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Major Project Finale

Well team, we finally made it to the end.  I don’t know about you, but this was a LONG semester, and yet felt like the fastest one ever.  I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the events that unfolded between January and now.  It’s taken its toll of us all, but that doesn’t take away from the amount of information and skills we learned over the semester.  I can say I am very glad to have had the opportunity to learn with all of you and have such a great support group over the past few weeks.  It’s definitely helped with the transitions to our online teaching worlds and I can say I am happy with my final product of my major project.  I’m sure if I had still had students, I would have made a few more adjustments, but overall, I am happy with my Digital Citizenship unit plan I created and used in my ELA B30 classroom this semester.

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It all started with an idea: connect digital citizenship with my ELA B30 curriculum.  The outcomes line up nicely, and I have tried in the past, but it’s always been a stand-alone lesson or unit.  This time I wanted to integrate the ideas, start with explicit teachings and eventually work the ideas and strategies into everything we do in the classroom.  Whether it was Shakespeare, literature, or a film, I wanted my students to think about the content critically and ask questions about purpose, techniques, and themes.  You can view my outline here!

Common_Sense_Media_logo.svgOnce I had an idea of where I wanted things to go, the planning began.  How do I construct this?  I was incredibly busy in January with basketball, finals, and marking so my project took a backseat, but it was always in the back of my mind, and research ensued.  I began looking at Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, and more specifically, the Digital Citizenship Continuum from K to 12. This document really helped me morph my topics and essential questions I wanted to address in my unit plan.  I also consulted Mark Ribble and his Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship to help decide which categories I wanted to really focus on.  I wanted to hit them all, but although I managed to create an outline of how to do this throughout the semester, I really focused mediasmarts-eng-logoon three: Digital Literacy, Digital Law, and Digital Rights and Responsibilities.  You can check out my second update here, where I outline more of my ideas and explain how I will integrate each of the elements into my unit plan.  I also reviewed Common Sense Media and Media Smarts because during my research, I found a lot of helpful tips, lesson ideas, and connections on these websites.  You can check out those reviews here and here!

Of course, things don’t always work out the way you want them to, and as I began actually writing out lesson plans and creating projects for my students, I realized some ideas were too big to tackle, but others would work seamlessly.  I wanted to trial all the assignments with my students, and I did until the very end, so I am confident the flow and actual process worked.  I began my semester with our Global Issues unit, and we focused on fact-checking and finding purpose to content.  You can see my next update here I focused my discussion on trying to make our class conversations and projects meaningful.  I wanted this to seep into the rest of our semester, so it was going to take a lot more work to initiate the mindset I wanted for my students.  Finally, things started to come together, and you can see my last update here where I posted my unit outline, connecting my outcomes to my project ideas and to Ribble’s Nine Elements.  I finally had physical assignments, projects, and discussions that my students had even tried already, with examples.

And then we came to a screeching halt.  COVID-19 took over my classroom, and I barely got to finish our presentations before schools were closed and I rushed to say goodbye to my students.  I would have liked to wrap things up properly, get some real feedback and see if the strategies would have taken hold in the rest of the semester.  Hopefully next year I can try it again, make some more tweaks and see how it flows throughout an entire semester.  Before the end though, I had moments where I knew I had made a difference on my students’ digital literacy.  Students were ranting and panicking over COVID and as I tried to calm them down, one student yelled out a statistic (one of those meant to instill fear and panic).  Anther student spoke up, and asked, “But did you fact-giphy (6)check?” and then proceeded to look at me and say, “I’ve been fact-checking everything lately.”  It might not have been a huge thing (who am I kidding? I wanted to scream I was so excited!!), but it meant that I had done something to affect their thinking and how they view the information they find online.  That was the last day of classes we had, and I would say it was a pretty positive note to end my unit trial on, if nothing else.

Overall, I am happy with how my project turned out and you can check out my fully detailed lessons, resources, and unit plan here on Google Classroom.  Use the code: fqyyiyv to log in.  Please check out my graphic organizers for research and solutions, as well as my text critique assignment outline for a couple highlights.  I even created two videos for my students to watch. One on Aristotle’s Appeals, and another on media literacy techniques.  Please watch them and let me know what you think.  Feel free to borrow anything you like, use it in your classroom and give me feedback above all else!!  This unit plan is flexible and can be taught all as one piece or be spread out in a larger unit, integrating poetry, non-fiction, and other literature as well.  I had a lot of fun creating this unit and connecting it to digital literacy in a way I didn’t think I could ever in a grade 12 classroom.  I’m quite proud of it, and hope you enjoy it.

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Good luck everyone in your futures and I wish you all the best in these unconventional times.

Until next time,

Shelby

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Teacher Ethics and Plagiarism

After this week’s class, I feel like a complete novice when it comes to the legal issues on the internet and different platforms.  How do you know if you are using something properly?  What if I’m not?  I really enjoyed the Fair Dealings Decision Tool and think it will help me with some of the dilemmas I’m currently facing in this new world of online learning.  I think we can all agree the last few weeks have been both exhausting and overwhelming.  When I began thinking about setting up my classroom online, I originally thought, piece of cake!  Throw some things online and let the students do the rest.  I did not realize HOW MUCH TIME these things take.  I’m so used to my world of giphy“oh, I’ll just mention this in class” or “I’ll explain this assignment later” or “I don’t need to prep that – I’ll just go with the flow.”  I learned quickly the online teaching world does not allow for that, and now I am forced to explain EVERYTHING in written word, or create a video explaining it, hoping I don’t forget a common question students will ask me.  And even with all my prep work, I still missed things.  I think this is fairly normal, as this is a brand new world for us all and wow is it tedious!

Brad mentioned in his blog this week that teachers at his school were frenzied trying to grab every resource they could before being told to leave the school.  I can agree with this mentality as I headed to the school myself to grab every little resource, I thought I needed at home, but then comes the problem of how will I share it with my students.  If they don’t have the resource, how do I give it to them and properly?  Sure, I could take a giphy (18)picture and upload it to our google classroom for them to use, but is this the best practice?  Depending on the resource used, I’ll be using that Decision Tool a lot as I continue to work on my online courses.  Teaching an ELA class online is definitely a different experience and the hardest thing I’ve had to figure out so far is how to share literature.  My students needed a novel, but although students can pick up novels from the school, most of them really don’t want to come get them.  I’ve been struggling to find high school novels online so if anyone has any free resources let me know.  Fortunately, I found an online version the novel I needed, and an audiobook on YouTube.  I appeased my students for now!  Still, making sure I am using the resources and stories I’ve always just shared in the classroom feels different sharing them online.  Is it the same if it’s just for my students on my google classroom, or could there be consequences for sharing a short story pdf file I’ve always just read to my students in the classroom?

The second legal issue I have always struggled with, and maybe even more as the years go on, is plagiarism.  Students are getting VERY good at passing work off as their own when in fact, it is not.  We even caught students buying essays this year.  This led to some interventions and work on our policies as a school.  We’ve spent some time developing education pieces to share with students and hopefully teach them tgavzf17d3221not just why it’s wrong, and how they will be kicked out of university if they do it later in life.  This just gets the teenage eye roll as they gap out and ignore everything I just said.  They know it’s wrong, but I think the piece that is missing is why it is wrong.  Why do you need to give credit to others?  What are the legal implications of stealing someone else’s work, beyond just getting kicked out of school?  It needs to become more real for students outside of just writing essays inside classroom walls.  In order for students to really understand why it is wrong, they need to be exposed to what actually happens in the real world when you get caught plagiarizing others work.

Instead of penalizing students and giving them zeroes because they plagiarized, I think it’s a better practice to teach them how to avoid it, like Melinda discussed in her blog post.  She also mentioned that lots of times, students don’t even understand that what they have done is wrong or what constitutes as plagiarism.  This is especially true for EAL students, like Melinda discussed.  Imagine trying to learn a new language, and then imagine trying to write an essay in that new language.  Imagine finding something online that says exactly what you want to say in your essay, but you don’t have the understanding of that language yet to turn that information into your own words, so you copy it. Plagiarism.  Is it wrong? Yes. Do students know this? Yes, most of the time.  Do they understand how to avoid it? In most cases, no and this is because there seems to be a gap in that learning.

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Students need to learn how to avoid and need practice paraphrasing.  This seems to be a lost skill.  Students need opportunities to try writing and researching, and then see where they can improve when they are quoting or citing things.  Recently, I’ve been looking into more plagiarism software like Turnitin!  It’s an excellent resource, but it costs a lot of money.  What I decided to do in the classroom to hopeful combat some of the plagiarism issue is to use google classroom.  They recently added an update to the assignment portion that allows for an originality check.

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This gives students three opportunities to submit their work, and three opportunities to fix any plagiarism in their writing.  Unfortunately, school was let out before I could work with my students on this tool and explain how it works, but am I going to try it with my online students? Absolutely!  It might take a little more time and patience, but I’m hopefully going to use it, and then use it in the future to help students learn how to avoid plagiarism in their writing, so they can become more responsible and ethical citizens online and offline.

Until next time,

Shelby

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A Real Media Smarts Resource!

I had planned on completing these reviews earlier in March, but as our teaching worlds were turned upside down recently, they are a little later than I would have liked, but no less, here’s another one!  Hopefully it will be of good use to my colleagues and classmates as they embark on their newest remote, online teaching journeys.

Media Smarts is the second resource I would like to review for my major project.  It is another website dedicated to educating children about digital literacy and media literacy, and it’s Canadian!  They have many different types of resources for teachers, for parents, and for kids.  They have an entire section dedicated to Digital & Media Literacy with many different Media Issues like body image, intellectual property, and violence listed.  The website also listed a variety of Digital Issues ranging from authenticating information to cyber security, and online ethics. It also includes general information about digital and media literacy as well as information about video games, movies, and music.

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There is a “For Parents” tab that offers many resources for parents to begin talking to their children about media and digital literacy.  There are resource links to blogs, games, tips, guides, videos, and workshops.  This is a great option for parents because I think it is very user friendly and easy to access, especially if you are not 100% comfortable with the topic.  All the links provide detailed explanations and videos on how to discuss certain topics or how to become familiar with different ideas online.  It definitely breaks things down, however I found some of the videos I browsed to be very simple, which can be good if you are brand new to the internet or teaching young kids, but any child older than ten would likely find the videos too simple and childish.

But the part of the website I really want to dig into is the Teacher Resources.  I found this page to be incredibly resourceful and informative when it comes to the different sources and information listed.  There is a Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools which is actually broken down into K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12.  These then connect to specific lessons and outcomes for students to hit and connects it to a specific framework piece, like ethics and empathy, privacy and security, community engagement, digital health, consumer awareness, finding and verifying, and making and remixing (very similar to Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship if I do say so myself)!  And there are a ton of lessons to choose from to connect to the framework and age of students.  As I scanned some of the example lesson plans, they all seemed age appropriate and suitable for the students they suggested.screen2There is also a page connecting outcomes by province and territory to digital and media literacy which I haven’t seen before.  It goes so far as to break it down by province, and then by subject area and then to specific curriculums.  I was shocked when I decided to look further and found when I clicked on the English B30 tab (since that is the focus of my project) that it listed every outcome digital and media literacy could connect in.  Beyond that, it even gives lesson plans and suggestions for each outcome!  You will definitely need to check this out if you are looking for lesson plans on media and digital literacy in the future!  It’s an unreal library!!

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You can also find lessons and resources using the search engine, but I think finding them by outcome or subject to be much more useful.  However, the search is also useful because you may search by resource type like game or guide, topic like aboriginal people or cyberbullying for example or by media type like music or movie for example.  Again, I would recommend checking it out yourself as it’s something I will be using in the future.

I thought for the purpose of this post that I would talk about one of the lessons I found that would fit very well into my already established unit plan.  It’s called Fact Versus Opinion and the overview states:

“This is the fourth of five lessons designed to teach students to think critically about the way aboriginal peoples and visible minorities are portrayed in the press. “Fact Versus Opinion” begins with students discussing the difference between fact and opinion. Students then apply what they have learned to an opinion piece selected by the teacher, and then an opinion piece that they have selected.”

It gives a very clear outline of what is expected of students and gives all the necessary materials for the lesson.  It also includes outcomes for the lesson itself and what students should achieve by the end of the lesson.  The only thing I would mention about the lesson as it does seem a little young for grade 12 (it is recommended for grade 9-12) and would probably need to be adapted a little more for a higher-grade level.  However, you could easily use the provided editorial for a warm-up and gradually make the analysis for thegiphy (9) activity more difficult.  Overall, it is a process I would like to use in my classroom.

I was really impressed by Media Smarts resources and I would definitely recommend using their lesson plans especially because they connect so well to Ribble’s Nine Elements and our Saskatchewan curriculum!  Have you used any Media Smarts lessons?  How did it go?

Thanks for reading my review!

Until next time,

Shelby

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It’s Common Sense to Use This Resource!

As part of my project, I wanted to evaluate a couple of key resources that have come up a lot in our discussions over the course of the semester.  The first resource I want to focus on is Common Sense Media.  This has been a staple in resources and conversations, with a lot of us directing each other to the website for lessons, resources, and information.  I have used it a few times this semester for informatCommon_Sense_Media_logo.svgion and I find they have an incredible library of questions and answers for both educators and parents.

They have lists of resources for apps, books, movies, and websites all in relation to age level!  But the part I want to focus on is the pieces for educators.  Once you click on the “For Educators” tab, you are taken to a screen with tabs for Digital Citizenship, EdTech Reviews, Professional Development & Advice, Resources in Spanish, and now, Coronavirus Resources.

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There is clearly no shortage of resources here and it is well-recognized because of the professionalism, and ease of implementation for the resources.  There is even an Implementation Guide to help teacher integrate these resources and lesson plans into classrooms, schools, and divisions (and it’s free!).  Under Professional Development, there is even a link to a webinar for the Digital Citizenship Curriculum.  This could be very useful for any teacher, whether they are skilled with digital citizenship or just getting started.

Now, to the important segment of this blog post: the lesson plans!  There are a variety of different topics to choose from and you can even filter by grade.  So for the purpose of this blog post, and my major project I am going to focus on the grade 11 and 12 resources.  What I notice right away is that they are definitely age-appropriate topics and would work in a grade 11 or 12 classroom.  I’m sure my students would have enjoyed the conversations that began from the topics.

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The lessons are listed below:

One thing I love about the lesson plans is they give a snapshot right off the bat, telling you the approximate time and a lesson overview.  There are individual links to the lesson slides, handouts, and quizzes.  It also includes take-home resources for family engagement and activities – and it opens in google docs and slides!

My only complaint would be that it connects to standards from the United States, and unfortunately does not connect to other curriculums, however, I think these lessons could have their place in many Saskatchewan curriculums given time and creativity.

I decided to check out a couple lessons I would consider using in my ELA classrooms and I was impressed with the resources as well as the connections made to students their age.  There were applicable questions asked, and examples that I believe would engage students and make them reconsider their online identities without rolling their eyes or replying sarcastically.  I like the maturity of the discussions and the opportunities the lessons allow students to explore within the classroom but that might also extend beyond the classroom walls.

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One lesson I really liked was “The Change You Want to See” which I thought connects well with my Global Issues unit in my ELA B30 course, and connects to my major project the best.  It asks, “How can you create a digital footprint that showcases your purpose?”

I like that it focuses on the why of a digital footprint and how it can help find purpose.  It also focuses on thinking about problems students would want to advocate for, and aligning themselves with like-minded individuals online.  This lesson could begin my whole unit plan, and even lead deeper into them campaigning in an online forum for their cause.  The lesson plan outlines everything a teacher needs to prepare, as well as steps to help students make their way through the lesson.  It even lists organizations reviewed by Common Sense Media to help students engage in a campaign, which I think is very important because it takes a little of the weight off the teacher in terms of making sure students aren’t becoming involved in online places that may not be entirely appropriate.giphy (17)

Overall, I would recommend using Common Sense Media for educational purposes, and I think it is age-appropriate, convenient, knowledgeable, and easy to use! I know I will be using it in the future and look forward to the conversations I will have with my students about Digital Citizenship!

Until next time,

Shelby

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The Planning is Coming Together!

Hi all!  This week, I put more work into my major project and it is slowly taking shape.  If you need a refresher on what I’ve been up to, check out this blog post.  Basically, I have been planning and using my grade 12s as guinea pigs this semester and the results are almost in!!  I’ve now started putting the pieces together in a formal document for my unit plan, outcome connections, and big questions.  It’s not quite finished, as there are a few attachments I am still working on, but for now, here is my unit outline!

My next steps will be to finish the handouts and videos, and ask a few of my amazing students if I can use their projects as samples!  I will also be creating a resource page for all the sources I have used throughout this project, as well as additional sources I found useful in my hunt for activities and strategies I used.

My original plan was to create a Google Classroom with all the documents, handouts, videos, etc.  but I’m not sure if this is still the route I want to choose. I really love using Google Classroom, but I’m wondering if others would appreciate a working document instead?  Thoughts??

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Thanks for checking in and stay tuned!

Shelby

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Be More Than Just Digitally Literate

This week’s prompt could not be more perfect for the current situations going on in our world – what does it mean to be literate?!  I don’t know about my fellow teachers, but I am exhausted after this week!!  It was jam packed with bad and surreal news – giphy (15)provincially and globally.  And with all this uncertainty circling the STF sanctions as well as the pandemic of COVID-19, it has left A LOT of opportunity to have a lot of real conversations with my students.  I have to say, the overall maturity my students have shown this week has been impressive, even if it has come with it’s fair share of debate as well.  We have had a chance to dive into these topics, what it means for them, look at different sides of the arguments, and generally appreciate where our province and our world currently is.  We have discussed the dangers of misinformation and the importance of being informed by the right sources.  If there is one take-away from this week I have learned, it’s that there is a time and place for social media, and there are other times to just step back and let go.  I think this week has been really informative for students to test how digitally literate they really are!

So, what does it mean to be digitally literate in today’s world?  Common Sense Media defines digital literacy as the “ability to effectively find, identify, evaluate, and use information. Digital literacy specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources.”  I think in today’s world, it is greatly important to be literate online, especially with all the misinformation and the dangers that it presents.  However, it does extend beyond just being digital literate.  In my major project, I plan to begin with digital literacy in my ELA course and then extend this to include other forms of literacy, especially those in literature.  It’s important to improve on skills like lateral reading and being as unbiased as possible when navigating the world’s information as discussed in my reading from this week.  This does not just apply to recent news.  It also applied to many different facets of life, including things like health, wellness, and general information.

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If you were looking for a “new diet” for example, it’s important to do your research and not buy into the first fad diet you come upon.  The same goes for the latest workout plan or the latest information when raising young children.  You cannot believe the first thing you read, and it’s important we give students to tools to be successful in life beyond the classroom.  Being literate obviously includes making smart and informed decisions, and it includes steps in Fren Blumburg’s interview with Renee Hobbs including access skills like reading and listening and using a computer appropriately, analysis of a given piece of information, collaboration with others, reflection on who is affected or what the multiple-intelligences-learning-stylespurpose is, and action related to changing the society we live in.  Leigh’s post discussed the idea of multiple intelligences, and she is completely correct.  We all have a range of multiple intelligences, and it is important to improve them all throughout our lives as some pieces are stronger than others.  These multiple intelligences help improve our overall literacy which I believe makes us more rational, intelligent, well-rounded people.

There are many types of literacy, just check out this infograph here.  It is incredibly important to be vastly literate in a variety of facets, and to have the skills to improve on these different literacies.  They range from media, digital, visual, data, game, health and finance, civic and ethical, news, computational and coding and foundational literacy.  One not mentioned on this list that I spend much of my days as a teacher on is mathematical literacy.  And this is also where people bring up their pitchforks and claim “I hate math.”  But it goes much farther beyond computational mathematics and more about a way of problem-solving and rational thinking.  Even the Saskatchewan curriculum states that mathematical goals include logical reasoning, number sense, spatial sense, and math as a human endeavor.  The curriculum states, “All students benefit from mathematics learning which values and respects different ways of knowing mathematics and its relationship to the world”  and “the more exposure that all students have to differing ways of understanding and knowing mathematics, the stronger students will become in their number sense, spatial sense, and logical thinking.” sask

Teaching AP Calculus over the last few years has really changed my perspective on mathematics and what I want my students to gain from a course.  It’s changed from teaching content for the next level to understanding the process and applying it to new scenarios.  The thing I’ve learned as a math teacher is most of my students won’t use math in their daily lives the way we study it in school so it is important that they come away with skills that they can use in their daily lives, like being challenged, problem-solving, and thinking rationally when faced with a difficult situation, in a way improving their mathematical literacy without really knowing it!I-fear-the-day-that-technology-will-surpass-our-human-interaction.-The-world-will-have-a-generation-of-idiots.

Overall, improving our literacy is very important and helping our students be well-rounded is just as critical in this world.  We tend to focus a lot of digital literacy in this course and it’s being pushed much more recently in schools as well.  It is a very important skill, but so are many of the other pieces of being literate.  Let’s not forget to have growth, we need to encourage it in all aspects of life, struggle, and find balance in all things.

Until next time,

Shelby

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Digital Citizenship Moving Forward

In this week’s class, we elaborated on the idea of a portrait of a graduate, and focused on the portrait of a digital citizen.  The conversation ensued and debates about age, access, and expectations evolved. Every group focused on a different age, and these conversations left me thinking about my expectations for my grade twelve students.  I take a lot of pride in what I teach and molding their young adult brains into what I hope to be successful citizens of our world. I have always left opportunities for discussion on real issues, global issues, and debates they take interest in within my ELA classroom.  I believe it is really a place they can explore who they want to be and what they want for their future and their world.  reynoldsburgportrait-1c962cd241d306876be2bff000011dea3

I think as we move forward in the world of education, it is greatly important we educate students on media literacy, as much if not more than regular literacy.  For those who don’t know what media literacy is, it is the “ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending” according to Commonsense Media.  This is not a subject many teachers feel comfortable with and as we discussed in class, I think NOPEeducating teachers on digital citizenship is the best place to start.  It is too easy for teachers to say they don’t understand what to do so they just don’t teach anything to do with media. According to Fran Blumberg’s article from this week, Ezther Hargittai stated, “there are substantial skill gaps between people who claim to be effective Internet users…Many instructors at the high school and the college level remain woefully ignorant of the economics of the Internet and few can explain how Google produces a list of hits when you enter various keywords.”  We need to give teachers the tools to be successful in order to then successfully educate our students. It cannot be a stand alone unit or lesson either. Digital Citizenship needs to be integrated into many subjects areas and lesson plans – that is where it is most effective and valuable for students.

As Adam said in his blog this week, many students don’t understand the ideas of privacy or the inappropriateness of taking photos of everyone and anyone around them.  This is where the education needs to begin – online etiquette and empathy. I recently had a teachable moment in my classroom where we discussed why we do not check banking information over public wi-fi and it shocked me that no one is telling students this!! giphy (14)It is these simple teachable moments where this information can be taught.  Students need to be responsible for their technological uses and we just assume because they grew up in a tech world, that they understand the uses, but they don’t. Students need to be able to “consider the potential risks and harms of media messages; and understand how differences in values and life experience shape people’s media use and their message interpretation.”

In the interview with Renee Hobbs also said in the article that teaching media literacy can be messy, but that’s why it works and teaches students how to be responsible online.  They need to experience it. If I think about my current practices, I always assumed students understood what to do and how to do it online. I never educated on properly giphyresearching because I assumed they had figured it out by the time they got to me.  I was soooo wrong. This year, I am really trying to focus on finding credible sources and having high expectations for the resources they use online. It is time consuming, but I know it is worth it!  In Alina Tugend’s article, These Students are Learning About Fake News and How to Spot It, I found the acronym IMVAIN to be really useful moving forward:

“Are sources independent, are there multiple sources, do they verify evidence, and are they authoritative, informed and named sources?”

My students are currently working on a research project, that I will be talking about more in the upcoming weeks in my major project updates.  They have really taken to the challenge of lateral reading and finding good sources. They have been asking good questions, and trying to be as unbiased as possible while preparing their presentations.  I’m excited and looking forward to seeing the results! I also want to challenge my students to use the following questions I got from the Renee Hobbs article:

(1) Who is the author and what is the purpose? 

(2) What techniques are used to attract attention?

(3) What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented? 

(4) How might different people interpret this message? 

(5) What is omitted?word-cloud-web

It is easy to use these questions for fake news and checking sources, but my hope is to apply them to all literature challenging my students to always think no matter what they are reading, viewing, or listening to that there is a purpose and viewpoint to the text.  I am hopeful for the future of teaching digital citizenship in our classrooms. As Tegund put it nicely, “research has shown that an inability to judge content leads to two equally unfortunate outcomes: People believe everything that suits their preconceived notions, or they cynically disbelieve everything. Either way leads to a polarized and disengaged citizenry.”

Until next time,

Shelby

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A Teacher’s Digital Identity

This week, we discussed the ideas of digital identity and what a conversation we had!  After some digital sleuthing of some volunteers courtesy of Twitter, I think it was safe to say we all felt a little creepy and some of us might have enjoyed the process more than 2619we expected!  In the current digital world, it is almost normalized to “creep” on other people, especially when we do not know the person well. And we all know we are guilty of it, whether we want to admit it or not.

Another thing we probably don’t want to admit is that we all ran to google immediately after class to double check our own digital identity and make sure it was as clear as it was last time we “googled” ourselves.  I definitely wanted to make sure my digital footprint was similar to what it was in the past and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that in fact it was pretty crystal clear!giphy (12)

It’s safe to say that since I was a teenager, adults have scared the life out of me lecturing about how my digital footprint needs to be clean and how one mistake can affect the rest of your life online as well as in the real world, particularly related to your career choice. Growing up, knowing I wanted to be a teacher, I made sure I was smart online.  When I was a teenager, we also had to take pictures with a camera, and almost all of them ended up on Facebook but at least we would edit out certain ones first. Nowadays, kids have a lot more to worry about because it takes less than 3 seconds to upload a photo to the internet or social media, instead of hours or days! I didn’t really have to worry about inappropriate photos ending up online, and honestly I was a pretty good kid, and I was mature enough to understand I didn’t want certain things to end up online.  2d3g3w

When I applied for education, and went through the program at the University of Regina, the professors often warned to clean up our online profiles because school divisions will check and will not hire anyone who has provocative photos, posts, or anything illegal like underage drinking on their profile. In the year of 2010, the only real social media platform I had was Facebook and so the purging of friends and photos commenced taking care to ensure my profile was clean for hiring – almost too clean. Looking back, I was pretty freaked out about the whole idea and although it was an important aspect, I don’t think it should be everything. People make mistakes but I also have some pretty awesome memories but feel uncomfortable sharing because there may be something in the background.  Is this what we want for our future? Hide everything unless it’s perfect and proper? I was confident that I was “google-able” and nothing undesirable would pop up if anyone looked for me online. However, the only things that really did pop up was sports articles and results, and the odd random photo from Facebook. All in all, not really a digital footprint at all! I was so conscious of my footprint that I had basically erased it entirely.

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As I made it through university, and into the teaching profession, one thing that is continually on my mind is about what I post online and what others post about me.  As we all know, we can control what we post, but we often can’t control what others post about us online. Currently, I live a compartmentalized life online. One as a professional, and one as an individual.  Platforms like Twitter and Pinterest, I leave public, showcasing a more professional life in the online world. Obviously, I use twitter for networking with other teachers, and especially in these types of courses.  My private online life consists of the other realms with platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and audience05-300x200Facebook. I post and comment for my friends and family, often leaving the professional facade behind, however I am still incredibly cognisant of my online footprint, making sure nothing would be deemed inappropriate if my online worlds ever blended together.  As I tell my students, we live in an incredibly negative world, where we overlook the good often, and focus on the blemishes a lot more frequently.  This is an unfortunate reality, but for teachers, I find it can be a lot more harsh as we are placed on a pedestal of society, always role models whether we are on duty or off. And this calls into question, is this what we really want as a society? Do teachers need to be ‘perfect’ online OR should we be real, showcasing that we are indeed human too, making mistakes and also having lots of different opinions, talents, and interests beyond just being teachers?

audience01-300x200Over the years, I’ve become less strict about who I allow to follow me on platforms, and my world of compartalization is slowly blending as I believe it should.  I’m not ashamed of anything I have online, but as we learned in class this week, there is a lot more about us online than we think, which can be a very eerie thought for most of us.  Moving forward, I want to continue to create a positive digital identity online and encourage my students to do the same. And I think the best way to teach students this is through modelling.  We can lecture all we want about the do’s and don’ts of the online world, but the real way students learn is through practice and example. Leading by example and setting expectations for students is the real way to get them to listen and think about what they are doing online. Fear-mongering does not work and if teachers also become students in the online world, creating a digital identity their students can see, I think it would do a lot for everyone moving forward.giphy (13)

I had a student this week tell me he appreciates the way I teach because he doesn’t feel like he’s just a student but that I genuinely care for him, his growth, and his success.  This was one of those moments I thought, this is it. This is why I became a teacher. With teaching comes great responsibility, and maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to blend my worlds a little more, allowing my students to see how I live my live online and also encourage them to improve their digital footprint and individual media literacy.  If I have to be a role model, then why not use that power for good, and really attempt to teach my students through example how to leave a healthy digital identity behind.

Until next time,

Shelby

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Ribble, Green Eggs, and Common Sense!

With final exams ending and my basketball tournament schedule lately, I have definitely not gotten as far on my major project as I would like so far but I’ve made some progress since my last post! My plan is to create a digital citizenship unit plan for my grade twelve English students.  It fits nicely into the curriculum, hitting a couple of outcomes. and I have already done bits and pieces of online citizenship with them in the past but as I have mentioned, it’s definitely an area I know I could be more conscience and explicit with in my teaching. As Leigh stated in her update, I assume my students have the skills to be responsible online citizens and, in some cases, even as budding adults, they lack the necessary skills to be successful. NOPE

I originally thought this unit plan would be a stand alone one, where I only focus on teaching digital citizenship and attempt to work through each one of Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.  Then as I began planning out a timeline and the lesson ideas, I realized this might be a little too much to take on timewise, integrity wise, as well as curriculum wise.  I’ve decided to pinpoint closer to the skills I know my students both lack and need more experience with which is Digital Etiquette, Fluency, and Rights and Responsibilities.  These ideas I can easily tie into articles, essays, and videos that will help teach my curriculum as well as teach my students about digital literacy.  I’m going to tie it directly into my global issues and social experience unit plan to hopefully teach my students that being globally active and responsible counts both online and in the real world.

These are some of the big issues we tackle in this unit:

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As grade twelves, you would expect them to know a thing or two about the online world, but after some discussions in my courses, even over this past week, it is evident they need to learn how to find credible sources for information and be able to evaluate real news from “fake news.”  Tomorrow, I actually plan of having my students critique a text (video or article) for its credibility as well as its argument and persuasive tactics.  I will let you know how it goes! You can check out the assignment here if you would like! I also got some inspiration from this article!

They also live in a bit of a dream world, not expecting what they do online to ever have consequences in the real world, but I think it is important to teach them that they need to giphy (11)be respectful to one another online, because they can be very guilty of spreading a picture or discussing classroom happenings in their ever-expanding group chats on many different platforms.  I’m still processing how to do this all, and it has involved quite a bit of research, looking at different articles and strategies for teaching in a digital world like this article here from Common Sense Education.  The part I am struggling with is that it needs to be authentic and not preachy, so I get the glazed over looks and they forget what I say the minute they walk out of the room.  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Capture1The last idea I really want to address in my unit plan is giving credit where credit is due.  As exams ended a couple weeks ago, I was incredibly frustrated grading my grade twelve final essays because guess what?  They plagiarized.  Not all of them, but enough to cost me energy and time, as well as it leaving a sour taste in my mouth leading into second semester.  Some do it on purpose, but in my experience most were never explicitly taught what not to do and this is a problem!  And not just for the students going on into university.  The internet is a vast network and it is important that students learn the value in giving credit to other sources of information online.  Not everything there is free, and it is a skill going forward that could be vastly important in the digital age.  I happened upon this awesome powerpoint, from a colleague, that helpfully explains how not to plagiarize and how to cite properly (Green Eggs and Ham anyone?)!  I am going to start here and hopefully teach them the right and wrong ways to find and give credit to sources in a variety of templates (not just an essay).green eggs

Going forward, I have a lot of ideas swirling in my mind, and I think it is important to start thinking about how in the future I will start this topic and unit plan.  My process has so far been a lot of research and a lot of reading.  It’s time to get to the real work in the next week and put these ideas into physical lesson plans and continue critiquing some previously made lesson plans!

Until next time,

Shelby

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The Future of Education

After our discussion this past week on the generational divide and where education is going, I began reflecting on what I really think is in store for educators of the future.  I always refer to one of my all-time favourite TED Talks spoken by Sir Ken Robinson, called ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity.’  The questions from this week’s prompt reminded me greatly of the things spoken about in this TED Talk.  Topics like how can schools change?  Where are we going from here?  Are we really preparing children for the future?  If you haven’t seen it, it’s 100% worth your time and will likely change some form of your teaching practice. 

I often show it to my grade 12 students and the discussion that ensues is always enlightening and engaging.  They love discussing the topic because they are the topic.  They don’t want to be stuck in a desk, learning for 8 hours a day, and then go out into the workforce, only to realize they actually never will have to write a research report on a dead soldier, or use calculus to optimize the amount of concrete they need for their driveway.  There are other, more practical ways of preparing them for the future and I believe it has already begun to change our way of thinking in terms of education.  One thing I have always found interesting about my students’ opinions, is they never place blame on the teacher.  Lots of them recognize that teachers can be just as stuck as the students are in the education model, and while a fair assessment, there are many ways teachers can break out of the mold, the only problem is money.  Cost and resources are a huge disadvantage for teaching in many ways of the future.

Another video I have shown my students that really gets the conversation about schools changing is Prince EA’s poetry video called ‘I Sued The School System.’  Once again, we dive into the ideas on how our society is constantly changing, yet our methods of evaluation and teaching of future generations remains the same.  So to answer the question, do schools need to change?  My answer is absolutely.  We are currently preparing a generation of the first “digital natives” to work in a world that is constantly changing, in a world where many manual jobs will be eventually replaced by machinery.  Jobs will continually become obsolete, and the skills our students need are far greater than we have seen in the past.  They need to be creative problem-solvers, who can work collaboratively with others, and think outside the box.  Most of the careers our students will have don’t even exist yet.

I checked out this article (9 Things That Will Shape The Future Of Education) to see what others think will be the future of education, and the results were what I expected.  Teachers think there will be more creativity and freedom in education, and we will no longer test knowledge that can be googled.  Instead students will be critiqued on their critical thinking and problem solving skills. One teacher, Nicholas Provenzano, said “Math will be taught as a way of learning how to solve problems and puzzles. In literature, students will be asked what a story means to them. Instead of taking tests, students will show learning through creative projects. The role of teachers Image result for tell me the answer memewill be to guide students in the areas where they need guidance as innovators.”  I love this idea, and I hope it holds true.  I try to get students to think in this manner already, but it is difficult because our students are used to having ONE right answer, and they just want to be told what to think instead of thinking for themselves.  I think this will be one of the biggest hurdles the education system will have to overcome – students being okay with being wrong, or not knowing the right answer, or there not being one.

Another teacher even mentioned the idea that schools and teaching could be a dying profession.  This is an interesting concept to me; I always thought teaching would be ‘safe.’  I might be wrong, but I know the way I teach now will change in the next ten years.  I think teachers will become more like directors, helping to oversee student progress and learning but not be the ‘keepers of knowledge’ we have been in the past.  I think the future of education needs to change regardless of whether it wants to change or not.  However, I also don’t think it is something that can be mandated, like the mandatory online courses in Ontario.  There is no one way for students to learn, and as Albert Einstein said, “if you judged a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  The future of education will be more flexible for the student and the teacher, allowing students to showcase strengths and work on weaknesses in a supportive environment where it is encouraged to make mistakes.  This dream might sound idealistic, and like a lofty goal, but I think it is possible if we want to succeed as a country.  We just need the opportunity and the resources to try.

Until next time,

Shelby

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Social Media and Mental Health

Last week, we had the pleasure of having Mary Beth Hertz discuss digital citizenship and media literacy with our class.  What a wealth of knowledge she has!!  I was left feeling awed and also completely incompetent as someone who thinks of themself as i-dont-know-2e2ed5“tech literate.”  Boy, do I have a lot to learn!! Mary Beth brought up so many ideas I never really thought about as an online user and as a teacher.

I have always encouraged my students to be smart on social media, and we always discuss the media world but after listening to Mary Beth, I know I can do a better job.  One of the ideas that really stood out to me and made me think more critically was the ideas of online and offline identities and the blurred line in between – they are the same thing now.  I think the online world is a great place for people to explore their identity and find other people with the same interests and ideologies as themselves, especially in this giant world.  For some small town kids in Moose Jaw, SK, the world can feel pretty small.  Having an online identity can allow teens to explore beyond the confines of our small city and make connections with real people across the globe.  I love the idea that some of my students can be completely different people in the online world, whether it be a persona or finding a group of people they really connect with when they lack those connections elsewhere.  The thing that stands in the way is that they need to be smart and educated about how to interact with people online, and how to protect themselves. I know when I was a teen, I was on MSN Messenger 24/7 and often ended up online playing games or on platforms like Whyville.  I was so vulnerable and my parents had no idea what I was doing, and realistically, neither did I.  We lied about our age all the time to get on chat rooms, or access different parts of a website that were 13+.  Looking back, I was probably dumb more than a couple of times, but the consequences were quite less than they are today.  Teens think they know everything about the online world, and in most cases, they definitely know a lot, but the difficult part is making them listen.

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Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by a teen eye roll?

If looks could kill, am I right?  We discussed a lot about cookies and tracking as well in our class and I couldn’t help but think of ways to make my students listen to this!  I care for these kids so much, and all I want is the best for them.  I don’t want them to fall for some crazy scheme, be catfished, stalked, or tracked by any hooligan online.  Nor do I want my students to feel bullied, or worthless just because some model on instagram can pay for high quality photoshop or hire someone to follow her around snapping pictures.  Mental health is a huge issue for teens, and I agree with Mary Beth when she said social media is a huge influencer of this.  In fact, there is an actual list of the top 5 worst social media apps for mental health — instagram being at the top of this list.  I feel for children growing up in this era, as it must be difficult to see so many people online “living the dream” when the reality is so much different.  As we discussed in class, things aren’t always what they seem, and FOMO although feels real, is not all there is to life.  It is so important to teach students about these ideas and concepts, and also allow them to know it’s okay to feel a certain way, but compartmentalize it, and go back to the real world.  You live there, not online.

Most of my students feel like they get preached at for being safe online.  They “already know” or “learned this already.”  In my grade 12 ELA classes, we discuss media and the messages out there.  This semester, I asked them to pay attention to the advertisements they saw online for one day and find one to bring to class.  We then analyzed it using Aristotle’s Appeals.

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Aristotle’s Appeals

I made them dissect these advertisements and we talked about why they are great ads, or why they are fake, why they call to the person, and what they really want.  Of course, lots of people have done this in classes, but I think the trick to getting students to buy in is to get them involved.  I cannot lecture them about how to be safe online (let’s face it, I’m young — but not THAT young), instead I have to involve them in the practices and let them discover WHY they need to be safer online.  We need to talk about the dangers and the facts together, and hopefully through these experiences, they learn why it’s important to fact check, why it’s important not to send that picture, and think about why it’s important they protect their digital identity.

Until next time,

Shelby

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My Major Project – An Outline

Since this class began, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my major project.  What would I like to do?  What do I have time to do?  What do I have an interest in finding out more about?  I feel like I’m pretty tech-savvy and the idea of researching more about the apps we use daily was intriguing, but what I finally settled on was developing some media literacy and digital citizenship resources for my classroom.

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Anyone who know me, knows I’m a planner.  I LOVE unit and lesson planning – I think it’s fun to create different projects and plan out how to teach students different topics, and I get to be creative which is my favourite part.  Just ask Brad how insanely organized my courses are.  The best part about planning is everyone does it differently, and has their own approach and I love how two people can look at the same curriculum, and interpret it so differently, and design units and lessons that are totally different, yet address the same ideas.

So back to my topic.  I have decided to go with option one: development of a curriculum-supported digital citizenship/literacy resource.  I made this decision because 1) I like planning, and 2) I have noticed there are less sources directed to high school media literacy and digital citizenship explicitly.  I think it would be very beneficial for myself to create a resource package to use in my classrooms and share with other teachers as well.  5a5343f99e00de5d5277df0111180fd5My starting point will be to investigate a course I’ve become very familiar with over the last 4 years: ELA B30.  This course has become my baby and I have tweaked and perfected it over the last four years I’ve taught it.  I don’t know why, but I’m never satisfied and I find there is always another outcome I feel like I need to hit in a better way, which leads into how digital citizenship fits in.  The curriculum states: “View, comprehend, and evaluate critically a variety of visual and multimedia texts by international, including indigenous, artists and authors from various cultural communities, and identify how the texts address beliefs, values, and power” (CR B30.2) which leads into lots of conversations about critically viewing and evaluating the world apps, social media, connected, smartphone, app store, play store, social media, business app, app for your businesswe live in.  I think this outcome would be an excellent fit for some knowledge on digital citizenship and media literacy.  Then there is the outcome: “Create a visual or multimedia presentation that suits the topic, purpose, and audience; teaches others about a global social issue; and persuades them to act on the issue in a responsible manner”(CC B30.2) which I believe fits nicely into the topic of media literacy for an upcoming generation.  This curriculum is wide open to interpretation and that’s why I think it’s a perfect fit for this project.

To begin more indepth research for this project, I’m going to start by looking closely at some other resources out there, and evaluating them. I’ve already found a couple on Twitter!  I may even organize my unit and plans in an LMS, like Google Classroom since it is a platform I’m familiar with and will use often.  I will also be checking out Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.

To make sure I stay on track and am within Saskatchewan’s guidelines, I will be looking at the Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Continuum and the Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide as per Alec’s recommendation.

Wish me luck!! 🙂

Shelby

 

 

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Intro to EC&I 832

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog!!

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I am so excited for another semester and become one step closer to completing my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.  I’m now on course number eight and I am anxious to be done!!  This is also my fourth course with Alec, and I’m looking forward to learning more about digital citizenship and integrating technology in my classroom.  I find these classes super applicable to my classroom and I’m hoping to find some more tools and resources to use in my classroom this semester.

I currently teach at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw, and am in my seventh year of Mileeteaching.  I’ve taught many different courses over the years, and have finally settled into my chosen path of senior English and Math.  Currently, I am teaching grade 11/12 English, and Calculus.  Second semester is just around the corner and I will begin helping my Calculus students transition to AP Calculus and help them study and get ready for their AP exam in May.  As well as teaching, I help coach the senior girls basketball team and coach track and field in the spring.

This past summer, my boyfriend and I adopted the sweetest chocolate lab puppy named Milee (like Cyrus).  We also have a three year old cat, Jax.  The two are slowly warming up to one another every day so stay posted for updates on their friendship.  In my free time, I love reading and doing anything athletic, including ultimate frisbee, basketball, and weight lifting.  Our summers are Milee and Jaxusually spent camping, hiking and biking all over the place.  We already have our camping spot booked in Lake Louise this summer!

I’m really looking forward to this semester because I always enjoy learning from Alec as well as the atmosphere that is created in his classes.  I look forward to learning from and all of you as well!!  The community that is built is something I have never experienced in other online classes.  I am hoping this course gives me more information and ideas for teaching digital citizenship in my classroom as well as incorporating more appropriate online techniques in my classes.

Looking forward to learning with you all!

Shelby

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Summary of Learning

What an adventure this semester has been!  I have learned so much about blended learning, about tools for my courses, about learning management systems, and about what the future of education could look like with blended learning at the forefront.  Thank you all for the support and the knowledge I have learnt from each one of you.

For our Summary of Learning, Brad and I decided to work together and create this video!  We wanted to focus on the whole journey because that is the most important part and after all, if you don’t enjoy the journey, what’s the point?  I hope you all enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.  Also, thank you to some colleagues that helped us out with production! To say we had fun is an understatement!  I hope to see you all in the future, whether it is via twitter, or in more courses!  Best of luck to you all! 🙂

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Reflecting on My Mindset

Well, another course in the books – almost anyways!  To say that I have learned a lot this semester is an understatement.  I think the most important thing I can take away from this course though is my mindset towards blended learning in the classroom.  I have changed the way I view myself as an educator and I am constantly questioning and considering how I can make my courses more accessible for students as well as more manageable.  How can I help my students become better learners in this ever-changing world? And how can I help them “re-find” their creativity and allow them to challenge what education looks like?

As I stated in my previous blog, I did not consider myself a “blended” educator before starting this course, even though most of my material has been accessible to students through Google Classroom for the past year.  I didn’t think this made me a “blended” educator until other teachers in my school and even my admin mentioned to me what a great idea this was.

giphy (7)I also ran into the curious problem of students not attending class due to some health related issues, BUT completing all work and communicating with me via Google Classroom and Remind.  This happened for the first time last semester and I was immediately frustrated by it.  I discussed it with my admin who asked the simple question: “are they meeting the outcomes?”  I thought about it and while the student was missing out on what I thought as valuable instruction, conversation and socialization in my classroom, they were completing the required assignments, and therefore meeting the outcomes.  It wasn’t as enriched as I wanted it to be, and I was left with a feeling of disappointment for the student.  I wanted them to do better, because I knew they could have excelled in the course if they had only come to class, but this was their choice, and this was how they met the criteria to ultimately graduate.

I have the same issue occurring this semester with the exact same circumstances.  This student just doesn’t want to be here (at school) because they would rather do the work in their own space.  This semester, I had a conversation with the student right away because I understood where this was probably going to end up going.  There are some extenuating circumstances to the reasoning of this student not coming to class, and I giphy (9)cannot help but admire them for the tenacity to complete a core class (ELA B30) completely on their own.  I should also mention that their knowledge on the subject matter we discuss in class exceeds some of the other students without even being there for the conversations, as well as they have yet to miss a deadline and remain in contact if there are ever any questions.  This whole circumstance leaves me stumped and in a predicament about blended learning as well as how to control attendance.  Do I cut off their access to Google Classroom?  Stop posting all the material and subject matter so they have to attend? Do I introduce the idea of “flexible attendance” to all my students?  Any opinions are welcome!

This example touches on a lot of the questions from this week’s class and really has me pondering the future of education.  What is it going to look like?  The way I am viewing it, mostly due to this course and the ideologies we have learned, is that education should

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Via Flickr

be flexible and there are a variety of ways for students to meet the outcomes necessary to graduate into a world that is filled with other types of technology and opportunities.  My AP Calculus class is working their butts off to write an exam in May, but I cannot get some of them to invest their own time into the course.  I want this course to be blended and I want them to be able to learn on their own.  These students, after all, are the ones bound for university and need to learn these skills like time management and independent study.  I then look at my ELA courses, where I want to focus more on what we do in class, and the opposite is occurring.  I think it might be time to focus more on what my students need and directing it that way instead of where I want them to go.  We all know letting go of control as a teacher can be a scary idea!  This is one way this course has helped me.  It is helping me find where I need to direct my attention and knowledge when it comes to blended learning.  Helping me recognize opportunities to incorporate it more seamlessly instead of forcing it.

Another important concept from last week’s discussion is the idea of teaching empathy and citizenship.  I don’t think schools will ever be replaced completely by technology for these reasons.  Our world would not be a good place is everyone was stuck indoors, on their computers, learning by themselves.  Students need discussion, they need socialization, and they need to learn important concepts like citizenship to be successful in our world.  I think it is really important to teach digital citizenship, and 21st century competencies, but those things don’t mean much if we don’t teach people how to be good humans first.

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After reading Amy’s blog post this week, I reflected on why I became a teacher, and it was to build relationships and connections with students so that I can help them figure out their teenage years and beyond.  If students don’t come to class, don’t socialize with each other, learn how to have important and appropriate conversations with others besides their best friends and families, I think our world will look very different.  Students learn coping skills, how to interact with people they don’t get along with, how to deal with controversy and conflict, and figure out things about themselves they never would unless they were placed in an environment like a school from a young age.  These discussions and conversations with students are the reason I became a teacher!  I love watching the “ah-ha” moments, and the impromptu life lessons that appear in the middle of the lesson, and the laughter that comes with some of these discussions.  I would miss these so much if education became purely online, and those are the reasons I think it never will be.  Those moments are lessons are too important to miss out on.

To close, I have really learned a lot through this course.  I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to enhance my blended classrooms and figured out how to incorporate it more seamlessly into my everyday teaching using things like Flipgrid, goFormative and Socrative.  I have also learned to make adjustments to my classrooms to accommodate more types of learners that before a blended platform would have simply been written off.  I’m excited to see where these new ideas I have learned this semester take my future classes and where education will go in general.  The most important thing though, will always be making connections and figuring out how to reach more students, creating more opportunities to showcase how they learn and what they need to learn.

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The Final Prototype

This semester we were tasked with creating an online course prototype and I am pretty proud of what I accomplished.  When I began this course I didn’t necessarily think I taught in a “blended” classroom, but with my use of Google Classroom increasing every semester, I realized quickly that I actually do use forms of blended learning in my classrooms all the time, mostly for simple things like posting extra videos, notes, or assignments so students have the opportunity to access information when they are absent from class.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a course I am already teaching and make it even more blended.  This is why I decided to create a prototype for my AP Calculus course.  I also knew I wanted to use Google Classroom since my students are so familiar with it and our division encourages its use.  You can check out my course profile here for more details on how I laid it out for the semester.  I thought this course would be perfect because I see my students every day for a total of 60 classes before they write the big exam in May.  This gives me an opportunity to use the LMS of Google Classroom to enhance our time together and create more opportunities for learning online.  This will also help my students become more independent learners, which is incredibly important for their next years in university because they will all be headed in that direction.

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Screenshot of my course!

I began my course with the idea in mind of using a flipped model of instruction.  My students actually quite enjoy this model, but others do struggle to commit to the video lessons in their downtime.  It’s been a balancing act so far but I have used them as my guinea pigs for a couple of different assignments.  I wanted to use a flipped model because I knew it would open up more time for questions and for working through problems together in class which is really what my students need.  One of the suggestions on my peer review was to create a place for students to communicate with each other, so I introduced a question and answer Padlet in hopes that students would freely contribute to questions and supply answers to each other instead of relying only on me as their source of information.  If you want to see more about how my classmates’ reviews influenced my prototype, check out this blog post.

For the modules I created for this class, I wanted to focus more on simpler concepts (things my students would be able to learn from a video as well as hopefully not be too overwhelming for my peers in this course)!  I think I selected the right material and I have to say I learned a lot about myself as a teacher through this process as well.  Last year, I was made to focus solely on content.  Teach myself, teach the students, move on to giphy.gifthe next idea.  This year, I am much more relaxed and have been able to play around a lot more with my lessons and build new connections with the material as well as preparing my students even more for the exam.  I can look more into Khan Academy, create more formative assessments, and know better what my students need.  Both my modules run the same way with an intro video as the notes using Screencastify and SMART Notebook.  I knew I wanted to create short videos and have students follow along with notes where they could record the information.  This also allows them to go back, pause the instruction, and re-watch if they need to.  Then there is practice, which is a handout assignment with an answer key.  Finally there is the formative assessments which I varied from each module.  I think I gave ample practice and I even tried to implement some different formative assessments in Socrative and GoFormative.  If you feel like testing your math skills, try them out on my course!  The Google Classroom code is wnn06j and you need to log in using a Gmail account.  Feel free to check out the rest of my prototype as well including videos, assignments, and practice problems.  Also, feel free to check out my course walkthrough if you would rather a quick feel for my course prototype.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my prototype turned out.  For my second module, I focused on an entirely different unit and created an opportunity using Flipgrid for my students to actually show how they work through a problem.  I want them to explain their reasoning and their answer since that is such an important concept on the AP exam.  Another idea I had was to create a Padletstart where they could discuss ideas on how to solve a couple of problems we would look at in class anyways to act as a starting block on how to solve it.  Some of these problems can be really complicated so I want to create the easiest environment that I can to teach them in that it’s okay to be wrong and this is the best way we can learn.  One of the hardest things for my students to learn is that to get a “4 or 5” on the AP exam is to really achieve a pass.  Many of the practice problem average score is between 3 or 4 out of 9.  Teaching them the process and wording of these problems is crucial to their success on exam day and understanding that they only need to try every part of a question to succeed.  I included a section for practice exams as well as problems for them to work through on the prototype.  We also spend time in class working on these but the ability to access them outside of class time will be incredibly beneficial to my students.  The most important thing I am taking away from this assignment is that I am actually capable of creating a blended learning environment and it isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.  I would like to eventually blend all my courses in this manner because I think that is where education is heading.  Dean V. mentioned this quote on Twitter this week and I think it sums up exactly what we and this course are working towards:

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Past and Present Student Interaction

When I think of student-student interactions, I have flashbacks to my undergrad. Not necessarily a good flashback either.  I had a few courses with the “required discussion forum” where we needed to complete a reading or two or three, and then make comments or ask questions to our assigned groups.  We HAD to post at least three times a week, and it HAD to be connected to the reading and material we were learning in class.  Looking back, besides remembering that I HAD to do this type of assignment, I do not recall one single discussion topic we discussed.  giphy (5).gifIs it because it’s been a few years? Probably, but I bet if someone asked me two weeks after the course was over if I remembered any of the discussions, I bet I still wouldn’t be able to remember anything about them.  The Bates reading from this week made me realize, as well as aspects of this online course we are all taking, is that this form of discussion is completely inauthentic, and students do not care about things they don’t care about!  If you asked me what I wrote about on my EC&I 831 blog, I could tell you about most of the topics and I think that’s because I cared about the subject matter, it was connected to me, and I got to discover what I wanted to know more about!  The Bates article from this week’s reading stated that,

“Textbooks, readings and other resources are chosen to support the discussion, not the other way round. This is a key design principle, and explains why often instructors or tutors complain, in more ‘traditional’ online courses, that students don’t participate in discussions. Often this is because where online discussions are secondary to more didactic teaching, or are not deliberately designed and managed to lead to knowledge construction, students see the discussions as optional or extra work, because they have no direct impact on grades or assessment.”

I think the reason I don’t remember a single topic in those classes is because the discussion forum was always extra. It was additional work, instead of the discussion centering around ideas and questions, and FINDING the answers through readings and textbooks, we read first, and then added points about what we found.  I agree that it should be the other way around.  Fuel the discussion with ideas and supplement with resources!

This brings me to my point for the week.  My course is a blended course and I do see my students daily.  I’ll be honest; I didn’t think it was very important to include student-student interaction in my course, but after some feedback from my peers, and our class last week, my mind has been changed.  Harasim (2012) states that “[Online Collaborative Learning] theory provides a model of learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer.”   The moment I read this statement, I thought “This is what my class is!”  I am teaching AP Calculus to a bunch of students who need to work together to solve problems and develop an understanding of the material so they can apply it to the exam, and NOT just recite the right answer! (Insert Happy Dance for making the class meaningful for my students!)giphy (6).gif

So I began thinking of ways I could encourage more student-student interaction online.  They collaborate daily on problems and assignments so it would be nice to extend it onto Google Classroom.  I think I will start with encouraging them to post their questions on the class stream and allow other students to reply with their ideas for answers.  To get this started, I might even post a couple of questions for them to work through online and to post their ideas on how to solve the problem, and not necessarily post the answer.

I also really like the idea of using Padlet for students to work through a problem together or even start a community where they can ask each other questions about the assignments and problems so that they do not have to ask me first.  The beauty of Padlet is that they can post descriptions, write something, take a picture or even insert a video or audio for an explanation or question.  What do you think?  Will it work?  I really think it would be a good example of the three phases: idea generating, idea organizing, and intellectual convergence that Alec discussed with us last week.  Hopefully I can get my students to go through all three phases with this idea!

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A screenshot of my new addition!

Another idea I might try since explanation and justification is a huge part of the AP exam is Flipgrid.  I might try getting students to answer a problem verbally and explain how they arrived at their answer, as well as justify how they know a certain answer is correct when-the-teacher-says-you-have-to-explain-your-answer-41186018as many questions give the answer, and the student needs to justify why it is correct.  I think this would be a great opportunity of students to discuss their reasoning and ideas of problem solving and for me to evaluate their reasoning skills for the exam!  This could also work as an assignment to show me how they walk through problems.  It might help me figure out their thinking and understanding more, as well as help them discover the important concepts in the problem at an individual level.

I know that student-student interaction is incredibly important, and I am hoping I can get my students to buy into the online discussion ideas.  If not this year, hopefully next year.  In the meantime, I will continue to try, and keep up with my ever-present student-teacher interactions via Remind 101, and the comment section on Google Classroom!  As the Bates article stated clearly, “with online collaborative learning, the aim is not to replace the teacher, but to use the technology primarily to increase and improve communication between teacher and learners, with a particular approach to the development of learning based on knowledge construction assisted and developed through social discourse.”  This is what I aim to do, and hopefully make more connections between my students, and help them become stronger advocates for themselves, and better learners.

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Peer Feedback Reflection

This week, we were tasked with reflecting on the feedback from our peers and I was looking forward to hearing some ideas and opinions on how to improve my course.  As I am actually teaching this course right now, I have a very specific set of students in mind which may have prompted some of the inefficiencies in my course profile and my course shell.  There is also the email login conundrum that has caused some frustration among us all while attempting to “become the student” and evaluate each other’s courses.  In order to really take the feedback from my peers: Dean, Sapna and Michael (thank you by the way for the awesome and positive feedback!), I feel like it is appropriate to address some their questions here, as well as provide more insight into how I am running this course.  We all do that thing where we think we include information or it is completely obvious to us, and think it, but do not disclose the information that others are wondering about, so without further ado, here is a little more information about my blended learning course, AP Calculus!

My Vision

I started teaching this course at the beginning of Semester 2 this year.  I taught the same students in the first semester, teaching them Calculus 30.  I have built relationships, trust, and communication with all of them and I currently have a class of 14 students.  We establish on the first day of semester two, the expectations for the course and what THEY giphy (3)will have to do in order to be successful.  We talk about the exam date (May 14th, 2019), and decide on practice exam dates as well, which this year will take place on April 17th and May 7th.  We also discuss that we have 61 hours of class time until the exam which of course, terrifies them and myself!

One of the comments I received for feedback was: The “timelines of the course (for all AP courses) would be a concern – there is a lot of topics to cover in a short period of time.”  You are not wrong!  And this is why I decided that a blended learning atmosphere would be the best idea for my students to be successful.  I see them every day, for one hour and it does lighten the load that half of the material has already been covered in Calculus.  I now, go back through concepts they have already learned and add more insight, clarification, and more complex theorems and ideas to the units we have already looked at.  It is a lot of material to cover, and a lot of the work, assessments, and practice needs to take place outside of my classroom hours.  welcome-to-calculus-1r7g1sFor example, both practice exams are written after school hours and much of the homework assigned needs to be done on their own.  This is why I thought the blended learning model would work so well; if I could flip it and give them lessons to watch and focus on the questions the need answered in class, they would be more successful than my first bunch!  I already see a difference!!  It’s working and my students are less overwhelmed by homework and material they need to study.

Another great question from my peers was: “Are there ways students can connect with each online to review content?”  I never thought of this! Students can post questions and ideas on the stream on google classroom, and I am thinking of including a Padlet on the stream where students would be able to post their questions, pictures of work, as well as communicate with one another about the topics.  Does anyone have any other suggestions for student communication for outside of the classroom?  Again, a reason I never considered this need was because I do see these students in class every day, and because it is so implicit for me, my students also communicate with me through Remind 101.  I have many that will ask me questions after hours, and I can send out reminders for quizzes and homework problems I want completed.  We also frequently break into groups in class to discuss problem areas with questions which allows them to solve each other’s problems and they have come to expect this, so they do not frequently ask questions outside of class because they understand this routine. Team-work

I think it is also important to note that this course is not asynchronous, and so the online platform is there to support student learning, and provide more insight, but it is not a substitution for being in class.  This is very different than other courses I evaluated last week, because many ran like an online course.  There were no gaps, and everything was accessible through the online shell.  This is not what I wanted for my course, and I think this is the difference between some of the feedback I received compared to other downloadcourses.  There will be gaps in my model and not everything will be available online because I see my students every day in class, and I want it to be blended in this manner.  I do not want my students to be able to complete everything online and have no need to come to class anymore.  Certain pieces need to be done face-to-face.  I am actually struggling with this concept in my ELA B30 courses, where I have an established blended learning environment with Google Classroom.  Everything can be done and handed in online, so sometimes, students don’t feel the need to attend class, which can be both a blessing for them and a frustration for me.  I see it as a double-edged sword, and I do not want this to happen in my AP course so the gaps will remain for now!

Another consideration from my peer-assessors was that “there doesn’t appear to be any consideration for student access and accessibility for this course.”  I also did not address “common concerns like low bandwidth, student access to devices, EAL learners, cultural considerations, socioeconomic status” in my course profile.  I did address these issues in my profile to some extent, but it is not explicit for those who do not know my students.  That is my fault and I plan on changing some of the wording in my course profile as a result.  I know my 14 students very well, and I created this course profile with these students in mind.  Of course, I will have to make adaptations from year to year but I am very lucky with the group of intelligent, talented, young adults I have this year.  This experience so far as been nothing short of incredible and I absolutely love teaching all of them.  My 14 students all have cellphones and internet access at home.  Of course, we have devices at school students could use if this was an issue, as well as support for low bandwidth.  My students have spares and can access these devices before/after school, in spares, during class, and at lunch.  Due to the rigor and level of the course, EAL learners will have a strong English language background in order to get to this point so this is not technically an issue I need to address in my classroom currently.  Again, if I needed to, I would adjust my material, offer extra support, and allow Google Read and Write to be used.  However, because all these students will write the same exam in May (in English), with the same expectations and little to no support during the exam, I try to mimic these expectations during classroom assessments.  I am not even allowed in the exam room or to talk to my students about it for 24 hours after they finish the exam!  Every student will write version 1 or 2 of the same exam, all over the world and my students need to be prepared for this assessment adequately.  I have a variety of cultural backgrounds in my class and I love the diversity of it which allows for some great conversations and different perspectives in my course, but at the end of the day, the only assessment that matters will be the same for everyone around the world and I try to prepare my students for that.

I really appreciate the feedback I received from my peers this week and it gave me some great ideas for continuing to develop my course!  I’m going to look at creating more time in my videos for pauses, create more effective assessments on Formative, and construct some way for students to communicate when they are not in the classroom.  Overall, I am happy with how my course is developing this semester and look forward to working hard to make it more polished in the coming weeks!giphy (4).gif

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The Many Techniques of Blended Learning

Hello fellow EC&I 834ers!  It’s been awhile!  Time to shake off the cobwebs on the keyboards and get back into the blogging spirit! This week, Alec’s prompt stumped me at first: “Take this week to read about/explore an aspect of online/blended learning that you are interested in, and then blog about it. This might include your thoughts/reactions to a particularly interesting article that you find, your own exploration of a mode/format/strategy for online/blended learning that we haven’t touched on, or your further research into a course topic that interests you.”  What do you mean I have to explore and think about something that I am interested in learning more about?  What do you mean there is no direction to this week’s blog post?  I had to stop and think.  I had to spend some time exploring the world wide web.  I had to figure out a direction and go with it!giphy (2).gif

Now, for those of you that have ever done the “team-building” personality test where your personality becomes a shape, I’m a square.  I don’t do well when there is no direction.  I like consistency, I like having a prompt, and I will complete the task, most likely in one shot because “chunking” and “working slowly on an assignment” has never been my cup of tea.  I procrastinate, and then I panic, and then I produce something pretty great that would have been a lot less stressful if I had started ahead of time, but it had to be the perfect idea before I began.  I digress.506329c50d7a0This personality of mine led to some colleagues of mine, namely Brad Raes and Logan Petlak, and we discussed some ideas for directions in this blog post.  From there, I hit the internet and decided I should watch at least one TED Talk because they are my favourite things to learn from so I found this one!  I liked it.

 

 

Monique Markoff discusses a lot about what we have already learned about blended learning and what it is versus what it is not.  She discusses the success rates of online courses versus blended environment courses, and her conclusion is that students learn more in a face-to-face environment and the technology should be used as a tool to the ideas, not the solution.  She also discusses some different versions of blended learning I had never heard of before, like the rotational model, and others I had, like the laboratory model, the open-classroom model, and the flipped classroom model.  A couple of these ideas were pretty familiar, notably the laboratory and the flipped classroom models.  What wasn’t familiar was the idea of a rotational model and all of a sudden, I had my idea for this week’s blog.  As soon as Markoff described it as “stations” I was interested and thought, “This is something I could use in my classrooms!”

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She asks four questions for those who are serious about beginning blended learning in their school:

  1. Are you flexible?
  2. Are you committed?
  3. What is your mindset and the mindset of your students?
  4. What is the role of the teacher?

I think these questions are an excellent starting point, because they make you think about what your purpose of using blended learning is and if you are truly looking to change your perspective and teaching theory in the classroom or just looking for a quick fix.  Markoff goes into detail explaining what these questions entail, and how difficult, time-consuming, and complicated it really is to integrate these ideas into a classroom.  It takes hard work, it takes trial and error and most of all, it takes time.  She mentions that many classrooms and schools tend to fear this idea, and do not want to fail with a model and so when it needs adjustments, it is simply thrown out and the old model comes back in.

It made me think that this blended learning idea might be more complicated that I originally thought.  It’s not something that is going to be perfect the first time around, and it is going to take a lot more research and development to work out just right.

After I finished the video, I continued with my question on what exactly the rotational model of blended learning is and was led to this article: Find The Model That Works For You: 12 Types Of Blended Learning.  My first thought was TWELVE!  THERE ARE TWELVE TYPES OF BLENDED LEARNING!!!  There were types I heard of and types I hadn’t.  To see the full capacity of each type, check out the article yourself, but for now these were the main types listed in the article:

  1. Station Rotationblended
  2. Lab Rotation
  3. Remote
  4. Flex
  5. Flipped Classroom
  6. Individual Rotation
  7. Project-Based
  8. Self-Directed
  9. Inside-Outside
  10. Outside-Inside
  11. Supplemental
  12. Mastery-Based

 

Now what I noticed as I read the article is that overall, every type had the same thing in common.  They are blended learning ideas and they involve technology as a way to support student learning.  It seemed intimidating but was far from it as I continued.

rotation-1The rotational models have my interest peaked mostly because I feel that this would be a fantastic goal for my AP Calculus students.  I would love to do sections of direct instruction, sections of a flipped model, group work and individual assessments online.  Students could work at their own pace, and work more on the concepts THEY struggle with because at that level, what my students need is practice and motivation.  I believe this model would provide some of that!  TeachThought defined “Station-Rotation blended learning is a: “…model (that) allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is an online learning station.””  This is commonly used in elementary schools, but why couldn’t it be successful in a grade twelve classroom too!  I already do certain aspects of it, and students learn more from experiencing the skills themselves than from me explaining a complex theorem to them directly.  Once I read more about this idea, I knew it was familiar from the elementary idea of “stations” but this is more complex, using a variety of strategies and tools to teach concepts and ideas to students, on a fixed schedule, which I already have, but in their own way.

A second source from Reading Horizons defined the station rotation to be that “students move through modalities within a classroom.”  The following is how Reading Horizons defined it:

“Students learn using software or other online-based coursework on classroom computers. Students can do a variety of activities, including but not limited to previewing, completing, or reviewing skill lessons, reading stories, or taking computer-administered assessments. Through these kinds of tech-based activities, students have opportunities to work independently and privately, free from concerns about how they will perform in front of their peers.

For the offline part of their learning, students receive direct instruction from a teacher, followed up by a variety of activities, which could include modeled and independent reading, workbook pages or other pencil-and-paper tasks, one-on-one tutoring, small-group work, projects, games, flash cards—the list of possibilities is nearly endless.”

I see endless possibilities, not only in my math courses but also my English courses for this type of learning.  I never thought of using stations as a strategy in a high school classroom but I think it could work and very well!  Does anyone else have any experiences using this type of strategy in their classrooms?  Does it work with older students like it does with younger students? I am open to suggestions and will keep you updated on my progress with the implementation of my newfound blended learning technique!

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Educreations: Flip or Flop?

I decided to play around with a video recording tool called Educreations.  I had never even heard of this tool before so I was excited to try it out and see what potentials it had in store for me.  I am currently looking for a solid video recording tool to use for my own modules in this course and for my flipped lessons in my AP Calc course.  This tool was not it.  So, without further ado, here is my official review of Educreations!

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Overview

The tool is a screen recording tool, much like Screencastify but more focused to a small area of the screen.  You essentially have a white board which you can pull up pictures on and draw all over the screen and them.  You can record your voice while you draw or type as well, which I thought was pretty cool.  It also allowed me to connect to my google account which is very slick!  I love when apps and websites do that!  There are different coloured markers, and an eraser as well.  You can even switch screens and load more pictures and diagrams while the recorder just pauses, waiting for you to continue with your lesson.  In theory, I think this is a great tool for quick little lessons, for student projects, or for digital storytelling.  I managed to find very few examples of quick lessons from students on Youtube.

Here is one example a student created:

Most of what I found were tutorials on how to use the website but I figured it would be better to make my own shorter one to give you an idea!

Strengths

It is very easy to use!  Within a matter of minutes of creating an account, I had access to the whiteboard and tools needed to create some simple videos.  You can also share the videos with students and upload items to the elusive “Cloud.”  There is the option to share videos on Facebook and Twitter but you cannot export them, which is probably why there are almost none on Youtube.  This would be a very easy tool for students to use and show their understanding of information in a creative way.  It works with iPads as well, giving more control and diversity to the writing technique.  I loved how easy it was to record, pause, and continue with your lesson, but there are also some things that just wouldn’t really work for me.

Weaknesses

I found there were more weaknesses in this tool than strengths.  For example, there is a fee for more tools.  In order to upload documents (which I need for my lessons), there is a monthly fee for a classroom, and then a higher fee for a school subscription.  I was limited to drawing on pictures that I had uploaded instead of writing or even scrolling through documents on the whiteboard.  Price is of course, another downfall, as not many of us would be able to access the full potential of this tool without paying for it, and not many of us would have the funding to access this tool.

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Screenshot of the Pricing for Educreations

There is also a limited storage space of 50 MB which would be small if you wanted to create a lot of videos.  As I was playing with it, some of the pictures I uploaded were too large for the whiteboard and wouldn’t allow an upload.  There was also not a plethora of examples to look at online, as I only found tutorials on youtube as I mentioned before.  There wasn’t a dashboard on the website and you cannot share videos with other teachers on the website or app.  I thought this was a mistake, and I think the app would be a lot more successful with this application added.  It would be awesome to view other teachers videos and lessons, and have some examples to look at and share with others.  I’m curious what it would be like to record longer videos, say 15 minutes on it.  Would I run out of space before I get to the end of my lesson?

Potential

Overall, I think this is a very neat tool.  I’m just not sure it would work for my needs with a needing more academic writing and explaining, and more time for videos.  I think this tool has a lot of potential to be very useful for teachers of younger aged students.  It would be especially useful for me to explain quick examples to students that are having difficulty, but again I need pictures of everything in order to actually use it.  I would love to try and use it with my English classes and see if they can use it to showcase some of their learning on it but some of them may feel it is more elementary.  I think my math students would find tremendous benefits of using this to help each other with problems and questions they have, I’m just not sure how it would work with daily creations and lessons.  If some of the features for the “Pro Classroom” were available, I would be all for using this program.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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AP Calculus Course Debrief

Well, here goes nothing!  Last year was my very first year teaching AP Calculus.  There were a lot of ups and downs, and I mean a lot!  Trying to learn the content myself, teaching myself how to teach the content, helping students understand things that I was still trying to master myself, prepping them for an exam I had never seen, and nervously awaiting the test results in July.  It was a roller coaster!

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I know a lot more now, but do I have more to learn? ABSOLUTELY!  It was near the end of the course last year that I discovered the beauty of Khan Academy and I knew my life this year would be easier, which leads into my course outline for this project!  The timing couldn’t be more perfect and I am excited to really try out my ideas with different types of blended learning, using flipped lessons which my calculus students already showed an interest in last semester!  I’m looking forward to documenting everything that works and doesn’t work and really giving this course another shot, being a little more confident, and a lot more knowledgeable than last year!  I know lots of you are not going to understand one lick of this, but I’m hoping you can bear with me and my journey through my project.

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To see my course outline, check it out here and wish me luck! 🙂

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Blended Learning and Me

When I think of blended learning, I think of a teacher that has successfully blended the ideas of online teaching with that of a face-to-face environment.  I wouldn’t say I am quite there yet, but since beginning my Master’s journey, I have definitely taken a couple of leaps in the department of blended classrooms.  As I learn more and more about the benefits of blended learning, as well as the idea of setting up students for success in the future, the more I want to create this type of learning environment.  Many of my students go on to university, and will likely be faced with some sort of online class, where they will be responsible for their own learning.  And, even if my students are not continuing their formal education, in this digital age, what person could not benefit from learning how to navigate the online world and learn on their own in their future?

Currently, like Amy, I rely on Google Classroom as a management tool to keep my classes organized and accountable.  As I teach for English and Math courses, I have found tremendous benefits for both groups of students.  In my ELA courses, I post links to videos we watch, and any notes or assignments are posted for them to access at any time.  They have to options of handing any work online, and it has made editing much easier as I can open their assignments on Google Docs and edit away, even leaving comments if I need.  It has also made my students more accountable.  They know where the work is, they know where the guidelines are, and they can hand anything in at anytime!!  No more “well, I wasn’t here” excuses!  It’s also freed up my time in my giphyclasses, as students are not needing me to get them missing handouts.  They have access and can print them at any time.

 

My math courses are equally accountable as I post their daily lessons and assignments online.  Along with that, I post the answer keys.  As homework does not count for anything in our school system, I have found giving students full answer keys has freed up my teaching time to go more in-depth with lessons or review what they really struggled with.  It puts the learning in their hands, and they become more responsible for asking questions and clarifying misunderstandings.  I have also linked my Google Classroom to Khan Academy for my AP Calculus students and it is amazing! For those of giphy (1).gifyou who don’t know what it is, it is basically a website that has modules and online formatted courses for all math and science curriculum!  I can assign problem sets, and videos through Google Classroom and it logs my students progress on Khan Academy so I can go back and see who completed what, as well as how they did on problem sets.

Although my use of technology is not what I would call full blended learning, it has enhanced my classroom.  As Tony Bates said, “blended learning can mean minimal rethinking or redesign of classroom teaching, such as the use of classroom aids, or complete redesign as in flexibly designed courses, which aim to identify the unique pedagogical characteristics of face-to-face teaching, with online learning providing flexible access for the rest of the learning.”  What Google Classroom has provided me, is simplicity, and aids for my classroom environment.

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This is of course, not without its challenges.  I really wish I could have parents access this information in its full format, instead of just by weekly emails.  The problem is that I set all my daily lessons as “assignments” which then show up as “incomplete” even though students have done the work on paper.  It can be frustrating for students as well, as they end up with notifications saying they are missing assignments they handed in, or completed simply as a class discussion.  Any ideas Google Classroom pros??

I also tried to get my classes to complete class discussions via Flipgrid, and they hated it!

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Flipgrid

They felt vulnerable to their peers, which I do understand, and hated the interaction, and having to comment and like each other’s videos. I really like the platform, especially for an English classroom, but it is difficult to have students buy into it.  I’m looking for suggestions for improvements on this!

Overall, I am working towards a more blended classroom environment and although I don’t think I am where I want to be, I am slowly progressing in the right direction where technology enhances my daily teaching and more importantly, my students’ learning.

 

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Intro to EC&I 834

tumblr_inline_niqsekhbjx1qgt12i (1)Hi everyone!  I am so excited for another semester and become one step closer to completing my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction!  This is my fifth course overall, and I can start to see the end!  This is my third class with Alec, and I’m looking forward to learning even more tools to test out in my courses.  I’m also looking for recommended courses to take next year so let me know if any of you have taken any gems lately!

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Emerald Lake, BC

I teach at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw, and am in my sixth year of teaching.  Over my short career, I’ve taught a lot of different courses, and have finally settled into my chosen path of senior English, and Calculus.  I know, total opposites!  But I have loved teaching such different courses and challenging myself to teach in these completely different mediums.  Along with teaching these courses, I coach basketball and track and field at the school, and somehow find time to take a course every semester!  In my free time, I love reading and exploring this beautiful country of ours with my boyfriend.

As I said before, I’m looking forward to learning all about online learning in this course.  My top three goals for the course are:

  1. Since I teach AP Calculus, I am hoping to be able to apply some of the learnings in this class to my own course as I would like to make it more of a blended course! Giving my students the best opportunities to prepare for the big exam is my main priority this year, as well as giving them as many resources as possible.
  2. I’m looking forward to learning about different mediums for creating/using online courses to further my students’ learning and my own.  Looking at different platforms will allow me to figure out what I like and don’t like about online learning as well as develop my own.
  3. I also want to further expand my Personal Learning Network by working with each of you, and exploring Twitter more in-depth.  I have a great network already, but I am always looking to expand it because, as I have learned since I started my master’s, that it is incredibly valuable for resources, support, and enhancing professional development.
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Via Flickr

I’m looking forward to the learning journey ahead and connecting with you all more as the semester goes on!  If you want to connect on Twitter my handle is @mackeyshelby21.

Shelby

 

 

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My Summary of Learning

This is it!  The end of EC&I 830!  I cannot believe how fast this course flew by, and I also cannot believe how much I learned over two short months.  It’s amazing the community we developed and how much we were able to challenge each other to grow and learn in such a short time span.  It’s been a pleasure to learn with all of you.

I loved the style of this course and how it enabled us to be in charge of our own learning.  We brought a lot of debate to the table, and I thank all of you for challenging my thinking and opinions.  There is no one right answer to any of the topics we discussed and I think that makes this course so great!

Without further ado, here is my summary of learning video!  Thanks again all for a fantastic class and I hope you all enjoy my video (I had a lot of fun making it)!

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Technology Is Equitable; People Are Not.

This week’s debate had me all over the place.  Thinking of the phrase: “technology is a force of equity in society” has many sides and angles to consider and there is not one straight answer: yes or no.  I found there was a lot of mixed reviews throughout our 1.gifdebate, and many elaborations for our reasons we think it is or isn’t.  For example, yes, technology can be a force of equity because it is creating opportunities where they were limited before or no, it is not a force of equity because there is not equal access around the globe.  These types of ideas were incredibly important to our debate this week, and I think through a lot of thinking post-debate, I have established that we may not be there yet, but we are working towards solutions for this inequity.

The agree side this week did a fantastic job opening the floor and I found myself agreeing with all the points that Jen, Dawn and Sapna shared.  Their major points included the removal of barriers in education and skills, the use of open education resources creating equality through education, and then focused on the idea that the corporate system is the reason that technology is inaccessible for people in a lower socio-economic status and not the tech itself, and not the tech’s fault itself, showing that the tech isn’t creating inequity, but people by making these devices which have now become a necessity, cost too much money to afford.people using smart phones sitting at a table

The disagree side of Amy S, and Rakan countered well including some important ideas I would have never thought about in my internal debate.  Their main ideas circled around tech creating bias, gender abuse, and racism online, as well as digital colonialism and economic inequality.

As a said before, I found myself agreeing with all the points the agree team shared.  I see technology remove barriers all the time in the classroom.  I actually once saw a two men sitting at Tim Horton’s using their cellphones and a translating app to communicate with their voices and have a real conversation.  It made me so happy that technology has been able to reach a point where we can communicate with one another and create friendships with people that do not necessarily share a common language.2.gif

As for the classroom, I know I would have been in a real bind if I did not have my technological resources for teaching.  I have taught A LOT of different subject matter and without open resources and the World Wide Web, my knowledge would have been much more limited as well as the material for my students would have been much simpler as I would be scrambling for activities and ideas on my own.  For example, my first year I original-846541-1taught Law 30.  Where did I turn but to the internet to find different ideas and resources to help supplement the material.  I even found an activity to look at the laws often broken in different fairy tales and create a trial for the characters.  Would I have been able to come up with this idea without technology?  No way!  It helped make my life less stressful and created equity in a situation where I was at a disadvantage.

There are also many assistive technologies out there to help students including Google Write&Read.  Many students struggle with getting their ideas on paper and these types of apps help create an equity in the classroom so they too, can reach the outcomes of other students.  However, access to these apps can be difficult if you do not have access to the technology which is what the disagree side countered.

3.gifCost is a major downside to education as well as creating equity in the classroom.  And like Amy R. said in her blog this week, Technology should be accessible to everyone because it has become essential to live.  It has become a basic human right to be able to access this information and these devices yet corporations will not lower the price on devices, making it difficult for people of a lower socio-economic status to get access.  People may argue that there is free access in libraries, and schools, but not everyone has direct access to a building like that.  Sunny Freeman’s article states that even in Canada, only 62% of low-income quartile has access to the internet and it is difficult to dispute.  Have you ever gone camping in a rural/northern part of Saskatchewan?  Little to no internet access or even service exists! 4 So like, the agree group said, we can fix this!  We just need to lower the costs on devices, and create more opportunities for access in order to lessen the digital divide felt everywhere in the world, not just Canada.

Daniel also made a great point in his blog this week: “Some affluent people thus think by simply dumping the highest tech in the poorest places in society, inequality will be solved.”  This will not solve our problem when there is no education to help those educators or students use the technology and unlock its potential for the classroom and for their future.  If we are going to increase technology use in the classroom, we need to also increase the professional development and resources for teachers to USE the technology as well.

UNRWA_Gaza5(2).jpgI think it is super important that if we are going to increase technology and use programs like One Laptop Per Child, they need to be used appropriately in order to avoid digital colonialism which is what Amy and Rakan hinted at in their opening video.  It’s a very thin line between introducing and advancing a third world country and pushing Western beliefs on an already established society.  For example, in this article, Facebook is offering free internet to places with low economic status but with a catch.

The following statement is from ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users, and can definitely be considered a negative for what should be a positive movement towards digital inclusion:

“Free Basics is a Facebook-developed mobile app that gives users access to a small selection of data-light websites and services. The websites are stripped of photos and videos and can be browsed without paying for mobile data.

Facebook sees this as an “on-ramp” to using the open internet: by introducing people to a taster of the internet, they will see the value in paying for data, which in turn brings more people online and can help improve their lives.”

The catch is that they cannot access all the internet, only a few select sites and they need to pay more for more access.  This in my opinion does not create equity, but increases the divide showing “you can afford this” or “you can’t afford this.”  This idea is also restricting language, with the majority options being only in English, and if that’s not a Westernized view/Digital Colonialism, then I don’t know what is!

Dhanaraj “Thakur believes a better solution would be to give low-income groups a limited amount of free data to access the open web” and I agree.  Why not?  What is the harm?  Unless the corporations in charge have a hidden agenda behind enabling these communities with a more Western view.

Another solution to the idea of making education more accessible is Open Education Resources (OERs), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Virtual Classrooms.  Having these types of resources online have created a lot of opportunity for remote classrooms and cities.  They may not have the resources physically, but they can access the information online ending the digital divide.

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Via Flickr

The article, Analysis: How OER Is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs to the Arctic shows how students and classrooms in Kotzebue, Alaska are able to still access high-quality materials within budget cuts and limited resources. Layla Bonnot says, “With OER, districts can adapt content to meet their local needs, maximize education budgets, and ensure access to resources and educational rigor. By being able to serve all students — whatever their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income — OER supports the goal of educational equity.”

Of course, there are still other down-sides that are creating unequitable circumstances like the ideas of gender and racial bias online, and that AI could possibly be racist and learning its racist behaviours from humans, but I hope that we are moving in a positive direction away from these ideas.  Lizzie O’Shea stated in her article that technology’s biases are not bad necessarily, as long as we recognize them as such and move towards making these racial and gender roles more neutral.

0447f-thinkstockphotos-179079064O’Shea said,  “To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past.  We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.  But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.”

And after listening to both sides of the debate, I couldn’t agree more.  We are imperfect, so our tech is imperfect too.  As long as we recognize our faults, and are trying to work towards solutions, then I think we are accomplishing something.  Is technology creating equity in society?  In some cases yes, and in some cases no.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it is becoming a more crucial part of life and should be demanded by all of society.  It has huge potential to create equity in all walks of life, but it is how we go about making sure it is accessible, fair, and neutral to everyone that is the most important part.

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Social Media – An Outlet for Our Children

When I began this week, I stood firmly on the agree side when the question was asked, “Is social media ruining childhood?”  Of course, social media is ruining childhood!  How couldn’t it be?  Why do I not see children gathering outside?  Playing hopscotch?  Skipping?  Shooting hoops?  Riding bikes with their friends?  Using their imagination to build forts?  Because, social media controls their lives.

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Click here for 25 things you don’t see anymore; and maybe some nostalgia too!

They no longer need to go find their friends, play these games, or use their imagination the way I did growing up, because they have a device that connects them to their friends, their device has the games, and their device allows them to be creative in other ways.  Is this entirely a bad thing?  No, I don’t think it is.

After the debate this week, I had many thoughts on the topic.  I thought both sides of the debate did a fantastic job: Melinda, Allysa and Lori has some excellent points that made me nod my head and solidified my idea that social media is ruining childhood.  They discussed the rise in 6938edd2cd26f267f8ff91f4310f3a1eanxiety, and cyber-bullying online, as well as the pressure kids feel to fit in, and how many of these problems are because children ignore the age restrictions, and parents are left in the dark – oblivious, or conscious of these decisions.

The disagree side is what started to sway me: Erin, Brooke and Daniel made some strong arguments towards the positives of social media, including the idea that it strengthens children’s relationships, creates a community, and they become more aware than children of past generations.

9.gifAfter both of these arguments, my original ideas were up in the air.  I think the biggest difficulty for me was that I was stuck on the nostalgic idea of what my own childhood was like and that kids today were missing out!  There was so much good before technology took over and I remember creating my own fun in the backyard, riding my bike all over town to meet up with friends, the new addition of MSN to my teenage years, and no social media.  I grew up in the nineties and I am in awe at how fast things changed.  I think I was stuck in the idea that I had the best childhood, so of course social media is ruining now-a-days children’s childhood because they are having such different experiences than I did 20 years ago.

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Once I got past the idea that children today aren’t missing out; their childhood is just different with different opportunities and different challenges.  I think yes, there are a lot of potential risks of over-using social media, and the risk of addiction for teens is very real.  I had a couple of grade nines almost cry when I took their phones away for one day for a health experiment.  Cyber-bullying is also a very real concern, and it is something I deal with daily in a high school setting.  Unfortunately, cyber-bullying is worse than just bullying because it can follow a child home, and follows them every time they log online.  This infograph does an excellent job of explaining just how prominent cyber-bullying is, and the different ways it is visible to teens.

However, as the disagree team pointed out, the online world can also be a great place for community development and support.  When I am teaching about mental health, I always suggest using online resources to find supports if students are struggling but after Monday, it clicked.  Students develop their own communities and support groups online social-media-community-cohesionfor isolation, bullying, gender inequality, racism, etc.  and this is awesome!!  Another point the disagree team made was that students are able to explore their interests and ideas online, making connections to other students all over the world who are like-minded individuals and all of a sudden, they aren’t alone anymore and I think that is fantastic.  Of course, there are risks associated with this idea, like pedophiles profiling and “cat-fishing” young children into meeting up or earning trust to have children partake in risky behavior, however, this is where education is key.  Parents also need to be aware of the behavior of their children and not let them loose online.  Teach them and discuss social media etiquette.

The article, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families had some great tips specifically for pediatricians to help parents talk to their children about social media:

  1. Advise parents to talk to their children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face.
  2. Advise parents to work on their own participation gap in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their youngsters are using.
  3. Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan that involves regular family meetings to discuss online topics and checks of privacy settings and online profiles for inappropriate posts. The emphasis should be on citizenship and healthy behavior and not punitive action, unless truly warranted.
  4. Discuss with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active participation and communication, as opposed to remote monitoring with a “net-nanny” program (software used to monitor the Internet in the absence of parents)

The real goal is to help students develop a positive online identity and understand the consequences of posting risky photos or videos online.  Just because you do something when you are young, means it will follow you online for the rest of your lives.  They need to understand that the things they say and do on social media is permanent and can harm their futures.  I think this is also why, as teachers, we need to teach healthy digital citizenship to children from a young age, so that when they reach adolescence, they are better equipped to navigate this online world.

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On top of this, students are more aware of their country, and the world they live in.  Having instant connection to social media and news, things spread fast and they are on top of it.  Often students are advocating for causes, researching bias of opinion and using social networking sites to trend important issues like #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #prayfordouglas, or even something like #humboldtstrong.  These kids have power at their finger tips, and once they realize it, things could start happening for our future, and our planet.  The Learning Network says, “We’ve become the most tolerant and conscious generation to date, with 76 percent of Gen Zers concerned about humanity’s influence on the Earth and 60 percent hoping the job they choose impacts the world.”  I think a large part of this is due to social media, in creating an open dialogue for a lot of these issues, like climate change, racism, gender equality, political campaigns, mental health awareness, and so many more.  People are able to connect with others online, and start discussions that matter, whereas in the past, we have been limited to the beliefs of the people around us physically.

What-children-need-most-1.jpgI think Melinda had a great point, when she said in her blog, “There needs to be a balance, kids need to be kids and play outside, rough house, interact, etc. They don’t need to have 24/7 screen time, they need to be active and imaginative.”  And to sum up, I think social media can be a great outlet for children, but it is not the only outlet.  Like Melinda said, kids still need to be kids, explore, and develop in the real world, be active and engaged, but I think there are a lot of great things we can expect from this generation as they become more tolerant, and engaged in the issues occurring in our world.

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Openness In Education Reality Check

This week’s debate really made me think.  I started somewhere in the middle; on one side, sharing is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn important practices, share their accomplishments, and interact with other like-minded people around the globe.  On the other hand, sharing can create a lot of issues with privacy, as well as cyber-bullying and consent to use specific photos posted online. This dynamic created a lot of debate in our class this week, and honestly a lot of debate in my own head.  g

Whenever the ideas of privacy laws and practices come up, it can be a very controversial and scary idea. What if what we post is wrong? What if we get in trouble? Can I lose my job for this? There are no shortage of horror stories out there to scare teachers into 6.gifnever posting a single thing on the internet again; class or non-class related.  I too, often think and rethink what I share online about my students, which to be honest is very limited. Beyond team, athletic, and grad photos, I hardly post about my students online. Everything remains nameless and it is almost always acelebration of accomplishments.

I think the biggest struggle I had with this week’s debate was a lot of the focus was on the
elementary stand-point and teaching young students how to be responsible online.  What should you post?  What shouldn’t you post?  A lot of conversations circled around the idea of parents being super involved with their child’s tech use and also the teacher helicopter-parent-main-imageoverseeing the practices. Seesaw, I’ve learned, is a great tool to engage parents and create important conversations with kids at home.  This technology is awesome because it can often bridge the gap between school and home life.  However, there is the down side of over-involvement of parents and the idea of “helicoptering.”  In fact, Robyn Treyvaud states in her article, Dangers of Posting Pictures Online, that “more than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media,” which goes beyond the idea of hovering or helicoptering.  I know many of my friends are having children right now and seriously, the amount of “baby spam” I see in a day is ridiculous and the consequences can be even more serious!  It’s something I don’t think my generation really understands, making it even more important for the next generation to comprehend!  What parents post, even at a very young age, can affect a child’s mental health later on in life?  It begs the questions, do you want the whole world to see a baby photo of you?

I think both sides of the debate did a fantastic job of making their case!  When it comes to my world in a high school, photos, technology and phones are everywhere.  We even have a school Snapchat and Instagram account run by the Spirit Committee, run by a print screen.pngcouple of awesome teachers!  My students are on their phones constantly; I use Remind 101 to contact students and my athletes for various things like deadlines, practice changes, or just general reminders for the next day.  It allows my students to connect me as well without directly having my phone number. I also use Google Classroom for all the students’ homework, assignments, deadlines, and I also used it for Track and Field this year – creating an online platform for athletes to access permission forms, schedules, dates, and results.  It worked fantastically and never thought twice about using these online platforms with my students. However, everything I use and do online is “private.” I’m not sharing student photos to the internet, not posting on Twitter about our interactive activities, and although I feel my students are safe because of this, maybe I’m not properly preparing them for the online world?

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My Google Classroom!

I feel like it is my responsibility to help teach and guide my students through this online world they have become accustomed to.  I loved Amy’s point this week: “We need to stop
telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students.  Teachers can have an influence.
”  I think especially at the high school
level, students need to be empowered and use technology for good, like Amy said, instead of being the passive “likers” online.

Randi Zuckerberg stated in his article that, “technology and the world around us is evolving so quickly that even children a few years apart may experience two very different forms of childhood.” And I think this couldn’t be more true.  I know my childhood was vastly different than kids today and even looking at my current students.  I graduated high school nine years ago, and THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I think it’s important that we don’t shut down these differences and Online-Worldinstead we embrace them, because if we don’t, they we run the risk of not helping our students be successful in the outside world. Their world is online, and it will continue to be for the rest of their lives.  They need to learn how to adapt and post appropriately online and protect themselves.  It lends itself to the idea that we cannot protect our students by banning the internet or posting pictures online because what is that teaching them?  They will rebel, and in turn post inappropriately online because they were never taught, nor was it modeled for them.

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I think digital literacy and creating a positive digital footprint is incredibly important for students.  What is the first thing their employer will do? Google them. What is the first thing someone just getting to know them will do?  Google them. They need to understand that their online identity will exist online whether they want it to or not. If they do not create it for themselves, and twist it into the story they want to tell, someone else will tell the story for them.  I think once students understand this concept, the rest becomes more simple than we think.

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It becomes about education, about what they want a future spouse, family, employer, etc. to see online. There are many dangers to the online world, but the opportunities and positives far outweigh these negatives.  “Students are, for the most part, growing up in this digital world without any explicit or universally adopted rules about how to behave, and there is little guidance available to adults. As our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred” (EdTek White Paper, 1) and it is our job to help advocate for ourselves and for our students online.  I know after this week, I am going to try to be more involved with their online world and help my students navigate it.  I feel as though it is my responsibility as an educator to do this much for them and prepare them for their future, and their online portfolio that is all their own and no one else’s.

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To Google or Not to Google

Should we focus on teaching things that should be googled?  I still stand by my debate team and say a resounding yes!  For our debate, we decided to focus on three key ideas:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills Without the Aid of Google
  2. Memorization Holds a Key Part in Education and in Life
  3. Google is Hindering Our Ability to Concentrate and Focus

To watch our introduction video, click here!

After the debate, I realized there is even more we could have focused on, including the einsteinidea of “fake news” and our students’ ability to interpret it, and the idea of curiosity as a skill.  I touched on this slightly in my closing statements, but I hold strong on the idea that children and teenagers NEED to be curious!  If they are not curious with their ideas, then where is the creativity?  Where is the innovation?  Where are the skills that they will NEED in the future?  The “agree” team posted a video: Knowledge is Obsolete, so Now What? spoken by Pavan Arora and I do agree with them.  Some knowledge is becoming obsolete, but not all of it is obsolete.  Key math skills, and basic understanding of the English language are incredibly important!  And whether my students believe it or not, they will need to add, subtract, create ratios, convert measurements and be able to do it quickly and will not always have the assistance of their phones.

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Examples of the consequences of bad grammar!

autoWhen it comes to English and writing skills, everyone will need to know how to properly write an email, a cover letter, and important text messages.  You cannot text your boss that you are ill, and send something full of abbreviations and misspellings.

Of course, Pavan’s argument goes beyond this.  He discusses the idea that children of today, will not have jobs that exist today, so how do we educate them so that they are ready?  He states our job is to “teach our children how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge and how to apply knowledge.”  Our group never stated that teachers should not use google or that students should be banned from using it for research.  Our focus was to use it with purpose and not simply answer students questions by saying “google it.”  Students need to use their critical thinking skills first and develop their own opinions before they start accessing the internet and using someone else’s opinion for make their opinion.  Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found.

The same goes for memorization.  Imagine having a conversation with someone who didn’t know the basics of the discussion and everything they had to say, had to come from google.

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These ideas of fact checking have their place, but it is much easier if we teach certain skills and basic understandings so that students CAN apply the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Memorization is the base of the levels so students need some ideas or thinking critically or innovative will not happen easily!

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Students always ask me why we have to study Hamlet.  I’ve thought about it, and is it necessary, no, but is it relevant, absolutely.  I tell my students, what better way to learn than from a story.  There are many life lessons from Hamlet that can be applied to the real world, and probably some irrelevant information as well but sometimes a piece of literature can help a student through a situation or they find a quote that really means something to them, and they hold onto it.  In a world where mental health is a huge concern and we are trying to advocate for it, I show my students Hamlet – a depressed character who has been through a lot (the murder of his father and the marriage of his mother and uncle) voicing how sad he is, and no one listens.  We discuss the importance of listening to each other and helping each other.  He even has soliloquys about dying and wanting to die.  Some of my students can unfortunately relate to that so we discuss the ideas of suicide and how Hamlet really feels right now.  We talk about mental health and the differences between then and now and I would say it’s the most important thing we discuss in my class.  to beAnd you know what, they don’t forget it.  I have students come back and tell me, it is still their favourite Shakespeare play and they still remember the story!  Of course, there are also ideas of following through with your actions and thinking before you act; watching the effect you have on others around you, and many other life lessons that are better experienced through literature than life itself (I mean, I don’t think anyone wants to plot the murder of their uncle and see what consequences follow, so probably better to read about it 😉 )I think Shakespeare also helps interpret language we don’t understand, students have to find meaning in it, and it helps them understand bigger ideas, and see how far our language has really come and it’s awesome to watch!

This example also leads into our third argument about deep-reading and reading for understanding.  Of course, the internet and the process of skimming are valuable skills but so is reading and actually remembering what you read.  I know I struggle to focus on the computer, especially for long articles or even books online.  If I print them; totally different story!  Anyone else??  The idea of reading and understanding is becoming a lost art and I know my students struggle with it.  Lots of them turn to Sparknotes or other websites to tell them what happened in the novel instead of reading it themselves which can be really frustrating as a teacher.  5There is so much more to a piece of writing than just the summary and it can help them become better writers, and critical thinkers if they actually attempt to interpret the writing for themselves.  Even looking at the ideas of themes or choices characters make can help them deeply in terms of their depth of knowledge and understanding of other people.  In Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes an excellent stating, “our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” when we are browsing the internet.  I think he is 100% correct.  I know the “agree” team argued this point stating that it’s a different type of skill we are gaining and I totally agree.  And I think it is excellent that we can skim dozens of articles to find something meaningful to use for our own research but I’m also talking about stories and books and those need to be read to be truly understood.  Deep reading is a valuable skill and one I’m worried we will lose if we don’t continue to make kids read!  What will happen to all the old literature, the beautiful stories, and even our own history if we only skim it in the future?

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So to conclude, I still think there is a place for memorization and facts in the classroom.  There is value in teaching things that can be found on the internet.  Do I think we should erase the internet all together?  NOPE!  It’s not going anywhere and we do need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and be able to navigate the web responsibly and effectively for information.  It all depends on your purpose.  And honestly, if we are teaching students that the first response to a question is to google it, I don’t think we are teaching them correctly.  We should let them be curious, think about the answer, find their own idea, and then turn to the internet because that will have more meaning, they will remember the lesson more, and they will automatically think more deeply and critically about the response they found if it contradicts their own.

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Does Tech Enhance Learning in the Classroom?

To say that technology enhances or does not enhance learning is a complicated question.  We live in the day and age of technology, and as educators, it is our responsibility to teach for the future and that future includes technology.  I think a big part of having technology in the classroom enhances learning.  This year alone, I have found myself relying more and more on it to help my students learn effectively.  For example, with my Calculus class, I was relying heavily on Khan Academy to help supplement my students’ learning.

2It was my first time teaching it, so there was a lot of “learning together” going on.   I was also using graphing calculators and apps to help my students visualize first, and then internalize what certain graphs look like so when it came time for the big exam in May, they wouldn’t even need to look at a calculator to know the behaviors of certain functions.

One of the biggest factors to integrating technology in the classroom that we debated on Monday was cost.  It costs a lot of money to integrate a new set of laptops, or a new program, or a new app.  I’m lucky at Prairie South that we do not have the 1:1 rule that many of the Regina teachers were discussing on Monday.  However, the tech accessibility at Central is limited.  We have three working computer labs, and at this point, they are all

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being used as classrooms for majority of the day so booking into one is nearly impossible!  We also have two sets of chrome books, which are awesome….but slow.  The Wi-Fi is not the most reliable in the school which can render the chrome books almost useless in the hour of time we get to use them.  As a result, I definitely do not use tech in my classroom as frequently as I’d like.

However, I am pro-tech in the classroom as there are so many benefits to using it!  Vawn Himmelsbach at TopHat.com stated these 6 pros to using tech in the classroom:

  • Using technology in the classroom allows you to experiment more in pedagogy and get instant feedback.
  • Technology in the classroom helps ensure full participation.
  • There are countless resources for enhancing education and making learning more fun and effective.
  • Technology can automate a lot of your tedious tasks.
  • With technology in the classroom, your students have instant access to fresh information that can supplement their learning experience.
  • We live in a digital world, and technology is a life skill.
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The last one is the most important one to me.  Knowing that my students live in a world of technology, teaching digital citizenship is the crucial to their success in the bigger world.  With so much access to technology, I love teaching my students how to research properly, how to think critically about what they are reading online, and how to search for things effectively.  I encourage them to use sites like Khan Academy (I actually linked it to my Google Classroom this semester, and used their AP Calculus prep course to help my students study for the exam), SparkNotes and No Fear Shakespeare (for when my students miss a reading or just need more help understanding the language) to help enhance their understanding of course content.

My favourite is being able to teach the teenagers in my classroom those important life lessons when it comes to cellphone usage.  We discussed a lot on Monday about appropriate use of cellphones and how to structure it.  I allow cellphones in my classroom, and I often have students working on projects, connecting to my Google Classroom, or reading on their phones.  However, I am not naïve that they are “only” doing school work.  We discussed the idea of multi-tasking and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for students.

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The fact that I teach high school influences my opinion and I believe that they need to learn how to multi-task effectively because as teachers and adults, we are expected to multi-task daily.  Of course, I reprimand students for being on their cellphones while I am delivering a lesson, but when it comes time to their individual work time, I allow them to figure out a balance that works for them.  As long as they are on task most of the time, cellphones are allowed — otherwise, they lose the privilege.  They need to learn for themselves when is the appropriate and inappropriate times for their usage.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “it seems inevitable that some sort of hand-held wireless device will eventually become part of education systems across the country” in the Maclean’s article: Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction, so why not embrace this change?  If we fight it, what are we really doing?  We are hindering our students’ abilities to be able to use their mini-computers in effective ways, rather than as just a social connection tool.  Would you not rather teach students about all the tools and information that is out there and give them access, as well as teach them how to effectively use it to create something big?

Thinking_Face_Emoji_largeStudents learn from teachers more effectively and will remember a story, or an experience much more than something they read once on a device.  So why wouldn’t you want to us this knowledge and power to teach students the “how-to”, the “why”, and teach them to ask questions about the tech world and what they see, and the social do’s and don’ts of society, instead of leaving them to discover it on their own?

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The Beginning of My New Sewing Career

It all started with an idea, and a need to be able to sew.  I knew this skill would serve me later in life and come in handy, then I remembered a pin I made back in my early university days to make a t-shirt quilt and there it was: my brilliant idea for a learning project and I couldn’t have been more excited!!

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I started off by testing out my hand-sewing skills and after a few trial and errors and re-watching a couple of videos, I felt like I had the hang of it.  To begin, I know I was reliant on my mother for reassurance because as noted in other blogs, I am a slight perfectionist…I crave perfection and the idea that I can learn from making mistakes is absurd.  If I make mistakes often enough, I will quit.  It’s been my nature from a young age, and this project really challenged me to be okay with making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.  Beginning with hand-sewing was a slow and confidence building technique I needed to start this massive project!  The great thing about hand-sewing was it was easy to fix mistakes and redo stitches.  I was able to do this quite a few times until I felt like I had gained a comfortable understanding of threading a needle, making a stitch, and sewing buttons.

IMG_2034Then came the real test.  I began my quilting process.  I did not expect there to be as many steps as there were and beginning on the sewing machine was terrifying and infuriating.  I know when I get frustrated, I need to step away.  The sewing machine was frustrating and annoying to figure out, but with some help from Youtube and my mother, I got the hang of the ancient machine.  What I don’t think I mentioned in my blogging was that I tapped into my school resources and borrowed a sewing machine from the school.  SO MUCH EASIER!!!  I am so grateful l did this, as I am confident my quilt would not have turned out as nicely and I would have ran into a lot more problems and would have needed to troubleshoot a lot more.

I had to select my shirts, and then cut them all, which was again super time-consuming.  It was at this point in the project that I was questioning my idea and questioning whether I would have enough time to finish.  I used my grandma’s tools and advice for cutting and interfacing the t-shirts.  In this, I also learned that I like to take a lot of different ideas for how to accomplish a task, and work it into something that makes sense to me.  I received advice from my grandma, ladies at the quilt shop, and the internet.  From these sources, I combined methods to complete my quilt in a way that made the most sense to me.  Having advice from so many sources could get confusing, but I also enjoyed having different options and ideas for how to complete this quilt successfully.

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When I was cutting the t-shirts, I struggled at first with being perfect once again.  Knowing what I know now, the edges DO NOT MATTER!  I could have saved a lot of time as most of the edges end up as ruffles in my quilt.  I also would have sewed the interfacing on first and then cut!! Even when I did make mistakes cutting, I kept going and convinced myself that it would all work out in the end.  By the time I started cutting the flannel, I was set!  I persevered, and this is not something that I would normally do, but this project pushed me to just keep going and figure out how to fix the mistakes I made. 

IMG_2161Once the cutting was finished, I feared making mistakes on the sewing.  I pinned my flannel to my t-shirts, and I began sewing.  It wasn’t even that bad!  Again, I needed reassurance that I was doing okay and my mother was a great support to answer every call or she was there just to make sure.  This support and reassurance was key to my success because I probably would have struggled more or even questioned my methods has she not been there.  I found having a person to directly talk to, bounce ideas off of, and reassure my work an incredible resource and helpful for the success of the project.  It wasn’t a constant, “Am I doing this right?” but a gentle “good work” which is what everyone needs on occasion.

Once the individual squares were cut, the quilt flew together and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it turned out!  It was difficult to sew together because it was so thick but I now I have the coziest quilt to curl up with at night!

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I learned a lot about my learning style in this process.  I found out that this is not relaxing at all, and until I gain more experience, I will not find it relaxing.  The most stressful part of the project was thinking I would screw up and upon thinking more

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Lily’s Quilts

about it, I figured out why.  I was working with t-shirts, but not just any t-shirts.  These shirts hold a lot of meaning, and memories for me.  If I screwed up, the shirt and the memory was gone.  This was a high pressure project because it was SO meaningful for me.  I’m grateful I took the risk, but I feel that if I was using regular material, I would have been more relaxed with making mistakes and not as rigid.  I learned that I am an independent learner, and I enjoy things I can do on my own that give my brain a break from a stressful day of teaching, as well as challenge me in other ways.  It was nice to break routine, and make time to learn a new skill.  Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I learned a lot about sewing and about myself as a learner!

If you’d like to see the whole thing unfold, here is the link to my project! Until next time!  Thanks for stopping by!

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My Summary of Learning

Here is my finished Summary of Learning Project!  It was a lot more work than anticipated, but I only ran into a couple of hiccups in the process! I used Adobe Spark, and I really liked the simplistic layout and the ease to record. My laptop mic wasn’t working the greatest, which causes a lot of re-records so it was nice to be able to do it over and over again until I was satisfied with the slide! The only thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t place a lot of imagery on the slides unless I created the images myself. The download speed took awhile but that could have easily been my connection.  Anyways, here it is!
Enjoy my video and I’ll see you all on Tuesday! 🙂

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I’m DONE Sewing!!

there-done-yay-2016-the-aukuard-yeti-doesnt-it-feel-10405833I finally finished!  Sewing that is…with the machine!  My quilt is all put together and I am so so happy with the results.  I ran into a few problems finishing it up, but nothing new.  Mostly, my needle kept unthreading and my lines weren’t lining up as I had to sew my rows back to back.  It was frustrating to see it not be perfect lines when I finished a row, and I need to remind myself that this is my first project, it’s a huge project, and I have room for error since my seams will be hidden by the extra material.

IMG_2209All said and done, I’m incredibly happy with the results and now I only have to complete it by hand stitching all the corners!  Because there is so much material in the corners of my t-shirts, I cannot sew over top so I have holes in the corners.  Not a bad thing, as I made sure to reverse stitch on either sides but if I accidentally put my toe or finger through the quilt, it could tear and I don’t want that!  I will need to hand stitch and knot the corners to make it stronger.  Then wash it three or four times and I will have a completely finished t-shirt rag quilt!!

 

I’ve learned so much throughout this project, especially about myself and what I need in order to learn.  I need time (chucks of it), and I need to do whatever it is in a way that makes sense logically to me, but I also need reassurance and quick feedback to make sure I’m actually on the right track.  I learn well on my own, and I learn by example.  It’s very interesting to me that I learn this way because I have always thought of myself as a “drill and practice” type of learner, so to find out that I actually am also a “visual” learner adds a cool dynamic to my learning style.  Did you guys learn anything interesting about yourselves during this process?  I find I learn completely differently/more dynamically now, but more to come about that next post!

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Formative Formative Formative!

I decided to take a closer look at Formative and I was impressed.  Going in, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but it is very similar to Socrative.  It is a formative assessment tool for teachers to help track data, give quick assessments, get real-time results and track student growth.  It can be used for any subject, and there are a variety of different types of questions you can create.  This was my favourite part!!  So many times, teachers are limited to multiple choice for online assessments and this tool really pushes the

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boundaries for what is offered.  You can create questions as well as upload existing documents, PDFs, or questions you’ve already made (no reinventing the wheel here!).  I think the thing I like most about this tool is that you can track and see the student data live.  There is a video that explains the process very well, and you can even give students hints, and give them feedback as they are working.  There is a ton of potential using Formative and the best part….it syncs with Google Classroom!!!!  I’ve been really thinking about moving from a paper and pencil classroom, to a more online and paperless environment, and I think this tool may help me get there.  I have also struggled with getting students to buy into my Google Classroom.  I post all notes, assignments, and due dates/exam dates on it, but I can’t get EVERY student on it.  They reject it or are too lazy to figure out how to access it and I think this tool would help me get the rest of them on board.  They will need their log-ins and if the two systems are linked then I am set!

Continuing, I think this is a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom because you can see real data, in real time!  It is quick to make, easy to integrate (as most students now have a device) and students don’t even NEED a log in; just a code for your assessment.  If you’re feeling brave and want to give my Calculus problem, a try here is the link and the code is: LSPPBN. I think it would be an effective entrance/exit slip assessment that I would be able to assign as homework or get students to do on their way out the door.  It’s flexible and provides many different opportunities for learning, and answering.  There is even Math Tools available!!  It even could have the potential to link to the outcomes of our curriculum, as it is already linked to Alberta’s.

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One thing I didn’t like was that I could assign math problems…but getting students to write out and show their work on a screen would be difficult as many of them would rather just do it on paper and I agree with them.  Showing their work on a screen is tedious and unnecessary, and unless it is a quick question, students would not benefit from the technology (so multiple choice is my limit in most cases).  I also loved that I would be able to see my students’ responses in real time,

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BUT what time?  When am I ever sitting at a computer or in from of a screen while my students are working?  Or working on phones?  It is a great asset to the tool, but not beneficial to me, as I would almost never be just sitting at my computer watching their progress on a screen.  It would be nice!  But it is unrealistic for me.  Does anyone think it would benefit them more?

The potential is great for short assessments where teachers are checking for understanding before, during or after a lesson.  In math, it is limited, and it all depends on the types of questions the teacher has in mind to ask.  Some things are better left for pen and paper, while others could definitely be used by Formative.  In class, we discussed Kahoot and I love it, but it makes everything and every question a competition.  This tool is the same, but takes away the competition and puts the focus on learning the content.  I like that!  Again, this is a tool used for formative assessment so it would make sense that full length exams should not be created in this format.  It’s possible, but then as a teacher, you need to be specific on expectations and guidelines for pulling up other resources while working.  There is a lot of monitoring that would be downloadnecessary for this to work properly, but I think with enough practice and patience, this tool could be a huge asset to a classroom.

What do you guys think?  Would you use this tool in your classrooms or have you?  What kind of questions would you ask?  Are the specific subjects you would use it with or have?

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I Can See The Finish Line!

This week, I was on a roll!  I completely finished sewing all my individual squares!  I was

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super excited and with only a couple of hiccups between forgetting to put the foot down before sewing, forgetting to reverse stitch, and having my needle unthread…all super frustrating and tedious tasks but once I started going, I was in a rhythm and it was actually quite relaxing after my insane week of student-led conferences and planning.  Once I finished my squares, I was very relieved and thinking, “I’m actually going to finish this blanket!”

Then came the hard part…figuring out how to put all those squares together!  I revisited a couple of my quilting blogs for some advice and guidance.  I figured out that the IMG_2190absolute easiest way to get things fitted together was to start by sewing my rows together, individually.  This task was actually easier than I thought as I am creating a ruffle quilt.  That means messy seams, and mistakes are allowed, and I don’t need to worry about being perfect.  I laid out my row, and then took two shirts and placed them back to back to sew the seam.  This way, the seam would be in the front of the shirts, and once  I’m finished it SHOULD ruffle after I wash it a couple of times.  My only concern is that my ruffles are too big.  I think I want them smaller, but this also means I need to sit down and CUT (that dreaded word) all the shirt seams down.  Right now, I have zero patience for that, so I will decide that later on.  I continued, connecting the row of shirts together to get a product like this!  I’m super happy with the way it looks right now!

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My first row done!!

Once my rows were connected (I should mention, I only did three), I needed assistance to figure out how to sew it together.  Mom to the rescue!  We sat down and thought through some options.  This video also really helped us both visualize how it was going to work! The best one was to do essentially the same thing as I did with the rows, but I would need to skip the part where four shirts meet because I would lose my ruffle and the material is wayyyyy to thick to sew through.  We began by folding two rows over back-to-back and sewed to the end of the first shirt, making sure to back-stitch as far as it would go, then pulling the shirt out, and starting on the other side, again making sure to get as far back as possible to avoid holes!  I may need to go in an hand-stitch the corners but we will see how it holds up.  Overall, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought but it was more difficult to sew straight seams as the farther I went, the more material I had, and the heavier the quilt got.  All said and done, I finished and sewed three rows together!  I’ll hopefully finish the rest up this week and I will have a finished quilt!!! 🙂

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HALFWAY!!!
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Sharing is Caring

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve really shared to my best capability as a young, millennial could.  I have all the knowledge, and the tools and yet I don’t feel like my lessons or ideas are valuable enough to share or for someone else to use in the online world.  This is funny, because I don’t hesitate to hand over lesson plans, ideas, binders, or

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USB sticks of information to fellow teachers in my building.  If there is ever a need, I oblige and give any of my colleagues what they need, in hopes that one day the favour will be returned if I ever need it.  In my short 5 year career, I’ve taught a whopping 18 different curriculums at a high school level.  I know, in my earlier years, teachers handed me lots of resources and now it’s my turn to help some young, stressed out teacher play the part.  In Sharing: The Moral Imperative, Dean Shareski talks about how it is our responsibility to share these resources not just with our colleagues in the building, but with the world and I totally agree.  I think that main reason I haven’t, is because I’ve never actually thought about it!  I should.  I’ve had many compliments on my plans and curriculum.  I’ve made a bunch of “original” projects that would and could be useful to many teachers, especially in Saskatchewan.

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We discussed in class one night about who owns our lesson plans?  Us?  Or the division?  In some cases, it is the division, but I know in Prairie South, sharing is encouraged and I don’t think I would ever be reprimanded for sharing resources online via Twitter or my blog.  I think my personal barriers is thinking that my work will not be of benefit to others, even though I’m sure this is not the case.  As Dani stated in her vlog, she didn’t think her post would be noticed even though she should have known better.  I feel the same way.  I think I get caught up in the idea that the internet is SO big, how would my tiny footprint, make a difference.  I also think I haven’t shared online because in my busy day, posting an assignment or idea to Twitter seems irrelevant and like more work sometimes.  It’s super quick and easy, but it’s just not something I consciously think about on a day-to-day basis.

The benefits to sharing work and collaborating online are incredible!  Dean discusses a few examples in his video and the one that stood out to me the most was Dan Meyer’s Math Stories.  He put over 18 hours of work into one lesson.  ONE. And he felt validated by it because he shared it and had over 6, 000 people download and use it within a couple of weeks.  I think as educators, we get stuck in our bubble and in reality, there is SO much information out there that can help ease the stress and pressure on teachers to 3590412-quotes-about-teacher-collaborationbe innovative.  If teachers learn how to use the information, filter through resources and had time to collaborate together, I think there would be a lot more sharing going on.  Teachers need some professional development and education geared toward how to share, why it’s so important, and the benefits that can ensue.  I think that the younger generation of teachers is a lot more equipped to help this movement become a reality, however I think there needs to be support by divisions and maybe even time in a day, week, or month to collaborate with others in their buildings to help develop a sharing network for teachers.  The movement needs to begin small, and with an implementation like that, I think it would be possible to create a culture of collaboration.

Sharing students work is another story.  I think it is great to get their ideas out there and

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amazing things can happen.  Students can learn more authentically and understand how to navigate social networking sites and be able to filter through information.  I’m starting a project with my ELA B30 class as we begin Hamlet.  In the past, I’ve struggled to make it authentic and get them to really buy in.  I created an assignment after browsing a few websites on making Hamlet relevant.  I decided to use social media to help them relate to the characters (with some motivation from this class).  I want them engaged so I’ve decided to get them to create character profiles for the whole play.  They have the option of doing it alone or in groups and they have the option to interact with each other online as characters or as an omnipresent narrator. Here’s the link to the assignment (also my first attempt at sharing my work online): http://bit.ly/2AYEYJO. I’m pretty proud of this assignment already and I think the students are already engaged with it as I had two new Instagram followers (Hamlet characters) yesterday immediately following me handing it out!  I will keep you posted as we progress through the play and I hope to actually share some of their posts if they are good! Of course, I’d love to know what you think of the assignment? Maybe a fellow Senior English teacher like Kelsie could chime in?  Anything I could tweak?  And what do you think would get teachers more involved in openly sharing resources online?

 

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And the Sewing Begins!

I DID IT!  I started sewing!  To say I was nervous was an understatement but I persevered!  I began by winding my bobbin again with black thread, and then threading the machine.  This was much easier than the last time I did it and needed no assistance via videos!  I was proud (proof I’ve actually learned something in this)!  After finishing the cutting stage, I needed to pin all my shirts and material together – shirt, black flannel, plaid flannel.  The goal was to purposely mismatch the flannel pieces so that it doesn’t HAVE to be perfect when I sew it together.  If it is purposely mismatched, then less mistakes can be made!

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I finished cutting.  Now I had to pin!  Thank goodness, my mom showed up to help!!

However, as I began the sewing process, it began clear that it didn’t matter if I tried to mismatch them or not, the plaid is square and it matches anyways.  Just the colours of the lines don’t line up and I am fine with that!  I think it creates character, and I really did not feel like attempting to line up the plaid in a way that matched on the whole quilt.  That would take much too much patience, planning, and perfectionism for this girl!

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After sewing together 3 rows of squares and realizing the pattern on the back with almost always line up despite my effort to have them not line up…

So on I went, pinning my squares together.  After a couple, my mother showed up to assist me in the process and to hang out with me while I sewed.  She is just as interested in this project as I am at this point.  My mom helped me pin the shirts to the flannel and after a while, we fell into a pattern of her pinning the shirts together, while I sewed the squares.  I am actually impressed with how easily I managed this week.  I watched this video for a refresher on using the sewing machine and to help me sew the corners, and then I was set!  I have used a sewing machine before, so I understood how the whole thing works, so I just needed a little reminder on the basics.  I knew I needed to create 1-inch seams (as decided previously) around my shirts, so I had a lot of room for error.  It was nice to have that reassurance, and after the first couple of shirts, I was rolling.  Sewing, pulling out pins as I went, lifting the foot, making sure the needle stayed in, turning my material, and continuing to sew.  My lines were even straight thanks to my painter’s tape I had placed on the machine to keep me in line!

I managed to get through three rows of shirts rather quickly, thanks to my mom’s help of IMG_2167pinning the shirts!  I hope to finish the other three rows this week and then begin the real task of sewing it all together!!  I’ll have to check out some resources for how to sew the seams together, without going over the ruffles I’ve created.  I might also have to trim the edges of my squares…I don’t know if I want 1-inch ruffles all the way along the quilt yet or not, so that will be this week’s task!

What do you think?  Should I keep 1-inch ruffles or downsize?  Keep in mind, this means more cutting for me…

 

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AIM – OER for Higher Education

This week, we were charged with the task of evaluating an OER (open education resource) and I chose the American Institute of Mathematics since I have been teaching Calculus for the first time this year!  I wanted to check it out and see if there are any resources or lessons that could help me on my way to building my curriculum.  I was slightly disappointed by what I found.  To begin, the homepage is wordy and heavy texted.  There are limited pictures and seems more like a mathematician’s website than a teacher resource (which is what I was hoping for)!

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Homepage of AIM

I did watch a pretty cool video about how mathematicians are working with strawberry farmers to create an optimal profit which could be used to supplement a lesson of sorts, but there weren’t really any teacher resources on the homepage.

I began checking out some of the other pages and links and although easy to navigate, there aren’t a lot of resources for middle years or high school students.  There is a whole page dedicated to Workshops and a Problems List, however the problems are far above my students’ head as well as my own.  It’s definitely a well-organized site but more for a higher level of education than what I currently teach, and as I moved on, I found what I was looking for: the Online Textbook Initiative!

Our Calculus textbook was brand new when I was in high school (8 years ago) and it is STILL being used.  A new resource would be awesome for my students so I checked them out and was pleasantly surprised.  There is an evaluation criteria and it even gives information about the textbook: exercises, solutions, etc.  There is a plethora of textbooks to choose from for a variety of different courses and material and although I didn’t look at every one, they do seem to be of high-quality and focused on university course material.  This is again, above my level of teaching but might be a good place to check out for my AP course next semester!

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So although it is a high-quality website with a TON of resources, workshops, and problems, it is mainly a university website which is too bad because I was really excited to find some new resources for my students.  I’m sure if I weed through some of it enough, I’ll be able to some examples, and problems for my students to use.  But, I was disappointed in the text heavy layout of the website and pages as it makes it much more difficult to read and decipher.  The language is definitely for those who understand mathematics and teach it at a much higher level than me.  For high school or lower, it would not be very user friendly if you do not “get” the math language!  I’m sure it would be a useful website for mathematicians, and university students, especially in terms of finding some free textbooks to use instead of paying the big bucks for them!

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And I thought I was done cutting…

I’m back from Fabricland and sadly, it was more disappointing than anticipated.  First of all, I walked into the huge store expecting to find a plethora of flannel fabric, to which I found only a couple of racks.  I was disappointed in the variety, and I really didn’t find anything I really liked.  Luckily, I had gone to Quilter’s Haven in Moose Jaw first, just to check out the patterns there, and to my surprise, there were more that I liked there!  But since I am 1) a woman and insist on window shopping everywhere before purchasing, and 2) because I was already planning a trip to Regina, I decided I would test my luck at Fabricland before settling on the beautiful pink and grey plaid I found at Quilter’s Haven.  I also needed to find another colour of flannel to go in between my t-shirt and the backing, to which I settled on black.  (I’d also like to point out that the prices in Moose Jaw were cheaper!)

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Via Tenor

So now that I have my t-shirt squares cut and interfaced, and the flannel bought, it was time begin the real fun!  The kind lady who helped me in the store, helped me measure out how much I would need and gave me instructions to wash the flannel pieces first separately as I had two different colours.  Then I had to dry them and check the dryer every 15 minutes or so because there would be so much lint in the lint catcher as well as the dryer.  She was not wrong.  So washed and dried, I was ready to start sewing — except I decided in my last blog post, I would be sewing one t-shirt to my two pieces of flannel IMG_2149first, then sew all of my squares together to make my quilt.  I followed this blog for some guidance on sewing it all together.  I like the idea of making an X on the squares, but I’m not sure if I want that pattern across my t-shirts.  However, it was nice to see a visual of how to sew the rows and squares together.  This method also means I had to measure and cut all my flannel squares now, before starting to sew.  This is where, once again, I realized this is a bigger project than I anticipated.  So a night of cutting 30 black squares and 30 plaid squares began.  I started with strips and then cut those strips into squares making two at a time so it really only took a couple of hours although, tedious.  I’m not sure who said quilting was relaxing, but this is not my idea of relaxing…

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How I feel about cutting more squares…

But now, I am officially READY to start sewing!  I must say, I am a little nervous to make those first few stitches as Marley was to make those first few cuts.  I don’t want to screw it up and I don’t have any extra material or t-shirts, if I do screw up.  I know once I get started, I will be good to go, but it’s the first square that will be terrifying.  Here’s to hoping my sewing machine is forgiving and I’m not a total disaster!IMG_2153

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Teaching is Stealing

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Image Link Here

Open Education is defined as “education without academic admission requirements and is typically offered online. [It] broadens access to the learning and training traditionally offered through formal education systems” (Wikipedia, 2017).  After watching the videos this week, I’m all for open education and honestly, I think I always have been – I just don’t think I knew it had a real definition or official term.  If I think back to my university days, I was all over Google looking for math help to make it through those tough math courses and I found a lot of help in websites like Khan Academy and Wolfram Alpha.  They were necessary resources for me to survive these courses, as well as help from fellow classmates.

As I moved into my teaching career, it is very rare I make a lesson or project from scratch.  In university, the famous Rick Seaman told us “Teaching is Stealing” and I still believe that to this day.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel if there are perfectly good resources online, or in another teacher’s hands.  I have taken from the web, from websites like Teachers Pay Teachers, and used videos from Khan Academy as well as my new favourite resource, Desmos.  For those of you who don’t know what Desmos is, it’s a FREE online graphing calculator app.  No longer do you need to pay obscene amounts of money for graphing calculators and even better, it’s in colour.  There is also a plethora of teacher-made lesson plans and graphing calculator activities on this app which anyone can access.  I have yet to figure out how to make these activities, but until I do, there are plenty activities there that I can tweak and use for my students.

But back to my point on “Teaching is Stealing;” I think teachers should live by this rule.

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From Everything is a Remix Part 3

As a beginning teacher, I have survived my first few years by asking other teachers for resources for courses they have taught, and in return, I pass on my resources to other teachers new to the career or a course I have taught.  I believe the teaching community motto should be “pay it forward” always!  I can’t tell you how many teachers have asked me for resources and I gladly help however I can, because when I need resources for a new course, there will always be another willing teacher to help me out.  This is where I feel the “Everything is a Remix” theory fits directly into education (and I need to say, this video series was so interesting and informative; my mind was blown many times while watching).  The main purpose of the video series was to break down the barriers of original concepts and make people realize that everything is indeed a remix, even subconsciously.  Everything ever invented, has concepts from other places integrated into it, in order to create the completed puzzle.  Teaching is the same way.  Original ideas are awesome, but in a demanding career, why not remix a resource you find online or from a fellow colleague, instead of spending hours reinventing the wheel only to find someone has already done it?

Copyrights.  According to Kirby Ferguson, “the belief in intellectual property has grown so dominant, it’s pushed the original intent of copyrights and patents out of the public consciousness” (Everything is a Remix, Part 4).  In 1790, the original Copyright Act was intended for the “act for the encouragement of learning” and the Patent Act was to “promote the progress of useful arts.” We have gone so far beyond this, and as humans, we have become selfish.  We are fine with copying Ferguson says, as long as what is being copied is not our own.  There are constant lawsuits over this idea and as teachers, we do need to be aware of the consequences of copying resources online, if there is a copyright infringement.

The idea of open education as a teacher is great, because it gives a plethora of resources that we can freely access without the worry of our school budgets.  However, we do need to be aware of where we “steal” things from.  The idea of the Copyright and Patent Acts was to “better the lives of everyone by incentivising creativity and producing a rich public domain.” (Everything is a Remix, Part 4).  We depend too much on paying for resources, and not enough time taking risks.  The idea is to beat the big companies forcing us to pay too much for ideas that should be for the greater good, our students, as Lawrence Lessig discussed in his Ted Talk, Laws that Choke Creativity when comparing the ideas of BMI’s victory over ASCAP in the music industry.  So, we need to get back to this idea of sharing before it is too late for our society and we all become too selfish and stuck in the idea of personal wealth over common good.

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From Beginner to Intermediate

IMG_1990My project is currently at a stand still until I can get to Regina next weekend for some fabric.  I could have had someone run to Fabricland for me, but I wanted the experience of picking my own fabric and making sure I liked the colour or if there were more colours to choose from.  So, it is perfect that Alec asked us to reflect on our learning projects this week.  So far, I feel that I have learned a lot of new skills when it comes to sewing.  My knowledge in the beginning was incredibly limited.  I barely even knew how to hand stitch something like a button!  I now have the skills to fix my cat’s toys, sew buttons back on to clothing, as well as patch a few holes.  My confidence might not be incredible, but it’s better than it was.  I think a lot of my confidence came from having a person there for immediate support if needed.  I could do most of the hand-stitching on my own, but knowing that I had an inspector there for immediate feedback was a nice support.  I think of Ryan, and his struggle with crocheting – sewing and crocheting from scratch, with little to no experience would be incredibly difficult to learn on your own without anyone to show you the skills needed.  Of course there are plenty of online supports, but having a teacher there in person is very reassuring and helpful, even if you don’t have a lot of questions.

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When I turned to the sewing machine, things got a little tricky, but I have from some great resources to help me along the way to creating my quilt – I was also recently told that “blanket” is a swear word in the quilting world, so I will now refrain from using it as I am apparently making a quilt, not a blanket.  My sewing machine has proofed to be quite finicky so I have opted to use one from my school.  The clothing and sewing teacher at Central has kindly offered me an extra sewing machine to aid me in my sewing adventures.  I think it’s a good call as my grandmother’s is quite old.  A newer machine might be a smarter move right now for my first official project.

IMG_2094My next move is to start sewing the flannel onto my t-shirt squares.  This needs to be done individually, and then I sew the t-shirts in rows, and then sew the rows together.  As I am beginning the stages of actually sewing, I am extra grateful that I do not have to follow a sewing pattern like Marley!  She is brave!! And then once the squares are all sewn together, there will be another stage of sewing which involves sewing the entire back piece onto the quilt.  There are actually two options for this: cut the backing for my quilt into squares and individually sew the back flannel on so that I have a square pattern on both sides of my quilt OR sew an entire back piece onto the outside edges of my quilt and then hand sew stitches into each corner of the t-shirts.  There are 30 t-shirts, and 4 corners per t-shirt.  This method is going to prove to be very time-consuming and profanity inducing I’m sure, so I am leaning towards the first method.  If there are any quilters out there, let me know which method you think would be best!

I feel like I am on track for finishing my quilt before the end of the course.  I know this is not mandatory as we are supposed to be learning a skill, but I know myself, and I know that as my year gets busier with the start of basketball season, I will be less inclined to work on this project, if I do not have the external motivation from my fellow ECI 831 members, so my plan is to have a final product by the end of the course.

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Just Keep Cutting

IMG_2089Picture a rainy Saturday afternoon; most people would like to be curled up on the couch, watching movies, relaxing, reading a book, but not I!  I spent the entirety of my Saturday  cutting t-shirts and interfacing, ironing interfacing onto shirts and then cutting said shirts into 16×16 inch squares.  This process was incredibly draining, tedious, and frustrating.  I must say that although incredibly time-consuming, once a rhythm was established, it became a much easier task.  I will also admit that I definitely enlisted some help this time around as the task would have taken probably double if I have stubbornly admitted to tackling the task all by myself.  My mom came to the rescue, helping me iron the

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My  Little Helper

interfacing, while I sat and cut the shirts into the appropriate sizes.  It was actually enjoyable with her help as I got to catch up with my mom and be productive at the same time.  She was very helpful, and I would honestly has been a great resource up to this point!  It’s been a rather smooth process.

Once I finished cutting out all 30 shirts, I began the real fun part!  Organizing and laying out my pieces.  I was so excited to finally have an image in my head of what it will look like as a finished product!  I laid them all out and then began moving the squares around until I finally settled on my placement.  I may still change a couple of pieces but overall, I like it!  What do you guys think??  Any suggestions!?  My goal was to spread out the brighter coloured ones as well as make sure I had at least one white, black and grey one in a row or in an area so it doesn’t look too dark.

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In the process, I ended up kicking out a couple of shirts and replacing them with shirts I either forgot to cut and really wanted on the quilt, or one shirt that is very awkward to cut, so alas I will need to cut and iron three more shirts! I will end up actually cutting it at the side (under the arm) of the shirt, and placing a patch of the front of the shirt in the middle of the square.

My next task will be buying the flannel of choice for the squares and the backing!  I will probably need to make a trip to Regina to buy the flannel as Moose Jaw only has one store, Quilter’s Haven and I’m not sure on the amount of options they will carry and I will not have time to order some online.  Fabricland perhaps?  Does anyone know any other places to buy fabric in Regina?

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The Golden Rule

This week, we discussed social activism online and whether or not it can be effective.  Is it worthwhile?  I think it is possible for it to be worthwhile and meaningful if the people that are advocating for the cause are invested beyond just social media.  We discussed in class the idea of slackivism.  Wikipedia explains this to be the concept that people believe that are contributing to a cause by simply re-tweeting, sharing or liking a page.  However, sharing or liking something on Facebook, although a great way to create more acknowledgement towards a specific issue, does not solve the issue.  It is a way to share information and give people who actually WANT to create change, a medium to do so.

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Image Via Wikipedia

One excellent example I found was Wael Ghonim: a social activist who used social media to help create the revolution in Egypt in 2011.  Essentially the movement began with the death of Khaled Said, and a picture that was posted and shared relentlessly on social media.  This sparked interest and Ghonim created a Facebook page to support this outrage.  He gathered hundreds of thousands of followers; then realized, it wasn’t enough to just gather online.  They needed to do something.  He asked his users an important question: “Today is the 14th of January. The 25th of January is Police Day. It’s a national holiday. If 100,000 of us take to the streets of Cairo, no one is going to stop us. I wonder if we could do it.” (TED, 2015)  And they did it.  The video goes on to explain the aftermath and the revolution we know today.  I think it is awe-inspiring that something so life-changing began on social media and with one picture.

As educators, I think we do have a responsibility to model active citizenship online, but it can be difficult.  As teachers, we are on the radar all the time.  Anything we say online can be traced, twisted, or interpreted the wrong way and it can affect us, personally and professionally.  The challenge then becomes to advocate professionally and ask ourselves questions before interacting online:

  • “How will this be viewed by people who do not know me?”
  • “How will this be viewed by people that do know me?”
  • “Would I be okay if my students saw this?”
  • “Would I be okay if my colleagues/family saw this?”

Although, it is unfortunate we cannot be as uncensored as other people can be online, are these not questions we consider before speaking out loud?  Why should what we discuss online be different than what we talk about in our classrooms or in our day-to-day lives?  And shouldn’t all people really abide by these “unwritten rules”?  We are taught from a young age to be kind, to listen to other’s opinions, to think before we speak, so why is it that as soon as we are hidden behind a screen and a keyboard that we forget these guidelines apply and become trolls, argumentative or outright rude?  I think the most important thing is that we model our personal beliefs and values and model the

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ideologies that we would be okay with our students, our friends, and our families seeing and modeling too!  After all, that is our job and yes, sometimes it is hard to remain in this mindset in the heat of the moment, but these rules apply to the real world, why shouldn’t they apply to the online one too?

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It’s All Fun and Games Until You Start Cutting…

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Some shirts laid out for my blanket design!

This week was not what I anticipated.  I was going to FINALLY start my real project- the blanket.  However, things did not go how I planned and this is the first time I questioned both my sanity and ambition for starting this HUGE project!  Cutting.  Not as easy or straight forward as I thought.  I’ve had a lifetime of practicing cutting paper and really, how hard could measuring and cutting out a few t-shirts be?  HARD. REAL HARD.  Mostly it’s the process that’s difficult  It’s time consuming, tedious, and requires a lot of patience which as previously stated, I do not have much of.

My week consisted of some more research as to what step to really take next which all began after a conversation with my grandma at Thanksgiving dinner. She told me I could borrow her tools for my little adventure which I was grateful for, but then I got confused.  Don’t I have scissors?  What else do I need?  Turns out, a lot!  A lot included a very fancy cutter called a rotary cutter, measuring boards and this material called interfacing.

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The Materials (Courtesy  of Grandma)

Welp, to Google I go!  I had to do some research about this new information.  Turns out the rotary cutter would actually make life much easier as I am left-handed and struggle significantly with scissors.  It makes incredibly precise cuts and I realized I would need to cut to specific dimensions, which I chose as 14 inches by 14 inches for simplicity but also sizing.  Squares are nicer to work with, and the large squares both fit all my t-shirt designs and gives me more room for error (which at this point is very probable).  So the measuring boards were to be used to lay out the t-shirts and to cut on, and to make sure the rotary cutter had a straight line to follow!  Simple so far, but then there was this mysterious stuff called interfacing.  Apparently, it restricts stretching of material which is necessary for a t-shirt blanket as t-shirts are quite stretchy so this is supposed to make things easier for me. Supposed to being the key word.  You have to iron this stuff onto the back of the t-shirt before you can sew it all together.  So, I have to cut and iron on this interfacing to the middle of my design of my t-shirt without actually looking at the design.  Urg.

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The first cut is the hardest…

This was the beginning of a long night.  Cutting the interfacing was simple, (just 14″x14″ squares) but placing them in the middle of the design was much more difficult.  It took a lot of patience and meticulous placement.  Then came the actual cutting of the t-shirts of which there are 30…

The following two hours consisted of cutting the interfacing, ironing it onto the back of the shirt, measuring a perfect square on the front of the shirt, and then cutting the shirt out on the cutting board.  I got 8 shirts cut to my dismay.  The first one was shaky and not as straight as it should have been, and I also learned you can’t take shortcuts and cut more than one at a time…(see pictures below). I didn’t expect this part of the process to take such a long time, so I have a lot more cutting to do this week!  And then there is the placement of the shirts to do as well.  This process is going to take a lot longer than anticipated!!  More to come!

 

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Teaching the Truth about Fake News

In today’s day and age, you can’t go a day without hearing some new rumour or supposed news story.  Even real news stories can have a twist of fake-ness to them.  So how does one educate the citizens of tomorrow how to distinguish between real and fake?  Students are bombarded with advertisements, viral videos and countless media outlets on a daily basis.  It is then vitally important to challenge them to be critical about what they read.

One way of doing this, is teaching them the proper way to research.  I often do this in my ELA B30 classes where my students are in charge of researching a global issue via TED.com.  They need to discuss their issue and present relevant information for the class and also come up with viable solutions for this global catastrophe.  I encourage students

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to find something they are passionate about and in most cases they do.  I’ve had topics such as Blackfish, global warming, overpopulation, refugees and war, and poverty.  These are REAL issues and my students gladly teach the class about why we need to act now!  Of course, with these issues comes two very different sides.  So, we discuss how to find credible sources, what types of things to look for in a valid website or post.  We discuss finding said information in more than one place and making sure as Alec Couros said in class, “take the emotions out of the equation.”  When people are revved up about an issue, it is human nature to find information that justifies our way of thinking and not information that challenges it.  Coralee discusses in her blog this week a lot about the Trump government and his accusations  that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is soliciting fake news.  She also makes an excellent point that someone is obviously believing this fake news.  To avoid this myself, I encourage my students to look at both sides.  What are the arguments for?  What are the arguments against?  How can they challenge these points appropriately and rebuttal?  The biggest challenge in teaching my students to think critically is getting them to remove their emotions from the situation.

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Image Via FoxNews

The same works for day to day teachings.  It’s not something I intrinsically do but it’s something that when the opportunity comes up that I take advantage of.  It could be as simple as a rumour they heard at school.  If a student confides in me, I ask them “how do you know it’s true?”  It often gets them to pause and think about the source of

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Via Tenor

information, even if it’s for just a second.  These little teachable moments are what matters the most because it teaches students to not only think for themselves, but it asks them to question the status quo and think about everything that they learn and hear.  In class if a student brings up a question and one I do not know for sure, I ask students to google the answer; but not just one student, a few.  This creates discussion around the answers they find as they criticize each other’s responses.  Whose answer is right?  Are they all right?  Is there a combination that is correct?  What sources did they use?  These lessons are the most important and they aren’t something that can be structured, only molded into a lesson given the right circumstances.

As for myself, I try to read many different sources on a certain topics before deciding on a correct answer.  It is more time consuming but then I can feel confident in the knowledge I am acquiring.  I recently watched “What the Health?” a documentary on617985582 Netflix about the meat and dairy industry in the United States.  What I learned on the documentary was enough to make me give up meat forever.  However, I realized that the story was completely focused on veganism the entire time.  Never bringing up the flaws in its own diet.  After thinking about the documentary a little more, I started analyzing it and discussing it with a few of my friends.  And then my search took me online to a plethora of resources both crediting and discrediting the documentary.  My head kllmwas spinning with information.  In the end, I did not give up meat or dairy because for one, I enjoy both of these things and come on, like I’m going to give up pizza!  This is just one example of debates online and my approach to critically analyzing what I read and see in this world full of information.  It is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, but it just takes practice to cut through the fluff and hopefully find at least a version of the truth you can feel satisfied with!

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Tackling the Sewing Machine – Literally

IMG_2034After my confidence boosting experience involving hand-stitching last week, this week I decided to tackle the basics of the sewing machine.  After perusing the web for some starting points, I decided it would be best to find the actual manual, which I did.  I also found an ancient step-by-step for threading the machine.  Although it probably would have been helpful for someone who understood the terminology of the sewing world, I found it much less helpful.  I’m sure if I had had enough patience, I could have figured out how to do it with this diagram but as I am one of those millennials that have zero patience, I moved on to Youtube where I found an incredibly helpful video with what I deem “normal” language, a step-by-step demonstration and instructions, as well as it was in colour!

I watched the video twice, taking care to check out the similarities and differences of the machines.  I watched it a third time and paused often to complete the steps myself.  Step one was this foreign thing called “winding a bobbin.”  I confess I did not know what a bobbin was before this week.  Continuing to watch the video, I wound the bobbin successfully and here is the evidence.  I thought the process was cool so I decided to take a video of it.

After being mesmerized by the winding, I moved on to step two: threading the machine.  I continued to watch this video and pause when it got to far ahead, backtracking to re-watch certain steps.  I successfully did it!  As it was Thanksgiving, I had the assistance of my mother again.  I was quite proud of getting this far without her aid, and upon inspection she told me that I forgot to thread the actual needle in the machine.  Bummer.  So I sheepishly did that with only a little foul language and then with all her great knowledge, she said I was ready to practice some stitching.  As I began under her instructions of what to do, we found to her dismay the “tension” of the machine was off.  So I got to learn something new again!  This time, with my mother’s assistance.

I checked out some videos and a wikihow on adjusting tension and found out that it is essentially making sure the the thread is being pulled through the material evenly on both sides (meaning the needle and the bobbin).  If this doesn’t happen it looks uneven or like this:

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Image Via Wikihow

Together, I practiced stitching while we simultaneously adjusted several setting on the machine until the stitching looked the same on both sides.  This process involved rewinding the bobbin, re-threading the machine and then trying again.  I now understand why some people really don’t care for this tedious task.  This was a much more difficult process than I anticipated as there is no video or help online to find the “perfect tension.”  It is trial and error for your specific machine and material of choice because every machine is different, and each type of material needs a different tension.

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However, once we did re-thread the machine with some newer thread, the product was much better!  I also got more practice at the dreaded threading of the machine so all was not lost.  The next steps are going to be selecting my t-shirts for my blanket, the material, sizing and layout.  I’m a perfectionist at heart so I am anticipating this will be more difficult than I think!

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Innovation Over Information

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From Hawker Chase

I think my biggest concern about teaching in the digital age is teaching students properly about social media etiquette and making it actually authentic to their learning.  So many teachers feel like it is necessary to teach using technology and social media and end up doing it just for the sake of it.  I want to make sure when I am using it that it is actually authentic to the learning outcomes as well as engaging for them.  Students know when you are doing something just for the sake of doing something so it is important that the learning outcomes match the media you are using.

Another concern I have with teaching in the digital age is the monitoring of the World Wide Web.  If I were to implement blogging or social media in my class, I would be most concerned about what I am exposing my students to.  What happens if their work gets torn apart on the web?  What if it becomes viral?  What if an already emotional student gets more criticism than they can handle? Social media is linked to mental health, so now am I responsible to ensure their mental health remains high because I required them to be exposed?  How do I do that?  Do I need parental permission in order to expose students to a world they already have unfettered access to?

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Click for more on social media and mental health

Along I have my concerns, it is imperative that we teach students about this digital world because they need to be successful.   Pavan Arora stated in his Ted Talk “Knowledge is Obsolete” that “65% of grade school children will have jobs that don’t exist today” (2014).  This means that as educators we have a responsibility to teach students not knowledge, because as Arora pointed out, it is obsolete.  At the touch of a button, you can access any information you need, so why continue to teach route memorization, when the more important skills are critical thinking, creativity, and innovation?

Michael Wesch also made a good point in his Ted Talk, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” when he said that students aren’t learning anything in the classroom, they are learning to listen to authority.  What is that teaching the generation that will one day be in charge of our world?  Everyone has a voice and it is incredibly easy to state your opinion online for the world to see.  But what is more important is teaching students to use this voice in a positive manner and learn how to educate themselves with the internet and its abundance of resources.  Educators need to teach students how to cite information, how to interpret a good source from a bad source, and how to establish their own networks of learning online.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is the direction we are headed and as educators, it will be a lot easier to embrace this change, stop trying to teach information and be the “experts” and also students to find their own passion and creativity so they can become their own type of expert in a field that may not even exist yet.

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Hand Sewing for the Cat

IMG_2001So this week for my learning project, I decided to start with the very basics.  I’m ignoring the sewing machine until I can learn to fend for myself with a needle and thread.  I’m going to be honest, I began this week not even knowing how to thread a needle.  However, I persevered and learned on my own; turns out, it really isn’t very difficult and my clumsy fingers were able to handle this minute task.

My cat, Jax, being the destroyer that he is had ripped a

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The attacked toy in question

seam in his toy and I could no longer allow him to play with it and tear out the stuffing to his dismay.  Originally, I thought, “I’ll take this to my mother and she can fix it!” but with my new task of learning to sew, I took it to her house and said “Mom!  I need a needle and thread and I’m going to fix this!”  I actually watched a video on threading a needle (yes, this is how armature I am) and then also watched a video on fixing a tear with hand sewing.  Both videos were very easy to follow and I am going make sure to check out Stitch My Style for other sewing videos.  She has a lot of cool projects that maybe once I am more versed in this sewing world I can tackle!

My mom was also a great resource as she helped to make sure I actually was completing the stitch properly and actually completing my mission of fixing this cat toy.  I had great success!!  Not the cleanest stitching exactly, but it will last until Jax decides to tear it apart and I can fix it again!

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Messy but Fixed!

Feeling incredibly confident in my new-found stitching, I decided I should try some button work.  I used thread, a needle, an old tea towel and button.  I watched a couple of videos (this one was the best) and had my mom’s assistance waiting on deck but I was successful again!  This may not be as hard as I originally thought!  However, my mother then informed me that the stitching on the back of the button should be neat.  This is what mine looked like….

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Trial 1

…so I cut the button off, and tried again.  This time trying to keep the button straight and my stitching neat and tidy.  This was the second result…

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Trial 2

So far, YouTube has been a great source of videos as I learn much better from following someone else then just reading directions.  My next task will be to tackle the sewing machine and learn the basics for threading the needle and perhaps even just turning it on!  I found a fantastic blog called The DIY Dreamer with a lot of links to other blogs and I think it will be very helpful with the sewing lingo as well as some basic sewing machine tips!  More to come; stay tuned!

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From Contraband to Connections

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From Pinterest

When I was in high school, cellphones were banned from classrooms.  Teachers would take phones away by the dozen, and without batting an eye.  Cellphones were taboo.  They were a privilege and gradually they have gone from being such, to being an essential part of our every day lives.  Cellphones have slowly gone from being disposable to an ingenious way to be in constant contact and communication with one another.  They have gone from being something we took bad photos on, frantically pressing the end button when you accidentally hit the internet browser button or calling mom or dad when you were about to miss curfew, only to lose cell service, to a tool that takes better pictures than a camera, has instant internet access, and endless service to be used to share information with the world.  Now, why wouldn’t we, as educators want to harness a tool like that to teach students about our ever-changing society and world?  What better way to teach them about this life than through a tool that is already at their fingertips, waiting to be explored?

Most teachers shy away from the use of cellphones and social media in the classroom because they hardly understand it themselves.  This uncertainty causes many teachers to ban cellphones in classrooms or to be uncomfortable teaching students about it, because they themselves, don’t understand the material.  Teachers are supposed to be the experts; so how do we teach students about something when they are clearly the expert?  I grew up in the era of the “beginning of the cute flip phone” where Facebook was the newest trend in high school and EVERYONE had it.  For me, social media has been a way of life since my teenage years and so I can relate to my students quite well in terms of the use of social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Kik, etc., because quite frankly I use them daily.  For me, teaching students with technology is a given.  I have a Google Classroom, Class Dojo, and the Remind 101 app on my phone to send out reminders for homework, quizzes, and of course, so students can message me for homework help.  I do this all without batting an eye, but what I do, could cause another teacher to spiral into a panic attack, especially because I give students access to me 24/7 through Remind.  So with this in mind, teaching with social media should be no different, right??

Social Media Logotype Background
Kiev, Ukraine – October 17, 2012 – A logotype collection of well-known social media brand’s printed on paper. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Vimeo, Flickr, Myspace, Tumblr, Livejournal, Foursquare and more other logos.

Wrong!   Using social media to teach students creates a whole other range of possibilities because students are exposed to the outside world.  In my IMG_1986Google Classroom, my Class Dojo, and my Remind 101, students’ messages, ideas, and lives remain private between, me, them and their parents.  Adding social media to the mix causes some teachers to disengage because there are many consequences and risks to using it.  In my case as a high school teacher, students have access to these apps on their phones constantly.  It causes a lot of problems, like cyber bullying, harassment, plagiarism, cheating, sexting, etc. but there is also a lot of educating that goes with it.  We have a couple of presentations around bullying and cyber bullying every year, as well as a presentation on sexting and child pornography by the police department.  A lot of these issues in social media can be solved by simply being open to them and talking about the issues with students.

Maturity is a big thing as well.  I have engaged in a few social media projects in my experience and so far, they have gone well!  In my ELA B30 IMG_1988class, students have the option of creating a character profile on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and some have been pretty terrific.  I have also done a Snapchat project with my Grade 9 Female Health class.  The goal was to create more self esteem and positive body image so for a week, I asked them to take selfies by themselves and with their friends and post them to their stories for everyone to see.  The girls loved it and some of them actually said it helped them become more confident in themselves.  Although my experiences have been mostly positive, exposing students for the whole world to see their work can be amazing or horrifying depending on the reactions they get on their work from the public eye.  I think the biggest thing for teachers is to be open about the technology with students.  Because my students are older, I expect them to have a certain maturity level when they are engaging online or on social media.  We also discuss expectations and consequences to not following directions.  I think it is worth the risk to engage upon because students are exposed to this world whether we like it or not!  As educators, we might as well embrace it, and take advantage of a great learning opportunity and teach our students how to be responsible digital citizens!

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From Flickr
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To Learn to Sew

sewing thread
From Flickr

I remember in grade 8 registering for electives for high school.  I looked at my mom and said, “I’ll take foods instead of clothing.  You can teach me how to sew.”  Alas, this never happened.  So here I am, 26 years old and still calling my mother or grandmother every time I have a hole in my jeans, a missing button on my blouse, or a pulled out stitch in my sweater.  I have always wanted to learn how to sew, in fact, I have made a couple of pillows before (with extensive assistance from my grandma) but I have never had the time, nor the patience to really learn for myself.  I think this opportunity is the perfect way for me to learn how to sew so that when I have kids, I don’t have to call grandma to help me fix my kids clothes or so that I am not 40 years old and paying to take my clothes to a seamstress, because I am incapable of handling a needle and thread.

From Flickr

I have always been an independent learner and enjoy learning on my own and teaching myself how to do different things.  This means it was very difficult for my mother to teach me when she did try.  I will however be giving it another go and allowing my mom to help me with this project as a “mother-daughter bonding experience.”  (There will be updates on how much I manage to try her patience over the course of this learning experience).  I told my mom I would be learning how to sew for my master’s class and she laughed at me, so we are already off to a good start! I also need her for the resources of materials as well as a machine to practice on however, I do plan on teaching myself a majority of the skills I will need to properly use the machine.

Idea and Photo From Little Blip Blog

I am also hoping to learn a few basics on my own using a variety on online resources and videos, so if anyone has any suggestions of good ones, please leave a comment!  My goal for this project is to first be able to fix simple breaks in clothing like a hole or a missing stitch.  I would like to learn how to sew on a patch and fix a button.  Once I learn how to do these skills on my own, I will be applying them to a bigger project.  In high school, I was very active in sports.  I have so many t-shirts from back in the day and when I was in grade twelve I decided I wanted to keep them to make a blanket.  Well, I still have all of the shirts, and just have never had the skills or the necessary motivation to learn how to make it.  I am really excited to finally get it done!  I’m going to attempt to first teach myself one skill at a time, starting small and learning the basics one week, then applying them to small projects throughout the semester gradually gaining confidence to be able to complete my blanket.  I am hoping to have the blanket finished by the end of the semester, to show as my final assessment piece, however time may affect this as I really don’t know how long it will take me to complete however, this blog gave me some good ideas and steps to follow.

If anyone has any suggestions about where to start or resources to share, please leave a comment!

Major Update – Still Under Construction

It’s been awhile since my last update on my major project and I figured it was time to let everyone know what I’ve been up to!  I have been spending lots of time researching, brainstorming, and compartmentalizing how to bring this unit plan to fruition. I didn’t actually think making a unit plan for digital citizenship would be this difficult!  giphy (5)However, I have a plan set to get some physical evidence of my unit plan finished this week.  I have started to outline my unit plan and I have matched my outcomes to Ribble’s Nine Elements as well.  I have goals and vision for what I want my project to be; it’s just difficult to put into words (hence my lack of blog posts lately).  My brain has been all over the place!!

Over the past few weeks, I have been making small tweaks to my ELA curriculum in my everyday classroom.  We began a new semester in February, and it was perfect timing to begin making adjustments.  I’m hoping these adjustments will influence my unit plan as it continues to mold.  One thing I have realized since beginning my project and outlining it, is that I do not want it to be a stand-alone unit plan.  I don’t want to discuss digital citizenship in-depth and then not discuss it again later in the semester.  This has created a challenge in how I approach this formation of the plan.  I have decided to create a few general resources to use at various points throughout the semester, so I can encourage my students to keep thinking about these important topics.  These resources are beginning to look like fact-checkers, and critical thinking questions to challenge my students’ opinions on what they are reading.  I had a “research organizer” I used last year and now looking at it, I know it needs A LOT improvement, so I have been updating it! (Stay tuned!!)

However, the real focus of my unit plan will be setting expectations, discussing online etiquette, and setting up the mindset for our semester which I have decided will be finding valuable sources, fact-checking, as well as recognizing bias in a variety of formats.  Students are attacked with messages, advertisements, and news all day, every day, and I want my students to take a step back from this overwhelming world of data and communication.  As an ELA classroom, we will need to look at more than just news articles and videos but also plays, short stories, poems, and novels.  It is my idea to hopefully incorporate these templates I will create to help my students understand not only how to find valuable sources of research and news, but also understand what the real purpose is of any piece of literature or video or speech.  I want them to become critical thinkers and also more responsible citizens in the online world.  I would be lying if I said our conversations surrounding the Portrait of a Graduate has not left an impact on me.  My students aren’t going to remember Hamlet or the poems we read in two years, but it is my hope I can teach them something about digital responsibility, advocacy, and bias as they move forward in their lives.

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A big part of our semester focuses on The Search for Self which I think connects directly to my students figuring out who they are and how they can be better people.  I also discussed in my first update that I will connect this unit to the other unit of focus which is The Social Experience.  It is my hope that I can touch on every one of Ribble’s Elements within these two units.  I have linked each one of Ribble’s Elements to an overarching unit question.  It’s something we spend a lot of time focusing on, and always link our content back to during the unit.

So, my unit plan is definitely still under-construction, but I feel like I’ve made real progress in what I am trying to accomplish.  My next steps will be to finish the resources and link them on my blog for some feedback then create some vlogs for some of the online resources I’ve found to help other teachers with digital literacy!Brain-Under-Construction

Stay tuned!

Shelby