Googlification of Education

Fifteen years ago, when I first began teaching, the division I work for gave all of their teachers Apple laptops. Schools were piloting Apple computer carts for a short term lease. As an Apple product user in my private life, this felt like a dream. For those first few years, I was very creative with my students using the apps that Apple provided on those laptops. But alas, the lease ended, the pilot project was over. Our Apple laptops were suddenly gone and replaced. And replaced again and again. 

Soon we entered the Chromebook generation. For better or worse. As the Chromebooks were first introduced, teachers were not instantly in love as they were with Apple. The first round of Chromebooks were glitchy and were easily broken. Students had difficulty staying connected to the internet. These were not a suitable replacement! However, as the Chromebooks were rolling out, so was G Suite for Education. I have to admit, that while I might have complained about the Chromebooks initially, I was hooked on G Suite!

I instantly loved that students could collaborate on documents and access them from home. This immediately changed how I assigned work and communicated with families about school. As I gained more experience and familiarity with the rest of G Suite, such as slides, sheets, and calendar, rumblings of a new app were being talked about at my school. Google Classroom was so exciting for our students and teachers. A group of us began using Google Classroom and supporting each other as we figured out how to best use this new app. 

As G Suite continues to grow, I continue to integrate the new apps into my daily routine and planning. All of my students, even those that move from other schools, school divisions and other countries, are familiar with G Suite Education. They know how to navigate Google Classroom, have a GMail address (they are assigned one at school), can easily complete tasks on Google Forms, Google Slides, Google Docs, Jamboard, and check the Google calendar. Google is a part of their everyday lives! So much so that several students have bought their own Chromebooks. They are familiar with Chromebooks and teachers can help troubleshoot if there is a problem. 

When our division initially moved to G Suite for Education, we sent home letters to families explaining how the platform worked, where information was stored and also asked for permission for students to use this platform. In reality, parents did not have much choice, our division did not offer an alternative. The biggest hiccup at the moment was that all information collected by G Suite for Education was stored in the United States and they have different privacy laws than Canada. This hiccup is just overlooked now as school divisions K-12 have become so reliant on G Suite for Education. 

As an educator, I appreciate the way I am able to reach more students, how flexible G Suite is, and how easily I can differentiate programs for students that need it. As our classrooms grow in size and complexity, G Suite has made it possible to offer entirely different math programs to students by simply creating a Google Classroom with their material in it while maintaining their privacy. Or let students use Google Read & Write to adjust the reading level of a piece of text.

Gimme More Grouch!

I loved Sesame Street! I loved the characters, especially Guy Smiley, Count von Count and Maria. I loved the theme song. I loved that really long slide at the start of the show. I loved the songs. I would watch Sesame Street every day while at my babysitter’s house. This was my first exposure to letters and numbers. And this was my first exposure to kids and grown ups that looked “different” than myself. 

Sesame Street is such an engaging and memorable show for children as they build foundational knowledge. Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” However, Sesame Street can be viewed in a similar fashion as the technology that we use in a classroom now. Sesame Street is fun, mostly lighthearted, engaging, and designed to be memorable. Who doesn’t remember the Pinball Number Count song?

Similarly, the technologies we are using in schools creates a more exciting and engaging lesson. And likely more memorable when we can combine audio and visual technologies. For example, students love to play Blooket. The games on Blooket are exciting, visually stimulating and the music fun. Most of the games also include zapping noises that go along with the games. Kahoot is also engaging in a similar fashion, as students play, music is played.

In my own classroom, we daily use an interactive projector, chromebooks and most students have their own devices such as cell phones. This allows for a student-centered learning approach. I am able to use Google Classroom to tailor programs specifically for students’ learning needs, students are able to work and turn in work at their own pace, and at their fingertips is a wealth of information. I am also able to provide immediate feedback within Google docs using the ‘comment’ tool or the ‘suggestion’ tool. 

This has been a great way to assess students and ensure students are keeping up with assignments.

One of the coolest AV technologies that I have used to keep students engaged is virtual field trips. There are several different ways this can be done; however, through VR or YouTube have been what I have found most. My students love these, remember these and talk about them for a long time. This is such an exciting way to visit places that we would otherwise NEVER see!

The technology that we have at our fingertips is constantly evolving and is exciting. Just as Sesame Street was fun and exciting as it was evolving. School should be engaging and memorable.

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My Own Applied Knowledge and Theories of Practice

I think that as we begin our teaching careers, we are adventurous and feel as though we can try anything. During our internships, we are encouraged to experiment and if lessons fail, it is okay! Internship is the perfect opportunity to fail, we have a safety net. I took that opportunity to try out different ways of teaching, including direct instruction, simulations and inquiry projects. It was fun and I learned so much about myself. As soon as I was assigned my own classroom, I instantly felt a different pressure, suddenly the freedom to try new things and experiment was gone. What happened?

The moment I had my own classroom, my own students, reality set in. Hard. I knew that I was responsible for my students’ learning. I had more responsibilities than I did during my internship. My instinct was to fall back to what I was familiar with and teach the way I was taught. Suddenly my students were sitting in rows and doing worksheets. I needed several months to settle into a rhythm before I looked around and realized that I needed to think about how my students learn best.

Of course I looked at Bloom’s Taxonomy first. As a teacher of 15 years, I still refer to this and find value in Bloom’s Taxonomy, including the new level of Creating. 

Interestly, as I reflect on my teaching experiences, what I learned in university was very valuable; however, what I learned during my first two or three years of teaching was likely the most applicable to what I use each and every day. This applied knowledge cannot be gained in universities but only in internships and while working. It was during this time that I realized I am most interested in a Constructivist way of teaching. I am sure that most teachers favour subjects over others, and mine are Social Studies and English Language Arts. According to Chapter 2: The nature of knowledge and the implications for teaching,  Constructivists prefer less quantitative subjects, “Although constructivist approaches can be and have been applied to all fields of knowledge, they are more commonly found in approaches to teaching in the humanities, social sciences, education, and other less quantitative subject areas.”

Each class has different needs and I am able to explore, learn and grow with each class. While I prefer a Constructivist style that includes Inquiry Based Learning, not all classes have the same needs or benefit the same way. I have had to adapt to meet their needs. Furthermore, I have been able to include technology throughout my classes to benefit my students in many different ways. Most students appreciate and use technology to learn. Not very often do I need to monitor student technology use when they are engaged in an Inquiry Based Project. 

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Navigating the Impact of Technology on Education

In the 21st century, we find ourselves at the forefront of a digital renaissance, where technology permeates every aspect of our lives. One arena that has witnessed significant transformation is education. As Neil Postman suggests, all technological advances have a trade off, have major advantages and disadvantages. Otherwise known as the Faustian Bargain.

In our schools now, students have access to technology that can be tremendously beneficial to most learners. Most schools have Chromebook laptops that are easily accessible, projectors in every classroom, WIFI, not to mention most older students have their own phones. Students use these tools to access a variety of platforms such as Edsby or the platform used for grades and home communication, and the wide variety of online tools implemented by teachers.

Postman makes several important points in his talk, including that advantages and disadvantages in technology are not distributed evenly. This was never more clear in education than during COVID. Students did not have equal access to technology,  and WIFI. This severely limited their access to education while learning at home.  However, this also gave some students an opportunity to flourish while learning in a more comfortable environment. Despite the strides in technology, a digital divide persists, with some students lacking access to necessary devices or a reliable internet connection. This divide exacerbates educational inequalities, leaving some students at a disadvantage.

“Culture always pays the price for technology”, a notion that I had not previously considered or put much thought into. However, experiencing life before and after the iPhone and taking time to reflect, this is truly something that I have not stopped thinking about! While I grew up in the 1980’s and I spent plenty of time watching TV, I also spent much more of my time playing with friends, reading books or playing with toys (depending on how old I was). Before I owned an iPhone, I rarely spent any time on social media, such as Facebook or other social media platforms. Owning an iPhone totally changed my habits! It also changed my family’s habits. It is very easy to spend perceived free time on my phone. As an adult, I am aware that my phone is a distraction for myself and others. I need to make a conscious effort to ensure it is out of the way. The prevalence of digital devices, not just phones,  can lead to distractions in the classroom. Social media, gaming, and other online activities can divert students’ attention from educational content, impacting their focus. Additionally, an over-reliance on technology may hinder the development of essential critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It is so easy for students to not think for themselves and just Google it. Secondly, as education becomes more digitized, there is a risk of neglecting foundational skills such as handwriting and basic math. The overemphasis on digital tools may compromise the development of essential skills that lay the groundwork for advanced learning.

Another point made by Postman is that technological change is not an additive but rather an ecological change. We cannot take the advancements back. As people have learned to live with new technology, it becomes a part of their life and daily rituals. Our students that are digital natives are excellent examples of this ecological change. Most of our students were born into homes that had devices such as iPhones, tablets, WIFI, and other technological advancements. Many older students cannot imagine their lives without a smartphone, the internet, Netflix, a projector in the classroom, a Chromebook at their fingertips. 

As we open ourselves up to technological advancements such as social media and time on the internet we do need to consider the privacy concerns, especially in educational settings. A large amount of information and data is collected online or on digital platforms. From online assessments to learning analytics, the potential misuse of personal information is a significant drawback that needs careful consideration and regulation.

On a positive note, technological advances in education have made accessibility and inclusivity for teachers to achieve for learners much easier. Apps that offer students help for reading, math and listening break down barriers and offer students a more welcoming environment to learn. Digital platforms create an engaging learning environment for students to immerse themselves into digital content making learning more exciting and enjoyable. Technology also enables students to engage with peers world wide, promoting collaboration. Using technology the appropriate way can open the eyes of students to others in a very positive way. 

The integration of digital technology into education has undeniably reshaped the learning landscape, offering both opportunities and challenges. While accessibility and interactive learning foster a dynamic educational environment, the digital divide and potential distractions pose significant hurdles. Striking a balance and addressing these challenges will be crucial as we navigate the evolving relationship between technology and education. As we move forward, it is essential to harness the benefits of digital advancements while ensuring that no student is left behind in this digital renaissance.

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The Final Piece – Coming Full Circle

In collaboration with my colleagues Bret and Leona we have come to the end of designing our blended online course. The experience of collaboration, peer reflection and self evaluation has been a success. The final goal, a finished product that is usable in our teaching whether it be in a typical face to face classroom, a blended classroom or strictly an online version. Through the use of Google Classroom as our LMS we believe that we have developed a course that is simple to follow for both students and colleagues. Our course focuses on the outcomes and indicators in the Grade 8 Life Science Saskatchewan Curriculum – Cells, Tissues and Organ Systems. If you would like to join our classroom in the previous listed link you can login into google classroom with a g-mail account and use this code (hyclltn) to become a student in our course.

Designing the Course – A Team Effort

Bret, Brianne and myself decided to collaborate on this course because as the saying goes “two heads are better than one” – so let’s just make it three. We selected the grade 8 science area because Bret and Brianne are currently teaching this in their classrooms and wanted to work on a project that could be implemented into their learning spaces. When designing a course together we had to be aware of our individual teaching styles, personal strengths and weaknesses and be willing to make accommodations. We believe that together as a team we have done a good job of creating an engaging course for students at Harbour Landing Elementary. Our first step in the whole process was to create the big picture and make the course profile. Next, we looked into the curriculum and divided up the outcomes so that each of our modules contained certain outcomes and indicators. We tried to make sure that our course had good flow within our modules so that students weren’t missing any key learning concepts. Lastly, we choose to keep a consistent theme for our slides so it would be less confusing for our students. However, we did decide that it would be okay to not worry about having identical teaching methods because the variation within our modules would provide engagement for all of our learners’ needs.

During this semester of class we had several informative conversations about creating online communities, the importance of making an online course accessible by all and explaining in our words the purpose of school. All of the conversations provided helpful insight into how we should continue to design our course shell to ensure that it became a valuable learning platform for everyone. At the halfway mark it was time to let others take a peek at our work and complete a peer review. What were they going to say? Would they think we were creating a useful course or would they think we were completely off track? Despite our nerves getting the best of us our reviewers provided us with some useful criticism and plenty of positive feedback.

Course Overview – Google Classroom

Together we developed a google classroom that allows students to be active participants in our course whether they be at home or in the classroom with us. In our google classroom we have set up an easy framework for our students to follow. Within the classwork section there are different categories the students can access. For example we have the general course information category – where they can find our contact information, a you-tube video on how to use google classroom, and a detailed outline of the course. There is also a section for each module that has been developed. Currently this course covers 3 of the 4 outcomes from the Saskatchewan Curriculum, if a teacher was planning to use the course they would likely need to complete a few more modules in order to fully complete the outcomes of the grade 8 science curriculum.

We have designed six modules that have a good flow of content knowledge from one to the next. In the first and second modules we focus on the history of the cell and its structures. In the third and fourth modules we move onto how the cell makes tissue and how tissues make organs. Finally in the fifth and sixth modules we make the connections between organs and organ systems and how they function to make a healthy human body. Throughout our modules we use a variety of different teaching methods, interactive digital tools and provide students with written and viewing learning opportunities. The modules all contain a summative or formative style of assessment where students complete a self reflection activity, a google form test, or an assignment with a provided rubric. We have attempted to find ways to ensure that there are relationship building opportunities between students and with their teacher by using a variety of digital tools and group activities to enhance the classroom community feel. 

In order to create a course that we believe could be accessible to all we designed the following course profile. In our course profile you will find a more comprehensive plan for the specifics of our course. In our course profile we go into greater detail about our target audience, the course LMS and digital tool box, our course communication options, assignments, materials and assessments to be used. Overall we were attempting to create a course that provided an education that is relevant and concurrent with the pace and needs of our digital world. We want to provide students with the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways, by learning through and with technology hopefully we can prepare them to be digitally literate.

I feel very fortunate to be able to collaborate with wonderful professionals who have similar values and teaching methods. Until we meet again Bret and Leona…

A Reflection of the Review Process

An experience in the peer review process. This past week Leona, Bret and I had our course reviewed by our peers in EC&I 834. We all appreciated this experience as it provided us with valuable suggestions on how to improve our course as well as it gave us positive feedback about the work that we had already completed.

Positive Feedback 

Let’s start here. Thank-you to all of our reviewers that noted that our course shell was incredibly organized. The three of us all take pride in our ability to maintain an organized, well thought out classroom whether it be in person or online. We are of a similar belief that if the teacher is well organized then the students will be less confused. We also appreciate the feedback that was noted around the time we put into our work. We as teachers often work very hard behind the scenes to make engaging lessons for our students and don’t necessarily receive the recognition, so thank-you for your honesty. For any of the reviewer’s who stated you would like to have our course we would gladly share, it makes us feel proud that others would want to use our work!


Course Prototype and Course Shell 

In general our reviewers were very pleased with the layout of our course and stated that it was well thought out. They felt that the LMS choice of google classroom was an appropriate choice for the grade 8 grade level. Several good suggestions were made for us and we will certainly use them to improve upon our course. The following are some overall thoughts from our reviewers.

  • Provide more student instruction on how to use google classroom 
  • Provide more student instruction for each module (pre recorded videos of the lecture)
  • Provide contact information of teachers (email, phone, etc.)
  • Provide more opportunities to have student to student interactions
  • Course Rational and Concerns appeared to be missing
  • Keep the titles of the modules consistent

A Personal Look into our Modules

Bret (Module 1 and 2)

Thank you to Chris W and Jacquie V for taking the time to check out my module and provide me with positive feedback as well as some constructive criticism – it is greatly appreciated!  I was nervous to read the feedback, as I wasn’t really sure how much to include or what format to use. I am always a bit nervous when presenting any sort of material to colleagues. Once I was brave enough to dive into the feedback, I was pleasantly surprised with the positive thoughts as well as some very constructive ideas that will help improve the module. Some of the positive feedback that I received for my module 1 was:

  • I was thrilled one of my reviewers noted the difficulty in creating an opening lesson for a unit and how difficult it could be; they later mentioned that this was an outstanding way to start a unit.
  • The YouTube video I selected (The Grand Cell Tour) was very thorough and the purpose of choosing that video was evident. 
  • Utilizing textboxes and a simple “edit” prompt so that students know they have a question to respond to or answer.
  • The flexibility of this module; being able to be easily used as a synchronous or asynchronous lesson. 

Along with the positives came some constructive comments about the module:

  • Provide more instructions for students to complete the cell organelle graphic organizer.  Have students work in partners and use the internet to research each organelle.
  • Accessibility for those with technology or bandwidth issues; paper copies, come to the school earlier, etc.
  • Include an overview video or instruction slide for the students so they are aware of what they are expected to complete.  There was an instruction slide in the module, but perhaps could be formatted differently or placed in a better spot for students to see earlier.

As with any sort of feedback, I am always more interested in constructive feedback (I like the positives too), but the constructive criticism is what is going to make the content better for our students.  The feedback that was given throughout the process is very much appreciated and has already been implemented in the planning of my next module! 

Brianne (Module 3 and 4)

I was very nervous to let my colleagues review my work and receive feedback. This was a new experience for me and I was unsure of how my expectations for myself compared to others. Thank you to Corrin C and Lindsey A for taking the time to review and give feedback that I can put to use.

I was given plenty of positive feedback and some constructive criticism as well. Let’s start with the positive feedback:

  • The amount of content is appropriate and the students will not be overwhelmed
  • The response to nonfiction graphic organizer was a great way to synthesize new information
  •  321 exit slip is revealing for grade 8 and is good tool to help guide teaching
  • There are many engagement pieces such as JamBoard, responding to nonfiction, 321 exit slip, and a self assessment
  • Outcomes and I Can Statements make it clear for the student what we are trying to achieve
  • The module is easy to use at home or at school

I was also given constructive criticism:

  • Consider adding voice instruction for students who have difficulty reading or are not reading at grade level
  • Add the Outcome at the bottom of the self assessment
  • Consider using the rubric function in Google Classroom (why didn’t I think of that!) 
  • Add a tool such Google ReadWrite for students who need support reading and responding

I am grateful for the positive feedback but even more so for the constructive criticism as I can apply this to what I have already created. This is such a simple way to assess and I ignored it. I will definitely use this for my next module as their perspective was different and showed me what I might have overlooked.

Leona (Module 5 and 6)

Thank-you to Leigh T and Dalton D for the positive feedback and constructive criticism that was noted in the reviews of my module 5. I appreciate the positive feedback about my content knowledge and the overall organization of my modules. I was pleased to read that my reviewers thought that my modules were not overwhelming and simple to follow along with. Online learning seems to be confusing at times so my goal is to make it more streamlined for my students, I often think “less is more”. I am so glad that one of the reviewers commented on the note taking sheet. I find that note taking has become something students are not very good at anymore. I like to create note taking sheets to help them develop better skills in that area and then eventually have them create notes of their own. Each reviewer provided me with useful ways in which I could improve my module and I certainly will be adjusting my module 5 and implementing those ideas into my module 6. Some of the suggestions made were as follows:

  • Using the classwork tab over stream tab ( I added a small video in the course section on how to navigate google classroom a bit better, also added a youtube video about using google classroom)
  • Provide more student instructions – In each of my modules I now have two slides – one for teacher instructions if I have a substitute deliver my lesson and a student instruction sheet. In module 6 I have added a short video overview of the lesson)
  • Student to Student Interactions – It was suggested that I had several teacher – student interactions but maybe was missing the student to student interaction. In module six the final project is working with a group to develop a google site about two systems of the body and how they interact to make a healthy person.
  • Private Links – In the beginning I forgot to open all the links up – I have now made sure that they are public – Well I sure hope I have.

Once again thank-you for the feedback. I do believe that peer review is a valuable process. Albeit sometimes difficult to potentially accept, however so often we are incredibly kind towards each other and that is certainly how I felt after this round of reviews.

Accessibility and Equity within our Course


Student Demographics and Learning Styles

Not all students are the same, everyone has different learning styles, needs and adaptations that allow them to be successful in their own way. As teachers it is certainly a challenging job to ensure that all needs are being met. When designing a course it is difficult to plan for every consideration, however it is likely reasonable to plan for those that we are aware of will occur in our learning spaces. Before embarking on planning a course it is incredibly valuable to know more about the students that will be in your learning space. When you know what you are dealing with it is much easier to be more prepared. As Bates outlines in Chapter 9.2.1, student demographics, learning style and accessibility are crucial pieces of information that teachers need to understand to be able to know exactly who is in their classrooms. 

Demographic information is very valuable when designing a class and you as a teacher are trying to decide what type of technology or media to use or not. For example if there are EAL, LRT, Hard of Hearing or Blind students in your class you would work towards making your module fit all needs. In some scenarios you might need to make worksheets that are adjusted reading levels, you might need to ensure that you have access to google read and write, there might be a need to develop slides that are easily read by a reader. It would be best practice to develop the course based on the needs of the students and not use an incredible amount of your time prepping for possible situations that may not occur. Through the use of student demographic sheets teachers should take a comprehensive inventory of any disabilities or learning needs that students might require. This will allow teachers to plan accordingly and support students in the best that they can. 

Accessibility 

Accessibility is another aspect that teachers must be aware of when they are designing their online course work. This works very closely with student demographics and most often, teachers will be able to identify students’ access to technology, media or bandwidth by understanding their student demographic which makes up their classroom. Bates again outlines in Chapter 9.2.1 two sets of questions that teachers need to answer before finalizing a course. The first set of questions surrounds the teacher’s use of technology for the purpose of teaching.

The second set of questions outlined by Bates, surrounds the expectations if students are to supply their own devices.

Bates goes on to further outline that for both teachers and students to answer these questions, teachers must be clear with why and how they intend to use technology. There is no point in requiring students to provide their own technology if you are uncertain if you will in fact be utilizing it in your class. This requires some more foreplanning by the teacher to ensure that there is not an unwarranted expense to the student families. Teachers must answer the following when making concrete decisions surrounding technology or media in their class.

As we continue to learn and develop our awareness of blended online learning it becomes obvious that it is complicated. There are numerous aspects to consider and there is no real perfect method. One of the key concepts that we continue to think about is that blended online learning requires you to be “Flexible” in order to help students succeed.  Although complicated, Bates outlines that teaching and learning online can provide students more opportunities to learn while  at the same time accommodating student differences more easily.  With that said, it becomes apparent that the first step a teacher needs to take with incorporating technology or media is to know their students, the similarities, the differences, what digital skills they possess and what kind of access to technology is available to them. 


The Halfway point…

We have reached the halfway point of this semester and now is the time to present our course shell and first module. Bret, Leona and I have focused on Science for our course and have varying degrees of experience teaching this subject. I have found that the more I dive into this subject, the more I enjoy it. I hope this will be reflected in my teaching for my students. I am really looking forward to receiving feedback!

Course Shell – Cells, Tissues, Organs and Systems

This course has a focus on a grade 8 life science topic. The learning modules are created around concepts of Cells, Tissues, Organs and Organ Systems from the four outcomes from the Saskatchewan Curriculum. A variety of teaching strategies will be used to engage our students in a synchronous or asynchronous manner if needed. This course will be delivered through Google Classroom. A link has been provided to join our Google Classroom. Use the code hyclltn to join. https://classroom.google.com/c/NDU0MjgyMDAxNDIx?cjc=hyclltn

Module 1 – Synchronous Session (Bret)

Outcome – CS8.1 – Characteristics and Functions of Plant and Animal Cells

Indicators

  1. Cells are the building blocks of life – living systems – cell theory
  2. Observe and identify cell structures

Outline – March 2 

  1. Use the prepared Google Slides to teach about plant and animal cells.
    1. Each student will be given a copy of the Google Slides through Google Classroom to complete the activities.
      1. Slide 4 – Teacher will discuss the Cell Theory and the significant scientists roles
      2. Slide 5 – Teacher discuss major players in the Cell development world
      3. Slide 6 – Students are to watch the video The Grand Tour of the Cell
      4. Slide 7 – students will compare and contrast Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cells with the information from the Grand Cell Tour video.  Students can type directly into the slides but clicking on the “EDIT” inside the text box.  There is also a linked video to a refresher on how to compare and contrast linked.
      5. Slide 8 – students will work to complete a linked Cell Organelle graphic organizer to familiarize themselves with the membrane bound organelles found in cells.
      6. Slide 9 & 10 – students will work to complete the questions that are centered around plant & animal cells.  Information to answer these questions will be provided from the video on slide 5.

Module 2 – Asynchronous Session (Bret)

Outcome CS8.1 – Characteristics and Functions of Plant and Animal Cells

Indicators

  1. Diffusion and Osmosis
  2. Cell Division

Outline – Completed by March 30 

Module Update – Building Community!

Module Update: Classroom Community!

As we continue to plan our Course for Grade 8 – Cells and Systems, Leona, Bret and myself are looking at ways in which we can implement online tools that will help increase the interactions between those involved in the course (students, teachers, parents, community members), creating and fostering a positive classroom community, albeit online.

There are several different LMS and Online Tools that could be used within our course (Google Classroom, Google Sites, Forums, Edsby). However, we do want to ensure that the use is purposeful, engaging and that we have an authentic means of determining the students’ progress.

The Functional Classroom Community 

In her article The Importance of Classroom Community, Alicia Ivory outlines community as:

  • A group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
  • A group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.

With that, one could go further to define a classroom community as a common space shared by a group of students and their teacher(s). However, defining a classroom community is much more complex than just a group of students and teachers sharing a common space. Ivory goes on to outline that the classroom community is a space composed of students who feel a sense of belonging and are connected by the common goal of learning. This sense of belonging is crucial for the success of any classroom community. Those students who do not feel connected or safe will struggle working towards the common goal of the group and may struggle unifying and connecting with their classmates.

Importance of Classroom Community 

Schools and classrooms can be a scary place for students. Especially for those who may feel like they don’t belong or may be struggling with mental health, such as anxiety or depression. Ivory outlines in her article The Importance of Classroom Community, that the most important component to developing a strong classroom community is creating a space where students feel safe. This safe community must meet the needs of the students, whether they are struggling with mental health or just need a place to feel they belong.

 

A strong and supportive classroom community not only improves a students sense of belonging, but has also been shown to increase participation and confidence where students feel confident in their thoughts and abilities, thus making their desire to share their thoughts increase. Finally, Ivory outlines that strong classroom communities help develop a sense of student ownership to their education as well as increased accountability. A well developed classroom community can empower students to take on a greater role in their learning.

Creating Classroom Community 


There are many ways that a teacher can create and foster a positive and effective classroom climate. By taking the time and putting in the effort to create these communities, teachers can have a major influence on their students’ learning.  As in any community, relationships remain a constant pillar of success. If students struggle to develop positive and meaningful relationships, they may also find it difficult to connect within their classroom community.  Ivory outlines in her article,  The Importance of Classroom Community, some ways teachers ensure that their classroom community is strong, safe, inclusive and welcoming:

  • Help students build bonds with their classmates –  students who feel a sense of belonging and support from their peers may be more empowered to engage and connect with their classmates.  This can be done in a non-formal way utilizing ice breaker activities.  Teachers can use collaborative activities within their classroom to help continue fostering the bonds between classmates.
  • Ensure a positive environment – teachers have the ability to create a positive environment as soon as the students arrive at school.  They should be visible and greeting students as they enter the school or classroom; this will also help establish routine which many students require to be successful.  These routines help build a sense of trust within the classroom as well and in turn will also aid in developing the positive climate.
  • Promote inclusivity – every student needs to feel that they are seen while they are at school.  By ensuring students feel safe sharing their views and opinions is one way to establish and build a positive environment.  When students know that they are seen, they will also feel that they are a valued member of their classroom community.  Students who feel valued will have a much more positive experience at school.
  • Develop relationships –  teachers need to spend the time early and often developing relationships with their students.  Students need to know who their teacher is and a good way to do this is having a “Get to Know Me” presentation with question and answers where students are able to ask questions about their teacher.  This will help instill a sense of trust and respect with their students.  

Many of these aspects discussed above can be completed in the face to face or virtual classrooms.  The setting of the classroom does not matter, but developing a strong sense of community within the classroom is essential, ensuring students feel safe,included, and see themselves as a valued member.  The importance of building positive communities should not be downplayed.  A positive classroom experience will help students succeed beyond the walls of their classroom and outside of their school.  

Selected Community Interactions within the Course 

In order to develop community in our classroom we have decided to implement the following online tools: 

  • Google Sites
  • Mentimeter
  • Padlet
  • Chat while in Google Classroom Meet 
  • Jam Board
  • Edsby

By doing this we feel that we will create a respectful, engaging online classroom where everyone feels connected. When making connections in our classroom we would like to find ways to facilitate connection between students, between students and instructors, as well as between students – teachers and the community. 

Several different discussion forums were chosen including Mentimeter, Padlet, Chat Option in Google Classroom while on Meet, and Jam Board. Students will be able to engage with each other and the teacher in real time while in Google Meet using the Chat option. Students will be able to process and craft their responses to each other and the teacher when using Jam Board, and Padlet. These options are more reflective and will allow students more time if needed. Menimeter will be used for instant feedback regarding the class as well as an assessment tool.

Justification for Student Interaction Tools Chosen

Google Sites

We have chosen Google Sites for a few different reasons. Firstly, Google Sites is a part of Google Education it connects easily with our chosen LMS of Google Classroom. We believe this makes it easy and streamlined for the students and teachers to communicate with each other without too many hassles. Secondly, students are familiar with many Google Apps already. Many of the functions within Google Sites are similar to that of Google Docs and Google Slides and because of this our students will spend more time working on the quality of their work and less time on the functioning of the program. Lastly, as teachers we have control over whom we can allow to see the students work. If we want other students and or parents to have access to the work we can make that choice. Being able to view each other’s work will allow students to practice editing and providing critique before making a final submission for marking. Also, it allows the teacher to make suggestions along the way for improvement and for the parent to see the final work of their child.  This collaborative approach can be beneficial in developing and maintaining a positive and inclusive classroom community. 

Discussion Forums

Many tools we have chosen to use in our course may not be traditional type discussion forums; however, we feel that they will provide the opportunity for students to make suggestions and give input into the class without feeling intimidated to speak up. Many of the options listed above are quick access, meaning that responses can be immediate on phones and we do not need to take time to book a laptop cart. For those students without phones participation can still occur with pencil and paper or with a classroom computer. The tools are a great way for students to express thought and share ideas appropriately in a group setting which allows a teacher to determine if they need to review content or if they can move ahead with new content. These options are more reflective and will allow students more time if needed. 

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a good option to keep the course organized. Posting of material and assignments can easily be done. This allows students that are absent from synchronous lessons to maintain contact with the class.  Also for those students that struggle to keep up with note taking during class time they can always have access to the course material. This also gives parents access, when they accept the invitation to Google Classroom, so they can see what students are learning, and what assignments need to be completed. Students can message each other in the stream about assignments or ask each other questions. The teacher has control over the stream and can delete comments or questions that do not follow the code of conduct set by the teacher and students.

Edsby

We have chosen to use Edsby as a tool because we all work with Regina Public School Division and this is our new LMS that we are trying to learn. This is a great way to communicate with parents about student progress and update them about their child’s learning. Students can also message teachers directly in this LMS. Teachers can easily message parents and students regarding assignments. Teachers are also able to Broadcast messages to the entire class, including parents at one time. Parents or students can then respond privately. 


Joint Classrooms

There are many valuable learning experiences we can encounter by sharing. There could be opportunities to combine classrooms within the school, at another school or with community members as guest speakers. We feel this will help broaden the students’ sense of community. As well as help students learn how to seek out knowledge from a variety of sources. We will use Joint Classrooms to implement programs from our community partners such as the  Science Centre, the University of Regina EYES program,  or guest speakers to reinforce teachings within the course.

Experts in Field

The classroom instructor likely shouldn’t be the limit to our knowledge. Experts in their field are able to provide enrichment and expertise to our content. When we don’t know the answer let’s go looking. By using social networking communities like Twitter we will tap into other sources of knowledge. Our students will be encouraged to find and reach out to Experts in the Field using their own Twitter or social media accounts to speak to the class, interview or guide through demonstrations. Fellow teacher Jason Howse reaches out on Twitter often and is successful in bringing authors, scientists and other experts into his classroom community.

Assessment of Learning Through Online Tools 

Using Google Sites will provide an opportunity for students to share and express their knowledge gained in a creative way. By using the comment function within the program the teacher has the ability to provide formative feedback or critique as the student works. Once the final product is complete a more summative assessment can be completed with the use of a possible rubric like this.

A variety of Discussion Forums will be utilized for individual brainstorming and whole group discussion. As well the above listed online tools will be used as a check in by the teacher to gauge the students comprehension specifically to the science content covered during class time. Best practices will be used to assess students’ work in the online forums, including graphic organizers, concept maps, checklists/rating scales and rubrics.

Google Classroom will be utilized as space to provide instruction of content, view a video or posting of material, assistance through video chat to small groups of students that require adaptations, and students communicate difficulties with assignments. All the above provide the teacher with ongoing formative assessment throughout the course.

Edsby will be used to record student achievement using Gradebook. As well, Edsby will be used to communicate with families/caregivers about student progress, highlights, items to work on and missing assignments. Students may also post work they are proud of in their Learning Story on Edsby.

Online Guidelines for Effectiveness within the Classroom Community

Students will need to follow online etiquette or netiquette rules while posting on each other’s blogs or discussion forums. The University of Potomac outlines netiquette rules that we expect our students to follow as well.  

Protocols for Etiquette in a Google Meet will need to be set in place to establish a respectful classroom community (camera’s on, etiquette on the chat, appropriate backgrounds, dress, volume control, hands up to speak).


When using brainstorming type discussion forums such as mentimeter or padlet students will need to use their first or last name to identify themselves when logging on. Reminders of appropriate language and ideas should be addressed prior to use, we want the experience to be beneficial to our learning. 

As a teacher it would be beneficial to lead by example by posting regularly in the discussion forums and commenting on student blogs. This is a positive way to demonstrate to students how to comment using constructive criticism, asking questions that are relevant to the post and practicing netiquette rules.

Thanks for reading.

Brianne, Leona, Bret

Padlet… What will I do with this?

I am jumping into a new online tool this week called Padlet. I have heard other teachers talk about Padlet and all the cool things they are doing with their students using this online tool. Despite all the hype, I have not touched this or sought out Padlet. I am often overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ thrown at me that I can use with my students. So I just ignore it. This is not the right attitude, rather it is my coping mechanism! 

But here is what I found out about Padlet:

  • Padlet is very user friendly. I simply created an account using my email address and was able to link it to my G-mail account. I could start exploring Padlet or creating Padlets immediately. I checked out the Gallery for examples of different uses and creative ideas. 
  • I then tried out my own Padlet.

Made with Padlet

In the upper right hand corner is the toggle where all the options are under. This is the place to begin a Padlet by creating the title, picking font and wallpaper. This is also where the options are for comments and moderating comments. One of my favorite options is to replace profanity with Emojis!

  • The uses for Padlet appear nearly limitless. There are maps and timeline options for Social Studies, and Language Arts. Or to use for family history projects; to plot where all of your students are from; where all of your students have traveled and when. https://padlet.com/gallery/grammy_songs_of_the_year
  • One of my favorite suggestions in the gallery was to use Padlet as a discussion board. Often in F2F discussions, one voice dominates the discussion while others are too timid to let their opinions be heard. This provides a wonderful opportunity for students to develop their opinion, share and read others. They may also respond to each other if they choose. https://padlet.com/gallery/persepolis 
  • Several other suggestions for uses in the Gallery are a digital library organized by genre; test or quiz preparations/study guides; blogs; creative writing; creative writing prompt organizer.

I was very drawn to Padlet for the variety of uses it offered as well as the ease of use. However there are a couple drawbacks. 

  • While there is a Free account, you can only create three Padlets per year. I know that once teachers find something that works for their students, they will not stop using it due to a fee. Padlet is a bit expensive as the next levels are $69.99 for 20 Padlets/year or $96 for unlimited Padlets/year. The drawback to an expensive fee is that many might not bother trying a great product.
  • While I have not made many posts in my Padlet yet, it appears that there is a word limit. Once the word limit is reached, you cannot save your post; therefore you must be under the word limit. Longer posts would have to be made into several posts or condensed into a shorter piece. 

Padlet is a tool I would love to recommend to teachers. The ease of this tool as well as the variety of options make this worth the money.