Originally, I thought of curriculum as a straitjacket, comforting yet restricting. Curriculum to me as an educator is comforting, it gives me clear structure and guidelines and supports my decisions in the classroom. Curriculum continues (and will continue) to provide me with justification of the content I choose to put in my classroom. Furthermore, I still see curriculum as restricting. Despite the recent improvement in B.C.’s curriculum, I think there is still more to do. For example, indigenous content is included, but the sense of colonial ties is still very strong (especially in the academic courses.) Additionally, curriculum can become a sort of check list, where teachers (myself included) fall back into old habits and teach to cover content rather than to develop skills and understanding. True to my original comparison, I still believe that curriculum has the potential to be magically creative and transformative, despite the comfort and restriction.
Although I dream of amazing classes, with well-integrated curriculum and active learning opportunities, I find it challenging to revolutionize my teaching pedagogy in practice. As of now, I lack the skills, time, and resources to make significant change in my curriculum and have had to settle with small changes over time. Not to say this is an invalid way of learning, it’s just frustratingly slow. I have found that the more I learn about teaching, the more I want to change, learn, and grow my pedagogy.
To me curriculum is (still) like a straitjacket, maybe it is because I have not taken ownership of the curriculum or I just cannot get the simile out of my brain. Either way, curriculum is still comforting and restricting. What has changed is my outlook on the opportunity curriculum provides. Included in my original simile, I discussed how curriculum can ignite curiosity, increase exploration, entertain, and create a space for learning. And although I believed this to be true at the time, I have learned how integral this inventiveness is to education and curriculum.
Curriculum documents can only take you so far. It is up to educators to develop lessons and create a learning environment. What I have learned is that teachers (myself) need to take ownership of the curriculum. Yes, it is important that the government provided “guidelines” include decolonization and digitization in the document. But that does not mean the teachers (again, I am talking to myself here) cannot include it on their own. I have been stuck in this idea that the content in the curriculum document should be included first, and then IF there is time, I can include things that are important to me. But I have been completely wrong. I do not need to wait for the curriculum to catch up to the times, but rather I can make changes in my own classroom when I see fit.
I have come to realize that the curriculum as presented in the document is much different than the lived curriculum experienced by my students. Student learning is far more reliant on the educational experience created by the teacher, than by the curriculum documents. I have full control over the learning environment that I establish for my students. I may not have control over the curriculum, but I can determine how to teach the content, and which skills to develop. As an educator, I have control of the lived curriculum, and that is a new sense of ownership for me. Previously I have felt controlled by curriculum and now I am empowered by it. Understanding that lived curriculum is under my control will influence how I plan my classes moving forward.
Although we have taken steps towards decolonizing the curriculum, it still a separate entity. I believe it is up to the educators to incorporate indigenous perspectives of knowing into the content – despite what the curriculum content outlines. Some of the barriers that I face is a lack of knowing HOW to decolonize curriculum. In social studies, indigenous perspectives are easily included as topics of discussion, however, integrating First Peoples ways of knowing into every class is still something I am working on.
The same goes for digitization, although it is recommended that teachers integrate technology, purposefully incorporating digital tools is harder than you think. It is easy to provide students with a digital copy of the textbook and get them to respond to the reading on an online platform. But I would argue, this is not true digitization. Integrating technology into meaningful learning experiences is a vital pursuit of education. Not only will it help students develop crucial 21st century skills, it can also help increase student engagement. Educators should rethink how they deliver curriculum and consider lived curriculum, decolonization, and digitization.
All these ideas depend on teachers’ resources, skills, and time. But I believe it is still a worthy pursuit. Moving forward I want to create intentional lesson plans that consider the curriculum as a platform for innovation, rather than just a comfortable restriction that teachers deal with. I hope to dedicate more of my personal time, developing my own understanding of the curriculum, to restructure how I present content and ideas to students. Furthermore, I plan to look for professional development opportunities that will aid my own skill development and create space for collaboration.
Co-Authored by experienced educators in online learning who teach at a distance learning school. These resources were created through experience and supported by academic research. The created resources are current (created July 2020), relevant (addresses assessment learning outcomes), authoritative (co-created by educators who are students in a Master of Education program), accurate and purposeful (instructional demonstration).
Our group focused on assessment as a learning outcome. We created several outcomes that highlight the important features of assessing in an online environment. We chose to create three resources to address the following learning outcomes.
1) Identify self-assessment tools that allow students to engage with content through:Explanation , Justification , and Personal connection.
2) Investigate and utilize various forms of formative and summative assessment for online learning environments.
3) Develop a variety of assessment methods to engage students in a subject area using technology: consider teaching/learning environment (online vs.blended), personalized to consider student needs, voice and choice , and use assessment to inform instruction
4) Construct timely assessment or appropriate support to ensure student success: check-ins, support blocks, office hours, communication home .
myBlueprint Assessment Strategies:
The myBlueprint video below, is a resource that demonstrates how to utilize myBlueprint as an assessment tool. Students can reflect, explain, justify and demonstrate personal connections through written, video and audio submissions. It is important that teachers choose accessible digital tools for student assessment. Teachers can give valuable and timely feedback on all submissions. This platform allows for continual student-teacher communication, which directly improves student learning.
Formative and Summative Assessment in an Online Environment:
The Infographic below outlines various assessment strategies for both formative and summative assessment. It details which digital tools are well suited to assess students in both online learning and classroom environments. It is important that both formative and summative assessment are imbedded in all learning environments where teachers use a variety of assessment strategies to inform their teaching practices and evaluate students’ learning.
The instructional videos below demonstrate how to structure a class on the Moodle learning platform in order to achieve timely assessment. Moodle was selected to demonstrate what the framework can look like under one central learning management system. Other systems such as Blackboard and Canvas, or combination like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teamscan use the same formatting framework.
1) Weekly Schedule
3) Student Activity
Created Resources – evaluated using the CRAAP test
This resource is current (created July 2020), relevant (addresses assessment learning outcomes), authoritative (co-created by educators who are students in a Master of Education program), accurate and purposeful (instructional demonstration). Video is instructional and informative on how to use myBlueprint program to assess students’ understanding. This video was created by distance learning educators in a Master of Educationprogram to demonstrate how the digital tool can be used for both formative and summative assessments.
Formative and Summative Assessment in an Online Environment Infographic.:
This resource is current (created July 2020), relevant (addresses assessment learning outcomes), authoritative (co-created by distance learning educators who are students in a Master of Education program), accurate and purposeful (collection of digital tools related to assessment).Infographic addresses various forms of assessment within an online environment. Created by distance learning educators in a Master of Education program to inform other teachers of ways to assess students. The infographic provides suggestions of digital tools that can be integrated into various classroom environments including online contexts.
Moodle Formatting for Timely Feedback:
This resource is current (created July 2020), relevant (addresses assessment learning outcomes), authoritative (co-created by distance learning educators who are students in a Master of Education program), accurate and purposeful (instructional demonstration).These videos are to help teachers who are looking for structures or supports in building their online classroom. Moodle was selected to demonstrate what the framework can look like under one central learning management system. Other systems such as Blackboard and Canvas, or combination like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teamscan use the same formatting framework.
Assessment is a crucial component of learning used in both K-12 and post-secondary education.In order to support other educators, we wanted to examine assessment through the lens of an online learning environment.Assessment is meant to focus on “student involvement and authentic, meaningful assessment, leading to the development of a variety of assessment forms” (Weurlanderet al., 2012).Quality assessment requires knowledge of provincial curriculum frameworks, district vision and goals, as well as teachers’ expertise with traditional and online tools to support it. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on competence-based curriculum focusing on “capability rather than factual knowledge” (Weurlanderet al., 2012). The resources we curated as well as the resources we created are supported by research and support our learning outcomes.
Formative and summative assessment are vital aspects of all learning environments. Formative assessment informs teachers of students ongoing learning and understanding, whereas summative is a final capturing of students overall learning. According to Weurlanderet al. (2012) formative assessment can influence “students’ learning in a number of ways. It sends messages about what counts as important knowledge; it has an impact on students’ approach to learning and gives feedback to students about their learning” (p. 749). Additionally, they included research that found formative assessment “positive[ly] impact[s] student learning” (p. 749). When considering or creating assessment, it is important to include a variety of “assessment tasks [as they] have the potential to support student learning in different ways” (p.758). Moreover, a multitude of assessment strategies, including collaborative and blended learning approaches, increases student engagement (Vaughan, 2014).
Summative assessment is meant to be a final snapshot of students learning.However, it can exclude learners or create anxiety whenthe stakes are high for a singular assessmentfor both in-person and online learning environments states that,“[h]igh– stakes tests are inevitably designed to be as ‘objective’ as possible, since there is a premium on reliable marking in the interests of fairness. This has the effect of reducing what is assessed to what can be readily and reliably marked. Generally, this excludes many worthwhile outcomes of education such as problem-solving and critical thinking” (p. 209).
Another concern about high-stakes summative assessments is that they mayencourage cheating,a pressing concern for teachers,particularlyin an online environment (Mellar et at.,2018).Creating a variety of authentic summative assessments and giving students choice can help to ensure their validity (Mellar et al., 2018). Therefore, it is imperative that students are provided with a variety of summative assessments withlow stakes when teaching online.
When integrating formative and summative assessment strategies, teachers should consider the quantity, as creating too many assessments to track student progress can have a negativeimpact(Vaughan, 2014).This also restricts teachers from providing timely feedback to their students, a key component of successful online learning(Gaytan and Mcewen, 2007).“Feedback is therefore a keycomponent in formative assessment, and students need to understand and be able to act on the feedback they receive in order to improve their learning”(Black and Wiliam 1998; Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006; Sadler 1989, 1998; as cited in Weurlander et al.,2012., p. 748). Furthermore, Shea and Bidjerano (2010) discovered that teaching presence along with teaching students the technological skills they need to complete and navigate given tasks leads to “successful online learning” (p. 1727). Thus, well planned online learning experiences along with feedback, help and encouragement also improves learning success for at risk learners (Hughes, 2007).
In conclusion, when considering online or in-personteaching environments, summative and formative assessments are vital.Formative assessment should be used to continually check in with students about their understanding of content, leading into a summative review of their learning. When assessing students, a variety of tools and strategies should be used in order to reach all learners for both types ofassessments. Overall, the focus of this project was to provide teachers with a realistic and comprehensive overview of what assessment in classroom and online environments could entail.
Mellar, H., Peytcheva-Forsyth, R., Kocdar, S., Karadeniz, A., & Yovkova, B. (2018). Addressing cheating in e-assessment using student authentication and authorship checking systems: teachers’ perspectives. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-018-0025-x
Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2010). Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of a communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments. Computers & Education, 55(4), 1721–1731. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.07.017
Weurlander, W., & Soderberg, M., & Scheja, M., & Hakan, H., & Wernerson, A., (2012).Exploring formative assessment as a tool for learning: students’ experiences of different methods of formative assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 37.(6). 747-760, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2011.572153
Co-Authored by Faune Nicholas, Jerry Chien, Leanne Huston, and Rochelle Smith
As educators, assessment is a large part of our job and there are a vast number of tools and pedagogies available. Therefore, as a group we chose to look at thespecific aspects of assessment and online assessment tools for the current time we are in, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We first created a set of learning outcomes for assessment (see below), then our curated list and finally we collaborated on a blog post.The key to Unlocking Assessmentseeks to provide educators with ideas of how to transitioninto the blended and online learning environmentthat will likely be our reality in the fall.These sources, strategies, and tools were chosen with a critical lens in order to provide practical resources for the everyday educator.The remainder of this postprovides our rationale behind thiscuration.We focused on a rangeof resourcesfrom connections to ministry curriculum, different types and formats of assessments, tools to conduct them, and opportunities for professional development. To achieve this, we examinedgovernment and university articles, commercial enterprises, as well as public/private blogs. The CRAAP test was applied to each entry, to evaluate whether they were: Current, Relevant, Accredited, Accurate, and Purposeful. There were only a few resources in our curated list that did not meet every aspect of the test, however they were included for the following reasons.
Old ministry document:This document is not considered current as it was created in 1994.However, the PDFs are still useful as a starting point for educators; although some adjustments will need to be made in order to address updated curriculum. Included in the list are the updated curriculum resources.
Raising Standards Through ClassroomAssessment:A 2001 summary of a 1998literature review that provides a detailed outline of the important building blocks of assessment by answering the questions of why assessment is important and how it aids learners. It focuses specifically on formative assessment for learning. Although the literature review was written over 20 years ago the information provided is still applicable to today’s learners and educators.
Assessing the Online Learner:Does not contain a specific date but does contain referenced work from 2007, therefore we can reasonably conclude that it was written sometime after this. The information shared is applicable, purposeful, reliable, accurateand could be a very useful resource for teachers.
Learning Outcomes for Assessment:
Identify self-assessment tools that allow students to engage with content through:
Build and apply rubrics and scales to assess curricular competencies.
Investigate and utilize various forms of formative and summative assessment for online learning environments.
Develop a variety of assessmentmethodsto engage students in a subject area using technology.
Consider teaching/learning environment (online vs blended)
Personalized to consider student needs.
Voice and choice
Use assessment to inform instruction
Construct timely assessment or appropriate support to ensure student success.
Our next step is to create resources and evidence informed content that willauthentically assess student understanding, in our newlearning context. Additionally, we aim to aid educators in developing their own assessment skills, strategies, and tools, that will fit bothin-class, blended and online environments.
I am a kinesthetic learner. I learn best through doing and hands on activities. Fortunately for me, this I not the only way I can learn. When I reflect on my own education, the learning experiences that stand out the most were from participating in athletics. Things like teamwork, collaboration, perseverance, hard work, determination, leadership, communication, decision making and goal setting. I would argue that these skills have been more useful in my adult life than other academic information like Pythagorean theorem or that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
To be clear, athletics and sports are not the only place to learn these valuable skills. There are many avenues to learn life skills, however in my experience they are most often learned through ACTIVE participation. Active learning strategies can be a variety of learning opportunities that include games, group activities, and hands on learning.
As an educator it is ESPECIALLY important that I provide students with the opportunity to actively learn. In physical and health education this is easy, however in socials studies, I have needed to be a little more creative. I have hosted jousting tournaments and built games that replicate historical events, like my version of Catan that displays a medieval economy. Additionally, I have tried to increase collaborative student group work and decrease teacher lecture time.
Active Learning Strategies continue to kindle my interest, especially how they can engage students and what they could look like in an online environment. Roehl, Reddy, & Shannon, (2013) describe active learning methods as educational activities that involve students in interactive opportunities and encourage them to think about what they are doing. Moreover, when implementing active learning strategies, it is vital that class time is “devoted to problem solving, skill development, and gaining a deeper understanding of the subject matter.” (Roehl et al., p. 46). In addition, students who learn actively, acquire skills to transfer knowledge to different contexts and demonstrate deeper understanding of course content. (“Using Active Learning in the Classroom”, 2011).
While researching further into active learning, I am both astonished by the variety and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ideas. The first thing that I have learned is that COLLABORATION is key. To create effective active learning strategies, that are reasonable for teachers to implement, educators need to work together. The second thing I was reminded of, was that it is better to TRY an active learning strategy and FAIL, then to slide back into lecture style teaching (however tempting it may be).
But what does that mean for the online environment? Teachers are now facing a new era of education, where the classroom is evolving into digital environments. It is not enough to digitize a textbook to post online, the key is to develop interactive digital content “that support learning objectives” (Austin & Mescia, n.d., p.1), and are different than a traditional class. Although daunting, we as educators have an amazing opportunity to rethink our teaching strategies and be completely creative in how we deliver active learning opportunities.
I believe the first step is to re-examine the curriculum. Determine what is most important for students to KNOW and what SKILLS are the most important for them to develop. Then we can create meaningful learning experiences for students using digital platforms. With the aid of online synchronous meeting platforms, and many digital tools, educators can create a space that will allow students to interact with one another and participate in active learning.
Looking towards September, and the new school year I want to re-examine my curriculum and see where I can infuse active learning experiences. From what I have learned, active learning can easily take over a classroom, and replace previous teaching strategies. In doing so, students will be given the opportunity to develop vital life skills while developing deeper understanding of the content. Ideally, I would not spend any synchronous class time lecturing my students. Instead all class time would be dedicated to group work, class activities, and hands on learning. Admittedly, I am at least a few years away from revolutionizing my teaching practices, but I am determined to work on it. I still believe that Active Learning could be the key to engaging students in skill development and ownership over their education.
Roehl, A., Reddy, S. L., & Shannon, G. J. (2013). The Flipped Classroom: An Opportunity To Engage Millennial Students Through Active Learning Strategies. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 105(2), 44–49. doi: 10.14307/jfcs105.2.12
I am back everyone! Here to bewilder and amaze you in my journey through this Master of Education.
This summer I have 2 masters courses (as a student), in addition to developing and re-designing my own courses (as an educator). Besides this being a lofty goal, lets address the elephant in the room. Educators have no idea what their classes will look like in the fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This adds a whole new level to, well lets face it, EVERYTHING. Not only does my planning for fall, need to alter, and allow for the unknown. My view on every topic and discussion is coloured by our new reality as educators.
Okay now to the point of this post – here we go again.
It feels as if every time I THINK I’ve figured this “teachin” thing out, something changes. Yes, this keeps us on our toes, and provides ample opportunities to refine and evaluate educational pedagogies. And yes, if things didn’t change, our jobs as educators would get very boring. But I (naively) thought I would have one year without major adjustments. But here we go again, another opportunity to reflect on my own practices, courses, and pedagogies, to (hopefully) make meaningful changes.
So where do we start? Well from the end of course.
Once you know where you want to end (learning objective, goals, etc.) then it is far easier to plan HOW to get to WHAT you want to accomplish. Once educators set their end goals, then they will be able to plan accordingly. This provides some flexibility in the “how”, which is extremely important when there are multiple unknowns. I wish I could give you a better idea of what to do at this point, but I can’t. All I know is I need to determine my end point to clear a path. We may not know what that looks like yet, but we’ll get there eventually.
I leave you with the inspirational lyrics of Whitesnake:
“No, I don’t know where I’m goin’; But I sure know where I’ve been”
“Though I keep searchin’ for an answer; I never seem to find what I’m lookin’ for”
“And here I go again on my own; Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known”
Good Luck Fellow Educators! Here’s to us once again finding a way in a new/unknown situation.
To me curriculum is like a straitjacket … comforting yet restricting.
Like a well swaddled infant, a straitjacket provides a nice hug of support and reassurance. The curriculum does the same. Curriculum provides structure and guidance for teachers to plan their lessons. It gives clear goals to attain, and ideas on which areas are most important. Additionally, the curriculum ensures that topics are not repeated in different grades.
Curriculum (and straitjackets) give a visual explanation to outside viewers of WHY the teacher is acting the way they are. For example, in physical and health education, I was questioned (more than once) on why I had included dance as an activity (among other things). I responded by directing the ‘questioners’ to BC’s new curriculum which clearly outlines the importance of participating in a variety of activities including rhythmic activities. Curriculum, like a straitjacket, provides support and comfort for educators.
Despite the comfort we may feel, straitjackets are restricting, as is the curriculum. Curriculum limits what content a teacher covers and how much time they spend on it. The curricular objectives becomes a checklist, where educators focus on covering all the content rather than developing their students understanding.
Adhering strictly to the curriculum, limits teachers and their interests to a set of subscribed expectations. Much like a straitjacket, curriculum is often ill-fitting, and prevents students from exploring and developing their personal interests. For example, I teach is independent directed study, which allows students to create their own project, in their area of interest. However, a major challenge I face is finding curriculum that will accurately represent their creative ideas, and evaluate the work they put in. Both straitjackets and curriculum are restricting to whomever is using them.
Despite the conflicting feelings, curriculum (and straitjackets) can also be a form of entertainment and inspire teachers to do amazing things. Like the great Harry Houdini, teachers can use the curriculum to entertain, amaze and inspire their students.
Curriculum can introduce a crowd to new ideas and an innovative way of doing things. Additionally, curriculum can ignite curiosity, provoke wondering and create a space for learning.
Within the curriculum, teachers can create personalized learning opportunities for their students. And provide a space to explore, interact, and develop as individuals. Just because there are guidelines doesn’t mean that there isn’t also autonomy and inventiveness..
To me curriculum is like a straitjacket. It serves a clear purpose, has both positive and negative aspects and is a fascinating topic to discuss, with endless opportunities for the creative.
Admittedly before I read the article Coding in the curriculum: Fad or foundational? I did NOT think that coding should be considered foundational in education. I am not a coding person; I haven’t spent the time developing the skills and I don’t find it all that interesting.
However, coding isn’t necessarily about creating expert coders. It is more about building computational thinking and other soft skills. It enables students create, try, fail, problem solve, adjust and try again. The inherent value of coding is more than the direct connection to curriculum.
I am a physical and health educator. I have a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and specialized in physical education in my professional development program. I believe participation in physical activity and sports is essential for developing important life skills like perseverance, leadership, teamwork, respect, hard work, time management and many more. Where the article won me over is when it outlined the importance of the skills that are learnt through coding, the same as individuals learn skills through active participation.
With this in mind, why wouldn’t you include coding into education? Why wouldn’t teachers want to include the development of 21st century skills. When students learn to code, they also learn how to communicate with precision and accuracy, as well as creatively solve problems. Additionally, some students may find their passion area, and then be able to pursue coding further.
I believe that coding among other digital literacies should be integrated into education, either as a separate course or within other subjects. The more exposure we can give students to a variety of skills with inherent value the better.
Integrating digital tools into the classroom seems to be the trendiest topic in education. But its more than just using digital tools, its about selecting the best tool that will accomplish a specific task and support an intentional learning experience.
I will fully admit to adding technology for technologies sake in many of my lessons. This was not intentional, but a result of me not fully understanding how the technology works and how it could be applied in the lesson. For example, getting students to use a digital platform to post a written composition of their understanding is no different than them writing a paragraph in class.
FEAR NOT! This is not the only way to inte
grate technology, digital tools or social media platforms. There are projects and assignments that allow students to use digital tools to create something new and unique AND help them understand course content on another level.
Now here’s the part of the blog where you (the reader) thinks I have all the answers. Well I’m sorry to say I do NOT. However, here are a few of my attempts (both good and bad) to intentionally and meaningfully integrate digital tools into my students’ learning.
HISTORICAL CHARACTER PROFILE: Students were given a character description of rebellion leader from some point in 20th century history. They then created a name, profile, and background for that character on a social media site such as: instagram, snap chat, twitter, facebook, or tik tok. Students did not have to post the profile but did have to format it in the same way. After creating the profile, students had to make several posts/entries about the time in history that this character existed. For example, if they were apart of a political protest, the students would create a post about that event.
KAHOOT: Kahoot is a favorite of my students, so I thought I would flip its use from me testing their knowledge, to them showing me their understanding. Although it was fun, I found that kahoot was not a great demonstration of their understanding. However, it was a great way to get to know students and share a li
HOW TO VIDEO: I have used the how-to video format in several ways. In physical education I have students teach me a sports skill of their choice. This allows me to see the physical skills, but also makes students think about how a movement skill is broken into steps. The other way I have used the how-to video is in inquiry. Students were asked to learn a new skill and then create a step by step instructional video to teach someone else their new skill.
I think the most important thing as teachers we can do is TRY! Try new things, implement technologies and digital tools and see what happens. The only way we can build skills to integrate digital tools purposefully into educational pedagogy is to try. I do not know about you, but I learn the most when I make a mistake. Moving forward in my teaching I plan to fail often when it comes to integrating digital tools.
Second most important thing that educators can do is to make connections with students out-of-school experiences. This is a hard one, because in a class of 30 individuals it is challenging to personalize the lesson to each student. This is where CHOICE comes into play. The more choice students are offered the more likely they will be engaged in the content.
THIS IS AN IDEAL AND SHOULD NOT BE AN EXPECTATION OF ANY TEACHER. I know how hard it is to create an assignment that allows choice, while at the same time meets the same learning outcomes. Communication and collaboration are a challenge in the digital learning environment. However, the continual discussion and experimentation with various digital tools is key to improving and evolving pedagogy.
Safe learning spaces are a key to education. How can we (as educators) expect our students to learn if they do not feel safe. This idea applies to both in person classrooms and digital spaces. When teachers create a safe learning environment – whether in person or online- it allows students to participate freely and engage with their education.
However, there are some things that teachers need to think about. First, it is our responsibility to create the safe space. When looking at setting up digital spaces, this means knowing what data is being collected and where it is being stored. Even before we present the digital space to students, we need to ensure that we are taking EVERY precaution to keep them safe. It is becoming more and more common that digital tools, and platforms will take user information for their own purposes. Unfortunately, this means that students are becoming increasing complacent with allowing others access to their personal information. I believe this stems from a lack of knowledge in why privacy is important and how the data is being used. Second, it is the teacher’s responsibility to educate their students on the data privacy and protection as well as what their rights as individuals are. How will students understand their personal safety in online environments if they are never taught?
As online spaces evolve, teachers will have to continually learn how to create safe learning spaces. It is no different than an in-person classroom. If there was a leak in the roof, you would move you class to a different space until it could be fixed. You would make sure that any personal information of your students was stored in a secure location, with limited access. Safety is key when building learning environments for students and teachers.
They say, everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. It’s simple really, be decent, thoughtful humans.
What blows my mind is the fact that we don’t implement more “kindergarten” in everyday life. Think back to when you were 5 (ish), and how amazing it was to be in kindergarten. Almost everything was new, there was a deep desire to learn and grow, and fun could be found in the simplest tasks. Yet as we grow, both society and the educational system asks us to change, to follow rules, to sit still, to absorb information from the world without really interacting with it.
Then for some bizarre reason we expected students and young people to be creative and innovative thinkers. To connect with materials, deeper their understanding and take ownership of their own learning. Even though for 12 years of their life they have been taught to sit at a desk, listen to instruction, fill in a worksheet, and regurgitate meaningless facts on the test.
[This is not meant to insult any educators but is more to address a failing educational system where many great and amazing teachers are trying to make a difference. I recognize and appreciate the enormous amounts of effort teachers put into every lesson.]
So, how can we radically change our classrooms (K-12) to incorporate creative thinking, problem solving and engagement in learning? LET’S GO BACK TO KINDERGARTEN!!
Kindergarten uses play as a learning tool and allows students to create and develop in areas of interest. Does this mean we pull out the crayons and play dough in high school? Absolutely not, we as teachers need to use age appropriate technologies to incorporate play, inquiry and exploration into every grade level.
Can this change happen overnight? NO, this shift in how we engage students in the classroom will take time. At some points it may even feel like we (as teachers) are fighting an uphill battle to change a factory like education system. BUT this doesn’t mean we can’t take small steps towards a larger goal. In order for students to become creative thinkers, we as educators “need to provide them with more opportunities to create.” (Resnick, pp. 3, 2007)
There is a huge difference between being a PASSIVE RECIPIENT OF KNOWLEDGE and an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN LEARNING. The key is shifting from interacting with materials to creating and designing. There are many opportunities to encourage creativity and innovation, especially with the increased access to various digital tools. A quick internet search for ‘tools to develop creative thinking’ will bring up a number of sources and activities to try with students. However, I believe the most important take away is that educators recognize the value of kindergarten like education for students in every grade. And then, take steps towards integrating play, inquiry, exploration, and creation in the classroom.