Lessons Learned

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

July 13, 2014

The Instructional Technologist: What We Do (Part 1)

actionOne of our Edtech Co-Op podcast shows was on the role of the instructional technologist. We interviewed two other instructional technologists discussing in how they did their jobs. It is a show worth listening to. In preparation for that discussion, I put together a post.

Here is that post:

I am really looking forward to our Edtech podcast this afternoon when Mark will interview three instructional technologists including myself. One of his questions will be “what are some of your most effective strategies for connecting with teachers to find ways to integrate technology in their teaching?”. The focus at my school is a broader curriculum that includes technology while focusing on students and their interaction with information and their efforts to communicate their understanding using various literacies (e.g, media, visual, design, information, etc.). We call our curriculum the Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) program which I will be referring to below as I respond to Mark’s question. I also am broadening the question and my response a bit to match the one I have prepared for in getting ready for job interviews over the past several years of international teaching. The question is “how will you make a difference in our learning community?” which gets at the process of helping schools make the shift to the skills and student empowered learning that so many of us write about. Do look to listen to the podcast which will be posted later in the week to hear what the other two instructional technologists have to say in responding to all of Mark’s questions.

In thinking about how an instructional technologist can impact a school, I approach this process from a couple of perspectives. I look to find ways to support ICL integration from a broad, community-wide approach looking to help shift the school as well as always being ready on an individual level to engage with members of our learning community to support their using our ICL curriculum. The following is a mixture of both approaches. Many of them overlap as this post is a free flow of ideas with little editing and long sentences as time is short before our podcast. :)


-Community builder, “celebrator” and problem-solver> getting out into the hallways, stopping by to touch base with teachers during free periods, asking about on what is being covered in class that day, helping with “how to” questions in using apps and software, taking care of the quick fix technical problems that come up. Problem solve on the spot how you can help when a teacher is in a bind. Post comments to teacher and students blogs and get into teachers’ LMS forums to see what the students are doing. Look to join the discussions. Highlight and celebrate teaching, student projects and assessment practices via the ICL Update (weekly e-mail to staff) and possibly have a school blog on innovative practices as in our iPad Pilot blog and in the start of the week short faculty meetings and when presenting at regular faculty meetings. Looking to have a school podcast/vodcast that shares innovative practices and engages students and teachers to share their stories of learning. I am hoping to start a student news program posted to the web like we did at a previous school where students tell the learning stories from their perspective.

-Support your risk takers and early adopters> do whatever you can to support these teachers in their needs. Then make like a busy bee and cross-pollinate their ideas wherever you can. Get into those grade level and department meetings to share what teachers might be too shy or uncomfortable to highlight from their shifted practices. The change process is obviously a very difficult one that involves a variety of components especially in dealing with teacher relationships, school culture, “that is the way we’ve always done it” (TWWADI), etc.

-Be a learner, collaborator and relationship builder> sending out e-mails and mentioning in the ICL Update e-mail that I would love to see how our ICL curriculum can support upcoming lessons and units, then meeting with grade level teams to collaborate where I then specifically teach ICL skills that support a regular classroom lesson/unit or I do a parallel activity like a WebQuest during the students’ weekly ICL classes with me, important to be a real listener and learner to understand not only what the learning goals are for the teacher’s lesson/unit but to also understand the teacher’s concerns, worries, hopes in using ICL skills as to how much I might offer ideas for her/him to try in her teaching and assessment. It is so important to be a good listener!

Another part of my job is being a resource person to help teachers with specific requests for web resources to help support their curriculum. This involves having a full RSS feed of resource provided by bloggers as well as a healthy Twitter listing. Often the first step to help a teacher try new instructional and assessment strategies is to offer to find resource sites for a history, science, etc. topic she/he is teaching. You then can make like a farmer who has planted a seed that needs to be nourished and cared for. Return to see how the unit is going, look for further opportunities to support that can lead to meaningful sharing of ideas. With so much talk about textbooks online and iBooks, look to partner with teachers to help write these books. And while it is obviously helpful to find resources teachers are requesting, one has to be careful in sharing other seemingly helpful resources so as to not overwhelm teachers with a constant flow of websites to check out. Being selective and then touching base with the teacher as the expert to get feedback on the viability of resources is helpful. I work closely with our math department chair for example to get her insights on what new resources I find that can be meaningful and worth sharing. Look to create your own school Web Resources site for students with a teacher toolkit section (be very selective not to overwhelm) so that teachers at their own pace have access to Web 2.0 tools, media subscription services, reading materials for initiatives, etc.

I used to organize Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) sessions at previous schools as part of an ongoing professional development system that put teachers at center stage for sharing what works well in their classrooms. The lack of time was the problem as so few teachers have time after school to meet. This is a universal problem for schools. But this is not to say that these sharing opportunities or doing book discussion groups are not effective strategies for ICL integration and the shifting of one’s school. I am finding the “just in time” approach, the curriculum review system meetings, and other strategies listed here are more effective at my current school. My eldest son’s school starts school late once a week so that teachers can attend early morning PD sessions. Building in the time and a providing a system for weekly PD is a nice way to support the learning community.

-Model shifted practices and your being a teacher– not a technician> work to model in your own teaching the discovery, project, inquiry, etc. based strategies you are collaborating with teachers to try and use. And remember that as an instructional designer you are collaborating to create lessons that might not be improved by using technology but they do shift the focus of the lessons to student-centered learning that helps move the classroom culture of students being more independent and active learners.

Whether one’s school has a set technology class schedule and/or you are doing some “just in time” instruction, look to not just teach the skills that the students will be using for lessons/units in their classes, look to facilitate the use of more project-based activities like WebQuests and Learning Pursuit research websites that you create and manage through your technology class curriculum. The process starts off with the teacher not having to do any of the legwork in building the WebQuest or Learning Pursuit as he/she can watch and hopefully buy in to a more inquiry and project-based way to do the unit in the future. The next step is co-teaching the unit in the following year. An example from my school is that last year I asked our third grade teachers if it would be OK for me to write up and post a RegionsQuest WebQuest that supported their year long study of American geography and culture. This year the teachers adapted it as part of their regular curriculum.

The offer to first teach the ICL aspect of any classroom unit with the teacher present during the lesson followed in the future by co-teaching the unit with the teacher eventually teaching the ICL portion is a good strategy that works. A byproduct of these efforts is that the students get to experience more and more constructivist, student-centered and fun learning activities. They then become advocates for themselves asking their teachers for more open-ended, collaborative project focused assessment options that draw on their research efforts. The students share their interesting learning activities with parents who are also reading about them in the school newsletter, blogs, podcasts, etc. which furthers their engagement to push for the shift that engages the ICL curriculum.

It really helps to demonstrate that you are a teacher and not a technician- no he/she is the “tech person” unless you are in the position of trying to provide both educational and technical support. If that is the case, then you will have difficulty being a true instructional technologist. It is important to take time at the start of each year’s faculty meetings to share with returning and new teachers what your role is. It is almost a branding experience getting your job title and skills out to your audience as well as a buy in for the ICL curriculum where technology is in the background supporting the students learning how to use information and communicate their understanding. I see myself as a learning specialist who uses my understanding of technology as well as other skills to support teaching and learning in my school. Just as a GATE or learning support teacher would do, I start off discussions by asking what the learning goals are– not what technology might be helpful. This is where my tendency is to really think about one’s job title to keep it focused on teaching and learning while also keeping the title just a couple words so folks will use it instead of falling back on “tech person”.

-Leadership> find ways to contribute to discussions and planning for the vision, the mission and strategic planning of the school, the skills/dispositions graduates of the school should have, how the community defines “learning” and how it paints the picture of what teaching and learning should look like followed by being part of the effort to develop the action plans to make all the plans a reality. Look to provide the leadership to engage students, teachers, administrators and parents to develop your 3 and 5 year ICL plans and the community’s vision for what what the learning should look like. Help provide and promote that vision. This builds excitement and leads to the further growth of the school learning community. This gets members of your community thinking, talking and sharing ideas about teaching and learning that engage with your ICL curriculum. Partner with administration to help design and promote professional development that builds on individual teachers and their expertise. Offer workshops and resources for your parents around their questions and needs but also to help them partner in guiding their children to be more independent and active learners who are being guided to ask questions and seek answers.

And when it comes to staff professional development, be persistent for systematic follow through when either staff members go to conferences or your school brings the PD specialists in so that their new ideas are infused into the curriculum. Thus having a systematic way to review curriculum is very important.

Another avenue for leadership as stated previously is to highlight and celebrate the teaching and learning at one’s school. Weekly ICL Updates, blog postings, writing articles for the parent newsletter and tweeting to one’s PLC are ways to demonstrate leadership by celebrating innovative practices and getting the word out. Another big way to provide leadership is to write articles for various publications whether print or online. This act of celebrating also carries over to the idea of sharing instructional ideas with the greater educational community. Look to create a group in Curriki where you post lessons and units from your school. Another avenue to help your teachers and school standout is to nominate your risk takers and leaders for awards as in the Apple Distinguished Educators program or the editor of THE Journal who recently requested the names of shifted administrators to be interviewed for an upcoming article.

-Curriculum Review System> we did an Edtech podcast on this and there is a Learning and Leading with Technology article about it so I won’t write much more here. This can be the main driver for supporting the ICL curriculum as well as other school-wide learning initiatives especially when using the Understanding by Design framework. An example of an initiative being support by the curriculum review system in my school is we recently formalized our Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) where the learning specialists are having a more active role working with teachers to differentiate instruction and assessments. The next step comes in the spring when we use our curriculum review system to review our 6th grade curriculum and the TLC team will collaborate in those meetings building the differentiation right into the unit plans. If you are looking to develop a curriculum review process, this curriculum and collaboration site and its guiding questions might be helpful.

-Take advantage of opportunities> when SARS struck Hong Kong back in 2003, it looked like a disastrous event on many levels as our school closed and families either left Hong Kong or hunkered down in their homes. We saw a need to keep school going not only for educational reasons but also community reasons as well. The opportunity arose to run a virtual school for our elementary division which pushed teachers to engage more with ICL to devise lessons that students would do individually and collaboratively through our school website and email. Once we all returned to school we had a boost in teachers being more open to try new strategies and to try more blended learning approaches. We did some planning and each of the following years we ran a “virtual learning week” in preparation for potential school closure. A further offshoot was for the ICL department to find new tools to deliver online instruction. In our case it was Moodle followed by our high school developing its own LMS called the myDragonNet.

So whether you have some grant money or like many schools your administration is talking about blended learning and the possibility of needing to have a virtual school capability due to weather, widespread illness, etc., look to take make the most of the opportunity to provide the leadership to expand your ICL program.

-Partnerships> I mentioned the partnerships with students, teachers and parents but just as important is the partnership the instructional technologist and director of technology have with the librarian to form the ICL team. This unified approach to teaching the various literacies while engaging students in using information to then communicate their understanding is so important. The partnership with administration is obviously very important as one can help shift instruction much easier when the administrators support and model the use of technology and the teaching of the ICL curriculum.


Hopefully these ideas can provide some discussion points as one looks at the role of the instructional technologist. If you are looking to write a job description, take a look at the mind map that I used for a presentation a few years ago where the participants helped expand on what the instructional technologist should be and not be expected to do for one’s learning community.

Originally posted February 19, 2012

Image Source


July 8, 2014

The Instructional Technologist: Job Title and Description

 job title

Technology Integration Specialist, Technology Facilitator, Technology Coach, Technology Coordinator… lots of job titles for what those with degrees in instructional or educational technology do. Going back to the 90s, the usual job title was technology coordinator. The technology coordinator mainly was the person who kept all the technology working.

As we moved into the 2000s, the graduate training and expectations from K-12 administrators began to change. I remember having chats with members of my cohort at UVA about the shift from technical to curriculum support. We also discussed the possibly of a new title for the technology coordinator. Those discussions led to the article Fulfilling the Need for a Technology Integration Specialist by Mark Hofer, Barbara Chamberlin and Tammy Scott. Definitely worth reading to see where we were in 2004 as we think about where we are today and where we are headed in the field of instructional technology.

I do feel strongly that one’s job title is very important and it should communicate what we do. My previous post gets at this. In searching for an image to add to this post, I ran across the thinking of George Couros who wrote a similar piece in his blog. What we do is not about technology but about learning. Enough said/written. :)

I remember attending an international job fair in 2002 wondering if school leaders were looking for instructional technologists or the old style technology coordinators. It quickly became evident that many of the international schools had made the shift as school heads said “We need instructional leaders. We have technicians to fix things”.

The Edtech Co-Op podcast and this blog consistently describe the need to make the guiding principle in our field to be one of working to support teaching and learning especially in use of information, communication and creativity. Technology is a part of the process but the more important skills among many include design, communication, collaboration and leadership (more on this in a future post). As for job titles, I tried in a couple of my schools to change my title to “learning or instructional specialist/coach”. I recently ran across some titles using “innovator, innovation” as part of the title among other choices.

It will be interesting when my wife and I return to international teaching as to whether cutting edge schools have made this change or will be up for the possibility. We definitely hope that potential schools will have already combined library and instructional technology services into the combined Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) approach that has taken root at my last two schools here in the US.

While I have written a few job descriptions for my position at schools over the years, I can say the one that was handed to me at my start at Washington International School is definitely a gem. While I don’t like the job title, I do really like what the authors produced.


Primary School Learning & Technology Coordinator
Washington International Primary School

The Primary School Learning & Technology Coordinator is a campus-wide leadership role responsible for the effective and meaningful integration of technology across the curriculum. A member of the Information Services team, the Learning & Technology Coordinator ensures that digital tools and resources are integrated in a fashion that reflects the school’s mission and instructional objectives. Reports to: Director of Information Services

Curriculum & Instructional Coordination

  • Coordinates, assesses, and implements a sustainable plan for integrating the WIS Standards for the Connected Learner across the primary school curriculum.

  • Collaborates with Middle/Upper School Learning & Technology Coordinator and Director of Information Services to develop, implement, and sustain a preK-12 continuum of standards and instructional integration.

  • Develops, maintains, and organizes an instructional planning tool that is utilized for all IT/IL projects.

  • Leads regular meetings with instructional team to share information, identify instructional objectives, plan for instruction, and implement embedded support and coordination.

  • Collaborates with subject area leaders, curriculum coordinator and administration to plan instructional integration across the academic year.

  • Researches and explores instructional resources for implementation in the primary school curriculum.

  • Provides frequent feedback to primary school faculty members about the use of instructional technology in their curriculum.

  • Promotes ethical use of information and technology through respect for intellectual property and adhering to appropriate laws.

Instructional Resource Management

  • Collaborates with PS Librarian to ensure that use of Library is coordinated and effectively utilized for integration of standards.

  • Provides oversight of development, implementation, and assessment of all instructional technology resources on Primary School campus.

  • Advises Director of Information Services on acquisition of software, hardware, and other digital resources for implementation in curriculum.

Professional Development

  • Coordinates professional development program for Primary School faculty.

  • Assesses and communicates professional development needs and interests of Primary School teachers.

  • Collaborates with PS Librarian and Director of Information Services to offer varied and relevant professional development opportunities.

  • Provides embedded professional support for teachers, with the goal to move them across a continuum of competence and towards independence of technology use.

  • Takes initiative to develop co-teaching and instructional support framework; collaborate with faculty members to facilitate learning opportunities for all students.

  • Develop training and support materials for use of technology resources; take a lead role in coordinating, disseminating, and using these resources in professional development with faculty members.

  • Collaborate with Director of Information Services to assess professional development program on an ongoing basis.

Technical Support

  • Collaborate with Help Desk Coordinator in conducting Level I troubleshooting, where appropriate.

  • Promote and facilitate effective reporting of problems and issues to Help Desk Coordinator.


  • Acts as a curricular leader and participates in instructional planning, including attending subject, grade level and division meetings as requested.

  • Works daily with students and staff in classrooms or project studio areas, on integrated projects that enhance technology skills.

  • Continually explores and updates knowledge and skills in pedagogy, information literacy and technology in order to enhance and expand students’ learning and achievement.

Team Member

  • As member of Information Services team, works collaboratively with team members to develop shared sense of responsibility, collaboration, and support.

  • Uses public forum to support team goals, objectives, and philosophies.

  • Participates in active communication with team members to identify issues of concern among faculty, staff, students and parents; collaborates to arrive at common solutions that will address these issues.

  • Serves as lead mentor/ coordinator in divisional IT mentorship groups.

Next Post: What we do

Image Source  Note: The idea for using this image came from George Couros.

July 6, 2014

The Instructional Technologist: Graduate Studies


Just as we are doing a series of shows around one topic on the Ed Tech Co-Op podcast (i.e., student viewpoints), with this post I am starting a series on the role of the instructional technologist in K-12 education.

A good place to start this series is with the IT graduate degree whether at the Masters or doctoral level. The following comes from the University of Virginia Curry School of Education Instructional Technology areas of study description.

“Core requirements and coursework in Instructional Technology (IT) prepare students to be leaders in any environment involving learning–K-12 schools, museum education, adult training and development in business and industry, public/non-profit training, higher education, and life-long learning.

Technology, culture, and diversity are virtually inseparable.  As such, diversity plays a large role in projects students design for use inside and outside of classrooms. Faculty and students at Curry contemplate ways technology can be used to extend educational opportunities to all populations.  For example, projects such as the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives celebrate past and present diversity in the immediate community and beyond.  In addition, courses such as Multicultural Education and Advanced Instructional Design encourage students to explore the meaning of diversity.

Students who focus their studies in IT gain exposure to a wide range of emerging technologies, while ensuring the basic competencies required of all practitioners. Graduates have found career opportunities as instructional designers, interactive developers, information architects, training and technology coordinators, and change/process management specialists in business, industry, education, and government. Others go on to become university faculty members.”


Looking deeper into the degree pages, the Masters and doctoral level degrees are entitled “Curriculum and Instruction- Instructional Technology”. I could not agree more that so much of what we do as instructional technologists is about curriculum and instruction. It is good to see that the Curry School has made this shift at least in the title since I finished my degree in 2001. Members of my cohort often spoke about there being too much emphasis on technology and not enough on pedagogy and change management.

Now more than ever technology is so easy to use and constantly changing that it doesn’t make a lot of sense taking courses in specific tools. What our future instructional technologist really need are the skills to design, collaborate, communicate and leverage creativity in one’s learning community. One needs just enough technical know how to understand how tools are organized by functionality to promote specific processes (e.g., to communicate, to create, to analyze, to organize, etc.). What we do need to learn in graduate school is how to navigate and problem solve within types of tools/apps so that when new tools come out, we are ready to interact with them. We then work to develop the lessons and tutorials to guide our students and adult learners in using the technologies.

With this technical knowledge, the instructional technologist can then use his/her skill set to partner in the curriculum development process. I will be sharing a lot more information in future posts about curriculum. I would like to make one very important point which will run through my posts because I think it gets at the center of what we do.

The instructional technologist is a learning specialist. We are not just the tech person on the sideline in curriculum meetings waiting for an opening to do our tech integration thing. We are teachers and curriculum specialists who participate in all aspects of curriculum design. From discussing and determining the learning outcomes to helping create assessments and rubrics to designing the learning activities, the fully functioning instructional technologist not only participates but often helps facilitate the curriculum review process.

Next Post: Job title and description

Image Source

July 5, 2014

Student Voices: Interviews with Sophia Pink

Sophia Dept of Edu

I was fortunate to record a couple podcasts with the extraordinary Sophia Pink. She designed and implemented a hybrid year of studies in place of attending Washington International School for her 10th grade year. In the first podcast Sophia tells the story of the program of studies she put together. In the second show, she offers her insights on how high school can be much more personalized with increased student engagement.

I am really enjoying our shows that give students the opportunity to share their ideas about teaching and learning. Stay tuned for the next Edtech Co-Op podcast to hear from my son Samuel as he shares about his lesson design work with his Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teacher.

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May 20, 2014

Pre-service Teacher Preparation


edtechcoop_logo small

We celebrated the recording of our 50th Ed Tech Co-Op podcast talking about pre-service teacher education. Pre-service teacher education has been in the news lately which prompted a couple of prominent bloggers to share their respective views with an emphasis on skill sets our future teachers need.

Take a look at the Mindshift post on changes to teacher prep programs and Scott McLeod’s post on what teachers graduating from teacher prep programs should be able to do. 

From time to time we talk about pre-service teacher education with Mark sharing what he is seeing at William and Mary. The 50th show hopefully can add to the ongoing discussion about how we prepare our future educators.

Here are some rough notes that I put together before the show. We covered many of them but not all.


Notes for pre-service teacher podcast:

While I think we need to teach the instructional skills and methods needed to be a teacher, I think we need to approach our pre-service teachers much like we do our K-12 students. We want them to be independent and skilled at knowing how to learn, to adapt and to design in a hopefully ever changing educational landscape.

We want our young and second career teachers to have the ICL skills that we want them to help develop in their students. If a new teacher has her ICL toolkit pretty well constructed then she can adapt, develop and move towards the shifted practices we want in our schools. This also involves having the dispositions to be flexible, wanting to constantly grow and learn, desire collaboration, be willing to take risks, etc.

We also want the pre-service educators to think of learning goals for lessons/units in terms of concepts first supported by skills and content. The skills and content help one’s students gain understanding of the concepts. The dissonance is that in many cases the new teachers will see standards and standardized tests that mainly focus on the content knowledge. The trick is helping the pre-service teachers learn how to design lessons that use the content to get to the concepts which will take care of the testing while also developing the students as thinkers learning about ideas while making connections in their learning.

Another skill is how to design student-centered constructivist learning activities that are also scaffolded enough to really work. This takes time and lots of experience as well as knowing what each group of students can and cannot handle. The design process needs a great deal of creativity and imagination.

It is important to develop the mindset and skills to work as a designer engaging creativity while willing to take risks. We also need to help future teachers become TPACKers with the knowledge that it is better to build a team of TPACKers including the learning support specialists. Mark and Judy’s recent TPACK paper covered how collaboration really helps one TPACK. Thus it makes sense to train teachers to reach out to one another to connect to the distributed expertise in one’s building and in one’s PLN.

We also need to help pre-service teachers understand that they cannot design their units all at once and that they need to use their research skills to find what others have already done. There are so many repositories of lessons, unit and whole course curricula out there. We need to help future teachers live by the 80% rule to get a good chunk of new lessons created but with the knowledge that it isn’t worth trying to get them totally complete. One learns so much in teaching them that the extra 20% isn’t worth the time and effort. Learn what works and doesn’t for the following year’s iteration and improvement.

Help new educators start with sound analog teaching and assessment strategies to develop their own “learning activities types (LAT)” matrices . They can then look to technology to replace, amplify or transform (RAT model) their solid pedagogy. And of course, we should help our new teachers build their PLN and PLCs, if possible, to not have to reinvent lessons and to keep the personal learning going beyond school provided PD opportunities.

I think educators should have the skills and hopeful desire to teach in a blended to virtual learning environment driven by student and teacher questions with students needing to be independent and active– not passive. If we are going to provide our students more ownership and control over their learning, we need teachers willing to use WebQuests, learning management systems, social media tools, etc. to give students avenues to personalize their learning.

Yet if we are going to expect our students to be independent and active learners, we need to help them develop the dispositions to make smart choices when using Web connected devices. We keep spending lots of money putting Internet connected devices in front of students without doing the work of preparing them to be disciplined, focused and dedicated to using the devices for learning and not being off task. We love constructivist individual and group learning but our students must be skilled in using the tools effectively while also employing dispositions that guide them to be independent and active learners. This is another area where a strong ICL program needs to be in place especially in our elementary skills.

May 13, 2014

Story Planning and Creation


The Kindergarten students are starting a new unit called Let’s Use Our Imagination. We began the unit in ICL class with a bit of a hook. The students visited the National Gallery of Arts Kids Art Zone site to try a couple of the interactive creation tools. We learned a little about the artist Henri Rousseau especially looking at how he used his imagination to paint jungle scenes. The students then used the interactive tool to create their own jungle scenes.


A second tool in the NGA site for using imagination to engage creativity is the Sea Saws. The students choose from a variety of digital pieces of wood, shells, stones, sea glass and other objects to piece together a work of art.

Sea Saws

We are now moving into the story creation process with the goal for each student to create a screencast story. The first lesson was to brainstorm using the Popplet Lite mind mapping app on the iPad. Popplet is a super app for storyboarding as one can draw pictures and text to then move the “popplets” around the screen to reorder them. The Kindergarten students took to it very quickly as I challenged them to think about three or more possible topics that they would like to create a story about. As they are not literate yet, it is pretty cool to see them use their minds to think visually with their story ideas. See one example of a student brainstorm at the top of the post and one below.


In next week’s lesson the students will again use Popplet to choose their story topic to then storyboard each page of their upcoming digital story. They will draw simple sketches to depict what is happening at each stage of their story. We will then use one of the art apps to draw the illustrations for each page of their screencast. The Kindergarteners are adept at drawing on the iPads.

The last stage of the project will be when the students will insert each of their illustrations into the Educreations screencasting app. They will then record in Spanish or French what is happening with each image to tell their digital story.

Image Sources

May 7, 2014

Virtual Author Visit

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author visit

Sue Anderson, our librarian, worked to line up a couple of author visits for the end of the school year. One will be in person in a week and the other visited with us via Skype.

Our students filled the gym with great anticipation waiting for poet and cartoonist Vikram Madan to appear on the giant screen. The IT staff arranged for the Skype connection to go through an iPad so that Sue could walk around and have students ask questions directly to Mr. Madan.

Here is a video of his visit.

May 6, 2014

What I Know About Water- a Screencast


I put up a post in March describing the scaled assessment technique we would be using with the Kindergarten students. They just completed the unit on water. We challenged them to use the Educreations app to answer two questions:

  • What is the water cycle?
  • What do you know about water?

Here is the link to one of the videos by a student from a Spanish classroom. Besides the finished product, it was very helpful for the students to mentally process their answers to then find ways to make their thinking visible.


May 1, 2014

Blended ICL Integration

Collaborating VirtuallyThere are times when it doesn’t work out to do a collaborative curriculum meeting. This recently occurred with one of our grade levels so it is too late this year to do ICL integration for their unit on ecosystems. I reminded myself that I can still support learning by using our curriculum mapping tool (Mangebac) to offer ideas for next year. Both my wife, a librarian and GATE coordinator and I used to do this during our days in Hong Kong with our in house curriculum planning tool (myDragonnet).

I also am doing some reflecting as we end this year about how I can better support our teachers and ultimately the students. My plan next year is to go into Managebac to review the unit a couple weeks before each grade level planning meeting. I will post ideas organized in the differentiation framework of content, process and products. This blended integration technique will give each grade level team the chance to see some starter ideas ahead of the meeting which should lead to more efficient use of time when we meet in person. It would really be a blended model if curriculum collaboration team members also offered ideas and built off one another’s ideas in Managbec before the meeting.

In the cases when we are totally rewriting units, I will work in person as a co-designer to develop the learning goals, assessments and learning activities. Hopefully we will have full day and coverage to design new units.

So what did I come up with for the ecosystem unit in which we did not meet? Here is my quick once over looking at what he teachers did this year. I found a listing of learning activities and assessments that I responded to. What is so exciting is that I could reach out to my PLN and get so many other ways to approach the strategies listed below.


ICL Possibilities for Next Year’s Ecosystem Unit: Here are a few ideas listing some tools and strategies that might replace, amplify or transform the learning opportunities for your students. As I only have what is listed here in Mangebac, I have limited depth of understanding so these ideas are just places to start a discussion for planning in the future. -DC

Reading Response Questions to A Book on the Chesapeake Bay- There are a few possibilities here to possibly make the workflow more efficient than using paper and pencil or even using a Word document. If this is more of a formative assessment where you want students to learn from each other, you could use the forum feature in Moodle to have a threaded discussion. Another choice would be to create a Padlet (www.padlet.com) online “post it” note board where students post their responses while seeing what their classmates write. They can then be challenged to make a connection to a certain number of posts by adding what new thinking comes into their minds. If the aim is to get individual responses, you could use Google Docs and have the students share their work to your Drive.
Field Trip to Chesapeake Bay Study Station- While there is concern about students handling iPads and cameras in a water rich environment, there are ways to document the trip with images, voice recording and video. We could brainstorm possibilities with a few options being having a couple of the adults handling the hardware to record media, maybe designating one or two students from each class to take turns in the role of “reporter”, or have teachers or parents or the LTC handle the recording. Upon returning to school with all of the digital media, the door is wide open for students to use technology to be creative in making their thinking visible about what they learned from the field trip. Possible options are: create a virtual exhibit, a podcast with or without images, a documentary, a newscast, a commercial, etc. For more information on field trips, look to review the Pedagogy & ICL section of the library website. (http://pslibrary.wis.edu/for-teachers/pedagogy-icl)
Poster on an Organism in the Watershed- the students could create an online digital poster using a Web 2 tool like Glogster or do a slideshow using text, images and language with Voicethread. This offers the opportunity to share with a larger audience and to get feedback using the comment feature. Glogster transforms the project by allowing students the opportunity to embed not only text but images, video and links to online resources.
Persuasive Letter to Congress about Protecting the Watershed- the students could do a bit of a transfer task by taking the content of their letters to then create commercials to make their argument using a screencasting app on the iPad. They would still be using their writing but engaging their media, visual and technology literacies.
Brochure on a Biome- if they are not already using Pages or Word, the students could go digital as opposed to paper and pencil. An extension for differentiation could be to offer some students the option of creating a website. A website like some of the other mentioned tools offers students more opportunities to find information that can be inserted into the product. And just as with a brochure, they still very much use their design skills and they can reach a wider audience.
Graphic Organizer to Organize Animals into Ecosystems to Name the Biome- if you are not using Inspiration, it could be used in this assessment. A template with images of all the animals could be saved on Moodle or the library website for easy download to each student’s laptop. When they complete the grouping of animals process, they can either export the Inspiration file or take a screenshot to send to the teacher. They could e-mail, upload to Moodle or add the file to their Google Drive to then share with the teacher. An extension activity could be to have students embed voice files into each group of animals where they explain in language their reasons for how they grouped them. If students choose to demonstrate their understanding of some connections between groups, they can use the connector tool which has a labeling text box where they can type in their reasoning for the connection.
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April 27, 2014

You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:12 pm

DRDiane Rehm recently had teacher and author David McCullough, Jr. on her show to talk about his 2012 high school commencement speech and new book entitled You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements that offers interesting commentary on our “helicoptered” and “snow plowed” super achieving students.

McCullough is a delight to listen to as he speaks not only about parenting but also teaching and learning.

Another item in the news was an article in the Washington Post about efforts to find ways to standardize our teacher preparation programs. Much has been written in the past year about the lack of high standards for some our colleges and universities.

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