Research Results

Impact of the IMYM Project on Grade 7 Pilot Teachers: A Follow-up Report

March 2000

Prepared by Distance Learning and Information Technologies Unit, Program Development Branch, Manitoba Education and Training

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3.0 Discussion of Guiding Questions

IMYM7 pilot teachers were divided into small groups and asked to discuss guiding questions, and then to share with the large group, their thoughts on the following topics

3.1 How did you integrate OLE (Ongoing Learning Experiences) and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) learning experiences throughout the Balance and Harmony interdisciplinary unit?

Integration suggestions for Ongoing Learning Experiences (OLE)

Pilot teachers generally recommended that OLEs be introduced gradually into classroom routines at the beginning of the school year and continued at appropriate intervals throughout the interdisciplinary unit and the remainder of the school year.

  • initially introduced OLEs and ICTs and then used them regularly as appropriate
  • OLEs seemed to flow readily with daily classroom management techniques and practices
  • used OLEs separate from context of Balance and Harmony all throughout the school year
  • used a 5-day cycle of OLEs - e.g. "Daily Edits" and "Share the Learning", etc.
  • used OLEs as good reminder and practice of collaborative work skills, i.e. reading circles
  • used "Hear Yea, Speak Yea " OLE as a strong connection to TUSC (Totally Unbelievable Speaking Club)

Integration suggestions for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) learning experiences

Pilot teachers generally recommended that ICTs be selected on the basis of student need and on which technology skills the teacher plans to integrate during that school year. They also suggested that ICTs be introduced in the context of curriculum outcomes taught within the first three months of the school year.

  • initially introduced OLEs and ICTs and then usedthem regularly as appropriate
  • integrated introduction of ICTs with other curriculum topics prior to beginning the Balance and Harmony interdisciplinary unit
  • introduced ICTs as the technical skills needed to complete the Balance and Harmony unit
  • taught ICTs alone prior to the Balance and Harmony unit
  • found that many students already had ICT skills and already used the tools appropriately
  • introduced ICTs in the classroom by teaching one collaborative group and having them each teach another group
  • found that once ICT tools were learned, they were used naturally by students the way they would use a pencil/paper
  • found that you can teach ICTs either before or during the interdisciplinary unit as required
  • selected ICTs based on student and teacher comfort level with technology
  • level of ICT integration depended on the comfort level of each teacher with ICT skills
  • used Inspiration for concept-mapping as a quick and easy tool for student brainstorming in any subject area
  • introduced PowerPoint as an alternative when students needed to make presentations

3.2 What ideas did you use for balanced assessment throughout the Balance and Harmony interdisciplinary unit?

Pilot teachers reported that they used a combination of formative and summative assessment. They tended to assess student performances and products in an interdisciplinary context but to evaluate and report on various components of each assignment separately so that subject area marks could be generated for each reporting period. They also used a combination of teacher, peer, and self-assessment. When students worked in collaborative groups, teachers evaluated both group dynamics and individual effort. Teachers developed and used a variety of assessment tools such as tests, checklists, rubrics and portfolios. Often, students participated in developing the checklists and rubrics. Assignments were designed with an element of choice for students so that learning styles and multiple intelligences could be accommodated. Teachers also used concept-mapping software to help students and their parents to visualize the development of student conceptual understanding over time.

  • used a balance of formative and summative assessments
  • used tests and exams as well as various formative assessments
  • assessed both form and content of project work in an interdisciplinary context
  • assessed content in each student product according to outcomes in each subject area
  • assessed mechanics of student products and used these for ELA evaluation
  • assessed presentation assignments as performance assessment
  • combined several Balance and Harmony learning experiences into "mini-projects" and assessed subject area outcomes (used percentages)
  • graded each learning experience separately
  • assessed subject-specific learning experiences occasionally
  • assessed different parts of the same product for different subject marks
  • showed outcomes to students so that they understood what was being addressed and assessed
  • used self and group/peer evaluation worth approximately 10%
  • used checklists to assess group work/collaborative work habits
  • developed rubrics collaboratively with students
  • assessed group projects and products in various software using rubrics supplied with the interdisciplinary unit
  • assessed using rubrics that grew/evolved over time
  • used a technology skills checklist
  • assessed student products produced in ways that allowed choices and uses of multiple intelligences
  • assessed students in a variety of ways in order to accommodate various learning styles
  • assessed compare and contrast frames for conceptual understanding
  • assessed concept development using concept mapping software
  • used graphic organizers to visualize the "Learned" portion of KWL Plus as student self-evaluation and meta-cognition
  • collected samples of evidence of student learning over time using electronic portfolios

3.3 How were you able to help your students recognize the Balance and Harmony conceptual theme and the connections to the culminating EcoTrip throughout their Balance and Harmony learning experiences?

Pilot teachers felt that deeper learning took place when they used a real world context such as the culminating EcoTrip to connect the learning from the many separate curriculum outcomes in the interdisciplinary unit. They became adept at using guiding questions to probe student understanding of the following essential understandings in the Balance and Harmony conceptual theme.

  • asked guiding questions such as "What would happen if …. " to help students discover factors that influence balance and interrelationships that create or prevent harmony
  • kept students on-track and connected to the culminating EcoTrip by providing binder organization tips and time
  • brainstormed and built on student prior-knowledge of the concepts of balance and harmony
  • consistently advised students to take what they learned from each learning experience and apply it to their EcoTrip
  • got students involved in environmental " eco-issues" in our community
  • connected global "climate change" concepts to our work on balance and harmony
  • integrated novels from different ecosystems such as 'Paddle to the Amazon'
  • introduced the EcoTrip culminating task at the very start of the Balance and Harmony unit
  • linked back to the Balance and Harmony conceptual theme through "Share the Learning" OL
  • linked to Balance and Harmony conceptual theme while doing climate unit in social studies
  • placed more emphasis on the link to Ecosystems and the EcoTrip and less on the conceptual theme
  • related Balance and Harmony conceptual theme through other units or topics, e.g. cycles
  • related and brainstormed a wide variety of interactions that achieve Balance and Harmony
  • showed examples of Balance and Harmony in everyday life around the world and gave students time to relate their own examples
  • made sure students understood the big picture right from the beginning of the interdisciplinary unit
  • used "Ecosystem" as a springboard to start the unit, consistently related back to this, and looked forward to the goal of the EcoTrip
  • activated student prior knowledge using a CBC television program about eco-tourism
  • provided students with a real world context by taking a field trip to an eco-site
  • final goal of "EcoTrip" was emphasized within each learning experience

3.4 What would you include in an IMYM classroom hardware model and software suite?

Teachers indicated it was important to re-design and re-organize the classroom to consider the integration of ICT. They recommended that wiring, both networking and electrical, should allow computers to be distributed around the classroom to create learning centres accessible by small groups of students. If at all possible, computers should not be placed together in a tight line along a single wall of the classroom. They also recommended that the teacher laptop can double as a student learning centre and that desks should be rearranged into small groups or replaced by tables. Teachers indicated that while occasional use of a comuter lab was helpful, the more natural use of the technology occured with the computers in the classroom.

Hardware Model

  • teacher laptop
  • online classroom multimedia computers (4:1 student to computer ratio)
  • fast processor, lots of memory
  • scanner
  • laser printer
  • colour printer
  • VCR
  • large screen TV or projection device
  • CD Burner
  • digital still and/or video camera

Software Suite

  • Office Suite: word processing, database, spreadsheet
  • concept-mapping software
  • email
  • Internet browser
  • electronic encyclopedias
  • electronic atlas
  • concept-specific CDs such as Biomes and Natural Cycles
  • video editing software
  • presentation software
  • The Learning Equation (TLE)

3.5 How would you design a technical support model for an IMYM classroom?

Pilot teachers stressed the importance of building an IMYM team in their school and division. This team consisted of administrators, the IMYM teaching team, and ICT support people such as ICT divisional coordinator and technicians. They also indicated a need for timely, on-site classroom technical support as well as training for pilot teachers in a basic level of ICT trouble-shooting.

  • build an IMYM team - support each other
  • have an initial planning meeting of all members of the IMYM team at each school, coordinated by the Manitoba Education and Training contact person
  • have all IMYM team members at the school and division level commit to an acceptable level of technical support through "signatures" and regular team meetings
  • provide a school-based technical support person or someone who is within easy and timely access
  • bring the technical support provider into the classroom with the students when things are going well (not just when things are going wrong)
  • provide a basic level of technical training to IMYM teachers in troubleshooting and problem-solving
  • provide the IMYM teacher with more access to classroom and school networks
  • provide the IMYM teachers with more freedom to handle computers outside of school division rules/policies

3.6 How would you design a professional learning program for an IMYM pilot teacher, considering topics, time, balance of pedagogical and technical training, etc.?

Pilot teachers insisted that their own professional learning experiences should model the instructional strategies and techniques that they were expected to implement in their IMYM classroom. They also emphasized the importance of combining ICT skill training with pedagogical training on ICT integration. Teachers recommended flexibility of access to just-in-time professional learning experiences, and opportunities to discuss with other teachers and to reflect on their own changes in teaching practice. Many of the comments below reflect distinct differences in teacher learning styles. This only serves to confirm the need for choices within a variety of instructional approaches.

  • use the same teaching model with IMYM teachers that teachers are to use (or do use) with IMYM students
  • provide at least 1 to 3 self-directed professional learning days as well as structured technical and pedagogical training
  • provide active hands-on training with less direct instruction
  • provide an overview of the interdisciplinary unit once teachers have the hardware and software in their re-designed classrooms
  • have new IMYM teachers visit existing IMYM classrooms before they re-design their own classrooms
  • provide training videotapes for follow-up training at school
  • provide teaching teams with unit/learning experience planning time during training
  • place less of an emphasis on technology and more emphasis on content and the process of interdisciplinary teaching strategies for the unit
  • conduct hardware and software training right from the start
  • divide teachers into groups by platforms (Mac/PC) for training
  • divide pilot teachers into groups with heterogeneous abilities regardless of platform
  • do not use trainers who talk "technology" only, every new ICT skill must be integrated with good teaching practice
  • include more content-specific learning resources in interdisciplinary unit
  • provide training on using email for communication and encourage use of the IMYM bounce list
  • provide northern schools with online access to "experts" for self-directed professional learning because often they are not easily available within the communities
  • provide an online generic school/community IMYM presentation that teachers can use to explain the IMYM model to parents and colleagues
  • provide IMYM teachers with training in basic troubleshooting of hardware/software
  • set up a "buddy-system" between a new IMYM teacher and an experienced IMYM teacher(s), regardless of their grade level
  • share the IMYM interdisciplinary units from other middle years grades
  • provide handouts to support recall of training experiences
  • provide training on video editing and designing web pages after teachers have begun teaching the interdisciplinary unit
  • provide dynamic training, addressing all ability levels
  • make interdisciplinary unit available for planning over the summer prior to the school year of its introduction
  • train using computer labs, so that teachers are able to work individually or as a group and can share ideas/efforts/frustrations