The Moral of the Story

So this is what it all comes down to; the crux of this course, all the lessons I’ve learned culminating in my last project and the skills I have acquired. Surprisingly I’m a little nostalgic and sad to see this chapter close; as difficult and challenging as I found certain aspects of this course, looking back retrospectively it helped me advance as an educator, a team member and an individual.

To figure out what I achieved throughout the program, find the moral of this story so to speak, I have decided to conduct a personal SWOT analysis, detailing the strengths I have gained, weaknesses that remain, opportunities that are now open to me, and threats that could exist. This will better enable be to both mitigate and leverage my weaknesses and strengths respectively, so that I can continuously improve and enhance my capabilities.

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What it all boils down to is this; COETAIL imbued me with the fundamental skills I need to be a better teacher. It taught me that by applying these skills in my classroom, I can not only advance my own capabilities, but those of my students. If I want to maintain this growth, I must continue to educate and push myself, keep forcing myself outside of my safe comfort zones, and do the same for my students. This is how we can aptly prepare for the future – a future in which technology keeps advancing faster than educators can teach it, a future where our students require the ability to apply new skills everyday in order to contribute to society in a positive way.

My hope is that I can live up to my lofty aspirations, educate my peers on the methods I have acquired throughout this program, and continue to be the best teacher I can be. Thank you COETAIL for letting me be a part of this educational community; it has been a humbling and transformative experience.

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The End…

I honestly cannot believe that this is the final project for COETAIL! I did it! I am very excited to be sharing with you my final project for course 5. Looking back at this course, I thought I would never be able to complete it and creating a 10 minute video seemed impossible. I can finally say that I am extremely proud of myself for accomplishing this project! Seriously, feeling really proud!

I started my project by using my UBD planner on a google doc. It helped me organize all my thoughts and work through the project week by week. It was also nice to be able to share my project with my team in an easy to follow format.

I needed a tool to help me support my students, so I created a checklist for my students to use, to help them stay on track and remember the steps. This was great! It worked really well and my students were able to work independently using the checklists. I highly recommend checklists to be used during tech activities.

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I introduced this project bit by bit to my students. Each week matched the teaching points that I was teaching to the class. This helped me teach students new skills and I was able to assess them easily. If I could change something in this project, I would probably want more time. The 3 week frame worked, but an extra week would have helped. Another issue I faced, is having 5 iPads in the class for 22 students. Having 5 iPads in the class made it a bit difficult because each week’s assignment would be taught the start of the week, and then I had to reteach it everyday to remind my students what they had to do. This is where the checklists helped because I was able to focus on all learners in my class.

I loved working on this project with my students. It was fun, it was something new and different for them to try out. My students started looking forward to Reading class and wanted to get started on their assignments on that day. It was really exciting to see how well my students understood their tasks, and how well they were doing each week. I was surprised by their tech skills and how well they understood the assignments. My students worked independently, they stayed on task, and their final products were amazing. I could not be happier!

Here it is!


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Reflecting back on my COETAIL experience, I was a little surprised to notice how far outside of my own comfort zone I was forced to go. For those of you who know me, this may come as a shock (most of my peers don’t think I have a comfort zone as I tend not to have a filter for my thoughts lol), but the truth is, the community engagement aspect of the course frightened and discomforted me and the reasons for this are as follows: Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 9.43.15 AM

  • What authority/credentials/right do I have to comment on another persons’ work, thoughts and opinions, especially in a public forum? These opinions will last forever in the digital sphere, so care and attention needs to be paid when thinking of tone and wording. These comments reflect who I am and what I think as an individual, and I need to be able to look back and not regret my stance (even if my perspective has evolved/changed since). 
  • As an educator I firmly believe in “teaching by doing” so I need to be particularly aware of the type of engagement and dialogue I am posting. My actions will be imitated by my students, so there is a pressure to be more cognizant of how and what I write. Even though my tone is conversational, informal and friendly, the content needs to be respectful, inclusive and polite.  
  • A main aspect of this course, and the curriculum we strive to teach, is how to be a good corporate citizen, and comments fall into a “grey area” for me. How do I know that something I write as a comment, will not be misconstrued by the reader as something negative? How can I avoid coming off aggressive or conceited or pompous?

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.33.13 AM All the above thoughts jumble my brain when I think about having to post a comment, and then something as simple as leaving my opinion on a blog becomes this overwhelmingly stressful course requirement.

It’s funny, because as I write this reflection, I am acutely aware that this is a really important fear to overcome. As a qualified educator, my opinion SHOULD and DOES matter, especially on the topic of academia. So while I acknowledge my discomfort for community engagement, I understand it’s need, how it can help me learn and grow as a teacher, as well as develop as an individual – someone who knows their thoughts have value, can be of interest and can even make a change.  Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 9.46.47 AM

I tell my students every day to try and do something that scares them, and I guess if I “teach by doing” I have to continue living by the same motto as well. COETAIL has helped me in this regard, and I need to ensure that I can continue to engage in positive dialogue after course completion.

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Once Upon A (Coe)Tail…

I can’t believe that the final course has finally dawned, and to be honest…I’m excited! This COETAIL project gives me the opportunity to not only assess my own growth, but that of my students, and witness the advancement of my own curriculum. I probably never would have integrated an assignment such as this into my classroom had it not been for this course, which has given me the confidence to apply new techniques, and push both my students and myself, enabling greater achievements.  IMG_1973

The students “All About” book project is underway and I could not be more impressed with the caliber of work each child has submitted.  Seeing them use the apps I have assigned, with such ease and comfortability, made me proud and assured that their skills are beyond what is required for them to easily adapt to 1-on-1 iPad usage. I can rest easy knowing that my students will transition into the next grade without any obstacles (phew!).

IMG_7956 It hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies though; every new project, and introduction of a new application into the curriculum, has its set of complications – especially when dealing with 6 year olds (and fighting the rapidly decreasing attention spans of society!). Firstly, I only have access to 5 iPads for my 22 students, so even though I thoroughly taught the students how to use the app, only 5 of them could utilize the software in one lesson. This required a significant amount of re-teaching and modeling. I have found a way to circumvent this problem however (look at Coetails already changing my approach) and developed what has proved to be a very effective checklist (sample below) which allowed me to effectively continue to teach the remaining 17 students, while each set of 5 used the iPads and checklist, which helped guide them, if I was unable to attend to them immediately. The students so far have picked up the app like pros (which has been both a proud and scary moment, as it took me at least twice as long to become half as accustomed to them).  Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 9.15.56 AM

I don’t want to give away too much information just yet….have to make sure I whet your appetites to come back and read the results (think of an “and the Oscar goes to…moment). Needless to say, I feel pretty confident and am very excited to share my final thoughts and the outcomes of this project. Stay tuned folks!


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Course 4: Final Project

I have created a unit for my grade 1 reading class for our upcoming Meeting Characters and Learning Lessons unit. I found a way to integrate technology into my class that can teach students to be independent learners on the iPads, and learn our reading curriculum in a fun and different way.

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

I think this unit is a good possibility for my course 5 project because it will allow students to showcase their learning online. Students enjoy working on technology and have the opportunity to learn how to use the iPads in an educational way. I also will be given the opportunity to incorporate some of the skills I have learned during my COETAIL course.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

My biggest concern about implementing this unit is time and materials. I have split this unit into 3 different parts that will be taught over the next 3 weeks. At AIS-R, the lower elementary school has 5 classroom iPads, where the upper elementary school has 1 to 1 iPads (students bring their own iPad to school). This is going to be challenging because I will have to have 5 students working on the iPad at a time. However, My students have a RazKids day, once a week, where they read their books on the iPad. With this routine already in place, it will be easy to divide the students and have them work on their character projects on the day they are assigned to have the iPad for RazKids. In other words, my students will be working on their character project, rather than reading on RazKids.

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

As a teacher I want my students to be able to explore different ways of learning. I want them to be able to look at technology and not just see it as a fun device but as an educational one too. This will give them the opportunity to explore ways that technology can be linked to our grade 1 curriculum. Students also have a high interest in technology and as a teacher I should be following their lead and interests. I also want my students to be independent learners and this will hopefully accomplish that.

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

This unit will definitely teach my students how to be independent learners. Students will be able to create a final product at the end of the 3 weeks that will be completely self directed. I will have student friendly checklists created so that it can help students monitor themselves, to ensure they do their activity correctly.

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How Devices Can Be Divisive (For The Classroom)

Technology in the classroom has become a hot-button topic on which there appears to be 2 main stances:

  1. It is a useful tool that can enhance, improve and advance education
  2. It is a distraction that should be avoided and regulated as much as possible

As a first grade teacher, my 6-year old students don’t have access to that many technological devices. Their individual development is too primitive to be concerned with what updates they might be missing on Facebook, or which of their friends uploaded a new Snap or Tweet. In this regard, I actually consider myself to be quite fortunate, as I see my fellow teachers struggle with some of the older students that are constantly connected, and cannot be torn from their screens. Vying for their attention can often feel like trying to date someone that has already put you in the “friend zone” – a waste of time and pointless.

Personally, I’m on the fence which it comes to the issue of technology in the classroom. As stated in Would a Laptop for Every Student Help? In Maine it Certainly Did “tech literacy is a must-have 21st Century skill, and all students need it,” with which I absolutely agree. This is further echoed in 23 Things About Classroom Laptops which mentions that teachers “need to find ways to bring [Twitter and Plunk] into the class, not try and ban it.” Successful teaching requires careful integration of technology; this doesn’t mean implementing controls and restrictions, but rather teaching each student how to make devices work for them, at their pace and level. The article goes on to discuss how teaching methods have had to adapt and adjust to these technological advancements; “sitting student’s in a row doesn’t work like it used to. The best place for the teacher to be is online and mobile-learn to multi-task and be prepared to access and work with students.”

Of course this begs the question “how much access for students is too much, to the point where it’s aversive towards the learning process?” My position on this is reflected in 23 Things About Classroom Laptops which is that teachers shouldn’t “try and win the proxy war; overtly policed and blocked networks are counter productive.” It is a simple fact of life that students have smart phones, laptops and tablets; we need to embrace these devices and platforms, and make them part of the educational curriculum rather than trying to control the technology, which is a challenge given that most students are far more tech-adept than their teachers and can often circumvent these control measures. Even 23 Things About Classroom Laptops supports this when it states that “students make great tech experts.” One suggestion within the reading assignments that addresses this challenge is to provide students with ‘tech breaks’ – a short intermission within classes where students are permitted to check their personal devices, respond to messages/comments/posts, and then return their focus to the class – has proven to be an effective strategy. Of course as a first grade teacher, this doesn’t apply as much to my classroom, but I wanted to note it as I believe it to be a worthwhile recommendation.

Within my own classroom, even with students as young as 6 years of age, we have integrated technology into our curriculum. My tech-savvy students use both iPads and ChromeBooks to play online games, take standardised tests, complete and submit projects and partake in ‘fun learning’. The results of implementing laptops and devices within the classroom are discussed in Would a Laptop for Every Student Help? In Maine It Certainly Did; “thanks to innovative laptop-based technology techniques, 50 percent fewer ninth graders in Freeport, Maine now need remedial math.” I have witnessed the benefits of technology within education amongst my own students; benefits that extend beyond the walls of our school. Device-integration enables students to be more social in an increasingly technology-embracing world; it allows them to gain access to a host of otherwise inaccessible information autonomously; and it permits them to manipulate this information to “remix, recreate and construct new audio – to put intrinsic interest to positive use,” as succinctly stated in 23 Things About Classroom Laptops. Another item that the article mentions that resonates strongly with me is the idea of running “parent-orientation nights – get parents onside” with technology and its proper usage and application to ensure that students are getting the most out of the available tools and resources we now have at their fingertips.

In order to minimise the distraction aspect and maximise the use and benefits of devices as an educational tool, I concur with the sentiment in Would a Laptop For Every Student Help? In Maine It Certainly Did that “increasing teacher training and expanding the innovative ways laptops are used in classrooms is key.” While I think the current use of devices within my classroom is sufficient for present needs, I think future requirements will demand greater tech integration, even within the first grade curriculum.

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21st Century Teaching

“How do I see my classroom in 5, 10, 15 years?” This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer, because when I think to 5 years back, when I first started teaching at AISR, I could never have assumed that my classroom and curriculum would be what it is today. Had you asked me 15 years ago, when the internet was still a wondrous notion, what I thought a typical first grade classroom would be like, I would have probably said “the same as it was when I was in first grade.” But how wrong I would have been.

The internet, globalisation, cross-collaboration and the sheer access we have to the world’s vast wealth of knowledge, available at our fingertips, has changed everything. Not just the way we learn, but the way we teach, what we teach and how these lessons are communicated.

The general consensus from the reading assignments this week seems to support the fact that the way we teach today needs a serious overhaul to be able to imbue students, aka. the next generation of workers, with the requisite skills they need to add value and contribute to an ever evolving economy. As stated in The Classroom is Obsolete: Its Time For Something New “classroom-based education lags far behind when measured against its ability to deliver the creative and agile workforce that the 21st century demands.” The same sentiment is echoed in Collaborative Learning For The Digital where it is mentioned that “unfortunately current practices of our educational institutions – and workplaces – are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100+ years.”

We can already witness some educational institutions attempting to overcome this challenge by implementing initiatives that “would not necessarily get rid of classrooms, but instead redesign and refurbish them to operate as ‘learning studios’ and ‘learning suites’ alongside common areas reclaimed from hallways that vastly expand available space and allow better teaching and learning.” (The Classroom Is Obsolete: Its Time for Something New). These ‘learning studio’s’ enable “variety, flexibility, and comfort in their environment” which research has demonstrated improves both teacher and student performance.

I have briefly touched upon the new concept of informal learning above, which I will go into deeper dialogue about in the coming paragraphs. According to A Communique From The Horizon Project Retreat “there is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities and training.” The article goes on to state that “business models across the education ecosystem are changing.” This is very easily seen through the growth of the number of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) and the integration of ‘play’ into the curriculum, as well as more and more academic entities incorporating the flipped classroom concept into their teaching methodology.

I strongly agree with Learners Are People, Not Isolated Test Taking Brains when it is mentioned that “play not only fosters productivity and creativity, but also makes life more meaningful- and it helps learning.” I have seen this in my own classroom, as my students creativity and imagination is heightened when they are left to their own devices and not limited by the constraints of outdated curricula. This is best articulated later on in the same reading which states that “if our ultimate goal is to educate human beings, then we must focus not only on knowledge and information, discipline and surveillance as measured by tests, but also on non-academic pleasures, motivations, skills, and he full array of human engagement that sustains attention and meaning.”

We already have seen the research which proves that standardized testing is perhaps one of the worst ways to determine intellect; that differences should be celebrated rather than censured; that lectures are ineffective without engagement. Laptop-U probably says it best when it claims that “student’s, if all you’re gong to do it lecture them, no longer see any reason to show up to be lectured.” All the information students need for a lecture is readily available through the internet so why should they bother having  the same information regurgitated in the classroom? Class time is better spent assessing how well students have retained the information taught, and evaluating if they can aptly apply this information to solve real world problems.

A further way in which I see the classroom evolving/adapting in the future is through the implementation of peer reviews. Referring back to Collaborative Learning For the Digital Age “every study of learning shows that you learn best by teaching someone else,” and this is something I concur with. The more we integrate the concept of students teaching students, and being a part of the grading process, the more involved and entrenched they become in a topic/subject matter. Not only is involvement increased, but students’ approach and understanding of the topic also adapt, enabling them to move from their own personal opinion on a subject to a position where they can evaluate and assess another students work. I’m going to end my blog post with a very pertinent question obtained from Collaborative Learning For the Digital Ageand that is “if constant public self-presentation and constant public feedback are characteristics of a digital age, why aren’t we rethinking how we evaluate, measures test, assess, and create standards?”

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All Work and No Play Makes Teaching a Dull Job

This week’s assignment made me very excited, as the topic of reverse-learning and gamification is of great interest to me. The only downfall for me is that fact that, as a 1st grade teacher, it is hard for me to implement the concept of reverse-learning (or “flipping my classroom”) as 6 year olds cannot truly grasp complex theories from online tutorials, articles and posts on their own, and this would also require considerable parental involvement – something else I cannot control or guarantee.

I feel like I am getting ahead of myself. I should first define what gamification and reverse-learning are. According to Raising Engagement in E-Learning Through Gamification, the definition is “the use of game mechanics, dynamics and frameworks to promote desired behaviours.” This is different to reverse-learning, which requires teachers to send their students home with links and tutorials to enable them to learn concepts at their own pace, in the comfort of a known environment, making class time more interactive in the sense that school hours become focused on applying the theories that are learned. The benefit of such a technique is clearly stated in Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”; “we know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone – let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms. Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.” I strongly agree with this statement. I have witnessed the benefits myself through my own teaching and instruction.

At AISR, I have developed my own blog (hyperlink to blog) where at the end of each week, I post information on the topics and subject matter that will be taught the following week in my classes. This includes games and videos, YouTube links and articles that enables students and their parents to enhance and improve their skills sets in topics that the need improvement in. There is also an ‘activities’ page that allows parents to print out important information, reading and activities, over and above what the curriculum sets. Feedback received on my teaching blog to-date has been extremely positive, with parents that utilise the tool witnessing an improvement in their child’s academic growth. Again I am incentivised to quote from one of the readings this week called Should You Flip Your Classroom which mentions that “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.” I believe that my blog helps achieve this objective.

I would like to now move onto the topic of gamification, a summary of which I think was well stated in How Games Can Influence Learning; “classes are designed to get the lowest comment denominator engaged, while games are an interactive, ‘lean-forward’ medium in which players can progress at their own pace while trying and failing in a safe environment.” What this results in is helping “students gain motivation towards studying, and because of the positive feedback they get pushed forwards and become more interested and stimulated to learn,” as Raising Engagement in E-Learning Through Gamification observed.

I have integrated a fantastic game into my curriculum called Prodigy – a math game that differentiates problems according to the level and pace of each student. This game is not mandatory but highly encouraged and my students that partake in Prodigy have showcased a much firmer understanding of math concepts than those that have not. Having an account in Prodigy allows me to assign my students specific tasks in areas that need development, while also providing me with a report that demonstrates their mastery of certain skills and highlights their areas for improvement. The tool is incredibly helpful in creating individual lesson plans for each student, in addition to being a platform that all my students adore. The benefits of gamification are clearly shown in The Power of Play in Learning which states that “sessions that put a premium on play were not only more effective at cultivating the targeted skills, but also encouraged a growth mindset.” The article also goes on to mention that “the value of this approach extends beyond the classroom because students begin to develop a self-reliance that enjoys independent experimentation and exploration.”

Play and work do not need to be divided; both are not mutually exclusive ideas, a belief that is hinted at in Q&A with the Authors of New Culture Learning where is it mentioned that “schools today have been insistent on dividing work and play, holding them as opposites…play [should] be seen as a critical part of all learning.” I will continue to integrate as much ‘play’ within my classroom and curriculum as I can, having seen the benefits that such a technique brings. I will end this diatribe with a quote that is stated best in The Power of Play in Learning, “the best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative – in a word; playful.”


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It’s My Problem and I’ll Try If I Want To

For this week’s assignment, after reviewing the reading materials and thinking about Problem-Based Learning, the first thought that came into my mind was a quote;

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

This is how I perceive PBL to be; enabling students to apply the knowledge that they learn in ways that will benefit them in the real-world. Before going into my diatribe about PBL, I would first like to define it. According to Wikipedia, PBL “involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active explorations of real-world challenges and problems.” What this basically states is that instead of lecturing, students must practically apply their knowledge to a problem or challenge that is posed.

I am fortunate that AISR supports PBL as much as possible throughout its curriculum. In particular, for first grade, we follow the FOSS program – a science program that states a certain scientific question, for example “What are the properties of a solid?” and then requires students to explore various answers, through group discussions and collaborative work, to reach an answer. What I have witnessed from applying this approach to our science classes is that students tend to be far more engaged, must learn to work together in teams, and have better cognitive skills. As mentioned in Wikipedia “PBL refocuses education on the student, not the curriculum…which rewards intangible assets such as drive, passion, creativity, empathy and resiliency.”

The only pitfall that I find in PBL is the limited application of this methodology throughout our curriculum. Topics such as history, math, reading and writing cannot really be student-led and utilise this framework for teaching purposes. I would be interested to explore how other schools have managed to integrate PBL across these subject matters to see how I might be able to do the same within my own classroom.

PBL has a great number of benefits including “a greater depth of understanding of concepts, broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity and improved writing skills.” Visual learning is a key element of retention and PBL allows for students to perceive, engage with and interact with concepts in a tangible format, thereby learning by doing.

Thats not to say that there aren’t disadvantages to this technique, in particular the economic problem of the “free rider”, that Wikipedia called the “social loafer.” Any team based activity runs the risk of having one or two members ride off the work of other team members, without contributing themselves. Additionally, given that the outcome of any PBL task is a solution, assessing results can be a challenge as it is based on “subjective rubrics.” It is hard to assess a process, which in this case is actually more important than the outcome.

Regardless of the pitfalls, I agree with Introduction to Project Based Learning that”PBL is a rigorous, relevant and engaging instructional model that supports authentic inquiry and autonomous learning for students.” I have seen my students advance and enhance their “self-mastery and contribution to the community” through PBL, working together to create positive outcomes that they otherwise may not have been able to achieve working solo.


Image Credit: Zulama


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I’m a firm believer that technology is advancing at a rate beyond our own evolution; we seem to be caught up in a never ending game of “keeping up with the Joneses”. That is why when faced with the question of how I practice technology integration within my own curriculum, I find myself at a disadvantage, as I don’t believe we can ever reach the “Redefinition” phase of the SAMR model. How can we when we are constantly adapting to new technologies each year, without ever fully realizing the potential of the ones we move on from?

Image :  Wikimedia Commons


Having said that, I also firmly believe that technological integration is a vital part of education in our day and age. As is mentioned in Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many, “technology will help students acquire the skills they need to survive in a complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy.”

When assessing my own ability to integrate technology into my classroom, according to What Is Successful Technology IntegrationI would classify myself at the “comfortable” level. What this essentially means is that “technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. Students are comfortable with a variety of tools and often use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.” Thats pretty impressive considering I teach first graders!!

Presently AIS-R provides me with 5 iPads to teach 22 children technology skills. While this is a great start, it makes holistic integration challenging, as each child has limited access to the tool. Despite this fact, my students are still able to engage with technology in the classroom on a daily basis, however I believe that we are in the “Augmentation Phase” where we utilize technology in core subjects such as math and reading, however there is still significant room for improvement.

One area where I do have to say AIS-R excels is with the appointment of a technology facilitator – our very on Mr. SeanCreating A Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration highlights the importance such a coach; “due to the rapid pace of change with technology, teacher’s varying comfort levels with technology, frequent turnover in international schools and classroom teachers already extensive list of responsibilities, the majority of teachers could benefit from the support of a technology facilitator or coach.” Sean comes to my classroom bi-monthly to help advance their tech know-how by teaching the curriculum through technology. For example, we combine the use of multiple apps – “appsmash” – to create one product like a poster, video book etc. If these lessons were increased to once a week, I believe we could reach the “Modification” level on the SAMR scale.

As a bit of a techno-geek, I enjoy the use of technology within my classroom, and assessing the reaction of my students, they do too. While I believe that we are sufficiently imbuing them with enough tech-skills, I will always think that there is room for improvement. But alas, this is the never ending cycle of “keeping up with the Joneses” and I’m up for the challenge :).

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