Monthly Archives: October 2011

Modifying a Unit

Over the past few weeks I have been mulling over how I could incorporate more technology into one of my PYP units of inquiry.  I decided to modify one that is already in existence within the Grade 6 POI at my school that deals with media.  I felt that this was an appropriate topic that could allow for some interesting conversations and products. However, before I delve into the subject matter, perhaps I should explain the structure of my planner.

The Nuts and Bolts

The IB PYP planner is standard at all schools that offer the programme.  All planners contain have the same basic format and information, however, each school implements the actual method and formatting in a different way.  Therefore the type of information will always be in the same place, but the manner in which it is presented can be different.   For example, the summative assessment task (located in box 1) is broken down in a similar manner as a UbD planner, though I have chosen to use the wording at my school simply for the sake of being able to implement it.  Box 4 includes all the different activities that could be done throughout this unit with letters at the end of each statement.   The letters each relate to a transdiciplinary skill that is required and developed during the process of that activity.   Also at the end of box 1 I ran out of room and thus had to continue in box 9.  I chose to leave boxes 6, 7, and 8 blank as they pertain to reflection on the unit and I have not actually taught this particular unit before.  Finally, I do apologize for the font size but it had to be done to ensure that the planner met the IB guidelines.

The Meat

The central idea of the unit encourages students to explore the manipulative nature of the media.  As I pondered how I could tweak the unit to include more technology, I kept thinking of the show Dragon’s Den.  The show is essentially an opportunity for independent business people to impress four big investors and to convince them to invest in the product being presented.  I thought that this was a wonderful framework to hook the students and one that would have them demonstrating their understanding of the central idea.  Essentially each group of students creates a pitch for a group of investors (the rest of the class), with the goal of convincing them to invest in the product by using the tricks of the media.  Their presentation to the investors can include a varied array of different technology tools to help them.  For example Excel (for graphing product research information), video (to provide a hook for the investors or sample marketing campaign), and PowerPoint (to create their presentation), Word (to create leaflets of information), and iMovie (to create commercials).

After awhile, I began to think of other ways that technology could be used in the unit.  As it began to take shape, I became more confident with the unit and the tasks that it presents.  However, I was aware that I needed to include both a novel study within the unit and math.  It is easy for me to authentically integrate math inquiry in this unit, both with subject and the use of technology.  However, I have difficulty seeing how a traditional novel study can be revitalized using technology.

 Thinking About Implementation


As I think about implementing this unit of work I can foresee several difficulties:

  1. There could be potential copyright issues if a piece of student work that criticizes or analyzes an ad is put within a public forum.
  2. How much technology is too much for one unit?  At what point have I crossed the line between teaching big ideas and instead am focusing on teaching students the latest new way of representing?
  3. The students all have various levels of technological competence.  I need to find a way to balance groups so that there is a balance of abilities amongst them.

 Final Comment

Overall I am excited about this unit and the summative assessment.  Judging by the enthusiasm that the students showed for their assembly, they love when they get the chance to use technology and hopefully this unit will encourage them to develop their skills.  I’m also looking forward to hearing suggestions on how I could improve my units both in terms of the technology and the content.

COETAIL Project1

Image Credits:

Pipe joint nut & bolt by hartlandmartin on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Thinking by Brendan Lea on Instagram

Video Credit:

Dragon’s Den – What a Bloom uploaded by kaynada found on YouTube


Filed under COETAIL, Course 1

Teacher Evaluations and Technology

As part of my COETAIL readings for the week I was directed to several documents on the International Standards for Technology Education (ISTE).  ISTE has created standards that both students (Student NETS) and teachers  (Teacher NETs) should strive to meet when using technology.  After reviewing the standards, the COETAIL instructors asked us to contemplate who should be responsible for teaching these standards and if the Teacher NETS should be used as part of teacher evaluations.

Who is responsible for teaching technology skills?

Everyone should be responsible for using technology within the classroom because technology is a tool that can be used across the curriculum.  However, the question of who should teach students how to use this tool is another matter all together.  The ideal situation would be to have a technology coordinator who works collaboratively with teachers and administrators to determine what skills or understanding are needed.  The technology coordinator would take responsibility for teaching new tools and strategies using the technology either through inquiry or explicit instructions depending on the situation.  Once the students have the skills needed, then it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that the skill is used effectively and meaningfully within his or her classroom.

Should the Teacher NETs be part of teacher evaluation?


I would personally prefer them to be included as part of my evaluation.  However, my situation as a teacher in a private international school is not that common and while I struggle to justify a blanket yeah or nay, I can’t.  There are many issues that education needs to overcome before any sort of evaluation on a teacher’s use of technology can be used:


  1. Standardized Tests:  Most schools have some form of standardized test to evaluate how a school is doing in various areas.  However, I have yet to see one that accurately reflects a student’s competence in their ability to use technology effectively.
  2. Resources:  Different schools have different resources.  While the ISTE standards are fairly broad and are able to be met in different ways, schools need to ensure that they have adequate resources before adding them to their teacher evaluations.
  3. Support:  As a school community a school needs to ensure that they provide support to all teachers to ensure that they can meet teacher NETs, otherwise their inclusion would only set the teacher up for failure.

There may be other issues that schools may need to address before implementing technology as an aspect of their teacher evaluation. Before including technology as an aspect of evaluation all stakeholders within the school should be consulted to ensure that the tools, support, and training are in place to ensure that teachers are able to succeed.

Video Credit

ISTE CEO Don Knezek Discusses the NETS by ISTE

Image Credits:

Responsibility by PaDumBumPsh found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Using the interactive whiteboard in the classroom by Dell’s Official Flickr Page found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed






Filed under COETAIL, Course 1

Drowning in Theory

As I reflected on the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that global collaboration has been a consistent topic among the readings.  We were shown articles by George Siemens and by Christenson and Horn  We’ve read theory about why collaboration is important and shown tools that enable collaboration on a global stage.  However, I was beginning to feel as if I was drowning, principally because:

  1. I have never done anything like that before
  2. How on earth do I actually go about doing something like this?

I have found myself wanting examples, tips, anything to help me understand how to do this on a practical level.  With the readings this week I was provided with an outline of how to successfully implement global collaboration with students and also examples of successfully completed projects.  This was exactly what I was wanting and craving.

Kim Cofino outlines explicit tips on how to go about implementing a global collaboration project.  While most of the tips seem obvious  there were two that I probably would have had to learn the hard way:

  1. Scheduling differences between teachers
  2. Explicit break down of tasks to be complete by each teacher

Number one is of particular importance because every school is different in terms of their holidays.  For example, I could not imaging trying to do a project with a school back home in March because our breaks do not match up and thus it would hinder the project. Overall the tips are great.  However, I think I might go one step farther and try a collaborative project with another class in my school as a trial.  By doing this I will be giving my students most of the benefits and gaining the experiences to help boost my confidence with this type of learning.  Then I might have the confidence to actually try it with people around the globe.

The assigned projects to look at as part of our reading were interesting as they provided me a sense of the types of things of projects that were completed and the tools that helped them succeed.  Comparing the 1001 Flat World Tales projects with A Week in the Life, a more recent project, has helped me see the changes that have happened in terms of options for presentation strategies.  My preferred project would be the second one, as it incorporates more multimedia and it seems like the students are connecting to the material and to each other on a more personal level.

All of the information this week was easy for me to understand and enabled me to get my head around the process of taking collaborative theory and trying to apply it my classroom.

Image Sources, Creative Commons Licensed, Found on Flickr

078/365: Underwater by bmhkim

confidence by glsims99


Filed under Uncategorized