Level 1: It’s all Just a Game

So at first, I wasn’t real excited about this blog post, but then last week a colleague and former COETAILer and I were having a discussion. It started around the digital curriculum, reporting, portfolio program that my school is helping develop (don’t get me started!). We have also started using Seesaw in every classroom and subject area in our Elementary school this year. Our discussion started on how to best use the systems and quickly developed into our idea around to both gamify and use game-based learning in education. After rereading the definition in the ASCD’s article The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning I realized that the idea we were talking about plays on both elements. Combined they would help create our idea.

It also started with a comment that a teacher made about how you couldn’t be self-directed and standards-based. Which we both disagree with. So, we started batting around ideas and eventually came up with something like this.

This would be for any grade level any age. Students would all have a device of some variety. Technology is a key element of being able to have this type of learning, it is non-negotiable. The students would begin each “day” by logging into their device and the platform. I say “day” because one of the advantages of this is that the school day could become something that looks nothing like what it currently does, but more on that later!

After they log in, they have a bit of a checkpoint where they would review their goals and their game statistics. They would then plan their day. This is where the “day” element would become less traditional. The scheduling options could still be done in similar ways to what we use in schools today, but the students themselves would begin to build their daily/weekly schedule independently. Obviously in PK, K and G1 there would be scaffolding with teachers to help with this. The scheduling options could also be somewhat regulated.

For example, there could be blocks of time for recess/lunch so that it wouldn’t be unsupervised free for all! But what it wouldn’t be is every 2nd and 3rd grader at recess at the same time. It would be a mix of any students who decided that a recess/lunch time worked best for them. There could be parameters in the system that required a certain number of recesses a week or a certain type of recess. For example, if a student always chooses to go to the library, once a week they would be “required/encouraged” to play outside. This could be a way for them to earn extra points of some kind, more on points later.

The same would be happening for lessons. There could, of course, be some lessons that happen virtually and this would be a great way for a student who wants to study something that is beyond the capabilities of the school to study. What we are not envisioning is that there will be no class times. What we are envisioning is that those class times will be very different than what we are used to seeing.

So for the academic element, the students would be evaluated in some way and leveled. Then they would choose what they want to work on, for example, they want to do during a math lesson. Then the platform would give them their options for math classes to attend. These would be math classes focused on the standards which student needs to achieve. They would not be age or grade based. So you would have any number of students (there would obviously be a max) of mixed ages, I will stop saying grades because this entire system would do away with the need for grades. The child would then choose the math class options, given to them by the platform, that they wanted to attend and the platform would offer them their next class option. Thus, building their schedule.

You may be saying to yourself, sounds great for teachers of young students but for older students you have just designed me out of a job. I was struck by this paragraph in the Edutopia article Three Ways to Use Game-Based Learning.

The Game Is Not the Teacher

When using games in your classroom, remember that the game is not the teacher—you are. The game is just an activity. When using games, try to avoid intervening when students are figuring something out. This affords students the opportunity to play with games as systems. And do not grade play; instead, assess the learning transfer that you facilitate from the game experience to the curriculum.

Our idea is in no way excluding the teacher, the teachers have an equal role to students in this scenario. They have their learning that they are doing by constantly having new students roll through their classes, finding new ways to deliver lessons and integrate the platform. They will also have students that they mentor along the way and develop close 1:1 relationships with. These mentorships would also not need to last for only a year. Students and teachers could decide to maintain them for several school year cycles.

Now to explain what is happening parallel to this on the teacher side. Because every child would be doing their own attendance by logging into the platform while at school there would be no need for “homerooms”. What could happen is small teams/tribes/houses/families of students who could be multi-aged, who get together throughout the year in order cover elements of PSPE (Personal, Social and Physical Education). And there will be teacher mentors who are assigned students to track and follow along with the process. This grouping would be where the typical “homeroom/advisory” class things would happen and where general school messages would come through.

Outside of that grouping, the teachers would be teaching in a variety of ways. For example, if I am a teacher who loves math then I might focus on teaching math. Instead of teaching to a grade range of standards though, I am just teaching to the entire range of standards. For example, I could review all of the Kinder-Grade 5 Common Core Math standards, choose the ones that I felt as a teacher I was best at teaching. Obviously, there will need to be moderation to make sure that all standards are covered by all teachers in the school, but you get the idea. Then about two weeks before your new class starts you would get a message from the platform saying, “Here are the students who will be coming to you” and “Here are the standards that they are aiming to cover”. You have time to plan out your math activities and engagements. Then you would let the platform know how many lessons over how much time you would need to complete the unit.

One of the advantages here is you could say to the system I need 6 lessons over 3 days, which would put you doing double lessons on those days, this would allow you to let the system know that you will need longer time slots to keep the engagement going for the unit.

This would be happening in every subject area and every teacher and student. Younger students would be building their schedules with the help of their teacher mentors. Older students could be building their schedules independently. This would mean that the platform would have to be adaptive in order to prevent scheduling black holes.

There could be game based elements that are either customized by teachers or added in similar to the games mentioned in the ISTE article Try Game-Based Learning to Teach Multiculturalism. Small mini-games embedded throughout the system could be used as another checkpoint to gather data of a student’s understanding or ability to demonstrate a skill in their learning. Games like what Jane McGonigal has developed to solve real-world problems. I recently watched her TEDx talk The Game that will give you 10 Extra Years. The game Super Better that she built could be used as a powerful way to monitor students throughout the platform.

So how will the gamification come in? Well, the whole time the student is doing this through a gaming platform that they have some control over the design of. For the younger students, it could be similar to the way Disney Infinity is set up, using popular characters as avatars or have the students be able to create their own. In order to get more options, you have to complete more challenges (academics). You would also be able to earn different elements through power-ups, these would be for elements that were based on skills, in the PYP the Transdisciplinary Skills. There would also be … for earning points based on the showing of dispositions for learning.

The whole time you would be encouraged to earn points or power-ups or complete challenges to get to the next level based on your needs. The algorithms running the system, which I realize are beginning to get super complex, would be saying things like “hmm, I see that you have done a lot of math lately. So I am going to not give you any more credits for math activities until you have completed a language challenge.” or “I see that you have done a lot of group activities lately, to get your next … you will need to do an independent activity”. The whole thing would also be monitored by the teacher mentor could force certain challenge types when needed.

So this all sounds great but how do we know how they are doing? This is why there will never not be a teacher. So the whole system would run on documentation. A student could self-assess with an image, video, audio, or text entry. This entry would go to the teacher or the teacher mentor depending on who was responsible for that standard. The teacher could also provide evidence of mastery of a standard in the say way as the student has. The parents would receive a notification as soon as a standard has been evaluated and be able to add any feedback that they would like to add as well.

What would be needed to make this work?

  • Flexible Teachers
    • Teachers willing to teach in a new understanding of time and space.
  • Flexible Buildings
    • Buildings that had a variety of spaces for different types of learning.
    • Buildings that are open in a variety of times.
  • Flexible Schedules
    • This system will remove the need for an 8:30-3:30 day.
    • Teachers could choose their office hours, students could choose their ideal day length.
    • Students who participate competitively in sports would be able to work around their training schedules.
    • Students who are ill could work at home for longer to fully recover before being worried about falling behind.

Congratulations you have earned the Resilience Badge for making it to the end of this very long post! Please leave comments below to level up. Stay tuned next week for the next level update!

PBL, CBL, PBL, PB&J What Does it all Mean?

So I decided this week to branch out and do a podcast instead of your typical post.

A couple of things I have learned!

  1. I sound very echoey
  2. I need to better annunciate (hence the reason I am also posting the script)
  3. My speed is generally okay as is my volume
  4. I want to try again at a later date with another blog post.
  5. It is hard to make edits like I have realized I want in the script (edits in bold and Italics)


Let’s start with some definitions:

The book How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom by Robert Delisle on the ASCD’s website quotes Howard Barrows’ definition of Problem Based Learning as “the learning that results from the process of working toward the understanding or resolution of a problem”

The Buck Institute defines on their website that Project Based Learning as a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.

Digital Promise defines on their website that Challenge Based Learning as learning that provides an efficient and effective framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges.

I think it is easy to see that all three of these are basically the same idea. I am sure they have small elements that are subtly different from each other but I was struck by how alike they were while I was reading about them.

Just some of the similarities are that they:

  • All mention real life preparation
  • They all revolve around students identifying a problem and working towards a solution
  • They all ask for students to explore outside the 4 classroom walls
  • They all require student-driven research
  • They all require teachers as mentors
  • They all mention the use of technology
  • They all leave space for learning from failure

This week we were asked to write a blog post on how these apply to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom. While I do not teach in one classroom I still feel that these approaches are a key element of education. Our school, in fact, has been working towards developing skills and dispositions that would be elements of all three of these theories. The most obvious of which is self-directed learning.

One of the arguments that I hear a lot around these three theories is that “they are great for middle and high school, but I just can’t see how you can do this with first graders.” I have to respectfully disagree. While I do agree that there are elements of first grade that need to be more traditionally practiced, there is a lot that can be done with PBL (I will use this for both Problem and Project) and CBL learning. Yes, it will be more guided that you may do with a high school student but it is very possible to do.

I can’t think of a more effective way to teach students the value of research than to have them state a problem that they are interested in solving and then helping them to find the research they need to understand the problem and possible solutions. I can see this as having a much more lasting impact on their learning then asking them research something that you as the teacher decided on.

I can also see that the younger grades are where we can really leverage technology to help students share their process. For many in the younger grades, writing up their research or their findings is not a realistic idea. But videoing them talking about their research or recording them in a podcast talking about their research is not only developmentally appropriate it is a very effective use of technology in an authentic way. Which is a key element of PBL and CBL.

This is where I come in my role as the integrationist could be to come in and offer Tech training and knowledge to students are the right time for when they need it. Also offering the teacher training in the technology. I also see my role in this process as mentoring the teachers in the ways in which they can manage 20 students going off doing potentially 20 different projects at the same time. Technology can help teachers manage the individual communication between the teacher and the student as well as the collection of data along checkpoints to monitor the student’s progress through a project. For example, using Google Classroom to keep track of the activities happening with a project.

I do think that to be very effective and not be completely overwhelmed by these projects, technology will need to play a huge role. Yes, you can do things with paper but imagine if you as a teacher need two days to read over students research journals. If they are doing this with only paper then the students would either need to stop researching for two days or use another journal. If the teacher used technology the students could take photos of their research journal, share those photos with their teacher and then the students could continue with their research. Also, teachers could make this a process that happens frequently throughout the research, anytime a new “chunk” of research is gathered the students could submit it for feedback, which would give the teacher smaller checkpoints to give feedback to instead of large ones.

I think that many people worry that if we have students doing PBL and CBL nearly full time then there will be no need for teachers after all the students will be deciding what they are learning, how they are learning and how they are sharing that learning all on their own. The key element that the naysayers are forgetting is that students don’t just “know” how to do this. This is where teachers come it. While doing a PBL or CBL teachers could offer mini-lessons with small groups or the whole class when needed to teach a skill right at the perfect time when those students need it.

For example, teachers could offer a how to read data lesson for students who find their research is full of data. Which could lead to a lesson on how to collect data which could then help the students towards their goal of identifying problems and identifying solutions.

So in conclusion, I think that there is a place for PBL and CBL even in our younger grades and I do not see the role of the teacher as disappearing but morphing into something more along the lines of a Teacher Mentor who swoops in to help you when you need it and leaves you to discover, fail, scramble and succeed when you thought that you wouldn’t be able to.


“What Is Project Based Learning (PBL)?” What Is PBL? | Project Based Learning | BIE, Buck Institute for Education, 2017, http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl.

Delisle, Robert. “Chapter 1. What Is Problem-Based Learning?” What Is Problem-Based Learning?, ASCD, http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/197166/chapters/What_Is_Problem-Based_Learning%C2%A2.aspx.

“Key Ideas.” Challenge Based Learning, Digital Promise, cbl.digitalpromise.org/about/key-ideas/.

Hey, That’s My Job!

I started my readings this week by looking at the article written in 2007 on Edutopia titled What Is Successful Technology Integration?. While reading what immediately struck me is that while there are a couple of mentioned technologies that are not as heavily used today, the article is still relevant. What also struck me is that if you removed the date and gave that article to some teachers even 10 years on, they would be like “Wow, this is so relevant and new.” Which tells me two things. Firstly, that the articles points were valid in 2007 and are still valid in 2017. Secondly, that my job is safe for at least the foreseeable future!

As a Tech Integrationist (or IT Integrationist, or Tech Coach, or ICT Teacher or whatever term you are used to hearing!) I have had people tell me, “Oh, your job won’t exist soon because once all teachers will reach a point where they are integrating technology and they won’t need you.” Well, I disagree. I think that with the speed with which technology changes makes my job is safe for a while. I think that schools who take on the attitude of “We have everyone trained, so now we can eliminate the tech integration jobs because we don’t need them anymore.”, are doing a disservice to their teachers. They are leaving their teachers without the support that they will need to continue to move forward. Yes, they may be great at integrating technology at that point in time, but do you want to keep them at that same point for the next 5 years or do you want them to continue to develop and grow. I argue that if you want them to continue to develop and grow then you will continue to need Tech Integrators in your school.

Who is going to do the research? Who is going to challenge practices? Who is going to tell you “great you are at the Augmentation or the Modification step in the SAMR step of the SAMR model but what are you doing to move the Redefinition?” Who is going to keep track of the updates for applications and devices? Who is going to show teachers what is new and how they can tweak the practice that they are already doing to move themselves into better more authentic Tech Integration?

This article also made me think about that fact that many people do not know the difference between Technology Integration and Technology Implementation. I was a part of a group of educators who helped the IB develop the document titled Teaching and Learning with Technology and a big part of the early discussions were based on the difference between Integration and Implementation.

Another article I have saved from the past, is What’s the Difference Between “Using Technology” and “Technology Integration”? Which has a good visual to help see the difference between using technology vs integrating with technology?

I also like Jeff Utecht’s post titled I don’t want to integrate it, I want to embed it! I think his point is where all tech integrators what to be. Not an add-on that teachers use to ask for help but actually part of the process of planning for units from the ground up. Giving teachers that voice to remind them that they are embedding technology already but if they tweak this or that then they will be redefining their technology use, their curriculum, and their classrooms. Being able to make small changes to units to move technology use up the SAMR model instead of having to always suggest seemingly huge steps.

Our assignment this week is to look at the SAMR or the TPACK model and see where we are in it. This is where the “fun” part comes. Notice the “” marks! I say fun part with sarcasm because, how exactly can we do this? How should we rate ourselves and our technology use? That is a question that is asked repeatedly and I still don’t really know how best to answer it!

I generally go with something like. Well for Book Creator I would put myself in the level of Modification and Redefinition. But for iMovie, I would put myself in the realm of Augmentation and Modification. For me, it depends on the technology that I am using. It also depends on what I am doing with that technology and who I am working with. Many times I am working with a teacher and we are simply trying to move them from the Substitution to the Augmentation. I think because of this sometimes my own practice gets a bit stuck because until I have a large number of teachers above moving towards Modification and Redefinition, I am not challenged to move myself along either. Because I have found that sometimes I am too far removed from the lower steps and I intimidate teachers with suggestions because they are still in Substitution and what I am suggesting might be in Modification, which they are not ready for. So when I evaluate my own tech knowledge sometimes I find that I get stuck in a lower level than I would expect from myself.

For example, I have moved my knowledge of Google Sites from Substitution through Augmentation and I thought that I was getting closer to moving up the SAMR model but then I got feedback from my Course 3 Final Project. Some of my feedback from Ryan was:

“Your site is full of information, but if we look back at some of our learnings about visual literacy and design in this course, I feel like it may be a bit too text heavy. While it’s great to have lots of info, if it was turned into an actual resume it would be quite a few pages. Something to think about. In our quick click society, it may need to be paired back to a more visual experience. Could you think about it as a digital story? What story are you trying to tell via your website? The portfolio page is a great example of this as it tells the story of your work in an engaging, multimedia way.”

I hadn’t even thought about that fact that for most of my website I am simply in the Substitution stage. I have basically made a paper resume on a website. BORING! Some of this is because of my complete aversion to wanting to be on video. And some is simply because until another Tech Integrator looked at it and said “but, hey it isn’t really that new and innovative.” that I went, “Huh, So true! I hadn’t even realized that I was only in Substitution”. This is exactly why I think my job is safe for the foreseeable future, but what us Tech Integrators/Coaches have to do is help the directors, principals, board members, and HR departments understand is that there will never be a point where we are not needed if we are effectively moving technology towards being embedded into the school culture, curriculum, and pedagogy.

These two videos explain the SAMR and TPACK models by their creators.


“SAMR.” Grandview Instructional Technology, Grandview School District, http://www.csd4tech.com/samr.html.

Rao, Aditi. “What’s the Difference Between ‘Using Technology’ and ‘Technology Integration’?” TeachBytes, TeachBytes, 20 Apr. 2013, teachbytes.com/2013/03/29/whats-the-difference-between-using-technology-and-technology-integration/.

Koehler, Matthew. “TPACK Explained.” TPACK.ORG, TPACK.ORG, 9 June 2017, matt-koehler.com/tpack2/tpack-explained/.

“How to Apply SAMR.” FUTURE-U.org, future-u.org/samrmodel/.

Course 3: Final Project

When the course options for the final project came out I knew what I was going to do straight away. But then I noticed that it was not a GET option and so I was like, but hey a website is basically a multipage infographic and that can be made using a Google Tool so why can’t I do that? Which resulted in a quick email to Ryan and a change on COETAIL’s part to what could be done for the final project. YEA!

So off I went to finish building my website, which I commonly refer to as my “Get me a Job” website. Even though I am currently not job hunting, I have found that if I keep my site up to date it is easier in the long run. While I had the skeleton of my site build before course 3 started, but I have chosen review the basic website design using the skills that this course has covered. I have also decided to add an infographic to my arsenal when getting a job.

As we all know when you go international teacher job hunting it can generally involve a job fair. And that job fair involves having multiple copies of your resume ready to hand out to recruiters. I have always hated the idea of creating more paper that will end in the recycle bin when we all know that recruiters have access to our complete files through the job fair databases.

My website is one way to solve this but I was still thinking that there needed to be something that I could hand a recruiter. Then I decided that I will make an A5 sized card infographic like resume. This would be what I put into folders and hand out in the “pick me, pick me for an interview” part of the job fair. I think that this would serve several purposes. The first, as an eye catcher since not many people will do it (Unless lots of folks read and love this post!). The second, as an “Ah, thank you I hated having that stack of papers given to me by every teacher that I don’t need/want!” from the recruiters.

So how did the learning from this course impact my changes in my website design? Well, I am looking at it more critically, how many scrolls does it take to get to the end?

How can I use my white space better? How can I make the site interesting within the limits of the current Google Sites? How can I make my website visual? These are all of the questions that I asked myself before making any changes. What I did forget to do though is take before screenshots!

One of the ways that I tried to reduce the scrolling was on my experience page, once you get past my current job you will notice that the Teaching Responsibilities and Additional Responsibilities are side by side. That shortens the page and allows the viewer to see the job title at the same time as reading most of the responsibilities.

For my infographic, I decided to use Canva, because I knew that I would not be able to create my own clean graphic design in something like google Drawings yet. I do hope that Google develops a similar like feature with visual templates that will allow you to use google. The biggest issue with a tool like Canva is that there are lots and lots of choices. One of the things that I like about Google Sites right now is that there aren’t many choices! It actually makes it much easier for me to decide on elements and layouts.

As a Google Trainer I would need to be familiar with all elements of the G Suite, by building and maintaining websites using Google Sites that I use for personal and school use, I am familiar enough with them so that I can use that knowledge to teach students and teachers how to use Sites. I have already taught one workshop on Google Sites at the European Summit by Apps Events in Munich, Germany in September. My familiarity with the product helped when I opened the session up to questions because I was confident with my skills with the product.

So please have a look and see what you think?

Cary’s “Get Me a Job Site”

And here is the first draft of my A5 card infographic idea

Yellow Photographer Creative Resume.jpg

So You Want to Create an Infographic in One Lesson…

So this week we were tasked with finding an infographic that we would use in our teaching and then write a blog post about it. I think I would like to take a different path to this assignment. I would like to write a post about how to help teachers understand the elements involved in infographics so that when they ask me to come to their class for a 40 min lesson with the expectation that I will be able to teach the skills and then the students will be able to produce an infographic, that they have wildly underestimated the amount of time needed for such a task.

Ryan Harwood stated in his post titled Infographic ReRun that

“When I’ve used them in the past, students have absolutely loved them. I’ve even taken a shot or two at having students create their own. From that experience I learned that it takes a good bit of explaining and patience”

I completely agree with this point and have found that oftentimes part of the reason for the failure is that teachers do not allow enough time. Also, teachers do not do the prep work beforehand.

Creating an infographic is a complex thing. There is a writing component, a data component, a graphic design component, and a printing component to consider (I am sure that there are more!). So, let’s lay them all out.

Writing Component

In order for a graphic design to be effective the amount of text on it must be short and purposeful. Being able to take a large amount of data and explain it in a few keywords is a writing element that takes time for students to develop. In actuality, it is probably very good to start them in elementary school doing this when the act of writing is harder for them so they want to write less! We have to teach them how to be more purposeful and meaningful with their words, all the time reminding them not to copy someone else’s thoughts and ideas.

For the writing of an infographic to be effective the author has to know when the right time to add writing is and when is the right time to visualize that writing with an image. Visualising writing is not something that many people do. The Sketchnote movement is helping with this. Books like The Sketchnote Handbook are helping people get started and develop their skills. I have begun to try this myself when I am note taking. I have found it difficult to get into a habit of doing. I have also found it difficult to use images that would translate into an understanding to another person looking at my note.

I can see the writing component of a good infographic being whole writing unit of study and that is before we get to any of the other infographic components.

Data Component

So you have found your research, written some of your information out. Possibly drawn some of that information. But what are you going to choose to represent as data in a visual way. How are you going to represent that data? Plain old bar charts and pie graphs or are you going to go for something that more closely represents that the data is about? How are you going to make that data make sense in the wider world?

How many times have you looked at an infographic closely and realized that while the images were flashy they were misleading the information that they represented. Check out this article on the 11 Most Useless and Misleading Infographics on the Internet. We all know that data is only as good as it is represented and anyone who has taken a statistics class can tell you that you can make data say what you want if you finagle it! Teaching students about good data representation is again another whole unit of study.

Graphic Design Component

So ignoring that fact that graphic design is an entire degree field, think about what students like to produce. Something quick and simple. Yes, there are always those students who spend double/triple the amount of time on anything requiring drawing or design, but for the most part students are happy with slapping some tape on a poster to stick elements on even if it looks like they just slapped some tape on it.

Getting students to think about ways to cut the CRAP out of their design is a whole series of lessons at looking at bad designs and good designs and picking out the good elements. Then you have to get them to look critically at designs that they have made. Try as we might, we will still have that child who feels that neon colors are the way to go no matter how many times you or their classmates try to lead them away from it.

So you understand graphic design principals, now you have to lay one out. Spacial awareness issues come to the forefront here! This is when you get to see if students have actually understood the design theory and have decided to use it or completely ignore it. You have to find the balance between the writing and the data piece. How they choose to represent their information here is key to their audience understanding their infographic.

Then you still have to figure out a decent tech tool like the ones mentioned in The Educator’s Guide to Infographics and teach your students how to use it which is a whole other lesson. Which leads me to the last part, printing.

Printing Component

This is the point in the blog post where I tell you why I actually don’t like infographics. They are great online where you slowly scroll through screen by screen looking at information (Which by the way is a key element of the graphic design layout). But then you have decided, hey this is a good infographic, I would like to somehow put this up in my room to reference for my students. Like this one from ISTE called Citizenship in the Digital Age. After having a Digital Citizenship (DC) lesson or two I might want to put this up in my room to reference when reminding my students about DC, so I download it and open it. And this is when it all goes to pot!

Because anyone who has ever tried to print an infographic knows that they don’t fit on one sheet of paper and are readable. You can have readable and on multiple pieces of paper, if you can figure out how to get your computer to even print that way. Or you can have it on one sheet but even elementary students with 20/20 vision will need a magnifying glass to read.

And herein lies the problem with using infographics in school. Many times there is no good way for students to work with them. Yes, there are loads of digital tools that will allow the student to view and annotate and infographic during the discovery stage, but part of graphic design is understanding how the follow the entire design goes together. That is not something that you can see on a computer or printed unless of course, you have figured out how to get it to print full sizes on multiple pages, good luck with that!

So when I have teachers ask me if I can come in and teach infographics in a lesson my answer is always what do you want me to actually teach? The skill of the writing component, the skill of the data component or the design component. I usually get the response of ‘Oh, can you do all three?’ in a 40 min lesson no less! This is where the practice that my school has of asking teachers to write their own mentor texts of any style of writing that they have not done comes in handy! I ask them to make me something that would be similar to what they would want from the students and they quickly realize that one 40 minute lesson is not going to cut it!

That is the point where I get to facilitate the conversation about what planning needs to be done to help the teacher create infographics in their classrooms.


Biller, Abhimanyu Das and Diana. “11 Most Useless And Misleading Infographics On The Internet.” io9, io9.Gizmodo.com, 26 Feb. 2015, io9.gizmodo.com/11-most-useless-and-misleading-infographics-on-the-inte-1688239674.

Fingal, Diana. “Infographic: Citizenship in the Digital Age.” ISTE, ISTE, 12 Oct. 2017, www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=192&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=EdTekHub.

“The Sketchnote Handbook – Designer Mike Rohde.” Rohdesign, rohdesign.com/handbook.

Digital Storytelling: Sharing the Understanding

How could digital storytelling be used in your classroom/subject area? This is the question that we were posted this week. At first, I was a bit like “Arg, I don’t want to do this.” And I spent the whole week ignoring the post. That was until Thursday during our PYP Exhibition Workshop we were tasked with taking an element of the Exhibition and inquiring into what it meant. So here I am sitting in the workshop deciding on Action, creating a 1 minute iMovie about action and presenting it. When I sat down after presenting it dawned on me that had actually created a digital story to share with the workshop members.

When I realized that, I also realized that I have used this skill several times in the past with students and that I find it a fantastic way to do several things.

  1. Get inside their heads. In this example, a student is explaining how they solved a math problem. How often do you get to hear a student think out an entire math problem so that you can identify what they were thinking as they made a mistake? How much more powerful feedback could you give students if you could correct only the thinking around the mistake and not have to reteach the entire concept to them. This resource was created using Explain Everything.
  2. Allow them to share their learning before they are able to write. Digital Stories created by students who are developmentally too young to write is an amazing thing. Hearing and seeing what the students create and the complexity of their stories helps teachers to develop their story writing skills so that when they are finally physically able to write they are not trying to do both the learning about how to write a story and the learning about how to write words on paper. This is also a great way for students with motor skill and learning issues to continue to develop the skill of creating a good story without being confined by having to do it also on paper. This resource was created using Puppet Pals Director’s Pass.
  3. Allow students to share what they have understood about a concept. For a final assessment of student understanding in a unit for a Kindergarten class, the students worked as a small group to create a water cycle video. This allowed their teacher to see if they could identify and explain the parts of the water cycle. While this took quite a while to teach them how to do the videos that were produced allowed the teachers to quickly assess the student’s understandings of the concepts. Also while recording there were opportunities to address misconceptions that the students had and reinforce the vocabulary around the teaching. This resource was created using Puppet Pals Director’s Pass.
  4. Allow students more speaking practice when learning a new language. I have seen this be used as a powerful tool to improve language learning in a classroom and had teachers tell me how much faster the student’s speaking skills grow when they use digital storytelling and digital tools to practice their speaking skills. By making digital stories the students are able to all practice speaking at the same time in a classroom. A teacher is able to hear all students speak. The students are able to hear themselves and correct their own mistakes more easily. Making digital stories in language classes also give students more confidence and practice so that when they do speak out loud to their whole class they feel better prepared. This resource was created using Puppet Pals Director’s Pass.

While all of these are great one thing to consider is what do we do with all of these digital stories? As the article, The State of Storytelling in the Internet Age makes the point that while it is now tremendously easier to fact check stories and information on the internet it is also equally as easy to post anything. Leading to comments like

“I read it on the internet” can sometimes be synonymous with “it’s not true.”

So how do we manage all of these digital stories that we are publishing on the internet? Do we publish them to the internet? Do with all of these stories? And how do we keep them from becoming just more static noise on the internet?

I think that this is when we have to teach students the importance of making a story to show a skill vs making a story to share a story to the world. When they are making stories to show a skill they may have multiple low quality digital stories throughout the course of a year that show the progress of their skill, their story making ability, and their creativity.

But do all of the individual stories need to be published or should a final higher quality version be created and shared? How do they know what is a publishable piece? How do they publish it? Should it be public or private? These are some of the key questions for digital storytelling that are just as important to teach students as “How do you tell a good story?”.

“Just Kill Me Now!”, Death by Slideshow

After watching David Phillip’s TEDx Talk about How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint I realized that maybe we are doing it wrong. I don’t mean creating presentations. I mean teaching students that they need to know how their presentation will be viewed before they start. “Is there going to be a live audience or is it designed for the audience to read?” How many of us have asked students that question? I wonder if telling students to use Slides for things that are designed to be read is in and of itself part of the problem.

Instead, we need to look at other options for making things that are designed to be read by the audience. There are many ways that we can create resources that are designed to be read. For example, Book Creator is now available on Chrome, why not make books for information that are designed to be read. Books are designed to be read, therefore people have a different attitude towards the way they engage with them. When an audience is given a book they are expecting to take time and read each element on the page. That is what we do with books.

If our goal is to present then our audience expects to listen. Listening and reading are not always hand in hand. The point that David Phillips and this blog post titled The Scientific Reason Why Bullets Are Bad for Presentations where Dr. Atherton is quoted as saying

“that when you accompany a lecture with bullet point slides, your audience will switch between reading and listening. This type of task switching is cognitively exhausting.”

The article is mainly discussing the woes of bullet points but the principles apply to sentences on presentations as well which is one of David Phillips’s things to avoid.

Basically, they are all saying the same thing less, less, less. Not less slides as David Phillips says.

“Amount of slides in a powerpoint has never been the problem, the amount of objects on a slide is the problem”

Less stuff on the slides. Making sure that the slide is simply something to visually represent the speaking point.

So reflecting back on a slideshow that I created at the beginning of the year. The original plan was to have some time to present it to all of the ES teachers during the orientation days. That time got shrunk to 5 minutes and so my slides went from 24 slides to 3. The 3 slides that I did present were very minimalist since I planned on speaking to them. But the rest of the slides were shared with teachers with the expectation that they read them.

Now I think that I should have created another type of resource. With that in mind, I am going to reimage the slideshow as a book in the new Book Creator for Chrome app. I would share that but it turns out that there are so many more options in Book Creator that I have fallen down the rabbit hole and hope to come up sometime around the Course 3 final project!

I can show you this Slides presentation:

Which I originally thought wasn’t too bad but then I think I have improved it with some modifications to things like the titles on each slide.

A couple of things. This is designed for a workshop that I do so the URL in the top right corner is helpful because people occasionally join in the middle of the session. Also, I do these as visual references and then talk the audience through the building of a sample site. I find that if I do it live they lose the spot, so if I have images they can look back up to see where to go. So the first slide is generally up for at least 5-6 minutes as everyone is coming in so it is not really part of the presentation, the same with the last slide.

PS. The reason that I don’t embed YouTube videos in my blog posts, but link to them instead can be found by reading this blog post Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story.

PSS. Just for fun! Death by Powerpoint comedy skit!