New and Improved

After about four weeks of milling around numerous ideas in my head, I have finally decided that the Speech and Debate unit, which was the final unit for the year is the one that can be truly transformed with more integration of technology. And although I will not be teaching the unit next year, I will co-plan the unit with a fellow COETAILER and another colleague for 8th, 9th and possibly 10th graders. The unit will be delivered through the English for Academic Purposes course which is a part of the World Language cycle. In its present form, the unit requires that students:

► Write a speech incorporating the five key elements (organization, development, style, purpose, and audience) found in presentations.

► Memorize and present their speech in a logical sequence.

► Speak using appropriate eye contact, volume, and pronunciation.

► Read a variety of genres and types of text with fluency and comprehension.

► Produce oral work that demonstrates synthesis of multiple informational and technical sources.

► Summarize, make judgments, and evaluate the content and delivery of oral presentations.

The actual debate portion was added so that the unit could be integrated with a project done in the Humanities class called Modern World Slavery. This integration really enhanced the unit since it gave students a real world application for the skills that they were practicing.

The debate portion also allowed for more technology to used to refine the process. Students use online resources, including infographics (for making research data visible), YouTube videos (as models for debate procedure), Google documents (for collaboration and documentation of the process), and Voicethreads to practice pronunciation, articulation and fluency.

Next time around, I would like to see my students getting more timely feedback on their articulation and fluency. Although students were required to record their speeches a number of times and upload it to youtube so that it can be vetted, it would have been more effective if they could have gotten feedback during the practice. One students had difficulty with the word “wage”. After listening to her video, I called her in class and corrected her pronunciation of the word. She repeated the corrected version however by her next recording she was back to her familiar error. I then recorded my voice so that she can listen. It helped however again she reverted to the incorrect pronunciation. It was only when I was able to give her my full attention for about 12 minutes, her reading her speech and getting instantaneous feedback, were we able to get correct!

So that being said, what is needed is a way to create a language lab setting where the facilitator can listen to a number of speakers and give feedback right away or students can recorded their voices and some software help them with the pronunciation immediately. I am not sure exactly how this could be accomplished, however, I am confident that with the help of my co-teachers and the fabulous tech integrators who supports us, we will have something quite amazing to share.

My second option is not redesigning a unit but developing a resource page that will be beneficial to EALteachers and content teachers using SIOP and the Workshop Model for reading and writing. What I want to do is integrate some of the (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol),SIOP framework into workshop lessons and use the WIDA Model results and other anecdotal, to create mini strategy groups for instruction. The goal is to support the development of linguistic complexity, language usage and vocabulary usage.

According to the professionals at the WIDA Consortium, linguistic complexity, language control and vocabulary usage are the three areas that help students really become proficient English Language users. Once a student has acquired about two thousand high frequency words, he or she is able to read and write up to a fourth grade level. With the addition of approximately 570 academic words, a student is able to read and comprehend content up to grade 8 level. The problem is that a student’s writing ability does not grow or expand simply with increased vocabulary. What happens instead, is that students continue to write using simple tense and general vocabulary.

The most efficient way to help these students is through the use of mini lessons targeted to develop their abilities to construct more compound and complex sentences, using dependent and independent clauses correctly and an array of tenses. Mini lessons also need to be taught so that language control can be developed. Content and academic vocabulary specific to the topic is also emphasized.

The Moodle page will include a collection of mini lessons, designed to develop specific skills. Frameworks for strategy groups, heretical list of grammar lessons that can be taught to support the development of language control and flowcharts to guide users in finding the most efficient ways to do this. Best of all, it will be a space for collaborating and sharing lessons, units and best practices.

Making Real Connection using Authentic Learning

This assignment has forced me to broaden my understanding of project-based, problem based and challenge based learning by first defining them and then investigating the similarities and differences between the models. In all three models, technology can be integrated especially since real life solutions are being sort , solutions are found or final products created for real life problems and the teacher acts like a facilitator, participant or coach and not as an instructor.

Buck Institute for Education (BIE) defines Project Based Learning as any method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. BIE further expands by implying the term PBL is like an umbrella under which a variety of versions of X-BL exist, including but not limited to problem based learning and challenged based learning all of which come under the umbrella of Authentic Learning.

Recently, 8 grade students were involved a Modern Day Slavery unit. They were challenged to form their own definitions, design the research , choose an audience and them make a public service announcement that would have the greatest impact. The end product included interviews, infographics, posters, blogs, just to name a few. In conversation with a colleague, he reflected on how with each passing year, we see more innovation and creativity. Since students are given just a real life problem, then told to make an assertion based on the topic , find a reason or angle that they are willing to explore, make an assertion and then back it up with data and evidence. Then convince the rest of us to back your cause. The PBL has elements of the following as listed by Wikipedia in its of CBL.

○ Multiple points of entry and varied and multiple possible solutions

○ Authentic connection with multiple disciplines

○ Focus on the development of 21st century skills

○ Leverages 24/7 access to up to date technology tools and resources, allowing students to do the work.

○ Use of Web 2.0 tools for organizing, collaborating, and sharing

○ A focus on universal challenges with local solutions

○ Requirement that students do something rather than just learn about something”

The public service announcements uploaded to youtube are evidence of a PBL giving these students a challenge to solve a real life problem!

Maximizing the Potential of Technology Devices in a Classroom Environment

Technology usage in the classroom is on the rise. That’s a fact. With proper use, technology can enhance the quality of the learning experience for all our students. With the appropriate knowledge of how to use technology, teachers, who are facilitators, are inspired to be creative, producing lessons that meet students’, intellectual, emotional and social needs and thus helping to enrich the entire person. Some examples of these innovative tools and how they can be use, follow:

Teacher Dashboards, Blackboard and Moodle are great management systems that allow us to personalize learning for students and control, to some extent, the learning environment. Through Teacher Dashboard, I can access student folders, guide then as they work, leave comments, and make smart copies of documents and share as needed.

Classroom Response Systems (“clickers”), when used correctly, can encourage student participation and give real time data that the instructor can use to plan reteaching, strategy groups or enrichment exercises based on student need. As an EAL (English as an AdditionaL Language) teacher I find that the anonymity of these systems encourage participation and serve as a starting point for classroom discussions. The drawback of this anonymity is that it may force you to be subjective when grouping students if you are not keenly attentive during discussions.

Presentation software provides visual aids and may also extend the learning space since students can use powerpoint, prezis, blended spaces, iMovies and videocast on their own to access desired knowledge. Presentation software can also be used to ‘Flip’ our classroom time. Students use the presentation software to gain new concepts and then face to face time with the teacher is used for interactions that require applying, synthesizing, and creating.

My classes use Google Docs as a collaboration tool. Through this tool, students are able to create and share new knowledge, and reflective on what has be learnt. It is also important for teachers to be aware that collaboration tools can be misused. I am thankful that as course facilitator, I am able to actually follow when comments are made and by whom ,who has contributed an idea and who has modified it.

Information visualization tools such as NVD3, Processing.js, timelines, and infographics just to list a few,such as are especially helpful to Language and visual learners. These tools aid comprehension by transforming words into pictures and promoting critical thinking by enhancing the ability to visualize information.

The use of social media as a teaching tool is another avenue that is now being explored. Social media can be used to extend the classroom beyond the classroom with face to face online interactions. About 7 years ago, I had my students participate in an online book club using Skype as the tool. Students had to set up conference calls, prepare meeting notes and then engage in discussion, all from their respective residence. This experiment was quite effective since the students had the opportunity to experience a real live application to Skype. Many of them have experiences their parents having Skype business conferences in almost the same manner. Students are now using blogs and twitter in similar fashion.

Understanding how to properly manage the use of technology in the classroom is vital for success If students learn to focus on material when they use laptops, we will gain the capacity to increase the impact of our lessons by tenfold. Students need to be taught how to stay on task and to separate work from play. Moodle, while extremely outdated by today’s standards (yes, the web is moving THAT quickly), is a step in the right direction. Online classroom support sites like Moodle currently enable students to access additional information if they take the time to access it. However, for us to maximize the potential of our tech, we need to make sites like Moodle the center for learning. They should be every student’s home page. They should be the first thing students use as they turn on their laptop, and the last thing students close before shutting down. These sites should even replace facebook as being the one site you’re always on when you’re on a laptop. But before this can be done, Moodle and other similar sites need to be fast, responsive, engaging, and easy to use, not only for students, but for teachers and parents as well. One of my colleagues, Calley C, updated her Moodle to the best of her abilities to reach these objectives. Here is her blog post about it.

These days, web apps are frequented more than real applications. Things like Google Docs and other services are being used everyday in every class. By correctly shaping our lessons with the use of these tools, we are taking bigger steps to reaching the goal of maximizing the use of technology to benefit learning.

It is already evident how beneficial a successful 1 to 1 program can be to schools. At a certain school in Maine, “In 2009-2010, 91 percent of eighth graders at Freeport Middle School passed the state’s math exams, up from only 50 percent in 2001-2002.” That is incredible improvement that was made within 8 years. With technology improving at the exponential rate that it is, with good guidance, improvements of even higher percentages can be achieved.

Education, Technology and Change.

It is without a doubt that education is being shaped by the rise of technology. We have already seen laptops, e-dictionaries, iPads, smartboards, electronic book readers, annotation tools, Game-based learning, and personal learning environments (PLEs) that give students control over the pace, style and direction of how they learn. These additions to the classrooms have proven themselves to be extremely valuable to the learning process. Technology is a powerful tool that if used correctly, can be used to change education greatly for the better.

At my current school, we are already 1 to 1. This year, there wasn’t a single day when I didn’t use my laptop for more that just social networking, and I’m sure the same can be said for 100% of our students. It is a rare occasion that my students are given a physical sheet of paper for a homework assignment. Instead our students are using electronic notebooks and google docs as collaboration in the classroom and beyond.
Very soon textbook as we once knew them will soon be an extinct part of history. Instead, I envision books that come alive and even transport students into a three dimensional space so that they can actively be part of the learning. Just imagine for one minutes that you can turn on your history book to the Protestant Reformation and be teleported to 1517, when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses. How will this change our problem solving skills? Imagine being able to play out many different scenarios and them coming out with different outcomes or being to rewrite history for a short period, look at the new outcomes and then build protocols to ensure that we never make the same mistakes again!

Even if we were not able to achieve the above in 10 to 15 years , I do predict my belief that sometime in the near future, all textbooks will be stored on e-readers like kindle or iBooks for the iPad.

In 15 years time, the structure of classrooms and even schools as a whole will be very different than they are right now. Technology will be just as accessible as pencils and paper are now, even in the developing world.. We will be able to individualize the lessons to meet student needs and interests. Every student will have a personalized learning plan based on their learning styles, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests to meet the required learning outcomes. Students will be in a better position to take control of their learning instead of just being told what to do.

While the increasing use of technology in the classroom is a generally good thing, there are some things we need to stay aware of. We need shape our use of technology in a way that doesn’t promote negative social skills and cyberbullying. We need to teach students safe and responsible use of technology . We need to teach work school life balance, so that kids aren’t staring at computer screens for 12 hours a day without any physical exercise. Students need to be taught how to stay on task while using technology and how to separate work and play on the computer so they remain as productive as they would if the were engaged in a class room.

I have two fears as a user of this new and upgraded technology. The first is using new technology to only do old tricks and not exploring the fullest potential of the technology because of lack of knowledge. In my own classroom , in addition to every child having a laptop, I have additional hardware as a smart board, a document camera, multimedia projector and an apple tv, Fortunately I have been given the tools, via training and support of the technology integrators , to ensure that my smart board is not a fancy white board and the document camera are more than a way to project text. My smartboard is an interface that allows to control my desktop remotely and also to write physically with four coloured pens on that projected surface.One of my favorite ways to combine the two devices is projecting my warm up question onto the smartboard, have the students used the pens to write the responses, and explanation and then take a snapshot of the screen and upload the question , responses and explanations straight into each students electronic portfolio, via Teacher Dashboard! This way each of my students now has a copy of a task and annotated responses for their reference.

My second fear is that access the sum total of human knowledge does through technology is made available to all or else it become the great divider socially, emotionally and most importantly economically.


Nearly every morning on my way to school, the conversation with my 14 year son somehow revolves around the endless possibilities for anyone to truly reach his or her fullest potential simply my taking advantage of the many Massive Open Online Courses available with just the touch of a button and of course some discipline. So every morning I will try to encourage my son to develop the discipline to not wait on a classroom to define his learning but to expand his learning spaces beyond the four walls. I even went one step further by ensuring that every morning, on our short drive to school, we listen to a podcast. We are learning French together!

Not unexceptionally, it is an uphill battle. My son tries to find something else to do or introduce me to some new piece of music every morning so that he won’t have to go along with my not so subtle plan to indoctrinate him into my way of thinking! I often asked myself “What I am not doing correctly or what I am missing!”…….
Then in conversation on Monday night over supper with my fellow ‘coetailer’ I got a deeper appreciation and insight into something that I once knew but forgot to apply to my son! In order to be able truly avail oneself you must have a growth mindset. How does one acquire this?

Sebastian Thrun , the pioneer of MOOC had to revisit his idea of education for all when research data showed that in order for a student to be success in a MOOC the student has be a self –motivated, self-directed, comfortable with independence and able to creative his or her own learning network, persistent, able to accept responsibility for his or her learning, view problems as a challenges, has a strong desire to learn or change, is confident and able to advocate for him or herself , has basic study skills, organizes his or her time wisely and is able to set an appropriate pace for learning. In fact his research showed that the learning profile described above also describes the learner who is successful at university. Unfortunately, only about 5% of students who start a MOOC finish it and so if I truly want my son and my students to avail themselves of the MOOC experience then, then I need to model it and help them develop the habits of mind that lead to success.

Since starting the one to one program at our school, out tech integrators and other very strong teachers, have been able seamlessly enhance the learning experience for our students with highly developed and well-designed Moodle pages. These pages provide a limitless amount of practice, links and opportunities to access and respond to content in every mode possible. Yet we do have students choosing not be engaged. Sometimes even in the middle of what I will consider to be an engaging lesson, both during the input and output sections , we have found students using instant messages, chat or just engaged in social media. I feel that these students have not yet developed the success mindset.

It would seem that as much as technology has the ability to enhance and change the face of learning some of the basic building blocks need to be in place if our students are to be successful. As we explore, Blended Learning Spaces and MOOC, we also need to explore ways to inculcate the self –discipline. I end with a quote from Malcom Knowles ‘The “why” of self-directed learning is survival—your own survival as an individual, and also the survival of the human race. Clearly, we are not talking here about something that would be nice or desirable….We are talking about a basic human competence—the ability to learn on one’s own—that has suddenly become a prerequisite for living in this new world.”

The Importance of Staying Abreast…Be a Help not a Hindrance

Ten years ago I remember telling myself that I needed to learn to type so that I can keep up with technology. For me, at that point in time, technology was a tool for communication in the same manner that I used pen and paper. Now with all the advances and new and dynamic ways to use and process information through the use of gadgets and the internet, still not being able to type is the least of my issues! More importantly for me as an educator is being able to use the technology to enhance the learning experience for my students and to always be in a state of flux or constant growth so that I am not a hindrance to my students or myself.
I appreciate the sentiment expresses in the TPACK Framework; where pedagogy, content and technology knowledge are weighted equally. The technology that is now available, when used effectively, allows for more efficient and frequent differentiation, modification, and adaption of content, skills and assessment. Technology knowledge when combined with sound pedagogy and a deep understanding of content makes it possible to cater to learning styles and modalities.
The combination of mobile devices, the internet and 3G made it possible for us to be enveloped learning spaces wherever and whenever we are connected. However we need to make the choice to be active learners and not just bystanders, gamers and social media junkies.

Ruben Puentedura reminds us that the technology needs to be used to help us explore and be creative in our learning spaces. If we use technology only to substitute more traditional ways of exposing our students to the content then we are not increase our effectiveness. When we use the technology to augment the learning task there is statically a small gain in the learning outcome. Learning is truly enhanced when we redesign the learning task using technology or even better still allow for the creation of completely new task form the content explore. In this way our students are not limited by the knowledge of their teachers but have the sum total of the knowledge of the WWW to help then recreate, redesign and reinforce!

Zenned Up Powerpoint

Originally, I used this powerpoint in its simpler form to explore two questions about co-teaching. The first being the roles and responsibilities of the EAL (English as an additional language) teacher in an inclusive classroom. The second being what is needed for productive collaboration. As an institution with a growth mindset we are revisiting the way in which we support our ELLs (English language learners).

Our school has taken a systematic approach to improving the services, which has included, an audit (done by a respected practitioner in the field), the development of a strategic plan and an established framework of co-teaching that has a high success rate. As with any other new initiative, we are now at a place where we need to reflect on what we have accomplished so far and do some refining or recalculating the way we need to move forward.

This original presentation was made on my birthday, but, is NOT the reason for the cake analogy. In fact, I tried very hard to think of another analogy however, I had eaten some chocolate cake made by a colleague and fellow Cotailer Calley, which was downright delicious and left me focused on cake. Which is fortunate because, research shows that images of certain foods have a positive effect on how much people pay attention.

One of the difficulties of co-teaching for EAL is that, although co-teaching itself is not entirely new, co-teaching for the specific reason of supporting ELLs English language development is a relatively new field. So this powerpoint is focused on the specific roles each teacher needs to play in supporting development. The research behind inclusion is clear. Inclusion not only promotes faster language development, because ELLS have more models to follow, but it also, allows for ELLs to be exposed to a content rich environment. However, on the flip side ELLs in a mainstream classroom need additional scaffolding in order to access the content. They also need additional avenues in order to express what they can do and this is where the EAL specialist supports both the learner and the content teacher.

Feedback from the powerpoint was positive and every time I tried to explain not wanting to use the cake analogy, I am told that it was indeed very effective.

EAL Inclusive Services: Zenned Up

Language Learning in a More Dynamic Way

With my 8th grade students it is hard to help them to understand the amazing opportunity they have been given to learn English. Helping them to understand how beneficial knowing English will be in our increasingly global community will in turn motivate them in their English studies. Often turning to images and info-graphics are the easiest ways to bring about understanding.

The following info-graphic introduces alternative reasons for learning English, such as, English music, celebrities, TV shows, movies etc. Learning English through these mediums can make it more exciting and enjoyable for students and can be added motivation, as thinking intensely about their future is still far off at their age. I’m going to use this infographic to show that learning a language is less about learning grammar and linguistic complexity and more about vocabulary and using it in everyday situations. I think a secondary message that can be gleamed from the infographic is that if you engage in the target language using numerous media forms you are more likely to learn it. Everyday I encourage my language learners to speak English in non-academic situations, simply because, the 2,000 high frequency words used to connect the language and increase fluency are not academic words.


The first part of the infographic talks about traveling to an English speaking country as the best way to learn English, in our situation students are in an English speaking environment with other foreigners trying to learn English, spending at least 8 hours a day exposed to an English rich environment when they make the correct choices. Those choices include socializing at times with people who don’t speak their home language and themselves use English as a medium of communication.

Another effective way to learn the language is through Television. In conversation with some of my students I was told that they agree watching their favorite shows in English has definitely helped their language grow and so, I will continue to encourage students to look at shows in English and use English subtitles when possible. As a teacher I am not sure whether it really matters if students are more inclined to watch British or American English shows and that’s one question I would like to explore with my students.

Learning the lyrics of songs and really repeating them is such a stress free way to increase their productive vocabulary and pronunciation. Although, not all songs are made equally, there are still hundreds of well-crafted pieces of music that are accessible and enjoyed by students of Middle School age. The same argument can be used for computer games, because children are so absorbed in it. If they spend hours and hours of playing those games in English there is a high possibility for transference of a lot of the language. I wonder as a teacher how applicable how some of that language is to everyday life, but that too is one thing that I may have to investigate more, because I am not as familiar with video/computer games as some of my students.

Finally, I would like to expand the category of comics to include graphic novels, which are a favorite with middle school boys and some girls. I especially like, the fact that recently, I used a graphic novel with a small guided group of readers and one of my students was so engaged that he was making sound effects actually bringing the story to life. He genuinely enjoyed that book and through him, so did I. So, I will use this infographic to keep encouraging my students that by surrounding themselves in the target language they are more likely to reach their goal of becoming better English language learners.

Presentation Zen : An Overview is a fantastic teaching tool.

Presentation Zen : An Overview is a fantastic teaching tool. I make numerous presentations to my students and more recently to follow colleagues and it is my desire to leave them satisfied yet asking seeking more information.

Even though I thought that I would make an infographic as my final project and I am sitting in a room with some on my fellow coetailers doing just that, I really am excited about redoing a presentation I have recently presented entitled’ The Role of the EAL Specialist in Inclusion Services.’

I am also excited about sharing this video with my students as they prepare for unit on speech delivery. As I listened to the presentation, I created a graphic organizer,a list of key vocabulary, which I will need to pre-teach, and a summary of the key points for my students. I teach a group of beginning ELLs and along with the captions and visual in this presentation I am confident these scaffolds will allow them fully access to the content which is so effectively prepared and served, it’s like dining at a fine restaurant.



This is a screen shot of a page attached to my Moodle. Originally, I created these self directed tasks so that my students will have the opportunity to pick and choose lessons based on need and interest while linking the learning to the self directed sessions done in class. In class, I use a set of grade level Evan Moor “Take to Your Seat” centers that give students practice and re enforcement in some basic fundamental language skills. One of my overarching concerns was being able to produce a menu that students can pick and choose from and Blendspace allows them to do exactly that. With Blendspace I can annotate, organize and share digital resources for the various units in a visually pleasing format with just one link.

In addition to organizing your lessons into a ‘canvas’, you can drag and drop in other resources such as videos, websites and documents. Blendspace features a built in search tools, which enables you to locate resources. Just type in the title or topic of your lesson in the search bar and Blendspace finds related video material. You can also search Google and Educreations for educational material. It is possible to use your content by dragging and dropping documents onto the canvas. You can also add rich text to help explain more complex topics. The canvas can then be annotated and shared. Best of all is it possible to create classes, auto grade assessments and track student progress and it’s all free! Get more information at

Thanks again Pryia for sharing.