What’s your watch?

 Some rights reserved by Will Lion

After about two years, I’m finally a part of a blog sharing program (hooray right?).  Anyway, we can select from a number of different prompts and then we respond to how it’s going.  I chose What is your watch #teachermyth because I think like a lot of us, we have things that don’t work, but we keep around just in case they start to work at some point. The purpose of objects can change, and that can also change our workflow, so, I guess we all need to look a little closer into what’s actually being used effectively in our and our students’ learning.

For me, and I’m not sure how to say this as a digital literacy coach, I’m not sure blogging for students is hitting the same purpose as it was.  When it was new and exciting, lots of my classes had exchanges with different schools from all over. Now it seems more like just a reflection exercise. Blogging isn’t just boring (for students anyway) anymore, I think we have lost the point of transformative learning. On the SAMR model, it might just be augmentation, I guess the point of this is that we really have to get to what is it’s current purpose.

I also wonder about most technology being a watch. Are we still using it to redefine and transform education or are we looking for easy substitutes or to fill in time or to make our lives easier?

Regardless I guess, I was excited by the chance to reflect on what I’m doing in class. I think this article made me think of how and what I teach a little differently.



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With our grade 3 classes we’ve been using blogs to reflect what we are learning. More than that though, I am hoping to make our reflections interesting.  Almost all of my students think that reflection is like a recount.  Here’s what we learned, this list of things.  I know now this.

It’s frustrating, mainly because I want to move away from that kind of learning, but my students obviously still see learning this way.  I try to tell them that let me know what you learned, not what was taught, what’s your big take away, why does it matter? 
Then I wonder why or who taught us how to reflect.  I think for my next couple of lessons I’m going to look at some other student blogs and teacher blogs to talk about what’s really important about learning. Then go to maybe tumblr or something to show how we are always kind of reflecting.  Maybe some comics, to talk about processing visually, maybe Nicki’s Blog to show how we can even think differently. 
School is off for two weeks so I have heaps of time to prepare, but how can we teach students to write interesting reflections, I’ve used them as the audience, and even they are bored.  So time to inspire I guess. 

Course 3 – Final Project

There were a lot of interesting options for our final project. However, I had a quick chat with Scott over twitter and we talked about what we were thinking. He suggested, and I agreed that Visual Literacy needed to be the core of what we taught, but we still strongly believed in Connectivism.  We wanted to create connections in our students, so it wasn’t just us telling them about the importance of design methods, it was their peers.  So, I chose a grade 3 class I work with frequently and he picked his grade 6 class and our goal was to have our students create presentations and then comment on each others looking specifically at CRAP design principles.

I started off by teaching my students about the PARC design methods

The following week I worked with them on colour ideas

The plan was to share one of their previous final projects on their blog and then talk about some of the design methods they recognized, and how they would use their new knowledge to create a better product.  The incentive for them was, they were going to be connected to a school in KL that would talk about how they saw the design methods being used.

The students were very enthusiastic, they took pictures of their work and posted it, they started to talk about how their work was following some of the design principles, and how they would improve.  They noticed quickly that a lot of the design methods built on their knowledge of reading non-fiction texts. By placing the information boxes near their images they had proximity, but it was a text-feature they were used to.  Most of the students ended up talking about colour (and using colour) to describe how they were feeling.

We had some decent work being done by the grade 3s, and I was ready to share with Scott.  However, time was running out (because of school vacation) so the comments didn’t reach each other in time for the students to see them before this post.

We ran into some other difficulties as well.  Our grade 3 students are in a “walled garden”.  So when I checked their work (I could see it), however Scott’s students could not. When I get back to school I hope to fix this as much as I can (either by hosting the images on my drive, or what I’m not sure).  But this made me think about our tech goal of having digital portfolios and how in grade 3, parents won’t be able to see or share the images (which is an important part of visual literacy).

Our students (Scott’s and mine from the conversations we had) didn’t seem to understand as much as we were hoping.  Part of that, I think, has to do with the lack of visual literacy being taught at our schools currently.  This is something I have already brought up with my EdTech Director, and my principals, and I am working on teaching it to students when I can.  But in order for our students to fully understand how images are being used on them (I’m not sure how else to phrase that) they need to start creating meaningful images themselves.  This was our first attempt at looking at CRAP methods, and it looked like it was a first attempt.  Hopefully when they get back to school and see the comments from the other students in Scott’s school they will think about their work a little more deeply.

The big win for me (even though it hasn’t happened yet) was the comments from the other school.  I feel that visual literacy is really important, but Scott and I both think that connecting students can bring forth powerful change.  So, these comments, I hope will inspire my students to take their image creation seriously, and think about why they make things, and how they make things.

I enjoyed working with Scott, it was easy and I feel our values are pretty aligned, I’m looking forward to using this connection more, not just as part of COETAIL, but beyond.

Consuming or Creating or Both

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I was reading George Couros’ blog today about “work phone mentality“, while I always enjoy his blog posts, this one really got me thinking.

At my previous school, before we introduced iPads to the classroom we gave them to our teachers for six months.   The first two months were playing, and like Couros mentioned, not everyone played. Some people used it for personal communication, some looked into how they could use it with students, but I guess everyone who used it thought about how they could use it to enhance their teaching (which is great).  But I don’t think anyone used it to try to create something (myself included).

I don’t think we were solely consuming (or we were aware of solely consuming), rather I think so much of what we know as educators is to consume and adapt. Rarely are we asked to create change, or stimulate change (well in our students yes, but in the system? I don’t think so).

For the past two years as an EdTech coach, I’ve been asking teachers to create rather than consume with their learners.  And I fully support that idea today, but I think I’ve missed out on some of the benefits of consuming, or I’ve been using the word improperly or just leaving off the creating aspect from consuming.

Consuming, creating and the commons

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While I often think of the potential of creative commons, I don’t always think of it as a tool for both creating and consuming (although now that I think of it, I can’t actually imagine it any other way).  Coming from a constructivist view point, I believe we build on from our previous knowledge, besides direct experience and then consumption (reading, watching, listening, interacting) to other people’s experience, I don’t know what other ways we can acquire knowledge.

As I head into my classes on digital citizenship, and crediting sources this week, I really want to highlight this opportunity to consume and create for our whole learning community. 

Being a part of a community

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It’s been two weeks or something since the last post, and this quotation has been floating through my mind.

During my studies in environmental education Aldo Leopold was someone I always admired, but it’s pretty easy to admire someone like this.  I’m trying to think about connections and the importance of “preserving the integrity” of the communities of which I’m a part.

 Some rights reserved by Halina Ward

During the summer break I’m going to be working hard at preserving the integrity of my community.  I need to continue to focus on blogging, just in order to keep reading, and reaching out to my community of like minded people.  So I’m asking for help, how do the rest of you keep going during this time, who do you connect to, and how do you connect (especially if you live overseas)?

Always wanting more

I feel like I have been trying to do this for awhile, and it is so difficult to get to where I want to be with global collaboration. As a technology coach I have heard teachers often say they have no time. 

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This is always frustrating for me because I feel with technology we have the option for asynchronous learning, so we don’t actually need common shared time we can use whatever time we have. 

In Davidson’s article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age  I often feel like she did when she saw the gorilla (and I think many of my students feel the same way).  Instead of having a legitimate reason for not really paying attention to the assignment, I feel like trying to focus on just one thing (counting the passes) makes us miss out on the larger systemic issues that might be happening.  If we are paying attention to something too closely we can miss out on other learning opportunities.  What we need to do as teachers (connectivist teachers especially) is to link our learners up (either digitally or physically) with people who see the world a little differently. 

The crowdsourcing idea for grading and learning and transforming learning makes so much sense to me, why should I be in charge of what is “good” or “passable”.  Students might take assignments more seriously if their peers, or someone they looked up to were judging them. Again, like Clarissa says “It’s something I can do in my spare time, be creative and write and not have to be graded,” because, “you know how in school you’re creative, but you’re doing it for a grade so it doesn’t really count?”

Personally, I think it’s pretty inspiring that companies like Apple work with schools and let school communities repurpose their apps and technology. I love the idea of App Smashing especially when thinking about how to collaborate.

Our Collaborative Plans

At our school we have been trying hard to work with other schools. We have worked with other schools on our blogs. It has been a decent journey so far, we have people communicating with each other, asking questions and slowly digging deeper. But I would really like to “prosume” with another school.

Right now I am working with an environmental educator Ranger Ridley to work with Ontario schools for our units on Sharing the Planet. Like Andrew Marcinek mentions in his article the purpose of using social media, or blogs should go beyond connecting, which leaves me always wanting more. I am doing okay at connecting students, but how can I reach the empowerment stage?

So our success doesn’t look like this… 


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by MaRS Discovery District: 

I’m in the middle of blog lessons, and as we start talking about what and how we will write we are delving into digital citizenship. So far what has impressed me most about my student’s interpretations of this idea is that good digital citizenship is basically good citizenship, they just see it as an extension of their normal community.

Thankfully this allows me to talk about integrating good global citizens into my lessons this week. We can talk about what responsibility means to us in a digital and natural world, and how often those things are connected.  Most of my students know what it means to treat their classmates with respect, making that connection to posting pictures of others online makes sense to most of them.  Making the extension that these actions (both positive and negative) last longer online then they do in the classroom can be a difficult concept, but we have looked up the first website, and that makes it possible to see how long things last online (even if they are no longer as relevant as they once were). 
Responsibility to a community is something I feel we need to highlight in these lessons, and I can talk about our responsibility to the natural world as well.  Citing sources is like where we get our resources from. We need to be aware of where these things come from and treat their origins with respect.  Thinking about how we interact with others is extremely important in order to help our community reach its full potential.  
When I think about permaculture principles (the ones we made for the kids, Earth care, People care, Fair Share) I think it is easy to put these ideas into our digital citizenship classes.  I guess what I’m really wondering is how Digital citizenship is different from citizenship, any ideas? 

Note Taking and Random Thoughts on Repurposing.

Did a fun note taking class today with googledocs.  Learned all this from a coworker who learned it from Jeff Utecht. Using googledocs I had students work in threes (I will make only three students in the class do this later, I’m just practicing skills right now).  On your googledoc I had them create a table with two columns.  One column was for big ideas, and the other column was for facts.  One person would be responsible for one column, the another person would be responsible for the other.  The third person in the group was responsible for finding images.  I found the students way more engaged in the note taking activity when they were responsible for a single task, not trying to see the big picture and the small details.  While they were working away, I would add comments to their work to extend their learning.  By giving the students options in the future (especially in high school or university, this would’ve made my life way easier) they can choose now between working on their own or working collaboratively.  Student choice is important to me and this activity game me an opportunity to really embody that belief.

Today is also Remembrance Day so I got to thinking about my grandparents.  One day my grandma asked if I would be working outside, I affirmed this idea and she handed me a thin sponge tied to an elastic band (like we have in pants or shirts).  She told me it was a sweatband and it worked really well.  I try to go beyond just the three Rs and think about sustainable design.  My grandma was great at this, always repurposing things.  I try, but it’s almost always easier for me to find something that fits a specific need. With apps for the ipad I try to remind my teachers we are going for actual creativity. By repurposing apps and giving students fewer directions we can use specific apps for different ideas. The apps that are specifically for a function always seem limiting, but Showme, educreations, and most of iWork and iLife seem to work really well for getting students to push boundaries.  Although my grandma was never into tech, it is a great way for me to repurpose her ideas.

This week we are starting our tech/teaching group. We’re looking for a name and trying to blog more and tweet more.  Hopefully it will help us all integrate tech that leads directly towards student learning.  Building my community to keep me focused, thanks for the help with the forming good habits!

Blogging and Students

Finally I’ve started with students and blogging and reactivated the class twitter account.  It’s a totally different experience working as a single subject teacher rather than a classroom teacher.  Right now I’m trying to lay down the groundwork to bring the idea of blogging into classes.

The students loved it. Instead of reflecting just for themselves and spurring no action. The students had to think about what they as a class learned and then the one student scribe had to think about specifically what she learned. It was wonderful and easy really.

I feel like it’s a good start, just need to keep it up by forming those good habits.