Final Project, Course 5: Inquiry into ePortfolios using Seesaw

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be nearly done with Coetail.  Don’t get me wrong–it has been an amazing learning journey.  I’ve made many great connections and pushed myself professionally way beyond what I would normally do as a direct result of Coetail. But being new to my role as Ed Tech Coach, at a new campus, trying hard to prove myself, as well a being a mother of young children, I have found it very hard to achieve a work-life balance.  I am looking forward to reclaiming my weekends.  (And not being literally locked in my bedroom, hacking out a weekly blog post while my husband tries desperately to prevent my exuberant 3 year old  twins from banging on the door.)

That being said, I am extremely glad I went through this process.  Things that have happened as a result of Coetail:

-#GlobalEd Projects

-Regular Twitter User

Connections with inspiring educators across the globe

-Better slideshows (Thank you Course 3!)

-Greater awareness of my digital footprint–don’t wipe it out–make it positive!

-Improved writing/blogging skills

-Improved confidence when sharing my ideas in larger groups

These are some of my immediate reflections about Coetail in general, now onto my final course 5 project in particular.

 

It’s hard to come up with more that hasn’t already been said in a variety of posts I’ve written throughout my process (see links here,  here & here) and /or in the video, but nevertheless, I will try.

I had a look back on my course 4 project proposal:

My Project Goals:

  1. Teachers will improve in their ability to document a wide variety of student learning and will use this documentation more meaningfully in the classroom to enhance student learning.  Reluctant ‘posters’ (to Seesaw) will post more often. Frequent posters will post more reflectively.  Reflective posters will include more range in the technologies they use to document the learning.
  2. I would like for the younger students I work with to also use both the digital portfolio (and/or blog feature) more independently and reflectively.  
  3.  I hope to use the blog feature of Seesaw in some of the classes/grades and to promote its use as a collaborative learning and reflection tool for students.  

So, let’s  look at Goal  #1:

Teachers will improve in their ability to document a wide variety of student learning and will use this documentation more meaningfully in the classroom to enhance student learning.”

I will admit, it’s a bit loosey goosey.  How exactly am I measuring’ improvement’ and ‘meaningful’ and ‘student learning’.  Those are the million dollar questions.

In terms of actual numbers, I can  look at Seesaw analytics for ideas as to how often we post as a school.  (I can only see when individual teachers sign in–when I see ‘last signed in 11 weeks ago’ I feel a bit deflated.)

Here are the stats of Seesaw posts from when I started Course 5 to the end.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 10.33.16

Looking at weekly items doesn’t really help much. A quick look at the dates tells me teachers post most often in the week or two before school breaks– (and not at all during breaks.)  They posted rather obviously right around Student Led Conferences on March 23.  

I had to go back and check our e portfolio staff meeting dates (Feb 1 and March 1) and could see there seemed to be a building enthusiasm of posting after our first meeting–where teachers fed back and filled in the compass points activity (Need to know, Exciting, Suggestions for moving forward, Worries.)  There was a definite drop in posting activity after the second meeting on March 1 , however, when we looked critically at posts using the following Guide:

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 10.30.46

Of course I have no idea if the meeting and reduced posting are related.  Back from break, perhaps teachers feel the long winter ahead of them and feel sluggish about posting.  Or perhaps they are in the middle of units, or have just begun units and don’t have much of anything to post.  Or perhaps they are thinking more critically about what they are posting…the eager posters have actually slowed down and are asking themselves, “Where is the learning?

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 10.33.32Our parent engagement section is always affirming. Looking at the two charts side by side, most parents take a look at what their children are posting, and it seems they have their notifications turned on.  I can see there is a very  small percentage of parents not connected.  I am not sure what to do about that. We have discussed making the connection to Seesaw/blogs as part of the first Parent Evening–but even then, not all parents come.

Nevertheless, getting parents to engage more effectively (and not necessarily more often) will continue to be a goal for me and the school.  Teaching them more explicitly about effective commenting skills can help push student learning forward.  Of course, with younger students being the ‘readers’ of these comments, as a school we need to be clearer about who is the audience for the comments, or for that matter, for the posts themselves.  Many teachers view the platform it as a way to communicate to parents, rather than as something for students, by students.  When you are working with a wide range of student ages (3-12), this gets tricky.

 

Which brings me to Goal #2:  

“Younger students will use the digital portfolio more independently and reflectively.”  

Students looking through their 'journals'/portfolios at Outdoor Learning

Students looking through their ‘journals’/portfolios at Outdoor Learning

 

Some students in KG and up are certainly posting to Seesaw more independently–but not all classes.  I know from experience 4 years olds can handle it–it just needs to be embedded in the class routines, and not something they do only once a month.  They will never remember the steps.  Some classes have encouraged student reflection via the comments, but I do understand this is a big task for teachers to take on–listening to long winded student comments before approving them is daunting.  This is where assistants could be of greater assistance if they were empowered to do so.  (Currently their hands are ‘tied’ and must use Seesaw as ‘students’.)

Ultimately, the commenting feature needs to be utilised more effectively to get the most out of the platform and to enhance student learning, whether it is with the blog feature, or with regular posts.

Teachers making effective comments on student work.

Parents making encouraging comments about student work.

Students reflecting on their own work.

Peers making critical (not criticising) comments on classmate’s work.

 

And all of this means nothing if the student doesn’t get the opportunity to review these comments in a timely manner–when checking in on their portfolios/having the opportunity to reflect is not a daily/weekly routine.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”  -John Dewey

Goal #3

“I hope to use the blog feature of Seesaw in some of the classes/grades and to promote its use as a collaborative learning and reflection tool for students.”  

I managed to convince one class to open the blog option.  Now, more may well have been interested, but my school’s admin were reluctant to confuse matters for teachers/parents/students new to the system by encouraging them to deal with yet another digital platform.  It also opened up a can of ‘equity’ worms…once one class goes this route, others feel pressured to do the same.  I strongly feel one class should not be held back by others unwilling to try something new.  So, I tried with one class and that was not without its challenges.  If I was not in the room facilitating, blog posts/comments did not happen.  The potential of the power of the global connection was not (yet) felt by the teacher (although the kids were quite excited by it!) and so was not made a priority in the busy classroom.  However, these students are getting much more independent when making comments in general, so this blogging effort is certainly worthwhile if only as a means to independent commenting.

 

Effective commenting on portfolio posts using thinking routines and effective questioning will be my on-going goals for the rest of the year and next. I will use the aforementioned Compass Points Activity to detail further feelings about my Course 5 project.

In terms of making the movie itself, I found syncing pictures I had curated along the way with the script I had in mind was a challenge.  I had lots of pictures of some things–SLC’s for example– and little photographic evidence of other things (working directly with students on their posts).  It was easy to get footage of the SLC as I was not directly involved on the day of.  It’s quite challenging to take pictures while setting up microphones, prompting 4 year olds for their reflections, and guiding them to the right buttons.

I enjoyed combining different tech tools (Screencasts, Quik Videos, Google Slideshows, Haiku Decks, Spark Pages, etc.) to produce the final piece.  I tried keeping CARP in mind, but the many, many fonts and layouts I’d used in projects and presentations throughout the year with staff and students made it look a bit of a mishmash when all put together.

I had fun going beyond the usual i-movie jingles by using attribution free music found in Youtube (video manager > create).  I also made sure to double check that I could indeed use the photos from Haiku Deck attribution free. (I can-they are CC.)

Enough wordiness.  Here is my final project:

My PLN: an on-going labour of love

A post about my community/online engagement of PLN cannot be written strictly from a course 5 perspective.  If I were to focus only on my engagement with my PLN during the narrow time of a few months, it wouldn’t be telling the whole story (This is a link to my post “Networking is High Maintenance” from the beginning of my Coetail journey.)  

Before Coetail, my PLN consisted of those I could reach out and touch: current colleagues–in particular colleagues with whom I worked in close proximity (same building/grade, etc.)  I didn’t use the term PLN, and didn’t really give my professional learning a whole lot of thought once a 3 day workshop or conference was finished.  Since starting my Coetail journey, my greatest learning comes from former colleagues living oceans away, or from people whom I have never actually met.  

Twitter is my new Facebook (now deleted from my phone)–I check it several times a day, almost always finding some nugget of joy/truth/interest.  I often tag colleagues for whom I think the resource might be of interest.  Granted, not every resource share or ‘shout out’ is always followed up on. This is where I try to be careful not to overshare and ultimately overwhelm.

As a result of regular engaging with Twitter I learned of and joined a Global Collaboration project as a result, (#GlobalEdTed).

Tweeting regularly about our time with the bears to the ‘before and after’ teachers (those who had bears before our school–and those who received them after) allowed for a sustained interest in the project– inspiring Skype conversations with one class and our stop motion “Millie gets up to mischief” video prompted the next class to add an element of ‘Millie gets up to mischeif’ of their own for their video.

Twitter (and Coetail) has prompted me to share some of the great things my students and school are doing:

 (click here or below to see my share/reply)  

I have also joined the online community for Seesaw ambassadors using the Google + platform. I’ll admit, I use it mostly for consumption purposes, or asking a question, rather than actively sharing and answering. Maybe it’s just one platform too many.  I did however, use it to find a blogging buddy class for one of the first grade classes at school. Many, many emails later (and on-going) the relationships between the two classes is slowly building.

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 13.29.30

 

Some of my best PD has come from a handful of Twitter Chats, as summarised in the following ‘storifiy here’:

Tricia Friedman on Twitter: “@BevansJoel @horofraser You’ve been quoted in my #Storify story “#Learning2’s 1st ever #L2chat!” https://t.co/KIyGdqxyxc

And another Twitter Chat:  A portfolio discussion with Kimberly House here :

These Twitter chats, organised and hosted by the incredible Tricia Friedman, were all intended to get the conversation started early and lead up to my ultimate PLN builder, the Learning 2 conference in Europe, where I attended along with 6 of my school colleagues . My reflections are here, where I describe engaging with this new and expanded PLN at the conference. Sharing my learning in the form of my own teacher led workshop was probably my biggest learning.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 12.44.28

 

 

The conference reminded me there is definitely something to be said about good ol’ face to face time–existing relationships were solidified and new ones made after extended time with my colleagues from across campuses, in both more ‘academic’ settings as well as social.  Of course, once the conference ends and face to face time opportunities are limited, it doesn’t mean the learning and conversations have to:

Here is an on-going dialogue with a colleague from the high school based on his blog post about a mutual interest: portfolios.

Some of this on-going PLN engagement happened within the ‘confines’ of course 5, some began well before, and most will (hopefully) continue well beyond. This is the power of having an active PLN.  Thank you again Coetail.

 

Include, Inquire, Inspire

Include, Inquire, Inspire.

The Learning 2 Europe conference hashtag and catchphrase have been running through my mind since it finished two days ago.  The conference may have ended, but the ideas generated and connections made will hopefully last beyond the 3 day event.

A Chance to Play with AppleClips:

I had very high hopes for this year’s conference at ASW in Poland after an unforgettably high energy L2 conference last year in Milan.  Last year’s learning curve was steep—I was not yet in my current role as Ed Tech Coach, and so much of what I learned and took in was brand new (to me).  I attended a wide range of sessions, joined every social opportunity and networked like crazy.  I was in awe of people’s experiences, connections and skills.

This year, as part of my Personal Learning Plan to challenge myself, and to support my final project inquiry into e-portfolios,  I volunteered to lead a teacher workshop on Seesaw.

The conference started with a great session on ePortfolios and documenting learning by Kimberly House.  Now, I have been living and breathing e-portfolios this last year and a half and what was brand new and inspiring last year, was more like review and affirmation this year. It was great to be in the session with my colleagues from the High School and the benefits of the opportunity to hear their perspectives and to develop shared language and understandings cannot be understated.

Image Source: AboutAlbertEinstein.com, flickr

Image Source: AboutAlbertEinstein.com, flickr

Learning 2 has the fabulous tradition of hosting its ‘extended session leaders’ on the stage over the 3 days to deliver a series of Ted-style key note talks. A-mazing.  One talk was given by a High School student, Nico who explained delved into Einstein’s quote on why ‘imagination is more important than knowledge.’  Josefino Rivera, who specialises in training students to deliver Ted Style talks, insisted we teachers must ‘walk the walk’ we expect of our students. John Mikton convinced me of my moral responsibility to model responsible device use in front of my students and children.

Another great aspect of the Learning 2 conference is the cohorts.  I joined a technology leader cohort (there were 3!) to find like-minded people to learn with and from.  This year, L2 challenged us to come up with cohort hashtags and memes.  At our first session, we discussed the sometimes random and confusing nature of our job titles and tasks.  This resulted in our never-ending ticker tape response to #WhatIDoAllDay, encapsulated in film, and 360 degree camera:

#WhatIDoAllDay #Learning2 Photo Credit, Mark Shillitoe

#WhatIDoAllDay #Learning2, Image Credit, Mark Shillitoe

 

My extended sessions (‘Change Makers’ with Sonya terBord and  Hosting a Ted Ex Club/Event with Josefino Rivera) were thought provoking and informative, although perhaps not as hands on as my sessions last year (physically re-arranging a classroom and learning to program a variety of robots are hard to beat in terms of immediate, hands-on learning.) I don’t think I walked away with as many new tools or skills or ‘I’m gonna do this Monday” kind of thing as I did last year.  Although I do plan on using this animation lesson using TED ed: lessons worth sharing one of these Mondays (I host a Digital Design After School club on Monday.)

Another fabulous aspect of L2 are the unconferences—random meetings of like minds interested in discussing what is immediately relevant and of interest. My first unconference I joined the Maker Space in the library and ‘hacked’ my conference badge by figuring out how to complete a circuit in order to light up an LED. The next day I discussed the addictiveness of the new Serial produced podcast series, ‘S town’  (I half wrote this post and half listened to the podcast on my journey home) and compared and contrasted our respective school’s tech integration model with someone sitting next to me on the couch. Fabulous.

I think ultimately my biggest learning was leading my own workshop on Seesaw. Public speaking/presenting is the single most dreadful experience in my #firstworldproblem kind of existence. I’m terrified of it-but this terror was what made me skip lunch, lose sleep and work extra hard to make sure I knew my s—.  My session had a great turnout and people had great questions and I actually knew the answer to most of them.  Many were self-proclaimed ‘converts’ after my session.  My Seesaw ambassadorship and Coetail forced me out of my comfort zone and insisted that I give back and share.

One of my main conference take-aways, however was actually not from any of the sessions/unconferences/workshops or speeches, but simply the connections made (and hopefully maintained and kept…) Madeline Brookes’ #BaconNumber talk alludes to the power of connections.

There is so much value that comes from the opportunity, time and space to connect with colleagues from around the around the world (and from my own school!) The power of meeting your teaching idols is great, but one can’t beat those conversations with emotional impact on the path to ‘finding your tribe.’

Finding your tribe: It's not about who jumps highest, but learning from each other. Image Credit: tpsdave, Pixabay, CCO public domain,

Finding your tribe: It’s not about who jumps highest… Image Credit: tpsdave, Pixabay, CCO public domain,

 

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Taking a slight break from my focus on ePortfolios & course 5 project (not really–I was just earlier going over my workshop for Learning 2 in Warsaw next week), I thought I’d throw together a few things I’ve been working on/thinking about over the last few months.

Wondering how to incorporate AR into the classroom:

My 3 year old twins as my test subjects:

Animal Alphabet and Augmented Reality

Clearly loving the special effects

Clearly loving the special effects

I’m still not sure how effective this is at learning the alphabet.  It’s definitely cute and fun.  It entertained us for an hour or so. I’m still looking for ideas and inspiration in this area…

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do when you are asked to introduce Minecraft and you are completely clueless?  Find some experts!

Second Grade Minecraft Experts Introducing Game to First Graders

Second Grade Minecraft Experts Introducing Game to First Graders

A teacher wanted to use Minecraft as part of a unit of inquiry into homes–how/where/why they are built the way the are.  Having never played before, I looked up some basic guidelines, watched a few youtube videos and played around.  No way was I going to catch up to the expert level that even some of the kids in the class were likely to be at.  Time to call in the experts: second graders!  They made a simple Google Slide presentation and shared their knowledge with the first graders.

Shared iPads, team work.

Shared iPads, team work. 

Here is a link to a pair’s final Minecraft Homes project .  The students were incredibly proud, it prompted students to share and reflect on their process to Seesaw and to open the blog option in order to share their project and learning globally.

I’ve been playing around with the ‘new’ Google Sites and quite love it.  Mind you, I didn’t really use the classic version– it wasn’t nearly so intuitive.  I struggled with formatting and saving things and mangled my way through it when writing the online Google Certification test earlier this year- (pretty much the only time I’d used it) but the newer version is all one could ask for: simple to use,  all Google apps are easily accessible/importable within the sidebar, and formatting is a relative breeze.

Here’s a sample of my efforts:

Tech in the Early Years Google Site

I have no immediate plans to share this–perhaps with like minded colleagues at next week’s conference? I’m lying in bed and motivated to continue to tinker with it, rather than sleep.  I do feel that the easier a platform is to use, the more likely people will use it.

Platform Blues

I am seeing (and hearing) this mantra firsthand form my colleagues.  Back to portfolios for a minute, lower elementary teachers (EY-Grade 2) use Seesaw, with its super easy interface, large simple buttons, easy uploads, no HTML, no fuss with public vs private…and love it. While Upper Elementary teachers are using Blogger and are having a significantly harder time with it (grade 3-5).

Blogger and (no offence) Word Press don’t motivate me/teachers, and the students in the same sense.  Yes, these are blogging platforms and encourage wordiness and reflection–Seesaw and Google Sites are more meant for images and multi media, I suppose.

After Course 3–I very much lean towards a simple,  visual style— you can get your message across much more quickly and effectively with an image/video and a short caption (rather than a long winded blog post that is not-so-motivating to read, let alone write.)

And on that note…

My ePortfolio Learning Journey: Part 2

Here is a ‘Down and Dirty’ Summary of my work towards my Eportfolio goals/Final Project since my last post:

  • Liaised with staff, Upper Primary Ed Tech Coach and PYP coordinator to revamp Portfolio Essential Agreements:

ISZL Portfolio Agreements

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 20.41.25

My workshop–live on Learning2 website!! Double Gulp!!

  • Co-planned and co-led 2nd ePortfolio Staff meeting , where we looked critically at portfolio posts in teams/cross grades and cross platforms (Blogger).
  • Filled out Ambassador PD form, and requested free Seesaw Swag.  My T-shirt has arrived!My Seesaw Swag arrived!

Our Portfolio Post Framing Questions:

  • How has the teacher or student shown the context for the learning? (What? Where? When? Why? How?)
  • What would help you to understand more about the context for learning? (What questions do you have?)
  • Is the individual student learning evident?
  • In what ways has the teacher scaffolded the post?
  • Is there evidence of teacher voice? Is it necessary? Is there evidence of student voice? Is it necessary?

Staff Meeting Critical Reflections:

Adobe Spark Page

Staff Portfolio Meeting, Created in Adobe Spark Page. All Photo Credits: Holly Fraser. Click to view! 

  • Led several training sessions for Assistants (KG, EY1, Gr1) on Seesaw & finding the learning, using the PYP essential elements framework (looking for specific skills found under the 5 Transdisciplinary Skills Heading; Attitudes)
  • Created Wallpapers for class iPads with Seesaw ‘Wow’ Work Poster to act as visual guide/reference 

Grade 1 iPad Wallpaper

  • Continue on-going discussions and work with grade 1 pilot class on blog option (set up blog, ‘advertised’ in Google + community of Seesaw Ambassadors for a Seesaw connected blog; communicated with parents, liaised between class teachers involved…plant to intro to students…forgot to consult admin…snap. :(
  • Created/Collated Resources ‘Seesaw for SLCs and beyond’ in a Padlet (I can’t get enough!) and shared with Staff 

Made with Padlet

 

  • Met with visiting Ed Tech Leaders to show/ walk them through Seesaw/how our school is using it and discuss with them the possibilities/limitations as they are currently making a decision about a platform for next year.  Walking someone else through our process was a nice reminder of just how far we have come!
  • Proactive effort to work with students using Seesaw: Modelling use of voice recorded comments and drawing tool in classrooms; recruiting students during Outdoor Learning to review their journal and begin to make comments on their own and other’s posts.

    Students looking through their 'journals'/portfolios at Outdoor Learning

    Students looking through their ‘journals’/portfolios at Outdoor Learning.  Photo Credit: Holly Fraser

Project Course 5 Goal:
Become a Seesaw Ambassador.  Check.

Checking in with Course 5 project: eportfolios

Okay, Coetail, here we go, course 5.  

 

I have taken a break from actively blogging about my Course 5 progress, but the few Coetail graduates I’ve spoken to are warning me against such breaks. So the other night I sat down to reflect on what I have been doing to accomplish my loose plan of a project and to brainstorm next steps.

31850894154

I have narrowed the focus of my project–previously a bit too broad
— to be purely about (
learning about and promoting) the effective use of e-portfolios by staff and students (with a focus on the platform EY-Gr2 teachers use: Seesaw).

 

 

 

Here are some ideas I came up with:

+Use Padlet to store items/resources/evidence

-Storify…link/screenshots… of twitter chats…

-Google +

-Webinar — opening up blog 

Project Course 5 Goal: Become a Seesaw Ambassador. Check.

Project Course 5 Goal:
Become a Seesaw Ambassador. Check.

-Seesaw ambassadorship 

-Staff meeting ‘E-portfolio Feedback and Check in Session’ + any Follow up…

-Feedback next steps/plan???

I began to think of eventual workflow–the final course project must eventually be in the form of a movie, likely edited in iMovie.  Would storing things in a Padlet (an online tool) be best for eventual retrieval to use in iMovie?   Would Google Drive be better? Or even simply a folder on the desktop–where I store much of my Coetail media to be uploaded, anyway?  

 

‘Made with Mirth’ Aside:

I discovered Padlet last year and used it as a platform for sharing/storing photographs in a collaborative photography project.  But I haven’t really revisited until a short while ago, when I recently discovered the Padlet extension from the chrome store (it enables me to easily add websites I am currently visiting to an existing padlet, or to create a new one.)  Padlet is just so nice and visual, I love the wallpapers, and the randomised and charming ‘made with mirth’ subtitles.  I love that I can share them, invite others to contribute/view, etc. (which is a work in progress) but I love that the possibility is there.
A fellow Coetailer at my school, Joy Walker, showed me how she used it to house interactive Maths games for use on the Smartboard.  I thought this was a great application–until we discovered that so many of the games she had put there a year or so ago either had broken links or wouldn’t work on the computer connected to the Smartboard–it likely needed a software update/plug in (?) in order to run the games. I am still new to solving these kinds of technicalities, and discovered these limitations/frustrations with older websites when I tried creating 100’s day Padlets, and Coding Padlets for Kindergarten. )

 

In any case, I wanted to try out Padlet as place to keep track of and demonstrate my progress with my Course 5 project on ePortfolios, as well as future plans (and do my best to maintain my Coetail media desktop folder) so here it is:

Made with Padlet

 

(link) https://padlet.com/holly_fraser/coetailcourse5

 

I am still learning how to best use this Padlet platform most effectively, and it does have its limitations. For example,  I wanted to have arrows going between my different posts, kind of like in a Popplet, or at least be able to organize the posts into discrete categories, like ‘PLN’ or ‘personal PD’–which I kind of can, by using the freeform method of organising posts and grouping like items.  I do like the variety of sharing options (similar to Google Drive) and continue to wonder at its possibilities…

 

Since I am currently a little obsessed with Padlet right now, my next thoughts turned to, “Could I use Use Padlet to house great Seesaw examples and/or resources and share with my staff?” Would people balk at learning/using yet another (despite its charm) platform?

 

After testing out the sharing of a ‘best practice’ post from Seesaw to a Padlet, I notice the key element (teacher/student comments) aren’t included, only captions.  This is not ideal. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.  

 

My Next Steps:

158291877191. I will continue to update my course 5 Padlet (as I am exploring processing information more visually these days…)

2. Prepare Plan for upcoming Staff Presentation–‘Updated Portfolio Agreements and a Response to Staff Feedback on e-Portfolio journey so far.

Sample feedback: More direct teaching of skills (taking photos, videos, recordings) so students can make better quality posts with EdTech leading this” 

A possible response: Create visually appealing posters “How to take a clear photograph that best demonstrates your work/learning” to be posted around classroom room, visit each class, give some direct instruction, provide the students with additional practice using specific skills.

3. Possibly prepare a presentation/session on Seesaw as an ePortfolio platform at the upcoming Learning 2 conference in Warsaw.  I was rather late submitting my proposal, and the scope may be more limited than the organisers have in mind, but it’s a possibility.  (Although in my haste to submit my already late proposal, I did not take a screen shot, the gist of my proposal :

Introduce Seesaw as an eportfolio platform, highlight its benefits (& potential drawback) and engage in a discussion on effective portfolio posts–how to best share/show student learning.

4. Continue to model best practice (when making my own Seesaw Posts) and learn as I go.

Sample Best Practice (IMHO): Hundred’s Day Stop Motion Video post to Seesaw:

 

Final Project, Course 4: An ePortfolio Proposal

I’ve done a lot of inward and outward groaning this past week trying to grapple with my final course 4 project–and ostensibly my course 5 project.  ‘Why did I do such ambitious final projects in the earlier courses?’ I’ve moaned. ‘Now I need to top/go above and beyond what I did earlier…the project needs to be bigger, better…’ etc.

 

I’ve looked at several course 5 final project videos and descriptions, trying to get a handle on some that fit within my role as Ed Tech Facilitator/Coach for Early Primary and Early Years Teachers.  

 

I’ve lamented that now being out of the classroom, I have less control and can’t actually implement a redesigned unit plan, without at least first convincing a class teacher–or even more problematic/challenging–but potentially transformative– an entire grade level, as my school tends to strive for consistency across grade levels.

 

Even if I do manage to convince them of some great re-designed tech infused unit plan, I will be challenged to be available to document all the wonderfulness. Most teachers receive tech my integration ideas well, but they tend to be ‘one-off’ ideas, and aren’t looking to completely revamp an entire unit.  Some ideas, like using a few select apps to tell stories/communicate/reflect on learning (Spark Video or Book Creator) have certainly gained a lot of mileage with teachers, but I don’t (quite) see their implementation as a final project idea.

 

One area that I and most teachers have focussed on a great deal this year is the effective implementation and use of Digital Portfolios to highlight student learning.  I am thinking that this is the topic/project that I want to use as my final project.  I am just not sure how yet.  

 

I was initially reluctant to choose this as a topic, since two other Coetailers at my school have just both recently finished their own projects on the topic and I wondered how I could approach my own project from a different angle.  (I haven’t yet see either’s project’s in their entirety–just pieces, and I actually don’t even know their “angles.”)  In any case, their projects are about their own understanding and context–not mine.  

 

Looking back on the Seesaw Implementation Plan, a Google Doc about my school’s chosen e portfolio platform, Seesaw, created by my wonderful predecessor, I note that after January (January’s goal: possible introduction of the blog feature, or looking into quadblogging) the implementation plan is blank.  Obviously it is left up to me to drive the direction and next steps of the plan.


The more I think about it, figuring out how/when to best document and share student learning –and using this process as formative assessment both of/for and as learning has ultimately been and continues to be the bulk of my job.   Documenting my own, others and the students understanding of the process of (digitally) documenting learning and pushing both the understanding and the process of documentation itself to its highest potential will be my project.

Reaching the Highest Potential. Unsplash: No attribution required.

Reaching the Highest Potential.
Unsplash: Attribution Free Photos .

 

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

*I will include teachers as “students” throughout my project–as I work more directly with teachers and other staff than with particular groups of students.

The on-going examination and documentation of my school’s eportfolio story:  how to best share student learning–using our existing platforms–Seesaw for lower primary, blogger for upper primary (and Schoology as an SMS).  

Students and teachers will develop and practice their digital citizenship skills by actively seeking the feedback of and engaging with an authentic audience (students, parents, school community members and ideally, people beyond our walls).

Encourage teachers (ideally one rep per grade level at a minimum) to begin to use additional platforms more effectively by developing an online PLN to learn and share beyond our walls.  

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

Coetail has taught me the importance of establishing a positive digital footprint by being more thoughtful and skilful in what we chose to share with the world, that developing key digital citizenship skills are paramount to success now and in the future.   I have experienced first hand the benefits of seeking, developing and engaging with an online PLN–which lead to the exposure to new ideas and connections and to see the value in sharing–that sharing is in fact our moral imperative.  

Through the act of blogging, I have become more reflective about my own learning and teaching practice.  The more we understand the significance of and engage with an authentic audience, the more careful and thoughtful we become about the learning we are sharing.  I hope to take students and teachers through a similar reflective journey via their portfolio platforms.

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

My Project Goals:

  1. Teachers will improve in their ability to document a wide variety of student learning and will use this documentation more meaningfully in the classroom to enhance student learning.  Reluctant ‘posters’ (to Seesaw) will post more often. Frequent posters will post more reflectively.  Reflective posters will include more range in the technologies they use to document the learning.

 

2. I hope to use the blog feature of Seesaw in some of the classes/grades and to promote its use as a collaborative learning and reflection tool for students.  

 

3. I would like for the  younger students I work with to also use both the digital portfolio (and/or blog feature) more independently and reflectively.  

 

4. I hope to encourage more teachers to join Twitter, (or other online learning communities: e.g., Facebook groups or Google +) and for those that are currently using the platform, to use it more interactively & proactively by sharing examples of student learning.

connections

Making those PLN Connections

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

The digital documentation and curation of student learning is now a school wide goal and expectation.  Many teachers are new to the process and are looking for guidance.  Speaking from an early primary perspective, I can say that so far this learning journey for (most) teachers has been embraced enthusiastically.  But, many need new ideas, strategies and assistance in this process.  It continues to be a big focus for many teachers and most young students are just beginning to develop their own understanding of the process and its benefits.  Students will need additional and continued guidance, too, in order to be more reflective about their learning and autonomous when sharing/posting their learning.

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

(Not really a unit re-design, but more a thinking about teaching and learning and documenting re-design: this year my school has moved away from Paper portfolios, but some still cling to old ways and ideas, and making this an effective transition and an actual pedagogical shift takes time and constant inspiration.)

 

One thing I really do want to push/introduce/explore, according to the Seesaw implementation plan, is the blog option and helping classes connect with other classes–whether that be simply within our own school, or globally.   That  being said, many are not (yet) willing to branch beyond our chosen platform of Seesaw (for lower primary) or Blogger (for upper primary) in order to share learning more publicly via local/global collaborations using (public) blogs, or making/sharing learning more publicly (via Twitter, Google +, etc.)  Many feel that this year they have had to learn one too many new digital platforms (and they have–new student management systems, reporting systems, parent conference systems, etc.) and that picking up and maintaining yet another is just too much.  A few teachers have Twitter accounts, but most tend to use them for consumption purposes.  An even smaller number of teachers have started their own blogs to document their professional learning.  

 

This other aspect of pushing the digital platform to its highest potential–the making Learning Visible–i.e., public, is a big ask, and many teachers don’t (yet) see its value vs risk/extra work.   I hope to encourage more teachers to branch out of their comfort zone (which is typically private, what happens in the classroom, stays in the classroom, except for sharing with parents)  and expand their learning in the form of public sharing of both student and teacher learning and developing (and understanding the value of) an expanded PLN.  I’m not sure if this is actually a second idea, and worthy of another project entirely, but it is also something I hope to pursue.

 

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

I hope to learn how to maximise teacher and student learning using Seesaw by becoming  a Seesaw ambassador. I am hopefully accepted into this program, which will not only get a me a cool badge to put next to my name–but ultimately complement other course 5 goals–which are participating more fully in my own PLN in order to promote its effectiveness with teachers, and of course directly benefit teachers and students I work with by learning more about Seesaw’s possibilities via webinars and twitter chats and determining how to best share/relay/implement this information, as part of being an ambassador. So far, I have dabbled/lurked in webinars and Twitter chats, but I would like to further develop my own confidence when using these learning tools, and promoting their use with my staff.

 

Since I ultimately work most often with teachers rather than students, these aren’t technically shifts in pedagogy, but I will be looking at different ways of spreading information and improving my oral and visual communication skills and ability to influence teacher practice.

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

Teachers (and eventually students) will be more frequent/thoughtful/creative posters of student learning in Seesaw.

 

Teachers will (begin to use or) improve their use of social media/other digital communication platforms to share best practices and share student learning.
(Again, I am not entirely sure if these 2 areas of exploration are one in the same or if they are indeed two separate goals and ideas worthy of further exploration, but this is my thinking so far…and this being the first day of my well deserved Christmas break, I think I will leave it at that.  I am sure, with time away from the daily grind, this will encourage further reflection and I will continue to develop my project ideas.

Unsplash: Attribution Free Photos

Unsplash: Attribution Free Photos.  Happy Holidays!

The Future of Education

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

I certainly hope so!  

Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

I know my teaching practice has changed in the last few years.  3 years ago I might not have seen the value in bringing in noisy, blinking, programmable  and modular robots* (*a month ago I didn’t really know what that meant, either)  into an already chaotic classroom, but now I do!

2 years ago, would I have considered maintaining a class blog or joining, let alone joining and extending a High School blogging challenge (An Open Invitation to Collaborate)  or co-creating a global collaboration with my young students and several others groups on the other side of the world? (Little Ideas Swap)? Probably not.  (Thank you Coetail for the kick in the pants). The article A Communiqué from the Horizon Project Retreat  describes the top ten trends from around the world, with the number one trend:

“ The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.”

Even 1 year ago–would I have been seen as “The IT expert,”–where people come to me with their tech problems and questions.  All of these changes in my teaching and my career have evolved because of new technologies. And as we are beginning to grasp that  technology advancement is exponential, I can only wonder at what is around the corner.  

One thing that is incredibly slow to change (at least in all school’s I’ve worked in), and a thought I’ve had over and over is how we are still teaching in (mostly) isolated, individual classrooms and almost exclusively  by age cohorts. Prakash Nair, in The Classroom is Obsolete: It’s Time for Something New, addresses these issues:

Almost without exception, the reform efforts under way will preserve the classroom as our children’s primary place of learning deep into the 21st century. This is profoundly disturbing because staying with classroom-based schools could permanently sink our chances of rebuilding our economy and restoring our shrinking middle class to its glory days….

“As the primary place for student learning, the classroom does not withstand the scrutiny of scientific research. Each student “constructs” knowledge based on his or her own past experiences. Because of this, the research demands a personalised education model to maximise individual student achievement. Classrooms, on the other hand, are based on the erroneous assumption that efficient delivery of content is the same as effective learning.”

The article mentions that Environmental scientists have published dozens of studies that show a close correlation between human productivity and space design.  Classroom design is something I have always found to be both intriguing and challenging (in another life I would love to be an interior designer.)  

I know how a space looks and feels goes a long way to making me feel a certain way (my crowded, cluttered office doesn’t make me feel particularly creative) but if it is indeed so closely linked to productivity, shouldn’t there be a lot more care and effort ($) put into our Learning/Working/Living Spaces?

What could these revamped learning spaces look like??  The answers to this depends on your answer to these questions:

How should students learn?

Where should students should learn?

With whom should students learn?

Nair says, “We may conclude that it makes no sense to break down the school day into fixed “periods,” and that state standards can be better met via interdisciplinary and real-world projects….

How often have we as teachers, pulled children away from work that they are completely absorbed in, have found their flow,”simply because it is time to go to music class?

Time to get rid of schedules: Photo: Unsplash

It’s Time to get rid of schedules: Photo: Unsplash

Authentic Music integration while breaking down classroom walls: All of Kindergarten joining in song at the end of Outdoor Learning

Authentic Music integration while breaking down classroom walls: All of Kindergarten joining in song at the end of Outdoor Learning.  Photo credit: an unknown sneaky monkey who borrowed my iPad.

Nair says “we may not necessarily get rid of classrooms, but instead redesign them to operate as “learning studios” alongside common areas reclaimed from hallways that vastly expand available space and allow better teaching and learning. In many parts of the country, limited classroom space can be significantly expanded by utilising adjacent open areas while simultaneously improving daylight, access to fresh air, and connections to nature.”

When discussing forward thinking considerations towards space, the Reggio Emilia approach cannot be omitted.  Google “Environment as the Third Teacher” and you will find dozens of blogs and pictures showing beautiful arrangements of materials and gorgeous, light filled spaces.

Beyond the Four Walls: The Piazza Common Space, in a Reggio Emilia PreSchool. Photo by Vincenzo Mainardi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17908980

 

anji_play_climbing_cubes_

The Future:  Open, flexible Spaces with access to Outdoors.  Photo By Caterooni – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49340739

ISZL’s Early Years approach is certainly Reggio inspired, in terms of our consideration of materials, time and space. Our Swiss environment and the local culture place a huge importance on playing outdoors, so the children have upwards of 2 hours a day outside in fresh, mountain air, with regular visits to a nearby forest.

Future of Learning: Early Years students in the forest. Photo source: Shared EY1 Google Drive. Collaborative teaching and photo sharing!

Future of Learning: Early Years students in the forest. Photo source: Shared EY1 Google Drive. Collaborative teaching and photo sharing!

More authentic learning spaces in ISZL's Early Years Playground

More authentic learning spaces in ISZL’s Early Years Playground.  Photo: Holly Fraser

Our youngest students’ walls have expanded as their teachers have carefully considered and chosen to allow all of their students to mix and mingle and choose freely to visit the different classrooms, each set up with a different focus: The Role Play Room, Art Studio or Construction Room (typically with a STEM focussed provocation).

I see this model spreading to other  parts of the school (kindergarten has reclaimed a boot room and transformed it into a shared Art Studio) and can only hope the trend continues.

Another hope for future change is a move away from a focus on grades and other external rewards.  Our current practice, according to Dan Pink’s research, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, has serious implications. His research finds that rewards can improve performance when it is a mechanical skills, but when a task requires “Rudimentary cognitive skill,” performance is impeded when reward is introduced. “When a task is simple, algorithmic, if you do this then you get this…yes works, but when task is more creative…rewards do not work.”

If future success requires our students to be creative and use more than “rudimentary cognitive skills” then we need to seriously reconsider our reporting and grading systems.

There are numerous obstacles, but I see the future of school as bright, but change is necessary and incredibly slow.  

Young Students Making Meaning with Makey Makeys

Young students Making Meaning using Makey Makeys

Playing the “playdough piano
Good speakers are key for using makey makeys in a loud class!
Rocking out to Billie Jean:  Getting the beat just right is highly entertaining and motivating.
Students figure out how things work by playing with them & developing theories.

“It doesn’t work…”

 “Because we don’t have the bracelet!”
(the ‘grounding’ wire)
 

Students jump on an aluminum foil ‘Dance Floor’ and Makey Makey to play Super Mario Bros and build perseverance and confidence.
“I did it without falling!”

Students then play with their older buddies and learn more about electricity and conductivity: by holding the alligator clips, we are conductive and can become the piano, too!

A HUMAN PIANO?!

Exploring and learning about electricity, energy, sound, conductivity and circuits is fun with Makey Makeys! Learning from older buddies is helpful and motivating, and older buddies have the opportunity to explain their thinking.  Both groups are co-constructing their understanding.
Developing an understanding about how things work and how energy travels is accessible for ALL ages. They may not understand exactly how electricity works…but then again, do you?

 

 

My 3 year old twins exploring, testing theories and making sounds
Does a pencil work as well as my finger?
Let’s try it out and see.

 

“Just” Playing?


“They’re
just playing,” is a sentence I hear again and again.  I’ve uttered it myself, despite my own beliefs in its importance.

MindShift’s The Power of Play in Learning,  an article where everything is quotable and tweetable, describes play this way:

“Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill…To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful.”

Aran Levasseur

Play and games help us prepare for the unexpected. Photo: Pixabay, no attribution required.

Play and games help us prepare for the unexpected. Photo: Pixabay, no attribution required.

I have written much about my school’s approach and philosophy with regards to how young children best learn: through play.

Children in Early Years (3 years old) through Kindergarten (5 years old) and even into first grade are provided with ample opportunity for free play, both inside and outside in well thought out, rich and inviting environments.  (The following images were taken from the EY rooms in my school.  All credits, Holly Fraser)

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Materials are selected based not only on their aesthetic appeal, but also their flexibility or open-endedness.  What possibilities do they present?  Teachers refrain from direct instruction/direction as much as possible and instead present “learning proposals,” or open invitations to investigate, explore, and play.

Levasseur says in his article,

One doesn’t read “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” to develop strategy before playing the game. One starts by playing. This is true for all video games. You start by exploring the world with curiosity and begin to develop a hypothesis of what you’re supposed to do. Through trial, error, pattern recognition, logic and chance you continually reformulate your trajectory.

Just like this view of learning to play video games, children at my school and in my class are encouraged to construct their own meaning, in groups or individually, and their working theories are honoured, questioned and documented.

Levasseur continues:

“This model of learning is not only effective for video games but for all digital tools, and I would argue that play — especially in the digital sense — is emerging as a pedagogical keystone for education in the 21st century.”

Students  Photo, my own

Students need ample time to play with new technology.  Photo credit: Holly Fraser

I know myself, with any new tool, app, robot, device, etc.that I’m shown/hear about I immediately want/need to go and play with it.  Just like the young children we work with, we need ample time and freedom to explore and play around with a new ‘material’ before we are expected to produce “results” or come to any new conclusions.  

We also need to ensure our students feel welcome and comfortable in their play environment in order to learn optimally. In Play is Hard Work, by Bud Hunt, play is described as finding freedom in the face of constraint.” Students don’t tend to learn in any environment where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or or unwelcome.  I’ve had similar thoughts myself as a Specialist teacher going into classrooms–some where I am expected and welcome, others were I feel like an afterthought, ignored or met with resistance.  In which rooms do I feel free to try new things, be creative and take risks?  (All necessary for learning.)

Hunt cautions that play isn’t always “fun,” however…. “I think you can play with really serious ideas and concepts.”


I’ve often divided the kinds of play I see in my own classroom from previous years into several categories:  

“Flitting butterfly” playing: aimless, jumping from thing to thing, not settling or focusing on anything, moving on once something is deemed too challenging…(although this “flitting” about is often required before finding something to settle on.)

“Role play/Imaginative” play: (relationship building, problem solving, story telling, negotiating)

Role Play/Small World Imaginative Play.  Photo Credit: Holly Fraser

Role Play/Small World Imaginative Play. Photo Credit: Holly Fraser

“Object” play (manipulating, creating, building, trouble shooting)

Object Play

Object Play: Blocks. Photo credit: Holly Fraser

“Physical” play  (gross motor skills; risk taking; balance; endurance)  

Physical Play: Boy enjoying nature.  Photo credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

Physical Play: Boy enjoying nature. Photo credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

All but the first kind of play (which some kids can unfortunately get stuck on) can and should eventually lead to a deep play, a higher quality of play where they enter into the “zone” or “flow.” This kind of play really does become serious and absorbing-and challenging –but not too challenging–and where real learning takes place.

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Getting into the zen like zone of deep learning. Photo, Pixabay, no attribution required.

Nathan Maton’s article,  How Games can Influence Learning describes how “the best games challenge the player at exactly the right level and in the right way to keep the player playing….A well-designed game offers an intricate balance of challenges and rewards that continually pushes players to, and then beyond, the limits of their knowledge and skill.”

New York Times Magazine: Taking Play Seriously looks at play from a scientific point of view, from its evolutionary roots and to the discovery of its role in brain growth and development.

Research shows play is essential for brain development and growth.  Photo: Ephraimstochter, Pixabay.

Research shows play is essential for brain development and growth. Photo Credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

It was fascinating looking at how most mammals engage in play–despite risks (animals–and people– risk injury and even death, the need for play is so strong.)

The very extensive research suggests that, “that play contributes to the growth of more supple, more flexible brains.”

‘‘I think of play as training for the unexpected…Behavioural flexibility and variability is adaptive… it’s really important to be able to change your behaviour in a changing environment.’’

-Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado

This constant reiteration of play as training our brains to prepare for the unexpected in an ever changing world makes we wonder why it isn’t given more value, more time, more importance in school and at home–in all our lives.  The time to do so is now.