Hong Kong Day 3/4 – The Conference

Day 3 & 4 were workshop/conference days. This is a pretty typical conference with a variety of workshops. Much of my takeaways are resources to spend more time learning about.

My first 5 takeaways are from Ewan McIntosh’s session on collaborative planning.

  1. Trying to plan units with teachers in short blocks of time increased the amount of planning time overall that it takes to get the work completed, by 50%. Having longer blocks 1 ½ or 2 hour blocks of time could give your teachers up to 18 hours a semester back.
    1. I agree with this completely and think that it might actually be slightly longer if other elements are needed, for example, single subject integration.
    2. We have seen this in our school with our new schedule not allowing for the long block of time to effectively plan units.
  2. I need to consider whether I say “I” or “We” when I am presenting about my work since I almost never work in isolation.
  3. Could we take a suggestion from the restaurant Wagamama in the UK, about feedback? When a waiter stops you to ask if your meal is okay they put an X on your placemat. This tells the other waiters that you have been asked so that you can eat in peace.
    1. What if we were to develop similar systems with students. Even possibly ones independent of the teacher?
    2. I have tried this in the past with red and green cups or something similar, but I realize that one of the things that I had not done before was teach my students how to work independently in the first place.
  4. Ewan introduces ideas where he wants to receive feedback from colleagues by saying “this is a 30% idea”. He has found that this tells colleagues that it is an idea still in progress and that they can openly and freely give their thoughts on it, because they don’t feel that he is attached to it yet.
  5. Instead of always frying your steak, try making tapas or something small that makes you say “Ah”.
    1. He was making the connection that while there are probably hundreds of ways to cook steak, most people buy it, take it home and fry it.
    2. Why not try something new. It might work. It might not.
    3. Also, why not try little things like the way tapas allow you to try new dishes without too much commitment because they are small.

The following takeaways are from the rest of the conference.

  1. I need to look into change leadership PD.
  2. To test parent presentations on a small group of parents first. You may find that what you think that they want to learn about and what they really want to know about don’t match!
  3. Studies show that a teacher’s personal and professional personas are the closest of any profession.
  4. Identify teacher’s fears about change so that you can address them. In addition to that identify your own fears and share them with the teachers.
  5. Add Makers and Innovators to your school’s Artists in Residence lists.
  6. Meet with your facilities team. They are a valuable but generally overlooked resource.
  7. Find out more about the OECD

Always admit to your students and parents that you do not know something sometimes and it will be fun to find out. Teachers are human just like they are and they are also always learning. They did not come out knowing everything.

Hong Kong Day 2 – Making

Day 2 was a day spent with the co author of Invent to Learn, Sylvia Martinez. The day was a combination of listening and doing. Many of the teachers in this workshop were in schools with or looking to make Makerspaces.

My takeaways were:

  1. Design for Agency

    1. This is a word that came onto my radar in Munich in 2015, but that I really like. The idea that you are going to teach kids to do something like they are are a scientist, doctor, engineer, physicist. I think this makes you think about planning differently as a teacher which is a challenge but good practice.
  2. Use tools with a “low floor”, meaning that they don’t require a lot of instruction. This allows the kids to get working faster.
  3. Constructivism and the idea of answering the student’s questions when they ask not before, but in the moment. I do this pretty regularly but I want to be more conscious of when I can do it more.
  4. That I need to shorten my explanations which will give more time for kids to work.
  5. Doing interesting things first. Then explain what they were doing, then let them ask questions.
    1. For example, don’t explain how circuits work or how to make one, ask them to make one. Then afterward explain what was happening and let them ask questions.
  6. That I want to start up my Geek Squad again, though I think I will change the name for this school setting.
  7. That design prompts should be brief, ambiguous, and immure to assessment.
    1. Brief allows for lots of ideas to be “correct”
    2. Ambiguous also allows for any idea and any solution
    3. Immune to assessment because the projects themselves are self-assessing.
      1. Did it work? No. Then you didn’t do it right, try again!
      2. You as a teacher don’t need to tell them this, the project will tell them.
  8. Don’t choose the groupings, let the students do that.

Hong Kong Day 1 – Schools Tour

We arrived in Hong Kong to attend the 21st Century learning pre-conference school Maker Tour. The plan for the day had us visiting five schools who had Maker programs. Our school sent our R&D leaders for research for our flexible spaces team. Our hope was to collect more information to use during our development process. We were very lucky that this was a perfect pre conference to help with this.

Our first school was the Kau Yan School, a local Chinese curriculum school that has committed to having every student participate in Maker lessons. One of the things that worked well at this school was that they asked local parents and specialists to come in and help them teach. For example, a parent who is an Engineer came in to teach engineering concepts to the students. Another element that I liked was that they had specific skill development lessons outside of projects. That allowed students to develop skills and knowledge to use during their projects.

The Harbour School was our next stop. The schools “Foundry” was only in its second year. This school also had made a commitment to every student having a full week of intensive Maker experience. The full week begins in grade three with grade two and below having half day lessons scattered throughout the year focused on skill development. They also have some interesting community connections beginning. For example a group of students building a hydroponic garden in which they will grow items to sell in the local market while educating the locals in the benefits of local organic produce.

The West Island School showed us their design space which is only slightly smaller than my nephew’s University Engineering Lab! One of the aspects of their program that stuck with me was their upcycling abilities. They went beyond using old/used items by just cutting them up or using them as is. They had systems in place where they could shred plastic then remelt and press it into sheets which would allow them to then use the plastic sheets in other projects. I also loved their idea of having students create Kickstarter like videos to promote their projects. Their Repair Club is one of the programs that they started which has given their Maker and CAD club students a way to help their community by repairing items while learning about them.

Canadian International School was a school that I looked forward to visiting because they are a PYP. I was curious to see how they were developing their program within their programme of inquiry. One of the elements of their program that I thought was a good idea is that they have set aside a ½ day per grade level for their teachers, as a team, to work as Makers in order to develop their Making skills. They also had me asking myself questions after seeing their 1:1 robotics rial group. This got me thinking about ways to better embed coding into our curriculum. I also liked that they had parent days with their Maker program where their students taught the parents how to work in the Maker program.

Our last stop was at Hong Kong International School to see their new lower elementary (PK-G2) Maker space. One thing that I took away from them was that the Tech Coach does things like put a stack of iPad boxes and the start of a domino run on the floor outside the lab, which is also across from the library. He does this just to see what the kids will do. They also had some great furniture and room layout ideas that I liked.


After seeing all five of these schools my main takeaways were actually common to most, if not all of them.

  1. Embed coding in math and/or writing. I had been mainly thinking writing as a replacement for instructional writing.
  2. Sustainability is a key element.
    1. As in using recycled products, using products that can still be recycled after, and actually recycling products into new materials that you can then use.
  3. Kids are pretty good at Problem Solving but not at Problem Finding.
  4. Everyone is Learning – teachers, students, parents, the admin
  5. Failure is the goal, a process and how the learning happens
  6. Class teachers are hands on as learners or as leaders of the learning, not dropping the students off and leaving them.
  7. You need a Design Cycle.
  8. Maker is a Mindset not a space.
  9. We must use explicit language not kid speak.
  10. Teachers need tinker and training time

G2 Explores their Digital Agency through Paperless Homework

For my Course 5 project I have developed a unit to work with a grade 2 class and their teacher. The goal of the unit is for the students to explore and develop their digital agency by responding to set tasks with a variety of digital tools. The aims of the unit will be to help students develop their independence to transfer their digital literacy skills independently when they are at home completing tasks for homework.

One of the reasons that we choose homework is because we wanted a safe environment for the students to be able to explore and develop in. By safe, we mean a place where the stresses of needing to complete a task for a formal assessment are not an element. Many times I am called in to help a teacher use technology only just as they are about to start a summative assessment task. I was thankful when this teacher, Beth, asked me to help her create a unit around building her student’s digital literacy without the stress of an assessment looming in the background for either the teacher or the students.

It also gives me a chance to develop her student’s digital literacy in line with the digital needs of the school. Our school is 1:1 BYOD in Grade 5, 1:1 Chromebooks in Grades 3 & 4. Beth is one of the two pilot classes in Grade 2 with 1:1 iPads. She is a teacher who has consistently looked for ways to improve both her own digital knowledge and that of her students.

The development of this unit also allows me to work closely with my new teammate. Ryan is new to the role of Tech Integrationist. By going through the process of planning, creating a unit and creating the resources allows us to get on the same page with how we work with teachers. This also gives us a chance to research and develop our digital skills to find the best tools and resources to use with the students.

I am looking forward to working closely with this teacher to develop and teach this unit with her.

To answer the questions for this week:

  1. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
    1. I think that this is a good possibility for Course 5 because this unit will allow me to help a variety of students move their digital knowledge from Substitution to Augmentation and Modification.
    2. The development of this unit will also allow the teacher to move her skills further. For many of the tasks she has moved into Augmentation, but helping her see the possibilities for moving her practice and her student’s skills into Modification in the areas that she is ready is something I am looking forward to helping her with.
  2. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
    1. Some of my concerns is that the step to paperless digital home learning will be too much too soon for many of the students and even more of the parents.
    2. I am also concerned that we will have parents who reject this change before their child has the chance to actually truly “live” it to find out if it will work.
    3. I have to manage my desire to go “all tech, all the time”. After all, they are still in 2nd grade and need to do fine motor work!
  3. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
    1. This does not require a major pedagogical shift for me personally. I think the largest shift will be for the parents. Seeing new ways that their children complete homework will give them yet another “eye” into their child’s classroom life.
  4. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
    1. Digital Agency
    2. Self-Directed Learning
    3. Resilience
    4. Systems Thinking

What it Takes to Effectively Get Seesaw Up and Running in a G3 class

This week we were asked to write a post to reflect on technology use that we have done in the classroom. I have decided to share with you how I have helped a teacher introduce the behaviors and expectations around getting Seesaw ePortfolios up and running in his classroom. This is a teacher, Mr. King, who last year did use Seesaw, but by his own admission not very well and only did the minimum. This year his goal was to do it better and earlier (mainly because it was ready to go earlier).

He asked me to come in and do the first “post a picture” lesson with his students. This lesson’s focus was on setting up practices around what Seesaw is, how it will be used throughout the year, how we manage having five shared classroom iPads and 1:1 Chromebooks, and what Seesaw’s purpose is.

To fully understand the situation I will give you a bit of history on this class. There are four students from a class that used iPads, Chromebooks, and Seesaw heavily the year before. The rest of the students had some Chromebook exposure during grade two. The classroom itself has a set of 5 iPads and one Chromebook per student. Mr. King was 1:1 with Chromebooks the previous year.

The first lesson started with me explaining to the students that what we were hoping to achieve was understanding how to share iPads to take pictures and then move to Chromebooks to add comments. Mr. King wanted them to post a picture of their values poster. This was an A3 sized poster for most students. So my focus for the first part of the lesson was getting them to first take good pictures of their posters.

My second focus was getting them logged into Seesaw on the iPads. Because we only had five iPads in the room we decided to do this in phases. So after I explained all of the instructions to the students, I kept five on the carpet and the rest went to their Chromebooks to work on math practice. With the five that I kept, I sent them to take their picture then return to sit with me. We worked together to get everyone logged into Seesaw since they are using their email accounts, which they haven’t memorized yet. Once we all got logged in we all created a photo post in Seesaw. I then had them practice logging out (an essential for shared iPads) and I sent them to their seats to finish their posts on their Chromebooks.

I continued to select five students until we managed to get the whole class finished. This first lesson took nearly an hour to complete but the system of working with a few at a time was very helpful for both the students and me. It also gave Mr. King time to watch what I was managing repeatedly, so he was learning as well. The speed and the groupings worked really well for the students and allowed me to learn how fast or slow or independent different students were.


This is an example of one post. Here are the student’s own comments on this post:

“I have learned what values mean and what influence means and what values mean by doing this activity. By doing this activity ,values means what is important stuff to you”

By the next lesson, Mr. King had already had them complete another photo post as reinforcement. So they were ready for a different type of post. For this post, we video recorded each student reading their biography. I knew going into this lesson that it was going to be tricky to finish in one 1-hour session and I made sure to tell the students this so that they knew that we may not complete the task. Letting them know this up front did a lot to manage their expectations I think. Also letting them know that Mr. King and I were still testing out the best way to do things helped them relax about making mistakes. They knew that we were all still trying to work it all out and therefore things might change!

So we paired students up and had them record their videos on the iPads. This is where it got tricky because I didn’t think it was a good plan to have every student log into Drive on their iPad, save their videos, then log out then pass the iPad to their partner and repeat. So we decided to have one of the pair log in to save both videos and share it with their partner.

At this point of the lesson with the first pair, I realized a problem that was going to happen! Because of wifi issues, we have to share videos through Seesaw via a link. So the videos in Drive have to have the right sharing permissions. I could quickly see this becoming a logistics nightmare. Thankfully, by this point, my tech teaching partner, Ryan, had been hired and was in on the lesson. Mr. King and Ryan managed the students who were doing the recording, doing the saving, and also the students who were waiting to record.

I was asking the students who had uploaded their videos to come to me with their Chromebooks and was quickly making a folder in their drive that had the right permissions so that anything in the folder could be shared and viewed. I realized that I was only reaching about half of the students with this but it was the best that I could do during this lesson.

Once we got all of the permissions sorted, the student were then taught to grab the link and post it into Seesaw. This is the point where I started recruiting students to teach each other as well. With the teachers all busy problem solving I asked the students to teach each other how to grab the link and post it. This was a great confidence boost for some students as well as a reinforcement of what they had just done themselves.

By the skin of our teeth, we managed to get all but about three videos posted. But during the following week, those student experts helped their classmates finish posting the remaining videos.

The next stage was to have the students create audio reflections on a post. Again there were three teachers in the classroom and again we used a similar method of capturing pictures as we had in the first lesson. Once the students posted the picture they moved to their Chromebooks and recorded an audio reflection for their post. Absolutely the most helpful part of this lesson was that the teacher had already prepared the students for what they were going to say by having them write out their reflection prior to our coming into the class. So there was no time wasted with students trying to remember or draft what to say while also learning how to record.


Here is an example of that lesson.

This lesson still took about an hour, but that was mostly due to everyone not recording at the same time and the sharing of the iPads. One system we have worked out with the iPads is to use the same iPad for the same students as their google logins are partially saved that way. So each iPad now has a sticky note on it with the student’s names.

By this point, we were basically finished and the class was good to go, but Mr. King knew that he was going to be out for two upcoming days and asked that we come in and do additional lessons with the students. His idea was for them to record themselves completing a Math exit slip and posting that recording. But Ryan and I emailed him and asked if we could instead try out the new Activities feature. He said “Of Course” and so we got everything ready.

We started the lesson by telling the students that they were helping us learn by testing this feature since it would be our first time. Again this helps to set up the expectations for the lesson and I feel it really makes the students less stressed about mistakes. I think this is also helpful in building the relationships with the students that Carolyn Fruin references in her post What to Do When Your Flipped Classroom Flops.

When we explained what we were going to do the students at first were a bit “Aw, but we want to do the videos” as they had already done a similar post with Mr. King. We asked them to help us try it and they finally agreed. So we gave directions and then let them loose.

Here is what they created!


What I like is that you can hear Emma go through her entire thinking process. Even though she gets distracted a few times and says a few things wrong. You can still see that she does understand and trusts that she knows that she is right. It also gives you a clear understanding of some support that Emma may need. She may need to talk through her math thinking with a peer or an adult to make sure that she is explaining her thinking clearly.


Itamar did a better job of explaining his thinking more clearly. Maybe it would be good for him and Emma to be partners so that Emma can hear an example of a good, clear explanation.

Our feedback from the students when we reflected at the end, was that they wanted more white space to write in. The problem took up too much space so they found the writing space too limited. This made me realize that the system we used for this specific problem would not always work for every type of math problem. They did admit that they liked the activity in the end and that they wanted Mr. King to do more!

Overall I have been very impressed with the work that the student’s, Mr. King, Ryan and I did during these sessions because I think it has set his students up to not only succeed at Seesaw but with anything else. I even mentioned to them that the patience and resilience that they showed when we ran into issues would help them because you always have to learn “workarounds” because you will always run into roadblocks! They seemed to take that as a compliment!

I have also received feedback from their PE teachers that when they use Seesaw in PE, Mr. King’s class is the most prepared to complete any task that the PE teachers have thrown at them.

The PYP Exhibition

In October I attended the PYP Exhibition workshop at my school. So here are some of my notes!

Books to Look at:

Videos to Watch:

Getting to the Topic

Questions like “What is your passion?” and “What is a good question about that passion?” cause paralysis because they are very big single answer questions. Try instead

Alternatives to the word “passion”

  • What are your talents?
  • What engages you?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What do you do that causes you to lose time?
  • Are there topics you find yourself arguing about or defending?
  • What ways do you enjoy helping people?

Then ask:

  • What are the opportunities in front of you?
    • This allows you to see what you are passionate about now and what is right in front of you to allow you to achieve that passion.
  • What are the values that you care about?


One of the things that came up during the training was that there are several ways to do the Exhibition.

Guided – where a student is working with more teacher guidance. Possibly a student with special needs, a student new to the PYP or a new to English learner who will need more scaffolding and support. These students may have only one line of inquiry for example.

Engaged – this is where students are working in a more traditional exhibition model. In a small group with a teacher mentor being guided through the whole process.

Self-Directed – Where a student/s who needs very little assistance, who is ready to run their exhibition at near independence. Needing help from only occasional mentor and teacher meetings.


Action Harvest Idea – Have all students think of three possible action ideas for every central idea. Then have them share these with the teams/students working on those central ideas. This gives these groups many action ideas to choose from.

Then once a student/group decided on an action they develop an Action Proposal. This proposal would be complete with success criteria that the group/student sets. This gives the teacher a clear point from which to assess the action.

Create a tracking sheet for a child to document their progress. I can imagine something very similar to what COETAIL is using with me. It allows me to post my evidence, my teacher to give me feedback, and for us both to communicate through the comments.

Classroom Ideas

Have students even in Kindergarten look at the POI for the whole school, with modifications. Get them to state what units they are looking forward to learning about. Ask them what they need to know/achieve first in order to be able to study that unit.

Ask G5 students what makes a good central idea? Have students analyze some of the school’s central ideas. Then they can create a list of what makes a good central idea and what doesn’t. Then they can use this list to check their PYPX Central Ideas.

Ask students to predict what behaviors they are likely to see in a lesson. (Page 29 Making the PYP Happen). Then at the end ask them what behaviors they actually saw/used.

  • exploring
  • wondering
  • questioning
  • experimenting
  • playing with possibilities
  • making connections
  • making predictions
  • acting purposefully
  • collecting data
  • reporting findings
  • clarifying existing ideas
  • reappraising perceptions of events
  • deepening understanding
  • making theories
  • testing theories
  • researching and seeking information
  • taking and defending a position
  • solving problems in a variety of ways.

Parent Link

Ask parents to ask their child questions about the Exhibition through the lens of the concepts.