TEACHING FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
Since the beginning of December I have been working on setting up a project that would be transformative for me as a teacher and useful for my students as well. This was going to be a difficult task as I was on paternity leave from the beginning our winter break until March 31. Although a sweet deal in giving me QT with the fam, it made CoeTail a tad more difficult. My decision was to focus on distance teaching, specifically using technology to motivate, evaluate, and communicate with students during my absence.
Project Goals: Below is a copy of my UBD planner for this project.
In non-technical jargon, my overall goal with this project was to remain in contact with students during my absence. By using Teacher Desktop as an extension I was hoping to motivate students to continue to work hard to meet their goals, give feedback on some of the activities they were doing, be present to give some support to my replacement teacher, and give students real products to share their progress with parents casually or during ASIJ’s student-led conferences.
Tools: For this project I was for the most part married to the tools used by the school. As a 1-to-1 school each student was able to use their device to access their Google Drive. Our Grade 4 students use iPads and our Grade 5 students use Macbook Pros. For video the Grade 4 students used their iPad cameras to capture video and then easily share it to their Google Drive. Grade 5 students had a more complicated process of using a camera to collect simple video, downloading it to their laptop, then sharing it to their Google Drive. To share documents and email students while I was gone I used Hapara’s Teacher Desktop, which basically gave me a window into each student’s drive. To collect feedback I used a Google form, as well as a website named Bitly to transform a complicated URL into something more simple.
Introduction To Students: In December, students completed their first round of Fitness Tests. These were then inputed into their Fitness Goals! sheet that I shared with them through Hapara. The situation of me being gone and using their Google Drive as a tool was introduced and practiced as I looked at their push-up video and gave them feedback on technique. They were able to see my comments on the video that they shared.
I also shared with them a Google Doc called Fitness Goals! that allowed students to record their scores, set goals, and reflect on their achievements. Below is an example of one of the documents and some accompanying comments.
Student Reaction: Although this was a challenging project due to being distant, for the most part students did well. One of the most interesting aspects of this was the comments left by some of the students on their Fitness Goals! document. This is a window into their thoughts on their growth as well as a little snapshot of their own unique personalities.
Meeting Goals: I briefly talked about this in my last CoeTail post. As I looked back at my unit planner in regards to the NETS, I was clearly able to achieve Communication and Collaboration: interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital media and formats (1a). When I look back at some of the enduring understandings and essential questions, I feel that a great connection was made in regards to how students received feedback. Of the two classes surveryed, 87% (35 of the 40) answered “Yes” when asked if the comments on the Fitness Goals! sheet helped to motivate them to meet their goals. 85% felt that setting goals and reflecting had helped to make them more fit.
On a more personal note, this was an exercise that expanded what I can do as a teacher. As a rule, physical education teachers don’t receive enough face-to-face time with our students. NASPE (National Association of Sport and Physical Education) recommends that students receive a “minimum of 150 minutes per week of quality physical education for all elementary-aged children.” At best I will see each of my classes for 90 minutes a week. Every three weeks I see a class for only 45 minutes (this week I get to see my first graders for 30 minutes). I am not able to teach and model fitness and health, let alone teach skill and strategy in sport while emphasising quality personal characteristics like teamwork and perserverance effectively. Being able to use Teacher Desktop and the Google platform is allowing me to increase exposure to children on improving their health and working to make themselves better. Further, next year as I move into high school physical education I have a bigger opportunity to use video feedback when improving performance. This is an excellent tool to help make both big and finite skill adjustments that will help students to not only increase their strength and performance, but also help them to prevent injury.
Evidence: My best evidence of effectiveness comes in the form of the results of the student survey. I chose a Grade 4 and a Grade 5 class to complete a simple five question yes/no survey. I was actually very nervous about this as I spent quite a bit of time (time I could have been being more paternal) trying to effect effort and keep students motivated. Fortunately, the results were for the most part positive. Here are two of the results that reflected well.
The biggest disappointment involved the sharing of the Fitness Goals! sheet with parents. Fewer than half of my students have taken the opportunity to share, either at conferences or at home informally. One of the benefits, I believed, was being able to use their Drive as a portfolio-type activity that could be used at conferences. Video could easily be shown, especially if they were motivated by something they were proud of. Unfortunately the numbers don’t reflect this. Perhaps this was due to my absense during conference time and not being able to be a more influencial presence on the students. It could also be attributed to the short time of conferences and the amount of information the classroom teachers have programmed into the students reflections. Sadly, it could also be an issue of being a “specialist” or “non-core” course (or maybe this is me being overly sensitive).
Other evidence includes student video as well as some of the comments left (see above) in their Fitness Goals! sheet. These will be shared further during my demonstration. True data on student improvement in fitness scores will come later in May when we complete our Spring testing. Until then I will be adding more comments to their Fitness Goals! sheet to aid them into reaching their goals.
Reflection: My biggest take-away is that using a platform like the Teacher Desktop to communicate with students outside of class can influence them. Being able to connect further outside of normal class hours is beneficial. Using technology like the Teacher Desktop and Google Drive make it fairly easy. To comment on a class of Fitness Goals! took me no more than an hour. As I move forward in my teaching career and I teach in a block schedule of five classes, this really does not seem like a big deal. Time on assessment and feedback takes time, and this route was very convenient and no more intrusive into my day as other assessment varieties. Further I feel that this is more beneficial as students have the ability to repeatedly view their video to impact performance, if motivated and interested.
I feel strongly that this works better if the teacher is around to be more of a physical presence. Being able to be around to reinforce and remind students to stay on top of things would have helped. There were a couple of students that didn’t complete activities or assignments and I didn’t have the authority to stay on top. Emails to teachers to remind students worked in some cases, but not all. Again, I am afraid that elementary P.E. teachers will always struggle with homework collection, especially when they are on leave and someone else is in charge of your class. Further, the performance on the dance video while I was away was well below expectation. This can be accounted for with the realization that a non-PE replacement teacher can’t possibly carry out activities to my expectation. I understood this going in and knew that the product was not going to meet my expectations.
Sharing: As the use of Teachers Desktop was shared with me, I have shared already with other teachers. My fellow elementary P.E. teacher has attempted to use this, although with mixed results. As I move further I will carry with me the positive impact of video analysis and try to share this with others in my P.E. field.
Redefinition?: I would love to say that this project was a redefinition, but in truth I find it to be a Modification. In reading this definition, this quote struck me as fitting with my situation: “There is significant functional change in the classroom. While all students are learning similar writing skills, the reality of an authentic audience gives each student has a personal stake in the quality of the work. Computer technology is necessary for this classroom to function allowing peer and teacher feedback, easy rewriting, and audio recording. Questions about writing skills increasingly come from the students themselves.” Obviously, substitute physical education jargon for the writing jargon, but it does make sense. Technology was necessary and it allowed for students to explore to their level of interest (passion). Peer or teacher feedback (teacher in this case), was essential here.
Within the Redifinition vocabulary, the common idea of the “previously inconcievable” task is one that sticks out. Clearly this idea was not something that was attainable within the past five to ten years. Being able to have an on-line sharing hub where teachers, parents, and students can all view and comment on work instantaneously is new. Video feedback, though, is old; going all the way back to VHS tapes in my experience. Using this as a performance improvement tool is not something that is new.
Fortunately as a “young” teacher in an international setting I have many years left to continue to improve this. Using platforms like Teacher Desktop is a helpful step. Not always easy and in need of adjustments, but a step in the direction of easy sharing and interaction. I plan to continue to work on improving my experience and ease with apps on iPads to capture video as well as using laptops to create the things that help me to extend learning outside of the fields, gym, weightroom, pool, or gymanstics facility.