Monthly Archive: May 2019

Course 2 Final Project

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I chose this option because at the time I was interested in creating a unit that I can use in my practice if not immediately than in the near future as I think that digital citizenship is an area of growth for my school. When Boramy reached out to the cohort with a suggestion about creating something at the elementary level it was the perfect opportunity. Originally I thought that different standards could be used but upon conversations with Boramy, we decided that what we have now is a better fit for the age group and length of the unit. I think this was one of the biggest issues, how big to make the unit. We both found that while making this that it was easy to continue adding lessons and the hardest part was keeping the unit contained in a digestible package for the students that they would not get tired with.


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I found the collaborative process to be quite seamless and one of my big takeaways from this unit is that it is pretty easy to plan with someone remotely. Although I think it would be much better to plan face-to-face and develop a relationship first to go over the norms of collaboration, we got along well and from my perspective, shared the workload equally. We were lucky that there was only one hour separating us and this made FaceTime calls and collaborative work on Google docs quite easy. Going further I am much more open to working with others overseas or in another city or timezone as we have the tools at our disposal to communicate easily almost as if we were in the same room. Thanks, Boramy for setting this up, although I don’t agree with how you spell behaviour, it was still a great experience.

Unit plan

I think that this experience is similar to units I have planned in the past as it follows the process of tuning in, finding, out, digging deeper, and going further. We always try to plan units and lessons that provide students with opportunities to access their prior knowledge, then take that further and think about new ways to present. This year I focused on providing my students with the choice of tools to use, and we worked together a lot to find the right applications. Often my students suggested applications that they thought would be the best way to express their ideas and I went through channels at my school to get those applications on their iPads. I always believe that the best way for students to learn is to provide them with the agency over how they create and this planner is no different. I think that the planning for me is different from past unit planners as it has a lot more links, resources and technology tools in it. I would say that this is because of the planning process involving planning for tech-rich units from this course. Normally I tend to teach a bit less scripted, I was told very early in my teaching career by my faculty advisor that I tend to rush when I try to follow lesson plans so I shouldn’t make as many steps. Of course, I prepare lessons with questions and resources but I don’t usually plan out a step by step method as a lot of lessons follow the same steps.

Lesson Flow

This unit relates to what we learned in Course 2 firstly because it is about student agency and play. We purposely planned for a lot of opportunities that give time to students to make choices, play around on Interland, and help each other. When originally conceiving the main concepts and standards for the unit we thought about the ideas of ethical and kind behaviour online. In Week One about respecting the intellectual property of others, although not explicitly assessed in this unit can be covered in lesson three and four when and if students find images to support their work, or when students are commenting on others and don’t see citations. We did not put this in the unit as the lesson scope was already getting large. Week two content about the evolution of connections connects strongly to this unit as the first lesson uses a new program to engage students in digital citizenship, then throughout the rest of the unit students are using technology in a meaningful way to create, give feedback, and practice ethical and kind online behaviour. Week four about contributing positivity online to the communities you are a part of is a core idea in this unit as students learn about and use the ladder of feedback to help other’s improve. These types of positive contributions are lifelong skills. The same could be said about Week five and the understanding that each of us has the ability to make positive impacts on our local communities. 

I really enjoyed working on this unit plan and I am excited to teach it in August. I am switching grade levels next year to a grade that begins their year with a Unit of Inquiry on Who We Are as Learners. I think that this would be a great introduction to the ideas of digital citizenship, learning with the tools I plan to use the Grade, and also discovering what the students already know about it. I think that it will work great with the Key concept of responsibility and really help to set the tone of the year about how we are expected to behave towards each other and that safety and kindness are the foundations for taking risks and sharing your learning in the classroom. I think that if I were to teach it that it would be well received by students in upper elementary. The embed function was not working for me tonight, I would have liked to have embedded the planner and lesson plans in this post but you will have to settle for links as the headers to the sections, most apologies.



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Throughout my education degree in our classes about ethics, laws, school board policies (yawn) we were continually reminded, warned against, scared straight through stories, etc.. about the dangers of sharing online. Although it was a comparatively progressive teaching program, we were told plain and simple do not share online, even do not share about your personal life in the classroom as it can come back to haunt you, someone may interpret it the wrong way. I was frightened to death my first year of teaching when my Grade nine students found me on facebook and sent me friend requests. I diligently deleted pictures from parties, beaches, and whatever else that could be remotely misconstrued. There were some real horror stories coming out in that time about teachers being disciplined for pictures of themselves in a bikini on vacation. In my fear I forgot to think about that if the young teens you are teaching do find a picture like this and ask you, are we not missing out on important conversations about sharing and some of the benefits and drawbacks of online participation?

The generation gap between myself that grew up without cellphones, talking to those whose every move is documented can be bridged through these conversations. I am not saying it is a good idea to post pictures of yourself at a champagne brunch or concert with a beer in your hand, but our students live in a world where this is happening to them. We need to have opportunities for conversations about this. Needless to say, it was a thought shift after COETAIL and being told to branch out by sharing more, making connections, and checking in online more frequently after being told originally that this was almost a taboo. 

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My school shares a lot, in the international school community, this is a necessary part of marketing and communications. We are always encouraged to use hashtags, create photos, and write articles for the school web pages and social media accounts. Does this enhance learning or enrolment? In my classroom, we don’t share much outside of our school community but I am slowing finding ways to do that safely. I need to implement a more comprehensive program about sharing and safety, find out from administration what is acceptable at different Grade levels, and get parents in to understand the benefits of connecting to the wider community of the world we live in. C

How did I learn to be empathetic?  I learned this from a few sources. Firstly, I learned about empathy from my parents and sibling. We use to sit around and talk about people all the time, not really gossiping, just learning about my family and extended relatives. My parents  wanted me to see things from another perspective to think about people’s motivations, and how they feel when they act. Another way we did this was when watching movies, I never forget my father trying to get me to see things in Star Wars that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to understand about the hero’s journey.  The second, and probably time where I really consolidated my empathy towards others was when I completed my first degree in Anthropology. Listening, reading, and watching about different cultures and  sub cultures, and hearing the perspectives of my classmates helped me to break out of my own ego and think about the importance of how others feel, how they see the world around them, and what motivates them to behave that way. 

I think that this has translated a lot to my students, using the PYP Key Concept of perspective as a lens when you are looking at personal stories, using De Bono’s thinking hats to unpack the ideas of others, listening to hard sometimes emotionally charged personal stories are how we can get students to really make that connection with the other, and begin empathizing. So how does this translate when you can’t see a face, when it is just a name on a screen, an avatar in a game, someone outside your friendship circle? This is where some difficulties arise. 

We get these stories to share that help foster empathy most of the time online. People like Martha in Scott McLeod’s Ted Talk help us understand other people’s situations and how they exist, what they find important and what they hope for the world. To me this seems like a big self-fueling cycle, the more people have empathy, the more they want to help those around them. The more that want to help those around them, then the more people want to take action. When other students see effective action and a good example of it they begin to empathize with a cause further, and so on and so on. 

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Acceptable Use

In the past at the schools I have worked at the acceptable use policy is a top-down document that students and parents sign and we keep it on record in case of an infraction to be reviewed again and then decide on the appropriate consequence. Currently, my school is reviewing our acceptable use policy and agreement and I am unable to share an incomplete document. But I think there needs to be a more involved process of creating a policy that includes all the stakeholders involved. Should the school give guidelines to teachers or should this come from the bottom up? I would envision a process where students take the time to learn about digital citizenship through developing empathy for others online. Only after these experiences can students and teacher (and parents) begin to co-construct criteria for positive and ethical actions online. This process would involve the parents and help them to get on board with modern media literacy, positive language, and allow them to be invested in a process that can translate easily between the school and home. If we want the extracurricular to become curricular, and give students the opportunities to explore their passions at home and bring this into the classroom then there has to be a seamless transition of expectations between the two places. 

The powerful process of co-construction provides students with agency over their own learning, what they will be assessed on and gives them ownership over the process. When students have ownership over something that they are help accountable to they can rise up to expectations, reflect on their process and skills, and recognize actions and make appropriate choices. I believe that co-construction of policies affecting students needs to come from the bottom up, not the top down.  

Future ideas

Jenkins et. al. made me think about how after-school activities allowing more time for more in-depth exploration of media, coding, and more technical skills. This looks no different at my school as after-school activities are when student shave a chance to build robots, code devices, create a school news channel, and the possibilities go on and on. Schools need to harness this enthusiasm from teachers and students and bring it into the classroom, as mentioned by McLeod, make the extra-curricular curricular. Jenkins again mentions the time crunch, how can this fit into the everyday routine of the classroom? Well for starters, get rid of the everyday routine, allow students to approach topics they are passionate about and you will find ways to assess the curriculum through their inquiries. Obviously, this takes a new kind of teacher, or a teacher willing to adapt and be flexible with a different mode of class instruction, more of a coach and not standing up at the board. Working with students to help them access certain parts of the curriculum and helping guide their projects to allow them to assess areas that need touching upon. This requires a different level of support from administration by being in the class, the flexibility of team teaching to access multidisciplinary skills. Just one little problem, the schedule, the space, the resources. I guess we need more teachers, more flexible spaces, and more resources to accomplish this? Preaching to the choir again I guess.


The Essentials

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This section of the reading this week on essential skills could not be unpacked enough in this post. I chose to focus on the first two of them instead as the list is exhaustive and also not something that could be covered meaningfully in a single blog post. I enjoyed thinking about all of them as I read and made some connections to each about how I could improve my own practice. For the practicality of the blog post, I would just recommend that teachers should use these, much as a guiding set of principals such as the Eight cultural forces when we think about unit planning, assessment, and developing a continuum of skills needed for digital citizenship and media literacy. 

Challenges confronting Participatory Culture dives into how digital literacies should be viewed as social skills. This raises the question for me about adding digital literacy comments into reports, student goal setting conferences, health programs, and more.

“In such a world, youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them.” 


This quote made me think about the importance of teaching these skills and where they can fit naturally into the curriculum for young students. Some questions arose and ideas began to spark about how I can use technology and the classroom environment with my students to continue creating a “collective intelligence”  to help students build a picture of the world around them. How can I curate resources throughout my Units of Inquiry that not only meet learning objectives but also help students develop a collective down to a personal picture of their environments? I think one area to continue with is unpacking the Transdisciplinary themes of the PYP and possibly build a digital space where they can record ideas that connect to these themes, therefore building a clearer picture of the world around them, Padlet or Popplet comes to mind first as a way to begin organizing this but I think it could build up into a bit of a monster. Are there any other suggestions? Either way, there needs to be a connection between social and learning skills in the real world, and the online world.

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When reading about simulation and the idea that we have more information to evaluate I thought about how important it is to continue teaching, and shift our teaching data analysis in elementary. Could this also mean a shift form creating graphs on paper to spending more time reading graphs, connecting them to units of study, graphing student information for a topic of discussion? We have just reviewed our math curriculum and are already creating graphs on electronic data bases but I think we need to move towards a deeper understanding of the motivation behind data, how to read scales, and so much more. Students require this form of literacy to be competent at finding and interpreting information. 


Reading the section on the essential skill of appropriation illustrates in a different way what I wrote a few weeks ago about Respecting the Remix. Student appropriation of media creates new media, new cultural forms of expression, and new stories that are told, or at least, old stories with some new ideas in them. When students remix we can assess higher thinking skills such as synthesis and evaluation. When students are using these skills it makes it easier to dive deeper into media awareness, fake news, recognize misinformation and comment on the strength and validity of sources. Students can view different perspectives and put them into their own world view.  All of this made me think of how I teach writing in my class, and how we use mentor texts to prompt student ideas, read as a writer, and intentionally try to get them to incorporate some of the positive traits into their own writing. Through practicing analytical behaviour when looking at writing can we transfer this to a digital landscape so students?

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Next steps

I have begun to branch out and communicate with other classes around the world and one of my areas of improvement is to continue expanding this opportunity for my students. Even participating in an activity such as mystery Skype when learning about geography can provide a moment of connection to the world around them where they can feel part of a bigger idea, a larger community that they are able to communicate and learn with. Time to start thinking of ways to ask my PLN for more opportunities and doing some searches on my own. I want to think about this for writing too to think about how they can reach a wider network, get more feedback, and share the narrative with others. 

Looking through the Media smarts lesson I really wish that I had this site earlier as we have a Unit of Inquiry about media, and how “Media influences thinking and behaviour”. After getting through some of the readings in the past few weeks I am starting to question how we can incorporate some key understandings from this unit into other grade levels. Shouldn’t it connect to who we are as learners at the beginning of the year when we talk about metacognition, essential agreements, etc.? I am moving grade levels next August and plan on starting the year with lessons similar to this to really help students think about who they are as learners.

I remember when the THINK acronym was introduced at my old school when I taught middle school students and it was a bit more relevant than now as they all had more social media accounts than my Grade Fours. I think more than anything else is that it is a good framework for discussion when viewing other people’s social media accounts, and if necessary reporting them, ignoring them, or unfollowing them. What The Butler connection expands on and something I didn’t know about previously is that THINK is also very important when considering what posts to like, follow, or forward, and that it encourages evaluation of sources to encourage media literacy. This goes further by promoting active citizenship in helping others to recognize, refuse, or report. How I have been adapting THINK down to Grade Four is by using it when teaching about contributing to understanding through comments on learning journals. We have the acronym up on the board next to some ladder of feedback sentence starters to help the class create meaningful learning opportunities through critiquing each other’s work in a safe and respectful way. I think after our class conversation a couple of weeks ago about social media we may have to return to THINK and incorporate it into our personal safety lessons with the high school counsellor.