C’est la fin…

 

Well, ECI 834 has come to an end. After taking 831,832, 833 and 834 with both Alec and Katia, I have to say – it’s incredible to see my progress when it comes to Educational Technology. Every class has offered something new and exciting and everything is applicable in every classroom! I have always pushed my own comfort zones and have found myself more immersed in wanting to learn more about EdTech and its application in the classroom.

The Module project had to have been one of my most favourite assignments to date towards my Master’s degree. It is honestly the most practical piece I have worked on in a long time (aside from Units that I create for my elementary students).  I hope to actually put pieces of it to use next year!

Chalyn, Justine and Aimee were an amazing team to work with and I am so proud of what we accomplished. We received some amazing feedback that really helped us get an outside view of something we were so close to. Thank you to our reviewers for all the great suggestions and comments – they were truly appreciated.

We created this Google Doc to address some of the suggestions and comments made by our reviewers.

For my Summary of Learning, I used the Do Ink Green Screen app to create an infomercial to sell ECI 834. It is a sarcastic view of how corny infomercials are but it also explains all the qualities of Blended and Online Learning. Thank you to Logan, Amy and Angela for helping with testimonials and to the teachers at my school for being involved!

Do Ink Green Screen App is an easy enough app to use, but it does take some time to get used to. My original green screen I was using wasn’t “green enough” for the app and my skin tone was too close so I looked like the Invisible man. My students really enjoy the app and for my purposes, I found it to be useful. I’m sure their are better apps to use, but they may not have been as user friendly as Do Ink.

I hope you enjoy. Thank you again to Alec and Katia for a great class (and sorry for mis-pronouncing your name in the video Katia- I’m not really sure how it came out that way).

 

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Should Online Forums be Open For Business in the Elementary Classroom?

Last week in my blog, I posted a story of how a twitter exchange between a Grade 2 classroom and an author ended up in a pretty cool online sharing project. Twitter is a pretty open environment that has seen its fair share of negativity. And this may be why some educators shy away from using open forums and platforms such as Twitter with their students.

However, I do believe that by eliminating opportunities for students to connect to the outside world and discuss ideas, ask questions and learn from others is also hurting our new, online culture.

For this blog post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I want to explore the pros and cons of connecting students online in a more elementary setting (Grades 3-6) and look at different options for students to connect.

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CC Image via Pixabay by Mizter_x97

PROS FOR USING ONLINE FORUMS (mainly Twitter)

  1. Connecting to the experts. Using platforms such as Twitter, students can basically tweet out to anyone in any profession. Students can ask authors about something in a book they have written (J.K. Rowling, Peter Bently) And in some cases, their favourite characters, such as Mo Willems’ Pigeon.
  2. Following relevant hashtags. This allows students to “keep an eye” on events that show interest, without having to follow a lot of unknown people. Some examples are: #globalkids, #comments4kids and #photodujourmars )
  3. Students and classrooms can invent their own hashtags to follow a discussion and invite others to join in on the comments.
  4. Syncing Blogs with Twitter for maximum exposure. As students work on blogging, by syncing blogs to a classroom Twitter account will allow for a more open exposure to what they are writing beyond 140 characters.
  5. Students learn more about being in an online and open community and how to apply netiquette manners.
  6. Classrooms can live tweet an event that parents might not be able to attend. For example: field trips, concerts, plays, etc.

Some ideas came from the following articles:

Article 1; Article 2; Article 3

Now, these are only some of the advantages to using Twitter in the classroom as I am sure there are much more. But what are some of the Cons that scare educators away from it?

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CC Image via Pixabay by 3dman_eu

Cons For Using Online Forums (mainly Twitter)

  1. It would certainly be the “unknown” of Twitter. Teachers who shy away from using technology other than to research or type assignments often don’t understand how forums such as Twitter are used.
  2. Who is out there reading about us? If you follow pages such as Mashable or BuzzFeed on Facebook, you can almost guarantee a daily story about how Donald Trump uses Twitter to post controversial opinions and how celebrities berate him and “shut him down“using Twitter. Is this what we want our students exposed to – using an open platform to try and destroy someone else with words?
  3. Students who are not “allowed to be on the internet”. We still have a number of students whose parents will not allow them to photographed or named online. Twitter is too much of an open platform for some parents (and teachers).
  4. Does the world really need to see what we are doing on a daily basis? Is there too much exposure by using an open platform?

I’m sure there are also many more cons that come up with using Twitter in the classroom, but I believe these to be some of the main points (based on conversations with fellow colleagues and parents). But none of them deny that allowing students an opportunity to discuss what they are learning and to learn from others is a bad idea. So what are options if teachers are not comfortable using Twitter?

Closed or Limited Forum Platforms Similar to Twitter

  1. Twiducate: Twiducate calls itself the Twitter for Classrooms. I used Twiducate to do an Inter-School Novel study a couple of years back. My Grade 8 class and a class from another school were reading the same novel. We used Twiducate to discuss the novel and ask questions. Twiducate is a closed forum where students are placed into various forums. If you weren’t invited to the group, you cannot participate in it.
  2. TodaysMeet: This is more of a back-channel site where students participate during lessons. However, teachers could use it as part of an assignment where students meet with a particular login code to answer and respond to questions.
  3. Bookopolis: This is more of a limited forum. Here, students can discuss books they are reading to an open audience, however, students cannot reply to reviews and it is heavily monitored for appropriate use. This is one of the forums my Module Project group is using for our Grade 3 Treaty Education unit.
  4. Google Classroom: Google Classroom offers a “discussion” option when adding to the classroom. This discussion option allows students from the class to discuss a question or comment that the teacher posts. Only students from the class can post to this questions.

Regardless of whether you fully embrace open platforms such as Twitter in your classroom or you prefer the more closed experience, teachers agree that students need an opportunity to share what they are learning and ask questions that allow their peers to reflect and respond.

A Tale of Blended Learning as an Itinerant Teacher: My Pass and Fails…

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CC Image via Pixabay by geralt

Did you note the plural on “fail” in the title… Yup, that was on purpose. As a classroom teacher, I really enjoyed using a blended learning approach with my students. I used a flipped classrooms for a science unit, I allowed students to use their own creativity to demonstrate knowledge of an outcome anyway they felt they could- most created a video or used PowerPoint while some wrote and essay or did a live presentation. But my teaching assignment has changed and I find that incorporating blended learning as an itinerant teacher has become much more difficult.

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CC Image via Pixabay by Couleur

The first big challenge is the lack of time I get with my classrooms. I see one group of Grade 4 students for 45 minutes a week – and well, let’s face it, it takes them about 20 minutes to log on to a device, find the right website or LMS I am using and then, after the plethora or questions that tend to dominate the small group working on the device, I still have the other students seeking help – and now their classroom teacher is at the door ready to receive her students back. “Okay mes amis, we will pick up from where we were next week!” And so I start all over, again.

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CC Image via Pixabay by OpenClipart_Vectors

The next big challenge is finding the support in the classroom. If I am working with a teacher who does not use technology in any way in the classroom (for various, but usually obvious reasons), the students are not able to function with the technology because they don’t necessarily have the “know how”.  And once I finally get it going, my time with that particular class is up. See you all next week…

I won’t say this is the last challenge, because we all know their are many more new and exciting challenges ahead in our careers, but my final challenge for this blog is delivery. Every teacher uses technology differently. Some use LMS platforms, other simply use one function online (Google Docs or web searches) and others are fully integrated. My favourite thing to hear is “Well, our teacher doesn’t want us to use Google Translate.” or “We don’t use Google Classroom because our teacher thinks it’s too complicated.” As an itinerant teacher, I try very hard to keep things as “normal” in the classroom as their teacher. I follow the same expectations or rules that the regular classroom teacher sets up, I make sure the same routines are followed and I try to make my entrance to the class as seamless as possible. But sometimes I can’t quite seem to get past the “Well, our teacher…”. I want to scream “DO I LOOK LIKE YOUR TEACHER?”  Of course I don’t scream it, my internal monologue is screaming, but I feel like, as an itinerant teacher, what I want to do and what I’m limited to doing infringe on who I am capable of being.

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CC Image via Pixabay by 3D-Man_eu

Okay – philosophical rant is over! Let me get to the point of this blog. Yup – I deliberately started with the fails of blended learning as an itinerant teacher, but let me share with you a pass that I had this month! It’s Grade 5/6 social studies. Can’t teach the same unit to all the students because, well – those two curriculum are about as different as salt and oil. So, I did a lot of blended learning where I would work with one grade while the other accessed lessons and activities through our Google classroom page. We’d flip flop so that each grade got more individualized and traditional teachings from me, while the other group worked on honing skills. I decided that, for this particular unit, the students would write a test at the end to demonstrate their knowledge. Because I only see them twice a week, I decided to give them 7-8 different websites, YouTube videos or interactive games in order to do additional studying at home to compliment the studying we were doing together. Everything was laid out on Google Classroom. It was perfect!!!

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CC Image via Pixabay by eslfuntaiwan

Then came time for the tests! I decided – let’s use Socrative and make the test online! Their new feature allows kids to go back and review and revise their answers! On the plus side – Socrative would correct the test for me so long as I clicked on the right answer or provided it. It was glorious! Most of the students thought it was great! They felt that taking a test online was “cool”. I was happy to get instant results, I could see where each student was at on the test and I could see if a student was struggling with a particular question. At the end, all I had to do was click on “Finish Test” and “Download Results”.

Wait – only “most of the students thought is was great”, what about the ones who didn’t think it was great. Well, they didn’t NOT think it was great, blended learning is all good and all, but it isn’t the answer for the perpetual lazy student. The morning of the test, I was doing 8:37am supervision. A couple of students who were writing the Grade 6 test came up to me and asked “Madame, is their a re-write for this test today?” My inner monologue started up “A re-write? You haven’t even written the test yet? What about all the practicing, learning, Google Classroom sites I provided? Did you not study for this test?” Oh wait, that was my outer-monologue. “Sorry Madame, I didn’t bother with it. So, is there a re-write?” Right- that’s when my inner-monologue started, and I can’t type what I was thinking.

As much as I have plenty of love for blended learning, technology in general and the desire to make sure my students get every learning opportunity available, I find that, as an itinerant teacher, my hands are sometimes tied. I do try my best in the short bursts that I have with my students. And, slowly, more and more teachers are exploring new ways to incorporate technology into their learning styles, but as long as I am the teacher that only comes in once or twice a week, I need to make sure that I don’t overwhelm them with so much. In order for me to deliver what it is that I need to teach in the time I am given, I have to make some concessions and compromises. And that is how I continue to learn and grow as a teacher as well.

 

To LMS or Not To LMS…

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CC Image via Pixabay by markmags

Let’s move beyond the LMS, back to and forward to an independent Web and let’s help our students take full advantage of it. (Audrey Watters)

Whoa, whoa, whoa… let’s back up a moment here. “Let’s move beyond the LMS”… how about we first realize that most educators in Saskatchewan aren’t even aware of what an LMS is! Heck, most of Saskatchewan’s educators are still “digital visitors” (My Dad, Web 0.1) and may just be getting used to the idea of how technology and learning management systems (LMS) can be integrated in to their classrooms.

That being said, I am not one of those teachers. I value the way that technology can enhance learning outcomes and how students can use technology in varieties of ways to express their learning.  This is where an LMS comes in handy.

My first choice of LMS is Google Classroom. The reason being, this is what is supported in my school division, so when I am in need of assistance when using Classroom, I have tech support that can help me. As Jessica pointed out in her blog, Google Classroom is one of the platforms that are really geared for ease of use and has lots of support in terms of teachers that are already mastering this platform. So this LMS is already top of mind when it comes integrating it in to the classroom.

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CC image via Pixabay by Wokandapix

Although we were asked to explore different LMS platfoms this week, I feel that if my division is already supporting one particular LMS platform, then I should be mastering it over learning a new one. And, after hearing the different reviews of fellow classmates reviewing LMS platforms (such as Canvas), I feel that, especially in an elementary setting, these other types of platforms are not cohesive to the needs of my students. Kirsten summed up my feelings nicely: it’s another LMS system to have to learn, where I am already comfortable with the one that I am already using.

So, what are my thoughts on Google Classroom as an LMS platform as an itinerant teacher in elementary schools? I fall back to Bates questions he posed regarding Technology Based Education (9.1.3) and adapt them to how I wish to use Classroom for my students:

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Here is how I would answer such questions:

  • I need and want to offer a program that supports all types of learners needs, especially when I am not always in the classroom with the students. And because it is a split grade group, I need to cover all curricular content for both grades. Google Classroom allows for independent learning and teacher led learning.
  • Factors that influence my decision on Google Classroom are:
    • It’s supported by our division
    • Chromebook carts so that students have instant access to it
    • Ease of use
    • Used from class to class, grade to grade (continuity)
  • Because students can easily access assignments and lessons online via Google Classroom, the role of classroom teaching becomes more open. For example, at my school, we tend to have a large population of students who go on extended vacations or visits to home countries. Parents always ask about “taking homework” to work on. With Google Classroom, students will always have access to assignments and be able to turn them in. As another example, an LMS platform like Google Classroom allows students to always have access to their work. No more forgotten assignments at home, or lost papers.
  • The question of the role of the educator can be addressed in all aspects of open and free access. The role of the educator has only shifted slightly. In elementary schools, educators still need to teach students to “find” appropriate and proper information on the free Web and analyze it critically. Educators must also teach students about how to use technology to enhance their learning.
  • When it comes to creating resources and using free resources, I am a believer that both could be one in the same. I don’t know why some teachers feel the need to re-invent the wheel, if what you need already exists. And, when using free resources, adapt it based on the needs of your students. However, should you have to create something, share it- there is always someone else out there who is also looking for it. In this case, an LMS is not necessarily the tool to use for sharing, but other professional LMS-like tools exist. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide many user groups to share and discuss.
  • The final question would apply, in my opinion, more to University teachers who are interested in MOOCs. As an elementary teacher, the need for me to create an open class for students in Grades 5 or 6 isn’t really a reality as of yet. I would open my lessons to my students who would be absent from class for reasons beyond my control so that they would have access to the lessons happening. However, opening it up to the entire world would require more thought and planning. Too many factors over privacy would come in to play, especially when working with minors.

When considering Bates description of Online Learning Environments in Chapter 6, he describes it as:

LMSs provide an online teaching environment, where content can be loaded and organized, as well as providing ‘spaces’ for learning objectives, student activities, assignment questions, and discussion forums.

I feel that Google Classroom does just this. Content is loaded on to students personal platforms based on classroom subjects and organized based on assignments. It provides multiple tools of learning (whether creating an assignment, posing a question for discussion or providing information) and also allows for immediate feedback between teachers and students.

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CC Image via Flickr by Wesley Fryer

Roxanne put it quite perfectly when she summed up that an LMS platform, such as Google Classroom, can

encourage students to be independent learners and to help them realize that technology can be beneficial to their education.

However, it can also be beneficial to educators who are looking to enhance learning opportunities for their students as well as themselves.

The Return of the Sofa Student…

Long ago, on a sofa, not so far away, I began my adventures in EC&I with EdTech Masters Alec and Katia. ECI&I 831 feels so long ago, but the lessons I have learned continue to allow me to reflect on training as an EdTech Jedi… I mean teacher.

I am currently in my 4th year as a Teacher-Librarian at W.S. Hawrylak School in Regina. It’s interesting that my role as a “Librarian” isn’t at all what my husband thinks it is…

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CC image via Flickr by Erica Firment

I feel that the “library” part of my role as TL has morphed into a “Jack-of-All-Trades” in which I can quite often find myself as a mentor teacher, support admin and sometimes – substitute teacher (because we all know about our “sub shortage”). But I truly do love the diversity my role gives me. I get to work with students from Kindergarten (“Please remember, this is Mme Rugg’s bubble”) to Grade 8 (“Why would you stick that in your mouth?”) to everything in between. I am a technology advocate for my school and a DigCit lover! I can talk DigCit and EdTech to everyone all day long – which is why maybe the staff room clears out when I walk in… hmmm…

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CC image via Pixabay by Click-free vector images

This year, I have vowed to incorporate more blended learning into the teachings that I do. I am already using Google Classroom with my Grade 5/6 Sciences humaines class, but I need to something more with my Grade 3 education artistique group and my Grade 4 Bienetre class. My goal is to make sure that I don’t “do” blended learning just for sake of wanting to do it, but to really find meaningful ways to ensure that my students are getting the best of me and the best of what we can offer as super-awesome EdTechucators!

I am looking forward to the vast knowledge this group of ECI834 will offer and I hope I can offer some assistance to anyone who needs it (believe me – I will also be asking for help). Anyway, chat with you all soon!

Live long and prosper mes amis!

(And yes, I do know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek 😉

What Kind of Teacher Are You?

PLE/PLN and learning theories by Chris P Jobling, on Flickr
PLE/PLN and learning theories” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Chris P Jobling

Six years ago, I had to teach one of my past University professor’s children. Needless to say, it was quite terrifying to start. I mean, here was a professor who taught me how to teach. How will I measure up? Have I experienced enough to live up to her expectations?

At our first Parent/Teacher/Student conference, I was a bundle of nerves. I didn’t know what or how to prepare for our initial meeting. I was expecting a conversation surrounding outcomes and teaching methods. Her first question however, was nothing I could have anticipated:

“Since having children,” she began, “has the way you taught changed?”

At first, I think I had a lost look on my face. I pondered the question, wondering if it was a trick one. But in the 20 seconds or so that it took me to come up with an answer, I knew that, yes, becoming a parent did change the way I taught.

I don’t think of teaching in terms of educational theories. I’m not one to put fancy names to ways I do things. I don’t operate or think in that fashion in general. But what I do know, is that in my 15 years as an educator, I know that my styles of teachings have changed over the years to meet the needs of my students. Some of that is from becoming a mother and observing first hand how babies learn and grow into toddlers, and how toddlers learn and grow into children. I also had the opportunity to watch that in my classrooms.

My first few years of teaching, I would call myself a “Traditional Teacher”. The kind of teacher that curriculum theorist Franklin Bobbitt would be proud of. I was making sure my students were ready for their next step in life – Grade 2. They needed to be able to read, write, add and subtract. I pushed worksheets, memorization and made sure that they would conform to societies norms and expectations.

After a couple of years, and a particularly “ingenious” idea to get rid of annual “messy desks” speech, I decided to get rid of my rows upon rows of students and bring in round tables. This small change would begin a major shift in the way I taught my students.

I guess this is where I began to move away from the Bobbitt approach to teaching and lean more towards John Dewey‘s way of experiencing learning. This is where I adopted a more constructivist model of learning with my students. I would observe my students sharing what they were doing with those around them. They would support each others learning, discuss ideas and debate answers. I remember one student grabbing manipulatives to show a table-mate how to make groups for multiplying because he knew that that student needed hands on materials to help with his learning.

This supportive environment allowed my students to become more socially aware of those who they worked with. Now, it wasn’t all roses and diamonds… There were definitely some students who couldn’t handle themselves in groups and needed a more defined space to work. But that was adapting to the needs of the students. Some students thrive with a more constructivist approach to learning, while others require a more behaviouralist approach.  Regardless of how they are learning, the important fact is, is that they are learning.

Today, some classrooms and schools are adopting more “modern” ways of teaching. Inquiry based learning, genius hours and Makerspaces are dominating conversations throughout schools. Technology has also played a huge part in the shift of classrooms. I remember having 1 computer in my classroom and using programs to help students learn to type. Now, students are coming in with their own devices in Grade 2 already savvy enough to download apps and search Google for answers to pressing science questions.

I recently viewed a YouTube clip called “I Just Sued The School System!” which described how archaic our school systems can be and how we need to allow change to happen.  Some school divisions are excelling at allowing changes to happen in individual classrooms and schools. But this isn’t always the case and some teachers, division offices and (mostly) parents feel that kids should learn the way they did 20 years ago. I personally believe that small changes help others “get their feet wet” and allow them to see why these changes are beneficial to our students.

Cars didn’t evolve overnight from a Model-T to a Minivan. Cars changed as society changed and as technology advanced. So too must our education system.

1925 Ford Model T by ** RCB **, on Flickr
1925 Ford Model T” (CC BY 2.0) by ** RCB **
IMG_0463 by mjfmjfmjf, on Flickr
IMG_0463” (CC BY 2.0) by mjfmjfmjf