At KIST we celebrate International Mother Language Day with an annual ‘World Cultures Day’ event which includes a traditional costume parade and PTA bake sale featuring delicious treats from around the world.This year, I challenged the Elementary Student Representative Council to host a ‘Mother language recordings’ booth. We wanted to provide an opportunity for students and parents to record brief video messages about peace in their mother languages.
The students made a poster and I created a form for participants to write their messages along with English translations. We collaborated with the Media Club to record the videos. In an hour, we recorded around twenty videos by community members in languages including Japanese, Russian, Turkish, English, Bengali, and three different languages from India: Tamil, Odiya, and Hindi.
We are currently in the process of deciding how to publish and share the videos, although I did make a point of obtaining permission from the adult participants to share their recordings on the school website.
The greatest takeaway for me was the encouragement we received to widen the scope of this project next year with more promotion and a larger window of time to record messages.
A few days later, the tweet above from IB World Magazine caused me to reflect on how International Mother Language Day is an essential opportunity for internationally minded people and organizations to celebrate and preserve language diversity. Hopefully, we will expand the ‘Mother language recordings’ project next year.
Data has been an undercurrent in my teaching since my first classroom in 2007. Of course, in that year, I struggled to gather data and there was virtually no chance of utilizing much of it to inform and enrich instructional planning. For good or ill, data is not essential to the survival of a first year teacher.
Each year after, I slowly improved, including a variety of experiments like the one shared in the post Student Empowerment | COETAIL final project. I tried different forms, organizers, notebooks, etc, until finally unveiling an integrated digital system last year. I shared it as a presenter at the GAFE Summit 2016 in Kobe, Japan, and used it for the school year to publish students’ ongoing assessment data, and other key information such as website usernames and passwords, directly to them as web pages. After celebrating and discussing the system, I felt that it was terribly unsatisfying.
Inspiration came in the form of media such as Jack Norris’ keynote presentation from Strata + Hadoop World in San Francisco, Let’s Get Real: Acting on Data in Real Time, embedded below.
The concept of ‘data agility’ through converged data and processing appealed to me because what I sought a tool which would organize all assessment data in a way that could be searched, shared, and analyzed. Over the years I had been introduced to many ‘tracking systems’, only to discover that they were utterly unmanageable at scale. Ticking boxes on scope and sequence documents or highlighting learning objectives almost arbitrarily seemed like a show at best. In fact, a colleague who shared such a system with me admitted that at the end of a term, due to a lack of hard data, he would simply choose outcomes to highlight on every student’s document regardless of their actual progress or learning. To quote Mr Norris, I wanted my data to ‘get real’.
‘Small data observes the details or small clues that uncover large trends. The idea is that by honing in on the elements that make up relationships and narratives in schools, education can be enriched.’ The Edvocate
What I wanted to do was bring transparency to the relationships between myself, students, parents, and administrators. Further readings within the big data and data science trends likeData Quality Should Be Everyone’s Job by Thomas C Redman directed my attention toward the purpose for the data. Before data is collected, it should already have a purpose, and that purpose dictates the design of the collection, publishing, and analysis tools.
The next piece of the design puzzle was my school’s Assessment Handbook. In it were the categories, criteria, and descriptors on top of which my system would function.
Utilizing a system of Google Sheets, data is entered and student progress viewed in potentially real time, depending on the efficiency of my data entry. As we began using the system I shared a video, Tour of your data book, embedded below, which illustrates the details of the user experience much better than I can describe in words.
This system has been remarkably effective and unlike last year, I only plan to make minor tweaks, especially to the user interface. Feedback from students and parents revealed, as I expected, that there are too many graphs and that it’s difficult to know which are more or less important.
Another feature I plan to add is a Google Form which mirrors the data entry document which would allow teaching assistants, specialists, and even parents or students themselves to contribute data to the system.
My first eye opener was Jim Sill’s session, Google Views – Lessons in 360º, in which I was introduced to Cardboard. This is a realist iteration of virtual reality that could be easily integrated into schools. Although I haven’t had other VR experiences, I wonder if Cardboard offers a majority of the sensory experience.
Overall, I was most inspired by Stephen Taylor’s Formatting the Flow session. As an inquiry teacher, I have always wrestled with the impulse to manage students’ learning. What Stephen showed was how formatted documents can make processes visual and focus students on their learning rather than their presentation and reporting media.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js I began with a brief introduction to the concept of transparency as it is viewed in practice in government, business, and education. Then, following a generally ‘less to more’ transparent framework according to the slides embedded below, I shared the tools that I use to make planning, teaching, and assessment in my classroom as transparent as possible. Included in the demonstrations were my weekly planners. I use a template in Google Sheets that allows me to plan to five minutes of accuracy include relevant details including differentiation. These documents are published as a webpage and the link is shared on our class Moodle site. Having the plans published via a link allows easy access from any internet connected device. A classroom computer at the front of our classroom is dedicated to our projector, but it also has all of our links saved as bookmarks in the web browser. Throughout the day, students check these links. This increases the amount of time that I can devote to learning by minimizing questions like ‘what are we doing next?’ or ‘what’s after lunch?’.
Click image to view as webpage.
A teacher in the workshop asked if there was added stress from publishing all of my planning. I replied with that this level of transparency adds a component of accountability that is its own reward. Using the publishing capability of Google Apps, I also publish slides of our daily warm ups and home learning assignments. They are embedded on our class Moodle and require no additional maintenance. They update automatically when new slides are added. If a parent or other member of our learning community uses them even once to have a conversation with their child or keep up to date on home learning, it’s worth the minimal effort to set up.
Finally, I shared my data workbook. This is a system of spreadsheets that provides me with real time data from assessments and then publishes the same data to individual pages, published as websites, for students and families.
This works extremely well for parents to keep up to date on their child’s learning and for sharing web addresses, usernames, and passwords. All materials for the workshop are shared in a public Google Drive folder, Transparency | GAFE Summit Kobe 2016. Strangely, as soon as my session ended, I felt the urge to develop a new data management system that could provide more possibilities for data visualization and analysis. I’ve already begun sketching ideas and look forward to designing and programming this summer.
I’ve completed tons of online professional development, and nothing compares to the invigorating social and interactive experience of a face to face conference. Ironically, this can be especially true in technology where digitally isn’t necessarily the best way to learn something new. The tools which I have put to work immediately are Quizizz and SafeShare. Since introducing Quizizz, my students constantly ask when we will be taking the next quiz. Reflecting on my own presentation, I feel that I probably learned more than my participants! It is easy to feel that the time and energy spent preparing to conduct a conference or workshop session is wasted, but I found the opposite. By deeply analyzing and presenting my approaches to technology in the classroom, I deepened my understanding. Being inspired to expand my strategies was an unexpected surprise! If you’re curious to explore the conference, follow this link to view the full schedule. I’ve already been contacted by Google related colleagues about organizing an event in Tokyo, so I look forward to putting some of that inspiration into action.
Since Moodle is the learning management system employed at KIST, the course was directly applicable to my work. I also made the effort of inviting colleagues to join in hopes of recruiting a cohort that might be able to learn together. Two people joined an we enjoyed sharing our learning and insights into how the course content could be directly applied in our own contexts.
Naturally, the course itself was delivered via Moodle, and they even have a handy mobile app. It provides a well designed examplar with high quality demonstration videos and useful links everywhere.
The content itself was the Moodle training I never received. Organized logically from general to specific, yet also conceptually from delivery to interaction, it is an ideal way to become familiar and proficient with Moodle.
I would recommend the Teaching with Moodle MOOC to anyone curious about the platform, and particularly to my colleagues who would discover rich possibilities for connected learning in their classes.
One of my greatest frustrations as an inquiry teacher is the lack of opportunities to observe other inquiry teachers. The incredible amount of preparation results in having a limited amount of free time.
When I noticed the Grade Five team at KIST next door preparing centers including light bulbs, various balls, balloons, thermometers, and more, and during my preparation period, I couldn’t miss the chance to observe and document.
The first center I visited appeared to be engaging with the relationship between heat and light. I was immediately impressed with the thoughtfulness of the questions used by the facilitator to stimulate students’ analyses.
I didn’t have much opportunity to glean the full purpose of one center which involved a beaker and thermometer, but students were highly intrigued as they shared ideas from their observations.
There was also an ingenious application of the impossible dominoes phenomenon. The thought occurred to me, however, that this demonstration is worthy of investing in a purpose built set of progressively larger dominoes.
Two more centers are not pictured in this post. One involved comparing how different balls bounce, and how they bounce differently when released on top of each other. This would have been a fantastic exploration to allow students to carry out, but would need to be outside due to the risk of errant balls. The final center was the classic balloon/straw jet on a string. What appealed the most about this experience to me was it’s cohesion. The graphic organizer provided served to connect the various engagements through a cognitive framework. It was an ideal design that I look forward to adapting to future units of inquiry in my class.