I have grown as a learner in numerous ways. First, I set my 2020-2021 goal for my Professional Growth Plan (PGP) to complete the COETAIL certificate. I have explored and applied pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness (1a).
2020-21 PGP Goal
Staying Current with the Research
Second, I am attempting to, “stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences” (1c) by researching questions I have about the practices we are implementing with our students. Our school has a subscription to Ebsco and I also use Google Scholar to investigate my wondering.
Third, I have pursued my professional interests by participating in different professional online groups (1b). I noted in my community involvement blog several of the groups I follow and have started participating in, such as the Orton Gillingham Online Academy group and the Teachers Pay Teachers.
I have endeavored to help students to become empowered learners in two ways. First, I have “advocated for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students” (2b). I spearheaded a trial of the Google extension Read&Write for our Special Educational Needs department. This extension has the potential to help our students comprehend their grade-level content. I also encourage teachers to accept students’ written work done with voice-to-text and word suggestions. Second, I have tried to “model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning” (2c). Two examples are, I have shared with teachers how they can have their students create infographics to show their learning. Another example is, I have shown teachers how they can share their anchor charts with their students through Google Keep and the students have them next to their Google doc while writing on their Chromebooks. Finally, I am working with teachers on deciding how to best implement tech in our lesson planning.
I have deepened my practice, initiated collaboration with my peers, challenged myself to rethink traditional approaches, and prepared students to drive their own learning.
I have “dedicated planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology” (4a) by meeting weekly with classroom teachers to plan lessons the differentiate for students’ needs. I typically make suggestions towards using technology when appropriate.
When considering appropriate technology to integrate into lessons, I will consider the traditional approach and determine if the technological approach would be any better than the traditional approach. If the technology does not improve the lesson, then it is not used.
Students Drive their own Learning
I have helped to prepare students to drive their own learning by giving them voice-and-choice. For all projects, students have opportunities to pick their own topics and to pick how they would like to present their learning on their topics. They even can choose if they want to use traditional approaches such as creating a poster using pencils and markers or use a green screen to present their presentation.
ISTE Standards for Students
My practice of authentically embedding the ISTE Standards for Students has improved because of becoming more aware of the ISTE Standards. Because I am more aware of the ISTE standards, it is becoming second nature to reinforce the standards with students throughout their learning. Even if the lessons were created by another teacher, I am now able to make small suggestions towards improving their learning and explaining to the classroom teacher why it would be a good idea to include that little something extra. For example, when researching online, students are learning to cite their sources (2c). This is a new concept and expectation of them. I had a conversation with a classroom teacher recently explaining, even if students are not correctly citing their sources now, by making the beginnings of an effort, it will be easier the next time they attempt to make citations. Another example is when I noticed students were not using their own drawings in a project. I went to the classroom teacher discussed the importance of the students learning to not just copy and paste from the internet. The teacher agreed and we made it a mandate the students must include at least one of their original drawings in their work (6b).
Learning from Course 4
During Course 4, I created a learning plan I would use in the future for the Course 5 final project. The reality of it worked out to be I made several changes. I narrowed my focus from the big picture of scientific writing down to specifically focusing on using assistive writing to help students improve the quality of their content.
I chose to introduce the Google extension, Read&Write. With this extension, students have several tools at their disposal to help with their writing, like voice-to-text and predictive text. After presenting this extension, I realized the reading aspects for researching are in addition to what iPads and Google already offer. In hindsight, I realized the writing tools are already available to the students. Of course, it was not a total waste of time. The advantage was I encouraged students to use these tools, practiced with them so they would be more proficient with them, and had the support of classroom teachers. Students struggling with learning differences are not “cheating” by using assistive technology, they are simply leveling the playing field by being able to be more successful with showing their learning.
Over the past year of my COETAIL learning journey, I learned much to improve my teaching practice. Learning how to design my blog to be more reader-friendly, how to design infographics, and being a contributor and not just a consumer of the world wide web were three areas I enjoyed significantly. One area I still want to work on is redesigning units to have superior technology integration. I am able to incorporate all of these topics when working with my students.
Learning how to “redefine (SAMR), transform (TIM), and find the balance of technological, pedagogical, & content knowledge (TPACK)” will be an area I will continue to work on after COETAIL and on into the near future. As a support teacher, I started at a disadvantage not having experience with building units. I have always tried to support units with differentiation for English learners and students with learning differences; however, rebuilding a unit is a huge undertaking. I do not teach entire units nor am present for an entire unit with my students. I am an inconsistent constant in the students’ learning! I am present in math, reading, writing, and Units of Inquiry; however, not every day for every student. This is not possible as a support teacher. Therefore, I did my best with the final project assignment and making it my own.
During Course 4, I chose the writing unit that would be happening during the Course 5 project. I choose writing because it is an area my students need the most help with. It is difficult for many to take the ideas they have and put them to paper. I believed focusing on integrating technology to help students with their scientific writing would be a win-win. I would have a unit to focus on for my COETAIL project and my students would have some new ways of working on improving their writing.
We were introduced to the SAMR model during our COETAIL journey, and it has been a constant reminder to me to consider how I am integrating technology in my lessons. Am I only substituting or augmenting the work? Or could I improve my lesson plans and move up to modification and redefinition? It is a goal I strive to achieve more often.
During Course 4, I created a digital scientific notebook for students to use as a graphic organizer to help them with their scientific notetaking and article writing. If the students were simply typing on the sticky notes, that would be an example of substitution (SAMR). Many of my students have written expression issues so I encourage them to use voice-to-text, spell check, and predictive text. This boosts the use of typing in the digital notebook to augmenting the learning. Finally, the students redefined their learning by taking the research they collected during the How the World Works Unit of Inquiry and their Scientific Writing unit and creating their own Bookcreator book. Students included text and narration. I strongly encouraged students to create their own drawings or take their own photographs for their final product; however, that was not very popular with the students and making a suggestion was not enough for students to make the switch from copy and pasting photos to creating their own. This will have to be another lesson!
My COETAIL experience over the past year has been filled with learning opportunities, support from my peers, and our instructor. I do not feel this is the end of my “just another COTAIL journey” but the continuation of one. Thank you Joel and Lissa for all your help and a special thank you to Erika and Shalene for being the best of my COETAIL community members.