Category Archives: Self Organized Learning Environment

What if … you connect yourself?

Having connections, being connected, getting new connections – it seems to be something which just pops up everywhere, all the time and in all areas our lives. It became so easy to connect to family and friends who live far away, to connect to other mothers, to connect to people with same interests, to connect to like-minded people around you. Having connections is very much a must for doing businesses in various cultures. Technology, social media and platforms with the purpose to connect make it easier than ever before.

I guess nothing new. New to me that I’m in a (new) not so new position since one year as an Educational Technology Coach and I find it very challenging to understand why educators don’t want to connect more than with educators physically around them. What do they fear? Why they don’t want the benefits and the joy of being connected professionally? Do they feel overwhelmed? is it just something they are not used to? Or do they just don’t know and someone has to open their eyes like it happened to me around 5-6 years ago?

Inspired by Jeff Utecht’s Blog post “Introducing the Connected Teacher”, a great Sketchnote of Sylvia Duckworth as well as the new “ISTE Standards For Educators” several questions came up.

Jeff answers the question: What’s a connected teacher? with “A connected teacher is a teacher that is connected to other educators and education resources on social media through communities and networks.”

Sylvia Duckworth sketchnoted her ideas of a connected educator.

Important for me – being connected online and offline. I love to be connected to other educators around me at school and have face to face conversations. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find like-minded and like-passionate people in the offline world. You know who you are – thank you for inspiring me so much! I really appreciate that Jay Thompson set up a Singapore edTech Network  and I hope we will continue exchanging good practice. Conferences – small or big – are a great chance to connect and I love it.

There are way more opportunities online: Twitter, Twitter chats like #whatisschool, #istechat and so many more, and the education resources on the social media seem to be endless like Commonsense Media, ISTE, seesaw teachers on Facebook, again – and so many more. If you can’t attend a conference somewhere on the world, it’s enough to sneak in on Twitter or Google+ to enjoy the sharing. Any time, anywhere, as long as you want and 100% personalized. All gives you the chance to learn, to share, to inspire, and to get inspired. It can be a starting point to create wonderful relationships and to innovate learning together.

In July 2017 the new ISTE Standards For Educators came out which are defining standards for learning and teaching with technology. What do the ISTE standards say about being connected?

Screenshot https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-educators

Screenshot https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-educator

Being a connected learner means:

  • learning from and with others,
  • exploring proven and promising practices, and
  • creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.

But how can I promote the connected educator and learner at school in order to open the possibilities to benefit student’s learning by connecting students to other students around the world?

Ideas:

I feel like I need to set priorities. Everything at the same time is not possible. Our school started using Seesaw (A student driven portfolio platform) last year and this AY 2016/17 all classes in KIGA, Preschool and Primary School will use Seesaw as the portfolio platform. Learning right in time, not just in case.

Offline

  • Swing by Seesaw – regular get together to share good practices
  • Setting up an informal meeting for Seesaw teachers within Singapore

Online

  • Seesaw infographic with links to the Seesaw Teacher Group on Facebook, to Seesaw on Twitter, to the PDs in your PJsSeesaw Analytics-page-001
  • Experience the Twitter Chat together, maybe a local one with Seesaw teachers here in the region
  • Initiating more sharing within the PD Class on Seesaw
  • … more will come up.

My Goal: If someone experiences how beneficial it is to be connected the next steps to get connected isn’t that far. Maybe somebody then is also open to connect his or her students through the blog on Seesaw to other students around the world.

Somebody using Seesaw in Germany or a German School abroad?

Learning just in time versus just in case.

The Totally Underestimated Network

It’s amazing and I can’t describe how thankful I am how the network works and how much I am learning. It seems to come all together at the same time. Just a few examples:

  • All the reading difficulties my German –  and German as a Additional Language – speaker have led to a conversation with my ICT colleague about our Reading Curriculum and how reading on the internet is integrated. At the same time Jeff asked: “What are the strategies for reading on the web? Are we teaching these to our students?” So important. And we want to pay more attention to it.
  • I’m thinking planning of implementing to implement a Tech Tuesday at our school and then Katy Jean Vance posted about her setting and her experiences. Thanks again!
  • It’s my goal to explore Google for professional use with colleagues or/and other networks as well as in classroom more often and this morning I got the chance to experience a shared google document with an very interesting article called 5 examples of how the languages we speak can affect the way we think. Following I had a long discussion with my colleague. Thanks Lissa Layman.
    And there are more examples … I couldn’t ask for more …
    And Jeff … the Coetail Effect … I had to check what “to wordsmith” actually means … 😉
    For me it is about getting aware what is possible. Yes, I observe, I try, I realize that it works, I try old things in a new way and hopefully sooner or later new things in a new way …. I’m getting encouraged and more courageous. There are more chances and possibilities than we think which gets me highly motivated.
    And now I would love to get more into “Online collaborative projects” and other technology innovations (The Horizon Report) but today is my computer-off-evening … Tomorrow. No, I still have some reading time during my commute home. 😉

How radical / risk-taking do I want to be / can I be?

… to try new things in new ways??

Probably most of you already heart about Sugata Mitra and his great experiments in India. What a smart idea to give children some computer, leave them with a question and see what will happen:

Sugata Mitra – Here a great TED talk:

As a result of his experiments over the last 10 years he developed a concept about how to set up his ideas of teaching and learning: SOLE – Self Organized Learning Environment. You get ideas to set up a classroom, to give them good questions to inquire into, you get an idea of the role of the teacher and a student manager as well as some examples of results of the students.

The video and SOLE made me think a lot about Grade 5 (Exhibition) – Sharing the Planet. In German we decided as a team to integrate with Ecosystems, more or less like an own unit. From the beginning I felt hesitation. It’s so hard for me this time to make it meaningful for them. We decided it’s meaningful because Grade 5 haven’t done enough Science before they will move to middle school. Not a good reason in my opinion. The TuningIn was already quite difficult for me and for them as well. Most of them found questions but 2 students mentioned that they know already “everything”. A sign for me?

Again: How radical can I be? I’m tempted to just give them the laptops and few main questions (Lines of Inquiry) regarding ecosystems and follow the idea of a self organized learning environment. I could think about my students and even differentiate the questions depending on their level of German. Although I’m pretty sure that they are able to find answers anyways.
Must – question:
How does a ecosystem look like?! (FORM)
How does a ecosystem work?! (FUNCTION)
Answer at least one question:
How is it connected to other thing? (CONNECTION)
How does it change? (CHANGE)
Present the results which shows your understanding and which you can share with others.
But: Will it be more meaningful for the students? It might become more meaningful because they determine the way of learning, their interests and also pace of learning.
How much do I risk?
How much do I risk if I fail?
How can I explain and justify to my colleagues that I want to try new things in a new way?
Thanks to a train trip from Padova to Munich I had a lot of time to think … and I really would appreciate some thoughts from you! Thanks!
 Update (04.05.2013)
So I took the risk and it was a learning for me and for them. I showed them (Grade 5) the following picture:
After that they got clear instructions regarding building the groups, the inquiry questions, the links and search engines for information as well as the form of presentation.
They were able to describe that it is their responsibility to take over ownership about their learning.
I observed students who were able to build teams, to work in teams (3/4 of them) and it was a very positive and most of the time productive working atmosphere in the classroom.
The student manager took her job very serious. She documented the team work by taking pictures, how and where students were searching on the internet, how they took notes and what form of presentation they choose. Almost all students went to her if there was any issue. She also is producing a document which shows her reflection. I’ll use this document for reflection.
The students choose different kind of presentation forms which motivated them a lot.
BUT:
I just had a quick reflection on the work starting with the following question:
Was there anything which was difficult during the inquiry? And actually the students confirmed my concerns and my observation:
It was difficult to find the information.
It was difficult to understand the information.
It was difficult to write the notes.
It was difficult to put the understanding in own words (verbal and non-verbal).
My outcome / questions are:
Reading comprehension is a very, very important skill. What are the reading strategies for reading on the internet? Are they different or the same?
At what age should students be able to search on the internet for information?
How does a good framework/scaffolding for becoming a good searcher look like? Does something like this exist already? When to start?
Anybody any experiences to share???
That is enough for the beginning. My mind goes crazy at the moment. On Wednesday I go a step back and I’ll give them a text on paper – let’s see what the outcome will be.

I can’t live without it anymore …

How did using technology change my learning and me as learner?

Technology gave me and gives me the chance …

… to be an independed learner. I have ownership about what I want to learn, how and when I want to learn and who I want to follow and listen to as well as my improvement and development.
… to learn with my own pace and depending on what kind of learner I am.
… to view beyond my local learning environment – colleagues and also in Germany – by using Twitter to follow people who I’m interested in, by using a RSS Reader to channel all the interesting and inspiring thoughts which are out there, etc.

But since I’m with Coetail there is even more. I have the possibility …

… to learn through the exchange (connect, collaborations) with like-minded people.
… go a step further and do action (following the Inquiry Cycle by Kathy Murdoch) by writing a blog, commenting on blog entries of others to reflect and asking questions as well as by sharing experiences face to face to encourage others. Once I created a cycle as a reflection for the job application (Reflection – PYP Verena Zimmer). It’s time for a new one …

In future I vision myself as a learner who  …

…  creates and contributes to the network in a confident way – even though this is still a little bit undefined for me how this will look like in my case. I’m getting there. Just explored a little bit code.org – there will never be boredom.

By the way I hope to improve my writing skills in general, my English as a second language, my deeper thinking skills as well as how to demonstrate my thinking.

 How did using technology change my teaching?

Since 6 month Evernote is helping me immensely to organize my planning, my observations, my assessments, organizing my different areas of professional development, etc. I don’t use it to it’s fully extend yet, f.e. sharing notebooks, web clipper, sending an email to a notebook – is there a possibility to integrate an RSS Reader? I’ll google it later.

Using new tools gives the students the possibility to show their understanding and learning by CREATING. Here are some examples:

  • iMovie / Garageband (Grade 5 – Students create a advertisement jingle for their products during the “Shop until drop” unit)
  • Apps for StoryTelling (Grade 1 – Students show their imagination by telling a story on StoryWheel focussing on details.)
  • iStopMotion (Grade 5 – Students show their understanding of “Der Zauberlehrling” of Goethe)
  • App Book Creator (Grade 3 – Students create a simple Picture Dictionary.)
  • Storybird / ComicLife for creating stories
  • Filming with the iPad for Reflection purpose
  • Producing an instructional video (Grade 4 – Producing a video which explains how to insert a picture)

PARTICIPATING / CONNECTING to others allows them to experience learning as meaningful and authentic. Again few examples:

  • Students publish their PSA (public service announcement) on Voicethread to the Humankind about inventions, students reflect on each other
  • Wikipedia (Students write for a wikipedia about “Our brain”.)
  • Writing blog entries together with the students.
  • Skype Interview with an expert (Thanks mum!)

Okay, above I just listed few examples of using technology during my last 1 1/2 years. I realized I still do a lot of new things in an old way but my focus was always that the students create something. Just consuming has never felt right. Searching skills have to get way more attention. As a language teacher I got only once the chance on how to find good search words. The internet provides endless resources and allows me to tailor them depending on student questions / each student, there is no need for following a book anymore. Regarding resources and apps for the iPad the German market seems to be not so developed yet. Hopefully the learning gets more meaningful for the students. Often through using technology I realized that there is an audience for student’s learning and it becomes more authentic. I really want to avoid creating a gap between time in school and time outside of school. There is a huge difference regarding documentation of formative and summative assessments compared to few years ago. Documented assessments and observations allow me to tailer the instructions and the learning even more. It also gives students a better way to reflect on their own learning. Students can overtake ownership for their own learning.

If I want the students to be independent and self organized life-long learner I still have to figure out and be a risk-taker what using new things in new ways in teaching exactly means and how it looks like. That’s why I’m here. I’m getting there sooner or later.