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" http://middleschool101.edublogs.org/files/2010/10/i_love_blogging-787805-1p867vr.jpg

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.