My Field of Dreams – Course 1 Assignment

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This unit planner is a mash-up of what is currently proposed for a new unit for fourth grade, the math curriculum and current unit of work on data handling, and my desire to work with our fixed IT schedule (45 minutes, once a week per class) to make the time spent with me connect more closely with classroom learning. I am in the process of negotiating a flexible schedule with all teachers as IT teachers and me pushing into classes to further support teaching and learning with technology. Until this type of schedule is enacted, I have used this assignment to better plan out my ‘one off’ lessons so that they lead towards students being independent in their use of technology and aware of how they can use technology to document, share, and reflect on their learning.  As much as possible, I want to use what they are currently learning about to introduce new technologies and then have them revisit these technologies in the context of their unit which will begin in January. Is this ideal?  I don’t know.  But I do know it is better than what is currently happening which I don’t think connects all that well to current classroom teaching and learning.

We are currently in the process of planning a new unit under the transdisciplinary theme Sharing the Planet. The current thought is that it will be about accessibility and who has access.  I will be involved in the planning of this unit but it is largely driven by the PYP Coordinator and the fourth grade homeroom teachers. As part of German class, students will be taking a field trip into Munich.  It has been proposed that they take a wheeled suitcase or stroller with them on the trip to simulate the issues faced by those who rely on accessible access in order to participate.

At the same time, students are working on data handling in math.  I would like to see these skills be transferred into a context that asks the students to use what they know to convey a message and support their opinions. This is something we ask of them in the Exhibition (in our school, Exhibition is done at the end of fourth grade).  In addition, students have to present weekly on the book they are reading and I will have them do this through the creation of a book trailer in iMovie so that they can become familiar with how this works. Their next unit of inquiry focuses on Migration and this will be the context with which I will introduce Tour Builder for students to map their own migration stories and the migration stories of people they research.

The assessment for all of this will be in the form of the one point rubric.  This is something that is new to me but that really resonates and something I really want to try out. I posted about this rubric on my own blog a few weeks ago. I would focus only on the NETS standards at this point (not the curriculum standards).  This is partly due to how the teaching of IT is structured at my school and partly to draw attention to the NETS standards as discrete, important learning goals in their own right.

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In the embedded planner (below) I have included a potential outline of the next eight weeks of IT classes.  It does seem quite ambitious but I think unless you ask kids to push themselves beyond what comes easily, you are not enabling them to grow as learners. Learning occurs when it all gets a bit uncomfortable – and that goes for us as teachers, too.

As is implied by the intentionally mis-quoted graphic at the top of this post, my hope is in planning, sharing, and being willing to open this unit up to other teachers to collaborate and modify, we will start to develop a more holistic and integrated approach to teaching and learning with technology.

Mindset, Purpose, Connection…GO!

Global Collaboration.  It sounds daunting but with the development of technology it is a very feasible option for teachers and students. What makes it work?


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I think collaboration on this level needs a mindset that says, “I am willing to do this thing even though it may not work or it may be hard or my students may be more familiar with the technology that we will be using than I am.”

This week I came across a graphic from a fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson which underscores the key attributes of a modern teacher. I think step one of global collaboration is reading this list and nodding along. Vigorously.





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Step two…define your purpose.  What do you want to achieve from your collaborative effort? Who is initiating the collaboration?  Are we supporting the students or are we directing them?

An opt-in program which introduces students to the idea of global collaboration might be a good place to start.  For the past three years I have participated in Dot Day.  My level of involvement has varied from year to year.  We have Skyped with one class and shown our work, we have sent art to another and then Skyped them to discuss.  I have tried to get across to my students the idea of being connected through a common purpose.

I have also been part of the Teapot Project.  This one was challenging but authentic and I think as I continue to move on with this project, my ideas are evolving as to how it can help students broaden their connections. *NOTE: I currently have a teapot from a fourth grade class in Nanjing.  Does anyone want to participate?!

I recently saw a NYT slideshow on breakfast around the world and was inspired to do a similar “What’s in your lunchbox?” photo-sharing with schools around the world.  I created the Google Slideshow for sharing and even made a screencast of how to go about uploading your image, but then I had to ask myself, “For what purpose?”. This was so driven by me and not by the kids in Grade 2 who barely care about what is in the lunchbox of the kid next to them let alone a kid half-way around the world.  Why were we doing this?  Again, what was the purpose?

It made me think of two things with regard to global collaboration projects:

1. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. 

2. Who is driving the inquiry?

The latter question made me think of Hart’s Ladder of Participation which I have used to talk about authentic action with students. Are some global collaboration projects simply the mastermind of the teacher who can then check that off their list?  This sounds more sinister than needed but I think is worth thinking about when considering WHY you want to start a global project.




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I think the biggest drawcard of online, global collaborative projects is the connections you will build with fellow, like-minded educators.  I do think there is incredible value in exposing children to people, events, and ideas beyond the classroom walls.  I think there is just as much (more?) value to us as educators in participating in these ventures.

As has been alluded to since the beginning of this course, putting yourself ‘out there’ is not easy but it really does pay off.  To be able to expand your network and therefore your idea base beyond your own school is invaluable and has a major impact on who you are as a teacher.

My connected journey started with me writing my own blog,  From here, I asked to become a contributor to the shared inquiry blog, Inquire Within – a blog I found through Twitter. Sometimes I cross-post content from my own blog and other times I will write something specifically for this audience of (mostly) PYP educators. Soon after, I was asked by the IBO to work in a small team to develop the PYP blog, SharingPYP.

Without a doubt technology is changing the learning landscape and global education. The question is simply, are you going to be a part of that change?


Shaping Tech For MY Classroom


This week I have been thinking about digital portfolios for our fourth grade students. I have been tasked with investigating their use in other schools: looking into what is included in them, how they are managed, and the digital platforms they are hosted on.

Old Things in Old Ways

I started by looking into what we already have in play: Edublogs.  Each student at our school has one by default so this seemed like a good place to start.  I sat down and started tinkering around, creating pages in a similar vein to the subject dividers in our tactile portfolios. The idea would be to separate the process from the product.  Even as I did this, it didn’t sit well with me as I have long been a proponent of process over product. It felt like duplication of an idea that I already wasn’t a huge fan of.

Sample Blog

Old Things in New Ways

So I met with another Learning Technology Teacher at our school and we discussed the idea of no static pages and instead all content within the blog posts, using categories to tag the work so they they can be sorted by the reader.

We talked about letting the students decide if they wanted some static pages for things that were important to them – links to websites, subscriptions – and giving the students autonomy over how their blog looked.

We liked the idea of process and product being mixed in together with the option of filtering one from the other.  We also talked about the option for students to password protect their reflections, goals, or particularly personal posts that they only wanted to share with a smaller audience.

We would be giving the students the opportunity to move on from sharing only what could previously fit inside an A4 plastic pocket, to sharing their voice, their image, video, scanned work, collaborative pieces, reflections, wonderings, creations and more.  Still very similar to what was already in play, but with new possibilities for students to really communicate their thinking and understanding.

The Big Tech Barrier: One to One

We don’t have a 1:1 environment for our fourth graders.  Classes of 20 students have 10 MacBooks and 6 iPad minis per class.  There is also a cart of 20 MacBooks for the grade level, but as Prensky points out “when used well, computers become extensions of students’ personal self and brains”.  If a teacher wanted 1:1 they could make it happen, but not on a device dedicated to that one student.

The Social Barrier: Digital Immigrants

This could be the bigger hurdle.  Without going into extensive detail (in line with Kim’s digital footprint blogging guidelines) let me just say that during this entire section, I found myself nodding along.  Vigorously. And it made me realize that in my role, I was going to need to work harder at articulating purpose and providing appropriate (differentiated) support to teachers and students along this journey.

I left school for the long weekend and Prensky’s summary quote was on my mind:

Prensky Quote

New Problems, New Solutions

When I got home my phone beeped and I was notified that someone new was following me on Twitter: @shaza33 I typically like to check out new followers so I clicked on her handle and then her website.  Scrolling through, I came to this post about…Digital Portfolios!  She had great ideas and some great examples of things included in the portfolio.  I wasn’t in love with everything she shared but I was inspired by her work and it assured me that this was going to be possible. I particularly liked the way she linked her purpose back to the Role of ICT in the PYP document and the PYP Making It Happen document.

Then I flicked through my RSS feed of COETAIL blogs and read Kirsty Godbout’s post on Reflections on Why?  In her post, she spoke of Simon Sinek and the understanding he shared that we should ‘start with why’ which is typically the opposite of what most people do (instead starting with ‘what’ they are going to do or ‘how’ they are going to do it, but leaving the all important why out of the equation). She reminded me that this was a facet of my equation that I was missing.

Both of these interactions were important and inspiring and reminded me that sometimes the answers or the inspiration we are looking for can come from places that would previously not have existed.

New Things in New Ways

So, what are we waiting for? I think of my own blogging journey that started a couple of years ago and I know so much of what I get from it is the opportunity to reflect on my own learning. This sentiment is echoed by George Courous:

If we do not take time to look back, how will we ever be able to move forward?

I want our kids to have the same opportunity to share their learning journeys in ways that were not previously possible and in ways that really allow their creativity, innovation, thoughtfulness, and insightfulness to flourish.

Our kids deserve no less.

And then, as a nod to messing around, I came across this story of how a three-minute film was watched by over 120 world leaders at the United Nations two weeks ago as part of a campaign on Climate Change. A more important issue at hand than my portfolio dilemma (of course!) but sharing a sentiment that could transcend to our use of technology in education:

We can make today the day we stop thinking that the changes required to get there are impossible and beyond us, and start realizing that they are not only possible, but what the future requires of us.