Summary of Learning

Here is my summary of learning for EC&I 834.

I got the idea from the “old” Google commercial that I’m sure you’ve all seen:

Once I added my voice and explained a few things, it was much longer than a commercial length!

I used Screencast-O-Matic to record the video and then got editing help from my husband to piece it together!

The song I used was from a website called Jamendo. The song is Song: Zompie (2017) by G. Maina.

Merci pour écouter !

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Prototype, now with Feedback!

When I posted last week that our prototype was finally complete, I don’t know if I was actively forgetting about the feedback aspect of the course or not.

At any rate, with this post, I can finally say that our course prototype is completely finished!

Our course prototype can be found by clicking here. That link will take you to the main page of the course, where you can navigate to all of the other parts, including the course profile, rationale and my personal module (and Angela’s, and Sam’s, of course!)

Creating this prototype was definitely the work of the whole semester. I definitely see a lot of growth when I look back at where we started from to our decisions to focus and narrow our vision into something realistic and finally, the not-actually-complete “I’m done” post that I finished with!

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Looking at the three posts that I just linked to, I am really happy with how our prototype turned out. I think that creating something “brand new” is always hard and to be the first ones creating a course prototype for this ECI section was cool, but nervewracking. I am one who needs examples, or at least an idea to work toward (or, maybe, away from!)

For the response to our feedback, Angela, Sam and I wrote the following together:

Overall, we had wonderful people giving us feedback. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, which is so nice as it was a hard task to create something with little frame of reference. Below we highlighted a couple of common critiques that came up in our feedback document.

Some of our feedback mentioned that it was a little hard to find our information. While WordPress is a clean and organized tool, our drop down menus were confusing to some, which means they could be confusing to parents and, of course, the eight-year-olds taking our course. One thing that we would change in response, is to change our drop down menus. Instead of having information on the header of our drop down menus, the header could be used as more of a title, with the content in further drop down menus off of the header. For example, the header of “course profile” could be changed so that the course profile isn’t listed underneath and instead is found on a drop down menu off of the header. We believe this would help students navigate our site.

We also decided to rewrite our rationale based on some of our feedback. We have now included more details about the reasoning behind many of our specific choices including our LMS and other instructional tools. Our new rationale is more comprehensive in explaining the choices we made in order to maximize learning opportunities for grade three students targeted with this prototype.

Another area that came up often in our feedback was that our modules contain both student content and teacher instructional notes. One area that we would change in response to this, is to have the student content and the teacher notes separated on our WordPress site. We intentionally created our modules with both, simply for the benefit of this course and we would definitely streamline them and remove the teacher talk if this were to go live to an actual grade three classroom.

Finally, we had a couple of issues with links not working. We went through and double checked our links and also decided we would embed the information in the blog instead of relying on the link. Our example is with the Fotobabble link, we would post the actual picture in the blog post and also include a sound link to avoid the external link issues.

We appreciated all of the feedback given to us and definitely saw this as an opportunity for growth. If we were to ever create another flipped or blended classroom, we think we’d have a good grasp of where to start!

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Overall, I think what we created was great and I am very glad to have worked with Angela and Sam on this awesome project!

Thanks, all!

Prototype Complete!

Since the last time I posted about our course prototype, our group has slightly shifted. As I’ve mentioned, I am working with Angela and Sam. We were attempting to use Google Classroom at first, as our LMS.  As I’ve stated before, we were having troubles finding an LMS that we thought would work well for a younger group of students. We thought Google Classroom would be a good solution, since we would be able to teach our students how to use the LMS at school.

However, as we attempted to set up our Google Classroom, we found that it was not organizing the way that we wanted it to.  Maybe this is admitting defeat, but we had a specific way to organize our modules in mind, and when Google Classroom didn’t work the way we wanted, we may or may not have abandoned ship.

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We designed our course as a blended prototype. We anticipated teaching some of the aspects of our course traditionally at school, albeit with added technology. However, each of our artifacts are presented as flipped lessons, with a lesson at home and an in class assignment.  We wanted to be able to organize our course so that all of the content for one module flowed easily and was easy to find. Also, we wanted it to be as organized as we would make for a real classroom of grade threes and their parents.

(I know that you can teach students how to do something, even if it’s not well organized but… it is one less step when everything is clear and easy to find.)

This is a lot of preamble and justification to say that we decided to switch to a blog in order to organize our prototype.

We decided to use WordPress, since it was the platform we were all used to for writing our blog posts for class. We added our rationale, and the course profile to the blog, as well as our modules, neatly organized by category. I am really happy with how it turned out.

With our modules, we each used different technologies to complete the modules, including asking students to use our “class SeeSaw” to complete their work. Since we didn’t actually post lessons on SeeSaw, we didn’t provide a link to our SeeSaw. For communication, we set up a parent page, as well as an FAQ.

Overall, I am happy with how it turned out, even if we went away from a more traditional LMS.  I think one of the hardest parts of this assignment was trying to create something with no examples, so we had no way of knowing if we were on the right track or not. According to the marking system that we’ve been given (both by the syllabus and our work in class the other week) I believe that we are on the right track. However, believing and knowing are two different things so I am anxious to see other examples!

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Open Education

Most of my experiences with online open education have been as a student, both in my undergrad and while taking my masters.  Most of these online interactions were done in closed forum situations.  I did also have a project or two in high school where we needed to comment in a forum, but the forum was closed to everyone but members of our class.

My first real experience with connecting with other people online in an educational setting was with Alec and Katia’s classes. This is my third class with them and I can definitely see a difference between attempts that were made in the past by other instructors and what we do in this class.

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The openness of our communication in this class lets you establish a presence online, as well as develop a community of like-minded people.  Also, it allows your ideas and thoughts to be communicated to people who don’t necessarily have the same ideas and thoughts, allowing for growth and discussion. An online presence is important and can help in a variety of ways, especially in the future. Like Keilyn said, connectedness and an online presence can have professional benefits, especially in classroom settings.

The fact that I am writing and publishing this post into the “great wide world” means that my thoughts and ideas are available for many others to read. And while they are available, there is no guarantee that they will be read by more than a few people in our class.

This leads us to authenticity. Could it be argued that, since I am writing with a large audience in mind (if not in reality), my posts and communications are more authentic than in a closed forum? Or, am I writing with that intended audience in mind and therefore being more neutral and crowd pleasing? Is there a way to decide whether this is true or not?

We know that our writing changes based on who we are intending our audience to be.  A message I send my mom might look very different than one I send my sister. For other people, the messages to family might look very similar, but a professional inquiry from a work email looks very different.  It’s something that we teach to students in elementary schools and reinforce often, all the way along their education journey. With a quick Google search, you can find multiple websites and “how-to’s” teaching writing for difference audiences.

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With that established, let’s go back to the question: does knowing your audience and how to write for them make your writing more authentic or less authentic? This is a question that, I’m sure I am supposed to answer (based on this week’s blog prompt) but honestly, it’s something that I need to sit and think about.  The fact that I have a professional blog and a different blog for my classroom means that I have a different audience and a different voice for each blog. Does that mean both of these blogs are authentic communication? Even though they are so different? Does the fact that I allow open comments on this blog but prefer parents to email any questions to me privately also add/lessen any authenticity in communication?

As I mentioned, I use a classroom blog to inform parents of what is happening in our kindergarten classroom. I also use SeeSaw to communicate with parents, as Angela said, it’s a great tool, although I do feel like I can use it better in my classroom. I am the one who curates what goes onto SeeSaw, posting pictures and videos of my students in the process of learning, playing and discovering. Parents are connected and can see what is posted and interact through likes and comments.  I do occasionally share bits and pieces of my classroom on Twitter.

Other than that, as a teacher, I have not opened my courses to the world.  And, if I’m being honest, the blog and SeeSaw are still quite closed, since only parents (and maybe some grandparents) use the platforms. Although I am aware of other early years educators opening their classroom up to the wider world (Kathy Cassidy is an example that quickly comes to mind) I don’t know how much I want to have the five-year-olds in my classroom shown to the wider world of the internet.  (I first wrote “my five-year-olds” in that last sentence, which probably more clearly illustrates how I feel.)


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Every year I have to send home a permission slip for media that the kids are allowed to be a part of. I always get them all back – probably because I hound parents until they return the form.  Each year I have probably 95% of parents give full permission – pictures online, pictures on SeeSaw, pictures on Twitter, allowed to be videoed for the news.  But that 5% that don’t give permission is always present. They usually have excellent reasons but that child, if present in a photo, needs a “smiley face” over their face – or not to be posted at all.  And that 5% still exists after I explain that my blog is set to private and doesn’t show up on Google searches (but then, I do have links to it in other areas…) or after I explain that SeeSaw is just a communication between myself and the parent, they might still have concerns about where the information is kept (SeeSaw’s host site is Amazon Web Servers, who store their information on servers in the US, which is why we need separate permission forms for SeeSaw).

I think it’s really true that my grade level affects how open I am in my teaching. Even with parental permission, I try my best to safeguard my students from everyone online. When I learn about a new site to try or a new platform, sometimes I question it because of the knowledge level needed for students to use it, other times for it’s privacy.

This is where other people have said, that digital citizenship is a teachable moment – and I completely agree! I teach digital citizenship to my five-year-olds – but! they are still five years old! Yesterday I taught them about staying out of puddles and today I had a completely soaking wet child who needed a full change of clothes.

They were less happy than this. As was I.

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It’s a time-consuming process and, maybe, the full “What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship” is not realistic for five-year-olds. The concept can definitely be introduced and started in kindergarten, but honestly, I don’t know if any of my 35 students really understand the whole concept. That’s why I agree with Jenn when she said that, as kids get older, there can be less teacher moderation or filtering.

So, here’s my question: am I limiting my students and downplaying how much they understand? Should we have a wider audience at this young age? Is this something that a five-year-old, who comes for a half day in my French Immersion kindergarten classroom needs to fully understand before opening them up to the wider world? Or am I filtering for a young age something that takes time for them to fully understand and am modeling how to go about sharing in the open safely?

Communications 101

This week our blog prompt was to talk a little bit more about our course prototype.  Since I am working with Angela and Sam, we have similar thoughts about how our course prototype is coming together. This week, specifically, Alec and Katia asked us to think about interactions within our course prototype.

I’ve now officially typed “prototype” too many times.

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So, in thinking about communication within our course, here are some of my thoughts:

Our course is designed for grade three students.  As I’ve discussed in other blog posts, I am (now? always?) a firm believer that in order for a blended model to work in an early years classroom, parents need to be on board. Therefore, our interactions in our course prototype need to also be mindful not just about student/student interaction or student/teacher interaction, but parent/teacher interaction.

As Angela pointed out, we have decided to use an LMS of Google Classroom to organize our rationale and our modules. Similar to Nicole and Amy, I think that the Google Classroom is where we are simply organizing (like a “pseudo-LMS”). However, in individual lessons, the students might use the app SeeSaw to demonstrate knowledge or share their work with their parents or with us, the teacher.

SeeSaw from my morning kindergarten class

In fact, SeeSaw is a great tool for communication. I use it in my kindergarten classroom and when I post a picture or a video, parents can see it immediately and can comment or like the photo.  Personally, I have the option to approve comments before they are attached to a photo.  I keep that setting on since it’s my professional classroom account. When using SeeSaw in the module, I would probably leave it off and allow a little bit more communication between the grade threes.

I know that I’ve heard and read a lot about students having an audience for their work and how important it is for them to have that audience. For example, Kathy Cassidy talks about how important it is for students to have a real audience for their work a lot on her blog. In particular, it helps them connect, have a voice and understand that their words can have impact elsewhere.

Knowing that authentic communication is important, I think that SeeSaw will be a good way for our prototype to collect and display pictures, videos, recordings and comments from those in the class. Having classmates and parents comment on the assignments and explorations that are posted on SeeSaw will motivate more interactions and explorations, especially at this age. A lot of the time younger students have a lot of motivation to do a project or assignment, but need the guidance or an audience to continue it. Starting is easy, maintaining is harder.

I haven’t used Google Classroom in my personal classroom teaching, so I’m still wrapping my head around how our LMS will be organized and how it will look. However, I know that communicating through Google Classroom, either by email to students and/or parents or by commenting or editing Google Docs that the students are working on is an easy form of communications.

I suppose we will just have to keep plugging away and eventually it will all fit into place. Although, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the “unknown” this close to our prototype being due! I know it’s at the end of the month, but that date is approaching soon – take it from a lady who is less than two months away (and hopefully no earlier!) from having a baby!

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Over the break, I took the time to research and read a little bit more into a flipped classroom.  Honestly, the idea of a flipped classroom appeals to me, it makes sense to get students to do any passive listening that (might) need to be done at home and do the active, hands-on stuff at school.

However, in the middle of all of this, I stopped and thought about my own classroom. In previous posts, I’ve mentioned my hesitation, due to the fact that I teach kindergarten, to mostly five and six-year-olds.  However, I not only teach kindergarten, I teach French Immersion kindergarten.  As soon as I began thinking about a flipped classroom method for a second language classroom, I knew that I wanted to learn more and write about it this week.

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Before I continue, I just want to mention that I took a couple of amazing classes from Andrea Sterzuk in my undergrad (and I have been planning/hoping to take more in my masters) on the topic of English as an Additional Language.  Although the classes I took were geared toward teaching students who do not speak English in an English classroom setting, the same principals of second language learning apply for children who are learning French as a second language (or other languages).  If you haven’t taken a class from Andrea, I highly recommend it, whether you teach students in a second language or not (and especially since we add more EAL students in our division each year).

So, back to second language acquisition. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to discuss French, and French in Saskatchewan in particular.

There are different ways that you can learn French in Saskatchewan.

  1. Core French.  This program is offered in most schools, and the curriculum states that the minimum required time for core French is 120 minutes a week, until level 6 core French.
  2. Intensive French. This program (I believe) is only offered in a few school divisions. It is an enrichment of the core French program and begins in grade 6, with intensive French language instruction for five months and then partly in French the rest of the year.
  3. French Immersion. This program is offered in a lot of schools. The curriculum states that, for the first few years (kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2) the whole day, 100% of instruction, takes place in French. English Language instruction begins in grade 3 as a subject, but the rest of the subjects continue to be taught in French.
  4. Fransaskoise. This program is offered only in the fransaskoise school division. The curriculum is slightly similar to the Immersion curriculum, however English Language instruction does not start until grade 4. The program is meant for students who already have French as their first language.

Just to note, it takes approximately 480 hours to reach a basic level of fluency in an “easy” language (like French is for English speakers). Basic fluency is defined as “Limited working proficiency” which means the person is able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements. Therefore, in a true Core French classroom, learning 120 minutes of French a week, you might (and that’s a big might) be basically fluent by grade 6.  Maybe.

(A whole other blog post could be written about how often Core French is not taught for the minimum requirement for many, many reasons).

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Now, with all of that explained, let’s circle back to the flipped method.  From what I was able to find on trusty Google, there is a big difference between a Core French setting and an immersion setting when discussing the flipped method.

The flipped method works in a second language instruction when you are teaching new vocabulary, especially, in my mind, with core French. This blog has convincing points to a flipped method, as well as tips to get started for flipping a core French classroom.  The reason that I think the flipped method works in this situation is that it’s for older students who are motivated to learn another language. I also believe the blog is for a core French situation since it focuses more on vocabulary building that content. In an Immersion classroom, vocabulary is important, but the content and knowledge is more important (since all subjects are taught in French).

This article outlines how it works for Mandarin instruction in San Francisco. I think the key point here is that parents and students are equally excited and motivated to learn Mandarin. The required time at home for a flipped classroom is welcomed and appreciated. The Mandarin school seems likes it is an intensive second language program, but not Immersion. I could be wrong about this, though!

The idea of a flipped classroom is discussed in this blog, where, again, the classroom situation seems like it is a core French situation. The second part of the article suggests only speaking the target language in the classroom (using gestures and repetition for comprehension). It’s a good tip, but what 95% of second language teachers already do.

This blog is written for Immersion teachers. It discusses how she intends to flip her teaching, recording her lectures for future students’ homework and then using her in class time for practice exercises.  I think this would work well again with the content being learned at home and practical applications happening with support at school.

After reading and researching, it seems that the flipped method is very doable in core French. Having students listen to French vocabulary at home would increase the time spent using the language in school, especially once students are motivated to learn a second language. (This might also be a way to increase the number of minutes that students learn French a week).

In an Immersion setting, I think that flipped would work as well.  Although, I’m wondering if flipped works in different subjects better than others? Last class we discussed which subjects worked better for a flipped classroom and, overwhelmingly, math won.  A lot of people could speak to flipping their math instruction, recording the lecture and then using the class time to do exercises or help students who didn’t understand the lecture. This would be the same in French Immersion, wouldn’t it? If it works for a class in English, it should work for a class in French.

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From what I could find, most of the flipped classrooms in a second language are in an older grade. When the children are a little older, they are more motivated and a little more willing to do homework.  With younger children, parents definitely need to be on board with the flipped method in order for it to happen at home.

It would definitely be interesting to try a flipped classroom in kindergarten. Although our new French curriculum doesn’t have subjects and is fully integrated, so it’s hard to pull one subject to try and flip.  But, that is a different thing to consider.

Media, all the media

This week we were asked to respond to a reading from last week, chapter seven from Bates.  The chapter summarizes different medias such as text, audio, video, computing, and social media.

With each of these medias, Bates describes characteristics of learning and teaching. Positives and negatives are discussed for each.  A few quotes from each section of the chapter drew my eye. Here they are, one for each of the sections:

Text is that it can be carefully scrutinised, analysed and constantly checked

 

Added flexibility and learner control means that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.

 

Video is particularly useful for recording events or situations where it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events

 

The issue around the value of computing as a medium for teaching is less about its pedagogical value and more about control.

 

The main feature of social media is that they empower the end user to access, create, disseminate and share information easily in a user-friendly, open environment.

All of these quotes show that each of these medias have value and are recognized by all, if not used by all.

Personally, I can’t choose a favourite style to learn from. I honestly like a blend of all of the different types. I enjoy reading text-based items, either in print format or online.

I appreciate audio more as a break in concentration. I find that I am able to do a lot of other things if I’m listening to a book on tape, or just listening to the audio of a video. Although multitasking is not real, I find that it’s a good way to listen and try to get something done at the same time.

I love videos. When I get ready in the morning I constantly have something on YouTube while I’m getting ready. Now that John Oliver is back (I have a serious crush on John Oliver, I’ve written about it before) I can now get ready on Monday mornings while listening and watching his show. I, of course, watch other things, but I really appreciate both the visual and the audio (and the humour) of most videos.

Heart <3
Heart ❤

Photo Credit: abovethelaw via Google

Same goes for computing and social media, which I am going to lump together. Some days I enjoy the ease of using a computer to take notes or to create a blog. I enjoy creating content to share with others as well.

So, in saying that I can’t pick a favourite type of media, I guess that I have to keep that in mind with my students.  They may not be able to pick either. Or, maybe they don’t want to.

I completely agree with Katherine, when she said that learning styles/preferences might be a myth. However, what I do believe is that students like to learn in different ways on different days. And these might not be connected to learning styles at all, but to mood.  If I am feeling very overwhelmed, and I have a bunch of new concepts to consider, as a learner I might appreciate a text.  I can take my time with a text, reread, pause and think. Nothing is loud or overwhelming.

However, the next day I might need a refresher on a concept that I already know about. Listening to a podcast about it, or watching a quick video might be all I need.  If I feel like I need to create something, I can use social media or computing to provide me with that outlet, if that’s what I need for my learning that day.

When considering the different types of medias and how to use them as teaching tools, I think that a lot of the time teachers rely on their own personal biases when choosing media for their classes. This bias sometimes comes from “well, this is how I was taught…” but can also come from “well, I like this the best.” Of course a very common bias is “I’m not really comfortable with anything else.”

But, as Graham stated in his post, it’s not about the teacher, it’s the question “what medium of technology is best for my student to learn this content or skill?” It’s important to realize that although we may all have our predispositions or biases, the students are the ones who need to feel comfortable and need to be able to learn in the manner that suits them best.

I fully believe that we can present the same information in a multitude of ways, especially if we take a little time to find the other ways. When I am teaching my French kindergarten students a new letter, I “lecture” first, then they play games with the letter on an iPad. They watch a video with the letter in it and I have an alphabet song as well.  We also do lots and lots of hands-on activities (which aren’t mentioned here, of course). With all of these different ways of learning, the kids usually get a really good sense of the letter of the week.

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Of course, if I had older students I would have even more options, as five-year-olds are somewhat limited when it comes to some forms of media (either by reading or by privacy).

So, in summary – I believe that we all like different medias and appreciate the opportunity to learn from different medias when they are available.

Your thoughts?

I’m “Thread”-y

This week we were asked to check out some of the tools available to us online to help with our big project.

From the list, a bunch of cool tools that I’ve used before, either for school or for university.

(As an aside, I think my family/friends get super confused at the difference between school (kindergarten teacher) and school/university (Master’s classes).  I often have to clarify when I am talking about doing school work – is it planning for my kids or writing a blog – who knows!)

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From the list, I’ve used and/or liked a lot of them. For instance: Skitch, PowerPoint, Prezi, AdobeSpark, Screencastify, Explain Everything (when it was cheaper), iMovie, YouTube editor, Garageband, Powtoon, and Animoto. Writing these down, I realized that, while I have used a lot of the tools listed, there were still a greater number that I hadn’t used.

I tried a couple before deciding on what I would write about. I looked at both PuppetPals and Little Bird Tales. They both looked interesting, but my weird hang up on things that are animated and/or geared toward younger kids is that it inevitably looks creepy, or weird.  Like, remember when bitstrips were all the rage on Facebook? The avatars that came with the program were all vaguely similar and slightly creepy. Did anyone else think this, or was it just me?

Since I was weirded out by the two that I tried, I decided to look elsewhere.  The next one I tried was VoiceThread.  One of the first things that I liked about the website was that you can see and listen to VoiceThreads without having to create an account.

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Photo Credit: VoiceThread via VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a site where you can upload media and then record a voiceover to go along with the media. VoiceThreads can be used by teachers to explain concepts or by students to demonstrate their learning.

Another great thing about VoiceThread is that the website will host the VoiceThreads and you can embed them elsewhere, or share them to Facebook or Twitter. With this VoiceThread, the first slide is the teacher introducing the project and each subsequent slide is a picture or a video detailing the project.

One thing that would make the tool a little better would be more VoiceThreads that are publically shared. There are many categories listed on the main browse page that unfortunately do not have any videos shared to them.  This makes me wonder if the website isn’t as useful as it seems on the surface.

Also, another negative to the website is that in order to export videos, you have to pay for each export. Right now the offer is ten exports for twenty dollars. Although it is relatively cheap, there are other websites that will allow you to create videos for free (like YouTube…)

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Did anyone else look into this website? I might use it for our project, but I feel like there are easier and cheaper options!

LMS Does Not Stand for “Losing My Sanity”

This week, we had the opportunity to explore and review one of the LMS platforms that Alec and Katia introduced us to on Tuesday night.

Before I started exploring I first read through our readings for the week. I figured that I would gain a little more knowledge before heading off to explore a couple of the platforms and then review one of them. So, I dutifully clicked on both the Wikipedia page on the VLE and Chapter 6, A History of Ed Tech.

And then I read Audrey Watters‘ Beyond the LMS post.  Everything I read completely spoke to me. I believe Katia has spoken before (in another class) about how big a fan of Audrey Watters she is and, while reading it, I was converted into a pretty big fan.

My three top “ah-ha” moments, or things that I completely agreed with were:

  1. LMS platforms are “old school.” While you can dress up the same old, same old (Lipstick on a pig is my favourite expression for this) it’s still an old method that hasn’t gotten better
  2. Something that Alec alluded to, as well:

    At the end of each class, students would lose access to the materials — could lose, I suppose. there are some administrative controls to extend it. Anything they’d written in the forums, for example, any interactions they’d had through the messaging system: gone.

  3. LMS platforms are traditional. Audrey talks about the course online being very similar to the course that one would teach in person. Not a lot of change, or innovation.

So, with these thoughts in my mind, I went off to explore an LMS. Like Ashley, I too, received a phone call from Canvas a few days after registering for my account.  This was really impressive to me, especially as they called during lunch and asked if I was busy with a class at the moment before asking me more questions.

(An aside – getting phone calls during the school day drives me crazy. I know what I should do is turn my phone to airplane mode – I use it to take photos of my students for my blog or for SeeSaw – but I inevitably forget)

My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM
My face when my phone rings at 9:03AM

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Since I received the phone call, I decided Canvas would be the one that I would explore a little bit more.

My top three things that I liked about Canvas are:

  1. The “what to do” checklist. Checklists warm my heart and it’s always nice to have the option of taking the website’s walkthrough. The checklist itself was very straightforward and easy to follow.
  2. I LOVED the calendar. I’m all about organization and I loved the possibility of adding assignments and seeing what each class I taught had to do, on which date. Colour coding the classes is also awesome. Seriously, this might be my favourite thing. I use Planboard in my daily teaching life simply because it’s so lovely, organized and colour coordinated.
  3. The course email feature is handy-dandy.  It would be nice to be able to respond to email about the course within the course platform itself, instead of bouncing around to different platforms and email sites.

However, after I spent a bit of time on Canvas, I came back to my top reason LMS platforms are not for me.

Kindergartens cannot use them.

I know that this is the third time that I’ve mentioned this, and maybe it’s starting to get annoying, but it’s frustrating to think of having to adapt something that is clearly not meant for children. (Maybe their parents? But French Immersion at home is that much more of a headache.)

When I mentioned the fact that I teach kindergarten to the lady on the phone from Canvas, she said “oh, well…” After thinking for a bit, she said, “If your school division bought Canvas, we can work to design something with buttons… maybe?”

This is a great (probably expensive) offer, but still a little unrealistic. I believe that I will have to turn my back on an LMS platform and instead, as Audrey Watters proposed use “the open web” and use some more kid-friendly software to make my kindergarten class a little more blended.

All the "blended" jokes
All the “blended” jokes

Photo Credit: yourbestdigs Flickr via Compfight cc

Thanks for reading my (super) late blog post!

To make a blended course, add one part…

After our class this week, I found myself a little relieved. When first signing up for the course, I thought to myself “well, I’m not 100% sure what blended learning is, but I guess I’ll find out.” After our first class, many questions popped up such as: how in the world will I design a blended course that I will be able to use as a primary teacher? And, not only as a primary teacher, but as a teacher of the extremely little guys – kindergarten students who aren’t as worried about reading as they are who took their favourite car during center time.

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Lucas took the black car, but I was using it!

Photo Credit: quinn.anya Flickr via Compfight cc

Honestly, one of my biggest fears about blended learning is that it is often very personal and personalized.  And therefore, as Downes wrote: if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own.  Learning on your own in younger grades is amazing to see. It’s what early years educators try to provoke with invitations to learn.

As Nicole wrote, learning is a process. Students, at all levels, kindergarten to university, need scaffolding in the learning process that takes time.  Therefore, blended learning, in any capacity, is something that can be done with all ages, although it might look very different! In my last blog post, I said that adapting for young learners was something that I worried about. Note the past tense. Worried.

However, once I read the article from Bates this week, I was not as worried. After reading, I thought:

Blended learning is an easy mixture: take one part teaching and combine it with as many parts necessary of technology, either through technology aids (such as smartboards or iPads), flipped classrooms or learning management systems.

Once I realized that blended learning was what was already happening in my kindergarten classroom, I was able to imagine designing a course to present to this class and possibly use to teach as well!

For this project, Angela and I decided to work together.  We are both primary teacher although I teach French Immersion kindergarten and she teaches grade three in English.  Although this is a large age gap, both groups of students have similar issues when thinking about designing a blended course.

For example, both kindergarteners and grade threes will need:

  • a lot of pre-teaching and scaffolding to accomplish their goals
  • safe spaces for sharing their knowledge
  • an easy to use learning management system
  • parent help with any aspects of a flipped model
All parents have this smile with homework
All parents have this smile when it comes to homework

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ Flickr via Compfight cc

 

With this in mind, what we have discussed so far is:

  1. Developing a course for grade three arts ed
  2. Working on a course for the visual strand of the Arts Ed curriculum
  3. Creating a few videos of techniques/background information for Arts Ed for parents and children to watch at home (flipped model)
  4. Using a form of learning management system for younger students.

While these are all very general, I feel like we have a good start.  I am used to using SeeSaw in my kindergarten classroom, and I feel like it might be a good option.  I saw from reading Amy’s post that she and Nicole have also considered using SeeSaw.  The ease of documenting their learning is what is drawing me to SeeSaw currently.

Not this seesaw
Not this seesaw

Photo Credit: a.rey Flickr via Compfight cc

One thing that I am still grappling with the distinction between blended learning in delivery and blended learning in final product.  Can you have one without the other?

I hope that Angela and I are able to quickly solidify our plans and develop an amazing course to share with all of you!