Course 5: Final Project
It seems so crazy to finally be here, writing my final blog post for COETAIL. It truly has been an amazing journey! These last fourteen months have been a paradox, they flew by but also dragged along. I am so truly grateful for all of the experiences COETAIL has given me and the knowledge I have gained.
For my final project unit, I chose to redesign my grade’s Unit of Inquiry for Energy. As this is my fifth year teaching fourth-grade in a PYP school following the US common core standards, this is a unit that I was very familiar with. I have taught this unit many times over but never felt that we were reaching our true potential with it. When it came time to choose a unit for the project I knew that I could finally make this unit into something special.
In previous years, I have implemented plenty of hands-on experiments and activities within this unit, so I felt that this aspect was well developed, but what was missing was a stronger technology focus. In prior years students would use their devices to research energy and complete digital tasks in place of paper worksheets, but that left us only at the substitution level for the SAMR scale.
Even as I wrote the unit plan for my course four project, I struggled to make the technology use more authentic. Finally, as I began course five and had another look through the ISTE standards did I finally find the answer.
My inspiration came primarily from 1.6- Creative Communicator, and 1,7 – Global Collaborator. Early on in our Course One days, we learned about the importance of providing our students with an authentic audience if we asked them to share their work online. This idea is how I came to my students’ idea to make their own science videos.
As part of our hands-on experiences for the unit, my students would be using Mystery Science lessons related to Energy. In these lessons, the narrator, Doug, starts with a question to grab the students’ interests. Then he teaches them about the related concept and finally there is a hands-on experiment that the students complete in order to explore the concept in real life. My students have always loved these lessons and the concepts are easily remembered from the fun activities. Lightbulb moment! My students should make their own Mystery Science-style videos to share their learning with their classmates, other students in our school, and their families. In this way, they could be creatively communicating their learning.
However, now I knew I could take it even further and find a wider audience with them to share their work. I went online to some of the PYP teachers’ groups I had joined on Facebook as part of my expanding professional learning network. I made a public post asking for other 4th grade classes who were also doing an energy unit to be our buddy class. I had several teachers who wanted to connect with us in just a few hours.
We began our buddy-class relationship by having our buddy classes at Binus School in Indonesia and Gems Modern Academy in India share their learning about Energy with us. We did this through a live call on TEAMS in which our new fourth-grade friends shared their final project presentations with us. It was a wonderful experience to have my students learn from other students in different countries and to have them realize that they had so much in common with people from different cultures.
The second part of our buddy class relationship was that when my students completed their science videos, they were uploaded onto Flipgrid and shared with our buddy classes. They were of course also shared with their classmates, other students in our school, and their families, which allowed them to have a very authentic audience for their work. To see my students’ videos you can use the link for the videos below and sign in with the guest password: QAISgrade4
Grade 4C – Dogwood Cottage videos
Transforming Technology Use
In previous years the students would share their learning through the end-of-unit project we called our “Energy Summit”, which was somewhat like a science fair. However, by having the students use technology to create a video presentation of their experiment and learning I was able to transform their summative project using technology. They were able to be so much more creative in how they shared their learning and were able to reach their new broader audience.
The students loved the idea of creating their own science videos and sharing them with their new friends in the other international schools. They worked very hard to make wonderful videos and learn more so they could be “experts” in their type of energy.
Complications in the Unit Implementation
Sadly, not everything in the unit lessons and implementation went to plan. About halfway into our unit, our city had a spike in Covid-19 cases which pushed us off-campus and into online learning. Unfortunately, this meant that some of my students struggled with completing their projects with less support than in-class lessons, and we had to cut out several of the Mystery Science experiments since I wasn’t able to provide the materials. Still, it was actually very lucky that with the updated plan of making videos, the summative project didn’t need to change. If we had stayed with the original plan to host an energy summit, then those plans would have had to be drastically changed and I think it would have been more upsetting for the students. The video plans didn’t need much alteration at all and for the most part, the students were able to complete their videos on time.