A Teacher’s Plea: I Don’t Care If You Listen To It, Though.

For the first time in my teaching career, I will be leaving students I’ve taught for a few years. This has hit me really hard in a lot of ways because, for the first time, I’m not going to see the amazing students I see every day. I know there will be new students, but there is an overwhelming grief that comes when you are leaving students who you’ve made a connection with. I’m grateful for this grief mindset because, honestly, I don’t know if I would have had this moment of clarity if I was returning next year. At the time of writing this, my students did not know I was leaving.


I had a very vulnerable moment with my  students today. Over the course of my four years of teaching, I’ve seen an increase of students coming into the classroom saying, “I can’t do it.”

This comes in a variety of forms. “I don’t know what to write. I’m bad at this.”

“I just don’t understand math.”

“Man, I’m not an artist. How can you expect me to do this?”

So, when the phrase, “I just can’t write essays,” came up today. I saw what I have seen time and time again. The student did something that drives teachers absolutely insane: behaved with complete disrespect. There seems to be a variety of things students do because kids are just “plain ol’ disrespectful these days”: going on their phones, talking loudly to distract others, not starting their assignment, putting their head on your desk and leaving a strange greasy sweat mark (who knew their heads would be so greasy?!) coming in late, or worse not coming in at all.

I get it. This is super frustrating as an educator. And I’ve reacted the way I’m guessing many of you have: trying to help, offering extra time at lunch, getting frustrated, stress eating the snacks in your class so that you can’t tell them the internal monologue in your head, telling them to be responsible and do their job as a student, repeating the expectations, asking for respect, kicking them out of class, sending them to the office. My reactions are always based on a lot of things, and it usually depends on what’s going on in my personal life, like not getting enough sleep.

But today, I had a different reaction (because I’m leaving, so what’s to lose?). I didn’t react.

I simply said, “Can I ask you guys a question and just be honest with me…. Do you feel you can either do something or can’t and that’s that?”

And there I saw it: a classroom of students, simultaneously bopping up and down. Yes. Yes. We feel like we are either good at something or not.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but they knew exactly what I was talking about it. These grade 9 students knew already.


So, there a couple reactions that might immediately come to mind…. Things like, “that’s crap. I gave you clear instructions.” Or maybe, “I told you if you needed support to come and find me. So that’s on you.”

Those are totally normal reactions as educators, by the way. I’ve had them before and will likely forget this letter one (or several) days in June and react like it again.

But my reaction today was heartbreak.

No one wants to be bad at something. That goes against human nature. Every person wants to feel successful in what they’re doing, even if it’s not their strength. Why choose to be unsuccessful? That doesn’t make any sense. So why are students saying this, time and time again?

If you’ve lost interest in this story already, then you might as well stop reading at this point because it won’t matter. You’ve already decided. You’ve already decided I don’t have enough teaching experience to know the realities of the profession, or one simple story with my grade nines does not an all-knowing teacher make. It’s fine; I get it. You’ve already decided this doesn’t matter, even though I haven’t finished, and that’s the problem.

You just went through what students are going through every single day in our education system.

The students have already decided that they “can’t do it” before they enter your classroom. That’s not your fault. It wasn’t your choice. You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it.

I really want to make sure you get that part. You can’t change it. You can’t change the past. You can’t change that kids won’t stop talking about Fortnite or the fact they have cell phones. So, let’s stop talking about it, okay? No, seriously. Stop talking about it. You are wasting your energy on complaining about realities that exist, regardless on if you agree or not. Think of what teachers could do if they used the energy they have on what changes they could make. Yes, it’s going to require you to rise above the various things you disagree with, but you can’t change them anyway. So,what can you change?

What can YOU change?

What can you change tomorrow? What can you change in a year?

The truth is everything we do is a choice. It’s a choice that I react the way I do with students who “can’t do it.” My students make the choice to misbehave in class. The difference is they don’t know they are making a choice; they honestly feel like trying isn’t worth it because, let’s be honest, our society doesn’t reward trying; it rewards doing.


Well, here are the choices I made today in my grade nine classroom.

    • I made the choice, despite being an “expert” English teacher, to tell them that I was at a grade 3 reading level in seventh grade. I usually choose not to admit that because it’s not something I am very proud of. Again, no one is proud of not being successful. And I am their English teacher, so I want them to think I can teach them with my super, amazing “expert” knowledge that I seemingly got out of nowhere.
    • I made the choice to tell them that I got a 51% in chemistry in high school. And that’s okay because it was the best I could do. I went to class. I tried. I didn’t get it. That’s alright though because there is another guy in the school teaching chemistry– sweet!
    • I made the choice to explain that there is a very big difference between not being able to do something because you can’t and not being able to do something because you aren’t trying— a message students don’t seem to be getting.
    • I made the choice to tell them I’ve never failed a student who was genuinely trying their best and just couldn’t quite get it because I knew that student gave me the most they could give. By the way, I’ve never had a struggling student who tried their best for the entire semester because they’ve constantly been told by society that trying doesn’t count for anything, and they don’t believe I’ll be different (because sometimes I’m not, but at least I am trying).
    • I made the choice to tell them the next time they have the urge to say, “I just can’t do xyz” to try and have a different reaction. I told them changing their reaction will be difficult to do, and they might fail at it the first couple times, because it’s a habit. But it’s okay because they will have opportunities to try again.
    • I made the choice to say it’s okay that English class isn’t their strength because they’ve got some pretty amazing talents elsewhere. It’s fine if they can’t do the assignment, as long as they give me all they got. I chose to mean that and not just say it.
    • I told them the way they are feeling is not their fault and validated what they told me. I said I believed them. I said the system has failed somewhere because, at one point, they tried really hard, and it wasn’t their strength, so they failed. It didn’t matter that they had tried. And then they stopped trying (shocker).
    • I made the choice to write this letter for my  students because their opinion is more important to me than anyone else’s.
    • I made the choice to be potentially laughed at in staff rooms because teachers think I’m disillusioned with the education system.
    • I made the choice to have these authentic conversations with my students, which you may think aren’t very insightful, even though I could have chosen an easier path of blaming them for not being motivated.
    • I made the choice to read this letter to my classes before posting it because I don’t want to speak up if it’s not their truth, and, if it is, I want them to hold me accountable for my words. Their response when I asked them if I should post it was, “SEND IT!”

 

 

Now, this is what I’m choosing to work hard on doing for the present and future:

  • I’m choosing to be vulnerable and share this letter because I believe I have something valuable to say that’s not being talked about in society.
  • I’m choosing to publish this, before having another teaching position next year, knowing it’s a risk. Because if I don’t get hired at another school due to what I’ve said in this letter, then I won’t be a good fit in that environment and my administration might as well know it now.
  • I’m choosing to write this to keep me accountable for my words to my students, future coworkers, and administrators.
  • I’m choosing to collaborate and support co-workers who are struggling with some of the things I’m strong at simply because it improves students’ lives.
  • I’m choosing not to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when a student comes to me complaining about an assignment because it 1) does not express remorse and 2) makes it clear I think my student’s reaction is irrational.
  • I’m choosing not to blame my students for their lack of motivation in learning because it completely alleviates my responsibility as an educator to meet their needs.
  • I’m choosing to seem naive to others because I honestly believe students want to learn and their behaviours are a result of oppressive, invisible forces that perpetuate the idea they aren’t intrinsically motivated.
  • I’m choosing to put students’ mental health before any curricular outcome.
  • I’m choosing to outwardly state how grateful and proud I am of students when they meet the high expectations I know they’re capable of.
  • I’m choosing to have honest, open communication with students who aren’t meeting those expectations and, rather than lowering them, construct a plan together to reach their highest potential.
  • I’m choosing to use my position of power that I’ve been given in society to make decisions with the students’ best interests at heart because I am beginning to understand why they’re drowning.
  • I’m choosing to make my struggles visible, so they know it’s okay to mess up or not understand something as long as they are trying.
  • I’m choosing to never become a mediocre version of myself for other people because my students deserve me at my best.
  • I’m choosing to believe what my students are telling me is how they are really feeling and do my best every day to listen to them with an open heart and the respect they deserve.

You might not believe a single word I am saying right now, and that’s your choice. Honestly, I respect it. I’m glad we live in a society where people can make their own choices, or I wouldn’t be able to write this letter right now.

Heck, you might be questioning my motives for writing this letter to begin with. That’s your choice. I don’t care because I know the only reason I’m doing it is to support my students who said they’re struggling.

Believe it. Don’t believe it. Read it. Don’t read it. Digest it. Don’t digest it. Think I know what I’m talking about. Or don’t.

I can’t change any reactions I get to this, so I’m not wasting my time worrying about it. You can choose how you react.

I really don’t care. I mean it. It’s your choice.

But I will say this for the sake of students, and because they asked me to be their voice: I hope some people in the education system start making different choices. It’s okay if you fail because you’ll have tomorrow to try again.

I want to apologize to my former students for the choices I have made in the past that made them think trying wasn’t important. I want to ask them for forgiveness because I am now making a choice to do better, even though I will screw up sometimes.

Post-Prototype Project: Final Thoughts

Well, the course prototype is finished for Social Studies 30… or is it? I don’t know about Elizabeth, but I am more determined to adapt this curriculum to an online collaborative space. This project was very difficult for me. I was overwhelmed with what content I should cover. As Elizabeth mentions in her blog post this week:

we have a very large course prototype for a very heavy 30-level, 300+ page, 200+ objective curriculum – daunting to say to least.

I’m not really sure how to say this in a nice way, so I’m just gonna say it: this curriculum kind of sucks. There are wayyyyy too many objectives to cover, and it’s easy to get lost in the document; sorting out what objectives are necessary for students is something I am still struggling with, as it’s my first time teaching the course. As a result, our feedback on the course was that we had a lot of information and it was heavy. We agree! I think it’s a result of our inexperience with the document, as well as the nature of Social Studies itself.

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Image Retrieved from: Giphy.com

If the curriculum wasn’t heavy enough, Elizabeth and I also struggled to grasp this assignment. We constantly asked Alec and Katia questions after class, and they demonstrated their almost non-human level of empathy and compassion when trying to clarify what we were doing. Thank you, lovely humans, for all of your help.

In order to alleviate the content-heavy curriculum, I focused mostly on creating an engaging artefact. This video took me longer than I thought it would to create, but I think it makes learning economics interesting and engaging. It’s something I can use for future teaching years.   Also, shout out to the number of students who helped me– from filming to editing, they are the best!

I’d like to thank everyone who gave us feedback! It’s always nice to hear peers’ opinions and improve our practice. Our Course Profile goes over common concerns and considerations when blending a classroom, so take a look at what our vision was before creating modules! This next portion was written by Elizabeth and me in response to the feedback we received, and yes we did write it in 3rd person. Yes, Katherine and Elizabeth thought it was super weird to write that way.

  • The link to Tubaland (artefact) didn’t work – We tested each other’s links to ensure they were working before sending them to people for feedback, and they did! However, we did not realize people without a @education.uregina email would not be able to view the Google Form. We have changed the link so that anyone can now view it. Thanks!
  • Teacher-student and student-student interaction in Google Classroom – We did not intend for Google Classroom to be the hub of discussion. Each student would have a blog where they would respond to various prompts throughout the semester. On Katherine’s Unit 2 module, she includes a blogging post about Canada’s staples, which requires students to interact, learn from each other, and provide each other with feedback. We wanted to use the various strengths of different platforms: Google Classroom is wonderful for providing immediate feedback and organizing assignments; WordPress blogs create opportunities for students to collaborate and discuss things in an online setting. We found that discussions on Google Classroom are not fluid and students can have very limited engaging conversations, so we used more than one platform for our course.
  • Long paragraphs – Our course profile did have very long paragraphs which can be daunting to read, and we were worried of this when elaborating our profile. We received different feedback in regards to our long paragraphs; some reviewers
    appreciated the information provided, while others found it intimidating. We believe, in the end, this does come down to different learning style and different teaching
    styles, as we explored even in thiscourse. Some appreciate longer

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    paragraphs, while others prefer short bullet points. This is something we look forward to exploring further in the future and trying to manage to attain a balance that would fit most learning and teaching styles. Even during the elaboration of this course profile, Katherine and Elizabeth had differing points of view and different teaching styles. Elizabeth prefers longer paragraphs, while Katherine prefers concise bullet points.  

 

 

  • Confusing order of assignments – We acknowledge that there are confusing elements of this course. We believe this is because people providing us feedback only view the online aspect of the course and miss out on information we would provide face-to-face (or over Zoom). We struggled throughout the elaboration of the course prototype ourselves with the idea of a blended environment – we questioned how much information would be shared in person/over zoom and how much needed to be shared online. This is evidently a great learning process and something that we will review in the development of our next prototypes.

 

  • Sorting assignments in topics – This is a fantastic suggestion; Elizabeth had no idea this was even possible on Google Classroom! Definitely something that we would add next time to our course to help organize our assignments.

 

  • Heavy prototype – We acknowledge we both had heavy prototypes. This was due
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    to the fact the Social Studies 30 curriculum is very heavy (330 pages of heavy).  There are over 200 objectives that teachers are supposed to cover in this curriculum. As a result, we decided to create engaging and interactive artefacts. It’s a difficult feat to make economics and confederation exciting, so we really focused on making the content suitable to our grade 12 audience (puns, technology-use). This curriculum is purely content-driven (other than creating a dialectic essay) and, as a result, can seem daunting.

  • Additional step-by-step assignment guide for students – We had written up a step-by-step guide for our reviewers to follow along our prototype because we knew it was heavy and at times confusing. It was suggested that we do this for the students as well. This is a great suggestion and one that we will add to our next course prototype. At first, we didn’t feel it was necessary because of the blended aspect of the course, but it never hurts to add a written dimension to the verbal instructions given in class (particularly because of the different learners that exist!). 

Koskie Out!

Poof Goes the Procrastination: The Prototype Project

As previously stated, I tend to procrastinate assignments. I don’t do this for lack of caring, or because I am lazy. I always seem to want to do too many things and overwhelm myself with ideas, resulting in shut-down-oh-god-which-idea-should-I-do mode. My partner, Elizabeth, seems to really have her s*** together too, which further led to my inner monologue, “holy crap I really need to decide on my project and get started.” I also seemed to really struggle with grasping what we were supposed to do in this assignment. So sorry Alec and Katia for continually bombarding you with questions and concerns about this project.

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Image retrieved from: ProJourno

My project idea started to piece together a few weeks ago when I met with my old high school Social Studies teacher, Steve Variyan. I let him know about the project, what my goals were, and some brainstorming ideas I had. My goals for this project were to find a way to engage learners in economics–not an easy task– and relate it to current events.

Initially, I thought my project would focus more on current events than economic concepts. But as I worked on my prototype, I realized it was beginning to take on a different shape. Instead of making current events the main content, I introduce economic concepts in a strange (but hopefully engaging) video. I’m not going to lie; I’ve probably spent close to 30 hours on creating this video in the past week. Half of the video was created using VideoScribe, a program that allows you to make whiteboard videos. I also filmed part of the script to help break up the video; my students were life-savers, acting like crazy people on an island and helping me edit the final cut. Here is a quick look at what kind of video you can expect to see next week:

It’s my goal to get students to connect concepts in the video to Canada’s different economic models, specifically making connections to the Staples Paradigm. It’s difficult to create an online course, where people are going to provide feedback, when you’re not sure if they have knowledge on Canada’s history and economics. This is definitely something I have struggled with when creating my module. I am creating lessons for Unit 2, and usually I would have the ability to build up prior knowledge in the classroom.

Elizabeth and I both struggled to choose a platform, and it seems like we settled on pretty much all of them, hahaha. It was difficult to choose one after learning the benefits of different platforms and how assignments should play to the strength of the platform.  I think we have a nice balance of assessments that help foster digital skills. We both feel like using multiple platforms is possible with a level 30 course, as students usually have more experience using computers. Of course, I am speaking for my situation only, where students have access to Google Apps for Education and 1:1 Chromebooks. I have the ability to scaffold technology use from grade 10 to 12. I know this would not be the case in many school districts.

The main platform we are using is Google Classroom, and I have to agree with Andres when he argues this platform isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, nor does it allow you to have control over the way information is presented.

“Classroom was a little boring in the way it presents information and modules. There’s little room for customization and it doesn’t really allow you to get “Wild” with anything. I feel like you should be able to just drag things around and place them wherever you want…Google Classroom definitely doesn’t allow for any of that type of maneuverability, which in my opinion is a major flaw.”

Elizabeth and I decided to create two separate Google Classrooms because we ended up doing two different units. It would be really choppy to try and combine our courses, as well as difficult for the people providing feedback to experience what it would actually look like in the classroom.

I had a similar experience to Natalie when she says this assignment has ended up being extremely valuable to her as a teacher. Even though this was very time consuming, I know I will be able to use this in the classroom for many years to come! I forgot how much I loved creating and editing videos, so I’m hoping I can do more of it in the next few months/years!

Looking forward to getting feedback and seeing some other modules that were created!

  • Koskie Out!

 

Creating Communities with Computers

Let me start of this blog post by saying that creating an online community for Social Studies 30 is proving to be quite difficult for my brain. I think it’s difficult to create a blended space when the people providing feedback are only going to see the online aspects of it. However, the readings this week definitely made me reflect on my teaching practice; I realize most of my classes only have face-to-face discussions, with little room for students to share their thoughts in an online community. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of benefit from having discussion forums on Moodle and similar platforms, so the whole idea of creating online discussion spaces went out the window for me.

Because I have failed in the past to create online communities, this week gave me time to think about the reasons why they didn’t work. Here are my top 3 concerns with creating an online discussion space:

  1. I don’t want to take away the time I set aside for face-to-face discussions, since I think facilitating discussions is one of the most rewarding ways for students to learn from each other.
  2. I find the same problem persists in online discussion forums: some students speak up and provide insightful feedback and others do not.
  3. In my experience, online forums usually become so structured it loses the natural flow of discussion and conversation. 

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Image Retrieved from: CampusTechnology

Last week, I wrote a blog post explaining what kinds of programs I use for blending my classrooms: Google Classroom, WordPress blogs, and Moodle. Elizabeth and I have discussed at length which platforms we want to use for our SS 30 course, and I think we’ve come up with a good balance.

Since we are teaching a higher level course, and our students will be able to navigate multiple platforms with instruction and scaffolding, we are using a combination of Google Classroom and blogging. Elizabeth is also going to be using Zoom to help engage students in a Confederation simulation. I have opted to focus more on a blogging community, as I think the types of discussions that Zoom offers would be done within my classroom with TodaysMeet running in the background (to replace the text chat aspect of Zoom).

For my module I decided to use blogging for discussion because students will have more control over their digital identities. WordPress blogs are totally customizable, so students can demonstrate their personality and knowledge in a way that reflects who they are. While the initial set up of blogs is more time consuming than a traditional forum, I find that discussions, feedback via comments, and pingbacks have a natural flow of discussion for students. Additionally, I have found that students tend to reflect more and edit their posts because they recognize they will reach a larger audience.

When I implement this module in the classroom, I would also create a blog hub, similar to the one for EC&I 834 or the one I created for my Media Studies 20 class. I am hoping this will make it easier for myself and other students to provide feedback on each other’s thoughts. I also find that students snowball off of each other’s reflections, and students’ writing improves over the course of the semester. Elizabeth goes into more detail about how we will be structuring our blogs in terms of assessment (pingbacks, comments). So, instead of repeating the information, I am just going to let you read the wisdom that is Elizabeth! We seem to have similar ideas on how to create a community online.

The prompts for discussion will vary; the ones I am creating for my particular module will be linking economic models to current events. Sometimes I will provide content

of economic models and ask students to find a current event that it links to, while other times I will provide a current event and ask them to find the connection to an historical economic model we are studying. Now, I am trying to think of an example for what Bryce-Davis describes as a “ringer.”

 

 

Ringers are the surprise events, the small rocks tossed into the glassy surface of smoothly operating community discourse. For example, a surprise guest in a chat room can be a ringer, as can a contentious statement from a participant. A new or unusual activity can also disrupt the established patterns and expectations just enough to renew interest. Ringers can be planned or serendipitous, but in either case, they keep a virtual community awake.

I love the idea of breaking up the normal structure of a classroom and surprising my students with a new task or lesson. I have some thinking to do for the next couple weeks on how I will break up the structure of my module and creating a ringer to remember!

  • Koskie Out!

Just Do It: Trying Out ALL the Platforms!

In a blog post a few weeks back, I talked about how I quit trying new things when it comes to blending my classroom. This semester, I decided to just do it: make all of my classes blended on different platforms and see how she goes. Which platforms do I like? Which do I hate? I’m thinking, after this semester, I will know the answers to these questions.

The first thing I thought of when deciding which platform to use was the content in the course. Is it a skills-based or content-based curriculum? How will I organize my documents/assignments? Do I care more about organization or interaction? Pretty much all of these courses are new to me this year, so I am still in the oh-God-what-should-I-teach-this-week mode. My course load this semester is Psychology 30, ELA B10 and 20, Social Studies 30, and Media Studies 20. I will go through my rationalization with platforms now:

Psychology 30 and ELA 20

Platform Used: Moodle and Google Classroom

Psychology 30 is more of a content-based course, with a lot of room for interactive assignments.  I’ve seen assignments from raps to puppet shows that demonstrate knowledge of content. However, I had to think of how to set up information in an organized and fluid way, since students need to retain a lot of information. Moodle offers an online ‘binder’, where I can organize content, embed YouTube videos, and provide a place to ask questions. I also wanted an easy way to collect and give immediate feedback on assignments, so I decided to create a Google Classroom and students hand in assignments on that platform rather than Moodle.

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Image Retrieved From: Josh Pigford

Drawbacks of Moodle: 

  • It’s difficult to take in and mark assignments. You have to, like, download them to your computer and change the names and then email it and it’s the 21st century, man– get with it. I mean, come on! I have a social life you know…. (I don’t :'( )
  • It does not give teachers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback and check with student progress.
  • It doesn’t encourage interactive assignments. While you can make it interactive with help from Google Slides and other online tools, the platform itself doesn’t offer those options.

Would I use a mixture of Google Classroom and Moodle for Psychology 30? Yes.

Would I use a mixture of Google Classroom and Moodle for ELA 20? No. 

While Psychology 30 is based on retaining knowledge, ELA classes are skills-based — meaning students need to be able to accomplish x amount of things by the end of the semester, rather than know x amount of information. I am teaching two ELA classes (B10 and 20) and using separate platforms for each. I’ll explain my ELA B10 and then explain my rationale for why I think Google Classroom suites ELA more.

ELA B10 (and SOC 30)

Platform Used: Google Classroom

I have never used Google Classroom before, so I thought my ELA B10 (new course) would be a good opportunity to try a different platform. Google Classroom works really well for ELA because it’s less about organization and giving information and more about practicing skills, discussion, comprehension, and composing different texts.

While Psychology 30 has 6 different units (that need to go in order since they build upon each other), ELA has been renewed and only has 2 units. creative-staircase-designs-21-2Teachers are given a bit more opportunity to switch up thematic units and still reach curricular outcomes. In fact, I find using popular culture to teach ELA is extremely effective for learning new skills. I mean… come on, you can compare a popular culture icon to Lady Macbeth– BOOM– there is your compare/contrast essay.

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Similarly, Social Studies 30 units do not build upon each other, so it gives me the opportunity to create a more “chaotic” online space that is less focused on organization and more on building knowledge/skills. Immediate feedback is important for both of these classes, so it’s nice I can see students’ progress on assignments and help them with problems before they complete an assignment. I also think the stream aspect of Google Classroom is modern and keeps the platform lookin’ fresh! Posting current events and having online discussions is really easy with Google Classroom and it’s nice to have an online space to discuss what’s going on in the world.

Drawbacks of Google Classroom

  • It definitely doesn’t provide the same kind of “online binder” experience that Moodle does. Moodle is more organized and provides teachers with more opportunities to alter the format (topics, units, weekly, etc.) based what makes the most sense for the course you are teaching.
  • I have had to really change the organization of my lessons to make Google Classroom fluid and intuitive for students. My assignments usually include a Table of Contents now, so I am not posting 100 million things on the Google Classroom stream.
  • I wish there was a way to “Make a Copy” for students when it’s not an assignment. Sometimes I just need to provide them with information/content, and it does not allow me to “Make a Copy for Each Student” unless it’s posted as an assignment.

Media Studies 20

Platform Used: Blogging!

Okay, I should probably preface this portion of my blog post by saying my favourite class to teach is Media Studies 20. I think this course offers so many amazing opportunities for students to explore their online identity and showcase their talents/passions. I was supposed to teach it last year and was pretty sad when I didn’t get the chance. I have a small class this semester, and so far we have done some introduction material to media awareness and started blogging. I post all of my assignments to my classroom blog, so it’s open to educators and students.

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Image retrieved from: NorthXEast

I’ll be honest, I thought teaching blogging to students would be a bit of a gong show. I wanted to use WordPress as a platform because 1) it’s the only one I have used and 2) students can really customize their own blogs so it shows off their personality. I like having the ability to change header images, create tag lines, and widget it up! My worries of teaching blogging quickly went away when my students explored WordPress on their own. I can safely say that some of my students knew more about WordPress than I did after about two days. Why? I think it was a mixture of excitement and exploration: It’s pretty damn cool to create an online identity that reflects your passions and thoughts. I also think students see the relevancy in creating a positive digital identity and what future opportunities it might bring.

Also, my media studies students follow this blog so SHOUT OUT TO THE MEDIA STUDIES CREW! What up, folks? Ya’ll rule!

I’ve put all of their blogs on this Google Doc. If any of you get the chance to check them out and comment, I’m sure they would appreciate it!

Downfalls to Blogging

  • If you have a lot of students, it’s difficult to find the time to navigate through everything. It’s definitely not as efficient for submitting assignments, but that’s why it works so well for classes that require more reflection and narration.
  • You have to ensure students won’t post inappropriate content. Additionally, some divisions may have strict rules/regulations for students creating blogs.
  • I think blogging lends itself to certain courses a lot more than others. I don’t think I could have students “buy in” to blogging the same way with my Social Studies 30 course.

If I can offer anyone some advice before deciding what platform to use, I would get them to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of summative and formative assessments do you use in your practice? Which platform encourages those assessments?
  • Is organization a priority? Do outcomes build upon each other, or are they separate skills/knowledge that do not require chronologic order for deep understanding?
  • How much of your class are going to blend? Will a large portion be teacher-led?
  • What kind of access to devices do your students have? Will it be easy to navigate these platforms from a student perspective? Teacher perspective?
  • Do I want my online platform to be a hub for discussion and conversation? Or will I primarily use it for distributing and gathering assignments (and focus on discussion in class)?
  • Does the course content lend itself to a specific platform? Can I use the platform as part of a curricular outcome? Ex. In Media Studies they need to create different kinds of media, so creating a blog actually hits an outcome.

 

  • Koskie Out!

 

Medium Madness: Making Media Meaningful

Learning preferences is a topic that has been taught and debated among educators for a long time. I remember taking a multiple choice test in my first University class where they had us choose “how best we learn.” Am I an auditory learner? Visual? Kinesthetic? I’m not completely sure, but I am fairly certain a 20 question survey won’t give me accurate results on my learning preference or, as many people suggest the whole premise is a myth, if I even have one.

Gosh, the start of this post is cynical. Here is a picture of my dog if you want some more upbeat vibes.

IMAGE RETRIEVED FROM: FRBATLANTA

When I recollect my educational experiences, I can’t think of one particular digital resource  (print, audio, text) that I found immensely better than others to learn from.  However, I remember certain assignments that I really engaged with, which led to deeper understanding of content.   I think Tony Bates put into words what I never could: the reason I felt more engaged  with an assignment is because the strength of the medium enhanced the project. I will be the first one to tell you that I was not a fan of Shakespeare at all in high school and university. I also think it’s currently over-taught, and this is coming from an English teacher — so bring on the pitchforks!

Image result for pitchforks

Image Retrieved from: Careers in Gov’t

However, one of my favourite projects was creating a video for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I remember we were given choice for how we wanted to present our project, and my friend and I had a great idea to record what happened in the play. Did I grow an intense love for Shakespeare from doing the project? Obviously not, as evident by the oh-so-intense-black-and-white-to-create-angry-and-sad-mood pitchfork picture above. But, the digital resource (in this case video), provided me with an opportunity to dig deeper and enjoy a text and medium I would not have otherwise. To this day, Hamlet is my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays, and I know the sole reason for this is because of the opportunity I was given to interact with the play.

[Insert Embarrassing High School Video If You Can Find It Here]

I also had to self-teach myself how to edit videos, include a realistic lightning bolt (seen above), and change audio levels from clips to make it cohesive; these are all skills I use in my personal and professional career. As technology continues to advance and become more accessible, there is an opportunity to create a lot more assignments that utilize different media. While I loved that Shakespeare project, it was one project out of the whole semester. Now teachers are able to embed technology in their “traditional” lectures, adding an extra dimension for students.

As Carla explains, her “classes are guided by Google Slides but embedded within those slides are varying types of media including “games” (Kahoot, mentimeter) for student interaction.”

This is how I have started to enhance my lessons in all of my classes this year. Is it high on the SAMR model? Not particularly, but it’s still creating more opportunities for students engage and interact in a more kinesthetic way, while providing information through text, audio, and video. I find this type of lesson especially helpful in classes where the focus is on content rather than product (Psychology versus ELA). Bates mentions how certain media, like video, is better for showing process, while text lends itself to analysis and gathering evidence.  This is interesting because I have always been uncomfortable with an outcome in ELA 20:

Write an essay of explanation (e.g., a process, instructions) that:

– is informative with a clear focus and specific details

– demonstrates thorough understanding of the process of written work and presents the work in manageable steps (time order, numbered steps, and so on) and the correct order

– begins with an introduction that interests the reader

– includes thorough, detailed, clear information needed for the reader to understand; examples and explanations directly support focus

– concludes logically

– uses terms associated with the process accurately.

Interesting that, within the outcome, it asks students to make logical conclusions, as the logical medium for explaining process is not through text. BOOM, take that, curricular outcome! You’ve been #rekt by Koskie. Sorry, this iron deficiency is really shining through
on this post. Seriously though, I have struggled making sense of this outcome since I started teaching ELA 20, and now I know why; the medium did not enhanImage result for mediace the content. I made my students create YouTube videos to explain process last year, ranging from changing oil in a car to yoga because I simply didn’t see the relevancy in creating an essay of explanation. We seem to be creating tension between media and content, which might help explain why students are not as engaged in classes. Natalie describes how important it is to choose media with purpose and I absolutely agree. We need to consider media when we are creating assignments and not simply do it to check the “I did a multimedia presentation so I am technologically savvy” box.

We’ve all been there as teachers: deciding not to use a medium to spare time or believing it will won’t increasing understanding of content. I think it would be worthwhile to review which media would enhance knowledge and vice versa, so we can teach the strengths of digital resources through content. Upon reflection, I now see my most successful assignments always have the content aligning with the strength of the media. Woahh.

Does anyone else see the connection between strengths of media and successful projects they’ve tried? Comment below!

  • Koskie Out!

Helpful Tips and Tricks for Google Docs!

Okay, so I know this wasn’t technically on the list of resources to look at, but the way I am organizing my Google Docs is a game changer!! I give you a few simple tips in the above video. I focus on how to create a Table of Contents, so students can easily navigate through notes and assignments. I also show you a trick for embedding videos into Google Docs!

I recorded this with Screencast-O-Matic, which is a great tool for recording your computer screen. I have used this tool to create tutorials on WordPress, as well as providing supporting resources for content in classes. However, the free version only offers 15 minutes of recording, so keep that in mind if you choose to use this tool!