A Blended Approach

March 16, 2020

When I think about my teaching practice and the different learning theories: Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, Constructivism, and Connectivism, I believe my approach to learning is a blend of all three theories. Reading through the resources this week, I made many connections to what I had been doing in the classroom and to what I have been doing through online learning because of COVID-19. The topic this week also made me think of my students during this time and how they are learning. 

Social-Emotional Learning Online

One of the biggest challenges to online learning is the missing social-emotional aspect of being in school. I believe students need safe environments and they need to feel supported in order to thrive; especially during a time where they may be out of school for a long time. Without feeling safe and supported, it is difficult for any child to learn. How can we provide this for our students when they are not physically with us at school? There are ways. 

Through Zoom meetings, dropping off materials to students’ homes, and conferring with individuals through FaceTime, I have been able to provide some support to my students. Although it will never match the amount of support I can give them inside the classroom, it is enough for the students to feel supported and loved. 

Zoom meeting with my second-grade students.

It has also been important for my second-grade students to connect with each other. We are able to do this by holding Morning Meetings through Zoom. This activity gives my students something to look forward to each day. They love sharing and talking, so finding ways for them to collaborate and share is crucial.

Relationships matter deeply, learning happens when the brain feels safe and supported, and no child is a lost cause.

Bringing the Science of Learning Into Classrooms (Edutopia)

As I continue to refine the ways in which I am able to provide a safe distant learning environment that all my students feel supported in, I realize that their social-emotional well-being comes first. 

Learning Theories in Practice

After reflecting on the different learning theories and how I approach teaching in my classroom, I can see examples of the Constructivism Learning Theory in my teaching. I recognize the importance of self-directed learning and giving students opportunities to seek and use resources that will help them construct knowledge. 

Recently, when introducing a unit on Poetry (through distant learning), I began by asking students the question, “What is poetry?” I was assessing what knowledge they already had. They recorded their thoughts and shared them through Seesaw. 

Then students were asked to read poems. They were given a collection of poems that were read aloud to them through a recording and they were asked to find some of their own poems. Students were asked, “What do you notice?” Then they commented on the document and were able to see other classmates’ thoughts and respond to them. Lastly, they created a video on Seesaw answering the question from Day 1, “What is poetry?” This time they were asked to add on to their ideas from Day 1.

By doing this activity before I started the unit, students were able to construct their own knowledge of what poetry is based on their research and prior knowledge. I did not tell them what poetry was or what it looks like, the students constructed the knowledge on their own. In Constructivism: A Theory of Knowledge, Bodner depicts the difference between a traditional method of learning and a constructivist method. He states, The difference is in the time I spend telling students what they should think versus the time I spend asking them what they think.” This is student agency-giving students’ choice and a voice in their learning. Giving my students a choice and a voice in their learning is important to me as an educator.

Connectivism

As I found connections to the Constructivism Learning theory and my teaching practices, I also found many connections to the Connectivism Learning Theory. This theory was the one that I also found myself feeling the most connected to. For example, I came across a news story about a murder at the University of Illinois a few years back. I love true crime and I wanted to know more about this story, so I started doing some of my own research. I looked on YouTube and came across an ABC 20/20 Documentary. I watched all of the episodes and after I was done, I still wanted to do some more research. I continued researching the trial and watching videos of the suspect being interrogated. In the end, I spent some time talking to my husband about this story and telling him what I had learned through my research. By connecting myself to online resources, I was able to learn about the topic and communicate my learning with my husband. Finding a topic I am interested in and then researching the topic is one of my favorite ways to learn! This is also why I love to travel. I learn through social and cultural contact with the people I meet, but at the same time, I want to know more so I use technology or outside sources to learn more about a particular place.

My understanding of how I learn has pushed me to give my students the opportunities to learn through social and cultural contact along with technology to enhance their learning. Ultimately, people learn through contact. If I can connect my students with outside sources, they are more likely to learn and enjoy learning while doing so. The learning becomes more personal to them. 

“We want to take all of our existence and wrap it around that new knowledge and make all of these connections and it becomes more meaningful.”

How Your Working Memory Makes Sense of the World (TedX)-Peter Doolittle

Reading and researching the different learning theories this week has been an important reminder of the type of educator I want to be. The different theories also reinforce my idea that learning can come from a blended approach to these theories. There is no one right way to teaching or learning. 

What are some of your approaches? Do you agree that learning comes from a blended approach?

On My Way There

March 9, 2020

Do I have an example???

Honestly, this week’s blog post reflection has been difficult for me to start. I wracked my brain for a tech-rich learning experience that had taken place in my classroom. I found it difficult to think of one. Maybe I am being too hard on myself or maybe it is an accurate reflection. 

Either way, what I keep reminding myself of is that the reason I am a COETAILer is to learn how to create more authentic tech-learning experiences for my students. It is natural to feel like I don’t have any worthy examples or if others are way ahead of me in this area since I’m at the beginning of my journey. I am here to grow and go!

As I was digging for an example, one realization that I came to is that tech-rich learning experiences don’t always have to be a “big” project at the end of a unit or some flashy Twitter-worthy activity. What is important is the purpose. By asking myself, the three questions from Kim Cofino’s post, Three Steps to Transforming Learning in Your Classroom, I can mindfully create tech-rich learning experiences with a purpose.

  • Make it Relevant
    • Ask Yourself: How can your students relate to this content in their daily lives or experiences?
  • Real-World Task
    • Ask Yourself: What would a professional in this field do?
  • Authentic Audience
    • Ask Yourself: Who cares about this work?

Teaching Basic Skills

After considering these three questions, I finally made a connection between what my students have been doing for the past five weeks with online learning and tech-rich learning. Online learning has been manageable for my second-grade students because of the tech-rich learning experiences that have taken place in my classroom at the beginning and throughout this year. 

Some of these experiences are simply teaching my students how to log-in to their Gmail accounts, how to upload a video to Seesaw, or how to create a Google Slide and share it. There have also been times when I showed them a tool like Google Slides and had them play around a bit to explore changing the background to match the mood or changing fonts when writing a story to relay a message. Allowing them to play around with all these tools led them to learn new tools on their own.

Learning is based on curiosity more than any other human characteristic.

Are We Getting Smarter about Ed Tech? -Edutopia

Online Learning Experience

If it weren’t for teaching my second graders how to use the products in G Suite (Gmail, Docs, and Slides), they wouldn’t be able to collaborate, receive feedback, and communicate as easily during our online education. Teaching my students these skills has paid off tremendously during this Covid-19 school disruption.

When I taught my students how to give feedback in Google Docs, I wanted them to be able to do this because, in the real world, giving and receiving feedback is essential to growth. Peer to Peer revision sets students up to receive constructive feedback and to give constructive feedback with these three guidelines in mind:

  • Be kind.
  • Be specific.
  • Be helpful.
Peer Critique: Creating a Culture of Revision-Edutopia

Examples

Because my students have learned how to give feedback in class, they can still do this from home during online learning. For example, when my students were working to publish their realistic fiction stories from home, they could still share their stories through Google Docs and give/receive feedback. Without the knowledge of using Google Docs, students would not have been able to receive feedback as easily from their own peers. Giving and receiving feedback has also pushed my students to seek out feedback from me; especially during this time.

Another example from my online learning experience that has shown me that the technology experiences in my classroom this year have been authentic and purposeful has been my students’ ability to navigate their online accounts as second-graders. I am able to ask them to complete tasks such as listening to a collection of poems with audio recordings in Google Slides and comment on each poem for what they notice (rhyme, rhythm, comparisons, etc.). This activity allows them to start thinking like a poet (noticing what poets do) while learning from what their classmates find as well (reading and responding to their classmates’ comments in the thread). These experiences are possible because I taught my students these skills before online learning began.

Example of using comments to grow ideas.

Tech-rich learning can come from teaching basic skills to young learners with authentic learning experiences. These basic skills allow learners to begin accessing the tools we want them to use when creating and making authentic products. They need to start somewhere. 

Organization 

My students’ ability is in part due to my organization of these tools in a more accessible, age-friendly manner. I use Symbaloo to organize all of the websites we use in the classroom. Symbaloo makes it easy for students to navigate all of the sites we use day-to-day. Symbaloo creates simple tiles for all the websites we use in class. They do not need to spend time typing in each web address- which for 2nd graders can take a long time. 

My class Symbaloo homepage.

I also created a Google Doc for each student with all of the sites and username/passwords. They each have their own copy in their Google Drive and a printout. This way students can easily access the sites we use from anywhere. Being organized in this way has paid off in class and while students are trying to manage all of their accounts during online home learning. Streamlining and managing their digital lives are skills students will need and use the rest of their lives. 

On My Way There

Although I know that I have room to grow when planning for more tech-rich learning, I do think I am on my way there. By keeping in mind the SAMR Model, applying the principles of McTighe and Wiggins, and thinking of the questions educators ask when planning for tech-rich integration, I know I will be helping each of my students build a tech-rich foundation.

Artist in Training

March 2, 2020

Messing Around

I have always had a passion for making things. Whether it was clothes, ornaments, decorations or handmade cards I always enjoyed the process of creating. Finding DIY projects on Pinterest or learning new art forms, I would spend hours tinkering and messing around. But I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. It’s just an interest. Art is something that makes me feel happy, relaxed, and creative. I am not always good at the things I try, but I still enjoy the activity and the process. 

The first part of the process for me is to research ideas. I like to use Pinterest or Instagram for this step. Then I start to find and follow people who are really good at these things. Once I’ve done that, I find classes to join or videos that teach me to a particular skill. Lastly, I practice. Sometimes I practice something new like embroidery, mess around with it a bit, and then move onto something else.

Dog bowls I made in my pottery class.

Road to Sketchnoting

The one creative process that I have never moved on from or maybe never stopped wishing I could do better, was drawing. Perhaps if I would have listened to Kaufman in The first 20 hours — how to learn anything, I would have started my 20 hours many years ago before taking a watercolor class (I skipped a step in the process!)

I was still left with the feeling , I wish I could draw too. I could trace a picture or look at a doodle online and copy it, but I wanted to have some ability to sketch on the go-for times when I want to help my students take visual notes or for times when I feel like doodling on the airplane to pass time.

While I was learning how to watercolor with my friend and artist, Jane Mitchell, I realized that the class was difficult for me because I did not know how to draw well. My very patient teacher helped me take baby steps towards overcoming my inability to draw. She gave me helpful drawing tips and eventually showed me a way to trace a portrait of my dog onto the paper so I could paint him. I was quite happy with the outcome too! However, I still did not feel confident in my ability to draw.

Watercolor painting of my dog, Bowser.

The Game Changer

Then I heard about sketchnoting from my colleague @AlexisSnider15.  Like me, she did not feel like an artist, but sketchnoting allowed her to focus on the key ideas while sitting through workshops or model notetaking to her students in a visual way. Luckily, she was able to get the sketchnoting guru, Sylvia Duckworth, to lead a workshop at our school this year.


Photo by Sylvia Duckwork on sylviaduckworth.com

During this time, I learned how to draw different fonts, people, and icons related to school.  The workshop didn’t feel like professional development for me. It felt like something I wanted to pursue for my own interests (in addition to professionally). It was relaxing, enjoyable, and FUN!

Because of my connection with my colleague and her knowledge of Sylvia Duckworth, I was brought into the world of sketchnoting. This led me to find other resources on sketchnoting through Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, which eventually led me to take Jen Giffen’s course: Learn to Sketchnote (February 29-April 11, 2020). This is a prime example of using connections to learn and grow as Mimi Ito describes in Learning in Social Media Spaces. Learning is a process and the same principles we apply to our students can be applied to our own lives.

My process towards taking this course reminds me of the Living in New Media article. For the past few months, I have been messing around with sketchnoting. As I started to find that I enjoyed it as a hobby, I started using outside resources (Pinterest,etc.). Initially, I was just messing around with it, but now I am totally geeking out about sketchnoting by taking this course.

“When youth transition to more focused interest-driven practices, they will generally reach beyond their local network of technical and media expertise, but the initial activities that characterize messing around are an important starting point for even these youth.” Living with New Media

Learn to Sketchnote

My course started on Saturday and it is run through Google Classroom until April 11. There are people from over 15 countries represented in the class (another way to grow my PLN!). The course is super laid-back and students can go at their own pace (plus!) Each day I receive a Daily Doodle task to complete and each week I receive a Weekly Challenge. I can share my work with classmates using Google Slides or Twitter, and classmates can offer me feedback as well.

Action Plan

  1. Register for “Learn to Sketchnote” with Jenn Giffin
  2. Begin course on February 29, 2020
  3. Complete the Daily Doodle  (spend 10 minutes five times a week to practice Daily Doodle skill)
  4. Complete the Weekly Challenge (This week: Selfie Sketchnote)
  5. Share on Google Slides with classmates & offer feedback to others
  6. Post my work on social media using the hashtag #TodayISketchnotED
  7. Write a Weekly Reflection using Flip Grid
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 for the next six weeks.

As I write my Action Plan, I am already feeling anxious about what I need to get done throughout this process. Online Learning due to Coronavirus has me spending WAY too much time on my computer. So with that being said, I am going to get my colored pencils, sketchbook, and How To Sketchnote: A Step-By-Step Manual for Teachers and Students by Sylvia Duckworth book out and get the process started!

Weekly Challenge: Selfie Sketchnote.