The ePortfolio project presented in my youTube video below is the culmination of many months of planning, interviewing, iterating and reiterating, tweaking, fretting, learning, and teaching. This project was a success due mostly to a great collaboration with fellow Coetailer Mavis and our use of Design Thinking to plan and develop the end product (which will certainly continue to change in the coming years). As I stated in the video, Mavis and I were able to combine our skills and understandings to come up with a product that meets the needs of our students, their parents, our teaching staff, High School administration and senior administration.
It was extremely gratifying that our project was a huge feature of You, Me, Community Day. This is arguably one of the most important community days where parents are invited to share and celebrate the learning of their child/children. The ePortfolio was the main tool used for high school students to share the learning for which they were most proud. By all accounts, it achieved its purpose in this respect with some room to grow in the coming years.
The Design Thinking process was used for this project and it made the journey more interactive, exciting and successful. By gaining insight into the needs of our students and other stakeholders in speaking to them at multiple points during the creation of the ePortfolio we were able to create something that was designed with the end user in mind. I feel strongly that this has and will continue to have a huge impact on the overall success of implementation and continued use.
Finally, I used this project to expand my learning with professional grade digital media creation tools. I had hoped to push my abilities beyond iMovie (which is a great product) to use Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. I also created custom graphics with Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to try something new by using a green screen effect in my video. I try to encourage the students and the teachers that I work with to be content producers and so I thought that I should practice what I preach. I learned a lot about the editing and creative process by watching or reading many tutorials (like this one for my title graphics, and this page to help me customize and reuse it). I also made lots of mistakes and I will be a lot more efficient the next time I create a video project. Although I probably spent much more time on this part of the project than I should have, I enjoyed every minute of it!
Clearly one of the main focuses of COETAIL is the building and maintaining of the PLN – Professional Learning Network and the dramatic change in scope that technology provides. My PLN is both passive and active. I regularly visit my RSS feed. I like Tweetdeck to help me search for EdTech articles or for areas that I am interested in like #coding or #VR. I simply add a column that searches and creates a stream based on the hashtag search key. There is no shortage of great content – actually, the tricky part is determining what is useful and what is not, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak.
The more active connections I make with my network is far more valuable and important. It starts with my local network, my colleagues at AIS-R. I work with great people, who have great ideas that help me improve my practice as a teacher and coach. It is also great to have the other members of this AIS-R COETAIL cohort available to collaborate on projects and share ideas. For example, I am working with Mavis Wellington on our final project for this course and I completed the Eduro Design Thinking Course with Tara Ogle. We collaborated on a great project through that course. A great PLN helps you to learn and grow and supports you when you leave your comfort zone to try something different. AIdefinitelyinately a great school for this.
As a tech coach, I am lucky to be able to work with my fellow COETAILer Sean Walmsley who is the ES Technology Integration Coach. As anyone who knows him will tell you he is a wealth of information and ideas. I think that we work well together to share and bounce ideas off of each other. We even completed our Google Certified Educator Part 1 together earlier this year. On top of that, we co-moderated a NESA (Near East Region Schools Association) Twitter Chat earlier in the school year. The title of the chat was Redefining Technology to Redefine Education. I have been involved in a number of Twitter Chats this year. Twitter chats are a great way to reach out to people near and far, to share ideas and experiences in the classroom and in education in general. The bi-weekly NESA chats bring teachers from the region together for a discussion on a multitude of topics. Our teachers have been very active in participating in these as they are an option on our Professional Learning and Growth Model. In fact, COETAIL got a nice shoutout or two in the Professional Development that works – NESA Chat. There were a number of COETAILers in on the chat that day.
I have also been using Google+ more effectively this year. Of all the Social Media platforms I always felt that Google+ had the most potential but that it turned out to be the most disappointing. Maybe it was because I didn’t know how to use it or that there just weren’t many other people using it. I have started to use it a little more frequently and I am seeing some value in it. I am a member of the Hapara users group, The New Google Sites group and the Apps Scripts for Educators – Builders and Users group to name just a few. I am also part of a NESA collaborative for Tech Leaders. The mandate of the group is to recommend speakers for the NESA Leadership, Spring Educators as well as Fall and Winter Institutes. Members in the group are in the United Arab Emirates, India, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.We use Google+ as a way to communicate with each other.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hidden gem of my PLN – the students! If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t know anything about Minecraft! As a tech coach I always learn from the students, they are the early adopters and up and coming superstar geeks that keep me as much in the know as I can be. I have had occasion to work with classes and engage in a back and forth discussion about how the tools we use in our school were working out for them. They also told me about the platforms, apps and applications that they were using inside and outside of the classroom. It is hard to keep up with the rapid pace of change in technology and it is important to tap into all demographics to get multiple perspectives and best practices.
Grabbing and using digital content from different places has never been easier. Our kids know all the tricks of how to get whatever they want whenever they want. Screenshot, image searches, downloading youTube videos and repurposing them is easy for the average teen. But are they allowed to take whatever they want? Isn’t it a violation of copyright? Or are their new creations just examples of fair use?
In my role as technology integration coach, I was asked to present to our ninth grade English classes that were creating a dramatic video that compared various themes of the Odyssey to modern literature or media. I think the teachers were interested in having me talk about the process of planning the project by using a storyboard and script and giving the kids some ideas of the technology options that they could use to complete the project.
In addition to teaching about planning, shooting and editing a video I also wanted to talk to the students about the importance of using images within the creative commons and respecting the intellectual property rights of others. When I watched the exemplars from the previous year I grew more concerned. There was clearly a lot of borrowed (stolen??) material included in their projects. When I discussed my concerns with one of their teachers we had an interesting discussion on remix and mashups and what the expectations for intellectual property rights should be in a project like this. This is when I started to dig deeper into the fair use exception of copyright laws.
As an interesting case study, I shared the story of the British rock band The Verve and the loss of huge royalties for their song Bittersweet Symphony. In the song, they sample part of an orchestral version of a Rolling Stones song and it cost them big time.
But this was a case of commercial gain where the monetization of intellectual property was involved. I discovered that fair use is a broad exception of copyright laws and that students have a lot of leeway because they are using it in an educational, not for profit environment. There are a lot of great resources on fair use that we can turn to for guidance on the subject. Of course, most of it is based on American Law. This was a bit of a problem because I was presenting to the international students that I work with in my international school in Saudi Arabia. When I search for information on intellectual property rights for Saudi Arabia one of the best sources referred me to the Fair use at Stanford University document which I had already read and used as a reference. So given the fact that our students typically attend university in North America or the UK, I continued to focus on American law.
These are some of the best resources I found on the subject.
This video from Common Sense Media is a great primer to show your students. I highly recommend Common Sense Media for Digital Citizenship learning. If you are an educator and you haven’t already done so create an account to access the amazing lesson plans they have on offer. There is also a lot of great content for parents and families. Be sure to check out this one on the #devicefreedinner.
So what was the final verdict? Were the exemplars just samples of what not to do or were they a classic example of fair use? The problem with fair use is that there are no hard and fast rules that will determine if you are going out of bounds. The resources that I have shared in this post certainly will help this year’s class to make more informed decisions about what and how to use content that is not originally their own. I also hope it gave some background information for their teachers to use when guiding their students through the process.
I am often amazed at the accomplishments and the amazing products that students produce to demonstrate their learning. Our students are truly talented (in large part through the efforts of their teachers to provide incredible learning opportunities). We know that one of the most important parts of the learning process is reflection. With this in mind, I teamed up with fellow COETAIL-er Mavis Wellington to try to create a space where students could show how they learn inside and outside of the classroom and reflect on that learning. In addition, we thought this would be a great storehouse of artifacts that could be used by students when completing college and university applications. Our vision was to create an ePortfolio that could be piloted with our 9th graders but our school administration liked it so much we expanded it to the 10th and 11th grades.
We began this process as soon as we were introduced to the assignment in the last semester. We decided to use a Design Thinking model to plan out the look and the feel of the ePortfolio. We created a focus group of students, teachers, counselors and administrators. Beginning with initial interviews we tried to find out what all of our stakeholders wanted and needed in an ePortfolio and then we created a prototype which we presented to our focus group for feedback. It was back to the drawing board to make improvements, gather feedback, improve until we had it right.
The ePortfolio rolled out after our winter break. We presented to the 10th and 11th graders in grade level assemblies to show them how to set up the site and to give them an idea of the kinds of evidence that needed to be added. We also followed up by having an assembly where they completed their first post. We worked with our 9th-grade students in their counseling classes to get them set up and rolling with the project. They also completed their first posts during these sessions. As part of our plan, we will meet with the grade 9’s in their counseling class at regular intervals.
We hope that the ePortfolio will be an important facet of the process for student learning in our school. We will continue to support students and teachers by frequently checking in to make sure that our stakeholders understand how the ePortfolio can best be used to demonstrate the strengths, accomplishments, and talents of each individual student. Students will share their ePortfolios with parents on You, Me, Community Day in a student-led conference. We already have plans for how we will continue with the ePortfolio next year and beyond. Our project has been adopted by our school administration as an important initiative that will be part of the fabric of our high school in the coming years.
Information is all around us. Yet as teachers, we often struggle to stay current with the latest information and to deliver content to our students that is current and engaging. RSS feeds can be a huge asset in this respect. In this post, I would like to give some rationale and uses for integrating RSS feeds to your class.
RSS feeds to keep your class up to date on current events.
There are lots of great sources for news in the world. Very recently fake news has been big news. Developing digital literacy and critical thinking skills in our students is more important than ever before. Providing our students with exemplars is a great way to teach anything. How about giving them examples of good sources of news? Setting up a news feed with a variety of sources not only allows students to keep up to date on current events but also lets them see how different media outlets and sources show bias in their reporting. Giving our kids a chance to compare and contrast different writing and different points of view arms them with the skills and competencies to make informed judgements about what is going on in the world. They have to think critically about what they read and compare it to what they know and what others have said about the topic.
Current events can also be related to subject specific content. Science teachers can feed information relating to current topics or units. Second language teachers can expose students to content in the subject language and Physical Health educators can bring the latest information on health and wellness to their students. All of this is done with a little effort on the front end with little or no maintenance work required.
You can also subscribe and unsubscribe to a feed easily. Why not add a feed for your current unit of study? Starting a unit on Space, add NASA’s Image of the Day feed. Having your kids do presentations in the class, why not subscribe to the Ted Ed feed? Poetry unit? How about Poetry 180, a feed that offers a poem for high school student every school day of the year? Add this feed when you start your poetry unit and then unsubscribe (if you want) when the unit is over.
RSS feeds can add a dynamic element to your class blog or website.
I recently added an RSS Feed Block on the sidebar of my Moodle page. The blog adds a feed of weekly writing prompts that students can use to get them started if they are having a hard time thinking of something to write about. I also added an RSS Feed to my blog that feeds tech news from Wired.com. This way I don’t have to do anything to add current content to my Moodle page or to my blog. Both of these sites stay current and up to date without any additional effort on my part.
RSS feeds can be used for your own professional/personal learning.
Providing current information for your students is great, but what about me? As a teacher, it is important that I stay up to date and current on the latest and greatest in education and with subject specific information. I use the Digg reader to automatically feed my favourite educational and tech blogs right to my reader. The advantage of this is that all my important information can be found in one place. One stop shopping so to speak. My feeds are not limited to just my own professional learning. I have feeds from my favourite news sources, blogs related to my hobbies, the classroom blog from my son’s classroom (not to mention his personal blog that he writes as part of his classwork), and even for my cycling club. Once again, this allows me to go to my Digg reader for everything. I don’t have to access one piece of information from one website (or app) and go to another to get my news. I don’t need to clog up my email inbox by subscribing to email updates. Email subscriptions seem like a good idea until you realise how quickly your inbox gets filled up making it hard to find the emails that actually have to be read and responded to. I hate to have unread mail. It makes me feel like I am going to miss something, that something important will be hidden in the mass of unread mail. Having my feeds set up this way allows me to access the information when and where I want.
What about a professional learning network for students? Students spend vast quantities of time on social networks. I think we should encourage our high school students to start to develop professional social networks. They should follow the leaders in the fields for which they are interested in. Adding the blogs or sites of your favourite writers or leading experts is a good way for teachers to stay current and up to date so why not our students. This is also a good way to get our students to think about how to best manage the flow of information that they have at their disposal every day. This is a critical literacy skill for our kids as they move forward as lifelong learners.
An RSS feed has many practical applications for your classroom and in your professional learning. It allows you to harness the power of so much great information and present it to you in a more manageable format in one single web page or app. A tool this powerful is something that should certainly be utilised in many ways for teachers.
In my first post of this unit, Looking in the mirror. What is my tech integration score? I discussed many of the challenges and successes I have had trying to integrate technology in the different roles I have played as a homeroom teacher, specialist teacher and now in my current role as tech coach. I believe that I have always tried hard to make good use of the devices in my classrooms, I even invited students to bring in devices before it was required or supported as a Grade 3 teacher. One aspect of my job now is to help teachers make good use of the devices that their students bring into the classroom for learning. I see iPads and laptops used heavily in the classes that I visit and I am not sure at this point what I will do to help teachers “kick it up a notch” or if it is actually necessary.
Although my role at AIS-R is that of Tech Integration Coach I believe in balance. Technology is another tool in the learning toolbox and is appropriate for some things but not for others. It has the power to unleash amazing learning in some students and to bog down others. I do think that it is a very important learning tool not only for it’s potential to expand resources and provide highly engaging ways to apply the knowledge that those resources provide but because technology plays a major role in all facets of our lives. Teaching students to use devices effectively is important to prepare them for the workplace and as a general overall life skill.
In the article Would 1 Laptop per Child Help Learning we see the great successes the state of Maine has had in leveling the learning playing field by providing all students with a laptop to support their learning. We don’t face the same challenges with respect to equal access to technology at our school. It is a private school where bringing devices is mandated. Everyone has the necessary technology (although internet access varies depending on where the student lives). The point remains however that access to technology clearly has positive effects on the learning of people in all walks of live. Information is truly transformative. Having the students bring the device in presents certain issues though. For example, Notability and iMovie are required apps for our iPad users and often families have not purchased or installed these or other necessary and required apps. When I visited the American Embassy School in Delhi, India for the iPad summit I noticed that there were no issues with students who didn’t have apps or that installed apps that were distracting and inappropriate. That’s because the school provided the iPads and installed and managed apps. I am sure there are disadvantages to this and that purchasing this technology is expensive for a school. As I reflect on where I need to go to improve device use in my school I realize that it is time to move past the particular device. Technology has been integrated into our classrooms at AIS-R for some time now. It is not just about teaching students how to use their iPad. It is about where technology takes us in our learning. It is about providing options. My job now is to help students know when it is appropriate to pick up their iPad or laptop because it supports their current need.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about thinking lately. We have had Ron Ritchart visit our school in the past few days to talk about Making Thinking Visible routines and creating Cultures of Thinking in our school and classrooms. Ron has given us lots of great insight into what it means to make our school a place of thinking and learning instead of being a place of work. Teachers need to give up the role of expert who fills students with knowledge and take on the challenge of providing and guiding students through rich thought filled activities and learning experiences where kids gain knowledge and 21st century skills by thinking. These concepts are not necessarily new or earth shattering and some of the same concepts are prevalent in project based learning.
What does technology have to do with all of this? I feel like there is this overwhelming fear that technology is going to make teachers obsolete. Why do we need teachers when there is a world of knowledge out there on the internet that students can access anytime they want? Why should I submit my learning (I am making a concerted effort to stop calling it work or school work) to the teacher for feedback when I can use powerful learning networks to get varied feedback from peers near and far, adult mentors and possibly professionals or experts in the field for which I am studying? Why take a test in my class when that same test can be delivered online and it can be graded quickly and more efficiently and I can use that feedback to guide my learning?
The simple answer to these questions for me is that the salvation of the future teacher is thinking. If we look at a teacher as a provider of knowledge and facts we are almost already obsolete. I say almost because students at this stage still need guidance in how to navigate the vast amounts of good, bad and ugly information that is at the disposal of any connected student. What we really need to start doing is teaching our students to think. We need to be providers of rich learning opportunities that are student driven, that force kids to reflect on what they know and what they want to know, that allow for choice, or are produced or presented for an authentic audience. While we give these opportunities we also need to support kids with good feedback and allow for taking risks. In the words of Ron Ritchart great learning opportunities need to have “low threshold, high ceilings and wide walls”. What I took from this is that low threshold means that everyone can get into the activity immediately. High ceilings indicate that the learning opportunities are open ended and can be extended for those who want to take it to the next level. Wide walls allow for students to demonstrate and explore learning in a wide array of ways.
Technology can not do all of this. Good teachers who want to have student learn to think must use the technology that they have at their disposal to support and encourage thinking. The ways in which technology can replace the “old school” teacher and make that teacher obsolete are tools for the new age teacher to meet the needs of students and allow for further exploration. They free teachers up from being the deliverer of knowledge to being true facilitators of learning and understanding. It frees them to develop and encourage new paths to knowledge and understanding. The technology helps to provide supports for the low threshold, scaffolds to reach the high ceilings and the means and methods to stretch the wide walls.
How will schools look in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? I can hardly guess at what the physical structures will be (school, classroom, etc) but I know that if teachers want to remain an important part of education we need to embrace technology integration to create meaningful and rich learning opportunities for our kids. It would be great to see more flexibility in learning allowing for more student support for those who need it and more autonomy for those who want to expand their learning by exploring areas of greater interest. A great example of that is Henry County in Georgia and the WIN (what I need) program. They have given their students a day that is set aside for extra help or extension into an area of interest. Teachers play an important role by approving plans for how kids will use this day. Students have to submit their plans for how they will use the day and they may be told that they need to use the time to get extra help with a concept or skill instead of pursuing some other learning that day. Extra help may come from teachers or peers. I think this is a great idea that make better use of available resources and supports.
Some may think that technology is rendering the teacher obsolete and that it is only a matter of time before we will not be needed. I disagree. I think it is an exciting time to be a teacher. We can use technology to change learning for the better.
I have been interested in Game Based Learning for a while but I don’t think I ever really had a firm grasp on it. I was very excited to to see this as an option for my COETAIL blog post this week.
My son like most other kids his age is a big Minecraft fan. Minecraft mystifies me at times. I am not sure that I totally “get it”. I have tried the pocket version on my iPad and I have a hard time playing for any length of time. It wasn’t until I played on our xbox that I really started to understand the broad appeal. For me what makes it so amazing is how players collaborate. In my case my son walked me through a few basic building techniques and then he set me to work on my part of the fortress we were building. Soon enough I saw progress being made and it was addictive to be working together to build this cool structure (especially when he showed me how to make our defensive weapons!). He is always working on amazing and creative collaborations with his friends and they work together to achieve goals. He also likes to play learning games like Prodigy and gets a little obsessive about trying to get to the next level.
The thought that a game based classroom is just a class full of kids playing video games is missing the point. I think this is the most common misconception about Gamification. This is really game based learning. To me the central theme or feature of it is increased motivation and engagement. In the article How Games Can Influence Learninggames are described as “an interactive, ‘lean-forward’ medium”. The experience is clarified to be game like instead of actually being a game. Learning experiences take students from one level to the next once the first level has been achieved. For example, a student may achieve mastery of single digit addition and move on to the next level – two digit. Just like in a video game the experience starts out simple and easy and then get gradually more and more challenging. The player moves through the levels of the game and is “credited” with being a level 6 player. In my oversimplified example of addition, students may graduate from level one (single digit addition) to level two (double digit). Along the way they may be awarded the level one badge or may earn points for themselves or their team. Players/students are always trying to lean forward and make their way to the next level of the game.
I have had teachers that were interested in implementing a Gamified Classroom. I feel much more confident to help guide them through the process now. Student motivation is often not on the forefront of thinking for teachers when planning units, lessons and learning activities. I would love to encourage teachers to give gamification a try as a means to increase student motivation for learning.
I recently witnessed a demonstration of a Spider Web Discussion with a Grade 6 class. This discussion is led and moderated by students. The students do everything. In fact the teacher just observes and assesses the discussion and really only steps in if absolutely necessary. Watching this method of discussion made me think of some of the courses and classes that I have taught and how my role in those classes was to guide students to work through projects, provide materials support, troubleshoot or help students to avoid major pitfalls (but not always). When I taught construction technology, web design or STEM the learning for the students was in the doing. I rarely “lectured” for more than 5 or 10 minutes. Students in my class were generally engaged, and were free to make and learn from mistakes. The approach was not always that of a Project Based Learning activity but there were a lot of the elements in everything that happened in those classes.
In my new role as Tech Integration Coach I have been working with the MS Learning Coach and one of our amazing Arabic teachers to design a problem based unit for her advanced level Arabic classes. Arabic language classes are mandatory for students and although we have many students who are new to the language for a large percentage of our kids it is their native language. There is a lot of pressure from the parent community to provide strict “old school” curriculum but of course this type of learning does not engage our students. Our main goals are to have students meet the standards of the class by writing, speaking and listening to the language. We devised a “Student News” project where students can report on topics of interest. The topic and format is determined by the student or the group of students. The students are central to the learning process in this project. I am hearing from the teacher that the learning is more authentic and the kids are much more engaged. She tells me that she now has some time to conference with the kids, to give them one on one support and she still does some “traditional” lessons.
I have never really felt comfortable with the “sage on the stage” role. This may be why I have always been attracted to more of a project based learning style. I also learn better by actually doing something instead of listening to someone tell me how to do it. What I need to do a better job of is creating that central overarching question that hooks kids and grabs their attention. Questions like “What’s the better car: Dodge Viper or Shelby Cobra?” from Kevin Grant in the article Perfecting with Practice: Project Based Teaching are a great example of how to hook students in peak their interest in the subject matter. How can you not get excited about the physics of fast cars? Luckily for me I will have opportunities to see more great Project Based Learning in practice as Tech Coach at AIS-R. I know that in the Middle School my colleagues and COETAIL cohort-mates Francois and Craig are very keen on Project Based Learning. They are often encouraging other teachers to adopt this in their classrooms.
As I mentioned in my last blog post I have recently moved into a new role in my school. As the new person in a brand new job as Middle School/High School Technology Integration Coach I am still trying to get a sense of what the job entails. I don’t have a class to teach so a traditional unit is a bit out of the question except that I may be able to help develop one through a coaching cycle. I guess that is a possibility but I am not sure it is a great option for this assignment. I am involved in a few tech related projects in the school at the moment. I am leading the MS Technology Task force. I have been tasked with making the MS ePortfolio more of a focus for students, teachers and parents as well as planning an ePortfolio that will be used for the first time with Grade 9 students in the High School.
The first option will be to make my work with the MS Tech Task Force my Final Project for course 5. My students (the MS faculty) will develop greater competency and confidence using and integrating technology in their classrooms and planning. They will have dedicated time to develop tech understandings and skills through workflows planned around the ISTE Standards for Students. In turn they will be addressing the ISTE Standards for Teachers. The ePortfolio project is designed to improve student learning and reflection by creating a place to showcase learning, to document the learning steps and also to document and reflect on the readiness to meet the learning objectives or standards of each unit.
Both projects reflect many of the aspects of what I have learned in COETAIL. COETAIL put technology integration thinking on the “front burner” as an educator. They both require time to be dedicated to using technology with the end result to be improved student learning.
My goals with the Tech Task Force as stated above is to improve teacher competency and confidence using and integrating technology in their classrooms and planning. The goals for the ePortfolio are to have a place for students to showcase and reflect on their learning so that it is easily accessible for all stakeholders. This is a three pronged process. The first is to educate students and teachers as to how the Google Site can be used. Secondly, the project must be revisited to make sure that it is meeting its intended purpose and adjustments made accordingly. Finally parents will have to be educated on how the site can be accessed and how they can make the most of the information that they find to determine how they can best support the learning of their child.
I think these are both good possibilities for my Course 5 final project. I believe that the scope of each of the projects is appropriate for this assignment. They are both significant projects that present ample technology integration opportunities. I am not sure that there will be huge pedagogical shifts for these projects. My pedagogy has always had a focus on technology integration. The shift required may be in motivating my colleagues to invest the time and effort to make them useful in their classrooms. These new skills and attitudes will have to be fostered throughout this project. The greater burden on me will be to design something that is useful and worth any additional investment of the precious time of Faculty members. It also requires me to devise a plan that acknowledges a wide range in skills and attitudes related to technology. The plan will have to be heavily differentiated.