Category: Course 3

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.


Facilitating collaboration as we graph

Years past when teaching the basics of graphing I used to collect data with dice rolls. Things have changed and with the introduction of Sphero robots, Flynn and I developed a lesson that linked to ISTE Standard 5b “Students collect data or identify relevant data sets…”. 

Last week we co-taught the lesson that connected computation thinking and graphing while collaborating in teacher-assigned groupings (mixed ability). The task was split into 3  primary investigations:

  1. Inquire into how to make the Sphero change color randomly
  2. Collect data on random color changes and record it
  3. Presented your recorded data in a graph

Developing a plan for collaboration

Flynn introduced the activity by developing ground rules for collaboration and relating them to classroom essential agreements. He separated the discussion into two parts: how can we collaborate and what skills do we need to be successful? It was a rich discussion where students had to investigate how to actually collaborate before investigating into the task. 

Developing a plan for inquiry

Students were placed in groups and developed a plan. They documented ideas of how they might program the Sphero and made tally charts for how they could record their data. 

Don’t steal the inquiry

As a technology learning coach, I’m often asked to help ‘teach’ a new app or tech skill to students. Years back my method would have been to share my screen to the projector and walk through the necessary steps one-by-one. It was painful for me, for the students, for everyone involved. 

For this inquiry, Flynn and I didn’t want to do a guided lesson on how to program the Sphero. Many of our students had previous experience with block-based programming, so they had the foundations in place, they then just needed to draw connections between that prior knowledge and the Sphero programming. 

Watching the students collaborate and work through the challenge was inspiring. Most quickly found the tools they needed and then found a variety of methods to move from one color to the next. 

How students collaborated (or didn’t)

An app that I’ve become fond of recently is Equity Maps. Equity Maps allows you to chart & record the interaction of students to graphically illustrate levels of participation and types of contributions made by each student. I’ve found it incredibly valuable for all kinds of collaborations happening across the school, from elementary to high school. 

During this lesson I sat near one group and I documented their collaboration via Equity Maps. As a non-participating observer, I only needed to click the name of the student who was talking. This information then helped produce some analytics of the conversation. A made a few observations about the analytics it shared:

  • J struggled to join in the conversation, speaking only 2 times
  • The conversation went back and forth between M and N multiple times
  • There wasn’t much silence
  • J was more likely to communicate with N than M (though with only two times speaking it might not be a fair assumption)

J needed more structure to contribute effectively to the conversation. He struggled and needed more opportunities to develop as a communicator. In the future, I think he’d benefit from having a role in the collaboration. 

What did the students come up with?

The inquires resulted in some very awesome color changes:

Recording the data would need to wait for our next lesson as we ran out of time, but I’m predicting  few challenges with deciphering what color the Sphero is displaying. With 16,777,216 different possible colors, if might be hard to create a tally chart to record what colors they see. 

I look forward to seeing how they overcome that challenge and what graphs they produce.


Enhancing my blog’s ‘curb appeal’

After reviewing this week’s reading I was very keen to make a few changes to my blog to increase the readability and to encourage visitors to view more content and stay on my site longer.

I’ve narrowed my thinking down to 3 small things I can do that will hopefully make a big impact.

Better use of graphics and GIFs

A look at some of my older posts will present you with walls of text and little supporting graphics or GIFs.


I’ve just started creating some very simple graphics with my iPad, Apple Pencil and Notability. Check out the introductory image for a rough example of what can be done in just a few minutes. I’m keen to learn more and hope to spend some time during this course thing about how I can use these tools to improve the visual appeal of my blog with user-created graphics. If you have a favorite resources, please share them in the comments!


I’m still not sold on reaction GIFs, but I’m starting to use GIF Brewery 3 along with Gifycat to create and share my own GIFs. Check out a few below when I talk about my new logo.

A new logo

My old logo, seen below, was a direct copy of my diving logo (see Matt Broughton Diving). I was a bit lazy and just changed DIVING to COETAIL.

While I’m still like the overall design, I’ve decided to make a few changes:

  • Remove the diver silhouette
  • Add a educational-themed image on the right
  • Make changes to the colors (white on transparent background)

Remove the diver silhouette

This one was easy. Thankfully I kept the Illustrator file so it was only a quick delete from the last revision.

Add a educational-themed image on the right

My first stop when I’m after an icon is The Noun Project. I’m so foud of it that I’ve signed up for the NounPro, which gives me a royalty–free license for any icon I need. It also offers some simple built-in editing features which means I don’t need to open Illustrator to just change a few colors. Educators can sign up for NounPro for half-off the yearly subscription.

I really value the connections that COETAIL offers, so I’ve decided to start off with a connections-inspired icon.

Make changes to the colors

Currently my logo is white on a transparent background. I like using a transparent background as I can just make changes to the header using CSS, however this causes a few issues when COETAIL links to my blog on Facebook.

Facebook automatically pulls the first image on the page for the post preview image. A white logo with a transparent background makes it very hard to see. To fix this I’m going abandon the transparency and just use the background blue on the image.

I wonder if I set a ‘feature image’ if Facebook would pull that image instead of my logo? I’ll try it on this post as a test…

Connections to social media

Flynn and I spoke this week about how to add more dynamic content on our blogs. One idea we came up with was to insert a Twitter widget in the sidebar to allow readers to see a bit more of the day-to-day.

I thought embedding a Twitter widget was going to be easy, but I was very wrong.

Twitter’s Publish tool

I first attempted to use Twitter’s Publish tool that allows you to easily create a script that can be embedded into most websites. This was easy and offered a bit of customization, but unfortunately I can’t embed a script in a ‘Custom HTML’ widget on the WordPress network we are using (which is a bit understandable when try to prevent malicious code off COETAIL sites).

The next idea was to dig into the available plugins on our WordPress install. The Twitter Widget Pro WordPress plugin is available, so I enabled it, found the widget and moved it to my sidebar.

Again, no luck. I headed over to the setting page to add my account when I hit a roadblock – I need access to the Twitter APIs to add my account. To access the APIs, you need a Twitter developer account. So, I’ve signed up (with some interesting answers to some of the questions) and am now waiting for my application to be reviewed and approved.

I need your help

As a reader of my site, I’d be very keen to hear from you about ways I could improve the design of my site. Leave me a comment on what you think would make my site shine!