Recently I had the opportunity to write for the blog 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry. It was quite a learning experience for me, even though I have just got my feet wet. I plan to carry on this learning forward, I have already asked my school to order Guided Inquiry Design by Carol Kuhlthao and am looking forward to laying my hands onto it. I would suggest that you also have a read of this book. Of course Twitter as always has helped me through my flounderings as I followed 52GID. If you have not yet tried GID, do so now…before the summer break, so that you ponder on some great ideas before you go back to school in the fall. Please do share your experiences on Twitter at 52 GID and Guided Inquiry Design.
Please do check out my posts here and leave some feedback. Thanks!
Recently I was asked byEvin from theEdChange Global Classroomsteam to blog on a topic related to global learning, virtual or social media connections, or any topic related to their past events. So here I am again after my disappearing act once I had submitted my COETAIL final project. This post is mostly for EdChange Global Classrooms, so those of you who have already been on this roller-coaster ride, please bear with me.
Social media in schools
So before we talk about how social media has impacted all segments of our lives and we just cannot avoid it even if we wanted to, let’s ask the bigger question“WHY should we be using social media in schools???”
At the beginning of this school year, I had asked my fourth graders how they learn best. Of course I got 15 different answers but the common thread in all the responses was that they learn best when they were working together…learning with and from each other. I introduced the concept of being a digital citizen to them. Some of the parents disagreed that kids these days are already spending too much time on the screen-they need to be focusing on personal communications, it is too soon to introduce these youngsters to social media-the internet being a scary place. But my response to those is, did you stop your child from riding a bicycle, swimming in the pool, playing in the park, swinging from trees? Because they pose a danger as well, right?! Of course you didn’t! You taught them how to be safe! And that is what I am doing, teaching my students to be safe online!
Learning and growing
My class has a blog on Seesaw and they have collaborated with classes in Qatar and UK through blogging and quadblogging. They have Skyped with experts, and now use Twitter regularly to post what they’re doing or to ask questions. We’ve been six months into the school year, my students are being very respectful when writing pieces, reflecting and giving feedback. They have created digital stories and shared across borders. All this purposeful inquiry has taught them the value of using social media in a constructive manner. The learning that is taking place in my class is authentic because of this experience. They are not just learning through books, but they are now diving into various sources for gaining knowledge. They have taken their learning into their own hands and are more actively engaged than ever. They are communicating and collaborating and thus becoming empowered learners – which has been my goal all along.
I can clearly see the benefits of using social media in my classroom. Not just have the students improved their literacy skills but the more important skills which are not being assessed – those of motivation, enthusiasm, courage to post and be ready for feedback, compassion to motivate others, civic-minded and self-disciplined to be authentic in their approach. These are the skills which I see being honed in my students.
Taking the plunge…with a little fear of the unknown
A couple of years back when I was asked to teach 3 year olds in Pre-K, I had no clue as I had never taught that age group before. What did I do? The summer of 2015, I took part in EdCamp Global for the first time by facilitating a chat on play-based learning focused on early childhood.
I walked away from that one hour of PD in PJs a different person, all because I made use of social media to empower myself.
Plans, plans, and more plans…
I am planning to do the same this year as well by taking part in EdChange Global Classrooms in February. For this purpose, I presented a small workshop at my school to get teachers on-board.
How many accompany me on this learning journey remains to be seen…I am also planning to facilitate a session on using social media to collaborate and communicate across borders to create classrooms without walls.
Connect – Collaborate – Create
To all teachers out there, I urge you to give social media a try. Use a platform you are comfortable with, but also be a risk-taker. After all, communication and creation through collaboration are the much needed skills of the future. Build and grow with your PLN! Oh and while you’re at it, register for#ECGC17attiny.cc/ecgc17
How do you plan to empower yourself and your students?
For myself it has been quite a transformation. If you had asked me at the beginning of this course if I could do all that I am able to do now, I would have had a hearty laugh (at my expense).
As I was about to submit my post (didn’t meet the deadline though) I saw Danieal Longanetti’s post/video and I went EEEKK!!! Both of us had used the template from iMovie (not a lot of options there). I sent her a DM on Twitter to ask if it would be okay if I posted mine. I also emailed Robert to be sure. But then I could not wait for their responses (I know I’m very impatient), so I started from scratch with a different template. By the time I was done, Danieal had replied in the affirmative =) Thanks Danieal! In this post, you will be watching two versions of my final project. Which one do you like and why?
Here’s the firstvideo.
What were your goals for your lesson/project (Standards)?
It was all about integrating technology seamlessly into the classroom. Therefore, my project spanned three units of inquiry – Who We Are, Where We Are in Time and Place and How We Express Ourselves. Since this school does not have any technology standards, I used ISTE Standards. My focus was on Empowered Learnerfor which they need to be Creative Communicator and Global Collaborator, but for that they need to be respectful, responsible and safe Digital Citizenfirst.
What tools did you use? Why did you choose this/these tools for this/these task(s)?
I used Seesaw – digital portfolios in the classroom so that the students could easily be creative and produce writing pieces and more in ways they have never done before. They could connect with their classmates and others in different countries using a digital platform. They could collaborate to produce new knowledge and redefine how they learn.
Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?
For their summative task for How We Express Ourselves, the students will be working with poems to create digital stories. This has not been done yet but the process has already started. They will be presenting their stories on December 15, 2016 before the winter break. Of course they will also upload those on Seesaw and will be awaiting feedback from classes they are connected to. All this would not have been possible without technology. So in a way, I do think I have managed to redefine my lessons. Here is my UBD for my project.
Without further ado, here is the final video where it shows how I introduced this project at the beginning of the year. The video includes students’ thoughts which show how far they have come. I think the greatest outcome for the students has been their awakening of using the online world for productive learning. My goal is ongoing… till the end of the year… and carries on to the next!
The ACTUAL video
Tales from Grade 4
I will definitely be doing more lessons on CARP this year and next. Looking at the Learner Profile posters they made using the principles, I don’t think my students are there yet.
My technology instructional plans for next year might be big, but I’m learning to take baby steps to achieve that goal. For this, I will be relying on the support of my PLN at school as well as virtually. I would never have been able to do all that I have been able to do till now without that support. And that is my greatest learning in this course.
Why are we engaged in building a community? Because that is what COETAIL wants us to do? To have more followers/follow more people? Build numbers? To gain more knowledge? To learn from and with others? To take things forward and teach those skills to our students? ALL OF THE ABOVE?!
Rather than focusing on building my PLN, my focus has been on how I can learn from those that are in my PLN. That brings me back to the Golden Circle – Why do we need to build our PLN? I’ve mentioned this in one of my previous posts that I shied away from Twitter, thinking it was more of a celebrity platform. But thanks to Abby I have learned a lot over the last couple of years and I know for a fact that this learning will never stop. I’m a learner for life! It is this community that is helping me grow and move forward.
Initially when I started lurking on Twitter, I hardly knew what I was doing. But as Jeff says in his book and we were told in our very first course, we have to stop being lurkers. I started taking part in Twitter chats and then I took that a step further with the help of Lissa. She was the one who pointed out to me that we don’t need to experts on a topic to start conversations. The basic reason is to learn more about the said topic. Therefore I was a risk-taker and facilitated a couple of #AISQ8chat on various topics. Things that were fuzzy in my mind, started taking shape.
This was the reason I facilitated the #ISTEIntSch chat on professional development with Ryan. Even though I was not sure initially what I am doing, yet at the end of the day it is through this network that I become more knowledgeable. I do feel like a dunce at times when participating in the various Twitter chats. But I have learned to overcome those feelings (somewhat) and question at other times. It’s just like a two year old will ask a zillion questions a day but that dwindles as the child grows because the adults around either give an easy answer or don’t ask the child their perspective. So I’m learning to question and I’m telling my students to do the same.
Become responsible global citizens
My students are also slowly building their PLN while using the tools of digital citizenship, copyrights, information literacy, etc. They use these tools for their Seesaw blog foremost. But then we also have a class twitter account as our learning network (although it was not being used for a long time due to some class issues). And that is not the end, my students are partner-blogging, quadblogging, Skyping and so much more. I believe my students are becoming global citizens or at least going in the right direction. I do think they are gradually redefining learning with the use of technology in the classroom.
I love John Dewey’s quote about learning from reflecting on our experiences and firmly believe in it. But I am taking it a step further – we don’t just learn from our experiences, when we engage in this amazing community, we learn from others as well. And we further learn and understand more by reflectingon ours as well as others’ experiences.
This is why when I read the invitation on Jina’s blog for educators to collaborate, I jumped at the chance. I feel this is a tremendous opportunity for me to learn and grow and I would love for you all to do the same with me by reading these awesome blogs by these amazing educators.
I have been reading these blogs (along with quite a few others) for some time now and am highly influenced by what they are thinking and doing to make learning an authentic experience. When saying this, I mean not just for themselves but for their students and others around them as well. So please go ahead, read and enjoy!
I must be the greatest procrastinator around. I have been meaning to write and it’s not as if there was a mind block. I had plenty of ideas but for some reason or other, kept putting it off. Enough!!!
When I wrote my course 4 final post, my intent was for my students to be able to collaborate and communicate with others around the world to become better learners. I just did not realize what a challenge that would be. Parents are rightly worried about their child being safe online, but then that is a parent’s job right?! We tend to be worried about everything our children set out to do and at times forget that as kids we ourselves took some risks to learn new things. I guess that’s the case with online safety as well. But tell me, do we stop our kids from learning how to swim or cycle or cook or any other activity just because it might seem dangerous. NO! We teach them how to do it by giving them the tools and resources. So when it comes to the internet why do parents take this stance against it? Yet at the same time I see (some) parents letting their kids play online games without knowing who or what might be at the other end. I agree the internet is scary but we have to be ones teaching our students (and parents if need be) how to be balanced and knowledgeable thinkers.
As I moved countries, I realized I did not just move geographically but it was a whole new dimension of the mindset that I have come across. I’ve had some serious setbacks but I have learned to push back and come out the other side as a better person… with my passion intact.
For my Final Project I am concentrating on the global collaboration aspect of the ISTE Standards for students. Since I encountered resistance from some parents for my students to collaborate with others online, I thought hey, global collaboration applies to myself as well. When Ryan Harwood asked me to help facilitate the first of the International Schools ISTE Chats on Twitter, I jumped at the chance. We’ve had a second one based on professional development and looking forward to more.
Since the school year started I have been teaching my students how to be good digital citizens. Being at an IB school helps, as the students are learning how to be good CITIZENS, period! We’ve watched videos from Common Sense Media as well as gone over quite a few lessons.
When Patrick Holt tweeted out as Danieal Longanetti and her Grade 2 started blogging using Seesaw and were looking for a class to blog with, I jumped at the chance because I was still looking for someone to collaborate with for my COETAIL final.
Our collaboration is finally coming along with the recent consent from parents in my classroom. I still cannot say how the final project will turn out but I’m moving forward.
Working with CoETaIL has really pushed my boundaries. Even though I floundered (more times than I can remember) it has been an amazing roller coaster ride so far (one that I don’t plan to get off). Although the end of the course is near, it is the beginning of a far exciting and adventurous journey ahead.
I remember there was a time when I wondered at the benefits of Twitter but ever since I got on to the bandwagon, it has been uphill all the way. For this I have to thank my amazing colleague and fellow Coetailer Abby Moore. This past year with Coetail and Twitter has helped me build up my PLN/VLN, which in turn has helped me to grow personally and professionally.
Blogging was something that I always wanted to do but did not really have the ‘drive’ behind it. Coetail provided me with one! I hope to continue doing so even after I’m done with the fifth and final course as the reflections have helped get my mind working in different directions.
These last couple of months have been the most stressful ever for various reasons – end-of-the-year conferences, reports, so many new and not so new things to learn in this course and then on top of that wrapping up my personal and professional life in Kuwait. At the time I started writing this post, I had no idea what was in store for me. I didn’t have a job in the fall and I had no clue how I would apply my learnings from CoETaIL and finish up. It’s a crazy world I’m living in right now, being pulled in so many different directions. It’s no wonder I was stuck wondering what I will be doing for the final project. But since I had to take the plunge…
Initially since I didn’t know if I will be in a classroom, I decided to focus on my boys who will be in Grade 7 this year. I just had a general idea since I would only know what they’ll be doing in class once they start in August. I would readapt or start from scratch, depending on how things go from there. Of course it would have to be embedded into their learning at school and not be an add-on. Now that I actually know I will be teaching Grade 4, I will make some changes along the same lines as the year goes on.
1.Describe the project: What will your students do?
My main focus is going to be on the students maintaining their e-portfolios and blogging/vlogging (via Seesaw most probably). Along with that, collaboration for research purposes through Twitter, Skype, Google Hangout etc. I am also thinking of Global Read-Alouds, writing reviews on Goodreads/Amazon, etc. The students will learn to build and use their visual literacy skills to share their learning with others through various uses of technology. Oh and of course where would I be without a class Twitter account?! So yes I will facilitate them on that platform as well.
2.How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?
Introducing my kids to make connections and collaborate globally through blogs, Twitter and Skype sessions, teaching digital citizenship through communication so that the students can take ownership of their learning. This way they could also relate it to real-life experiences. I hope to keep the SAMR and TPACK in mind during this.
3.What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?
Keeping the ISTE Standards for Students in mind, I hope to get the students to be creative and innovative and reflect constantly to synthesize their understanding of learning in content areas. I want to get them engaged with the world outside the four walls of their classroom, to not just achieve a broader perspective but also to make a difference in the world in their own way.
4.Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
I seriously don’t know if it would work but it will definitely be a learning experience for me as well as this being a good initial experience for my students to start building their own PLN at an early age. Personally I have grown a lot over the last couple of years mostly thanks to Twitter. I believe if these kids learn to work as teams beyond their classrooms, it would serve as a building block towards their understanding of how well we work as a community.
5.What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
Haah, I am not sure if it will work since I have no idea what kind of learning takes place and how it does at the new school. My plan to just take their learning from the school environment and share it further might totally flop. I am apprehensive whether it will be structured the way I would have been able to achieve at my last school. And related to that is my biggest concern – I do not want this to be a teacher-oriented thing. All this makes it outside my comfort zone but I am going to be a risk-taker and dive into the learning experience along with my students. After all I am a ‘learner for life’!
6.What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
There are no ifs and buts about the learning being student-centered in my classroom. What I want to work on this year is to bring in project-based and game-based learning. Lately I have become very much interested in BreakOut Edu, but to be honest I have no idea how to go about it. It will be a case of trial and error and a lot of learning along the way. So let’s see what this year has in store for me. More reflection needed on my part every step of the way!
7.What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
I guess working with an open mindset and being a risk-taker would be the most needed attitude and skill by the students. The willingness to work with a range of technologies to grow connections outside the four walls (locally or globally), being more creative and reflective, learning to be communicative with a larger audience, being vulnerable to criticism, learning to give feedback which is not suggestive and receiving it with an open mind would help the students in the long run.
Right now I feel overwhelmed with these ideas floating around my head and the uncertainties of being at a new school. I would love to hear thoughts from you fellow CoETaILers on how to make this a good project for my students.
The other day I read a post by Alfie Kohn where he says “We can’t answer the question “Is tech useful in schools?” until we’ve grappled with a deeper question: “What kinds of learning should be taking place in those schools?” He’s right but I’m also wondering why we are still stuck in the past regarding schools. We’re talking about the future of education in respect to real life learning, when problem-based/ game-based/ project-based learnings are making a huge impact on education.So the right question should be how do we enable our students so that they can maximize the potential of technology for learning?
Shaping little Einsteins
In order for our students to indulge in their curiosities and set their learning goals, the students need to learn how to ask the right questions, and that is where the power of learning lies. When students become active participants in a classroom instead of beings who regurgitate memorized material, they set their own pathways to becoming responsible citizens. This leads me to believe that we as educators should not be the ones setting rules for what kinds of technology should be used in the classroom. Instead it should be a joint effort, where the teacher could either be the oldest member of the classroom community (the teacher) or even the younger member (the student). The roles could change inter-variably, with the teacher becoming the learner and vice versa. This is what an ‘active participant’ would be, one who sets their own goals themselves.
At the beginning of the school year we set up classroom expectations/agreements with the help of the students so why shouldn’t we do the same when discussing the potential of technology and it’s productiveness. This will also help build the notion of digital citizenship while collaborating and communicating with others in the classroom or across borders. This would also help ‘redefine’ the usage of technology and different platforms. The trick is to finding that right balance.
Classroom management strategies when using devices with students
After reading this article, I have adapted the given strategies for a healthy balance of media and technology in my classroom. I plan to start the school year in the fall using these strategies to maximize the potential of technology in the class environment.
Be a role modelUse technology wisely by using the appropriate tool needed. Get parents onboard to help with this strategy. Model digital citizenship by sharing what you as an educator does or would do in person or on a social platform.
Start good habits earlySet up a Responsible Use Agreement at the beginning of the school year as a class, keeping copyright, digital citizenship etc. in mind. Follow the agreement and feedback guidelines to use for constructive purposes.
Use media togetherUse various platforms like blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, podcasts etc. to create, communicate and collaborate not just in the classroom but across borders with other classes.
Keep distractions to a minimum We as educators have to help the students build their attentional capacities by teaching them ‘mindfulness practices’.AsGoleman says, digital devices are not the enemy, it’s how we use them whilst building the abilities to concentrate on the task and not lose focus.
Turn off workSet a limited time for ‘tech breaks’ between course work to enhance productivity of their minds. Bring in ‘gamification’ so that even though they are not concentrated on academics, they will still be building their social skills by working together as teams to achieve certain levels in a game. Take a brain break with GoNoodle, or simply go outside on the playground to refresh the mind, body and soul.
How are you utilizing and maximizing the potential of technology in your classroom?
Change is constant and all around us! It is the one thing in life we can be sure of – change! It depends on the individual how they perceive it and what they make out of it.
What is the future of education? Will education as we know it change because of technology?
Of course the change in education is already happening because of technology and will continue to do so. Whether it is a positive one or negative, depends on an individual’s perspective as well as how that particular piece is used. Technology like pen and paper is just the tool. The learning objectives are the most important thing and technology and everything else revolves around it not the other way around.
(1)personalized (2)safe and secure (3)inquiry-based (4)student-directed (5)collaborative (6)interdisciplinary (7)rigorous and hands-on(8)embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations (9)environmentally conscious (10)offering strong connections to the local community and business (11)globally networked and (12)setting the stage for lifelong learning.
Before we ask our students to leap out of that box, we as educators need to break down those mental barriers and think about the real purpose of education.
A big change has happened in my personal life right now. I’m having to move countries and this has got me thinking. If I cannot teach in a classroom for now, why not think outside the box. After all technology has made it easier for us with things like Skype classrooms, Flat classroom projects, classrooms without walls, etc. I can still connect, collaborate and communicate with other classrooms around the world. Yes, my resources are limited but my thoughts are not. So why should I limit myself to a conventional teaching space? The ultimate goal is not to learn about technology, rather it is how to creatively share and solve problems by recognizing diversity and having a shared vision.
Where and how will I be teaching in 10, 15, 20 years time?
Hmmm… I don’t know where I’m teaching in the fall, let alone down the road in so many years. What I do know is that I want my students to take their learning in their own hands and get better at the things they are passionate about. I also want them to serve others without the intent of getting anything back in return other than satisfaction of the soul for helping others and doing something big in life. As Daniel Pink says, the motivation trifecta of autonomy, masteryand purposeare the driving force to a productive and effective environment.
Children are curious by nature and they make meaning of the world around them through play. Ask a common observer what they perceive when they walk into a preschool or kindergarten, they might say “Oh they’re just playing”. But ask an early childhood educator and you will get a whole different story. Behind their games and play there is so much going on. Play/games support a child’s healthy development of mind and body. They don’t just develop their gross and fine motor movements, but also communication, thinking and most importantly their social-emotional skills.
So are schools really embedding play/game based learning? If children learn through exploration and investigation why is it that the older our students get the less they play games in schools? If it is supposed to be ‘real-world learning’, why are students not given ‘real-life’ opportunities to experience?
As I looked at the definition of play, what stood out for me were the words ‘enjoyment’and ‘recreation’. That means play is supposed to be ‘free’ from all seriousness and it should definitely be‘spontaneous’ and driven by the child not an adult. That also got me thinking that it is not just the ‘teacher’ that is important but the environment is just as equally important for the child growth and development. It has to be a safe environment while providing the freedom to explore and be creative. Play is a child’s way to assimilate how the world works. Most importantly children do not engage in play for any rewards or goals. Most schools are not equipped this way plus the burden of the curriculum that has to be covered in a given time puts play/game to rest. Therefore, education in most schools around the world ends up in a diploma or certificate as the goal and not for the intrinsic purpose of learning how things might work or how issues might be resolved.
Technology and play-based learning
What role can technology play in play/game-based learning? These past few weeks we have been using our imagination and creativity to make connections in the unit How We Express Ourselves. Students played with puppets, musical instruments, etc. to help them understand the world around them. Since we did not have enough puppets or musical instruments in the classroom we decided to make our own. Students did some research by brainstorming in class as well as asking their parents what they would require. We also went online to look at some pictures of puppets to get an understanding.
Another activity that the students have been busy with is using PuppetPals and Garage Band in small groups. All this would not have been possible without technology. I will be the first one to point out that yes these activities are mostly ‘teacher-led’ but that is because I am still learning how to use the right technology tool, not just for the purpose of using it but integrating it into play-based learning while it correlates with the unit.
Importance of play in life:
Every morning my students come in the class excited to start their day. My way of doing the attendance is by laying out their laminated name cards on the table, which they trace over with a white board marker. As soon as they come in the classroom they are eager to get that out of the way because they either want to play with the wooden blocks, magna tiles, LEGO, with the sensory table or in the kitchen. Through this they learn to interact with each other, using ‘nice words’ to talk and not their hands. They are learning to build a community within the classroom. We are out on the playground twice during the day for at least an hour (more most of the days). There they build relationships with students from other classes and grade levels. While it is important in today’s world to teach our children media literacy. I feel it is more important to let them just PLAY, whether outside or inside as it builds the child’s personality as a whole.
If we look at ‘teaching and learning in the IB’, there is Inquiry, Action, Reflectionat its core. So keeping that in mind, play/game based learning plays a very important role in any classroom from ages 3-19 since every child comes to school with their own unique learning style.
As I watched Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play, I am more convinced that we need to create schools as places where students feel secure to take risks and indulge in inquiry through play. They would learn to reflect on those actions (indulgence) and come up with creative solutions to problems around.
I came across this article and it makes me wish we had more such FabLabs where children can actively play and learn through hands-on activities. They would not just be exploring but problem-solving and applying their understanding through real-life experiences. What do you think?