End of the Year Reflection

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In the rush of the last three weeks of school, I couldn’t miss the chance to connect with my students and the learning that happened this year. Technology is ubiquitous now days and I am happy that I have got a glimpse from my favorites partners in this learning journey: the students!

I created a Padlet for each grade that I work with and I have shared it on their grade Seesaw online portfolio. The aim was to enhance the value of all the learning experiences we have been through.

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Then I edited a Google Form document for each grade that contained a set of relevant questions for the PE context. Since the end of the year is busy with events, I have managed to navigate and take from my free time and not their PE time, to apply the form and collect students’ answers.

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The answers were nothing but simple thoughts that learners felt comfortable to talk about: While some “wish to do more swimming and dancing”, others dream to “get to run in the speed of light and getting a six-pack”. The students are “proud of working in a group and they wish they could “get better working independently”. Some they learn best “by making mistakes”, others enjoy “playing games, listening and asking questions”. “We should have chocolate or ice-cream fountains” and they feel very proud and motivated when playing Go Home, Stay Home and everyone is cheering their name.

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Lastly I have worked in Canva to display an overall presentation of this reflection, including the Padlet and the answers.

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I feel that the power of reflection may enable students to better express and acknowledge their achievements or areas of improvement and it constitutes a great opportunity to generate meaningful feedback. I would definitely use this experience in the beginning of the next academic year, when it can prove beneficial in harnessing information related to students’ prior knowledge. With an increased value of the pre- and formative assessments in learning, I am curios and excited about the road that lies ahead. It keeps me engaged and motivated on a path that I am passionate about: Learning.

Let’s connect if you want to exchange similar learning experiences or to find insights about this reflection!

Time For a Conceptual Understanding in Physical Education

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We enjoy educating, we embrace challenges and most of the time we do spread the positive around us. We are looking for inspiration in our quest for making the difference and often we  surpass ourselves.

We enter the students’ world and we explore mistakes in our lives. We allow ourselves to fail, often, and we are comfortable with not knowing what is about to happen.

We are vulnerable but we step outside the comfort zone. We believe we can learn anything starting by questioning everything.

We dream big.

According to Erickson (2014), ‘children need to grapple with the content, knowledge, and skills they are learning in order to reach conceptual understandings’.

Join me in this workshop to explore together how conceptual understanding will help students decode life and adapt their learning to different situations.

Time For a Conceptual Understanding in Physical Education

Reference:

Erickson. H.L. 2014. Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction. How to bring content and process together, p. 55. Corwin.

Games Are Serious Fun! What About Gamification?

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In gamification elements of computer gaming are applied to non-game context with the purpose to increase motivation and engagement of students. “Gamification tends to take the use of game outside of a defined space and apply the concepts to items like walking up steps, tracking the number of miles run, or making a sales call” (Kapp, 2012).

From Kapp’s point of view, gamification is not the same as games. We tend to associate it with badges and leaderboards, but it should be more about fun and play into the experiences we create. Zombies, Run for example is a game that motivates runners to train harder and do more miles. Experienced educators introduce games and play into their strategies, and digital gamification is an extension of this practice.

Gamification provides a context where students can apply their knowledge and skills which focus on a learning objective. In this context, games should have a clear goal for the players, as well as a learning outcome.

On the other hand, as an educator, you really have to take time and plan the lessons introducing gamification very throughly, because you don’t want your students to take it as an invitation to play video games, but to understand that they need to withdraw strategies from them and apply them in real life, trying to free themselves from conventional ideas and find that special feeling that any idea can be possible with the right twist. As an educator, you always have to have in mind both sides of a story and take in consideration also those who see the downside of a subject, like Selwyn (2014). Selwyn has a more critical view over gamification, mentioning that there is a risk of promoting short-term engagement in tasks, with an increased risk of longer-term disengagement.

With this in mind, this year I have built a website for my grade 5 students that was intended to maximize their physical activity throughout the two sessions a week we spent together. As an element that motivated their actions I have included Sworkit, a fitness app that influenced their behaviour in an active way. They encouraged each other based on their results, they built on the skills they were practicing during the unit and they acquired knowledge. All these outcomes were highlighted in the Slack chat they performed, showcasing the drive of innovation they have faced. These outcomes were closely linked to the central idea of the unit: “We can develop and maintain physical fitness by applying basic training principles”.

After this experience, I am thinking that we can use various insights and creative ideas to design our own, interactive learning experiences. Games and gamification are everywhere nowdays, and games are created much easier than before. Google Glasses or Nike+ are products that became common, therefore the need to build on adding gamification to our learning environments.
Looking back, children were learning through simple play, whereas, with the present mobile technology, they have the world at their fingertips.

Turning game based into knowledge is challenging, but not impossible. Gamification brings the consequences of not reaching the next level and puts the learners into an emotional state where they have to take action, to reach a certain number of points or a different level, and this drives in them a behavioural change. When thinking about the most effective learning moment in our lives we remember the frustration and hardness of the tasks and then the “Aha!” moment. In these cases, over time, gamification reinforces learning and changes behaviours.

Kapp (2012) evidences three core elements of gamification:
First, a visual notification of the progress is visible, and learners like to see progress. Students interact with each other, asking about a tough question or a task. There is an excitement of knowing something from the whole topic, and this is the second element. Third, students are learning at their own pace, so a personalisation of learning is allowed and amplified by the feedback that keeps motivation at high levels.

Before we develop gamification to better foster learning, I believe that is important to ask ourselves these questions:
What are the three reasons driving this game or gamification?
Is the emphasis placed too much on fun aspects of the game and not enough on the learning?
Does the game play include an opportunity for reflection of the learning?
Having these aspects in mind may enhance the quality of the learning experiences we create.

How do you enhance your students’ learning through gamification? Many of us are already integrating it in the experiences we design, but do we always keep the educational purpose beyond the positive effects that gamification offers?

I enjoyed watching this two videos that highlight Kapp’s vision over gamification:

References:
Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Case-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.
Selwyn, N. (2014) Chapter 5 of Distrusting educational technology : critical questions for changing times.

A New Level of Thinking

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Our character is a big mix of habits. “We are what we repeatedly do”, as Aristotl said. Breaking a powerful habit is an expression of our strong character, takes discipline and it can’t be obtained easily. The truth is that as long as we learn them, they can be unlearned, too. Start small, see how it works and then build up!

For one day a week, choose to focus on your students and your colleagues first, then your family and yourself, second. Start the day with a book related to your profession that helps you connect to other educators. If it’s not a book it can be an inspirational video or a lesson provocation. Maybe an early workout? You are shaping your day, remember!

Read and reply school e-mails first. As a rule of thumb if someone has something important to communicate, they will plan it and do it early in the day. For this day try to keep aside social media and personal e-mails. It’s a good exercise to practice control over things that are meaningless and eat up a lot of your quality time. Prioritize your growth mindset and do things that are challenging you! Don’t worry if you’re falling behind with what’s happening in the world! If there’s fire on your hair someone will stop and tell you!

So, what do you do differently? What are the outcomes? Do they bring more efficacy in your professional and personal life?

Prioritize the most important task. Today I finished working on a summative assessment for grade 5. They have to use their knowledge and skills to adapt movements and create a gymnastic routine with a twist of Parkour elements. It took me quite long but I am happy with the results. While teaching this grade, my student Catherine told me that she wanted to be acknowledged. She made me smile so she shared her routine accompanied by another colleague in front of the entire class.

Increase your student contact time. In grade 2, Joe told me that he aims to bat the ball where there are less fielders. He would swing his arm horizontally taking it back to produce more power. A few grade three students designed their own rules before starting a modified volleyball game. It was tempting to join them, seeing them having fun, although their idea didn’t sound amazing at first. We had time to inquire about the purpose of the game’s structure or rules and great answers were revealed there.

Pay attention to details and take decisions. The basketball practice was interesting since Saturday we have a game and our point guard will miss it. Thomas has never been a leader. He was surprised to learn that he is going to have different responsibilities and leading the team is one of them. For the whole session his positive attitude helped him to produce an energising atmosphere.
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Establish greatness. I left the school with a good vibe, as no media impacted my performance, and it was time to meet my kids. If you are a single educator, you might have friends awaiting for you and I suggest do not waste your time! Take them out of their comfort zone for one day. Be a game changer!

With my daughter, Mihaela, who’s 3, I have learned that for a mouse the forest is the perfect home. The mouse loves to eat the seeds that fall from the trees. I read the book 4 times for her and I had to role play all the animals. Try this, please. You will laugh for sure. If curious, you can find more information in the book Baby Animals In the Forest.

Since she was late to bed for an afternoon nap, I have managed to squeeze in a workout using just dumbbells and stretching bands. This activity came at the right moment and energised me.

It felt good to be flooded with serotonine. Enough to have a new start with my son, Alex. He is 7 and he woke up with refilled energy. The skateboard and the wave board were our favourite tools for the next 45 minutes in the park. We took a different route when returning and we have learned that big trees grow powerful roots that can even break the concrete. Did you know that? Alex also talked about a Spanish game. He read about it in a Romanian book and I thought this was a great idea to be shaped for my grade 3’s in the net/wall unit.

Tap your potential. Our left hemisphere is logical while the right hemisphere is more creative. We use both sides of the brain but one tends to be dominant. It will be great to dominate with both and shift anytime between them according to our needs. But we love to stay within the habit of the dominant one. Unfortunately this is a left-brain-world we live in. This is a hardwired problem with our brains. We will naturally gravitate towards easy ideas (even if they are stupid), despite the fact that a better option may exist, but that takes a little more effort to search out and comprehend.
The take here is to be aware of our potential and consciously use our minds to become more effective in using our strengths to meet various needs.

I went to sleep early and luckily there was time to read. E-mails and social tech can wait until tomorrow while I am re-charging and being productive looking back at this day. It is possible that next days will be difficult ones, but it is very important that I can find the essence of my profession when I want to tap into it.

Expand your perspectives What is important for you? Why are you doing what you are doing? How will you shape your personal and professional life? What one thing could you do that would make a huge positive difference for you?

Start with a new level of thinking. Compare yourself to no one and turn a new page in your life.

Digital Technology Tools and Strategies

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Our presentation at the Teaching and Learning Forum wasn’t a sold out event – scheduled at the end of the day, right after lunch – but it gathered a few enthusiastic and curios educators who joined us into fun. I say fun because we laughed a lot, we shared ideas and we even flipped between being a presenter and an attendee. By the end of the sessions we have inquired about:

  • How to use Tagxedo to make word clouds in real time. Carmen uses this tool during inquiry time. I personally use WordFoto
  • How we have used QR codes, Vocaroo, Picosong, and physical movement to enhance Spanish language acquirement through phonetics with Pre 5 students, in this movie. This was a collaborative assessment that we did together.
  • Creating individual and group reports of your end of the unit reflections with Socrative. Carmen is an expert with this tool. I tried it first with my grade 3 students at the end of the Movement Composition Unit and I exported students’ reports straight to their online portfolios.
  • How to use a classroom response system with Kahoot. This tool creates an engaging learning environment, through a game-based digital pedagogy. This was one of the favorite tools by the ones attending.
  • How to record a formative assessment in real time without the need for student devices by using Plickers. The presentation’s feedback was collected with a set of questions and the use of Plickers as you can see below.

Thanks, Carmen! It was fun to put all of this together. Thanks to everyone attending, you’ve made this session so enjoyable! Any negative feedback in the reports below comes most probably from my Mom, who attended but she was still figuring out how to use the cards in the correct position. Or maybe not!

Teaching and Learning Forum, May 9, 2015

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I so excited to continue the collaboration with my colleague, Carmen Fernandez. This time we will present together at the Teaching and Learning Forum, hosted at Qatar National Convention Centre. Our presentation – Digital Technology Tools and Strategies – is scheduled to start at 2.00 PM. Keynote speech by Sir Ken Robinson.

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