Sustaining community engagement was my greatest challenge over the whole COETAIL course. I really had to change from a ‘Lurker’ to a ‘Connector’. I agonized about how to tweet, what to tweet, and what hashtags to use.
After a year and four COETAIL courses, I still worry about what hashtags to use but tweeting and responding to tweets seems like second nature now. So much of my learning is through what I read, watch, or new sites I visit as influenced by Twitter.
Staying Involved with the COETAIL Community
I try to read blog posts of COETAIL12 members and leave replies such as below for @msjosmary on her COETAIL blog Course 1 Final Project.
I found her idea of using local businesses for teaching students to make economic decisions a great idea. To make decision making ‘real’ for students, I have used the same strategy with great success in my classes. I brought in a guest speaker from Poland to discuss the Cold War and its impact on Eastern Europe. Therefore, I wanted to leave a reply for Josmary’s to encourage and share my experience.
I have commented on other COETAIL 12 member posts as well because it is encouraging for new Cohort educators. The plus side is that I end up learning more as most of them are more technologically savvy than me!
I also retweeted @msjosmary’s post with my comments because I found her blog post inspiring and good teaching practice.
Learning from Other Educators
Because of continuous engagement with other educators I no longer think in a linear fashion but in all directions. There are so many cohort members, and other educators who think, plan and teach differently from me. And I can learn from them….
I wrote the tweet above after watching “Unique Online Assessment Ideas” hosted by Matt miller, Holly Clark and Kelly Hilton. Their method of assessment focused on examples showed deeper learning. Instead of giving ONE answer the students gave explanations of their reasoning and samples of their writing (why) with Flipgrid in Social Studies and ELA and explained their product or answer to problems in math and science. It makes so much sense as the students are not being pushed to perform for grades but for understanding.
Therefore, I had to share with Kelly the University of Central Florida (#UCF) example that my freshman Engineering student shared with me. It is frustrating to find that even though authentic means of assessment are possible for students during virtual school but they aren’t explored.
Because of my response, I gained another twitter follower! One whose opinion I value as Hyperdocs are powerful. My teaching colleague at Dhahran Elementary Middle School (DEMS) in Saudi Arabia has used them with great success.
In addition, some teachers have not yet adapted to less assessments and teaching (in person with their own slides, videos etc.) to students. This makes introducing new topics in STEM subjects much harder for students to grasp. Yet, so much of the emphasis seems to be on assessment and performance and not deeper learning.
As I mentioned, I sustain my learning and continue to learn, I read, retweet with comments etc. on all articles that are of value to me. For example, as seen below I read @tguskey’s article on not using summative assessments as feedback during virtual school because these are ‘desperate’ times.
As a parent, I see my 9th grader struggling with formative and summative assessments during virtual school. He is falling behind in his grades. But are grades important at this time? or is learning more important? And I am sure that teachers are falling behind in the grading assessments as well as planning new lessons that they can no longer teach in person. Thomas Guskey seems to be making the same point.
My son, an undergraduate Engineering Freshman shared that his Calculus college professor at University of Central Florida (#UCF) has refused to record any lectures for students during virtual school. He has told students that no legitimate assessment was possible even with a lockdown browser so they wouldn’t have any assessments. But, as a teacher didn’t he have an obligation to ‘reimagine’ assessments for deeper learning eg. “Unique Online Assessment Ideas” hosted by Ditch that Textbook and Microsoft Edu? They had at least half of the semester to finish when UCF went virtual!
And on the other extreme my eldest son, who is a University of Central Florida (#UCF) senior has a three hour recorded video class that he is required to watch. This teacher tried to cover several topics in one lecture as she had fallen behind in the syllabus and had to get everything covered before their final paper. Is that fair and possible for students to do when balancing other classes’ work load?
There has to be a median way for all this madness! But it needs to be a coordinated effort to neither not go overboard or do too little…
Corresponding with Cohort11
I am also overwhelmed with so much information and apps that are discussed on Twitter. Covid -19 induced distance learning seems to have turned education on its head. Everything is up for review and questioning, which is amazing!
But it is also overwhelming when you are trying to navigate teaching, planning, learning and trying out new apps.
Liliana Bandini, in my cohort seems to be in the same boat as me so I wanted to respond to her about the apps that I have found the easiest to use. It can be difficult to navigate all the new information without getting ‘app fatigue’. I can empathize with her.
Responding to twitter chats and attempts of other cohort members to build their PLN is important.
Also Ryan Persaud is discussing a very valid point in his tweet. Some teachers have not yet adapted to fewer assessments and teaching (in person with their own slides, videos etc.) to students. These are the teachers who have to look for materials to supplement their topics. This makes STEM subjects with new topics AND unfamiliar teaching styles (from posted videos) harder for students to grasp. Compounded with distance, the students are more easily confused.
Therefore, there is a definite need for caregivers, parents, or older siblings to get involved. Yet so much of the emphasis seems to be on assessment and performance and not engagement with learning.
And now, with virtual schools all around the world it is essential that parents are more involved in their students’ education. The stress of keeping up and getting student work completed is tough. Will the parent involvement and relationship with schools diminish as schools restart?
We have all come a long way due to Covid-19 with teaching or coaching full time and Course 5 which has been especially challenging. Our chat recording is enclosed here. It was great to touch base with most of Coetail 11 members and share our experiences, successes and stresses!
Sharing Views and Learning with Others
As mentioned above the contact with educators around the world has sustained my learning all through the course and will do so beyond COETAIL.
But as a word of caution…. at this point there is too much information on twitter and it is not possible to digest everything and put it to use. Do not become a tech junkie! because we may lose focus that it is learning that is most important right now and not our familiarity with using the latest apps!
If you are a full time teacher it is even more difficult to adjust your content to apps that you have to learn how to use unless it has been broken down by a coach or you have a steep learning curve for technology. It is easier to use what you know, in the most effective manner.
Sharing My Work
I am always ‘borrowing’ ideas to integrate them in my own teaching and planning practice so I want to share back. It only seems fair to share with others who may be able to use my work.
Below are some tweets in which I shared the virtual school lessons for the last week of the Design unit “Just War Theory and American Wars” for US History 8th Grade. I loved using Wakelet, Loom, Flipgrid and Padlet for all the virtual lessons. And I got feedback from the And I got feedback from the Wakelet team.
I am planning to use Adobe Spark for making my final project video. I became a fan after attending a Flipgrid and Adobe Spark #StudentVoice summit in Maitland, Florida in January. I also met Tanya Avrith who was so generous in providing lesson plans to introduce Adobe Spark through Hyperdocs. Way more than you would expect from someone you have just met. I also plan to get in touch with Chloe McConnell as I get started on the Final Project’s video.
Helping Other Colleagues
Unlike Nicki Hambleton, I could not imagine having to host an art exhibition for IB students in a Covid-19 environment when no one can attend the exhibition! Therefore, I wanted to reach out and help as much as possible with getting feedback to her students.
My friend, Zeba Nayeem is an art teacher in the Newark, New Jersey public school system. I contacted her separately (not on twitter) to check out Nicki’s students’ art and give feedback. I know she will give experienced feedback for the IB students.
As I have attended a summer ‘Writers Workshop’ at Teachers College Reading and Writing program, I knew they would be able to help Amy Lee get more help with reading lessons during virtual school with young students. In addition, Penny Kittle is an inspiration and I love her book “Book Love”. She has so many creative ideas to get students reading.
Reaching out to ISG DEMS, Saudi Arabia
To sustain the learning through short tutorials on twitter, a webinar or chat I reached out to past colleagues at Dhahran Elementary Middle School (DEMS) two weeks ago through Flipgrid: Help for Making a PLN. However, I only got two responses from the 8 teachers that I contacted. Most of the teachers had started virtual school and were swamped with planning, making virtual lessons and checking work.
I did get one response from the Arabic Language teacher, Nida Ghanayem and I reached out to to her by Flipgrid and by email. She was having trouble with younger (elementary) students reading and writing Arabic. I recommended Seesaw for her and recorded two preliminary Loom tutorials on using Seesaw. The first tutorial explains how to set up a classroom and generate individual learning codes. The second Loom tutorial shows how to assign student work.
However, the DEMS principal told Nida that no teacher was allowed to use another learning platform as parents were complaining about the learning curve for all new technology. Therefore, I only recorded two preliminary Loom videos for her.
But I was able to help by telling her about the new screen recording feature with Flipgrid. She is a great fan of Flipgrid, as are her students so she was very excited. She has since then started using Flipgrid Screen recording for her Arabic lessons with the elementary school.
Plans after COETAIL
I have found Twitter a really valuable source of sharing views with others and adding my two bits of advice! And the ideas, pedagogy, and technology apps that I have been exposed inspired me to apply as a consultant technology integrator for Seminole County, Florida teachers during virtual school. As future school closures may become the norm, I want to help other teachers learn all that I have during COETAIL and explore using technology to make their students’ learning deeper. As a parent of a 9th grader, I want the chance of deeper learning when he is in school or out of school.
I will be sharing the final project video with the Seminole County Board of Education for an opportunity to work with teachers who are struggling to keep up with virtual school. If I get this opportunity I will be continuously learning, refining educational tools and my practice. In addition, if I can bring in the expertise of my Cohort members or Eduro Learning then it will be amazing!
Most importantly, the pursuit of educational technology moves me closer to a goal of providing an equal and quality education (or as close to it as possible) for children around the world.
Covid – 19 is a mixed blessing… it has leveled the dire effects on our health and lives across the world as everyone is at risk.
But it has also shown an educational leveling opportunity…Maybe access to a smartphone, Ipad or tablet with relevant pedagogical instruction can equip the poorest students (those in Title I schools, developing countries, or refugee camps) to get a quality education.
The physical school building, books become less important. A plus in any place with scarcity of resources. However, a teacher remains vital for planning, additional instruction and checking in with the students. Also a teacher’s role changes where parents or care givers don’t have the education for supporting a student. She/he will have the role of adopting some responsibility of a nurturing adult (parent or caregiver) for students.
This is my ultimate future goal after COETAIL11 ends….
It is my dream that a quality digitalized curriculum with quality teaching will be viable for every child who can not otherwise afford a quality education.
I know that I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go but COETAIL has put me on the path to start learning and I don’t think that I will ever stop now.
I think that if I had been working currently as a teacher I would have greater success in showing evidence of sustained learning and forming a PLN. Also, if I had contacted the DEMS (past workplace) earlier I might have gotten a greater response.