I am an international educator working in Hanoi, Vietnam. I have been working overseas for the past 13 years. I started my career in a bilingual school in Guayama, Puerto Rico as a fifth and sixth-grade reading teacher. Then I moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and taught fourth grade for two years. While living in Ecuador, I met my husband and we moved to Seoul, South Korea together. In Seoul, I taught fifth grade for two years and then moved into a literacy specialist role. We are now teaching in Hanoi, Vietnam with our two Korean rescue dogs.
This week’s task reminded me of this quote from Sir Ken Robinson. We’ve spent weeks learning how to raise the level of our delivery of information, but teachers do more than delivering information. As Robinson says, we “mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage students.”
Teachers do not always have to present information to students verbally. They can use meaningful texts like The Cycle of Socialization article to get students thinking. The article focuses on an important topic that gets the reader thinking and reflecting on their own experiences and behaviors. By using the Text Rending activity along with the reading, I was more engaged with the text and more aware of the words I was reading. Joel’s delivery of information came in a different format this week, but the delivery was powerful because it got all of us engaged and thinking deeply about the words in the text. The activity also allows students to hear other people’s views and perspectives on the same topic, which then promotes conversation (through Flip Grid in this case).
This simple, yet thought-provoking activity, had me feeling engaged in the text and motivated to take action in making the world a better place. Reading this article was also a great reminder that even if I do not have power, I CAN still make a difference. I want my students to have the same feeling!
Below are the words that stuck with me the most.
Sentence: People without power may think they can’t make a difference.
Phrase: Stand up for change.
Reading on diversity and social justice as we did in the article, The Cycle of Socialization is impactful to my practice because it allows me to stop and take note of some of my own social identity and how this has played a role in how I see others and myself. Reading articles like this forces a person to reflect on their own lives and choices. It is thought-provoking.
I love it when I read something and finish feeling motivated to be a better person. This article gave me that feeling; especially, after I chose my words and thought about them. That feeling continued to grow after listening to the Flipgrid responses too!
At the beginning of the school year, I read aloud the book, Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. I love this book because it explores the many ways a single voice can make a difference. I know I can be left feeling like “what can I really do to make a difference?” I often feel powerless. I feel this way when it comes to the injustices that are being done to people of color. I feel like this when I see the sweet dog tied up outside with no human interaction day after day on my motorbike ride home from work. I felt like this when my school asked my student “Mr. Watson” (wrote about him in Course 2) to leave.
However, when I read articles like The Cycle of Socialization or read books like Say Something to my students, I am reminded that a single voice CAN make a difference. I am left feeling empowered, which has provoked me to use my voice more often. My hope is that my students also feel this way. My hope is that they will use their voice to Say Something that makes a change.
My hope for my students has actually motivated me to live by the words I teach them. If I truly want them to stand up and Say Something, I too must do as I say. This has pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone.
I’ve gone in and talked to my principal about her decision to ask “Mr. Watson” to leave. It wasn’t easy for me to get up the courage and let her know that I didn’t feel good about this choice, but it felt like the right thing to do. I’ve taken action in feeling sad about helpless dogs and helped rescue 5 dogs from animal shelters in Korea (*let me know if you’re interested in one). I said something to a longtime friend who posted insensitive material on her Facebook page about the protests in the United States. These might seem like small things to do, but every small action counts. Hopefully, my small actions lead to something bigger.
My wish is to continue to mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage others through my actions and words. I want to continue to learn and grow just like my students.
*I found this website helpful in finding recommended titles that teach Social Justice in unbiased ways. A Teaching for Change Project also includes a great rating system that helps educators pick anti-bias children’s books.
This week I was inspired by Mike Johnston’s Tedx Talk on The Art of Delivering Information. Johnston believes that all students are capable of learning, but how students learn depends on how the information is delivered. As teachers, we must explain things every day. This might mean explaining the same concept in multiple ways for different learners. This is why the teacher is so important. However, the ability to deliver information in multiple ways is not always easy.
This is why he calls the ability to explain things to one person an art form. “It is a talent,” Johnston says. Explaining things well takes practice. It requires teachers to put themselves in the shoes of a student. When teachers are learning something, we must be present. Think about, What do you feel as a learner? What made the delivery of that information powerful? Or not so powerful? Being present during our own learning experiences can help us be better delivers of information.
His message also calls us to be more caring. If we care, we explain something until a student gets it. This doesn’t mean doing monumental things. If we just change the way we think about something, then those “light bulb” moments can come for those we learners who needed us to care a little more.
Johnston’s message also applies to the ways in which we deliver information through visuals. Not all students will understand a visual in the way we intend it to be used. This is why feedback is an important part of refining the art of explaining. Students are a great source of feedback. They are the ones receiving the information we deliver.
Teachers can determine how well students receive information in several ways: reading a student’s body language, using formative assessment results, listening in when students turn and talk, etc., or we can also ask students for feedback. According to Jennifer Gonzalez, from the Cult of Pedagogy, one of the benefits of asking students for feedback is that it increases student engagement. Gonzalez states”If some methods of delivery are better received than others, then they’re likely to result in greater learning gains as well.” By asking our students for feedback, we can figure out what methods work best in our classrooms. This led me to think about the visuals used in my classroom and the effectiveness of them.
Reflection on My art of Explaining
One visual I consistently go back to is my Ask 3 Before Me visual. I introduce this visual at the beginning of the year to get my students in the habit of thinking about their questions before asking me for help. We brainstorm necessary and unnecessary questions together. Then we role-play scenarios where “Ask 3 Before Me” might be used. Students discover that many questions they have can be answered on their own or with the help of a classmate.
When students forget and ask me questions such as, “Where do I put this when I am done?” I reply, “did you ask 3 before me?” Most likely, their response is to turn around and find a classmate because they have not.
Refining My art of Explaining
Before I introduced this visual to my 4th-grade students this year, I thought about the effectiveness of this chart. Last year, I remember repeating “Ask 3 before me” many, many times. Maybe, this meant my visual wasn’t actually that effective. Furthermore, students would often tell me that they had already asked 3 classmates and still could not find the answer to their question. This got me thinking. Maybe, I needed to rethink this concept.
If students were often left without an answer to their questions after asking 3 classmates, maybe there were other ways to get them to problem-solve without using me all the time. First, I asked my students for some ideas. Then, I did some searching and found an idea that matched well with what my students had offered as helpful ideas.
Ultimately, my students and I came up with a visual that offered more than one way to get help, rather than to depend solely on their classmates. My new visual, “Try 3 Before Me,” puts more responsibility on the learner. Students must first ask themselves. This means they can stop and think about how things usually go in my classroom. For example, where do I usually ask students to put their classwork when it is complete? Or the learner might focus on any directions that were given.
If students still need help, they move onto step 2: Look Around. They can look for directions that are written down or they can look at what their classmates are doing. Getting students in the habit of using the world around them is a good habit. Many times students can figure things out like what to take out of their desks or what to put away based on what their classmates are doing. Steps 1 and 2 put the responsibility on the learner.
Finally, if students are still stuck, they can proceed to step 3: Ask a friend. I especially like this visual better than the first one because there is more responsibility on the learner and it offers more strategies than just asking their classmates.
I have also seen firsthand that this visual aid is more effective than the one I was previously using. This year, students are asking me less unnecessary questions, solving their own problems by using the environment around them, and going back to my written directions before asking their classmates or me. I want my students to feel comfortable asking questions in my classroom, but I also want them to think about the questions they can answer on their own. This allows more time for the necessary questions.
Although this is one simple way I am working to refine my art of explaining, it is a start. In the meantime, I’ll keep asking students for feedback, and most importantly, caring enough to work on my craft of delivery so that what I teach makes sense for everyone.
On Friday, I spent time collaborating with a colleague of mine. We were looking closely at a recent Writing Post Assessment for Narrative Writing. We were looking for trends in the comments I had written to students. This information would help us form small group instruction.
As we analyzed the data (scores) and the comments I had written, we were also looking for whether or not students had improved. This required us to look at the Elementary Assessment Spreadsheet data. From the spreadsheet, my colleague and I were able to see if students’ scores had improved from their pre-assessment scores.
While we were collecting all of this data, we were adding some notes to a Google Keep note that helped us organize small groups and notice patterns. Then, I wondered if putting this information into an infographic might be helpful and more effective for us. So, I decided to give it a try!
Having this visual of the data that was found from the assessment, is useful in many ways. First, I can see the percentage of students whose score either went up or stayed the same. This allows me to see the students I need to target in small group instruction. The bar graph at the bottom represents patterns that were noticed in the post-assessment comments. I can look at this infographic and see how well my students did as well as areas that still need to be reinforced.
I also think an infographic like this is helpful because it organizes all the data in one place whereas before I was looking at several documents (Elementary Assessment Data Spreadsheet, Google Keep notes, rubric comments, and a Google Doc with information that was gathered on students’ writing). In the future, I would still need to gather information from these resources, but putting it all together helped me organize all of the information in one spot as well as share it with my support teachers.
Having a visual representation of the data collected from the Writing Assessment is one easy way to share information with the teachers who work with my students; especially the EAL and writing push-in teachers. By sharing this infographic, the teachers working with my students will also know what skills they can reinforce and which students still need more support. This allows us all to collaborate and meet the needs of the students in an effective manner.
In the future, I might not go as far as making an infographic of this type of information. Although it was kind of fun to see it in the formate, I think I would be able to get the same information by using conditional formatting in Google Sheets. I’ve done this before with pre and post-assessment data and the conditional formatting commands I used allowed me to see a color-coded document showing student growth. This was an easy way to see which students still needed support.
Using visuals is not only useful for students. There are so many ways teachers can use visuals to improve their teaching practices. Making data visual is just one-way teachers can use the information they collect from students useful.
It’s been taking me some time to get the motivation to do my COETAIL work lately. I moved up to fourth grade this year from second grade, and I have been busy learning the new curriculum and helping a new teammate adjust. Although I put off doing this assignment for a week, I was excited when I finally started planning my learning activity. It reminded me that I have been too focused on learning the curriculum, and I haven’t spent enough time being creative. This was a great assignment to get my mind thinking outside of the text.
Before I planned out my learning activity I wanted to familiarize myself with Thinking Routines, so I explored Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox. Thinking Routines promote the development of thinking through guided, easy to learn steps. Many of the routines are ones I commonly use but didn’t necessarily use the terminology. I like Project Zero’s structured approach to developing inquiry. I also like how one Thinking Routine can be used in multiple ways across disciplines.
As I explored, I had an idea in mind for a learning activity connected to a math activity that involved triangles and art. The See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine seemed to fit well with how I wanted my students to collaborate.
Since I am about to begin a new math unit on Geometry, I thought it would be fun to Flip the Classroom a bit and expose students to the three types of triangles using these triangles: Equilateral, Isosceles, and Scalene Triangles video and the Math is Fun website on triangles. Students have already been exposed to the types of angles: right, obtuse, and acute. With the knowledge students gained from these resources combined with what they already knew about angles, they were ready to complete their learning activity: Classifying Triangles: Tri-Mi Activity.
The students’ task was to design a piece of triangle art using Google Drawing, the tools in Google Slides, or paper and rulers. Students could choose the platform. Many students had not used Google Drawing or shapes to design a piece of art on Google Docs.
The only constraint was that the entire picture is created out of triangles. The rest of the directions are listed below:
Students were then shown the image below as an example.
This activity allowed them to explore a new platform and troubleshoot together, which ended up creating quite a buzz in the classroom.
Much to my surprise, students were able to collaborate much more than I had expected. Because many of them had not created in Google Drawing or even used shapes and lines in Google Slides to create a picture, there was a lot of exploration and questions as students got started.
This buzz of excitement reminded me of the article More Talking in Class, Please. Often times the use of technology can limit student discussion, but there are ways in which technology can encourage it. In my activity, students were using a new tool, which encouraged them to talk. Students offered each other ideas, tips, and troubleshoot problems together.
Some students even paused what they were doing to show the class a helpful trick. It was fun to see how the students figured out the nuisances of creating such small triangles without a mouse too. It was a good fine motor skills exercise too!
After students finished their Triangle Artwork, they uploaded it to the SeeSaw Activity I created. This allowed students to see each others work as well as comment using the See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine to push their thinking.
When students had a chance to look at others’ drawings on Seesaw, there was a lot of excitement and positive reactions. Students had questions about the design techniques of their classmates. They wanted to know how to do some of the things their classmates did too. So by having students comment on the artwork, it not only allowed them to share their work, but it got students talking, asking questions, and working together to teach each other new design skills.
Here are some of the comments: (*for some reason, I am having issues uploading a screenshot. It keeps saying the system is busy or the file is too large. Any ideas on how I can get around this issue?)
Overall, I believe students have a deeper understanding of the different types of triangles. This knowledge of triangles going into our math unit will make identifying triangles much easier. Students will already have the background knowledge from the video as well as visual artwork to help them see what these triangles look like in the world around them.
They will also be able to use the See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine in other activities now. I’ll be trying others out as well! I love how they promote critical thinking with guided, easy to follow steps.
This activity has sparked my creativity again and I look forward to keeping that buzz going in my classroom.
ISTE Standards for Students
4.b. Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
6.a. Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
6.d. – Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
It’s exciting to get back to COETAIL after a long summer break! The beginning of the school year is always a busy time, but I have been looking forward to getting back to learning with COETAIL. This year I moved up to Grade 4 from Grade 2. I am enjoying the change and feeling pretty blessed about the fact that we get to be learning in school rather than doing remote learning.
Learning about CARP
When I read the assignment for this week, I immediately thought about a presentation I attended at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong with Tanya LeClair a few years ago. The presentation was titled “Digital Design Skills for Students.” During this presentation, Tanya introduced the CARP Design Principles. These were simple and easy ways students could lift the level of their presentations. At the time, my second graders were learning how to use Google Slides. Tanya’s presentation was one that stuck with me and also helped me transform how I taught students to put together a presentation.
Ever since I attended Tanya’s presentation, I have tried to incorporate the CARP Design Principles into my own work. Using contrasting colors and fonts really help the headings stand out from the text. I like to use one font for the heading and another for the text. This also helps readers find information faster.
Taking into consideration the design principles of using contrasting fonts and colors, I made a few changes. First, I wanted to add some color so I changed the background from black to a mint green color. I really liked the pop of color. Then I relied on the color wheel to help me decide on a contrasting color for some of the fonts. I ended up using a mint color for the headings, black as the main color, and fuchsia for the links. Then I changed the font type and size of the headings for those to stand out more.
Take a look at the results!
I like how my blog is simple and easy to navigate. I enjoy having some white space and a clean look. For this reason, I didn’t change too much else on my page. In a few places, I noticed some formatting things that did not follow the use of repetition. For example, I had written “Course 1-Ourselves as Learners” as a page title, but wrote “Course 3: Visual Literacy” as the new course heading. I simply made sure I always used a dash instead of a colon. Small things like that make the page look cleaner and more professional when they all repeat the same pattern.
Alignment and Proximity
I’ve been adding the horizontal line in this post. That’s new. I like how it breaks up the page a bit by topic along with the headings, which keep everything organized.
I also align my images in the center of the page, along with the captions. Although, I do find it difficult to format everything the way I want it to be using WordPress. Sometimes, I cannot get the caption centered with the photo. It drives me crazy!
Working with WordPress is not always that user-friendly for me, so I find that I don’t mess around with as many design elements. I try to keep my layout simple and clean with a few images that add to my post.
Whether you are using the CARP Design Principles or the 6 principles of visual hierarchy, I think it is important to have fun while designing. Play with color, fonts, and design until you see what you like (but also keeping the design principles in mind).
Model the design principles in your own work so that students see your own design habits. I was able to teach my second graders the 4 Basic Design Principles as seen in the poster above. You could even give your students a poorly designed poster and have them redesign it using the Design Principles. This is a fun way to practice!
For my blog post this week I am going to go a bit off-topic and share some of my reflections about an exceptional learner I have in my second-grade classroom this year. I wanted to put these thoughts down somewhere because this is one of the most unique experiences I have had as a teacher. Just like I had my students write to capture and memorialize their Home Learning experiences during CoVID-19, I wanted and needed to do the same.
Mr. Watson is not the character from the Mercy Watson books, though the books’ character would become the inspiration for my student’s “new name.”
Before I had formally met Mr. Watson in August 2019, I had heard the numerous stories. He was infamous. I worried about having him in my class. Would I know how to meet his needs?How would I get him to do any of his school work? How would I manage all of the incidences? I heard the stories of the shouting and yelling in class, of the running away from teachers, and of the isolation from peers.
When I saw him walk towards my classroom on that first day of school, Mr. Watson was wearing his green-uniform polo-shirt on top of grey sweatpants. He had his best friend in tow-a Spiderman teddy bear named Teddy. I had no idea of the impact he was about to make on my life. When I saw him, all I could muster was a deep breath to brace myself for what was about to come.
He walked closer with a surprised look on his face. He stopped and hesitated looking overwhelmed by the students unpacking at their cubbies. He did not greet them. They did not greet him. We all waited to see what he would do next.
One Step at a Time
Regardless of whether or not I was ready, the year was underway. I would either sink or swim.
The first few days felt like a mess. I quickly saw that Mr. Watson loved reading books. However, when he did so, he read aloud to himself VERY loudly. This made it difficult for anyone to focus on their own reading. During Independent Writing time, Mr. Watson would write airline boarding passes, while the rest worked on personal narratives. There were times he’d say he was tired and lay down to take a nap. He would run from the classroom when it was lunchtime (his favorite time of the day). He’d yell when he didn’t get his way. He would interrupt while I was teaching. How could I ever get anything done with these interruptions? How could the students concentrate? How could I make things run more smoothly each day?
I did research online, found visual schedules and reminders, and got some tips from a visiting expert in the field of special education. I was learning along the way, trying my best. I gave him a pair of headphones that seemed to help when he was reading independently. I let him write a made-up narrative story with his best friend Teddy as the main character. It wasn’t a personal narrative, but he was writing and trying out things like dialogue and adding details. I started using visual timers so he could break up his work into smaller bits of time.
Little by little, I was able to build a relationship with him. Instead of keeping him from playing with Teddy, I would engage him in conversations about Teddy. I indulged in some of his eccentricities. His love for airplanes, dogs, and food. I shared pictures of my dogs. He instantly loved them and asks about them every single day. I’d answer his repetitive questions like, “What sound does thunder make?” As I gained his trust, he started to respond to some of the strategies I had put into place.
Others were Watching
While I was gaining his trust, he was stealing my heart. I couldn’t help but love his clever ways of maneuvering his way out of his classwork. I loved how he held one of Teddy’s paws while I held the other paw and we walked down the hallway with the rest of the class following.
He may have had me wrapped around his little finger, but I wasn’t seeing the same response from my students, yet. I wanted more than tolerance towards Mr. Watson from the students. I wanted them to show Mr. Watson they cared about him. I wanted the students to interact with him. I wanted him to become an important member of the classroom community. This would happen with time. I was hopeful.
I knew the students were watching me. They could see how I treated him and how I responded to his strange behavior. I was aware that my actions could have a big impact on them, so I did my best to show him love, care, acceptance, and patience through my actions each and every day. The students picked up on this. They took note and they started to change too.
Eventually, I saw small improvements. They were interested. They had questions. They thought he was interesting and therefore they wanted to know how they could interact with him. They too would feed into his eccentricities.
We’d also do little things in the classroom like have conversations about Mr. Watson while he was out of the room so that the students could better understand him. They’d ask questions about his behavior. I’d explain that his classroom expectations would look different than theirs. I’d help them understand why. We discussed how fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing. I helped them understand times like when Mr. Watson would get to play his favorite math game, Prodigy, as a reward for completing a task. I read aloud books about acceptance, love, and being different. It took time and effort to help my students understand that he was worthy of their love and friendship too.
One big turning point came when I introduced the Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo to my class. He fell in love with the characters. I even had a wooden Mercy Watson pig in my classroom and he began carrying her everywhere with him. He loved Mercy and he loved pretending to be Mr. Watson, eventually, I became Mrs. Watson to him.
Mr. Watson’s love for all things Mercy Watson gave me some leverage in getting him to do classwork. I’d say something like, “First you will complete pages 145-146 in your math workbook, then you can read Mercy Watson.” It worked some of the time.
My wonderful assistant would speak to him in her Mercy Watson voice. She’d answer his questions geared towards Mercy and she’d respond in her cute Mercy voice. He loved it and so did we because we were able to get him to do some of his work this way.
The students loved it too. Eventually, many of them became Mercy Watson characters to him. He renamed one girl, Mercy Watson. He still refers to her as, “Darling” like Mrs. Watson does in the books.
His love for the Mercy Watson Series helped spotlight his loving, playful, and fun side. Students were starting to see another side of him. They were interested and wanted to be around him. For some, it was easy to love Mr. Watson, but it took some others a bit longer to find this love.
One moment I will never forget was at lunch one day when I saw a group of second-grade boys teasing Mr. Watson at the lunch table. As I sat and ate my lunch, I could see that the conversation between the boys and Mr. Watson was not one out of kindness. These students were trying to humiliate him. They wanted to prove that he was not smart. However, he proved them wrong by answering every single math problem they threw at him correctly.
Before I even had a chance to get up and stop it, one brave boy stood up and came over to report the incident. He saw what was happening and he said something. I was so proud of him!
I was also sad and disappointed with the other kids. I was, however, able to turn this into a teachable moment. I showed my students how hurt I was that day by the actions of these students. I cried in front of all of them. I couldn’t hold it back, but that pain resonated with my second graders. It changed them. It changed me.
After that day, I saw more and more students who were going out of their way to be helpful to him. They would invite him to sit with them at lunch. Ask him to play at recess. They would play along with his make-believe games. Rub his back when he was angry. Accept that his classroom behavior looked much different than everyone else. They accepted Teddy as a class member. They wanted to hear what he had to say. They laughed at his silliness. They were calm when he was angry. They would tell him, “It’s okay, Mr. Watson” and bring him a tissue to wipe his tears.
I’ve seen a boy in my class go from being on behavior probation for a series of poor choices since 1st grade to being one of the most kind, caring students towards Mr. Watson. I’ve witnessed this boy invite Mr. Watson to play at recess, teach him how to play Kerplunk, and attempt to engage in a conversation with Mr. Watson and his pal, Teddy.
The students who had ignored him on day 1 had grown to love him.
Then COVID-19 pushed our school online. I wasn’t sure how Mr. Watson would continue to learn. I had strategies in the classroom I used to motivate and direct him, but even then it was a constant struggle to keep him on-task. Not being able to see him in person would make this an even bigger challenge. I felt pretty helpless.
Fast forward three weeks into Home Learning and he hadn’t done anything. Grade 2 wasn’t using Zoom yet and the only thing we could do was reach out to the family to make sure he was okay. I knew it would be difficult for his parents to support him at home, but it was also difficult for me because I missed him and I didn’t want to leave him behind. I couldn’t just give up on him. I wanted to support him in some way. Eventually, I connected with him through his mother’s WhatsApp a few times, and soon after grade 2 started using Zoom.
In addition to our regular morning Zoom meetings, I held Office Hours from 2:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. every day. Students could join through Zoom to get extra support in Reading or Writing. Most days there were only one or two students who popped in for a question or one student who was working on something, but Mr. Watson was there every day at 2:00 on the dot. He’d say, “Good Afternoon, Mrs. Watson. Where are Benny and Bowser (my dogs)? Do they bark at me?” Then he would turn off his video and pretend to bake different sweets as he read the recipes online.
I’d listen and say things like, “delicious, yum, are you going to deliver?” We’d go on like that for an hour and in the end, he’d say, “Talk to you tomorrow, Mrs. Watson!” We didn’t get much accomplished in that hour, but I sure looked forward to seeing him every day and my love for him continued to grow.
After like 8 weeks of Home Learning, I started to realize the potential for never going back to school this year-never working with Mr. Watson as his teacher again in the classroom, never seeing my students interact with him again- I was incredibly sad (I’m crying now writing that). I felt like this child had been placed in my classroom for a reason.
To make matters worse, I found out that the school had decided that we could no longer meet his needs. He would need to find a new school for grade 3. I haven’t stopped thinking about that since. I worry about him. I feel sad that my students and I have grown to love him and now he will have to leave and start all over. What can I do to change this?
Despite feeling super sad about having to say goodbye to Mr. Watson in a few weeks, we were finally able to go back to school after 14 weeks of Home Learning. I was so happy to be able to finish the school year off with my students in the classroom, but it wasn’t the ending I wanted.
It breaks my heart because I look at the impact he has made on all of our lives, and I think it is so unfair. It’s unfair to him. He has found a place that accepts him. He’s made friends this year. He knows he is loved at our school.
It’s unfair for the students who have grown attached to him. It is unfair because I believe our school is the best place for him at this time and place. I’m not sure he has other options; especially with a global pandemic making it difficult for anyone to relocate. It breaks my heart to think about how helpless his parents must feel.
This year, I’ve seen Mr. Watson make friends-REAL friends. Students who care deeply about him. Classmates who play with him at recess, walk him to specials after lunch, and patiently listen as he tells us made up stories that seem to be a reality to him.
I know that because of Mr. Watson, none of us will ever be the same. My students are more compassionate and more accepting of people with differences. I am a better teacher and person because of him.
Next year will be a little less bright at school without Mr. Watson.
For this group project, I teamed up with Erika and Holly (co-workers) who originally reached out to me. It came about quite naturally because we all teach second-grade. Our communication began through email and eventually, we were able to connect through WhatsApp as well.
When it was time to decide what type of project we would do, we were all on the same track as far as doing something with Digital Citizenship. We had all agreed that Digital Citizenship Education was something that could be improved upon at both of our schools. We quickly decided we would complete Option 1 and we began looking for resources that were already available.
I knew that Common Sense Media had its own Digital Citizenship resources, but I had never used them so I started looking there. After skimming a few lessons, I was happily surprised to see how easy the slides made teaching Digital Citizenship.
Then I reached out to a colleague with is a COETAIL alum and asked her if she had any resources. She pointed me to Be Internet Awesome. Another awesome resource that makes teaching Digital Citizenship easy!
Eventually, Erika created a list of the resources we had been gathering and this got us organized and ready to map out a plan. Once we decided we would create a two-week unit plan, we started to fill out our plan with more details. We decided to focus on four main topics:
By completing daily lessons and activities, students will end this unit with a greater understanding of what it takes to be good digital citizens and how to help others be good digital citizens.
Many people might think it would be difficult to collaborate with people in three different countries, but it was actually quite easy. My group communicated effectively by responding to emails, text messages, and comments left on Docs in a timely manner. Each member of the group contributed and utilized their strengths. Holly has a great eye for detail, Erika is well-organized, and I enjoy finding good resources. We made a great team!
By collaborating, we were able to plan the unit out much quicker than if we would have done it alone. We were able to bounce ideas off of one another and share our resources.
Collaboration gives you a greater perspective. This is one of the greatest benefits. Having multiple eyes on one thing helps avoid having gaps or wholes in the plan. For example, I created a culminating activity for our unit plan. After looking over the documents in our plan, Holly noticed my culminating activity did not have directions on it. If I did not have the extra pair of eyes looking over these documents, this would have gone unnoticed.
The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.
Robert John Meehan
Let it grow!
Since I have two weeks of school left and I’ve finished teaching my Math curriculum for the school year, I am going to try this unit out with my class. I actually launched it on Friday and the students are super interested! They had lots of questions and comments after we watched a BrainPOP jr. video on Internet Safety. This is yet another example of how the work I do in COETAIL directly impacts my students. I love being able to use what I create in this program!
My hope is that next year I can encourage more teachers to start teaching Digital Citizenship. I’d love to get my school involved in a Digital Citizenship Week. I think that could be a great start to getting more teachers and students thinking about the topic. I saw that Common Sense Media celebrates this week from October 19-23 and they have a ton of resources for teachers that make it easy to do! Hopefully, this will be the start of something bigger.
Preparing students for the world they live in now can be a challenge; especially when many educators did not grow up with access to computers, cellphones, or social media. At my school, I am considered one of the younger staff members (I am 36). I never had any lessons in school on responsible technology use or how to discern factual information from fake news. I also wasn’t handed a laptop in 2nd grade.
Facebook became a thing when I was halfway through college, I got my first cellphone when I was nineteen, and I did not have my own computer until I graduated from college. Oh, how times have changed!
My second graders now have Chromebooks at school and some even have their own cellphones. A wealth of information is literally at their fingertips. As an educator in the 21st Century, regardless of my own background with technology, it is one of my jobs to help my students navigate the world they are living in-to create a culture of THINKers.
Many schools have some form of a technology agreement or responsible use form that students complete at the beginning of the school year. Each year we go over the Dos and Don’ts of computer and internet use and safety. Students and parent sign the agreement, I post it in the classroom, and refer back to it when issues arise.
I also use the THINK acronym throughout the year to help students make good choices before speaking, acting, or posting. One girl in my class even made a mini-poster for each student to have on their desk as a reminder.
Is it enough?
I ask this question, but I already know the answer. I am not doing enough to prepare my students for the digital world they currently live in. Sharing a tech agreement and teaching students to THINK is NOT enough. Students need to be taught not told what to do. The questions we should all be asking is:
How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding of how media shapes perceptions of the world?
After asking these questions, a plan needs to be put in place. How will I ensure that my students are prepared to make ethical decisions?
As an adult it is hard to discern factual information from fake news anymore. I often find myself reading headlines from news stories that appear on my Facebook page and taking that information as truth. Sometimes it is because the headlines align with my beliefs. Therefore, I read the headline and do not look further into the story or where the information came from. This is a bad habit.
The need for quick answers and the 24-hour news cycle has created a culture of people who aren’t THINKing before they share, retweet, or take in the information as the truth. It is so easy for fake news stories to be spread. This is dangerous because people believe this misinformation without fact-checking it. This reporting referred to as circular reporting happens like this. News site A prints a fake story, News site B reprints it, and News site A then sites B as the source. Before you know it, multiplications report on the same fake news story.
How to Slow Down The Spread of a Lie
Avoiding sensational media
Searching for criticisms or suspicious information
Tracing the original source of a report
To support my students in responsibly consuming and sharing information, I am learning about some of the best practices through the resources COETAIL has provided throughout this course as well as using my PLN through COETAIL to learn about what other educators are doing in their schools.
Building a Digital Literacy program that can be used in the elementary school at my current school is a goal of mine. There is not much being done now. The teaching of digital literacy skills is dependent on what individual teachers decide to do. Taking the Responsible Use Tech Agreements from my school and building off of that will be a start. Finding resources that educate parents on digital literacy such as Authenticating Information (Media Smarts) or using Google’s Be Internet Awesome: Digital Safety Resources is a starting point.
I’d love to hear how some of your schools are implementing Digital Literacy and Citizenship into the curriculum. Is there a vertically aligned document or curriculum already out there? I’d like to see what skills are needed and when it is most appropriate to teach those skills.
Days before this COETAIL Program started, I was sitting on a beach in the Philippines wondering if my school in Vietnam would be affected by the COVID-19 spread. As I returned to Vietnam, the virus spread was getting worse and we soon got word that school would not be starting back up on time. A week later, we had moved to a home learning program. At the same time, I started COETAIL. In many ways, completing this certification has been a challenge while doing home learning because of the increased amount of time I spend online now. On the other hand, it feels like the perfect time to be doing this program.
Contributing with a Mistake
For one, during Course 1: Ourselves as Learners, I identified with the term lurker-being more of an observer, rather than a contributor to my PLN. However, before long, I started seeing myself shift towards being more of a contributor. Home Learning and COETAIL were pushing me to be more creative, use tech tools I had never had the time to explore, and develop new material that was accessible to students from home. I was finally excited to share what I had created!
As I was scrolling (a.k.a. lurking) through the Teachers College Writing Workshop Facebook Group, I came across a post from a teacher looking for a second-grade Poetry Unit. Perfect! I had just finished teaching mine and I was proud of the unit I had put together (It was the one I used for my Course 1 Final Project). I quickly linked my unit in the comments and was excited to see how many teachers wanted to use it.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
A few days later, I got an email from one of my student’s parents. She said her daughter had noticed an unknown name resolve a comment that her daughter had made on one of the poems I had assigned in a Google Slideshow. The mother expressed that she is very careful about internet safety regarding her children and she wanted to check to make sure this wasn’t some weird person.
Immediately, I opened the document to check it out and assumed that it was one of the educators from the FB Group who was using my materials. Although, I changed the settings to the documents in the unit to “view” only, that particular slideshow was set to “can comment” so this person was able to resolve the comments. Not a big deal, but the students’ full names were displayed in the comments they had written, which means anyone that had opened this document could see my students’ names. Not cool! Needless to say, I fixed that problem and made sure there was no student information that could be seen from sharing this unit with others (I should have done that before). A lesson learned for sure and thankfully the mom was really understanding.
Learning from Mistakes
This brings me to the second reason I feel COETAIL has come at the perfect time for me. I’d say that right now, my students’ digital presence is at an all-time high. What better time than now to learn more about connecting students online while maintaining privacy for both them and myself. I know there is value in contributing to online platforms and creating materials that others can use. But I also need to be aware of what I am sharing and what people can see (students’ names, faces, etc.).
Not only do educators need to be aware of what they are sharing digitally, but they also need to be given schoolwide guidelines regarding students’ internet safety and responsibilities. After working at four school international schools, I’d say this topic is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the year and not really brought up again unless an issue arises. Students at my current school sign a Responsible Technology Use Agreement and that is about it. We are a young, small school, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a better plan in place; especially when we are handing second graders Chromebooks.
Again, the timing of this assignment is perfect. I see an area of weakness at my school and in my own practices. Now, I’ll get the chance to make a difference through my final project in this course-more creating and contributing to my PLN! I am hopeful that with the collaborative effort of my group, we will be able to create something that is helpful for both teachers and students.
When thinking about what I’d like to create and what my own beliefs are about internet safety and use for students, I found myself really connecting to the beliefs of the writer of The New Childhood: Raising Kids To Thrive In A Connected World, Jordan Shapiro. In his interview with NPR, he mentions that part of his job as a parent is to help his children make sense of their online experiences and teach them how to uphold enduring values in the new world they are living in. That’s my job as a teacher too. I need to prepare students for the world they are currently living in. It doesn’t make any sense for schools to not teach digital citizenship and safety.
“How are we going to maintain those positive things-the compassion, ethics, good social skills, and intimate relationships, if we’re teaching students to live in a world that doesn’t look like the world they’re living in?”
These are the ideas I want to keep in mind when creating my final course project. I want to help my school work towards establishing better guidelines regarding the use of technology and information. It is the schools’ job to have guidelines to help keep everyone safe. Teachers need to be taught what they can and cannot share. Parents need to be “leaning in” to see what their children are doing online. Ultimately, our goal as educators or parents is to prepare our children for the world they live in. Technology is not going away.
What are some of the great things your schools are doing to educate teachers and students about internet safety and privacy? What are some of the programs you use to teach students digital citizenship? I’d love to hear!
Technology has become more important than ever for my second-grade students and me at this time due to COVID-19 school closures. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to connect with my students in the same way that I have been in the past 11 weeks. Because my students have Chrome Books and the internet in their homes, I am able to see their faces and hear their voices every morning through Zoom.
If this global pandemic happened when I was in school (kindergarten-high school), I would not have had a computer at the time. I didn’t get a computer until I graduated from college! I can’t imagine what home learning would have looked like-probably a bunch of worksheets.
For second graders, a lot of their communication happens at school. They are not using social media apps yet (besides Seesaw and now Zoom). A few students have phones, but they mostly use them to play games, listen to music, or take pictures. Some students are connected to apps such as Kakao Talk or WhatsApp. When I asked the students about these apps, a few students did say that they can text their friends. Most of the students who use Kakao Talk are Korean and they text amongst their Korean friends. This is similar to the app Line, which is used by many of our Japanese families.
“The only way for me to talk to my friends during home learning is through Zoom with our class or using the school email account.”
During this time, it is difficult to maintain the same classroom community vibe that was there when we were physically together at school, but it is not impossible. Giving students opportunities to share during Morning Meeting sessions on Zoom, planning special Spirit Week activities, letting them chat using the chat feature in Zoom, and putting them in small breakout rooms has allowed my students to maintain friendships and feel apart of a community.
Second graders love being able to use the “comment’ feature in Google Docs. They almost use it like a chat in the writing documents they are working on. They’ve figured a way to work around not having a phone or some sort of messenger to use. Clever!
Seesaw is another tool students use to communicate. Seesaw allows them to see what their classmates are doing and it allows them to comment on their classmates’ posts. My kids have added jokes they have written or short videos of their day. They post artwork they have created and dance videos they have created. Seesaw is a kind of introduction to other social media forms like Facebook and Instagram. Students are learning how to be responsible digital citizens in a safe environment controlled by the teacher. I love how these tools have allowed my students to maintain friendships and feel loved!
Now vs. Then
When I reflect on how my students are able to connect with each other; especially, during this time, it is quite amazing! As a child, I did not have a computer, so most likely I would have been able to call my friends on the telephone or write them a handwritten letter. If I was allowed to go outside, I would have been playing with my neighbors, but most children in the states cannot do that because of social distancing.
Even before social distancing laws came into effect, I still find that children connect differently than when I was growing up. I spent my summers outside playing in the neighborhood. Immediately after finishing my homework, I was out the door playing outside with friends, riding bikes to the park, and swimming in our backyard. Neighborhoods are not the same anymore. I think kids spend more time inside-connecting with friends through video games, chats, and social media.
Social Media was definitely something missing from my childhood and I am not sad about that. I can’t imagine how different my middle and high school years would have been if teens were using social media when I was going through school. However, I did make mistakes as a developing human. We all did-every generation. It is important to remember that and instead of looking at social media as a negative tool for children, prepare kids to be responsible digital citizens and how to make good choices. Inevitably, they will make mistakes and hopefully, they will earn from those mistakes.
In Keegan Korf’s TedX Talk she speaks about how we’ve given kids the impression that they can’t ever make a mistake online. Adults have done such a good job planting this seed of fear, that instead of helping our children by empowering them to use social media for good, kids truly believe they have the power to destroy their own reputation. But kids aren’t always able to distinguish what could be harmful.
So we must teach digital citizenship. Teaching digital citizenship can be tough, but educators and parents can help support kids. We can do this by listening, educating ourselves, making students aware of laws, or seek our digital opportunities to do with children. Adults need to understand the platforms kids are using so we can make sure they are using them responsibly. Set limits and boundaries. It takes a village, but it can be done. Educators and parents can all do their part to help keep kids safe.
Remember Raising digital citizens is no different than raising in real life citizens.