Final Project – Making Connections

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I really want students to start thinking about how to make positive connections online, and then transfer those feelings into the “real” world.  I think that if we start fostering a connection before students transition into a new school we can make friendships more meaningful before students come.  We can also make deeper connections to other schools who may not be ever coming to see us.

I’m going to start this project in the new year with the grade 3 class studying migration ( I just checked my first UbD for Coetail and it was also about migration, funny huh?).

The important bit for me is making the emotional connection, the product and most of the process will be student led (I hope) because we are working on empathy and connectivism.

Here’s hoping anyway, let me know if you have any ideas.

Problems could be real inquiry

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I think problem based learning is pretty critical for our developing of thinking skills.  We need to start seeing problems without the need for immediate solutions, we need to work with teachers to help students understand it’s okay not to know “the” answer.

Often I work with open-ended problem based questions and at the beginning of the year, many students have a difficult time.  They want to know the answer, but in my world there is rarely an answer. 
Using technology seems like an easy way to explore possible solutions to problem based curriculum and as a way to connect. 
This is where my mind has been going, as we’re getting ready for course five, connecting, the world, and action. 
I’m wondering how I can pose a problem to my students, and get them to work on finding a solution. 
I think… right now anyway, I’m going to ask them to come up with a solution to my problem.  How can we create a relationship with a community we don’t “know”.  Working with some colleagues in Ontario, I hope our class can create an opportunity to interact with, and create an emotional connection with a “community” there. 
I think it’s a “problem”  because I don’t know how to do it, so there is no easy solution.  I just hope we can all be motivated to make it happen.  
This post is a little scattered, but hopefully by our blog next week with the ubd will be sorted. 

Spin me right ’round

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 Some rights reserved by dbr Atl

I’ve been wondering about how important “flipped learning” or “reverse instruction” can be for learning for our classrooms.

Initially, and still really, the idea seems obvious to me.  Of course we want students doing, creating and making while we are with them.  Not only because Bloom’s Taxonomy says it’s a higher level of learning, but because that is the part of teaching that I enjoy the most. 
I’ve wondered how we can do this in the Primary Years Program as well.  I think that when we are looking over concepts and ideas, we can introduce these at home (through videos). I know that at our school our home learning does not always connect to our daily lives in the classroom.  Our math work is often practice sheets, we have traditional spelling assignments at home, which is not what the teachers I work with do in their classrooms.  I think that providing videos to “tune in” to the day or week’s tasks would be incredibly helpful for learning, and overall classroom enjoyment.  More than that, the parents would get a bigger sense of the concept based approach we take at our school. 
This article resonated with me because of the “pitfalls” section.  This is more than just changing a way we teach, it’s changing the way we learn and the culture of schools.  These changes can’t happen immediately for everyone, we are shifting the culture of what it means to be a leaner, and it’s all very exciting. 
I use videos with teachers, for my instruction with them, and then we work together on their projects.  By giving them the main concept of what we want them to know, our face to face time is set on pedagogical approaches to learning and changing classroom culture.  I’m also modelling a basic flipped learning approach. 
We use blendspace to  get teachers used to our google apps approach before school starts. All incoming teachers are asked to go through some short “courses” if they are familiar with google apps they can just take the quizzes.  These short quizzes allow us as Edtech coaches to zero in on what each teacher needs help with, so instead of doing an hour or two on google apps, we can go into individual teacher’s classrooms and work with them on the specifics of things they need to be able to do. 
Blended and flipped learning really help us zero in on specifics and get students working their ideas out.  Creation is the most engaging aspect of learning, and a flipped classroom helps us get to the heart of creation. 

Can phenomenology be online?

The Lived Experience 

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Phenomenology is the idea of making meaning from your lived experiences (basically). During my master’s research I used this methodology to dig deeper into my understanding of what it meant to be an environmental educator. As a teacher, I believe in the idea of constructivism, and making meanings based on your previous experiences. So much of learning for me is experiential based, we learn by doing, and reflecting on our actions (either in groups or on our own).  With this idea of knowledge as being, I wonder a lot about gamification in the classroom.

What’s Real? 

My main questions when thinking about gamification or anything really online, is what is real? If we learn from our experiences, what is an “actual” experience. I think this video is pretty powerful, and I think it’s something we have to think about as educators, especially when we are moving beyond “connections”.  So as educators when we are thinking about gamification, we have to think about creating authentic gaming experiences.

Gaming versus Gamification 

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Frustrations first, earlier this year we had a math website rep come to our school and talk about how their website gamified education, we had a lms platform come in saying they gamified learning.  They did this through badges and scores.  It totally put me off.  Badges, scores, etc. don’t make a game.  A real purpose or challenge makes a game. Through this real purpose you can have opportunities to level up, or earn points but clicking a button to “practice” math skills is not a game. It’s clicking a button (that has no real learning value).

I struggle with gamification, because I don’t think I like the term.  Apple uses challenge based learning, PYP uses their performance task to illuminate their central idea, and using pedagogy like this to engage your class can create a game like atmosphere.  Setting challenges for students to complete before they meet the next challenge is more what I think of when I think of gamification.  
I loved the minecraft history project video. No where was the teacher trying to create a game like atmosphere. There was a question posed (create a sustainable city) and different ways to reach that goal. I personally have a hard time imaging someone doing a more in-depth job than the student who used Minecraft, but I’m not sure using Minecraft on it’s own would’ve gamified the situation. 
In the “Raising Engagement in e-learning through gamification” there is an emphasis on fast feedback that I believe is crucial.  In games you quickly get a sense if you’re winning and losing.  Using connectivism to interact with other people can help you correct your actions.  This formative assessment is crucial for engaged learners. 
One of the quotations from this week that resonated deeply with me was:

“It’s not about the technology; it is about new ways of thinking. The barriers are in our heads,” Harrison says. “Learning is not about content, it is about creation. Isn’t that our job: to help kids learn how to do things? Our job is to prepare children for the world that exists.” – Nick Morrison
We need to change how we think about learning, not just gamify something. We need to encourage students to create and engage in their learning, not just consume by clicking buttons.  A program or an app can’t do this. Teachers need to do this, and I think creating authentic learning experiences (online or otherwise) is the most difficult part: however, it’s likely the most important part.