Monthly Archive: December 2019

Course 4 final project: what’s next?

With course 5 right around the corner, I’ve decided to take some time to explore a few different options for the course 5 project. 

IDEA 1: Launching a re-developed Empowered Use Policy

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Course 2 was quite inspiring for me as we explored ISTE Standard for Educators 2 (Citizen). One of my favorite resources was Scott McLeod’s blog post describing moving away from technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) and exploring an empowered use policy (EUP). McLeod writes passionately about moving away from the long, negative, legalistic phrases in most AUPs and moving towards simple, positive, empowering language. 

As I discussed in one of my course 2 posts, I’m working on redeveloping our Connected Learning Community responsible use policy to better address our entire E-12 student population. Our responsible use policy isn’t terrible and is very positive, but it doesn’t reach our entire community of learners, it was written for our secondary students and doesn’t scale down well to elementary. 

Thankfully, I’ve been working with a great group of teachers from across the school to revisit the policy and look to how we can redevelop it. We’ve developed a draft with a lot of inspiration from McLeod:

We are empowered users of technology:

  • We are safe. 
  • We are responsible. 
  • We are respectful. 
  • We make a difference. We do good. We take action. (We do good and take action??) (Change the world? Have an impact? We are caring and creative? We are valuable? We are progressive? We are positive? We have an Impact? We aim to be a positive influence? 

Okay, we are struggling with the last one, but we are heading in the right direction. Developing the policy, however, is the easy part. The hard, yet most important part is getting the students to know, believe and live the policy. That’s where my COETAIL final project could come in… 

Describe the unit

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What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?

I aim to develop a unit for our elementary learners (ELC-5) that introduces the redeveloped EUP and builds a foundation for digital citizenship in our elementary classrooms. It’s not about developing a one-off lesson that just introduces the policy, but instead about bringing students forward as positive digital citizens through the lens of a new EUP. It will also be a starting point for teachers to continue the learning around digital citizenship. 

Students will walk away with a solid understanding of how empowered with technology. They will develop skills necessary to collaborate and work together in a digital world. 

The unit will primarily focus around ISTE student standard 2: Digital citizen as it, along with the EUP, will help structure what the learning experiences look like. 

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

As I mentioned above, the project links directly to course 2 and the inquiry into citizenship. Course 2 inspired me to revisit our AUP and explore what it looks like in elementary. I also see direct links to course 4 and the focus on deep learning. How can digital citizenship lessons promote deep learning? What does tech usage look like in digital citizenship education and how can I work with the SAMR and TPACK models to best support tech usage in these lessons. 

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

I think it’s a great link between my learnings with COETAIL and my priorities for this year. Digital citizenship has been on the back burner for quite some time and it would be a great time to bring it forward. Both our students and teachers are at a point where we need a bit more structure in how we approach digital citizenship and I think this unit would help lay the groundwork needed for that. 

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

The best evidence will be through videos and reflections of student learning. We’ve been focusing as a school a lot on how we use Seesaw for in-depth reflection, which will allow for me to tap into that tool as a way to capture their understandings. Another great resource will come from discussions with teachers that I will be co-teaching with. What challenges do they currently see in their classrooms and how can our lessons help move the students forward?

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I’m a bit concerned that this might be too big of a goal and be challenging to juggle it with all my other commitments. While I aim to introduce a plan for ELC to grade 5 it might be best to focus on just one or two grade levels for the course 5 project and then use the next academic year to focus on a few other grades. 

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

Exploring deep learning with a digital citizenship unit with require a shift in pedagogy – I aim to develop a unit that promotes agency, something that hasn’t been as present in how I’ve taught digital citizenship in the past. I need to create a learning environment 

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

The unit will require development in a number of attitudes. Students will explore how they are empowered to be caring and balanced users of technology. They will learn skills that help them work through these challenges and help them solve problems that they face in the future. 

IDEA 2: Developing computational thinking in kindergarten

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A fair warning, this unit idea isn’t as well-developed as the previous one. I’ve been focused a lot over the past year on how to future develop links to computational thinking in our elementary curriculum and I’m keen to work with kindergarten for this unit. I was inspired when I watched Pana Asavavatana’s course 5 project video on how she developed a completely unplugged coding experience – I’m not after a completely unplugged experience, but her experience working with the youngest learners is inspiring. 

I picked kindergarten for a few different reasons. First, we have a wonderful kindergarten team who is always open to explore something new . Second, I want the challenge of working on computational thinking with a younger grade level. I’ve worked with older grade levels and I’m keen to dive into how tech (and the lack of tech) can help us grow as computational thinkers. Third, I think it’s a great place to start so the students can grow and develop as computational thinkers as they more into higher grades. 

Describe the unit

What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?

This will be an integrated unit as part of the kindergarten unit of inquiry focusing on how people communicate using various forms of expression. Students will dive into how people express themselves using technology and computational thinking. They will walk around with a general understanding of computational problem solving so that they can build on it as they move into first grade. 

I’m not after a unit where we just play with a variety of tech tools, but instead how we can scaffold the students understanding in a way that will give them a better understanding of how to solve complex problems in a way that is necessary for fully participating in a computational world. Computational thinking isn’t computer science, it is a way of solving problems and creating systems that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. 

The unit will primarily focus around ISTE student standard 5: computational thinker as I worked with students to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.” (ISTE, Standards for Students)

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

This unit will bring together a lot of what I’ve learned during my COETAIL journey. I envision relating to the conversations around collaboration and student voice from course 3 to deep learning from course 4. 

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

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I think this unit will be a great way for me to combine a lot of the learning that has happened on my COETAIL journey over the past year and consolidate it nicely. I also look forward to working with an enthusiastic team and a passionate group of students. 

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

Like my other unit idea, our Learning Journals (Seesaw) will provide a great lens into the learning that is happening through the unit. Our kindergartens are skilled in using a variety of media and reflection techniques to share on the Learning Journals and I look forward to seeing how they might provide evidence for my course 5 final video. 

Our kindergarteners also use Book Creator regularly to share their learning, so I look forward to finding ways in which I can use that as a tool for collecting evidence of learning during this unit. 

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I need to have a better developed understanding of the unit of inquiry to find concrete links to computational thinking. That’s my goal in the next week and a bit before the holiday to week with the kindergarten team and work to develop these links. I think it’s impossible to have a unit that engages deep learning without authentic links to the kindergarten learning. 

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

I’m looking forward to stepping back and addressing computational thinking from the ground up. I plan to start without tech in a way that focuses on the problem solving and then moving into how technology can support this kind of computational problem solving. 

I’m also after building in more student agency through deep learning. I want to take the time to develop the skills necessary to give students the agency to grow as computational thinkers – but I still need to explore what this might look like in kindergarten. 

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

This unit will develop the basics of computational thinking with our students. They will walk our with some problem solving strategies that will connect to both computer science and everyday life. 


Looking forward

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I think the COETAIL designers has a bit of fun with the resource for the week – a huge, yet valuable, list! Some were very familiar (bit on Design Thinking and PBL), some took a new look on things I’ve experimented with (game-based learning) and some were completely new (challenge based learning). I’ve decided to start this post with some encouraging thoughts from the readings and transition into moving forward with deep learning. 

What was encouraging?

Drive for redesigned assessment

We need to develop measures for both deep learning outcomes and for the new pedagogies and learning environments that support them.

Fullan and Langworthy, A Rich Seam

I’d like to think that in international schools we are a bit further along with assessments, particularly with standardized assessments. At YIS we administer the ACER International Schools’ Assessment (ISA). It’s just one way that we collect data, but it isn’t used to evaluate teachers or rate student ability – something I can’t say about testing when I was a US public school teacher at the beginning of my career. The ISA does give us an opportunity to see how we are growing as a school and allows some insight into how compare with similar international school. 

But it isn’t all about standardized assessments… how do we better develop our formative and summative assessments to assess new learning outcomes? How to we measure deep learning outcomes? How can we support high student expectations to drive success?

A new look at gamification

I was a bit reluctant to click the link the resource about gamification in the classroom. It’s something I’ve looked up a bit in the past, but was always deterred by the idea of completely developing a game-based curriculum. However, when I read the quote below I was a bit excited about the possibilities of gameful design.

I prefer (and teach) the concept of gameful design. The distinction is subtle but important. Whereas gamification equates to making a game of an activity, gameful design looks at the various aspects and intrinsic motivators that are embedded in successful games (and in other nongame events) and asks whether those elements can be replicated and woven into classroom and online activities.

Kevin Bell, Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer

Bell describes it perfectly – it isn’t creating an entire game from your curriculum, instead it is about borrowing elements of gaming and applying them, when constructive, in your classroom. 

Digital badges in education is something that continues to interest me. It certainly has links to gaming achievements (watch Microcredentials & the Evolution of Badges to Recognize Learning), but doesn’t come without its challenges (see The Seven Deadly Sins Of Digital Badging In Education). I’m keen to explore more and experiment with how might look like at our school. 

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How do you support your colleagues in becoming deep learners?

As a coach, I spend most of my day working with teachers to improve student learning. Spending time diving into deep learning these past few weeks had me recently thinking about how I can share some of this with the teachers I work with every day. To start, I’ve put together three deep learning tips I hope to share with my colleagues:

Develop strong learning goals

Deep learning requires students to become leaders of their own learning – they are able to develop and follow their own learning goals, These goals should be “guided by clear and appropriately challenging learning goals, goals that ideally incorporate both curricular content and students’ interests or aspirations.” (Fullan and Langworthy) They should be developed by the student with support and guidance from the teacher. 

Develop the capacity to lead to student control

Student agency is an important aspect of deep learning, but it doesn’t mean we teach from the sidelines in a less-engaged role. Instead, teachers are activators, they drive help the students develop capacity, they work with students to construct and monitor their goals, they are present! The teacher has a proactive role, not a sidelined role, in moving the learning forward in the classroom. 

Focus on the pedagogy, then the tech

“Technology, strategically integrated with the other core components of the new pedagogies, unleashes deep learning” (Fullan and Langworthy), but just layering technology on learning without first focusing on the pedagogy isn’t promoting powerful deep learning.

However, using this as an excuse for not learning the tech isn’t going to help… We need to know the tech so we know when it links to the pedagogy. However, don’t worry too much, that’s when your PLN plans a huge role. 


Five amazing real-life design problems for kindergarten students

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I’ve added the word listicle (list-formatted articles) to my vocabulary this week as I researched for this piece. They seems to be one of those things that you either love (apparently our brains love them) or hate (as is evident is this listicle – ironic). While I’m sure they are overused, it looks like they are here to stay, so now it’s my turn to add to the craze. 

Why am I on about listicles and what’s the relation to this weeks readings?

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For our upcoming kindergarten How the World Works unit of inquiry our students will be inquiring into how materials can be manipulated to suit a purpose. The unit has great links to design thinking and I’ve been using David Lee’s Design Thinking in the Classroom and our readings on Deep Learning to redevelop the learning experience with my kindergarten colleagues. 

Previously this unit introduced design thinking through a teacher-created “scenarios’. The challenge with these scenarios was that they were not authentic for a kindergarten student and they lacked applying their knowledge to a real situation, an important aspect of deep learning discussed to detail by Fullan and Langworthy. We are after real-life design thinking problems that support critical thinking. We want to align with Paulo Freire’s idea of developing critical thinking by structuring this experience to promote student thinking. We don’t want to provide the answers, but instead provide the problems that allow for creativity and critical thinking. 

How can we leverage technology in powerful ways during this unit?

I see two ways in which this unit of inquiry can link to technology in authentic, powerful ways.

First, our students will be collaborating and documenting their learning journey via Book Creator (and later via Seesaw). Book Creator provides an easy-to-use platform for the students document as they work through the design process. It seamlessly brings together test, video, photos, voice and more in a way that accessible to every kindergarten student. 

Second, technology will allow us to connect with experts. I recently stumbled across a post on Twitter from my PLN asking for experts to support student projects. They sent out a Google Doc with descriptions of the projects and within hours they had experts from around the world offering their time to support the inquiry. I think this unit would be the perfect opportunity to do something similar. A 10 minute Skype call connecting a group of kindergartners with an expert can provide a significant amount of inspiration. 

I’m inspired to see what other connections we can draw to promote high level uses of technology. 

And finally, 5 amazing real-life design problems for kindergarten students 

The design problems I’ve listed below are authentic for our students, but they might not work in your classroom. However, they are great inspiration to help you develop design thinking in your classroom. 

Also, note that I’ve presented problems, not solutions. Of course, I have tons of great solutions to these problems, but that’s not the learning process. We are after student creations and ideas!

  1. How can we turn the outdoor space behind our kinder classrooms into a learning space?
    We have just a meter or so of space behind our kinder classrooms before a retaining wall and fence that leads to a small gardens cared for by our grade 4 students. We’ve love to use this as a learning space, but it is currently dark and damp… what can we do?
  2. How can we improve the audio quality on our learning journal (Seesaw) posts?
    We often hear so much background noise in our Learning Journal posts. How can we help our audience hear what we are sharing better?
  3. We are running out of work spaces for all students, how can we create more?
    Our kinder classes are growing, but we don’t have enough working spaces for all our students. How can we create spaces to fit the learning needs of kinder students?
  4. We see lots of shopping bags in kindergarten – how can we reduce the number of plastic shopping bags that we are using?
    Unfortunately, Japan loves plastic shopping bags and they often make their way into our classrooms. How can we get away from using these bags?
  5. Our kinder bathroom isn’t inviting and a bit smelly! What can we do?
    The bathrooms next to our kinder classrooms don’t smell so great and are shared by most of the school at recess time. What. Can we do to make them smell a bit better and be a bit more inviting?

That’s it. What ideas do you have for real-life problems at your school? Would love to hear them as they might create some good inspiration for us!

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