Course 1 Reflections

I created this mind map for another post, but I think it really sums up my learning for this course.

What did I expect to learn and what did I learn?

I took this course because I was reading and learning so many new ideas and I wanted to have a structure to organize all my new learning. I also wanted to learn how to use technology to enhance my students’ learning. In addition, I wanted to have some accountability for actually implementing the things I was learning. This course has provided all that and even more. I guess the best way to sum it up is that I feel more connected. I have always been a lurker and not one to really contribute mostly because I felt like I didn’t really have anything to contribute. It was surprising to me to see the comments, feedback, tweets and retweets. I learned that all of us are learning and teaching simultaneously. We give and receive. We all have areas of expertise and unique experiences that can be shared to benefit the learning community.

What aspects of the course were most helpful for me and why?

Most helpful for me was experiencing self-directed learning for the first time. It was my first time ever blogging. First time to use twitter. First time to set up and use an RSS reader. First time to write a unit using the UbD format. First time to ever think about technology from the perspective of our youth (Living with New Media). First time to try genuis hour and coding. I was excited when others commented on my blog (even though I knew it was a requirement). I was excited when others mentioned my post in their blog post. I was excited when I used the Google + community to get an answer for why my images and videos weren’t showing up in my blog posts. I was excited when I figured out how to embed a tweet into my blog. I know that these things are just normal technological achievements for so many, but for me it has opened up a whole new world and I have experienced first hand the power of self-directed learning in a community. Learning by tinkering. Learning by tapping into the network. This is exactly the type of learning I want my students to experience.

What further knowledge and skills in this general area do I feel I need?

I am most looking forward to learning more about design and becoming more proficient at using digital tools for the right reasons.

How, when and where will I use what I have learned?

I have a great opportunity to use all that I am learning in my third grade class this year. We are a small but innovative school. Our administrators are extremely supportive and encourage experimentation and attempts to think outside the box. We are still a small school, so we don’t have all the fancy gadgets. But I think we are in a good position to be very purposeful about which forms of digital technology we will choose to invest in.

How and with what other school or community members might I share what I have learned?

I am excited to share all my learning with my school community. In my Grade 3-5 team, there is one teacher who has participated in COETAIL so I am definitely planning to connect with her.  This year we opened up our new, beautiful campus so our theme is “celebrate.” I would love for our school to start using the hashtag #cishcelebrate to share out all the great things that we are doing!


Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches Course 1 Final Project

This unit plan that I have redesigned is based on a third grade opinion writing unit called “Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials,” by Lucy Calkins (The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project). In the original unit, the students develop ideas of how the world could be different, write several mini persuasive speeches, choose one to develop, revise and edit. They then give their speech to their classmates at the end of the unit.


I actually redesigned and taught this unit last spring before knowing that I would be participating in Coetail. I am sharing this unit because I think it is a good first attempt at redesigning a unit with Web 2.0 and 21st century learning principles in mind. In addition, I wanted to actually write out the unit using the Understanding by Design template since UbD is new for me.

The three things I wanted to impletment based on principles I have learned in Course 1 were:

  • Help my students have a wider and more authentic audience so that they were more motivated to make their communication clear and effective.
  • Experiment with the Do Ink Greek Screen App (I had attended a session on that)
  • Use a website to post authentic student work for others to see and comment on.

I wanted their speeches to reach beyond the walls of our classrooms and I thought a lot about how the students would be motivated to produce great work if they had an authentic audience. So here are some important changes I made to the unit:

  • During the first lesson, using a Google Doc, the students collaborated on one whole class persuasive speech. Small groups worked on different parts of the speech at the same time.
  • Students were given some time to research and search for images using kid friendly search engines and google images.
  • I invited our 7-8 grade class (we are a smaller school so we only have one 7-8 grade class of 20 students) to be writing partners. I paired them up with my students during the revising stage for conferring. Each of my students met with an older student, shared their ideas and received feedback and more ideas they could include. I worked with the 7-8 grade teacher to prep her students ahead of time. These students are familiar with reading and writing workshop so they know how conferring works.
  • The students wrote their speeches in a Google Doc that they shared with the teacher, their 7-8 grade buddy and their writing partner. They shared their speeches and received comments to help them revise their piece.
  • green-screenI videotaped them with my iPhone or iPad which had the Green Screen App.
  • The students used the app to add images to their background. Some students added only one image and others changed the image to correspond with the points they were making in their speech.
  • The speeches were published to my YouTube channel and a google site I created called Changing the World: How Small Actions can Make Big Changes.
  • The students listened to each other’s speeches, commented and responded to comments.
  • We shared the google site with the whole school and specifically asked for comments from our 7-8 grade buddies and the parents.

This unit teaches the students that their voice can have influence that extends beyond the walls of our own classroom and even our school.

Here are some changes I will make next time I teach this unit:

    • Collaborate with another school.
    • Use my PLN as a way to get the site out to more people.
    • Find a way to have more devices available. The videotaping took too long.
    • Students can videotape each other.
    • Use a tripod. The video quality was poor and jumpy.
    • Teach the students about Creative Commons and choosing images that have the right permissions.
    • Have the students audio, video or write a reflection piece in which they talk about what they learned through this process.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Genius Hour and Global Learning Projects

Brain. Is. Full

My brain is full. How can I consolidate and effectively reflect on all that I have been learning these past 5 weeks? How about a mind map?


The readings for this week about collaborative learning and global learning projects are a great way to culminate our learning for this course.

We started with the “personal” and are ending with “community.” From Personal Learning Networks to Global Learning Projects.

I was really struck by what Andrew Marcinek said in his article in Edutopia:

Simply connecting a student to another classroom via skype, a blog, or a wikispace is not groundbreaking classroom practice. We get it, the classroom is flat and there is no excuse for connectivity, but what are we doing to promote critical thinking, questioning, and constructive criticism during these lessons?

What will I be doing to promote critical thinking, questioning and constructive criticism as I attempt to connect my students with the world outside our walls? How will I make sure that the new technology I introduce into my lessons actually enhances and deepens my students’ understanding? Those are such daunting questions. I find it easy to get distracted with the techie and “impressive” side of technology without actually evaluating how it is really enhancing the learning of my students.

I know it can be done, but I need to go into it all very purposefully, understanding and communicating the WHY of everything we are doing.

The NMC-CoSN Horizon Report mentions a recent study by SMART Technologies in which they found that:

Collaborative learning strategies, paired well with technology, result in the greatest improvement in social and emotional skill development.

The Horizon Report also found that:

Successful collaborative learning strategies encourage increased student achievement, discussion, confidence, and active learning.

The key is increased student achievement. I will know my collaborative strategies and use of technology are effective if they increase student achievement.

Thanks to some great tips from ISTE’s 7 Steps for Starting a Global Collaboration Project Here are my initial plans for incorporating globally collaborative projects into my classroom:

  1. Connect with my fellow coetailers who may also want to share their students’ Genius Hour projects.

2. Join the Global Day of Design and introduce the design challenges provided by A.J. Juliani to my students during our Genius Hour. Prepare my students for the Global Day of Design in Spring 2017.

3. Sign my class up for the Global Genius Hour Project so my students will have a place to share their projects with the rest of the world.

4. Get my students involved with the Global Codeathon mentioned by Dan Slaughter. Dan and his wife Mindy are a part of the Hanoi Ed Tech Community and co-founders of the Global Codeathon held every year at the United Nations International School in Hanoi.

5. Get my students blogging to show their thinking and learning as we participate in these global projects. This is an important step to show they are questioning and thinking critically along the way.

6. Sitwat’s blog last week reminded me that I shouldn’t neglect to connect with my local colleagues. I need to share and invite others from my school to get involved as well.

That’s a lot! Here’s to a great start!

Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. I’d love to hear how you are getting your students involved in global learning projects.





Online Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Last week in my blog post I mentioned that I wanted to have a conversation with my parents about digital citizenship during our Back to School Night.

First, I shared some tips and links:

  • Get ideas from the Google Safety Center for how to enable safe settings on their devices.
  • Make a family technology agreement. Here is an example from Common Sense Media
  • Guide students to use kid friendly search engines such as KidRex and Kiddle
  • Have a look at the digital citizenship lessons we are learning in class. Common Sense Media
  • Provide supervision and support when students need to use their devices at home.

After I shared these ideas, I had the parents open their child’s Chromebook to access their child’s google account. I wanted to make sure that each parent knew how to log on using their child’s password.

After successfully logging on, the parents were able to locate the google drive and a slide show that their child had created just for them. For many of my students, this was the first google presentation they had ever created. They had fun writing sweet notes and inserting funny cat pictures for their parents.

Then, I showed the parents how they could comment on their child’s slides. I was actually surprised how many of my parents were unfamiliar with google apps. Their eyes lit up as they as they understood the collaborative nature of these apps. Of course the next morning, my students were also elated to find personalized comments from their parents. I think most parents left feeling more confident about supporting their child’s use of devices at home.


The Dark Side of Living with New Media

Backlit keyboard Backlit keyboard.jpg

Genius Hour happened for the second time this week. Last week I gave three options for students. This week I added one more: coding. They explored basic coding using, a free online tutorial for children.

We are fortunate to have 1 to 1 Chromebooks in our class.  We currently use the Chromebooks for programs like Spelling City, IXL, and Raz Kids.  But, Friday was the first day I allowed students to do research and exploration on them. While I am using the Common Sense Media lessons for teaching digital citizenship, this is new territory for them. I want to give my students access, but also feel responsible to keep them safe under my watch.

One student asked, “Mrs. Beard, can I use google to look for the answers to the questions that we are creating for our game?” Though I’ve enabled all the safe search controls, I found myself feeling hesitant. What if she stumbles on something?

I recently heard of two second graders in another international school, who were found looking at porn during class time. This is at a prestigious school where they have a large technology department and extensive education for the teachers and students.

I know many children who are, sadly, exposed to porn by the time they are in third grade. I recently read a statistic that 70% of 8-18 year olds stumble on porn while doing their homework.

As we help our students navigate these waters and contribute to our world in a meaningful way via technology, we need to also keep in mind that there is a dark side to the internet and our students are vulnerable.

A few years ago, in our quest to help our own teenage boys navigate the digital landscape, my husband and I came across psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, author of the book The Demise of Guys. In his TED talk, he explains how boys are falling behind in many areas and links it to the addiction to porn and violent video games. He calls these addictions “fake love” and “fake war.” He warns of what can happen when kids are left unchecked and unbalanced and also offers some great suggestions for parents and educators.

YouTube Preview Image

I recently read this article “And Everyone Saw It. The seventh graders sext was meant to impress him. Then he shared it. It nearly destroyed her.” in the Washington Post. It follows the story of one girl, who took photos of herself for a boy at school. The most alarming part of the article to me was how caught off guard the parents, teachers and school administrators were once they realized it wasn’t an isolated incident, but a common activity among youth.

In the conclusion of Living with New Media, Mimi Ito states that “Although public institutions do not necessarily need to play a role in instructing or monitoring kids’ use of social media, they can be important sites for enabling participation in these activities and enhancing their scope.” I think that we teachers DO need to play a role in how kids are using social media so that things like sexting and cyberbullying are not given a place in our schools.

I don’t think that parents have what Mimi Ito calls “a lack of appreciation for youth participation in popular culture.” Rather, they lack knowledge and proficiency and they fear what screens are doing to their child. As a parent, I totally get that. I know that the answer is not to block everything, keep them from using devices, or spy on them. We need appropriate safeguards for each child’s developmental stage. When they are young, they need more safeguards. As they grow, we need to loosen the reigns allowing them to become responsible and balanced adults.

These new technologies and ways of communicating are here to stay. So, we need to be prepared. It’s awesome that we have so much access and connectivity. But, I think it’s important to remember there is often a dark side to many good things. How will we help our students navigate that? What can I do to prepare my third graders?

This week I will be meeting parents at Back to School Night. Spring-boarding from this Washington Post article and the Common Sense Media guide for parents, I am planning to create a guide to help parents keep their child safe and balanced. If anyone has any suggestions, I welcome them. I’ll let you know what I come up with.