Lessons Learned

         Instructional Technology – ICL – PYP – Project Zero – International Education

April 14, 2014

ICL to Support Family History Unit

family history sample

What does Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) look like when supporting a unit of study? We just completed an ICL project after collaborating with our Second Grade teachers on the “Family History” unit. The learning goals centered on helping students better understand timelines, family history, heritage and geography.

We designed three lessons to incorporate research using the Britannica online database. The students used a handout (see below) to record information about one or more of their ancestor’s home country. As we are an international school, many of our families have roots all over the globe. The students used Inspiration to communicate their findings via a diagram.

Students used ICL skills of:

  • navigating an online database
  • reading digital information
  • taking notes
  • downloading, saving and naming images
  • inserting images into Inspiration
  • resizing and placing images using design skills
  • saving and naming a document
  • inserting an audio file into Inspiration
  • searching the Inspiration library for applicable symbols to insert into the diagram

The project included extension activities for students who had more understanding of their ancestors and who could connect that knowledge to images. Thus students could add a voice file in their second language (Spanish or French) giving more background information about their ancestor(s). They could also search the Inspiration symbol (image) library to find pictures that connected to their ancestors’ backgrounds. It was interesting to see the abstract connection making for students who knew, for example, that their relative was in the military, held a government position, was an author, was famous, etc.


Using the Britannica Online Database
Reading and Taking Notes for Your Family History Report

Your Name: __________________

Class: __________________

Ancestor’s Position in Your Family: (grandmother, father, uncle …)  _____________________


Task: Read about the country of your ancestor in Britannica and write answers below. You can do 2 ancestors if you choose.

Country Name:

Capital City:

Language Spoken:


Go to “Articles & Media” to click on “Full Article” to learn more about your ancestor’s country. Explore and read (listen). Use the space on the back of this paper to write any information that you find interesting.


Second Lesson

Task: Inspiration

  • Download the image of the map of your ancestor’s country

  • Download the image of the flag of your ancestor’s country

  • Download an image that shows a place in your country

  • Insert images into Inspiration & connect them from the name of your ancestor (center symbol)

Looking at the map(s), find the following and answer below:

                              Country 1                                                                                         Country 2

Names of Bordering Countries:

Nearby Bodies of Water:

Names of Bordering Countries:

Nearby Bodies of Water:


Third Lesson

Task: Inspiration

  • Make connector arrows between the center symbol with your ancestor and each of the images

  • Choice Activity: What else do you know about your ancestor? Are their symbol images in the library that you could add to your diagram? If so, add them to your diagram and add connector arrows.

  • Choice Activity: Use the audio recording tool in Inspiration to tell more information about your ancestor.
  • Save your Inspiration file to the desktop.

March 21, 2014

Databases in the Primary School- Lessons Learned


Our ICL team (Sue Anderson, Doris Clingman and myself) teach in our scheduled classes and “just in time” teaching the value of students and teachers in using our online databases. One of our goals is to make our PS Library website with its many databases the go to place for our student researchers as they purse their inquiry.

We start our Kindergarten students with BrainPop Jr and BrainPop videos in Spanish and French. We introduce PebbleGo in Grade 1 followed by Britannica. Spanish and French databases come into play next as well as the incredible Britannica ImageQuest. ImageQuest is so important as it provides an excellent alternative to sending students searching on the Web as the provided ImageQuest images are rights cleared covering a wide variety of topics.

Sue is currently supporting a Grade 3 unit of study on economics by introducing more sophisticated databases using them to have students learn about supply and demand. She teaches ICL skills of information literacy and analysis by having the students go into the provided databases to gather information on supply and demand. She gives students the handout inserted below as they do their exploration.

Sue shared important insight with me yesterday regarding another goal in teaching databases. She stressed how important it is for the students to move beyond basic literacy in using them. As part of our ICL curriculum, we push for students to become fluent in how they analyze information, media, visuals and technology. A part of this fluency is becoming so comfortable that one is willing to persevere and stay on task in doing a database search when the information is not so easy to find.

Sue explained that the last thing we want is for students to have limited experience with databases so that they do not become adept in using them. With limited use and skill development they are more apt to quickly drop a database search when faced with an obstacle and jump into a search engine. In other words, the faculty and parents have to be all in when teaching and supporting the use of databases in school and at home so that they truly become a part of our students’ personal learning systems.

How “all in” is your school’s community in supporting your students to become skilled and dedicated database users?


Database lesson


March 19, 2014

Scaffolded Screencasting by Kindergartners

I am collaborating with our excellent Kindergarten team of teachers to prepare an assessment for their students. The students will be using Educreations on the iPad to draw and voice their understanding of the water cycle. They are experienced in screencasting.

We are going to provide three levels of scaffolding for this project by inserting blank images of the water cycle into Educreations. The first level of support will be the image below that the teachers are using in class so the students are familiar with it. The words describing each stage of the cycle are blanked out which should prompt the students to remember from their classroom lessons.

Level 1 Cycle

The second image provides less support leaving it up to students to draw arrows and provide precipitation. The image will be new to the students.

Level 2

The third level of scaffolding will be to not have an image thus leaving the students with a blank canvas to draw in their understanding of land, water and atmosphere. We have a few weeks of lessons until the students make their thinking visible. I will then do a new post to share some examples of their work.

March 9, 2014

Interdisciplinary Study with Google Lit Trips


Google Lit Trips is a wonderful instructional mechanism that combines inquiry, analysis and geography to not only study literature but also to give students a way to learn from and/or tell stories about a variety of subjects. An excellent expansion beyond focusing on just literature is provided by Ira Bickoff and Boelle Kuipers in their Sail the Book Web site.

Ira and Boelle constructed an extensive site that incorporates the use of Google Earth to tell stories from maritime literature while connecting to art, history and ocean literacy. They provide text, images, hyperlinks and Google Earth KMZ files to give the reader a passage through historical stories. It really is an incredible example of using digital resources to engage readers and to excite teachers to follow their model. Boelle and Ira include learning activities accessed through Google Earth. They also provide helpful video tutorials to help in using the resources of the site.

Image Source

March 4, 2014

Project Zero Conference- Lessons Learned


I was fortunate to attend the Project Zero (PZ) conference hosted by Presbyterian Day School (PDS) and the Martin Institute. There are many resources on the Web and books if you are new to the many research areas and pedagogical approaches of PZ. Here are some of my notes taken from the presentations by Harvard researchers as well as from my day spent in the classrooms of PDS teachers.


Creating Cultures of Thinking: what to look for when observing learning in a classroom. Ron Ritchhart.

-Making thinking valued- where to look in a classroom? 1) Focus of the lesson- how is it directed to engage students to think  2) Teacher Interactions with students. Where and when do you see an interest and curiosity about students’ thinking?  3) What opportunities are available for student thinking? How did the lesson yield new understanding? What kinds of thinking lead to true understanding? Importance of promoting wondering, considering different viewpoints, uncovering complexities… to then provide opportunities for students to make their thinking visible.

-Routines and Questions: Look for the routines the teacher uses to bring about thinking, to make it visible, apparent, doesn’t have to be written out but simply is evident through student words and activity. How do these routines/tools support thinking and learning? The ongoing thinking not just products.

-Thinking is actively promoted. Press for Thinking- how is the teacher pressing the students for further thinking? How does the teacher push students a bit? Discourse: How do we encourage discourse, conversation about ideas? How does the teacher help the greater group to challenge ideas, share comments? Opportunities and Time: How are the children given the time and opportunities that advance thinking? How does the teacher provide space for student to extend, elaborate and develop both their ideas and the idea of others? This means not to just wait and jump on the first response but to have “wait time” that lets students know they have time to respond to their first idea to expand it and for others to respond.

-Task with low threshold to get started but high ceilings for expansive thinking. This approach really supports differentiation for all students.

-Video of Gr 1 teacher and teaching how one’s conscience guides us: Thinking books with words and images– visual notetaking, complex concept. The teacher clearly had systems in place for learning. The students were comfortable in turning to their listening partner.


Making Learning Whole: David Perkins

What does it look like to learn really well?

-What school learning experiences do we have that are like learning a game like baseball that gives you a feel for the whole where one see the connections? School isn’t like learning to play baseball. So many separate aspects that are not connected.

-Seven Sides of Learning

7 Sides of Learning

-We often teach with “elements of things”, the breaking down into skills and parts but we wait to put it all together later. Not such a good thing. David calls this “elementitus”. The learners don’t get a sense of the whole “game” thus not learning with true understanding.

-We teach about things… think about how we teach about history. Think of children going to baseball camp. Think if they learned about baseball words, rules, strategies instead of playing… this is “learning about” rather than how to think, apply, solve, etc. David calls this “aboutitis”. The students are not “in” the game. It isn’t getting them into complexities.

-Junior Versions: Baseball story, learning in backyard, a couple bases playing with friends, fewer players… it is simpler, a more junior version but still same shape of the whole. We can help students enter complexity by going the “junior version” route where they are in the game and not on the outside from the “about’ perspective looking in.

-There are junior versions for all learning areas at all ages. Again, first step to enter the learning of complexity. It is not going the elementitus or aboutitus route.

-Good learning calls for the learning experiences to be a good model of the target performances. If you don’t go this way, the learning is really thin in meaningfulness. It is inert and ritual knowledge that we often have on tests. That type of learning knowledge is inert in that it is not transferred by the students to make connections to other topics, ideas, etc.

-So it comes back to playing the whole game… not looking in from the fringe… get totally in.

-Looking for rich, holistic learning activities. Example is the math bungee jumping video.

-Teach in a whole game way: Fairness and Justice in stories as a concept to pursue. You want students to be thinking about fairness and justice constantly. Looking to have them combining the elements as they read the book. Need to have an appropriate junior version… don’t give them Crime and Punishment, go with Jack and the Beanstalk. :) Use methods and purpose and forms of the discipline you are working with. As with lit study, we are looking at the text, analyzing it, predicting, connecting to other stories. Also looking for problem finding and solving. Not just giving them the exact task but opening it up enough to see where they might go.



The Edge Lab Learning Space at PDS

Explore-Develop Empathy-Grow Your Ideas-Evaluate

I spent a class period in the new EDGE Lab Learning Space that had just opened up at Presbyterian Day School. The room is where the students go to problem solve, design and then prototype their ideas in a makerspace. The teacher of the class, Alice Walker, worked with the students to connect to their reading from the Chester Cricket series of books. Their task was to design and build a cricket house for Chester.

Alice started the class by reminding them of how the EDGE approach to learning works. She then did an exercise to get the students thinking laterally by giving each team of students an everyday object. They brainstormed to come up with alternative ways to use the objects. Alice also went over the brainstorming process. The teams then moved to the “Idea Wall” to go through the brainstorming process. It was quite impressive to see the engagement and teamwork as the students wrote out their ideas on the wall.

Idea WallIdea Wall

Idea Wall

Cricket Venn
Hallway Venn Diagram for Chester Cricket Reading

Thinking Routine
Thinking Routine Used with Venn Diagram

One huge take away from my time at the conference and at the school was the validation of my belief in just how important leadership and being actionable are to shifting practices in a school. The head of PDS, Lee Burns, made the decision many years ago to connect with Project Zero to help transform teaching and learning at his school. He led his teachers to PZ conferences and then communicated expectations that they would be accountable for implementing PZ pedagogies into their teaching and classrooms.

Evidence of the shift to develop a school where the culture of learning truly emphasizes thinking, problem-solving, connection making, etc. could be seen everywhere. Bulletin boards, posters, the school website and the language of thinking that the students used all communicated the mission to develop students as thinkers. Here are photos of just a few examples of what was on display throughout the school.




Early Childhood Technology Enhanced Lessons


Recently I spent some time in two classes where the early childhood teachers seamlessly used technology to help their young students reach the learning goals for their respective lessons. Cecilia Rios teaches one of our two Spanish Kindergarten classes. She is a leader in our iPad pilot as well as in using her interactive whiteboard (IWB) in a student-centered manner. With one of the biggest and deserved complaints about IWBs being that they are often used just for direct instruction, it was really nice to see Cecilia’s students interacting with the software on the board. The students were definitely comfortable answering questions by moving to the board to manipulate digital objects.

Cecilia’s room is filled with images, objects and descriptors to immerse her students in the Spanish language.

Movement, singing and hands on activities definitely are a big part of our early childhood program. The teachers tell me that learning a second language also involves social engagement and games to help students learn within routines that use language. I can see how teachers like Cecilia also bring in digital media (see image above) so that students can see and hear Spanish in a fun and engaging way.

I also spent some time in Rebecca Courouble’s French Pre-Kindergarten classroom. Rebecca is another one of our tech leaders. Besides using her IWB for interactive language work, Rebecca created a series of online video storybooks with pages from books where she virtually reads to her students. Rebecca also has a Moodle site rich with resources to extend the learning beyond the classroom. She will be one of my models as we work to further our efforts to provide a blended learning environment for our students.


One of the many wonderful aspects to the Primary Years Programme (PYP) of studies is the conceptual nature of the learning goals. Built along the same lines of Understanding by Design, the PYP curriculum starts with the end in mind focusing on the learning goal. The learning goal is all about big ideas that connect to multiple disciplines.

The Kindergarten students recently finished a unit about homes. The inquiry unit had the students pondering questions about the various ways and reasons why people build their homes the way they do. While the goal was to understand how homes are designed to fit the needs of the people and their localities, the students started their learning pursuit by looking at the similarities and differences of their each others’ homes. They took photos of rooms in their houses to then work with their teachers to build a composite in three dimensions. An example of their work is below.


February 25, 2014

Acceptable Use Policy

It is helpful to see what other schools are doing with their guidelines for smart, effective, safe and ethical use of technology and digital resources. Our Washington International School Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) team recently reviewed and updated our AUP. We will be creating a version written in more “student friendly” language for our Primary School teachers to use in their start of the year lessons. Hopefully the following can add to your discussions as you review your technology and digital resources use policy.




WIS provides a wide array of computers, digital equipment, technology resources, services, and Internet access in order to enhance the teaching and learning process. Access to the Internet is provided via a high-speed network in classrooms, labs, and libraries, and all public spaces on both campuses are served by a robust Wi-Fi network for laptops and mobile devices.

The instructional program at WIS is designed around a framework of 21st century skills, and as such charges students to do a great deal of online research, multimedia design, data processing, and electronic communication. In order to successfully participate in the instructional program, students need access to digital resources outside of the classroom. Although the libraries and computer labs are available at various times outside of regular teaching hours, access is limited and students who are involved in after school activities will have little opportunity to use these resources. Ideally, students should have reliable and consistent access to a computer and the Internet from home.

Additionally, students in Grades 6 through 10 participate in WIS’s 1:1 BYOiPad program.  Families are responsible for purchasing a device and students are required to bring them to class each day.  Student iPads are registered in our Mobile Device Management system and apps will be pushed to their devices as necessary.  11th and 12th graders participate in a full BYOD program where they choose what kind of device to bring to class on any given day.



This Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) outlines the appropriate use of WIS’s technology resources and services during and after school. By signing the Handbook Acknowledgment form, every student is indicating that he or she understands and agrees to abide by the guidelines written below.

WIS network, technology resources and Internet access are school resources and use of them is considered a privilege. Therefore, violation of this AUP will result in the loss of this privilege and/or other appropriate discipline actions according to division-level policies. These actions may include written warnings, withdrawal of access privileges, and in extreme cases, suspension or expulsion.

Applicable to all WIS students (Primary, Middle, Upper):

I realize that my behavior when using the WIS network and technology resources should abide by the WIS Code of Conduct.

Safety and Security

• I understand that passwords are private and should not be shared with others. I will not allow others to use my account name or password, or try to use that of others.

• I will not bypass security settings or interfere with the operation of the WIS network in any way.

• I will use WIS network and technology resources productively and responsibly for school-related purposes; if I want to use the network or technology for a purpose other than education, I will do so after securing permission from my teacher, librarian or administrator.

• I will maintain the setup of WIS devices as they were when I found them. For example, I will not add or change software, apps, passwords, wallpapers, etc.

• I will record or share image or audio files only when I have obtained permission from my teacher, librarian or administrator. I will not use cameras in restrooms or locker rooms, regardless of intent.

• I will use WIS network and technology resources to access, display, create or communicate material that is not illegal, obscene, destructive, harassing, threatening, hateful or otherwise offensive. I am responsible for not pursuing or sending material that could be considered objectionable or hurtful to myself or others.

I will be responsible for all of my digital files, including backing up files not already stored in the cloud.


Digital Citizenship

• I will use technology in such a way that does not disrupt the attention of the class. This includes setting all of my devices on “mute” or “vibrate” unless permission is obtained from the teacher, librarian or administrator and configuring Do Not Disturb settings.

• I will be thoughtful and polite and use appropriate language in my digital communication, as determined by school administrators.

• I will follow all guidelines set forth by my teachers when publishing schoolwork online (e.g. to a website, blog, wiki, discussion board, podcasting or video server).

• I will respect the intellectual property rights of others. I will obey copyright guidelines and avoid plagiarizing others’ work or ideas.

• I understand that I am an ambassador for the school in all of my online activities, which should not reflect negatively on my school, fellow students or teachers. I will not post personal or embarrassing information about other students, employees, or members of the WIS community.

• I will not masquerade, spoof, or pretend to be someone else. This includes, but is not limited to, sending out e-mail, creating accounts, or posting messages or other online content (e.g. text, images, audio or video) in someone else’s name.

• All confidential school information must be protected and may be disclosed only according to school policy or as required by law. I will not disclose or repeat any confidential information in my online communications.


Specific to Primary School students:

• If I bring an e-reader to school, I will use it only for reading pre-loaded materials and will not access the WIS network or the device’s other capabilities, such as programs, apps or games. I understand that I am responsible for the damage, loss or theft of any device that I bring to school.

• If I bring a cell phone or other device (with the exception of an e-reader) to school, I will power it off and store it in my locker the entire time that I am at school (including after school). I understand that I am responsible for the damage, loss or theft of any device that I bring to school.

• When I am conducting research related to school pursuits, I will first use the information resources provided by WIS, such as those found at http://pslibrary.wis.edu.

• When registering or sharing my work on the Internet I will not share identifying personal information, including but not limited to my last name, age, address and telephone number.

• When I am assigned a WIS Google apps account (this usually occurs in Grade 3), I will follow the guidelines of this AUP.


Specific to Tregaron students (Middle and Upper Schools):

• I understand that while social media may be available at school, I can only use it legally and at the discretion of my teacher or administrator. In general, access to these sites is not available during class time and will only be possible during breaks, lunch and before/after school. The teacher or supervising adult holds complete authority to decide whether these resources can be used at any time.

• I will be prudent in allowing access to my online content on social media sites and configure privacy settings to limit access to my profiles.


1:1 BYOiPad Policies:

• I must provide an iPad for my school coursework.

• My iPad is required to be at school every day, fully charged. If I leave my iPad at home or it is not charged, I am responsible for completing all coursework as if I had use of my iPad.

• I must set a passcode to my iPad.

• I will configure my WIS email address on my iPad.

• I understand that malfunctions or technical issues are not acceptable excuses for failing to complete an assignment, unless no other means of completion exist.

• I will know where my iPad is at all times. It is my responsibility to keep it safe and secure.



The computer system, including e-mail and Internet, is the property of Washington International School.  WIS relies on a combination of self-hosted, externally hosted, and cloud-based services.  The current list of these services can be accessed at _______ ; it will be updated as needed throughout the year. These services are primarily intended for educational and business use and are subject to monitoring at any time. Although WIS does not routinely check communications or files, it has the right to review, audit, and disclose all matters sent over or stored on the system. As a result, members of the WIS community should recognize that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when using the computer system.



The increasing use of technology and multimedia at WIS presents a wonderful opportunity for students and teachers to share what they do with the WIS community. The presentations, photos, video and audio of classes, field trips and school events are often shared with the WIS community electronically and through web-based resources. Sometimes, students and parents buy or receive copies of school events on media, such as CDs or DVDs. The instinct to share achievements is understandable but these files are for community use only. Any sharing of these materials beyond the WIS community is prohibited, except with the explicit permission of the creator of the work and all students involved.



Tregaron teachers use Moodle to maintain online resources for their classes, including posting announcements, sharing documents, collecting assignments, facilitating online activities, etc. While the degree of usage will inevitably vary from teacher to teacher, students should expect to refer to the Moodle pages regularly to get the latest updates from their courses. Families have an account on this system as well, so that class updates and other information is readily available.


Updated February 2014

February 18, 2014

30 Day Art Challenge- Creativity Unleashed!

art challenge

Laura Evangelista continues to find novel ways to challenge and engage her students to be creative and expressive. Each student received a sketchbook and 30 days of prompts to get them thinking and creating. The following are a few of the daily challenges students responded to in their sketchbooks.

Day 1:  A day in the life of YOU!

Day 2: ART! What do you think about ART!

Day 3: Draw 1 object 6 different ways

Day 4: If you were a cartoon character…

Day 5: FOODs you CRAVE

Day 6: Circles as doodles!

Day 7: Anything BLUE


Laura provided the following videos to help guide her students.

Organic Art Journal Page

ABC Art Journal Series

Art Journal Page

Art Journal & Mixed Media

February 15, 2014

PD for Instructional Technologists


I am feeling very fortunate to attend the Project Zero conference in Memphis at the Presbyterian Day School (PDS). The Martin Institute is a partner in hosting and supporting the conference. The combination of PZ researchers, teacher PZ practitioners, PDS faculty and the Martin Institute is off the scale incredible connecting research to classroom practice. WIS’s Jim Reese is the coordinator and maestro handling all the details and the difficulties of bad weather preventing presenters from arriving.

The faculty of PDS invited us into their classrooms on Wednesday. To see their teaching for understanding and embedded thinking routines was quite the treat. PDS as a learning community is totally committed to constructivist learning while constantly guiding their students to think and to make their thinking visible. It was something to hear the students using the language of the thinking routines while bulletin boards and posters all over the school made it very clear how the culture of learning is about concept attainment and true understanding. Kudos to the leadership and staff of PDS.

Reflection and sharing of ideas is evident throughout the conference. One of my realizations is that I stopped going to tech conferences a few years ago. Even the TPACK conference I went to over the summer wasn’t really about technology. It was about the process of working with curriculum to support learning and how one brings about change.

Instead, I have been attending conferences about pedagogy, assessment and building cultures of learning. Using technology and supporting student inquiry as well as their attainment of various literacies continues be a part of my work as an instructional technologist. However, as Mark and I promote in our podcast, we work to put the school culture, curriculum and learning first to then find ways to bring in the tools and information gathering to support the learning. So maybe one take away here for fellow IT people is to see how we might balance going to ISTE or other tech conferences with opportunities to learn more about pedagogy and building cultures of learning. We really are the bridge builders between the two areas when we collaborate with teachers to TPACK.

This “connector” mindset and approach to tech integration came up in a couple conversations with a passionate educator from Florida who wants to find ways for technology to support learning in her classroom. Like many, her focus was on the hardware. What we talked about was how she uses various thinking routines and teaching for understanding in her classroom. She is in a great place as a Project Zero veteran so there is not need for a shift there. We then spoke about matching the tools to the pedagogies and the ways the students would make their thinking visible. It was definitely a TPACK conversation and it reminded me how much I enjoy partnering with teachers to better serve our students. :)

I hope to put up several more posts as the Harvard researchers shared so many ideas and practices. If you are not familiar with Project Zero, do look to review their Web site and attend their summer conference. You do have to do a little Web searching to get the specifics on the projects (e.g., visible thinking routines, teaching for understanding, etc.).

February 12, 2014

Connecting Reading to Museums


Doris Clingman and I co-teach our Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) curriculum to our First and Second Grade students. We work to connect our lessons to the units of inquiry that the students study in their homeroom classes. The Second Graders recently studied museums to learn why we have them and how we use artifacts to help us learn.

Doris put together a project where each student brought in an object from home to display in the new library museum area that she put together. The students were prompted to think of a book they read to then find an object that was represented in their book. They brought the objects in and then prepared a short description in print for the physical museum and one that they could read in their virtual museum. Parents were invited to visit the physical and virtual museums as Doris went virtual with her plans.

A second museum was created online as Doris used VoiceThread to post images and have students record descriptions in Spanish or French as Washington International is a dual language school. Family and friends are invited to tour the exhibits and use the comment tool to share responses. Even if you don’t speak French or Spanish, do take a look and listen to hear our students use their language skills. It really is impressive work by the students and Doris.

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