Category Archives: Course 4

Kids Teaching Kids

During this past year I have been participating in the COETAIL program offered through YIS.  The program has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me and has given me hundreds of ideas that I want to use in my classroom.  One of the most consistent themes to pop up during the course is the idea of global collaboration (people working together to complete a common task).  The idea is intriguing to me and is one I plan on using next year.  To ensure that I do I decided to use the course 4 project to come up with a unit planner for a unit that I’ll be teaching next year.


I love having my students conduct experiments.  No matter what grade I am in I usually find a way to integrate a science fair type project.  Not only do they love this type of project but it also provides them with the opportunity to learn from each other as I make sure that they are given time to present their work to their classmates and others within the school.  However, I have been wondering if there is a way that I could expand upon this idea so that other students from beyond the school can work and learn together?

I also love having my students conduct research.  However, I find that many of the sites that my students go to require them to read or watch something (Wikipedia and YouTube for example).  There is no interaction involved.  If my students are anything like me, they need to be doing something with information in order to remember it.  Isn’t there a place way students can interact with the information that they are learning in online spaces?


After pondering the two questions above I believe the answer lies in creating a wiki (using a variety of other embedded tools) and a blog.  Using these two tools will allow my students and a partner class to create and share their learning with each other and the wider world.  For the purposes of this course project I decided to use science unit that I will be teaching next year as an example.

A rough outline of how I see the unit unfolding.


In order to ensure that this idea goes off without a hitch I need to find a class around the same age as my students who will be going working on a similar topic at the same time.  I will also make sure to consult Kim Cofino’s guide to global collaboration.  Below is a rough time frame of the unit and how I see it unfolding:

Weeks 1-2:

  1. Skype meet-up to introduce the classes.  Initially this can be done as a class meeting.  Afterwards it can be done in smaller groups to allow students the chance to get to know each other better.
  2. Introduce wiki, blog and other tools that will be used during this time.  This can be modified depending on student prior knowledge.  If this unit is done later in the year, it would be wise to allow the students a choice in the tools that they use.  If the tools are new to the students time should be set aside in order learn how to use them.
  3. Introduce the unit via some provocations and seeking out prior knowledge.  These can either be done traditionally or using technology.  It might be nice if the teachers could film some provocations videos to share with both classes.  This would allow the classes to get to know the other teacher.
  4. Have students post student questions onto Wall Wisher (this should be updated regularly)
  5. Students should blog about their thoughts and reactions to what has been going on (this should be ongoing throughout the unit).

Weeks 2-3:

  1. Teachers should select at least one student question each from Wonder Wall.  Using this the teacher should create a science experiment that can be conducted by the whole class.  As the experiment is conducted teachers should encourage students to think about the scientific process (take evidence using photos and videos).  After the experiment teachers should model research with the students to find reasoning for the results of the experiment.  Teachers should also explore how this force affects us.  Students should share that they have learned with the other class using some of the tools that will be used for the summative assessment.
  2. Teachers should take the documentation gathered from the experiment above to create a sample project page for the summative assessment.
  3. After the example experiment teachers should select a few more student questions to conduct more experiments.  These experiments should allow for more independence so that they can demonstrate the skills they learned from the whole class experiment.  Upon completion of experiments students should share their experiences with the other class.
  4. Field trip to explore the real world implications of forces.

Weeks 4-6:

  1. Students are shown the example summative assessment page.  Students should be provided an opportunity to question it and see everything in it.
  2. Students select a focus for their summative assessment task.

Summative task:

Throughout the unit students are expected to share their work and new knowledge with students in the other class.  This sharing could be does not always have to be done through a blog or Skype.  Teachers should allow time for students to come up with how they feel it is best to teach the other students what they have learned.  For example, they may want to reproduce an experiment so that they can take pictures and create a VoiceThread (thus allowing students in the other class to comment and ask questions).  Students may also choose to create a movie and personify the experiment.  The video could easily be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo and embedded in the wiki (this still allows for comments and contributions from students in the other class).

When it comes time to work on their summative project, the students should already be comfortable sharing their learning with the other class.  The rough idea is that students in each class select a question or idea to explore (related to forces) and conduct experiments and research to provide an answer.  Ideally there should be a group in each class working on the same question (thus allowing for a sharing of ideas).  As students work on their project they should document their work on the wiki to foster the sharing of suggestions and ideas between the groups.  Students will also be expected to explore and comment on the work of other classes.

Eventually for the final project students will have created a wiki page that includes the following:

  1. Demonstration of collaboration between the classes.
  2. Demonstration of scientific process.
  3. Demonstration of research (citing sources of information).
  4. Demonstration of understanding of forces.
  5. Demonstration of the learner profile and transdiciplinary skills (if using this in an IB school).
  6. Use of a variety of tools.

Looking back on the unit, there are still things to consider before implementation.


I like the idea of this unit and the possibility of creating a class wiki that allows people to learn in a variety of different ways.  I also like the opportunity that allows for differentiation.  For example one group may feel comfortable making a video of their experiment, while another may feel comfortable taking photos.  Both methods allow them to gather evidence and display it in a way that suits them.   The project also has the opportunity to go involve not only global collaboration but the concepts of flipping a classroom.  Finally, I love the idea of working together with another class to create something that can be used by others to help them learn.


While I like the idea of this unit, I realize that it is not perfect.  One of my major concerns is fostering the collaboration between the classes.  As this is a science-based example, I am concerned about how best to foster online collaboration.  To me science experiments are tangible hands on experiences and I don’t know how that will translate in this project.  Also while the aim of this project is to create an interactive learning space, the end product could easily turn into a read and watch product.  Does anyone have any experience with global collaboration and a unit heavy on experiments?  What about ensuring the creation of an interactive wiki?


Video Credits:

Bill Nye the Science Guy- Quicksand found on YouTube, uploaded by Hungry Hom3r

(personal inspiration for this project idea)

Image Credits:

Chef Calendar by beneneuman found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Day 123- Thinking Cat by Miss Tessmacher found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

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Living in a Mixed World

Working in an environment with no laptops meant I had to figure out how to relate to the readings.

This week’s COETAIL assignment to reflect on our use of laptops in our classrooms was a challenge as my school does not have a bank of laptops that teachers and students can use, instead, it relies upon computer labs to address student technological outcomes.  However, I found the readings and suggestions helpful when I stopped and thought about how they can be applied in an environment without laptops.

For example the YIS Tech coffee morning Living with Laptops was incredibly useful once I got past the label of laptop and started applying it to desktop computers, smart phones, tablets and mp3 players.  I was able to see how the tips and suggestions provided as applicable to an array of electronic tools. For example, the readings suggested installing time management applications to prevent wasting time.  After some research, I discovered that most of these applications have desktop equivalents.

Though I may not have access to a bank of laptops, I do have access to a computer lab and I also allow my students to bring their own devices that they can use for research or working on projects.  This year I have seen students bring in iPhones, iPads, iPods, Windows computers, and MacBooks.  This mixture of technology has proved interesting as my students and I had to figure out how to work with different operating system and negotiate guidelines regarding classroom use of the devices.  Below are two suggestions for things to keep in mind if you are working in a space that uses a variety of different technology tools:

Should it really be a battle? I prefer to have both as it forces my students to think about file compatibility?

Windows vs Mac:

Don’t restrict yourself to just one.

I admit I’m a Mac person working in an environment in which several of my students use them but the school uses Windows.  While this may prove frustrating for some, I have found it to be a unique challenge and one that forces my students to think about working across platforms.  Early on in the year some of my students would simply give up in frustration when faced with an issue of file compatibility (Pages vs Word, iMovie vs Movie Maker).  Often they would end up denouncing the computer they were unfamiliar with and come to me to help them.  Over time, I could see some of my students begin to connect the dots.  Later on in the year one of my students asked me a question about how to make a movie on his iPhone, edit it in Movie Maker, and then export to iMovie so the his partner could put on some finishing touches.  This question nearly did me in and I asked him to check back with me tomorrow.  Not five minutes later he came up to me with a solution to his problem.  I was so proud of him.  Not only was he learning how to make movies while meeting specific educational outcomes but he was figuring out how to work across platforms and starting to analyze and understand the complexity of file types across platforms.

When to Bring Your Own:

When I started out the year I never imagined that I would be allowing my students to bring their own devices and use them in class.  However, during our first unit of study one of my students kindly asked if he could bring in his MacBook so that he could work on his leadership project.   I initially hesitated but he explained that he wanted to create a movie to insert into the presentation that he was making for the assembly.  Eventually I agreed and after clearing it with a few people I told him he could.  As the year has gone on more and more of my students started bringing their own devices to use in the classroom.  This has led to some interesting discussions on when and where to use our devices.  I am fortunate in that my students and I have agreed that when it is necessary for their work they may use the device.   In the early days one or two students pushed the boundaries, however there has not been any issue with students misusing their devices.  For example one day one student was caught using his phone to play games.  As a class we talked about this incident and how it negatively impacted the work that the rest of the group was doing.  The message got through to them.

Image Credits:

Me & My Mac by Martin Bommel found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Mac vc PC sords by ComputerFixerKid found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credits:

Scot Floyd on establishing a successful BYOD strategy found on YouTube, uploaded by Teaching learning group



Filed under COETAIL, Course 4

Questions about Global Collaboration

As an educator I continually have my students collaborate with others, be it within the class, with the other class of the same grade level, with other grades, or outside of the school.  With advancements in technology educators and students now have the opportunity to work together with students in other parts of the world much more easily than in past, creating increased interest in the concept of global collaboration.  This advancement has also made it easier for students and teachers to get in contact with experts in a variety of different fields.

Global collaboration resembles other forms of more localized collaboration except  it involves students and teachers interacting with others across the globe, working and learning together.   There are three major advantages to this type learning.  Students gain:

  1. Exposure to people/cultures that are not their own.
  2. Experience working with people who may think differently than they do.
  3. Technological knowledge, as it is necessary in order to work with this style of teaching.
  4. Access to a global pool of knowledge that is able to enhance the learning experience.


As I reflect on my own teaching, I can see points where collaborating with a class around the world would help my students gain a better understanding of the concepts covered in class.  For example, in one unit my students analyzed various commercial advertisements.  I think it would be neat to work with another class to explore the similarities and differences in advertising between cultures.  At the end of the unit the students would work together to help create a multimedia ad campaign for a fictional product that would be popular in both countries.

In early March I met with parents to discuss trends in education and technology.  One of the trends I mentioned was global collaboration.  While speaking I noticed that most of the parents in the rooms were nodding their heads in agreement.  However, I have yet to take the leap to actually collaborate globally with a class from another part of the world.  Mainly because I am concerned about how to organize it and also how do I reach out to another class.

After reading Kim Cofino’s post on global collaboration, I now feel that I have a better understanding of how I could actually go about organizing it.  The post is detailed and gives lots of ideas of questions to ask to help the reader take their first leap.  For making my first foray into global collaboration, I will probably use Flat Classrooms.  This resource provides teachers and students with various projects that they can participate in by signing up.  These two resources provide enough suggestions and support that I now feel comfortable taking the next step with my class.

Do I limit the opportunities of my students by requiring all global collaboration to use technology?

While global collaboration using technology is something that I wish to explore, I can’t help but wonder what is my responsibility?  Do I only seek out schools/teachers that already have the same access to technology that I do and thus do nothing to help decrease the digital divide between different parts of the world?  Or do I encourage my school to help another school gain access to improved technology through fund raising and possible grants?  Thus helping to mend the digital divide.  Also by limiting the connection to schools that have access to the required technology am I limiting the experiences of cultural diversity that my students could gain from using traditional communication methods?

Video Credits: found on YouTube uploaded by rockourworld1

Image Credits:

Global Player by alles-schlumpf found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

UN Builds Classrooms in North Darfur for Displaced by United Nations Photo

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Reverse Instruction

Reverse instruction is an interesting concept and one that greatly appeals to me.  With this instructional method teachers assign videos, articles and other materials for the students to view for homework.  The aim being that students receive the traditional technical teaching at home which allows for more time for deeper engagement with the content in school (link).  Some examples of sites that can be used to promote this style of teaching are Khan AcademyTED-Ed, and BrainPop.

Flipping a unit on measurement could leave more time for interesting creative projects that enable students to demonstrate critical thinking skills.

As I reflect on the topics my class has covered this  year, I can easily think of several examples of where I could see this style of teaching working. Recently my students have been working on measurement and I immediately thought that the next time I teach this unit, I should try reverse instruction.  At home I could have the students watch videos and learn the basics of measurement (unit conversion, selecting an appropriate unit of measure, how to use measurement tools properly).  All of these basic ideas take time to teach students and if I could do it through technology at home, that would leave me more room in class to develop projects and tasks that allow the students to engage with the topic on a deeper level and to demonstrate critical thinking.  Such projects could include having the students create blueprints and models.

Like any teaching method the idea of reverse instruction or flipping a classroom should not be taken lightly and requires much advanced planning.  There are two major questions that teachers should answer before using this method:

  1. Instruction models do not work with every student.  Reverse instruction requires students take responsibility for their own learning and understanding of various concepts because the initial teaching is done at home.  Not all students will succeed with this style of teaching and it is important that we remember our job is to educate everyone and not only a few.  How do we best accommodate students who do not suit this style of learning?
  2. If students are receiving the instruction at home, then what is being done in class?  Does class time become a review of the homework or is it an opportunity to explore the topics further?

Video Credits:

The Flipped Classroom is Hot, Hot, Hot: 15 Recent News Stories found on YouTube, uploaded by EmergingEdTech

Image Credits:

A Blurry Sense of Magnitude by ZeRo’SKiLL, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed


Filed under COETAIL, Course 4


Project-based learning (PBL) and challenge based learning (CBL) are two terms that have been on my mind recently. While I’ve heard of and used PBL before, the concept of CBL was new to me. At our COETAIL meeting in April we were asked to explore the similarities and differences between the two methods of teaching. During our discussion we came up with several ideas. Despite our brainstorming, I was left unclear about the fine line between the two modes of learning.

After reading Discovery, Problem and Challenged Based Learning by Stephen David Pearce I am more confortable distinguishing the two:


1. Both require the students to engage in a topic by creating questions, researching, and completion of a summative task.


1. PBL units do not necessarily need to be multidisciplinary, but it is a requirement of CBL.

2. CBL projects must allow students to take action to try to solve a real-world problem. PBL projects do not have this stipulation.

3. CBL units require students interact with people both from inside and outside of the class, either as partners, research subjects, or specialists. PBL does not make this requirement.

4. PBL is more teacher directed than CBL.

As I look at the list, the biggest difference is the requirement to attempt a solution to a real world problem.  As I reflect back on my own teaching, I can come up with numerous examples of how I have used both CBL and PBL in my teaching.

CBL: Recently my students completed their PYP exhibition. In this self-directed unit of study the students tried to solve a real world problem. During this unit the students looked at how they can work with an organization to provide support for an issue of importance to them. This year the students mainly focused on NGO’s and how through various means people can get involved and make a difference with an NGO.

In order to successfully complete the unit students needed to: 1. Select a big issue they were passionate about (clean air, child poverty, access to educational technology). 2. Find an NGO that supports their big issue. 3. Research the NGO to see if they think it is one that they could support. 4. Make contact with their NGO. 5. Use written and oral communication skills. 6. Create a plan to get involved with their NGO.

PBL: Earlier in the year my students looked at media and its influence. My teaching partner and I knew that we wanted students to be able to create a successful multimedia campaign for a product of their choosing at the end of the unit. The aim was to convince investors to give them money.

In order to be successful in this project the students had to 1. Demonstrate media literacy 2. Demonstrate ICT skills 3. Understand how to persuade people 4. Use written and oral skills

This example of a PBL project had no connection to solving a real world problem (although it easily could be adapted to do so). However, the project does enable students to develop a skill that is necessary in today’s world (media literacy).

Both styles of teaching styles have a place in today’s world as the both provide teachers with a framework to encourage students to think critically about the material of learning. However, you cannot rely on either style to suit all situations. Much like clothing, when it comes to teaching styles, one size does not fit all.

Video Credits:

Project Based Learning: Explained found on YouTube uploaded by BIEPBL

Challenge Based Learning found on YouTube uploaded by CBLearning

Image Credits:

Personal Twitter screen capture taken using Skitch

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Who is Responsible for Technology Education?

Some of my earliest experiences with a computer were in labs just like this one.

Over the past week I have been doing a lot of thinking about technology and how it is used within the classroom.  When I was first exposed to computers in school, it was clear that there was a set computer time for learning basic skills. As technology has evolved schools are being forced to redefine how they wish technology to be used within the classroom and teacher responsibility.

Defining the Role of Technology:

Before considering how ICT outcomes should be assessed or who is responsible, a school must first come to an agreement on what the desired role for ICT is in the school.  In his article What Difference Might and “S” Make? David Warlick debates whether teachers should be teaching computer applications (a set list of specific programs with specific targets) or computer application (the use and manipulation of computers in order to solve problems).   The difference may seem subtle but has an immense impact on the way the school assesses the use of technology by students.

The ISTE NETS provides a framework for schools and teachers who would like their students to follow a computer application model.  If we follow the ITSE NETS and the computer application model, then the use of technology no longer becomes limited to a specific class but instead can be used across all areas and become a natural extension to the teaching and learning process.  However, I still believe that there needs to be a balance between learning how a set list of specific skills/programs and learning how to manipulate a variety of different programs. One must also keep in mind that some students will benefit from explicit instruction of new programs but others learn best through their own experimentation.  But who might responsible for technology education in this model?

Who is responsible?

In short everyone needs to be responsible for technology education.  There needs to be a balance between having a class to learn a specific program and allowing technology integration across all curricular areas.  For example a teacher may need to set aside a specific class to teach students how to use a specific program, application, or skill.  However, many of the programs, applications, and skills that are being taught can be used in a variety of curricular areas.   For example if I teach my students how to make a movie and export it, another subject teacher could easily make use of this skill within their class. Thus allowing technology to become a natural part of the learning experience that is no longer just reserved for technology classes.  For this to work effective communication, collaboration, and an educational technology expert who can help all parties see the big picture with the students are necessary.

In order for technology integration to work, there needs to be someone guiding all parties.

Technology Guide

In my ideal world the technology guide would work with teachers across grade levels and subjects to ensure that students are provided opportunities to meet the ISTE NETs, as well as ensuring that technology is viewed as a tool to help students learn and to create in a variety of settings.   The technology guide would help teachers learn new technologies as well assist them with creating age appropriate learning experiences and assessments.  The technology guide would also monitor overall implementation of the ISTE NETs through curriculum mapping of the overall program and records from their own classes.

In this post I discussed the idea that everyone needs to be responsible for teaching technology outcomes, whether they are the ISTE NETs or another curriculum (Journey On is the curriculum guide at my current school).  In my next post I will provide some practical ideas to help schools ensure that students are meeting technology outcomes within an integrated model.

Image Credits:

Students Working on class assignment in computer lab by Extra Ketchup found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Two equestrian riders, girls on horseback, in low tide reflections on serene Morro Strand Straight Beach by mikebaird found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credits:

ISTE CEO Don Knezek Discusses the NETs uploaded onto YouTube by istevideos


Filed under COETAIL, Course 4