Course 1: Final Project

As a COETAIL community member, I’m pursing the GET certification and have decided to create a single learning experience as a trainer for my final project. The audience for this lesson is my PLC (professional learning community) at school that consists of the secondary English and humanities departments.

I’ve facilitated SEL classes during PD days but I’ve never organized a workshop that uses Google tools to support student learning. This learning experience is different from other experiences because I want it to be possible to conduct in-person or online using Google Meet conferencing tools, or the like.

Since teaching entirely online, it’s made me rethinking unit plans. In the process of seeking inspiration to make lessons more online-friendly, I’ve spent significantly more time learning from my PLN. One thing that’s impressed me lately is how people are using Google Slides. Just a few months ago, I was nearly bored with Google Slides and even required students last semester to use alternative platforms for their presentations to increase engagement and rigor.

Course one has impacted me a lot as a learner and future GET. I hope to use this lesson plan in the future. This learning experience is reflective of Course 1 in that it’s evidence of Connectivism. Through my connections with my PLN it’s helped me rethink a Google tool. I want to connect the branches of my PLN by sharing and reflecting on new skills. I was inspired by this resource, this article, and this presentation to create my learning experience.

Final Project

From theory to practice.

Learning theories to support student learning.

Much of our current education system was developed without the knowledge that learning is a brain function. I’ll never forget the impact Sir Ken Robinson’s animated video about Changing Education Paradigm had on me, both as an educator but also as a human, since much of my life has been spent in the classroom. It made so much sense ( and not in the best way). If the origins of our education system were created for a world that looks vastly different than it does now, what learning theories should influence reform?

If you want to learn more about Sir Ken Robinson and his work, check here.

The 3 main learning theories are behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Connectivism is the latest to be added to the bunch as a response to learning in the digital age. Since I’m such a visual learner, I wanted to add the chart below to show these four perspectives on learning, instructional methods associated with each, adjacent to the respective quadrant. The orange quadrants represent a student-focused learning approach, blue instructor-focused.

Diving more into Connectivism, this article highlights significant evidence to support the need to lean into this theory more heavily as the original three present limitations. It was often said that we learn by experience but since we can no longer personally experience all that may be needed to act, our competency for learning comes from the connections we form.

Karen Stephenson states:
“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”

If I’m being honest, I mix all four learning theories. And I think that’s a natural response.

What’s different in my classroom?

As much as possible, I try to be student-centered. I’ve found that it’s not always easy depending on social and cultural contexts. I’ve worked in environments where the students weren’t used to student-centered or active learning approaches and it left them feeling vulnerable or they suspected I wasn’t a competent teacher (or both).

I want my students to be problem-solvers, prepared to tackle the social and environmental issues of the 21st century. I hope they have practice considering multiple perspectives when making decisions, and taking risks, in our classroom.

I think it’s important to model learning, to admit when you are wrong or when you don’t know and be transparent about how to acquire the desired knowledge or skills.

One thing I have a big problem with is grading. I think it’s helpful to communicate expectations but it presents many challenges. When students are solely motivated by grades and not through personal or collective inquiry, it can degrade learning. My year spent in university counseling solidified my discontent. I love this new digital age model of a high school transcript called the Mastery Transcript Consortium. If you aren’t familiar, please check it out.

Final Thoughts

What I’m trying to say is, education should be changing and adapting new practices to reflect the ever-changing world. More than ever, isolated content knowledge holds less significance in the digital era. And the alignment between curricula, classroom learning theories and collected evidence of college and career readiness seem more disjointed than ever. I know that idea needs to be more fleshed out, maybe my connections online can help me do that!

In the meantime, I’ll be reading these key findings and implications of the science and learning of development to further my learning about this topic.

Here are some innovative schools I’ve always admired for their application of learning theories.

Are there any other schools out there that take theory to practice in such an authentic way that truly works for their community?

Planning for Tech-Rich Learning.

This is a timely topic: planning for tech-rich learning. Around the world, some schools have been closed for weeks or months to slow the spread of COVID-19. What more than a global pandemic to springboard us all into planning tech-rich experiences? Not just tech-savvy teachers, but most teachers have been forced to transition online, often overnight.

BUT right now, instead of ‘tech integration’ as trendy jargon, as something we aspire or dabble with, I’d argue the global educational climate right now is tech integration in the trenches. Our world has been turned upside down; similar to war times, there is a sense of collective grief. The beautiful part of this new collectivity is the sheer amount of teachers around the world willing to share their resources, companies offering free subscriptions to premium services and students genuinely doing their best.

There has been much debate about the best way to plan for tech-rich learning. Going back to the SAMR model as a foundation, technology shouldn’t be added for the sake of it. Technology shouldn’t replace traditional learning materials such as books, pens, or pencils but should transform and elevate what is capable, in terms of how we are able to collaborate or interact and what we are able to produce or create.

We may not know the full outcome of COVID-19 on education but past education emergencies tell us to expect a social and emotional impact. It has been important for me to explicitly address this impact. I found this UNICEF article with 6 strategies to help teenagers protect their mental health during this new (temporary) normal to be insightful.

In Mongolia, classes have been canceled since late January with rumors not to open until September. I’ve been teaching 100% online, using Zoom and Google Classroom on a daily basis. I’m trying to address the social and emotional impact as well as boost the number of Digital Citizenship lessons I normally would facilitate, due to the increased screentime. I highly recommend Common Sense’s Digital Citizenship curriculum for the secondary level.

See Common Sense’s lesson plan on Countering Hate Speech Online here.

I’m not new to adding technology to my classroom. But never before has it been like this. Even for students, this has been an adjustment. It may be dangerous to stereotype our digital natives, they need explicit instruction on how to rethink education.

Since COVID, I’d added the following tools to rethink education. I’ll add the tool link and also an example activity that I think has been effective.

  • Host a vocabulary jam live in our Zoom meeting to gamify learning words for our novel units.
  • Google Classroom, but amplified: I used it before but now it’s my rock, my base. I find with planning for tech it’s important to use what students already know and build from there. Quality over quantity with assignments.
  • So much can be said about using G Suite for online learning. One example is having a silent discussion in a Google Doc during our Zoom meeting, where we are all talking and contributing to a list of discussion questions collectively. They all have a voice and can contribute to the Doc where and when they can. For me, this has replaced in-class whole discussions (the bread and butter of ELA). I also want to try out Parlay to achieve the same purpose.

We are seeing so many disruptions to the traditional model of education that I’m wondering what can just be thrown out entirely: IB examinations no longer being held, suspended requirements for major higher education institutions, etc. I am left thinking about what really matters.

How are we addressing the equity issue for digital age learners?

What tech integration strategies have worked and should be kept once brick-and-mortars reopen?

We know the world’s institutions can function without high stakes tests, why add them back?

How will my classroom change for the future?

Daily Yoga: Yes, Please.

No one likes New Year’s resolutions. If, and especially when, they are set up for disappointment. Instead, my best friend and I (both teachers) talk over a coffee date. We reflect on the past year and set hopes and goals for the coming year. We go through each branch of our lives: family, relationships, self-care, spirituality, professionalism, etc. With each branch, we brainstorm a few aspirations. This is our way of being reflective, intentional but also a way to help each other stay accountable.

This is often a time where the idea of learning a new hobby pops up or when we reflect on habits we want to change. “Stay realistic but also give yourself grace,” her voice rings in my ear.

We usually write it down in journals or Google Keep. Recently, when thinking about this week’s assignment, I came across my notes from years past and noticed an unfulfilled ambition: start a daily yoga practice.

Why? It’s a simple answer: to be good to my body and mind. This NY Times article is a good place for all the basics, including learning yoga online. The article suggests, “Ten or 15 minutes a day of yoga may be more valuable than going to one class a week.” I plan to keep this statement close.

Yoga is great because it’s a practice that can be done by anyone, at any age and at any time- even during a global pandemic. This may be an especially important opportunity to learn yoga during the COVID pandemic. Yoga, and the breathing practices associated, can reduce anxiety and stress. I can also incorporate yoga at home under quarantine and with my kids.

Below you can find a family favorite for yoga at home.

These are my steps of action for a daily yoga practice.

  • Follow inspirational yogi’s on social media
  • Ensure I have the necessary equipment
  • Practice yoga for at least 15 minutes a day for 1 year
  • Take a photo or journal my journey at least 1x per week.
  • Use online videos available on Youtube or consider a subscription
  • Seek out tips from my relative who’s a certified yoga instructor

Mindfulness: Yoga in Schools

As a teacher, yoga can be incorporated into school life. Maybe, power poses before individual presentations or debates? Or as an ECA (extra-curriculum activity)? Yes, please. See the video below for how a teacher brings meditation into her classroom culture.

So what could be bad about all this good? Well, there is this.

Yoga isn’t anything new but it has become wildly popular, or even trendy in the Western world. It may quality as cultural appropriation or could be insensitive in the way it is deconstructed by the West and regurgitated as the latest health trend, available for purchase and consumption. But with all that being said, there are ways to mitigate the colonization of yoga.

I’ll stay here in a child’s pose thinking about that one.

English Teacher as Researcher

Digital technology, the internet, has transformed our lives. Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, globally, the impact can not be undone. Here, a report by UNICEF, we can gather key facts and ideas about ‘Children in the Digital World’. Youth is the most connected age group. Digital technology can offer vast opportunities to our individual lives that increase connectivity, more so than what would traditionally be available. On the flip side, it can exacerbate the worst from human nature. From this report, I note it is important to mitigate the harms and harness the benefits digital technology can bring to young people’s lives.

According to UNICEF, “Taking a ‘Goldilocks’ approach to children’s screen time – not too much, not too little – and focusing more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online, can better protect them and help them make the most of their time online.”

As an English teacher, the core of what I do is all about the art of storytelling. Exposing students to the stories of others while empowering them to believe in their own. I am concerned about preparing literate, critical thinking students, who are well-prepared for the everchanging future. Some of those goals are standards-aligned while others may not be.

I’d like to see more emphasis placed on digital literacies in the Common Core State Standards: ELA standards and feel the need to supplement curricula if I want to prepare future-ready digital citizens. I’m impressed with the DQ Framework for outlining competencies: Global Standards for Digital Literacy, Skills, and Readiness.

Digital technology has transformed youth but also the way I teach and facilitate learning. Below are some of my current go-to’s and all-time favorites.

Useful Links:

Cult of Pedagogy: One of my first encounters with a teacher who created content to support other teachers, packaged in her blog, podcast, videos, and store.

The Moth: Engages young people in storytelling and the story-listening process. They offer free K-12 curriculum resources for signed up teachers. I signed up recently and look forward to adding The Moth teacher community into my PLN.

myShakespeare: Has transformed the way I teach Shakespeare. It offers full-text, interactive editions of his plays with multimedia resources for the 21st-century student.

Book Creator: This is a simple tool to create e-books. Students can add audio, video, text, and images individually or collaboratively.

Purdue OWL: Longstanding favorite online resource for all things writing, anti-plagiarism and citation.

Global Oneness Project: Aims to explore cultural, environmental, and social issues through multimedia stories. Lesson plans and discussion guides are also available.

Does the current curriculum standards you work with place emphasis on digital literacy? Does your current school [culture] fully harness the benefits of digital technology while mitigating the risks?

Wholehearted Digital Citizen

While lurking through Eduro Learning’s Kim Cofino’s blog post, with bold confidence, she states, ” the person I am online is the real me.” That struck me and left me reflecting on how I construct my own online identity. Could I say the same: the online me is the real me? Can I be my authentic self and express all of those intricacies, online? I recognize that this is a complex matter and I spent a lot of time reflecting on these questions. At this point, I will say up front that I’m left more unsure than sure.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What do I know?

  • I, mostly, aim to stay private but within reach.
  • I spend about 95% of my time lurking.
  • I don’t have any friendships that are purely virtual, with whom I’ve met and maintained connections online.
  • I tend to compartmentalize aspects of my identity as per site. For example, Facebook is for old friends and family. Instagram is for cute photos of my life but mainly of my kids.
  • I worry about how the expression of self, online, impacts the way potential employers view me professionally.
  • I have used social media, especially Facebook, to grow and form new connections.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, in order for me to become less of a consumer and more of a creator I need to come to terms with how I value the digital self and being secure within my own digital self and being secure within my own online persona, taking me out of the depths of lurking.

“Vulnerabiltiy is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” -Brene Brown

Starting COETAIL is the path I chose to live out my educational philosophy, as a 21st-century teacher and learner. The digital divide is real and I want to always stay relevant for the new generation and to help others do the say. This is my journey toward being a wholehearted digital citizen.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay