Putting COETAIL into Practice

Coming to the end of Course 1, I already feel that I have been challenged in my thinking about the best way to use technology in a classroom to build up student agency as a way to improve learning. As I put the final touches on the end of course project, I feel like Clark Griswold:


For my unit plan, I focused on an MYP Individuals and Societies unit for Year 2 where students were examining the interplay of technology and physical environments to create a Sustainable Settlement.

Habitats and Humanity: Finding Out What a Sustainable Settlement Is. 

The basic outline of the unit is that students will examine what makes a settlement sustainable and how it could be technological (such as solar panels) or physical (such as green spaces). They will then examine a chosen city and compare it to a sustainable city in order to make recommendations on how to improve the chosen cities sustainability.

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Why did you choose this topic? These standards?

I decided to work through this unit and topic as next year I will be taking on a new role working in Individuals and Societies in the MYP. Having worked with some of the current teachers in that subject as an EAL support teacher, I am well aware of the strong units they have already planned and are using. The different units I have helped deliver means that many of the units I will roll out next year will already have been created and tested; minor tweaks are surely needed each time a unit is run again but the overall structure is already standing.

For that reason, I wanted to go through the attempt to create my own unit to better appreciate the work that has already been done and I will benefit from. As well, it can help me understand that if we are to add technology to a unit, then we must rethink the whole unit. As a starting point, I took the current SOI that is going to be used for Q4 and then devised the unit around it.

For the standards, I followed the IB’s MYP Criteria for Individuals and Societies.

How was this learning experience (unit plan) different from or similar to other learning experiences (unit plans) you have designed?

My previous experience designing unit plans came when I was teaching in China where we did not have access to Google and none of the students used technology in the classroom. Students had access to computers and home and we had a dated computer lab that the teachersfough t over. So, in planning units and lessons the most technology I had access to was a smart board at the front for power points and videos. In that way, this unit plan was completely different from what I have done before with this subject.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

One similarity to my previous units was in the use of project based learning. I taught Grade 12 Canadian Law in China for two years and the students had a hard time relating to the content; I can not blame them for that. So, I relied heavily on project based units to help get them involved and excited. Two units I was proud of and the students enjoyed were putting on a full mock trial with a jury and the other was having the students create a Law and Order style video outlining a crime and the subsequent trial. Both are similar to this in that I had to build in the specific skills needed while allow for student agency in how they created the projects.


How does this learning experience (unit plan) relate to what you learned in Course 1?

The main takeaways from Course 1 was an understanding that using technology in education needs to be authentic, purposeful, thought out, and designed to increased student agency and learning. While it is nice to have new technology and use it, if it does not serve a specific purpose that develops higher order thinking skills it can be harmful.

Developed by Allan Carrington

Further, the SAMR model was an idea that I found easy enough to grasp but then in designing this unit I was able to put into practice. At times, I found that having discussions or using the white board were probably better ways of communicating ideas or more meaningful as a learning experience. The point I looked for in choosing the appropriate technology was something that could Modify and Redefine how a task could be done.

What has influenced you the most in Course one and how is that reflected in your learning experience/unit plan?

My GET training has had a big influence in this unit. As I was thinking about this unit and how students could demonstrate their understanding of a Sustainable Settlement, I wanted them to have real life examples. Using Google Earth was a great choice for this and it was because of the GET training I learned about the updates to the program. I recently created a short ‘how-to’ video for school on using it and now I can show this unit plan as an example of how to implement Google Earth. Along with Google Earth, the Your Plan, Your Planet interactive feature on Google was taken from my GET training.

Going back to an earlier post of mine, Becoming a Learner and a Designer, I outlined that two of my goals for this course were:

  • become empowered to leverage technology for a more authentic learning experience
  • use technology to allow my students opportunities for problem solving within the classroom context

With this unit, I feel I have worked towards these.

In a different post, Toying with Technology, I owned up to the fact that at times I was guilty of looking at the technology first and the outcomes second. I realized that as I was thinking about this unit I kept trying to shoehorn a way to use PearDeck into the unit. I think part of this is because of how comfortable I am with PearDeck. However, when I stood back and tried to understand how students could visualize what a Sustainable Settlement looked like, PearDeck was not the best option. While it would be useful for sharing ideas, its lack of ability to comment on others work did not fit with the more collaborative aspect I wanted. In the end I felt that Google Classroom was a great base to share ideas and that using Google Earth was best for a more visual aspect.

What outcomes do you hope to see when students complete this learning experience/unit?

Image by teresa cotrim from Pixabay

I want the students to better understand that future improvements to cities need to be focus on the environment. I want the students to be able to take ideas from one context, appreciate the benefits of the idea, and be able to apply them to a new context. If students are able to see how one city is becoming more sustainable, hopefully they can understand how their home cities can be more sustainable. Outside of that specific context, I want students to be able to create a research question, formulate an action plan, and be able to carry it out.

But overall, I want the students to feel a little more empowered at the end of the unit then they felt at the beginning. Global Warming and the changes that come with it are pretty daunting. In fact, humans are not always the best at talking about it. If students are able to isolate and understand how cities in a wide range of locations are being more sustainable and how those ideas can be replicated, then they can understand that one good idea can have a big impact.

Well, that is a wrap for Course 1. Step one in getting COETALed complete. I did it.

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