Tagged: Communication

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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It is all about Empathy. The Course #2 Final Project

Our Course #2 final project goal was to create a collection of resources that would help educators teach … Empathy. Empathy was one of the key elements of this COETAIL course. Our main focus was the ISTE standard for Educators 3.a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that builds relationships and community.
Our group (Simona Schultz, Christel Toilier, Paul Mooney, Luis Moreno, and myself) gathered to create a collection of great resources for other teachers. As our team consists of 5 participants, we came up with the title Hi 5! Resources. “Hi 5!” shout out itself sounds very positive and friendly.

A Better World – YouTube

All of us tried to look at teaching empathy from our own perspectives. I’ve developed a unit plan on teaching empathy through online digital tools, empowering students for online communication and collaboration by writing reflective blog posts. By sharing their posts, students could also contribute to the school community. Simona, as an artist, decided to spread kindness teaching empathy through the art lessons and uploaded her lesson plans accompanied by visual materials, created by herself. Paul decided to make his contribution to our website as an IB teacher and relate an empathy topic with his TOK lessons. Luis works as an Educational Technology Coordinator and Christel is Teacher-Librarian at the MHS Library decided to share even more exciting ways to teach empathy.
This collaboration project made us know each other better. Our first communication was via email, however, we came up with a common decision that Twitter Chat would be more efficient for quick and effective communication. One of the collaboration challenges was getting to live communication knowing the fact about the different tines zones we all live at the moment – South Korea, Brussels, Panama, Lithuania…

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

During the Course #2 I was greatly excited and pleased by opportunities of global collaboration. I’ve familiarized myself with such projects as Ematico and PenPal Schools. These resources inspired me for global communication even more. Even after a great experience of 7 Traveling Tales 🙂 Participation in similar projects is very effective while teaching empathy – you can see it grow with the involvement of every additional school and student from somewhere out there in the wide world.

Working on this project I felt even more nostalgic about our school. This school year we are not coming back to school because of the pandemic, even though it has passed it’s highest peak in our country. I feel that mostly I would like to come back to school and teach the unit about empathy as well as empower students’ communication and contribution to our small school community. Can’t wait to test it out 🙂

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