What the Tech?

Taking in as much innovation as possible and using it to renovate teaching practise

Looking at BC’s Digital Literacy Framework for Kindergarten

 

“KidsFun_iPads” by CTJ Online is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

BC’s Digital Literacy Framework has some good points for building kids’ digital skills. Importantly, for Kindergarten and elementary school in general, it specifies, right at the top, that teacher modelling will be necessary before a gradual release of responsibility.  Most kids are capable of exploring an iPad by themselves and this can be relatively safe for pre-readers as long as there are colourful child-orientated game apps on it. However, once those kids can read and spell, adult supervision is required in order to make kids safer.  Years ago, when Shrek was popular, my preteen daughter typed Shrek into a Google search and came across an image of a very large naked woman, painted green, entitled “Shrek’s Mom”.  She was horrified, not necessarily because of the image but because she believed it was wrong to see naked people and she thought her dad would be mad.  After she came to me in tears, it turned into a teachable moment, but I wish I had prepared her better before turning her loose on technology.  Has anyone created one of these frameworks for parents?  There should be a pamphlet or something wrapped up inside every tablet, computer, or game console that advises parents about keeping their kids safe on the internet and the gradual release of responsibility.  I don’t think keeping kids off the internet entirely is a good way to keep them safe.  It just means they’ll be learning all the hard lessons later or at a friend’s house.

At school, our teacher-librarians have curated safe places for the children to search out information of interest inside our Digital Learning Commons. There are recognizable icons and pictures that lead pre-readers to video clips and articles that can be read through text-to-speech technology.  When we introduce these things, there is a conversation about using “safe search” engines rather than the big G they see on the tools at home.

In Kindergarten, the biggest challenge is supporting the children as they use digital technology.  If there’s 20 kids and just me, that is a tricky thing to manage.  I gave up on the computer lab because it would take the entire 25 minute block to get them all signed on.  We pretty much just stick to iPads with no passwords.  Weekly, the teacher-librarian and I sign out the class set of iPads and work together to support the class during a specific technology block.  What I believe would be more useful would be to have a set of 5 iPads that I can keep in my classroom to use in small group settings or, if during free choice time, a student wants to look something up on monkeys, I can help them do that.  In either plan, it would be important to emphasize that the iPads are tools, not toys.  School iPads are not babysitters.

Other than iPads, we have been dipping our toes into coding games and the robotic mouse which is cool.  I would like to do more with this.

A large piece of the Framework is about digital citizenship.  In Kindergarten, kids are learning about ordinary, run-of the-mill citizenship and  personal protection every day.

a. safety – It would be easy to connect digital citizenship in that context.  We talk about most people they meet being good people, but we need to use our instincts and stay out of reach from “bad apples”.  We can easily incorporate online people and online bad apples into those same lessons/conversations.

b. privacy – This would definitely be guided lessons. We could talk about passwords with regard to my “Teacher iPad”.  We could talk about how websites track purchasing activity during our unit on wants and needs right before Christmas.  We could talk about pop-up ads that they may see on game apps.

c. relationships – we could incorporate some Skype or FaceTime with relatives into our sharing time (aka, show and tell).  We already talk about how parents can send their digital photos to me with email and airdrop.

d.  cyberbullying – I think this is a bit premature for Kindergarten. Unless they are participating in online interactive video games at home, I think we can include this in social learning at school.  If someone is saying or doing something that upsets you, let a grown up know so we can help that someone to be a better friend.  In Kindergarten, bullying is a frequently misused word, but that’s another blog.

e.  digital footprint – ‘Mom, Mrs. Westwood says you should ask my permission before you put my photo on Facebook because a bad apple might see it.’  I’m not sure if I would step into that one yet.  Besides isn’t putting embarrassing photos of your kids on Facebook a parental imperative?  Still, someone needs to talk to them about the bathtub photos.

g.  creative credit & copyright – We talk about ownership over creative work every time someone scribbles on someone else’s drawing, or when someone takes someone’s drawing out of the recycling, they need to ask for permission to take it . They get it.  We can talk about copying and pasting images when we do our class butterfly report.

f, h, i and j have no bullet points for Kindergarten so I won’t comment on them but I do wish there was a bullet point on limiting the use of technology so kids are still playing and building in real life, still interacting with adults and other children, and getting physical activity.  I had a little guy once tell me, “I only play video games.  I’m better at it than my brother.  I don’t like toys.”  Yikes!  This is a big question for me in Kindergarten.  When 4, 5 and 6 year olds are still learning the very basics, how much digital technology do we want in there?  How do I find the balance between the sand box and iPads?

Thoughts on Literature Reviews

On reading, Scholars Before Researchers: On the Centrality of the Dissertation Literature Review in Research Preparation by David Boote and Penny Beile, I wonder what sort of “scholar” would simply review the research and summarize it as a book report and believe there is any point in that. I have to hope they are at least thinking about the implications and the foundational points that the literature provides. I can’t believe they are just reading the literature and doing nothing with it. If they are, in fact, reading it and more importantly, understanding it, of course they must be allowing it to affect the decisions they make about their dissertations. I suspect they are not failing to consider prior literature before they embark on their dissertations but instead, are failing to document their consideration of it, thus failing to aid future generativity.

I do find it plausible that a student could read just enough literature to set the course of their dissertation. In this case, the candidate is putting in the minimum effort knowing that the evaluators likely won’t go into a detailed analysis of the literature review since it is routine and generally undervalued. Then, if there is a need for the appearance of a more thorough literature review, the candidate can pad it out with what they can skim from abstracts of literature they found in the bibliographies of the literature that they read. I don’t necessarily think these people are bad people, but when you are budgeting your time, you aren’t likely to spend a lot of it on something when the advisors aren’t advising you of its importance. In that regard, I agree with Boote and Beile, improving doctoral education is the key to improving educational research.

Cresswell wrote his literature review criteria way back in 1994 and the five step process back in 2002! These appear to be the standards that many have followed. Yet Strike and Posner published their 3 characteristics of a good synthetic review back in 1983. Hart’s criteria were published in 1999. Were they the unpopular kids? Didn’t Cresswell read their criteria before he published his five steps? Now Boote and Beile have produced a 12-step rubric that proposes to make literature reviews more of a foundation to be built before beginning research that has the potential to create new knowledge. How was that received? Are they now generally accepted or are they still waiting for the popular kids to give them their due?

Here’s the difference in 2019. Now we have social media and digital access. I think these topics can be more easily debated. I think that means the tight circles of experts are now opening up access to novices. Boote and Biele cited Cooper (1985) in saying that novices were more likely to use databases and indexes to find research for their reviews while experts would draw theirs from personal chats with the leading researchers. Now, with Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), novices have access to the experts. If I find a research article I think I can use, sure I can go digging around in their references and bibliographies but also, if the article is recent enough, I might be able to follow the author(s) on Twitter or subscribe to their blog(s). Then I may be able to dig around in their PLNs. I can draw my literature from around the world (as long as it’s in English). It’s very exciting but I can’t just take advice from anyone. I still have to find connections through people I trust, branching out, but watching for bad apples.

In terms of the Researcher, the Research, the Researched, and the Reader, a deep thinking literature review would definitely be beneficial. As a researcher, I need to know what is out there. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. If my predecessors have completed good foundational literature reviews then they will contribute to my own. Building on that foundation with my own thoughtful literature review, using up to date resources and a far reaching network of experts would provide me with a solid direction to take my project. This would ensure that the project/research is a step forward, contributing to something new based on something tried and tested. This, in turn, will ensure that the researched, or students in my case, are subjected to the best practices I can find or create. Readers of my literature review would, in turn, build on my research and continue to move forward with research/projects of their own.

Now that I understand the importance of the literature review as the foundation for my own project, I am excited to get going but I’m also anxious about its seeming enormity. I am glad we had some time with Pia Russell today. I’m going to do some exploring in the UVic digital library, plus work on my PLN and see where that takes me. I am a slow, slow reader on my best day and the challenging language in scholarly literature is often overwhelming. I enjoy reading and learning in my own time and I want a strong foundation for my project, I really do, but I can see the appeal of the 1994 book report.

Instructors using Twitter

The authors of the study, Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility were looking to see if college students’ regard for their instructors would be influenced by an instructors’ social media feeds.  I think it’s interesting that they used manipulated Twitter feeds from an imaginary instructor.  The concept of an instructor you cannot meet either in person or via video, would make me ultra-leary. I don’t know that I would trust any Twitterer that had not been vetted by someone I already knew.  I guess I have these questions to my own kids rattling around in my brain, “Have you met them face-to-face?”  “No, then, which of your face-to face friends has met them?”

That said, I suppose now, with building my PLN, it won’t be possible to form a strong opinion before I click follow.  If I haven’t sought them out because of someone else’s recommendation, then I guess my entire opinion of them will be based on the bit of a bio they put on and then their Twitterfeed.  Do they follow many people?  Whom do they follow?  Do many people follow them?  Who follows them?  I suppose I could try googling their name, if it isn’t a pseudonym.  If I see a lot of tweets or retweets that jive with my own beliefs,  that would make them more credible.  What if they have opposing beliefs?  Just because they have a different viewpoint doesn’t mean they do not possess ethos.

People can demonstrate ethos if their Twitterfeeds favour viewpoints that are also indicative of intelligence, character and goodwill.  This might be easier to do with professional tweets but isn’t impossible with social ones.  I think it would come down to our relationships.  If I know the person face-to-face, I can add my instincts to the analysis, but if I don’t, then I think it would come down to what I believe is appropriate for our relationship.  The threshold for TMI would be much lower in a new relationship.  Now if that person was my instructor, pretending I wouldn’t be spooked by a lack of face-to-face time, I suppose eventually their teaching style would become an indicator of their credibility more so than whatever they tweet.

As a teacher, I think I am wary of putting anything too personal on social media, especially since I live in the same community in which I teach.  Many of the kids know where I live.  I know another teacher in the same area who saw an item on the local moms’ Facebook page evaluating her class.  Yikes!  We teachers are warned about keeping teacher-student relationships as professional as possible in order to protect ourselves.  So maybe we prefer relationships with our instructors to remain that way, at least for a while.

 

Examining a Quantitative Study Through the Lens of Mixed Methodology

When the local news reports on a piece of research, it focuses chiefly on the result, but there are many processes behind that research result that will affect its value. One of these critical processes is the selection of an appropriate research methodology. The following is an examination of the research methodology behind, The effectiveness of computer and tablet assisted intervention in early childhood students’ understanding of numbers. An empirical study conducted in Greece, by S. Papadakis, M. Kalogiannis, and N. Zaranis (2018). This examination looks at how the researcher, the research, the researched, and the reader of that research might have been affected if the authors had been guided by the research methodology analyzed by Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework by Alicia O’Cathain (2015).

Before looking at the Greek study, it is important to understand Mixed Methods Research through the writing of Alicia O’Cathain. O’Cathain is Director of the Medical Care Research Unit at The University of Sheffield in Sheffield, United Kingdom. She is a prolific writer with published works ranging in dates from 1988 to 2019. She has written extensively on research methodology. In addition, she runs mixed methods workshops and was an Associate Editor of The Journal of Mixed Methods Research from 2007 to 2012. Her current work focuses on the development and evaluation of complex interventions for chronic conditions. (Sheffield, n.d.)

In Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework (O’Cathain, 2015), O’Cathain’s discusses the difficulties of finding common ground between qualitative research assessment and quantitative research assessment, the two components of Mixed methods research. Quantitative research looks for explanations or causes using tools such as surveys, questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data, often in a controlled environment. Qualitative research looks for understanding, meaning, or descriptions in behaviour, perception or society. Qualitative research uses the researchers themselves, immersed in the natural setting of the subjects, as tools for collecting data through interviews and observation (“Qualitative or Quantitative Research?,” n.d.). After describing the challenges of developing consistent language and criteria acceptable to proponents of both methodologies, O’Cathain lays out her framework for assessment over eight domains: planning quality, design quality, data quality, interpretive rigor, inference transferability, reporting quality, synthesizability, and utility. When followed, this framework would guide a high quality study.

The second piece of research, The effectiveness of computer and tablet assisted intervention in early childhood students’ understanding of numbers. An empirical study conducted in Greece, was conducted by a team of researchers in the Department of Preschool Education at the University of Crete (Papadakis, Kalogiannakis, & Zaranis, 2018). Briefly, they sought to understand the effect of using computer and tablet games on young children’s understanding of numbers. They applied this quantitative study to 21 kindergarten classes, finding that tablet games yielded the best test scores followed by computer games, followed by the control group receiving traditional instruction. They also concluded that the gender of the children was not an issue.

The question is, how would changing the greek research from a quantitative study to a quality mixed methods study impact the research, the researcher, the researched, and the reader of the research. Since mixed methods research is the combination of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, the difference for the greek study is the addition of a qualitative component.

Impacts for the research itself will depend on the path changes of the researchers. For the researchers, the switch to mixed methods means additional planning and changes to the research design. They would need to expand the foundational element to include literature that looks at the application of qualitative methodologies within a kindergarten setting as well as literature to aid in the determination of what forms of data analysis to use; perhaps there is a better tool than the standardized test for measuring results. They would need to determine what observers would be looking for and what interviewers would be asking about, and then adjust their rationale. The addition of observers means more adults will be needed and this will increase costs. If interviews are added, this will increase the amount of time in the field, especially if they are choosing to interview all 365 children. This will also affect the cost.

Interviews or observations may uncover a possible compounding variable. Children might reveal that knowing that the other groups are doing something novel with computers or laptops might cause them to feel negatively about the group they are in and therefore, not enjoy it as much. Perhaps observations would reveal that the children in the computer group need better mousing skills so they do not receive as much practise as the children in tablet group. Perhaps, there is instant verbal feedback in the digital options that provides an external motivator that the control group does not receive. Possibly, the digital groups are wearing earphones that minimize the distractions; observation could tell the researchers the amount of time the children were on task. If the interviews and observations are conducted at the beginning of the study, the plan may be subject to more changes; changes affect time and money. If they are conducted at the end or concurrently, this may affect data quality.

If time and money are a concern, the researchers may choose to reduce the size of their sample which may affect the inference transferability of the research. If the extended plan goes ahead, the quantitative data may not change, but the qualitative expansion will create a lot more data that needs to be analyzed and interpreted, adding the element of meta-inferencing. The addition of meta-inferencing should be a positive change for the research because it could help set the conditions under which the improved learning would occur. This could also improve inference transferability and utility.

For the researched, the children in the study, a switch to mixed methods would mean several changes. More adults in the room can be exciting for some children but anxiety causing for others. This could lead to missed days of school. Prolonged experience with these adults could form emotional attachments for some children, as well as some of the research team. Interviews and/or observations could reveal that the children have different feelings about various adults or the other children in their groups that affect their ability to fully engage in it. Children would likely be upset at not being in the tablet group since many have tablets at home and regard it as a toy. Children in the control group would experience this even more, having had no access to either the tablet or the computer games. This might affect their ideas around fairness. Also, tablet and/or control groups could be experiencing teasing outside of the class time because they are regarded as having lower status. Interviews and observations might serve to catch these feelings and find a proactive way to mitigate them.

The reader of the research may be wondering about the possible confounding variables and the impacts the research activities have on the children. An examination of these possibilities through the addition of the qualitative component at the outset might minimize or eliminate these concerns by addressing them before the quantitative component really begins. Then the reader can feel more confident in utilizing the research to develop an educational program that improves the mathematical learning in the classroom setting. If the reader is an application designer, this would help justify the time and expense of creating relevant and marketable products. If the reader is a teacher or administrator, this could help justify the purchase of tablets for kindergarten classrooms along with the time and support to use them as effectively.

In conclusion, if the costs in time and money are plausible, the greek study would benefit from the quality Mixed Methods approach advocated by Alicia’s O’Cathain. Because the Mixed Methods approach has two components instead of one, it would seem possible that researchers could fill all the gaps in their research but they must be careful of “going down the rabbit hole” because the costs and time required could become unmanageable. If a research team feels the need to cut something out of their plan to make it feasible, let it not be the consideration of the social emotional well-being of children.

References

O’Cathain, A. (2015). SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781506335193

Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., & Zaranis, N. (2018). The effectiveness of computer and tablet assisted intervention in early childhood students’ understanding of numbers. An empirical study conducted in Greece. Education and Information Technologies, 23(5), 1849–1871. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-018-9693-7

Qualitative or Quantitative Research? (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from MQHRG website: https://www.mcgill.ca/mqhrg/resources/what-difference-between-qualitative-and-quantitative-research

Sheffield, U. of. (n.d.). Alicia O’Cathain – MCRUStaff – MCRU – Health services research – Sections – ScHARR – The University of Sheffield. Retrieved July 11, 2019, from https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/scharr/sections/hsr/mcru/staff/ocathain_a

 

Butter or Margarine?

"Vintage Ad #1,585: Spread a Good Example" by jbcurio is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

My mother once said, “Don’t tell me about the research, the research is all baloney. One day butter is bad for you, the next day they tell us that margarine is bad, go back to butter.” I recollected this after reading Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching by Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller & Richard E. Clark (2010) and Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Dr. Barron & Darling-Hammond, StanfordU. Here are two articles using research, sometimes using the same research, to support opposing viewpoints. It would seem that Mum is somewhat correct; we can’t just trust when someone says, research shows…” When looking at research conclusions, we have to consider the source. I was well aware of this when considering consumer products. Who is trying to sell it to me? Wealthy industries are certainly capable of creating research that supports their products. When we go to the doctor, they recommend medicines that have been researched by their own creators. Meanwhile, because there’s no money in it, there are few studies of the effects of naturopathic remedies, so few doctors recommend them. Actually, I don’t know how true this is, not having studied it, but that’s what my doctor seems to think.

In education, naturally, a lot of things come down to money. After all, education is one of the biggest ticket items in the provincial budget. So what is cheaper? Fully guided learning or minimally guided learning. I don’t know the answer but it sure makes me wonder what the motivations of the authors of those two articles are. Again, who’s trying to sell it to me? Are they funded by the government? If they’re not motivated by money, maybe they are motivated by the need to keep teachers accountable. I can understand that. I think all teachers can benefit from taking a critical look at their own practice; I think most do. Maybe the authors are funded by companies that benefit from having technology in schools. I bet Apple and Google would like to keep the ball rolling at my school. Do teachers’ unions fund research? Many teachers are afraid of the change because they know things like Project-based learning (PBL) take a lot more time and effort. So many of us already put in so much extra time that no one but our families knows about. In my case, the custodians know; I think my family has forgotten I live with them. Other teachers are afraid of jumping into something new because they’ve seen so many trends come and go. Butter…margarine…butter? Up until now, I think I have believed that someone somewhere is being more critical of the research and making the best decisions for us. But now, I see that the decision makers have all their biases too. Is there such a thing as truly unbiased research? Or unbiased interpretation of the results of research?

Maybe it’s better for education researchers to use Autoethnography which “is one of the approaches that acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research, rather than hiding from these matters or assuming they don’t exist.” In Autoethnography: An Overview, Ellis, Adams & Bochner cite Holman Jones (2005,p.764) as claiming that “Autoethnographers view research and writing as socially-just acts; rather than a preoccupation with accuracy, the goal is to produce analytical, accessible texts that change us and the world we live in for the better…” If I were going to put my children’s education research into the hands of someone, it’s got to be someone who is not operating with a hidden agenda and is socially-just, right?

I think, as a researcher myself, I have to acknowledge my perspective as I collect my data. How am I checking myself to make sure I don’t ignore something that will be perceived differently by the other people that I hope will benefit from my work? If I decide to declare that butter is the best choice, I need to make sure I don’t ignore those with lactose intolerance.

In terms of the research that I analyze and draw from, I will definitely want to know more about the background of the researchers and where their influences lie. Did I choose butter based on research funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada?

I like the idea of Autoethnographers immersing themselves in the culture of those they are studying. I think it’s important to be sensitive to the people who will be affected by the process and the outcome. If the Fraser-Institute came into school and witnessed the anxiety some of our kids experience sitting in front of a computer to take a test in unfamiliar fashion, would they feel so good about their numbers? I don’t really know how this thought lines up with butter, but I bet the cows would rather we went with margarine.

For the reader of my research, I hope I don’t draw any conclusions that do harm. At my school, we enjoy the company of quite a few indigenous families and I don’t want to “fail to account for (their) identity” (Shauneen Pete). Nor do I wish to fail to account for the identities of children from any other culture, socioeconomic status, or with special needs. I want readers of my research to think, “That works for me!” I want everyone to have their choice of butter or margarine because it works for them, and maybe I can help them decide how much.

 

Thoughts on Project-Based Learning in Kindergarten

Image result for most likely to succeedIn the film, Most Likely to Succeed, we are presented with an idealized high school class where everyone appears to be engaged and thriving. Well, I teach Kindergarten. My students are on the ground floor in preparing for this possible future. Since we all know the expression, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, I need to roll up my sleeves and get going.

On the first day of Kindergarten, they are all eager to show me how smart they are. Some think they already know everything. They’re going to be mighty disappointed when they find out there’s more and that there’s always more. So let’s teach them Growth Mindset. Hey kids, do you have a growth mindset? I do, I do! Do they really? Many do, others, nope. They did learn what Growth Mindset is. They can tell you which of two scenarios demonstrates a growth mindset, but some still cry if the shark they drew doesn’t really look like a shark. Many have a growth mindset for themselves, but are unforgiving of classmates that struggle. My shark is awesome; yours looks like an Easter egg. They are competitive. They need to practise having a growth mindset and supporting their classmates, but at least I can get them started.

In their article, Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching, Kirschner, Sweller & Clark make a case against minimally guided instruction. In Kindergarten, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and project-based learning basically boil down to Play-based learning. We have unguided play happening for a big chunk of the day. During this time, could one say students demonstrate “practising a discipline”? Some are expert builders, creating more and more complex buildings, fortresses, towers each day. Some are expert interior decorators, deciding what new elements to create or rearrange in dolly’s house. Some are actors, perfecting their dog impressions. In high school, are students that have an aptitude for film who decide to express their learning in a movie practising their discipline?

Image result for kindergarten provocation three pigsIt’s not until the actors see what the builders are doing that they stray from their role-play. It’s not until the fashion experts, see what the artists are drawing that they venture forth to improve upon their stick figure drawings. Likewise, it is for the teacher to set out other inspiring activities, provocations, we call them, to entice the experts on to something new. If I set out some marbles in a box of sand, maybe they will make a colourful picture in the sand, as I modelled (fine arts, science of matter), and maybe they will borrow the marbles and whip them along the chalk ledge to see how they bounce off the walls (science of matter, physics). The provocation is minimal guidance. I’ll need to give a little more guidance if I really want to hit the intended learning standards, but I’ll likely choose to appreciate what they showed me and try to catch the learning standards next time.

Kirschner, Sweller & Clark commented that “In the medical domain, Patel, Groen, and Norman (1993)showed that students trained in a PBL curriculum failed to separate basic science knowledge from the specific clinical knowledge associated with particular patients.” This makes sense. I’ll need to intervene if I want my marble whippers to name what scientific principles they just discovered. That said, I’m pretty sure they can figure out that there are similarities between marbles and toys cars zipping across that ledge. Maybe I should suggest they add bean bags to their inquiry. You don’t want to see my walls.

So I need to support them in their learning, make their learning more meaningful, guide the practice of skills and growth mindset, and save my walls. Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Barron and Darling-Hammond has something more balanced to offer. “Education today must focus on helping students learn how to learn…” I feel like I’ve been saying this since I started teaching in 1995. Why do we have to learn about Japan? You don’t. You need to know how to learn about something. I picked Japan because I’ve got Japanese stuff in a box to show you. I had the right idea but, oh how the world has changed. Now I’ve really got some stuff to show you!

Barron and Darling-Hammond cited Thomas (2000) in identifying five key components of effective project-based learning. “It is: central to the curriculum, organized around driving questions that lead students to encounter central concepts or principles, focused on a constructive investigation that involves inquiry and knowledge building, student-driven (students are responsible for designing and managing their work), and authentic, focusing on problems that occur in the real world and that people care about.” In Kindergarten, I doubt that I could assign a comprehensive project that will engross my students for an entire term but I can give them little projects that are suitable building blocks. These little projects would need to build their social skills more than anything. Small group projects would strengthen their collaborative and communicative skills such as their ability to share materials, voice their thoughts, take on a role, stay on task, encourage each other, and peacefully settle disagreements. Those projects could certainly be authentic and student-driven in most cases. I could come up with a relatively simple guiding question that engages a particular group within something they are already playing at such as, How can we turn our house area into a veterinarian/pet store? How can we race our marbles/cars without damaging the walls or having dangerous rebounds? In Kindergarten, we’ll want to incorporate those pesky alphabet letters and numbers so I hope they decide to make signs, or do measurements. Otherwise, I’ll have to stick my nose into their fun to “provide proper scaffolding, assessment, and redirection as projects unfold” (Barron and Darling-Hammond, p. 8).

In the end, I hope I got the point of all the reading this week, but this is where my brain went.

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