Category Archives: Course 4

Course 4 Final Project

This “project” is designed to sketch out the plans for my Course 5 and final CoETaIL project. We were asked to think about some possible ideas and detail them here. I have what I’m calling Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A will involve working with a third grade teacher who is perhaps the most veteran on our staff. Surprisingly, she has shown the most interest to learn and willingness to try, and fail, if need be. Since I am not a classroom teacher, I must rely on others to implement my ideas and see where they take us. With that in mind, Plan A, is my best and most thought out option. This teacher has given me a basic sketch of her “Children in the World” unit. Personally, this topic is almost too easy to embed technology into, but, hey, I’m not complaining. This is what she chose.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by angela7dreams:

The classroom teacher has some basic things listed, like journal entries, book sharings, research, use of maps.

My first reactions are to turn the journal entries into blog posts. This class is beginning to start with blogs, so this unit will be a good opportunity to transition into really using them for something meaningful. Mike Nonato in Ukraine has been asking for blog buddies, so maybe this class will be ready to get that connection rolling.

There’s a mention of a day in the life project. I’d like to turn this into a video diary by the students.

Since the topic is “Children in the World” I’d like to set up some Skype chats with other classes around the world. There isn’t a better way to learn about different cultures and regions than from first hand information.

I’d like the research portion of this project to really focus on strong Internet searching skills- using keywords, looking for reliable websites, and finding “just-right” sites for their reading levels.

There’s an activity listed on the original plan that mentions marking on a map. I’d like to try and do this activity through Google Earth, so that we can view places in 3D, streetview, and with the pictures that have been added. I’ve had a little training with Google Earth, but will definitely need to refresh my memory of all that it offers.

Some of my concerns about this unit is the idea that I’m at the mercy of the classroom teacher. She might not want to take on everything that I have in mind. But, I’m hoping that she will try most of it and we’ll work with what we’re able to accomplish. This project will require the teacher to leave a few more trusted methods behind, like journal writing, in favor of moving the written word to an electronic format.

My Plan B is to find a way to make Plan A work.

Do you have a 3rd grade class or similar aged group that would like to connect during this project? Let me know!

The Best of What’s Around

If you hold on tight
To what you think is your thing
You may find you’re missing all the rest
She run up into the light surprised
Her arms are open
Her mind’s eye is
Seeing things from a
Better side than most can dream
On a clearer road I feel
So you could say she’s safe
Whatever tears at her
Whatever holds her down
And if nothing can be done
She’ll make the best of what’s around

-Dave Matthews Band “The Best of What’s Around”


While everything in the technology world keeps changing at a rapid fire pace, I’m pretty sure that there’s one thing that has stayed the same.

The need for classroom management.

If you’re lucky enough to teach in a classroom that has gone 1 to 1, then you’ve developed strategies to manage those devices.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by SpecialKRB:

I think that this is no different from the strategies you developed to manage a classroom without 1 to 1 devices.

And, hopefully, this starts with engaging lessons that your students find interesting. I believe that this is the key component. If you’re not developing and planning lessons that are meaningful and authentic, you’re upping the likelihood that you’re going to need some really great classroom management strategies.

Just as you would in a classroom without any devices.

I really liked Lauren Teather’s post about management strategies and specifically some of her top tips of being present, staying in proximity, carefully allocating time for projects and setting forth consequences. I also found this post from the Dangerously Irrelevant blog interesting, especially the section near the beginning entitled, “It’s the pedagogy not the technology.” Redefining the curriculum in your classroom to allow for new experiences and opportunities because of the technology that is available to you will help work towards more effective learning experiences for our students.

I think the question to ask ourselves is, “What can we do now that we couldn’t have done without the technology?”

But, the rewards come to those who push forward, who take risks and try new things. The rewards come to those who risk allowing themselves to fail.

Doing this, however, might just help you find “the best of what’s around.”

There is no Certainty…

A few weeks ago, I included this quote in a post.

“Learning prepares you to cope with the surprises. Education prepares you to cope with certainty. There is no certainty.”

-Stephen Heppell in “Future of Learning, Networked Society” video

After reading about connectivism, learning that MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and listening to Dan Pink talk about motivation, I find myself mulling over that same quote once again.

Asked where or how I will be teaching in the future is impossible to answer.

Because I just don’t know.

Take this video, for example.

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I found this version of the video after watching the version Janette posted.

On the connectivism site linked above, George Siemens writes, “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” I think is concept is really the key idea we need to use as the driving force behind curricular planning. We need to teach students how to learn what they do not know. Siemens also stipulated, “Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity.”

These concepts have been made possible by technology, and classroom education needs to shift appropriately. (As does Professional Development for teachers, so the CoETaIL program seems to fit nicely in with the ideas of connectivism, as Clint mentions here.)

You discover the same message when reading Daniel Pink‘s book, Drive. There is no longer a need to produce workers that can go to work, be given a specific task to do, and do it all day long. Our society now needs workers that can figure out and discover things that haven’t even been thought of before. The worker of tomorrow does not need to know how to work on an assembly line or sit in a cubicle.

They need to know how to learn.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by carriezimmer:

It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson

I’ve been hearing about “The Flipped Classroom” for awhile now and for the most part, had written it off, since I’ve always worked in elementary buildings. It seems to fit more naturally with the structure of a middle and high school program.

It’s connection to the elementary level has always been a mystery to me.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by gregwake:

So, I’m thankful for the required readings this week. It forced me to look into how this topic might be relevant to my work. On each site, I searched for elementary information solely. What I wanted to know was, “How does the idea of the flip work at an elementary level?”

On the blog of “The Flipped Classroom” co-founder Jon Bergman I found this article about the possibilities of flipping at the elementary. I liked the realistic ideas discussed in the article such as not flipping a class, but flipping a lesson. On the Flipped Learning Network site, I found a group of elementary “flippers” chatting about how they were flipping parts of their classroom. I also stumbled upon a link posted for phonics instruction for Grade 2. This is a set of videos that is supposed to coordinate with Words Their Way. I only watched one, but it would give someone new to flipping a place to start.

I don’t think a full-on flip is appropriate for an elementary setting. But, I do think that there is a place for this kind of strategy. Thinking about those phonics videos linked above, it seems that having those helps make differentiation just a little bit easier for a classroom of varied abilities. Maybe you can’t get every student the right mini-lesson at the right time, but maybe you can provide them with a quick introduction or remediation that helps them on a new track.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by rockmixer:

So, perhaps, there is potential for the ideas behind the flipped classroom to migrate to the elementary level. Do you have a great flipped classroom resource for K-5? Please share!

To be or not to be…integrated, that is

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by dullhunk:

The path to integration is not clearly laid out on a map or a sheet of directions.

But, the road to integration is one that must be discovered.

I believe in integration. I believe that stand-alone instruction of most topics is no longer relevant for the society we now live in. I believe that every teacher is a technology teacher.

Integration is my job. It’s what I spend every day encouraging.

Some days are good. On those days, I feel like some teachers “get it” and are really making progress moving forward.

Some days are not as good. On those days, I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job helping other teachers “get it.”

But, you keep your feet moving forward, knowing that perseverance will succeed in the long run.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Jonathan_W:

When reading about technology integration, I found a few tidbits here and there that were worth keeping. For one, the Stratford Board of Education website stated that integration is an “instructional choice” and “includes collaboration and deliberate planning.” I like how this Board of Education uses the word ‘deliberate’ as part of their definition. I think that is an important idea that is often not considered. This year, in assisting the teachers in changing the role of technology in their classroom, I’ve tried to use our Technology Continuum to open the lines of communication and plan for ways to restructure some activities to allow for use of technology in their classrooms.

I also found Maggie Hos-McGrane’s website and posts about the SAMR model especially useful. I have heard about this model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, and like to refer to it when thinking about how teachers are using technology. In the SAMR model, the first two steps Substitution and Augmentation, simply enhance the classroom experience. While this is not the long term goal of technology integration, it is certainly a good beginning point. The transformative side encourages modification and redefinition. The activities that fall into these categories would not be possible without the use of technology.

Over the next few months, I hope to keep defining and strengthening my argument for integration. I’ve submitted a proposal to present the aforementioned continuum at the ECIS Tech conference in March. I plan to share how we’re using this document to foster integration in our elementary building and hope to share our experiences since moving in this direction.

To be or not to be integrated? It’s time to stop thinking about the ‘should we’ and move towards the ‘how can we’…

The Disconnect

It’s my second year as an integration specialist, but it’s really the first year working towards getting everyone on board with the idea that every teacher is a technology teacher.

Last year, I taught weekly lessons and tried to coordinate with the classroom teacher to work on things they already had planned or on ideas that could add a technology component. But, at the end of the day, I was the technology teacher. I was responsible for grades, conferences and the actual lessons.

This year, the teachers have gained most of the responsibility and my job has become to insure that they are prepared and ready to help their students gain the technology skills they need.

And, so, we’re rolling along. Some weeks, I feel satisfied with the progress we made…other weeks I wonder if I accomplished anything at all. But, that’s the mark of anyone who recognizes that the day you think you’ve got it all down is the day you should quit. So, we keep moving on.

We do have an issue of a disconnect at our school. The parents still look at me as the “technology teacher”. Some of the students ask, “Why haven’t you been coming to our class?” A school employee questioned, “Why isn’t technology on my son’s schedule?” This is evidence to me of a failure on our part to communicate clearly with all stakeholders the ideas and research behind the new approach this year. I’ve written a statement for our school’s website to explain our philosophy. I’ve offered to hold sessions at our upcoming parent conference day to help explain the shift.

But, for now, the disconnect remains.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by bondidwhat:

But, this all ties in with the discussion surrounding the NETS standards from ISTE and the AASL standards. As schools transition from a technology model with a stand alone computer lab to one where the technology skills are taught in the classroom setting, the teachers must become familiar with the two documents above. They need to know that they exist and their relevance to the classroom curriculum.

Using these documents, I worked last year with a team of teachers to write a technology continuum. I wrote about it in greater detail in this post and feel confident about its role in our classroom implementation. Many teachers have responded that it is a helpful tool in their planning as they work to find ways to teach technology skills and allow students to demonstrate their knowledge through technology.

This week several blog posts have been written about the responsibility of teaching technology and where it belongs. Jeff Utecht wrote a post that continues to push the notion that technology must be taught where it fits, not in a stand alone class. This same topic was the focus of David Warlick’s post over three years ago.

All of this can be summed up, I think, in this quote I wrote down from Stephen Heppell in the “Future of Learning, Networked Society” video that’s been floating around this past week.

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Heppell said,

“Learning prepares you to cope with the surprises. Education prepares you to cope with certainty. There is no certainty.”

I think this hits the mark. We can use technology to teach kids how to create, evaluate, synthesize and so much more. We can prepare them for whatever comes.

Can we do this with pencil and paper? Sure. But, having technology as an option opens many more possibilities.

Want to see what a street in Cairo looks like first hand? Go to Google Earth.

Want to learn what Japanese kids eat for lunch? Connect with a class around the world.

Want to have kids excited and engaged in their learning because it actually means something to them? Become a “technology teacher.”