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.


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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 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.



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?



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Eager to apply? Go HERE!

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.

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Dangerous Ground

I had an aunt if mine pose a confusing question the other day.

What if someone sees my daughter’s picture online?

Hmmm… I post them so they can be seen. I asked her if she remembered how exciting it was when, in grade 1, I got my photo in the Wpg Free Press.

People saw it! That’s why it was exciting. Did my parents put me in danger allowing it?

When my magazine article was published my photo was there. People saw it.

What should we be afraid of?

We should keep private photos private. We should not post information about addresses or banks. I personally don’t like to give my birthday either (identity theft fodder) but sharing our lives is why we’re alive.

Caution yes, prohibition, no. I choose to participate in the world. The leading cause of death is life but I prefer it to the alternative.

Merry Christmas!

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Interested in Serious EdTech Professional Development?

This blog post will cover many topics. I wear many hats. In brief, I will discuss how I have recently employed technology:

  • as a homeroom teacher
  • an ICT specialist
  • a school promoter
  • a teacher trainer
  • an MYP Technology teacher

I will further make ongoing reference to the SAMR model of technology integration in education throughout.
As this infographic is self-explanatory and this blog post (which will likely reach epic proportions) is meant as part of a culminating assessment for my Master’s I will not be explaining it in detail.

But first… the video:

As this is a post written as part of my coursework, it will further act as an exposition on the merits of the Certificate of Educational Technology & Information Literacy (COETAIL) program (A more apt name for a course I have not come across.)

I have finally arrived at my final unit of study in the course.  As a primary school teacher who has worked with children as high as Grade 12, I was at an impasse. I still loved teaching but had reached a point where, for me, the demands of being a general teacher and taking care of the minutiae of managing most of the needs of a large group of children in the age group was proving to be more than I was able to do while maintaining my zest for the job.

I had always enjoyed using digital technologies and had a bit of a knack for it and thought that pursuing a specialty in the field would be both timely and rewarding. It is. If you have read this far, (thank you) I will now reward you with some examples of what I have managed to do so you can do likewise.

As a Homeroom Teacher
As the Grade 7 Homeroom teacher at my new job (the one with all the hats) I have created a website for my class. While there are a variety of pages (not all completed in this ongoing project) every student has a page of their own to design and add to, with some parameters, as they see fit. Students, furthermore, can make a record of the reflections they make on their term goals for all to see and share their progress.

Very simply put, some of the the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Education Technology Standards for Students’ (NETS-S) objectives met here are:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Technology Operations and Concepts

I could go into much more detail here but with so much to say I am trying to keep things a little briefer than the opus this could so easily become (learned in COETAIL to keep blog posts short to attract readers, failing here!). SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

This is also a formative task of sorts, as we will be delving in much greater detail into the creation of websites in the unit that will ultimately become the focus for this presentation.

As an ICT Specialist
As a specialist charged with integrating ICT across the curriculum and promoting the school I have been expanding Doshisha International School, Kyoto’s presence on many fronts.

Online Presence
I have created The Learner Profile @DISK to raise awareness of this fundamental aspect of our school’s programme. The site is composed mainly of student generated content. Students share their work and reflections on what the attributes of the profile mean to them. We have actually had IB mucky-muck commentary on this already…

The ISTE NETS objective Strands met here are:

1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Communication and Collaboration
6. Technology Operations and Concepts

Students in the Middle School have the opportunity to mentor their Elementary School counterparts for service hours by assisting them with their uploads (scanning if need be) and reflections. This is line with our International Baccalaureate Programmes as cross-year collaboration and project-based work focusing on the development of Transdisciplinary skills is one of our highest aims. SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

Responsible Use @DISK is another website where families in our school community can spend time together learning about safety, copyright and issues of responsible digital citizenship. The online agreement form is then filled in and tabulated via Google docs.

SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

Student Life @DISK rounds it off by offering more social insight into life at the school, along with newsletters and updates. It further acts as a hub, linking our main home page, EdTech Training Sessions site, photo blogs and Facebook page.

Training Others to Integrate
I have started slowly here. Being new to the school and having more than enough work to keep me busy, I wanted to let people get to know me before making demands on their time and introducing any changes to classroom practice.

After having shared my work with the aforementioned increase in web presence, I began taking classes to introduce both the Learner Profile @DISK and the Responsible Use @DISK to the students. I explained the process for the latter with families through email and at an introductory session held during our Meet & Greet at the start of the year.

I worked (indeed continue) to help colleagues with technical trouble-shooting before our first edtech training session. The initial session was held for the Elementary School teachers and focused on a very general introduction to the use of new media tools in class through the creation of Weebly accounts. Teachers created individual home pages and added blogs before going on to experiment with posting pictures and commentary on both. We discussed copyright, creative commons citation and privacy issues. There is much more information available at the site, EdTech Training Sessions.

SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

As an MYP Technology Teacher
I have used a website for the course to flip the classroom. As you can see, all of the important documents for our classes are here. I have also incorporated a  number of instructional YouTube video/SlideShare mini-lessons for students to use and review at home, freeing up more class time for creation and face-to-face collaboration. As units finish I can “hide” their pages to avoid cluttering up the site with out-of-date information.

Having caught the ‘Flip Bug’ I have also created another tutorial in this manner for students struggling with question and answer work based around short passages. I was amazed to find that this SlideShare had over 250 views in a little more than its first hour! (The Design Cycle @DISK SlideShare has enjoyed nearly 2300 views but I have been promoting it actively.)

SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

(Finally) Back to the Unit in Question
From this point I will discuss and explain my unit as more specifically prescribed. It will cover aspects of planning and execution but will not be finished and not, therefore, ready for complete reflection.

Everything I discuss, however, is directly related to my study and implementation of what I have learned in COETAIL. The unit is about Web Design & Online Responsibility.

First off, I was able to execute this unit as my first flat classroom experience with a fellow COETAIL’er at New International School Thailand (NIST). Jesse Scott (@twowaystairs) has proven insightful, full of ideas (I will naturally claim as my own now) and patience in planning and executing this task. Flat classrooms, I have learned, are harder than they sound.

For starters, while the NIST focus had a solid content correlation to our focus, I was committed to website creation while Jesse was all about an introduction to programming through Scratch, we clearly were producing products in significantly different formats. Fair enough. We decided to forge ahead regardless in a more limited fashion. Sounded easier to me that way anyway.

We backed and forth about times, plans and directions through email and Skype. Jesse shared his guiding questions and pointed out that there were a number of excellent resources available from the good people at Yokohama International School in their Digital Dragons program while I produced tracking documents through Google Drive. Easy-peesy, right?

Even with no drastic time zone issues to overcome or complete shadowing necessary, with everything else in the busy lives of two IB teachers messages through email soon get muddled and we actually considered bailing at one point. I am so glad we didn’t. With the blog communications poised to begin over the weekend and everything else our classes have gained and still stand to gain it would have been a tragic waste of an opportunity.

Please take a look at my planning here in the Understanding by Design Unit Planner (template provided by COETAIL) for a better idea of what I mean.

The rubric I created for this course is based on the ISTE NETS for Students:

SAMR rating:
SAMR Redef

All of my planning is online here but be warned, it covers more than just this course. My students are producing password protected websites in order to share their research in an accessible, communicative online format in the hopes of helping others understand how to better protect themselves, protect others and manage their digital footprints.

I may choose at a later date to post my MYP Technology planning here as well. (As it is not required for this coursework I am reserving judgment on the matter for the time being.)

Google Ninja
This is some serious stuff. Open and available, teachers helping teachers. YOU MUST CHECK THIS OUT! It has taken me more time than I imagined to set it up (with automatic grading through Flubaroo, thank you very much) but is something I will be using for the rest of my tech teaching career. Impressive doesn’t begin to explain this. Click the image to get started.
SAMR Redef

So there you have it. One educator’s journey through COETAIL captured in one culminating unit of work and summarized in one BIG new job creating and sharing digitally and loving (almost) every minute of it.

If you ever have the chance to take this course DO IT!

Thanks Kim,


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I’m Flipping OUT!

No doubt there are those out there who would argue there is only one “true way” to define a flipped classroom effort. To those of you (and you know who you are) who find offense at what I am about to say… perhaps you should consider a vacation?

I am “flipping out” as much as possible these days. I started writing (and will finish some day) a HOW TO post to help those with less experience (must be someone) than myself with this.

I am flipping my classroom by making important mini-lessons and other resources available online so as not to have to use up classroom time with what can clearly be done at home, unlike the current unit’s work, in which students are collaboratively planning and constructing play structures for the Elementary School children.

I am doing a sort of one-two punch of presentations to SlideShare and YouTube (or Vimeo).

Example 1
I made a Keynote presentation explaining the current use of the MYP Design Cycle at my school. This is now available on the class website for students to review at any time at any place. It is very important as the process is the main focus of these classes. I am available to help students at any time but, with this available without question, the onus falls back on the students to take the time to review at home first instead of taking class time away from their project groups.

youtube-updates-platform-for-social-good-8bb4ae8a43Now, I make it first. Then I add a soundtrack. Then I upload it to YouTube or Vimeo. Like with any assignment, it is often easier for students to sit back and take it all in once before dissecting it, hence the video version.

Then comes the SlideShare version. This is the more functional of the two. When students get into their work, or later, when assessing themselves, the SlideShare is the best format to find and keep the information in front of them while they get to it.

I’ve done this for a number of different reasons now and I will share some examples below. I feel encouraged by the feedback from students but also from the thousands of views some of the SlideShares & videos enjoy, presumably from other teachers and students.

And there are still times when I make simple videos on their own to reinforce important messages:

The digital tools I am using here, however, could be used to improve anyone’s practice be they homeroom teachers, drama, math or any subject. I made this after an impromptu session helping a student in my homeroom with homework before classes begun:

Feels good to share.

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The Power of a Hashtag

Great info graphic from a great post:

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Connections are Incredible

I made this to flip my class a little more after an impromptu session with a student before class.

255 views by the time I got home (under two hours later!).

Feels good to share…

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Warning: Personal Learning Networks Can Lead to Flattening Classrooms

I had a colleague from a former school “Facebook” me the other day (I love our human proclivity to, as Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes fame puts it, verb words)

Anyway, so I was asked, “Are you doing a flip classroom, where you videotape your lesson so your kids can access it whenever?” which naturally lead to my response that:

That’s part of it. Flipping a classroom is best for me when students receive information at home (or wherever) so they can do their creative work in class, with the potential for greater collaboration and access to the “expert” teacher when they are most needed. During active engagement. More on this here.

But that one little question got me motivated. Working in an MYP interested school, and being new to MYP, I used my Introduction to Design unit to define areas of difficulty with the design cycle for students to plan for follow up and ensure our year goes smoothly. I produced this SlideShare / YouTube one-two punch to enable students to review the basics at home through our Tech website, freeing up class time for collaboration, application and creation with peers in an environment with access to the tools and a knowledgeable “expert” immediately as the need arises.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”The Design Cycle @DISK Introduction” target=”_blank”>The Design Cycle @DISK Introduction</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Sean Thompson</a></strong> </div>

Now, preparing for a final unit of study for the COETAIL course, I get in touch with others to see what is on their minds as they likewise contact me. This gets me to thinking of collaboration on a project. The idea of collaboration, coupled with my recent Facebook exchange re: flipped classroom gets me thinking “flat” classroom.

After dialogues with Mitch Norris, Brendan Lea & Jamie Richards it presently looks like everyone is involved in something already.

Through my Facebook friend, however, I am now in touch with some teachers at New International School Thailand. Be careful. Connections pop up without any provocation leading to more effective integration & sharing.

UPDATE: Hey, hey! About to start my first FLAT Classroom project with Jesse Scott at NIST!

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October 7th Profundity

When no one in your class thinks twice about saying, “I don’t get it,” everyone starts learning better.

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