COETAIL Course Five

The Final Presentation

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It took many more hours than anticipated, but the final COETAIL project is finally complete. Of course, the fruits of that labor won’t be seen until next school year. And even then, I know that the work that I have done will be modified and added to to fit the needs of our students and teachers. In the end, I think I have created a digital citizenship curriculum that is clear and focused and also engaging. There are parts that I am anxious to see if they work – some of that anxiousness stems from the fact that I will need the advisory teachers to buy in to this process as much as the kids. I do think the conversations we have had on team 8 about digital citizenship point to a common belief in its importance.

Below you can find the unit plans. These address the standards and outline what each lesson will teach. The actually lesson outlines and presentations are, I think, more helpful and easier to follow. Those are linked in my previous post as well as on the AES Digital Citizenship Site.

Balance – Digital Media Use

Protect – Digital Footprints

Learn – Creative Commons

Respect – Cyberbullying

Part of COETAIL was about building your PLN. Although I can’t touch the type of networking that @teachwatts has created, I do think I am growing my PLN. Most of the people I would consider part of my PLN are people I know, beyond my phone/iPad/laptop. I don’t think this diminishes their importance in my professional learning though. Most of the way we communicate is through digital means, be it Facebook, Twitter or email. Then there are others that are part of my PLN and have no idea. These are the ones I follow on twitter and occasionally tweet too. They are the bloggers who inspire me in the classroom and may get the occasional comment from me. So although my contribution is slight (present but limited), I am happy with the way technology has supported my learning through my peers.

So my COETAIL journey is complete. I sit here a much different teacher than I was entering the first course in the fall of 2011. I had barely heard of creative commons when I walked through those doors, and the little I had heard of it came from my buddy @timpettine who was taking COETAIL in Bangkok. Now I am one of the bigger proponents of CC in the middle school. I have been introduced to great thinkers and their ideas on the future of education. I have studied so many different integration models that they are beginning to run together, but in a good way, in that I am beginning to internalize the commonalities of TPACK, SAMR and Grapplings. It has been a fantastic learning experience and I am a better teacher for it.



COETAIL Course Five

Last of the Lessons - Being on vacation with my family has brought me so much closer to my iPad.

At the beginning of the semester, a team of COETAILers started on a mission to overhaul the way we teach digital citizenship at AES. This year, we have been constantly reminded of how important this is. We have had students impersonating a principal through a website that allows a person to send emails with any “sent:” line they choose; a mean spirited Facebook page created without a students knowledge to mock another student; a Facebook confessions page that was mostly harmless but also included hurtful and inappropriate comments; numerous parents approaching the school concerned about the amount of time spent on a divice; and this is not an exhaustive list.


We started the year out strong with a digital citizenship camp. This was widely viewed as a success and set both teachers and students up well. But it mostly stopped there. In 8th grade, the advisory year is FULL. That is one of the main challenges I had to consider when designing the DC curriculum. End the end, I decided to design the lessons around the four domains of digital citizenship created by Dana Watts (@teachwatts). Because of the fight for time in our advisory schedule, I limited the number of lessons. There are currently four “units” and a total of eleven lessons. I used resources from around the web to help guide my creation of these lessons.


Creating meaningful lessons around digital citizenship was much more difficult than I originally anticipated. This is likely do to my ongoing battle with being a perfectionist. I found the many of the lessons from commonsense media (and other sites) to be a somewhat ‘young’. This approach will work for plenty of kids, but 8th graders are full on ‘too cool for school’ middle schoolers. I found it hard to believe that some of my students would have bought in to some of the role-playing activities designed. Of course, this is just my opinion and I used the great resources on the site to guide my work.


On the lines of trying to reach each kid, I really strove for transformative instruction. I think that some of the lessons are in that realm, while others fall into substitution and augmentation. There are even a few parts that I purposely excluded tech. In the cyberbullying unit, we will ask kids to brainstorm on large chart paper. This could have been done electronically, but it probably would have been more headache without any kind of real gain. If we wanted, it would be easy to share other advisories thinking by taking a picture of the charts and sharing online (not part of the current plan).


I know that the lessons as they currently are will have to be adjusted some. I would like to add a follow up lesson on creative commons (Learn) and bullying (Respect). The final timeframe for the lessons still has to be finalized, but I anticipate the following:


The logic behind the proposed schedule is that students will have a big introduction to all of these ideas in the DC camp that will happen in the second week of school. Respect is the issue that I think needs the most addressing early on. I want to equip students will strategies for overcoming bulling. Likewise, our kids will begin creating products from the start of the year. It is important that both the teachers and students are on the same page regarding creative commons. The Balance sessions in the DC camp will specifically target how to manage time with the device and strategies for managing use. The most beneficial time to remind students of these and check in on how they have done is the midway point of the year. It allows us to ask how they are doing and use some fix up strategies for those that are struggling. Finally, as students move on from the middle school, we will remind them of how important it is to manage their online footprint.


While not perfect, I do think that these units fill glaring gap in our 8th grade advisory curriculum. I am proud of the lessons and excited to see their implementation next year.


Where Do You Post?

CC by Pimlico Badger on Flickr

The first lesson was finally delivered last week. Overall, it was successful. The goals of this lesson were:

  1. Introduce/remind kids of the digital footprint

  2. To see where kids are posting

  3. To make students aware of what can be seen by others (privacy settings)

The kids had a pretty solid understanding of the digital footprint coming into the lesson. This is a credit to the work that has already been done this year, starting with the digital citizenship camp way back in August. Other teachers reported similar stories in their classes.

The second objective of the lesson was to see the types of footprints our students are leaving. the survey had 99 submissions, data that advisories had access to immediately. Students were surprised by the percentage of students on Facebook. In fact, over 90 percent of the responders use Facebook and more than 70 percent are on Instagram. This was the most surprising data to the teachers.

Results of the survey

The final part of the exercise was to have students view their Facebook profiles using Facebooks “View As” feature that allows anyone to see what a non-friend (or friend) can see. In my own class, about a third said they were surprised by an outsider could view. This part of the lesson was unfortunately rushed and really needed more time.

Actually, one of the loudest pieces of feedback from the team was more time, and not just a few more minutes for this particular lesson. We all agreed that the ‘one off’ lesson is not ideal. The good news is that one off lessons are not the goal of this project. In fact, that is the opposite of the goal to develop an ongoing digital citizenship piece to our advisory program.

COETAIL Course Five

Digital Footprint and Social Media

When considering how our students are building their digital footprints, the most obvious place to look is at social media. Sure, at AES we require our kids to have blogs devoted to academic persuits. These serve more like e-portfolios, though there is certainly room for them to grow into something a little more authentic, or ideally, a blend of both. But these school blogs are really controlled by the teachers in many ways. Most of our students do not post unless there is an assignment to do so. Meanwhile, kids all over the world are posting freely on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.

The goals of this first advisory lesson are:

  1. Introduce/remind kids of the digital footprint
  2. To see where kids are posting
  3. To make students aware of what can be seen by others (privacy settings)

Our advisory times are 20 minutes, so these are quick shots. My tendency is to try and cram too much into a session and I have some concern that this might be the case here. The lesson starts with a short video from Common Sense Media introducing the concept of the digital footprint. A guided discussion and a survey follow the video. The power of the survey is the live results that will be school wide even though each advisory will only be 10 students. I do that that begins to touch on the transformative use as it allows for discussion of valuable data across the entire 8th grade while still maintaining the integrity  and small group closeness of the advisories that have been nurtured all year.

After discussing the results, the last part of the lesson shows students how to view their Facebook profile from the eyes of a stranger. In other words, it shows what the public can see of their profile. I really wanted to create lessons that were engaging and real – what matters to these students. I think the interactive nature of this lesson accomplishes that. And even though I am a little worried about the time, I don’t think the amount of new information is too much. The presentation with a link to the survey, guide, and discussion question is below.

When I presented this to the 8th grade team, they were all very receptive. They were especially excited about the real time results of the google form that immediately graphs the results, making the data easier to analyze. As will all tech, I am sure there will be some hiccups. I plan to meet with members of the team to garner feedback after the lesson. This lesson also lays groundwork for moving into discussion about how to treat other with respect online. Those are the next lessons I am developing and hoping to run in the coming weeks.

It is a start and I am eager to see the results of this first attempt.

COETAIL Course Five

“Digital Footprints Last Forever”

I needed inspiration to write a blog post and found it in a short video by Amplifyeducation. In the clip, Mike Lorian of Common Sense Media says, “digital footprints last forever.” Just this week at school, there has been a big Facebook fiasco involving well over a hundred students. Parents and students alike seem to think that digital citizenship is something they don’t need education on, yet the examples at AES and around the world consistently show that belief is flawed.

I posted this picture of footprints in the sand because I think it was used by at least 12 percent* of COETAILers when blogging about digital footprints. The video and the events at school have reminded me of the importance of the work being done around digital citizenship. (*unscientific survey)

CC BY 2.0 by Suzi Rosenberg on Flickr

Weeks have gone by and the progress on designing the 8th grade digital citizenship advisory lessons has been slow. That does not mean complete lack of progress though. First, the COETAIL middle school team met to hash out what the student learning needed to be around the topic of digital citizenship. We talked about what is most appropriate and necessary for each grade level. From this meeting, we also discussed a proposal about conducting a digital citizenship camp over two half days during the first weeks of school next year.

Dana built a google site to house all the planning around digital citizenship. Each of the members of the DC team (digital citizenship) will populate this site with the resources and plan for each grade level and the two day camp. All three of the grade level planners and the camp planners have presented proposals to the necessary stake holders with positive responses. I was pleased with the response from the grade 8 team regarding the specific advisory lessons that will be implemented throughout next year. They expressed a need for continued learning throughout the year.

The next step to is to really begin developing the plans. The units and curriculum have been selected and now it is about lesson development. This edutopia article on the use of PBL to create meaningful digital citizenship lessons is a good reminder to create lessons that are engaging and transformative. Looking forward to teaching our students to make sure the footprints they create are on the right path.

Course Five

The Wheels Are Turning

COETAIL 5 is finally here and I still have not figured out which letters in cOeTAiL are supposed to be capitalized. No time for that now, there is work to be done. The objective of the course is to use technology in a transformative way in the classroom. This is exciting because the entire faculty, not just the COETAILers, at AES is discussing what this means. We even have Alan November visiting to help us explore this idea. Many of my colleagues are reading November’s book, Who Owns the Learning, and I will even have the opportunity to lead some of the discussions around it. Exciting times at AES.

As you can see, AES is all about technology. The entire school will be one-to-one next year for the first time, while the middle school took that leap this year. When we place all this tech into the hands of our students, we have a responsibility to educate them on how to use it. That is where my project comes in. I am working with a group of other COETAILers to (re)develop the digital citizenship piece of our middle school curriculum.

When I was first approached with this idea, I was somewhat nervous for several reasons. First, how do I demonstrate transformative learning through technology when I am teaching the technology itself? Second, it will be difficult to measure the success of the lessons since this will mostly be incorporated next year. Finally, most of these lessons will take place in short 20 minute advisory classes instead of longer blocks.

Despite these reservations, I am fully on board now. I believe that I will be able to develop lessons that will be transformative; in fact, I am extremely excited about developing some of these lessons that will be much more about the students than the teachers talking to students – something that seems to happen much more often in the typical advisory lesson. I also hope to trial some of plans this year to get some feedback.

The next step in this process is to meet as a team to make sure we have a vertical integration plan in place. We will be using Common Sense Media as a main resource to guide us. Although I will be the primary designer, I will have to work with the 8th grade team to ensure buy in and common understanding. It is a big task, but I am excited to get started on a project that will benefit the entire Middle School. The wheels in my head are moving, ideas are flowing, I am ready to go.

On the bike and ready to go!

COETAIL Course Four - EDC 603

Vertical Technology Integration

The final project for the 4th COETAIL class called for students to create a unit that “demonstrates your use of applying an education theory that integrates technology.” After meeting with Dana though, Jason and I were able to work on a modified project together.

As technology increasingly becomes integrated into what we do as teachers and less a ‘technology class’, the need for vertical articulation becomes more important. So that is what we did. This project was surprisingly more difficult than originally thought, hence the reason is is more than a month late. We really wanted to make sure that we were not just including a list of apps (i.e. students will make powerpoints) but really thinking about 21st century learning skills. We took previously existing documents to help guide our work, but in the end, we decided to look at the vertical integration through the lens of P21, the Partnership for 21st century learning.

We do not believe this document to be complete, but it is a starting place for our school (middle school) to begin to look more closely at how we teach 21st century learning skills.

If you do take the time to look at our work, we would appreciate any feedback you have. Additionally, the same Creative Commons agreement on my website applies here. Please take what works and improve where needed, but share back so we can benefit as well.



The Future – Looking into my Crystal iPad

CC BY-SA 2.0 by nist6ss on Flickr

When thinking about the future of education and how it will be shaped by technology, a great place to start is with The Horizon Report. This annual report provides valuable and trusted information for teachers about technology and education and provides three time frames until a technology is adopted: zero to one year, two to three years, and four to five years out.

At AES, we are currently living the first of those technologies suggested by the report: mobile apps and tablet computing. My students use their iPad every single day in my class. They are using a variety of mobile apps to help organize, research, collaborate and share.

The two to three year out technologies are learning analytics and games based learning. Perhaps it is telling that my immediate reaction is to scoff at this suggestion. As much as I am intrigued by games based learning, it is hard to imagine a GBL revolution in education. Not only that, but I question the overall value of this pedagogy. The main purpose of GBL is motivation, but is this really how we want to motivate our students?

I recently read Drive by Daniel Pink, a book on motivation. The main idea is that carrot and stick motivation is outdated. Intrinsic motivation is developed through autonomy, mastery and purpose. While games are fun and learning can certainly take place through them, the purpose of that learning is hardly intrinsic. That does not mean I don’t see value in educational gaming, just that I doubt that it will have a significant impact on my one (and most teachers) practice.

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The four to five years out technologies are gesture based computing and what the Horizon Report calls the internet of things. The idea behind the internet of things is that all of our devices will be internet enabled, so that they can talk to each other. Already I am seeing some of the benefits of this in my classroom. We have Apple TV’s connected to the projectors in our classroom that allow students to project work for the whole class to view at any time.

Since we are one-to-one with iPads in our middle school, gesture based computing is already impacting learning and instruction. We do plenty of great things with the iPads that utilize the gesture based part of the device, but much of what we do is the same as we would do on a laptop. In fact, parts of my days (the tech integrator part of that day) are spent trying to help teachers find workarounds for doing the same thing they’ve been doing on an iPad.

So how will my teaching change in the next decade? I am in my eighth year of teaching. When I first started, I barely had a website. This was due to two main reasons. First, I was trying to pay down college accrued debt and didn’t even allow myself the luxury of internet in my apartment. Second, half or more of my kids didn’t have consistent access to a computer at home. I lost motivation to maintain a website that half my kids couldn’t access and the other half that didn’t care to.

I have come a long way in those eight years. Actually, even at my low tech integration level, I was one of the more tech advanced in my school. But the world has changed in eight years. More people than ever have internet access. The power and availability of smart phones have changed the game. I hope it has also leveled the playing field.

Of course, as I write that, I realize that is not even a worry of mine. The field that I play on is in a completely different league. All my students have iPads. Occasionally there are internet issues, but those are due only to the quirks of India (like massive power outages!).

I see the biggest change in my own practice coming in the ability to differentiate instruction. The social studies part of my teaching assignment includes 90% less lecture now than eight years ago. Instead of lecture, I help guide students to develop ideas around big questions and use their own evidence to support those ideas. Technology helps because it allows students to find support for their ideas, but it not always the same support; students can work at their own level.

Of course I still provide scaffolding for students and there are many things that we look at together as a whole class. But my instruction now includes many new areas. For instance, teaching research has changed dramatically in recent years. CTRL+C and CTRL+V have complicated matters. There are new tools that make organizing and categorizing research easier. But with that new tool, it becomes easier to cut and paste without much thought.

The next ten to fifteen years of education will be a time of shifting curriculum. Students have access to the same materials and information the teacher does. The role of the teacher is shifting to being more of a guide from an all knowing expert. At the same time, the access to information helps the teacher become more of an expert than ever before. It is an exciting time in education and the quicker teachers embrace the change, the quicker meaningful instructional change will follow.

COETAIL Course Four - EDC 603

Time for a Change

photo by dynet on Flickr

Technology comes easy to me; it just makes sense. That is a good thing considering I am a part time tech-integrator in my middle school. I stay up with the latest apps and technology and I am keen to try it all out in my classroom. This is the point where you think, “Man, this is one cocky blogger.” While that might be true, I sometimes feel I am behind at times when it comes to tech integration.

Dean Groom published a blog post (way back in 2009) titled 23 Things About Classroom Laptops. Number 11 on that list is “Don’t be boring!” Sound advice, to be sure. But is it something I can truly claim? The idea behind number 11 is that many teachers are doing old things in new ways. We are still using texts books and worksheets, only now this stuff is done on a laptop, or iPad in my case.  This is certainly not a new line of thinking, but using computers everyday is not tech integration. It needs to be new things in new ways.

Now, it is not all bad. There is some effective integration happening in my class. I love the online collaborative tools out there, specifically google drive but others too. Collaborative note taking can be incredibly powerful for breaking down complex texts and broad topics. I use the iPad to teach annotation skills.

It is not just the skills that I am teaching in class, it is the big ideas around technology where I truly feel I am preparing my students. They are starting a documentary film project this week. Throughout this project, there will be lessons on creative commons, fair use and copyright, critical literacy, and visual literacy. They will not become experts on any of this stuff yet, but the conversations that are started in the next few weeks will continue throughout the year.

So while good things are happening, I am not where I want to be yet. Social bookmarking is a powerful tool that has huge potential for collaborative learning. The research portion of this upcoming documentary project could be greatly aided by its use. Teaching research skills this way makes a lot of sense.

Establishing a better LMS, learning management system, is an interesting idea. Both the 1 to 1 School and The Playable Classroom websites have articles that point the importance of the online learning space. Right now, I use a combination of Dropbox, Google Drive, my class WordPress blog, some Diigo, and even email. This is messy, though it works most of the time. What I am doing generally works for me because it is stable enough, but still allows me to adapt when I learn something new.

The nature of teaching is that we are constantly changing the way we do things. We tweak and hone until we get things right, and then we change again. I blogged last week about some of the pedagogical changes I am exploring. Technology plays a role in how that change will play out. The TPACK model helps to keep technology as an integral part of teaching, instead of an afterthought. Already, I am beginning to think about lesson design with this three pronged approach in mind: content, pedagogy and technology. The work is worth it.

COETAIL Course Four - EDC 603

Construction Ahead

Photo by Isaac Currey

I was fortunate to spend all last week in a readers workshop professional development training. We are moving more to a workshop model in reading a writing. The big question of the week was how to we continue to deliver our fantastic social studies curriculum with so much time devoted to workshop.

There is no simple answer to that question. Part of the answer will be releasing some of that awesome curriculum. The rest of the answer is going to come with a combination of technology and a shift in pedagogy. The shift that needs to occur will rely on some of the ideas of constructivism.

Constructivism challenges the traditional teacher delivered content method of instruction. Students must make meaning actively rather than receiving it passively from the teacher (Sjøberg). The increasing role of technology in education and in the everyday lives of individuals fits well with the constructivist model of teaching.

A real world example of constructivism and technology working together can be seen in the readers workshop classroom. Traditionally, when reading a text as a class, the teachers will help students construct meaning by giving background information on the text. This might include key vocabulary or details about setting through images, videos, or music.

In the readers workshop classroom, students are often reading different texts. The role of the teacher changes from providing meaning to students to teaching students how to create the meaning themselves. Students have built enough agency to know they need information about a historical fiction text in order to truly understand it. They then do a search for videos and pictures themselves and thus create the schema necessary for understanding.

While there will certainly still be direct instruction and common text, the overall instruction will become less prescribed by the teachers. This falls in line well with the constructivism which posits that no person receives information objectively. All people are making meaning based on the information they already know.

To help teachers visualize how they might integrate technology into the curriculum, the Florida Center for Instructional Design developed this technology integration matrix. When examining the matrix, notice the low end of integration is classified as “information passively received.” Technology allows us to help students make meaning, but we have to move towards the higher end of integration.

The technology integration matrix is not the only model encouraging further integration of technology in education. Another is TPACK which states teachers have three main areas of knowledge for which they are responsible. Teachers have to be competent in the content they deliver, how they deliver it, and the technology that they and students will use to create meaning. This is quite a daunting visual as it is easy for a teacher to feel deficient in any one of these three areas. The combining of all three of these types of knowledge are called TPACK.


The article Too Cool for School? No Way! is comforting in some ways. Specifically, it reminds the reader that technology is anything from a pencil to an iPad. Some is higher tech and some lower, but it is still technology. The challenge is in “creatively repurposing” technologies not built for the classroom. Blogging was certainly not created with teachers and students in mind, though most English teachers will now praise this publishing medium. Facebook started at a university, though it was hardly for educational purposes. Still, it has been used creatively to make Facebook pages for historical figures, literary characters and even abstract ideas to help students create and show understanding.

As technology become higher tech, teachers must adjust the way they teach. In many ways, education is under construction, but then education is kind of like Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in that way. There is no one educational theory that will provide the answer to how it will look when completed. Rather, it is the application of many theories and continued studies of pedagogy that will help teachers form a classroom full of lifelong learners.



“Building knowledge: constructivism in learning – YouTube.” 2008. 10 Sep. 2012 <>

Mishra, P. “Too Cool for School? No Way! Using the TPACK Framework: You …” 2009. <>

Sjøberg, Svein. “Constructivism and learning.” E Baker, B McGaw, & P Peterson. Baker, E (2007). <>