Over the course we have discussed many articles and have studied William Pinar’s (2019) What is Curriculum Theory. Pinar has shared with me the question of “What knowledge is of most worth?” (p. 21). The material covered within our course has challenged the question of what knowledge is of most worth. With this question in mind, I reflect on the key ideas that Pinar and others share in our course, especially around economics, politics, and citizenship.
One of the book’s central themes is how education is becoming structured like a business. I reflect on the amount of money that school divisions spend on software to improve student data. Through standardized assessments, corporations are profiting off education and privileging often western worldviews. The data movement that we are witnessing in education limits the students and demeaning to the educators forced to administer them. The standardized programs that school divisions pay thousands of dollars for begin to stifle student creativity and critical thinking; it begins to question educators’ worth. Often data can be harvested by students inputting data into a computer without a teacher’s support. Not to mention, the technology limits the attention of other vital needs of the classroom (dare I say, class size).
Pinar challenges the content and the politics of the curriculum of education. Pinar focuses on the idea and importance of autobiography and self-reflection for educators for fundamental change to occur. As Pinar states, “Inflected by race, gender, and class, submerged in the historical moment and the politics of the day, we teachers keep studying so we may understand and exceed each of these” (p. 41). The course’s teachings focused on learning about the other’s experiences and our responsibility to listen, self-reflect, and teach about the other. As I reflect on Pinar’s curriculum question, “What knowledge is most worth?” (p. 21) I cannot think about the recent social studies curriculum announcement from Alberta. In an opinion article by the Edmonton Journal written by numerous social studies education professors across the country, The K-6 curriculum draft highlights the lack of recognition to Indigenous worldviews in the story of Canada. When Canada’s colonial history is discussed, it is discussed in terms of the past and how it has no bearing on the present or the future. These teaching will continue to perpetuate those labelled as other, and the legacy of colonialism will continue to thrive.
Much of the course focuses on educating our students to be good citizens, specifically focuses around the Civic Organizing Framework goals of active citizenship and Tupper’s (2011) Treaty Education for Ethically Engaged Citizenship and other articles more broadly. Although we did not study Joel Westheimer’s work on citizenship, I like his citizenship model. Westheimer proposes three types of citizenship, personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens, and justice-orientated citizens.
I would hope that education aims to create thoughtful democratic citizens who, at the bare minimum, exhibit characteristics in the category of personally responsible citizens. However, for fundamental change to occur, we need to give students the knowledge, the tools, and the skills to be critical thinkers. We need to move towards teaching our students to become a justice-orientated citizen as being a personally responsible citizen, or a participatory citizen allows us to be complicit, or as Tuck and Yang (2012) describe as settler moves to innocence. This highlights the importance of empowering students to think critically, challenge ideas, and our job as educators to model to students to reflect on themselves, their histories, and their stories.
This week one of the assigned readings was a chapter from Robin Kimmerer’s (2013) book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdoms, scientific knowledge, and the teaching of plants. The chapter was Shkitagen: People of the Seventh Fire. As I read the chapter, I reflected on my experience with fire. The manner that Kimmerer expresses respect for the animate and inanimate beings around her is inspiring. The quote, “with the right materials carefully assembled and respect for the ways of air and wood, you could always have a fire” (p. 361). I reflect on this quote as someone who loves the outdoors and camping. The struggles that I have gone through to start campfires made me reflect on the art of building and respecting the materials needed for the fire.
Kimmerer shares the worldview of fire of having two sides. This includes fire as a force of creation and a force of destruction. As humans, we need to show respect for both of these sides. I think about my trip to Lac La Ronge last summer, witnessing portions of the forest affected by forest fires in the past decade. I remember watching the forests burn on the news and the media showing the aftermath. Often we do not realize that this is how many of our forests renew themselves. Kimmerer (2013) shared how Indigenous peoples used to set fires that were small and purposeful to take care of the land. She shared that blueberries and birch trees would grow up after a fire. Indigenous peoples used fire to be stewards of the land.
Kimmerer shared the Anishinaabe Seventh Fire Prophecy. This prophecy refers to the places we have lived and the events and teachings around them (p. 365).
The First Fire – Anishinaabe people were living in the dawn lands of the Atlantic. Spiritual teachings told them to move west.
The Second Fire – When the Anishinaabe made camp on the shores of Lake Huron.
The Third Fire – “Where the food grows on water,” established their homeland harvesting wild rice.
The Fourth Fire – The history of when the setters can to the land.
The Fifth Fire – The destruction and assimilation of Indigenous people and culture.
The Sixth Fire – “The cup of life would almost become the cup of grief.” However, the spiritual lives would keep Indigenous peoples strong.
The Seventh Fire – The people are to turn around and retrace the steps of those who brought us here.
The seventh fire emphasizes our responsibility to recover the languages and sacred teachings and rekindle the sacred fire’s flames. As Kimmerer states, fire can be used to ignite growth and rebirth. The seventh fire is the beginning of the rebirth of a nation.
This past week we had the privilege of listening and reflecting on the knowledge shared with us from Elder Alma Poitras. Elder Alma shared with us about the natural curriculum. What resonated with me is the connection to the land in the teachings of the natural curriculum. Elder Alma discussed learning from the animals, including the beavers’ actions and the ants, to determine the weather. I learned that ants cover their anthills when it is going to rain. She shared the importance of learning from our senses. Elder Alma shared teachings of the moons and how each moon of the year has a name. These teachings remind me of a book purchased for all our schools to share these teachings called When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar – Pisimwasinahikan by Bernice Johnson-Laxdal. This book highlights the moon calendar of the northern Cree and is written in English and northern Plains Cree y-dialect. As I reflect on this shared knowledge, it reminded me of the importance of including multiple perspectives from both Indigenous ways of knowing and western ways of knowing and teaching these perspectives as equal.
I asked Elder Alma the question, “What role can settlers play in learning or teaching Indigenous languages, and is it appropriate?”. Alma shared with us that historically there were settlers that learned Cree to be translators and negotiators. She also shared that she believes that it is important that non-Indigenous people can learn Cree and not to be narrow-minded. She said that there is too much English. We need to be more visible with Indigenous languages because language is the root of identity, to who we are. This knowledge about language reminded me of a previous opportunity of hearing from Linda and Keith Goulet, who shared that it is crucial to provide Indigenous language opportunities here. This is because this is the place where we can get Indigenous languages to thrive and survive.
Within the article, Treaty Education for Ethically Engaged Citizenship: Settler Identities, historical consciousness, and the need for reconciliation, Tupper (2012) emphasizes the importance of Treaty Education to help all students and their role as Canadian citizens and relationships with one another. Tupper highlights the importance of learning the history and the relationships with First Nations peoples of the past to broaden our understandings of social reality and engage differently as citizens of Canada (p. 146). This knowledge is essential because it contributes to our historical consciousness and their roles and responsibilities regarding relationships with Indigenous peoples. Part of this understanding is doing the often uncomfortable work of understanding the significance of being a treaty person, but not dwelling in the past, but acknowledging the past and how that informs how we move forward in relationship with Indigenous peoples.
We also wanted to share some reflections on course design, content creation, assessment, and receiving feedback and collaborating with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and educators as these are all important parts of the creation process for this course.
We had originally planned to include tutorial videos for Minecraft skills but not instructional videos for the Treaty Ed/Social Studies lesson content, since we were going to teach those lessons synchronously anyway. We asked for feedback on that decision during class and reflected on it in this post. Our biggest concern was that if we created all the instructional videos, teachers might use them without digging into this content themselves. We know lessons are often much more impactful for students when they come from their teacher.
We would watch the video and ask students to focus on a particular question (Example: What were the reasons the British Crown wanted to make Treaties?) while they watched. This worked okay, but we wondered if having a shorter video focused on the specific topic would streamline things for students. We decided to try it out and created this video using Canva and Camtasia:
We are planning to create a few more instructional videos to support the lessons and build challenges. We still want to encourage teachers to do their own teaching that supports this content, so we are keeping the videos short and hoping that they provide jumping-off-points where teachers could go into the topics in more depth.
Our course assessment involved student input as much as possible. This included co-constructing expectations in Padlet as well as co-constructing criteria to assess the build challenges. Students provided ideas on what they wanted to be assessed on, and we turned it into a single-point rubric.
Students are formatively assessed after every build challenge and provided the opportunity to review the feedback and improve their builds at specific times throughout the course. At the end of the course, students will be given time to review all the feedback from their build challenges and improve their world. After their group’s final submission, students will receive their summative assessment.
Students will show their individual knowledge on course content through Flipgrid by walking through their Minecraft worlds and explaining their builds using the Flipgrid Screen Recorder. This will ensure that we have individual student voices, perspectives, and understanding throughout the course.
Throughout the course, students will complete regular self and group assessments to reflect on their individual contributions and assess group dynamics. After the first self/group assessment, we used student responses to help groups problem-solve any issues they were having. We were clear that students were rating their group as a whole, not grading each other individually. This helped keep the reflections solution-focused. We had students submit their self and peer assessment through Microsoft Forms. You can make a copy of the form we created using this link!
Receiving Feedback & Collaborating with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Educators
We have attended several webinars on the Manito Ahbee Aki world and educator resources. In these sessions, the Indigenous Education team from Louis Riel School Division emphasized the importance of working with Elders and Knowledge Keepers during the creation of this world. Raquel was also reminded of the importance of sitting down with Elders to listen and learn before and throughout projects when she watched this video from Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre with Knowledge Keeper Robert (JR) McArthur.
These are some quotes from Melody Wood and JR McArthur from the video (taken from 13:15-16:25) that got us reflecting on our creation process and the need for feedback and collaboration:
Melody: One of the things I truly appreciate about you is that you didn’t just start creating [Nakota lullabies]. You actually sat down with Elders to talk about what they knew, you did a bunch of research and background into lullabies, before you even started creating about it. I just want people to hear about why that is important to you – to do that before you start creating lullabies.
JR: Doing that – it was just for me. It’s who I am. I need to sit and I need to hear that from experience. Being able to sit in front of somebody older than you and just sit there and be the student. No matter how old we get, we’re always the student. To be able to sit there and put in that time… It just lets you know that you are doing something good. And when the feedback is more than you expected, it’s great. It makes it even worth more than you thought… to have those older individuals tell you, you’re gonna do something good.
JR: …That’s kind of why you do it, you reaffirm yourself and you let people know. And at the same time, you get that feedback. There’s always that one thing. When you put in enough time you’ll find there’s always that one little thing that you’re gonna find that you’ve never heard before, and someone tells you… That feedback that you get by putting in the time is… you just can’t say enough about it. That’s just part of learning.
We want this course to be authentic, respectful, and done in a good way. We have feedback/collaboration meetings set up with several Indigenous people that we have working relationships with. We are looking forward to sitting down with them, sharing what we have developed so far, listening to their thoughts and feedback, and potentially collaborating with them to improve the course.
Curtis also did a podcast interview with two members of the Indigenous Education team from Louis Riel School Division who were involved with creating the Manito Ahbee Aki world. We are looking forward to continued conversations with their team as well!
This week I am dedicating an entire blog post to Verna St. Denis’s (2011) article Silencing Aboriginal Curricular Content and Perspectives Through Multiculturalism: ‘There are other children here.’ The article focuses on the use of multiculturalism to limit the incorporation of Indigenous content and ways of knowing in schools (p. 207). This provides an opportunity for educators to cop-out of the important work that needs to be done.
Multiculturalism fails to address Indigenous sovereignty and the on-going land issue. The failure to address these issues distracts from the goal of reconciliation and redress of Indigenous rights and continues to dilute the true meaning of decolonization and reconciliation. This is shown, as St. Denis states, “multiculturalism permits a form of participation on the part of those designated as ‘cultural others’ that is limited to the decorative and includes ‘leisure, entertainment, food, and song and dance.’ (St. Denis, 2011, p. 308). This can be highlighted in Regina festivals such as Mosiac: A Festival of Cultures highlighting entertainment, food, song and dance. Festivals such as Mosiac do not address the real issues. Indigenous peoples face, further allowing us to be complicit and avoid the truth issues around Indigenous issues. Multiculturalism ultimately provides a harmonious view of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous people insist that there needs to be a strong understanding of the historical relationships to understand Indigenous sovereignty (St. Denis, 2011). The colonial practice of multiculturalism refocuses on a western lens, refusing to understand or recognize Indigenous history. The notion of multiculturalism places settlers in a place of innocence. Settlers appear to be innocent because of multiculturalism’s fluffy success stories and multicultural practices in Canada. Settler Canadians (racialized or non-racialized) become complicit in the on-going land theft and colonial domination of Indigenous people in how we occupy the lands.
Within the Education System
St. Denis repeatedly states that the education system is a microcosm of the political and national levels regarding Indigenous people’s claims to sovereignty and land issues. Showcased in Saskatchewan, there is a focus on Treaty Education and discussion on Indigenous People’s rights. This mandated curriculum is not held accountable in many school divisions, as teachers are not required to assess the Treaty Education outcomes in the same way as other outcomes. Often in education, we see surface-level attempts in including Indigenous content. As St. Denis states, Aboriginal culture and history must go beyond cultural artifacts: ‘We need perspective, not just beads and feathers'” (St. Denis, 2011, 314). These attempts at education may be sincere, fail to address the larger issues needed for reconciliation and decolonization. The education system needs to address and learn Indigenous content and ways of knowing and challenging western ideologies. Education through a lens of multiculturalism is not sufficient.
We are currently exploring the Treaty relationship using Minecraft Education Edition in three different classrooms. The classes are on either Lesson 4 or 5 in our learning plan, where they are working in groups to build something that represents two reasons First Nations peoples wanted to make Treaties.
Students are interacting in multiple ways throughout this course. As students are attending class in person, they typically sit near their group members (masked and distanced) while they work on their build challenges so they can talk and problem solve as they build in Minecraft. If the teacher prefers students stay in their regular desks, they rely more heavily on the Collaboration Space in Teams to plan and collaborate.
The Collaboration Space is set up so each small group has a section in the Notebook where group members can type at the same time. We populate this space with a planning checklist for students to go through so they can brainstorm ideas, decide who is responsible for what, and upload their blueprint sketches of what they are planning to build. We also include sentence stems to help students get started and encourage meaningful discussion.
At times, it can be challenging to get students to take the time to plan because they are so excited to start building in Minecraft. We are hoping that using this planning checklist will help students build with purpose and ensure that they have all agreed on the plan before they jump into building. Check out our video for a quick walkthrough of the Collaboration Space and Content Library:
We chose to use the Collaboration Space because it gives us access to each group’s brainstorm and planning notes, so we can flip through the different groups and see what they are thinking. This allows us to catch student misconceptions early on and redirect the group as needed, or even plan for a whole class lesson if several groups need guidance or reteaching on a concept. The Collaboration Space also allows each group member to contribute using text or audio recording.
Students also interact in their group’s Minecraft world while they are building. They can use the chat function in Minecraft, but most students do not need to as they are usually sitting near each other while they work, so they can talk instead. Finally, we are planning to have students explain their builds using Flipgrid and then have students from other groups watch their videos and give feedback using video or text responses. We are thinking we will co-construct a simple feedback checklist that students can use as a guideline for giving feedback on each other’s videos.
Our project is adaptable to many forms of blended teaching. Because we are currently teaching the course synchronously, there are many types of student-to-instructor interactions. We have used Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Forms, Class Notebook, Padlet, and conversations to connect and collaborate with students.
Microsoft Teams is the main platform that we have used for student-to-instructor interactions. The platform allows us to connect with the class virtually for synchronous lessons. In addition, students can connect with us 1-on-1 or in their small groups (private team channels) that we have created for the duration of the course. For check-ins, we start a Teams meeting and invite all the group members. Here is how a typical group check-in goes:
How are things going? Are you still using the ideas on your planning checklist? Have you decided to change anything?
Can you share your screen and walk me through what you have so far? Tell me about your builds!
Give positive feedback on what they are doing well.
How is this build connected to the build challenge? How does it show a reason that First Nations people wanted to make Treaties?
Give constructive feedback and suggestions as needed.
Do you need anything else from me?
These conversations with small groups allow us to give specific feedback in the moment and guide our instruction for the next lesson. As mentioned in the video above, the Content Library in Class Notebook allows us to upload content that is course specific and “read only” for the students. We use the Collaboration Space to give written or audio feedback directly on each group’s work and add documents or links.
We used Microsoft Forms to determine students’ comfort levels in Minecraft. This information was then used to help create the student’s groups. Microsoft Forms will be used in the future to compile information about self-assessment and whole group-assessment.
We used Padlet to collaborate with students on expectations in Minecraft and compile their background knowledge on Treaties. This tool provides a fantastic way to group brainstorm and collaborate as a class, educators included.
We used a whole class discussion to co-construct criteria for how we would assess the build challenges. Students shared their ideas and then we grouped them by common themes to develop a rubric we can use to give feedback on each build challenge. We will use this as formative assessment throughout the course, so students have a chance to go through feedback with their group and use it to improve their builds and explanations. At the end of the course, we will use each group’s final Minecraft world with all their completed build challenges as their summative assessment.
Encouraging Meaningful Interactions
Here is a recap of some strategies we are using to encourage meaningful student-to-student interactions:
Providing a planning checklist with questions and sentence stems to guide their conversations.
Using the Collaboration Space so students can contribute their ideas using text or audio.
Giving time for students to go through comments on the rubric as a group and make a to-do list based on the feedback.
Using Flipgrid for students to explain their builds and give feedback on each other’s explanations using a feedback checklist.
And here is a recap of some strategies we are using to encourage meaningful student-to-instructor interactions:
Co-constructing criteria for using Minecraft for learning.
Collecting background knowledge on Treaties in Saskatchewan using Padlet.
Co-constructing assessment criteria for build challenges.
Frequent check-ins with groups for students to explain their builds and receive feedback.
Consistent formative assessment through conversations and comments on the rubric.
John Spencer highlights leveraging UX Design by having students take a quick survey based on course organization. We would like to incorporate this to make our course more efficient and user-friendly. Further, we will observe students as they interact with the course, take note of the challenges and issues, and streamline those issues in the future. To increase meaningful interactions, we may adopt Spencer’s “better way to brainstorm” approach as it encourages student voice and reduces groupthink.
For peer assessment, we originally planned to have each student rate their group members on their teamwork and contributions to the Minecraft world; however, we started to think differently after reading this post, specifically this quote:
“Note that having students grade one another can backfire. This can actually create risk-aversion, where team members are afraid to speak up. It can also introduce an unhealthy power dynamic. Furthermore, students are not trained on assessment theory and practice. You, as the instructor, should be the sole person grading group members.”
After reflecting on this, we decided to have students grade their group as a whole and give them the opportunity to write comments to explain using a Microsoft form. We hope this will encourage a positive group dynamic but still allow the students to reflect on their group’s learning.
What are you doing to encourage meaningful student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions in your course prototype? What are your thoughts on having students grade one another when working in groups?
This past week I have had some time to reflect on my personal scope of moral considerations and moral extensionism. Cunningham & Cunningham (2017) state, “Extending moral value to others is known as moral extensionism.” Furthermore, they define moral value as the idea of worth, as well as responsibility. I see have I have granted moral value to many parts of my life; I value myself, my family, friends, colleagues, students, and humanity as a whole. However, it was due to COVID-19 that allowed me to experience a lot of time outdoors within Saskatchewan; I began to appreciate nature, including animals, plants, and the greater world.
This concept reminds me of the lecture by Robin Kimmerer, Learning the Grammar of Animacy: subject and object. I found myself interested in nature, interested in learning about the plants out on hikes and respecting nature. Interested in the animals that I have encountered, on hikes, on drives, or kayaking on the water. I believe Kimmerer highlights that if we change our language about how we interact with plants and the inanimate world, we can respect it.
I believe my scope of moral consideration has been broadened by growing and caring for a garden. This has allowed me to escape the busyness of the everyday world, provides a responsibility that I enjoy, and provides a sustainable way to eat healthier. However, I believe moral extensionism goes deeper than caring for the plants. I must care for the earth that my garden is planted, ensuring that there are nutrients for my food to grow, learning to rotate my crops to ensure that the garden can be used to its full potential the following season.
I believe that my scope of moral consideration has shifted. My job as an instructional technology coach thrives on the relationships and respect that I make with other educators and students. I think specifically of my time teaching in Ogema, Saskatchewan, where I had the privilege to teach and learn with a fairly large Filipino community. This community was able to show me aspects of their vibrant culture that continues to thrive in a small rural Saskatchewan community. These rich experiences highlighted a worldview that I would not have received if I was teaching elsewhere. As an educator, my moral consideration is considered in my practice through diverse teaching experiences. Such as, having a diverse representation in my classroom library. Ensuring a diverse set of worldviews across subject areas. For example, my current project on learning about the treaties ensures that students understand treaties from both the First Nations and European worldviews. However, I need to be more inviting to these communities to join in on the learning experiences and share their learning experiences in partnership.
Ethical Space of Engagement
Willie Ermine’s (2007) The Ethical Space of Engagement highlights the importance of moral extensionism to others’ worldviews. Ethical space of engagement requires us to find space between the worldviews and engage in dialogue and discussion. Ermine highlights the need to develop rules of engagement between our human communities because of a history of failed attempts of meaningful interactions between Indigenous peoples and western people. The limitations of a society that has the invisible structures of colonialism and white supremacy at its core make it difficult for our society to truly engage with humanity within its scope of moral consideration. As a society, we need to move past the Indigenous gaze, develop relationships and community, and develop space and dialogue. Therefore, I believe this highlights the importance of education, specifically anti-oppressive education, as a tool for reconciliation.
This week I really focused my attention on the article by Tuck and Yang Decolonization is Not a Metaphor (2012). This article I have seen referenced numerous times in many of the readings I have done for other classes. However, I believe that this is such an important topic and work that settlers need to understand, thus I find it important to discuss some main takeaways from the article.
Take-Away #1: Decolonization must involve the repatriation of land
Tuck and Yang (2012) argue that the use of decolonization as a metaphor allows settlers to reconcile their guilt. By using decolonization as a metaphor does not address the elephant in the room, land and land issues. I think of the many times that I have heard the word “Decolonization” or have used it myself as a buzzword, truly not understanding the meaning behind the word. I think about how we have used the term “Decolonizing our schools” or “Decolonizing our libraries” and not really taking into account that these are easy ways to interpret decolonization. Tuck and Yang, state that these are “empty signifiers” to be filled by any track towards liberation.
Take Away #2: “I am one of the good ones”
Although the saying “I am one of the good ones”, was not stated by Tuck and Yang (2012). The notion of the ways that settlers try to avoid feeling uncomfortable is the same. Shared is the idea of settler nativism, which focuses on the long-lost Indigenous relative (Usually a distant grandma) as an excuse of trying to identify as Indigenous and not take responsibility to fix the wrongdoing of settler ancestors. Furthermore, the idea of settler adoption fantasies highlights white centring and the acceptance of a non-Indigenous person allows for the perception of innocence. One recent example I can think of is the adoption of Justin Trudeau honoured by the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary, Alberta. The symbolic gesture of presenting Trudeau with a headdress is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Four years have passed and we still have numerous land issues, water issues, and continue to perpetuate issues of colonialism.
Take Away #3: Critical Consciousness is not Enough
I have recently looked into Paulo Freire, and his idea of conscientization, or becoming critically conscious. However, again, becoming aware of our own identities is not enough when it comes to decolonization. We must address the land issue. Tuck and Yang (2012) state, “the experience of teaching and learning to be critical of settler colonialism can be so powerful it can feel like it is indeed making change”. The use of the metaphor and comparison of colonization and oppression are distinct, and not the same. By using colonization as a metaphor for the oppression we conveniently bypass the question of “What is colonialism?”.
Something that I have struggled internally with is that is the idea of Treaty Education, and learning about Treaties, and the Treaty partnership further distracting from the idea of the rightful owners of the land? Does Treaty Education give us a harmonious view of Indigenous-settler relationships while bypassing the issue of land rights?
This week I decided to learn a bit more about UX Design. UX design stands for User Design Theory. UX Design revolves around users’ experience interacting with the product and being intuitively designed. After having the opportunity to hear from Dr. John Spencer, I looked up John’s blog post 7 ways UX Design Theory Transformed My Approach to Course Designand how he structures his courses. After going through his blog post, I watched his “How to Create Better Classroom Systems with UX Design [Deep Dive]”
“The system should fit the student rather than making the student fit into the system.”
Within the video and blog post, Dr. John Spencer highlights ways to transform our classroom systems. I will briefly reflect on these points made by John Spencer, connecting his ideas to Blended Learning Course on Treaty Education and Minecraft that Raquel and I are developing.
1. Embrace Onboarding
Onboarding… Much like the workforce would onboard new employees when they get a new job to “learn the ropes” and learn skills, knowledge, and behaviours to become successful, we can provide similar experiences for our students. John Spencer explained how we often see the virtual tour when we sign up for a new website. Or using an “Unboxing Video” to explain an assignment from the perspective of a student.
Reflecting on our blended learning course, we did onboard some of the materials for students to access. This was specifically how to use Minecraft EE. However, we did not onboard materials specific to the learning environment (besides a Microsoft Teams how-to PDF document). It is often difficult to get students to access materials inside an LMS and become independent enough to search for documents or how-to guides on their own (Further highlighting the importance of UX Design). In the future, I think that it would be important to have a video of how to navigate the course, how to access assignments, and hand in assignments as a student.
2. Begin with Students in Mind
John Spencer highlights the intuitive nature of some of the apps and websites that he uses, specifically Google Drive, Gmail, and Taskstream. Google Drive is straightforward to navigate; nothing is more than a couple clicks away. Whereas, Taskstream was much difficult to navigate (He explains this well in the video).
This was one of the main reasons for us switching from Microsoft Teams to hosting our material on a WordPress site. Microsoft Teams using Class Notebook can be a mighty duo, but it takes time to learn how to navigate. It is not as user-friendly as it could be. We decided that we wanted our course to be more accessible; WordPress was a way to do that. We want to easily provide other educators and students with the ease of accessibility within the course.
3. Be Intentional with Copy Text
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what copy text or copywriting was. According to Wikipedia, copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for advertising or other forms of marketing. John Spencer explains that it is important that we don’t overcommunicate. We need to have clarity and brevity. As teachers, we need to consider the cognitive load.
Within our course, I believe we need to be aware of the course’s two components, the teacher materials and the student materials. With our student materials, we need to be concise in our directions and allow students to reach out for assistance if needed. With our teaching materials, we need to be considerate not to overwhelm teachers to “give up” on the resource we are creating. By creating a course profile, a course outline, and a walkthrough video of the course would provide teachers with enough knowledge to take our course and use it as their own.
4. Be Linear But Be Connective
John Spencer highlighted the importance of having a linear, logical flow to the course. However, we need to also be connective. Within our course, again, this will be easier to do through WordPress. The menu at the top will feature the course profile, course outline, and the modules. Modules will then drop down into teacher lesson and student lesson. The course will be able to hyperlink back to different parts of the course if needed.
5. Be Consistent
There is a need to ensure that the language used is consistent throughout the course. I believe this will be a challenge as there are two of us completing the course; we will need to be aware of the language we are using. I know we often called our course profile the course prototype. Or we often say “Teams” instead of “Microsoft Teams.” These are slight examples of how we can cause confusion within our course. We also will need to improve our templates; although the template is the same, Raquel and I complete them differently. One thing that we will try to ensure to do is to keep the student assignments structured consistently.
6. Be Simple
We learned our course was difficult to access from our feedback and our walkthrough to Dr. Alec Couros when we sent in the course’s shell. The course had way too many steps to access it. Sign in, open up your class team, go to the general channel, click on Class Notebook, click on a button hidden in plain sight, click on your name, click on assignments, click on the page that we are working on. These were essentially the steps to get to the assignment within our Class Team (Teachers can streamline this for students to minimize the number of steps). However, it was not simple. Hopefully, the switch to WordPress simplifies our course. I will keep in mind how to be as simple as possible in the creation of the build challenges in Canva. The incorporation of icons and short instructions would provide students opportunities to be able to receive instructions quickly.
7. Solicit Frequent Feedback
As educators, we need to have a relationship with our students to provide feedback on what we can do to improve the course. Online/Blended instruction would be even more important to ask for that feedback. We have received this from our peers on the ideas and how our first module(s) and course shell can improve. However, I believe that students provide authentic feedback as they have completed the course. As we continue with our unit’s rollout, student feedback for us as course designers will be important, and we will include it periodically throughout the unit.
The look at UX Design provides opportunities for us as educators to improve our online/blended instruction courses. But provide great reflection pieces that allow us to reflect on how we teach our lessons and run our classroom systems. As John Spencer said, “I want to get to a place where students aren’t even thinking about the course architecture but are so empowered by the learning that they hardly notice that the systems exist.” I think that sounds like a great goal… But I believe I have a long way to go.
This past week we had the opportunity to listen to Shelley Moore’s TED Talk, and her story about Daniel.
The message of the video emphasizes the importance of presuming competence within our students. We need to trust that our students are competent learners and that they can learn. The student that Shelley was sharing about in her TED talk was able to communicate by using the dictionary’s page numbers to show math competence by flipping through the dictionary to answer math flashcards. As educators, we need to avoid the language and thoughts that a student is “Way too disabled” to learn. That it is our job to find what works for the student and how they can demonstrate their learning. As educators, it requires that we listen, and pay attention to our students. If not we become ignorant and too assuming if we believe that students cannot showcase their learning, we must get creative.
This was not the first time that I have been introduced to the knowledge of Shelley Moore. A colleague sent me the video above a couple months ago, and I believe it tied in nicely to our conversation on lesson planning last week. “Dr. Baked Potato: How Can We Scaffold Complexity” highlights the importance of scaffolding and Universal Design for Learning and how to efficiently utilize our support teams for our students. I have linked the Baked Potato Planning Pyramid that Shelley uses. She discusses the importance of the following goals.
Get to know the students and identify what supports they need to meet the goal. This needs to be established before the lesson takes place.
Make sure that all the students understand the most important part of the goal. This needs to be tied to the concept of the lesson and not the activity of the lesson.
Teach the different challenge options to ALL the students. This is called scaffolding complexity.
Let ALL the students choose their level of challenge about how they meet the goal.
If we design our lessons this way we focus on what the students can complete rather than what they cannot complete. This student-centered approach will allow students to take control of their own learning.
Decolonizing Possibilities in Special Education
In Yee and Butler’s article, Decolonizing Possibilities in Special Education Services I thought that the research question of how to (re)imagine special education and inclusive education practices to address the needs of Indigenous students tied in with the Shelley Moore video and with culturally responsive pedagogy. This article highlighted four themes to better support ALL our students.
Holistic assessment measures
The use of decolonizing teaching approaches,
Decolonizing special education delivery service models.
Looking at themes three and four, the article highlights that using a strength-based approach and building relationships provides successful opportunities for our students. By building off student interests provides allows students to engage in learning that is relevant to themselves. Universal Design for Learning or a model such as Shelley Moore’s Baked Potato Planning Pyramid provides students autonomy and allows students to oversee their own learning. Furthermore, the article highlights the significance of relationships as a way to decolonize special education delivery service models. Relationships with the community, schools, families, and agencies work to support all students. I believe that these relationships honour the different ways of knowing that Indigenous communities bring and work in partnership with western ideologies. Through a combination of mutual respect and relationships can we begin to honour to goals and successes of Indigenous students and all our students.