Children are growing up in an increasingly visual world, yet many still struggle to convey ideas and understanding in a comprehensive way. Design is everywhere and more than ever, students need to understand the principles of design to communicate effectively.

As the K-5 EdTech Coach, I noticed there was a lack of design thinking happening across all grade levels. Thanks to Keri-Lee Beasley’s Design Secrets Revealed eBook I was able to support upper primary teachers in their quest to address these design challenges in G3-G5. But I wondered if G3 was too late to be introducing the four main principles of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity (C.A.R.P)? Children were creating and designing posters and eBooks right from Kindergarten. But are the C.A.R.P terms too advanced and complex for early readers? I immediately thought of young children’s fascination with dinosaurs, and recalled my younger brother (nearly 30 years ago) using their latin names like ‘Dilophosaurus’ before he could properly read. I figured, if young children can learn long complicated dinosaur names, the only thing stopping young children from learning the C.A.R.P principles was us, their teachers.


Below is a copy of my Final UbD Project

Carp Jr:  Redefining Design Principles for KG-G2

Since this unit is designed for young children in KG-G2, I decided to use a variety of devices and tools to teach these concepts. The primary platform I used to design and deliver the lessons was Google Slides, because it allowed me to access Creative Commons Attribute Free images, and the collaborative feature allowed me to share the lessons easily with staff in the school, and beyond. Teachers who choose to use these resources can also make copies and modify them for their class.

Public Domain Logo: CC image from Wikipedia

What were your goals for your lesson/project?

To introduce the CARP design principles with students and create a collaborative eBook with students explaining the CARP principles for others to use. Below are examples of the 4 posters I created using Google Slides.

What tools did you use? Why did you choose these tools for this task?

I used Google Slides to share the presentations and activities across classes. I also used Google Docs to collaborate, plan and reflect on week-by-week activities. Below is an example of the collaborative planning document I used with the classroom teachers:

For planning, we also used Keri-Lee Beasley’s “Design Secrets Revealed” ebook to support and plan for the lessons, as well as several other websites & resources outlined in my UbD Unit Outline.

For the summative task, students had the opportunity to use the My Story or Chatterpix app to showcase their understanding of CARP. They created a visual text to be shared on the ePortfolio platform, SeeSaw.

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How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?

I first needed to propose this project to a teacher who would be willing to collaborate on it. In my role as EdTech Coach, I am responsible for planning with teachers on ways to integrate EdTech in the classroom. Two grade 1 teachers were happy to bring these new concepts (CARP) into their classroom as students were just beginning a unit on visual literacy.

How did the students react? 

Students were very engaged in the lessons as they were a mix of inquiry and hands-on practice. Many of the students are developing into confident readers so they enjoyed learning new vocabulary. Students were even able to apply their learning in a broader context. According to the classroom teacher, words like ‘Alignment’ were being used to describe how work books were organised; During math lessons when children were ‘aligning’ their work and answers. One student had commented that they didn’t know there were “real words for the way things looked”.

Outcome? Did you meet your goals?

While the lessons took longer than expected, the ultimate goal of exposing students to the CARP principles was met. As my final video (below) shows, several of the students adopted the terminology and were able to explain their visual texts using the language of Design Principles. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and extenuating circumstances, we were unable to create the culminating eBook. Instead, students produced a visual text using one of the iPad apps: Chatterpix, My Story or PicCollage. They implemented as many CARP principles as they could remember and then explained them orally.

Evidence of learning

My final video best documents the learning achieved by students over the course of the 6 week unit:

Here is a reflection from one of the G1 teachers:

I’ve been surprised that the students were able to grasp the principles.  This came from some trial and error with simplifying and scaffolding activities that would give them practice with identifying first and then replicating the different principles.  We worked mostly with Contrast and Alignment, not only because they’re the first, but also because they were a little more concrete for the students. Also, having posters with examples in the classroom to refer to often reminds them of the principles in different contexts/disciplines.

I’ll definitely teach and use CARP principles with my classes in the future. It really helps them to have experience seeing the difference between good design and poor design, even at this young age. It motivates and empowers them to improve the design in their own work!” ~ H.M Grade 1 Class Teacher

What would you do differently next time? What did you learn? 

Overall this experience was really successful and the teachers and students got a lot out of it. However, in future I would prefer to run this with my own classroom. As the EdTech Coach, there is only so much I can do between lessons, and often there were extenuating circumstances that arose and caused lesson time to be cut short or rescheduled. While the teachers I collaborated with were very accommodating and flexible, if we were unable to finish the lesson it was challenging to pick up where we last left off because too much time had passed. I think this unit is best adopted by a classroom teacher in KG-G2, as they can tweak the resources to suit their class needs, and also they can plan out and deliver the lessons in a more timely manner. Also, there were three teachers working with me, and each teacher had a slightly different approach to embedding the CARP design principles in their classroom routines. The more successful classes had a clear display board that was regularly referenced to when teachers were looking at other visual texts, or any designs where these 4 principles could be applied.


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I also learned the importance of flexibility and lesson ‘tweaking’, since ultimately we were unable to reach our goal of publishing a CARP Jr Design Principles eBook by week 6. However this is still something we hope to do in May/June. Instead, students had the opportunity to publish a visual text that showcased some or all of the CARP principles, and the teachers were satisfied with this as a reflection of student understanding. I do think a classroom teacher has the benefit of time to ensure the outcome of an eBook. Next year when I am back in grade 5 as classroom teacher at UWCSEA, I look forward to implementing a similar unit with my own students.

How do you plan to share this with your colleagues?

Everything I created has been shared through Google Drive and is stored in this folder. These resources are free for teacher use around the globe. I will embed these resources on a separate tab in my COETAIL blog. I will also promote this unit and the resources through the collaborative team meetings I attend each week, and through #coetailchat, #edtechchat, #1stchat on Twitter.

What was your greatest learning in this course?

The learning that was most influential for me during Course 5 was how concepts from the other courses intersected in this culminating final project. Creating the Carp Jr. unit on design also allowed me to rethink and redefine tasks using digital tools such as MyStory.

My growing PLN has been another great source of learning for me, and I am in awe of the numerous amazing projects and initiatives taking place by Coetail students and graduates. I also learnt that a paradigm shift is needed in education, and no one educator can make the shift happen on their own. We need to bond together as like-minded educators and work to change pedagogy. I look forward to continuing these relationships through Twitter and G+ communities after Coetail ends.

Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?

This is my favourite visual of the SAMR model, created by Sylvia Duckworth:


Redefinition is defined as allowing “for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”. While many of the concepts learned throughout this CARP Jr unit were ‘analogue’, students did create a summative Visual Text about CARP principles using a digital tool (one of the apps on the iPad). The analogue tasks were also paired with a digital eBook (Keri-Lee Beasley) and the collaborative planning documents and Google Slides. This is an example of redefinition because students combined media from a variety of sources, such as drawings, photos and digital images, to create a final visual text that exhibited elements of CARP. The camera allowed them to document their ‘analogue’ work in a digital format, which is inconceivable without iPad or digital device. The iPad also allowed them to add their own narration to explain their thinking(My Story & Chatterpix).

Final Thoughts about the Final Project

Overall the experience of delivering this unit was very positive and full of challenges. I developed stronger relationships with the G1 teachers I worked with, and was able to tweak my resources as I went so that they could be more accessible and practical for other teachers to use.

Recently I had the privilege of attending and facilitating a cohort of teachers at Europe’s first Learning 2.0 Milan. There were so many important messages to take away but perhaps the one that resonates most with me and this final project is the importance of Failure in the learning journey. Jeff Utecht shared this during his final presentation: “FAIL = First Attempt In Learning”.

Photo Credit: Me. Jeff Utecht @Learning2 Europe

At the start of this unit, I wasn’t sure if I would be successful implementing a six-week long Design Principles unit with 5-7 year olds. However, I realise I needed to implement this unit (through trial & error) to really understand how it can best be used in the classroom. The video shows that students learned and applied these concepts at an age-appropriate level, and with these tools they will be better prepared to tackle design in upper grades as well. I hope those who choose to use this unit in their own classroom can benefit from my experience, and my mistakes.

All Resources for CARP JR Design Unit can be found below:


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Silence isn’t Golden.

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Speak Out

Why do we see digital learning spaces any differently than physical? What is it about social media platforms like Twitter and Google+ that cause us to hesitate and resist sharing ideas, providing feedback and engaging in professional discussions? When will we begin to see online communities as extensions of our own face-to-face PLN? How can educators promote and model a positive digital footprint for our students unless we are also engaging in online communities?

Teachers…it’s time to break the silence.

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I’ve come to the end of Coetail Course 5, and looking back at where I started over a year ago, I’m amazed at how my professional learning network (PLN) has grown exponentially.

My journey to building my online PLN began 3 years ago when I took the plunge and finally joined Twitter. I detailed my experience with this in one of my first Coetail posts Twitter & Blogging: Happily Married:

Twitter & Blogging have exponentially expanded my PLN and literally changed my life and the way I teach. Now that this dynamic is obvious to me, the real challenge is sharing this knowledge with other educators and, more importantly, students. Returning to the idea of Prosumers (Reach p.2-6), it’s essential that we model and facilitate an atmosphere of connectivism both in schools and in our classrooms.  I really needed to dive into blogging myself to understand the benefits professionally before I could get my students on board with the idea. As I mentioned earlier, my previous school had a blogging culture, but only a small percent truly understood the opportunities blogs provided. For many teachers, blogs were considered a useful platform for documenting learning, creating a bank of resources and connecting within the classroom, but the real magic happened once teachers took risks left themselves vulnerable for the world to get a peek into their classroom.

Tweetship & Tweetmance

Since 2012, Twitter has been my main platform for networking with likeminded educators and collaborating on ideas to try in the classroom. It’s also been a hub for developing strong professional frienships, what I would deem Tweetships or Tweetmance. I am constantly in awe and inspired by other educators, and these simple, yet frequent connections to schools outside my own keep me motivated, especially during the long winter months when enthusiasm can wane. My main tweetships have been formed through #edtechchat#pypchat, and #edtech.

Since I joined Coetail and #coetailchat, I’ve further broadened my PLN, and found other useful hashtag groups to follow on Twitter such as #ecechat, #1stchat, and #kinderchat. Fellow Coetailer @ChezVivian and I have frequently connected during my Coetail journey over topics and activities we post in #makered and #EdTech. I am so grateful to her for keeping me inspired during my new role as EdTech coach.

@MrsKittoSwitzer (another Coetailer), @paulabaxter67@jackiefrens and @Shei_Asc are former colleagues whom I haven’t worked with for anywhere from 2 to 6 years, yet we continue to collaborate and share professional resources via Twitter. It’s been an excellent way to continue learning and growing together. Below you can see some of the many discussions we’ve participated in using various hashtag communities:

I was lucky to already have found a strong foundation PLN through my Apple Distinguished Educator network, and community of International School colleagues, which then expanded outwards to the 500+ Tweeters I share and collaborate with. As mentioned in my first Coetail post, many of these connections have moved beyond a public digital space to private messaging and emailing, to connect classrooms and share resources. I had mentioned in this post that Shannon O’Dwyer is a Twitter ‘colleague’ I have never met in person, but whom I connect with frequently to share articles and activity ideas. Some may deem this a full on professional #Tweetmance!

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Beyond Classroom Walls

Twitter is also an inspirational space where I’ve discovered and participated in several global projects such as #GlobalEdTed and #Ifyoulearnedhere. It was through Twitter that I found out about these fantastic collaborative projects and expanded my professional learning network.

Global Collaborative Project 1: #ifyoulearnedhere

I detailed my experience in the Global eBook Project “If You Learned Here” in one of my previous COETAIL posts Bridging Global Classrooms.  This project allowed teachers and students to connect globally on various platforms including FlipGrid, where we shared our introductory videos, Padlet, where schools shared about their school environment, the country they lived in, or their daily schedules.

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Again, Twitter was the main platform I used to network and connect with other educators participating in this project. Below are some of the Tweets I shared with other participants, using the #ifyoulearnedhere hashtag:


Global Collaborative Project 2: #GlobalEdTed

Another way I’ve built my PLN and connected globally since beginning my COETAIL journey was joining the Traveling Teddybear Project, hosted by former Coetailer Pana AsavavatanaIt’s been a huge success at our school and we’ve engaged with other classrooms through Twitter, Skype and the Traveling Teddy Blog.

These 3 posts can be read on Freddy’s Blog:

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Students Skyped with The Phoenix School, who are located in Massachusetts USA, and hosted Freddy before he arrived in Switzerland. They had lots of questions for each other, and students shared information about their schools, daily routines and favourite memories with Freddy the Teddy.

My Google+ Community

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Through my G+ profile, I’ve attempted to engage with various Google+ communities. Initially I found the response rate slower than on Twitter. Also, there seemed to be less participation as these communities are restricted to Google accounts. However, it’s in this space where I first connected with Phillip Cowell, when I joined the Elementary and Primary School EdTech G+ Community. I posted this question:

How can we balance Play-based learning and tech? What should tech look like in Early Years (3-6 year olds)? (link to G+ post).

This discussion led to me learning about his fabulous Easy Blogger Jr app that I later used in my role as EdTech Coach in EY-G1.

Here is a link to another discussions I posted a couple months later, when I was preparing for my new role. I was trying to find out how to start an Action Research project in the Early Years. There was some great back-and-forth discussion Claudia Lee, who shared her experience and documents with me. @Phillip_Cowell and I continue to engage in dialogue sharing posts about #easybloggerjr, as it was one of the platforms I conducted an informal action research on. I detailed my initial perspectives on a professional blog I created for our school Tech in Early Years.

Once I started my new role, I decided to share my progress with the same Google+ Community. I used Animoto to create a video documenting some of the ways I’d started integrating iPads in Early Years. It generated some discussion with another member, Reuben Bathgateand I was beginning to see the advantage of participating in a network that allowed us to continue discussions beyond 140 characters.

Since Coetail Course 5 started, I’ve made more of an effort to reconnect with the G+ Community and have shared in some discussions in the Tech Integrator’s corner. One discussion posted by Jackie Heinzelmann was about how to manage ‘off-task’ students who tend to check other platforms instead of doing work (see chat here) :

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Martha Thornburgh also recently posted a question in the group Instructional Technology Integrators & Coaches that has generated a lot discussion around the implementation of Digital Citizenship in schools. My response is below.

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Apple Distinguished Educators: #ade2015

I am fortunate to be part of a wide network of EdTech-focused educators through the Apple Distinguished Educators Programme. It’s through this community, that I began to collaborate more with @terSonya whom I only met for the first time last March 2015, at the Learning 2.0 conference. We then found out she would also be at the ADE conference in Amsterdam and following our second face-to-face collaboration, we continued to meet and discuss via twitter both publicly and through direct messaging. Since we both have the same role as EdTech Coaches (she at MIS, Germany), we found ourselves having loads to share and I’ve since been promoting her new iBooks on EdTech with staff at my school. Below you can see a snapshot of a typical exchange where we pose a question or share resources with each other and fellow ADEs in our region. The discussion about pixel coding was quite long and can be read in more detail here.

Full Circle with COETAIL

Lastly, the #Coetail and #coetailchat communities continues to be a place where I am introduced to more and more like-minded teachers who I can follow on Twitter and build my PLN. Recently I participated in a Blogging Twitter chat at #March2c . The questions were provocative and generated a lot of discussion that left all of us feeling like we had a lot more to think about and research as we push blogging in our schools and classrooms.

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Here is a storify of our discussion:

[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “#March2C Twitter Chat about Blogging” on Storify</a>]

Some of the best exchanges I’ve had since starting my Coetail journey have been the back and forth exchanges through the comments section of our Coetail blogs. I recently added a post from my Eduro Coaching Course, “Show What You Don’t Know”, and was excited to make a connection with another coach. Below you can see another example of the many back and forth exchanges from a previous post, Coding: A Blast from the Past :

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However we choose to break the silence ~ be it on Coetail blogs, Twitter or Google+ communities ~ we need to be open to maintaining these connections over time. Thanks to Coetail, my PLN has expanded across all three platforms and I’ve gained confidence to share my perspectives and experiences through more than just 140 characters. Just like our students, we need to think beyond the walls of our own schools, and be open to connecting globally with each other.

Show What You DON’T Know

What Challenges do EdTech Coaches Face?

As I was reflecting on my coaching practice, I thought about some of the points mentioned by Jill Jackson in her article “4 Steps to Your Successful Coaching Model“. Her advice definitely resonates with my experience in my first year of coaching. However, I do disagree somewhat with her second point: Know Your Content. While “Knowing your Content” definitely provides credibility, I think if we are to help teachers become more independent in the classroom, we cannot be seen as the only expert. I can actually vouch for having more credibility with teachers by being in classrooms working with students, rather than in my office researching and looking stuff up. Both are important and you need to make time for each, but in your first year I definitely think face-to-face interactions count for more than simply being an expert.


Last year, my biggest fear was someone asking me something I had no idea about, and I realised that was silly. Of course I couldn’t know absolutely everything EdTech related! This year I’ve adopted more of a growth mindset approach when teachers ask for help. Occasionally I will, in their presence, say “I’m not sure, let me find out”, then Google the very question they are asking, so they can see how easy it is to find answers online. I’m open to letting them know that their question is a good one, and something I don’t know about yet, but that the answer is within easy reach (usually via a youtube ‘how to’ video). I remember one time doing this and the teacher abashedly saying, “Oh I guess I could have done that too”. Since I’ve modelled this basic approach, I’ve noticed a slight drop in requests for basic IT support (creating new folders in Google Drive; Uploading a Youtube video to Blogger etc.) However, only about 10% of the teachers I work with have taken initiative in finding the answers.

This video by Thought Leadership, demonstrates the importance of focusing coaching time on the ‘middle carriage’ to encourage movement towards the ‘front carriage’.

Thought Leadership from Annie Agnew on Vimeo.

Modelling a growth mindset for teachers is one way to help them feel comfortable with the unknown, and hopefully encourage them to be tech problem-solvers themselves. An example of this happened last week when one PreK teacher approached me and said she had been drafting her fourth email of the day to me asking for blogger support when she remembered me googling to find answers. She had been trying to remove ‘recommended videos’ from the youtube videos she embedded on her blog. She proudly told me that she found a youtube tutorial video and after watching it all the way through was able to solve the problem. She was another teacher who just last year was a self-proclaimed ‘tech phobe’ with no understanding of computers. I definitely wouldn’t advocate ‘Googling’ as a primary focus for coaching, but I do believe modelling a certain level of comfort with the unknown, will help promote a growth mindset in teachers. As the Brain Pickings article describes:

“A growth mindset…thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

Throughout the Eduro coaching course, I attempted to differentiate between the 3 main coaching models: Cognitive, Instructional, and Peer Coaching. Considering my current coaching context I think the most effective approach so far has been a Cognitive Coaching model. My role as a coach is still fairly ‘new’ in the school, and just getting teachers comfortable using iPads in the classroom has been my main focus. For this reason, a model promoting “teacher autonomy, the ability to self-monitor, self-analyse, and self-evaluate” (ASCD Reflections on Cognitive Coaching), fits best for most teachers who are still in the so-called middle of the carriage.

A personal anecdote using Cognitive Coaching:

Mrs.Y and I had our second meeting this week and referring back to our original Google Doc meeting minutes was an effective way to start. Before meeting, I went over some of the topics we’d covered and also the action we’d agreed to take. We both realised many of the tasks are more long-term and so very little had happened since we last met. The one item that Mrs.Y was able to take initiative on was creating a google doc for iPad App revision. We have agreed that she will send this out to her team to complete at their next collaborative planning meeting, and then feed back to me.

We also revisited her plan for introducing the My Story app, and I asked again about what the process would look like for drafting their Public Spaces eBook. I helped her download Keri-Lee Beasley’s Design Secrets Revealed eBook, outlining the CARP Design Principles (I’ve described these on my COETAIL blog here). Mrs.Y was really excited about using these to guide her students as they designed the layouts for their ebooks. We also talked about creating a culture of independence in the classroom by allowing students to apply to be tech ‘experts’/helpers so they can help other students with certain apps. We discussed the possibility of building in some Digital Citizenship to align with the PYP PSHE outcomes and also their Unit of Inquiry on Public Spaces. There is a great video and lesson on Common Sense Media called My Online Neighbourhood that would be very relevant for her class, as they explore the Internet as another Public Space.

Throughout our coaching session I really tried to follow some of the Partnership Principles suggested in What Good Coaches Do. I maintained Equality with Mrs.Y, by allowing her to discuss some personal concerns that were happening within her class, and then we started by going back to the shared meeting minutes we created last week. I even clarified a few things we’d written and we both took turns going through the agenda items.

Next, I ensured Mrs.Y felt she had Choice in what we focused on. I started off by saying “I realise we had discussed a lot last week and I’m not sure how much either of us were able to action. Which item do you want to focus on today?”. From there, she led the the direction of the meeting and had the opportunity to raise concerns and ask pressing questions.

Voice is something I would like to develop further. While Mrs.Y and I have a trusting relationship, I do like the idea of extending further and including videoing a lesson as an option for review and further development. While I am comfortable posing questions to the teacher (following more of a cognitive coaching model), I am less comfortable when I’ve noticed something I don’t agree with, and being diplomatic about improving an area. I prefer to focus on positives, rather than negatives of a lesson, but I know there are constructive ways of approaching difficult topics. Having a video of a lesson would really help with this.

Finally I really focused on Reciprocity, telling Mrs.Y how much I appreciated these meetings to develop my own coaching and also to develop our working relationship. She immediately fed back that these meetings have already improved her understanding of the purpose of iPads and have her ‘buzzing’ with ideas for how she can purposefully integrate tech in the classroom. It’s also been helpful because she is team leader, and wants to streamline how tech is implemented across the grade level. She felt these conversations allowed her to flesh out some of her thinking and refine her understanding of how iPads can and should be used.

Choosing a coaching model that works is a bit like trying on different hats: it depends on the individual, and the context. There is definitely no one coaching model for all conditions, and sometimes what I think will be suitable just doesn’t work for that particular day. Above all, maintaining a growth mindset has helped me be patient as I cultivate a unique coaching model that works for both the teachers and me.


Transforming “Screen Time” with MakeyMakeys


As an EdTech Coach, I’ve been questioning the quality of screentime happening in many classrooms and schools. For the past few years it’s seemed that more and more schools continue to purchase devices, without properly thinking about how it should be used to enhance not replace teaching. While I still preach and model how tech can enhance learning for students, I’m wondering how much longer laptops and iPads will simply act as substitutes for teaching and learning.

Some anti-tech colleagues were recently discussing the ‘harmful’ effects of computers on learning, referencing this article by the BBC:

[Sean Coughlan discusses findings from an OECD report]:

The [OECD] report says:

  • Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
  • Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
  • The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
  • High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
  • Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” said Mr Schleicher.

Articles and studies like these are only further evidence of the misuses of technology in schools. They will further hinder an overall change in mindset about the importance of embedding effective and purposeful practices that promote digital citizenship in the classroom.

What do kids do with technology
CC Image by: Bill Ferriter on Flickr “Technology is a Tool”


For this reason, I am thrilled that new educational products are coming out to help bridge screentime with core subjects. MakeyMakey is one fantastic example of enhancing screen-based coding and programming on Scratch to related outcomes in science and math. These ‘invention kits’ also reinforce creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills as students work together to create. I decided to introduce these ‘invention kits’ in G1-G5 to see the potential in classrooms.

I first used MakeyMakeys over the summer at the STEM Playground during the Apple Distinguished Educator‘s Institute in Netherlands. There were a ton of other amazing toys to play with and exlore, but I immediately saw a multitude of connections for MakeyMakeys with Science, Tech, Music, Math. I created this video below to showcase some of the ‘newer’ tech products on the market that allow students to engage with hands-on real-world programming, for all ages:

At first glance, the MakeyMakey Keboard looks intimidating. But the set up and instructions at their website are so straight forward that it was no problem to figure out on my own.

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Screenshot from “How To MakeyMakey” website


MaKey MaKey Kit Photo on Grey, Closeup on MaKey MaKey
CC Image by: jayahimsa Flickr


Grade 1 Unit of Inquiry: Investigating Light Energy

I knew that Grade 1s would really enjoy the MakeyMakeys but the purpose of using them in class was to initiate dialogue about how electricity flows.  For this reason, I set up certain ‘provocation’ stations with the MakeyMakeys, with the alligator clips, bananas, Play-Doh, and Tin foil already in place.

Students inquired into how to make it work (I didn’t tell them about the ‘Earth’ Tinfoil bracelets at first) and they were excited when they did manage to make sound come out of their computers, or make the game work. At some point I did need to indicate the importance of holding onto the ‘Earth’ tinfoil bracelet for the circuit to be complete, and for the game to work.

Some of the questions that came up were: Where does the energy go? How does it travel? Why does the Banana Keyboard only work with the Tinfoil bracelet? The video below shows their thinking as they investigated electricity through the MakeyMakey & online games:

Grades 3-5 After School Club

Tuning In

When I introduced it to Grades 3-5 students during our Digital Design club, I gave them a chance to figure out how it works first. It was interesting to see what they already knew about circuits, power sources, and how electricity flows. Still, it took some guided instructions from the website for all the students in my club to get the MakeyMakey up and running with a program.

Finding Out

I wanted students to have a discussion about circuits and the flow of electricity. So I started off projecting the MakeyMakey piano on the Smartboard. Then I connected students to each alligator clip, and nominated one person to be the ‘pianist’. Holding the ‘Earth’ Alligator clip (this can also be a tinfoil bracelet as seen in G1 video above), this student proceeded to slap students’ hands to produce different notes on the piano. I then took the ‘Earth’ clip away from him and he wasn’t able to play the students’ hands anymore. As a group, we talked about what was different and indicated the ‘earth’ clip completed the circuit. We traced the flow of electricity from the power source (battery of laptop) down the USB cord to the MakeyMakey, through the Earth alligator clip on one hand/wrist and out through the other hand, slapping the ‘notes’ (student hands) connected to the MakeyMakey keyboard. (Unfortunately no photos available so hope this description will do!)

Sorting Out & Going Further

Students then had about 30 minutes on their own to try various Scratch games such as Super Mario Bros, Mazes, Bongos and the Piano. MakeyMakey Scratch Studio has many student-created games for these kits.

MakeyMakeys are an exciting way to broaden the scope of ‘technology in the classroom’. It will be interesting to see how ‘tech integration’ changes as more invention-type kits become available to bridge the gap between ‘screentime’ and hands-on science.




Introducing Final COETAIL project: CARP Jr (Week 1 Progress)

For my final COETAIL project I have designed a 6-week unit on visual literacy elements aimed at lower primary (KG-G2).I was particularly interested in how lower primary students can access the complex language of the CARP design principles. I decided to remix Keri-Lee Beasley‘s model into an interactive Google Presentation, as shown below. My previous COETAIL post, CARP Jr, details why I chose this project as well as outlines the 6 week unit.

The first week of introducing the CARP acronym went well! In my role as EdTech Coach, the G1 classroom teacher and I agreed to team-teach this lesson. This allowed me to present and introduce the terminology (using the above Google Presentation) as well as make some connections for students. Meanwhile, the classroom teacher observed, and then took over after the group activities to make deeper connections to other learning.

Week 1: What is C.A.R.P?

We started the lesson looking at the examples (printed on paper) of “I Love My Dog Bingo”. Students needed to come up with something they liked and something they thought could be improved. It was difficult for them to come up with vocabulary to describe it. However many of them noticed that it was hard to see some of the writing, and that the pictures didn’t represent what the text said.

Then, we went through the CARP presentation together (above Google Presentation) and learned the terminology using kinesthetics (clapping out the syllables) and enunciating the parts of each word. I carefully crafted each poster to reinforce the meaning of each word:

Some students were able to make connections to words like Repetition, as they had learned this word in music. It was an excellent opportunity to apply reading strategies and the classroom teacher helped make links with certain words they were learning. One clear example was when they were sounding out Alignment, they kept getting stuck on the ‘g’. The teacher made a connection to their Science unit on Light and Sound and they quickly made the connection to the ‘silent g’ in light and were able to sound out Alignment more or less independently. It helped that the CARP poster I created for Alignment also had lines on it:

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After the initial tuning-in to the language of C.A.R.P, students had the opportunity to revisit the “I love my dog Bingo” posters. In groups, they tried to find one area (from CARP) that could be changed to improve the poster. For most of the students, they were able to explain what was wrong but had trouble remembering the exact term. Referring to the CARP posters above the SmartBoard helped them make connections to the words. Each group presented their poster and shared which element of design would improve the layout.


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A group of 4 students had examined this poster together. Since we are not permitted to release videos of certain students, an example of some of the dialogue between the teacher and student is as follows:

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Student A (pointing to the grey text): “We need to change the colour.”

Teacher: “Would changing the colour be Contrast, Proximity, Alignment or Repetition?”

Student A: “Hmmm…I think Contrast…”

Teacher: “Yes, ‘Contrast’ so it pops out…remember ‘C-Colour’ begins with a ‘C’ and ‘C-Contrast’ begins with a ‘C'”

The classroom teacher helped to reinforce the vocabulary making connections to what the students were saying. The visuals on the poster were also helpful when students were trying to be precise about the terminology, though since a majority of the class have some ESL needs, most will need to hear these new words many more times to remember them.

Next we will be unpacking each word in more detail, doing some hands-on activities to see what Contrast looks like and having a go at modifying some digital media with better Contrast.

CARP Jr for KG-G2: Course 4 Final Project UbD

It dawned on me while I was introducing the CARP design principles to a grade 3 class that many students are unaware of visual literacy elements until the middle of elementary school. Yet, we expect them to design and create visual texts from as young as Kindergarten.

Classic example of student council poster (G2-G5 students). Which CARP elements are NOT missing??


I wondered… why do we wait so long to teach these principles? It’s clear from the student council poster above that even by grade 5, design principles haven’t been transferred to every day creations of visual texts. I decided to investigate ways to implement design into the younger years, starting with grade 1.

I first learned about CARP through Keri-Lee Beasley‘s Design Secrets Revealed, which I described in my previous post: Looks Like CRAP. Her eBook is one that I’ve led workshops on, and am constantly referring to when planning and working with teachers and students.  I’ve also promoted it in our staffroom as a resource all teachers in G3 and up should be using in their classrooms.

Since I work primarily with Early Years to Grade 1, I wanted to bring visual literacy and elements of design into the younger years. While the eBook is extremely engaging and differentiated with videos, definitions, external links and photos, I knew I would only be able to use some parts of it with a younger audience. For this reason, I decided to modify the principles from this eBook into a simple interactive Google Presentation that could be led with students as young as KG-G2.

I worked closely with one grade 1 teacher who has a small class of 10 students. We planned some lessons together and team-taught most of the sessions. We’ve noticed a huge improvement in the students’ design thinking. After this experience, I realised how beneficial it was to student learning to be introduced to these terms early on. For this reason, I’d like to extend this unit and collaborate with the other G1 teachers to implement this Visual Literacy Unit in their classrooms.

Some of the lessons I’ve developed in collaboration with the G1 teacher include:

  • Tuning-In: CARP Jr. Google Presentation ~ slides act as discussion point and students have a chance to share their thoughts and ideas to improve texts. We explored each term and looked at examples.
  • Individual/Paired Visual Text Exploration: focusing on each term at a time (what does Contrast look like? What does Alignment look like? etc)
  • Students re-design/improve a visual text they created by hand, implementing the CARP principles.
G1 students look at ways to improve the text so there is better CONTRAST.
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Grade 1 students took the same poorly designed image and focused on one term from the CARP acronym.


My Final Project will be a 6 week unit on Visual Literacy in Early Elementary (KG-G2). During these 6 weeks I will work closely with a G1 classroom teacher to embed these design elements meaningfully into the students’ learning. What I learned from trialling it in the smaller class was that 6 year olds move much more slowly, and need a lot of practice and repetition. I’m hoping that through different learning engagements and purposeful practice, students will be able to transfer the skills acquired through thoughtful design to their every day work and visual text creations.

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Developing visual literacy awareness in students is essential to building strong design skills. As I mentioned in my previous post visual literacy is one of the necessary elements of 21st century multi-literacies students need to be well-versed in. It’s also an area of learning at our school that is often neglected. It is evident in student-created posters and publications that design is an area all students would benefit learning more about. I also noticed that there are very few design resources accessible to early readers. I wanted to design a unit that other KG -G2 teachers could modify and improve for their own learning contexts.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

One concern is the complex terminology and the high level of EAL (English as Additional Language) learners. I will need to monitor their progress and make modifications as we progress through the unit.

I have a strong professional relationship with the G1 team and one teacher has agreed to let me implement the unit in her classroom. We will develop and team teach the unit together so it aligns with their Unit of Inquiry (in January-March).

I would like to modify the unit for KG and G2 classes as well but will need to first trial it in the G1 classroom. It would be ideal to embed the CARP principles as part of the curriculum (KG-G2) so that students are well versed in the terminology and have had lots of practice implementing these concepts by the time they reach grade 3. However, that is a ‘big picture’ decision that needs to be made by the curriculum coordinators. So for now, we just need to address it in the classrooms and make sure students are achieving an understanding of design.

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

I will need to really think carefully about the students developmental levels and English ability and tailor the lessons to suit their needs. Current resources for teaching design principles are aimed at students who can already read, write and work independently. I will need to modify the activities for shorter attention spans, and embed some kinesthetics and music/rhymes to help teach the basic principles of design. Also, students will need a lot more visuals to grasp the complex terminology. The focus will also be more on exposure to these new terms, with some opportunities to practice basic implementation of these concepts. It’s a process and not all students will be developmentally ready to produce visual texts that meet all CARP principles.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Students will be using their observation skills, communication skills and will develop spatial-awareness as they look at different visual texts and how the page is organised. They will also become more reflective and thoughtful about their work as they carefully plan out their visual texts. Students will also develop appreciation for the aesthetic and become open-minded to different perspectives as they develop a personal style using the CARP principles in their design.

Here is my final UBD Project:

Implementation vs. Integration

Should schools be implementing or integrating technology?

This question was first presented to me by a member of the IBO at the 2015 ECIS Tech Conference in Munich. What do these words mean and how do we define them?During this conference, I had the privilege of working with fellow Coetail Coach @chezvivian who documented the IBO’s presentation on her personal blog. Vivian eloquently synthesises the IBO’s stance and the implications of confusing these two similar terms:

Just like in Coetail, the IB wants us to start with the question, “What is the learning?”. Then we need to plan for the learning.  The plan for the learning should drive the question of what hardware and software.  Not the other way around. We wouldn’t want our curriculum to be driven by transitory things like what devices we’ve bought and what apps they support.  The devices and apps will be obsolete in a few years time.  The learning we want for our students should last for a lifetime. During the session, this importance was discussed when we differentiated the Integration of Technology from the Implementation of Technology i.e. hardware & software  (ibid p.14).  The integration of technology should always drive the implementation of technology and not the other way around.  This is something that we’ve always discussed as part of Coetail. (Chez Vivian)

I’ve been pondering these terms ever since, as I feel many schools are definitely doing one, but not creating the support needed for the other. It’s easy for a school to decide on a budget, purchase devices and software, and say the word “integrate” to teachers. But is there a shared understanding of what that looks like? And if not, who is responsible for developing this vision?


As with any vision, it needs to be understood at the top level. George Couros, the Principal of Change, writes:

Sometimes in education, there are shifts in what we have done and what we need to do, to support our students.  There are a lot of things that will never go away in education (like the importance of relationships in learning), but there are shifts in our world that mean education will have to a) be a part of the shift, b) lead the shift, or c) be left behind. 

The shift is happening now, and schools are at risk of being left behind. Or worse, leading their students down a path where the focus is on the flashy hardware, rather than on the learning. It is more important than ever that schools reflect on where they are, and where they want to go. Technology is evolving at an even quicker pace and many schools are simply buying new tech without considering why. Furthermore, simply hiring EdTech coaches to ‘tick the box’ won’t necessarily promote school-wide change with tech integration; there needs to be a school vision for tech integration to guide coaches too.

Edutopia recently published an article titled An Open Letter to Principals: 5 Leadership Strategies for the New Year 

These 5 strategies are fantastic guidelines for any school trying to fine-tune its vision for tech integration:

Strategy 1: Make No Excuses

Strategy 2: Model a Vision for Excellence

Strategy 3: Embrace 21st Century Pedagogy and Curriculum

Strategy 4: Breathe Life Into Professional Development

Strategy 5: Stay Connected

This fifth strategy is most important for leadership to remember. To properly integrate technology in classrooms, admin need to understand and be a part of the connectEdness of online professional learning networks.

If we are to expect school-wide changes with technology, school leadership needs to understand the difference between implementation of tech devices, verses integration using such frameworks as SAMR and TPACK.

I am waiting for the Big Shift to be led, not simply haphazardly participated in. I am looking to contribute to a culture of learning that begins at the top with school leadership and trickles down to the teachers and students. I’m hoping for action to replace reaction. As Edutopia author,Eric Sheninger, concludes with this powerful point:

Change begins with a no-excuse mentality. Don’t waste one more minute pondering what could be. There is a revolution going on right now in learning, and it is up to us to lead the way. (Edutopia)


Coding: A Blast from the Past

Coding: The Way of the Future or a Blast from the Past?


As 2015 draws to a close (and Course 4 does as well), I’m drawn to the trends in tech integration moving simultaneously toward and away from the future.

I am gearing up for an exciting 2nd Annual Launch of Hour of Code at our school. While this worldwide initiative may seem ‘new’ we are actually going back to the basics of computer programming…something which used to be part of the curriculum, that now schools are desperately trying to make room for again. What excites and intrigues me about this year’s HOC studio, is the ‘introduction’ to JavaScript, which actually originated 20 years ago (Wikipedia).

Last year they only had ‘blockly’ options for students to explore coding, and it’s great that they are allowing students a chance to see under the ‘hood’ of the blockly pieces what the actual code looks like.

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Screenshot from Hour of Code Studio


The BBC explored this trending in ‘coding’ recently in its article Coding The Future: 

Programming is changing briskly.Coding in the cloud is one trend likely to carry on, spreading collaborators across continents. So also is the explosion of new languages, like Facebook’s Hack scripting language or Apple’s Swift, alongside classical tongues like C and Java. We’re likely to learn to code younger, and differently. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) child-friendly programming language Scratch has 6.2 million registered users.The Internet of Things, driverless cars, and drones will all yield more programmable platforms – but will coding for your cappuccino maker drastically change programming? And what will the coding workplace be like, when today’s Raspberry rugrats have grown into tomorrow’s programming prodigies?

Currently, I run a Digital Design Club for Grades 3-5 and already I am looking at multiple platforms for students to explore design and coding. Many of them are already familiar with Hopscotch and Scratch, but more so for the interactive games they can play. There still seems to be some gaps between the principles of coding, and the animations/games created through coding apps and platforms.

One way I’ve tried to help students grasp what coding/programming truly means is through ‘unplugged’ coding: using non-tech tools to teach a tech-based concept. Last year I started Hour of Code club for grades 1-3 and started the club with a variation of a lesson from Computer Science Unplugged. The first activity I modified was ‘Image Representation’ or what I called ‘Pixel Coding’. I tuned them in using Pixar animated characters and talking about the word Pixel. Many of them were familiar with the term from Minecraft so were immediately engaged. Then students had the opportunity to practice ‘coding’ an image. Below is a screenshot from the lesson I did with students:

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Students were most engaged in this activity because it was a concrete way to understand how each image on a screen is constructed.

Although we are moving towards more globally connected classrooms, I find it interesting that we are reverting to ‘old school’ skills such as the basics of computer programming. Now that so many programs are realistic, there is something exciting about go back to primitive basics and understanding how it all works. It makes me realise how progressive everything is and how important it is to maintain connections to where we (and technology) evolved from.

SO to answer the question: Will education as we know it change because of technology? Education is always and has always been evolving…the same way our world has been and is evolving. As this clever Edudemic post illustrates, education has been evolving since education first existed:

Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started. (Edudemic)

It frightens me that there are movements against technology, in such schools as the London Acorn Schools :

According to school rules, children are not allowed television at all before the age of 12, after that they are allowed documentaries that have previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school – and computers are only to be used as part of the school curriculum for over-14s. (Guardian)

In my opinion, this seems like an extreme response to a reality that is only going to be that much more shocking when children finally do have access to films, TV and the internet. Rather than teaching students strategies for coping with digital spaces and showcasing the positive aspects of a connected classroom, they are turning media and technology into ‘forbidden fruit’. Furthermore, there is an even greater need for young adults to be digitally literate, with strong skills in multi-literacies such as information literacy, tech literacy, and media literacy. 

If we want education to prepare students for a technologically rich world, we need to embrace what currently exists in our reality. We need to ensure students have a chance to practice citizenship in digital spaces and also apply time-management strategies in their personal and school lives.


Game On

“No play, No learning – Know play, Know learning”

Donna & Sherry


“Game based learning (GBL) helps students improve problem-solving skills and make it possible for them to interpret their society, nature and the world around them through experiences.”  Dr. Sukran Ucus

How important are games and play to engage students in learning? As educators, we talk a lot about the importance of differentiation and addressing multiple intelligences…does ‘having fun’ promote and enhance learning too?

Game-Based Learning

According to Andrew Diamond, “game-based learning can be defined as lessons which are competitive, interactive, and allow the learner to have fun while gaining knowledge.”

Diamond also defines GBL as having three key elements:

  • Competition
  • Engagement
  • Rewards

In my previous role as classroom teacher, I introduced game-based learning in to my grade 4 students to help them learn their multiplication facts before the end of the year. All semester we’d focused on different conceptual strategies for multiplication and division, but ultimately, the students just weren’t confident enough in their times tables to apply these strategies efficiently. My personal blog details how I introduced and ran the 6-week competition: Multiplication Madness

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The idea was to promote collaboration, team-building and a healthy dose of win-win competition where children worked towards a goal (team with the most points), but ultimately everyone earned the reward of learning their multiplication tables. Teams were mixed-ability levels and on ‘game days’ there were 3 differentiated levels to choose from, so students could choose easy (Green), medium (Pink), or challenging (blue).

What worked well with this challenge, was that the teams were expected to be supportive and encouraging of their teammates, and also good sports with the other teams. They helped each other improve in their knowledge of the times tables. Also, providing several opportunities for the team to redeem themselves during the week made it less of a one-off chance for one team to defeat the others. It focused on progress and gave students who weren’t ready to answer the ‘medium’ or ‘challenging’ cards, a chance to be a risk taker later in the week.

Students also quickly asked to self-monitor the score chart (a whiteboard with tally marks under the team names) and also the delivery of the multiplication challenges. In the end, it was entirely student-led and students were applying multiple skills such as mental math calculations, tallying results, and organising themselves.

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At first I was worried that the competition would intimidate the students with learning support needs. But I quickly noticed the opposite…they were more motivated than ever to practice their times tables, and students were really trying to help each other improve for the sake of the team. Some of my least likely students became risk-takers over night, challenging themselves with the harder ‘Blue’ questions. Students felt that not only had they become more confident with their times tables, but they become more confident in themselves as learners.

During one of the challenges, we invited the Grade 3 students to participate. Afterwards, students asked if teachers would play a round too, while the students kept score.

Teachers take the Challenge…and Students Score

Learning no longer encompasses solely content. According to Envision Experience, twenty-first century learners are expected to have the following skills:


  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

We need to provide students with opportunities to work through these skills, while also giving them a chance to make learning fun. Growing up I never enjoyed studying my multiplication tables, and through GBL, I was able to support all learners in my classroom to master these important number facts…in addition to allowing them to develop important and life-long skills.



Teddies, Tech & PBL

I’ll never forget the first time I learned about CBL (Challenge-Based Learning) in the classroom. It was while working in Indonesia with Jane Ross, and I learnt about her multi-touch eBook Challenge Based Learning in IndonesiaIt’s hard to believe this book was published just 3 years ago (2012) because already technology has evolved so much!

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Jane Ross’ free Multi-touch eBook available through iBooks


Students were using just an iPod Touch to document their investigation into ‘Sharing the Planet’ and understanding how resources can be more evenly distributed. In this eBook she details her scaffolded approach to tuning students into the concept, posing questions to relevant real-world problems in Indonesia, and the steps students took to find solutions and help the local landfill community. Groups of students identified 3 main issues and used these problems to drive their inquiries and find solutions. What I also love is how she took a transdisciplinary approach and math, literacy, social studies and even music were embedded into the learning process.

Below are 3 screenshots from the eBook which highlight the transdisciplinary approach:

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eBook Screenshot 1: Looking at one issue in the landfill community: Not Enough Light
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eBook Screenshot 2: Students investigate solutions using problem-solving and other math skills.
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eBook Screenshot 3: Another issue in the landfill community that children investigated: Not enough safe shelter.


I highly recommend any primary/PYP or middle school/MYP teacher to download this free eBook and get inspired in their own classrooms.

My past experiences with Project Based Learning

Since learning about CBL I’ve been working to embed more project-based learning experiences in my own classroom. Two years ago, Jane Ross and I led a collaborative eBook project with Yayasan Santi Rama, a local school for the deaf – and the traditional task of co-publishing a story was enhanced and redefined to encompass video footage of students signing in Indonesian Sign Language. The final product was a trilingual eBook, showcased in the below video:

A more detailed account of the process can be found here on my personal blog: Collaborative eBooks with Indonesian Sign Language.

The Buck Institute for Education defines PBL (Project-Based Learning) as the following:

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  • Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
  • Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  • Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.
  • Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
  • Public Product Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

In my current role as EdTech Coach I’ve been collaborating with another Coetailer, @Joyw to bring Project-Base Learning opportunity to a few Grade 1 and Kindergarten classrooms. We have signed up with Pana Asavavatana‘s Traveling Teddybear Project and just this week introduced the idea to a grade 1 class. This project connects schools and students around the globe using Twitter, Skype and Easy Blogger Jr as means for communicating and sharing about Freddy’s adventures in the classroom. Since our bear, Freddy, isn’t due to arrive until February we are using this time to build questions and inquiry around the bear and all his various locations.

To tune students in, we gave students the opportunity to ask questions to find out who the Mystery Guest would be. Joy led them on a questioning journey by presenting a map and going through the Inquire & Connect cycle, as detailed on her blog. Afterwards, I gave them three clues using Google Slides:

Students then had opportunities to share their connections and prior knowledge about teddy bears in general. This innovative project fits perfectly in the context of the KG & G1 curriculum at our school and also meets the PBL criteria as outlined by BIE.

PBL Criteria #1: Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills: 

Grade 1 students are learning about ‘Homes’ and have already explored different kinds of homes around the world. After students guessed that a Teddy (named Freddy) is coming to visit, we briefly explored his blog and looked at different places he had been (Singapore, Mongolia and far). Students are also learning about how they organise themselves, and over the next few weeks we will develop goals with them and prepare a plan for when Freddy visits. This project also allows for transdisciplinary skills to be practiced such as: communication, research and social skills as they find information about Freddy the Teddy and practice digital citizenship skills on a public forum.

Further investigation & planning needed…

Since we are still in the ‘Tuning-In’ phase of inquiry, we have yet to develop a question (PBL Criteria #2) that could drive Freddy’s visit while he is here. As we go deeper into this project I will document how we address the various criteria of PBL in the context of our Grade 1 and Kindergarten classrooms.