How To: Develop your PLN and Up Your Online Presence

I produced this slideshare for a number of reasons. First off, I was introducing a class to digital-age promotion using social media. I also wanted to support those who are interested in developing their own personal learning networks or take them to the next level. I also thought I could use it to share my free pdf Ebook, Deepen Your Digital Footprint: A Beginner to Intermediate Guide to Increasing Web Traffic & Online Presence.

Posted in Digital Citizenship, Digital Learning, Producing, Publishing, Sharing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meaningful Online Search Techniques

I made this to support students and teachers at my school. I hope it can help others too.


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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New YouTube One Channel

I just completed the YouTube Creator Academy course.

Very easy, then again free. Also very useful. I am quite pleased with my new channel. YouTube has, to this point, basically been a repository for me. I put videos up on it. It was a mess but I could use it as a platform from which to embed videos I found and made.

Now, however, it is part of my “promotion and sharing arsenal.” My channel art (read banner), icon (read thumbnail) are now part of my brand as they are the same as my Google account and website. I have links overlaid on the banner to my blog, Twitter page, SlideShare, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts.

I have added a short intro video based loosely on a PowToon template (pretty flashy) and have doubled my number of subscribers. I am now in the process of convincing the school to let me make a proper, branded page for student work and promotion as well. Take a look at my “sandbox site” to get the idea.

If you get the chance you should take this course. I am not certain I will get the “certificate” since I have received no notification. I could have missed some small part, I wasn’t that careful. Either way, I have more skillls and a pimped out new ride…

Ask me any questions and please, subscribe to my channel!

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The Role of­­­­ ICT in the PYP: Collaborate to Integrate

I just finished delivering this workshop at the regional IB event held at Canadian International School, Hong Kong, an expansive and well-connected campus full of enthusiastic and dedicated educators from September 13-15, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.27.50 PM

I was blessed with 23 teachers interested in learning more about effective implementation of technology within their Programmes of Inquiry (POI). Naturally, there were many who were also interested in developing their understanding of digital-age learning practice in general as well as looking to develop skills with the technology.

All were open-minded and generous in sharing and learning with and from everyone else. They particularly appreciated the Unconference opportunities to learn more directly from their peers. There was a particular group, however, (well two, really I suppose) that were grappling with how to best schedule and plan for collaboration in order to maximize the results for their students.

I promised them this blog post so here we go.



It doesn’t happen by accident. You need dedicated shared planning time. But it goes further than that too. Ideally, the collaboration starts in the planning session but continues in the classroom. Technology specialists are best utilized when they are working alongside teachers in the classroom. Students benefit from greater opportunity for one on one input as needed and the classroom teachers benefit from the professional development of learning on-the-job.

We then turned to the problems of how best to plan and how best to execute.  Is it ok to focus on skill development? Does everything need to be done in line with the POI?

A Word on Inquiry and ICT
One of the things that drew me to technology as a PYP practitioner in the first place was the natural connection between digital-age learning and inquiry.  While using Web 2.0 tools to further develop & uncover understandings and skills in your unit work you further have access to the simultaneous development of skills & knowledge in this realm.

Whether you decide to focus on your Summative Assessment Task or some other area of your curriculum, be it Math, Science, Language, anything, given the fact that these are already integrated into your units of inquiry the connections to higher order thinking and conceptual learning are already there, ready to be exploited and magnified through careful planning & execution.

When dealing with younger students, or those who have limited prior knowledge of basic skills, as with some other elements of your curriculum, these skills will need to be taught explicitly and that… is… ok.

So where to begin?
While it is natural to look for connections to summative assessments (and incorporate formative assessment strategies on the way there) any connection to the unit, concepts and/or lines of inquiry will support students in developing deeper understandings of the transdisciplinary theme.

Time is of the essence. Instead of one class/week with a class it may be more effective to choose units from all classes that you teach to see where a technology connection seems best suited. For example a teacher with 18 contact hours across three year levels with 6 classes each can only see each class once/week. Perhaps they will would be better served by a different approach.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.13.40 PM

Now all students can benefit from access to technology twice/week at an opportunity with an authentic fit with the curriculum. They learn better and no one has any less instructional time. Their skills with the tools improve alongside there Approaches to Learning skills and support them with their development of the deeper understandings planned for by their teachers.

What do you think? Please leave a comment for me and my class.

Posted in Digital Learning, IB, Project Based Learning, PYP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Impact of Digital Media on Knowledge Creation

Did you ever wonder how “they” produce updated dictionaries? Groups of academics are supplied with word lists to research. They go through journals, news articles and so on to compare previous meanings to apparent new connotations in contemporary use. If there is a prevalence of new meaning, the dictionary changes. This is an oversimplification but it serves to make the point. What I am sharing today is an explanation of how people change meanings and co-create knowledge and how the “they” is becoming more of a “we.”

This is a more academic topic than I usually tackle here. It is a topic that we do not often hear about. While we are all aware of the prevalence and growth of the Internet as an information sharing tool and many have come to grasp the shift from our previous era of top down media consumption flow, the depth of change resulting from the concomitant leveling of the means of production and distribution has yet be to fully grasped by most.

More simply put, the nature of collective knowledge creation has changed.

Pre-Internet Dissemination of Knowledge Flow

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 8.57.57 PM

The Changing Nature of Knowledge
George Siemens suggests in his book, Knowing Knowledge, that those who have in the past formed the privileged elite writing books and documentaries for one-way mass consumption are now becoming the dinosaurs of the digital age. We now have legions of interested, capable individuals able to not only comment on this sort of work (and immediately) but to produce work of their own adding to, commenting on, or outright contradicting the opinions of those who, in the past, would rarely be the subject of such public scrutiny outside of their professional circles.

Production Comes to the Masses
Through the advent of the internet and the digital tools that have been developed alongside it, anyone with a computer now potentially has a voice, or at the very least, an entryway into the conversation that was previously unavailable. The quality of what one has to offer is itself largely impacted by the level to which these new authors participate in ongoing conversations they have through some of the very same digital tools they are using to impact on the very same knowledge they come into contact with through.

Distribution Available to All Through Social Media & PLN
While all these new authors have access to the multi-directional information matrix of the Internet, the quality of what we have to say remains the judgement of those receiving. For that matter, the ability to find interested parties and to link with them is a fundamental new skill in this new knowledge creation paradigm.

Twitter, LinkedIn, even Facebook all offer the opportunity to find and connect with those interested in the same subsets of information that form part of our intentionally created connected world. By learning how to use social media for professional development and engagement and spending time developing our Professional Learning Networks (PLN) we can become more effective communicators and knowledge brokers ourselves. To the extent to which we find and connect with intelligent, informed others and are able to effectively communicate our thoughts on information that we have either created or come across (often times a combination of the two) we are able to join in the construction and dissemination of meaning in the digital age.

As the image below relates, those not actively participating in effective PLN’s are missing out on many facets of interaction that would lead to more effective distribution of their ideas which would, in turn, lead to greater construction of individual understanding through engagement and impact on the constructed meanings and knowledge of others in this reiterative process.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.30.18 PM

Some NEW Basics for Schooling (Visual Literacy, Networking & Distribution)
We have now seen how the top down nature of the knowledge for consumption era is coming to an end. We have explored at a very surface level how individuals may participate in more meaningful ways with the knowledge that is being disseminated and, in fact, become more meaningful co-creators of knowledge themselves. With all of the information and knowledge traffic created, however, just adding to it is not necessarily of value in itself. Here is an oversimplified illustration that shows you what’s happening:

Pace of Information Growth

In just a week, there will be 250 times more information then there was in all of human history. Again this is over simplified and not entirely accurate but the point is that information growth is completely out of control.

Directing one’s own learning in this environment of information overload in order to come into contact with information we are likely to need becomes a vital skill in this new order. We must learn the new basics if we wish to remain relevant and wish to be heard ourselves. In our schools we must now also impart visual literacy, networking & distribution skills.

Visual literacy refers to principles of basic design (like C.R.A.P.) and the production of effective infographics all the way up to the grammar of cinema.  Fundamental networking and distribution elements have been touched upon here but should also include blogging and the ability to create websites and to link these to other sources of information and even the skills to embed digital information in all forms into websites created as part of developing and controlling students’ individual digital footprints.

In the end you may ask, “Is this really important enough to be embraced by schools and inform curricula? There is so much to cover and more information added by the minute.”

Business schools the world over have taught a simple message for years, “Influence, or be influenced.”

What sort of individuals do we want leaving our schools? Influencers or the influenced?

Let me know what you think.

Deepen Your Digital Footprint
A Beginner  to Intermediate Guide to Increasing Online Traffic and Web Presence

More on Connectivism

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Supporting Students with the MYP Design Cycle

Design CycleUse of the design cycle is the focus of MYP Technology classes.

It can be difficult for students accustomed to a final assessment project style (as is partially the case in the PYP) to grasp that the manner in which they create products or solutions is more important to the course than the actual products or solutions themselves.

The design cycle is quite involved with a number of sections, each with its own purpose. To support students I made this slideshare to break it down into steps for them.

I also put together this page where I add new insights and direction as inspiration hits.

Every part of the design cycle builds upon the previous so the Latin finis origine pendant, The end hangs upon the beginning, is extremely applicable. I made this poster to illustrate the idea to my class on how the solutions to the problems as identified in their design specifications then can be used to form some of their test questions which become fundamental to their final Evaluate section of the cycle.

Design Cycle FIRE Image-ifiesThe reason for this focus on the design cycle I tell my students is simplicity itself. We use it for every unit for one good reason. Getting in the habit of addressing problems in this way is simply engendering good habits that will stick with you for the rest of your lives. And after all, as Picasso said, you need to:

picasso break rules

Posted in IB, Producing, Publishing, Sharing, Profundities, Project Based Learning | 2 Comments

Towards a Smoother Transition to the Middle Years (Tech) Program

Design CycleI would like to share with you an idea. We are presently having the students involved in the Primary Years Programme‘s (PYP) culminating Exhibition use the Middle Years Programme‘s design cycle (left) as a fundamental part of their process.

As educators we all know how important transitions are; be they between classes, horizontally across a year level curriculum or vertically across a Programme of Inquiry in the PYP. We take our students at the end of the year (or throughout if we are that organized) and let them experience the new area of the school they will be going to and arrange for them to get to know their new teachers a bit.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 8.58.48 AMNow, I spent seven years learning  my way around the PYP and have acted as a mentor for the exhibition numerous times. As the technology coach for teachers in grades 1-12 and the MYP Technology teacher in my present position I was approached by the grade five team asking how I could support them with some sort of video production for this year’s efforts.

I would like to share with you just how we are going about this. I hope you may find an idea or suggestion here that can be of use to you. If you improve upon anything I ask only that you post me a comment to share. This blog is all about sharing though sometimes it feels a little one-sided.

The Initial Idea
We kicked around a few ideas, as is often the manner of the creative process with these things, before settling on the idea of having the students produce a video sharing their journey and explaining their process throughout the exhibition. We identified what we felt were the fundamental components and decided to lay the video story map out for the students. If you have any experience with a PYP exhibition you will understand that the students have enough to do already without having to learn the entire film-making process from scratch on top of it!

The Front Loading of Skills
Speaking of learning film-making…

We had arranged previously to front load some digital storytelling skills including story boarding, narration and video production as part of the unit just prior to the exhibition. Can you say horizontal planning? Sure you can.

photo-32This is an example of what two of our G5 students completed in just a few sessions with no prior knowledge of Windows Movie Maker. Now Riku & Jun may not win any awards for this work yet and yes, for you techies out there, the level of sophistication in terms of technology deployed is not exceptional, however, they did:

  1. Make a compelling argument
  2. Use transitions effectively
  3. Narrate their work in an evenly paced and appropriate tone and volume
  4. Incorporate (and cite) creative commons licensed images and a soundtrack
  5. Resist the temptation to animate everything under the sun

Now I may be biased as one of their teachers but this is better than I often see colleagues pull off and they did it on their second (publishing) try (after the initial public viewing begging for the chance to make improvements). How much better will their PYP Exhibition Chronicle be for having had the chance to do this before even having the project put to them?

The Role of the Design Cycle
Now, where does the design cycle fit in? As the students are very much left up to their own devices to complete the considerable undertaking that is “THE EXHIBITION”, we supply them with supporting documents. In the case of this year’s exhibition they are receiving:

  1. Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.17.56 AMAn exhibition packet outlining the exhibition for student reference (Great stuff Freya!)
  2. A digital storytelling handbook with the aforementioned story map for their process video
  3. The BIG PROJECT booklet (below) for  executing the necessary research, planning and creating of their proposed green company through the Design Cycle.

photo-31The Generosity of Apple Japan
To better resource our efforts we approached Apple Japan with a request for some iPad Loaners. Happily, we received them the very day we were set to present the exhibition to the students and parents. I shall have to write a follow up blog post on my efforts to employ iTunes U a s delivery platform.

Special thanks to Freya Vaughn & Sue Loafmann, superstar teachers.

Posted in Digital Learning, IB, New Media, Producing, Publishing, Sharing, Project Based Learning, Visual Literacy | 4 Comments

How to Become an Apple Distinguished Educator (or ADE)

This is a subject of much controversy, surrounded by secrecy and shrouded in darkness. Alright, that isn’t exactly true and more than a bit of an overstatement. It has a nice ring to it though.


I just had the privilege of becoming an ADE (Class of 2013). As there are many eager for more information on the subject of how to become one, I thought I would write this blogpost. Out of an unknown number of applicants, all earnest in their use of technology to improve learning outcomes, Apple selected somewhere around 120 of us (in no way an exact number) in the Asia Pacific region to join their ranks earlier this year. This number is representative of both native to the respective country language speakers and English speakers alike.

Personally, when I received the email that I had been selected I walked around my apartment a while re-reading it on my tired, old iPad 1. Yes, it seemed to say I made it. But there must be some mistake… Me?! Really?

But there it was and once the shock wore off I posted the top of the email to Facebook, which is where the comments and questions began. Congratulations! How did you get in? I always wanted to apply but heard it was hard.

The Experience
Apple was good enough to put us all up in a very nice hotel in Bali. They supplied us with access to some software to help us pick up our games further and even loaned those of us with old devices newer iPads for some of the workshops planned for the event. They overfed us, taught us, gave us time to practice, share and reflect, and get to know our fellow ADE’s in this incredible community.

  • It was demanding
  • It was rewarding
  • It was tiring
  • It was a phenomenal learning and networking experience
  • And it was fun!

I learned an incredible amount in the four days of the event (Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2013). Was it really that short?!

Let’s be honest, Apple spent a LOT of money putting on this event. They deserved the best return on investment and we earned our spots throughout.


The Sidebar
Many people I know were eager to hear how much of this whole thing is about education and how much of it is about selling Apple products. Well, here’s my take. Apple knows that education and technology are inseparable. Apple is a technology company. Their best interest lies in supplying technology that works to meet the demands of the classroom. What they often do well is to try and get out ahead of that curve or even lead it.

iBooks Author and iTunes U are perfect examples. Students as creators, teachers leading the charge through modeling, Apple there trying to figure out how to bring it all together and, in the case of the ADE Program, investing in the human infrastructure to see what works and put tools in the hands of those who have gone out of their way to demonstrate their dedication through a reasonably intensive screening and application process.

A Soap Box.The Advice
Wow, I can see my house from this soapbox!
And now, without further adieu…

How to Become an Apple Distinguished Educator

ADE Photo

  1. Apple is looking for innovative educators. If you aren’t trying new things in your classroom you shouldn’t bother. Just having iPads is not enough (though using them in your application video, however, couldn’t hurt. C’mon, let’s be honest here!).
  2. There were some seriously impressive folks at this Institute. Not just alumni presenters but other teachers I met who were newbies as myself who are doing some truly amazing things (“amazing” the action word of this event. I wish I had counted how many times I heard this word <I’m sorry Apple! Don’t take away my new letters because I’m being cheeky. It was amazing. I’m just sayin’ is all…>). Don’t let that intimidate you though. Hey, I got in.
  3. I asked many new people how they thought they got in. Many had “amazing” stories of what they were doing in their classrooms but I could discern no pattern or algorithm other than innovation or well-documented best practices.
  4. How’d I get in? I don’t know. If I had to guess, I would think my video had something to do with it. I tried not only to showcase how I’ve used Apple technologies to enhance learning outcomes but also how I, myself, am unique through the images I chose. Photos of me as a hippie tree-planter, a young new teacher in a kindergarten class, pans of my websites, webinars, training sessions for teachers, examples of student work, me teaching with my white beard… (I shaved that off pretty fast I can tell you!). I mean, MOST applicants are doing similar things. They are up on trends and keeping on top of developments. Others, the smaller percentage, are the really, truly exceptional, innovating with challenged learners or hauling iPads into the jungle to save a language. If there is one other way I made myself (not one of these latter types I fear) stand out it was to be everywhere at once: by Deepening My Digital Footprint

Parting Shot
Ask yourself one thing before going further.

Why do you want to be an ADE? For your résumé or CV?

Feather in My CapYes, it would be a feather in the cap, to be sure. But really, if you work hard enough to earn a spot, you really have already gone a long way towards becoming the sort of educator you want to be.

Don’t let a pass one year deter you. I know educators whose workshops I have benefitted from in other arenas who have taken two and three runs at it. If you are continually picking up your professional game what harm has been done?

In the end, it should be about your practice anyway, shouldn’t it?

STILL need more? Check out this post or Best of the Best: Apple and Google Educator Programs

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Real Communication: Animated Infographics

If you want something to be remembered you have to frame it in a narrative.

Visual Literacy, which can be broken into further subsets like infographics and digital storytelling, encompasses a skill set of increasing importance in a world where information grows exponentially.


How much information is there?
In 2010, Eric Schmitt, former CEO of Google hit us over the head with this statistic:

“Every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003″.

How fast is information growing?
In the year 2011 information is doubling roughly every 11 hours. This is according to some statistics I’ve seen cited from IBM, Gartner and Accenture.

Here is an oversimplified illustration that shows you what’s happening:

Pace of Information Growth

My tech class recently finished a unit on  digital storytelling with Power Point. Many students produced videos for the Sakura Medal Book Trailer Contest here in Japan (sorry private until judging is complete). We learned many valuable lessons about how to create book trailers that touched on many of the skills and considerations needed to to produce effective communication through video.

When researching for resources for a new unit on infographics (A little obsessed with visual literacy? GUILTY!) I came cross this incredible video. The content is captivating but the fact that this is, to me, an animated, narrated infographic made it perfect for my class. It is a exemplar of the elements of design we continue to develop while offering yet another example of good digital storytelling (expository this time). I hope you will find value in it as well.

I have started putting together a resource site specifically for video chronicling of the PYP Exhibition at my school that is available to all here and will be putting together an iTunes U course on this very subject at the ADE Institute in Bali later this month.

I”d love to hear your comments.

Posted in Literacy, New Media, Producing, Publishing, Sharing, Project Based Learning, Remix, Visual Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments