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!

 

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.

 

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!

 

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!

Hello, it’s about that time / that we start summarizing

WHO IS TIRED OF HEARING ADELE’S SONG “HELLO”?

I decided to write a song for my Summary of Learning because I thought it would be a challenge for me. It’s difficult to summarize knowledge from an entire semester and give an accurate idea of what was discussed (never mind doing that in a song). I definitely had some issues with fitting the words “misogynist” and “pedagogy” while keeping the same rhythm to the song. Here is the final product:

I struggled mainly with two things:

  1. Adele knows how to sing hard songs without making them sound difficult. This song is really soft in some parts and then really loud during the chorus. The microphone I was using wasn’t a big fan of this change of dynamic so I had to sit far away from the microphone.
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Take note of where the microphone is and where my face is.

2. Making a lyric video is not as easy as it looks. The first few attempts cut off important lyrics and/or the lyrics didn’t align with my song. It was frustrating. I’ll give you an idea of how I created the lyric video below.

In order to make the lyric video, I used a few different programs:

  • The first website I used was called LRC Generator. This website creates .lrc files with the lyrics to whatever song you choose. I always wondered how people would sync up words with music on karaoke videos and now I know. Family Christmas will never be the same again.
    • The process is rather tedious because you need to write lyrics line-by-line with ~ 3-5 words per line. Want a longer sentence on your lyric video? ABORT. The program I used to make my lyric video would cut off lines that were too long.
    • The generator I linked also allows you to download your lyrics as a .txt file, which you will also need to create a lyric video.
  • The second program I used was called YouTube Movie Maker. This program requires your .lrc and .txt file and generates the font and background of your video.  It’s a pretty simple program to use and this video tutorial shows you how create a final lyric video.

That’s it my lovely EC&I 831 people!

I had an absolutely blast learning from all of you.

  • Koskie Out!

Quieting that Inner Voice: Slacktivism DOES Promote Action

Sometimes I hate that inner voice. The inner voice that tells you “Ugh, instead of changing your Facebook picture to have a deep blue, red, and white flag filter could you actually take action to prevent terrorism?” or “can you please stop posting pictures of yourself ‘getting fit and happy?” I’ll be the first to admit I battle this voice all the time. Now, I stand back and think why am I having this reaction? Is it because I promote social justice on social media in a more meaningful way? No, I don’t think that’s it. Do I have a negative reaction to people becoming fit because I am currently balancing Cheetos on my stomach as I type this? OK, that one may be true.

We are born in a world where we feel the need to compete with each other. I’ve met a select few people who don’t seem to have this need, or maybe they can simply hide it better than most.  Part of the problem is that people internalize the dominant narrative in order to fit in.  An example of this happening is how women will call other women derogatory terms as much as men do. Unfortunately, what ends up getting lost is the message or issue we are trying to fight for.

The simple fact is that slacktivism does promote social agency. Who cares if you disagree with it? If it’s helping people spread awareness of a cause, it’s better than the alternative (balancing Cheetos and doing nothing else). Do I wish people would become more involved and take action? Yes, I do. I wish we all had time in our days to help the less fortunate and work towards a world where people can meet their basic needs with dignity.

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For those of you who don’t know what slacktivism is:

“Slacktivism is actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.”

The Wikipedia article has a negative definition of slacktivism that emphasizes how it does nothing at all but make us feel better about ourselves: “It is the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.” Woahh, calm down Wikipedia. I don’t speak for the entire population, but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve changed the world by sharing or tweeting a social justice issue. Scott Gilmore argues that slacktivism makes people less likely to donate to a cause because we get instant gratification from a “like” or “share.”  In fact, Gilmore goes as far as shaming people who engage in slacktivism while other researchers suggest that people are more likely to donate to a charity after they’ve signed an online petition.

Well, Mr. Gilmore and other slacktivist critics, here are a few things that slacktivism has helped spread awareness of and/or raise money for:

  • ALS Bucket Challenge (raised $115 million in six weeks w/ more searches for A.L.S in 2014 than in the entire previous decade)
  • #YesAllWomen – brought awareness to street harassment, and specifically bystander intervention
  • #NotYourMascot – addresses the “misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery, and culture.
  • #IdleNoMore – honouring Indigenous sovereignty and protecting land and water rights.

I’ve even included a few hashtags that are no longer widely used (and some would argue show how slacktivism is not effective). Here is the thing, though: These hashtags or “slacktivism campaigns” have led to some meaningful conversations in my classroom where students want to know why people are “sharing” or “liking” a cause/issue. Social media is especially important because it provides an opportunity or “buy in” to show students how historical issues are still relevant and have implications for today. It makes my social studies heart happy. Awareness is the predecessor to action; so, instead of wasting your time complaining about slacktivism, start having conversations around the issues that matter.

I don’t know about you, but I think we have bigger things to complain about.

  • Koskie Out