Course 5 Final Project: Making Connections

Here is my final project video (sorry for the length).

My unit ended up being more of an introduction to making connections and blogging. It is something we will be working on all year long.

If you are interested in connecting with my class, you can visit our Seesaw class blog.  You can also connect with us through our twitter. Our Twitter handle is @msabbysclass1.

To hear my reflections of my whole COETAIL experience, go to 13:13 in the video.

Below is my UBD for the unit.

There were so many people that helped me accomplish this project. I will probably forget someone, but I will try and remember all the people that helped make this project and learning experience possible.

Suzy – My project would not have been possible without her. She helped so much during the planning process since she has blogged with her students before.

Instructional Coaches for Technology – They were a huge help with the little details of the project. Details add up pretty quickly.

PYP Coordinators – They helped me establish my goals and stick to the project along the way.

My Instructional Coach (Andria) – She was constantly checking in with me to see how the project was going. She was always willing to come in and help during any lesson I was doing.

Twitter connections – I couldn’t connect my students without them.

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Inquiring into Seesaw

Inquiry Learning Word Cloud by Christopher Lister

Inquiry Learning Word Cloud by Christopher Lister

Introducing apps can often be a teacher directed activity. One of the AIS Instructional Coaches, Lissa Layman, created a lesson plan to introduce apps through inquiry. The original lesson plan and thought process was for grade 3 students but she has since adjusted and used it in multiple grade levels.  Lissa blogged about the process on her blog.

After struggling to get my students on Seesaw for about a month and a half, I asked Lissa to come in and help my students explore and learn about Seesaw.  We had a preconference to go over what my students already knew about Seesaw.

  • Record a video
  • Draw a picture
  • Post in a folder

We also discussed what I want my students to be able to do.

  • Post pictures and add drawings, voice recording, and text
  • Post a drawing with voice or text
  • Add pictures from the camera roll
  • View the class blog
  • View other student work
  • Leave a voice or text comment

With all of this in mind, Lissa helped me adjust the lesson plan to fit the needs of my students. The students had a hard time being reflective when we were asking them about their prior knowledge of the app. Most of them said they could teach Lissa and me something new about Seesaw. I am interested to see how they would reflect on an app that they truly know little to nothing about. One thing that went well was how well they worked together to share what they already knew.

Overall, my students learned how to do most of the items from my list. At the end of the lesson, students asked how to do things they were wondering about. Other students were able to get up and share with the class how to do that particular thing. I am now confident that my students can share their learning on Seesaw. Since this lesson, I have had students continue to explore and have discovered how to share links among other things on Seesaw.

My next steps are to work with my students about how to give and receive feedback. We will be discussing nice ways to start feedback that is cool and warm. I also want to review with them the difference between sharing their work on Seesaw and taking the next step to also share it on our Seesaw Blog.

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@msabbysclass1 Global Connections CC0 License
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The past couple of years I have worked hard to get myself connected to other educators on Twitter. This school year has had a crazy start. This is much like most school years. It is so easy to forget from year to year.

I have continued to connect with some COETAILers.


Lauren is a former coworker and COETAILer.

Suzy has been helping me with my final project this whole term. My connections and blogging would not have been possible without her help. This is just one small interaction we have had during Course 5.


The biggest way my PLN has grown is in my class PLN. I have focused more on getting my students connected than I have on getting myself connected. My students have been tweeting and blogging this year. We have also connected with some classes through Seesaw.

I discovered a new hashtag, #K5tweetpals. Each week there is a new question posted. Then a slow chat happens throughout the week as people post. My students have been participating in the chat and connecting with classes in the United States.

class-twitter class-twitter2 class-twitter3

My students have also gotten the chance to connect with people in our school that they wouldn’t normally connect with. We had our Superintendent come in to read to us. Later, we interacted with the school twitter and shared something we learned about his job.

The blog has been a great way for them to connect with Suzy’s class. Individual students have commented on my students’ work. Suzy’s class has also done a whole class comment on our post.

During this course, I have made my connections with educators more meaningful. Everything we do as educators comes back to student learning. The connections I have made as a teacher and taken further with my students on have truly helped my students to understand the importance of connection. We will continue to track these connections throughout our year together.



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Revisiting My Final Project

After having a really hard time narrowing down my ideas for my final project to two, I have finally decided what to do.


We have a new PYP coordinator this year who has challenged our thinking. This has lead to our units being a little different than last year. While this has been overwhelming, it has been welcomed. A new perspective on how to do the PYP is a breath of fresh air. With our units changing, I had to rethink how my final could fit into the concepts we are focusing on.

Going forward

My final is being kick started in our first and second unit but will span the entire year. Every time I look at my goals, I get excited!

  • Build a culture of community through technology
  • Share our learning experiences to a bigger community
  • Extending our school’s communication platform with our class blog
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CC0 License

My class will be using Seesaw Blogs to share our learning this year. Last year, I used Seesaw for portfolios but didn’t take it much further. This year, we are redefining our learning by connecting with other classes.

Our main connection this year will be with fellow COETAILER, Suzy Ramsden. Our classes will be mainly communicating through our blogs. We also have a Skype call set up for this week. I will be sure to share about this experience next week.


One challenge is getting all of my students onto their Seesaw accounts. I decided to make their accounts more secure which means they are logging in with their Google accounts. This has been a challenge because my students’ typing skills are not developed yet. Going forward, I think I will have to have the tech coach come and help me get them all logged in.

I have also had a hard time finding time to do everything I want to do with my class. Getting them on Seesaw, doing digital citizen lessons, and introducing new apps to them has not been easy. I know the importance of these things though so I will keep on making time when I can.

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Fitting One Million Into One

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My head is racing with a million ideas for my Course 5 project. There are so many ideas that link and fit together in some way.  Now taking those million ideas and fitting them all into one final unit is… well overwhelming.  Even just taking part of that million and fitting it together in a coherent sentence without thinking of something else is difficult.

I have somehow finally narrowed it down to two main units I am thinking of doing.

Option 1:

I will change the unit Who We Are.  Our central idea is Peaceful relationships are created through mutual understanding and respect. Our lines of inquiry are

  • conflict resolution strategies
  • enhancing a peaceful environment
  • consequences of choices

The students will make observations to discover conflicts happening in the classroom and on the playground.  The students will connect with students around the world to discover how other students resolve conflict. The students will learn about the Learner Profile as a tool to help them create peaceful relationships. After collecting all of this information, students will come up with plans to remind themselves and others how to deal with conflicts. This could be videos, posters, etc. The students will help decide where they should be located and how to reach a larger audience.

This project will use my new found love of a classroom Twitter account. I will also be able to make connections with classes that I never would have been able to do before COETAIL. Visual literacy plays a role when the students decide how they want to encourage others.

My goals are to set a a good foundation with my students and their use of technology. With this unit I want my students to learn how we use Twitter to communicate and learn from others. I want them to build a peaceful environment within our classroom.

This unit is a good possibility because it connects to what I do in the beginning of the year to build communities. It will give us the opportunity to discuss how we should treat each other and then share that learning with others. It gives my students the opportunity to learn about technology and make some decisions for themselves.

One of my concerns with this unit is the time of year. I am worried that because it is so early in the year, my students will struggle with the technology piece of it. I do not want the unit to end up being me teaching only about the technology.

In the past, I have started the year by discussing more about the individual learner and then eased into discussing having a community of learners. Having this collaboration at the beginning of the year is a shift for me. It might be interesting to see how the relationships in the classroom throughout the year are different than in years past.

This new unit will require a lot from my students when it comes to technology. It is a bring your own devise school from grades 1-12. When they come to me, it is one of their first times they are using technology as a learning tool at school. I will need to teach them how to use Seesaw/blogs to share their thinking. The students will need to learn how to take videos in a way that is easy for others to hear their voice. My students will need to learn how to give and receive feedback without getting upset and creating more conflicts.

Option 2:

I will change the unit How We Organize Ourselves. The central idea is Jobs and roles arise from the need of a community and its members. The lines of inquiry are

  • communities
  • needs of a community
  • jobs and roles arise from a community’s needs

The students will learn about learning communities. They will learn about why we have them and how they function. The students will establish things they will look for  in other classes they want to communicate with.  They will begin to build a community of learners through the class Twitter and our blogs. The students will learn about their role in the class community and their global community partners. They will decide what their responsibility is for other people’s learning. The student will give feedback on blog posts and other class work as part of our community.

COETAIL has taught me the importance of visual literacy and giving my students the opportunity to share their thinking in many ways. Students will also be given the opportunity to share their learning with people outside our classroom.

My goal is for my students to have a good understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen. I want them to be able to give and receive feedback from their classmates and students that are part of our community. I want to build their blogging skills so that they can continue to blog and document their learning throughout the year.

This unit is a good possibility for my project because it allows my students to make independent decisions. It gives my students the opportunity to communicate with other classes around the world.

Some of my concerns with this unit is that I am stretching the connection between jobs and roles and how we help each other learn. I am worried I will get resistance from my team because it is a very different approach than what we have taken in the past. We usually focus on community helpers and their roles. I am worried that my students’ abilities in reading and writing will not be developed enough at this point to do blogging. Another concern is that I will face resistance from the parents because their child is online. I want to find a way to include the parents in the blogging process and our class community. I would also love to get my parents following and interacting with us on our class Twitter.

In the past, I have made the decisions about who my class will talk to based on my interests and what I think my students might like. Giving my students the power (obviously I would have the final say for safety and ministry requirements) to decide what parts of the world they want to talk to will be a good test of my ability to let go.

This unit will require reading and writing skills. This unit will require learning how to give and receive feedback in a way that is productive. This unit will also require skills on expressing their thought and ideas.


I love both ideas. I have no idea which one to do! I am glad I have some planning meetings with my team and a summer to really hash this idea out in my head.

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The Balancing Act of Technology

flickr photo by giulia.forsythe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by giulia.forsythe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Like many, I am guilty of not being balanced when it comes to technology. The last thing I do before I go to bed and the first thing I do when I wake up is look at my phone. The other day, I had 10 hours of screen time! A lot of it was for COETAIL but it was still a lot.

Coincidentally, some of my screen time was watching a Modern Family episode called “Unplugged.”  In the episode, they are trying to see who can last the longest without technology. There was one scene that gave a pretty good picture of how frustrating life can be without internet.  I unsuccessfully tried to find the clip so I will have to sum it up. Claire was trying to talk to a customer service rep about something she could have done online. She finally got so frustrated with the automated voice that she gave up and got online to do it.

Life without internet is difficult but finding balance is a must. I have struggled with how much screen time is a good amount in my classroom. I also think it is easy for teachers to not use it here because a lot (not all) of our parents do not regulate their children’s screen time and content. I am sure this happens everywhere but it feels like it happens often here because of the high number of nannies who are in charge of the children.

I have been met with resistance from parents and other teachers when it comes to technology in the classroom because “they get enough of that at home.” What kind of technology are they getting though?

Common Sense Media explains that there are different types of screen time. Some types of screen time are valuable like content creation. There still needs to be balance no matter the type.

Some of my hesitation to use technology has come from this resistance. I have started to realized that most of the screen time they are getting at home is passive consumption and interactive consumption. While some interactive consumption can be good, not all video games and online content is appropriate for young children.

My take away from this week: It is my job to teach them (parents and students) how to have screen time that includes communication and content creation. Isn’t our goal as teachers for our students to take what they have learned and apply it to their lives both inside and outside of school.

My school does not have any technology standards in place so even with technology being used and encouraged in the school, I have not done any digital citizenship lessons.

Over the past couple of weeks and courses, I have been blaming my school for not having standards in place. I have been blaming other teachers for not teaching my students technology skills. I have been blaming my students for being too young. I have been blaming parents for not sending devices with their children and allowing them to do whatever they want on those devices at home.  I need to stop blaming!

Even without standards in place, without a device for every child, without other teachers on board, with young students, I can teach them how to appropriately use technology and have balance in their lives. Common Sense Media is an amazing resource. I plan on using their lessons on digital citizenship to create some good base knowledge about technology in my students. All I can do is hope that this carries over to their lives outside of school and beyond grade 1.

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Looking to the Future

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This week’s reading got me thinking about how I want to do things next year.  The problem is not overdoing it all at once. The content for this week actually got me thinking more about classroom management than technology.

I watched an RSA Animate video done for a talk that Dan Pink gave. It went along with things I already knew like behavior charts and gold stars are not good practices. I knew this but I didn’t necessarily know why. This video did a great job of explaining how humans function.

If my class has a common purpose, maybe behavioral problems would decrease.  If they have the desire for mastery, maybe I will have to do less policing around getting work done.  If they have a little autonomy, maybe the things that I am struggling to get them motivated to learn about will just come up naturally.

It also backed up why I am hesitant about badges. I understand the goal is to try and find a way to show people what you know outside of traditional education.  However, this is not what lifelong learning is about.  Lifelong learning is intrinsic. Like Dan Pink said, there is autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  These are things that come from within.


I know there are certain things my students need to learn.  Some of these skills, like reading, will allow them to learn other skills in the future.  In an ideal world, I would be able to give my students some 20% time.  I’m not sure how applicable that is in a grade 1 class where my students don’t have a great base for technology.  For most of them, they are using technology as an educational tool for the first time when they get to me.

At the beginning of next year, I would like for my students to be more independent on their iPads (this is not the only device they can bring in but this is what most use).  I want them to be able to look up information online so they can learn from more than just me.  With those skills established, doors would open for us throughout the year.

As part of each unit, I would love to be able to give them some free exploration time.  It is not as open as go learn something but it would give them some autonomy.  It would be rooted in our unit.  After some tuning in activities and pre assessments, there could be some time for finding out based on their interests.  I can see what is interesting them and continue the unit based on these interests.

If I am truly trying to create lifelong learners, I need to show them how to find information. Without this skill, they can’t be independent lifelong learners.

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Making Learning a Game

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Starting my teaching career as a Pre-K teacher opened my eyes to the benefits of play as a way to learn. The amount of knowledge my students learned from each other and from the environment amazed me.

I have not carried this idea of learning through play over to Grade 1.  As a grade 1 teacher, I feel overwhelmed with standards and assessments.  This goes against everything I know about child development. Children need to play! Standards can be incorporated into play and games.

I think the difference between the play that happens in Pre-K vs. the play that happens in Grade 1 is more direction.  In Pre-K it is more open and child directed. As they get older, there can be direction from the students, but there are more guidelines involved.

Some of the other grade 1 teachers and I have started using Minecraft Pocket Edition in our classrooms last year. It is used during the last 4 weeks of school (we are starting on May 8th).  We use it while we are doing our How the World Works Unit. The central idea is “People change materials to use them.” Students have to change materials in Minecraft and record it on their Minecraft activity tracker. We do not have Google accounts for our students so these are printed for their use.

Andrew Miller talks about needing to start with the end in mind. As of now, the end goal for my students using Minecraft is to have a better understanding of why we change materials and how we use them.  Quest to Learn has some amazing videos about how they use game-based learning to engage their students in learning. While watching a video on their about page, I realized most of their games have a challenge or problem to get the students started and to keep them engaged.  We tell our students to start building… I would potentially get really board after a day or two myself.

I want to make using Minecraft more engaging than just playing it.  Like Miller said, there needs to be “boss levels.” There needs to be an end goal with levels to get there.  There also needs to be individualization.  Judy Willis MD wrote, there needs to be different levels of difficulty.  You can’t start on the top of the highest ski slope if you have never skied before. You also can’t start on the bunny hill if you are an expert.

In my search to find a scenario for my students, I found a cool Minecraft challenge generator. It did not end up helping me but I still enjoyed clicking re roll to see what might come up.

Below are a couple of ideas I thought of but I think this will take some collaboration from my team.

  • Our school is looking at redesigning our playground.  They want your help. Build a playground that you and your friends would like to play on everyday.
  • Our school is getting too small for the amount of people we have. Design a new school for us to move to.
  • While on another one of her field trips, Ms. Frizzle discovered an island that no one lives on. Help her start a community there.


Our team decided on a talk for Minecraft. We read a book called Wump World during our last unit. In the book Pollutains come to the world and destroy it then leave.  They move from world to world detroying them and leaving. The scenario we gave them was “The Pollutains realized they were destroying too many worlds. They have decided to settle in a Minecraft world and they need your help. Create a sustainable world for the Pollutains.” They students are very excited about helping the Pollutains. Some have asked if they will see the Pollutains in the world.

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Community Learning

I was having a hard time envisioning Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, and Challenge Based Learning being used in my Grade 1 classroom. All of the reading I did gave the thinking and evidence behind why these three strategies work. I saw some examples of it being used in middle school, high school and upper elementary. Finding an example for lower elementary proved challenging.  I was finally able to find this video.

After reading Getting Started With Project Based Learning, I realized most of what I am doing in class are projects. It ends up being a project after the learning and not a project that students learn through.

Before watching the video I thought about how my students have very few research skills.  I thought about how much I would have to teach them before we could get to this point.  After watching the video, I remembered the many ways to do research.  It does not always have to take place online.  Bringing in experts is a great way to learn.

The only challenge I see left is finding a way to make a project the whole unit.  Again, we often have projects but the learning usually takes place before the project starts. The project ends up being an assessment after the fact. I love the idea of having the class research something together!

One of our grade 1 teachers has brought up many times the idea of having a grade 1 community.  Each class would have different jobs and supplies. We would have to get pencils from one class, paper from another, etc.  The idea sounds a bit grand (which is why we haven’t done it yet), but it is more of a project/problem based way of learning. I wonder if there is a way to do it within the classroom. Like Andrew Miller said “start small.”

Each table could create a business based on the needs of the classroom. What a great way to introduce needs vs. wants. We already talk about this but we only talk about it. We don’t put it in action. Oh man the wheels are turning in my head!

This is definitely something to bring up at our end of the year planning meeting.

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Striving for Transformation

flickr photo by katiahildebrandt shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by katiahildebrandt shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to try and transform the way I use technology.  SAMR in 120 seconds helped me understand what type of tasks fall into which section of SAMR.


At times, my students will use the drawing part of Seesaw to answer a math question that I have given them. This is substitution because they could have done this on a piece of paper.  The tech is not changing the task at all.


This year, I wanted my students to produce a digital portfolio instead of a paper one.  We have been using Seesaw to save our work.  When students save their work, I can access their portfolios from anywhere. Last year, their work went in a drawer and I only had access to it at school.


One way Seesaw has modified the portfolios is by giving parents access from home. Parents can like and comment on their child’s posts to their portfolios. In the past, parents have had to wait and see the work in their portfolios at the students led conferences.

Another way Seesaw has helped to modify the portfolios is the ability to include videos and voice recordings.  My students have the ability to record their voice with a picture or a drawing.  They can also take a video of them performing a task. In the past, only paper and pencil pieces of work could be included in the portfolio.


I do not think I am at redefinition with the portfolios yet.  Seesaw does give students the ability to comment on each other’s work and give each other feedback. As someone who is new to this technology, I have not felt like my students or I were ready for this next step to redefine our portfolios. This is a doable step for next year.

Now that the year is coming to a close, I see that I hovered on the line between enhancing my use of technology and transforming it. Overall, I have taken some big steps to integrate technology into my classroom.  One of the biggest things I need to work on is successfully integrating technology. There are many other tasks that I could add to this list and there are many more ideas that I have yet to try. Good thing we are forever students learning about new things!

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