A Little Late to the Party…

I have been hearing about speed geeking for many years, probably since the beginning of my CoETaIL experience back in 2012.

So we’re a little late to the party just now getting around to trying this format out.

But, better late than never right?

This past Wednesday I organized rounds of speed geeking for the elementary staff of our school.

We ran five eight minute sessions.

We covered a range of topics, including using Padlet, Google Forms, using Microsoft Word with Publisher to create physical books, tips for the interactive white boards, and using the BeeBot and ProBot.

Caitlin Munson shared how she uses Google Forms as part of her Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is part of the Responsive Classroom format that ASM has been implementing the past several years.

Ann Simone discussed the use of Padlet in the classroom and how to embed the padlet into classroom websites.

Odaliz Romo has been making her Young Author’s Day books for several years using a combination of Microsoft Word and Publisher and she demonstrated how this could easily be replicated in other classrooms.

Annaleigh Kress modeled use of the BeeBot and introduced the ProBot. She offered several examples of classroom possibilities that combine programming with the curriculum.

Sarah Wampler offered her favorite tools for successful use of the interactive white boards. Frequently, a goal of teachers is to improve their use of the boards and Sarah is very knowledgeable with how to use them best in our elementary program.

The feedback after our speed geeking sessions was really positive. I was thrilled the teachers enjoyed it so much.


I asked teachers to finish the sentence, “Speed geeking was…”

A few answers:

-the most productive hour I have spent in a long time.

-the best PD we’ve had! I learned five things I want to implement in the classroom.

-informative and efficient


I loved that the sessions were run by the classroom teachers and not by myself or others who specifically hold technology roles. It was a great opportunity for teachers to see what each other are doing in the classroom.

I’m already thinking ahead to what sessions to focus on for our next rounds of speed geeking in a few months!

Suggestions for speed geeking sessions? Share them in the comments!


Learning 2.015 Manila

Last week I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend Learning2 at the International School of Manila.

Almost a week has gone by and I’m still wow’ed by the thoughts running through my head.

What’s at the top of the list?

Sam Sherratt’s talk on breaking free from the molds that we all find ourselves stuck in: schedules, what a ‘teacher’ is, the school itself. He drew all his own visuals (I think in the Paper app for iPad) and they were amazing.

And I’m still thinking about what he said.

And thinking about how I can break free of the molds around me.

It makes me think that moving to Asia to work isn’t a bad idea.


Listening to both Jeff and Kim speak is always a highlight. They are both so passionate about education and the direction we should be heading.

Kim focused on rethinking our perceptions of social media in a classroom and allowing our students to use those platforms to share their learning. She says, “We can empower our students to build communities around ideas that matter to make a difference in our world today.”


Jeff questioned, “What do we need to replace because it’s 2015?” He went on to wonder why any 2nd grader is learning about maps on paper, since no one uses that format any longer. It’s a really good question. Shouldn’t we be teaching the students how to navigate Google Maps on the devices so that they are learning the modality they’ll use in real life?


Towards the end of his talk he mentioned the idea that all international schools want to be a “leading” school, but also ask for the research behind a new idea he might present. Jeff stipulated that leading schools don’t follow the research, they create it.

I had never looked at it like that before.

But it is so true.

And thought provoking.

I wonder how many school directors will take the time to really think about that idea.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the conference was the role the students played. They were active in several workshops I attended and two high school students lead a workshop on Makey Makeys that I was blown away by. High school students leading a room full of teachers. They had great visuals and plenty of hands-on activities.


Many adults could take a few lessons from these students.

And now, I sit in my desk in Milan, exactly six months in advance of the Learning2 conference in Milan.

It’s going to be awesome!

But there’s still a long way to go between here and awesomeness!

Time to get back to work!


We hope you’ll join us for Learning2 in Milan April 7-9, 2016!


“The Art of Coaching”

It seems that my motivation to write on this blog regularly is seriously lacking.


But I really should  get on top of it.

So, as I wrap up my 4th year teaching internationally, I continue to try to improve my craft. I’m surveying my teachers about the work we’ve done this year. The first year I really consider myself a coach.


I’m most certainly a work in progress.

So I’m headed to a cognitive coaching workshop next week. I’m reading Elena Aguilar’s “The Art of Coaching.” 

I’ve only read Part I so far, “The Foundations of Coaching.”

But already there are some real simple, but masterful statements to reflect upon.

Here are some that I’m taking into consideration:

“Coaching can be perceived as a mysterious process, but in fact it requires intention, a plan, and a lot of practice…” p. xii

I think I need to have a little more intention and a lot more planning in what I’m doing. I feel like I’m often just rolling with things, and we might find better results if my work was developed more out of a place of intention.

“Coaching, like creating art, requires intuitive capacities, an ability to see something that is not yet- but could be- in existence, and the willingness to surrender to the process and trust that a worthwhile product will emerge.” p. xii

This is what I like about coaching and teaching, for that matter. Believing that all your work in the end will result in some meaningful difference.

Aguilar quotes her masterful coach, Leslie Plettner as saying, “No one can learn from you if you think that they suck.”

This one has really been in my head. I think I’ll print it out next year as a reminder to have a growth mindset about everyone that I work with.

In this first section, Aguilar also encourages you to settle on three core values after choosing from this list. You start with ten, narrow to five and then to three.

I settled on





These are words I hope to think about in my work next year when I start to meet with the teachers I coach and as we move throughout the year. I think this will also help bring more intention to the work we accomplish together.

Instructional Vision and Feedback

The third and fourth weeks of the MOOC, Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick, have come and gone. With the end of the school year wrapping up, I’ve had less time to organize my thoughts around the weekly topics, but still feel it’s important to reflect on my learning.

The third week focused on the ‘Clarity of Instructional Vision’. This vision is designed to articulate what the students will be doing when the strategy is implemented and used effectively. One point that this course keeps coming back to is the idea that this process of coaching is effective when it promotes change that meaningfully impacts students. Effective coaching promotes this type of change and it makes connections between the teacher’s behaviors and decisions and the desired student behaviors and thinking.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by carriezimmer: https://flickr.com/photos/carriezimmer/14358630826

Also noted in the third week’s lectures was the idea of practice and feedback being imperative in promoting teacher change. This led into the focus for week 4, quality of feedback. The Match Teacher Residency program uses a rubric they call the Kraken as the tool for planning and recording observations and coaching sessions. This tool helps coaches keep a narrow focus for the vision, which allows the teacher to focus their change energy on one piece at a time, since teaching in itself is inherently full of demands throughout the day.

The importance of keeping coaching sessions forward thinking was clearly made. We naturally might be inclined to review past observations or lessons, but only 1/3 of the time spent in a coaching session should be for past notes and thoughts. The rest of the time should be focused on the future and moving forward.

Overcoming the Fixed Mindset

It’s the end of Week 2 of the MOOC, “Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick” and I’m anxious to share my learning from this week’s video lectures and reading.

This week focused on the “Fixed Mindset Tax” that prevents teachers from accepting critical feedback and using it to improve their practices. In one of the lecture videos, course instructor, Gunletler stipulates, “If the person you’re coaching doesn’t truly believe they are capable of making a change, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

So clearly, identifying, naming and moving past the various types of fixed mindset is important in increasing teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Without overcoming this a teacher is unlikely to improve and student achievement will not increase either.

Four types of fixed mindset were identified and named in this week’s materials. By doing this, both the coach and the teacher have a common language and can then use this information to notice and correct behaviors.

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by deeplifequotes: https://flickr.com/photos/deeplifequotes/8997670909

The Four Horseman

1. You’re Right, I Suck- Feedback is taken personally and the coach spends time trying to validate the teacher instead of moving forward

2. You’re Wrong, I Rule- The teacher disputes the coach’s feedback and the coach must justify their thoughts.

3. Blame it on the Rain- The teacher blames problems they cannot solve on external factors.

4. Optimist without a Cause- The teacher mostly agrees with the feedback, but doesn’t express a sense of urgency about applying this new knowledge to their teaching.

I truly thought about a picture of Milli Vanilli to represent “Blame it on the Rain” but I went with this one instead…

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by @Doug88888: https://flickr.com/photos/doug88888/6412282881

Also part of this week’s course was ‘The Snowman Effect’. The idea here is that while coaching a teacher to develop ‘skill A’ they will process and internalize the feedback, begin to implement discussed changes, but while developing the skill. Overtime the feedback will show improvement and skill A will be developed. This might take several rounds of implementation and feedback. Once skill A is acquired, the teachers have evidence that they can improve. When the teacher is ready to focus on a new skill, ‘skill B’, it will take less time to acquire the skill because it will be built on the foundation set by skill A, which helped to develop a growth mindset in the teacher. The same pattern continues with future skills.


creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by wwarby: https://flickr.com/photos/wwarby/3247505591

Reporting In…

Clearly, this year’s focus has not been on continuing to write and post on my CoETaIL blog. Without having the requirement of posting for class throughout the last year, I’ve been working more on my personal travel blog than this professional one. But, I don’t want to let this site go. I know that this reflection is helpful in improving my practices at school, and I want to keep learning.

With that in mind, I have continued to read through my feed in Feedly. While I don’t get through everything, I pick a few favorite authors and try to keep up with their blog posts. One of those authors is Maggie Hos-McGrane and her Tech Transformation blog. She mentioned a few weeks ago a MOOC that she had registered for and I thought it might be a good opportunity to try one of these online courses out.

The course is called Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick and is offered through Coursera and Match Education. The course has just begun and the instructors are reporting that over 20,000 people are signed up for the course! That blows my mind. Now I realize, of course, that this number will be dramatically smaller by the end of the course. This article suggests that the percentage can be as low as 4%! Wow! But with 20,000 starting that would still be 800 people who worked their way through the course assignments in an effort to educate themselves of their own volition. I think and hope that’s worth the effort for those who offer MOOCs to the world.

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Jim Larrison: https://flickr.com/photos/larrison/8136499269

Anyways, I’ve just finished week one’s videos and readings and want to summarize my learning here. The main focus was a discussion of what effective coaching is and how it differs from good coaching. According to our instructor, Orin Gutlerner, effective coaching ‘produces lasting change in teacher behaviors that promote more learning in the classroom.’ We’ve learned that good coaching offers many ideas and lots of advice, but doesn’t have a strong framework or vision set up to work towards end goals.

They’ve developed a formula for teacher change that includes ‘clarity of instructional vision’, ‘quality of feedback’, and the ‘fixed mindset tax’. These components determine the amount of change that a teacher is able to make. Each one will be detailed in upcoming weeks, but they were described in general terms this week. Clarity of instructional vision results from clear, shared objectives between teacher and coach. Feedback should be aligned with the set vision and needs to be limited to a certain scope. The fixed mindset is the teacher’s belief that they cannot improve at a particular skill, but can vary by topic.

This is something that I need to improve upon. I’ve never been trained in coaching, and just kind of fell into this role, so I feel like using these ideas can help me move forward with my coaching techniques and translate into what I’m doing with each of the teachers that I work with. I’d like to set goals with each of them and plan a list of things that we could do to reach those goals. Then set a timeline for checking in on their progress. This would give us a better framework for my work with each teacher and, I hope, start to move my coaching from good to something that’s effective.

ISTurin Presentation Links

Tomorrow I’m presenting at the International School of Turin. They’re putting on a technology conference as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration and they’ve brought in the one and only Jeff Utecht as the keynote speaker. It’s a small conference, but I’m pleased to have been offered a spot presenting by Greg Read, Head of ICT, after meeting him this summer at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Cork, Ireland.

My presentation is entitled “Connecting Students Globally.” Here’s my Google Doc of resources I’m sharing with the attendees.

On the Hunt for Quality Windows 8 Apps

Our school year is off to a fast start. I can’t believe it is already October?!?!?!?!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Andrea_44: https://flickr.com/photos/8431398@N04/3008173939/

The cart of Dell Windows 8 tablets that we ordered has arrived and been put to use in a first project for Grades 1-5. In celebration of International Dot Day on September 15th, our students listened to Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot, and used it as their inspiration for artwork of their own. You can see our completed work here.

And I’ve been searching for apps for our Early Childhood students to use. The functionality of the tablet should be more practical for those young fingers and I hope that we can provide them with a small amount of technology exposure to start building their skills and enhance their classroom learning.

Here are the apps that I’ve checked out:

GS Preschool Games Lite

The graphics in this app are well done. There are a variety of options, though some are too difficult for all three year olds. There are also a few words that are culturally specific, like “wax apple”. I have no idea what this fruit is to be honest. They also refer to what I know as butternut squash, simply as butternut. Depending on what the student is familiar with this could cause some confusion. A feature that I did like is that the background music can be turned off while directions and guides are left on.

Guru Cool Playschool- PreSchool Essentials

While there are several different options in this app, only the Shapes activity is free. The others: colors, tracing, the alphabet, and counting are at an additional cost.

The graphics are nice and the voice/instructions are easy to hear.

The games are developmentally appropriate, including simple matching and drag and drop activities. I think that this app has a lot of potential for our students and it’s on my list to look in to purchasing.

Kids Colors (Preschool)

Again, this app has nice looking graphics. There are several sections on the initial menu: learn, pick, find, and more games.

In the learn sections, there are 10 colors and when you click on a color it splashes on the canvas and says the color name. I wish this activity had more to it as it’s not interactive and I think students would lose interest.

In the pick section, several jellyfish appear on the screen and a voice asks you to identify the jellyfish that is a given color. If you get it wrong, the jellyfish drops to the bottom of the screen and you get additional chances to identify the correct jellyfish.

In the find section, there are matching games for color. This section is really nice because you can adjust the number of cards for matching my clicking the options button on the right. This allows to differentiate for children who may need less or more options.

The more games section leads you to games that can be bought in the Windows store.

Learn Forms and Shapes

This app has a “studying” section. Here there is no sound, only pictures, without words and no cues are given to direct the student. There is a Find a Pair game, the only one available in the free version, that is a memory matching game. It uses 12 cards, and again has no sound. There is no option to adjust the number of cards.

Preschool Learning

Unfortunately, in the free version there is essentially nothing available. You can choose between numbers and letters. You then click on the words Alphabets or Numbers to get to the choices, but then when you open a letter or number, nothing happens. There is no sound.

Kindergarten 8 Lite

This app is specifically geared towards Kindergarten students, but I thought I’d investigate to see if there was anything that might be useful to younger students.

Even in the lite version, there are several options for students. In the Alphabets sections, the sound is given and an object with the same starting sound, but the app doesn’t cue students to touch the letters. There is an Alphabet Chart section, which is simply a list of letters. When you touch the letters, you hear the letter sound. The Alphabet Balloon Quiz is the same balloon game from GS Preschool Games Lite. The Numbers 1-9 game operates in the same manner as the Alphabet games.

There is a Colors section with 14 colors and a pencil and paint bucket. The name of the color is mentioned when you select it. I could not get the drawing to clear the color even after closing the app, so this would not be useful for scenarios when multiple students must use the same device. It also has stamps and patterns.

The Rhymes section has simple graphics with basic movement, but it is nothing fancy. A rhyme plays and the lyrics are available. When the rhyme finishes you are not prompted to leave the rhyme, it simply plays again. A small child would not know to use the back button to return to the menu.

The Playground section contains more games from GS Preschool, or at least ones that are in a similar format. There is a time present in the games. This concerned me at first, but I realized that the game continues to function when the time runs out.

The Charts sections only lists lots of things and doesn’t cue the students in any way as to what to do. It only gives the names of the object pictured. And, as mentioned in the section for the Preschool app, a lot of them are strange or, in my opinion, difficult for this age group. For example, Romanescu broccoli is included in the vegetable section.


Are you using Windows 8 tablets with elementary students? If so, I would love to hear from you!



Mapping Milano

While school is sloooooooooowly coming to an end here in Milan, I’ve been trying to squeeze in Google’s latest MOOC (massive open online course) on Google Maps and Earth.

As part of the requirement to earn the completion certificate for Maps, you must create your own map in the new beta version of Google Maps Engine Lite. I’m sharing my map here for those interested!

I’ve tried embedding it below…but, the link is above if the embedded info is not working properly!

Focus on Literacy

As mentioned in my previous post, my school will be getting a set of Windows 8 tablets to use in our elementary next year.

Here are my reviews of 5 apps I found focused on reading and literacy.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by John Morgan: https://flickr.com/photos/aidanmorgan/6475701897/

I Can Read

This app seems to contain four stories that use basic sight words to assist in the development of reading skills. Each story uses the same sentence starter repeatedly. In the “domestic animals” story the words “I see” are used to start each sentence.

However, this app currently has a few issues that would need to be fixed prior to use with students. The first problem I identified was that each time you press the “speak” button, the app closes. So there is a sound issue with the app that needs to be addressed. In the “Family” story, the buttons are hidden in the design of the page.

But, the biggest issue of all is the incorrect English grammar displayed in the “Vegetables” and “Fruits” stories. For example, the sentence “I like corns” is used. The sentences “I eat apple” and “I eat banana” are also included. Until sentences like this are corrected there is no place for this app as a teaching or learning tool.

Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper

The free version of this app only has one sample story, which by the end of my exploration I realized was a sample of several bits of different stories. The app states that this is a series of 48 books used in the UK primary schools. There are 6 different levels, with stories divided into Phonics titles and First Stories.

The stories can be read to the student or they can read it by themselves.

The story is read with a British accent, and the sample story started by asking the student to find three objects starting with the “d” sound. There isn’t a consistent sound to remind students to turn the page. This was an example of one of the phonics stories. It only showed two pages before moving to the next level phonics story. After two pages, it moved to another level’s First Story. This pattern continued and varied between Phonics and First Stories samples. I liked some of the phonics ideas that I saw, like the ‘f’ and ‘ph’ sounds and how they are used in different words, and the illustrations were nice. The text was highlighted as it was read to the student.

A review of the full app would be necessary to consider including this app on the tablets for our elementary students. With other options already available to us, like Tumblebooks, would this be a worthwhile expense? At this point, I’m not sure!

First Words with Phonics Lite

The “lite” version of this app only offers 4 of the 30 words that appear to be available.

When you select a word, like cat, you see an image of a cat along with the letters c, a, and t jumbled on the screen. The word ‘cat’ is spelled out in dimmed letters along the bottom of the screen.

By touching one of the scrambled letters, you hear the sound of the letter. The object of the activity is to drag the letter to the dimmed word and match them up. When you are successful with all the letters, each letter is sounded out before the entire word is spoken.

Then the program moves to the next word. A nice feature is that words that contain blends or digraphs keeps those parts of the word together. An example is the word ‘whale’. The ‘wh’ and the ‘le’ are together.

I like the idea behind this app for our youngest students, but the lite version has too few activities to make it a worthwhile component on our tablets.


iLetters opens to a screen with the letters of the alphabet displayed with an object that begins with the same letter. You can scroll across to see all 26 letters of the English alphabet.

When you touch a letter, you see an outline of the uppercase and lowercase version. The outlines are not like what you might find on a handwriting worksheet and are instead appear more like versions you would color. There are colored pencils to choose from to trace the letter. An eraser clears your work.

You can hear the sound of the letter by swiping from the bottom of the screen up. You can also save tracing of the letter as a bmp, jpg, or png.

When attempting to trace the letters in this app, I found the the curves of letters hard to consistently recreate. I also think students would be confused by the outlines provided and try to trace the dashes as they might do with a pencil and paper.

ABC Magic Reading Lite

This free app focuses on three letter words in three parts: Blending, Segmenting, and Reading. Thorough directions are provided for each section.

The blending section offers no on screen indication of what to do. You are supposed to tap the letter spaces to hear the sounds and blend to produce the word. Then tap the larger white space to see and hear the complete word. The letters never appear on the screen in this section.

The segmenting section functions similarly. The picture appears on the screen and the student is supposed to determine the letter sounds by using an “eraser or band-aid wrapped finger” to tap the letter spaces without hearing the sounds provided by the app. If you tap the picture you can hear the word, then the student can attempt to segment the different sounds of the word.

The last section of this app is Reading. The letters appear on the screen for the student to “read” and then the student can touch the larger picture section to hear the correct pronunciation and see the word.

Overall, I think that this app is too complicated for independent student use and would have to be monitored by the teacher or an adult. If that’s the case, there’s no need to use technology to complete this type of activity. I don’t feel that this app is intuitive and would require more instruction than a teacher would want to provide for this type of activity.