Category Archives: eci832

So You Want to Start a Podcast…

Over the past couple months, I have grown in my knowledge and experience with the art of podcasting. What started out as a school project, actually turned into a new passion. With all of the uncertainty and changes that have happened in our world recently… listening to podcasts, taking part in interviews, and creating my own episodes have been a beautiful way to cope with the current situation that we are living in. As I reflect back on my podcast process so far, I thought I would share some tips and tricks that I learned along the way in case you are thinking of starting one of your own.

1. Quality Matters

When I first started this project, I put out a survey to ask people what they look for in a podcast. It soon became clear that people prioritize good sound quality. I quickly learned a few ways to increase the quality of my podcast without breaking the bank. There were a few things that I did in order to make the sound of my podcast stand out. First, I made sure I had a good microphone. I bought a Yeti Nano microphone for around $120. I was very impressed with it’s high sound quality and capability to connect to any computer. I also purchased a pop filter to help reduce background noise. Later, I purchased a microphone headset from Amazon for around $40 to see if it compared. Unfortunately, I got what I paid for with the Amazon purchase because the sound quality was significantly less.

I now know, that in the grand scheme of things, $120 is worth it if it makes your podcast quality stand out. I also found an easy trick to increase sound quality- record in your closet! I was shocked at how much better the confined space made my podcast sound. Sometimes it just takes experience to figure out what makes your podcast sound quality stand out.

2. Choose the Right Platform

When I first started out, I chose Anchor as my platform to record and edit my podcasts. After realizing that Anchor is a better program for hosting rather than recording and editing, I decided to do my recording on Zencastr, especially since all of my interviews were long distance. I was thoroughly impressed with the quick-to-learn features and top notch sound quality. I had to pay a minimal amount (as in a couple of dollars) to download my finished recording, but it was completely worth it! As for the editing, I chose Garage Band because it gave me ownership over my content and I was able to fine tune it more meticulously. However, I still use Anchor to host my podcasts because they automatically and easily distribute to all of the podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

voicEd | Your voice is right here!

I also host my podcast on voicEd.ca, which is an incredible website for educational blogs and podcasts across North America. There are so many options and avenues you can take when creating your podcast, so it’s important to do your research and choose the right platform.

3. Be Creative

In order for my podcast to stand out, I wanted to not only make sure my episodes sounded clean and well-recorded, but I also wanted my logo and brand to look established. I didn’t put much thought into my original logo because I didn’t create it with much of a purpose. As I became more invested into my podcast, I decided my logo needed a change. I chose an online design website to create my logo so that the process could be quick and inexpensive. I usually use Canva for my design needs, but this time I decided to try out PicMonkey. They are both easy-to-use websites with engaging templates, but PicMonkey has a monthly fee. Luckily I signed up under their 7 day free trial, so I was able to do my logo free of charge. In a couple of days, I turned my podcast from something that looked amateur into a brand that now looks established. It’s amazing what a little creativity can do to freshen up your podcast look!

4. Be Prepared

You might think that a podcast episode is done with little to no preparation. Think again. When you see a new podcast episode up, what you don’t see are the countless hours of planning and hard work put into that. I quickly learned that every new episode is a longer process than I had initially thought. However, the more experience I got with it, the more efficient and organized I became. Before I start recording a podcast episode, I start preparing in various ways. Throughout this project, I learned some strategies that helped me and could help you too! When I first started out and was organizing my first interview, I would do all of my communication and scheduling through email. However, it was a lot of “back and forth” and the finer details were hard to keep up with. I came up with a podcast document on Google Docs that outlined the recording schedule and contained details about the recording process and platform. Closer to the recording date, I would email my guest the “talking points” and questions that I had planned for the interview. I realized that when I put more time and planning into the interview, I was more confident when it came time for the episode.

5. Reach Out

Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and make connections with other people! I was surprised to find that almost all the people I reached out to were receptive and excited when I asked them to be a guest on my podcast. I made incredible connections with people like Kathy Cassidy and Mike Ribble. I also reached out to companies like Seesaw and Common Sense Education and they both put me in touch with people who were willing to share their knowledge. Reaching out also opened up a lot of doors and created opportunities for me. I made a connection with Vicki Davis, from the 10 Second Teacher Podcast, and she asked me to speak on her podcast. Due to the recent events of COVID-19, unfortunately those interviews had to be rescheduled, but they are still to come! It’s important to ask and connect, because most of the time, people will support you and join your journey.

6. Do Your Research

Before you interview any guest or speak on a podcast, it’s important that you do your research. When I put out my initial survey asking what people looked for in a podcast, people talked about the importance of quality research. Right when I started this project, I knew I had to put in the effort before I started the recording process. When I have an interview coming up, I read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, check out their About Me page, and read articles they have been a part of. I make sure that I am well-versed with their material so that I understand the topic and can plan for the interview accordingly. Research and understanding is an important part of the podcast process.

7. Be Authentic

I have come to realize that authenticity and vulnerability are important in connecting people to your podcast. When I first started making podcasts, I was nervous when it came time for recording. I had everything scripted and I made sure that when I edited it, the final copy sounded perfect. However, the more practice and experience I gained, the more my need for perfection decreased. I have started using my questions and talking points as a guideline and I am intentional about letting the conversation go in the direction that it needs to. Yes, I have structure for each interview, but I have also learned that there is beauty in a real conversation. As I have grown in my podcasting abilities, I have learned to be more confident and authentic in what I have to say.

There you have it! 7 important steps if you are thinking of starting a podcast yourself. It takes a lot of work to start your own podcast and organize each episode, but the outcome is worth the effort. Even though my formal project for the semester is done, this is just the start of my podcasting journey. I am looking forward to what I come up with next! In the mean time, you can subscribe to EdTech Endeavours on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and take a look at the rest of my podcasting journey below!

  1. Research, Reflect, Repeat: A Podcast in the Making
  2. Growth and Goals: A Look Into my Podcast Progress
  3. “In Conversation with Stephen Hurley” Interview
  4. The Podcast Playback: The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship Edition
  5. The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Kathy Cassidy
  6. The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Mike Ribble
  7. “I Wish I Knew Edu” Interview… Coming Soon!

Thanks for joining me on this journey! Keep a look out for more interviews and podcasts coming up soon… and while we are waiting, let me know what topic you want to hear about or guest I should have next on my podcast!

-Amanda

Major Project Reflection – Coding in the Classroom

I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of this semester. It’s crazy to think about how much our personal lives have changed since the first class on January 7. In the first two months of this semester, I was still coaching sports, teaching in my physical classroom, going to the gym, shaking hands with people, and even my first trip to Disneyworld! The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly changed our lifestyles and routines. This pandemic has given me a lot of opportunity to reflect and think about many different things, especially in regards to educational technology. When this is all over, I’m curious to see what structures or practices will change in education. I’m hopeful that we can critically look at our experiences and practices post Covid-19 and make some positive changes to education. In regards to my major project about coding, I accomplished most of the major goals I set at the beginning of the semester.

As I wrote about in my first blog post, I’ve been very skeptical about coding over the past couple of years. For me, most of that skepticism has come from not seeing meaningful curriculum connections when coding. I’ve been privileged to attend multiple PD sessions about coding but still couldn’t fully jump into it. I can honestly say that my learning through this major project has given me the skills and confidence to spend some more time coding in my grade 5/6 classroom. I can see value and purpose and I look forward to seeing where I can take this in the middle years classroom. I’ve actually had multiple students ask if they can learn some coding during this supplemental learning period.

The Learning Journey

To start my major project, I spent hours reading and trying to make sense of the terms of service and privacy policies for Scratch and Micro:bit. As we had just heard Mary Beth Hertz speak, these ideas were still fresh on my mind. This was honestly the first time in my life I dedicated more than 10 seconds to a policy for a tool I was using for my personal use. As I wrote about in my blog post, these policies are full of legal jargon, confusing, and not really enjoyable to read. Even though the read wasn’t that great, it was truly a rewarding experience to go through this process. It really make me think and reflect on my practice of using digital tools. As we shifted into online supplementary learning, I was questioning these things and applying this learning to the process. Whether its for personal or educational purposes, I still ponder the question: What’s the value of our persona data?

Once I was finished with the policies, I shifted into the fun stuff of my project. I spent a lot of time coding on both Scratch and Microbit. During my coding experience on Scratch, I was able to get a solid understanding of how the coding software works. I gained a good understanding of most of the functions and addressed common challenges I foresee in the classroom. I think that Scratch is a tool that can easily be used in the middle years classroom.

Once I was finished exploring with Scratch, I shifted directly into Micro:bit. To be honest, I think this was the most enjoyable part of the entire coding experience. I had a great time coding with Micro:bit and I look forward to sharing this with my students. As I highlighted in my blog post, I spent a lot of time exploring and troubleshooting common challenges that I would come across when using in the classroom. I’m very hopeful that I can get my hands on a few Micro:bit’s and explore this with my students.

As I could have spend my entire major project simply just coding, I had to spend some time addressing my other goals for the project. I researched and explored ways to connect coding with Saskatchewan grade 6 curriculum. Through this process, I was able to find authentic connections to ELA, Arts Ed, Science, Math, and Social Studies. I know for a fact that there are so many other ways to connect coding to the curriculum. Through some collaboration on Twitter, I was introduced to some new ideas and resources I hadn’t come across in my research.

Lastly, I explored and did some research on the Saskatchewan Robotics and Automation curriculum that was introduced last year. I was able to get a strong understanding of the structure and key components of this curriculum. This learning gave me the confidence and re-assurance that coding should be taught and explored in our elementary schools.

In conclusion, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to explore coding for my major project. I was able to develop and advance my technical skills when it comes to using coding software in the classroom. In addition, I found that “proof” I’ve been searching for over the last couple years. I can see the value of using this in my classroom. More importantly, I think this learning will benefit many students that I have a major influence on. I look forward to the day that I can introduce and explore coding with my students.

Let’s Address Access: Analyzing the Digital Divide

There is much to be said about privilege, especially during the recent events of COVID-19. Do you have somewhere warm, comfortable, and safe to self-isolate during this time? Privilege. Do you have access to health care? Privilege. Can you drive your car to get groceries and do you have enough money to “stock up” on food or other necessities when you need them? Privilege.

It’s important to recognize your privilege in these situations of crisis because there are many who have overwhelming barriers in the way of accessing basic human rights.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

The most recent privilege that I have been analyzing in my own life, and in our world, is the access to internet and technology. The Digital Divide, “the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not”, is more clear now more than ever, especially since schools have closed due to the global pandemic. Every community, school division, and city is now facing this reality head on.

Since the recent school closures, it has become obvious that there are inequities among students and their families when it comes to technology. There are many physical boundaries that are in the way of connection and access. To help with these struggles, school boards and districts around the world are lending out technology and purchasing devices for students, but unfortunately, a lot of these procedures and actions take time. Catherine also poses an important question when it comes to lending out division-owned technology: “What are the risks and implications of this model?” In a time like now, it’s hard to know what the right answer is or how to best meet the needs of every family. Even if students do have mobile devices at home, Common Sense Media brings up an important point by saying, “while a majority of students have access to mobile devices, these devices do not offer students the same tools as an internet-enabled computer for research, reporting, creating, and connecting.” There are so many variables to factor into our decisions about online learning.

Access and connection are key in bridging the Digital Divide. So how do we address the needs of students and families who lack internet connection or access to technology? Instead of overlooking this important need, we need to come together as educators and do our part in this current crisis. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. However, I am hopeful that we can work together to help bridge the gap.

Lack of Access and Connection

Not only is it important to think about students’ access to technology itself, it’s also crucial to factor in how they are accessing the internet. With the COVID-19 procedures and laws, we are unable to use our community resources, such as libraries, coffee shops, or schools, to use Wi-Fi. Digital Access, “the equitable distribution of technology and online resources” is an important element in Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. In a recent interview I had with Mike Ribble on the EdTech Endeavours Podcast, we talked about the challenges that public school divisions are facing right now when implementing digital education access while making it equitable for all students.

He says that during our current world crisis, “it’s not just providing the tool… it’s the connection, it’s the internet access that’s needed.” One strategy that his district is implementing is providing hot spots for students so that they can continue their education while school buildings are closed. If the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declares internet a basic human right (2016), then we need to adapt and make it completely accessible for every student. Ribble reminds us that yes, “it is an expense, but if we’re going to really want all students… to still thrive within this time and still stay learning with their peers, then we have to provide those resources.”

Recently, CBC News interviewed Laura Tribe, the executive director of OpenMedia, and she opened up about the inequalities that our local communities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to internet and technology access. She suggests “maybe this is the time to consider sharing your Wi-Fi. Or if you have an extra device lying around that would help someone who doesn’t have one, they could borrow it.” Stepping up to help those around us is not just something school divisions should be responsible for, it’s something we, as a society, should be doing, myself included.

Family Engagement
Another valuable point to consider when addressing the Digital Divide is our communication with families. Without reaching out to families and asking them what their needs are, we are missing the point. As educators, it is our job to include parents and kids in these conversations. By simply asking them how they are doing, finding out what their challenges are, and if they need access to technology or internet, we begin to understand what supports need to be put in place to encourage them and help them succeed. Last week, I attended a webinar put on by Common Sense Education called “Education Beyond the Margins; Meeting the Digital needs of Underserved Families.” They have a “whatever it takes” approach to connecting with families and empowering them in this time.

During this webinar, they suggested using practical tools and resources when reaching newcomers who may have a language barrier. Using the app “Talking Points“, a “multilingual texting tool”, helps with communication and connection. If families are unable to access internet, it’s important that we adapt and reach them through other avenues. Instead of using the lack of technology as an excuse to stop communication with families, pick up a phone and call them.

Jennifer Gonzalez says that “in some cases where students & parents simply can’t be reached via Internet, regular phone calls are working for some teachers. To maintain privacy with your number, Google Voice may be an option.” Reach them in whatever way possible. Not only is internet connection a necessity for bridging the Digital Divide gap, but human connection is as well.

Now What?

As Mike Ribble states, it has become evident that “we will be different on the other side of this pandemic because of the things that we learn”. What if we used this time to really evaluate our inequities as a society and plan for a fair future?

As we continue to venture into the unknown, I will cling to the words of George Couros: “equity at the highest level, not simply equity, is something that we should always strive for in education. Every student should have the best opportunities to learn in ways that will help them now and in the future.”

Exploring the Robotics and Automation Curriculum

As part of my major project, I wanted to spend some time exploring the Saskatchewan Robotics and Automation Curriculum. Although this is a high school curriculum, I thought it would be valuable to see how my students can continue using the skills learned in the middle years when they move to high school. In addition, I though it would be valuable to identify some important concepts and find way to incorporate this into the middle year. I believe that approaching coding and robotics as a continuum is far more valuable than random coding activities.

It appears that this curriculum was introduced to school divisions in the fall of 2019. According to a CBC article from September of 2019, “School divisions are responsible for determining what schools in their jurisdictions will offer these courses,” an email from the ministry said. “Divisions assess local needs and make programming decisions accordingly.” When I read that, I’m curious as to how often these programs are offered in our high schools across this province. In addition, do our schools have the necessary tools and resources to successfully offer these programs? Resources for robotics are not cheap and I worry they would not get the adequate funding to create a strong robotics program.

As I am an elementary school teacher, I do not know if these courses are offered regularly in our high schools. Please leave comment below if you can provide some insight on this question.

What is this course about?

The focus of this course is on design, construction, operation and use of autonomous and/or radio-controlled robotic devices. In addition, a focus is placed on the computer systems necessary for their control. Project based learning, design thinking, and inquiry learning are used to help students explore the processes and skills needed to design devices that they can control. Students can explore technology, automation, and robotics in this course. Lastly, computational thinking and coding skills will be developed to help them control their robotics or automated devices.

How should robotics and automation be taught?

The curriculum suggests two different course configurations for each grade level be developed; one with an autonomous focus and one that reflects a radio-controlled focus. An autonomous course would focus on the programming a robotic or autonomous device to perform pre-determined tasks. Some examples of this that are also used in elementary school include Ozobots or Edisons.

The second type of course they suggest is a radio-controlled focus. This is when the actions of a device are not pre-determined and need to be controlled by an operator. An example of this would be a robotics competition, where students control a robot to perform specific tasks. There was a group of high school students from the Trojans Robotics Team that traveled to Houston for a robotics competition.

The curriculum also allows teachers to create a course with a mixed focus of both components.

What are some key components of robotics and automation courses?

Computational Thinking: A broad set of problem-solving processes which provide a new entry points for new ways of thinking. Teachers should highlight the essentials of computational thinking, which include decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithm design.

Elegant Code: It needs to be simple and easy to understand. Developing an algorithm which simplifies code will make it more efficient. Writing elegant code involves carefully analyzing the problem and creating a balance between a minimal amount of code and the code being reusable.

Reusable Code: Teaching students how to find the bit of code they want and to interpret how to adapt it is a valuable part of learning to code.

Visual or Block Based Coding: Students that use visual coding environments have shown greater learning gains and higher level of interest in future computing courses. Students should also use text based editor as they are more similar to what professional programmers do. There is value in using both types of coding.

Design Thinking: This is a process for creative problem solving that uses human-centered approach to innovation. Design thinking is inherent to the project based nature of designing and actualizing a robot or device. This also empowers students as makers and creators who solve problems by using working devices.

In conclusion, I think there are many good reasons as to why there should be robotics and automation classes offered in all of our high schools. For one, many students will likely pursue a career in a technology field that will utilize the skills developed through this course. Whether it be computational thinking or text based coding, these skills will be very valuable more many students. This is the perfect time for them to prepare and develop the proper skills to be successful in the professional world. I have personally used the design thinking model in my classroom and had great success with it. This model allowed my students to identify real world problems and take the appropriate steps to address it. Through this model, it allowed my students to think about problems in a different way, collaborate with their peers, and create products to fix these problems.

I love forward to seeing this curriculum being offered more frequently in our high schools, as Dean mentioned on Twitter. As a middle years teacher, I plan to further develop my students skills to be successful in these programs.

Ethical and Legal Issues In Education

As I embark on my personal journey through supplemental learning, there are many ethical and legal issues that a teacher must consider when putting together supplemental curriculum to be delivered online. In my personal experience over the past couple weeks, I agree that this is not an easy task when we consider these two things. The reality of the current situation is that teacher’s are working extremely hard, stressed out, and trying their very best to put together something meaningful for their students. In a situation such as our current reality, where teachers are expected to develop supplementary curriculum to be delivered online in a relatively short period of time, I find it difficult to judge a teacher’s decisions, even if they are stretching copyright law a little bit. There’s no manual or guidebook for this experience. And for that reason, we must be empathetic and supportive of our colleagues during this difficult time. As a profession as a whole, I think we have many things to learn about the legalities when using other people’s work in the classroom.

In my personal situation, I can critically look at the situation and see that I’m privileged when it comes to developing a curriculum to be delivered online. Technology has been embedded in my teaching practice since the start of my career, I’m in a graduate level course on educational technology, and I have 1:1 technology in my classroom. Even with my experience with technology in the classroom, this process has still been a great challenge for me. I can only imagine the stress many teachers are experiencing during these times. As I continue on this journey, I am challenging myself to consider some of the moral, ethical, and legal issues when developing curriculum to be delivered online. More importantly, I am hoping to find ways to support my fellow colleagues during these difficult times.

As Curtis mentioned in his video, we have to remember that not all of our students have equal access to technology and the digital divide is something we must think about as teachers. The digital divide is, “A term that refers to the gaps in access to information and communication technology.” Over the past week, I have been working with parents and students in my class to get a better understanding of what their personal technology situation looks like at home. Through this experience, I’ve quickly learned that every student’s situation looks significantly different. Some students have a laptop, others have a tablet, and some simply have their parent’s old phone. There are students that must share a laptop with 3 of their siblings, some share with their parents, and others have no technology whatsoever. The digital divide in my classroom of 26 students is significant enough to create major challenges when trying to learn online. In saying that, there are much greater challenges in many of our schools where kids come from poverty and low socio-economic status. As someone mentioned on Twitter (I can’t remember who said it…), this unequal access to technology is a societal issue that needs to be addressed to change the digital divide. I think this issue goes far beyond the walls of elementary school and applies to people in all walks of life.

http://www.cbc.ca

Another ethical issue I connected with during our class was the issues that come with copyright in the classroom. As Laurie said in her video, “With this instant access, students can easily copy and past without putting any thought into what is free and what is copyrighted.” I will be the first person to admit that I’ve definitely been guilty of this bad practice in the past. As I have become more aware of this issue, I’ve been trying to teach my students the proper ways to get information and images online. This year, I’ve really focused on pushing my students towards Pixabay and Creative Commons when they need images from the internet. From my experience, most students in grade 5/6 often have no idea that grabbing images from Google and putting them into their Adobe Spark videos is considered illegal.

Pixabay

I have always taught at schools with a large number of EAL learners so I really enjoyed reading Melinda’s blog post about plagiarism with EAL students. As Melinda said, “I also think we often misjudge our students’ level of language proficiency and just because someone sounds fluent we assume their academic language as well. Sometimes the very high expectations do force students to fall into the trap of plagiarizing to prove themselves to our society.” I know that I’ve been guilty of this in my own classroom, with EAL students try to prove themselves to me. This post was a great reminder to me about the challenges that EAL learners face when they come into our classrooms. Before we assume any bad intentions, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and understand the challenge they are facing in our classroom.

Lastly, the conversation around Fair Dealing in the classroom was very beneficial. As Curtis mentioned, the Fair Dealing Decision Tool is a very valuable resource for teachers to use when considering materials in the classroom. Earlier in the day before our class started, I was brainstorming some ideas for language arts for supplemental learning. The book I was hoping to use was completely recorded on YouTube. Now that I’m more aware of these things, I definitely understood that this book is not supposed to be recorded on YouTube in this manner. Although this series of videos would have been very convenient to developing my resource, I decided against using it as I know this is in clear copyright violation. During times like this, where teachers are expected to create quality digital resources, I think it’s a great challenge for teachers to follow copyright law and execute their plans or goals in the digital space. I am curious as to how teachers are dealing with copyright law and issues!

The Podcast Playback: A Conversation with Mike Ribble

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mike Ribble, a digital citizenship expert and author of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. With his vast knowledge and experience with the subject, he not only brought incredible insight to the conversation, but also hope and encouragement during the current time that we are living in.

There’s no doubt about it, as a society, we are collectively going through an experience that is challenging and uncertain. However, this experience brings us the opportunity to grow closer together as a community… and one gift that we have during this unpredictable time is technology. The conversation that I had with Mike Ribble was so timely, especially since COVID-19 has required us to do our teaching, communicating, and learning online. We discuss crucial topics that embody Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, something that is so valuable to learn about in our current digital world. In this interview, you will learn more about:

  • Digital Citizenship
  • Digital Literacy
  • Digital Safety, Security, and Privacy
  • Digital Access and the Digital Divide

In our conversation, Mike reminds us that yes, “there will be missteps as we go along”, however, “we will learn a lot about how we learn in a digital space through out this.”

Don’t forget to check out Mike Ribble’s website for more information about digital citizenship, including the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. You can also learn more about these important topics from some of his books: Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders: Fostering Positive Interactions Online, “Digital Citizenship in Schools, Third Edition, and “Raising a Digital Child. If you want to learn more about Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, you can check out a previous blog post I wrote called “The Podcast Playback: The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship Edition”.

My hope is that after listening to this podcast interview, you will feel inspired and motivated to make a positive change in our digital world. As we move forward and navigate through this unprecedented time, let us use the gift of technology to work together, inspire each other, and connect with one another.

Connecting Coding to Saskatchewan Curriculum – Grade 6

When I began this project, I had many different goals that I hoped to achieve by the end of the term. I identified one of my goals as being far more important than the others. That was my goal of finding authentic and meaningful connections to Saskatchewan curriculum when coding in the classroom. I’ve been struggling with this question for a few years now, which has caused a lot of hesitation and uncertainty when it comes to coding. As coding in a grade 5/6 classroom can be very time consuming, I need to justify using this additional time on this skill. For this part of the project, I analyzed the Saskatchewan grade 6 curriculum to find meaningful and authentic connections. Through my research and connecting with a few people on Twitter, I was able to discover some authentic and meaningful ways to incorporate coding into a grade 6 classroom.

Arts Ed:

CP6.11: Investigate and use various visual art forms, images, and art-making processes to express ideas about identity.

  • As evidenced by Santa Barbara High School in San Diego, coding in the classroom can be used to teach many of the same skills traditionally taught on paper. Whether that be colour, light, or perspective, coding software can be used to teach these same curriculum outcomes. In my personal opinion, I think could be a beneficial alternative for many students, as many of them lack the traditional visual art skills. In my personal experience in a visual arts classroom, I would’ve found a lot more success had this been an option when I was in school.

Career Education:

CC6.1: Investigate various aspects of careers and their requirements.

  • Coding is a natural way to get students thinking about computer science and the various careers one could pursue with a computer science degree. I think that coding is a natural fit within computer science, as students are able to explore some aspects of the career through use of coding in then classroom.

English Language Arts:

CC6.7: Write to describe a place; to narrate an incident from own experience in a multi-paragraph composition and in a friendly letter; to explain and inform in multi-step directions and a short report explaining a problem and providing a solution; and, to persuade to support a viewpoint or stand.

  • As shown in Google’s coding curriculum, coding activities can connected with the elements of narrative writing. The grade 6 ELA curriculum calls for students to create narratives that include plot, setting, and character detail. Not only are students able to work on curricular outcomes, this allows students to use their creativity and critical thinking skills in a unique way.
  • For those looking to take it even further, CoSpaceEDU can be used to retell stories and further develop stories.
Eric McCalmon Grade 5/6 Classroom

Math:

SS6.4: Demonstrate understanding of the first quadrant of the Cartesian plane and ordered pairs with whole number coordinates.

  • As suggest by Tina Noel, there are many Scratch lessons that can be directly connected with mathematics. In the Saskatchewan grade 6 math curriculum, students are required to learn about coordinate grids. Students could use their coding skills to move across the grid and learn more about axis, ordered pairs, and plotting points on a grid.

Social Studies:

RW6.2: Contribute to initiating and guiding change in local and global communities regarding environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

  • As suggested by Jenn Stewart-Mitchell, students can participate in a project where they tackle climate change issues and use micro:bit’s to create tangible solutions to real world problems. At the same time, students are able to dive deeper and learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Climate Change Action Kit

Science:

EL6.2: Investigate the characteristics and applications of static electric charges, conductors, insulators, switches, and electromagnetism.

  • Through the use of a micro:bit, students can further their understanding of how conductors and and switches work. Micro:bit provides an excellent lesson plan on how to achieve this in your science classroom.

After doing some research, it’s clear to me that there are many meaningful ways to incorporate coding into a grade 6 classroom. In addition to the direct curriculum links, students also learn many other valuable skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, and perseverance. If we want to truly develop these skills in our students, coding appears to be one of the many tools we can use to develop these important skills in our students.

Please let me know if you have any other project/assignment ideas that you think would be beneficial in the middle years classroom!

Coding With Micro:bit

When I choose my major project back in January, I decided that I wanted to further my understanding of Micro:bit. I have attended a few PD sessions over the past year that included Micro:bit’s as part of their coding presentation. I was at a PD earlier this year and received a Micro:bit to use in my classroom. Up until this point, it has sat in my desk drawer and I haven’t given it enough attention. So here I am ready to explore and learn more about Micro:bit’s!

Micro:bit 101: The Basics

“The micro:bit is a tiny computer that makes coding tangible and promotes digital creativity”

Micro:bit Box
Computer, USB, & Battery

What’s the cost?

Unfortunately, there is a cost associated with using micro:bit, as you need to buy the tiny computer. There are a variety of companies that sell the Micro:bit in Canada. For the kit pictured above, it looks like the price starts around $27 according to Elmwood Electronics. Once the micro:bit bundle has been purchased, the coding software is completely free. I see the cost of purchasing the micro:bit the biggest challenge when implementing this coding program in the classroom. I don’t think you would need a micro:bit for every student in your class, as they can use the simulator prior to downloading their coding to the micro:bit.

Coding Experience

As I did when experimenting with Scratch, I wanted to simply explore the program without using tutorials or support videos. I used this approach again because I like to put myself in the positions of an inexperienced teacher who’s tight on time or a student exploring coding for the first time. In saying, it looks like Micro:bit as many different tutorials for a user to go through and code. I will take you through my my experience of coding using micro:bit.

Initial Coding Screen
  • When you start a new project, you are led to the screen above. On the left hand side, there is a simulator where you can test your coding. I like this feature as it allows you to preview your coding prior to downloading it on to the micro:bit. As you are unlikely to have a micro:bit for every student in your class, this allows everyone to see the product of their coding. Students could potentially share a micro:bit and take turns downloading their coding onto the tiny computer.
  • The block section in the middle of the screen is very clear and concise. The blocks are easy to find and can be dragged into the coding area.
  • It has “On Start” and “Forever” blocks to make the start a simple process. You can easily remove those blocks if you are not going to use them.

Coding Sample
  • As you can see above, I was able to code a variety of things fairly easily. I was able to code the message “ECI832” when your press A on the micro:bit. The leds will light up and show the message.
  • When you press B, there would be a string message that says, “I Love Coding.”
  • Lastly, when you shake the micro:bit, a smiley face appear.
  • Overall, this coding software is very user friendly. I see this being a major positive when using this in the classroom, as it can be quite the task to have 25-30 students learning how to code.
Simulator

Downloading code to the micro:bit

First thing you will need to do is connect your micro:bit to your computer using the USB. Once you have done this, you click the download button located underneath the simulator on the bottom left of the screen. This will create a “.hex” file in your download folder. Once the file has downloaded, you can put the code on the micro:bit in two different ways:

  1. Right click the file and select “Send to.” You then select “MICROBIT (D:)”
  2. Simply drag and drop the file to the MICROBIT (D:)

Once the file has been downloaded on to the micro:bit, you are free to disconnect the micro:bit from the computer and plug in the battery pack. It will also perform the same tasks while still connected to your laptop. The video below will show you the end results of this coding experience. Enjoy!

Miro:bit Coding Example

Media Literacy: We Need it Now More Than Ever

It’s hard to explain the emotions and thoughts that we are all experiencing right now. It has been an overwhelming time for all of us to say the least. During a time of uncertainty, there are many news outlets and platforms that are filling our social media feeds and minds. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in reading everything that comes our way, like I find myself doing in a time like now, it’s important to listen, watch, and read with a critical lens and an open heart.

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

As we venture through this unfamiliar time of crisis and confusion, there is no better time to prioritize the skills and actions that surround media literacy. You are probably wondering, what does media literacy even entail and why is it important? Before we break down media literacy, it’s important to understand literacy, which is “the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.” Even though the outcome of literacy is to read, write, and speak, there are still many skills and elements that come into play before that happens. When you think about the act of reading, you not only need to decode the words, but you also need to comprehend what you’re reading. On top of that, early level readers have basic skills, but as you advance with reading, you develop deeper level thinking skills, such as understanding themes, recognizing biases, or analyzing the text.

Similar to the skills of literacy, “media literacy”, which falls under the category of information literacy, involves many different elements and components. According to Common Sense Media, media literacy is “the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending.” When we see an image, article, or video online, there are different ways we can try to understand the message it is trying to portray. Common Sense Media gives a list of essential questions that kids can ask when they view various types of media:

  • Who created this?
  • Why did they make it?
  • Who is the message for?
  • What techniques are being used to make this message credible or believable?
  • What details were left out, and why?
  • How did the message make you feel?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These questions will help students reflect on important details about the media they take in and will help them analyze biases that might be present. Most of the time, kids will be viewing these images, articles, or videos on their devices and will be using “digital literacy” skills to sift through media. The term digital literacy “specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources”, stated by Common Sense Media. Shelby reminds us that “it is greatly important to be literate online, especially with all the misinformation and the dangers that it presents.” Since students are most likely to be using social media to get their news and information, “our job to teach digital literacy to students is more important than ever” as Catherine says.

In an earlier blog post, I talk about the strategies that educators can use in order to teach students how to sift through information online so that they can critically take in media. I talk about:

  • Taking Note of the Digital Exposure and Experience in the Lives of our Students: Understand that “each student will have a different level of knowledge when using online tools and social media platforms”, so that we can teach them media literacy skills at their level.
  • Teaching Bias: This is important because “it’s not about teaching students right or wrong, it’s about giving them the skills they need in order to make an informed decision for themselves.”
  • Fact Checking & Reading Laterally: We need to check the source and validate the information with other tools, websites, and avenues.

I recently found another great way to help students learn more about navigating the internet during this trying time. John Green, who partnered with MediaWise, has put out various videos to help us “evaluate the information you read online.” They have put out a series of videos that teach us how to:

  • “Examine information using the same skills and questions as fact-checkers”
  • “Read laterally to learn more about the authority and perspective of sources”
  • “Evaluate different types of evidence, from videos to infographics”
  • “Understand how search engines and social media feeds work”

These critical thinking skills that exhibit media literacy are so valuable in the world we currently live in. It’s crucial that we follow the right steps when we take in information or news at this time so that we can think logically and respond appropriately. As we journey through these rocky waters together, let’s also not forget the importance of empathy and reflection. Through this time of unpredictability, let us use our online skills for good to remind us that we are in this together.

-Amanda

Literacy in the 21st Century

As I think about the term literacy, I can’t help but think about the traditional forms of literacy that have dominated the school landscape for so many years. When I think about my years as as student, this is how I often think about literacy. Traditionally, literacy has been popularly known as, “An ability to read, write, and use numeracy in at least one method of writing.” Although these skills are still part of the core skills taught in school, I think it’s important to expand our definition of literacy. As technology has evolved and become a major part of our lives, we need to consider and understand the importance of digital literacy. According to the American Library Association, digital literacy can defined as, “The ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” For a person to be “fully literate”, I believe that a person must possess digital literacy, in addition to the traditional forms of literacy. Not only do students require digital literacy skills, physical literacy plays an important role in this complex conversation.

Digital Literacy

https://medium.com/literate-schools/redefining-literacy-in-the-21st-century-139894b14fd4

It’s difficult to say exactly what digital literacy is because it’s constantly evolving and changing. When I think about this concept in my role as a teacher, it becomes more clear of the skills and activities to help students become digitally literate. According to Common Sense Media, some important skills for students to learn include:

  • Searching effectively: We need to be teaching our students how to evaluate quality, credibility, and validity of the resources they are using. In addition, students need to know how to give proper credit when using digital sources. An example could include using Pixabay opposed to Google Images when using images in presentations. I also came across Canada’s “Notice and Notice” regime regarding copyright law.
  • Protecting their information online: Students should learn basic internet safety skills, such as creating strong passwords, using privacy settings, and respecting other’s privacy. In a simple and practical sense, I think that students should have understanding about sharing other’s images. As Victoria shared this week, there is a difference between consent and assent.
Twitter –
  • Understanding digital footprints: Kids need to understand that all of their online interactions contribute to their digital footprint. They need to ensure they are doing their best to create a positive digital footprint.

Overall, those are just a few practical ways to teach students how to be digitally literate. More important than digital literacy, being literate in the 21st century requires a person to, “Be willing to constantly learn about and adapt to many different areas of life, subjects, and environments.”

Balance is important

As with anything in life, I believe that balance is important when thinking about literacy. Even though I’m a huge supporter of technology, I can also see how this increased technology use, both in our personal lives and education, is having a negative impact on our physical health. That’s why I believe that physical literacy must be part of the conversation if our goal is develop “fully literate” people. According to the International Physical Literacy Association, “Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” As a teacher, I can see how little importance is placed on physical literacy, as other areas such as digital, reading, and writing are constantly thriving. As teachers, we must see consider the overall benefits that physical literacy will have on our students.

Sport For Life

In the fall of 2019, I was lucky to take a course called, “Exploring Well Being Through Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education” with Dr. Nick Forsberg. For me personally, this class was extremely rewarding as it was a strong reminder to me about the importance of physical literacy and using the outdoors in education. Through this course, we learned about the idea of The Nature Principle, which is essentially using nature to improve our health and well-being. “Research describes the restorative power of nature – its impact on our senses and intelligence; on our physical, psychological, and spiritual health; and on the bonds of family, friendship, and the multi species community” (The Nature Principle, 2012). When applying these ideas to literacy, there are so many reasons to consider physical literacy and the outdoors when talking about literacy. An increased use of physical activity and the outdoors will likely improve the skills in other areas, such as reading and writing.

Outdoor Ed

Conclusion…?

I think the idea of creating a “fully literate” person is a very difficult task. As a society, we place a certain amount of importance on certain literacies (digital, writing, reading) as other’s are pushed to the backburner (physical, financial, artistic). Being a teacher, I think it’s important for me to find a balance among all of them and find ways to effectively develop these skills in our students. This is definitely not an easy task, as there is increaded pressure to develop certain literacies, such as standardized assessments in writing and math. Overall, I think a balanced approach to teaching literacy will create well-rounded, healthy students.