I was listening to my students while they were working, when I heard a great comment by a grade three boy, “ I am going to take all my Star Wars ships and put them together to make the greatest Star Wars ship ever!”

A few weeks ago, we read Seth Godin’s manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams.  In it, Godin refers to Lego in #51, How they Saved LEGO.  Godin states that the “secret to LEGO’s success was the switch from all-purpose LEGO sets, with blocks of different sizes and colours, to predefined kits, models that must be assembled in precisely one way, or they’re wrong” (Godin, 2012, p. 76).  Until reading this, I had not given the topic any thought; however, it suddenly struck me how these LEGO sets have changed since I was a kid.  It seems to have taken the imagination out of the experience and I wonder if the LEGO becomes more of a showpiece than a toy.  Once the child has built it, it’s not like you take it apart again and build something else, or do you?

I think Godin is correct is saying, “LEGO isn’t the problem, but it is a symptom of something seriously amiss. We’re entering a revolution of ideas while producing a generation that wants instructions instead” (p.76).  It is difficult to encourage students to try out different answers and explore different possibilities when at the same time we are reinforcing them to follow the instructions and get to the right answer.  We need to encourage risk-taking behaviour and utilize the power of imagination to help build inquiry into our everyday practice.

 

References:

Godin, S. (2010). Stop Stealing Dreams. Retrieved from http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/docs/stopstealingdreamsscreen.pdf

 

 

 

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When I sit back and reflect on this course and what stood out for my learning, an image of a buffet, loaded with tantalizing dishes, comes to mind.  I feel as though I want to sample each one but my plate is too taking on too much and overflowing.  I try to sample a little of each but that really just leaves me wanting more.  That is how I feel about this course, we were presented with some intriguing and amazing information; however, I feel I need more time to reflect and digest the material and figure out what I want to apply to my practice.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Learning more about TPACK 
    I especially enjoyed the article by Mishra, Koehler, and Kereluik (2009), where they discuss how the attitude toward technology is more important than trying to keep up and learn all the available technologies.  I have always strongly believed it is more important for students to gain a confident attitude toward technology than a confidence with a particle technology.  If one is confident in their abilities to problem-solve and take risks, they will be able to work through problems they experience without getting frustrated. Technologies will come and go; however, a confident attitude will carry through as a life-long skill.
  • Learning (or relearning) about learning theories
    I found that I had learned (or at least heard of) many of these learning theories back in my undergrad days; however, they may have not been in the foreground of my current practice.  Through the readings, I was reminded of why we do certain things and the impact it can have on my students.
  • Examining current trends

I found these topics to be the most exciting because I found them to be the most applicable to my classroom.  Looking at the Horizon Report (Johnson, Adams, and Cummins, 2012), I found the technologies to watch for and ones to try to implement today.  I found that through researching about game-based learning, I was excited to try and implement it in my class.  This year is a bit strange for me because I will be leaving for maternity leave in a month.  I am almost sad that I did not have longer to try out these new ideas, but then I remember that I will not have to work for a year and that everything will still be there to try next year.

Overall, coming away from this course, that is what I am most impressed with, the excitement to try new technologies in my classroom and being reaffirmed that my current approach to incorporating technology is on the right path.

References:

Johnson, L. Adams, S. and Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition, Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from: http://www.nmc.org/publications/2012-horizon-report-k12

Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Kereluik, K. (2009). The song remains the same: Looking back to the future of educational technology. Retrieved from: http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/Mishra-Koehler-Kereluik-techtrends09.pdf

Looking further at TPACK

In our summer course, we were briefly introduced to TPACK.  I was happy to see we would be exploring it more in this course.  In the readings, I found several items stood out for me.  Firstly, looking at Harris and Hofer (2009), I connected with their work regarding planning.   They suggest,

 

Five basic instructional decisions:

• Choosing learning goals

• Making practical pedagogical decisions about the nature of the learning experience

• Selecting and sequencing appropriate activity types to combine to form the learning experience

• Selecting formative and summative assessment strategies that will reveal what and how well students are learning

• Selecting tools and resources that will best help students to benefit from the learning experience being planned (Harris and Hofer, 2009, p. 100).

 

Too often, I think I have planned backwards, thinking about the technology first.  Especially when thinking about using mobile devices in classroom.  We had the devices, so then we had to think about how to use them with our learning goals.  When we should have been focusing on our learning goals and determining how the devices could help to reach those goals.

 

Secondly, looking at Mishra, Koehler, and Kereluik (2009), I connected with their approach to the skills teachers (and in turn, our students) should be focusing on.  Rather than learning about specific technological skills or specific pieces of technology, it is the approach to technology you want to focus on.  Instilling an attitude that “allows for flexibility of thought, a willingness to tolerate ambiguity, and a willingness to experiment with how technology can best be used to teach subject matter in powerful ways” (Mishra, Koehler, and Kereluik, 2009, p. 50).  Then in turn, we can instill these attitudes into our students, that technology is something to be experimented with and to take risks with.  As Mishra, Koehler and Kereluik state (2009), “these new perspectives focus on overarching cognitive skills, competencies, and creativity rather than technical understanding and functional knowledge of specific technologies”(p. 52), which I think are skills we need to demonstrate and pass on to our students to create a rich environment that fosters a passion for life-long learning. 

 

References:

 

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009). Instructional planning activity types as vehicles for curriculum-based TPACK development. In C. D. Maddux, (Ed.). Research highlights in technology and teacher education 2009 (pp. 99-108). Chesapeake, VA: Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE). Retrieved from: http://activitytypes.wmwikis.net/file/view/HarrisHofer-TPACKActivityTypes.pdf

 

 

Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Kereluik, K. (2009). The song remains the same: Looking back to the future of educational technology. Retrieved from: http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/Mishra-Koehler-Kereluik-techtrends09.pdf

 

I have had two experiences with MineCraft (https://minecraft.net/), both of which stemmed from my students.  The first was last year when a student approached me if he could teach the class about Minecraft.  Through using his iPod, he created a series of videos teaching others what Minecraft was all about and how to play the game.  The class was enthralled watching the videos, so much so they requested more time and the student brought in his laptop so he could show everyone how to play the game.  I was impressed with the level of engagement and excitement demonstrated by my students; however, I have to admit, I still do not understand the game or it’s purpose.

My second experience was, this year, listening to a group of boys talk about Minecraft while working on their math problems.  As they mindlessly worked on their tessellation pictures, they were deep in discussion about levels, resources, and creating strategies for their game session after school.  Again, the level of engagement in the conversation impressed me, if only the math activity had created such engagement.  Reading Prensky’s Digital Game-Based Learning (2001), made me think of the disconnect between how my students spend their leisure time and the time spent in school.

In my personal time, I have no interest in computer or video games.  On occasion, I enjoy playing card and word-based games and yes, went through an Angry Birds phase, but eventually grew tired of that.  Therefore, I am fascinated by the excitement MineCraft evokes in my students.  I recently read a blog post by Guernsey, where she talks about her two daughters and the level of engagement brought on by playing MineCraft.  In her post, she expresses worry that her daughters are addicted to the game.  The comments to the post are interesting; some argue that she is confusing an addiction with engagement, while others argue there is no real learning within the game.  Regardless, I think I need to learn more about MineCraft and explore its’ possibilities for classroom use.  I would be interested in hearing other’s experiences with the game and it’s application to the elementary classroom.

References

Guernsey, Lisa. (2012). An “Educational” Video Game Has Taken Over My House. Retrieved from http://slate.me/Ut0kBw

Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. McGraw-Hill.

While reading Ritchhart and Perkins’ (2008) article, Making Thinking Visible, a connection immediately came to mind to our Professional Learning Community (PLC) work.  The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) requires teachers spend a percentage of their non-instructional time working and collaborating with other teachers within their school, forming a PLC.  PLCs may be based on a learning goal, assessment, or subject based.  I have found the most success in a PLC when we focus on our curriculum/grade and incorporate areas such as technology integration, assessment practices, and inquiry planning; rather than a PLC comprised of different grade groups focusing on a theme, such as technology integration.  I favour this focus because I found our most beneficial PLC sessions occur when we are examining student work and analyzing where we need to go next.

Focusing on student work is the direction the CBE would like to see PLC work take.  As noted in the AISI Cycle 5 Proposal, “professional learning communities are well established in the CBE. The next evolution of this work is to have teachers and instructional leaders bring student work to the fore and work together on common goals for improving instructional design and assessment practices” (Calgary Board of Education, p. 35).  This also agrees with Ritchhart and Perkins, when they note, “administrators need to value, create, and preserve time for teachers to discuss teaching and learning, grounded in observation of student work” (Ritchhart & Perkins, 2008, p. 58).  In order to have successful and honest collaboration, teachers need to have their time honoured and have this work incorporated into their allocated time.  Unfortunately, given the nature of this work, it is often difficult to constrain it to the limited time available.

Shared values and vision that focus on student learning

(Sigurðardóttir, 2010, p. 407)

Utilizing Thinking Routines (“Thinking Routines”, n.d., para. 1) within the process of inquiry provides excellent examples to bring to PLC sessions to observe and examine student’s thinking and reflections.  This provides an opportunity for teachers to collaborate with others and gain insightful feedback on directions to take within the classroom.  I especially like the “Think Puzzle Explore” (http://www.pz.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03d_UnderstandingRoutines/ThinkPuzzleExplore/ThinkPuzzleExplore_Routine.html) model and the “What Makes You Say That” (http://www.pz.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03d_UnderstandingRoutines/WhatMakes/WhatMakes_Routine.html) model.  Starting in September, I plan to incorporate these and many of the other examples from the Visible Thinking website (http://www.pz.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html) into my practice.  I would be very interested to hear feedback from other’s PLC experiences and successes you have experienced.

References

Calgary Board of Education. (2012). AISI Cycle 5 Proposal.  Retrieved from http://www.aisicycle5.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/AISI-_Cycle-5_2012_CBE-Proposal.pdf

Harvard Project Zero. (n.d.). Thinking Routines.  Retrieved from http://www.pz.harvard.edu/vt/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03a_ThinkingRoutines.html

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making thinking visible. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 57-61.

Sigurðardóttir, A. K. (2010). Professional learning community in relation to school effectiveness. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 54(5), 395-412. doi:10.1080/00313831.2010.508904

Before a school can delve into integrating technology, teachers and administration must place emphasis on establishing digital citizenship and proactively devise a plan to move into the digital age (Larson, Miller, Ribble, 2010). The Calgary Board of Education defines Digital Citizenship as “having the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to demonstrate responsible and respectful behaviour when using technology or participating in digital environments” (Bell,  http://www.cbe.ab.ca/learninginnovation/digitalsafety-digitalcitizenship.asp, May 8, 2012). It is not enough to assume teachers and students know how to use technology appropriately.  Ribble (2007-2012) has established nine elements to Digital Citizenship:

  1. Digital Access:   full electronic participation in society.
  2. Digital Commerce:   electronic buying and selling of goods.
  3. Digital Communication:   electronic exchange of information.
  4. Digital Literacy:   process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
  5. Digital Etiquette:   electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
  6. Digital Law:   electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
  7. Digital Rights & Responsibilities:   those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
  8. Digital Health & Wellness:   physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
  9. Digital Security (self-protection):   electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

Ribble (2007-2012) has also established a method for explaining and teaching these elements of Digital Citizenship through three concepts: “Respect, Educate, and Protect,” starting as early as Kindergarten.  He begins with the concept of Respect Your Self/Respect Others, which includes teaching etiquette, access, and law.  Starting in Kindergarten, teachers and students need to have conversations about appropriate use rather than just imposing rules against inappropriate use.  Students need a clear understanding of what it means to be a Digital Citizen.  As stated on the Calgary Board of Education’s website (May 8, 2012),

Digital citizenship goes beyond e-mail etiquette and avoiding plagiarism to encompass all elements of digital engagement, in particular protecting private information, staying safe online, and knowing how to deal with bullying in the digital world, whether you’re a target or a bystander.

The second concept of teaching Digital Citizenship, according to Ribble (2007-2012), is “Educate Your Self/Connect With Others” (Ribble, 2007-2012).  Within this concept, the focus is on “Communication, Literacy and Commerce.”  Digital Literacy goes beyond the technocentric skills of the past, to focus teaching students and teachers to be adaptive and interactive as new technologies emerge (Harris, Mishra, & Koechler, 2009).

The third and final concept of teaching Digital Citizenship, according to Ribble (2007-2012), is “protect Your Self/Protect Others.”  This concept focuses on “Rights and Responsibility, Safety (Security), Health and Welfare.”  As with all the concepts, these skills can not be taught with a one-off approach but rather incorporating the themes into all aspects of technology integration and consistently returning to and revisiting the concepts throughout a teacher’s and student’s school career.

In my classroom, we have discussions around digital citizenship on a regular basis and constantly refer back to our Technology Oath.  In order to utilize technology, the schools or their own personal device, each member of the class must take the Technology Oath, in which they agree to be responsible with the physical handling of equipment, be respectful to others, and be focused on the assigned task.  It follows our school’s philosophy of care for self, care for others, and care for this place.  Each student sign’s the Oath, which is hung in a place that is visible to all.  I love to hear students referring to our Oath in conversations to each other, not in a particularly “monitoring” fashion, more so, in awareness to Digital Citizenship.

References

Bell, S. (May 8, 2012). Digital Citizenship.  Retrieved from http://www.cbe.ab.ca/learninginnovation/digitalsafety-digitalcitizenship.asp

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416.

Larson, L., Miller, T., & Ribble, M. (2010). 5 considerations for digital age leaders: What principals and district administrators need to know about tech integration today. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(4), 12-15.

Ribble, M. (2007-2012). Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship.  Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html

Interestingly in the Horizon Report, 2011 K–12 Edition, Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) were placed in the far-term adoption category.  Now in the Horizon Report, 2012 K–12 Edition, they have been propelled into the two to three year adoption category, thanks to a focus on mobile devices over of centralized, server-based applications.  “In the past year … with the growing interest in smartphones and tablets, PLEs have gotten a conceptual “reboot” that now sees a distributed model as both practical and promising — and as such, the topic moved to the mid-term horizon as it becomes more clear how schools might approach implementation” (Johnson, Adams, and Cummins, 2012, p. 25).  In the past, PLEs were closely associated with Learning Management systems, such as the system utilized by the Calgary Board of education, Desire2Learn (D2L).  However, as stated in the Horizon Report (2012),

learning management systems by nature are more about the ephemera of learning than the actual learning itself; it is the gathering of course calendars, assignments, and all other relevant content in a single place where both students and teachers can access everything. On the other hand, PLEs are described as more about personalizing the environment and experiences at an individual level. (Johnson, et al, 2012, p. 24)

As part of my teaching assignment for the 2011-2012 school year, I was allocated three hours a week to assist other teachers and build their capacity for utilizing and integrating technology.  Much of this work was carried out in our Learning Commons, focusing on Knowledge Building and Inquiry.  As the year progressed, we got a little sidetracked with our School Development Plan’s focus of Student Learning Plans, similar to digital portfolios.  We shifted from integrating technology and building teacher’s capacity to focusing on a specific technology tool and how to get each student to meet the goals established in our School Development Plan.  Our goal was to have each student create a Student Learning Plan in D2L, where they would have reading and writing samples, reflections, and goals created for their learning.  It was tedious work and often required one-on-one adult intervention.  Looking back, one wonder’s if it was a valuable use of time.  There is value in the end product; however as the CBE moves to adopt a more user-friendly system to complete this work, it may or may not be easily transferrable or continuous.  As mentioned in the Horizon Report, (2012),

Some see PLEs merging with digital portfolios to provide a record of their learning that students can carry with them as they move through the various stages of their educational pursuits. This notion places the focus of PLEs on carving out a long- term identity for each student that may ultimately help them get into colleges and universities and provide prospective employers with extensive personal insight, a change that many feel is a move away from the basic tenets of the approach. (Johnson, et al, 2012, p. 25).

Looking at PLEs, focusing on mobile devices and their inherit personalized nature, one can see the potential for a broader, more encompassing learning approach to Student Learning Plans, assuming there is an adequate supply of devices.  However, if the purpose of PLEs is to shift the ownership and control of learning to the learner (Johnson, et al, 2012), allowing them to utilize technologies to assist their needs, is it also a place to showcase samples of student work?  Or will the practices developed utilizing PLEs help to build skills essential for creating showcases and reflections in another avenue?  Either way, as we move forward toward the concept of PLEs, teachers need to step back and analyze how this is going to look in their classroom.

References

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.  Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/publications/2012-horizon-report-k12

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Haywood, K., (2011). The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon- Report-K12.pdf

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