Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections on Integration

In 2007,  I found Wikis.  A way of sharing, publishing, engaging and promoting writing.  We started by writing every day, creating scrapbooks and a class Wiki. The Wiki  gave my class a reason to write and they took off.  This was a class that struggled with written output and the difference that our Wiki made was very evident. We were lucky enough to have an author and a game developer answer questions and chat with us through our Wiki as well. The students loved showing off their work and often took the time to go back and edit or re-edit from home. It surprised me to see students had made changes over summer and that we had traffic from all over the world as they shared their pages. 2007and 2008 were our Wiki years. We loved it. They are still up and my students stop by and visit their old work.

In 2009,  we acquired carts of Macbooks.  IMovie  and iPhoto and iWeb became tools of choice for telling our stories and we made DVDs of our work.  We  have continued making movies and have discovered blogging. Another success! Another reason to write. We blog every day, and since we received the iPads we use Book Creator and MyStopMotion to make movies and publish books. We have a class website, a YouTube channel and a Pinterest account. We are running out of year faster than we are running out of projects.

Technology has become entwined in my daily classroom routine. I don't plan how and when to use technology. On any given day, you will find some of my class filming or doing voice overs as others are drafting and still others are blogging. Some are busy taking photos of their latest artwork or making illustrations for their blogs. Some may even be using the time to finish up some Math or scrapbooking. We have many projects on the go and we are often all in different stages of creating. We have blocks of work time and students help each other, teach each other, work together and  technology is just another tool in our crayon box. If we can't get the Macbooks during specific times we change our day around and use them when we can. We usually work in small groups and some of us take on more projects than others.

I have always integrated technology, and I know many of my peers do not share my views on its importance in the classroom. They see computers as a way to teach typing, to learn math facts, or to research and publish a report. Many want a one on one ratio of computers to students and think of using computers as a acquiring a new skill. They want scheduled weekly times with computers and don't see the need to have ongoing significant access to them. Over the years, I have been steadfast in resisting scope and sequences, marking technology skills, promoting integration and arguing for increased technology funding for elementary schools.  I still believe that elementary school is the perfect place to use technology, as integration is the cornerstone elementary classes are built upon. We need to see technology as an essential tool for elementary students, a means for early intervention and a way to kick start literacy. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I am excited to begin planning for the year ahead. There is so much I would like to take on. A new class, a new challenge,

From my twitter feed, today


Five Changes Every School Should Make

Make all learning real, relevant, tied to communities, with real application in the kids’ lives outside of the classroom. Example: Ban research papers—unless they are published online and have an informative, persuasive, or other real purpose for others. Learning should have an impact beyond getting an “A” on  the assignment.

Teach kids to think through, with, about, for–and create–new, interactive digital global communication. I don’t mean this as an add on. I mean rethinking all the subjects we now teach in view of the possibilities (what techies call “affordances”) of the digital age. That means getting rid of the “two cultures” binary. STEM subjects are impoverished without creativity, analysis, critical thinking. The Information Age is about putting back together the knowledge that the Industrial Age subdivided. A simpler way is to say have them all learn Scratch multimedia programming and think about the possibilities.

 Things I learned from my methods classes:

1. You need to make learning relevant. You need to tie it to the here and now. We learn best when we need to use  knowledge for a greater purpose. It is not good enough to teach skills and content for future use.

For example, if we require students to research a Canadian Explorer, and report back simply to receive a mark, they will. However, if we ask them to join that explorer on his journey, find out where they went, what they did, and  blog about their adventures, they live the part. They need to use all the research and tie into their imaginations, They need to create, to become involved. They will take away so much more and enjoy the experience.

2.  Children love to share. We all do. The bigger the audience, The more successful they feel. This year my class made videos that we posted on YouTube of their novel studies. They enjoyed the literature circles they participated in as they read their books, but they loved turning them into movies. They asked for one more chance to make a movie before the year ends so we are racing to do just that. This time, the excitement is much higher, the plans are more elaborate, the sets and characters are coming together quickly and after a few days we are almost ready to film. This one is all them. Their project. They are working at night and planning at recess. There have been trips to dollar stores for the extra sparkle and telephone conferences to create scripts. This is a true labor of love.

What I learned from my students:

3. It's not  about the mark. It's about growing, sharing and teaching each other. It's about working together  and appreciating and enjoying each success.  It's about being proud and celebrating. It is about being our best.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Thinking About Learning

Last week my students were interviewed about their use of technology in relation to digital storytelling. They were proud and pleased to be able to share their work and eager to talk about it. As part of the process they showed off their videos of their novel studies, their blogs as a character from their books, and their research blogs. I listened to bits and pieces of their conversations but did not want to get too close to distract them.

During the interview they were asked if they learned better when they used technology. When they said yes they were asked how the technology helped them learn. One student replied that it made you become the character you were studying. This answer intrigued me as I never thought of it from that perspective before. As the year progressed all my students have  become the character they were studying and have been able to blog about their trips to Barkerville during the time of the gold rush, exploring Canada, trading furs and working as a blacksmith in Ft Langley, or working on the railway as a Chinese immigrant.  They have become characters in a variety of novels they have read and discussed in literature circles as  they made videos of their books as well.

Today,  I  looked at the book Making Thinking Visible.  It  has been twittered about this last week and I was curious to see what all the tweets were about. As I read a portion of the book on thinking and developing understanding, I realized that what I had watched this year was the unfolding of exactly that. I began to reflect on the thinking and collaboration involved in each project and how they contributed to understanding. The book asks us to reflect on "What kind of thinking does this lesson force students to do?" And so I did.

This year my class spent more time on each novel or project we worked on, and delved deeper  when they became a part of each. They worked in groups and each project they took on required them to problem solve as well. They needed to determine which parts of their story they wanted and needed to complete tasks assigned to them. They also needed to work together to find ways to portray their work. The work itself had to be divided up, and each portion of their projects required collaboration and preparation.

 When they made movies they spent hours deciding:
  •  which were the key parts of the book they needed to tell the story, 
  • how they would begin and end their movies, what sets they needed, which characters they would include, 
  • how to change their stories into scripts, 
  • how to add emotion and interest to their work, 
  • which details to focus on. 
To film they needed to figure out:
  •  how to set up their films, 
  • how long each scene had to be to include the voice overs they needed to add, 
  • how to find extra light to film, 
  • how to use the apps to create their movies and books
By the time they had completed the project they had invested much time and effort in dissecting the content they were studying and reassembling it again.

When they blogged they had to make many decisions on
  • the content they would include, 
  • how to use details effectively
  • what illustrations they would make, or what photos they would need  to include

 As we worked through each project I worried about the time involvement for each. Were we taking too long?  Was each project and effective use of time? Would students finish with a deeper understanding of the content they used? How could I evaluate each student's learning effectively?

It is gratifying to know that the students  think they have learned more and have a deeper understanding of the content we set out to learn about. They felt that they would remember more about the topics than if they had just read about them, answered questions, or written reports.

My personal observations of the time they spent actively engaged and the collaboration required in creating the movies, books, and blogs would mirror those of the class.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections on Innovative Learning: Year 1

As I read of a new group of schools stepping up to work on the Innovative Learning Initiative I took a moment to look back a year and reflect on what our school and in particular, my class has accomplished. From #sd36learn I read

Innovative Learning: School-Based Exploration

The National Council of Teachers of English (2008) defined twenty-first century readers and writers as those that need to:

    • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-cultural

This year students learned  to work collaboratively on a daily basis. They not only took on all of the projects I created for them but  as the year progressed many added their own. They loved blogging and took every opportunity to add extra blogs and include their own choices of what they wanted to share. As their teacher, I watched them grow in competence and in self appreciation. I decided that blogging was something that I should take on as well. So I started this blog to help me reflect, share and experience blogging with my class. As their teacher I felt I should learn and experience  new opportunities with my class. Their energy spurred me on. Next year, I will create a blog to share with them and work towards interacting with them on the next step. Comments.
  •  Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
 We started with publishing  a creative writing assignment for Halloween. Each child followed the writing process in planning, drafting, editing and publishing their own story. They learned how to create a webpage, took photos of their illustrations and posted both. During the process they learned how to use Dropbox,  how to upload pictures from iPads and then download them  to use in a blog. We worked through many problems and the students found that if you placed all the photos into iPhoto before using them in iWeb that most orientation problems disappeared.

We moved on to making movies of our Literature Circle novels and my class found creative ways to combine Apps to add voice-overs to their stop motion animations. I was amazed at how easily they moved into the role of teachers and supported each other as we made the movies. I was worried about whether or not we could accomplish such a big project. I tried out a few animation apps and decided to go with MyStopMotion. I was worried about my choice and hoped all would go well. We jumped in feet first and again the class surpassed all expectations. We all started together but soon leaders emerged and as problems were encountered, solutions were found. Everyone was proud of their finished movie and gained a deeper understanding of the elements of a story. As I watched and listened I realized just how important this was to them and marveled at their new found expertise in setting and character portrayal.

On relection, I realize that we experienced truly transformative learning experiences as a class.


Foundation elements of the Innovative Learning Design Project:
  • Learning tasks that are authentic (e.g. project and problem-based), relevant and cross-curricular
  • Assessment that is ongoing, performance-based, equitable and guides instruction;
  • Constructivist instructional models that engage students in inquiry
  • Diverse learning needs are met with differentiated content, process and product
  • Collaborative learning opportunities that are incorporated into both physical and virtual spaces
  • Use of technology as a learning tool
  • Creative and critical thinking skills are pervasive across all curricular area
  • Students are able to influence and actively participate in shaping their learning.

As the year unfolded and students' abilities and proficiency with technology increased they started to ask for more projects and opportunities  to direct their own learning  by
  • choosing to do extra projects, 
  • asking for new ways to research and present their learning, 
  • looking for input from other classmates, and valuing contributions from others
  • expecting to share their learning and teach each other
  • asking for choice in shaping new projects, and debating what they should be
  • wanting to work in teams and building on each others strengths
  • demonstrating a more involved understanding of content

 I am amazed at all we have accomplished and how we have grown as a team.  I have learned as much as I have taught and am excited to try new projects next year.  Each new project we finish seems to open a new door of possibilities for another.

I asked the class how using the Macbooks and iPads changed how they learned. They said:

"It makes learning fun!"
"It makes you remember what you learn. It makes the information travel around your head."
"It means we get to work together."
"We have learned so much about blogging, webpages, movies and book making."
"It is so easy to tell others what we found."
" We love making voice-overs."
" It makes us feel in charge."
"Making movies was the best because we got to do so many things."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let The Pinning Begin!
Today I introduced the class to Pinterest and their new boards. I started with a few students and they are passing on their expertise to other classmates.  By the end of next week all of them will have their boards well underway. They are all eager to create their own pins and have their webpages and blogs updated.

I think that Pinterest would be a great resource for students to use to keep their bookmarks to resources they are using on class projects as well. What I love about Pinterest is that it is so visual. You can find exactly what you are looking for and it links back to whatever it is. This year we used dropbox to keep all our resources together but next year I will set up Pinterest as well. I am thinking that it would be a  good idea for students to have 3 boards each. One for access to their blogs and videos and other creations, one for resources they gather and bookmarks to assignments, and one for snapshots of artwork and projects that are not online. I will have one as well with links to assignments and resources I want them to use.

We are using IWeb for the sites and blogs and I have them on Mobile me. Somehow with the changeover to ICloud we can no longer publish so we are changing to a new host. The class is still blogging everyday and are eager to upload so I hope our changeover goes quickly so the students have access to all of their blogs to pin the ones they choose to share.

I am thinking of changing from iWeb for next year but I love how all the students can work on their pages at the same time while we only need one site.  I don't have to set up separate accounts for each student and it integrates so well with iPhoto and iMovie and YouTube.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Blogging + Book Creator + You Tube + Pinterest = eportfolio

 An Update.

We are still blogging, although we have problems uploading from school computers now, so we have far more blogged than we have posted. One way or another I will find a way to get it all uploaded.
We are  making new ebooks with Book Creator.
We would like to find an app that adds bookcases for our blogs to share our books online.
We would like to find a way to pin our books.
If anyone knows please let us know

Well, the year is winding down but we are all geared up and still  charging ahead.

New projects:

Grade fours are researching Canadian Explorers and making ebooks about them using Book Creator.
Grade fives are blogging about their adventures along the Caribou Trail from Fort Langley to Barkerville as they set out for the gold fields.

Our adventures in search of the White Jade Tiger also continue as Jasmine and Keung meet up with Blue Scar.

I set up Pinterest for our ePortfolio.  I made a class account and a board for each student. I know they will love filling them up.

Oh, and I think we just have time to make another movie. That was a favourite of the class and they are experts now.