Making Technology Integration Awesome

It’s a challenge to make effective, transformative use of technology in the classroom. This year, I’ve been working with a small group of teacher representatives from various grades to curate/create a list of skills for every grade level that are realized through the integration of technology. We’ve looked at the ISTE Standards for Students, and lists of benchmarks and standards from other schools. We’ve also explore the Technology Integration Matrix from Arizona and will look at the (more mature) one from Florida. We’ve talked to teachers, and explored the landscape of technology integration at other schools. We’ve discussed how technology is used in our world, and how it is used outside of school by our students. I’ve come to realize that the particular skills on the list by grade level are a direct result of our approaches to teaching and learning, our beliefs and our local context.

We’ve collected a list of skills where students use technology that teachers at each grade level think are important for students to enter a grade with, and leave the grade with. Next, we will build on those lists, taking other sets of internationally renowned standards like those from ISTE and AASL into account. We will use feedback from teachers, and consider the coherence from K-5 to refine the lists. Finally, we will decide how to share the list with teachers in a way that’s user-friendly and dynamic. We have other documents that have been created in the past, but they are outdated and never referred to during instructional design meetings. One approach would be to categorize the skills by the phases of inquiry that we follow in our classes. Another would be to group the skills by the units of inquiry. We will get feedback from teachers about this. Might there be a third approach that we haven’t considered?

As part of this work, I will engage teachers in thinking about their vision of students who’ve experienced successful technology integration during their K-5 experience of school. I’m also interested in knowing your ideas.

Made with Padlet


Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post about challenging situations”.

VoiceThread for Publishing and Collaboration

Voicethread is a great tool for collaboration and sharing. You can combine images, documents and video in a slideshow format. Then other users can add voice, text, audio file or video comments. As a K-12 school, it’s best to get a classroom or school license, which conforms to both COPPA and FERPA. Common Sense gives Voicethread a great review, and 4 stars.

Here are 5 possible uses of VoiceThread in the K-12 classroom:
  1. Upload a document, video or image and have students post a comment or response as voice, text, or audio.
  2. A small group of students co-create a presentation as documentation for or of learning.
  3. In one class, students co-create a VoiceThread. Then buddies from another class comment on the VoiceThread.
  4. Students read a favorite poem, using a painting or drawing they made as the backdrop. Other students can share similar poems as a comment.
  5. Collaborate with two other classes, where students in one class post images, students in another class comment on each image, with a poem, and students in a third class comment with music. The students will choose the three related media to evoke the same emotions/feelings in the audience. We did such a project in Grade 5 last year, where students in Dar es Salaam created the images in Art Class, students in Seattle made the music in GarageBand in Music Class, and our students typed up their own poems in their homerooms. 

This is our resulting VoiceThread from the 3 schools collaboration: Google Spreadsheets Addon

The add-on lets you automate many tasks from Google Spreadsheet. options

In the video below, I show how to create a script for randomly selecting a student in your class. The best thing about the created app, is that it also works on your iPad. You can save it to your Home Screen of your tablet or smart phone for easy access.

Technology Coach as Leader

In a recent meeting of curriculum and grade level team leaders, we reflected on how well we work with each other, and with our various teams. During the conversation, it became apparent that each of us approaches the leadership role in very different ways, depending on our beliefs and our personalities. Some people are more comfortable with delegation, for example, while others prefer to take the full responsibility for completing tasks.

As a curriculum team leader, I facilitate vision activities to help determine the desired uses of IT at ISP. I also do a lot of information gathering, and sharing, and facilitate discussions and other protocols with individuals, teams, and the whole faculty of the elementary school, to help us align our vision of learning with technology, and our everyday practices in the classroom and school.

I think that it is possible to become a better leader. To that end, I am currently taking an edX course Launching Innovation in Schools. In the course introduction, Justin states, “[Leadership is] a set of functions distributed widely throughout an organization.” I’m looking forward to learning more about leadership and innovation in the course.

Launching Innovation in Schools is an open course taught by Peter Senge and Justin Reich. Although the course started last week, so you can still sign up if you’re interested.


Note that this post is prompted by my participation in #EdublogsClub. The challenge was to”write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change”.

Three in One Office and Classroom Space

When I started working at ISP in August 2013, my office was in a small room in the elementary school, between the PK3 classroom and the elementary staff room. I shared the room with a library assistant/teacher assistant and a lot of books as it was the elementary school book room. It felt like we were in the basement because we had one tiny window that reminded me of a basement window. Our door led into the hallway, right opposite a door to the inner courtyard, which helped us remember that we were not in a basement, even though it felt that way.

As part of a school and department wide reorganization, I was moved to a different space. All three of the IT coaches now work in the same space. Our office is part classroom/part office, and called the Idea Lab.

My desk is the one with all the water bottles/travel mugs. The table behind it is part of the classroom furniture. I usually keep my water bottle a bit farther away from my computer, on the side cabinet.

As the elementary coach most responsible for elementary school, I generally attend meetings and support classrooms throughout the elementary school. I am usually welcomed into other people’s spaces. When I’m in my office, I’m usually doing desk work, which includes e-mail, blogging, working on presentations, preparing resources for teachers and classrooms, testing resources, conducting research, etc.

The desks for the IT Coaches are all in a line at the back of the room. It is a bit like we’re three judges, but it’s the most efficient use of the space.

My desk is at the back of the Idea Lab. The other two coaches and I have our desks all lined up to optimize our limited space. Most of the room contains moveable desks and chairs. The tables flip up, and the chairs stack, for added flexibility. A green screen is mounted at the front of the room. Along the sides, we’ve set up a laser printer, a laser cutter, and other maker space resources. The room is scheduled for classes taught by my colleagues, and available to be booked by other teaches. Sometimes, elementary classes come to the Idea Lab to work on creative projects, or middle and high school students come to work in a quiet space, or to use the resources available.

The worst part of my office is that it’s far from elmentary school. Since I moved, I have fewer spontaneous visits by teachers, and more email requests for help. I am often stopped when I walk around the elementary school, even if I have not received an email request for help.

The best part of my office is the proximity to my colleagues. This new office arrangement with all three coaches in the same place makes it easier to collaborate. We can help each other, share ideas, and plan events more easily than before. Often one of us is here to help colleagues even if the IT coach for that section is busy elsewhere. One of our collaborations is in designing the space. We identified the need for personal storage space, storage for consumables and tools, and storage for work in progress. We also determined the importance of flexibility in the space so that it could be use in many different ways. This room is still taking shape. One of our challenges is organizing all our resources, especially the robotics kits. We’re going to continue organizing the place over time to meet our needs, and the needs of each of the three sections of the school.

ES Robotics Kits: Dash, Wedo, and Lego Mindstorms NXT


Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that discusses your classroom or place of work”.