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


Course 2 Final Project

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

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.


Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

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.



Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash


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. 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


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. 

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

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

Photo by Héctor Martínez on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


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?

Photo by John Adams on Unsplash

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. 


Privacy and Participation

Participating in games

When reading about transparency in Confronting the Challenges in Participatory Culture: I connected to my students and thought about the topic of games, and how students are concerned with beating the game, not always using it as a way to learn. An example of this could be found in a variety of applications that teach math and reading. When given multiple options in Sushi Monster the students simply try to enter all of them as fast as possible to complete it, not thinking deeply about the problem given and trying to solve it before entering their answer. Instead, they play with permutations until they get it right. When using some reading apps such as Epic and RAZ kids, the students simply scroll through the pages at a rapid pace without engaging with the text to simply try and get stars for the most books read. Many of these apps have systems for teachers to monitor the activity and time spent on each problem to help engage in follow up discussions but really, what is the point? 

Photo by Emil Bruckner on Unsplash

How can we bridge the gap between playing to win in many of their online social activities and at the same time switch to active learning through games? Can we slow them down to think carefully, read deeply and understand that the game in the classroom serves a different purpose than their games at home? Using applications in the classroom is not about speed, we have to slow down to dive deeper, make connection, and engage in meaningful reflections for learning to take place. Through structured dialogue and thoughtful reflection activities about their participation in online activities can we have more transparent learning through games? 

Connecting skills and experiences

Again, this article connects heavily to the Approaches to Learning in the IB. Connecting social skills and research skills to technology are seamless ways of integrating skills and information literacy in the classroom. I think that my post about play and the conversations that we had as a class are a great introduction to a unit on social responsibility and privacy protection. I think that this process will help me to provoke ideas and tune in to a unit plan about digital citizenship and information literacy.  A structured conversation is like we had in Unit 4 is a great way to pre-assess student understandings about their online safety and privacy and by documenting their ideas we will have something to connect to in further lessons and come back to see how their thinking has changed. 

This week’s essential understandings and questions helped me to further my ideas by facilitating conversations and teaching lessons about privacy and authentic connections online in an upper elementary class.  My students don’t connect much with the outside world in a school setting. Our learning journals are closed to their families and the class, their social media accounts are private, and their online social gaming is kept among friends. That being said, some of them have still had experiences that create a need for more instruction on what actions they need to take when online etiquette is breached and they receive spam, rude messages from peers, or search something with incorrect terms and get inappropriate results. Most of them know what to do already, but as teachers, we need to remain vigilant in providing opportunities to provide instruction, counselling, and to facilitate experiences and role-play situations that help them to overcome negativity and help themselves and each other to navigate safely.  My school is currently working updating their acceptable use policy which will hopefully provide a more concrete set of expectations to protect student privacy and online safety while still providing rich online learning experiences, which is turning out to be a fine balance.  

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Media Literacy

We begin our school year with a Unit of Inquiry on media literacy and how media influences thinking and behaviour. Students go through advertisements in a variety of print and digital sources and take them apart to learn about creating their own examples. This is done with the hope of learning about how easily we can be swayed towards consuming media and understanding what to look for when you are exposed to advertisements in the world around you on a constant basis. Some of the topics outlined in the NY times privacy project are touched upon to help facilitate discussions about privacy, how we perceive media, and how we are entertained and more importantly, the purpose of the entertainment. How capitalism betrayed privacy has some interesting points that connect to our unit about how the choices we make are our power to promote privacy and reward companies that respect it. How can I use this next year in my class to help students consider their choices? 

Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

A story that comes to mind about digital citizenship, privacy, and connecting online is from my first years of teaching primary school with email and 1-2 devices. Despite the lessons on responsibility, digital citizenship, connecting to others and privacy all of a sudden some students were sending emails containing poop emojis and hacking into each other’s RAZ kids account and using the points to buy pink hats and clothes for their robot avatars (you can imagine the outcries from boys who had worked so hard reading books, devastating!). This was my first foray into the world of digital citizenship and how I reacted to these situations and the conversations and consequences that resulted were valuable learning experiences even though they were reactive and not pro-active.

Recently my students have been interested in contacting individuals and finding stories about our current Unit of Inquiry about migration. I have been looking into ways to use Twitter and other social media to contact people to help them understand how migration affects individuals and communities by finding real-world examples of journeys. We have been composing messages together on my accounts that I have set up for the class, and are waiting for responses. I hope that modelling appropriate behaviour when trying to reach out to strangers that my students can begin to see how to use the tools at their disposal to have authentic learning experiences facilitated by online action. After all, without teaching internet privacy, responsible online safety, and recognizing appropriate behaviour about online conversations our students could end up like some of these people.