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!

 

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!

Open Opportunities

Clever online marketing is a real thing.

Oddly enough, lessons from Luaren Invik’s blog post about how to land jobs via social media ended up coming true for me in the same week.

One of my old high school teachers, Steve Variyan, favourited one of my tweets last week:

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No big deal, right? Getting favourites on tweets doesn’t really mean a whole lot (except for that weird sense of accomplishment you get sometimes). Later in the week, he contacted me via Facebook. A few days later I was in his office, collaborating on how to make more interactive presentations for training purposes.

One tweet and I have a new opportunity– a new connection. Not to mention those dolla dolla billz ya’ll. Sorry, I’ll never say that again.

Do I market myself online? Yeah, I do. It seems weird–like something I never I would do as a teacher. It didn’t really start out as intentional marketing, though. I am extremely passionate about the stuff I talk about on social media and marketing myself is a bonus that comes from my dedication. It’s not a show– OK, sometimes it can be a little showy. Did I mention my classroom is very pretty?

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The point is that we are constantly evolving as people and so do our online identities. Bonnie steward argues that “Facebook and the rest of social media are our day-to-day archive of who we are trying to become” and I have to agree.  Sometimes Facebook reminds me of the cringeworthy posts I used to write on people’s walls. In fact, I remember when people thought Facebook was hacked because some of the information posted was so personal. Nope. We all made those comments publicly. Do I hate the way I used to behave online? Yeah, I do, but it also provides me with the ability to see my growth as a person and professional– oh, how my values and beliefs have changed.

Students can participate in important conversations and be a voice of resistance to the dominant narrative on social platforms.  At this point, it’s not a question of if students will need to have a positive online identity but when. Kristen Rushowy believes this shift has already begun: Portfolios are more dynamic than a simple paper resume. I would much rather show a potential employer my work instead of telling them about it.  I think about students who are passionate about construction, welding, art, and other skills that are difficult to showcase on paper will be able to have an entirely different interview experience.

  • Koskie Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Open-Education Force is Strong

Unfortunately, so is the keep-it-private-so-I-can-make-money force.

Larry Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, discusses the battle the internet has created: read-write (RW) versus read-only (RO) culture. Much like the transmission model of teaching, consumers used to be excluded from creating (and recreating) content.  A battle over control– quickly erupting after broadcasting offered alternative access to music– continues to this day.

I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the insanely cool things that people are creating now, but it’s remarkable.  The school I teach at, Melville Comprehensive, creates lip dubs using popular songs that provide an opportunity for the entire student body to interact and create something together. The internet has provided a new opportunity to revive the RW culture. People from around the world are able to generate content and create things out of desire rather than greed.  Creating and recreating content has become a new literacy for this generation and it has potential to do some amazing things.

Lessig mentions how laws are trying to curtail the use of these new technologies. One of my students had their public service announcement taken down from YouTube because it used a commercial song in it.

Just think about this for a second– my students wanted to create an advertisement to educate and empower youth. My students wanted to create a video that called for people to act and be a part of change. Because of laws, which deem a clip of audio more important than this message, my students voices are drowned. What kind of message is this sending students? “Hey! We want people to be agents of change but the laws about music access are more important than that” (*cough* dominant narrative and *cough* $businesses$). Man, I really hope we get over this sickness soon.

Many artists have rebelled against the restrictions put on their music and this is precisely what Lessig suggests needs to happen.  Competition can achieve a balance between private and public.  Artists and businesses need to embrace a change because the age of prohibition is not stopping kids from using commercial content, but rather creating a world where ignoring laws is normalized.

The open-access mentality, and the battle to keep things restricted, extends to more than music. Teachers are restricted by law to use certain resources.  I don’t know if you have noticed the price of textbooks right now, but this can be pretty expensive. It also makes information stagnant and outdated.  Open education gives teachers and students information that is constantly being updated and adapted by people to improve student learning.

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Anyone who knows me in the teaching profession will not hesitate to ask for my resources.  One of my favourite parts of this job is creating resources and lessons that are inquiry-based and integrate technology.  Give me a few hours with a new novel and I will have some innovative ideas to engage students in literature. I work hard and have a lot of pride for what I create, but I will never keep a resource to myself.  It would go against the very reason I make resources to begin with: to help students engage in learning. I am currently trying to organize all of my resources so I can share them on my blog. I believe this mentality of open access should also be applied to higher-level education.

Danah Boyd urges scholars to stop giving their research to academic publishers. The purpose of research, for the majority of academics, is to help other people learn from what they discover.  However, the audience for private journals is depleting, which means only a small amount of people will be affected by what scholars write. Boyd describes the cycle of academia which discourages open-access: Scholars who may disagree with publishing their work in private databases may continue to so they can advance their careers and be deemed #legit. She also provides insight on how to break this cycle and encourage open education.

  • Koskie AKA future “young punk scholar” OUT!

 

 

Mo Platforms, Mo Problems

Well, we are officially in full swing with a Major Digital Project that my students are doing this semester.  I have started the process of setting up a blog hub so every student can access each other’s progress reports. Teaching high school students how to do this is a much different experience than being in an environment with people who want to learn how to integrate technology in authentic ways (EC&I 831). I’m exhausted.

25341929742_89a7ff1631_mPhoto Credit: Monkey Mash Button via Compfight cc

I absolutely love integrating these types of assignments into my classroom because I do see the value. Admittedly, I also like to demonstrate that theories I learned at the University of Regina can successfully be implemented into our teaching practice. Take that, naysayers! Integrating these assignments in classrooms can be extremely difficult but it’s not impossible.  When you give students choice to learn any skill they want and the ability to post their progress in different ways they can get lost. I’m getting a lot of “Ms. Koskie, what should I write about?” I have modeled progress posts and talked about my expectations with using online resources, but the question continues to come.  It’s not surprising to receive this type of feedback when they are trying something completely different. I think this is partially due to how students are conditioned to recognize that end products are the only thing that matters.

Then I realized I am struggling with the exact same thing that my students are in this class.  I’m not doing a project where I learn a new skill and post my progress on what and how I’ve learned.  There seems to be a more concrete fluidity to progress posts when doing that type of project.   I’m struggling with writing down my process for integrating this project in my classroom. What do I write about?

24566134363_a1127020d2 Photo Credit: mattcornock via Compfight cc

Do I write about how I set up a blog hub? Share my handouts? Talk about classroom management? Talk about technology struggles? I don’t know. So I guess I am asking you the question: what would you like to see?

  • Koskie Out

“For Their Souls Dwell in the House of Tomorrow”

Saskatchewan’s ELA 20 curriculum centers around childhood and the twists and turns that emerge when transitioning to adulthood. Today we started analyzing poetry using the TPCASTT method. A poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran revolves around a woman speaking to God about how parents should raise their children:

“You may house their bodies but not their souls,

 For their souls dwell in house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Wow. Simply put: Parents should not force their children to live the same life they had in adolescence because the world is always changing. Technology is not going away and it doesn’t matter if “back in the old days we did x and y and z” because our obsession with the past is not preparing kids for their future.

I have a lot of supportive people around me when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom. However, I have also experienced a severe backlash from people who do not see the relevancy of technology in the educational world.

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I don’t blame people for thinking like this. In fact, a few discussions with my students and I’ve learned it is “kind of a little bit socially awkward to ask for someone’s number. It’s more acceptable to ask for someone’s Snapchat.” My initial reaction is shock– how can students actually be more comfortable using Snapchat rather than texting? How will they be successful in the future when they find this situation socially awkward? WILL MY STUDENTS BE ABLE TO EVEN FORM WORDS LATER IN LIFE? Then I realize they are all having meaningful conversations in my class. Many students come to me for extra help or if they feel uncomfortable about something going on in their life. *Ding ding ding* Those are all traits of someone who can socialize with other human beings.  Also, a more important question remains:

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I’ll tell you this much– I won’t be changing whether or not my students use Snapchat. If the answer is no, then what’s the purpose of complaining about it? My father’s voice enters my brain again: “Don’t stress about things you can’t change.” Right, OK. So what can we do as educators? parents? community members?

Lets focus our energy on positive experiences we can have with technology.  It can help you make connections from around the community and globe, engage in discussions with passionate people, be exposed to social justice issues, find information from a variety of perspectives, have a voice despite introverted tendencies, collaborate, celebrate, find support, and develop literacy skills that will be needed for the future.

What else can I do? I can have meaningful discussions about how and why the media affects us in negative ways. This includes having conversations around why teenagers are fueling self-hatred using the internet, cyber-bullying, feeling depressed because they are comparing themselves to other people’s digital presence, and how our sense of self is greatly influenced by the new forms of media.

One more thing that I must remember to do is have discussions around how we can focus our attention with all of this technology surrounding us and navigate through this digital world. It’s not an easy topic to tackle and I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. In my opinion, this is perhaps one of the most important lessons that is being neglected in education right now.  I am guilty of avoiding it myself. However, this I do know: by avoiding these conversations, I am purposefully deciding to not prepare kids for their future.

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  • Koskie OUT!