Something very few people know about me, is that I like bridges. I love the aesthetic nature of a bridge. My eyes are drawn to their symmetry, their style, their use, and how they connect from one space into another. I'm not so much interested in how they were made, because I think that is the allure. I'm more interested in the why and the when of a bridge, its history, if you will. Bridges can serve as a literal bridge between the past and the present.
Prior to enrolling in a master's degree program, I rarely gave thought as to the why I enjoyed looking at a bridge. Yes, it's art, and I enjoy art, but what is it about a bridge that I find so ingriguing? While reading Dr. Bobbe Baggio's book, "The Visual Connection" , I have learned ways in which our minds process visual information. When designing, one must think about the aesthetic nature of the design, as well as the informatin being stated. I have learned that many times, less is more. In regards to my favorite bridges, I realize now, that the simpler designed bridges are what attract me. I like the clean, rounded lines of arch-type bridges. And when I look at them from afar, I see them from left to right, as I would read in a book. Which, Baggio, also claims is something you must take into consideration when desiging in western culture.
Being under a bridge allows me to take a step away from the hustle and bustle of what is happening overhead. I find that the true secrets lie under a bridge. This is where the commoner can come to play. It's where art can take place that helps define a person's feelings at that moment in time. It's where physical limits can be stretched, or reached. And it's where nature and technology show the perfect dichotomy to meld into a visual history of the area. Dervin states that, "Typically, information research attempts to predict and explain human use of information and systems based on across-time-space formulations rather than time-space-bound formulations. The individual defines and attempts to bridge discontinuities or gaps." In my role as an educator, I'm always hoping that my students are bridging the gaps between their previous learning and new information.
In reading the book, The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, I have come to realize that the United States' way of handling achievement gaps, is completely off target. To bridge the gap between where students should be and where they are, we need a more robust educational system that prepares these students for future jobs. We are doing the future of our country a great disservice. As the wealthiest country in the world, with $60.7 trillion dollars (as of 2018) in private wealth, we should be able to bridge that gap. Our students need technology in their hands. And they need to be taught in the ways in which they are currently learning outside of school.
TPACK, or "Technology, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge" is a framework to round out a students' knowledge base, thus preparing them for their future. It doesn't mimimize the importance of one idea, but sees all three as equally important in the scope of a learner. Sadly, I find that many teachers across the country, and some whom I know personally, often do not spend enough time in the center of that diagram. And part of the solution, is being open to change.
For me, I thrive to know more. I want to read everything, watch everything, and share knowledge with others. I want my students to be "in the now" and "in the know" with new ways to learn and share information. I use all kinds of technology myself, why shouldn't they? Using apps like TikTok are fun and engaging, so I plan on using Flip Grid as a way for my students to mimic TikTok to respond to their content. I will ask students what specifically they are into, so I can better gauge my audience and tailor their lessons to suit their needs.
The world of education is constantly changing. We cannot hide under the bridge and hope that our world above will slow down. It's fast. It's always changing lanes, and WE have to adapt, not the other way around. Let's take off our roller skates, and race past the cars in our rocket ships to meet our learners on the other side of the bridge.
I grew up at the super tail end of Gen X. And I always felt a little different than the true Gen X friends I grew up with. But I didn't quite feel that I fit in with the Gen Y (as they were called when we were growing up). My siblings are Gen Y, now known as "Millenials." And I am actually in a subcategory known as "Xennials". We had a non-digital childhood, but a digital adulthood. We rode bikes, played Atari, and didn't get a cell phone until well into adulthood when they were available for the everyday person. But, we did have access to computers. And we know The Oregon Trail was the best game ever invented for the computer. Don't even try to change my mind. That green screen with floating yellow-green squares shooting at passing deer and buffalo would either save your life, or cause you to starve. We learned that there was a direct correlation between how much supplies we carried in our wagon and whether or not we would be able to ford the river. And for those of us growing up in California, this was the beginning of integrating technology into our history curriculum.
Fast forward thirty-five years, and here we are purposefully integrating technology into school curriculum. Not everyone is willfully doing this, but many of us seek out ways to do so. Right now, I am researching ways to gamify my classroom for the next school year...which begins in a little over a month. I have a hope that we will stay safe and have everything online. Which means that my gamification is even more critical now.
In his TED Talk, Gabe Zicherman, entreprenuer and author asks, "Do our kids have ADD, or is our world too freaking slow for them to appreciate it?" Since his talk in 2011, our world has gamified in ways I didn't even think about until now. Gamification is creating game-like experiences in the real world--points for shopping at stores, videos while gassing up the car, and the sounds in C major when needing to take out your debit card from the machine!
One example I thought of, was something I would never have thought of as being gamification--my car's dashboard. Until 2014, I was driving a silver 1999 Toyota Corolla. I bought it new that year and it drove like a dream. It had an awesome tape deck, and was my first car with automatic windows. I named her Bullet. The dashboard dials all had hands like a clock to show her speed and amount of gas in the tank. Now, my current car, Cherry, totally different. She has all the things I wanted in a "big girl" car. She has air conditioning in the back, cup holders every which way, and a special light above my gear shift that lights up at night so I can see what I'm touching.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "How is this car gamified?" Oh, trust me. It is.
Gone are the days when I would say to myself, "I wonder how many more miles I can drive before I hit a true empty?" Or remember when we had to do the math and write down our mileage to see how many miles we got to the gallon? Yeah, that's all gone now. My dashboard tells me EXACTLY how many miles I have left in my tank through a little electronic dashboard that looks (coincidentally?) like a tv screen. And she also keeps track of my miles per gallon. I can flip through its channels and it tells me when my next oil change should be, how much air is currently in each of my tires, and my personal favorite--which of my tires are bumping around too much. That one is FUN! At times, I find myself purposely going over bumpy parts of a road just to see the tires change from stable to bumpy. Oh, I totally forgot to mention that there's a racing game too! Cherry tells me what my best mileage is. I'll be honest, I feel like we cheated a bit to get it. I put her in cruise control at 75-80 mph on I-5 on a trip back from San Diego the first year we got her. I haven't been able to beat my high score since. Beginner's luck, I guess.
And because our life is so fast-paced, and our technology is outdated almost the second we buy it, shouldn't our school system also be up to speed? It isn't. You might think it is, but it isn't. Just like we can use social media experiences to keep students engaged in class, we can gamify the classroom to teach the standards in an exciting and "new" way. According to Zicherman, the "average IQ is rising .36 points of IQ per year....Fluid intelligence began increasing in the 1990's. Coincidence? I think not." The 1990's is when the technology of video games really began to take off. Companies like Nintendo and Sega were fighting to stay on top as being the most popular home video gaming system. And now, they not only have home gaming systems with which to compete, but online games, and gaming apps for hand-held devices and cell phones. And yet, most classroom teachers do not attempt to integrate these games into their lesson designs.
Katie Salen, Executive Director at Institute of Design in New York City, NY states, "The heart of everythnig we are doing, is, we are trying to help kids understand how to be in charge of their own learning." The school where she works, teaches students using game-based design. Students are learning the curriculum through the experience of playing and designing games. These games are both digital and non-digital. These students are transferring their knowledge in amazing ways. This is also preparing them to think critically, work colloboartively, and have an eye for design. And the best part? Their learning is preparing them for the digital world in which they live. They will be ready to create their own jobs in the future.
I just finished watching Eddie Obeng's TED Talk "Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World". In it, Obeng describes our learning as being too slow for the world in which we currently live. I have said this before, making the point that we are teaching our students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet.
Obeng's diagram shows how our learning is behind where it should be. They (as I do not know this person's preferred pronouns) explain that we have known constants, or "answers", that we've held on to for decades (past). In our minds, the rules haven't changed. So our learning has stayed stagnent as the world around us has drastically changed, and has changed exremely quickly (now). Obeng jokingly states that it's because of the audience's use of technology. And honestly, I have to agree.
In one school I worked in, it was a magnet school for technology. Many of the teachers who worked there, were there prior to the magnet. They did not have a choice in becoming a magnet school. Adopting a theme of technology, for many, was out of their comfort zone. These were seasoned teachers. Some of whom had taught there for twenty years or more and never taught anywhere else. Some would say they "were stuck in their ways." Several were not willing to learn about the technology at the school. They did not go to trainings--whether during school hours or after school/weekends, or even trainings during the summer. And although I would consider some of them excellent teachers, I couldn't help but notice what a disservice this was to the students living in a modern society. After watching Obeng's video, I have to say that I would consider these teachers were excellent teachers...twenty five years+ ago.
Obeng says that there is a magical moment when all the rules changed. They call it, "midnight". In the diagram, the moment is captured as a dot where the line of the world, meets with the line of learning. Then a line is drawn with a clock added, to emphasize the exact moment.
The rules we knew about teaching and learning were flipped. I see this right now in the classes I am currently taking for my master's degree. Video games used solely for entertainment, is a thing of the past. There are many excellent video-game style educational programs. Prodigy, ST Math, iRead, and Fast Math are all examples I have seen and/or personally used with students.
Gamifying your classroom is a way to keep kids engaged without using video games, but using the elements of a video game. For example, students earn points instead of grades. They can earn XP points to "level up", or spend in the classroom store. You can create a live document on your website to allow students to see real-time stats and ranked standings. Students can be put into teams and subteams for even more game play. Gamifying your classroom to keep up with modern technology is also a fun way to add a new level of classroom management to your classroom.
My current driving question for my master's degree is, "Does designing lessons for students addressing inequities create a more harmonizing classroom?" And while I don't talk about it much in my blog, I do internalize how inequities can shape a student's learning experience.
I will be teaching fifth grade next year (as well as coaching my co-workers on integrating art & engineering into their lessons). And with that, I am super excited that my teammate had created a blues music-writing unit that goes with our reading curriculum. Sadly, due to the quarantine, they were unable to use it last year. I, however, am a music lover/creator, and grew up listening to the blues. I cannot be more excited to create online learning for this unit!
So to start, I decided that a hyperdoc would be the way to create this lesson. The graphic above, I created using Picktochart and added it to my hyperdoc. This website is PERFECT for creating hyperdocs. It's meant to create infographics, and it has amazing visuals. I had only learned of it a few days ago, and was able to maneuver it well.
No hyperdoc would be complete without things to click here and there. I used relevent pictures and icons as links. In these links, I uploaded a link to "howling" blues from the early days when slaves were working in the fields. I then added a Google doc for students to share their thoughts on the music and why the music is relevant today. I created an EdPuzzle (my first one ever) for the students to hear a more "modern" blues artist and answer questions along the way. They can click on a link to a VTS lesson I created using Google Forms, and type in their questions when finished using Jamboard. This was my first time using Jamboard, and it seems like the perfect job for this!
When I created a video of the standard blues progression, I needed to show students exactly how to create blues music on Garage Band for the iPad. The iPad version and the computer version, are very different experiences. I found that Screencastify wasn't allowing me to use it. I've never used it before and was having trouble, so opted for my iPad's own screencasting to demonstrate where to click and for how long to hold the notes. I then air dropped the screencast to my laptop. Next, I created a separate audio of my voice explaining what to click. For this, I used Voicethread and watched the video as I spoke. I saved that voice recording as an MP3 file to my desktop (for quick access). On my laptop, I opened up an app I haven't used in AGES--iMovie. From there, I imported both the video and the audio and was able to create the movie!
When reading about blended models of instruction in a flipped classroom, I am just amazed at how many people are not taking advantage of this! If I were a kid in today's classroom, I would eat it up! In the blog post, "The Pedagogy of Blended Learning," the blogger says that students should have more agency. They should have more choice in their learning. I completely agree. It takes a lot of time and effort to create, not only meaningful lessons, but enganging lessons. The hyperdoc lesson I created is an introductory to our unit. It is a way for students to choose what interests them in learning about the Blues. They can then use this information further in the unit, when learning how slavery has shaped our country.
In Catlin Tucker's blog post "Flipped Classroom 101: Challenges, Benefits, and Design Tips", The writer give the advice, "Don’t just ask students to watch a video. Pair the video content with an activity that encourages students to think about, analyze, or evaluate the information. This is exactly why I decided to create an EdPuzzle using the song "I Got The Blues" by Sam Myers. It's not enough to just listen to a song. ESPECIALLY a blues song. Blues is complex in its simplicity. And it can take more than just one listen to really appreciate it. By using EdPuzzle, I am able to have students analyze what they are hearing, both musically, and lyrically. This will foster their critical thinking skills.
We are not preparing our students for the jobs of their future. Bold statement, I know. But as I read more and more of what is needed for the future, I am becoming more aware of this as being an American issue. We need to prepare our students for the future.
Many jobs that elementary students will be in when they enter the work force, haven't even been invented yet! And although we do not know what the future holds career-wise for these students, we can guide them in becoming critical thinkers and use universal skills that will help them in the future.
One way to do this, is with transliteracy. According to Suzana Sukavic's article "What Exactly is Transliteracy?", she defines transliteracy as the ability to navigate fluidly across a wide variety of technologies, media, and context. Digital cititzenship is the rules and common practices for how to navigate the internet and e-mail realms. But transliteracy, is taking all the information from the internet, social media, books, magazine ariticles, op-ed pieces, nightly news programs, documentaries, and even newspapers, and being able to decipher what is true, what isn't, and what is neccessary for a project, essay, or even social conversations.
In my own practice, students flex their transliteracy skills when they are creating research projects. Just last week, my teammates and I were using our transliteracy skills to write a PBL unit on the music genre of the Blues. Students will be studying slavery and its effects on American culture prior to and after the Emancipation Proclamation. Students will be using articles from the district's reading curriculum, but also exploring youtube videos with examples of early blues musicians, linking current news articles about slavery's effects on today's culture and music, and then write their own lyrics and music in the style of the Blues. I grew up listening to Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and my all time personal favorite, Koko Taylor. Although these artist are considered more "modern", they helped lead the way for musicians beyond blues. I want my students to come to this conclusion as they create their own "blues riffs" using GarageBand and the standard blues progression. They will be uploading all their work to their Google Portfolio to share with teachers, other students, and their family.
Sarah Magallano teaches 5th grade. She also coaches teachers on integrating art & engineering into their lesson plans.