Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Blended Learning Approach to Teaching Social Studies

This past week the Grade 2s continued their work preparing presentations about countries using Google Drive. What really amazed me was the ability to use the comment feature to provide immediate feedback that was relevant and purposeful for the students. As they were working, I posed questions to direct their next steps. I was not sure how this would work, so I didn't let them know ahead of time that I would be doing this. To my delight, students replied to my comments and made additions to their slides in realtime. 
Afterwards, they remarked at how much it helped them "think about what's next". They also asked if they could comment on each others work! 

This caused me think more about the purpose of feedback and how informal feedback such as this helps students see learning as a journey. 
Here is a great read that speaks to this:
Learning Dispositions blog post - from MindShift

Next week, we will be sharing our work with another Grade 2 class who also used Google Drive to create a presentation about countries around the world. Looking forward to using the comment feature with this wider audience -- creating purpose and authenticity to their work.

The Grade 2s also commented on how they would like to know a little more about the globe. 

I examined the OERB resources and found many interactive activities for this particular strand. During a lab session, I invited the students to choose an activity to explore with a partner on the D2L Carousels. Afterwards, they were responsible for listing the activity as well important learning in a Google document. This quick 'ticket out the door' helped set a purpose and provide accountability for the collective learning of the class.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Integrated Learning

The Power of Integrated Learning

I have been curious about what integrated learning might look like in a primary classroom and the impact it may have on student engagement and learning.

The Olympics seemed to be a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Relinquishing control over the what and how of learning enabled the students to explore topics that interested them. Their own "wonderings" guided our daily activities. These included researching how Olympians train for various sports, the meaning of symbols such as the Olympic rings, and Sochi Olympic mascots.
We also agreed that tracking Olympics metals was very important. Using the Sochi iPad app, we translated raw data into pictographs and bar graphs. Towards the end of the Olympics during a classroom community circle, a student shared how they felt they had learned a lot but it was never boring and they liked doing the same 'kind of stuff' throughout the day. It wasn't just doing math, or reading, or writing ... there was a purpose behind the learning activities that was tangible for the students.  
I realized how 'tuned in' I needed to be with what and how students were learning to embrace the teachable moments. This included developing 'collective understanding' about what's important about describing and displaying data, finding important information (and putting it in our own words), and writing instructions clearly for an audience. The students often learned from and with each other - not something new, but it was definitely more purposeful and engaging. 
I came across a blog post from MindShift which helped solidify my understanding on the role of integrated learning in student engagement.
"Students like to know why they’re learning something and they want to access that information through a lens that interests them."
"The number one thing that students on the panel said makes them want to try hard and succeed is knowing that teachers care about them and are part of the learning journey with them. "

On the last day of the Olympics the student decided that we should create a graph of the top Olympic countries. We often used an online graphing program Create-a-Graph to display data. 
From here, the students had a fantastic wondering ... "Miss Weber- we wonder what it's like in all these countries? Why did these ones do so well?" YES! On we went to learn about the world (Grade 2 Canada and World Connections strand). Students selected countries and worked in groups to gather information. We used Google Drive to share our information.

Embedding the GoogleSlides link right into our D2L page made it easy to access.
Students used books from the library and online resources to discover the answers to questions of personal significance. 

With a slight break in our learning (March Break), we are now back at it and preparing to share our learning with another grade 2 class who is discovering what its like to live in tropical locations (stemming from their wonderings about travel destinations). 
For a summative piece, we plan to have students compare and contrast two regions of the world and describe how location/climate affects how people live.

I have learned a lot about myself as an educator - the need to be flexible, hands on, open-minded. I have also learned a great deal about the capabilities of young minds when they are engaged in learning that is integrated, authentic, and self-propelled.

 Another great read on integrated learning:
Capacity Building Series #14 - Integrated Learning

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On being a connected educator

My journey in the world of education has always been rich with professional development opportunities. Just as we ask students to connect their learning, I believe educators need to do the same. As a new teacher I was surrounded by skilled and talented mentors who highlighted for me the importance of developing positive relationships with students and creating a learning atmosphere where students feel they are valued, respected, and free to take risks. As a young educator I also registered for multiple additional qualification courses which helped solidify my understanding of content and pedagogy. Since this time I have been fortunate to be a part of collaborative learning teams at the school and board level that have challenged me to be a more reflective educator- adapting best practice to meet the changing needs of students. It has been through collaborative learning teams that I have begun to adopt an inquiry stance with my own teaching practice. This has allowed me to dig deeper into the role of technology and inquiry in student engagement and self-efficacy. 

This March Break, however, I became more cognisent of another form of professional development that has contributed greatly to my current understanding of pedagogy - digital connections! Many mornings this week I poured myself a cup of tea, opened my iPad, and connected with my growing digital community of educators. Using Flipboard I read tweets and and Google+ posts from educators around the world. I have posted links to 3 of my favourite below. In the blog below about Genius Hour I came across this image which speaks to the importance of maintaining that childhood wonder - not only in our students but ourselves as well. 

My 'ah ha's:
- technologies help students develop and extend creativity and initiative
- they are flexible (incorporate both direct insturction and discovery learning)

My 'ah ha's:
- 20% time allows students to take control over their own learning
- learning doesn't start or end in school

My 'ah ha's:
"Students like to know why they’re learning something and they want to access that information through a lens that interests them."