Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ecosystem infographic

From Visually.
In the next few days, we will be starting our next science unit on ECOSYSTEMS. This activity comes in perfect timing with trying to use visual literacy techniques to enhance student understanding. I chose this infographic because it has a lot of the information, which the students will be learning about in this unit such as endangered species, threats, types of consumers and habitat ranges. It acts as a great resource for unit specific vocabulary. It grabbed my attention because I like the balance of text and imagery. In particular, I like the limited text and how that is supported by excellent visual imagery. In addition to sharing this infographic as whole class, I will also share it through each student’s individual science folder in their google drive. This way they can return to this infographic as a resource.
I also spoke with a fellow teacher about how to improve the way I am teaching non-fiction reading to the students. She suggested that I begin with a content related video or infographic and have the students watch that first and then introduce the reading. Expose them to the concept and vocabulary and then bring out the reading and use the reading strategies to break the article apart in terms of comprehension. I see this infographic being effective in this purpose and will use it on several occasions before reading.

As my time in Coetail progresses, I am definitely starting to see the power of how technology can be used to help students gain deeper understanding. I am starting to see technology as a complimentary resource to student learning. I am still cautious about opening the flood gates to everything technology, however this week was interesting in letting me see some technology tools with purpose.

Digital storytelling in Math and Science

One of the greatest benefits of the technology movement is providing students with the possibility of having global access with respect to sharing knowledge and receiving feedback. We are in a very exciting time where students have global access and the opportunity to use this global platform to move understandings forward. Digital storytelling is a great tool to foster this possibility. Once the purpose for global sharing has been identified, digital storytelling is an effective way to deliver the knowledge, receive feedback and improve our understandings. Currently, I am using digital storytelling (trying to) in math and science class. I am using the concept of digital storytelling and applying it to math and science projects. For example, in math class, students are using the math they are learning to answer a question they are curious about. One student wants to use decimals, fractions and percents to answer, “Am I eating a healthy, well balanced diet?” Digital storytelling provides the opportunity for the student to create a video explaining how she used math to answer her question. She can tell a story about how she collected data, converted the data, compared her data and used the mathematical concepts to support whether she is healthy or not and how she can improve her health. Digital storytelling offers the student a chance to explain her thinking, explain the purpose of learning math and celebrate hard work. Her video then can be posted on the internet and shared with fellow peers, receive feedback and be used as an idea to be improved upon by some other student or used as an exemplar to promote curiosity and stimulate other math questions waiting to be answered.

I end my post with a caution. As a teacher, I have seen many moments where students rush to the I-pad or other technology tools to create digital stories, make videos and the like and the end products are very poor. All of these technology ideas have the possibility for greatness, only if time is taken to map out our ideas (with paper and pencil), think critically about what we want to say, have purpose, be relevant to the real-world, debate and challenge our thinking in a discussion and receive feedback before using the technology. Then, digital storytelling has the power to create change. The mistake we make in education is to rush to the technology rather than patiently mapping out our plan. If we rush our thinking, then technology becomes simply a pretty little toy.

I have attached two examples of student storytelling of various topics in math and science.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

How to present Creativity?

In my classroom, I don’t use presentations as a form of delivering information to students or as a teaching tool. It is nothing personally against using them, I feel it is more of a disconnect between presentation slides and my personality. As my father describes me when I have something important to say, I tend to walk the prairie rather than get to the point. I have always found presentation slides constricting to my inner ‘go where the conversation takes me’ approach. That said, it is equally beneficial to have my thoughts organized and my objectives clearly stated and sequenced for the benefit of the audience.

Currently, I am offering parent learning sessions at my school. The purpose is to teach parents about the learning approaches used in the classroom and to educate them about the strategies and skills we are trying to teach their children. I thought I would take advantage of this course and use the knowledge gained from this week’s readings and throughout this course to create a presentation for one of my parent sessions; CREATIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM. I want to go from a google doc level of organization to having my audience experience the zen feeling of presentations! At this stage in my digital learning evolution, I am not ready to open google slides and create a zen experience. Currently, the readings have started me thinking about the importance of the context of my presentation. What am I trying to say? What do I want parents to leave understanding? What is the big picture? Without a clear understanding of the context, any presentation is bound to fail or at least come shy of potential. So, I need to be clear about context.

The second thing I discovered is presentations should be simple. Veering towards the side of simplicity rather than complexity is the goal. I like this idea. Too often I find material on the internet and in presentations to be too busy; too cluttered. More is not always merrier! When developing my presentation, I will have simplicity in mind.

The third thing that stood out from the literature was the importance of understanding your audience. Who are they? What questions will they come in with? How will they see the topic? Will they see creativity with curiosity and a smile or will they panic and see it as moving away from the prevalent traditional teach and test method? The more we understand our audience, the better equipped we become at using the technology to address their needs more directly and with greater accuracy and impact. For example, I can see that presenting on creativity would look very different to an audience of teachers than to an audience of parents. That is my next step. What are the tech tools in the world of presentation, which will allow me to effectively target the right audience?