Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education: A Great Recipe to Build Capacity and Creativity

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know about the Chromebook/Blended Learning journey my students are on. They are using the technology to benefit their learning and having a lot of fun doing so.

Whenever they are to learn something new, I guide them through what it is we are examining. They have learned to use Google Document and Google Presentation via the gradual release of responsibility model. Most of what happens in my classroom is guided by this model in order to build capacity in the students to operate independently when I am engaged with small groups of students.

My students have demonstrated to me that they are quite trustworthy and able to stay on task while working with the Chromebooks. In fact, they tend to be quite interested, engaged, and motivated when they are leveraging the technology for their learning and demonstration of their learning.

Google Apps
Due to the independence and responsibility I am seeing from them, I decided to change things up a bit. They are familiar with Google Drive and the great things about the suite of Google Applications (apps) in Drive are that the "look" and the "tools" within each app are similar. 

Due to the familiarity my students have with the "look" and the basics of the apps in Drive, I decided to let them explore the Google Drawing app with their partner - without me explicitly instructing them! 

Before you pass judgement on me I have to tell you that their experience was great! Some of my students were nervous because they enjoy it when I take the lead and some students were ecstatic because I was out of the picture. Either way, the results were the same. The students got to experiment with Google Drawing on their own accord. The created some really neat stuff, learned how to use the tools within the app, and had fun doing so. They were interested, engaged, and motivated. They were excited to try out the unknown and they were provided full permission to do so. Here are some examples of the drawings the students created:

Two students create a "Minecraft" scene and some unexpected text.

A castle and happy face.

Two students playing around with symmetry.

Two students create a fish bowl, a gold fish, and some plants and bubbles.

One of the first questions they asked me was "what will we be doing with this app?". I told them that they were going to tell me what we should do with it! I want them to become more creative and to think outside the box. I want them to iterate and see that things don't always come easy and that it is rare to have success the first go around. If they can pick up this message early on they can build capacity around the idea and extend themselves in unfamiliar situations. All of this has to start somewhere and I hope that they are able to get a bit of it from me on our journey this school year.

Here is a short video of my students working with Google Drawing:

If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to reach me here by leaving a comment, via email at rtwcdsb@gmail.com, on Twitter @rchids, and/or on Google+.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Grade 2 Blended-Learning Unit in Mathematics

My students recently completed a blended learning Measurement unit in Mathematics. The students and I had a great experience and look forward to continuing our learning using a blended learning model. This unit was designed, implemented, and evaluated as part of the Teacher Learning and Leadership project (TLLP) that we are so fortunate to be part of for the 2013-2014 school year.

The design of this unit involved a combination of the Ministry's Mathematics curriculum (Grade 2), Pearson's "Math Makes Sense (MMS) Unit 3: Time, Temperature, and Money" Teacher Guide, and the Ministry's Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB). The curriculum gave me an exact understanding of the expectations my students were to meet/exceed. The teacher guide provided me with some direction with respect to before, during, and after components of lessons that I could use with my students. With an understanding of the ideas/concepts in the teacher guide I then looked through the OERB to find digital interactive lessons/activities that connected to the ideas/concepts in the teacher guide and the curriculum expectations. Once the above components were examined and considered, the unit was ready to be implemented.

All of the OERB digital lessons/activities were embedded into the class Learning Management Site (LMS). Students would login to the LMS site and then go to the appropriate section to access the particular learning object.
Our LMS site login page

Our LMS site course page
Our Lessons/Activities page

The following is an brief overview of how the unit was implemented:

Learning Goal and Success Criteria

Each lesson is made up of a before (getting started), during (explore), and after (connect and reflect) component. I will indicate the point in the lesson where an OERB resource was used.

Concept: Time
Diagnostic Assessment - used "Launch" idea from the teacher guide. Determined strengths and needs around duration of time, temperature in context of daily environment, sequencing events, using measurement terms.

Lesson #1 - Passage of Time

  • Teacher guide 
  • Assessment: look for evidence that a) children estimated and measured the passage of time in non standard units (pendulum swing), b) use appropriate terms to talk about time

Lesson #2 - Units of Time

  • Teacher guide in combination with paper-pencil activity with a partner (Explore).
  • Assessment: look for evidence that students understand and use the terms hour, minutes, seconds; can explain the relationship between minutes and hours; estimate time in minutes.
Lesson #3 - Telling Time
  • Review concepts of the first two lessons
  • Explore, and Connect & Share: In partners engage in OERB "What Time is It?" (ELO1140590) (teaches students to tell time to the hour, half hour, and the quarter hour) 

  • Explore, and Connect & Share: Student's also engage with OERB "Samantha's School Schedule" (ELO1303960) (practice telling time by matching digital to analog times) 
  • Assessment: look for students using appropriate language to talk about time; matching digital to analog time; reading time to the quarter hour.

Concept: Temperature

Lesson #4 Temperature

  • Discussion using visuals about weather change from season to season, introduce the thermometer to the students
  • Explore: Exploration of the concept via OERB "How Temperature Affects Everyday Activities" (ELO1295470) (reinforce students understanding of how changes in temperature affect everyday experiences, students also learn how to use a thermometer) 

  • Explore: OERB "Temperature Time" (ELO1288790) (students learn about thermometers and how to read temperatures) 

  • Assessment: talk to students and have them explain how they would read a thermometer. Provide them with one and have them explain using the tool.
  • Explore: OERB "Seasonal Experiences and Temperature" (ELO1295460) (allow students to watch an animation of the changing of the temperature and the corresponding changes in weather) 

  • Assessment: informal questioning of students about the matching activity they did to determine if they understand the relationship between seasons and characteristics such as weather, seasonal activities, and choice of clothing. 
  • Assessment (overall for Temperature): students can relate changes in temperature to their own lives; they can determine whether temperature is rising or falling by observing a thermometer; students use appropriate language to describe temperature.
Concept: Money

Lesson #5 Making Money Amounts

  • Getting Started: students engage with OERB "Money and You" (ELO1295660) (develops the students ability to recognize different Canadian coins, their names, and their individual monetary values; also develops counting skills and applying those skills in purchasing situations) 
  • Explore: students engage with OERB "Let's go Shopping" (ELO1299030) (provides students with opportunities to learn a two-step process by which they will add two money amounts to get a total)

  • Explore: students engage with "Buying Items with Different Money Amounts" (ELO1288750) (practice making money amounts in two different ways)

  • Assessment: check to see if students understand the value of different coins, create equivalent sets of coins, estimate and count money to $1.00.
Culminating Task

Lesson #6 Show what you know!
  • students are told a story that combines the concepts of time, temperature, and money. They use a graphic organizer to record their work and are free to use any manipulatives and/or digital resources to show what they know.
  • Assessment: conference with each student to talk about and see how they approached the problem/activity. Look for evidence of solving the problem of sharing the money, comparing digital and analog clocks, counting coins accurately, recording time on digital and analog clocks, determining whether temperature is rising or falling, and the use of measurement and comparative language. Also use success criteria for the unit as a rubric in order to evaluate thinking, communication, application, and knowledge & understanding.
The complete unit plan can be found on Google Drive.

First and foremost, the students were engaged and excited about the work that they were doing. It is no secret that they love to use the technology (Chromebooks) to help them with their learning and their demonstration of their learning. Based on my observations, the OERB resources were very helpful in providing differentiation for the students.

Students worked at their own pace. Whether they needed to slow things down, speed them up, and/or do things over again - it was no problem. Some students experienced the activities/lessons several times before they felt comfortable sharing their understanding. Some students felt comfortable working with and coaching their classmates after only experiencing the lesson/activity once. No one seemed to be left behind with respect to their learning.

Students were asked during and after using the the interactive lessons/activities to share their thoughts and feelings about their work. Their responses were typically positive and had a lot to say about their enjoyment of learning by exploring and playing with the interactive activities. When they were asked whether they take as much pleasure in using manipulatives the general response was that they would rather be using the Chromebook because it is different, more exciting. When I asked for them to go "deeper" they would simply say that it is fun to work with a computer because computers and the Internet are fun. Some even said something along the lines of having to go to different sites to login with user names and passwords is a big deal, a big responsibility. Caring for the Chromebooks and being responsible for them is fun and different than what they have experienced in school.

With respect to their understanding and achievement, all the students met and/or exceeded the expectations. Most of the work they did involved some fun so I am not surprised that a group of students who were having fun while learning did well. When they didn't understand something it seemed as though they would accept the challenge rather than shy away from it. They were engaged and motivated because they were interested and knew that they would be having fun. They like the interactive component of the digital resources and they like that they are able to work with a partner. I'm getting the idea that they don't feel alone or isolated and that it is easier to face a challenge when they have someone else to face it with.

The feedback the students have provided me with, both verbal and observational, will continue to assist me with the creation of learning units/cycles as we move forward. In fact, my students are currently completing another blended-learning unit in Social Studies. OERB resources were included but the unit was "bumped up" by introducing Google Presentation as a vehicle to create a presentation that could be shared with the class and the world. I hope to reflect on and write about that unit and experience in the near future. As they are wrapping up their work in Social Studies I see creativity flowing and a growing confidence in their technological literacy.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them here by commenting on the blog, via email at rtwcdsb@gmail.com, on Twitter @rchids, and/or Google +.