Final Thoughts…

8 04 2017

It’s hard to believe that we find ourselves at the end of yet another semester. With that in mind, it is time to reflect on the course prototype that we put together earlier in the semester. I know I speak on behalf of the majority of the class when I say, the course prototype assignment was more than just an assignment. We were able to really connect with blended learning and the ability to present materials in a different and unique way. Although this was not an easy feat by any standard, it was well worth the time and energy that went into it. In some small way, it was tough look through all the prototypes and explore all the possibilities that members in the class were able to portray. A lot of time and energy went into these projects, and I can only hope that they will remain available to us in the future, to use in our current jobs and future endeavors.

Overall, I felt that the course prototype that we put together allowed us to really showcase our learnings and integration of technologies that we gained throughout the class. As a person who was new to all the different terms and ideas that surrounded online and blended learning, I came out of this class knowing more about the world of both teaching both face-to-face and the ability to incorporate distance education as well. As I mentioned in my summary of learning, LMS meant nothing to me until we really dove into the idea that there are a number of different learning management systems that may not be thought about all the time. Now I know some of the inner working of the educational technology I am using in my classroom on a daily basis, which in turn helps with planning and integration of my own lessons.

In relation to my specific prototype module, I was able to reflect on the feedback that I received from my classmates and was able to identify some areas of opportunity for future planning. It was mentioned that my module was not as friendly to the grade three students that may be taking this blended learning course. In looking at this, I was able to see that it was aimed at more of a middle years’ category, and being a grade eight teacher may have encouraged me to produce a module that was aimed at the students I teach on a daily basis. This skewed the outcome of the module and with a couple very minor adjustments, I would be able to rework some of the assignments and videos that I provided for students to complete. I am very appreciative of the feedback and information that the classmates provided and will use it to better the planning and development of similar learning experiences in the future.

As a final thought, I would recommend this class to future students and encourage them to take EC&I834 based on the inner workings of blended learning. I feel as though I now have an advantage in developing and deploying blended learning opportunities for students. This in some small way, makes me a learning leader in this field in relation to the teaching staff I work with daily and can be used as an advantage in setting up new ideas and processes in the building I work within.





Prototype Fruition …

25 03 2017

It seems like just yesterday we were starting this class and already it is winding down for the semester. With that in mind, it is time to submit the coveted prototype assignment. I will say that at first, I was 100% concerned about the assignment and what was expected. This was mainly because it was something new that I had never attempted before. In saying that, it turned out to be quite a pleasure to put together. There certainly was some trial and error with the use of a new software that I had not used before. Having completed the assignment now, and having used screencast-o-matic, Kahoot, and Google Docs, I have discovered a lot of potential.

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Photo Credit: Ifuturistics

The potential that lives in various software applications truly is endless. When first starting this project, I attempted to use a number of different learning tools that would supplement and support the learning from the lens of an online learner. It became very obvious, very quickly that this would be more of a challenge then I had originally anticipated. With so many valuable tools to try out, it became a little overwhelming to try and incorporate a variety of them in my prototype. After looking through a number and trying many different software applications, I was able to narrow down the search and understanding of how each one operated. In doing this, I created a mini-unit that would explore and walk students through the learning complexities of finding valuable research that could in turn, be used to support the learning and understanding of a topic that the student would choose. This became a universal learning experience that could be adapted to not just Genius Hour but instead almost any research project, with simplistic and appropriate adaptations for grade level and intensity of project.

As time began to get away from me, I noticed that this project was shaping up to be something very comprehensive and detailed. With the help of my teaching team, it was possible to see that this online prototype would become something much greater than we expected. It grew into a very well-oiled machine that would soon be ready for any teacher to use in their classroom or learning environment. While working with an extremely diverse team, we found that this prototype would be something that would become valid from early elementary all the way to secondary education facilities if adapted properly.

In hindsight, I can now see how the applications and ideas used in this project, could be used in my classroom on a regular basis and without major learning curves for students that already use computers on almost a daily basis. By creating the prototype, I was forced to read, try and comprehend a number of different software systems that would supplement the learning that occurs in the everyday classroom. An example of this would be the use of Screencast-o-matic. I will admit this has become one of my new favorite tools to use with students when presenting project and displaying information in a meaningful and genuine way. In my grade eight classroom, I have brought this tool into a new assignment that students will be creating over the new little while. The assignment is as follow:

  • Create a Screencast-o-matic presneation that will outline your learning of treaties.
  • You will use the researching method that was provided to you last day to find more information on the treaty number you have selected.
  • Once you believe you have an appropriate amount of information (including past, present and future implications on treaties), you will create a presentation of your choosing.
  • The presentation will be presented virtually through the use of Screencast-o-matic. Your presneation must be under ten minutes in length and will include the speaking and manipulation of the screen by both you and your partner.
  • All presentations will be displayed during class time and will be assessed by your classmates using Survey Monkey (pre-shared link).

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Photo Credit: Dogtrax

As the semester comes to a close, I look forward to the anticipated use of many other applications and software’s that I have learned about over the course of this grad class.





The open world of the internet…

18 03 2017

Overall it is understood that the use of open source internet communications has greatly improved over the last couple of years and the ability to share opinions is becoming easier and easier as time progresses. Students and teacher have a large amount of possible variations of sharing ideas in an open environment. It becomes almost a science, being able to choose which platform to use in communication not just with classmates but the greater world. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create digitally responsible learners when working in the open world of blog posting and twitter. By teaching the students about the importance of their digital footprint is required before they gain the understanding of what their thoughts are capable of imposing on the open source internet. In many ways, students have been involved in openness since before they were born and this is evident in the parents posting pictures and information about their new baby on Facebook. Although Facebook may seem like a closed source of friend circles, each picture a person adds becomes the property of the Facebook corporation. As such, these photos may not just be used in the circles they were intended for originally.

As an educator, it is important to know both the risks and the benefits of using open source postings and communications. In my classroom we have used a number of open sourced sites but have also used closed sites that have the potential to be shared globally. Students must be aware that they should not post sensitive information including their “real names”, birthdates, address, etc. By giving out personal information they leave themselves open to potential issues of people who really should not have that information, because it is impossible to know how they may use it.

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Photo Credit: NOGRAN s.r.o.

This year we have used a site called edublog.org which is a paid website that allows students to post blogs online in a semi- open environment, based on the settings that the teacher permits. This is a great tool for teaching the importance of a digital footprint and reviewing information that is being posted as it does not reach the global level until the teacher unlocks the website. In this case students that were posting inappropriately were dealt with accordingly and nothing was permanent, as the teacher can also review posts and comments before they publish if this is something they wish to do. There came a point where I noticed students were using the site in an appropriate and beneficial way and when this occurred I removed the moderation of a teacher. We continued using the site for a little while, and I then shared a link with parents and staff in the school to visit using a password. From here external people could comment or make suggestions on student’s blogs, but in a safe and “community way”. Near the end of the year the website will have the password removed and will be advertised on the school website. This will allow anyone to access the information and comment.

This can be compared with a website I used in the past to communicate ideas and allow students to post and add images, but in a closed way. The website is called classdojo.com and it focuses on the community of learners and not sharing the information globally. Instead students could add images and posts but only their parent and the teacher were able to see the information. In this situation it was not open and could not be unlocked to use on a global scale. In some ways this greatly limited the benefit of sharing the information as it was only seen by a couple individuals. Although this was a “safer” and more comfortable environment for both parents and teachers, it was very limited and almost seemed like a task rather than an opportunity to share something valuable.  

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Photo Credit: julian barfield

Overall, I would encourage educators to try a blogging website that they have some control over. This would allow them to dive in and try something different in a moderated way. It also is a way to move slowly from a closed source of sharing to something much more open and viewable. Unfortunately, many teachers are not familiar with the open source websites or how they can be used in a productive way. IT also should be noted that many blogging and posting on an open source site is limited to age restrictions as well. Typically, students that are under thirteen may not be able to use these sites based on the agreements that the educator checks when they are signing up for the website. It is also worth stating again that it is vital to teach digital citizenship to students before they start using a site of this type.





Engaging Interactions

4 03 2017

There really are a ton of different interaction software opportunities for the instructor to communicate with the student(s). It should be noted that although they all have their own strengths and limitations, it is up to the educator to determine what might be the best choice when selecting something that is both engaging and beneficial to the learner and instructor. This is quite the balancing act to determine what would fit in the above stated category. However, is one style of interaction enough between the instructor and the student(s)? The answer to that is quite possibly no. When looking for engagement amongst the class, it is vital to incorporate a number of different interaction opportunities. We see this happening in the EC&I 834 class with both the chat, demonstrations, experimenting and of course face to face virtual interactions. This allows for all students to participate in one way or another with the course at hand. Although some people may not be comfortable with speaking in front of a large group of people, some of the stress and anxiety can be eliminated through the typed communication.

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Photo Credit: San José Library

In regards to the module that I produce, there is a couple different interaction opportunities that provide some immediate feedback and there are also opportunities to record thoughts and ideas for other students to view and comment on. A more in depth description of the areas that were used are provided below:

#1

Flip Grid – Students will view a video about the importance of Quality Research when finding information for their Genius Hour Presentation(s). They will then use the during reading and after reading strategy when viewing and reading information in the video.

Once they have come to the end of the instructional aspect of this portion of the module, they will use Flip Grid as their after reading reflection strategy. When students visit the Flip Grid link they will be prompted to reflect on a few specific areas that they will then share to the Flip Grid Community. It is an expectation that they will provide genuine and quality reflection on the topic at hand.

#2

Screencastify/ Google Doc.

This will be used as an instructor information video. Student will be required to view the short video and take note of some of the information that they believe is vital to their individual learning. Students will then perform an activity that includes comparing and contrasting of different websites they will look at. Students will use the information from the teacher lead Screencastify video to complete this task.

When completing their T-Chart, they will have the opportunity to share this document with the rest of the class, or just the instructor. This will allow for collaboration and the ability to see what other students have found when looking for quality research for a Genius Hour Presentation.

#3

Kahoot

At the end of this module, students will be required to complete a short Kahoot Quiz to see what they have learnt over the course of the module. Students will be provided with immediate feedback on how they are answering the questions. They will be able to retake the quiz if they score below 80%. Students must get at least 80% on the exam to be able to move forward to the next section of the Genius Hour Unit.

As one is able to see, a wide array of different interactions will be provided to the students learning about Seeking of Quality Information. The variety and interaction potentials will provide a great deal of ability for students to communicate both amongst themselves and with the educator. The intention is to provide a blended learning environment that is collaborative for the students learning the materials. In this case the material is intended for a Middle Years students but could be adapted to work with younger students or high school students as required by the educator.





Cell Phones in the Classroom

21 02 2017

There are so many technological improvements in the daily classroom. The educator must take into account that the technologies that are available both for the classroom and for personal use can all be used for the production of classroom educational enhancements. Students carry a device with them all the time, and we as teachers, should be looking to put that device to good educational use. Are cell phones really useful in the classroom overall? The answer to that question is very dependent on what the teacher does to support learning in a new environmental style.

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Photo Credit: shig.

Many teachers may find that the cell phone use in a classroom can be a large cause for distraction. However, it does not always need to be the case that a cellular phone is causing mass distraction among the students. Although this may seem like a challenge, it is possible for both the educators and students to use these popular devices for good in the classroom. Some of the applications I have tried and used successfully include:

Mentimeter – This is an application that is web-based and requires an internet connection. By entering the pre-created quiz code, the educator will provide the opportunity for students to complete a short quiz that will display results in a fun and easy to read way.

https://www.menti.com/

Kahoot- This is both a web-based and cell phone application software that requires an internet connection. It allows the educator to create questions or surveys that allow participants to gain points and compete for the highest overall score. It provides instant feedback and the required answer so students know how they did.

https://kahoot.it/#/

Remind- This is both a web-based and cell phone application software that requires an internet connection. It allows the educator to set up events, fundraisers, school trips or order forms for students to fill in and complete. It automatically reminds students and parents about things that are coming up in the near future. The application also allows the educator to send out short announcements that are instantly delivered to phones.

https://www.remind.com/

Class DoJo- This is both a web-based and cell phone application software that requires an internet connection. It allows the educator to give rewards or take away points from students based on their behaviors or schoolwork. This application also allows for the user to communicate their online portfolio. Students would upload images and write about their school work that they want to share with their parents.

https://www.classdojo.com/

Although these are all applications that I have used positively, it comes with the struggle of ensuring that students are really on the appropriate site and not just using snapchat or other non-educational application instead. Students must be accountable for the work they are submitting. The option of not completing the surveys or not using the appropriate applications would be something that would be considered inappropriate at the time. This would possibly permit the educator to inform the student that they have lost their ability to use the personal device. In my classroom, students are trusted to be using the proper applications during the times we need them. At no point in time should cell phones be out during lessons or at times that were not given permission. This limits the off task amount of time that students are using.

The long and the short of the story is that applications and online functions can be a good thing for all people involved in the education sector if the positive is focused on.





Digital Media Tools… Incorporated

9 02 2017

Media has the very complex ability to communicate messages with its audience. As such the use of all the forms in required by an educator to get the message out to the learners. Whether that mean through text, audio, video or other form. This week there is one form of digital resource that stands out in my realm of teaching and learning. Through the use of video, both text and audio are coming across with the added benefit of moving picture, or embedded experience of others.

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Photo Credit: Kirill Kniazev

Video holds the amazing ability to showcase something that an educator may not be able to complete in their classroom, due to safety hazards or limited resources available. As the article from last week refers to, it should be noted that a prime example for video could be the showing of an experiment that would otherwise would not be possible in an elementary school due to personal injury concerns.

https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/9-5-3-video/.

It should be clarified that an experiment like the one listed below, would not necessarily be permitted in a school, but through video can still be shown to students when talking about oxidization of metallic elements.

Video is also an excellent digital tool to use for presentations and explaining what a student understands. This can be saved and used again as an example or target for future students. Representing something using materials that would not traditionally be used, would be another great example of video production to showcase learning. This allows students to be creative and work with mediums that would not be easily viewed in the classroom. This assessment tool can become an asset in the daily classroom.

However, with all the technological improvements of video, it is still important to note that video will not be able to replace lived experience of students. Students are not able to smell, feel, taste or encounter exactly what is being portrayed in a video. It is worth mentioning that video use should be a supplemental learning and teaching tool, but should not be the sole learning/ teaching tool. Although the video may be able to show students something they may not have been able to see otherwise, moderation and curation is required to get the most bang for the buck with students.

Lastly an educator must account for the space that will be used in saving and creating a video. In many cases the video production will automatically record at a moderate quality. It is important to know that the lower the recording quality, the lower the clarity. In opposition to this, the higher the quality the easier it is to see the details. That being said, there is only so much space for the storage of said videos. This year I ran into an issue with students recording videos for a project, and the inability to get the video on my computer easily. To make a long story short, the video had to be saved in a cloud based folder, and had to be downloaded to view it smoothly. This was the case because of the internet speed at the building. The second part of the problem was storing thirty large videos on my computer as space was quickly depleted.

Overall I would recommend using video as a supplementary resource or assessment tool in the classroom. I would caution that video is very data heavy though, and may cause some unexpected hiccups.

 





Tools, Tools, Tools…

4 02 2017

When I first looked at the tools listed in the weekly schedule I was completely overwhelmed with all the new tools and applications to try out both individually and with a class. Although, they all have their own strengths and limitations, it is vital for the educator to take into account what they are able to take and run with. In many cases the teacher has a very busy schedule with extra-curricular coaching or activities along with their everyday duties of teaching, planning and marking. It must be noted that all these tools would have benefit in the classroom setting in their own way. That being said, taking a look at a couple and trying to implement them is the best way of slowly getting more comfortable with the ever-changing technology that is available in the classrooms.

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Photo Credit: es Program 

This week I have chosen to explore and use the Screecastify add on to Google Chrome. It seems to be an excellent way to record and save video of what the user is trying to get across. Upon first logged in and getting this application added to the computer, it gave me a seemingly very loud video outlining the program and how it is used. I was able to view this for a little while and then closed the video as I was excited to see what it had to offer. I wanted to try it out for myself, and in doing so I found a couple different neat things that the program offers:

  • You are able to change the quality of the recorded video, in order to accommodate space, you are recording onto.
  • You can record using only computer audio or microphone. You can also incorporate both sound options at the same time.
  • The video will save directly to your Google Drive account in a pre-created folder.
  • You also have the option to record your video to a folder of your choosing on your computer.

This is primarily a free program that will allow the user to record up to ten minutes of video at a time, and up to 50 videos a month on the free account. However, if a person needs to record longer videos and/ or more than 50 in a month, they would have to subscribe to the paid (premium) account. The cost of this is $24.00 USD per year, which in current currency conversion will be just over $31.00 CAD.

https://www.screencastify.com/buy?utm_source=app&utm_source=app&utm_campaign=recording_length

In regards to using this application in the classroom, the free account would tend to be more than enough functionality for the uses in a classroom for projects. The great thing about Screencastify creating and MP4 at the end of the recording would be the ability to import multiple ten minute videos into a program like Movie Maker or IMovie. By combining a number of videos the user is able to cut and work with the errors that may have occurred in the recording. This would also provide the user to create a larger video out of multiple ten minute videos.

I have a student in my classroom working on a Genius Hour project and is getting close to completion. She will be away from the school on the dates of presentation and I have asked her to try Screencastify in order to present her project, even though she is not able to attend on the live presentation dates. This was both exciting for her and gave her the chance to become an “expert” in the program for when we use it for other projects later in the year. As an over achiever, she is often complete assignments early and looking for additional learning experiences. Using and trying out Screencastify is becoming something she looks forward to using for this project. I can see the ideas that she is coming up with in recording her project, and the different uses of the program that she is beginning to explore.

In the very near future, I plan to implement this program into a project that students will complete in regards to a science experiment. Having the students type up a lab report and explain their findings, hypotheses, and procedure will allow them to experience a different style of presentation skill intended to showcase their learnings from the lab. By incorporating images, text, videos and speech, students will have the chance to link to a variety of different forms of information contained all in one simple to use application. This tool will potentially assist in marking the work as well, as I will not have to visit a huge amount of websites and videos, as they will already be contained in the video that students create using Screencastify.

Moving forward, I look forward to dabbling in this tool and learning more about the different functions and abilities it will be able to accomplish in the daily classroom grind.