Final Project Course 3 – Creating a Teaching Tool

To benefit my students, I decided to choose option 1, modifying/creating a presentation, for my end of unit assignment.  Using google slides I have developed a teaching resource, rather than a ‘presentation’, that will form the basis of a unit. This resource is going to be used one period, per cycle throughout the year to support my teaching. I chose to apply the ‘zen principles’ to each slide, bearing in mind however, that as it is a tool versus a presentation I had to consider a couple of main points.  Some of my audience have difficulty interpreting visuals, plus some need multimodal presentation; ie text as well as oral or visual, therefore to enable them to comprehend the message, I had to balance text and images to what I thought would meet their needs. Throughout unit 3, my big take away was to keep it simple, plus consistent, so with this in mind, I began to play!

I took part of an old ‘notebook’ resource, and using google slides, incorporated 4 different key ideas relating to ‘study skills’.  I did it this way for 2 main reasons.  Firstly – logistically, I had all my resources for teaching ‘study skills’, in one place.  Secondly, I could use any one slide at a time, depending on the lesson focus, as the slides can stand alone or can be used together throughout a lesson.  

Finding the exact photo to convey a specific meaning, that had copyright was harder than expected.  This resulted in me making some of my own images, by taking photos then labelling them in skitch.  It highlighted the fact for me that sometimes it is quicker to create, than spend a long time searching for the exact image you want.  I wanted each slide to portray the key focus, so I was often getting rid of text and changing images.  Also I found I changed the layout a couple of times.  I know from readings and peer suggestions that the image should take the whole slide where possible, and to use very few words.  In the beginning each slide had a title, so that there was the consistency, however, I questioned whether the headings were adding anything?  I played with it in a few different ways, then decided to take some of the headings out, and let the image hopefully speak for itself.  The slide was ‘clean’.  I went back on forth on this, so some slides do have some form of text.  The main reasons for this, as stated above, was to meet the needs of my audience. Some concepts, like the test taking section, only text would explain, so rather than having multiple ideas on one slide, each slide had one focus.

Below is my resource.  I have used various slides already as part of different lessons. I find my students are engaged and focused, plus for me as a teacher, I have my resources at my fingertips, which is great.


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An Alternative to Articles – Infographics

As I have been planning units for my various classes and grade levels, this third course has made me conscious about not only trying to use a variety of media to enhance the skill / concept being taught, but also about teaching them how to interpret the various forms of media. With my grade 8’s as part of their ‘Evidence Based Claims’ unit i decided to introduce infographics, so after interpreting articles for bias and evidence to support claims, I will turn my attention to them interpreting infographics and videos in much the same way. However, with the added ‘zoom in’ piece about how the producer has used images, size, layout etc to highlight his/her bias or point of view.

Below is one infographic I plan to use, which Melanie Pinola used in her article, Are Bananas Much Better Than Cookies? Foods That Keep You Full and Prevent an Energy Crash. Plus I will share other infographics like ‘Battle of the Brains, Teens vs Senior” as embedded in the article by Katharine Gammon and Brian Hurst,

bananas vs cookies

As a summary of what I expect students to include in their EBC, I made the below infographic they can refer to.

Plus I plan to share some infographics to model what students have produced, to demonstrate one way they could present their argument. I actually contacted Catlin Tucker through her blog, and she gave me permission to use her student’s work. At this point we aren’t there, but I do hope that someone chooses to go down this route, as for some of my students choosing a visual to express their ideas may be easier and more powerful than their written word.

My next step now is to look at how I can use motion graphics in my teaching …

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Storytelling – Interpreting and Creating.

Most of my students I would say are tech savvy and are familiar with all the remashes, remixes etc, however I do still wonder, how good they are at actually interpreting the visual media they are bombarded with everyday.  Plus, what is the transfer from what they see to what they actually produce.  The students I work with have the opportunity in their core classes to use storytelling, so for me, it is more a question about whether there is a way to incorporate storytelling into the nature of my class, or would it be better to focus in on the digital literacy skills they need to interpret media and how to apply this knowledge to create their core room projects. 

Therefore, with the above in mind, my idea is to incorporate digital storytelling into my current gr 8 unit, in two ways.  Presently they are reading articles, and forming a reaction to these based off the information and the perspective in which they were written.    So far, all the articles have been written and their reaction to them has been in a written format, ie. paragraph / blog post. Therefore, after watching Kristen’s Frawley’s presentation I plan to use the video highlighted, Real bugs to get my students to think about the layers used to get the message across, i.e. music, message and camera angles.  Then ask them to react to this digital advertisement in much the same way as they did with an article.  What impacted them?  Why? How?  Was there a bias? What was fact versus opinion?  Were these easy to distinguish between?  After a discussion and looking at other storytelling examples as models, I am going to get them to use storytelling as a way to express their opinion on a chosen topic.  I think this will enable me to see not only whether they are able to express their opinion supported with fact in a medium they view daily, but whether they are able to transfer the strategies identified in advertisements, to communicate their point of view in a powerful way that reaches the viewer’s emotions.  I am also wondering whether I will do the same by adding in a podcast and infographic.  The more students are exposed to a variety of digital media and how to interpret it, I believe the more tools we are giving them to communicate their voice through a variety of mediums.

On a totally different note, when reading the article, Pottermore, I was curious about whether my students preferred paper books to e-books, so I asked them, and what their reasons were for their choice. The one that resonates the most with me, was ‘feel like you are reading, as so much screen time, it is a change’.  This started me thinking about a whole new set of questions, like do we actually use too much technology at times?

Grade 8

Paper = 4 students

E-book = 2 students
  • it is easier to pick up book, don’t have to open an application
  • easier to concentrate, more natural
  • it is better for your eyes probably
  • it is easier because on an electronic book you need wifi, whereas paper book you can just pick it up
  • it is easier to follow through, and you can use your finger and point and follow through, whereas if you have an electronic book, it is on an angle and harder to follow through
  • you have to carry your laptop everywhere
  • hard to concentrate incase things flash, maybe get message from another app
Grade 7

Paper = 8 students

E-book = 4 students
  • physical feel
  • feel like you are reading, as so much screen time, it is a change
  • better as you get sore eyes from reading the screen
  • easier to get
  • instant
  • customizable, change font, color
  • red at night without a light
Grade 6

Paper = 8 students

E-book = 4 students

Two people stated they could read either, giving the below reasons for their choice

  • no reasons
  • both books, can read any of them, that is most important


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Presentation Can Only Get Better!

It is only very recently that I have started putting any of my work on google slides to present lessons to my students.  I generally use google docs, plus notebook for my smartboard. Therefore, the idea I am sharing today is a couple of slides I have transferred from my smartboard doc to a google slides, purely for this purpose.  Guy Kawasaki highlighted the importance of understanding the context of any presentation therefore, these slides were shared prior to my students taking their MAPS test, to highlight some strategic strategies to use when they didn’t know an answer versus picking a letter at random.

As the smartboard doc is able to screen each line at a time, it enabled me to show only the focus point at once, then we would discuss it and define examples together on the whiteboard. However…. even though I am using color and bolding, on transferring it to my google slides I will be changing it in two major ways.  Firstly, each point will be on a separate slide.  Each point will either be supported with an example or will only show a visual so students can see exactly what the strategy means, or they will be able to identify the suggestion for themselves versus being shown.  

Presentation Zen overview, highlighted a couple of key ideas I have taken away which I would like to apply to this presentation.  Firstly, the simplicity of it, so it is unforgettable and the students can identify the key idea.  Some may disagree, but when there becomes too much color, or too many images, my students become easily distracted by everything, and often miss what the main point is, so for me, simplicity is key.  Even though some articles suggested adding humor, or telling a story, some students get confused by all the ‘fluff’ that we teachers sometimes use.  Keep it simple is going to be my motto. The second big takeaway from this weeks readings was the point that the ‘slides don’t stand alone’.  Now prior to reading this, for me, I was thinking that the big idea must be on the slide, then extra information I add during the presentation are explanations / elaborations or examples.  Therefore for me, the slide could stand alone so long as the main point was conveyed.  So, I am sitting on the fence about this, however I will make a reference document to support the presentation that the students will have, highlighting all the information relating to each slide, including both the slide and orally added elaborations / explanations.

This new, and much needed ‘ renovated’ test-taking strategies presentation, along with other sections, will form part of my final project.  I am really looking forward to ‘playing’ and seeing how I can make this presentation effectively reach all of my students.

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Use of Visuals in the Classroom

I find I use visuals in my class for many purposes as they are a powerful way for my students to build, retain and retrieve information from their memory.  The visuals can be both predetermined and ‘in the moment’.   An example of the use of an ‘in the moment’ visual, happened last week as I was reading with a student who came across a word he didn’t understand.  As the word referred to an item from a different time period, we found an image on the internet rather than trying to verbally explain it. Clarifying his understanding by using this visual helped him comprehend that text section.  Prior to the students reading the historical fiction novel, visuals i.e. videos / photographs, were used to build their prior knowledge so they could relate to the story at a deeper level.

Recently, I used a ‘predetermined visual’ to access student’s prior knowledge. The image  below of prime factorization, take from ‘search creative commons,’ was placed on the smartboard at the beginning of a math class.  Then those students that thought they knew what concept the image referred to, were asked to explain it to those sitting next to them.  This visual jogged their memory versus I feel if I had just asked, ‘What is prime factorization?’ I would have been faced with a few blank stares.  In this way, I was able to assess who knew what, and how much, so it was a great formative assessment that only took a few minutes.


                           phani cbse

Chapter 5, Helping Underachievers: Whole-Class Strategies, in Joseph Ciaccio’s book ‘Totally Positive Teaching’, shared  many ways about how to help the underachiever in the class. However, the section on cognitive processing stuck in my mind, as it highlighted the fact that many children come to school as concrete learners, but for the majority of the time they are taught in an abstract way. For example, strawberry, often we say the word, which meets the needs of an abstract thinker, versus showing a visual of a strawberry, which connects with the students who are concrete learners.  Reading this just reiterated the importance of using visuals throughout my day to help meet the needs of all my individual students.  It is easier for the brain to remember a visual versus the written word, therefore by using them we can only add to a student’s learning.



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Seeing Rather Than Just Looking – using my work to highlight visual literacy elements to students

Digital literacy – is it new?  No. It has been around for years and has often been taught as part of the reading program, however what has changed, is the content.  Like hearing and not listening, the same applies to visual literacy, we often look but don’t see.  As stated in his TedTalk on digital literacy, Brian Kennedy highlighted the fact that 90% of all information we take in is taken in visually.  Therefore I question, how are we making sure students are able to interpret visuals in a way that they can not only understand the message being conveyed, but use their metacognition to realize what the author did to ensure they understood the intended message, and have they the ability to analyze it in a way that they can replicate these types of strategies in their own visual communications?  A first step is to ask whether I am demonstrating and modeling to my students these key elements of visual literacy when I share presentations, or key concepts?  Simply – no.

No, not because of a lack of awareness of how our brain processes information eg. if you close your eyes and you say the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘apple’, most people will say they saw an image of a red or green apple.  Very few would say they saw the letters a, p, p, l, e.  Therefore emphasizing most people are generally visual thinkers, not data processors.  It is easier to remember items when they are a different size, font, shape, color ie, whether color is used in a symbolic way eg. red = danger.  So I am very conscious of any work shared with my students to bold key words, underline headings, include subheadings, use bullet points where appropriate, plus use color, not only to separate each key idea, but to show connectedness between ideas where applicable. Therefore providing contrast, repetition and alignment as highlighted in both the Design better with CRAP article and Understanding visual design and hierarchy article.

What I need to do now, is to ensure that my slides don’t include too much information – limit each slide to one idea, paralleling the idea of only one idea per paragraph as mentioned in the article, Lazy eyes how we read on online, even if that means I have 20 slides!  The second major thing I want to focus on is to include more visuals where possible.  For me, it often comes down to a time factor for not doing enough this, so I need to change.  Highlighting these various visual strategies to my students, I believe is to be key as well, so they know the purpose for using them, and how it enables our brain to interpret, analyze and remember information easier.

One last thing I want to look more closely at is the periodic table to visual  literacy, which is below, as I feel there are some visual templates or ideas here that will genuinely support my teaching.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.41.52 PM

link to above table

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Technology Use Agreement Infographic

The assignment to collaborate with a group member outside of our immediate community was such a daunting task.  Thanks to a person, from a different cohort, who set up a google doc for people looking for a partner, I was able to find one. Otherwise I am sure I would still be looking! Before the initial contact was made, for me it was stressful. Therefore, for the future, I would like to see some type of forum set up,  where people can sign their name and email, to say they are willing to collaborate with others in any way ie. to work on an assignment, for their students to join classes, to ask questions about their specific field etc.  If this is already out there, please let me know so I can sign up!

I think there are both positives and negatives for collaborating on-line with people from other schools.  I feel it works wonderfully if you are either trying to create a document from scratch and both schools have the same vision, or if you are purely seeking another person’s / school’s perspective or feedback on a given topic.  For me, our group of 3 comprised of myself and a colleague from the same school, plus one person from another school. I believe when we got together we had the same idea of what our end goal would look like, however as we started to discuss ideas, I feel the purpose for the infographic may have been slightly different.  Therefore, I feel our collaboration was more about sharing ideas, versus creating one end product that met both of our school’s needs.

I teach in a specialist role, so it was great to be able to collaborate with a colleague in a face to face situation where we could bounce ideas off each other, clarify ideas, and share ideas together.  I also valued the input from our colleague in a different school.  She brought a different layer of depth to my origin thinking and really made me think about the purpose for creating the infographic and why, so for that, I thank her for her input and sharing of ideas.

Initial contact was made via email.  Then the three of us communicated mainly through google docs, and face to face with my colleague.  We were going to do a google hangout, but this was cancelled.  Google docs was great but because the time between on-line responses varied, we emphasized the point of making deadlines for each part of our process.

The steps we followed to collaborate were very simple.  Two of us sat together and made the following plan which was shared on and worked on, in the same google doc.

  • Firstly – Review and re-evaluate the current, Technology Responsible Use Agreements (TRUA)
  • Secondly – Compare to our partner’s Responsible Use Policy
  • Thirdly – Identify commonalities / differences between the two school’s agreement / policy.
  • Next – Decide on a common set of agreements.
  • Finally – produce an infographic that identifies these key agreements which can be posted around MS as a student reference.

Through our discussions it was interesting that both schools had identified similar key points in their Technology Responsible Use Agreement / Policy.  Therefore we summarized these into positive behaviors we want our students to exhibit every time they are on the net. We set about using both the Canva and Piktochart app to create infographics to share this information. For me, both apps offered similar tools, but we chose to create our final project using Piktochart.  Below is a copy of our final infographic which is now displayed in some of our MS classrooms.




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Bringing Awareness to the Positive Ways the Net Can Impact People

Every individual is important in the world and through their single actions, they have the potential to bring about a positive change in their lives or that of others. Martha’s video,  I realised was the perfect way to reinforce discussions my advisory had been having around this idea.  I was hoping to empower them with the knowledge that simple ideas can lead to big changes, and in turn, hopefully motivate some of them to follow their passion or gut feeling if they want to bring about any form of change.

A 13 year old girl’s passion for inventing things, was taken to a new level when her science project turned into a business venture and is now sold globally.

This is another example I shared that demonstrated how the net can have a positive impact on a teenagers life, purely because it enabled her product to be viewed easily world wide.   My advisory went on to further discuss why these videos had the impact they did, and what are some of the positive effects the web can have on them or the positive ways it can bring about change.

Below are some of their answers they gave as to why the net has been positive in their lives:

  • I make and sell bracelets online. I like fashion and I am interested in it, so I find things that are hard to find and I see them, buy them, sell them and make money
  • I go to amazon for online shopping. – I like it because I find stuff from all around the world, and I don’t  need to go to the shop.  It is a  convenience if the shop isn’t close to the house.
  • wii – when I outgrew it, I sell the games online.
  • wattpad    –  you find genres what you like, read them, then post comments
  • google homework question- answers pop up
  • Go fund me , a sick person, Seth, was on snapchat – Seth videos they raise money for the sick kid, help get him treatment.

The main theme I noticed from our discussion was that most of their usage on the net was having a positive impact on their lives without them even really thinking about it.  So even if no discussion followed these videos, by purely showing this content to my students, it raised their self awareness about the power of the net. It highlighted the positive impact it can have on the lives of one or more people.

 Students may not always be aware of the wealth of resources available to them. By infusing digital literacy throughout the curriculum and teaching the necessary skills to identify, evaluate and communicate what digital mediums are out there, we can equip our students with the tools necessary to follow their passions or to bring about change. It will enable the students to choose the most appropriate medium to communicate their work, to their identified, targeted audience. The section titled, ‘Evaluating online content is a research skill’, in the article,  How to Infuse Digital Literacy Throughout the Curriculum, highlighted this point.  

Maybe one day, the students I currently teach, may use the net to have a positive impact not only on their lives, but on the lives of others.

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Together but Alone?

During our lunch breaks MS students are allowed to be on their devices.  For the past 18 months, every time I am on duty, I notice the same group of 3 or 4 boys, sitting eating pizza and playing on their iPads.  No one speaks, no hand leaves a device, no eyes leave the screen.  To the point where when the whistle goes to signal class, they continue to play on their iPads while walking to their next lesson. Surely this is not healthy.  What happened to chatting with friends over lunch?

Were these boys I had observed connected online but alone socially?  Not only was I seeing this playing out in ‘real life”, but depicted in movies and t.v. series, where students are together physically but not necessarily mentally as they independently click away on their devices. This I believe is an example of one of the 9 components of digital literacy which rung true to me as identified by ISTE, in the article, Passport to Digital Citizenship,

  • The elements of physical and psychological well-being related to digital technology use. Do users consider the risks (both physical and psychological) when using digital technologies?  

According to Sherry Turkle’s TedTalk,

 ‘Connected, But Alone?’ this type of behavior can be damaging psychologically to a person and the points she highlights, made me think about what has become the new ‘norm’ due to the increased access and use of technology in all environments.  I had never thought about why, not only ‘digital natives’, a term according to Dave Saltman, which means have grown up with technology, but others as well, are always on their devices.   As a psychologist, Turkie believes one main reason is because it enables us to customize our lives and share what we want, with who we want, when we want, in a controlled way. All of which can impact the way we relate to each other and how we are able to self reflect. Versus having a conversation with people where what you say may be messy, and developing a face to face conversation may be more difficult as you need to listen and actually relate and react to someone else. Over time we are expecting more and more from technology and less from others around us.

Do I think this is psychologically healthy for us – no. Parents, schools, people in society need to work together to model what healthy use of technology looks like, in the workplace, at school, at lunch and in public places.  I think as a partnership, we need to go back to the basics and teach and model to students the importance of face to face communication, the art of face to face talk and listening.  There is a time and place for everything and this is one aspect of digital citizenship I think needs to be emphasized.

I wonder if the boys I have observed are missing out on their precious teenage years by being sucked into online games, chat rooms, or texting.  Is this purely for enjoyment or is it that they aren’t quite sure how to relate to their peers in a face to face, meaningful way or are they worried about losing control of the situation?  I would ask but I don’t seem to be able to draw their attention away from their on screen life!

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Vlogging and Copyright Usage

Copyright, creative commons, public domain and fair use, were all keywords identified in the article, Copyright Flowchart. However, 3 out of the 4 terms I was unfamiliar with, so this week I decided to get my head around their meaning by choosing a digital literacy new to me, vlogging, to see how these terms apply to this form of media.

Firstly, to understand vlogging, I read the article Vlogging, Teens, and Literacy: Engaging Youth.  I then used canva, an app I was introduced to last week, to make the below infographic to summarize how and why vlogging is used by our students today.  In doing so, based off the Copyright Flowchart, I created my own media, therefore I don’t have to worry about infringing on anyone else’s copyright.

Vlogging (2)

I spent time searching the net, playing with the keywords like public domain, and creative commons, to see what results I could find.  For example, the public domain pictures website, demonstrated to me the large amount of images available for free use.  After being ‘lost’ in the web for awhile, I decided two things.  Firstly, with regards to vlogging, I believe if the students are creating their own content they can fall into the category of creating their own media, therefore won’t be infringing on anyone else’s copyrights.  However, depending on the content used, students would need to be aware of the ‘fair use agreement’, relating to how much information is used i.e.from their research, or current affairs.  Plus, if they for some reason chose to use an image in their vlog, I would suggest they use a public domain website to obtain it from.  YouTube is the place where most vlogs are shared and viewed.  As stated in the above mentioned Vlogging article, I agree it is important for our students to also be aware that YouTube is a business and there is a lot of money to be made through ads and sponsorship associated with vlogs.

This week has left me with two big take-aways.  Firstly, making sure my students understand the power of creating their own media with regards to copyrights.  As well as, if they do use videos, music, text, images – any form of digital media, they are aware of the ‘public domain’ or ‘fair use agreement’ so they access media they are allowed to use.  Secondly,  vlogging, as a new form of digital literacy. Depending on the topic of an individual’s vlog, it may cover many of the new media literacies as identified in the article, PLAY. For example; multitasking, judgement, appropriation, visualizations, transmedia and negotiations, to name a few. I feel a vlog is a great way to share students opinions in a format that doesn’t rely on text. Often a vlog may only be relevant for a short time period, therefore there isn’t also that concern over it being perfect, so long as the student’s message is clear.  

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