The last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and collaborate with awesome educators via social media. Twitter chats such as #pypchat #satchat #satchatoc #kinderchat and recently #coetailchat have been hugely influential for me in terms of my professional learning. What is a Twitter chat? Basically it’s a discussion on Twitter, usually in real time around a topic or set of questions set by the moderators and all you need to do to contribute is to use the #hashtag for that chat somewhere in your tweet (usually at the end). That’s it! Then you can search for the #hashtag and just like a bookmark, you can see all of the tweets posted under that hashtag. There are so many Twitter chats out there (check out @cybraryman1 site, he has curated many chats) and find what suits your interest and time. Just because you can’t join in synchronously doesn’t mean you should not check it out, the chatter often goes on long after the ‘official’ chat time has ended. Most often the moderator has archived the chat to so you can benefit from all of the resources, tweets and ideas people have shared. Lurk …or better yet contribute. Twitter is the best professional learning tool. Last week I co moderated #satchatoc and we were lucky enough to get Dr. Alec Couros @courosa as a guest moderator and expert on Digital Literacy. It was an epic chat with folks from all over the globe. The conversations around the questions were great but watching how the
connections and conversations spread even further and evolved around those questions were even more fascinating. So…

Find a chat that interests you and search for that hashtag
Find out when the next chat will be run (send out a tweet and ask!)
Join in, lurk or say hello – we are all there to learn and no one ‘owns’ a chat – we facilitate it
Have fun and relax- its frantic but you don’t need to read every single tweet!!


Still hesitant to jump in to a #twitterchat?

My Daughter’s Minecraft Mindset

My 11-year-old daughter spent a huge chunk of time playing games this holiday season. She had the time, no extra math lessons (don’t ask) no piano or extra curricular’s she normally does which occupies her time outside of school. No homework assignments. She had to time to take control of her own learning and learn what she wanted, when and how. I watched. A lot. Mainly playing Minecraft whilst surfing other stuff she might’ve been interested at the time like Katy Perry and the like. I pretended not to take too much notice but wanted to let her know I was ‘kinda interested’ in the Minecraft stuff she made. What I saw was pretty cool. Of course Minecraft doesn’t come with instructions or a goal and you don’t ‘win’. She worked on creating her world with horses, multiple storey mansions, trap doors for those pesky zombies, made a boat to go fishing, found villages, explored caves, created a portal to the nether, took care of her garden and whole bunch of other things I do not know how to do (I’m no Minecraft Native that’s for sure). But that wasn’t what amazed me. What amazed me was her ability to weave her way on the net finding out ‘how’. She wanted to build X? She didn’t know how BUT she knew how to find out. Where to look. She checked YouTube, Google, read Minecraft blogs and she even has 2 Minecraft paper books she broke out to look something up. Of course she had a Hangout with her friends and asked them as well. This was pretty awesome because when you think of it this is exactly what we want our kids to do but WE give them lame things to learn because WE feel they are important (and maybe they are but the point is she felt it was important enough to invest her time and energy to find out). I was shocked because she was using and developing her literacy skills. She was reading, writing, viewing, and speaking. I then did my own ‘research’ and read up on How Videogames Like Minecraft Actually Help Kids Learn to Read and this blog on Minecraft and literacy. Loads of info out there and I kind of knew that this was the case anyhow BUT Id actually witnessed this in action which was authentic. Ive used MC with my kids in school before but I initiated it for the most part and we had a ‘goal’ .. err well MY goal mostly or at least something I wanted them to attain.

COETAIL Course 5: Final Project

Our course 5 final project was really the culmination of what we’d been working on all year long. It started out as a ‘retooling of a lesson’ to integrate technology in a meaningful way (redefinition – in the SAMR model). In the process of developing a series of lessons (see the UbD planner below), we discovered something much bigger than we planned on. My @grade1class started the journey back in October by hooking up with @grade1osc from Overseas School Colombo in Sri Lanka for some tweet sessions, the odd Skype and maybe a project. We started out with a simple Storybird. Collaboration? Yes. Creativity? Yes. Connections..of course. What we  didn’t anticipate was that the kids wanted to show others their work that we made together. They essentially demanded an authentic audience. Thus the @grade1class and @grade1OSC- Collaborative Blog – Grade 1 Rockstars was created. This blog was the beginning of a whole new project that has been going over the year. We’ve been keeping track of our digital footprints and our online collaborative activities. The kids own it, even if we have ‘control’ over it and they understand that. Our Social Media Essential Agreement played a big part in being safe online (and a very useful tool in modelling good digital behaviour and responsibility) and making good online decisions.   We are explicit when using it and refer to it when engage in online activities. Again the kids made this, they own it. We did a lot with Common Sense Media, so check that out for some great ideas, lesson plans etc. In addition, @prashanigamage (the teacher of @grade1OSC) and myself often referred to the ISTE Standards for Teachers when planning our engagements and collaborations.


So the UbD plan looks like this:

Here is the final video. I used my Grade 1 kids to help me make the video, I figured why not it’s as much as their journey as it is mine. It’s by far from ‘perfect’ but after a few tries they decided to go with it. I loved their efforts. They wanted to use PuppetPals to express their reflections which we used as an assessment piece. They essentially just had to answer the question ‘What did you learn from our online collaboration’? The also had to justify their opinions. Kids also wrote their own private reflections in the Kidblog journals.

I chose Sparkol Videoscribe to tell my story. I must say the App is super ‘buggy’ and I lost my original work. Twice!  (Yes it was ‘saved’… Twice.) So I guess you could say 3rd time lucky. We took our 2 pieces of work and whacked them into iMovie and came up with this:


We built more than a Structure, we built a Foundation

We’ve been doing a lot of challenges in Grade 1 – thanks ‏@bfinnimore . Our challenge, to build a structure that can hold as many dictionaries as possible.There have been a lot of tears in Grade 1. We’ve had conflict. Resolution. Design. Redesign. It’s been an interesting week. We’ve been involved in design thinking. We’ve been incorporating Math, Science, Social Studies, Art and Technology in design projects.P1060742


The kids like projects like these I think. Yes, theres turmoil and stress but in the end they are left with some sort of satisfaction of completion. Of teamwork. You cant get that feeling from a workbook or a worksheet. Most of our weekly challenges involve teamwork. Some kids ‘hate’  it. Others love it. Some kids assume role of leaders, others are given the role. It depends. Its hard! We blog about it here too.

As a teacher I need to stop myself from jumping in and solving their problems, conflicts. Its hard to stand back but this is authentic learning. I provide guidance when needed, when asked, but I do not give them an answer.

These types of projects foster teamwork, collaboration, thinking skills. Real like situations here that will challenge these kids. We learned alot about math, max. weight capacity and bridge load. We used estimation and accurate measurement using standard measurement. In these challenges we have a our specs. For example make s structure X high or X long.. If kids want to innovate, awesome. Go for it. We often get other grades involved like the grade 4. They love to come in and test our hypotheses and give their expert feedback on how to better the design. How do they know? They had similar experiences years ago in grade 1. We learn that we can use other designs and make them better. We learn that we use other people for inspiration and for information. These are real life skills.

Afterwards we talk about what skills we used, why we even did this challenge and what weve learned. They get it. Its applied learning. In PYP speak kids are ‘Applying Meaning’ and using higher order thinking skills. I love the inquiry into maths here in these challenges. What I dont want to do is to plan everything the kids do. Plan each step. Thats not inquiry. Learning unfolds. If I did this next year it would be very different Im sure.

So what did I learn as a practitioner?
Kids need time
We make mistakes
We have different ideas
We use prior knowledge to make future decisions

Its great to learn from my kids. Building on my own foundation of learning.



Lets collaborate! The Great Egg Drop Challenge

The @grade1class had a great time collaborating with @grade1osc in Colombo, Sri Lanka this week via Skype. @prashanigamage and I got our kids to work together and share in a design challenge. The challenge? To design a ‘holder’ that would hold a raw egg that would be safe from a drop of ??. The drop distance was dependent on each class. We were learning about metres and centimetres. We decided we wanted to see of our package could withstand a fall from 1 metre or 2. The grade 1 class had larger aspirations and chose the second storey of their school building- about 5 metres in height!!

We all dropped our eggs.  What did the @grade1class learn?



  • that eggs break
  • The way we design something makes a difference
  • Planning is important
  • we know that things fall faster the higher they are
  • we need to work as a team, communicate, and respect others ideas.
  • We roughly know how long a metre is.
  • We use and share each other’s designs and are not ‘copying’ but collaborating

So how cool was that! We worked in some Maths, Language AND Science without the kids knowing!  Sneaky right? Well not really. It all became explicit over the week examining video and images of our journey. Talking about it. Some kids wanted to make a better package. Some disputed the measurement of the drop done by me). Actually there was more ‘math’ in the @grade1class as describes here..another post maybe but they got the pint I think that speed can be determined by height.  NB: I didnt force the kids to sit and reflect quietly (shhh) about it.

This week was chaotic and noisy. Learning was happening. 

P1060657 P1060620


Cmon ‘Whip it’

Ive hit a stalemate. I think we are  ‘done’ with the  course 5 project. Our blog has been going for a while.

Or are we done? Im still trying to push the kids to expand their ideas beyond the class. Its hard being 6. But we have learned alot from @kinderpals in BC, Canada and @grade1osc in Colombo. Its the small thinks like skype and tweets that make a huge difference.  We learn.

I think the kids need to be challenged to be informed about social media a young age. Why? Their sibling are living it. Kids are living it, and seeing it. Social media is being modelled everywhere- rightly or wrongly. My grade 1 kids want social media with a passion. If they want it thats great but lets teach them how. Lets teach them responsibility, good decision making. Lets help the kids make mistakes together.

Hey.. teachers who dont help your kids…heres a video for you. Yes you! Help your kids!

YouTube Preview Image

It’s a Process

Well this is more of a reflection, a reminder rather than a full blown blogpost.

Its like a n annotated documentation of the project if you will. The collaboration with our Grade 1 Rocks Blog  with the school in Sri Lanka is great.  The kids are still trying to see the reason for having the blog. I believe this project would better suit upper elementary. Or at least the Upper elementary would have more ownership?


One great thing we continue to get is the collaboration. We have had a science teacher @ibiologystephen  from Kobe, Japan tweet numerous times and we reflected on the blog about his questions and insights on scientific inquiry. This is linked to our central idea and he has been a great resource for us.



Our Journey Continues

So we havent gotten much farther than what I wrote in the last blogpost, in product anyhow but in thinking and ideas we have made progress. To to bring you up to speed, my grade 1 kids have decided to make a collaborative blog with another group of grade 1 kids in Sri Lanka and we share out stuff, reflections, creations and ideas on it. The first week was awesome. Then we sat back and thought WHY are we doing this? Who is it for? This is where we are at now 3 weeks in to the project. Things have been slow, product wide but pretty well moving along thinking wise. This thinking time is crucial I believe for the kids and teachers. We’ve brainstormed on butchers paper, and started a Google Doc with the kids in Colombo and we are working on a Social Media Essential Agreement to drive our blog forward.

So where are we at? We are still thinking about it and that’s ok. We need thinking time. Im loving how our little ideas are beginning to grow into bigger ideas, and sometimes we fail or dont come up with the best ideas but we try. More to come as we grow together.

Brave grade 1 student ) #sharingtheplanet_9123815175_m

For those About to Blog, (We Salute You)

Well it was a bit of an epic fail for my first COETAIL Coach Google Hangout tonight. My home connection in Indonesia isnt the best and yes I knew it …so my bad.  It was cool following along the best I could with Kim Cofino and the rest of the gang. Im pretty stoked at learning with others from both coaches and participants. This will be fun indeed. Honoured to be included.

I know the next  COETAIL online cohort is starting up which I am hopeful my lovely wife and newbie teacher @susijava99 will enrol in. I cant say enough about the COETAIL community and  programme and how much Ive learned and more importantly connected. It truly IS a community of learners. I love how one of my colleagues @scottafcameron is in the next online cohort as well. He’s a great MYP Science and Math teacher so follow him for sure.  He has seen all the cool stuff  Ive been doing and the connections that I have made over the last year in COETAIL. Im in Course 5 now and excited about my final project involving my grade 1 class connecting with others and creating and documenting on our collaborative class blog.

NOT creativecommons

NOT creativecommons

So to those of you who are just starting or thinking about COETAIL good for you. Its worthwhile and you’ll make an awesome personal learning network (PLN). it comes and you knew it right – For those about to blog we salute you! (Lyrics from an ACDC song for those of you who are younger than 30). 🙂

Have fun and enjoy the course.


The Value of a Network and Enthusiasm

This past week I have been working on the UbD planner and getting some great feedback and support from two of my  COETAIL cohort members and very knowledgeable educators @LindyBuckley1  and @ChezVivian  both of whom have inspired me and pushed me throughout the course when I started a year ago. So now Ive got a framework down, which will change but I have direction.  I believe that this is Redefinition on the SAMR model, or closing in on it. We couldnt share, connect and collaborate without this platform.post1

The next step was to start making it happen. My project is to create a blog where @prashanigamage  and her kids @Grade1OSC  in Colombo, Sri Lanka can not only keep connecting and sharing with my @grade1class BUT also have a place to document their collaboration and learning. I ‘unveiled’ the blog this week and the kids were pretty stoked! We had a great discussion about what what a blog was for, why blog and what to put on it and created a Google Doc with the kids in Colombo to hash out a blog Essential Agreement (yes we are both IBPYP schools). This agreement is almost in place and I think it was a great job by such young kids, in fact I think I underestimated them! So here we are now with our blog, I of course initially called it Global Collaborations..BORING and CLICHE!! I know right!! But the idea was for our kids to think of a name for the blog. So we had many suggestions but Grade1Rockstars eventually was chosen (not by the teacher but by the kids).


We made a couple of test posts, we also started KidBlog this week so they can get up close and personal to blogging and learn skills like font size, inserting images, find creative commons images etc). My kids want to change the header image (yeah it sucks…guess who chose it) but its great they are taking ownership of the blog and actually care enough to want to change it! We also looked at a few widgets and they loved the Clustrmap and of course a chance to share our Instagram photos posting them right to the website from the iPad.

So that was our week. We are stoked, I had a few parents that are now paying attention. I hope that my colleagues will also see what we are doing and understand why we are doing it.

Look forward to another week of this adventure.