Digital Resilience and the 21st Century Educator

If there is one quality that I am being sorely tested in this year, its my digital resilience.

I heard the term during Jenny Luca’s keynote at last week’s Edutech congress in Brisbane when she shared this slide:

4122632440_7f97d7afdd_o(Image Credit)

It seems that almost every digital project I have worked on with students this year has hit a wall due to infrastructure problems, blocked websites and security protocols.

For two terms now, I have been trying to get a school news show off the ground. A group of Year 5 and 6 students have been filming and editing news reports which we are putting together into a single news program. We’d planned to have our news come out at least twice a term, and we would have, if we hadn’t hit a brick wall of security protocols and infrastructure failures.

Our first issue was security protocols. At some point over the Christmas holidays, a change was made to the security protocols that allow us to transfer data from our school iPads to our school computers. I’m not sure if it was a school security issue, or an apple update, but no matter what we tried, we could not move the films off our iPads as it they would not ‘trust’ the connected device.

The files were too large to email, so I tried setting up a Google Drive account for the group and we attempted to upload our videos to that. This is when the infrastructure started to fail. Our school wifi, which is usually reliable became patchy. Some of the iPads would not connect at all. Others would, but transferred the data so slowly, it took days to upload the videos we needed. Eventually, I took the iPads home and was able to upload over my home network, but there is still one iPad, containing some of the best videos, that I can’t shift data from.

Our computer coordinator managed to work out a fix for all this, but installing it means wiping all the data off the iPads, including the videos we are trying to save.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working with another group of students teaching them to code using Scratch. They’ve been developing games for a games arcade that we plan to link to our school website. Today, after several weeks, the games were ready to upload. Scratch has a built in uploader which will share games created in the software directly to a user account on the Scratch website. Today I learned that the uploader won’t work in our school environment. We need a password to get through our proxy but the software won’t let us enter one. As a workaround, I had the students save their projects to my USB stick and I uploaded each project from home.

Hitting obstacle after obstacle takes its toll. They slow our projects down, and they frustrate and disappoint our students. It is so hard not to give up altogether and I’m tempted at times to choose non-tech projects in future just to avoid these problems.

I persist for a number of reasons:

  • I believe in the value of these projects. I see how they’ve engaged and excited my students, and the great learning that is occurring by participating in them.
  • I don’t see the setbacks as defeats. I am convinced that every problem can be solved, and it’s just a matter of finding a workaround.
  • After years of trouble shooting issues, I’ve developed a fairly wide repertoire of strategies which allow me to find workarounds to the sort of tech problems I’ve been facing.
  • When I can’t find a workaround myself, I consult with my network of teachers on Twitter and Yammer. Inevitably someone will suggest an idea I hadn’t considered, which solves the problem.
  • When no solution presents itself, I’ve learned to let it go. In every case  learning that has occurred in spite of the problems encountered. While the end result of the project may be different from what we intended, the process has still been worthwhile.

I would love to see an easing of security protocols which impede learning in schools and I would love to have reliable wifi that never drops out. But as technology continues to develop, at a faster pace than our protocols and infrastructure can possibly keep up with,  I suspect we are always going to face issues like this.

Persevering can be stressful, but if the project is worth doing, then it’s better than giving up. If there isn’t a workaround, then  adapt the project. Our twice a term news project looks more likely to become a year in review video, and that’s okay. It’s not quite the project I’d intended, but the students are still learning and developing their skills.

And there is an unintended but valuable consequence for our students. Our students get to see us learn. They witness us solving problems from different angles, trying new strategies until we find the one that works. They see us research answers and consult and collaborate with others. And they see us remaining positive in the face of set backs. They see in action the life-long learning skills that we would like to see in them.

So when faced with set backs,  stay positive and persevere. Be digitally resilient. It’s worth it.

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PBL with Year 2, Project 3: A Review Website

Year Two’s final project for the year was centred around the review and response text types. Like many schools in NSW, we spend several weeks each term focusing on specific text types from the NSW English Syllabus. New syllabi to support the Australian Curriculum will be implemented next year and I expect that our approach to writing will change, but, in the final term of 2013, we were still obliged to continue on as we had been doing.

We wanted to use a Project Based Learning approach to bring a real purpose and authenticity to the work our students would be doing. We also wanted to gain experience in  incorporating multi-modal texts as these need to be treated quite considerably in the new syllabus that we will implement in 2014.

When our team started planning, it was initially quite hard to think of a good project, but as our discussion moved on, things started to fall into place. The ideas began flowing when we considered how we as adults use reviews in our own lives. We realised that of course, we use them all the time when finding out about movies we’d like to see, restaurants we want to visit, products we like to buy and so forth. In fact, they are one of the most useful text types because they help us to make good decisions about how to spend our time and money. We also realised in our discussion that usually when we as adults look for reviews, we either watch them on TV or search for them on the net.

At this point, the project we would work on with our classes became obvious: we would have each class create a website containing video and written reviews. The reviews would be of activities that they enjoy doing over summer and it would be a resource to help each other make good choices about how to spend their time. This ticked all the boxes for us. We would use multi-model texts such as television review shows and websites for our modelled texts. It would allow our students plenty of choice in terms of what they chose to review, and it would allow them to work creatively in teams. They would still have to satisfy the writing requirements of the text type, by writing a well constructed blog post to accompany each video. As a further bonus, it would give us a meaningful purpose for using the iPads which had just arrived in our school. We were excited to have them, but still getting our heads around how to incorporate them into our teaching and learning program.

Project 3: A Review Website

Duration: 9 weeks

Driving Question: How can we make good choices about what we read, watch and do? How can we help others to make good choices?

Public Audience:  A world audience, but a target audience of other Y2 classes, friends and families.

Significant Content: As we planned this unit, we realised it covered content from just about every area of the new English syllabus. These were the outcomes we identified.

English K-10

  • EN11A communicates with a range of people in informal and guided activities demonstrating interaction skills and considers how own communication is adjusted in different situations
  • EN12A plans, composes and reviews a small range of simple texts for a variety of purposes on familiar topics for known readers and viewers
  • EN13A composes texts using letters of consistent size and slope and uses digital technologies
  • EN14A draws on an increasing range of skills and strategies to fluently read, view and comprehend a range of texts on less familiar topics in different media and technologies
  • EN16B recognises a range of purposes and audiences for spoken language and recognises organisational patterns and features of predictable spoken texts
EN17B identifies how language use in their own writing differs according to their purpose, audience and subject matter

EN18B recognises that there are different kinds of texts when reading and viewing and shows an awareness of purpose, audience and subject matter

EN19B uses basic grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary appropriate to the type of text when responding to and composing texts

EN110C thinks imaginatively and creatively about familiar topics, ideas and texts when responding to and composing texts

EN111D responds to and composes a range of texts about familiar aspects of the world and their own experiences

EN112E identifies and discusses aspects of their own and others’ learning

What we did:

I introduced the driving question right at the start of the unit, and then looked at some review websites with our classes. I chose to use Good Game SP as our exemplar text.  After watching some video reviews we made a list of features that were common to each one:

  • Title
  • Summarised the story
  • Discussed good and bad elements
  • Recommended an audience
  • Provided a rating
  • Were supported by a written blog

These became the essential elements that the students would include in their reviews.

We also noted the features that made the videos good to watch. Some of the features we identified included:

  • Humour
  • Interesting and varied camera angles
  • Vocal expression

I then asked the class to brainstorm some possible topics for our reviews. Many wanted to review video games, since that was the model they had observed, but eventually our list grew to include indoor and outdoor games, craft activities and books. A number of students were desperate to review different types of pets. I was reluctant at first, because I didn’t think it really suited our topic of choosing activities for the summer holidays. However,  in the end I relented as they explained it would help other children decide if they wanted to get a similar pet themselves.

We spent the next couple of weeks working on written book reviews. I explained that they needed to understand how to structure their writing so that when it came to writing their blog posts, they would be able to post something that was well written and that they could be proud of. The upcoming project gave a sense of urgency to this task and I found my students were very engaged and tried hard to improve their writing, responding well to critical feedback. To give the writing exercises an even greater sense of purpose, we used school library books as our subjects. Each student had to write a  review of a library book which would be kept in our library to help other children choose a good book.

We also spent some time familiarising ourselves with the iPads and iMovie. While most of my students had used iPads before, none of them had used iMovie. We spent time making book trailers and reviews of parts of our school. For the students, there was no risk of failure in this activity. They weren’t being evaluated at all, it was just about exploring and figuring out what works well.

We learned all sorts of things by having a few weeks to just explore and experiment with iMovie. We discovered that if you put your hand over the microphone it muffles the sound. We also learned that if you stand too far away from the iPad, the microphone doesn’t pick up your voice. After viewing several student movies, we discovered that shorter clips worked better than long takes, and that if the movie involved someone just talking to the camera, it was more interesting to watch if the talk was broken up, perhaps by providing different backgrounds or camera angles. We discovered how to use subtitles, background music and voice overs, and we also discovered that if not used well, these could be very distracting and ruin, rather than improve the movie. And we learned to be aware of what was happening in the background. Images of other groups of children making movies or playing sport in the distance was distracting.

While initially, I wanted the final assessment pieces to be made in groups, I ended up having each student write their own review individually, but they had to create the video in a group. After each student submitted a well constructed written review, and I had checked it, they then had to plan their video by creating a story board. Each frame in the story board had to show what the camera would film, as well as the script, and any subtitles, music or voice over information.

Once I had checked these, they were free to make their movies. At this point, I became redundant. My students had developed enough know-how to work on their films completely independently and the final products were often a complete surprise to me. My role became that of a facilitator. I’d assist students who weren’t sure how to edit part of their movie, and answer questions here and there, but for the most part, the students did all the work while I supported and encouraged them.

Problems

I started encountering problems when I tried to upload videos to the website. I’d created a new blog for the project using the Edublogs platform and had the students choose the design and the name. But with 3 weeks to go before the end of the term our videos wouldn’t upload. At first I thought it might have had something to do with the file type, so instead of trying to upload again, I created a Vimeo account from which I could embed the videos. That in itself took time. Creating the account required an email account, so I had to create a class Gmail as well. After taking a few days to sort all that out and uploading my first few videos to Vimeo, they still wouldn’t embed on the website. This, I eventually discovered was because I needed a Pro account with Edublogs, which annoyed me as I already had a Pro account for my class blog. I assumed, wrongly, that would cover any blogs I created.

With one week left, I finally bit the bullet and paid for a Pro account. Now that I was able to embed videos, I started to upload the rest of them to Vimeo, but I hit another obstacle: my free Vimeo account would only allow me to upload a limited number of videos each week and I reached that limit before I’d uploaded even half of the class’s videos.

However, at least, by the end of the year, we had a number of their video and blog posts published.

Here is an example of one I was really pleased with. I love the different camera angles, the use of titles and the vocal expression.

I’ll be updating the site with the rest of their videos and posts over the holidays. You can find our website here.

 Evaluation:

All in all, I thought the project was a great success. The quality of their written reviews for the website was not nearly as high as the quality of their written reviews for our school library, but given the fact that their library reviews were so good, I was still pleased with the outcomes of the writing program.

I was delighted with the videos they made. These were entirely the students’ own work and they’d made so much progress. They were thinking critically about their movies, constantly editing and improving them until they had a product of which they were proud.

If I was to do this again, however, I wouldn’t use Edublogs as a platform. It was frustrating to have to pay for features which come for free on other platforms such as Weebly and WordPress. My colleague, Joel was very happy with using Weebly for his class project. You can visit 2A’s review website here.

This is the fourth in my series on Project Based Learning. For more,visit my Project Based Learning page or view the articles below.

Related articles

The Cost of Living in a Connected World

As I write this blog in my living room, I am multi-tasking with Twitter, chatting with friends and other educators not just in Australia, but around the world.  The instant I hit ‘publish’ this post is available globally. There are no gate keepers and there’s no wait time.

How different it is to when I was living in Japan in the pre-internet early 90s. Back then I would wait two weeks for a letter to arrive from home, and if I wrote back immediately, it would take another two weeks for my friends or family to receive my reply. It took at least a month to receive answers to letters and I would wait for them desperately, hoping that friends and family would reply quickly so that I could feel connected with my home.

C21 instant connectivity brings so many good things. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock. But I do wonder sometimes if we’ve lost some things in the process.

We don’t write letters any more.

I still have a box full of letters I received back when I lived away from home. My friends and family would update me with all their news, no matter how mundane. They’d include the occasional photograph and I love them still because they capture a moment in time.

Some people say email has taken the place of letter writing, but I disagree. I think Facebook has. It’s where people share their news and post their photographs. However its a lot less personal than receiving a letter written just for you, in its own envelope, perhaps with a photograph enclosed. When we’d receive a letter, it was like a special gift, we’d never know what would be inside.

Relationships have become a little shallower

In some ways our relationships have become shallower. I remember years ago friends would send cards or pick up the phone for birthdays. Now, posting ‘happy birthday’ on someone’s Facebook wall is the more common practice. This is easy, but it’s far less personal. A little bit of effort goes a long way.

Privacy does not exist

Anyone, even a stranger, can publish photographs of us.  Facebook allows us to untag images, but as far as I can tell, we can’t take them down. And of course, if you’re unlucky enough to get caught on video when you fall down a sink hole, you can become the next viral video.

Yet for all that, I’m happy to be living in a connected world. I’ve found that I thrive in this environment. It brings many challenges for educators, however and that is what our latest podcast is about.

In it, I interview Dr Alec Couros about how global connectivity is changing they way we learn, and the way we teach. I also speak to Dan Haesler about his concerns with BYOD in public school systems. He wrote an interesting opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about this issue.

For more podcasts check out my podcast page. You can also visit our website, subscribe to us on iTunes or through Feedburner.

Are ActivTables transforming teaching, or simply substituting existing practices?

Yesterday I was invited to see a demonstration of the Promethean ActivTable, a multi touch learning tool that allows students to work in collaborative groups to manipulate and share information.

It was pretty cool. Watching students use it reminded me of those scenes in TV shows like CSI where the detectives use their hands to drag and manipulate images and data.

The students using it were very engaged, and the software running on it very cleverly required students to work in a cooperative and collaborative manner.

But while the technology was exciting, having seen the demonstration, I’m not sure that a table like this would really enhance the learning or facilitate the kind of pedagogies I want to see more of at my school.

When running on Windows, the table could only have one point of touch, so wasn’t really very useful. However when running the Activ software provided by Promethean for the table, multiple touch was enabled, and groups of up to 6 students could work together.

The software was full of engaging activities and teachers could use them as templates, modifying them to create new activities. I watched as children worked together to join consonants with vowel-consonants on virtual flashcards, and match these with pictures. I saw children pull out questions about famous people, such as Bill Gates, and use browsers within the software to research the answers to specific questions, such as his birthdate.

But what I was seeing was nothing more than substitution.

The demonstration I saw took typical activities that we might use with students in literacy or mathematics groups, and transferred them to the table. While it was fascinating to watch, and highly engaging for the students using the table, I couldn’t see what it was adding to our repertoire.

I really love using the SAMR model to help me consider how technology is used in the classroom:

SAMR: Puentedura, R. R., Ph.D., SAMR model.

SAMR: Puentedura, R. R., Ph.D., SAMR model.

In the demonstration I saw, this amazing technology was only being used at the lowest level of enhancement. It was a direct tool substitute, and for several thousand dollars, an extraordinarily expensive substitute.

Normally, that wouldn’t deter me because I’d expect that someone out there would already be developing  great software that could be added to enhance the product. So many useful apps have been developed by third parties to allow iPads to become powerful learning and creation tools for K-6 classrooms. Without those apps, iPads wouldn’t be nearly so useful.

But the problem with the ActivTable is that the multi-touch only operates when you are using their specific software. Under windows, it goes back to being single touch, which defeats the point as its designed to foster collaboration. I assume that this means third parties would not be able to develop software for the table, so we’d have to rely on Promethean to develop a software package that does more than act as a substitute for existing classroom practices. Making it such a closed system seriously limits its potential, as the creative minds outside Promethean are shut out from developing anything for it.

Now I’m not sure if my concerns are valid. I didn’t get a chance to fiddle around with the software myself to see what sort of transformative capabilities it might have. I have asked for some further information from the company that demonstrated it for us and I’ll be interested to find out what they tell me.

However, until some of these concerns are addressed, I don’t think that the ActivTable is going to help take my school in the direction I’d like to see it go. At this stage, I’d rather invest in a 3D printer. That’s a technology with amazing creative potential. I have no idea how 3D printing would transform our curriculum, but I know it would take us into territory we haven’t been before.

Update: 

Here is the response I received from the Promethean rep when I expressed my concerns to her:

The Table fits in with all of the SAMR elements.  We only looked at a couple of the apps (about 4 out of 80 odd) and there are plenty which cover those two final stages of the SAMR diagram below; either  in a small way (eg. self-creating own CVC words in that one app we saw today) or else the whole activity is about the creation, for Eg the Music Maker or the Newspaper Maker or the Presentation maker, just to name a few off the top of my head, where absolutely all of the activity relies on the students creating or building the content for their own purposes/ needs. 

And the main thing the Table brings, which is 100% the ‘Redefinition column’ is the very fact that you can provide students with an authentic and truly collaborative environment- they cannot do this on IWBs, iPads/Tablets as on these other technologies the kids have to take turns, only one person can make a change / input something at once.

 On the ActivTable it’s possible to ALL be interacting with things simultaneously and have a practical situation where the students are discussing, making decisions and changing things/ inputing things simultaneously- in other words, truly working collaboratively.  In this regard, the ‘new task, previously inconceivable’ is actually collaboration.  How do you teach these skills authentically in any other way? With other technologies its about ‘turn taking’. (NB. PISA international exams are introducing a collaborative working component to their exams from 2015, collaboration is where schooling is heading 

Checking in on the journey towards C21 Learning

After spending the day at the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre for the ‘Reimagining Learning’ event and reflecting on my own growth in this area, I’ve realised two things:

1. I’m doing pretty well as a  C21 learner.

2. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a great C21 teacher.

The keynote speaker, Dr Alec Couros shared this great summary of 21st Century skills with us:

21st Century Readers/Writers Must…

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.
  • Create, critique and analyse multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by those complex environments

NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment (2007)

So how am I going against those standards both personally and as an educator?

1. Develop proficiency with the tools of technology.

I’m really pleased with my personal progress against this standard. In the past two years I’ve taught myself to use Twitter, to blog and to use social bookmarking and curation tools such as Pinterest and ScoopIt. I’ve recently started podcasting and I suppose its only a matter of time before I move into some sort of animation or video creation. I’m also very comfortable with using Google Apps for personal and collaborative projects

However, when it comes to teaching students these tools, I’ve made some progress but tend to drop the ball a lot. Last year I had my students blogging, but this year we haven’t really gotten around to it. This year I started a class blog but haven’t kept it up.  Last year I had a class Twitter account, but this year it all seemed too hard. While I use collaborative tools such as Google Apps, it’s never occurred to me to use them with my students (though that might change when Apps for Education are launched in DEC schools).

2. Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross culturally

Once again, I’m pleased with how I’m going in this area. Thanks to Twitter, and my the DEC network on Yammer, I’ve built a huge personal learning network of teachers, some whom I’ve never met, others who have become good friends. We pose questions and solve problems collaboratively. Twitter chats are awesome for this. We share resources to help each other out, and through these connections I’m now collaborating on two major projects: EduTweetOz and Teachers Education Review.

While I’m certainly collecting great ideas for teaching through the relationships I’ve built on Twitter and Yammer, I haven’t succeeded in providing opportunities for my students to do the same. Last year my class connected with some other classes around the world through our blogs, however I didn’t find that this facilitated any real relationships or collaboration. The only real purpose was to provide a sense of connectedness and a real audience for their writing.

3. Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.

I think I’m doing pretty well here. I’m constantly engaged in designing and sharing information. My blog, my Twitter and my podcast are all about creating and sharing information with others.

While social media gives us so many platforms to do this easily, I haven’t considered any opportunities for my students to share information with a global community.  But when I think about it, it doesn’t really sound too hard. Our Science teacher does a great job at this. Check out the website her Year 4 students created.

4. Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.

I seem to have developed this skill over time. I’m now pretty good at scanning my feeds to find the information I want, and using tools like TweetDeck to manage my Twitter feed, Flipboard and Zite to manage the blogs and other feeds that I like to follow.

However in the classroom I’m just busy trying to teach my 7 and 8-year-old students to read and comprehend basic texts. I have absolutely no idea how I would teach them to manage streams of information. But perhaps, at this stage of their schooling and development, they don’t need that skill.

5. Create, critique and analyse multimedia texts

I like to think I do this well,  although there is still much more I could learn. After all, I’ve not really ventured far into video and film creation yet. I  think that I can analyse these texts critically, but perhaps others would disagree.

While I have had students creating some multimedia texts, I tend to manage much of this process for them. Our lessons are more prescriptive than creative. Part of this is simply because the age group I teach are still acquiring basic ICT skills. I’ve given them the most creative freedom with a program called Scratch, which allows them to code their own computer games. I actually have no idea how to use the software, but we had it on our school computers so I encouraged them to experiment and create their own games and animations. They’ve had a great time doing it.

The critique and analysis of multimedia texts is an area I’m unfamiliar with teaching, and to be honest, a little intimidated by. Our new NSW English Syllabus, to be implemented next year, has a good framework for this. I hope it helps me to incorporate that more in class.

6. Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by those complex environments

I think I’m tracking fairly well against this both personally and as a teacher. I always endeavour to use  attributions correctly and usually search Creative Commons for any images I might need. I teach my students to do the same. We also talk frequently about etiquette for commenting on blogs, and I use the class blog as an opportunity for students to learn and practice these skills.

Conclusions:

While I’ve come along way as a 21st century learner, I’m lagging a long way behind this when it comes to teaching those skills to my students. I’ve made some progress, but there’s much more I can and should be doing.  I think the new NSW Syllabi  that are aligned with the Australian Curriculum will help, because these 21st Century skills are embedded throughout them.

I’ve realised that I’m augmenting my curriculum with these skills and opportunities, rather than transforming it. I think that’s why its been so easy to drop the ball when things get busy. They haven’t been an essential part of my program, so they are often the first thing to go.

The SAMR model provides a good framework for transforming teaching.

SAMR: Puentedura, R. R., Ph.D., SAMR model.

SAMR: Puentedura, R. R., Ph.D., SAMR model.

I’ve one term left with my class. I wonder how far we’ll move on our journey.

Starting with Student Blogs – Creating Learning Journals

Last week I wrote about the importance of  allowing time and opportunity for students to reflect upon their learning. It is this reflection that allows for deep rather than superficial learning to occur.

I reflect on my learning through blogging. The routine I’ve created of having to write an update every week forces me to stop for a moment, think and consider. The process of explaining my thoughts helps me synthesise my ideas and move forward. So it made sense for me to use blogging as a platform for my students to reflect.

On Monday I set each of them up with a blog using the NSW DEC ‘s Blog Ed. It’s not a great platform, but it was one I could start straight away with as the DEC issues an account to each student enrolled in public schools, and the permissions have already been taken care of. Their blogs are private, however they can log in at home if they wish to show their parents what they are doing. I asked each student to write about one thing they had learned this week. or about something they would like to learn.

Here are a few of their posts:

‘I  learnt that I need to take my time for writing.’ ‘

I learnt to Do some hand print art. I learnt how to retell a story.’

‘In maths groups some girls and I have been practising finding change. We did a video. It was very fun.’

The posts weren’t very detailed,  but they were fine for 7 and 8 year olds writing their first ever blogs. I loved the fact that each one was different. It gave me a good insight into what they valued in their learning this week.

Writing for many 7 and 8 year olds is still a challenging task. I realised quite quickly that this wasn’t really allowing them to reflect in the same way I can while writing – they become preoccupied with finding the keys on the keyboard, working out spelling etc. So I decided to try recording video diaries as well.

At the beginning of the week my maths students chose a learning goal related to our unit about money.  At the end of the week they had to make a video that would teach a concept to the other students.

Unfortunately I can’t show you their actual videos, but I’ve used the transcript of one and put it into Xtranormal to give you a sense of what they created.

My students loved making the videos. They also proved to themselves that they learned something new.We’ll be uploading the videos to their  blogs this week.

I’m just getting started with this so would love to hear from anyone who is using blogs with their students to reflect upon their learning. Please let me know your ideas in the comments section.

Aside

Reflecting on Learning

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the importance of reflection. I NEED to take time out to reflect upon my teaching and my learning. It’s the way I process events and ideas, and discover what’s working or what isn’t. Sometimes I discover answers,  more often I discover new questions.Through reflection, I find inspiration. It’s what moves me forward, allowing me to grow and develop my practice.

We need to give students the opportunity to reflect upon their learning too.

A quick google search for “Why reflect on learning?” led me to great website by Dr Helen Barret in which she reviews the literature about how reflection supports learning. She says,

Jennifer Moon, the most recent researcher on reflective practice, provides the following definition:

Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.  It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (based on Moon 1999)

Moon points out that one of the defining characteristics of surface learning is that it does not involve reflection (p.123). “

Read the rest of Dr Barret’s article here.

Dr Barret’s website led me to this great wiki about using digital portfolios with K-2 students. This is an area I’ve been wanting to explore, as I mentioned here,  but I’ve hesitated to try because I wasn’t sure how to begin with such young students. All of the 6 year olds in teacher, Kathy Cassidy’s class have personal blogs which they use to reflect on their learning and build a digital portfolio.  She has plenty of examples and suggestions for getting started on her wiki.

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.

Here’s a brief reflection on my learning:

My first Xtranormal project –  I think I’ll try this with my class!!