On Wednesday we held our 3rd Annual SpeedGeeking session (previous post here). Like I said in an email to all the teachers, this is my favorite day of the year! SpeedGeeking is an opportunity for our teachers to learn, celebrate, socialize, and hopefully get inspired.
In the past, speedgeeking has been a highly orchestrated affair, involving different rotations, various groups and multiple locations. At the end of it, there were a lot of teachers with glazed-over eyes, scratchy throats and full brains! This year, we decided to simplify: 18 presentations divided into two rooms, groups were made at random and on-the-fly (the ol’ pick-a-number-out-of-the-hat trick) and each group only went through one room. Each presentation was 7 minutes long with about 20 seconds to rotate to each new station.
After a delicious mid-afternoon snack, we had about 45 minutes to just sit and digest, both the food and what we’d just seen! In addition to all the great ideas they had just seen, we were able to talk with our colleagues about what happened in the other room. We’re hoping this can help spark conversations for months to come.
A huge THANK YOU! to all of the presenters who shared a small bit of their teaching practice with us. Without you all, an event like this could never be successful!
Below is a list of all 18 presentation topics. If you were a presenter and would like me to link to anything, let me know. If you want to learn any more about any of these topics, the presenters are good people to start that conversation with!
Research Better with Social Bookmarking (Diigo) – Kelsey G.
<How quickly time flies… I started writing this post a month ago and it just kept getting pushed back and back… Sorry about the lag!>
The #vtc2013 participants
Back in September 2011, I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Shanghai with Gary Bertoia and we asked each other: “What if schools in Vietnam were to create a local #edtech conference?”
Almost 16 months later, we have!
The past two days have been the culmination of months of work and collaboration between UNIS Hanoi and Saigon South International School to organizing the Vietnam Tech Conference (#vtc2013). It has also been the product of 95 Vietnam-based teachers who were willing to share, teach, learn, mentor, collaborate and network with one another in a way that has never happened in this country before!
Some of the goals that we had for the conference were to create a dynamic learning environment for the teachers that was high quality and relatively low cost; to have maximum impact on student learning; to maximize teacher participation by
The Organizing Committee
The organizing crew took the best bits of some of our world-class regional technology conferences and combined them into two intense days. We had a day of structured workshops (I even managed to squeeze in a session on Digital Citizenship) combined with a day that was more participant-driven and progressive, featuring two rounds of SpeedGeeking and two blocks for Unconferences. All in all, I think it came together quite well. I’m looking forward to sitting down the conference feedback information and getting a more in-depth feel of what the participants thought.
Saigon South International School did an amazing job of hosting the conference. Robert Appino, David Perkin, Theresa Flaspohler and the entire SSIS crew thought of just about everything and pulled off the weekend without a hitch! I’m a little sad that I won’t be at UNIS Hanoi next year when #vtc2014 is hosted there, but I have no doubt that they will match or exceed this year’s organization!
As with any course, I don’t know how much of it I will retain unless I use my Google-Fu on a regular basis. But it is cool to know some new tricks. Two of my favorite finds are the inurl: operator and the “specify a number range” operator. And if/when I forget them, I know I have the skillz to just google them!
We’ve never suffered from a lack of resources as long as I’ve been here at UNIS Hanoi. We’ve been running a 1:1 TabletPC program for the past 6 years. All students in grades 4 – 12 have their own machines. And in the Middle and High School we’ve been running a (virtually) paperless environment with varying degrees of success.
But. as I’ve said previously, as a school we are becoming cranky teenagers. Instead of accepting what we are given with a “Thank you!” and a smile, we’re beginning to ask “Why?”
Why are we using this machine and not that one?
Why do we have to do that?
Why can’t we do this?
Now, from my perspective, this is a great problem to have. Teachers and students asking “why?” means that they are thinking about the best ways to transform teaching and learning. I’m actually more concerned about the teachers and students who never question what we’re doing! It means they are passively accepting what is being given to them and not showing any critical analysis of our program or of their own learning.
To help spur the question of “Why?”, we’ve introduced Innovative Learning Grants. The central questions that we started with was “What is it that you want to do at but currently can’t?” and “How will this improve student learning and/or teacher pedagogy?”
The idea is that teachers submit a proposal documenting their interest and also noting some of the research that they have done on the topic. Once proposals have been selected to go forward, the teachers are responsible for documenting their work and submitting a written report at the end of their trial period. This report includes feedback on the outcome of the project as well as suggestions for scaling the project up to go beyond their individual trial. From this, decisions can be made about going forward. It is my hope that all of this – all grant proposals and the final reports/recommendations of the ‘winning’ projects – will be published to the entire community as examples of how UNIS is looking at staying on the cutting edge when it comes to learning.
In the first iteration, we received a quite a few grant proposals. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of the proposals that we received. In the end, we selected three to go forward. One is looking at the use of standing desks in the classroom. Another is looking how to adopt mobile technology into PE classes. And the third is looking increasing collaboration and lay through the use of a SMART Table in our Early Childhood classes. All trials will end before June and I’m looking forward to reading and sharing their final reports. [I will ask to see if any of the authors mind if I share their proposals.]
A quick note about the name: it was a very deliberate decision to use the term “Innovative Learning” and not mention “Technology” even though the funds are being put up by the Technology Office. As a school, our focus must continue to be on learning. Our focus on technology is not for the sake of having the shiniest bell or the newest whistle but to improve student learning. 99 times out of 100 Innovative Learning will involve the authentic use of technology, and by using the title “Innovative Learning Grant” we are keeping the emphasis where it belongs.
What is your school doing to encourage innovation in both teaching and learning? Do you think you could apply a similar process at your school?
UNIS Hanoi has had the good fortune of spending two day with Mark Church, one of the researchers and authors behind Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Project. We are actually just starting day two and I find myself with a few minutes to reflect back on the first day.
The focus of the first day was less about Visible Thinking Routines and the Teacher for Understanding framework and more about discussing the need for making thinking visible and teaching for understanding. While they may seem obvious to any group of teachers (and who in their right minds would ever disagree with the need for teaching for understanding?), these concepts are sometimes not given the thought that they deserve. It was very refreshing to have an “outside expert” come in and say that we need to be a community of learners and that it is vital for teachers to provide opportunities, model and document the thinking that goes into the learning.
Like I said, nothing revolutionary in theory but great to hear…
I love the Visible Thinking Routines. I try to use them whenver I can as a reflection tool at the end of workshop sessions. As more schools are going 1:1 and beyond, I wonder if there is a way to update or revamp them to reflect the tech-rich environment that so many schools now find themselves in. Besides taking a picture of the work at the end, how can we visualize, capture and display thinking in our digital environments? Or, does that defeat the power and the purpose of these thinking routines?
What do you do to visualize thinking with technology? Which of the VTRs have you successfully updated to your digital/online learning environment?
It seems like forever ago since I landed back in Hanoi after 3 days in Mumbai. Actually, it was only a week ago. I started my reflections with a list of tweets that I sent during the conference.
The first day of ASB Unplugged was devoted to classroom visits, student showcases and discussions by some of the various R&D groups that are functioning at ASB. During that time, quite by chance, I found myself sitting around a table that included Jeff Plaman, Andrew McCarthy, Simon May, Aaron Metz and Adrienne Michetti. What happened over the next 90 minutes was PURE GOLD.
The focus of conferences, for me, has changed. It is no longer about sitting in a room and being told about/shown the ”next great thing” in education. It’s now about sitting in the hallways and in the common areas and leveraging connections that I have already made through Twitter and other aspects of my PLN into deep and meaningful conversations.
In those 90 minutes, we bobbed and weaved through three major points of discussion:
1. Ownership and Exit Strategy – I’ve written about it a long time ago and it still sits somewhere in the back of my mind. How do we balance the needs and wants of teachers to create curriculum materials in spaces all over the internet with the need for the school to have continuity in that curriculum delivery? With such a large amount of transience in international schools in particular, how can schools encourage teachers to create amazing, lasting digital curriculum material that can continue to be used by both parties when that teacher moves to the next school? Related to this, what are we doing as a school to create an “exit strategy” for teachers, helping them to collect all of their digital resources to bring to their next school, ensuring that those resources are available to subsequent teachers? I’d be curious to know if there are any schools with effective checklists for the end of year related to Google Docs, WordPress blogs, and any external wiki platforms that are used. How do you keep track of all the great things that are going on in the classroom on the weeblys and wikispaces and tumblrs and…?
2. New Teachers – Transient teachers mean lots of training. Last year, there were 44 new teaching and admin staff at UNIS due to staff turnover and school growth! We spent a lot of time discussing ways in which we run our various orientations and inductions. CISHK runs a course through Moodle with teacher-created content that is accessible by their new staff prior to their arrival. Included in the course are some short ‘assessments’ on skills. If they can show mastery prior to showing up on campus, then they can skip those training sessions at the beginning of the year and spend time doing other things to prepare for the start of the year. I love this idea. I wonder if we could use Google Forms and Flubaroo as a means of creating self-assessed quizzes for incoming staff to show their understanding?
3. New Students – Student turnover is pretty constant at UNIS. Just this month I’ve seen 4 or 5 new students as they prepare to start in their new classes. Because we are a technology-rich school, students need to feel some level of comfort with the machines and the systems before they can be effective in classes. What’s the balance? How do we effectively and efficiently get these students ready to participate in classes? One things that is working very well this year in the middle school is the idea of a tech buddy. New students attend a 60 – 90 minute orientation with their tech buddy (who is also their buddy for other things, I believe). Instead of me leading the students through some of the basics of their new computer, I get the buddy to do the brunt of the work. I think this idea has great potential but I’ll need to work with the teachers to ensure that the skills that they feel are necessary from day 1 are being addressed.
I’d love to hear any ideas that you have about any of these three points. The more perspectives the better!
Last week I started the first of five online courses for a Certificate in Educational Technology and Information Literacy, aka COETAIL. I’m really excited to be working towards an actual qualification in the educational area that I love so much! I’ve always loved the idea behind COETAIL but have never been able to sort out the logistical requirements of the course. Now that it is wholly and completely online, all of those problems are solved! (Now I just need to figure out how to send my university transcripts to SUNY Buffalo… but that’s another story!)
I’m looking forward to working and learning with Jeff and the other members of my cohort over the next year or so. Don’t be surprised to see some cross-posting from my new COETAIL blog: Riding on my COETAILS!
UNIS Hanoi celebrated UN Day back on October 7th. (Has it already been a month? How did THAT happen?) As one of only two United Nations schools in the world, it’s pretty easy to figure out that UN Day is a pretty big deal in these parts.
[demonstrating] the benefits of cultural diversity by acknowledging the importance of the constant transfers and exchanges between cultures and the ties forged between them since the dawn of humanity. As cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities, but also lifestyles, different ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs, the protection and promotion of their rich diversity invites us to rise to new challenges at the local, national, regional and international levels.
To help us work with students on the concept of cultural rapprochement, we invited Erica and Mark from Reel Youth to spend 5 weeks with our students in grades 4 – 8. The mission of Reel Youth is to empower student voices to make media about issues that they care about. Our goal was to give students a chance to voice and share their own personal cultural identities and to give others a chance to explore and connect with that identity.
Erica and students filming
In those 5 weeks, Erica and Mark met with each MS homeroom 3 times (about 85 minutes per meeting). In those 4 hours, students wrote and recorded a poem called “Where I’m From” (meeting 1); learned about lighting and angles for filming, shot multiple examples of each, and imported the footage onto their computer (meeting 2); and edited their footage to fit the poem recording, usually with enough time left over to get some great feedback from our creative experts on how to improve the edit (meeting 3), export and submit a finished film. I wasn’t sure if we could get all the students to finish on time (and some still wanted to make more edits at home to improve their work), but by the end of the that last meeting, ALL students had a finished product!
On UN Day, each grade level did different activities centered around the content of their student films. We also arranged for an exhibition in the foyer our new Performing Arts Theatre, showing all 500+ student films that were created on 15 different screens. Students from across the school as well teachers, parents and invited dignitaries had a chance to sample the work that our students spent so much time and effort on.
Mark helping a student edit
Reel Youth also played another huge role at UNIS with some high school students. A group of about 16 students were selected to work with them outside of class time to film and create documentaries centered around two of the major Community Service projects that we do here at UNIS. They spent their weekends going out to the Thuy An orphanage and up to Sin Chai Elementary School in a H’mong village in Sapa to tell the stories of some of these individuals. I’m still working on getting copies of some of those documentaries, but the films were amazing. In the gala premiere that was held to showcase these films, the students talked about this experience as some of the most meaningful learning experiences they had ever taken part in. I’m hoping to convince some of these students to submit their work to one or some of the many student film festivals that will be taking place in early 2012.
For those of you interested in exploring that confluence of film, technology and student empowerment, I cannot recommend Reel Youth enough. Film-making is such an amazing way of leveraging the technology that we put in the hands of our students so that they can create something that is truly personal, creative and meaningful. Erica and Mark showed such great respect for each student and their voice that it was easy for them to connect with them and gain their trust. That, in turn, led to some truly magnificent work by the students!
Below is a the ‘meta-film’ that was made by two visiting filmmakers from the UK about collaboration between Reel Youth and the UNIS Community and Service program. It gives a great glimpse of the work that was done with the two community service projects, the voices and thoughts of the students involved, and the philosophy of Reel Youth.
Another Learning 2.0 event has come and gone. I think I’m finally getting over my conference hangover – after such a full-on weekend my mind just sort of went blank and kept racing at the same time! – and can look back at all that I learned and shared. It’s hard to believe that I was skeptical about this conference when I first heard about the new cohort/unconference format. I’m so glad Simon May convinced me to go to Learning 2.010. Now I don’t think I’ll ever think about missing one as long as I’m in the region!
As a member of the Technology Learning Leaders 1 cohort it was great to get to know Charlotte Diller and George Couros. The two big points of emphasis from them were “Start with the why” and “Build capacity.” This really reaffirmed the work that I’m trying to do because, while not stated as eloquently, these have been foci 2 for me over the past year. UNIS’ work on the Learning and Technology Plan, while not complete, is exactly in place to answer the “Why?” question and my focus on coaching and teacher-ledworkshops is about building capacity.
In our mini-sessions during cohort time, I took part in some great discussions about blogs and portfolios. A school-wide blogging platform is something that I have been pushing for a while and it was great to get so many perspectives at once on how they can be utilized effectively. There is no “right way” and so it is important that the “Why?” is discussed first! I also learned a lot about the various coaching models that are put into place at different schools. WAB seems to have a very strong model of offering skills-based coaching within the school day. IST puts a strong focus on self-assessment of needs and abilities. This year I am trying a system of working first and foremost with the new faculty by identifying one of the NETS Standards for StudentsandTeachers as points of emphasis. I’m hoping that we can shift the focus from an emphasis on technology skills to one of pedagogy, curriculum and best practice.
It sounds really corny, but Learning 2.011 felt a bit like coming home. There are so many people in Asia that I interact with online; #learning2 gave me a chance to catch up with a lot of them and meet some of them for the first time 3.
I was really honored to be one of the 20 teachers highlighted in Jabiz’s keynote. It’s amazing to think that it was only one year ago that we met at Learning.2010.
I was really excited to revive Twitter for Teachers with Keri-Lee. We ran this as an impromptu unconference last year and had a good response. We decided to run it as a workshop this year and it apparently was pretty popular: we were asked to run it a second time as well! My Twitter stream is overflowing with all the new connections that I made.
Thanks to Alec and George Couros for giving rise to one of my favorite hashtags of all time: #summercamp4life. With the ease of communication and collaboration, it is so easy to translate those conference promises of “Keep in touch” into actions. While Learning 2.011 may have officially ended on September 11, the conversations and the learning can go on forever. #summercamp4life.
The thoughts and ideas contained in this blog are mine and only mine. As much as I wish they did, these thoughts do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or various other organizations of which I'm affiliated.