“The path is made by walking …”
During Technology Innovation in Education, as a class, we had the opportunity to visit the Pacific School for Innovation and Inquiry, located downtown Victoria. The school differs from traditional schools by allowing students to choose their personal learning paths by investigating an inquiry question and then incorporating the BC curriculum in interdisciplinary combinations (PSII 2019) to pursue their inquiry question. Therefore, the curriculum supports personal curiosities and teachers are there to help guide the students when they need it as well as to provide resources to help the students explore their projects.
I was pretty impressed with the school. It was great to listen and ask questions to Jeff Hopkins, the founder and principal educator of the school, as he explained his philosophies and how the school works. What was perhaps equally telling about the success of the school, was speaking with the students and observing their work. I liked how one of my class mates noted that the atmosphere was charged with excitement and interest. It felt like there was a sense of purpose in the room, which is something I have not noticed as often in traditional classrooms.
After reflecting on my visit to PSII and comparing it with my visits to Belmont Secondary School, I have been thinking about how fostering successful learners is dependent on engaging and empowering students. The philosophy of PSII is to allow students to decide their own academic journey, which is a pretty empowering thing for a teenager to do. It gives students an opportunity to be autonomous and it emphasizes that what they like to do or what they are interested in is valuable. At Belmont, there are teachers who are also trying to encourage this. A social studies teacher explained to me that she introduces the content and waits until she finds the classes interest to peak before she really delves into a topic. The class was consequently researching and discussion marijuana regulations. Another teacher at Belmont, who teaches French and Social Studies lets the students design their own projects including their own assessments and learning objectives. I think this type of practice encourages students to find their voice and builds confidence in their own interests which therefore promotes engagement.
The SAMR Model
Last week in class we were introduced to the SAMR model- designed to help educator incorporate technology into the classroom. The model uses four categories to describe how technology is used.
Substitution: A tool substitute, no functional change
Augmentation: A tool substitute, with functional change
Modification: Task redesign
Redefinition: creates a new task
Substitution and Augmentation are classified as Enhancement, while Modification and Redefinition are classified as Transformation.
I believe this model will be useful in my practice because it clarifies how I should be thinking about technology. It places the focus on the purpose of the technology and not using technology for the sake of technology.
In Cross-Curricular Strategies we have been working on creating lesson plans and a useful strategy has been to establish one or two learning objectives, and then to work backwards from there. This means taking the time to consider how each activity serves the purpose of the learning objective. The SAMR model fits well into this process because it is a practical way to decide which technologies should be integrated and why.
One of my classmates pointed out how the model is not necessarily hierarchical. Sometimes substitution is necessary because its more time efficient, and we don’t necessarily have to redefine every activity with digital technology if it does not contribute to the learning objective. This model reinforces the message to be thoughtful and purposeful when implementing digital technology.
I found the unconference to be a great exercise. It was quickly apparent how this is an effective activity, assuming there is an engaged group participating. One of our classmates pointed out how it was great to share ideas with each other and without having to worry about being the expert.
At Belmont, I was observing Mr. Bendall’s AVID classroom and he ran an activity that reminded me of the unconference. The students had submitted a form with a subject and topic they were having trouble with, then Mr. Bendall separated the class into groups based on the subject they needed help with. Within each group the students took turns presenting their questions and helping each other to work through the problems.
I wonder if you could blend the two activities to suit a classroom. Students would submit questions or areas of interest, then the teacher would divide the class into groups to ‘unconference’. Then again, maybe this takes away from the autonomy of the true unconference…
Cell Phones in the Class Room
Throughout the first semester of our program, the topic of cell phones in the classroom has been discussed many times over. Although less so in the past few weeks. In Ed Tech, some of my class mates shared a great presentation outlining the cell phone debate and argued some great points for and against. This got me thinking about how I will use it in my own class. Initially, I anticipated that this may not be a problem in my classroom. I know I do not want to police a cell phone ban yet I do worry about how phones can be distracting or impede the student’s learning. I asked one teacher at Belmont about what she thinks about students using cell phones and she said “Students that aren’t interested in the class will ‘self-medicate’ on their phones and won’t disrupt the others”. My classmate said he heard a teacher make a similar comment. It was pretty discouraging to hear.
I have been considering making a collaborative set of rules with the class on cellphone policy- which has been discussed in Cindy Brown’s Educational Psychology Class. I think the difficulty with creating rules around cellphone use is that they will always need to be flexible and allow for some degree of situational or personal autonomy.
Video Conferencing and Community Engagement
This semester my inquiry question focused on encouraging civic engagement in the Social Studies classroom. Part of the research I did was on community -classroom learning partnerships and how involving students in community circles, or activities is a great way to encourage civic participation. A couple weeks ago in our Ed Tech class we had the opportunity to use the video conference technologies in the Clearihue Building.
This got me thinking about the possibilities of using video conference tools to build community engagement. Making connections in the community allows students to connect with experts, provides an authentic audience for their projects, and more access to resources, opinions and perspectives. It can also provide them an opportunity to work and learn in a professional space. Incorporating video conferencing would allow more frequent or ongoing discussions, then a one-off field trip would. The merits of fieldtrips, being exposed to different learning spaces, engaging with cultural artefacts and hands-on experience, cannot be replaced, but rather enhanced through video conferencing. Video conferencing is a way to bring multiple voices and perspectives into the classroom and unlike fieldtrips, for the most part, can extend beyond the local community. It’s a way to pull authentic content from around the world in to the classroom. In terms of promoting civic participation this could be a great way to conceptualize how local groups, initiatives and policies affect others.