Mar 28

Still An Alien

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There’s no faking it. I wasn’t born in the digital age; I am an alien in a strange world. Still. I was telling my students the other day that the first time I ever saw a computer was my freshman year of college. What’s worse is, the only course I ever “flunked” and had to retake in college was “Computer Programming 101″. You see, I didn’t even know the language- that “programming” didn’t mean, “how to turn it on”, but instead how to tell it what to do! It took me 2 different tries and a change of professors to get me passed that 100 level course!

So this COETAIL course was a stretch for me and it still is. However, the good news is that I fully understand the need for the paradigm shift in education. Our students don’t learn like we did; their tools are different than mine and that makes their minds work differently as well- to an extent. I have looked through their educational lenses and their prescription makes my eyesight look very near sighted.

But I tried to implement this perspective in my classes while learning it myself. I tried to let go of the fear of the unknown for me, where my students were comfortable. I gave them freedom to display what they had learned in the format they were used to. I think I might have gotten to the “infusion” stage with some “collaboration” happening as well.

Additionally, I began discussions with administration on the need to restructure some of our curricular designs to prepare our students better. The conversations are happening on putting structures in place so that our students are responsible digital citizens. I am on the 9th Grade Success Team- a group of high school teachers, counselors, and administrators committed to providing a unified, 21st century experience for our youngest high school students. These were both good perspective changers for me.

As for my students, they are far more comfortable than I am with this process, so I had to be willing to let them be creative and design their own learning. Teaching Religion is a unique calling and if there’s no application outside the classroom, then the in-class assessments are just busy work. That’s why I wanted to allow my Peer Counseling students the freedom to structure their own project to show application of all our skills, discussions, and learning over the semester. There was definitely the potential for students to do this project sans technology, and one of last semester’s “greatest successes” came without the use of any technology. However, another student decided to choose option #3 from below and made the following video:

Semester Project    Or… “How I Know I Will Apply Peer Counseling to My Life”
The best thing about Peer Counseling class should be: what you’ve learned is applicable to your everyday life. Even if you never become a psychiatrist in the future, or even a peer counselor at SFS, you will find yourself in multiple circumstances where the skills you learned in class, are valuable. I’d like you to reflect on this last semester and the potential personal growth that has occurred through the completion of ONE of these projects.
Option #1-Skills Diary:
Try each of the PC skills we’ve learned in a “real-life” situation. Write up your plan on how you will use it and what you think might happen. Then actually put that skill into practice noticing any change in behavior of the people you are “studying”. Write up what happened and why it was the same or different than you expected.
Attending Skills, Listening Skills, Questioning Skills, Assertive Skills, Confrontation Skills
Option #2- Scenario Re-enactment
Choose three typical conversations that happen in your peer group. Re-enact those conversations with friends, first as it really happened, then how it might have been different if you’d thought about using your new PC skills during it.
Option #3- Video Message to Future PC Students:
Like the Personal Power Point at the beginning of the semester, create a reflection power point/video. In it, discuss at least 3 things you’ve learned in Peer Counseling.  Your audience is future PC students. Make this a video message to them about what to expect in class and the impact it has had on you. Be specific, use visuals, quotes, clips, humor.
Option #4- Movie Montage:
Put together a montage of clips from movies that clearly describe and show the elements of Peer Counseling. You choose the 5 most important and then give brief captions or explanations of each choice.
I’m willing to entertain other ideas if you have them!  Enjoy!

One of my ESL students, a senior who had really been trying hard in class to better his English communication skills while getting a good grade, asked his friend to help him create this video- “High School Ghost’s Advice”


Feb 20

The “Laptoppecker”: Annoyance or Mutualism?

Oxpeckers feed on ticks and bloodsucking flies that parasitise buffalo, giraffe, impala and rhino. This relationship is a type of symbiosis known as 'mutualism.' Some rights reserved by RayMorris1

I hear it all the time: the “tap, tap, tap” of the keyboard. The sound burrows into my lecture like the woodpecker on a tree. At first, I’m impressed with the industriousness of this little “bird”- notes galore! “A’s” on all the quizzes are sure to come! But when I’m not talking, or a good question is asked, the “tap, tap, tap” continues. How can you take notes on that?

It’s time for me to ask my students what they are ACTUALLY doing on their laptops during class. In the high school, I sometimes take it for granted that the students know the purpose behind staying on task and that the assessments are significantly challenging to keep them focused. But I need to be honest with myself and realize that all the “little birds” aren’t flying in the same formation.  Whatever it is that they are actually doing, I need to appropriate that into our learning. Are they messaging with a friend in another class? Maybe we should use that? Or at least find someone with whom to message/Skype that furthers our current curricular learning? I need to see this relationship, the one that includes me, the students AND their laptop with an idea of mutualism.

I’m seeing this mutualism in my own life- the need to collaborate with other Religion Teachers, to ask how they are teaching Religion in an age of technology. It’s a small field just because of the content- in some countries you aren’t even ALLOWED to teach what I teach, but I know it would be invaluable to talk with other educators about the integration of an ancient discipline with modern means. I know this course has made me ask questions about how I teach and the means by which I teach my content, but more importantly it’s made me see the need (especially for me and the way I learn) for content-specific colleuges. The great news is: because of technology there is the means by which to have a PLN that’s worldwide!!

Back to my current classroom: how do I manage laptops in the one-to-one world? By next year, all my high school students will have a computer in class. This tool is the means by which they will experience and be assessed in my Religion classes. How do I make this effective? Not disruptive? I had a conversation with a fellow teacher last week and we were talking about online portfolios as a means of assessment, especially in our classes (he’s an English teacher). But I want to be sure that that’s just not using the computer as a different tool. I want this to transform the means by which they experience religion, as a dialogue with the world, with themselves, and with their Creator.

There are simple management policies that I’ll need to enforce from early on:

1. Be clear about expectations with regards to laptops in the beginning of each semester. Develop common language about when and how the laptop will be in use.

2. Place students I might know who have difficulty staying on task in close proximity to my location. But also, move around the groups frequently.

3. Be quick and decisive should any student test these boundaries.

4. Allow students freedom to design their own learning experience. This means I need to be very clear about the overall objective and have some definite processes for the students to explore, but also be flexible and knowledgeable about the learning we’re attempting to achieve while letting the students learn in their own style and inspiration.

This last policy leads me back to my original idea of mutualism. The high school students with whom I’m learning alongside are digital natives. They know technology from the inside out; I’ve only come to technology as an outsider. However, they lack the experiences and learning I’ve gained in religious education. Together, we might just be able to guide all of us through the matrix of learning.

Feb 19

The Matrix: Neo-Learning

The Matrix of Learning

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What is the future of education? That’s a question with multiple different perspectives. Socio-economically, if countries don’t see the necessity to educate their entire populace, there will continue to be a division in education between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Similar to the Dark Ages, when certain people were privy to books and literacy, but the masses were largely illiterate, and many saw no need to learn, we are in danger of creating a schism in the world between those who have access to and the skills with which to manipulate technology for their success. However, we might also create a “second-class” of learner; one whose greatest education was the standard in 1950.

Assuming that politicians see the need to educate all and collaborate to make it happen, and technology is the means by which we are educated, and not just an additional tool for education, the future of education becomes a different question. Scientists and educators are continually getting a better understanding of just how a human being learns. From behaviorism, to constructivism and now to connectivism, and like all sciences, we are recognizing that we never had the full picture of any of our hypotheses, and probably still don’t. However, what we are learning is that learning is messy. It is hardly a systematical set of steps that applies to every individual similarly. Experience, influences, personalities, geography, citizenship, and even more factors determine the way each individual learns best. Without taking these factors and more, which we haven’t even considered, into account when developing a learning theory is simply incomplete. Connectivism requires that we recognize the incredible matrix that exists in each person’s learning, even if we don’t fully understand it yet.

I am one of the tennis coaches at the school where I work, but my all of my technical knowledge of tennis could fit on a 3×5 index card. When I was asked to coach, I knew I had a lot to learn. However, I had been a gymnastics coach before and knew that some of that knowledge could be transferable. I went into this adventure knowing that my learning curve would be steep, but that I had reserves of learning with which I could tap when applicable. It was the perfect example of what George Siemens says: “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” I found that my experiences in my past, my love for the game, my personal knowledge of an athlete’s mind, and many other important moments, made me able to be a successful tennis coach and continually learn what I need to know to thrive in this role. I never sat in a classroom and learned about tennis; it was just something I loved to do for “mastery”. Dan Pink talks about this as one of the drives to learn. This resonated with me when I thought about the way I “learned” tennis.

Coaching tennis has also illustrated another, very important example of learning. My fellow coach, Joon uses the term “institutional memory” when we say good-bye to our seniors each year. He talks about what we lose when they leave- their understanding of the matrix of our team, our sport, our school. It’s information outside an individual, not really housed in a specific spot, but given meaning within the context of sports teams. How did they learn this? I know I didn’t coach that into them, and I’m sure Joon would agree that it was connectivism at work in our athletes.

Finally, I was inspired by the idea of the MOOC. Learning collaboratively, without regard to grades or assessments, but for the meaning of learning. Choosing a topic and finding a community of like-minded people with which to address questions and find answers together! Could THIS be the future of education. It would be like apprenticeships, but with multiple masters (maybe even yourself as one) in a community of apprentices not competing for one job, but for one purpose. Could we use the idea of a MOOC to collaborate and redefine education in America? What about education for all people? “Neo”-learning- Now that would be a worthwhile future for which to navigate the matrix.

Jan 28

THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM: Will this give me educational vertigo?

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I was a gymnast for 10 years while I was growing up, so flipping was a natural part of my life. Maybe that’s why I was a little confused when researching this topic. I immediately started to evaluate my own classroom. Do I have a flipped classroom already? Even though I’ve never podcasted any of my lectures, how does my teaching style already work into this model? And then I realized it had nothing to do with my gymnastics coaches and everything to do with my supervising teacher, Doug Grant, at French Prairie Middle School in Woodburn, OR. I learned how to teach middle school math and science under Doug’s supervision. His classroom was set up in groups of 4 desks. There was never a time with the students weren’t collaborating. Whether it was a science experiment or math manipulatives, much of our time as teachers was spent roaming the room and “putting out fires” or “stoking the fires of learning” going on between peers. Sometimes we’d stop and refocus attention to the front of the room, but not so that we could teach; it was so that a fellow student could show their work on the document camera and explain it to the class. I remember making the comment to Doug: “This is not how I learned math”, and I realize now, he flipped my idea of a classroom then and there.

Even though I don’t teach math or science today, I used that model for all of my religion classes. My students sit in groups. I do lecture, but often it’s of the Socratic method, a much more question-based, interactive type of lecture. In fact, I’m not sure I could even podcast my lectures. Often the direction of what I teach is determined by the students’ questions, or their answers to questions posed. Without the students, my “lectures” are far less stimulating.

Even if my lecture style may not work with podcasting, I have been thinking about the other side of the flipped classroom. How can I make the time during class much more interactive, collaborative while using technology to achieve this? I have the unique teaching position to really allow students to create in class, and therefore, use those higher level skills we teachers so desperately want to see developed.

I need to search out ways to bring the current worldwide events and situations into the class, and then ask the students to create solutions together. I believe we might even have some ideas generated from my young, tech-savvy, and idealistic students that “experts” in the field have not considered. Additionally, I could have those “experts” from around the world Skyped into my class to talk about the issues with greater authority. For instance, during our Economic Ethics unit, the classtime could be spent collaboratively researching with Googledocs the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  They would need to understand the issues, the demands, and then decide if they agree or disagree. Finally, they would need to work with people in the class to come up with a creative solution for at least one of the group’s demands that fits their ethical framework. In this situation, I would not be the best expert to help guide these students. We might be able to get, Haywood Carey, OWS’ accounting organizer, to Skype with us and answer student questions.

This is exciting and inspiring for me as a teacher, but it is also VERY different skill sets than what I thought I’d be doing when I got my masters. I can see how this idea of a flipped classroom intimidates my peers. How much time might one spend creating podcasts, or in my case, setting up peer and expert collaboration opportunities? The learning objectives might be the same, but the products would be vastly changed. Does this mean I have to recreate all of my units all over again? I understand the need, and I even agree that we need to change to “ride the wave or be subsumed”. But when am I going to do this? I still have to teach on Monday morning.

Jan 28

Technology Fusion

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So, do we “integrate” technology, “embed” technology, or something else? I think we FUSE it! says that fusion is the uniting or blending of two elements into a whole, as if by melting. It’s time to melt together to create a wholistic 21st century approach to education.
Technology has to work “seamlessly” (as Jeff Utecht says) into our teaching. We can’t be adding it for the sake of progress. Instead “learning determines the technology, not the other way around” (hear full podcast here).
While I was evaluating my own teaching, I was pleased to recognize the “four key components of learning” as  Edutopia defines them (active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts) already in my classes. However, I am just now warming to the idea that technology is the mold in which my students are refined. This is difficult for me, because my mold is more like an ice tray of separate, time-tested (read “outdated”) learning pieces. If I take those out of their freezer (the comfort zone in which I currently teach my students) I feel like my structure, my form will disappear.
However, I cannot melt into my students’ learning style unless I’m willing to melt or fuse with their world. As much as I see the need for this and acknowledge my fear of going there, I still feel woefully inadequate about where and how to begin. I think this is where I need someone with vision.
While watching the Edutopia video of Harrison Central High School‘s technology integration, I kept asking: Who structured this change? Who inspired these teachers to work together and showed them what resources were available for their specific content area? As the Stratford Board of Education stated: “[Technology integration] cannot be legislated through curriculum guides nor will it happen spontaneously. Someone with vision—an administrator, a teacher, or a specialist—needs to model, encourage, and enable integration, but only a classroom teacher can integrate technology with content-area teach.” Maybe that’s what a Technology Integration Specialist and I do together? We have yet to have that kind of vision, spirit, or expertise at my school. No, what we really need is a Technology Chef- one who can melt the world of our students, into the static and frozen world of their teachers into a new recipe for success!

Jan 28

Citizens or Pirates?

NoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Captain Kimo - "Back in Florida"

So, for some reason, this 4th course with COETAIL has just been a bear for me to finish. Maybe it was the approaching holidays at Christmastime, or maybe it was the Lunar New Year upon our return to school. Honestly, I haven’t wanted to be in front of a computer at all! So then, I got to thinking how much time our students spend in front of a computer. Not only is it (almost exclusively) the vehicle with which they complete their education, but it is also their entertainment, resource guide (contacts, phone book, etc) and their connection to everyone in their lives. When do they look up from the screen? Our students will not need to learn certain applications on a computer; instead they will need to have the computer as the application for their lives.

As David Warlick states in his blog, “What Difference Might One ‘S’ Make?”…I would suggest that students simply learn to apply computers to solve problems or accomplish goals.  It really doesn’t matter if they are covering all of the tools, or even if each student is mastering all of the same tools.  Students would simply learn how computers can help them do interesting things, and then gain the skills and confidence required to teach themselves, with the guidance of their teachers, the applications to make it happen.

Our students are learning how to use computers, not as a class in school, but BECAUSE of their classes in school. Like my handwriting simply got better because I had to do it in every class, my students are learning new ways to use their computers in spite of me. When I was in school, my math teacher never talked about my handwriting unless he couldn’t read the numbers. He never spent time teaching me the intricacies of how I form my “9”s- like a curly Q, or as a circle and straight line approach. His concern was getting me to understand the logic of geometric theorems (and let me tell you, that was a chore!). I see computers as pervasive a skill for current students, as handwriting was for me.

But here’s the problem: there are still people in this world with TERRIBLE handwriting! If they didn’t learn it in elementary school, no one stopped them along the way to reform their mistakes and make them practice their cursive. They just had to live with what they knew and if they wanted to, get better on their own. Teaching high school students, I find that I just assume they have the skills needed to complete their assignments. I am concerned with ISTE numbers 1-4: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and the like. These have been necessary skills for students long before there was even an organized school system.  NETs and 21st Learning skills are really just skills that all students should be learning, until we get to #5 & #6. I’d like to focus on the need for “Digital Citizenship”.

I teach a course called “Christian Ethics” and one of the conversations we had last week centered on SOPA- the “Stop Online Piracy Act” with which the United States Congress is grappling. This act would drastically change the responsibility of online file sharing agencies like YouTube and Wikipedia. In fact, Wikipedia went “dark” in protest of its possible passage. During our discussion, my students were divided: on the one hand, artists should be able to distribute their creations in any way they can. But on the other hand, once they do that, is there a copyright infringement? Also, are the file sharing sites responsible when their patrons use that file illegally? How much should this be regulated in a free society?

We’ve required students to learn how to navigate the digital world far beyond our knowledge to regulate it. We are trying to teach them how to be responsible citizens in a world where piracy is a legitimate course of action. How do we now, call the ships home and re-train them on the “new rules” when we just let them to their own rules for so long? Maybe we are the ones that have created the digital pirates because we were asleep at the helm.



Nov 07

Children Of God

Philippine Grandma

Philippine Grandmother


When I travel I love to take pictures of children. For me, they are evidence of God’s creative power and mercy. While making this digital story, I was able to combine two of my loves- my pictures of children all over the world and music. Combining Brian Johnson’s, “Here Is Love” with these pictures help me tell the continual story of God’s presence all over the world, through the eyes of the children.

I have decided to use this storytelling skill in my New Testament class. We are just completing a unit about salvation: what does it mean? Do we even need it? From whence does it come? How can we access it? Through the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, one story of salvation has been given to the world. I will have my students interpret this idea into a digital story for the final project.

Nov 07

A Life In Pictures

Like all schools, I’m sure, we have an Back to School Night, where parents come and meet the teachers, get the syllabii of their student’s classes, ask questions, and experience what their child might go through in a day at school. It is a truncated version of “a day in the life” of their child, with each “class” being only 10 minutes long, but helpful, nonetheless. What can one really do in 10 minutes to inform parents and articulate who you are? This year, I created a visual history of myself so that parents would know exactly who is teaching their children.

After reading the articles assigned for this class, I went back to that visual story of my life to see where I should edit it, and make it a more “Zen-like” presentation. I was happy to see that I’d already used the Golden Thirds idea and that the visuals were meaningful to presentation. It was also good that my presentation couldn’t “stand alone” as Matt Helmke said in his overview of “Zen Presentations” by Garr Reynolds. However, there is so much more of the software that I could learn. Editing transitions, uploading a voice thread or music would enhance it. Finally, one must recognize that I would be personally presenting this to the parents on Back to School Night, so superfluous audio might be distracting.

Here’s the finished product:

Back to School2

Nov 07

Final-Course 3

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During this class, I wished I’d had more time to delve into all of the possibilities that exist in digital storymaking and visual imagery. Having been to film school and weaned on all types of movies, I have always understood the power of visuals to help one understand and even transform a person. Art and the sacred have long been a part of religious understanding in the world, so the religion units that I’ve taught have continued this tradition. My classroom is full of student created paintings, sculptures and constructions around religious themes and sacred items. This COETAIL  class has expanded my view to include digital storymaking and incorporate the power of visual imagery in technologically produced art.
The final project for a unit entitled “Salvation” in my New Testament class was built around this goal: to produce a visual interpretation of the Christian idea of ‘salvation’. (See UbD unit description below). The chosen, student-produced project above was created by Caroline Suh and Taurus Feng at Seoul Foreign School, fall, 2011.

Project Title: Scenes of Salvation

Standards Met: M.3.9 Give an account of the crucifixion story and describe its
relationship to God’s demand for a sacrifice to atone for the sins of people,
as understood by Christians.M.3.10 Explain the Christian belief that Christ’s death makes
possible a personal relationship with God, based on love, grace and
forgiveness.M.3.11 Explain the Christian belief that Christ’s resurrection
demonstrates His authority over death, giving Christians hope for eternal
life.M.5.3 Identify Christ and salvation as the source of joy for
Christians and understand that Christians can experience joy in the midst of


Enduring Understanding:

We all have a need for salvation in a fallen world and the Christian idea of that process is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Finally, understand what this salvation changes about one’s life and future.

Essential Questions:

Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
For what purpose was his life here on earth?
What historical role does his resurrection play for you, us, all of humanity?  What type of salvation was he said to bring?


Goal: Create a ten panel/scene/slide format of visual images depicting your interpretation of the salvation that comes through Jesus of Nazareth.

Audience: New Testament class

Situation: Work individually or in pairs to create a visual interpretation of the
Christian idea of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Product: This can be a graphic “novel”, Power Point, or done with any movie maker software. Must include at least 5 different Scriptures (can be Old Testament or New, but must connect with the life of Jesus- prophetically or historically).

Six Facets of Understanding:

Explain: The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what that power over death accomplishes.

Interpret: What this historical figure’s life means to you and humanity.

Apply: Those interpretations to your own life and choices.

Have perspective: About what this might mean for your future.

Empathize: With others who don’t understand the impact of this story.

Have self-knowledge: Critically examine your belief about this issue and what this
might change in regards to your life, future, and choices.

Nov 07

Deciphering Visual Values

I teach a Christian Ethics class to high school sophomores through seniors. It’s a unique class; most of what we learn is how to disagree respectfully when our ethical stances differ. However, an important unit in this semester long class is called “Logical Fallacies”. After teaching the students how to construct a logical argument, we test it by having the students take a position on a common issue of conflict: abortion, school uniforms, the use of the atomic weapon in WWII, etc. They need to give at least 3 premises to support whatever conclusion they choose. Often during this, (what comes is usually a debate) the students who disagree have a hard time defining just “why” they disagree with the argument. They can tell that “something” isn’t right, but they can’t verbalize what.

This is why we study logical fallacies next. I gave the class the picture below and asked them three questions:  What is being stated by this picture? What prior knowledge must one have for this to make sense? What logical fallacy does this picture represent?

All rights reserved by rezbot

This is an example of an Ad Hominem attack. The students easily make the connection to “The Dark Knight” film and the evil character, Joker from that film. What is harder to decipher is which values does this image portray? And finally, they learn that to attack someone’s character without attacking their policies is a logical fallacy, and, although persuasive at times, is not logical.


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