Telling Your Story

Sunrise on morning of SuperBowl from condo

Sunrise on morning of SuperBowl from condo

Over the last two weeks I have been watching the stories being told about the Seahawks. Of course being a life long Seahawks fan and living in Seattle makes it all that much more fun and amazing.

We all love good stories. We love to hear about Derrick Coleman, a deaf NFL player making the difference in peoples lives. Or Russell Wilson again and again tell us about his dad and the words of wisdom that he lives by today. Being too small for the NFL and winning the Super Bowl.

We like stories…..and that’s what I want to hear in your course 5 video. I want you to think about your COETAIL journey and think what is your story? How has this all ended with you trying something new and different in your classroom. Even though Payton Manning didn’t win the Super Bowl we love his story. He failed and yet his story is what we will remember. His story is what is told.

Think about the TED Talks you like…the stories you like to hear….that make an impact. I think about how the Internet allows us to tell stories and how social networks allow those stories to spread. You never really know who’s going to hear your story, be moved by your story. But telling your story can lead to amazing things. If you haven’t seen Caine’s Arcade or even if you have, I encourage you to watch it again….the story is a good one.

It was great today to go through my RSS Reader and get excited to see that many of you have started to gear up to start on units that will make up your course 5 final project. Whether it’s Ron telling us it’s Game Time. Kelsey starting to build things for her Flipped Classroom, or Tim putting his ideas out there and getting feedback from the community. It’s great to see the end of your stories beginning.

Tell your stories….be proud of them what ever the outcome as it’s all just a learning journey.

Course 5: Ready, Set, Jump!

Happy New Year, Happy 2nd Semester, Happy 5th and Final Course of COETAIL!

Photo Credit: *vlad* via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: *vlad* via Compfight cc

I hope this blog post finds you all well and excited to take your classroom, your students, and your technology use to a whole new level.

We really want you to push yourself. Yes…you could easily do something you have done before and we would never know the difference. We hope you don’t do that and instead push yourself to try something new and to push yourself and your comfort level with technology to new heights.

Under My Courses – Course 5 you will see the one lone unit for this course that goes over everything you need to do to complete COETAIL. I even created a video for you if you are an audio person rather than a reader or you just miss me and really want to watch me on video one last time. 🙂

Use Your Network

I can’t stress this enough….your network and your community are here to support you. You have the COETAIL list on twitter. You have the #coetail tag, the COETAIL community on Google+ and then of course there is the community here on the website. Use one or use them all…but use them! That is what a network is for to support you when you need them.

I am part of your network as well. Use me, email me, we can do a Skype call or a Google Hangout if you want. I’m here for you and will be watching, commenting and observing the learning journey from out here in the Interwebs.

Enjoy the journey….that’s what learning is all about!

Taking the Leap: Thinking about Course 5

This is it.

Star jump

CC Licenc

This is the moment in COETAIL where you are set free to show what you’ve learned, show your classroom, show your learning, and show your students’ learning. This blog post is going to be pretty nitty gritty, but hopefully by getting the details out of the way, you’ll feel comfortable about going out there and doing incredible things.

Top Tips

Tip #1


by Felipe González (CC Licenced)

Choose a unit that interests you and redesign it in a way that excites you. You are going to be working on the Course 5 project for weeks. Make sure you are geeked out by what you’re doing. Make sure your students are geeked about what they are doing. If you’re a little scared, that’s probably a good sign.

Tip #2

Take what you have learned in all the prior courses and put it into action. Maybe you will mash-up gamification and digital citizenship. Maybe you’ll make a digital story with people around the world, tapping into your PLN. Perhaps you will have kids from around the world building in Minecraft or have a kindergarten inquiry sparked by Twitter. Perhaps you try Problem-Based Learning in an higher level math class, allowing for open books and open computers.  It could be that you find a way for your kids to design something for that 3D printer your school bought. Maybe you move from the sage on the stage to the meddler in the middle. And hopefully this will give you the push to try something that you haven’t done before but you’ve always wanted to try. Or even better, try something that you didn’t even know was possible a year ago.

Tip #3

Make sure you are really thinking about SAMR model as you plan your unit. Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 8.28.29 PM A lot of people discussed in their blogs at how they don’t feel like they are at the Redefinition level in their classroom. If there is ever a time to get there, this is it. We are asking you to redefine your classroom for one unit in one class. Think about how you are using technology to support learning in ways that we inconceivable without technology.


Tip #4 

As much as this assignment is about you, it has to be about your students too. Tell your kids what you are doing. My kids thought it was awesome that I was stressing out about an assignment. Make sure you are showing them that you are a learner too. And then, hopefully, they’ll be kind if you make a mistake along the way.

Tip #5

Make sure you are documenting EVERYTHING in the unit. Take pictures of your students working. Reviewing a danceScan copies of their work. Take video asking your students what they learned. One reason is that you have to show student learning, interest and authenticity of the unit.  Having too much evidence is a good problem to have. Also, you will be creating a digital story documenting the unit and you want lots of media to draw on.


Tip #6

Read the criteria. And read them again. To Do public art in DumboThere are 9 criteria that you will be marked on and in a 10 minute video you will need to show your thinking in regards to all nine. I’m not going to overwhelm you here with them (find them in the Week 8 page), but trust me when I tell you that as soon as you get back to school in January you will want to know this stuff backward and forward. And the two questions that would make me really think would have to be:  “Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school? ” and  “Is student work reflective of their interests or passions?”. But that might be just me. There is a lot to think about there.

Tip #7

You will need to do a unit planner and best practice is that you do that before the unit is started. So perhaps that is the first thing you do in January (after reading the criteria one more time). You are encouraged to use Understanding by Design planner as it will address many of the criteria. But the planner should also be useful to you. Perhaps a PYP or MYP planner is best for you. Or your school has its own style. Do whatever you can to make this a sustainable project that you could do again next year.

Tip #8

2013-10-18 Collaborative Video Editing

cc licenced by mrsdkrebs

Plan your time wisely. You all know how long the technical bits of putting together a digital story took during course 3. You will be creating a 10 minute video and you need to make sure you plan for that amount of time. Check out previous course 5 project here, which had different criteria but do show what is expected in terms of the video.

Tip #9

Keep blogging. There are no minimum blogging requirements for Course 5, though there is a Community Engagement requirement. But I would suggest that you keep blogging. I found the process of blogging my ideas for Course 5 really helpful. And then you can get feedback and more ideas from COETAILers and others who read your blog. Hopefully you have the intrinsic motivation to share and reflect on your blog, even when it’s no longer a specific requirement.

Tip #10

Take risks. Ask for help when you need it. Take control of your learning and let go of control in your classroom. And have fun!!


This will be my last blog post for you. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs and getting a chance to blog on a regular basis again. Thanks for letting me jump in. Please let me know if I can help with project in any way. I can’t wait to see them!

And most importantly have a safe, relaxing, rejuvenating break!



A Bit of Housekeeping

I hope everyone is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (or semester!). I’ll keep this brief as I know many of you are still catching up with work. Rebekah will be discussing the Course 5 content and project in her upcoming post next week.

Just a bit of housekeeping here (we flipped a coin to decide who had to be the annoying big brother – I lost).

As we go through your grade sheets, we’re noticing that many of you have not actually been inputting your blog posts on the grade sheet (as a link) and yet you’ve been publishing excellent posts. Please strive to get your links on the grade sheet as soon as you’ve published your post so we can provide timely and relevant feedback to your work.

Also, many of you have yet to contribute comments to each other’s blog posts. Please keep in mind this is one of the great aspects of Coetail – engaging with the community and presenting counter-points to spur discussion (and it counts toward your final grade).

The end is rapidly approaching. The official final day of course 4 is December 15.

If you do not complete the work by this date, you will receive an incomplete (INC) and must do so thereafter. However, speaking from personal experience, there’s a great sigh of relief to finish work like this on time so you have the Christmas holiday free to relax without this burdening your shoulders as a mental weight.

If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to ask any of the three of us!

What’s in a name?

I hope those that celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful holiday. And I hope that everyone in this time of craziness is having moments of calm, with good friends and good food. Holidays are in sight, even if reports are a hurdle in the way for most of us.

Don’t let the name fool you.

Throughout Course 4 the confusion around the loaded educational terminology has been constant (gamification isn’t about playing games?!? Flipped Classroom isn’t just watching videoed lectures?!?). Honestly, the people who name these pedagogies aren’t making life easy for COETAILers.

Want to be overwhelmed? Click here

So before I launch into a discussion of some of the ___________-based learning, I think it’s important to not get too hung up on the names. Learn about the theory. Learn about the strategies. Reflect on how the ideas in each pedagogy could be brought into your classroom. Try out bits and pieces that speak to you.Think about how you’re going to mash-up these pedagoies until you have created your own _______________-based thinking that is best for your students.

Problems and Empowerment

I have to admit that before I started teaching this course I had never heard of Problem Based Learning. I had heard of Project Based Learning. I had heard of Challenge Based Learning.  But there is something evocative about structuring our learning around problems.  Because my mission as a teacher is to empower my students to be problem solvers and to be agent of change. Anything – a skill, an idea, a technology, a protocol – that will help my students feel empowered has to be considered.

I found this article (recommended on Twitter—sorry don’t remember who!!) really helpful in wrapping my head around Problem-Based Learning.


And this quote made me feel better:

The semantics aren’t worth worrying about, for very long anyway. The two PBLs are really two sides of the same coin. What type of PBL you decide to call your, er… extended learning experience just depends on how you frame it. The bottom line is the same: both PBLs can powerfully engage and effectively teach your students!  – Project Based Learning vs. Problem Based Learning vs. XBL

Project-Based Learning – Not “Doing Projects” 

PBL is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks. – Introduction to Project Based Learning

I actually think elementary school teachers, who based their instruction around inquiry, grasp PBL really quickly.  One of the benefits I found in COETAIL was reading PYP teacher blogs and seeing how they helped kids learn. The idea of presenting a provocation and then let students take the learning where their questioning goes seems natural to teacher of younger students. In many ways, this is what PBL is doing — giving real-world problems to students as provocations and having them direct their own learning.

YouTube Preview Image

One definition of project learning as an “in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort. This article (Project-Based Learning: Real-World Issues Motivate Students) has great examples of what this looks like in classrooms and a protocol making it happen.

In middle school humanities we do loads of fun projects.  But “doing projects” is not Project Based Learning. And implementing Project-Based Learning can be messy and challenging. But, man, can it be fun and rich experience.

Thinking about Blogging

A little off-topic from the week, but I’m going to challenge you a little this week in your blogging. Before the end of the course, I would really love to get a feeling for your classroom. Some of you are doing this already. And I know that a lot of you are using your blogs as a place to reflect on the big ideas and the readings, but sometimes it becomes too academic and not about the kids. And I find my best blog posts (and the ones that respond with people reading my blog) are ones where I honestly share what’s going on in my classroom. In some ways this challenge will prepare you for Course 5, where you will be set free from any topics of choice and you will be asked to think critically about what you are doing in your classroom. I would love to see pictures of your classroom or of student work. I would love to hear/read your student voices. When I read your blog, it should be clear that only YOU could have written your blog. Don’t worry too much about quoting readings. The theme this week is how technology supports Problem-Based Learning, but feel free to talk about how technologies support other methods of teaching pedagogies as Project-Based Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, Design Thinking, Challenge-Based Learning, etc. This should be open-ended enough to allow you to direct your own learning. Which makes it a much richer experience for you.



Calm before the storm (or holidays)

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Digging through your various blog posts, I can see that the majority of you are still working on the previous content involving Gamification, the Flipped Classroom and MOOCs. That’s absolutely fine, because as Jeff said, “Take a week for yourself“. And considering Thanksgiving celebrations and shopping may be in the mix for some of you as well as the beloved report card writing season, let’s use this time as a chance to get caught up.

Just quickly wanted to share two articles that were posted on Edudemic recently. The timing is obviously quite relevant to Course 4 and for those of you still chipping away at your reflections for these topics.

What Is A Flipped Classroom?

The Future Of Online Education And The Best Online Schools

Instead of discussing Project Based Learning, I’ll just share a few snippets of what I’ve come across in your blogs. It’s a bit of a mishmash, but hopefully this helps to save you time, and perhaps expose you to some posts you may not have otherwise stumbled upon.
Beth Dressler had some great thoughts to share about her experience with Coetail:

“building a professional learning network through COETAIL and being connected to other educators around the world has been a massive change in this last year.  I can choose when, how and what I learn, so my learning is relevant, on-time, useful and practical.  Also, COETAIL has allowed me to experience the connected, online world that my students live in.  It’s allowed me the chance to “walk the walk and talk the talk”.  At EduTech 2013 in Brisbane,Gary Stager said, “You can’t teach 21st century learners if you haven’t learned anything yourself this century.” Provocative? Yes!  True? Yes!  And, thanks to COETAIL, I’ve had the chance to learn, learn, and learn some more in the 21st century!”


Photo Credit: jronaldlee via Compfight cc

Lissa’s well researched post, “Gamification: why I’m a skeptic“, sparked a very involved and passionate discussion about Gamification and deserves to be read. Jeff and Rebekah chimed in as well; have a look and see how this impacts your current thinking on the topic and if you have something to add please do so on her post to keep the thread in one place. Here’s an excerpt from one of Rebekah’s comments:

The one thing I keep wondering is, have you played a video game? Have you played a game with your students? Have you talked to gamers? It’s not a real research, but it’s a start. Games don’t always have to be about competition…in fact many games only reward collaboration. I don’t think gamers play games to collect points. Maybe they play to “beat the game”, but for many games the journey is incredibly important. They do it because they like playing the game, exploring a world that is unimaginable to them, and they can play with people around the world. Gamers are playing because of an intrinsic motivation to play.

I don’t think I’ll ever have a perfectly gamified classroom. My classroom is a remix of lots of different things. And I also think that my kids will be okay if I mess up and don’t do it correctly. Because I have other safety nets in my classroom for when I mess up. But if we introduce game-based learning (or any other types of __________-based learning), the metacognition skills are even more important than before. If my kids realize we’re playing a game and make connections to the big concepts or skills we’re learning and are actively engaged then I’m willing to have a go.

Thinking about Connectivism, Beth Marinucci has revisited and reflected on The Coetail Effect, and has come up with an excellent definition. What do you think? Does this fit the description for you? Feel free to add a comment to her post if you’d like provide input.

Through guided readings, reflections, collaboration and practice, educators experience an understanding and appreciation of the role of technology in learning.  Connectivism allows both teachers and students to become empowered and to have authority over their learning to the point that, together, teachers and students reinvent teaching and learning.  Ultimately, we pursue our learning with confidence, authenticity and purpose with the end-goal being independence, with the support of a global learning community.

And lastly, Jeff Layman has an interesting couple of presentations coming up and has asked for input from you wonderful people in Coetail. The data that he accumulates will surely be of interest to all of us. Take a moment to participate! Tips to cultivating a thriving PLN

Schedule for Today: Play! Be HAPPY. Go Home.

kid to do list, list, Be happy and go home

kid to do list, list, Be happy and go home. CC Licensed by Carissa Rogers. For more to kid to-do list go to

I’m going to take this week as my mini-COETAIL blogging break, as the realities of the end of the semester are becoming more real. I promise to write more about problem-based learning, as this is the new pedagogy that is probably the most exciting for me. Project Based Learning, Challenge Based Learning, and (more recently) Design Thinking) are the “new” pedagogies I find myself practicing and reflecting on the most, which is why I don’t want to rush a post. But I did want to leave you with some quick resources, if you are looking for some blogging inspiration.

  • Kim Cofino (co-founder of COETAIL) has put together this incredible resource for a workshop she did at Saigon South International School on Transforming your Classroom. If you’re looking for more ideas on MOOCs, Global Collaborative Projects, Open Badges, Play in the Classroom, Networked Classrooms, or Maker Culture this would be a good jumping off place.
  • If you want some examples of just some of some Course 5 projects, these are the ones we are showing at YIS this week.

Brent Fullerton (EARCOS)
Kathy Sandler & Nancy Gorneau (TAS)
Alex Guenther (YIS)
Adam Seldis (YIS)
Jamie Payne (St. Maur)
Find more on the COETAIL site!

Way more to come on Course 5 soon, but I thought some people may want to start brainstorming. Do be aware that the rubric for these projects was a little different than the one you will be using, but it should give you an idea of what you’re moving towards.

  • Seriously do think about arranging a Google Hangout with other members of the cohort.Today's latte, Start a hangout. There are great conversations happening in the blog comments, but it would be great to add a face-to-face element. You could structure it around one of the pedagogies we have been discussing or to start brainstorming course 5 projects. It’s up to you, totally optional, but could be the next level of COETAIL.
  • Like Brandon said in the prior post on Connectivism, the strength of COETAIL as an online course become apparent if you are involved in the conversation. Please do make your best attempt to keep up as much as possible and to keep commenting as you go. (Trust me, I see the irony of writing this in a blog post where I’ve annoying complained of being busy.) Also, please be updating your Google Spreadsheet. This is the only way for me and Brandon to make sure we are seeing everything that you post. So make sure that has your most current blog posts and comments on there.

Thanks all! Have a great week. Looking forward to this week’s conversations!

Connectivism and MOOCs: The Web We Weave

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.”

Despite being written in 2004, long before the advent of Twitter, Google+ (Facebook was in its infancy), the article on Connectivism presents ideas that equally transcend the past decade and absolutely apply to learning today. Connectivism and MOOCs are expansive topics and could be approached from many different angles, so I’m sure we’ll see a variety of perspectives in your posts.
We could investigate these topics through an objective view of the material provided through the referenced readings, links and videos explaining the premise and definition. And yet through a community such as COETAIL, you’re all involved hands-on with the experience to some extent, so it may be easier for you to approach it in a subjective manner. While COETAIL is not actually a MOOC per the definition, the nature of learning in an online environment such as this allows you to connect in a similar way.
From the 2013 Horizon Report

The movement toward open content reflects a
growing shift in the way scholars in many parts
of the world are conceptualizing education to a
view that is more about the process of learning
than the information conveyed. Information
is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective
use of it. Open content uses Creative Commons and
other forms of alternative licensing to encourage
not only the sharing of information, but the sharing
of pedagogies and experiences as well. Part of the
appeal of open content is that it is a response to both
the rising costs of traditionally published resources
and the lack of educational resources in some regions.

What better way to understand the implications current and future online learning has and will have on your students than to reflect on your own learning through this model? Surely for some people learning online has been an amazing experience, providing ultimate flexibility, inspiring connections and interesting conversations beyond the walls of your own schools. Learning takes place at your own pace and in your preferred schedule. And yet others may find that learning online simply doesn’t suit them as well; perhaps it’s too unstructured, too open, or you may struggle trying to adapt to such a different model than our traditional education has provided.


Photo by Brandon Hoover

On a personal note, I’ve taken courses where I was literally a number in the system, the instructor never had any contact with me, and I had very minimal interaction with the other students. Although I’m highly accustomed to working online, I found this environment to be too extreme; too stark and isolated. I could not thrive and it made learning much less conducive. I can’t imagine how those students who had minimal experience with learning online must have felt. Fortunately COETAIL is nothing like that! For some of you this may be your first venture into online learning; others may have already dipped their toes in these waters. A couple of points to reflect on:

How have you adapted to learning online? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? What has been the most positive aspect of partaking in this model of learning? How do you feel this may impact students in developing countries? (that’s a whole other topic to consider!)


A phrase that came up in the reading is the need to nurture relationships; specifically it stated, “Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning”
Twitter as a PLN (Personal Learning Network)

That quote can easily apply to both students and adults. Let’s frame it around Twitter as an example that most of you can relate to. Twitter for many people becomes a temporary PLN with usage that flares up during PD sessions, conferences and the like, and yet extinguishes quickly once the event concludes only to do so the next month or year ahead. By doing so, you never truly get to know the intricacies of sharing and learning together; of extending your learning and connections beyond the scope of a PD related event, and absorbing the full experience of using tools such as Twitter as a powerful networking and information sharing medium.

Your PLN shouldn’t become something like a business card; one that you only pull out and refer to when a professional connection is made. It should be flowing, meandering and always evolving – and something you nurture in order to keep it active. Coming back to the quote above, maintaining connections is vital; you can see this in action – the more you give of yourself and your ideas to others (and beyond just social media of course), the more you receive in return.

It’s important that we can relate this back to our students. The students we teach are growing up in an unprecedented time of connections and the nature of an ‘online’ community vs ‘offline’ community simply blurs together for many of them. They’re not ‘online friends’ for them; they’re simply friends. We should be cognizant of this when we apply our own perceptions of what connections mean for students today. This has implications for understanding their use of social media, the policies schools put into place regarding blocking of services, and what it means to be a digital citizen.

This also applies to COETAIL in terms of interacting with others in this cohort. If you wait until the last couple of weeks to begin posting and reflecting, bunching all the posts together, you’ll likely get much less out of the experience – the conversations and topics have already moved on. It may be in your best interest in terms of learning and connecting with others to strive to keep somewhat in sync (outside of the week off Jeff mentioned). The more you delve into each others’ posts and get involved in commenting and reflecting, the more variety and perspectives you garner to enhance your own learning.
Your Own Web

As a side note, here’s an intriguing way to consider your own connections. You can visualize your connections to others (with LinkedIn in this case but you could do so with other services as well) with tools such as LinkedIn Maps. I just had a play; it’s interesting to view just how intricate these connections and relationships are; give it a try yourself. Is there anything that surprises you? Do you see patterns develop from the differing aspects of your life? (personal, professional, university, etc)



Wading Through the Data

Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.

From Fast Company:

  • From 2005 to 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 300, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes, or 40 trillion gigabytes (more than 5,200 gigabytes for every man, woman, and child in 2020).
  • From now until 2020, the digital universe will double every two years.
  • 68% of the data created in 2012 was created and consumed by consumers– watching digital TV, interacting with social media, sending camera phone images and videos between devices and around the Internet, and so on.

I won’t rant too long about this, but think for a moment how much of a paradigm shift this is for education and our students today – and how much different it will be for the following generations. The accumulation of information, content and data is growing at an incredible exponential rate. The ability to filter information, to quickly detect what’s valuable and what’s fluff and to formulate connections that will result in increased opportunities for learning and development will be key. With the world’s data at their fingertips and the scope of human knowledge carried around in their smartphones and devices, learning how to learn will be an increasingly vital skill.