Opportunities during an Inopportune Time

My friend and colleague, Alexa Stamatyades. Our extended Covid-19 trip took us to to see the quokkas in Australia because what better way to escape the world than to look at these cute furry creatures?

When I created my original unit plan for this final project in November, little did I realize how much my unit and the world would change between then and now.  I was excited to get back into the classroom and to work with one of my favorite colleague and friend, Alexa Stamatayades in her classroom.  This is her first year teaching grade 3 and so she was very keen on trying anything and everything I threw her way. Grade 3 is a semi transitional year – they are shedding the cute kid phase and becoming more independent. Even their technology is transitioning – from iPads to laptops and with that, a mountain of basics they will need to learn.  It would be their first time learning how to use a MacBook, typing, or even a word processor – but it was also my first time teaching these skills! On top of that, I wanted to introduce them to the different websites or apps that we would be using throughout the unit for my final project. However, my main goal for this final project was to focus on embedding digital citizenship in an authentic way as well as getting students to use technology to collaborate.  As they say though, nothing in life ever goes according to plan, but this year was especially true.

During our Teams live lesson

Reaching Redefinition?

I was successful in embedding my digital citizen unit within the unit of inquiry. I had only done digital citizen lessons as stand-alone units. Since students were researching inventors, I used this opportunity to teach them how to cite their sources and include a bibliography. Feedback can be given in almost every subject so we made writing an opportunity for collaboration. We gave students another opportunity when they created their video on Flipgrid. This was also a great way for students to see each other. However, did I think the unit itself reached a redefinition stage? hmmm… maybe not. I didn’t feel that the lessons or the unit itself reached the redefinition stage.  I think there were points that reached redefinition but overall we reached the modification stage. Even though I didn’t feel that my unit was at a redefinition level, I still felt that it was successful. I was able to get students to cite their sources, give a variety of feedback on multiple platforms, and engage in a principled and caring manner. Even though students didn’t create a huge digital project, in the end, they were able to conduct themselves with good digital citizenship.

I think we could have reached the redefinition stage if we could have had more time and resources to have students make a digital presentation about their inventor or for them to have a virtual living museum.  However, I was aware of how burnt out students and teachers were in regards to using technology that it made sense to scale back.  I felt the entire online learning is a redefinition and that was enough.  I was especially happy that students were able to listen to the feedback and make their changes accordingly and recognize what they could learn from this feedback.

One student’s reflection on feedback
Student reflection on how feedback is helpful

What Did I Learn?

The final project really demonstrated that digital citizenship has a necessary place in the classroom as a lesson for all students.  For example, this year we had to move everything online.  I think our lessons have helped students understand how the online world is no different than the offline world.  I stress to them that we must be principled and caring offline and that means we need to do the same online.  This might be the words we use or our tone of voice.  Students were aware that teachers were reading their comments too – so they knew that even though this was online, it was still a place of learning and there could be someone who is watching or reading.  Students should know that what is public is public and anyone can see.  The second thing that I think this project did well was that the unit could be authentically embedded in the classroom.  I didn’t create new work for the teacher, we used what was already going to be taught and happening to embed the lessons.  Of course, there were times when we had to scaffold and be strategic such as choosing simpler lessons when introducing new technology.

<a href="http://<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people">People vector created by studiogstock – www.freepik.comImage by Shuttergstock from www.freepik.com

Honestly, I’m so tired of discussing Covid-19 but it is very hard to ignore the huge impact this has made on my final project, my emotional well-being, and the world.  During the Covid-19 displacement and with the start of online learning, I had nothing but an iPad and a phone. At first, I thought this is a great opportunity to really practice what I preach!  What a better way to do technology integration than having everything but technology related?  Oh boy, was I wrong. 

Between getting admin, teachers, students, and parents from grades 1 – 5 and then Nursery to Kindergarten, I had no mental space to even consider where to take my final project.  There were things that were out of my control but I couldn’t help but feel this huge sense of disappointment that my final project was not what it was going to be what I wanted it to be.  I had only a week of working with my student before online learning and it would be two months before I felt ready to start this unit again.  Giving myself the time off and finally letting go of this disappointment has given me clarity again.  In the grand scheme of things, my final project seems like a small inconvenience in a world of major disappointments. 

Photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels

Our grade 5 students are preparing for the PYPX (PYP exhibition) and one of the things they have decided to focus on this year was the process and not the final product.  Being in that meeting and having that discussion with the team made me realize that this is how I felt about my final project for COETAIL.  Even though I wasn’t able to create the final product that I wanted, I have learned and enjoyed the process.  I connected, learned from, and shared knowledge with my students and PLN.  So even though I wasn’t able to create the project I wanted, I am proud of what I have accomplished. 

This was my COETAIL Final Project!

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