Chess, Stock Markets and Metaphors for Learning

Metaphors can be powerful vehicles for learning. They allow you to not only make connections between disciplines but allow you to think about concepts in new and innovative ways. They allow you to think about abstract concepts and visualize them so they sit in your mind’s eye and play with different ideas. However, how often do we allow students the chance to think deeply about ideas and concepts and create their own metaphors?

Metaphors allow learners to bridge their learning across concepts.

This is a blog post I have been thinking about for a long time. I find the best time for me to reflect is when I go running. It’s just me, the road and my thoughts. I find it difficult to find some quiet time to reflect at school, and as a father of 2 kids under 5, rarely do I ever have quiet reflection time at home 😉 So running is that time for me.

As I move along in my teaching career, I find myself thinking about the idea of learning in much deeper ways. I have been reading a number of books on how to make learning transformative and powerful for students. I’ve been reading some great books that challenge the idea of empowerment, innovation and questioning the frameworks we create for students to have the freedom to learn. The book coincidently titled, Freedom to Learn by Will Richardson does just that. I love the thinking by George Couros in his books The Innovator’s Mindset. Anyway, this blog post isn’t exactly on those topics but inspired by their thinking.

This post is about the metaphors of 2 unlikely areas, Chess and Stock Markets and how the slow impact of learning is very difficult to see the effects over time. This post is also on the power of allowing time for students to reflect, I mean really reflect and think about concepts over time, allowed to make connections and create their own metaphors. Please bear with me as I explain.

First off, stock markets. Specifically, compound interest. Personal finance is a bit of a hobby of mine and done a lot of reading (and practice) on the power of passively investing in index funds. Einstein has been reporting in saying “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.” It is amazing, yet at any one given time, it is very difficult to observe, especially in the short-term. If you want to see how it works, go to Moneychimp’s compound interest calculator, put in $10,000 with an annual addition of $1000 at 7% interest over 25 years and see what your investment would be worth. I like to think about the small decisions that you make in the classroom in the same way. Something as seemingly small as offering student’s choice in what they get to learn about for a project or spending 5 minutes conferring with student’s over their writing, can have monumental impacts over the long-term. The problem is small changes are very difficult to observe in the short-term. They are much like trying to watch soil erosion or noticing how a plant tracks the movements of the sun. You just can’t see them without measurement (enter data side talk here). They may even have a negative short-term impact over a day or two convincing the teacher to abandon their initial decision. This is why a long-term strategy, just like investing, is so important. You need to stay the course. You need to trust your strategy and intuition. These small incremental impacts compound over time and can have huge effects in the long-term. The problem with being a teacher is you often do not get to see those effects until much later in life.

The 2nd metaphor I would like to explore is chess. I know, I know I can almost hear the audible groans coming out of the computer screen as I type. So I must confess that I love playing chess and recently been learning some advanced strategies. I’m amazed at the community and how even Grand Masters are continually learning. I didn’t realize how much theory was involved in such a seemingly, simple game. One of the more interesting things I discovered while playing online is that there are chess engines created where every move you play, has a positive (or negative) effect on your chances of winning. Here’s a screenshot from a game I recently played, without getting into all the chess vernacular, you can see that every move (decision), I made had an effect on how likely it was that I would win. A lot of these effects do compound over time. A higher number, meant a better decision.

I mean, how amazing would it be if there was an AI learning engine that could track every decision you make as a teacher and it’s effect on learning?? Perhaps I need to develop this app and quit my day job…

This got me thinking more about how little decisions can have a huge consequence on whether you win or lose (or draw) the game. I know, I know, teaching and learning isn’t really about winning or losing. Nor am I saying that learning should be competitive with clear winners or losers. I think looking at it from a simply, if you are winning, you are having a positive effect on learning for that student or students, and a losing would be a negative.

So finally, my last point if about reflection. For me, these metaphors were exciting and powerful to me but mainly because I created them and owned them. How often do we give students a chance to think about their learning and wrestle with concepts? I would guess not very often. I get it, time is a scarce commodity in schools and we feel the demands to get through the curriculum. However, if we really want schools to be about learning, rather than teaching or curriculum or activities, then we need to rethink our ideas about learning. Usually the reflection time is very structured and we give them a couple of guiding questions and students must instantly come up with deep reflection. What if we let students come back to ideas and concepts and think deeply about them; own them, remix those ideas and think of their own metaphors for concepts and connect learning across displines? My guess is this type of learning, just like interest and chess databases, would compound over time.

ES Makerspace-Update #2

Awhile back, I wrote a post here about our Makerspace program. Since we are nearing the end of the year, I thought I would write an update of where we are at and a little about what I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, our ES Makerspace has passed budget approval and we are doing some major renovation of the space which I am currently in (formally an ES Tech lab). During the summer months here, we will give the room a facelift. This took an enormous amount of research and work. Since I’m not an architect or a builder, I found it challenging to make decisions on so many little details about the room. I had lots of input and support from my admin and teachers who gave me feedback along the way. I also had meetings with our Operations Director, IT Manger and Builders. After thinking carefully about the functionality of the room, I think we have a near final plan. I used a 3D modelling program to create this and you can see it here (click the 3D tab on the right to move around the space).


The idea is that it will have different spaces set up (electrical, woodworking and crafting areas) that are flexible for both storage and workspaces. The side benches on the left are fixed to the wall as well as the shelving above. Along the wall will be peg board and linbin flexible shelving to store tools and materials for kids like below:

The benches and other side tables will be on wheels so they can be moved around when needed. The side storage room is a bigger storage room for all school science and engineering kits and materials.

Now that the space is done, we need to start finding effective ways to utilize it as a school. The idea is that it is a shared space where classes can come and go as they please but also open before school and during lunchtimes where kids can “drop in” to work on Maker projects. I certainly do NOT want it to become a newer age computer lab where formal classes are being held. In addition, we are thinking of ways to have mini mobile maker spaces (on trolleys) that can come into classes as needed. Sort of like this:

makerspace trolley

Other than that, lots of really cool projects have been happening in classrooms. We launched a new Energy maker project in Grade 4 where students used the design cycle to solve an energy problem. They held an Energy Expo for parents and teachers to showcase their work. I really loved how students referred to the design cycle and all the little problems they had to solve. Here’s a few photos of their projects:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Other than that, we held our first Family Maker Day which was a big hit (but a ton of work!). We had 100 students come with their parents and had 14 different stations that they could freely engage in (I think I’ll do a separate post for this).

Here’s a few photos from the day as well:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Minecraft-A new virtual tool for learning

I just read a great post from this blog on Minecraft and thought I would add my thoughts on the subject.

Whenever you mention the word “video game” to a parent, it often brings quite a few negative connotations. Usually the negative words associated with this are: blood, shooting, waste of time, and mindless.  As an adolescent, I remember trying to justify to my mother that hours of playing Nintendo’s Zelda were actually beneficial to me. I would say, “but it improves my hand eye coordination Mom!”  She would often let out a sigh, roll her eyes and give me another 15 minutes to try and complete another level.  At the time, improving hand eye coordination was really the only apparent benefit of playing video games at the apparent cost of so many.

As part of my graduate research,  I have recently been doing quite a bit of academic research on game-based learning. Typically, with any new type of technology, there is a bit of resistance and usually group of critics who often propagate myths without having done the research themselves. I have encountered similar resistance when we first started doing blogging in the classroom (how can blogging possibly improve academic skills?), ipads and mobile devices (they are a distraction and waste of time) and now games.

Fast forward 20 years and gaming is still a huge market.  Video games have evolved into highly sophisticated multiplayer games and strategy-based games that require much more than trying to rapidly tap A, A, B, B, select, start, up, down as fast as you can. Sure, those games certainly exist but new genres have hit the market that require higher-order thinking skills, complex communication, collaboration and problem-solving.  One of those genres, simulation games, is beginning to overlap with other fields such as medicine, military and education.

Watch this fantastic video that paints a nice picture of the role of simulation games in education:







So what are simulation-based games?

Simulation games are virtual games that simulate a real-world experience that are often difficult or dangerous to take part in real life. Some of them are life-based simulation games such as the Sims and others are more construction and strategy based games such as Civilization, SimCity World of Warcraft, and Minecraft.

Games (not just video games) have actually taken quite awhile to be taken seriously by educators.  Games, by themselves, are obviously highly engaging, fun and motivating. However, these reasons alone are not enough to use them educationally. For example, Uno is a fun and engaging game but this alone doesn’t mean that it should be used in the classroom. There needs to be careful planning, goals, integration into the curriculum and reflection built into any type of technology or innovative practice.

I have recently been using Minecraft in the classroom to help develop some important mathematical concepts as well as those higher-order thinkings skills. As a teacher and a bit of a gamer myself, I can clearly see the advantages of leveraging games for learning.

So what is Minecraft?


Minecraft is a virtual 3D simulation game in which players need to look for resources to use to craft and build just about anything. There is a one player survival mode where it is just you alone in the world and there are monsters out there so you need to survive. There is also a creative mode feature where you have access to all resources in the game.  There is also a multiplayer mode (my favorite) where you interact and collaborate with people in real-time. Creativity is absolutely endless and I have seen people build ancient pyramids, castles, and even whole cities!

So how can you use Minecraft for learning?

Math-Since Minecraft is in a 3D virtual world, it is very easy to link in geometry and measurement concepts. I had 5th grade students complete a series of challenges involving fractions and percents. I built some structure and students had to figure out what percentage of each material I used. Then, I had them build a house involving some specific percentages of blocks. It is very easy to explore concepts such as volume, area, perimeter, coordinates and measurement. I had 3rd grade students build a real construction of a garden project they did in which they had to use specific perimeter and areas of their garden (planned ahead of time). Then students actually got to grow their own crops in the garden! Video of my idea will be posted below:


Geography-Geography is an easy way to explore using Minecraft. Difficult concepts such as topography, mapping skills, types of maps are a natural part of Minecraft. I found a great video by a fellow teacher in which he explored contour maps show below. I am planning out a series of lessons shortly

Economics/Math-Minecraft has plenty of multiplayer servers. Recently, I joined one and I am absolutely amazed at the kind of learning that happens on this. One server has an economy built into it so players receive money from selling their items. People also begin opening up shops selling and trading items. This opens up a real life (sort of) context where students could learn the idea of supply, demand, market prices and how economies are built.

Science-I have been following a high school teacher in Australia who uses Minecraft to teach concepts in biology. For example, he has students construct 3D models of eukaryotic cells. He uses a multiplayer mod to explore how neurotransmitters work.






Head Fakes and Learning

I recently watched Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture on TED and really got me thinking about learning. First of all, if you haven’t watched it, sit down and grab a coffee and get comfortable on your couch for a really interesting presentation. It is very heart-warming from beginning to end as he talks about his life lessons knowing that he has terminal pancreatic cancer and has 3-6 months to live. It isn’t depressing at all however.

One of his ideas is “Head Fake Learning”  and how vital it is to learning and teaching. He calls head fake learning the deeper and big learning that you learn (sometimes disguised) while learning something else. For example, learning teamwork skills and cooperation from playing saturday morning soccer. I guess I have always been a big proponent of this type of learning as I got into teaching by studying Outdoor and Experiential learning and working at summer camps and Outward Bound. I truly believe that we all should have a head fake learning that should be part of everything that we do. These can be big attitude skills such as perseverance and caring or thinking skills like problem-solving skills or reasoning skills. They don’t always have to be big skills but they should be important. This is the type of learning that happens and slips through the cracks of curriculum but stays with students for life.

Rethinking Teacher Evaluations


So it is that time of year again. That stressful time where you must demonstrate to the admin from a school that you are in fact a competent teacher and improve student learning. I have probably gone through the process a dozen times and also been on the other side of the coin in leadership roles where I was an evaluator as a team leader (more on that later). I still go through the hoops, get my observations done, schedule the meetings, do the paperwork and attend feedback post-observation meetings on one or two lessons that are planned to the minute detail so that everything runs smoothly. This seems like an awful lot of time and energy for a brief snapshot into a day and the life of my classroom. So the important questions remains, does all this actually improve my teaching practice? Perhaps, early on in my teaching career but at this stage, I would argue that very little of this actually improves teaching and learning. So why on Earth are administrators and teachers wasting all this time to begin with? Historically, research in this area has shown that the two main purposes for teacher evaluation are to:

1. Assure that teachers meet a minimum competency level

2. Promote the professional growth of teachers

So assuming a teacher achieves the minimum competency level, do formal evaluations by principals actually improve or encourage growth of teachers? I would argue no.

Much of my growth as a teacher has not been through these feedback sessions but through watching others teach through co-teaching or collaborative planning. I still remember my first year as a teacher when my principal observed me and I was barely learning the ropes. The feedback she gave me, although informative, did not lead to any direct change in my teaching practice. Only through experience and working with phenomenal teachers as role models, did I alter my practice.

At my last school, we actually had a very effective teacher evaluation/appraisal system. Administrators did no formal observations. Instead, they were done through grade level leaders who were often your friends or colleagues who often co-taught lessons with you. They did give written feedback but I also learned an incredible amount through watching them teach, planning with them and reflecting with them. We did meet with our administrators to discuss goals and identify professional development opportunities that supported these goals. This freed up time for administrators to actually do what they are paid to do, administrate. The assumption was that 99% of the teachers at the school, were extremely competent teachers (that’s why they were hired) so why waste valuable time having administrators confirm what they already knew? After all, teachers are truly the experts when it comes to teaching and learning.

Bill Gates had it right…almost.

On my travels through Cambodia this summer, I debated on whether to bring an expensive but incredible toy, my ipod touch. (A) because I thought I wouldn’t use it that much and (B) I didn’t want to get it stolen or lost. Well, at the last minute, I decided to take it just in case. It turns out that it was probably the most important item I brought save my passport and clean underwear. Why? Well, there were many hours I spent waiting and long bus rides with blaring Cambodian music and I could withdraw into my musical sanctum. Besides getting very addicted to the app Scrabble, I had some TED videos saved on there as well.

I watched the TED talk by Bill Gates on Mosquitos, Malaria and Education. Mr. Gates in addition to being a successful billionaire is also a philanthropist. I do respect him for this. Besides trying to find a cure for malaria, he is also deeply interested in improving America’s educational system. This is where it gets interesting (at least for me).

If you haven’t watched it and don’t have time to watch the beginning part about malaria, skip to the 7:55 mark where he talks about education.

Now, he is right about one thing. The american educational system is suffering. However, he rationalizes that the problem is that the US doesn’t have enough exceptional teachers. What does he use as his main supporting evidence for this claim? Test scores. I cringe every time I hear these two words. I am very thankful that I wasn’t brought up as a student in this environment nor do I have to teach in it. Now, this is where things get sticky. Well, standardized test scores have their place, they should NOT be the sole indicator for students achievement, a school’s achievement and especially not an indicator of the effectiveness of a teacher!

Here is my list of the 5 biggest problems with standardized tests:

1. They are typically culturally biased and ethnocentric-Many of these questions have reading passaged that are based on a north american’s culture. I remember giving a reading assessment on a passage about baseball to some of my korean students. The questions ask about homeruns and rules that would be much easier if she had of seen or played baseball before.

2. Performance-based tests can cause increase anxiety and stress-Imagine that for every unit of study, you would be asked to stand up on stage while a professor grills you about what you have learned. That’s how some students feel under these types of conditions.

3. Only measure one kind of learning modality-Standardized tests are usually in the form of multiple choice or short answer. This rewards students who are visual and logical learners and not those who learn through kinesthetic, auditory, intrapersonal, etc.

4. Only reward students for the “right answer” and not correct thinking– This is why Mathematics professors design tests which give points to students fo the correct thought process, even if they don’t get the right answer.

5. Does not measure attitudes and creative thinking– Standardized tests are usually one dimensional. What about students attitudes towards a subject area or original thinking?

So if all these inherent problems exist with standardized tests, why are we basing funding for schools on this alone? Why are we using these test scores to determine who is an “exceptional teacher” and who is not? While I will give Mr. Gates some points for actually asking a more important question, what qualities does an effective teacher exhibit? I think that many teachers do plateau in their teaching methodology unless challenged to learn from others.

Teaching is only one of the small factors in improving America’s educational system. I think more importantly, school’s need: smaller class sizes, more funding for resources, improved professional development, increased teacher support roles and improved facilities just to name a few. I believe Bill Gates whose heart is in the right place but his head just needs to be steered into the right direction.

The Power of Student Action in Inquiry-based Learning

It all started with a little caterpillar

Picture this, we are 4 weeks into a unit on Life Cycles and ordered over 200 caterpillars for our grade level for students to observe as it goes through each stage of the life cycle. Sounds like a great idea right? Unfortunately, 199 of the caterpillars went through only 2 stages of the life cycle..caterpillar and death. The other one somehow managed to go through a Darwinian miracle and ate all the leaves so none of the other caterpillars survived. Ironically, he ate himself to death. Not exactly a great start to the unit.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending (or this wouldn’t exactly be an exciting blog post).Last week, one of my Grade 2 students came rushing into class, practically bouncing off the walls with sheer excitement. She had managed to find 2 huge caterpillars in her backyard that were sitting on a tree. She carefully placed them in a see-through container (that was much better than our class one) and diligently picked the right leaves from the same tree as she remembered from class that caterpillars are particular about the type of leaves they can eat. She came running to my desk and said, “Mr. Marshall, Mr. Marshall, I think they are molting and getting ready to pupate” All the other kids gathered around and agree. I told her that I thought it was a great idea and we should put them on the display table to observe. Every morning, her and a few others would come in with new leaves and methodically clean the container, put a little bit of water and put them back in the container as if she was taking care of a baby. A few days later, some students excitedly discovered that they were now in a chrysalis. Sure enough, as I looked at them and they had created silk buds on the leaves and were now in the pupa stage. I got out my video camera and used iStopMotion to take a time lapse photo of it every 30 seconds so we could observe any changes. The news spread like wildfire and soon, other students from other classes came to observe these two caterpillars. This revitalized and infused a sense of excitement and curiosity into a unit that was quickly fizzling out. In a sense, the small action taken by this one child had created a huge impact on the learning of the rest of the Grade 2 community.

3 of my students with the caterpillars they found

So what does this mean?

We as teachers sometimes dismiss, neglect or acknowledge one of the most fundamental parts of the learner inquiry cycle– action. This is evident in the Primary Year’s Programme (PYP) from the IBO in this learner profile.

Learner Profile

As you can see from this diagram, action is put on the same level as concepts, skills, and attitudes. In fact, the IBO states this in the PYP Handbook, Making it Happen:

The PYP believes that international education must extend beyond intellectual attainment to include not only responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action. International schools can and should meet the challenge of offering all learners the opportunity and the power to choose their actions, to act and to reflect on these actions in order to make a difference in and to the world. The PYP believes that every student, every year, has the right and the duty to be involved in such action. In order to make the action component of the curriculum as powerful as possible in terms of student learning the PYP advocates a cycle of involvement which provides students with opportunities to engage in meaningful action.

Here is a diagram of the action cycle:

The action component of the PYP involves service in the widest sense of the word: service to
fellow-students, to the staff and to the community. Through such service, students are able to grow both socially and personally, developing skills such as cooperation, problem solving, conflict resolution and creative and critical thinking. These actions are, moreover, ways in which the students exhibit their commitment to the attitudes that we seek to engender within the PYP classroom.

I always thought action had to be big service run projects like building schools or raising money for orangutan sanctuaries. However, after attending a workshop on Action and the PYP, I learned that action starts with small, student-driven, spontaneous connections to learning that is happening in the classroom. In fact, the PYP planner even has a space to record student actions that took place in the unit during the reflection stage. While working at WAB, it was always exciting to hear from other teachers about some of the action that students engaged. It would also show the level of interest from a students’ point of view and how well we engaged them. Here are some examples of student action that we recorded in our planners:

  • Bringing in books related to the unit of inquiry
  • Creating a poster about an issue
  • Discovering a website
  • Sending an email to an author
  • Creating a science experiment at home
  • And of course, bringing in caterpillars from home 😉

Guidelines for implementation of effective action (taken from PYP Making it Happen handbook):

  • should be voluntary and involve students in exercising their own initiative and in taking
  • responsibility for their actions
  • should be based on balanced understandings and not biased stereotypical thinking
  • usually begins in a small way and arises from genuine concern and commitment
  • is usually, for younger children, grounded in their own concrete experience
  • demands appropriate adult support in order to facilitate students’ efforts and to provide them
  • with alternatives and choices
  • is not always concerned with raising funds.

I recently had a parent meeting and he was telling me a story in which his child once brought in a learning puzzle connected to an animal unit they were studying. The teacher actually punished this child for bringing in toys from home! He said this affected her for months after and she was unengaged, disliked school and scared to bring in anything from home to school again. He was so happy and relieved to hear that I was actually promoting students bringing in games, objects and books from home.

Just Pay it Forward

We sometimes forget that some of the biggest changes we can have as educators often goes unnoticed. One of my favorite movies of all time is Pay it Forward (I challenge you to get through it without shedding a tear)in which Kevin Spacey plays a teacher who at the beginning of the year introduces this bonus assignment to his middle school students to come up with one idea to help change the world. Anyway, one student in his class takes this to heart and comes up with the idea of “Paying it forward” and does one good deed for someone and in return, they must do 3 good deeds to others. This is an example of action at its best. Perhaps idealistic but shouldn’t we be at least striving to foster these kinds of things from our students?

Although I am not working at a PYP school currently, much of pedagogy remains the same. I suppose the old cliche, “you can take me out of a PYP school but you can’t take the PYP out of me” applies here.

It’s not about “the stuff”, it’s about the learning


This the venue of the summit-Canadian International School. And yes, that is canadian timber imported from BC on the roof. They even served Canadian back-bacon for breakfast. Made me feel like I was home..

What the Conference was really about:

It’s taken me a week to finally get my head around the learning from the Hong Kong Apple Leadership Summit. In a word, it was inspiring. Many people asked me afterwards, “Hey, how was the conference?” and for whatever reason, it was difficult to summarize. Others commented, “Wow, with all those technology gurus, you must have learned some really  apps.” Surprisingly, I couldn’t recall a single application that I learned about that hadn’t already used. Then again, it wasn’t so much about learning about new tools (although there were some hands-on workshops), it was the how to use these tools to improve learning for students. This is exactly how it should be with our students. I truely believe that technology has turned a corner in their evolutionary path in education. Technology conferences used to be about everyone opening the same computer program and a supposed “expert” stand in the front of the room teach us non-digital natives how to do all the ins and outs of the program. It was mind-numbing and overwhelming. There was usually no context for the learning and a week later, we would forget everything we learned. Nowadays, we have gotten a little smarter and we know there are better ways to use technology in the classroom. Best practices integrating technology show that we must be teaching skills “just in time” so that skills are meaningful, appropriate and relevant. Just-in-Time (JIT) learning challenges the traditional educational model that assumes the information is tied to one source (usually the teacher or textbook). JIT learning happens because the learner is motivated to learn and they need to learn something in order to accomplish the task. There were so many of these types of moments during the conference.

A Conference-Web 2.0 style

So back to the conference. I really knew that this was going to be a dynamic and engaging conference when many of the participants were twittering #hksummit (this was the tagline of the conference) while the conference was going on. There were over 50 pages of tweets and it was the one of the top 5 “trending topics” on Twitter. Very exciting stuff.  In addition, there was a backchat channel where some of the most exciting conversations were happening in response to the speakers. People where streaming the conference live on their iPhone and then broadcasting it via ustream. There is also a Facebook group page that was created during the session. Imagine if we had this level of engagment in our schools..

Keynote Speakers:

  • Tom Kelley, author of Ten Faces of Innovation spoke about innovation and how vital they are for organizations to develop.
  • Stephen Heppell, a professor, a wealth of information and recipient of the first-ever “Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in ICT Education” award
  • Vivien Stewart, VP for Education at Asia Society
  • Marco Torres, a high school teacher, media coach, and education technology director for San Fernando High School. He is a professional filmmaker and photographer who uses his digital storytelling skills in education

Here is a great summary video of the conference that could probably summarize it better than I could.

Following the keynote speakers, there were fantastic break-out sessions led by Apple Distinguished Educators and other leaders about these topics:

  • Technology and Pedagogy in International Schools-An Introduction to iWork
  • 1:1 @ The Canadian International School of Hong Kong
  • Connecting with your Community: Podcasting for leadership
  • Proof of Effective Learning: A Case Study of Concordia International School, Shanghai
  • Social Studies Integration
  • Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow-Today! and Challenge-based Learning
  • Supporting Technology Infusion using Laptop Carts-A Case Study by Shanghai American School
  • Future IT: Confronting your Inner Control Freak
  • Connecting Classrooms Across Continents: Planning and Implementing Globally Collaborative Projects
  • Designing Technology Infused Lessons
  • Lights! Camera! Learn!
  • Infusing Technology into Language Studies
  • Developing the Global Student: Practical ways to Infuse 21st Century Literacy into the Classroom
  • Moving to a 1:1-A Model for Professional Development from Nanjing International School
  • Community Advocacy with Web 2.0
  • Behind the Red Door (Research Education Development)
  • Multi-platform integration-A Case Study of Renaissance College Hong Kong
  • Framing Acceptable Technology Use in a 21st Century Learning Environment
  • Rock Out (and learn) in Your Class
  • IBO/DP Oral Assessment with GarageBand
  • Models for Teaching Teachers Technology at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong
  • Get Connected! Video Conferencing in the Classroom
  • Creating Student Film Festivals
  • Setting Leadership Examples with the use of ICT
  • Reinventing Western Academy of Beijing
  • Korean International School 1:1 Lesson Learned

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend 2 break-out sessions because they were being held simultaneously. There were so many interesting sessions as well and if anyone had further links to these sessions, I would love to see the notes.

Odds and Ends:

Overall, it was a fantastic conference and really well run by Apple and superb venue by the Canadian International School of Hong Kong For me, it’s about connecting, whether it be learning, people or ideas. I think all three of them happened at the conference. It was great to finally meet some people face-to-face after only knowing them through a digital environment @mscofino @RobinThailand @IPittman and see some familiar faces and friends @debbiediaz1 @annabelhoward @transpac_canuck @sbradshaw

One thing that was interesting was that the evaluation forms by Apple were all in given to us in paper form. Sigh..well I guess there is always something to improve upon for next conference 😉

So many great links and videos shared. Really enjoyed this one and feel like it encapsulated the essence of the conference.

My Favorite Quotes:

“We look at technology as a tool, students look at technology as an environment” Stephen Heppell

“Attendance is compulsory and learning is optional” vs “Learning is compulsory and attendance is optional”-Stephen Heppell

“Technology is only technology to those before that tech was invented. To children it is the world they live in.”

“You don’t develop water safety by waiting until kids are 16 and then throwing them off the pier.” Stephen Heppel in response to AUPs and online safety

Team Teaching=Team Learning

“Wow, why haven’t we been doing this all year?” we both said to each other. We are both Grade 2 teachers, passionate about teaching, and had very little time to plan these experiments. Our team had been planning a series of science experiments for our Grade 2 classes. We had the same schedule and so the logical thing was to try and put both our classes together (16 in each) and team teach each experiment. On top of that, we were given some rather mundane outdated science lessons (although very comprehensive). We decided to spruce them up. The results were amazing.

Not only did it enhance the actual instruction we gave to the kids but the students benefited with working with each other through a series of hands-on experiences on Changes in Matter. We had both our classes sit together on the floor of the science lab while we walked them through essential understandings, big questions and had students make predictions. Students were partnered up with their science buddy.

One of the greatest benefits during the lesson delivery was that we could piggy-back on each others questions and ideas. When you are doing a lesson on your own, you don’t have that think time during instruction. The beauty of having another set of teacher eyes and ears is that you could clarify points that the other teacher made or left out. We would also learn teaching ideas from each other. Simple things that sometimes you forget to use as a teacher but seeing it modeled by a colleague with you quickly reminds you of the benefits.

The other benefit was that we could plan ideas to extend the experiments or reteach areas that students were struggling with. For example, we had an extra experiments set up at the back where students could go if they finished early and make observations on shells and rocks, draw diagrams or combine different mixtures. This idea came out of planning together.

Furthermore, we would always have a wrap up whole class(es) discussion at the end where students could summarize their observations and inferences and we could guide them in their understanding. We added some fun to it and would choose “Top Scientists” who made great observations, helped out, answered questions carefully, etc. We would give them little stickers that they put on their science lab books. Although extrinsic in nature, stickers motivated students throughout the lesson and increased the quality of work. Who says stickers are a bad thing? 🙂

Finally, it helped with classroom logistics. Luckily, we had a lab assistant set up all the experiments beforehand. But during the experiments, problems happen. A students spills water or loses their lab work. Having 2 teaching bodies in there allows one to deal with the issue while the other can move the class along.

So the questions remain, why did it work so successfully between our 2 classes? We both have similar constructivist teaching styles which helps. Another reason is that we have a “yes and..” approach. In other words, if one teacher has an idea, the other says yes and builds upon the idea. Will it work with other classes and teachers? Who knows but would love to hear about other success stories.

We are both so excited about the idea that we are now going to team teach Math the science lab!