Course 4 Final Project – Still Tinkering!

‘Re-design a unit from the ground up, to embed technology meaningfully and authentically as a means to enhancing learning “.  Coetail 4 – Final Project. Wow. This is an area that I have constantly revisited as I have blogged my way through my Coetail experience. I have agreed, disagreed, wondered and all the rest, through the different courses and kept coming back to agreeing with the tech part, with this very line that Coetail is now asking me to come good at. So this is my chance to deliver I suppose what I keep talking about should happen. And now I am a little scared to say the least! Coetail has taken me on a journey of learning in a world I was stepping in and out of when it suited me. So now I need to actually put into practice what I have kept blogging about, find a unit and ensure it has a balance of instruction that will engage and reach out to all learners, whilst ensure the learning is engaging, authentic and deeper.  At this point, the completion of the post below has now given me a clearer idea of what perhaps my students would benefit more from at this point, but still, the jury is still out on my final decision. Watch this space!

Option 1 – Genius Hour

Genius Hour Brainstorming - courtesy of Cheryl Harrington

Genius Hour Brainstorming – courtesy of Cheryl Harrington

1. Describe the project: What will your students do? Students will work will be guided through the Genius Hour Unit. This is an approach to learning where students are guided by their own passions, interests, background knowledge, and curiosity to learn. They will have opportunities to think about their own passions and interests. Students will watch videos and discuss the importance of thinking deeply, and beyond the initial topic of interest. They will be asked to have a question that relates to something they are curious to learn more about, which will drive the inquiry project, take time and deep thought to answer. Students will then embark on the research aspect of this project using a variety of resources to answer their question. Finally they will decide how they wish to share their project with their peers, and with the wider community as well as a time for viewing their peer’s projects, and a reflection process.

2. How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL? Coetail asks us to ‘re-designing a unit from the ground up, to embed technology meaningfully and authentically as a means to enhancing learning “. Genius Hour is currently something that teachers in my school, are encouraged to include in their schedule, but it is not an expectation, and indeed for many teachers not something that is on their radar. This is something that I do do in my class, but more when I see I can make it ‘fit’ with the time I have available. It runs more according to how each lesson plays out, and in what direction the student’s inquiry goes. Therefore I would be creating a unit from scratch which I believe would have more direction and ‘meat’ to the instruction element, instruction which would reflect my COETAIL learning.

3. What goals do you hope to achieve with this project? Coetail has covered a range of learning options that are relevant to our students thinking and their future. Areas such as visual literacy, flipped classrooms, project based learning, gaming…. , all of these learning opportunities encourage creativity and options for students to think ‘outside of the box’. As does Genius Hour. By committing to building and implementing this unit, it would be a great opportunity to embed and or revisit skills in technology, without fear of it infringing on core curriculum instructional time – which is a constant issue. Both I and the

Genius Presentation - Courtesy of Cheryl Harrington

Genius Presentation – Courtesy of Cheryl Harrington

students would truly be able to ‘tinker’ with ideas and some new technology tools. Many of the ideas we have covered through Coetail such as digital citizenship, could be covered authentically and meaningfully. When I implemented Genius Hour before, technology has been only covered through the use of presenting resources from either mine or the students end. Now, I feel I could factor in more engagement, collaboration and learning opportunities, into a unit that has so much to offer.

4. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project? This unit, whilst requires students to produce an independent project, has various opportunities for students to collaborate, and be exposed to a variety of different apps and digital tools. For me personally, I am able to include opportunities for students to experience these learning tools that are not constrained by the requirements of meeting standards or connected to a formal assessment or reporting requirement.

5. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit? I am hopeful that as I am giving the students a broad theme to inquire from, there is plenty of scope for freedom of choice. I plan to revisit Genius Hour three times this academic year, and in this first unit plan to give the students some boundaries with their choice areas of research. This is based on previous experience of running this unit, when (whilst the majority of my students will be able to cope with the independence needed to create a project) my weaker students struggled to make choices that were beyond a basic research project. I am also concerned that they chose technology as their ‘go to’ for the presentation aspect, with no thought as to why this tool would be the best choice. Additionally,  if technology is the best choice, no thought is given to what options of apps are there for this project, instead choosing the one app they are familiar with. I want the children to be comfortable with their learning, but at the same time LEARN from this opportunity, which may require them to come out of their comfort zone.

6. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you? As a teacher I am always looking for ways to extend the students learning in an area that they are interested in, and love it when there are opportunities for students to share with others something they are passionate about. Allowing students to have this choice & freedom also means as a teacher I need to ‘let go’, and (whilst conference, encourage, model and suggest), I must allow the students to ultimately make the choices themselves it I wish for them to take on their learning and learn from their choices (successful or otherwise). I do find it difficult to guide when a child is using an aspect of technology that I am unfamiliar with, as I feel out of my depth and not always able to push them/challenge/advise them etc and this is something that I want to figure out a way of doing better at.

7. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Listening Skills
  • Ability to work independently & self direction
  • Ability to set (realistic) goals & time frames to complete work
  • Organisational skills – ensure resources are available.
  • Reflective
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Reading the Book – Photo Courtesy of PEXELS c/o Creative Commons

OPTION 2 – Embed technology into a Gr. 5 Reader’s Workshop Unit.

  1. Describe the Project :

Embed elements of technology into an existing Gr. 5 Reader’s Workshop Unit  (Interpretation Book Clubs: Analyzing Themes)  that currently has no technology. The intention will be to deepen the students learning regarding their reading skills, as well as give opportunities for students to be made aware of and have exposure to alternative tools (digital) of learning.

  1. How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

This project reflects my learning from COETAIL because it is taking a unit that currently exists with no aspect of technology whatsoever (other than delivering teacher information to students) and redefining it to ensure that technology is embedded into the newly improved unit.  My post titled ‘ Apps that Make a Difference & Impact the Learning in My Classroom’  talked about using ipad apps that gave students opportunities to be collaborative, creative and deepen the learning. I feel this reading unit gives several great possibilities in which we can do this and ensure that these digital tools are enhancing the learning of the students.

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

4, Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

I think this unit is a good possibility for my Course 5 project because it is currently dry of any technological tool. I do not think this is because someone has decided that the lessons and options of learning are better off without the embedding of any tech, I think it just that the unit is now dated and therefore, as with any good practice, it is ideal to take another look at the lessons, reflect on them, rethink/tweak/change/ add too and, move forwards. This is a great unit to home in on some direct instruction for as well as the opportunity to revisit and or improve on the knowledge of specific apps revisited in the past. In this way, the technology will not take chunks of time away from the learning, and it will allow students to be shown alternative options on how to present their knowledge. Technology is now another tool that should be considered as we plan our units, and this unit is in need of some love with regards to this!

  1. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

As I have mentioned, this unit currently has no tech embedded into it. Therefore I feel even one change involving technology, would be an improvement if only to reach out to all learning styles. As many of us recognise, technology does engage kids and what better way to reach out to those reluctant readers! Having said that, the reading standards, assessment requirements and a desire to encourage a love for reading in my students has to be the main goals of this unit. I am concerned what I may perceive as ‘great tech choices’ for this unit, will not be the case, and I will find students missing the opportunity to develop their reading skills, focusing more on the opportunity to ‘tinker’ on an ipad….

  1. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

If I am to be successful with my methods and instruction related to embedding technology in this unit, I am going to have to truly put to bed that ‘fixed mindset’ and talk back to it with a ‘growth mindset’! It’s easy to talk the talk, but I need to walk the walk as I develop and put this newly revised unit into play. And be ok if it doesn’t quite how I envisaged. I need to take a breath!

  1. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students.
  1. Ensure that the knowledge asked for, is demonstrated in final products of learning.
  2. Ability to follow directions and meet deadlines.
  3. Problem solver.
  4. Collaboration
  5. Risktakers
  6. Creativity
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