Summary of Learning

Last week I took a look at the big ideas and major takeaways of EC&I 834. It has been great to connect with all of you. You have helped me create an online course for the grade one students in our school division and I look forward to continuing to develop and use blended learning with our youngest learners.

I have really enjoyed reading your blogs, following your tweets, and our breakout sessions in zoom. I look forward to crossing paths with many of you again sometime soon!

Big ideas and Major Takeaways!

I always love writing these posts at the end of Alec’s courses because it is amazing to see and reflect on the amount of growth that has happened over the course. This course was extremely challenging for me as I am currently on maternity leave (and my 9 month old is a stage 5 clinger… and my almost 3 year old is much better. haha!). At the same time, I am so proud of what I accomplished this course. Creating my online course will not only benefit me, but also all grade 1 teachers within Regina Catholic schools (and really any other teachers using a word study program) because all of my lessons are shareable and editable.

At the beginning of this course we were asked to list our main goals for the course. I have listed them below and have reflected on them and how I progressed this semester.

My number one goal for this course is to get through it without missing a deadline and being able to produce the quality of work I am used to producing! (YES! I did it. I was able to keep my deadlines straight in my head and did not miss an assignment, WOOHOO!). Three other goals I have are:

  1. To develop an understanding of the pedagogical issues (e.g., learning strategies, developing content, delivery/facilitation formats/options, developing presence, cultivating community, etc.) of blended and online learning. As an elementary school teacher, I see very few instances of blended and online learning (although we do have some excellent examples of it happening right within our school division by extraordinary teachers, such as Matthew Bresciani) and I would like to explore how we can help close that gap. (My understanding of what blended learning is has completely shifted over this course. At the beginning of the course, I was merely scratching the surface of what blended learning was and I was limiting it to my preconceived notions and past experiences of  fully online (distance) learning. As we progressed through this course, I gained understanding on the pedagogical issues of blended and online learning and have found creating a course prototype and being a student in a blended course simultaneously has helped me to develop a strong pedagogical understanding of online learning).  
  2. To examine and evaluate blended and online course content, pedagogical practices, and tools for implementation.  To be completely honest, I don’t know what is really out there (other than YouTube and MOOCs) for designing online and blended learning. I would like to explore, evaluate, and examine the various tools used to deliver the course and the pedagogical practices that need to be in place in order for them the be successful. (WOW! There are so many tools out there to create a blended learning environment. My view of blended learning before this course was very distorted and I thought blended learning could only be achieved successfully in the older grades or post-secondary education. This course has opened my eyes to the way we can blend with many different ages and populations. It has been so great following everyone else’s journey to see how they would blend in their courses). 
  3. To create something that is useful and can be used again. This is one of my favourite aspects of Alec’s courses — everything that we do is purposeful and has true meaning and the ability to impact teaching and learning. (Yes! Yes! Yes! Like I said above, Creating my online course will not only benefit me, but also all grade 1 teachers within Regina Catholic schools (and really any other teachers using a word study program) because all of my lessons are shareable and editable). 

I feel like this course went by in the blink of  an eye. Here is a quick timeline of the major takeaways from the course related to designing for online and blended learning.

What is Blended Learning? from The Learning Accelerator on Vimeo.

My mind was blown away with the learning activities we did together in our first class. I have taken other classes with Alec before, but it just seemed like doing group work and connecting with others was SO easy and natural in the course. In our first class we worked in breakout groups to define what is blended learning and online learning. At the same time, Alec polled Twitter to get their definition and within a few minutes we had a collaborative document that was created by 25 individuals and a twitter thread with multiple responses. I was very excited to see what the rest of the course would entail.

I really like this definition of blended learning by Vaughn, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison:

Blended learning can be defined as the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and technologies. A direct result of the transformative innovation of virtual communication and online learning communities, blended learning environments have created new ways for teachers and students to engage, interact, and collaborate.

One of the most crucial readings to my development this course was the Tony Bates Chapter on the continuum of technology-based learning.

Blended learning can include a wide variety of designs. One of the best things about this course was seeing the wide variety of courses designed by my peers and all the different ways ( CMS/LMS/VLE and selected platforms) their online courses would take place.

‘Blended learning’ can mean minimal rethinking or redesign of classroom teaching, such as the use of classroom aids, or complete redesign as in flexibly designed courses, which aim to identify the unique pedagogical characteristics of face-to-face teaching, with online learning providing flexible access for the rest of the learning.

-Tony Bates

One of the most challenging (and rewarding) things done this semester was creating my content modules. I thought this would be fairly easy when I first looked at the assignment, but after many, many hours of work, edits, and design, I found that perhaps creating an online course is more work than teaching F2F. I feel like a lot of the work in in an online course happens at the “design” stage and you really need to think of what you want to accomplish in your course and how you are going to get there. BUT… once you create your online course you can use it again, again, and again. So it is worth it to put in the effort at the beginning.

I really liked having the opportunity for some free exploration this semester to look at creation tools, open content resources, and tools for videos, audio, and presentations! Being on maternity leave basically back to back has left me feeling a bit in the dark and the opportunity to explore these tools will help me a great deal when I get back into the classroom!

One of the BEST experiences in the class was reviewing my peers courses and receiving the feedback on my course. This was so valuable as I was able to see what my peers were doing and also reflect on the changes I needed to make my course better. This feedback was really a game changer in my online course and if you look at my first submission to my final submission, you will notice that A LOT has changed.

The community created in this course was one of the best communities I have had in my graduate studies and it was through an online course. I really appreciated the time to do breakout sessions with my peers where we could discuss and work together to deepen our understanding of blended learning. I enjoyed connecting with everyone on Twitter and working with my PLN to find and share resources on blended learning. And I enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs to see how their journey was going this semester as well.

Here’s to one more week!!

Primary Literacy & Coding

This week I decided to take a look at primary literacy and coding. To be honest, this wasn’t even on my radar prior to this course. I have always had a keen interest in primary literacy, which is why I became a Teacher Librarian, and coding was something I dabbled in (if you could even say that) with our Kindergarten classes using Bee-Bot before my maternity leave. However, putting the two together was a completely new concept until Alec suggested I take a look at incorporating some coding into my online course after reading my course profile and my interest grew even more after some “playing around” with coding in class last week. I decided this something I MUST have in my online course. BUT, how could I tie it meaningfully to primary literacy??

To start this learning journey this week I began looking through Kathy Cassidy’s resources on APPS, ‘BOTS AND CODE: THE NEW ABC’S IN THE ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM. For those of you who don’t know Kathy Cassidy, she is a trailblazer in bringing technology into the primary classroom, I highly recommend you visit her website and follow her on Twitter. After hours and hours of exploration, I decided that ScratchJr would be a program I would like to use as it hit many requirements for classroom use and more specifically, primary classroom use:

  1. It is aimed at young children (ages 5-7).
  2. It is free.
  3. In programming interactive stories and games, students will learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer.
scratch1.PNG
Check it out!

 

And upon further exploration, there are teaching resources specifically targeted at primary literacy, which could easily be adapted to fit into my online course. scratch2

Lastly, there are GREAT resources for teachers under the teach tab, with resources, lessons, and videos on how to use ScratchJr in the classroom. It really can’t be any more user friendly or easily accessible. My next step will be creating lessons based on my word study modules for students to code the words we are working on during that unit. I am so excited to continue to explore ScratchJr and make some modules using this app for my online course.

I continued to explore the world wide web to see how everyone else was using primary coding and literacy and I came across a great post by Kelly Hincks on Mixing Reading with Coding in Early Childhood. All I can say is WOW! What a goldmine I found here. She is a teacher librarian just like me and her content is amazing. In her post she says,

As a librarian, my goal is to expose students to all forms of literacy. Coding, to me, is just another form.  Teaching coding allows me to integrate multiple disciplines together. Coding is a process just like the research process. That is why it fits so nicely in the library. Additionally, coding teaches problem solving, cooperation, and how to overcome failure.

With all that being said, I do not believe in just coding for coding sake. I feel it should fit within a bigger picture. Combining coding skills with other literacy skills is always my ultimate goal.

This is so accurate! I want the technology I use to “blend” to be authentic, purposeful, and engaging. It should transform and enhance my end goal and not be used just because it is something “cool” I stumbled across. In her post, she talks about lessons to introduce coding to primary students and lessons to apply coding concepts.

Another site of interest that I explored this week is code.org. They have some spelling lessons and other online courses for primary students that could be used to introduce coding and teach the basics. Although this site probably won’t make an appearance in my online course, it is something I have added to my toolbox for when I get back to school.

In conclusion, I am really glad we had this week to just explore an aspect of blended learning that we are interested in. I was able to find something I could use to enhance and transform my online course and I am excited to see what I can come up with!

 

Is it more than good-bad, clean-dirty, acceptable-taboo?

After the course readings and videos this week, I was left disappointed and upset with our social culture. I began this post writing about why trolls were the whole problem, why white-middle-aged men were causing this, and how we should just ignore people who revel in creating emotional distress by turning of comments or not responding. However, I think this issue is beyond complicated, it is not only about trolls and white-middle-aged men, and how if we ignore these issues, they will go away. These issues of trolling, online harassment, and scammers are complex issues that deal with more than just a problem our society is facing on the internet, it is impacting our social culture and society as whole.


Why is harassment, especially targeted at women, in the online space so common? Why is sexist, racist, and hateful language seen as a norm? Why are we encouraged to not feed the trolls and simply ignore them, allowing this issue to continue? How do we make change?

Trolling, online harassment, and scammers are complex issues that need to be compared to real life crime. In some cases it is more than harassment and online abuse, the terms online harassment and online abuse are too easy to disregard and not see as complex issues, often telling people to ignore it or get off the internet if you don’t like it. Is this how we would treat people with offline issues of the same complexity? No. As John Oliver compares online issues to real life, it would be like saying, if you don’t want to get burgled, then don’t live in a house.

There’s no quick technological fix to end hate speech online, for it’s a deeply rooted societal ill which needs greater tackling offline – not a one-day Twitter boycott or a report abuse button” —Marta Cooper via The Telegraph

What can we do as a society to end hate speech, stop sexism, end racism, work towards social justice, and tackle complex issues online? To begin we should start the conversation and continue to speak out about controversial issues. Technology is not the problem here, it is a bigger societal issue.