Learning From Today

Today and tomorrow, I’m fortunate enough to be one of six classrooms welcoming some eLearning Contacts from Northern Ontario into our school. These educators are all looking at how we use technology to enhance and document learning and how we blend technology with face-to-face interactions to create rich learning environments. I always find it very interesting to have people visit our classroom, as even without saying anything, their very presence makes me stop and think more.

When meeting with the team before they visited our room today, I mentioned that I’m the teacher that they’re visiting that probably uses technology the least in the classroom. I can’t help but chuckle a bit at this sentiment, as I’m also often seen by colleagues as the “technology guru.” ūüôā I personally use technology all of the time.

  • I always have at least one device with me (usually more).
  • I can never find a pen. It was a miracle¬†today when two people asked me to borrow one, and I actually managed to locate some. ūüôā
  • I always lose papers. In fact, I usually take photographs of all of my papers, so that when I lose them, I have a back-up copy.
  • I formulate my thinking so much better on a computer or an iPad than I do with a pen and paper.

But as I’ve blogged about before, I’ve really reconsidered how I use technology this year with my Grade 1’s. We use it most frequently to document our learning, and while my students are starting to take a more active role in this documentation, I’m¬†usually¬†the one that sends out the tweets or records the video or podcast.

Knowing why these eLearning Contacts were visiting though made me think about how I was going to use technology during the period. I planned on introducing “time” to the students, and I had a large number of photographs that tweeters from around the world sent me to show various clocks and watches. I thought that the students could explore these photographs together and share some of their learning to start us on our exploration about time. I started by modelling for the students how they could record their learning, and then they started working (alone or in partners).

As the students were working and the eLearning Contacts were rotating around the room, I  started to wonder about my use of technology. Should I have used Explain Everything instead of the GoogleDocs/paper combination? Would this have helped capture more student thinking? Maybe, or maybe not. With the multiple page document, I think some students would have gotten confused as they were flipping through screens in Explain Everything. I also wonder how many different things they would have had to talk about. Basically, I had nine different pages of clocks and watches. I think that there would have been a lot of repeated ideas.

The paper though provided me with something that I didn’t expect. Most students saw the clocks and wanted to make their own. They pulled out scissors and got started. Now I’m not necessarily a fan of the paper clock —¬†especially the photocopied variety that often pose challenges for students with fine motor difficulties. These clocks were different though. The students were choosing to design their own.

    • It was interesting to see the students that started at the top and just started to write numbers around the outside versus those students that used the benchmark numbers to help with spacing.
    • It was interesting to observe number reversals.
    • It was neat to see how students created the hands of the clock, and if they identified the minute versus the hour hand.
    • It was interesting to see the couple of students that identified the seconds hand.
    • It was interesting to see how the students interpreted the Roman Numerals, and the role, if any, that these played in their clock design.
    • And then it was interesting to come back together as a class and discuss some of this learning after the students had a chance to experience it.

I guess that students could have drawn their own clocks in Explain Everything. With an app like this, they could have also discussed what they were doing as they were doing it. I see some amazing potential here, but I’m¬†still not sure that this app would have been best. I think that many of the¬†students¬†would have focused¬†on the colour choices and design options¬†instead of on the thinking¬†and the learning. In retrospect, I wish that I got the students to record a video talking about what they did, but I didn’t intend on this being a really long activity, and I wasn’t sure that they’d get a video finished. Maybe this is something to consider for the next time.

Maybe we should have also brainstormed a list of some “math topics” that students could draw about, write about, and discuss, connected to these clock pictures. This could have given some new discussion areas, or at least things to think about, for those students that needed it. These topics may have also been helpful for the students that were out of the room with another teacher and then returned back in the middle of the lesson. Instead of me explaining what to do, they could use this list to help. A¬†video recording with instructions and examples¬†may have also been beneficial.

And so, it’s with all of this thinking that I plan ahead for tomorrow.

  • I have recorded some of my instructions for students that may need them repeated or students that may miss them initially.
  • I thought about photograph and video options to help the students capture their own learning.
  • I continued to look at concrete, hands-on learning opportunities because this is important for my class of Grade 1 learners.
  • I’ve¬†given students lots of choices, so that hopefully all students can be successful.

Just like today, tomorrow’s visit will not be all about technology. But I have considered some other technology options:¬†not because of the technology, but because I think that these options will better support students.¬†I have no doubt that after tomorrow’s visit, I will re-examine things again. That’s what teaching is all about!

A special “thank you” to the eLearning Contacts that visited today. Your presence and our earlier conversations gave me lots to consider. If you were there today, and you have additional suggestions, I’d definitely welcome them.¬†It’s amazing how much we can learn just by opening up our classrooms.¬†What have you learned by doing so?¬†I’d love to¬†hear about¬†your¬†experiences.

Aviva

12 thoughts on “Learning From Today

  1. The two students I sat with as a visitor to the classroom were excited to show me how they could zoom in to see the detail on the clocks. They noted that not all clocks have numbers on them, some have only 4 others all 12 and some with none at all. They reminded me that the watch on my arm was also a clock. The seamless movement from one activity to the other from the use of technology to do the inquiry to a manipulative activity was without distraction. The iPads were simply part of the mix and no more a distraction than the blocks, paper cups or Lego blocks. The sharing was spontaneous and the students were able to show their learning at the Smart Board. Again the technology was not the focus and in no way appeared to be novel to the students. This is just how things are done.
    I and my colleagues had a wonderful visit. Thank you for your gracious hospitality.

    • Thank you so much Richard for visiting yesterday and sharing about your experiences! I’m a very big advocate for technology not just being an add-on and not being a tool that we use “just because.” Your comment makes it clear to me that this came through when you were here. I’m glad that the students could share their learning with you, and that you took such a big interest in what they were sharing too. I’ll admit that many of my students were quite nervous about having so many adults visiting, but when you left the classroom, they were upset to see you go. They’re now very excited about Round #2 today. ūüôā

      I’m really interested in hearing more about your experiences visiting different schools, and any technology plans that eventually come out of all that your teams observed. This has been an incredible experience to be a part of, and I thank all of you for giving me this opportunity! It’s really helped me think even more about what I do and why I do it.

      Aviva

  2. Sounds like a great day and I am looking forward to Aviva:The Sequel, today:) I liked a number of the points you made. First I thought it was great that the technology was a simple integration at one point in the continuum of the lesson. It served a specific purpose. Also the combination of tasks and processes allowed you to have a snapshot of the various types of learning going on, (and corresponding needs), by student and by step. It is hugely important I would think as you plan next steps and further activities.
    I had the chance last year to co-plan and co-teach with every English class once a week, regarding tech integration with writing. This was by far one of the most valuable experiences ever. It was not only about sharing ideas for that day. I learned so much from the different classroom environments, from routines to displays, to strategies. It was great to do these criminal activities like “spying” and “stealing” ideas :), and to have the person right there at my school to talk about the ideas and offer guidance with the ones I wanted to move forward with.

    • Thanks for the comment, Anne! I’m very excited to see you today, and I know that you will have a wonderful time visiting all of the different classroom environments. I’m actually a bit jealous — I’d love to see these different classes in action too. ūüôā

      You make a great point here about “assessment for learning.” Allowing students to work and learn together — either with or without the use of technology — gives me a wonderful opportunity to observe them in action, see strengths and needs, and plan ahead. While I do weekly plans, I’ll admit that I’m forever tweaking my upcoming lessons/activities based on what I observe from day-to-day. Technology often lets me capture this thinking and learning, so that I can have it documented, reflect more on it, and plan accordingly.

      I can only imagine how wonderful your experiences last year would have been! Having an opportunity to learn with/from others and see their different classroom environments, would have been amazing. I’m sure that you were able to offer each other so much support.

      I’d love to hear your feedback after visiting our school today! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

      Aviva

  3. What a wonderful story and opportunity for your students, Aviva. There’s a hidden message there that I think needs to be spelled out. Many time classroom visitors get to come and see a special lesson. The students are like fish out of water and you can really tell that it’s contrived. Your blog post and Richard’s comment reinforce to me that everything there was natural and part of their daily routine. I think that’s important to note and it’s this success that others should strive to achieve. Congratulations.

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! It’s funny that you mentioned this, as it was something that I thought a lot about when thinking about these upcoming visits. I knew that the visitors were all eLearning Contacts, and in many ways, they’re looking at the use of technology in the classroom. But my day is not all about technology, and for my students, at this time, I don’t think that it should be. I wanted the group to see what is normal, but also to see other environments, right up to the intermediate grades, where the students use technology more and more (and in very meaningful ways). It’s neat to see the progression, and I think it’s an important one. I’m so glad that Richard was able to see that what he observed yesterday is very much what the students in my class are used to experiencing. I’m glad that I could also reflect on this experience, and make other changes to my plan (not all technology-based), as I thought ahead to the Round #2 visits today. I’m excited to reflect more after another day of sharing and learning!

      Aviva

  4. I really like that the tech (and their teacher!) enabled the students to follow their curiosity and explore the concepts that they thought were connected to math as they understood it. The students seemed to really like sharing their math interpretations of the clocks!

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  5. Hi Aviva;

    Thank you so much for all of the work you did to welcome the eLearning Contacts into your classroom and into your school over the past 2 days. The conversations were rich and the feeling of “our students come first” was palpable throughout the school during our visits.

    We are so fortunate to have been part of your open practice and to share in your reflection. We will all be better educators as a result of our learning together.

    Most importantly, we got to meet and learn from your wonderful grade 1 students, who welcomed us with open arms and big hugs. They so obviously love you, love school, and love learning. Every one of your class tweets will now be so much more meaningful!

    Thank you, and keep sharing. You model the practice we want to see in every classroom.

    • Thank you so much Donna for the lovely comment, and for giving me this amazing learning experience. I really have to also thank our incredible school team — from the principal and vice principal to the secretaries to the teachers — that worked so hard at getting everything organized for this visit. I know that the teachers, administrators, and students loved sharing their thinking and learning with you. Your visit really helped all of us think deeply about our beliefs and practices, and I think that this is a wonderful thing.

      While I love learning from all of you online, it was great to make some more face-to-face connections with people that I follow on Twitter! What an awesome group of educators involved with e-Learning Ontario and what a wonderful two days of sharing and learning!

      Aviva

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