Friday, January 25, 2013

Minecraft Project - Stage 1

Stage 1 - Determining the Scale of Things

Students were allowed to choose grid paper (small, medium and large) and markers to create their floor plans. But first, there was a lot of discussion about scale to start off with. After explaining that every block in Minecraft is approximately 1 meter cubed, I lead with a few questions like this,

"What things are you very familiar with that are 1 meter wide?"

Good idea to have a few metersticks on hand at this time. Around the room we discovered that an average doorway was about 1m wide and 2m high. This means that a doorway would represent one cube on the grid paper. This lead into a discussion about planning for walls on the floor plans. Yes, you'd need to colour in the walls. I suggested using black to represent all walls.

"So how big is this class room?" Initiated a lot of inquiry. Some student jumped up and measured it and then applied this to conversations I heard around the room beginning with questions like, "How big is the school swimming pool? How big is the main hall? How long is our cafeteria? How big would you build a bathroom? How wide is the school hallway?"

After these great discussions, most students were ready to start colouring. "And I really hope you like colouring!" is how I set them off to this task. One of the rules to getting your blueprints or floor plans approved by the Governement (Stage 2) is to have all squares coloured in. No white space allowed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Minecraft Project: Setting The Ground Rules

When I introduced this project there was a buzz in the air. Some kids were squirming in their seats just trying to control their enthusiasm, some kids perked up - interested and eager to learn, some kids rolled their eyes and let out a small sigh, but all kids felt the excitement. It was probably radiating off of me a little bit.

So I brought the kids to the carpet and we sat in a cluster to talk about the Ground Rules.

I introduced the project as a Ratio, Proportion, Scale and Spatial Awareness project. I explained that Minecraft can be a game and/or a tool for building things. I made it clear that we were going to use Minecraft as a tool in this scenario. Yes, it would be fun. Yes, it would be creative. Yes, it would be interactive. Yes, it would be challenging. I explained that I anticipated the biggest challenge being in store for the "crafters" (experienced Minecraft players).

"Why would it be harder for us?" Asked one of the pros with a confident doubt. 

"Let me explain the ground rules." I replied. "Imagine I give you a math task and everyone gets a calculator to help them do their calculations. The project is not about how well you use the calculator it's about knowing what to do with the calculator. It's just a tool to help you achieve a goal." Then I proceeded to ask the class, "Do you think it would be fair if every student got to purchase their own caliber of calculator for this task, or should everyone use the same one?" The class agreed that to be fair everyone should use the same one. I used this analogy to help the students see why we were all going to use the same "Ground Rules"in Minecraft. I did get a few moans from the crafters, but ultimately they approached the project differently. I often repeat, Minecraft ccan be a tool or a game. And this was starting to make sense to them.

1. Everyone builds in Single Player mode - offline
2. Everyone builds in the following modes
Creative: allows you to build using hundreds of different materials almost of which are identical cube formation, save for doors, windows and decorative pieces
Peaceful: This is the difficulty level. Peaceful means there will be no threats to the players (ie. creepers, spiders, etc.)
Super Flat: The world is generated as a flat grassy landscape
Cheats ON: Allows players to change the time of day and the weather (important when building for more than 12 minutes to force daylight and stop rain)
Generate Structures OFF: Just to stop the blobs and villagers from distracting you while you build 
3. No modifications or 'mods' - keeps an equal playing field for all 
4. Each student will have 200 minutes of class time to build and absolutely no building can be done outside of class. This could be flexible depending on certain circumstances, but is a general guideline and goal to work towards.

It took a little while for the ground rules to sink in and there sure were a LOT of questions. Eager to start, everyone quickly realized this was a much more complicated endeavor than they had originally thought. There would be quite a lot of planning and preliminary work to be done before anyone got their tapping little fingers into Minecraft. And this wasn't going to be a free pass to play, play, play whenever they wanted. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Minecraft in Math Class

So I had a crazy idea to use Minecraft as a tool in a Mathematics project with my Grade 6 classes. It didn't take a lot of convincing my team teachers, and I assured them that I knew exactly what I was doing and would lead them through the process. Truth is, I had a rough idea after experimenting with the 5D Dynamos last year and in my mind, there were sprouts of potential for what could be. I was excited.

We started off with a brief task outline which we shared with the students. The document covers the basics of what we proposed. Of course, the project has taken weeks of hard work and has experienced an evolution of its own along the way. Follow us on this journey to see where we end up.

What does the project entail?
1. Students create a floor plan of their dream building using grid paper and markers and a scale of 1:1 square units.
2. The "government", her majesty of Minecraft presiding, approves the blueprints (with official government stamps) and/or suggest alterations.
3. Mincraft is used as virtual lego to build a model of a planned structure.
4. Class discusses and creates the grading rubrics and checklists for the final video project.
5. A scripted video screen capture tour of the completed structure is filmed in Minecraft and edited in iMovie, encouraging students to think about how their "build" incorporates and uses ratio, proportion, spatial awareness and scale.

Desired Learning Outcomes (Ratio & Proportion, Geometry & Measurement)

- Mathematics Benchmark 6.RP.1 - Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities
- Mathematics Benchmark 6.RP.3d. - Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units; manipulate and transform units appropriately when multiplying or dividing quantities.
- Mathematics Benchmark 6.G.4 - Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.

Why use Minecraft?
1. To have fun and be creative - engagement factor and/or curiosity levels are high for most students. 
2. To be effective and efficient - Minecraft is a fast and effective tool that allows students to quickly create a visual representation, to scale and using different building block materials, from their blueprints or floor plans.
3. To apply digital technology modeling tools that align with out Middle School goal of "Improving student learning and assessment through the responsible and balanced use of technology".
4. To explore an essential idea in 21st century education. The idea that using technology to complete learning tasks faster, fancier, fitter is fantastic, but using technology to create new learning tasks in and within themselves for synthesizing and displaying our learning is where the true Bloom's Digital Taxonomy of creation comes into play.
5. To examine the use of play and student approach to game-based learning in Middle School.

Stay tuned because up next, you can follow the project stages as the students of Grade 6 explore the world of ratio and proportion through Minecraft.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Latest CISPA Presentation

I have been working on a workshop presentation for a Canadian International School Parent's Association (CISPA) coffee morning at school. We will meet in the Library on Oct. 26th to discuss issues related to digital citizenship and online safety. Check out the PREZI that'll I'll be using and the Bitly Bundle (at the end of the presentation) has a bunch of resources related to these topics!

See more about the session here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The New Learning Generation

Here is a video I prepared and showed on our annual Curriculum Night at CDNIS. It's a bout a new generation of learners. A new outlook for education. And a new direction for our collective future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A poignant portrayal of learners and how, in some cases, we teach them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Making A Music Video in 5D

This week in the 5D DISCO, we ditched the curriculum for a day to make a music video. This is new school. Don't worry, I think we'll be able to catch up and be happier doing it together too. I love our class. Nice work DJs!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making the PYP Happen!

Making the PYP Happen - Through the Performing Arts

This year, the Lower School’s Performing Arts department overhauled the traditional holiday concert program, rejuvenating our senses with something new and wonderfully significant. In this unique programme model, each grade level is given the individual opportunity to demonstrate, elaborate and celebrate aspects of their current learning in a show called Let’s Make It Happen. For all the hard work and passionate dedication, I’d like to draw some attention, a sort of tip of the hat, to the Performing Arts department of our Lower School.

So far, CDNIS has hosted five of the Let’s Make It Happen shows, with a sixth just around the corner. As a homeroom teacher, I’d like to share my perspective and reflections with you detailing what I’ve seen, heard and discovered about how the Performing Arts department is making the PYP happen. 

In an energetic little cul-de-sac on the 8th floor, I stand my post as the 5D Homeroom Teacher and Grade Level Leader. In December 2010, Mr. Marshall Shaw began his intricate planning for the Grade 5 Let’s Make It Happen concert. Students began crafting their own montages of skits, dances, poems, and songs, specifically about their current unit of inquiry. The students developed their own enduring understandings and emphasized the concepts that were most pertinent to them from their inquiries. The teachers allotted intermittent practices and rehearsal times over the course of approximately four weeks. Next came two critical days of rehearsal in the LLAC where the teachers gave feedback as we watched their pieces  - almost 30 in total. The theatre staff supported us with technical requirements, helping students become familiar with the equipment, cues, stage direction and time structure. Collectively, the adults involved with these practices gave feedback about the flow of the show, its critical content and the delivery of their performances. We didn’t, however, try to influence the students with our own ideas or agendas; we handed the reigns over to them completely. Try to imagine us all working collaboratively in the theater; 135 ten-year olds, seven teachers and three theater staff. What we saw inspired us. Their performances were evolving as they practiced. They took our feedback, incorporated their own intentions and then applied changes to their work to make it better. The students were definitely running the show, every step of the way. This is PYP in the Performing Arts!

On show night, the final performance was truly wonderful. One thing that many people of the audience noticed and appreciated was that this was obviously the authentic work of the students. No longer do we have annual school concerts, showcasing the polished performances of students who have learned to follow someone else’s instructions or a performance recipe. No longer is our annual school concert the result of teachers’ hard work, teachers’ expertise or teachers' dedication to education! Why was it ever about that in the first place? Now, we boast annual grade level performances that highlight the hard work, expertise and dedication of the star performers themselves - the students! And the students are making it happen. From what I understand, they feel proud, empowered and far more attached to their performances than ever before.

Making the PYP happen through the Performing Arts showcases is a real testament to the value of student ownership and awareness surrounding one’s own learning, growth and development. These celebrations promote self-confidence and self-awareness, allowing students to show off their own creativity and interpretation. Students taking action is a powerful and inspiring sight to watch. Such a wonderful celebration of talents, accomplishments and achievements has only been made possible by the Lower School Performing Arts department, their vision for something different, hours of organization and preparation, as well continuous commitment to teaching and learning.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Recently I was fortunate enough to attend the annual EARCOS Teacher's Conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Not only was it a 3-day event full of amazing presentations, workshops and networking, in a beautiful setting, it was also a time for me to practice giving my own presentation, honing a skill set that I hope to develop over time. I've acknowledged lately that while I love giving presentations and often feel like I have so much to share with others, the bottom line right now is that I am just not very good at it. Yet. But I one day I will be.

My presentation was about promoting global citizenship and school-wide community through school blogging programs. You can see the Prezi or check out my Bitly Bundle, which all participants had access to during the workshop. Luckily, I had a few stellar participants who chose to spend their time in my session. These stars, including Kim Cofino, whose work I admire and owe so much of my own inspiration to, flattered me with their presence. I was beyond excited as I began the presentation to a room of about 25 keen attendees. After the session, I was happy to see a few tweets - 'shout outs' about the presentation - tid bits of positive feedback and sharing of my presented resources and examples. I was pretty happy. A few days later, Grant Franke, who I had the pleasure of connecting with with during the conference, posted a review blog post about my session as well. Even though the first line bites a little bit, it only stings because he's right :) and I appreciate that he wrote it. It's definitely the clearest and most useful feedback that I received. Thank you.

Highlights of the conference included seeing Geoff Green, environmental Arctic explorer and educator, talk about everything G related. This set me off on an energetic tangent, aside from my regular line-up of teaching with technology talks, into my other (mostly untapped) passion of outdoor and experiential education. I went to a number of workshops lead by educators who are leading inquiry-based learning in the science and outdoor education field. Notably, I enjoyed a morning session with Nick DePreter, from Portland Oregon, where we played games and learned about cool things he does to get his kids outside the confines of the school buildings.

The EARCOS Teacher's Conference is such a special place for meeting people. I loved the back channel chats and the tweets shared amongst workshop sessions - I met people first online and then found them through making plans to attend workshops together later in the day. I loved the freedom to multi-task, tweet, chat and interact online while I was attending sessions. There was no pressure or expectation regarding how delegates should attend or contribute to what was happening. It is also so wonderfully motivating and fun to be around 1,000+ people who were ALL excited and interested in authentic professional development and growth. We were all happy to be there and know that it's a good place to be.

I've been to ETC 2 years in a row and want to offer up my place to someone who's never been next year. It is such a great privilege to have the support of my administration and the opportunity to attend such a fantastic conference.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In-house Professional Development

As we celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with a one-week holiday, the teachers at CDNIS returned to work two days before the students for a double dose of in-house professional development. This year our senior leadership team had planned for 3 PYP workshops - 1) Planning, Teaching & Assessing the 5 Essential Elements (Language instruction: Chinese), 2) Transdisciplinary Teaching & Learning and 3) The Written Curriculum.

I was registered for the workshop covering The Written Curriculum. While the content of this workshop was a little dry, the instruction and interaction of the group with the workshop leader was conducted in a way that managed to keep us engaged. As the two days progressed I started to compare this in-house training to the three other PYP workshops I've attended in the past (two in foreign places with teachers I didn't know and one other in-house with CDNIS teachers). There are advantages and disadvantages to workshops being held in your own school with your colleagues. Disadvantages include getting carried away with your own tasks, knowing everyone and getting side-tracked talking to people, becoming stuck doing a routine task or working on your own teaching and learning program, being distracted by the familiarity of the people and places when you should be focused entirely on the workshop. The advantages, however, came shining through for me with much more emphasis as I analyzed the dynamics of this particular workshop.

In regional workshops you spend a lot of time getting to know people. You spend a lot of time starting sentences with, "Well at my school..." or "In our programme we..." This ice-breaking takes up valuable time. While it is a valuable learning experience to hear about other school's practices and ideas, it can also a huge distraction from the content of the actual workshop. What I found over the past two days at CDNIS was that the groups working on tasks and activities were able to jump right into the meaty content of the activity because there wasn't any small talk to get the ball rolling. Also, when you participate in an in-house workshop there is a level of continuity and consistency. We all know the basics about how the PYP looks and feels at our own school. We all know the overall strengths and weaknesses within our programme. The small things we don't know in detail, across grade levels and single subject teaching, come into the forefront and can be tackled in these in-house settings. Overall, I found our groups to be very effective and productive over the two days. We worked through these workshops together as team, breaking new ground and getting deeper into what really matters.

All that being said, I still really enjoy traveling to exotic places and meeting other PYP teachers from all over the world. It is important to have a balance of professional development, both at home and away. And of course, even more important to have a supportive and collaborative school administration which makes these types of conferences and workshops a priority for the school community. True global collaboration, integration and sharing of styles and strategies, is still a key element to developing and improving your own PYP programme. It is nice to know, at the same time, that in-house workshops can be very successful, especially when you have a very connected, happy and competent staff of colleagues to work with.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CDNIS Better Blogging Battle

With the success in Grade 5 blogging over the past 2 years, my school invested in a WordPress platform to get all students, teachers and administrators blogging. So far the adoption of blogging as a tool for communication and community building has been impressive. Some people have learned so much, so quickly and have really taken the initiative to a high level of success with their enthusiasm and willingness to work on something new.

I have recently created a Better Blogging Battle competition geared towards CDNIS students and classes who are ready for a challenge and want to learn more about blogging around the world.

If you've ever hosted a challenge competition like this one (on any topic), I'd love some feedback and advice!

Image: "I Heart Blogging"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Google Science Fair

"Google is looking for the brightest, best young scientists from around the world to submit interesting, creative projects that are relevant to the world today."
This is like Science Fair meets Blogging Challenge meets TED. Young minds from all over the world will be showcasing science fair exhibits, as movies and presentations, in Google's newest competition for anyone aged 13-18.

Google has, in partnership with CERN, The LEGO Group,National Geographic and Scientific American, created a collaborative, interactive, global, online competition called The Google Science Fair. The competition website includes a blog and an area for contestants to socialize and share their ideas. You will also find an space full of Google resources to help you get set up, as well as a Teacher page for those of you who will be promoting this opportunity for your students.

The launch event, on January 11th, included a speech by William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. This is an incredible story of ingenuity, inquiry and initiative by a boy who taught himself how to construct a windmill in rural Africa, providing power to his small village during a time of immense suffering and a struggle to survive after a horrible drought. 

With a wealth of fun prizes, world-renowned science judges, and the belief that science can change the world, this competition is sure to motivate and inspire some amazing things that'll knock our socks off. Welcome to new school.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


In 2011 I am going to blog about all the things that are new school.

It's fun to reminisce about old school nostalgia, the good 'ol days and the times when life was simple, of course, but what's really hot right now is the future and all the possibilities and opportunities that are becoming available to us on a global scale. Technology infused curriculum, transdiciplinary learning, 21st century classrooms, global communication skills, innovation, collaboration, synthesis, production, application and best of all, the real world. School no longer needs to prepare students for the real world after graduation, because teachers are starting to respect the fact that school is the real word. We are always learning, always growing and capable of joining the ranks of life beyond the classroom at any age. School doesn't have to be an institution designated to prepare us for life. New school can be life itself, an investigation into how we live it and how the world works.

All these things make being a teacher and a learner so fabulously exciting and rich. Stay tuned for snip-its from the highly creative and powerful ideas that are all the buzz of my new school. Back to the future... and back to school.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging Basics for Parents of Classroom Bloggers

Recently, John D’Arcy and I co-hosted a CISPA parent information session about our new CDNIS Lower School blogs. New to CDNIS this year, a Wordpress platform is being used by all classrooms, teachers, Grade 5/6 students, parents, administrators and specialist teachers. It has been a huge learning curve, setting up individual access points, interconnected and open to all participants, to form a massive collective community of learners. Now the entire Lower School community can access and participate within this virtual area for enhanced communication and sharing of learning, achievements and general school news. The 5D DISCO blog is a great 'jumping in' point! 
If you weren’t able to make it to the presentation, you can view my presentation PREZI file below and please feel free to ask your own questions here in the form of a comment. I look forward to hearing more from you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Students: as Children, as Gamers, as Leaners

Children are engaged when they game. Children revel and excel at play. Children enjoy fair competition. Children love to learn.
Students aren't allowed to game. Students rarely get to play. Students are discouraged from being competitive. Students disregard learning.

When did playing a game, refining one's skills, honing self-awareness and challenging one's personal best somehow begin to be seen as non-synonymous with learning? When children play challenging games, in the physical or the virtual world, they are exemplifying an authentic love of learning.

As educators, we are responsible for creating 21st century learning environments for our students and ourselves. This climate must be real. We must stop calling the world outside of school, the real world. We need to acknowledge the attachment children have to gaming, encourage it and start to understand that it is reflective of a passion for challenge, growth and continued learning. Let gaming invade your classroom!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Student Portfolios & Learning Reviews

It's that time of year again, the first time our students take home their beloved red binders to share their learning with their families. Last year, our school piloted an alternative assessment and reporting strategy which included compiling portfolios of student learning throughout the year. The main idea is that this red binder can more authentically represent a student’s growth and development over a grade level year, when compared to a traditional report card.

In my classroom, key elements for developing these portfolios include:

  • Student ownership and investment
  • Awareness of progress and development
  • Demonstration of knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Communication in the form of written feedback between teacher, student and parents
  • Reflection of the student as a learner, fostering metacognition
  • Celebration of achievements, abilities and strengths
Here is a video that I produced as an informative tool for families going through this transition from traditional reporting to what I believe is a more authentic and realistic representation and assessment of a child's learning over time.

Three-way learning reviews include parents + student + teacher and focus on a discussion of the child's strengths and accomplishments. A highlight is setting goals for the upcoming reporting period and possibly for the rest of the year. This goal-setting task is not easy, but as we develop these habits over time, I have begun to observe students' understanding and conceptualization of their own learning styles, strengths and needs. Students who are in control of their learning are ultimately more empowered to challenge themselves and develop confidence in who they are as learners.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

School Music Videos

My first introduction to making music videos with students was watching the delight that Mr. Malkin took in editing and creating Paleta with at Colegio Bolivar in Cali, Colombia. This video, you'll notice, has more than 33 thousand views!

Since becoming a homeroom teacher myself, I have made a point of having a class song each year. It must be a song that we can all learn the lyrics, one which we appreciate because it has a meaningful message and that hopefully we find very fun to sing along to. Working with Gr. 5 means that I need to be careful in my song selections (possibly a little more careful than Mr. Malkin was back in 2005 when he let his Gr. 9 students choose a Daddy Yankee song with scandalous lyrics and pretty inappropriate innuendoes).

In 2008-2009 my class, The 5E Explorers, memorized and recreated, Michael Jackson's We Are The World That was a blast! In 2009-2010 we learned the Black Eyes Peas' song, Where Is The Love? And although we never actually made a final production, we often had fun taking pictures and even recorded a few clips throughout the school of us reenacting the original video. In general we listen to and watch music videos at least once a week for most of the school year in Grade 5.

For this year, the 5D DJs haven't chosen a song yet and I'm not sure that we'll really have time to make a music video, but I have a couple songs in mind if we do get around to it.

Today in class we watched a wonderfully creative video-off. The following videos were produced by film classes in rival high schools in Seattle, Shorewood and Shorecrest, as a sort of video battle. First, Shorecrest created their version of Hey Ya!

Then, Shorewood responded to the challenge with this, 

Both videos, playing with lipdub and reverse video techniques, included almost the entire school body. I think it's pretty entertaining stuff, these energetic and enthusiastic student-centered videos. If the effects don't quite make sense to you, or you're not sure why these videos are amazing, then watch this video, which shows behind the scenes of the Shorecrest video, explaining how was originally filmed (with the leads walking backwards) and also with some filmer commentary that also might help to make more sense of it.

Of course, these videos circulated like crazy about a year ago and created a buzz of excitement. Schools everywhere wanted to join in the fun, boost school-wide spirit and be famous on the internet! Some schools responded with videos of their own, not done in authentic reverse video style, but in a way parodying this new genre of teenage hit project, sometimes termed the "Hall Rock" (this is actually a really great example of reverse video made by CLC (Communications Learning Community) high school program).

Today in Gr. 5, after showing these 2 clips and attempting to explain (somewhat unsuccessfully) to 10-year olds, exactly what these videos involve from a filming and editing perspective, one of my students showed me this little beauty.

I am pretty sure that I had a lot more fun watching this than my students did, mostly because they can't quite conceptualize exactly what the backwards choreography entails. I think it's just plain amazing!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cross-Class Summative Task

Amidst what I thought was a moment of fantastical creativity, which would undoubtedly be dismissed as unrealistic by my teaching colleagues, I devised and proposed the idea that our Summative Task for our second Unit of Inquiry of the year be one where we divide the students into groups cross-classes, having one team member from each class (5A, 5B, 5C, 5D, 5E). This design model means that teachers will work as mentors with specific groups, giving them the opportunity to work with students they don't know yet. It also gives the students to opportunity to work with other students they normally don't see during class time. My Gr. 5 teaching team is enthusiastically on-board plus approval and support from the curriculum coordinators and we're a go! It could have turned into a logistical nightmare, but we figured it out and have mashed together a schedule fairly straight forwardly with blocks of class time where we all have classroom programme time together in the mornings. 

The students will work collaboratively on a WebQuest that I have been constructing about Matter & Materials. Each individual student will be assessed on their teamwork, cooperative group decision making and conflict resolution. The groups will be assessed for their presentation of knowledge and application of skills conducting research, evaluating online sources, problem solving and critical thinking. The project gives the students the opportunity to work independently and authentically practice their reflective writing skills with a detailed daily project journal.

Here is a link to the completed WebQuest. It focuses on the groups preparing a project about a material that they have chosen to investigate. They will present their findings in a Gallery Walk for all classes to see, after 2 weeks of project work. It was an awesome learning experience and Quest Garden is a great tool to use if you're starting out, especially to familiarize yourself with all aspects and relevant reasons for creating a WebQuest.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creating a WebQuest

The Grade 5 team has begun planning our next unit of inquiry under the transdisciplinary umbrella of how the world works. A heavily science-based unit, which involves investigating the ways humans use scientific principles of matter and materials as well as how matter undergoes changes.
The unit will be presented to the students as an inquiry into:
- how we use the scientific principles of chemistry (concept: function)
- the challenges/benefits that can result when we change matter to create materials (concept: causation)
- what causes changes in matter to occur (concept: causation)

For the students' summative task, in order to demonstrate and apply their understanding of what we've learned throughout the unit, they will do a guided inquiry in the form of a WebQuest. For this task, I've decided to learn about designing WebQuests from scratch, in order to create a product that is authentically formulated and connected to this unit of inquiry, specifically. I began my research at the ultimate birthplace of the WebQuest.

Your first question may be, "What is  WebQuest?" From the website you will discover that a WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented, constructivist lesson format that involves completing an interesting and doable task that relates to a real life activity in which most or all of the information that learners work with comes form the web. The model was created by the legendary, Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University.

A WebQuest allows students to take on certain roles and often work collaboratively in the classroom to complete the assigned task. There is a high level of ownership over the learning process and project process, while the teacher can step back, observe, evaluate and assess where students are in their learning journey. The growth and development becomes experiential, as students have a road map of the required learning, but do not know the best route or what the destination actually looks like until they get there. 

So my learning journey about designing and developing our very own Matter & Materials WebQuest, could actually be looked upon in the same way as the students setting off on their own WebQuests. I used the website to find everything I needed to understand the design elements and structural considerations, including a 30-day trial to QuestGarden: Where Great Quests Grow. Here, I was blown away by the amazing amount of resources and guidance that the site delivers to its users. Take for example the page about choosing design patterns, which outlines that templates can be organized in terms of the dominant thinking verb that underlies them. The fives thinking verbs which inspire higher-level thinking, derived from Bloom's taxonomy, are: design, decide, create, analyze and predict.  

If you're an educator who is interested in using a WebQuest with your class, this is the place to start. If you're an educator who is ready for the challenge of creating your own WebQuest, this is the place to start. I will include a link to my WebQuest once it's fully active, so you can see the results.

Monday, September 27, 2010


As a special event in our current unit of inquiry, this morning we welcomed a guest speaker (and school parent) to tell us about a project that he has been involved in for the past 2 years, called Intersect! For their summative task, our students are creating a new invention in the realm of communication technology. In this project they will demonstrate their understanding of how communication technologies function in society, as well as how they connect people and their audiences, thus becoming a tool for self expression and the sharing of ideas and information.

To kick off the presentation, our guest speaker, Mr. Stacey Baird, showed us a quick video introduction to Intersect! To my surprise and delight it was a scribed animation clip, not unlike the RSAnimate ones I blogged about yesterday on the LEARN portion of this blog. This is really catching on.

Intersect! is still in beta development and is worth checking out. It rivals Facebook as a way to connect people and communities through multi-layered stories, intersecting space and time, creating a collection of shared memories and experiences.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How We Express Ourselves with Communication Technology

In my classroom, 5D, we’ve kicked off out 1st unit of inquiry of the year. It is a unit based on the transdisciplinary theme, How We Express Ourselves and the central idea is, “Changes in communication technology create different types of connections between people and their audience.” 

This is a very exciting unit for this grade level, because within the first week of school all of my students receive their very own macbook pro which is part of a 1:1 learning and teaching technology program designed to integrate technology into our IB curriculum. The computers stay in specialized cabinets where they can be charged and locked at night.

As an integral part of this unit, we began learning about blogs. Blogs are a fantastic way for people communicate their ideas to a global audience. My class will soon start their own student blogs and we will continue to use our classroom blog to share what's going on, start conversations, ask questions and eventually strengthen our school community by giving everyone a platform for their voice as well as an audience to receive them.

This week we dug more deeply into our unit of inquiry. We are creating time-lines of important changes in communication technology throughout history as well as learning about ways that communication technology connects us to people and communities around the world. The 5D DJs have begun a journey into the wonderful world of PREZI an online presentation maker program.

Another great inspiration came from watching the following TED talk by Pranav Mistry about his ideas for the future of technologies that allow humans to interact with their physical environments in different and new ways. Although some of the ideas here seem far fetched and hard to completely comprehend, the students drew out many ideas and inspirations for their summative task for this unit. They will have to invent a communication technology of the future, demonstrating their understanding of what a communication technology is, how it can be used by people around the world and how it creates connections between people. There should be some fantastic projects that come out of this working task and who knows, maybe even the next big ideas for an invention in communication technology will be born in the 5D Disco!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome to the 5D Classroom

Welcome to our Grade 5 class! We are in an International Baccalaureate school in Hong Kong. As an outdoor and experiential-learning educator who dreams of a classroom with no walls, but is currently confined to small spaces, I inspire my indoor teaching and learning with a fierce passion for technological integration which can help dissolve the physical confines of space. Our classroom is a high-energy, differentiated, culturally diverse, internationally-minded, inquiry-based, typhoon of learning and growing.