Course 4 Final Project

A cliche to say, but the COETAIL courses have sped past incredibly quickly and I literally stare at my screen in disbelief that I am now coming to the end of the penultimate course – Course 4. I regard COETAIL as an experience which has been endlessly fascinating and continuously allowed me to adapt and innovate across a wide range of lessons, schemes of work and pedagogical approaches. It has truly been a formative experience to my future years in education, and one that I would heartily recommend to friends and colleagues alike.

Course 5 is a project which I have been aware of and have pondered for some time now, and is something that I am really excited about developing as we move closer to the next academic year. As I wrote about in this blog post, I strongly believe that we should place the key learning skills that are involved at the forefront of our thinking as we plan projects and opportunities for our students, and this is what I have tried to do here.

I have two project ideas in mind for Course 5, which I will now introduce and discuss in this blog post.

Project Option 1: Developing Empathy

Project Description

A fantastic website for resources relating to empathy is startempathy.org.

  • Create a safe space. Work in small groups and explore the vocabulary that is useful when talking about yourself or others when being empathetic. Pick a small selection of these words and both try to define them and create real life examples. Once developed offline, to post on a blogging platform such as SeeSaw or Google Classroom. Children to then share their ideas about the definitions of others and add their own thinking/examples. Included in this will be self or peer reflection about how and why we collaborate effectively.
  • After the discussions offline and online, class to vote on the most important words (a Wordle word cloud could be a good visual for this) and develop from this a shared class charter, with values to take forwards throughout the year. Here, Teach Hub explains the importance of shared values when it comes to developing empathetic thinking.
  • Understand yourself. Children to regularly reflect on the blog about their emotions and on how they feel about everyday events, in an emotions diary. To support each other online and in person. Also, to self reflect during this process. Crucial to this will be discussions around what we should share online and the dangers of either oversharing or sharing information that is too personal. But, also the power in having the support of a range of peers and how a closed network is a good way to do this (verses an open network like Social Media). Class teacher to monitor this closely.
  • Understand others. To use stories from resource banks such as Empathy Library and empathise with the events and characters. Communicate this understanding online. Comment on the views of others and reach a shared understanding. Included in this will be a discussion about how we can have different points of view from other people, even those that we like!
  • Extend beyond the school walls. At this stage, the children will then begin to collaborate with children in different schools on shared projects. Through this, they will be able to empathise with those in totally different countries, continents and cultures to them. Exceptional options for this include: thewondermentworldslargestlesson (thank you Carolin for the inspiration with this) or The Pen Pal Project called Schools Around The World (thank you Gene Marie for the inspiration with this).

Who am I? Who is “other”? And how? In what functions and degrees? How do we relate? What do we share? What do they need from me, and I from them? – Terry Heick, Edutopia.

Why Is This A Good Possibility?

As discussed here, I believe that empathy underlies everything, especially when working together in the connected online world. Technology also allows students to receive feedback from a range of ‘experts’, which should make the process so much more enjoyable and meaningful. I also believe that if this project was at the start of the school year, then it would really cement a lasting classroom culture of happiness and collaboration. I previously wrote about the importance of a classroom culture and of shifting to a modern world culture, here.

How Does This Project Reflect The Learning In COETAIL?

Inherent to this project is the use of a closed network blogging platform, which reflects the values of connectivism and collaboration. Within this, the children will be empowered to work together, self reflect and think critically about their and other’s empathetic reasoning. Reflections will also center on what kind of information we share online and how we can create positive digital footprints. During the final projects, students will have the opportunity to change their world for the better.

What skills/attitudes will this require from the students?

The ability to think critically about themselves and others. Clear communication, careful listening and kind collaboration will be crucial to success in this project. Children will need to navigate relationships positively and consider the happiness of others. In terms of the ISTE Standards for Students, the areas that would be most required would be Global Collaborator (7), Creative Communicator (6), Digital Citizen (2) and Empowered Learner (1).

My Goals

Students to develop the core skills that are essential to empathetic understanding and thinking, to then use and develop as the academic year progresses.

Shifts In Pedagogy

The shifting role of the class teacher is the main pedagogical shift that I usually experience when the learning is student led, and the lessons are based around blogging. The challenge of sometimes teaching the children in the conventional sense, and sometimes coaching them with the learning skills at play, will be readily apparent. Finding an appropriate balance is always the key.

Concerns

The chief concern with most elements in education is the time factor. How will this Unit fit into the wider picture with regards to the Curriculum? Will it allow enough time for the rest of the core content, and vice versa?

Another concern is about enabling the children to develop their abilities in safe sharing. Working on a closed network such as Seesaw will ensure that the children are safe in the conventional sense, but the social ramifications of over-sharing or sharing information that is too personal, is something that could have consequences socially for the children and is something that I am very aware of.

Project Option 2: Developing Collaboration and Student Empowerment

Project Description

This year, I wrote about ‘Genius Hour’ Projects here and the children in my class are currently completing their second round of projects as we speak. They have absolutely adored their self led learning, and their peer taught lessons, and this is something that I could explore further for the Course 5 Project. Options for projects could be as follows…

  • Collaborate with a peer to create a shared presentation on a subject of their choice, on a platform such as Google Slides.
  • Work with a peer to create their own lesson/passion project to teach the rest of the class.
  • Pick a problem and create a project to solve it.
  • Create a game, with which to learn from.

Technology would be utilised in the collaborative planning process particularly, but also in the shared self-led projects themselves.

Why Is This A Good Possibility?

Fun and happiness comes from these types of projects, which really drives the learning of students and their access to a wide range of modern skills, such as collaboration and critical thinking. Student voice is another aspect of education that is developed through Genius Hour Projects, as is the student’s ability to create and think creatively. Technology enables children to push forwards in all of these skills, and truly work together positively to achieve goals of their own making. As in the previous project idea, having this at the start of the year will instill a real culture with which to drive the entire academic year onwards with.

Seeing classmates as bona fide sources of knowledge builds emotional capital and lowers the artificial gate of detachment – Joe Hirsch, Edutopia.

How Does This Project Reflect The Learning In COETAIL?

‘Flipped Classroom’ style projects are great ways to place the students at the center of their learning as active collaborators. This is a good example of the Connectivist models, as covered during Course 1 of COETAIL. I have found that students become so enthusastic about their learning that they begin to do it during play times, lunch times and at home which reflects the article Will Richardson, World Without Walls, as covered during the COETAIL courses. The ideas for different Genius Hour Projects also cover the ideas of Gamification, Problem Based Learning and, of course…Project Based Learning. Finally, as the children gather resources for their projects or lessons, they have ample opportunities to learn about Copyright, Fair Use and the culture of Remix.

What skills/attitudes will this require from the students?

Depending on the project, students develop their speaking and listening skills in various ways. They are required to think both creatively and critically, and both self and peer reflection are crucial. They will need to collaborate, to empathise with others and work as a team. They will develop a sense of wonder as their self-driven projects progress. In terms of the ISTE Standards, the skills most at play are: Knowledge Constructor (3), Innovative Designer (4), Creative Communicator (6) and Empowered Learner (1).

My Goals

Children, throughout their Genius Hour Projects; to teach others, to ask and answer questions, to reflect, to evaluate, to create, to collaborate and to be empowered!

Shifts In Pedagogy

I begun including these projects in the school week this year, so I have already had experience of them. However, as the first project idea, achieving the balance of old fashioned teacher vs learning coach is the key for me. Additionally, I would like both myself and my students to move away from the safety net of Slides to a certain extent. I am intrigued about where the projects could take us if we open out to many more styles of learning (e.g. PBL, PBL, GBL, etc).

Concerns

As said before, time is always a concerning factor. In addition to this, resourcing is something which I am concerned about. I would not want a lack of resources of availability to resources to limit the creativity of the students and the scope of their projects.

Final Thoughts

I feel that both project ideas would be good additions to the Curriculum, and I would be glad to progress with either. They both have modern learning skills at the heart and, if taught at the beginning of the year, would aid a positive and forward thinking classroom culture which would inform the learning that takes place in the future weeks and months in the school calendar. As it stands, the Empathy Project is a bit more fleshed out, but the Genius Hour Projects are a development of existing ideas that are taking place in my classroom this year.

I will continue to research these projects and put the appropriate planning in place, and I look forward to sharing the results with you all! Until then…

Enjoy Summer!
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