Better late than never. While Course 5 is only a week away, I still have not decided which of these two options I’ll be highlighting as my Course 5 Project.

Option 1

Describe the unit: What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritise?

Rather than a specific unit, the focus of this project would be to restructure the way that Math instruction is delivered on my grade team. Student’s will be given more ownership of their learning, and demonstrate agency as they choose where and how they are exploring the math curriculum.

The current model for math instruction in my grade involves administering a pre-assessment at the beginning of a unit. Using this assessment, we group students into homogeneous readiness groupings. Usually this results in a smaller group that requires more support with identified gaps in their prior knowledge, a large group of students who are “at grade level”, and a medium sized group that has knowledge and understanding above grade level. The large “middle” group is divided into two medium sized groups, and the four teachers work with one of the groups for the unit, tailoring the program to meet the needs of the group. While in theory, these groups are flexible, and occasionally students might move between them, the reality is that they are fairly static throughout the unit, and remain fairly consistent even throughout the year.

In the new proposed model, students will be given far more choice on where and how they engage in math learning. In this model, there are three learning areas: Teacher Directed, Learning Groups, and Independent Learning. At the beginning math period, the learning goals are presented to the whole grade. They are given a choice of which of the learning areas they would like to work in. In Teacher Directed learning, a teacher will guide the group through the concepts being covered, and students will engage in guided practice. In Learning Groups, students will work in small groups progressing through math challenges that highlight the target concepts. A teacher is available to support and assist where needed for these groups. In Independent Learning, students work on their own to explore the math concepts, with a teacher available to guide and assist when needed. At times, students in these three learning areas might be working on the same tasks, but at other times, tasks will be tailored to the learning environment, or the different levels of readiness.

Student’s will develop goal setting skills as they identify what their needs are and make plans to develop their next steps in math (ISTE 1a). They will gain a better understanding of themselves as learners, and be able to advocate for themselves and the learning environments that best suit them both in physical space and digitally (ISTE 1b). Digital tools will be used by students to differentiate, track and record learning (ISDTE 1c). Depending on the math units that are covered while using this model, a range of other ISTE standards may be met through the range of learning tasks that students will be working through. 

The idea for this unit comes from hearing about the way that middle school math is organized at the Western Academy of Beijing, where they are using this structure across their middle school classes. Here is a video of what a morning in the WAB Learning Lab looks like:

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

Throughout this year, me and my team have been experimenting and exploring ways to give students more choice in how and where they learn. This model will be our next step in finding ways to help students take ownership of their own learning. Course 4 of COETAIL has focused on finding opportunities for students to engage in deep learning. Deep learning occurs when students have agency and voice in what and how they are learning. This model will provide opportunities for students to discover and master concepts and content together, using technology to support their learning process and communicate their learning process.

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

As this model is rolled out, it will require our students to be effective users of a wide range of digital tools to facilitate their learning. As they make choices to either learn in groups or independently, they will need to make connections within their learning community to seek out experts who can help them understand the new concepts, possibly through tools such as Flipgrid or Padlet. 

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

As with our current math program, conceptual and content learning will be recorded in student Book Creators and Google Slide decks as they progress through learning experiences. Student reflections and feedback surveys will give a picture of how the model had helped students to develop their skills and approaches to learning.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I have only read about a similar model being used in middle school. Grade 4 students are much younger, and have different needs in terms of structures, organization, and scaffolding of tasks.

It will also be a challenge to develop a range of learning tasks, at a range of abilities, that meets the needs of all the students in concept and content as well as in structures and organization. I’m hoping that I can count on my team to work with me to develop and troubleshoot these tasks throughout the process.

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

Our school’s PYP has been progressively moving towards giving students more input in and ownership over their learning, but math is one subject where this has lagged behind. It is the one area where for the most part lessons are teacher driven, and students in a class all work through a set of prescribed tasks in order to master certain skills and concepts. While this new model would still have skill and concept mastery at its core, it would be up to the student to decide what experiences they felt would be most effective in helping them reach that mastery. It will mean that we need to rethink and reimagine the types of tasks we are designing, and how we track student progress.

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

As mentioned above, the students will need to build their self management skills in terms of goal setting, time management, self motivation and perseverance. They will also be developing their social and emotional intelligences, identifying how they work in groups, in what situations they work most effectively, and in what ways they are best able to learn about new ideas in math.

From AtL Matrix by @Orenjibuta

Option 2

Describe the unit: What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?

The current program of inquiry for Grade 4 at my school has a Who We Are unit with the central idea “There is more than meets the eye.” In the past this has been a unit that focused on mysteries, but heading into this year we knew we wanted to change things up. We decided to keep the central idea because it had so many rich possibilities, but each member of my team is rethinking what that central idea might mean in their own area of interest or expertise. In this way we are working to develop four different approaches to the CI through the lenses of Representation of Self, Brain Theory and Mindfulness, Ourselves and The Outdoors, and Our Online and Offline Self. I will be leading the “Our Online and Offline Self” portion of the unit, where students will explore what it means to be “online”, how people represent themselves in various digital and real world environments, and why the choice we make while online are important.

At the end of the unit, students will be able to identify what their online presence is, and cultivate their online identity (ISTE 2a). They will have an understanding of the choices that they and others are faced with when being an active participant of digital social platforms, and connecting with others online (ISTE 2b). They will demonstrate and ability to manage their own personal data and control the information they are sharing online (ISTE 2d).

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

One of the things that I always had difficulty with in my role as a technology integration teacher was effectively teaching digital citizenship. I felt I struggled for a couple reasons. One was that I felt like good “digital” citizenship should just be good citizenship. Teach kids to be good people, and they will generally keep out of trouble both online and offline. While I still think this is mostly true, I know that it is not an answer to how to help students be a good digital citizen. The other reason was that I would often be called on reactively when there was an issue, or asked to help with standalone digital citizenship lessons. I think that the ideas of good digital citizenship need to be integrated into what the students are doing, to give it more meaning.

In this unit we’ll be touching on what it means to be a creator or consumer, and explore what it means to be a lurker. Students will examine what the benefits and risks of living a connected life and interacting with others online.

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

This unit will provide opportunities for students to explore what it means to be an active online participant. It centers around the appropriate use of technology, and building digital literacy in students. Students will participate in discussions and the creation of resources that will be shared to promote healthy online habits, allowing them to gain experience in creating and sharing their thoughts, opinions and work with a wider audience online.

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

Students will be creating tools to educate their classmates, the school community, and the wider online community about understanding how people represent themselves online. They will be able to demonstrate their understanding through creating mini games in Scratch, creating videos and animations, and posting reflective writing in digital spaces. Surveys about how students view their online activity at the beginning and end of the unit will highlight any changes in perception or understanding of their own online identities. 

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Many opportunities for students to meaningfully present themselves online in a school setting are blocked by our schools current GDPR protocols. It may be a challenge to provide students with real and meaningful online experiences beyond our small classroom community as a result. 

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

In most of our units of inquiry, where there is a conceptual understanding that is underlined by more defined content areas, we are able to give our students the freedom to explore that content on their own, and lead discussion that helps them to dig into the conceptual understandings that we are aiming for. In this unit, there is not as wide a range of content that students can easily and safely explore independently to gain understanding in parallel with the conceptual discussion. This means that I will likely have more teacher led content exploration, where I am delivering content, and then engaging students in the conceptual discussion. Students will then be able to explore their own understandings of the content and concepts when they are developing their own tools to inform others.

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

Students will need to be able to assess the truthfulness and authenticity of information online, and understand what someone’s motivation for posting it might be. They will need to develop a variety of communications skills in order to interpret the meaning of online material, represent themselves, and make informed choices about what to post, and where to post it.

From AtL Matrix by @Orenjibuta