EC&I 834

From dream to reality

Since beginning my Master’s degree in the fall of 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a few areas of interest and to delve into topics that were terrifying to me.  The last three semesters of classes I’ve taken with Dr. Alec Couros have led me down a path that I would never have imagined possible.  Instead of fearing technology and its implications on education, I’ve learned to embrace ed tech and use my curious nature as a means to an end.  One thing that lead me to where I am right now is a shift in my thinking about “Schooling” and “Learning” … and how we can design learning environments that will help our students learn in the 21st century with an antiquated model of school.

One of the big questions we discussed in EC&I 834 is how we can best design learning environments for students – regardless if the environment is in person, blended, or online.  If I’m being completely honest with you, the traditional “school” is not an environment that is good for all of our students.  No matter which school or which classroom or which teacher we put under a microscope, there is a good chance that at least some of the students are not learning.  WHY? Because of how the environment is designed.

In thinking about and searching for inspiration about how I can help my students best learn in the classroom of today, I stumbled across a graphic that was designed in response to a blog post from George Couros.

School vs Learning by George Couros

The graphic really reminded me of the conversations we’ve had in our class, and the statement “If done the wrong way, school can actually go against what is needed for learning” from Couros’ blog resonated with me.  I agree with this so much.  There are bigger issues that some of our students are facing today, and they need to have a flexible learning schedule.

Maybe I’ll draw some fire for saying this… but it’s my opinion.  Sometimes it feels like we as educators are being asked to push kids through the system as quickly as possible.  Didn’t meet the outcomes at grade level?  Doesn’t matter!  Social promotion indicates the students will fare better with age alike peers.  Until the student has missed so many outcomes that it is impossible to do the work … and then what?  As a high school teacher, I see the implications of this every single day.  Each student learns differently and at a different pace than their peers.  That’s totally acceptable and I can roll with that.  HOWEVER… we as educators are also being pressured to have all of these students graduate in a set amount of time.  So we’re supposed to change the delivery and adapt to the circumstances … but we need to have them all reach the finish line at the same time?  Why?  Wouldn’t it be better if students could access the type of learning environment they need to be successful at all levels of their education?

I really do think that this is where Online or Blended learning can make a huge difference to students.  By utilizing ed tech and designing learning environments in a variety of ways, we have the ability to reach more learners!  Prompted by the need to help my students who are struggling to attend school, I dove into the design of an online Pre-AP ELA 20 course.  As I continued to work on my course and after getting feedback from my peers in EC&I 834 as well as some of my colleagues IRL, I am confident that I am indeed onto something that could be REALLY GOOD for many students. Why should geography or school size dictate who has access to a particular course?  Why is attendance at a brick and mortar school a requirement for learning?  Shouldn’t we explore options for students who need accommodations?

I have a dream… or maybe the better word is GOAL.  Online AP classes – blended!  Sounds like a James Bond-style recipe for success, in my opinion!

Dream to Reality

 

It is my hope, based on my experiences in my Masters program so far, that I can continue to design learning environments that will help my students and other students in Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division.  There are quite a few schools in our school division, but only a few that have Advanced Placement ELA classes.  I would love to be able to have more students accessing these courses so they have the opportunity my face to face students have – to advance their critical thinking skills and learn university level material and strategies, all while completing the SK Ministry of Education ELA curricula.  A bonus that they get as a result of their hard work is the opportunity to take the international AP exam in their grade 12 year – success on this exam could allow them to bypass the introductory English courses at whatever post-secondary institution they choose. saving them time and money in their program!

I know there are some barriers to having these courses available to all of our students.  Accessibility may be an issue for some.  Our school division works hard to ensure that our schools are connected and have appropriate bandwidth to use for learning purposes.  Many students live in areas where accessing the internet from home is slow, costly, or isn’t always reliable. Therefore, for some students, most of the learning would likely need to take place during school hours.  It might be a logistical nightmare, but maybe there is a way to do a synchronous online component where we all meet up and collaborate!

I’m not naive.  I do know that this all will be much more “difficult” to make into a reality than I am implying here.  Perhaps the most important aspect of this whole situation is the desire to make it happen.  I became a teacher because I care about learning.  I remain a teacher because I care about PEOPLE.  I guess I have some goal setting and planning to do in order to make my dream into a reality.

Thanks to Alec and my classmates for another great semester of learning!  You all inspire me to be a better educator!

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EC&I 834

Blended – A new adventure in Moffatt’s Pre-AP ELA 20!

On days like today when it is minus a million outside and I don’t want to leave my house, the idea of teaching an online course is very appealing.

Why do I live here?

As I thought over the last few weeks about what I would like to design for my project for this class, one of my AP students came to mind.  Facing a variety of health issues, this student has missed quite a number of classes in the last few months.  In a class as rigorous as AP ELA, it is a huge gap of learning that has been missed.  If my classes had access to materials and learning resources online, their worlds would be a lot more awesome.  These are students who are bright, talented, self-motivated, and hard working – the perfect audience for my first attempt at a blended learning environment.  I originally wanted to design something for the second semester of Pre-AP ELA 20, a locally developed course, but there was a last minute hiccup with the Ministry approval and we are now teaching a different course for second semester while we work to perfect our own course.  Hence, I’ve chosen to design my course prototype for Pre-AP ELA 20.  I have the privilege of teaching this course every year in the first semester, so this will give me lots of time to keep going on the course even after EC&I 834 ends!

 

PRE-AP ELA 20 Blended Course

Target Student Population: 

The course will be designed for Pre-AP ELA 20 students.  The students are in grade 11, usually 16-17 years of age.

 

Course Format:

Blended.  Students will attend face to face classes and will access some resources and curricular documents online (assignments, assessments, lessons).

 

Purpose of Course:

AP students are keen learners and are working towards taking the AP international exam in May of their grade 12 year.  At our school, the vertical AP team works together to enhance the regular SK ELA curriculum with AP literature, strategies, and methodology to provide students the tools they require to be successful in writing the AP exam.  Students who obtain a specific rubric mark on the AP exam are exempt from taking the first year ELA course(s) at their chosen post-secondary institution.  The specific rubric level required varies by post secondary institution.

In order to enhance our regular curricula, our vertical team has designed a locally developed course that our AP students take in second semester of grade 11 as an elective course.  In developing a blended learning environment for our Pre-AP 20 students, I hope to provide students with the ability to explore AP specific topics, connect to resources that will supplement the learning they are doing in class, and to become proficient in using the internet and online resources to enhance the learning of content.

By using a blended approach time spent together in person can be used for creative projects, group discussions, and practicing analysis skills for literature.

 

Course Toolset: 

Platform – The course will be available to students through OneNote or Blackboard – I’m still trying to determine which format will be most useful for what I am designing.  These tools are the ones that we will be able to access through our school division.  I’d prefer to try a different platform such as Canvas since it is a bit more familiar to me, but I am going to attempt to use the other(s) so that my school division will provide tech support if needed.

Instructional tools – A variety of online videos that teach or reinforce the content of the face to face class lessons will be utilized.  EdPuzzle is one site I will use for these, as there are some assessment capabilities built into this.  I also want to provide links to various online resources to supplement the curriculum with special consideration given to AP resources.

Communication tools – besides school approved email, each student will develop a blog for writing responses to posed questions and as a way to interact in a meaningful way with their classmates.  We will use WordPress for their blogs, since it is the format with which I am most familiar.  Students also have access to their own personal “notebooks” in OneNote which we can utilize for submitting assignments – the notebooks can only be accessed by me as their teacher.

Assessment tools – I plan to use Classmarker for their practice multiple choice tests they complete for the literature we study.  I will also continue using Kahoot for their “Wordy Wednesday” competitions, and may possibly try out Plickers to see if I like it better than Kahoot!

 

Consideration for Common Concerns:

Low bandwidth – hopefully our school division bandwidth can keep up to the students using the resources while in our building.  The tech geniuses assure me it can! 🙂  Being able to access the course at home will depend on their own internet provider.

 

Student Access to Devices:

Since computers are a limited commodity in our building, I will do my best to be fair to other teachers while still accessing the technology when my students need it.  I will encourage students to bring their own devices (laptop preferably, but tablets/phones will also be welcomed), especially if they want to be able to access the online content everyday.  The public library is an option for those who don’t have online access at home.

 

EAL Learners:

Though I don’t normally encounter many EAL learners who require additional supports in my AP classes (the ones who take AP are proficient), provisions will be made for those who may need to use translation apps or need additional support to read or write the required material.  Read and Write for Google Chrome is one of the tools we use.

 

Attendance Concerns:

One of the benefits to having a blended class is the ability of students to work remotely if they are unable to attend school in person.  The ability to access class work will help prevent students from falling behind if they do have to miss school.

 

Other Considerations:

As an ELA department, we try to be as inclusive as we possibly can with regards to choosing resources that will portray a wide variety of cultures.  We are cognizant of the cultural diversity within our school and community and strive to provide literature that is of appropriate literary merit while remaining diverse and relevant to our students.

 

Learning Objectives:

In addition to the SK ELA outcomes required, student learning will focus on:

  • Reading and discussing works of imaginative literature
  • Utilizing Formalist/New Critical close-reading strategies
  • Applying rhetorical theory and stylistic analysis to oral and visual texts
  • Producing written and representative texts that focus on critical analysis of literature
  • Composing literary commentary
  • Composing expository texts to practice rhetorical strategies
  • Presenting oral arguments supported with multimedia