Unit Plan – The Scientific History of Earth

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I chose my final topic through speaking with teachers in the Middle School and simply asking them if anyone wanted to collaborate to embed more technology into any of their units of study. I currently am teaching a coding course with another teacher, but felt that using this course may have been too easy of an approach since the course is tech based to begin with. A new MS Science teacher was open to collaborating so we began the process by simply sitting down and looking at what he was currently doing.  The Unit is called: The Scientific History of Earth and is for grade 8 science students. I asked him to give me an overview of the unit and his learning targets for the students, as well as the skills that he wanted to them to have by the end of the unit. When we looked at the unit we found several areas that tech could enhance the learning experience. From there we examined the ISTE standards (see below) and found some that would work well with what he was trying to achieve, namely student voice and creativity , this is where 1c and 6b, were chosen, later on, 3c was added once we saw a fit between one of the tech tools and this standard.


Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.


Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.


Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

I provided the teacher with a list of tech options I thought would enhance this unit and work well. From there I left them with him, to mull them over. I wanted him to feel comfortable with what we were going to do and have the ultimate decision so that I had the buy in that was necessary to make the integration a success. And of course, he knows his students best. We decided to use Wakelet and Flipgrid.  Wakelet will be used for the students vocabulary words as an opportunity to creatively display their knowledge. Traditionally, students have copied vocabulary words in their notebooks and I presented Wakelet as a way to allow the students to present vocabulary in a multitude of ways, and to extend their learning.

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As a means for reflection post lab, Flipgrid will be used. Traditionally, students write up their labs and submit them once the lab is complete, but there is no opportunity to reflect on the learning experience itself, nor an opportunity for discussion with each other.  Flipgrid will be use to provide a space for reflection and metacognition, and for students to share their thoughts with their classmates and receive feedback.

This experience was similar to the way I have been collaborating with teachers over the past few years. I always sit down with a colleague and look at their curriculum, learning goals, and what skills they want students to walk away with. If it is a situation where we are planning something from scratch, we take the same approach, and take the time to build the unit together.


In my previous blog post Knowledge and Skills B4 Tech, I spoke at length about the need to consider knowledge and skills before considering the tech. This was a thought process that has developed over the past few years, and this unit only served to reinforce that belief. The other learning that really impacted this unit was the reading on constructivism and collectivism. As I thought about the students lab and wanting to have them really be critical with their process and metacognitive post lab, I had constructivism in the back of my mind. Allowing the students the opportunity to apply their learning in an authentic way.  With the students putting together their Wakelets, I thought about the multitude of ways they could demonstrate their knowledge and the manner in which using this tool allows them to connect everything.

What has influenced me most in course one is a pretty simple concept, but as adults, can be very hard to enact. This is the ability to be a role model for failure. Beyond my unit plan, this is a philosophy that I have been trying to embody in my leadership as well. If I make a mistake, I own it and model with my team that I am reflective around it, and seek out their advice. I am the leader, but I am also the learner. In this unit, we wanted to give the students some new technology to play with, and make mistakes with it in the process. And we have modeled that it is perfectly fine to make mistakes, as long as we learn and reflect.

Besides the learning goals and skills that we have outlined, I hope that the students have two new tech tools that they can transfer to other classes. Flipgrid can be more teacher driven, so they may have to wait for the teacher in another subject area to drive that process. However, if students are making presentations it can be a great way for them to seek out feedback on the student learning experience. Wakelet can be used for just about anything! I have encouraged students to use it in other subject areas, or student clubs, etc. I also hope that this gives them the confidence to play with more education apps that can prove useful for them in their classes.

I had the chance to facilitate the learning around Wakelet with the students. I started with a very quick slideshow on Wakelet, and then provided time for them to play. I gave them fifteen minutes to build a Wakelet on any hobby of their choosing and I set a list of the types of files that they had to add.  This was an enjoyable way for them to play and learn. Once their time was up and had them pair up for feedback. The classroom teacher and I then laid out the requirements for their vocabulary assignment using Wakelet. The feedback from the students was extremely positive. During “play time” they were engaged and learned very quickly. The only negative feedback that I received was that they wanted more time to play.  One other question that I think I would have asked them was how they could apply it to other courses.

Here is a link to the complete unit plan

And here are a few of the Wakelets that students worked on, keep in mind these are a work in progress as the unit is ongoing:




Theories, Theories, Everywhere!

This week’s readings could not have been more timely. Last year our school signed a partnership with Harvard through Research Schools International, and this past weekend we had someone from Harvard visit to present the research taking place, and spend a day planning with teachers for next steps.  We had a great turnout of teachers who will be undertaking action research in their classrooms. Below is a picture of the work being done by our staff on February 23, 2019. Enough about ISC for now, onto the reading from the week.

I wanted to briefly touch on Connectivism and Constructivism.  Let me start by quoting Siemen’s work: Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age;

“Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing”.

This definition, while wordy, very accurately describes learning in a digital, connected, and constantly changing context. It truly is not always under the control of the individual, these days while being connected, we often can have deep learning experiences without even intending to. I like that the word ‘chaotic’ is used here; it truly represents what learning in a digital age can look like, coming from a variety of places at any given time. I think this word chaos also represents the fact that we must have the skill of determining useful from not useful knowledge. We can’t possibly take everything in, so we must be able to quickly discern what is necessary, and what is not. The other challenge is that knowledge is being learned, researched, developed, and made available at such a pace that we must learn the skill to use new knowledge before it is obsolete.

Kipras Štreimikis

A nice representation of this connectedness and receiving new knowledge is found in the Bell article: Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning. In this article, there is a link to a Blog, entitled Teach Web Blog, which contains a great video by Wendy Drexler entitled: Connectivism: Networked Student…The Movie. This video accurately depicts the organized chaos that is digital learning, it is definitely worth a watch. She does a good job of visually representing digital learning in a connected world, and the pace of learning that occurs.

Here is another great summary video on Connectivism that I found, by Brandy Dudas:

Moving onto Constructivism. The Bodner article: Constructivism: A Theory of Knowledge. Bodner states: “Piaget believed that knowledge is acquired as the result of a life-long constructive process in which we try to organize, structure, and restructure our experiences in light of existing schemes of thought, and thereby gradually modifying and expanding theses schemes”. What constructs this knowledge can vary widely. Especially, if we take into account what learning looks like in a digital age. Dewey, like Piaget, was also a constructivist, and wrote about constructivism before Piaget did. He purported that children learn best when they interact with their environments and are actively involved with the school curriculum.  He argued that rather than the child being a passive recipient of knowledge, children are better served if they take an active part in the process of their own learning (teachthought). It is quite amazing the Dewey wrote this almost 100 years ago, and these are still ideas that we are pushing for today, personalization of learning, student voice and choice, experiential education, authentic learning, etc. Dewey further argued that for education to be at its most effective, children should be given learning opportunities that enabled them to link present content to previous experiences and knowledge. Again, this, we know, is good teaching practice, connecting one learning experience to the next, in order to reinforce the learning.

Nicole Adams

I definitely think that both of these theories can co-exist with another. Constructivism gives us the idea that knowledge is built upon prior knowledge, and that students must be actively engaged in their learning. Connectivism gives us the idea that learning takes place within a connected network, one that is always changing and developing. I see these fitting together like this: Students must be actively engaged in their learning through their connections that exist beyond the walls of the classroom, in an authentic manner. I am interested to hear what others think about Connectivism and Constructivism, and how these theories manifest themselves in schools and classrooms.