Tag Archives: googleapps

Student-Centred Learning

A Brief History of Student-Centred Learning

Student-centred learning is not a new phenomenon. John Dewey outlined many educational theories including the importance of how ‘students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning’, in 1897. Project-based learning, Problem-based learning and more recently the apple launched Challenge-based learning all discuss the importance of student-centred learning, and inquiry being central to the learning process. What all of these learning styles have in common in today’s classrooms are that they naturally lend themselves to integrating technology. If the technology is available, and students know how to use it, it should be a part of the learning process.

My current conundrum is ‘If I want a student-centred, inquiry classroom, should my students should have access to technology all of the time?’

My Concerns

How much screen access is okay? Should ten year old students have access to iPads all day? I decided to find out what students and teachers thought. I used a great idea from @traintheteacher. A binary question for all students to answer as they arrive at school.

    I also tweeted a poll for teachers’ viewpoints:

An Experimental Inquiry

Our central idea

After discussing these issues in class we decided to try an experiment. A full day with unlimited technology, and a full day unplugged completely.

Below are some student reflections from our ‘Tech Saturation Day’.

Students were also asked to write a Headline (maximum of ten words) to sum up the unplugged day. Below are some examples:

Teacher Reflections

  • Beginner EAL students were able to work independently. They produced more work than they ever have before.
  • Some students were easily distracted with the iPad. They did however still complete all of their assignments.
  • Working on paper is time consuming. Ten minute tasks took at least four times that.
  • Students enjoyed drawing and paper-craft.
  • Our replicate social media account is the students favourite past-time.
  • Marking and photocopying work is very time consuming. This took up approximately two hours of my day (compared to minutes using google apps).

Conclusion

I will still have some parts of our school day tech free but will monitor for which learning engagements this is an advantage. I’m interested in hearing how other teachers manage the availability of technology in a student-centred inquiry classroom. Is it time to let the student’s decide?

Are you using more tech than a 2nd grader?

School has broken up for the summer holidays! This is a wonderful time of the year to appreciate all our students have achieved. As I reflect on my adventure in educational technology this year I can’t help but wonder how many educators would also achieve our grade 2 tech goals for this year.

So before you head off on your summer break ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the majority of your work saved in the cloud (googledocs etc.)?
  2. Are you using hyperlinks instead of attachments?
  3. Are you a confident googledocs user (e.g. using the suggesting setting)?
  4. Are you using a photo sharing app or are you still uploading/downloading every picture?
  5. Are your cloud based documents organised into folders?
  6. Are all the images you use cited/licensed correctly?

In my class the aim was for each student to achieve at least 5 of these. How did you do?

What else would add to this list?

Handover

Are we all keeping up with our students tech skills?

 

Exploration (Grade 2 PYP Unit of Inquiry)

I have just completed a Grade 2 PYP unit of inquiry on ‘Exploration’.  I was pleased that one of our activities had been to use My Maps to record our personal histories. Students used markers to record places that were relevant to them around the world, and added images to authenticate the location.  I was pleased that we had used technology in our unit!

map ipad

Image is author’s own.

However, after reading Jeff Utecht’s ‘10 Ways to use Google Maps in the Classroom‘ I realised my whole approach to the unit was obsolete. I had made the mistake of just ‘modifying’ a digital activity without really looking at the potential of the complete unit. Although we had incorporated My Maps as a stand alone activity, it did not alter what or how I wanted the students to learn. I hadn’t really changed how I taught the unit; I’d just added a nice digital activity.

I realised that just modifying a lesson wasn’t enough. I did not address the potential that integrating technology into this unit could achieve. I needed to go back and look at the central idea again.  What can my students really achieve with this unit? What do I want my students to create? What might redefinition look like for this unit?

The central idea is ‘Exploration can change people and places through discoveries and the exchange of ideas and understandings’. The starting point for any unit plan is with the summative assessment. I decided our tool for assessment should be My Maps to encourage all students and staff to become familiar with it as a tool for learning.

Stonehill International School

Students could input videos and images on specific locations. Image and link is authors own.

The summative assessment task is ‘with a partner use My Maps to recreate the route of an explorer adding interesting details about their journey.’

Here is the redesign of the planner for this unit:

To help students collect together relevant information for their virtual journey I used a questionnaire on Google Forms. I am increasingly using Google Forms as a prompt to scaffold and organise students’ ideas.

map questionnaire

Using google forms to structure writing. Image is authors own.

It is quick and easy for students to use, and I can identify any misconceptions, mistakes or queries immediately. It is also easily adjustable when the learning takes a new direction.

responsesAlthough I now have to wait nearly a year to teach this redefined unit, my approach to how I plan has changed drastically. I will now be reviewing the central idea and the summative assessment task, rather than just focusing on ‘adding’ digital tasks to existing plans.

#doweneedafingerspace

handwriting

Image from Creative Commons: https://pixabay.com/p-447576/?no_redirect

As I continue on my digital inquiry I can appreciate that Heraclitus was right ‘Change is the only Constant’. Assessing the effectiveness of new technologies available in education, and the impact they are having, is an ongoing task.

As I find authentic ways to successfully embed technology in my classroom, many questions have been raised about a shift in skills, especially in literacy. Some concerns are raised by parents, queries by colleagues and observations by students. Recently, whilst reviewing our twitter feed (a highlight as we heard from Moby of Brainpop fame) a student noticed that I hadn’t followed one of my own rules (always an exciting discovery).

Moby Tweet

Why don’t you need to use finger spaces Miss? Image is authors own.

“Why don’t you need to use finger spaces Miss?” was the query. The response from another student was even better, “You don’t need too if you put a hashtag in front of it”. Then of course a wonderful discussion followed about what hashtags are and how they are used- and why can’t we #justputtheminfrontofeverything.

This discussion led me to thinking about other major changes that have occurred in ‘The Literacy Rule Book’ of lower primary education. Handwriting, spellings, letter formation, formal letter writing, were all essential literacy skills when I began teaching. Now that we have less emphasis on these tasks in our everyday lives, I am beginning to question just how relevant these are in everyday lessons. My main queries are:

  • Is handwriting still important?
  • Do we need to teach children how to spell?
  • Should touch typing be in the curriculum?
  • How much screen time is okay for young children?
  • Do devices detract from oral language development?
  • When should students have personal cloud-based log ins?

For the skills of handwriting and spelling I feel that I am midway on a continuum stretching from essential to not needed. They are not as vital as they once were, but I’m not ready to let them go yet (to the relief of many parents). Interestingly the BBC reported today that Finland have announced that as from August 2016 typing lessons will replace handwriting lessons.

Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place.

https://m.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30146160, 2015

My main defence for handwriting is that IBDP exams still require more than 2 hours of handwriting. Spelling is still a useful skill to speed up the process of writing, but with spell checks at everybody’s fingertips, endless spelling tests are not as important. My students still need to learn how to write and spell, but these are just components of communication.

Balancing screen time is a new concern for educators as devices are becoming more readily available and affordable. Common Sense Media points out that:

“Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time/how-much-screen-time-is-ok-for-my-kids, 2014

However they also go on to state that:

If they’re using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behavior is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there’s no need to worry.

As I have mentioned in previous posts ‘not all screen time is created equally’. Our screen time is very interactive. It is always planned and purposeful, and always in a class or group setting. Students share, compare, discuss, analyse and create together. Students are often so engaged in their creations this is an excellent chance to encourage oral language skills to develop.

My final query was about the age appropriateness of personalized cloud-based log ins. This year I have begun using Google Classroom. I manage students security settings and we only access the accounts together.

Classroom

Google Classroom in Year 3/Grade 2 Image is authors own.

The wonders of Google Apps for Education are just beginning to transform our actual classroom. The benefits of the classroom app are just becoming apparent and I am now able to efficiently organise all of our digital learning with instant google drive access.

So it may be that the literacy rules are shifting, but they are increasing our capacity to communicate, which can only be a good thing.

#anexcitingtimetobeateacher