Khalasna akheeran…We’re finally finished

Created by Danieal at Keep Calm O-Matic
Created by Danieal at Keep Calm O-Matic

Khalasna akheeran, we’re finally finished, and it feels amazing! This journey through COETAIL has been truly remarkable. I have grown as a professional in ways that I didn’t imagine possible. The most impactful aspect of this course is that my students are on the receiving side of my growth and my success with technology integration and informational literacy! I am confident that their learning  has been impacted and I hope it will maintain a lasting impression and impact on their individual academic journeys.

The Beginning…

Prior to starting COETAIL I was comfortable with my level of technology integration in the classroom. I felt like I had an adequate balance between using technology verses the paper pencil method. My knowledge and use of technology was continuously growing and I felt like I was doing well. I wasn’t afraid of being a risk-taker and I often tried to be innovative in my planning! In fact, trying new things in the classroom excited me.  At the time I had the support and encouragement from an amazing ICT team, Patrick, Shaza, and Yolanda who always found a way to challenge me to go that extra step or to try something new, something new like COETAIL! Patrick started talking and sharing about his experience in COETAIL while Yolanda lurking in the background! One day she decided that we also needed to join in on the learning. Somehow she convinced Shaza and I (who were reluctant and busy) to enroll and engage in the experience with her! Shaza and I agreed and the collaboration began!

New Learnings…

As course one took off and I first read over the SAMR model, I felt that I was merely at the substitution level. This was disappointing… At the time I truly felt that I was a 21st century teacher.  As I read more and familiarized myself with the model, I was confident to say that I was actually at a level of Augmentation. Technology was often being used to replace a method of producing but there was a huge opportunity for improvement.

Setting Goals…

Taking time to be reflective I recognized that I a beginner with loads to learn but I had the desire to redefine the presence and use of technology in my classroom. Little did I know I was about to embark on a journey that would forever impact my students, classroom, and teaching pedagogy. I set a personal goal to inquire about ways to continue moving through the model and had great support to help me get there. My ultimate goal, redefinition of my teaching pedagogy and classroom! As time progressed so did my knowledge and experience. The ICT team recognized my ambition and supported my goal. Before I knew it, I became the only classroom in the school to have 1:1 iPads. Guess I had to reach my goal now!

Making gains…

Typically, when I make up my mind to do something I do it, but it’s all or nothing, with no gray in-between. Taking the COETAIL plunge I got quickly started and change was being made. At times I was overwhelmed and wondered what I was doing but the knowledge, rich conversations, and ongoing feedback and encouragement reassured me that gains were being made. My students were actively engaged and I was reaching my goal. COETAIL was redefining my teaching and it was remarkable!

Planning for success…

IB Learner Profile: Created by Danieal using Tagul Word Clouds
IB Learner Profile: Word cloud created by Danieal Longanetti using Tagul

As I worked through course 4, and started brainstorming ideas for my final project my school announced that we would be adopting the IB PYP framework for the following academic year. This was exciting news, but it impacted the planning process for my final project. At the time we weren’t told how the year was going to role out, what our Units of Inquiry were going to be, or how this was going to look in my classroom. Nor did we have a PYP coordinator or someone with experience that I could turn to for ideas. While I was familiar with the framework I started researching and my excitement grew. I was CERTAIN that through the use of technology, specifically blogging, I was going to excel at helping my students work towards the IB Learner Profile traits: Communicator, Reflective, Risk-Taker, and Open-Minded, while also being able to include the others.

Missing accomplished…

This is where the final project came to play. With so many unknowns Shaza and I teamed up. Our focus; design a classroom where students have the knowledge, experience, resources, and tools to independently create, collaborate, communicate, and BLOG! Our goal, Redefinition!  We were extremely eager to make global connections and knew that we had the ability to do it! It was time to redefine the classroom! Technology, specifically iPads, and student blogging was about to open doors for creation, inconceivable connections, and remarkable learning experiences!

5 courses later, countless readings, reflections, blog posts, tweets, and late nights, it is with excitement that I can say mission accomplished.  Let’s take a look at our journey, Embracing PYP Digitally.

As you can see from the student products and reflections they’re getting it! Students are inquiring, creating, thinking, reflecting, communicating, and taking-risks.  They are gaining knowledge everyday and making global connections! The best part is that it doesn’t stop here. My students will continue down this journey of blogging, sharing, and collaborating as we progress through the year. My plan is to update my COETAIL blog periodically and share our experience as we continue to learn and grow!

What helped make this successful?

Photo Credit: Danieal Longanetti

As a class we developed a set of questions we could ask as we reviewed our work, questions to help us reflect and share our learning experiences. Once they reflected on their learning they have option to post to the classroom blog was made available. Many students demonstrated being risk-takers, an IB Learner Profile trait, when they chose to be brave and post their work to the blog.  Shortly there after, students started receiving their first set of comments, thank you Diana for taking the time to do this. Comments led to a lesson about communication and how to reply. We discussed the value of being open-minded to others thoughts and suggestions.

Photo Credit: Danieal Longanetti

Now, it was their turn to start commenting on private blogs that we had connected with. As we moved forward we talked a lot about being open-minded. Students needed to understand before they started posting and commenting the value of other peoples thoughts, opinion, and ways they have expressed themselves. We created another anchor chart to help support our commenting and began the process.


What comes next…?

As course five comes to an end, I know that the learning, creating, and collaborating will continue. Shaza and I will continue to create app tutorials to post on our YouTube Chanel, TechTeachers, and to share our experiences related to the power of digital integration and student blogging with others. We reached our goal of redefinition in our classroom and are helping supporting others to do that same! Together we have shared our experience with the community of teacher in our building and district. At the beginning of November, we successfully led a bilingual (Arabic and English) PD session, Using iPads Apps to Create Digital Portfolios, Blogs, and More , at MiniNESA Qatar and have plans to continue sharing. We are hopeful for the opportunity to present at this years NESA conference and eager to share our experience at the 2017 Qatar Teaching and Learning forum in April.

Time to reflect…

I couldn’t have asked or completed a better project or collaborator for the year. The connections that have been made, the learning that is occurring, the engagement and eagerness to create and share has made every roadblock and unforeseen challenge we’ve encountered along the way 100% worth it!

While I have the COETAIL program to thank for the redesigning of my classroom, it is the COETAILers, past and present that have taught me the most. Those that have commented, collaborated, and shared their own learning experiences within the COETAIL, you are the reason I have grown and the reason I will continue to have success!

A special thanks to Patrick, who initiated the presence of COETAIL at my school and to Yolanda and Shaza, two of the best collaborators and educators I have ever worked with! I couldn’t have done this without you! Cheers!

PS, if you are interested in seeing or commenting on our private class Seesaw blog, please private message me via twitter @teach2learn13 for the password!

Moshkhela Kabera…Big Problems

I am sure that when most of you hear the words “Twitter” or “tweet” in a conversation you can quickly comment about a slowchat, satchat, istechat, or simply your participation in a form of  virtual learning that you regularly participate in. For many of you this is something that occurs multiple times throughout the week, maybe even the day, and I’m sure that you’re also about to participation in multiple chats at the same time! YOU are my inspirations! What a great way to build your #PLN or #PLC!  Tweeting for me is what we refer to in Qatar as a Moshkhela Kabera, a big problem. I AM AWFUL AT IT!

I love the idea and concept behind tweeting…and initially I struggled and had to read up on how to effectively participate as an educator in Twitter Chats. I found this Teacher Challenges article helpful as I prepared to begin. I felt like I had a deeper understanding and was ready to get started. My main problem is finding the time to participate and to keep up with the conversations. Plus, I often get lost in threads or sidetracked by clicking on comments. Not to mention that in the beginning I kept forgetting to include the #hashtag.

And seriously, you have to express yourself using less than 140 characters. This is the bigger than a Moskhela Kabera for me! This is especially hard when you want to include twitter handles and hashtags. I struggle with this and find it a time consuming “problem” to condense what I am trying to say. In course 3, Robert commented on one of my blog posts about visual literacy and how I prefer to read things that are short and sweet by I fail to write this way. His comment read, “Consider if this post was a 140 character Tweet. What would you say? ” I about died inside when I read his comment. That in itself is my problem. It is sooooo hard for me to be brief….(can you tell?)

However, I like a challenge so I have been trying! As of this morning I have 199 tweets, I am proud of myself.

Photo Credit: @teach2learn13, Danieal Longanetti

I know myself, and I know that reaching 199 tweets would not have been possible if I didn’t make it a priority and set daily reminders. So at the beginning of October I made it a professional growth goal to tweet, comment, like, or retweet something at least once an academic day. I truly do want to build my PLC and be apart of a community that can collaborate, share ideas, question, and encourage and support from anywhere in the world!

To keep myself on track this year, with life, COETAIL, and work I created a Kanban to help organize myself. I added this sticky note:

Kahban In Progress, PLC Tweets: Photo Credit: Danieal Longanetti

and  have kept it in the IN PROGRESS section since my first tweet in October. For those of you that know me well know that this kills me… I crave the gratification of moving my sticky notes to DONE!  But it is WORKING. While I haven’t tweeted every day I have come pretty close, check out my Twitter @teach2learn13! And, I have even participated in various organized chats, such as,,.  Moving this particular sticky note to done at the end of the school year is going to be gratify!!

Now, with all this said, Twitter has been a life save this year and WONDERFUL way to connect! Without it I am not sure that our course 5 final project would have been possible. Shaza and I hit a road block at the start of the school year via Twitter Patrick saved the day! After I tweeted out, he retweet my tweet and instantly people were commenting an connections were being made! Hilaa and I connected and it has been one of the best connections I have made this year. Additionally, Lissa, read the tweet and her replied. Her reply was suggestive and also included a suggested contact, Abigail, that helped get the ball for our project!

So maybe Twitter isn’t that big of a problem after all?!

Starting the blog process, Tweet and Thread Photo Credit, Danieal Longanetti @teach2learn13

Moosta’meren…Making progress

Where has the time gone?

I can’t believe it is November, time is just flying by. While I haven’t posted much for course 5, rest assured that our project is underway and taking off! WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS! Shaza and I have been extremely busy and focused on implementing our plan!  We have hit some road bumps along the way (you’ll get to read about these in our final reflection) but we have over come them all and things are coming together.

Making Connections and Community Engagement 

EdTech Camp 2016 Photo by Danieal

In October, a small group of EdTech-y teachers from my building, Patrick, Shaza, Diana, Erin, and Sara, attended an EdTech Camp that was hosted by the American School of Doha, here in Qatar. Branching outside of our Qatar Foundation “Family” and collaborating with other like minded teachers in was refreshing. The sessions were geared towards the empowerment of student led learning, tech in the classroom, and global connections. I attended 3 different sessions; Homework, So What?, Twitter, How to Grow A PLC, and Student Directed Learning, The Gradeless Classroom. 

It was rejuvenating to connect and collaborate with others. Additionally, it was refreshing to contribute adequate knowledge and experience to the conversations.  I walked away with new ideas, questions, and the desire to return to work Sunday morning to implement some of the new ideas. Twitter handles, emails, and WhatsApp numbers were exchanged and some of the communication has continued.

Word Cloud Created Using Tagul

Where I am at?
Truth be told, I am all over the place!  Time is flying by and I am being tugged in each and every direction. My first Unit of Inquiry as a PYP teacher is coming to an end, my students are blogging, presentations preparation is underway, and our YouTube channel is created. The channel is a work in progress and will continuously be developing! As we introduce apps in the classroom we will continue to upload the app tutorials! While we are still very new at, taking a few risks heres, we have enjoyed creating videos in both English and Arabic to help support student learning and tech integration. AND if that isn’t enough, I have reactivated my Search Associates account. Yes, I am on the hunt for  a new job. Anyone have any leads?

What is to come?

Shaza screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-55-02-amand I are presenting at Mini NESA this week. Our workshop will be presented in English and Arabic. Our presentation objectives are to share our knowledge and experience with App Smashing, Digital Portfolios, and student blogging. We will address the benefits of tech integration in the classroom (as a tool/resource) and the impact of global collaboration and communication. Additionally, we will be sharing our Google Channel, Tech Teachers, with the participants! Great news….we have just been informed that our session is FULL!! The pressure is on. Time to share and time to learn!


Was our vision realistic? That’s what I am starting to ask myself as Shaza and I start to execute our plan from last year. While we haven’t been in school very long this group of kids is extremely tough (academically and behaviorally) and far lower than expected. Maybe it’s time to revaluate? Or maybe we give it a little longer? Ahh the stress of wanting to integrate, collaborate, and still be successful…is the stress it worth it? Will we reach success as a class? Will we be able to blog?

As Shaza and I planned for Course 5 (during Course 4) we based the project off of the successes and difficulties we had experienced using 1:1 iPads the two previous years. As we planned we considered these experiences and wrote the UbD accordingly.

As the school year started, Shaza and I felt quite behind the other COETAILers who had already posted their first blogs.  Here in the Middle East we didn’t have our first day with students until the third week in September!  You can imagine how eager we were to jump in and start forming the excitement and expectations for having 1:1 classroom.  In the past, the level of enthusiasm and engagement in my 1:1 classrooms has be phenomenal. Being the only classroom in the school that has this as an option my students have always felt unique and really have enjoyed the privilege.

Getting Started

Shaza and I got the ball rolling right away, following the PBIS program implemented at our school, we spent the first week of school developing our classroom Essential Agreements which would then lead to our Code of Conduct for our iPads. The plan was to spend the next week allowing the students to create a lock screen that included our classroom Code of Conduct, calling it Press and Agree for access.

The Process

First, the introduction of PicCollage needed to happen. Since these students are second graders, we figured many of them should have prior knowledge and experience from using this app in grade 1. Naturally, our first step was to see what they already knew about using PicCollage. Shaza supported the inquiry process and students explored PicCollage and demonstrated the tools and features they were able to use. During the discovering process we learned that many of the students were not only new to using the app, but new to using an iPad. I was shocked…and to top it off my class struggled to stay engaged, focused, and with this level of independence. This has never happened!?

The next class lesson was spent discussing what students thought it meant follow the 3 Bees (Respect, Responsibility, and Safety) while using technology. To form their ideas students worked independently, in table groups, and with their participated in Think-Pair-Share partners.  Once we had an idea of what it this looked like, Shaza and I explained that we were adding a fourth Bee! The students were eager to know what it was. Following the inquiry cycle students collaborated using dictionaries to  to define collaboration.

Continuing on with the inquiry process we spent time discussing what a digital citizen was. We used the following  Common Sense Media video and Digital Citizen Poster (which is now hanging in our classroom)!

Brining the class back together we compiled a list of what each of 4 Bees looked like with technology. Here is what the students came up with:

Bee Safe:  Hold the iPad with 2 hands, keep all food and drink away from the iPad, walk with the iPad, keep the iPad flat on the table or lap when working, only share information that is safe for others to know

Bee Responsible: Use the apps that are teacher approved, complete all your work, only use websites and apps we are allowed to use, charge the iPad when the battery is low, put it away in the correct spot on the cart.

Bee Respectful: Use kind words when commenting on others work, only watch or upload things that are ok in Qatar,

Bee Collaborative:  Work together, help others with your words not your hands, work as a team, comment on other peoples work.

While we know there are many more things we would like to add to these lists, they will be added as we go through the learning process and begin blogging and using the internet for research and images. Our plan is to have the students monitor their iPad use with the following chart we created during a previous COETAIL course:


Using the ideas the students came up with they collaboratively wrote their Press and Agree statement.

I will use the iPad safely. I will use the apps that I am allowed to use. I will be a good digital citizen. I will close the iPad screen when the teacher is talking.

The next step in getting all of this started was having the students use PicCollage to create their lock screen. However, it wasn’t going to just be a simple lock screen. I wanted to take this as an opportunity to have the screen include specifics that would allow for me to group the students in various groupings quickly. Last year, Yolanda shared this idea with us via Twitter.  The plan was well executed and the screens were coming along nicely.

To support students who needed a refresher or reminder on how to use the app or what was required for them to include on their lock screen, Shaza and I created a video and made it available on the classroom computers for students to access via our YouTube Channel, .

Part of our plan is to take this video and each of the other videos we will be creating for all of the apps we use in class and add them to my classroom blog and our YouTube Channel, Tech Teachers. Please note that both of these sites are still under construction, stayed tuned as we travel through the process of building our channel and blogging in the classroom.

The Product

Well we did it! What was planned to take a week, two at most, took us a solid 3 weeks! We managed, and the final products are great! Here are just a few:


As we progress through the remainder of the first term we intend to follow our UbD as planned in Course 4 as closely as possible. We have started introducing various apps, creating videos, and students are producing! Their blogs have been created, the and we are just about ready to start creating our first post and making global connections. Using Twitter, we have connected with Hilaa who is also blogging with her grade 4 students. We are currently in the process of collaborating and planning how we would like to connect our classes and what we would like them to do! Follow us on our Twitter handles, Danieal and Shaza, to see our posts, PLNs, and how the process is working!!

HELP…I am new to PYP

Hey fellow COETAILers I need your help. My school has decided to go PYP this year and so far it has been a tough start. While, I have attended numerous PYP trainings and typically have a well established learner centered classroom I have never used all the components of PYP.  As the decision was made last year to go PYP I was very excited for the transition (I even paid out of pocket to attend some trainings). However, I feel that we have jumped in head first and as a result I am confused and feeling under supported. Unfortunately, we do not have an experienced coordinator and our consultant is only here periodically.

My hope is to establish a PLN of primary PYP teachers. I would love to collaborate and discuss strategies and ideas as I attempt to role things out in my classroom.

Please let me know if you would be interested in communicating or know someone that would. I will take all the help I can get at this point. Feel free to email me personally or share my email,!

Looking forward to some phenomenal collaboration.

Thank you,


Week 6: Inquiry: For the Teacher and Student

The Quotepedia
The Quotepedia

Learning, that’s why I am here. There is power in knowledge and the learning process, for me, will continuously be on-going.  My journey through COETAIL thus far has provided knowledge and insight, as well as professional and personal growth. The skills I have acquired and the application of various ideas and practices truly played an impact on my classroom environment this year.

As we wrap up the school year I am eager to start the next. Don’t get me wrong I am longing for the summer holiday, but I am excited to apply what I have learned and for the new direction my school is going. Next academic year, my school is transitioning to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP). Yippee to inquiry, developing globally minded students, and student led learning! This is a change that I have been waiting to help implement since signing my initial contract over 3 years ago. As previously stated, my prior teaching experiences fostered the growth and development of a student-led inquiry classroom, this is my passion.

As we transition as a school, I am eager to apply my prior knowledge as well as the new skills and awarenesses that I have acquired through professional development courses, personal readings and research, and COETAIL. Next year, as my students are led through the inquiry process and begin to develop their learner profiles and movement towards a globally minded student, I will be learning along side them! My professional goal is to attempt to transition towards a paperless classroom, with 100% 1:1 iPad integration, and student blogging! Going paperless is going to be a challenge, but my hope is to create an awareness (amongst my students) of how we impact the world around us. I want them to understand that making a small change can contribute on a large scale. Additionally, using paperless methods will create more options and opportunity for students to collaborate and track their own learning.

To model the process, my personal goal is to blog with them.  Using Blogger to share and reflect on the learning processes and experiences from the classroom. As described in the UbD plan below, the blog will include mini lessons, videos, inquiry questions, and various lessons/activities for students to access independently. Taking my goal a step further, I hope to start a personal YouTube Channel. Using a YouTube channel to share How-to-Videos and mini lessons for apps used in the classroom. That videos will include a short review of the app itself and what it can look like when being used with students.

Tweets @teach2learn13, from Yolanda
Tweets @teach2learn13, from Yolanda

This is a lot to tackle independently, so I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Shaza, an ICT teacher and a fellow COETAILer. Although she is unaware of what her position will look like following the PYP framework, she felt she could plan and collaborate with me. Together with some insight and suggested “tweets” from another COETAILer, Yolanda, we developed the following UbD Plan and are looking forward to implementing it when we return to school in September.


While we know we are going PYP, there is a lot of unknown. As a school we are currently developing our Units of Inquiry (UOI) and our Scope and Sequence for next year.  With the UOIs unknown, we developed a plan that could be used in conjunction with any UOI throughout the year, taking inconsideration various learning and sharing from previous COETAIL courses! We incorporated our Code of Conduct from course 2, daily use of iPads, Student Blogs, and access to videos.

Using iPads daily in the classroom will help in the development of creating strong Digital Citizens. During the first few weeks of school students will discuss and modify the Code of Conduct to meet the needs of the classrooms and the established 3 Bees. Together we will develop a Code of Conduct (CoC) for using our iPads Safely, Responsibly, and Respectfully.  As one of the first activities students will use PicCollage to create a lock screen that includes the following:

  • Classroom Code of Conduct
  • Individual iPad ID number, using a specified color (for grouping purposes)
  • Table/team selected background (for grouping purposes)

Creating this lock screen will requiring students to review and ‘Swipe Right’ indicating that they agree to the classroom CoC before they access their iPad.

While, Shaza and I are not a huge fans of the flipped classroom, even there are so many pros and cons, we wanted to use a similar concept with our students. Our goal is to create biweekly videos that will allow students to revisit mini lessons and how-tos for apps used in the classroom as well as for concepts taught!

Once the foundation is established students will begin exploring each of the apps as they are introduced (we will introduce a new app biweekly, see the list of apps in the UbD). Students will be strongly encouraged to use the demonstrated apps during their learning as they work through the UOIs and will be required to create a biweekly blogpost demonstrating what they have learned.  Through blogging students will reflect on the learning process, comment on their peers ideas and products, and will be given the chance to communicate/collaborate at a global level.  Our goals is to have each of apps taught during the first term, this will allow students select apps of their choice during the second term. The opportunity to select their mode of creating/sharing to demonstrate their learning will help develop ownership and pride as they create their digital footprint.

Wow, that feels like a lot! This will be a hefty task to undertake, but I am confident that Shaza and I are ready for the challenge. As I look ahead, I know my pedagogy is going to be tremendously impacted and changed for the better. I fear failure but it is that fear that will help me persevere to help each of us achieve greatness. Together we will go paperless, blog, explore apps, develop into inquisitive learners, and establish positive digital footprints; all while embracing the IB PYP implementation! InshAllah, God Willing (an arabic term used widely in the region), it is going to be a fantastic year!

Week 5: The Technology Roller Coaster

AHHHHHH sometimes I HATE technology…and right now is one of them! 

You can skip reading this rant and go straight to my post for week 5 which starts after the heading Take Two, however, I had to post the following to relieve some stress and frustration. 

I spent a good portion of my afternoon Sunday finishing the content for this post the only thing left I had to do was find a few images that supported my reflection, finally the end was near! I hit save draft (TWICE to be sure) from my desktop computer and called it a day. However, within less than 12 hours I somehow managed to mess it all up, and MY POST EDITS ARE gone.

Google Image: Technology-Frustration
Google Image: Technology-Frustration, Azurah 

At the wee hours of the morning, while unable to sleep, I opened my laptop to complete some school work and check-in with social media…Upon opening my laptop I noticed my previous work, from 2 days ago for this post was open. Thinking nothing of it I closed the tab and carried on. 

Upon arriving to work I was talking with a fellow COETAILer about an article I found that she should read and an app that I thought we could use next year as part of our Course 5 final project. Not being able to recall the apps name and wanting the article link, I opened my draft for this post (I had it sited/linked there) only to be hit with frustration…Well thank you, BUT NO THANK YOU, WordPress for automatically saving the version I closed this morning and contributing to the 2-3 hours of work I did yesterday being LOST.

I of course freaked out, wanted to cry, and instantly felt overwhelmed. Shaza, reassured me that we could probably find it and restore it. She told me to take a breather and she would investigate. With no luck the google search began…the following were accessed,

Post and Page Revisions

How to Manage WordPress Post Revisions and Control Your Past

Missing Revisions Forums

How do I access post revision in WordPress version 4.4.3?

yet recovery of my post revisions FAILED. Shaza spent over 30 minutes trying to help and eventually I decided it was time to give up. I had tried every suggestion from the above sites…I posted the post, removed all plugins, went back to a default theme/template as suggested in one of the forums, and searched searched my WordPress dashboard for a revision history tab/button.

NONE of it worked…So I guess that means I need to start over…what was saved only included bullet points and random ideas that I noted. The articles I link were gone and so was the name of the app I was hoping to show Shaza. As I reflect on this mishap and prepare to write a new post I feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and I honestly still want to cry. It has been a tough school year and I can’t wait until it’s over…3 days and counting.

PS, Technology you are not my friend right now.  

Take Two

What a Ride: The Roller Coaster of a School Year 

Flickr: Whatknot, State Fair of Texas Fairgrounds1974
Flickr: Ride Long Gone by: Whatknot, State Fair of Texas Fairgrounds 1974

Every year has its ups and downs but this year has felt like the longest and bumpiest roller coaster ride I have ever been on. There has been many uphill climbs, twists, and turns to overcome and it felt like the tracks kept changing. There were also plenty of downhill, hands in the air time to celebrate the thrill and fun, rides along the way. As the school year is ending (3 days to go) I am grateful for the experiences the year has brought and the learning that has occurred on a personal level and amongst my students.

Through COETAIL and various professional development opportunities, I have grown as a professional and my classroom has undergone a tremendous change as a result; a change for the better. The use of technology in my classroom transitioned from a stand alone idea or lesson level to a fully integrated part of the daily routine.

It wasn’t that easy: The Uphill Climb

As school year started, I buckled into my second grade classroom and was prepared to embark on what I envisioned being an unforgettably fun, challenging, and educational year! I was lucky to be the only teacher in the building that had 1:1 iPads and I was on a mission to integrate them, successfully! I knew I had wonderful support for my schools ICT teachers (fellow COETAILers), Yolanda and Shaza.  

Flickr: Matt Chan
Flickr: Climbing Up by: Matt Chan

As the school year started, my objectives were to provide my students with the opportunity to pursue their individual curiosities and to help them become active participants in their learning process through integrating iPads into our daily routine. I spent time over the summer reading various articles and blogs, and developed a plan to try and accomplish these objectives. Some useful reads were: 

Along the way I recognized that there was a magnitude of information that need to be explicitly taught, discussed, planned, prepared, and managed. My initial plan was to maximize the use of technology and integration. I was considering using,   

  • Augmented Reality
  • QR Codes
  • iPad Apps
  • Blogger (individual student blogs  and at the classroom level)
  • Google Drive

as part of the daily classroom lessons. Sounds simple right?! 

Managing it all: Hanging Upside Down

Flickr: Upside Down by: kzoop, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY
Flickr: Upside Down by: kzoop, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY

Every student having an iPad wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The structure and management of the classroom, as I had previously knew it, had to change. Management of the iPads, including how to use them, when and what was appropriate, how/where to store them, when to charge them, etc., had to be explicitly taught and routinely practiced.  As a class we developed created visuals that supported our schools behavior system, The 3 Bees.

Be Safe

  • Keep both hands on the iPad when transporting
  • Use the iPad on a flat surface and remain seated
  • Store water bottles in a safe place

Be Responsible

  • Use the class approved apps and websites to help you stay on task
  • Ask your table mates for help (3 before Me!)
  • When your battery is 20% or less place it in the charging station

Be Respectful

  • Only touch your iPad- Explain and help guide your friends when they need help
  • When working on group projects and shared documents remember you are a TEAM
  • Only use the iPad that is assigned to you

Together we built a solid foundation of apps and iPad tools that we could use to assist in the learning and creating process. As the skill levels deepened so did the complexity of the apps used. Although we worked through these areas, occasionally it felt like we were stuck hanging upside-down and had to trouble shoot along the way. Why were we hanging?

  • The network went down, no internet access (this happened far too many times)
  • Student work was lost or unsaved
  • Students were unable to upload from specific apps to our sharing platform
  • The iPad cart being accidentally unplugged resulting in iPads not charging/being dead
  • Random and time consuming iPad updates

So what helped? We had to come to an understanding that we were all learning how to do this at the same time and to help each other when it was needed. Jobs were assigned to students who demonstrated responsibility in the classroom, this helped with updates and charging!

Leaving the platform: The Twists and Turns 

Flickr: Twisted by: Beyond Neon, Six Flags Magic Mountain
Flickr: Twisted by: Beyond Neon, Six Flags Magic Mountain

I had envisioned using Blogger with my students, I dabbled with it during the previous year and loved it. I wanted my students to create a blog where they could showcase selected work, reflect about their learning, and have the ability to comment and collaborate not only at a classroom level but globally.  During the first week back to school (Wow, August feels like a century ago!) the leadership team decided to twist things up and require that all teachers support their students in creating student portfolios. When this was presented I felt ahead of the game, I already had a plan. However, I had to get approval to have them be created digitally as they wanted everyones to be the same. Approval granted, Blogger was going to be our platform. I was excited!

However, setting up Blogs for every student and teaching the process along the way was going to take more time than I was given with my class. Every time I turned around there was something new to explain or adjust. My time with my students was limited so I needed something that they could manage independently through their own inquiry. After doing some research and talking with other educators I learned about Seesaw and decided to implement it the next day!

Hold on tight: Learning is fun again

Flickr: Scary Fun! by Jamie McCaffrey, Hyde Park, London's Winter Wonderland.
Flickr: Scary Fun! by Jamie McCaffrey, Hyde Park, London’s Winter Wonderland

As I sat at the front of the roller coaster, holding on to confidence and the power of exploration, my students were successfully integrating various apps into their learning. They were creating, sharing, reflecting, and commenting about what they were learning. Seesaw was successful, student engagement was evident, and learning was fun! Using Seesaw I was able to monitor and approve see each students post and their reflections about their learning and the process they used to produce their posts.

What a ride: Coasting to a finish

As the year came to an end ALL parents were encouraged to signup and attend student led conferences. As a school, we used You Can Book Me (we are trying to go green) to have parents complete the signup process for conferences electronically. Six slots were allocated for each time period. Using technology to prepare for these conferences was going smoothly and I was grateful to have had prior knowledge and experience with student-led conferences.

File_000 (15)
Student Led Conferences Spring 2016, QAW, 2C

To help ensure that the conferences went well and that students were able to recall what they had learned, how they felt, and what they did they were required to describe their learning and a reflection for each item they added to there Seesaw account. Seesaw allowed the students to choose their method of reflection, text, voice, a stylist pen, or a combination of all 3, and I encouraged them to try using them all throughout the year!

Students were encouraged to “teach” or “show” their parents how to use Seesaw. Many had their parents give them a “shout out” or add a photo describing their experience with the conference. These were great to witness and see on their accounts!

A snapshot reflection…

It has been quiet a roller coaster ride this year, but I know I have grown as a professional and my students have gained academic knowledge and various skills related to the use of technology. I set the bar high and mazimized the use of learning with technology along the way. The greatest part of the ride was being able to interact and help facilitate the learning and integration of technology in my classroom.Seesaw was a great tool, my students, their parents, and I truly enjoyed the process. The year was monumental and I am confident that the struggles and learning experiences contribute to the success of future years to come.

What’s to come?

As I transition back to Blogger I also want to attempt to develop a paperless classroom, well as paperless as I can. I tried this year but was not very successful. Through this course, I have stumbled upon various articles, blogs, and apps that will contribute to the execution of going paperless. My ICT support teacher next year is Shaza and she’s on board.  I am considering using Showbie with my students! Any suggestions or advice from others is welcomed!

Week 4: The Future and Me…


As I sat down and started thinking about my current classroom, my prior classrooms, and my future classrooms I was filled with memories, ah-ha’s, joy, anticipation and fear of what’s to come (I wish I could see into the future)! Each of these thoughts were exciting and had strong emotion attached to them. As we know, the world is constantly changing and education is not to be left out!

Road sign to education and future
Road sign to education and future

I haven’t been teaching as long as some, 9 years, but I have already seen a shift in education practices, philosophies, theories, and trends, and I know there are many more to come. I’m ready and eager for the future! Thinking about being part of a “21st Century-School” as described in the Education Week article: The Classroom Is Obsolete: Time for Something New, brings excitement and a shift in education that I am eager to see.


I am motivated to continue to adapt my teaching practices to developing a classroom that is, “(1) personalized; (2) safe and secure; (3) inquiry-based; (4) student-directed; (5) collaborative; (6) interdisciplinary; (7) rigorous and hands-on; (8) embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations; (9) environmentally conscious; (10) offering strong connections to the local community and business; (11) globally networked; and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning,” as described by Nair in the article,The Classroom Is Obsolete: Time for Something New.

If educators across the world would keep these design principles in mind, as we developed the schools of tomorrow, can you imagine the change we would see in the future leaders of our world? Where classrooms were differentiate to focus on the learner as a whole, with their ideas, interests, and perspectives kept in mind? To do this we need to ensure that we tune into, how, what, when, where, and with whom students should be learning. We should serve as a guide in the inquiry process and ensure the rigor, but allow the students to shape the content. Oh the future, you seem so near, yet so far.

Taking Action…

While the thinking, imagining, and excitement are there, I tend to be “Type A” and mildly OCD when it comes to teaching and planning, as an international teacher, this brings a small level of uneasiness and fear. Where I am headed next is unknown. Will I find a school that is open to these ideas? Will I be located somewhere that technology is present as a tool that contributes to the the learning process? As I take action into my future and determining where I will teach next, I am eager to continue to learn and implement strategies and techniques to help develop globally-minded, 21st Century Learners!  My question is, are schools around the world ready for this change?

After reading, A Step-by-Step Guide to Global Collaboration, collaboratively working on my unit plan for course 5, and attending numerous professional development courses the past few months (my current school is transitioning to following the framework of an IB PYP classroom!!!), I am eager to continue to take action and shift the design of my classroom and instruction to include global communication. As mentioned in previous posts, I think my classroom (besides the limitations and restrictions that I have) follows a student led and driven model. However, I know there is room for improvement and continued change, especially as technology develops and our capabilities to communicate with the world around us deepens.

While this school year is coming to an end and I should be excited and ready for the break, I am eager to start the upcoming school year! I’m looking forward to the structure and vision I have for my future class as we use our iPads to blog and collaborate globally! As I read the suggested reading, A Step-by-Step Guide to Global Collaboration by Kim Cofino, some of my uncertainties and fears were addressed. As I read I felt like it was written with the thoughts and fears that are continuously running through my head, great read! I recommend this post to anyone who is thinking about starting a global collaboration project!

A tad more support…

For the past two years I have attended and presented at the Teaching and Learning Forum in Qatar. The forum is designed for educators from Qatar share their knowledge and strengths with fellow teachers, to collaborate! Last year, the keynote speaker was Sir Ken Robinson and the focus of the Forum and the opening speech was to encourage educators to transition away from education as we knew it, and to be open to reforming the paradigms in educator! As I read the essential questions and skills for this post I was reminded of attending his session and the following video:

During his presentation, at the forum, Robinson argued that education should be personalized to every student’s talent, passion, and learning style. He talked about developing a balance between the arts, humanities, social studies, and the core subjects. Additionally, he discussed understanding the cultural differences and agendas present in education, the benefits of collaboration and developing global connections, and that creativity should be embedded in the culture of every single school. Sir Ken, I couldn’t agree with you more!

So what’s the future…

The future is unknown, but we can be the change. As the world evolves and the presence of technology increases, classrooms have to change. If a change doesn’t occur, I fear classrooms will be a thing of the past. My plan is to continue to do my part to learn, develop, and share my knowledge with fellow educators and my students.

Week 3: I need a break…Don’t they?

“The best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful.”

I have the feeling that as the end is almost here I need to be a little more “playful,” in order to remain receptive to all that is happening and ensure that my classroom still maintains the positive and creative vibe that we worked so hard to accomplish this year, I’d like to think that my classroom has many elements of being playful, as described in the quote above (and many other to follow) from MindShift Article, The Power of Play in Learning.  At times we are uncertain but we are fluid with our learning process and receptive to adversities and obstacles that come our way.

Teachers need play to: Sprinting to the end…

The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and faster than I anticipated. It feels is as if I am running an 800 meter dash with hurdles and some unexpected long jumps that must be tackled along the way.

I’m finding that as soon as I establish what I think is the perfect pace and I have a visual of the finish line, 100 meters is added to the race. Of course these 100 meter aren’t straight, they have even more hurdles to overcome, and I think the hurdles are getting higher….AHHHH can I just have a water break or take a few minutes to stretch?

Once in a while we all need a break, kids are no different. They need breaks, time to soak things in, time to self-reflect, collaborate, time to move, time to explore, time to PLAY!

“Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill.”

Movement Impacts the Learning Process

Luckily, I love PLAY (and I know I personally do not get enough of it)! During my masters research I studied the impact that movement and play had on the learning process and the classroom setting. Through the use of Brain Gym and Bal-A-Vis-X I incorporated different movements, activities, and exercises into our daily routine and lessons. Bean bags and balls were used to “play” with words, sentence structure, math facts, vocabulary development, comprehension, and much more. One could easily observe the impact on engagement, exploration, collaboration, team work, and risk taking skills that were present in my classroom during any given visit.

In the book Whole Brain Child:12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, David Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson wrote, “The brain has two sides for a reason: with each side having specialized functions, we can achieve more complex goals and carry out more intricate, sophisticated tasks. Significant problems arise when the two sides of our brain are not integrated and we end up coming at our experiences primarily from one side or the other. Using only the right or the left brain would be like trying to swim using only one arm. We might be able to do it, but wouldn’t we be a lot more successful – and avoid going in circles – if we used both arms together?” They conclude: “In order to live balanced, meaningful, and creative lives full of connected relationships, it’s crucial that our two hemispheres work together.” The power of play and movement helped ensure that both sides of the brain were integrated in the learning process.

The students in the group (2 different classes were used to collect data) that used movement and play during their instructional time and learning process showed an average increase of 22% on standardized testing (CSAP,

AIMsWeb, and ITBS). My research supported that moment and play actively engaged both hemispheres of the brain during the learning process. Which has shown to aid in the process of creating, retaining, understanding and comprehending.  Engaging the entire brain in the learning process through play created an environment that was rich with engagement and concrete learning. The best part was my students didn’t even know that they were learning!

Play on…What method do you prefer? 

So yes, physical movement and play have an active place in my classroom! Now, it is just modified to accommodate a limited time schedule, school norms, and cultural expectations. In my current classroom, hurdles are jumped over everyday and the play that occurs looks different then it did in the past experiences and classrooms. We have what I call Brain Break Sticks, Minds in Motion Fit Sticks, (one of the few items I brought with me from Colorado), are used between activities and occasionally during activities! My students love them, and so I! Each stick includes a movement or exercise that helps increase our oxygen intake and encompasses bilateral movement. On a given day we typically complete one stick before transitioning or when I see that the engagement level is slipping.

Over the past few years, technology integration as become a major component in my classroom and I have found myself exploring the idea of play through a different lens! Not to mention that living in the desert results in far indoor recess days, I will forever be grateful for GoNoodle!  The element of motion, play, laughter, and engagement that come from this site (thankful for my SmartBoard and projector) has truly helped in my classroom and with my students. Plus it provides an opportunity for indoor motion and play!

Other than at recess, a majority of play in my classroom this year has been centered around technology use. Prior to introducing a new app or project using our iPads, I generally allow time to “play” or explore. I use this time to allow my students to investigate and learn what they can independently discover from each of different apps, then they get to share out!  They are encouraged to share their discoveries that can contribute to production and creating as we journey through the learning process! As the year progressed and we learned a variety of apps students were allow to choose their preferred method of production! While this is not physical play it still allows for the students to approach the unknown, explore, take risks, and be creative.

Personally, I think that it is important to learn, teach, and understand that play comes in various forms. It can be challenging and the ‘player’ needs to allows for mistakes and obstacles to be overcome, wether it is a physical game or mental application. In the article, The Power of Play in Learning, Barseghian, states, “As positive as play is, it requires the ability to make mistakes. It implies being able to entertain multiple scenarios and outcomes,” and I couldn’t agree more. In my classroom, this applies to using technology and exploring with the learning process. My students have to learn how to overcome challenges, setbacks, and various situations as we move through daily technology use. They have to jump over hurdles with the internet, work being lost, projects not being completed, and so on. The experience of ‘playing with technology’ has been a powerful tool for us all!

Is that the finish line?

Official Navy Page from United States of America Candice Villarreal/U.S. Navy
Official Navy Page from United States of America Candice Villarreal/U.S. Navy

While we have accomplished a great deal of learning through exploration the finish line is near! I know that my students are ready to REALLY run and play (even if it is 115 degrees fahrenheit outside) and so am I! I also am

confident that they have the skills and knowledge to access the various methods of tech play we used in our classroom throughout the summer. My students each have access to their Google Drive and I have encouraged them to play with their learning, take photos, and create projects to share throughout the summer.

Week 2: My classroom: In the Past, Present, and Future…

Taking a plung!

When I read Roberts post, Course 4 Week 2- Theory, Pedagogy, and PBL, and he encouraged Cohort 5 COETAILers to share about our classrooms and student learning I was excited. I thought this was a great opportunity to see what was happening in terms of Project and Problem Based Learning, Challenge Based Learning, and Pedagogy being used in other classrooms around the world…I can’t think of a better way (for my current status) to learn, gain ideas, and collaborate! Although I was on a much needed holiday, I jumped right in and started writing and writing…I know this post is far too long, but my brain just kept going and going!

Image credit: J.T. O'Donnell,
Image credit: J.T. O’Donnell,

A look at the past…

Less than two weeks prior to leaving the United States, to start working at my first school aboard, I shared my passion, stories, ideas, and thoughts with an entire school district about student led inquiry and learning. I  was invited to travel with Copper Stoll and Gene Gidings, founders of Don’t Ever Stop! LLC. Educational Consultation and Leadership, to Illinois where together we spent 10 days helping a Freeport School district understand the value and importance of developing not only student centered classrooms, but a student centered district.

My personal objectives when I set out on the trip were to share my experiences and passion for student inquiry, investigation, and project based learning to fellow educators. I wanted to share the importance of empowering students to be involved in their learning process and how the power of student voice and choice can increase engagement and authentic learning (even the struggling and reluctant ones). I was eager to discuss the methodology and implementation process that I went through (the prior 3 years), answer any questions that may arise, and to share suggestions of how to integrate subject areas while developing unit questions that were open-ended and lead to student inquire, research, and sharing. I had transformed my own classroom and was using a model that was comfortable using and was having great success! Who wouldn’t want to share that?

What did this look like?

Students asked questions about the world around them, topics that were interested in, things they liked, and questions about topics or ideas that were shared with them. Together we dug deep into these questions and formed questions to guide the learners through their learning process. Then, the students conducted research and or completed various projects (of their choice) to demonstrate what they had learned. Additionally, all of the learning targets (standards) were posted, written in kid friend language, and included an image. This allowed students to select targets that they were interested in learning about and to add targets to their investigation process that they felt were aligned. Throughout the academic year students worked towards demonstrating proficiency on every target within their academic track, but at their pace, and in a manor that was appealing to them.

This model was a blend of both project and problem based learning. Some students developed unit projects to demonstrate what they had learned related to learning targets, while others asked questions or “problems” to investigate and learn about. The blend made the classroom a vibrant place to be. I loved my job and was eager to share this passion and love with others around the world!

Undesirable change

The past three years have been quite the professional challenge for me, and a very big change. I went from being a facilitator in a student centered, project/problem based, and standards driven classroom, where time was not the variable, students were actively involved in their learning process, and collaboration with colleagues was geared around sharing ideas and practices that empowered students; to being given a set curriculum, a timetable in which the learning must occur (scope and sequence curriculum map), and limited interactions with educators who were as passionate about PBL or involving the learners in their learning process. What a change and challenge it has been…Honestly, it has been a struggle. Mind you, this was far from what I expected to experience when I embarked on my journey into international teaching. It is actually quite the opposite of what I had expected.

A colleague of mine, Yolanda, recently commented on my post from last week. In her comment, she shared a link to the following video and a quote that stood out to her. As I read through her comment and then proceeded to watch the video I found myself motivated and inspired to get my classroom back to where it once was. The video is phenomenal and worth the watch!

In her comment, Yolanda quoted Seymour Papert and it fit perfectly with my current thought. Papert said, “The first thing you have to do is give up the idea of curriculum. Curriculum meaning you have to learn this on a given day. Replace it by a system where you learn this where you need it. So that means you’ve got to put kids in a position where they’re going to use the knowledge that they’re getting.” In other words, what I am being “told” and “led” to do everyday is not going to empower students to engage in their learning process and use the knowledge they are learning. The learning needs to be something that what help them grow in the 21st century and the world that surrounds them.

My classroom as I knew it…

My classroom as I knew it was gone…the engagement, resources, student library, manipulatives, fellow like minded colleagues, and support, ALL GONE. One would think, or at least I did, no problem, I can still implement my ideas, philosophy, and practices anywhere. I can take the skills I have learned, my passion for student-teacher collaboration, and project learning and apply it to my next classroom. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I wasn’t willing to give up. I wholeheartedly believed that when students were apart of the learning process and could take ownership for their learning, true learning would occur. Getting there (alone) was not going to be easy. The model and schedule that my new school had in place was going to be a challenge to find time for student voice and choice. Not to mention, I was the “new” teacher in building with a curriculum I had never used, a teammate who was also new to the school (and very military minded when it came to her classroom). Professionally, I wanted to meet or exceed the schools expectations, but in a way that I felt was best for student learning.

Photo credit: Got Credit, Save,
Photo credit: Got Credit, Save,

A new teammate and technology saved me and my passion!

A few months in to the school year my teammate was changed and I was blessed to work with Patrick. Patrick was passionate about blogging, connecting students with other students around the world, tweeting, and using technology. Additionally, he was open to trying new things and collaborating. He hadn’t taught at the primary level and I was not an expert in the field of technology integration so we supported each other. Together we took apart the curriculum and shared our ideas to enhance the learning process. TECHNOLOGY was about to save my vision, my passion, and I was completely unaware. While, we still had to implement the curriculum we developed procedures in the classroom that presented opportunity for the students to have choice, not so much in what they were learning, but what they were using and producing to support their learning.

Present: This is my classroom now…

While it is still not at level of student led collaboration that I would like, huge progress has been made. I would say that using the comparison chart below, found at The Teach, Learn, Lead, my current classroom is more problem based than project based.


  • Focus on an open-ended question or task
  • Provide authentic applications of content and skills
  • Build 21st Century skills
  • Emphasize student independence and inquiry
  • Are longer and more multifaceted than traditional lessons or assignments
  • Student-focused, rather than teacher-focused
Project-Based Learning                                                                     Problem-Based Learning
– Often multi-disciplinary                                                                         – More often single-subject
– May be lengthy (weeks or months)                                                      – Tend to be shorter
– Follows general, variously-named steps                                              – Follows specific, traditionally prescribed
– Includes the creation of a product or performance                              – The “product” may simply be a proposed
– Often involves real-world, fully authentic tasks and setting                    solution, expressed in writing or in an oral
                                                                                                             –  More often uses case studies or fictitious
                                                                                                                 scenarios as “ill-structured problems”

Although, I have been given a new teacher centered, scripted curriculum, and a curriculum map to use this year, a teammate and I have really dug deep into the learning outcomes and standards that we are required to teach and assess. Together we collaborate and have developed projects throughout the year that cover our curriculum requirements, yet allow for choice, research, peer collaboration, exploration, and inquiry. The level of student engagement and excitement has increased and many students are experiencing success.

Additionally, I have been extremely fortunate that Yolanda, a fellow COETAILer, is the ICT support teacher for my grade level. Her encouragement, collaboration, and knowledge has helped build a classroom that uses technology simultaneously as students work through their standards and projects. Our lastest project, Tantalizing Technology, (created during Course One) has finally came up on our scope and sequence. Using the UBD plan from Course One students had great success participating in the learning process and demonstrating their ability to understand and apply each of the essential questions that were proposed throughout the lesson. Take a look:

Part 1: Padlet (make sure to scroll over to see both images) 

Part 2: Adobe Voice

Future: A work in progress, going PYP

While I would like to get back to a classroom that is fully dives into project based, student led learning, I am satisfied to be even following a problem based approach. As we finish this year and begin the start of next year I am excited for change and what is to come. My school has opted to start the implementation of Primary Years Program, PYP, and many of us have been receiving training! I think this change alone, and the collaboration that is on the horizon is going to transform my classroom and our schools vision and pedagogy. I am ready for the change and challenge!