#EmpoweredDigitalLeaders – Empowering Others and Promoting Important Causes

Week 3 of the Empowered Digital Leaders course focused on Empowering Others and Promoting Important Causes. I am continuing to work through the course materials whilst reflecting on the last week in school where I worked with different classes to brainstorm ideas for their digital portfolios (see last blog post). The children had so many different things they were passionate about changing. It was inspiring to hear their views. Using a cooperative learning approach, the learners discussed their passions in small groups, taking turns to ask each other challenge questions to support deeper thinking. Having just recently returned to full-time face-to-face teaching (during a pandemic) after months of online learning, this activity really made me reflect on how lucky I am to be in this job. I can’t wait to see what these children do, what they create, what they share.

My class are currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and, this week, they spent time thinking about, and explaining, their own personal precepts. Some found this concept quite challenging and needed quite a bit of support, choosing a precept from a given list and writing about why they chose that one. Others reflected on a quote / phrase that their parents and other family members say to them. Many wrote their quote in their home language and the explanation in English. This was a really valuable, yet somewhat unexpected, community building lesson. Learners shared that they valued looking for the positives in any situation, others shared their motivations for working hard related to their career aspirations. Discussing the novel, we’ve been talking about empathy and the importance of seeing things from a different perspective. This activity gave us an insight into what other people value.

Slacktivism vs Activism

Jenn (@JCasaTodd) shared this blog post on the difference between activism and slacktivism, along with a helpful lesson plan for us to use in our own settings. In R.E. (religious education) this week, my class were researching organisations that are helping to prevent suffering around the world. They have chosen different charities, mainly, and have created posters or presentations to share their learning. The idea of activism / slacktivism should spark an interesting discussion in class and bridge the link between their digital portfolios and their R.E. learning. Unsurprisingly, the children continue to express their distress regarding the George Floyd murder and their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. BlackoutTuesday is a relevant example which I expect will draw out some thought-provoking discussion.

Critical Literacy

Jenn defined critical literacy as “being critically aware of the biases and assumptions that texts make”. She stated that this takes regular practise and we need to teach our students this skill, as well as sharing this helpful graphic for questions we should ask ourselves when we encounter a media text:

Various resources were shared, including a link to this Edutopia article with a focus on younger children. I think this is an increasingly important lesson for us to teach learners as it is very easy to publish something online. They need to learn how to recognise credible sources and critically question what they are consuming.

Curricular Opportunities

Lastly, course participants were encouraged to consider this question:

“How might students empower, celebrate or advocate for others within your teaching and learning?”

We added ideas to a shared doc and offered suggestions to each other. It’s great to be part of a cohort of educators around the world supporting people we haven’t met before! There are lots of things that I’d now like to try out. Personally, I think this also links into digital portfolios as I’m really passionate about these being an authentic tool to support learning. I work in a Catholic school, with links to our local nursing home, Cathedral homelessness project, and wider charity fundraising. I’m also a big advocate for pupil voice. I think linking these areas together to spark class discussions will be one of the biggest impacts of my undertaking this course.

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this. I’d love to hear them!

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TLP Enquiry – First Draft

I was recently asked to speak to current Aberdeen City probationers about my experience of practitioner enquiry. I spoke about my PGDE enquiry and my own probationer PEAR project, as well as telling them about my initial plans for this enquiry. I was very nervous before presenting but received positive feedback and I’m proud I did something outside my comfort zone.

Charlaine Simpson, from the GTCS, was also speaking at that event and her presentation was really interesting for me as I reflected on my TLP enquiry plans. She shared this process wheel which has helped me to think about the steps involved in practitioner enquiry:


At the SCEL TLP recall event next week, we will have time to discuss our enquiry questions and plans but we’ve been asked to post a first draft prior to the event. I have shared my plan below, using Canva.

FOCUS: Cooperative Learning and Coding

QUESTION: To what extent does the use of cooperative learning groups for a coding project impact social skills in a P6 class?

Adapted from a blog post, first published: 3rd January 2020. Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/mrsclarepirie/2020/01/03/myenquiryplanfirstdraft/

What is already known?

I’ve decided to introduce cooperative learning groups to my P6 class as the focus for my practitioner enquiry. Many of the other areas I discussed in my previous post are things I wanted to make changes to this term, rather than waiting until January after the recall date.

Having attended cooperative learning training during my probationer year, last year, I used some of the strategies with my P2 class, but didn’t set up formal groups or fully embed its use properly. I feel this would benefit my current P6 class but haven’t yet set up groups. As I’m also passionate about the use of digital technology in the classroom, I was excited to learn that the Aberdeenshire Council GamesCon festival had been extended to all Northern Alliance P6 and P7s. This requires children to work in groups to design a game using Scratch. I intend to introduce cooperative learning groups which the children will eventually work in to enter the Games Con competition.

My hope is that the formal groups and structured sessions will allow some of the more academically able children to develop their social emotional skills, particularly in mixed ability groups. One of the five basic elements of cooperative learning is positive interdependence. Johnson and Johnson (2017) defines this as students believing “that they are linked with others in a way that one cannot succeed unless the other members of the group succeed (and vice versa), that is, they “sink or swim together.” I’d like to focus on this particular area to see if this helps in other areas of the curriculum (and the general health and wellbeing of the class!).

There is a lot of research into cooperative learning, this is just two pieces that I have read recently:

JOHNSON, D. W., and JOHNSON,  R. T., (2017) ‘Cooperative Learning’  Innovacion Educacion, Available at: https://2017.congresoinnovacion.educa.aragon.es/documents/48/David_Johnson.pdf (Accessed: 8 December 2019).

Johnson and Johnson have done a lot of research into cooperative learning and, in this 2017 piece, they summarise their own research and developments from others in the field of education. This is a helpful summary and reminder of what I learned on the training course, last year. I found the part where they state that “student-student interaction may be structured in school classes: competitively, individualistically, and cooperatively” struck a chord with me in my current class. Some of the children can be unkind (perhaps without meaning to be) in how they talk about their achievements in front of others. A recent pair work task showed that some of the children were proud that they’d managed to complete the task (building a gingerbread house!) on their own, missing the point a bit! Perhaps the mix of competitve, individual, and cooperative tasks needs to be more explicitly explained so the children better understand what is being asked of them in each lesson.

POPA, C. and POP, M. (2019) ‘Cooperative Learning – Applications for Children from Primary School’, Journal Plus Education / Educatia Plus, 22(1), pp. 78–87. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=137392983&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 8 December 2019).

This journal article details research in Romania which found that teaching 4th grade children using cooperative learning strategies reduced their dependence on teachers, developing their own independence and ability to work together in groups to find solutions rather than seeking out help from their teacher. We often speak in P6 about developing the children’s independence as we prepare for moving to secondary school. As a result, this could also benefit my class.

There are two P6 classes at my school and I work closely with my stage partner. I will be introducing Games Con to the other P6 class as well. It may be an interesting comparison for me to use cooperative learning strategies with my own class, but not structure it in the same way with the other class and see if that has any effect, how to measure that is a different blog post entirely!

First published: 8th December 2019. Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/mrsclarepirie/2019/12/08/what-is-already-known/

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