Hi 5! Resources

One of my favorite aspects of COETAIL is the collaborative spirit of its participants and we finally get to put that to work with this project. For our final project, after 6 weeks of work I luckily ended up with an amazing team that basically put the whole project together on their own. The members of the team “Hi 5 ! Resources” Project are Simona, Julija, Christel, Mooney, and me (Luis Carlos).

How did you find your group for this project?

My group actually found me. Joel told me I could get in contact with Christel, but after an email I got from Simona I was absorbed into a bigger group.

How did the collaboration aspect of this project go? What challenges did you face?

Even when our communication started via email, it eventually migrated to Twitter. I accepted the group invite, but forgot to activate notifications so as to receive emails when somebody sent a message. I found out at the end when most team members were already finished with their projects (lesson learned). As the end of the academic year approaches at my school, and after almost three months of online learning, my tasks as EdTech Coordinator have widely expanded. Next year we will be implementing the use of Google Classroom as our new MS LMS replacing Canvas so this implies piloting, gathering feedback, and tons of training. I homeschool (online for now) two boys in the afternoons and most of the day on the weekends so there was little extra time for me to catch up with the group.

How did you overcome them? How was this collaborative planning experience different from or similar to other planning experiences?

My group was very supportive and I know there will be more opportunities to work together and get to better know each other. I wish I could have participated and interacted more with the rest of the team, but the circumstances didn’t help me. I appreciate that even when they needed my contribution, I never felt like they were demanding it (I haven’t read the Twitter thread yet, so maybe they did, haha). To overcome the lack of time, I spent 3 days in a row reading and writing posts almost non-stop. 

This experience was similar to other professional development experiences in which I collaborated with people from all over the world and with different areas of expertise. It was also fairly unique as in this occasion I wasn’t working with them in the same room. 

Why did you choose this option? These standards?

When I started course 2, I had different ideas for the project. I wanted to update our Social Media policies at my school, put together a filterable database of resources for online learning or improve a lesson plan with a colleague. My teammates were diligent and chose a project that made it easy for everybody to contribute with their expertise.

How was this learning experience different from or similar to other learning experiences you have designed?

I haven’t yet facilitated this experience but as soon as I do (this week) I will update this post to let you know how it went.

Here I share a link to the Google Slides with the training I am offering on Google Classroom:

Empowering Policies

ISP has spent a lot of time creating its extensive ISP family handbook. In this document you can find our Mission and Vision, go through our school song (anthem), and explore our many school policies. I myself have been part of various committees focused on the elaboration, revision, and updating of policies and procedures such as Inclusion and Diversity, Child protection, Field Trips, SBG, and GDPR.

These two clauses belong to the ISP’s Technology Code of Conduct:

3. ISP users agree that they will not send or solicit hate mail or use any device to harass or bully anyone, as outlined in the ANTI-HARASSMENT & ANTI-BULLYING POLICY as well as the Social Media Policy.

5. Individuals are responsible for adhering to the laws for copyrighted materials under Panamanian and international guidelines. Users accept responsibility for personal software when used on school premises. Such software must be appropriate for school use and conform to school policies and procedures.

I considered these two points for various reasons. I am pleased to see that we directly and explicitly address harassment, bullying, and copyright within our policies. In fact, within other sections of the handbook – Behavior – they expand on bullying. However, I am sad that this is the first time in four years that I have been working at ISP when I have come across these clauses. This makes me think about it and ask myself the following questions:

  • Is this the best format in which to present the handbook?
  • Should we consider/create a condensed format of this important document?
  • Should visual materials that summarize the most important themes of our handbook to some extent be displayed on our campus?
  • Do parents, students, and employees in general read all of these policies (or even know about them)?
  • Is it sufficient that stakeholders only read these documents?
  • Should group reviews or discussions of our policies be considered at least once a year?
  • Should training be offered on how to understand, and also know how to teach and implement, these standards?

I never found the ANTI-HARASSMENT & ANTI-BULLYING POLICY on the school’s website nor in the handbook. I am going to investigate and if necessary update this post with more information, but this makes me wonder if the way in which these documents are shared is the best or most efficient. Our school is changing website providers and will revamp our website… perfect timing to better organize and share this information.

The ISP Social Media Policy document states:

“Social media” is a category of online broadcasting that supports people talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Common social media platforms include, but are not limited to, online networks such as CANVAS, SeeSaw, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, AskFM, blogs, podcasts, discussion forums, and content sharing sites such as Instagram and YouTube. Because technology is constantly evolving, any list of social media sites or programs will never be definitive.

It is true that no social media list will ever be definitive, but while reading AskFM I realized that we have a lot of pending work on documents to update in our school. I don’t consider Canvas within the Social Media category, although I would love it to be capable enough to be included.

In this same document it reads:

In particular, students must not use social media for any of the following (but not limited to): 

  • To post inappropriate, discriminatory or defamatory comments including comments about other students, staff, or other members of the ISP community
  • To bully, harass or intimidate other students, staff or members of the school
  • To post threatening, obscene or profane comments
  • To discriminate by any means, including but not limited to sexist, racist, sectarian, xenophobic, or homophobic views or banter
  • To express support for illegal activities or organizations
  • To purposefully disseminate misleading information
  • To share confidential or sensitive information
  • To view or distribute sexually explicit or offensive content
  • To infringe or violate someone else’s rights as stated by Panamanian law, and/or fail to adhere to generally/commonly accepted digital citizenship norms
  • To post locational information about others under any means without prior specific consent
  • To post content that could create a security risk for the physical school, its staff, or students

….Disciplinary actions will be taken if improper use of social media is found. Inappropriate action merits follow up by the school or affected organization.  Misuse of social media, such as posting of inappropriate content, should be reported to the school administration…

All right. We have a good amount of pretty explicit rules to follow. Everything we should avoid doing to others. However, I doubt that we are doing a good job of promoting them. In addition, parallel to these rules, we should have a curriculum designed to empower our students, colleagues, and parents in media literacy to not only avoid being an actor in these scenarios, but also falling victims to them. Where are the recommendations, suggestions, and advice for those who are victims of these situations?

As an ISP member I will:

  • Continue to improve my own media literacy by studying and taking part in professional development opportunities like COETAIL which make me question my professional practice and those from my school.
  • Grow my professional network to include external contributors that will help me with feedback, suggestions, and will offer different points of views.
  • Make my school aware of our flaws in these regards and help as much as possible with the improvements needed. 
  • Offer and promote media literacy professional development opportunities to my colleagues.
  • Create and integrate media literacy in our curriculum.
  • Promote platforms and activities related to media literacy.
  • Instruct students when possible on media literacy.

I THINK, therefore I POST

I guess (and maybe I am far away from being right about it) most people I know belong to at least one family WhatsApp group. After I saw the image above I immediately copied it and sent it to my group, which has 18 members ranging from 18 to 60 years old. My family is spread all over the world: different cities in Venezuela, Chile, Panamá, United States, Canada, and Portugal. Even when I decide to be selective of the content I consume on social media platforms and news outlets, that group can become a news center itself, and let me tell you, it can be totally overwhelming. Especially these days.

Starting the day with the increasing number of Coronavirus cases in 6 different countries, worrying about the good or bad decisions taken by our political leaders. Reading so much news and trying to decipher if it is true or not: “Warm weather could slow coronavirus”, “No vegetarian person in the world has been found to have coronavirus”, “Hot water would be enough to protect people from the virus”… Not fun at all. So we made certain agreements. We have to start the day with positive phrases, quotes, and videos. That usually covers the helpful, inspiring, and kind part of THINK. We have to check the credibility of the sources of the information we share and if it is relevant to all members of the group. That covers the true and necessary elements.

WhatsApp has recently helped with this, as did Chrome.

You might have noticed that now you can only forward messages to a single person if the message was identified as highly forwarded – sent through a chain of five or more people – to avoid the spread of misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In this link, WhatsApp offers detailed Tips to help prevent the spread of rumors and fake news. Here is an executive summary:

  1. Understand when a message is forwarded
  2. Check photos and media carefully
  3. Look out for messages that look different
  4. Check your biases
  5. Fake news often goes viral
  6. Verify with other sources

Chrome is doing the same in their next update by adding a set of improvements related to security, safety, and privacy, and there is nothing that you need to do besides keeping it updated. If you want go beyond and add some extensions to help you in recognizing fake news and hoaxes, I suggest these:

Ad Added FakerFact: Fake News Detection 11

BS Detector

On the academic side, at my school we have a ton of WhatsApp groups: grade level groups, Online Learning groups, T&L groups, the HS group, the MS group, the group for that field trip, the DSS group…  As an EdTEch Coordinator and a go-to person when tech support is needed, the number of groups can get out of hand really fast and it can be difficult to handle all of the requests. On a positive note, admin decided to create yet another group “ELT- our goal is joy” but even if the 50 messages you get are positive, it is still time consuming and can be a lot to process. So another option you can use to balance your busy academic social life is change your group privacy settings in WhatsApp. You basically have three options to choose on who can add you:

  1. Everybody
  2. My Contacts
  3. My Contacts Except …

Going back to THINK, at my school we have created bulletin boards with messages related to “Think before you post”, at least in Middle School (sadly I didn’t find any pictures) and I have also seen this in many of our classrooms in laminated signs, but I don’t think this is enough. As a school we should promote these initiatives starting in Elementary School as kids get their own devices at early ages. For this to happen, we need to create awareness among the staff. A lot of our staff didn’t grow up with these issues and training needs to be offered so that they understand and are ready to promote best practices with students.

My best suggestion on where to start: Be Internet Awesome by Google. They have put together games and activities that make learning about digital safety and citizenship interactive and fun. Try it yourself and then try implementing it at your school. Look at these beautiful signs ready to be printed.

All posters in here and here.

Do You Accept The Terms & Conditions?

It is likely that some of you remember receiving an unusual number of emails from various companies and organizations in early 2018. No, it was not just another marketing strategy. In these emails, organizations asked for permissions, asked if you wanted to stay on their email lists (which you most likely do not remember subscribing to), talked about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and explained their information management policies, among other things. I remember it very well. It was hard not to notice. I asked a couple of colleagues if the same thing was happening to them and after receiving affirmation I decided to do a little research.

In short, the Information Protection Regulations, approved in 2016, had begun to govern the European Union. These regulations are considered the largest movement related to information protection policies in this generation, giving users much more control over the information that companies gather about them.

You can watch this video for a summarized visual explanation:

GDPR: What Is It and How Might It Affect You?

The reasons are simple. Today our lives are documented, digitized, and stored practically every day. Every photo, video, purchase, move, even our sleep cycle or exercise routine is being collected, stored and even marketed or sold, therefore, the need for data protection has never been more important.

The data on the web is used to capitalize based on our searches, transactions, preferences and interests, creating a new sector to our global economy. GDPR puts the spotlight on the irresponsible use of this personal data and creates awareness on how this data is used.

In addition to this, these regulations act as a stimulus for change within organizations, since they require establishing new data management structures and reviewing workflows, thus creating more efficient and robust processes.

Despite the fact that these rules apply directly to the European Union, the reality is that they affect all users of these companies regardless of where we are in the world.

Taking a more regional approach, in Panama, a bill regulating the protection of personal data has been discussed in recent years. On March 26, 2019, Law 81 was enacted, which adopts concepts similar to those contained in the GDPR such as the prior, informed and unequivocal consent of the owner, concepts contained in ARCO (access, rectification, cancellation, opposition), and the portability right. The legislation even establishes five working days as a term for the modification of the data that is erroneous, inaccurate, equivocal or incomplete.

Regarding the collection of information through internet platforms and digital media, organizations must demonstrate that they are complying with privacy policies in clear and simple written language.

On a more local and personal level, a few months ago at the school where I work we began to have meetings related to the actions that we must take as an institution to guarantee compliance with these laws. These are just the initial steps, but an effective way to raise awareness among staff about any new initiative is to involve them in the processes from the start. I would have liked more teachers to have participated in the meetings but, as often happens, they were not involved. A draft of the information protection policy and GDPR was eventually created, but due to the current pandemic it has not been finalized.

For educational institutions, the knowledge and implementation of these GDPR best practices is not a simple or quick process, but it is definitely relevant in many ways and at all levels, from initial education to university, face-to-face and distance, for students and families, for teachers, and for the marketing, technology, admissions, and HR departments.

GDPR delivers an important wake-up call to information gatherers, yes, but it also informs users, educates them on the use of information that is stored about them on a daily basis, and empowers and protects them, thus representing a powerful tool for the end user.

It is important to raise awareness at the institutional level. Visionary organizations will work on GDPR alongside broader digital transformation projects by reinventing their processes. In addition, it is necessary to offer specific training in the use of intellectual property, information protection policies, digital citizenship, and other related topics. All these important issues are set aside to give priority to others of equal relevance, however, they should be included in the induction processes of any company and reinforced throughout the year, especially in educational institutions.

If you are not sure about where your organization stands within the complex process to comply with these norms you might want to use this tool to check what your organization has already completed and what they are missing:

Controllers checklist

Gens X, Y, Z… not as easy as 1, 2, 3

Let’s start by stating this. The genius of a generation should not be measured by its individuals, but by their potential.

I was born a Millennial… nothing I can do about that because “I was born this way.” Researching about the characteristics that define my era, I have to say, I don’t entirely identify with our description: Generation Ys are tough to manage, entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, lazy, and with poor self-esteem. Oof! According to Simon Sinek in the viral video below, these attitudes and qualities can be attributed to a fantastic combination of failed parenting strategies, impatience, the environment we are surrounded by, and the technology we grew up with such as Facebook and Instagram with their filters that magnify our amazing lives and conceal our dirty laundry.

Here is the video if you’d like to take a look:

The whole time I was watching the video, I thought he was describing Generation Z. I personally didn’t feel identified with the portrait of millennials depicted in the video.

I guess I should be thankful for the great parents I have, their rules and standards, and the environment I grew up in. Sometimes, my siblings and I complain about their high expectations. Expectations which we’ve internalized and now demand of ourselves, sometimes at a fault, especially when it comes to our responsibilities, professionalism, and work ethic. 

I started working at the tender age of 7 and haven’t stopped since. You can see why it’s hard for me to associate with any of the qualities or dispositions Mr. Sinek mentioned. I didn’t have the opportunity to use a computer (black and white, running Windows 95) at home until I was around 11 years old, and let me tell you something, listening to this sound required a lot of patience, especially if you were trying to connect using a prepaid calling card, (how times have changed!). So no Instagram or filters, no watching a whole season of your favorite tv show for instant gratification, no Tinder to swipe left or right. We eventually had all of this, yes, but a large group of Gen Ys like myself didn’t grow up with those platforms and comforts. Most Gen Y teachers I know are passionate, hard-working, and dedicated educators so there is little in us that I can recognize as self-interested. 

According to David and Jonah Stillman (parent and son), interviewed in the podcast below, Generation Z is characterized as the most competitive of generations and identify this as one of the key differences between Millenials and Gen Z. Another difference they point out is that millennials overshare on social media and we don’t care much about privacy. I guess this is as true for my generation as it is for Gen Z. They just happen to have apps such as Snapchat that allow them to share media that vanishes after a certain amount of time.  Even when they claim to be much more private and careful with what they share if you take a quick look at your students’ TikTok accounts and you will quickly realize just how “concerned” they are with privacy. In the podcast, they talk about how independent this generation is, which can be very positive when it comes to being entrepreneurial. However, this independence may be more of the creative or risky side of independence than independence with academics. They also mentioned how they want their hobbies to become their actual jobs, that is true. A lot of them want to be gamers or YouTubers.

Here is the Podcast if you’d like to listen to it:

Nowadays it’s just as common to see a kid holding a smartphone as it was to see a kid playing with their Tamagotchi in the ‘90s. Not only do they possess these devices, but they also know how to use them. They master them and are fluent in multiple digital literacies.

I wanted to understand specifically how Generation Z connect and communicate with their friends, so I surveyed a few groups of students from grades 8, 9, and 11. Below you can find a summary of one of the group’s responses (the rest of the results are in this Google doc: Generation Z Survey Results).

Summarizing (all groups): WhatsApp, Instagram, videogames, Facetime, video call, regular call HouseParty, Snapchat, texting, Google Meets, Roblox, TikTok, Discord, PlayStation, Reddit, Facetime, Zoom, Facebook, Skype.

Forms response chart. Question title: What Social Media Platform do you use the most?. Number of responses: 42 responses.

Summarizing (all groups):

  • Talking, sending videos, pictures, memes, and texts to friends, family, teachers and other people locally and all over the world
  • Stay in touch with friend and make new friends
  • Socialize with their community
  • Entertainment
  • Hobbies and games
  • Not being sad/avoid isolation during the quarantine
  • It is easy and fast


Forms response chart. Question title: What do you use these social media platforms for?. Number of responses: 41 responses.

There is a clear trend when comparing all the grade levels but the one that strikes me the most is the fact that only a small fraction of the sample uses these platforms to create content (more on the lurker side) or for academics. This is the bridge we need to help them build.

Challenges/Coping mechanisms, actions:

  • No challenges
  • Stranger requests/Block them right away
  • Addiction/Picking a book, hanging out with family, designated hours for phone deprivation, delete the app and redownload when finished with homework
  • Toxicity/Ignore toxic people
  • Inauthentic, competition, popularity/Indifference
  • Cyberbullying/Confrontation
  • Connectivity issues
  • Hardware problems (storage)
  • Insecurity/Celebrate their difference
  • Anxiety

I honestly wasn’t aware of the perceptions the world has of my generation. When I saw Simon’s video, I was surprised (and admittedly offended) by the way he described this group of people to which I belong. Now I realize how important it is to understand the generation we are teaching: Generation Z. We need to be able to support them in their learning journeys in a way that is relevant to their attitudes, dispositions, and passions with a system that feels authentic and meaningful to them. Ultimately, we need to be held accountable and responsible for the world each generation builds for the next. If we do so, maybe in a few years, they won’t be flabbergasted by the way the world sees them.

A little humor:

Doing Copy… Right!

As the time teachers, students, and the school community in general spend in front of a computer has increased lately due to the forced and in-mass implementation of online education, so does the need for all participants to create and be virtually exposed to more resources and materials. 

Educators and admins are creating amazing and meaningful instructional (or just-for-fun) resources, but they need to be aware of copyright laws, and so do our students. Our role as modern educators implies not only understanding what respect for intellectual property requires of us, but also to inform students so that they are critical about it and about digital citizenship in general. 

Let us peek at a glimpse of the simple planning life of any educator in today’s reality…

  • Start my online conference using the platform that my school has implemented. If the tool allows the use of a custom virtual background, chances are I’ll want to use a different and fun one other than the default ones. Is that image/photo mine? 
  • I – as a  teacher – am showing a slide with the class start time as the rest of the students join the Google Meet. The background image is not of my own creation. Have I asked the author if I can use it?
  • I find among my personal library a picture book that matches perfectly with the theme of the day and decide to read aloud online for the students. Is this book out of copyright?
  • I consider just recording myself reading the book, adding questions at the end, and then publishing securely into my Google Classroom. Does that fall under the TEACH Act
  • I get that perfect movie or short film that my school (or I) has already paid for so I assume that I can use it and decide to put it in my Google Classroom. Overall, it is with the same important purpose of educating. Do I know if the same rules apply to the use of this material in my physical classroom and virtually? Did I read the terms and conditions?
  • I receive an email asking about the Math book that my student Juanito (always Juanito) left at school, asking to please send him the scanned pages. The book was either purchased by the family or paid for by the school. There should be no problem. Did I verify that this reproduction and distribution does not violate copyright?
  • I, as an expert on video editing, want to go above and beyond and put together a video with pictures of the staff when they were young for students to guess who they are, or maybe put together a flash mob or some funny scenes of staff being goofy and finally decide on the music that goes perfect with it. Is this music already in the Public domain or under the Creative Commons license?
  • The Visual and Performing Arts Director wants to live stream a TGIF play on Google Meet to help cope with quarantine due to CORONAVIRUS!! (Read as Cardi B). Is this an original script or a modern translation?
  • The fun assistant principal wants to host a trivia night on Wednesday. Lots of copyrighted material. All of the above questions.
  • Then add GDPR, woo-hoo!

Now, let us learn the fundamentals of copyright and fair use in less than 3 minutes with this video from Common Sense Education. Wait… Can I show this? (🤭)

Copyright and Fair Use Animation by Common Sense Education

The more I learn about copyright, the more inclined I become toward creating my own resources. In summary, before you even think about starting… ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who owns this picture/video/text/music that I am using?
  • Under what type of Creative Common License is this resource registered?
  • Did I inform/ask for permission/pay the author before using it?
  • If Fair Use, did I add significance to it in any way?
  • Did I honor the authors by mentioning and redirecting to them?
  • Should I just take my own picture this time?

Here are some possible sources of music, images, books, and videos that may be used without permission (Public domain, or licensed for re-use by their owners, or expired copyrights).

Music:

Images. Photos and videos free to use. Attribution is not required. Even though giving credit to the author is not necessary, it is always appreciated.

Books. With focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired:

Videos/Films:

Let the game begin!

Let the game begin – Unit Plan

Before finding my calling as an educator, I had a passion for Systems Engineering. It all began when I was fifteen, studying abroad in Texas and enrolled in my first Programming class. Many years later I found myself with an offer to work as a STEM, Robotics, and Computer Science teacher. Around two years ago I started homeschooling two siblings in the same subjects. They are both “gamers,” which is why I chose this topic. Knowing how relevant videogames are for these kids, it seemed appropriate. In addition, my interest in networked publics and in breaking barriers on their use in academics led me to select this focus. 

This is not a unit revamping as I have never put this unit together before, but I have strong connections to all the resources, activities, and projects that lead students to the creation of a videogame. I am now sure that videogames can help to create some of the bridges needed to further connect technology and education and this unit can foster these connections. 

Next year, I will be exercising new functions at the school where I’ve worked for the past 5 years. Part of my new role calls for me to be a technology integrator. In my school, for at least two years now, we have tried to implement the use of the ISTE framework, but due to the many initiatives implemented at the same time, it has not been possible. It is for this reason too that I chose this topic and focused only on the ISTE standards. These are the ones I have selected:

  • ISTE Empowered Learner 1d – Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 3a – Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 4b – Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 4c – Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 5d – Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 6a Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • ISTE Empowered Learner 7c – Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

This learning experience has been in the works for months. I didn’t plan it with a planner, template or specific structure. I am happy to know that the outcomes are far beyond what I expected and I am aware that with proper planning this long project can become an effective unit. When I started filling in some of the activities and projects of this unit in the Eduro APLE Unit Planner I realized how much more productive, efficient, and meaningful the unit could have been and how much easier it will be for me as a teacher to facilitate its use in the future.

Among the changes I made to this unit while planning I included the use of https://app.diagrams.net/ to create a flowchart of the game development process, the use of Google Calendar for scheduling, the use of Google Spreadsheets to create the timeline, and much more. From now on, I established the purpose of the game to be merely educational (networked publics in academics).

This unit is very different from other units I have planned or revamped mainly because I have more freedom on what I teach, how I teach it, and how long the unit lasts. It is also different because it is designed for two students, but can definitely be used with bigger groups. Finally, it is not focused merely on the assessment but on the learning process itself.

There are so many connections between this unit and what I have learned in this COETAIL journey, starting with the research process and how to do it effectively. At the start of this unit, students have to do in-depth research on videogames and they must continue this research process throughout the whole unit. Definitely networked publics – I realized we are not taking full advantage of them in a way that will transform education. I want students to think about the importance of videogames in education and actively contribute to its development in academics.

Below you can check part of the research made on the exploration part of the stages of learning. Six video games were researched and the information was collected collaboratively using a Google Doc. This was the first time these students were exposed to this tool and the first time they learned about formatting on a word processor.

The most popular video games comparison table created collaboratively by students using Google Docs.

Next, you will find a visual representation of some of the Experiencing (creating) stage evidence. These pictures show students learning the basics of algorithms, programing (physically and by code), building a small robot, hardware-software connection, website design,3D design, videogame design and more. Links on most of the captions of the pictures will take you to activity-related websites.

Students will learn the basics of control, directional language and programming (algorithms) by programming a Beebot.

The Pioneer Network

When I started reading the resources provided for “From Theory into Practice” the first thing that came to mind was the intro from the documentary “Most likely to succeed”. I watched it as part of a professional development focused on Project Based Learning (PBL) that I attended and it made me think about how we must update our education system to fit the needs of today’s world. Here is the documentary trailer of the film which I recommend to educators and non-educators, alike.

Most Likely To Succeed from Innovation Playlist on Vimeo.

Much of the documentary specifically talks about the PBL approach and shows High Tech High school students in San Diego, California being exposed to a non-traditional educational system. However, at the beginning of this film, they briefly show the origins of the education system, which has maintained the same structure for almost the whole last century. Obviously, the use of technology has unavoidably been embedded in our classrooms since then. Now, even outside of campus and at an accelerated rhythm due to COVID-19 related school closures, massive online learning practice is pushing the transformation of our educational environments.

This unprecedented event has definitely reshaped and will continue to change the way things are done in many fields. In education, it is forcing a large percentage of teachers to be in constant professional development, learning every day about technology use, tools, and strategies so as to be better equipped with skills and improved toolkits. This is a process that could have taken years to achieve at a regular pace. This forced improvement, hopefully, will take us one step closer to meeting the needs of our modern-age students.

Having students attend classes, memorize concepts, and demonstrate their knowledge through test completion, may have worked perfectly at a time when most of the workforce was only expected to complete repetitive tasks, but it does not work in today’s scenarios. As George Siemens explains in his article, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age:

“Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime. Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades. Today, these foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields, the life of knowledge is now measured in months and years.”

In today’s context of constant innovation, a new approach to education is needed. Our focus should shift toward teaching students how to learn rather than what to learn so that they are prepared with the tools and skills needed to deal with the tasks of tomorrow in more creative and innovative ways. Not only is this necessary, but the spaces where the learning process happens should also be expanded. Online spaces need to be considered as an important element in educational agendas.

These online spaces that I am referring to are deemed networked publics by various authors and academics. According to Danah Michele Boyd in her article Taken Out of Context, American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics, “networked publics are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined community that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice.”

The current pandemic is exposing students, teachers, and parents to new scholastic dynamics involving a lot of technological use and making us all a part of these new online communities, but we are far from taking advantage of networked publics in a way that will transform education. There are at least two important bridges that need to be built in order for this to happen. First, the one we adults (parents and teachers) require in order to be connected with the youth and truly understand, respect, and acknowledge that the way they interact nowadays is valid (although different than what we are used to). A second bridge must be built between school life and social life. Even when students are using networked publics at school they are not using them for school. We need to entice students to spend as much time on their academic online life as they do on their social online profiles. But how?

There are numerous variables to consider and many stakeholders that must be involved to achieve this change. As always, many of these variables and actors are beyond our direct control: laws, government, coronavirus (read in Cardi B’s voice). But luckily, there are some things that we can control or at least influence. There are two tools that I remember thanks to my great friend and colleague Sarah Snack when I think about complex change issues like these. The first that we could use to manage change on a smaller scale within our schools is a framework for change management: Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change. But the tool that I consider more effective to relieve the anxiety that arises from facing variables that we cannot control is a concentric circle diagram: circles of control/influence. So, I used their template to create my own:

My Circle of Control created with https://app.diagrams.net/

I am an international teacher, fortunate enough to work in a well-positioned and widely recognized school with all physical and human resources necessary to become a point of reference for other schools and institutions locally and internationally. I feel that we have a responsibility to our students and the education community to use these tools to be pioneers. We must recognize as individuals and institutions that, although this is not necessarily the best time for all schools to make these changes, we will eventually be a reference and guide for them when the time comes.

The Tech Wave

I started my career in education working at an International Baccalaureate school as a Primary Years Programme (PYP) STEM and Robotics teacher. In this role, I was asked to be part of PK-5th grade teams involving a homeroom teacher and specialists (Art, Music, English, Spanish, PE, etc.) to work on an integral plan for a whole unit of inquiry. It was the first time I was exposed to the IB process of planning a unit and it reaffirmed my beliefs on collaboration early on my career. This was also the perfect scenario to contribute with my technology background – supporting my colleagues with coaching on online collaboration tools like Google Drive.

I consider IB PYP unit planners, at least back in 2015, to be very complex as they are extremely detailed. On top of that, the process they had implemented at school to complete them was not efficient as all specialists, even when meeting together in a room, would work on their own copy of the template and then send it back to the homeroom teacher to put together. When I introduced Google Drive to the teams and created a Google Doc version of the planner, the way we collaborated was transformed and our planning time was optimized. These changes in the PYP planning process were focused on the back-office aspect of teaching and, in theory, would allow teachers to make more efficient use of their time and focus on their classes and students.

PYP learning is planned around six themes that are relevant to the world:

  • Who we are.
  • Where we are in place and time.
  • How we express ourselves.
  • How the world works.
  • How we organize ourselves.
  • Sharing the planet.
IB PYP Transdisciplinary themes

Because these transdisciplinary topics focus on issues that are too large for any one subject area, embedding technology within their units is easier. 

When planning the “How we organize ourselves” theme for Grade 5, the central idea being “Organizations favor joint work that allows achieving common goals”, the learning goals had already been established by the homeroom teacher. This allowed us, specialists, to focus solely on how to improve the unit. Instead of merely offering a tool or strategy for the sake of it, specialists come up with ideas that will allow all students to access the content and offer them different ways of learning while being exposed to different learning areas. 

This school is located in City of Knowledge, a US military base in Panama transformed into a space for entrepreneurs, scientists, thinkers, artists, community leaders, as well as experts from the government, NGOs, and international organizations to work together to develop initiatives that trigger social change. Taking advantage of this, one of the activities for the students was visiting such organizations and gathering information from them. I remember that for this specific unit I offered to teach students how to create an Organizational Chart of the School or organization of their choice. I did this using draw.io (now https://app.diagrams.net/). Later on, in a voting process simulation that they planned and executed in which they played the role of the running politicians, I taught them how to tally the votes automatically and transparently using Google Sheets.

When I started working at the International School of Panama, I was part of the Department of Student Services. My experience in this position as a Learning Support Specialist allowed me to co-plan and co-teach with 6th, 7th and 8th-grade Science and Math teachers. When I watched Kim’s video Introducing the Authentic Purposeful Learning Experiences – APLE, I was immediately taken back to our planning meetings at ISP. The planning setting there was very collaborative, but different from my previous school in many ways. The meetings I participated in as the Learning Support Specialist were between Math and Science teachers, the EAL Specialist, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Tech Integrator, and Lab Assistant. Even when my role was not directly tied to technology but rather accommodations, differentiation, and modifications, I always felt inclined to help embed technology into the lessons, especially when they help all students access the content. The APLE planner took me back to these meetings because of its similarity with the template we used (ISP only offers IB in High School), except for the ISTE aspect. I loved this. My tech integrator colleague tried everything to make the ISTE part of our curriculum, but was unable to garner enough support. I believe that having it present in every planner and planning meeting could have helped create a more complete lesson plan and efficient process for everyone involved for the benefit of our faculty and students.

Although we were unable to implement ISTE in its entirety, we continued embedding technology into the lessons. A good example of this was when I co-planned and taught at ISP for the first time a unit on Waves with the 8th grade Science teacher (thanks Sandrine, for allowing me to your classroom). The lesson was already very well thought out: Pre-diagnostic assessment, formative activities with ropes, spring toys, BrainPop videos, interdisciplinary activity with Math, summative assessments, inquiry projects, among others. Here is a link to the planner (this was done 2 years ago and the planner template has changed a lot for the better) in case you want to take a look at it. My suggestion was to transform the lesson plan by including the use of technology via a PhET – simulation.

These simulations allow all students to work at the same time with no limits on the physical resources needed, and give them the option to pause, measure accurately, run them in slow motion, fast forward, and, in general, make it possible to learn about science concepts that are too small or large or that happen on timescales that are too long or short to examine directly in the classroom, granting students the ability to see and manipulate the unobservable.

Using the knowledge learned in class, I asked students to then use https://app.diagrams.net/ to create a diagram like the one below, summarizing important information on the topic.

Waves diagram I created with https://app.diagrams.net/

Another great simulator that I have used as a Math teacher is Graphing Slope-Intercept.

If you are looking for more amazing math & science simulations, I recommend checking Gizmos!

Atomic Resolutions

It’s been four years since we started a year-end tradition in my family where we all wrote down our goals for the new year on a large piece of paper. Those who were far away, in other countries, sent their resolutions so that we could add those on the paper for them.

2017 resolutions on paper

Eventually, as the already dire situation continued to worsen in Venezuela, more members of my family ended up living abroad and it was harder to travel there to spend Christmas and New Year Eve together. Finding paper was itself a hard task. It occurred to me that it would be better to use a collaborative virtual platform where everyone could write their goals and then follow up on them. So we did, and it worked quite well. We used Padlet and put together our poster, digitally this time.

Resolution boards using Padlet.

After every three months, I would follow up on everyone’s goals through the WhatsApp family group chat. Since then, we have managed to move forward and, in the best scenario, complete projects that we had postponed. Most of these goals are related to skill acquisition. I remember starting with just a few resolutions the first time. This year I have a total of 22. 

In January, the book that opened our book club and the year 2020 was Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. It has always been one of my goals to succeed at reading a large number of books in a year (i.e. 50-60). At Goodreads, I always sign up for the reading challenge with this fairly high goal. This year I decided to go for only 12. This number is guaranteed to be completed in our book club as we read one book per month. I also lowered the number because I want to read more academic books related to my role in education and these generally take longer. Even when this approach has proven to work, James Clear states that in order to truly change behavior the identity has to change. He explains it as follows:

“True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity. Anyone can convince themselves to visit the gym or eat healthy once or twice, but if you don’t shift the belief behind the behavior, then it is hard to stick with long-term changes. Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are. 

  • The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. 
  • The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. 
  • The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.”

My goal now is to become a better reader. Due to the pace of life that I have been having lately, even in quarantine, finding time to read is not an easy task. That is why a few months ago I ventured into the world of audiobooks. I purchased a subscription at Audible from Amazon and it has helped me maintain my “reading” pace.

Some of the resolutions I set for this year, goals that I want to achieve, skills that I want to improve or learn are covered with COETAIL. I am used to doing at least one professional development a year and I am lucky enough to work at a school that has always offered that opportunity. This year they approved for me to join COETAIL, so I am working on this resolution already. One of the skills that I am trying to improve is my written and oral communication skills. COETAIL has pushed me in that regard. The simple fact of completing Course 1 on time is already a challenge enough as I catch up to the rest of the COETAILers. My actionable steps to improve my writing in English are:

  • Read resources for the week’s lesson
  • Brainstorm additional resources related to the topic for use in the blog post
  • Write the first draft
  • Share a Google Doc with colleagues for proofreading and suggestions, always revising their comments together or with a third person (shoutout to Billy, María Clara, María de los Ángeles, Eduardo, Sarah, Michelle, Priyanka, and Jose Antonio)
  • Format the clean post in my COETAIL Journal, adding hyperlinks, pictures, and tags

Following these steps I have noticed my first drafts are more complete, take less time to write, and receive fewer comments from my network of proofreaders.

Other resolutions that I have, and COETAIL is helping me achieve, are to become a Google Certified Educator Level 2 and putting together a professional website. Now, I can use the COETAIL journal as a starting point.