Course 4

Course 4 Final Project – Decisions, Decisions…

Course 4 Final Project – Decisions, Decisions…

It is hard to believe that Course 4 is already over.  Throughout this part of the course I have been reflecting on two main ideas that I have always wanted to try in my classroom, one centered on the principles of SAMR, and the other revolving around game based learning.  I have always been especially intrigued by game based learning, but have always found it difficult when really thinking about how it could work over the course of a unit to really engage my students in their learning.  Tackling each of these ideas one by one, I will brainstorm how these two options could work in my classroom to stimulate student learning and growth.

SAMR and Creative Writing Portfolios –

Next year I will be teaching an elective course of creative writing, and I am really excited about the freedom this course will allow me to have.  I will not have as rigid of guidelines or time crunch that I experience in my DP classes, so there will be more prospects of general pedagogical experimentation.  The main aspect of this redesigned unit will be the focus on SAMR and finding a way to create portfolios which meet the standards of redefinition.  Students will use online portfolios to write, revise, provide feedback, and publish their writing.  Throughout the course of each unit, students will compose and publish their creative writings, be it poems, short stories, scripts, or any other units we will be working though.  After this initial publishing students will be required to write three comments per week on their peers work.  One comment will be providing feedback on an assigned classmate’s work, another will be providing feedback on a classmate of their choice’s work, and lastly they will need to write a comment on their own reflecting on the feedback that has been provided to them, or reflecting on changes they made in subsequent drafts.  The focus here will be on taking the writing process and reflection, making it digital, and  more accessible on the web.  I have done publishing and peer review on digital platforms before, but most times this falls somewhere in between augmentation and modification.  By taking my understandings of SAMR from COETAIL, students will use technology to come up with a product that is inconceivable on the same scale without the use of technology.

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Photo Credit: mj*laflaca via Compfight cc

I think this would be a very good idea of a unit to redesign due to the students’ familiarity with technology and collaborative nature of this course.  Most of the students are naturally sharing information about themselves in the public domain online, and this unit would work to harness this general idea and place it in an academic context.  The main concern I have for this project is how serious the students will be with the feedback process for their peers.  In some past courses I have taken and times I have required commenting on google classroom posts, many posts came across as superficial, and the students did not put very much thought in them.  To counter this problem, it will take a good deal of modeling from me so the students can see what a good and beneficial comment looks like.

The skills and attitudes that my students will need for this new unit is a strong sense of collaboration and metacognition.  Students will be spending significant time reflecting on the nature of good writing through both peer feedback and self reflection.  This level of personal and collaborative critical thought will serve the students general thinking skills, as well as challenge them to see different perspectives.

Game Based Learning in the Classroom –

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

The next idea I have for a modified unit would center on the idea of game based learning in the classroom.  As mentioned before, I have always been fascinated with the prospect of creating a unit based on game based learning, and there is no better time to integrate this idea into my classroom than my course five final project.  While at this stage of the brainstorming process this unit redesign is very hypothetical, I think a great unit to integrate this into would be language and advertising in my DP 2 course.  In my mind the challenge to integrating game based units in the classroom is to get the scope just right.  If it is too small, it can come across as merely a mini-lesson, and while engaging for the students, does not link as well to larger ideas or contexts you are trying to teach.  With this in mind, I would like to structure a game that would run the length of this three week unit next fall.  While I modified this unit to make it more project based this year, I would like to add more elements of gamification to increase student engagement.  The unit would center around teams creating an advertising campaign for a product that they are making up.  Badges and points would be awarded to students as they progress through different “levels” of creating an ad campaign including drafts, persuasive language use, conventions of advertisements, pitching ideas, and final publication.  This game based aspect would be supported by mini-lessons focusing on how advertising works, and how language and conventions are used to support their general appeal and success.  Students would work in teams and the team with the highest point total at the end would win a prize.  This game aspect would allow the students some friendly competition, and would work to directly connect to class content related to language and conventions.

The main challenge to this type of game based learning unit would be the authenticity.  Great care would have to be taken in how the game was constructed so that it is authentic and does not feel forced.  Since this unit would be for seniors, it is important that the game does not feel childish, but works to create a flow experience for the students.  The point and badge system would have to be rigorous enough so that it does not feel like normal home or class work, but that it is imperative that the teams work together to accomplish their goal.  The significant pedagogical shift from last year’s project based activity is that with game based learning there would be more of a competitive drive.  While the unit still holds the real world applications of the project based unit, the collaborative skills would be more of a focus due to this competitive nature.

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Photo Credit: Thiane via Compfight cc

Overall, thanks to the many aspects of technology integration I learned in COETAIL, these two ideas will serve as a good starting point for my course five project next year.  Both of these units would serve to go beyond what is currently done in my classroom to teach vital 21st century skills like collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking.

Tech Integration: A Year in Review

Tech Integration: A Year in Review

I love the access that technology gives students in my classroom.  I am very thankful to be at a 1 to 1 BYOD school in which all my students have laptops to help aid their learning.  My professional goal this year was to make my classroom paperless, and upon completion of the year, I can truly say that it was a success.  There were a couple of major steps I had to take (and many realizations along the way) to make this a success, but I can truly say after trying it for one year it did help student learning in my classroom.

Introduce it early – The first thing I learned about tech integration over the past year is it works best to introduce it right from the start.  This year instead of passing out paper copies of the syllabus to students at the first day of school, we discussed where they could go to find it.  This worked wonders to increasing buy in.  Although the school is a BYOD school, this is more of a firm encouragement as opposed to anything that the students sign.

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Photo Credit: CA Technologies via Compfight cc

In the past this has meant that each class always has at least two students who do not have devices when we have needed to use it.  Starting right away demonstrating the importance of using a device in my classroom sets the stage for the year and allows the students to clearly see my intentions with tech integration.

Make it purposeful – If you are going to integrate technology in your classroom, or require your students to bring a device to class each day, it is important that the use of the device is both regular and purposeful.  If you have students bring a device on the off chance that they will need to use it that day, there is a much higher percentage of kids that do not have a device as they do not see a valid reason for lugging it around each day to sit in their backpack.  This year, my goal of a paperless classroom accomplished this, as any activity that was done was accessed online.  This made the students see the point of bringing their device to class, as they would not be able to learn the same way had they not.

Infrastructure of integration –  This year utilizing a paperless classroom, it was important to have the infrastructure in place to clearly support my objectives.  On a classroom level, I made sure I had extra plugs and extension cords to reach around the room.

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Photo Credit: kalleboo via Compfight cc

This eliminated the excuse of not having a device due to it being dead.  On the tech level, I made sure that once my class lists were finalized, all students joined my Google Classroom and I included them all on Doctopus for sharing files.  This allowed me to clearly outline and walk them through the process of finding all classroom materials as well as what it means to be a part of our community of learners.

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Overall this year has been very productive in the way students have been able to use technology in the classroom.  By having my classroom entirely paperless really made the process smoother and easier than if I used technology every now and then.  With the students connected every class period, getting resources from my course page, and collaborating with peers regularly, it created a great jumping off point to prepare my students for the 21st century.

My Crystal Ball and My Future Classroom

My Crystal Ball and My Future Classroom

Education is an ever-changing field.  Not only does education change over long periods of time, but the pendulum swings rather quickly.  If you sit down with any teacher nearing retirement, you can easily discuss four or five different “paradigm shifts” of what we perceive(d) good education to be.  For a while now there have been complaints about education being modeled off of the an industrial revolution model, with Education Week and Ken Robinson leading the charge.

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While this article and video make some interesting points, when considering the future it is important to note that the article was written in 2011, and the video was uploaded in 2010.  Considering our fast paced world, both of these viewpoints are now firmly in the past with very little change to show for it in the past six years.  With this in mind, I think the role of technology in the future of education will not work to change the groundwork of education, but will give teachers more flexibility to engage the students in different types of activities.  It is dangerous in my mind to view technology as anything more than a tool, and if it does not work to foster critical thinking and critical thought, than it should not be used.

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Photo Credit: derekGavey via Compfight cc

I do however think there will be some big changes in how technology is used in classrooms in the future.  One irrefutable effect of technology is that it is working every day to bring the world closer together.  In the article “These 10 trends are shaping the future of education”, by Education Dive two stand out to me more than the others as valid claims.  The first is that there will be extra focus on BYOD type programs which will force schools to take a more active role in campus device management, and open educational resources gaining more popularity.  In regards to a more active role in device management, I think schools will be outlining more policies in regards to acceptable use.  There is a very good chance that this will lead to less access to technology as opposed to more.  Many in the educational technology field envision a future where kids will constantly be swiping, typing, chatting, etc., will be mistaken.  Once we are able to view the effects of screen time on a generation of children, we will most likely lead in the other direction.  While this will not necessarily eliminate technology from the classroom forever, I feel we will see more moderate and monitored use of technology.

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Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

The next big change that we will see in education is the rise of open educational resources.  With the price of textbooks on the rise, I envision open educational resources as working to redefine creative commons and copyright.  More educational information will be shared online, and resources will be able to be accessed by all.  This would not only lead to more resources open for teacher use within the classroom, but could help stimulate student inquiry and exploration.  We could also see more student choice into class selection, with classes possibly revolving around concepts, but the content itself taken from open source educational materials or MOOC’s.

Overall, there will definitely be big changes in the field of education over the next ten to twenty years.  While I am excited about the future possibilities of global connectedness that technology can provide, I am fearful of the damaging effects that tech engrossment can have on our students.  Hopefully, a balanced future is in store based on sound research to provide the best opportunities for our students to grow as both learners and citizens.

 

Challenges of the Big Flip

Challenges of the Big Flip

In many ways, my classroom is already flipped.  In my English class, I probably give a traditional lecture of forty minutes or more once every two weeks.  In my classroom we largely spend time working either as individuals or groups practicing, collaborating, and exploring aspects of the content.  This exploration time in class allows me to monitor the students as they progress through the inquiry cycle, and also allows me to give feedback.  Most of all, it encapsulates a central component of my classroom, that students are the center of the classroom, not me.  In my opinion it is much easier to disengage and zone out when the teacher is speaking for the class period, as opposed to when the activity demands student engagement and participation.  This is the type of hands on learning that a flipped classroom demands.

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Photo Credit: COSCUP via Compfight cc

There are two main hindrances to the flipped classroom however, both the time aspect and the engagement aspect.  These two concerns warrant a further investigation through the lens of my classroom, a DP 1 and 2 HL English Language and Literature class.

Time – I think the main problem to the flipped classroom is the time aspect.

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Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

This can be looked at in two different ways, the time that I have to prepare my students for future assessments, and the time my students have if they are full diploma students.  On my end, as the teacher, the flipped classroom is hard due to the amount of content that I need to get through in the short amount of time to get through it.  I must admit, even though I have it easier than some other subjects in regards to content, it is hard for me to envision an entirely flipped classroom due to the rapid pace of the course.  In regards to the students, if every aspect of content is delivered at home on their own time, and each “lecture” was forty minutes long, students would have to sit through four hours of just lecture, not counting pausing for any notes or re-listening to parts they didn’t understand.  This would most likely take the amount of work each night to around six hours, which would not take into consideration long term projects or assignments in each course including IA’s that can not be done in class time alone.  This would lead to students not having enough time for everything, creating priorities, and…

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Photo Credit: Aaron Jacobs via Compfight cc

Engagement – The question I constantly ask myself about engagement is how can I be sure that students will actually watch all of the flipped content I am producing?  This is the same question that all teachers have about any work given to complete out of class, but the results would be detrimental if my Lang and Lit or TOK students show up to the world exam having only classroom activities to speak of.  On the article “Should You Flip Your Classroom”, they offer some poignant suggestions to curb this issue such as reflection or other synthesis type activities.  With these activities however what is the incentive to complete if your school doesn’t allow you to mark homework for completion?  I would imagine it would take students a month to realize this has no weighting on their mark and cease to complete them.

In my classroom, I really enjoy the benefit of the flipped classroom, but I do not think it would be possible to entirely flip your classroom at the DP level.  Eventually, there is always a need for direct instruction, and this breaks the mold of the totally flipped classroom.  Technology gives us this opportunity to flip our classroom, and we as teachers should assess these positives and negatives to provide our students the best experience possible.

Project, Problem, and Challenge Based Learning in the High School Classroom

Project, Problem, and Challenge Based Learning in the High School Classroom

Project, Problem, and Challenge Based Learning are three important theories or methodologies to inspire learning within our classroom.  These three methods are a clear break-away from what we think of as traditional education by utilizing inquiry as a central component of student learning.  This push into inquiry (especially by the IB), is challenging our students to become critical thinkers as opposed to parrots of content.

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Photo Credit: istlibrary via Compfight cc

In my mind, Project, Problem, and Challenge Based Learning are all samples of “past” learning ideas solely based on the time these theories went mainstream, largely in a pre-tech dominated world.  Although these theories came about before our tech obsessed age, I think many of the same principles or methodologies can be applied to our age of tech integration.

Project Based Learning:

Project Based Learning initially came about as a precursor to the inquiry cycle in education.  Within the lens of Language and Literature the inquiry cycle is especially important to allow the students the opportunity to discover and explore content knowledge.  Before technology (when I was in high school) Project Based Learning within English largely consisted of a teacher assigning a tic-tac-toe project board or something similar.  Students were given a choice to explore a topic, and create a project to demonstrate their overall understanding of the content standards.  Largely projects were used as assessment, and were less likely to be used to convey content.  Now, with technology, we have many more opportunities to explore ways to embed technology into the inquiry cycle, and even only considering “augmentation” level integration, students can use devices to research and provide deeper understanding of “tuning in”, “finding out”, and “sorting out”.

Problem Based Learning:

Much like the way Project Based Learning works to foster critical thought in classrooms, Problem Based Learning goes beyond this to inspire collaboration to solve real world problems.  This connection to the real world or wider context, although relevant to every age group, is especially important for high school students.  By being able to apply practical applications for what the students are doing, they become more engaged and more willing to grapple with the content.  For example, in language and literature we cover a unit on language and gender, and how language is used to create gender binaries.  Students are easily able to research examples of this (popular music, TV, news media) and brainstorm possible solutions to the issue.  Through this unit, students are working to solve the problem of gender binaries, while working to improve vital media literacy skills through technology use in the classroom.

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Photo Credit: duncan via Compfight cc

Challenge Based Learning:

Challenge Based Learning serves as an extension of problem based learning.  The main difference between the two is the strong focus on multi-disciplinary understanding and a multi-disciplinary framework to teaching and learning.  Although I love the principles of challenge based learning, and love the skills it produces – collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, I find this to be the most difficult to fully incorporate at the DP level.  While each individual classroom may be able to integrate ideas of Challenge Based Learning, the push is far too much on content and understanding of content (in some subjects definitely more than others) to fully have a Challenge Based Learning classroom.

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Overall, the skills fostered by these three teaching models should not be viewed as the past for education, as they are central components to creating future world citizens.  Technology can only work to help and support these teaching theories when embedded in a consistent and transparent way in the 21st century classroom.

SAMR and My Classroom

SAMR and My Classroom

I first heard about SAMR about two years ago during a school PD session on technology in the classroom.  I was very interested in SAMR as a model of thinking about tech integration.  It went beyond how I perceived it before, either you did it or you didn’t.  Instead of looking at tech integration through a binary lens, it is important to view it as a spectrum of integration.

Coming through teachers college college and first starting out in the classroom, it was clear that the emphasis was largely placed on substitution and augmentation, with little focus being given to redefining what can be done in the classroom.  Smart-boards were being placed in the classroom for the sake of “tech integration” and PowerPoint was encouraged to break away from traditional style lectures.  Looking back at this now, this is the definition of substitution and augmentation.  Technology was being used in the classroom for the sake of technology being used, but it wasn’t being used to allow students opportunities to go beyond what could already be done.  All around students this idea of “going beyond” was emphasized, largely driving innovation in society, but it was being ignored in the classroom.

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Photo Credit: shareski via Compfight cc

Reading the article, “What is Successful Technology Integration” the author posits that successful tech integration should achieve the following three aims:

  • Routine and transparent
  • Accessible and readily available for task at hand
  • Supporting curricular goals, and helping students to effectively reach their goals

I think this is a very important list, and was really the first epiphany I had within integrating technology in my classroom.  Technology should be routine and transparently embedded, so we do not make a big fuss about using technology in the classroom, but the students use technology regularly.  In my mind however, this is still limiting and although it aids the students within the classroom, it does not allow students to use it as a driving force to create.

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Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

This is where SAMR comes in.  The goal with SAMR as a framework is not only to make sure teachers are using technology, but to aspire to reach “redefinition” within their classroom.  This brings technological integration beyond the enhancement phase and into the transformation stage.

In my classroom presently I think redefinition is something that I aspire to, more than something I consistently achieve.  I would say that most of my activities would fall in between augmentation and modification.  I do use technology on a daily basis in my classroom, and upon reflecting, do not think it is possible to consistently reach redefinition.  I would say each year I give my students two or three projects which redefine how the students create and inquire.  One example of redefinition in my classroom this year was my Course 1 COETAIL Project.  Students were required to create an advertising campaign to explore how language is used to persuade the audience.  Within this unit students also had a separate opportunity to create a vlog or blog, post it online for feedback.  This goes well beyond substitution by opening up the blog to a wide audience through the use of social media.

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Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Overall, SAMR is a very interesting framework to allow us to consider technology integration in our classrooms.  Instead of looking at tech integration as either do or do not, this gives us a spectrum to view the purpose of our integration, not just pat ourselves on the back because it is there.