In conclusion….

I feel that my final course 5 project on Digital Essays has been a success! When I first started brainstorming where to start, I was a little overwhelmed. So, needless to say I am thrilled that I was able to pull it off! One of my biggest concerns was that being a specialist I don’t have my own classroom. I needed to not only come up with a project that incorporated my learning from this course, would redefine an aspect of a unit that I was involved with, and convince one of my grade 4 teachers to let me pilot the project in their class. In the end, students enjoyed learning about digital storytelling, working on their digital essays and it is now something that the other grade 4 teachers are hoping to incorporate into their persuasive essay unit next year. So, I would say it was successful :)

The idea for this project started back in Course 3 when we were discussing digital storytelling.  During that course I wrote a blog post titled, Changing the World through Digital Storytelling where I came up with the idea of students using digital storytelling to bring their persuasive essays to life. For my final project, I took that initial idea and added to it! Below is the UBD planner I created for the project.

One of the grade 4 teachers that I work with was enthusiastic about letting me pilot this project in her classroom. For that I am thankful as it was not easy to rearrange schedules and give me extra time once the project rolled out and we realized students needed more time to reinforce concepts, work on their digital essays, etc. Check out my video to see how it all played out!

Overall, Coetail has been a great learning experience! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started. However, I enjoyed the course because not only did I learn new content but I also had the chance to reflect on my own practice and how I could make it better. As for the future, I  will continue to take what I have learned from Coetail and incorporate it into both my professional and personal practices when using technology. I also look forward to learning more and going more in depth as my journey with technology continues!

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PLN Journey

Creating my own PLN has definitely been a journey for me! It feels like it comes so naturally to so many people but to me, it felt like an arduous task .When Coetail first started, I began by commenting on others’ blog posts. Honestly though, it was mainly because it was a requirement! That being said, I did really enjoy reading my colleagues posts. They definitely pushed me to think and see things in a different light and I did learn from them.

Fast forward to the present day and I am still taking small steps in an effort to broaden my horizons and my PLN. I started by asking myself a couple of questions about what I wanted to get out of my PLN:

  • What am I interested in learning more about?
  • What can I contribute to?
  • What groups/communities could benefit me?

I then thought about what I was already sort of familiar with and could start doing independently. So, I decided to start building my PLN through both the Coetail website and Google+ community.
Below are the first communities I became a member of on Google+. They were all communities that I felt would be beneficial as they centered around being an educator and also taking this course.

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Since I was just about to introduce my project to the students, I reached out in the Coetail Community to find out what apps people have tried and found useful when creating digital stories.

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Another community that I asked to join is called Technology in Education. I filled out their Google form and am awaiting their confirmation. This community looks like it has some really great resources and information!

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Secondly, I checked out the different groups and forums found on the Coetail Website. I became a member of the group:

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In this group, @cgomez had posted about a conference she had recently presented at. I checked out her blog ( and loved the resources she presented so I left her a comment ( I also started a discussion to share a website that I have found useful when working with my beginning ELL students.

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I know that I am still in the initial stages of my journey and that there is so much more that I can do. However, taking the initial leap was the hardest! I have learned about some great resources and tips which make me want to continue expanding my PLN. My next step may even be…..wait for it….Twitter! Trust me, I am as shocked as you are :)

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Lights, Camera, Action, and…

production is about to begin on digital stories! The grade four students who I am working on this project with have finished writing their persuasive essays. Finishing their essays was the prerequisite to be able to start creating our Digital Essays.

Students were very excited to learn that they would be creating Digital Essays using the persuasive essays they had written in class. They were very excited to get started, as I had anticipated, since they love doing projects where they can create content using technology.

Day 1 – During our introductory lesson, as students were using the Visible Thinking Routine, Think Pair Share to discuss what they already knew about digital storytelling with their partners, I noticed that many students knew that in order to create digital stories they would need their essays they had already written and their IPads. Most students did not mention any of the different elements that make up digital stories.

After watching the video, What is Digital Storytelling? , we came up with a class definition. Digital Storytelling is telling your story using different elements of technology and then to share it with the world.


Day 2 – While watching the video, Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling we created the chart below so that the students would have a reference for later in the unit.


Students used the Connect, Extend, Challenge Visible Thinking Routine to show their thinking about digital stories which was very helpful and telling to me! As I mentioned earlier, one connection that most students made was that they would need to use their IPads to create their digital stories.


The two things that the majority of students felt like was new information to them was..









It didn’t surprise me that they had never really thought about how long a digital story should be. However, it did surprise me that they didn’t realize that soundtracks or music could evoke emotion. I guess it was something I just took for granted! Once we discussed this element and came up some different examples of music that could evoke different kinds of emotions they definitely had an AHA moment :)

The three main elements or concepts that the students felt were challenging to them were:

IMG_2252IMG_2253IMG_2254Since many of the students are feeling challenged by the same things, it showed me that I needed to build in some extra time to go over these challenges before the students begin independently creating their digital stories in the next couple of days.

Looking forward to seeing how the actual creating goes and sharing their final products!


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The Chosen One!

After writing my last Coetail blog post, This or That? – Course 4: Final Project it was nice to be able to step away from my ideas and not think about them for a bit. However, once we

Photo Credit: bartmaguire Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bartmaguire Flickr via Compfight cc

got back from our Winter Break and I realized that our trimester was starting to get underway quickly, I knew I had to make a decision on my final project so that I could talk to my homeroom teachers about collaborating with me in order to make them work. Being a specialist, I don’t have my own classroom so I need the help of my homeroom teachers to be able to bring either of my projects to life!

Re-reading the two final project proposals I had written and talking with some of my colleagues about how they would play out, I made a decision :) In the end, there was no contest! Option 1 – Digital Persuasive Essays was the clear winner! It was the one that I felt most connected to and felt that the students would enjoy the most. Some other reasons I picked this option as well are:

  • it was a better fit when collaborating with my homeroom teachers
  • this project took an existing unit and elevated to a new level
  • students love any opportunity to work on digital projects
  • it was something that could then be shared with a wider audience
  • they would get to practice their blogging skills learned about previously

Below is the UBD planner I created to help guide me and the teachers through this project.


Students are currently working on their persuasive essays in class. Once they are done writing, revising, editing, and publishing their essays we will be able to move on to making them digital! Stay tuned…..

Photo Credit: Peter-Ashley Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Peter-Ashley Flickr via Compfight cc

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This or that? – Course 4: Final Project

As I started to think about my final project, there was no one unit or idea that seemed to jump out at me immediately. There were a couple of questions I asked myself to try and

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr via Compfight cc

narrow down my choices. What units do we teach that could be redefined? What units would we be working on during Course 5 so that I could teach the unit I was redefining? What could I realistically do as a specialist in another homeroom teacher’s classroom when I’m only in there for about 45 minutes a day?  How could I convince teacher’s to let me redefine one of their units when I don’t technically teach them as a support specialist?  Well…..after a lot of thought, I narrowed it down to two options!! Phew!!

Option 1 – Digital Persuasive Essays

  1. Describe the project: What will your students do?

First, students will come up with a thesis for a personal or persuasive argument. Then students will develop their writing by providing evidence for their thesis that can include facts, details, mini-stories, and/or lists. After they have collected sufficient evidence they will write a conclusion to tie together their essay. Once students have finished writing their essays, they will have to decide on how they would like to produce their essays digitally. They will choose an app such as iMovie, chatterpix, etc. to bring their persuasive essay to life. Once they have done that, they will post their digital persuasive essays to their blogs. Classmates, teachers, parents will then view the videos and leave feedback for the students.

2. How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

 This project reflects my learning from COETAIL because it taking a unit that already exists and redefining it so that it includes technology. By redefining the unit to include technology and post it on their blog it promotes the concepts of visual literacy and digital storytelling which we talked about in Course 3. I wrote a post in Course 3 titled, Changing the World through Digital Storytelling where I came up with the idea of students using digital storytelling to bring their persuasive essays to life and now would be building on it during this project.

3.   What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

  • Students will think of an opinion based thesis and find different kinds of evidence to support their argument.
  • Students learning to find an appropriate medium to communicate their persuasive essay clearly.
  • Students problem solving when using technology.
  • Students communicating their ideas and receiving feedback from a wider audience.
  1.     Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

        I think this is a good possibility for my Course 5 project because it allows students to take their work and create a digital version of it which can then be shared with a greater audience such as other grades, other students around the world, etc. By doing this they are learning how to communicate their ideas with others digitally, thinking of their audience when considering their medium choice, problem solving with technology just to name a few which are all skills that I think students should be given the opportunity to work on.

  1.        What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
  • Getting the grade 4 teachers on board with the project since they will have to allow me to try it in their classrooms.
  • Spending too much time “tinkering” if students aren’t familiar with an app or program they can use to create their essay digitally.
  1.     What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

The new unit will not require a shift in pedagogy but will rather include updating a new unit that was created last year when I wasn’t a part of the team to fit my pedagogy.  This allows students more freedom, choice and hopefully in the end they feel more ownership than if they just published their writing on a google doc and shared it with their teacher, some classmates and parents.

  1. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
  • Problem solver
  • Self directed
  • Open minded
  • Reflective

Option 2 – Digital Citizenship Curriculum

  1. Describe the project: What will your students do?

 This is the first year that our school has incorporated teaching a digital citizenship curriculum. The lessons incorporate ideas from Common Sense Media and Brain Pop to help students understand what it means to be a digital citizen. The topics covered during the unit include: What is Digital Citizenship?, What’s Cyberbullying?, Digital Etiquette, digitally altered pictures, information privacy, talking safely online, and media literacy. Once they learned about all these topics they are to pick one or more topics that they feel like they are an expert at and create a video to showcase their learning. The videos can then be posted to their blogs where they can then educate a wider audience, receive feedback from others about their video. Parents will then be invited to a Digital Citizenship Workshop where the students will teach them the concepts they learned throughout the unit through their videos.

  1.  How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

 This project reflects my learning from COETAIL because the core of the unit is the notion of digital citizenship which we discussed during Course 2.  The other learning that is incorporated into this unit is the concepts of Visual literacy and Digital Storytelling which we learned about in Course 3.

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?
  • Students will understand what it means to be a digital citizen.
  • Students will understand how to be responsible citizens online.
  • Students will understand the concept of media literacy.
  • Students will be able to showcase their learning about one or more of the concepts they learned about using an appropriate medium.
  • Students will share their video with parents to inform them about digital citizenship.
  1. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

 I think this is a good possibility for my Course 5 project because a year ago this digital citizenship curriculum was not in place  as referenced in my post, A two part solution where I talked about how I thought it was important for us to have some sort of digital citizenship curriculum in place since we are 1:1 in the Upper Elementary School and have IPads in every classroom in our younger Elementary classrooms. Now that this curriculum is in place, I would like to add to the lessons that are there and adapt them using the information I have learned throughout the course on topics such as copyright, information privacy, digital storytelling, and visual literacy. Then by having the students share their videos with parents during a Digital Citizenship workshop, they are in turn educating the parents as well which is important since it should be a shared partnership in ensuring our students are being good digital citizens.

  1. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

 My biggest concern is that there will not be enough time for students to go in depth with the culminating project. Homeroom teachers are given 8 sessions to teach the concepts and complete the culminating activity. As it stands, there are 7 different topics and only 1 session to create their culminating project which I don’t feel is enough time. In order for students to complete their projects, teachers would have to be willing to give up some of their Flex periods so that students could work on their projects.

  1. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

 Like option 1 for my final project, this project also doesn’t require a shift in pedagogy. It actually is being adapted to align more with my pedagogy in the sense that I feel that it is important for students, teachers, and parents to take the time to understand what digital citizenship means and how it is embodied everyday both at school and at home.

  1. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

This new unit will require students to reflect about the way they interact with others online, think about whether they are being safe when they interact online, and also consider that information privacy is a big part of being online. Many of our fourth graders don’t always think about or realize that their actions can affect others online, are so used to using technology as a part of their everyday life that they don’t examine their behavior or reflect on it. This unit will allow students to stop and reflect on their behaviors and practices online which I think is very important.

What do you think? Any suggestions or comments on which option you think is the better choice would be much appreciated!

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Does balance really exist?!

You always hear people talking about the importance of finding balance. Whether it be between their work life and social life, spending time with family and spending time with

Photo Credit: eltpics Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: eltpics Flickr via Compfight cc

friends, eating healthy, etc. For many of us, we are constantly striving to achieve some sort of balance in our lives because we think it will help us to be more well rounded, less stressed, or enjoy our lives more. Just like in our own lives, I think it is important for us to ensure that we create balance in the lives of our students at school! I believe there needs to be a balance between academic opportunities and social opportunities. Furthermore, there also needs to be a balance of how much technology students use throughout the school day.

Thinking about a day in the life of our fourth grade students, who all have IPads due to our 1:1 program, there are definitely many opportunities for them to use their IPads. However, I think there are also many times throughout the day where they are encouraged to socialize and interact with other classmates or teachers without any technology being

involved. For example, in our Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop program there is always an active engagement part of the lesson where students are asked to share their thinking or ideas with a partner. When students eat their snack or lunch in the dining hall or are out at recess, we have a no IPad policy. I found an article titled, Balancing the Use of 21st Century Educational Technology with Real Life Experience in the Classroom which stated an important finding by Dr. Tim Perry, “The 21st Century students must be given plenty of opportunities to run and play, touch things and experience real life, communicating with other humans, rather than spending excessive time in a virtual online environment. “ I believe that we do provide our students with a balance and give them multiple opportunities throughout the day to socialize.

On the other hand, when our fourth graders are using technology they are often using it for a purpose and not just “zoning out” in front of a screen. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) began to recognize that not all screen time is equal. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens has identified 4 main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music

When taking into consideration these different categories and reflecting on how our fourth graders are using technology, I would say that their consumption falls mainly into two of them. The first category would be, interactive consumption, for when they are playing math games such as Prodigy or browsing the internet for research or information they need to answer questions in class or for a project. The second one is, content creation, in which they are using their devices to create and showcase information they have learned through either projects or tutorials.

Finding balance whether it be in life or at school isn’t easy and needs to be at the forefront of our thinking. However, I believe that through reflection and careful planning it IS possible to achieve!

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Where do we go from here?


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 Technology has definitely changed the way we live our lives and communicate with one another. By allowing us to communicate with others more easily, quickly, and efficiently it has also allowed us to share what we know but also see things from different perspectives. In order to ensure that our students are “global” and are ready for a future that is unknown to us, being able to collaborate globally I think is essential!

 Collaborating globally allows students to interact with others from different countries, cultures, and with people who may have different ideas or perspectives than they do. In Cathy Davidson’s article, Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age she agrees with the idea that we need to change how we collaborate and writes, “I want to suggest a different way of seeing, one that’s based on multitasking our attention—not by seeing it all alone but by distributing various parts of the task among others dedicated to the same end. For most of us, this is a new pattern of attention. Multitasking is the ideal mode of the 21st century, not just because of information overload but also because our digital age was structured without anything like a central node broadcasting one stream of information that we pay attention to at a given moment. On the Internet, everything links to everything, and all of it is available all the time.”


Photo Credit: benericwalton Flickr via Compfight cc

 But how do we get students to collaborate globally and integrate this practice into our curriculum and classrooms I wondered? Through some research, I found that there are many schools who are already collaborating globally! This blog has some great examples of existing global collaboration projects that classes can join which is nice as starting from scratch seems a little overwhelming. However, for those that are up for the challenge this article from Education Week provided steps on how to start global collaboration projects up with other classes or schools.

 Getting our students connected and interacting with others globally is a start. However, as technology continues to change and make us more globally connected to one another, so will our idea of what skill sets are considered to be essential in education and in our classrooms.

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Let the games begin…

Fact…Most students love to play games! Whether it is a video game such as Minecraft, a board game, or an educational game. When students hear that there is going to be a game involved their excitement and engagement level increase rapidly. This is why I love the idea of using games in the classroom! It definitely helps to motivate students to learn and can make the material we are teaching more engaging. It is also a great way to teach 15046466874_6aa1f878ef_mstudents how to collaborate together. Over the years we have found that some games are definitely more relevant than others. For example, Prodigy, is a game that we use with our Math Curriculum.  It is great for both teachers and students! As a teacher, it allows you to individualize learning by choosing the concepts or areas of the curriculum that you want your students to work on, it provides real time data so that you can track your students’ progress, and is an engaging way to get students excited about math. Students love it because they can create an individualized avatar, collect rewards for getting the right answers, and move through different levels.

However, even though gaming can help students become more motivated or engaged, I don’t believe that all parts of the curriculum are appropriate for game based learning. While reading the article, How Games Can Influence Learning, I found that Rebecca Rufo-Tepper  who is the Director of Development at the Institute of Play also agrees with this idea. She stated that at one of their lab sites,  a New York City public school called Quest to Learn, even though they have a game-like approach to learning none of their teachers teach exclusively through games.

 The article, Play as you learn: gamification as a technique for motivating learners provided some great questions that educators can ask themselves when they are not sure whether they should or shouldn’t gamify a lesson. Check them out if you are unsure of whether or not you should be gamifying some of your lessons!

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Independence & Inquiry

Independence and inquiry are two traits that I strive to develop in my students as they are skills that I believe will allow them to be successful in the real world. For many students, becoming independent and being given the freedom to inquire does not come naturally. It is something that takes practice and time! 


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  These two traits are central to the strategies of Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning and Challenge Based Learning. Even though these learning strategies are not new or ground breaking anymore I feel that they are definitely still relevant in our classrooms today!

  As I read the article, Project Based Learning from Wikipedia one of the quotes they cited really stood out to me. The article quotes Blumenfeld et al. as explaining that PBL focuses “on teaching by engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions, and creating artifacts.” As I read this, it made me realize that this is what our Science program is based on! Our school uses the FOSS Science Program which does exactly this. Students are given an essential question and then they make predictions, conduct experiments, record and analyze data that they then use to draw conclusions and answer the essential question. However, I believe that we could take it a step further! Once students have answered the essential question we could discuss different ways on how they can then share their findings with the greater community and also what other questions it then makes them think of. When reflecting on our Elementary school, PBL is definitely incorporated in some areas of our curriculum such as Math (e.g. Open Response questions/projects), Social Studies (standards focused PBL) and Science. However, it is harder to do in our Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop programs.  


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 While reading about Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Challenge Based Learning (CBL)  I struggled to understand how these strategies could be implemented and successful with Elementary students. After some research, I found an article entitled,  Problem Based Learning: Tips and Project Ideas from the website Education World which gave simple suggestions on how to introduce problem based learning to younger students. When it comes to Challenge Based Learning, the article, Challenge Based Learning (p.9-15) provided detailed information and tips about how teachers could implement CBL in their Elementary classrooms. Both Problem Based Learning and Challenge Based Learning still seem a little overwhelming to implement, however, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell “Practice isn’t something you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

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Where do I stand?

Where do I stand?…. Have I done enough?… How could I do it better?…How could I do it differently?

These are some examples of the questions we as educators ask ourselves constantly not only about our teaching but I feel like I ask myself about integrating technology into the classroom. Our school definitely promotes and encourages using technology in the classroom, from our 1:World Program in the Upper Elementary School, having digital student portfolios through SeeSaw and having initiatives such as iLearning in our Elementary School during which we spent time learning about different apps on our IPads, learning how to use iMovie, creating tutorials, app smashing etc.

According to an Edutopia article entitled, What is Successful Technology Integration? effective technology integration, “ is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions — as accessible as all other classroom tools.”  Taking into consideration their definition of technology integration and the SAMR Model of integration, I feel that I am mostly in the Modification stage while still dabbling Augmentation and Redefinition stages from time to time.   

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The Modification stage leads to transformation. In Maggie Hos-McGrane’s blog, Tech Transformation, she wrote a blog post on the SAMR Model in which she explains modification, as “giving a different kind of assignment – for example using multimedia – adding sound, video etc.”.

 Some examples of things that our team has done at the Modifications stage include, having students download picture and annotate using apps such as Skitch in Social Studies, creating tutorials to share with their classmates in Math Class, creating student blogs and teaching them how to blog and comment in Writer’s Workshop. However, with the help of our Tech Integrationist, Sean and our Learning Coach, Jancey I feel like I am getting more comfortable and starting to move more towards the redefinition stage! The more comfortable I become and the more I learn about different types and uses of technology, I find myself thinking more about how technology can take our curriculum and learning to a new level!

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