Monthly Archive: October 2019

Course 3 Final Project: PD to support collaboration

As a technology learning coach I often have the opportunity to create professional learning experiences for our teachers. It’s not a huge part of my every day responsibilities, but over a given year I tend to lead 5-6 professional learning experiences. I really like the opportunity to work with a larger number of teachers at the same time, but I’m still developing in how I approach these learning experiences. This is the biggest reason I picked the option to create a professional learning experience – I wanted to push myself in something that I need more experience in completing.

For the section I focused on – the how of collaboration – I followed a structure that I’m familiar with, the Jigsaw Culture of Thinking routine. I really like how it gives an opportunity for the audience to read and hear from experts (via articles, videos, podcasts, etc), but then facilitated rich discussion around it. The how of collaboration was also a very large part of this course, especially week 2. I linked in a Wakelet with the resources for the jigsaw and included a few of our own readings from week 2 (I really enjoyed the Slate article More Talking in Class, Please).

How our group collaborated?

Copyright Slack

Ryan, Alex, Saadia and I used Slack as our primary tool of collaboration throughout the project. I has used Slack multiple times in the past, but not as a tool for co-construction of an experience like this one. It was challenging at times and I do wish we would have taken an opportunity to all video chat together first to come up with a shared vision. Slack is great for working with teams spread across the globe, but I’m not sure it is ideal as the only tool in a group that has never worked together. If I was to make any changes it would be to have a video call a couple of times throughout the project to check-in and see how things are going.

Our PD

Our professional learning experience aimed to introduce teachers to:

  • Why do we collaborate?
  • How do we collaborate?
  • What tools can help us collaborate?

We wanted to provide background knowledge of collaboration (the why and how) in combination with what some tools we can use to support collaboration. The why and how were important in developing a shared understanding of collaboration while the tools gave teachers some concrete ideas that they could try immediately in their classrooms.

Please take a look at our PD. We welcome you to make a copy and try it out with your learning community and if you do, please let us know how it went in the comments.


The power of student voice

Copyright Flipgrid

This week we used to Flipgrid, an amazing tool for empowering student voice in our classrooms, as we as educators dived into the Cycle of Socialization. Check out how we used the NSRF Text Rendering Protocol to construct meaning, clarify, and expand our thinking on the Cycle of Socialization:

Why Flipgrid?

Well this wasn’t the first opportunity I’ve had to use flip grid, it was a really great way for us to dive into a reading and share within our community our thinking. At YIS our biggest proponents of Flipgrid are our physical education teachers. They love the way that they can use Flipgrid to give students voice and allow students to show their learning through the use of video. Physical education lends itself really well to video and Flipgrid gave those teachers and students an opportunity to upload a video quickly and share that with her peers to enable collaboration and to value a conversation.

I’ve also seen it been used quite extensively in our language classrooms. Understandably, using Flipgrid like this allows our students to use and get feedback on oral language while working at their own pace instead of standing in front of their peers in the classroom. Flipgrid offer tools that allow students to pause, trim or re-record so they have an opportunity to share their learning without the stress of having only one chance.

How I’ve used Flipgrid

Each year I work with our Grade 5 team and a group of passionate student “techies” during the PYP Exhibition. These students have decided that they wanted to share some of their learning through technology and I get to guide and support their design process. One of the most challenging part of this process is the idea brainstorming. By grade 5 our students have had numerous experiences with technology, but they often need inspiration on how they can use technology to share their learning.

This is where Flipgrid comes in… the students can learner so much from hearing from their peers, but sometimes it is logistically challenging to make that happen. Flipgrid allowed our grade 5 students to share their ideas and then listen to their peers ideas to help them grow and to inspire them. It becomes this permanent resource that the students can use throughout the design process.

How about the Cycle of Socialization?

I first started teaching in Jacksonville, Florida right out of university. I taught in a school with a large minority population, many of whom were living below the poverty line. The experience was eye-opening, and while I can’t claim to know all the answers, I did learn a few things. I learned just a small bit of the oppression others feel. I’m a white, middle-class, heterosexual male who was was privileged in my upbringing. I tried to connect with this students, but everyday was a challenge. University didn’t prepare me for this kind of challenge – this was harder than any class I took. I tried to spread love, to break the cycle, but it was hard. I’m sure some things I did helped, but I certainly felt powerless at the time.

Now, a few years later, I realize how much of a role educators have in breaking this cycle of oppression. We are part of an institution that has contact with young people everyday. We can opportunities, we just need to act on them. I have so much to learn, but I hope I can play a small part in a large change.


Improving the content and design of Learning Journal ‘reflection starters’

A few years ago at YIS we redesigned our approach to elementary school portfolios. We moved away from paper-based portfolios that were sent home twice a year and didn’t really capture the journey of learning that happened in our classes and move to an electronic learning journal powered by Seesaw.

Seesaw is an amazing tool that allows our students to document and share their learning in a way that paper based portfolios could not compete with. However, it’s more than just the sharing of learning our learning journals do, it’s the development of learning conversations with the child’s community and the opportunity for in-depth, honest reflection.

Context: Learning Journals is the term we use at YIS instead of Seesaw as we want to focus on the purpose and not the tool.

Nelle, Mimi, our amazing kindergarten teachers, and I were after a way to further develop what in-depth, honest reflections look like for a kindergarten student. Last year we developed a series of questions to help develop the students ability to reflect on our Learning Journal posts. Not much thought went into the creation of the questions and our design was only the questions with the few sentence starters written on a small whiteboard:

Version 1

Conversations with students

The kindergarten team and I knew we wanted to redevelop it this year with something a bit more permanent that we could refer to as students reflected on their Learning Journals. However, we first decided to chat with a few kindergartners to see what their thoughts were on the previous design. This is what they had to say:

  • “the writing is hard to read”
  • “It’s easy to erase the words on accident”
  • “It’s a little busy”

So, I took these conversations and conversations I had with kindergarten team and used them to redevelop our approach to reflection starters:

Version 2

Nelle and Mimi had some great inspiration for for the reflection starters and I worked to create a large design that could be on permanent display in the kindergarten rooms. I wanted a modular design as we want the display to ‘grow’ as the year progresses and our reflections progress. We envision it growing into a tree of reflection inspiration where students have the agency, yet support, to construct their own refections. 

With that said, we did find a few challenges with version 2:

  • “I made a…” wasn’t perfect for how we use Learning Journals. Nelle summarized it nicely in an email:

I know we said “I made…” but I’m now thinking that could be limiting (thinking of their Taiko experience, or a post about playing a maths game or something, where they’re not actually making). “I did…” doesn’t quite work either, and sounds bad! What about, “I’m showing…”? “I’m showing the creation that I made”, “I’m showing how to play this maths game”, “I’m showing how I played drums at the ICJC”. Not perfect, but maybe more flexible? What do we think?

  • The diagonal stripe in the design was distracting and some of the colors were a bit off. 

So, back to the drawing board for a third version:

Version 3

Finally, we had something we wanted to share, something we felt would help structure and scaffold the student in developing in-depth reflection. 

We’ve already shared it with one class and were very happy with the results. Take a look:

Next steps

As I mentioned, we want this this to grow and develop as our kindergartners grow and develop as learners and reflectors. We have plans to add more reflection starters and draw connections with string – we want students to have choice and agency in how they reflect, but to feel supported in making that happen. 

We also want to support our kindergartens who are still developing their reading skills. We hope to create a reflection starter card that includes these sentences, but also has icons to provide them with some visual aids. My goal is to create that this week and share it out soon!


Infographic: Reported diving injuries

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog before, in addition to being a Technology Learning Coach, I also work with a few of our high school students as the faculty supervisor of YIS Underwater Explorers. YISUE combines service and diving in a way that allows students to be directly involved in aquatic conservation initiatives that require students to be competent and confident scuba divers.

This year our group is comprised of 14 high school student and led by two amazing 12th graders. The group organizes 2-3 local trips and 1 international trip each year to participate in these conservation initiatives. This autumn we are organizing a week-long trip to Malapascua in the Philippines and a weekend local trip to Osezaki, Japan.

For the local weekend trip we’ve decided to run an SDI Rescue Diver Course for the students. Many of the students in the group are advanced certified divers with most having around 30 dives. We wanted to push the students knowledge and understanding further and teach them some skills that will help them grow as conservationists and divers. That led us to the rescue course – a course that takes divers comfortable in diving and grows them so they can use their skills to help and support others.

A rescue diver infographic

One way I like to prepare students for rescue training is to review diving injury statistics and analyze accident reports. To help understand the statistics, I’ve put together this infographic:

Source of my data

The premiere source for medical diving information is Divers Alert Network (DAN). DAN provides emergency assistance, medical information resources, educational opportunities and more to both beginning and experienced divers. DAN receives thousands of calls each year to support diving accidents and injures and forms an annual diving report to share them with the community. I used the DAN Annual Diving Report 2018 Edition as a source for the information shared on this infographic.

How did I create it?

While I’d love to take credit for the general design, I owe it all to a GraphicRiver template that I edited in Adobe Illustrator. GraphicRiver is a great marketplace for design templates that

The icons were either from The Noun Project (check out their discount on NounPro for educators) or created by myself.

I plan to share this with our students next week and will report back on their feedback.