Course 4 Final Project: Models & Systems

Wow! The end of Course 4 is here :) As usual, these courses seem to fly right on by! I really can’t believe that our final course, Course 5, is upon us in the very near future.

Why?

The unit you see embedded below is a great possibility for my Course 5 project because I have never done this unit before EVER!  At our school, we are in the midst of switching to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), AND we are continuing to create science units that are truly integrated. We are not going to teach just chemistry, just physics, and just biology separately in the same academic year, but we are going to teach all of the scientific disciplines, including earth and space science, in the same unit, at the same time, in a more meaningful and seamless fashion. Instead of breaking up the scientific disciplines into their neat little categories, we are attempting to fuse them together, which is much more representative of how science actually works in the real world. So, not only have we never done this unit before, it seemed like a good unit to incorporate many of the concepts and ideas that we have learned throughout our Coetail journey. For this unit, I will be specifically focusing on incorporating project-based learning (PBL) and incorporating technology in a more effective manner.

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Concerns

Honestly, I don’t have any concerns about redesigning this particular unit as all of our units this year are due for review and redesign. I do have some reservations about how I can begin to achieve the Modification and Redefinition phases of the SAMR model in this unit and in my general teaching practice. I have completed a basic plan for this unit (embedded below), but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement. I still, sometimes, feel that certain tasks are better off without incorporating technology. Or, I could achieve similar goals without the use of technology. Of course, that is not always the case, but I do have my doubts about making this unit “tech-y” enough.

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Mindshift

There are 2 main shifts in pedagogy that this new unit will require from me. The first is a shift from a content-focused unit to an almost completely concept- and skills-based unit. The second is a shift from incorporating tech as it suited me, as the teacher to incorporating tech in a more meaningful student-centered way. Moving to a more concept- and skills-based approach to learning will come easy for me. I have been thinking about and wanting to move in this direction for a longtime coming, and now the switch is finally happening, and my team is completely on board with this, which is AMAZING! But moving to a classroom where there is more Modification and/or Redefinition phases of the SAMR model happening, that’s going to be a challenge. I understand the benefits, but I am not completely sold on the fact that I am capable of doing this well.

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Skills

Because I don’t use tech ALL of the time and because, to be honest, tech is, sometimes, a bit superficially incorporated into my classroom practice, I’m not really sure what skills and/or attributes this new unit will require from my students. It’s pretty tough to say. My students will, oftentimes, surprise me with what they already know about incorporating technology into our learning. My plan, for this first time around, with my newly redesigned unit, is to keep an open mind. Some things won’t take as long, whereas other things may take much longer than I originally anticipated because I made a certain assumption.

In the end, I am really excited to finally devote some more time to incorporating tech into my classroom in a much more meaningful way. I’d love for you to take a glance at my unit plan and offer any advice/feedback/suggestions/etc. that you may have for making it my best unit yet. I warmly welcome your comments below :)

Reflecting on Tech

In my classroom, I, primarily, use my laptop and flatscreen during class time. I rarely use my phone or iPad. I use the flat screen as a projector, although it is interactive like a SmartBoard.

I use my laptop for almost everything else: organizing my lesson plans and other documents, slides, and spreadsheets, checking and responding to emails, projecting data, instructions, quizzes, slides, videos, etc. for my students, updating Moodle, using other online resources, communicating to students and parents, and the list goes on. I make good use out of my laptop, and I don’t typically use my phone or iPad because everything I want to accomplish can be done on my computer.

1:1

Our school is a 1:1 school, so every student is required to bring a device with them to every class every day of school. It’s convenient, and easily manageable. Students are used to using their devices during classes, and it seems to happen seamlessly. Of course, what students use their devices for in each class varies, but our expectations for their technology use seems to be the same across the board.

Finding Balance

In my class, we use technology, but we don’t use it for EVERYTHING. In fact, I don’t let my students take notes on their laptop. Whenever we take notes in class or for homework, I require that my students take notes by hand. How torturous, right? And maybe you are wondering about the pushback I get from my students on this. Before I tell them that they can’t take notes with their laptops, I’ve countered any resistance that I might have gotten with having them read an article from Scientific American titled A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.

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Limits

And of course, many teachers put limits and structures in place to aid our students in using technology in an effective manner. Maybe I am a bit controlling. Maybe this is something that I could loosen the reins on with my students. Maybe I could give them a bit more freedom. BUT. I’m not ready to do that just yet! In my classroom, all devices (phones, laptops, etc.) are out of sight unless a student has asked me to use their device for a specific reason, or I have instructed them to use their device for a particular reason. I find it too distracting for my students, and then, it’s distracting for me because I am trying to manage or control what they are doing or not doing. It gives me peace of mind, and I can be a more effective teacher. And everyone can stay focused on the task at hand :)

Can better tech protect us from distraction? I’m a little skeptical…

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Multitasking

Multitasking? You’re not actually good at it, therefore you are not actually multitasking, right? No one is. If you’re trying to multitask, you are missing out on life and it’s stressing you out according to this article found in Health magazine. It’s good for no one, not you, not your kids, and most definitely, not your students. Make a list of tasks you’d like to accomplish, focus on one at a time, and you’ll actually get more done than if you were multitasking. This is especially true when we are on our phones and/or computers, as I am sure most of you know 😉

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Tech Breaks

This leads me to my final thought for this blog post: tech breaks. Apparently, they work, according to one of the readings for this week titled The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks” from Psychology Today. And I am willing to try such breaks in my classroom. We all need a break once in a while, right? Teachers know this all too well, especially after having been in a long meeting. It’s nice to move around, focus on something else for a minute or two (at least), and then, get back to work!

Using technology in the classroom is a process, and it is an ever-changing process. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. It’s time to embrace technology, learn it well, and use it to the best of our abilities as classroom teachers. How are you effectively using tech in your classroom? I warmly welcome your comments below :)

For Better or For Worse?

There’s not a doubt in my mind that education has changed, is changing, and will continue to change as a result of technology. From traditional online course, MOOCs, and programs like COETAIL, it’s obvious that technology is changing the way we learn, as evidenced in this article titled How Technology Wires the Learning Brain and in this article titled 8 Ways Tech Has Completely Rewired Our Brains.

A Changing Landscape

I think it’s safe to say that the way people are educated and how they learn nowadays has significantly changed, and technology has singlehandedly created this shift. There are many reasons for the various reforms in education and the changes in the way we teach, however, I believe that technology has changed this landscape more so than anything else has in the past few decades and much more quickly than, I think, most of us anticipated.

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Where & How?

I have NO idea WHERE I will be teaching in the next 5, 10, 15 years time, but I am sure that HOW I will be teaching will definitely change. I’m not exactly sure what that change will look like just yet. I can remember back to when I was in grade school, high school, college, and when I first start teaching, and how SO much has changed throughout those different phases of my life.

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The other day a colleague of mine asked why I got into teaching in the first place, and I’ll be honest, I was at a loss for words! Well, it’s always what I wanted to do…but WHY? I’ve been thinking about this question for a few days now, and I’m sure this will sound very cliche, but the reason I love being a teacher so much is because

“…I get to help people become better versions of themselves.”

I know (or at least I think) one thing will remain the same in the coming years, and that is not where or how, but why I continue to follow my passion for teaching.

My Classroom

Technology provides more educational access, in regards to location, time, and finances, to people that many not have otherwise had such access. And technology has opened up doors in my own classroom that would not have been otherwise opened, such as allowing students to develop those 21st century skills, communicating with students in other countries, and just having access to SO much information.

Technology has really transformed the learning experience for our students. The possibilities, really, are endless. And my hope is that I can keep up with the technological aspects of our environment in order to provide my students with the best education possible that will truly prepare them for life after high school.

COETAIL

Not only has technology renovated the learning experience for our students, but for us as teachers, as well. I know, for myself, COETAIL has provided me with the experience of writing a professional blog, has linked me into various professional learning networks, and has opened my eyes to effective ways to use technology in my own classroom.

For better or for worse, technology has made an entrance into our society, and it seems like it’s here to stay! I thought this was an interesting video about our expectations of technology.

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Although I do my best to effectively incorporate technology into my classroom, I still find it challenging and at times, exhausting 😉 What are some strategies that you use to keep pace with our ever changing technological environment? I warmly welcome your comments below :)