Connected Classrooms: What’s your WHY?

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

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 😉 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.

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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.

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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 🙏

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New year, new adventure, new resumĂ©

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 resumé (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

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 – grade 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 – China, 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 🙂

#Learning2 – like no other

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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?!

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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.

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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.]

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?

a #coetail story: falling in love with teaching (all over again)

My COETAIL course 5 final project made remember why I love teaching today (a much needed reminder!). My final project is an IB MYP Art & Design unit involving photography & social media. Check out more info here. I’m reposting the post below from my COETAIL blog cause it was just that awesome of a day. 🙂

Today. Was. Awesome. Seriously today’s Art/Design class was cool. Brian & Yuko from Photohoku ‘hung out’ with us…Lindsay and I weren’t sure how the students would respond but they were awesome. While I was setting up the Hangout a few of the students were whispering “I see Brian!” The students actually did their homework! They were pretty excited and a little in awe. It was one of those classes that was way too short and everyone probably would have skipped their next class to continue the conversation. I loved it.

Since we got cut a little short and the students didn’t get to ask all their questions, I created a post where students can ask questions in the comments. Brian and Yuko have kindly agreed to answer them when they have time.

What a great way to end the week…on a super high note!

What I’ve been up to lately: #COETAIL edition

I realized I haven’t really blogged much at all this semester. While there are a few reasons for that, one of them is that I’ve been putting a lot of time into my M.Ed. So here’s what I’ve been up to lately! [see also part 1: UKSTL edition]

I just wrote my last post for COETAIL course 4! This semester: three classes down, 1 to finish up. I had 2 COETAIL classes this semester – courses 3 & 4. Courses 1 & 2 weren’t too challenging for me so I’m happy to report that courses 3 & 4 did the job! I learned a few new things, was forced to think deeply and had some great discussions.

Course 3 – Visual Literacy: Effective Communicators and Creators
All of my posts from the course can be seen here. My two favorite posts were redesigning a powerpoint and my digital story (which I used as a first draft for my Google Apps Certified Trainer application). Although I’d thought about visual literacy in the past (mostly because of my husband) it was rewarding to dive a little deeper and actually create/recreate.

Course 4 – Technology: A Catalyst for Learning
All of my posts from the course can be seen here. I really really enjoyed how this course made me think…hard. I was passionate about all the posts and loved the discussions had during this course. UKSTL rubbed off on me a bit and I went the research route with my post on Gamification. It’s definitely my most commented on post and the author of one of the articles I quoted even participated :). Go take a look and add your own! I finished up the course with a brainstorm for my course 5 (Alive in the Classroom: Applied Web 2.0 Technology for Learning) final project. I’m hoping to help our middle school art teacher create a photography unit using the MYP design cycle that hits the redefinition level.

As always, I’d love input! What do you think about the redesigned presentation? Do you have any ideas for MYP design cycle & art?