My Edtech. Journey-Summing It All Up!

April is here and the end of our EC&I 834 class is nearing! I can’t believe how much I have learned and grown in so many ways. Looking back, I was very nervous when I looked at the syllabus. I wasn’t sure how I was going to create a blended learning class and learn new forms of technology in 4 short months. But step by step, it happened! I have thoroughly enjoyed Wednesday evening discussions with my classmates and the approachable and comfortable style our professor Katia introduced new information and challenged our thinking and learning. I am pleased to have re-entered the Twitter world and find I am finding lots of professional growth opportunities on this platform. I had been curious about blogging and now look at me…a blogger! Discord was something new to me but it was a great tool that made me feel if I needed any question answered someone would always offer to lend a hand of support. If you ask my students, they would share that having Mrs. Simon take a course about technology has benefited their learning in engaging and skillful ways! Just check out the larger version of their padlet they created about why they love technology and why they like using it in the classroom. Some might say it’s because of the gifs!

Made with Padlet

I had never had a Youtube channel before and now my 10 year old is envious that I can have a channel and wonders why she can’t have one, too!

As I close this post, I want to thank Katia and all of my fellow classmates for your comments and connections throughout our course. I look forward to staying connected on Twitter to see what you are up to and I am sure I will see some of you again as we continue our graduate studies. After feeling a bit burnt out by technology during the pandemic, I feel excited and rejuvenated to integrate authentic online tools and supports into my teaching. It has become part of my daily practice and will continue to guide my planning and instruction to support diverse learners in the future.

Well, here it is! Thank you for checking out my summary of learning created on Canva. It was another tool I have been wanting to dive into and it’s free for educators.

Created on Canva

Here is a list of items referenced in my video.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12Y1Wi9pdI8150-mcDTCFs6wbJ6Yca9Tt5EnOCHm96EA/edit?usp=sharing

Thanks for reading and watching!

-Kendra

ECI 834-Final Course Prototype Overview and Reflection

I can’t believe we are nearing the end of our course as I prepare to submit my course prototype. Looking back, I had nervous thoughts about creating an online course which at first seemed daunting and a bit overwhelming. However, the step by step process outlined for the submission of our projects really helped make things feel more manageable and gain confidence that this was something I could do and have very much enjoyed creating!

Photo by Singkham on Pexels.com

As I started thinking about creating my course prototype, I had a little experience using the Google Classroom LMS platform having used it during our emergency online teaching at the start of the pandemic. However, I now realize that I did not understand all of its features and uses. I was just using it as a basic platform and not for a fully blended learning classroom. In our class we discussed different LMS platforms such as Moodle, Brightspace, Seesaw and Canvas. Although, I liked many of their features I found that Google Classroom best fit the needs and learning level of my Grade 4 students with its simple to navigate features that my students would have no trouble using.

Course Overview

Google Classroom Header Screenshot

When I started thinking about creating a blended course, I knew right away that I wanted to create a course using project based learning and inquiry. I started to gravitate toward Science. I am currently teaching Grade 4 Science to 20 students in rural Saskatchewan so I thought looking at Habitats and Communities would be a great course to create and pull in outside resources and virtual experiences. I started by looking at my school division’s assessment rubric and then curriculum outcomes to plan and create a backwards universal designed course. The course was designed to be a blended learning model used both synchronously and asynchronously depending on the needs of my students. I have taken into consideration the accessibility needs of my students by ensuring students who need a device or internet support will be able to gain access to these tools. I also, have considered students who will need adaptations by providing adapted assessments and extensions such as Google Read and Write to help meet individual learning needs.

I have developed the course around seven different modules. Module 1 is set up as an introduction to habitats and communities and allows the opportunity for me to gauge my students’ prior knowledge. Module 2 is designed for students to create a clear definition about what a habitat is and to explore different types of habitats within a small group research task. As the course moves along, opportunities will be provided for students to start thinking about and building up to creating a project in Module 6 using a choice board. These projects will be launched in Module 7 in a virtual museum for others’ to view.

Virtual Museum Screenshot

As I reflect back on the creation of this course, I have refined and changed many areas from when I initially created my Course Profile which can be viewed here:

https://mrskdsimonsays.wordpress.com/2022/01/31/diving-in-my-course-profile-for-blended-learning/

The Creation Process

It has been quite a process building and refining my course prototype. The more I explored and learned during class through our discussions and lectures, the more thoughts I had about how I could strengthen my course for learners. I especially enjoyed learning about all of the educational tools I could use in my course. I was so excited to test drive them with my students! Together we explored Padlet, Jamboard, Flipgrid, Kahoot and Quizzez. Their honest feedback helped me decide which tools would be appropriate to use in my course. Their top 2 favourites were Flipgrid and Padlet because they enjoyed making engaging posts and videos. They taught me how easily it was to add a gif to their Padlet and boy did they run with that! Reviewing these two tools in my previous blog post helped me figure out which tools I should implement in my course. I have ended up using Flipgrid in Module 1 to create an engaging activity designed to build community and get my students excited about our learning on habitats and communities. As I reflected on how to engage learners at home who may be accessing the course. I kept going back and forth between using Zoom and Google Meet. When discussing this dilemma with my fellow classmates, there were both pros and cons to using both tools. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need to pick one over the other because they will have different uses within our blended classroom. Google Meet will be used for students to meet in their small groups. I chose this tool because it is embedded right within the Google Classroom in the left column for students to quickly click on. Zoom will be used when accessing guest speakers. I find most outside resources use this platform. My plan is to use this tool for listening to elders and when accessing virtual learning experiences from the Saskatoon Zoo Society. The link will be placed in the particular module it is needed for.

Over the February break, I spent time really setting up my course shell and module 1. I designed module 1 to be an Introduction to the course.

Module 1 Screenshot

The first task for students is to watch my instructional video going over the learning target and the tasks in the module. Students then need to complete a pre-assessment on habitats and communities using Google Forms. I also created an adapted assessment using pictures for my students who are unable to read and/or type their responses. Once completed students are asked to create a Flipgrid video sharing their favourite space in their habitat. I created an example video to share with them. The next task is to comment on their classmates’ videos. Finally, I have asked students to share in a KWL chart using Google Jamboard K-what they Know about habitats and communities and W-What the want to learn about habitats and communities. After creating Module 1, I was able to gain some valuable feedback from my 2 reviewers. I appreciated their recommendations and suggestions which I shared in a previous post here: https://mrskdsimonsays.wordpress.com/2022/03/14/course-feedback-and-accessibility-considerations-eci-834/

Their ideas around adding guidelines for my activities in Module 1 led me to creating checklists for the Flipgrid activities to help students understand what was expected of them. I also appreciated the question around accessibility in regards to low bandwidth. This is something that does present a challenge to many families. My hope is that by surveying and knowing my students’ needs before starting the course, I will be able to work with families to help decrease these barriers.

Creating Module 2 led me to start thinking about how to incorporate group work into my blended learning course.

Module 2 Screenshot

For consistency, I plan to start each module with my instructional video. The next task for students is to create a definition of what a habitat is using Google Jamboard. Students will then be asked to watch a video using Edpuzzle and stop to answer the questions along the way. The big task in Module 2 will be exploring different types of habitats. Students will be placed into six small groups and asked to work together to create a google slide or 2 to add to our slideshow on Different Types of Habitats. I have included a guideline checklist for each group, a planning sheet for each group to work on and the slideshow for groups to add their information about the habitat they researched on. I also made an adapted slideshow for a student who is non-verbal and unable to research independently. The final task in module 2 is for students to complete a self-assessment on how well they worked within their group using Google Forms.

Reflecting Along the Way

As I look back from the beginning of this course, I can’t believe how much I have learned through this process.

  • The weekly small group discussions throughout the course have played a significant part within my learning and refining of my course prototype. Our discussions around what a blended learning course is and the different LMS platforms really helped focus my design. Valerie Irvine’s talk about her work and models made me think about what modality my course should be set up as to best meet the needs of my learners. Thoughts on accessibility related to our readings in the Bates‘ text made me question whether I was allowing all learners access to my course and limiting barriers around accessibility relating to technology and individual learning needs.
  • Our weekly blog posts also helped me grow as I reflected on my course creation. I had never blogged before but was surprised at how valuable it is to look back on my learning and the process as I created my course.
  • Re-connecting to Twitter has also supported the development of my course. The weekly suggestions from my classmates’ were very valuable and helped shape the tools I used in my course. I was also able to connect to many professionals who shared technology tools to support online classrooms such as Alice Keeler and Dr. Catlin Tucker.
  • The readings and last week’s webinar helped me question and re-vamp how I view blended learning. The webinar I chose to watch was “How to Effectively Use Assessment in Online and Blended Learning to Help Your Students Succeed” by Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd. His thoughts around assessment included making sure it was authentic, accessible and continuous. He also shared real examples of projects and assessments students he worked with completed. As I watched the webinar, I was reminded as to why I chose to create my course around project based learning. Today’s learners have content at the tips of their fingertips due to the internet. So as a result, instead of simply teaching content students need to develop 21st century skills to succeed in the current world. Project Based Learning lends itself to this skills development according to this article “How Project Based Learning Builds 21st Century Skills”from Edutopia.
  • Not being afraid to explore and try out new tools has been something that has helped me grow and develop my course. I acknowledge that my technology skills were “forced” to develop as a result of the pandemic and emergency remote learning. However, I have enjoyed having the opportunity to learn about new tools that will enhance my students’ learning as well as my own skills through the development of this course. I did not think I would be blogging and creating instructional videos housed on youtube during my Masters’ program but here I am. One thing I am still learning is how to be concise and to the point as I have had to make my videos over several times!
From Everett Public Schools
https://www.everettsd.org/Page/25540

Final Thoughts

As I conclude this post and share my walkthrough of my course prototype, I will continue to think about how I can build and finish this course to use with my students this Spring. I will be adding more content and can’t wait to share it with my learners. It is a course that I hope to use for years to come. However, I am aware that it will have to be changed and/or adapted in order to meet the needs of my future learners. At the heart of all my teaching is building relationships and creating connections. My hope is that there will be many opportunities throughout this blended learning course for students’ to authentically connect with each other, local knowledge keepers and myself as they grow in their learning and skills.

I hope you enjoy taking a look at my course through this short walk through.

I have also included a link to my teacher slides and notes for the course.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1keY7eOYQJ0oNSHSXbRTEAB0wWgzOAWujpWHhd5lcWec/edit?usp=sharing

Thanks for reading!

-Kendra

Photo by PNW Production on Pexels.com

Course Feedback and Accessibility Considerations-EC&I 834

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

This weekend was all about feedback for me as I dived into report cards and reviewed the feedback given by two of my classmates on Module 1 of my course prototype. I appreciated the thoughtful and encouraging words Jacquie and Amaya shared regarding my course and the items they felt were strong in my prototype. They shared that they liked my course outline and “I can…” statements so students clearly know what they are working on. They also found the pre-assessment through google forms to be a tool that would help me gauge prior knowledge and adjust my course as needed. The Flipgrid activity for students to share their favourite space in their habitat was also well received and thought to be engaging for students. I am glad my thoughts around including these activities were positively accepted and seen as purposeful.

I also appreciated how thorough they went through my course to ensure it was up to par and added great suggestions for improvements moving forward. As I am new to creating and saving videos on YouTube, I am thankful that my link was checked and did not work. I was able to go back to my channel and it was listed as private which was an easy fix! They also shared some thought provoking questions for ways I could add to my course to make it easier for my students to understand. These questions and ideas as well as my reflection on each of the were as follows:

  • What kind of pre-teaching would I doing with my students around digital citizenship and learning about technology? I believe that I have been teaching digital citizenship and learning about technology all year within my classroom. This document from the Government of Saskatchewan helps guide conversations around digital literacy. Within, the Good Spirit School Division there are lessons designed to teach students about digital citizenship. I am fortunate to have a wonderful digital learning consultant, Michelle Morley who has helped me guide students in this area and learn technology skills. It is something that I will have worked on throughout the year to ensure students are successful at engaging in my online course.
  • Adding a guideline for students to know what should be included in their flipgrid videos and also a guideline for how to respond to other student’s videos. These are great suggestions that I will add to Module 1 to help my students know what is being asked of them when creating their Flipgrid videos and also how to respond appropriately.
  • Am I considering the bandwidth available if students are working on the course from home? I have surveyed my students and their families throughout the year regarding technology. Before beginning this course, I would talk to families so I would know their needs around accessibility. Perhaps, they may need to utilize a hotspot and a device which our school division provides when needed to support students’ learning at home.
  • I shared that some of my students are on IIPs. What is being done to address their needs and adaptations? For each module, I will create adapted tasks and activities so that my students with exceptional needs will be able to participate in the course. One example for Module 1 is the adapted pre-assessment I created using pictures instead of having the student complete the google form. I also find the option of assigning specific tasks to individual students within google classroom to be a great feature to help support differentiation within the course. Students who need to have tasks read to them will be able to use Google Read and Write. Each module will have instructional videos. If I was using this course with a student who was hearing impaired I would add closed captions to these videos to support his/her needs.

Here is a link to my course introduction and instructions for Module 1. I welcome any additional feedback to strengthen my course for learners.

Accessibility-Questions to Increase Access

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

I found it interesting that the last two questions from my reviewers were about accessibility and access. This tied in well to our last week’s class discussion and the reading from Ch.9 of the Bates text. I really liked the model from Bates regarding SECTIONS. I believe as a teacher you need to know the demographics of the community you teach in to ensure students can have their needs met. I think it is very important to gather information around access and accessibility from all of your students’ families to help plan a course that all students will be able to access without barriers.

These questions are great to reflect on for your own individual circumstance. I do agree that these are NOT questions that are easily answered or implemented. It is not a one size fits all model just like planning for your students. However, using them to guide your planning will help you gather information to support your students in a meaningful way.

Within my own course, I will ensure that student’s accessing the course from home will feel supported whether they are in need of internet through a hotspot or a device to complete the learning, it is my responsibility to connect with my students and their families to help support them to gain access to my course. I plan to video my module instructions so students will be able to gain access at a later time if they have missed school or had low bandwidth. Perhaps, having a trial run with families would help alleviate stress at home before the course launches. This could be done virtually or in person depending on the situation.

Along with knowing my students’ needs regarding access to the course, I also need to consider the individual learning needs of my students such as those that have individualized plans and record of adaptations. I plan to create adapted assignments and tasks for my students based on their skills and needs. For example, one of my student’s requires visual supports which I plan to use when creating assignments for them to complete. Other students will require reading support through Google Read and Write which I will ensure they know how to access. I think using both visual and verbal instructions will help students understand tasks and assignments. I also plan to allow students to submit assignments in a variety of formats such as through video, written, audio to also increase accessibility. These are key considerations I will make when implementing my course this year. However, if I plan to use the course again in the future I will need to make changes and engage in learning about my students’ and their individual needs to ensure accessibility limitations are addressed each year.

Thanks for reading!

-Kendra

Creating Meaningful Interactions in Blended Learning

This week in our EC&I 834 class we discussed how to create community in an authentic way with our students online. I’ll be honest, it had me reflecting back to emergency remote teaching and learning in March 2020. I believe I was simply just navigating how to teach online and provide my students with learning opportunities that I did not spend a large amount of time thinking about how to build a sense of community and/or how to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with each other. We did participate in daily zoom lessons and little activities such as scavenger hunts but as I think back to these moments, I would have done things very differently. I am so glad I get to create new opportunities in my blended learning prototype where building community and providing positive interactions between students and the teacher will be implemented into my course.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Creating Community

As an educator, I use a trauma informed lens like in the article Understanding Trauma-Informed Education when working with my students. Before any learning can occur, a relationship must be built. A pivotal shift as a teacher and parent came from the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld. His work on attachment and that relationships matter really solidified for me that children need secure attachments and relationships to learn and grow. As he states in his TED TALK- Relationship Matter, “relationship is the context in which learning naturally occurs.” I want my students to feel that they belong and feel safe in our classroom community. This is at the forefront of my teaching both in the classroom and online environment. Students need to feel comfortable and supported in order to take risks in their learning.

At the beginning of the school year, I asked students to share a photo of their family. We have showcased these photos on the shelves in our classroom. I want them to see themselves and their families as part of our classroom family. I am thinking about including a similar activity into my course where students would share a space within their habitat that they are most comfortable with and post in our course as kind of an icebreaker activity to build relationships and a sense of community. We also built our classroom expectations together this year and review them daily. At times, they need to be updated or changed. These expectations will also be utilized in our blended learning classroom.

Collaborative Learning

As Bates shared in Chapter 4.4 , it is important that learners have clear expectations and guidelines for behaviour, understand their role and know the goals for their learning. In order to create a strong collaborative learning process, I will spend time helping students understand what is expected. We will come up with additional expectations for how to collaborate and interact with each other online before beginning our course. Creating student jobs’ when working in groups will help keep students on track and understand their role within the group. Each member will be responsible for a task and will help them be accountable for the learning process. For collaborative work within my course, I would utilize Padlet for brainstorming at the beginning of our course about what a habitat is and continue to utilize this tool to gauge students’ background knowledge as we move along through our course. I would also use Jamboard to set up a KWL chart to share knowledge and questions to drive learning during the course. Jamboard would also work well for students to use when they are beginning their project work. It would be used a collaborative tool for students to put their thoughts and ideas on in their small groups. When creating their projects for our course, students will be able to utilize Google Docs for their research findings in their groups and may choose to use Google Slides to create their final project with. Flipgrid would be used to as a discussion tool throughout the course to assess student learning and provide opportunities for self-reflection and feedback to each other. I really liked when Katia shared the video students created on “How to Write a Quality Comment”. This activity made me think about how as a class we could create something similar for providing feedback to students’ posts and videos in our course. We could create a simple how to video based on our discussion together in person and virtually and come up with a top five list for giving feedback to others’ work. This would naturally be another stepping stone to what we have already been doing in the classroom when providing feedback to our classmate’s projects using the template 2 Stars and a Wish from Learn Love Grow.

Additionally, I see my students using Zoom Breakout Rooms for for collaborative work and small group learning. I may use Google Forms for ongoing assessment of their learning and to give feedback to each other throughout our course. Utilizing these tools for student collaboration and interaction will support relationship building regardless of whether students are able to be in the classroom environment or accessing the course virtually. I chose these tools to promote student collaboration and engagement. It will give students’ the opportunity to learn from others, engage in meaningful activities and provide time for reflection and sharing feedback in order to develop their critical thinking skills and learning.

Teacher-Student Interactions

Helping students, learn to navigate this blended learning course will challenge me to ensure my assessments are supporting their learning as we move forward. Katia shared the Voice Recorder Pro app during class. I believe this tool would be a great tool for giving students feedback throughout the course. Each student has their own individual email address which I could send my recordings to for students to listen to privately. I also really like the video comments I could send back to students on their Flipgrid posts. I believe this feature would be great for my elementary learners who may not have the best typing skills but are able to share orally. Giving written feedback would also be part of my course through Google Classroom. I appreciate that the Google Read and Write feature will allow students regardless of their reading ability to hear my feedback. I want to be authentically interacting with my students throughout the process and not simply marking the final project. As the article about “Situated Learning” indicates I need to rethink my role as the teacher and instead become the “facilitator of learning” and help students reflect on their progress and create a collaborative environment for learners throughout the course. I see my presence and role within the course as a supportive one, encouraging students to work together, seek deeper understanding and ultimately apply the knowledge they gained throughout the course.

Concluding Thoughts

This week’s post has given me a lot to think about as I move forward in creating my blended learning course. Developing a sense of community will strengthen the collaborative process. Building relationships is vital to ensuring students feel safe and secure to share and try new experiences in their learning. Creating clearly defined expectations and roles will help students’ find their voice, take ownership and be accountable as learners. My role as the educator needs to take a supportive stance. Using ongoing feedback given through different methods, will allow students to see areas that are strengths as well as areas in which they can work to improve upon. I want students to work through the learning process and not simply create a finished product. When looking at the outcomes for my course, I believe it is vital to look at the skills students need to develop in instead of simply teaching the content. Students need to be able to investigate, analyze and assess habitats and communities as stated in the Grade 4 Science Curriculum. I definitely have a lot to think about and plan for moving forward with my course development. I look forward to engaging in discussions with others’ around how to strengthen my blended learning classroom in these crucial relationship building areas.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanks for reading!

-Kendra

Learning from the Learner-Educational Tool Review

This week in our EC&I 834 class we were asked to try out an unfamiliar or interesting content and teaching tool. This was something I was excited to do as I am working toward creating a blended learning course that is engaging and uses purposeful tools for student learning. After changing to emergency remote learning during the early stages of the pandemic, I felt like I had to quickly learn and use tools without much thought into whether my choices truly supported student learning. To be honest, I was a bit tired of using Zoom and Seesaw after having to use it full time. The article Effective Uses of Technology in Elementary School shared that using tools for instruction and to self-reflect on their learning adds a depth to their learning by allowing students choice and the ability to creatively and critically think. As I read Chapter 8 of Bates, Teaching in a Digital Age, I was reminded that the tools we use should help our students gain a deeper understanding by allowing them to use higher level and critical thinking skills. The tools we choose to use with our students need to be able to enhance and drive their learning not simply just be fun to use. However, I do think the fun factor also plays an important role to make the learning engaging and interest sparking.

My learning of some interesting new tools began during our division wide PD last week. Our digital learning consultant, took us through several different tools that we might find useful to use with our students. Two tools stood out to me, Padlet and Flipgrid. Many questions started to rise for me. How could I incorporate these tools into my teaching and learning? What features would I use from the tools to support student learning? Would these tools be easy for my elementary students to use? How better to answer these questions than to have my students dive in and use these tools with me to find out their capabilities, weaknesses and overall use in our classroom!

On Friday, I decided to demo Padlet with my students. I called upon one of my students to be my “tech. consultant” to ensure students could easily access the Padlet link through our Google Classroom. I posed the question “What is important to you?” to my students expecting them to provide one or two word answers creating a sticky note wall. Little did I know they would take it even further adding interesting gifs and graphics to their answers. It was wonderful to see classmates supporting each other through the process of using this learning tool. The sense of classroom community was very strong and joyful in this moment. The result was a highly engaging wall filled with a variety of answers that led to a deeper discussion about who is in our hearts. This interactive wall supported students in producing a short writing piece that day.

Made with Padlet

Today, we began moving into another short writing piece discussing kindness. I chose to use Flipgrid to generate some thoughts and ideas around this concept. I was able to easily embed a short video for students to watch and then as them to respond with their own short videos about what kindness means to them. I often find that reflecting and giving students a chance to think out loud helps them start the writing process in a non-overwhelming manner. Writing is often a daunting task for many students who simply don’t know where to begin.

Padlet vs. Flipgrid Overall Features/Uses

Although, similar in few ways, both tools have different features and uses. Here is an overview of each tool:

Strengths and Weaknesses

Each tool offers its own strengths and weaknesses depending on what features you are looking for. The overall strength of both Padlet and Flipgrid is the sense of building community because it works for students both in the classroom and outside of it. I watched students work together to support each other when we began trying each tool out. They commented on each other’s posts and were giving positive feedback to each other. I also liked that everyone was able to participate even if they were not at school that day because the assignment could be accessed at home through our Google Classroom. Padlet’s main weakness was the limiting ability to create more walls with the basic account. If I want to continue using this tool in my classroom, I will have to pay for an account. The main weakness for me using Flipgrid is that I am not sure how secure the program is with regards to outside access being able to get in. I need to explore this more to ensure my students’ safety and confidentiality will not be compromised. Here is a quick breakdown of overall strengths and weaknesses I found with both tools.

Final Thoughts

I found both Padlet and Flipgrid to be useful tools that I will include in my classroom for instruction and student learning. I see myself using Padlet as a brainstorming tool and to use as an entrance and exit slip to inform my teaching. However, I am uncertain as to whether or not I want to pay for an account. Flipgrid will be used for students to reflect on their learning and to start discussions on certain topics. With both tools, educators need to know the needs of their students to see if students can independently use them or need support. One thing I noted is that you must take student comfort in mind when using Flipgrid. All of my students had no problem using Padlet because it felt safe and anonymous. However, a few of my students were very apprehensive about using Flipgrid to video themselves. My hope is that with more conversations and practice everyone will feel confident in using these tools in our classroom on a regular basis.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Thanks for checking out this post!

-Kendra

Diving In-My Course Profile for Blended Learning

https://edu.google.com/intl/ALL_ca/products/classroom/

Although I have used online platforms for student learning during the pandemic and in my daily teaching, I have not fully utilized it for teaching a course. As I began to think about what I would like to set up for a course, I realized quickly that I wanted it to be something I could use with my students this year. I thought about creating a math course for my learners but my love of science and project based learning kept popping into my head. Valerie Irvine’s article “The Landscape of Merging Modalities” helped me think about which model of blending learning I would be creating for my students based on their needs and experience. I am passionate about creating learning opportunities where students are the “drivers” of their learning which allows for choice, differentiation and a high level of student engagement. So here I go…diving into creating a blended learning course that I will use not only this year but will be able to adapt and use with other learners in years to come.

Course Overview

Welcome to Grade 4 Science! During our 2 month investigation, students ages 8-10 will be learning about habitats and communities. This course is being developed for a rural school with approximately 150 students. This course will be delivered to 20 grade 4 students. The needs of the students include 2 students on Individualized Program Plans as well as several students who struggle with attendance for periods of time. These factors will be taken into consideration to differentiate the learning so it is accessible to all students with supports. Cultural considerations will be taken into account and local knowledge keepers will be asked to share information regarding our local environment in which humans, animals and plants live. This will happen face to face but will be live streamed if needed for any learners at home to take part as well.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Course Delivery

This course will be delivered in the blended learning format. Students will be able to access this course face to face as well as at home using the instructional videos and tasks outlined on the classroom platform. Some of the tasks will be synchronous while other tasks will be asynchronous and can be completed at home or at school. Students in the grade 4 classroom have access to 1:1 Chromebook devices. Students needing to gain access to technology from home are able to sign out a device and/or a hotspot for internet from our school division when needed. Zoom will be used for students from home to join in classroom discussions when applicable. All videos and course materials will be housed on the learning management system (LMS), Google Classroom. This LMS seemed to be the most user friendly for my elementary learners even though others such as Canvas intrigued me due to their sleek, streamlined style. Students will have the opportunity to work together in small groups as well as on an individual basis using project based learning. This could be done using face to face meetings or through Zoom sessions. Students will follow the Launch Cycle structure for their projects. This course is designed to be flexible to student and school needs based on where students need to be learning during the course timeframe; at school and/or remotely.

Course Outline:

Students will be asked to log into our google classroom through the link sent to their individual email addresses. The invite will also be sent through our Seesaw or Edsby communication tools so all families are able to access from whichever platform they are comfortable with. Both platforms are used in our school and I have surveyed families regarding which communication tool they regularly access. Using their 1:1 devices, students will be able to gain access to the course content. It will be set up in learning modules that students will need to work through. The first module will be set up to introduce our topic of study through videos, KWL charts and learning invitations to gage prior knowledge and allow students to develop “I wonder” questions related to habitats and communities. The second module will allow for students to use their questions to begin researching and gathering knowledge to create a prototype to share their learning. A number of choice prototypes will be given so students can differentiate their learning based on individual needs. Once student projects are complete, a virtual museum on habitats and communities will be complied for students to share and launch their learning for others to enjoy.

Course Learning Outcomes and Objectives:

Learning outcome from the Grade 4 Science Saskatchewan Curriculum includes:

HC 4.1 Investigate the interdependence of plants and animals, including humans, within habitats and communities.
HC 4.2 Analyze the structures and behaviours of plants and animals that enable them to exist in various habitats.
HC 4.3 Assess the effects of natural and human activities on habitats and communities, and propose actions to maintain or restore habitats.

Driving Questions for Learning:

  • What is a habitat?
  • What is a community?
  • How are a habitat and community different?
  • How do humans, animals and plants rely on each other? (Interdependence)
  • Describe how different plants live and behave within different habitats.(adaptations)
  • Describe how different animals live and behave within different habitats. (adaptations)
  • How do the effects of natural and human activities affect habitats and communities?
  • What are some ways humans can work to protect and/or restore habitats?
  • What do knowledge keepers from the Indigenous community share about our local environment?

Course Tools:

A variety of tools will be used throughout this course. Google Docs, Slides and Forms will be used for students to answer questions and reflect on their learning process. Google Read and Write will be available for students who require adaptations. Although, there will not be any current EAL students in this course, future adaptations for students who need support in this area would be able to access Google Translate. During the learning invitations and assessments interactive tools such as Kahoot and Edpuzzle will be used. Youtube videos based on our topic of learning will also be embedded within the course. Students will also be able to research their questions using a number of search engines such as Britannica Elementary, Gale in Context Elementary, Wonderopolis, National Geographic Kids and Kiddle. Students can access online reading resources from our library system and on Epic.

Assessment:

A variety of assessment strategies will be used to assess student learning. Formative assessments will include KWL charts, journal reflections, Kahoot, Edpuzzle and classroom observations. A rubric will be used as a summative assessment tool at the end of our learning.

I am excited to venture into setting up a class for my learners. I look forward to feedback, tips and/or any additional suggestions as a I go about creating this blended learning course.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

Thank you for reading!

-Kendra

Growing Pains-Experiences and Perceptions of Blended Learning

What are your experiences and perceptions related to your own use of blended learning and/or technology integration in your professional context? What challenges and opportunities have you experienced?

Photo by Amanda Klamrowski on Pexels.com

As an elementary educator, adding technology and blended learning into my teaching and student learning has been an interesting path. Sometimes I feel I am moving forward at a steady pace, sometimes I am at a standstill and sometimes I feel like things are moving at such a rapid speed it makes me dizzy!

I have always enjoyed exploring new ways to add technology to my classroom. I love using my Smartboard, Document Camera and student devices throughout my day. About 4 years ago, I was asked to jump in and teach Pre Kindergarten in addition to my VP role. Moving into a play based learning environment really made me focus on and think about when students need to begin learning about technology and its uses. Many of my 3 and 4 year old students could easily maneuver an iPad but were unable to demonstrate imaginative play. At this point, I will admit I was a bit turned off about using technology in my classroom. However, I later found its purpose by using Seesaw to document the learning of my students through e-portfolios. The instant communication and feedback parents were gaining through this process made me see how valuable technology is within the classroom today.

Like many educators in March 2020, we were asked to drastically change our teaching practice by moving to remote learning. It was a very quick transition with many trials and errors. During this time, I took ownership of my learning and attended many PD opportunities put on by our school division’s fabulous Digital Learning Coach, Michelle Morley. I worked with my colleagues to create a Learning Management System (LMS) where students could access learning while at home. We primarily used Google Classroom. However, I believe we did not use to its full potential as our online classroom. We also zoomed daily with students and staff. Learning how to navigate zoom etiquette with a six year old definitely presents challenges. During our three months at home, I valued the amount of knowledge I gained using technology and allowing it to become part of my professional practice.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

As we moved back to face to face learning, I began to use technology and dabbled in blended learning in my daily practice. I primarily used a blended approach when students were isolating at home. I found John Spencer and AJ Juliani’s model “The Launch Cycle” as a helpful process to implement project based learning across the subjects of Science and Social Studies. Setting up driving questions for students to investigate and research created a new level of engagement and enjoyment for my students using technology and a blended learning approach. This allowed all students regardless of whether they were able to attend in person learning or not to participate in our classroom.

As I continue to move forward in using technology and a bit of blended learning in my daily practice, I couldn’t fully figure out where I fit and how to define these approaches to teaching and learning.

In our January 19th class, having to come up with a definition of blended learning made me think about my current beliefs and thoughts. I initially found myself thinking blended learning was an all or nothing approach. Tony Bates‘ continuum of blended learning made me shift my thinking and recognize that blended learning requires me to examine my personal beliefs, recognize my strengths and weaknesses and begin to learn and gather information regarding best practices for student learning.

This paradigm shift made me recognize that like my learners, adding technology and blended learning into my teaching practice will change and develop over time just like learning continuums for our students do as they grow and acquire new skills. Just as no two learners are alike, no two teachers are alike in their use of technology and blended learning. It is truly an individual’s journey filled with discomfort, momentous occasions of triumph when things go as planned and constantly evolving to meet student needs’ and keep up with technological advancements.

I have experienced several challenges and opportunities in integrating technology and blended learning into my professional practice.

Opportunities

  • Student centred growth with a focus on skill development instead of content specific teaching of the curriculum
  • Increase in student engagement due to serving a variety of learning styles
  • Providing students the opportunity to learn 21st century skills
  • Advancing skills in use of technology for my students and self
  • Being connected to families who would not traditionally be comfortable visiting the school to discuss their child’s progress
  • Helping families see the value in using technology to support their child’s learning at school and at home.
  • Connecting to resources such as guest speakers out of our local context for knowledge and learning

Challenges

  • Having up to date devices for students to use daily at school and at home
  • Internet issues and troubleshooting that delays learning experiences
  • Engaging students in daily learning experiences from home
  • Changing traditional ways of viewing school from parents, staff and the larger community ie. paper and pencil tasks, booklets
  • Supporting families who do not have access to or the financial means to have technology at home
  • Encouraging staff to take risks with their teaching using technology and blended learning

There are still many questions I am pondering as I continue learning more about blended learning in my EC&I 834 class and daily practice including:

  1. Which LMS best serves the needs of my early learners for blended learning?
  2. How do I increase and support family engagement with blended learning?
  3. What would a continuum of learning based upon technology skills look like at the elementary level so students can gain skills as they navigate learning in a blended model?

As I continue to move forward learning about technology and blended learning, I am reminding myself of how far I have come and how far I can still go! I owe it to myself and my students to keep pushing forward and become better at using technology and blended learning to support my students now and in the future.

Thanks for reading!

-Kendra

Hello-January 16, 2022

My name is Kendra Simon and I am the Vice-Principal and Grade 4 teacher in a Prek-Grade 4 School in rural Saskatchewan. I have been an educator for 17 years, spending 9 years as a Student Support Teacher and the past 7 years as a Vice-Principal. This year is my first year at a new school after teaching at my previous school for 16 years. It has been a big change but has afforded me the opportunity to see things from a new lens. I am passionate about student well-being and learning. I strongly believe that children only learn from adults they trust and know are in their corner cheering them on! This is my first class towards my Masters of Education which I am excited and a bit nervous about. I am looking forward to becoming more skillful at meeting the needs of my students through technology.

When I am not at school, I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband Chris and I have been married for 10 years in April. We were blessed to welcome our 10 year old daughter, Shanelle through the gift of adoption 2 years ago. We enjoy family movie nights on Disney, curl up with a good book, walking our 2 year old lab cross named Stella and all things outdoors like sliding in the winter and camping in our trailer throughout Saskatchewan in the summer.

Photo Credit: @april.grace.photography

Goals for EC& I 834:

  1. After having to pivot to remote learning in an instant in March 2020, I realized how ill-equipped I was teaching in the digital world. Although, I worked hard to create a LMS for my students in a moment’s notice, I realized that it was an area of practice I could improve upon. Therefore, I am excited to further my learning regarding blended learning and its benefits to support student learning.
  2. My second goal is to create a strong learning platform for my students. I already use Seesaw as a learning tool and have used Google Classroom in the past. I believe I could be using them with greater impact on student learning. I wish to create an engaging platform in which students feel like they are part of a learning community.
  3. As a leader in my school community, I also wish to use my learning to support consistency of practice within our school yet encourage staff to think out of the box using technology to support learning. I know that each staff member uses various platforms to engage students in learning. What I hope to support and help find solutions for is the ongoing frustration staff feel when students are not engaging in online learning, technology challenges faced by students and staff, and ensuring we are creating platforms that provide meaningful learning opportunities for all students.

You can find me on Twitter https://twitter.com/MrsKSimon

Learning, Literacy and Leadership

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