Course Five Project. To recap, here is what I had decided on before we left for the summer:
Course Five Project: 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 Because I believe in students as content creators, I want to take away this barrier so it is no longer applicable.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
So, what has happened?
Changes in the technology.
This year, we have switched to the VPP program for the purchasing of our apps. This requires a lot of work from the techies at our school through the use of Casper and mobile device management. We purchased 120 new iPad Minis to bring our Junior School iPad count up to about 350 – essentially 1:2 ratio across the school which is awesome. And yet not. Because it is November 16 and they are still not in use. Not one of them. The problem is with Apple (as they have acknowledged) and they are working with us to solve the issue and find work-arounds to help move things along. Which means that the only technology in use in the Junior School are the MacBooks used by our 3rd and 4th graders.
Changes in me!
Two weeks into the school year, I learned that I was pregnant which is super exciting given that we had a pregnancy loss in April, so we were thrilled. In my role as Learning Technology teacher for the Junior School and JS Curriculum Coordinator, I was in a position where a lot of decisions and responsibilities were being tasked my way. In the interests of full disclosure I mentioned my pregnancy to my principal and, due to a recent change in German law (the creation of a Mother Protection Law) I was sent home until further assessment on my immunity levels were established and I could be given clearance to return to work. I was out from the 30th of September until the 2nd of November. I was allowed to return to work under the condition that I would have to leave if a student reported an illness or disease. On the 10th of November, a disease was reported and I am back home until December 2nd.
This project is now going to be a combination of:
- what has been done in the few short weeks I have been at school this semester
- the ‘flipped learning’ tutorials I have created to guide students through the blogging process in my absence
- virtual learning through Skype lessons with some classes
- sending my husband in to school on my behalf (he often subs at the school) armed with a video camera to capture some footage of kids in action
I am grateful to have the opportunity to really think about a different approach to learning and in fact a lot of my job is now consisting of how best to reach students and support teachers without being physically present. I can tell already that as much as I support a flipped concept, I can definitely advocate that there is nothing like face-to-face to really build relationships and understanding that I am not sure can be transmitted through video.
It is going to be an interesting project and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.