COETAIL has been a lot of work, a lot of coffee, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of collaboration, a lot of learning, a lot of growing. As my students are diligently working to complete their summative tasks for our unit, and I am very excited to see how their work plays out, I thought it a good time to reflect and think about some of the ways COETAIL has resulted in tangible changes in my day-to-day teaching. Below is a collection of those thoughts on how I have
An appreciation of paper
One of the strange ways that COETAIL 13 has changed my thinking is more of an appreciation for paper based activities. There are so many valuable tools that could be leveraged with technology, but if I am simply taking an activity online, I am now more open to paper based activities. If it is a close reading activity, where students are working together, having a nice A3 print out and some highlighters is always great. Now, I may take time to add in a Flipgrid reflection to help them to connect with their peers to help leverage technology. Thinking of the SAMR model, if I am not planning on modifying or redefining the activity, I do not want to use technology just for technology sake. Students spend lots of time on their devices, I am now more careful with ensuring each activity is worth the screen time.
Pushing my Pedagogy
I started COETAIL shortly after finishing my M. Ed. and was excited but also a bit hesitant as most of my education had come from completing degrees. Yet, the volume of ideas, practice, assignments, projects, and overall engagement from the program really helped push my practice forward. Further, it allowed me to be more open to other forms of PD. Last year I completed the TEMC course on Teaching English in Multicultural Classrooms to learn more about linguistic strategies and am now in training to be a tutor and deliver the course to my peers next year. I also am part of my school’s Data Team and worked with Matthew Savage of the Mona Lisa Effect to better understand how to use data to improve student wellbeing, and by extension achievement.
The value I got from COETAIL has helped reinforced the need for teachers to keep growing and learning.
Ways I have started to leverage technology to ensure greater critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, character, and citizenship
- Allowing more student agency in choosing topics- I have outlined how I have been doing this for my COETAIL Course 5 final project here. Already, the feedback from my students have been extremely positive and watching them work to create different products has me thinking of how to keep this going in future assessments
- Creating places for students to share their work– Many times students have outlined that they feel their work gets lost once the reporting period is done. Early on in COETAIL I considered myself a lurker, in that I would be more likely to take information from online communities without contributing. My grade 7 class recently created a series of Black Death diaries to recreate what life was like during 1349 in Europe. To help push myself away from a lurker, and to give the students some agency, I am putting together a website to share their work. Part of this is for me to use it next year with students as a unit intro, and part is to share the idea with other teachers who want to use it as a way to investigate the Black Death. Further, at the end of my Grade 6 class project on ancient civilization, I will be sharing that online and putting together a website to share their work. Even if their work is only shown to future students I teach, being able to see models of work will help me re-evaluate the effectiveness of my teaching and will help students to understand what is expected of them.
- Putting more emphasis on creating digital artifacts that will travel with them-> While this ties in with the idea above, I have been spending more time on our schools use of Digital Portfolios to ensure they reflect on their learning process and critically think about how they can improve. Part of this is from the COETAIL readings and ideas, and part is from the overall process of the course focusing me to reflect on myself.
- Focusing on positive comments on feedback-> with increased use of online tools, I have been really focusing on how students interact in the digital space. Whether this is having students leave feedback on Wix, Flipgrid, or with reflections on other students work, understanding the role they play in creating a positive online community has been a key idea in my class
- Improved instruction- starting last year when my school went online, I found that recording short video instructions was key as not all students would be able to be online at the same time. This year, with more students being out of class for Covid and having to follow along at home or catch-up when they are back, I turned to making more videos. One of my students suggested I switch to posting them on Youtube as many of my loom videos would have trouble playing. Now, I am putting together short and long videos, either as quick instructions for the overall lesson or as longer walk throughs on a task, to help guide my students. This has given me more time to focus on students who need support and less time repeating instructions. It has also helped to put responsibility on students to seek out the answers themselves, as they know that I won’t answer a question if I have covered it in the video.
I think many of the ideas above are ones that have bandied around my head at different points, but taking the time to clue into the logical and reasoning for those decisions. To link my action with current best practices and to understand the benefit of increasing student agency, focusing on positive comments, pushing tasks beyond the classroom, and focusing on SAMR have been just a few of the ways I have benefited from COETAIL. The next step is to help those around me by sharing those ideas.