Tag Archives: googleclassroom

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?

Digital Stories

Digital Story or Video?

Digital stories are tricky to define. Is it a video of any length? Does a picture slide show count? Is a documentary a story? Does audio over an image suffice? Does it have to be fiction? What exactly is it? The University of Houston has a digital storytelling website that explains:

Digital storytelling at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.

https://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27

This is still a very broad term and can include a huge range of digital works. The definition of ‘story’ itself is hard to pinpoint. Wikipedia defines storytelling as:

‘the conveying of events in words, sound and/or images, often by improvisation or embellishment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling

Bradshaw rock painting

Photo from Flickr by Austronesian Expeditions. Aboriginal cave paintings are a form of storytelling.

Digital Story Count

If we assume that telling a story can mean any of these things (words, sound and/or images), when applied digitally we have a vast new medium for telling stories. When viewing YouTube statistics I found that:

YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.

https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.htmlics

Internet Livestats claims that 8 billion YouTube videos were viewed so far today alone (30/09/15).

Livestats

Livestats reports.

Impact in the Classroom

Viewing videos in classrooms and with students has become common practice for many educators. The flipped learning model means that students can watch these videos at home to maximize learning time in the classroom. In addition to this trend many students are also increasingly creating their own media at home. An internet connection and a device are all that is needed to become a director.

We are at the point now where anyone can create and publish very compelling content with nothing more complex than a web browser.

https://50ways.wikispaces.com/

Many students are utilizing this technology to share ideas about their personal interests, to tell a story or to share an idea or skill.

Today’s students don’t think twice about generating original electronic content and sharing it online, and digital storytelling dovetails well with these modes of student expression.

https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7021.pdf

A Class YouTube Channel

As an educator I want to maximize this new form of storytelling. Digital stories and/or videos can be used in limitless ways including:

  • to reinforce learning
  • to provide additional support (especially for EAL students)
  • to create a provocation at the start of a unit
  • as an additional lesson resource
  • as a student assessment tool

I decided to create a class YouTube account to experiment with different ways to share digital stories and videos with my students. Below is my first attempt:

[youtube]https://youtu.be/2r5aBjRdmjw[/youtube]

Students and parents responded positively to the video and found it a useful link to home/school learning. I then decided to set an assignment using a digital story to explain the assignment. Here are the results:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WSf2FtZEhA

The possibilities are endless!

 

 

#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