The Final Project of COETAIL Course #1: My Tech-Rich Unit about Internet Safety

I chose a Digital Citizenship unit as my final project for COETAIL Course #1. I begin every school year by teaching this unit. I find it really important. Students, as well as adults, keep forgetting about some important rules regarding sharing personal data via social media, appropriate behavior online or digital etiquette. However, children in real life often are told not to open the door to strangers, when they are left at home alone. What about the digital world? Do they really know well enough how to keep the private family or personal information secure, when to share it and with whom? Kids usually have access to way more information than their parents realize. But do they always know when is it OK to open that information door?

Here is my tech-rich Internet Safety unit plan that will allow students to gain knowledge and skills to survive in the ocean of the digital world. Below you will find more details about teaching methods and digital tools that enrich this unit.

Gamification

The fact, that I am teaching this unit every year doesn’t make it easier to create. I’m adapting the teaching plan every year since it is getting harder to motivate students by just giving new tools and relevant information. However, in my opinion, the rules of internet safety must be reminded about and repeated every year. While designing this unit plan, I was thinking about my Grade 5 students, since they are more likely to already be using social media in their personal environment. This time I’ve decided to utilize a new tool to make sure I catch their attention and make the information memorable – Gamification. Everything is so much easier to learn through the game. Everyone likes to play. This is one of the best motivations for a learner of any age.

In order not to invent the wheel again, I’ve chosen a BreakOut Edu platform (luckily, this school year our school has purchased several kits and unlimited access to this educational resource). BreakOut Edu is a challenge of an escape room in your classroom. Students get topic-related information through the riddles. By solving the riddles, students get answers in a form of lock combinations that allow unlocking the boxes and getting the key.

Photo by ABEL MARQUEZ on Unsplash

In order to make a research process more exciting and effective for my students, I’ve chosen a game called THINK BEFORE YOU POST, which offers students a possibility to decide whether provided information can be posted online or not, as well as learn more about potentially harmful online activities. As a result, it turns out to be kind of a guided research process through the game.

In order to attract the attention of the students, the main task of the game is related to a real-world situation:
Your parents have changed the wifi password and disabled wifi on all of your cellular devices!  The only way to get online access is to prove to them that you know how to be safe on the Internet!
This kind of challenge is motivating already. At the end of this activity students will learn about:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– Create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Learn about location settings and when it is safe to share your location on your device.
Through this BreakOut Edu activity students will go through the following stages of learning from Bloom’s taxonomy – remembering, understanding and applying.

Podcast

Another essential part of my Internet safety unit is the creation of a podcast. Students will analyze and evaluate data, they’ve gained from the Internet safety game. They will have to work in groups and fill out the Podcast outline template in order to structurize the information on internet safety topics. During this process, they will also be encouraged to do additional research online. Students, working in groups, will create and record a podcast about one of the topics:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– How to create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Location settings on your device and when it is safe to share your location?
Students will use Anchor – an online podcast generator.
The podcats will be shared through Google Form with classmates, who will be able to share their reflections on their peers’ podcasts and provide feedback.
After sharing it with classmates and receiving feedback, student-created Podcats can be tuned a little bit more and prepared for sharing with the school community on a bulletin board (by providing QR codes of each podcast). Everyone will be able to listen to it and remind themselves about the basics of internet safety.

How does this relate to the learning in Course 1? 

Knowledge gained through COETAIL course #1 helped me a lot while designing this unit plan. The fact that I had to push myself out of the comfort zone and place myself into the learners’ chair made me see the whole educational process that I was used to from an absolutely different angle. I realized, on one hand, how many exciting easily-accessible online learning tools are available on the unlimited pages of the internet. On the other hand, this experience reminded me of something that many of us, teachers, forget due to day-to-day routine – in order to be effective and stay in students’ heads, every lesson must be interesting, engaging and inspiring. Connecting tasks to real-life situations, inspiring collaboration, making it so exciting and unusual that students would geek out about it after the classes and applying the best modern learning theories – I’ve tried to have all of these ideas in mind while creating this lesson plan so that my students would benefit from it as much as I benefited from COETAIL course #1.

Learning Theories in The Education of 21st Century

From Behaviorism to Connectivism

The origin of theories of learning was in ancient Greece. Over the ages, theories of learning have been developing and transforming. Many famous educators developed various theories – from Behaviorism to Connectivism – in order to explain the human learning process. I personally am using ideas of Connectivism in my teaching process very often. The majority of my lessons are based on the co-teaching model. While preparing I am using my research skills pretty often to find relevant material, such as online content for classes or new digital tools. Online content is constantly changing in the 21st century as well as our learning process, which results in change of our lifestyle in general. According to Siemens “Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime. Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades. Today, these foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields the life of knowledge is now measured in months and years.

Connectivism according to George Siemens is A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.

Using learning theories to support students’ learning

With this COVID-19 situation in Europe, which made many countries close schools and switch to distance learning, I had a great opportunity to rethink my teaching practice. This made me realize the importance of learning theories. Now I am reaching my students through Google Classroom and Seesaw. I am uploading assignments, video tutorials which I’ve created using Loom (online video recorder). Together with my students, we are having conversations and discussions relevant to the topic of study through comments in Google Classroom. I’m including online research and moving towards including online collaboration activities between students to my lessons.
My further plan is to bring part of my teaching content to online conversations with my students thorough Google Meet. In my opinion, especially now, in current COVID-19 situation, practical application of learning theories like Connectivism and Constructivism is inevitable. I’ve noticed, that understanding of Connectivism and Constructivism as learning theories helped me rethink my online lesson plans and focus more on:
– Students’ learning from each other
– More collaboration within student groups and between groups
– Relate tasks to real-life situations
For example, students can work on creation of a Google Site about the best learning online practices together and communicate through Google Meet sessions online.
Working together towards one goal, especially if it is related to a real-world situation, is motivating. Real-time feedback encourages and motivates you to reach your goal sooner. For example:
– Designing an actual room with real measurements, furniture, windows, etc. using online designing tool Planner 5D.
– Creating a tour of countries you’ve visited using Tour Builder.
– Creating an art gallery using Thinglink.
According to constructivist principles, real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms that emulate the “fuzziness” of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning. Frances Bel: Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning.

Constructivism
Learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world” Driscoll

We just completed our week #2 of distance learning at our school and I’ve noticed, that all the planning and preparation for lessons have significantly changed in comparison to previous process of preparation.
I’m communicating (online now, of course) with my colleagues even more than previously. As one of the IT support staff members, I am responsible for providing all necessary content to my colleagues. Therefore, I’ve noticed, that in many cases we are learning from each other. Teachers are looking for better ways of students’ motivation in learning new things online. Frustration is unavoidable here, because of loads of new information and unknown digital tools as well as new solutions. Teachers are impressed of the amount of new information they are getting and have to learn every day and it is moving to a successful “Geeking Out” between teachers.

Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access “serious” online information and culture; it also means the ability to participate in social and recreational activities online. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy as one of the learning theories is different from other learning theories by its clear structure. It is categorized by learning 6 stages:
Creating – To produce new or original work.   Tools – Animating, blogging, filming, podcasting, publishing, simulating, wiki building, video blogging, programming, directing
Evaluating – To justify a stand or decision; to make judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.  Tools – Grading, networking, rating, testing, reflecting, reviewing, blog commenting, posting, moderating
Analyzing – To draw connections among ideas, concepts, or determining how each part interrelate to an overall structure or purpose.  Tools – Mashing, mind mapping, surveying, linking, validating
Applying – To use information in new situations such as models, diagrams, or presentations.  Tools – Calculating, Charting, editing, hacking, presenting, uploading, operating, sharing with a group
Understanding – To explain ideas, concepts, or construct meaning from written material or graphics.  Tools – Advanced searching, annotating, blog journaling, tweeting, tagging, commenting, subscribing
Remembering – To recall facts, basic concepts, or retrieval of material.  Tools – Bookmarking, copying, googling, bullet-pointing, highlighting, group networking, searching
Obiageli Sneed: Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Taxonomy

I find really effective using Bloom’s taxonomy in an online learning environment – check out this infographic created by Ron Carranza.
I believe that any successful educational process is inherent from Bloom’s taxonomy and I wish I could apply it to all of my teaching units.

Technology Can Be More Engaging When Making Real-World Connections

Drew Perkins of TeachThought PD has listed a great list of questions about technology embedded in our curriculum – 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom. I like it because some of the questions make us think critically. Has technology recently been the best tool for students’ learning or reflection? Is it relevant? Is it up to date? Valuable? Add free? Appropriate for the age group? From my experience, students love learning those tech tools, which are also actively used by adults. They are thriving to be just like adults and that’s why real-world connections, as well as simulations, are helpful for educational purpose.
Educators are always responsible for the digital tools they provide to students. It is the responsibility of any educator to make sure that any provided digital tool is appropriate for students. However, students also have to learn to troubleshoot and react appropriately if something goes wrong with a provided tool.
We, educators, have to teach appropriate reactions to any inappropriate content that shows up during the research process, just because the internet is full of everything. And we have to make the learning process challenging, motivating and interesting.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

I find students fascinating and love the passion but just because a tool has captured your imagination doesn’t mean it necessarily has a place in your classroom or school. It might indeed be a great way to grow to learn but starting your lesson planning by thinking, “how can I integrate this neat new tech toy” more often leads you down a stray path.” Drew Perkins

Tech-Rich Unit that I Used to Plan

My experience in planing a tech-rich unit was always related to the ideas of other teachers. My role at school is to help teachers plan a tech-rich unit. And I value this experience very much. First of all, because I always make connections with teachers and have a great opportunity to learn from them. Secondly, I am always learning something new. Teachers are very creative personalities and always come up with great and sometimes crazy ideas – for example, asking students to make an interview with Joana d’Arc. How can this lesson be embedded with technology? Hmm….? Can we make it look like a news report? What other tools can students use to make it more interesting and attractive?
Working with other teachers is constantly motivating me to search for new online tools, which are showing up day by day and become better than before. Sometimes I get lost. There is so much, but what is the best tool from all of this huge amount? It is time to choose only the best few..
Even now it is incredible how many resources I’ve discovered since the COVID-19 situation has occurred. I thought I know so many of them, but this situation has opened my eyes widely.

Till now I used to plan technology-rich units according to the following steps:

  • Use my research skills to find the best resources relevant to my curriculum online.
  • Search domains such as org, edu, gov etc.
  • Read the policy to make sure the resource is GDPR compliant.
  • Search for resources and suggestions from other teachers on Twitter.
  • Communicate about the new tools with other teachers of technology integration from other international schools to sharing ideas and experience.
  • Discover possible field trips, related to the content I teach.
  • Analyze how students will benefit from certain technology.
  • Combine various tech tools for one unit for formative and summative assignments.
  • Use my favorite online tools for students to explore – simulations. They create connections with real-world and real situations. The best ones I prefer – NSTEENS and CK-12.

After doing some research and spending time analyzing the experience of my colleagues, I would add some new ways and changes to my planning process for my future tech-rich units.
I loved reading Kim Cofino’s recommendations and will definitely include them in my planning process.

  • First of all, I will think about what I want students to know and be able to do at the end of this unit.
  • Secondly, I will make my teaching content related to students’ real-life and experiences as much as possible.
  • Thirdly, I will think about possible connections with professionals who could tell students more about certain topics we learn and inspire them with real-life experience and success. I will try to find people from families or communicate with professionals online. This could be a great resource for Skype in the Classroom.
  • The fourth step is to think of how to create a possibility for students to share their experience with a wider audience and even their peers. Other students from the same grade level from other schools is always a great audience for sharing and exchanging.

However, I really do believe the most important step in designing a technology-rich unit is ensuring that you are starting with the student learning goals and outcomes for whatever content area you’re working on. Kim Cofino

Making connections with the real-world is about geeking out

Geeking out is an interest-based process that pushes young people to seek for knowledge as well as feedback, that is usually actively encouraged by people with the same interests. People can even be famous and well known in certain communities. That is an exciting learning process.

Although generally considered marginal to both local, school-based friend-ship networks and to academic achievement, the activities of geeking out provide important spaces of self-directed learning that is driven by passionate interests.
Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)


Creators across different communities often describe an inspiring moment when they received positive feedback and suggestions from a fellow creator whom they respected. It raises the interest in the process and shows how valuable and fun can geeking out be. Of course, we should always be aware that safety first and students should always have in mind that the online world is full of dangers and they have to use critical thinking, no matter how fun and engaging the process of geeking out is!

Learning something new. A new exciting journey reaching for success.

It might be frustrating

Learning something new is one of the best ways to get to the point of real happiness. The learning process changes us and the way we see the world. Moreover, learning new things physically changes our brains.

My First Prussian Ceramics pot

I’ve experienced these effects myself when I started learning… pottery. I did have some knowledge of working with clay, but it wasn’t enough, because I was lacking necessary practical skills. I felt that this was a real push out of my comfort zone. However, I was lucky because I had a chance to participate in the pottery camp, where I could make connections with peer students and professional teachers, which allowed me to learn from all of them and… feel more confident about my own little successes. On the other hand, while at the camp I didn’t have to make my own research on Prussian ceramics – my teachers did it for me and taught me about it. However, later on, I realized that in order to continue improving my pottery skills, I need to do my own research online.
At the ceramics camp, all of my teachers who were masters of ancient pottery were also very different personalities. One of them taught me how to work slowly and patiently, another was giving me recommendations on how to develop my motor skills better and work faster, and the third teacher advised me to feel the clay and its plasticity and always think of it as if it was alive. All of the advice led me to success after all. However, according to Ramit Sethi How to Acquire Any New Skill in 20 Hours or Less article learning a new skill usually is frustrating and it happened to me as well. It would sometimes take me three days to finish a piece of pottery that would require just 3-5 hours of work because of unavoidable moments of frustration which naturally appears during the learning experience. This experience made me comprehend how my students feel while learning something new.

Messing around and research

Messing around is an important part of the learning process. According to the researchers (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008) “When messing around young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.” Messing around purposefully leads the learner to specific research about the learning object. It is mostly a self-directed process that leads to searching for information of interest online. It also includes social moments – people (accidentally or on purpose) exchange and discuss relevant information which is a great way of learning something new. Messing around definitely brings meaningful results/impact on the learning of young people.

Connected Learning

Young people today have the world at their fingertips in ways that were unimaginable just a generation ago.” (Digital Media and Learning Research Hub)
That’s why these days young people have more potential than ever before for learning online and connecting with other learners or even experts. Young people get this process naturally, without any fear. Actually, we, teachers, also could learn this ability from our students.
In the article Learning that Connects by Ph.D. Mimi Ito, emphasizes the importance of the role of educational institutions that need to connect young people’s learning to their social lives, communities, interests, and careers.
“It’s critical that we leverage new technology to build stronger connections between our educational institutions and the world at large. Educational institutions need to connect young people’s learning to their social lives, their communities, their interests and their careers.”

My goal is to learn something NEW

Messing around looking for what new skill I might want to learn brought me to a great finding – an amazing article from Online Course report about 30 most lucrative skills you can learn online. It contains mostly free online resources helping you develop a skill of your choice and many of you might find it useful.

While thinking about the new skill I am going to learn, I am purposefully using my digital research skills to find ideas of what that skill could be and how could I develop it quickly. Since I am teaching my lower school students programming basics (block-based visual programming using Scratch or Hour of Code), I would like to dig into a real programming language such as HTML. While messing around I started focusing more on this topic and as a result, I found some good online resources: The Odin Project and Khan Academy. These resources will help me learn HTML and after a course, I will be completely comfortable with creating a web page and understanding element structure of any other internet page online! In order to expand my horizons while learning, I’ll keep on searching for more resources and will engage in social media channels specializing on this topic in order to build my learning connections.

But how much can you really learn in a very limited amount of time? While learning a new skill I would like to reach the level of knowing enough to self-correct/self-edit. I love this advice of Josh Kaufman on this topic: The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU. Josh Kaufman recommends starting with deconstructing a skill and breaking it into small pieces. Since my ultimate goal is to learn the basics of HTML programming language, I could split it into smaller goals of learning certain structures, elements and object types. To be honest, I am already feeling a little bit worried if I will be able to achieve the ultimate goal of learning HTML, but this makes me even more curious and I can’t wait to begin and see what could be reached and learned in 20 hours.

Action plan for learning a new skill

Here is my action plan for learning a new skill:
Mess around by searching for the best online resources for learning programming languages.
Deconstruct the skill of my choice.
Make my online research looking for new social media connections I could benefit from while learning HTML.
Establish a routine for developing my new skill. Find an hour in my day for silent focused practicing.
Search Twitter using #HTML and other related hashtags to find more information and resources that will support my learning.
Use the platforms I’ve already discovered – Khan Academy, and The Oden project.
Post my experience on Twitter using the #HTML and utilize social media to ask specific questions or advice.
I am ready…. 🙂

How might this learning experience help me empathize with learners in my classroom/school?

Having written this blog post I’ve realized that even planning of putting myself into the “learners'” chair already made me understand the feelings and frustration of my students much better. Moreover, now I see how much students and learners can benefit from simple messing around and connected/online presence. I’ve once again reminded myself that no matter how big the problem or task is – we can achieve or resolve it by creating a good plan and splitting it into multiple smaller sub-tasks, which are realistic and achievable. I think that using this approach young learners in my school would be more confident and comfortable while facing even the biggest challenges.