Course 4 Final Project: Room for Creation

In year 6 the students are expected to participate in the PYP exhibition. For those who are not aware of the IB programme this means that the students are expected to use all aspects of their learning to decide upon a topic they want to investigate, decide what they want to inquiry into and create a product or solution to the problem that was identified.

We are looking ahead and I choose this unit as an area where vast improvements can be made to embed technology into the student learning. Though the exhibition is student driven from start to finish there are a group of teachers who volunteer their time to mentor the students throughout the process.

The unit that we are doing the investigation under is “How we Express Ourselves” and the transdisciplinary theme is:

An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

Q: Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

A: There is so much possibility for students to be as creative and innovative as they want because they lead the process and product designs. The teachers in the primary and secondary school support their vision by helping them learn and apply the tools and technology available to them.

Q: What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

A: I am most worried about the limited choices the students may feel that they can use in terms of technology application, because not enough time and exposure was given to introduce a wide variety of technology and technology integration. I’m also concerned that if I give them the options too late they may be overwhelmed with learning how to use these amazing tools and will not be as focused on the other key learning experiences.

Q: What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

A: There would be major shifts in pedagogy if my teaching team and I will be allowing the students to engage and explore and redesigning with technology (SAMR model). The first is to flip the classroom. Ideally, we will spend most of the time with the groups of students in class discussing their ideas, deciding ways that we can resolve the issues they may encounter and discuss the most appropriate technology to achieve their goal. This will mean that a lot of the “How To” and instruction has to be delivered for home learning. For example, How to create a WordPress Blog, How to Embed a YouTube video etc. so the time in class can be used for brainstorming and problem solving.

Q: What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

A: The students will be encouraged to use NoodleTools to support their research and communication with each other using the stages for Big 6 research. The students will also be required to balance all the PYP attitudes: appreciation, commitment, confidence, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, integrity, respect and tolerance.

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So What’s the Problem?

The concept of Problem-Based Learning (PBL)  is easily associated to student teaching and learning of mathematics; however, the wider application in social studies and science seems difficult for elementary students to engage with sans teacher-guidance.

Photo Credit: Martino! via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Martino! via Compfight cc

As I thought about the problem I stumbled across this video from Stenden University which outlines how they apply PBL in the university. I can see this being applied with elementary school students. Ideally, I will love to use it to motivate the students to take action based on issues or inequalities that they notice in our units under investigation.

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Here are some of my thoughts about PBL how I can use technology:

  • Keep it real! – Allow the students to use tools that technology to share their understanding and solution for real world problems. Sam is referring to Project Based Learning but the ideas he shares still apply by using the problem.
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  • Keep it open-ended - By allowing students the ability to think outside the proverbial box they could remix, geek out and use multiple media to demonstrate their learning and create a solution. It’s also an authentic form of differentiation!

PBL is also possible and given the time to be realized if I take the steps to have a flipped classroom.  This will give the students an authentic context and prepare them to take action and find possible solutions for real-world problems that exist in today’s world. This is one of the main goals of the IB-PYP programme is our teaching and learning philosophy.

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5-10-15 Years in the Future

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I loved this clip because it allowed me to reflect on where education has been and where it is today. The video also led me to think about how I was going to reshape my teaching in 5, 10 and 15 years in the future.

Photo Credit: runfardvs via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: runfardvs via Compfight cc

5 year plan!

  • Flatten my classroom – It may not be 100% but I do want to move towards a flat classroom 
  • Embed technology - develop lessons and co-teach with the technology teacher to better use the tools available with the teaching content.

10 year goal  :)

  • Flipping my classroomUsing the amazing tools available now and the yet to be designed technology to flip my classroom Khan Academy style!

15 year dream

I have a hard time thinking this far ahead mainly because what was inconceivable a year ago, we have learned is not only possible, but read to be trialled a year from now. I feel that I have constantly been on a bubble, technology and innovation is moving so quickly that I can’t quite catch up and I feel like I’m not on top of educational technology. No matter how much I read and try to keep informed, and as soon as I think of trying something there is a faster better way to do it.

It can be frustrating and difficult and as an educator I try my best to deliver, relevant learning experiences to my students, and allow them to use technology meaningful to create and share their understanding. I can’t say how technology will drive education and teaching in 15 years, I can only to try my best to achieve my 5 and 10 year goals before I can see further ahead.

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Flipping Out!

Flipped Elementary Classrooms

Photo by me

Photo by me

My understanding of reversed instruction

I think, (and I hope I’m right about this) that reverse instruction or a flipped classroom involves students doing the content learning at home. What this means is that the information that students typically passively received via lecturers or notes (the knowledge) is provided to the students at home using videos, texts etc.

This allows the class time to be devoted to clarification of key concepts, inquiry based learning, action, group projects and engaged activities, such as experiments.

I believe that for upper elementary or specifically for my year 6 students, they will greatly appreciate videos of the content to view and review at home. This is mainly because their attention span is quite short and they can repeat the section that they missed, (this is quite challenging in class when we are on a tight schedule). Most of my students have English as a second or third language and they don’t always understand what I say, so again reviewing the concept multiple times will help them.

I don’t think, a passive activity like giving a section of text to read at home is useful for them, firstly, it will not engage them and most are not capable of doing independent reading of non-fiction text because they lack the decoding and evaluation skills necessary to determine the important details.

Another benefit of flipping my classroom, is that students love engaged learning with their peers, creating models and taking action. This is also really important for me because this gives me the time to allow the connections to be made, students are happier and more engaged and I have the opportunity to assess the students understanding or misconceptions after their learning occurs.

I watched “I Flip, You Flip, We All Flip: Setting Up a Flipped Classroom” by Keith Hughes, which gave a really good understanding of flipping for teachers (like me!) who are new to the concept.

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To summarize!

This not the norm in the elementary school; however as a teacher I see the many benefits of a flipped classroom:

  • Students come to class prepared!
  • Less time ‘lost’ on lecturing (young minds get bored easily if the lesson isn’t interactive)
  • Students crave to interact so more time will be available for group work & collaboration
  • Students get to review the information repeatedly, with parental or adult support

Here is another useful clip I used to wrap my mind around the possibility of flipping my year six classroom.

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Drawbacks of Flipped Classroom

These are mostly pragmatic problems that we may face in Angola:

  • The Internet is not the most reliable and slow streaming is common
  • New classroom techniques are difficult for the parents to be open to and this can lead to difficulty in implementation
  • The school administration  need to be onboard or open to the idea of adopting flipped classroom in the elementary school

If there any grade 5 or year 6 teachers out there who have flipped their classroom I’d love to get your feedback about parent and student involvement.

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Gaming for Learning

Photo Credit: Dunechaser via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dunechaser via Compfight cc

After this week’s Big Idea: Gamification of Education Theory  our secondary school librarian Katy Vance, (see Katy’s blog for a well articulated description of how she is

applying the concept in the library) embarked on a project for all teachers.

Her goal for January 2014 is for a  focus group of teachers to engaging in gamification to rate how the classic MineCraft could be adapted for student learning. As a Year 6 teacher, I’m excited to see how we can use this fabulous resource for:

  • Mathematics – students use the materials to build homes etc applying their understanding of math strands of number, shape and space and measurement 
  • Thinking Skills - students use higher-level thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation to negotiate challenges in the game
  • Social Skills - students have the opportunity to work with a team or against other live players in the game and problem solving skills are key learning engagements are authentically developed using the programme.

My personal reflection

I recognize the major benefits of gamification, and some are listed above. It also facilitates students’ enjoyment and engagement of the content, without them even being fully aware of all the thinking and the learning that takes place. I also believe gamification in our learning environment a huge step forward in embedding technology in the classroom.

However, I worry about the time that it will take to establish this new learning experience. In addition, I’m concerned about the “waste of time” of introducing new ways technology to students if it will not be continued by the subject teachers in middle and secondary school.

Another issue is why should teaching time be devoted to the modeling and scaffolding gaming for learning if the practice can be done at home. Does class time need to be devoted, or can students independently “work” out of the classroom as part of their home learning? Especially since, most students already have hours of gaming experience, and some, even with MineCraft.

As I look at my content expectations, and how much coverage takes place over the next few weeks. I will, with my teaching team, decide how best we can give room for gaming and other technology to be authentically integrated in the classroom.

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Embedding vs Integrating

“The learning determines the technology” – is the key takeaway I have from this week’s lesson. It seems incredible how we can Do Old Things in New Ways, when we embeduse backward design to embed technology in my classroom.

I spent about an hour listening and reflecting on the podcast of the panel discussion with Kim CofinoJustin Medved and Dennis Harter, Jeff  on  How Do We Connect Technology and Classroom Instruction Seamlessly? 

Here are the struggles that I can identify with:

  • ICT classes are taught as stand-alone lessons with minimal meeting collaboration time with the technology teacher and classroom teacher
  • Technology lessons for the students are a focus on introducing new tools for research or recording as opposed to teaching tools to support the students’ learning (integrating vs embedding technology)
  • Arrrghh… the technology is not working!!!! What next!

The last bullet is the cry of frustration of most teachers in Luanda, and one of the main reasons teacher avoid embedding technology in their teaching.

However, slow and steady improvements in technology in Angola is leading to greater risk-takers, and innovation among teachers who are slowly seeing the many benefits of integrating technology in the curriculum.

Evaluation of my own practice of technology integration

Image of the SAMR model


Using the SAMR Model, I must honestly say that I’m 70% enhancement and 30% transformation, which is less than ideal.

In terms of substitution, the students still are expected to do a lot of their published writing using Word (simple change from typewriter) or they use type racer or other typing tools to improve their typing speed. While it may be necessary that students are exposed to these skills. I must admit it is basically on the substitution level of SAMR.

Another example of substitution is my kids use of bitstrips which is a program we chose because it allowed students to create comics, to encourage students writing. However, as I reflect, it simply substitutes students creating their own to a faster and more exciting tool for the students.

In keeping with this theme, the students augment their writing by using cut and paste, grammar and spell check and they even manipulate the layout of the essay by using formatting for their Word document.

Another form of augmentation, in my class is the students use of the class blog to reflect on information provided on the blog. Have conversations with each other and to share their understanding of a topic.

A move towards Transformation

My class has now decided to write and publish a weekly news report called LIS news next term and I see how the students are using higher thinking skills such as analysing the relevant news, rewriting/editing the news submitted by other students, then create a finished product by videotaping and then publishing the news using iMovie and Garageband to create their report. This I hope for the very least is at the modification level.

I need to deeply brainstorm how I can add redefinition into the mix. At present, I am struggling with the concept.

My last words are a reminder for me and taken from Stratford Board of EducationWhat is Technology Integration?: ”Integration is when classroom teachers use technology to introduce, reinforce, extend, enrich, assess, and remediate student mastery of curricular targets.”

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Course 3 Final Project Video

A big thank you to all the people who helped make this possible. Magariet Faber and the Year 6 students were my saving graces.

To make this learning engagement relevant I worked with the students in Year 6 who took most of the photos and were involved in the creating the video for our Peace One Day celebration in LIS. My role was more of an editor. I hope you all enjoy!

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We Mix

As a visual learner I thought that the YouTube video Everything is a Remix was a great way to spend 48 minutes to get a greater understanding of the Remix Culture.

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Aside from the explanation of and the myriad of examples of remix shared in the video, there is much of the reading suggested readings that I would like to incorporate in my lessons. Here is an outline:

  • The Future of Social TV (video featuring Christy Tanner) – Show some short exerpts from the video that is age appropriate to get the students thinking about the different devices that people can interact and view their created work.


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Creatively introducing CC

I have been debating how to introduce the idea of intellectual property rights to my students. I was toying with  the idea of introducing the idea with the  Youtube video shared in Course 2. However, I had some reservations because my ESL students may find the stilted clips were difficult to understand.

Instead, I thought about introducing the idea of copyright and intellectual property with examples of past students works (names excluded). The examples will have clear evidence of plagiarism (change in font size, sophisticated word choice, change in the writer’s voice, etc.)

The focus of the 3 lessons will be as follows:

  • Introduce the concept of academic honesty  and copyright (link to being principled – IB PYP connection). Why do we respect the work and ideas of others?
  • Review the discussion from lesson 1 & highlight the work of creative commons with the infographic below and visit the website (this lesson will be done in ICT so that each student will have access to a computer for individual browsing)
  • Review the importance of academic honesty, attributing to the creator.
What is Creative Commons?

by Folography.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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Life before and after Zen

I had to create a presentation as a math coordinator. I noticed that many of the key elements identified to design an effective PowerPoint I used to create a presentation about differentiation for teachers.

After reading and watching the videos posted on the Week 3 assessment and Garr Reynolds blog, I see many areas that I could improve on.  Here is the original and revised editions of my presentation.

Life before ….

Life After…


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