Course 4 Final Project

My focus for Course 5 is to redesign the first 6 weeks of school. I am a big fan of elements of the Responsive Classroom and have used their philosophy as a foundation for my classroom management and how I establish our class routines and community. I am a firm believer that the social learning is as important as the academic learning. When students feel valued and secure, they are more likely to take risks in their learning, share their ideas and work with a wider variety of classmates. My goal is to embed technology into the first 6 weeks of school unit and explicitly teach routines and expectations with regards to technology. Ultimately, I would like to create an interactive board that allows students to pick and choose the tools they know how to use that best suits their task and learning style, add to it as the year goes on and organize it in a way where students can visibly see which tools are fit for which task.

This Periodic Table of Ipad Apps is my inspiration:


I think redesigning and embedding the unpacking of technology to my students is a good unit for Course 5 because it will set a solid foundation and clear expectations for the school year. I also believe that when we are mindful about how we embed technology, we help foster creativity and independence while also create an environment where meaningful and authentic learning can happen. Since our 1:1 program is still in its developing stages, having a plan and embedding technology expectations and responsibilities will help promote a culture of learning where students are in control of their own learning and can express their understanding in ways which best suit their learning style.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
Some concerns I have regarding this unit is with regards my biggest questions from this year:

  • Which Apps do we choose?
  • How do we maintain consistency?
  • How do we stick with them?

One challenge I have faced this year is what I call the ‘iPad Fad’. We have so many apps, websites, and resources that are wonderful but can be repetitive.  I would like to be selective about the tools that we choose to use and maintain flexibility with regards to academic choice.

Some example from this year:

  • We started using and were about to purchase a subscription for the grade-level. Then we discovered that Khan Academy has videos and resources linked directly to our math program, and they are free. So out with IXL and in with Khan Academy. Both are great resources, but for now, we are sticking with Khan Academy. This caused confusion and knocked us off of our game, especially with regards to parent access.
  • Biblonasim – a great online resource, similar to Goodreads. Started off strong and fizzled.
  • My class blog also fizzled away after we began using Google ClassroomPedagogy shifts that will be required to successfully implement this new unit include rethinking the role of the teachers (myself and my team, EAL, LSC and teaching assistants) and shifting to a more consistent hybrid model of teaching and learning. Something that I would really like to focus on in order to support both of these shifts, is the design of my classroom. This is a bit of a challenge because there are a lot of ‘rules’ regarding what we can and cannot have in our classrooms. For example, we cannot have sofas. I currently have 4 hexagon tables, some bean bag chairs, and a bench, but for the most part, it still looks like a traditional classroom. I would like to redesign my room, while still adhering to the building’s policy. I am going to take out some of the chairs and replace them with medicine balls, rearrange the furniture I have and possibly replace some tables so there is more variance. Standing desks are also on their way. My hope is to provide an atmosphere that promotes student-centered, 21st-century learning.

The skills required from my students in order to successfully implement this unit are independence and a growth mindset. The advantage I will have with this group of students is that they have also been through the 1:1 iPad program and already have an understanding of how many of the tools we will be using work. The challenge is that they have already developed some bad tech habits that we will have to unteach. For example, organization, file naming and sharing. I am hopeful that in breaking down the expectations with regards to their iPads and their digital learning world, my students will be able to work successfully and independently and maintain good tech habits for life.

Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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2 Responses

  1. Valerie Koch says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    Looks like an ambitious and worthwhile goal for starting the year off. What better way to get your kids collaborating and learning together than what you’ve described here.

    I noticed that you are going to be using SeeSaw. I’m not sure if this is a new thing for you, but my colleague Holly Fraser ( and fellow COETAILer has been working hard to implement SeeSaw at our school. I’m sure she’d love to offer advice or swap stories. In fact, her Course 5 final product ( was about implementing SeeSaw in the early years.

    Good luck and I look forward to seeing how your project goes next year.

    Have a great summer!

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    I just read your post and I am super excited to hear how it went. With our district going 1:1 there has been a lot of fear and alot of support wanted for control or how to shut down access. I decided to teach a session on Classroom management at the start of next year. I am also a fan of the Responsive Classroom. You are addressing a huge need! I put you on my list of resources. I also suggest you take a look at Symbaloo ( if you don’t have a central place to store links. Can’t wait to see the video!

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