After weeks of hard work and steady progress we have finally reached the peak of StoryTeller Mountain. I think it is fair to say that the journey has provided the students and myself with an exciting classroom adventure; an adventure which shows no sign of stopping.
As I sit at the top of StoryTeller Mountain, looking out across the foothills, woodlands and peaks that make up the world of Educationia, I can just make out the COETAIL path I have cut through the Earth to get here. At some points it looks so worn that you would think there had been nothing there before. At other points, the path is almost completely overgrown so that you can barely see the original path.
Sitting here, watching the children in my class getting ready to set out on another adventure, I think back to the journey I have been undertaken to reach this point and I am reminded of the reasons why the COETAIL path looks the way it does.
The well-worn path
I have trodden some parts bare due to the continual visits I have made over the previous year and a bit. Two such areas include the Visual Literacy Lowlands and the awe-inspiring Gamification Canyon! Likewise, there are other areas where I have walked only the once and have never really thought about returning to; one such place is the Valley of Connectivism Learning Theory.
Regardless of where I have been and how long I have spent there though, one thing is absolutely certain, I have learned more about education, digital Literacy, pedagogy and technological integration in the previous year and a bit than I have in the previous eight years of my teaching career.
The Final Project
And so to my final project for the COETAIL course. I have included two separate videos based on the digital/video storytelling unit I wanted to trial with the children in my class. I hope that they make sense to you! Also please feel free to send me any feedback you have regarding the videos and/or the unit quality/content.
Don’t worry – No storytelling, dialogue, poetry, digital mime or other bizarre writing styles in this post! No. Today I bring you an exciting new unit plan (well at least I think it is exciting) that I have altered and tweaked. ‘Altered’ and ‘tweaked’ are two highly apt terms when it comes to writing about this particular plan. This is perhaps due to the fact that this unit was already changed in a major way, by my excellent Year Three colleagues and I, last year!
What I have done, with the plan, is to try and make it more collaborative; with a heavier focus on digital connectivity and Zen presentation.
Questions to be answered:
Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
Primarily because this unit offers great opportunities for the students to connect and collaborate with each other in a way that uses many of the learning theories encountered in the COETAIL course.
What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
My biggest concern is with the final part of the unit where the students have to present their results and conclusions to the audience. If I am honest, I’m still not sure that the Zen Presentation style is the best method for the students to present their results to an audience. Also, I am still unsure about the exact nature of the audience the students will present to i.e. Do I want a live audience focus or would a digital audience focus be better for this unit?
What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
The biggest shift in pedagogy will be the home learning element. I will have to be very clear about this aspect of the collaborative learning process. I’m still not sure exactly how this part will work i.e. Should I make the home collaboration and connectivity a compulsory part of their learning or should I leave it up to the students to decide how much they want to engage with this aspect of the learning?
What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
The students will need to actively work in a team/group; they will have to demonstrate their ability to connect and work with each other (to a greater or lesser degree) outside the classroom. Also, those students who are taking the research option are going to have to learn an entirely new method for investigating scientific questions.
Although we aren’t actually due to teach this unit until the second half of the spring term, I am really looking forward to seeing what the children’s attitudes will be like when it comes to mixing up independent work, collaborative work, connected learning and Zen presentation – A marvellously magnetic mixture of learning methods…
Does connectivism have a real shot at being a true learning theory?
Yes! Well…mainly yes!
As the new coordinator of primary history at our school (sorry if you have read any of my previous posts where I have mentioned this numerous times) I would argue that connectivism is now an essential part of a school’s structure. Let me begin with a few moans, then I will get onto the reasons why I think that certain aspects of connectivism are essential for a modern school.
I don’t know about you but I can’t begin to count the number of school training sessions where I am supposed to have been given a new skill, learning tool or pedagogical approach and then never used it; or have never been able to use it or have never had the time to use it. Of course this isn’t true of most training or INSET sessions. No! Credit where credit is due-most are very helpful and include speakers who provide you with a sense of drive and purpose!
Then there are planning sessions. During my time in education I have experienced all of the following while I have been part of a planning session: depression, enjoyment, frustration, happiness, boredom, apathy and jubilation. Generally, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy planning sessions with my current year group; this is largely thanks to the great team I work with.
However, I am also aware that there are other teachers at my school whom I have never planned with and have always wanted to plan with. So I decided that I would create history planning groups where I could connect and plan with other teachers I don’t normally get the chance to plan alongside.
This term, I have taken three different plans from three different year groups and invited teachers from different year groups (YR to Y6) to help me deconstruct and improve each of the plans. And…the results have been promising; in fact they been extremely promising. I would actually say that the first of these planning meetings was probably the best planning session I have ever been a part of. The key to this meeting being such a success lay in the willingness of the different participants to share and trust each other with their ideas and knowledge. In essence they/we connected and shared our ideas, knowledge and concepts. This allowed us to develop completely new approaches to each of the lessons we had been adapting.
The management and marshalling of resources to achieve desired outcomes is a significant challenge. Realizing that complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different approach to creating an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are a critical structure for completely exploring ideas. Innovation is also an additional challenge. Most of the revolutionary ideas of today at one time existed as a fringe element. An organizations ability to foster, nurture, and synthesize the impacts of varying views of information is critical to knowledge economy survival.Connectivism- a learning theory for the digital age
I am sure that many of you already have these sort of planning approaches in operation at your current schools. At the schools I have worked at, the process for planning certain subject lesson plans has always fallen to either the year group or subject leader with little or no input from outside those two areas. However, through the connections the other teachers and I formed in these planning sessions we created a foundation for a new, improved plan to be born.
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
I have included the plan we reconstructed because I honestly think it may well be the best history plan I have had the pleasure to work on. I would also like to conclude that whether or not you truly believe connectivism has a shot at being a learning theory – I certainly do! And I will continue to believe that it needs to be considered as an essential and integral part of a modern school’s learning environment!
And so I near the end of a second course on the COETAIL journey.
It is fair to say that this project provided me the greatest test I had faced on the COETAIL course so far; yet it also has to be said that it has provided me with the greatest reward – the finalised RUA that my group created. Another major difference which has made this project so tricky, and also so rewarding, is the group element i.e. having to work with other COETAIL students online to create something new.
A Big Thank You!
Firstly, I have to say a big ‘thanks’ to the other members of my team who I worked alongside for their incredible dilligence, hard work and creativity. Some of their ideas and thoughts were quite brilliant and allowed me to take more of a bystander’s role within the project. Now when I say bystander, what I actually mean is ‘less-involved participant’.
Less Involved Participant
Being a ‘less-involved participant’ is not something I openly embrace, but for me it is and has been a difficult mould to break out of; this is one of the reasons why I found this project so difficult to get to grips with. There are also a number of other reasons why I found this type of project much more difficult to complete than other projects I have been given on the COETAIL course.
Another major reason has to be the globally collaborative aspect. Jeff Utecht outlined a number of the reasons why global collaboration is a frustrating and difficult thing to achieve in his recent blog post. My own reasons also include many of the same ideas that Jeff wrote about in his post; other reasons that I could also include would be ‘not wanting to dominate the group’ or ‘Are my ideas actually any good?’
Ultimately though, I actually think that everyone has to have a role within any group activity and I genuinely feel that where there is a/are leader(s) there should also be a follower or followers. After all-one can’t exist without the other.
So I assumed my role within the group as we began our online correspondance. I soon realised that working in a group to achieve a centralised goal was a powerful tool when it worked as smoothly as it seemed to for our group of intrepid RUA pioneers.
The activity itself was an excellent way of uniting different teachers from different schools with different backgrounds. Using the RUA also helped to give us an achievable target that would give something back to our schools, colleagues and the online educational community. I have included our completed RUA below. Please take a look:
The purpose of the RUA
The purpose of the RUA is to provide the three schools involved (as well as any other schools interested) with an easy-to-use and child friendly primary/elementary school RUA. The RUA should also be easy for teachers, parents and children to understand and use in both their online life at school and at home.
The Top Ten!
Finally, this is my Top Ten (not in any particular order) of what I particularly liked and learned about the experience of being an online collaborator in a group of pioneering educators:
Using a Google Doc to centralise our thoughts and ideas for the RUA was a great way to have a central repository for our thoughts and ideas.
Shared email conversations brought a better understanding of what needed to be done.