Category Archives: innovation

Reflecting on My Mindset

Well, another course in the books – almost anyways!  To say that I have learned a lot this semester is an understatement.  I think the most important thing I can take away from this course though is my mindset towards blended learning in the classroom.  I have changed the way I view myself as an educator and I am constantly questioning and considering how I can make my courses more accessible for students as well as more manageable.  How can I help my students become better learners in this ever-changing world? And how can I help them “re-find” their creativity and allow them to challenge what education looks like?

As I stated in my previous blog, I did not consider myself a “blended” educator before starting this course, even though most of my material has been accessible to students through Google Classroom for the past year.  I didn’t think this made me a “blended” educator until other teachers in my school and even my admin mentioned to me what a great idea this was.

giphy (7)I also ran into the curious problem of students not attending class due to some health related issues, BUT completing all work and communicating with me via Google Classroom and Remind.  This happened for the first time last semester and I was immediately frustrated by it.  I discussed it with my admin who asked the simple question: “are they meeting the outcomes?”  I thought about it and while the student was missing out on what I thought as valuable instruction, conversation and socialization in my classroom, they were completing the required assignments, and therefore meeting the outcomes.  It wasn’t as enriched as I wanted it to be, and I was left with a feeling of disappointment for the student.  I wanted them to do better, because I knew they could have excelled in the course if they had only come to class, but this was their choice, and this was how they met the criteria to ultimately graduate.

I have the same issue occurring this semester with the exact same circumstances.  This student just doesn’t want to be here (at school) because they would rather do the work in their own space.  This semester, I had a conversation with the student right away because I understood where this was probably going to end up going.  There are some extenuating circumstances to the reasoning of this student not coming to class, and I giphy (9)cannot help but admire them for the tenacity to complete a core class (ELA B30) completely on their own.  I should also mention that their knowledge on the subject matter we discuss in class exceeds some of the other students without even being there for the conversations, as well as they have yet to miss a deadline and remain in contact if there are ever any questions.  This whole circumstance leaves me stumped and in a predicament about blended learning as well as how to control attendance.  Do I cut off their access to Google Classroom?  Stop posting all the material and subject matter so they have to attend? Do I introduce the idea of “flexible attendance” to all my students?  Any opinions are welcome!

This example touches on a lot of the questions from this week’s class and really has me pondering the future of education.  What is it going to look like?  The way I am viewing it, mostly due to this course and the ideologies we have learned, is that education should

99535218_fdfab8c28b_n
Via Flickr

be flexible and there are a variety of ways for students to meet the outcomes necessary to graduate into a world that is filled with other types of technology and opportunities.  My AP Calculus class is working their butts off to write an exam in May, but I cannot get some of them to invest their own time into the course.  I want this course to be blended and I want them to be able to learn on their own.  These students, after all, are the ones bound for university and need to learn these skills like time management and independent study.  I then look at my ELA courses, where I want to focus more on what we do in class, and the opposite is occurring.  I think it might be time to focus more on what my students need and directing it that way instead of where I want them to go.  We all know letting go of control as a teacher can be a scary idea!  This is one way this course has helped me.  It is helping me find where I need to direct my attention and knowledge when it comes to blended learning.  Helping me recognize opportunities to incorporate it more seamlessly instead of forcing it.

Another important concept from last week’s discussion is the idea of teaching empathy and citizenship.  I don’t think schools will ever be replaced completely by technology for these reasons.  Our world would not be a good place is everyone was stuck indoors, on their computers, learning by themselves.  Students need discussion, they need socialization, and they need to learn important concepts like citizenship to be successful in our world.  I think it is really important to teach digital citizenship, and 21st century competencies, but those things don’t mean much if we don’t teach people how to be good humans first.

What-Is-Digital-Citizenship-Privacy-Profile

After reading Amy’s blog post this week, I reflected on why I became a teacher, and it was to build relationships and connections with students so that I can help them figure out their teenage years and beyond.  If students don’t come to class, don’t socialize with each other, learn how to have important and appropriate conversations with others besides their best friends and families, I think our world will look very different.  Students learn coping skills, how to interact with people they don’t get along with, how to deal with controversy and conflict, and figure out things about themselves they never would unless they were placed in an environment like a school from a young age.  These discussions and conversations with students are the reason I became a teacher!  I love watching the “ah-ha” moments, and the impromptu life lessons that appear in the middle of the lesson, and the laughter that comes with some of these discussions.  I would miss these so much if education became purely online, and those are the reasons I think it never will be.  Those moments are lessons are too important to miss out on.

To close, I have really learned a lot through this course.  I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to enhance my blended classrooms and figured out how to incorporate it more seamlessly into my everyday teaching using things like Flipgrid, goFormative and Socrative.  I have also learned to make adjustments to my classrooms to accommodate more types of learners that before a blended platform would have simply been written off.  I’m excited to see where these new ideas I have learned this semester take my future classes and where education will go in general.  The most important thing though, will always be making connections and figuring out how to reach more students, creating more opportunities to showcase how they learn and what they need to learn.

Past and Present Student Interaction

When I think of student-student interactions, I have flashbacks to my undergrad. Not necessarily a good flashback either.  I had a few courses with the “required discussion forum” where we needed to complete a reading or two or three, and then make comments or ask questions to our assigned groups.  We HAD to post at least three times a week, and it HAD to be connected to the reading and material we were learning in class.  Looking back, besides remembering that I HAD to do this type of assignment, I do not recall one single discussion topic we discussed.  giphy (5).gifIs it because it’s been a few years? Probably, but I bet if someone asked me two weeks after the course was over if I remembered any of the discussions, I bet I still wouldn’t be able to remember anything about them.  The Bates reading from this week made me realize, as well as aspects of this online course we are all taking, is that this form of discussion is completely inauthentic, and students do not care about things they don’t care about!  If you asked me what I wrote about on my EC&I 831 blog, I could tell you about most of the topics and I think that’s because I cared about the subject matter, it was connected to me, and I got to discover what I wanted to know more about!  The Bates article from this week’s reading stated that,

“Textbooks, readings and other resources are chosen to support the discussion, not the other way round. This is a key design principle, and explains why often instructors or tutors complain, in more ‘traditional’ online courses, that students don’t participate in discussions. Often this is because where online discussions are secondary to more didactic teaching, or are not deliberately designed and managed to lead to knowledge construction, students see the discussions as optional or extra work, because they have no direct impact on grades or assessment.”

I think the reason I don’t remember a single topic in those classes is because the discussion forum was always extra. It was additional work, instead of the discussion centering around ideas and questions, and FINDING the answers through readings and textbooks, we read first, and then added points about what we found.  I agree that it should be the other way around.  Fuel the discussion with ideas and supplement with resources!

This brings me to my point for the week.  My course is a blended course and I do see my students daily.  I’ll be honest; I didn’t think it was very important to include student-student interaction in my course, but after some feedback from my peers, and our class last week, my mind has been changed.  Harasim (2012) states that “[Online Collaborative Learning] theory provides a model of learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer.”   The moment I read this statement, I thought “This is what my class is!”  I am teaching AP Calculus to a bunch of students who need to work together to solve problems and develop an understanding of the material so they can apply it to the exam, and NOT just recite the right answer! (Insert Happy Dance for making the class meaningful for my students!)giphy (6).gif

So I began thinking of ways I could encourage more student-student interaction online.  They collaborate daily on problems and assignments so it would be nice to extend it onto Google Classroom.  I think I will start with encouraging them to post their questions on the class stream and allow other students to reply with their ideas for answers.  To get this started, I might even post a couple of questions for them to work through online and to post their ideas on how to solve the problem, and not necessarily post the answer.

I also really like the idea of using Padlet for students to work through a problem together or even start a community where they can ask each other questions about the assignments and problems so that they do not have to ask me first.  The beauty of Padlet is that they can post descriptions, write something, take a picture or even insert a video or audio for an explanation or question.  What do you think?  Will it work?  I really think it would be a good example of the three phases: idea generating, idea organizing, and intellectual convergence that Alec discussed with us last week.  Hopefully I can get my students to go through all three phases with this idea!

padlet.png
A screenshot of my new addition!

Another idea I might try since explanation and justification is a huge part of the AP exam is Flipgrid.  I might try getting students to answer a problem verbally and explain how they arrived at their answer, as well as justify how they know a certain answer is correct when-the-teacher-says-you-have-to-explain-your-answer-41186018as many questions give the answer, and the student needs to justify why it is correct.  I think this would be a great opportunity of students to discuss their reasoning and ideas of problem solving and for me to evaluate their reasoning skills for the exam!  This could also work as an assignment to show me how they walk through problems.  It might help me figure out their thinking and understanding more, as well as help them discover the important concepts in the problem at an individual level.

I know that student-student interaction is incredibly important, and I am hoping I can get my students to buy into the online discussion ideas.  If not this year, hopefully next year.  In the meantime, I will continue to try, and keep up with my ever-present student-teacher interactions via Remind 101, and the comment section on Google Classroom!  As the Bates article stated clearly, “with online collaborative learning, the aim is not to replace the teacher, but to use the technology primarily to increase and improve communication between teacher and learners, with a particular approach to the development of learning based on knowledge construction assisted and developed through social discourse.”  This is what I aim to do, and hopefully make more connections between my students, and help them become stronger advocates for themselves, and better learners.

Sharing is Caring

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve really shared to my best capability as a young, millennial could.  I have all the knowledge, and the tools and yet I don’t feel like my lessons or ideas are valuable enough to share or for someone else to use in the online world.  This is funny, because I don’t hesitate to hand over lesson plans, ideas, binders, or

gif14
Via Tenor

USB sticks of information to fellow teachers in my building.  If there is ever a need, I oblige and give any of my colleagues what they need, in hopes that one day the favour will be returned if I ever need it.  In my short 5 year career, I’ve taught a whopping 18 different curriculums at a high school level.  I know, in my earlier years, teachers handed me lots of resources and now it’s my turn to help some young, stressed out teacher play the part.  In Sharing: The Moral Imperative, Dean Shareski talks about how it is our responsibility to share these resources not just with our colleagues in the building, but with the world and I totally agree.  I think that main reason I haven’t, is because I’ve never actually thought about it!  I should.  I’ve had many compliments on my plans and curriculum.  I’ve made a bunch of “original” projects that would and could be useful to many teachers, especially in Saskatchewan.

images
Via LinkedIn

We discussed in class one night about who owns our lesson plans?  Us?  Or the division?  In some cases, it is the division, but I know in Prairie South, sharing is encouraged and I don’t think I would ever be reprimanded for sharing resources online via Twitter or my blog.  I think my personal barriers is thinking that my work will not be of benefit to others, even though I’m sure this is not the case.  As Dani stated in her vlog, she didn’t think her post would be noticed even though she should have known better.  I feel the same way.  I think I get caught up in the idea that the internet is SO big, how would my tiny footprint, make a difference.  I also think I haven’t shared online because in my busy day, posting an assignment or idea to Twitter seems irrelevant and like more work sometimes.  It’s super quick and easy, but it’s just not something I consciously think about on a day-to-day basis.

The benefits to sharing work and collaborating online are incredible!  Dean discusses a few examples in his video and the one that stood out to me the most was Dan Meyer’s Math Stories.  He put over 18 hours of work into one lesson.  ONE. And he felt validated by it because he shared it and had over 6, 000 people download and use it within a couple of weeks.  I think as educators, we get stuck in our bubble and in reality, there is SO much information out there that can help ease the stress and pressure on teachers to 3590412-quotes-about-teacher-collaborationbe innovative.  If teachers learn how to use the information, filter through resources and had time to collaborate together, I think there would be a lot more sharing going on.  Teachers need some professional development and education geared toward how to share, why it’s so important, and the benefits that can ensue.  I think that the younger generation of teachers is a lot more equipped to help this movement become a reality, however I think there needs to be support by divisions and maybe even time in a day, week, or month to collaborate with others in their buildings to help develop a sharing network for teachers.  The movement needs to begin small, and with an implementation like that, I think it would be possible to create a culture of collaboration.

Sharing students work is another story.  I think it is great to get their ideas out there and

f077548b362623e8f87a78d0ddb00198--humor-humour-william-shakespeare
Via ComicStrips

amazing things can happen.  Students can learn more authentically and understand how to navigate social networking sites and be able to filter through information.  I’m starting a project with my ELA B30 class as we begin Hamlet.  In the past, I’ve struggled to make it authentic and get them to really buy in.  I created an assignment after browsing a few websites on making Hamlet relevant.  I decided to use social media to help them relate to the characters (with some motivation from this class).  I want them engaged so I’ve decided to get them to create character profiles for the whole play.  They have the option of doing it alone or in groups and they have the option to interact with each other online as characters or as an omnipresent narrator. Here’s the link to the assignment (also my first attempt at sharing my work online): http://bit.ly/2AYEYJO. I’m pretty proud of this assignment already and I think the students are already engaged with it as I had two new Instagram followers (Hamlet characters) yesterday immediately following me handing it out!  I will keep you posted as we progress through the play and I hope to actually share some of their posts if they are good! Of course, I’d love to know what you think of the assignment? Maybe a fellow Senior English teacher like Kelsie could chime in?  Anything I could tweak?  And what do you think would get teachers more involved in openly sharing resources online?