WordPress learning project Update #7

Tried something new this week to update on my learning project. A presentation tool called emaze. Similar to Prezi but with many ready made templates available. I found it fairly easy to use but was frustrated with the lack of flexibility. I created my presentation and then wanted to change the template but was unable to do so without starting over. The tool allows the user to import pictures and video very easily but does not have an audio feature which would have been nice. It also was not easy to import into WordPress as the embed code did not work. I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses this in the classroom to hear of other practical uses.



The power of children

I was so excited when I found out that Sylvia Martinez was going to be talking to our Tiegrad cohort. I had just stumbled upon her work the week before while doing research for my lit review. My research question involves how to bring the Reggio Emilia Approach up the grades. The Reggio Emilia Approach to learning originates in a tiny town in Italy but has been hailed as  one of the best educational philosophies in the world by Newsweek. It embraces the ideal that children are competent learners who should have a strong say in the direction of their learning. The Reggio approach states that:

  • Children must be able to learn through hands on experiences using their all of their senses
  • Children learn best through a project based approach
  • Children must have control of their learning
  • Children must be given ample opportunities to express themselves

While researching articles for my lit review I came across the Maker Movement and was immediately struck by the parallels between the two approaches. The Maker Culture according to Wikipedia

” emphasizes learning-through-doing (constructivism) in a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment.[2] ”

I began searching the literature to see who else was researching the parallels and the implications for bringing Reggio up the grades in the 21st century. I found Gary Stager and his Digital Reggio philosophy, did a little dance for joy, and was immediately hooked. This Summer there is a Summer Institute put on by Constructing Modern Knowledge that  is committed to making connections between child-centered learning theories and the creative construction of knowledge with computers. It is so exciting to see the blending of theories that value child-centered learning, an inquiry, project based approach and technology!

I am now hard at work finding articles to support creating a Reggio inspired Maker space at my school. I will be moving up to Gr. 3 next year and can’t wait to use my Reggio background in a new and exciting way that will also incorporate digital technologies for my students. Listening to Sylvia talking about all the opportunities and technologies of the Maker Movement was truly inspiring and has me all fired up! I would love to connect with anyone else interested in creating a hands-on maker space in their class or anyone who is already trying this out.

The following Ted talk by Adora Svitak ties in so well to the constructivist philosophy of learning and really helps to celebrate the power of the inherent wisdom of children.

“The Best Schools in the World”
2 December 1991

Using Coggle as a Media Tool for Teachers

Jane and I created the following screencast of a media tool called Coggle that we have been experimenting with at school. I currently use it to collaboratively plan upcoming units with my teaching partner and recently used it to map out my research focus. I enjoy the ease of use and the simplicity of the image it creates. Sometimes simple really is better. Please watch the video below for our step by step review of it. Let me know if you can think of any other uses for it.


Haiku Deck Learning Project Update #6

This week I thought I would try something new to blog about my Learning Project Update. I discovered Haiku Deck while looking for different presentation formats. It is simple to use, has a huge library of images and transforms boring content into something rather pretty. I definitely enjoyed putting the presentation together more than I enjoy simply writing. Finding images to match my thoughts added a layer of metacognition and reflection. Let me know what you think of it. I’m wondering what other uses there could be for Haiku Deck in primary classes. Perhaps a bank of images for digital storytelling….

What is a story?

After hearing Alan Levine (@cogdog) as a guest presenter in our EDCI569 course this past week I have found myself reflecting on mIMG_1784y own teaching. The focus of his presentation was on digital storytelling and the myriad of ways in which students can ‘tell’ a story. I am currently immersed in teaching a Grade 1 fairy tale unit and am trying to reconcile Alan’s forward thinking, innovative ideas with my current lessons which are teaching students the ‘correct’ way to write a story. The BC Grade 1 outcomes state that students need to know that stories include characters, settings, problems and solutions. I like to use a unit on fairy tales to explore storytelling and writing. One of the first lessons I do is to ask the students “what is a fairy tale?” We divide our class books into piles of yes, no, maybe and have great debates and conversations regarding the genre. The student responses are always interesting and are often based on the latest Disney movie. My 6 year old students are convinced that ‘Rapunzel’ the story was based on ‘Tangled’ the movie rather than the other way around. When we begin to explore the historical basis on fairy tales and add the element of medieval times students begin to see the importance of oral traditions and the timeless power of language. Learning about jesters and minstrels has helped them to see that stories can be told in many different forms. Students who have difficulty writing will often amaze me by standing up and singing a story, others will act out a tale with puppets, or dance a story.  I have tried this year to offer more story telling options such as having the students build a story using materials, paint a story, mime a story. We have a classroom full of costumes to retell and act out stories. Using apps such as Puppet Pals,  Story Creator and Stop Animation has allowed technology to provide another vehicle for their ideas. We are now beginning to write our stories and I can already feel some of the magic leaving. The strong writers will be fine but it is the students with the wonderful imaginations who struggle to print that I worry about. How can I help them learn the necessary skills of printing and story structure without squashing the joy of the story? Currently I try to separate aspects of writing into different areas because at this age it is impossible to do it all at the same time. So we focus on beautiful printing in our printing books, and practice our best spelling in our spelling books. We also have writer’s visual notebooks for drawing our ideas about stories and  journals for printing our ideas. I will conference with students individually as they are writing to work on editing and coherence but am careful to pick only one or two things at a time. Alan helped to reinforce for me that there is no one way to tell a story. I am thankful for that reminder as I sit down to write my report cards. Yes Johnny’s letters go off the lines, and his punctuation is non-existent, but boy can he tell a good story.

WordPress Bootcamp Update #5

After returning from a much needed family weekend getaway up in Parksville I have renewed appreciation for the flexibility and personalization of online learning. As part of my EDCI 591 learning project, I had enrolled in an open learning WordPress Bootcamp that started on Saturday and runs until Wednesday. It wasn’t until Monday that I was able to sit down and review the class materials but was immediately  impressed with the amount of support available and with the organization of the course. The class has a google+ site, a twitter hashtag #edtechopen and a website. Activities are archived and allow participants to engage at their own time.
WordPress bootcamp. Retrieved from edtechopen.com website:http://edtechopen.com
The main page is well organized and is easy to navigate. I am pleased to see that the initial contact allows people to introduce themselves and explain why they are taking the course. There are not a huge number of students (only 13 in the introduction forum) which actually makes me feel better and worse both at the same time. I am happy to not be interacting with thousands of strangers but apprehensive that now someone will have time to read and respond to my posts. I might not get away with lurking on this one….
The first activity is a discussion about the relevance of blogging. Why should we blog? It is an interactive session with participants providing links to valuable resources and articles and explaining their reasons for wanting to learn more. I am fascinated by the range of professions using blogging and the variety of responses. I immediately have an entire afternoon of links to search and read on the subject of blogging. I am also impressed with the contributions of instructor Lisa Read. She provides a personal view of blogging with her own examples given. The openness an honesty of her posts is inspiring. I realize that by providing personal anecdotes and stories to her students she has provided a connection point, an opening to get to know her, not as just a teacher but as a daughter, mother, citizen. Too often we hold back the very information that could draw people close to us by putting on a facade that fits the situation. I am still struggling with embracing and building my digital identity but thanks to Lisa realize that allowing myself some freedom and humanity while blogging will help to build a more meaningful PLN. Sometimes you need to give a little in order to receive.
I highly recommend you drop in and look around the course site, if not for this course then for future offerings.
Blogging Links provided by John Goldsmith

Change is difficult Update #4

I must admit that I am not loving WordPress yet. I have spent many hours pouring over a multitude of help sites but I have found them all to be very text and jargon heavy. I am really missing the simplicity and ease of my old Weebly. I miss the simple visual icons and the ease of importing pictures. I miss the bright colours and happy feel of my old blog. My WordPress site feels very proper, very prescribed. I still feel that it controls me rather than the other way around. It’s like an old school teacher with rows of desks having me fill in endless worksheets. Weebly felt more like a supportive educator, providing enough scaffolding to provide skills, but then stepping back and allowing time for exploration and play. I felt successful on Weebly and managed to create an interesting site with multiple pages in little time. WordPress feels like working with an annoying office manager who thinks that saying “Beep, beep, boop” whenever I attempt a new post is helping me somehow. The urban dictionary defines it as a way to describe a geek or nerd. What is with that! Some sort of computer geek humour taunting us useless minions. I need to hold myself back from ‘bopping’ the screen. I am aware that my own incompetence is probably causing most of my frustration and that with time WordPress will (I’m told) prove to be much more useful. With that in mind I thought I should recap the week.

images-3License: CC0 Public Domain / Free for commercial use / No attribution required

New things learned: (very short, despite hours put in)

– A category is like a table of contents for your blog. You should have no more than 1-2 categories per post

– A tag represents an index for your blog and allows people to search by keyword

-I have learned how to insert a poll (This week I am searching for reasons that people like WordPress..)

– I can track the usage of my site and see where people are visiting from- I like the map feature

-I have experimented with a variety of themes and explored many options for users, tools and settings. (I’m not yet ready to do much with them but I know they are there.)

-Have learned to link words to urls.

-I read a blog post by Mardelle that stated she isn’t a fan of WordPress either (feel much better)

Frustrations I have had this week: (very long, despite hours put in)

-Every time I do something to my site a new window appears on my screen- results in confusion trying to figure out which is the latest window.

-My sidebar is repeated on the front page of my blog-no idea why

-Trying to insert pictures takes me to a media library- I have no pictures in my media library and am trying to figure out how to put some there.

-Despite all the ‘helpful’ sites out there I have yet to find one that emulates or comes close to having tech support at my side using simple, comforting language (I need a cloud granny!)

-I have an unknown feed error on my page that I need to remove

-Just realized that when I post a draft of a blog just to see what it looks like, and then delete it, it automatically tweets it out- aah! (Have just found the preview button to avoid this in the future)

-Have lost my title and don’t know why. It appears in my draft but not in final post.

-Too many words everywhere I look. Give me some pictures people!

-I’m starting to feel like the Bridget Jones of blogging 😦

All in all a rather frustrating experience. I’m beginning to wish that I had tried yoga as a project as working on my blog is not helping me manage my stress levels. I am going to walk away and go put some steps on my Fitbit- a much more satisfying endeavour!