Flipping out over Flipping Classrooms!

Flipped Learning

I had kind of been waiting during the Coetail course to get to grips with the idea of flipping the classroom. I was excited to learn more about it as I had heard mixed reports on its efficacy. The main question I wanted to answer from this week’s readings was could it work effectively in the elementary years when children might not have quite so much autonomy around screen time at home?

My first stop was this infographic (ever since course 3 I get a little over excited when I see infographics, sad I know). This was a good general overview but I got more out of watching the really informative videos  on scoop.it which illustrated how flipping the classroom works and what it should look like.

CC technapex.com

CC technapex.com

Reverse Instruction

My original idea of reverse instruction/flipped learning was you(the teacher) explain a concept or model a strategy eg for addition via video; kids watch at home and then can get straight into activities in class, maximizing in class learning time. How naive I felt after watching the above videos-its clearly ALOT more than that! I think the term ‘reverse instruction‘ made me think it was teacher input-student output type of thing.


CC ajcann.wordpress.com

But could that be a good place to start until students and the teacher get more used to flipping the learning? I still wasn’t sure if its was process that would work effectively with younger students and with time/resource constraints.


CC Virtuallawpractise.org

So I moved to have a look at gamification. I had heard a bit about this but as I am really not into computer games, it still feels a bit ‘beyond’ me at the moment. The furthest I have delved into it has been the Minecraft game during our school’s Hour of Code. So I had a look at other posts fellow Coetailers had posted on it to try figure out what exactly it meant to teach through gamification. I came across another great inforgraphic (of course) on Megali’s page which defined the differences between games, game-based learning (both of which I have done) and gamification. I am not sure if I am ready to take my first tentative steps into gamification just yet……so I went back to take another look at flipped learning.

Should I try flipping my classroom?

In Ramsey Musallam’s article Should You Flip Your Classroom he says,

‘Good teaching, regardless of discipline, should always limit passive transfer of knowledge in class, and promote learning environments built on the tenants of inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking.’

He advises the reader to,

‘ask yourself this question: Given my style, do I currently use class time to teach any low level, procedural, algorithmic concepts?’….If yes, begin by creating opportunities for students to obtain this information outside of the classroom.’

The answer is Yes, I do sometimes do this and I would love to reduce this so that the whole of each lesson could be devoted entirely to critical thinking and inquiry.

But where to start?

It seemed like a mammoth task so I fished around online and found some simple, specific instructions on how to get started with flipping my classroom from Jon Bergmann’s article Flipping the Elelmentary Classroom. Start small and build from there-flip one lesson! OK, I can do that…I think! Going on the advice in the article I could post a video to our class blog and checked that my students have watched by asking them to leave a comment.

One of my biggest concerns was what if my less enthusiastic students don’t watch the video and I end up have to teach it in class the next day anyway? The article suggests  keeping the video as a centre in class for those that struggle with the concept and need it to be reinforced (and for those that don’t watch it at home). Another great idea!

Moving forward


CC Pixalbay.com

So how can I adapt what I am teaching to include a trial flipped lesson? At the moment in Math we are working on more formal written strategies for addition. I have decided to create a video using Seesaw . I will post it to Kidblog and see what happens I guess! Aside from increasing the amount of inquiry time in class, I think parents will also benefit and appreciate this as they are often teaching the strategies they learned in school which can be counterproductive!

I look forward to giving this a go and seeing if I can flip further as I learn more about this.

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Course 5 Final Project

Well, its hard to believe I am writing my last COETAIL post. Not my last blog post ever thanks to my COETAIL experience!  What a journey it has been over the past year and a half. I have learned so much which has enhanced my teaching; its hard to know where to start to be honest!

flickr photo shared by topgold under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
Making this final video has been a labour of love….and hate at times! Its still not perfect – I would loved to have had longer to record my students’ development and hone my Movie skills; I have a while to go before I am the Stephen Spielberg of iMovie! But like every new tech experience COETAIL has thrown at me I have learned a valuable lesson: the journey/mistakes/re-dos are the learning, not just the completed product.

I suppose the best way to reflect on my COETAIL journey is do what I’ve done for my previous final blogs for Courses 1-4……

2 Stars:

Its hard to pick just 2 positives from completing the COETAIL course but I’ll try:

  1. The opportunity for practical application of tech in the classroom and the freedom to interpret the weekly readings and use them however I could in my specific school setting. With COETAIL its certainly not a one size fits all approach, the cohort have had varying levels of experience with edtech and each one has been supported and accommodated by the tutors and peers in the cohort. Another thing  I loved were the readings such as those Flipboard and Digg. Not just boring theoretical article after article but hugely interesting and engaging information on so many different areas of ed tech that you could be absorbed for hours-which I often was!
  2. Being forced out of my comfort zone and pushed into creating a PLN! I can honestly say I would never have done this without the encouragement and expectations of the course. I finally understand what a wonderful resource a community of like-minded teachers really is! This was the biggest hurdle but the most worthwhile and has had a major impact on my classroom as you can see from my video.

Wish: A wish for my ongoing professional development after COETAIL is to keep up with blogging as much as I can. I know it will be trickier when I don’t have deadline but its important to try to document what I am learning about and I think its something which is becoming more important in the teaching recruitment field also.

I know going forward I won’t have the safety net of the COETAIL cohort but I am hopeful that I can continue to learn from all these wonderful people through the wonderful medium of ed tech!

Thank you for the learning COETAIL! :-)


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PLN: Professional Lurker Now what?

My venture into developing a professional learning network was tentative to say the least. I joined Twitter first in 2013 and promptly forgot about having an account until I started Coetail and in 2015 I was forced out of my comfort zone and into, what I imagined, to be online ‘networking’. This filled me with dread but I was happy to know that I wasn’t the only ‘lurker’ and that with time I may even enjoy, and learn a lot, from the connections I made online.

This definitely is not a tale about how I have amassed hundreds of followers on Twitter (which as it happens has been my main source for building my PLN). See below for proof of this:


BUT I do feel that the connections I have made in the development of my PLN have been worthwhile and meaningful to me as a teacher, and to the learning of my students. I want to focus on two particular connections which have transformed the learning environment in my classroom.

Global Read Aloud

Back in my professional lurker days, circa 12 months ago, I had just started Coetail and saw some buzz on Twitter about the Global Read Aloud, ran by @permillerip. This is a really wonderful initiative and while I tried to get involved last year, I had arrived to the party a little late (about 5 weeks late) and the task seemed to large. I vowed that next year I would be fully involved from the start for #GRA16.

Up until this year I had been using Kidblog with my class but this year I decided to make use of the blog available on Seesaw   or the Global Read Aloud as this app would be the basis for my final project.


I know it sounds silly, but once I had tweeted this I reverted back to a schoolgirl momentarily. ‘But what if no one wants to connect with me?!’. Thankfully, Twitter isnt nearly as scary as I had imagined and in fact, there are some really lovely people out there in the Twittersphere.


When I told my class that we would be discussing The BFG by Roald Dahl with students from other parts of the world, the response I received was overwhelming.


They couldn’t wait to see what their friends in the US would say about their blog posts. It literally transformed the level of interest in just reading a book to the class. Each week there were (and still are, we are still in the middle of #GRA16) guiding questions relating to the chapters we read.


Knowing that we were sharing this book, not just with the class, but with the world was incredibly engaging for them.


My students are now more motivated and open-minded to the possibilities of sharing other work they create this year in a global context and I hope to build upon this as the year continues.

Mindfulness in the classroom

For the past year or so I have been using the Headspace app regularly and find it really excellent. I wanted to bring this into my classroom as I think children these days don’t have enough time to just be bored or focus on the now. Anxieties, even for the youngest of children, are everywhere and as a result many children just cannot do their best learning in class. I started doing some simple breathing exercises using the free gozen videos on youtube.  Unfortunately, at nearly 200USD per year for a subscription I was stuck with the free videos until I saw this post by @Ed_Tmprince on Twitter:


I had been following Tammie since the end of the last school year when I tried out her #MonthOfMindfulness:



My class last year loved the activities we tried so this September I decided that mindfulness would be part of our class routine from the very start. I contacted Tammie and she suggested some strategies I might like to use with my class.


My class have embraced mindfulness activities as part of the school day now and some have even told me that they have done some of the breathing techniques at home when they have felt anxious, or frustrated. And for me, really there is nothing more rewarding that hearing a story like that.

My class wanted to share our mindfulness techniques with their peers so our upcoming class assembly is going to be about mindfulness and teaching some breathing exercises! They are so passionate about it and I love that they feel empowered in doing these exercises outside of class too. I feel that I have also been both inspired and empowered to make more meaningful online connections with others which has had such a wonderful impact on the learning in my class.

So, while its true I haven’t reached the dizzy heights of Katy Perry in terms of twitter followers, I hope one day to break the 100 mark :-)

flickr photo shared by Copper Lynfield under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


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GoFormative and Prosper?

The end of COETAIL is fast approaching and the due date for the final project is ever looming…I have so enjoyed every part of the experience but I must admit I lost that loving feeling a little when I found out that course 5 couldn’t be used for credits towards the masters at SUNY. For a while I found myself going through the motions and kind of just wanted to just get the course done so I could focus on another goal. However, what I have found is that COETAIL has instilled in me an eagerness to learn, (trial and error mostly!)  about new areas of IT to improve my teaching which I am really grateful for!

Redesigning Math Stop-Checks

In our Math curriculum we follow a spiral structure and this year my year 3 students started with number which will be revisited twice more throughout the school year. As part of each concept we do whats called a stop-check round about the halfway point in the learning. For the past couple of years this has been paper-based (it doesn’t have to be) but I have been trying to reduce-reuse-recycle as much as possible as our school goes greener while still having a record where each child is mid-unit.

flickr photo shared by Sean MacEntee under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Here we Goformative

By the power of Twitter, I came across a Tweet about  GoFormative. I had been looking for something similar-ish to Socrative but a little more user-friendly for my 7 year old students. I love using Plickers with my class but I wanted to be able to have students demonstrate their understanding creatively and with Plickers its limited to multiple choice. I particularly liked that to trial it students can use it without creating an account. I really didn’t want to have my students sign up to a dozen different things we may never actually use consistently. I even reached out to the team @goformative for help on this (a big step for a former professional lurker).


I added some questions from our upcoming Stop Check and I shared this with the students on  google classroom.

This first use was certainly a trial and error as I soon realized that I hadn’t  added all questions correctly and I could’ve used other goformative  response tools to enhance this experience but for a first try I was pretty impressed. I really like the whiteboard on the ipad they can use and the fact that you can upload a document and they can write on it to show their thinking. I will definitely be getting my class to sign up for goformative as its a great way to have a record of where students are at without having to waste time and resources with a paper-based assessment.

flickr photo shared by Room 216 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

The one major plus for Goformative is the ability to see exactly what each child is writing on their ipad whiteboard in real time from the teacher desktop computer,  and giving feedback directly to  students as a lesson is going on. For me, I think this would be used daily if I was in an ipad 1:1 class but unfortunately in our year group we share 1 set of ipads between 6 classes so I think, for now at least, doing our Stop-Checks this way could be really beneficial. I am hoping to move to a 1:1 class next school year and for sure Goformative is something I will be using on a daily basis!


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Course 5 Final Project: E-Portfolios and Seesaw

Well, I hope all my fellow Coetailers had a great summer break and a great start to the new school year! As ever with the start of each Coetail course during this whole experience (which I have loved), I have found post 1 of Course 5 difficult to write as I tried to  remember how to blog! I wonder if I will ever get over the mental block I have when I have gone a few weeks without blogging-what will I do when this course is over?!

Where Do I Begin?

To help reboot my memory and help me focus I read over my previous ideas for the final project and the feedback I had gotten from Rebecca and other Coetailers. 2 things have changed since my last post; 1) we are not 1:1 ipads classes in year 3 as I had hoped, and 2) I am now the coordinator for the year 3 team which has so far been a wonderful, but very steep learning curve! (I am told that the 12 hour days at school will reduce once I get the hang of all this!)


flickr photo shared by flickingerbrad under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

PYP Porfolio and Seesaw

Following Rebecca’s sage advise, my final project will apply the SAMR model and redefine how PYP portfolios are used in Year 3 using the Seesaw app which I used for the first time last year with my class and loved. While we do not have ipads for each child this year we do, however, have a class set of ipads which we can share among all 6 year 3 classes so thankfully my project is still achievable. The ultimate aim is to give students the power to select a piece of work (written work, group work, something creative) and have parents reflect on this with their child during the unit as they will receive updates each time their child posts in the Portfolio folder on Seesaw. This, I hope, will encourage parents to become more engaged in what their child is working on in school and therefore be more aware of what they can do to help them achieve their potential.

flickr photo shared by o.tacke under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

So far, so……?

So far, the year 3 team have met with our PYP Coordinator to plot out a list of expectations of what needs to go onto Seesaw for portfolio. The requirement for the first unit is that we must choose a writing target and have at least 3 pieces of writing which demonstrate progress from the start, middle and end of our first 6 week unit. Not exactly as empowering as I would like for the students but at this stage I am just happy that our portfolios are not solely select pieces from Language Arts and Maths books which no one looks at until the very end of the year when parents come in for 10mins to look at their books and talk about their work with the child. This process was superficial and really of no benefit, so for now I take this as a step in the right direction.

With my class, we have created folders for Math, LA, UOI and Portfolio and they got the hang of using the app really quickly. I have given access to parents so that they can like, comment and reflect with their child on the work that they post. However, so far, the  parent engagement has been a bit of a mixed bag…


Parent engagement has included comments relating to achieving the target, “ok let’s work on spelling together”; those that are supportive but unspecific, “wow, well done!” and then those like the above that are non existent… I think as its still the start of the school year I can reach out to parents and really stress the importance of taking the time to sit and reflect on what they have been learning about in school so I am hopeful that with some continued encouragement parent involvement becomes more consistent.

Global connections

For the past couple of years I have used Kidblog with my students which has been an amazing tool for them to practice their online communication skills, develop digital citizenship skills, and connect with other classes across the world. However, it has at times been tricky as my students need to remember passwords for this, pc logins, google drive etc. This year, my aim is to use the Seesaw blog feature instead so that my students can have meaningful conversations and give and receive feedback on their work to/ from their peers. This may end up having more impact on their learning than the parent engagement, we will see! While we may be still a little confined as regards our specific portfolio content, there is nothing to stop us selecting pieces of work to share on the blog. Knowing that their work will be shared with a global audience will hopefully motivate and encourage my students to reflect on their targets and goals (both personal and academic) and empower them to achieve and share their success with children just like them!

I have reached out to other elementary teachers on Twitter so hopefully my next post will include some details about our newest global connections on Seesaw! Watch this space!

flickr photo shared by fdecomite under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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Course 4 Final Project: Decisions, decisions

There have been so many different ideas that I have considered for my final project and I am still not sure which one I will go with so while I was tempted to use the UbD planner to reinvent a recent unit I am instead going to reflect on a couple of potential projects and see which is the best fit with my new class.

Redesign our ‘Action in the Community’ unit

In this unit the students will develop google forms skills to create a survey which they will share with the school community to gather data on various interest areas (eg bullying, recycling, deforestation etc). The data collected will then be represented in bar charts created from the excel document (linking to our data handling unit in Math) and used to create a persuasive poster (linking with our Language Arts genre) to raise awareness/money for their chosen cause/initiative. I have loved playing with infographics during course 4 so ideally, the students would create a infographic poster  from the report template on Piktochart and upload the data they collected from the school community.


We have a class twitter account which up to now really hasn’t been used but students could also contact their chosen charities and research more information which they can use in their infographics. Skype calls with representatives could also be arranged to gather more information than the traditional books and internet research my students normally do, and find quite difficult. They can then share their posters with the wider school community via their google accounts and post to the web via the twitter account using relevant hashtags.

Developing connections and a sense of global community

Developing connections and a sense of global community Photo Credit: https://www.123rf.com/

This project would be an excellent way for my students to connect with a wider audience to feel as though they are really making a difference which is what our action unit it really all about; to understand that community isn’t just where you live and go to school, we are part of a global community and can make a difference in many ways. They would use skills that I have learned during this course with GAFE and Piktochart and understand that they are developing these skills for purpose and not just because I want them to learn about them. Their research would be more focussed and meaningful on the whole as they could tweet out a specific question directly to a charity instead of trawling through lots of info their website and getting frustrated! Using these skills would redefine the way this unit is taught as the students would be making connections in so many different ways which empower the children to drive their own inquiry into a particular interest area instead of me leading them a little which often is the case.

I taught this unit just recently so if I decided (and it was agreed by the rest of the year group) to move around our units so that this would coincide with course 5, it would be a concern whether at the start of the year students really have the self-management or research skills to undertake a project like this. Its a huge transition between Year 2 and Year 3 and we tend to leave the action unit until later in the year when the children are that bit older and more mature. I think it could be a little over their heads but then maybe I am underestimating them? For this unit to be successful I need to take a much more ‘hands off’ approach. We have often been stuck to a 5/6week time frame which has meant I have at time had to lead certain groups so that they are on track. But with more streamlined,  effective research resources (twitter, Skype) more quality research could be carried out in less time and ultimately the inquiry would be more meaningful for students and deepen their understanding of the whole unit. They would be driving their own inquiry and be more motivated to find out details. I need to give them the time and space to do that, make mistakes, learn from them and move on. My job is reflection with less direction. Developing GAFE skills and infographics would require that the students display commitment and self-management early on so that they can collect their data effectively. I really want to do this but I definitely need to think about this a little longer and iron out any potential kinks especially if I am hoping to do this for my course 5 project.

E-portfolio using Seesaw

Besides infographics, another think I learned about in Coetail from other people is the wonder that is Seesaw. I love it, and have been using it extensively in my class since I first heard about it. For the past couple of years our school have been discussing how best to present PYP portfolios. For the most part they have been paper-based. Right now, students choose a piece of work from Math, LA and UOI for each unit that they did well in and write a reflection. Not very inspiring, very time consuming and super restrictive for the students. Parents do not get to see these until the last Parent Teacher Conference at the end of the school year-pretty pointless!

Starting next year I intend to use Seesaw as the eportfolio. Children can photograph something they are particularly proud of in any subject at any time (not just once per unit as we are doing now) and save time by leaving a voice comment on it to reflect. It needn’t be something from their books, it could be a group project for instance where they demonstrated excellent cooperation skills. This would save so much time as children will do an ‘on the spot’ reflection, and not everyone will have to choose something at the same time, it can be anything, anytime. So instead of  6 pieces of paper-based work for for each subject area, each student would have a combination of photos, book work, project work and all with a typed/audio reflection attached. The beauty of this is that it puts the student in charge of building a portfolio of work that they are proud of. If its more in Math than in Language Arts that’s OK; it should reflect the student, not be a carbon copy of everybody elses. Furthermore Seesaw would redefine the student portfolio as parents would be automatically updated when a new piece of work was added to their child’s portfolio. This in turn, would encourage parents to reflect with their child more often (hopefully) throughout the unit and give them an insight into how they are developing both academically and personally. This would promote the parent/teacher/student connections  as both myself and parents could leave comments on a child’s uploaded piece of work, and not just when a report is sent or a PTC is scheduled.

Parent Child Reflection Photo Credit: https://www.hoopoekids.com/

Parent Child Reflection
Photo Credit: https://www.hoopoekids.com/

I think I would need to become less rigid in my expectations for portfolios. So far we have school wide expectations for what should go in one. I think I need to ensure that we have portfolio agreements set at the start of the year and then give the students the responsibility for ensuring they meet them eg you must have once piece of work from each subject for each unit but then allow them to upload other pieces as they see fit. A potential issue is that students upload everything and anything just for the novelty of doing it in each lesson and their portfolio ends up being nothing more than jumbled mass of random things but by the students developing the skills too use Seesaw and developing responsibility and reflection I am hoping this will only arise at the start of the school year. Another concern may be that while parents are connected to the portfolio they don’t actually engage with it or reflect with their child. I am still not so sure how to overcome this but maybe make it clear that this is very important from the get go. Each new school year, parents are invited to a presentation which the class teacher gives so this could be a useful opportunity to highlight the importance of this.

These are just 2 areas that I will definitely develop next year but whether I choose to do them for the course 5 project remains to be seen. I am also considering a flipped math unit which could be a possibility but I want to make sure that I have the time to create the videos etc so I will do more work on that idea over the summer. I can’t believe this is the end of course 4-where has the time gone? Loads of new cool stuff learned, it hasn’t felt like learning, its been fun…but I guess that’s what Coetail has been teaching us all the time, right?

Have a great summer break fellow Coetailers and see you in Autumn :-)

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Tech and Teaching Tightrope

I struggled to write about this week’s topic. I shouldn’t have, as I try to find a balance with technology in my daily life as much as possible so reflecting on how I might do this in class with students should have been easy. I had this same problem in course 3 where I was thinking more about the final project for the course so the penultimate post seemed like such hard work! I have so many ideas bouncing around for the final project and I am finding it a real challenge to solidify any of them but I am making  progress slowly but surely the more I think it over. But I digress….

Did I need to find a balance?

Photo Credit Eisen Jiao Some Rights Reserved

Photo Credit Eisen Jiao Some Rights Reserved

For this week’s topic of balancing tech in the classroom the first article I read was Dean Groom’s 23 Things about Classroom Laptops.  I first wondered how I could even relate it to my own class as at the moment. Striking a balance hasn’t been a problem as we only have one set of 5 iPads  and one class set of laptops which is shared between 5 of our year 3 classes!

Coincidentally, a couple of days later I had a meeting with our school principal. I have applied for the year leader role for the next school year and wanted to discuss the resourcing for our year group; in particular for technology integration. I received some good news in that the year 3s will almost certainly now have 3 1:1 classes. It will be an opt-in scheme for parents and from year 4 upwards all classes will be 1:1 so I imagine demand will be high.

Introducing ‘tech breaks’

Photo Credit: Langwitches Some Right Reserved

Photo Credit: Langwitches Some Right Reserved

After hearing this news I dived straight into the readings with renewed interest to see what others had done in their iPad classes to manage behaviour and find a balance with technology. In my current class, we use brain breaks in between tasks/lessons to burn off any excess energy and refocus for the next task so I found the idea of tech breaks interesting when I read Larry Rosen’s article on The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks”.

I am sure as we integrate tech more next year into our lessons that we will continue with the more physical brain breaks but its an interesting idea to maybe let students choose their own song to listen to on youtube , post on kidblog  or play a game like Minecraft. (My students being 7 and 8 years old means that Twitter and Facebook breaks are not an option!). I hadn’t really thought of it like this before so its been an eye-opener for me.

Drawing a fine line between work and fun

But if I am including tech breaks how do I define the line between using tech for school tasks and then for ‘fun’? As Holley Korbey mentions in her article,

“….it can be confusing for [young adults] to distinguish the difference between work and everything else.”

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Some Right Reserved

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Some Right Reserved

As I do at the start of every school year, I will develop our class agreements for expected behaviour but make sure they are in line with our new seating style (deskless) and  encourage the students in my new class to use their technology in the right ways to find a balance. I checked out some course 4 articles on Flipboard and did some traditional ‘googling’ and found Rebecca Davies article which laid out some strategies for managing behaviour in a iPad classroom. From reading this I realized it isn’t so different from what I normally do. Its really just a case of my students learning new behaviour expectations just as they would in a ‘traditional’ classroom. This also needs to be modelled by the teacher and t5he guidelines should be clear.

Photo Credit: Barry Dahl. Some Right Reserved

Photo Credit: Barry Dahl. Some Right Reserved

Best Practise for next year

Hans Mundahl’s 5 Best Practises for Managing a 1:1 iPad classroom was really interesting and I think I will be stealing his tech take on the original traffic light system for behaviour management;

  • Red Task – What I’m about to tell you is super important. Focus in and flip your iPad face down. No apps are allowed.
  • Yellow Task – This task needs 2-3 apps to accomplish. You might need your note taking app and your eBook for example. You can be in any of these apps based on what you need at a given moment. In my class social media and games are never allowed in a yellow task.
  • Green Task – Once you are finished with the quiz it is a “green moment.” You can be in any app except for social media.

I think this would be an excellent and simple way for my students to have a clear visual of what’s expected and also link in with the idea of tech breaks. Definitely something I will be using next year.

I haven’t have formal confirmation yet that I will be one of the teachers of a 1:1 class but I feel I will be more well equipped to find the balance after this week’s research!

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Diving into Deskless…well, sort of

Apologies if this post goes off on a tangent a bit but I was really drawn to one particular area of the future of education and that’s classroom design. When I read the post, The Classroom is Obsolete: Its Time for Something New it got me thinking what should a classroom be designed for and was my current classroom meeting the needs of the learners in my class?

‘Instead, it provides opportunities for traditional teaching to seamlessly connect with many other modes of learning. Simply put, it is form following function, not function (unsuccessfully) following form.’

Learning from those ‘in the know’

I instantly thought of a colleague of mine who recently ‘broke the mold’ in our school and who recently introduced a ‘deskless’ classroom concept. My initial thought would be that all hell would break loose without assigned seating and some way of managing where the kids were working. That’s not to say that we don’t work in groups in my class. We do all the time, and the students are moving around all day but I found it hard to get my head around a class without the ‘crutch’ of a ‘home spot’ at a table for each student. Luckily, I had inspiration right on the the next corridor!

Inspired by my colleagues class!

Kidney table for collaborative work with students-no more ‘teacher’s desk’


Rugs, mats which are called ‘personalized learning pods’ which the students love!


Lost of comfortable seating makes for a more relaxed atmosphere


Desks (including standing desks) haven’t been outlawed but are optional learning space for students to choose



Having spent some time in Sally’s Year 4 class, I literally didn’t want to leave! From the soft furnishings to the softer lighting I didn’t feel like I was even at work, it was so relaxed. It seems this has also been the effect on her students. Far from acting out because they were less “controlled”, the children have blossomed with the responsibility to move around freely, and incidents of misbehavior haven’t really been an issue during this transition.

I instantly thought of  the Horizon Project article I had read previously;

‘Yes, we will need enclosed spaces for direct instruction, but perhaps these could be adjacent to a visible and supervisable common space for teamwork, independent study, and Internet-based research.’

As you can see from Sally’s room desks haven’t been banned altogether. The difference is there are used for collaboration and there are certainly no students who have a specific spot at the table at a specific time during the day.

Now, my turn

With approval gotten from my principal to start making some minor changes to my class (with a view to rolling out the deskless idea with my new class from the start of the next school year), I devoured the pinterest page Sally had shared with me which had some amazing ideas for using the space in a classroom to promote deeper learning. I researched new classroom design online and found Classroom Architect a handy way to visualise what my class could possibly look like. I also took some ideas from this infographic on the Science of Classroom Design. But the best thing I probably did was ask my students to design their ideal classroom and what it would look like. Sure, I had a couple of students go a bit ‘extravagant’ with the ideas; I don’t think an ice-rink will be an option, or an ice-cream truck for that matter! But most students really thought deeply about what they liked/didn’t like and it was an activity I probably wouldn’t have done if not for this course.

But I was still a little unsure as to whether I should make changes to my class. There were lots of things to consider including the price of buying all this cool new seating! I took inspiration from Kayla Delzer’s article Flexible Seating and Student-Centred Classroom Design. Put simply,

‘If it’s best practice for our kids, do it now.’

It does seem daunting and costly but it can start with small changes- rearrange existing desks and buying a few more cushions. And there are loads of helpful tips online to tackle organisation/storage issues.

So, I gave it a go. Its not a huge change for now, and it certainly isn’t deskless….yet!

We now have an ipad station and I have a new desk that allows me to work with students more easily. I also introduced some 'pods' as flexible seating.

We now have an ipad station and I have a new desk that allows me to work with students more easily. I also introduced some ‘pods’ as flexible seating.

I asked parents to send in any lamps they didn't use to create softer lighting. I plan to get some foam flooring for the new reading area.

I asked parents to send in any lamps they didn’t use to create softer lighting. I plan to get some foam flooring for the new reading area.

I literally just did this yesterday so I haven’t even been able to see how my students react yet but I am hoping to get rid of more chairs and desks as the final weeks of the school year progress! I am excited to see where it goes!

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“Crikey! PBL, then PBL again and then CBL…….ok”, I thought as I looked at week 2’s assignment. What do I do? I know how I teach and how I would like to teach in an ideal world/school but which category do I fit into as a teacher, and do I need to “fit” into one at all? These were just some of the things that ran through my mind reflecting on this week’s readings.

CC Google Images

CC Google Images

Project-Based Learning

I first started looking into what exactly Project-based learning was using the checklist for PBL which I thought was a really useful tool to use when creating success criteria for students. In my year group, for example for a written task, we will create a success criteria based on the year level expected outcomes for that particular genre which children use throughout the unit when they edit and improve drafts which results in a final project, be it a piece of writing. For a recent unit of inquiry we did things a little differently. The project was to create an information report based on research the children carried out on the solar system. The info report success criteria was generated in class with students (so teachers could lead students a little more based on outcomes), and the children created another success criteria themselves based around the skills and attitudes which they would need to use over the course of carrying out their research in pairs/threes. Was this project-based learning? I still wasn’t sure so I went to good ol’ Wikipaedia which defined Project-based learning as;

“a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.[1] Students learn about a subject by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem.[2] It is a style of active learning and inquiry-based learning.”

flickr photo shared by US Army Garrison Red Cloud – Casey under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

While students investigated research questions about the solar system they hadn’t really responded to a problem in this instance. So, if investigating and responding to a problem is project-based learning, then what on earth was problem-based learning?, I wondered.

Problem-Based Learning?

Well, from what I can gather its a part, or a sub-set of project-based learning. The John Larmer’s Edutopia article on the similarities and differences between Project-based and Problem-based helped clarify things;

‘…problem-based learning [is] a subset of project-based learning — that is, one of the ways a teacher could frame a project is “to solve a problem.’

Ah, OK, thanks John. This made me reflect on our recent math unit on the 4 number operations. We started with a problem/investigation. We wanted to have a class party at the end of the unit but it had to be organised by the students themselves in class. At the start, there was  some ‘But miss can’t you just tell us what to bring?‘, but I made it clear that there wouldn’t be a party unless they could critically think about how they would carry this out. (I had recently been on a professional development course about the Role of Mathematics in PYP and this was my first foray into more inquiry-based and contextualized Math.)

Working out how to plan a class party

Working out how to plan a class party

They needed to decide which number skills they needed to develop to ensure they was enough foods/drinks for the party, without there being a lot of wasted food. My students absolutely LOVED this whole idea because it was essentially up to them. Some of the discussion going on in the lessons were really amazing. They discovered problems which needed solving, they tried different strategies (and I modelled written ones as per our school expectations) and had to manage their time.

I really want to do more stuff like this with my students. While my school is an IB school, we are still constrained by set year level expectations for students, and time constraints eg each unit we work on lasts 6 weeks, no more, no less.

However, I did get some inspirations from Kevin Grant’s Edutopia article where he starts with a simple question and takes a class survey to spark debate among students and get their mind in inquiry mode. I can for sure do this using Plickers in my class.He also mentions having students  become historians and interpret events from the past.I tried this approach in our Math unit on time- looking first at how time has been told in the past  and the different ways it was told. Time can be a tricky concept for students so they was a great way to get them thinking about why we even need time and where it came from. Again, due to time constraints I couldn’t spend as long as this as I would’ve hoped.

And then there is Challenge-Based Learning…

In a nutshell, challenge-based learning is something I want to do more, am doing as much as possible, but am not doing enough of. I watched (because reading lots is hard work!) all of the videos on the challenge-based learning website  and my initial reaction was thats amazing! The depth of learning that takes place in an inquiry is inspiring but I found myself wishing I had all the time to do it! Not to say we don’t do it at all in my school, but we don’t get to explore an issue as comprehensively as I would like.

Similarities and Differences

All 3 (PBL, PBL and CBL) promote student-centred learning  in small groups where its tasks are more contextualized and carry more meaning. Projects are created, problems/issues are explored and addressed to a certain extent.

CC Google Images

CC Google Images

However, the one major plus with Challenge-based Learning is the purposeful use of available technology to get students more involved and take action in a wider sense eg connecting with people outside the classroom, foster discussion and investigate solution to challenges that are important to the students within a local, national or global context. It also encourages more teacher and student reflection during the learning.

If I am totally honest, CBL probably only happens during one of our units, our unit on Action. Perhaps that’s the problem; having a ‘unit on action’  puts all the focus on CBL into a 6 week block. My students are working on making a positive difference in the community (local or global) by taking action to promote awareness for a problem they have identified. But at the end of the unit we move onto something else.

At the end of each school year, all staff sit together and reflect on the order of units and the content. CBL, how we do it, and if we do it effectively enough will certainly be on the agenda!



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As always, it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things blogging-wise with every new course we start so apologies if this week’s blog is a bit of a ramble!

Tech Integration is….

I thought this topic  was a good way to start us off for course 4. There were so many suggested readings that I went straight for the most obvious; Mary Beth Hertz’s article What Does Tech Integration Mean?

I know I am not a total novice in this area. I talk about tech integration and I am pursuing this Coetail course because I would describe myself as passionate about tech integration. But what exactly does that mean? Reflecting on where I am with my class in terms of tech integration, I would say I am  a comfortable ‘Comfortable’, if that makes sense! But I want to move into the Seamless category! I do think, however, that making this transition can be affected by your particular school; the emphasis put on tech integration, levels of experience and availability of resources.

SAMR model explored

How do I know that I am in the comfortable category? Exploring the various videos in the SAMR-izing Subjects article helped. On first glance  my tech use is predominately augmentation with some elements of modification. We have used google docs to work collaboratively and Kidblog is something that is used consistently where the children post content and the others in the class comment and reply. We also dabbled in redefinition when we created the AUP for the final project of course 2 with students from another school. I attempted (a bit too late!) to participate in the Global Read Aloud with my class, with limited success. With a shared laptop trolley with 4 other classes and limited access to skype (1 class is equipped for it in the year above us) it has been tricky, and frustrating at times, to try to redefine the learning my students experience as I would hope to all the time. But practice makes perfect and more forward thinking on my behalf using what I have learned in Courses 1-3 will be really useful for next year’s attempts I am sure!

What I did find to be an eye-opener was that I was also guilty of substitution! During our units of inquiry, I have had my students conduct research in books and online but essentially the nature of the task remains the same. More often that not, its much easier to refine your research using the contents page of a book that try to include key search terms and trawl through several websites for the same information-especially for an 8 year old!

Making the transition to transformation

To help me reflect on future planning for tech integration and make the move from enhancement to transformation I took some advise from the SAMRPechaKucha video;’

flickr photo shared by Niklas under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


No Computer=No lesson

We will be doing data handling in Math so I can redesign the task so that the students could create their own surveys using their google drive account and share them with all the students in year 3, or maybe even from another school. They will gather data more effectively and efficiently this way.

I really liked the idea of using google maps to redefine the learning to narrate a story in a far away land, or have it act as a virtual field trip.  As we are currently doing out Action In The Community unit, perhaps children could go on a virtual fieldtrip to where their charity/cause is based. Maybe we could arrange to skype an expert to have a Q and A relating to the unit. There are so many options and I plan to explore google apps more and see what makes a good fit for my class.




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