Makerspaces

 I chose to explore the makerspaces quest in OLTD 509 for a specific reason. The term “makerspace” has been floating around for a while, but I’ve never been sure of exactly what a makerspace was. I had a pretty good idea, but I needed more information. This article by the NMC Horizon Report details what a makerspace is and how to go about creating one. It is indeed similar to what I had imagined, but far more exciting and rich with possibilities than I had once thought.
 
Simply put, a makerspace is an area (school, community centre etc.) where students are given tools/materials generally based around a theme and asked to create! Quite often the theme is centered around a STEM topic, which has become increasingly popular in our schools in recent years. Some schools that have perhaps a lack of resources and funding to acquire the physical tools to bring to a makerspace are utilizing technology and creating themes based around this. Students are creating code, learning to program as well as experiencing virtual reality.
 
Looking at this from a student’s perspective, this seems pretty fun! You mean we can make anything we want? We can invent!? This would seem like a dream come true for many students.  Some teachers that tend to err on the side of tradition, might question this activity and ask how exactly you assess one’s work in this type of environment. Do you assess the final product? How can you create a fair system of assessment when everyone ends up somewhere completely different?
 
This exact predicament is what makes the makerspace so attractive. Not only are students using critical thinking skills, inquiry and investigation, they are also problem solving and making their learning meaningful. As an educator that gets excited about new ventures and ideas that might just be the next greatest thing, I love that students are able to be assessed on the processes on learning rather than the actual product. Because makerspace projects generally occur over a period of time, it should be easier to evaluate how their thinking and problem solving are evolving as they progress.
 
As an educator working in the province of British Columbia, I see great value in the utilisation of a makerspace. It fits very well with the goals of our new curriculum and is something that I will be looking into this further to see how I can assist and inspire the 21st century learners in my own classroom.

January 17th, 2017

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What Makes us

Want to

Change?

Understanding how and why we act the way we do is an intriguing yet complex conundrum.  Why do some people avoid change so much more than others?  What qualities do people possess that enables them to shift more easily? This question plays an important part in interpreting the motivation towards creating sustainable change.  In his article, Sustainable Change, Anthony Greenfield describes how can we better comprehend the “grain of human nature” by identifying the 5 forces of change in people.           They are: 1) Certainty     2) Purpose     
3) Control 4) Connection and 5) Success. 
 
There is a basic result created through a  loop cycle.  When change is introduced, people are concerned they will lose certainty, their lack of purpose will then become unclear, which makes them feel out of control, which then influences the way they connect to people (old attachments and ways of working together) which ultimately affects the success rate. Once the first step of gaining an appreciation of why people are avoiding change, the next step is to provide the necessary information, skills and support.  Leaders should then take this two-step approach and apply it to each of the 5 forces to find where the issues lie within the whole system to then address it.
 
As I was watching Greenfield’s video I instantly made a connection to the similarity in Greenwood’s 5 forces to Tony Robbins 6 Core Needs.  Robbins points out that we make daily choices based on our desire to fill our needs. According to Robbins, our 6 core human needs are 1) Certainty 2) Uncertainty 3) Significance (purpose), 4) Love and Connection, 5) Growth (which includes success), and          6) Contribution.   
 
It is interesting to consider that every choice and action we make is derived from our desire to fulfill our needs.  Because we are all different, we choose to meet our needs in different ways.  Based on this idea alone, it is easier to understand why sustainable change is often hard to make.  Somehow, the presenter must make the new idea or initiative fit into fulfilling everyone’s needs before the expectation for making the choice to change can succeed.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gamification

Project Based Learning and Gamification: Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together
By: Heather Wolport Gawron


​Gamification?
 
When I was first presented with the idea of gamification, I was quite ignorant and really just decided right off the bat that it was something I wasn’t interested in. Because I knew it involved technology, my initial thoughts went straight to the video games I’ve been hearing about for years and that have been presented in Safe Schools presentations warning about the dangers for our students. Now, I knew that gamification would not involve these types of games but the association turned me off and I went on my way without much further thought until now in OLTD 509.
 
Over the course of the past year and a half I have gained a better sense of not only what the meaning of gamification of learning is, but also the value that lies from this method of instruction. Experiencing it first hand in OLTD 509 at this moment, I will say that I am loving what it has to offer and can see so many benefits and positives that can stem from this style of teaching.
 
Wolport-Gawron details how a gamified approach can individualize learning for all students and explains how educators can go about planning for a gamified unit of study, related most specifically to project based learning. The four main steps/points that she mentions include:

  1. Lesson plan using a web
  2. Plan for tons of student choice
  3. Reward for both content proved and skills learned
  4. Pilot skills through the eyes of a student
 
Skeptics of this emerging model of learning might say that this is far too intensive and time consuming to be a truly effective model. Why put so much time and effort into a simple unit that could be taught in a more traditional method with the same goals in mind? While it does seem a very time intense situation on the part of the educator, it seems as though it is well received by students, creates a very personalized unit for each person and is able to provide motivation and rewards for achievement, skills, efforts and pace. Not to mention, it is fun! For the enthusiastic and passionate educator always looking for ways to further motivate their students and provide the most optimal learning environments, gamification could be seen as an exciting new option that might just be their key to success!
 
Experiencing a gamified learning environment first hand, I would have to say that it is well worth it and something that would engage many 21st learners. Anyone with any sort of competitive nature will love the fact that you can continue on as fast as you’d like all the while monitoring exactly where you stand in the course. I am inspired by the passion that the instructors who create these lessons/units/courses display as this type of learning is reflective of extensive planning, experimentation and change.

January 16th, 2017


19 Reasons Sustainable Change Doesn't Happen in K-12 Education     
            
by Rem Jackson, Dr. John Gould, and Rod Haenke

Having been involved in the teaching field for the last 25 years and with family and close friends also being teachers, education is often what drives our conversations.  Complaints about new initiatives and District expectations usually top the list.  Our discussions are often heated on the topics of open-mindedness and incorporating change.  To be honest, I have never actually wondered why new school initiatives are often so short lived and resented by teachers.  I have always been more interested in why some people are more willing to adopt change than others?  My hunch has been that teachers get comfortable in how they are teaching and are unwilling to adopt change.  Although that might be accurate for some, I’m not sure it holds true for others.  Take the example of Chrome books being rolled out this year.  I think many people support the initiative but were unwilling to give up two days of summer vacation to learn more.  There is also a feeling of intimation and overwhelm by a lack of technology skills.
Reading through the article’s 19 reasons change doesn’t happen, provided me some insight into the why.  The authors of the article arranged what they describe as 19 roadblocks into 3 categories.

Recognition of Complexity –  The first mistake is acting with the assumption that everyone is or will be on board with a new initiative.  Spending time to discuss the value and positive effects is critical.  Once the negative talk begins, it’s hard to stop it.  Before starting anything new, make sure it has been well researched and tested.  If the initiative is only partially successful, if there is any conflict, or if it takes too much time, it will be given up quickly.  Lastly, it’s hard to be successful if you attempt to take on too much at once.

Communication – Spending time listening to teacher’s concerns is critical.  If energy isn’t given first towards fixes for personal challenges, district change will not be considered.  It’s important to listen to everyone’s input, both positive and negative, before embarking on anything new.  Perhaps using Sakichi Toyoda's 5 Whys technique as a guide to get to the root of  negative issues may prove helpful to get everyone working in the same direction.  Communicating any new initiative in a positive and practical way will go farther than when presented in an apologetic manner.

Collaboration – Be aware of whom you are collaborating with.  Negativity breeds negativity.  A positive attitude brings a growth mindset more able to handle change and progress.  New ideas should be presented with research to backup the ‘why’ and support for ‘how’ it will be integrated, whether for time to learn and practice or support with guidance.

From my experience, creating sustainable change is initiated through buy-in.  Teachers must see the value in what is being presented and feel supported to follow through.  In the last few months I have experienced this phenomenon with the District's new reporting change.  Although we have received limited support and guidance for implementation, our school staff can see the positive benefits of spending more time on formative assessment strategies and increased parental communication.   Because of this, we frequently collaborate on our own time to answer each others questions and offer support.   I am hoping that the steep learning curve and extra burden placed upon some teachers with the new  system will be outweighed by the value and results to create a sustainable change in how we report on student success.

Is Gamification of Learning  Just About Computer Games?

​The anticipation I was feeling about a course on gamification of learning was not a positive force, since I have limited experience with computer games and my impression of them is of fantasy worlds that some people become addicted to. So I started doing some research on gamification of learning and realized that my view had been skewed in associating gamification of learning only with computer games, when it really refers to the application of game principles and design to learning and this may include the use of conventional card games and board games as well as computer games. Then I realized that I’ve been gamifying learning for years.
 
Teaching biology courses always contain a lot of content learning and finding strategies for memorizing facts is par for the course. When I used to teach grade 12 Biology, which I think is an exciting and relevant course because students learn all about the human body, their bodies, and how it works, I decided to have the students create a board game about the immune system. In groups of 2 to 4 students, they were asked to build a board game based on the anatomy and physiology of the human immune system,  incorporating as much of the content outlined in the intended learning outcomes for the course as they could. They could create a unique game format or use any of the existing ones like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. On the day the assignment was due the entire class took turns playing each other’s’ games and filled out an evaluation of their own group’s effort, their game and each of the other games. During the process of building the games some of the students grumbled about this being biology class not art class, but on the day they played the games the students agreed that it had been a great learning experience. The act of creating the games and building in all the content in realistic ways was far more effective a learning experience than simply playing the games, but even playing the games was a more engaging way of learning the content than just reading or writing it.
 
So, is the gamification of learning just about computer games for learning on the classroom? No, but in an online learning environment, the question now is: how can I transfer the learning potential of this board game based activity to a computer format? It would seem that the students and I would have to have well developed computer programming skills to create our own games. Maybe there are generic games available into which a teacher can insert his or her own course content. That will be the subject of my next Google search.

Final reflections on Blended Learning

What are my final reflections on Blended Learning?
 
Prior to taking this course, I had limited interests in Blended Learning (BL) as I was involved and satisfied with my online teaching. However, just as this course began, I found out that my online teaching assignment will no longer exist next year, and I realized that implementing a BL model in my courses might be a way to get me excited to go back into teaching in the traditional classroom. I could use what I have learned about BL, what I know about teaching f2f and online, and my resources that I have accumulated over the years to develop blenderized Français Langue courses

Holt and Staker mention that  it is critical to adopt an innovative mindset to succeed when teaching in a BL model. This should not be a problem for me as I have been working in an educational environment that never fitted a regular mold. Since our students’ needs are not usually met in a traditional school, we have had to be creative to provide them individualized learning plansDeveloping an online French Immersion program also did not meet the normal criteria of how these courses should be delivered. I think that it would be difficult to go back to teaching like I used to do before teaching online. In so many ways, I feel like this is the next step in my professional journey.
 
However, this does not mean that my courses will be totally blended when I begin teaching next year. As recommended by Holt and Staker, I will take my time and implement BL slowly. It will take time to develop the goals of the BL course, to “understand your students’ jobs to be done, (...) design the right set of student experiences, and (,,,) the right teaching experience to deliver on the goal and the desired student experience” (p284), and finally, to find the right resources, create online material, f2f learning activities, and project-based learning. It will require even time to intertwine the parts to create a comprehensive blended learning Français Langue course. Therefore, “the innovation should happen in phases.” I can see myself creating in the blended format one section in one of my courses, test it, modifying it as needed, and implementing it in the other sections of the course the following year.
 
I also think that since the students are the recipients in a classroom setting, I would like students to provide feedback on their experience of learning in this different setting. I am excited to develop and teach in a BL model but the ultimate goal for doing this is to “help students become successful lifelong learners.” There are some students interested in learning but usually they are few and far between. To reach all of the other students who are doing the work just to get a diploma, and get them involved in their own learning would be very rewarding for them and I, as a teacher.  
 
This is the model that I would like to follow to create my blended Français Langue courses. I am very excited to be able to know how to go about developing this delivery model which will provide a different learning experience for my students and ultimately, help them realize that learning can be fun and engaging.
 
Horn, N. B., Staker, H. (2015) Blended: using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Brand. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/viu/reader.action?docID=10955318

Being Disruptive

​Image courtesy: Pixaby.com

When the concept of blended learning was first introduced to me in OLTD 502 I was fascinated by it.  The concept of merging face-to-face instruction with online instruction was so innovative. I could see the potential.  Blended learning is a promising approach with the potential to transform Canadian higher education. To realize its full potential, it now requires strategy, resources and better integration with institutional goals.  That’s the conclusion of the Innovative Practices Research Project, prepared by the Collaboration for Online Higher Education Research (COHERE) published in 2010.  I did wonder about its applications in early primary with emergent readers still developing the ability  to self-regulate and cast it to the back of my mind.

OLTD 511 showed me the scope of blended learning.  There were many more models than I had been aware of.  Flex.  Enriched Virtual.  A la carte.  Flipped.  Station and Lab Rotation.  So many options and possibilities!  The challenge was how to define such a concept.  Clifford Maxwell supplies a definition that corresponds closely to that provided by the Christensen Institute.

Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;  the student learns at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.  (Maxwell, 2016)

Of the aforementioned models, station rotation seemed a natural fit in my class given that I already used a station rotation model for Language Arts instruction through Daily Five.  Adding online instruction to the rotation was an easy modification, one that I hope assessments will prove results in greater achievement.

I was also struck by the potential for blended learning to service vulnerable learners who might not otherwise receive the benefits of a full education.  This might include students who simply don’t function well in the traditional school model or students who have schedules that preclude them from attending class regularly.  The Vancouver Learning Network’s Flex model is a successful, Canadian example of blended learning meeting this need. (Vancouver School Board, 2016)

One distinction that I had previously not considered was the difference between blended learning and a technology rich learning environment.  Technology-rich instruction shares the features of traditional teacher-led instruction with technological enhancements. (Tucker, 2016).  Simply using technology in the classroom does not equate to blended learning.  Some instruction must be delivered online with students accessing it at their own pace.  Blended learning requires intentional, effective use of technology.  The SAMR model (Schrock) is an effective tool to assist educators in incorporating technology effectively.  

In the current day and age there is an increasing expectation for educators to include technology in their instruction.   In his book Disrupting Class, Michael Horn predicts that by 2019 50 percent of high school courses will be online in some form or fashion.  Catlin Tucker (2016) points out that “Even though many of us don't have technology-rich classrooms, the rapidly evolving education landscape increasingly requires us to incorporate technology to customize student learning. Blended learning, with its mix of technology and traditional face-to-face instruction, is a great approach.”

With an increasing amount of screentime, acquiring effective social skills becomes a priority.  Creating a positive school culture, online and face-to-face, becomes increasingly important.   The glossary of education reform defines school culture as:

The beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions, but the term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity. (Concepts, 2013)

Blended learning may require educators to shift their role from purveyor of knowledge to mentor, assisting with goal-setting, critical thinking and developing life skills.  Some will embrace this....some may be resistant.  Leadership will determine how this affects the school culture.

Drafting a mock proposal for the design of my ideal blended learning environment gave me pause to consider to consider the constraints - and possibilities - that exist in my current teaching and learning environment.   I had not previously considered the impact that the school calendar, bell schedule and physical structure of a learning environment could have. The project also allowed me to apply my newly acquired knowledge about implementation teams, evaluating blended learning models and creating school culture.  It made me assess my own values and priorities.  

Perhaps the most valuable (and maybe challenging) aspect of the course was researching and sharing articles related to blended learning.  We are most assuredly smarter as a collective.  My colleagues discovered articles that covered such as wide range of topics and perspectives within the context of blended learning and provided very insightful comments.  It provided a very comprehensive and balanced view of blended learning as a whole.

Incorporating technology into classrooms shouldn’t be a goal.  It may, however, be the answer to achieving a broader such as reducing the achievement gap with vulnerable learners or providing a cost-effective solution to delivering more personalized instruction through targeted small group and self-paced online instruction. It may be a disruptive innovation that redifines the delivery of education or it may be a sustaining innovation that works within an existing model.  In my case it has definitely solved the problem of how to provide my students with meaningful learning activities while I work with a small group of certains needing reinforcement in certain skills while still working within the traditional school model I am part of.  I look forward to seeing blended learning become more prolific as sources of oinline instruction continue to improve.   Disruption has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  It is now something I look forward to, rather than reprimand my students for.

References

Concepts, L. (2013). School Culture Definition. The Glossary of Education Reform. Retrieved 9 December 2016, from http://edglossary.org/school-culture/

Christensen, Clayton M and Michael Horn and W. Johnson. (2010)  Disrupting Class:  How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns.  New York.  McGraw-Hill.

Maxwell, Clifford.  (2016).  What blended learning is – and isn’t | Blended Learning Universe.  Blendedlearning.org. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from http://www.blendedlearning.org/what-blended-learning-is-and-isnt/

Schrock, Kathy. (nd). Kathy Schrock’s Guie to Everything.  SAMR and bloom’s.  Retrieved 09 November 2016 from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Tucker, Catlin. (2016).   Educational Leadership:Technology-Rich Learning:The Basics of Blended Instruction . Ascd.org. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/ed

Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. (2007) Schooling by Design.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Deelopment.  Alexandria, Virginia.

Anggraeni, H. (2013). Blended Learning: promising innovative practice requires strategic approach | BCcampus. Bccampus.ca. Retrieved 17 December 2016, from https://bccampus.ca/2013/10/22/blended-learning-promising-innovative-practice-requires-strategic-approach/

Vancouver School Board (nd) Vancouver Learning Network Features Online and
Blended Learning at its Best.  Retrieved 17 December from https://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-news/vancouver-learning-network-features-online-and-blended-learning-its-best.


Neural Pathway to the Flipped Classroom

Photo credit: Coronal MRI Brain Slices Colorized by Tracy Abildskov on Flickr cc
On May 7th 2015 I listened to an amazing talk and it changed the direction of my career plans. It was the annual professional development offering at VIU, a symposium on Successful Student Learning, and there was a presentation in the morning session entitled “Flipping to engage our Learners” that caught my interest. Besides being a very dynamic speaker, Dr. Claudia Krebs, Faculty Lead for Anatomy Education and the Director of the UBC Body Donation Program (those of us who have been CSI fans would have found this aspect of her CV particularly intriguing) teaches gross anatomy and neuro-anatomy in the MD Undergraduate Program at UBC. She says her students suffer from something she terms “neurophobia” when it comes to the course on neuro-anatomy and she wanted to find a way to move away from rote learning to a deep understanding of the subject.

Krebs and her team have put together an extensive repository of high quality videos and other media to help students learn neuroanatomy. She chose to flip the introductory lecture for each lab into an online assignment of videos, suggested readings and assessments, to be carried out prior to the in-class lab which brought a higher yield of deep learning from the application of knowledge and discussion of key concepts during their time together. Due to substantial funding, she was able to hire a professional video production team to produce the high quality instructional videos, and since the funding was from an external source she successfully lobbied the university administration to make them openly accessible on the internet so that medical students around the world could use them for learning.

What I learned in this session was percolating in my mind so that when I heard Mary O’Neil’s call for interest in the OLTD program and saw it included a course on blended learning I knew it was something I had to do. So you see, I had already decide that the flipped-classroom was the blended learning model I wanted to use to try to engage students in the subject of one of my lecture-based courses to see if using in-class time to problems solve and discuss and apply key concepts would lead to deeper understanding of the subject. I think this is why I have had trouble getting my head around Horn and Staker’s path of choosing the model at the end of the planning process. I already had a year and a half to think about how I wanted to remodel the lecture style classroom!

This is not to say that I don’t see a role for the other blended learning models in the classroom. I know that my fellow students in OLTD have found the rotational models to be very effective learning management strategies in K-12 classes. I’m also looking at providing more flexible learning opportunities to students who are interested in regular university technical courses but aren’t able to access them in the conventional face-to-face way.  I think that if a course has already been redesigned for the flipped-classroom and good quality digital media tools have already been developed, then adapting the course for another blended learning model with greater flexibility in terms of pace and path, as well as time and place, like the Flex or Enriched Virtual, would not be a huge next step. 

Reference
Horn, M. & Staker, H. (2015). Blended Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/viu/reader.action?docID=10955

​Final Reflections

It seems that each course I embark on in OLTD surprises me. Each is designed so creatively and is able to really engage the learners in our cohort and push them forward in their own teaching careers. OLTD 511 was no exception! I have a whole new outlook on blended learning. At the beginning of my journey in OLTD, I had little knowledge of what blended learning was, and I had my doubts that it was something that could be used effectively in the primary classroom. I can honestly say that I have done a complete 180° and I’m now more than excited to take what I’ve learned and begin implementing in my own classroom.
The Christensen Institute defines blended learning as:

​"a formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience" (n.d.).

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​Initially one might assume that simply having technology in the classroom and using it from time to time would qualify as a blended learning environment, but as stated above the modalities must integrate to create a connected learning experience. 
 
The different models (rotation, flex, enriched virtual & a la carte) offer something completely different from one another. Each is suited to unique environments and different needs. The common theme between each of them is the ability to offer a personalized learning program to each student. This is a stark contrast to the factory based models of years past that so many of today’s educators have experienced. As time has gone on, and technology developed we’ve realized that there are other options that will better suit the needs of our students more completely. Students entering into our education system now will be exiting it requiring completely different skills than any of us could have imagined a few years ago. Blended learning is a step in the right direction when it comes to teaching and fostering 21st century skills in our students.
 
Blended learning seems to offer endless opportunity to create engaging programs for students. I am most excited about the possibility of using the rotational model of blended learning in my primary classroom. The prospect of using data from online learning programs to help target instruction and provide intervention when necessary is an intriguing possibility. The flipped classroom, something I’ve heard much about over time has become something that could even be implemented at the primary levels. Thanks to Jennifer Gonzales' write up on the in-class flip, I have greater hope for the success of this model working for me.
 
All of these ideas are exciting and fantastic, however without a plan they’re quite useless. Horn & Staker (2015), do a great job of laying out the specific steps that are needed to take into consideration when planning to implement blended learning into a class or school. A program should not be implemented without an identified issue or goal in mind. Horn & Staker (2015), suggest the SMART goals model when first identifying a goal:
 
            Specific – Does it target a specific area for improvement?
            Measurable – Does it quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress?
            Assignable – Who will be responsible
            Realistic – Can results be achieved realistically, given available resources
            Time-related – When can the results be achieved?
 
Creating my own “blenderized” classroom as well as creating a proposal for a blended learning program, has been a remarkably useful and practical experience in OLTD 511. I’ve come to understand how to build a team (functional, lightweight, heavyweight or autonomous) to address certain issues and goals. I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of how to create a successful program using tools we currently have available that will still provide a personalized experience for my students who so desperately need this.
 
I look forward to taking what I’ve learned with regards to blended learning and putting it into practice so my students can benefit from it!

References

Christensen Institute. Blended learning definitions. (n.d.) Retrieved from          
             http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blended-learning-definitions-and-models/

​Horn, M.B., & Staker, H. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools     
         [Kindle]. Retrieved from Amazon.com