Our class has been regularly enjoying Mystery Skype sessions for the last few weeks at the request of my students. It is amazing to see the thrill and excitement in the classroom when I tell them I've arranged for us to Skype another class. Learning and conversing with students from another part of the world is really quite something.
I was speaking with a colleague and had to excuse myself to go prepare my laptop for the Skype call when they said, "Well what's the point? Don't they just ask questions and guess where the other class is?" The simplest response - yes they ask questions and guess the other class' location. The more complex one - it is so much more.
We have had the pleasure of learning with students from various parts of Asia, Australia and New Zealand with another one on it's way from Canada (my stepmother's class!). My students have the opportunity to connect globally and begin to understand the world around them.
It's not just about answering a few questions either. We have played mathematics games online with other students using various applications. This past week, our class Skyped our friends in India and shared some songs in celebration of Chinese New Year. For our friends in New Zealand, we had to create a video as a class to give them our clues as the time difference didn't allow us to communicate during our school day. We've also continued the dialogue with some classes using Google Documents to ask more questions about the region and expand our knowledge. We've connected Skype to our unit about communication tools and how communication can be hindered at times. Finally, we've developed our oral communication and presentation skills.
The conversation never ends when the Skype call ends. Just over a week ago we connected with a class in Brunei. Once we hung up, a few students were asking more about what it would really look like in Brunei. I asked the students to go onto Google Earth to find a location within Brunei. Then, they were to go onto Street View. From there, they were able to really to see the different landforms and lifestyle by looking around in 360 views. This also connected to our unit about ecosystems where we started to explore what habitats and animals would be more suited to this region than ours. After a bit of exploration, the students were having so much fun on Google Earth, I couldn't bare to ask them to stop. So I decided to throw a poetry lesson at them using visual images (our current focus on reading and writing). I asked the students to choose anywhere on Earth that inspired them - a place they had been, where they might want to visit someday, somewhere they felt comfortable, or simply a random spot. From there, they had to use what they saw when they zoomed into the surroundings and create a poem and try to incorporate some literary devices we had learnt about earlier in the week. Truly, they created some creative and captivating poetry. Some then took screenshots of their locations to add to their poems in a Google Document or other presentation form. Because of Mystery Skype, it inspired an afternoon of transdisciplinary learning that I had not planned for.
All that from just a 'few questions' and guessing a location.
Available at: https://education.skype.com/
As the Education Technology Coach at my school, it is my role to support teachers and students in using technology in authentic and meaningful ways. Thus, for this course, I will focus on the transdisciplinary learning in a primary classroom using the International Baccalaureate programme.
With the IB, there is no set curriculum, rather it is a framework of learning. Within our school, we have a scope and sequence for the various subjects that is integrated into the units of inquiry. Our school has no specific ICT curriculum. Rather, the units integrate technology where appropriate.
From this perspective, the curriculum is often taught using technology for teaching and learning. My focus though, is teaching transferable skills using technology. For example, communication skills like viewing and presenting are taught through the use of technology. Students construct visuals using technology tools such as Google Drawing, Pixlr or Paper 53 that convey meaning to an audience. Students need to use design elements and principles as they create their visuals. Another example is having students choose the most appropriate technology tool to show their understanding and demonstrate their knowledge. Sometimes that might be a Google Document, other times it might be using iMovie to create a video or Piktochart to demonstrate their statistics in a visual.
With the IB, there are 6 overarching elements of ICT in the Primary Years Programme: Creating, Collaborating, Organizing, Becoming Digital Citizens, Investigating and Communicating. Through these, students develop their skills to become digital learners using technology tools as one of many resources in their learning journey.
Classroom management focuses on creating a positive classroom culture where students can learn. A number of factors play into this such as discipline, building trust, routine, learning spaces, and transitions. Classroom management can make the different between a good teacher and a great teacher.
There are 5 elements of classroom management as outlined in Chai, Lim, & Pek (2005). that teachers need to consider when integrating technology into lessons.
1. Supporting activities for ICT tools
Learning technology tools to complete an activity adds another level of complexity to the learning for students even when technology is a great way to engage students. When I am teaching a class where I am introducing students to a new technology, I model how to go about doing it and then allow them the opportunity to try. This is aligned with Hudson & Notman's paper (2001) that suggests teachers should model a few technology skills to begin the lesson. Often I also give students time to explore a tool first and allow them to inquire into what the technology tool can do. Then we share what we've learnt and ask questions about things we still can not figure out.
2. Role of the teacher
Teachers are no longer the only source of information with ICT and a class of students. Thus, teachers become the facilitators of learning(Chan, Lim & Pek, 2005, p.410). I always make sure I can see the students' screens easily and walking around to monitor students' online behaviours. Visual timers and sound cues help to cut down on transition times in order to make the learning the focus and not the time getting ready for learning. I also ensure my materials are ready prior to the start of the lesson in order to have a lesson that can flow from one part to the next.
3. Role of student helpers
In my class, I have always had student helpers. The students in my class generate the jobs at the beginning of the year that we feel are needed to help the class run. Each week I would move the helping hands so that everyone had each job at some point in the year to make it fair. The students take their roles very seriously which helps students get on with the learning.
4. Technical support for teachers
The best technical support in my classroom always came from my students. Each week I had two students designated as the techsperts. There role was to help other students and myself solve any technical issues they were having. This meant the students would go to the techsperts before coming to me for support, creating a culture of collaboration and community of support. If necessary, we could also call on the tech department for support.
5. Establishment of rules and procedures
It is important to set the tone of the classroom from the beginning of the year. Each year, the students create their essential agreements together and sign them stating they will abide by them. Having students come up with the essential agreements mean they have more ownership over the class and more responsibility to follow them.
For ICT, we have our acceptable use policy that we also use and abide by. Students read it with their parents and return it to school signed. Online safety is important and students understand that if they are unable to follow the agreement, they may not be able to use technology in their learning experiences. These agreements are reviewed and reflected on regularly throughout the year.
Chai, C., Lim, C., & Pek, M. (2005). Classroom management issues in information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated learning environments: back to the basics. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 14(4), 391-414.
Hudson, R. & Notman, H. (2001). Challenges of ICT resourced classes and helpful routines: Lessons from teaching practice. Computer Education, 99, p. 24-26.
TPACK framework is a well-known framework in the education technology realm that connects technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.
In my role of an educational technology coach, I believe that I sit mostly on technological/ pedagogical knowledge. I believe this is where I fall because I understand how to teach and good teaching practice and have to regularly stay up to date in education technology. However, I do not always know all of the curriculum in depth across the primary school. My role is to help teachers connect the content knowledge or their pedagogical content knowledge to the technological knowledge.
I believe that expanding to tech with tech-PACK helps to emphasize the technology knowledge needed to integrate technology as mentioned by Roblyer & Doering (2014, p. 53). However, it is important to remember that as a teacher leaving out the digital technology is okay when it doesn't make sense to use it. Thus, an important role of a teacher is to make conscious decision of when to include technology and when to just stick to content and pedagogy knowledge.
To do this, I plan with teachers on a given unit they are working on and provide suggestions for technology integration. From there, I may upskill the teachers in small groups or co-teach the lesson with my focus of technology and pedagogical knowledge . This is what Koehler & Mishra (2009) would describe as “An understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways. This includes knowing the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies."
Whereas most homeroom teachers would be developing the technology from me, I develop my understanding of the content from them. From there, our knowledge is completed as TPACK. My role is really to help teachers to become confident in integrating technology and providing them the knowledge and support to add this third component of knowledge to their teaching. I believe that supporting teachers in having all three types of knowledge is important before implementing technology into the classroom as they plan a unit/lesson. Adding the technological knowledge where appropriate in their units/ lessons allows them to provide a 21st-century learning community for their students.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2008, March). Thinking creatively: Teachers as designers of technology, pedagogy and content (tpack). Keynote address at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), Las Vegas, NV, March 3-7.
Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2014). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching: International Edition, 6th Edition, Pearson.
Piktochart is a great way to create digital infographics. Students can use these to represent primary or secondary data that they find. This can link to mathematics and data handling as a way to show the results of surveys.
Available at: http://piktochart.com/
Padlet is a digital cork board where post-its of ideas, videos or images can be posted. In a class setting, this is a great place to brainstorm ideas, generate questions, create a plan, or even share some of the learning that has been happening in the classroom.
Available at: https://padlet.com/
Wordle create a word cloud based on a list of words you provide the programme. This is a great way for students to generate a list of word related to a unit or topic. Students can also create a word cloud for a given piece of text to see what the most prominent words are in it.
Available from: http://www.wordle.net/
QR Code Generator
QR Code Generator generates a QR code for any digital resource. These QR codes can be used in class as part of a scavenger hunt, instructions for an activity or even on the back of a book to create an audio book.
Available from: http://www.qrstuff.com/
Collaborative learning has many benefits in an educational setting such as developing social skills, deeper understanding of knowledge and soft skills (Chai & Tan, 2010). However, like with any learning approach, there are challenges for both teachers and students. For teachers to effectively facilitate collaborative learning, they must be willing to loosen the structure of the classroom. The teacher can not be in control of groupings, specific group roles and learning expectations, rather, it is important that the students in the group feel like they have ownership in the learning process as a group and agency (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p.8). One way for both teachers and students to deal with this issue is for teachers to begin with cooperative learning and gradually work towards collaborative learning through scaffolding.
For students, a number of issues often present themselves during collaborative learning. Often students feel there is an unequal workload in the group with some people taking leadership roles and other students slacking. During the cooperative learning, teachers should model how to divide group tasks, model ideal group roles and how to reflect as a group throughout the process for next steps. Teachers can also support students in how to give critical feedback in a positive way. If these strategies are developed during cooperative learning, they will carry over into collaborative learning as strategies to be used by the students.
Often students get off task during collaborative learning tasks (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p. 7). As the teacher, I will go around monitoring the different group and have conversations about what they have done, where they are at, and where they are going. I don't provide too much feedback, rather, ask questions that make them think to guide them moving forward. Often groups will have a time keeper and someone to monitor on task behaviour which also helps the group move forward productively.
With collaborative learning, conflict is enviable to arise at some point. Perhaps there are different perspectives of where to go next, someone isn't pulling their weight or things have been forgotten at home and therefore productivity is at a standstill. These are excellent opportunities for students to develop their problem solving skills. For me, I always try to get the students to talk through their problems first. We spend a lot of time near the beginning of the year stressing how to express how you are feeling with ' I statements' instead of pointing blame. If students still struggle after a period of time, I support them by mediating the situation but mostly letting them talk. It is important that the students work through the situation together so that they feel they have autonomy in the resolution process.
It is important for the teacher to facilitate a positive collaborative community from the beginning of the year and cultivate this type of culture. From there, teachers can facilitate cooperative learning and through gradual release of responsibility and scaffolding, shift the ownership of learning to the students in collaborative learning.
Chai, C. S., and Tan S. C. (2009). Professional Development of Teachers for Computer‐Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) through Knowledge Building. Teacher College Records, 111(5), 1296‐1327.
Sing, C.C., Wei-Ying, L., Hyo-Jeong, S. & Mun C. H. (2011). Advancing collaborative learning with ICT: conception, cases and design. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/advancing%20collaborative%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf
There are days when I struggle in my job feeling like I'm not being innovative or creative. There are times when I know there is paperwork to be done but I would rather be doing other things and procrastinate. But then there are days where inspiration hits you out of the blue, rerouting your day with time passing faster than you realise.
Most of the time I get my inspiration from our students when they say to me "Can we do_____?" I always agree with whatever it is if they have a good explanation and a plan of how to do it. Then we somehow make it work no matter how big or small it is because when students are invested in a project, they show higher levels of engagement and often create better quality products.
I also get inspiration from things people say. Sometimes it's a few kind words that make me realise that what I am doing is contributing to others learning and it is appreciated. Often those who share their words don't even realise the action that they've inspired. With a clear, purposeful work, the inspiration can push the boundaries of what has begun to further support those it has impacted.
Sometimes I have other teachers say to me, like today, "You should..." and if it's something I value I will likely work towards implementing it. But when I have no idea how to do it, those are the times I enjoy most. The times when uncertainty exists means a challenge to problem solve. Trying to find solutions to problems in an educational setting expands how I think about problems as I look to solve them through the various lens.
Then there are those who tell me I can't do something. Nothing motivates me more than a brick wall that others don't think I can overcome. Tell me I can't do something and I'll do anything in my power to find a way to make it work... and do it to my best ability.
With our students and teachers, it's important to understand what motivates and inspires them to raise their own expectations and go beyond. If you can figure that out, you will be able to foster the positive change that has an impact on its surroundings.
Even though I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I still get excited about trying new things in a classroom and seeing if they work or not. As a classroom teacher, I was always looking for resources online that could fit into my units to try with my class and just throw them out to my students to trials. The sense of uncertainty of how the lesson would go with this new tool or strategy made teaching interesting. For if the lesson went well, it usually went really well with the kids getting excited about whatever we were trying to use and the learning was enhanced to another level. If it didn't work, it meant either problem solving to make it work or finding an alternative on the fly to rework the lesson.
In a role as a technology coach, I often come across neat ideas that are worth giving a go but without a class of my own, I have to be okay with some teachers not wanting to take the same risks in their classes. So when I find a teacher that is always ready to try something, it makes me excited about the opportunity to work with that teacher and class.
This week has had a few of those moments. First of all, the education technology department led a professional development session on Monday about different tools for integrating videos into teaching and learning including screencasting, iMovie, YouTube and EdPuzzle. By the following day, a few of the teachers had already taken what they had learnt and integrated it into their lessons. As a coach, it makes these sessions meaningful and worthwhile when teachers can actually see the practical use of the tools and are willing to try them out. Beyond that, it's important they share with us their feedback about how it went so we can help support them more or celebrate their successes.
Guinea pig teachers are rockstars in my mind. I went to one teacher this week with Plickers - a formative assessment tool for teachers using iPads and the cards students use to respond to a question. The students hold up an assigned card in one of 4 directions with the multiple choice letter they agree with and the teacher uses the iPad to scan for the results. The app allows teachers to gain feedback on individual student knowledge and data on the whole class' understanding immediately.
I simply explained to the teacher what it would do and asked if she was interested and we installed the application on the iPad right away. I made the cards for her and by the next day she had set it up and was ready to try. I was also grateful to be invited in to see how it would work in the classroom. With a minor issue that was quickly problem solved, we gathered data on students' understandings of problem solving and action in a matter of seconds. This data is so useful as a teacher as a formative tool but could also be used as preassessment or an exit activity from a class. From there, we shared our learning and experience with the teachers in the year group and got them started on it as well. Great things really do spread.
Not all teachers are willing to be technology enthusiasms as innovators or early adopters but I absolutely love working with these staff members. These teachers help me get excited about my job and the positive impact technology can make on teaching and learning for students.