Reflecting on Redefintion

CoETaIL – Frustrating, powerful, daunting, liberating, awesome, time consuming, empowering, challenging, collaborative, thought provoking, nerve racking, fascinating….
It has been 20 years since I took a graduate course, so I’m a little out of practice two kids later!  The last 1.5 years have literally transformed me not just as a teacher but my whole being and my outlook on technology.  I can apply the SAMR model while road schooling my two boys as we travel North America this coming school year.   Lucky boys!  Gamification, travel blogs, educational apps, digital citizenship, Minecraft and programming like Scratch, highly recommended from our CoETaIL teacher, Robert Appino.  All this and more would not have been possible without CoETaIL.  The list goes on….and I can’t imagine how different our gap year would be if my husband and I had not joined CoETaIL.  More importantly, imagine how much more I’ll learn this upcoming year on the road which will help me be a better facilitator for my students the year after.
My final project for CoETaIL, Techquatics,  was the culminating project of five courses put together.  Initially, all the subject matter was quite foreign to me. I made a lot of mistakes and still do but I am learning so much along the way.  Everything seemed more challenging for me to learn than the  younger generation.  I was a bit envious observing their ease with technology compared to my slow, awkward slothiness.  BUT!!!!  I can’t help but relish the fact that I now have a couple of blogs,  I’m using technology in and out of the classroom with the SAMR model in mind and am cognizant of the global pathway technology has taken education by storm.  I want to walk down that path!  Until this reflection I didn’t really comprehend the magnitude of this experience.   In the words of my colleague Shane Sullivan…my project reached transformation as well as myself…I have redefined myself through the power of technology!

Water War


Final Project – Learning Journeys (Techquatics)

Here is my final project for CoETaIL Course 5.  The process of this presentation created the most productive reflection I have done on a unit and has proven to be an invaluable course for my computer literacy.

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In this unit, students share their swimming skills with their parents during Learning Journeys, the student led conferences at the end of the third quarter.  The students are videotaped swimming the four competitive strokes over four months.  These are uploaded to the school YouTube account.  The students then embed their video onto their classroom blog and write reflections based on their own performance.  Students refer to my blog, Open Mind, which has instructions and videos of professional swimmers so they can compare it to their own technique and look at strengths and areas to improve.  The students reflect on their strokes and post to their own blogs. This is a transformative way to show parents their child’s performance based skills in swim class by swimming the four strokes and integrating technology with PE.  Here is the UBD unit Techquatics – Learning Journeys for Grade 5.

The above presentation was based on the following questions which created meaningful reflection on the whole process and the final project.

1.  What were your goals for your lesson/project?  My goal for the final project in course 5 was to integrate aquatics with technology in a transformative way through the use of NETS, NASPE and the SSIS Core Values.

2.  What tools did you use?  Why did you choose these tools for these tasks?  I used a Sony Camera and Ipad 3 to record students swimming and give immediate feedback.  This also creatd self produced videos for the schools YouTube.  The students used computers to embed their videos onto their blog and post reflections on their swim strokes.  This enabled students to share their swimming skills with their parents.

3.  How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?  I explained to grade 5 students in swim class that over the course of four months they would learn, review, record and reflect the four competitive strokes, basically one stroke per month. They would read my blog posts which included instructions, animated video or YouTube of professional swimmers and guiding questions.  They understood this would be largely independent work since most of the technology would take place on time outside of swim class.

4.  How did the students react?  The students  were excited about combining technology with swimming and having the flexibility for creativity.  They were surprisingly responsible about meeting deadlines and working independently.

5.  Outcome?  Did you meet your goals?  The outcome not only met my goals but created new ones.  Student achievement showed growth and showed them being more present during swim class which helped develop and improve their skills.

6.  Evidence of learning?  Judging by their blogs, learning clearly took place. For example,  Aadarsh embedded his butterfly video next to the animated video I had on my blog so he could compare the two.  It helped him to view the animated video for direct feedback and see what he was doing right or what he should change.

7.  What would you differently next time?  What did you learn?  I would like to expand this unit to grade 4 and maybe even grade 3 so students could reflect on their learning and share their swim strokes with their parents.  I’d like to have students narrate to their video for an audio assessment.  This would be even more relative and direct for reflection.  I  also need to differentiate for students who don’t swim due to medical issues.  I think the whole class could be involved with this by each student posting a strength and area to improve on another student, so all students are involved and engaged with learning swimming skills.

8.  How do you plan to share this with your colleagues?  Elementary specialists have a blog so I can share my final project on the blog and discuss it in team meetings.  We’ve been planning for Learning Journeys at our team meetings since the beginning of the year so the specialists are aware of this unit.  I will bring them up to date on the final project at our next meeting.

9.  What was your greatest learning in this course?  It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing.  Transformation is the desired outcome with the use of technology using the SAMR model.  Tenacity, perseverance, collaboration and tech support are a must to be successful.  The reflection process was powerful for not only the students but myself in promoting learning and growth.   Performance based assessments are ideal if they can be looked at repeatedly.  I think this unit can be applied to many different domains.

10.  Did this implementation meet the definition of redefinition?  Yes.  Students showed parents their own swim performance with 25 meters of the four competitive strokes from their classroom.  By posting on their blogs, students were able to share their actual swim skills with their parents during Learning Journeys, the student-led conference.  This process also enables any parent who was not able to attend the student led conference to see their child swim, as well as their grandparents a few thousand kilometers away!

This learning journey was more than just a unit.  It became a quest of knowledge and gave me opportunity to extend and apply myself in new territory, the 21st Century classroom.

Reflecting on Reflections

Learning Journeys may be over but the journey in learning continues!  Grade 5 students had a positive and powerful student-led conference  by showing their parents swim strokes and reflections from their blog posts.  This semesters work was based largely on reflections.  Please view Aadarsh reflecting on the use of technology in swim class.

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Now students have one final post to complete from my Open Mind blog.  This will be reflections based on the four month process of video taping, embedding, reflecting and sharing their blogs at Learning Journeys with their parents.

The students have enjoyed collaborating with each other and integrating computers with aquatics.  Many of their reflections state the importance of viewing their strokes over and over again so they can closely assess their performance.  Without the use of technology, this would be an impossible feat.  With the use of technology, students are able to use this feedback to improve their technique and share their performance with a wider audience.


Preparing for the Journey

Not everyone likes to travel.  Journeys take planning and preparation, may cause anxiety, sleeplessness and fear of the unknown…even if it’s a desirable trip.  Learning Journeys (our student led conferences) are this Friday at SSIS.  For the last four months I have video taped three grade 5 aquatics classes with the students swimming all  four competitive strokes; freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. These were all uploaded to the schools YouTube account so the students could embed them in their classroom blogs.  I posted on my own SSIS blog, Open Mind, guidelines for students reflection along with a YouTube video using proper technique on whichever stroke we were learning at the time.   Their homework for each stroke was:

  • View my post and follow the guidelines
  • Watch YouTube video for tips to improve
  • Embed their video and reflect on their technique by posting on their blog

I’m quite impressed with the student response and responsibility with this largely independent project.  Our school is on a 6 day cycle so they only have swimming once in the six day cycle for 20 minutes.  With this time constraint, student progress in the pool isn’t dramatic but they have done very well with keeping up with their blog reflections and seem to enjoy the self-assessment process.  Most of them have been very responsible with getting their posts done on time and work independently at home.  Several students have embedded both videos on their blog for comparison like the app UbersenseClassroom teachers have been very supportive in reminding them and giving IT support if needed.

On Friday, during Learning Journeys, students will share one of their blog posts with their parents.  Since they can’t show them how they swim in our pool during that time, this is a perfect way to use technology to share their swimming performance.  The student rubric is a guide to help them through this whole process including “presenting” the blog to their parents.  How prepared they are relies heavily on independent student work. This project has given them opportunity to be creative, independent and share a performance based discipline in the classroom, impossible to do without technology.  This journey may be uncomfortable for some but all the students will experience new terrain as they travel through their blogs with their parents. 


Gamification Addiction

Image by Scoop it

Image by Scoop it

Gaming is the ultimate 21st century carrot or bribe a parent can use on their children.  My two sons will do just about anything to earn tech time.  It has supreme power with their decision making in terms of discipline.  Bad choices equal loss of Ipad time.  Good choices equal more Ipad time.  They are fully emotionally connected where technology is concerned.

In Gabe Zichermann at TNW 2012,  we hear how gamification is the best tool set to meet the emotional and intelligence domain. My sons definitely expose their emotional animal when it comes to technology. They aren’t rational when they lose a game, just extremely frustrated. They won’t listen to reason or parental opinions that it’s just a game and  they’re so fortunate  to get to try again, without losing another quarter like back in our day!   Their urge to win or level up must have more at stake than than just doing it for achievement.  After viewing Gabe’s talk, I think my boys are addicted to games and need their fix of dopamine.

I found Gabe’s talk on the fluid intelligence (gF) and crystallized intelligence particularly interesting.  Most notably was the Dual N back type of game that has proven to raise (gF), synonymous with innovation and creativity.   The grey brain matter increase has nothing to do with skills but with merely trying to perform.  Studies show children today are different kinds of people or thinkers because of their exposure to video games and multi-tasking.  Their ability to problem solve in unfamiliar situations validates Gabe’s point…”other experiences cannot compete with this”.  I think we are witnessing evolution before our very eyes.

What I found particularly amusing in Gamification was what great lengths people will go to, to achieve the three F’s: Feedback, Friends,  and Fun. These three factors promote free crowd sourcing and collaboration.  The result is 750,000 free CNN iReports done in the last three years.  Programmers can go to Stack Overflow, a free Q & A forum to help solve problems.  Charlie Kim’s NextJump company has 80% participation invested in the gym, promoted by unlegislated and authentic team work.   These are just a few examples of  gamification that people don’t generally think of when considering gamification.  Obviously people want the social status, the collaboration and the fun that dopamine provides.

After watching the video on gamification I have to admit I am stumped on how I can integrate this idea into my final project. I know students will blog as a means to reflect on on their swimming but I honestly don’t have a clear picture yet. In the meantime I’m viewing exemplars from other cohorts. I found Josee Marshall’s, Putting It All Together, final project very insightful. The G4 Explorers Unit shown in a Prezi was really well documented with a great collection of evidence.  So like gamification is an ongoing process, so is my final unit but my vision is starting to come into view.

The Mind of Minecraft!

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My homework this week involved several different assignments so in this blog I’ll save the best for last. Please observe right!

Reviewing Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR model was helpful to gear me up for Coetail this term. The straightforward model creates thought provoking questions and discussions.   Although transformative is the ultimate goal, In One Thing I’ve Learned, we’re reminded that enhancement has its place when useful.  Keeping the SAMR model in mind while moving on to the Exemplar Projects was a great indicator on how transformative the 21st Classrooms have become, primarily under the influence of Coetail. What great collaboration!

I reviewed several Exemplar Projects but I have to admit I was especially drawn towards Travis Ion’s, Redefining 5th Grade.  The presentation was on introducing websites and blogging with his G5 class.  This captivated my attention since it’s how I’m trying to promote transformational use in my  G5 aquatics class with my blog, Open Mind.  It was helpful to see blogging targeted for ideas on strategies and tackling challenges to improve my own 21st century classroom.  Travis shows great collaboration with colleagues and students, models risk-taking and the woes of tackling problems in comments and editing.  I found the information he shared on creating websites for each student especially useful and plan on using this with my sons.  The UBD unit addresses the NET Standard, 2a, which clearly shows redefinition through the SAMR model. Travis shows how technology is used everywhere in the present and future and transformative to him personally.

My absolute favorite part of the homework this week was the assignment to play two new games.  I downloaded chess and thought I’d share this with my boys, age 9 and 11 and it would be so cool!  How boring is that?  What a perfect opportunity to let them shine in the world they love, the world of Minecraft.  I became their apprentice and am now the proud owner of not one, but two worlds in Minecraft.  I know it sounds like overkill but they wanted me to compare the differences of Minecraft on two different computers so I could see the advantages and disadvantages that each system had.

My youngest son helped me create Wayne’s World in creative mode on the IPAD pocket edition.  This edition has a nether reactor, not available with the regular version, only available in survival mode.  The igloo I made with the IPAD touch screen was easy to manipulate.   Surprisingly, the world of Minecraft is uniquely “real” as my igloo began to melt from some torches I had placed inside for light. Trevor got a real kick out of teaching me and told me I was a difficult student!  Ahhh, perspective.

The world I made on my older son’s school computer has a lot more available items. It was SO awesome because the first screen was in the ocean looking up.  I could see squid swimming around, the sun, and the clouds up through the water overhead.  My son helped me create a glass house which took awhile, so day actually became night with a full moon reflecting off the clouds and stars.  Apparently the moon waxes and wanes as well.  Pretty amazing!

Minecraft proved to be very challenging for me as I learned to manipulate keys and crafting stones to get around in this new world. I have new respect for my boys’ computer skills and the ease in which they move around, their accuracy and speed, their and their spatial sense and obvious comfort level. Needless to say they had some good laughs on our reverse roles and it was great fun.  If you want to try it out, check out the easy tutorial below.  Oh…there are cheats available too, but that’s another blog.

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Robert Gagne’s Learning Theory on the Nine Events of Instruction is a systematic approach to learning.  For swimming or PE class I find this theory effective to use because it’s specific and teacher directed.  I realize student centered learning theories can be more motivating for the students but for performance based skills that are taught in progression this learning theory works well.  This grade 5 unit I created is for freestyle, using UBD with the lessons following Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction.

Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction1.  Gain attention – “You’re on candid camera!” (recording and viewing strokes with Ipad Swim Coach Plus Ap)

2.  Set objectives – Swim, assess, reflect

3.  Stuimulate recall – Use what you know

4.  Present content – Freestyle review on technique (kicking, breathing, pulling and body position)  This can be done using flipped classroom by watching a YouTube video embedded on my blog

5.  Provide guidance – Practice with corrective feedback

6.  Elicit performance – Record student’s freestyle on Ipad ap

7.  Give feedback – Playback Swim Coach Plus Ap in slow motion to show and discuss

8.  Evaluate – Retrieve and reinforce the content through self assessment.

9.  Enhance transfer – Retrieve and apply learned skill to new situation by writing reflections on any content or curriculum.

Differentiation can be addressed in this unit as each students freestyle is recorded for individual feedback.  Strengths and target areas are then addressed in their reflections.  Where some students may not be strong swimmers they may shine in the writing component or through technology, embedding their video onto their blog. This diversification should help students feel successful in at least one of these areas.  It also  allows teacher guidance to stretch the students expectations.
Based on the technical resources and student and teacher background, this unit could be used for students as young as grade two.  The technology involved where the students are concerned is through writing reflections on their blogs and embedding the video from the SSIS School YouTube account. This requires some training and IT support for the students and teachers and time to get it done outside of swim class.  The outcomes that result from Gagne’s learning theory are digital citizenship, writing for an audience and improving freestyle technique through reflection.   Please check out this Grade 5 unit on Freestyle – Techquatics!




Poker Chips

There’s a new change agent in town.  Technology is its name and gamification is its …well, game.  The educational world has changed in the last few years due to technology but the inevitable is approaching.  I teach swimming and the strokes haven’t changed so much in the last few years  but  the tech tools used to record, define, analyze technique and view it all have improved considerably with technology and will undoubtedly morph in the years to come.  Swimming is a performance based subject so probably won’t change as much as the core subjects or how we learn them.  The core curriculum; however, will transform drastically through technology and most likely through gaming.

Jane McGonical’s:  Gaming Can Make a Better World Ted Talk, relayed fascinating information on how gaming creates an “urgent optimism” with a desire to act immediately and solve problems.  The World of Warcraft is an example of this successful society.  This is accomplished through the “social fabric”  because people trust one another due to the necessity of cooperation.  Participants have to collaborate and be experts in their field but must also understand some of the other gamers’ tasks involved.  The outcome is “blissful productivity” because people are satisfied and working hard out of their sheer desire to progress and move forward.  This “epic meaning” is achieved because gamers desire to be attached to awe inspiring meaning.  As a result these studies suggest the building of unbelievable resources if it can ever be harnessed.  Gamers are epic heroes, individually capable of changing the gaming world.   Their needs are met through social networking, gaining rewards, receiving feedback, playing in a safe haven, etc.  They are virtually using games to escape real life suffering.  Gamers are an incredible resource for problem solving if the world can tap into their productivity.

James Paul Gee on Learning With Video Games shows us we can learn at any age.  (I find this quite reassuring since I’m now middle aged.)  “Tangential learning is not what you learn by being taught rather it’s what you learn by being exposed to things in a context with which you’re already engaged in”.  The tangential learner will self educate because they enhance the learning experience and it’s fun.  Look at the guy below.  Who doesn’t like to play games and have fun while they learn?  This HAS to be the path for education in the future because it has so many successful qualities.



After watching Jane McGonical’s:  The Game that can give you 10 extra years of life, I’m encouraged to play more video games just to increase my longevity.  She believes gaming improves physical , mental, emotional and social resilience.  With two pre-teen boys I’m even more encouraged to spend time with them on their turf to help support and keep a positive relationship.  They absolutely love gaming and I think this is the way education will turn, to best meet the needs of our children.  Gamification is the way to increase learning and the desire to learn.




Riding the Technology Wave

SSIS isn’t exactly Ohio State University, creating a digitally literate campus, but were are making improvements and offering more resources to teachers and students.  After attending the Kim Cofino21st Century Classroom workshop, I am inspired more than ever to integrate technology with aquatics.

Last year I integrated technology with Grade 5 through my Open Mind school blog. The students began making SMART goals for student led conferences towards the end of the third quarter.  Throughout the year I embedded videos on stroke techniques and asked questions for assessment.  During the Learning Journeys they shared their swim blogs with their parents and discussed their goals and how they were attaining them.  At the end of the year they wrote blog reflections on their progress attaining their goals.  Self reflection is relevant to students but I want to make it more transformative this year by using the SAMR model to guide my instruction.

SAMRThis summer I bought an Ipad and the Swim Coach Plus Ap.  My goal is to improve student assessment and reflections by recording student performance.  After I record each student swimming a specified stroke I’ll play it back for immediate feedback, download it to the school YouTube and have them embed it into their blog and reflect on their stroke.  Towards the end of the year I’ll film again so they can view their progress by comparing the two recordings.

I think I am effectively integrating technology for grade five.  These blog posts can be extended to grade 4 and 3.  I haven’t found cross-curricular projects with technology and aquatics so I need to figure out how to apply technology in the younger grades.  This is a challenge because swimming is performance based, so how do I address TPACK?  Fortunately,  the more I use technology the more natural it becomes but younger students need to use it themselves, not just have me use it for them.   I know my content and pedagogy practice, but how do I integrate technology across all grade levels?  At this point, I can only start with enhancement and work towards transformation through collaboration and research.

TPACKAs a parent and teacher, I want to prepare our children for this exciting time in technology.  The  23 Things About Classroom Laptops article had two very valid points I’d like to promote.

16.   Parents!  “Parents find it hard to judge if students are working at home – or playing (socializing). The lack of text book and pen might send the wrong signals. Run parent orientation nights! – Get in guest-expert to talk about the issues and benefits – get parents onside.”  Parents really need to be educated and trained too!

17. Get a school mentor!  “If you don’t have an ICT integrator, or cant identify a teacher-blogger, then get a mentor. Invest in a long term, 12 month, mentor program to allow teachers to undertake a course that leads them through the re-establishment of new skills and classroom management strategies. You won’t achieve this in a day’s in-service. Make sure you are working with a practitioner at all times, not a ‘consultant’ who can’t drop into a school and model their theory in practice.”  Teachers must have training, coaching, and modeling to grow in technology.  It’s a disservice to students and society if teachers don’t have continual and consistent support.

Trends are shifting slowly but hopefully schools will ride the TPACK and SAMR wave for the good of the globe. These are valid issues and we need to actively find solutions in order to help meet the technology needs of our students.



Connectivism – Connecting Water with Technology


Connecting Water with TechnologyIs connectivism a real learning theory or a pedagogical view? Does this argument really matter in the classroom?  Really?  Kids are learning if they are making connections and creating networks. THAT’S theory in motion!  As Robert Appino pointed out in his presentation on Connectivism“knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual.” My  interpretation of this learning theory is a symbiotic relationship of teachers, students and resources that are interconnecting.   The teacher should be learning and the learners should be teaching to maximize collaboration. Based on Wikipedia’s definition of Connectivism, it regards knowledge to exist within systems which are accessed through people participating in activities.  In my quest for integrating technology with aquatics I am determined to connect with connectivism.

Principles of connectivism

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

The Prinicples of Connectivism above could be applied in an aquatics class with the use of technology.  There are several different ways to approach this theory with upper elementary students in my swim class.  This could be done in collaboration for homework, in computer lab or done as  a writing “How to…” paper.  For example, students could google how to swim freestyle (or choose a stroke, flip turn, dive, etc.).and watch instructional videos or use other technological means like infographs for research.

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This could be done in partners or small groups and put on a google doc to share ideas on how to explain this in class.  The groupings could be set up like the following.  Group 1- freestyle breathing, Group 2- Flutter kick, Group 3 – Arm technique (catch, pull, push) under the water, Group 4 – Arm recovery over the water. After collaborating with their Google doc group, students from each group would be put together to discuss each component of freestyle and then put it into practice in the pool.  At the end of the lesson each student could reflect on their blog about the four different techniques they discussed and practiced in class.

Although I am using connectivism as a learning theory example, the lesson supports and integrates with a variety of learning theories. Using the flipped classroom for video viewing as homework and following the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy  model stressing creativity enhances differentiation. Students could “bloom” with this model and have fun creating it together.  Project Based Learning is another theory that could work well as well as Constuctivism.  The options are many and the point is creating, connecting, networking.
Bloom's Taxonomy Revised

Will Richardson’s TEDxNYED shows us the education system is failing our children because it hasn’t changed in the last 125 years.  “We need to stop trying to be better and start being different.  Stop prepping students for tests and start prepping them for life.”  I think Connectivism addresses our students needs and supports growth and change for everyone in our evolving world.

Blooms Taxonomy Revised