D. Professional Practices

OCT Standard: Professional Practices 
Members apply professional knowledge and experience to promote student learning. They use appropriate pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, resources and technology in planning for and responding to the needs of individual students and learning communities. Members refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection.

Rationale: In order to promote student learning in the classroom, the teacher must sort through and chose from a wide range of learning materials and opportunities. The learning opportunities for todays classroom, mediated through the the explosive growth of technology, are perhaps greater than they have ever been. In order to best decide how and where technology-based learning can best fit and be leveraged in the Junior classroom, the teacher inquiries and reflects on choices as to their effectiveness. In the following assignment, I’ve looked at some research that helps to frame the use of technology in the classroom, and also looked at some specific technologies with a view to providing some things for consideration at the teacher decides on what to incorporate into the class.

Assignment/Reflection: Technology in the Junior Classroom

There are many different technology tools that can be put in place in a Junior classroom. A teacher must be purposeful and have specific reasons for using these technologies. The newest and flashiest piece of equipment might be desirable, but without consideration of how this helps to enhance learning, the technology will gather dust, or worse, be an expensive way to do something that could have been done cheaper another way.

Ruben R. Puentedura has crafted a framework that is helpful to think about technology-enhanced lessons. Using this lens, teachers are able to consider the tasks that student are engaged in and for what purpose. They are able to see if the use of technology in these tasks fall into one of 4 categories, Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, or Redefinition.  At the substation level, a student could simply be replacing one piece of technology with another. They could, for example, be using a computer to type up an essay rather than handwrite the same essay. The task that the student engages in is not fundamentally different.  At each level, the teacher can assess how the technology is used, and if it is being leveraged in the best way. For example, at the redefinition stage, the tasks that the students engage in are not otherwise possible without the technology. For example, students could engage in live, videoconferencing discussions with experts in a given field from around the world, and then use that knowledge to make a multimedia movie about their learning. Please see http://www.slideshare.net/colinjagoe/research-into-practice-16402928 for a slideshow I’ve done about how to use this framework (and 2 others)  to help teachers think about how they use technology.

Technology List
As the specific list of potential technologies, software titles and internet tools exhaustive, what follows is some general thoughts about the use of various categories of technology.

Technology Uses and Thoughts about
SMART Boards Almost becoming the de facto norm in many areas. The SMART board has many uses, as a projector for a classroom computer to an interactive station in a center-based classroom. Many times, these boards are not much more than glorified overhead projectors or chalkboards. For the technology to be transformative, teachers need to allow students to use the boards for learning activities, in small groups if possible.
Computers/Laptops A few classroom computers should be available. Ideally, these are rechargeable laptops that can move with the students to where they need to be to best learn. These tools are used for everything from simple access to resources for learning, to creating products that demonstrate their learning and understanding in ways that best suit them.
Software This group can be huge. Classroom computers have a variet of software installed that can aid in making student thinking visible. OSAPAC licenses a wide variety of software for use in Ontario schools, so students have ready access to multimedia creation tools, assistive technology tools, interactive simulations and much more.
Hardware A well-equipped classroom should have, in addition to the computer hardware, a variety of other hardware. Microphones and headsets for audio listening and creation, digital cameras (still and video) for student to capture their thoughts and daily learning.
Internet Access Web tools are fast replacing installed software on computers. Students and teachers are able to use a wide variety of these web based tools for learning activities. Access is a key component of the digital divide. Students in schools must have access to internet resources, with sufficient bandwidth as to meet their needs. With the amount of learning resources available online, they need to be able to ensure that they can reliable gain access to them. School and boards must work to ensure that this need is met in a timely and efficient manner.

Reflections on Comfort
As a lifelong ‘tinker’ with technology, I have a good comfort level with many of the tools available. In addition, I have a good comfort with being able to learn with technology. In the age of technology we live in, there is no possible way that a teacher could be expert in all of the potentially useful tools. Teachers must gain a comfort, not with the technology tools, but rather with the idea of being a learner. With this mindset, every new piece of technology is not a barrier to understanding, but rather an opportunity to engage as a co-learner with students.  In the Junior classroom, many students have technical skills beyond what their teachers may have, but what they need help with, is the understanding about the value of different technologies, and how to best use them for enhancing the students learning.

Rationale: Teachers are responsible for planning learning activities that are based on the Ontario Curriculum. They are also to ensure that each student is able to find a way to demonstrate that learning. Having a set of learning goals and related success criteria to accompany a unit of study is a good way to approach this. In addition, at the conclusion of a unit of study, having a rich culminating assessment task that is differentiated for all students can help with ensuring all students are successful. In the following assignment, the culminating assessment for a Grade 6 Space Science unit was developed, along with the rationale and context, the learning goals and related success criteria, and an indication of some of the assessment approaches that would be used.

Assignment/Reflection: Culminating Assessment – Grade 6 Space Unit

Context – Through the unit, student would have learned about the different components of the solar system, planets, asteroids, moons etc.. and how humanity has learned about them through making observations of the sky. Different activities would have been completed to help students achieve these learning goals.  In addition, students would have explored different ways in which people have explored space, via robotic missions, telescopes and missions with people, such as the moon landings and the International Space Station.  With this culminating task, students will have the opportunity to delve deeper into a component of the solar system that is of interest to them. They will get to think about how to explore space, and what will be the best way to explore the object they are interested in with a critical view to understanding that some things are better explored in some ways than others. They will also be asked about what the scientific gain from their mission might be, so that will help them think in an inquiry based manner, as they can formulate questions about the things that they learn during the course of the unit of study. To do this, they will have to synthesis their understanding of the different components of the solar system and make an informed decision about why they wish to learn more about something in particular. Students will be able to work in small teams (2 or 3) or by themselves for this culminating activity. In addition, the final product is to be a proposal, but that proposal can take many different forms, as best suits the goals and skills and strengths of the students.

Assessment – Through the unit, students will have been reflecting on the learning goals and related success criteria as they explored and completed different learning activities. These success criteria will be of use, as they will help the students build the skills and knowledge required for the culminating task.  The culminating task will also see the students referring to the success criteria and learning goals for the unit, as in putting together their proposal, they will be demonstrating their understanding of it all in a synthesized way.

Learning Goals
We are learning:

  • What the different planets have in common and how they are different
  • To make observations of the sky and to make inferences about the motions of the objects.
  • How humans have learned about and explore space.
  • How to assess the pros and cons of space exploration.

Success Criteria
I can:

  • Describe where in our solar system different objects are
  • Describe what these objects are like in using appropriate vocabulary
  • Use different technology tools to make observations about the solar system, for example, research using online tools the location of planets in the night sky
  • Use the location of planets in the sky to explain where they are in the solar system in relation to Earth
  • Describe how different kinds of technology have helped us learn about different part of the solar system (telescopes, robots, human spacecraft, etc.. )
  • Communicate my opinion about the value of space exploration and back up my opinion with evidence using an appropriate medium.

Culminating Activity
With the recent retirement of Canadian astronaut and ISS Commander Chris Hadfield, the Canadian Space Agency is on the lookout for new people and new missions to explore the solar system. You have been asked to put together a plan for a new Canadian space mission. You have the opportunity to make a proposal to the CSA about your mission in hopes of getting the money and support to make it a reality. The CSA has provided the following things to think about in order to help you decide what your mission will be and how you will go about it.  You will have some class time to help pull this proposal together.

From the Canadian Space Agency, in association with NASA and ESA.

We are inviting proposals from teams or individuals to help decide what the next phase of exploration will be. Please provide the following information in your proposal.

  1. What specific object or objects in the solar system will your mission aim to learn more about? (planet, moon, asteroid, comets, etc… )
  2. What kind of a mission will this be? (new telescope to study object, robotic mission to visit object, human mission to visit object)
  3. Outline the details of how your mission or project will be put together or constructed.
  4. Why is it important to learn more about your selected goal or target? What will the scientific gain be for humans?
  5. What your time frame for this? How long will it take to build your project, and how long will it take for the mission to be completed?
  6. What kind of people will you need on your team to be successful?

Your proposal can be made in any format you wish. You may wish to make a presentation, video, brochures or other format that can help to convince the selection committee that your idea is worthy of further study.

Proposals are to be submitted to your classroom teacher, who will them assess their potential and determine which proposals will be sent on to the Space Agency for further consideration.

Good luck with your proposal!

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