Category: Collaboration

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.


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. 


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.


The Power of Collaboration

Collaboration in the Classroom

I was always finding this fact that all of us are different, one the most exciting, especially while working in an educational environment. It is amazing, how differently we can see the world around us. This is especially powerful in any collaboration process.

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”Charles Darwin

Why collaboration?

Collaborative learning can occur peer-to-peer or in larger groups. Research shows, that through peer instruction, students teach each other by addressing misunderstandings and clarifying misconceptions (Collaborative Learning – Cornell University)

Collaborative learning has a significant impact on students’ communication and collaboration skills development. Durin collaborative learning students increase the quality of thinking, oral communication, self-management, leadership, self-esteem, responsibility, etc. They develop a higher quality of their social communication which has a big impact on their future life and employment success. (Collaborative Learning – Cornell University) 

Building Collaboration

This time the group of my choice for facilitating a collaboration process was a group of 5 years old students.

Building collaboration in the classroom takes a lot of steps to plan. First of all, we worked on establishing group work rules. We all agreed that being kind to each other is essential in this process. But what does it mean to be kind while working in a group?

We all talked about possible values of our group work. The ideas we all came up with were:

  • all of us are different and can learn new things from each other;
  • some of us might have a better understanding of the concept we are about to learn and can be really good helpers to others;
  • some of us are better experts in using technology and will be able to assist during the lesson.

After talking about the possible values of group work, we all came up with the roles:

  • Technology expert;
  • Timekeeper;
  • Ipad monitor;
  • Class library assistant;
  • Teacher assistant.

Students got a feeling of responsibility right after they got their roles assigned. Of course, some of the roles required explanation for better understanding.

The goal of the class was to explore a new tech tool – Write Reader – a digital online book creator. Digital book creation is already motivating students by its format. As the final result, the book itself looks more like a real book – it contains all the necessary parts – book cover, title, author, page numbers, pictures, labels, etc. Moreover, students can access each other’s book library, see and read each other’s books. This also might be a great way for students to introduce each other culture of their origin – creating and sharing a book about the home country and culture of each student. After the books are printed, students would go to different grade levels to present their books and read them with their buddies. However, this year, with all the COVID limitations, the presentation will most possibly turn into a virtual meeting. However, this process contains a lot of collaboration and communication between students, which is fun and effective.

The main focus was on the following ISTE standards for students:

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.
3d. Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
4b. Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.


The first step of the digital-book creation process was managing student groups. Students were split into groups of 5 students. Students were informed, that during this class each group will be able to request teachers’ help only once. Students were really surprised after they heard this fact, they were all used to get teacher’s assistance at all times. Right before the activity, we discussed the idea of how can students learn without teachers’ constant instructions/reminders during class time? I could see how sharp their minds became, once they realized that after the tool exploration with teacher’s assistance they will have to work only by themselves and learn together with classmates only. We all looked at the new tool, talked about the features and, most importantly about icons, which help us navigate the digital book creator. During the class, I was only reminding, that they can ask groupmates for help.  All groups had to work on the creation of a book title page. Students of each group could share their knowledge and insights on the digital tool navigation. All three groups had to include a different type of animals in their books. One group was exploring animals living in the desert, other groups worked with ocean animals and the last one had to think about animals in the sky. Students had different areas of explorations and according to the type of animal habitat each group had to come up with a certain book design – book color, image, text, etc.

Groupwork outcomes

At the end of the class, we took a moment to discuss what value working in groups gave them? Students explained that they didn’t need teacher’s assistance since they could receive help from their friends, therefore, they didn’t have to wait so much for a teacher’s attention, because their friends could assist sooner. They could share the experience of the icons they’ve explored on WriteReader. Also, a fun part was searching for pictures and sharing with friends in the group.

For planing this group activity I was following most of the recommended steps from 10 Strategies to Build on Student Collaboration in the Classroom article (George Washington University). Such steps like organizing the groups for maximum effectiveness, teaching students listening to each other, or making goals, and expectations, assigning roles, or using real-world problems are key components in any group work. Applying these elements in planning and organizing the student’s group work raised the effectiveness of the process at least more than twice.

Thinking routines

My next step with this group is to organize an activity of thinking routines. First of all, Flipgrid videos with students’ reflection will be really valuable, especially, knowing the fact that students will be able to see each other’s video reflection on the group work experience. This activity includes students’ concerns, which will lead to a further discussion of teamwork values and challenges. I personally find value in using a Mind Map in order to make my thinking visible. This tool is really effective to start learning a new concept and organizing thoughts. I think this might be a great tool to record the student’s reflection on groupwork insights.

Project Zero’s Thinking Routines Toolbox has also caught my attention. One of the routines I liked a lot is “See Think Wonder”. This routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry. It will perfectly enrich my book creation activity. In this case, this Digital Book creator tool successfully supplements any curriculum. In addition, another similar tool is Book Creator – a digital tool that allows more editing opportunities and more flexible tools to unleash the creativity and design skills of your students. My 5 years old students will explore it later in the year.

For more digital tools for thinking routines check out the Tech Tools to Try (with Thinking Routines) in 2020 article. Some additional great activities/protocols for students’ learning can be found here – Critical Friends Group Protocols. This one has a big list of activities and icebreakers for students for middle and high school, however, it is worth attention and better exploration, because some of the activities can be adapted to younger age students.

It is amazing how valuable technology is for educators, especially thinking about the amount of all that information and opportunities to share and exchange. However, we are getting more and more addicted to it. You probably know that disappointing and frustrating feeling of the lost wifi connection during your school day. I strongly believe that all talented educators can teach without technology, but I have to admit, that it is essential to have it right now.