Final Project Ideas

I am skipping the order of posts since I am behind the eight ball on this course and I really want to tap into the amazing ideas and advice of fellow Coetailers and ‘strike while the iron’s hot’  and final project blog posts are rolling in.

I don’t really have a fixed idea for my Course Five project – I know.  We were supposed to be thinking about it since Day 1 but that seems so long ago (and yet still I am without an fixed idea…).

A little background: This was my first year as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School.  Here’s what I have done this year:

  • initiated student blogs in G4 (Edublogs)
  • initiated student blogs in G1 (Edublogs with the iPad app EasyBlogJr)
  • changed my schedule from weekly 45 minute lessons with every class to in the school to an A/B timetable offering fixed/flex timeslots (somewhat successful – could be better)
  • moved to an integrated approach to learning about/with technology through play in our EC classes
  • coordinated two faculty meetings on blogging and tech integration with the help of fellow “Blogstars” and tech gurus on staff
  • mentored three teachers as part of their professional development goals to incorporate more technology into their classrooms
  • ongoing curation of tech resources to support units of inquiry
  • creation of video tutorials to support differentiated student learning
  • trialled the introduction of GAFE with the fourth grade classes.

Almost any one of these projects could be transformed into a Course Five project.  I guess my ‘problem’ is that I am spoiled for choice. But choose I must, so these are my possible options thus far:

Option One: Tech Integration in the Math Classroom

Describe the project: What will your students do?

This project would be in conjunction with another teacher who has asked me to support her in bringing more technology into her math class.  The idea would be to work alongside her and bring her to a place where she could use technology to pre-teach ideas, have students explain their thinking and document their learning through video, screencasts, animations, develop math skills independently and become coaches of other students via Khan Academy, learn with and from each other via the interactive whiteboard.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

I have really enjoyed the Coetail course but I am not sure I ever really had an “aha” moment  – as in “Oh my, now I understand what technology integration is and why it is important!”. What I have learned is that one of the best ways of learning is through a supported network of learners and while I really feel I have this online, I know I could do more to foster the same kind of network within the walls of my own school.  The teacher in mind (who I am currently working with) is super open to the ideas and already has come such a long way just in the way she thinks about integration.  I think it would be a great combination of my mentoring skill development as well as the implementation of ideas that will augment, modify and redefine how math is taught and learned.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

I would hope to develop unit planners that document the integration of IT within the grade level.  I would like to see my ‘student’ teaching other members of her team ways to integrate technology.  I would hope that it would be evident that a range of skills and approaches to learning were incorporated in the units in order to bring out the best math understandings in the students in her class.

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

I think it challenges me in my role as Learning Technology teacher to help make all teachers technology teachers. I think this kind of mentoring and passing on of my knowledge and ideas is something I would like to work on and develop and at the same time be reminded of the constraints of the busy primary classroom (how quickly we forget!). I would love to see this as a flagship partnership that would hopefully expand in coming semesters to whole teams or new partnerships or partnerships that don’t even include me – and that is, again, one of the big take-aways for me is that my role is to help push forward the integration of technology in classrooms.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I don’t have any major concerns.  I am familiar with the third grade math curriculum having taught fourth grade last year. I am also currently a member of the Khan Academy CIA (Content Improvement Analyst) and have been giving feedback on math content including third grade. We have iPads and MacBooks in G3 with more of both coming next year and I already have a great personal and professional relationship with the teacher in mind.

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

I think it will require me to be more open to the traditional method of teaching as I know this is where the comfort level of the teacher I will be working with lies.  I can be dismissive of ideas that are not progressive enough so learning not to throw the baby out with the bathwater would be a good start! I think a dedicated focus on learning via the UbD planner is going to be brilliant.  It is not something that exists in our school at this point so it will be refreshing to be focusing on the standards and the big questions and the assessments without getting weighed down with ‘activities’. I am looking forward to implementing a variety of teaching methods (Reverse Instruction, Learning Through Play, Problem Based Learning) within the math class.

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

I think both the students, the teacher I will be mentoring and myself all need a growth mindset and an open mind.  As long as we all agree from the outset to give it a go and push ourselves as learners and give ourselves permission to mess up along the way, I think it is going to be great. My goal is for them to not feel that technology is overwhelming them but that it is omnipresent, invisible in its usefulness.  I want the students to view devices as less of a toy and more of a tool and realise that they have the power to direct their own learning and become a teacher to other learners.

 

Option Two: Student Blogging

Describe the project: What will your students do?

Students in Grades 1-4 would each have an Edublog to which they can publish and organize their learning. The blog will serve as a reflective tool, a space to share digital creations, a way of organizing their learning throughout the year through categories and tags, a digital portfolio of their work that will follow them through the school.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers (since we are not a 1:1 environment) is what do students do with the digital work they have created? Because I believe in students as content creators, I want to take away this barrier so it is no longer applicable.  Many (most?) iOS apps allow for work to be exported to the camera roll and from there uploaded to a blog. My belief is that students have to see that learning exists outside their classroom. By opening up their blog to their community (parents, grandparents, other subscribers approved by parents – we are bound by pretty strong privacy laws in Germany) they can get feedback on their learning from others.  They can also choose the way they best express their learning rather than having to comply with the way chosen by the teacher. More than ever I believe in harnessing the power of technology in ways that move students forward, engage them as thinkers, and promote a life-long love of learning and growing. If nothing else, I want the teachers I work with to see that technology integration doesn’t mean super-gluing a device to a child on their first day of school but helping them make appropriate choices with their productive usage of technology.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

I would like to achieve the following goals:

  • increase creation of digital content by students
  • independence by students in accessing, authoring and organizing their online learning space.
  • embedded digital citizenship skills taught within the context of content creation and blogging

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

I think this project has a lot of reach. It would encompass learning across the whole school and give us a common goal in terms of how we choose to share and showcase student learning processes and products. I think it would also help students connect the different strands of their learning (single subjects) in order to see the relevance to other learning. It encompasses the ideas of responsibility, curation, creation, and ethical use.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

My fourth graders are AWESOME but are leaving for middle school next year. My grade one students will be moving on to Grade Two, with an impressive bank of skills. My biggest concern is that not all teachers see this as being relevant and yet it is a goal of our administration to have a pretty high level of consistency across the grades (thus not appropriate for two of the four classes to blog). We are very lucky with the amount of technology and infrastructure that we have but our school focus next year is on BYOD in the MS/SS and while a large portion of the behind the scenes work is in place (all students get an Edublog upon enrolment, for example) there is still a lot of work to set up EasyBlogJR etc.

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

I am very comfortable with the idea of students both creating and curating content and being in charge of storing and sharing their work digitally.  As with this year, it is going to be a gentle balancing act of supporting, guiding, gently pushing in order to help teachers overcome any contrary ideas they have about blogging. I think making sure WHY we are doing this is clearly articulated to all is going to be huge in the success of the project.

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

  • growth mindset
  • reflective strategies
  • tech skills: navigating apps and screens to blog independently
  • creation skills: taking great photos, filming each other, thinking of creative ways to express an idea
  • communication skills to share WHY they are blogging about this particular piece/event and how it influences them as a learner.

 

My third option (!) would be to totally revamp my schedule so that I am much more of a coach and integrationist than I am a ‘teacher’.  This is perhaps the one I want to do the most as it is the one that scares me and leaves my mind buzzing with the possibilities that could exist within this choice.

What do you think!?

3 Replies to “Final Project Ideas”

  1. I love how you succinctly wrapped three things into your first sentence to grab me. You’re skipping the order. “Good on ya, mate,” as the Aussies say. Have you watched the middle schooler who does the full-blown equivalent? In our G9 advisory last year we watched https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY explain how he “hacked school.” Many were shocked he was a boy – his hair! – and worked to understand his American California Tahoe ski region dialect- at least he wasn’t speaking Australian! – and finally wrestled with the notion of him choosing not to follow the path most taken. This year’s group are currently engaged in PBL to answer an essential question of the effectiveness of the English Language Usage on campus as stated in the handbook. My point to you is: I tell them if they don’t like my question, need to rephrase or redirect it, or decide that their findings, conclusions, or recommendations take them down a different road, “Do that!” It’s nice to read you’re modeling what I want them to do and do myself from time to time. Phew, we’re not alone. Next, I can relate to being behind the eight ball, but I think I can at least make a bank shot into the clear by tomorrow. It’s gratifying how as I try to build or integrate into an online community, I see and grasp your meaning and sense. Penultimately, to strike while the iron is hot https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/strike-while-the-iron-is-hot.html got me thinking how British, Australian, and American are three distinct language creatures. A dear friend and retired teacher from Hucknall in Nottinghamshire used to quote Churchill’s “two countries divided by a common language” to me and laugh. Thanks for bringing back that fond memory. Finally, I like your self-deprecating and reflective voice. You clearly are highly trained and skilled at technology in teaching but make that accessible to others by the sense of self that comes through in your writing.

  2. Hi Sonya,

    Somehow I always gravitate towards your posts!

    I too am struggling with what to do with my final project, however, unlike you, I am procrastinating a bit and still not got anything definitive to write…that’s today’s objective when I have all the other blog posts done!

    I am going to a new school next year so planning a project to start straight off in September is daunting, however, it is a school in my current city so I did manage to go over and talk to their Ed Tech guru/Deputy Principal! She suggested that I use EduBlogs and try to go further than the Grade 3’s did this year, which was really only uploading, they apparently didn’t get into commenting on other blogs. And the school also wants to integrate work chosen from the blog into the e-portfolio.
    Although it wasn’t something that hit me as awe-inspiring, I guess I’d have support and it would be something the school actually NEEDS to be done, so there is a real purpose.
    I see that you have had some experience already with blogging as have I to a limited extent.
    My current Grade 2’s were just introduced to blogging and we used it more of a teacher directed tool; students did not have their ‘own’ blog so to speak. We also have no ipads, so they could only go on if they were in the lab or at home, and a lack of necessary hardware also meant no uploading of photos or videos was possible. So that will all be new to me – I have no idea how to use it, although I am perfectly happy with students knowing more about that techy side than me!
    In my current school we used KidBlog, however the new school uses edublogs like you. My new class is Grade 4, I was wondering if there is any advice or experience you could please pass on? I think there are no IT classes as such, and not sure about any coach who comes to help – so it might be that I plan and do it pretty much solo, although I am sure the DP will give advice and help.
    Any pitfalls to beware of in advance?
    Have you tried using it to create an e-portfolio?
    Did you find any specific resources that were great for teaching ‘blogging’ and commenting as a skill? (The DP said that would be a focus.)
    I was wondering about allowing them to have a ‘what matters to me’ personal page with the intention that there should be a few of them with similar interests – Minecraft, music, pets etc, and they could then see their blog as an integration of home and ‘real life’ – ie home!
    I was also wondering about allowing their blogs to be shared with students of a similar age in other schools (yours?). Have you tried this? What are the security implications? Is it even possible to allow others to blog…I was thinking that then it would model a blog in real life, and also teach them about keeping a good digital footprint!

    Sorry, I realise that I went on about my own project idea whereas you are after comments on your own!

    Your maths idea sounds very exciting…if you did it I would follow your blogs and maybe consider trying it another time!
    I think it sounds like a lot to do in the short time allocated to the project (a couple of months??), but maybe just to get started would be the point…
    The only thing I would be wary of (as I tried it a bit) is that using Khan Academy (or similar), to pre-teach maths concepts generally meant that the students rote learnt a method, with little understanding, it often used methods or vocabulary that the school did not, nor did they have the opportunity to develop their own methods or understanding through well thought out inquiry experiences that lead them to develop their own knowledge and skills. It also did not cater well for different learning styles or for different abilities..and kids did not have the chance to ask questions in the here and now. However, I would love to see if my experience was unusual, or I just did not do it ‘right’ – I see that you are already a fan of KA, so maybe you can make it work for you.
    However, what I think would work really well is the part where the kids document their learning using a variety of tools. That could be great for showing progress, and if it was uploaded to a blog, then you already have a ready made set of ‘child speak’ Khan Academy type videos that could reach your weaker students using the language they all understand…and if you have ESL learners, then they could make videos/animations in other languages too.
    I also think that maybe you’d be trying to do too much if you did the flipped instruction AND the documentation – well it might be ok for you as the tech coach, but your helpful teacher friend might find it all too much after a while as either one of those things would be new to her. And maybe there would be IT learning required by the class – ‘how do I make an animation?’ which will take up even more lesson time. Finding resources, putting out fires, losing lessons for standardised testing or whatever happens at the start of term etc etc…along with still doing all the other general teaching stuff could put her under a lot of pressure. Just a thought – as I try to imagine how it would be if I was your helpful friend!
    As a last idea – if you really wanted to use Khan Academy etc, how about making that a part of their homework assignments…they learn at school, document that through photos videos etc and later look at some flipped learning videos and make comments as to how good they are, what they would improve, is it the same, or a different method to what they learnt, how? etc etc.

    I think your 3rd option could automatically be included in either of the others don’t you think?

    I bet you wish you’d never asked for advice now!

    Writing this has actually helped clarify things in my own mind – I realise that I am now pretty much going to go with the blogging idea. I also realise that the reason I don’t want to admit that is that it means I have to fill out a UbD planner and the last time I did that (having never seen one before), understanding how the planner worked was a longer process than doing that course’s final project! And I still don’t really get it, nor have met anyone who has used it and can explain it! Every planner I look at online seems to approach it in a different way, so that doesn’t really help either! But here goes…

    In many ways I hope you do the blogging project – then we can exchange ideas! But good luck either way!

    1. I know I replied on your blog but I have to reply here too! I really appreciated your thorough feedback. So great. I am excited that it looks like (you never know what will happen over summer!) we will both be Project Blogging so it will be great to be able to touch base with you and how things are going. Thanks again for your great feedback – it really helped clarify my thinking!

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