My Final COETAIL Project- Course 5: Self-Advocacy Presentations

Unit Introduction

  • As we entered the final quarter of the year,  I started our Advocacy presentation unit off with a brainstorming session around their transition to grade 8 and what kinds of things they would want to share with their teachers. It was a group discussion allowing them to start looking for the words to help describe themselves as learners & individuals. Further lessons would then give them more vocabulary around how to speak about themselves in that same way with confidence and expand their self-awareness and demonstrate how to articulate what they need to get the most out of their learning and more importantly, enjoy the process!
  • Check out our Unit Planner linked here with some slight alterations made that will be shared in the video at the bottom of this post.

The Learning Process

  • After our brainstorming sessions, we had numerous SMART skills lessons allowing us to grow in educational vocabulary and reflect on ourselves as learners. I transformed an old pen and paper Executive Functioning survey to being a google doc, and found success with the reflection piece and debriefing the students with their own personal data.
From this... 

to this...


allowing for a greater level of independence and mini lessons on the vocabulary within the survey to add to their personalized Vocabulary journals.


  • From offering choice selections lessons through “bingo boards” (as seen in the final video) to direct instruction reading lessons my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and LRC (Learning Resource Class) has a fine balance between independent activities and lessons that require active engagement. Allowing them to choose all activities in 1 language domain or complete one activity from each of the 4 domains (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking).
  • Many of which we started the year off completing together as a class and as the year went on similar activities then became some that they could complete independently- such as the Nearpod listening lessons.
  • As we got closer to the final assessment for our project, we dove back into their goals and charts of their progress and continued the reflection process. Partnering up to work on skills in similar areas as well as different partners whose strengths and weaknesses were opposite to them was beneficial. In these partnerships, they were able to discuss strategies and ways they focus on their strengths to help with things that are more challenging for them.
  • Here are a few altered (for confidentiality) screenshots of the final projects showcasing slides of the student’s work and some of their excitement to celebrate not only their growth and success around meeting their goals but to celebrate their differences and truly value the unique individualness of each and every one. Be sure to check out the final video reflection at the end of this post, to see parts of the presentations in action!

ISTE Standards for Students

Empowered Learner

Creative Communicator

Both Images taken by Shalene Huth
  • As an empowered learner my students (1a),  “Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.” and  (1c) “Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.”
  • As creative communicators my students (6a), “Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication” and (6d) “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.”
  • Allowing students the option of which platform they wanted to use to complete their project authentically embedded the ISTE Standards for students into my content area. It has gotten better as it has become easier to identify which units are using which ISTE standards, and how to go about planning meaningful lessons to help with significantly re-designing the task or to create an entirely new one.

    ISTE Standards for Educators

Image taken by Shalene Huth.      I have deepened my practice of the  educator ISTE standards, by using them in my unit and becoming more reflective in the designing stage, opposed to only at the completion of the unit. Looking at not only the standards I wanted the kids to model, but those designed for educators has allowed me to grow in the planning and implementation of this unit, ensuring that almost each standard is somehow incorporated into this final project.

I also realized that for the future I’d also like to focus on and continue to grow in Standard 3-Digital Citizenship:where "Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibilty partcipate in the digital world."

ISTE Standards I was proud to meet through the implementation of my final project:

    • “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.”
          • Specifically: “Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.”
    • “Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.”
          • Specifically: “Educators: Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.” and “Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.”
    • “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.” and “Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.”
    • “Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.”
      • Specifically, “Educators: Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.”
    • “Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.
        • Specifically, “Educators: Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.”
    • “Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.” and “Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents, and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.”

Meeting Our Goals

  • The main goal for this unit was to present a video recording about themselves as a learner demonstrating clear English speaking and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses while reflecting on their goals from this year.
  • For myself and this unit, I wanted to open it up to doing the project, not from a standard template- I’ve provided in the past, with explicit step-by-step instructions, but to give them the end goal and give them choice on how to reach it and bring, what I cherish and value: creativity, into my lessons.
Showing my students first hand, it can be extra rewarding to just "go rogue" as you can see here with a painting class I experienced... where I took the liberties to ask for black paint created my own pink and followed instructions in a different way. 

 

Photos taken by Shalene Huth
  • I think this project has challenged me to rethink traditional approaches, in the sense of breaking away from set graphic organizers and templates to allow more room for student choice. Then once students begin follow up with bringing in sentence starters, prompts, or graphic organizers to aid them.
  • It was also a goal of mine, to explore utilizing my own photos and to begin taking more “abstract” ones that could, later on, be used in blog posts- a goal of which I was thrilled to see come full circle in this post and within the images of my final video.

Adding to Our Toolbelt

  •  Movie Maker
  • Screen Casetify
  • Google forms-surveys
  • Google Docs.
  • Padlet & Flipgrid
  • Nearpod
  • Read & Write assistive tech.
  • Most of my students were familiar with a number of these and it’s great to see more and more teachers using them regularly within their classes. So what may be new to you, more often than not, is not new for our students.
  • Choosing the tool to match the task, is also an easy feat once you have a broader knowledge of what’s available to you.  Being able to start with knowing what you want and select a tech tool to best support it allows the focus to stay on the task with technology simply enhancing the redefinition of what we thought was possible in the many learner objectives and endless opportunities to show demonstrate of the expected outcomes. 

Sharing our Transformation

  • Being that I am the only SEN teacher for my grade level I shared this unit with the transition team and next year’s teachers. Teachers received an e-mail with links to each of the students’ videos for whom they will teach for grade 8. I will initiate collaboration through setting up the transition meetings and holding end-of-year progress meetings and support plan meetings with parents and classroom teachers. During this time, teachers will be able to ask the students directly any clarifying questions on their projects. We have been unable to have any of these meetings yet, due to Covid-19.
  • I will continue to share out my learning experiences with my colleagues as we implement new TTT (Teacher’s Training Teachers) sessions at our weekly Faculty and Dept. meetings (not just the monthly PD days) as well as through engaging them in the transition meetings and student support meetings.  Sharing these types of projects and the lessons leading up to our final outcome will also empower teachers better serve diverse groups of learners.
  • All of this will greatly impact the students I service, by taking these skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, and empowerment and generalizing them into their general education classrooms and with a larger setting and in a subject that may be more challenging to them.

Learning Outcomes

  • Greater self-awareness, confidence, and advocacy skills!
  • Assessment task: creating a presentation (of any kind) with visuals and demonstrating speaking skills that can reflect on themselves as a learner and how they set goals and worked towards achieving them.
  •  They also learned about collaboration and speaking with their classmates and the classroom teacher is of utmost importance to continue to grow as a learner and to take more control over their education.
  • The enduring understandings that students walked away with were the different tools and vocabulary to utilize in ensuring they are getting the most out of every class lesson.
  • In end, the final transition piece will occur after the results of their WIDA language assessment in 2 weeks’ time. I am confident that all the students I worked with this year will reach a level 4 or 5 in the speaking domain as it has been a joy seeing their confidence grow and have some wonderful discussions, debates, and informal dialogue week after week.
Image taken from: https://view.publitas.com/dr-2/wida-speaking-rubric-writing-rubric-typed-1/page/1

Final Reflection

My COETAIL experience will impact my future practice, with whatever field I go into. As I am unexpectedly leaving my job and home in Moscow and on the search for something new and exciting back in Wisconsin! Everything I have gained through COETAIL, I am confident, has allowed me to take the next steps in whatever is to come.  I don’t know what my role will be in the fall, within education, but the COETAIL experience has given me numerous opportunities to expand my PLN and countless new tips and tricks with innovative tech skills that I am sure I will find success.  I will look for a position that allows me to continue to spread the joys of what it means to be a life long learner, eager to try new things, gather data, and continually reflect and meet the needs of ALL learners, who are eager to take control of their own learning and help make this world a better place

Be sure to check out the video for further reflection on the project itself!

From everything available on Google, Youtube, Twitter, our PLN, and helpful links provided by the COETAIL instructor, the 2 tips I really took with me for the creation of my video were:

“…You have to be able to see the feeling…” & “…just lift your chin up, go forward and don’t worry about nothing…”

Take from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3qlFtZJwP8

Final Project Video Reflection

My Community Engagement

Personal Learning Networks

As our COETAIL journey is winding down and coming to an end, I’ve realized how much my Personalized Learning Network has grown since the start of this course well over a year ago and before experiencing a global pandemic that forever changed what teaching and learning can look like worldwide.

From full digital models to different hybrid models, to “Modified Full On-Campus Learning” with each passing week we continued to evolve our craft to meet the needs of our diverse learning group. From those stuck out of the country due to VISA restrictions to those at home quarantining, to those who remained in other time zones well on the opposite side of the world, it has never been more clear how much teachers care and are willing and able to put in the time to engage, teach, and inspire their learners no matter their location or given learning mode.

Throughout this year I have relied on a number of different groups to learn from and share different lesson plans and activity ideas with.  You can see from my original post from back in February 2020 all of my learning communities in yellow, where then I have added my newer ones in green since on this COETAIL journey.

CEESA- Learning Support

To start, having our school being a part of CEESA (Central & Eastern European Schools Association) has had numerous opportunities for growth and development. Even after Covid hit, a number of the Learning Support teachers would continue to pose questions to the group and seek solutions and ideas for ways to best serve students in the Special Education Program. After a few months of countless e-mail replies, we took our lengthy e-mail chats to a more formalized meeting.  A poll went out, we selected re-occurring days (monthly) to meet. It wasn’t too tricky with the time zones being that it was all CEESA schools, but generally, the meetings lasted about an hour and were recorded for people who couldn’t attend. An agenda was set up such as this:

1. CEESA learning support website
2. Screening, identifying, and referring students
3. Measuring progress in hybrid or virtual learning scenario
4. Takeaways from the CEESA conference
It was a great way to connect to others who share the same passions with SEN and in similar international schools facing similar challenges.

Google for Education

Next, the Google Educator Groups have been extremely helpful as I applied to the program and am working towards my Google Educator Trainer exam. Using things like Quizlet.com to help you study and prepare, it was also great having access to people who have already done their level 1 and 2 exam to ask questions and practice more tips and tricks for short cuts, activties,and simply new fun ways to utalize all things Google!

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Global Online Academy

With plenty of workshops to choose from, Global Online Academy offers a wide range of courses depending on your current skill level. I found their lessons and discussion boards beneficial during the start of our lockdown, when moving to a full digital teaching and learning model. But I quickly learned that the resources provided by my school and the level of tech. skills I had already acquired, led me more to answering questions through this community than getting my own questions answered. It was a great experience that really allowed me to see where we stood in terms of supporting our students during a crazy time in education and also allowed me to grow in confidence about all the great things we were already doing and using with our students to increase engagement and ensure learning was taking place.

Even in the “end of quarter student reflections”, I was thrilled to see one comment that read,

“Even during a pandemic we can learn”

Sometimes I think as educators who are constantly thinking 10 steps ahead while simultaneously reflecting on the past 2 weeks and assessments and attendance all while not forgetting SELF CARE ….. we forget how resilient kids can truly be and that when modeling positivity and optimism for what the future has in store, only great things can happen. Which also led me to seeing that despite me thinking that this year would be hard to show two plus years growth… from the students point of view they are on track for meeting their goals or in some cases have already met them and would like to set new ones!

Twitter

This leads me to my own academic goal- which was to sign up for Twitter and actually attempt Tweeting. I have never been a huge fan of this platform, being from the original Facebook Generation, but I found out I was able be extra selective on who to follow and was also able to get a few helpful hashtags from friends along the way which proved to be a great resource.

Not only was I able to Tweet out my COETAIL blog posts, but I was able to stay better connected with my cohort, for the times when we planned a meeting to touch base and see how everything was going and everyone was doing on their final projects.

More specifically I really enjoyed using Twitter during some fun grade level projects like March Book Madness… with Harry Potter as this year’s champion and getting to tag the authors of some amazing work in young adult and children’s literature.

Or getting to share out fun class lessons on the sustainability of our oceans. Teaching students about Exclusive Economic Zones and what’s going on in today’s world on top of the environment and pollution of those oceans with plastics- while being sure to use biodegradable materials and doing a fun lesson on bottled water vs. the tap! What are you really paying for??

Without expanding my personal learning networks many of these lessons and activities would have stayed with their creators as opposed to having great lessons reach as many students as possible.

Lesson Plan – Living Lands & Waters found here https://www.livinglandsandwaters.org 

Facebook

Joining the group- “Teaching During Covid-19” allowed me to see numerous examples of what others around the world were doing in place of the in-person learning activities. I loved all the Bitmoji classrooms people were using, but never found quite the right lesson to use with it. When we introduced our literary terms for a past unit, I saw others who created “escape rooms” with their Bitmoji classrooms. So I decided I wanted to take it one step further by incorporating a Google Form into it and the special features like “Section based questions” or “Conditional” and “text contains” allowed us to really have some fun with our new terms and challenged them to check their work and see if they were correct- allowing them to “escape”.

Webex Teams

At first, Webex Teams was just another platform for communication. Yet- another thing to put on the list to have to check daily from e-mails to what's app groups, to Facebook messenger, to your Twitter feed... I found it regualrly exhausting attempting to keep up with everything. But in the end, it was useful to connect with different people who you don't see throughout your typical school day, and allow for opportunities like Moderating WIDA writing samples across grade levels. It allowed for easy sharing of writing samples and rubrics and quick and easy communication for shared scoring and reasonings. I know this tool will also be exteremly handy towards the end of the year as we begin to have our final ILP and SSP meetings along with all the transition meetings taking place from ES to MS and MS to HS. 

Zoom

Last- our Monthly Happy Hour Zoom meetings with former colleagues, allowed that time for Self-Care that everyone so greatly needed during these past 15 months. Getting to talk about how other schools are handling the Covid situation, but more importantly, connecting with old friends who share your passion for education was vital to surviving this school year.

From synchronous to asynchronous learning styles, with a lot to a little notice, I’ve come to realize how wonderful and supportive colleagues around the world are: sharing ideas, resources, and availability to offer feedback and simply be available for a group brainstorming session. I am thankful for my Personalized Learning Network and can only hope it continues to grow as I move towards a new chapter of life, leaving my school in Moscow for the unknown!  I am excited about all the new connections I will make and know the relationships established during my 10 years of international teaching will continue to be there, for a lifetime.

C4Wk2: Partners in Learning

Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool. It’s not a means to an end. It is the end – the purpose and the result of a meaningful life.

Melinda Gates, Philanthropist, Duke University Commencement Address, 2013

Images take from article: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning 

Deep Learning is quality learning… that sticks!

What really resonated with me this week was the importance of Michael Fullen’s New Pedagogies for Deep Learning with the emphasis on making learning exciting and the importance of building trust. He explained going about that quite simply by:

  1. Name it
  2. Model it
  3. Monitor it

“Trust” by Pro-Zak is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

This leads me more towards looking into the leadership roles within a school:  and how new leaders “figure out how to relate to the group, to change the nature of the work” and even more importantly build collaboration that lasts beyond the leader leaving. Especially in an international school setting where turnover is usually quite high;  a collaborative group continues on after the leader has then left.  These leaders must focus on creating conditions that pull students’ and teachers’ initiative and potential forward; therefore, paving the way for new pedagogies that allow deep learning to take place. Without teacher initiative and recognizing the potential to move forward, it reminds me a lot of effect size and what the many factors are affecting student achievement.  With the teacher as Activator with an effect size of .72 (and as a facilitator at .19) it is crucial that as educators we continue to reflect on our current proven practices. This hold especially true in the field of SEN/SPED when in order to make a years plus growth in one years time, choosing interventions and teaching practices with effect sizes of at least 1 is the most beneficial for our students.  Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement is a great reminder of what those include. Specifically, Collective Teacher Efficacy is the highest at 1.57, which is the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students’ lives in education. This also holds a strong correlation to job satisfaction; and during a pandemic year, one that has greatly been impacted.

Image Taken from Visible Learning: Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement

Another aspect I found quite helpful was his mentions of Assessment Literacy: or the ability to be skilled at looking at the data and how to proceed with it. Since now more than ever teachers are bombarded with data and evidence that leads to an overwhelming amount of it, but being able to decipher it and see how we’re doing as educators. I found that the Principal’s Training Center (PCT) course on assessment incredibly helpful towards making progress towards this and attempts at achieving mastery.

Image taken from Pixaby

In order for this deep learning to be possible and to then stick, human connections are even more important than ever… especially in a now Covid plagued world.

Teachers can no longer get away with saying, “I don’t care if they like me, they don’t need to like me, they need to learn.” Hopefully, with more and more research and understandings out there, teachers will begin or continue to acknowledge how important a safe environment and good rapport go hand in hand with student achievement. Especially in the world of SEN/SPED, if a child doesn’t like their teacher, walls go up and it makes any learning even that much harder to obtain.

“If kids know you care about them as human beings,it makes all the difference”-Pauline Roberts

Teachers need to (naturally) gravitate towards new pedagogies that offer a new way of teaching or new tools that sparks engagement and learning.

Photo by Wout Vanacker on Unsplash

As stated in the article, How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, “Is it any wonder that studies from many countries show that less than 40% of upper secondary students are intellectually engaged at school?” If that number isn’t alarming and cause for a change, I don’t know what other motivation there could be.

Creating the freedom to learn and the freedom to contribute and participate on a global scale is a remarkable task one that wasn’t even in existence a decade ago and will take the continued transformation of technology within the classroom to achieve.

We need to continually push for more exciting lessons:

Image take from Michael Fullen's New Pedagogies for Deep Learning

Learning PartnershipsHandshake, Hands, Laptop, Monitor, Online, Digital

No matter if you call it digital learning, distance learning, or off-campus learning, the partnerships formed are more important now than ever. Not being in the ‘brick n mortar’ model of education where everyone is face to face and one can easily pop in and out of classrooms to bounce ideas off one another and more importantly give that specific regularly and timely feedback only became more and more challenging.

The learning partners must find a balance that will be different to each learning context; from my partnership in the Math 7 classroom with one teacher to my Humanities 7 classroom daily with another, to yet even a 3rd partnership with my instructional assistant in two pull out small group classes; each one offers a unique and specialized approach to collaboration.

Achieving the right balance between structure and independence is something that continually takes hard work, a massive amount of organization and on going communication depending on the subject, the complexity of the task at hand, and even greater impact…. the level of familiarity with the content.  We must be co-learners alongside our kids. Able to model the learning process that is required when answering great open-ended questions after a strong trust is built and engagement flows.

Throughout each learning process, it now becomes the focal point for all individuals to have mutual discovery, creation, and use of knowledge. To even attempt to tie in the frameworks more often than just during the large department’s meetings when establishing the year-long plans.

Fostering Partnerships to Support & Enhance

The ongoing teamwork and collaborative efforts allow for the greatest student achievement as we are able to build on one another strengths.

Learning outcomes are measured by:

  1. Capacities to build new knowledge and to lead their own learning effectively
  2. Proactive dispositions and their abilities to persevere through challenges
  3. The development of citizens who are life-long learners.

And it is through collaborative effective partnerships that we can achieve these learning outcomes and continually push for higher student engagement and deep learning… that STICKS!

Effective partnering is built on principles of equity, transparency, reciprocal accountability and mutual benefit.Through such partnering, teachers not only become learners themselves, but also begin to see learning through the eyes of their students. This ‘visibility’ is essential if teachers are to continuously challenge students to reach for the next step, and if they are to clearly see whether teaching and learning strategies are achieving their intended goals.


Hattie. J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge.

Embracing a New Model of Education

Our school has really been a focus on ensuring as much face to face time learning can take place while not compromising the safety and health of our community. Professional development and resources have been increased and extended to help compensate for these changing times, though at times the learning process can be hindered due to last minute changes or frequent change in teaching models at a moments notice (when a certain number of positive Covid cases has been reported) this effects any long term planning or even knowing which days classes will come next.  It has been a true testament to the flexibility and teaching our student to embrace

man using computer inside room spontaneity. A term not many educators are comfortable with, as we plan and have attempted to control every factor within our classrooms that are now on the other side of a screen.

Our school could be more accepting of new pedagogies and models by taking further action after completing a SEN/SPED audit through Next Frontiers: Inclusion.  They offered huge insight into our school’s teaching and inclusionary practices, as well as examples and models of different co-teaching methods: which we’ve found to be very useful and lead us to question the overall program and placement of students who receive specialized educational services.

In order for new pedagogies to spread,  teachers, students, and leaders must implement them and then collaborate to share their experiences. Only then will their experience and energy, help impact these learning practices that are being had on everyone involved.

My goal for deep learning partnerships at our school would be for teachers to embrace their partnerships with students to master the learning process; while continuing to expand their repertoire of teaching strategies in order to enhance the foundation of teacher’s pedagogical capacities.
I want teachers and students to not only master content knowledge, but the process of learning. Most importantly learning how to learn by:
  • Students defining their own learning goals and  success criteria
  • Students monitoring their own learning
  • Students critically examining their own work
  • Students incorporating feedback from anyone including, but not limited to: their peers, teachers, and parents 
  • Students use all of this to deepen their awareness of how they function in the learning process

After all of this happens and students begin to make progress in mastering the learning process, our role as educators can then move from ‘explicit structuring of learning tasks, and spend more time providing feedback, activating next-level learning challenges, and continuously developing the learning environment.’

Let’s Cross the Finish Line Together

Image taken from Toaster Masters International

Last, as we consider the New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning all we need to focus on are the 6 C’. Whether it’s for project-based learning, through direct instruction, or through an inquiry-based mode of learning, having the teacher as an ‘activator’ (higher effect size) as opposed to ‘facilitator’ (lower effect size, even below the hinge point) will allow for deeper learning experiences to take place in our classrooms.

Character Education

Citizenship

Collaboration

Communication

Creativity

Critical Thinking

Nerivill1, Ocean, Women, Sea, Summer, Beach, Woman

Based on this week’s readings, in order to engage and support deeper learning, I will shift my practice to continue to work on my questioning- especially when in the large classroom setting (non pull-out environment) to ensure all learners are achieving their level best. I like to activate my students through the use of greater questioning techniques, holding them accountable, setting clear/high expectations, and helping them set their own goals and monitor their own progress- especially around self-regulatory skills and constant reflection.

 How Do You ‘Activate’ Students?

My practice has deepened since the start of my COETAIL journey as I have gained many new tools to utilize in my classrooms, ended my protest of Twitter, and expanded my PLNs through blogging.  I’ve implemented many “new” technology features to enhance the learning of my students right alongside me.  Modeling every step of the way, that it’s more than okay to make mistakes and try new things while continually reminding one another

“Please be Patient we are learning”- Dr. Brent Mutsch

C2 W2: Connecting with Friends & Family

After 6 weeks of leading four thirty minute recorded Google Meet calls a week, I have learned so much from the students I call my advisees. Distance Learning has provided me a no longer “unique” experience, but a new learning experience to dive head-on into a steep learning curve of which is digital everything. From assignments, discussions, assessments, feedback, and planning, Distance Learning has really allowed us to hit pause on the academic side and further explore the social-emotional health and well-being side of our students. Having four regularly scheduled times to meet with my small group of Penguins (mascot at the Anglo-American School of Moscow) this “advisory time” allowed us to take a break from the school day and just hang out, play games, get creative, and share thoughts and feelings about the ever-changing situation of being “overseas”.

  • I’ve learned that how I connected with my friends at their age was much different, than what they experience in 2020. They no longer have memorized telephone numbers, or have to wait for a parent to get off the phone before getting on the internet (they’ll never truly understand the struggles with dial-up and America Online). Or even younger, just riding a bike down the street to see if your friend was home. Though as an adult, my connections are much more similar to my students based on two things: technology and the international community. Third Culture Kids and international teachers will already have mixed similarities when it comes to communication because it is the life chosen. How many of my friends back home had no idea about the “What’s App” app for easy worldwide communication, or evening just dialing the plus sign before a telephone number. TCK’s are now communicating more than ever through SnapChat and TikTok, apps I have yet had any interest in exploring. Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Skype are still three of the most common social media formats I use to stay close with my friends and family. Even my 90 year old Grandmother is on Facebook, regularly liking posts and knows how to operate a webcam for regular chats on skype, yet all three main formats I use are “not cool” amongst my middle school Penguins.

I especially loved the article: Where Weird Facebook is King, where at the end, he writes the RIP section for all social media who have just disappeared or are no longer common amongst his circle of friends. When seeing that list I couldn’t help but think of all the different apps and platforms that are out there, that I haven’t even heard of, yet were at one time #trending even if just for a brief period. Unlike ones that I thought wouldn’t last, like Twitter, just seem to stick around and I find my self needing to continue learning about.

Or his take on the “emphasis on videos over text has made the platform more engaging and shareable, since videos are (currently) one of the most engaging formats” yet how many people in those videos do you actually know? We surround ourselves every day with short video clips of complete strangers, yet stress the importance of making real-life connections.

Do you have the courage to create something of your very own?… And Post it for the world to see.

  • I used to think social media in the hands of my students was just an open unsupervised doorway for bullying and dangerous situations for them to get themselves into. But now, as an educator, I see the amount of time and effort spent on helping guide students through this new digital age, where every 5th grader has cell phone. I can also start to see the positives, such as: -Creative dances and humor expressed in the latest TikToks Dance moves. -Shared opinions and heartfelt debates in recorded Podcasts. -Fancy videos with editing skills for “picture in picture” explaining the latest Algebraic Math problems along with Advocating for their own Special Educational Needs. It’s with all these things, I think how wonderful it is our students have literally everything at their fingertips helping guide what kind of human they will be and all the things they will create and share in their lifetime. Literally with recordings and photos to capture everything. I’m certainly glad that embarrassing teenage moments were much harder to capture on film in the 80’s and 90’s than they are now.
  • Social interactions and communication are changing, as with all the different digital formats it allows people to participate as much and as extensively as they would like, to as little as they may desire (back to the lurker stage).

To be honest, I don’t use social media in my classroom, at least not often or in the creative ways, I know great educators are doing, but I am confident that in my Learning Resource Class for students who have identified learning needs, students are learning to communicate appropriately and effectively in their general education classrooms and hopefully taking these skills outside the classroom and generalizing them in their on-line behaviors off-campus.

We need to not only value the social spaces of our students but role model and demonstrate to them that we value their digital identities and importance that social media plays as they continue to navigate their path in life.

We continue to encourage our students to participate in all of it, for me, specifically within Individualized Learning Plan goals & constant on-going reflection and teaching and monitoring self-regulatory skills.

I support my colleagues in understanding the effect social media has on our communication by regularly sharing and keeping the dialogue open about the communication taking place. I also encourage “out of office” communication time, hosting zoom calls, and placing an emphasis on personal lives more than on “work talk”. It is equally important to share with friends and colleagues when you may see a post that isn’t aligned with your morals and values and start an open honest dialogue about it vs. the easy route of blocking, unfollowing, pausing, or muting, or even the most extreme- unfriending.

“The real threat isn’t smartphones. It’s this campaign of misinformation and the generation of fear among parents and educators.”

The Kids (Who Use Tech) Seem to be Alright Scientific American

Other interesting reads related to this topic, I found taken from Psychology Today: “What Can You Learn About People From Facebook?” it explores the different personality traits one can exhibit based on the types of posts they create or share. It makes me think…..

What do your posts say about you?

I’d like to think mine would show the world I am a humorous, creative individual or known as a crazy cat woman, but at times I now know my post also reflect my massive hatred for Trump2020.

Can all readers tell I am fluent in sarcasm as well? Maybe, but maybe not.