Course 5 Project Thoughts

I came back from a very enjoyable 4-week holiday.  I had penciled out some ideas before the break but really didn’t feel attached or excited about any single one.  Our first week back last week brought challenges of getting everyone back on track at the same time as diving into new units.

One of my co-workers (who is retiring this year) has developed a social studies unit over the last eight years on Indigenous Peoples of the United States.  Teaching in Malaysia, I have never been excited about this out of context unit for the students, however, it is what it is.  Last week she brought me about 35 worksheets that linked with the standards and benchmarks that needed to be covered throughout the unit.  I sent the sheets off to be photocopied with my classroom helper without thinking too much about it.  This worksheet style/ binder booklet style of teaching is typical for what I am seeing in my school. I try to go against the grain when I can.  I got the sheets returned from the copy room with a note asking for me to schedule this copy job since it was too large to be done on the spot.  I think this not saved me!  I looked at the sheets in horror and wondered how I could not have to teach this way for the next two months.  How could I transform the learning to not have the kids be put through this extremely boring worksheet driven experiences.  This sparked my idea for the final course project.

Just to give you some background in the technology we have at school.  We are a new Google Apps school and I have given the kids lots of experiences with the Apps since they received their google accounts but am wanting to do something more.  We also finally received our long awaited Chrome Books in the classroom and we have 8 at our immediate disposal.

 

 

 

 

 

So, all pieces of the puzzle seemed to lean toward using what we have available and what the kids have been using and learning to navigate through.  I want to turn this unit on its head and have it completely online with the kids using new skills to learn in an inconceivable way without the technology.

Here is what I had in mind by blending the Google Apps with our new Chromebooks in the classroom for my final project:

-Using google docs to share what would have been traditional worksheets.  Although, this in and of itself is not redefinition it is a start with getting the kids interacting through documents and providing them with a more flexible approach to what used to be a worksheet.  I would not be just putting worksheets on docs but rather taking what might have been given as a worksheet and having the students work in their groups to complete the tasks on a shared doc.

-One of the activities is to have them colour in a portion of the US map to show where their indigenous tribe is from.  My thoughts are to use google maps to have them zoom in on their region and add more layered information to it and learn about it through the map app.

-Using Blogger to have their own blog to reflect, share and comment on each others learning.  I am going introduce blogging to them this week.  They have experience with my class blog and using the comment feature but will be pushing them to the next step of reflecting on their own blog.

-Using their existing Google Site to actually put their work up.  The other teachers are having worksheet folders where all their work goes home in a bundled folder consisting of more than 30 sheets of paper.  I want them to actually start using their site as a portfolio of their learning.

In reflection this doesn’t sound transformational but it is transformational to what the unit currently exists as.  I want to flip the learning online from traditional paper/pencil tasks.

…….I am working through a possible PBL task that would turn into a final project.  I am going to go back into Course 4 and review some of the big ideas related to PBL.  Stay tuned.

What are your thoughts? Am I redefining the learning by taking it online as opposed to what exists in worksheets and folders?  I am still shaping this and hope to have a PBL task by the end of the week to start with them next Monday.

 

18 thoughts on “Course 5 Project Thoughts

  • Tim,
    Could you elaborate a little more on what the standards are that you need to teach? Does it HAVE to be Indigenous Peoples of the United States? Can it be Indigenous Peoples of the World?

    You are definitely headed in the right direction. Love that you’re flipping all the worksheets to Google Docs/Drive. Love that the students will be blogging their own reflections. Maybe the students can do a Skype conversation with someone in the US?

    • Thanks Wendy. The S/B basically limit us to the US but I am broadening it to look at Indigenous peoples of the world. We are in “tribes” and the whole unit is based around learning within the 4 major tribal areas in the US. Flipping the sheets online isn’t really what I am doing. I am trying to just not have them fill in sheets but make the task something they can do in another way. In and of itself, it isn’t Redefinition and I know that but it is redefinition for the context that I am in. I am working on a PBL activity related to the unit that will run alongside the other “stuff” I have to do with my team. Thanks for the feedback. I already have some online connections with classes doing the same topic so that should add a nice dimension. I realized through this how little I am using the SAMR model but this is definitely forcing me to!

  • I think what you are doing is transformational in your context. It might not be transformational for someone else but it is for you at this time.

    Could you get a interview with a native American over skype? Perhaps your colleague has contacts? If you are studying a group of people who are so disconnected from your students, it would be really cool for them to talk with someone representing the community.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks for the comment Merilyn,
      Agreed – transformation for my context but not according to the change in learning I guess. The kids will learn new skills and sometimes that is important in and of itself. If I can change somethings to change the way the interact with the unit then I think I have done some good. I am working on global connections and have made contact with a couple of classes to share what they have learned. Looking at PBL activity as well.

  • Agree with Wendy….would like to see the Standards and Benchmarks to really look at how we can change this unit. I do agree this is truly a great subject to think differently…especially since you are so far away and will/can use tech to get so closer to where these people actually live.

    Merilyn as a great idea as well with the ability to Skype someone in.

    I think we can go further though…I think you could really push this unit if we truly take a moonshot and think different. Again knowing the S&B would help but here’s what comes to mind.

    -Using google docs to share what would have been traditional worksheets. Although, this in and of itself is not redefinition it is a start with getting the kids interacting through documents and providing them with a more flexible approach to what used to be a worksheet. I would not be just putting worksheets on docs but rather taking what might have been given as a worksheet and having the students work in their groups to complete the tasks on a shared doc.

    Personally….not sure if I like this. At it’s base it’s copy and pasted into a google doc. Not sure what’s on these worksheets but can’t help but think there is something bigger that we can do that can actually get rid of most of them. Using Google Docs to have students in teams research a tribe and gather their notes is a great use of Google Docs. Having them fill out digital worksheets together…..substitution all the way.

    -One of the activities is to have them colour in a portion of the US map to show where their indigenous tribe is from. My thoughts are to use google maps to have them zoom in on their region and add more layered information to it and learn about it through the map app.

    Like this….I’m sure there is something in the S&B (as there usually is) about there habitat and clothing…so I might take this a step further and have them research the weather and the terrain of the area. Based on that research have the predict what type of housing and clothing the tribe might have worn. Also on the Google Map, if their tribe migrated or followed herds they should plot those migrations and gain information from them. Even take the map a step further and have them embed videos, create a story of the tribe via the map with layer overlays and pinpoint they can create.

    -Using Blogger to have their own blog to reflect, share and comment on each others learning. I am going introduce blogging to them this week. They have experience with my class blog and using the comment feature but will be pushing them to the next step of reflecting on their own blog.

    Awesome….also find Indigenous bloggers and comment on their blogs, interact with them, talk about leaving good comments and asking questions. Follow them throughout the project and discuss what they are writing about what is their life like now. Bring the past into the future.

    -Using their existing Google Site to actually put their work up. The other teachers are having worksheet folders where all their work goes home in a bundled folder consisting of more than 30 sheets of paper. I want them to actually start using their site as a portfolio of their learning.

    Love the idea of portfolios just be careful they aren’t just a replacement for the paper notebook. Tech is different and should be different. How can we show this learning in new and different ways? What can students create that can show their learning?

    In reflection this doesn’t sound transformational but it is transformational to what the unit currently exists as. I want to flip the learning online from traditional paper/pencil tasks.

    Correct…this is not transformational. This is mostly substitution taking what you have and putting it online. The map portion would be Augmentation…maybe Modification if depending on how you used it.

    …….I am working through a possible PBL task that would turn into a final project. I am going to go back into Course 4 and review some of the big ideas related to PBL. Stay tuned.

    Now we’re getting somewhere. How do we start with an Essential Question or a couple EQs that all students to go learn on their own. Or truly flip the learning……what is it they need to learn and how can they go learn it on their own. Could students recreate the tribes in MindCraft? There’s a lot of things I think you can do starting with throwing out the worksheets…..get away from the ways thing have always been done and do something new, different, crazy, and transformational. 🙂

    Keep reflecting and we’ll keep pushing and helping you!

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks so much for the feedback. I am trying real hard to reach that redefinition. As some others have commented, it is redefinition of what I have done but it isn’t a redefinition of the learning….

      In terms of the docs idea, it wasn’t a case of me just transferring the worksheets to google docs but trying to look at how I can have them work on the docs in their groups to learn the same thing. Same end, different means I guess…

      I love the idea of following indigenous peoples blogs and am in the middle of connecting with a couple of classrooms. Trying to find some skype opportunities.

      My essential question that I want to turn into a problem based learning activity is “How do indigenous people maintain their identity and culture through time?” That is a concept embedded in the standards and benchmarks. I am creating a UBD planner that has the kids solve the problem of how indigenous people can preserve their culture. Possibly getting the kids to create something based on connections they had in the unit and learning that took place (ebook, video, etc…) What takes a PBL to the redefinition stage? Still working through this…

      As well using the maps to show a story journal of what took place with media is a great idea.

      Thanks for the feedback and pushing my thoughts forward. It’s tough to be required to work within your teams vision for the unit and curriculum and schools vision for technology…..I think I will push a few boundaries…hopefully.

  • Great Analysis Jeff – you make it look so easy! Yet, if you take it piece by piece as you did it becomes very plain and clear. The temptation to simply substitute is certainly the case for many of us as I’m sure since it is easier, yet we are not truly addressing the task. Then, what I also discovered, as Tim did, was the unexpected help in returning to Course 4 and reviewing all that learning – I especially became interested in the theory of Connectivism (Siemens) and the idea that an entire new approach to learning had been defined – just goes to show how far we have come! Big thanks to Wendy also!

    • Thanks for the feedback Patricia. It is so true how easy it is to just substitute. Sometimes I think I am further along then I really am. I am trying to redefine learning tasks and getting there 1 step at a time.

  • Hi Tim,

    Great start to changing things! I like the idea of, as Jeff indicated, really pushing the mapping activity to the next level. Students could create interactive tours in Google Earth of the community they’re studying, filled with new info for visiting folks. Also, using Google Docs, you could work on note-taking skills by having them take notes as a group.

    Also, the beginning of the e-portfolio idea is a good one. It would be cool to look at the ways your unit could really transform how the students are learning about indigenous cultures. can each of them embed an RSS feed of a blog about their specific culture? Can they contribute to a class Pintrest page of resources? Could they join Twitter and follow/communicate with activists within indigenous communities? if you looked at all of the ways that using technology could transform how they learn about this topic, it could also be a metacognitive experiment in how they best learn…. They could blog about the new tools they’re using to explore this topic.

    Very interesting Tim. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

    Thanks,
    Katy

    • Thanks Katy. I am overwhelmed with the amount of comments I got! Love the feedback and the push to redefine.
      I like your idea. My kids have only just this year been introduced to a lot of new skills with technology. I really believe in not giving them more than they can handle and I sometimes think that this unit is forcing more for them to eat then they can swallow. I need to take the baby steps and realize that redefining can look different depending on one’s context. I want the learning to be redefined by using tech which really can change it…it’s just figuring out how that is the constant challenge! Thanks again for your ideas.

  • Hi Tim

    Wow, you’ve got lots of great advice. My only comment is that you need to eat this elephant one “bite” at a time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s substitution or redefinition, your students will have a learning curve to navigate. I would aim for 1 significant change and hope for 2 at the end of the unit. Otherwise, this unit sounds like it’ll be very engaging for the students and far better than worksheets.

    ~Vivian

    • I totally agree Vivian. One bite a time but the pressure to get to “R” is looming! THanks for taking the time to give feedback. Might send you my PBL idea I have.

  • Tim, I love the effort you are putting into transforming this unit and the pile of worksheets that you were handed. I know it’s not easy when no one thinks like you! Keep up the efforts and don’t get discouraged. As I was reading through your post, what stood out for me was your idea to use google maps and zoom in onto different regions. I also love Merlin’s idea about Skyping in a native American . I can’t add much after Jeff’s long analysis, but the one idea that came to mind, was to involve your class (or the various groups within the class) with other classes that come from the specific regions that you are studying/researching via Twitter. It might take time finding the right classes to ‘follow’, but once your students do, a lot of learning and collaboration might come out of it!:)

    Sibila

    • Completely agree Sibila. Thanks. What I’m wrestling with is the idea of redefinition in one’s context. Am I redefining the learning based on where my kids are at right now with the unit? How far does it need to go with their limited skill level? Maybe ill write a blog post sbout that!

  • Hey Tim,
    Funny, I just blindly copied a booklet that a team mate was using (and regretted it), and I used to do this unit in Saudi Arabia with 3rd graders!

    Our room became four quadrants replicating as many of the cultural universals: basic needs(food, clothing, shelter), family structure, communication, beliefs/traditions/attitudes towards the unknown, government, technology(tools, transportation…), education, economy. We made each group’s choice of tribal region become a visual representation of how the area’s population met their daily needs. Our operating definition of culture was simply – how a group of people meet their needs 24/7/365.

    This could definitely be done digitally as Jeff mentioned.

    But I still ask why we did this unit. Cool facts, fun projects, good problem solving in creating the life-sized diorama, but what was the main point. I guess knowing the S and B’s would answer some of this, but not all of it. What should kids know about history and people, and how should they act after learning it? I used this unit to both teach the cultural universal approach to dissecting a culture(which you really cannot do) in order to understand and either accept or tolerate so you don’t prejudge anyone.

    What are the inquiry focus questions or whatever PYP calls them for this unit? I would hope it would be something around: What changes to indigenous cultures have been the greatest and why? Or how does your culture compare to the culture of ??? Or even is there a way to “judge” a culture?

    On another note, I’m still amazed that most folks don’t acknowledge the amount of tech skills and processes that the kids would be exposed to and transfer even if it was all substitution and augmentation. It isn’t supposed to be about the tool or the tech, but I’m constantly amazed at what my kids can do that will benefit them for life because I’ve simply substituted and augmented notebooks, anchor charts, and work flow from pencil and paper to the iPad. Man how I wish I had this at age 10. Who knows what I’d be doing in education if I had!

    Another thought is that I know there are still reservation schools. I have an acquaintance, that is working in one in New York. Connecting with them could be a spot to move into modification and redefinition.

    More later after I get my post up about my thoughts on Course 5!
    Mick

    • Awesome Mick! Thanks for the feedback.
      My kids are in the 4 tribal regions that this unit has dictated for the past umpteen years! Can’t really steer from it as all the G3 classes are doing the same ending in a pow wow at the end with wompom belts and silly craft headbands!

      I am also amazed at the amount of skills require to just do the S and the A, totally agree. The other factor in my context is time. Time to teach them, time to apply them and time to let them really let the learning take off.

      I am trying to develop a PBL activity where they reach for the question that is embedded in my S/B’s of how a culture can preserve its history and traditions over time. More to come…

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