I am miles ahead. Miles. I have always been interested in and eager to learn more about and use new technology and naturally, as a teacher, that has meant integration. I have been most proficient to this point in using software and Internet based services to expand on the means by which students have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate their understanding. I feel now that I had no idea just how much bigger integration really is. The whole idea that, as George Siemens puts it, “…the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing,” puts my firm belief in collaborative, Vgotskyan-style social learning in a new, much brighter light. The door has been opened. Wow… what an exciting time to be a teacher.
My new grade six class, while not for the most part the keenest or savviest of new media users, has been quick to get on board and learn, however, and I have had them learning right along with me from the start. It was tricky at first, working at a school that is a little on the ‘skittish’ side regarding the use of new media but, with a handful of parental consent forms to start blogging, off we went. After some initial issues with freezing laptops in the ICT Lab, we switched to Google Chrome and seemed ready to get busy on personal blog site setup in earnest. We did some more traditional stand-alone, skills based work to set the scene. Many didn’t have email accounts or much experience navigating dashboards so we spent some time getting accustomed to their use with a clearly stated focus on collaboration and sharing. It took awhile for some to get past the idea that they were somehow cheating! I further anticipate Google docs will be helpful keeping track of passwords, and even email addresses, that get forgotten to save more time.
Being intimidated by the fact that I had now accepted this unexpected full time position while starting this course and still having committed to a weekend job elsewhere, all the while having toddler at home (phew I get tired just typing that) I read up on the final project early. This was the right move. It gave me direction in a science unit where students integrated their research into their personal blogs by uploading weekly photos of their control and variable plant experiments accompanied by written records. As a concluding assessment they are producing Voice Threads which will also be linked in. I am still amazed at how well it is all going in a school with comparatively limited access to laptops and little else to use (I had to bring in a an old microphone from home for the Voice Thread assessment). As alluded to in a post below, I realize how badly I have to earn my way into a forward thinking school with the “Essential Conditions” in place in order to be satisfied professionally.
No final reflection on course one would be complete without reference to my cohorts. The community of learners that form the course at YIS are incredible. I cannot recall being in such a welcoming atmosphere where it seems we really can learn something from everyone else. Speedgeeking is a useful program tool but the conversations I am a part of every month always lead to a new strategy or innovation in my classroom or my life. The Networked Educator workshop run by Kim Cofino and Chris Betcher was without a doubt the single best PD I have ever attended. (Adam, if you are reading this, please share it with Kim.) At any PD there are times when I may drift and not hold my full attention but the difference with this one was that if I wasn’t giving my full attention at anytime it was because I was too enthralled in using some new skill I was just given or adding to my lesson plans for tue coming week. As I had hoped it would be, this course is just the start towards a new chapter in my career I was going it would be.
Please take a look at this little video of some of our science fun in G6@MIS (no integration apparent herein):