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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    Image retrieved from: Sirseth.net

    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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    Image retrieved from: co2partners.com

    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.

Image Retrieved from: IndianYouth.net

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!

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!

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!