COETAIL Final Project: Enhancing Book Clubs with Digital Resources

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Show and Tell

Show and Tell. Even after all these years, I still remember the combination of excitement and nervousness of Show and Tell time in elementary school. Excited for the day it was my turn, but then nervous about the reaction of my classmates. (Yes, even then I was considering my audience.) Would the other kids think I shared something unique and interesting? Or would they be bored out of their minds for 5 minutes? So much pressure I put on myself. I was reminded of those feelings I had as I recently prepared for a professional Show and Tell.

In February, I was given the opportunity to present at the EARCOS Weekend Workshop, Transforming Learning with the iPad  organized by our Director of Technology for Learning, John Burns and held at our school, Shekou International School. Of course I was excited to be asked to be part of the event, but then the age-old nervousness kicked in. I had done plenty of presentations for teachers before, but it had always been in my own school with my own staff and on topics I had plenty of experience with. I had only had 1:1 iPads in my grade 6 class a few months and teachers from all around South East Asia would be attending the Weekend Workshop. I settled on presenting about how I used iPad apps and resources for informal assessment. I was inspired by a workshop called “Making Thinking Visible” presented by Andrew McCarthy at Learning 2.012 in Beijing. In his workshop, Mr. McCarthy referenced the book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison of Harvard’s Project Zero. I decided to focus on one of the core questions of both the presentation and the book:

  “How can we document student thinking so that both teachers
and students are better able to understand and develop it?”

I had found having 1:1 iPads in the classroom had given me a new arsenal of ways to document student learning and assessing student learning was applicable to all grade levels and content areas. My digital Show and Tell was shaping up. I worked on my presentation, refined it, got feedback and made more adjustments. The day of my sessions (I did three in one day) came and nervousness went away as educators entered my session and my Show and Tell began and evolved into Sharing and Learning.

The entire two-day workshop was a great success with lots of sharing and learning and  we received lots of positive feedback. I was thrilled to be a part of it.

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This experience also made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be at a school so committed to eLearning with a staff so eager to learn and share. Everyday is Show and Tell!

Please check out what’s happening with eLearning at our school!!
on Twitter: #sisrocks

So my question to you is….

 What would you bring to a Technology for Learning Show and Tell?

Photo Credit: waferbaby via Compfight cc

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Ready or Not, Here Comes Course 5

I am currently teaching grade 6 and grade 7 Humanities classes. (Language Arts and Social Studies) so I a few options for my Course 5 project have come to mind.

Grade 6: Feudal Systems in Europe and Japan/Persuasive Writing

Last year we integrated technology by having students create a digital presentation of their persuasive writing piece related to a role in a feudal system. I would like to look at expanding the use of technology in other aspects of this unit, especially now that we are 1:1 iPads in grade 6. Some possibilities might be the use of Google Docs for collaborative note taking, Popplet (or other mind mapping apps) for organizing information and Skitch for taking and annotating images of persuasion. Additionally, I’d like to try out the ‘flipped classroom’ with my students gathering information to share with the class. I’ve done this more with my grade 7 students and would like to incorporate some opportunities for my grade 6 students.

Grade 7: Plagues and Pandemics/Cause and Effect Writing

This is my first year teaching grade 7 Humanities at my school and we have been reworking the current curriculum throughout the year. We have already been integrating technology in a variety of ways including wikis, Google Docs, info graphics and flipped classroom. Since we have a focus on speaking and presentations this semester I would like to see students become more proficient in creating quality presentations including aspects of Presentation Zen and visual literacy. I think both the topic and the writing genre would lend themselves to the use of impactful visuals to communicate information.

Grade 6 and 7: Independent Reading

We set aside time each week for DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read) and students have time to read texts of their choice and do some journaling and reading responses. I’d like to have my students do more than just a standard ‘book report’. During Course 3 I was interested in the topics presented in Week 6 regarding transmedia, transliteracy, multimedia and remix. I would be interested in having my students dig deeper into a text they enjoy and also using the text to be creative and . It would also be an opportunity to delve into the responsibilities connected with remixing and copyright.


I have to consider the impact making changes to lessons has on my co-teachers. I co-teach both grade 6 and grade 7 Humanities with two amazing educators. They are both open to new ideas and integrating technology into our classes. And even though we all have our own methods and strategies for presenting content and skills to our students, we do have to have a sense of continuity in our purpose and goals for our classes. Because of this important partnership I have with my co-teachers, I would have to factor them into my decisions on how I approach and carry out the changes I would like to make to our lessons.

I have concerns with taking on too much at once. There are a wide variety of possibilities to integrate more technology into these lessons. But how do I choose what to do without overwhelming my students and myself? How do I make sure the content doesn’t get lost in the technology? How do I balance providing the support my students need and pushing them to be more independent and creative? Will there be enough time to make some changes and address the curricular expectations? I realize these are questions I constantly ask myself as a teacher. And I will need to continue to constantly reflect on the decisions I make and make adjustments as I go, just as I always have.

Moving Forward

Whatever I decide to do and how to do it (which will be very soon), I will just need to jump in a try. There is stress and worry when trying something new in the classroom but the it will be a learning experience for all involved, no matter the outcome. I am also very fortunate to be in a supportive educational environment with students and colleagues that allow me to take risks and try new methods in an effort to provide positive learning experiences.

It’s hard to believe I started this journey with COETAIL just a year ago and I’m already headed into the last stretch…here we go!

“When you have completed 95 percent of your journey, you are only halfway there.”
-Japanese proverb



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Manage Students to Manage Devices

photo by Diana Beabout

As I viewed the recommended resources on managing laptops in the classroom, I was a bit dismayed at the ‘better watch out’ warnings given by many contributors. In 23 Things about Classroom Laptops, Dean Groom introduces his list stating, “…so I’d like to put forward 23 things teachers might consider in regard to a problem that we’ve been talking about for a very long time.” I’m not exactly sure what the problem is but it is related to laptops in the classroom. And then the first four items on his list are about how students could use computers inappropriately. Mr. Grooms does offer more positive items in his list, but at least a third is about how things could go wrong with laptops in the classroom. In the videos from the Irving Independent School District, teachers offer suggestions for monitoring students using laptops in the classroom. Several of the suggestions are about how to catch them misusing the laptop or being off-task. (One teacher says she can tell by watching their eyes.) Some also emphasize the need for severe consequences/penalties for laptop misbehavior.

Although I know all of these teachers had good intentions in sharing their suggestions and strategies regarding laptop use in the classroom, I wonder how much it reflects their ‘pre-laptop’ classroom management philosophies and strategies. I have found that over time, from computer labs to laptop carts to 1:1 iPads to BYOD, I continue to apply the same classroom management strategies I apply to non-digital tools and situations. With the recent move to 1:1 iPads with my grade 6 students and the influx of BYOD among my grade 7 & 8 students I find myself encountering new situations and issues, but still relying on the same strategies.

Have clear expectations and routines.

Just as I communicate my expectations for behavior in my classroom to my students, the same expectations apply to their use of a device in my classroom. And just like we have routines for turning in assignments and checking out books, we also develop routines regarding devices. For example, I noticed that several students were coming into the classroom with their devices out and distracted as I started class. We now have a new routine where all devices are in their bag or backpack when they come into the classroom. (The exception is laptops but they must remained closed until it is time to use them.)

Be prepared for obstacles

Who hasn’t had an activity or lesson not go as planned? Even with the best laid plans, I’ve had plenty of moments were I needed to quickly reassess how things were going and what changes might need to be made. This has happened in lessons with and without digital devices. I always need to be ready to deal with unexpected issues. This is especially true when using technology. I’ve learned to be ready with a back up plan if the internet goes down or the laptops don’t have the right plug-in for a certain program. I try to trouble shoot as much as I can before an activity, especially using digital devices, but you can’t predict every possible scenario. And when we hit those obstacles, I communicate with my students about what’s happening and often we can figure out a solution together.

Balance support and responsibility

Students are going to make choices and take actions that are not the best for themselves and others. When that happens, I do my best to provide the student with support but also making sure they take responsibility. This applies to the use of digital devices and technology as well. An example of this is students storage of digital files. Instead of getting ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuses, I was getting ‘my assignment is on my computer at home’ or ‘my assignment is on the school computer so I couldn’t finish it at home’ excuses. I would provide support by suggesting options of how to store files or emailing documents but ultimately the student was responsible for getting the assignment in on time, just as they would an assignment on paper. (Cloud storage is making this easier but students have to know about it and how it use it.) In any case of a device being misused or causing a distraction, the focus should be on the behavior of the student, not the device.

Reflect and Readjust

I learned early in my teaching career that I could make changes to expectations and routines in my classroom as long as I communicated those changes with my students. I see this happening among my colleagues as we adjust and adapt to the large amount of devices (both school issued and personal) now in our middle school. For example, we were concerned with the number of students engaged with their devices at lunch time. We were having to remind students to eat lunch and concerned about students’ decreasing social interactions. We’ve discussed and agreed to some guidelines limiting device use between classes and at lunch. As a middle school staff, we are reflecting and readjusting…and after we implement these guidelines, we’ll need to reflect and possibly readjust again. But isn’t this what we would do with a non-digital issue as well?


The success in creating a positive learning environment depends on the behaviors and actions of the people involved. It is not dependent on tools, digital or not. As teachers, we help create the classroom environment through our management practices. Digital devices are amazing tools when used properly, but tools none the less. What determines how well these tools are used in the classroom depends on the expectations and supports we create for our students to use them.

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Space Mountain by Xcelerator on Some Right Reserved

Question: Will education as we know it change because of technology?

Answer: It already has and will continue to whether we are prepared or not.

The Past

When I was a kid (in the 1970s…the timeframe is important to understand the context of this story) my family would travel to Florida every summer to visit my grandparents and we often spent a day at Disney World. One of my favorite rides was Space Mountain. After a thrilling roller coaster ride through ‘space’, a ‘people mover’ would glide us a long a display of “Home of Future Living” (sponsored by RCA). The polyester, pantsuited family members were engaged in a variety of activities via television screens throughout their futuristic minimalist home. The baby was being monitored via a remote camera! Dad was conducting a business meeting through a briefcase sized monitor on the patio! Mom was ordering new dishes see could see on the TV by pushing a button on a console! A daughter was taking a pottery class and talking with her instructor through the TV! The kids were recording a football game they were watching on a huge TV screen! What?! That’s crazy sci-fi thinking! I remember, even at a young age, being skeptical of the possibility that I would experience any of those things in my lifetime. (I think part of it was the horror of a future of shiny jumpsuits and orange hair.)

Now, as I consider the future of education and the impact of technology, I remember my attitude from so many years ago. My disbelief as a child that things like telecommuting, online shopping and online education could happen in my lifetime have become a reality as an adult.

The Present

After almost twenty years in education, I have often heard veteran teachers’ comments in regards to a ‘new’ reading or math program or initiative, “Same program we did 5 years ago. Just a different name. Just wait it out and we’ll be asked to do something ‘new’ next year.” During my career I’ve seen a number of teachers reject ‘new’ ideas in education as ‘recycled’ or ‘temporary fixes’. They often go through the motions implementing top down initiatives and, in many cases, watch as administrators abandon plans and programs within a year and then move on to a ‘new’ fix. I have experienced their frustration with attempts to address the educational needs of our students with programs and packaged curriculum which I’ve seen succeed with some students and fail miserably with others. But over the last 18 months, as I’ve learned more about 21st century learning and the digital age, educators cannot ignore our changing world and the impact it has on the education of our students. The impact of technology on how and what we teach is not going away. We can’t just wait it out.

The Future

So what does the future hold for learners and educators? For one, the distinction between who the learners and educators are becoming more and more blurred. As an educator, I have had to become a learner to improve my ability to adjust to their needs as 21st century learners. On the other hand, my students are learning to select and share information to educate themselves and their peers. Besides the redefinition of roles, what else does the future/present hold?

To think about the future of education and technology, I found the New Media Consortium’s annual Horizon Report K-12 Edition useful in distilling the trends impacting education. The annual research report “identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe.”

The Key Trends they identify are:

1. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.

2. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.

3. As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming increasingly common for students to bring their own mobile devices.

4. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.

5. Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.

6.There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based, active learning.

What I see throughout these trends is that, for the most part, times they are ‘a-changing’ whether educators and administrators support it or not. Learning models are changing. Access to resources and devices is increasing. Learner expectations are expanding. It is not surprising then that the ‘significant challenges’ to technology in education reflect the slow pace at which educational institutions are addressing the rapid changes of the digital age.

Significant Challenges

1. Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession, especially teaching.

2. K-12 must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning.

3. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

4. Institutional barriers present formidable challenges to moving forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies.

5. Learning that incorporates real life experiences is not occurring enough and is undervalued when it does take place.

6. Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of traditional learning metrics.

The Horizon Report committee concludes…

“These trends and challenges are a reflection of the impact of technology that is occurring in almost every aspect of our lives. They are indicative of the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn, and even socialize.”

So how does this all impact my teaching and what happens in my classroom? The first step for me or any other educator and administrator is to accept the reality of what is happening. The job of any one involved in education (past, present or future) is to prepare our students with the skills and strategies to be a productive and successful member of our society. Educational institutions are notorious for their slow, laborious attempts to adapt and change. We must follow suit of those educational, governmental and business organizations that are addressing the current and future impact of technology on education. Recently, the Education and Science Committee of the New Zealand House of Representatives published a report “Inquiry into 21st Century Learning Environments and Digital Literacy” (December 2012). Their comments show an acceptance of the changes that are happening in our world which in turn impact education.

“We believe major changes in the way students learn are inevitable, and it is essential that the Ministry of Education and teachers be responsive to the shift.”

“The pace of technological development is such that teaching and learning approaches are going to need to be much more flexible to respond to these and future changes.”

“When considering the skills, knowledge, and understanding that will be required of a future teacher, it is important that the approach is open-minded. We understand that technology is rapidly changing, and so the skills required of a teacher cannot be fully anticipated. In assessing the role of the teacher, the changing environment needs to be taken into account.”

The acknowledgement of the impacts of technology on education are imperative for any group to move forward. An acknowledgement that change is already happening and will continue. And acknowledgement that the future can be uncertain and we must be prepared to deal with that…in education and beyond.

Back to the Future

This summer I will travel to Florida with my family for a family reunion. There will be three generations enjoying some fun in the sun and a trip to Disney World is already in the works. I am looking forward to visiting the updated Space Mountain. My six year old nephew said he’d ride the roller coaster with me. (If he grows to 44 inches tall by then!) I’m interested to see if there is a ‘this is the future’ exhibit like I saw many years ago. I’ll be curious to see his reaction to the ‘future’ and if it is more hopeful than mine was so long ago.

Photo Credit: Xcelerator via Compfight cc

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