Responsible Use by All

I am now at my second school in the role of an Educational Technology Coach so I have worked with helping many students understand the schools  Responsible/Acceptable Use Policy (RUP) for technology. However, the policies were created by our Technology Directosr and I had little input into what it contained or the language that was used.  The final project for course 2 provided an interesting opportunity to look in-depth at what a policy should contain, why the chosen elements were important and who the audience is that will be using the policy.

I was very fortunate to work with Ken in Nepal and Pitt in China when breaking down what is needed in a use policy.  The group collaboration provided an interesting opportunity to look what other schools are doing and why.  To begin with, we all shared the policies that our schools are currently using in a Google folder.

In addition to looking at each others policies, we created a Google Doc where we could all share our ideas.

It was clear from the beginning that we were all on the same page with what a policy should include and it was also interesting to see the ideas of others on what external resources to pull.  I thought we should include the ISTE Standards for Students as a framework for areas that need to be covered including: Empowering Learners, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaborator, Creative Communicator, Innovative Designer and Computation Thinker.  I also wanted to pay close attention to the level and tone of language.  I have found in the past that younger children do not understand what the RUP is asking them to agree to so there needs to be a great deal of discuss developing their knowledge.  Discussing the information is important but I think the language also needs to be more lower primary friendly. Pitt suggested using the Digital Citizenship material from Common Sense Media.  Excellent material can be found on their site and there is no use in reinventing the wheel.  One of the suggestions that Ken had was to use the Learner Profiles used with the IB programs.  Compiling all the information into one area is not always easy but when you look at the information in ISTE Standards, Common Sense Media and the Learner profiles, you can see how well they compliment each other.

For creating the policy, Ken suggested creating a form where our school information could be added which the student would sign. I think that is good idea because it helps to keep the students accountable.  In the past, when I have had student who strayed away from appropriate use, bringing their signed copy of the policy to the meeting with them was very powerful.   I was able to remind them that they had agreed to follow the policy and that it was in writing.  Pitt, created an infographic which is another great idea ,especially with young children. The more visual the information the more easily they care able to relate to it. ISTE has recently developed a poster covering the essential points in a Responsible Use Policy which I would also use with my students. Not only is it a great visual tool but also using positive language and instead of telling students what not to do suggest what they could do.

I had created a google slide which I could use to work with the students on each element in the policy.

I think as a group we were able to cover all the essential elements required in an Responsible Use Policy.  We were able to gather a variety of resources readily available in the Educational Technology digital world.  Also, a combination of media such as visual aide  signed documents to help with understand and holds students accountable.  The final project provided an excellent opportunity to took into a tool (the policy) and think about what was import to me when working with students instead of using one that someone else created.  It was also great working with other educators around the globe. Thanks Ken and Pitt.

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Digital Citizenship Takes Teamwork

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 I recently co hosted, with my Ed Tech Team, a parent information session on “Making the Most of Your Child’s Screentime”.  Many of the parents eagerly attended hoping we would provide the answer to the million dollar question, “How do I keep my kids safe online?”.  They attentively listened for the steps on how to set up an impenetrable wall around their children that would forever protect them from all the evils of the online world.

During the session, my role was to discuss different controls parents can set up, such as firewalls, parental controls and IOS restrictions.  A few parents might have been a bit disappointed when I mentioned  that if their child was in Grade 5 or higher, it wouldn’t be long before they could break many settings.  I didn’t want to give them a false sense of security by thinking the settings would a solve all problems.  Through the entire session, I reminded parents the best security feature they had was the relationship with their children and the importance of educating them.   I used the example, “You don’t typically hold their child’s hand while he/she crosses the street until they are 21 but instead teach them how to cross safely on their own”.  The same thinking needs to be applied to being online.  It’s almost a guarantee that children will encounter inappropriate material and/or conversations online at sometime so they need to be educated.

As the Ed Tech Coach, I try to go into each class a the beginning of the year to  discuss how technology is used in school. We talk about what technology is, why it is used at school and what is appropriate use.  This is a great time to talk about Digital Citizenship, but, it is not the only time.  I also go into classes to team teach a variety of digital citizenhip units with the teachers.  Great videos and activities can be found on sites such as Flocabulary and Common Sense Media can provide lesson activities.  However, I think the most effective way to teach digital citizehip is when it is relavate which can often mean when someone has used it inappropriately.

Teachers are also encouraged to teach digital citizenship with their classes as needed.  The teachers at my currently school do an excellent job utilizing the teachable moments the arise from day to day about screen time, appropriate use and online behavior.  The Grade 3 students have a year long Digital Citizenship unit which is continually revisited while working through the other yearly units.

Students can also play a part in teaching digital citizehip by acting appropriately.  I often hear students remind each other about logging out of  accounts, using appropriate search engines and finding balance. One of the key agreements for all students who join the Lunch Time Tech Club, is that they are the role models for their peers.  They need to demonstrate the appropriate use of devices, how to search, communitcation and stay balanced.  In the new year, students will be encouraged to create media on digital citizenship which will be played in the cafeteria during lunchtime.

Is digital citizenship being taken seriously?  Students see digital citizenship as just another element/environment where they live.  They don’t know of a life without it so they are learning to be safe just as they are in the natural environments.  Some students take their behavior a little more seriously than others, just as they would on the playground, in the classroom or at home.  It is just another environment to them.  Adults are the ones who are trying to adjust and assimilate safely into the visual world.

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Just Because You Can – Doesn’t Mean You Should


Is there a difference between being a  good citizen and being a good digital citizen.  I often start digital citizenship discussion with this question.  It doesn’t take long for the students to agree they are in fact the same thing but in two different environments.  So then why do we often behave differently online that we do in person.  The general consensus is usually the difference of being behind an invisible online wall the give a sense of security and empowerment.  However, one wrong post and we realize that the invisible wall doesn’t not really protect us.

Copyright plays directly into this idea of being behind an invisible online wall.  Typically, students would not walk up to someone desk, take their assignment or artwork put their name on it and hand it in as their own. Why not?  Is it because this action is happening in person and therefore we feel more accountable for our actions.  How is this any different that using someone else’s images or research on the internet?

As mentioned by Kirby Ferguson in Everything is a Remix, are there any original ideas left?  For years people have been taking, changing, adding and reducing elements of the original idea.  This can be seen in artwork, literature, music just to name a few.


So when is it OK to use someone else’s work?  I think this questions goes back to what I first said. It comes down to just being a good person.  I try to explain to the students that someone has taken time and effort researching and writing their ideas or perhaps taking photographs. The first question they have to ask themselves is did you take that picture with your camera or phone?  Did you travel to the articles location and collect the data yourself?  Of course the answer generally is no.  So is it OK to still use it?

I love to travel and take photographs which I often put on Instagram and Facebook.  Do I mind if someone uses  the photo of the gorillas I took after hiking throughgorilla Bwindi National Park in Uganda? No, not at all but I would like to be asked or I would like others to know that I was the one who took the photos.  I have not given anyone permission to  use my photos. I think at times, the idea of copy right needs to be made more personal to the students but using such examples or taking about work the they have around the room and see how they would feel if someone else used it and took credit for it.

However, students and teachers are often not aware of copyright rules and laws. I know as an Ed Tech Coach I should have a pretty strong understand but I don’t always know exactly how to site the information that I use but I do always try to give credit where credit is due.  I think for younger students the first step is helping them understand the difference between their work and someone else. Next, is to give credit to the person who did create the original work.  As students move to the higher grades they should start to learn the correct way to cite work.  With tools like Easybib and NoodleTools it is easier than ever.

Working in an international schools, makes following copyright laws a bit trickier as they can be very different from country to country.   In Switzerland, copy right is very different to North America however, I always stick with the idea of being a good person and thinking back to the discussion on giving credit where credit is due.  Another favorite saying of mine is “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.  As international students often move from school to school, country to country, I always encourage them to get in the habit of citing work.  This can only help them because once they get into high grades and university, they will be expected to cite their work.

I still encourage teaching copyright laws in classes and often discuss research project with our library team to make sure I am on the same page as they are when they are teaching research skills.  I often use resource from Common Sense Media such as their How to Cite lessons.  They have excellent lesson plans, family tip sheets and student activity sheets. They also have iBooks and Nearpod lessons.

Student Activity Sheets

Lesson Plan

Parent Tip Sheet

So, I think regards of where in the world we are teaching we need to remember to just be a good person and then just because we can doesn’t mean we should.  Collect ideas and use other peoples work as inspiration  as  Austin Kleon  in his books Steal Like an Artist.  Just remember to give credit where it is due which is what we would want if someone was using our work.

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Balancing Act Between Public and Private


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Picture by Ben Kerckx

How do you balance between creating a positive public digital footprint and keeping your information private.  If that is a hard topic for adults to get their heads round then how do we teach students to effectively walk, what seems like ,a tightrope of living online.

My last post was about creating a positive and professional digital footprint.  With all the different forms of social media, we can create an extensive portfolio containing our accomplishments to attract possible new employers.  A friend of mine was recently sought out and recruited by a large international education company due to his online presence and LinkedIn profile.  He had never heard of the company before they contacted him with a job offer.   This is just one of many examples on how having an online presence can have a positive impact on our lives.

So is it possible to post to much information or does the danger come from  posting the wrong information?  Juan Enriquez stresses the importance of what we are posting in “How to Think About Digital Tattoos”.

But what about the information that we are not consciously posting?  I’m not talking about what others post about us without our knowledge but our information that is being mined without our knowledge.  Just think about how often you have used a free public network.   Were you aware of who was online next to you or who could access our information? What security precautions were you taking?

Personally, I have not been taking many.

Gary Kovacs talks about the information that is being mined while we are online that we are not aware of.

After watching his Ted Talk, I installed Firefox add-on, Lightbeam (originally Collusion), to see what activity happens while I am online.  The screenshot below is a view of what happened  after only 1 hour of being online.  I had purposely visited 16 sites and unknowingly had another 250 sites tag along for the ride.  This was a bit of an eye opener for me.   So what can be done about it and what type of learning opportunities does this provide our students?


A great lesson would be to have the students add third party tracking extensions such as Lightbeam for Firefox, Ghostlery for Chrome and Safari so they can see the activity happening while they are online.  An interesting conversion would be to see if they think third party sites accessing their information is a bad thing.  Many sites take the information that is found to help create personal selection for us and make recommendations for shopping, holidays and restaurants.  A clip from the movie “Minority Report” shows how such information could be valuable for us in terms of personalized advertising.

So when is it not OK?  What information should we keep private and why?  My greatest concern is around personal location information and banking.  Another topic of discussion for students could be around identity theft and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Common Sense Media article  Best Privacy Settings for Your Computer and Smartphone suggests the following:

  • Turn off location services. That prevents apps from tracking your location.
  • Don’t let apps share data. Some apps want to use information stored on your phone (your contact list, for example). Say no.
  • Enable privacy settings on apps you download. Make sure your teens are using strict privacy settings on services such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • Be careful with social logins. When you log onto a site with your Facebook or Google username and password, you may be allowing that app to access certain information from your profile. Read the fine print to know what you’re sharing.

It would be interesting to see if students and teacher use any of the precautions mentioned.

There isn’t a 100% guarantee that our information will be safe but we can do something to try to protect ourselves. As in many things, the best way to protect ourselves is to first be aware of what is happening while we are online and next take a few simple steps like the ones mentioned by Common Sense.




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Which Pathway is Your Digital Footprint Taking?

Which direction will you take?

Which direction will you take?

In the digital world, it seems there are two paths we can take.  One that has a positive digital footprint that promotions us professionally.   Or one we create with a negative and self destructive digital footprint.  This one can have the consistency of quicksand and it can become a long and exhausting struggle trying to change directions,  if we don’t  recognize early where your actions are leading.  

This applies to not only teachers within the international teaching community but all professions.  A positive digital footprint is essential  in today’s job market.   How often have you heard someone say they Googled a new principal or director coming to their school to learn a little more  than what was included in the introductory email or first meeting.  Our digital footprint has become our first chance to make a good first impression in all walks of relationships.  In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how people use a small amount of information from what might seem like an insignificant timeframe to create a lasting conclusion.  This also what happens in the digital world.

I became aware of the importance of having a positive digital footprint after talking with a friend and her husband several year ago about changing careers.  Her husband was a VP for a  large pharmaceutical company in the US.  He mentioned how his company (and many others) look into the digital footprint of possible new employees and that people have not been hired based on what they found on their social media platforms.  They applicants were considered strong candidates until their digital personality was brought to light.  

After our discussion, I went to my Facebook account, checked security settings and cleaned up my pictures.  However, we all know that once something hits the web there is no real way of deleting it.  I often use Justine Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” as an example when discussing digital footprints with my students.  You can eality find it in dozens websites such as in the article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life from the New York Times.  I would image that Justine has tried to clean up her digital footprint, however, she was to late.  This is an extreme example but has a very strong voice.

My social media goal is now to not only have an untarnished digital footprint but also one that promotes me professionally.  I have been using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkin for several years but only half heartedly.  Facebook is for keeping in touch will family and friends back in Canada, Instagram is for sharing my passion for traveling, the outdoors and photography, Twitter is for looking up innovative ways to use tech in the classroom, and Linkedin to create a professional community.  

Typically, I use Twitter to retweet interesting ideas, however, I rarely post what I am doing with my students.  I have now started to tweet my professional accomplishments.    Also, I  started a profession blog several years ago.  Blogging has never been my strenghth so I will need to work a little harder at keeping it up to date with ideas, workshops I present and conferences I attend.  With time, hopefully, my blog will become an extensive digital resume.  Even my Youtube playlists of tech tutorials can build a profession database. 

I now focus on teaching the student to create a positive digital footprint instead of just trying to not create a negative one.  I tell the students to use their “digital voice” to show the world how amazing they are.   George Couro talks about the importance of student voice in his Ted Talk “Our Voice”

I encourage them to let the Uuniversities, Collages and the rest of the digital world see their hard work, accomplishments, kindness, imagination and creativity.  Websites such as Safe, Smart and Social’s How to Improve Your Digital Footprint for College have great ideas for creating a positive footprint.  It is essential that student learn to put their best digital footprint forward early on as it can have a lasting impact their lives. 



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A Journey Down the Digital Portfolio Road

Last year my school decided to  implement digital portfolios using Blogger from Grade 3 to 8.  This is the second school that I have worked at during such an huge undertaking.  I had learned a few valuable lessons from my last school which made this implementation a bit smoother, however, there’s still have been many bumps in the road.

In the past, our portfolios were a collection of papers kept in a binder and sent home at the end of the school year.   The digital move was to empower students with more independence in capturing their learning process.  They are now able to choose what they feel is the most effective communication tool for sharing work they are proud of, that shows their learning and/or that demonstrates their knowledge.

I was part of  team who researched  a variety of digital portfolio formats, platforms and philosophies.  Our findings were compiled and presented to our leadership team.  My role moved to supporting teachers and students with the implement of the portfolios once the decision was made to move ahead.

Since I was a member of the  team from the beginning, there are a few points that I realize are essential for a successful and smooth transition from paper to digital portfolios.

Point #1  There must be a close and transparent alinement between the schools philosophy on learning and the its vision for the integration of technology in education.  This connection should be the foundation for moving to digital portfolios which is clearly communicated to the entire school community from day one.  School administration and curriculum leaders need to be the strongest voice supporting the project when explaining it parents, teachers and students.  If not, the implementation can come across as being an idea from the Ed Tech Department which doesn’t hold as much weight when times get challenging. Bringing curriculum leads into meetings right from the start is invaluable for making connections between between technology being used to enhance learning and empowering students. In past situations, I have been asked “Well what do you want me to put in this(portfolio) thing?” because the staff didn’t see the value or the connection between tech and curriculum.

Point #2  Create and communicate a clear roadmap which includes the beginning stages mentioned above all the way do to full integration of the new portfolios.  This roadmap needs to be transparent to the entire school community and referenced to often as the school moves forward.


Point#3  Create a strong and diverse research and test group.  The group should include teachers from varying grade levels and areas of subjects areas, parents, administrators and students.

Point#4  Test the platforms on all the different types of devices the students, teachers and parents will be using.   Also, test how all media will be upload and viewed on all the different types of devices.  To work the bugs out, there should be pilot groups who dedicates 6 months to  a year using the digital portfolios.

Point #5  PD and resources need to be made available for teachers and students before implementation and during.  The demand to support classes is very high and being well prepared pays off.  The resources I tried to prepare in advance were short directed PD session, “Help” documents and a Portfolio Bootcamp.

The “Help” documents show how to add different types of media on the different devices (iPad, Macbook, Chromebook).   Feedback from teachers is always appreciated to ensure the documents value and relevancy. All the docs are all stored in Google Drive and shared though a Portfolio Bootcamp on the school virtual learning environment so they are live and easily updated.

The inspiration for the Portfolio Bootcamp came from a friend and fellow  Ed Tech Coach Singapore American School, Heather Dowd.  After chatting with her, I say the value in creating a location to house all of the support resources which I was compiling including the help documents, the portfolio philosophy, digital citizenship material, student samples and a variety of ideas of how to share learning using  different apps on the iPads.  Currently, the bootcamp is housed on the school VLE so I am not able to share it but I have provided a link above the website where I started the idea.

Now that the implementation is underway,  I have started  to direct my support in a different direction by starting a student and teacher support tech team

I decided to start the Student Tech Team to provide students with leadership opportunities by supporting the class with technical help.  I meet with small groups of grade 3-5 students once a week. I teach  small tasks such as adding video to Blogger using the embed code from google drive and they in turn let me know what is going well (or not well) in class and what is the most common form of media being added to the portfolios.  The students begin to understand some of the fundamental concepts of the technology and develop their  problem solving skills by applying their knowledge.

Even though we are still very much in the beginning stages, working with the team appears to be paying off.  I recently receive the following email from a grade 4 teacher

The Teach Club is fabulous!!!! Kids are being really helpful and Kate’s kids got her out of a pickle today. 


The Teacher Tech Team hasn’t started yet, but I have sent out a teacher survey to see who was interested in joining.  I was happy to see that there is at least one teacher from each grade/specialty who would like to join the team.  Th team will function similar to the student’s.  We will also discuss what is going well and what isn’t going well. In addition, I  will work with them to create a workflow that streamlines creating and maintain the portfolios which they can share back to their teams.

Not that the portfolios are beginning to get up and running, I will be able to focus more on helping students create quality posts.  It has taken a bit of support to remind some that the digital portfolios are not meant to be the paper binders scanned and uploads.  The idea is creating authentic reflection on learning.  Providing all students with a voice to share their knowledge regards of ability level, language or learning challenges.

Students are beginning to use a variety of technology generally though a variety of apps on the iPads
Goal Setting Using Popplet

They are also adding media created in the GAFE environment



I am still finding a many of the posts are similar to the paper portfolios.  Many are still at the Substitution or Augmentation level according to  SAMR. However, today a student in grade 5 starting taking a step in the right direction.  She created a video in app Explain Everything showing how she had created a loom for a materials unit.  The video provided a detailed description of how the loom was created and how worked.  By teaching others, she was demonstrating her in-depth understanding of subject.

Below is a copy of my unit for implementing the portfolios.  Many of the objectives are still in the very early stages but it will provide great guidance through out the year.

This will be a year of learning for teachers, students and myself.  As everyone becomes more familiar with the technology, hopefully the students will begin to feel empowered as they start to create their positive digital footprint and show the world all they know. I am looking forward to seeing the growth by the end of the year.




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The World is at Our Fingertips

The world is at our fingertips

I have often thought how I would have enjoyed school and found it more meaningful and engaging if my school could have taken advantage of the technology available today.  When I was in school, curriculum was centered around textbooks, writing and memorizing facts. Today, students can create movies and podcasts, talk to experts around the world, and make a real difference in community service projects.  They can collaborate with other students in their classroom and  around the world.  Today, there is a world of resources at the students fingertip.

ccfid_109875_2016195074703_imageAmazing programs such as  the
Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) and  EarthKAM  provide students with learning experience that are out of the world.  Image learning about the earth Geological make up not from a textbook but from an image you requested from the International Space Station.  How excited would students be if they could talk to astronauts in outer space when they are looking at gravity in a “forces” unit or asking an astronaut what his suit is made of during a “changing materials” unit.  How about joining Fabien Cousteau, a world-famous oceanographic explorer, on Cousteau Mission 31.  

YouTube Preview Image

Learn not only about the tight quarters inside a real working Aquarius lab but also the beauty of the marine life.  Students learn about career possibilities and how they can save our planet.

Students now have the ability to make a real difference in the world of community service with programs such as Kiva.   Great connections could be made in a design class where students create a useable product which could be sold and the proceeds fund a loan for someone in a developing nation.

There should be no end of opportunities in todays educational institutions for students to connect, collaborate and be active in the global community.  There are so many opportunities to redefine student learning so it is no longer only used as a substitute.  There is no reason for classrooms to be defined by their four walls anyone.  One click and the world is at our students fingertips.



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Climbing the Ladder to Tech Integration


Many steps

Generally, I try to keep the thought of “authentically integrating technology” into the classroom in the forefront of my mind.   However, during the rush of the day, the level integration I coach teachers toward is not always at the standard I was hoping for.  So what’s a coach to do?  After reading Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Mark Prensky, I was reminded of a great book a read a few years ago called Don’t Just Do It  Building the Foundations for Pedagocial Innovation Using the 12 Step EdTech Roadmap by Mike Pelletier, Dion Norman, Egmond Boon.  Many of the steps bring interesting questions to mind on how schools try to integrate tech as well as practical ideas for authentic integration.  I have chosen to talk about just a few of these step but if you are interested the Just Do It can be found for free in the iTunes store.

Don't Just Do It

In the book, Don’t Just Do It, Step 1 Toolishness is Foolishness discusses the importance of not just throwing tools into the classroom without a great deal of thought.  The road to quality integration needs to be paved with a strong vision from the top down, professional development, and leadership.  A strong vision can provide a clear understanding of why authentic integration is important and how it can be accomplished.  Setting up a roadmap with specific goals and check points can be the guiding light at the end of the tunnel.  Professional develop needs to be seen as a school wide goal which bring all staff up to a standard of proficiency when working with the devices and software.  It is an investment well spent which leads to less “tech stress” and stronger continuity.

SAMRStep 6 is about the “Adopt an Integration Model such as SAMR ”.

“The SAMR Model, developed by Ruben Puentedura, is an easy to understand model for teachers to use to guide them to deeper levels of technology integration. Using the model, teachers can set goals to transform teaching and learning using technology. ”

Excerpt From: Mike Pelletier, Dion Norman, Egmond Boon. “Book Title.” Self, 2015. iBooks.

The last two school I worked used the GAFE which definitely makes moving through the SAMR levels more accessible but reaching Redefinition is still a challenge.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

I am always inspired by teacher who are able to truly redefine  their students learning.  I attended a conference  Canada, where a grade 6 teacher named Brian Brian JacksonJackson,  talked about a project he did with his student in connection to the EarthKAM program.  He spoke about how he worked with students  to send picture requests to a camera that was on the International Space Station (ISS).  As the station passes over a specific location, the camera took a pictures based on the student request.  Students then saw the pictures once they have been downloaded from the station’s computers.  The pictures were then integrated into his curriculum.

Another program I heard Brian present on involved talking to  astronauts on the ISS.  The program is called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) He used  radio equipment that can track satellites and talk to the astronauts as they orbit around the planet.  I mean, come on, how cool would it be to talk to astronauts in space. Both programs can truly redefine a students learning.

Tech integration has no quick and easy fixes but takes careful thought, planning and vision. It needs to be a school wide goal that starts at the top and is clearly modeled by everyone from administrators, to teachers to support staff.  On a practical level, it also needs guidance by tools such as SAMR and ISTE.  It is from these standards that we can strive toward to changing education.   One step at a time and hopefully, maybe, one day I will make it to the top of the ladder.

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ePortfolio-Authentic Learning or Digital Binders

Quality Blogs… – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

This year my school decided to move to digital portfolios. In the past, we used the traditional binders with plastic sleeves to gather pieces of student work throughout the school year.  The idea being that teachers and students would select work, reflect on the learning and create a portfolio of growth in a non-stressful and natural way.   However, how the portfolios played out was a bit different than what was intended.  The week before the portfolios went home, frequently teachers scrambled to get student work into the binders. Often, a majority of the pieces were teacher selected work samples.  I don’t fault the teachers at all for this practise. I remember, all to clearly, when I was a classroom teachers how difficult it was to try to stay on top of updating the portfolios.

In theory, the digital portfolios should be a natural way to authentically integrate technology into the classroom. Not longer should there be a mad dash to adding paper to a binder.  Now the students should be able to take more ownership of the collected work samples.  However, there is a bit of deja vu with the issues starting to arise.

  1. The teacher are still determining what goes in the portfolio more often than students.
  2. There is the constant question, “What is the minimum amount of required post into the portfolio?” instead of looking for learning opportunities.
  3. Concern about consistency across classes in a grade level.  There is the fear that one teacher might have students posting everyday, meanwhile in another class, a teacher may have students posting once every two months.
  4. Last but not least…the look on the students faces when they hear they have to reflect on their work.

My goal this year is to help the students and teachers create more authentic portfolio samples that demonstrate student learning and to create a workflow that encourages more student independence when adding content.  

As stated in the ISTE Standards for Students, technology should,

Empowered Learner by providing an opportunity to articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes”.


We are using Blogger as our portfolio platform with the idea that blogging works well for reflection.  However, it seems that reflecting has become a negative word for teachers and students.  A few ideas developing to overcome the issues are:

  • One teacher has created a recording studio in the classroom where students can come in and record themselves quietly and in private.  This will give a voice to the students who are reluctant writers.

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  • Our grade 5 team has removed the work “reflection” from reflecting.  After returning from a week excursion the students created excursion survival guides.
  • I am in the process of creating portfolio examples using some of the student’s favourite creation apps such as Explain Everything, Pic Collage and Popplet and the visual thinking routines mentioned in Ron Richter Making Thinking Visible.img_0669

The ISTE Standards for Coaches mentions Visionary Leadership.  This year the digital portfolios will be one of the biggest challenges for me to promote the school’s and my visual of how technology should be used to support education  and learning.  Hopefully, providing examples and showcasing students and teachers who are able to move toward authentic examples of individual student learning will be a step in the right direction.

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Stop Trying to Fill an Empty Vessal


I have often said to parents that my goal as an educator is to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist. I often get looks of puzzlement and surprise. I think many people still see educational institutions as vessels of knowledge which fill students with what is needed for their future careers.  This may have been the case at one time but I don’t think it is true in today’s job market. According to Forbes Magazine,

“jobs such as App Developer and jobs with Cloud Computing Services did not exist a decade ago.”  

Casserly, Meghan. “10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016.

Take for example, my position as an Educational Technology Coach. When I went to university, some 20 years ago, to become a teacher my current position didn’t exist, at least not as far as I know. However, through my teaching experience and interest in technology I found my new role.  After reading [New] Bloom’s Taxonomy Digitally by Andrew Churches (Tech & Learning), I realized I used new Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy when I started as and Ed Tech Coach and still rely on it.   First, remembering what it was like to be a student learning something new and a teacher unsure or unfamiliar with how to implement a part of their role.  Next, understanding the role of an educator and what they need to implement technology into the classroom in an authentic way.  From that understanding, I was able to apply my knowledge of educating children and my interest in digital literacy to help teachers with tech in the classroom.  I recognized that I needed to analyse and constantly re-evaluate my role to be effective.  From there, I was able to bring it all together by using my creativity  to provide innovative ideas for using tech in the classroom.

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-20-25-02I also soon realized the importance of creating effective relationships with the teachers and
students.  When I first started in the role, I thought my knowledge of technology was the most import part of the job but I know realize that is not the case.  The most important element in my job is
creating  and nurturing a safe and positive relationships with teachers and students. This understanding was reinforced after reading Coaching for
Digital Literacy

For our students to be successful in the future job market, they will also need the skills outlined in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.  Encouraging entrepreneurship, creative thinking to come up with ideas for needed jobs and  adapting to the ever changing career trends.  If careers in app developing, cloud computing, and data mining where not known 15 years ago, how are students to prepare for unknown careers in the job market 15 years from now.     Educational system need to focus on fostering higher level of thinking skills within students instead of focusing on only pouring knowledge into empty vessels.

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Sink or Swim

Digital Life Preserver

I have always found it interesting how different generations view social media.  For many of my colleagues is it something to be feared and kept at arm’s length because the digital world is full of predators.  My students and nephews (all under the age of 20) see it just as another living space.  A place to get together and talk or hang out with friends.  What is really interesting is that the adults who are not comfortable with the environment are the ones teaching, ineffectively, about online safety.  We talk and talk to children about being safe online and they in turn tell us what we want to hear about how to protect themselves.

I worked with a group of grade 7 students at an international school in Singapore on digital citizenship and being safe online. At the end, we reviewed what we had been learning and a majority of the students could recite back perfect answers.  I then asked the class not to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear and instead just be honest about what they would put into practice from the lesson.  This reponse was a bit different.   Most of the students answered that they didn’t have time, didn’t think it was necessary or just were not interested in changing their online behaviour.  After talking with several other teachers and hearing that they were getting the same response, I started to wonder what we were doing wrong.  I was still having to regularly deal with students making unwise choices online.   It didn’t seem to matter now many times we talked to the students about online behaviour or taught lessons, the outcome didn’t change.

Then one day I attended a Digital Citizenship session at the iPad Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This changed everything for me. I wish I could remember the presenters name because as he spoke about his students and digital citizenship the paradigm shifted for me.  He said that we were giving students devices at home and at school, talking to them about online safety and then getting angry when they messed up.

He compared it to orally telling a 12 year old how to swim, throwing them in the deep end of the pool and then being angry at them for drowning. It is through testing the water, trying (and failing) that we learn. As teachers, we know this but for some reason when the topic is online behaviour it is viewed differently. I have now started to talk to the students in a different way. I encourage them to put their best foot forward. We talk about how what they are doing online now is the beginning of their online journey. They are creating a digital portfolio which schools and future employers will look at. I also tell the students how lucky they are to be learning while they are still young when the lessons don’t have dire, life altering consequences. Adults are also learning how to manage their online lives, making mistakes and learning the hard lessons. The difference is that their mistakes could be costing them jobs and relationships.  

The Power of a Tweet

Justine Sacco, former IAC employee, issues apology to ‘millions of people living with the virus’ after social media erupted
Looking at it in a positive way, our students are lucky. They are learning in a supportive community where mistakes can be turned into constructive learning.

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The first step

I’m excited to start the Coetail journey with everyone and hear what other professionals are doing to implement tech into the classroom.

Happy trails everyone!

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