Tag Archives: Course 4

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.

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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 https://tinyurl.com/my776g9

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.


The Answer is Yes


The big question for this week is: Will education as we know it change because of technology?

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier


If after three and half COETAIL courses your answer isn’t “yes”, then I wonder if you can get a refund. (I doubt it, in case you’re actually considering asking).

The only thing I’m sure about concerning the future of education is that there will be learners. I’m not sure about much else. Students and teachers roles are changing. Classrooms are changing…you all know that as participants of an online course. The school day is changing. It’s impossible to imagine that  in an age of open educational resources (OERs) and massive open online courses (MOOCs) things aren’t changing.

Of course these changes aren’t happening in a vacuum. Schools and universities have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Teachers rightly demand proof that changes in pedagogy are effective and researchers can barely keep up. Different schools (or pockets within the same school) are implementing new pedagogies at different speeds and different levels of enthusiasm. We’re emotionally attached to our experiences in a school (as teacher and learner and parents) and hate to sacrifice how we remember schools. Sometimes we get tired of learning and of changing.

The reality is that knowledge and understanding of the world have always been changing. Facts have a half-life. What we learn in COETAIL this year may very well be old-fashioned quicker than we may like. But we have never lived in a static world. And for me, this is a comforting truth.

A New Pedagogy is Emerging

One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time about new pedagogies was put together by Ontario’s Distance Education group. It states that new pedagogies are emerging because of :

  • New Demands of a Knowledge-Based Society  
  • New Student Expectations
  • New Technologies 

So it’s not just the technologies changing, but the entire culture around learning.

The challenge is not creating new learning experiences from memory, but to create new, amazing learning experiences. In other words, to move from substitution to redefinition in learning at the culture-wide level.


Our ability to connect is what redefines us as a culture. Sometimes we connect face-to-face after long flights. Sometimes we connect on a Google+ Hangout. Hopefully you all have connected with each other through reading each other’s blogs for the past few months. I would love to see COETAIL hangouts that are driven by the participants, instead of the instructors. The more we are in the world, the smaller it gets.

My Connect Folder on my phone. I don’t care what App I use as long as I can connect to the people I love.

I store my knowledge in my friends’ (undated)”

This idea lies at the heart of Connectivism. Connectivism is the belief that knowledge exists in the world, not in our head. So we have to go out and seek it.

In many ways an ability to connect with others is what pushes our classroom into the redefinition level.  It’s this connection that allows a Twitter to spark a maths inquiry in kindergarten. It’s this connection that allows a stop motion animation made in Borneo to be remixed by students around the world.  It’s the connection that allows for people to create Acceptable Use Policies with “strangers” around the world. It’s the connection that allows IBDP English teacher to Skype in a creator (great Course 5 project).  It’s this connection that has students taking online courses for credit or not for credit.  It’s the connection that has me watching Dave Cormier’s “What is a MOOC?” video and scrolling through Google Scholar articles on Connectivism in writing this blog post. These connections mean that hyperlinks and embed code are the best part of the Internet. It’s developing a PLN to improve our practice as teachers or letting students use their own learning network to answer the big questions that need solving. It’s this connection that let’s me join three different MOOCS, and the fact that none of the them were lecture based.  It’s this connection that means that this tweet resonates with all of us. 

Our role

Information without context, as we know, is useless. As teachers, our job is changing, but still vitally important. Ontario Online states that with this new world, we are going to have to:

  1. A move to opening up learning, making it more accessible and flexible.
  2. An increased sharing of power between the professor and the learner.
  3. An increased use of technology not only to deliver teaching, but also to support and assist students and to provide new forms of student assessment.

We’re also going to need to focus on search skills, evaluation skills, and critical thinking skills. We are already moving towards new school models that allow for real, connected learning. It’s interesting the Universities are leading the MOOC movement (even if sticking close to traditional format in a virtual space), suggesting that universities are rethinking their mission. Universities are looking at offering credit for competence, not hours sitting in a lecture hall. Our schools are becoming more flexible, naturally.  And in this more connected world, I think we’re really going to need to know our students. We are going to need to know what kids respond best to extrinsic motivation. We are going to need to know what kids can work independently on a MOOC. We are going to need to know what kids have the resilience to have an epic fail and get back up. We are going to need to know what kids are introverted on social media. As I learn more about schools that a project-based, inquiry-based, challenged-based, service-learning based (etc), the more realize how important knowing the kids is. 

So, as always, connectivism (and all other pedagogies) is about the kids.

A lot of words to get to that simple answer.






Reverse Flip?!


Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc

Just as with Gamification, the Flipped Classroom/Reverse Instruction topics have spurred and churned some emotions in the Coetail community – which is great! Some people are being newly introduced to these concepts, while others have extensive experience with using these methods in their classroom, and yet some of you feel more opposed to both of these and provide challenging arguments to state your perspectives.

Skepticism and debate, as we know, can lead to healthy discussions and ultimately improved experiences for all. We’ve seen theories come and go throughout education, so it’s quite understandable that any relatively new concept may be met with caution.

Let’s take a moment and highlight a few points from the readings and beyond.

From, “Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom

Before the flipped classrooms, there were auto-tutorials, team learning, peer instruction, inquiry learning, Just-in-Time Teaching, blended classrooms, hybrid courses, and POGIL (process- oriented guided inquiry learning). Educators are forever experimenting and innovating. A central theme in all of this activity is the idea that active learning works best. Telling doesn’t work very well. Doing is the secret. Active student engagement is necessary, and one of the best ways to get it is to use stories that catch students’ interest and emotion. The best film directors, authors, preachers, comedians, lecturers, and motivational speakers know this. So do the best teachers. And they use a variety of methods to achieve it. The better a student is prepared, the more learning that can be achieved.

The flipped classroom idea is not new. Teachers have forever struggled to get students to study on their own, either ahead of time or as homework; that is when the real learning happens, not when the teacher is lecturing, droning on and on. The flipped classroom, with its use of videos that engage and focus student learning, offers us a new model for case study teaching, combining active, student-centered learning with content mastery that can be applied to solving real-world problems.

It’s a win-win.

I’ve observed that there are similar threads running through some of your blog posts; some of the same topics and questions may have been addressed in Alan November’s post, “Flipped Learning: A Response To Five Common Criticisms”. Here’s just one such assumption/question/topic of concern:

Kids do not want to sit at home watching boring video lectures on the Web. At least in the classroom, they get some kind of interaction with me and with their peers. This is just a lot of excitement over bad pedagogy.

We completely agree that simply watching a boring lecture video will not get kids excited about this process. However, is the fact that there are bad examples of lecture videos a problem with the model—or with the implementation of the model?

Certainly, there are opportunities to improve these resources in ways that ramp up interaction and pedagogy. To begin, do not replace an hour-long classroom lecture with an hour-long video. Audio and video should be used in short, five- to 10-minute segments, and there should be opportunities for students to interact with the information in these videos in a variety of ways.

Make sure you provide more than just video. You are going to have students who want to watch video, but you are also going to have students who would rather look at a concept map or read a bit of text. Mix it up and keep your students guessing.


That’s a critical point he’s made. There are many examples of teachers droning on and on in videos that are 4x longer than they need to be. If you amplify that by, say, 5 other teachers doing the same thing, then we’ve only increased the amount of homework that a student has to drudge through, and in fact perhaps made it less effective and meaningful.

Within this article, November highlights Dr. Eric Mazur of Harvard University. Here’s the video from Dr. Mazur. Love this quote taken from the video, “You can forget facts, but you cannot forget understanding.”

“From Questions to Concepts: Interactive Teaching in Physics”
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Switching gears, if you’d like to dabble in flipping a lesson, a great place to start may be TED Ed. They’ve come together with some fantastic teachers and illustrators to help make the process of reverse instruction as painless as possible. We’ve had a number of teachers effectively use TED Ed here at Int’l School Manila. For more information, check out the video below.


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flip the video

“The “flip this video” button allows you to turn a video into a customized lesson that can be assigned to students or shared more widely. You can add context, questions and follow-up suggestions.

Because every learners’ needs are different. TED-Ed videos come equipped with optional supplementary materials. When you “flip” a video you get to decide which of those materials you keep, and whether to craft your own. This will allow you to relate the resulting lesson to your class, to an individual learner, or to a wider group.”

Coetail Spotlight:

Last week, the section in which I highlighted some of your blogs was met with warm reception. So I’ll continue to do so knowing that, again, you don’t have time to wade through everyone’s fantastic work.

Jeff Layman had a humorous counterpoint to the benefits of Gamification. I just saw that he’s from Michigan – as am I (or was – been in Asia since 2002).

Gamification is a fad. If you’re offended by this and you’re lining up you’re Minecraft-laden references to refute my point, reconsider your attitude towards the word. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m simply saying that it’s a thing. If you’re still angry that I laced your beloved new instructional strategy with a term reserved for skinny jeans, please see my disclaimer above. Gamification is new, trendy, hip, cool, whatever. It’s proven to work in the business world, and that’s about as much justification as we need nowadays for instituting major change in the education world. 


Mary Carley’s post, “Flipped Classroom – No, thank you!“, sparked an interesting dialogue in the comments. Here’s a snippet from her post:

My criticism is with the concept of sending kids home to do more work.

There are many sound reasons for educators to think about reducing or abolishing mandatory homework rather than entrenching it more firmly in the learning process. Joe Bower has gathered a thoughtful collection of articles critical of common homework practices on his blog For the Love of Learning.

I do think very small amounts of homework can help students develop organizational skills, but probably remembering to bring PE clothes, permission slips, school photo money, and their violin or guitar could accomplish this without adding 2 hours of academic work.


And lastly, on Tuesday, a few of us got together for the monthly COETAILcast. If you didn’t have a chance to check it out, please look past some of the Movember happening!

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Flipped Classroom and The Kitchen Sink

Watch this Video

Watch this video for as long as you’re interested and not a second more.

Did you last more than 30 seconds? Did the bad lighting, the corny jokes, and poor sound quality annoy you? Was the subject matter of unclogging sinks not interesting? Did you wonder why I was making you watch it?

Now imagine, your sink was clogged. This is BIG and REAL problem that need to be solved IMMEDIATELY. And what if you lived in a country where you didn’t speak the language of the plumber? And perhaps the plumber doesn’t work on the day that you desperately need him?  How attentively would you watch the above video? How grateful would you be to these guys for taking the time to create the videos?  How many times would you pause, rewind and rematch that video?

For me, this sets up the challenges and the opportunities of Flipped Classroom.  We have the ability to make videos and to change how content is delivered. But do our students understand why they are watching the videos? Are they engaged in the videos? Are they grateful for the work you put into creating the videos? Are our students using videos to solve BIG and REAL problems?

Flipped Classroom: Not for the Passive Learner

Good teaching, regardless of discipline, should always limit passive transfer of knowledge in class, and promote learning environments built on the tenants of inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking. We, as educators, must strive to guide students through perplexing situations, and more importantly, work with one another to develop the pedagogical skills to do so. Keeping this in mind, good teaching comes in many forms, and the flipped classroom mentality can be one of many solutions for educators. – Should You Flip Your Classroom? Edutopia


To be honest, I have struggled with the idea of Flipped Classroom. I am a little wary of the hype around Flipped Classroom. Many articles (often written by non-educators) celebrate Khan Academy, Neo K-12Teacher Tube (just to list a few) for freeing up more time to get through content. Getting through content is the least inspiring reason to make changes to pedagogy. And they forget that just because something is on YouTube, it doesn’t mean our kids want to watch it. And just because a video is on their iPad, it doesn’t mean that our kids will rewind and rewatch. I’ve watched kids fall asleep watching boring videos in-class. And as someone who enjoys lecturing (though I’m doing less of it each year), I know that the best lectures are interactive and actually feed off of an audience.  And, as Jeff says, lecture as a content delivery is dead. So I know that showing a video is not enough.

That said, if introducing flipped instruction allows a teacher to differentiate instruction and create a more learner-centered classroom, I’m all for it. And if the videos can be used to quickly assess understanding and student learning, then we’re moving in the right direction. And if a teacher has found a way to have students want to watch the videos (or learn independently in general), then that’s amazing.

 Redefining Flipped Classrooms

In actuality, reverse instruction is more than videos. And it’s more than just technology.

At it’s best, reversed instruction is about empowering learners. 

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by m rkt: https://flickr.com/photos/markroquet/3047628132/

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by m rkt: https://flickr.com/photos/markroquet/3047628132/

Reversed instruction allows the walls of the classroom come down. And it can extend the school day, so that learning doesn’t stop at the bell. So if we are changing the very nature of school, we better make sure we are doing great things with our students.

Perhaps, you engage your students in a passion projectgenius hour20% time or a DIY project. Your students go home and learn what they want to learn. They Skype family, watch experts explain how to do something on YouTube, or poll friends on Googleforms or Survey Monkey. Perhaps they join Code Academy or a MOOC to learn more about something they are passionate about. They want to do work at home, because they’re geeked.

Perhaps, you flip who is learning from who. Have students read each others blog posts in preparation for a fishbowl discussion (link with a great description of what this looks like in a DP English Class). This can also mean teachers look to learn from their students.

Perhaps, you create problems that kids want to solve. The great math teacher Dan Meyers is a great example of someone who creates real problems where kids need/want to learn how to answer the problem. They watch videos about derivatives and functions, because they are desperate to know the answer.

Perhaps, students recognize their own problems worth solving. Design Thinking talks a lot about how students can recognize problems and find ways to solve them. Moonshot Thinking is about choosing to bothered by something, being inspired, and hard work.  A flipped classroom can help our students solve problems that we as teachers don’t even recognize as problems.

These are just some ways that we can redefine what the classroom looks like using reversed instruction. And maybe this resonates for your classroom. Or maybe you’re finding the  “traditional” model of Flipped Classroom is working for you and your students (I’m willing to be convinced!). So the question is – How is your classroom being disrupted, redefined, and flipped?


Coetail Blogs in the Spotlight + Mario Bros

We’re already approaching the later part of week 2 for Course 4 and there have been some intriguing, well developed posts published reflecting on our work thus far. We realize you all have very busy lives and may not be able to check out some of these posts, so I thought I’d highlight some interestingness here!

If you have yet to see this, visual learners may find value in this, “Padagogy Wheel” to assist with SAMR and tech integration. While it is oriented around iPad apps, the fundamental ideas apply effectively elsewhere. This was mentioned in Carlene Hamley’s post, “Quest for R!”


The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.  Based on a work at https://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.


The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at https://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.


Dan Slaughter‘s post, “Integration with Google+ Communities” struck a chord with me (in a positive way!). I am intrigued to see effective and engaging examples of embracing the power of Google+ in education. There are some barriers still present with age limits, privacy and many schools’ hesitation to get onboard with online communities such as G+. And yet, Dan is making it work with ease! Here’s a wonderful excerpt from his post:

One of the purposes in creating the community was encourage participation, especially for the shy, lower English or more introverted students. I felt this would be an additional opportunity beyond the classroom for students to demonstrate their knowledge, ask questions and add to the conversation.
I no longer accept e-mail from my students unless it is a more personal issue and instead all communication is done through our community. Students are encouraged to post articles, videos or anything else the find relevant to the community in order to show their own understanding, help clarify issues for others or raise further questions.

So far I feel engagement, especially once class has ended, has greatly picked up as students are asking more questions, answering each others questions and discussing topics with a bit of help from me as a moderator.  Additionally, I feel class discussions have picked since we now sometimes continue a conversation that was started the night before by the class.


During last month’s Learning 2.013 conference in Singapore, the use of Google+ in high school was a topic of discussion in the HS Tech Coordinator/Integrator cohort group. Jay Atwood is doing some very interesting work with the integration of G+ at Singapore American School. I’d be keen to hear of other schools involved with Google+ for students and the various successes and pitfalls you’ve encountered. Please drop us a note in the comments!


Vivian Kwan may have won the award for longest post of the week with, “SAMR I am!” ! There are some great reflections in that post, but here’s one snippet I think we all agree with but perhaps need to be reminded of:

Creating and your passions

I think when we’re passionate about something, we naturally want to take it to the highest levels of creation.   It’s an inevitable part of the design cycle when we have the tools & materials on-hand to explore our passions.  We also need to have time to ask questions, problem-solve, and to learn from others. 



Rebekah snagged all the great links for gamification, so I won’t bother to compete! (although, contrary to her I am a gamer – or at least I was when I actually had that thing called free time, so perhaps I should!) But in all seriousness, please do strive to glance through the resources she mentioned. There are some excellent links to dive into and explore.

I know you may be feeling overwhelmed with information overload, but fortunately now that you’re well into Course 4 you’ve learned how to manage it! Having said that, I’ll throw out a few more pieces you could investigate. Here’s one from Information Week.


As IQs Fall, Can Gamification Help?

Recent studies of standardized testing might lead one to conclude that the gamification of educational evaluation might be the best thing about the IT revolution.

Scientists and educators have long been puzzled by the steady worldwide rise of about three points per decade in average IQ, first discovered by James Flynn and commonly called the Flynn Effect. But the puzzle is now more acute and urgent: Longitudinal studies of IQ test results show that the IQ rise has slowed to almost zero in Norway and Denmark. In the U.K., Flynn himself found the effect to be reversing since the early 1990s. A century of people growing smarter seems to be ending.

This is big. In a century, three points per decade adds up to two standard deviations from the mean. That equates to the difference for mental retardation or for giftedness.

I’ll let you go into more detail in his post. But he finishes with:

The IT revolution might yet save us, because it makes extensive gamification possible. Games require learning, understanding, analyzing and acting in an unprecedented situation, rather than filling in the blank in a familiar text or equation.


Sure you’ve heard about Minecraft all over the place, but if you’re still hesitant to see how it may fit into your curriculum, check out, “1001 Uses for Minecraft in Schools“. (not quite 1,001 but still…) Is your school using Minecraft in school and if so, to what effect?

SimCityEDU looks interesting. Has anyone looked into using this in your school?


And lastly, you may have seen this on Lifehacker today, but if not: Study Shows Playing Video Games Really Can Make Your Brain Bigger

Previous research on whether playing video games can make us smarter has been mixed, but a new study demonstrates a very tangible effect of playing video games: Parts of the brain can get bigger.

In particular, playing Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over two months increased adult volunteers’ brain volume in their right hippocampus, the right prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum. These regions in the brain are responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control, and spatial navigation.

It sure is an exciting time to be in education (as a student, teacher or gamer)!