Now for Something Completely Different: STEAM in EY

 

If your reaction was anything like the above video, I won’t be surprised or offended. Raising the bar in the Early Years & unraveling misconception pertaining to what Kindergarten & Preschool kids can and can’t do has been my forte for the better part of the last 5 years.  Kindergarteners often get a bad wrap (or should I say how their ability to learn & take on big ideas is perceived by others gets a bad wrap).  There’s an air of aimless that seems to cloud and misrepresent the abilities of these young learners.

Now, don’t get me wrong no one is disputing the benefits of play-based learning.  I myself have been an advocate of it for years.  One thing I have noticed recently, however,  is that play (without a purpose) in the classroom can sometimes be a slippery slope. The same can be echoed about using technology without a purpose.  While students are playing, if you’re not observing what they’re doing & saying and taking (mental) notes, then using that anecdotal evidence to help gauge their interests to ultimately build better relationships, then you’re doing a disservice to both the students & the concept of “play time”.  It’s vital that we not forget how important our role is in play-based learning. The same can be said about using technology in the classroom.  If you’re using iPads as a pacifier and allowing students to use them to consume more content than they create, then once again you’re doing a disservice to the students & the iPads. (more on that here)


PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS… BUT NOT ALWAYS.

 

The title of this posts indicates that I haven’t done too much STEM while looking through the lens of an Early Years’ teacher.  Whether or not that was a conscious choice remains undetermined, but I’d consider it a blind spot and one that I’ve overlooked for too long. Perhaps it was because it’s not one of my strong suits or perhaps it was that I too underestimated their abilities to take on such “higher level” concepts.  Be that as it may, as educators, we often ask our students to venture into the unknown with the goal of shaking them ever so slightly out of their comfort zone (See the Learning Pit), but do we practice what we preach as well?

This year, I’ve made it apparent that I’ll no longer simply play to my strengths in order to broaden my scope as an educator and help enhance teaching in learning in my classroom. What better way of doing that, then diving head first into something I’m a complete novice at? As the great Carl Sandberg once said, ” I’m an idealist, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.”   < This is my STEM journey in a nutshell.

I’ve enrolled into two new courses the ISTE Computational Thinking Course & Apple Swift Codes Certification with the goal to change the perspective of what “technology looks like” at my school.

This tactile & tactical approach of balancing the digital with the analog will not only help promote big ideas, creativity, and innovation, but it will also help reshape the perspective of both parents and students when it comes to  #edtech  in the #earlyyears#makerEd,  and #designthinking.

by incorporating computational thinking and tech tools such as #MakeyMakey  & #BeeBots into my Kinder class I can also break down the age-old tensions & stereotypes about technology as only being digital devices (or simply something with a screen that you can swipe & watch Netflix.)


Below is just one example of the benefits of teaching STEM in the Early Years, followed by an awesome group of STEM-centered educators to help you get started.

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For further resources, I’d recommend you check out the hashtag #PrimarySTEMChat 


 

Our Kindergarten STEM journey began with a two-pronged approach. First, we introduced the students to Iggy Peck, the Architect (an awesome story written by Andrea Beaty,) as a way to get them thinking like architects and as a way to introduce them to blueprints  & design thinking.

 

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Second, we rolled out the concept of iTime (Feel free to read more about iTime here).  Andrea Beaty’s story taught them about the fun open-ended freedom of designing, while iTime provided us with the tools and parameters.  Furthermore, in the efforts of making iTime as fun and alluring as possible, our first collective task was to see if we could turn six bananas into a working keyboard.  Needless to say, it was very “appeeling” & that STEM in the early years was off and running.

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TO BE CONTINUED…

 


FINAL WONDERINGS

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone for benefit of the greater good of your students  – what was it?

How did you navigate those initial feelings of stepping out of your comfort zone?

What does STEM in the Early Years look like in your classroom?

Thanks,

@NicholasKGarvin

Principles for the Paradigm Shift

Learning looks so different now that it’s almost unimaginable to predict what the education / classroom instruction will look like in ten to twenty years time. Christiaan Henny from eLearning Industry attempted to have a stab at it here and below is a snippet. He states,  “Students will be learning outside, equipped with different devices, listening to a teacher of choice. Skills will not be assessed on paper but based on their performance in the field.”  Its certainly not 2001 Space Odyssey futuristic as some of these changes have already become changes that have already become common in the classroom but it is an overall shift from the current industrial approach. 


The Future is Now

In another article, titled,  The Classroom is Obsolete, It’s Time for Something New writer Prakash Nair proclaims that “The classroom is a relic, left over from the Industrial Revolution, which required a large workforce with very basic skills”  Prakash then goes on to make mention of a “universal list of education design principles for tomorrow’s schools.”  After poring over them and finding myself in agreement with the compilation, I couldn’t help but wonder how #FutureReady I was regarding my own teaching.  Therefore I used these dozen design principals as an archetype for my own self assessment by looking for connections between each principle and what’s occurred in my Kindergarten classroom. They are as followed :

1) Personalized;  I believe that this not  only to the learning but also the student’s learning spaces. It’s important for us as educators to allow our students to have a voice and input in set up and design of the classroom. When you do this you develop student ownership and allow them to see that the classroom as an evolving organism that can be changed to best suit our learning needs. 

In addition, iTime offers my students with a chance to create and work on projects that they are personally passionate about.

(2) Safe and Secure;  Establishing class essential agreements and a communication charter has helped my students develop a culture of speaking freely and openly without judgement. 

(3) Inquiry-Based;  Packing an inquiry cycle (like Kath Murdoc’s for example) and discussing big ideas from the PYP patiences and persistence but once children become familiarized with the language through hands on experiences overtime they begin to use the language and make stronger connections. 

(4) Student-directed; The removal of the teachers desk in our classroom was a massive symbolic move that helped my students understand that learning just doesn’t only have to come from the teacher. By stressing that there is no center-point of the classroom, it wanted to make it clear that every spot in the room and every person in the room offers a unique and equal chance to learn something.

In addition, whenever I can I like to encourage and empower  students to teach other students by sharing their discovers or prior knowledge with their peers. 

(5) Collaborative;  When students from different grade levels come together to work on a common task it allows both parties involved to develop their interpersonal, organizational, and communication skills.  Allowing older students to come and work with younger students, like depicted in the tweet below, also promotes empathy and the concept of perspective. 


(6) Interdisciplinary;  Fluid learning Spaces, big ideas and open-ended questions with a conceptual based focus. Looking for learning in all aspect of our daily life. Transdisciplinary

(7) rigorous and hands-on;   To me this is about taking learning beyond the traditional four walls, making it multi-sensory, and authentic. At UWCT we’re fortunate to life amongst a lush outdoor learning environment,  that we try to utilize as much as possible. In addition, I think it’s also about challenging students to step out of their comfort zone. This year, I’ve made a conscious effort to extend the learning beyond the classroom wall and through a variety of of kinesthetic learning opportunities.

(8) Embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations;  To me this is all about growth mindset. To help my students learn about perseverance and the beginning stages of adopting such a mindset, we started by watching and discussing this video about Austin’s Butterfly. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out.  It’s great!

This year, I’ve also begin giving my students more opportunities for them to self-reflect on their own learning.  Allowing the students to set their own goals and celebrate their individual learning accomplishments is an effective way to promote metacognition while maintaining high expectations.


(9) Environmentally conscious;   This is a large part of our UWCT Mission Statement.  Doing our part in the promotion sustainable development this year we’ve have created and installed a garden, a compost, and invited the Phuket Farmer’s Club to come in for a two work shop to teach us more about sustainable farming and development. 

(10) offering strong connections to the local community and business;

 I’m a big advocate for service learning. This year the Kindergarten students at UWCT have developed a pretty unique friendship with the elderly residents of the Phuket Nursing Home. It’s been a rewarding, authentic, and meaningful experience for everyone involved. 

In addition, as mentioned above this year we’ve reached out to the Phuket Farmer’s Club to help them teach us how to transform our outdoor learning space into a place for sustainable farming. 


(11) Globally networked;  Clearly this has been my biggest blindspot  out of all the principles. I’ve thought it over many times but never got any Global Connections off the ground as from the participation in a few Padlets, a Global Read Aloud.

I do, however, think that my recent infatuation with Flipgrid will lead some to some big ideas centered around global connections. My students might be too young for the first ever #Flipgrid marathon but for anyone else interested have a look below!

For those like me, who are still working out how to get started connecting your classroom,  Kim Cofino has written a great piece titled “A step-by step Guide to Global Collaboration.” Have a look!

and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning – It seems clear that the promotion of an interest in lifelong learning starts with the teacher tapping into the student’s passions then combining that with the above principles and allocating the right resources.  Having said that, however, in this ever advancing age of information, how do you prepare students to become life long learners when we’re not sure how we will be teaching and learning in 5, 10, 15 years time?   


Future Ready??

So, back to what and how teaching might look like in ten to twenty  years time?

Noticeably absent from both  Christiaan Henny  and Prakash Nair lists is any mention of virtual reality. VR and also, AR (augmented reality) is quickly making it’s way into classrooms world wide.   I’ve dabbled with some AR  apps myself namely Augment and AR Flashcards.  Last year, through the use of  Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions, I introduced VR to some of my Early Years students so we could do some exploring  under the sea, for our unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet.  What difference a year makes now  the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive are completly changing the game and taking VR to a whole new level.  The VR arms race between Google and Apple is execrating a warp speed, both companies are primed to position themselves as the major players in the VR education.

The optimist in me thinks that virtual reality in the classroom will be blending together the best of the real world, the best of the internet and online applications.  How we find and stratal that balance may be our biggest challenge yet.


The Great Beyond: 

There’s no doubt we’re approaching the tipping point of the paradigm shift. Technology has advanced so rapidly that we as a society cannot keep up with it. The fusion of tech and our daily lives will grow more prevalent with each coming year. Personalized learning pods with the help of MOOCs and cloud computing will continue transcend traditional classrooms.  Digital badges will also help further personalize and enhance the individual learning amongst students. Taken from the article  Badges in Learning: Threading the Needle Between Skepticism and Evangelism  David Theo Goldberg weighs the pros on cons of badges and states that Badges in short are a means to enable and extend learning. They need not be behavioral lures so much as symbols of achievement, expressions of recognized capacity otherwise overlooked.

The overarching concept here is that as we continue to equip ourselves and our students with the best resources and tools, the reality is, we cannot forget about our human connection.  In order to best prepare for the future we must remain open-minded, adaptable, kind, caring, and curious so that we can embrace the imminent change of education together. 


Final Wonderings?

As the hardware and the software continue to develop  VR bundles become more mainstream and more affordable, I could help but wonder:

How soon do these headsets become as common as a class set of ipads?

and

How will this immersive technology disrupt and already changing landscape? 

In regards to Digital Badges, I want to explore more but I’m wondering how to make them relevant for Kindergarten students?   Any ideas??

Thanks!

@NicholasKGarvin

Smashing Apps & Flipping the Script with Video

 

  “Ultimately, flipped learning is not about flipping the ‘when and where’ instruction is delivered; it’s about flipping the attention away from the teacher and toward the learner.”

– Brian Bennett 


Flip the Switch and Flip the Script

I recently participated in a World Read Aloud lead by with the assistance of 28 other teachers.  Sean tweeted out the link to a Google Slide where teachers could each read a page of the story and then record themselves reading their page on Flipgrid. I’ve always been keen to jump aboard global collaboration projects and I’ve to learn more about Flipgrid for a long time, so I decided to give it a go. After a bit of rehearsal, I recorded my first Flipgrid video. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use. Also, it felt great to take part in such a cool experience with so many other educators. By the time the story was finished, there were 30 teachers covering 6 continents & 224,355 km pg to pg! Have a look and listen below!

This experience not only provided me with #FlipgridFever but also inspired me to think up different ways that I could use the app or a combination of multiple apps in my Kindergarten classroom. I want to make the learning age appropriate and provide them with an authentic audience. It was then when I realized that Flipgrid might be useful for our guided reading groups. Being that I teach Kindergarten I knew that combination of something new with something familiar would have to first be scaffolded.   I’ll start small and make it relatable to the guided reading routine they already know.  In similar fashion to how I took part in the World Read Aloud, each one of my students will read and record a page of their guided reading book. The story in its entirety will be uploaded to Flipgrid and saved in a video format. At first, we’ll begin by using the reading groups within our class. Then we will expand outward and merge with the other Kindergarten classroom.

I’ve already discussed this plan with my colleague. Our collective plan is to organize the leveled reading groups from both classes to encourage cross-classroom collaboration and increase the number of recorded e-books.  Once finished, the video can then be uploaded to Book Creator where students can collectively create and add images from the story. Eventually, the students can save and upload their final product to SeeSaw.  This Book Creator +SeeSaw  will provide my students with a wide authentic audience and allow them to work together and with students from another class. They will also be using their digital skills acquired throughout the year to navigate communication and creation apps such as Book Creator and SeeSaw.  Once uploaded to their SeeSaw journals the students can seek feedback from family members and seek to reflect on and refine their work.


Reflecting upon Reflecting

As an Early Years teacher,  I need to be flexible, responsive. reflective, and adaptable. This mantra is simply the nature of Kindergarten. Using student reflections to guide my classroom teaching and lesson planning has always been a massive cornerstone of my educational philosophy.  Now, with the likes of SeeSaw, Flipgird and Book Creator, I’m able to provide my students with the proper tools to do the same thing with their learning that I’m currently doing in Coetail with mine. Having a blog to look back on has been a wonderful reflection tool for me, it’s allowed me the possibility to create, reflect, refine and my communication skills. It’s also allowed me to experience and work through ideas that may not have ever come to fruition if it weren’t for the feedback and influence of others.  So, having said that, I’d like to have some form of archived media that will allow my students to generate the same benefits.  The select media that I believe would be the most effective, given the age of my students,  is video.

For all students, the power of video, specifically when used in combination of digital tools such as SeeSaw and now Flipgrid will allow them to reflect on how far they have come on their individual learning journey. In this specific case it Kindergarten student’s reading journey.  The use of video and the ability to record, rewatch a and share these videos also provide them with the authentic audience, this being both their peers and parents. The ability to give and receive feedback on SeeSaw has been an ongoing process that we have been establishing all year in my classroom. The parents are really buying into it and in turn, it’s motivating my students thus creating the perfect feedback loop for everyone involved.   

These specific book recordings provide students with a powerful learning opportunity to showcase growth as well as provide objective evidence for everyone to reflect upon. Looking at my own practice, my professional blog has been a very powerful tool and an evolving reflective learning journal that has helped me grow as an educator. Like my students, when they look back on their SeeSaw learning journals, I’m able to do the same with my Coetail experience.  I’m able to see how my ideas, writings, and communication skills have evolved from my initial blog post to now. I too participate in that same feedback loop, as my students and parents do.  Thanks to other members of this cohort and anyone else who comes across this blog on social media, I’m able to reach an authentic audience and receive authentic and meaningful feedback.  That same feedback loop has encouraged and inspired me to try to new things, take risks, and remix ideas or concepts so that they can fit into my Kindergarten classroom, like what I did after getting inspired by the @worldreadalouds idea.


Kinder Created Content Libraries

Once merged with our guided reading program, the videos take on a whole new level of importance. They can be shared, saved, and reviewed as we begin to create classroom e-book library.  As the students move up to different reading levels they will be placed in a different group and can record another story within their new group. This will also provide parents with evidence of their oral language, reading fluency, and comprehension skills. It will also serve as a digital learning database showcasing student grow and persevering individual content knowledge that can be used to help other students of varying reading levels. 

After some scaffolding and practice of blending together our tech and literacy skills, I can begin to embed the use of videos into other daily aspects of our curriculum. I know that a full on flipped classroom approach would not work for me due to the age level of my students, however, perhaps a partial flip or somersault classroom would. My main goal is to create student-made content libraries that extend beyond a single discipline. I’d like to include phonics and Math lessons and allow my students to help me co-create something similar to Khan Academy.  Keeping in mind the flipped philosophy and the age of my students I’ll need to modify it into something that meets the needs of my students and their situation. Here’s a video by Dan Spencer explaining the benefits of creating a digital content library for students.

First, I will start by creating a few phonics and math lessons of my own and record them on the iPad using Flipgrid. Following the same procedure as our guided reading recordings, over time, I will hand over that responsibility to my students. The end result will show not only collection of Kinder e-books read in their respective leveled groups but also the beginning foundation of other transdisciplinary learned content. 


A Personalized Classroom

As teachers, we’re now equipped with more tools than ever to help promote personalized learning.  A simple Google search can bring about a plethora of ideas and articles on how to transform your classroom.  For example, here’s access a Google doc with a massive collection of Flipped Classroom resources.  Beyond the catchy phrase, it’s important to note that a Flipped classroom is a mindset and not simply a method. With unlimited amounts of potential in this age of information, it’s vital that we as teachers remain willing to adapt and adopt that mindset by taking creative risks that continue to enhance and inspire learning. Salman Khan did this as he harnessed the potential of today’s digital tools and combined it with vision. The result shook up the entire education system and revolutionized student learning. It was years ago when I first encountered Salman Khan’s TED talk and I remember being inspired. It was weeks ago that I was inspired once again by Sean Ford’s @worldreadalouds idea.  I’ve come to believe that inspiration breeds innovation when coupled with the right resources and the right mindset.


Final Wonderings

What feedback in the form of thoughts, questions, or concerns do you have on the idea of me embarking on this venture?

What is the best use of classroom time?

What experience do you have with a flipped or blended classroom approach?

Thanks!

@NicholasKGarvin

Remixing The Art of Storytelling

For sale: baby shoes, never worn. 

The following six words have been attributed to Ernest Hemingway and his concept of flash fiction by telling a story with the minimum amount of words possible.

Hemmingway may have changed the game with his six-word novel, showcasing his art of storytelling but, Hemmingway never had access to emojis. Could you imagine the vividness?  What if we remix Hemmingway’s initial challenge and state the question “Can you tell a story using only 6 emojis?” Let’s think about that one…. could you?  I bet you can. I bet you’ve semi-accidentally accomplished this in the past without thinking much about it.  Similar to how video killed the radio star, the emoji along with memes, vlogs, vines, and video uploads have nearly obliterated text and completely remixed the art of storytelling. 

I proposed this emoji questions to my Kindergarten students when they were tasked with explaining their holiday adventures using only emojis.  Can you tell a story using only emojis??

What resulted were very detailed and thorough recounts that were not only fun for others to decipher but engaging and exciting for my students to create.  From the perspective of a Kindergartner, visuals allow for more depth and enhance their stories sevenfold.  The act of choosing their emojis also made for a fun and level playing field where both ESL students and native English speakers could fully express themselves.  It was here when I realized how much of the world is moving in the same direction, towards embracing visuals. From hieroglyphics to emojis; we’ve circumvented all the way back around.   🙂

If you’ve needed more proof that the world is moving towards visuals just look at Facebook’s  1 billion dollar purchase of Instagram. They know that this generation is becoming increasingly interested in producing its own visual content. With the likes of social media, mobile devices, photos, and videos the entire landscape has changed and we have completely remixed the way we consume (and produce stories.) And it’s not just a trend, there is a biological factor that lies deep within our love for visuals.  We’re are much more wired for visuals than we are oral storytelling or print on a page. David Jakes touches on this a bit in his opening paragraph of this blog post titled “Towards a Framework for Visual Literacy Learning.” when he makes the internet analogy of “a dial-up connection from the ear to the brain and broadband from the eye to the brain.” David also came up with awesome ideas of using other mediums such as Google Earth,  DNATube and or StartYourTube.com and to incorporate visual literacy.

The ability to navigate and create on more than one platform is exactly what our students are now doing in this new remix culture. The meme is a great example of this as is video blogging. Nobody wants to be a Hollywood movie star anyone. Ask anyone under the age of 15 and they’ll tell you.  They all want to be a Youtuber. Many of them already are. Video Blogging has been so successful that Youtube has installed a Creators Academy which teaches the basics of editing, sharing and thumbnailing.


Modern Versatility & Shareability with Filmora

Before becoming a teacher, my original university major was in Mass Media and Telecommunications, so it goes without saying that I have found feeling for creating and editing video content.  Although I started my video editing venture with the traditional analog AB roll, that has long been ruled obsolete. Looking back now it seems like such an archaic way to create a piece of work. Once you’ve spent hours creating it, don’t even think about sharing it with others unless you bring your VHS tape to their house and politely ask to use their VCR.  

Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panasonic_AJ-D350_20020110.jpg

Flash forward some 15  years later and now it’s easier than ever to produce a film.  So much so that some have even been shot and edited solely on their smartphones.  These days loads of people gravitate towards iMovie, however, for the past three years, I’ve been using a software called Wondershare Filmora.   Far from the AB roll I began on, this iMovie alternative is inexpensive, open sourced, and extremely easy to use. The fact that it works on Windows, Mac, & mobile devices make it already more versatile than iMovie. Filmora has many other advantages over iMovie. So much so that about a year back, I presented this Google Slide during a Speed Geeking session at my previous school.  Have a look! 

I’ve have used videos in which I’ve created from Filmora in the classroom on multiple occasions. Whether it is for reflection, assessments, or simply to celebrate and document learning,  the use of videos have always been a cornerstone of my teaching practice.  This one, which has already been shared on Youtube,  was a way for me to document our EY inquiry into making paper.


The other video below was shown at a Primary School assembly. Its purpose was to emphasize the concept of perspective by showcasing what it “a day in the life” of an early years student looks like. 


The Timelapse video below showcases an example of some of the large ongoing projects that my preschoolers took on during our inquiry into outdoor learning spaces.


My most recent video was created earlier this week.  Its purpose was to celebrate Multi-cultural Day and the diversity of my Kindergarten students at UWC Thailand. 

I plan to upload this video onto SeeSaw to show parents and use it as a reflection piece to show students once they return from mid-term break.

No matter the purpose, images, and videos to me have always felt like the most authentic mediums for showcasing and representing student learning. It’s great for assessments, reflections, and provocations. When the controls are handed over to the students, creativity, student voice, and a plethora of digital skills ensue.


Final Wonderings

With all of the excellent and innovating ways teachers are using videos in the classroom,  with the likes of Flipgrid, SeeSaw, Bookcreator & Youtube,  I’m curious to know what ways you embed and promote the use videos to enhance learning in your classroom?

Also, are you on team iMovie or do you have another personal favorite when it comes to video editing software?

Embrace the Space

Go ahead and insert your favorite Star Wars & George Lucas reference here. 

 

In all seriousness though, the master cinematographer George Lucas nailed it when discussing the importance of Visual Literacy in Education.  This Edutopia article titled, “Life on the Screen”  illustrates the importance of teaching the fundamentals of visual literacy and giving it equal weight to other aspects of the curriculum.  Lucas even provides a transdisciplinary perspective as advice for implementation in today’s classrooms.

“We need to look at the whole world of communication in a more complete way. We need to take art and music out of “the arts class” and put it into the English class. ”  

Emphasis on this type of implementation is huge for our critical thinking skills and understanding of how our minds operate. Teaching Visual Literacy helps us enhance our intellect by constructing meaning from images.

It should be evident to teachers that we learn best through symbolic imagery and it’s quite simple when you look at the macro historical side of it. Human beings have been equipped to make sense of symbols for far longer than they’ve had written text. Visuals are a universal language. They are also conceptually driven in a sense that they can help us chunk and categorize large amounts information changing the way we think and perceive the world.

Professor Mriganka Sur, of MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, stated that

“half of the human brain is devoted directly or indirectly to
vision, understanding the process of vision provides clues to 
understanding fundamental operations in the brain,” 


Visual Literacy in Early Childhood

As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand the importance of visuals.
Visual Literacy is everything for my students. It’s the first type of literacy they acquire. Therefore it’s not surprising to hear that Preschool students know all about brands.  In the same way that our youngest students understand sign language before the printed word, images, specifically brand images, are designed to provoke and stimulate the senses.

McDonalds and Coca-Cola know this.  It’s time for teachers to harness this power, not to make our students consumers but to develop a hyperawareness of the power of combing symbols and senses and connecting cognition to memory. 

“ if you stick a McDonald’s label on carrots, kids will tell you that they taste better.”

Brand Awareness Image from http://ravishingpromotions.com.au/

 


 The Hyperawareness of Simplicity 

Less is More. Apple mastered this and now the rest of the world has caught on.  The way of the web is now all about embracing sleek, simple, clean and responsive designs. Space & brevity = better.  Remember this commercial?

The article, ” Lazy Eyes, How we read online” makes mention to how our brains are wired to filter information. This, like our appreciation of symbols, it’s something that has also been ingrained into our DNA.  This Slate article helped me understand a few of the “brain hacks” that showcase how readers skim,  decipher, and process information on the web.

As Informavores, a term coined by  Jakob Nielsen, it’s important for us to learn to become aware of these brain hacks. There is simply too much data out there for us to consume daily.  Learning the difference between what to leave in and what to leave out is not only beneficially to us as a species it’s also beneficial to us as a society.

Lately, I’ve been consciously thinking a lot about space, brevity, and simplifying, when I write emails and make presentations for my colleagues.

Here’s are some screenshots of a Google Site that I’ve created for our Primary School staff.  The site is designed to be a digital ecosystem that houses all of our “tech-knowledge” at UWCT.  It’s still a work in progress and has yet to go live, but I spent a lot of time thinking about the aesthetics, user-friendliness, and overall appeal.

 


Furthermore, my own personal blog, outside of my COETAIL one, is also very visual. Here is a snippet of that site.

Here you can see that I’m going for that same appeal, brand awareness with the logo (or symbol), and a simple not too stimulating layout with images that provoke.  I’ve tried to do that as much as I can with this COETAIL blog by aligning it to the same philosophy of  “less is more” and by remembering to embrace the space.


Final Wonderings?

How do you teach Visual Literacy?

Do you believe that it is transdisciplinary?

How has it changed the way your live / work?

How does this mindset place a role in your life?

@NicholasKGarvin

Photo credit: The Great Andromeda galaxy,  by my friend Anh P.A. Ho.

The Internet is…

an information superhighway

a web

a network

a global system

a verb

a platform

Whatever term you choose to associate it with, there’s no denying the internet has changed the way we communicate, behave, and learn.

John Stewart, Comedian-writer and former host of the daily show,  once proclaimed that  “The internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”

It wasn’t until reading  Jeff’s Utech’s book, Reach, where I realized the symbiotic relationship between the user and the web or, in John Stewart’s case the notes and the note takers.  The more you work it, the more it works for you. Take Twitter for example, in an instance, you can throw out a question or idea to your PLN and receive global perspectives feeding back to you instantaneously. Social media, although quite prominent, isn’t the be all and end of the internet but, it has certainly changed the landscape. How about others like Yelp, Uber, or Amazon. All of these sites/apps depend on a user-generated rating based system in order to operate effectively. The ability we have as a global contributor, wielding that kind of power and influence is a massive responsibility that we’re not even fully aware of.  In fact, many of us daily do more than just participate with the web on a daily basis. Perhaps, are you going on holiday soon? How many of you have already checked the reviews on Trip Advisor before you booking that hotel or tour? If you are beyond the participatory stage of the web perhaps you’ve even contributed by writing a review, discussing your approval or loathing of a certain establishment. Either way, once you move into the role of active contributor you shape the overall user experience for everyone, better or worse.  

The truth is the internet is just made up of our collective consciousness, resources, and information. It’s our involvement and our role in the equation that makes work. It takes both creators and consumers to keep the net thriving. This was evident nearly a decade ago when on December 13, 2006, Time Magazine named its person of the year “You”. http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/2006/1101061225_400.jpg

Now think about how much more relevant that nomination seems after a decade of social media, interactive sites and the rise of mobile devices, personalizing and customizing our individual online experience. Keep in mind that there is no moderator overseeing all. Where we go as a global society so goes the internet. It’s also part of our role to keep it kind, factual, and productive.  An often overlooked part of our role, that seems to be reflective our current times. Speaking of being reflective, let’s have a look back at what one minute on the internet in 2017 looks like.


The Internet is… an opportunity for change 

The video, Extracurricular Empowerment, showcases how powerful of a change agent the internet can. Martha and people all over the world like her understand how to harness and leverage this power and make it work for them. For every Martha, there are hundreds of other students that have one way or another found their voice and audience on the web.  It’s not out of the question for today’s digital natives to want to aspire to be Youtubers. After all,  Hollywood movie stars are so 2016, and the allure of influences of megastars like Casey Neistat and Fun for Louis make it look cool and easy. 

Here are11 of the biggest web changes in the last 11 years.

These days it’s easier than ever to start producing content, attract an audience and then continue the cycle while watching your subscriber count grow. Our students know this? Do we as teachers know that they know this? Do we allow for them to flourish under these conditions? How does your school react to and cater to students as digital change agents?  Do they tighten up the parameters like initial reaction of Martha’s school board or let them harness the opportunity?   Here are twenty-five other ways to leverage the power of the internet and start creating!


The Internet is…. a level playing field.

Not only does the internet level the playing field, It gives us the ball and expects us to run with it. Martha Payne did exactly that. How will you empower your students to do so?  How do you build good skills for our students to turn into children like Martha? 

The truth is we still don’t know the full magnitude of the internet’s untapped potential. Eric Schmidt from Google stated, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”


Final Wonderings: The internet will be….?

Will the internet continue to remain a level playing field or will more and more countries follow suit by enacting their own “Great Fire Wall” If you’re from the USA, you’re probably wondering what the future entails with the looming FCC regulations. We’ve seen massive changes within the internet since that Time magazine cover, what’s next?  What will the internet be in 20 years, 50 years?  How do you prepare your students for what’s next or as Schmidt’s said “the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”..? 

Come Together: Collaboration Through Global Goals

 “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”
                           – Oliver Wendell Holmes

In this age of information, where almost anything can be found by a quick Google search, one aspect that has emerged is the emphasis on critical thinking skills. Ideas such as the flipped classroom model and microlearning have already freed up classroom time allowing teacher and students the opportunity to shift their focus to “big ideas”, sharpening their collaboration and critical thinking skills.  Remaining open to new big ideas and providing both teachers and students with the time and space to share implement and innovate has now become the new community time on the carpet.  This along with collaborating and sharing our findings with others is what more and more classroom time has been allotted for. Deeper connections and higher levels of thinking are all possible now thanks to our ongoing embrace of technology within the classroom.  Why? Because technology is a time saver and with that time saved teachers can shift their focus towards critical thinking & other 21st-century century skills required for learners and leaders of tomorrow. Technology doesn’t guarantee critical thinking success just like it doesn’t guarantee innovation. It does, however, make us more efficient, thus freeing up a lot of time for new discussions, ideas, and action. It all comes down to how well we make use of our tools and time.

The iPod experiment discussed in Cathy N. Davidson’s Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age was a wonderful display of creativity fused with practicality and innovation. Imagine if all schools allowed their students to do the same, only with their own devices. The experiment reminded me of what my former school attempted in Mozambique with secondary students and a little low tech device called Makey Makey.  Here’s a quick video on what Makey Makey is, or can be.

Makey Makey is still going strong today, thanks to its open-ended creativity and its ever-increasing number of possibilities. Most importantly, it’s fun, it gets student thinking big.


Moving from Social Interactive to Global Action

Skype, Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts & the rest of the G-Suite are great tools that allow for global communication, collaboration. Often the problem is that many schools or classrooms fail to find a goal or purpose to rally behind so that everyone involves can get the most out of those tools. I have experimented with virtual pen pals and book buddies, with former colleagues who have moved away to different international schools. It was fun and engaging at first but overtime fizzled out. Looking back, I realize that I could have been doing so much more than swapping big book stories with different grade level at a different school and as a reflective practitioner take full responsibility for its dissolution. Andrew Marcinek’s article about social media really made me question whether or not I was making the most of my connection. When mentioned the importance of connecting efficiently.  


Global Goals

I recently came across this site Technology for a Global Early Childhood Education and I’m thankful I did. I specifically like their section, from ideas to action.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I appreciate that this site specializes in big ideas and steps towards action seen through an early childhood lens. 

In seeking out for more of global connections, I ‘ve recently come across The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. They were just in Bangkok a few weeks back for the Global Goals World Cup. I’m also excited to explore more possibilities that lie within my new school United World College Thailand and the 16 other United World Colleges around the globe. I appreciate their ethos. It reminds me of what was said in Cathy N. Davidson’s article “Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”. 

UWC’s focus on peace and a sustainable future is something I think we can all connect with. 

The parameters are in place, the tools are there, and now more than ever we have the opportunity to truly make a global impact. It’s a paradigm shift for sure but, we’re already on the cusp of. It starts by changing the way we think about school time, physical boundaries and barriers, and what is truly possible.

What’s your global collaboration goal?


“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
                                         – Vince Lombardi

Press Start : Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten

My two most significant modifications and tech takeaways thus far have both been centered around purposeful and authentic student learning. The first takeaway is to ensure that I counterbalance my use of technology as a tool with another tool that highlights the pedagogy. This includes tools such as ISTE Standards, SAMR Model and/or TPACK. Developing the why behind the device or digital tool is also key to my second takeaway, the ongoing effort of empowering the students to become prosumers. This more abstract and conceptual understanding paves the way and highlights the importance of their involvement in the creation of their digital footprint. The Coetail readings and writing I have encountered have taught and inspired me to realize the importance of realizing that digital citizenship is an ongoing journey and one that should be started as soon as possible.


Beginning the Journey Purposefully by Creating Tech Essential Agreements

Unpacking and communicating the “Why” behind the big ideas within a Kindergarten classroom often requires a bit of essence and finesse. In a sense, it’s metacognition meets the breaking of the 4th wall. This is what we encountered with our first crack at accountability when collectively developing our Ipad essential agreements. We had to first come to terms with a common foundation, an acceptable use policy so to speak. In our classroom, nothing is Taboo or off limits. We approach everything positive intent. If an incident occurs that doesn’t correspond with our Essential Agreements, we unpack the causation behind, it talk it out and then attempt to learn from it. Needing to understand and agree upon the language of that foundation is key. Introducing and unpacking language does take time but it’s a delicate and important process in our attempt to understand one another. This blog, from the IB website, is a great resource for those interested in formulating essential agreements collectively. Getting the students involved in the creative process allowed for each voice to be heard. Later, we compared our newly formulated iPad essential agreements with our mindful communication essential agreements, looking for a common language or theme. The words, respectful, responsible, & safe appeared in both sets of agreements. This coincidence was wonderful to explore with the kids and taught us a valuable concrete lesson. How we treat each other in life should bare no difference to how we treat our tools or one another in the digital world. By Identifying these consistencies we’ve already begin to highlight the moral and purpose of our digital learning journey. Be respectful, responsible, & safe.


Empowering Learners to Continue their Journey

The article Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Mark Prensky, really helped provide me with inspiration and perspective on how to creatively work with within your given parameters. SeeSaw, the wonderful, student & family friendly learning journal is not new to me but the idea of using it as a tool to help educate parents and students about Digital Citizenship is. Mark Prensky’s article reminded me of the importance of what he calls “ enlightened trial and error” What better way of embarking on a new frontier of educating parents and Kindergarten students alike then by using a shared platform that documents our adventures or misadventures in real time.

By allowing the students to take ownership of SeeSaw. A cycle of creation, reflection, & refinement ensues. New understandings and new connections are made throughout the process of a familiar product. This “new way of using an old thing“ allows student learning solidify. This process of recording, presenting, and using technology is just the beginning of their interactive SeeSaw learning journey as well as our #DigCiz journey. Going back to my first takeaway, the tool to indicate the purpose, I used the ISTE NETS Students 2016 Content & Learning Targets. Feel free to click to link to the Google Doc so that you can make a copy for yourselves.

What I have noticed lately, is that the students are also looking more critically at their own work, choosing their favorite piece and becoming prosumers in the process. Each week we review the comments written their parents and grandparents allowing them to begin to develop an understanding of the impact and reach of their personally created uploads. In addition, we have also been looking at what a good video. Allowing them to have complete creative control may seem daunting and disaster-ridden from the outside looking in, however, like our essential agreements, with time and essence it’s extremely empowering. From, presenting confidently to experimenting with lighting, noise, & sound, the last few weeks the students have begun to develop a critical eye through a collaborative and constructive approach. All of our trials and all of our errors are revisited, discussed similar and shared with peers and parents on our class blog and individual learning journals.

Here’s a nice little wheel chart by @Tedfujimoto illustrating 8 digital skills that we must teach students.  Can you identify which ones we are covering now?

The most important part is that we’re all in this together and we will all be helping each other improve along the way as we move forward with this collaborative classroom approach to learning about permanence. Putting it all out there, at this age, is in some ways a method of teaching them how a digital footprint works. How the internet works. Once it’s out there it’s out there. Therefore it’s best to equip oneself with the personal values and beliefs, ownership, and knowledge of their roles as digital natives. Or in the eyes of a Kindergarten student, it’s about being respectful, responsible, and safe.


Final Wondering: Justifying the importance Parents

As teachers continue to nourish the tiny or impending digital footprint Kindergarten or primary students in general,  I can’t help but think about the important role that the parents play in the grand scheme of this. Educating the parents of Digital Citizenship is equally important as educating students. In what way to do you include parents in process of Digital Citizenship in your classroom? How do you get the parents on board? What, if any, resistance from parents regarding Dig Ciz have you encountered?


Purposeful Pedagogy with Tech as a Tool

It’s true that technology has transformed the way we teach and the way students learn. It has revolutionized the world with the way we receive and delivery information.  Its impact is monumental, there’s no doubt, but understanding how technology can be used effectively and purposefully in the classroom now becomes the focus.  It’s important to think of Technology as a tool to help learning ensue. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that the tools have to work for us, we don’t work for them.

Know your purpose

“Have I started with purpose and pedagogy instead of the tech?” It was this question from Drew Perkins’, 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom that really stuck with me. It’s not about the technology, it should always be about the learning.  We as educators should be mindful of their use of technology within the classroom.  Are we using it as a tool to drive teaching and learning? I found Drew’s article to be a helpful integration barometer, right up there with  TPACK  and the SAMR model.

Last week, while perusing on Twitter, I came across this invaluable ISTE related Google Doc thanks to @techwatts.

This is a wonderful resource for teachers as it’s centered around Content & Learning Targets for students.  Whether it’s SAMR, TPACK  or another supportive and reflective tool for integration,  it’s important to remember a way to identify the purpose behind the inclusion and that purpose should always be what is best for student learning.   Remember the tool should work for us, both teachers and students. The ISTE Standards and Essential Conditions are also key to navigating one’s learning journey into proper tech integration.

Using Technology Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re Innovating 

Technology in the classroom is not about buying and using the cool new thing. A common misconception amongst both teachers and students is new tech = automatic innovation. Simply using ______ (insert latest app/device here)________  doesn’t necessary mean you’re innovating.  Technology shouldn’t be an end in itself.  Don’t allow yourself to be wooed by the latest tech toys. What might be best for consumers might not always be best for our students.

Also,  Innovation is not about using the latest hardware, software, or following the latest techie trendy.  Innovation is a mindset. As @gcouros pointed out with his new book.  George’s infographic helps provide a brief and clear snippet below.

For me, it’s these eight characters that make up a great teacher and effective tech integrator.  As a kindergarten teacher,  I want technology to inspire my students.  I use technology to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment. I’m reflective of my use and when a problem arises I include my student’s into the process of solving it. I want them to become creators of their own learning journey and understand the importance of responsible use and their digital footprint.

We are 17 years into the 21st century, sooner or later tech skills,  an innovators mindset and attitudes towards integration will become normalized the same way the digital revolution has lead to the evolution of learning. ISTE, COETAIL, and people like George Couros have already played a large role in this.  It’s up to us now, as educators, to use the tools provided, and technology as a tool, to drive student achievement and prepare them to become lifelong learners in today’s digital world.   

Final Wonderings?

What tool do you use to evaluate yourself when integrating tech into the classroom, SAMR, TPACK or something other? How do you use technology as a tool to work for you? 

@NicholasKGarvin