Category: Course 3

Building Collaboration Opportunities

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

This first time I ran a PD was last year at Learning 2 Asia, it was only a quick one-hour teacher-led workshop but it was still something new to me. What I learned from this experience was that everything needs to be structured and intentional and that there has to be time or sharing, reflection, and working together to help generate ideas for educators to take away something they can use to improve their own practice.

Whenever educators go to PD (Professional Development) we always want something we can take away and use the next week or the next unit. That was how we began to approach this project, by giving educators time to plan and create something they can use shortly thereafter. This was something that we felt necessary to be included while we were thinking about the learning experiences and the idea of promoting collaboration. The second thing that we thought about when planning was the idea of agency and how to promote agency through PD. I have been to a couple of PD opportunities through my school where we choose beforehand what we want to inquire into and follow that road with educators from other schools. I believe that this increases engagement with the material just like we do with our students right? 

So we created a final project that gives educators both, time to collaborate and an opportunity to create something to use in their own schools.

Our final project outline

The challenge then arose about how do we allow for educator agency but still promote collaboration on a larger scale, through planning reflection and closing protocols we hope to accomplish this. We chose these protocols and reflection experiences for a few reasons:

  1. They help to show protocols that can be used in any classroom, hence, promoting thought about what experiences these protocols would work well for.
  2. To allow for opportunities to collaborate and seek feedback face to face.
  3. To introduce online tools to help facilitate digital collaboration and introduce new methods of using tools for students. 
  4. To achieve ISTE standards for educators

We chose the topics to explore in the PD sessions because we felt they were important takeaways for us from Course 3, and also that they allowed for lots of time to creating, seeking feedback on, and reflecting on. I particularly enjoyed learning about digital hierarchy and how we display information and thought that it is important for others to learn about this. I have always been interested in learning about how the environment impacts student learning. The media we are presented with is no less part of that environment and teachers need to be cognizant of how they present information to the class in visual form. We all decided to expand on this section for our PD section (the link to the presentation is below the picture).

Our extended section slideshow.

Comments, comments, comments.

Working collaboratively while we are not at the same time or place does have a few challenges when it comes to talking live to each other while working across three time zones. We collaborated using Google docs, slides and mail to generate ideas, give feedback, tweak the wording, decide on resources and think about the flow of the sessions. There were a lot of comments, lots of resolving, and lots of emails. We had a couple of FaceTime calls with one or the other but I think that Boramy was the hub of this project as she was geographically in the middle of Mike and I.  I was skeptical at first of being able to design a project without meeting face-to-face and although I still prefer being in the same room, with a little organization, technology makes us pretty close.


Connecting to the world and each other.

When I first saw the assignment this week I had to admit I was a little nervous. I don’t like videotaping myself, hearing myself speak, or even taking photos. For my mother, there were many disappointing trips home from the photo developers from the pictures I had ruined. While I understand the value of taping yourself to view your practice or focus on how I use language I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. So, of course, I have to move out of my comfort zone this week if I want my students getting out of it because that is where learning takes place right?

I have seen the language teachers using Flip Grid all of the time and I would like to get into using it more. There are so many opportunities to build fluency of language, planning speaking skills, responding to new vocabulary, reflecting on a learning experience, debating statements, summarizing ideas about literature or numbers or helping them brainstorm ideas for maker time. But some students also hate recording themselves. They love to write their ideas and reflections on their learning journal posts, but will never record themselves as listening to themselves is “weird”. So again the question arises, how to get out of a comfort zone?

What I have also been thinking about Flipgrid after this week’s reading is how it could be used to bring about change. From simple questions about changing our classroom environment, to how you experienced bullying, to even how can we enhance service-learning at our school we can bring ideas of social justice into our classroom. We need to get out of our comfort zone, to be agents of change and break the cycle as we read about in Harro’s writing.

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

I connected to Harro’s article this week during our family movie night. We watched the new Aladin movie. A film about three characters getting out of their comfort zone. They were breaking their cycle of socialization, one a victim, one an agent, and I am not sure what the genie is the catalyst? Is the carpet the vehicle for the change? This made me think about we can use examples from student-friendly media to address social inequalities. No Disney photos here hence the Persian rug.

I am part of the privileged group. I approach these conversations from the position of a white, heterosexual, middle-class, male and I understand my responsibility.  I remember Harro’s model from my undergraduate years ago. Examining social constructs through a Marxist / Feminist perspective helps us view the systems of oppression that are self-perpetuating, discreet, and inherent in a capitalist society. I wonder more about the economics at play in maintaining this system?

I can be an agent of change through how I raise my daughter, through how I coordinate service learning in the elementary school, through how I interact with students who feel disenfranchised and help others stand up. I guess I have to really get out of my comfort zone, speak up, speak out and create a whole new world.


Feedback and visual aids

No, it is not deja-vu, there is no glitch in the blog, you are seeing the same image at the top of two posts in a row. For this week I decided to improve my infographic about how to create a learning journal. Last year I thought about how to help students understand the agency they have over their learning journals and how to use it so I thought I would create a visual aid for the classroom, not a large poster, but something that could be up on a couple of walls, or even taped on the desks. Last week’s post was about the construction of the learning journal infographic (see last week’s post).

The before: my first attempt

My first attempt

Those who gave feedback.

There is always room for improvement is something we tell our students so often, so why not model that behaviour in ourselves? So I had a chat about it with my students about the poster they started using. I used an assignment we are working on about design and creating digital artifacts as an intro to bring in how we can give feedback and improve our work, and as the students love to tell you your mistakes they had no problem picking out some ways for me to improve.  I was also at a workshop last week and I asked some teachers from other schools what they thought, liked, and would change. Our instructor Tanya also gave me some feedback about my infographic. 

Changes made

  • Align the icons to demonstrate continuity and consecutiveness between the sections.
  • Get rid of the orange colour as it is a bit too distracting.
  • Add an icon for the title.
  • Demonstrate flow between sections to show steps.
  • Change the title to enhance the message of what learning journals are all about. 

My students were not happy with the title area, they found it a little wordy and wanted more images. So I used the noun project to find something that can also help illustrates the nature of a learning journal, and that it is about sharing ideas, getting, and giving feedback about learning to extend learning. I decided to keep the school colours as they contrast nicely with each other and the white text.

The second draft…

The resources for this week came at an interesting time. I made the mistake of watching How to avoid death by Powerpoint on a dinner break right before back to school night. The sudden panic of worrying about putting everyone to sleep, and then getting more emails about the information I planned on imparting set in as I frantically made edits to include more elements of visual hierarchy in my presentation, change the background from white to black,  work with titles and text sizes, and created new slides as simply photos as talking points. I mentioned this to the parent community and they gave me positive feedback on my presentation. This resource was another motivation for part of the enhancements to my poster. I wanted to create a flow between the steps, and really guide the reader along the path of creating an authentic learning journal post.


A how-to of learning journals

I wanted to share an infographic I made about Learning Journal posts.   Since we started using Seesaw a few years ago I have wanted students to understand the agency they have in creating their learning journals. I know that this display helps students to break down the process of creating, publishing, and commenting on a post in a nice, clear, easy to digest way, much the same that infographics can do with data because they use it.

Link for full size

I had some help with Matt (our tech coach) in using Adobe as I wasn’t satisfied with the templates on Canva. We decided to roll this out to the elementary school so we used the strategy of colour contrast with some of our school colours. The students reference it all the time so I think it helps with independence and following instructions. It impacts their learning by allowing them to recognize the agency they have over how, when, and what they choose to share in their journals. We made it EAL friendly by getting our EAL teacher to improve the vocabulary and also added icons. The steps are clear and easy to identify.

Transfering to student-created artifacts

I am currently exploring digital citizenship in my classroom using the unit plan that I created with Boramy in Course 2 so we are beginning to look at contrast, colour, size, and other elements of design in class as the students will soon be creating their own media to promote positive digital citizenship. Would infographics be an option?

Students using Google Sheets to create graphs.

In class, we are also looking at how we learn best and building learning communities, and we have been graphing and displaying information about where we like to sit, volume levels and types of learning experiences we enjoy the most. I wonder how I can promote the use of infographics to present more knowledge about the class through the use of design principles?

A starting point to find more data for students to explore and present

Resources for students

I think they would enjoy it and it would help lead to a better understanding of our Lines of Inquiry.  Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything has a great list of steps to work on with students to help plan and create the infographic and I am starting to plan a unit around this.

From Katy Schrock’s Guide to Everything

I will also be using Keri-Lee Beasley’s resource as a guide for students to think about design details as they create their own media about digital citizenship, or how our class learns. Her work on font, repetition, repetition, and contrast highlight for students in a simple visual way on how to create media they can be proud of.


Collaboration with technology

My tech coach and I collaborated on a lesson this week after conversations with our PE teacher, and classroom observations about teamwork, or lack thereof. As we are still early in the first semester, eight-year-olds need lots of guidance on how to work together effectively. My class is also learning about graphing right now and I wanted to try a lesson with graphing the random colours that flash on a Sphero when you code it. Some of the reasons I wanted to do this were:

  1. Introduce the Sphero for future use in class and build student engagement
  2. Facilitate and build specific collaboration skills as it has been an area of concern in the class.
  3. Continue working towards our graphing objective of collecting, organizing and displaying data.
  4. ISTE standard for students 5b and 6a as students were choosing the platform to display and create their data. 


(Split-screen that we used for the whole lesson)

The lesson began by displaying a split-screen. I had the luxury of spending an hour on my own with Kath Murdoch two years ago when she visited my school and we talked about the importance of using split-screens to help students “inquiring into the how”  and to really understand from the get-go the “what” and “how” of the lesson. 

Students beginning to plan

After unpacking the vocabulary in the split-screen the students brainstormed ideas and skills that they would need to complete the question in the yellow box.  The class was divided into groups and asked to break down the task into parts and come up with a plan.  

Coming back to the objectives

We quickly came back together to talk about what worked well and what didn’t in regards to collaboration skills and added these to the split-screen. Then the class was sent back to their groups to continue with the planning or coding. Eventually, through experimentation, taking turns, and watching their peers the students figured out the code to make the Sphero change colours randomly, but it was too fast, so they had to figure out how to put in a delay as well.   

Students using their plans to begin coding

Presenting their learning

In previous classes, I have taught them to use Sheets to create graphs so they tend to gravitate towards a digital platform to create things as neatness is not their strength at the beginning of Grade Three. I think that the technology tools enhanced the experience of graphing here as the could quickly see professional-looking graphs with little effort, the students were also able to insert an image of their code in their learning journal post to create a great visual of the work they did. In their post, they reflected on the IB Approaches to Learning skills that they used and talked about how they cooperated and worked together as a team.  

(Screenshot of student Learning Journal Post)

Collaboration mapped

Matt and I used another tool to help us facilitate collaboration and the awareness of how we work together. It was my first time using the Equity Maps application. I really liked the way that the students could see visually how often or infrequent they talked.  It gave them a goal to work on something to continue with for the rest of the lesson.  

(Screenshot from Equity Maps)

We just used this for the planning stage and it would also be interesting to have students use it as well when they are in larger groups to help manage themselves. I purposely put them in groups of 3-4 with only one iPad to force them taking turns and this was an effective strategy (although some groups did need reminders not to grab) but I did find that this helped the students to talk more in class even during a technology-rich lesson. 

The students were very proud of their accomplishments at the end of this lesson. They are interested in finding new things to do with the Spheros, they began to use language associated with positive collaboration and enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of the lesson. We will revisit how to develop a plan in more detail next time we run a lesson similar to this structure and continue using split-screens in class to help the students recognize clear goals.


Learning Visually

The past few years I have been contributing to our staff art exhibition and I love the start to Unit 3 and how visual characteristics, which connect to art elements are brought into this unit right away. I tried to focus on some of these elements of visual hierarchy when creating my piece this year, which ones do you think I was working on?

“Pancakes” by Flynn McCreath

No matter the type of media, we are trying to tell the viewer a story or impart on them some information. How do we guide them through so that they end up seeing what we want them to see?

Intended audiences.

I love the idea of guiding a reader on a visual journey from the Interaction Design Foundation and the statements it makes about reinforcing natural viewing paths and the use of the characteristics of visual hierarchy. How can we use these aspects to help students read and find the information they need and also help them to create effective media that guides their intended audience? I think this is important to not only understand how our students read and navigate information online, but also so they can understand their audience better and help them to understand the importance of guiding their readers in the direction they want, to tell the story they want them to hear and help the reader navigate their information effectively.

Last year my class spent a lot of time on infographics /Non-fiction text and I taught a lot of these elements, although using some different language that is based on the elements of design. I incorporated some of it into my Course 2 final project when students were asked to create posters about digital citizenship. Some of these came from our Art teacher particularly about the use of contrast, colours and size. I want to start using the language more with my students to help make their own work more visually appealing, and also to help them think about their reader and audience more. Hopefully, in the future, I can begin designing lessons to help students recognize these characteristics, with the intention of incorporating them into their own work.”The way that we read and communicate online differs from offline”

“The way that we read and communicate online differs from offline”.

This Enduring Understanding from Week 1 struck a chord with me because I have noticed this a lot in my young readers. Primarily, I wonder about the difference between how children read deeply online vs. offline. In my experience, I have noticed that students tend to read more “deeply” on paper, following the traditional patterns of F and Z. I find that young children skip quickly to the pictures, or just to the bottom of the page without even really reading the title or the opening paragraph, particularly when researching and they quickly give up on sites. Even our resource this week from Writing Cooperative tells us about how web resources only have 10 seconds to grab our attention and that they quickly flick past or to the:

  • Bold headings,
  • Bullet points
  • Titles and sub titles
  • Illustrations
  • Click on the videos.

For early readers who are just beginning to learn how to research, this causes them to miss vital pieces of information from the opening sentences or paragraphs, concluding paragraphs, and most of the text body. I have tried using a variety of strategies to help students slow down, read the text, understand that the headlines or titles may not always be indicative of the information they can be looking for, and that very often, their research questions are answered in the first few sentences.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Diving Deep

I am beginning the new school year and am hesitant about getting back into applications such as Epic Books and RAZ kids as I find that students are more about skimming quickly through texts, and more concerned about moving on to what’s next than about understanding things deeply. I think that more research needs to be done about online comprehension in young children when reading online or offline. What do you do to teach a deeper understanding when reading on a digital platform? 

This also begs the question of responsibility about choosing or curating resources for our students that follow patterns of visual hierarchy, that can help draw the students attention towards what they want to learn, and not distract from it. I have to be much more cognizant of how I design lesson resource pages for students and think about their eye movement along with the page, how to draw their attention to certain areas using visual hierarchy. Even creating class posters about writing or math, or your Units of Inquiry could be made to follow this. Writing Cooperative talks about avoiding a “weak information scent”. As educators, we need to be cognizant of how we lay out information for our students in our classrooms and online to help negate fatigue and engage students with content. Is this paragraph too long?

I love the strategies outlined in Writing Cooperative about frontloading vocabulary, simple language, and smaller chunks of content, to help make it available to a wider audience. and already try to use this in any google docs or resources that I provide my class. So, first of all, I need to change my blog.

Before feedback

The infographic guide to visual hierarchy made me think about my blog. I decided that the best way to think about and improve the design and visual layout of my blog would be to ask another teacher. Matt gave me some valuable feedback about how the header bar looks, the title and the sidebar as well. I made one or two simple changes and I will be looking into adding some widgets to the side. I will keep the negative space as I think this helps the reader focus on the content, and for now, I am happy to keep the header image as to me it represents how we are part of a digital world. I will continue to think about and improve my title and tag lines to improve the searchability as well.  I would also like to find a way to have clearer titles and gaps between my posts so it does not seem like a large stream of thought if you were to simply scroll through it.  The last thing is to try and make my header image bigger, which means probably choosing a new template. Any suggestions?

After feedback

Taking out that little bar at the bottom of the image helps it look cleaner