Final Reflective Blog Post

This semester’s work in CEP 810 has shed a lot of light on teaching for understanding with technologies. Our first assignment on understanding, learning, and conceptual change set the tone for the course as I reflected on how the integration of technology should lead to students constructing meaning, making connections, and engaging in authentic learning opportunities.

The Networked Learning Project (where I discovered how to make Pizza) was an innovative approach to learning. It involved research skills, thinking skills, risk-taking and curiosity – valuable lessons I would recommend to colleagues and students. Using digital tools and implementing good systems to facilitate workflow was another key learning for me this semester. It became clear that an effective workflow would free my mind of trivial tasks, and allow me to apply “appropriate focus” to the big-picture, meaningful items in my life. I have also become more comfortable using blogs and twitter as a means of sharing work and connecting with others. I can see myself continuing to use these tools (and others) to expand my professional learning network and stay informed of best educational practices.

The “Five Core Competencies of Fundamental Literacy” showed us how students develop critical thinking skills and conceptual understanding through the use of technology and digital tools. TPACK further deepened my understanding of the complexities of technology integration as I discovered that this process requires careful thought and reflection on what is being taught (content) and how it is being taught (pedagogy). Going forward, I will continue to question how technology adds meaning to a lesson while also evaluating how I can repurpose technology to better suits my needs.

Image credit: http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/got_tpack.png
Image credit: http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/got_tpack.png

Several questions remain as I continue to grow and increase my understanding of teaching for understanding with technologies. I must consider how to engage other teachers in understanding the complexities of technology while also helping them to overcome their reluctance and fear of technology. School parents often feel that technology is not “real learning” and instead it is something children can do at home (especially in the early years). Therefore, another question that comes to mind is how to best educate and engage parents in an ongoing conversation about learning in the 21st century.

Peanut Butter and Jelly with a Fork?

This week in CEP 810 we engaged in a TPACK-inspired learning experience to understand how technology, content, pedagogy and context work together. We inquired into the complexities of technology and learned that sometimes tools must be “repurposed” in order to achieve our goal.

To get started with the activity, I needed the help of a friend and some ingredients from the kitchen. My friend was asked to select three different items from the kitchen, namely: a plate, a bowl and a utensil. While doing this, we were asked not to reveal any details about the activity. As seen in the video below, I was given a soup bowl, a square-shaped dinner plate, and a fork!

The next step was to select one of five pre-written tasks given to us as part of the assignment. My friend chose task #4: “Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”. The goal was to complete the activity using only the tools that had been selected beforehand. While carrying out the activity, I shared my observations and discussed how the tool suited the task.

To make my peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had to “repurpose” the fork, or apply it in a unique way, by using the flat, curved bottom edge and the handle. Although the soup bowl was available for my use, it actually served no purpose during the activity. Through this engagement, I connected with the fact that technology often serves a specific purpose and sometimes its use requires creativity on our part. As teachers, we need to be resourceful by working with what we have and also developing an awareness of how technology, when used for the right purpose, can successfully fulfill our needs.

References

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), 12-18

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf

My Pizza Learning Journey

One of the more exciting projects in CEP 810 this semester has been the Networked Learning Project in which we were asked to learn something new using only Internet Help Forums and YouTube Tutorials. I spent the last few weeks researching how to make pizza in the simplest way possible! Following my research, I attempted to make pizza from scratch on two separate occasions. The first time I exceeded my expectations and delivered a decent-looking pizza. However, the second time things turned out a bit different, and let’s just say it was an interesting learning experience! You can watch my journey and learning process of making pizza in the video below:

Throughout the journey, I experienced some key learning moments. The first one was learning how to make dough by hand. It was a delicate procedure as I needed to find the right balance of water and flour while also making sure the yeast was properly activated. Another key moment was learning how to knead the dough using the correct technique. Again, the method required some care as I had to make sure not to “over-massage” the dough. Rolling the dough was another learning process and required a special technique to ensure that the dough was evenly thin all around.

I encountered several challenges along the way – specifically not having the appropriate equipment and not being able to find the right ingredients. However, there were plenty of solutions and alternatives thanks to the availability of content on YouTube and Help Forums. For my final attempt at making pizza, I was able to acquire a makeshift pizza stone and pizza peel. This was quite an exciting moment (or so I thought) as I thought the pizza would turn out much better the second time around! Unfortunately, while I was waiting for the oven to heat up, the pizza dough got stuck to the pizza peel and it tore in half while I was trying to load it on to the pizza stone. I was still able to salvage some of it, although it didn’t look very nice!

Exploring YouTube tutorials and Help Forums was not a new experience for me. However, the difference this time was going “full circle” with the whole process. This meant researching, learning and applying every step of the process from start to finish. When I encountered difficulties, I either went back to the original source or looked elsewhere for additional information. What was reassuring about this process was the abundance of information online and the extent of details available. Of course, with so much information, one has to be a bit more selective of the resources that suit your needs.

Overall, I was very pleased with this approach to learning. I think it is something I would use in the future. As a visual aid, the video tutorials were especially useful. I would certainly encourage colleagues and students to explore this process and see how they can construct meaning from this experience on their own. One thing I appreciated is that when you encounter difficulties, it is very likely that someone else out there has faced the same challenge and that same person has probably written about it and maybe even posted a YouTube tutorial! I was pleasantly surprised by the number of dedicated pizza experts who have a presence online! The strategy of “networked” learning has great potential in a connected world where information and experience can be shared so easily.

21st Century Lesson Plan

In week 5 of CEP 810, we explored how our teaching methods can better support the critical skills and competencies that children need in order to succeed in the 21st century. Through our readings this week, it has become clear that critical thinking skills, collaboration, and play are crucial elements of  a 21st century education. As Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown explain, “play reveals a structure of learning that is radically different from the one that most schools or other formal learning environments provide, and which is well suited to the notions of a world in constant flux” (Thomas and Brown, 2011, p. 97). In her book, Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011), Renee Hobs shares how we can apply the above concepts to our learning environments, specifically through a set of five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices (Hobbs, 2011, p. 12).

With this in mind, my task during the week was to create a 21st century lesson plan, found here, that would require students to explore some aspect of the curriculum while integrating digital technology. My lesson plan is based on the “Unit of Inquiry” approach of the IB PYP framework. The lesson is designed for kindergarteners and focuses on the knowledge area of Math. However, it is hoped that the skills and learning in this activity will extend beyond just one subject area.

In the lesson, children will explore 2D and 3D shapes in relation to the “Central Idea” of the Unit of Inquiry, which is: “people can establish practices in order to sustain and maintain the earth’s resources.” The children will be asked to work with a partner to create their own 2D and 3D constructions using recyclable materials. One of the learning outcomes is that children will be able to understand that 2D and 3D shapes have characteristics that can be described.

Integrating technology into this lesson, the children will use the “Voicethread” app on the iPad as a tool to record, describe, and assess their construction. With the built-in camera feature of Voicethread, children will take photos of their construction, record their voices to narrate what they have created and explain how they feel about their creation. The children may also record comments on each other’s work, highlighting an important collaborative process of peer reflection. The use of technology in this activity will address Hobbs’ core competencies, specifically encouraging the children to “generate content using creativity and confidence in self-expression…with awareness of purpose” (Hobbs, 2011).

Hopefully, this experience will create the opportunity to make deeper connections to the conceptual understandings within the knowledge area and to the central idea while also developing a number of skills (thinking, self-management) and attitudes (appreciation, respect, commitment).

References

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

You Had Me at Pizza!

Being in the kitchen is always a new adventure for me. Making pizza was going one step further!

I explored several online resources for making pizza. I found a few of these sources to be especially useful. As indicated in a previous post, I was missing some of the essential pizza-making tools, such as a pizza stone, pizza peel, and pizza cutter. But these forums and tutorials showed me that there’s a way around it. Howcast had a useful YouTube video describing alternatives to the pizza stone. The Kitchn – an online recipe site – shared that pizza can be made on a baking sheet. This was a huge relief as I wasn’t ready to spend money on additional kitchen equipment (at least not yet).

My first surprise during this process was at the grocery store buying ingredients. I had planned to use store-bought dough as I felt making it from scratch would be beyond my ability. After visiting several stores in the area (mind you, I live in Bangkok, Thailand), ready-made pizza dough was nowhere in site! “Great!” I thought to myself.

photo 1

After scrambling online for pizza dough recipes, I came across a very quick and simple recipe via a YouTube tutorial from Pizza Home Chef.  Not having a dough mixer was another challenge, but Pizza Home Chef explained the step-by-step process of making it by hand. Making the dough by hand also made the pizza taste more authentic (or so I made myself believe)!

I soon came across another challenge with the ingredients. I could not find “dry active yeast” at the grocery store, which was necessary to make the dough. The only yeast available was “instant yeast”. Through some additional research, I found information from King Arthur Flour and Mark Bittman, explaining the process of making dough with instant yeast. The solution was simple and it required that I add the instant yeast to the dry ingredients instead of mixing it with warm water. In fact, it turned out to be easier this way as I could let the dough sit for a shorter period of time.

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Learning how to knead the dough was a neat learning process. I had always thought kneading the dough was simply massaging it however you like. However, there is actually a method in kneading the pizza dough, which I learned from another YouTube tutorial.

You can watch me attempting this process in the video below. As you will see, my movements are kind of hesitant and definitely not as smooth as the tutorial video. I’m not talking in the video, because I’m fully concentrated on kneading. Multi-tasking in the kitchen is still a skill I need to develop!

The rest of the process was quite smooth. I let the dough sit in a bowl covered with a towel for roughly one hour. Then I used a rolling pin to flatten the dough. The shape is something I still have to work on as you can see in the image below!

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I spread the canned pizza sauce on the dough, added grated mozzarella cheese and chorizo slices (I couldn’t find pepperoni at the store). Then I baked it in the oven and voila! My first home-made pizza was complete!

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The result: the chorizo slices were slightly burned and the dough was not as crispy as I would have liked it. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the pizza from my school cafeteria! Eventually I might have to invest in a pizza stone – that is if I can find it here!

Forever Evernote!

Our assignment this week was to explore a digital tool in order to improve our workflow. This was definitely the right assignment for me! Watching David Allen’s TED Talk on “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” made me realize that I could benefit from evaluating how I get things done.

Typically, I have resorted to “to-do lists” using random apps/software such as N+OTES, Reminders and Text Edit. I wanted to explore a tool that could consolidate such lists and allow me to also capture ideas and images from online.

Evernote seemed to be the best choice. It has an intuitive iOS/OS interface and it automatically syncs between different devices. It’s also free! I explored a series of useful tutorials by Evernote Scott explaining how Evernote can be used to achieve way more than the traditional to-do list.

Unfortunately, one of the constraints of Evernote is that there is no way to link it with Siri (on the iPhone). This would be useful for dictating reminders, notes, tasks, etc. There is a loophole, but it’s not as straight-forward as the automatic feature on Remember the Milk (another task-manager app). For now, I look forward to seeing how Evernote can keep me more organized and productive!