Tashkent – November 2019

On November 21st I set off on another adventure in my professional journey. When I was in Serbia, Sarah mentioned to me that she was planning on hosting a Summit at her school in November. I said, “ Hey keep me in mind, I would love to help”.

Well, it took a few weeks for her to get confirmation that it was happening but she emailed me and said, “You still willing to come?” I said “Yup!” and asked if there were plans to host a staff bootcamp. Turns out that her school was interested in doing just that, so I spread the word at my school and got three secretaries interested in going!

On the 21st of November off we set. We all ended up on the same flight out of Moscow to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Since the flight options weren’t great it meant that we got to Tashkent with a whole day to spend hanging out. Check out my travel blog for more on the adventures I had outside of the Summit!

One of the nice things about going on one of these summits with colleagues is that you get to see how they grow over the course of a summit. The three ladies that traveled with me to this summit were secretaries from the school from different areas within the school which made it interesting because I wanted to see what they were able to take away from the summit.

The summit started on Friday with a boot camp for the staff and while they were in their session, I was able to go on a tour of the school with the Tech Director.

At about lunchtime, Sarah arrived back at school after picking up Kim. Bogdan was already at the school because he was in charge of the Staff Bootcamp. So we got to talking and having conversations about our jobs. This is one of the things that I love about attending these summits – having time to talk with colleagues who are in similar jobs and who face similar issues in their job.

Once Sarah and Kim and I sat down and started talking, we quickly realized that we really wanted to find a way to do this more often with each other – share ideas, have conversations, just talk about our jobs and support each other. So for example, we started talking about 3D printing and Kim was able to share some really awesome resources and Sarah was able to share some really outstanding tips and tricks that she’d learned from having 3D printers at her school in Amsterdam.

Which is all very good because we are in the super early stages with the idea of 3D printing at our school. Learning some of the do’s and don’ts before we get a printer will hopefully save us time and effort when it actually arrives.

We also got to help Sarah with a lesson that she was working on with a class. She was finishing up a lesson that the 2nd graders were doing in support of their unit. She asked me to help a group of kids figure out a way to take their Google slides and make them into an invitation. She left me alone with the kids and I asked them what their invitation should look like. They talked about some designs and they thought about what the paper should look like. They finally decided on “a four-fold card”, but they only had three slides so we had to make a ‘please come’ slide. We folded a piece of paper so that we would know what the card would look like. Then we played around with which way the pictures would go. It was really interesting because at one point I knew that when you print one of these you have to have one image upside down.

I said to the kids “I know there is a problem that you guys are not gonna see until after we print it, so, in an effort to save paper, I’m gonna try to show you what that problem might be.” I took their little four-sided folded invitation and I wrote the number one, two, three, and four on each of the sides.

When we unfolded the paper they realized that one of the numbers was upside down. The kids were like “Oh, what are we going to do?”

I said, “Well, we could flip one of the slides upside down.”

They were like, “Can you do that?”

I said “yeah” and so I showed them how to flip one of the slides upside down.

They helped me do that and also fix it so that it was the way the slide originally looked because when you flip a slide it doesn’t flip exactly.

Then we printed one and tested it. They decided that they approved of the design. Then, they thought that they actually wanted four different prints because they wanted the front of the card to be different and not always the same slide. They had three slides and they wanted each slide to be first on the prints. We rearranged the slides so that we had three different print layouts. Then they wanted a “thank you, please come” kind of note, so we added all of that to the layouts. We printed them and then made sure that we got everything right and that they folded correctly. Finally, we printed a bunch off. They learned how to fold them which is kind of funny because once they folded some of them, some of the other kids began to finish up and they had a little bit of an assembly line going where they were teaching other kids how to do all the folds. They were super excited about all their invitations and wanted to immediately take them around to everybody.

So the next day, Saturday, was the day of the actual summit, which was basically a school summit for Sarah’s school with all of her teachers and staff members who were interested in coming to it. Sarah had planned a Bootcamp for the Sunday as well so some teachers came only on Saturday, some only on Sunday, and some came both days. Saturday was a typical summit where there were different 45-minute workshops and teachers could choose which ones they wanted to go to because there were four of us presenting. It was actually really good because it meant that in each block of time one of us had a bit of time off and could wander and see what other people were presenting.

It also meant that Sarah didn’t have to be one of the people who gave a workshop, though she did. She made a point of telling her staff members before she started the summit that if they were interested in something that the other speakers were doing to go to their workshop over something with her because she worked at the school and they could see her any time. I thought it was a really good point to make because I think some teachers would have gravitated towards her because she was known and familiar when in reality it was a good opportunity for them to hear different voices and get different tips and information from different sources.

I presented three different sessions. Google sheets 101, calendar, email tips, and tricks, and introduced deduction to Google Drive. Two of those were sessions I had never presented before which was totally fine because it gave me a chance to create resources and to learn the best way to aim those sort of beginner presentations for those elements.

For example, in sheets 101, I have to be very careful not to go too fast with sheets because a lot of people do not find them intuitive, but confusing. I am at quite a proficient level with the sheets, so I don’t find them that way and I tend to jump and assume people know things when they really don’t. So as Maureen told me before I left Moscow “Cary, remember to go slow. Go slow.” So I kept that in my mind and I tried very hard to do just that!

Calendar and email was also interesting because I use them personally but I don’t use them professionally so it was interesting to try to figure out which features are on both sides and there were a couple of things that I needed to get Sarah to give me screenshots for because we don’t use them at my school. I can’t open Gmail on my school account and look at the options that are available. Also, because we don’t have certain things set up in calendar I can’t see those features. So it was interesting to try to create resources for something that I theoretically know exists but don’t actually have practice with. My introduction to Google Drive was just a basic one that I’ve done in the past which is always really nice. Surprisingly, people who have been in drive for a while often attend because they feel like they’ve missed the basics on Google Drive and they don’t use it to the best of their ability, so they come and they always learn something which is really rewarding.

It is actually great to have people in a group who are mixed because then they give tips to each other and it’s not all me talking which is lovely and sort of the whole way Apps Events works. I mean, we tell people, “If you’re in a session and you decide 10 minutes in that this session is the wrong level for you or it’s not the right topic for you or you really know it all then leave and go find another one that’s better for you.” So, the whole workshop summit system with apps events is around the attendees choosing what’s best for them and advocating for themselves.

We as presenters really don’t care if someone gets up and leaves in the middle of our session or comes in and joins in the middle of our session. We plan for that. We sort of expect it. Because of this attitude we also don’t mind if halfway through a session everybody in the room sort of lets it be known that they need the session to change direction in some way. For example, for everybody in the room the session’s too basic and so can you teach us other stuff or the session’s too advanced can you go back and teach us more basic stuff, or we really, really need as a group to learn about this feature, for example. That’s one of the things I love about these Apps Events workshops is how they’re so completely agile and fluid enough that we can really take into consideration the audience that we have in our session and we can adapt and change for them as we need to. I think that’s one thing that I love about doing these workshops because I love having that agility in classrooms and I love doing that and teaching adults is similar.

On Sunday we went back to the school and Sarah, Kim, and Bogdon gave a Bootcamp for the staff. Kim and Bogdon were the ones mainly giving the Bootcamp. Sarah was supporting both of them and making sure that they didn’t need anything. I went to school for a little while just to make sure everybody got started and also to bring my suitcase because I was going to be spending Sunday night with Sarah. Then I went into Tashkent so now you have got to go back to my personal blog to learn about Tashkent!

After a few hours I came back to the school and was there when the Bootcamp was finishing up and what was really interesting was all three days all of the staff members at the school were buzzing about what they were learning, how they were learning, and the possibilities of what they were learning. I was out in a sort of foyer area several times and teachers didn’t always know who I was. It was interesting because they were talking freely around me and no one was complaining about how the PD was not helpful or they didn’t understand why they had to come to it or “oh my gosh, why am at school on a Saturday”. It was all super buzzy and like, “Oh I got an idea for this…’ and ‘I could do this…’ and ‘Oh I want to do this in my classroom on Monday’. That is really, really awesome because that helps teachers motivate themselves to try things more than anything else. I found for example that your principal telling you that you have to do something does not motivate you as much as you going to a workshop and seeing something really cool and wanting to come back and try it. It was really nice to see that even after working a full week, having training on both Saturday and Sunday and knowing that they were going to work on Monday the teachers were still buzzy, excited, interested, and motivated. It was really awesome..

On Sunday, Kim left for Munich to go back home and Sarah and I had half of the day to continue to chat. Even though we had three packed days we were still scrambling for time to do some talking and just brainstorm some thoughts together. In the middle of it, we realized that we needed some way to organize all this stuff so I started a Google Drive, a spreadsheet, a document and we sort of got ourselves in a position where hopefully we’re organized and we can share information with each other in some way. And then Christmas break happened, so we’re still working on that and hopefully that something will continue soon!

All in all, it was a great summit and it was awesome to be able to present so many times to a staff of people who all had a mutual goal of understanding and learning. It was also super awesome to spend time with colleagues who have the same job.

Warsaw – December 2019

On December 5th and 6th I had the opportunity to visit the American School of Warsaw with a focus for looking at their design studio setups. We had a very loose plan to watch a lesson or two but mostly spend time with Adam, Caroline, and Michael talking about their programs.

It was a great experience to spend time with Adam who had set up spaces from scratch in the middle school, but who had also helped the elementary school teacher stock their space and carts. This opportunity allowed me to discuss what they had gotten right, what they had gotten wrong and what they would do differently if they were starting from scratch. Which gave me lots of opportunities to think, question and edit plans we had.

It was also great to see the school that was only just ahead of where we were and not 15 steps ahead of where we are. Many times we go visit schools who are at sort of at an endpoint in their journey and it’s very difficult to see what it might look like along the way but with Warsaw their elementary is at a sort of in-between point so it was nice to be able to see sort of what the middle might look like. This gave us the chance to actually see next steps and not just imagine them because when you see it just at the end, it’s hard to imagine how they got there.

As far as spaces, they are in the same spot as we are, a sort of designated early years space, but the upper elementary is working out of mobile carts. This gave us a chance to think along with them about what would be a good elementary space, what that space might look like, and what it could include. They’ve already begun this thinking so it was nice to be able to sort of join in the discussion with them.


While we only visited for a day and a half we had many great conversations which helped clarify my thinking around things like equipment lists, what to buy, and what not to buy. I also have a clearer idea of ways to progress with some of the vocabulary that is introduced around the purpose of the room. For example, I loved that they used the PYP Approaches to Learning (AtL) as the skills that they focus on teaching in the space. I think this is a great way to focus the purpose of the learning that happens in the space.

Helping to us embed skills learned it into the curriculum instead of ‘adding another thing’ to the pile of teaching already occurring. ATLs are transferable to all subject areas and are also something that we’ve already been using. All in all it was a great visit and it motivated me to progress further with purchasing and stocking the room.


It All Takes Work

What’s a PLN you ask? Well, a Personal Learning Network is an essential part of being an educator these days, in my opinion. I can’t imagine how I would have survived the last 5.5 years without one. PLN’s allow you to connect with other educators in your field or just other like-minded educators. They are not always in similar jobs but generally have similar styles. My PLN journey started out small. A few contacts I had made through professional development (PD) that I would regularly email and ask questions. It began to grow when a Google Trainer told me this story about how to use Twitter. This started a journey that is continually developing as I wrote about in my post “It’s all about the PLN

One of my goals in that post was to become less of a lurker and participate more. I can’t say that I have made huge progress with that but I did try to make more effort during this course.

Staying involved in my PLN is what helped me complete my Course 5 project though. Without my PLN I would not have been able to move the project into Redefinition. It all started with this tweet to my PLN. This tweet resulted in two teachers working with me to help complete my project.

Another place that I am active in my PLN is Facebook. At first, Facebook was only for personal stuff. But now there are some very good PLN groups on Facebook and I find myself engaging with them more and more. For example, this one for Book Creator. Instead of traditional twitter chats, they have their chats online in a book. So instead of answering questions in posts, you answer questions by making pages in the book. Now with their new collaboration tool, it is even easier! I wasn’t going to be awake during this online discussion so I snuck in and added my answers to the book the morning before they held the chat!

I also try to share my expertise when I can through my PLN. I try helping out teachers who have questions when I can. My one caveat is that I make sure that I read the comments to see if my answer has already been stated. I hate nothing more than repeating what someone else has already said! That is what the “like” button is for!

Here are a few more examples of how I have participated in the Book Creator Facebook group.


My PLN is also a place for me to grow and develop. I learn new things every time I engage with my PLN. I am constantly forwarding myself posts to reread and review. I use Pocket to help collect articles to review at a later date or just collect ones that I may want to reference in the future.

My inbox in my school mail is full of articles that I want to re-read or share with my teachers. Sharing information with my teachers is actually one of the main reasons that I stay on top of latest changes. If I can give teachers information that will help make their lives easier than that is one of my goals!

One way that my teaching partner and I have been doing that is through interactive Google Drawings. I totally stole this idea from one of my PLN Peep Carrie Zimmer who creates Tech Tidbits. My teaching partner and I started creating our own. Here is one example, if you click on the link underneath you will be redirected to the interactive image (click around, though the cursor doesn’t change pretty much every image is a link).

Another way that I have begun to help my teachers develop their PLN skills is to create an in-house Seesaw Chat group. It is starting out with a few select teachers as a place that they can go and help themselves if needed by asking each other questions. It will also be a place where I share Seesaw information that I think they may want to see from my other sources. I think this has a lot of potential, but I will need to see where it goes in the future to see if it fully develops!

When the Going Gets Tough!

I recorded this podcast about a week after our Rigorous PBL training. Since then I have had more time to explore using the idea of Surface, Deep, and Transfer in actual planning. One of the things that I have noticed is that just like trying to get to the R in SAMR is difficult, trying to get to the Transfer level is also difficult. This makes me wonder if this is why teachers struggle so much to get to these levels? Is it because it is one more difficult element in a long list of difficult elements that make up education?

Is it similar to why some parents, even though they know better, do things to make their lives easier, like letting their phone be a babysitter? Michael mentions John Hattie’s Meta-Analysis and that basically having any teacher in a classroom is on some level effective. I wonder if this isn’t why education has become so stagnate. We just keep doing what we have always done because it isn’t ineffective. I think this is part of the reason why I have stayed overseas. Other than the lifestyle and travel which are personal reasons. The professional reasons are that I am not interested in spending my time in a school that is just doing the minimal effective techniques to teach students.

I do know that I don’t have to go internationally to be able to be a part of the change that I think education needs, but I do know that international schools do play a role in leading some changes. I also know that there are many international schools out there that are doing just the minimal to get students education like any other school system.

I like to think of myself as someone who is motivated to be a part of the change in education. I am actively participating in my school’s research and development teams. I am actively staying on top of trending changes in my field. Do I do this because I am a single subject teacher and I have more time? Do I do this because as part of any technology job you have to stay on top of the tech and it changes so often? Do I do this because I am self-motivated and this is just my personality? I really think that it is a combination of all of the above and I hope that the drive never changes. I do know that the drive has become more developed with the development of my digital PLN. Until I started developing my PLN through social media, I was only able to stay on top of things through face to face PD and information from other teachers. Now I am getting information nearly as soon as it happens and am part of discussions sometimes from the very beginning.

I also feel that a huge part of doing this effectively is being collaborative. Working with others either in your field, school, grade level, whoever. Find someone who can help you and work with them to bat ideas around. When I was trying to come up with how to move projects that were apart of my Course 5 project along the SAMR model it too me and my teaching partner both batting around ideas before we could figure out how to move things along. One of us was not enough, doing things in isolation for me is not enough, I need to bounce ideas around with another person so that I can think through them more thoroughly and work out all of the elements needed. That is one thing I like about the international schools that I have worked in. I have been very lucky to have always had colleagues who are willing to collaborate with me!

I think that this is a great time to be in education because of the rate of information sharing and the speed at which change can happen, there is no excuse for not being a part of change if you want to be. You only have to take the leap and challenge yourself to do the hard things. Like, try to figure out how to take lessons involving technology to Redefinition and how to move your students into a place were Transferring their knowledge is normal and just part of what they do.

Is it hard? Yes! Should we do it anyway? Absolutely!


Is Global Collaboration Easier?

EQ: How can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our curricular areas to address this facet of 21st Century Learning?

When I read this question I think it is actually written backwards. It should be “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”

First, let me start by saying I don’t like the term “21st Century Learning” because in my head I think back to classrooms that were around when I was in university. Each “21st century class” was given one of the latest iMacs. I always thought that these were a waste of money because all I ever really saw them used for were Accelerated Reader tests. To be fair the tech was slow and the training for teachers was nonexistent. I think that we need a new term because I think a lot of teachers have images of pre-2000 things when they hear that term too. As George Couros mentions in his blog post 21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning have schools really changed? He has seen some great physical changes but has the teaching and learning changed? We need a new term that isn’t associated with “stuff” that is thrown at/into schools.

So back to the topic at hand. “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. I think that technology and the connectivity that comes with tech plays a huge role in this. I was recently given a Geography Journal from a fellow teacher who had been sent it. It was the sort of thing that was supposed to pass from person to person than before May be sent back to the student. While it was a paper and pencil notebook, not a single person who had added to the journal did so solely with paper and pencil. Every entry had images, maps, and facts that the authors had used technology to make or find. I know that I had to Google many facts about Moscow in order to give the student the geography information that she needed. I did enjoy the paper and pencil aspect of it but I also told her that I was getting a hand cramp by writing it all out since I spent most of my days typing now instead of writing!

I wonder what could have been done to add to the journal. For example, could the Journal have been electronic? A Google Drive folder for example with a doc that each person made a copy of and wrote their entry on. Then pictures and facts could have been linked to interesting pages about the area for the student to explore. For the paper/pencil aspect, each participant could be asked to send the student a postcard from the location that they are at. The issue with this method would be the amount of data. The journal I had, had only about 5 entries. That is a manageable amount of data for a middle school student to sift through. Opening this project up by using something like Drive could overwhelm the student with data.

Doing this project electronically could help the project’s speed and collaboration. Electronic work means you aren’t waiting for a physical notebook to be mailed around. Also, electronic projects can allow for collaboration. For example, if a group of geography teachers did the project at the same time but in different locations, they could have each of their groups of students participate with each other. This could be done again with something like a Google Slide, Doc or Spreadsheet. Even apps like Book Creator or Explain Everything would work to make this project collaborative. Students could share draft projects with each other and build different elements together for a final collaborative book or movie.

So back to the question, “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. Most certainly the tools of 21st Century Learning have made global collaboration easier. But I think that we still have the same issues we have always had, getting teachers to agree to participate. I have done several collaborative projects with teachers in different schools and the hardest thing is always getting ourselves as teachers organized and giving up the classroom time needed to complete the project. The timing is always an issue because it never seems like the two or more classes plan to do the activity at the same point in the year. But with the tool we have now like G Suite, we can more easily organize and share work across the world.

This connects me to an article that I read this week, What Makes a Question Essential? This article gives some great examples of some questions that would make a global collaborative project a great way to look at not only the responses but the perspectives of the responses. If two or more classes in different areas were to inquire into one of these questions as part of their collaboration they would produce something that would allow the teachers who are supervising it an almost unlimited amount of material to build upon. After all of the data was collected and shared time could be spent looking at that information and asking more questions. The collaboration could continue for an almost unlimited amount of time.

The French Ladies

Last week I was lucky to have been able to once again host some teachers from a school in Lyon, France. Cité Scolaire Internationale is a school that is interested in developing their iPad program to help make it as effective as it can be. My relationship with the teachers at this school started three years ago when Emily sent a message to the International School Teachers group on Facebook.

Emily very casually sent a message out, asking if anyone in Europe with a 1 to 1 iPad program would be willing to have some teachers come for a visit. I responded, and that was three years ago.

This year I hosted three different teachers. Sarah came on Monday and Tuesday, Chloe on Wednesday and Julie on Friday. Because of the nature of the their school these three “french ladies” as I kept introducing them, teach several different grade levels. Luckily for them my week is very spread out so they were able to see a variety of classes. Also it was a great time to come as it was the beginning of a unit which is generally a time that I introduce new things. This week I introduced the grade four and five blogs.

Sarah, Chloe and Julie were also able to see around the school and talk to other teachers about language and how it is taught in our school. As their focus is on English language learning with their students, I hope it was helpful for them to be able to see some of how language is embedded into our curriculum.

What I love about these visits is that it gives me the opportunity to share ideas with teachers. I was put on the spot at least once when I was asked, “What would you do for …”. I love that! I love having to think of a way to help a teacher embed technology into a lesson in a way that they may not have thought about before. All three of the teachers asked me about Book Creator, which is one of my favorite apps, it is so versatile. I was able to give them a new way to consider it as a resource and well as show them some of it’s new features.

Through talking to them I can see that they are on the cusp of being ready to implement the Google Apps. They were able to see how we have implemented it and how ingrained it has become as both a word processing system as well as file storage.

Since I began using Google Classroom this year it has made such a difference in the way we manage the documents that the students are using. For me it has improved how I manage the work that is turned in to me. It gives me one place to go to find documents from a class, not just from everyone who has shared it with me. I also like the fact that I can write out the directions so that the students aren’t responsible for remembering it from only listening to it. I think as well it has helped me plan lessons better by allowing me to share the resources that I used both in the lesson and during the lesson.

I think that the next visit needs to be me going to Lyon! Hope to see you soon, ladies!

Visit to Dar

On Tuesday, I was able to visit the International School of Tanganyika.  I was a guest of my friend who teaches in the fourth grade.  I was glad to see that she has a set of 6 laptops in her room full time. She had been ill the week before so I offered to show her kids Timetoast, as she is doing a unit of inquiry on Ancient Civilizations.

So we borrowed some laptops from a neighbouring teacher and I quickly showed her students the website.  They were excited to give it a go.  They looked for dates in books that they had related for their unit and worked on putting them into their timeline.

And of course as always with tech, issues started immediately!  Even though I have had at least 16 signed into one account before it started saying too many people were on.  No worries, sorted that by using my school’s log in.  We also ran into the issue that the students were finding lots of BC dates which Timetoast doesn’t accept.  When we explained that they would just have a to read their timelines backwards, they were like “Okay!”.  The students just rolled with the punches!

One thing that I did notice this time was that Timetoast has added a collaboration feature which I am excited to give a shot when I get home!