Thoughts from MaRS…Time for some reflection.

We had an amazing day at the MaRS Commons in Toronto.  The Cohort 21 team is so motivating and the conversations in themselves were an informative and collaborative professional development opportunity. The MaRS Discovery District is essentially the Silicon Valley of Toronto.  I was amazed at the design of their work spaces and the attitude and collaboration that exists on site.  It’s no surprise that MaRS is one of the leading innovation sites in Canada including businesses such as Microsoft Canada, Songza, MaRS Commons, and Etsy to name a few.

MaRS Discovery District, Toronto, Ontario

As we explored each others Action Plans, it was pretty evident that people were taking 21st century learning in so many personlized directions.  My action plan, involving ThingLink, needed to be refined and expanded.  I think my enthusiasm for the program clouded my view a little bit.  It was time for me to get some feedback and reflect about how the Dissection Portfolio was moving along.

Since then, the frog dissection portfolio has now come into complete fruition and the marks have been compiled.  Though the marks are important, it was the learning that I am most interested from this SAMR (Applied Approach) inspired project.  Here are some questions that I asked myself afterwards.

What was the biggest challenge for my students? Myself?

Challenges were consistent with most new project based assignments.  Students who had challenges mostly mis-understood the requirements due to misreading of assignment details or lack of reference to the rubric prior to submission.  To combat this, we issued a homework assignment where the students had to report the level they wanted to earn, and what they would have to do to get this based on the assignment rubric.

While working with ThingLink students were engaged in their learning. Though it is sometimes challenging to work with and learn a new technology, my co-teacher and I were able to manage questions, concerns, and problems with ThingLink as they arose. In other classes, where a teacher was on their own, this became a bigger issue and some students got lost.

Was my students learning increased by the ThingLink dissection project?

This is a tough question to answer.  I would argue that a more engaged student results in an increase in learning.  If we base it off of this, then I believe that yes my students have learned more through this process.  Is it a result of ThingLink? I would have to say, no.  The ThingLink program provided an means to an end of backward designing a unit that would increase engagement.  SAMR comes into play when we look at the overall design of the unit in relation to the use of the technology.

How did my students enjoy working in a more 21st century style?

Some students really enjoyed working with their own pictures and produced fantastic results with amazing detail. See below:

http://www.thinglink.com/scene/481855127699849216

http://www.thinglink.com/scene/481914180991975424

Some anecdotal comments from students:

  • “I wish I was making a poster and just labeling the parts” – a student used to more traditional ways, still effective though
  • “This is really hard because I have to find so many sources that connect to each picture.” increased research/analysis
  • “I love being able to work with my own pictures from the dissection.” – ownership
  • “Third hand smoke, I posted it on my Thinglink and it affects the liver.”  Student explored learning outside the requirements.  Personalized learning potential is quite high.

What are modifications that I could do in implementation next time around?

  • Reduce the number of pictures required from the dissection to a more manageable amount.  Perhaps three pictures – one detailed fully dissected, one external, and one that shows the tools and talks about the application of dissection skills. (The “Less is more” concept)
  • Have student collaboration be a component to their ThingLink portfolios (recent changes to ThingLink may assist with this)
  • Have students comment on each others pictures
  • Have students embed and reflect on the pictures they chose using a blogging based website. (Weebly, Blogger, Google Plus, etc.)

Where do I go from here?

Remember, our classrooms are our labs – try new things, innovate, reflect and learn from them.  After completing the ‘experiment’, I have come to the conclusion that based on the SAMR model, I was only able to reach the ‘Modification’ stage.  I feel that the students lacked collaboration within the technology and I could have instilled a deeper involvement all together.  ThingLink was still developing a more Teacher friendly version and have since upgraded their teacher profile which may assist with management of the student accounts.

I do feel that I was able to redefine the use of the dissection in the classroom. It was much more effective and the students were able to work with their dissection as they learned the material.  Something that is hard to do with biological specimens.  It was obvious that the Backward Design model enhanced the student learning throughout the unit and ThingLink allowed me to do this.

I’d love to hear suggestions on how to bring this to the redefinition stage as the Technology is concerned.

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2 Responses to Thoughts from MaRS…Time for some reflection.

  1. Ruth says:

    Bravo Tim! Sounds like a cool use of technology in science. Hands-on activities are so important to learning science concepts, I can’t imagine redefining that part… but your use of tech to modify collaboration and communication will certainly lead to redefinition in the future. Sometimes it just takes a while to see what new doors open up with the use of new tools. Keep us posted!

  2. Thanks Ruth. It has been an interesting journey. I loved bringing something new and different to the classroom. I also like how the SAMR model is more of a challenge to push students to higher level thinking and application of what they know. I will continue to experiment. The doors and my eyes are opening!

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