My COETAIL journey is coming to an end after a year and a few months. The video below shows parts of my final project. Enjoy!
DO WE EVER STOP BEING EAL STUDENTS?
When I was 15, I moved from Valle de la Pascua, a small village in Venezuela, to College Station, Texas, for a year. I enrolled in A&M Consolidated High School for my junior year and became an English as an additional language (EAL) student. I didn’t know a word in English. Still, I soon learned enough to complete the academic year and even tutor some of my peers on subjects like Chemistry. Back in Venezuela, I didn’t even understand it in Spanish, my native language! Knowing English has always been an advantage in my life, especially when applying to jobs. It has always been an advantage when the companies I worked for had a Spanish-speaking staff predominantly. It all changed when I first tried to enter the international school world. I was an EAL student all over again. Even before getting to the interview, I knew it wouldn’t be playing in my favor anymore. My communication skills have improved considerably, especially this last year and a half with COETAIL. Still, for my final project, I wanted to create a unit that would challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone regarding using my voice more publicly.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING PATHWAYS (PLP)
I have previously talked about our school’s Teacher Appraisal Program: Professional Learning Pathways (PLP). The PLP is, in simple words, an evaluation tool to support ongoing teacher development and improvement within the context of school. As part of this process, we do a self-reflection against the ISP Educator Framework and work through an Inquiry cycle within the Partnership Pathway.
The self-assessment helps you identify areas of growth that can guide the development of your inquiry question.
My question this year is:
How can I foster collaboration and improve my communication skills by creating and implementing a new and innovative method of communication like a podcast?
The inquiry questions focus our attention on specifically identified areas of practice to improve upon and to become knowledge-makers through the process. Because this pathway concludes with a public share out of the story of each teacher’s learning journey, I resolved that I could merge my COETAIL project and my PLP process and use the outcomes as my final presentation.
THE PODCAST PROJECT
To develop my communication skills in English, a few years ago, I started listening to audiobooks. It wasn’t easy at first, and there are still some books that I would listen to, but, eventually, I got so used to them that now I’m obsessed.
Later on, I decided to listen to a podcast and started with one that inspired me to make changes in my life: The Minimalists. The hosts are encouraging, and I looked up to them. I knew podcast popularity had been increasing over the past few years and making its way into the academic world, but I never brought them into the classroom until now.
Here is the link to The Podcast Project Unit.
This unit includes many connections with COETAIL topics such as research in the digital age, copyright, intellectual property, and giving students the flexibility to choose tech tools, issues, and, most importantly, create new knowledge.
Students got familiarized with the elements and techniques of podcasting and storytelling. They researched and practiced effective interviewing techniques, recorded sounds, worked on audio editing, wrote a whole interview script, and even interviewed a podcaster.
THE ISTE STANDARDS
The following ISTE STANDARDS FOR EDUCATORS in the Knowledge Constructor and Creative Communicator categories were prioritized in the creation of this unit.
3a – Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
3d – Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories, and pursuing answers and solutions.
6b – Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
6d – Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
As a teacher will be focusing on the following ISTE STANDARDS FOR EDUCATORS in the Collaborator. Designer and Facilitator categories.
4b – Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
4c – Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams, and students, locally and globally.
5b – Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
6a – Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in independent and group settings.
6c – Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
PLANNING WITH STUDENTS
This podcast project allowed me to put into practice what I learned during my time in COETAIL. I planned the unit from scratch, using the Authentic Purposeful Learning Experiences unit planner (APLE) and considering educational technology frameworks. But there is something that I tried for the first time: involving students in the planning process.
Planning with them was a game-changer. Having students’ input from the beginning gave me a different perspective, provided me with helpful information about their interests, and allowed me to learn some facts that I could later use to differentiate my instruction. Besides that, knowing the work planning takes made a difference in their overall performance during the learning experience.
FROM TEACHER TO LEARNING PEER
Many aspects of this unit make it different from the previous ones I have planned, but one of the most relevant changes I decided to undergo was to become a partner in learning. As we usually do, I could have just decided to be an expert on the topic, to know every answer, make no mistakes, waste no time. But instead, I picked a topic that I knew little about and where the learning process forced me to confront some fears.
The outcome: I learned from my students more than I could imagine. We failed many times and repeatedly tried again, understanding by actual practice what persistence and resilience are. I find it difficult now to think of something more empowering than for a student to know that they are capable of helping their teachers learn too. That vulnerability that we embrace when it is evident that we don’t have all the answers, that moment students see you finding your learning path, is an excellent example of modeling how to obtain ownership of our learning.
PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORK AND THE POWER OF COLLABORATION
I believe in collaboration. For real, I do. I am constantly talking and writing about it. I went back to check some of my posts and found at least four addressing collaborative work. Feel free to read more on Better together, Migrating toward collaboration, What makes us great educators? or Planning matters. This unit is no exception.
To make sure I made the best out of it, I asked for a lot of help with this planning, starting with my boyfriend, Billy Shyne. He works in the airline industry and is transitioning to education, joining the international school world as a counselor after finishing his master’s at the University of San Diego. I got many questions from him that I wouldn’t have gotten from my colleagues. He also provided me with ideas and contacted the local podcaster we ended up interviewing.
Then, Eduardo Bello, a former colleague at ISP and now a Spanish teacher in Bangalore, India. He asked tons of questions about ISTE standards and ensuring content accessibility for all students. He helped me think about making guiding questions visible and getting the students in a podcasting mindset. He also encouraged me to be intentional with promoting the causes I believe in, such as diversity and inclusion. As he said, Students care when you care.
María Clara Fernandez, a Middle School English teacher at ISP, formerly a Learning Support Specialist. MC gave me ideas on how to push students to create new content and not only consume it. She oriented me to provide students with choice and align the unit with the writing process, specifically regarding storytelling. I also got some suggestions from her to improve the data collected with the student feedback form and keep them accountable for their next steps after each lesson.
Many of the ideas I implemented in this unit are part of a Documentary unit María Clara created. You can read more about it in my post, Lights, Camera, Action!
Susanna Potter is currently a Middle School Science teacher at ISP. We talked about making connections to real life and a lot of questioning about questioning. What do we do with our questions? What is real? She helped me understand how the guiding questions anchor the learning experience to reality. She suggested additional questions for the feedback form and gave me some great ideas of real-world examples about interviewing. Some of the critical topics we discussed were biases, sources, and points of view. As a science teacher, Sussana connected these topics to one of their Next Generation Science Standards: Engaging in argument from evidence. In the scientific context, she explained how we often choose one perspective and barely encourage students with the opportunities to look at the other side of the coin.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Before having the students interview Gabriel Garcia de Paredes, a Panamanian podcaster, we met and talked about creating community through podcasting.
These collaboration meetings benefited both the members of my PLN and me as the mere fact of working together was a learning experience. Gracias totales a todos.
One of the most exciting parts of this project was interviewing Gabo with the students. Since we started putting together the interview questions, I knew we would have fun, learn and grow our circle of friends.
The interviewing process encompasses putting into practice many of the skills we intended to learn and achieving many of the goals we had set before.
Gabo is an ISP alumnus; he was approachable and accommodating with our next steps. He also offered these homeschooled students an incredible experience as they don’t usually have the opportunity to interact with a more extensive school community of students, teachers, or experts in a field.
You can check out all the interview questions here → Questions for Gabo, Buena Pregunta Podcast.
You can check out the full interview here → Interviewing Gabo, Buena Pregunta Podcast.
TOOLS, TOOLS EVERYWHERE!
We tried MANY tools, apps, platforms and failed miserably with many.
THE DIGITAL JOURNAL
Meeting the students in person has not been an option for a significant part of this learning experience, and I expected it to be like that. That is why I knew a digital journal could come in handy for students to keep track of their journey.
In the journal, I added the essential questions to unpack at the beginning of the lessons. Some of the questions below:
I had graphic organizers ready for students (and me) to record when doing the listening activities. These graphic organizers had direct links to the podcasts if students wanted to listen to them beforehand, pause or even repeat them.
Student samples below.
I offered spaces for them to brainstorm about possible topics:
Even though I didn’t grade this project, I added rubrics for my learning peers to check on their scripts and podcasts.
SHARE THE LEARNING
This project is still ongoing, and my next step is to offer it for free to a Homeschool community here in Panama. I am already part of their Facebook group.
The intention is to share the learning, grow my community, offer my homeschool students a chance to connect with peers around their age and invite them to a podcast celebration.
I wanted to know how students were perceiving the unit and if it was accessible, well structured, organized. Here some of the data collected. I modified the survey later to include a question about what they learned each day and another about their next steps, as suggested by my colleagues.
TEACHERS OF KNOWLEDGE PODCAST
Another outcome from this learning experience was related to my PLP and my coaching role. I wanted to help create an inclusive and close teaching community at ISP by implementing a Middle School podcast. The knowledge that I gained while carrying out the podcast project was instrumental in getting us started. I am proud to say that we have already recorded two episodes and are exploring different interview and storytelling styles. I hope that we continue to learn about one another via podcasts and grow closer together, as I believe it is that closeness that allows for effective collaboration.
You can listen or watch the recordings (uploading them to a hosting platform is still on the work).