Redeveloping technology expression in the PYPx

Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

At the beginning of this semester I was on track to create a final project for COETAIL relating to my teaching of a redefined empowered use agreement for YIS. However, COVID-19 had different plans. As I scrambled to adjust my COETAIL final project to better adapt for distance learning, I sat down to think about how my teaching has changed as a result of learning from home. Coaching was looking different and I felt one step away from the students – more so than my ‘normal’ coaching. Thankfully, one aspect of my role was staying the same – I was still set to work with a group of students in the PYPx that aimed to express their inquiries using computational thinking or digital design. 

I ran with it and was happy I did. 

I didn’t completely reconstruct the PYPx unit of inquiry – I’ll leave that up to the grade 5 teachers (who are awesome, I might add), but I did completely reconstruct how I worked with my expression group. This learning engagement spanned 4 weeks and consisted of bi-weekly Zoom synchronous sessions along with a-synchronous learning facilitated through a Padlet we created. 


I developed a few different goals for the students and for myself for this project. 

  1. Support students’ specific goals. This is the PYPx where agency plays a big role, so I needed to be flexible and work within the goals that they set. 
  2. Build a solid communication platform that worked well in the distance learning environment. 
  3. Support students to culminate their PYP learning
  4. Focus on purpose and audience

Moving towards redefinition 

Image by DasMonster on Pixabay

I was very specific in this unit to get away from the idea of just using the technology because we are passionate about it. Primarily, I’m talking about Minecraft. I love Minecraft and our students love Minecraft, but I didn’t want to see a Minecraft project just because it was something that the students thought was fun. I wanted to see Minecraft because it’s creative and it gives a grade five student the ability to create and present something that might have otherwise been challenging without an architecture degree. 

A also worked with a student who created an entire app prototype (check out Her goal was to create a Buzzfeed-like survey that gauged how eco-friendly you were and provided recommendations at the end. What impressed me the most was how she worked with variables within her prototype so that her audience was given a specific paragraph and image based on their input in the survey – I wanted to share it with all my friends on Facebook. 

The tech

Copyright Adobe Premiere Pro

I’m far from an expert in film making and I really enjoyed stretching my abilities to create this video. I’m very familiar with iMovie, but I really wanted to work with Premiere Pro on this project. I wanted to have the flexibility that Premiere Pro offered (at the cost of a much steeper learning curve). Thankfully, YouTube tutorials can get you through almost any challenge these days. 

For music, titles, the opener and a small piece of stock footage I used AudioJungle and Videohive. These two sites, part of the larger Envato Market, sell various royalty free files for uses in a variety of media projects. I appreciate the professional look while ensuring everything is licensed correctly. 

Hopefully this is just the start of my productions in Premiere Pro. 

My video


Developing a community

As my initial COETAIL journey comes to a close, I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on the journey and the COETAIL community as a whole. I’d like to share three ways in which I’ve engaged with my PLN regarding themes related to COETAIL. 

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Online 11 COVID-19 Zoom Chat

In late March, just as those of us in Japan were starting to realize that OVID-19 was going to cause sustained disruptions to schools, I sent out a request to the Online 11 COETAIL cohort looking for others to join in a discussion on distance learning where we can share successes and challenges each of us has faced so far. 

Email sent to the COETAIL Online 11 cohort

Surprisingly, almost the entire cohort was keen to join the conversation as our first time to actually have a ‘live’ conversation as a cohort. I went in with quite a few questions and prompts that led to a great discussion about distance learning including some great take-aways. 

Screen grab of the Zoom meeting. Images used with permission.

I liked the idea of a Zoom chat as it allowed for a back and forth discussion that really supports growth. The group was small enough so that everyone had a chance to speak, while being big enough to hear multiple perspectives. 

Presenting at Seesaw’s PD in your PJs

A few months ago, along with a few of my colleagues, I was asked to present a Seesaw PD webinar. These webinars, terms PD in your PJs, are a great way for those looking to learn more about Seesaw and to enhance student learning through Seesaw. 

We were lucky that Seesaw gave us the agency to really promote a learning focus that we felt was important before just talking about how the tool of Seesaw can support distance learning. 

If you are keen to learn more, check out my post that shares many of the points we discussed in the webinar: Continuous Learning 101: Top Tips.

Collaborating regularly with the YIS COETAIL team

Our team might be small (it’s just Flynn and me), but being small enabled us to chat regularly about the COETAIL journey, share ideas and get feedback. Pre-COVID-19, Flynn and I met weekly during lunch to discuss the week’s readings and our thoughts for the post we were planning to write. 

Once we started working and learning from home, Flynn and I caught up regularly via email and with the occasional Zoom call. 

I was lucky to have another member from YIS in the same cohort – I had a bit of a heads-up that this was a good idea as I was teaching at the International School of Luxembourg when they had a large group go through COETAIL – so I was keen to get others involved when I decided to signup. 

I look forward to continuing to develop this community, even as I transition to a COETAIL alum. 


The Art of the Screencast

Screencasts have played an important part of my day to day coaching and teaching during our continuous learning program. They save me from writing long, detailed emails and are very helpful when working with a wide range of learners from kindergarten students to teachers. 

I try to make my screencasts fit the following expectations I created:

  • Precise, yet addresses the learning outcome, question or objective
  • Familiar by using the device the majority of my audience will be using 
  • Visually appealing (cropped appropriately, simple titles, mouse cursor to highlight if appropriate)
  • Clear audio (easy to understand for English language learners)
  • Quick to create

I’ve compiled my top 4 tips for making beautiful, yet easy screencasts. These are tech tips, but don’t let the tech overpower your screencasts. Take the time to think about the objective of each screencast and invest the amount of time that is right for your objective. The tips I’ve created below help learners (from young to a bit older) follow along with easy.

Photo by Jackson Hayes on Unsplash

Find the right screencasting tools

I work with three screencasting tools – the built in iOS screencasting tool, Screencastify and Loom. Each has their advantages and it depends on my purpose on which I chose. 

iOS screencasting tool – it’s easy and built in to iPadOS/iOS. Check out how to get it working on this video:

Screencastify – I love that it saves directly to Google Drive. For quick Mac screencasts, it’s my go-to. 

Copyright Screencastify

Loom – I tend to use Loom for more polished/professional Mac screencasts. I like how when it adds your webcam to the screencast it puts you in a nice circle. Very aesthetically pleasing! Check out my Creating safe class meetings using Zoom post as an example of what Zoom recordings look like. 

Copyright Loom

Use a mouse with the iPad

Yes, you read that right. My first few screencasts with the iPad were very time-consuming because I was creating boxes and arrows in post-processing to show users where to tap – it was a disaster and not worth it. Thankfully, Aaron, our database manager, recommended connecting a bluetooth mouse to the iPad. When you do that via accessibility option you give a perfect circle cursor that your learners can follow on the screen. While I’m sure Apple would prefer we use the Magic Mouse, an inexpensive Logitech bluetooth mouse works perfectly. 

Check out how to configure and connect your iPad and mouse in this video:

Use a microphone

Photo by Gene Jeter on Unsplash

Built-in laptop microphones aren’t the best for screencasts. They work in a pinch, but if you want clear sound without your audience hearing everything in the background, an external microphone is the way to go. 

My microphone of choice recently has been a Shure SM58 with an MVi Digital Audio Interface. For the price point, I find it quite clean and clear. I’d love to give the SM7B a try, but 400 USD is a bit of a stretch for some screencasts. 

However, while you can easily spend a small fortune on a great external microphone, I’ve actually had very good luck with the wired Apple EarPods. They are cheap and sound quite good. 

Find an editing workflow

After recording my screencast using iOS’s bult in screen recorder I do some very light editing. Convenience is key for me, so instead of moving the video file over to my laptop, I do everything directly on the iPad. iMovie is an option, and great for being free, but I’ve decided to upgrade to LumaFusion – a video editing app for iOS that offers a few more features than iMovie. My LumaFusion workflow looks a bit like this:

  1. Create a new project and title is correctly
  2. Import the video of the screen recording from the iOS Camera Roll
  3. Do any necessary cropping (taking out the first and last seconds, removing any long pauses, etc)
  4. Add a title that I created and saved as a preset
  5. Export the video file directly to Google Drive (and then share it from the Google Drive app or my laptop)

As you can see, it’s fast and easy. LumaFusion helps a lot as it allows me to save a custom title and export directly to Google Drive – something that would take a few extra clicks in iMovie. 

The final project

As an example, here is what a typical screencast looks like:

What are your top tips? What workflows work best for you? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


Virtual Sports Day

A special thanks to Jay and Asako for putting this initiative together!

After a few weeks of Continuous Learning (our term for distance learning) we realized that our students are resilient and having great success in navigating this challenge, but also that it’s likely that this is going to stick around for a bit longer than we first anticipated. We started looking ahead in our school calendar and our annual Sports Day caught our attention. Jay and Asako, our fantastic ES PE teachers, along with our ES administration asked me to come on board to explore opportunities for a virtual Sports Day.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

The Challenge

Taking our Sports Day virtually presented a few challenges. Our usual on-campus Sports Day has been polished over a number of years and included a rotation of activities, a DJ, a group of keen middle schoolers to help out – but now all of this couldn’t happen. We also faced these virtual challenges:


Technology has enabled us to provide the Continuous Learning program that we are offering, but it also means that students are spending a lot of time with their iPads. We wanted Sports Day to promote a balanced use of technology and give our students opportunities to be active with the support of technology. 

Different environments

Some of our students are allowed to go to the park and run around, but others are confined to their homes or general area. We need to respect family decisions regarding the pandemic and provide activities that can work in a variety of settings. 

Similarly, we can’t rely on every student having the same sports equipment. Activities need to be able to work with ‘normal’ household items and have flexibility. 

Easy for our youngest learners

Whatever we present to the students, we need to make sure our youngest learners can access it. The technology that will support the program should be easy to use and straightforward. I really needed to step back in the planning a few times and think ‘is this going to work for a kindergartener?’

Generating a sense of community

Our on-campus Sports Day is a community even with classes dressing up in fun themes and family members coming along for the fun. We wanted to port this idea over in a way that made sense for distance learning.

Our plan

300+ member Zoom meeting

Yes, you read that right, we are planning on getting our entire elementary school in one Zoom meeting. We’ve taken extra precautions for security (see my recent vlog on Zoom settings) and will get the entire elementary school in together for an introduction at 9:00am. Asako and Jay will take control of the introduction while I’m on ‘crowd control’ duty (primary goal, mute everyone on entry and don’t allow them to unmute themselves). 

Their intro will look a bit like this:

  • Good morning and welcome
  • A short time for each grade level to show off their special themes (each class has decided to come up with a special theme for Sports Day – could be a special color or item of clothing – their choice!)
  • Virtual, full body rock-paper scissors (check out Asako’s directions below)

Sports Day Bingo

Asako presented the idea of having a Sports Day Bingo card for the students to complete. It was the perfect way to get students motivated, while also providing a range of activities. Students could pick to complete just a line (vertical, horizontal or diagonal), or complete the entire card. This gave the students flexibility of picking activities that they had the space/equipment for while also encouraging them to do as much as they could. 

The individual activities on each Bingo ‘square’ were easy to complete and each one included a video or image with directions, all of which linked back to their PE classes. 

Check it out and click around (and join in the fun):

The techy bits

I went in a few circles deciding how to ‘host’ the Bingo card. It needed to be shareable via Seesaw, somewhat interactive and able to have multiple videos embedded, yet it needed to be easy to navigate. 

Google Slides was my first option, but I quickly became frustrated when I shared the usual ‘view’ link via Seesaw. On the student’s iPads it would automatically open the Google Slides app, which made it a challenge to click the links to navigate to the ‘video’ slides. However, this little trick helped with this:

Sharing the link directly to present mode was perfect – it would open in Safari directly from the iPad (a new feature in Seesaw – make sure you update). It was easy for the students to navigate – they stay on the same Safari page and just click the embedded links to see the videos with directions and then another button to head back to the Bingo card. 

There were only two small challenges that I faced with using a Google slideshow like this. First, the Google Slides toolbar appears each time a student clicks the screen on the iPad.

To keep this from blocking an important part of the Bingo card or slides, I just moved the title down to the bottom and moved any other content away from that area of the screen. 

Second, Slides isn’t very helpful when you want to move through the presentation in a non-linear fashion. Usually, if you click any area of the slide it will advance you to the next slide 0 I didn’t want that. The workaround is to create a background shape that is linked to the current slide and to link all elements on a page to the current slide (unless you need to link it to a different slide). Check out this blog post on how that works. However, even with all these small hacks, students could still advance to the next slide by clicking the black bars surrounding the slideshow or clicking the ‘next slide’ arrow. I’m willing to just live with that. 

How did it go?

Well, I can’t share that quite yet as it will be released tomorrow – stay tuned! Has anyone else out their run a virtual Sports Day? I’d love to hear your experiences!


Continuous Learning 101: Top Tips

Much of the content from today’s post was collaboratively constructed with some of our early years team. Zoe, Esther and Nelle are wonderful to work with as they are passionate about pedagogy and always enjoy a nice laugh!

A few weeks ago the YIS Early Years team and I lead a Seesaw webinar session centered around our experience in Japan from our Continuous Learning program. This PD in your PJs had an audience of mostly American teachers who hadn’t yet started distance learning, but were quickly realizing that it was a real possibility. Zoe, our ELC team leader, was approached by Seesaw on Twitter when she shared out a document that give an overview of how we approached distance learning, or what we call Continuous Learning. 

We used this slideshow to guide our discussion:

Home Learning 101 Presentation

A bit of background

Our context: At the time of this workshop, YIS had only been experiencing a temporary, two week closure. The Japanese government had recommended schools close for March and, for us, that only meant two weeks as the last two weeks of March is our spring break. We are sharing what worked for us during those two weeks.

Our language: We’ve been very specific about the language we use regarding our time off campus. We decided to call our program Continuous Learning as it creates a better understanding of what the learning looks like when we are off campus. We moved away from eLearning as we really want to focus on balance learning and not only learning through technology. 

Our initial approach: We started our campus closure with two days of professional development for teachers. This allowed us to share our draft plan for continuous learning and collect teacher input. It also allowed for collaborative team planning and a bit of tech-upskilling. 

Care to learn more about YIS’s approach? Check out our Continuous Learning site

Four things that have worked

Stay true to your pedagogy

Be who you are as an educator. While things will need to look different in a continuous learning environment, we agreed that now is not the time to completely reinvent the way you teach. Your teaching won’t exactly look the same, but it should feel the same. It should feel like you, your class, and your school. 

Technology will be incredibly helpful in reaching your students, but focus on technology tools that have worked for you and tools that your students are familiar with. Yes, you might need to introduce a couple new tools due to the circumstances, but not isn’t the time to try every new tool you find. 


A calm, consistent and clear message communicated to your entire school community will help develop a successful continuous learning program. As a school, we had school-wide messages coming from our senior leadership team, and as teachers we followed up on those messages with a consistent message calmly reinforcing what the program is going to look like in our classes. 

As an early years team, we thought it was important also to communicate with our students the idea of a big change. We were lucky enough to have a day’s warning before closure so we took that time to talk to our students about the change and what their learning will look like. If you have the opportunity to talk to your students now because your campus is still open we encourage you to start having those conversations with your students. How would the learning look the same? How will it be different? 

We provided the parents with a weekly overview so they could help plan the week of learning with their children. Check out some of the communications sent home by our kindergarten team here. 

Lastly, in regards to communication, look after yourself and your team. We found it crucial that we stuck to school hours in our communications with students and parents. We didn’t want to set an expectation that we were available around the clock and we wanted to ensure that our teacher balance their time away from campus as well. 


An ELC student’s schedule

Schedules and routines were crucial for young learners to be successful in the continuous learning environment. However, we didn’t dictate the schedule and daily routine to our students, instead we gave the students the agency to create their own schedules at home. We conveyed the importance of a well balanced routine and we asked parents to help us develop that. 

In relationship to schedule, we also found it was important to plan less and do less with our learners. As a teacher it’s easy for us to plan five or six hours of learning to take place at home, but instead we worked to develop about 1 to 1.5 hours of learning to happen each day. This, in turn, didn’t overwhelm both our students and families and allowed the continuous learning to be manageable for everyone. 

On the first day of continuous learning our students were tasked with the idea of creating their own learning space at home.

Parents as partners

First, check in on parents. They are likely dealing with the challenges of working from home at this time as well and need our support. Some of our teams have sent videos directly to parents to let them know that we appreciate them and are here to help. 

Second, encourage your parents to set their own schedules with their children. We had one father who used a shared parent/child schedule with his daughter to help them both accomplish their ‘work’ goals for the day. 

This is what worked well for us, but we understand every situation might be a little different. If you want to know more about our approach, check out Zoe’s comprehensive document or reach out to me on Twitter


Course 4 final project: what’s next?

With course 5 right around the corner, I’ve decided to take some time to explore a few different options for the course 5 project. 

IDEA 1: Launching a re-developed Empowered Use Policy

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Course 2 was quite inspiring for me as we explored ISTE Standard for Educators 2 (Citizen). One of my favorite resources was Scott McLeod’s blog post describing moving away from technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) and exploring an empowered use policy (EUP). McLeod writes passionately about moving away from the long, negative, legalistic phrases in most AUPs and moving towards simple, positive, empowering language. 

As I discussed in one of my course 2 posts, I’m working on redeveloping our Connected Learning Community responsible use policy to better address our entire E-12 student population. Our responsible use policy isn’t terrible and is very positive, but it doesn’t reach our entire community of learners, it was written for our secondary students and doesn’t scale down well to elementary. 

Thankfully, I’ve been working with a great group of teachers from across the school to revisit the policy and look to how we can redevelop it. We’ve developed a draft with a lot of inspiration from McLeod:

We are empowered users of technology:

  • We are safe. 
  • We are responsible. 
  • We are respectful. 
  • We make a difference. We do good. We take action. (We do good and take action??) (Change the world? Have an impact? We are caring and creative? We are valuable? We are progressive? We are positive? We have an Impact? We aim to be a positive influence? 

Okay, we are struggling with the last one, but we are heading in the right direction. Developing the policy, however, is the easy part. The hard, yet most important part is getting the students to know, believe and live the policy. That’s where my COETAIL final project could come in… 

Describe the unit

Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?

I aim to develop a unit for our elementary learners (ELC-5) that introduces the redeveloped EUP and builds a foundation for digital citizenship in our elementary classrooms. It’s not about developing a one-off lesson that just introduces the policy, but instead about bringing students forward as positive digital citizens through the lens of a new EUP. It will also be a starting point for teachers to continue the learning around digital citizenship. 

Students will walk away with a solid understanding of how empowered with technology. They will develop skills necessary to collaborate and work together in a digital world. 

The unit will primarily focus around ISTE student standard 2: Digital citizen as it, along with the EUP, will help structure what the learning experiences look like. 

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

As I mentioned above, the project links directly to course 2 and the inquiry into citizenship. Course 2 inspired me to revisit our AUP and explore what it looks like in elementary. I also see direct links to course 4 and the focus on deep learning. How can digital citizenship lessons promote deep learning? What does tech usage look like in digital citizenship education and how can I work with the SAMR and TPACK models to best support tech usage in these lessons. 

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

I think it’s a great link between my learnings with COETAIL and my priorities for this year. Digital citizenship has been on the back burner for quite some time and it would be a great time to bring it forward. Both our students and teachers are at a point where we need a bit more structure in how we approach digital citizenship and I think this unit would help lay the groundwork needed for that. 

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

The best evidence will be through videos and reflections of student learning. We’ve been focusing as a school a lot on how we use Seesaw for in-depth reflection, which will allow for me to tap into that tool as a way to capture their understandings. Another great resource will come from discussions with teachers that I will be co-teaching with. What challenges do they currently see in their classrooms and how can our lessons help move the students forward?

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I’m a bit concerned that this might be too big of a goal and be challenging to juggle it with all my other commitments. While I aim to introduce a plan for ELC to grade 5 it might be best to focus on just one or two grade levels for the course 5 project and then use the next academic year to focus on a few other grades. 

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

Exploring deep learning with a digital citizenship unit with require a shift in pedagogy – I aim to develop a unit that promotes agency, something that hasn’t been as present in how I’ve taught digital citizenship in the past. I need to create a learning environment 

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

The unit will require development in a number of attitudes. Students will explore how they are empowered to be caring and balanced users of technology. They will learn skills that help them work through these challenges and help them solve problems that they face in the future. 

IDEA 2: Developing computational thinking in kindergarten

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

A fair warning, this unit idea isn’t as well-developed as the previous one. I’ve been focused a lot over the past year on how to future develop links to computational thinking in our elementary curriculum and I’m keen to work with kindergarten for this unit. I was inspired when I watched Pana Asavavatana’s course 5 project video on how she developed a completely unplugged coding experience – I’m not after a completely unplugged experience, but her experience working with the youngest learners is inspiring. 

I picked kindergarten for a few different reasons. First, we have a wonderful kindergarten team who is always open to explore something new . Second, I want the challenge of working on computational thinking with a younger grade level. I’ve worked with older grade levels and I’m keen to dive into how tech (and the lack of tech) can help us grow as computational thinkers. Third, I think it’s a great place to start so the students can grow and develop as computational thinkers as they more into higher grades. 

Describe the unit

What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?

This will be an integrated unit as part of the kindergarten unit of inquiry focusing on how people communicate using various forms of expression. Students will dive into how people express themselves using technology and computational thinking. They will walk around with a general understanding of computational problem solving so that they can build on it as they move into first grade. 

I’m not after a unit where we just play with a variety of tech tools, but instead how we can scaffold the students understanding in a way that will give them a better understanding of how to solve complex problems in a way that is necessary for fully participating in a computational world. Computational thinking isn’t computer science, it is a way of solving problems and creating systems that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. 

The unit will primarily focus around ISTE student standard 5: computational thinker as I worked with students to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.” (ISTE, Standards for Students)

How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?

This unit will bring together a lot of what I’ve learned during my COETAIL journey. I envision relating to the conversations around collaboration and student voice from course 3 to deep learning from course 4. 

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

I think this unit will be a great way for me to combine a lot of the learning that has happened on my COETAIL journey over the past year and consolidate it nicely. I also look forward to working with an enthusiastic team and a passionate group of students. 

What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?

Like my other unit idea, our Learning Journals (Seesaw) will provide a great lens into the learning that is happening through the unit. Our kindergartens are skilled in using a variety of media and reflection techniques to share on the Learning Journals and I look forward to seeing how they might provide evidence for my course 5 final video. 

Our kindergarteners also use Book Creator regularly to share their learning, so I look forward to finding ways in which I can use that as a tool for collecting evidence of learning during this unit. 

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I need to have a better developed understanding of the unit of inquiry to find concrete links to computational thinking. That’s my goal in the next week and a bit before the holiday to week with the kindergarten team and work to develop these links. I think it’s impossible to have a unit that engages deep learning without authentic links to the kindergarten learning. 

What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

I’m looking forward to stepping back and addressing computational thinking from the ground up. I plan to start without tech in a way that focuses on the problem solving and then moving into how technology can support this kind of computational problem solving. 

I’m also after building in more student agency through deep learning. I want to take the time to develop the skills necessary to give students the agency to grow as computational thinkers – but I still need to explore what this might look like in kindergarten. 

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

This unit will develop the basics of computational thinking with our students. They will walk our with some problem solving strategies that will connect to both computer science and everyday life. 


Looking forward

Photo by Vek Labs on Unsplash

I think the COETAIL designers has a bit of fun with the resource for the week – a huge, yet valuable, list! Some were very familiar (bit on Design Thinking and PBL), some took a new look on things I’ve experimented with (game-based learning) and some were completely new (challenge based learning). I’ve decided to start this post with some encouraging thoughts from the readings and transition into moving forward with deep learning. 

What was encouraging?

Drive for redesigned assessment

We need to develop measures for both deep learning outcomes and for the new pedagogies and learning environments that support them.

Fullan and Langworthy, A Rich Seam

I’d like to think that in international schools we are a bit further along with assessments, particularly with standardized assessments. At YIS we administer the ACER International Schools’ Assessment (ISA). It’s just one way that we collect data, but it isn’t used to evaluate teachers or rate student ability – something I can’t say about testing when I was a US public school teacher at the beginning of my career. The ISA does give us an opportunity to see how we are growing as a school and allows some insight into how compare with similar international school. 

But it isn’t all about standardized assessments… how do we better develop our formative and summative assessments to assess new learning outcomes? How to we measure deep learning outcomes? How can we support high student expectations to drive success?

A new look at gamification

I was a bit reluctant to click the link the resource about gamification in the classroom. It’s something I’ve looked up a bit in the past, but was always deterred by the idea of completely developing a game-based curriculum. However, when I read the quote below I was a bit excited about the possibilities of gameful design.

I prefer (and teach) the concept of gameful design. The distinction is subtle but important. Whereas gamification equates to making a game of an activity, gameful design looks at the various aspects and intrinsic motivators that are embedded in successful games (and in other nongame events) and asks whether those elements can be replicated and woven into classroom and online activities.

Kevin Bell, Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer

Bell describes it perfectly – it isn’t creating an entire game from your curriculum, instead it is about borrowing elements of gaming and applying them, when constructive, in your classroom. 

Digital badges in education is something that continues to interest me. It certainly has links to gaming achievements (watch Microcredentials & the Evolution of Badges to Recognize Learning), but doesn’t come without its challenges (see The Seven Deadly Sins Of Digital Badging In Education). I’m keen to explore more and experiment with how might look like at our school. 

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

How do you support your colleagues in becoming deep learners?

As a coach, I spend most of my day working with teachers to improve student learning. Spending time diving into deep learning these past few weeks had me recently thinking about how I can share some of this with the teachers I work with every day. To start, I’ve put together three deep learning tips I hope to share with my colleagues:

Develop strong learning goals

Deep learning requires students to become leaders of their own learning – they are able to develop and follow their own learning goals, These goals should be “guided by clear and appropriately challenging learning goals, goals that ideally incorporate both curricular content and students’ interests or aspirations.” (Fullan and Langworthy) They should be developed by the student with support and guidance from the teacher. 

Develop the capacity to lead to student control

Student agency is an important aspect of deep learning, but it doesn’t mean we teach from the sidelines in a less-engaged role. Instead, teachers are activators, they drive help the students develop capacity, they work with students to construct and monitor their goals, they are present! The teacher has a proactive role, not a sidelined role, in moving the learning forward in the classroom. 

Focus on the pedagogy, then the tech

“Technology, strategically integrated with the other core components of the new pedagogies, unleashes deep learning” (Fullan and Langworthy), but just layering technology on learning without first focusing on the pedagogy isn’t promoting powerful deep learning.

However, using this as an excuse for not learning the tech isn’t going to help… We need to know the tech so we know when it links to the pedagogy. However, don’t worry too much, that’s when your PLN plans a huge role. 


Five amazing real-life design problems for kindergarten students

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I’ve added the word listicle (list-formatted articles) to my vocabulary this week as I researched for this piece. They seems to be one of those things that you either love (apparently our brains love them) or hate (as is evident is this listicle – ironic). While I’m sure they are overused, it looks like they are here to stay, so now it’s my turn to add to the craze. 

Why am I on about listicles and what’s the relation to this weeks readings?

Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

For our upcoming kindergarten How the World Works unit of inquiry our students will be inquiring into how materials can be manipulated to suit a purpose. The unit has great links to design thinking and I’ve been using David Lee’s Design Thinking in the Classroom and our readings on Deep Learning to redevelop the learning experience with my kindergarten colleagues. 

Previously this unit introduced design thinking through a teacher-created “scenarios’. The challenge with these scenarios was that they were not authentic for a kindergarten student and they lacked applying their knowledge to a real situation, an important aspect of deep learning discussed to detail by Fullan and Langworthy. We are after real-life design thinking problems that support critical thinking. We want to align with Paulo Freire’s idea of developing critical thinking by structuring this experience to promote student thinking. We don’t want to provide the answers, but instead provide the problems that allow for creativity and critical thinking. 

How can we leverage technology in powerful ways during this unit?

I see two ways in which this unit of inquiry can link to technology in authentic, powerful ways.

First, our students will be collaborating and documenting their learning journey via Book Creator (and later via Seesaw). Book Creator provides an easy-to-use platform for the students document as they work through the design process. It seamlessly brings together test, video, photos, voice and more in a way that accessible to every kindergarten student. 

Second, technology will allow us to connect with experts. I recently stumbled across a post on Twitter from my PLN asking for experts to support student projects. They sent out a Google Doc with descriptions of the projects and within hours they had experts from around the world offering their time to support the inquiry. I think this unit would be the perfect opportunity to do something similar. A 10 minute Skype call connecting a group of kindergartners with an expert can provide a significant amount of inspiration. 

I’m inspired to see what other connections we can draw to promote high level uses of technology. 

And finally, 5 amazing real-life design problems for kindergarten students 

The design problems I’ve listed below are authentic for our students, but they might not work in your classroom. However, they are great inspiration to help you develop design thinking in your classroom. 

Also, note that I’ve presented problems, not solutions. Of course, I have tons of great solutions to these problems, but that’s not the learning process. We are after student creations and ideas!

  1. How can we turn the outdoor space behind our kinder classrooms into a learning space?
    We have just a meter or so of space behind our kinder classrooms before a retaining wall and fence that leads to a small gardens cared for by our grade 4 students. We’ve love to use this as a learning space, but it is currently dark and damp… what can we do?
  2. How can we improve the audio quality on our learning journal (Seesaw) posts?
    We often hear so much background noise in our Learning Journal posts. How can we help our audience hear what we are sharing better?
  3. We are running out of work spaces for all students, how can we create more?
    Our kinder classes are growing, but we don’t have enough working spaces for all our students. How can we create spaces to fit the learning needs of kinder students?
  4. We see lots of shopping bags in kindergarten – how can we reduce the number of plastic shopping bags that we are using?
    Unfortunately, Japan loves plastic shopping bags and they often make their way into our classrooms. How can we get away from using these bags?
  5. Our kinder bathroom isn’t inviting and a bit smelly! What can we do?
    The bathrooms next to our kinder classrooms don’t smell so great and are shared by most of the school at recess time. What. Can we do to make them smell a bit better and be a bit more inviting?

That’s it. What ideas do you have for real-life problems at your school? Would love to hear them as they might create some good inspiration for us!

Photo by Marissa Lewis on Unsplash