Tag Archives: technology

Community Starts at Home

Global Community

One of the significant advantages of being a COETAIL student is the level of community engagement required and encouraged. Any educators at any time can reach out globally yet this wasn’t something I really benefited from until this COETAIL course. I now consider it my responsibility to develop my PLN. The articles shared, conversations, connections and learning experiences I have encountered due to my expanding PLN are incredible. I strongly urge all educators to take the time each week to reach out globally.

By sharing my own experiences I am able to process my own ideas and consolidate my own understanding, known at the Protege Effect.


I have been astounded by the power of twitter. After a reluctant and slow start to twitter I now can’t imagine a significant teaching event without it. COETAIL has encouraged me to extend my reach and use twitter in different ways. At a recent IB regional workshop teachers were asked to volunteer to run a short presentation on something they are passionate about and I jumped at the chance to sing the praises of twitter.

I quickly put together this presentation using the PYP key concepts to describe how I use twitter as a primary class teacher.

As a result of actively engaging with my PLN as part of my COETAIL course I have become significantly more engaged online.

Twitter has also enabled me to further my own understanding by discussing relevant topics with others. Hashtags have been a really effective way of connecting including #coetailchat, #pypchat and our own school hashtag #sislearns.

TweetDeck has been really useful to help me efficiently manage my account and not to miss anything.

I also enjoy using storify to record and share special events such as #siscodes for the Hour of Code. I now create hashtags for significant events such as our PYP Exhibition #sispypx.


Following on from connections made during our coetail blogs @tracyblair invited @leahbortolin and myself to trial #Edu-Hangouts. The proposal is that like-minded educators meet on Google Hangouts to discuss topical educational issues. I created this infographic to help advertise the event.

We have now met and discussed social media in the primary classroom and are planning many more #Edu-Hangouts.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 19.37.00

Local Community Connections

An area where I have had unexpected success in connecting with educators is at my current school. Surprisingly by connecting online we are able to share, discuss and connect. The quick and easy instant sharing that twitter enables means that we can all be a part of each others learning environments even when we are unable to be there in person.

Yes it is wonderful to be able to connect globally- but don’t forget the fantastic educators that you share a staff room with!

Creative Mode

My Minecraft Inquiry is now well underway. I still have a lot to learn but we are definitely making progress with MinecraftEdu. I’ve discovered that we achieve more in Creative Mode and that border blocks help students to build in the same location. Our unit of inquiry is almost complete and then I will begin the process of compiling a video for my Coetail Course 5 Project.

Our new school so far!

I realised I have had to learn a lot of new vocabulary quickly. Students are already familiar with Minecraft which left us teachers new to Minecraft constantly researching definitions. I decided a MinecraftEdu glossary aimed at beginner educators would be a useful addition to my Minecraft Inquiry blog.

Throughout the Minecraft lessons the students helped to create an assessment rubric. Student suggestions are listed below which we then constructed into a rubric.Assessment tips

The students identified a range of skills required to be successful in our Minecraft Inquiry including face-to-face social skills as well as ‘in game’ social skills. They also felt it was important to follow the plan and recognised that this was related to staying on task.

Students identified cooperation and kindness as key Minecraft skills.

As in all aspects of education, the more time and effort I put into the Minecraft lessons the more the students get out of them. I have now scheduled an hour’s set up for each lesson where I just explore the world, check on student buildings, and prepare any assignments or additions for the lesson. This has really helped me to understand the expectations for each student for every lesson, which in turn helps students to be successful with clear guidelines.

My Initial Observations

Student engagement in MinecraftEdu is staggering. Every student is completely focused on their task for every minute of the lesson. Every single lesson ends with disappointment when the students realize they have to stop working. This level of student interest is remarkable and motivates me to consider how else I can integrate MinecraftEdu into our curriculum.

One minute warning: What already? #MinecraftEdu the fastest hour of the day #coetail#minecraft

— Amanda (@ALMcCloskey) February 23, 2016

The social and thinking skills that the students are developing are incredibly beneficial.  Elena Malykhina discusses in ‘The Scientific American’ the impact that digital games can have in education. The challenge for teachers is trying to find the time to assess how to best utilize these resources. Hopefully my ‘Minecraft Inquiry‘ will support other teachers hoping to incorporate MinecraftEdu in an inquiry classroom.

iPad Time!

As a class we have decided it is time to update our system of iPad access in class. Up until now the teacher has had control over when the students have access to their iPad’s. Increasingly students request their iPad’s for a range of tools (spelling, translation, research etc.) and I realised it is time for me to let go of the control. I asked myself ‘Am I hindering my students’ learning?’

Previously, I have been concerned about device distraction, lack of social interaction and an overload of screen time. Common sense media recommends one hour per day for primary aged children. We have six hours of class time per day. Does this same amount apply to supervised educational use? There appears to be limited research that applies to our specific situation: a small class of motivated Grade 5 students who are encouraged to independently make the right choices about their learning.

Are we hindering student learning by restricting tech use?

I proposed to the class my idea for allowing them to use their iPads at any time in the classroom. Surprisingly a quick vote showed me that students wanted a list of rules that they could follow. They explained that having some guidance made it clearer to understand what was acceptable.

When deciding on these rules the following points came out in a class discussion:

Encouraging self-management skills.

We conducted a ‘think, pair, share’ thinking routine to analyse these results. We narrowed these ideas into four workable class rules that addressed our concerns. A student also suggested we review these rules every month. Another student suggested that they monitor their own daily screen time – if we use the iPad’s a lot at school – play outside at home.

Class designed rules.

I look forward to the monthly review!

Student-Centred Learning

A Brief History of Student-Centred Learning

Student-centred learning is not a new phenomenon. John Dewey outlined many educational theories including the importance of how ‘students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning’, in 1897. Project-based learning, Problem-based learning and more recently the apple launched Challenge-based learning all discuss the importance of student-centred learning, and inquiry being central to the learning process. What all of these learning styles have in common in today’s classrooms are that they naturally lend themselves to integrating technology. If the technology is available, and students know how to use it, it should be a part of the learning process.

My current conundrum is ‘If I want a student-centred, inquiry classroom, should my students should have access to technology all of the time?’

My Concerns

How much screen access is okay? Should ten year old students have access to iPads all day? I decided to find out what students and teachers thought. I used a great idea from @traintheteacher. A binary question for all students to answer as they arrive at school.

    I also tweeted a poll for teachers’ viewpoints:

An Experimental Inquiry

Our central idea

After discussing these issues in class we decided to try an experiment. A full day with unlimited technology, and a full day unplugged completely.

Below are some student reflections from our ‘Tech Saturation Day’.

Students were also asked to write a Headline (maximum of ten words) to sum up the unplugged day. Below are some examples:

Teacher Reflections

  • Beginner EAL students were able to work independently. They produced more work than they ever have before.
  • Some students were easily distracted with the iPad. They did however still complete all of their assignments.
  • Working on paper is time consuming. Ten minute tasks took at least four times that.
  • Students enjoyed drawing and paper-craft.
  • Our replicate social media account is the students favourite past-time.
  • Marking and photocopying work is very time consuming. This took up approximately two hours of my day (compared to minutes using google apps).


I will still have some parts of our school day tech free but will monitor for which learning engagements this is an advantage. I’m interested in hearing how other teachers manage the availability of technology in a student-centred inquiry classroom. Is it time to let the student’s decide?

Technology Immersion

Image from Flickr


I am currently reading ‘Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job‘ by Yong Zhao. The book discusses the difficulties associated with technology integration and examines what we should be trying to achieve in education. It asks the compelling question:

“How can teachers and technology work together to create a sustainable learning environment?”

Yong Zhao, Never Send a Human to do a Machine’s Job

The book explains how schools and teachers should allow technology to do what it is effective at doing (Zhao states these niches as ‘Mechanical repetitive tasks, creative ways of presentation and interaction, and opportunities to promote learning’).  This can then free up the human teacher to focus on what they are most effective at (Zhao highlights ‘critical thinking, social and emotional interaction’). The central strand running through the text is described below:

“The ultimate goal is to tap the advantage of both human beings and technology and therefore provide an optimal learning environment for learners.”

Yong Zhao, Never Send a Human to do a Machine’s Job

This book has helped me to broaden my view as an educator and to consider how I can be more effective in the classroom, whilst utilizing technology to its full effect. This, to me, should be the aim for all educators.

My Definition of Technology Integration

Technology integration is interpreted in many different ways. The word integration implies that technology is combined or melded onto education. However, I feel that technology is intrinsically a part of everything I do. Even if I am not using technology in a particular lesson, I have planned and researched the lesson online, and probably tweeted or blogged about it. Technology doesn’t feel like something that is ‘combined’ with our learning- it is intrinsically a part of our learning environment. It is ubiquitous and we are immersed in it.

Technology in my Classroom

After viewing the TPACK model I tried to relate this to my classroom. The authors of the TPACK model, Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, explain why this may not be easy:

We understand that, in some ways, the separation of teaching into content, pedagogy, and technology is not necessarily straightforward, or even something that good teachers do consciously.

Punya Mishra and Mathew KoehlerUsing the TPACK Framework, Copyright © 2009, ISTE

Watching this Common Sense Media video helped to clarify my thoughts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjQNUhTJsTw (video no longer available)

There are wonderful moments when I feel that I am in the magical spot of TPACK, but this is certainly not always the case, and isn’t always the aim. My technological, pedagogical and content knowledge are always improving, and always should be. In a Grade 5 PYP classroom independent inquiry is actively encouraged. Students are always excited to point out new technological features to me and each other, and we may be finding out new content knowledge together.

Today’s Lessons Plotted on the TPACK Model

I have attempted to plot my teaching day on the TPACK model to give a snapshot analysis of technology use in my classroom. Today I taught four one hour lessons so have placed a star on the TPACK model to indicate where I think each lesson could be positioned.

On reflection I think this is a fairly typical day. However it doesn’t really demonstrate how much I feel that I am not doing. Just because I am using technology, does not mean that there is a not room for improvement.

I am fortunate to work in a forward thinking PYP school, where all primary students have their own iPad. This has enabled me to experiment with technology and use it when it is relevant. Students are also now increasingly selecting a range of technology tools for their needs when it is required. Mary Beth Hertz identifies this level of integration as ‘seamless’.

Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.

Mary Beth Hertz, ‘What Does “Technology Integration” Mean?‘, Edutopia

At school we have a whole school technology integrator to coach and advise teachers, and a primary technology integrator to co-teach and support teachers. This model, along with small class sizes and a good internet connection, means that we are in a strong position to use technology in a beneficial way.

My Reflections

I am pleased with the progress of technology immersion in my classroom but there are still many new initiatives I wish to pursue in my teaching. I am also actively creating my own content now as an educator, this includes shared content on YouTube and Flickr. I am also increasingly a teacher that enjoys discussing technology with colleagues. After reading Kim Cofino’s blog on ‘Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration‘ I now recognize the informal mentor role that can exist within the working environment.

This is an exciting time to be in education. Technology is enabling us to extend the possibilities in our classrooms and help our students to create and collaborate like never before. As educators if we share, collaborate, learn, initiate and create, together we can continue to utilize technology for the optimal learning environment that Yong Zhao suggests. We need to remember that to be truly effective, technology and pedagogical practices need to be intertwined and the focus should be on the learning first, rather than the technology. 

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.