Growing Pains Indeed

Initially I named my blog after something that happened in my kindergarten class that day. Spring time in a KG class is when the kids are literally sprouting. They come to school complaining of aches and pains like someone 5 decades older. I thought how appropriate, my students will be growing physically and I will be growing in my quest to authentically integrate technology in the classroom. “Pains” has such a negative connotation. In this case I wanted it to have a more positive effect, as in “No pain, no gain.” Learning shouldn’t be painful per se, but it should be uncomfortable in that it stretches us to think and act differently.

It’s been a quick 7 months since I started my sabbatical year! So much has happened…but I want to see how I can continue to grow and learn with and without technology.

  • Creating and updating my profile on LinkedIn (along with using a service like ISS). Looking for another international teaching job in the age of technology means being “linked in” to the network and the possibilities of connections.
  • Learning to play the ukulele using Ukulele for Dummies, which has video links, QR codes, and a CD with audio tracks.
  • Learning to draw/paint/watercolor/oil pastels and create my own masterpieces.
  • Updating my Professional Learning Community (PLC) and continuing to learn and contribute.

So here’s to more “Growing Pains”! Would love to hear from others who have expertise/advice in any of goals for the upcoming months.

know-pain-know-gain-no-pain-no-gain-tank.american-apparel-unisex-tank.silver.w760h760Picture courtesy of


iMovies on the iPad

The students have been on cloud 9 recording videos of their learning in all subject areas. I had merely asked if they might be interested in making their own iMovies. Enthusiastic cheering erupted! And off we went to make videos that we can use for their iMovies. This is perfect timing because the Kindergarten Celebration of Learning is next Thursday and this could be part of their digital portfolio.

They’ve recorded themselves reading their “just right” books. One student has made 6 recordings just for reading! They’ve worked in groups to record math games or by themselves skip counting by 5s, 10s, or 2s. Some even counted to 100 on camera. The surprising thing has been that they are not as excited to record themselves talking about the garden. I suppose that the garden has hit a plateau at the moment and we are still awaiting the cucumber to come to fruition and the flowers to flower.

Now because this was an unplanned thing, we are encountering a problem as we get ready to start putting the iMovie together.

Problem: Different kids have different videos on different iPads.
Solution #1: Tried using Dropbox to upload and transfer videos to another iPad. Problem is it took all night to upload 1 video to Dropbox. With over 40 videos to transfer, this will be the nightmare.

I am open to more suggestions. I am reluctant to put all of those videos on my computer but know that would be an option. Found an app that supposedly transfers pictures from iPad to iPad. Will it transfer video files? Please let me know if you know an easy way to transfer these videos.

In the meantime, the students are using an assortment of videos and playing with the iMovie app. They are experimenting with the themes, music, titles, etc.

Should be exciting to see their final products!

Almost There!

The Kindergarten Garden is doing really well this year! It feels like a miracle (compared to the disaster last year with flooding in Bangkok). We’ve optimized the soil in the beds and containers for growing and it’s working!

As I plan for the video finale, I find myself revisiting storyboarding to organize my thoughts. Kindergarteners do not typically think or use a storyboard for their personal narratives. I created a storyboard to record my first Educreations lesson for the students to add on to their plant tracking recording on Pic Collage. Educreations Lesson link.

It’s a bit daunting to make a 10 minute video! Since the video length will be much longer and comprise of more elements, such as video clips, it was hard to conceptualize the entire length of the video. It’s still bits and pieces in my head, (literally swimming fluidly in my head it seems) and hopefully with more thought and using the video storyboard I found online, the video will come together and coagulate by next week.


Course 1 really has stretched my comforts with technology. Learning to blog (inserting pictures, linking, embedding), adding an RSS reader, reading blogs on a regular basis, following fellow colleagues on their blogs, etc. have put me on the edge of my comfort zone. It’s a good place for learning. Some of the old mixed with some new things. I’ve dabbled, did old things old ways and new ways, and am in the process of learning to do new things in new ways.

There are still a zillion things I don’t know. As with a putting together a puzzle, I have a good framework now and look forward to filling in the pieces. One of the questions I still have is finding the balance in my professional and personal life to make it a habit to blog and read blogs (not just for this course). Also I question how my students’ lives can be more balanced with technology (i.e. gaming systems). The “Growing Pains” I have felt have stretched me structurally as in growing bones do and made me a better teacher and in turn my students will benefit from my learning and will pay it forward. My brain muscles have also done a bit of exercise and feel that good sore feeling from the mental workout.

I am excited about the final project and the progress made. This course made me review how to authentically embed technology into what we learn in class and also what technology kindergartners can use. I am inspired by all the blogs I’ve read so far. Now, it’s a matter of time and energy to change the existing curriculum to reflect Web 2.0 learning and teaching, at least until we can better plan for Edutopia in the 22nd century!

Course 1 Final Project – Shapes All Around

For my final project, I wanted to add to the math unit by integrating a cross-curricula lesson using technology.

Background: Kindergarten students are learning to write How to books (nonfiction procedural writing)  in Writing Workshop as part of Lucy Calkins Units of Study. We have been reading nonfiction books and some How to books looking for nonfiction features (Table of Contents, captions, labels, index, glossary, materials/what you need, steps/sequence). When we retell, students have been exposed to the flow map as an organizer to use for sequencing. Students are also learning about 2-dimensional shapes in their math unit of Investigations. They have used pattern blocks to make pictures, used a Shapes software to freely explore and filled pictures with pattern blocks to make real-world objects.

Lesson 1: As part of math centers, students in small groups came to me for a mini-lesson on shapes in the real-world, specifically a pretend scene of the beach (clouds, trees on sand, and water). They were shown a beach scene and asked what they saw in the scene (sky, water, and land/beach). They then were asked what other things would they find and where would they find it. Answers were charted on a double T chart according to the place the object could be found. For example, a bird could be in the sky, water, or land column. The student would be asked to decompose the object into shapes and recorded in the column for future use.

Lesson 2: Students were shown a “blank” mural with a bare minimum background of the beach scene. Students explored paper pattern shapes in different colors and sizes to make something for the beach mural. They glued the necessary shape pieces to make a real-world object and placed the object in the appropriate area of the mural (land, water, sky).

Lesson 3: Students were told that others might want to make what they made for the mural and today they were going to teach others the steps on how to recreate the object. They were asked to get the pieces of shapes to replicate what they made for the mural but this time, they were to use the camera with partners to take pictures in sequence as they added each piece to make the real-world object. I reviewed how to use cameras and modeled lesson expectations.

I uploaded all the pictures and printed out pictures as a “contact sheet” (setting for printing). I then cut out the ones that belong to each student in the sequence.

Lesson 4: Students looked at their “contact sheet” size of pictures of their sequence. Students retold their steps on how to make the object with a peer and an adult. With additional conferencing with individual students, some of the superfluous steps were consolidated into one or 2 steps. [For example, a student who made a crab and took pictures as each leg of the crab was added on. After the conference, the student chose to do this in 2 steps--Add 4 legs on one side. And add 4 more legs on the other side.]

Lesson 5: VoiceThread recording. Students practiced what they would say at each step and made the voice recording with an adult signed in on the VoiceThread account with each of the step in the video. Teacher review with student on the volume, clarity of speech in the recording. If needed, re-record the student giving instructions for the step. Here are two initial recordings of the project just to give you an idea:

How to make a house (EAL student)

How to make a coconut tree

This project is a collaborative effort. Initially, I enlisted the help of our math coach, Suzanne Sizemore, to flush out the idea. Chrissy Hellyer, our tech coach, helped me get set up on our school’s education account on VoiceThread (which allowed for more than the 5 free videos on a personal account). I’ll still need her help to collate all the How to videos into one project. I am envisioning a menu (like a table of contents) where all the kids are listed and parents (or anyone in the public forum) can choose from the menu. And Susi Pucci helped record some of the students’ dialogue in the quieter setting of her EAL room.

Also available via this link.

At the moment, we are still at the recording stage. It is a learning process even as students await their turn in a small group to record their steps. They hear their peers practice saying the steps, use the right volume, listen back on the recording and deciding if it passed muster to “publish”.

After everyone is able to record the steps on how to make their real-world object, I hope to have the kids pick and choose and listen to each other’s projects. Of course the parents will also be able to access this video. I will also share the link to the other kindergarten colleagues at my school.

Finally, the students will reflect by taking the Shape Mural survey (that will be read to them).

Shape Mural survey

Old Style Notetaking

As we are nearing the end of Course 1, I am finishing my last blogs and looking at my notes and thoughts of which I’ve kept in a notebook. I am in Marc Prensky’s scheme of things “Doing old things in old ways.” I like to see my notes in all its jumbled form in a notebook so I can collate it in my mind. Is there an online version of this note-taking format? How are other COETAIL colleagues taking their notes? I’ve been hearing about Pinterest and wondering if there are other software/apps that could help me do “old things in new ways” until I can do “new things in new ways.”

Edutopia in the 22nd Century

I think it is every teachers’ dream to have an “edutopia” where all learners are in control of their own learning and are able to experience limitless growth in their learning all by learning at their own pace, in their own style and in the 21st century with technology.

In Marc Prensky’s article, Shaping Tech for the Classroom, it was heartwarming to read “It appears that students who write on a computer turn in longer and higher-quality assignments than those who compose by hand, even though it’s still writing.” I know having taught older grades how some students struggle with the mandatory cursive handwriting and focusing on the handwriting took away their love for writing/storytelling.

Adults who stand on the other side of a generation gap can see these new practices as mystifying and, at times, threatening to existing social norms and educational standards. (MacArthur Report, p. 35) I can see why some professionals and parents might see Edutopia in the 21st century as a threat. Some teachers might view this as lack of job security [What am I going to teach?] or the new role of a teacher facilitating the learning as difficult [How am I going to teach?]. Alternatively, parents might value how and what they learned as a child/teen and want the same for their child(ren). For example, I remember the argument (among adult educators and/or parents) between using technology to spell-check and learning how to spell words correctly.

As the paradigm shifts to redefine what education should look like, I hope we keep in mind and be open to the possibility the positive impact it would be on society to have interest-driven students who are inspired to learn and be life-long learners with peers and teachers helping to guide their learning and growth.

With that said, just as we need to prepare and set academic standards, we also need to prepare and set moral and ethical standards with the use of technology. I already see a “participation gap” in my kinders with boys having more access to technology (mainly gaming systems) than the girls. Granted, this might be due to the girls’ developmental interest in interpersonal relationships with their peers (rather than building tech skills on gaming systems). I hate to stereo-type, especially since I was the atypical “girl” and was often called a “tomboy” but girls are generally more friendship-driven and boys are generally more interest-driven in their learning styles.

The other ethical issue would be using technology for cyber bullying. We can’t deny that we haven’t heard news stories of this or stories closer to home (at your school or with your children’s/students).

Edutopia in the 22nd century would hopefully be able to incorporate and instill the ideal conditions of learning in a utopian world where peer-based learning is at its best intention and adult participation is valued. This might mean we as educators and parents have to throw out the industrial revolution’s model of what constitutes a school and radically reconstruct our educational system to start building the new “edutopia”.

Today’s children need to learn the skills that will help them in today’s job market and today’s society. They need to learn how to make decisions on their own, work well with others, and sift through vast amounts of information. And it’s time our schools rise to the occasion and fill this need.

Social Media Explained…to newbies

After reading about the different social media networks, I can relate to this interpretation (although one of my “geeky” friends would like to change the Google+ descriptor to “I’m hanging out with other donut eaters.”).

The simplicity of how and what the different social networks are in this visual helped clarify the audience with which the social media is intended. With the time in this course surfing the articles in feeds, I’ve slowed down my participation in FB. I’m not sure that it’s been a fair trade-off. On FB, my audience are my “friends”, people whom I’ve “friended”. On my blog, my audience would be fellow “followers” (not that I have a following…yet). :) Likewise, I am “following” other bloggers. I guess this will be one of my “Growing Pains”, the loss of innocence in the age of FB, growing up in the age of blogs.

Social Media Explained…to newbies

Geeking Out on Games

After reading the NETS for students (NETS-S) and teachers (NETS-T) and the Geeking Out section of the MacArthur Report, I realized that my students are probably geeking out at home more than their time at school with the variety of gaming systems.

“Geeking out requires the time, space, and resources to experiment and follow interests in a self-directed way. (MacArthur Report, p. 28) Students have “specialized communities of expertise” and my students are definitely experts at certain games spending time daily playing these games.

Every morning, we share in our circle time activities/events happening in our lives. Typically, a couple of boys will share how they have reached different levels or unlocked something or other in their game software (i.e. Lego Star Wars) to the envy of some. This positive attitude (NETS-S: 5b) in the form of pride in their achievement translates into future play dates with these “experts” in order to learn their craft. In our morning meetings after the play date, we also hear how they successfully collaborated in the execution of a strategy in moving from level to level in the game or how they figured out how to unlock something.

Students also demonstrate their ease in using different technology at home when they go from different gaming systems (ex: Wii, Playstation) all in the course of their afternoon/play date. In that respect, I am the digital immigrant with little to no experience in game systems, and the lingo. I can’t say that I have taken any interest either.

As an educator in a primary classroom, I had to look hard at what and how we apply the NETS for teachers.  Our access to technology is limited (compared to upper elementary, middle school, or high school students). But what we have, we try to be equitable (NETS-T: 4b). We combine and rotate the 5 iPads at our grade level, which means we get these once every 5 weeks. We do use cameras to document our own learning especially in science. As a class, we use the document camera, projector and SmartBoard on a daily basis and we can model the safe use of technology (NETS-T: 4a) and how we can get information. We have learning centers (i.e. Word Study, sight word games, math games) when we use technology (4 desk top computers, 5 iPads) to give equitable access to all.

The only time that kindergarten students really get to “geek out” and with the resources they want is in their own homes. And in international schools where most families are affluent, there’s more of a gender gap due to interest. The boys definitely have at least one of the gaming systems at home and most of the girls don’t. However, the girls might use other technology like computers and iPads to play other games. Students in this age group are still not as “plugged in” as the older kids with their portable hardware but this early experimentation and experience are good starting points on their way to Geekdom.

My Own Pattern Shift

Since my college days, my mind has been ingrained with the stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy. With every lesson, it is almost innate to reflect at what stage is this lesson planned and how can I improve lessons to extend the student learning to a higher order of thinking.  I was glad to see that Bloom’s Taxonomy has gone digital with verbs that incorporate student learning using technology. I was also glad to see that I am past the knowledge/remembering stage and have elements of different stages along the way.







Messing around (as the MacArthur Report states) is where one can explore and extend one’s understanding using technology online in self-directed and interest-driven searches. I find it hard to conceptualize this, how this would look in a kindergarten class. I hope to find a network of early childhood teachers blogging about their experiences (of their trials and tribulations in messing around on their own and with their students).

At the moment, my students are exploring and extending their learning using Shapes software program. We are currently learning about shapes in our math program, Investigations, which comes with Free Explore as part of this software program. All the students can identify the basic shapes. This tool is designed for students to deepen their understanding and explore how different shapes can be combined to form other shapes, experiment with different sorts of geometric transformations (rotations, translation, reflection), make patterns, and investigate symmetry. Does this qualify as “mashing” in kindergarten where they are able to integrate several data sources (using software and hands-on manipulatives) into one application?

Learning in our kindergarten classroom is “messy” in all sense of the word. I am a constructivist at heart and believe that our class is a blend of constructivism and chaos (a.k.a. connectivism). “Nigel Calder’s definition that chaos is ‘a cryptic form of order’ ” speaks well of our efforts in class. The meaning exists, however it might appear cryptic in form to an outsider. We explore and build on our knowledge using all modalities and senses. In the end, I want the students and myself to be able to recognize patterns in our learning to make our own meaning and to form connections in our learning.

This COETAIL course continues to stretch my learning in the different stages of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy…although ethically I cannot envision myself “hacking”. I am inspired with the possibility of cross-pollinating ideas in my Personal Learning Network. My personal learning goal is to remain flexible, be “plugged in” to access the up-to-date knowledge and mess around using my new gadgets. I give permission to myself to take the time necessary to learn (It definitely will be longer than the 5 week course.) and go “digital”. Learning is messy after all and it is ok to be messy!