Inquiry, PBL and Service Learning Coming Soon to AISC!

This weeks assignment on Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning and Challenge Based Learning comes right after researching and writing a report for the Technology Enhanced Differentiation Task Force that I co-chair with my fellow tech integrator Carlina.  In the report we had to make recommendations about how the school should go forward in the area of technology to personalize student learning.  Our research led us to recommend prototyping inquiry-based learning in select classrooms.  Here is our report if you are interested.

I’m pretty sure that our recommendations are going to end up in an action plan for next year and that makes me super excited because I’ve always wanted to try out project-based learning.

I’ve been hearing and reading about project-based learning for a while but it took me a while to really understand it fully.  At ASB Unplugged this year,  I attended a wonderful workshop led by Suzie Boss about asking meaningful driving questions to use for PBL projects.  It’s neat reading some of her articles that are assigned for course 4 since I’ve met her.

In her article Perfecting with Practice: Project-Based Teaching she says “Inquiry is at the heart of project learning, and PL veterans are deliberate about sparking student curiosity before a project actually begins.”  This curiosity and the power of the driving question I feel is key to starting a successful project-based learning project.  Coming up with meaningful open-ended questions is much more difficult than I thought.  During her workshop we got to work on formulating questions and it’s something I definitely need more practice with.

Solving real world problems is also at the core of project based learning.   Suzie writes “The project approach challenges students to think for themselves, conduct research, solve authentic problems, meet deadlines, and manage much of their own learning.”  These are all skills that students needs when they leave school and join the workforce.  Solving real problems makes the learning so much more meaningful.  PBL projects can really make a difference.

Next year our school will embark on service learning and I know project-based learning ties into this initiative perfectly.  There are so many chances for students to make a real difference in Chennai.  It makes me really excited to think of all the possibilities.


Amazing Idea for Language Labs

Today Ross came to me with a tech question and we came up with a wonderful idea to use an app in a new way for education.  He was wondering if there were any cool iPad apps that simulate an old school language lab.   Not knowing exactly what a language lab was, I asked for some clarification.

Langenstein, Russischunterricht für Lehrlinge


When he was in school learning a foreign language, his teacher had a system where students would record themselves with headphones on.  While the students all recorded and listened to themselves, the teacher could monitor and respond to their recordings by plugging into their feed.  It was usually done with cassettes back in the day.  How could we recreate this useful language tool with iPads or mobile devices.

As Ross and I started to think of solutions, the What’s App app came to mind.  My family uses What’s App to send texts, pictures, videos and even sound clips.  Students could use this to record their voice, and Ross could reply to them using a voice recording or a text.  As I was digging deeper into this idea, I realized that What’s App is only available on smartphones, not iPads or iPods.  This solution wouldn’t work.  Ross wanted to use the iPads or iPods.

Priya was in the office and overheard the whole conversation Ross and I were having.  She turned around and said “Why don’t you use the Wiber App,” in her very pretty Indian accent.  The “Viber” app is just like What’s App  but it even has more functionality, it’s free and it works on the iPad and iPod. I checked out their website and they even have a desktop version.   This would work perfectly.  Thank-you Priya and Ross for this amazing idea.

Now we just need to try it out with students.  I can’t wait to share this with all our EAL and Foreign Language teachers.  This could also be used for group discussions on any topic or for students to ask questions on homework.  The possibilities are endless.

Trying out the Viber App on the iPad was very disappointing;  it doesn’t have all the cool features that the phone version .  Students would need to have a phone number to set it up.  I think most of our middle schoolers have phones but maybe this would not be a good fit for everyone.

I started looking at other apps that might work for Ross’s idea.  And AudioBoo I think would be a good pick; however, Ross would be unable to leave a voice comment.  I think we should see how many of his students have smartphones.  Maybe a work around would be for students that don’t have a phone to just email him a recording made in quicktime on their laptop.

Final Project Brainstorm

I wanted to play around with creating an RSA style video so I made a very short one about my final project brainstorming.  This type of video creation is really popular with students right now.  Though my video is not all that, it was super easy to make in iMovie.


Here is an very interesting RSAnimate video I found about a study done on what motivates us.  It’s way better than my quick project.


So now to get motivated on creating this Digital Citizenship unit.  Actually it’ll be more like a Digital Citizenship curriculum for our school based on the tech standards that we came up with this year.  I plan to put it into Atlas Rubicon.  I also want to incorporate lessons and plans that I will use in next year’s Tech Boot Camp.  Tech boot camp is a two day technology orientation that all middle schoolers go through at the beginning of the year.  Last year was my first year doing this and it went really well.  It’s a great way for school’s that are 1-1 to get kids prepared to use their device efficiently and responsibly.

Evolution and Technology Implantation

Technology Implantation

When I start thinking back about the technological developments over my lifetime and how it has changed the world, education and everyday life, the idea of using technology as an implant doesn’t seem so far fetched.  I guess when most people think of technology being implanted something like this comes to mind.

Terminator photo credit:

But is there much difference when your smart phone or laptop becomes so much a part of you that you are never without it.

Implanted Technology photo credit:


When I was reading Jeff Utech’s article about embedding technology into the classroom instead of integrating it, it made me think about the evolution of technology in the classroom and what that will look like in another ten years.

This is already starting to happen with Google glass. Let’s see if it takes off..


My Evolution of Technology Integration…

I remember the first time I looked something up on the Internet.  I was 15 and I searched Yahoo for a recipe for a project I was doing on Africa.  I remember going to the library where there was one computer connected to the dial up Internet.  Things have come so far in such a short time.

Computer circa 1995
Photo Credit :

When I started teaching, I remember having 2 computers in my classroom that were only used for CD ROM programs and typing up word documents.  That soon changed as email became the primary way to communicate with collegues and parents.

When I started teaching computers in Hawaii to 3-6th grade in 2005, I was one of the Specials.  Students got to come to my lab 2 times a month for a 45 min computer lessons.  We covered word processing, presentations, image editing and some movie making.  It was very difficult to get anything completed because I really didnt get to see the students that often.  Now these types of lessons are really out of date as students already have these skills or can figure them out by themselves.  Unfortunately, some school’s still have this model of teaching basic computer skills in a computer lab setting.

Computer Lab Photo Credit:


The integration model seems to be a la mode right now in education; and I’m glad because I love my job as an integrator and I think it’s the best model for right now.  The ultimate goal of any integrator would be to work yourself out of the job and create a community of teachers that view themselves also as technology teachers.  Though, I agree with Kim Cofino when she writes;

Although I would agree that this is also my ultimate goal, I am conscious of the speed with which technology changes, and I’m not sure that we will ever get to the point where schools will no longer need some sort of pedagogical support in the technology field

This also means job security for me until technology becomes so embedded or implanted that my services will become obsolete.

Integration to Implantation

So what is the best way to facilitate this change?  What is the best system for integration and ultimately embedding and implanting technology into the curriculum?  I really enjoyed reading Kim’s article Creating a Culture of Collaboration through Technology Integration. It explained not only why technology integrators are important but what collaboration between teachers and the technology integrator should look like.

photo credit :


Getting this collaboration cycle started at AISC is one of my goals for technology integration in the middle school.  Though I am attending team meetings and working with some teachers that request my help, I feel many teachers do not know how to use my services in the best way.  Many times I am contacted by a teacher mid project to troubleshoot what went wrong.  Also, there is no time for an additional integration meeting in our teacher’s schedules.  What I would like to work on is identifying where teachers and technology projects fall into on the cycle so I can collaborate with teachers to plan lessons and activities that go beyond substitution, augmentation and modification.

I also really liked Kim’s article “We are all Technology Teachers” because just like ESL strategies, all teachers need to start teaching with technology.  Through the differentiated tech PD we offer every week at AISC,  I think we can start transforming our teachers into technology teachers.  We still have a long way to go until technology is truely embedded into our curriculum and school life.  We have an even longer way to go when I think about  technology implatation.  But I think it  has already started with schools going toward 1-1 and BYOT programs.  

The technology that has become essential in our daily lives is becoming essential in the classroom. Keeping up with the evolution of technology is a challenge for every learning institution and workplace.  Technology integration and true collaboration can help make this process of change less challenging.  It’s exciting, and somewhat scary to contemplate the future… when our students take their place in the workforce ten to fifteen years from now.   I believe the changes we see then in how technology is embedded and implanted in us will be even more amazing then the evolution of technology we have seen in the last 20 years.  



The Mama Tech Minute

Last week I got a request from one of my teachers to do a little movie each week showcasing ideas and tools for tech integration.  I guess she really liked the Digital Storytelling tool movie I did.  😉  So I’ve decided to embark on a Vlog project, the Mama Tech Minute.  I meet with grade level teams and we talk about what they are doing in the classroom and I try to give them ideas.  Most of the time I have to do a litle research and scour the web for ideas and tools.  I’ll be putting these ideas into this Vlog.  Wish me luck.  I’m not the best on doing anything every week, but I will try my best to keep this going.  Who knows, maybe I will get some Vlog followers.

Here is the first one and a link to my Middle School Weekly Updates.


So I’m going to use this post for the reflection on Week 3 in Course Four of COETAIL about the Present (Flipped Classrooms).  The Mama Tech Minute idea is basically the flipped classroom idea but for tech integration purposes.  It’s really hard for me to get around to everyone of my teachers to give them tips and advice.  Sending them a clip saves me so much time and it allows my teachers to watch it at the convenience.

I need to find more time to do this, more time to sit down and get all my cool app and integration ideas into a clip.