It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of this course! I have learned a lot in this course and really enjoyed digging into some new technology and reflecting upon how I can implement it in my blended learning classroom. To summarize my learning, I took a risk and tried out Animaker to make an animated video for my final presentation. This proved to be another fun, but also challenging adventure on my content creation journey in this class. I had a lot of fun using Animaker, only to realize once I was done that I couldn’t download the full-length video using the free version! So I borrowed an idea from one of our class discussions, and used Screencastify to record my video. I’m a little sad that some video quality was lost in the recording, but not sad enough to pay for Animaker! I have included two links to my Summary of Learning video to help you access it; the Animaker viewing link that works, but is a little slow to load and the YouTube recording below.
Throughout the duration of this class, I have created a blended learning course targeted towards teaching grade 5 math using both synchronous and asynchronous activities. I have used Google Classroom to create a course shell that includes placeholders for future content, along with the two instructional modules that I created for this course. The modules I have created target the learning outcomes for fractions in the number strand of the Saskatchewan curriculum. To learn more about this course, please take a look at my Course Profile blog post. This profile details each of the elements I’ve included in my course prototype and the rational for each element included.
When I began working on developing this course, I started with a foundation of the elements and blended learning activities that I developed to use with my students during the pandemic. As my course development has progressed, I have developed new ways of creating content for students. One of the most impactful pieces of learning from the readings and activities I worked through in EC&I 834 has been to take a critical look at my course prototype through the lens of accessibility. I have found myself going back to my first module content and assignments multiple times throughout the creation process to review whether my content is accessible, and to make improvements where I felt they were necessary.
The process of creating this course has also given me an opportunity to work with new technology that I previously was not aware of, or felt I did not have the time to dig into. I am really excited about the possibilities for creating content that are now available and have found myself looking for ways to integrate what I have learned into my daily tasks. While creating this course, I have learned to use Explain Everything and Canva, and I have taken my skills with Screencastify and video editing to the next level. I have also taken a closer look at the types of interactions that my course provides for students, and have spent some time further exploring the capabilities for student-student interactions within the Flip platform.
Course Walkthrough & Joining Information
Google Classroom Join Code: l5bcal4
If it’s not possible to get into my Google Classroom, you can use these links to access and view the Daily Boards for Module 1 and Module 2.
There are a variety of interaction forms included in my course prototype. In the physical classroom, students have the opportunity to problem solve together during their math thinking problems and during the different workstations. Students working virtually have the opportunity to provide and reflect upon peer feedback in their Flip video math journals. After reviewing the feedback given to me last week, I have decided to also create a virtual Flip community for my class to share their thinking and problem solving strategies when completing the math thinking problems by Peter Liljedahl. Students in the face-to-face classroom have the opportunity to interact directly with the teacher during the teacher table workstation. The instructor is also available to provide feedback and interact with students during the thinking problem and exit ticket at the end of the lesson. Online, students receive feedback on their work directly through Google Classroom. Students also receive teacher responses to their Flip video math journal entries.
I’ve chosen to use Flip as the main form of student-student interaction in this course as it is easy for me as the instructor to set-up discussion topics and moderate student responses as needed. I appreciate the variety of options that Flip provides for teachers when setting up discussion grids, and students are easily able to create content and respond to their peers after a brief learning period. To ensure that interactions are meaningful and supportive in the Flip, I spend time with my class co-constructing a behaviour rubric, similar to the workstation behaviour rubric that is posted in my course. This allows students to set the criteria for responding to peer journals, and helps to keep them accountable to the expectations they have decided on together. The rubric also provides an opportunity for students to engage in self-reflection and assessment of their online work and behaviour. I feel it is important to note that these rubrics are not used for formal student assessment, they are solely used for student reflection, discussion of expected classroom behaviours, and classroom management. I will post an example of a Flip response rubric in my course prototype with the next module.
While completing this week’s readings about building community, particularly the article by Parrish, I found myself reflecting on teaching through COVID. When the pandemic began, colleagues and I noticed when we went online that students who were more connected in the classroom, were more willing to ‘show up’ online. Those who were not regularly included in the classroom community did not engage online. I remember having the discussions with colleagues about students who weren’t joining the online discussions, but they were finishing assignments. We would express our frustration with these students not logging in and joining class discussions because, as teachers, we know the rich conversation and connections that can happen during conversation. At the same time, however, several of these ‘absent’ students were completing their online work with accuracy, so the questions soon became, “How do we measure their success with online learning? Does attendance matter?” Inevitably, the conversation would always return to the point of allowing grace for students who were thrust online while suddenly living in a pandemic, and we accepted whatever we could get from them. We were just happy to be able to continue teaching and connecting with our students in whatever way we could.
I wonder (with the benefit of hindsight) if our online courses would have had higher engagement if the focus at the beginning had been on building community. For myself, in the division I was working in at the time, the focus from the top-down was simply, get students online and focus on math and ELA as soon as possible. I think teaching through COVID and asking these questions raised awareness of asynchronous models of teaching and has created an atmosphere where different modes of learning and content delivery are more acceptable and more readily available, particularly in the elementary classroom. While pandemic teaching was challenging, I think it created a kind of catalyst event in that it has shifted perceptions of blended and online learning. Colleagues of my own are now more open to the capabilities of technology and using them more comfortably in their day-to-day teaching than they had before being pushed online in 2020.
I received some great feedback about my course and it seems that overall it was easy to navigate and understand each component. I did receive some questions and have reflected upon the feedback I received, which I have tried to answer and share my thoughts about below.
Thinking Problem – In the feedback provided, a question was raised about how students submit their work for the thinking problem warm-up, which is modelled on the work of Peter Liljedahl. Because the main purpose of this task is for students to work together to problem solve, I have not made it a priority task for students to complete when working from home. The most I have done in the past is to create a question in Google Classroom with the problem so students can post their answers. When reflecting on this routine now, I see that there are other ways I could be asking student to complete the thinking problems and provide me with more substantial evidence of their problem solving, such as recording their thinking in a Flip response.
Math Stations – In my module, I have set up 4 math stations for students to work through during the math class. The feedback I received asked for further explanation of the activities at each station, which I will provide here, and be sure to include in my work moving forward. Students in the class are arranged into groups and each start at a different workstation, pre-determined by the teacher.
Teacher Table – Students working at this station receive a math mini-lesson and spend some time working through examples with the teacher.
Finish & Reflect – Here, students spend time finishing the assignment that was started at teacher table, followed by a self-reflection about their learning for the day. (students who start at this station continue work from the previous day)
Multiplication War – This station is designed to provide students with additional time to practice their multiplication fact fluency in a game format.
Splash Math – During this station, students work on an assignment related to the current unit of study on the Splash Math website.
When looking at future planning for my course prototype, I have begun to spend more time considering whether or not the content I am creating is accessible to more audiences. For instance, after creating the outline of the virtual word walls for my math modules, I then took time to reflect on the information included within and took steps to attempt to make the content more accessible. I started by including a short video clip on each slide that reads the content of the slide, to hopefully eliminate any reading or EAL barriers. I chose to use a video rather than audio only in each slide to provide the visual of what it looks like when the words are spoken. I also spent time thinking about how to make my content more accessible on mobile devices as students do not always have Chromebooks or laptops at home. One small step I’ve taken has been to ensure that I create slide decks in 4:3 format so that they fit better and are more easily visible on smaller screens.
When reading chapter 9 of the Bates text, I spent a lot of time reflecting on technology use in my own school and school division. I feel there are still some limitations based on available technology as Bates outlines with the excerpt from Mackenzie (2002). While there are an immense number of technological options now available to teachers, blended learning environments are still frequently limited by licensing factors and division permissions. Thankfully, I work in a school division that, in my opinion, is dedicated to the use of reliable and cost effective technology. We have a strong IT department that is dependable and available for trouble shooting without much wait time. Before reading this chapter, I had not considered the costs behind maintaining a suitable level of technology integration that it takes to run a school division.
Here it is! The first course module for my grade 5 math course prototype. This is an introductory module focused on creating equivalent fractions. The lesson for this module is on creating equivalent fractions. There is a mini lesson for students to view, followed by an assignment to complete from their math textbooks. Following the assignment, student understanding is formatively assessed through the creation of a 1 minute reflection in their Flip Video Math Journal, and then an Edpuzzle exit ticket.
If you would like to try to join my Google Classroom to have a look, the join code is: l5bcal4 I have also done a video walk through of my course module, just in case you’re not able to access my Google Classroom. This is the link to the Daily Board that I mention in my video walk through. If you would like to take a closer look at the different learning tasks I’ve included in this module, you will be able to do so through the Daily Board.
Explain Everything Whiteboard is a digital teaching tool that is available for use on various platforms. The tool allows for real time collaboration with some slick collaboration tools to help keep everyone working in the same whiteboard space. Explain Everything (EE) goes beyond what you might expect in a standard whiteboard app that can insert pictures and drawings. EE lets you take your lessons even further by adding animations and recording your lessons. EE is available to use for free with limited capabilities, however the free version does allow full access to all of the whiteboard and recording tools. There is a 7 or 14 day free trial option available as well, but it does require signing up a payment method. There is even an option to become an Explain Everything expert with three different levels of Certification Courses available.
Explain Everything can be downloaded and used on a variety of platforms. While completing this review, I used the free trial version on my laptop, iPhone and iPad. I did have to use an older version of the App on my iPad as my device is too old to run the newest version of EE. I used my school Chromebook to try out the Google Play version of the app. All three platforms work very similarly, however the app seems to run best on touch screen capable devices. So far, only the iOS app has the capability for working with 3D models, and there are some glitches. Hopefully 3D capability will work across all of the apps very soon as there are a lot of fun possibilities there.
LMS integration is available within the class and school plans. While their home page doesn’t specify that you can connect your EE account to your Teams classroom, I did discover through playing that there is an option to share presentations directly to Teams from the website app. You can easily create and manage shareable links to presentations within the app. There do seem to be some issues with connecting to other LMS platforms from the app. I did attempt to integrate the Canvas account I recently created to EE, but the process seems beyond my tech abilities and I found it frustrating to not be able to easily connect the two accounts. EE does let you generate links to your presentations, so I was easily able to post them to my Canvas course that way.
Explain Everything has a ton of resources and tools available to help users get the most out of using the whiteboard app. There seems to be a tutorial, webinar, step by step guide or blog post for everything the app can do. I appreciated that it was so easy to access the knowledge base using each of the apps. There are several step-by-step videos, and the Explain Everything Blog has how-to posts and interesting reads to help users of all levels get more out of the EE app.
What I love about this app:
When working in a project, you have the option to turn your microphone on to record your voice as you create and record a lesson. The microphone capability within the app also lets you talk to collaborators on a project in real time through the app.
There are three different sharing options, Open Collaboration, Presentation, and Interactive Broadcast. In open collaboration, the host has the ability to have all collaborators follow their activities in real time to see what they see. For instance, if the host zooms in, or pans the board in any direction, or moves to a different slide in the project, the same thing happens on collaborators screens. While collaborators do have the option to unfollow the host, the host can make users come back to following them at any time and turn on/off the interface controls for collaborators. The host can also transfer host and following privileges to other collaborators.
The iPhone app has a practice option with challenges & rewards that teach you how to use the app. Completing the training challenges unlocks new templates, which is super fun if you enjoy getting stars and earning free things (What teacher doesn’t?). The challenges are quick and simple to complete, build upon each other, and teach you how to use the app in a fun and interactive way.
THE PEN MARKS MOVE WITH THE FORM/IMAGE – this is a big deal for me. If you’re working on annotating a worksheet or image in a whiteboard app, there is nothing more frustrating to me than when you need to move the image and the pen marks don’t go with it. I love that this app automatically groups pen marks to the image they are layered with. On the flip of that, it is just as easy to move the pen marks or image away from each other when you want to.
Video editing is embedded within the app. You can record your lesson, make your edits, and then share your lesson all from within EE.
What I didn’t love about this app:
It is a little bit overwhelming to know where to start with all of the tools and training options that are available.
The iOS and Google apps seem much more intuitive, and I found them easier to use than the Web App. The Google Play and web version were not able to work with 3D models and the web app couldn’t display or interact with equations. This may be frustrating and difficult for users who don’t have school devices capable of using the Apple or Google Play apps.
When using the free app, collaborations are limited to 3 minutes of video recording time, collaboration sessions are limited to 15 minutes, and you can only create 3 projects. While the app is still useable in the free version, the limitations certainly push for users to upgrade to the paid version.
Accessing the library of 3D models requires a Sketchfab account. It’s simple enough to create one to gain access to the 3D models, I personally just didn’t love having to have another account for another thing. I also found it difficult to use the Sketchfab search engine through the EE iPhone app.
EE does provide a warning the first time you access Sketchfab that some inappropriate images or items may appear, despite efforts to filter them. This does appear to be a problem as I found a model of male genitalia would come up each time I went into the 3D model bank. Thankfully, this only shows up for the person searching, and doesn’t show up in recordings or presentations.
I have tried a few free whiteboard apps since the pandemic began, and always found myself giving up on them because they wouldn’t do what I wanted them to, or they felt too cumbersome to figure out. For that reason, I chose to try Explain Everything to see if it was any different. I was very skeptical about the app to start with, but as I took the time to sit down with Explain Everything and really dive into its features, I was pleasantly surprised and even excited about what it can do.
While exploring EE, I have found myself proclaiming, ‘What?! Are you serious?! That’s so cool!’ I’ve startled the dog out of her naps several times. She’s quit napping nearby; clearly she doesn’t get as excited about Ed Tech as I do. In my opinion, Explain Everything has what it takes to be a very effective teaching tool for teachers instructing in online and blended environments. The app does take some time to learn initially, but once you dive in, the possibilities of what can be done seem endless. This blog post on Gamification in the ELA classroom provided some great information about what EE can do. I know I will be using EE in the creation of content for my course prototype, and I can see several applications for it within my day-to-day work and teaching as well.
Below is a slideshow I have created to share my course profile. Within each area of my course profile, I have included my rationale as to why I have developed the course the way that I have. I have created this course with the intent that it is a course framework I would use throughout an entire school year within a grade 5 math classroom. This presentation contains several links to different websites which can be opened by right clicking on the links in the slideshow below. The slideshow can also be found at this link.
Throughout my teaching career, I have strived to find meaningful ways to integrate technology into day-to-day routines. My earliest memory of working to integrate technology in the classroom is working one-on-one with a grade 6 student and teacher to learn to useDragon Naturally Speaking to support the student with their classroom writing. I remember feeling frustrated at the time because we had a vision of how we wanted the technology to work inclusively within the classroom, but the software just wasn’t capable of doing what we needed it to do in a noisy and active classroom. Eventually, we agreed that we were spending most of our time learning and adapting to the technology rather than the technology helping the student succeed in their writing.
When I think back to the time and energy spent trying to use Dragon and compare it to the multitude of apps that are now being used in classrooms on a daily basis, the progress made is breathtaking! I have always been excited about edtech and the possibilities for enriching learning experiences through its use; however, I know that is not the experience of many of my colleagues. I’ve often advocated for the purchase of new devices and apps to try with students and currently have the role of Technology Lead Teacher in my school. When colleagues come to me with edtech questions and ideas, I find it exciting and rewarding to explore new ways of integrating technology into student’s day-to-day instruction.
As I reflect on my own experiences using technology in the classroom andsection 4.2 in William’s book, Old wine in new bottles, I find myself with more and more questions about the use of technology in the classroom and how we’ve gotten to where we are. The scenarios provided in the book reference post-secondary learning environments and during my reading I would often pause to reflect on what those scenarios would look like in a K-7 classroom. I feel that most of the online learning models discussed in the chapter would be quite ineffective in elementary and middle years classrooms. Throughout the pandemic, a lament often made by myself and my colleagues was the daily struggle of being able to truly engage young learners through technology and the seemingly endless mountain of hurdles to clear just to get students online, let alone engaged with their learning.
After my experiences with pre and post pandemic teaching, and now having read William’s chapter onMethods of Teaching with an Online Focus, I wonder more about the significance of the target audience in blended learning. Clearly, as with any design for learning, the audience plays a significant role in how subject knowledge will be shared. I am curious how, or if, the diversity between elementary, secondary, and post-secondary audiences has affected the integration of technology in each of the different learning environments. My own experiences with blended learning only extend to grade 7. I learned quite quickly in my own classroom that if the technology being used was in addition to learning, instead of to support student engagement with knowledge being studied, the students were off task and disengaged from learning. I assume this to be true across all age groups, however I do wonder if some of the more intrinsic capacity of secondary and post-secondary students to persevere and stick with their learning has had any impact on the evolution of blended learning at those levels.
When I think back to my own experiences with blended learning in my university education, it often felt like the online portions of each class were simply additional work and I never felt engaged or that my learning was enriched by those experiences. As a result, I would find myself wanting to skip them altogether if I felt their weighted mark was not worth the time to do the work. Comparing that online learning experience to my experiences so far in this course, I already feel more connected to the instruction and content being studied.
My name is Amy, and I live in Shaunavon Saskatchewan with my dog, Roxie. I am currently in my second year as Vice Principal of Shaunavon Public School, and I absolutely love my career!
I have been teaching in Canada for 17 years, with the majority of my career being spent in rural Saskatchewan. My experiences include teaching student services for 10 years, teaching a variety of subject areas from kindergarten to grade 7, and teaching in a small private school in Ontario.