Thursday, 29 September 2016

Connectivism


Connectivism is defined by George Siemens as a way of gaining knowledge through your networks of others and their experiences (2005). He suggests learning is a continual process and that the focus should be more on how to learning than what you are learning yourself as part of his principles of connectivism (Bell, 2010). This learning theory was developed as previous learning theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, social constructivism) did not take into account the implications of technology on pedagogy. Connectivism focuses on having social connections as a way to develop actionable knowledge (Siemens, 2015).

I believe that in the 21st century we need to be sure that we are taking into account technology and the affordances it allows us when we look at learning for our students. From a connectivist perspective, teachers should be focusing on developing skills for our students to develop learning. While content is important, students can easily access content online if they are aware how to. Students need to know where and how to access a variety of online resources to find out the ‘what’ when they need it.(Siemens, 2005). Thus, teachers need to educate themselves on how to teach students these new skills.

As an educator, I value the need to be connected to other educators as a way to develop personally and professionally. Engaging with blogging and Twitter as a way of personal reflection has allowed me to connect with educators from around the globe. This has helped me continually improve my practice by gaining feedback and ideas from others. When I am faced with a problem, I often reach out on Twitter and instantly have a network of others who may have had similar experiences and different perspectives to shed light on what I am experiencing.

This idea of creating networks is also important for our students. Students networks may be significantly smaller due to age restrictions on many different online platforms. However, the idea of being connected and using your network in gaining access to various knowledge is important. I see this currently with our Year 6 students who are completing Exhibition as part of the Primary Year Primary (International Baccalaureate). Students are working with other group members who have varied experiences and knowledge. They are reaching out to different teachers at the school who have different skillsets depending on their research and action. They’ve emailed members of the community and different organisations as other sources of information and have gone to other schools even to gain ideas of what exhibition could be like. This provides students a better understanding of action and learning being continual, different people in your networks offer different perspectives and knowledge and that they don’t have to know everything to be successful, but how to gain the information they need. This social component of learning has allowed them to develop lifelong skills that are transferrable as they continue their education and build their network further.

References

Bell, F. (2010). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 98-118.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Small Moments Make A Difference


Each student we have in our schools is unique and reacts differently to different situations. How we connect to who they are as individuals is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. As teachers, it is so important to find ways to build rapport with our students so that they develop a trusting and positive working relationship with the teacher in the school community. By going out of our way to connect with a student on a personal level can have an exponential impact inside our classroom.

Year 3 students participate in a Laptop Bootcamp on a weekly basis with myself, the Education Technology Coach, to support their transition from iPads to MacBooks. This is primarily skills-based with meaningful connections to their units of inquiry. The first week of the Laptop Bootcamp found me faced with a Year 3 student who was having a challenging time. He wouldn’t listen to the directions, leading him to become frustrated when he was unable to do something. He wasn’t open to asking for help or receiving support. He didn’t want to do it, stated he couldn’t do it and that he didn’t want to even use them. He began disturbing other students and preventing them from doing the task at hand. No matter what I did to try to help ease the task, his negative attitude and mindset prevented him from being successful. I walked away from the class knowing that I had to find a way to reach this child and that the flow of the class for the rest of the year would depend on it.

With the clear goal of finding a way to connect with the student, I tried to figure out a way that would know that I genuinely cared about the student. The first thing was to look for him in the playground at break and ask him what kind of mood he was in today. He told me not a good one, which led to further discussion of some things he was struggling with outside of school and we brainstormed how he might go about changing these things and also how he might be able to change his mood at school. I wasn’t sure how successful I had been with the one interaction and knew it needed to be a reoccurring pattern for him to begin to develop trust.

The next day I saw him and asked about his evening and how he was feeling about things today. While his mood had shifted slightly, there was still more that needed to be done. I needed to find a way that made him feel unique and special. So I did what anyone would do before moving on. I asked what he thought about a secret handshake just for the two of us. He looked at me kind of funny and then showed me one he wanted to have.

Every time I see him whether it’s on the playground, in the hallway, or in the classroom, we do our handshake. He lights up with a smile knowing that we have the coolest handshake in town. In class, gets a reassuring ‘You got this’ with a handshake as a combo as he heads back to the desk and tackles the challenge of the day. This week, not only was ready and listening as soon as I got started, but he also finished the task and started helping other students be successful.

What could have been an ongoing and constant challenge in the class became a positive experience for a student and an opportunity to empower him to support others and be a leader in the classroom. Never underestimate the smallest gestures and interactions. One gesture might make the largest difference.


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Understanding Pedagogy


I feel a combination of a social constructivist approach to learning in conjunction with connectivism is how I view the educational pedagogies I find most beneficial in practice. There is a need for students to construct their learning for a sense of ownership and engagement. However, the idea of the social aspect and connections is key with the growing digital age. Siemens (2005) suggests connectivism is a way to learn from other network and their experiences including technology to gain actionable knowledge.

Some of the new learnings I have had are:

1. Participatory technologies impact information environment greatly (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). Looking at the benefits of participatory technologies, it is clear that these tools have substantial benefit in the classroom. From increasing engagement and ownership to increased reflection and engaging in dialogue with others, students are truly developing the ability to construct new knowledge together (Farkas, p. 85). I believe that when students feel they are a part of the active learning process and it is made available for others to see, they will increase their effort, which in turn improves achievement as suggested in Farkas (p.85). In order for this collaborative approach to reflection to be successful, a constructivist and connectivist pedagogical approach are needed. Teachers need to change their pedagogy and teaching to allow for new technologies to transform their classroom.

2. There needs to be a change in information literacy instruction (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). With the change in the digital world to provide an increased wealth of resources to our students, we need to be thinking more critically as teachers about how we explicitly teach information literacy to help students become information literate (Farkas, p. 89). While we are becoming more connected, we also have to be more critical in analysing and evaluating the resources and knowledge we find (Farkas, p. 88). As teachers, we need to be instilling in our students the idea of online rights and privacy and how to support them in being safe and secure online. While participatory technologies have many benefits, we need to be aware of who has access to them and how they may engage in them. Teaching students how to change their settings to ensure the class only has access to their blogs may be a way to overcome some of these challenges as well as teaching students how to provide constructive feedback online. Thus, teaching transferable skills is key as our world of digital resources continues to grow (Farkas, p. 89). These conversations shouldn’t be happening in one classroom or in the library; rather the dialogue about information literacy belongs in each and every classroom (Farkas, p. 90).


References
Farkas, M. (2012). Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy. Library Hi Tech, 30(1), 82-94.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

Legally Shareable Music - Free Music Archives

As an Education Technology Coach, I support a lot of my students in making films using iMovie. iMovie comes with a set bunch of songs, sounds and jingles that can be used within the film. However, after a few films, students seem to continue to choose the same song, making it a little bit repetitive as a teacher.

One of my favourite resources is Free Music Archive. It has thousands of songs that can be legally downloaded and are Creative Commons licensed. Students can search songs by artists and genres but also by mood to help the music best fit the theme of the film.  This also allows me the opportunity to teach students how to properly credit the artists of the songs at the end of their films.

Available at: http://freemusicarchive.org/

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Distance Education: Does it have a place in schools?

Distance education is often approached with mixed feelings with it being a good solution for some students to access learning from anywhere at anytime or an excuse for procrastination. As someone who is taking a distance education Masters degree, I see the value in distance education and am making it work for me living in Singapore and working full time.

There are also instances where distance education is useful for our students. Some students travel for competitive sports and take online classes or are homeschooled. But is there a place for distance education in a typical school with classes every day? 

I believe the answer is yes - if students have access to resources at home and if planned out appropriately. Flipped classroom learning or blended learning environments allows students to learn content at home while using class time to explore problems and answer questions, taking the learning deeper. It uses a combination of online learning and in-person experiences (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 207). 
This type of learning is something we are currently trialling for professional development with teachers. We have created a 10 week course where teachers are exposed to different technologies each week with tasks to complete. The weekly tasks are posted on a blog and class discussions take place through Edmodo. Teachers also have a blog of their own to share their learning and reflect on their practice. The course can be done completely online but there are 2 drop in sessions where participants can work through the course or use the time to ask questions of the two technology coaches leading the sessions and plan for how to integrate these tools into their classroom.

References
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].

Monday, 12 September 2016

TPACK & SAMR - Technology Integration Frameworks

TPACK is a framework that supports the integration of technology for effective classroom teaching. It combines technological, pedagogical and content knowledge as a way of thinking to support teachers in ensuring the use of technology is appropriate, thoughtful and effective during the planning stages. As a technology coach, my expertise lies in technological/pedagogical knowledge, where I support teachers in integrating technology for their specific  content in a specific context. It is also important that I balance when digital technologies are appropriate and maybe not so appropriate to ensure that teachers move beyond just using a tool.  


It is not enough for teachers to use technology for the sake of using technology; rather, technology should allow new learning opportunities that would not have been possible before (Mishra & Koeler, 2008).This makes me think of the SAMR model.
SAMR
Image from:  http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/


Dr. Ruben Puentedura created this idea of SAMR model for technology integration to help teachers understand that technology can reach many levels of higher-order thinking and create opportunities for our students to use technology to do things that traditional methods failed to allow for. As technology use moves up the chart, it moves from enhancing the learning experience to truly transforming the experience for students. This is where we allow students to really push their thinking and abilities through the use of technology.


Some examples of each of the components of this model are listed below:


Substitution
  1. typing a story in a word document
  2. complete an online task, print it and submit to the teacher
Augmentation
  1. Using Padlet as a wonder wall with students including images to enhance
  2. text-to-speech function for students writing a paper
Modification
  1. Screencasting on the iPad to explain a mathematical concept
  2. Students use Edmodo to communicate online at home and at school
Redefinition
  1. Students bring their stories to life by animating and recording voices
  2. Students create an e-Portfolio full of videos, web 2.0 tools and documentation of experiences with reflections by self, peers, teachers and parents


For the SAMR model, it is understood that the use of technology may vary across all four but it is important for teachers to think about what the real purpose is of the technology. If teachers are only ever using technology for substitution, is this really a good use of technology? Would the students simply be able to not use technology and achieve the same desired learning outcomes? When we move towards modification and redefinition, we are allowing students to develop their critical thinking and creativity skills as they show their learning and understanding in new and complex ways.  The more we think about technology integration through TPACK and SAMR the more our students will be able to have meaningful learning experiences.


When technology, pedagogy and content knowledge all exist, it is about understanding the balance with the ever changing technology to ensure that best practice of teaching is always being exemplified in the classroom (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).


Resources
Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 9(1), 60-70.
Mishra & Koehler (2008). Keynote address [YouTube]. Available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iCPLTz7Z-Q