For this project, I worked with Nicola Takizawa on Option 2. We chose to create a unit that guides the process of implementing student blogs at the end of Junior/Elementary school and incorporates the key principals of Digital Citizenship with a focus on the positive aspects of being a digital citizen – namely, harnessing and using your power for good.
I had a specific idea in mind when I put out a call for a collaborator on this project. At the end of last year, it was agreed that having students start their PYP Exhibition AND learn the basics of blogging was too much. We wanted our students to be familiar with blogging prior to beginning the Exhibition when this would be the forum for group and individual sharing of ideas, knowledge, reflection, and learning.
I am learning that when you are working with a larger group of teachers and students (last year there were five classes of 18, this year four classes of 22) that you have to be clear and specific in your guidelines and expectations. You also need to be both supportive of the expertise of the teachers in the team and yet at the same time, true to the development of ideas and philosophy with regard to the implementation of technology in education. It can’t be a decision that is made purely on the comfort level of the teachers but it also can’t be a decision made independently of these teachers. It is a balancing act! For a while I have been working on my own blogging guidelines for students thanks to the response from my PLN via a Twitter shoutout a few months ago. I hope to see these develop with input from our teachers, students, and parents.
I was (and still am) adamant that we focus on the positive. I like the inclusion of branding and developing a voice and hope to see these things embedded into our daily curriculum. I would also like to see the building of Digital Citizenship skills (such as the Digital Passport) in our younger grades. The more I work with students across the Junior School, the more I am seeing how capable they are, given the right guidance. My second graders are able to appropriately source images and we already include our students in password choice, private vs. personal information, and responsible use (among many other things). For this unit, I really want to encourage and inspire kids and help them see that by having a blog, they have the opportunity to create and share learning that may not otherwise be possible.
Here is our unit planner:
I loved the opportunity to work with someone else, however I think it confirmed for me how challenging it can be (despite the amazing advances in technology) to communicate with people in different time zones. Nicola and I utilized the message service within COETAIL but quickly dropped that in favor of a collaborative Google Doc with comments. Ultimately we ended up with lots of shared ideas, however my feedback to Nicola was that I would have loved it if we could have pulled off a Skype chat to nut out the basics of the unit and then refine it in the Google Doc chat. It was still possible the way we did it but I feel it might have been more beneficial to have a “face to face” chat before the planning began. Nonetheless, it was great to have someone to share ideas with and get inspiration from during this process.
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.
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.