Over the summer I’ve had a bit of time to think deeper about my final project. My last blog post on the topic listed two very different ideas.
A flipped Kindergarten classroom
Some sort of way to promote Kindness and Empathy through digital storytelling The first idea centered around students achieving mastery in a specific content area and then being able to make their thinking visible by showcasing it digitally.
The second idea wanted to focus more on connecting people (students) throughout and sharing their stories then highlighting and celebrating our unique and diverse experiences. I believe that it has the opportunity to create a sense of oneness through our similar love for stories, no matter the time, space, language & cultural barriers.
Although I’m moving away from my second idea, I’m still looking into utilizing my #PLN so that I can continue to create awesome global connections:
As seen above, Coetail has provided me with some fabulous opportunities for authentic global connection. In addition to teaching me how to raise the bar in my own classroom, Coetail has taught me of the importance (and ease) of connecting my classroom to the world. The global connections I’ve made and have already taken part in have been a cornerstone in my Coetail learning experience. From hosting Twitter chats with Pana @PanaAsavavatana to collaborating with cohort members in course, I’ve always enjoyed the learning and perspective that ensue when connected globally. Since one of my biggest takeaways was learning how to make the web work for me, through my interactions with social networks & RSS feeds, I’ve completely changed from a consumer to prosumer to full on creator & connector. Having said that, I would really to have the global connection aspect somehow be representative in my final project one way or another.
The line… “Your information is only as good as your ability to share it”has resonated with me all throughout these courses. I blogged about it here.
I plan to Use Screencastify or another tool to showcase only student learning and student voices. Out of respect for student privacy, there will be no faces shown. Khan Academy is a very inspirational hub that showcases learning while also
Coetail : (Global Connections) (the power of video)
Global Read Aloud & other awesome Global Projects such as The Traveling Tales & the SDGs – Global Goals. have too provided their fair share of inspiration. Now, it’s time to tie it all together.
Pondering a Platform
At the moment, I’m thinking that my students can use book creator to showcase their skills. What I’m wondering now is what the best platform to use in order the connect the Kinder generated content to a larger audience. Originally my idea was for them to use Flipgrid. (after first being inspired by Sean Ford’s (@Sean4d )#WorldReadAlouds. Even with Flipgrid’s latest feature, Mixtapes, I’m still not 100% convinced that it is the right platform.
Fine Tuning the Final Project
The goal would be to showcase student learning and mastery within specific Kindergarten content & personal projects. Learning experiences such as iTime, which is designated time for personal projects and creativity, provide students with time, space and an opportunity to practice explain their thinking. Mastery can be shown and digitalized throughout other areas of the curriculum as well. For example, Number Talks in Mathematics.
Now the quest for a proper platform to contain this content begins.
Any ideas of an age-appropriate platform for connecting Kinder students to the world?
I would love to hear your feedback back on this venture. As I continue to fine tune this project, I look forward to taking on what Coetail community has to say.
I would like to flip the literacy lessons in my Kindergarten class with a two-prong approach. First, I would like to create a digital library of my student’s guided reading groups. I would eventually expand it beyond my classroom to include the other Kindergarten class at my school and if possible connect with other schools. Second, I would like to create a database of student-led phonics lessons for struggling readers and non-native English speakers, with the help of Fipgrid and our standalone literacy program Get Reading Right.
Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
It combines so many of today’s methods of best practice, including being digitally literate, empowering students to create, providing them with an authentic audience, and personalizing the learning in the classroom by freeing up time for individual inquiry thanks to flip.
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.
What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
Ensuring that I keep it student driven and pedagogy driven
That high-leveled readers also continue to develop their reading skills and do not get too caught up in the creation of new content for others.
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.
What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
It will require a change in how lessons are delivered. I will need to invest time in modeling digital lessons on the iPads and I will also need to put my trust in students to responsibly create and record lessons for other students. The classroom culture will change a bit as the students will now look to other students for learning rather than solely on the teacher. Each student will be an advocate for the literacy learning.
For my students, it’s going to be about doing old things in new ways. This idea would require my students to put to use all of the digital skills they acquired throughout the year.
Describe the project: What will your students do?
My 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 #FlipgridAppsmash will provide my students with a wide authentic audience and allow them to work together and with students from another class
How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?
It’s a flipped approach to teaching and learning literacy with the intent of keeping it personalized and student-directed, all of which I’ve learned the benefits of through Coetail.
What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?
Redefining what literacy looks like in Kindergarten. Also to unravel the misconceptions that early years students cannot use technology for big ideas and augmented tasks.
What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
Digital Literacy Skills
Communication Skills (speaking & listening)
Cooperation & Collaboration Skills
Option 2: Promoting Empathy through Global Storytelling, Global Citizenship & Global Acts of Kindness
Awhile back I wrote a blog post titled Come Together: Collaboration Through Global Goals. There I wrote about the Global Goals for sustainable development the UWC Movement and how I wanted to connect my classroom with other UWC schools around the world.
Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
Back in the blog, Principles for the paradigm shift I learned through a self-assessment that I have a bit of a blind spot in regards to connecting my classroom to the world. I’m fortunate to work at a widely diverse international school in Phuket, Thailand, however, the community is still somewhat small as we live on an island. Therefore the thought of promoting diversity, kindness, through shared experiences and storytelling and connecting my classroom to other classrooms around the world sounds like a great fit.
What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
How will we share our stories?
Too much of an audience? – Is it going to be authentic?
How much ownership could I transfer over to the students?
Other issues include Timezones & privacy issues.
What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
Increasing my connectivity with other educators in order to work together on a group project.
Describe the project: What will your students do?
In addition, the UWC mission places a strong emphasis on service learning, diversity, peace, and a sustainable future. Using technology platforms such as Skype or Google Hangouts and or a controlled Youtube channel, I would ask my students to create and share their personal stories the importance of kindness and helping others. Students are to create and share their experiences from our service learning visits to the Phuket Nursing home, and their stories from their own countries, cultures, and personal experiences.
How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?
Coetail taught me that innovation doesn’t always require the use of technology. Technology is a tool and its power depends on its function. In this case, I’d like to use that tool to communicate to an authentic audience, with the intent to promote kindness and courageous action amongst other early childhood classrooms. By increasing the awareness of the possibilities of Global Collaboration as well as the local act of kindness my students experience in on a day to day basis my students will begin to learn about empathy for others and how their small actions can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?
To showcase how positive dialogue and kindness bring us together. Also to showcase how communication through short stories when combined with a big platform can help influence and inspire other people to make the world a better place. In addition, I also want to promote how the use of technology provides us with a platform to share and better understand one another.
In addition, Ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development – Goal 4 Quality Education
What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
and Social and Emotional Intelligence
Both options are big ideas and will each in their own way be very fun challenges to venture into. I’m wondering if the Flipped classroom experiment would be better suited for this specific time and place as there are only 9 weeks left of school. If I were to choose option 2, and focus on digital storytelling and emotional literacy through diversity, I might find that I’ll need more time to fully tap into the potential. My students have been developing their emotional literacy skills throughout the year as there is a huge focus on mindfulness and social/emotional learning here at UWCT, however, attempting to connect with another classroom and collaborate may come off a bit rushed given the timing. I do believe that all of the pieces are in place to pull off the flipped classroom and I think that at this stage in the year my Kindergarten students are more digitally literate and socially responsible. I could be totally off base about this, especially with option 2. I have never done either idea so I’ll happily accept any feedback from those who have experience.
“Yes, kids love technology, but they also love legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.” – K.G. 1st Grade Teacher
In my classroom, there are eight Ipads making it a 2:1 student to iPad ratio. Still with a 2:1 ratio it’s important to be aware of the challenges of unnecessary use and it’s pivotal that I explicitly stress a balance early on. As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand that the majority of my students are using an iPad for learning for the first their very first time. My job as an educator when it pertains to rolling out these digital devices relies upon, the emphasis on balance, the promotion of ownership and shared responsibility, and finally, deliberate and delicate approach dedicated to unraveling the misconceptions with both students and parents.
Each our classroom iPads have two student’s names stickered onto the back. The Ipads are enclosed in Kinder friendly and Kinder proof colored coded cases. Even with a 2:1 ratio, the students are still able to develop a sense of ownership over their devices. For starters, they have agreed to all signed the responsible use agreement / Ipad essential agreement that we came up with at the beginning of the year, agreeing to be respectful, responsible. In addition, each student also has their own personal folder on their device. That folder is used for them to store their iTime work.
I think the 2:1 ratio works well with this age group for two reasons. First, it promotes group work when we are researching, recording, collecting evidence, or helping one another on big projects. Second, when doing independent work, such as when they add content to their individual iTime folders, it ensures that only a portion of them are handling iPads for a short period of time. These folders, saved on the iPad, allow my students preserve their work and showcase the progress of their passion projects over an extended period of time. Individual iTime folders also provide them have more opportunities to have a voice in what and how they learn.
When it comes moderation both the age of my students and the 2:1 ratio are both in my favor, however, real management has to be built over time. At the beginning of the year, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that my students understand that their time on the iPad is for learning purposes only. It has been explicitly stated in class over and over that the iPad is for creating, recording, and researching. Apps on our iPad are only centered around open-ended creation tools such as Book Creator. Recordings are done through the use of SeeSaw or the camera app. Research is done by using Google Voice and asking questions through Google’s mobile app. What they might do with an iPad at home is vastly different then what they do with them here. This took some time to explain and enforce as due to their age, many of my students have never used an iPad in this way before. This works in my favor but it also extremely vital that as a role model, and one who might be introducing this tool for the first time in their lives, that I promote positive and purposeful use.
By setting the tone early on for both parents and students I’m ensuring that everyone involved a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, thus supporting learning both on — and off — the device.
Zooming out a bit from my Kindergarten lens, I realize that this is an issue that can potentially affect students at all grade levels. In all actuality, it’s probably a lot easier to curb the tech obsession with early years and lower primary students than it is for teens in secondary school.
As a member of the school’s technology committee, we have discussed the idea of rolling out Tech-Free Zones across our campus and unplugged time throughout the day. There have been talks to introduce and implement these new boundaries across the whole school at the beginning of the next academic year. Wondering now about similar resistance and backlash like the stats state above, I’m now leaning towards another unique strategy to curb teen tech enthusiasm. Taken from the NPR article titled, “Should College Professor GIve “Tech Breaks” in Class? , the specific method mentioned brings a whole new meaning to the term “tech break.” In this case, students are given 1-minute breaks to check in (or check out) on their mobile device. It’s certainly an interesting approach and one I’d like to run by tech committee colleagues.
It may seem radical at first but by allocating specific time for students to get their tech fix, the teacher is actually making a point to harness student attention on his watch, placing value on both his time and his students. Periodic breaks seem to be far more reasonable then shaming or micromanaging. If delivered consistently, I could really see this helping to maintain student focus. It’s a deal that pays respect to both parties and acknowledges the ever persistent elephant in the room.
Balancing Brain Evolution & The Digital Revolution
The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls attention, interest, motivation, and decision-making, does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore there’s still a major responsibility for teachers, teens, and parents to remain mindful of self-regulation as well as the impact that too much tech can have on the developing brains. The US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health published a manuscript titled, The Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution which goes into great detail on consequences and implications for adolescents in the digital age. It’s well worth the read and applicable to all of us.
Focused attention and participation as an age-old problem in Education, the inclusive of digital devices have certainly raised the stakes. Our fast-paced culture and ever-increasing infatuation with productivity haven’t helped either. Implementing positive habits at a young age may be effective in the early years but as children, technology, and society continue to develop and change, we must aim for a respectful balance that addresses our needs and pays tribute to a shared responsibility to maintain a human to human connection.
Are “Tech Breaks” the antidote for teens?
This week’s final wondering is a call back to a question from a #KchatAP that I recently hosted on Twitter.
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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!
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?
So, back to what and how teaching might look like in ten to twenty years time?
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.
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?
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??
I recently participated in a World Read Aloud lead by Sean Forde 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 #FlipgridAppsmash 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.
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?
“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play… it is work he must do in order to grow up.
The article Perfecting with Practice: Project Based Teaching by Suzie Boss, lays a wonderful foundation for those educators looking to make the leap into Project Based Learning. As a Kindergarten teacher, this framework coupled with PYP curriculum and a strong emphasis on play-based learning is the perfect recipe for authentic learning engagements in my classroom.
Suzie Boss writes, that “Inquiry is at the heart of project learning.” As much as I agree with her on that, I’d take one step further with the anatomy analogy and say if that inquiry is the heart than play is the backbone. As an Early Years of working at conceptually based schools, I believe it’s the concoction of inquiry, play, and experimentation that really helps foster critical thinking skills and promote big ideas.
Each day my Kinder students become more and more accustomed to inquiry and big ideas and solving authentic problems. At first, the thought of relinquishing control and transferring more ownership over to the students felt a bit daunting. However, I quickly realized once I got out of the way, that’s when the magic happened. I had embraced the power of letting go and started looking at the learning through the macro lens. By embracing project-based learning as my foundation I helped keep my students tethered to learning but unbounded by their own desires and creativity.
It’s been said if you want to get to know someone spends an hour playing with them. You’ll learn more from that one hour than days of conversations. In the Early Years, where students wear their hearts on their sleeves, a few play sessions combined some astute observations and notetaking and you will allow you begin to tap into the interests of an early years learner. Take iTime, for example, ( also known to other educators as Genius Hour) undoubtedly our most popular time throughout the week. My Kindergarten students consistently look forward to iTime because they know that that time is personal to them. It’s a dedicated time and space for creative thinking.
iTime activates my student’s natural desire to learn and empowers them to embrace their imagination and design thinking skills. Our classroom Makerspace is an organic entity that has taken on a life of its own and treasured by my students. Each week they take part in iTime where in addition to them learning about the creative process, they are constantly exploring, experimenting and tinkering. In a sense, iTime is grassroots, student-driven, Project Based Learning. Fueled by their individual wonder and passions, my students take iTime very seriously. Here’s a great article that speaks to more of benefits of personalized learning or “iTime”
Also, have a look at some of the focus and levels of engagement from my students below.
Although iTime is one way to tap into my student’s passions and make it work on a personalized level. I began to reflect on my Kindergarten class as a whole and wondered which learning engagements fit best with their needs, Project Based Learning or Challenge-Based Learning?
After reading Kim Cofino’s blog post “ 3 steps to transforming your classroom,”I realized is that Understanding by Design or Project-Based Learning would work really well with my 5 & 6-year-old students. Understanding by Design allows me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals thus acknowledging the ebb & flow of Kindergarten.
Other learning frameworks although, great, do not necessarily fit as well as my Project Based Learning. For example, Problem-Based Learning & Challenge Based Learning isn’t exactly relevant or age appropriate for my students. Don’t get me wrong, delve into Problem-Based Learning from time to time, but that is mostly when we are attempting to solve or focus on classroom or individual conflicts.
By keeping my focus on the Project-based learning model, I help my students become prosumers as they generate a cycle of creation, reflection, & refinement. It will also change the way they perceive the world. In my class, there is no problem too big to attempt to solve. Providing children with Time, space, resources and an authentic audience equips them for the real world.
Learning to collaborate on large-scale problems and give and receive feedback throughout the process is one key to success, both in the classroom and in life.
Project Based learning helps the students learn how to think big and come up with big goals and ideas. Of course, like any type of teaching, this takes scaffolding, patience, and practice. One obstacle, although not terribly big one is the fact that things in Kindergarten don’t always move in a linear direction. Some of the learning will probably be circular but I suppose the nice part about Project-based learning is the freedom and flexibility that comes with having an overarching goal/set of learning outcomes. UBD units, for example, allow me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals.
I find that when they have an authentic audience to provide them with the feedback they are much more responsive. This sometimes can become challenging, especially if we have already exercised the options of our Grade 2 reading buddies, the admin team, or our parent community. One thing that I would like to do more to help circumvent this obstacle is to seek out more global connections. Perhaps through my PLN on Twitter along with #KchatAP & #Kinderchat groups. It’s important that my students continue to present their learning to an authentic audience, one that expands beyond the grounds of our school.
I’m a firm believer that Kindergarten students are more than capable of handling big ideas and understanding/handing real-life authentic problems so I’d never completely discount something and underestimate the ability of my students.
Mitchel Resnick’s book, Lifelong Kindergartener, has been on my radar for a long time and as a Kindergarten teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with his views regarding teaching and learning through his philosophy and the four P’s.
Although it often requires the right delivery, time, space, a bit of essence and a lot of repetition, my Kindergarten students and I are able to make learning look like an organic roman candle of student interest, engagement, and enjoyment; unbridled and glorious.
What does learning look like in your classroom?
How do you harness and promote creativity with your students?
How do you embrace the four Ps (Projects, Passions, Play, & Peers) in your teaching?
Visuals play such an important role in nourishing the imagination of young learners. Dr. Michio Kaku understands this importance and how images can promote curiosity and inspiring learning. As a Kindergarten teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with what Dr. Kaku states in the video below. Do you?
Comprehension, Creativity, & Critical Thinking with Visuals
One way to help young learners begin to understand Visual Literacy is through the use of picture books. The use of picture books in Kindergarten is an important aspect in the development of student’s vocabulary, conceptual thought, and imagination. Susan Stephenson writes about this in her article, Visual Literacy Through Children’s Picture Books. Where she mentions how the use of visuals help students develop a conceptual understanding of the world around them.
” …visuals present information at-a-glance that would otherwise take a long time to get across in words.”
The following SlideShare provides a great summary of visual literacy and dives deep into symbolic imagery, design and colors schemes. The best part is that this SlideShare is accompanied by with many wonderful picture book titles. It’s a perfect resource for any teacher who wants to start implementing more picture books and/or visual literacy into their curriculum. It also lists one of my all-time favorites, The Rabbits by John Marsden
That slide share coupled with Susan’s wonderful list of questions works as the stellar combination to help provoke deep observations, conceptual thinking, and creativity with the use of picture books.
In my Kindergarten classroom visuals are constantly weaved into the curriculum as a way to help us communicate and understand concepts and ideas. For instances, around the beginning of the school-year, one student proposed the question, “What is Math?”. This question occurred on the carpet after we spent the first week unraveling our misconceptions about Play and how we learn. (only to find out that we learn a lot about Math in our Play, without knowing it i.e. Legos). Eventually, another student spoke up to answer the question. She confidently stated that “Math is something an artist does.” Many other Kindergarten students disagreed and a bit of a debate ensued. Later in the week after some collaborative planning with the other Kinder teacher, we agreed to bring both classes together to discuss this claim. We grouped the children into 4-5 students and provided each group with one A4 image of Piet Mondrian’s Line over Form.
Piet Mondrian – Line over Form
We asked them to think like a Mathematician and look closely to see if they can find any Math in this Art. The image captured the attention of our student’s thanks to its identifiable shapes, striking colors, & noticeable patterns. This one piece alone sparked so many different discussions about Art in Math and vice-versa. We touched on symmetry, angles, & patterns all while changing and challenging the student’s perspectives on “What is Math.” Having all started with a student-led inquiry, the addition of this visual aid took our learning to new heights and created opportunities for transdisciplinary connections. This to me, was the first time I think I really understood the power of visuals and how they can help connect authentic experiences to higher levels of thinking.
Now, our Maths inquiry has moved beyond the classroom as outdoors as we look for “Math in Nature.” Our latest Unit of Inquiry titled, How the World Works, has my Kindergarten students looking through the lens of a scientist. Becoming keen observers and practicing how to look closely have been at the forefront of our classroom inquiries. The following photos will be used to help create a buzzing discussion about whether or not there is Math in Nature.
I’m confident that these two photos will be able to provide the same sort of spark that Piet Mondrian’s image did. For one, we live on a tropical island with beaches and critters galore so both photos are already tapping into students’ prior knowledge and authentic experiences. It’s just about looking at them now with a different lens altogether. Now it’s about a new perspective for my students, one that teaches them to look for the meaning being communicated by and beyond the image.
I enjoyed using the https://search.creativecommons.org/ website to quickly find images that I can use in the classroom. This time around, I stuck to images from Flickr but, I hope to explore other sites offered on the CC.org site.
What’s your favorite site?
In what ways do you use images in the classroom to promote critical thinking?
Do you believe that Visual Literacy is transdisciplinary?
What types of discussions about Visual Literacy are going on in your class?
We all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that sharing is caring but, in this new digital age of social media, mashups, memes, the line of ownership it becoming as blurred as Robin Thicke’s copyright infringed song. Perhaps he would have benefited from first viewing this free to use public Prezi.
With streaming sites, P2P, & Youtube now more popular than ever, more and more artists, creators and consumers are experiencing and/or violating some very similar copyright issues. As an educator and quasi-digital native, I’m fully aware of how easy it is, in this day and age, to share or use something without citing the original source.
Regarding my own digital footprint and this blog specifically, when I post a snippet from an article or quote, I ensure that I have permission to embed it and/or link it back to the appropriate site in order to give credit where credit is due. When it comes to photos I use for my blog posts, I make sure that the image is either from my personal collection or that I have asked the person who took the photo for their permission. The same probably could be said for quite a few of the places I have previously lived and worked.
Copyright laws here in Thailand are definitely not black and white. Living in Phuket, one could go buy a bootleg DVD of a movie that’s still in theaters at the local night market down the street. Obviously, this throws a wrench into one’s attempt to teach and model copyright consideration. I have noticed this at nearly all international postings throughout Asia and Africa.
One way to combat this, in addition to modeling fair use in the classroom, is to educate our parent communities. If we can get the parents on board that’s half of the battle no matter where we’re located throughout the globe. I do think as educators that this is a large part of our responsibility. Without proper parental buy-in, we as teachers are going against the grain. I also think having a parent workshop would be hugely beneficial for our parent community. Like the mother mentions Youtube video below. She’s not able to be around here son 24/7 to protect him from all that is the internet. Parents (and older siblings) need to understand the role that they play in this equation and if they can model and promote proper internet etiquette and copyright procedures then we become a much stronger united front when educating our children.
It’s never too young to discuss and teach about plagiarism. Similar to my venture into teaching Digital Citizenship, I believe that with the proper delivery and age-appropriate resources, students aged 5 and 6 can certainly make connections to what’s there’s and what isn’t. It must start small be and always remain relevant. Perhaps it could begin with with the student’s claiming ownership of their own work first then widening the lens to the classroom, school community, and internet. Speaking of internet, Be Internet Awesome by Google would be surely the most effective way for me to teach this concept to my Kindergarten students. It will require some scaffolding and guidance but it certainly has all the tools and looks fun and engaging. It’s also aligned with the ISTE standards!
Be Internet Awesome is AWESOME
I love that the learning is delivered through a game. I’ve recently been looking the benefits of Gamification within the classroom and I’m loving what I see. Having said that, I think that the timing would be perfect to roll both out at the same time. So, I recently downloaded their free curriculum and plan to adapt just light slightly to use with my Kindergarten students. I’m hopeful that once they can understand and apply the new vocabulary, they’ll see how this connects to our current look into digital citizenship and footprints. Having such responsive and engaging platform, in Google’s Interland will further reinforce what’ we’ve already learned in the best way possible, play.
To Meme or Not to Meme?
As much as I’m a fan of mashups and remixes, I have been thinking about starting out small, like to get into the creation of memes in my Kindergarteners Once we develop an understanding of the vocabulary within the Be Internet Awesome & Digital Citizenship journey, I’d like to give it a shot. What’s your experience with Memes? Have you ever tried to create any with your class? Currently, my student’s are obsessed with emojis and using symbols to convey meaning. I’m hoping that a venture into the world of memes could be our next step.
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.
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?