Course 5 Final Project

So here it is, the final COETAIL project. It has definitely been a learning experience in many ways, and I’m so glad I had the courage to try something that connected me with other students. All parts of the project, from making it happen, discussing the process with students, to making the video carried valuable bits of learning with them.

YouTube Preview Image

Now, I do have more to say about doing this project in terms of how I would do it differently. One thing is that when I let students search for instructions on how to make their own astrolabe and then construct it themselves, I found that the different styles of astrolabes made it more difficult for me to train them on how to use them. Although it was a useful discussion about the merits of the different types that they created, and useful to see them share the different patterns with each other, it ate up quite a bit of class time and made teaching them how to use them more difficult. Another thing related to tools was the fact that while I trained them on how to use a compass, I kept on getting opposite results the next day after their observations. I would definitely have all students bring in their directional devices next time for a more cohesive training on using them.

The fact was that the inconsistency of the data was a real headache in many ways. When I am trying to get students to understand particular facts about the moon based on their observations, and yet their observations are opposed to each other, it became very very difficult. In a way, I needed a project that I could monitor the observations more carefully, or at least to start looking at the moon one of those days when it is visible during the day, so that they can learn how to do it together and figure out where their mistakes were being made. My suspicion was that many students ended up just making up the data, or even trying to look it up online, where the data is often based on a North American perspective, which defeats the point of the project.

Still, their learning about the inconsistencies of their own observations prepared them for the inconsistencies in students’ data from around the world, and perhaps helped them see how potentially subjective and erroneous Scientific studies can be. While I’m not sure that this was the message I was going for at this point, it’s good for them to start recognizing the importance of clear accurate observations, especially when others are depending on you. Perhaps that is a much more important learning experience than just knowing the fact that all students see the same phase of the moon around the world, but its orientation and location is a little different in the sky.

It was a good project however, and I already know how I would change things if I did it again, and it was really good to see the power of connecting with other students. I’ll definitely try to incorporate more of that into the next school year.

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Recording in the Classroom

I admit it, writing is easy for me. Doing the blogs, reflecting, learning and expressing myself in writing goes quickly, and generally involves only myself. To create a visual and aural work brings in many other levels of thinking and considering.

One thing that was particularly a challenge with doing this final project was the videos and pictures from the classroom. I know very well that this is becoming more and more important as a document of my work in the classroom, yet it still feels invasive to me. To put students on the spot where they know they are being photographed or recorded changes the feel of the classroom. There’s always this start of recognition, and sense of awkwardness shows up. Am I just projecting onto them my own feelings? I don’t think so. The self-consciousness that appears whenever someone trains a camera or video on me is one I’ve witnessed in students over and over again. So it’s hard for me, to disrupt the flow of learning by bringing in a recording device and creating that discomfort, particularly when it’s for my own use, rather than for the classroom.

Yet I also know that students are always recording themselves in their own time. They love hamming it up for the camera, posting funny pictures of themselves online (digital footprints anyone?), and even creating silly movies. Perhaps if I made more use of the videos as part of my students’ learning and reflecting, then it would feel that it has more of a purpose for them, rather than just for me.  Perhaps I just need to feel more comfortable in front of the camera myself, in order to relax about having others in front of it.

How do others make recording the classroom have a more organic feel, rather than a forced disruptive one? Just curious if there are any tips out there.

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Case for Connectivity

I live in Myanmar (as anyone who reads this blog knows by now) where the internet is not the best. Yet it is improving on the whole in the country. However in my school, it is a different story.

Case in point, today I had a simple task. I took my students to the computer lab so that they could take an online quiz on Edmodo. It was a simple task, one that did not require any intensive graphics. Yet after ten minutes in the computer lab, half of my students were almost done with the quiz, and half of my students were still waiting to load the home page of Edmodo (as in, they hadn’t even logged in yet). After 25 minutes and 3 different computers, one student had yet to even get logged in (the others were successful by switching around to other computers, but he had no luck). Now once might at first guess that this was the result of differences in computers, but I’ve watched this over and over, and there is no consistent pattern to which computers work and which ones don’t.

This connectivity issue even affected my COETAIL 5 project, which, in spite of trying to make it with as low connectivity requirements as possible, still needed my students to read a PDF on a moodle site. Should have been simple, yet again, half the students were able to read the PDF, and half of them just got blank screens, over and over and over… All our tech people at the school can do is shake their heads.

So as I know that connectivity is improving in Myanmar,  it is time for my school to invest in some better Internet infrastructure. However, it is turning out to be a hard sell (strange as that is to believe).  I’d like to prepare some information for my admin and board about the importance of 21st century skills, and the Internet’s crucial role with this. So as I begin thinking on it, I turn to my PLN. Any thoughts? Who has some strong persuasive arguments and articles to support the importance of Internet in schools? I’ve got my own places to start, but I definitely believe that others might have something to contribute with this discussion. Chime in if you have any resources or useful persuasive ideas!

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PLN Paralysis

This is my last COETAIL course, and as I looked over the final project, one aspect jumped out at me in big red flashing letters:

PLN

The instructions say: “It is time for you to build your own PLN where you want to and how you want to.”

Here’s the thing, however, networking has always been a challenge for me. In a word, I’m shy, and not just with face-to-face interactions. An anecdote: when I was in 8th grade, back in the snail mail world, my teacher wanted us to do a project that required us to write to a news agency to ask for information. I remember the idea of writing someone I didn’t know and asking for help scared me so much, I pretended to do it and said that they never answered. Shame on me!

Point being, while confidence has been gained, and I can email people I don’t know, comment on other’s blogs, and even talk to strangers face to face, it tends to be a bit draining. As an introvert, I need time away from other people. Yet when I read about PLN’s that really work, the assumption is constant interaction, not only when I really need help, but continually posting my comments and thoughts and commenting on blogs and other people’s posts as a regular practice. In my experience, this can be just as hard as face to face, and seems to fill up the corners of my life when I would prefer to be “alone”.  This is why I drew away from Facebook after dabbling in it, and why I could never bring myself to try Twitter.

Yet I’ve read others’ blogs, and seen people’s Twitter posts, and benefited from comments that others have written. As I increasingly do this reading as a lurker only, there is a discomfort that I am benefitting from all these other people who are willing to participate in the conversation, and yet still shy about joining it myself. I also think that from forcing myself to continually reflect on my practice and the practice of others by posting, it would keep me engaged in my own learning as a teacher.

When considering the time issue, I suppose if I invested enough time in a PLN, then all that time spent searching the internet for ideas and resources could be saved by just posting a question to the PLN. However it is a passion of mine to look around for information, but not a passion to ask questions only use what is sent as an answer.

There is a teacher network on Edmodo, which I already use for teaching with my classes. Part of me wonders if participating in that is enough, or is diving into Twitter really the way to go? So many places to build PLNs, where does a shy person start? How can they keep the time investment reasonable so that they can still be “offline” as much as they need, while still creating a network that works? These are the things it is time to figure out.

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Final Project Ideas Begin to Brew

As my mind turned over ideas about the final project for COETAIL, I started thinking hard about what was feasible for me, while still including redefinition on the SAMR scale. Anyone who has read my blog posts knows my limitations with using technology and the Internet, and thus any ideas that I formed had to keep these in mind.

I have two more topics to teach in the second half of the year, Flight and Space.

SSJ100 Flight Training Device

This isn’t exactly the simulator I have in mind. Rights reserved by SuperJet International.

Flight is a great chance for students to do hands-on investigations and engineering, and as I considered this unit, my initial thoughts were that I wasn’t really interested in spending too much time in the computer lab during it.

That said, I know that Google Earth has a flight simulator, which would be a potentially engaging experience for them to learn aspects of control of a plane. I could see incorporating the simulator after we learn the basic functions of the plane, and having them practice flying from one destination to another, but it would be a lesson, not a unit.

I found online a curriculum called Fly To Learn  that uses the program X-Plane to help teach students about flying, and then has them designing an aircraft. The culminating project ends with a contest among students across the world. Now that would be an interesting thing to pursue, but it certainly won’t happen this year for me (can’t get it from Myanmar), so it’s out as a project for COETAIL.

So that leaves the topic Space, which is a subject that very much lends itself to technology and computer integration, as its abstract nature leaves in the classroom experiments at a minimum.

At this point I looked at the technology standards for 6th grade, to see whether I could find inspiration from integrating the project tightly with the curriculum. A few standards stood out to me:

“Students will collaboratively create and present original video related to 6th grade content.

Students will exchange information with other students and/or experts in collaborative projects appropriate to the 6th grade curricula.

Students will participate in a long-term (i.e., over an extended period of time with multiple exchanges) group collaborative project in which information on a specific topic is exchanged and analyzed or electronically published jointly by students in ISM and/or with others in a remote location.”

So, my two project ideas are as follows:

Project 1:

I found a collaborative project called “World Moon Project” that works with one of my standards for Space, and would also give students a chance to work with other students around the world. It is an authentic learning project, that entails viewing the moon from different parts of the world, sharing that information, and seeing what is the same and what is different, then coming up with reasons for those differences.

Moon Eclipse (Phases)

Rights Reserved by Tizianoj

There are many steps to the project, first logging the moon as it appears for 6 weeks, then submitting a description of it to the website, followed by receiving descriptions from students across the world. Students must read through the descriptions, find the similarities and differences, and look into why that may be the case and write an analysis of why they think it happens.

This seems a good possibility for the Course 5 project, because it utilizes the power of the Internet to link students across the globe in with an immediacy that would have been impossible before. It seems to have a good combination of using technology to record and reflect, but also to connect with others. In the meantime, it isn’t completely Internet dependent, which makes things a bit easier for me.

Perhaps my primary worry with doing it is that the project will take up more time than the content merits, and force me to shortchange the other parts of the space unit: studying the planets, rocketry, and the challenges of living in space. That said, in the spirit of emphasizing the “pipes over the oil”, the skills practiced and gained would be extremely important.

In terms of my own teaching with this idea, I would have to work hard to leave the discoveries up to the students, and leave their explanations and ideas that go out to other students in their pristine state, rather than fixing them up. I often lead students too much by the nose to make sure they get the understanding I want them to find, and this would require me to trust in the learning process for themselves a bit more than I am used to.

To do this unit, students will have to be able to use their problem solving and analytical skills. They will also have to work on putting their ideas into words, and using the Internet resources that I provide to help them find and interpret information. These are skills that my students still need quite a bit of work with, so it seems like it would be a very useful project.

Project 2:

Another part of teaching about space is looking into life in space, and the challenges involved with it. There are many many sources of information about this online, from Internet movies about life on the space station, to interactives from NASA. In the living in space portion of the unit, I would use Edcanvas or some other website (perhaps just my own) to collect the online resources, and including associated comprehension and questioning tasks for each resource. In addition to this I would add some labs to investigate food and taking care of the body in space.

After finishing our investigations, for the final project students would make a video, with their choice of structures. They could do a Bill Nye style informational video (complete with the pop song rewritten for new science lyrics), or a drama of life in space with a storyline.

Admittedly, all this would have to be adapted if I do the entire space unit more as a simulation (webquest style). Yet either way, it would all be based on content from the Internet, and the culminating project would be a creative undertaking of digital storytelling for the purposes of demonstrating understanding in a multimedia format. Knowing that students study space as well in 3rd grade, we could perhaps gear the projects for that level of understanding, and then share the videos with them.

My concerns about this unit would be, again, the time needed to be given as support for students with their movie project, balanced with the standards that I need to address in the unit. I always find projects like this deserve a lot more time than I ever give to them. I know they have already had some training with making videos in their computer class, but still, it would be a challenge for them. This would be a good culmination of everything we’ve practiced all year with understanding what we read on the web and synthesizing it into a new understanding. Yet based on past experiences with dramatic projects, I know I would have to really think through each step carefully to avoid it ending up as a sloppy project that no one is proud of (I’m remembering my Narnia newscast from 5 years ago, where I learned to always always always preapprove the script).

I’m also not sure if this is still simply modification, rather than redefinition. Yet, I could start from this idea and grow it into something that is more along the lines of redefinition.

In any case, these are two project ideas that I have, that utilize technology without being too Internet dependent. Still, I’m open to any ideas or refinements, so feel free to give any suggestions!

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BYOD or Bust

Our assignment: Reflect on your own use of devices in the classroom.

BYOD or Bust

Photo courtesy of Lawrence OP

That’s an easy one, the only one using devices inside my classroom is me. We go out to the computer lab on a regular basis, but I haven’t brought computers and other devices inside the classroom, not yet.

Part of it is because my subject, Science, has many labs and discussions, and not so much time needed with individual screens. Part of it is because my school has absolutely no wifi network available for teachers or students, making the classroom not a place for doing research or internet-based activities and collaboration. Part of it is also that some of my students do not have their own devices, and we have none to loan, making BYOD problematic as well. Part of it is that even my own computer is so slow that just opening too many tabs or windows causes it to slow down to an unusable pace, making it impractical to use for internet or other work on my projector with the class.

Just today I did have devices in my room, as students were finishing a research project, and using them to look at their notes and such. As an interesting new event, some used their phones to connect to the Internet. Now that was taking BYOD to the limit, BYOI (Internet)!

Yet this is not the norm in my class. Down the hall, I see computers in classrooms. Language Arts teachers allow students the chance to bring their devices into the classroom, so that they can compose on the computer rather than using paper. Another classroom gave out an annotatable PDF workbook for what students needed to work on, with only a few copies for those who needed it (classic substitution, but it saved paper!).

I could list a bunch of “what-if” scenarios here, such as what if I was in a 1:1 environment, or what if I had wifi available for the class, etc., etc. Yet I don’t, so I try to work with what I actually do have.

I’m pretty sure that my school will never go 1:1, and any form of it that we have would be BYOD. This brings up the issues of software, and how to work with all the different applications and apps that students would have on their machines. Sure, it sounds great to just outline the product, and then students use the software that they are comfortable/interested in, yet to be honest, many of my students really seem to want me to hold their hand still, and their problem solving skills are still very much in the development stage. As well, often it takes a teacher or a guide simply to point out the possibilities contained within a program, unless a student is particularly self-motivated and observant.

So for now, most of my use of devices happens in the computer lab, or even more often, outside the classroom, with my use of Edmodo. Because almost all students (but still not all, grr) have access to the internet at home, I use it frequently as a management tool to get information out, refer them to articles, small homework assignments, short quizzes, and sharing questions. Yet as a tool to support learning inside the classroom, well, even with all of the reading we’ve done in class, in all honesty I still haven’t really found a way to integrate it in a way that brings redefinition to the classroom. In fact, what this reflection really points out is that I want to find a position in a school that allows me to start practicing all this technology integration on a deeper scale! Yet I won’t give up yet, my students are great, and they are getting more and more of their own technology.

So Is there a model for using BYOD in a modification or redefinition scale if the internet is not there? Let me know!

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15 Years Into the Future…

In considering this blog post, regarding how I will be teaching in 15 years time, I read a number of different articles, such as “21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020″, and a few from a series called “The School Day of the Future”. Each had their own visions for education in the future. Common themes from this reading  included: technologically-supported differentiation, learning driven by student interests, groupings by interest rather than age, teacher as coach rather than information provider.

In one article, “Students Learn at Their Own Pace in the Future School Day”, it detailed how at the School of One, in New York City:

“A student arrives in school in the morning and answers five questions that will be calculated in a customized algorithm to figure out what she’ll be doing that day. That algorithm will decide which teacher she’ll work with, her level of learning based on what she learned the previous day, and her specific activities.”

The article goes on to detail how students would work with a variety of teachers in a variety of  situations (one on one, or in a group). Then teachers reflect on each student at the end of the day, and make recommendations for where they need to go next.

So in addition to my intrigue about how this actually works in practice, and where the instructional design fits into this model (i.e. unit and lesson planning), a few doubting thoughts arise to the surface. For example, as a teacher of younger students, I often see the benefits students have from a constant connection with particular teachers, rather than more limited connections with many. The benefits students have from structure (OK, perhaps not all students), versus when they feel that things are loose. I know that students work better in groups the longer those groups stay together, and wonder how that figures into this changing day. While I am very intrigued by the model, I do just wonder about what may be left out.

I also wonder about how mixed ability grouping works with this idea of self-pacing. Will students still be able to benefit from working with a range of students and abilities, or will they always end up with students at only their level? And is it a problem?

When considering self-paced and self-directed learning, I often remember the quote from one of my favorite books, Pride and Prejudice, which includes the following thoughts on education in a conversation between Lady Catherine De Bourgh and the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet:

“Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess you must have been neglected.”

“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

I suppose it is up to the teacher to supply the rigor and make sure students stay focused in this new model, but for the student who simply isn’t interested in math, following their passions will not lead them in that direction. Yet it is a powerful and important skill for all. So clearly there must be more to this picture to make sure that the learning is well-rounded and developing many skills, not just a few. I would need to know more about these new models, to see where my own teaching philosophy fits in.

In any case, back to my title and the basic question, of where I see myself as a teacher in 15 years. In all honesty, I see myself the same way I see myself now, trying to help students to grow intellectually, creatively, emotionally, and spiritually, giving them the skills to be able to be successful at whatever it is that they put their hearts towards, as well as whatever life throws their way. In addition, I want them to be thoughtful and caring in this world, tolerant of others and themselves, and able to see the big picture, as well as how to accomplish the small tasks. None of this has changed from anything in this course or anything I’ve read. Hopefully in fifteen years I will have continued to grow as a teacher, in utilizing technology and all the brilliant and effective ideas that I discover along the way, and will have the support of a good PLN that helps me to further my goals as a teacher. Is that too simple an answer? I hope not, because it’s the only prediction I can truly believe in.

 

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Connectivism Thoughts

This blog post is written in response to looking at George Siemen’s article “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”

So to put it in context here are some quotes that I’m considering in particular:

“The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”

“As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”

In addition to these two quotes, I was reflecting on a post from Maggie Hos-McGrane’s blog Tech Transformations, where she reflected on how she was once surprised to see people struggle finding the answer to something she thought was obvious. On her commenting, her brother replied, “The answer’s always easy when you know it.”

Currently in my classroom we are studying biodiversity, which is a rather vocabulary intensive unit: Mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, arachnids, organisms, arthropods, invertebrates and much much more. Often as a teacher, working on vocabulary can seem a rather uninspired task, when I’d much rather be conducting rich discussions into the interplay of species and the delicate web they weave with us and the planet. Memorizing the features of a crustacean versus an arachnid seems a bit less inspiring by comparison, and perhaps even unnecessary in today’s internet age. Still, I wanted students to get a basic understanding of how scientists classify species, and how they start with big differences (plant or animal) and move towards smaller ones (live birth or laying eggs).

What I noticed when giving a quiz about how they were remembering it was that their ability to learn about these different classes of species, and the relationships between the classification categories, was more limited than I’d expected. In particular, tying the different vocabulary into a single web of how they relate to each other was hard for many of them. They would understand that mammals and reptiles were similar, but decide that they were all invertebrates, or put conifers in the same category.

My point here is that if the pipeline is more important than the pipe, then it is how they approach learning new information, and the skills and strategies that they develop for doing so, which is the key here. Yet they need content (the oil in the pipe) to practice learning with. I am by no means attached to the idea that the definition of a crustacean is of immense importance in the learning world, yet I do believe that if a student does need to know about it, that they can put the information they learn about it into a proper schema of how it relates to other concepts. If they never practice working with the oil in the pipe, then how would we expect them to know what to do with it in the future when it may be “really” essential.

In addition, learning these words means learning words that are a part of our shared  vocabulary, which adults would all be expected to basically be familiar with. Is knowing the meaning of the word amphibian irrelevant, when it can be looked up on the internet? Yet who would want to be totally dependent on technology for their knowledge? Personally I prefer to keep some of my understanding in my head, and not waiting for me in some machine. Makes life a bit easier, and more interesting. And would looking up the definition give the deeper understanding of where the word comes from, why we use it for classification, and all else that comes with the subject? If the ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill, then how will they learn it, without learning it with some knowledge along the way?

Anyway, just some thoughts, do with them what you will!

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Flipping the Class

It amuses me sometimes to be in the COETAIL course at this time, when I’m in such a technologically challenged location, both with my school, and the internet in general. When I hear about new ideas with integrating technology, often there can be a reflex shaking of my head, that it’s just not quite right for me. After all, just last week I was in the computer lab for 45 minutes, only to hear “It’s not loading!” “Everything is slow!” and having to fix pages that loaded incorrectly, etc. etc.  It can just be disheartening.

What have I done!?

Photo courtesy of Miguelavg

 

So for me, whenever analyzing a particular strategy, it doesn’t just get filtered by the SAMR model and how it works with my classroom and students, but also through the internet access and time that it would take to implement and use.

So with flipping my class, the following thoughts come to mind:

Fact: Not all of my students have internet at home, but most do.

Fact: Even if they have internet, it doesn’t always work very well.

Fact: All seem to have computer access, even if not internet.

Fact: My students often struggle when new content is introduced.

Fact: I’m not much into lecturing, and much of my content instruction comes with a LOT of discussion and activating of prior knowledge and making connections.

Fact: My students have quite a few tutors after school, and often can’t even start their homework until 8PM, and stay up much later than I used to in middle school. So I try to keep their homework minimal.

When researching about flipping the class, I was most interested in the articles at Flipped Learning: Turning Learning on its Head. There were several that seemed relevant to me: The Digital Divide article and Flipping the Elementary Classroom.

In the Digital Divide article, it proposed several solutions to the idea of a digital divide between students that have internet access at home, and those who don’t. They were suggestions like giving them the files on a flash drive, burning them on DVDs for those who don’t have computers, and extending computer lab hours. The take-away thoughts I had when looking at this was that:

  1. The last thing I want to do is have to spend my time burning DVDs of a 5 minute instructional video (which also uses up a lot of DVDs).
  2. Since most of my students do have computer access, perhaps making the files available for their flash drives would work, but I run a tight ship, and not sure where the time to transfer the files to their drives would come from (there’s only one computer in my classroom, and that’s mine.
  3. The amount of time that would add up to take care of those few students makes me start to wonder if it would be worth it, considering the small amount of lecture-style teaching I do.
  4. Considering that I can’t even get the computer lab open to students during the break times, I certainly won’t get it open after hours as the article suggests.

As you can see there was a lot of “I can’t” thinking happening here. However, I did feel that if I could put the files on a local network, and just get students into the lab long enough to download the files onto their hard drive all at the same time (rather than a one at a time in my classroom), then perhaps I could make it work.

Which leads to the next article and my thoughts, which is about how to do it in an Elementary classroom. Now I admit it, I teach 6th grade science, but honestly my students seem very young to me, and are certainly not ready for independent content learning, at least from an introductory standpoint. Often when I leave them alone with content, they learn it wrong, just like the article warns. So what could I do in my classroom?

  1. Notes! My lack of good supporting texts means I can’t avoid the fact that we must take some notes to facilitate their remembering the content. Of course, the little note-taking we do takes up time. So if I could off-load that for homework, and perhaps leave the discussion and practice to class time, that could be an improvement.
  2. Lab introductions! To save time on the lengthy instructions on how to do labs, with all the demonstrations and everything that needs to be copied down, they could do it at home. Then I do a quick check in the classroom before we get started.
  3. Reviews! Whenever I do reviews for tests and quizzes, it seems to go in one ear and out the other. So perhaps I just create a video that reviews what they will need to know, so they can use it when they’re actually studying at home. However that negates my famous line “Do you remember when I told you in class…”
  4. As the article says, don’t flip the class, flip a lesson. It’s one of many tools to be used in the classroom. That said, I think it would need to be used regularly so that students get used to the format.

So to implement, I would probably accompany the file with some review questions to discuss the following day in class.

Probably the biggest problem I have with flipping? I rarely teach a lesson the same way twice. Often the first class is the guinea pig, and then I learn from it and adapt how I communicate the lesson. If I am just creating the “lecture” at home, how will I know what example, idea, technique was most effective? I become more locked to the one I created at home. While I suppose I could just analyze this with the discussion the next day, it’s still something to consider.

In addition, I hate recording my voice, because it always seems so very high pitched! But I suppose this is something that I could get over. I guess integrating technology can help us to grow in many different ways…

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Give me an S! A! M! R!

OK, So the challenge is to look over my use of technology in the classroom, and decide how the SAMR model applies to it.

So, here it is, technology use in my classroom at the moment:

1. Students currently have an assignment on Edmodo, in which they are to read two articles from the Internet, and answer some questions about them. This homework assignment actually has a flipping purpose to it, as I will be building on and practicing with this information in our next class, and so wanted to make sure they read the material.

SAMR Level: I believe this is augmentation, as I could just as easily have photocopied and sent the materials home with them, but by doing it online, I save paper, and students are accountable for reading and answering the questions, without me having to collect a bunch of materials or waste time in class checking. It also means students can easily ask questions over the weekend if they don’t understand.

2. Next week students are going on a field trip to a park, where they will be using both pencil and paper and cameras to document the wildlife that they see there. Then the plan is that they will use their images and notes to create an online field guide to the park they went to.  They will also reflect on the difference between using old technology (pencil and paper) and new technology (camera) to observe objects in nature.

SAMR Level: To me this is redefinition or perhaps even “amplification (as described on the Langwitches Blog) as students are taking what could be a very limited publication inside our own classroom, to a public source of information that could in fact be useful for anyone who is interested in visiting the park. As the park is in Myanmar, there is actually very little online information about it, and thus our information could end up with an authentic audience for it, beyond parents and fellow students.

3. With learning about field guides, I was able to use both the document camera and guides that I had downloaded onto my iPad (Leafsnap, Audubon Ipad apps, and Project Noah) to talk about species identification, and the kind of information we need to collect to be able to create our own for the park.  With Project Noah, I showed them how they can upload their pictures and see if they can get someone to help identify them.

SAMR level: Augmentation and Modification. This was a replacement of a lesson where I pass field guides around, and we identify common features. With this augmentation however, we were able to do it as a shared conversation, which meant economy of teaching (and field guides, of which I don’t have many), and I was able to model how the iPad brings a new sophistication to identification (with birdsongs, and the ability to record species spottings and locations). In addition, Project Noah adds another dimension to it, as students will be communicating with the outside world about the identities of the species they find.

The Baby

Image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff

I like the SAMR model, as its simplicity is easy to understand, and it helps me to take a hard look at what I’m doing and how I can improve it and make it more authentic for 21st century learners.

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