There is Light !

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Photo Credit: Noah Bolton Flickr via Compfight cc

Light is beginning to shine on our project that was previously in the dark.  Where there were once questions about what it would look like, they have now been satisfied with concrete evidence.  There were some curves along the way, but one thing remained constant – the steadfast, helpful, collaborative nature of both Ellen and Sam in this project of ours.

Only a few weeks ago we decided together that Google Classroom was not the platform we ultimately wanted to use.  We started to populate our prototype on Google Classroom and it just didn’t shape up the way we wanted it to look.  We all agreed that although it was late to be changing our platform –  we really wanted it to be more appealing, more colorful and  interesting to grade three students. As well, we wanted it to be very easy for them to navigate.  Once we decided to make a platform switch, our unanimous decision was to go with what we know – WordPress.  This platform has all the features we were looking for : easy to use, straightforward, colorful, simple to navigate etc.

Once we made the move over to WordPress, everything just started to unfold beautifully.  I am most happy with the visual appearance.  I am a visual person myself, and am drawn in by color and beauty.  I think many students are visual learners as well and will be enticed by the interesting colorful pictures on the site we have created.

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Photo Credit: pburka Flickr via Compfight cc

A personal benefit from the move to WordPress has been the comfort and familiarity with the logistics of how to import and source videos and pictures. I have noticed how quickly many of my colleagues can click and move things around on a computer. I have come a long way but still consider myself to be more towards the early part of this learning continuum.  I am happy with how our prototype looks and am grateful to my partners in this project.

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I have to agree with Elizabeth this week.  In her blog she talks about how difficult it is to put all the pieces together even though you have already chosen those pieces.  Then there is the need to double check that what has been chosen is a match to the assignment criteria.  Of course, all the while remembering to make sure the format works for the intended audience. There are so many variables to consider when putting together the pieces of this ‘prototype’ puzzle.

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I have checked and double checked to make sure that my links work.  That said, we all know computers – sometimes there are little glitches for no apparent reason. I needed to rework my ‘voice’ in the lessons because I discovered I needed to establish consistency.  Initially I had vacillated between talking directly to gr. 3 children and adding in comments for teachers who might want to use the module.

Then there’s the element of group dynamics – when to get together (and how). Our online meetings have all worked out well, but for me it has taken some getting used to. Each person comes to a group project wanting to explore their own ideas while honoring the thoughts/idea/wishes of others. Group work develops certain relationship skills. After all – isn’t that why we encourage our own students to participate in group work.

I know this is an online course and we have very easy tools to facilitate online meetings. I have to admit that I have become more comfortable with getting together with my group online – but out of curiosity… I am wondering if you got together for ‘online’ or face to face group meetings?  And… which do you prefer if you have a choice?

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Openness

“open” by Falstaf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

When I first searched images for this blog post,  my mind jumped to key words such as danger, online safety, vulnerability…  (notice how my opening picture has ‘danger’ written all over it?)  Which leads me to think about how students can be limited by the thoughts/beliefs/comfort of their teacher when it comes to technology.  So when I use the word openness is my title, the first reference is to that of the person who is governing student computer use.

I say this because I know that I have been ‘guilty as charged’ when it comes to worrying about the internet. Both in terms of my own safety, the safety of my children, and that of students as well.  I think it comes from a lifetime of being told to “be careful” , “don’t take risks”, and “stay away from danger”. I think that is where the fear of technology was rooted for me.  Before taking EC&I 830 I used my computer for email, google searches, creation of school related word documents, and to check the weather 🙂 (another fear based ritual 🙂

So…. back to privacy policies and open online discussion for students. I am learning to trust that with proper digital citizenship education starting when students are very young, we can set them up to have successful online skills.  I now believe, that as young as kindergarten, students should start learning computer skills, including discussions around ‘netiquette’ and online safety. You can check out this link to get ideas about how you might begin to teach internet safety to younger elementary students.

Just like most things that occur in a classroom, online safety is something that needs to be ‘taught’. Obviously with the very young grades, a small controlled environment makes sense.  That’s why something like See Saw works well for primary classrooms.

 

See Saw is an effective tool for teachers to encourage the development of an online community for young primary teachers.  It provides easy sign in (through the use of quick QR scanning code).  This has the potential to show students about the creation of an online community.  They can learn about the intricacies of online interactions in an environment that is controlled by the teacher (with comments requiring approval and giving opportunities for intervention and feedback).  Each student is able to login with their own QR code on the same computer, so this is advantageous if there are only one or two devices in a classroom.  Creating this opportunity for students to provide feedback and communicate with one another allows teachers to present students with a different form of ‘authentic’ audience.  This can encourage students in new ways to do their best work and practice their ‘feedback skills’.

I would like to close this post by commenting on my new relationship with Twitter. It was Stephanie’s post this week that reminded me to think about my own experience with open online spaces.  Before this class, even the idea of Twitter did not appeal to me. I thought it was people reaching out to draw attention to things that they were doing/seeing/experiencing. Of course, like anything else, when you don’t understand something – you shouldn’t judge. The class requirement of getting a Twitter account was both intimidating and mildly irritating at first. My sentiment was that if I had wanted to go on Twitter before now – I would have.  It is really great to be nudged out of one’s comfort zone and be surprised by how wrong the preconceived notions were.  Twitter is an excellent source of information and an invaluable way to build community based on common interests.  Good lesson for me !   🙂

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A Plethora of Choices

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Check out how to make a fun interactive wheel yourself at Wheel Decide.

Now that we are narrowing our search for things to include in our prototype, I am starting to feel better. Thinking that it would be great to learn and include so many of the cool things we have been exposed to – has the potential to feel  quite overwhelming.

In our blended prototype our group plans to include a number of different types of interactions. The modules will be organized with a Google Classroom platform. There will be some lessons that are somewhat traditional, with face-to-face interaction in the classroom. There will be some lessons that are watched at home (flipped model). Students will be given opportunities to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways using See Saw:

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The reasons we have chosen to use Google Classroom are : ease of availability, ease of use, straightforward and easy to understand. Roxanne reminded me in her blog this week that using Google Classroom has the benefit of providing access to numerous resources and tools.  This will work well for grade three students. See Saw is also a great option for students at this level for a number of reasons:  availability of ipads in our classrooms, the option to use one or two ipads for the entire class if availability is limited. Students can reflect on their work in a variety of ways which works well for the differentiation that exists in classrooms.  Visual demonstrations of learning work well for students with learning difficulties, as well as for those who are learning the English language. Also, See Saw has a feature that allows families to access student work (naturally – after teachers have approved work for publication :).

You can check out the great “Boundaries and Participation Rubric” that Sarah included in her blog this week. I always think that rubrics are excellent for helping students prepare in a variety of ways. Rubrics help to direct learning even before the unit begins. They guide students to think about the effort they will put into their own learning. Often, it helps students to create timelines and checklists as they proceed through a given unit. Finally, it helps them to remember all the things they are being requested to do as they are learning something new (they can refer back to it as often as they like). We definitely plan to include rubrics in our module. You can check out the following pre-made rubrics by Kathy Shrock for ideas (taken from Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation).  We are considering a self assessment rubric from the Saskatchewan Curriculum such as the following: (self-assess-rubric).

Or perhaps the one below:  from Teacher’s Take Out

Free Self Assessment

When referring to assessment practice, I know it is important to have assessment match learning goals. It is also preferable for students to be able to show what they have learned in a variety of ways.  Our modules will each contain different ways of assessing desired outcomes.  In the article Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation, we are reminded of some important things to remember:

-Assessment must be matched to learning outcomes

-Assessment must be aligned with instruction.

-Students must be given clear guidelines regarding how their work will be assessed.

Looking forward to the weeks ahead , as our prototype will continue to take shape and hopefully be something that is used with students in the future.

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‘Gettin’ work done !!

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