Connected Classrooms: What’s your WHY?

[Cross-posted from]

Two blog posts in 2 days…I’m on a roll! And maybe I have a request too 😇

From the time I can remember (really only middle school for my brain), I wanted to learn another language (French) and use it. It might have had something to do with my aunt & mom both studying abroad in France. Maybe the fact that that same aunt was my HS French teacher also had an impact 😉 The strong connection I felt with France after living there for almost a year stayed with me when I started teaching French in South Carolina. Except my students didn’t share my connection. So why the heck would they want to learn French?! Many of them had no plans to leave the city, state or country. Why should they care?

That is how I realized that it was essential to my students’ learning that I create a connected classroom. Being able to connect with French speakers around the world allowed my students to be able to authentically use the French they were learning. Since my time in the French classroom, my passion for supporting connected classrooms has only increased. Living in Kuwait can feel isolating, however, opening up the world to students makes me feel invigorated.

connected teacher.png

So, in addition to my new COETAIL role, next month I will also start as the Academy mentor for the Eduro Learning Connected Teacher Micro-Credential. I wasn’t sure it was something I could take on. But my passion for supporting educators in creating a more connected world for their students won out. I can’t think of many things that I love more! In addition to being a mentor, I’m also contributing to one of the courses.

local to global

That’s where you come in!

Sneak peak: One week of the course will be all about why educators invest in globally connected classrooms. It will include a series of short videos from educators around the world sharing their why. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Share your availability below and I’ll be in touch! Thank you in advance 🙏

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New year, new adventure, new resumé

[Cross-posted from]

Every time I sit down to write a blog post I look at the date of my last post and I’m like…really!? It was that long ago?! I have only posted twice this year. What?! I have so much more to say than that! And then I remind myself of all the amazing, fulfilling things that are taking up my hours (besides sleep).

  • My full time job as an Instructional Coach (Technology Integration) at #AISQ8 is going as well as it has in my 6 years in the position. We’ve moved offices this year (yay for a true Learning Commons!) and I truly enjoy coming to work.
  • I coached 2 sports last year (u14 girls’ soccer and track & field) and my 1st of 3 seasons this year just started (u14 girls’ soccer, JV girls’ soccer and track & field).
  • I spent an amazing spring break & summer at home in Pure Michigan with family. We just can’t resist our adorable nieces!
  • Jeff and I spent 2 wonderful weeks in Italy (our first time back since he proposed in 2008) and I soaked in every minute of my 8-day Cognitive Coaching Foundation course.

Oh…and I’ve been working as the Managing Director (and Marketing Manager) for COETAIL since March! I bought hardcore into the COETAIL philosophy as an Online ’13-14 participant and I was pumped when they announced that they were hiring in February…so I applied for every position! If you’re a current, grad or potential COETAILer, you’ve probably received an email (or several) from me since March. It’s been busy but I have loved every minute of my new challenge and I feel supported by the entire COETAIL team and community. As Jeff and I continue our life adventure, I can’t wait to see where the amazing connections we have made take us!

I finally took the time to update my resumé (to complement Jeff’s) and thought I’d share it here with my professional/life update. I hope that school years around the world are starting off well!

Click here to view PDF version

Why are you connected?

Tomorrow (afternoon of February 2) I’ll be facilitating a workshop for #AISQ8 (elementary) staff on using social media in teaching and learning. From my experience educators need to buy-in before spending (precious!) time learning and developing their social media presence. And that presence is essential if you want to genuinely use social media in teaching and learning. How can you help your students become connected if you aren’t?

I would love your (my wonderful PLN) thoughts on some questions to (hopefully) help garner some buy-in from teachers. Feel free to discuss here, on Twitter, on my COETAIL blog or if submit here if you prefer to remain anonymous. Merci bien!

  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network and be professionally connected? What sparked your commitment?
  • How did you become connected? What, specifically, did you do to cultivate your PLN?
  • Why do you stay connected? What keeps you coming back to your PLN?
  • How do you stay connected? How do you balance what you put in (time) with what you get out (benefits)?
  • How do you balance creating your social media brand with staying authentically you (in a space where many people don’t actually know you personally)?
  • How has being connected impacted your learning? Your teaching?
  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network for your classroom/students? What sparked your commitment?
  • Why do you keep your classroom connected/open? What impact has this had on your students?
  • What advice do you have for teachers who are looking to start using social media for teaching and learning?
  • What ‘connected’ experiences have impacted you/your classroom the most? These personal stories can have a huge influence on other educators thinking about becoming connected.
  • Any other thoughts are also welcome and appreciated! 🙂

Introducing creation apps/programs in #IBPYP

In the fall two grade 3 teachers asked my colleague and I to introduce iPad apps to their classes. After some coaching, we decided to start with introducing the big ideas behind presenting information before the apps. We’ve done that (post coming soon) and now the classes are ready to go further with some practical application of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. But because I like to think big (and make more work for myself), I wondered what a lesson plan would look like for introducing any app to students.

Could we create a lesson plan that could be adapted by teachers/instructional coaches for any creation app/program (and would not be boring or repetitive for students)?

After doing some brainstorming with Andria based on Kath Murdoch‘s Inquiry Cycle, I drafted the lesson plan below. Anyone with the link is able to comment…looking forward to your warm and cool feedback!

#AISQ8chat – an #IBOLP series

Sometimes I’m really dedicated to blogging. Sometimes I’m not. If I’m absent for an extended period of time it’s because I’m just too dang busy living life to sit and write about it. In order to prompt me to actually sit down and blog, I need to be so excited about something that I just can’t help myself. After 5 months, today is the day!

Thanks to the efforts and excitement of a lot of my colleagues, #AISQ8 has grown from 4 or 5 people to over 30 in the last year! If that isn’t something to get excited about, I don’t know what is. Besides sharing the great things happening in our school (we were inspired by #sisrocks), I have enjoyed engaging in discussion on a weekly basis ever since Christina and I started #AISQ8chat in February. Browse our 2014-15 topics, 2015-16 topics and all the archives.

Since its beginnings, I’ve wanted to do a multi-week series. Part of my motivation was that Christina and I never seemed to have enough topics to chat about and many times we were still coming up with questions on Monday evenings. But most of it was that I wanted to go further with my colleagues about how (and why) we actually live and teach the IB Learner Profile. Thanks to Heidi and Christina, today this became a reality! [Insert giddy squeal here]

Here are the details & vocab you need to know to participate in the #AISQ8chat Learner Profile series:

  • Everyone is welcome!
  • Starts Tuesday, 10/27, and will continue for the next 14 Tuesdays (except December 22 & 29).
  • View the IB Learner Profile
  • We made up some new hashtags:
    • #IBOLP = International Baccalaureate Organization Learner Profile
    • #IBOLPT = IBO Learner Profile Traits
  • IBOLPT Continuum: ⌧ checking the box <——————————————–> way of life
  • We will be releasing the questions each Sunday (although they will be the same each week, just with a different #IBOLPT).
  • In week 1 we will explore why and how we, as stakeholders in the school community, live the #IBOLPT.
  • We will spend 1 week on each of the IBOLPT starting with Risk-Takers next week.
  • After exploring 6 traits, the week before (12/15) and after (1/5) winter break we will take time to reflect and make some conclusions.
  • Our last chat (2/9) will focus on hiring staff who live (professionally & personally) the IBOLP.

Here are a few tips & tricks I shared with #AISQ8:

  • During our Tuesday slow chats we usually release Q1 by 8am, Q2 at 11am and Q3 by 2pm (just in time for our faculty meetings!). However you are welcome to reply to any question at any point throughout the day.
  • When you have time on Sunday and Monday, start formulating your As to the weekly Qs. Then use Hootsuite to schedule them for Tuesday so that you don’t have to take time away from teaching. [Don’t worry, you can still edit pending Tweets if you change your mind.]
  • When you do have a couple free minutes on Tuesday, browse #AISQ8chat and engage in the conversation. Ask the community clarifying or probing questions. Twitter is your Personal Learning Community – you will get out what you put in 🙂
  • Christina will be Storifying #AISQ8chat every Wednesday morning. Didn’t have a chance to engage in the conversation on Tuesday? We still want to hear from you! Feel free to answer any of the previous week’s Qs from Wednesday to Monday. Please just remember to include #AISQ8chat. You can also add #AISQ8unchat if you’d like.

#AISQ8chat banner 10.27.15

#MACUL15 – Live from Kuwait (& Istanbul)!

[Reflection on #MACUL15]

John, Mary, Jeff and I will be presenting at the 2015 MACUL conference in Detroit on Friday. Jeff will be in Kuwait. I’ll be in Istanbul (at the NESA SEC). John & Mary will be in Detroit. We will be in 3 different countries, on 3 different continents, teaching educators how to globally connect their classrooms. None of us have ever done a session like this and we’re excited for a unique approach to presenting!

What we’d love from our PLNs:

  • testimonials from educators & students around the world – Why connect? What is the power of connecting globally? How have global connections transformed your classroom/learning? Feel free to share these with us in any format!
  • join us live! Watch the broadcast or let us know if you’d like to join the Hangout and talk to attendees for 1-2 minutes about the power of global connections.
  • complete this short survey. We’ll give the results to the attendees of the session (and you if you’d like them) so that global connections can begin immediately!


#AISQ8chat – let’s talk about #COETAIL!

This morning we announced a live COETAIL cohort in Kuwait starting in September!

Kuwait COETAIL Cohort

To get the excitement flowing, the teachers of #AISQ8 will be slow chatting today about COETAIL. We’d love current COETAILers, grads, coaches, instructors (really anyone who is passionate about COETAIL) to join in #AISQ8chat! The success of the chat depends on YOUR participation 🙂

#AISQ8chat banner 3.17.15

Keeping Design Alive

We have a dilemma at AIS Kuwait. We weren’t able to find a high school Design teacher on the recruiting trail. Because of this, our two K-12 technology integration coaches may have to each teach 2 classes next year. To be clear, I think coaches teaching can be a great idea in some situations. However in our case we have 2 educational technology positions for a student body of 2000 students and over 200 staff.  I am eager to see both Design and educational technology thrive at AIS.

There’s still hope…but only if we can find and hire the right candidate. Please spread the word to anyone still looking for international teaching jobs for next year. Jeff or I would be happy to answer any questions you have. And Dave Botbyl is eagerly awaiting your application.

Need a little more information about IB MYP Design? Read on…

From the IB MYP Design Guide (2014):

Nature of Design
Design, and the resultant development of new technologies, has given rise to profound changes in society: transforming how we access and process information; how we adapt our environment; how we communicate with others; how we are able to solve problems; how we work and live.

Design is the link between innovation and creativity, taking thoughts and exploring the possibilities and constraints associated with products or systems, allowing them to redefine and manage the generation of further thought through prototyping, experimentation and adaptation. It is human-centred and focuses on the needs, wants and limitations of the end user.

Competent design is not only within the reach of a small set of uniquely skilled individuals, but can be achieved by all. The use of well-established design principles and processes increases the probability that a design will be successful. To do this, designers use a wide variety of principles which, taken together, make up what is known as the design cycle.

  • Designers adapt their approach to different design situations, but they have a common understanding of the process necessary to form valid and suitable solutions.
  • A designer has a role and responsibility to the community and the environment. Their decisions can have a huge impact and, therefore, their ethics and morals can and should be questioned regularly.
  • A designer should have the ability to maintain an unbiased view of a situation and evaluate a situation objectively, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a common product or system.
  • Good communication is a key trait of any good designer through visual and oral presentation.

Designing requires an individual to be imaginative and creative, while having a substantial knowledge base of important factors that will aid or constrain the process. Decisions made need to be supported by adequate and appropriate research and investigation. Designers must adopt an approach that allows them to think creatively, while conforming to the requirements of a design specification.

Both the ideas of design and the process of design can only occur in a human context. Design is carried out by a community of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and traditions, and this has clearly influenced the way design has progressed at different times. It is important to understand, however, that to design is to be involved in a community of inquiry with certain common beliefs, methodologies, understandings and processes.

MYP design challenges all students to apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems; encourages students to explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts; and raises students’ awareness of their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.

Inquiry and problem-solving are at the heart of the subject group. MYP design requires the use of the design cycle as a tool, which provides the methodology used to structure the inquiry and analysis of problems, the development of feasible solutions, the creation of solutions, and the testing and evaluation of the solution. In MYP design, a solution can be defined as a model, prototype, product or system that students have developed and created independently.

A well-planned design programme enables students to develop not only practical skills but also strategies for creative and critical thinking.

The MYP expects all students to become actively involved in, and to focus on, the whole design process rather than on the final product/solution.

Aims of Design:
The aims of MYP design are to encourage and enable students to:

  • enjoy the design process, develop an appreciation of its elegance and power
  • develop knowledge, understanding and skills from different disciplines to design and create solutions to problems using the design cycle
  • use and apply technology effectively as a means to access, process and communicate information, model and create solutions, and to solve problems
  • develop an appreciation of the impact of design innovations for life, global society and environments
  • appreciate past, present and emerging design within cultural, political, social, historical and environmental contexts
  • develop respect for others’ viewpoints and appreciate alternative solutions to problems
  • act with integrity and honesty, and take responsibility for their own actions developing effective working practices.

The MYP Design Cycle:

Every designer may approach a problem in a different way. Depending on their specialism, designers tend to have their own methodology, but some general activities are common to all designers. The design cycle model underpins the design process.

The design cycle model (Figure 3) represents the MYP design methodology of how designers develop products. The process is divided into four stages: inquiring and analysing; developing ideas; creating the solution; evaluating. This incremental process allows the designer to go from identifying a design opportunity to the testing and evaluation of a solution. This process leads to the creation of solutions that solve a problem.

It is important to note that, while the design cycle includes several successive stages, the design cycle is an iterative and cyclical process. When using the design cycle, students will often need to revisit a previous stage before they can complete the stage they are currently working on. Solving design problems is not always a linear process.

#AISQ8 is starting a slow chat: #AISQ8chat

Last week Christina emailed six staff at our school to share information about the first ever #nesachat. Then we got thinking about how many staff at our school are actually on Twitter. We were pretty surprised (and excited) that there are 15 of us! For our school, this is kind of a big deal. The dominoes started falling from there: I created a list of all our Tweeting peeps, we settled on a new hashtag (now #AISQ8, formerly #AISK), and started tweeting about our MS/HS Edcamp (#edcampq8).

This week we’re taking it a step further with a slow chat (#AISQ8chat). We’re hoping to expand on what people already know about Twitter and help some of our staff become more comfortable using it as a professional development tool. This week it will be a 3-day slow chat centered around a Twitter K-W-L. Details are below (created by Christina). Please help initiate our staff to the power of Twitter by participating with us 🙂 Looking forward to it!

Ancient civilizations coming to life

Have I mentioned that I one of my biggest passions is connecting classrooms around the world? Hopefully that’s old news because I’ve let it ooze into most of the posts I write. The grade 2 blog about Sharing the Planet w/ a focus on water is up and running – and they’re eager to read posts & comments from classrooms & experts around the world.

Next up – grade 3! Andria and Anna have been going through the COETAIL journey together and are gearing up to start their course 5 final project. They have chosen the IB PYP unit of Where We Are in Place and Time in which the students will be learning about ancient civilizations. Read more specifics here and here.

via Stux on Pixabay

Andria and Anna are hoping to connect their students to other classrooms that live in the ancient civilizations they will be studying – China, Egypt, Rome/Italy, Greece, Maya (southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and Mesopotamia (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria). Although Mesopotamia is the closest to Kuwait, it might also be the most difficult to connect to.

Their unit starts at the beginning of March. If you or anyone you know is interested in connecting to a grade 3 class in Kuwait, please let one of us know! They are open to Mystery Skypes, video chats, asynchronous communication and any other ideas you have 🙂