Lead the Way

I think student empowerment begins with teacher empowerment. It is up to mentors, teachers, and parents to expose children to the transformational power of online communities. As Derek Muller explains in his new clip called Learned Helplessness, school has become something kids have to endure and therefore kids develop a learned helplessness around learning. Many students do not see learning and achieving their passions as something that they can do for themselves. Watch the clip below:

I’ve always been energized by collaborating on projects and working off each others’ ideas to create better ones. However, all of my experience until now has been face to face. Global collaboration is new to me and I’m wondering How’d I not think of this before?!

There are several projects and professional learning happening this year at my school that has shown teachers the power of connecting to a greater community using the web:

  • Our 1st and 4th graders participated in the If You Learned Here global collaborative project. It was an exciting experience connecting and contributing to a project housed in the cloud between participants. Our students enjoyed sharing about their school, as well as learning about other schools around the world. Recently the 1st and 4th graders met up to peruse the collaborative ebook that served as the project’s final product, and the prideful buzz in the room was contagious.
  • Our 4th graders are in the middle of a project called Together in the GCC and it has led to making connections with teachers and students from Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The kids eagerly gather research each week in preparation to create videos and share their finding with the GCC community. Equally enthusiastic are the teachers, who collaborate each week to share ideas and tips. When first starting the project, I found participants through Twitter, as well as emailing schools and asking that they forward the project description to their 4th grade teachers. We began communicating via email and Google Hangouts, but now easily converse about the project using Google Chat. We have formed a powerful partnership and hope to continue the project and make it better each year.
  • I recently helped plan a unit with Jodee Junge for her 3rd grade class to learn about human migration. We will use Flipgrid to gather migration stories from teachers, parents, and Jodee’s and my PLN. By hearing of others’ migration experiences, we think it will evoke empathy within her students and enable them to better internalize the concepts and causes behind migration.
  • This year I have taken on the roll of New Faculty Coordinator and am utilizing my new skills and ideas for online collaboration. I am using Google Classroom to facilitate discussion, share tutorials, and even create assignments such as Make a Twitter account, connect with each other,  and follow your new school.  I shared Jeff’s Twitter tutorial, as well as a clip of him talking about how the internet is a mass of communities.  I also shared the recent Where There’s Smoke Podcast about Communities that included Jeff as the guest speaker. It gave many of the teachers, most of whom are beginning their first international teaching post, a sense of calm in knowing that the pulse of the community is not where it was created, but in the hearts of the members and that the community can still flourish even if it is apart. I also surveyed the teachers to get an idea of their experience with the Google Education Tools, which you can’t live without at our school. Knowing what they need, I have been creating and sharing short screencasts showing them how to effectively use Gmail, Calendars, and Drive. The best part was that a few of the teachers responded with other tricks and tips and agreed to create a screencast of their own. Little by little, these new teachers have ‘friended’ me on facebook and are sending me emails and opening up with their fears, anticipation, and excitement. I am getting lots of great feedback and am confident that we are creating strong, supportive bonds without ever having met.
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr

These projects and learning experiences have opened me and many others at my school, to new ways of creating student centered approaches to learning. It is important to show teachers and students the possibilities of connecting to other learners around the world. Once we allow our learners to be back in the ‘driver’s seat’ of their learning process and goals, we can leave Learned Helplessness behind.



The Creative Commons Art Class

Jeffs airplane pic - Awesome!
Jeffs airplane pic – Awesome!

There aren’t many things to dislike about traveling, but one thing that annoys me is that my photos never seem to do my experience justice. The same thing happened when my kids were babies; I would take a ridiculous amount of photos, never seeming to capture what I saw with my own eyes.

Flying into Hong Kong - so beautiful in my memory, not so much in this picture.
For comparisons sake – my airplane picture. Boo.

My good friend and art teacher, Jeff Pabotoy does not have this problem. His pictures always seem to look better than the real deal and he expertly manages to infuse mood into his final products. He obviously doesn’t realize what a gift he has because when I approached him to co-teach a unit on Creative Commons licensing and mobile photography/editing, he was surprised I’d asked.

As educators, our goal is always to first intrinsically motivate the students to learn; this can usually be accomplished by making the learning personal. Obviously teenagers enjoy taking photos and getting recognized – but most are only aware of sharing their work on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – queue Flickr accounts! Additionally, the task of convincing teenagers that stealing digital information is wrong and unethical (especially when it’s so easy), is addressed because they will now be the creators whose work may be stolen.

Jeff and I did a little review of Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons ourselves using the following resources:

  1. The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
  2. Teaching Students about the Creative Commons
  3. Copyright Flowchart by Langwitches
  4. Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft video

After talking with Jeff we decided our unit would go like this:

  1. Copyrights and the need to site both written and visual materials
    1. Copyright Flowchart by Langwitches
    2. Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft video
    3. A Fair(y) Use Tale because it’s so fun to watch
  2. Creative Commons: What is it and why should we use it
    1. Introductory slide show explaining Creative Commons Licenses
    2. What Students Need to Know About Creative Commons” Slideshow
    3. Collection of videos about Creative Commons
  3. Sign up for Flickr
  4. Understand the different CC licenses and create one
  5. Learn how to take and edit photos that your FB friends will envy
    1. PicShop Lite
    2. Piclay
    3. Photo Editor by Aviary
    4. Split Pic Editor & Blender
  6. Upload and tag photos in your Flickr account
    1. How To Add Tags
    2. How to add photos and tags video tutorial
  7. Learn how to search for creative commons photos and attribute the creator
    1. How to Attribute a CC photo
    2. How to Cite a Photo
  8. Where to get CC photos
    1. Search Creative Commons
    2. Google’s Advanced Search
    3. Photosforclass
    4. StockVault.net
    5. Kozzi.com  (one free photo per day)
    6. FindIcons.com
    7. Flickr Advanced Search
    8. Morguefile
    9. Open Clipart Libary

I’ll report back with our ups and downs after we begin the lessons. I’m expecting a win-win learning experience for all, especially the days when Jeff teaches us about photography and editing right in time for my summer flights and travels!

Seriously, Now I’m Scared?!

Admittedly, this is an annoying topic for me. In my work as a technology integrationist, fear of the internet is one of the hardest battles I fight.

That said, I have actually come to understand the fear much more after reading this week’s articles. Infact, I find myself now way over-analyzing my social media posts and how they might be perceived by others, going so far as to give up and not post at all. Just as I thought I was beginning to be more comfortable with my online voice and brand, I’ve been scared into overthinking what other’s might think about me. If I can be scared into not posting, what will these messages do to our youth who are already struggling with the obsession of what other’s think of them.

Like I argued in my last post, First Impressions, this is one more reason the social media rhetoric needs to be mostly positive with firm warnings sprinkled throughout.

The ‘biggies’ that I will be spinning into positive messages and working into the digital citizenship curriculum for our middle school and high school students are:

  • Where the World Can Get to Know You (vs. There’s No Such Thing as Private Online):
    Photo by Paško Tomić via Flickr
    Selfies are not the only way to “show” yourself.  Photo by Paško Tomić via Flickr
    • Positives: There are many ways to build your personal brand that can help you as a student, and later as an adult, by building, learning from, and contributing to a professional learning network.
    • Warnings: Discretion and responsible use is needed to protect your personal information and the personal information of others. When you post possibly damaging photos on social media sites, even when the settings are ‘private,’ there is no guarantee that your parents, teachers, or possible future employers won’t see it – so protect yourself and your friends by showing restraint and always getting permission before posting pictures.
  • Promote Your Unique and Creative Thoughts and Achievements (vs. your reputation is at stake)
    • Positives: Promoting your causes and passions indirectly promotes you as good person. Ever have a conversation with someone who talked nonstop about themselves? This is no different from the person on social media who posts their every move, meal, haircut, hiccup, etc. To improve your reputation, as Ben Parr explains, try posting about causes and issues that you are passionate about, rather than about yourself.

      Photo by @kjackemerson
      A friend of mine doing volunteer work she cares about. Posting and bringing awareness to an issue shows what a great person she is. Photo used with permission by @kjackemerson
    • Warnings: There are sites like SimpleWash that can help you delete posts, but once things are out online, they are nearly impossible to completely remove. Also, there really is no difference between your online self and your real self – both reputations have the potential to help or harm your real self’s goals.
  • The Internet is Getting to Know You (vs. your clicks are being watched, followed, and recorded – Yikes!)
    • Positives: HTTP Cookies make it possible for me to go back to my GAP online cart and still have my items; authentication cookies are useful for a website to know that it’s really you logging in; tracking cookies are used to try to make the ads on your browser relevant. Sites like the New York Times and Facebook use the data to personalize your experience and make reading suggestions, explains Ethan Zuckerman in his article The Internet’s Original Sin. Although there are ways to turn off your devices’ GPS tracking, your calls, posts, and electronic money transactions make it possible for others to track your location – which does freak me out a little too – until I think about the usefulness of tracking down kidnappers or other dangerous people.

      Photo by Georgie Sharp via Flickr
      Yes, this part is a maze and it’s hard to know what’s around the corner. Photo by Georgie Sharp via Flickr
    • Warnings: One of the biggest risks, as Ethan also points out, is that a personalized web experience can make it hard to keep an open mind and learn from other perspectives. Be on the lookout for anyone or anything that tries to pigeonhole you and keeps you from discovering and learning more. For convenience and customization we agree to companies’ conditions and allow them to collect information about us. Check out this infographic to compare who is tracking what. Educate yourself and read the privacy policies before just clicking ‘agree’. Look into alternatives like DuckDuckGo, which as privacy becomes more and more of a hot topic, there are likely to be more of.
  • Respectful Agreements (vs. Beware of your “friends”’ phone cameras!)
    • Positives: Social media has made it possible to keep in touch with or even meet new friends. It’s also made it possible to learn from other experts around the world.
    • Warnings: As a respectful and caring friend and user of social media, agreements need to be understood and followed. Before you photograph, post and tag other people, it is essential that you get their permission. And, just like with other social pressures, it is okay to say no to having your photo taken if you don’t think it will reflect you positively. After all, your future job could be at stake.


Together in the GCC – Course 1 Final Project

I am really excited about this project that I created with Alexis Snider and the 4th grade teachers at my school. Check out my last post, Key-laboration, to hear where we got our inspiration and ideas to create a regionally collaborative project all about the Gulf Cooperation Council. We are starting the first week of the project today, but are refering to it as ‘Week Zero’ in order to allow for a ‘get to know you’ period and to allow time to iron out kinks. Because of differing Spring Breaks, we also had to plan in two Week Zeros, Ones, and Twos – one of the many things we had to change from our initial planning.  Consequently, I’ve learned that flexibility, along with thorough planning, are the keys to creating and managing a global or regionally collaborative project.

Check out the website, Together in the GCC, for the most recent updates and progress.


Photo Credit: Amy L. Riddle via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Amy L. Riddle via Compfight cc

I’ve learned that collaboration is a key component in a 21st century school. Collaboration within a school between all stakeholders is essential, however these partnerships are only the tip of the iceberg. Real learning and motivational power can be created by globally collaborating with learners seeking the same content.

Collaboration locally or across countries creates a ‘positive interdependence‘ that I first learned about at a training for Kagan Cooperative Learning. As I am assisting 4 classrooms with the participation in a global collaboration project, called If You Learned Here, I am realizing that this is the perfect positive interdependence situation.  Positive interdependence only works well when it’s alongside personal accountability. It is important that individuals take part in the learning first with the understanding that what they learn and create is needed by his or her learning network. Our students are very motivated to provide examples from their school lives so that others may learn about where they live and work.

Feeling motivated by the outcome of the If You Learned Here project, I had the idea to revamp the 4th grade (very dull!) Gulf Cooperation Council social studies unit into a regionally cooperative project. I contacted a fellow CoETaILer teaching at ISG Jubail, Alexis Snider, to see if her 4th grade team would like to learn with us. Following many of the successful components used in the If You Learned Here project, the Together in the GCC project was started.

Right on time, Kim’s Step-by-Step Guide to Global Collaborations was posted to provide detailed reminders that I might have overlooked due to the excited frenzy of a good idea. I am having a great time planning this unit (no, really!), but because it is a bit late in the year, so many schools and teachers are already committed to their schools current mapped out units. Our plan B, is to go ahead with the project, with or without classrooms from all Gulf countries, and have students from participating classes take on the roles and provide research for the missing countries. On the bright side, it will be invaluable to have a trial run before including hundreds of students when we start recruiting at the beginning of next year.

Speaking of collaboration, another KEY to the success of a global (or regional) project, is access to other educators via Twitter. Using hashtags to notify likeminded people, like #edtech or #coetail helps to reach out to a large audience in order to find participants.

Me watching as my Twitter post directed anonymous gophers, ligers, and ducks to my project overview.
Me watching as my Twitter post directed anonymous gophers, ligers, and ducks to my project overview.

My face says it all here. My eyes (or the door, if you want to go with the original key metaphor) have been opened to the educational possibilities that collaboration tools like Twitter, Google, Flipgrid, Padlet, and MANY more are providing us. A very cool realization.



Agree to Disagree. For now.

It looked much more blue in person, I swear!

On a walk with my husband, I pointed out how odd it was to have a light blue car.

“What?! That car is clearly white, Randi.”

“Noooo, that one is white. This one is light blue.”

We stopped to take pictures of each car to further examine this difference of opinion in “better” lighting at home.

The very white car, for comparisons sake.


the dress

This timely debate ironically occurred during the Great Dress Debatewhich I had read about that morning on Glennon’s Momastry Blog. She calls this dress The BEST peacemaking tool she’s seen in a while. As interesting as the science is around why the dress is seen differently, the part of this debate (as Glennon mentions) that stands out, is the need to adjust our communication skills to allow for a space in the middle where we can give value to another point of view, but disagree politely.

Because the job of a technology integrationist heavily relies on the relationships you build with teachers, I give special attention to these types of lessons.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who is frustrated by many of the new technologies I have suggested for use in his history class. After reading a post by Ann Durham, Adjust or Go Home, I was inspired to point out that he has an international fearlessness that he doesn’t apply to his technology use.  He argued that he is not a ‘bandwagon’ kind of guy and that the tools I am showing him will be “in and back out” in a flash. While I admit that the education system on the whole does cycle through way too many bandaid approaches, the use of technology to access, share, and create resources beyond the walls of school is here to stay. But… sensing his increased frustration, I instead listened and accepted his point of view (while politely disagreeing).

I believe that if we teachers don’t begin to update our teaching methods to provide a 21st century pedagogy, we will be outdated, irrelevant, and out of a job in the near future. Although this is my belief, I know that many people need to see and experience the value of these changes before they go through the trouble of learning them. Doing old things in new ways with a tech tool here and there, does not show the real value of technology to a teacher. But then, how can I make a believer out of one who won’t try?

This question, reminded me of a conversation with John Burns, Director of Innovation at Shekou International School. He advised me to start with the early adopters, the ‘LEADers’ of the group and showcase their work and accomplishments in order to bring the ‘wood be doing’ folks on board.

So, although I hate to skirt a good debate, after reading and reflecting this week, the path is clear. My best method for teachers who are not yet convinced that technology (used in the right way!) would add value to their classroom practices, is to showcase the results of the teachers in our school who already have an Innovator’s Mindset. At this point in our school, there is still room to politely disagree about using tools to flatten walls and globally connect – but that is changing.

Our minds are built to make sense of the world using our surroundings. Just like our minds interpreted the dress color differently, those of us who have been teaching a long time with ‘tried and true’ practices are still interpreting our classroom and students’ results as a success. But what they don’t see is that even though students passed their memorization and paper/pencil tests, they will enter higher education or the workforce at a disadvantage because they are without 21st Century Solution Fluencies.





I am a North Struggling to Go East.

At the beginning of each year, our school reviews the different personality types in order to better understand how and why our colleagues work the way they do. North people are quick starters who adjust their plans along the way; West people are detail oriented; East people think about the big picture before they start planning; and South people concern themselves with feelings and want everyone’s ideas to be heard.

The East way of thinking is the most difficult for me and ironically, in my new position as a technology integrationist, the most essential. My mission this year is to help my school revision our technology usage and ramp up our innovative teaching and learning practices. The deadline to having this ‘plan’ on paper is coming up and I have been struggling to write it. I know what it looks like and I know why we should do it, but writing up a detailed, date specific, sustainable plan is a whole other beast. I’d much rather just get started and fill in the blanks as we go – see, total North! However the thinking around constructivism and connectivism this week has helped to inform my ‘big picture’ thinking and vision-plan writing.

Being a ‘specialist’ this year and out of my comfort zone, I feel more like a learner than a teacher. Of course, I have still been teaching many things to students and teachers about using technology, but most of my time and efforts have been spent learning about theories that worked for me as a teacher and now as a student.

The readings and understandings this week remind me of the Chinese proverb that says:

Tell me and I’ll forget

Show me and I’ll remember

Involve me and I’ll understand

In my mind connectivism is an extension of constructivism and both play a huge part in the success of the 21st century learner. If “constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences” (Driscoll, 2000, p.376; as cited by Siemens, 2005), then learning must be social and attached to prior knowledge. Connectivism is the act of developing ourselves as connected learners and understanding how to learn across the ‘nodes’ while synthesizing the information to meet our learning goals. Therefor the perfect storm would be for an educator to combine both theories in a learning situation where the student was engaged in a creative experience and activity that was shared and learned about by being connected to an online community. As Eric Sheninger’s writes about in his book, Digital Leadership, these students would also be intrinsically motivated because they are solving real world, relevant problems while connected to a community with the same goal.

Below is a useful diagram I saw in Sheninger’s, Digital Leadership, (found on Te@chThought.com) that encompasses the concepts I’ve learned about in this week’s readings.  It’s also provided me with a visual checklist to help guide me through the task of writing our school’s technology re-visioning plan.

Churches, 2008