Education is Changing

How Does Technology Enhance Learning?

Our school has recently implemented a 1:1 iPad programme in the primary school. Every student from Nursery to Grade 5 has their own iPad to use at school. This is a wonderful tool for students and teachers to use as we are now able to access a device at any time. Our school management team have asked for teachers to provide some feedback of how our 1:1 programme has impacted on learning. They are hoping to gather evidence to provide a technology update to our wider school community. I decided to use this as an opportunity to create a digital story of how I have been using technology in my Grade 5 classroom.

Presentation Zen

I decided to follow the guidelines from Presentation Zen by planning on analogue. I began drafting ideas in my new ‘Presentation Zen Sketchbook‘.

Planning Analog

Planning my digital story.


This helped me to shape what I am hoping to say. I want to take this opportunity to educate our school community about how technology is changing education. I decided to begin with our school mission statement. I wanted to remind our school community of our purpose as a school.

I then considered the core point of my presentation. I asked myself the two questions recommended by Garr Reynolds.

  1. What is your point?

Classrooms today are redefining what learning looks like. 

2. Why Does it Matter?

We can’t measure today’s learning by yesterdays standards because today’s skills are immeasurable. 


iMovie in action



I then began collecting photographs and movie clips whenever we used technology. I also took lots of photographs of our school grounds to use as background images as I realised I can’t just add text without a background. As I also run the school PYP code club I included pictures of this too. I then added the text to each image. I wanted the text to explain the learning that was taking place and not the technology that was being used. I used the ITSE standards for teachers to help explain the learning outcomes. The editing stage was very time consuming but the more I use iMovie the faster the editing process is. I’m starting to see the limitations with the app (can’t adjust text size or colour) and have began to research other video editing software.


As I have progressed through course 3 I have begun to use a YouTube channel. My class have responded very positively to my short movies and are constantly asking for more. They have plans to film lessons so that they can refer back to them later. So my next step in my project was to save my movie on my YouTube channel. The iMovie soundtrack is quite limiting so I decided to use use a YouTube soundtrack.

Music Frustrations

Choosing a backing track (surprisingly time consuming).

Presentation Time

And now I have the finished product which is ready to be shared with our school community.



Digital stories and/or short movies have become part of my classroom practice. Although they are time consuming to put together they make an instant impact. I’m pleased to finally have a YouTube channel up and running and hope to encourage other teachers to do the same. I hope that my digital story helps our school community see the value in the education we are providing, including how we are using technology to enhance learning.

Infographics in the Classroom

According to Wikipedia Infographics are defined as:

“graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.”

Nathan Yau’s website, ‘Flowing Data‘, has some excellent tutorials on how to read and understand infographics. He also offers a four week course for Visualization in R (a coding language). The infographics on this site are visually appealing and the data is easy to read. The graphics are aesthetically pleasing. My favourites include the ‘London Underground Rent Map‘ and a well explained ‘Venn Diagram Tutorial’.

In the Classroom

I have been searching for relevant infographics through the lens of a teacher. How can I incorporate this vast resource of visual data into my teaching? As I am currently teaching Year 6 (Grade 5) I wanted to find something they would understand easily and enjoy analyzing. I decided to use this lego venn diagram by Stephen Wildish. The maths learning outcome is to to introduce our own methods of sorting and classifying.

lego venn

Image used with the permission of Stephen Wildish.

I introduced this image without any introduction and asked the students to explain the information. They then had to reflect on what the ‘rules’ of Venn Diagrams are using googledocs.

Lego comments

A student’s analysis of the information.

The follow up task was then for students to create their own venn diagrams. They will design and photograph it and provide an explanation of their sorting procedure (using book creator). We will spend the next few weeks ‘tinkering’ on infographics in our unit lessons. My summative assessment tool for Maths can then be ‘create an infographic to demonstrate your understanding of the properties of 3D shapes.

Visual Data in the Classroom

In our previous Maths unit (place value) my students began an independent inquiry into the Indian number system (the Vedic numbering system) and how this differs from the international number system. We spent some time brainstorming and comparing the different language and systems used. Eventually our discussion resulted in a shared understanding and we were able to record this quick conversion chart.

rupee Amanda

In the verdic system numbers over a thousand are grouped in two’s (not three’s).

Following on from this inquiry I wanted to present my class with an easy to read visual conversion chart which summed up their findings- however we were unable to find one. So now I am experimenting with trying to create one. Here is my first draft:

Indian Number System Infographic

I can see that even my initial attempts on Piktochart produce a more effective method of presenting information than my paper version. The information is clear and more aesthetically appealing. I look forward to seeing what my students can create!

Digital Stories

Digital Story or Video?

Digital stories are tricky to define. Is it a video of any length? Does a picture slide show count? Is a documentary a story? Does audio over an image suffice? Does it have to be fiction? What exactly is it? The University of Houston has a digital storytelling website that explains:

Digital storytelling at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.

This is still a very broad term and can include a huge range of digital works. The definition of ‘story’ itself is hard to pinpoint. Wikipedia defines storytelling as:

‘the conveying of events in words, sound and/or images, often by improvisation or embellishment.

Bradshaw rock painting

Photo from Flickr by Austronesian Expeditions. Aboriginal cave paintings are a form of storytelling.

Digital Story Count

If we assume that telling a story can mean any of these things (words, sound and/or images), when applied digitally we have a vast new medium for telling stories. When viewing YouTube statistics I found that:

YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.

Internet Livestats claims that 8 billion YouTube videos were viewed so far today alone (30/09/15).


Livestats reports.

Impact in the Classroom

Viewing videos in classrooms and with students has become common practice for many educators. The flipped learning model means that students can watch these videos at home to maximize learning time in the classroom. In addition to this trend many students are also increasingly creating their own media at home. An internet connection and a device are all that is needed to become a director.

We are at the point now where anyone can create and publish very compelling content with nothing more complex than a web browser.

Many students are utilizing this technology to share ideas about their personal interests, to tell a story or to share an idea or skill.

Today’s students don’t think twice about generating original electronic content and sharing it online, and digital storytelling dovetails well with these modes of student expression.

A Class YouTube Channel

As an educator I want to maximize this new form of storytelling. Digital stories and/or videos can be used in limitless ways including:

  • to reinforce learning
  • to provide additional support (especially for EAL students)
  • to create a provocation at the start of a unit
  • as an additional lesson resource
  • as a student assessment tool

I decided to create a class YouTube account to experiment with different ways to share digital stories and videos with my students. Below is my first attempt:


Students and parents responded positively to the video and found it a useful link to home/school learning. I then decided to set an assignment using a digital story to explain the assignment. Here are the results:

The possibilities are endless!



Presentation Zzzzzz

The Journey from Zzz to Zen

Two months ago I delivered a presentation to class parents as part of our ‘Meet the Teacher’ night at school. The presentation contained all of the necessary and relevant information for the school year ahead. Here is the presentation:

After reading the Presentation Zen blog by Garr Reynolds , and laughing along at Life after Death by Powerpoint by Don McMillan I realised (and cringed) at the many shortcomings of my presentation. Below are my reflections on these shortcomings.


I have used a basic theme from google slides which seemed adequate at the time. I did not give much consideration to the design of the slides and I can see now that they are full of text and quite boring. 


I had a handout with all of this information on so I can see it wasn’t necessary for me to also have it on the screen (I fear I may have just read from the slides too). My personality and character does not come across at all in this presentation. 

UOI circled

Although I’ve attempted to highlight the key points there is still too much information on the slide.


The presentation is essentially a list of ‘do’s and don’ts. I haven’t considered the big picture of how students and parents may be feeling, instead I just focused on the content of what I wanted to get across.


Whilst talking to the parents I explained my passion for teaching and the privilege of teaching the final year of primary school- but this doesn’t come across in my presentation at all. 

Layout of Slides

I haven’t used any images in my presentation. I have used bullet points excessively where it isn’t necessary. I also didn’t consider the exact purpose of each slide.

Home Learning circled

An over dependency on bullet points.

no images

No images used.

After learning about the principles of presentation zen I can see that I may have been sending my audience to sleep. An interesting article in the Guardian by Andrew Smith ‘How PowerPoint is killing critical thought‘ has also made me question the purpose and content of my presentation. When discussing a procession of endless slides he states

In the face of such a procession, we switch off, because nothing is being asked of us.

I missed the opportunity for my presentation to include parents thoughts, fears and questions- which are usually covered in a haphazard question and answer session after the presentation.

So now begins the process of improving my presentation to include all of these suggestions. I can now see the benefits of spending more time in preparing a more effective presentation. I am planning to include images whilst using the ‘Rule of Thirds‘.

And here is the first page…

meet the teacher compressed

The beginning of my updated presentation.


Image Conscious

Images are everywhere. It is estimated by tech firstpost that there are 1.8 billion photographs being shared online everyday. Internet Live Stats reports that 2,699 instagram photo’s are uploaded every second. As images play an increasingly significant role in our society, should we as educators be valuing and using this exponential resource more effectively?


Internet Live Stats

Images are often quickly selected in classrooms as an add on. Perhaps to add ‘a bit of colour’ to a display board or to ‘liven up’ a text. There is of course value in supporting text with images, but could we be using images in a more significant way? Are we utilizing this resource? Images have the potential to provoke and inspire students. A powerful image of a social problem can spark interesting debates immediately. The presentation zen website has some excellent views and suggestions about visual literacy. Garr Reynolds advises on the purpose of using visual imagery:

Visuals that surprise people, touch them, delight them, and support your story are best because they affect people in an emotional way.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen. The Power of the Visual

I wondered how I could be using images in other areas of my classroom to provoke thinking. I usually launch new Maths units with questions to spark inquiry. I decided to experiment with launching a new Maths unit using just one image. My concerns were:

  • will this hinder vocabulary development
  • can mathematics be reflected effectively in just one image
  • will the image limit connections to Mathematics
  • is there an available image for our needs

I used the creative commons image search to help me find an image that had the potential to lead students into a maths investigation. I found the following image which I hoped would spark inquiry questions related to symmetry and the properties of 2D and 3D shapes.

Electrical Symmetry

Image from flickr by Fillipi Pamplona

The central idea for our Maths unit is:

The interrelationships of shape allows us to interpret, understand and appreciate our two-dimensional and three-dimensional world.

I decided to present the image using google slides. This was to allow students to share their ideas instantly and collaboratively.  After reading the excellent post by @tracyblair on ‘Visuals in the Classroom‘ I decided to also use a visible thinking routine to support the students exploration of the image. We used the ‘See Think Wonder‘ routine and recorded our ideas on the following google slide presentation.

By discussing each stage as we went through this process I was able to ‘channel’ the students thinking towards possible Mathematical investigations. As a group we filtered through the comments that we felt lead to a Mathematics inquiry. When we reflected on the ‘I wonder’ section together the discussion prompted some excellent investigation ideas. We created this poster of the highlights of our thinking routine.


A summary of our ideas.

Was Using an Image Successful?

I found using an image to launch a Mathematics inquiry was an effective way to begin discussions as well as assess some prior knowledge of vocabulary and understanding of shapes and symmetry. Students who are new to English surprised me by being able to contribute immediately. They were able to learn from their peers comments which effectively modelled sentences. Using an image also left the scope for inquiry more open. If I had begun with specific questions students would have been searching for my answers. The image enabled them to construct their own inquiry without my influence. And by filtering out the questions I felt were not relevant I was still able to guide the inquiry into a mathematical context.

Interestingly the inquiry took a slightly different path to the one I expected. Students became interested in the structural side of the tower and wanted to find out if different shapes also created strong structures. Our study of shapes is quickly becoming an engineering project. Let the inquiry begin!


Where will the inquiry take us?


Another Feather in a Teacher’s Cap

teachers cap

Image from pixabay

Teachers are adept at wearing many hats. In a ‘normal’ week in a primary school a teacher may also take on the role of coach, leader, nurse, engineer, editor, designer, cleaner, peace-maker, philosopher or facilitator. The list is endless and ever changing and now often includes blogger, web-designer, vlogger, social media marketing managers and many more roles.

The hurdle for many teachers today is that they are not equipped with the correct skills to fulfill these digital roles successfully. An understanding of web design, topography, visual hierarchy, scanning patterns etc. should now be a priority for all educators (and their students) both as consumers and producers of information.

An informative post by web developer, Brandon Jones, has helped me to understand the essentials of web design. He explains web design as visual communication. He goes on to explain the importance of using size, colour, contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity, density and whitespace, and style and texture.

Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

So now time to make my learning authentic. How can I improve my own blog? Admittedly I have not given much thought to the design of this blog. I am now reviewing my own blog through the eyes of my new role as a web designer. The size of the large sunset image draws the eye but it is now relevant to the content of the blog. The background colour could be toned down to be more ‘calming on the eye’. I also need to consider which widgets and headings I want.

Digital Inquiry

My COETAIL blog homepage


One of the questions that Brandon Jones tells us to ask ourselves is:

Does the expected importance match up with the actual designed importance?

Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones

This is an important question for me as the expected importance in the layout, particularly the widgets, does not match up with the designed importance. A photograph of personal significance doesn’t have a lot of relevance to my audience. I am also now analysing the priority of the tool bars and widgets. What do I actually want you, the reader, to take from my page? The aim of my blog is to connect with like-minded professionals and to promote collaboration as a tool for developing classroom practice.

Possible design updates:

  • technology related header image
  • reorder widgets depending on relevance
  • new background colour to complement new header image
  • upper tool-bar categories for each coetail course
  • twitter feed more prominent
  • links to my other blogs
  • include some personal information about me
  • global visitors map/globe counter
  • clear licensing details

As always, I look to my COETAIL colleagues for inspiration. The design of these blogs have given me some great ideas.

chez vivian with comments

A screenshot of Vivian’s COETAIL blog.

chamada with comments

A screenshot of Clint’s COETAIL blog.

And now I shall begin the process of updating and improving the design of this blog. I now feel more confident to include web design in my own teaching as I help my students to understand and benefit from the importance of visual media. As George Lucas succinctly put it in an Edutopia article:

We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word.

James Daly, Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education

And here is a screen shot of my ‘new look’ blog, which may continue to evolve as my confidence in visual literacy grows. Watch this space!

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.25.53 pm

My new look blog; constantly being updated.

Are you using more tech than a 2nd grader?

School has broken up for the summer holidays! This is a wonderful time of the year to appreciate all our students have achieved. As I reflect on my adventure in educational technology this year I can’t help but wonder how many educators would also achieve our grade 2 tech goals for this year.

So before you head off on your summer break ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the majority of your work saved in the cloud (googledocs etc.)?
  2. Are you using hyperlinks instead of attachments?
  3. Are you a confident googledocs user (e.g. using the suggesting setting)?
  4. Are you using a photo sharing app or are you still uploading/downloading every picture?
  5. Are your cloud based documents organised into folders?
  6. Are all the images you use cited/licensed correctly?

In my class the aim was for each student to achieve at least 5 of these. How did you do?

What else would add to this list?


Are we all keeping up with our students tech skills?


Are Some Primary Classrooms Short Cited?

Primary School Citation Expectations

Citation Children Inforgraphic created by R. Langlands

In many primary classrooms citation can be a grey area. Often, by the end of primary school, students can source information from a book by identifying the author and perhaps the publisher/date. However, many students use images and videos from the web without ever considering who created them, how to cite them or if they are available for public use. In fact, many teachers don’t consider copyright or fair use regulations when using images and video clips in a school setting.

For a group assignment, 4 educators got together to try to find our why citation may be a problem in primary schools We began by asking Grade 5 students to reflect on their understanding of citation. Most of the students were in the process of their IB PYP Exhibition and all had some experience of citation. Students from our 4 schools were asked to reflect on their skills of citation on this padlet page.

padlet course2

Image authors own. Grade 5 citation reflections

An Idea Develops

The student feedback reflected what we were witnessing in our own schools. Some students can link to websites, but information about citing images and videos is unclear or non-existent. Whilst researching primary citation we located some useful resources for teachers, but no resources for primary students.

We began with the idea of producing posters for primary classrooms with examples of citation. It quickly became clear that this was too limiting and our ideas developed. We used a googledoc to share thoughts and develop our understanding. We quickly had an indepth, authentic collaborative inquiry into primary citation expectations.

Student Resources for Citation

We required an easily accessible resource where primary students could see examples of successful citation, especially of images and videos. Media is constantly changing and students need access to recent citation guidelines at their fingertips. Therefore we decided a blog focused solely on Academic Honesty with specific examples of how to cite a range of multimedia would be beneficial to both students and teachers.

A Truly Collaborative Inquiry

Although our googledoc was a great place to share ideas we felt we needed the opportunity to connect in real time so we decided upon a weekly google hangout. This provided us with the opportunity to really discuss the details of what our blog needed and enabled us to move our own learning forward. We were fortunate to have a range of backgrounds and areas of expertise in our group and everybody contributed significantly to the development of our project. Our collaboration enabled us to build extensively on our initial idea to a blog that we are all proud of. As evidence of our successful collaboration we recorded a ‘Google Hangout on Air‘.

A Unit of Inquiry on Citation

As our project evolved we identified the need for two units of inquiry. Firstly, a unit aimed at schools that are trying to support primary teachers in understanding how and why to teach citation. Secondly, a unit aimed at primary teachers delivering lessons in citation of various media.

A Unit Planner for Schools 

A Site to Help Primary Educators Teach Citation

A Unit Planner for Teachers

A Site to Help Children Cite


Student Self Assessment Rubric

Finally, we included on our blog a self-assessment rubric for students to identify specific improvements in their citation skills. We used the same headings for various media which will encourage students to identify that all images, videos, blogs etc. need to be cited correctly.

Final Reflections

We hope that by introducing our blogs in our own schools that teachers will be able to feedback on how useful it is in the classroom. There are many practical resources available on our blog to assist primary teachers in implementing accurate and age-appropriate citation guidelines for students. Our aim is that our blog will continue to evolve based on the comments that we receive from educators and students so that we will always have an up to date, child-friendly resource, easily available for all.

Empowering Student Action with 1:1 Devices

Recently my school has adopted a full 1:1 programme in the Primary School. After only a fortnight of using our own iPads I am already beginning to see the amazing benefits of a 1:1 programme for young children.

Immediate Impact

My students now have the choice of how and when to use their iPads. Without planning to, we have naturally moved away from scheduled  ‘ICT lessons’ to students accessing technology when it is relevant to them. Students have requested to use apps, take photo’s, record themselves talking to take notes, video something interesting and more. And it feels like we are only just beginning to redefine our classroom practice.

Image authors own. A choice of tools available

Another significant improvement in our lesson time is that we no longer have to deal with passwords. If you haven’t had to help a class of Grade 2 students log in using computer generated passwords then you may not realize the significance of this statement. It is usually the most time consuming and frustrating part of any lesson. I’ve tried a number of strategies to overcome this (password cards, teacher log-in prior to use, saving passwords on desktops) but there are inevitably problems. I am relived now that we can use the wonderful ‘remember password’ feature.

Image authors own. Not your typical spelling list.


As I now reflect on how to enable my students to reach their full potential I am considering how I can make the most effective use of our devices.  After reading ’20 Things I Learned’, created by Google, I felt reassured that I may not know everything but what is important (especially for my class) is that I am learning about developments on the web.

Life as citizens of the web can be liberating and empowering, but also deserves some self-education.

Thanks to my research for my COETAIL course I have increased my awareness of cookies, browsers and filters. I can also see how important it is that I become a ‘search engine expert’ so that I can teach my students these vital skills.

Search competency is a form of literacy, like learning a language or subject. Like any literacy, it requires having discrete skills as well as accumulating experience in how and when to use them.

What I am witnessing is that how we are learning is constantly changing. This should impact on how we teach. David Weinberger explains this well in his book ‘Small Pieces’.

The old model is about control: a team works on a document, is responsible for its content and format, and releases it to the public when it’s been certified as done.

David Weinberger,

Although not aimed at primary educators the point is still significant. Technology is not just a substitution for how to publish work. Now we have the potential for students to create, share, connect, comment on and transform their learning. This was written in 2002, yet many schools are still not realizing the potential of how the web can enhance and alter everything we do in the classroom.


An excellent example of how a primary student can use the web to share and connect globally is Martha Payne, a Scottish student who kept a blog ‘NeverSeconds‘ of her school dinners for a writing assignment. She currently has ten million hits on her blog and an incredible story to share. If you too are inspired you can donate on Martha’s just giving page for Mary’s Meals here.

As a PYP teacher, action is an area where I feel the web should have a huge impact on student experience. One of the five essential elements of the PYP programme is action. In the document ‘Making the PYP Happen‘ the importance of action is explained.

In the PYP, it is believed that education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action.

Making the PYP Happen, 2012

As a teacher attempting to provide authentic opportunities for students to ‘act’ the web can be a powerful resource for connection. Student-initiated action can be enhanced by:

  • The potential of a global audience
  • Connecting with like-minded individuals
  • Learning from others instantly
  • Continuing to receive feedback on their ideas and move their understanding forward
  • Reflecting on their own understanding

Educators need to model these connections in the classroom to enable students to appreciate the full extent of possibilities. The potential for students using the web for action is vast and almost incomprehensible. Our role is to increase student awareness and skills, then step back and allow them to access the power of their global connections.

As I attempt to move my teaching forward and to utilize our 1:1 devices effectively I hope to promote more meaningful and collaborative uses of the web in our learning, and to inspire student-initiated action.

It Takes a Village…

The attitude to parenting in Tanzania is often referred to as ‘Mtu ni Watu‘ which translates as ‘A Man is People’ (often interpreted as ‘It takes a village to raise a child’). Children’s needs are not the sole responsibility of the parent. It is expected that the community is always able to help out. When a child is tired, hungry, bored or upset, passers by entertain children, offer snacks and drinks and greet parents with messages of reassurance and friendship. As a parent raising a young child in Tanzania this approach was refreshing and appreciated. Raising children is a shared responsibility.

Mtu ni Watu (It takes a village to raise a child) Photograph by S. McCloskey

I think the same attitude of ‘Mtu ni Watu’ is needed in the approach of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens. Whilst I appreciate that being a responsible citizen is the same thing, it is important to identify specific situations for how to be a responsible digital citizen. Valerie Strauss’ article ‘Teaching kids to be ‘digital citizens‘ (not just ‘digital natives’) discusses why it is important to help students be safe and responsible online.

That’s more true now because today’s technologies have unprecedented power to harm, as we have seen in documented cases of cyber-bullying and harassment.

One of the ways schools can initiate the involvement of parents in raising responsible digital citizens is by holding parent workshops. This gives parents the opportunity to become more aware of what schools are doing and how they can also support their child in being a responsible digital citizen. Mike Ribble explains the importance of involving parents and using the same terminology to help students understand digital citizenship.

Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?

With this ‘common language’ parents are then able to reinforce the same message at home that is encouraged in schools. Parents’ views on technology vary widely from no regulations to no technology. I believe there is a happy medium on this spectrum and that with an open dialogue and knowledge about potential problems students can manage their use of technology well wherever they are.

Another way that schools can support students to be responsible digital citizens is by educating all teachers about the uses of and dangers for children using technology. Awareness and knowledge about digital citizenship are essential for all teachers so that any problems that may arise are recognised and dealt with appropriately.

My Grade 2 class have recently completed their Common Sense Digital Citizenship work in Information Literacy lessons. I thought I’d see what they had learnt. I was inspired by @traintheteacher in the blog post ‘Back Channelling in the Primary Classroom‘ and used TodaysMeet to record their reflections.


TodaysMeet created by P5A. Image by Amanda McCloskey

It seems our village is on the right track.