Monthly Archive: April 2021

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.

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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.

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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?

 

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