Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Mixture of EdTech, GAFE, and Social Media can Produce Endless Possibilities

With the use of technology, social media, and a willingness to take risks, teaching and learning can have some real depth and allow for some amazing things to happen. In March I connected with +Cassie Hawrysh, a professional athlete who has dedicated her life to racing skeleton with the Canadian national team. What started with a few tweets has turned into wonderful learning opportunities for my students and myself. 

Meet Cassie:

Connecting with Cassie started as a way to engage the students in Social Studies, particularly communities around the world. As a professional athlete, Cassie has traveled all over the world. She has first hand experience of the things we would be talking about in class with respect to communities around the world (e.g. food, clothing, shelter, transportation, leisure). It didn't hurt that she was a skeleton racer - a tidbit that fascinated the students and "hooked" them in. They think what she does is cool, and I can't blame them!

Before inviting Cassie into our classroom for a Google Hangout we used Google Maps Engine to search out and see all the places where Cassie has competed. When I say search and see, I mean type in the location and then zoom in and out to get a micro and macro view of the area. Using Google Street View we had access to panoramic views from positions along many streets in the areas we were looking at. Using the technology to control our exploration around the world proved to be a great learning experience for the students. Not only did they learn to use the technology, they learned about some places that they would not normally have the opportunity to discover. This activity also allowed the students to compare and contrast where Cassie had been to a map we created earlier in the school year about where our families originated from. 

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Aside from the learning that was happening in Social Studies, we took time to come up with questions that we could provide Cassie with for our first Hangout. We used Google Documents to record our questions and then shared the Doc we created with Cassie. This provided her with access to our questions and allowed anyone with the link to make comments and/or changes to the document in real time, at our leisure. Our first meeting with her provided us with the opportunity to get to know each other better by actually having a conversation. 

When we finally met Cassie via Hangout we felt like we already knew her. We had read about her and watched some videos about her. It was really cool to be able to see her and have her see us as we chatted in real time. She was a guest speaker in our class without physically being in our classroom! 

Our first hangout:


Our second Hangout with Cassie was geared toward acquiring knowledge about her travels and questions about where she was currently located and how her training is going. She provided the students with excellent 'life' advice and provided us with further information about her experiences which provided us with some questions and starting points with respect to food, clothing, and climate of communities she has visited around the world. 

Here are two videos captured during our second Hangout:

Cassie's 'visits' with the students really pumped them up. Her authenticity and enthusiasm comes through quite easily. The students are impressed by her and I can say that she is a great model for my students. Her words and actions fit nicely with the Catholic Graduate Expectations. In our interactions with her she has demonstrated that she is an effective communicator, reflective thinker, lifelong learner, collaborator, and a responsible citizen.

Their interest in what she is up to (currently training at the World Athletics Center in Phoenix, Arizona) and their fondness of her led to a great Media Literacy activity that was recently completed. The students created motivational posters that incorporated photos of Cassie with quotes that they believed matched the photo they chose to use in their poster. They used Google Drawings like skilled technicians to create their posters. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to step back and let them have some free reign as I observed them apply the 21st century learning skills they have been working on all year. 

Our learning goal and success criteria:


Curriculum connections:

  • Oral - Clarity and Coherence 2.3 - communicate ideas, opinions, and information orally in a clear, coherent manner (when presenting poster)

  • Reading - Demonstrating Understanding 1.4 - demonstrate understanding of a text by retelling the story or restating information from the text, with the inclusion of a few interesting details (retelling someone else’s presentation of their media poster)

  • Reading - Responding to and Evaluating Texts 1.8 - express personal thoughts and feelings about what has been read (after they and others have presented posters)

  • Writing - Research 1.3  - gather information to support ideas for writing (finding the right motivational quote for poster)

  • Writing - Review 1.6 - determine whether the ideas and information they have gathered are suitable for the purpose, and gather new material if necessary (reflect on chosen quote and decide if it fits best or look for another one)

  • Media Literacy - Audience Responses 1.4 - describe how different audiences might respond to specific media texts (how do grade 2’s feel/think and how would grade 8’s feel/think)

  • Media Literacy - Purpose and Audience 3.1 - identify the topic, purpose, and audience for media texts they plan to create (specifically for this motivational poster)

Here are some examples of our Media Posters:

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As the students worked on their posters I would check in on them, virtually and face-to-face. When I wasn't with them in real-time I would provide them with feedback on their work/progress. Here are some examples of the feedback provided:


In a matter of minutes, I can check in on their progress and offer them feedback to assist them. As you can see from the time stamps in the photos above, I was providing feedback after school without having to take their work away from them. They still had access to their work and could use my feedback the next time they accessed their Drive. 

The students also shared their work with their classmates in order to get feedback and provide their friends with ideas and what they were up to. It was, and still is, amazing to see how open they are to making their work available to others in order to get help and provide help. 

The combination of technology, social media, and GAFE have provided us with many innovative opportunities to learn. The students and I were reflecting today about our learning this school year and the majority of them stated that our interaction with Cassie and the activities that came from them were the most rewarding. In fact, they asked that I display their motivational posters in the classroom because of how proud they are of their their creations. They know where to find their work on the internet but wanted them in plain sight for the last week and a half of the school year.

Stay tuned for the next blog post...I plan on sharing what my students wanted to work on after what they created above. :)

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