Creating a Symphony Through OEP: Open Educational Practice in the Primary Classroom

#ECI831

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – H.E. Luccock

Isn’t this the case with learning? We need community and connection with others to enhance our skills, passion, and depth. When we do this, similar to a symphony, something beautiful is created. How can we do that in the classroom? Through Open Educational Practice. Although you may question what this is, my guess is that you’ve probably used it without knowing, just as I did.

According to Catherine Cronin and Iain MacLaren, Open Educational Practice (OEP) is the “collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners.”

K-12 Open Educational Practice (Roberts, Blomgren 2017)

In other words, in a primary classroom setting, OEP looks like giving students the opportunity to co-create their questions and end goals, take charge of their learning through online sources and platforms, and share their knowledge and experiences beyond the classroom to inspire others. In the words of Loreli Thibault, the intention of OEP “is to broaden learning from a focus on access to knowledge, to a focus on access to knowledge creation.”

There are many elements that make up this type of pedagogy in a K-12 Learning Environment, and Dr. Verena Roberts lays out the steps that can take you there through the Open Learning Design Intervention. I am confident that at one point or another, you have taken part in and facilitated some of these key elements of Open Educational Practice.

Stage 1: Building Relationships
Before starting any project in the classroom, a safe space needs to be established for students to feel like they belong and their voice is heard. This step is all about setting the stage and reassuring students that learning means making mistakes and growing from them. As educators, this should be our top priority in the classroom. Our students voices matter and building connection within our own community is key. Reminding kids that, throughout this whole learning process, they matter – a message that remains on my classroom door everyday.

Stage 2: Co-Designing Learning Pathways
This is where students can take part in co-creating their learning and sharing their desires for the learning process. Criteria is discussed, questions are posed, goals are set, choices are given, digital citizenship is instilled, and motivation begins. I really like how Dr. Verena states that this is where the deep learning occurs, which is sustainable, rather than limited and surface level. BC Campus says that “instead of using disposable assignments that offer no value to the student or the instructors, your students, under your direction and supervision, can build a resource designed to improve the learning space.” When students are asked to come up with their own questions and are given the responsibility to do their own inquiry, they show up and engage deeper.

Stage 3: Building and Sharing Knowledge
Evidence of learning is displayed more formally in this stage. Throughout this whole process, students are expected to connect with outside resources, topic experts, and use Open Educational Resources online. The learners are able to engage with outside learning environments to gain valuable skills, knowledge, and experience, and then can represent their learning process in creative ways. When I asked Twitter for some examples of Open Educational Practices, one of the suggestions was a Gamified Classroom. Dean Vendramin does a great job of incorporating game-based learning in his classroom to increase engagement and life-long learning. Online tools and experiences, like this one, are a great way for students to show their learning processes and discoveries during this stage. Social media, blogs, podcasts, infographics, or digital storytelling tools are just a number of online options that enrich the learning experience.

Stage 4: Building Personal Learning Networks
How can we take our learning one step further? By allowing students to connect with others to build Personal Learning Networks, which expands their learning experiences beyond the classroom. This stage allows the students to share their voices with other students and outside sources. It brings the stages full circle, because it’s now building the relationships and trust outside of the classroom. They are able to reflect on their learning and use their voices and shared experiences for activism, connection, and empowerment. Kristen Wideen, an educator and author, went on a journey with her students called “Kids Can Create Change”. It allowed them to build Personal Learning Networks in order to promote “innovation, empowerment, risk taking, commitment, and skilled problem solving”. Through Twitter, they invited other classrooms to “identify a need in your school, community or in the world that you want to make better.” They created a global collaborative document on Book Creator app on how #kidscancreatechange so that other classrooms could share their experiences and ideas online. They wanted everyone to know that “even though they are young, they can create a huge impact.” This is an engaging yet simple way that students can develop empathy while empowering others around the globe.

OEP in the Primary Classroom
When I think of the type of learning that takes place in Open Educational Practice, I can recall some examples from my own experiences in my grade three classroom:

  • Skype Guess Who
    A game that connects classrooms in a fun and engaging way, similar to an experience like Mystery Skype, “an education game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype.
  • Twitter Challenges
    I have taken part in city-wide Twitter challenges, like the #yqreggdrop and #rbedropzone, which allowed students to use inquiry learning in order to connect and share experiences with other classrooms online.
  • Connecting with Experts
    With the internet, we have endless access to go beyond the four walls of our classroom. Instead of only reading information in textbooks, we are able to learn valuable information from the source themselves! My classroom connected with Barbara Reid, an author and clay illustrator, through Twitter. She responded to our learning process and gave us valuable information and feedback. She became a part of our journey, even though she wasn’t physically with us.

By accessing the Open Educational Resources of her website and Youtube videos, we created our own plasticine artwork based off of the type of illustrations she makes in her books. We completed the Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcome CP3.8: “Create art works using a variety of visual art concepts, forms and media and use “three-dimensional materials such as clay to create real textures.” When we completed our projects, we took pictures and displayed our learning on Twitter for others to see.

Even though I’ve taken part in Open Educational Practices in my primary classroom and have used pieces of the OEP stages, I have not yet completed the whole process of this type of learning. Sometimes it feels daunting to use OEP in an elementary classroom, and sometimes even impossible, but I believe that with dedication and an open mind, it is possible! I want to show you an example of how to apply it with your younger learners so that instead of it feeling intimidating, it feels motivating. By no means am I an expert with the concept, but it is something that I want to become more familiar with and encourage others to become familiar with as well.

Since I was close to hitting the target of OEP by connecting with the author and artist Barbara Reid, but didn’t quite use it to it’s full potential, I am going to show you how I would use this experience, or another art project experience, again using the stages of the Open Learning Design Intervention according to Dr. Verena.

Stage 1: Building Relationships

Before introducing the Visual Art Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcomes, set the stage for your students to understand that this learning experience is a process of sharing their voices and having their voices heard. Start with an informal, one-period, introduction lesson to build community in your class. Just as Barbara Reid tells stories through artwork, students should have the opportunity to share their own story before beginning their project.

  1. Display various art media for students to choose from, such as clay, pastels, water colours, paint, crayon, etc. Give them the choice of using the art medium that they connect with and enjoy using the most.
  2. They will create a visual representation with their art medium to tell a story about them, such as who they are or what they love to do, that they will later share with their classroom community.
  3. Once they have created their artwork, they will have a chance to share with their community. The class can gather in a circle and share their artwork and stories while they receive encouragement and support from one another.

Through this opportunity, students are able to listen to their community member’s stories, share their voices, build empathy and understanding, and create connections with one another.

Stage 2: Co-Designing Learning Pathways

In this stage, students will be introduced to the outcome, but instead of giving them all the same task, they will have choice in how they get there. They will have a chance to choose which artist they want to study and what type of art they want to model after. Not only does this apply to the original planned Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcome CP3.8, but it now applies to Saskatchewan Curriuclum Outcome CP3.7, which encourage students to “generate questions that arise from the investigation of a topic or area of interest to initiate inquiry” and “use guided Internet searches to investigate how artists use different art forms and media to express their ideas.”

  1. Create a virtual art gallery with an online tool like Book Creator app, or use a website like Bear Claw Gallery. Students will browse the artists and their style of art.
  2. As students are observing the art , they will decide which piece stands out to them or which artist they connect with the most.
  3. Once they have chosen the artist they want to study and the art they want to learn how to make, they will start asking questions.
  4. In the past, I have created “Wonder Walls” for students to pose questions, but in this project, I would use an online tool like Padlet to create questions on an online board so that teachers and other learners can be a part of the inquiry process. They will create questions they want to ask the artist and questions about the specific type of art the artist creates.

Stage 3: Building and Sharing Knowledge

Once students have their questions created, they will start building their knowledge in more explorative ways.

  1. Connect with artists (experts) online through Twitter, Skype, Blogging, or email. Skype in the Classroom is a great way for kids to meet the artists they are learning about, especially since there is a whole program dedicated to Guest Speakers. Since this is an art project, they will also use sources like YouTube to figure out how to create the specific style of art they are learning about. If the artist is not living anymore, they can reach out to other artists who use the same type of style or medium to teach the student about the process.

2. Primary students need more guidance when it comes to asking questions and finding answers, so using Guided Inquiry is a beneficial way to support younger learners. Read Write Think has a helpful Inquiry Chart template that “enables students to gather information about a topic from several sources.” Ross Todd and Lyn Hay also developed a Guided Inquiry Template that gives guidance to the learning outcomes and questions. You can also create an online guided inquiry template, like a journal, for your students through Google Docs or Seesaw.

3. After the questions have been researched and explored, it’s time for students to display their learning. Like I said earlier, students can use things like  Social mediablogspodcastsinfographics, or digital storytelling tools to display their learning. Instead of using closed platforms like Seesaw, try to use something that can go further than the classroom.

Stage 4: Building Personal Learning Networks

Now is the time to extend the learning beyond the classroom. Students will use their inquiry process and the knowledge that they built to teach students around the globe through the internet. They are now to take on the role of the teacher so that other students can learn from them in their own classroom.

  1. Use the tools of Time Lapse or Stop Motion to share their projects and to make artwork tutorial videos. Lori Thibault does a good job of using the feature of Fast Forward to share her learning and teach others about Unicorn Art. Once students create their tutorial video, they can share it on Youtube for other classrooms to watch and learn from.
  2. Students can also step foot into other classrooms virtually with a tool like Skype or Zoom. They can be the teachers in real-time and give a step-by-step art lesson. This connection now builds Personal Learning Networks for the students to take part in.

The WHY…

This is just one example of how to use the stages of Open Educational Practice in your primary classroom, but there is always deeper learning that can be done. As I become more familiar with this concept, there are still questions that linger…

  • How do we go even deeper when building Personal Learning Networks amongst classrooms? Are there enough classrooms committed to this type of learning in order to have an online community for our students?
  • How can we facilitate a learning environment for our students where they are encouraged to think critically and responsibly?
  • Are there enough resources for primary students to be able to take part in OEP in a rich and meaningful way? What happens if we don’t have all of the resources or don’t have the connections to all of the experts in our learning?

These are some questions that I have thought of throughout my time of using Open Educational Practice in my classroom. There are always challenges that arise, and there will always be obstacles that come up. However, do the benefits of this type of learning outweigh the negatives? Absolutely. When you use Open Educational Practice in your classroom, “you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.” Using OEP in your classroom deepens the learning experience, the community, and the connection. Students deserve the opportunity to create networks and build knowledge that extends past the classroom, because when they take part in this OEP process, they are actually creating a beautiful symphony!

To Share or Not to Share: A Teacher’s Take on Open Education

#ECI831

There is something to be said about the beauty of sharing. We teach our kids at a young age that the right thing to do is share with others. As we get older, the concept becomes even more prevalent in our lives. Sharing our time, resources, and wisdom with the people around us is vital.

Just a few weeks ago, I was half way through baking a pumpkin loaf and I realized I was missing an ingredient. So what did I do? I asked my neighbour if she could share some cinnamon with me. Without a question, she was over in minutes to deliver my missing ingredient. After she dropped off the ingredient, she ended up staying for a while to talk about her life and catch up on mine, which all started with the fact that she was willing to share with me.

Created on Canva

Sharing builds community. Sharing develops connection. Sharing inspires creativity.

As teachers, aren’t these the themes that we want to reiterate to our students? If we want to encourage our students to share with each other, then as teachers, we need to lead by example.

As educators, we can share our knowledge, ideas, content, and resources through Open Education. According to Blink Tower, Open Education matters because it is “a global movement that aims to bring quality education to teachers and students everywhere”.

To be more specific, Creative Commons states that Open Educational Resources are “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, adaptation, and redistribution by others”. In other words, when people are willing to share online what they created, they are contributing to the benefits of Open Education.

There’s no doubt about it: having access to so many resources and opportunities online has made my life as a teacher and my classroom environment WAY better. When it comes to planning lessons for my students, I have the ability to use online sources to help me teach rich and engaging lessons. When I need ideas or inspiration, I reach out to others for help online. All thanks to Open Education.

With everything, though, there is give and take.

As educators, it’s our responsibility to give back to the online community. In a video called “Sharing: The Moral Imperative”, Dean Shareski asks a thought provoking question- “Why would we hoard good teaching and learning?” Shouldn’t we be a part of the sharing process? I, for one, was challenged by this statement.

In the past, I have felt hesitant to share my ideas online. Here are some things that have gone through my head:

  • “my work isn’t good enough to share”
  • “what if others criticize it?”
  • “what if someone had that idea before me?”
  • “I worked too hard on this to just give it away for free”

Have you ever had these thoughts?

Self doubt is expected when it comes to sharing online. It just comes with the territory. However, the benefits of Open Education far outweigh the downfalls or negative feelings. When we are able to put our selfishness aside for the betterment of society and share what we have created, along with using what other educators create, we will see that, like Curtis Bourassa says, “teachers can and will make a positive difference”.

In my journey of learning about Open Education, I have come to realize that I have so much more to share. I want to contribute more to the online community of educators with my ideas, lessons, and talents. I have to agree with Matteo when he says “we should be a lot more mindful of the fact that we have benefited so much from others posting online, that we should ensure we set aside some time to share things we have created as well”.

So, now that I am motivated to share more online… how do I go about doing that? I have decided to start a list of some of the ways I know how to take part:

1. Blogging
First of all, blogging is a great way to learn from other teachers on specific topics or content, and share your own learning. Blogs are an informal way to get your message out there. Did you teach a cool science lesson to your students? Blog about it! Did you find a new strategy to teach in literacy? Blog about it!

Kathy Cassidy is someone who used blogging as a way to share what happened in her classroom so that other teachers can be inspired. Even though she is now retired from her classroom teaching role, her ideas still remain on the internet for others to learn from. Blogging allows your story to be told to countless people online for many years to come.

2. MOOCs
Did you know there is a way to get a high quality, free education, in the comfort of your own home? A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), can “provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale” that are completely free for anyone to enrol in. I had the opportunity to take part in a Digital Citizenship MOOC (DCMOOC) in 2014. I was motivated to learn skills around Digital Citizenship, so I was excited to join the community of life-long learners. At the end of the course, I created a video to demonstrate my online learning and inspire others to join a MOOC too.

3. Google Drive
I know it seems simple, and somewhat informal, but Google Drive is a great way to share resources as a teacher. Whenever I want to collaborate with other educators on a project or lesson, I use Google Docs or Google Slides. With its “View Only” feature, it allows other people to view and copy your resource without editing it. If you are looking to edit and collaborate with others, there are accessing levels within Google Drive that allow you to do so. David Boxer lays out the accessing levels clearly in his blog post, “Access levels in Google Drive when Sharing: View, Comment, and Edit”. There are many teachers who use Google Drive to share their ideas and lesson plans, and Aaron Warner does so in such an effective and productive way. Most recently, he organized an Election Resource for other Middle Years teachers to use. He has the ability to update the resource as he adds more links and lessons, and shares the new content through Twitter. Sharing through Google Drive is a way for educators to gain knowledge and discover new lessons in an accessible way.

These are just a few of the ways you can engage in Open Education.

What are some other ways you share your ideas online? Do you use Open Education to gain knowledge and ideas from others? How are you contributing to it?

We have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in education, but not just in the buildings we teach in. The beauty of Open Education is that we have access to people all over the world to teach us, to inspire us, to collaborate with, and to share with.

So, if you’re still wondering: to share or not to share? Be the neighbour. Share freely, create connection, inspire creativity.

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 3- Technology Trials

#ECI831, Major Learning Project

Has technology ever failed you? Has it ever frustrated you or let you down? Well, this week it did for me. Let me explain…

I was SO excited to have an online lesson with my friend through FaceTime this week. I loved the convenience of learning piano without leaving my house. During the call, I showed her all of the major chords I have learned in the past two weeks, and most recently, the B major chord that I had so much trouble with last week. We talked about goals I was having difficulty achieving, and what I wanted to learn more of.

She spent a lot of time teaching me about chord inversions, which according to Uber Chord, are when “notes of a chord can be reshuffled in any order… (and) will still remain the same chord but no longer be in ‘root position’”. I practiced chord inversions through the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the song that I learned the first week, and played it for her during the call. As she listened to my piano playing, she gave me tips and advice on how to improve my skills.

via giphy

After the call ended, I was thrilled with what I learned from her and how helpful the FaceTime piano experience was. Which brings us to the part in the story where technology failed me.

Did you know that when you use the screen record feature on your iPhone, it doesn’t automatically record the audio?

I probably should have done a little more research before I dove right in. Fortunately, I am going to take this as a learning experience. I did some digging afterwards and found out that all you have to do is change a setting on your phone. Conner Carey lays it out really clearly in his article “How to Screen Record with Audio on an iPhone”. All you have to do is hold the Screen Record button with 3D Touch and click “mic on” for the audio to work when you screen record. It’s as simple as that!

I found another silver lining through all of this. I learned how to overlay a video in iMovie! I watched the tutorial video from CalTalks Tech and quickly picked up on this new skill. Now you can take note of this amazing feature too!

Other than my screen recording mishap, I feel like there was a lot of success this week. I am becoming more comfortable playing notes and chords because of the practice I am doing with scales. I continue to gain more confidence with my skills and I am becoming more fluent with my piano playing. I hope that you notice my improvements and see just how much I have learned in the past three weeks in my latest vlog. Enjoy!

The Small Victories:

  • I can play the B major chord and the B major scale!
  • I learned how to play chord inversions for the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I figured out how to turn audio on for Screen Recording on the iPhone
  • I learned how to overlay a video onto another clip in iMovie

The Challenges:

  • Technology… enough said
  • Playing more than 3 major chord inversions
  • Reading sheet music properly for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, since I am used to playing piano by ear. Similar to Daina’s experience with the clarinet, I have also “not spent enough time becoming familiar with sheet music”, which makes it hard to understand the notes I am supposed to play

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:

Goals for Next Week

  • I want to learn another song with the focus on reading sheet music and using proper finger placement, considering I only played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star again this week
  • I want to have another lesson with someone through FaceTime, Skype, or in person, but with the technology working properly this time!
  • I want to learn and play all major and minor chords comfortably. I was thinking in order to practice the chords, I could get someone to say a chord to me (in person or through FaceTime again), and I will have to play it on the spot with my keyboard.

So my question for you is:

  • What song should I learn next? Should I start preparing a song for Christmas? Should I do a classic? Answer in the poll and I will choose the winner!

I am looking forward to my fourth week of learning piano! It’s been a learning experience so far, especially since I am using a vlog to document my process. Hopefully my improved piano playing skills next week will be music to your ears.

-Amanda

Playing Around with Podcasts

#ECI831

The perfect addition to driving home after a long day of work, or taking a road trip with my friends, or just for some easy entertainment, is throwing on a podcast. There’s something comforting about the fact that all you have to do is hit play and listen.

No screens, just listening.

Now, if you’re someone who is new to the podcasting world, according to Jennifer Gonzalez in Cult of Pedagogy, she says that “a podcast is a lot like a radio show. It has episodes, like a TV show would have, and it’s usually in audio-only format, although video podcasts do exist”.

I’ve been interested in podcasts for a couple of years now, especially the ones that are just for enjoyment. My most recent “guilty pleasure podcast”, Scrubbing in with Becca Tilley and Tanya Rad, allows me to listen to pop culture news and Grey’s Anatomy updates. If you’re someone who loves listening to True Crime, there are a lot of suspenseful podcasts out there that keep you engaged and intrigued. Similar to Catherine Ready, I was also “obsessed” with Season 1 of  “Serial”.

At the end of the day, if you need to learn something, if you need inspiration, or if you just need a laugh, there is a podcast out there for you!

Which brings me to my latest assignment for #ECI831“find a tool or app that you haven’t used before that could be used to make learning visible”. Since I’ve had an interest in this tool for such a long time, I decided to play around with Podcasting.

I’ve been noticing a lot more teachers and educators using podcasts in their classroom so that their students can listen and learn. For example, But Why “is a podcast for curious kids” that has kids asking questions and the podcast hosts finding the answers.

Another popular podcast for the classroom is Book Club for Kids, where middle-years students review middle school books for their listeners. These podcasts, along with more, are outlined in more detail in Cult of Pedagogy’s post called “8 Great Educational Podcasts for Kids”. Choosing podcasts for your students to listen to, likes these ones and many others, allow for increased engagement in the classroom.

So how can we have even more engagement with students, that goes beyond listening?

By creating.

Which is why I chose to get more experience with creating a podcast, so that in turn, I can teach my students how to develop their own podcasts in the classroom, and in the end, share their views, demonstrate their learning, and have a voice.

My first task was to choose a platform. Since I’ve never actually made a podcast before, I did some digging around, but in the end, I decided to take my question to Twitter. I asked my followers to give feedback based on two different podcast options.

I received some great feedback from my followers, as well as my own classmates Catherine, Curtis, and Brad.

After taking some time to explore both options, Zencastr and Anchor, and taking my followers opinions into account, I found that Anchor was the best option for me. I tested both platforms for their sound quality, and they came out very similar. If I were to do a podcast in two different locations, Zencastr would be a better option because you can “simply send a link and receive a separate track per guest”. Since I wanted to host my podcast in one location, I went with convenience and chose Anchor.

I decided to give you a breakdown of the platform Anchor and what I learned from my experience with it.

Positives:

  • Google Friendly
    It’s Google friendly for signing in. According to Jessica in her recent blog post about Explain Everything, this “is helpful for a ‘google school’ with significant use of Chromebooks and Google Drive” and takes away the stress of signing in with new log-ins and passwords for students.
  • Easy to use
    Anchor stands by the fact that “every feature in Anchor is designed to be so straightforward that anyone (even people with zero podcasting experience) can pick it up and start using it right away”. When recording with Anchor, students just have to click record to start their creations.
  • Simple Editing
    With simple editing tools and easy to follow steps, it’s beneficial and less overwhelming for younger students and people with less experience to use this podcast platform.
  • Fun Features
    You can add music, sound effects, and transitions. This gives students the chance to be creative with their projects! They can make their podcasts come to life for their listeners.

Downfalls:

  • Clip Splitting
    There is a basic and easy to use feature that allows you to split the audio into multiple segments. However, unlike iMovie, the splitter doesn’t magnify it into milliseconds, which makes it hard to cut and trim audio to perfection. Fortunately, students don’t need the extensive features with editing, so the basic audio trimmer would be enough for them.
  • The Undo Button
    I live by the “undo” button when I am creating projects, making blogposts, or writing in a document. Unfortunately, the “edit undo” feature in Anchor was nowhere to be seen. I tried to find it on my toolbar, in the editing features, and on my keyboard, but it wasn’t available to my knowledge. Since I couldn’t undo a lot of my mistakes during the editing, it took a lot more time to fix errors. For students, this would be a hard lesson to learn since the undo feature on so many apps and tools is so easily accessible.
  • Embedding
    When I finished editing and posting my podcast, I was excited to easily embed it right into my post. However, unlike YouTube videos, Twitter posts, and Gifs, it’s not as smooth to embed a podcast into your blog post. I used a tutorial video from CB Nation to help me embed the podcast. If you had student blogs in your class, it would take some time to teach them how to embed their podcasts into their blog posts.

Even though there were some struggles with using the podcasting tool Anchor, there are always areas of growth with any technology tool, and in the end, the positives outweighed the pitfalls. I was satisfied with this convenient, user-friendly, creative platform and I want to use it with my students in the future.

My question is, have you had success with using a podcast for creating content and displaying learning in your classroom? I am especially curious if podcasts can be successful for primary students who need more guidance and support.

I am looking forward to seeing how podcasts can enhance learning in my classroom. After all, I had so much enjoyment and satisfaction in creating my own.

So, without further ado, I present to you my very first podcast about technology in the classroom. Click the link, and then all you have to do is hit play and listen.

*For those of you who aren’t Spotified users, check out my podcast directly on Anchor.

-Amanda

The 4 Cs of the 21st Century

#ECI831

When I was in high school, I had limited experience with 21st century learning. I did, however, get to use the computer to master my typing skills on All the Right Type and to create powerpoint presentations with large paragraphs about various topics.

I also remember cracking open what seemed like a century-old textbook to gain knowledge about the unit I was learning in the class. My experience with online learning, collaboration, and gaining knowledge through creativity and critical thinking was limited. However, when I did experience those things in class, that was when my passion and engagement for the topic sky rocketed.

I specifically remember my Biology 20 class. My teacher wanted us to learn about plants and organisms in a critically responsive way. He didn’t want us to learn information through our text book or absorb the content while he spoke at us. On the first day of class, he asked us what our ideas were for learning the content, and our eyes got a little brighter. We couldn’t believe he was asking us how we wanted to learn. Our class ended up deciding, through collaboration and questioning, that we wanted to do a research and inquiry project on finding out how much paper our school had used that year, and in turn, plant enough trees to make up for it. We had to break into smaller groups to research and plan. We were discussing the effects of carbon dioxide on the environment, calculating how much it would cost to buy and re-plant trees, designing posters and t-shirts to promote our idea, and making connections with local land owners. We were learning how to be critical, creative, and collaborative. By the end of the project, we went out and planted trees at a local farm, and we were SO proud of our work. We were also inspired to do more for our environment. The best part about the whole thing? We took charge of our own learning, and it went beyond the classroom.

Bethany Oxford (Medium.com)

There is no question about it – our world is changing, which means our learning and the way we teach have to as well. How can I, a teacher in the 21st century, effectively facilitate an environment that promotes engagement, critical thinking, and creativity, like the experience I had in my Biology 20 class? Well, first of all, I need to understand the goal. According to NCTE, the goal of teaching isn’t about relaying knowledge to students anymore, it’s about developing “active, successful participants in this 21st century global society”, who possess the 21st Century Literacies. These literacies include:

  • Proficiency and fluency in technology tools
  • Asking questions and solving problems collaboratively with others
  • Designing and sharing information with others around the world
  • Critically evaluating information
  • Creating and critiquing various forms of media

and finally,

  • responsibly and safely handling all of these types and forms of literacies.

The new definition of 21st century skills surround the idea of the 4 Cs. The 4 Cs, brought up by Thoughtful Learning, are:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating

These points all fit into the Digital Literacies and 21st Century Literacies model. As teachers, these types of literacies need to be at the forefront of our teaching. Otherwise, like it says in Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, the current ways of teaching will not “suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.” This should encourage us to educate our students to be active, engaged citizens who desire life-long learning, instead of feeding them information in hopes that they gain some knowledge. They also remind us that “mastering a field of knowledge involves not only ‘learning about’ the subject matter but also ‘learning to be’ a full participant in the field”.

Learning About vs. Learning to Be.

When I think about “Learning to Be” a full participant in a topic or subject area, I think again of the 4 Cs . Here are some ways that the 4 Cs can be implemented in your classroom in a productive, engaging, and beneficial way.

1. Critical Thinking
Technology is integrated into everything we do. We have access to answering almost any question at our finger tips. With this relatively new territory, we need to teach students how to navigate it. Instead of taking these tools away or instilling fear in them, we need to teach them the skills of evaluating information and media and critiquing it. Guided Inquiry in the classroom is a great space for students to learn the skills of critically responding to information while they are engaged in online learning.

Genius Hour, a form of inquiry, is a way for students to take charge of their own learning while using technology tools to plan, research, and present, and all the while, teaching them about digital citizenship. Ed Tech Magazine says that “by using technology to explore their interests, students are less likely to be intimidated by it.” Aaron Warner, a middle years teacher in Regina, states that during Genius Hour, students are “mining for inspiration, practicing accessing and using resources, and recognizing the importance of having a plan”. In a recent article, he says that Genius Hour encourages “resiliency, problem solving, thinking outside the box”. Using these practices in the classroom not only develops critical thinking, but also ignites passion in students and allows them to develop the skills of the 21st century.

2.Creative Thinking
Creativity comes in many shapes and sizes, but unfortunately the classroom has a habit of stifling it. As facilitators of learning, we need to give students the opportunity to create in many different forms. Creativity doesn’t just look like painting or drawing… it’s giving students the chance to design, build, and make mistakes! A great tool for developing creative thinking, along with many other skills, is Maker Space. Danielle Maley, a primary teacher in Regina, uses Maker Space to develop creativity, along with problem solving and social development. In an article about Maker Space, she says “children, when they’re given time to just create or work on their own passions, have astounded me in what they can create”. Through the process of Maker Space, students are able to pose questions, solve problems, and reflect on their learning. Using the tool of Maker Space gives students a chance to think outside the box while they create and use 21st century skills.

3. Communicating
There are so many different technology tools to use in the classroom for developing communication skills in students: social media, blogging, podcasts, and e-portfolios (just to name a few). When integrating technology into the classroom, and using those tools for teachable moments, students are able to learn how to be effective digital citizens at a young age.

My personal favourite tool to use in the classroom is Seesaw. Students are able to not only document their work for their families to see, but also demonstrate their learning, voice their thinking, communicate effectively through oral and written tasks, as well as “develop deeper level thinking”.

Another effective tool to build communication is through blogging. The idea of students taking their writing and learning online can seem daunting for teachers, but by preparing students through lessons on digital citizenship and safety, it gives them a safe space to learn about online tools while they are guided in the classroom. It allows students to grow up knowing how to keep a positive online presence and use their voice for good. When students are given the responsibility of using online tools for their learning, they take ownership over it.

4. Collaborating
This is my favourite one out of the 4 Cs. I believe that students need time to collaborate and work with others. They are able to develop problem solving skills, feed off of others’ creativity, feel supported and encouraged, and build relationships with those around them. We need to give students the space to work with others and prepare an environment that not only allows it, but encourages it.

Not only do students benefit from collaborating with others, but adults do too. In my experience with ECI831 so far, each one of the 4 Cs is present in the course, but the part that I love the most? Meeting with my classmates and teacher every Tuesday to collaborate and learn from each other. Similar to the Terra Incognita project of the University of Southern Queensland, when we break off into small groups and have time to share our opinions and thoughts, we are building our online community. As humans, we thrive when we are in community with others. Think of the best moments in your life. They usually involve other people.

Collaboration = Community.

As an educator, I see it as my duty to teach the 21st Century Literacies just like I would with reading and writing. These skills aren’t just suggestions for the classroom, they are skills that all children need to learn.

What are some ways that you are instilling the 21st Century Literacies in your classroom in a safe and beneficial way? What are some effective tools that you use in your classroom that encourage these skills? As educators, let’s work together to share ideas and come up with plans to demonstrate these literacies in our classroom, and in turn, modelling to students what it looks like to think critically, be creative, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively.

It’s important that students know how to be effective citizens who understand the 4 Cs, and maybe one of these days, I’ll teach them the tricks of All of the Right Type too, just for old time’s sake.

-Amanda

The Piano Project: Week 1- The Struggle Was Real

#ECI831, Major Learning Project

This week, I focused on the basics with piano because I am fairly new to the instrument. Oh yeah, and did I mention I’m new to vlogging too? That in itself was a learning curve! In my vlog, I share a bit of my process during the first week of my Piano Project. Don’t forget to keep reading after the video because I give some more insight on what I did this week, what challenged me, and what my goals are for next week. Enjoy!

The Small Victories:

  • I learned how to read the notes on the treble clef
  • I successfully played the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I learned how to play the chords and melody together for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I successfully edited my first vlog! (with the help from my friend)
  • I learned how to use the Picture over Picture feature on iMovie

The Challenges:

  • Playing a repetitive song over and over on piano can get frustrating (and annoying) at times
  • Finding time to practice piano on top of homework and teaching can feel overwhelming
  • It’s hard to film yourself for a vlog and not feel ridiculous sometimes!
  • It’s also hard to be authentic and real on camera. Sometimes I would film a clip over and over because I felt like I didn’t look good enough, or I didn’t sound intelligent enough, or I just wasn’t satisfied. In the end though, I went with all of the original clips (what you see is what you get)

The Resources:

This week, I used these tools to help me learn:

Goals for Next Week

  • Learn finger placement on the piano
  • Learn the D scale
  • Learn the D, E, F, G, A, B chords
  • Learn another basic song

Stay tuned for more progress, and hopefully, less struggle!

-Amanda

The Piano Project: A Noteworthy Journey

#ECI831, Major Learning Project

There aren’t very many things I regret in life, but quitting the piano before I even got started is one of them. I wish I could go back and tell myself that the practicing, the sore fingers, and the commitment was worth it.

© Josh Wells

As a kid, I didn’t think I needed the practice or the knowledge. I was having more fun playing kickball and watching movies with my friends. Fortunately, I was born with music in my bones, so I could play everything I heard by ear on the piano. However, that only gets you so far.

As I grew older, I became interested in learning the guitar. Thankfully at this time, Youtube was becoming more and more popular, so I decided to teach myself. The strumming and chording took some work, but over all, it came naturally. That only lasted so long though. I felt like I had only scratched the surface and had so much more to learn about the actual music side of things. The more I got involved with music, the more I wished that I had the skills, theory, and knowledge to dive deeper into every aspect of it.

I wanted to pick up sheet music and read the notes. I wanted to transpose keys effortlessly. I wanted to play music like it was my second language.

Fast forward to 2019. 

I decided that it was finally time to learn piano again. I searched on Amazon for a cheap, yet reliable, keyboard and purchased it as soon as I could. 

Fast forward to the present.

I finally get to put my new instrument to the test. For my major project in ECI 831, I get to choose anything that I want to learn and share my process with all of you! It feels like I get a do-over. A second chance. I finally get to learn piano (for real) and put in the time and effort it deserves. Now that I am older and understand the importance of commitment and dedication, I realize the value that this project will bring to my life. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You probably think I need to take piano lessons in order to actually learn piano, which is valid! However, there are so many different ways of learning an instrument online. As part of my project, I want to prove to you that with the right online resources, technology tools, social media access, and with a lot of practice, I can learn the piano.

Here’s the breakdown: 

The Goal: Learn piano. And not just the chords and a few notes. I want to actually have the knowledge and theory behind the sound this time.

But what does that look like for me? Here are some things that I want to be able to do by the end of this journey.

  1. Know and play the scales for each key without error.
  2. Know and play all of the major and minor chords.
  3. Know all of the notes and read basic sheet music.
  4. Play the notes with my right hand while playing chords on my left hand.
    And finally…
    5. Play a song all the way through without error and video record it.

The Process: There are a few ways I see myself accomplishing these goals. Here are some of the avenues I will take to get there:

  1. Online Videos
    I want to use Youtube tutorial videos to help me learn the basic skills, and in the end, use it to learn a song. Channels like HD Piano and Betacustic have videos that walk you through the keys, notes, and rhythms in various songs. Similarly to what Catherine Ready is attempting for her project, I will look up different types of “how-to” videos to help me learn the instrument.

  2. Blogs 
    There are a lot of easy-to-read blogs that explain the theory behind piano. I plan on gaining knowledge, along with skill, as I embark on this project. Sites like JoyTunes, Piano-Keyboard-Guide, and Odd Quartet explain chords, notes, and reading basic sheet music. 

  3. Social Media
    I plan on taking my project to social media and using Twitter to reach out to other musicians. I have started searching different hashtags that have to do with learning piano, and I have already noticed a community out there that wants to share their piano-learning process as well.

  4. Friends
    I have a few friends that play piano and are willing to share their experience and knowledge with me. I plan on meeting with them face-to-face, as well as using Skype and FaceTime to learn from them.

I have just over 8 weeks to accomplish my goal. I know it seems like a lot to learn in such a short time, but with a perseverance and a lot of practice, I know that I can get there. I plan to document my process through Vlogs, blog posts, and Twitter. Even though I want this experience to be authentic and real, I know it will be a struggle for me to put the whole process out there for the internet to see. This will definitely be a growing experience, but I am excited to see where it takes me. 

Before I embark on this new adventure, I have a few questions for you!

  1. What other avenues should I take to learn the theory and skill of piano?
  2. What song should I play on piano for my final video?
  3. What advice do you have for someone who is nervous to share their experience in an honest and raw way through Vlogs, blogs, and social media?

    I am excited to see where this journey of learning piano takes me. I know that this “Piano Project” will be difficult at times, but also rewarding. I think my younger, non-piano playing self would be proud. 


MSN, Facebook, Vine, OH MY!

#ECI831

Have you ever thought back to your very first email address?

Were you one of those people who were all business and just had “firstname.lastname”? Or were you one of those people, like me, who are still embarrassed to bring it up to this day? I still shudder when I think back to how cool I felt when I created the email “mandi_muffin1”.

via MEME

Since I’d rather not sit in that embarrassment alone, I decided to ask some other people what their first email address was. Here are some good ones:

  • “spiderman85”
  • “pet_luver10”
  • “regis_philbin”(not to be confused with the real Regis Philbin, just a big fan)
  • and my personal favourite… “cutiepatootie94”

For me, my first email address was like a key to the digital world. I used it to get my very first social networking platform- MSN Messenger. I remember when MSN first became popular. There was such excitement of meeting your friends in a vastly different way- on the computer instead of face to face. The new platform grew like wild-fire and soon all my friends were a part of this new community. This was often the case with online trends. First a few people would get hooked, and then soon it would be the only thing people talked about or took part in. Some social network trends only lasted for a little while, but some are still thriving to this day.

This got me thinking- what social networks actually impacted me? How was I affected by them? I decided to give a brief timeline called:

“Social Media & Me- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

1. Facebook:

I was in grade 7 when I first signed up for Facebook. It was a different world than it is now. “Food fights”, writing on “walls”, “Amanda is…” status updates. It was a fun way for me to connect with friends, show pictures, and update the world on what was new with my life. It was also a way for me to gain “friends” online. I felt a strange sense of accomplishment when I had a friend request or if I had another post on my “wall”. With this new territory came this new idea that I needed my life to look a certain way. This is still often the case with social media. A subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) competition on who has the most likes, and in turn, who has the most exciting life. The need for online validation through likes and comments, which started soon after the Facebook world made an appearance, is still something that many people battle with today, including myself.

2. Twitter:

Sometimes I wish I didn’t sign up for Twitter until I had more mature things to say, but we all have regrets in life. In order to give you context, I searched back to my old tweets from 2013 to show you some of the brilliant things I had to say about life.

For example: “I love fireworks” and “Jake Owen marry me”. Clearly I didn’t have any troubles fitting my riveting content into 140 characters.

After soon realizing there was more of a purpose for Twitter, I started using it for educational reasons and connected with other educators online. I soon grew my PLN (Personal Learning Network) through twitter chats, blogging, and “Tweet Ups”. I felt like I had a teaching community outside of my school, and it helped me feel less alone in my teaching woes and endeavours. However, with every good social networking platform, there comes concerns. With me, I had (and still have) a hard time not comparing myself to other teachers. When I see all of the creative, thought provoking, and engaging things that other teachers are doing in their classroom, it’s hard not to compare myself to them. I’m sure that there are several of you out there who struggle with the same thing. How do we get past comparing and move to confidence? That’s still the journey I find myself on and work towards to this day.

3. Instagram:

Exhibit B
Exhibit A

Instagram is still one of my favourite social media platforms to this day. I am a visual learner, so I love seeing quick snap shots of other people’s lives. When I first got Instagram, I would post any picture, write a short caption, and think it was Instagram gold.

There came a point though, when Instagram became about gaining followers and likes, which was difficult to keep up with. I’m embarrassed to say, but there used to be times when I would take down a photo if I didn’t get at least 100 likes. I know. Don’t judge me. It’s a crazy standard to set for oneself. A couple of years ago I had a change of heart. I turned my account to private, stopped following people who were not “giving me joy”, and set a new standard for myself. My continued desire is that it would be less about likes and followers for me, and more about connecting with my community through photos. And not to mention, tagging my friends in endless memes.

4. Vine & Tik Tok:

Oh how I loved Vine. A creative outlet to make people laugh through short 7 second videos. As Rebecca Jennings says in the article “Tiktok, Explained”, Vine was “brutally murdered before its time”. The app truly died too soon. If I ever wanted a “pick-me-up”, I would search through the feed of Vine and find the latest, laughable video by the newest Vine sensation. The app didn’t last nearly long enough, but there is something that is seen as, according to Rebecca Jennings, the “joyful, spiritual successor to Vine”. Tiktok- the latest fad in the online world. An app that, similarly to Vine, allows users to upload short clips of themselves dancing, singing, or following the latest viral trends. Seems like all fun and games, right? Unfortunately, every social media platform has its downfalls. Even though I’m not on Tiktok enough to know every latest trend, I do know that the youth who use this app encounter similar issues as I did as a teen, and still do today.

Comparison. The need for validation. Fear of rejection.

Are there enough benefits to outweigh the negative impacts of social media though? In my opinion, yes.

Social media has brought me a lot of positivity in my years of using it. Laughter, connectivity, knowledge, community, encouragement, and support. The list goes on. Yes, there have been many regrets and disappointments through the years of using these social networking platforms, but the same goes with my life outside of social media. So will I continue to interact with others online through social media? Absolutely.

Besides, everyone is in need of a good laugh every now and then by looking back at posts from the early days, browsing the latest memes, and of course, reminiscing on our first cringe-worthy email addresses.

Uncharted Territory: Edtech Endeavours

#ECI831

I always knew that I would go back to university for my Master’s one day, but it feels surreal that it’s actually happening. The decision to go back to school was solidified when I stumbled upon the Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Media. I read that title and I instantly felt intrigued. I felt like those words were tailored specifically to me… almost. Educational… sounds great! Technology… even better! Media… not so sure. As a teacher, I have always tried to learn more about technology in the classroom, but learning about Media in our 21st Century world seemed like foreign territory and a BIG task. Even though the full title of this certificate felt slightly daunting, it also felt like a challenge… and isn’t that what learning is supposed to be? A challenge. I feel like I am ready to take on this new adventure of not only digging deeper into technology in education, but also digital media and how it affects our world today. And so begins… #EdTech Endeavours.