Course Reflection – Scaffolding Incomplete

scaffolding

CEP 810 is the first course I have taken on the road to my Master of Arts in Educational Technology program.  This class has forced me to think a lot about the best ways to implement technology both for my students in my role as teacher-librarian and for my staff as the technology leader for my building.  I have explored a lot of new tools that I am excited to use – Wunderlist, Popplet, WordPress.  I have also used familiar tools like Twitter, Google and YouTube in different or more interactive ways.  I have been thinking about how best to make use of these tools to support teaching and learning in my building.  In our first week of class, we focused on teaching, learning and understanding.  The concept that stood out for me was scaffolding.  Teachers need to provide it in their teaching to help students grow.  Students need to develop it in their own brains in order to access learning more efficiently.  My mind returned to the idea of scaffolding in our discussion of TPACK.  My teachers are experts in their content and are comfortable in the pedagogy that they use to teach it.  They may not comfortable with a new technology piece or how it forces them to change their pedagogy.  My job is not necessarily to simply teach them the new technology, but to provide them with the scaffolding to discover and implement the changes that the new technology has brought to their pedagogy.  I am fortunate to be working with a technology integration team in my district that shares this viewpoint.  Although we do not always get the support we need from administration, I am feeling very optimistic though that we will be able to make some changes in our professional development model that will allow us to scaffold teachers more effectively.

I am still working on how to apply some of this to my work with students.  The networked learning project was a great experience and I’d like to use something similar with my fifth graders when we learn a new technology tool, but my district blocks YouTube.  I would also like to have my students start reading blogs, but many of those tools are also blocked.  I want to implement these types of learning into my curriculum, but I need ideas about how to manage it when so many tools are unavailable.  Another question I have is how to get teacher buy-in of any new pedagogy that does not directly relate to high stakes testing.  It is difficult for teachers to be willing to change what they are doing if they know that there will be a short term dip in their students scores as they go through the change process.  I recognize this is a question related to my role as technology leader rather than teacher-librarian, but it is one I struggle with frequently.  Needless to say, with one course under my belt, my own mental scaffolding remains somewhat incomplete, but the questions my coursework has generated are important ones for me to consider.

I have really enjoyed the learning I have done in this course.  It has challenged me, amused me and helped me grow as an educator, but most importantly allowed me the opportunity to learn to knit.  Thanks for the experience.

Photo credit: “Scaffolding incomplete” by Jonas Bengtsson is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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Cooking With TPACK

This week in CEP 810, we learned about the TPACK framework.  This framework focuses on how technology, content and pedagogy are interconnected and how each impacts the others when implementing new (or old) technologies in the classroom.  Within this framework, there is no such thing as educational technology.  There is a technology that educators use their knowledge of content and pedagogy to transform for use in a classroom.  A simplistic example of this would be a digital camera.  It is traditional use is for a person to photograph people, places and things that they find interesting.  This same camera in a classroom might be used by one student to represent understanding of a math concept such as fractions, by another to create a learning game that shows their understanding of number concepts and by a third to document book titles for an online reading portfolio.  The technology was repurposed for a use that supported the content in the classroom.

To represent TPACK, we were asked to do a simple cooking activity.  I had my six year old son choose a plate, a bowl and a utensil of his choice, which happened to be a fork, for the activity.  He then chose a number out of a hat which represented a simple kitchen activity.  The activity he selected was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I then recorded myself and my thought process as I repurposed the fork to complete the process of making the sandwich.  That video is below:

If you would like more information on TPACK, visit tpack.org.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf download .pdf

UDL and Technology

Our key learnings this week in CEP 810 revolve around how to integrate technology into the classroom and what technologies to integrate. Our objective was to write a lesson plan that expected students to design, create, inquire, problem-solve and/or evaluate in some meaningful way associated with my curriculum and to integrate at least one digital technology into that lesson. 

In our readings, we learn that Thomas and Brown (2011) believe that as a result of the inevitable changes that are occurring in our learning structures due to the information overload, students need to learn to locate information and express their learning in multiple contexts.  Hobbs (2011) takes digital literacy a step further by detailing 5 competencies ranging from Access, the ability to locate information and share it with multiple audiences, to Action, the ability to collaborate with others to solve problems at a world-wide level.  As a teacher librarian, these skill sets are at the core of my curriculum.

My district is in the process of implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  UDL is a framework that implements flexible learning environments to accommodate student differences.  At the center of UDL is strengthening Tier 1 core instruction so that students are not pulled out, but are supported in their classrooms.  For this reason, my lesson plan is based on the UDL model of providing students with multiple Means of Representation, Multiple Means of Engagement and Multiple Means of Expression.  As such the technology tool I am integrating is not the centerpiece of the lesson, but rather one of the choices that students may make.

This lesson comes in the middle of a research project with my second grade students.  We have spent our time to this point gathering resources and taking notes.  We are just beginning to organize our information.  Research is still a new skill for these students, so the classroom teacher and I are scaffolding the writing process by having students make mind maps of the information they have collected.  As a lesson introduction, we will be reviewing main idea and supporting details.  We will then practice making mind maps using a variety of tools ranging from pre-made templates to the LucidChart app in Chrome. Students will then be able to choose the format that they are most comfortable using – template, free form poster with Post-its, or LucidChart – to complete the map of their information. I chose the LucidChart Chrome app as my technology piece for this lesson because it is free and integrates with GoogleDocs.  In the end I also included VoiceNote, a speech to text app that also integrates with Chrome for those students who have difficulty with getting their thoughts down on paper. 

Thank you for reading and I welcome any feedback.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

Networked Learning Project – Reflections and a Cozy Scarf

This is the final blog post in a series of three on the networked learning project I have been doing in CEP 810. 

Through the course of this project, my classmates and I have been learning a new skill through YouTube videos and various online help forums.  Our essential learning for the project has been to familiarize ourselves with the variety of “networks” available on the web and how we can use those networks and other digital tools to learn.  Over the course of these four weeks, I have accessed an on-line network of knitters to teach myself the skill of knitting a scarf.  Some of these knitters share their knowledge through the creation of video tutorials, others by answering the questions of a novice on a help forum.  Through these interactions, they share their passion and knowledge with those of us who do not share their experience base.  As a result, I have begun the journey to being a knitter by learning the basics and completing my first project. 

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As a learner, this type of learning is effective for me.  I use it frequently when I am working to solve technology problems or learn a new piece of software.  Google is a perfect example.  As I went through the process of becoming a Google Educator this summer, their videos and help forums were the easiest and most effective way to learn the content.  I believe networked learning is a fantastic tool to have in your educator’s toolbox because video and “ask an expert” situations can be such a powerful means of engagement for some students.  It is not an all students all the time kind strategy, but can be very effective in specific learning situations such as learning a new technique or trying out a new skill. 

I do not see myself using this technique much for students in the near future as my district has blocked both YouTube and on-line forums due to the potential for negative interactions for students.  As a member of the district technology team and the Library Media department head for the past six years, I have been actively working to have those filters removed, but have not had much success.  I am hoping some changes in my district will enable teachers to use these effective tools soon.  I do use video tutorials that I have created with my students for things like using a new online tool or searching for titles on our library catalog, but they do not have access to that wider network of experts to answer their questions. 

Overall, I think this project was a good experience for me.  I learned a new skill, and was forced outside of my comfort zone by asking questions in a help forum about a topic for which I had very little background knowledge.  I am looking forward to some changes in philosophy in my district soon so I will be able to introduce my students to the networks that will help them investigate their passions and encourage them to become lifelong learners at the same time.

The video below represents my learning during the course of the project.  I welcome any feedback on networked learning in general or my project specifically.

Networked Learning Project – Practice Makes Perfect

In CEP 810, I am continuing to work on my networked learning project.  My goal was to use YouTube videos and help forums to learn how to knit and ultimately knit a scarf for my daughter.  My focus for the project has changed slightly.  The goal now is to finish a test scarf for my son and then use what I’ve learned to knit my daughter one.  This change comes from the fact that my son is far less picky about what he wears than my daughter, so my beginner mistakes will not cause anyone trauma.

I have used the following tools for this project.

YouTube Videos

How to Knit – Absolute Beginner Knitting, Lesson 1 – Even if you’re clueless!

Knitting 101: How to Cast On for Beginners

Knitting 101: The Knit Stitch for Beginners

Knitting 101: How to Bind Off for Beginners

Help Forums

Knitting Help Forum

Ravelry

To this point, the Knitting 101 videos have been the best resource for my learning.  The instructions are simple and the videos are very well done when it comes to showing the stitches from different angles so that the viewer can fully understand what the steps are and what they look like.  The narrator also comes off as very laid back and matter of fact which is calming.  I have also found the Knitting Help forum to be a friendly and experienced source for answers to my questions.

The biggest challenge that I have had to overcome is speed of work because the knitting process triggers carpal tunnel numbness and tingling in my right hand. I tried using the wrist brace I usually use when I have flare ups, but it is too clunky to use effectively.  I turned to the help forums to see if anyone there had a suggestion for a better type of brace.  No one really had a brace idea, but I did get some good suggestions about varying the type of stitch to relieve the pressure and about exploring some other forms of long needle knitting where there is less pressure on the hands because the needles wrap around the arm.  For the short term, I am going to look into a less structured wrist brace than the one I am currently using to see if that curbs the numbness.

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I have been pretty happy with my progress this week.  I can only work about a half an hour at a time before my hand goes numb, but even with that restricted amount of time, I am making progress rapidly and my scarf is looking like a scarf.  The muscle memory is coming along and I am starting gain enough automaticity to knit while truly watching my kids swim and play soccer.  It is motivating to see such progress so quickly.

Next week, you will all see my completed first knitting project.  If you have any questions or comments on my learning process or the scarf I am knitting, feel free to add them below.

Getting Organized – Wunderlist

In CEP 810 this week, we are exploring productivity tools to help improve our workflow using David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) program.  The first step is to collect everything you need to do in one large list.

I am a Google person, but I dislike the Tasks function.  I decided to try an online to-do list creator called Wunderlist.   Wunderlist has an easy to use interface, allows you to make multiple lists and has beautiful personalization options.  I quickly listed all my projects, but then realized that it was a stand alone tool that couldn’t tie to my Google calendar.  At that point, I kind of wrote it off, but as I started exploring the Wunderlist site, I realized that it has Chrome and Gmail/Google Calendar extensions.  The Chrome extension is amazing.  It allows you to put websites into a “Read Later” file.  This option alone makes this a great tool for me.  The Gmail/Calendar extension is a little clunky in Gmail, but works nicely in Calendar – opening up when you want it and closing completely when you do not.   I was a little disappointed that even in the extension you cannot add things to your Google Calendar, but overall it is a solid tool that I will give a longer trial run.

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A Visual Guide to my PLN

For CEP 810, we were asked to create a Popplet representing our Personal (or Professional) Learning Network.  This is mine.  It is broken down into three categories of resources – human, online and traditional.  In my opinion, all three are equally important, but I find I am relying more and more on the digital PLN to keep me up to date.  If you have any questions, ask them in the comments.

Professional Learning Network