Tag Archives: CollaborativeLearning

In the Midst…

Yes! We have started our new NGSS unit, Systems and System Models with our grade 9 students, and so far, so good! I want to use this next blog post to organize my thoughts and get some feedback from you before I get too deep in this unit and project.

My Ideas


My idea for the organization of my video is to highlight each part of the SAMR Model and demonstrate, through a variety of means, how I am achieving each part of the model with my students and how it is impacting their learning. So, the idea is to spend about two minutes on areas of my unit plan that involve 1) no tech, (and the following parts of the SAMR model) 2) substitution, 3) augmentation, 4) modification, and 5) redefinition. Below you will find some of my examples for each area.

No Tech

There will be certain aspects of this unit that involve absolutely no technology. One example of this that I may showcase is the “carbon cycle discussion and poster.” This activity will represent the “before” picture of what our students understand about the carbon cycle before doing any research or getting any kind of instruction on the concept. I am choosing to include this in my final project video, even though it doesn’t represent how I am incorporating technology into my lessons, because I wanted to get student feedback on the use of technology vs. no technology for certain classroom activities. Now on to some tech talk…

By Lefflerd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This part of the SAMR model is when “technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.” There are some aspects of this unit that definitely exemplify this part of the model. One example is posting a case study and lab handout that we used in class to Moodle (our online learning forum). Instead of printing out the case study and lab handout for each student, we, essentially, posted it online so that all students had access to those documents. Another example would be using a Google Doc as their “notebook” for this unit. Instead of doing their classwork in a notebook, my students are using a single Google Doc to house all of their information and resources (data collection, images, links, etc.) pertaining to this unit. And the best part is they can’t exactly “lose” it!


This part of the SAMR model is when “technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.” One example of augmentation from this unit is a Socrative “Space Race” quiz. We used this activity as a diagnostic quiz at the beginning of this unit. Instead of printing a quiz and handing it out to each student individually, we allowed them to work in small groups on their computer to answer the questions. On the screen in the front of the room, students could visualize how many questions each group had answered and how many questions each group had gotten correct. It created a bit of competition among the groups, and our students were WAY more engaged 🙂


This part of the SAMR model is when “technology allows for significant task redesign.” Now that I know about the SAMR model, I am constantly thinking about how I can improve my classroom practice so that I am striving to use technology in a manner more indicative of the modification (and redefinition) stage of the SAMR model. For this unit, we have included the use of The Carbon Cycle Game. It is an online “game,” where you travel through the carbon cycle as a carbon atom based on your answers to each question. This is definitely not something that the students would be able to do without their computers. We haven’t used it yet, but it is planned for this unit. And I am very excited to see how it works out!


And last but not least, this part of the SAMR model is when “technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” I believe that we have two clear examples of redefinition in this unit. The first example is not only using Google Docs as their “notebook” for this unit, but the fact that it is shared with me so that I have access to all of the students’ “notes.” I have the ability to comment, chat, and edit their work in real time, as well as the ability to check their revision history. Such functions were unheard of not so long ago. The second example is a product that we are having the students complete toward the end of the unit, which is to create a documentary. They will be creating a documentary on the relationships among the Earth’s systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity. Without their computers and certain software, there is no way that my students would be able to take on a task such as this one!

Now What?


Well…now that I am in the midst of it, that’s what I have so far! I believe that we have a pretty solid plan for this unit that successfully incorporates a variety of technology in a meaningful way for our students. But I want to know what you think! What do you think of my categorizing of the planned activities? Is any of my categorizing mislabeled? What could I add/delete/modify to make this unit plan better? Luckily the unit has just started, and I have a bit of wiggle room if needed! I warmly welcome your comments below 🙂


Filmmaker, writer, and speaker, Kirby Ferguson, argues that “Everything is a remix.” (Am I plagiarizing for using the title of his four-part video series as the name of my blog post? Is this obvious enough that I am giving him credit for it? I want to make sure that I am giving credit where credit is due!) After being assigned this week to watch the video series, Everything is a Remix, I was intrigued. Then, I dug a bit deeper and found and watched Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk, Embrace the remix.

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Kirby’s definition of a remix is something that is copied, transformed, and combined, and his Bob Dylan and Steve Jobs examples really helped me to understand “the remix” as I was formerly unaware that such a thing even existed.

A screenshot from my notes for this week

Kirby explains that, throughout history, creators have borrowed, stolen, and transformed creative works. Our own creativity is, in fact, a “concoction of previous stuff,” he says. In his TED Talk, Kirby quotes Henry Ford, “an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production” (taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford),

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men whom behind were centuries of work…progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable.”

In Kirby’s TED Talk, he showed a picture of the Patent Act of 1970, and below the title, it read, “An act to promote the progress of useful art,” and I found that SO interesting! When I think of patent laws, “an act to promote the progress of useful art” is NOT what comes to mind! Unfortunately, I think of people copying each other’s work and resulting lawsuits. In his TED Talk, Kirby states that, “creativity comes from without, not from within.” Our creativity IS a compilation of our’s and others’ experiences, and I am not sure that I ever really thought about creativity in that way.

Photo Credit: Dawn Endico via Compfight cc

Honestly, I LOVE the concept of the remix. But I get so confused sometimes. What does it mean to be creative? If the purpose of the Patent Act of 1790 is “to promote the progress of useful art,” then how is this Act actually helping us progress? Most of the time, I feel like patent laws are doing just the opposite 🙁

How can we use the concepts behind remix culture in our teaching? That is a GREAT question! How can we convey these concept to our students without them taking it the wrong way? I think such concepts could, sometimes, be easily misconstrued. I am not even sure that I completely understand them all of the time!

I want my students to be as creative as possible (yes! even in science class), and I want them to give credit where credit is due and understand why that is important 🙂 I warmly welcome your comments below.

Feeling Like I Can’t Keep Up

Do you ever feel like you just can’t keep up? At work, at home, in the digital world, in life? Like. you are just barely keeping your head above water?


That’s kind of how I feel right now, especially in the digital world. There’s blogs (both personal and for this class) to keep up with, Gmail (both personal and work), Google+, Facebook, Moodle, RSS readers, texting (Facebook messenger, Viber, WhatsApp), Twitter, etc. These are all apps that I could check on a daily basis. How do you keep up with it all? And why?

One of our readings for this week, Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age, discusses the concept of participatory learning, which is described as,

“how we can learn together from one another’s skills.”


I LOVE this concept, and it is something that I am constantly striving to incorporate into my teaching practice. Two of my colleagues and I recently presented a learning session to some other teachers at our school about group test taking, which exemplifies this concept of participatory learning. You can find our presentation in the following Google Slides.

We first learned about group test taking, also known as peer instruction, after watching a video (similar to the one below) about Eric Mazur in one of our faculty meetings. After watching the video, my first thought was, “GROUP test taking? No way! That’s cheating! I would never do that.” And not even a few months later, some of my colleagues and I are making it a regular practice in our classroom.

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In a nutshell, our students take an individual test first, and then they take that same test in a small group. The group test is a win-win – students that missed questions on the individual test learn from their mistakes immediately, and students that did well on the individual test get that confirmation as well as getting experience teaching this content to their peers. Their final score is a combination of the individual and group tests. This is an example of “cognitive surplus” – also mentioned in this week’s article, Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age. Cognitive surplus as defined in the article is,

“more than the sum of the parts form of collaborative thinking that happens when groups think together online”

AWESOME! But back to my anxiety about feeling like I can’t keep up. I am going to be honest…I have yet to respond to ANY of the comments that have been posted to my COETAIL blog. Other people have so graciously spent their time to reply to my posts, give me feedback, and seem like they genuinely care about the questions I’ve posed on my blog. And it’s not that I don’t care, but I am feeling like my digital life is quite overwhelming. There is a lot of sharing, or collaborative learning, on the internet, but I’m feeling like I’m being more of a “lurker,” as referenced in an article from week one’s reading, Reach. A lurker is someone who is there just watching and learning.

I want my digital world to be more collaborative where I am getting information, but also responding to and sharing information with others like I require my students do in my classroom. This task of collaborating (not just taking information), sometimes, seems insurmountable.

Do you check and/or update your blogs, Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Moodle, RSS reader, texts, Twitter, etc. everyday, every week, every month? How do you manage it all? I need some serious tips! I warmly welcome your comments below.