Google Sites Website Creation in G4 – Coetail Course 1 Final Project

Unit Planner

I started out writing this unit based on an idea I had for our Grade 4 Sharing the Planet unit. This is a unit that the Grade 4 team had always written a nonfiction report as their writing integration. This year we looked at ways to develop that into something integrated technology beyond the student’s typing their report. Since I had been using Google Sites this year to build several websites, I suggested using a Google Site as the product of the writing unit that integrated with this unit of inquiry. I choose to develop what we started this year into a more fully realized unit for my final unit. One of the reasons is that am developing this lesson further is because I can see it being used with several grade levels and several units. I wanted to make sure that I had a fully developed lesson so that when I discuss integration with teachers I can give them a fuller understanding of what is involved in a project of this nature.

One of the struggles that I find is that teachers severely underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a unit like this. Also, they don’t always see all of the ways they can incorporate elements of this unit into what they already do within the course of a unit. Writing it out in this much detail allows me to show them all of these things.

Most of the changes that I made were to break down the lessons in more detail to include both the integrationist role and the class teacher role. I also had to think of the unit differently than I was originally thinking since my role is fully integrated into the classroom, I had originally started to plan this unit using the original Unit of Inquiry. Then, I realized that I needed to think of it as a sub unit within the full unit. Once I realized that I began to see more clearly where I needed to develop the unit and how to explain the steps and elements necessary to complete it.

One element that could make this unit link into the coursework that we have done so far would be to try to create a global collaboration with another school/class doing a similar unit for their Sharing the Planet theme. We could work together on the websites with each class member having different pages/roles with the creation of the website. This would also allow students to do peer editing with peers that may have different perspectives. Because of this, I have already contacted a fellow teacher about this possibility. So hopefully that is something that we can develop further.

The biggest influence I think has been making sure that the unit plan clearly identifies both the integrationist and class teacher’s roles so that they have a clear understanding of the plan. It also gives me a good understanding of the amount of time it takes to teach the lesson effectively as well as the level of commitment that the teachers will need to give to make sure that the unit is a success. In my unit plan, I tried to make the roles and time needed clear for everyone to understand. I also tried to show areas where elements of this unit can be integrated into lessons and time commitments that the teacher will have already set aside for the unit of inquiry. All of this is part of the planning process which is what I talked about in my third week.

In the end, I hope to see student created websites that show many different ways for information to be shared with others. I hope that students will take some of their time and think of interesting ways to add to their website. I look forward to seeing what creative ways they can share their knowledge with others in interesting ways. I would like to see a progression of student’s skills in regards to their research skills in their ability to find information, site information and rewording of the information for their audience. As well as a progression of their skills with using the G Suite apps. Especially students who were using them heavily in previous years.

I look forward to sharing this unit plan and to teaching it in the next school year!

Is Global Collaboration Easier?

EQ: How can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our curricular areas to address this facet of 21st Century Learning?

When I read this question I think it is actually written backwards. It should be “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”

First, let me start by saying I don’t like the term “21st Century Learning” because in my head I think back to classrooms that were around when I was in university. Each “21st century class” was given one of the latest iMacs. I always thought that these were a waste of money because all I ever really saw them used for were Accelerated Reader tests. To be fair the tech was slow and the training for teachers was nonexistent. I think that we need a new term because I think a lot of teachers have images of pre-2000 things when they hear that term too. As George Couros mentions in his blog post 21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning have schools really changed? He has seen some great physical changes but has the teaching and learning changed? We need a new term that isn’t associated with “stuff” that is thrown at/into schools.

So back to the topic at hand. “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. I think that technology and the connectivity that comes with tech plays a huge role in this. I was recently given a Geography Journal from a fellow teacher who had been sent it. It was the sort of thing that was supposed to pass from person to person than before May be sent back to the student. While it was a paper and pencil notebook, not a single person who had added to the journal did so solely with paper and pencil. Every entry had images, maps, and facts that the authors had used technology to make or find. I know that I had to Google many facts about Moscow in order to give the student the geography information that she needed. I did enjoy the paper and pencil aspect of it but I also told her that I was getting a hand cramp by writing it all out since I spent most of my days typing now instead of writing!

I wonder what could have been done to add to the journal. For example, could the Journal have been electronic? A Google Drive folder for example with a doc that each person made a copy of and wrote their entry on. Then pictures and facts could have been linked to interesting pages about the area for the student to explore. For the paper/pencil aspect, each participant could be asked to send the student a postcard from the location that they are at. The issue with this method would be the amount of data. The journal I had, had only about 5 entries. That is a manageable amount of data for a middle school student to sift through. Opening this project up by using something like Drive could overwhelm the student with data.

Doing this project electronically could help the project’s speed and collaboration. Electronic work means you aren’t waiting for a physical notebook to be mailed around. Also, electronic projects can allow for collaboration. For example, if a group of geography teachers did the project at the same time but in different locations, they could have each of their groups of students participate with each other. This could be done again with something like a Google Slide, Doc or Spreadsheet. Even apps like Book Creator or Explain Everything would work to make this project collaborative. Students could share draft projects with each other and build different elements together for a final collaborative book or movie.

So back to the question, “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. Most certainly the tools of 21st Century Learning have made global collaboration easier. But I think that we still have the same issues we have always had, getting teachers to agree to participate. I have done several collaborative projects with teachers in different schools and the hardest thing is always getting ourselves as teachers organized and giving up the classroom time needed to complete the project. The timing is always an issue because it never seems like the two or more classes plan to do the activity at the same point in the year. But with the tool we have now like G Suite, we can more easily organize and share work across the world.

This connects me to an article that I read this week, What Makes a Question Essential? This article gives some great examples of some questions that would make a global collaborative project a great way to look at not only the responses but the perspectives of the responses. If two or more classes in different areas were to inquire into one of these questions as part of their collaboration they would produce something that would allow the teachers who are supervising it an almost unlimited amount of material to build upon. After all of the data was collected and shared time could be spent looking at that information and asking more questions. The collaboration could continue for an almost unlimited amount of time.

Are New Tools Changing Teaching and Learning?

EQ: Have (and if so, how have) teaching and learning changed with the introduction of new tools?

This is a very good question. The answer to this question is both Yes and No. Yes, teaching and learning is changing when you consider that teachers are becoming less experts in their subject areas and more mentors. But No, because teachers are still a necessary part of the process.

Yes teaching and learning is needed for effective planning and guiding of experiences. No teachers are not needed to stand at the front of the room for every lesson and lecture.

I guess my point is that teaching and learning is transitioning from one “style” to another. That being said it isn’t a 100% switch. Teachers will still need to do things that are considered “traditional” at times, but the traditional system of teacher as expert standing at the front of the room lecturing even to young students will be less and less frequent.

Part of the reason for this is because educators are tired of seeing students not succeed simply because this system doesn’t work for them. Teachers intrinsically want to see all students succeed. To have a student who doesn’t succeed for no other reason but that the system is not ideal for them, is frustrating. Teachers in general hate that and try very hard to avoid it.

Education in some circles is moving away from one size fits all to everyone has their own size and we teach them what is best for them. I think that the tools that come with the introduction of technology can play a huge role in this. For example, a simple app Book Creator on the iPad and now Book Creator Web App on your browser are both simple apps that allow students to build resources for themselves to help throughout their schooling.

I have had classes use @BookCreator to create a math reference book. They started at the beginning of the year creating a page with each new math concept that they learned. The students would each create a page explaining the concept in their words, that they could reference in the future when they needed it. The first time we did this was with 5th graders but it could be started in any grade. This could absolutely be done to some level with a paper notebook. But the app allows this reference book to go into the modification level of the SAMR model, with the ability to add audio recordings and video recordings.

In this case technology is changing elements of teaching and learning. But at the same time the math concepts may be being taught in a traditional method. I think that the issues that many forward thinking teachers get frustrated with the time it takes to get schools to move forward in the ways that they can see a school should. This goes back to my previous post that teachers can be hesitant to change. I think that admin falls into this as well.

I think it is very important for schools wanting to move forward to be sure to vet new staff for the mindset and attitude that will allow this to happen. I can think of several teachers at my school that I would like to clone because of their attitude towards change. These teachers see change as a challenge that they want to face head on, but that they want support while doing it. Which is where I come in, my role as the ES Tech Integrationist is to help support teachers so that they can use technology. But it goes beyond that I am often times helping teachers see new ways to deliver lessons, collect evidence for assessment and plan for new experiences.

It’s Not About the Tech… It’s about the Planning

EQ: How can we effectively, practically and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas?

Anne Karakash’s article 5 Steps for Planning Lessons Around Technology states that the steps for planning effective technology integration are:

  1. Plan – consider the content then pick the technology
  2. Research – take the time to explore the technology fully
  3. Engage – think about the interaction that the students will have with the technology
  4. Explore – expand the project beyond the initial task
  5. Synthesis – bring it all together

I agree with Anne in many ways. I often find that teachers contact me about using technology without having considered these steps. They contact me as an integrationist and expect me to come into their class and teach a lesson without them having gone through the steps above to consider how the technology will integrate.

Teachers often ask me teach something with tech by saying “I want you to come in and teach ____ app.” When I ask what they want to accomplish with that app they generally tell me. “Oh, I want them to know how to use it because I want them to make a ___ at the end of this unit.” My next question is always what will you require them to have in their final element? They then give me a list.

This is usually the point where I have to make them back track for one of two reasons. One they haven’t’ given the students anywhere close to enough time to accomplish this or two they have a very narrow goal for the technology. These two problems are mostly because they haven’t taken the time to become familiar with the technology for themselves.

Then they are surprised when I make them pause and reexamine the plan for the lesson. They don’t like when they are told that one lesson will not be long enough or detailed enough to accomplish what they want.

This is why planning with teachers from the beginning of a unit is essential. If I am there at the beginning of the unit planning I can help a teacher better gauge the student’s understanding of the technology along with the needs of the teachers and students. I can help the teachers plan how to more effectively use technology throughout a unit not just slap some in at the end. It also allows me to help teachers manage spreading out the learning of a new technology throughout a unit instead of trying to cram it all in before the project they want to complete.

Spreading the technology lessons out over the course of a unit, allows students to begin to synthesize their knowledge and understandings all of the way through the unit instead of waiting until the end. This gives them time to explore both what the technology can do as well as go deeper into their knowledge. By synthesizing along the way they see the holes and gaps in their research and are able to take the time to go back and fill those in.

It was pointed out to me recently that the way integrationists work is Design Thinking in action. Once we realized this we realized that one of the best ways to help our teachers is to help them use Design Thinking when they are planning for the use of technology within their lessons.

This leads me to the second article that I read. 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now. I think that teaching teachers how to think in a Design mindset will help them teach students how to think in a design mindset which would address many of the 16 realities mentioned in this article.

Learning2 – Day 3 – Breaking Out of the Mold

This session was lead by David Beaty

This session was fun and would be a good way to help with problem solving in any grade. Basically there was a box with four different types of locks on it and we had to break into it. The idea originally comes from Breakout Edu. There are so many possibilities for how this could be used in a class. There were clues around the room that we had to use to solve small problems. Each clue lead us to another clue or the answer to the password for one lock.

I think that the possibilities are nearly endless on ways that you could use this activity in schools. You could for example make it so that your class leaders could only test the locks, not solve the clues. You could put in rules that for the first 10 min only girls could talk. Or that the clues had to be solved on one side of the room by one set of people and the locks opened by another.

What would be super important is the observations that you as a teacher take of how the room flows. Looking for who is the most involved, lead involved, reaches frustration, etc. Then in further sessions you could design the directions around those personalities.

I think as well a small documented thinking session at the beginning and a long reflection session at the end are crucial. There were different perception from our group as to the level of participation for example that only came to light because of the reflection session. So it would be interesting for students to properly reflect after to see if they notice the same things that you did during your observations.

I think I would try this two ways with the same groups as well. First having them come together and plan, the second where they don’t plan. Not because one is better than the other, but so that they critically consider if this type of task is helped by a plan or if a plan has no effect.

It All Starts with the Teachers

Essential Question Week 2: How can we utilize new learning theories in our curricular areas to engage and motivate our increasingly digital students?

Two articles and a video this week have helped to solidify by thinking that everything starts with the teachers. Of course we know this in the back of our head. Sarah Woods states, that technology is sometimes thrown into classrooms with the thought that the students will drive the change and help with the understanding. This is not effective and has been proven time and time again. Giving students technology does not make them more engaged or knowledgeable. Using technology alongside good teaching engages students.

I have seen awesome technology given to students who were given no instruction, guidance or goal. The result of this was that the lesson was a complete flop. The teacher and the students were frustrated. Sometimes this was a learning lesson for the teacher on preparation for lessons and sometimes this gave the teacher the ammunition that they were looking for to say “technology is a gimmick” that I don’t want it in my classroom. The second group of teachers are the teacher missing a growth mindset around technology

Teachers without a growth mindset are opposed to change. Using technology effectively comes with being able to change. Technology in it’s nature is rapidly changing and therefore you have to be a flexible user. Teachers who struggle with technology in my experience, do so because they struggle with change.

I wrote about teacher’s stress over change in my blog post after attending a workshop by John Mikton at Learning2 in Warsaw. He stated that for many teachers, technology changes are not necessarily something that they are opposed to because they are opposed to tech changes, but they are opposed to change in general and tech changes are ones that they feel that they can safely have control over.

Sarah Woods states “Our teachers were educated at a time when there weren’t laptops in classrooms, when there weren’t even laptops. That’s a huge change in one career. A lot of people went to school thinking that they were going to have to know every single fact and remember them all. We need to help each other get to the point where we can recognize the new identity for teachers. Our teachers aren’t going to go back to the way school was.” and Peter Heslin’s quote in the article Never Too Late: Creating a Climate for Adults to Learn New Skills “Teachers may avoid new teaching strategies ‘for fear they might jeopardize their identity as an already highly skilled instructor.’ ” This identity crisis is a cause of stress for a lot of teachers. They no longer have a clear understanding of what is expected of them as educators.

This identity dilemma is something that I see daily. Teachers being afraid to use a technique or tool in their classroom that they do not feel that they have become an expert in. They hold off on teaching with technology because they want to wait until they are an expert. This gives students an unrealistic expectation of what being an adult is like. If students are surrounded by experts and never see what it takes to become one are we really teaching them how to live life?

It’s All About the PLN

This week I am writing a reflection after reading Reach by: Jeff Utecht. While I was reading many things came to mind about the connectedness of the internet and the communities that we make because of the internet.

My first connection was from the quote “We thought communities trumped content” (Mayo & Newcome, 2009). This quote from the first chapter made me think back to reading “A More Beautiful Question” by Warren Berger. Berger made stated that the value of knowing answers is decreasing while the value of asking good questions is increasing. Content knowledge is something that is easier and easier to obtain with each addition to the internet, but having a community and network of people that you can ask questions of is still an active part of the internet.

This is how I use my Personal Learning Network (PLN). My PLN has always been my first stop when I have a question that I can’t find an answer to. I am a Tech Integrationist which is a job that can be hard to find colleagues who are close enough to your location to actually meet and talk with. Having a PLN that is virtual is essential and virtually impossible to function without. The internet community that comes with a PLN allows me to ask questions and receive answers from other teachers and integrationists who, without the internet I would never be able to connect with.

This is part of the reason that I don’t understand people who say that social media isn’t actually that social. They have obviously never been to a conference and had to have the conversation with themselves that goes like this, “Hmm, that person looks familiar. Yep definitely someone who is familiar, but have I met them before? Were they in Munich? Zurich? Or… do I follow them on Twitter? Oh, crap, have I actually ever talked to this person in real life or have I only interacted with them online? I need to figure this out!” Then once you figure out where you know each other you end up hanging out several times both during and after the conference before heading back to your home and continuing your relationship online. While yes this example includes some actual real-life contact. The majority of this relationship will probably remain online and has the potential to be just as fulfilling as if you were able to spend physical time together learning from each other.

This brings me back to my PLN. I recently participated in an interview for doctoral candidate Kay Oddone. She asked me to map my PLN. At first I thought, how well this won’t be that hard. But once I got started I realized A. how complex my network is and B. how interconnected it is. I also realized that I use certain parts in certain ways. For example, I use Twitter to communicate with specific people who are inA More Beautiful Question.jpg two or three different parts of my PLN but Twitter is the way that I communicate with them 1:1 if needed, even though I know that Twitter may not be their main communication tool. In my head Twitter is the PLN communication tool!

I also realized that I spend a lot more of my time on my PLN as a Lurker/Sharer than an active participant. While I do participate, I do not do it as much as I could/should. I have also realised that on different parts of my PLN a more active participant and on other parts I am more of a lurker. It sort of depends on the social media element that I am in!

I also wonder if there are times when you can be too active. I find that there are times when I could totally answer a question for someone but when I read the comments I find that either the question has been answered or someone is starting a two way conversation that will lead to an answer. I hate when people don’t bother to read comments to see if the question has been answered before posting a repeat. So I try to avoid that. I guess that is me being active because I am choosing not to respond since my response is no longer needed.

I also find that I tend to go in cycles. I will be very active for a period of time and then there are periods of time when I am very inactive. Mostly depending on stresses at school with workloads.

Another thing that I find that I need to do regularly, usually after a conference, is to cull my PLN. I know that there are certain types I can’t handle in my PLN. The main one being the person who posts someone on Twitter every hour of the day. But also I find that if I am not opening articles or reading a person’s feed then I will delete them from at least part of my PLN. I have some people who I follow in one social media sphere but not others because of the way they interact in one or the other.

The last thing I will comment on is Jeff’s comment about fear of self promotion. I think there are many teachers out there who are very fearful of seeming like they know it all, which I find is very common among teachers. I think that I struggled with that at first but then when I came to the realization that my blog was going to be for me to have a place to write out ideas fully and archive them, I realized I didn’t care if anyone ever read it. Also it gave me a way to share with my family what my job is since they can’t really understand it as it didn’t exist in school when they were in school. I think when teachers realise the personal benefits of having and participating in a PLN they will feel less like it is self promotion and more like it is self growth that they direct.