PLN Resources

The last of my resources involve building my personal learning network (PLN) and professional development opportunities.

cubeCube for Teachers

edweb edweb2EdWeb

googleGoogle+ Circles/Communities

These are just some of the many online resources I found for developing my PLN and locating online opportunities for professional development. The perks of these online platforms is that they are available, 24/7, to be accessed at the most convenient time for teachers. PLN’s will allow me to gain classroom know-hows and connections that can advance my career and my classroom into 21st century styles.

After going through 4th year and learning about backwards design, and 21st century teachers, I can see how much effort teachers really put into their work. Backwards design is time consuming, and Project based learning takes time as well. Teacher’s no longer have time to go on long conferences. I can imagine how many opportunities there are on professional development days, when you only have the chance to visit one, you may feel like youre missing out. Online platforms allow busy teachers to connect with many different opportunities at different times, different discussions are happening all over the world, everyday, every hour.


Student Tweets

We all know, and more than likely use, the infamous Twitter. Prior to this course I was aware that some teacher’s used twitter in their classrooms, but until my exploration of both Aviva’s and Ms. Cassidy’s blog, I always assumed it was simply the teacher tweeting some daily activities, not actually allowing students to compose tweets themselves. I previously discussed the use of twitter as a teacher resource in my blog #whatisschool. But I personally think I may enjoy the idea of a student led twitter account rather than an account I use for professional development. While the latter is important for a 21st century teacher to create online networks, I do not really enjoy the use of twitter and find that matter somewhat complex.

But, providing student’s the ability to tweet, I believe can give them a sense of agency, which needs to be present to become successful 21st century learners. Ms. Cassidy provides a collection of student tweets for one St. Patrick’s day activity called My Pot of Gold. After going through the tweets, you can see that some student’s provided multiple answers, which I interpreted as not only interest in the subject, but also as excitement to participate in this social network.

It is uncommon for student’s in primary grades to have access to their own twitter account, so I believe incorporating the social network into the classroom provides and excitement factor that a teacher can use to drive student learning. Twitter provides teachers with the opportunity to teach media literacy and the importance of how you convey yourself in the online world. While also providing a gateway for collaboration between classrooms and even parents.

Twitter can be used as a resource in student directed learning and inquiry, as they can locate similar topics through hashtags, leading to a variety of resources.

Taking a Break from Inquiry

Sometimes all that inquiry within a 21st century classroom can really get to your head, and I believe it is important to ensure that students take breaks. Mrs. Lirette posted an very interesting resources called GoNoodle

GoNoodle is a free resource which can be used as a classroom management technique, as a way to refresh students minds, or keep them busy while still learning. While most activities focus on physical activity (which still be connected to the curriculum), there are also some other math and vocabulary activities, or the “think about it” activities (seen in the picture below), which have students think about topics such as teamwork, conflict management, or making someone happy. gonoodle

With the right direction, these activities would make a great addition to a 21st century classroom. Simply, the activity incorporates the technological aspect, as well as the student-centered part, assuming the teacher will allow student’s to pick the activities, and the students actually enjoy these “Brain Breaks” (even I think they look fun!). But the activities that require some thought process could be used as introductions to the teaching of moral and character literacies. These types of discussion could thoroughly improve classroom climate by having student relations grow, but also allowing them to individually think about their morals for topics such as teamwork, attitude, etc.

You could also use GoNoodle as a strategy to engage less confident learners, because these activities make learning subjects such as math and language fun, without overwhelming or intimidating students. GoNoodle is a technological opportunity for differentiated learning.

When is too Early to Google?

You know, I’ve always had this inner debate in my head about children and technology. I didn’t have access to google as a child, I had dial up internet, I didn’t have a phone until I was in grade 11; yet I turned out fine, so why do parents let their children have access to this stuff at such an early age? But, then I remember, that our society is advancing, we are moving into this 21st century classroom right from entry into schools in junior kindergarten, and I can see the perks! I believe my unease comes from a moral panic of all the dangers of the internet.

Aviva wrote a blog back in February, called “Reading and Writing, Google Style“. When I reread this blog while thinking about this RPAT, I realized, hey! Google is a resource!

During this blog, Aviva taught her students how to conduct a google search, and they were only in grade 1! This really made me think critically about my own perspective of children as active researchers. I think the dominant discourse of age=competency may have influenced my opinion of children’s ability to use the internet for research at such a young age. Then I realized, how else are children able to gain the ability to research appropriately unless we teach them? Why can’t we start teaching them in grade 1? (Notice my reflective practice being conducted here 😉 – Aviva is a strong example of a reflective practitioner)

Research is such a big part of the inquiry process that drives the new story model. I think as a 21st century teacher it is important to teach students how to use online resources such as google, so they are able to recognize appropriate and more scholarly resources/websites, which as Aviva demonstrates, children can do at the young age of 6-7.

Learning Media

Another great resource I discovered through The Global Classroom Project was a combination of of two websites, one directed towards teachers, the other students. PBSLearningMedia is a website that was created for a similar purpose that this final RPAT is for.The PBSLearningMedia is a curation of digital, media resources in a variety of formats that are targeted towards specific grades, subjects and topics. This website also allows you to favourite and share websites, allowing you to start making connections and networking with other teachers.

As an expansion of this website, PBSLearningMedia has created a student friendly/centred website as well. PDS KidsStudents have the ability to explore topics themselves, when they click on a task or topic they are interested, they are directed to an online library of a variety of sources that discuss that topic, from websites, to videos, to audio recordings to interactive activities. PBSLearningMedia is a great opportunity for students to direct their own learning and inquiry processes, while becoming more technological and media literate.PBS kidsMedia “conditions us to habitual exposure patterns to the messages they want exposure for” (James Potter in Bullen, 2009), it becomes important that we teach our students the skills required to critically interpret the information they are constantly bombarded with on an everyday basis. As a future 21st century teacher, I would hope to use this website as a way to teach my student’s about media literacy. PBSLearningMedia, provides me some ease by placing a variety of media in one place for me to explore further. By starting with the teacher based website, I can control the media which the children are exposed to, teaching them to be critical of how media is constructed, but also how it can be used in education as a mode of extended learning.

While the teacher site may be a starting point, I would like continue with teh student site, and have the students direct their learning, because the children I teach will be digital natives, while I am a digital immigrants, they have grown up with the technology, I am just learning about. Providing them with such a wide variety of resources gives them a chance to grow and learn on at their own pace.

Project Based Learning – High Tech High

Project based learning (PBL), or performance assessment, is an authentic assessment and learning approach which allows students to actively explore real-world problems and challenges while acquiring a deeper knowledge. I believe PBL is a great assessment AS learning strategy which actively engages students in the learning process. When developing PBL, the Gailelo Educational Network provides and excellent rubric for such inquiry based projects.

High Tech High, provides excellent examples of PBL within classrooms, that use advanced technology and really focus on student centered classrooms. These schools really show the implementation of the New Story of Education in the Digital Age through not only the above characteristics, but they also involved inquiry based PBL, global connections and multiple literacies.

“This exhibit shows you what we love about ourselves. We are all unique and have different thoughts. In this exhibit, you will see photographs and writings. We want you to see that writing isn’t just a story, it is life. This project took a lot of hard work, and all photographs were taken by each of us. We learned to experiment, to try different vantage points. A picture is special, no matter how it turns out… Each picture, even if it’s not a picture of you, it still tells about you.”

One of the neat projects explored by a third grade classroom in Explorer Elementary involved integrating photography across curriculum’s with a project called “Through My Eyes“. There are several smaller activities within this one project which integrate multiple curriculum’s including: science, art, social studies, writing, and literacy. On the topic of literacy, 21st century literacies are embedded deep within this project.  When you read the caption to the left, for a group of previous third graders at Explorer Elementary, they talk about how they all have their own perspectives, both in how they think and in the photographs themselves. This is a great exemplar of media literacy, as the students recognize that each photograph portrays it’s own message based on the photographers personal constructs and stories.

Another great incorporation of literacies can be seen within the activity Picture Me, Picture You. Quoted exactly from the website: “This year-long cultural exchange promotes global understanding through photography and writing. Students from Explorer Elementary first learn about Africa, then share letters, poetry, and photography with children from the Tunahaki Foundation orphanage in Tanzania”.

Global and multicultural literacies are explicitly stated in the description as students aim to understand a different culture around the world, and how that culture creates knowledge and shares their perspective through their own photos. The photographs add a more creative and fun aspect to the idea of pen pals, so as students develop their writing skills they are also developing other skills associated with the literacies I have previously mentioned. This type of project could be developed to become more inquiry based through many ways (i.e. recognizing issues the Tanzanian children may face such as lack of access to clean water, or conduct an environmental experiment and compare the recycling or pollution in both countries, through photos and writing).

High Tech High provides a plethora of examples of different projects students have completed in a variety of grade levels, and is definitely a website I will continue to explore to find ideas for my own classroom. The inquiry based rubric from the Galileo Network, as mentioned before, is a great resource for teachers who are developing their own performance assessment for students, as it is clear and organized in a way that makes it easy to understand, even as a new teacher.

Check out other projects on High Tech High!

Quick Addition for RPAT:

As a future 21st century teacher I will be using High Tech High as a place to find new ideas for Project Based learning. There are so many different resources on the High Tech High website, I only chose a few to comment on above. But, while skimming through the other projects, there are clear connections to other literacies, as well as opportunities for integrating curriculum’s within one project. I believe using the website as well as the Inquiry based rubric from the Galileo Network, will allow my to strengthen my ability to create deep-learning and inquiry based tasks for my students.

Class Connections to Other Blogs

One of the blogs I am following includes Ms. Cassidy’s, whom professor Drake recommended. Those in the class who follow her have seen that the majority of her posts last month involved a girl named Emmy Barr, who has Williams syndrome and was starting her own caramel business. Through the few blogs posted by Ms. Cassidy, you can see the children actively supporting Emmy’s business through posters which encourage those around the school to vote for her (in the end Emmy did win second place!).

The classroom involvement in supporting Emmy was very strongly rooted in technology and media literacy. The students understood the importance of access to technology in order to vote for Emmy, and the variety of ways they could do this, including the iPads in their classroom as well using cellphones in the older classrooms. While Ms. Cassidy did not mention this in her blog, the students pitching Emmy’s business to the Moose Jaw radio station and also contacting global news are great ways to talk about how we use media to connect and communicate messages.

I also believe that a great way to continue student learning after Emmy’s project could involve some financial literacy. A project such as the Lesson discussed in the Crawford & West article where the classes were given the opportunity to create and plan their own businesses using real-world resources would be a great connection to Emmy, who started her own caramel business. Obviously, the project would have to be simplified for the students, but it would be a great introduction for them to understand how much money they (or Emmy) would need to start her own business, and all the costs Emmy must consider.

Bringing a Futures Perspective into Education

I was doing a reading for one of my classes the other day. It was from the UNESCO website for teaching and learning for a sustainable future. While I was reading the required sections, it brought up a very good question: If it is true that all education is for the future than why is the future not an explicit element in all levels of education? We always talk about how one of the goals of the current education system is to have children grow up to be participating members in society. We are supposed to be ‘grooming them for the future’. I know this is a highly contestable ideal, and I personally do not agree with the idea of school as a factory system, producing future adults, but that is not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the fact that children are the future, yet schools do not teach from a futuristic perspective, rather they teach about the past and how we can use that information in the present.

I have recently learned about David Selby’s 4 dimensions of Global Education as a transformative education (spatial, Issues, temporal and inner).Dimensions I think I may write a post about these later. The temporal dimension incorporates prioritizing the future within education. It is important for students to understand their alternative futures. There is the possible (all future scenarios), the probable (the most likely future) and the preferred (the future you would like based on your values). “The visions that we have of the future affect what we think is worth doing in the present. Fear of the future can be disempowering but it can also lead to engagement in social and political action to bring about a different sort of world” (from UNESCO Activity 5). If students are truly going to become globally literate and active global citizens, they much recognize that their choices and actions (as well as others) help shape the future. If students were to understand the importance of their actions, this could hopefully drive them to attempt to make a difference.

The reading I had to do was actually a 5 step activity created by UNESCO which I think would be useful for other teachers who wish to/are already incorporating global education into their classroom. The activity makes you look at your own preferred futures in relation to both the local and global, and then makes you reflect on how to incorporate these views into your classroom. Give it a try and let me know if it was useful!