Reading workshop has always been one of my favourite areas of the curriculum to teach. An opportunity to read a range of books, open students minds to genres and books they would not necessarily reach for, and a chance to facilitate discussions, questions and ideas that come about from the rich learning that takes place. My goal for this project was to take my learnings from the Coetail course, and find ways to integrate technology into an existing tech-less reading unit. This would then give them the tools they need to communicate, collaborate and create at a global level, also in line with my school’s missions of ‘Signifying the real-world connections that this access to technology will bring’.
I pushed myself to introduce a few new learning tools to the class, such as Baiboard 3, and made time to collaborate with the tech integrationist to ensure the digital aspect was sound, yet allowed me to be an integral part of the planning and execution process. When I look back at myself before I began this Coetail Journey, tech was a teaching tool that I felt was there, but just beyond my reach, and one that I was not even grabbing out for unless someone led my hand, and basically did it for me. Today I am actively looking for areas in the curriculum where I think it might be a more effective strategy to use to better the learning of my students, as regularly as I used other teaching tools. Coetail has pushed me to think more deeply about the options that whilst I knew were out there, was not ready to jump into. For this project I took a unit, planned, collaborated and implemented tech throughout – all because I wanted too! This is a revelation!
The project was without doubt a success in that this unit went from zero tech to at least 2 – 3 opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate and or create on a weekly schedule. There are I believe a couple of reasons for these success. The first was the student’s response. The idea that using technology as a tool to learn engages students more was highlighted throughout this unit, as even my less able readers were quicker to engage in the task when they were asked to show their learning digitally. Secondly, I picked apps that the majority of students had already had some experience with, therefore we were not caught up in the actually ‘teach’ part of the tech, this part was secondary so the students were able to keep the end goal I had asked regarding showing their knowledge and thinking, in sight. Additionally, I was forced to take on the mind set that Coetail has pushed me to read about, that I have blogged about, and tried to move in the direction of, as I have moved forwards with the course, and my thinking. I let students make decisions for themselves on how they tackled the projects, allowed them to problem solve when they hit the wall, encouraged them to ‘try it out’, and looked for other students to model ideas and give tech tips. This was and continues to be, challenging for me. As teachers we always want to give our students the opportunity to develop and learn, and when the question goes something like ‘How do I embed google slides to….?’ I am not always ready with the answer, and not sure how to get there other than give the stock answer – “Ask a friend!!!” It’s a learning curve for sure and one I need to keep going with.
As we moved through the unit, I was very keen for the students to be aware, that it was the knowledge that they were showcasing they should keep at the front of their minds when finding ways to demonstrate their thinking. Likewise, I wanted to ensure that the apps were not replacing an already successful and meaningful activity, but instead raising the level of learning. I felt apps such as Padlet, BaiBoard 3 and Today’s Meet were seamless in their integration to the lessons, and from the student’s response and work – effective and engaging. The other apps such as ThingLink and Popplet, whilst effective, did take from that precious reading time we have, but, at the same time, the responses I had, gave me a great resource to check in with their learning, and guide my instruction. This was most evident as we moved into the final celebration projects of an imovie book trailer and a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on a social issue – linked to a social issues. I tried my best to press this point, whilst guiding them in ways they could use the digital tools effectively, so that they highlighted their knowledge and learning, and not just focused on a bunch of, as my father would say, “bells & whistles”.
I am looking forward to revisiting this unit next year and making some tweaks and modifications to it. I hope too that some of my grade level colleagues will look at this unit with fresh eyes when they come to it, and want to take that risk and give the ideas a try for themselves. I know I will.