But We Were Just Beginning….

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

It does not feel possible to be at the end of this course, honestly, I just feel like I was beginning.  Although the course is technically over, I am forever changed as an educator.

Teacher/Learner

This course has had the largest impact on me, personally and professionally, from any of the courses that I have taken from Alec and Katia.  And I am kind of sad that I won’t be taking any more courses from them, as there are too many things that I have come to know as routine.  But while reflecting on what to write in this post, I have realized that even though we will officially be done the course as a group, the things that I relied on will not be over.  I will continue to check out twitter (something I still need to practice and do more of, I just find that I get sucked into the “twitter vortex” once I go on, I am consumed for hours!).  Staying on twitter, getting better at it, will allow me to continue networking with my fellow 834 classmates.  I will continue to follow blogs of teachers that I have come to know.  Logan’s blog is more than just a series of posts for class, I learn from the classes that he teaches (and I secretly feel he is the next Bozeman Science with a Crash Course twist, plus how else would I keep up with how many cats he has?).

Credit to Giphy

We were tasked with what felt like an impossible, yet exciting, task.  Create a course module for a class that you (currently or hypothetically) teach.  I thought that I would begin with a science 10 module, but the began creating my prototype for the Environmental Science 20 advanced placement course that I am currently teaching.  I was already creating an asynchronous course, why not apply the tools that I learn in this class while getting real time feedback from my students?  Over the course of three months my course grew and grew.  I created a course for what I knew my students needed this semester.  My course profile explains in further detail my thought process.

At the start of the EC&I 834, we were asked to list three goals that we had for ourselves….mine changed throughout the course, and that is OKAY because my thoughts about the course evolved.  During the second week, I began to research different LMS platforms that would be user friendly and supported by my administration and school division.

By the end of the third  week, I had decided upon which LMS platform I wanted to use – Canvas.  Although at that point I still thought I would be designing a prototype for Science 10, not APES20 (oops…) 🙂

I have decided to change my focus from a class that I was not teaching towards one that I currently am, I mean, why work harder?  This week I began to play with EdPuzzle and created my first Vlog using Screencastify.  This was a big deal to me as I am very introverted away from the classroom, my confidence is slowly but steadily growing!

I began feeling more comfortable with using multiple media channels in my lessons.  Like a game of Duck, Duck, Goose; I tried to improve upon my strategies each week!

One of the new tools that I discovered in the following week was mysimpleshow – at the time of creating and playing with this new tool it was AMAZING and user friendly (note – you can now now longer use your own voice for your simple show, you must use their robotic voice – this does not work for upper level science classes.  I have since emailed the creators of mysimpleshow and received a response as to why this is)!

I began to get very comfortable with my course prototype, while at the same time feeling like I was going off the rails simply because I was becoming overwhelmed with trying to implement everything that we were learning into my prototype – this I later learned was just not realistic!  And…I was just a bit intimidated by the amazing work that I was reading on my classmates blogs…confidence declining at this point.

We were asked to think about which we preferred, open vs. closed forums. In hindsight, this may have been the most revolutionary blog topic for me, as I self-reflected on the type of learner and participant I was versus the one that I want to be.  The doors to blended learning were blown WIDE OPEN for me and I was able to really connect with what I was creating.

Finally we were at the end, yes, I was EXHAUSTED (maybe learning how to create a course prototype while teaching the course at the same time was not the brightest idea I have had – BUT the most productive at the same time).  In fact, if I had not created a blended learning prototype while teaching the class, I would not have had a realistic idea of how much time and effort needed to be put into creating quality lessons that my students deserved!

Overall, I am very satisfied with my course – and the students taking it seem to be enjoying it and doing very well, but I really won’t know until after May 1st when they write their college exam and I ask for a reflection on the course from them.   I received very valuable feedback from my reviewers – information which I have taken quite a bit of time to reflect upon:

  • In class, I always use a peer/self evaluation form for my students because I feel that it is important for students to self-reflect on their product.  I never complete this form because I have a rubric for the product created that I would use and I should have included this rubric – this was an oversight on my part, one that I will correct before next semester begins.
  • I did not consider the low bandwidth issues as I do have my students working at the back of the classroom – and the community I work in is unlike any other – these students are very fortunate to have tools to allow them to be successful (whatever they need) provided to them by the school as well as their parents.  All of my modules are created using Google Slides – if there were a low bandwidth issue the students could always download the entire unit and keep it on their personal laptops, decreasing the need for bandwidth as it could be exported and saved as a powerpoint.  The only issue that may arise from home is if the students were unable to connect to they hyperlinks – buffering issues may happen. But again, these are advanced placement kids, they would then need to come to school ahead of time or stay later to access the school’s internet access if they ran into these problems – I do have certain expectations for them, and these expectations are above and beyond for my regular stream students. 
  • I also did not consider EAL students – if you are registered in an AP course – you need to know the English language.  This course is not designed for EAL.  This course is designed for above average grade 11 students with a strong work ethic and academic ability.
  • I did include cultural consideration in my course as I do include FNMI teaching within the module.  As far as other cultural considerations, again, this is an AP course and it has been designed for students from all areas of North America to be taught as a cohesive student unit.
  • The mention of not addressing socioeconomic status really made me reflect – I have not asked any of my students to use technology other than a computer or smartphone.  If the students do not have a computer to access at school or their place of learning, this course may not work for them, however I do have students who are more comfortable viewing the course and working on it on their phones, so I do know that a computer is not the only way to access the module.
  • Just to clarify, activities within the modules were designed using EdPuzzle, which I am able to track student progress and success through the website itself.
  • It was mentioned in the feedback that the course profile was written as a “this is what I do” more so than a “this is why I do” – and the reviewer is correct, it is simply because the course is already up and running.  However, including my educational pedagogy within the course profile is a very good thing for me to include and I will look at implementing this for next semester in writing and not verbally as I was able to speak to my students face-to-face (in person or over Zoom).

As this course is running currently – I am hesitant to give out login information over the “web”  as I do have concerns that portions of the course could inadvertently be changed (I will provide an instructor log in for grading purposes) before my students are finished studying for their college exam.

WHEW!!! MADE IT AND AM HAPPY WITH MY GROWTH!

BTW:  My celebration of learning is also complete!  Yay!!!

You Are Here!

You are here!  Like a Google Map – my course prototype is finally complete for this course.  I say it is complete, but is it really ever complete? I know that I am a lifelong learner, and that I am never done learning or changing.  This is true of my course prototype – I designed this to be used in a current class. While I am fully aware that once I have officially submitted this assignment, I will want to change it as I stumble upon a new/better form of technology to introduce within my module, something that will allow for a better learning experience for my students.

Just like Logan posted, there have been a vast amount of emotions that I have gone through while designing this course module.  I have felt empowered and defeated all at once as I have my students providing continuous feedback – this may be unique to some of my classmates whom have not had this opportunity.  But what I have learned is that with the feeling of temporarily defeat I was able to produce a much better product.  Will this product be to the same quality level of someone with the video editing skills of Andres?  No – but that is okay, my course is designed for what my current need is at this time.

While this course has flown by – it feels like we were just introduced to the idea of creating a course module.  One thing is for sure, I AM EXHAUSTED.

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I did not take into account how time consuming creating a blended/online course would be. I am much quicker at creating quality content now than I was in the beginning of the course, maybe because I am comfortable with the platform and the tools that I have used. I have developed a great appreciation for tools such as Screencastify, Smore and  MySimpleShow as they have allowed me (a not so creative person) to add creativity to my course. Although I own a Macbook Air (not a paid endorsement, lol!) – I really have not played that much with iMovie – not because I do not want to, I honestly feel that I do not have the time right now as I feel that once I begin playing around, I will loose track of time! 

I finally understand how my students feel when I come into class saying – “hey I learned something new in class last night and thought we would try it”.  Sometimes it can literally be information overload!  But for now, I feel satisfied with what I have completed (for the time being).

 

Course Profile

Environmental Science 20 Advanced Placement is a course targeted at students in grade 11 that have successfully completed Science 10 AP or Science 10 regular stream with a high mark and above average work ethic.  I have focused this module on the Soils unit, specifically looking at Biogeochemical Cycles and Productivity, focusing on:

Outcome TE1 (Analyze the importance of soils as an integral component terrestrial ecosystems)  

Indicator h (recognize the role and diversity of organisms found within soil environments)  

Indicator i (discuss the role of soil in biogeochemical cycling, including carbon storage and nitrogen fixation, nitrification and denitrification).  

Students refer to this course syllabus to familiarize themselves with the course and the mark breakdown for the course.

NOTE: I have created an entire unit for this my ES20AP class, but am focusing this assignment on slides 37-50 of the unit only.

The format of this course is mainly asynchronous online with a blended connotation – the students are assigned one hour per day in which the students work on their own with their laptops at the back of my classroom- they can ask questions if they need clarification and I will help (I teach regular Environmental Science 20 at the same time as ES20AP during the day, which explains the need for this type of course).  We also have a one hour weekly meeting on Tuesday before school begins (7:45 – 8:45), this meeting is dedicated to those students only in ES20AP and is designed to take place when there are no distractions from anyone or anything – this allows for an intensive face to face meeting.

For this class, we utilize Canvas LMS and have been using all of it’s applications.  Students are expected to complete unit assignments within the unit time frame.  The students utilize the class calendar to inform them of their unit start dates and exam dates.  Exams are written in person during their scheduled class time. Students access modules on Canvas, the modules have been created using Google Slides which have hyperlinks for Google Docs embedded within it as well as the required videos for viewing.  Students are also directed towards EdPuzzle,  this website has allowed me to create questions that compliment the videos that I have chosen to have the students watch.  The students scores are recorded on the program itself and I take their marks as an assignment.  Students are also asked to watch videos that I have created using Screencastify and answer questions to these by creating a MySimpleshow video.  The students are required to access the Google collaborative document (either on the module itself or through the collaboration feature of Canvas) to insert their groups hyperlink to their MySimpleshow.  During our one hour meeting we will watch and discuss these videos.

Students can communicate with me via email within Canvas or they can begin a class discussion (in person or on Canvas).  I do find that since we have a dedicated hour per day in class they will ask each other questions during that time period.  If there is anything else that comes up, they ask their questions during our weekly morning meeting.   Students are required to hand in all assignment via the email option in Canvas.  This option allows me to mark their assignments in Word or Google Docs, return them to the student, and archive the emails for future needs.

For Every Closed Door, Another Opens

This is the third class that I have taken from Alec and Katia, therefore I am comfortable with the openness of these classes – now that is!  I wasn’t always comfortable (and at times, while I feel comfortable, I still do not feel that I have the confidence), but have learned to embrace the lack of boundaries and the encouragement to try new things.  I have not taken a closed form class myself, but have seen them as some of the teachers I would with have shown me what they are like. So, without the lack of experience of the closed forums, I do not feel that I can adequately discuss my experiences with them, however my first impressions of the courses were “YUK” as they seemed very assignment driven – used as a homework spot rather than a discussion spot, and from what I have been told – just like we discussed in class last week, everyone responded to everyone else so it looked overwhelming!

In the video below – we see how protective Sheldon is about his “spot” on the couch and explains to Penny just why it is his spot.  I was somewhat like Sheldon with the start of open courses.  I had a spot – and my spot was simply to watch from a distance and offer my opinion in the comment section rather than chiming into Zoom and actually speaking.  My spot was comfortable – I could respond without judgement (still do this), and I did not feel judged  when I “wrote my mind”, often encouraged by Alec and Katia as they made a comment about my thoughts.

As Andrew posted – open forums do provoke a sense of anxiety, you have no control over who will read your post or what they will think about you.  What changed for me moving to an area of comfort in an open space was VALIDITY and AUTHENTICITY – I found that I was doing a lot more research and spending more time looking at other readings than those that were required.  I found that I became more invested in the topic when I was asked to post in an open forum as I felt it allowed me to engage in student centred learning.  Just like Amy wrote in her blog, I was more careful about what I was writing about – meaning, I made sure that I fully understood the topic and that I stood behind my opinion of the topic.  This is especially true as I am in essence, putting myself out there for all to judge and see.

Throughout the major assignment that we have been working on this semester, I have done a lot of trials in regards to opening up my courses.  In some ways, I have surprised myself and in others, my experiences have been a conformation.  I have really enjoyed using the Canvas LMS, and have found that for students in grades 11 and 12, they are able to handle the platform of the course.  My students who are forced to use it have done so willingly, and to my surprise as I try to flip parts of my course with the students whom do not have to use an open forum – there has been no hesitation and they took to it easily, commenting that they liked the trust that I had in them to complete their work on their own.

Well I agree that flipped classes are not open classes – there are aspects to my course that will be open – but it is getting the students comfortable with this concept that has been the challenge.  As I am new to the school that I am teaching in this year, the students tell me that they have never been able to use their devices before in the classroom (had a very closed experience before) and are overwhelmed with the technology.  Clearly, I have some work to do (with the students, not the admin as they are very supportive) – but as the year has gone on, I have seen a level of confidence emerge from the students with the use of technology and openness via blogging.

I am curious about your administration – how do they support you in regards to using technology to create an open environment?  

Do you believe that if you create an open course that you will increase  student centred learning ?

Going off the Rails

This week, I discovered a new tool to use with my course module.  I tweeted about it this weekend:

I decided to give it a try:

 

 

Overall, Mysimpleshow was as easy to use as the website claims it to be, however I felt that it did take longer to edit.  I found that I did not like the text options that it offered, and chose to do my own voice over.  The site does limit you to 300 words per slide, which may be a good thing for our students to have to practice, being concise and getting their point across fast.

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I am feeling that this course module is not that hard of an assignment, and for that reason, I feel that I may be falling off the rails in regards to the assignment.  Just like Kara, I feel that I too may be addicted to change, that or I am not afraid to try change in my classroom and for the most part, my student are willing to go along with me on this ride.  Or maybe it is just that I am creating while teaching the course and using it immediately, that I am becoming very comfortable with teaching a blended course?

 

Have I Been Here Before???

Path

I find that I am a person who struggles with the openness of some assignments – although we were given parameters and guidelines for this week’s blog, I still felt a bit lost with what exactly I wanted to focus on.  I think that sometimes as educators, parents, students, etc.. we have so much on the go that it is hard to focus on one thing at a time.

I began to go fishing for ideas this week.  Megan wrote about having her students create a social justice poster with one option of being SMORE.  That got me thinking…I have done this before, only I had asked my students to use a variety of tools for their student directed study projects. As you can see, this post was from December 2015!  Some of the tools that I have had the most success with students using are VideoScribe,  emaze and Piktochart.  I was not familiar with SMORE so I gave it a try this week and created a flyer that outlines what I would like my students to do with a lab that will take place for the remainder of the semester.

Blenders
Blenders

Blended learning just comes naturally to me that sometimes I don’t even think of it as being “blended”, I just show my students that there are many other tools to use rather than the traditional research papers.  Just like the blenders shown in the photo, there are many types of tools, which all lead to a desired result.  Each tool is just a different route to get to your destination, the route may be fast or it may be slow.

Blended Learning info graphic
Blended Learning info graphic

Just like Andrew – I teach my classes in a way that focuses on some traditional lecturing with online collaboration using Google Docs, web quests like “What Did the T-Rex Taste Like” (most of my students have never experienced a learning module like this before), incorporating educational videos such as Crash Course and Bozeman Biology, and recently have begun using EdPuzzle to check for understanding.

While I love the above mentioned sites and videos, I stumbled upon a video from BrainCraft, which explains what the best way to teach science is.  She found that “Edutainment” may be the best way – combining education and entertainment in one.  The point of this video that I really like is at 2:50!  When I reflect on her journey – I know that I really do not have the time to do stop animation like she does, it is really just not possible right now while I am both a student and a teacher.  However, I do agree with Vanessa

“No matter how old you are, you never too old to experiment”

This is not focused only on teaching science, but life!  Especially now, we are experimenting wit blended learning!

I stumbled upon this graphic:                                  Blended Learning via Pinterest

I found that what I have been designing my module as is more of a Flex model of learning, and I am okay with this given my current situation (teaching 2 separate classes at the same time, thus the need for modules).  Also, in class I feel that we are all at Stage 3 and moving to Stage 4.  I researched Flex models of learning deeper, and really like how Clifford Maxwell described blended learning:

 In general, a Flex model gives students significant control over their pace and    path throughout almost all of a course, which, as VFA points out in its BLU          school profile, can be a difficult transition for students who are used to traditional instruction.

Flex programs benefit from a larger, open learning space instead of traditional classroom walls. The value of an oversized classroom space is that it allows for students to flow among multiple formats and for teachers to roam more easily among the students.

Because of the heavy emphasis on student autonomy, the role of a teacher changes in a Flex model. Instead of delivering instruction to whole groups, teachers spend most of their time providing face-to-face tutoring, guidance, and enrichment to supplement online lessons.

I am wondering how you would classify yourself as a blended educator?  Why type of an environment would you find you are catering or designing your modules to? If you still unsure, I urge you to skim this article by dreambox learning.

Duck, Duck, Goose!

 

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I am a people watcher, an observer if you will.  But more importantly than that, I am a listener.  My students often say to me “how did you hear that”?  To which I reply – “Did you forget, I am a mom”?  But honestly – I think it is very important to listen to the chatter that happens in school, especially before class begins.  It is at this time that I am able to truly find out who my student are and where their interests lie.  It is in these conversations that I am consciously observing (sight and sound) what types of learners I have in my room.  Some are checking their texts or texting someone, some are reading a book in between classes, some are snapchatting and some are just talking to one another!  You see, by observing these individuals, I am able to design meaningful lessons that engage my students in their own learning styles.

Like Logan, I need my class to be kinesthetic, visual and interactive or I get bored…and if I am bored it is guaranteed that my students will be!  My classes are guided by Google Slides but embedded within those slides are varying types of media including “games” (Kahoot, mentimeter) for student interaction.  I am conscious of the people in my room, and I try to tap into their learning styles during the class.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-10-09-28-pmIn this screenshot of one of my googleslides – I have video embedded within text – this hits on my audio learner as well as my visual learner.

 

I am a science teacher.  Some of the concepts that I am teaching about are either too dangerous to expose my students to, too expensive as a field trip, or just too abstract to explain with text alone (think bonding in chemistry – thank you to bozeman science ,  crash course, Discovery news).

Different media (text, video, picture) all contain a unique experience to the learner.  The learner needs to combine the mental integration of the written information along with the type of media that is presented (video, picture) to help enforce the content learned thus creating or building upon a deeper level understanding of the subject knowledge being conveyed.  This is especially true when conveying abstract knowledge vs concrete knowledge.  Media can relay concrete knowledge in a variety of forms while abstract knowledge is generally relayed through content.  But in science, there are very good computer simulations that can help students understand abstract knowledge or knowledge of microscopic processes (bonding of a chemical).  The learning of such concepts needs to be structured in such a way that allows for the students to learn and understand the content – depending on the types of learners you have in your classroom, this could be very tightly or loosely arranged.

The power of video helps put a visual to the abstract.  The above youtube channels are so well done, why wouldn’t I use them?  And honestly, sometimes a good movie trailer is the best hook that I can have to get my students attention. This is how I introduced Environmental Science 20 this semester.  They are totally hooked now!

As Bates points out one of the strengths of video is that it is able to “link concrete events and phenomena to abstract principles and vice versa” as well as “demonstrate ways in which abstract principles or concepts developed elsewhere in the course have been applied to real-world problems”.  

I completely agree with Andrew, giving students choice in the type of medium the students choose to learn, is giving power in learning to the student.  Students have choice in the way they use the media presented to them, they can choose to listen to the screencast (if they learn better being taught in a traditional lecture style) or they can use the notes given and supplemental videos provided.

Not to ignore text, as Ashley points out, audio may be best to learn a language.  But as a science teacher, I personally find that video works best for my preferred method of learning. It’s not that I don’t listen to audio, it’s just that some concepts are difficult for me to picture without a visual for reinforcement.  BUT, I do have my student listen to snippets of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson (honestly, how could we not, our class guinea pig is named Tyson, and not after Mike).tyson

As Bates speaks about in his framework for analyzing pedagogical characteristics, I am definitely a connectionist teacher as I try to give as much power to my learners as possible.  I also like to have power in how I learn! Therefore, as I reflect on my preferred medium of learning would be video and text as my top two and that is reflective in my own style of teaching.  But as Amy notes in her vlog, I really am enjoying having a PLN in an online space via this course and an opportunity to learn from each other.

So to bring this back to my title, don’t be afraid to be a goose in a flock of ducks – do what is best for you and your students.  Do you agree?