Collaboration is the Key

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Photo by Cheryl Terry

While reflecting on how I’m embedding technology in my classroom earlier in the COETAIL course, I realized that I needed to vamp up collaboration to fully transform learning. While we are striving for the transformation level , this continues to be a work in progress (So How Am I Doing?). My current goal is to form closer ties with both my grade level colleagues and other COETAIL teachers to foster collaboration, create authentic tasks and develop a wider audience for student work.

According to the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), to meet the transformation level collaboration should include these three areas:

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    Photo credits to Emily Roth

    Students regularly use technology tools for collaboration, to work with peers and experts irrespective of time zone or physical distances.

  • The teacher seeks partnerships outside of the setting to allow students to access experts and peers in other locations, and encourages students to extend the use of collaborative technology tools in higher order learning activities that may not have been possible without the use of technology tools.
  • Technology tools in this setting connect to text, voice, and video chat applications and network access has sufficient bandwidth to support the use of these technologies for all students simultaneously.

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Photo by Cheryl Terry

Over the past few months, and during our water inquiry unit (‘Water is Precious’ unit of inquiry), I have strived to build stronger connections with colleagues and global partners. Collaboration has been fostered in the following ways:

* Working on planning an inquiry unit, based on the principles of PYP, with Grade 4 teacher, Mike Jessee.

* Planning inquiry lessons in the ES Hub/library with ES Librarian, Nat Whitman.

* Planning technology lessons on copyright and choosing provocative images with Sarah Fleming, ES Technology Coach.

* Collaborating with Emily Roth’s Grade 4 class at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi via student blogs and comments. An attempt was also made to share Google docs, but firewalls and privacy issues prevented this.

* Skype- connecting with Emily Roth’s Grade 4 class at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi via Skype to learn more about geography, meet our buddies and ask questions related to water use and the cost of water around the world.

* Collaborating with Brad Thies at Seoul Foreign School via student blogs and comments.

* Using Twitter to connect- I have posted tweets for each of my professional blog posts in my Twitter account to continue to create a PLN. As Stacie Melhorn suggested in Twitter Tales, I prefer to use Twitter solely as a professional platform. I am also trialling the use of a class Twitter account. Currently our use of Twitter in class is sporadic. We’re not viewing tweets from other Grade 4/5 classes we’re connected with, but we have created a new ‘Twit’ monitor whose job it is to construct tweets.

* Sharing our learning in technology with parents and administrators via a class share of our Water Inquiry projects.

* Science Fair- Sharing our learning and our ‘Journey as a Scientist’ presentations with Grade 4 peers and parents.

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Photo by Cheryl Terry

So far, we’ve come a long way toward developing relationships and collaborating with others. There’s still a long way to go, and using our local community and strengthening partnerships with Grade 4 peers in our own school, IS Bangkok, is the first step toward real collaboration.

All in all, collaboration is the key to success, both between teachers and between students. Starting small seems to ensure success. Developing strong relationships within a class and between classes in a school is the first step towards success.

 

Transforming Our Learning

Water is Precious

An Integrated Inquiry Unit

Our water unit and the COETAIL course are coming to an end. It’s been a busy time, full of success, a little stress and a huge amount of learning. We’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few months focusing on a unit of inquiry which expanded our existing science-focused unit.

Here is an overview and reflection on our ‘Water is Precious’ unit of inquiry:

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In a nutshell, here are the successes, challenges and next steps:

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Photo by Cheryl Terry

Successes

  • *Giving a clear message
  • *Mashing together media
  • *Making strong statements
  • *Using contrast
  • *Applying technology tools and using tools previously learned
  • *Using provocative images
  • *Awareness of copyright laws
  • *Working collaboratively

Review

  • *Giving detailed credits (name of artist/photographer; URL)
  • *Giving credit for music used
  • *Reviewing rubrics
  • *Self-evaluation of technology projects
  • *Giving constructive feedback to partners

Challenges

  • *Providing adequate time for inquiry and metacognition
  • *More time required than a standard unit
  • *Providing adequate time for planning digital projects, as well as editing and peer-editing
  • *Giving time for reflection and sharing at end of unit

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Photo by Cheryl Terry

Next Steps

  • *Greater emphasis of student self-direction
  • *Teacher working in the role as facilitator wherever appropriate
  • *More student choice to foster motivation (Dan Pink, Drive)
  • *Developing stronger collaboration between grade level classes and within our community, as well as building global partnerships
  • *Greater integration of subject areas to facilitate units of inquiry

In conclusion, aiming to transform learning, as shown in the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), is my goal. We’re well on the way to forming a meaningful learning environment, which is active, constructive, reflective, authentic and collaborative.

For further details about the unit: ‘Water is Precious’ unit of inquiry

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:

 


Mirror, Mirror…

What is the future of education?

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Who knows what the future will hold? In my short(ish) lifetime so much has changed and yet it seems the world is speeding up. So what will it look like in 25 years? Or even 5 years? 10? That’s what we need to prepare our students for. I don’t know how it will look, but as states in Preparing for the Future, I do know that it will change, and drastically.

How can we prepare our students for the future?

Constructivism is a key focus in my class and in my school, yet now it seems that we must go one step further, towards connectivism. Our students need to be prepared for a continually changing world and have to be ready to deal with all the technology coming at them. With the rise of social networking and technology tools, students need to be armed with filters. They need to become problem solvers, evaluators, collaborators and communicators.

In Connectivism, George Siemens states that ‘Knowledge is growing exponentially’. To deal with this myriad of information, today’s students must not only effectively filter information, but they need to make connections between what they already know and the new information they gather. As Siemens so aptly puts it, ‘Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses’.

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Now our learners must be prepared for working in a variety of different fields as it’s not likely that they will enter a career that lasts a lifetime. In fact, many people now hold between 7 and 10 jobs in their lifetime. As Siemens states, ‘Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era,’ one that is likely to be more chaotic than stagnant. Our learners must be flexible, adaptable and able to synthesize and filter information.

We can prepare the students in our classes for an unpredictable future by arming them with a number of strategies, such as synthesizing and making connections. Those of us who are older, and no longer in elementary, middle or high school can be exposed through a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC)  like COETAIL. A MOOC can help us connect and collaborate in the digital world, participate and network with others, and create authentic networks.

But motivating students and hooking them is still our number one goal as teachers. In order to gain the skills to survive and thrive in the modern world, students have to be engaged and ready to learn. Dan Pink, in Drive, has highlighted three key elements of true motivation—autonomy (self-direction), mastery, and purpose. Pink states, ‘The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world’.

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The elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose would encourage creativity, flexibility and challenge in students. But how could this look in the classroom? Karen Robb, in Is this the future of education?,  throws out an interesting idea: ‘Imagine if we allowed children in our class 20% of their school day to work on anything they wish as long as it was educational’.

Will administrators and the average teacher buy into this?

Would teachers be willing to take the risk and shift their thinking to the role of facilitator?

Would teachers feel comfortable shifting the power from the teacher to the student?

Does this resonate with me? Hell yes! I’m committed to developing self-directed learners in my classroom and am a true believer in giving students choice. Encouraging creativity and finding ways to motivate students to challenge themselves and achieve their potential is my ultimate goal. Now is the time to have the big discussion with the powers that be in my school who are currently working on developing International School Bangkok‘s ‘Guiding Principles 2020′. In a nutshell, connectivism, autonomy, mastery and purpose should be a key part of our ‘Guiding Principles 2020‘.

NETS- Whose Job Is It?

Whose job is it?

Whose responsibility is it to teach the NETs standards to students?

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My idea of how to teach technology and how it should be integrated into the classroom have evolved over the nine years I’ve worked in international schools. At first, like in many schools, I relied on the expertize of technology experts who taught technology, not quite in isolation, but within the confines of a computer lab. Those days are long gone, and after dabbling with 1:1 tablets and laptop carts, I’m beginning to get a feel for how the true model of embedding standards and integrating technology should look. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m well on the way to teaching technology standards, not just tools. In an ever-changing world, we have to prepare our students for what’s yet to come in the 21st century. That means they have to learn the process, not simply a bunch of tools.

I’m still a learner, so though I can navigate my way around a number of tools and am able to embed technology into my programs, I rely on a number of resources. Embedding technology and targeting information literacy standards takes collaboration, so I am a true believer in teaming up with everyone who can lend a hand, including students. As Rock Hudson states in The NET Standards for Students, teachers, administrators, parents and students need to work together and take responsibility for teaching the NETs standards. For that reason, I make use of all the skill sets I have access to: Sarah Fleming, our ES Technology coach and Nat Whitman, our ES librarian, among them.

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Visual literacy is all around us and is taking on an important role in the world today. For our learners to be successful, we have to arm them with the skills they need to survive in the digital world. As the American Association of School Librarian’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner (AASL) states, ‘To become independent learners, students must gain not only the skills but also the disposition to use those skills, along with an understanding of their own responsibilities and self-assessment strategies’. The NET Standards for Students builds on this, ‘Simply being able to use technology is no longer enough. Today’s students need to be able to use technology to analyze, learn, and explore’. In today’s classrooms, our role as teachers is to help students develop the traits of self-directed learners, as well as gain skills in high-level thinking and metacognition. Therefore, the NETS-S and AASL standards are merely asking us to continue developing the skills we focus on everyday in our classrooms, just embedding them in the digital world.

At International School Bangkok, our Technology and Information Literacy (TAIL) standards have been adapted from NETS-S and AASL to produce grade level standards (Grade 4 TAIL standards). While, ultimately, it’s our role as teachers to focus on the TAIL standards, there are a number of factors which would help the implementation of the standards. The most important is familiarization with the documents, as well as time to understand and plan as a team. I believe that schools and administrators have the responsibility to provide time to analyze and synthesize the standards in order to enable us to create units with authentic tasks which embed technology. Pulling in the resources available in the school, including coaches, librarians and technology resources, and familiarizing ourselves with what’s at our fingertips, will also help us aim for producing our ideal student:

  • An effective learner
  • An effective communicator
  • An effective creator
  • An effective collaborator
  • An ethical citizen

Preparing our students for the future is a team effort!

AUP- Course 2 Final Project

While the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP G4/5) at ISB still requires some refining, we have come to realize that our teaching of what the AUP actually means is more important to our students right now. As the students in Grades 3, 4 and 5 are using their own student blogs more often in the classroom and at home, and have access to student emails and Google docs, it has become clear that we need to revise the AUPs with the students and explicitly show them what safety, responsibility, respect and honesty online look like.

What Does Our Acceptable Use Policy Say? by cherylt on GoAnimate

Video Maker – Powered by GoAnimate.

Along with Jaclynn Mac, and with the assistance of Chrissy Hellyer, our Technology Learning Coach, and Tara Ethridge, our ES Librarian, we considered the needs of elementary school students at a variety of levels. While Grade 5 teachers and fellow coetailers, Stacie Melhorn and Sarah Fleming focused on simplifying the AUP, Chrissy and Tara used GoAnimate to address issues of acceptable use in Grades 2 and 3. Jaclynn and I chose to revise our AUPs with our grade levels, Kindergarten and Grade 4.

Currently in the upper elementary school, a number of breaches are occurring. Some of these include:

  • Students “posing” as other students (not accessing another’s account – but writing another’s name & using another’s blog URL & email address to “pose” as that student) (breech of 1.2)
  • Logging in as someone else (gained access to someone’s password & login) (breech of 1.2)
  • Use of copyright images all over the place (breech of 3.1)
  • Sending emails without a purpose (ie: hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and nothing else) (breech of 4.8)
  • Using instant messaging,chat without teacher permission or misuse of chat and or instant message (breech of 4.7)
  • Deleting others work (files off the laptop or work off a gdoc) (breech of 1.1)
  • Changing the settings of laptops without teacher permission (breech of 2.2, 2.3 – although we have locked down the laptops more since these types of breeches)

In order to address these breaches and continue to develop collaborative partnerships within the elementary school, Jaclynn Mac and I decided that a Kindergarten-Grade 4 project would provide a great opportunity for Grade 4 students to help Kindergartners develop their knowledge of the Acceptable Use Policy while building on their own understanding of respect, responsibility, safety and honesty (see Course 2 Final Project for the Kindergarten process). Upon further discussion with Chrissy Hellyer and Tara Ethridge, GoAnimate appeared to be the perfect tool to make the project both fun and meaningful for the students.

A Kindergarten-Grade 4 collaborative project is, of course, one that requires thought, planning and careful organization. The project also had to be divided into several parts to address the AUP at both levels of the elementary school, ensure the students could evaluate and process the AUP and provide opportunities for collaboration.

Our first step was to review the AUP with each of our classes. While Jaclynn identified key parts of the Kindergarten AUP and provided her students the opportunity to create skits focusing on the main forms of technology used in KG, Tara Ethridge helped my class revise our AUP using a simplified Grade 2/3 version. I then created a GoAnimate video to sow the seed: What Does Our Acceptable Use Policy Say?

So, what’s next? In class, we will review the Grade 4 AUP. To give the students an opportunity to analyze, evaluate and understand the AUP, they will work in pairs to highlight the key ideas. They will then construct a Top 10 list of the ten most important ideas with their partner. Creating a storyboard for a GoAnimate video of one of the key ideas will complete the process.

This is an example of how their animated videos may look:

A Nasty Blog Message by cherylt on GoAnimate

Make Movie – Powered by GoAnimate.

After reflecting on the successes and challenges of the project, the Grade 4 students will consider how they can teach the process of creating a GoAnimate video with Kindergartners. This will not only help scaffold the process for the Kindergarten class, but it will make the AUP and creation of animated stories accessible to their age group. The students in 4 Terry will preview their buddies’ videoed skits and assist them in creating a storyboard for their animated movie. They’ll begin by transcribing the script of the skit, teasing out the action and content as appropriate.

In the final step, the collaborative groups will create their animated videos using GoAnimate. A final viewing will help to reinforce the main ideas of the AUP and showcase their creations. We hope that the extended process will allow students to use many of the steps of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and construct a sound understanding of our school’s Acceptable Use Policy.


Privacy Online- An Unrealistic Dream?

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

Watching What FACEBOOK and GOOGLE are Hiding from world opened my eyes to the manipulation of searches and information online. Who would’ve known that search results on Google are different from person to person, based on a few clicks of the computer? Not only is information often personalized, down to the news available to us on well-known news sites, but we are not in control of what we get to see and don’t get to see. As Eli Parisher states, people need to see things that are challenging and uncomfortable to expose them to different points of view. Controlling what we view, based on algorithms that classify us into boxes, takes away our rights to choose what we see and discern for ourselves what is happening in the world around us.

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Parisher talks of filter bubbles, or tailored searches, which control what users should view. So we don’t decide what gets in or, more importantly, what gets left out. In a world where the news media is so tightly controlled by a small number of people in power, it’s even more disconcerting that our online activity and searches are also manipulated. Is this the age of information junkfood where we find no balance in what we view online?

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Users not only need to develop a sense civil responsibility, but also an awareness of privacy settings and manipulation of the Internet. A few years ago I discovered the need to make my Facebook page and other social networking sites private. Now only my friends have access to my personal details and private photos. I am even more careful about who I grant ‘friend’ privileges too. Of course, it is possible to sort friends into categories and give them varying degrees of access to your personal information as well. I also became aware that adding apps to my Facebook page often gave others access to my private information, therefore I changed my privacy settings through the use of https://.

As students are building their digital profiles, they also need to be aware that what they post is available to the world and can be viewed by others around the globe. In today’s world,          Privacy= Responsible use of images and personal details online.

We are therefore responsible for educating students on how to use online tools responsibly, to protect both themselves and others. Effectively informing students so they are able to create a Positive Digital Footprint and keep themselves and others safe should be our goal, hard as it may be.

For our school, International School Bangkok, that means utilizing the skills of Technology Coaches and others who are well-informed on technology issues. Chrissy Hellyer, our Elementary School Technology Coach, speaks often of YAPPY when discussing online safety. Our school year begins with a focus on online safety, with the help of Professor Garfield or Jennifer and Shannon.

There are many other tools available online for teaching online safety and creating positive digital footprints, including Digital footprints, Being Smart OnlineCybersmart and Cybersmart teaching resources.

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Privacy issues continue to become more complicated, however, as we introduce more advanced tools. Use of Google docs introduces both email and chat functions to students. This opens up another bag of worms. How much limitation should be placed on email and chat forums? Students need to learn how to use these tools responsibly and effectively as they will be exposed to them throughout their lives. We all know that, even as adults, we are tempted by chat forums, Skype, Facebook and email. Our attention can be easily diverted through these features available to us. They also open up many more issues about online safety and who you should chat with or email.

Currently, the biggest tool used by students around the world is Facebook. While it offers many opportunities for students to connect, build social networks and create a positive digital footprint through joining groups that matter to them, students need to be aware that their personal information may be shared as a result of their online activity. Although Facebook has a minimum age of 13, many students in Grades 4 and 5 have Facebook accounts. I don’t believe that parents often understand the implications of online tools and are aware of the issues involved in online privacy. While we don’t want to be scaremongerers, Grade 4 and 5 students often lack the maturity necessary to evaluate images and consider the consequences of their posts.

Online privacy and safety are both the biggest concerns today and the hardest to address. How do we inform students without scaring them? I believe that making students aware of how information is used and who can access their personal information is a good place to start. Teachers don’t always need all the answers, but we do need to question and instil curiosity in our students. So, keep asking questions and discussing the big issues in your classroom. As a class, try to create rules and guidelines to help keep each other safe. Model the way you use online tools and how you keep yourself safe, and talk about questions you’re thinking about and new information you’ve discovered.

Our job is to empower students and get them ready for the future. The future is ever-changing and so is technology, so prepare students to delve into issues, question and most importantly, be aware. With more and more control over information, awareness is the key to digger deeper, discovering what is really happening and keeping ourselves both safe and informed.

 

 

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!

Considerations

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.

Dabbling

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!

Embracing Collaborative Projects

Collaboration, on a global scale, is a key component of 21st Century Learning. So how can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our schools and classrooms? There are numerous wikis and collaborative projects out there, but which are truly educational and worthwhile?

Over the last two years, I’ve been involved in a few collaborative projects. Some have been grand pie-in-the-sky dreams that never amounted to the projects I had imagined, like Classroom Bridges.

Creating Classroom Bridges

As I mentioned in the blog post: Connect, Create, Collaborate, this project was a dismal flop. It snowballed into a collaboration of 7 classes over 6 continents, but I struggled to get other teachers to commit the time and energy to guarantee the success of the project. From being truly excited about the possibilities of networking across all six of the habitable continents, the wind was knocked out of my sails and all year I battled with trying to get others to share and collaborate. Again and again, I keep finding examples of Jeff Utecht‘s phrase (Reach (2010)) that teachers often become overwhelmed and find it hard to remain active. Or even get a project off the ground in some cases!

Currently, my class is involved in two projects, the Postcard Project and a sharing of our Top 10 books with classes in Taipei, Brussels and Tunisia. Again, I am wondering about the value or effort involved in these projects. While they appear fun, exciting or valuable on the surface, I am constantly asking myself if sending postcards between classes across the world is really valuable. We often receive postcards from younger classes containing basic information, and writing on a postcard seems so limited. While we reply to the cards, it is often a struggle to complete our replies in a timely matter. I’ve decided to view the project as a fun activity which we’ll continue as a very basic example of social networking.

I am now endeavoring to share our class’s Top 10 books with other classes around the world. Again, I have encountered problems with commitment, and though one class has shared information with us, making time to follow-up on the activity is also a stumbling block. I’m hoping that our Top 10 books can be integrated into our upcoming ‘List articles’ writing unit.  This unit lends itself to sharing top 10 lists with other classes via our blogs. While sharing with other Grade 4 and 5 classes in our school (International School of Bangkok) is guaranteed, sharing with other classes around the world, such as Taipei, Brussels and Tunisia would be much more rewarding for both myself and my students.

PictureFrom exploring wikis which feature collaborative projects, I was inspired by the Flat Classroom Project. One project, ‘A Week in the Life’, caught my eye on the wiki, in particular because it is so similar to my aims for the Classroom Bridges project. It also connects remarkably well to a Social Studies unit in Grade 4 focusing on influence. While I still hope to be able to relaunch the Classroom Bridges project, after consultation with our Technology Coach and refinements to make the project more feasible, ‘A Week in the Life’ would be a perfect collaborative project for our Grade 4 team.

Through my Google Reader, I was also made aware of a collaborative project on the Langwitches blog. Currently, a Grade 5 colleague and COETAIL online member, Stacie Melhorn, is involved in an action research project on “Quality Writing through Blogging”. This ‘quadblogging’ project seems exciting yet achievable, connecting just four classrooms and making the tasks manageable.


It appears that, for my own collaborative projects to be successful, I need to scale them down and make them more manageable. I am reluctant to make teachers sign up and jump through numerous hoops to participate in a project, but there does need to be some form of accountability. I’m still grappling with how that should look, but I’m hoping that with the assistance of our knowledgeable coach, Chrissy Hellyer aka Teaching Sagittarian, I will finally experience greater success in connecting global classrooms.