Course 5 Reflection

So the final video has been made and uploaded.  It’s time to look back on it and reflect.

I set out to examine current Visual Arts unit of inquiry and redesign it, ensuring when rebuilding it I utilise my new understanding of technology integration and use.  My initial goal was to take an art unit involving hand drawn animation and rework it to use digital tools to create an animation.  The tool that I decided to use was Scratch Jr,as I love it ease of use and the professional finish it gives each project.  This is an attribute that makes this program so attractive to children.

As this was my original goal I must ask the question did I meet it? Well the answer is yes and no.  Yes all the students created a great little animation retelling a story, but I am not sure that I made enough of a comparison between the original UOI of creating a flick book and this unit that required the students to use Scratch Jr.  I really wanted the student to make the connection between traditional forms of art and digital forms of art – I just don’t this that I help the students make this connection.

As I started the unit the original plan seemed somewhat ambitious:

  1. Learn how to use scratch
  2. Retell a traditional or well known story through the use of Scratch Jr
  3. Use a story the students used to create a storyboard
  4. Use Scratch Jr to animate this story.

Seems pretty simple? 4 easy steps? Well no, I totally underestimated how long it would take the students to retell the traditional story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  We actually managed to sequence the series of events in the story, use them to create a storyboard and then recreate and retell the story.

I was so surprised at how difficult the student found it to predict the blocks that they could use to retell the story.  Making the connections between the concrete and the abstract was ver near impossible for some students.  Therefore to get around this stumbling block I allowed the students to write their storyboard one scene at a time, after they were sure that the last scene made sense.  It was interesting that, in my opinion, this was one of the hardest aspects of the unit and when the student completed their reflections at the end of the unit they also said that they need help with this aspect.

Again I found this difficult to predict as the students had worked very successfully on a ‘reverse engineering’ task, where they had to predict the blocks they would use to complete a task:

This is definitely and area that, if I were to do this again, I would give more time to before I continued.

It was gratifying to hear that the students like using Scratch because ‘it wasn’t really like writing a story, it was like playing a game’.  I also enjoyed watching student who, under different circumstances, really struggled with writing  find it so easy to express themselves through the use of the voice recording.  Just taking the secretarial aspect of retelling a story through the traditional means of pencil and paper demonstrated how often we are assessing our students abilities to write and not their understanding of how a story is constructed or retold – this task was very far removed from the traditional pencil and paper approach to literacy.  In addition to this, the student were not held back by their artist abilities.  I felt that the application had a built in differentiation tool.  For the students who wanted to write they could use the speech bubble block, for the students who were stronger vocally they could record their voices.  For student who enjoyed drawing they could create their own characters and background and for those who found this difficult they could use the stock images provided by Scratch.

Throughout the unit I really enjoyed watching the students help one another.  Around the halfway mark we had a new student join the class.  One other student decided that she would find it difficult to catch up and so stood with her during one lesson and explained how you ‘write sentences in Scratch’.  It was at this moment that I realised that the students were really making connections to their class work and that Scratch was making sense to them.  This was a great moment as I felt that at least one of my goals had been met.

Overall, I am not sure that I met all aspects of my goals however this was really a worth while experience for my students and a great introduction to the world of programming. This project definitely put a new spin on an old unit.  In reflection, where did my project sit within the SAMR model? I’d have to say somewhere between Modification and Redefinition.  The animations could, certainly, have been created without the use of technology.  However, the final animations produced were of a very high standard.  The students were free to create without their artistic abilities holding them back, therefore the unit was redefined as the ” technology allowed for new tasks that were previously inconceivable.”  (Technology is Learning)

throughout this unit the students could created the animations to a very high standard without their artistic abilities holding them back.

Finally, the greatest lesson that I will take away from this course… That’s a hard one, as there were so many different lessons.  I guess overall it is to use as many different lenses as possible to examine your practices.  Go back and think about your lessons from different angles.  I really believe that the ability to do this has benefited my learners and has injected a new lease of life to many of my old lessons.

Here are our final completed projects:

Grade 1w final Scratch Jr animations

Grade 1G final Scratch Jr animations

These are my Ideas for each section of the video, based on the COETAIL objects detail in the Course 5 materials:

Enjoy my final presentation:

Posted in Course 5 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Community Engagement (PLC/PLN)

  1. A culminating blog post describing your Community Engagement experience with documented evidence of ongoing, back-and-forth communication. This reflection should include your participation in your personal learning network over the course of this program as well as your continued plans for future growth. In what ways have you connected with others both within and beyond the COETAIL community (outside of the required blogging practice)? How has this participation enhanced your learning and professional development?

When exploring my community engagement I have enjoyed reading a variety of post on a great many topics.  They inspired me to look at my own learning and professional learning community.  I started to foster this within our school first, with the hope of taking this further a field, connecting with our wider community beyond my school and COETAIL.

After my starting the COETAIL course I really was made aware at how quickly the world of tech education is progressing and how we need to consider our practices, examining them closely.  I decided that I would start a tech PLC in our school, the school set time aside to allow people to join and work in on things.  I started the PLC and asked for volunteers to join me, hoping for a good cross section of the school.  The members consisted of:

  • MYP Design teacher
  • MYP/DP Individuals and Societies teacher
  • MYP/DP Individuals and Societies teacher & Personal Project coordinator
  • PYP grade 3 Intern
  • Whole school Librarian
  • PYP Grade 4 Intern
  • Director of Business
  • Whole School Technology Coordinator

We set about examining our practices and developing a new vision for the school and exploring any areas we felt were missing in the school.  The Goal of our PLC was tied to the School Development Plan and we decided that this was our overall aim:

An overall technology strategy will be developed and used to guide future technology purchasing and use.

The strategy will include:

  • Educational goals/strategy for technology
  • Communication goals/strategy for technology (with parents and among staff)
  • The implications of this on the tools we have adopted as a school (educational and office use)


  • To create an action plan to address the need of the SDP.  
  • To ensure that all teachers at NIS are equipped to integrate technology in lessons.

It was decided that we use the Knoster Model for Change:

Based on this model our first move was to look at our foundation documentation and the vision for technology that we have.  I explored a lot of material highlighted to me through the Course readings and read a lot of posts by Kim Cofino.  It was great to read about her experiences in Japan and I could relate them to mine and my school.  Her blog on Developing a Technology Vision was a great starting point for our PLC.

Vision is the capacity to create and communicate a view of a desired state of affairs that induces commitment among those working in the organization.

Thomas Sergiovanni

We looked at out current vision statement (fortunately we had two people in the PLC that had helped to creaft the orignial statemnet and could givve us some insight into the thinking behind it.):

NIS uses technology to communicate, and to empower and inspire staff and students. We envision a school where learners are connected to the global community, enabling them to access and contribute to the ideas and perspectives of different people.
We believe that everyone in our community should have adequate access to reliable technology tools and support to add value to their lives, their teaching and their learning.
Students at NIS use technology for communication, collaboration and research, and develop technological literacy skills in an environment that values creativity.
Staff at NIS use a variety of technological tools for innovative instruction, effective communication, efficient collaboration, and empowering professional development.

Considering the following points we discussed our interpretation of the vision statement:

  • Key idea in the vision
  • How would you describe it to a parent?
  • How would you describe it to students?
  • How would describe it to teachers?

We also discussed what NIS needed and what we wanted tech to look like in our school, based on the following questions:

  • What do we do?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What do we want it to look and feel like?
  • What are the non-negotiables that will guide our practice?

This sparked a lot of great discussion and here are some of the notes from our small group discussions:

After this activity it was clear that we definitely needed to readdress the current vision statement and re-write it to fit our current school.  To organise our thought and decided on aspects of our current vision that we wanted to use or at least keep the ethos of.  Each member of the PLC adopted a thinking hat and tried to look at the statement through a lens other than their own:

This process led to lots of rich discussion in the group and it was clear that we were talking about more that just the statement. We decided to ‘bus stop’ these ideas and try to refocus on the task of creating a strong vision.  Each member of the PLC prepared an elevator speech on what they thought should be included in the new vision statement and presented this to the group.

A blog by William Ferriter really helped with good questions:

Let me ask you an honest—albeit uncomfortable—question:  If I asked you to explain the rationale behind the technology choices that your school is making, could you do it?

Could you:

  • Describe the kinds of things you’d like to see students doing with technology—and more importantly, how those actions and behaviors will ensure that your students and your school are more successful than they currently are?
  • Describe the core technology expectations you have for every teacher and team in your building—not just those who are drawn to new digital spaces and behaviors already?
  • Guarantee that every teacher in your building was aware of—and invested in—the same core technology expectations that you’ve embraced?
  • Prove that the choices made when spending your technology budget are supporting your school’s mission?

These are notes from our elevator speeches:

  • Global, Citizenship, Transferable Skills, Self-awareness
  • Core technology expectations & Students understand that they are digital citizens and have a responsibility to act ethically online.
  • NIS will strive to develop a collaborative, cohesive and responsive school technology culture that employs tools with the aim of enhancing student learning and staff development. We envision a school where confident, connected learners explore the global community, enabling them to access and contribute to the ideas and perspectives of different people. We believe that staff and students should be technologically proficient so they can embrace potential opportunities and explore options.
  • Given that technology provides opportunities to global citizens in a world where information is growing at an incredible rate. Technology, in practice, should improve communication, enhance thinking skills, make instruction more effective and develop skills critical as our community strives to pursue their goals and dreams. We envision technology in a robust learning community where:
  • People engage in an inquiry-based program that promotes hands-on learning within a differentiated learning environment, where students use technology to advocate for their own educational success.
  • Teachers use technology to support learning across the curriculum, and beyond traditional barriers, as coaches, mentors, advocates and managers of information. Through ongoing professional development, teachers have access to the knowledge and skills required to integrate technology into an interdisciplinary curriculum which differentiates students’ needs, developmental levels and learning goals. Administrative tasks performed by school staff are increasingly automated online, allowing more of the school’s energy and resources to be focused on educational pursuits.
  • The school community experiences an environment where all have access to a wide range of technology, information and application tools. These systems unleash latent potential by connecting resources, including parents, the wider community, educational partners and networked resources, to further the Mission . (Revised from sources located at:
  • Through the integration of technology we contribute to our school mission of inspiring and empowering our students to think creatively and critically, pursue lifelong learning, and contribute positively to the global community.
  • Fostering confident users of technology ensures that students progress from being individual learners to contributors to a network of learners who help one another,  becoming successful citizens of a global society. The uses of technology across all ages and stages ensures that there is a transformation from learning WHAT to learning HOW.
  • We value continued professional development and growth, understanding that all teachers must acquire the knowledge and skills to integrate technology into a challenging and interdisciplinary curriculum.

There were a lot of good idea around this and we looked to our Schools mission statement and vision to guide us- #NISInquire #NISInspire #NISImpact

And here we are arriving at our first draft, ready to go out to staff and students for feedback:

Through the integration of technology we contribute to our school mission of inspiring and empowering our students to think creatively and critically, pursue lifelong learning, and contribute positively to the global community.


  • Our NIS connected community inquires into and reflects upon their own technology use and understanding.


  • At NIS technology use inspires a dynamic, creative learning environment where our community feels free to pursue what they are passionate about within the context of our mission.


  • The NIS connected community understand that they are digital citizens and has a responsibility to engage in principled action within a global context.

This process was great and I felt that through the readings and interaction and feedback on this course I was able to guide this process in a far more informed manner.  A clear part of this process highlighted the need for a PLN within our school.  I could see the value and its power within the COETAIL community.  To this end we are in process of setting up and creating a GEG Nagoya.  This has been aided by a teacher who has a great deal of experience with Google and Educator Groups and this is an extremely exciting step forward for me and our learning community. 


Posted in Course 5 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To like or not to like? Do you care?

Throughout the course my reading has been wide and varied.  I have attended several workshops on technology and I have made a lot of connections in my own school communities.  When we looked at digital citizenship and its impact in our schools I continued to read and talk about it with my colleagues here in Japan.  Then whilst attending a conference in Yokohama, I had the opportunity to hear students present their views on social media and its importance in their lives.  After the presentation I spoke to these students about their experiences – it was extremely enlightening.  It gave me a completely new lens to look at social media through and how it can impact our children’s lives.

This experience got me thinking about the value of a ‘like’.  That little thumbs up, the one I press when I can’t be bothered to leave a message, the little heart I click on to let a friend know that I thought their picture was cool, the button I never use on You Tube.  To me these are all insignificant frills added to social media.  But is that how our students see them? Apparently not.  Based on the conversations I had with the students I started to investigate what we know about the value of a like, from a research perspective as well as from a teacher or parents point of view.

Navigating the online world for our students really means social media, its about investing in communities, becoming an active member in these communities and of course creating their own communities.  I wonder how we are preparing our students for these online communities? I wonder if we are really preparing them to be resilient in a world of, that may be perceived  as, online rejection?  But what does online rejection really mean?

We can not underestimate the power of the online audiences, those community members who our students, and let’s face it all of us, want approval from.  Why would Facebook tell you which of your post or pictures have had the most likes or the most comment? It tells us because we really care.  It’s that digital drug… It’s the Dopamine that is released by reward cues and that cuddle chemical Oxytocin.  Both are chemicals realised by the brain when using social media.  A 2016 article by Courtney Seiter suggests that,

…between dopamine and oxytocin, social networking not only comes with a lot of great feelings, it’s also really hard to stop wanting more of it.

Perhaps my favourite stat:

In 10 minutes of social media time, oxytocin levels can rise as much as 13%—a hormonal spike equivalent to some people on their wedding day.

What are we setting our kids up for? Disappointment? No – social media brings that.  It brings approval or rejection through the number of like or friends you have. How many friends do you actually need to be accepted? I must say I never thought about it! Luckily, there is a formula for that. The journal ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’ identify that a study by Tong, Van Der Heide, Langwell, and Walther (2008) investigated subjects social attractiveness and that,

“the optimum number of friends in relation to social attractiveness was approximately 302 and subsequently concluded that one’s number of Facebook friends indicates social status and physical attractiveness.” Cited in Bevan, 2012

302?!? Are you all thinking about the number of friends you have on facebook or followers on instagram right now? I actually checked!  Just think about that – I’m not sure I even knew 302 people when I was a kid.  I don’t really ‘know’ 302 people now, so what purpose does that number have?

So that brought me to thinking about how we handle a reduction in these numbers? I mean we are happy when we are gathering followers but what happens when they start to leave?

Un·friendVerb, informal

  1. remove (someone) from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking website.

Its the ultimate rejection in the 21st century, and it can be done so very easily without thought for anyones feelings.  Psychology Today published an article in 2012 on how to hand this online rejection.  Here are the top 5 tips:

  • Don’t ruminate over the unfriending
  • Expand your real life social network
  • Look critically at your own Facebook behavior.
  • Try to figure out what caused the rift and then try to repair it
  • Don’t stalk those who unfriended you

Initially, this is a topic that I could easily dismiss but after giving it some deeper thought and taking the study into consideration I can really see how this is impacting young lives.  Clear a topic to talk to our students about, especially the stalking.  I know I’ve done it – ‘oh x isn’t my friend anymore, I wonder if they are still friends with x?’.

I’m back to considering the value of a like.  Chatting with students it is clear that it is so powerful.  One student talked about his YouTube channel.  He had clearly given the interaction his audience has with him some thought.  He really liked comments, he found them helpful and was happy that people felt so passionate about his video or channel that they wanted to share that in words with him.  He also pointed out that he even welcomed critical feedback in the comments.  He said, “I don’t really bother about likes ’cause people just like stuff so you like theirs back, but dislike kinda upset me.’  I was surprised to find out that YouTube is one of the only platforms to have a dislike button – perhaps that is a good thing. This young man’s experience highlights the reciprocity of social media, a like for a like.

Rameet Chawla wondered what would happen in his online life if just liked everything.  He wrote a program called ‘Lovematically‘.  It started automatically liking instagram pictures and here are his results:

  • He grew his followers by about 30 a day
  • He got invited to more parties
  • He got stopped on the street by people who recognised him from Instagram
  • He got message after message from friends encouraging him to post more. He said it was “almost like they were frustrated, like they were longing for something to like in return.”

Another student I talked to was a keen photographer and posted regularly on instagram.  Likes on he pictures let her know that her audience loved her work and she was doing a great job.  But she expressed how down it made her fell if she took a long time to set up a shot and it only got a couple of like versus a quick snap that got lots of likes.  She didn’t understand it.  I asked if she read the comments, that maybe they would help. She replied ‘I don’t really care about the comments, its just normally my friends anyway.  I just want to know that people like my stuff – especially the photographers I follow.’  I wondered about the levels of anxiety she must feel about her photography.  It’s amazing the audiences that our students are reaching far and wide. It really opened up my eyes.

This clip from Jumanji may exemplify that students anxiety wondering why people don’t like her work.

YouTube Preview Image

This use of social media and the need for online approval is reflected now in art, TV and films:

Asaf Hanuka –

The likes, comments and posts we share on social media can often seem inconsequential, but they matter. They tap into some of the very elements that make us human, our addictions, desires, anxieties and joys.

“44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, and 29% do so several times per day” (Brown, 2014). We do this because we want to maintain relationships. When we favourite and like each other’s posts, we add value to the relationship, and reinforce that  closeness. We also create a reciprocity effect. We feel obliged to give back to people  who have given to us, even in a small way. We want to even up the scales.

You see reciprocity in Snapchat, where receiving a snap makes you feel compelled to send one back. And anytime you receive a like, you’ll probably feel a little pull to reciprocate in some way, whether it’s by sharing something in return, signing up for an email list, etc.

This is not to say that comments aren’t powerful. In fact, they can be incredibly so—there’s a phenomenon known as shared reality that says our whole experience of something is affected by, if and how we share it with others.

The one thing that is clear whilst thinking about the value of a like is that we need to be having conversations about how social media is impacting our students psychological well being.  We need to ensure that they are fostering and building real social networks and that they are making valuable contributions to their online communities.

We need to understand that we have addressed work/life balance – we know what that means.  We now need to examine our tech/body balance (Lieberman, 2017).  We know that people carry their devices around like epi-pens and that device separation anxiety is a real thing.  In fact, a 2015 study by Verizon reported that 90%of people take their phone to the toilet – do you?

We need to make sure that there is some device free time and that parents and teachers are talking about who your students follow, how many followers they have, likes, dislike, comments….

What some more stats on social media? I got lost in them.  The following article, updated on the 18th April 2018, details 40 interesting statistics: 40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2018

Posted in Course 5 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Introduction to the Final Project

In this final unit I will be looking at Digital Storytelling in Grade 1.  Over this year I have read a vast number of interesting articles encouraging me to re-examine my practice.  In addition to this, I have a wealth of experience in ICT in the classroom, but this year I have been fortunate enough to teach Visual Arts in the PYP to grade 1 and 2.  This has given me a new lense through which I can examine my teaching and find new way to use technology with my students.

I started planning this unit based on the remit of “re-designing a unit from the ground up to embed technology meaningfully and authentically as a means to enhancing learning”.  My Grade 1 classes seemed the perfect playground for this.  The Unit of Inquiry that the students were working on in homeroom was ‘How we express ourselves’, with the central idea of ‘Stories communicate meaning and can influence the way people feel and think.’.  Most specifically, the students explored the following lines of inquiry:

  • How to construct an effective story
  • What stories can convey
  • The way stories influence feelings and emotions

During the provocation for this unit students experienced many adult from all parts of the school reading their favourite stories to them, all influenced from a variety of cultures,  from the the Gruffalo in Scots to Traditional Japanese Kamishibai.  Within this environment of storytelling the students previously created Paper flipbooks (See Course 4 reflections for more details) with varying degrees of success, based on student abilities.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce technology to enhance learning.

I completed the COETAIL UBD for my final course 4 reflection, however when I really started to think about some of the key questions in the course 5 guidelines I realised that some of the planning I would have to do was missing.  Namely, when I thought about ‘How do you think you might get there?’ and ‘What are you hoping to see in your students learning as you conduct the project?’ I thought about assessment – How will I know what the students have learnt, how will I know if they have got there?  This coupled with a school wide focus on assessment led to believe that the UBD has something missing… assessment.

Considering assessment helped me to focus my thinking on ‘What I was hoping to see in my students?’  In the lead up to launching and during this unit on Digital Storytelling a read a lot about assessment and tried to connect it with this course, technology education and visual arts.  A blog by Sam Sherratt (2013) made me stop and think about assessment ‘Thinking Beyond the Summative Assessment Task“.  He provoked me to consider the following questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What do I hope my students will understand?
  • What is the enduring understanding I hope the students will leave with?
  • Does my summative task assess the right thing?
  • How can I ensure the emphasis remain on understanding and not the ‘task’?
  • Have I planned enough time to watch my students and listen to their understanding?
  • Is my summative task timely?

As assessment is a key aspect of course 5 I decided to re-work the UBD and plan for assessment in these initial stages.  I wanted to add a rubric but found it so hard to develop levelled criteria, especially with such a young age group – surely they understood or they didn’t, they could do it or they couldn’t?  I was adding words like ‘a developing understanding’, ‘working towards..’ it was driving me nuts.  Finally, I settled on a single point rubric.  Danah Hashem gave me 6 succinct reasons to use one!  I think I like the final point the best!

  1. It gives space to reflect on both strengths and weaknesses in student work.
  2. It doesn’t place boundaries on student performance.
  3. It works against students’ tendency to rank themselves and to compare themselves to or compete with one another.
  4. It helps take student attention off the grade.
  5. It creates more flexibility without sacrificing clarity.
  6. It’s simple!

Put visually here are the stages of assessment:

So here is my new UBD, with the assessment component added:

Posted in Course 5 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Final thoughts on Course 4

Thought this course I have constantly been evaluating my stance on Technology integration and what that really means and looks like, particularly with in this school.  I have wondered just how far we have come integrating technology within out lessons and I have particularly enjoyed reading Kim Cofino’s articles.  I really like the idea of looking at technology as an environmental factor in my lessons rather than tool that is carted out , used then neatly put away.  She makes a great analogy between ESL teachers and Technology teachers in her blog, “We are all Technology Teachers”.  It encouraged me to look at the classroom through a very different lens.  What skills and support do our teachers need to be effect technology teachers? How can we bridge the gap between technology being done to our students and technology being used naturally by our students.  I know that many will think that it is all down to resources, but some of the most inspirational teachers I have met work in school where there are little of no resources – and the thought of having parents send devices into school is laughable.  We must look at the technology that we have available, read the research and talk to our peers about how we can best serve our students in the 21st Century, preparing them for the world that they will live and work in.  
For my project i have taken a unit of work in Visual Arts that has previously been taught using paper flick books.  The students had to retell a story through simple animated flick books.  I read over some of the teacher reflections for this unit and realised that often students found the use of the flick book was restricted to the students skills in drawing.  Students also found the need for accuracy extremely frustrating.  I was inspired when watching the grade 1 teacher teach sentence structure and the need for stories to have a clear beginning middle and end.  I could instantly see how this would connected the construction of a program in Scratch Jnr.  The students would have to think about the way the story unfolds, how it begins, what happened and how it ends.  In addition to this, I could see how the programming blocks are connected in the same was a sentence is structured; there are trigger blocks, motion blocks, appearance blocks, and end block – much like Capital letters, nouns, verbs, adjectives and full stops.  I felt that the use of Scratch jar would support homeroom lessons and allow students to make connection between subjects, using transdisciplinary skills.  There is also the potential for the students to be assessed on their understanding of story structure and the different ways that story can be told, rather than on their ability to accurately copy pictures from one page to another.  Overall, the use of technology within this unit would free students from eh confines of what they could draw and give them new opportunities to express themselves.
  • Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
    • This unit lends it’s well to the use of technology and give the students a possible alternative from writing and/or drawing.  It enables them to think about the actions of the characters and how theres actions can help to tell a story.  It is perfect of our Real students as there is very little language that need to be used and the students are learning the meaning of the blocks at the same time – thus giving them all new vocabulary to draw from.
  • What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
    • I am concerned that some students may find the abstract nature of programming a challenge, resulting the focus of the learning moving from story telling to programming, especially as the learning intention looks at how – ‘Stories can be constructed, told and interpreted in different ways.’
  • What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
    • I will have to ensure that as a specialist teacher in ICT for so many years I have always focused on teaching the skills, however throughout this unit I am creating transdisciplinary links with the Unit of Inquiry and we the Visual Arts curriculum.  This requires a very different focus.  I am using the technology merely as a tool to ensure that students have a different medium to express their understanding of the structure of a story.
  • What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
    • As our school curriculum is guided by the IB, I would hope that the students are displaying the following Learner Profile Attributes:
      • Thinking – We use critical and creative thinking skills to analyse and take responsible action on complex problems. We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decisions.
      • Communicator – We express ourselves condently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways. We collaborate eectively, listening carefully to the perspectives of other individuals and groups.
      • Risk-Taker – We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.

The following plan will be updated and adapted as the students start to work through the lessons.

Posted in Course 4 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Technology: Where are we now? Where should we be?

Tech breaks? I immediately thought that a tech break was time away from technology! What does that say about the media influences that are around us.  It got me thinking that there is so much information telling use that screen time is bad and that not allowing your children a device is good parenting (I mean the Royals don’t) that perhaps this is the reasons behind why tech integration is still not second nature.  Perhaps we are frightened to give children more device time – to feed their addiction.

“Rosen calls it a tech break. But rather than taking a break from technology, you give yourself permission to embrace technology for a particular amount of time, be it one minute or 15. “It works amazingly,” he says.” Barshay, 2011

In Dwyer’s (2011) article it would appear that she is advocating for tech breaks where students actually stop what they are doing in your room and they check their social media – this might be a good thing as it is backed by research from Larry Rosen, a psychology professor.  However as I read through the article I got the impression that it was rather ‘tongue in cheek’ and really she was dismissing this idea as ‘worth a shot’,

“…technological distractions aren’t going away any time soon, so it might not be a bad idea for teachers and professors to give students a mini-break—just a minute or two—to text or check their email every once in awhile. It might not be the ideal solution, but if it helps tech-addicted students refocus on what’s going on, it’s worth a shot.” Dwyer, 2011

Oh I can feel my bloody boiling!

We need to accept that technology is now a part of our life, whether that’s for good or bad! When this happens then we can move on.  Move on to using technology in a positive and intuitive way.  The YIS presentation makes some fantastic parallels with the way that students communicated in the past and how they spent their time watching TV, talking on the phone, passing notes in class – things that were very visible.  And maybe that’s what we are fighting against – the fact that kids of today can be so terribly covert, it’s not obvious who they are talking to, we don’t know what they are watching and notes can be so easily deleted – thats if we can figure out which platform they have been sent on in the first place.

So I thought I would look for some youtube video to support the idea that allowing students their ‘tech fix’ is a good thing – could I find anything, not really.  I found TED talks on “A year offline”, “How I Quit Social Media”, I found animations on “How your Cellphone in changing you”, Talks on “5 Tricks to Beat your Addiction to Technology” – nothing really on how it’s great to take a break and look at your device!

These thoughts all lead up to how I see the use of devices in my own classroom.  I have several different situations to reflect upon, with both adults and students.  In the elementary classroom I would allow free use of iPads, depending on the lesson and the purpose for use.  Students would just help themselves, whilst tagging on – ‘I’m just using the iPad for…’ In my visual arts lessons the use of devices are very structured, as whole class sets need to be booked.  When teaching Middle and High School I taught design and the use of devices was essential.  Therefore the best reflection I can make is on my homeroom teaching.  I would look at lessons and really think about how I could make them as interesting and as close to real life as possible, this occasionally required the use of a device.  Working on graphs or angles for example.  When in real life have you ever drawn a graph? I can’t say that I have.  My first port of call would always be Excel, enter a table and create a chart – so why not just do that with my class? How much easier is it to watch the turtle in LOGO turn and think about how far that angle is? Both still sitting within the ‘Modification’ step on the SAMR model.  However there were times when I used simulations to learn about Weather Phenomenons, looking at the different measures that can be taken to prevent a disaster happening (, hopefully moving further into ‘redefinition’.

But in light of this course I am really forced into thinking about how tech integration happens in our school.  Where are we now, where should we be and how are we going to bridge the gap and support our teachers.

Posted in Course 4 | Leave a comment

Is the classroom a place of the past?

Is the classroom outdated, a thing of the past? What a contentious question! And asking teachers too!  Perhaps the word classroom is, but as a collaborative space a place where students are brought together to learn (in what ever shape of form we see it) NO.  As I envision the future I think back to all those sci-fi movies and predictions. It fills me with horror to think that students might be sitting in their bedroom learning over the internet and through online spaces. Sure it will be self paced, self directed and highly game-based, PBL and CBL, but it won’t be social.  There won’t be parallel play, there won’t be name calling and dealing with difficult others.  So now that’s off my chest, may moment of ARGH…. What do I think the future of education and technology in education holds?
There is no doubt that educational practices are changing through technology. I its not just technology in the hands of our learners it is technology and the opportunity for collaboration world wide that lies firmly in the hands of educators.  From a purely personal point of view I look at how technology has changes and informed as a teacher. As a teaching students we would hit the volumes library and pour over journals, you know the paper kind.  It took effort and organisation to learn about current and innovative teaching styles.  My conversations were with my peers and my professors, and maybe the odd ‘real teacher’.  When I think about my learning now, even this course, the online world of journal, research, websites and blogs are at my finger tips.  I can strike up a conversation with any online teaching professional in the world.  This past summer I completed my first PTC course and each day we had a ‘tip from the trenches’ a real live teaching professional who let us know how the theories we were learning about in the classroom translated into practices.  These professionals Skyped in from all over the world, from Singapore, Thailand, Africa, America, on place was out of bounds and we could see what these lessons looked like in real life and varied contexts. This is the now of education and it excites me for the future.
So I can see how technology is impacting education in a positive way.  What will or learning environments look like in the future, hard to say.  In a previous post it shocked me to think about how tech is being integrated and how we are still basing our ideas and theories on research published in the 80’s.  I know we have moved on but just how much? Perhaps we are suffering from ‘attention blindness’ (Davidson, 2011).
Perhaps I’m thinking too big, I’m thinking flying cars when I should be thinking flying skateboards.  I wonder about the kinds of computers that we will be using, how we will be communicating.  I think that John Spencer has simplified  the future of education in that its about handing the learning over to the students.  More and more we are inspired to give our students the teaching reins and follow their interests and desires.  I see the future of education in the hands of the learners.  As teachers we need to learn how to harness the power of our students devices.  In my opinion, BYOD is certainly a way forward, there is nothing better than using what you know – I know that I am far more comfortable using my own computer, it’s set up the way I like it, it has the extensions that I use the most often etc…
YouTube Preview Image
Much of the research on tech integration relies on technology being a part of our environment, that means that devices need to be close to hand, allowing students to use them when they are needed – not 2.30pm on Thursday because that is when the computer slot is.  One – to one programs are becoming far more popular and they really work.
Here are 10 reasons to have a BYOD classroom:
YouTube Preview Image
Will education as we know it change because of technology?  Yes, I am sure that it will.  However what I really hope changes is initial teacher training. I hope more teachers will embrace technology and allow students to bring their own devices to school, using them is a variety of authentic situations. I hope that all teachers and school embrace the positive benefits of technology and, as Cofino, 2011, terms it we are all viewed as Technology teachers. She make parallels with the fact that is it now recognised in the diverse global classroom that we are all ESL teachers that there is little room for ‘computer class’ and that technology is an environmental thing.
“Students and teachers should expect that technology will naturally be a part of every class.” Cofino, 2011
Posted in Course 4 | Leave a comment

Motivation to learn

I have to admit that I struggle with the idea of the flipped classroom applying to all areas of education, especially the elementary classroom.  I worked through it as a middle and high school teacher and it work beautifully.  I sent little tasks that could take students of in multiple directions, depending on their interests, I provided the materials and my daily lesson time began to work like a drop in session for questions.  I could work with small groups of children and have them ’check in’ with me and report their progress. I could give them time to explore the topic and every now and then we would have tutorials, covering aspect that the majority of the class were having difficulty with – it work and it it work well.  However my struggles are with my grade 1 and 2 visual arts classes.  How do I expect them to follow this structure?  Well I can’t but I am sure that the concept is sound, having kids pursue things that really interest them and having their voice heard, swearing the direction of the lessons.

Game based learning, something as a learner – I love.  I hate exercise, no really I do. But….I got an Apple Watch and now I earn badges, I get daily prompts, I get motivational buzzes and quantifiable goals – ‘a 13 minute brisk walk will close your move goal’ ‘its time to stand up for a minute’.  It all works my longest ‘move streak’ stands at 82 days, I’ve even lost 10 kgs. I’ve connected with a friend and I get daily updates on her progress, I’m accountable to her now, Im accountable to my watch and there is this tiny part of me that goes ‘yes’ every time I get an achievement… Crazy, I know!  So if this kind of gamification can get me moving how can it be applied in my classroom, how can it motivate my students?

I guess us teacher have been dabbling in it for year.  Stickers – I have never met a child who doesn’t want a sticker, even those high school students love them.  That is essentially what my Apple Watch is giving me, a little electronic sticker.  I always had a sticker box in the elementary classroom and gave them out for a variety of reasons.  I used them to get students to review their work as a classroom teacher.  Students got their book back and quickly searched through he pages to see if they got a sticker, then if they could come and tell me what they would do to improve their work they got another sticker to wear on their clothes or stick to a sticker chart of some sort.  It worked a treat. What interests me is how this can be taken further.  How can it be harnessed in a positive manner to encourage students and motivate them further.  I add in ‘positive’ because we need to be careful that the gamification of lessons doesn’t lead to competitiveness, with winners and losers.

This final point led me to really distinguish between gamification and game based learning, to things I though were essentially the same – but as ai delved deeper I figured out that there was a subtle difference, this short video helped greatly:
YouTube Preview Image

As with the flipped classroom I find it easier to apply the theories and ideas to older children, to specific subject areas – particularly raising awareness of the world around you and service learning, but I wonder how I can apply it to e grade 1 & 2 visual arts?  Something I need to investigate further.  This question leads to play, now this seems to have greater potential as a spring board to game based learning and the flipped classroom in the early years.  I can totally see the power of play in the learning (Barseghain, 2012), and the motivation the digital play has – especially iPads in the younger years.

So many ideas, all so strong and powerful.  It is clear that many of these research based theories have such an important part of our teaching and learning.  My goal now it to really find out about and research how I can bring these ideas into my Visual Arts lessons, if anyone can point me in the right direction I’d be very grateful.

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn” Albert Einstein

This quote gives me hope – even Einstein can only ‘attempt’ to provide the perfect conditions for learning.

Posted in Course 4 | Leave a comment

Project, Problem and Challenge-based Learning

Socio-constructivism play a large part in PBL and CBL.  Looking at the theories of teaching and learning this goes back to our educational theory roots.  It is taking the idea that learning is an ‘outside – in’ activity.  Meaning is constructed in our environment and we learn from that meaning.  Vygotsky was a pioneer of this work and this is largely what IB philosophies are based on.  ‘That knowledge, thinking, doing, and the contexts for learning are inextricably tied’, ( and that we learn for the context in which we live.

Further to this, the old saying goes that if you truly want to learn something then teach it, explain it to other, use it in context – something that in the IB classroom is a key factor in learning. We look at skills, the knowledge that we need, then we look at how is it used in a ‘real life’ context.  If we are thinking about maths and shape, where do we see these shapes in real life, why have the shapes been used, how does that relate to the properties of that shape, are some shapes stronger than others and so on.

Project based learning surely does have a strong place in my classroom and I can think about numerous activities that would highlight what it looks like.  I think the best is a math activity that I set about parameter.  We hadn’t talked about parameter directly and had been learning about different related concepts.  I set the students the challenge of figuring out how much fencing dinosaur eggs would need based on a set of criteria and throughout the instructions I used the word parameter.  On the board I wrote the question, “What is parameter?” The students worked together, they cleared space in the classroom, they created enclosures and measured the sides – one kid even got an iPad and google ‘what is parameter?’.  By the end every kid in the room could not only give me the definition (some from google) but they could explain what it meant, they could make connections with a real life situation where parameter might me needed.  If you are interested in the lesson you can find it on, I only wish I had found the PBL check lists before! What a great idea to help with applying these activities in the future and allowing students to self assess.

On a side note I was pleasantly surprised to see the name Seymour Papert pop up – we really are going back to basics in Educational Theory! It was 15 years ago that I wrote my dissertation on the uses of ICT in the classroom and based most of my research on this pioneer! It also got me to wondering why we are still talking about tech integration and its benefits 2017 when Papert first published his book in 1980? What is missing in initial teacher education? 

My goal now is to find out how I can scale up my PBL activities and use them in wider contexts.  I love the idea of ‘teachers and students work[ing] together to learn about compelling issues, prose solutions to real problems and take action’ (Apple Inc, 2010).  This is areal goal for my school this year – taking action.  True authentic action and making an impact on the world through CAS and SA.  We find this slightly easier at the DP level – where the students are far more self motivated however at the PYP level it is hard to make it authentic.  The stages set out by the Apple document are really helpful and something that I will pass on to our Services Action coordinator.

Overall, the uses of PBL and CBL are both a fantastic departure from the teacher centric classrooms.  Giving students choices and ownership of their learning makes for good learning!  Joe Ruhl puts it beautifully, ‘characteristic of the classroom’ rather than learning and teaching techniques.

YouTube Preview Image
Posted in Course 4 | Leave a comment

Tech: tool or environment?

Technology integration, we’ve been going on about it for a while now, but what does it really mean? Are we there yet? Can we move on?

How can we define tech integration?  The definition used by wikipedia and boil it down to the following,

Technology Integration is the use of technology tools in general content areas in education in order to allow students to apply computer and technology skills to learning and problem-solving. Generally speaking, the curriculum drives the use of technology and not vice versa.

However, is this the best definition? Does it just mean the use of tools? And do we only apply those tools?  It just sounds like something we do to learning, bring out some tool use it and then put it away again. I’m not sure how many times in my tech careers I have seen teachers cart out the computers to type up a story, to publish books.  The students sit with the finished story in their lap and with one finger and their tongue out, searching and pecking at the keys.  This I might add is the story that they have written, had it checked by the teacher and peers, edited – multiple times, and only when it is perfect do they type it out. The computer in this instance is being use as a ‘tool’ much like the handwriting pens that I had at primary school, just a tool to make their work look neat.

In Cofino’s article, “It’s Not Just a Tool, Technology As Environment” this idea of a tech tool is further explored.  The example of the glorified handwriting pen can easily be adapted to use the computer as much more, and I am sure that I am preaching to the converted, word processors are the ultimate editing tool.  I have suggested to teachers that the can have the students do the planning and first draft on paper and then to use technology for the rest, generally with good results.  Cofino’s article really made me think about what tech integration is and what it looks like in my teaching and in my school.  I love this idea of the tool vs the environment.  She sums this up perfectly with a few definitions, making parallels with technology and the pencil:

what is a tool?

  • something I use when it suits me
  • something I control
  • something I don’t need or want around me at all times – only when it’s necessary
  • something small, manipulated by it’s user

what’s an environment?

  • something that’s all around us, in use all time
  • something we can not directly manipulate or control
  • something necessary to live, and ubiquitous, like air
  • something we are immersed in, even if we’re not specifically thinking about it or intentionally “using” it

That’s a big difference. What does this say about the different ways that students and adults might be perceiving the world around them? What does this mean for education?

What amazes me it that I see teachers live in the tech environment personally, smartphone in hand, but there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to the classroom and there is still this idea that tech integration has to be big, has to been a lesson in it’s self.  I was very fortunate to job share as a homeroom teacher last year and when technology was just lying around the classroom and was readily available the students navigated towards it, picking it up, using it, popping it back – all very natural.  These children live in a tech environment – its just a part of life.  The question is how can we harness this?

As I think about the level of tech integration that happens around it shard to judge.  I found the levels of technology integration presented by Hertz a good start.  They are easy to use and perfect to start a discussion about how people can move up the levels.

  1. “Sparse: Technology is rarely used or available. Students rarely use technology to complete assignments or projects.
  2. Basic: Technology is used or available occasionally/often in a lab rather than the classroom. Students are comfortable with one or two tools and sometimes use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
  3. Comfortable: Technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. Students are comfortable with a variety of tools and often use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
  4. Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content. “

Perhaps these are a good precursor to the TPACK or SAMR models.

TPACK graphic: “Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by”

I found the following video helpful in explaining TPACK:

YouTube Preview Image

After thinking about my own teaching I would suggest that I can be fairly balanced.  I love to use tech in my teaching and find it an excellent tool to aid my teaching life. However, I must admit in my current teaching load, Visual Arts for grade 1 & 2, I am perhaps a bit to over reliant on my technical knowledge.  I have been working a lot with my students on computers and a few weeks ago I got some paints out and a student said ‘ah, we are doing real art today!’ – it did make me laugh, but I did take the opportunity to say that digital art is a growing market and, although we may not know what kind of jobs students might be doing in the future, I think using technology in art is going to be around.  I would like to move to a point where I set a lesson and have tech available as an option rather than focus, but I see this as being tricky with younger students as often there need to be some discreet lessons to build skills.  I think that my favourite thing about teaching the iB is that there is the room to allow for front loading then assessment is centred around conceptual understanding, not how well a student can use a tool.  This prompt students to approach teachers and ask them if they can use technology.

I have to say I found it difficult to really evaluate my teaching against the TPACK model, as it depends on the topic, the lesson the learners and the technology available to me.  I think that the SAMR model was a little more straight forward.

Within this model I feel that my teaching can fit into a different level depending on the day, although I would say that I am more comfortable straddling between the Augmentation and Modification levels, however I still see teachers using tech as a substitution – which to me seems time consuming and pointless.  I had to think long and hard to see if I could fit anything into the redefinition level and I was happy to say yes – as I really fell that this is along term goal for tech integration and the thing that gives teachers the most satisfaction.  This quarter rather than grade 1 students writing stories or, god forbid, typing them, they are making them in Scratch Jnr.  I can’t imagine that without technology we would have even got remotely close to the fantastic animated ideas that these 6/7 year olds are coming up with.

So tech integration, its happening but slowly – however it is still closer to a tool than an environment.

Posted in Course 4 | Leave a comment