Flipped Teacher Professional Learning Six – Using GDocs in the Classroom Part Two

“It is important to remember that educational software, like textbooks, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well-trained teachers, leadership, and parental involvement.”
– Attributed to Keith Krueger

Good morning everyone, it is an early post today, getting in before I head off to school in order to get the latest FTPL video up for everyone, as I did not get it the video recorded until last night, well after I would normally post it. Next week will see a return to your regular programming, with the FTPL video returning to Monday afternoons, and the new series of articles reviewing of Invent to Learn, continuing in its (soon to be) regular timeslot of Tuesday afternoons.

In this video in the FTPL series, we continue looking at how we can utilise GDocs in the classroom, specifically, how to use the live-feedback feature. Please ensure you have watched Video Five in the series before watching this video.

As always, I would appreciate any feedback or questions in the comments.

Research Skills and the Mekong River

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” 
– Attributed to Zora Neale Hurston

When I was asked to take on my current role, I was told that I would be responsible for teaching computer skills and research skills, two sets of skills which contain a vast and diverse array of sub-skills. Due to the vagaries of disruptions to school timetables, I am at slightly different points in my program with each class and while I have moved onto the research skills component of my program with two of my Stage Three classes, but will not be able to do the same with my other two Stage Three classes.

The skill of taking high-quality notes is valuable, both for students (at primary, secondary and tertiary levels) and for the everyday person, requires critical thinking, the ability to understand and summarise, and is a critically important skill for any research, whether academic or social in nature. Yet it is, inexplicably, a skill which we do not often explicitly teach to our students. I will be spending the remainder of this term and some of next term filling this gap. I will be spending time teaching students how to summarise and synthesise information into useful notes, how to organise their notes, different strategies and when they might be useful using a variety of pedagogical practices and text types.

All Stage Three teachers are conducting a unit of learning with their class around the Murray-Darling, and as a way of connecting the concepts and skills that I want their/my students to learn with what they are learning in their own classroom, I am going to utilise the Mekong River as a vehicle for learning about, practising and using the various research skills including note-taking, referencing and synthesis and understanding the various concepts including credibility, reliability and validity, which are also important skills for digital literacy.

I am utilising the Mekong River for a few reasons. There are some striking similarities between Australia’s Murray-Darling River and South-East Asia’s Mekong River. Both play or have played a significant role in local trade and lifestyle at differing points along their lengths. Both have been seen as a resource for life, for money, for travel and both river systems are paying the price. Along with that aspect, this is an opportunity to expose my students to a range of Asian cultures and perspectives, a Cross-Curriculum priority under the current National Curriculum which they otherwise would not necessarily have an opportunity experience. As part of this I will be using a range of text-types, including documentaries about various aspects of the Mekong and the cultures along its length, showing the differences and similarities between the Murray-Darling and Mekong Rivers.

Finally, it allows me to connect the skills and concepts with what students are already learning about without subjecting students to hearing the same thing multiple times, both in their teacher’s classroom and then with me, which is not fair on the students, and would create issues for me around classroom management that can be avoided by simply not making those pedagogical choices.

One of the pedagogical choices that I have made regarding this unit of learning is to utilise Twitter as a way for my students to crystallise what they are learning and understanding, by giving them the opportunity to make a Tweet via my Teaching Twitter account @MrEmsClass, and already, some students have taken the opportunity, and have been quite excited by being able, to Tweet about what they have learned, such as Tahlia:

Thank you for reading, and as always I would appreciate hearing people’s thoughts on this topic, particularly anyone who has set out to explicitly teach research skills in the classroom to Stage Three students, or to Stage Two students, whom I hope to begin the topic with in Term Four. If you are interested in what we are learning in the class, feel free to follow my teaching Twitter account, or search the hashtags #PCPS #notetaking or #researchskills

Internet Fundamentals

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”
-Attributed to Mitchell Kapor

I have spent a significant amount of time with Stage Two teaching them some computer fundamentals such as opening and closing programs and files, saving, renaming, searching for files, keyboard shortcuts that are considered ubiquitous such as cut/copy/paste and I felt that it was time move on. I want to begin to explore the internet with them, as part of the ongoing discussion about digital citizenship and online safety, but also to give them the fundamentals about how to use the internet. Despite the oft-used title of digital natives, its is my experience thus far that many students are most certainly not digital natives.

Accordingly today I spent some time going through the basics of understanding the different components of an internet browser, such as opening a new tab, a new window, the difference between a search bar in a search engine and the URL/Address bar, also known as the Omnibox.

I had students do a search relating to a particular topic they are learning about with their classroom teacher at the moment (so far I have had classes tell me Australian National Parks or Australian pre-history; as in the exploration and discovery of Australia prior to English settlement). As part of that we have also talked about the various search features of Google such as the search tools for the different search options. This has included a brief overview of how to refine an image search to show those labelled for noncommercial reuse, refining a web search by year, a book search by document type etc. I have also had a few teacher aides in the room at different types and they have indicated that they also have learned things through the lesson, which is another benefit.

I feel like it is a good investment in time to ensure that the students in this age group have some of these fundamental computer skills as these basics of digital literacy will be assumed knowledge as they progress through their education

The Small Joys

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
– Attributed to Nicolas Chamfort

As we approach the end of term, activity tends to wind down as loose ends are tidied up and teachers are reluctant to start anything new, knowing that there is a two week break coming up which will ruin any sort of flow. With that in mind, I took the opportunity today to visit a tool that I had heard about, and seen, but not utilised myself; Kahoot.

Rather than attempt to explain or describe what Kahoot is, here is a video showing you, thanks to Jason Cross over on YouTube

I found and used a Digital Citizenship Kahoot with some of my classes today as slightly different form of assessment, and the students absolutely loved it. I completely underestimated how excited they would get by it. Even the simple fact of the screen changing colours was a source of amusement to them. The Kahoot generated some interesting conversation as there were some answers that were a bit nuanced and required them to be read properly.

A conversation with a colleague in the staffroom during the morning break led him look it up, and as I went back to the room I am using this week, I passed him room and saw a class full of highly engaged and motivated students, working in teams to complete the quiz. A small joy that a brief conversation could provide something useful to a colleague.

What was your source of small joy this week? What brought a smile to your face?

Providing Technology In-Servicing to Colleagues

Beginning next Wednesday afternoon, I will be running a series of after-school workshops to help up-skill my colleagues in the authentic use of technology in the classroom. Thus far I have had fifteen of my colleagues indicate they will be attending, and some others indicate that they would attend if they did not already have commitments after school on Wednesdays.

I have a rough outline in my head of the concepts and skills I wish to explore of the course of the sessions, and am putting together a rough outline of the scope and sequence I will be using. The first thing I will be covering will be a survey using Google forms to determine some of the preconceptions and fears that my colleagues hold around using technology as a pedagogical tool.

After that, the plan at the moment is to introduce the TPCK and SAMR as the theoretical framework for considering the use of technology in the classroom. The idea is that with an understanding of both concepts, we will be able to brainstorm a range of lesson ideas using the school bank of laptops as the technology to cement the concept, but to also allow staff to brainstorm a range of ways that they can use the laptops beyond the substitution and augmentation  levels, and to take students to modification and redefinition levels.

I would be interested in hearing back from anyone who has ideas about how I may implement some technology in-servicing based on their own experience.

As always, thank you for reading.