Complete & Concise

I did something risky today.  I updated my Twitter profile.  Allow me to explain why this is risky.

As part of a Movers & Shakers unit, I recently started ‘teaching’ (what does that word even mean anymore when it comes presenting the use of digital tools to teenagers nowadays) my HS students how to use Twitter.  The purpose is to connect with contemporary M&Ss through social media and determine the impact a 140character tweet can have.

We started with the basics: creating an account, getting rid of the egg, following each other and following different M&Ss on social media.  I then tweeted our Director of Learning Innovation Mark McElroy, and asked for his input to which he responded:

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 1.29.27 PM
Screenshot from Twitter.com

Great advice! We dug deeper into the twitterverse to find people to follow that interested us, topics and hashtags, and of course our M&Ss.  But what struck a chord with me that I didn’t even think about was the part about writing “a concise, complete profile”.  Sure, I thought, that makes sense.  But again, what does that really mean?

So I looked at mine which included my name, my position, a link to my most influential PLN (#SISrocks), a link to this blog and then something about me being “a confessed granola bar thief and dumpling lover”…?

I wondered, what is complete and concise about that?  What is that really saying about me, my beliefs as a teacher, my passions, my practice?* I just couldn’t continue to preach something so banal let alone use it as a model for my students.  As I struggled to show what a ‘complete and concise’ profile I realised I needed to quickly update my own.

This is what I came up with:

twitterprofile
Screenshot from TweetDeck

“Disrupting and innovating the traditional methodologies of ELL (English Language Learner) support through coaching and inclusion”

Yes, risky.  Why? Because this is my digital self.  Most people in my PLNs will meet me, get to know me and make assumptions about me through my Twitter profile.  Most importantly, it’ll be expected that what I share and post, support the statement on my profile.  Yes, yes, risky.  I basically just tied myself to this statement, this philosophy, this disclaimer that yes ladies and gentlemen on Twitter:

  • I’m disrupting the traditional practices used to support English Language Learners in schools
  • I’m using innovative tools to move these methodologies out of the classroom and focusing on authentic not scripted learning
  • I’m showcasing student work to empower ELLs to find a real voice in a language they didn’t grow up with
  • I believe that ‘it takes a village’ and coaching models allow for real collaboration, flexibility and creativity in schools

I like it.  I believe in it.  Complete.  Concise.  Boom.

*To be clear, I do often steal granola bars when they’re offered as snacks in in-house PD days and yes, I do absolutely love dumplings.

Over-iChiever

Do you remember the movie ‘Bruce Almighty‘ with Jim Carrey?  It’s a sweet comedy about a guy named Bruce (Carrey) whose ambition doesn’t allow him to see all the great things in his life.  It’s a good movie, funny and heartwarming.  I was thinking of this movie the other day, not because I identified with the character necessarily (or have a God-like complex), but because of this scene:

www.propstore.com
www.propstore.com

I keep my daily to-do lists on sticky notes on my desk and this is how I’ve been feeling the past few months.  Doesn’t matter if I tackle a task, there’s always another sticky just waiting to be tackled.  I bet, reader, that stickies or not, you have felt this way too.  Never-ending lists of tasks.

I’m an overachiever.  My friends and colleagues try to sugarcoat my freakish A-type nature by calling me a ‘planner’ or complimenting me on my ‘attention to detail’ or even saying that they envy my ‘organizational skills’… thanks guys, but let’s call it like it is.  I can be an overachieving pain in the neck.  Especially to myself.  I take on too much and nitpick at everything.  My public motto is “I did the best I could. I’m happy with the outcome.” but my private motto is “You could’ve done so much better… shoot higher next time!”

And that’s exactly how I feel about the last few months regarding COETAIL.  Not that I haven’t done some other great things, but because of taking on so much, it’s only necessary for things to take a back seat… And as I glance at the rearview mirror, all I see is course 5.

So here is an attempt to peel off the stickies (trust me, course 5 posts and comments are layered in there) to get back on the COETAIL train.  There are so many wonderful things happening in the different classrooms I collaborate with and I want to share it with the COETAIL network.

Write a ‘come back’ post on my COETAIL blog, check!

Moving up the SAMR Ladder

It’s almost impossible to explain my absence during course 4, except that it started with this back in October:

wdtfs
(info@coetail, this should explain the weird email…)

And ended yesterday celebrating my 32 years of life.  Yes, it’s been a month hiatus that I will try to make up for in 1 week.  I do, in fact, have a lot to say and reflect upon in Course 4.  So let’s go, ha-tee-ho!

As many of you COETAILers out there know, my school Shekou International School, as a whole has been moving up the SAMR model ladder. Just our hashtag #SISRocks has trended (in fact, it’s the most trended international school hashtag in the Asia South-Pacific region) since mid-2012, and has redefined our professional sharing practices, both among our staff and with other schools/colleagues/classrooms in the international school community.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in our practice.  Everywhere you turn on our campuses, learning is being redefined.

When asked to reflect on my practice and how the English language learner support is also being transformed at SIS, I don’t know where to start!  So much has changed as language barriers and the students’ exposure to, and the opportunities to develop language (both academic and social) are now endless due to global connectivity.  So here are some examples about what this transformation looks like, and how it continues to evolve and climb that ladder step by step:

  • Augmentation – Using A+Pro or other flashcard apps to make individualized word banks that include images, audio, links to web and a daily practice reminder.

A+

  • Modification – Using the CONFER app to combine WIDA Can-Do descriptors and the TCRWP teaching points, to assess ELLs.

confer

  • Redefinition – Using Padlet to create a ‘wall of walls’ to collaborate on vocabulary learning and learning.

The tricky part about me reflecting upon this as ‘my practice’ is that it’s doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them, the students.  I may guide them into using the tool, but it is them who redefine their learning through the use of the tool.  For the Padlet, for instance, I may think of the endless ways it can be used for students to develop their vocabulary.  I may also suggest to them what they can do and how to take it further.  But it is really in their application of the tool that will show me its capacity (and/or limitations).  It is the exploration of the strategy through the tool and how each learner uses/applies it that will truly be the real redefinition.

Again, just the tip of the iceberg in what truly is to be a 21st century learner as well as a 21st century educator.  So I climb this SAMR ladder with my learners every day.  I see them climb it as well, sometimes without even realizing it, they enhance and transform their learning.

Fly Me to the Moon: My Learning2 Moonshot

The song goes ‘Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars.  Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars..’ and then it goes on to say ‘Fill my heart with song and let me sing forever more…’ dah-duh daduh daduh.  Oh Sinatra, how I love you.*  The song is beautiful and simple, yet speaks such passion.  A passion that will shoot one to the stars to celebrate spring on lifeless planets.  A passion that will make the impossible, possible.

Learning2.013 in Singapore this past weekend was quite a passionate experience.  Each part of it was something special: The beginning talks, snapshots of how educators are transforming learning in international schools in Asia and other regions; the parts in between with extended sessions and workshops that became spaces to discuss best practice and explore new ideas; and the closing by Jeff Utecht, one of the highlights of this whole experience.  After all was said and done, it was time to ask:  How has this experience rocketed your passion to transform learning, literally, as soon as you get back to your classroom on Monday?  What is your moonshot?

So here it goes.  My moonshot is to create an iTunes U course that houses mini lessons, strategies, and resources accessible to students, parents and teachers; and in turn maximizing my English language learner support, making it fully transparent and available 24/7.  Phew.  That’s a lot of moonshots in one sentence!

You’re probably thinking, an iTunes U course?!  Where is the passion in that?  Well, after attending Dana Watts‘ iTunesU workshop, I realized that the possibilities of maximizing one’s instruction are endless.  Universities like Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, offer free courses through iTunesU to whoever wants to take them!   No ivy league tuition required.  Many powerful educational institutions have flipped their classrooms and lecture halls, and by doing this, they are transforming higher education.  Now, I won’t pretend to be on the same arena as these institutions, but the idea of flipping my practice and transforming the support I give my students, is a huge step.

Empowering students that I seldom get to see due to time constraints or scheduling conflicts, feels like spring on Jupiter.

Sharing best practices and strategies with teachers to support students, feels like playing among the stars.

Reaching out to parents who would otherwise meet/talk/see me once a year during conferences, connecting with them and breaking down language barriers… The impossible, possible.

This is a gamble as this could potentially bring change to how EAL students are supported in our school.  But I’m going around this friggin’ wall and taking a chance. After all, isn’t change the biggest constant in our practice?

Dah-duh daduh,
Fly me to the moon
And let me plaaaay among the stars.
Let me see what spring is like oooon Jupiter and Mars.
Dah-dah dah-dah, daduh daduh

*’Fly Me to the Moon’ was actually written by Bart Howard, but made epic by Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Learning2.013 ~ Story Through the Lense

I put this together just for fun and to practice my mad (newly learned) skills on digital storytelling to get ready for my C3 project 🙂  I wish I could say that I used what I’ve learned in coding as well, and although I’m making headway in the Code Academy, I just realized WordPress does a lot of the coding for me.  But look out for my Scratch project, coming soon to this blog… 😉

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L12eNl9wxYY[/youtube]

Application – iMovie
Photos – iPhone & Flickr
Music – ‘Girasole’ by Giorgia
Font – Avenir

#GoodbyeBreakingBad

Did you watch it?  The finale of all finales?… … … Do you even know what I’m talking about?  If you don’t, it’s cool.  It’s only a matter of time before you decide to binge-watch all 5 seasons of the best TV show in television history, Breaking Bad.  But this post isn’t about the show’s 100% pure awesomeness (inside joke, again, if you haven’t seen it, I apologize), this post is about the power of the media and its undeniable and unstoppable global connectivity.

**This post itself doesn’t include any spoilers, however, some of the links might lead to the online community’s reactions to the finale and they are likely to include spoilers**

I live in a timezone that is 14hrs ahead of the west, so my favorite TV shows are DVRd upon airing and saved on my hard drive waiting until I come back from work, ready for me to sit, relax and watch.  I love those moments when I unplug and ‘lend’ my thoughts to fictional characters on the screen. Global Connectivity It’s also worth mentioning that in the last 10 years, TV shows have upped their game incredibly and a lot of the writing and performances are outstanding.  But I digress.  As an avid TV watcher, I rely on the availability of online media to not only get the episodes immediately after they have aired, but also to  read up on what the online viewing community is saying.  This sense of community is at the core of global connectivity.

You might be wondering, why is this so important to me, I mean, it’s just a TV show right?  Maybe to bring up the topic of a global community in the context of a TV show is a bit superficial (you might change your mind if you watched this genius show, just saying ;)).  But the ability to connect in real time with people from all over the world, who speak different languages, who come from different cultures, who think in different ways with different perspectives… all over one common topic (be it a TV show or any other), is a great privilege.

Don’t get me wrong, it can also be overwhelming and sometimes a pain in the neck (I hate spoilers!).  So how can one person keep up with all these global interactions?  Just today, as I opened my HuffPo feed, three days after the BB finale aired, it’s still a much talked about topic in the online community.   If you look up any Twitter #s related to the show (#GoodbyeBreakingBad, #BreakingBad, #BreakingBadFinale, etc), they’re still “blowing up” (trending and relevant) as people continue to talk about it.

This community, these connections, allow all of us to feel like we’re part of something big.  That we all have a voice.  And as we connect to these communities, we become active listeners of different global perspectives.

Connect in Real Time...

For instance, these critics (and some of the actors from the show) LOVED the BB finale, where as this critic was very disappointed.  I read both opinion pieces and although it didn’t change how I felt about it myself, it did make me think of how awesome it is that we can all see things in different ways.

I also felt validated.  I love this show! And it’s cool to read up on others who feel just as strongly about it as I do.  I mean, it’s not like it’s part of my professional life (the story line is about a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to start a meth lab with an ex student to make money and secure his family’s future before he dies… hooked yet?!); nor is it an essential part of my personal life… It’s just pure entertainment. You know that feeling when you find out someone else has read a book you loved? And loved it too? Or didn’t? It doesn’t matter! That feeling of sharing that commonality is what’s awesome.  Now think of it in a way bigger scale… Imagine finding a whole global community that you share something with, that not only you can be a part of but contribute to it as well.  Pretty powerful stuff.

A global community of this can now empower people to share their views in real time about all sorts of issues and topics.  I quickly realize that this was not possible 20, 15 or even 10 years ago.  I talk about a TV show, but can you fathom the impact on current world issues?  A platform that gives anyone a voice, and not just that, but gives influential people a chance to hear these different voices?  A privilege.  A great one.

Ponder on these thoughts of global connectivity, the impact it has on us as educators, world citizens and/or avid TV watchers.  I’d love to hear your thoughts via this blog or Twitter – In fact, I love that I can hear your thoughts via this blog or Twitter 🙂  We may never meet face to face, but the fact that we are all part of COETAIL’s online community is certainly a privilege in itself.

Also, if/when you decide to watch BB, don’t forget to join the online community who will hold your hand (albeit digitally) through the intense story line.  So good!

We’ve Come so Far

While cleaning out my work mailbox the other day, I found this email I sent our eLearning (previously known as ‘Tech’) team.  Please read on and I’ll explain why it was so important (although risky) for me to share.

Date: February 8, 2012
 
Dear Technology Team,
 
I had some wonderings regarding the decision to block networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Pinterest) from our server during school hours at SIS (Shekou International School).  There was a time when I pushed for such a block, especially when students can access these sites and use them unproductively or even inappropriately during school hours.  However, as we reflect on the use of technology at SIS, I wondered about the disadvantages of blocking such sites.
 
From a support teacher’s point of view, one that feeds on the creative ideas provided online to continue to enrich the support given to the curriculum (Pinterest is a great example); I wonder if this restriction will have a negative impact in the way I look for inspiration online.  Also, as the Double Happiness Committee representative, I’m currently trying to encourage SIS staff members to ‘Like’ our new DHC page on Facebook (this undertaking was also an inspiration by the PD given by Kim Confino).  This is already a hard sell and the popularity of our page hasn’t taken off the way I would’ve liked; and I wonder if having Facebook blocked on campus has had an effect on the popularity of the page.  How can I ask staff members to ‘like’ us when our own server won’t allow us to visit it?
 
In my experiences, I’ve seen that any technology brought to the masses can have one of two effects:  impress or intimidate.  I wonder if blocking Facebook or other networking sites that are blocked in China, adds to the intimidation rather than inspiration that such networking can bring.  I’m very well aware that when technology is used inappropriately, the consequences can be brutal.  But if an educational establishment that fosters exploration and inquiry like SIS restricts the use of such websites, I wonder if the message we’re sending is that blocking the sites has a more effective impact than educating and training for their appropriate use.  Therefore if the teaching staff is restricted from using these sites freely, how can we impart our knowledge of the right uses of this technology to our students?  How can we learn to be guides for our students when they’re out there surfing networking sites in this technology heavy world?
 
And lastly, as a tech person myself, one who not only loves the use of technology but also strives to explore it in all its entirety to improve my practice as an educator; I wondered if I would be writing this email a few years ago.  Like I said, I used to be on the front lines when it came to blocking sites, always with the thought of protecting our students from using them inappropriately.  But that hasn’t made them go away and it certainly hasn’t stopped me, you, our families, our friends, our students, our students’ parents; from using them on a day-to-day basis.  And now I wonder if I want my role as an educator to be to stigmatize those sites, label them as ‘something you do at home’, and support the restrictions imposed on them; or if I would rather be an educator who asks questions about ways to educate everyone in productive, creative and effective ways to use them.
 
Like you, I want our school to move forward in its use of technology in all its aspects.  And I wonder if these restrictions are a step back as opposed to a step in the direction we want SIS to go.  I don’t want this email to sound like a complaint, it’s not.  It’s simply meant to be a seed that sparks up a real discussion about what this block really means in the long run and whether it’s time to look into other options as to how best to educate others in using these sites, whether it’s at school or at home.  I would love to be part that discussion if it happens 🙂
 
I’d be lying if I said my first instinct was to share this email.  It’s almost like ‘airing our dirty laundry’, so to speak.  But as I re-read my thoughts and reflections on this topic, I can’t help but emphasize how far we have come.
 
We as a school.  Shekou International School is now one of the leading tech-integrating international schools in the world.  Our Twitter hashtag #SISRocks is shared, used and ‘trended’ on a daily basis to zoom in on how SIS is transforming learning.  A vast array of media is used to enhance our classrooms and our curriculum.  Our teachers and students have self-managed devices, 1-to-1 iPads starting in grade 4, and MacBooks up to grade 12.  Our Kindergarten students build digital portfolios and tweet their learning every day.  Our community tweets, blogs, and collaborates online using Padlets, Google Docs, Edmodo, Evernote… And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
We as a professional learning community.  Our eCoaches who work tirelessly to provide us with the tools to enhance our teaching practices.  Teachers who are willing to take risks and challenge themselves to try new things as their classrooms are repeatedly ‘disrupted’, principals and directors who learn with us and support us while we explore a new age in education.  Students and parents who have embraced the changes and put their trust in us to lead this transformation.
 
And I as an educator.  Back in February 2012, as I wrote that email, I could’ve never imagined this.  Flipped classrooms, full transparency, enhanced learning for a generation of digital natives.   A transformation, a paradigm shift, in only 18 months!  Wow.
 
How far we have come indeed.
 

A Candy Crush Summer

And we’re back.  International schools all over the world are either getting ready to gear up for a new school year or are up and running like well-oiled machines, SIS being the latter.  It feels great to be back 🙂  Students have grown a couple of inches, some have stayed the same.  We’ve had a few lost devices over the summer, some access passwords forgotten (not mine, thank goodness!), but nothing that Time Machine, iCloud backups and eCoaches can’t fix.  We’ve hit the ground running and it seems like we never left.

For all fellow COETAILers out there, we’ve had a summer to think about and anticipate our next course, and what this year will bring.  Some of us are looking forward to re-connect via Twitter and/or hoping to physically ‘meet’ each other at Learning 2.0 in Singapore.  However, some of us had a mental-health summer where we purposefully didn’t think much about work, or PD, or students, or required summer readings… Yes, for some of us, the most productive thing we did all summer was play Candy Crush.  And by ‘us’, I mean ‘me’.

Last year was the best (and busiest) of my career, and in turn, the most tiring.  I used the term ‘burned out’ to describe how I felt to my colleagues and friends.  Towards the end of the school year, it was evident on my face, my work performance, even in my most recent COETAIL posts.  I was done and I needed a break.  So I took it.  And it was the best thing I could’ve done.

I’m back a renewed educator.  I’m seeing things clearer and see the direction where I’m going… I’m ready to take the next steps in my career as an educator. As I write this post, I’m hoping COETAIL will be the outlet for this work, and successful students the evidence of a job well done.

The first step I’m taking is completing my course 2 final project. (True story.  I even asked for an extension, which I was given!, and didn’t come through with that either…)  And even though I (very likely) won’t get a grade for it, I still want to do it, because I consider it incredibly valuable.  I will also do it a bit differently in a way that I can make it relevant for my students.

My project consists on a T.H.I.N.K. campaign.  Thank you to my friend Liz Cho-Young and her collaborator on this work Dan Slaughter, for the inspiration.  I will hold an ASA (After School Activity) at my school for G4-5 students who will help me put together a student-friendly campaign to promote appropriate digital citizenship based on the idea of THINKing when learning through technology.  Together we will explore what this might look like for students their age with self-managed iPads, get their input on what they really think is the most challenging choices they’re faced as digital citizens, and what strategies we can promote for others to make good choices.

I made a choice this summer to channel all my energy into playing Candy Crush (I mean, have you played Level 70 of Candy Crush?!?  It’s quite the challenge! ;)).  I had the world at my fingertips, great books to read, blog posts to comment on, resources to enrich myself… And I chose not to do any of it.  I will share this experience with my students in my ASA and ask them what I could’ve done to manage my time better.  What can we all do to discern between the good and the bad, the productive and the unproductive, the ‘have tos’ and the ‘it’s ok tos’?  And when they’re feeling burned out from all these choices, what happens then?  I can’t wait to see what we come up with!

So here we go COETAIL, hitting the ground running.  Can’t wait for Course 3 to start, I’m ready.  And for all you Candy Crush fans out there, good luck in the Easter Bunny Hills!!  They’re killing me softly… 🙁

 

 

Looking for Info Online – Video

A while ago I made a video for students, which explains how to look for information online in different reading levels and for ELLs to search in their L1 (first language).  After sharing it with other teachers and students, I’ve found that a quick video like this can have such  an impact if shared at the right time.  I recently resent it to G5 students to help them in researching for a Social Studies project.

Feel free to share this video with your students and colleagues.  The target audience is grades 4-5, but could be helpful for grades 3-8.