Project in Progress: Water is Precious

Unit of Inquiry: Water is Precious

While embedding technology in an authentic way is the main focus of the COETAIL final project, this was an ideal opportunity to create a unit that integrates core subjects and provides opportunities to link to IS Bangkok‘s Definition of Learning. By refining our original science unit, I was able to extend the unit to meet Technology and Information Literacy (TAIL) and Global Citizenship standards and create a more rounded unit of inquiry. My aim is to embed technology meaningfully and authentically, assist students to become more aware of global issues and best of all, create meaningful learning opportunities.

Here is my first attempt at creating a unit based on the fundamentals of PYP, in collaboration with Grade 4 teacher, Mike Jessee, and ES Librarian, Nat Whitman:


Water is Precious

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Unit of Inquiry: Water is Precious

I’m excited to have an opportunity to create an authentic unit that integrates a number of core subjects and provides opportunities to link to IS Bangkok‘s Definition of Learning. Since we have a good window of time this semester, it will allow us 8 weeks to work on our original science unit, meeting the science standards and concluding with a student-selected scientific project. We will then have time available to extend the unit to meet Technology and Information Literacy (TAIL) and Global Citizenship standards and make the unit more authentic. As technology and global citizenship are both passions of mine, I’m hoping to create a unit that embeds technology meaningfully and authentically, makes our students more aware of global issues and best of all, enhances learning.

I will be discussing the potential of the unit in further detail next week with Chris Tananone, our Global Citizenship coordinator, and Teresa Belisle from the curriculum office, to further develop the links to the TAIL standards and Global Citizenship standards.

Science Unit- Water

Our current science unit focuses on water. The big ideas behind the unit can be expanded to include elements of social studies and technology while still focusing on the key ideas. Here are the main ideas behind the unit:

Transfer goals

**Water is the most important substance on Earth.

**Water dominates the surface of our planet, changes the face of the land, and defines life.

Essential Questions

**How does water change and why?

**Why is it important to learn about water?

**How do we, as scientists, learn about water?

Enduring Understandings

**Earth is a water planet with very little accessible to human consumption.

**Water supply is limited.

**Resources can be extended through recycling and decreased use.

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While I believe in IS Bangkok‘s Definition of Learning (DOL), it often seems that due to time crunches and the demands of the curriculum, many of the opportunities to embed the key elements of the DOL are lost. I’m passionate about providing authentic tasks, inquiry based learning and metacognition, therefore focusing on these areas is something I always try to make time for.

Definition of Learning (DOL)- International School Bangkok

**Apply our learning to new situations

**Inquire to extend our learning

**Create solutions

**Communicate our learning effectively

**Make connections across our learning

**Reflect critically on our learning

To extend the unit, my intention is to link the key ideas of our science unit on Water to our current social studies or global citizenship units on Influence and Is it Fair? As the influence unit focuses on how we can be a positive influence on others, I’d like the students to gain a greater awareness of how we personally use water and how we could conserve water in our everyday lives. The Is it Fair? unit focuses on social justice, and could be naturally extended to include inequitable access to water and connect to water facts such as how much fresh water is available on Earth. The TAIL standards could be embedded through an inquiry based research component, focusing on student-selected burning questions based on the idea of ‘Water is Precious.’ Students would be encouraged to use the cycle of inquiry and safe search engines to find information related to their question. This is a good chance to build on learning from earlier in the year and evaluate both research tools and products. Students could be encouraged to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved in the inquiry process and in their presentations.

Here are the Technology and Information Literacy standards which can be embedded in the unit of inquiry:

TAIL Standards

Effective Learners

Research self-selected burning questions related to ‘Water is Precious’

I aim to collaborate with our ES librarian, Nat Whitman, on the inquiry focus and research component. Identifies the inquiry focus and possible information sources. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine a research question. b. Identify information required to answer question. c. Brainstorm possible resources. Plans, conducts and manages structured searches for data and information. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Compare and contrast available search engines. b. Bookmark URL’s and manage bookmarks. Scans, evaluates, analyzes and organizes information from a variety of sources, (including text, visual, audio & video) attributing information source appropriately. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine if information answers research question. b. Evaluate information for credibility (believability) and accuracy (up-to-date). c. Organize information by title, author and publication date. Reflects on how and why the tools used have assisted the inquiry. LEARNING TARGET: a. Explain in what ways the tools used were helpful, not helpful.

Effective Communicators

Create a digital story demonstrating how water is precious. Students could show scientific ideas (facts), introduce global water issues and explain what we can do as global citizens. They would also be encouraged to show what action they would take to make a difference for others. The digital stories could be created using an appropriate tool such as PowerPoint, KeyNote, PhotoPeach, VoiceThread, Prezi or imovie.

YouTube Preview Image

I aim to collaborate with our ES Technology Coach, Sarah Fleming, on how best to create a digital story to encompass all the key ideas stated above. Clearly articulates main ideas to be communicated. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine main ideas. b. Select interesting details to support main ideas. c. Decide and justify order to communicate main ideas. Identifies clear purpose, specific audience, and the appropriate media for communication. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine purpose for communicating ideas. b. Select and justify intended audience. c. Select and justify tools. Presents ideas, understandings and information clearly, using effective design and layout. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine and justify layout to help the audience understand main ideas and why. b. Select and justify visuals to best represent main ideas. c. Select audio to help convey main ideas and explain why. Reflects, analyses and identifies ways to improve the effectiveness of digital communication. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Explain what worked well and why. b. Summarize what was learned. c. Determine what would be done differently next time and explain why.

Effective Collaborators

I aim to collaborate with our Grade 4 team, as well as other classes such as Emily Roth at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, to share ideas and explore global connections. I also hope to collaborate with Kenya Voluntary & Community Development Project (KVCDP) in Kenya to build further connections with Wagusu village in Western Kenya.

Students could connect with other grade 4 classes, and also try to connect with another class around the world, to explore how they use water and discover what issues they may face with water in their country of residence. They could also be encouraged to improve lives of others by conserving water and taking action to help the people of Wagusu village in Kenya who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. They could also research, with help from experts, how water distillation works to provide safe, clean drinking water from salt water or dirty water.

YouTube Preview Image Collaborates with others, locally and globally, to contribute to the learning of others, using a variety of media. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Determine what we can teach others. b. Plan who we will collaborate with and why. c. Determine the best way to teach others and explain why. Contributes ideas when collaborating with others, locally and globally, to improve the lives of others, using a variety of media. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Explain in what ways we could improve the lives of others. b. Determine who needs this kind of help and explain why. c. Determine the best way to help others in this area and explain why. Connects with others, locally and globally, to develop desired skills and/or understandings using a variety of media. LEARNING TARGETS: a. State what you are trying to learn. b. Determine where we can go to find experts and how to connect with them. c. Explain how to find out what you need to know.

Ethical Citizens Routinely identifies owner/creator of information/media by attributing sources correctly. LEARNING TARGETS: a. Identify who “owns” the media/information. b. Recognize if the media/information can be used and explain how we know. c. Attribute media/information to its owner.

Here are the Global Citizenship standards which can be embedded in the unit of inquiry:

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Global Citizenship Standards

Explore global access to clean, safe drinking water. Focus on global water issues and explain what we can do as global citizens to help others in the world with limited access to safe water. Create a digital story demonstrating how water is precious.

I aim to collaborate with Chris Tananone, our Global Citizenship coordinator, to further develop the ideas of social justice, interdependence and sustainability.

Social Justice Understand not all groups within society are treated fairly. Understand there are basic human rights, but not everyone has them. Belief that things can be better and that individuals can make a difference. Take appropriate action to address injustice and/or inequality in their community .

Globalization and Interdependence Empathy towards others locally and globally. Make choices that will affect people and the local environment in positive ways.

Sustainability Understand some of the earth’s resources are finite. Identify finite resources and ways to conserve them. Explain reasons for resource conservation. Sense of responsibility for the environment and the use of resources.

I’m excited about the potential of this unit and how it could motivate students and enhance learning. My only concerns are being able to convince others in my team to trial it as well, in order to maintain consistency at our grade level. Time is always an issue, as both the process and creation of products can take significantly longer than expected.

Personally, the extension of this unit does not require a great deal of shifting in my pedagogy. I am a firm believer in scaffolding learning, inquiry based learning, metacognition and the creation of authentic tasks. I am also trying to incorporate the ideas of autonomy, mastery, and purpose to foster motivation, as recommended by Dan Pink in Drive. It is, however, always challenging to incorporate all of these areas effectively at the same time. While metacognition is a passion of mine, our reflection on the inquiry process and products created will most likely be fairly basic at this point. It will be a stepping stone for our final units, where we can build a greater depth of reflection. The unit will also provide an opportunity to focus on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the higher levels of thinking and creation.

Creating a whole unit of inquiry which fosters inquiry, reflection, creativity and motivation can only lead to success and enhance learning!

Top 10 Lists- Course 1 Final Project

Project Background

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I’m excited to launch a new writing unit this week in my Grade 4 classroom. Top 10 lists, or list articles, are topical, relevant and ‘cool’ so I know my students are going to have a lot of fun reading, analyzing and creating top 10 lists. It also brims with opportunities for ‘real’ digital connections- reading top 10 lists from the Internet, creating lists with digital tools such as images, audio, video and text, and sharing the list articles with peers locally and globally. The unit has so much potential and I’m excited to see how it might hook students, particularly reluctant writers.

I was also inspired by Angela Maiers and her list of 12 Things Kids Want from their Teachers. I’m enjoying ‘dabbling’ with technology and finding fun lists and websites to share with my students. I’m anticipating a lot of fun, laughter and totally engaged students!


While I’ll be using a variety of mentor texts during this unit to demonstrate the features of list articles (Top 10 lists), I will also be sharing a number of websites with my students. I’m considering the best way to give students access to websites to explore list articles and research their own lists. As this is a writing unit, the focus should not be research, however I believe that students should have the opportunity to explore a number of websites to help add authenticity to the unit. I will discuss the best way to do this with our Technology Coach, Chrissy Hellyer, later this week. At present, I’m thinking that sharing the list of websites I’ve personally screened with the students on a Google doc. This will provide an opportunity for exploration and an element of choice, with a fair amount safety and security.

Due to the nature of the Internet, however, I feel I will have to brief students on the possibility of coming across inappropriate content or images, and what they should do should this happen. Of course, these kinds of discussions, and exploration such as this is necessary to prepare students for using digital media in the modern world. As Jeff Utecht states, “digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology” (Reach: Jeff Utecht). Exploring websites to better understand top 10 lists will help students become literate in the digital world.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post: Connect, Create, Collaborate, Utecht also believes that teachers need to understand and become prosumers. In order to prepare our students for today’s connected digital world, teachers need to be familiar with the tools students will need to survive. Throughout this course and in preparation for this unit, I have explored websites and continued to upskill in order to help students gain success in locating and organizing information and creating their own products. As we work through the project I hope to gain more insight into how to successfully navigate websites with students and facilitate learning. We will all be learners and prosumers together.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Wheel

Julie Lindsay‘s latest post on technology tools included a fabulous link to Blooms Digital Taxonomy Wheel and Knowledge Dimension. The wheel helps us to better understand Bloom’s digital taxonomy and understand how it can be applied in the classroom.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Wheel

Metacognition and Bloom's Taxonomy


Dabbling might be the first step of Mark Prensky’s process of Shaping Tech for the Classroom, but it is critical for teachers to explore and discover digital tools. As we gain confidence, we can implement these tools more successfully in the classroom, hopefully leaping more quickly into creating new things in new ways.

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I am constantly dabbling with technology in the classroom, and more recently I have felt more ‘techie’, exploring new tools in my own time. With an updated RSS Reader, I am now following my student blogs more easily. Though I’ve had two different RSS readers over the last two years, I have recently been motivated to explore new blogs and add new URLs to my Google Reader. I am now often quickly checking in on my student blogs and their blog posts. It has been easy to give feedback to students, validating posts and making them aware that I am reading and keeping up with blogs. An issue still arises time and time again, however. Making the time to comment and read blogs carefully is always hanging over my head, and it’s difficult to make the necessary time to comment on blog posts.

My colleagues constantly inspire me, as was the case when my class created ‘What Rings My Bell?’ slideshows using Photo Peach. I find Photo Peach an ultra-easy digital tool to use in the classroom to create products easily and demonstrate learning in a visual and inspiring way. Plus, it’s accessible to all students because it’s so user-friendly.

I am now continually thinking about Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and how it relates to learning in the classroom. I’ve realized that students in my class are constantly creating, evaluating, analyzing and collaborating, although I can always improve my teaching techniques, use different digital tools and empower students in different ways.

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Currently, I am working on improving our student blogs, making effective blog posts, reflecting on learning and creating social networks through commenting on others’ blogs. My students are becoming more skilled in selecting and inserting images, making attributions, embedding YouTube videos and Photo Peach slideshows, and inserting audio files. As always, there are some students who become the ‘experts’ in the class but, in my opinion, this is the only way to successfully use technology without the teacher going mad! Over the next few weeks, my students will focus on making clear descriptions and blog posts, explaining their learning and making effective comments, with the help of our tech coach, Chrissy Hellyer.

Recently, as part of an author study unit in reading, my students were asked to perform a collaborative task using VoiceThread. Each group was comfortable working together, having videoed several discussion groups together during the unit. They had refined their discussion skills using a rubric and set goals for improving their contributions. The students are now skilled at using i-movie and uploading to YouTube independently and are gaining skills in reflecting on their performance when viewing videos of their learning. Listening to their discussions, their learning was evident when they referred to author’s craft, made references to passages in books and made connections between books. My main issue, however, was watching all the discussion group videos. At an average of ten minutes long, with five discussion groups and several discussions each, I am still devising the most effective way to evaluate the discussions. Sitting in on discussions for a few minutes is possible, and usually the most manageable way to deal with so many videos, but technical hitches often get in the way.

As the culminating project for the author study, each group created a VoiceThread slideshow to recommend authors to others. This provided a perfect opportunity to create social networks and learning communities. Now my aim is to find others who will collaborate- hopefully friends teaching Grade 4 around world, but firstly our Grade 4 team and colleagues at International School of Bangkok who are participating in COETAIL. From previous experience, I need to find partners who are motivated to create learning communities and who are willing to put in the time.

This week has also been an inspiring week for technology in my classroom. In the elementary school at International School Bangkok, we’ve been celebrating International Week. I was blown away by the quality of my students’ country presentations, which displayed  a great deal of thought, effort and quality of design. Students used a wide variety of tools to create their projects- in particular posters, PhotoPeach, i-movie and PowerPoint. Time after time, I gasped at the creativity of students and their skill at inserting images, and embedding links and YouTube videos. Many times their skills surpassed mine, as they weaved images and words incredibly effectively on slides.

The activities this week were also a reminder that students can still create incredible learning with simple pen and paper. In fact, a student wrote on her blog, “In Pakistan we use Arabic numbers so i made a activity with Arabic numbers and Aleenish numbers. Aleenish numbers were created by me!” Such a basic reminder that with pen and paper it is still possible to create amazing products, but then we can step up the learning even further and blog about it!

Creating Masterpieces

Strategies and high level thinking are part and parcel of our daily teaching routines. I’m continually trying to push my students’ thinking, so Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Bloom’s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally: Andrew Churches) is a breath of fresh air.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy: Lorin Anderson 2001

If digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology (Reach: Jeff Utecht), then this highlights the theory that technology can in fact push students’ thinking and extend their thinking skills. In fact, linked with the learning pyramid (Darren Kuropatwa), this emphasizes that fact that creating products which teach others could be an effective way to interweave thinking skills with learning.

While I agree with the idea that creation is the most compelling means of challenging students to apply their understanding to new products, I also feel that creating doesn’t stand alone at the top of the pyramid. In fact, I believe that the top three tiers of the pyramid are closely  interlinked and should not take place in isolation. What good is creating a product if it is not then analyzed, evaluated and improved? Of course blogs give creators the opportunity for others to read their posts and comment upon them. But the creators themselves must also be given the chance to reflect on their products and evaluate their effectiveness. Peer feedback, whether through comments or other means, is also vital.

Learning pyramid twin triangles with Bloom's new taxonomy by Darren Kuropatwa

Making products for others to see, whether it be podcasts, videos, blog posts or slideshows, is a great way to not only focus on higher level thinking, but also to teach or inform others. As the learning pyramid shows, practicing by doing and teaching others helps students to retain information, therefore digital tools can provide a powerful way to increase understanding.

Bloom's digital taxonomy map: Lorin Anderson 2001, revised by Andrew Churches 2008


Constructivism is a key part of learning today, and the revised taxonomy emphasizes the role creation should have in our classrooms. Through the inquiry process, students are able to explore their own questions and construct their own learning with facilitation by the teacher. Now Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy shows the part connectivism can play in constructing understanding. Digital literacy has a key part to play in the future of education and it is now up to us, the teachers, to give our students access to digital tools and empower them to use them.