From Panic to a Plan… Sort of!

The strength of a person’s perspective is based on the number and quality of knowledge structures. And the quality of knowledge structures is based on the level of a person’s skills and experiences. Because people vary substantially on skills and experiences, they will vary on the number and quality of their knowledge structures. Hence, there will be great variation of media literacy across people.  – Media Literacy,  Chapter 1& 2 (Potter)

Ready… set… go!

Another semester is up and running but I wasn’t quite running at the get go! My name is Nicole Reeve and I am currently a grade 2 teacher in Regina, Saskatchewan. I am working towards my Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction. This semester I set out to take on two classes. I was ready and prepared with the idea that I was going to be busy and that my social life might take a little hit this semester but was more than alright with that seeing as I was on track to finish  my degree this summer. Reality hit hard the first week back after Christmas break and I was feeling overwhelmed just 3 days in. So plans have changed a little and it’s a little ironic how it all worked out!

Both of my classes were to be online, one being this one and another being housed through UR Courses. Day one of the semester came along and UR Courses isn’t working and I can’t get access to that syllabus. Of course, I am a bit of an over planner so I’d already purchased the text books for that one. Back to work, two classes starting and report cards looming I was already feeling the pressure and technology was failing me. See the irony there? With a couple #courosclasses under my belt I knew there was likely to be an online sign up for some sort of project right off the get go. How was I going to do this if I didn’t know the due dates for the other class? Panic! (Okay, maybe not full on panic but I was feeling the pressure.) First 832 class rolls around and sure enough there is a sign up (thanks for not doing it that night Alec, you saved me some grey hairs with that one) and a major project. Major project? No problem! Ideas for those in the past have come to me no problem.

Insert real panic —-> no idea for major project, no access to second class and work is back in full swing.

Fast forward to two weeks later and I’ve got it cased (I think)! I am one class lighter, have an idea in my head and report cards are slowly coming together. I call that progress!

My idea for the major project this semester is going to be combined with a recent extra curricular club that I have started at work. I am sure I read over the major project in the syllabus 5 times before it came to me that I am already doing something that I can use and this class will quite likely help that club to be more successful that I had even envisioned. The club is a Technology Team made up of grades 5-8 students who have an interest in learning about new technologies to support their learning. Right now I am in the beginning stages but here is what’s happened so far!

What I’ve already done…

    • Advertised the team on announcements and held an information meeting
    • Handed out an information and parents permission form (this letter tells you a little bit more about the goals of the team)
    • set up our first month of meetings
    • Collected permission forms
    • Set up a Google Classroom for the club so we have a ‘home space’
    • Had students take an information Google Forms survey to tell me a little bit about what they already know about technology and what they want to learn. More to come on their responses later!
    • Held first team meeting where we discussed Digital Citizenship and what students currently know. We started our conversation with these videos:


What’s next?

  • Find a way to hopefully engage some grade 7 &8 students, currently right now I only have grade 5 & 6 students interested
  • Invite parents to join the conversation in our google classroom (need to do some thinking on just how that looks first)
  • Inform parents that I will be using this team as a project for my class
    • If anyone has used a Masters course project, combined with something in their classroom/school and asked for parent permission I’d love to chat about how you did that!
  • Powtoon will be our first tool that the students explore.

End goal?

I am sure this will change over time but my goal is to create a collection of students in my building who are confident digital citizens with a growing understanding of media literacies. I want them to be able to share the value, possibilities and opportunities that technology can provide in a learning environment with their classmates and teachers. It is my hope that they will be able develop automated routines  that allow them to be critical thinkers and informed consumers.

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Summary of Learning

Hard to believe it is that time but here comes another summary of learning!

Throughout the semester I gained an understanding of the important factors and pieces that must be in place when integrating a blended or fully online approach to teaching. I am excited to continue the learning that we have done by working towards integrating more blended learning opportunities into my current practice.

As for my video below, I had hoped that the pictures would be a little clearer but did the best that I could/knew how/what google told me! I had originally planned to put the video together using iMovie using my iPad. Well, turns out short little videos on the iPad are much easier to do than what I intended for my summary! I had to turn to Movie Maker and I think it turned out not too bad. One day a Mac Book will be mine!

I also feel like I need to give a shout out to @MrLPetlak! That cat line is all in fun I promise!

Thank you all for a great semester of learning, collaborating and team work!

Let’s Talk Feedback

This semester, we joined forces in order to stretch our thinking and create a blended learning prototype for grade 2 students.  

The journey was a long, hard, rocky one, with many ups, downs and even a few ‘AHAs’!

In the beginning, we knew we wanted to focus on younger students, so we set our sights on Grade 2.

Which learning management system was best for our prototype was a question that we spent a lot of time considering and debating, before we eventually settled on Weebly.

This decision ultimately led us to our Grade 2 Science Weebly page.

Within our Weebly, you will find a Course overview page which discusses our rationale as well as how we expect the course would run.

The development of this course did not come easily, and we had many discussions surrounding things such as:

Below you will find our responses to the feedback we received:

Ready for Some Science

Our project started to take shape very early in the semester. We decided quite quickly that we were up to the challenge of creating an online course designed for primary students. The process of thinking about the what and how for this project involved research of different LMS systems and trying to decide what would best suit students who are in the 6-8 age range.Our initial idea of creating a course that was of the blended variety never wavered. We felt that it was crucial to be able to teach our students the skills they would need in order to be able to effectively navigate the course. Skills that will also be transferable to further learning in online or face to face environments. For this very reason, we settled on Weebly.

Why Weebly?

Weebly does not require any student log in to access the content of the course. Speaking from experience with primary students, this is perfect! Also, it is very user friendly and was easy to navigate when setting up the course on the teacher end. We have set up the Weebly with the hope that any teacher would be able to visit the weebly and implement with very little planning outside of the modules we haven’t created. On a side note, much like Ashley and Sarah I am hoping to continue to develop more modules to use in my classroom next year!

In an effort to share more about our pedagogical decisions and goals for this course, I am going to walk you through what you will see when you visit our Grade 2 Science – Solids and Liquids prototype course!

Home Page

Let’s start with the home page! What will you see here?

  • Our intended audience for this course is grade 2 students who are learning about Solids and Liquids
  • Our curriculum has come from the Saskatchewan Grade 2 Science Curriculum
  • We have set up the home page so that teachers could use this space as an introduction.
  • We have provided teachers with an idea for opening activity using TodaysMeet – knowing that this could be completed at the school level or on a device at home

Moving on to the Course Overview page:

We designed this page very simply so as not to overwhelm any teachers who visit this page. However, the links found on this page are where you will find the information for why our course is designed as it is. In the linked documents you will see what our goals are, the outline for teaching the course and how the course will flow, as we see it.

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  • A link to our course rationale and course overview (created using a shared google doc)

Next up is the Experiment Station!

experiment station

The experiment station is set up to be the hub for students. This is where we would direct students and parents to view lessons and tasks. As the course was developed further, you would find a lesson for each piece of the course. What will you find here now?

  • The sample modules for the course can be found on this page.

Next up, some collaboration!

collab 1

What will you see here?

  • We have created a guide for teaching and planning document that would allow teachers to create a timeline that will work in their classrooms setting
  • A video to share why we feel that Seesaw is the perfect tool to support this course
  • A document for feedback. We wanted to be able to support teachers who decide to teach this course to their students
  • Information for how to contact the creators of the course (myself and Amy) with any tips, suggestions or questions based around this course

collab 2

I do believe that Amy and I have create a course that is relevant, accessible, well planned, of sound pedagogy and keeps the student’s learning as the focus!

Check out Amy’s post from this week to see a little more about our process! There was a lot of second guessing, revamping, texting, snap chatting, sound pedagogy and team work that went into the creation of this prototype.

Authenticity is the Key

This week I feel the need to wear two hats when responding to our blog prompt. Not only am I a graduate studies student but I am also a grade 2 teacher and I feel my views on the openness of discussion forums and blogs vary depending on the hat I am wearing. For the purpose of today’s post I will primarily discuss my experience as a classroom teacher.

Although my views change depending on the perspective I am applying, there are two pieces that I believe are key to creating an effective online discussion space. I believe, as Sarah points out, that whether a discussion forum is intended for grade 2 students or graduate students practice is the key! Now what that practice looks like is going to be very different at the different levels. Students should be provided the opportunity to grow and develop as a member of that community.

The second focus I believe needs to be around the idea of authenticity. This week Logan points out the need for educators, at any level, to provide their students with opportunity for choice in how they interact and that we need to give them an audience. I couldn’t agree more! Whether that audience comes from an open or closed space, I really don’t think that matters. What I think does matter is that we allow participants of these communities autonomy. That’s not to suggest that their doesn’t need to be accountability as Ashley discusses.

Do my grade 2 students understand that once they post something online, it’s there forever?

I am not positive that they do. However, as their teacher I make a concentrated effort to ensure that I am helping them to build their understanding about what it means to have a digital footprint . My experience as a teacher with blogging or discussion forums has come in two forms. Prior to learning about Seesaw, I had a classroom blog hosted by WordPress.

I used this blog in a little bit of different way than we traditionally view blogging. I say different because the students did not actually write the posts. When I was using this blog I would write a post that either had a question or a task for the students to complete. Once the task was complete or they had formulated a response to the question they would create their own “post” by replying through the comment option.

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Photo Credit: traumatrigger Flickr via Compfight cc

Parents in the classroom had the link and could see when their child had commented so long as they visited the blog. They were then able to reply to their child’s writing. All of the comments were moderated by me and were not seen by the public until I said yes. This was an open  blog that required no log in. At the time I felt this was the best option for my students because it was open for the world to see and there was potential for feedback.  However, the traffic on the blog was limited to our classroom and the few parents who visited it. There was very little feedback outside of our classroom community. When I look back I can see the limitations. Students could only respond via text. There was no other option and same went for the families. Was this the best way? At the time, this was what I knew and the students were engaged. However, I am not sure that they were truly engaged in the actual blogging . I do think they liked the idea of sharing their thoughts in a new way. There was definitely excitement in the air when they knew their parents had viewed and responded to their post. I would venture to say that this, at the time, was better than not having my students interacting with in an online space at all.

Fast forward to my classroom today with the addition of Seesaw…

I no longer use the blog that I mentioned earlier! In our classroom we have  5 iPads available at all times. This means that students can access their Seesaw journal at pretty much any time. It is very rare that I will say no to a student who asks to post something on Seesaw and they ask on a daily basis!

Today my students are able to share their thoughts and understanding through 6 different options all hosted by Seesaw. I do still have to approve their posts and I think that with younger students this is important. It allows me as their teacher to have a discussion with them about a post. Generally their posts are not inappropriate however they may be unnecessary or confusing to the viewer. Once their post has been approved their parents receive an instant alert on their parent account! Often within seconds of posting parents are commenting and providing feedback.

If you’ve ever been curious about what a parent sees when they log in to Seesaw, check out this video tutorial!

Recently I have sort of opened the door for commenting. My students have specific tasks while at the iPad stations for Daily 5 and math however, I do give them the option to check out their journal and comment on a classmates post before getting going on the days activity. They also have time to check out their journal during snack or indoor recess. I  make a point of giving them time at least once a week (and more when I can) to interact with the class feed. Whether that’s just viewing or commenting on a classmates posts, they love it!

Although Seesaw in and of itself is a closed space, I think my students today are benefiting even more than the ones who I used the blog with. So I do think the question about open or closed perhaps isn’t the best question to ask. I think both have merit. What I do think we should be asking is, are we providing our students with an authentic learning opportunity?

The Making of a Blended Learning Community for Primary Students

We assume that learners will want to come together, that they will be mutually supportive, and they will be driven to learn. But it is important to realize that communities, and particularly virtual learning communities, are not inherently good, desirable or ideal. – Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments by Richard A. Schwier

As educators we know that when we model a skill, behavior or action our students see that and are eventually able to internalize that they too can do that. Some will put their own spin on it right away and some will do exactly as they have seen, working their way to putting their independent touch on it. Some will do the complete opposite but that’s where we come in! As Schwier mentions in his paper, communities are not naturally formed. They begin as environments and must be nurtured in a specific way to become a community. I felt like this piece really reinforced for me why Amy and I have chosen to organize our prototype in the way that we have.

As Amy mentions in her post this week, we have chosen to create a blended grade 2 science course. We have our rationale together, our course overview and an outline of the modules ready to go and into our Weebly which will act as our LMS. However, just like Amy mentioned our LMS is a bit of a pseudo LMS as it is not the space where students will go to access their required tasks for the course.  However the Weebly  does provide educators with everything they will need to teach this course. Provided my teaching assignment stays the same next year, I plan to continue to build the remaining modules in the course to use for this unit in Science next year!

weebly
A look at the homepage for our course prototype LMS.

Inside each of the categories Amy and I have linked to several google docs that we have curated to guide teachers in planning and teaching this course. Some of the docs are set so that they can only be viewed and not changed. However, we do have one that allows for collaboration of educators and for feedback on the unit itself. We have designed this so that any educator can take it and use it with the technology resources they have available to them. Whether they be plentiful or not!

As an idea for an introduction to the unit, we are having students watch the videos found on the main page of the Weebly and then commenting on this TodaysMeet. We have also linked to a ‘how to’ video for those educators who are not familiar with how TodaysMeet works.

Being that we are planning a course for primary students there are certain factors we needed to take into account, such as:

  • Reading abilities
  • Access to technology at home
  • Comfort and understanding of how to use technology
  • Problem solving skills
  • Student ability to write and share understanding or collaborate with others.

In came Seesaw! If you’ve read my blog posts before or were part of #eci833 last semester you have seen how passionate I can be about the use of technology and specifically Seesaw in a primary classroom. The ease of use, student friendly organization and possibilities are truly endless and my teaching has changed and continues to change sometimes daily because of this amazing tool.

So how are we going to use Seesaw?

Our purpose for using Seesaw comes from the opportunities it provides. Students are able to access it on any device and at any time. Seesaw offers various ways to log in and the information needed to log in can be provided by the teacher very quickly. Whether it be the QR code, an email or a text code. Though teachers will need to explicitly teach students how to log in, the process is very simple and takes very little time for students to get used to. Once they know how to log in, it’s smooth sailing from there! Many students are able to pick up how to use the app on their own without instruction. However, for those that need more guidance a conversation with a classmate, a quick screencast or conversation would clarify any confusion.

As Amy says in her post:

SeeSaw also provides a multitude of options for posting content, students can draw, video, add notes, pictures and even audio recordings to share what they have seen or experienced.  Additionally, the Facebook feed like format allows for comments/likes etc., which has benefits for the ‘outside world’ interactions.  As we are attempting to implement a ‘flipped classroom’ sort of feel, the modules will each dictate what is required of the students.

Amy and I have both created a Seesaw class for our prototype. To show what a possible activity for students might look like I created a sample post that students would comment on:

seesaw

As the teacher of this course, a quick look at the student responses would allow you to see who understands solids, liquids and gases and who needs additional support. This could be a formative assessment piece or a summative piece depending on where it is implemented in the unit. The teacher is also able to comment and could direct students back to read or view the comment.

Our sample lessons/modules will run similar to the activity that I did with my students shared in last weeks post on Intentional Teaching.

After reading this post do you have any questions or I wonder comments for us? Would be great to hear from you as we continue to work through the organization of our course.

Intentional Teaching

At the beginning of this school year I was taking part in the #saskedchat twitter conversation. In one of the questions we were asked to use one word to sum up our focus for the upcoming school year:

Setting intentional teaching as a focus and using it to guide my planning throughout the school year really has kept me on track with my year plan. Not only that but I really feel that I have provided my students with more meaningful learning opportunities by weeding out some of the fluff that sometimes makes its way into the classroom.

Not only has being intentional guided my teaching this year it has also guided both myself and Amy as we have planned out our prototype unit for this course. Pretty much from the get go we knew we wanted to tackle primary science for our project. Being that the project was to design an online or blended course we knew we had to pick the best option for our learners.

Understanding that grade 2 students are still building their understanding of tech and tech tools we knew the course we were creating had to be a blended one. The students taking this course will need guidance and support from both home and school. We needed to be intentional in how we planned things out and I think we have done just that!

Many of the articles you will find about online and blended learning focus more on university type settings, some on high school and very few on primary classrooms. If you do happen to come across an article about blended learning in a primary classroom a good chunk of the articles are focused around 1:1 classrooms. That’s not to say they are all bad as some of the articles share teachers reflections about what blended learning has done for their students. Take for example Sandi Capelli  who shares that:

“This journey has also been about freedom. I have learned to trust my students’ intuitive knowledge about technology, which has allowed them to teach each other and me.” – Blended Learning in a First Grade Classroom by Sandy Capelli

Maybe in an ideal world 1:1 works but the reality is many of us don’t have 1:1 classrooms!

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t do blended learning in a primary classroom! In all honesty, it would take a lot to convince me that blended learning was really present in a primary classroom if all students are on a device at the same time doing the exact same activity in a specific way that the teacher has prescribed. Easy to say right? How about walking the walk instead of just talking the talk?

Challenge accepted!

Well actually, it was accepted last week but I am just getting around to writing this post!

Since Amy and I are doing grade 2 science I thought I would try out a blended lesson with my current class as we begin our Animals unit in Science. We have a classroom Seesaw page and use it pretty much on a daily basis to share what is happening in our classroom. However, I had yet to use it as a space to provide students with a task. So, why not try it out!

I shared the following document with my students. We reviewed the document, Kidrex and the ChatterKids app and then I sent them on their way. I set out two expectations for them prior to starting 1) they needed to work as a team 2) they needed to ask three classmates for help before coming to me with questions.

animals

Did everything go perfectly? Nope, it sure didn’t but I do dare say that it was a success!

What went well?

  • All groups were fully engaged throughout the entire time they were provided to do the task. The EA that was in the classroom at the time even said “wow, they area ll so engaged”!
  • We were able to borrow 5 iPads from another classroom so we had 10 in total.
  • The internet worked!
  • Students were using KidRex and ChatterPix both for the first time and without much guidance they used it with ease
  • Most asked classmates for support before asking me or the EA in the room
  • Some students went into the classroom library to find information from books they had previously read and knew would support their learning
  • We had several students away the day this was introduced but students who had already completed the project were able to act as guides for those who hadn’t and missed the introduction

What would I change for next time?

  • I wouldn’t be so quick to help those that come to ask questions. I would use guiding questions without providing them the answer they were looking for.
  • The app offers users the option to add filters and fun images on top of pictures that have been taken, we had to have a conversation around why a birthday cake filter might not be appropriate for a post about the names of baby animals
  • Those who struggle with reading had somewhat of a hard time following the instructions, next time I might do more of a picture story for instructions or have those who are lower level readers work side by side with myself or the EA if they are in the room at the time
  • Not sure how I would change this but the one downside to the ChatterKids app is that students who may not have made it to the upload on Seesaw step will need to have the same iPad as they did the previous work time as the file is stored in the iPad not on the app itself. We were lucky that the classroom we borrowed the addtional 5 ipads from was able to let us borrow them again the next time

Check out one of the final products from this project here!