Wow. It has been an eventful two weeks. Between teacher sanctions last week and the COVID-19 school closures, my head feels like it’s spinning! I am feeling extra grateful for taking this course as a creative outlet and to connect with such an amazing group of people! Along with the imminent (and major) changes in the future in terms of possible distance learning, I feel like there is going to be a heavier reliance on social media platforms to connect and collaborate with other educators. That being said, this class has never been more relevant or helpful! As a teacher, it is always exciting to see your students apply skills that they’ve learned in a real-life, practical context. Although it has been a whirlwind of emotion and change, I can see a lot of opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Speaking of growth, I have a few updates on my Major Project! Just when you think you have things all planned out, a global pandemic happens…
Digital Citizenship Unit Plan
In my previous Major Project Update post, I mentioned that I had started teaching about in-app purchases and generating some conversation among my students about their experiences. At that point, my students and I had a very informal, brief discussion. However, I had the chance to dive in a few days later with my students! Along with my lesson plans, I have started to include lesson reflections. Here is one of them:
…The answer to my question about making accidental purchases was surprising. Over half of my students have made accidental in-app purchases. A few of my students noted that this happened by touching a button on their screen by accident or unknowingly having their finger on the fingerprint ID on their phone. I also learned that most of my students play games like Fortnite and Roblox, both of which have in-app purchases. Fortnite is the most popular game that is played among my students. I learned you can buy V Bucks in the game to obtain “skins” and other items. However, you can earn V Bucks, but that takes significantly longer than simply buying them. The general consensus around rules when buying items online was that they needed to ask their parents first. However, some families have rules where their children can spend up to $10.00 per month on in-app/online gaming purchases. Some students shared stories of having a gift card to spend, but went way over their limit because they did not realize how much they were spending. A student in my class explained that at one point in time, there was an app that could be downloaded and you could get apps that you normally needed to buy for free. He said that when he needed to update the app, it gave his computer a virus and that the app no longer exists. This conversation led into discussing “click bait” and advertising online. A student shared that while playing Fortnite, there was a pop up advertisement about how to earn more V Bucks for free. She thought it was part of the game, so she clicked on it and it spread a virus to her computer. She explained after that incident, her mom had said before clicking on anything new in a game she should research it first to see if other people have encountered a similar situation. We then discussed what lateral reading means and how this can help you avoid “click bait.”
Overall, my students enjoyed the story-telling aspect of this lesson. When we got to the slideshow and worksheet parts of the lesson, they had a solid knowledge base to draw from when completing these tasks. The concept of lateral reading piqued my students’ interest, so I plan on working with this concept more throughout the year (hopefully)!
I was hoping to teach my complete unit to my students. However, due to school closures, that may not be able to happen. On a positive note, I am looking forward to using this resource in the future! I am glad that we had meaningful conversations about digital citizenship and commenting appropriately on social media, as I recently started a Google Classroom for my students in light of the current circumstances. My co-teachers and I realized that SeeSaw does not allow you to upload PDF assignments, so we needed to figure out something else to keep in touch with our students. We decided to go back to using Google Classroom, in conjunction with SeeSaw. Before I had my students log in to activate their accounts, I reminded them of some key concepts we have been learning in terms of commenting/digital citizenship. Before I could even get in to it, my students said, “We know! We have to THINK!” During this very emotional week, I felt so proud that they have taken something away from the year that is practical and now have the opportunity to apply this knowledge.
When we were getting our Google Classroom up and running again, I remembered Adam’s post: Google Classroom Update. He had mentioned that rubrics can be made in Google Classroom and provided some other helpful tips when using this app. Once again, the collaborative nature of this class is coming in handy more and more!
Flipgrid App Review Update
I thought I pretty much had my Flipgrid review finished, but the learning continues! Curtis asked our classmates on Slack if anyone would be able to do an interview with him regarding SeeSaw. I offered to help him, although I wouldn’t say I’m by any means a SeeSaw expert. Little did I know, Curtis is basically a Flipgrid pro! Although the intention of the interview was to give Curtis some insight into using SeeSaw, he taught me a lot about other ways SeeSaw can be used in the classroom and highlighted more features in Flipgrid I never considered before!
Flipgrid Immersive Reader
This is by far my favourite feature of Flipgrid (shout out to Curtis)! I love how this allows for simple and effective adaptations to be possible for students who may require different colour backgrounds, languages, or texts to be read aloud.
By clicking the speaker button, topic prompts can be read aloud. In addition, the language settings can be adjusted to suit the needs of any students who are English as an Additional Language learners. Furthermore, the background and text colours can be adjusted for students who require specific colour adaptations. Lastly, verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. can be highlighted as well when using this feature. This feature makes Flipgrid a flexible and adaptable tool for all types of learners.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to open up the comments for my students at this time. However, I can put their commenting skills to the test with the use of SeeSaw and Google Classroom in the weeks to come!
YouTube App Review Update
Over the past few weeks, I have been spending more time diving in with YouTube. I have been working on a more detailed review of this app using a Google Doc, but for this particular post, I want to share some pieces from my review so far.
Educational YouTube Channels
As part of my exploration into YouTube, I wanted to find some educational channels that are helpful for teachers and students. Here are some that I have stumbled upon that you may want to check out!
This is a new channel that I came across during my research. About YouTube Learning notes that this channel covers a wide range of topics such as study tips, American Sign Language (ASL), and other “how to” skills. This channel is intended for teens and adults. This could potentially be a useful resource for my students for other inquiry-based projects where students are required to explore and master a skill.
The About Khan Academy page explains that, “Khan Academy is a… nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a free, world-class, education, for anyone anywhere.” Essentially, Khan Academy creates interactive videos on topics such as math, biology, chemistry, physics, history, economics, finance, grammar, etc. Common Sense Media reviewed and rated the following content for this channel:
Furthermore, Common Sense Media noted that lectures are given by educators. In addition videos are concise, engaging, and helpful to students and teachers alike. In the past, I have advised students to refer to Khan Academy to supplement the content we are learning in math.
The About SoulPancake page notes that this channel focuses on the “…universality of the human experience… Our content opens minds and hearts by joyfully exploring and celebrating the many ways in which we seek connection, love, hope, truth, and purpose.” I love a good old Kid President video! Almost every year at some point, I show my students Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students. Common Sense Media reviewed and rated the following content for this channel:
Common Sense Media also highlights that SoulPancake features content from Rainn Wilson’s media production company. Common Sense Media also highlights that SoulPancake not only covers topics that inspire and tug at the heartstrings, but also some mature themes like divorce, sexuality, tragedy, and illness.
According to the About page on TED Talks, the channel features talks and performances from the TED Conference. These talks are given by inspirational “thinkers and doers” from around the world. TEDX Talks is essentially the same, but talks are given at “TED-style events.” It is important to note that TEDX events are produced independently of TED, but abide by TED’s format and rules. Furthermore, TED Ed Talks focuses on the same concepts, but is educationally driven. Some of my favourite TED videos that I find myself going back to every year are: Every Child Needs A Champion and Why I Live a Zero Waste Life.
Michelle Ferre is a teacher, vlogger, and graduate studies student. On her channel, she shares helpful teaching advice, resources, and relatable anecdotes for any teacher. She teaches in Crofton, Maryland. She also has a variety of other social media accounts. A vlog I particularly enjoyed and connected with was How to Stay Motivated with a Busy Schedule. She speaks to life as a teacher/grad student and shares some advice on balancing it all!
Google provides teachers with some resources on how to use their products in the classroom in the Educator Resources section. In this section, you will find some guidelines as well as a Digital Citizenship Unit designed to give teachers the resources and skills to use Google products in their classrooms. By teachers having this knowledge, they are able to prepare their secondary-aged students for using these features. Furthermore, this section suggests some teacher channels for educators, such as YouTube Learning ( as noted above) and YouTube Teachers.
To explore Flipgrid, I created a small inquiry unit for my students. Essentially, students were instructed to choose any skill to learn and film their own tutorial using Flipgrid. I wish I could say this was intentional, but I did not realize this until I was partially through my major project, but the majority of my students turned to YouTube to learn their skill. Some students sought outside support from parents or other people who could assist them, but YouTube was the largest medium of choice to learn from. I found that by students having a video option to learn their skill allowed for my struggling readers to have another option to engage with. Furthermore, resources like YouTube help students realize their capability and independence when they cannot turn to their teacher for help. Lastly, The Saskatchewan Curriculum for Grade 4 Literacy (Cross Curricular Competencies: Developing Thinking) highlights the value of students thinking creatively, critically, and making sense of new information. Through my students’ How To… Projects and their use of YouTube to develop new skills, my students were able to develop their thinking processes.
My initial plan to experiment and engage with YouTube was to simply be create an unlisted vlog channel about my major project. I quickly realized that this was not very adventurous, nor did I feel like I was fully engaging with the app. After some inspiration from my classmates, I decided to start a YouTube channel that focused on my Grade 4 math class. I did not feel prepared to start posting full lessons, so I have started creating small tutorials about what we are learning. This has come in the form of screenshot slideshows and examples of new concepts. Students have found these videos helpful as they complete work at home or study for assessments. In addition, my students take math notes in their “rule books” from slideshows that I create. By having slideshows available on YouTube for students to watch, students can catch up on their notes if they missed a lesson or refer back to the points we discussed in class. However, it is important to note that some students do not have access to technology at home or may not be permitted to utilize YouTube.
School closures really threw my plans for a loop. However, after taking this course and experimenting with apps that lend themselves to online learning in some capacity, I did feel somewhat prepared. Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I started to realize the unique opportunity I had to really put my knowledge and technology use to the test. We have started devising a plan to use YouTube to share some mini-lessons on the work packages that my co-teachers and I sent home. We have not developed anything concrete, as there is lots to still consider (e.g.: school board protocols, copyright, student access to technology from home, etc.). The potential YouTube has presented for changing the way education is delivered in unexpected and challenging times is boundless. I am looking forward to pursuing this new avenue alongside my co-teachers and learning more about distance education.
Although my experience using YouTube and other Google related services has been an overall positive experience, it is important to consider the content that can be found on YouTube. Due to its open nature, anyone can post videos about (basically) anything. With that being said, I turned to Common Sense Media: Review of YouTube to gain a sense of what I should be aware of when using the app.
Common Sense Media used a rating scale of one (minimal) to five (a lot) to evaluate the following areas:
Common Sense Media also notes that parents can check out their reviews of YouTube channels as well. Furthermore, they suggest some topics of conversation parents may want to have with their children prior to using the site. They note that it is helpful to discuss what types of videos are appropriate for viewing and taking the time to engage in the app with their child. Common Sense Media explains that by encouraging your child to subscribe to a few channels they like (and that have parental approval) rather than randomly searching the internet can prevent the exposure of “iffy” content. If parents have concerns about their child’s use of YouTube and they’ve already had a conversation about this with their child, Common Sense Media suggests checking your child’s Watch History. All this requires is that your child has a Google account. If your child has deleted their Watch History, parents can still view recommended videos. Kids can also be exposed to insensitive comments when using YouTube. To address this, Common Sense Media advises parents to read through the comments on the YouTube channels their children subscribe to in order to gain a sense of the demographic. A well-managed comment section can be an indicator of a responsible YouTube creator.
That’s all for now, folks! Take care and stay safe, EC&I 832!