Three in One

MissProfe is reflecting on her role in the classroom after reading Kelly Christopherson’s post about the same topic. Although I left a comment for MissProfe I wanted to post it here because I realized that I’m not just a teacher, I’m three teachers: I’m a technology teacher, an international school teacher and a middle school teacher. All three roles are wrapped up into one position, but they can have different objectives. It’s all about the balance.

From a tech teacher’s point of view:

I always like to say that I teach students how to learn with technology. It doesn’t really matter to me if they become the all-time expert on whatever tool we’re working with at the moment – after all, what are the chances that they’ll be using the exact same tool, same version, 5 years from now? All that matters to me is that they can learn how to use the next tool that will be developed, and the tool after that, and the ones we never dreamed would be possible.

From an international school teacher’s point of view:

We have so much transition in the international school classroom, both students and teachers rotating in and out. All I want is for students that leave my classroom to feel comfortable and confident with technology. They don’t have to be the best, they just know that they can tackle the next challenge that comes along – with the next teacher, in the next school, in the next country.

From a middle school teacher’s point of view:

I want students to have fun, to be excited, to be interested in learning more, to enjoy technology as part of their daily life. To me, middle school is about exposure to new skills and possibilities, about enthusing students in areas they may not be naturally interested, and showing them different ways to learn and have fun. I’m a cheerleader for technology.

I realize that pretty much everything I’ve written here is already stated in my teaching philosophy. Everything I do in the classroom is shaped by my understanding and my belief in my role as an educator, but I rarely think about that philosophy – I just do it. In fact, just about the only time I really think about my philosophy of education is during recruiting season.

We international school teachers go recruiting quite frequently, sometimes as frequently as every other year. Every time we attend a job fair we are meeting with administrators from around the globe that only have a few days in which to process our potential for their school. We are anxious to share everything there is to know about our teaching style, philosophy, objectives, experience and interests in a short (usually 20 minute) interview. I think next time I should just say I’m the best value: hire one, get three!

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Mapping the Internet

While searching for an image for my last post, I came across this picture.


I thought it was pretty nifty, so I checked out the root of the link and found The Opte Project: “Mapping the Internet in a Single Day.” The technology behind the project is totally over my head, but I thought the idea was very cool and the images are amazing and beautiful – definitely worth sharing. Check it out!


Connecting the dots

Last night we went out with a group of teachers from school. While we try to avoid talking about school on the weekend, it invariably comes up since we all work together. Last night we had an especially good conversation about technology, specifically blogging, and I realized that these casual conversations are, often times, even more important that the “official” meetings and professional development that we have set up at school. Through our chat last night we discussed so many issues that I know are on the minds of all of our teachers, but they might not bring it up in the school setting.

One of our colleagues was shocked to find out that I had not just one, but several, blogs. He wondered if, by spending so much time online, I would lose the desire to read, and find myself surrounded only by tidbits, factoids and inaccurate information. He knows he wants to start blogging but he doesn’t really understand how or why it could be any better than reading a book (and he was quite obviously shocked to find out that other people would want to read what I write).

Another friend made the observation that by writing about what happens every day I must be retreating from real, live human interaction. She was concerned that having a virtual outlet to discuss big ideas and frustrations would make me less likely to deal with issues in person.

Yet another friend, one who reads my blogs, shared a story about when she was searching for some information about another international school and she actually ended up, through a series of clicks, on my blog. She was amazed to find herself there while conducting an informative search.

Having this casual conversation with friends (only a few of whom I actually work with on a daily basis), outside of the school setting, really allowed all of us to open up and discuss the heart of the issue. Their questions prompted me to think about things in a different way – not just how blogging has improved student learning and my teaching, but how it has impacted my life. My real personal and professional life. What have I been getting out of this blogging experience? Why am I trying so hard to get all of the teachers on board? Not just for the kids, but for us, as adults in the “real world”?

We talked about so many things last night, but the three that really stood out for me are:

1. Blogging has enabled me to make connections that would have been impossible a few years ago. I talk about international schools a lot, because that’s my universe, but it really does amaze me that although we often teach the same (or similar) curricula, we very rarely interact with anyone outside of our own school. I am thrilled at how many international school teachers I’ve connected with in the last few months – and I never would have had the chance to meet any of these people (unless we worked at the same school) without this platform.

internet.pngIt’s fascinating to see the web of connections that just develop naturally. Just before our semester break last year I met Gary Bertoia, a teacher at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi. Through my personal blog, I recently met Jamie McQueen, currently at Cairo American College, but has just accepted a position here in KL next year. Last week I started working with Clay Burell at Korea International School on the 1001 Flat World Tales project, which has also connected me to Jeff Dungan at Carol Morgan School in the DR, which (I’m assuming) prompted a very nice comment on this blog from Mark Picketts, also at CMS. Back in January, when the NextGenTeachers ball started rolling, I was connected to Jeff Utecht at Shanghai American School and Julie Lindsay at International School Dhaka. Also through the NextGenTeachers, I met (actually, in person, met) Justin Medved at International School Bangkok; and while I was there I met Dennis Harter, who also used to work here in KL.

2. Because of these connections, I’ve been able to start several collaborative projects that really will prepare students for the globally collaborative, international assembly-line shape that their future work will probably take (check out the International Teen Life project). These kinds of projects are not only exciting for the students, but they are showing me a new way of being productive and changing the way I work. I am becoming more productive, more thoughtful, more reflective because I have these tools at my fingertips. I am finding more connections between all areas of my life and am able to make these connections real by using web 2.0 tools.

3. And the best one of all: because of these connections, one of my virtual colleagues contacted me about a job opening that I never would have known about otherwise. His e-mail on a Monday prompted us to fly up to Bangkok on Tuesday, call him on Wednesday to set up an interview for Thursday, which led to a school visit on Friday, which ended in a job offer (which I accepted) the following Wednesday. I know networking is important, but it’s months later and I still can’t believe how quickly that all transpired.

All this thinking has got me curious, how have you seen blogging affect your life?

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Get your own copy

How depressing is it when you’ve bookmarked the perfect YouTube video, only to go back a few days later and find that it’s not there any more?hacks.png

Yesterday Silvia pointed out that the Introducing the Book video I posted about last week has been removed (by the user) from YouTube. Just when I was planning an inspiring little screening here at school!

Thankfully, today I stumbled upon some handy instructions on how to download YouTube or Google Video content. Just perfect for those of us that never want to loose anything! (Apologies in advance for forgetting where I found the link in the first place).

And, just in case you need to go back for that video, Silvia has found another copy here. Now if only I could access YouTube at school I might be able to download that video for my very own… Another task that will have to wait for home…

They’ll just figure it out

Do you have this problem in your schools too?

Teacher A has been told to integrate technology. Although there has been some technology training throughout the year, Teacher A does not have much time to devote to learning all there is to know about technology integration (and even less time to actually learn how to use the technology). So, Teacher A assumes that s/he can assign a cool “technology integration project” and the kids will just figure it out on their own. Teacher A then assigns something exciting (like a digital video commercial) and tells the students that s/he will only grade the work once it has been turned in on DVD. Teacher A does not provide classroom time or equipment for students to complete the project, nor does Teacher A contact the technology facilitators because s/he figures that the students will just figure it out on their own.

Which then leads invariably to this situation:

The Technology Facilitator sits at her desk, blissfully unaware of this “technology integration project,” when, just at the end of the school day (the day before the project is due, of course) the entire class of Teacher A’s students rush in holding video cameras asking for help burning to a DVD. The tech facilitator is surprised to find out about such an in depth project via the students (not the teacher) and sets about helping as much as she can. She knows that these students do not know how to edit a movie independently. She also knows there are no DVD burners available so students physically can’t burn their DVDs.

And now what do you do?

I am always anxious to help get technology projects off the ground. I promote integration like there’s no tomorrow. But what happens when teachers really have no concept of the actual process it takes to complete a project and then they just assign it anyway? Who’s learning here? The kids are in a panic to finish their work, which they don’t know how to do. The teacher is irritated at the students for asking for help on something they can “just figure out.” The tech facilitator is frustrated at being kept out of the loop because now the students aren’t really learning how to use technology effectively. And all the while there is a clear structure in place for how to integrate technology…

How do you deal with this situation when, in reality, you’re just another teacher too?

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Ancient Africa Comes Alive

This is the kind of feedback I love to get when starting an integrated project:

The wiki is so cool! It is the perfect solution to group projects where you want the kids to collaborate but when it comes time to save information there is always a problem since one student stores everything in his/her account. WOW!

And this was the reaction after just one day of learning how to use wikis with the kids! It took us a solid month, but we’ve finally finished the integrated Social Studies/IT unit on Ancient Africa that we were planning back in October.

The students spent a good chunk of time researching the kingdoms of ancient Africa in small groups in the library and then came down to the lab to compile all their information into the three class wikis. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of this could have occurred in the natural learning environment? Oh how I miss the laptop carts (we called them “COWs” – Computers On Wheels) we had back in Munich…

Even without the laptops, though, we had a great time. The best part about this project (for me) was that all the students already had some experience with wikis from the Code Blue! science project in October, so they were ready to delve even deeper this time around. They were encouraged to focus on enhancing their content through appropriate media, structuring their content for exceptionally clear navigation, and delivering content that is appropriate for their audience (with no copy and paste action, of course). We also had a small group of students in every class make a short video introducing the topics covered in each wiki, which they loved.

I am so impressed at how professional they have become with web 2.0 tools. I watched them integrate their blogging experience into the development of their group pages, utilize the history tab to effectively determine who had done what, coordinate their posting efforts both in and outside of class, and enhance their presentation through expert navigation and visual media.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: it amazes me how much the integration experience for our grade 6s has influenced the way they use technology at school. They are far more confident than the other grade levels, they are excited about how they can use technology as a tool for their learning, and they are picking up new skills so much quicker than the students that haven’t had the benefit of a fully integrated experience this year. I even ended up totally revising my grade 6 IT curriculum for this quarter because this group is so far ahead compared to last year’s classes. I definitely think we’re working toward 21st Century literacy

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Collaboration Roundup

At this time last year I never would have thought I would be working with teachers all around the world on so many different projects. Forget about that feeling of isolation I used to feel due to working in international schools… The world of web 2.0 has opened my eyes to so many possibilities that I can’t even imagine going back to life as it was only a few short months ago!

So, in the interest of collaborative spirit, here’s a brief roundup of the middle school technology integration projects I’m currently working on:

NextGen Teachers

What an amazing group of educators! All so enthusiastic and passionate about education and technology. I am learning so much from them already. Check out the blog, wiki, International Voices netcasts and sign up to the Google Group to be part of the conversation!

Tech in the Middle

Way back in November, I decided to make an effort to connect international school technology teachers around the world to share resources and collaborate on projects. I will admit I haven’t done much in the last few months because I’ve been so busy, but Jennifer Cronk and I are finally back in action and ready to work! We are process of re-organizing and re-structuring the space around the ISTE refreshed NETS (or iETS/GETS) to make it easier for teachers to identify projects and resources that they need. We are hoping to compile examples of successful tech integration projects at the middle school level along with the supporting materials (websites, handouts, job aids, whatever teachers use to facilitate that project). If you’re interested in being part, please let me know!

Grade 8:

International Teen Life: collaborative poetic documentaries produced by 8th grade students examining their lives in our global society. My colleague, Jabiz Raisdana, our grade 8 English teacher, and I are working with 4 different classes around the world (Clarence Fischer in Canada, Jamie Hide in Columbia, and Lee Ann Baber in the US). This project has grown totally organically from the students over the past few weeks. Basically we set up the main idea, started the student wiki and they have formed their own groups (via the wiki, across continents) based on their interests. Now we have a truly flat world production line in place, where different aspects of each project are made in different schools – from storyboarding in Cartegena, to poetic verse and photography in KL, to filming in Virginia and editing in Snow Lake. Talk about education for tomorrow!

Grade 7:

1001 FlatWorld Tales: collaborative, never-ending story using wikispaces. I’m just in the process of getting our 7th grade English teacher, Gin, on board with this project initiated by Clay Burell at Korea International School. Our seventh graders haven’t had much exposure to technology this year, so I’m really excited to get them started on such a unique way to integrate collaborative technology into the writing process.

Comparing our World: collaborative wiki investigating the similarities and differences of the lives of our students. This one is just getting started (thanks to Chris Craft) and I’m hoping it will be a quick and exciting introduction to wikis for my seventh grade IT class. We only have 9 weeks together and we’re already busy with designing logos in FreeHand and creating electronic portfolios with Dreamweaver. We need something fun and interactive to spice up the class and this will be perfect!

Grade 6:

Video Voices: collaborative iMovie and wiki project with Chrissy and Lynn from New Zealand, set up through Jen Wagner’s Online Projects 4 Teachers program. This one hasn’t started yet, but we’re looking to collaborate on a some sort of cross-cultural video presentations. This project will be with my IT class, so we are going to finish it up with an online wiki tutorial for iMovie. Sadly, I’ve just discovered that YouTube has been banned here at school, so we will posting our videos to another service, most likely <she says, crossing her fingers that she won’t discover that one banned as well when it’s time to upload>.

Have I mentioned that I love my job? Not only do I get to teach fantastic students, but I work with enthusiastic, passionate teachers that are willing to try new things every day! And the best part is that I teach 3 of my own classes, with 2 free blocks to collaborate with other teachers at the middle school level. I develop or find interesting projects, propose them to the class teachers, and then get to have fun with the kids while they work. What could be better than that?!

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Viral Video

I know I’m a little late catching on to this video:

(And while we’re on the topic of awesome videos, you might also want to check out Epic 2015 (thanks to Graham for sharing), Education Today and Tomorrow (from Dean Shareski), The Power of One, and Karl Fisch’s Did You Know?)

but at least I’m not as behind as this guy:


Thanks to Clay Burell for making my day by sharing this video on his 1001 Teachers Wiki.

Next step: adding all of these to “Why should I care about integrating technology into my classroom?” page on the Tech in the Middle wiki…

Internet Speed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I am extremely dissappointed that I was unable to participate in the recent NextGen Teachers International Voices netcasts due to my horrendously slow internet connection here in KL. And, now, thanks to Chrisrecent meme, I’m crystal clear on just how slow it is:


I see that Julie’s at about the same connection speed, and Chris is living in paradise as far as I’m concerned. It’s been quite a shock to the system after 5 years of excellent, typically efficient, German technical infrastructure in Munich. Yet another joy of international living! Clearly Malaysia is not only teaching me how to save face, but also the virtue of patience…

Test yours!

Technorati tag: speedtest07

Off to work we go!

Miss Profe and Kelly Christopherson tagged me with Miguel’s new meme about being a leader. The question is: What are 7 qualities we don’t know about you that help you be a leader?

I wanted to do something a little different for this one, and so, with apologies to the Brothers Grimm, since there are seven items on my list I would like to express my ideas via the international language of the dwarves:

  • I am trustworthy and dependable, like Doc. I often find myself fulfilling leadership roles by default because people have confidence in me.
  • I am friendly and open, like Happy. I enjoy taking the time to get to know people. I find it easy to bond with all sorts of different people and enjoy developing productive working relationships with everyone. I enjoy fostering team spirit.
  • I am sensitive to other people’s needs, like Bashful. I am very used to working with teachers that feel helpless or ignored (especially with technology). I enjoy listening, helping, and genuinely making people feel valued.
  • I am practical and down to earth, like Grumpy. I like to find the most effective solution to every problem and I understand that it’s not always the “official” or “best” solution that can solve the problem.
  • I know how to delegate tasks and step aside when necessary, like Sleepy. I have always been complimented on my ability to run meetings effectively, keep people on task and organize responsibilities. It’s something I have always loved, and got to truly enjoy as the Chairperson for our Amnesty International group back in Munich.
  • I am super organized, like Sneezy. (You’ll just have to trust me that Sneezy is organized, or this isn’t going to work.) I have a deep love for containers and office supply stores. I like keeping track of things and making things easily accessable for everyone.
  • I know I don’t know everything, like Dopey. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong or to ask for help.

And there you have it: the closest I can come to getting in touch with my inner dwarves.

I’ve mentioned before that I often find myself in leadership roles by default. I do think some people have a natural ability to be effective leaders, but these courses I’ve been taking have really opened my eyes to just how many facets there are to educational leadership. Just being able to know when each member of your team requires a different leadership style seems exhausting to me (or is that just my Sleepy side?)!

To continue the fun I’ll tag: Susan Sedro, Graham Wegner, Clarence Fischer, Silvia Tolisano, Chris Betcher, Jennifer Cronk, and Chris Craft.

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