Purpose and Background
This post is to provide insight into my COETAIL Course 5 Project. At the end of last school year I asked if it would be possible for the Grade 4 students at the school I was transferring to could be given individual Google accounts, I was extremely happy when I was told that they could. During one of our initial sessions in the computer lab the students were asked to read through the Internet Policy. I was curious and asked a simple question, "How many of you understand what you have just read?" It came as no shock to me that only about half of the students understood the policy. As I left school that day I thought about how best we could work with the student's to create a policy that they understand, while also having them make use of Google Apps.
An Initial Brewing
During several conversations with the teaching team that I work with, we came up with an idea to provide the students with a Google Apps bootcamp. To demonstrate mastery of Google Apps the students would then work collaboratively to research and educate others in the class about Digital Citizenship/Digital Footprints.
To begin with I introduced the students to Gmail and how to sort e-mail, add labels, filter, archive, create contacts, reply, and Google Chat. I also provided them with an introduction into Google Calendar. This aspect has just been completed and over the next couple of weeks the students will be introduced to Google Docs. To help with the implementation of Google Apps I have been creating video tutorials using Camtasia 2 and posting them to my Vimeo account. The advantage to having the students trained in Google Docs is that I can share everything with the students digitally (rubrics, checklists, assignments, resources) and they can do the same for me. This will hopefully increase opportunities for reflections, commenting, and collaborations.
In order to help the students understand the issues behind digital citizenship they will be broken up into speciality groups. For the initial note-taking process all students will be asked to use a Google Doc template. Once the students finish the note-taking process they will be asked to create a multi-media campaign to help promote various aspects of digital citizenship. Once completed the class will create a shared Digital Citizenship Policy that is written by them, for them and hopefully minimal teacher guidance.
As you can probably tell by some of my wording that this project is ongoing and will hopefully wrap up before the Christmas Holidays. So far the students have completed the Gmail and Calendar tutorials but have yet to get into Google Docs. Despite the delay in this particular unit I have noticed a change in how my students are communicating and already have some reflections for next year.
My students have been very quick to pick up on Gmail and Google Chat. It has been a joy to see them learning how to sort through and filter their e-mail. The students feel comfortable e-mailing me for forgotten documents or due dates. One student in particular sent me Google Chat message over the holiday asking for a tutorial on how to screen record on a Mac. This type of communication allows me to tailor lessons and resources more carefully to my students and allows them to practice online communication skills with someone they know and trust.
Making tutorial videos is a task that I enjoy doing. Currently I am using Camtasia 2 and learning how to make my videos look more professional. When my videos are ready, I upload them onto my Vimeo account and send a note out to the class. If we are in the IT lab I will go over it first with the whole class and answer any questions. They can then watch the Vimeo videos if they need refreshers. This allows me to focus on students who need extra assistance or allows me to push the students who grasp it easily. Instead of answering the same questions over and over again I tell them to watch the tutorial. That said my tutorials thus far have not been fancy. One major change for next year is that I would make sure that each tutorial only focusses on one skill or aspect of Gmail or Google Docs. Several of my videos included multiple concepts, which confused some students.
Overall I'm enjoying the process of educating the students about Google Apps and Google Docs. However, I feel that the emphasis should be there from the beginning and it should be a full UoI for six weeks. This would allow the students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of these tools and thus allow their full usage much earlier on in the school year. This year the unit was done during two lessons a week of ICT. I felt that this was not sufficient and the students would need reminding of skills. By having this be the focus of a UoI the students will be given daily reinforcements. Also, by having a specific tech lessons each week, it helped to reinforce the idea that technology is something special that is only used sometimes. This is not the message that I want to send to my students. Perhaps conducting some of these lessons in class using the laptops and other devices would help alleviate this problem.
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A major component of the evaluation of the big project is student demonstration of online collaboration using Google Apps and the creation of a multimedia informational campaign. Looking at the SAMR model I believe this meets redefinition as both the means of communication and creation of the final product would not be possible without the technology available today.
All of the resources that I am using will be made available here
. More resources will be added as students begin to find their own resources and rubrics and checklists are finalized.
by ianguest, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed
Over the past year and half I have met many wonderful people. There are four people in particular I would like to thank for the culminations. The first is of course my brother. Without his constant editing and pushing me to clarify my ideas my posts would not as nice. To @DBullio, thank you for encouraging me to follow the path and take the course with him. Really it was like twisting a rubber arm. @seansensei, I can't thank you enough for agreeing to work with me on that little project. I can't wait to start editing and revising it during the cold winter months. Finally to the instructors and fellow students of Cohort 1 of COETAIL at YIS, thank for you expanding my mind and encouraging me to try new things, accept failure, and dream of a world where our classrooms are flat and our students have no walls preventing them from furthering their learning or coming up with new and interesting ways to share their learning.
It's been a wonderful year.
As this is my last official post for the Certificate of Online Educational Technology and Information Literacy program offered at Yokohama International School through the State University of New York
, I thought I would take this time to reflect back on what this program has meant to me, how it has shaped my teaching, and where I see myself going professionally from here. I remember sitting in my PYP coordinator’s office debating whether or not I should sign up for the program. He encouraged me to do it as I had already become the tech person in the elementary school and he suggested that it would help me professionally move into a new phase of my teaching. I am so glad that he did.
Over the past year and a half it has been a pleasure to get to meet and work with so many wonderful and talented individuals. I always looked forward to our course meetings I always came away with new ideas to help integrate technology and was consistently challenged to rethink how I viewed the use of tech in the classroom. It has been a way for me to gain valuable resources, meet new people, and have a great deal of fun while doing it.
As my knowledge grew, my passion for educational technology continued to grow and my building enthusiasm spread to others. Eventually I was asked to present to the parents about technology education and what the trends were. After the presentation I was also asked to give the presentation to the staff. Being given these opportunities was extremely rewarding and I hope to have many other opportunities to contribute to the life and growth of my school through presentations to other teachers and students.
Probably one of the most important lessons I learned was how to develop and cultivate my own personal learning network. There are many free sites that offer wonderful pieces of advice for integrating technology. However, I in turn must be willing put myself out there and share my success as well as my failures.
Finally, I want to say a sincere thank you to the Cohort 1 instructors and fellow participatants. Your passion and knowledge of educational technology and trends have pushed me to new heights and understanding. If this course was not offered, I would not have gotten the job I have now, I would not be working on developing my PLN, and more importantly I probably wouldn’t have a sweet clue about how to adapt my teaching style to meet the needs of students who never know a world without Google, iPods, iPhones. Thank you everyone for your guidance and support I’m sure all of Cohort 1 are grateful and I wish you all the best for Cohort 2.
by tanekawho, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed
Over the past couple of years I have been wondering how I can best create a physical environment within my classroom that is technology friendly. I want my students to use the tools not only as vessels in which they can obtain data but are able to use them create and contribute. It’s a difficult goal to reach but one that I am striving towards. For this blog post I am going to explore different ways that I allow my students to use technology on a daily basis:
Each student in my class is given three minutes each week to talk about a specified topic. As part of this routine they are to use visual aides to help the other students understand their talk. Most students usually choose to include a PowerPoint. While this may seem like a small and simple way to include technology, it has allowed me to give them honest feedback about their presentation style and use of the tool.
When we go on field trips I encourage my students to bring a camera or device that will allow them to record what they see. This allows them to create interesting displays and helps them reflect on the activities that they participated in.
In my classroom I currently have 4 computers that are available to the students to use at any time. This allows me to create differentiated classroom experiences for the students. When I book out one of the laptop trolleys it means that I have one computer for every student in my classroom. This is incredibly helpful when introducing the students to a new resource.
Currently my students are undergoing a Google Apps training seminar and learning how to use these applications to increase their productivity and improve collaboration. In order to demonstrate that they know how to use the tools, the students will be working together to research and produce their own digital citizenship code of ethics.
Usually when I introduce a new concept or idea I turn to the SmartBoard that I have in my classroom. The students love participating in SmartBoard lessons and coming up to the board and working on the examples that are provided.
We recently got a subscription to BrainPop. The students enjoy the videos and participating in the activities afterwards. As a class we usually watch the video once without commenting. On our second viewing I have a student at the computer and anytime there is an important point and have a class discussion.
My use of technology and the continual integration of it into my everyday practice is one that I know cannot happen overnight and requires patience. I have experienced both success and failures. I have had to modify what I thought were fantastic ideas. However, I preserve to find new ways for my students to use technology because I with the changes that I’ve already made, I can see the benefits in their engagement and learning. It has been a rollercoaster so far and one that I am enjoying immensely.
Over the past few months I have been thinking about education trying to justify what actually needs to be taught in a world where information is just a few clicks a away and the phrase “just Google it” has become a part of our educational lexicon. Since information is so easy to get now, what truly needs to be taught? Do we need to teach force students to remember specific dates of important historical events? As the world becomes smaller through the use of technology, we as educators must force ourselves to analyze what is truly important and what needs to be the focus. The following are my suggestions:
More than anything I think we need to instill a love of learning into our students. I remember sitting in many a class thinking my time would be better spent doing something else. Yes I completed all the work and I played the game, but it wasn’t until university when I was allowed to fully choose what I wanted to learn. It was only then that I truly started to love learning and I haven’t stopped loving it since. How to instill this lesson into students is an argument for another post but Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful talk on how schools are killing creativity.
Schools often use group work in class as a way to help students learn from and with each other and to learn the value of sharing work. However, as technology makes coloration amongst schools easier to use, we must address issues of cultural differences*, the skills of working with people in different time zone, and the value of teamwork.
The world has changed a lot since I was a child; it has changed a lot since I finished my education degree. The students I teach can’t imagine a world without technology but there are many times where they simply don’t know about how to conduct themselves online. Last year as I spoke to my students about downloading, more than half did not realize that downloading music and videos off the Internet for free is can be illegal depending on the situation. During a conversation on Facebook, the majority indicated that they had an account despite being under the age of 13. I told them that they had lied about their age which is technically against the terms of service. Digital citizenship includes much more than just legal arguments but also creativity, privacy, cyber bullying, and addressing the digital divide etc. If these skills are not taught we are doing our students a great disservice.
The idea of living a balanced life is an important one. Ensuring that students understand the importance of making face-to-face relationships, exercise, and learning when to turn off the screen is an important skill.
If you’ll notice I did not put in any specific traditional content but instead focused on skills that I feel are important. By teaching these skills within the framework of traditional required contents one can have a truly innovative program of education. For example, if I was doing an unit on history and was having the students contduct research into Canadian lives during World War II, I would easily tie aspects of digital citizenship by talking about attribution of source material. I would also allow my students create their own end product in a way that allows them to demonstrate their understanding. In other words the key is to succeffully blend the skills of the modern age using the required knowledge base to form the backbone.
*Of course cultural differences are already being addressed within many schools but it needs to continue to be addressed as the world becomes smaller through digital technology.
Can you imagine a world without Google? Are we doing students a disservice by becoming to relient on one company?
Essentially the argument is that Google and other Web 2.0 sites like Facebook are struggling to find a way to make profits as effectively on mobile platforms as they did a few short years ago on standard platforms. The main person referenced in the articles above refers tech companies that were popular during the early days of the consumption only web but struggled with the switch to the more social aspects of Web 2.0. He argues that he is seeing many of the same difficulties with web-sites that thrived in the Web 2.0 environment but are struggling to monetize as we continue to move towards mobile platforms. . While this may be a valid argument, I don’t think Google is going to go anywhere anytime soon and here’s why:
Google has successfully integrated its way into our cultural much like Microsoft, Monsanto, and Apple. It started off simply as a search engine and slowly added services by buying companies that either competed directly with them or provided a service they thought would be useful. With each purchase, Google become more than a search engine, it became a way for people to communicate with each other (Gmail), work collaboratively on documents (Google Documents), organize our lives (Google Calendar), share photos and videos instantly (Picassa and YouTube), and take virtual tours of the world (Google Earth). In the education world this service is changing the way we communicate and work with our students, parents, and colleges.
However, there is always the possibility that Google will fold. Looking back at the past 20 years of technological innovation is like looking at a massive graveyard. There are many examples of companies that people thought were to big to fold. Should I instead of focusing on one suite of applications be focusing on teaching a variety of methods to do the same thing? When does it all become too much for the students? When does it become too much for the teacher? Can we effectively teach and assess the use of a variety of tools? What is the best way to teach a multitude of tools? Do you teach them all at once or do you focus on a few key programs at each grade level and allow them build upon their knowledge from years past?
One part of my morning routine recently has been to skim TED talks to look for interesting topics. Usually the topics that grab my attention are ones that relate to either education, gaming, or both. During my COETAIL courses I was introduced to the work of Jane McGonagall and the idea of gamification.
While I am intrigued by Ms. McGongall’s works and am memorized by her speeches, I have difficulty trying to figure out how I as a teacher could create something like her World Without Oil (insert video) experience for my students. In order to achieve this vision of gaming, it would require a lot of planning, collaboration, and programming. While I am alright with the planning and collaboration, I am certainly not a programmer and would need to work with someone who understands this aspects of computing. However, about a month ago I stumbled across Seth Priebatsch’s talk: the Gaming Layer on the Top of the World. His talk gave me a whole new perspective on what gaming could look like in education. Instead of focusing on gamification strictly involving technology, he focused his talk on game mechanics.
In his talk he goes over game dynamics and talks about how they are already employed through points systems within various rewards systems for different companies. He states plainly that these systems are currently not good and that they need to change. As he goes through his talk he specifically talks about four different game dynamics, one being influence and status. As he explains his examples he talks about schools and how they are already using this game dynamic in marking, reports cards, school rewards, and scholarships. During this section he continues to talk about how this dynamic could be changed in education so that instead of failing a course, your work until you level up. This could be used very nicely and easily with various math concepts.
While the use of game dynamics in education may be already in use and I may already use influence and status within my class intentionally and unintentionally, I can’t help but cringe. On one hand I want my students to learn simply for the joy of learning and not for the purpose of geting a good grade, a nice comment on their reports, or a new toy. In other words I want them to be learn for intrinsic instead of extrinsic reasons. Is there a way to balance the use of game dynamics so that students develop an intrinsic love of learning and enjoy the extrinsic as a byproduct of that joy of learning, or is our culture on a path where everything must come with some sort of physical reward or point system and if it doesn’t, then it isn’t worth doing?
Toward the end of last school year I e-mailed my future co-teacher in Busan and asked her if it would be possible for our students to have their own individual Gmail accounts. Within a few days I heard back from her and said that yes they would set it up and that we no longer have IT classes but instead an ICT facilitator. I was thrilled but was incredibly busy packing up my life in Tokyo to start seriously thinking about what the implications would be for this.
When I arrived in Busan I had a rough vision of where I wanted to take the students and what I needed them to do learn in order to get there. However, after having the students read the ICT Policy and realizing that they did not understand it, I knew the plan had to be modified. I immediately put out a call on Twitter for a list of resources that I could use to get the students to analyze and create their own digital citizenship policy which demonstrates an understanding of how to conduct oneself appropriately and safely online. After discussions with my co-workers we decided on the following plan of action to introduce the students to both Google Apps and Digital Citizenship.
During introductory lessons, students were asked to explore the Webonauts web-site and Professor Garfield’s Digital Citizenship guide. After the students explored these sites we had a brief discussion on Digital Citizenship and they demonstrated through their responses that they had understood the information on these sites.
Gmail and Google Apps:
Over the past few weeks we have been introducing our students to the various aspects of Google Apps. Currently we have gone over Gmail and Calendar. Over the next few weeks we will be introducing the students to Google Docs and how to work collaboratively. In order to help students understand the various features of Gmail and Google Apps, I created some video demos and uploaded them onto my Vimeo site.
Currently we have requested that the students only communicate with others in the class and have reminded them that if there is any issue to let us know. Our goal is to have the students work together in groups to research and work together to form specialty groups and by the end of it create their own digital citizenship policy and awareness campaign for the school. (Embed Assessment task information). Once the students have a detailed understanding of Digital Citizenship, we hope to open up our classrooms to begin working collaboratively with other schools.
So far this has been a long road of preparation but one that I feel will pay off in the end. It is interesting to watch students learn how to efficiently manage their information and I can’t wait until they learn how to create documents on Google Docs and work collaboratively together to create a project.. This process and journey will be one of the main features in my COETAIL Course 5 presentation.
Archiving by Brendan Lea, uploaded to Vimeo, Creative Commons Licensed