Techs & Balances

“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 additioneach 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.

Although it’s not 1:1 in my classroom Karen Kane 41 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Your 1:1 Classroom still had some excellent takeaways. Specifically,  Reorganize your classroom space and flipping lessons.  


Mindful Moderation & Managment

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.

At this age, it’s equally important to Educate the parents for the same reasons.  By getting involved with events such as  Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings or informal Q & A workshops like Kim Cofino mentions in her post Living with Laptops from YIS,  you get everyone on the same page and alleviate any misconceptions and fears about passive screen time. Parents can help model similar structures and limits at home, reinforcing that home-school connection. As educators, we can introduce them to resources from Common Sense Media.  They have an excellent site that has a whole section on parenting in the digital age.  The following snippet, taken from the article, “Will my child be left behind if he/ she doesn’t use technology?”, sums up how well Common Sense does in assisting and alleviating parental concerns.

“Whether kids are no-tech by choice or circumstance, it’s important that all kids are prepared for success in a technology-filled world. Even if you prefer a tech-light environment, you can still talk to your kids about healthy media habits, such as balancing screen time, and digital citizenship, such as being nice to people online

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. 


Tech Breaks

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.

“Today’s note passing is text messages.”  writes  Larry D. Rosen   in his article, The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks ”  Later in his piece, Larry goes on to list a staggering fact from the Nielsen Company, “the average teen sends and receives 3,705 text messages per month, which translates to about 10 per waking non-school hour or about one every 6 minutes.”  Now, I’m not sure how many notes you wrote and passed in high school, but that statement sounds a bit excessive.  Rosen goes on to cite a national report by the Pew Internet and American Life  Project found.  stating that 58% of teens whose school bans cell phones have sent a text during class and 43% send texts at least once a day during class

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 Medicine National Institutes of Health published a manuscript titledThe 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.


Final Wonderings?

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.


 

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

On the Border of Chaos & Order: Project Based Learning in Kindergarten

 

“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.

 – Maria Montessori 


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. 

Suzie’s Boss’ article Perfecting with Practice also reminded me of  Mitchel Resnick’s TED Talk Kindergarten for our Whole Lives.  Throughout his TED Talk, which I’ve also included below,  he dives into what he calls the four P’s of Practice. Those are as followed.

Projects
Passions
Play  & Peers



Starting with Passions

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.

 

 

 


Make it Relevant to Make it Work

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. 


Overcoming Obstacles  

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.


Final Wonderings?

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?

 

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