The unit I have chosen for my final project is our grade 7 ‘Introduction to Physics Unit’. This Science unit focuses on Newton’s Laws of Motion and Forces. During this unit, students learn and investigate these concepts through many hands-on activities and through a final cumulative project where the physics is see through the context of sports. The reason I have chosen this unit is that it offers many opportunities for the integration of purposeful technology and it will allow students to collaborate effectively with online learning communities where I believe there is high interest in this area of Sport Science.
We began this unit two years ago in correlation with the Sochi Olympics because we noticed that the students seemed very interested in this event, through random conversations they were having in class. We were in the middle of our physics unit, so we put two and two together and figured out that we could have these same discussions and learn about physics at the same time! So we came up with our Idea of ‘The Physics Olympics’.
This year we are staying with the same theme, by keeping our final project as sports physics, but we are implementing some other components to add to the idea of collaborating with online learning communities and using technology in a purposeful way, which directly relates to what I have been learning through this first COETAIL course.
First, we can do this by adding an online resource called ‘Curiosity Machine’ which I have discussed in another post. This resource was introduced to me by a colleague (@jancey5 on Twitter) and I immediately thought that it was a perfect way to begin integrating what I am learning through COETAIL. This resource will offer the students the opportunity to seek information and feedback from a group of online mentors instead of only their teacher and peers and will open the door for collaboration in an online learning community (It should be noted that the online mentor has an annual subscription which is something we’re working on having for the students very soon). Also, we are using an iPad app called ‘motion shot’.
This app will allow students a purposeful way to make a short film of themselves and others performing in a sport and use single still picture feature to break down and analyze their movement and the forces being used in that situation. This will be different than using normal video recordings that were created by some students in previous years.
I’ve been hearing the terms 21st century learning and 21st century skills again and again over the past six years now, but I have yet to really witness a notable change in how schools run. Obviously this is a hard switch, from traditional school to what all the research is saying, but you would think it would move a little faster. I’m on board with teaching students these skills as a priority over content. It’s pretty common sense to me considering I had to learn almost everything I needed to be who and where I am after I had finished my BA, all in which involved these skills.
Since becoming a Math/Science teacher at AIS-R I’ve been very lucky to have surrounded myself with great, forward thinking teachers and administrators who have basically encouraged me to be the most effective and innovative teacher I can be. This has given me the chance to implement new ideas in my class, all of which I’ve learned through workshops and online. For example, the primary focus for student learning in Math class is to learn the true meaning behind numeracy and what numbers mean. After a great conversation with one of my colleagues not long ago, what he basically had me conclude by the end of it was “yes, I try to teach Math as a language”. I’ve implemented problem-based learning and I’ve followed and tried a lot of Dan Myers stuff over the past few years and the video from this week’s part of the course basically summarized everything I am trying to change in my Math class.
In Science a lot of people question me about why students don’t have a textbook. I have access textbooks in my classroom that students can use any way they like, but the textbook doesn’t really offer students much inquiry. They just provide a lot of good information and don’t allow students to get into the ‘why’ part of Science, which is what I feel is most important. Some ideas I am working with instead, are giving students access to online learning communities and other professionals in this field of study that can give the students their opinions and feedback. Two ways I am doing this are by implementing a virtual Science fair into class and by using curiosity machine. Both of these tools will give students exposure to online learning communities and will allow them to collaborate with other peers and professionals. We will also be doing something similar in Math where students will be going to collaborativemathematics.org to solve problems posted online and share their solutions back to the site. I am excited to see how these projects will generate interest with the students and possibly even some 21st century skills.
Week four’s main ideas come at a very good time for me to reflect on this topic since I am in the middle of a battle to get caught up on all the new technologies I need to have set up in my classroom for students, myself, for parents and for school wide initiatives. This is the first year that I have felt like this and am wondering if it’s going to get increasingly overwhelming as technology exponentially evolves.
I can visualize it now. How smooth everything will be running once I finally get all the things I want to do set up and running. It seems however, that I have been visualizing this eutopic classroom structure of mine now since I started teaching six years ago and it’s never really come to fruition. Why is this? Well, what I am starting to notice that what I am visualizing now will most likely not be the ideal, innovative, modern, classroom setup it was when I was first reflecting on what it should look like. By the time things are coming together, there will be new initiatives to try and keep up with the best schools.
If this is the case, and someone please help me out if I’m missing something, then what is the solution. I get why we need to be doing all this because it all makes sense to me. In enhances collaboration, it is becoming the primary ‘institution’ for student culture, it prepares students for the future, it increases student engagement, etc… However, does this mean we just do it and do it to the point of trying to keep up with technology companies? I don’t think this realistic and as mentioned in ‘Shaping Tech for the Classroom’ “For true technological advance to occur, the computers must be personal to each learner. When used properly and well for education, these computers become extensions of the students’ personal self and brain. They must have each student’s stuff and each student’s style all over them…” I think it goes back to what I have been reflecting on in my previous posts. Students don’t need teachers and schools to integrate and select technology for them. Maybe, integration as a guide, but if a student wants to use a laptop instead of an iPad, is that not okay? Or do they need to have a strong foundation on the iPad, just like schools think students need have a strong foundation for all subjects?
Here is my thought that I would like people out there to give me some information on if you have any. How long is it from the time new technology is created until I have my students effectively using it in the classroom? And in that time isn’t their new technology already out there that could and should take over? I know one answer is that parents, teachers and administrators resist change. This obviously inhibits the process, but what else? What do I need to do to keep up or get ahead?
I was first introduced to inquiry-based learning in teachers college about 5 years ago and the whole idea really got me thinking about the potential of how this more open way of thinking could benefit kids. Immediately I started changing my practice in my classroom bit by bit and, although it was quite messy at first, I could see how much more engaged the students were.
After reading through the article this week, Living and Learning in New Media, it’s looking to me like self directed learning is the new lingo in the educational world and although it’s directly linked to inquiry learning, it almost seems like inquiry-based learning on steroids. The difference I’m seeing is that inquiry-based learning is still mostly teacher driven. Teacher poses questions, guided by curriculum, teacher gives feedback, teacher created assessments, etc… Through self-directed learning, I see the teacher completely leaving the stage as the information and structure provider and allowing the students to pursue their own interests and passions and learn from a wide range of online communities in a way that works best for them. In this case then, the teacher becomes the person who helps students ‘learn how to learn’ and provides time and resources needed for students.
Since I’ve become a teacher, I’ve often wondered what the children at our schools would be capable of if we stepped out of the way and allowed them to focus on their own passions and interests. Where could they go and how far could they go within this timeframe of being in school if they were to focus on a passion of interest for an unrestricted amount of time? Is Doogie Howser fact or fiction in this new world of technology?
I have a recent example of my own self-directed learning adventure that I would like you readers out there to weigh in on. In mid November of last year I went to a music shop and picked up a guitar. I always wanted to do this and I decided it was time to give it a try. This was a huge interest of mine and after I strummed my first proper G chord I learned from one of my many online instructors, I was hooked. I am now at the point where I am practicing with an actual band and feel that I am not as far behind these other guys that have been playing for a long time as I thought. How have I done this? I have probably practiced and researched theory for an average of about 30 minutes a day for almost the past year. Throughout this online learning experience, I have had access to endless amounts of online instructors and musicians as well as online articles and blogs. I have not had one single face to face guitar lesson with anyone. My first actual feedback towards my progress came a week ago when I noticed many remarks of surprise that I have only been working on this skill for a little less than a year. Including, basically the whole summer off.
My big questions is; “Would I have been able to accomplish these same results by having a face to face instructor?” Along with this, I’ve been only “messing around”. I’m not even at the point of “geeking out” yet, according to definitions. How much further could I take my learning if I fully become involved with an online community where I am producing knowledge and getting more regular feedback from others within the community? My other questions are:
Is having single teacher for different content areas benefiting or hurting student potential in learning?
Is it really necessary for students to take all subjects in school within a structured time?
Can traditionally set-up school make this shift in learning?