The Final COETAIL Course 5 project. Exploring Music Genres.

I was thinking about the day when I will write this post. Two years seemed to be a long period of time for me. Not any more 🙂

When I began my COETAIL journey, I knew I will write about something related to the Gamification concept. I could only imagine, how my final project will look like. I didn’t think that it would include all this knowledge I gained during this program. And, finally, I did it. While creating this unit I could feel the influence of the newly learned teaching strategies, concepts, and methods. In this unit, I have included concepts and teaching/learning methods that I’ve discovered during my COEATL journey over the past 4 courses, such as  SAMR, CARP, collaboration between teachers, collaboration between students, research, rubric-based assessment, analyzing learned knowledge, reflection and, of course, new pedagogies with deep learning strategies. I hope and I’ll try very hard to remember and apply all I’ve learned and all of the information that helped improve my teaching so much. I am also glad that I will be able to read the posts of other COETAIL’ers to not only refresh my knowledge but also learn new things. Thanks to COETAIL for sharing all of our blog posts and projects publicly.

Before we begin exploring my new unit, here are my unit planner and slide deck:

Unit Planner

Slide Deck

Exploring Music Genres

My final COETAIL project is integrated Music and Technology unit with Gamification elements. It took two months to implement it.  The driving goal of this unit was to provide an authentic learning experience for students to learn music genres and enable them to apply this knowledge creatively while working on creations that would allow them to express themselves. The group of students that I chose for this project is Grade 3 students.
Gamification elements that I used in this unit allowed me to split unit into 4 stages, which were presented to students as separate missions. By completing each mission, students got rewarded with digital points and badges. During the first mission, students learned music genres and used this knowledge in order to create a unique soundtrack, which would represent music genre of their choice. For this purpose, during the second mission, students used digital music creation tools from the Chrome Music Lab. Chrome Music Lab is a website that makes learning music more accessible through fun, hands-on experiments. Soundtracks created by students were downloaded and used for further missions. With the third mission, students learned basic coding concepts using Scratch coding platform. They could apply knowledge gained about coding by working in groups. Students used soundtracks created earlier for their interactive animations or games on Scratch. During the final mission, students shared their Scratch animations and games on Seesaw Blog, which was also shared with the school community. Students, as well as parents, could comment and evaluate the creations. After that, students used received feedback to improve their projects. While working on this project, I gathered a lot of valuable information about Gamification and Coding from the ISTE books – “Gamify Literacy” by Michele Haiken and “No Fear Coding” by Heidi Williams, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in these topics. You will find more details about my project in my reflection video below. 

Major Changes

Once I began planing, I realized how much I am losing because of unexpected (or maybe expected) school closure because suddenly my entire unit was supposed to be taught online. I have to admit that I also wanted this project to be so big, that initially, I have included too many elements. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes as well. Teaching online gets at least twice slower than face-to-face and now I know that very well 🙂

When I shared the concerns about this unit with my colleagues, some of them said that every time you try to work on a new unit and think that you have it all ready, students will always find a way of emphasizing its gaps. Once again I understood that keeping everything as simple as possible is always a better choice.

First of all, my slide deck with all of the Gamification elements didn’t work as I expected. My plan was to have students update the slides I’ve shared in Google Classroom and add everything they’ve learned there. At the beginning of the implementation of this unit, I figured out that Seesaw would be a way better platform for sharing the activities of this project. I could leave reflective videos there, comment, create slides with voice elements and this seemed to be more attractive and easier for students to use. Loom screen recording was another great tool in my teacher survival kit. I could record video instructions for students on how to use digital tools provided during the project and add them to Seesaw activities. This was the biggest change in my unit, which proved to be very effective and successful. 

Moreover, we still could use the slide deck for gathering badges and points as the rewards. Students still could use the slides and track their progress by checking their rewards. However, by using Seesaw I could gather more responses and communicate more effectively. Moreover, students’ projects could be smoothly transferred to the Seesaw Blog, which later would be accessed by parents, teachers, and other students to gather their feedback. It also allowed me to monitor and approve all incoming comments. This feature allowed me to ensure safe learning environment for my students during the project.

Even though there was some frustration about the use of gamification in this unit, I could still feel the power of this amazing concept. The digital tools I’ve used also contained game elements and attracted students’ attention as well as motivated them to learn harder and reach better results! By using Chrome Music Lab tools students could experiment with the variety of instruments, notes’ length, octaves or beats, etc. While coding in Scratch students learned how to program interactive animations and games. They could customize all of their projects’ elements and program them. The coding process was also full of experiments. I have to admit that while working remotely students could get a little more independent while planing their learning time. Even though we had an agreement about certain limits of screen time for students at our school. Students were so into the coding process with their teammates that all of my extra time offered to students for consultations was occupied, very often by several groups at the same time. Students got so involved that they were coding even during their free time without my assistance. This wouldn’t have happened without online learning, knowing the fact how busy students are at school.

Collaboration

I was very happy about the collaboration with our music teacher. She provided amazing input and encouraged students to treat their soundtracks as a piece of art. She found many unusual ways of creating music and showed students how fun this process can be. Also, we encouraged our students to dare to be unique, unusual and unleash their creativity to the maximum. During this unit, students could see each other’s works and leave meaningful comments to each other on a Seesaw Blog. I was surprised how often students were reacting to the feedback received after the submission of their creations, which helped them improve their works and resubmit even better soundtracks. Gathering feedback for improvement and seeing progress of their peers worked really well! I am sure that this valuable experience will help students learn better and try harder in other learning processes. In addition, the Seesaw blog was also shared with parents of students participating in the project. Students were excited to see comments from their parents and students from other grade levels. Moreover, some students were receiving and checking feedback left by Scratch users on the Scratch platform. This was also very exciting because often they didn’t know people who left the comments in person. However, the comments were kind and relevant. People even shared their creations. Such interactions had a positive effect on students. They could feel the power of communicating and sharing. This seemed to be one step closer towards the geeking-out process.

At the end of this project, the Seesaw Blog was shared with the community of the elementary school. All teachers, students, and parents could see students’ projects, leave meaningful and encouraging comments. This was a great experience for students. They could feel proud of their learning progress.

Few More Gems of the Project

I was very excited to see remix culture popping up here and there during this project. Some students acted independently and searched YouTube to find ways to recreate famous soundtracks or songs. Most probably you will recognize a few of them in my video reflection.
Other students could not stop improving their soundtracks until they sounded perfect, which resulted in 3 and sometimes even 5 versions. Some of the students had a different approach – they created music by… drawing pictures using colored notes in Chrome Music Lab. Other students managed to learn independently by using the Raspberry Pie projects platform or a book about Scratch coding. What’s amazing about all of this experience is that it was shared between students during the Google Meet sessions. I am glad that I could recognize all of these amazing learning approaches thanks to my learning experience with COETAIL. Huge progress made by students showed me, that I have met most of the goals which I raised while planning this unit.

Here are links to the students’ soundtracks and Scratch projects, if you would be interested in the outcomes of the project – Soundtracks&Projects

While implementing this unit I gathered a lot of valuable experience and had an opportunity to rethink my teaching methods, update my teaching toolkit, improve my collaboration skills and start enjoying my work more than ever. I feel that during course 5 I have grown as a global collaborator and started seeing things differently. Sharing learning outcomes and receiving feedback was a new challenging approach for me, but I am really happy with how well it went and will definitely use it in my other projects. While expanding the boundaries of my unit, I felt that I want to plan more units like this one. I found really valuable that thanks to this project and the approaches to learning used while implementing it, students’ engagement was growing fast and my connection with them became very strong. Students came to me sharing how much they liked working on this project and asking when could they work on it further. This is the best evaluation of the project for me. I feel that this unit was really successful and all the mistakes made at the initial planning stage converted to valuable experience and helped improve it. Next time I am planning to involve students into design process even more and I am sure that together we will build an even better Gamification-based learning activity that I will be able to use in my further teaching. 

More

Managing Your Time While Teaching and Learning

If you’ve ever put off an important task by, say, alphabetizing your spice drawer, you know it wouldn’t be fair to describe yourself as lazy. Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)

Time management has been a big challenge for me over the last two years not only because of COETAIL but also because of the pandemic. I decided to write this post since I have been dealing with procrastination quite often lately. All I could think about was my conscience, that was constantly reminding me about the work I have to do. It was indeed driving me crazy, so I started looking for ways to solve this problem. I love to see people who can easily organize their work on time and now I got a few steps closer towards proper time management..

Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow.

I will do all that work during the break…

If you ever got to be successful with that, I feel jealous. All I could do during my holiday is to say “Tomorrow I will start working on this very important project”. Of course, the next day something would unintentionally (or maybe intentionally? :)) take over my focus and plans to conquer the world would be moved to some other day. On the last day of holiday, I would admit that I really needed to get rest from my entire pile of work that would happen during the regular work-week and it’s probably true as well. It is surprising how much more work we can get done when we are busy at school.

I am not the only one 🙂

After watching this Ted Talk I realized that procrastination is very widespread, but it can also be controlled. Therefore, I began an investigation on how to become a rational decision-maker instead of a silly monkey. Being a teacher, one of my biggest concerns, while working with myself, was how can we ask students to get their work done if we barely manage our time effectively.

Do students procrastinate?

According to https://www.oxfordlearning.com/ article, the reasons for students’ procrastination might be guilt, stress, higher levels of frustration or anxiety. Fortunately, there are effective ways how to deal with that.
– Break projects into smaller tasks;
– Make project meaningful to a child;
– Building up child’s confidence;
– Create dedicated study space;
– Eat Healthy and get sleep;
– Set clear goals;
– Make a project plan;
– Develop Good study skills.

All of these tips are useful to adults as well. But in the modern fast-paced world, can we always have enough time to eat and to sleep? I can’t. At least not at the moment. Of course, adults can deal with this problem, but children need our help. I think we shouldn’t judge students but try to help them instead. It was a huge challenge during online learning.

Some people — kids and adults — avoid doing things they don’t enjoy until they absolutely have to. It’s not necessarily a problem. It may just be how they prefer to operate. But it only works if they can pull it off without any consequences. https://www.understood.org/

My journey towards becoming a Rational Decision-maker

First, I tried setting a goal of the week to myself – “I will write one COETAIL post each week.” Didn’t work out for me.
Then, I decided to spend two hours every day studying and writing my blog posts. Failure again.
I kept trying alternative strategies because I knew that there should be a solution to my procrastination problem and I finally found it. I raised a measurable and achievable goal – to write two paragraphs a day. This was much easier and way more successful. I was so happy with this solution. Even when I got to think about the word “Tomorrow”, I knew I will have to write four paragraphs instead of two. I would get to work, no matter how big or good my paragraphs would be that day. Even if those would be three-sentence-long paragraphs, I knew I had to do it no matter what. I knew the feeling when I would get to the point of being overloaded with a pile of work and it was scary. Getting a measurable goal that could really be achieved, no matter how tired you are, didn’t scare me and proved to be a success. I know some of you will say it didn’t work for you, but the number of paragraphs isn’t everyone’s key to success – setting the goal that you would not be afraid of, making it measurable and achievable. Once you start feeling successful in overcoming yourself and procrastination, you will get even more motivated. It is an amazing feeling 🙂 Moreover, I found out that writing posts this way brought me more ideas and improved my writing. My brain wasn’t overloaded and I could process ideas better. It is a good feeling once you realize, that it is possible to “cut an elephant into pieces” and avoid the “Panic Monster”.

Procrastination is an actual waste of or time in our short lives on Planet Earth. There are so many pleasures we can get if we avoid procrastination. I love the changes that happened when I finally began working with myself instead of just complaining about how little amount of time I have during the day. Thanks to my experience at COETAIL that made me rethink my learning practices as well as change my attitude towards dealing with challenges in teaching, learning  and life in general.

So how to manage your time every day?

I was looking fo better ways of managing my time while teaching online and found a youtube channel created by a doctor who shares great ways of getting tasks done effectively. He has emphasized that creating a short list of three items on the everyday To-Do list is very effecitve during the lockdown, however, I am using these tips during my time at school as well. I like the idea of adding three elements to the To-Do list – Highlight of the day, One thing that you are grateful for, and One item to let go. This is a great way of keeping the positive feeling about everything. Remembering the “Let it go” element helps me keep my thoughts positive and stop focusing on negatvive things. It works like a switch button to me. Also, being grateful is so important because it generates positive vibes in our brain, which are critical for our mental health. The “Highlight of the Day” motivates me to do some important tasks and feel good after accomplishing them. My Highlight would the two paragraphs.

One more amazing video with time management tips for teachers. I especially like the one about checking your email. It is so much easier to manage your time if you begin checking emails only at a certain time of your school day. This allows you to successfully plan your tasks as well as accomplish them.

How do YOU deal with procrastination? 

More

My Community Involvement

Other Educators Inspire

I am a true believer that there are no boundaries to people’s imagination. Especially, there are no limits to educators’ imagination who very often get inspired by students who see the world around us way differently. All of us have astonishing ideas which can become really powerful when shared with others. I successfully learned that from the Learning 2 conference, where teachers are gathering together to learn from each other. That’s where I’ve heard about the COETAIL. It took me a while to take action and apply for this course. Some people around me were quite skeptical about this course and told me that this is going to be a difficult and time-consuming process. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy, but really effective. I’ve learned so much during this journey. But a particularly valuable experience to me was learning from other educators. All of us were receiving the same material that we had to study and all of us had to write blog posts. Despite the same material we all read, all of the blog posts we wrote were so diverse. This is one of the best parts of our learning in COETAIL. I’ve learned so much just by reading posts written by other COETAIL’ers. All of us have a variety of experiences to share. Moreover, commenting as well as replying to the comments received on our blog posts was one more push to communicate with each other.

I’ve prepared a short video why I would recommend this course to any educator 🙂

Collaboration on the Final Projects

I have to admit that without collaboration with other teachers my final project would not be that successful. First of all, I value the experience I’ve learned from colleagues of mine. During all our Google Meet sessions I could come up with ideas of possible improvements of my project. One more very important experience was mental support, which is necessary when you think that things do not go in the right direction.

All of us had some joint projects in this COETAIL journey. By taking a part in such projects I found real joy in collaboration with other educators. I never thought that it will be so easy to get along with people I barely know. It worked out just great! We all took roles, worked collaboratively towards the same goal, listened to each other and worked with big respect to each other. Moreover, we used the chat either on the What’s App or Twitter and got updated on the progress that has been done in order to keep everyone informed.

Cohort #12 Communication via Social Media

We established (thank you Cindy 🙂 ) our Cohort#12 group communication via Twitter chat. This was one of the most effective ways of staying connected with our tiny but powerful PLN. We were and still are sharing questions, requests, as well as reply to each other when possible. Our cohort members were always very helpful, tweeting or retweeting messages that required input/feedback.

 

 

Our Cohort #12 had an amazing opportunity to meet online via Google Meet video call. We discussed our impressions, experience and other relevant thoughts about working on our final COETAIL projects. All of us were part of this amazing COETAIL journey and it was exciting indeed to see at least some of our cohort COETAIL’ers and get to know each other at least a little bit closer. I wonder how would meeting look like at the beginning of the COETAIL journey…

Following COETAIL on Twitter

I am following COETAIL on Twitter and checking what’s new using #COETAIL and @COETAIL tags. I am and will be checking the new COETAIL’ers feeds in order to read their blogs or make new connections. Opportunities for educators are unlimited on Twitter. Checking out #COETAIL and participating in relevant discussions on a variety of topics can be really effective in making new connections as well as sharing ideas that can help others.

Post, Retweet, or Mention?

I am checking my Twitter several times a week. This kind of routine is important in getting new ideas as well as sharing them with other educators. During the Course5 I came up with a goal to release at least one Tweet a week. I think that sharing ideas and experiences via Twitter helps to build up bigger PLN. Some educators might see your post and reply to it, or at least like it (this is also a step forward). My personal experience has shown, that with one of my posts I got five more educators who began following me or shared some ideas related to my request. This is a great way of beginning a conversation as well as broadening your PLN. The same happened when I began posting about my COETAIL blog posts – educators began liking my posts as well as following me. Sharing ideas by retweeting other posts helps people find each other and collaborate when needed. This tiny step might be beneficial to others. One more really effective way of promoting ideas and sharing or even leading discussions is to mention educators in your posts by using the “@” character. I have to say, that taking similar action brought even more educators to my community, who followed me and this is another big step in building my PLN community even bigger and even stronger.

It wasn’t easy at the beginning. I felt vulnerable while sharing my thoughts and understanding of educational topics. However, after a while, I realized that I got a feeling that I have to share because it might be interesting and important to other educators. Then I stopped being afraid of posting on social media. Would it really harm somebody if I release a “wrong” post? This would just be a good lesson. We are human beings and learn from mistakes, no matter how experienced we are. It’s always better to continue learning than stop trying because of some fears.

COETAIL has been a long journey full of excitement and I will never forget it. I have a feeling, that the fact that we are getting closer to finish makes me a bit sad, but in general, I am really happy about the experience I’ve gained here by studying, reflecting, communicating and learning with such an amazing team. Thank you to Cohort#12 and all our facilitators.

More

Reinvent Yourself with Programming

One of the main elements of my final COETAIL project is coding a.k.a. programming. Coding has been a true treasure to educators for more than 10 years. I love the fact that thanks to educational resources like Scratch and Hour of Code students begin learning to program at quite a  young age.  These free-of-charge online educational tools are popular all around the world. However, there is so much more than just these tools. In this post I  would like to share my own experience teaching programming, as well as some of the coding tools that me and my students found most useful and engaging.

“Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.”

– Stephen Hawking

The Advantages of Learning How to Code

Coding unleashes student’s creativity. For example, Scratch programming platform contains all the necessary tools that allow elementary students to program an interactive game or animation. Students can choose characters, backdrops, or even paint them using the provided tools. Motions, sounds, variables, looks, etc. – by using these simple coding elements, students can animate and customize anything they create in Scratch coding studio. Even more, students can share their projects with their peers by making their projects public. They can access the entire library of interactive visuals, created by other people and shared publicly. Students can comment on each others’ projects and even copy someone’s code and then edit it. Students can learn much by remixing other students’ projects, change the code and add their own elements. During this process, students analyze the code and come up with their own strategies on how to change it. Of course, for a successful learning experience, students should get a basic introduction on how Scratch works by a teacher. My students have their own accounts, that I can see on my Scratch teacher dashboard. I can leave comments to students as well as see their activity on Scratch. Moreover, students can comment on each others’ projects, they also receive feedback from other Scratch coding participants. Never-ending student engagement and a rich database of educational resources created by the Scratch team made me choose this amazing tool for my final COETAIL project.

Photo by Robo Wunderkind on Unsplash

Scratch was a Good Choice

Scratch educational platform has a lot to offer for teachers as well as for students. This coding software was successfully integrated with Google for Education platform and now teachers can assign lessons from Google CS First through Google Classroom. This is an amazing opportunity for teachers to teach coding remotely and for students that are willing to improve their coding skills while studying at home. This platform provides all necessary tools for educators to teach students programming. Teachers can access lessons as well as unit plans and even the entire curriculum for teaching coding. What’s great about it, is that almost every educator can teach coding by using this platform. Of course, some knowledge is appreciated, however, it could be gained also by exploring CS First.
It is not that difficult 🙂 Students sign up using their individual Google accounts or sign up with Google Classroom. Once students join the class assigned by a teacher, they can begin improving coding skills by watching instructional videos and completing hands-on lessons. Teachers have access to the teacher dashboard which allows tracking students’ progress. When students gain basic fundamental coding skills on Scratch,  it becomes much easier to plan a variety of technology integration scenarios for almost any subject such as Social Studies, Science, Math, etc.

In order to provide a similar coding learning experience for my students during the final project, I have chosen another educational platform for teaching coding skills from Raspberry Pi Projects. My students were beginners in Scratch programming, so they could begin exploring Module 1 and learn how to program interactive stories, games, and animations. Students used knowledge gained in the further stages of our final project. For the final Scratch project students created their own music using tools from Chrome Music Lab. They used the music created in the further programming process of their interactive animations on Scratch. The Raspberry Pi platform is one more great tool for students to develop even better coding skills. Students get step-by-step instructions on how to build their interactive animations or gems using Scratch software as well as learn new coding concepts. Unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi educational platform doesn’t provide a teacher dashboard, however, students’ progress can be accessed from the teacher dashboard on Scratch. One more important fact about the Raspberry Pi Projects platform is that students can choose to learn how to code from a variety of coding languages and tools such as Python, HTML, CSS, Micro:bit, etc. Thanks to similar educational platforms, students get even more opportunities to learn how to program and develop their skills even without teacher’s assistance. It is great indeed that students can learn new valuable concepts as well as develop their skills individually. This is a great experience for students who are not used to focusing and following instructions. Scratch is an attractive coding platform for students, that allows them customize their own interactive animations and games. This important feature allows students to build their own world in a digital game or animation and works as a great motivator to students. I’ve noticed that very often students are used to be instructed by a teacher and struggle following simple instructions when working on their own. Therefore, coding tasks make students think and act more independently and develop their individual problem-solving skills this way. This has been a challenge for my students during this final project.

scratch

Computational Thinking

I am always excited about my book orders for the next school year because it always includes books from ISTE. This time I have one more gem in my hands – No Fear Coding by Heidi Williams.
The author has emphasized 5 main reasons why students in K-5 should learn how to code.

1. Making their thinking visible. Young students are at the beginning stages of learning how to follow step-by-step instructions and by developing their coding skills, they develop a better understanding of how to follow instructions in such way. Computer science helps make students’ thinking visible by building algorithms that usually have some visual shape. By thriving to achieve a goal, students build an algorithm and get visible results, which leads to further investigation and, of course, learning. Just by having fun students develop their learning skills without even understanding that.

2. Sustaining Creativity. According to Sir Ken Robinson, adults often lose their capacity of being creative, because they are afraid to be wrong, while students still have the power of being creative and not being afraid of making mistakes. While learning coding students always hear my encouragement to make mistakes, because all of us know that no programmer has ever written a good code without making mistakes and getting errors. This way students feel better while coding and are able to unleash their creativity even at the cost of making mistakes. At some point, coding is like a game of making mistakes, learning from them, and correcting them. I like the Hour of Code feature to run the code step by step and figuring out what’s wrong this way or by making small mistakes and running the code step by step every time.

Coding for kids is a totally creative process – it starts from scratch and ends with something more significant. “Learn To Code – 4 Reasons Why Your Child Should Do It”

3. Encouraging Computational thinking. “Teaching how to read and write code supports students’ ability to think computationally”. By learning coding students have to comprehend that their brains work like a highly complex computer by breaking down problems apart, identifying and creating solutions, implementing procedures, analyzing results, determining if results are acceptable (correct). After digging even deeper in order to understand how Computational thinking is being developed I found a comparison with Project-Based Learning and Inquiry-Based Learning. This means that by working on complex projects like PBL or IBL students get computational thinking experience, that’s why such projects are so effective in developing students’ critical thinking, curiosity, motivation for learning, collaboration, etc.

4. Fostering Future-Ready Skills. These skills include 4C’s – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. By developing these skills students will begin the preparation process for the increasingly complex life and work environments. The communication process has changed and nowadays it is open for everyone to communicate with the entire world when working on a certain project. Instant feedback might be really important when expecting high-quality results.

“Coding allows the user to become a creator rather than just a consumer of the content.”

5. Empowering students to take action. “Coding is about applying skills and creativity to solve problems.” Coding allows creating a variety of solutions for the real world. During one of the educational conferences I have met a senior student, who has chosen to program an app as a community service project. This app was created to make students’, teachers’ and even parents’ life easier while tracking all events happening at school. The app included the LMS (learning management system), cafeteria menu, important school events, etc. All of this school-related stuff could be accessed via one app. I have to admit that this is an amazing initiative and I can only imagine how many schools are dreaming about an app like this. Finding relevant information in one place is really convenient.

Computational thinking is a complex of skills that are necessary for our students, who are entering the real world and are going to make some relevant changes in the real world.

More

Learning Through the Game?

Everyone Loves To Play

I have to admit that one of the best ways to spend some good time with friends is to spend it with a board game. People like playing games. Playing games makes us feel happy and maybe sometimes a bit upset when we lose a game. However, that’s life and all of us get this experience in our real lives as well. Games lead us through entire life. We begin playing in our early childhood as it is one of the most engaging and effective ways to learn new things.

I love learning through games and even my personal experience shows that it’s really effective. Russian is my second native language, but I have never learned how to fluently read in it. I do recognize Cyrillic characters, but my reading level is similar to the level of a second-grader. Once, I have participated in a small and cozy party. A colleague of mine brought a card game – “Alias“. Since she is a Russian language teacher, it was all in Russian. I definitely was going to challenge myself. The key factors like competition and engagement incredibly accelerated my low reading skills. It is incredible, how learning through the game might be a really powerful and engaging tool for learners. Moreover, one of the biggest advantages of playing games, is that they help us escape from our routine and get some exciting experiences.

Photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

Our motivation to win points in the game generates signals in the brain’s reward system that are similar to those produced by our attraction to many other pleasures such as food. (Koepp 1998) Resource

Here are some interesting insights on people playing digital games in the US, shared by Eugen Eşanu. “Gamification: Understanding The Basics”:

69% of all heads of household play computer and video games;
97% of youth play computer and video games;
40% of all gamers are women;
One out of four gamers is over the age of fifty;
The average game player is thirty-five years old and has been playing for twelve years;
Most gamers expect to continue playing games for the rest of their lives;

This kind of statistics might seem shocking at some point. On the other hand, this shows how much people are engaged with digital games. What if those games would be really beneficial for the players, e.g. teach some useful real-life skills, new language, geography and so much more. Jane Mcgoligan (a digital game designer, who makes games for 10 years) has some good ideas on how gaming can make a better world.

Gamification in the classroom

“Games in the classroom help teachers to connect with their students” Kip Glazer “Game Creation as a Learning activity for students.”

has emphasized ways of gamification making students feeling happy. He also suggests celebrating students learning by using some elements from the games as rewards.

He thinks that learning isn’t always rewarding, and students do learn very often because they have to. The author suggests making learning a game or competition and celebrating students’ efforts by rewarding them with virtual badges. Moreover, by receiving a virtual badge students get a visual cue of their achievements, which helps them grow and make connections with the gained knowledge. It acts as a “memory bookmark”.You're the best The opportunity for improvement is one more benefit of digital games, that can be used in the educational process. When playing a game, you have a big chance to lose and start over. This means that gaming is a constant process of playing, losing, learning a mistake, and playing again, and therefore, improving skills this way. However, by learning and completing a task or taking a test, students usually don’t get to look back at the mistakes and try again. In most cases, students are preparing for the next one. Using gamification in education will not only engage students to learn but will encourage them to learn better.

 

“Gamification is not simply playing games in class….gamification goes beyond”  “3 Ways Gamification Will Make Your Students Happy”

Gamification vs Game-based Learning

I am currently working on the research for my final COETAIL project about Game-based learning and Gamification concepts. I try to dig deeper to understand how these concepts perform in education. Therefore, my biggest question is – “What is the difference between Game-based learning and Gamification?”

This infographic that I found at elearninginfogrphics.com compares Game-based learning and Gamification concepts. These two concepts are similar and different at the same time.

Gamification vs Game-Based Learning visual

My final project is more likely to be a hybrid model of both concepts. I am going to include a set of tasks, rewards for the completed tasks, levels, characters, settings representing the game environment.

…most school-age children, when playing a video game of their choice, can pay attention for hours,  will choose harder over easier tasks, and learn new cognitive game skill at a ferocious pace. Scott R. Garrigan.

Why are Games so Attractive?

According to the Malone and Lepper research, the intrinsically motivating elements making students want to return and play a game, again and again, are – challenge, curiosity, control, and fantasy.

Challenge – player accepts the challenge as it would be an individual goal that motivates him to meet the challenge.

Curiosity and Surprise – every player is curious about surprises in the game that can come together with the next game level 0r step.

Control – games differ by providing a variety of controls to the players – choosing a level, avatar, tools, or even ending the game.

Fantasy – Giants, Pirates, Characters from the fairy tales, Animated characters, etc., all these game characters as well as environments are making games even more attractive.

(Gamify Literacy)

Anyone will agree – children are the best experts of digital games. I was curious about the elements that make the digital game attractive and fun, so I have asked my students about that. Here is the list of the elements:
missions – student prefer challenges;
customizing option – students like to customize their characters,  gadgets, transportation, environment, etc.
peer comments and interactions or social interactions;
rewards – students like to be rewarded with coins, points, badges, etc.
environment – similar to Minecraft or Roblox,  Planet of cubes for younger students (Gr. 2 – Gr. 3). Fantasy, fiction, or sci-fi for older students (Gr. 4- Gr. 5)
– “Leader Boards” – students like tracking their progress as well as compare it with other students they know in person.
Similar elements are emphasized in the research about Learning Media and Technology by Paul Howard-Jones and other authors.

A New Version of the Monopoly?

Take a look at the example below which I found on Keri Lee Beasley’s website. The visual caught my eye because it looks like a famous board game – Monopoly. This board game was created for “Media Mentor Month” – a global education initiative designed to help parents develop a positive relationship with their children around digital technologies. Using this game-based format is a great and attractive way for parents to play/discuss media importance and impact to students’ learning by the representation of a board game that contains colors and icons, that attract to explore. If I was a student, I would like to play it right away.

Source of the visual

“Gamification is “taking game elements and applying them to a non-gaming context.” Brett Terrill

Gamification is Everywhere?

Before digging deeper into the concept of Gamification, I was sure it is related to education only. However, some facts surprised me after reading this article about gamification concepts and the ways they are used in business (E-learning Industry). For example, when shopping in a grocery store I receive some stickers, that provide me a discount for buying certain items. Moreover, I collect the stickers in my booklet for stickers, provided by the same grocery store. Sound familiar? I’ve seen this in my Kindergarten class but never thought about the connection 🙂

In order to find out more about gamification, I’ve signed up for a Coursera course ran by Kevin Werbach, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has defined gamification as the process of our learning from games. Elements like badges, point systems are being used to reward a player/learner or even consumer for his achievements/shopping. For example, your SmartWatch is a great model of how gamification is being used in business. You thrive to walk and move more in order to achieve your goals and get awarded with a trophy. Eventually, you earn an appropriate badge and change a role in a game 🙂 Just like kids in a digital game. And of course, you buy a SmartWatch to play that game and feel happy about that.

 

Photo of my personal weekend gamification activity

“Circumstances where something involves some combination of game elements and game design that is for a purpose other than playing the game, that’s gamification.”

What is your favorite game?

 

More

In Search of Inspiration

When I think about the classes that I teach, I try to put myself in a role of a student to realize how much I would like to learn certain content in the way it is presented to me. Examples of the lessons that I enjoyed myself, as well as educators who awarded me with such an experience, help me create engaging content for my students. Being a teacher is a never-ending journey of being a student. The role of every educator requires constant professional growth and creativity, which could make the learning process for students even more engaging and enjoyable. In the same way as students do, teachers take notes or fill in their Wakelet collections of newly learned methods. Learning something new leads us to inspiration, no matter what causes that inspiration – colleague, students, internet, nature…

Annual Professional Development

These past two years were pretty complicated for many of us. Besides the fact, that I am missing my students so much, even more, I miss my PD opportunities. Every year I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in one or another PD event with educators from international schools all around the world. The last PD before the quarantine I had was Learning2 conference. This was one of the most valuable conferences I have ever been to, because it gave an amazing opportunity to connect with really professional educators which, actually, reinforced me to begin this exciting learning journey with COETAIL. This was a lifesaver in terms of getting new valuable knowledge, as well as inspiration to improve my teaching. This has been an amazing experience of learning, collaborating, accepting various challenges, sharing, reflecting and so much more. Now, I am looking back and trying to reflect on my PD experiences as well as find out where do I gather my gems of inspiration. I’ve described some of them in this blog post.

Places of Inspiration

Where inspiration comes from? John Spencer has emphasized various ways of getting inspired just like going for a walk in nature and resting, sharing experience in a community and giving feedback, building empathy in a group when working towards one goal, geeking out on cool stuff, playing, staying curious about the world, taking action in order to make stuff even if you are not feeling inspired or just using the random moments of inspiration. I strongly believe that action is the most powerful step in order to get inspired. When you take action, an amazing process starts happening in your brain that is followed by a “Wow!” moment.
My last experience of taking action to get inspired was recording my own video reflections for my final COETAIL project. I work on them every day, as a routine, no matter what else I have scheduled that day. I just record a video reflection a day. I used to hate making video recordings of myself, but the more I’m doing that, the more I like it.

Collaboration or Co-teaching

I have to admit that one of the most valuable teaching experiences to me is a collaboration with other teachers. Teaching together is an easy way to learn from each other as well as get inspired. Unbelievable, how many different ways and methods can be used to teach the same concept. Collaboration between teachers is an efficient way to look at the concept from different angles. Engaging students become so much easier. Sabrina Gates emphasizes the advantages of such collaboration in her article Benefits of Collaboration.

Collaboration Helps Brainstorm Creative Ideas. Peer-to-peer collaboration can turn a small idea into the seeds for something fabulous.
Professional Collaboration Teaches You About Yourself. Learning and working with others encourages to dig deeper and explore who you are as a learner and a teacher.
Learning Collaboratively Helps Students. Teacher collaboration positively impacts student achievement and allows us as educators to explore new territory.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

One more way of learning from colleagues is observation. Every school year our administration gives teachers a certain task of setting our SMART goals as well as plan at least a few peer observations. After our peer observation, we also have to provide some feedback in a form of advice.

Learning from Educators via Social Media

Social Media is a great place of inspiration even if you are only a lurker. My very first Learnign2 conference introduced me to the power of sharing in the educational world. One of the main goals of Learning2 conferences for educators is to gather and learn from each other by sharing. This has been one of the most efficient ways of my growth as an educator. This conference opened my eyes and introduced Twitter as a great tool to connect with other educators. All you have to do is just to find and follow other talented educators and it works by a principle of a chain. Once you begin posting education-related posts and use # character in order to emphasize terms related to the topic, the process of sharing and collaborations starts itself.  When I was a lurker, I used to search for relevant topics of interest on Twitter using # (you can start from #coetail. Many famous educators can be found here :). If you decide to try Twitter, check out #pubpdeurope or #pudbpdasia. Once the pandemic is over, I am sure similar successful events will be resumed. Similar events are one more great way to make new connections with excellent educators all around the world. These groups and Twitter in general, have been one more place of inspiration to me. I have a number of really cool tech-related ideas gathered on Twitter that were later successfully implemented in our school. Honestly, sometimes I feel bad about social media taking away my valuable time, but using social media as a tool for inspiration is helping me grow as an educator.
One more place for your PLN (Personal Learning Network) is Facebook. Educators gather in groups such as Google for Education, Seesaw, certain grade level or teaching subject-related groups e.g. “Teacher Teaching with Tech”
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Peer Feedback

This one is one of my favorite parts of the COETAIL course 🙂 I have to admit that in many cases I feel like an introvert when I have to speak out in front of an audience. Especially adults. It makes me feel vulnerable. This is a completely different experience from the one that we all get while teaching a group of students in the classroom. This is one of the reasons why I am at COETAIL. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone with every blog post as well as every comment on other COETAIL’ers posts. I love receiving meaningful comments on my blog posts because they very often contain advice and even more – relevant and valuable resources. I’ve received some really great resources from other COEATAIL’ers that I am successfully using a lot daily. Feedback is always important. This is one of the accelerators that move us towards higher achievement and inspiration.

TED Talks

I wonder how many people around the world begin looking for inspiration in TEDtalks? I do that! This is one of the best places of inspiration, where people share unbelievable stories of their lives. People, who very often go out of their comfort zone, do something unusual and come up with the best life experience that very often become powerful inspiration for others. I would like to share one of my favorite inspirational TED talks – The first 20 hours — how to learn anything by Josh Kaufman. Can you imagine how much we can learn in such a short period of time and share with our students and even more – inspire them to accept similar challenges?

Spring Flowers

Spring is approaching here in Lithuania and we get more and more sunshine, which is a great inspiration to go outside. I am going to use this opportunity and go for a nice walk outside, smell the spring air and get my inspiration for the next post.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash

What is your source of inspiration?

More

The Final Project of Course #4

As a possible final project of the Course 5, I’ve chosen one of the Music topics that we teach every year and integrate it with digital tools and concepts. Our music teacher is always preparing for the technology integration unit with a big passion. This time, I have decided to update a unit of Grade 3 music lesson. I chose option 1 – redesigning the unit.

Photo by ZEKERIYA SEN on Unsplash

Slides template for students

Unit Planner

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

I think this unit includes a lot of easily accessible tech tools that provide us opportunity to teach this unit online during the school closure. Moreover, I think this unit will be a great experience for students and will let them see how useful technology can be in learning music. I have used some of the deep learning strategies for students to learn how to learn.

How does this unit reflect your learning during COETAIL? How is this unit different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

Inspired by Game-Based Learning method, I decided to adopt this idea and design a template, looking similar to a game, that students will have to fill in. I’m still thinking of the design elements that would make the slides look like a game. In this unit I’ve only used some elements of the game like students receiving points after each completed activity. Also, learning stages are represented as missions that contain more steps to accomplish it.

How will the ISTE Standards for Students that you chose to enhance your students’ understanding of the content?

I believe that all of the chosen standards will enhance students to become independent learners, designers, responsible digital, citizens, successful collaborators and problem solvers. The list of standards is long, but it represents the complexity of the unit as well as a variety of tasks students will receive. Students will learn by figuring out how to accomplish the tasks and will become new knowledge creators as well. I would like to give students as much freedom as possible and encourage them to be not only individual learners, but also effective collaborators.

ISTE standards for students that I chose for this unit are:

1d: Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
2b: Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.
2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
4a: Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems
4d: Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
7a: Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

What has influenced you the most during COETAIL and how is that reflected in this final project?

While creating this unit I could feel the influence of the newly learned teaching strategies, concepts and methods. In this unit I included concepts and teaching/learning methods that I’ve discovered during my COEATL journey over past 4 courses, such as  SAMR, CARP or collaboration between teachers, collaboration between students, research, rubric-based assessment, analyzing learned knowledge, reflection and, of course, new pedagogies with deep learning strategies.

Here is an example of how the SAMR framework will be used in this unit. 

Substitution – technology acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change. In this stage students will explore possible music genres by doing digital research. Gathered resources will be added to a slides template, prepared for students in advance, instead of getting this information from their teacher.

Augmentation – technology acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvements. Students recreate music genres using digital musical tools in Chrome Music Lab.

Modification – technology allows significant task redesign. Students record music using online screen recording tool like Loom.

Redefinition – technology allows creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable. In this stage students will use online coding tool Scratch to design and authentically looking animation for their music pieces created in the previous step, using Chrome Music Lab.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Ideally, I would like to teach this unit at school, because this would provide wider opportunities for all of us to learn together.  Even though as I mentioned, the unit contains many digital tools that provide wide opportunities for teaching this unit online. COVID 19 is my only concern in facilitating this unit.

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

The new unit requires to rethink teaching strategies that will help students take more ownership over their learning.

This new unit requires to explore more online games and resources, that I can include in the learning process to raise students’ motivation.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Students will need to develop even stronger collaboration skills while working with partners. Students will also need digital research, problem-solving and coding skills. Students will have to demonstrate a positive attitude and perseverance regarding independent learning.

What outcomes do you hope to see when students complete this unit? How will you know that students have learned the concepts?

I hope, that students will like this new teaching method and strategies, which will encourage them to learn new knowledge independently. Also, I expect students to help me in the future to design even better Game-based learning activity, that I will be able to use with other students.

I will know that students learned the concept from their reflections that are included after each mission.

More

Deep Learning and Reality

The Assessment Challenge

A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

In the old pedagogy, you measure only content. As long as we keep measuring only content, we are setting students to learn just that. They need to have freedom to expand that content even further and be challenged to come up with new ways to do so. Erika Twani, CEO, Learning 1 to 1 Foundation. A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

The biggest challenge of new pedagogies and deep learning is the assessment. Here are some good examples of how educators are using specific ways of assessing the impact of the new pedagogies’:

The final product is being presented as an outcome of the learning process during which concepts are applied in real-life conditions.

Students take ownership of each other’s contributions assessment process.

Organizing public exhibitions of students’ final products of their learning process. Such experience prepares students for life beyond school.

“….you have to make work public – it’s absolutely critical to have public exhibitions. Standardized scores are not used in the real world.”

Learning impacted by deep learning tasks and new pedagogies has too many student skills and capacities to be measured. I would say, it is too difficult to create one general and specific system that could be used for measuring such complexity, containing learning process that may have too many variations of learning a concept. Students collaborate and learn together with other students, teachers are integrating subjects, so the goal, as well as the final product, might change the shape at any time during the learning process. However, ISTE standards often are a solution for assessing students’ learning progress in case of technology integration. ISTE standards measure students’ deep learning competencies (communication, collaboration, designing, learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, digital citizenship skills) that are necessary for a successful learner of the 21st century.

The effectiveness of the new pedagogies in this research is described as a learning process between students and teachers as partners in learning, that is motivating students for defining clear learning goals that drive students to achieve them by being autonomous learners. The teacher remains a mentor throughout the entire process. During the learning process, students are constantly analyzing their own learning as well as achievements. They manage to master the learning content, that is transferred to a creative process and even more – new knowledge creation, that is very much related to a real-life experience.

“New pedagogies should help students develop over time as independent, autonomous learners able to effectively design, pursue and achieve their own learning goals and personal aspirations as well as master curricular learning goals.”

According to John Hattie, “But this doesn’t happen by itself”. The teacher’s role in this process is to teach students to become teachers to themselves. This is an effort and time-consuming process. Students’ motivation for learning grows along with the attractiveness of the topic being learned. However, learning and achieving a common goal together might be much more interesting.

Challenge-Based Learning

During the CBL process students are provided with some really big real life-related problems, that encourage students to discover new ways and solutions in order to solve the problem. Such a learning process actively develops problem-solving skills. According to the Challenge Based Learning Implementation Report, young people like solving real-world problems. Such learning is a constant collaboration between teacher and student, that drives them to search and create possible ways of solving real-life problems and even more – take actions by publishing the solutions to a worldwide audience. Just like Greta Tumberg does 🙂 Moreover, students are working in collaborative teams on the research of the related topic, brainstorm strategies and solutions that are credible and realistic.

Augmented Virtual or Mixed reality?

Augmented Reality allows digital elements to appear over real-world photos or videos, sometimes with some limited interactivity between them. This allows students to design a digital object and add it to any real location or object.

The example of one of the projects developed by students at Harvard University demonstrated the opportunities for a great integration of AR in the curriculum. It allows a closer look at the objects of research as well as supplements possible missing elements, necessary for the project.

picture of augmented reality project

Credit: Harvard University

On the other hand, Virtual Reality opens wide opportunities for exploration and traveling around the world. Thanks to Google Voyager we can traveling around the world virtually and without any special equipment. The Google Expeditions app is an immersive learning and teaching tool that lets you go on VR trips or explore AR objects. Explore historical landmarks, go down to the atomic level, get up close with sharks, even visit outer space!

Mixed reality allows the design to combine AR and VR elements so digital objects can interact with the real world ( Interaction Design Foundation)

Gamification

The idea and method of using a game-based implementation in the curriculum for raising students’ motivation must be really effective if the game integrated with some of the learning concepts has been built very well. Such method provides student learning autonomy – in order to complete the level and be awarded for that, student has to do an individual research and use problem-solving and critical thinking skills. However, it takes a lot of steps to be thought through. To come up with a good gamification based activity, educator has to follow the include elements listed out in the table below.

For my Final Course 5, I am planning to use Game-Based Learning method. From my very first acquaintance with GBL, I was impressed by the projects of the BreakOutEdu educational platform, therefore, I would like to come up with something similar.

image of grid for assessing intrinsic motivators for gameful design

Source: Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer

Project-Based Learning

PBL Works explains PBL project as a process, successfully developing better content knowledge and improving students’ critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. This is a long-lasting project that lasts from a week to a semester, and engages students with real-world problem solving or tasks related to complex questions.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and problem-solving. (Desing Thinking in Education)

The design process as a framework allows identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions. Moreover, this process is often cross-curricular and allows students collaboration that includes the steps like discovering, interpreting, ideating, prototyping and testing. It is great that teachers can access a lot of activities, workbooks, and curricular guides provided by Stanford or IDEO.

Blended Learning

BL method of delivery that combines the physical co-presence of teachers and students that occurs in traditional classrooms with the use of digital technology. (Universoty of Findlay)

During the pandemic period, this was one of our teaching methods that supported students learning online as well as those who were present in the classroom. For better support of students who learn at home, I was creating video recordings of concept explanations using Loom (an online screen recording tool). Google Classroom and Seesaw were really useful tools that supported BL as well.

New Pedagogies in my practice

“Neither have such measures been consistently integrated in a holistic measurement system that measures pedagogical practices, student engagement, and deep learning outcomes.”

Assessing and measuring the impact of deep learning pedagogies is a complex and complicated process that contains many steps and stages. I usually apply related ISTE standards to create rubric-based skills that are measured and describe all the stages of the deep learning task. I like the assessment examples described in A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning that have been used by other schools (such as a public exhibition). For similar purpose, I would use online tool ThingLink that allows creating a virtual exhibition room, which could include students works in any format: presentations, digital images, animations, etc. – anything that can be accessed online. The exhibitions could be accessible to the school community. Community members could evaluate and share comments on students’ creations on a  Padlet wall. Students could gather the comments and use them for further learning process.

In order to keep track of Lower School student’s progress during the year, our teachers have come up with Self Reflection rubric of the approaches to learning. Using this document, students can successfully rethink and reflect on their achievements over the last trimester or even school year. Here is an example:

The effective new pedagogies, such as collaboration between teachers and students as well as constant communication regarding the teaching curriculum is really useful. In our school, teachers have access to the curriculum maps of each other, which allows us to plan deep learning tasks as well as projects in advance. Organizing the collaboration meeting is another useful method – teachers gather in the same room and share their teaching plans as well as topics. Sharing this valuable information with each other provides an opportunity of coming up with new collaboration ideas. This way teachers focus more on students’ skills development as well as their abilities in mastering new content and creating new knowledge.

Collaboration between different grade levels improves students’ communication skills. For example, at the beginning of this school year we simulated possible school closure scenario when students were collaborating online on the joint research project about the topic of their choice, working together with students from grades 3-5. During this process students communicated via the chat integrated into Google Slides. Students were searching for information online using their research skills and discussing the process via chat.

My other “project”, that I am going to test out this week with my students is pair coding online. During the last several weeks students were learning how to code in the classroom and individually (as we got closed) using Hour of Code and Google CS Frist activities. Some students have demonstrated a lot of interest in these coding activities by coding on their own during free time as well. The activities include favorite characters, well known to students. Moreover, these activities allow students to learn on their own, because of well-built assignments. Of course, teacher help is necessary for the beginning of the coding unit enrollment. Students from different grade levels will be able to share previously gained coding skills online via Google Meet session in Break out rooms.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In order to support students’ autonomous learning, first of all, we agree on the learning goal that students come up with. After that, we review the goals and come up with an action plan in a form of a Google Keep to-do list. The list can be edited at any time when students gain new knowledge. During the school year, we review the plan and discuss further steps that would lead to the goals that have been planned. Keeping in mind their learning goals, students can build necessary knowledge as well as analyze and reflect on gained knowledge or search for new knowledge and, finally, come up with the newly created knowledge.

Right now, I’m am participating in the PBL project with our grade 4 students. Project topic – energy/collision. Students are split into groups of four and meet virtually as a group, together with their mentors – teachers. Goal of this PBL is to create a presentation/product that would make a social impact on our community. Right before the project, together with students we were experimenting on finding the best ways to use keywords and Google search operators that would narrow down our search results and find the most relevant information, that would support the project driving question – “How does our knowledge of energy, speed, and collisions help us save lives?”

The deep learning practices in our school

AR – Our students used their knowledge gained during the “Space” unit and after more research came up with the Augmented Reality project that included presentations with voice instructions about the interaction of the Sun to Earth. Students also learned to search for images online, respecting the author rights.

Another integrated project was a “Cat Walk” by grade 3 students. They demonstrated their french knowledge by recording each other’s catwalk and used their video editing skills to make a short video demonstrations with voiceovers describing the clothing items worn by students.

Developing the deep learning competencies

Creativity, communication, citizenship, critical thinking, character and collaboration are considered deep learning competencies.

Creativity is motivating me to always search and develop new ways of teaching the same concepts in a new format, as well as improve the content for students in order to make it even more attractive and easier to learn.

Communication between students and teachers in my role is essential. I must be aware of everyone’s needs and to come up with the best and even more effective practices for learning and teaching. Being able to communicate in various ways and using different tools for that is essential.

Citizenship is very important. I am trying very hard to be a fair citizen of the world, who cares about our planet a lot. I think the war and military is just a waste of time and resources, that could be used for so many important purposes. Poverty should not even exist in this 21st century.

Critical-thinking – the more you develop it, the more you understand how much more development it requires.

I think I support my students in becoming deep learners by presenting a concept in a variety of different methods as well as including different attractive and effective digital tools, that are often combined together. This motivates students to seek for the best results and be active deep learners.

More

Learning Even Deeper

Developing deep learning strategies

“Technology, strategically integrated with the other core components of the new pedagogies, unleashes deep learning.” A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

My experience of using technology in teaching was while being the role of “Compters Teacher”. Every time I was teaching a technology concept, such as coding, text editing, digital design, I had a feeling of the concept itself being “naked”. Every time I had to think of a theme that could support learning on using digital tools. This way, I made my first steps of tech integration and began meeting teachers to discuss the curriculum content that could be supported by technology. Our school didn’t have a position of technology integrator yet and technology was as a separate subject. This role was obviously missing something. This was an example of how “technology used without powerful teaching strategies (and deep learning tasks) does not get us very far”. Learning about digital tools separately didn’t get us far until the establishment of the position of a technology integrator. After this improvement, everything has changed. Collaboration between teachers has significantly changed shape and structure of lessons. Student tasks became more complex and generally goal-directed, which brought new learning experiences for students. Such change has brought positive changes that motivated students as learners. Teachers had more experience of efficient collaboration and content creation that improved teaching methods. Therefore, students developed their skills in even more effective and attractive ways. Of course, it took a while to define the use of technology in the classroom as well as come up with the most effective strategies on how to implement technology integration with a certain subject. Technology integration is a  process requiring a lot of creative thinking. In general, I must admit that our teachers are very creative and very often their requests surprise me (in a positive way). Thanks to constantly improving digital platforms technology provides wider opportunities for effective learning.

“Without changes to the fundamental pedagogical models by which teachers teach and learners learn, technology investments have too often simply layered slightly more entertaining content delivery or basic skill practice on top of conventional teaching strategies that focus on the reproduction of existing content knowledge.” A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

According to the same research by Michael Fullan Maria Langworthy, digital tools and resources create opportunities for new content discovery, global collaboration and new knowledge creation. Moreover, the effective use of technology allows teachers to improve students’ abilities to take leadership of their own learning. Technology provides an opportunity for students to learn collaboratively outside the school. This way students raise learning effectiveness.

When pedagogical and deep learning capacities are clearly defined and developed, digital tools and resources enable the:

1) discovery and mastery of new content knowledge;

2) collaborative, connected learning;

3) low-cost creation and iteration of new knowledge;

4) use of new knowledge with authentic audiences for “real” purposes;

5) enhancement of teachers’ ability to put students in control of the learning process, accelerating learner autonomy.

Today, technology as a separate subject almost doesn’t exist. It is more likely to be a tool for raising the efficiency of every subject being taught to students. Here are some examples of “Technology-Based Interventions in our school:

A digital book creation tool (WriteReader or Book Creator) supports student learning from age 4 – 11, which they use to improve their language, writing, research skills as wells as deepen understanding of science concepts, and much more. Our young students demonstrate high engagement while using this digital tool. They are using it surprisingly often – even during their free time. Students are actively developing their research skills for gathering relevant information for the digital book, this way taking leadership of their learning, designing and managing their own learning, because of their highly increased motivation. A very exciting moment for the students is sharing the created books in the classroom with the school community.

Photo by stem.T4L on Unsplash

Music – our students have a joint music and technology integration project, during which they learn various genres of music, make a music remix, and program Sphero robot to dance to that music. Moreover, they record a video of the dancing robot and edit it by adding pieces of the chosen music. Students learn, explore, experiment with variations of coding algorithms. This project lasts about 7 weeks. Students are highly motivated and involved during the entire project, they are looking for the best creative solutions in order to come up with the most original dancing robot.

French or other foreign languages – by using Thinglink during french class students create an interactive dictionary. For example, they add a picture of a bedroom and include tags explaining each item in the room in French. At the end of the project students visit each other rooms and learn new words by exploring peers’ rooms.

“It is therefore the pedagogy of the application of technology in the classroom which is important: the how rather than the what.”

One step back and two steps forward

Vulnerability – the quality of being vulnerable = able to be easily hurt, influenced or attacked. (Dictionary Cambridge.org)

If you are brave, you will fall, you gonna get hurt. (Brené Brown. “Daring Classrooms”)

Brené Brown in her speech (Brené Brown. Daring Classrooms – SXSWedu 2017) has emphasized four main skill sets of teaching courage in the classroom – Vulnerability, Clarity of Values, Trust, Rising Skills.

According to Brené “no vulnerability – no learning”. It is very important to create shame resilient classroom environment. Otherwise, students who are closed inside themselves are no longer learning. Students have to learn how to get up after failure or experience of shame in the classroom. Being able to admit being guilty because of not putting enough effort into learning is a part of being vulnerable. Without being vulnerable, we can not learn and teach empathy.

“Learning is inherently vulnerable and it’s like you’ve got a classroom full of turtles without shells.”

I’m teaching courage by emphasizing students’ mistakes as the best way of learning. I always encourage students to make mistakes and learn from them. This way I am teaching students courage for failing, backing up, and going forward. Sometimes, I see students crying while learning a new coding concept and I simply explain that this is part of the learning process. Mistakes are important, we can’t avoid them as well as we can not be experts of a new concept once we begin learning it. Just being a human I am vulnerable. Sometimes I understand my mistakes in teaching. Then, I admit the mistake in front of my students and sometimes even look for their support. It’s because we are learning together. I like learning empathy, a different understanding of the world surrounding us, creativity, courage from my students. It’s great to be different and special.

Dialogical learning

Paulo Freire describes five ideas that he believes are important for dialogue:

  1. Humility – according to Paulo Freire, “Dialogue cannot exist without humility”. I will always remember the words of one of the professors of my pedagogical study – “You have to manage to raise yourself to the level of a child”. I am always considering my students being equal humans and sometimes even higher. We, adults, have lost so much of what we had while being children – the courage of being silly, never-ending energy, curiosity and so much more.
  2. Hope – “…believing in students is a core part of instruction and learning.”  This is an invisible process, that is happening while learning. I “keep my fingers crossed” every time we learn a new concept. When we fail, I’m looking for other more effective ways of teaching it. This way I improve my teaching abilities.
  3. Faith -“…having faith in students can instill a true and profound sense of self-worth and help them to value themselves in all future relationships.” I don’t think learning can be successful without faith and trust. Students trust me when they know that I trust them, and this way our learning journey gets started.
  4. Love – Students always subconsciously analyze and feel us – adults. When we teach with love and passion, they learn the same way. The effect is reversible.
  5. Critical thinking – “students will not think unless we approach them with an openness and a desire to learn from them.”  In my classes, I love using inquiry-based activities to encourage students to think of the concept from different perspectives. This trait is essential in learning research strategies. I teach my students to be skeptical about what they read online and always look for more resources of information. Similar rules can be applied to the real world.

These traits can be demonstrated through classroom activities. By teaching digital citizenship skills  I encourage my students to think of positive sentences that describe rules of becoming a responsible digital, citizen.

My favorite practice is to let students take the teacher’s role and help classmates learn. We all are different and see the world differently, so learning from each other opens new horizons and points of view on the same things. No matter what age you are.

Research is a key to the future

While teaching research, I always discuss with my students the importance of this process for their future. Students have to gain this skill and develop it further in high school, college, university, and future “real life”. How can you buy a good car without making research? How can you bake a delicious cake, without analyzing a list of different recipes?

Digital research is one of the most popular methods for learning. However, there are way more things to learn to make regular “Googling” an effective research tool. While teaching students valuable searching tips, I encourage them to look deeper and think the way the search engine “thinks”. We are looking at the possible connections between search results and how we can find results that are not showing up for us, just because of our location. Why? How do the ads work? Why do we all get different results by typing the same keywords in search? This also develops a better understanding of digital literacy among students. Being digitally literate opens opportunities for being self-taught.

Changes

After rethinking this week’s reading, I will focus more on the creation of deep learning assignments for students, as well as meet teachers and discuss possible changes of students’ activities, that could be related more to deep learning experience. I will offer more ideas that would allow students to learn from real-life situations. I’ll rethink and develop teaching plans and assignments based on the SAMR framework for learning. Students are different as well as their abilities to learn and it is amazing how much technology allows us to differentiate learning material for students.

I was really inspired by this great article by Dr. Monica R. Martinez (6 Powerful Strategies For Deeper Learning In Your Classroom), who described six powerful strategies for deep learning in the classroom.

1. Connect: Create a Community of Learners

2. Empower: Activate Students to Lead Their Own Learning

3. Contextualize: Use Human Themes

4. Reach: Network Beyond School Walls

5. Inspire: Personalize The Learning

6. Wire: Make Technology the Servant, Not the Master

I think that students can learn together even more effectively. Sharing knowledge and working together towards one goal brings really great results. One of my goals for the next year is to gather a group of students who could help teachers and students solve various problems with technology in the classroom. Students will come up with common goals on how to help teachers in the classroom when a technology-related problem occurs. Any student willing to learn more about technology and take the role of “tech support” in the classroom could join the group. It should be cool to get a role like that.

Giving a real-life experience for students is so important. Students are much more motivated when they see the connection between learning concepts and their application in real-life. If we are learning to code, where can we use it? For example, we can program a robot that is cleaning our house. Or program a spaceship that would fly to Mars. It’s all about programming. I would like to relate my teaching concepts to real-life situations as much as possible.

As Susan McCray, a teacher from Casco Bay High School states, “Everything is related. Everything matters, and we are all working all the time to help them [students] see the connections.”

As I’ve mentioned before, without integration with other subjects, technology doesn’t have the power as it could. Moreover, students participating in integrated classes accelerate their learning process because of better and faster understanding. Connections help learn.

 

More

Becoming a Designer of a Deep Learning Task

Real-Life experience is a hidden gem in education

Deep learning tasks require newly gained knowledge to be integrated with an already existing knowledge. Good deep learning tasks motivate and encourage students to broaden their knowledge to learn new concepts and information that they are going to be using in the real world.  Students have to apply new knowledge that supplements already gained knowledge and apply it in real-life situations (A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning). Students learn by analyzing his/her own learning results, applying already gained skill in order to construct their knowledge. Students analyze their learning practices in order to enrich their knowledge as well as gain new skills. I prefer the real-life experience as the best way for learning. I personally wasn’t so much interested in history and geography, until I began traveling around the world. At the same time, I was interested mostly in the history of art, because of my passion to art itself. I could transfer my knowledge through paper, clay, or any other constructing material. I only learned so much about Baltics’ ancient history after I got experience of making my own historical copies of ancient ceramics. This means that every student needs special attention in order to dive deeper into learning new concepts as well as going beyond that knowledge.

What is critical is that in the everyday curriculum students become engaged in studying and addressing real-life issues whether they are local or global. (A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning)

Learning goals for students

I believe that first of all students have to define their personal need for learning new concepts of developing better skills. Often students know their own weaknesses and strengths pretty well. Every school year our young learners set their personal goals for achieving better learning results. This is important if a student, for example, has reading difficulties and his goal is to develop better reading skills – such improvement will possibly accelerate the deep learning process in the future. Students have to take ownership of improving their learning skills as well. As the result, further success will follow up with the growing confidence of a student. Students then feel more confident learning together with a teacher as wells as classmates. Feeling more confident students are motivated to gain and create new knowledge in order to apply it for future learning. When students learn and create new knowledge being inspired by deep learning tasks, they also share the knowledge and experience with classmates and teachers this way, we all are learning together.

“Ideally, deep learning tasks develop both a teacher’s pedagogical capacity and a student’s learning capacity.” (A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning)

Invisible bias

Bias – Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. (https://www.lexico.com)

According to Jacquelyn Whiting (Everyone Has Invisible Bias), students have to grow self-awareness as media literacy and communication skill necessary for civil discourse. As an educator, I have to take the role of a “diplomat”, who independently from personal opinion or biases has to demonstrate a purely neutral position regarding sensitive topics as well as encourage students for deeper investigation of any bias-related topic. I admit, this is not easy, because sometimes I am not sure if I, as an educator, am demonstrating an invisible bias by using my language. To avoid that, I, for example, try not to emphasize what girls have done better during the class in comparison to boys’ progress. It is not easy to react to everyone’s behavior equally, however, I always have a goal to treat all of my students equally. A teacher is a role model for students and teacher is responsible for a positive and cozy classroom climate, that directly impacts students’ learning results as well as students’ trust. If students don’t feel comfortable in the classroom, his/her learning might not be that successful as it could be in a friendly and cozy environment.

The age range of my students doesn’t exceed 11 years and I can say that students are about to form their vision, opinion, and biases based on news they hear on TV, however, students are often carrying experience from their families, and there are difficulties, that have to be taken care of. Students might barely realize the effect of an opinion brought from home being express publicly and how many people will be upset regarding that. This is the skill that students have to develop and be able to apply facts instead of someone’s biases. On the other hand, some invisible biases become visible on the playground, and sometimes students don’t do the right choices. Similar experience in the classroom environment might cause a ruining effect on the class and even worse – change a positive classwork climate to an unpleasant one. Sometimes it takes a lot of time for students to understand the value of appropriate communication and how it can be successfully used as a learning partnership.

Until we become aware of our biases, and how these attitudes and opinions emerge through the language we use, we can fall into what’s known as the bias confirmation trap—we see opinion with which we agree as fact and information with which we disagree as false. Jacquelyn Whiting (Everyone Has Invisible Bias)

 

Moral Imperative

moral imperative is a strongly-felt principle that compels that person to act. It is a kind of categorical imperative, as defined by Immanuel Kant. Kant took the imperative to be a dictate of pure reason, in its practical aspect. Not following the moral law was seen to be self-defeating and thus contrary to reason. (Wikipedia.org)

The importance of moral imperative in education is related to students’ equality when every student has the right of getting equal opportunities for learning as well as being respected as everyone else in the classroom, regardless of student’s country of origin or knowledge level (“The Moral Imperative” by Michael Fullan) All of the students have to get equal opportunities for learning and achieving skills. Therefore, deep learning tasks create opportunities to make the learning imperative happen. It is much easier to differentiate learning tasks for every student using technology because of a big variety of tools that very often are created for a learner of different skills and knowledge. Very often these digital tools are accessible in different languages, which is really useful in a multilingual environment. Moreover, when students can easily take ownership/leadership over their learning, digitals tools become a great support for better learning not only as individuals but also as being ready for learning together with other students.

Essentially, the goal of every education is to explain students the reasons and motives for learning, make sure a student understands what he/she has to learn, why, and what future consequences and benefits it might bring. Moreover, it is very important that educator helps the student to form his/her own opinion and view on things (which, of course, should be motivated and well supported by facts), but also – to take responsibility for his words and actions, while trying to defend or support his/her ideas.

“After I redesign my coding, digital design, architectural design… unit for students”

After reading this week’s material, I decided to redesign my digital design unit, that is integrated with math, when Grade 3 students learn area calculation concepts and after that, they use architectural design software (Planner 5D) in order to create a model of their dream house. During this unit, technology has been used for students’ better understanding of the purpose of learning area measurements, as a skill applicable in real-life. Technology is motivating students for deeper exploration of measuring areas because of its connection to a real-world, since similar software of architectural design is used by architects for designing houses we all live in.

The Goal of the deep learning task

After students define their learning goals, teacher should define deep learning goals for every task as well. Teacher defined goals have to be followed by clear expectations and criteria for students.

The goal of a redesigned unit and a deep learning task – students will learn how to calculate an area of any room/building and be able to estimate the length and width of real building areas. They will raise inquiry questions for finding the best ways to learn and apply their new knowledge for deepening it even more and, ideally, create something new in the area of design or engineering solutions. All of their thoughts students will document on a shared slide deck with pre-created templates. Students will use a variety of digital tools in order to design a digital design of a real size house. Students will use their research skills for gathering more relevant information for developing a house design using architectural design software. Students will be able to work in groups and respect each other by following essential group work rules. Students will accept a 3D designing challenge and make a scale model of the designed house and print it out using a 3D printer.

Real experiences beyond the classroom

For a learning partnership application, I will encourage students to think, who might know more about school area measurements. This way students will be able to interview our school janitors, who might possibly have some measuring tools and can demonstrate to students how it works. Therefore students will explore and measure some of the areas such as locker room, classroom, and more challenging – canteen. Results by every group will be compared in the classroom after that.  Moreover, students will do research and find out what measuring tools can be also used for an area measuring and compare to the tools borrowed from our janitors.

Partner with students in designing the structure or process of the task

Students will be able to take leadership of their learning by designing an action plan for further steps of the design process. They will make a plan of steps they have to do as a group in order to come up with the best house design. The teacher will assist and give advice to students when necessary.

An authentic choice for designing a deep learning assignment

To learn more about measuring ways and tools by researching, students will use a variety of digital tools. They will develop their design skills by creating a real hose model together with group mates. Therefore, students will be able to choose a challenge of designing a 3D model of their designed house and will create a scaled model, using a 3D designing online tool Tinkercad for later printing it out with a 3D printer.

Raise the bar for all students

Students will be encouraged to design a house and involve all of the team members. The expectations for the final design are for all students to participate in design projects and after students create a sketch of a house using digital drawing tools (Google Draw or Sketch.io). At least one of the elements or design solutions of each student has to be used in a final product. Students have to set clear group works rules, that all will follow in order to improve the learning process in a group.  Moreover, students are expected to actively participate in a measuring process as well. To track the progress of each group, students will fill in the provided slides. All of the expectations will be defined by students and teachers.

During this redesigned unit, I would like to keep the focus on several things:

Differentiation in this unit became possible with the usage of a variety of technology/digital tools for better support of students learning. All of the students must get equal opportunities to learn and apply gained knowledge while measuring areas.

The positive climate in the classroom as well as students’ communication and relationship working in groups. Students will come up with the group work rules/agreements, leaving behind all invisible biases and that will allow fluent collaboration and lead students to the goal of their mission. Students will put maximum effort into their group work and communication process and will achieve the best learning results as a team.

Real-life experience – during the learning process find as much as possible connections between real-life and learning concepts for even more efficient learning. This would be an example of a possible learning partnership. The idea of including janitors is to show how important everyone’s role is in our learning environment. I believe that for some students this will also be a good practice to leave invisible biases away.

Analyzing the results of learning – by learning new concepts students will analyze learned material in the group and will plan further steps for improvement of their final product.

More