Course 1 Final Project: Passions Collide

Through this process I’ve learned that I am an idea girl. I can come up with some great ideas, but the plausibility is sometimes questionable. I struggled with this project because add to the dreamer in me and the feeling of loss from being out of the classroom and not having a class to call my own and I had no clue where to start.  Should I do a unit for teachers?  Parents?  The ELL students I work with for 40 minutes a day?  Or the multi-grade students in a free period I help coordinate? The choices were overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.  So I started…multiple times.  I basically did 3 projects and didn’t like any of them.  Finally I read Rebecca’s final project and the light bulb went off.  Why not start with something I already had and REDEFINE it?

Another thing I learned is that it is hard to plan a global collaborative project. I’ve joined many, but starting one is more of a challenge. I got on Twitter and threw my net out a couple of times (remember how I started 3 projects?) but to no avail. I waited and continued planning, but as the due date got closer I realized things weren’t panning out and it probably wasn’t going to happen. I am not the Twitter queen, but I have some followers and if it was this hard for me to start a global project then how hard would it be for a new Tweeter or someone not on it?  Is there a database for collaborative projects? I know Skype has Skype in the Classroom and I found a Global Collaboration Day, but these weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  I was frustrated and added this as a challenge to tackle in the future.

The actual planning and creating the unit was the most fun (remember I’m an idea girl). I decided to go with the students that have a free period while other students are in Portuguese class.  In the past this has been a waste of time because there isn’t a curriculum and no one has really claimed it as their class.  This year I took on the challenge and came up some ideas.  I did Genius Hour in my 5th grade classroom for the past couple of years, and realized this is the perfect opportunity for students to use this time more effectively. I have introduced the passion projects, but was just going to do the sharing in-house.  This is where my PLN came in handy, a couple of weeks ago a PLN buddy at Lincoln to collaborate with their TEDed clubs, but at that point I didn’t really see how I could work it in. Then I thought although we aren’t another TEDed club, this is a great opportunity for my students to share their projects and receive feedback and also give feedback to their partners’ at Lincoln. I can already see this project growing into something similar to a TEDed forum.

One thing I want to look at after I teach the first round of passion projects is adding a mini-lesson on Pecha Kuchas.  I had to create one in one of my Masters course and it was a huge challenge, it really made me focus and plan out my content and then move on with the overall theme in mind.

Without further ado, my final project.  I would love feedback on how to improve it.  Thanks in advance!

 

Global Landscape

 

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Technology has significantly changed the learning landscape in my classroom. It allows for students to create things and share them like they never have before.  Last year my class created promotional videos for their non-fiction writing pieces and put them on Aurasma for parents and students to see in our Authors’ Aura Archive. Students that were never excited about writing jumped at the opportunity and dove in head first.  Some of my struggling writers glowed with pride when the Head of School scanned their video and book into his phone.  Parents that couldn’t make it in person were still able to read their child’s work through our blog.  All of these things couldn’t have been done without technology.  

Mystery Skype is another of my favorite things for my class to participate in.  I purposely step aside and let my students figure it out.  Of course there are times when it is painful to watch, but there are other times when I get goosebumps because of what they accomplish together. We probably do this around 5 times a year and it is amazing to see the growth in efficiency and teamwork. Just like Rebekah said in Middle School: Learning in the 10th Circle of Hell it is theirs. They take ownership of it and take risks, it empowers them.  They begin to see each other in different ways, the not so typical leaders in the class step up and give valuable suggestions or the shy quiet girl in class becomes our class comedian during the wait time.

Another change in the landscape is connecting with a class across the world.  While Mystery Skypes are normally a one shot deal, we have been fortunate to connect with one class repeatedly throughout the year.  Our kids became e-pals, we shared math videos with their class, and they shared their passion projects with us.  My students gained friends that were thousands of miles away.  When I was in fifth grade my furthest friend was a 10 minute car ride from my house.  Landscape changed.  I guess the author of Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults was right with the statement, “As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group.”

One more way our learning landscape changed was to expand our read aloud through The Global Read Aloud. My students were highly engaged because they could share their opinions and thoughts about the book with classes from all over the world.  I mentioned it in another post, but we even got a tweet from the author, Jenni Holm. That right there made my reluctant readers buy in and start reading all of her books. We used Padlet to share our opinions and make connections with other classes, and even the parents could get in on the action.  

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There are so many other things out there that change the landscape of our learning that I want to try.  I have never used wikis with a class, sure I know what they are but I’m interested in how to use them effectively. This year I am working with a group of 2nd grade ELLs and this post on digital storytelling has me intrigued. (I’m going to try a simple version of this with Book Creator for my final project). I’m hoping they can share their stories with classes in our school, but also put them out there on the line.

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Everything out there is amazing and has changed our learning landscape, but I have found that when my class has a sustainable partnership that we continue to nurture and develop through the year it is way more beneficial.  It takes away the shimmer and the shine, and we start to work with the class like they are just down the hall from us. And that my friends is pretty amazing.

 

Jackpot Finds

This week I was checking out other COETAILers blogposts and came across Amanda’s post on infographics in the classroom.  I fell in love with the way the information was communicated to students in a simple way and wanted to try to create one.

I am not working in the classroom this year (I miss it so much!) and I am a visual learner I thought I would try to make an infographic on Piktochart for a parent informational letter about our literacy program.My current school has a heavy population of parents that don’t speak English, so this is a perfect chance to be concise and visually appealing. The letter started out as a three page document that our literacy coach created, I played around and created this:

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It is really easy, they have lots of templates to choose from.  You can have more access to different templates if you pay, but I was happy with the free choices.  Also, when you do the free version you have to download it as a jpeg, but I easily converted it into a PDF.

The next jackpot find was Google Keep, a collaborative to do list and note taking app.  I found this through Free Tech 4 Teachers while searching for ideas for my final project.  Ana Maria’s blog has some great ideas for using tech with English language learners, especially older students. Her post about using Google Keep with students was simple and a great substitution for many different tasks.  I myself have started using it with my husband.

I am still wrestling with my final project idea, but I thought I would share these great finds.

A Change Would Do You Good

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Since I went to school I can say that foundation of teaching and learning has changed a ton.  I  remember we when had CD-ROMs for encyclopedias, which back then was a “new way” to do an old thing.  We’ve come a long way since then.  Even as a teacher I feel that as time changed so did the teaching and learning.  Knowledge was no longer just held by me, the teacher, but rather in a variety of places.  My first year teaching I never would have dreamed of connecting with other classes via Skype, Twitter, blogs, and Instagram.  Sure we had Flat Stanley that was sent around the world, but now there is the traveling teddy bears that we can track around the world in real time. Because of the global audience, the learning has changed. Students now have a global audience and write with that in mind. Another example of how the knowledge is dispersed is when students become teachers by creating videos of content and sharing them with another class in another via Edmodo. There are countless examples of how tech has enabled teachers and students to go beyond the typical classroom.

However, with the introduction of so many tech tools to improve our teaching and student learning you may feel as you are at a churrasco with unlimited helpings. There are the of required dishes to have (Schoology, PowerSchool, Atlas, Email, Google Docs, Manageback) and then the extra yummy dishes (apps, gadgets, etc) that you try to cram on your plate, because let’s face it they are enticing.  Then you have the meat (collaboration, blogging, etc) that is a must if you want you and your students to learn with others. Pile them all on your plate and you will be good to go.  Expect maybe not.

While at first glance it is an amazing sight, in the last week at my job I have realized that with all these options of tools, teachers are stressed and shutting down. Maybe it is just my school, but I am trying to help teachers find the balance and necessity for using new tools.  There is always a next best thing in education–technology, strategies, systems, communication, etc., but are we just doing old things in new ways?  As I read Prenshky’s article I thought of Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR model.  I tried to connect Prensky’s stages with Dr. Puentedura’s levels.

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways. (Substitution)
  • Doing old things in new ways.(Augmentation)
  • Doing new things in new ways. (Modification/Redefinition)

We do a lot of substitution or augmentation and expect the learning to change.  Sometimes I think we see technology as the solution, and with it our students learning will flourish, but that’s not always the case.  Dr. Puentedura included a ladder to help teachers transition to the next level and change the learning. When appropriate, we need to be reaching for the modification and redefinition of learning.

Even in 2005 Prensky saw that as educators we need to

…Not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.” 

Adam’s school hosted a weekend festival that gave students the space, materials, support, and time to do just this. Students that participated in the festival had learning experiences that I never could have dreamed of when I was in high school. I think this is an example of what Prensky was aiming for. Or he was talking about the kind of teaching that is happening at Learning2, man I wish I could have been there.  But I learned so much through the tweeters there, and then today the best news of all…it’s coming to South America! But I digress, all this being said has teaching and learning changed? Yes.  Does it need to continue to change more? Yes.  Education should mirror our society, and at the rate things change then we have a lot of work to do. As Sheryl Crow said, a change would do you good. 

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