Course 5 Final Project Reflection

Looking back, it was great to try and implement technology into the Interconnected School unit in new and exciting ways.  The Skype session was a very successful lesson that led to another good lesson before and after by getting ready for the session and reflecting on it.  The SAMR model surely pushed me to think about how I was implementing the technology and it also challenged me to strive for something bigger when I was planning activities with Twitter and the iPads.

For my presentation, I felt it was a big help to be taking photos as I worked through the unit’s technological goals as I had some decent photos to pick from.  I also share an assistant in grade 1, so it was nice to have someone grab a few shots of me working with the children as well.  The videos the students recorded with the iPads to gather data on staff was placed in the presentation to show a bit of what students were collecting with the iPads.  I would of liked and tried to put some of the videos shot of the teaching/learning in the classroom but with trying to get the video under 10 minutes I had to stick with a leaner narration.  When I reflect on this, I think looks better anyway as it is a leaner story that gets to the heart of story.  Using iMovie to create the movie was something I found easy to use and navigate, and I think the sound quality came out very good as well.

The amount of time it takes to make a good script and picking all the right pictures/videos is certainly a time consuming process.  I found that with anything else, being patient and finding your rhythm is key to finding your voice with such a big project.

Below are the ICT outcomes and learning goals addressed in our Interconnected School unit.  I have enjoyed working with technology in the unit and will continue to use technology to improve students learning!

The day of interviews

The day students set out to interview several members of staff was a good one.  The event only required 2 parent volunteers as 75% of the class stayed in classroom researching about teachers and staff via the website while parents returned and collected new groups of students to perform their interviews.  Some work had been done the day before, as students decided who they wanted to interview.  We also decided as a class a week prior what questions would help us gather data about staff to help us see their connections between each other.

Although the iPads were rather fun, cool and easy for the kids to use, the sound quality they delivered wasn’t always the best.  This was tough as we were planning to use the footage from their interviews to learn as a whole class who different staff members were and who were they connected to (as each group interviewed a different staff member).  All in all it was a good experience and the day went well, below is a clip of some of their video recordings.

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Co-creating and using a rubric

In our “Interconnected School” unit my students and myself created a rubric together that would help us decide what criteria would make them a successful interviewer and cameraman/camerawomen before setting out to interview TIS staff with the iPads.  In a previous lesson I had witnessed my students engage with the iPads and practice their interviewing skills but felt a co-created rubric would serve their interest in the project while also giving them something to guide themselves through the project.

With my projector on and students focused on the screen that started as an empty Google document, we bounced ideas around between each other and I filled in the document with their words piece by piece.  It was quite a good experience, students seemed engaged and interested in thinking about what mattered to them before they set out to film their interviews.  One thing that worked well was to have kids turn and talk to their partner before sharing ideas, this is something I could do more of in the future.

After students finished the interviews, we then had a look at the interviews as a whole class to see how we did with our goals on our rubric.  As students worked in pairs, after we saw their work they received feedback from the group.   I then asked that group to self-assess how they think they did and they shared how they think they performed with the class.  I think in the future it would work better to have all the groups self-assess at the end of the lesson.  Looking back I could see now that it should better serve all students as it gives them more time to digest the reflections of their peers and it also takes the spotlight/pressure off that team.


Making connections with Skype

In our Interconnected School unit we wanted kids to realize the connections in their school and then to have a look at another organization and see their connections.  I was fortunate enough to know someone at Yokohama International School who was willing to let us learn about their school.  For the skype session, students prepared questions they wanted to ask the YIS students.

Students seemed to enjoy the experience and most found the task of asking the question in a loud enough voice for the YIS students as doable.  For the students on the carpet looking on the screen, they seemed engaged, particularly early on.  As is typical with grade 1 students (at least in my experience), near the end as the final students asked their questions and we listened to our Skype buddies questions and comments the attention of some students waned.

After the Skype session finished, I shared a google document on our class twitter feed and had students find it with their partners.  Students then engaged in a reflection activity of the Skype session and tried to fill out as much about what they learned from the questions they had answered.  After we finished the reflections we then notified our friends at YIS via twitter to make sure that our information was correct.

All in all it was an excellent experience.  It was my first Skype in-class experience and I highly recommend it.  Twitter and Google Drive was great too as it allowed the kids to collaborate, share their reflections with the YIS students and their own parents who saw what they had learned when they checked the twitter feed on the weekend.





Technology links in a PYP unit

I feel it is appropriate now to take time to look back at some of the tech integration I had taking place in our 1st PYP unit, Interconnected School.  Below is one of the outcomes we addressed:

1. With teacher support, use a variety of age-appropriate technologies (e.g., drawing program, presentation software) to communicate and exchange ideas.
For this outcome students made a powerpoint presentation to teach about the jewish holiday Yom Kippur for their PYP assembly.  Student’s worked in pairs and individually as they selected photos that best matched their lines for PYP assembly.  Students searched for Creative Commons images first before moving onto Google Images, and most students were able to find some very good images using Creative Commons Image Search.  By doing so, students also touched on another school outcome that calls for students to follow the school rules for safe and ethical internet use while having some teacher support.
A big ICT outcome I feel the students addressed was asking students to use age appropriate technology to gather and analyze data with some teacher support.  For this  my grade 1’s used our ipads to interview various staff members at TIS to find out: who they were, their roles at TIS, and how they are connected to others.  As students went out in pairs and interviewed different members of the TIS staff, we then sat down and watched all of the interviews to learn more about the people who work at TIS.
The last ICT outcome we touched on in how I feel was a big way called for students to use the internet to access information and communicate while getting teacher support. For the first part of the outcome students used ipads and laptops to connect to the internet and access information about TIS staff by searching the school website.  Students used skype and twitter to communicate ideas with a grade 1 class at Yokohama International School.
Looking back, it is neat to see how many technology outcomes we did touch upon in a 6 week span.  The focus was mainly on the last 2, but as you can see we also touched on the first 2 as well due to preparation for our PYP assembly where we had to share about a cultural event along with our learnings regarding the Interconnected School unit.

My week with Tech

It has been a good week for the class in the tech world.  For starters, I have started experimenting with Google Presentations to start some of my mini-lessons for Reader’s/Writer’s Workshop.  Rearranging the room has been a big part of this as well, since before I couldn’t have all the students sit on the floor (a key component of a mini-lesson) and use the projector as the carpet was too close to the screen.  I have now changed the room around so that I can still use my easel and the projector/screen when I see fit.  We are just starting this, will check to see how they respond to the visuals possible with technology compared to what I usually make with a marker and poster board.  This week they did seem to enjoy reading the colorful digital text on the screen during a choral reading.

Also this week students engaged in tweeting out some of their understandings/findings for their interconnected school unit.  Their job was to focus on members of the Leadership team, identify some of the members and tweet out information about these members.  It was nice to see them work in teams to figure out how to tweet on the iPad.  1st graders at the beginning of the year are certainly in a different place than at the end of the year, so it will take some time for students to get over the hiccups of logging in, knowing what buttons to push when, that sort of thing.  All in all it was a good activity for a lesson, I recommend it as an alternative to having students record their findings in a journal.

We began practicing with the iPad to videotape somebody as well.  Next week we plan to visit teachers and staff from around the school to ask questions about their jobs and who they are connected with. We will use our iPads to record the videos and share these with the class and perhaps the whole school during PYP assembly. I am excited to see how it turns out next week.


Last week we also began chatting with a grade 1 class at Yokohama International School on twitter.  In it’s beginning stages, it has been great to see the kids think of possible responses to their grade 1 buddies questions.  I am looking forward to this partnership and hope that perhaps our kids can start sharing their learning experiences in a one-on-one format via twitter, where each kid is paired with a buddy down at YIS.  They would then tweet each other.

App of the week that kids enjoyed on the iPad was Zoom.  It really helped kids with our math outcome of being able to count to 20 and beyond, as well as adding on one.

Final Project Reflection

“My Dream School” video/slideshow project was basically spawned by Travis Ion and his project, many thanks to the time and effort he put into his project as I was dead set on doing  a unit planner and turning that in for our course 4 project.  After listening and taking the time to hear what Travis was asking me to “imagine”, it was freeing in a sense, as if when one really thinks about their dream school then anything is possible.

One of the things that also called me to do the dream school project was I had never done a voice over on iMovie.  I had also never put together a video with pictures and published it on Youtube, so having the chance to do so was very intriguing to me and gave me another chance to work on an edge of my “technological” game that I hadn’t done any work on before.

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Coming up with some decent visuals was important.  They are all that people see throughout the video, so for example trying to show 3-D images being seen with an iPad when I talked about the iPad was something I was going for.  I also found myself thinking big thoughts and then thinking about what pictures I had or could find to fit.

Reflecting back on “My Dream School“,  it is obvious to see that technology would play a key part in my school.  I can honestly say that I am someone seen at my school as an advocate for technology.  However, at times I feel like the world is being “invaded” with technology and its tools and find myself needing time away from it.  I felt that it was important that I mentioned something about students taking a balanced approach with technology and that parents need to be a part of this equation as well.

I certainly don’t feel “My Dream School” is the perfect school or the best school for every child.  I do think it offers a vision for what a dream school could look like in the future, with technology playing an integral part.  I thought about the flipped classroom and how it would be great to try a different approach to how we traditionally run schools.  In the PYP we talk about teachers not being the “sage on stage” and rather shoot for the “guide on the side”, doesn’t the flipped classroom fit with this philosophy?

Anyway, I know that it wouldn’t fit in all situations and would take time to bring the teaching and parenting communities on board.  That is why I chose to partially integrate the approach at times throughout the year when it fits with certain curriculum goals.  The chance to really let students use The Khan Academy or Brainpop as the “main course” for learning is an interesting one.  One I think we as educators will be looking at more and more as time passes.

The New Digital Divide

A Creative Commons Image by josylein

I recently came across a wonderful article in the New York Times by Matt Richtel that took a good look at the new digital divide taking place in the United States.  The old “digital divide”, a term coined in the 1990’s described the haves and have-nots with technology.  The new digital divide can be described as how children from poorer families, who now have access to the same tools as richer ones, are spending a lot more time using their gadgets to watch videos, play games and connect on social networking sites than children from well-off families.  Policy makers and researchers call it the “time-wasting” gap.  They believe this gap is a result of parents being able to monitor and limit how children use technology.

The FCC is considering spending $200 million to create a digital literacy corps, future employment for some of us “Coetailers” perhaps?  The idea would be to send digital literacy trainers to schools and libraries to teach productive use of computers for parents, students and job seekers.  Some of the trainers would also go to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, League of United Latin American Citizens and the NAACP.  Private companies like Microsoft and Best Buy are providing some financial support for the initiative.

Richtel cites a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010 that shows children of parents who do not have a college degree spend 11.5 hours each day exposed to media from a variety of sources, an increase of 4 hours and 40 minutes since 1999.  Even children of more educated parents, usually seen as coming from a higher socioeconomic status, also used their devices for entertainment.  These children expose themselves to 10 hours of multimedia per day, a 3.5 hour jump from 1999.

The article goes onto show a mother from a poorer family explaining how she doesn’t have a clue as to teach or talk about the Internet with her son.  It also cites a family that does take an interest in how their children use the computers, setting strict guidelines reinforced by the grandparents as well.

This article also got me thinking about how I as an adult am using the technological tools I have at my disposal.   Am I wasting time on the computer looking at Facebook/Twitter when perhaps it may serve me better to be looking at say Bloomberg or another financial site so that I can increase my net worth and focus on getting ready for retirement?  What do you think?

Word 2011: Take a look

It is certainly hard to keep up with all the changes on the internet, let alone the software on your computer.  Forced out of my house with a fussy baby and having no Internet, I was “fiddling” around with Word 2011 on my Mac and have been impressed by some of the visuals you can easily make with Word.  For example I made this SmartArt Graphic rather easily and quickly:


Teaching grade 1, I know how important visuals are for stimulating my class and it is nice to see some of the things Word 2011 can actually do.  I have also was surprised to find out that I can easily place my videos into Word without too much fuss and hassle.  The movie will actually play on the document, although changing the video size was a hassle and no where near as convenient as Youtube when wanting to see it in full screen mode.

Another thing I like about Word 2011 is that it is easy to switch to Full Screen View.  There is a button in the lower left hand corner and you push that and it easily changes to the Full Screen View.

This is much better than what Google Docs currently offers, as if you want to go Full Screen on your Google Doc with your class when projecting something you have to click full screen in the document bar and then again in the web browser.And also like the black background on the side, it makes the document stand out better.

It has been nice to have a “time-out” from all the wonderful things happening online and to learn a little bit more about what is on my computer.  I give 2011 Word for Mac two thumbs up for providing some tools that are easy to use and look good visually.





Math literacy: Important in the 21st century?


A Bon-Here Creative Commons Image

Recently I have been thinking about how important math literacy is and whether we place enough importance on it as educators. specifically defines math literacy as requiring “an ability to identify and understand the role mathematics plays in the world and to use mathematics to make informed decisions.”  I have done some research and I have found out that I am not alone in my suspicion that math literacy doesn’t get the “playing time” that it deserves.

Paul Spector, M.D. wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post earlier this month. He argues that most of us see math as uninteresting and therefore consistently fail to apply it’s principles to our lives.  He gave examples of how in the 21st century we are flooded with so much data that could better inform our decisions, but that we hardly use the data to make these decisions.  He argues that when we give “informed consent” to our doctor and the doctor presents us with “x” amount of benefits and “y” amounts of risk, we are expected to make our own decision.  But he wonders as do I, are the majority of us “playing the odds” or “calculating” them?  He then goes onto show how bad we are as a society at “playing the odds”, as we look at the popularity of casinos, junk food, and cigarettes.  He points out that when their is disagreeable information of any kind and when we don’t like the odds, we often remove them from our mind.  Looking back on my life, I couldn’t agree more with him when I reflect on my knee jerk reactions of satisfying myself with junk/fast food throughout the years, even though I knew it wouldn’t serve me well in the long run.  I did exactly what he mentions above: I erased the odds I didn’t agree with and forged ahead with my decision, and unfortunately did not use all the data to make the best decision I could possibly make for myself.  (Being a runner, I have tried to watch what I eat over the years, and it certainly has impacted my training/racing performances.)

Spector goes onto argue that certainty is seductive but the reality is that we live in a sea of uncertainty. He proposes that math is a powerful antidote to emotionally-based judgements.  He argues that we should be introducing children to probability calculation early in a real world accessible form, like a favorite player’s batting average, or the chances of winning tic-tac-toe or the relative risk of getting a cavity with or without brushing your teeth.  He makes a great point that teenagers specialize in risk.  Why not pose them with questions that will truly hit home, like what are the odds of getting pregnant or contracting a STD with unprotected sex?

Spector finishes up by saying that we need to move beyond the ambiguity and complexity of not knowing.  I agree that we need to use our math literacy skills to help us make better choices.  Not only will that help us in our lives, it will also help to drive a better interest in math and take away headlines/stories like this one: “U.S Ranked Low in Math Literacy.”