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.

Image Retrieved from: BoredPanda

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!

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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!

Breaking Out of the Pedagogical Prison

Okay, the readings this week made me think about my teaching practices for the past two years and question everything. Anyone else? Let me explain: Audrey Watters discusses how technology does not automatically enable new practices for teachers when they use a Learning Management System:

“technologies [can] mean new practices, new affordances … but the history of technology suggests otherwise. We often find ourselves adopting new tools that simply perform old tasks a wee bit better, a wee bit faster.”

I absolutely agree with this, and I am also excited to incorporate the word “wee” into my everyday vocabulary. Thanks, Audrey. I took a few days to look into my old LMS classes on Moodle, and I found that I was guilty of simply transferring text-based assignments to a semi-private online space. In fact, I think I am more guilty of it in my third year of teaching than my first year. It seems strange that my teaching practice would seem to go from forward-thinking to more backward-thinking. So, over the past few days, I’ve thought about why I’ve made this, seemingly strange, shift.

Image retrieved from: The Emotion Machine

Image retrieved from: The Emotion Machine

My students have more access to technology and devices than they did in my first year; so, we can cross that one off the list for reasons I have stopped expanding my teaching practice.

Part of the reason I have started resorting back to “old school” teaching methods is because I am teaching so many new courses; I’m just beginning to feel comfortable with curricula and gather resources so I have a basic flow to my units. In some ways, I feel like I am at a point where I don’t have enough time to completely innovate my online spaces. I’d love to create videos, give students opportunities for inquiry-based learning, and allow them to create an online digital identity, but I’m just not quite there yet. Sometimes as teachers we need to prioritize and, unfortunately, my pedagogical practices have suffered a bit from this process.

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IMAGE RETRIEVED FROM: EDTECHENERGY

That being said, when I say I’ve started resorting to “old school” teaching methods, it seems a tad over-exaggerated. I don’t have a problem giving up the power of my classroom and having a student-led room; some of the best learning, for both students and myself, takes place when I allow the students to take control of their learning. If I look at the SAMR model, many of my previous classes were at the Augmentation stage, with a few examples of Modification and Redefinition. I am hoping as I feel more comfortable with content, I can make my class more transformative.

I also struggle with having a completely open-sourced learning environment because it’s difficult to post resources students need. We are still living in the Pearson prison, where content is locked and purchasing power dictates what information is “valuable” to students. If I am going to creImage result for barcode prisonate an environment beyond the LMS, I want to be sure students can access everything they need to support their learning. I had a lot of trouble creating an open-web space when my ELA 30 classes had to write departmental exams, dictating what, mostly copyrighted, texts they could and could not use.

Image Retrieved from: AFSC ……………………

 

Get to the point, Kathy.

What platform am I going to use for my blended classroom? Well, the answer is a mixture of a WordPress blog (www.mskoskie.ca) and Google Classroom. I’ll try and be concise as I go through my rationale for choosing these platforms:

  1. Lifelong Learning. I already know how to manage and administer a Moodle class. I think it’s time I challenge myself on a different platform.
  2. Permanent Online Teaching Space. I am taking control of my online teaching identity by having my own (Canadian, eh?) domain (mskoskie.ca). Google Classroom is still semi-private, and I would need to recreate my class every year if I solely used it as my blended space. By having a WordPress blog, I am helping develop my online teaching identity.
  3. Creating a Fluid and Intuitive Space. After blending many of my classes, one of the most important things I have learned is to ensure the space is intuitive for students. I want to make sure they know the expectations for the blended space, and it is easy to navigate and submit material.
  4. Accessing Content. I want both students and educators to have access to content and assignments. There is virtually no resources out there for Saskatchewan Social Studies teachers. By continuing to use a semi-private space (LMS), I am contributing to that problem.
  5. The devices and access my students have. Each of my students has a Google account, access to GAFE, and 1-1 Chromebooks. They will permanently have access to the content they create since they can keep their student accounts once they become adults.

 

A Perfectionist Procrastinating a Prototype Project

Well, here I am, yet again overwhelmed with what to do for a project. I read an article describing how perfectionists are usually procrastinators because we tend to fear not completing something perfectly, so we put it off as long as possible.

The thinker, courtesy of darwin Bell (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Anyone else? Anyway, I think that happens to me every time I have a major project where I have a lot of creative control. I want to do so many things my brain is like, “Hey, girl. We are overloading with ideas and information right now. How about some sleep?” I usually listen to it, and, alas, a day goes by with getting nothing done. Repeat cycle.

 

The curriculum I am doing this project for is probably one of the classes I have actively avoided making a blended learning platform for: Social Studies 30. As my partner, Elizabeth, states (more eloquently than I could, if I might add) in her blog post: 

“we both wanted to collaborate on a course, and this collaboration was more important to us than our first choice in curriculum.”

I do not want to turn down an opportunity to work with another teacher to create a blended learning space. I think it is going to be a real challenge to create an engaging Social Studies 30 curriculum in a blended environment; this is partially due to the fact it’s from 1997 and the document is over 300 pages. Collaboration will hopefully give us the power to persevere!  Despite the curriculum being outdated and difficult to translate into an online experience, it is one of my favourite subjects to teach. This semester was the first time I taught this course, but it provided an amazing opportunity to link historical context with current events.

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Image retrieved from: ITU News

With every unit, I had at least two current events that made students apply knowledge to what was going on today. We talked about Trudeau’s approval of pipelines, Brad Wall’s privatization of liquor stores, Indigenous issues post-contact, racism, Canadian laws, healthcare, etc. I think one of the key pieces for engaging youth in Social Studies is showing them how our history is has shaped the present and will continue to shape the future. I try and avoid being asked, “why are we learning about this? It happened so long ago.”

Sounds like I’ve pretty much mastered it, right? Well, I hate to take a word from Trump’s dictionary but….. “WRONG!” This course allows a lot of opportunity for students to interact and collaborate to gain a further understanding of Canadian history. I can safely say that my classroom didn’t have too many simulations (*cough zero*) going on this semester. I also didn’t have students collaborate with each other as much as I would have liked. Elizabeth (my partner in the project) discusses how beneficial simulations can be in Social Studies classes, so I am excited to work with her and learn how to make my class a bit more interactive!

So what are my goals for my project? Great question, and something I am still working out in my perfectionist-ee brain. I really want to focus on creating an online platform where students engage in an inquiry-based project, connecting past events and laws to the present. The unit I am going to do for my project is Unit Two: Economic Development. Sound riveting, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the goal. Let’s make students engage in economic systems. Let’s foster discussion and questions around why Canada’s economy is dynamic and evolving. Let’s create a connection to these economic systems and relationships between provinces, language, and Indigenous post-contact relationships.

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Image retrieved from: theconversation.com

As far as the blended learning part goes, I usually use Moodle to create blended classes (I have a few classes blended already). However, I want to go out of my comfort zone. I think this may take the form of a WordPress blog, as I like the way you can organize documents and it encourages open education. Or perhaps a mixture of Google+ Communities and Google Classroom is the golden ticket. I don’t exactly know how to make the module intuitive and fluid for students, but that will be a priority for whichever platform I decide to use.

Do any of you have suggestions for where to create a blended learning space for this type of module? Or further ideas in regards to the content of my course?

Cheers to breaking the procrastination cycle!

  • Koskie Out!

 

Back At It Again

Hello, EC&I 834 people!

My name is Katherine Koskie and I am a teacher at Melville Comprehensive School. This is my third year of teaching. I have taught nearly every humanities class in existence (SOC 10, 20, 30; ELA 10, 20, 30; LT 30; PSY 30; MST 20) and I love it! I decided to start taking my Masters because I missed being a student, and, also, I don’t have a lot of responsibilities going on right now. I don’t know how the parents out there can do it; I am struggling, and I eat my mom’s roast beef dinners on the regular. Shout out to Dad because he is a pretty sick cook too.

For those of you who haven’t taken a class with me, I have a pretty unique classroom that lends itself to blended learning.  The classroom has four televisions connected to Chromecast, four whiteboards for student-use, and students have access to 1-1 devices!

21st Century Classroom

I know I am incredibly lucky to have this technology and the opportunities it brings. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to create enough lesson plans and blended learning environments to use my classroom to its full potential. I feel like I am neglecting it. This is partially due to the normal crazy-ness that comes with learning new curriculum, starting my Masters, and extra-curricular activities. Anyway, I’m not here to make excuses. I’m determined to see this beauty up and running for second semester!

Three goals I have for learning in this class are:

1) Find alternatives to Learning Management Systems (LMS), so I can create resources and content that is open for anyone. I think technology creates some amazing opportunities for people to learn free-of-charge!

2) Create a blended classroom, not using a LMS, for a minimum of one of my classes. I need to find simple ways for students to submit assignments and create a coherent and intuitive way to organize my classes. (Pretty stoked this ended up being one of our assignments in this class– Thanks Courobrandt).

3) Learn from other’s experiences, failures, victories, and knowledge with blended and online classroom environments, as well as collaborating with people to create open-education resources. Gotta expand that PLN, if you know what I mean (*cough please follow me by hitting that link*).

Stoked to be back and learn from ya’ll.

Also, I’m bringing back the word ya’ll.

  • Koskie Out!