Transforming Teaching and Learning

One year and four online courses later I have discovered, “Teaching and Learning in a Knowledge Society” is an apt description for my year of formal learning.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft Clipart

Traditional views of learning and even the way we have structured schools and school settings are inadequate in this digital age.  George Siemens succinctly illustrates the need for a new way to think about learning.  “”The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. (Siemens, 2004, Conclusion).  I have pondered last sentence many times as I reflect on the evolving nature of education.

After twenty years of being the teacher, I returned to the ‘classroom’.  How learning has changed!  Reading, writing and using microfiche for research were the primary literacies required.  Pacino & Noftle  (2011) define literacy as, “… the ability to think critically, to be self-reflective, and to make informed, ethical decisions in a democratic society.”   (p. 478).  Literacies have erupted and the quality of communication is dependent on our ability to blend and apply these literacies cohesively.  “Literacy and digital technology are becoming increasingly more intricately connected…” (Pacino & Noftle, 2011, p. 481).  I discovered first-hand the connection through the expectation to keep a blog, post substantive responses, login to a learning management system, access all resources online and create QR codes.

Ten months after my first course, I felt like I was truly beginning to integrate the learning into my work.  This spring, we had an influx of ants in the class. I first viewed them as a distraction.  Then the learning from my summer course, Inquiry and ICT, kicked in.  The ants became the spark for learning.  Opportunities to develop a broad range of literacies presented themselves across all subject areas.  The students were highly engaged, asking questions, studying live ants (catch and release!)  researching answers (online and books), examining ant and online images, creating a collaborative song,  building ant habitats and testing them (they actually worked!) and eventually concluding how we might humanely minimize the number of ants coming into our class.  Students were developing a broad range of literacies.

Self-efficacy is an important piece I have reflected upon this year.  How do we as teachers feel able to tackle technology?   “Evidence indicates that classroom atmospheres are partly determined by teachers’ beliefs in their instructional efficacy.” (Bandura, 1993, p.24).  Teacher’s tool literacy plays a significant role in the effective use of technology in the class.  Teachers need to learn new technologies in context, just as students do.  I was inspired to incorporate an iPad into my class because of a literature review I researched and opportunities to share and learn from colleagues.

TPACK has also been a guiding force.  It provides clear criteria to clarify what is an effective use of technology in the class.  This particularly important at the primary level where I struggle to develop digital literacy in such a way that is pedagogically sound and developmentally appropriate for my young students. “Teachers have to be willing to learn new technologies, always seeking connections between these new technologies and their pedagogy.” (Mishra, Koehler, Kereluik, 2009, p. 52).  As I move in a Kindergarten position next year, TPACK will be firmly in the back of my mind as I use technology.

Digital citizenship is an essential component to being safe and responsible online.  It is an important skill to teach students.  Lisa Neilson (2010) states, “…[it] does not mean hiding your identity but rather defining it and owning it.” (para.1). The importance of weaving Digital Citizenship into all aspects of online learning, right from day one, has been strongly emphasized.  This means my kindergarten students will be introduced to Copyright as we use and search images, the modelling of digital etiquette and an appropriate online identity through a class blog.

Leaving a digital footprint has the potential to be an online collection of learning.  Being ‘well-googled’ demonstrates the proficiency of numerous literacies.  This professional blog is my first public sharing of my learning and is second on the list when my name is googled.  “We must be willing to share our work and a little of ourselves in order to be “Googleable” within the context of network building.” (Richardson, 2008, p. 17).  Sharing our work is essential for making connections.

“Real learning happens in bursts, and often those bursts occur in places or situations that are out of the ordinary.”  (Godin, 2012, p.144).  I have certainly had many ‘bursts’ over the year.  The most important is the connections I make to my work.  These connections are the springboard for further learning as I strive to improve my teaching practice.

References

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117-148. Retrieved from http://www.centerforefficacyandresiliency.org/assets/docs/Perceived%20Self-Efficacy%20in%20Cognitive%20Development%20and%20Functioning.pdf

Godin, Seth. Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). (Free Online Publication, 2012). Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/02/wwwstopstealingdreamscom-my-new-manifesto-is-now-live.html

Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Kereluik, K. (2009). The song remains the same: Looking back to the future of educational technology. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/Mishra-Koehler-Kereluik-techtrends09.pdf

Neilsen, L. (2010, December 23).  The Innovative Educator’s Advice for Managing your Digital Footprint.  The Innovator Educator.  Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.ca/2010/12/innovative-educators-advice-for.html

Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership66(3), 16-19.  Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ817754&site=ehost-live

Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

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The Evolving Nature of Writing

Microsoft Clipart Retrieved June 10, 2013

My Grade one class has been writing letters back and forth with their Grade 7/8 partners at the middle school over the course of the year.  What impressed me was that with each letter, the quality of their writing was their personal best up to that point in time.  “In fact, in looking at all this composing, we might say that one of the biggest changes is the role of audience: writers are everywhere, yes, but so too are audiences,…” (Yancey, 2009, p. 5).  Having an authentic audience was essential to the writing.

One of the grade one outcomes is for students to be able to develop printing skills.  So where does technology fit in?  “Thus, in evaluating what it takes to teach 21st century literacies, NCTE poll respondents tended to look beyond technology applications and see that success is found in better connecting classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.” (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  As I struggle to teach the broad spectrum of literacies my student need, I am comforted by the fact that it is about all the ways we communicate, not just the digital aspects.  “And at best, we can begin to make real progress toward changing the school writing experience to better prepare students for a future that is sure to include ever-more complex tools and purposes for writing.” (NCTE, 2009, p.4).  At the grade one level, using a pencil can be complex!

”What everyone seems to agree upon, however, is that the ability to communicate clearly and understand complex messages is more important than ever to students’ future success.”  (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  My students contributed to a community blog set up by the town of Canmore as a forum for citizens to contribute their ideas for converting the old pool space.  An example of a comment posted by my grade one class is from group #4:

“I think the gym would be a good idea because the little kids and the Grandma’s and Grandpa’s could watch the babies upstairs and the big kids (and the teenagers too) could do the foam pit. But I don’t think the movie theatre would be a good idea because it is not healthy. I think maybe there could be a small trampoline. There should be a baby gym and exercise room for Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.” (2013).

As I read and think about writing in the 21st century and reflect on what my students are learning in Grade One, I am conscious of the fact that the definition of writing is changing.  Jason Ohler says “value reading and writing now more than ever.”  (2009, para. 13).  The essential takeaway for me is the quality of the message that is being passed on.

References

Group #4, (2013 April 12).  Engage Canmore.  Retrieved from http://www.engagecanmore.ca/consolidated-proposal-gymnastics-based-multi-use/#comments

National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Writing between the lines and everywhere else. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/WritingbetweentheLinesFinal.pdf

Ohler, J. (2009) Orchestrating the media collage. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar09/vol66/num06/Orchestrating-the-Media-Collage.aspx

Yancey, K. (2009). A call to support 21st century writing. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Yancey_final.pdf