Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why I Replaced Myself With A Machine

*This post has been written as part of my journey through my Master's Degree in Curriculum & Planning through Brandon University

This week our Internet for Teachers (#BU755) class looked at four different readings, two of which got me thinking about a recent change in my own classroom:

JoolaLMS. (2017). Top experts predict what will transform elearning in 2017. Retrieved on November 21, 2017 from https://www.joomlalms.com/media/com_html5flippingbook/top_experts_predict_what_will_transform_elearning_2017.pdf

New Media Consortium. (2017). NMC/CoSN horizon report > 2017 K-12 edition. Retrieved on November 21, 2017 from https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmccosn-horizon-report-2017-k-12-edition/

     The first article identifies predictions from 14 different "ed tech" experts who share their thoughts on the future of educational technology; everything from authenticity and differentiation to MOOCS and augmented reality. The second article drew my attention with a section on "Challenges Impeding K-12 Tech Adoption". As someone who is often a supporter of tech in the classroom I like to see what difficulties are being identified so that I can help think of ways to potentially overcome some of the hurdles. 

     As I mentioned previously, these articles lead me to reflect on a recent change that I made to my Gr 7 Social Studies classroom; both because I am continually thinking to how this change will play out in the future and because I am now faced with some challenges on how to adopt similar models in my other classes.

     Earlier in the course Chelsea and I presented on two articles and one concept has really stuck with me as we have progressed over the past month: "never send a human to do a machine's job". Let technology do what it can do within your learning context and allow it to free up your time to really focus on those aspects of teaching that you wish you had more time to do. 

     This made me really evaluate my current teaching practices and forced me to ask myself, "what aspects of me are replaceable?" Mr. Nantais shared a quote when I was in my B.Ed degree that mentioned that, "If your teaching can be replaced by a machine then maybe it should." With that in mind I sat down over the weekend and figured out how to do exactly that.... how to replace myself with a machine.

ed tech in the classroom, differentiated instruction, manitoba teaching blog, canadian teaching blog
Inspirational Robots to Begin Replacing Teachers in 10 Years. (2017). Uploaded by Henry Bodkin. Available online at: http://truthunsealed.com/science/inspirational-robots-to-begin-replacing-teachers-within-10-years/

     What I was left with was a system that allowed me to easily differentiate, provide choice, cover course content, and allow me to have significantly more one-on-one time supporting the students in my room. My students walked in on that Monday to a new system that centred around one bulletin board and our iPad cart.

ed tech in the classroom, differentiated instruction, manitoba teaching blog, canadian teaching blog, Ste Rose School
Gr 7 Social Studies Bulletin Board. (2017). Uploaded to Teaching in a Fishbowl. Available online at: https://www.facebook.com/Thompsonclassroom/photos/a.1956310531304727.1073741831.1934477516821362/1962607817341665/?type=3&theater 

How it Works:
- I sat down and re-identified the four essential questions of our unit on Africa & Asia.

- I then developed three or more potential assignments to explore each of these questions. (these are seen in the red, yellow, purple, and pink folders on the bulletin board) I made sure that each assignment contained ALL of the necessary instructions for completion, including the essential question that we were working towards.
     - This has replaced any "large-group instruction" I was previously doing

- My next step was to find online resources (videos, charts, apps, articles, etc) that would be needed to complete the assignment and curated them in our classroom website using Symbaloo. When necessary, I named them using abbreviations that aligned with the names of the assignments so students could easily find the resource they needed.
     - This has replaced any "lecture-based" or "large-group instruction" I was previously doing

ed tech in the classroom, differentiated instruction, manitoba teaching blog, canadian teaching blog, Ste Rose School, symbaloo in the classroom
Gr 7 Symbaloo. (2017). Uploaded by Kirsten Thompson. Available online at: http://thompsonclassroom.weebly.com/grade-7-social-studies.html

- For the purposes of differentiation, I then grouped my students into five different "teams" that they would be working with as we explored this unit.
     - Team members also circulate through different roles such as "tech coordinator", "gopher", "time keeper", etc.
     - This has replaced any time I spent handing out materials and reduced the need for me to provide management prompts

- When students come into the room our agenda on the SMART Board displays the colour of the folder and the assignment for the day/week. In some instances I state which assignments have to be completed. For example: the red folders were the introduction to the unit (vocabulary, mapping, etc) and I asked students to complete all three assignments. In each of the remaining colours, students now have a team choice of which 2/3 or 3/5 assignments they want to explore.
     - This has replaced any "large-group instruction" I was previously doing
     - This provides choice for students

- Once students have their assignment and their iPad I am free to bounce from group-to-group for the ENTIRE class period working with students. This allows me to easily differentiate the assignments (shorten, lengthen, provide reading/language support, introduce assistive technology, etc).
     - I am able to effectively use small-group instruction knowing that my remaining 16 students are on-task and working
       towards their goals

- I have also moved towards using Quizizz for our weekly assessments after being introduced to it in this course by Chris B. Depending on the week I make 3-5 versions of our assessment based on what each team was working towards.
     - I requested that the free Quizizz app be added onto our iPads
     - This program allows me to differentiate by adding in visuals, shortening or lengthening the number of potential
       responses, modify the reading level of the questions, or providing a "read aloud" function for students to use.
ed tech in the classroom, differentiated instruction, manitoba teaching blog, canadian teaching blog, Ste Rose School
Teach Quotes. (2017). Uploaded by Picsmine. Available online at: http://picsmine.com/43-best-teach-quotes-sayings-images/teach-quotes-if-a-child-cant-learn-the-way-we-teach-maybe-we-should-teach-the-way-they-learn/

Moving Forward:
- We are currently on our third week of this model so I am interested in seeing how the long-term success pans out. As of our last two weekly assessments I have had 19/20 students increase their previous class average compared to our first unit; specifically for my students on IEPs or who were significantly struggling before. However, some of this could be related to the different content of the unit or the novelty of a new approach.

- Ideally I would love to be able to go paperless with this idea. We do operate using the Office 365 cloud but we don't have enough devices to guarantee one-to-one (or the broadband to allow it). This is, however, a divisional goal by 2020-2021.

- I currently have to book our iPads about a week in advance so I can ensure that I have them for every Gr 7 Social Studies period (a half hour Mondays, Tuesdays, & Fridays as well as an hour on Thursdays). So far I haven't run into any conflicts but having a class set would be ideal and allow more flexibility amongst staff members.

- I would like to be able to introduce this concept into my other classes, especially some of my high schools classes where the amount of content (and divisional exams) sometimes leads me more towards a lecture-based model of instruction.


ed tech in the classroom, differentiated instruction, manitoba teaching blog, canadian teaching blog, Ste Rose School
Teaching Quote. (2017). Uploaded by Unique Teaching Resources. Available online at: http://www.uniqueteachingresources.com/Quotes-About-Education.html

What are you thoughts on this model?

Do you have any suggestions on how to change/improve it?

What aspects of your teaching could/should be replaced by a machine?


  1. I have felt very stuck this week in trying to draft a blog post - writer's block mixed with a lack of things to say and report cards thrown in. Your post has got me thinking again! How can we use technology to replace the mundane aspects of teaching, and focus our time and energy on the areas that require more skill and expertise? That's an interesting question! Keep us updated as to how it is going, as you have inspired me to reflect on some of the paperwork aspects of my job and find a more efficient way!

    1. I totally understand where you are coming from Chelsea; mental fatigue! I'm happy to hear that I was able to help jump start some ideas. I will try to provide an update as things progress. I think the next easiest switch would be for my Gr 10 Geography class (but I am only teaching it for a month before I have to leave on mat leave).

  2. Kirsten, your commitment to your own professional growth, and the students you teach is commendable and inspiring. I hope your admin notices!
    I wish that there were more teachers like you that truly understand the work that goes into being an excellent teacher. Teaching is not one of those profession were it is ok to just be good at a job. You have to be great at it!
    Thank you, and keep us posted!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Kimberly. It is all very much a work in progress and I feel like I "reinvent" regularly.

  3. Hi Kirsten. This looks interesting and it looks like you have done a lot of work. I am very curious and I do have some questions. I actually have a lot of questions but I think that will be overwhelming so I am going to try to keep them geared toward the technology aspect.
    It looks as though technology has helped you organize the students’ learning and provided a way to manage the class as well as provide for some assessment. How might students be allowed or given choice to do something else, something that they might think of doing instead of the assignment or quiz provided? Also, how might students be encouraged to look for other information not provided on Symbaloo? I was wondering, what was the whole group teaching as it appears that it has been replaced by centres/small groups. Is this an inquiry project or will it turn into student inquiry projects? Are there other ways that you assess student learning apart from the assignments and questions on Quizizz?
    It can be difficult to “cover” the content in Social Studies especially in half hour periods, so I commend your efforts to eliminate the time snatchers like handing out papers, explaining daily assignments, etc. I hope everything goes well for your students and you!

    1. anks for your questions Charlene! The assignments I provide are designed to ensure students can develop the foundational understanding essential for the unit; I believe all students should understanding this information before they can undertake an inquiry-based project so I ask that they work through the assignments I provide. If they want to showcase their learning of that topic through a means other than the assignment I am ok with that (interview, presentation, etc rather than the instructions I provide) but I try to ensure that the essential understanding is still covered.

      Our Symbaloo is always designed to be a "springboard" or "starting platform" for students and they are encouraged to look for information elsewhere as well. Some of the concepts we discuss as completely brand new to students and if they start with independent research they may not know enough about the topic to effectively evaluate the authenticity of a source. It is my hope that they use the resources I provide to set the stage of their understanding and help them better critique online sources they may find independently.

      Our unit concludes with three weeks to spend working towards student inquiry projects based off of any of our essential understandings. Students will have the freedom to pick topics that interest them as well as an opportunity to showcase their learning through different means.

      The majority of my assessment actually comes through verbal interviews and demonstrations from students as I am now able to spend more one-on-one time with students. Our weekly quizzes are helpful for students to reflect on the previous week but are short and sweet; more for their metacognition than my need for a gauge of their understanding.

      Hopefully this provides some insight for your questions! Let me know if I can clarify further for you :

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  5. This is really interesting. How have students with significant delays or issues responded to this method? For example, I have a number of students who are significantly below grade level in reading and writing. They struggle with self-regulation. I would love to set up something similar in my classroom.

    1. One of the primary reasons why I needed to make a change was to find a way to meet the wide range of needs in my classroom. I have 4/20 students with quite significant IEP plans and 11/20 who are reading more than 2 grades lower than average. The increased time with students has assisted me in spending more time with the students that need my direct assistance and support. I have also been utilizing read-aloud functions on the iPads to help students as well.

  6. Just wondering if you would be willing to attach some of your samples. I'm curious what the activities in the duo-tangs are. Are they required to complete ALL activities or just some?