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!

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!

 

Started from the Slate Now We’re Here

The debate this week for EC&I 830: Does technology enhance learning?

If you look at any of my blog posts, I think you will be able to figure out  which side of this argument I agree with. However, each side brought up compelling arguments and I would like to take this time to provide a McGonagall clap for all of you.

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I think it’s virtually impossible to argue that technology does not enhance learning.  Technology can enhance learning for every student, but it can be life changing for people with learning disabilities.  Learning disabilities are permanent, but Quenneville (2002) argues “the potential for assistive technology children with learning disabilities is great, and that its benefits include enhancing academic achievement in written expression, reading, mathematics, and spelling; improving organization; and fostering social acceptance“.  Technology allows students with learning disabilities to take ownership of their own learning.

Last year (my first year of teaching), I had a student who had trouble reading and writing, so she requested a scribe during exams. After some internet sleuthing, I came across Read&Write for Google Chrome and asked how she would feel about trying it out for an exam.  She loved it.  She had never written an exam independently before, despite being more than capable of answering questions without a scribe. Admittedly, she felt a little strange about “talking to a computer” but requested she write future exams with the extension.

Companies are creating numerous applications and programs to help students with learning disabilities.  All of my students have access to Chromebooks and the Good Spirit School Division has provided Read&Write for every student account.  I had students “talk to their computers” many times this year, which normalizes verbal interaction with technology  (and hopefully makes students will learning disabilities feel more comfortable doing it).   While this extension may be targeted towards students with learning disabilities, I found virtually every student benefited from Read&Write.  Many companies, such as Google, Yahoo, and Apple, discovered focusing on developing technology for users with disabilities led to a higher overall product for everyone.

Greg Toppo asserts that people will always resist emerging technologies. The discontent with educational technology is partially due to the lack of training for educators.  Truthfully, training teachers to be effective with technology will be a difficult task.  Technology is always changing. This is evident by the classic “oh, I regret purchasing this new phone because a way cooler one came out three days later.” As Amy Sing states, “The challenge with this remains . . . that technology evolves and changes quickly, so without constant investment in professional development, there’s virtually no hope in maintaining the knowledge obtained in professional development.” I think it’s essential that professional development, specifically in regards educational technology (but can be applied to everything), be differentiated so teachers can find value in it.

Here is the moment that I like to call “Koskie starts to get real.” Integrating tech is difficult if  schools have access to 1-1 devices, pretty reliable Wi-Fi, supportive administration, and teachers with growth mindset (my situation). I recently read Ainsley’s blog describing her experience teaching in Nunavut– a place where people have access to limited technology.  My first reaction was guilt: Wow, I have such a unique opportunity to do what I am passionate about and create lessons  with the expectation that technology will be there and I am complaining about it being difficult.

I think part of my hardships are because I am a new teacher and I am going through the classic “how the *%&^&*%&^)#*%&#$)^*^*$#)(%*^*%# DO PEOPLE DO THIS JOB?!?!?! Learning new curriculum, classroom management, organization, and time management are difficult enough;–throw in technology and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  When we reviewed the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) diagram in class, I realized that I am probably more frustrated with the classic first-year-teacher-what-is-happening scenario than integrating technology.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

I am hoping once I gain more content knowledge I will start to overlap and it will be smooth(er) sailing! What do you think you’re missing on the TPACK diagram?

  • Koskie Out!

 

Damn, Koskie! Back At It Again…..

Bonjour!

Now that I have exhausted my French vocabulary , I thought I would do an introduction post about myself. I recently started my second masters class at the University of Regina which focuses on Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology. I am learning from the great Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt once again.

I already wrote an introductory blog describing how I set up my 21st century classroom, so I would recommend reading it *cough blatant self promotion*. I deal with contemporary issues in educational technology all the time so I am pretty excited for this class. I’ll show you what I mean:

Chromebook that is unplugged despite the plug being right beside it

So, my students tend to find this difficult sometimes — notice how there is a Chromebook with a tiny hole in it. Well, the purpose of the cord hanging right beside it is to plug into the hole. I know, I know. Don’t look too shocked. It’s true.

This is a tiny example of a bigger problem: when introducing technology into the classroom on a daily basis, it is crucial to have consistent expectations.  I received funding for my classroom midway last year, so I had trouble implementing procedures right away since I was still learning everything myself. Chaos ensued. Technology requires people to adapt everything: their way of thinking, assessing meaningful engagement, and planning for new distractions.

Students being distracted by technology

Last semester, I got my students to do a Major Digital Project, which involved assessing and reflecting on a skill they wanted to learn. Many students engaged in the process at the beginning of the semester because they were excited about learning a new skill. Eventually, I found that students’ engagement in their skill decreased and, as a result, they did not put as much effort into progress posts. I plan on adjusting this assignment for next year so I don’t have the same problems arise. This brings me to my next point (really subtle segue going on right now) that technology requires us to fail.

A lot of things we implement with technology are not going to work. However, it is important to view failure as feedback, and adjust our instruction, assessment, and use of technology so it enhances learning. Yes, it’s time consuming. I am literally writing this blog post with one of my eyes closed right now because I am so tired. I am hoping this class will help me learn strategies to deal with some of the educational technology issues that many teachers face.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Koskie Out!

The Digital Project Story

Well, I am going to be honest. Every single time I had to write a reflection for my major digital project, I thought of this poem by Peggy Smaith Krachun:

Cursor, Cursor, blinking Cursor
Shade of iridescent green
Cursor in the "Home" position
On my new computer screen

Cursor at the starting gate
Chomping at the bit and byte
Pawing at the screen, impatient
Nagging me to start to write

Cursor poised for the race
In position One, Line One
Waiting for a brilliant word
To set off the starting gun

Until now a plain old scribbler
Was the only thing I'd use
On it I would draw and doodle
While I waited for the Muse

Now I have winking cursor
Mocking me in brilliant green
Have you ever tried to doodle
On a blank computer screen?

Nagging cursor, cursor cursor
Blinking on without a sound
Go away until I'm ready
I'll never write with you around.

I really appreciate how EC&I 831 takes educational theories and puts them into practice. Honestly– it’s a tough and rare thing to do. This class has demonstrated how powerful participatory culture can be. I’ve met a lot of supportive classmates throughout this blogging journey who I will continue to engage in dialogue with. However, I seriously struggled with posting progress on this project.

I pretty much summed up how my digital project went in a previous blog post. The golden rule that I had discussed is something that I am terrible at remembering for myself: continuously reinforce that progress is more important than end result. I never used to consider myself an academically inclined individual — seems weird to even type that out at this point in my life — but this project has demonstrated just how much I have been raised in an environment of the end product being the only thing that matters.

Each time I started a blog post to reflect on my major digital project, I stared at my computer screen for a ridiculous amount of time. Damn that blinking writer’s block cursor! I’m not going to lie, there is a big part of me that wants to talk about how my project was all sunshine and rainbows but I am going to #keepitreal and give you both the positives and negatives:

Sunshine and Rainbows:

  • High level of engagement – Students having the ability to choose and change their skill made them excited to research about it. I never had students complain about working on their major digital projects.
  • Students would teach each other (and me) what they were learning. While I initially thought this would take place through comments on the blog hub I created, students discussed what they were learning in person to their peers. And the Jedi becomes the master!
  • I used some of the readings in this class to show relevancy of what they were doing. I think reminding them to focus their attention while technology surrounds them is a necessary behaviour to learn.
  • I adapted this project for students who did not enjoy writing in ELA. Many students reflected on a construction, welding, or mechanic project that they were currently working on (cross-curricular).
  • Students were able to work on this assignment when they finished other ELA work early since assessing and reflecting is a continuous process.
  • Sometimes I include “Grammar of the Week” into their blog posts so they can practice skills we are learning in class while they assess and reflect on their skill.
  • I was able to build stronger relationships with students because this assignment offered me a lot of opportunity to discuss their passions and hobbies. As Rita Person states in a TED talk discussing the importance of being a kid’s champion:  “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

What’s the opposite of sunshine and rainbows? Rain? Failures? I’m going to title this “Feedback” because failure implies I’m not going to adapt this project in the future (boo-yah, word win)

Rain/Feedback

  • Setting up blogs for students is a lot more difficult when they are in high school. Being a new teacher, I sometimes forget I need to explain the purpose of hyperlinks, where to put images, why titles are important, etc. I know this will improve over time but it’s frustrating when I forget how much modelling I need to do to support students.
  • My blog hub isn’t working for all my students and I’m at the point where I have given up on it. I am trying to get their feeds into my site slowly but this is my first year teaching ELA so I need to prioritize my time (right now it’s planning engaging activities and marking).
  • I wish I would have adapted a rubric earlier because students’ posts have improved since creating it. I always see students looking at the rubric as they write the progress posts now. It has also decreased the amount of time I get, “But, Ms. Koskie, what should this post have on it?”
  • I need to reinforce that students should be looking at a variety of resources. Some students are only using one or two resources, but part of this assignment is to recognize how many online programs can help them learn.
  • Keep whatever date you decide to do this project on consistent. I forgot how important routines and being consistent is for students. Once I started making this project due on Mondays, students understood my expectations.
  • Right now I am using Moodle for most of my classes but I would like to set up a classroom blog next semester so students are familiar with using wordpress.com. I also think it’s valuable to open up my classroom so other’s can learn from what is taking place in my class.

Implementing this projects TAKES A WHOLE LOT OF TIME AND ENERGY. I think it will be worth it in the end!

I feel like there is a pretty cliché English teacher way to end this…. are you ready? Oh man, I am pretty excited about this:

Yeah, it happened.

  • Koskie Out!

Getting “Caught Up” in the Chaos

So, my students are now in full swing with their Major Digital Projects. A few of my students wanted to change their skills and I kept telling them it was too late in the semester.

Mistake.

One of my students asked me why they could not change their skill since the rubric was  about assessing and reflecting and not about mastering a skill.  Good point. I guess I kind of got caught up in the assignment for this class and how we couldn’t change our skill. You know what I always say in English class? I don’t care about your opinion unless you can back it up with evidence. OK, I don’t think I come across that harsh (I probably do).

The student brought up a good point and used my rubric as evidence. English teacher win? I certainly don’t want students to struggle with an assignment that they will do throughout the entire semester.  I hear a collective sigh of relief from people who were dreading “faking” their progress reports. I had a total of four students change their skill so they were able to assess on something they were passionate about.

The progress reports I am getting have improved since I decided they were able to change their skill. I did let them know that it would be cool to see progress on a skill, which requires them to do it for a longer period of time. So far, I haven’t had a student switch their skill again.  Amazing how treating young people like adults leads to better classroom management. I guess it’s hard to break the habit of valuing process as much as product. After all, I am a byproduct of how I was taught and I am struggling to resist the temptation of the end product.

  • Koskie Out!

Assessing Process – High School Style

Well, one of the greatest parts about the teaching profession is that you can steal things from other teachers and implement it. I would like to give a round of applause to Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros for creating this rubric for our Major Project.

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As a new teacher, I am aware of a multitude of assessment strategies that help students succeed.  I have tried a lot of different strategies in my classroom: peer evaluation, fishbowls, checklists, questioning, exit slips, but nothing comes close to the love I have for rubrics. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are downsides to every assessment strategy— rubrics included.  Sometimes they hinder students from taking risks in their assignments and the end results are very formula.  However, I have found that rubrics have drastically helped some students who struggle the most.

It gets especially tricky when trying to create a rubric that values process more than product. So, I thank Katia and Alec again because I don’t have to start creating a rubric from nothing. I basically adapted their rubric to fit the Assess and Reflect Outcomes in ELA 20/30.  I left a lot of the same details, as the project is similar to what people are doing in EC&I 831. I am trying to resist the urge to put a lot of detail into my rubric so that I can allow students to focus on their strengths. I will most likely need to adapt this based on the responses I receive, but that’s all part of the teaching game.

I have also changed the date for when students write posts for their Major Digital Project.  At first, I thought it would be a great thing for students to do on Friday. However, I found that students sometimes forgot to work on their skill; allowing students to write posts on Monday gives them the ability to practice on the weekend. This seems to be working much better so far.

We are also currently learning how to properly integrate quotations, so I will be requiring they practice that skill on their blog posts. They can look at different readings and integrate quotations from experts in their chosen skill, or a quote that explains the process of learning something related to their skill.

Frustration of the Week:

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Photo Credit: Robin Hutton via Compfight cc

My blog hub is not showing all of my students posts. I really wanted this to work seamlessly so that students could see and write comments on each other’s blogs. I set it up by getting students to fill out a Google Form that required them to put their blogs:  wordpressblogs.com/category/koskieela/feed.

However, only a few of my student’s posts have been showing up on koskieela.ca so I am going to prevail this week and figure it out!

  • Koskie Out!