Category Archives: EC&I834

That’s a Wrap: My Final Summary of Learning

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

It’s hard to believe that we are already at the end of the semester. The end of my EC&I 834 class means the completion of my Educational Technology and Media Master’s Certificate. Now I am half way in my graduate journey and will continue on to complete my Masters of Education degree. Having the opportunity to participate in the EdTech program with Alec has been an incredible experience. I am so grateful for the online community I have built and for everything I have learned. I know I will leave this experience a better educator and life-long learner.

This semester has allowed me to wrap up my program in a remarkable way. I was able to design and create my own course prototype and share it with my classmates. I have been able to build new connections and hear other perspectives. I have also found so much joy in meeting every week and staying extra long after class just to hang out and share ideas! There have been so many learning opportunities and fulfilling conversations. It’s hard to summarize all of the knowledge I have gained this semester, but it was important to attempt it in the final Summary of Learning.

Catherine and I sought out to create a Summary of Learning that encompassed our experience from not only this semester, but this whole year. Since the pandemic began, we have had to shift our teaching and learning to an online and blended format. There have been a lot of challenges because of that, but also incredible learning opportunities. It was important for us to reenact that in our project. In a timeline format, we used technology tools like FaceTime, Zoom, Flipgrid, and TikTok to display our honest reactions from the year. We called it a “Year in Review” so that everyone could see the progress that has been made with online teaching and learning since schools shut down last spring.

Even though there was a lot of time and planning that went into this project… it still felt seamless and enjoyable. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Catherine each semester. We have our project planning and creating down to a science! We planned our project on a shared Google Doc, met over Zoom, and shared most of our ideas with each other through Snapchat. Since we couldn’t physically meet to do our filming, we did everything online. All of our video editing was done on WeVideo through the real-time collaboration feature. The last scene in the video took the longest to edit and create, but it was worth it because it featured our amazing classmates (and a few other special guests).

The biggest take-away from this class, which is displayed in our Summary of Learning, is how valuable community is. None of this learning would be possible without the online community we have built in our classes. As I wrap up my EdTech program, I will always be reminded of the lessons I learned and the experiences I shared with my online community. To each and everyone of you… thank you! I hope you enjoy our final Summary of Learning from this course: “Online and Blended Learning: A Year in Review.”

The Conclusion Of My Course Prototype

Over the semester, we had the task of planning and initiating lessons within a course prototype. I have to admit… I was unaware of how much work I would put into it, but yet how much I would learn through the process. My plan was to create lessons that helped kids develop digital literacy skills. In my experience teaching grade 2-4, I have always felt that there is a lack of resources in that age range surrounding the topics of digital literacy and digital citizenship. My mission for this assignment was to help bridge that gap.

Course Profile Overview

I decided to create a course that focused on teaching students about digital literacy through engaging and relatable lessons and activities. The first part of the project was to plan our course prototype. I initially thought I would use a Learning Management System to host the content, but the more that I thought about it, I realized that I wanted teachers to have open access to the materials. I quickly changed the plan and decided to develop a website so that teachers could easily gain access to the lessons and activities for their students. You can find the course profile and framework with more of the details here.

Lesson 1: My Digital Literacy Adventure

My first lesson related digital literacy to an adventure, which can be found here. I thought that since I have created many lessons before, this would be no different. However, a lot more thought and detail goes into planning an online or blended lesson due to all the added elements needed for an online platform. I wanted to create a lesson that was not only engaging, but also accessible and equitable. After creating my first lesson, we had the opportunity to meet in small groups during class and give feedback to each other about our courses. I found this experience extremely beneficial! The advice I received was just what I needed to take my course to the next level. I revised the student self assessment, I added audio to the activity to increase accessibility, and I even implemented a Creative Commons Copyright on my website. The planning, creating, implementation, and reflection process for lesson 1 can be found here.

Lesson 2: Look Closely and Think Critically

During the planning and creation of lesson 2, I focused on implementing details in the lesson that I felt were lacking in lesson 1. I felt more confident with the process and had a better idea of how I wanted it to look. For the second lesson, I drew my inspiration from how Common Sense Education displays their digital citizenship curriculum. I included more features like the keywords, the learning outcome, and a full Google Slideshow of the lesson, which I figured out how to embed right into the website. I also challenged myself by creating altered images and fake headlines for the fake news portion of the lesson and had so much fun doing it!

Some other areas I added and took into consideration were:

  • an engaging instructional video that was under 5 minutes
  • a focus on collaboration with the 2 Truths and a Lie Padlet activity at the start of the lesson
  • Teacher Notes in the Google Slideshow
  • a one page “quick guide” that teachers can print out and refer to throughout the lesson
  • a printable or downloadable poster to help students remember the steps they can take to fact-check
  • an exit slip to wrap up the lesson
  • assessment and answer keys for each activity
  • open ended assessment so that teachers can adapt it based on age and grade level
  • extension activities to deepen understanding

The Conclusion and Continuation of the Digital Literacy Course

This process taught me a lot about lesson creation and creativity. I was more willing to take risks and challenge myself at the end of this project than I was at the beginning. I learned so many valuable lessons and skills through this experience and I know they will serve me well moving forward. The Digital Literacy for Kids website has so much potential for teachers, students, and families. I hope to continue on with this project so that we can help younger students develop digital literacy skills in a tangible, accessible, and engaging way.

You can take a look at my course website here or you can watch the recording below to learn more about it!

Endless Opportunities with Online Collaboration

Collaboration. We hear that word all the time now, but do we fully understand the meaning or the motivation? It’s encouraged in our workplaces, our classrooms, and communities. When some people hear that word, they roll their eyes and dread the activity that is about to ensue. Other people (myself included) are excited to embark on the collaborative task at hand. Whether you love collaboration or don’t, if it’s not facilitated in a purposeful way, then it can fall flat and add chaos for the people involved. 

Oxford defines collaboration as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” This definition seems relevant, but broad. In our current digital world, collaboration holds a whole new meaning. Online collaboration needs to allow students the opportunity to work together in a safe, inclusive, engaging, and creative digital space. Dr. John Spencer says “when students are not collaborating with classmates, they miss out on new perspectives, new ideas, and new approaches to solve problems.” Even though collaboration looks different online and adds new challenges, it is vital for successful and meaningful online learning. 

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Improving Online Student Collaboration

There are important ways we can empower our students to dive into the collaborative process so that they are set up for success. Here is a breakdown of Spencer’s “Rules for Improving Student Collaboration,” which still holds true in an online setting as well.

1. Ensure Individual Accountability
Each student has something to bring to the table and can contribute to the goal of the task. Encourage them to contribute to the brainstorming process and share their ideas with the group.

2. Empower Teams to Set Norms and Expectations
Group members should decide on shared expectations and roles so that there is unison and understanding within the group. The teacher can provide guided support to encourage these team expectations and roles. Students can give feedback to their group members, but requiring them to “grade” one another puts unrealistic expectations on the students. 

3. Empower Teams to Own the Project Management Process
Encourage students to examine their goals and problem solve together. Spencer says “as students own the process, they develop the skills of collaborative self-management.”

4. Empower Teams to Own the Communication Process
Communication is vital when it comes to online collaboration projects. It is important to give students the variety of both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, as you can see in the Synchronous vs Asynchronous video by Dr. John Spencer.

5. Empowered Teams Still Need Check-Ins
It’s important to empower students when they are taking part in online collaboration, but it’s also important to check in with them during the process. Teachers still need to facilitate the learning and guide students along the way.

Just like the collaborative activities in the physical classroom, online collaboration needs structure and guidance. Even though it takes time, practice, and patience to facilitate online collaborative learning, it’s worth it because “opportunities for student collaboration are a key factor in building and maintaining relationships among students and teachers” as Catherine says.

Using Padlet for a Purpose

There are many ways we can facilitate collaborative learning in an online setting. We can use platforms like Google Classroom, Seesaw, Flipgrid, and many more, as you can see in the “Best Student-Collaboration Tools” list from Common Sense Education. Bates reminds us that online collaborative learning can develop skills like “critical thinking, analytical thinking, synthesis, and evaluation, which are key requirements for learners in a digital age.” One of the ways we can encourage meaningful online collaboration and cultivate these digital skills is through online Discussion Boards. It gives students the chance to use the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning by allowing them to collaborate, communicate, use critical thinking, and fuel creativity.

Recently, I tried out the collaboration tool called “Padlet,” which allows people to use creative tools to share knowledge and information while having the ability to comment and communicate with others. What I didn’t realize about this tool was how adaptable and user friendly it would be. This is the perfect tool to implement into my Digital Literacy for Kids course.

I set up a Padlet to mirror the activity I will teach at the end of my Digital Literacy course. I titled the Padlet “So You Want to Start Your Online Journey…” and asked the questions:

  1. “What would you tell kids who are just beginning their online journey?
  2. “What advice would you give someone who has just started creating their Digital Footprint?”

I made the Padlet public so that when I posted it to Twitter, other people could share their answers and comment on the other responses.

I was impressed with the amount of settings that were available in order to tailor it to the type of activity you want to create. The process of creating the Padlet was simple and straightforward.

Start with a blank canvas, such as a “wall,” “canvas,” “backchannel,” and so much more.

Choose the title, description, and appearance. You can then change the settings of the interactions that can take place. Change the settings to allow comments, comment approvals, likes or stars, and change the privacy settings of the Padlet itself. The ability to change the privacy settings and interaction features allows for more flexibility based on the grade and experience of the students using it.

Once you have your Padlet created, you can share it with a public link, add members privately, embed it into a website, or share it to a platform like Google Classroom. As you can see below, the Padlet I created about digital literacy and digital identity had captivating responses and interaction from people online.

Made with Padlet

The purpose for my Padlet was to create conversation surrounding digital literacy and digital identity. This activity is something I will incorporate into my Digital Literacy for Kids course. It can be used in so many ways to create discussion and cultivate community. For example, when students finish all of the lessons and activities in the course, they will share their one piece of advice on the Padlet for other kids to learn about digital literacy. It can also teach young students how to comment and interact with each other online in a positive way. With its ability to share photos and videos, students can empower others with images and videos about real vs fake news, social justice and student activism. The list goes on!

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

It is evident that collaboration can lead to meaning, empowerment, and confidence. It’s important that we encourage these opportunities for our students, especially in an online setting. Once you realize the importance of facilitating an environment of online collaboration for your students, you will realize that the possibilities are endless.

-Amanda

Interactions in the Online Classroom

As middle-years educators, we recognize how important the social aspect of a school is in the development of young people. When students leave our classrooms, it is the experiences and relationships that stand out to them – rather than the content they learned in class. Due to the physical nature and proximity in a classroom, many of the connections and relationships occur organically.  

Furthermore, teachers strategically design lessons and activities to develop social skills and build relationships among the members of their classroom. However, when students transitioned to online learning, it became more challenging to naturally develop social relationships that are typically fostered in a physical classroom environment. 

Through our experiences in the Master of Education program, we have come to know and understand the importance of interactions in the online world. Through experiences such as breakout rooms, Flipgrids, and blog posts, we have found these opportunities valuable in making our online classes more engaging and enjoyable.   

Our Prototype:

Understanding the importance of building connections in an online environment, we have implemented the following experiences for our students: 

Flipgrid: 

Source: https://info.flipgrid.com/

In our course prototype, we plan to utilize Flipgrid for a variety of activities including the target game, movement sequences, and alternative first-aid supplies.   

We chose this platform because: 

  • It allows for students to collaborate and share their work with others.   
  • Students can provide feedback and comment on each other’s work – allowing meaningful conversations about their learning to take place. 
  • Commenting can be accomplished in a variety of ways including text, audio, video, or stickers. 
  • Very flexible time length as videos can range between one second and 10 minutes.   
  • Student privacy is protected as videos can be posted to a private classroom grid that can only be accessed by members of the same classroom.   
Student Sample

Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms: 

Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software

While OneNote is a large part of our LMS, we decided to place it within Microsoft Teams because this allowed us to easily utilize the breakout room feature within our lessons and activities. Specifically, we plan to use this feature to facilitate group discussions at the conclusion of our target game lesson, as well as a group work project in our First Aid section. 

 We chose this platform because: 

  • The breakout room function is already built within the LMS that students will be using – making the experience for users relatively simple. 
  • Working in a small group alleviates the stresses of large group discussion and provides students who normally may be hesitant to share, the means to do so.   
  • Students can easily share their screens with one another, which will be an asset when they are designing their safety presentation at the conclusion of our first aid lessons. 
  • Screen recording is available for students who may not have been able to make the synchronous learning sessions. 
  • Teachers can easily “pop” into each room and check-in with groups while they are working, while also having access to all breakout room chats. 

Kidblog: 

Source: https://kidblog.org/home/

 Although many of the written assignments for our lessons take place in OneNote, we provided students with a few opportunities to share their thoughts with one another via blogging. While there are many blogging sites online, both Trevor and I found Kidblog to be the best option for student blogging because: 

  • Provides students with the means to create engaging and interactive literary pieces that integrate multiple pieces of digital media into their writing.  
  • Collaboration and connections can be made with fellow classmates or other students outside the walls of their classroom. 
  • The comment feature also encourages meaningful feedback from classmates and initiatives authentic discussions between students. 
  • The privacy settings along teachers to make blogs private so only students within the classroom can view or comment on the work that has been published on Kidblog. 
  • Students’ accounts can be connected to their Microsoft Office accounts – creating an easy login experience. 

Mentimeter: 

Source: https://www.mentimeter.com/

We plan on using this tool within our course for quick formative assessments as well as engaging our students in a live activity on safety practices.   

We chose this Mentimeter because: 

  • Students can collaboratively participate in word clouds, open-ended questions and rating systems – giving them a voice in their learning. 
  • We can create a balance between interaction and information. 
  • Provides meaningful formative assessment, which will help to guide future lessons and activities. 
  • A variety of multimedia can be embedded into presentation slides and quick assessments. 
  • Menti works very well on mobile platforms. 

As we progress through the development of our course, we have found that it is important to critically analyze when and where our students interact. With a plethora of options online, we’ve considered what’s easily accessible and user-friendly for our students. While it may be difficult to replace the face-to-face interactions that occur in a physical classroom, there are no shortages of tools and strategies to facilitate these experiences in an online environment.   

The Balancing Act of Teaching Literacy Online

Literacy is multi-faceted, complex, and incredibly powerful. It’s truly embedded into everything we learn and do. It might seem as if literacy is just reading, writing, speaking, and listening, but there is so much more to it. In our current digital world, literacy is also seen through the skills of digital and media literacy. Literacy is all around us.

Since our schools have shifted to blended and online learning in the recent year, it’s evident that literacy skills are often developed in different ways now. Instead of read-alouds happening in a physical classroom, they are happening over a screen. Rather than students writing in their notebooks, they are creating digital stories online. Where there once was students gathered around a table for guided reading groups, they are now meeting in groups to read on a video call.

Many teachers have had to make this change, but are still unsure how to navigate the “balancing act” of balanced literacy in an online environment. With my experience teaching online this year, I have learned a lot of ways we can instil a successful literacy program in a the early elementary online classroom and I’m here to share my findings.

What Does Balanced Literacy Look Like Online?

Similar to the physical classroom, literacy needs to be balanced, engaging, and cross circular. Even though it may look different in an online setting, a balanced literacy framework is still essential for students partaking in remote learning. There needs to be differentiated instruction and various opportunities for students to develop their reading and writing skills. In the context of reading, there are many ways it can be facilitated online so that students are engaged and empowered. According to Saskatchewan Reads, the “gradual release of responsibility model” gives students choice in their reading tasks while teachers can still support them and facilitate literacy with cross curricular instruction. Saskatchewan Reads describes four instructional approaches, modelled after the Ontario Early Reading Strategy, which include Modelled Reading, Shared Reading, Scaffolded/ Guided Reading, and Independent Reading.

These four instructional approaches can be facilitated in an online environment so that students can still have choice and control in their learning. Here are some ways they can be embedded into online learning:

Modelled Reading and Shared Reading:

– Model the thinking processes during live class lessons through a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Meet. Most publishers permit the use of their books in a live non-recorded setting. Use before, during, and after reading strategies like you would in a physical class setting. During your class meetings, use breakout rooms to cultivate class discussions for your cross circular literacy lessons.

– Use a tool like EdPuzzle to embed before, during, and after reading strategies like you would in a physical class setting. Use high quality YouTube videos or obtain copyright permission to record yourself reading the story. This type of modelled reading is beneficial for an asynchronous learning format.

– Post your own book recordings or YouTube read-alouds to your Learning Management System (LMS) like Google Classroom, Moodle, or Seesaw. Model your thinking by posing a thought or reflection about the story and then ask students to engage in a discussion by posting their thoughts and reflections.

Scaffolded and Guided Reading

– Begin the school year by individually assessing your student’s reading levels during a Zoom or Google Meet. First, use an online booking form so that families can choose a time that works for them. Next, use a sight word assessment guide, like the Dolch word list, to find out roughly what reading level they are at. Paste the words on a Google Slideshow, share your screen for the student to see, and go through the list like you would in a classroom setting. After that, use a platform like Raz Kids, Newsela, or the Fountas and Pinnell Online Resources website to get a better idea of their comprehension skills. Once their reading level is determined, assign them to a virtual guided reading group.

– If students are unable to join the synchronous reading testing session, you can post a reading list to your LMS platform, like Seesaw, and have them record themselves reading the words and answering questions with the recording tool.

– Once your guided reading groups are determined, meet with them consistently like you would in any balanced literacy framework, like Daily 5. Use a platform like Raz Kids, Spark, or Epic to share your screen and facilitate virtual reading groups with before, during, and after readings strategies.

Independent Reading

– Start the school year off by slowly introducing independent reading skills, similar to how Daily 5 is facilitated in the classroom. Use online instructional videos to teach lessons like reading “Good Fit Books.” Feel free to download the Good Fit Book slideshow and lesson I created for the online instructional video I posted for the start of the school year.

– Introduce at-home reading resources like Raz Kids, Epic, and Sora. Encourage students to use the contact-free services from their local library.

– Post asynchronous literacy activities to your LMS and give students choice over their learning, like Caitlyn Tucker suggests in the post “Design a Choose Your Own Adventure Learning Experience.” Tucker also has a Reading Strategies Choice Board listed in the article “Reading Resources for Your Blended or Online Class.”

– Encourage students to read out loud to the family members in their households, friends or relatives over FaceTime, and even their own stuffed animals.

There are many ways to facilitate balanced literacy in an online format, but it is important to find out what works best for your students! It’s also important to remember that balanced literacy needs to be flexible. Guided reading groups are always changing based on your students skills, growth, and interests. The best way to have a successful literacy program is to make sure your students are engaged and having fun.

Choosing Books with Intention

According to the K-12 Saskatchewan Curriculum, there are three Broad Areas of Learning that are instilled not only in English Language Arts, but across every subject area. Each subject in the curriculum encourages students to be lifelong learners, to have a sense of sense of self, community, and place, and to become engaged citizens.

This helps us understand that literacy is more than reading and writing. These areas of learning should be embedded into every subject area, including literacy. If we want to empower our students to be life long learners, have an understanding of self, community, and place, and become engaged citizens, we need to choose books and resources with intention. Even in an online and blended learning format, we need to choose books that are:

  1. Intentional
  2. Inclusive
  3. Impactful

When we choose books and resources for our online classrooms, we need to ask ourselves: Who’s voice is represented? Can students see themselves in the story? Are there biases or stereotypes present? If students are engaging in literacy all around them, let’s use our online classroom as an opportunity to start the critical conversations and spark inspiration. Over the past couple of years, I have become more aware and critical of the books I choose for my classroom…. and now for the virtual classroom. Here are some of my favourite story books for kids that can create critical class discussions. These books also encourage students to become life long learners, engaged citizens, and more aware of their self, community, and place. Click on the titles of each book to find the recorded YouTube versions to use for your online classroom as well.

Community

All Are Welcome
By: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrated by: Suzanne Kaufman

You Hold Me Up
By: Monique Gray Smith
Illustrated by: Danielle Daniel

Identity

The Day You Begin
By: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by: Rafael López

Thunder Boy Jr.
By: Sherman Alexie
Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales

Empathy

Last Stop on Market Street
By: Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Each Kindness
By: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis

Social Justice

Say Something
By: Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrated by: Peter H. Reynolds

Nibi’s Water Song
By: Sunshine Tenasco
Illustrated by: Chief Lady Bird

Common Sense Media also has book lists for various themes and topics. Check out their post called “Books with LGBTQ+ Characters” to find a great list of suggestions.

After looking through my list of suggestions, are there anymore that you would add? Do you know of any other online resources that can help you facilitate reading and writing with your online or blended classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts and continue this important conversation. My hope is that you can use my literacy suggestions and resources to enhance your online classroom and in the end, master the balancing act of balanced literacy.

-Amanda

Videos for Online Learning

For this week’s task, we were to explore an aspect of blended/online learning that we are interested in. I choose to take a closer look at instructional videos and video content in general, as this is something I think I could do a better job of in my teaching practice. Focusing on instructional videos will also be helpful for the blended learning course that I am creating with Matt, as we are creating videos for each lesson. In my experience with online learning in the middle years classroom, which consists of the emergency remote learning period last school year and two weeks around Christmas this school year, I have relied heavily on the content previously created on YouTube. There are so many amazing videos that have already been created for you to use in the classroom. For example, I enjoyed using the Math With Mr. J videos for my math lessons when teaching online. I enjoyed these particular videos because they were clear, concise, and included many good examples of the math concepts that I was teaching in the classroom. I found them to be valuable for my students when they were working independently, as they could reference them if they were struggling with a math concept or missed the live lesson.

Math with Mr. J

As a starting point, I read an Edutopia article titled, “A 5-Step Guide to Making Your Own Instructional Videos” and an article titled, “Effective Educational Videos.” Here are a few things to consider when creating educational videos for your students:

Chunk Instruction:

Research has shown that student engagement begins to drop off after 6 minutes. You start to see a dramatic decrease in engagement once you’ve hit the 9 minutes mark. They’ve suggested that creating multiple short videos is a better strategy than one long video. Personally, this makes a lot of sense to me and I naturally gravitate to shorter videos than the long, drawn out videos. Clear, concise, and to the point seems to be the way to go and I can get on board with that. I connected this to TikTok and how engaging this is for our students, which is limited to 60 seconds per video. Would the app be as successful and engaging if there was no limit on the time of videos? I guess it would just be another YouTube if that were the case. They close by saying, “In a world of short attention spans, videos like these make their points clearly and quickly”

Strategic Design

It’s suggest that instructional videos should be highly focused, use visual cues to highlight key points, and minimize the use of on screen text. As we were lucky enough to hear John Spencer speak this semester, I really like the design and structure of his videos. He does a great job of using visual cues to focus the viewer on certain points and ideas in his videos. I also noticed that most of his videos come in around or under the two minute mark, which I’m sure has been done for good reason.

Writing Prompt Sample – John Spencer

Enhancing Engagement:

Forcing students to watch videos isn’t going to guarantee that they will be engaged with the concept or topic. It’s suggested that students should have the opportunity to take notes or answer guided questions as they are viewing the video content. As I wrote about earlier this semester, EdPuzzle is one example of a tool that might be leveraged to increase student engagement, as they must answer questions throughout the video. I also think that simple guiding questions on paper can help to keep students engaged and focused on the video content. In my personal experience, it’s very easy to open another tab and start doing something else while playing a video in the background. When Matt and I created our first instructional video for our physical education course, we embedded a few, “Hit Pause and Reflect” points in the video to have students write a few notes and think about the content. We hoped that this would focus the students and get them to think and write about what they are learning in the video.

It’s also suggested that one of the most important things to consider is making your videos authentic and relevant to the students that you are teaching in your class. As they state, “Videos in which the instructor speaks in a natural, conversational manner, with an enthusiastic tone, are the most engaging. In my experience, students really appreciate knowing that it’s their actual teacher behind the video.” I believe this is one of the most important aspects of creating engaging content for your students. Relationships between teachers and students are essential to engaging and motivating student. When students see their teacher behind the camera, I’m sure there is a significant increase in focus and effort given towards any assignment. Further to that point, when the content is created by the teacher, the content and information in the video are relevant to what’s going on in that particular class. At times, I find that I only want to use specific portions of a YouTube video, and cut out the rest. With the teacher created videos, you can really focus on what you are expecting your students to learn.

What are the challenges?

Although good quality instructional videos are great for student learning, there are definitely some challenges that come with making the content. For one, I think the biggest challenge that teachers face is the amount of time it requires to create good quality videos. In my experience using WeVideo, it can take you upwards of two hours to create a very basic instructional video. As an elementary classroom teacher, it can be a very daunting when you are required to teach multiple subjects and effectively use your 240 minutes of prep per week. I think one way to combat this challenge would be to start small and focus on one subject area. Maybe you create instructional videos for one unit in Science and then build your bank from there.

Another challenge that some teacher might face is learning and understanding the software required to create instructional videos. WeVideo, Powtoon, Explain Everything, Animoto… The list goes on! For me, I’ve focused on learning one main “go to” tool and I utilize that for most videos I need to create. Although it took me some time to really understand the in’s and out’s of WeVideo, I feel that I’m at a place that I create instructional videos more efficiently. In addition, there should be a considerable amount of PD dedicated to educational technology tools and resources. This would help to alleviate some of the initial concerns and challenges that teachers face when trying to use technology tools.

To close, it was quite beneficial to dig a little deeper into what makes a good quality instructional video. As someone who uses a high level of technology in my 1:1 classroom, I often make many decisions without thinking that deep about them. Even with this high level of technology integration, my experience in creating videos is very minimal and lacking compared to many teachers out there. To become stronger in this area, I think I could use some graphic design tips from some of my peers in this class. In saying that, I believe it is important that that videos I create are rooted in good pedagogical perspectives.

A New Endeavour: Digital Literacy for Kids

There is nothing more valuable than raising a generation of kids who are knowledgable and experienced in our online world. The only way we can combat misinformation, apathy, and online hate is to instil digital literacy skills in our students…. and that is exactly what I have set out to do.

Digital Literacy for Kids

Our most recent assignment in #eci834 was to start developing an online or blended course prototype. I had the idea to create a course on the topic of digital literacy so that students learn how to succeed in a digital world. After brainstorming, planning, and adjusting… my “course” ending up turning into website called Digital Literacy for Kids. I initially wanted to host my course on a Learning Management System (LMS), as you can read in my initial Course Framework, but I soon changed my plan. With my experience teaching grade 2-4 and my passion for EdTech, I have come to realize that digital literacy resources for kids are challenging to find. I decided that it was more important for all teachers to have access to the lessons and activities than to isolate them using an LMS. In the end, I created a website to curate digital literacy lessons, activities, and resources for educators to openly access online, similar to the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER). I created a WordPress site, bought the domain, and started building my course.

I broke down my website menu into various categories: Course information, which includes my Course Profile and Course Outline, lessons, and resources. For the resources section, I plan on adding a list of other reliable digital literacy resources for people to easily click and access. Each time I create a new lesson about digital literacy, I will add it to the lessons menu category. It’s amazing to see how quickly a website can come together when you have the inspiration to develop a project.

Planning, Creating, and Implementing

My first lesson for my Digital Literacy for Kids website was an introduction lesson to the concept. I designed my lesson around the theme of “adventure” in order to make it more engaging for kids. I always start the beginning of the school year as an adventure theme for my grade 2 and 3 students and they LOVE it. I knew that this concept would be easily enjoyed by primary students. Everything I created for the lesson, such as the instructional video and the resource templates, were all created using Canva. I have the Canva for Education account, so I found that it had everything I needed. I was able to make various types of activity templates, a digital literacy poster, an assessment guide, and an instructional video. Each of these resources were added to my Lesson 1 post on my website. I added the activity pages to the website as downloadable files so that teachers could just click, download, and use. I also created a Seesaw activity and Google Slides template that teachers can copy and distribute. The instructional video had a lot of images and text options to choose from in Canva, however, the animation and song choices were limited. Even though I didn’t have as many content creation options as a paid program like VideoScribe or Powtoon, Canva still gave me what I needed to deliver a successful “adventure” themed instructional video, as you can see below.

Feedback from the Dream Team

In class last week, we had the opportunity to meet in groups, show our courses to each other, and then give constructive feedback. I met with Matt, Erin, and Mike, in other words… the “dream team,” as Matt called it. We had a great time hearing about each other’s courses and having positive discussions. I found it extremely beneficial to have my classmate’s hear my vision and then give me constructive feedback to make it even better. Some of the feedback and advice I was given was:

  1. The website is organized and easy to follow.
  2. The font used for the activities and video lesson are easy to read for kids.
  3. The self assessment rubric is too advanced for young kids. Adapt the rubric so that it’s more “kid friendly.” Break down the word “understand” so that students know exactly what they need to do to reach expectations.
  4. Add audio to the Seesaw activity so that it’s more accessible.

I decided to take each of their suggestions and apply it to my project. I added the audio to the Seesaw activity and created a new self assessment guide for students.

After I received my feedback, Alec popped into the breakout room and gave me some feedback as well. He said that I should consider putting a Copyright on my website and resources. He explained how to use Creative Commons in order to make a license for my work… which is much easier than I thought! The steps are as follows:

  1. Go to creativecommons.org.
  2. Click Share Your Work
  3. Click Get Started
  4. Choose “yes”, “no”, or “sometimes” when it asks if you want to allow adaptations of your work to be shared.
  5. Click “yes” or “no” when it asks if you want to allow commercial uses of your work.
  6. It will then show you the license you selected and give you an embed code to use for your website.

Next Steps

It is so important to pause and reflect before moving forward in any project. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with my classmates, share our work, and hear various perspectives. Moving forward, I will keep these considerations in mind when I continue building my course and creating my lessons. So as I move forward with my course design, I’m wondering…

  1. What types of themes or lessons do you want to see in my critical thinking lesson?
  2. After looking at my course so far, is there anymore feedback you have for me?

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Feedback is essential in this process so that we can make our courses the best they can be!

-Amanda

Module Feedback

As was mentioned in past blog posts, for our Physical Education Blended Course, we decided to utilize OneNote and Microsoft Teams as our LMS.  These were familiar tools as both Matt and I have extensive experience using them in the physical classroom, as well as online learning.  As a result of our frequent use of these programs, our lesson planning in OneNote has become second nature – which has resulted in assumptions surrounding student knowledge and understanding.  Although this may work in a physical learning environment, it may not be suitable for online learning and a more strategic approach is necessary.  With this in mind, we found it beneficial to have our course modules critiqued by our classmates who do not frequently use these tools.   

What our classmates liked about our course: 

  • In the first video we created, we provided multiple opportunities for students to stop and reflect on their learning. 
  • They felt the overall layout of our course within OneNote was well organized and visually appealing. 
  • The sequential order of the module components was easy to follow and it would make for a relatively stress-free experience for students. 
  • Multiple aspects of media were utilized within the two modules (Video lessons, Flipgrid, YouTube videos etc.) 
  • Work could be completed and assessed in the same environment (OneNote), which allows for immediate feedback on student assignments.  
First Instructional Video

Suggestions for improvement: 

  • Number the instructions at the top of the assignment to make the information easier to read. 
  • Consider increasing the length of the Flipgrid responses to 5-10 minutes rather than 2-3 minutes.   
  • Create a more detailed rubric for the heart rate reflection as it is very generic. 
  • Embed videos into OneNote rather than link to YouTube – could cause problems if student loses Wi-Fi. 
Second Instructional Video

Where Do We Go from Here? 

Now that we have reviewed other modules, and listened to the comments from our peers, we’ve taken valuable time to reflect and critique our own module.  In addition to addressing the valid points from our peers, there are also a few things we would like to change after viewing other courses from our classmates.  

 Some things we would like to explore further or hope to achieve are: 

  • Including more text in our instructional lessons – Amanda and Erin did an excellent job of this. 
  • Create a more detailed and student friendly rubric for future assignments and activities. 
  • Create a follow-up lesson to avoid having multiple “one-off” lessons as the basis for our course. 
  • Utilize other technology tools for students to demonstrate their learning outside of OneNote (Kidblog, Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms, Menti, etc.) 
  • Try to incorporate humour within the instructional videos as a way to engage students.

We are excited to see where our module goes from here. As only a few class members were able to view the modules last week, please feel free to provide us with any further feedback you may have as it would be greatly appreciated!

Resource Review: Spark Reading Digital Library

Teaching guided reading online, during a pandemic nonetheless, is a completely different experience than what educators are used to. When schools initially closed down due to COVID-19, many teachers used Epic, Read Works, Newsela, and Raz Kids to facilitate reading online. While all of these resources have an important place in the online classroom, I was still looking for a simple resource that was more specific for guided reading.

Recently, Pearson came out with a new online literacy resource called Spark. It’s a paid digital library full of books that can be used for virtual instruction, online guided reading, and at-home independent reading. Some of the book collections include Turtle Island Voices, Sails, Mathology, and Time for Kids. This resource “ignites literacy learning with exceptional books, personalization tools, and teaching/learning supports.” Spark Reading just made its debut in 2021, but it has quickly become a fan favourite with its versatility for online and blended learning.

Image result for spark pearson

Spark Explained

Not only is Spark straightforward and easy to understand for teachers, but it is also user friendly for kids. When teachers first log in, they can access their “library,” which includes over 700 titles. They can then search for books based on level, the topic of interest, subject area, genre/text type, and comprehension strategy. The ability to filter and select different books based on levels and strategies is convenient for facilitating guided reading online.

Once teachers have chosen a book, they can either assign it to an individual student, a group of students, or the whole class. The students can then choose the assigned books from their “Book Boxes” or pick a book from the digital library. Teachers can also use books for guided reading with its long list of interactive digital book features and tools. You can see more of what Spark includes in the video below.

Benefits of Spark Reading

There are multiple reasons that Spark stands out. Here are some benefits I have come to recognize in just a short amount of time:

1. Audio versions (read by professional actors) are available for each book.

2. There are interactive activities and quizzes during the story, which help with comprehension.

3. Teachers can use the interactive whiteboard feature for guided reading and online instruction. These whiteboard tools include highlighting and drawing, adding text and shapes, and using the “masking” fade tool for highlighting important parts of the page.

4. Teachers can access the student dashboard panel to monitor student progress.

5. Both students and teachers can enlarge the text in the books, which is especially helpful in guided reading when students are reading on a screen.

6. Each book has teacher notes with before, during, and after reading strategies, as well as extension activities that students can even do at home.

7. There is extensive training and support for both teachers and students. This help centre includes articles and “how-to” videos for every topic.

8. Students are able to stray from their “Book Boxes” and choose the books they want to read from the vast digital library. The books are colour coded so that students are not distracted by reading levels.

Areas to Consider

When using a new tool or resource, it’s important to review all of it, which includes the potential drawbacks. Here are some areas that need to be considered and will hopefully improve as Spark becomes more developed and widely known.

1. The biggest drawback is the price. It costs money, but if your division or school is willing to purchase it, I would say it’s worth it!

2. Since it is new to the digital library market, there are features that have not come to fruition yet. My hope is that as time goes by, more tools will be added, such as a student audio and video recording tool.

3. Even though there are Indigenous authors included in Spark, it is still only 13% of the whole library. I would like to see more selection with Indigenous books, as well as collections that represent more diversity.

4. The resource is strictly web-based right now, which could interfere with the interactive activities. An easy-to-use Spark app would be beneficial and accessible for both students and teachers.

Photo by Olha Ruskykh on Pexels.com

Let’s Review

As you can see, there are many benefits to choosing Spark as your digital library. It’s also important to keep in mind the areas of concern before you or your school division purchases the resource. There is no doubt about it… we need more resources for online and blended learning because it’s not going away anytime soon. Pearson has kept up with the need for this and has quickly developed a functional online library for educators and students. As Spark continues to develop its online library, I am confident that this resource will be a top contender in the online learning world.

-Amanda