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 – 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 🙂

Collaboration, Kuwait

Extending learning w/ global collaboration – Middle School Art

One of my favorite things as a coach is to work with a teacher and then see them take the initiative. Last year as part of my COETAIL final project I collaborated with our middle school art teacher (Lindsay) to create a unit based around photography using the Design Cycle. One of the most powerful pieces of the unit (IMHO) was the connection we made with Brian & Yuko of Photohoku. As part of their inquiring & analyzing, students created questions for Brian & Yuko. We then did a Google Hangout with them and the students were able to talk to them in real-time. The students loved it.

Fast-forward 4 months to the current school year. Lindsay approached me for details on how to use Google Hangouts to connect with an expert. The students were learning about the Volumes of Design and she had arranged for a collaboration with Jodi Harvey-Brown (Statement of Inquiry: Our interpretation through time and space facilitates change.). We decided on a Hangout On Air so that students could re-watch the discussion whenever they needed to. I didn’t do any of the planning – just the technical details to help it be a success for the students. [Luckily I had presented on Google Hangouts in Michigan this summer and had some resources readily available. Google Hangouts On Air can be tricky!]

Lindsay arranged with the other 8th grade teachers so that all of her students could be in the classroom for this special event. Students created questions in advance and Lindsay sent them to Jodi so she had a heads-up. During the hangout, students asked her questions in order to help them create their own book sculptures. The event was yet another reminder of how meaningful & powerful it can be to connect our students to experts around the world. Teachers no longer need to be the sage on the stage – they simply need to help students safely connect to other people who have knowledge or skills of value.

[If I had to do it over again, the only thing I would change is discussing the norms of this type of activity with students before beginning. Many of the students had never been involved in something like this and weren’t really sure how to act. I also think it would have been helpful to explain a few features of Hangouts prior to starting.]

Google, Professional Development

Work smarter, not harder

The bottom line for educators and technology (not tech integration) usually seems to be saving time. If it’s going to make my life more difficult – no thank you! But if I can utilize technology tools to make my life easier – tell me more! This is one of my favorite ways to get educators to buy in to Google Apps.

I recently discovered a script for spreadsheets that has changed how I collect and distribute information when I’m giving PD. It’s called formMule. Just as the name implies it does tons of work for you (saving you tons of time). While there are lots of ways to use it (most I haven’t yet discovered) I’ve been loving it to send out resources from my professional development sessions to the attendees. I’ve now used it 4 times and have had great success.

At the beginning (or end) of a PD session, I have teachers complete a short Google Form. Once they have submitted the form, they instantly receive an email from me.formMule auto email

I have to do a little work up front to set everything up, but it saves me enough time in the long run to make it completely worth it. The short video below is one I made for my Google Apps Certified Trainer application quickly showing how to set up the basic mail merge function.

Have you used formMule’s other functions? I’d love to hear about what else it can do!

iOS, Kuwait, Professional Development

A Reflection on Tech Integration – SAMR

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with this whole technology integration initiative that is sweeping the world. Yesterday Jeff and I went into a 1st grade classroom to help them create word-webs and stories using their iPads. It didn’t go as smoothly as one would hope and by the end we were wondering if the technology made the project better.

This morning we were truly challenged as Technology Coaches – two elementary teachers are starting their final project for COETAIL and need to integrate technology into a unit plan. Unlike many teachers that we come into contact with they know about SAMR and want to attain the Redefinition level.
This is what our job is supposed to be…right? Integrating technology in a way that redefines education? I honestly can’t say we’ve done a ton of that this year. I often wonder how many technology coaches (or whatever you’d like to call us) are truly helping teachers CHANGE education through the use of technology. I’m not naive enough to think that it can happen for every task that a student completes…but how about once a unit? Once a month? I’d take once a year! So many people (me included) are quick to make suggestions for integrating technology (in our case iPads) – make movies, use Explain Everything, write blogs, etc. How often do we stop to think…and ask ourselves “Is technology making my lessons better?” and “Where am I on the continuum?” I’ve sat around tables with teachers who truly believe that they are redefining & transforming education when they are simply at the substitution stage. I am just as guilty of this too! There are thousands of education blogs out there boasting about the latest and greatest way technology is “changing” their classroom. But is it really?

So where do we (me, my school, you, your school, educators around the world) go with this? How do we ensure that technology isn’t just a band-aid? I’ve had this discussion with Jeff countless times. But how do we have this discussion with other teachers without stepping on toes and hurting feelings? We haven’t introduced the SAMR or TPACK models to staff yet because we think they’d be a little overwhelmed (have you read Nicholas Provenzano‘s rant?). We are also in limbo waiting to hear what our iPad initiative will look like next year. Do we introduce these models? If so, when?

Quality technology integration isn’t easy. It’s takes time, patience and lots of brain power. It takes CHANGING the way we teach. Are we ready for that?

Get started redefining…
Exploring the SAMR model (ECISD Technology)
Brief Intro to TPCK & SAMR (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
Technology in Education: A Brief Video Intro (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
More on SAMR (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
Elementary example of SAMR
TPACK
TPACK Explained

This is in no way a complete list…please feel free to share more!

1:1, Collaboration, iOS, Kuwait, Professional Development

Getting back in the swing of things!

Wow it’s been a long time since I posted anything! 2013 had a great start – we were home in MI for Christmas & the New Year and my sister, Abby, came back to Kuwait with us! She is substitute teaching for the semester and just signed a contract to come back next year to teach Pre-K. We’re pretty excited to have a little bit of home here 🙂

One of our biggest challenges as technology coaches this year has been getting teachers on board and actively incorporating technology in their classrooms. There have been a lot of ups and downs with our 1:1 iPad initiative and I don’t think teachers really know what to think – should they invest their time or is it all going to be for naught? Students currently have to pay a fee to acquire a school iPad and gain access to the wireless network. We’re not exactly sure on the numbers but somewhere around 40% of our student body (~2000 students PreK-12) have iPads. This presents many obvious logistical problems for classroom teachers.

As a tech coaches, we’re trying to decide where to focus this semester  Last semester we offered Professional Development after school on Mondays. Although our turnout was good at first, the numbers slowly diminished. We set up a website, but we’re not really sure if our staff actually uses it. Plus we’re still trying to figure out the dynamics of working in a 3-person team.

For the most part our job this semester has become more individualized. The principals sent out an email for us and we’ve appeared at a couple meetings, but we’re trying the let-them-come-to-us method. We don’t want to offer PD that teachers don’t want or won’t come to. But we DO want to support our staff. We’ve been encouraging teachers to give students choice for assignments and allow them to use the iPads. Teachers (individually and in small groups) have started coming to us more to help them plan units & lessons, create their class websites or blogs and support them in the classroom during lessons.

Whenever I get frustrated or down I just try to remember that this is a growing year. I wasn’t involved in the process until we arrived in August (and I’m not always consulted now) so we all just have to work with what we’ve been given. We have some students with iPads which isn’t the ideal 1:1 ratio however it’s much better than most other schools in Kuwait (who don’t even have wi-fi). I’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the next couple years 🙂

Reflector Update:
We’re still in the testing phase of this project. The 5 elementary teachers that are using the app aren’t having great success. We know that it’s not our network or the app itself (I have success using the app on my 2012 laptop connected to the school wireless) or the wireless adapters (we bought & installed 2 new ones with no success). We now think that it might have something to do with the computers that teachers are using (low RAM, etc). We’ll be continuing to investigate during the next couple months!

Some fun events coming up this Spring:
*Jeff and I will be starting our masters with COETAIL on February 4th
*Abby, Jeff and I will be traveling to Greece at the end of February for a long weekend (National Liberation)
*My brother and his girlfriend are coming to visit us in March for their Spring Break
*The three of us will also be traveling to Thailand and attending NESA in April (Jeff is presenting!)

If you’d like to read more about our lives outside of school, feel free to check out our other blog. 🙂

Google, Kuwait, Professional Development

I’m a #GAFE Qualified Individual

I’ve been using Google for personal email for 10+ years. I worked at a Google Apps for Education School and had a classroom that was 1:1 with Chromebooks. I’m now a Technology Coach in a school going 1:1 with iPads. I still use Google Apps daily for personal and professional reasons. So in September I decided I wanted to do some PD on my own time. Three months, countless hours and 6 multiple choice exams later…I’m officially a GAFE Qualified Individual 🙂 YAY!

Even though I’ve been using Google Apps for(what seems like)ever, I learned a ton of new tricks! I tweeted about most of them using #gafe. Here are just a few…

The modules are available (free) for anyone and are specifically geared towards education. Whether your goal is to become a certified trainer, to use GAFE in the classroom or to simply learn a few of Gmail’s sweet tricks…the edu training is a great place to start. The modules are published Google docs so that they can be updated at anytime (cause we all know Google is constantly updating!).

Now that I’m a Qualified Individual I have 12 months to complete the application to become a Certified Trainer. It’s definitely a lot more work than reading through a few modules and taking a couple tests. Although my school does not use GAFE, there are still quite a few teachers here who are using (or are interested in) Google Apps. Last weekend I presented 2 sessions at a conference in Kuwait and will hopefully be able to present at the GAFE Summit in Dubai and/or NESA in the spring.

Becoming a Qualified Individual is one of the ways I’ve been trying to better myself as an educator in 2012. 🙂

Update: I received an email with some additional (great) questions. I thought I’d share them and my answers here in case anyone else is asking the same questions. 🙂

Q: How many questions are on each of the 90 minute tests?
A: Each test has 60 multiple choice questions. I don’t think any of them took me more than 70 minutes to complete.

Q: How much time do you recommend dedicating to studying for each of the tests?
A: I simply read through the modules given by Google. I experimented with some of the tools and tricks as I read through them. None of the modules took longer than the time suggested by Google, but I’m familiar with all of the products so I may have gone through them faster than people who haven’t had experience with Google Apps.

Q: What study material would you recommend (outside of reading through the info on Google’s Apps for Education site — and having that information open in a second window while taking the test)?
A: The tests are tricky. I firmly believe that Google is testing your search skills more than they are testing your information retention skills. The questions are very specific. During each test I had all the chapters of the relevant module open in another browser and searched to find or double-check my answers. Google gives you everything you need for free. I wouldn’t recommend seeking out or buying any other additional materials.

I’ll add more Q&As if I get them!

1:1, Google, iOS, Kuwait, Professional Development

iPad Tips & Tricks

Based on the feedback we received from our staff, we decided to officially start our professional development with ‘iPad Basics’ or as we called it, ‘iPad Tips & Tricks.’ The goal of the PD was to get teachers comfortable with their iPads so that they could become more confident and start experimenting with them in their classrooms. Because we know our teachers are not all at the same place, we created 3 levels of the training. We are offering the sessions on three consecutive Mondays and you can read more about the planning process here.

The three of us split up the presentations…and I was the lucky one selected to do level 3. Although I was not confident to begin with (I don’t have nearly as much experience with iPads as my two colleagues), I’m glad that I had the opportunity to take on the challenge. I learned a lot in the process and even found the Reflector App…which just might be my new favorite discovery. A few notes about the creation of the presentation:

*I took a lot of screen shots on the iPad and edited them with ArtStudio before uploading them to Google Drive using the iPad app.
*I made all the videos using Reflector.
*I used Google Drive & a Presentation to store the pictures and create the presentation.
*I used a Google Form to collect feedback from the staff that attended my session.

Voilà my level 3 iPad Tips & Tricks! Would love any feedback 🙂

1:1, iOS, Kuwait, Professional Development

iPad PD

We (the technology coaches) started going into the elementary classrooms last week to give mini-iPad lessons before the students get their iPads. I’ve been in classrooms from KG1 (3-5 yr olds) to grade 3. It’s definitely been a learning experience! We’ll continue to go into ES classrooms throughout the next week. I’ll also be subbing for the Language B department head Sunday through Tuesday. I’ll be teaching her DP1 and DP2 classes. Guess I wasn’t quite done 😉

We’ve also started planning PD for the teachers. We asked teachers to complete a needs survey so we could tailor our offerings throughout the year.

About half of our staff completed the survey and @MrLaymanSS made a nice infographic in order to share the results with the admin team.

Starting on Monday, we’ll be offering staff 3 levels of iPad Tips & Tricks and teachers will be ablle to choose which they’d like to attend. I’ll be facilitating the level 3 sessions…any iPad or iOS6 tips & tricks would be much appreciated!

I’ve been working on a Google presentation (will share later), but today I decided to download the Reflection App. I tried the free version first and went to my twitter PLN before paying the $15 to get the full version. I got good input (merci beaucoup!) and decided to go for it. It seems completely worth the price and I’m eager to experiment with it! The first video I created is for my upcoming level 3 PD showing teachers how to create an appointment in the calendar app. Would love feedback 🙂 Enjoy!

1:1, Collaboration, Google, iOS, Kuwait

My foray into Elementary

One of the first official things we’ve been asked to do as Technology Coaches is to go into every classroom in the elementary (Pre-K through grade 5) and do a short introductory iPad lesson. We met with the Primary Years Programme coordinators and the Elementary iPad Advisory Group (made up of 7 teachers) to create and refine our ideas for our lessons. It was decided that the most important concept before the students received their iPads was how to treat it (where it should/shouldn’t go, how they should/shouldn’t hold it).

To get started, we created a sign-up sheet for the teachers in Google Docs. We then sent them an email with the link telling them a little about what we wanted to do and asking them to fill in their information.

As a team, the three of us decided to split the grades so that our lessons would be able to be tailored for the target age group. After my two gentlemanly colleagues had chosen, I was left with 3rd grade and half of 2nd. I was a little hesitant and nervous at first as I’ve never worked with students younger than grade 9!

I emailed my elementary counselor friend for some advice, gave my creative juices some time to flow…and voila I had an idea! Using the pictures and cartoons that the guys took and drew, I wrote a short picture book for the students. I based my story off of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. Here is my book (written using a Google Presentation)…

My first class this morning was a 2nd grade classroom. I started by introducing myself to the students and told them that I work with Mr. Jeff and Mr. Smith. I also explained how we would be coming into their classrooms sometimes to work with their teachers and that they would see us around the school. Before starting the story, I had them read the title and make predictions about what the story was going to be about. While I was reading the story to them, we talked about what made the iPad sad and happy. We talked about how the iPad wouldn’t like the canteen because she doesn’t like food, wouldn’t like the bathroom because she doesn’t like water and how she doesn’t like being up too high or down low. The story ended up being more interactive than I thought it would be…for each picture the students tried to find the iPad and it become like a “Where’s Waldo?” game.  It was fun and they really seemed to get into the story 🙂

I then asked them for their help. I told them how I knew a little boy who needed their help deciding how to treat his iPad. For each drawing (thanks bunches to Matt!!), they raised their hand if they thought it was a good way or a bad way to treat the iPad. Before showing them the “answer,” I had a couple students share about why they thought it was good or bad. We talked about why it would make the iPad happy or sad and I reiterated to them that I would be sharing their advice with the little boy. Before letting them switch to question mode, the teacher and I steered them towards giving me advice about what should be put in the iPad (only charger, headphones & case), what shouldn’t be put with the iPad in their backpack (no food/drink) and how the iPad should always stay in the keyboard case (unless a teacher tells them differently).

When I took out my iPad to demonstrate some of the things that might make the iPad happy or sad, they were in awe (they literally cooed when I took it out of my bag!). They loved seeing it and were excited to be able to get their own soon. I then let them ask me questions. I quickly saw that there were going to be WAY too many questions in the time we had (the whole lesson lasted about 30 minutes), so I asked them to talk with their table groups in order to come up with 1 question. This was great because they had to work together to pick a question and then also to pick who would ask it.

Overall the lesson went way better than expected! The students were adorable, asked great questions and had great advice! It was so different to be in a lower elementary classroom (as opposed to high school) where the students are eager to share and thirsty for knowledge. They really seemed to connect with the characters in the story…let’s just hope they remember when they get their iPads! This afternoon I’ll be working with a 3rd grade class. Who knew elementary could be so much fun? 😉

All the credit goes to Matt for this cartoon!

Update: Today I walked into a 3rd grade classroom and was told they didn’t have a projector…uh crap?! Luckily I created my book as a Google presentation and have the Google Drive app on my iPad. I had the students gather on the carpet and read them the story on my iPad 🙂 It worked really well…maybe even better than when it’s on a big screen!

Update #2: I had my first experience with KG1 students today! Going from high school to elementary was a big jump, but going from 2nd & 3rd graders to 3 & 4 year olds was almost as big. They are SO tiny! The class I was in was sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the carpet. Each student had a piece of tape with his/her name on it and they had to keep their bums on the tape. They don’t have projectors in the KG1 classrooms, so I used the iPad as a book strategy. I also cut down on the examples of how to hold the iPad after the story. I brought the keyboard case (sans iPad) and let each child stand up to practice “hugging” it. They all clapped for each other and it was adorable! Some other adjustments I made – we skipped the predicting about the story and the giving advice part. I did allow them to ask questions, but they didn’t really know how to so they told me some stories instead. Incredibly cute…but no way could I teach little ones all day! 🙂

Kuwait

Done!

I just taught my last class as a temporary French teacher at AIS 🙂 The new teacher arrived on Tuesday morning, shadowed me yesterday & today and will take over her full schedule (my 3 classes plus another French and a Spanish) on Sunday. It feels great to be done and I’m ready to be 100% committed to being a Technology Coach. I am, however, grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know some of the students at our school. In total, I now know 51 students in grade 9, 10 & 11. It was also nice to meet the Language B teachers and speak French. The head of department (HOD) also asked me if I would be willing to sub for her later in the year. This wasn’t the start I had envisioned for my school year, but overall I’m glad I had the opportunity to help the school 🙂

The fact that I am not teaching does NOT mean that I’ll stop collaborating with teachers across the world. I’m incredibly eager to introduce the staff to Twitter and the myriad of learning opportunities awaiting them and their students. If you are interested in class exchanges (for any subject & grade level), please contact me! We have 200 teachers and 1800 students to keep busy with iPads 🙂

Bon week-end!

Quick edit: it was incredibly interesting to be in a classroom in Kuwait as everything is going on near the US Embassy’s in our general vicinity. It was refreshing to have a conversation with students who can acknowledge that what the Americans did who made the movie was horribly wrong…but also that the response by some people in the Muslim states is juste as wrong. It’s not all Americans and it’s not all Muslims…and it’s too bad that a few people represent all of us.