Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Learning How to Focus

Take a look at the photo below. What does it tell you? What do you notice?

It tells me that with close to 60 tabs open, this student was so distracted by the extension that he/she wasted a significant amount of time being off task. The worrying thing is that if this student continues these patterns of behaviour, he/she will find it increasingly hard to focus on learning. Let's face it - learning is our business!

But how much direct teaching goes into helping students learn how to focus? I'm willing to wager not enough. We need to be fair to our students: we can't expect them to pick it up through osmosis. As teachers, part of our role is to teach into how to focus, not merely that one should focus.

Telling students to delete distracting elements such as non-educational chrome extensions is not enough; students need to understand the reasons behind the request - why is it unsuitable for learning?

After all, they're not doing this maliciously - they have a genuine curiosity and love making their devices feel like their own. The trouble is, many of their choices have a negative impact on their ability to stay on track and focused.

Helping students to identify what helps their learning and what hinders their learning is a great place to start.

Chrome Extensions
Recently, we had a number of students install a Chrome Extension called Tabby Cat. It's a cute, harmless-looking extension that shows a different cat every time you open a new tab. You can interact with it, and sometimes you will get little gifts to play with. Sounds ok, right?

I asked the class to tell me what they liked about this Tabby Cat. Predictably, the responses were as follows:
"It's cute!"
"It's fun because you get toys to play with if you keep opening new tabs."
"Every new tab is different."
"I want to see what is going to happen next and if I will get any gifts"

Helping students understand that each new picture of a cat is essentially rewarding distracting behaviour, can help them make better choices.

One recommendation is to replace Tabby Cat with the Chrome Extension Momentum, which gives one new picture a day, together with the question: What is your main focus for today? This personal reminder prompts students that they have a task to complete, with a beautiful photo that doesn't change every tab. 

Vision and Movement
"Vision trumps all other senses,"  according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules. Approximately half of the brain's resources are dedicated to processing visuals. Our brains are attuned to noticing colour and movement, so moving backgrounds, animated gifs and scrolling advertisements draw our attention.

In a G3 class recently, we did an audit of our visual noise. Common things we saw were:
  • Animated snow falling on Gmail backgrounds (or similar)
  • Desktop backgrounds where the picture changes every 5 seconds
  • Highly pixelated images used as desktop backgrounds
In pairs, students helped each other make good decisions to remove distracting movement - that was the easy part. The hard part was making good decisions about their desktop backgrounds. Saying goodbye to their favourite sports star or cartoon character was more of a challenge for some.

We discussed quality resolution of images being more pleasing to the eye. We also introduced the idea of colour association. Green is a calming colour (think, Green Rooms backstage in theatres) and blue can help with productivity. Encouraging students to choose a green/blue-based image that is high quality helped them see they still had some choice and the option of personalisation, but not at the expense of their focus.

Number of Desktops
Students using school laptops that don't go home, really have no need for multiple desktops. Deleting extra desktops will help to remove the temptation to swipe between apps.

Reader View (Safari) or Readability (Chrome Extension) 
When looking at websites, particularly those which have articles, using Reader View in Safari or  the Chrome Extension Readability can help strip away those annoying advertisements and other extraneous and distracting material, allowing us to focus primarily on the text and images in the article. Check out the tutorial below:

Effective Digital Reading using Safari Reader View from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

Tidying your "Room" 
When in a rush, it's easy to leave your desktop background as a cluttered disaster, always thinking, "I'll clean it up later." Many of our student's desktops look like this (not unlike my teenage bedroom):

A secondary-click (right-click, or 2-finger tap) > Clean up by > Kind, helps organise files into groups of the same type. See below:

Once organised by kind, it's easy to trash all the screenshots and/or arrange files into folders.

We recommend moving files/folders to Google Drive or Documents on a Mac (depending on file type) rather than keep things on the desktop, so as to make startup as smooth as possible. Aesthetically, it's also more pleasing!

These suggestions are aimed at helping empower our younger students to make better choices by being well informed about distracting elements on their laptop. If you are interested in specific apps and Chrome Extensions to take managing distractions one step further (blocking specific sites etc), you may wish to check out our recent Parenting in the Digital Age resources.

Do you have any other great tips for managing distractions in primary? We welcome your ideas!

When is a conversation worth capturing?

How often do we preserve learning today in order to revisit it tomorrow?

Podcasting is a perfect medium for capturing conversations.  This week, Ms. Radford asked me to work with small groups from her FIB Global Perspectives course.  

Students were grappling with these five moral dilemmas.

As the class continues to learn about fostering perspectives, unpacking biases, and being more open-minded, their conversation will be perfect fodder for a future thought-meal. This is precisely the reason we podcastified their thoughts.  You can listen to their conversations here:

Do you have a conversation you would want to curate? See a DLC for support.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Digital Bytes - 28th November, 2016

Coding apps available on iPads

We already have a number of apps available to support coding on our iPads.
Starting with Scratch Jr and Daisy the Dinosaur on Infant iPads and then Hopscotch there is something for everyone. If your iPads are updated to iOS 10, you can use Swift Playgrounds which is great for grades 3-5.
Unplugged Activities

You don’t need to be on a device to learn the fundamentals of coding. Code.org has a whole section of unplugged activities.

They also have a mix of unplugged and computer based activities for 4-6 year olds like Move it, Move it and Plant a seed.
There are also loads of age appropriate activities for grade 1 or older. For students in grade 3 or older, there are two options available called course 3 and course 4.

Pana is an early years educator, an Apple Distinguished Educator, a Book Creator Ambassador and an accomplished speaker and presenter.
She in an expert in supporting teachers to integrate coding into their classroom and has initiatives like Kids Kode Exchange, using Ozbots, animal habitat robots, and many more. She does an amazing job sharing what she is doing so others can follow along.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Share the story of your field trip

Wish you had more time to share the story of your field trip?

Reserve a DLC to work with your students on podcastifying their journey, learning, and a-ha moments.  Learn about the FIB's most recent work in Bintan, and how they have learned and been inspired by their partnership with The Island Foundation in this episode of podcast UWCLearn:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Parenting in the Digital Age - The Conversation Continues

Being the first group of people to parent the iPad generation certainly is an adventure.

On the one hand, we are amazed by their capabilities to navigate between applications, create movies, build websites and FaceTime their grandparents. On the other hand, we may feel anxious about buzzwords like 'screentime', 'game-addiction', 'distractions' and 'cyber bullying.'

Keep in mind that advances in technology have helped families in numerous ways. Here are some of our favourites:
  • Communication - We can communicate quickly and easily with people around the globe via messages, email, FaceTime, FaceBook and instant messaging. In our international school setting, this is a huge benefit.
  • Efficiency and Organisation - GPS has changed the nature of travel. We can find any address easily, even if we haven't been there before. We can use apps to organise our shopping list, to sell our used goods, and let's not forget do our banking.
  • Learning - Now we can teach ourselves anything with the powers of YouTube, Pinterest and Google combined! Lost the rules to your board game? No problem! Need to change a tyre? Can do! Learning can be 24-7.
  • Entertainment - It's only in the last few years that Netflix came into being! Developments in movie and video distribution, the gaming industry and the explosion of apps means there is a little something for everyone when it comes to entertainment.
  • Medical - At the consumer end of the scale, fitness monitoring is now built into many devices, and made it easier to be aware of the need to keep exercising regularly. 
We are, however, realistic about the challenges facing parents too. We have put together a resource that has information, articles, and apps around common pressure points for parents. We have tried to provide a balanced perspective around some of these key issues so that you as parents can find an approach or strategy that best fits your parenting style.

We encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Inspired by the Key Jar, we have put together a list of questions that might help you begin some conversations with your child around some of these issues. Perhaps print them both off and mix them in together?

Common Sense Media has a lot of resources around parent concerns, so that is also a great source of information.

At the end of the day, each family is different, and you need to find the right combination of solutions to challenges that works for you. We hope these resources are a step in the right direction.

Please let us know any other resources you think might be useful, and we will do our best to add them.

Sowing ideas one post at a time

abbyladybug Pomegranate Seeds via Flickr abbyladybug
Pomegranate Seeds
via Flickr

How can we use blogs as fertile fields for ideation?

I do believe that my thinking helps to push that of others.  Sometimes in the way they agree, and sometimes when people disagree.  Opinions and ideas are often formed in what people read and how they connect to it.- George Couros
I've been blogging for almost seven years now.  I've abandoned blogs, started fresh in new spaces, and devoutly followed in the steps of other bloggers.  If you are looking for reasons why students should blog, click here.  If you want to be convinced that you the educator should be blogging, click here or here. This post will focus on the applications for blogging once you've started.  This post might help you revamp your blog, or it might provide you with a few new approaches to learning in the great wide open.  Before we sample that menu, I'd invite you to listen to what some of my former students and colleagues had to say about blogging (just 5 months into the process):

You have all the innovation you need right there in your room" John Spencer (full video here)

1. Map out your menu

Be sure to include options for a wide variety of thinkers.  Here is a sample menu for an English class:
Made with Padlet

 Here's a sample menu for a Global Perspective's course:

Made with Padlet

2. Be adaptable:

Remember that we are teaching learners how to engage with a hyper-connected world (more on that here).

Remember that posts are containers. Sometimes my posts contain podcasts. Sometimes they curate tweets. Veer off script, test, trial, experiment.

3. Start and continue conversations:

Connected learning is about linking ideas, and seeing our community as one that values bridges.  A good post will connect us back to learning as well as connect us forward to applications, inquiry, or others.  Posts will formulate questions, and invite more learning in.

Here's a sample comment a 9th grade student left on a 10th grade student's blogpost:


4. Embrace the chaos:

"Failure counts as done. So do mistakes," says The Done Manifesto. Posts can be lists of questions, a curation of post it notes, or a single image looking for someone to 'see, think, wonderfy' it. "Human beings are collectors," says Austin Kleon in this talk, "...an artist's job is to collect things."  Use the blog as a means to preserve ideas, half-formed, partially-formed, fully formed.   As I type, I'm doing just that.  This post is an example of imperfection.  When I click 'publish,' I will share it with my PLN on Twitter and ask for help.

5. Commenting is an art:

If we learn to see ourselves all as 'idea coaches,' and to remember that each comment left on a post is an opportunity to encourage, support, or tease thinking out, we need to make the time to learn how to go about commenting a little bit better.  The art of commenting is every bit as important as the art of blogging. Have a look at this comment left by a 9th grader on this post:

While you may want to develop your own commenting protocols (here's mine), a good simple guide is to have students think over these 'thinking moves,' as a provocation for commenting.

Thinking Moves for Blog commenting - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Has this post planted a seed in your idea garden? 

If you'd like to chat more with a DLC about blogging, just ask.

CrossPosted from Kindling for the Campfire

Monday, 21 November 2016

Digital Bytes - 21st November, 2016


Instructables is a great site for seeing what people are making and sharing what you have made.
It doesn’t matter what you want to make, a cake, a cardboard robot or anything in between, you can share your process on the site.
There are also challenges which you can take a part in if you want.
Lance Makes

This website is a great source of projects and ideas for making things.
The website includes lesson plans and video and can be a great starting point or just used for inspiration.
You’ll find hydraulic judo robots, marble roller coasters, paper rockets and more.
5 Minutes For Fun
Shaun Kirkwood, who recently keynoted at the iPad Conference, advocates that teachers should take 5 minutes out of their day to do something fun with their students. This can be a mini project, game, creating something, drawing, etc. The possibilities are endless! There are ideas everywhere - feel free to make up your own. Put a picture on twitter and add the #5mins4fun hashtag.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Reflection rebranded?

What can we do to repackage the concept of reflection for our students and ourselves?

"Reflection isn't a single thing, a box to check in some elliptical cycle of learning. It's as much a matter of self-awareness, humility, and affection as it is of timing, sequence, and procedure." (Read full Edutopia post here)

Educators have been asking students to engage with reflection for decades.  The formal role of reflection can be seen across the Diploma Programme. As we work towards motivating independence, inquiry, and risk-taking in our student body, we also work towards better approaches of reflection.  

Could podcasting allow us access to collaborative reflection?

This week I sat down with six members of Initiative for Peace in order to test that notion.

"Initiative for Peace (IfP) is an action-based programme that offers UWCSEA students the opportunity to actively promote international understanding and reconciliation in areas of conflict. Since 2001, the IfP has empowered young people from Kashmir, Timor Leste and Sri Lanka to fulfill their potential as agents of change.
UWCSEA students and supporting staff supervisors spend a year planning these conferences, doing everything from sending applications out and selecting participants, to planning the conference programme and activities, to finding speakers and raising funds. They then facilitate and run the conferences, with the support of UWCSEA staff."

Enjoy our curated conversation and find out whether or not we can capture our awareness, analysis and application through this medium:

If you would like a DLC to help you podcastify reflection, just ask.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Podcasting as a provocation for EEs?

With the EE carousels around the corner, what can we do to help prepare students?

This week I sat down with Georgina and her IBDP Psychology students. Georgina arranged for small groups of her students to meet with me in seven minute rotations. The result of those short chats is the episode of Podcast UWCLearn featured below.  Could this be used as a pre-carousel conversation starter?  

If you would like to curate something similar for your subject to share as 'pre-EE bait,' let me know and we can set something up before the carousels kick off.

Documentation Using Technology

"Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before." 
- Loris Malaguzzi 
Inspired by the work of Reggio Emilia, UWCSEA East infant teachers have been exploring documentation to make learning and thinking visible. The role of the teacher in this process is to observe the students carefully, look for those significant moments, and capture images/videos together with examples of student voice.

This documentation is brought to their teaching teams so they can interpret it, explore options for next steps for the students involved, and make connections to the curriculum where relevant.

We had the opportunity to present to the infant teachers about ways technology can help support the documentation process. As you can imagine, technology is a natural fit for this sort of process, so we had lots to share.

Our presentation is below. We would love to hear your ideas about ways technology can enhance the documentation process. Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Podcasting as a tool of reflection for students and teachers

Can we podcast for better understanding of our teaching and learning practices?

This week  Grade 10 Enterprise teachers were kind enough to invite me in to see first hand what our young innovators are up to.  Episode three of Podcast UWCLearn attempts to capture some of their process and unpack what it means in the greater context of our school's mission and values.

If you would like to have a DLC help curate a podcast to be used later on for reflection, or as a means to keep your parent community informed, please schedule a chat soon.

I'm also happy to help department teams curate conversations.  Last but not least, if you want your students to do the podcasting, I'm happy to run an in class session to walk them through my ten step process.

Enjoy episode three:

Visual Note-taking: High School Applications

I read the last post about visual note-taking...but I'm not sure it would work in a high school classroom...

This post is for you.

Thank you to one of our Tech Mentor's: Georgina, for walking us through her first trials of sketchnotes:

If you are interested in support with these techniques, contact a DLC for a subject-specific workshop.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Digital Bytes - 14th November, 2016

7 Video Writing Prompts for Young Authors

Edutopia’s 5 minute film festival is a collection of writing prompts in the form of videos. There are a range of different examples to choose from, and using video as a prompt may just spark the creativity in our more visual learners to produce something beyond their usual capabilities. Either way, it’s nice to mix it up a little, so why not check out these 7 video writing prompts for young authors.
How to Transform your Classroom with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is one of the many ways technology can help learning in the classroom be more engaging. Our own G1 teacher Mary Newbigin is experimenting with it, so make sure you ask her about it! Meanwhile, here is a great overview about Transforming your Classroom with Augmented Reality.
Hour of Code

The Hour of Code is coming up, and you might want to beat the crowds by getting started with your students today. At code.org, you can find activities suitable for pre-readers, all the way up to high school students. There is a little something for everyone.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

#teacherbookclub roundup for November

Has Twitter become a virtual staff room for teachers everywhere?

#teacherbookclub is a monthly online discussion of books relevant to today's educator.  Past guest authors have been Bill and Ochan Powell,  George Couros, Angela Maiers, and John Spencer.

This weekend #teacherbookclub discussed a multi-touch free book focused on visual note taking.  This book was co-authored by a group of Apple Distinguished Educators (including Dover's Nicki Hambleton). You can still download Sketchnoting for Teaching and Learning by

What does a 'Twitter' book club discussion look like?

In the week's leading up to the chat, the questions are shared in advanced and participants have time to consider resources and answers they'd like to share.  This month's questions are here:

#teacherbookclub - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

What can I expect to learn from lurking or participating?

Here is the recap of tweets shared in this month's hour of #teacherbookclub.
If you'd like to join next month's online forum, please see a DLC to learn more.
For a guide to hosting your own Twitter chat, click here.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Friendly Friday: November 11th

Grade 9 students made our mission and values visible...in just ten minutes

Can visual note-taking preserve learning? Can we design learning experiences which students can return to for exam prep or reflection?


Visual note taking is not just about the notes.  It is often about the conversation learners need to have in order to generate the notes.  How do we capture that?

Here's an example of two of my former students annotating their visual note guide for preparing for an internal assessment:

Can visual note-taking be social? Can this allow students to collaborate in meaningful ways?

Absolutely.  Here's a quick look at 'visual note murals':

Can visual note-taking be used as a provocation for new units?

Have a look at what grade 9 Global Perspectives students did in Georgina's class for an introduction to Popular Culture:

Can visual note-taking improve results and help foster focus and well being?

Schedule a meeting with a DLC and ask for help facilitating it in a lesson to find out.
Ask a DLC to workshop with your team/department and try it out during a meeting.
Start with this recourse courtesy of Rob Dimeo who kindly gave us permission to use it in a recent PSE workshop.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

What if we podcastified our PD?

How do we make our learning audible?

This past weekend, the Dover Campus hosted an annual iPad conference (see  via Twitter for more).

In the second episode of 'Podcast UWCLearn' Keri-Lee and Dave reflect on their learning experiences and offer their thoughts on where to next.

This post hosts that episode with two agendas:

1. Learn more about the iPad conference and think about ways to follow up with Keri-Lee or Dave.

2. Think about using Podcast UWCLearn as a way to follow up on your PD experiences this year. If you are interested in asking a coach to guide you through that conversation, we are happy to do so. If you have a learning experience you want 'podcastified,' please let a DLC know and we will schedule the chat. Could this be a better way to share our learning with the broader community?

Featured in this episode are:

Pana Asavavatana


The link to her teddy bear project is here.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Digital Bytes 7th November 2016

The iPad Conference over the weekend was an action-packed 2 days of fun and learning. We have decided to make this edition of the Digital Bytes have an iPad focus. Enjoy!

Visual Thinking

Two great apps we love for visual thinking are Adobe Capture & Adobe Illustrator Draw (both free). Create illustrations out of your photos, or draw over the top of a picture to create beautiful images, or use a combination of text and images to create visual notes. Remember to sign up for a class account and have your students log in with that as they are under 13.
Nicki Hambleton’s Precon, Learning & Thinking out Loud, had loads of resources for visual note-taking & visual thinking routines we urge you to explore!
Fantastic Maths Apps

Make sure you have a look at some of the great math apps we have available on our iPads. Have a look at Number pieces which is a base ten blocks app, Number line, and Fractions. The amazing thing is that they are available online as well.
Touchcast app

Touchcast is a fantastic green screen app with so many possibilities.

One of the coolest features is that you can put a YouTube video in the background of your video. You can also annotate videos and webpages.