Monthly Archive: March 2019

Course 1 Final Project: Hey Siri

This year we changed our device allocation in the elementary school to 1-to-1 iPads from kindergarten to grade 5. With that came Siri!

A couple of weeks ago one of our grade 1 teachers asked me about the role of voice assistants (primarily Siri and Alexa) in research. Her grade 1 students, while just learning the basics of research with PebbleGo, are experts in asking Siri and Alexa questions. However, theses experts had a few misconceptions – there was a consensus among the class that either Siri and Alexa were “real” or they just “knew everything”. So, I teamed up with Flynn and our elementary librarian to design and deliver a lesson to investigate Siri and Alexa as research tools. We have two primary goals:

  • Students will reflect on the effectiveness of their searching techniques when using Siri, Alexa, and Google.
  • Students will reflect on the usefulness of information gained when using Siri, Alexa, and Google.

We didn’t want to discount Siri and Alexa completely, but instead we want the students themselves to draw some conclusions on their effectiveness.

Last week our elementary librarian and I delivered the lesson to one of the grade 1 classes. It wasn’t perfect, but it led to some great discussion with the class and they drew some wonderful conclusions:

  • Siri and Alexa are good for things like facts and information
  • Siri is good at opening websites
  • Siri and Alexia are good at finding out about animals and leaves

Thankfully, our grade 1 students are currently inquiring into our new school campus and that led to some fantastic questions and answers (including Alexa defining the word ‘new’ when asked about our new school campus), and helped us develop a list of what Siri and Alexa are not ideal for.

Flynn and I reflected on the lesson and made a few changes. Primarily, we wanted to further develop the assessment and reflection. We found value in the class discussion and it worked well with grade 1, but we wanted a more substantial assessment and reflection for older grades – thus the addition of a Seesaw post with reflective questions directly related to our goals.

I look forward to teaching it again with an upper elementary grade after our spring holiday.

Our unit planner

Our lesson plan

Siri image by iphonedigital on Flickr

I used Google Doc Publisher to make my Google Docs looks a bit better when embedded on WordPress. 


Connectivism in context

I was very interested in the articles this week on connectivism – the “theory of learning in a digital age that emphasizes the role of social and cultural context in how and where learning occurs”. It’s 2019 and 55.1% of the world’s population has internet access and here in Japan the number is over 90%. The expanse of internet access in the digital age has changed the way individuals and groups grow, develop and learn.

Now in 2019, one of the best illustrations of connectivism are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are online courses available to anyone and originally free-of-charge. They are amazing examples of interest-driven communities mentioned in Living with New Media. In the computational thinking/computer science world I keep heard about the MOOC CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science, available on edX and provided by Harvard University. It’s an amazing introduction into computer science and the art of programming – the on-campus vision is Harvard’s largest course. I haven’t worked through the entire course yet, but I’d love to facilitate an interest-driven community with some of our high school students passionate about CS.

I use this clip from a CS50 lecture all the time when introducing the idea of computational thinking.

What does connectivism look like at YIS?

While we aren’t yet taking advantage of MOOCs at YIS, there are numerous examples of connectivism impacting learning at YIS. One I am particular fond of is an interest-driven community of scuba divers that form our YIS Underwater Explorers service group.

YIS student attaching a secchi disk to measure visibility

Side note, for those that don’t know me quite yet, I’m very passionate about diving, especially diving education, exploration and conservation (I’m a GUE dive instructor).

Our young explorers aim to understand and improve the aquatic environment in Japan. We will serve our community by working with the organization Project Baseline to check and record the ocean conditions and share them with local governments and educational institutions. Project Baseline, while not a MOOC, it is a connected online network of divers from around the world working towards the same purpose – observe and record change within the world’s aquatic environments. The connectedness of the internet has brought what was previously only available to researchers and universities to anyone – including 15 high school student in Japan.

The students geek-out as they collect data on a handful of abiotic and biotic factors. They’ve worked with passionate adults (both our science teachers and some diving conservation experts) to investigating and collecting this data in Japan’s aquatic environment:

The connectedness of the internet has made these experiences real to our students and their passion is amazing.

Finally, I found a connection to diving for a COETAIL post! 😉

How are your students learning and sharing information across the web and among themselves? Do your students have opportunities to participate in MOOCs?