Today I Was My Own Resource Teacher

I am currently teaching a unit on Basic Coding to my grade 7 Design students.  The first few weeks of the unit are skills-based classes.  Each day, I introduce a few skills to the class and then the students play and create a basic animation or game on Scratch demonstrating their newly acquired skills.  I give them formative feedback on what they have created.

Over the years, I have gotten much better at differentiation and always pre-test in one form or another at the beginning of each unit.  I have identified skills that the whole class needs and I definitely wanted to make sure we had a common language for the concepts and skills of this unit.

I found a video tutorial from Clint’s MYP Design blog which was a good tutorial teaching the viewer how to double jump with the Sprite in Scratch.  It had some general background information about Scratch and I really liked the part when he shows how to make the Sprite move naturally.

But, how did I want to share this with my students?

Should I just mimic the skills and do it myself on the screen?  This would work.

Have the students watch it on their own time?  This would work, too.

However, I ended up having them watch it all in the class via the projector.

I felt a bit weird about this.  It is a twenty minute tutorial.  It’s not just a quick video I’m showing at the beginning of class, this is a substantial part of my class.  They are paying tuition for me to teach.  Was this a lazy way out?  Did this discredit my expertise?  These were all things going on in my mind.IMG_4529

It ended up being one of the best things I have done in a while.

I became my own resource teacher.

I was able to watch the students as they worked through the tutorial.  I saw students who struggled with coding.  I saw students who struggled with following the instructions and going from the big screen to their screen.  I also saw students flourishing.  I saw students helping each other.  I wasn’t caught up in delivering the content and I was able to really see the kids and where they were.

When students left the class, I gave them an exit card asking them how they felt learning this way, what they learned in the class and what they struggled with, needed more practice on, or wanted to now learn.  Many of them liked this approach.  Some of them wanted to watch the tutorial at their own pace and pause it on their computer.

I haven’t had a resource teacher since I was a Language Arts teacher many years ago. I forgot the power in actually helping while the students were receiving instruction.  I was able to really “see” my students – from the back of the room, watching how they synthesized the tutorial they were watching.

I was lucky to find a great tutorial, so I didn’t have to spend the time creating one.  Luckily there are hundreds of Scratch tutorials.  I did spend time in watching quite a few the past few weeks to make sure they are good quality, have a low “cheese” factor and explained what I wanted it to.

Why don’t you try it.  Go ahead, be your own resource teacher.  Share how it goes!

SAMR Evaluation of Student Blogs

Teaching MYP (Design) Technology, I always try to embed technology into learning and teaching in my classroom. While I feel that most of my units and lessons are in the modification and redefinition areas of technology integration, there is always room for improvement.  Every year groups of students are different, technology is constantly changing, and I am trying to improve the learning that goes on in my classes, so my technology integration and teaching changes constantly.

While I don’t have time this week to go through all of my units and really analyze them using the SAMR Model, I definitely think I will pull out the graphic when I am writing new curriculum and when I am reflecting on my units to see how I’m using my technology and how I can transform my instruction.

One important part of my MS Tech Coordinator job (and one of my favorites) is “managing” the student blogs (which they also use as a digital portfolios).  When I started my position three years ago, the school was just starting to use digital portfolios in the middle school.  I have had a lot of input on our handbook (which we are currently re-evaluating) and the implementation of the portfolios in our middle school.

At first, the blogs were just substituting the large folders students would use to present their work at their student-led conferences in May.  That first year, students were just posting work as guided by their teachers in classes and they ticked categories of the Learner Profile and our mission statement because it was required.  Very quickly, I learned that this was just a chore for students and it really wasn’t promoting or encouraging any more learning, communication or connections.

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Last year, I started planning lessons for advisory teachers to help students create portfolios that “celebrated their work, showed growth and demonstrate progress towards fulfilling our schools’ mission statement”.   I have encouraged parents to read their child’s blogs and comment.  I have created a Blog Round-Up (inspired by Paula and Jabiz) to showcase great blog posts to our community.  This has encouraged students to write good posts and they have been able to connect with people all over the world in their posts, which inspires them to post more.

The students blogs are a way for students to publish their best work, but it is also a place for them to connect with others.  This is an area that I need to continue to work on, especially with other teachers.  I have blogged for over six years for both work and our family.  I read a lot of blogs.  Many of my colleagues don’t.  I need to help them assign more interactive assignments and allow kids to use their blogs as a way to share their thoughts and learning.

The student blogs at my school are improving year by year, but we can continue to do better.  I’m curious to hear what anyone else does out there with their student blogs or online publishing that supports more effective tech integration.  I really enjoyed the Edutopia article: Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many.  What really resonated with me was the part that stated, ” to effectively integrate technology it must deepen and enhance the learning process through: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback and connection to real-world experts.”

What do you do at your schools?

What has been successful with your school blogs/digital portfolios?


Coming Back + Responsible Use Policy Update

Photo Credit: AfroEklund via Compfight cc

to school…

to Coetail…

to life.

I love being a teacher and being able to start fresh every August.  You get to do the good things again and scrap the things that didn’t work and try out new ideas.  A new year brings hope and promise and a huge to-do list that is already 100 items long.

I’m unfortunately starting COETAIL a week late.  I presented at the International Food Technology Conference at NIST this past weekend.  The conference was created by Natalie Lindon, former COETAIL student, who I stumbled upon on Twitter and who actually introduced COETAIL to me.  She is a great Food & Design Tech teacher who put together this conference to connect Design teachers who specialize in Food Technology.

Natalie convinced me to present, and I’m glad she did.  I enjoyed collaborating with other MYP Design teachers, I made great connections with other Design teachers in Asia and I ate entirely too much.

On to other exciting news… I proposed to our administrators and tech department that we implement the Responsible Use Policy through the IB Learner Profile.  And, what do you know… they adopted it!  I’m really proud of the document that Katy, Ju and I put together. I’m glad I get to do more with it and it was more than just an assignment for a class.

My goal now is to make it come alive at our school.  I am the tech coordinator in the Middle School and I only teach grade 7 & 8 students, so I’ll depend on the Elementary School Tech Coordinator and the Secondary Associate Principal to give it life in those respected schools.  But, I know they will!

I first started by giving small groups of my seventh and eighth graders parts of the RUP and have them create a visual for it – a photograph, illustration, short clip, etc.  After looking at the products at the end of the class, I realized I needed to take a different approach.  So, the next class, I prepared gave the kids papers with “tech scenarios” on them.  Students had to then match those scenarios with the Learner Profile attributes – as described in the RUP.  This was a much more successful activity and the conversations at the tables were lively as they were analyzing and synthesizing the information.

I have also posted the RUP on the large bulletin board outside my classroom with the question,

“How can I use technology to positively contribute to my community?”


Now I just need to figure out what to do next.  I’ll post more as I come up with ideas, but please feel free to share any you may have too!


Honoring the Creator: A Reflection

* This is a reflection to my “Book Trailer Unit” which included my COETAIL Course 1 Lesson Plan: A Lesson in Creative Commons.

It was serendipity that I happened to teach this unit while enrolled in COETAIL Course 1 & 2.  Last year, my friend who is also our  librarian and I were talking about books and creating interdisciplinary units between the library and my MYP Design Technology classes.  We are both avid readers and identified a lack of a community of readers at our current school.  So, we decided to take matters into our own hands.

For Grade 8, we created a unit in which students were given the challenge to create and nurture a community of readers at our school.  It was a good unit and we have tweaked it a bit to try and get a better outcome next year.

In Grade 7, I wanted it to be a little less open-ended with the products because I wanted my students to improve their video making skills on the technology side of the project.  I’m not sure how we came up with the idea to go with book trailers, but it was a perfect fit for us to work together to promote reading.

Here is the task sheet for the unit.

Here are the blog posts I wrote for my students regarding this unit:

Using Visuals & Creative Common Media

How Do I Create a High Quality Book Trailer

iMovie Tutorials & Help – A did mini-lessons for some students and differentiated instruction with a playlist

As part of the investigation, I introduced Creative Commons to my students.  At the beginning it was frustrating for everyone in the classroom (me included), as we couldn’t always find high quality media that was Creative Commons.  Part of the problem was the fact that as readers, we visualize what we read differently.  There are not exact images of these visualizations and deep connections with the text available on line.  Although this caused frustrations, it also sparked great conversations on reading and choosing strong images.

At the beginning, I struggled with finding good sources for them to find good media.  I initially “sent” them to SoundCloud Creative Commons to get music for their videos, but quickly found that there was a lot of inappropriate and explicit media there, but also, that their media isn’t moderated really well.  There were many songs that were uploaded by people who were not the artists or who themselves had illegally (I think) modified the music.  Another issue I ran into was YouTube Creative Commons, because you have to use their video editor to use their Creative Commons media.  It was also more difficult to give attribution to those creators at the end of their video, because once it was added, sometimes it was difficult to go back and find that information.

In the end, I found that Compfight, Jamendo, Creative Commons Search to be the best places to find CC media.

My students created some really amazing projects.  I am really proud of their work.  They worked hard, they honored creators & authors and in turn I hope that they are proud of their work.

At the end of the unit, I had my students take a survey so I could get feedback about their knowledge of CC and for them to give suggestions when I teach it next year.

Google Forms End of Unit Survey to Stuedents

I got some interesting feedback, some of it was very positive and they really seemed to gain a good understanding about CC.  I did get a few kids say things like,”Creative Commons is a website where you can get all sorts of medias from other people legally and reuse it”.  I want them to have a deeper understanding than this, but it is a start.

For question #2 – most of them were about legally using other work and many wrote that they would use CC media for projects in other classes.  I did have a few students share that they are considering CC as creators.  This is where I would like more students to go.  Maybe it’s too much to jam into one unit.  Maybe this is something I should develop more in 8th grade.  I need to think more about this.

I decided in the last few weeks was to encourage students (if they wanted) to use social media to promote their book trailers and reading.  COETAIL has made me less afraid of using social media in the class.  It is my students’ lives and I need to embrace it more.  I am motivated and engaged by using social media to learn, why shouldn’t they?  My students are no longer creating projects for me or for the other 18 classmates in the room, they are creating for anyone they want.  I want them creating real solutions to real problems and I want them to make an impact.  I don’t want them to create for a grade.

Two of my students got responses from authors.

Many students have 50+ hits on their unlisted YouTube videos.

My students and COETAIL brought this unit to a different level.  The unit took on a whole new life – one I hadn’t planned, but one that turned out much better.  I wanted to celebrate the reader, but in the end we really celebrated the creator.  As a technology teacher, I am really happy with that.  Next year instead of focusing on promoting reading (which is a great effect of this unit), I want to change my essential question to something along the lines of respecting creators.  Now I just have to wordsmith that idea.

Stomp, stomp, stomp: Digital Footprints

Photo Credit: Rob Boudon via Compfight cc

Our assignment tonight has dragged me through probably at least a hundred web pages in the past hour.  I have read the assigned reading, clicked on a few links, which brought me to other pages, which then inspired me to write a blog post to my students.  I googled myself, I googled my husband, I googled friends, I googled colleagues, I even googled a new hire who will be joining our school next year, I googled our headmaster, then emailed him to ask him if he googles potential hires.  I have done much of this googling before and I always find my results very interesting and sometimes surprising.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

Should we be aware of our digital footprints as teachers?  Yes!  I sometimes wonder why teachers don’t check their footprint and also am surprised that some teachers I know have almost no digital footprint.  I work with many good teachers, but I can name only less than 5 that pop up fairly quickly on searches or who are active as professionals in social media.  But, saying this, I’ve only become active “professionally” on social media in the past two years and I feel like I’ve entered late in the game.  I have a decent digital footprint, but there is more out there from our family blog and less professionally.  I realized that my school blog (one I write as a means of communicating with my students and my most active blog) isn’t really connected with my social media profile or my name, and I need to do something about that.

I will be going out on the job hunt in the fall for the 2014-2015 school year.  I don’t know what kind of impact our digital footprints will have on our job search.  I hope that it does have an impact.  A school that checks digital footprints to learn more about the candidates is the kind of place I want to work.  But do many school administrators do that?  I have okay “stuff” out on the web, but nothing revolutionary.  Although I may not post original mind-blowing new content, I do think that I connect with amazing people, share my work and that I am resourceful.  I have found amazing content, I have gotten fantastic ideas for my classroom and have been able to connect and collaborate with top- notch teachers all over the world, some of who I’ve never (and may never) work on the same campus with.

I think that knowing your digital footprint and fixing mishaps is extremely important for both teachers and students.  I think that my youngest students, who have only dipped their toes in social media (with email, Google chat and use a school blog) need to thoughtfully consider every post they make, every profile they create, everything they share and the connections they make as they start to create a digital footprint with many social media applications that they will use over the next few decades.

I’m glad social media didn’t exist when I was growing up.  I don’t know how responsibly I would have used it as a teenager and as a sometimes wild college student.  Kids haven’t changed.  They will make mistakes, they will post something they regret about themselves or others.  I need to give them the knowledge to help them make the best choices they can.  I want my students to use their social media for good.  It is our job to talk to them about it.  So many of our schools don’t talk about it, because we don’t allow social media use in our schools or our students aren’t 13 yet.  But, so many of them are on it and need guidance!

This year, with the help of the middle school counselor, we planned a few digital citizenship activities for the students for each grade level.  Unfortunately, I have not done a great job of really articulating digital citizenship well throughout the whole year or with the faculty.  I want to will work on this.  Next week, Robyn Trevaud is coming to our school to present to students, teachers and parents about Growing up Digital.  I have already requested a substitute, so I can sit in on all her workshops and then develop our digital citizenship curriculum better throughout the middle school and high school.

A Lesson in Creative Commons: COETAIL Course 1 Final Product

This is a lesson, a snapshot of a day, in my seventh grade Design (MYP) Technology class.  

The purpose of this lesson is for my students to understand  Creative Commons and to get them to start thinking about media usage – creating, sharing and giving appropriate attribution to creators. (Book Trailer Project Task Sheet)

Outcomes of the Lesson:

First of all, I was shocked by my students’ lack of knowledge of Creative Commons.  I placed the CC icons on the board and told them that the icons were all interrelated.  I asked my students what they were and got many answers… “Upload”, “CC – like on an email”,  “Closed Captioned”,  “Pause”, “No cost, it’s free”.

While I felt I did a decent job of relaying the information to the kids, but when I was asked, “Why can’t we just use anything we find on the web, but give it an APA citation?”,  I felt that I couldn’t articulate that answer well.   I talked about sharing and the collaborative spirit of the internet and how communities of designers and creators can together make amazing products and you are using media that people really want to share, but it didn’t seem like a great answer. – Any help with this one?

Some of the students struggled with searching for images, but that’s something I’ll continue to address throughout different lessons.  I did feel that most students had a good grasp of finding CC media through the Creative Commons website and Advance Searching on both Google Images and Flickr.

All of my students got at least 4 out of 6 correct on their exit cards (which I used as a quick formative, nongraded assessment), I will continue to do quick check-ins and I ordered a large poster that shows the CC images and licenses to post in my room.

Reflection of the Lesson:

I need to develop intellectual rights and media sharing in our ICT scope and sequence.  While this lesson focuses on my students using other people’s media, I want them to really consider how they want to share their own media in the future.  Some of my students got frustrated by the lesson because they felt their searches were limited.  Part of this was due to the fact that they were searching for images for a book trailer they will be creating.  They have visualized characters from their books that don’t exist in real life, so that was an added frustration.

I’m glad I did the pre-assessment activity.  Sometimes I gloss over this in class with some of our projects.  It was really good to see what the students didn’t know.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great differentiated lesson if some of the students did have more knowledge of Creative Commons media.  I’d love to hear if any one else is explicit teaching Creative Commons in their classes and how they are introducing it to their kids.

As I type this, I’m not super passionate about this lesson as my culminating product for course 1.  I feel like it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned so much in the past 5 weeks, to turn in a not-so-amazing lesson.  Since I teach technology everyday, I feel there are much “cooler”, more skilled, more engaging things I teach.  But this is teaching technology and one day in one unit.

This is a new unit I’m teaching and I created this lesson last week to enhance my students understanding of media sharing, so it is a product of this course and what I’ve been learning.  It has also impacted the way I post media on my own blogs and I’ve changed the CC settings on my Picasa albums, as well, for more sharing.

I’d also like to share this with our faculty at some point.  We need to be better models when it comes to copyright, attribution and sharing media.

Reflection of Course 1:

I’ve gotten so much out of COETAIL already.  I’ve bragged about the class to anyone who will listen.  The combination of the knowledge obtained through the readings and the collaborative spirit, I feel very empowered and feel like I can’t help but learn on a daily basis, just checking in on my Google Reader.  I love to hear and see what everyone is doing at their own schools and how we all have our ups, downs and thoughts about technology in education.

Some weeks I feel more in the loop, but some weeks, if I post later in the week due to being busy at work, I feel I miss a lot of the collaboration.  I hope for comments and interaction just as my students do.  This makes me promote my students’ blogs more so they can get feedback on their work, as I know it adds motivation and engagement to learning.

Being a student makes me a much better teacher.