Introducing Final COETAIL project: CARP Jr (Week 1 Progress)

For my final COETAIL project I have designed a 6-week unit on visual literacy elements aimed at lower primary (KG-G2).I was particularly interested in how lower primary students can access the complex language of the CARP design principles. I decided to remix Keri-Lee Beasley‘s model into an interactive Google Presentation, as shown below. My previous COETAIL post, CARP Jr, details why I chose this project as well as outlines the 6 week unit.

The first week of introducing the CARP acronym went well! In my role as EdTech Coach, the G1 classroom teacher and I agreed to team-teach this lesson. This allowed me to present and introduce the terminology (using the above Google Presentation) as well as make some connections for students. Meanwhile, the classroom teacher observed, and then took over after the group activities to make deeper connections to other learning.

Week 1: What is C.A.R.P?

We started the lesson looking at the examples (printed on paper) of “I Love My Dog Bingo”. Students needed to come up with something they liked and something they thought could be improved. It was difficult for them to come up with vocabulary to describe it. However many of them noticed that it was hard to see some of the writing, and that the pictures didn’t represent what the text said.

Then, we went through the CARP presentation together (above Google Presentation) and learned the terminology using kinesthetics (clapping out the syllables) and enunciating the parts of each word. I carefully crafted each poster to reinforce the meaning of each word:

Some students were able to make connections to words like Repetition, as they had learned this word in music. It was an excellent opportunity to apply reading strategies and the classroom teacher helped make links with certain words they were learning. One clear example was when they were sounding out Alignment, they kept getting stuck on the ‘g’. The teacher made a connection to their Science unit on Light and Sound and they quickly made the connection to the ‘silent g’ in light and were able to sound out Alignment more or less independently. It helped that the CARP poster I created for Alignment also had lines on it:

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After the initial tuning-in to the language of C.A.R.P, students had the opportunity to revisit the “I love my dog Bingo” posters. In groups, they tried to find one area (from CARP) that could be changed to improve the poster. For most of the students, they were able to explain what was wrong but had trouble remembering the exact term. Referring to the CARP posters above the SmartBoard helped them make connections to the words. Each group presented their poster and shared which element of design would improve the layout.

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A group of 4 students had examined this poster together. Since we are not permitted to release videos of certain students, an example of some of the dialogue between the teacher and student is as follows:

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Student A (pointing to the grey text): “We need to change the colour.”

Teacher: “Would changing the colour be Contrast, Proximity, Alignment or Repetition?”

Student A: “Hmmm…I think Contrast…”

Teacher: “Yes, ‘Contrast’ so it pops out…remember ‘C-Colour’ begins with a ‘C’ and ‘C-Contrast’ begins with a ‘C'”

The classroom teacher helped to reinforce the vocabulary making connections to what the students were saying. The visuals on the poster were also helpful when students were trying to be precise about the terminology, though since a majority of the class have some ESL needs, most will need to hear these new words many more times to remember them.

Next we will be unpacking each word in more detail, doing some hands-on activities to see what Contrast looks like and having a go at modifying some digital media with better Contrast.

Teddies, Tech & PBL

I’ll never forget the first time I learned about CBL (Challenge-Based Learning) in the classroom. It was while working in Indonesia with Jane Ross, and I learnt about her multi-touch eBook Challenge Based Learning in IndonesiaIt’s hard to believe this book was published just 3 years ago (2012) because already technology has evolved so much!

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Jane Ross’ free Multi-touch eBook available through iBooks

 

Students were using just an iPod Touch to document their investigation into ‘Sharing the Planet’ and understanding how resources can be more evenly distributed. In this eBook she details her scaffolded approach to tuning students into the concept, posing questions to relevant real-world problems in Indonesia, and the steps students took to find solutions and help the local landfill community. Groups of students identified 3 main issues and used these problems to drive their inquiries and find solutions. What I also love is how she took a transdisciplinary approach and math, literacy, social studies and even music were embedded into the learning process.

Below are 3 screenshots from the eBook which highlight the transdisciplinary approach:

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eBook Screenshot 1: Looking at one issue in the landfill community: Not Enough Light
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eBook Screenshot 2: Students investigate solutions using problem-solving and other math skills.
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eBook Screenshot 3: Another issue in the landfill community that children investigated: Not enough safe shelter.

 

I highly recommend any primary/PYP or middle school/MYP teacher to download this free eBook and get inspired in their own classrooms.

My past experiences with Project Based Learning

Since learning about CBL I’ve been working to embed more project-based learning experiences in my own classroom. Two years ago, Jane Ross and I led a collaborative eBook project with Yayasan Santi Rama, a local school for the deaf – and the traditional task of co-publishing a story was enhanced and redefined to encompass video footage of students signing in Indonesian Sign Language. The final product was a trilingual eBook, showcased in the below video:

A more detailed account of the process can be found here on my personal blog: Collaborative eBooks with Indonesian Sign Language.

The Buck Institute for Education defines PBL (Project-Based Learning) as the following:

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  • Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
  • Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  • Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.
  • Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
  • Public Product Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

In my current role as EdTech Coach I’ve been collaborating with another Coetailer, @Joyw to bring Project-Base Learning opportunity to a few Grade 1 and Kindergarten classrooms. We have signed up with Pana Asavavatana‘s Traveling Teddybear Project and just this week introduced the idea to a grade 1 class. This project connects schools and students around the globe using Twitter, Skype and Easy Blogger Jr as means for communicating and sharing about Freddy’s adventures in the classroom. Since our bear, Freddy, isn’t due to arrive until February we are using this time to build questions and inquiry around the bear and all his various locations.

To tune students in, we gave students the opportunity to ask questions to find out who the Mystery Guest would be. Joy led them on a questioning journey by presenting a map and going through the Inquire & Connect cycle, as detailed on her blog. Afterwards, I gave them three clues using Google Slides:

Students then had opportunities to share their connections and prior knowledge about teddy bears in general. This innovative project fits perfectly in the context of the KG & G1 curriculum at our school and also meets the PBL criteria as outlined by BIE.

PBL Criteria #1: Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills: 

Grade 1 students are learning about ‘Homes’ and have already explored different kinds of homes around the world. After students guessed that a Teddy (named Freddy) is coming to visit, we briefly explored his blog and looked at different places he had been (Singapore, Mongolia and California..so far). Students are also learning about how they organise themselves, and over the next few weeks we will develop goals with them and prepare a plan for when Freddy visits. This project also allows for transdisciplinary skills to be practiced such as: communication, research and social skills as they find information about Freddy the Teddy and practice digital citizenship skills on a public forum.

Further investigation & planning needed…

Since we are still in the ‘Tuning-In’ phase of inquiry, we have yet to develop a question (PBL Criteria #2) that could drive Freddy’s visit while he is here. As we go deeper into this project I will document how we address the various criteria of PBL in the context of our Grade 1 and Kindergarten classrooms.

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2015: Back to the Future Syndrome

It’s 2015: Is the future finally here?

Rewind to 1992: Picture two Canadian kids (ages 8 & 10), sitting in pyjamas, watching Back to Future II (on VHS, naturally) and the moment it’s over, rushing to the family garage to craft our very own Hoverboards from old boxes.

I know I’m not the only 80s kid who’s been impatiently anticipating 2015…and now that it’s finally here, feeling pangs of nostalgia and disappointment that most of what Universal Pictures promised did not actually materialise into every day life.

Ok, well maybe some things did materialise but how accessible are these new technologies, and do they exist because of an actual need …or simply because an imaginative screen-writer made it up? Gawker explores the 14 things Back to the Future actually did get right, which does give me hope that one day every child will cruise around on their very own Hoverboard (thank you Hendersons!)

Let’s take a look at another video produced from around that same year:

Were Apple’s predictions as outrageous as a Hollywood script writer’s? To what extent can we anticipate changes that are predicted before their time?

The first time I saw this video was at the Apple Distinguished Educator’s Global Conference this past July 2014. And my reaction was complete disbelief at how spot-on Apple was in predicting the changes education would see at the turn of the century: video conferencing, collaborating ‘online’, mobile touch-screen devices, project-based learning, inquiry & design cycles..and the growing need to connect and network outside classroom walls. I’m sure those watching this video back then were unconvinced that it was anything more than an idealistic pipe dream, like much of the technology envisioned by screen-writer, Bob Galefor Back to the Future II.

When I think about predictions for education, such as those outlined in 21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020 (written 5 years ago) I find myself experiencing a mix of excitement, anticipation, and pending disappointment. I mean, how often does what’s predicted truly materialise? Why are we stuck anticipating the future when it’s actually already here?

CC Nati Devalle flickr.com
CC Nati Devalle flickr.com

 Cardboard Hoverboards vs. The Real Thing

There was something real about the cardboard Hoverboards my brother and I used to play on. In our minds, they were flying. They took us anywhere and everywhere we wanted…without even having to leave the backyard. We truly believed we would grow up in a world where everyone had a Hoverboard, and it wasn’t a question of how, but when. Had we not seen the film, explored the possibility of a flying skateboard, could we (and other children) have ever embarked on this imaginative journey, which is now being realised by a kickstarter campaign?

Since the turn of the century (already 15 years ago) there’s been a lot of talk about 21st Century Skills, Classrooms,  Learners, Schools. Yet despite the research and projections, many schools seem to think these are ‘for the future’ and not right now. Why is this? What is the difference between a Hollywood film predicting the future, Apple predicting advancements in tech, and credible educators, researchers and experts predicting the changes in education as whole? According to Shelley Blake-Plock, some of the ’21 obsolete things for 2020′ include the following:

  • Desks: The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.
  • Differentiated Instruction as a sign of a distinguished teacher: The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.
  • Fear of Wikipedia: Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.
  • Paper: In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

While I’m sure the article was meant to provoke educators (and did it ever, if you scroll to the comments section) I couldn’t help reading it, smiling, and thinking…could all this really happen in 5 years time? My gut says no, but the creative cardboard-hoverboard-maker inside me thinks What’s stopping us from trying?

In 2008, Sir Ken Robinson delivered  an infamous lecture on the need for Changes in Education Paradigms . RSA modified this lecture into a conceptual visual-note style film:

If these ideas have been around for 3/4 of a decade, why haven’t more schools changed their focus and embraced these changing paradigms? If experts have been researching, advocating and predicting the need for these changes, why haven’t all schools adopted a standard set of 21st Century Skills, such as those so clearly laid out by ISTE?

My experience in four IB international schools (in four countries) since 2007 has shown me that more than ever schools need resources and support to create a cohesive program for digital citizenship education, throughout the school. The ISTE standards already offer this, and are a comprehensive collection of outcomes schools can adopt. These “are the standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age and are widely recognized and adopted worldwide. The family of ISTE Standards work together to transform education” (ISTEMost impressively, they support development for all levels of an educational institution, not just for students but for all stake-holders in a child’s education…including teachers, coaches and administrators.

Just look at ISTEs Standards for school leadership:

  • Visionary LeadershipEducational Administrators inspire and lead
    development and implementation of a shared
    vision for comprehensive integration of technology
    to promote excellence and support transformation
    throughout the organization.
  • Digital Age Learning Culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture
    that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging
    education for all students.
  • Excellence in Professional Practice: Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and
    innovation that empowers educators to enhance
    student learning through the infusion of
    contemporary technologies and digital resources.
  • Systemic Improvement: Educational Administrators provide digital age
    leadership and management to continuously
    improve the organization through the effective
    use of information and technology resources. 
  • Digital Citizenship: Educational Administrators model and facilitate
    understanding of social, ethical and legal issues
    and responsibilities related to an evolving digital
    culture

How many more years of 21st Century research, projections, lectures until society as a whole demand these expectations of a school community and leadership team? We’re 15 years in already.

While researching links to include in this blog post it was incredibly encouraging to learn about schools that have been embracing these shifting paradigms. International schools like UWCSEA & Shekou International School (who both were winners of 21 Century School-of-the-Year) are paving the way forward both from a technological perspective and overall philosophy for what the future of learning looks like. It’s evident looking at these examples from UWCSEA and SIS  that they value a lot of the ideas outlined in both ISTE and Blake-Plock’s article.

Over 2 years ago, George Couros, wrote a concise post about 8 Things to Look for in Today’s ClassroomIt has since been synthesised as a visual note-taking masterpiece:

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Image by Sylvia Duckworth from Balancing Act

Not one of these principles for a learner-focused classroom mentions technology or devices explicitly. Rather, this visual depicts the very skills practice we could be facilitating through the use of technology.

If I were to link these 8 indicators with tech exemplars it may look something like this:

Voice: Blogs, Join an online network, Twitter, Sign a petition for change

Choice: Multiple platforms/apps for publishing, multiple devices, visual/audio/text creation

Reflection Time: Blogging, ePortfolios, Tell About This App,

Opportunities for Innovation: Documenting learning and creating a film/stop-motion to show the process; turning a simple retell/summary into something innovative 

Critical Thinkers: Comment on blogs/articles; create an opinion-based multimedia piece in response to something students learnt/read/watched

Problem Solvers: Student tech ambassadors, helping with trouble-shooting; Students have ‘dabble time’ with a new app and learn how to use it without any direct guidance

Self-Assessment: Students look at exemplars and establish criteria for a multi-media eBook; Create criteria for blog posts & commenting; Peer-peer feedback;

Connected Learning: Using Twitter as a way to connect with other schools & students; sharing learning via blogs; joining collaborative projects like #ifyoulearnedhere

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Cardboard Prototypes Are Better Than NO Prototype

So what is it about education that makes the majority so hesitant to move beyond what we all grew up with? Are we getting ahead of ourselves and anticipating a future in education that only exists somewhere like Universal Studios? Will all schools ever fully embrace the need to change or only those willing to build a model from cardboard scraps first?

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I think the real change in education lies with the individuals who follow through with the projected ideas. The ones who jump at the opportunity to try out the weird, new gadgets, connect with other schools & teachers, and take risks in their own classrooms. While we wait for the decision-makers to adopt comprehensive standards like ISTE, for the self-proclaimed tech-dinosaurs to pick up an iPad and dabble, nothing is happening but the passing of time. The fast approach of the future. So, while we wait, there really is nothing stopping you or me from implementing these principles into practice. We can take ownership of our current learning spaces and ~ through inspiration, trial and error ~ create a ‘rough draft’ (or cardboard cut-out) of what it could look like one day in all classrooms globally. Taking advantage of professional learning networks like Coetail and Twitter empowers all of us to maintain the idealistic standards for a digitally innovative classroom, even if it seems far-fetched at the moment. Seeking out opportunities for connecting and collaborating with schools and teachers who are already implementing 21st Century ideals, even if our immediate community hasn’t fully adopted them, brings our classroom and the education paradigm one step closer to it’s next shift. For how can anyone truly envision the change without seeing it first as a prototype?

Becoming e-Literate with new literacies

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 15.35.43Photo: A grade 1 student types a title for her first Easy Blogger Jr post on her class blog. (J.Sutherland 2014)

Q: Is she practicing literacy, digital literacy, network literacy skills….Or all three?


New Media & 21st Century Literacy

What can teachers and schools do to properly integrate new media into taught curriculums? Should digital literacy skills be linked with existing literacy outcomes, or should they be taught separately?  Is it necessary to connect and network in order to practice digital citizenship? These are just a few of the tensions I have after the beginning chapters of Jeff Utecht’s Reach.

According to Utecht there is a definite but slight difference between digital and network literacies. In short he summarised it as: Networked Literacy is about understanding connections.(Reach p 30).

I love the succinctness of this, but I’m left feeling more baffled than ever before. This was actually the first time I’d ever heard of the term ‘network literacy’. Up until now, I’ve always grouped so-called ‘network literacy’ skills under the umbrella term of ‘digital literacy’, or ‘digital citizenship’. Now I see that the two (or three) terms might need to be taught, practiced and assessed separately.

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Photo: Grade 4 students learning about Creative Commons Search for their collaborative eBook on Google Slides. Network, Digital or Both? (J.Sutherland 2014)

Thankfully, contrary to 5 years ago when Reach was published, this term has now been defined by several sources. Wikipedia has defined Network Literacy as:...the basic knowledge and skills required for citizens to participate in the networked society. (Wikipedia)

To me, this seems a very general definition that still overlaps with definitions of digital literacy, for example Cornell University defines it as:…the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet. (Cornell U)

I appreciated how Terry Heick of Te@chThought recognised this overlap and addressed it in his blog post whereby he further defined Digital Literacy as:…the ability to interpret and design nuanced communication across fluid digital forms (TeachThought)

Between these 3 related, yet separate definitions, my head is spinning. While recognised, online definitions provide subtle clarity, perhaps the greatest tension for me is: What does this look like in every day classrooms…and how should we modify existing literacy curriculums?


Theory vs. Practice

If, according to Yancey (Reach p. 28) we have “moved beyond a pyramid-like, sequential model of literacy development”, then how exactly do curriculums need to change in order to ensure all elements of network and digital literacy are modelled and practiced in todays classrooms? Utecht’s related post about The Age of Composition explores these evolving ideas around network literacy. This post raised important points about  the ‘backwards’ nature of writing in today’s world:

We need to start by looking at how writing has changed in our daily lives. Where do we go to read, how do we write, what do we write, and who do we write to? Once we know this we can build a model that meets the needs of how to teach writing. (TheThinkingStick)

As both a classroom teacher and technology coach I identify with these shifting priorities in writing. The Done Manifesto is an excellent example of the value of putting ideas first, and perfection second. As a society, we are beginning to value creativity, spontaneity and personal voice over regimented standards and predictable writing patterns. According to an article in The Guardianreaders want more ‘instant gratification’. New norms are being established as new forms of writing reveal themselves; emails, blogs, comments…are defining their unique organisational structure. Could these be taught much the same way traditional text types like reports and persuasive essays are structured? Evaluating changing literacy habits is important and needs to be unpacked by curriculum leaders in schools so that we can implement changes sooner and properly prepare students for the written world of today.


Practicing Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

When I’ve integrated and promoted the use of blogs as a classroom teacher, I’ve relied on my own understanding of digital and network literacy and created links with the school’s literacy standards. While this never felt like an efficient or effective way to bridge the gap between digital literacies and school outcomes, I felt it was necessary to ensure my students left Grade 4 more digitally literate than when they started. I wonder how many other classroom teachers feel this way?

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Photo: Fatimah’s blog receives comments from other G4s. Publishing to the blog and giving feedback were common practices in our classroom. Is this evidence of addressing network and digital literacy skills? (J.Sutherland 2013)

 From my experience, the best way to expose students to necessary digital and network literacy skills is to have them experience and practice them first hand. In my G4 classroom, students were responsible for keeping track of posts and assignments on our class blog and each student created their own publishing space through their own student blogs. We often revisited our blog and compared it with other blogs and classes we were following to see where everyone could improve. Throughout the year, we naturally addressed different elements of digital citizenship: from appropriate and valuable commenting, to page layout, to making global connections with other schools, to what kinds of ideas students should share publicly.

At the time, our school had not adopted any specific digital literacy outcomes as listed, for example, on ISTEs Student Standards. Nonetheless, I was able to make several links with the current literacy outcomes which actually addressed existing literacy outcomes in the Reading, Writing and Viewing strands. For example, blogs provided students a new platform for publishing and reading a variety of relevant text types. Comments promoted peer-peer feedback and empowered students to express themselves in writing. Students learned the organisational features of blogs, as well as comments. Design elements were naturally considered and incorporated into different posts.  It was through this digital platform that I realised how rich the blogging experience could be for students as it truly was a transdisciplinary approach to practicing and assessing key literacy skills.


Final Thoughts: COETAIL Week 1 

I anticipated this first post to be easy as I have been keeping my own personal, class and professional blogs for several years now. However, unpacking these new ideas about network vs. digital literacy left me with more questions than answers and I find myself ‘stuck’ for the moment on these tensions.

One point I keep coming back to in Reach is this: If we are to teach our students to become prosumers of information in today’s connected digital world, then we need to understand and become prosumers ourselves. (Reach p.6)

The definitions for digital literacy are continually changing and evolving, and new terms seem to be emerging each year. What can teachers do to keep up with the evolution of literacy, while still helping students achieve expected outcomes? Perhaps getting online ourselves, and learning and changing with our students is the best way to serve them…for now.


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Photo: Grade 1 respond using Easy Blogger Jr. to a Kindergarten class inquiring about ‘how to start blogging‘ (J.Sutherland 2014)