First steps of collaboration
Our group for this project was located on 3 different continents and 4 distinct timezones. The first order of business was to use a timezone meeting planner to identify a time we could all meet synchronously.
We then created a shared workspace on Google Docs where we each added a unit for consideration as the topic for the final project. We ended up selecting a Grade 8 unit on Migration.
Understanding by Design — the planning basics
Our colleague who ‘owned’ the unit on Migration had established it needed a revamp, particularly in how it was assessed, so it made sense to chose this one for our final project. We spent an hour on Google Meet identifying learning objectives and what might constitute evidence of mastery so that we could brainstorm, asynchronously, what the actual assessment might look like. I offered the GRASPS template below.
The learning activity
We considered ISTE Standards 6 and 7 when brainstorming potential learning activities. Two checkpoints looked particularly relevant for a learning activity that might support students in responding to the assessment we created.
Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations (6c)
We thought students could create an infographic that displays both the macro and micro components of migration — identifying trends and patterns, and connecting them to the story of a named migrant. Similarly to how Bruce Aylward uses Umar’s story to have the audience empathize with the struggles of children with polio. The data-rich side of migration patterns side-by-side with the qualitative nature of storytelling has a lot of potential for beautiful visualizations.
Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints (7b).
Because our colleague’s class was also learning remotely, we also had to address the lack of face-to-face interaction in his class. We felt Flipgrid would allow students to collaborate by leaving video explanations of their infographics, as well as offering video responses to each other.
All kinds of hats
A couple of times during our meetings, a colleague would refer to de Bono’s Thinking Hats. What I thought was interesting, is that this person used one of the colors to justify his thinking, rather than deliberately wearing a color to attempt to shift one’s mindset around the topic. Only one color was ever mentioned. As a collaborator, I continue to be convinced that agreeing on norms of collaboration and protocols can help keep the meeting focused. If we were using this particular one, we should have honored some of the other hats as well. We wear and switch hats; we are not the hat.
I enjoyed using the GRASPS model, and I liked that I was able to consider what an authentic audience for this task might look like. The Deputy Director General of the UN-IOM is a fortunate (rare) example of women in a prominent leadership role, so a great opportunity to bring in the importance of diversity into the conversation — which ties in with Migration as a phenomenon itself. This was also a serendipitous connection to Harro’s Circle of Socialization and exposing students to the notion that women, too, can hold high offices — still a foreign concept in many cultures.
Collaboration beyond COETAIL
One of the challenges for the use of this improved unit is that the remainder of its teaching team is not on our COETAIL cohort. So it was up to our one colleague to convince his department. One of them was shared late in the process: the final assessment must be an essay.
To facilitate the discussion in the learning activity, we ditched the Flipgrid idea and switched instead to Parlay Ideas, a website that allows a discussion moderator to track and collect data on how students participate. Two of our team members volunteered to walk the department through what this lesson might look like using this new platform. Will they take us up on it?
I hope students undergoing this unit would learn the value of empathy: to really know someone’s struggles, to imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes. According to the IB model for community action, caring is the link between knowing about an issue and acting on it.