Diving into Deep Learning

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For the last year, COETAIL has been an eye-opening experience for me.  Even though I gained pedagogical knowledge when I studied for my Masters in childhood education and gained content knowledge from my experience teaching, the technical knowledge I gained from personal use was helpful but lacking. I didn’t have the synthesized knowledge of all three working cohesively together.  COETAIL filled in those gaps and gave me opportunities to reflect on my technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) as well as my Technological Content Knowledge (TCK).  I’ve learned a lot and changed my practice a lot as a teacher and a professional.  This week has really challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and really think about how I can push myself and the teachers at my school for deeper learning.  I was under the impression that if I only had open-ended apps, then it’s the “right” kind of technology for students, right?  It’s active, creative, open-ended and allows student control and independence… but the way that I was helping teachers use the apps and what we created was questionable.  Some days, having grade 1 students taking photos of their writing and then reading their writing before posting it on seesaw is enough.  There are other days where students take a screenshot of a digital book and label non-fiction features – something they would do with posts-its in real books. I feel that these activities do not invite deeper learning but use technology superficially or only as a substitution.

My biggest worry when I became the Tech Integration Specialists was teachers and students using technology in a superficial way.  Sometimes when we use technology, we forget what we know and learned about teaching children.  Some teachers get caught up in the technology and forget the teaching strategy.  Using technology without powerful teaching strategies is teaching within the TPACK framework but missing one of the main three components.  When teaching non-tech lessons, teachers will model or scaffold for the student but sometimes teachers forget they have to do the same when teaching technology.  When having students read on RAZ kids, teachers focus on the logistical aspects of signing in, finding the right books, etc., they forget to mention how they should be reading online.  Teachers know to scan a room while students are working but this can be done without always having to get up, but when using technology, teachers need to physically scan a room because a child who is off task will look the same as a child who is on task when using a device.   I have seen children using RAZ kids on their own without much guidance and in order to get more coins, they quickly click through the book without actually reading.   The purpose of having students reading RAZ kids is so they could practice reading a “good fit” or “just right” books at their level, instead, they just learned how to click the button to go to the next page in their book.  Although the task itself was not deep learning, it was an opportunity to teach them some character education on being principled and responsible. 

So where do we begin?  How can we leverage technology for collaboration and knowledge creation?  Technology tools allow students to take advantage of time and space to connect with other students, teachers, or experts.  This type of collaboration allows learning to be more social and be an active member of the learning process (A Rich Seam).  One of the first things I tried to do with teachers was to show them all of the open-ended apps that were appropriate for their students.  After learning how to use these apps, students were allowed to choose what they wanted to show about their learning and which app they wanted to use.  In this way, I could encourage students to be successful while including them in the learning process.  I guess I did too good of a job because when we edited a photo on within the camera rolls, students were very confused as to how they would save them.  They kept asking but how do we export it???  I had to laugh as I explained it was already in the camera roll!

Another key element for using technology is how it allows for collaboration that wasn’t possible before.  I know teachers do want to invite experts into the classroom but sometimes it’s hard to find the time logistically.  Flipgrid is a great tool for collaboration for teachers and students. For Gade 5 Exhibition, students can think of their questions and ask them in a video and invite experts or parents to leave a video response to their questions.  That way they can have some face to face “time” but also is done when it’s convenient for both parties.  Collaborative documents allow students to work on the same document at the same time but without having to be at the same place.  These projects can be done after school hours because it’s not always possible to have students to finish everything at school or have students getting together outside of school.

When done well, technology integration allows students to become independent learners while allowing agency in their own learning.  I think that reflection is a major part of this process but in order to have a strong reflection, a strong rubric is also required.  If students are part of the process of creating the rubrics, they already have a stronger buy-in and understanding of the expectations.  According to Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning, there are three components in presenting learning intentions and success criteria to students:

  • What We are Learning To
  • What I’m Looking For
  • This is Because

With an explicit rubric, students can better manage and reflect on their learning process.  Feedback is the other crucial component and as we discussed in previous weeks technology allows for the freedom and time-saving ability for feedback.  Teachers can give feedback in real-time, not just when things are due.  They can give extra support by checking in more frequently with those that need it.  Students can become independent by learning who and when they can talk to regarding their work. 

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As Brené Brown says, you can’t have courage without vulnerability and deeper Learning requires teachers to be both of those things at the same time.  They must put themselves out there and allow themselves to be open to their students and possibly not knowing all the answers.  Teachers have to be comfortable and courageous to build these relationships and give students the freedom of choice, but we also need to teach our children to be courageous.  One learner profile for the PYP is risk-taker and this common language is used throughout the campus, across grades and specialists and teachers.  This learner profile is a tangible way for our youngest learners to understand what it means to be courageous.  We encourage our students to be risk-takers; even for minor things such as trying a new food or answering questions in class. In being honest with my students, I am showing them my vulnerability. I let them know when I don’t have the answer or if they think of a better idea than I had.  I am not above saying, I don’t know and I give them the option to say the same thing to me.  Sometimes, I will encourage them to be a thinker and to try and sort out the answer themselves based on what we’ve done in the past and what information they already have. 

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Thankfully the teachers that I know usually use guilt more than shame.  (Not that any of them are good options) but as Brené Brown says – shame is internal and guilt is external.  Students have more control over what they can do rather than who they are. But it is crucial to understand the difference. Students understand when we’re upset with behavior but they won’t understand if we’re upset with their personality.  It goes along with creating a strong bond for the partnership that is needed for deeper learning.  When partners are equal, it creates a strong and trusting partnership.  The same can be said with the partnerships we have with our students.  If we recognize and treat them as equals, this strengthens the relationship and provides a clear path to true learning.

2 thoughts on “Diving into Deep Learning

  1. Hey Boramy, I like the connections you made between previous readings and your gains practice, tech-content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge. I also think that Course 4’s readings have been a great opportunity to challenge our thinking about our own practice by reflecting on how we promote deep learning and identifying some next steps for continued improvement.
    You identified some areas where you substitute technology for paperwork and mentioned how this is not a deep learning activity. I would think that it could be the beginning of something very cool, how could students use what they find about informational text features to create a rubric for their own writing and how could they record their ideas together to construct understanding using technology? I think that using the substitution as an entry could be a great opportunity to deepen the learning later on. They could use those photos they took in a Padlet or talk about them on a FlipGrid to develop an understanding of what good non-fiction features look like.
    I like the way you promote student agency in the class by using open-ended apps, those that can be used to create. This allows for student experimentation of different tools and helps them think about choice. There can be a lot of learning that happens in small or large groups when we start talking about the benefits and drawbacks of different tools. Once they figure it out they can start using the tools across disciplines and they begin to recognize more opportunities to use them. I am also going to use that Flipgrid idea in my final project to try talking to other schools about waste. I will also be using the ideas you mentioned about rubric construction from Five Ideas about Dialogical Learning. We will probably use a single point rubric as my students like them more and so do I.
    Speaking about final projects, I hope yours is going well and it is unfortunate we are not working on another zinger of a plan again. 

  2. Hey Boramy, thanks for an interesting read! Your discussion of students using RAZ kids ineffectively really resonated with me, as right now I am dealing with a similar situation in my class with the Epic! reading app. We have students who’s only focus is “completing” more books so that they can unlock different skins for their avatar. We have had many conversations about it and hopefully moved past it, but it has raised the question of whether the benefit of the technology outweighs the distraction. Would you say that you feel the benefits of RAZ kids outweigh its’s challenges?

    I like when you say teachers need to put themselves out there and be open with their students in their ignorance. Obviously we don’t know it all, and its important that students know that! Some of the best conversations, and shared learning experiences can come out of a teacher admitting ignorance, and engaging in learning alongside the students.

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