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:
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.
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.
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.