Course 4: Final Project Considerations for Course 5

Option 1: Deepening iTime 

Describe the project: What will your students do?

Last year and this fall, I explored iTime with my students. I’ve written about iTime on a previous blog post here where I shared what I’d learned from researching other educators who implemented iTime or Genius Hour to being inspired by fellow COETAILers experiences as I began my iTime implementation.

Last year I noticed most students simply wanted to research a topic, such as an animal or a particular historical event. This year I tried pushing students a bit further and modeled how choosing a skill; such as improving overall fitness, which is a personal goal I have for myself for this year, can also be a topic to learn about during iTime or Genius Hour. I wanted to model for them that you can research a topic but then consult with experts, practice and monitor your growth to help meet your goal. This fall there was a greater variety in my students iTime topics. They ranged from the usual topics such as earthquakes or “How does gravity work?” to:

  • learning how to write calligraphy,
  • creating a leprechaun trap,
  • improving sprinting in soccer matches and
  • improving drawing abilities of particular woodland animals.

It was great to see students being able to do their research but then improve some other skills as well, even if it included creating leprechaun traps. They did have to research, design and then create a trap and unfortunately the leprechaun escaped again, but they went through an entire design process. Due to time constraints however, I’ve only done one round of iTime this year and do not foresee students being able to conduct a final inquiry this year.

In Course 5, I’d like to:

  • provide greater resources to inspire my students including parent volunteers and high school students to share their passions,
  • improve my students’ skills and behaviors (our attitudes toward learning),
  • schedule iTime for two 40 minute periods a 6-day specials rotation cycle,
  • provide consistency to complete projects,
  • build in opportunities for more regular feedbackand
  • facilitate skill based lessons for learners based on our skills and behaviors as well as how to reflect.

I think building onto what I’ve started would provide students with ways to deepen their own understandings about themselves as learners but also how to conduct research and additionally create a greater sense of agency as well.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

Prior to starting COETAIL, I’d known a bit about iTime by being at a school which had curiosity projects as a unit of inquiry in one grade level and also had grade 5 students participate in the PYP Exhibition. As I began Course 1, I knew it was the perfect time for me to implement iTime on a regular basis. I found collaborating with other COETAILers such as Michelle Beard who was also on an iTime journey, made some of the practical bits that can get in the way as a teacher trying something new much easier.

In Course 4 we were reminded of the different ways in which education has grown and changed including project based learning, flipped and game based learning as well as MOOCs and earning badges. I feel iTime is a bridge between the past and future learning models. Additionally, a topic that’s mentioned in project based learning and I’m also growing increasingly passionate about student agency.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

One of the main goals I hope to achieve is for students to learn more about themselves as learners. I’d like to have a greater focus on our learning skills and behaviors (see below).

I think iTime could be a wonderful, practical time for students to learn about themselves by creating regular vlog posts in Seesaw in which they reflect on themselves as learners. The posts would provide teachers, parents and their peers with the opportunity to provide feedback to the student based on a skill versus the project/product.

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

When I first implemented iTime during Course 1, I had recently read Jessica Barksdale’s article about art curiosity projects in Future Forwards by the American School of Bombay. She said “Curiosity projects provide a student-initiated  and meaningful way for students to demonstrate knowledge they had gained with different mediums , it allowed them to research, initiate and execute their own artistic ideas as true artists due.” I found something similar with my students in having implemented this previously but I, like unlike Jessica, I can’t say that they’ve been true artists, engineers nor historians. They’ve created work but I feel by collaborating with other teachers at my school who use iTime like projects (Kindergarten, grade 2 and grade 5), I can have the opportunity to learn from others through some cross-pollination. Also, I believe using Twitter can be a way to connect with other classes using iTime as well. Finally, Kath Murdoch is visiting our school again in the fall to help us focus on our learning skills and behaviors. I believe it could be an interesting time to seek some advice from an expert as well.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Both this year and last year I found the greatest challenge was allocating time. I think this could be a continued difficulty. Also I wonder about assessment. How can I demonstrate my students’ learning in a meaningful way to both them and their families?

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

I think the greatest shift will be shifting a focus on particular skills and behaviors versus literacy, mathematics or other academic skills that I am required to teach and assess.  Also I’m wondering how I can I communicate these gains to parents on our current report card which are not a required part of our learning. So I think my shifts aren’t so much about pedagogy but letting go of some of my beliefs about “following the rules” outside of our curriculum expectations. I feel comfortable about this in terms of my social and emotional learning decisions but for some reason feel a bit tied to our academic curriculum.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

  • Learning how to reflect about a specific skill and behavior (Thinker),
  • Learning how to follow a research and design process (Self Manager, Researcher, Thinker),
  • Learning how to provide peer feedback (Thinker) and
  • Learning how to vlog using Seesaw (our new eportfolio tool for 2018-19) (Communicator).

I also think students learning how to take responsibility for their learning, being agents for their own learning is another learning disposition I will need to help them cultivate.

Option 2: Redefining a reading unit

Describe the project: What will your students do?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could redefine our first reading unit. Our first reading unit is related to establishing reading behaviors. We teach this reading unit at the same time as our unit of inquiry focuses on identity. When I look at the reading unit’s standards

2. Apply reading skills and strategies to comprehend a variety of texts

b) Apply strategies to derive meaning from words and develop vocabulary

c) Use skills and strategies before, during and after reading to construct meaning.  

d) Demonstrate effective reading behaviors

I see such a great opportunity to additionally tie in ISTE standards such as being an Empowered Learner, Creative Communicator and Global Collaborator with a focus on creating digital book reviews. In the past we’ve done a bit around reading identity including:

  • helping students to find good reading spots for required nightly homework reading,
  • sharing book selection strategies such as “Good fit” books

but I believe there’s an opportunity for an stronger connection between these units for our students. I would like my students to use Seesaw or Flipgrid to complete book reviews similar to LivBits (see below). I think this could help them to establish their reading identity and additionally share books with their classmates, peers at our school and also other grade 3 students around the world. We are required to have a reading log and I believe this could take the place of the traditional, uninspiring paper and pencil model I’ve been required to use.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL? &

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

I see possibilities to apply connectivist learning strategies around global collaboration. For the past 2 years, I’ve participated in the Global Read Aloud. I wonder about using this platform as a way to seek connections outside of the Global Read Aloud that last the entire year. The Global Read Aloud will take place in October, however I need to remember my previous experiences in the GRA and while establishing new connections. Additionally I will consider Kim Confino’s sage advice about global collaboration. I know I will need to ask questions to set clear expectations and foster strong connections from the beginning. I’ll write more about this as these connections develop. I think this opportunity will help to provide both my students and I opportunities to collaborate with students from different schools to learn from one another.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

The main goal I have is to develop authentic global collaboration opportunities for my students. I want them to see the possibilities in working with others around the world. I want them to see how we can learn from one another and that we are more similar than they may believe we are. Also, I have the goal that by listening to other students’ reviews, we can help that student who stands aimlessly in the classroom library just flipping through book titles.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

One of my concerns is wondering if a book review is too static. Should I push into another area such as book clubs? But then I wonder if my third graders in September – October will have the skills yet to conduct book clubs with students from around the world. Perhaps with initial connections we could complete book clubs later in the year so the momentum isn’t lost.

Another concern is about time and the calendar year. Previously we had a digital citizenship focus in October. I wonder if my students will be able to learn and apply those skills in August which is two months earlier. Also, I wonder if other second – fourth graders and teachers will be ready to collaborate about reading this early in the school year. This concern is most likely unwarranted.

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

My shifts here will include utilizing technology at all SAMR levels earlier in the school year. The shift is embracing a connectivist view point and knowing that those connections will naturally help to foster the Reading Behaviors unit in a new way.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

My students will learn to:

  • utilize our technology experts (students who demonstrate proficiency in a tool or in problem solving strategies),
  • reference classroom technology anchor charts and demonstration videos using QR codes,
  • utilize reading retelling skills,
  • use persuasive language orally to share their book review and
  • use collaborative tools including Seesaw and Flipgrid.

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