COETAIL, Collaboration

Connected Classrooms: What’s your WHY?

Two blog posts in 2 days…I’m on a roll! And maybe I have a request too ūüėá

From the time I can remember (really only middle school for my brain), I wanted to learn another language (French) and use it. It might have had something to do with my aunt & mom both studying abroad in France. Maybe the fact that that same aunt was my HS French teacher also had an impact ūüėČ The strong connection I felt with France after living there for almost a year stayed with me when I started teaching French in South Carolina. Except my students didn’t share my connection. So why the heck would they want to learn French?! Many of them had no plans to leave the city, state or country. Why should they care?

That is how I realized that it was essential to my students’ learning that I create a connected classroom. Being able to connect with French speakers around the world allowed my students to be able to authentically use the French they were learning. Since my time in the French classroom, my passion for supporting connected classrooms has only increased. Living in Kuwait can feel isolating, however, opening up the world to students makes me feel invigorated.

connected teacher.png

So, in addition to my new COETAIL role, next month I will also start as the Academy mentor for the Eduro Learning Connected Teacher Micro-Credential. I wasn’t sure it was something I could take on. But my passion for supporting educators in creating a more connected world for their students won out. I can’t think of many things that I love more!¬†In addition to being a mentor, I’m also contributing to one of the courses.

local to global

That’s where you come in!

Sneak peak: One week of the course will be all about why educators invest in globally connected classrooms. It will include a series of short videos from educators around the world sharing their why. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Share your availability below and I’ll be in touch! Thank you in advance¬†ūüôŹ

COETAIL, Kuwait, Professional Development

New year, new adventure, new resum√©

Every time I sit down to write a blog post I look at the date of my last post and I’m like…really!? It was that long ago?! I have only posted twice this year. What?! I have so much more to say than that! And then I remind myself of all the amazing, fulfilling things that are taking up my hours (besides sleep).

  • My full time job as an Instructional Coach (Technology Integration) at #AISQ8 is going as well as it has in my 6 years in the position. We’ve moved offices this year (yay for a true Learning Commons!) and I truly enjoy coming to work.
  • I coached 2 sports last year (u14 girls’ soccer and track & field) and my 1st of 3 seasons this year just started (u14 girls’ soccer, JV girls’ soccer and track & field).
  • I spent an amazing spring break & summer at home in Pure Michigan with family. We just can’t resist our adorable nieces!
  • Jeff and I spent 2 wonderful weeks in Italy (our first time back since he proposed in 2008) and I soaked in every minute of my 8-day Cognitive Coaching Foundation course.

Oh…and I’ve been working as the Managing Director (and Marketing Manager) for COETAIL since March! I bought hardcore into the COETAIL philosophy as an Online ’13-14 participant and I was pumped when they announced that they were hiring in February…so I applied for every position! If you’re a current, grad or potential COETAILer, you’ve probably received an email (or several) from me since March. It’s been busy but I have loved every minute of my new challenge and I feel supported by the entire COETAIL team and community. As Jeff and I continue our life adventure, I can’t wait to see where the amazing connections we have made take us!

I finally took the time to update my resum√©¬†(to complement Jeff’s) and thought I’d share it here with my professional/life update. I hope that school years around the world are starting off well!

Click here to view PDF version

COETAIL, Kuwait, Professional Development

#AISQ8chat – let’s talk about #COETAIL!

This morning we announced a live COETAIL cohort in Kuwait starting in September!

Kuwait COETAIL Cohort

To get the excitement flowing, the teachers of #AISQ8 will be slow chatting today about COETAIL. We’d love current COETAILers, grads, coaches, instructors (really anyone who is passionate about¬†COETAIL) to join in #AISQ8chat! The success of the chat depends on YOUR participation ūüôā

#AISQ8chat banner 3.17.15

COETAIL, Collaboration, Kuwait

Ancient civilizations coming to life

Have I mentioned that I one of my biggest passions is connecting classrooms around the world? Hopefully that’s old news because I’ve let it ooze into most of the posts I write. The grade 2 blog about Sharing the Planet w/ a focus on water is up and running – and they’re eager to read posts & comments from classrooms &¬†experts around the world.

Next up Рgrade 3! Andria and Anna have been going through the COETAIL journey together and are gearing up to start their course 5 final project. They have chosen the IB PYP unit of Where We Are in Place and Time in which the students will be learning about ancient civilizations. Read more specifics here and here.

via Stux on Pixabay

Andria and Anna are hoping to connect their students to other classrooms that live in the ancient civilizations they will be studying РChina, Egypt, Rome/Italy, Greece, Maya (southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and Mesopotamia (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria). Although Mesopotamia is the closest to Kuwait, it might also be the most difficult to connect to.

Their unit starts at the beginning of March. If you or anyone you know is interested in connecting to a grade 3 class in Kuwait, please let one of us know! They are open to Mystery Skypes, video chats, asynchronous communication and any other ideas you have ūüôā


#COETAILCoach(es) – we’re here to help!

We just had our first COETAIL Coaches Hangout of 2015…I’m excited to join this group of educators! Our biggest takeaways:

  • Do COETAILers know about us?
  • How can we best support current COETAIL participants?

It was an extremely productive brainstorm and I can’t wait to spend more time rededicating myself to this community of learners.

More info about Coaches:

  • Our blog
  • Our bios
  • This program is envisioned of being a volunteer position where COETAIL graduates would have the opportunity to mentor active COETAIL members who are going through the program.

Let us help you!

COETAIL, Kuwait, Professional Development

#Learning2 – like no other


A week ago I was exploring the poster sessions at Learning 2 in Addis Ababa and getting ready for our 2nd MS/HS Tech Leader/Coach cohort meeting. Now that I’m sitting in my office in Kuwait, my trip to Ethiopia seems surreal. Like most people, sometimes my day to day work-life gets boring, old and I forget why I’m doing this. Learning 2 helped me remember what I’m passionate about. Being around like-minded international educators with whom I could discuss burning questions and collaborate was inspiring, energizing and inspiring. Can’t everyday be a Learning 2 day?!


I arrived early Wednesday morning from Kuwait with 30 hours to spare before the conference began (direct flights only happen a couple times a week). After navigating to my hotel, I headed to the International Community School to meet up with the Learning 2 Leaders. If I hadn’t been alone I might have been brave enough to explore the city but that will have to wait for another trip. My extra time in Addis allowed me to see the behind the scenes of being a L2 Leader…it’s not for the weak! But thus began my love affair with how this conference differed from others – all Leaders arrived 48 hours before the conference started to collaborate and ‘perfect’ their Extended Sessions and L2 Talks. The professional growth and collaboration that the Leaders are exposed to is quite impressive.


The professional growth and collaboration that ALL participants are exposed to is impressive. From start to finish, this conference was like no other. My biggest takeaways weren’t necessarily what I learned from a speaker or presenter…but the people I met and the conversations I had. Going alone to a conference took me outside my comfort zone – I get my energy from being around people but I’m not the most outgoing in situations where I don’t know people. Fortunately, it felt like I knew people thanks to my PLN. Although I’d never met anyone in person before I was able to hug people when greeting them for the first time because it sure feels like I know them. Twitter and COETAIL have that power.

I originally planned on just attending the conference. For awhile I toyed around with also presenting a 1-hour workshop. In the end I ended up being a Cohort Facilitator. Luckily I didn’t present because I lost my voice on Wednesday and I’m still working to get it back to 100%! No one at Learning 2 knows what I actually sound like…just my gravely, sexy voice ;). The Cohort experience was by far my favorite. We were about 12 tech leaders/coaches from around the world who gather together and asked burning questions. And then we answered them. I would have been happy just sitting in a room all day with my cohort and solving world (education) problems.

I don’t really have many words for the conference. Just wow. Between my cohort, the L2 Talks, the extended sessions¬†(my notes), the unconference discussions (our COETAIL meetup!), the food and the evening activities (read: drinks!) – it was just as epic as I thought it would be. ICS has a gorgeous campus (with tortoises!). It rained just enough to keep me happy but not too wet. The weather was nice and cool (quite a contrast from Kuwait!). The coffee smelled amazing.

Instead of more words from me, check out the #Learning2 Instagram &¬†Twitter feeds (they’ll start populating with #L2Asia soon!), the L2Africa Flickr page, the Facebook page, Doug Johnson’s pictures¬†and Jeff Utecht’s latest post. [One picture exists to prove that I was actually there.] I probably tweeted more in the 4 days at Learning 2 than I have all year.

Learning 2 was an experience I’ll always keep with me. If I could, I’d attend every one for the rest of time. Learning2Asia is next weekend…and next year Learning2Europe and Learning2MiddleEast are set to start (keep an eye out for the applications)! Hopefully in the future I’ll even get to attend a Learning2Mars!

[If you want a more personal perspective on my time in Ethiopia, check out my other blog.]

COETAIL, Professional Development

I’m a #COETAIL graduate

Three semesters, five classes and one really late update about my¬†final project…and I officially finished up my graduate certificate in May!

My portfolio:
Course 1
Course 2
Course 3
Course 4
Course 5

My final project: We integrated the Design Cycle into a 7th grade visual arts class (unit planner). Students chose to either increase tourism to or decrease littering in Kuwait by creating a social media campaign using photography. Students used Tumblr as their Design Folder. I provided them with information and modeled their Design Folder using my own Tumblr. We found that TO-DO lists were essential for the students in order to help them create their own Folder. For some of the students, it was the first time they were really diving into Design so we tried to scaffold it for them. [full follow-up post]

My biggest takeaway: The network. The COETAIL reach is constantly expanding. I’m currently at Learning 2.014 in Addis Ababa and finally meeting people face to face (a little ironic that I’m writing my final COETAIL posts while sitting in the same room as the co-founders). But it feels like I’ve known them for so much longer. The “COETAIL effect” is real. And it’s now available in the US! If you’re looking to join an innovative community of educators all over the world committed to learning…what are you waiting for?

COETAIL, Course 5

Course 5 update – I’m a #coetail grad!

[This will probably be one of my last posts on this blog. Head over to my other blog for more regular posting!]

Since I posted my course 5 video, we finished up our unit, I completed IB MYP Next Chapter category 2 training in Design, had an amazing summer in the US and now I’m back in Kuwait tech-coaching it up and working on my UKSTL MEd. Let’s just say this update is long overdue! [Actually at the moment I’m writing this from Addis Ababa where I’m attending Learning 2.014 and connecting with¬†lots of people I’ve only known virtually!]

A quick refresher: We integrated the Design Cycle into a 7th grade visual arts class (unit planner). Students chose to either increase tourism to or decrease littering in Kuwait by creating a social media campaign using photography. Students used Tumblr as their Design Folder. I provided them with information and modeled their Design Folder using my own Tumblr. We found that TO-DO lists were essential for the students in order to help them create their own Folder. For some of the students, it was the first time they were really diving into Design so we tried to scaffold it for them. [All my course 5 posts.]

Although I followed all of the students, it was difficult to keep track of all of their posts. So I created a checklist (from a form) that I could fill out as I read them. We also printed these out periodically and shared them (individually) with the students. I used conditional formatting to automatically change the colors of the boxes based on what I entered. It worked really well for keeping track of and sharing their progress.

Final reflection: We had to RUSH at the end. We could have gone a couple more weeks. I think some of the students were a little overwhelmed at times Рwe asked a lot of them in such a short period of time. But I hope that the idea of creating a positive digital footprint and using social media & photography for good will stick with them. Probably my favorite part of the entire unit was connecting with Photohoku.

We would love to see what this unit could be a) if we had more time and b) if we did it in a higher grade level. I would be very interested to see what 9th or 10th graders could do with a unit similar to this! During my MYP Design training in May, I had the opportunity to spend time creating the Next Chapter Unit Planner for this unit. I chose to write it for MYP year 5 students.

Check out their final products –
COETAIL, Course 4, Professional Development, Uncategorized

Flippin’ Classes and Studying with Games

Image courtesy of¬†Eric Dufresne from Trois-Rivi√®res, Canada¬†–¬†Flickr

I’m not sure what to make of the flipped classroom model and teaching classes designed as video games.


It seems as though the purists’ model of a flipped classroom puts the classwork at home and the “homework” in the classroom. The students get their lectures online and then come to practice under the guidance of their teacher while they are at school. ¬†I like the idea that students are getting more time in class to practice skills with the help of their teachers. ¬†I don’t like the idea of students sitting in front of their laptops watching Khan Academy lectures at home. ¬†But the model on Mind/Shift¬†only has students watching 3 teacher-created videos per week, and the prescribed length is 5 to 7 minutes long. ¬†What is the great advantage to freeing up 15 minutes of class time a week?

I’ve also heard and read about the changing role of the teacher in the classroom. ¬†We are no longer dispensing education, we are guides and coaches. I personally think that it is a good idea to lecture in class. ¬†I don’t think that you should lecture all the time, but I also don’t think you should rely on internet videos to do all your lecturing for you. ¬†I think that students can be motivated when they see their teacher speaking about topics they know a lot about. ¬†Students are impressed by my co-teacher because he worked on a nuclear submarine. There’s no doubt in their minds that this guy knows a lot about science. ¬†It is his passion and it comes through in his teaching.

In short, I think that we should have a mixture of mini in-class lectures and practice/workshop time. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t think that completely eliminating direct instruction from the classroom is the best idea.

The Gaming Classroom

Complete Honesty: I won’t be turning my classroom into a video game. ¬†The whole concept really turns me off. ¬†I like video games but I don’t play a lot of video games. ¬†I have felt the pull and have been “addicted” to video games in the past. ¬†This is one of the reasons I actively avoid them. ¬†If I allowed myself to start playing video games they would end up eating a lot of my time. This year, I’ve seen some kids who are seriously addicted to gaming. ¬†They can be seen playing games between classes and in the cafeteria during lunch. They talk about games with their friends incessantly and they watch Youtube videos of other people playing video games. Again, call me old-fashioned but I don’t think that inserting MORE gaming into their lives is the best idea.

Also, isn’t the gaming classroom relying a little too much on extrinsic motivation. ¬†Will the students only be interested in creeping up the leaderboard? ¬†Will the teachers be trivializing their content? ¬†It seems like the gaming classroom is a LOT of work for the teacher, but also really LAZY. ¬†Laying the gaming framework in the classroom seems like it requires a lot of setup and establishment of rules, adding to the already packed teacher workload. ¬†However, I say that it is lazy because teachers are resorting to turning their classes into video games (A surefire HIT with the kids!) instead of inspiring a real love of learning in the purest sense (Ideal… but really hard to pull off.)

One last poo-poo in the face of the gaming classroom; are the hardcore gamers sold on the idea of the gaming classroom or are they just counting the minutes until they can play a REAL video game?


This premature curmudgeon must end on a positive note.  Although I am against the idea of modeling a class after  a video game, I think iPad apps and online educational games DO have a place for reinforcing/teaching skills.

Although I have some doubts about the flipped classroom, I am definitely FOR supervised practice/exploration/workshops in the classroom. ¬†I just don’t think a little lecture here and there really hurts.

Everything in moderation, right?

COETAIL, Course 4, Professional Development, Uncategorized

PBL or CBL or… PBL?

Brett (AKA:Mr.T) supervises a challenge.

In reading through the materials on project, challenge, and problem based learning, I’m not sure I see a real distinction between the three. ¬†I’m not sure that I am supposed to see one at all. ¬†I do see the appeal of setting goals for students that are based on real-life situations.

This year was the first time I spent all of my time in math and science classrooms. ¬†Prior to this I taught third grade, ESL, and world language classes. ¬†Teaching grade three probably gave me the best chance to engage my kids in some PBL/CBL-style situations, but I was too wrapped up in teaching reading and writing that I may have missed my shot. ¬†I feel pretty confident saying that the grade 8 students at our school will tell you that they’ve been engaged in a lot of problem solving and project-based learning this school year.

They’ve generated electricity using steam engines constructed from soda cans. ¬†They’ve modeled true situations using their knowledge of exponential growth. ¬†They’ve build windmills from paper and currently they are analyzing the methods used in the ongoing search for the missing Malaysian airliner for the science unit on waves.

A lot of these ideas were generated by my co-teachers, who have put a lot of effort into giving our lessons context. ¬†I really respect them for this. ¬†I can’t take credit for cooking up these schemes, but I have put my efforts into making these lessons as accessible as possible for our English language learners-and it hasn’t been pretty. ¬†In fact, the whole process has been rather ugly. ¬†The three of us have been learning how to present challenge/problem/project based lessons as we go. ¬†There have been some pretty tense times throughout the course of the school year, but I’m glad that we have continued to attempt to provide genuinely engaging lessons and eschewing paint-by-numbers teaching as much as possible.

I know that I have been referencing my co-teachers a lot on the blog, but co-teaching is my reality. ¬†So, once again… thank you Brett and thank you Ryan. ¬†You have taught me as much as you’ve taught the students this year.