When it was time to consider Course 5, and the project of (re-)designing completely a unit to “enhance student learning through the meaningful and authentic embedding of the ISTE Standards”, and put into practice what we learned during this COETAIL journey, I was playing with different ideas, especially that nothing was obvious, especially not being a classroom teacher.
The first thing to decide was if I were going to create a project connected to my ‘natural environment’: the library, with for example a project that has been on the table for a while: mapping a continuum of online workshops on referencing, moving up from grade 7 in Middle School to the IB program delivered in the High School. It already exists, but mainly for grade 11 and 12.
Or if I were going to reach out to a classroom colleague and suggest collaborating on designing a project together. The latter one would give me access to students directly, and therefore became my preferred choice.
Our last Professional Development afternoon, in January 2021, was focusing on “Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom”, and held remotely by the amazing Cornelius Minor. I quickly became very enthusiastic about working on that topic for the final project.
My first thought was to create a program on Social Justice for our Middle Schoolers to be delivered during their PL (Personal Learning) sessions.
Plus: there is room to run such a “capsule” program as the class meets for 30 minutes daily. Most of the regular activities had to be canceled due to the pandemic regulations, and the free-choice, mixed-grades workshops are not running this school year.
Minus: the students are sometimes less engaged. The way it is being delivered in the different PL small groups of +- 10 students: it will have to be taught by the different PL teachers and it might depend on those teachers’ commitment to it.
OPTION 1 B
I will create a unit on Social Justice that would fit that program, and model it with my own PL group as a pilot project with those 10 students that I know well. That will allow me to test the activities and, based on the student’s feedback, modify it before offering it to the entire Middle School PL classes.
Plus/Minus: I will have some flexibility but those students will also need to follow part of the program planned for their grade (a combination of wellbeing activities, organizational skills, watching the news, working on their Bulb portfolios, playing games for the team spirit etc).
What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build?
After a general presentation with some examples, I would help students find a social justice issue they are passionate about or have an interest in exploring.
Using PBL (project-based learning) will help students explore issues that matter to them, in the format that is appealing to them: an open-ended work could be: writing an argumentative letter addressed to a person of their choice, filming community members interviews, choosing of form of persuasive art (digital or traditional), using the green screen to create either a (mini) short movie, or create a news debate.
These are the ISTE Standards for Students that will be prioritized:
6. Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats, and digital media appropriate to their goals.
I think that this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project because it can combine different elements examined through the COETAIL journey.
At the end of the project, students will present to their peers their creation, in our own PL group OR all their creations will be added to a digital “Student bulletin” viewed by the other PL groups. Those will be asked to leave meaningful comments online.
The other idea was to develop a series of more contained lessons and teach them myself within the MS Social Studies classrooms.
Plus: I can work with the SS teachers and therefore get more chances to engage students in a meaningful way. Hopefully, those lessons could fit in the existing curriculum.
Minus: Teachers need to adapt the lessons planned and give me some class time
Approach the HS English Department Head, and check with him if there is room for developing a unit on Social Justice, probably for grade 10 (besides what is already in place on the topic)
UPDATE: After speaking to him with him, and although he does not teach gr10 this year, he could see something happening in the Powerless unit, or even in grade 11 English through the multiculturalism lens. He will think about those possibilities before our next meeting.