Author Archives: caitbajgier

Making Inquiry-Based Learning Authentic through Human-Centered Design

Authentic Learning is Key

Over the past semester, I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning fit together.  This past week, I’ve started to think more about how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning can be implemented in STEAM.  Earlier today, I had a Eureka moment when I came to the realization that the commonality between STEAM, transformative Technology Integration, PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning is authentic learning.  When developing my curriculum STEAM I focused on cross-curricular 9 week long projects that tied together students’ learning from all their subjects.  Sometimes, I felt my projects offered authentic learning experiences.

For example, one project that I feel was one of my stronger projects was “Taking Learning to New Heights with Power Up 3.0”.  My third graders were reading about the Wright Brothers in reading, so in STEAM I wanted to teach them about the scientific principles behind flight.   This project was made possible by a grant from the Beaver County Educational Trust.  With the money they provided me, I was able to purchase a class set of Power Up 3.0s.  These devices connect to an iPad (or smartphone) through Bluetooth.  The device has a rudder and a propeller on it that you attach to a paper airplane.  The app on the iPad provides students with a flight simulator experience and allows them to control the rudder and propeller.  Additionally, I had a pilot come in to speak to the third grades.  I also had several high school students who were studying at the CCBC Aviation Academy come in to help my students fly their paper airplanes.  The BCET honored me with the Exemplary Mini-Grant award for this project and subsequently named me Beaver County Teacher of the Year.  The BCET also nominated me for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year 2019, and I am honored to have been named a Semi-Finalist.  As I reflect on my past teaching practices, however, I realize not all of my projects had strong, real-world connections.


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Human Centered Design in STEAM Stems Inquiry, PBL and Technology Integration that Transforms Learning

 “Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration… What Would Dewey Think?

I just got done reading a fabulous article from the blog 21centuryedutech titled “Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration… What Would Dewey Think?”  that really opened my eyes and helped me connect some dots in my mind. In this article, the author, Michael Gorman, illustrates how STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration are interconnected.  While reading this article I decided to create a mind map using Popplet.
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My Ever-Changing Mental Model of Inquiry-Based Learning

Over the past two weeks, my mental model of inquiry-based learning has developed.  One new insight I have gained is that there different types of inquiry.  Inquiry can be teacher directed, teacher-student shared or student directed.  I also learned that these types of inquiry-based learning exist on a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum is structured, teacher-directed inquiry and on the other end of the spectrum is student-centered, open inquiry.  In the middle of the spectrum is guided inquiry that is teacher-student shared.  We also learned that inquiry can be multidisciplinary (Topic C, 2018). Continue reading

Shining a Spotlight on Three Exemplars of Project Based Learning

This summer I began taking courses online through Wilkes University to add a STEM endorsement to my Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate.  This past week I began one of the required courses, Project Based Learning.  In my STEAM classroom, I have designed 9 weeks long projects, however, I look forward to learning how to fully implement Project Based Learning properly in my classroom.  During the first week of this course, we viewed videos showcasing three different examples of project-based learning.  You can view the videos below.

 

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New Insights Turn Preconceptions into Misconceptions

For the past two school years, I have been blessed to develop a curriculum and teach an elementary STEAM program for students in grades K-6.  Out of my love for STEAM Education, I decided to pursue an endorsement in STEM for my Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate.  I will be able to take the needed courses online through Wilkes University! This past week I began one of the required courses, Inquiry-Based Learning.  After reading and watching videos of inquiry-based learning in action, I have come to the realization that my understanding of Inquiry-Based education was rather narrow and shallow.  I am looking forward to deepening my understanding during this semester.

This week we read a summary of the main points from the book How students learn: History in the classroom published by Donovan and Bransford.  The first point in this summary was that “(s)tudents come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom” (Topic A). I feel that this quote summarizes my feelings as I reflect on my own preconceptions of Inquiry-Based learning and gain new insights.

One of my preconceptions coming into this graduate course is that Inquiry-Based Learning is used only in science classrooms.  During my undergraduate studies, I believe I was exposed to Inquiry-Based Learning during my science methods course.  That would have been 13 years ago now, so I am a bit fuzzy on the details.  During this undergraduate course, however, we were introduced to the 5 E Model where the teacher develops a unit based on student interests that consists of 5 lessons: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.  I developed a unit based around the question “What Makes Day and Night?” for a class of Pre-Kindergarten students.  Based on this past experience, I felt that inquiry-based learning was for use solely in science classrooms.

After viewing The Teaching Channel Inquiry-Based Teaching Series that showcasesInquiry-Based Learning in action at Urban Academy in New York City, I have developed new insights (Newell, 2012).  In these videos, they demonstrated inquiry being used in both History and Literature classes.  Watching these videos opened my eyes to the fact that inquiry can take place in a variety of content areas, not just science, and that inquiry can take many different forms.

As part of our reading this week we read a list of Statements About Inquiry.  One statement that spoke to me was “Inquiry teaching is not chaotic — It is a carefully choreographed activity” (Topic B). I often think teachers do not attempt to integrate inquiry-based learning into their classrooms out of fear that it will lead to chaos.  In the Capacity Building Series, Secretariat Special Edition #32 published by The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Education it states: “It is a misconception that inquiry-based pedagogy means letting go of the class and allowing students to self-direct all aspects of their learning” (p. 5).  I will admit that I too had a preconception that Inquiry-Based Learning was a class management nightmare waiting to happen.  Thankfully, I have gained new insights this week and I can now label my preconception as a misconception!  I am hopeful that this course will give me the skill-set I need to implement Inquiry-Based Learning in the classroom!

Some of burning questions, that remain in my mind are:   Where does the 5 E Model fit in with Inquiry-Based Learning?  Does the 5 E Model promote inquiry-based learning?  What are other ways to develop and structure inquiry-based learning experiences?  I’m also curious with how Inquiry-based learning is connected to Project-Based Learning as I am also taking a course on this method of teaching as well.  If you have any insight on any of these questions, please leave a comment below! I’d also be interested to hear about any preconceptions and misconceptions you had about inquiry-based learning.

References

Donovan, M. S., & Bransford, J. D. (2005). How students learn: History in the classroom (pp. 1-2). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Newell, Beth (Producer). (2012). Inquiry-Based Teaching Series  [Video series]. New York, NY:      The Teaching Channel Retrieved from: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/reasons-for-inquiry-based-teaching

The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Education (May 2013). Inquiry- based Learning. Capacity Building Series, Secretariat Special Edition # 32. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf

Topic A: Personal History Regarding Inquiry Based Learning [EDIM 513-INA Course Content]. Retrieved from https://live.wilkes.edu/d2l/le/content/242169/viewContent/2609367/View

Topic B: Preconceptions of Inquiry [EDIM 513-INA Course Content]. Retrieved from https://live.wilkes.edu/d2l/le/content/242169/viewContent/2609368/View

 

 

Toolkit for Primary Educators

toolkit screen shot

Recently, I was chosen to give a presentation on our district’s Act 80 day for an audience of educators who work with students in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  I decided to show them some of my favorite web-based resources.  Continue reading

What is a Technology Innovator?

What is a Technology Innovator?

I recently was posed this question as part of my application process to become a Keystone STAR.  I found out that my principal nominated as a Keystone Technology Innovator for the class of 2015, and I was extremely honored!  I just applied to become a Keystone STAR and one of 100 lucky applicants that will be picked to attend the state level summit this July!  (I’ll keep you posted if I am selected, eek!)

So, What did I Decide?

I spent some time grappling with this question and envisioning what the ideal technology innovator would look like, and here is the dandy little acrostic poem I came up with (geez am I an elementary teacher or what?!)

A Technology Innovator is someone who:

Transforms learning through creative use of technology in the classroom.

Engages students by focusing on student needs and learning styles.

Changes with the times and researches new trends in educational technology.

Hones their personal technological skills and devotes their life to learning.

Never is afraid of failure, and uses blunders as learning experiences.

Organizes the learning environment for seamless integration of technology.

Leads and facilitates learning by creating student-centered learning experiences.

Observes students and develops technological solutions to learning problems.

Generates lessons that encourage students to delve into deeper learning.

Yearns for the freedom to focus on projects, not tests.

 

Inspires students to be creative and give their best effort.

Networks and collaborates with other educators.

Never uses technology as fluff, but strives to create meaningful learning.

Offers support and guidance to colleagues with technology integration.

Validates and uplifts students by providing authentic learning experiences.

Always strives to be a better teacher and perfect their practice.

Teaches students to use technology in a safe, responsible manner.

Often collaborates for cross-curricular learning experiences.

Radiates enthusiasm for learning and teaching!

 

What qualities do you think a Technology Innovator should possess?

Adventures at #Pete2015 – Keynote Edition

ADVENTURESGetting off to a Bumpy Start

I am super lucky that I was able to attend the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C) at Hershey, PA this year!  What’s not so lucky?  Unpacking the car and realizing that I forgot my toiletry bag at home!  Disaster!  A Walmart run and trip to CVS later, and I started to mellow out a bit. Being a first time attendee at the conference was overwhelming enough, (but the whole leaving my toiletry bag at home thing definitely didn’t help!)  There was so much going on!  The Hershey Lodge is HUGE and then you find out you can hop a shuttle to the beautiful Hotel Hershey for sessions too!  (The lovely Hotel Hershey is featured in my graphic at the top of this post. I took a panorama with my iPhone of this  lovely Mediterranean style room they had there).  It took some time to get acclimated, and I had a ton of information thrown at me over the course of my 3 days there!  I will be sharing what I learned at PETE&C in a series of posts on some of the reoccurring themes that I explored during my sessions there:  new apps, flipping instruction, and STEAM.  This is the first post in the series, and it is dedicated to the Keynote speakers!  Continue reading

Strengthening the Home-School Connection with Classroom Website

Communication is Key 

As teachers, we know it is beneficial to our students to have frequent, open communication with families.  We also know that this is time consuming (but well worth the effort).  An effective classroom website is a great way to help stay connected with families.

“So, What is the Best Way to Create a Classroom Website?”

This was a question that I was grappling with toward the end of summer break, while my boyfriend and I were vacationing in Savannah (it really is lovely there).  During our downtime, I was researching my options.  In the past, I had used Edmodo, however, I found that many parents didn’t take the time to set up accounts.  We also have a school Facebook page, so I post their frequently, and Edmodo just seemed a bit redundant.  Last year I tried out Kidblog  (see my post here) in addition to Edmodo, as a platform for displaying student work.  I found that Kidblog was a easy way to embed student work, but in 1st grade, we honestly aren’t going to blog in a traditional sense so having a blog of each individual kid seemed a bit unnecessary.

Assessing My Website Needs

As teachers, it is easy to keep doing the same things every year out of habit, but the Virgo in me always pushes me to do things better!  I wasn’t satisfied with my classroom website, and I was determined to find a platform that would suit my needs. So, I sat down and thought about what I was looking for in a platform, and I came up with this list.

  • User Friendly– I wanted something that would be easy for me to use, because at the end of the day, I don’t have a lot of free time!
  • Ability to Embed– A lot of the technology projects I implement with my students give you embed code, so I wanted to be able to embed student work directly into my website.
  • Privacy– My students privacy is extremely important to me, so that’s why in the past I leaned towards using platforms that required user sign in (Edmodo & Kidblog), however, I discovered this was a deterrent to the parents.
  • Easy to Access– I wanted the parents to be able to visit the website without having to log in.
  • Organized– In the past using Edmodo and Kidblog, things got disorganized.  It wasn’t easy to find what you were looking forward, as things get posted in chronological order.  I wanted something that looked more like a traditional website, with tabs.
  • Attractive– It obviously goes without saying, but I wanted it to be pretty!

So, What Did I Decide?

I began looking into Google Sites, but honestly found their templates a bit confusing (this is coming from someone who considers herself technology savvy enough to author a technology focused blog).  Then it dawned on me, WordPress!  I use WordPress for this handy dandy blog, so I was already familiar with the platform (user friendly, check!)  I honestly had it up and running in an hour!  You can obviously embed in WordPress (check!) It is easy to access because parents just have to visit the URL, https://missconroy1stgradeclass.wordpress.com/, or they can subscribe to my posts and they are delivered to their email!  (easy to access,  check!)  I also made a refrigerator magnet with a QR code (see below) that parents could keep around and scan to visit the website.  What is great about WordPress is that it allows you to set privacy on a post by post basis.  So I am able to password protect my posts that have student photographs or work, and I only give the passwords to parents (privacy, check!)  Wordpress had really cute education templates, so I think the website is attractive (check!) I also was able to make categories, so my posts about certain topics would show up under tabs, making the website easy to navigate and organized (check!)Classroom Website

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend using Word Press for your classroom website.  Please let me know if you have any questions or need help setting one up!  I am very pleased with the end result, and another added bonus is that Word Press gives you analytics, so you can see if parents are actually accessing your classroom website, or not!