COETAIL, Part Deux

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Now that I have successfully completed the COETAIL program, I feel compelled to blog!

I already find myself anticipating the next course…only there isn’t one.

Really? No full Master’s or PhD? Wouldn’t it be awesome to be “Dr. COETAIL”? Hey, one can dream, right?

The good news is that COETAIL, Part Deux does exist…as an independent study of sorts. The bad news challenge is that now I’m driving, planning, and organizing what it looks like. This is both exciting and intimidating. Through the COETAIL program, I have developed some real skills and habits that, at a minimum, need to be maintained. These include:

  • a regular blogging habit: weekly blogging reflections were definitely motivated by the requirements of each course. However, in the process, blogging has become a way to put myself, my thoughts, my ideas, and my actions “out there.” As a result, I gain feedback that challenges my thinking and connections with others who only make me better at what I do.
  • a solid, ever-expanding knowledge base: this began with building up a personal (now ill-fated) Google reader. I regularly use other aggregators and curation apps (like Zite, Flipboard, and Netvibes) that help me to mine the gems within a variety of my interest areas as an educator, a runner, a vegetarian, and a tech geek.
  • an amazing PLN: via Twitter, I have crazy access to people with all kinds of knowledge, talents and interests! I am often humbled by the projects that are proposed, acted on, and shared across the globe. Of course, this doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction (although some days it does the trick!), but let’s face it, most of us only come into contact with a very limited number of the same people on a daily basis. Regardless of how collaborative and creative these people might be, it’s a bubble that can be very limiting.
  • Presentation Zen: this has been a game-changer for me. I can no longer create, nor sit through, slides of text. Presentation Zen is a concept that should become part of every school’s taught curriculum! There is still far too much death by Powerpoint happening in today’s world.
  • Doing and Sharing: integrating technology to enhance student learning is definitely something that I am very passionate about. I think that I have typically been a very good sharer of ideas and resources. COETAIL has provided me with a new  perspective on what can be shared (images, ideas, opinions, presentations) and how to share (Twitter, blog posts, iMovie presentations, YouTube, blog comments, Google Hangouts).

So, the big question is: how will I go about maintaining these skills and taking them to new levels?

  • Blogging. Well, here I am blogging without the extrinsic motivation of a course grade. 🙂 I see myself continuing this habit, but I will admit that maintaining a regular schedule concerns me.
  • Learning. Reading and keeping up with professional, eduction-related blogs is something that I see as being very easy for me to maintain. This is a habit that has become something that I do every day at some very predictable times.
  • Networking. I was getting great ideas and recommendations from Twitter connections well before joining the COETAIL program. Now I have a deeper and wider PLN which includes COETAILers from all over the world, at various stages in the program, and at different levels of tech integration. Within my PLN I am not only a learner, but am also a teacher at times. The really fun part of having a PLN is establishing a virtual connection that becomes a real live connection at a NESA conference, IB training, or some other professional meet-up.
  • Presenting. This is a new level of challenge that I would like to explore. I think that my learnings , activities, connections, and reflections that resulted from the COETAIL program have been significant confidence builders. I have often thought about presenting at a conference, but a lack of confidence has been a significant obstacle for me. I think some of the behind-the-scenes activities like blogging and tweeting have been really helpful for me in taking some risks, sharing my ideas, and being met with positive feedback and encouragement. Presentation Zen has also been instrumental in helping me to develop concepts and ideas on deeper levels. The power of using visuals to communicate big ideas has had a great impact on me. The search for the “just right” image to convey meaning requires me to dig deep into an idea. An in-depth image search leads me to clarify what it is that I am presenting. The end result is that I feel more confident in the knowledge and ideas that I am using to engage an audience.
  • Doing and Sharing. My current position finds me interacting far more with teachers than with students. I will need to be creative in how I continue to integrate technology. Integrating technology has a slightly different context in the ways that I work with teachers in collaborative groups. However, these opportunities will provide me with occasions to model and encourage the use of technology. How I go about doing this will be worth sharing through blog posts and the occasional summary video presentation. I think the challenges here are remembering to share and taking the time to organize projects worth sharing into an engaging presentation format.

So, there’s my vision for my COETAIL, Part Deux.

What is your plan for Part Deux?

How will you maintain and build on your COETAIL learnings?


COETAIL Final Project – IB French, Collaborative Writing

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cada macaca no seu galho
photo by mondopanno

FINALLY!!!! I am very pleased to announce that I got the COETAIL final project monkey off my back! I refer to it as a monkey in the most affectionate of manners. This was a really long process. The first step of just settling on a project topic seemed like an amazing accomplishment.

The next step was actually planning the tech integration project. True to the life of an educator, it just never seemed like there was enough time to get this thing done.

Then, the project was done. I had photos, video footage (MERCI Lissa!), student work, and student testimonial videos…which I sat on for too many weeks to count. It was tough work scripting and summarizing. Then the hours spent in iMovie seemed never ending.Until I turned that magical corner of no-turning-back. What a sense of relief! What a sense of accomplishment!

The COETAIL journey was well worth the time and effort. I now have a solid base of information on which to build my approach to technology integration. In addition, I have a phenomenal PLN to consult for further information, developments, advice, and examples. I am certainly a better educator as a result. 😉

The ISTE NET*S and 21st century learning

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early 20th century learning
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In some circles there are those who still (13 years into the 21st century!) resist the notion that learning in the 21st century is any different than it has ever been. Perhaps they might even go as far as claiming that the “21st century learner” is a myth. As a learner who has learned (and taught) in both the 20th and the 21st centuries, I am a firm believer that, even though some aspects of learning haven’t changed, the changes that have occurred are significant and cannot be ignored. The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology for Students (NET*S) standards have been established to address the needs of the 21st century learner.

The NET*S standards identify six domains that learners in the 21st century need “to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world.” Through the guidance of these standards, 21st century educators take part in producing individuals who will be prepared to maximize their potential and achieve future success. The six domains serve to develop skills that will prepare learners for an unpredictable future. These skills can serve individuals in the careers that we know exist today, but are transdisciplinary in nature and can be applied to those careers that are yet unknown.

Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

During my high school education in the 1980s, I was rarely, if ever!, asked to do anything creative outside of art class. I can specifically recall once in my sophomore English class an assignment to create a book cover for an Agatha Christie novel we had read as a class. I remember my teacher raving about mine in front of the class because rather than try to draw something, I had glued on the pieces of an old makeup compact that was somehow connected with the plot. During my teenage years in high school, creativity was somewhat limited to construction paper, Elmer’s glue, and colored pencils. As a result creativity essentially belonged to those who could draw and write short stories and poetry.

Today, I watch students create in ways that weren’t even part of my way of knowing in 1985. Students who can draw amazing stick people on a good day are not limited by only one or two options to express themselves. Those who can draw and write creatively have an audience beyond their sketchbooks and diaries. For my 15 year old son, the physical act of putting pen to paper is a slow and tedious experience as the small motor skills required for penmanship don’t really result in anything that resembles legible adult handwriting. I listen to him tapping out 700 – 1000 word blog posts on the computer keyboard every day/night . If pen and paper were his only option, I doubt he would be motivated to pursue and develop his passion for writing. I’ve seen students in my English classes who are challenged by the writing process communicate their deep thinking through a video montage or a computer generated graphic.

Through the development of student creativity and innovation, learners in the 21st century are able to demonstrate their depth of knowledge and the connections that they are making through a variety of medium.

Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

All of the communication that I was expected to do in high school was generally between me and my teachers. My essays were written for my teachers. My ability to communicate my mathematical thinking wasn’t even acknowledged. Communication as an idea wasn’t even the priority. I needed to memorize historical dates and events for tests and grammatical rules in order to diagram sentences. I did this alone at my desk in a row, mostly in silence. French class is about the only place I remember any type of communication and collaboration. Pairing up with a classmate and writing a dialogue to perform for the class was (and still is) a common occurrence in second language classes.

21st century learning
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As a 21st century learner, the any time, anywhere possibility of communication and collaboration has made me a better learner and, thus, a better teacher. I can learn something new at 10 p.m. on a Friday night from someone on the other side of the world. I am not limited by a physical location at a specific time. I am not limited by the thoughts of 15 individuals (whose background is a lot like mine) in a classroom on a university campus on Wednesday nights. I communicate with my virtual classmates and collaborators who are diverse learners scattered all over the globe.

Research and Information Fluency

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Remember spending hours in the university library stacks poring over volumes of bound and printed texts? Of course, that was after the hours spent at the computer terminal gathering a list of titles that might provide the information your research topic required. Much of my research involved French language, literature, and culture while I was at universities in Michigan and Wisconsin pre-internet. Limiting to say the least…

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

This is arguably the skill that will carry students forward to success in an unknown future. Honestly, the 1980s really didn’t offer up a lot of educational simulation opportunities where decisions needed to be made. However, people who participated in role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons created problem solving and decision making contexts for themselves. This was not the type of learning activity provided in my local school district.

Digital Citizenship

Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

Was character education really part of 20th century education? I certainly don’t recall this being present in any of my history as a learner. Character education is a precursor to digital citizenship. There is certainly crossover as “doing unto others” is a universal as analog and digital lives collide. However, the contexts of “legal and ethical” behavior in the digital world are not always as clear cut as

  • “Be kind”
    • Does this feel different when a human being is represented by a string of typed words?
  • “Respect authority”
    • Who is the authority online?
  • “Play by the rules”
    • Rules established by whom?
  • “Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements”
    • Could typed expletives and capital letters seem more peaceful than yelling and hitting?

Digital citizenship carries an additional layer beyond character education as the many facets of the digital world create new and complex learning environments and communities that have a feel much different than the face-to-face world. How students choose to represent themselves in a digital format feels very different than how they actually behave in real life.

Technology Operations and Concepts

Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.

Here adults often defer to the myth of the “digital native.” This is a very slippery slope as so many students really lack an understanding of technology beyond texting, Facebook, Word, and Powerpoint. That is not to say that they cannot quickly progress into more complex understandings of “concepts, systems, and operations.” This is where education plays a crucial role. As iPad technology is integrated into classes to support learning and creativity, students and parents begin to understand that the iPad is something more than a fun device only for gaming. And, consequently, students can make self-guided decisions about how to use technology to support their own learning.

Teaching the NET*S standards is a community effort. A school must support teachers in implementation. This requires school administration to understand and communicate the role of the standards. Parents should be encouraged to develop and awareness of how these standards support the growth of digital learning. In order to ensure that the NET*S are being met, it is vital for a school to have a purposeful plan for implementation. Ideally a school would create a skills continuum based on the National Educational Technology Standards to guide a developmentally appropriate approach to integration.

Bigger Steps Towards Zen Presentation

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I recently blogged about some Baby Steps Towards Zen Presentation. Recently I have had the opportunity to take some bigger steps towards presentation Zen. The opportunity to collaborate was presented by the high school assistant principal and the MYP coordinator. Personally, I never pass up a good opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues.

Student engagement is a professional development topic to be covered in an upcoming high school staff meeting. Below is the original set of slides for the presentation that was offered up. I approached this particular slideshow as an example of analog planning, only using PowerPoint rather than a Moleskin notebook. Through examining the slides and talking through the purpose and the goals of the presentation with my colleagues, I eagerly volunteered to develop the Zen version of our presentation. Below are the before slides which served as an outline for the final slides that should be far more engaging for our audience.

As a group, we have very collaboratively developed a great opportunity for professional growth. As a result, I feel that I am farther along on the path to becoming a Zen presentation master!


Before: planning analog using PowerPoint to outline ideas

After: Presentation Zen


Demonstrate. Collaborate. Communicate. Model.

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I have collaboration on the brain. It is also on the brains of other educators and curriculum coordinators, as evidenced by my Tweep, Stacy, in her recent blog post. I love to collaborate. Some of my fondest teaching memories are those brainstorming, planning, developing, moderating, and creating with numerous colleagues over the past couple of decades. However, in a new position that finds me in an office all alone, well, my opportunities to collaborate are not quite as numerous as they once were. Perhaps they could be more plentiful, but collaboration doesn’t feel as easy as it was back in the days of planning as part of a grade-level or subject-specific team.

When lists of 21st century skills are compiled, collaboration is one skill in particular that is a constant. When considering the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), it is clear that the collaborative process is key to meeting many outcomes successfully, thus strongly implying that a collaborative process be in place. The NETS-T document puts forth

The standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge educators need to teach, work, and learn in an increasingly connected global and digital society

The third standard addresses “model[ing] digitial age work and learning.” Through this standard “teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.” In order to successfully meet this standard, teachers in the digital age should be able to:

Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations

For me, this is perhaps the easiest of the four outcomes. I live and breathe this particular outcome. Through demonstration, those around me have observed my comfort level with and ability to use technology, both personally and professionally. I used to disregard the comments and compliments from my colleagues, but I have gradually grown to accept that I really have achieved a level of technological fluency that is certainly not possessed by the masses. So, I forge ahead learning new apps, reading articles, reflecting, blogging, and growing through a program like COETAIL.

Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation

Teaching in a classroom allows for collaborating with the student population. However, the thought of moving out into the next layers of the school community provokes a feeling of overwhelming futility. This may be a slightly extreme reaction, but the thought of transferring my knowledge of technology to my peers feels like an enormous task.

Firstly, there are about 180 teachers on staff. One hundred and eighty! To accomplish the feat of just working with the sheer volume of bodies would require a small army. This is where a support team of technology coaches would be useful. These coaches would ideally be full-time positions with no other job responsibility than working to support teachers. However, even a handful of teachers willing to take on small tasks with teaching teams would be helpful.

Secondly, like students in a heterogeneously grouped classroom, my 180 peers possess such a wide range of  comfort levels, background knowledge, skills, and motivation that a one-size-fits-all approach seems destined to fail. In this situation a differentiated approach to professional development would be the only way to go.

Thirdly, addressing the needs and varying levels of interest and abilities of an entire staff requires a vision, support, and time. In order to reach for the NETS-T a clear plan of action is required.

Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats

Communicating information and ideas effectively is certainly simplified through blogs, newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, and email. These tools for communication allow for the wide dissemination of information in a timely manner. As a direct result of familiarizing myself with the NETS-T document, I realized that the communication piece might be an area to address in order to foster an increase in meaningful collaborations. This week I began the Curriculum Weekly blog.  My intention is that this blog will help to facilitate the sharing of some basic information about 21st learning that will reach a significant percentage of my 180 peers on staff. If I am really lucky, this blog will serve to nurture a collaboration or two for myself, as well as many others.

Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning

This is about “sharpening of the saw” as referenced by Stephen Covey. It is through “balanc[ing] and renew[ing] resources, energy,” and knowledge that we develop our skills and remain effective. For me, this is where my social network plays a role in helping me to achieve this standard. It is through following all of those links shared by friends and strangers on Facebook and Twitter, watching TED talk videos, reading the Mashable blog, and ‘messing around’ with new media that we develop proficiency in “model[ing] and facilitat[ing] effective use of current and emerging digital tools.” It also takes courage to blaze the trail to show others how it’s done!

The four verbs that introduce each of these outcomes hold the key to the 21st century skill of collaboration. Each action is connected to, and can lead to, the establishment of a collaborative environment. Through demonstrating our technological fluency, we present ourselves as capable to assist and lead. Through collaboration with various stakeholders, we learn from each other as we build relationships and make connections. Through communicating our knowledge and experiences, we open ourselves to new possibilities. Through modeling our learning about, and use of, emerging digital tools, we position ourselves to be ready to grow ideas within a collaborative situation.