Contextual Connections

Contextual Connections

I love using images in my classroom to facilitate discussion.  I have found in many cases centering a discussion around an image can be just as fruitful as centering a discussion around a complex reading.  According to Presentation Zen, “…they [students] are also more likely to remember your content if your visuals are unique, powerful, and of the highest quality.”  While most of the time I embed images within presentations to further facilitate discussion or make connections to content, I wanted to try to find an image that I can incorporate within a reflective framework to allow the students to understand the context of class content.

In my grade 11 class this week, I introduced Langston Hughes.  Being that very few of my students have been to the United States, let alone understand the complex racial history, it is important to spend a good chunk of class time discussing the context of Hughes’ work.  Since most of the themes have a strong contextual connection to Hughes himself and the experiences of black Americans, I divided the students into groups and jigsawed the contextual information with the expectations that students prepare presentations to share with the rest of the class.  We covered everything from slavery in the United States, the Great Migration, the Jim Crow Laws, de facto vs de jure segregation, to the Harlem Renaissance.

The two areas where students always ask the most questions are during presentations on Jim Crow Laws as well as discussions based on de facto vs de jure segregation.  While most students assume that the Great Migration happened because the South was evil and the North was paradise, they are shocked to learn that segregation and racism were systematic issues all around the United States and continue to remain that way even today.  Which leads to the image I will use to further facilitate this discussion:

Photo Credit: Light Brigading via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Light Brigading via Compfight cc

After reading and analyzing the poem Merry-Go-Round, I will use this image to facilitate conversation on Jim Crow in the time of Langston Hughes, and how it influenced his experience as a black American.  This image should serve to segue the conversation to contemporary life in 2016 United States.   Not only will this image allow my students to make cross cultural, cross generational connections, but it will allow them to cement their idea of Jim Crow, and the role it had/has on society.  This understanding will bring them closer to the context of Langston Hughes and make his themes all the more real.  John Medina, of Brain Rules states, “We are incredible at remembering pictures.  Hear a piece of information, and three days later you will remember 10% of it, add a picture, and you’ll remember 65%.”  By engaging my students visual literacy skills with this picture, not only will they come closer to making cross cultural connections, but they will remember the importance of Hughes’ themes come IOC time in May.

Facilitating these important visual literacy skills are vital for our students overall growth.

Extreme Makeover: COETAIL Blog Edition

Extreme Makeover: COETAIL Blog Edition

At the end of Course two, I made a goal for myself that by the end of course three, I would revamp my blog to make it much more visually appealing.  As coincidence would have it, when I logged on at the start of Course 3, this was an option for week one’s blog post.  Without further ado, let’s transform this blog:

As you can see, this blog is not the most visually appealing.  The theme chosen is very plain, the images do not appear in any sort of visually stimulating or organized way, and the colors are very drab and not overly inviting.  I would like to think of myself as a simple guy, and typically when looking at content I am much more enticed by words than flashy images or bright colors.  My least favorite task within teaching is decorating the bulletin board outside of my classroom.  With that said, even I, when looking at the above screenshot recognize that something could be done to improve the overall readability of my blog.

Let the makeover begin.

When looking over the readings, I was incredibly drawn by the article “Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design”, and it proved to be an invaluable tool while previewing many different themes and customizable options.  My first step to redesigning my COETAIL blog was to decide which features of my blog were the most important to me, and then test corresponding themes to maximize my potential within these features.  In Course two, I spent a lot of time looking at creative commons images to create a visual connection with the content of my blog post.  With this in mind, I wanted to find a theme that supported my use of images in a clean way, without looking clunky or cumbersome on the page.

What I came up with:

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 11.42.22 AM


Having never created a blog, or played with different themes before, what may look to you like minor changes, was in fact quite the undertaking.  While I feel like my new look blog still holds some of the same simplicity of my earlier blog, it utilizes the images that correspond with each post in a clean and clear way.  The new version does a better job of utilizing color to catch attention, even though it is not in your face or flashy.  My favorite feature of my new theme for my blog is the alignment of the blog itself.  I feel the spacing and overall organization of past posts lends itself to a clean user-friendly experience.

Is the blog perfect?  Far from it.  There is still work to be done with old posts (particularly final projects) as they are formatted size wise for a different theme.  I would also like to explore the options of a collapsed menu so that every blog post does not show up on the front page leading to endless scrolling.  I was also tinkering with the menu bar at the top to try and figure out how to incorporate past courses as a drop down menu, but it appears this theme cannot include more menu bars.  Overall this experience was a great first step towards understanding visual literacy and design elements, and I look forward to more integration with my current classes.

Course 2 Final Project – Course Outline

Course 2 Final Project – Course Outline

The final project for Course 2 was a very exciting opportunity on multiple fronts.  Firstly, it was exciting to engage in the content discussed throughout the course related to digital citizenship.  It was equally exciting to share my group’s understanding of course content through a course outline.  Lastly, it was truly and enjoyable experience to collaborate with Blair and Abby to get the project done.  With three busy schedules it is always touch and go when collaborating, but Blair and Abby truly made this an enjoyable experience.

When we first began planning, our initial focus was going to be to create a responsible use agreement for students and parents.  While this was an exciting option, as we moved through the course we felt that we could best demonstrate our understanding through the creation of a course outline for a digital citizenship course.

The Course Outline

The first question we came across for our hypothetical course was related to grade level and overall purpose of the course.  Since our course would be taught in a school with a 1 to 1 or BYOD program, we decided it would be best to place the course either at the sixth grade or ninth grade level, as the students are moving to a new division.  At the end of the day, we decided that grade six would be the best place for this course, as this is the first year in most secondary schools.  With the grade level decided, we discussed the purpose, and came to the conclusion that our digital citizenship course would allow students the platform to explore ideas related to digital citizenship such as security, cyber-bullying, digital footprint, information literacy and more.  The course would run over the span of a semester and would serve as the foundation to students effectively using their devices properly in every other course they take.  This introduction would allow students to leave the course with a strong understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen, and how they can effectively use their device to learn and grow as individuals.

Photo Credit: dougbelshaw via Compfight cc

As we were creating our course outline, the most important feature to the course is that the students are using technology to learn about technology.  As a semester long assessment, students are to create a Google Site with which they will post all of their work.  Students will have access to each other’s Google Site, so they will be able to create an online community of which they can practice and model all of the important elements of digital citizenship that they learn in the course.  Throughout the course, students will create PSA’s, conduct research, create and film a skit, among other technologically based activities.

When deciding on the topics to address in our semester long course, we found Common Sense Education to be a very valuable resource.  We merged some of the ideas that were presented in this website, but our overall objective was to provide as comprehensive an understanding as possible of what it means to be a digital citizen.

Application to My Classroom

When working on the course, the continual thought that continued to pop into my head was “how could this help my students?”  Although the final course that we decided upon was for grade six students, and I teach grade eleven and twelve, the skills and topics we discuss would set the students up for success throughout their education.  While many of the topics are always relevant for students, such as internet security and internet safety, my students would find particular relevance in topics such as their digital footprint and information literacy.  Students are concerned with their digital footprint and how they are reflected online when applying for universities, and students deal with information literacy with much more frequency as research based projects and tasks become the norm in the older grades.  If these skills were taught to my students at a younger age, they would feel much more confident applying to universities knowing they have a really cool digital tattoo.  Students would also be able to grapple with using the internet as a tool for research with ease, transferring skills from one discipline to another.  Overall, this course could serve as a strong foundation for students, in which teachers can build upon and reference to reinforce these ideas in their own classes.

Empowering the Next Generation

Empowering the Next Generation

As educators, our main goal is to empower our students.  We strive to teach students the importance and value of knowledge to empower them as learners.  We work daily to empower students to be successful in the next stage of their life.  Since technology is such a vital part of success for our students now and in the future, it only makes sense that we as teachers should work to empower them to use technology to grow.  When considering empowering students with technology use, there are three main areas to which we can utilize technology to empower our students to do great things in the world.

Photo Credit: akunamatata via Compfight cc

  1. To Discover – The first important skill teachers must impart on their students is research skills.  Many times, significant problems in the world go unnoticed, but creating a generation of learners who actively seek out, discover, and engage information naturally makes the world a better place.  A world full of critical thinkers naturally improves the living conditions for everyone, and this can start in the classroom with research skills.  Although we may feel as though students already have this skill set, we are gravely mistaken.  According to Bergson-Michelson, “Students who have not been taught the skills to conduct good research will invariably come up short.”  We must fight ignorance in the world by empowering students to discover through explicit practice and modeling of research skills.
  2. To Create – Technology can be can be used in the classroom to empower students to create products or come up with solutions.  One natural connection in the classroom would be to incorporate technology in project based learning units.  By having students create a product to demonstrate their learning, they are able to clearly see how this impacts the world around them.  Students are able to inquire and solve problems.  Technology can support project based learning to allow the students to create a final product in a way that excites them and inspires inquiry.  For example, in an English classroom, teachers could require students to write book reviews as opposed to a book report, and can have the students create wikis that can then be used to guide younger students (or future classes) when making a selection about what book is best for them.  As this database grows, students feel empowered by the impact on their community, and the final product improves the future learning environment in your classroom.
  3. To Collaborate – Collaboration is an essential part of life, and it comes naturally with technology.  Programs now such as Google Apps for Education, Edmodo, and even Turnitn allow students the ability to collaborate.  These collaboration skills emphasize many important skills that students need to make the world a better place, including sharing perspectives, ability to tackle more complex problems, and developing stronger communication skills.  By allowing students to collaborate using technology, we are taking learning beyond the classroom, and allowing students the ability to make a positive impact on the world.

Photo Credit: mrpetersononline via Compfight cc

If teachers work to empower students in these areas, not only will students be prepared for the next level in their education, but they will also be prepared to make a serious difference in the world.  Since all of these skills work to bring the world closer together, students will gain a heightened since of empathy.  This heightened sense of empathy, recognition of the significance of their learning, and important collaborative skills allow the students to make a significant impact on the world around them.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Digital Citizen

It Takes a Village to Raise a Digital Citizen

Photo Credit: Chris Guillebeau via Compfight cc

Everyone reading this knows that digital citizenship is very important.  The skills required to become a digital citizen is not a set of skills that are just picked up, rather they must be taught and modeled to ensure our students are entering the world prepared.  According to PBS Frontline, “95% of U.S. teens use the internet.”  Considering this is a massive number, we can clearly say that due to the widespread use of the internet, we need to ensure we are talking about it.  Issues related to cyber-bullying and sexting are ever-present, so it is well past the time entire communities are discussing what it means to be a digital citizen.  In my mind, it all starts with empathy, and is addressed via a wide number of stakeholders.  Here are my ideas on who should be teaching digital citizenship to our students.  I think the key is that these important messages are not simply coming from one group, but rather all groups.

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

  1. Digital Citizenship Course – For my course 2 project, my group is collaborating on a syllabus for a digital citizenship course.  When Blair first mentioned this as a possibility for our project, it immediately resonated with me.  I have never taught in a school that had an entire course devoted to digital citizenship.  I have seen elements of tech courses incorporate these ideas, but never a full semester on digital citizenship alone.  I think this would be best addressed at two levels, entering middle school (grade 6) and entering high school (grade 9).  If schools operate a 1 to 1 or BYOD program, schools could use this course as a necessary component of being able to use technology.
  2. Advisory/Pastoral Care Programs – Another great opportunity to teach students about the skills, dangers, and benefits of the digital world would be advisory or other similar pastoral care programs.  Since many of these programs in schools focus on creating responsible citizenship, these programs could also work to create responsible digital citizens.  If our goal is to educate the whole child, and prepare them for the world, they do not want to be stuck with an ugly digital tattoo out of sheer ignorance.
  3. Throughout Normal Classes – In my mind, this is arguably the most important channel for students to receive these messages about digital citizenship.  When it is left to one teacher, it is easy to have students fall through the cracks and miss out on this important message.  It should be stressed that every teacher is having discussions with students about what it means to be a digital citizen.  As tech integration in classrooms increases, and students are making positive digital tattoos through their class work and learning experiences, teachers should both discuss and model what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  This can come in the form of anything from mini-lessons, to units related to publishing work online.
  4. Parents – It is not enough to leave this message up to academic institutions.  Parents need to play a role in educating their children about what acceptable use of the internet looks like.  Schools can help in this however, by having Tech Integration Specialists give presentations at parent meetings discussing what acceptable use looks like, and how parents can further send the message to children.  These messages must be sent starting with young students, which can lead to a gradual release of censorship and monitoring up until the point of graduation.

Photo Credit: Wondermonkey2k via Compfight cc

In conclusion, it is vital that many members of the students’ lives are taking an active role in fostering positive digital citizenship in our students.  If the message is simply coming from one group of people in the child’s life, it is most likely to be ignored.  If students hear this message repeated, they are more likely to take note.  While issues such as cyber-bullying and sexting are surely complicated issues that not one person has the answers to, we need to start fostering digital citizenship with empathy and awareness.  It is no longer an issue that can be ignored, and all stakeholders need to step up to ensure the next generation is getting the message.  It truly takes a village to raise a digital citizen.

The Wild West of Copyright Laws

The Wild West of Copyright Laws

As a teacher in Kuwait, sometimes it feels as though I teach in the wild west of copyright laws.  Since, as a country, many international copyright guidelines are ignored, it is not a surprise whatsoever that students are not familiar with with the many guidelines that surround copyright laws.  Not only are copyright laws plentiful, but they are often confusing, ambiguous, and vague.  It is quite telling I feel that the best resource I found to explain copyright laws is this copyright flowchart, which in and of itself is dense and largely vague.  With this complexity in mind, what chance do my students stand to understand this intricate system of rules?  How further, do my students stand a chance to adhere to these rules when everywhere they turn they are being broken, and there are no punishments for breaking them?  It seems as though often times, teaching students to respect copyright law is an uphill battle.

The first main drawback to students adhering to copyright law is is the complexity of the laws.  When teachers are often left questioning what is able to be used, and what isn’t, there is no way it is clear to the students what can be used, and what cannot.  To remedy this situation, it is important for all teachers to be aware of copyright law and model best practice for the students.  For students to be able to pick up on the importance of these rules, it will take more than one teacher, but students participating in conversations about this frequently throughout their day.  I have to admit, I myself need to go a lot further in this regard.  Outside of discussing illegal downloading of materials such as torrents, I have not fostered an environment that has discussed this in my classroom.  It is about time I start.

The second major drawback to student understanding of copyright laws is the lack of understanding of creative commons.  Again, this is a topic that must be discussed in classrooms.  Before starting COETAIL, I had heard of creative commons, but did not really understand the concept or importance.  My personal ignorance arose from my education, in the same way our students ignorance is arising from theirs.  It is important that we as educators stop this cycle by simply explaining to students what creative commons is, and how it applies to their work.  There are numerous activities within my classroom such as presentations in which the students take pictures from the internet to use in their project.  This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the importance and ease of creative commons.  I think the main selling point here is the general convince of it.  By demonstrating how to use a site such as Compfight, students can easily and conveniently adhere to copyright laws by utilizing creative common images.

Photo Credit: kire via Compfight cc

The last major factor that stops students from adhering to copyright laws is the vague understanding society has of fair use.  Most schools place a strong emphasis on plagiarism and academic malpractice (as they should), but largely ignore copyright laws on images or songs.  This, in my opinion, sends the wrong message to students, and they do not see the importance of it.  Within the Diploma Program, students are reminded constantly that if they fail to cite their work, they will not receive their diploma.  If this same emphasis was placed on adhering to copyright laws related to digital media on the internet, the students would adhere to it.

In conclusion, it is clear that the complexity behind copyright laws and creative commons is not just an issue for students, but teachers as well.  As Monica Hesse states, “misunderstandings about copyright and failure to properly adhere to copyright law are not limited to young students…”  I do not think that there are any easy or clear answers to solve this problem, other than both education for both the teachers and students.  We are no longer in a position as a society to treat the internet as the wild west.



Photo Credit: future.agenda via Compfight cc

When considering online privacy, I have a very mixed opinion.  While part of me yearns for the pre-social media times where there was a much higher rate of privacy, the other part of me believes that intelligent and responsible social media (and internet) usage does not lend to major concerns of privacy.  The idealist in me wants to believe that if myself or my students use the internet to truthfully represent ourselves in a responsible way, no major privacy or security concerns will arise.  When reading the article “The Myth of Online Predators”, I was pleasantly surprised that many of our concerns about the dangers of online predators was largely overblown by the media and skewed statistics.  According to the article, “…the danger online is teeny-tiny…” and “the notion that predators are using the internet as an L.L. Bean catalog, that’s not whats happening.”  While this news would definitely go a long ways to assure many parents of their childrens’ online presence and participation these facts need to be presented far more frequently.

Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

With this in mind however, personal privacy is becoming less and less common, especially when considering default settings on social media such as Facebook.  In the article “The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook”, the author explores the growing changes of the default Facebook profile from 2005 to 2010.  The shocking findings of this study show that from the year 2005 to 2010, the standard Facebook profile displayed more and more information, to more and more people.  It is somewhat comforting to know that these settings can be changed away from the default setting, in many cases, individuals are currently posting more information to Facebook than they did in 2005.  According to Amanda Lenhart from the Pew Research Center, in 2012 seventy one percent of teens posted information to their Facebook page relating to the school they attended and the city they lived in.  This is a major growth from 2006, where only forty-nine and sixty-one percent posted similar information.  Although there are less concerns about predators stalking our students on the internet, our students are disclosing more and more information about themselves online.


Personally, I very infrequently use social media platforms.  The last picture I added to my Facebook account was two years ago.  I enjoy the privacy of having a very restricted profile, and simply lurking without much involvement.  As an international teacher, it is great to be connected to people to see what old friends are eating for lunch halfway around the world, but it is not something that I use to consistently update friends and family.  Most of my communication is done either via Facebook messenger or via e-mail.  In my opinion, I think it is important to strike a healthy balance with technology, and in some aspects, we are very close to my view of a dystopian world with the overuse and over reliance on social media.  While it is impossible to argue the merits of a connected world (especially for our students) we need to be having discussions about privacy to ensure students are not posting a lot of information about themselves.  While the internet is a wonderful place for connections, we need to teach our students that connections should come on their terms, and they do not need to put themselves out there for all to see.  Students (and ourselves for that matter) need to remember the digital tattoo they are inking, and should be encouraged to remember that when it comes to personal information, often times less is more.


A Stronger Impression Than Footprints in the Sand

A Stronger Impression Than Footprints in the Sand

The internet is exploding about information related to one’s digital footprint.  A simple Google search leads to scores of information about your digital footprint, and how it can hurt you.  Up until this week’s COETAIL readings, I have had a very strong, albeit almost fearful perspective on one’s digital footprint.  I can strongly remember sitting in my final course in university, discussing marketability to future employers, and the negative impact the internet can have on our ability to get hired.  It wasn’t until I perused this week’s readings to find quite an opposite message, that our digital footprints can significantly aid us the same way it can hurt us.  This fresh perspective is why “The power of a positive digital footprint for students” resonated with me to such a great extent.  Although the article has a student centered focus, if I am to model this to my students, I really need to step up my digital footprint.  Putting aside my apathy and general disdain for social media (more on this on a later post) will become a new goal of mine.

Photo Credit: gorgeoux via Compfight cc

Whenever I think of the term “digital footprint“, I immediately get the image of footprints in the sand, waiting to be washed away.  I don’t think that this terminology really places enough emphasis on the permanence of our online personas.  I think the following video by Juan Enriquez really sums up how we should be viewing our online presence:

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The idea of a digital tattoo really emphasizes the permanence of our trail on the internet.  We need to ensure that we ARE making tattoos, but that they ARE tattoos we are proud of.  Tattoos that our future employers can be proud of.

When considering the student perspective, William Ferriter made an interesting observation in “Digitally Speaking / Positive Digital Footprints” when he states, “While schools are teaching students to worry about the consequences of being found online, Richardson is worried about kids who can’t be found online.”  This is the exact opposite viewpoint than what I received in my education, but this is the direction that I feel we should be going in as educators.  They get the message of fear everywhere, but rarely do they get the message of encouragement and purpose that they can be helped from an online presence.  Even just last year the DP HL Language and Literature students had a text on the world exam related to the idea of being hindered when future employers look at their online identity.  I think we need to take a full turn on this idea and stress the importance of possessing a strong online persona as opposed to none at all.

Photo Credit: Bart van de Biezen via Compfight cc

I think there are multiple ways that us educators can ensure that the students have a positive online presence.  First, especially at the higher levels, teachers should encourage students to engage in educational dialogue on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  There should be an emphasis on driving students to take the love of learning instilled into the classroom onto social media.  As discussed in “The power of a positive digital footprint for students” this would ensure that students are demonstrating strong communication skills, as well as an indication of the students personality.  From this point, teachers should consider posting student work online in the form of an educational portfolio.  An educational portfolio can fill a Google search from a prospective employer or admissions officer and demonstrate academic achievement, ability, and thought.

In conclusion, it is not enough for use as educators to simply scare students into not wanting to use the internet in fear of negative repercussions, but we should encourage our students to actively engage with the internet in meaningful ways to give the world a strong impression of who they are.  After all, good tattoos last just as long as bad ones.


Course 1 Final Project – Advertising and Persuasive Language

Course 1 Final Project – Advertising and Persuasive Language

I am really, really excited about posting this Course 1 Final Project.  My excitement not only comes from the fact that I took a lot from this first course, but also because my students did so well with the formatives throughout the unit.  This created a solid foundation that allowed my students authentic opportunities to practice the key skill of analysis and Language and Literature so hinges upon.  I completed the UbD unit plan weeks ago, and it worked out perfectly that my unit ended one hour ago so that I will be able to show off some student work from my unit!

Credit: Flickr - Wrote - Creative Commons:

Credit: Flickr – Wrote – Creative Commons:

When I began thinking about this Course 1 project, I decided to alter a unit that I taught last year in my DP 2 HL English Language and Literature course on Part 2: Language and Mass Communication.  Within this semester long unit, we study three mini-units, and for this project I chose to adapt advertising and persuasive language.  This is a relatively short unit, but due to the time of the year this unit takes place, it straddles many holidays and therefore is a four week unit.  The focus of the unit is on advertising and persuasive language, specifically how language is used to convey messages within advertisements.

When I was considering what features of my unit I should adapt for this year, I decided that it would be best to add formative assessments that not only utilize higher order thinking skills and integrate technology, but also that give my students practice for upcoming IB assessments (the Written Task and the FOA).  I run a paperless classroom, so every day the students are utilizing technology.  As a result, I wanted to focus my final project on having the students use technology to create something not possible without technology.

Throughout Course 1, three main ideas really stuck with me that I wanted to explore:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Incorporation of digital tools to promote creativity
  3. Connectivism

With these topics in mind, I set out to explore these ideas through the creation of the second formative assessment, the FOA advertising campaign.  For this assessment, students worked in groups of four to create an advertising campaign advertising either a fictional or made up product.  In class, we explored various mediums of advertisements, and the students were encouraged to create a campaign utilizing different types of advertisements.  Upon completion of this formative task, students created commercials, radio advertisements, as well as print advertisements.  Students were forced to collaborate outside of class, and use technology to foster understanding of how advertisements worked.  To implement the ideas of connectivism, I looked to have the students take knowledge from various places (in class content, real-world experience, and research) and make connections to see how that network of information can work together to create a new product.

Before discussing the students’ work to meet these goals, here is my unit plan:


Student Work:

As the students were working through this unit, I came to the realization that students love the opportunity to create using their devices.  Not only were the formative submissions engaging and insightful, they also connected strongly to the learning outcomes and forced the students to think about the creation of texts in a different way.

Formative Written Task:

For the first formative assessment, students were able to choose from four types of text (blog, vlog, brochure, or diary entry) to demonstrate understanding of the four big ideas of media.

Here is an example of a student’s blog entry, courtesy of Monica.

As you can see, not only is she engaging course content in a creative way, she demonstrates a strong understanding of conventions of a blog, a valuable learning experience for Paper 1.

Below is a Vlog from a student, courtesy of Sarah:

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She utilizes technology to create a product that would be otherwise impossible without.  She engages the content of the course, sends a strong message, and utilizes technology to make connections.

Formative FOA:

During the advertising campaign presentations, I received three main text types.  Here is an example of print advertisements from two different groups:

Courtesy of Bandar, Faisal, Nasser, and Omar

Courtesy of Bandar, Faisal, Nasser, and Omar

Courtesy of Shaida, Wedad, Serena, and Jasper

Courtesy of Shaida, Wedad, Serena, and Jasper

Both groups utilized the power of Photoshop to create text advertisements to demonstrate learning.

Here is an example of a radio advertisement completed courtesy of Fajer, Edith, Aisha, and Lulu:


Lastly, there were two commercials created by Bandar, Omar, Nasser, and Faisal:

YouTube Preview Image


YouTube Preview Image

Final Impressions:

Overall, the unit was a stunning success.  Students were able to effectively utilize technology to create products that not only aligned with the learning goals, but allowed them to consider a perspective they would not have otherwise considered.  As I move forward, I am going to take what I learned throughout this unit, and attempt to integrate more authentic learning experiences that would not be possible without the integration of technology.  By helping the students create and utilize a network of ideas, they will be prepared to face the world as 21st century citizens.

Pitfalls to Global Collaboration Projects

Pitfalls to Global Collaboration Projects


Photo Credit: Alice Popkorn -

Photo Credit: Alice Popkorn -

Over the past week, I have been spending my evenings scouring the internet in search of global collaboration ideas I can use in my classroom.  Needless to say, there are a lot of ideas out there.  There are numerous sites that list ideas for different departments such as “The Teacher’s Guide to International Collaboration on the Internet”, Ideas for a Global Classroom Wiki, and Flat Connections.  After finding a number of ideas for the English classroom, I am left quite discouraged for a couple of reasons.

  1. Age Limits – While many of the ideas presented on these websites state that they cater to students from age 8-18, I find that this is hardly the case.  Ideas such as Grandmother and Me, from the US Department of Education, while claiming to reach students 6-19, would merely get laughs and cursory looks from my students should I introduce it into my DP 2 class.  While they may enjoy the opportunity to take a day or two off to appease my collaborative whims, there is no way projects such as this could challenge them in the ways they need to be challenged.
  2. Multicultural Experiences – A large focus of many global collaboration projects are the multicultural aspects of having students collaborate with those around the world.  While this is definitely a vital experience for students, this is an experience that is largely inherent in the international school community.  Students collaborate, empathize and understand each other on a daily basis.
  3. Valuable Learning Experiences- My last concern with Global Collaborative Projects leave me with the question – do Global Collaborative Projects take learning beyond what I am already able to do with technology in my classroom?  I think many activities that are out there DO benefit students of a certain age group, but little is written about advanced courses that are already crunched for time.  When I was thinking about these projects, I immediately thought of the SAMR model, and I am not sure that Global Collaborative Projects redefine what can already be done in individual classrooms.  Although the benefits of interdisciplinary units are evident to concept based learning, everyone has experienced the logistical nightmare of planning an IDU.  When the stakes are higher for DP students already bogged down with so much on their plate, I am not sure Global Collaboration Units will redefine learning in a way that cannot already be planned in the classroom.

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Now, although I am left discouraged from this exploration, I am not negative.  I do think that it is possible to create global collaboration units that will work for my students, but what is largely out there on the internet at the moment is quite gimmicky, and is meant to check global collaboration boxes, not necessarily to deepen understanding.  I did find Kim Cofino’s Step by Step Guide to Global Collaboration helpful should I create a new collaborative project.  I would love to explore this possibility with other DP English or TOK teachers, but the main question I am left with is – can global collaborative projects allow my students to meet rigorous learning objectives that cannot be met in an already global and diverse classroom?  To this, I am still conflicted.