiasm of posting after our first meeting–where teachers fed back and filled in the compass points activity (Need to know, Exciting, Suggestions for moving forward, Worries.)  There was a definite drop in posting activity after the second meeting on March 1 , however, when we looked critically at posts using the following Guide:

Of course I have no idea if the meeting and reduced posting are related.  Back from break, perhaps teachers feel the long winter ahead of them and feel sluggish about posting.  Or perhaps they are in the middle of units, or have just begun units and don’t have much of anything to post.  Or perhaps they are thinking more critically about what they are posting…the eager posters have actually slowed down and are asking themselves, “Where is the learning?

Our parent engagement section is always affirming. Looking at the two charts side by side, most parents take a look at what their children are posting, and it seems they have their notifications turned on.  I can see there is a very  small percentage of parents not connected.  I am not sure what to do about that. We have discussed making the connection to Seesaw/blogs as part of the first Parent Evening–but even then, not all parents come.

Nevertheless, getting parents to engage more effectively (and not necessarily more often) will continue to be a goal for me and the school.  Teaching them more explicitly about effective commenting skills can help push student learning forward.  Of course, with younger students being the ‘readers’ of these comments, as a school we need to be clearer about who is the audience for the comments, or for that matter, for the posts themselves.  Many teachers view the platform it as a way to communicate to parents, rather than as something for students, by students.  When you are working with a wide range of student ages (3-12), this gets tricky.

 

Which brings me to Goal #2:  

“Younger students will use the digital portfolio more independently and reflectively.”  

Students looking through their ‘journals’/portfolios at Outdoor Learning

Some students in KG and up are certainly posting to Seesaw more independently–but not all classes.  I know from experience 4 years olds can handle it–it just needs to be embedded in the class routines, and not something they do only once a month.  They will never remember the steps.  Some classes have encouraged student reflection via the comments, but I do understand this is a big task for teachers to take on–listening to long winded student comments before approving them is daunting.  This is where assistants could be of greater assistance if they were empowered to do so.  (Currently their hands are ‘tied’ and must use Seesaw as ‘students’.)

Ultimately, the commenting feature needs to be utilised more effectively to get the most out of the platform and to enhance student learning, whether it is with the blog feature, or with regular posts.

Teachers making effective comments on student work.

Parents making encouraging comments about student work.

Students reflecting on their own work.

Peers making critical (not criticising) comments on classmate’s work.

And all of this means nothing if the student doesn’t get the opportunity to review these comments in a timely manner–when checking in on their portfolios/having the opportunity to reflect is not a daily/weekly routine.

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

Goal #3

“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.”  

I managed to convince one class to open the blog option.  Now, more may well have been interested, but my school’s admin were reluctant to confuse matters for teachers/parents/students new to the system by encouraging them to deal with yet another digital platform.  It also opened up a can of ‘equity’ worms…once one class goes this route, others feel pressured to do the same.  I strongly feel one class should not be held back by others unwilling to try something new.  So, I tried with one class and that was not without its challenges.  If I was not in the room facilitating, blog posts/comments did not happen.  The potential of the power of the global connection was not (yet) felt by the teacher (although the kids were quite excited by it!) and so was not made a priority in the busy classroom.  However, these students are getting much more independent when making comments in general, so this blogging effort is certainly worthwhile if only as a means to independent commenting.

 

Effective commenting on portfolio posts using thinking routines and effective questioning will be my on-going goals for the rest of the year and next. I will use the aforementioned Compass Points Activity to detail further feelings about my Course 5 project.

In terms of making the movie itself, I found syncing pictures I had curated along the way with the script I had in mind was a challenge.  I had lots of pictures of some things–SLC’s for example– and little photographic evidence of other things (working directly with students on their posts).  It was easy to get footage of the SLC as I was not directly involved on the day of.  It’s quite challenging to take pictures while setting up microphones, prompting 4 year olds for their reflections, and guiding them to the right buttons.

I enjoyed combining different tech tools (Screencasts, Quik Videos, Google Slideshows, Haiku Decks, Spark Pages, etc.) to produce the final piece.  I tried keeping CARP in mind, but the many, many fonts and layouts I’d used in projects and presentations throughout the year with staff and students made it look a bit of a mishmash when all put together.

I had fun going beyond the usual i-movie jingles by using attribution free music found in Youtube (video manager > create).  I also made sure to double check that I could indeed use the photos from Haiku Deck attribution free. (I can-they are CC.)

Enough wordiness.  Here is my final project:

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!

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.

Digital Citizenship in our Brave New (Digital) World

In this brave new digital world we live in, I believe it is everyone’s job to both teach and learn about digital citizenship (parents, teachers, and students themselves).   It’s the when and where this teaching and learning is taking place that can be challenging, and I’m not sure it is being taken seriously.  Many educators aren’t even really aware or convinced themselves that digital citizenship is something worth teaching…or if they do, they have trouble finding the “time and space for it in the curriculum.”  (I myself looked at a lot of the links and resources for this course and initially determined they weren’t appropriate or applicable for my young students.) While some of the articles What Are Teens Doing Online? are definitely geared to high school teachers, parents or teens themselves, it doesn’t mean that digital citizenship instruction in the early years isn’t important….it just looks different.

It might begin by learning about the proper way to take care of the devices in the classroom, as suggested by this Common Sense Media Poster:

Common Sense Media's Device Care Poster

Common Sense Media’s Device Care Poster

We made a class book using My Story and took pictures showing the dos and don’ts when using the ipads, which we later shared on our blog.  

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad. Photo Credit: Jocelyn  Sutherland

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad.
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

 

 

 

 

 

 

One aspect of “device care” I hadn’t anticipated in that first lesson but became an issue months later was one clever 5 year old student visiting the App Store and indiscriminately downloaded games,  filling up storage and cluttering the ipad home page.  I had to explain that we always ask before downloading anything and immediately changed the security settings.

Another thing I have noticed is Digital Literacy/Citizenship instruction often not as integrated as we might like–currently grade 3 at my current school completes a unit about Digital Citizenship.  Early Years collaborated with grade 3 on that unit by becoming blogging buddies.  We practiced and refined our digital citizenship skills by sharing our blogs and by partnering up and making productive and positive comments.  However, once the unit is over, it can be difficult for teachers to make the time to continue these good practices.

 

Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting. Screen Shot of our class blog.

Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting.
Screen Shot of our class blog.

 

Earlier this year, after being inspired by the Common Sense Media resources shared in a PD session, I worked with my tech coach to deliver an online safety lesson.  We used the lesson, Going Places Safely lesson. It likened the idea of visiting places online to visiting places in real life and making safe choices in both.  The students enjoyed the “Virtual Field Trips” to places like MoMA or the San Diego Zoo.  We extended the lesson by broadening the boundaries of our travels:  some of the students began exploring Google Earth.  We first  looked up our campus –to everyone’s delight–and then went all over the world.

Although there were a lot more  great lessons, I stopped here, at this point in time figuring my students were still too young to really need to go deeper.  I knew in class they mostly used a small range of apps, and didn’t typically go looking for things on the internet…Well, now I know they do manage to find their way…kids will click anything, and some apps can easily lead away to Youtube videos of thinly disguised ads aimed at young children, which then offer a whole slew of other suggested videos that turn our otherwise Creation App filled iPads into TV screens.  And just because at school my 4 year olds are not (typically) surfing the net, doesn’t mean it they aren’t doing this at home or elsewhere.  This brings us back the question of whose job is it to teach digital citizenship?

I’d like to look at Common Sense Media’s My Creative Work lesson more closely with my students.  I currently encourage them to write/type their names on their artistic contributions, where possible, but we are not yet writing the date, but we do love stamping it!  

An oldie, but a goodie

An oldie, but a goodie

Recently, I have started asking the students to name their Artistic pieces, in particular the photographs we are taking as part of our Photography Exploration.  I will be honest and say I hadn’t really considered that the process of doing this is not simply a record keeping task, but a digital citizenship task–making it easier for others to reference your work.  This is something I will begin to work on with my students and remember to do myself when sharing and posting my own photos.  

I must remember to credit my own work, if only to make it easy for others to credit me later.

One area of digital citizenship we are addressing in my class is what sorts of things should we be posting to our blog? I currently have it set up that students do not need teacher approval, that what they choose to post goes directly to the blog.  I know many teachers would shudder at this, but with my small group of students, this is manageable, and after a few hiccups at the beginning of the year with students posting silly Puppet Pals videos of themselves mostly screaming, I haven’t had to delete many posts.  They seem to understand what is a quality post and (for an Early Years student) worthy of sharing.  

I deleted my own personal version of this picture.  Context goes a long way.

I deleted my own personal version of this picture. Context goes a long way.

(There was one panic inducing moment when one of the students snapped a picture of me,  wearing a black cape and role playing the evil stepmom from a fairy tale and immediately posted it to the blog, despite my protests. When I looked at the picture, without any context, it was unflattering and looked though I were imitating a Muslim woman praying…It goes without saying I immediately deleted the post and we had a long class discussion about asking people’s permission before posting a picture of them.  Although, now that I think about it, I didn’t really address this with my students at the beginning of the year, and don’t typically ask their permission to post pictures of them, now, either. Not a simple discussion.) 

There are many aspects of Digital Citizenship to consider and figure out, and I anticipate a huge learning curve as I move to the role of Ed Tech Coach next year, while at the same time moving to digital portfolios as a school. There is no time like the present to just jump in!