Category Archives: Classroom

Your own app – WHY not?

5791320785_0af75e63e5_bShe is now 3 month old almost 4 month old, our little one. It’s a gift and I’m very thankful that I get to experience this journey. On the other hand I definitely miss my work at school and as much the professional input and exchange I always got from my colleagues, my PLN through Coetail, Twitter, etc. It’s time to get into it again at least online. Time will tell whether I can make it regularly but nothing wrong with giving it a try. Here I am again.


Photo Credit: César Poyatos via Compfight cc

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ChatterPix for Kids – Great app for recording students learning!

Since I’m working in the library I love the fact that I get to know new books from different countries and cultures. As a German I grew up with German children’s literature and I feel familiar with that part of the world. Due to this fact I try to take the chance as often as possible to let the students tell me about children’s books from other parts of the world.

For this context I found a very interesting app for the iPhone or the iPad. It’s called ChatterPix Kids by Duck Duck Moose.

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Padlet as a Great Tool for Collaboration

I’m sure you have heard of Padlet many times and probably  often used it in a variety of situations. If you google Padlet it says:


Picture via a Google Search


My grade 5 students used Padlet several times this year for different purposes. We haven’t collaborated with the world yet, but definitely in class and with classes at school. I would like to share two examples:

1. Example:  
Unit – Migration // Padlet use for collecting and sorting quotes of a book

The students were reading “Milchkaffee und Streuselkuchen”, which is a book about two boys and the life of a German family as well a family that immigrated from Ethiopia. Sammy is born in Germany, speaks German very well, went to a German school, but after a racist attack towards him and his family, he realizes that he is different. He also feels the differences in school through the words and actions of his classmates, especially Boris. However, Sammy will gain a new friendship.

The students were asked to write an entry on the padlet each time they read something about the behavior of the main characters, Boris and Sammy. It was the goal to collect the quotes in order to find out the change of the behavior, change of the perspective of Boris and create a timeline to make it visible. It was a perfect way to work collaboratively in order to get the whole picture.

2. Example:  
Unit – Live is a Stage // Padlet use for comprehension of the ballade “Der Zauberlehrling” of J.W.Goethe

In the context of the unit Life is a stage the students get to know ballades. A famous ballade is “Der Zauberlehrling”. The vocabulary is not easy at all for language learner as well as young German native speaker. The vocabulary was used 250 years ago and additionally I wonder how often does a student in an international environment get the chance to read a German ballade? So comprehension is very important in order to create a modern version of it which will be their assessment.

What did I prepare? I cut up the ballade in 14 pieces and saved each part as a picture. I sent them those pictures by email and asked them to work in pairs and to bring the pieces on a padlet (one padlet for each group) in the right order. Additionally, in order to show me their understanding, the students were asked to write the content of each verse in their own words.
My initial thought was: “That is just substitution.” (SAMR model). My second thinking and repeated reflecting about it let me realize that there are good reasons for doing it anyways. I don’t have to waste to much paper, meaning copying the ballade for each pair. In my previous life as a teacher, the students had to cut the verses in pieces (or even I would have done it) and then glue them in the right order. No, not anymore. Third advantage was that I could integrate spelling practice and sentence structures with the students when they were writing their understanding in own words. Fourth, we could easily compare each others understanding of the verse by reading each others padlets. Fifth, as homework I asked them to write a summery. In my previous life of course on paper. No, they are going to use the padlet.

And now the real collaboration experience for my grade 5 students came up because they started to talk about how they will organize it. “Ok, you do the first half. I do the second.” or “Let’s do it together on Skype.” or “You write but I proof read the text and check the spelling.” or “We write and we check each others text” … Fantastic.

Here you are:


It’s a different light now – Course 5 final project thoughts.


Picture made with

When I wrote my last post about ideas regarding the final project of my COETAIL experience I already had a feeling that my ideas still have to develop. I was inspired by Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) blog post Taking the Leap: Thinking about Course 5 and by talking to amazing colleagues I luckily have at school. Huge thanks for that already.

Following now a first summary of my planning.

Unit: The Human Machine – The human body is a complex organism, which is made up of many systems that work together.

Integration in German:

  • Form and function of our brain
  • Features/elements of a non-fiction text

The students will know about the brain as one of the most complex systems of the human body by watching the video(s) and taking notes. They will understand the importance of the brain for the functionality of our body.

They will inquire and analyze the elements of a non-fiction text answering the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • Why is it important?

In order to show their deeper understanding of a chosen aspect about the brain (or the human body?) the students will create a non-fiction page using non-fiction features and new technologies. There could be the option to create and publish an ebook together.

The students will be able both to read visual elements of a non-fiction text and also to organize and summarize information by a visual text. They will be able to use technology in order to create a visual text, to collaborate and to share their understanding.

The students will use the German language as their prime medium of inquiry (learning through language). They use the language for creative and effective information processing, organizing and summarizing.

Let me explain how I got there …


Choose a unit that interests you and redesign it in a way that excites you.

I always wanted to inquire more into Visual literacy and it is already part of my appraisal topic (How can I develop more proficient reader in the digital world?) this year. One morning on the way to school my friend, colleague and amazing teacher Wendy @wenfor and I spoke about the final project and she suggested why don’t you focus on features of a non-fiction text? Now in our digital world it is more important then ever. She gave me the following book: I see what you mean. Thanks Wendy.
The unit about the human body with the focus on the brain in German is a good unit because to be visual literate and understand elements of a non-fiction text helps to comprehend and explain readily even more complex aspects of science. Additionally the students use the tools and elements of non-fiction texts to create and show understanding.


Take what you have learned in all the prior courses and put it into action.

I have the feeling that the year 2013 was the peak of my professional learning ever! A reflection of it could be a single blog post. There are so many options but I decided to give it a try implementing the Flipped Classroom. I’m still torn regarding the Flipped Classroom and there is the chance! The focus won’t be the brain only. Therefore the Flipped Classroom gives me the chance that the students get the content beforehand and we focus on the features of the non-fiction text during class.


Think about how you are using technology to support learning in ways that we inconceivable without technology.

The students will inquire into the topic itself through the Flipped Classroom, meaning watching videos. But they will also get choices using technology to show their understanding about elements of a non-fiction text. My concern is that this might not be the redefinition level of the SAMR model, so I will have to think about it more in detail. Publishing a non-fiction eBook would be though.


Make sure you are showing them that you are a learner too.

With them Rebekah meant the students but implementing the Flipped Classroom means to involve the parents as well. I want them to see me as a learner as well.


And the two questions that would make me really think would have to be:  ”Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school? ” and  ”Is student work reflective of their interests or passions?”

I love the first question and it always drives my planning. The answer to this question and my final project I found in the above mentioned book:

We need visual literacy in order to get by in our everyday lives – when we read a magazine, go shopping, visit a museum, visit a museum, catch a train or bus, browse the Internet, text a friend, check today’s weather, or plan a vacation. The visual texts associated with these tasks include diagrams, maps, graphs, and tables. We take for granted that they are part of everyday literacy; but we don’t yet take for granted that they should therefore be a part of the literacy program. (I see what you mean, S.14)


Take risks. Ask for help when you need it. Take control of your learning and let go of control in your classroom. And have fun!!

It’s definitely out of my comfort zone but YES as much as I want the students to be a risk taker I will be a risk taker as well.

what are the next steps …

It would be great to get some feedback. Small advices, inputs, encouragement, opinions, tips, etc. are more than appreciated! I will read the expectations again and again and again like Rebekah recommended. And feel encouraged to use the Understanding by Design Planner to keep going.

Let’s light the bulbs!

Warhol's Light Bulbs

Photo Credit: zetson via Compfight cc

I’m thankful that Coetail makes me think about the final project for course 5 early enough. Unfortunately I can’t say yet – Yeah, that is what I’m going to do and I’m very excited about it. Two weeks ago I started having conversations with colleagues about the upcoming units and I got quite different but very helpful inputs. I always tried to keep the following questions in mind:

  • Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
  • What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
  • What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
  • What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

I’ll probably focus on my Grade 4 German advanced class and the unit is called The Human Machine. Those students are already a little bit experienced with the use of technology. They already have certain basic skills like typing, being in the browser, and some searching skills. But I like them as a class very much as well …

The focus in German could be the brain and as one option the students could create an own Wikipedia about the brain (e.g. the following topics: Intelligence, Memory, Brain, Language, Logic, Creativity – let’s the see what the students come up with).

My learning intentions would be on one side the knowledge they get about the brain as part of the body system, but on the other side I want to let them experience to share their knowledge in a very collaborating way, meaning to edit an entry for a wiki collaboratively. I think it is a good possibility for them to understand the concept of Wikipedia, to create and edit an entry (insert links and videos, common sense, etc.) , to share knowledge collaboratively (working in a group) and globally (working and communication with others outside of classroom and maybe even school), and to be a responsible and knowledgeable communicator online. The content itself though is not the most important, even though as a language teacher I’m aware that Determining Importance as well as Summarizing/Synthesizing would be the important reading strategies in this unit. The process of creating the wiki will be the focus. There are so many other wikis than the original one so as an action I could imagine that they are going to use interest-driven wikies more often or even create their own in future. Something I have never done before is to create a rubric, which does not have the product or process as the main focus to assess. Here it rather would be about the collaboration and communication. My concern is that once the wiki will be created, how does it actually continue to grow? And – how meaningful is it really to share that knowledge that particular way?

I have to say I’m not sure about the wiki. Personally I’m using the original Wikipedia, but rarely a specific wiki like PYPchat Wiki or the Minecraft Wiki or 21centuryedtech) – they never really appeal to me. One the other hand I’m aware that people use it to share a interest.

Therefore I thought about a second option. What tool could be a more appealing to the students and to me to share their knowledge collaboratively and globally? The students could be expert groups and create an interactive picture with information what they read about, with videos they found on the Internet; with audio and/or videos files they created using other tools like Explain Everything, iMovie, etc. to show their thinking and learning. The interactive picture can be shared globally and opened for others to add something.

Honestly, both ideas are kind of okay but for me not convincing enough yet. I have to admit that it would rather be a secure thing, although I’m ready to go out of my comfort zone. Ideas are unpredictable so I have to to be patient and creative to light the ideas is the most colorful way. I try to keep in mind Tip#2 by by :

Maybe you will mash-up gamification and digital citizenship. Maybe you’ll make a digital story with people around the world, tapping into your PLN. Perhaps you will have kids from around the world building in Minecraft or have a kindergarten inquiry sparked by Twitter. Perhaps you try Problem-Based Learning in an higher level math class, allowing for open books and open computers.  It could be that you find a way for your kids to design something for that 3D printer your school bought.

Yes, that’s sounds exciting to me … Let’s see. Like always … I’m very, very thankful for feedback. Probably even more than ever. Thanks.