Possible Course 5 Projects

Throughout COETAIL I have been challenged, in my pedagogy, tech savviness, and in how to make what I’m learning fit into my current job.  At times it has been very frustrating, I asked myself why didn’t I take COETAIL earlier when I was in the classroom. I would read fellow COETAILers posts with envy at what they were able to apply and do with their students. It took a mindshift on my part to find and celebrate the times I could apply my learnings with students (meaning my colleagues and sometimes the actual students in our school).

Coming up with a final project is challenging to me for a few reasons: there is so much I have learned that I want to try it all out, I’m not quite sure the route to take–do I take over a class of students or do I try and diffuse my learning amongst the staff?, and finally what is feasible within our school’s budget and readiness. I’m over ambitious by nature, but through lots of COETAIL reflection I have learned that pushing people or pulling them to where you want them to be isn’t always the best way to get there. I need to have patience and look for little bits of COETAILness I can introduce or fit into the already large amount of things we are asking teachers to do. I’ve learned that a lot of what my application of COETAIL looks like is setting the example for teachers through modeling, pushing the conversations further, and asking probing questions in meetings that cause teachers to reflect and think upon their current practices. 

Photo Credit: Hello World by David
Photo Credit: Hello World by David


Here are two options I have thought about, and I’m not done brainstorming.  I am still fumbling with an idea of a global book club for administrators, but right now it’s still marinating in my brain. Without further ado…


Describe the project: What will your students do?

Students would do Passion Projects (Genius Hour) during their Dynamic Learning class. Students would learn how to blog about their progress, process, presentations, and reflections.  The blog would be a school wide blog so students could comment on other students in different grade levels. At the end of each learning period we would have a celebration in the form of EACTalks. Eventually I would love for our students to connect with other classes around the world or share our EACTalks. Ideally students would collaborate on a passion project with a student from another school like they are doing from a similiar COETAIL project I started in 5th grade.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

Students will learn how to be prosumers, consumers, and digesters of digital literacy.  They would also learn the power of connecting with other learners around the world and creating a positive digital footprint during their research and sharing. The blogging would be a new tool at our school and would empower students to share their learning and comment on other’s’ learning. The EACTalks students prepare will focus on presentation design.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

I want students to take ownership of their learning and understand they have something to contribute to our world. In addition to all the learning objectives for students, I want to model and set an example of ways teachers can integrate technology in an authentic and meaningful way.

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

This combines learning outcomes from each of the courses into a multigrade level project. This will be a challenge to pull off because I am not technically responsible for these classes, so I will have to work closely with the assistants in charge of them. I will need to balance the instruction, management, and leadership at the same time.  I also think this is a great possibility for our school because blogging isn’t utilized and I’m hoping this opens teachers up to the idea of starting class/grade blogs.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

I am not in charge of the classes, so managing them and making sure they are following the unit plan will require me to be in constant communication with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade assistants.

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

The student-driven aspect and it being their choice will be a big shift for the assistants to manage.  We introduced it this year and some of them really struggled with letting students be free to make mistakes and reflecting with students on the process. Also, the presentation design will be a huge shift, the whole Zen approach. In essence, everything really revolves around the shift from “I am the teacher and you will do this project” to “I am a coach in your learning process, how can I help you?”.

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

Honestly, I think the students already have the skills and attitudes that are required for this unit, it will just be about revealing them. On the skills side I predict students will have to learn how to create guiding questions,  search and filter information, find creative commons images for their presentations, and design great presentations.  As far as attitude, I think students will be surprised at how they can connect and learn from others around the world, and I also some students might need help in seeing themselves as the person in charge of their learning.


Describe the project: What will your students do?

I want to create portable Makerspaces for students around the elementary school.  I would want the students involved in the whole process to get the Spaces: brainstorming, fundraising/campaigning, creation of the space, making, and reflecting. Throughout the process students would create videos, PSAs, procedures, and displays about the Makerspaces.

How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

Before COETAIL I read about Makerspaces, but didn’t think it was possible at my school (right now). COETAIL helped me see that pushing my school, myself, and my teachers, and my students is worth it because they will blow my mind. Also, I would really have to rely on my PLN to be creative with the spaces we have available and also with budget. I already got some feedback and resources on the Final Project Feedback doc I created.

What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

I hope to empower students to create, make connections, imagine, problem solve, collaborate, and discover new things about themselves through the Makerspaces. I also hope to transform or cause people to rethink the learning environments in a school.

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

It would stretch my school in its approach to learning and give opportunities to make connections with students in a safe and innovative learning environment. For the project I would pull from all aspects of the course, mainly connectivism, design, PLN, problem based learning, game based learning, and social media.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Money, money, money.  Due to the economic conditions in Brazil our budget is very tight.  I’m not sure this can even happen due to the budget. I plan to fundraise or campaign to the board/parents for funds for the Makerspaces.

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

Valuing all learning and its importance to the whole child, even if it is outside the traditional curricular areas.

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

Students will need to go through the design process, this will require them to track their progress and reflect on their different attempts and failures. In regard to the videos, PSAs, and displays students will need to learn good design principles. Students will need to be very open minded, flexible, collaborative, and reflective.

Flexibility for All

Balance is so important to me, something I try to find in all areas of my life: work and family, health, socializing, educational trends, and of course technology. I struggle with finding and keeping the balance of all these things daily.

Photo by Jim Allen
Photo by Jim Allen


Technology is a wonderful tool that has allowed me to do many things, professionally and personally,  I never could have done without it.  I met 4 of my nieces and nephews in the hospital via Skype, I’ve connected to authors of books I’ve read, I get current basketball scores without having to stay up and watch the game, learn from other educators across the world, reconnect with friends from childhood on FB, and of course I can binge watch my favorite shows thanks to Netflix.  While none of these things are completely necessary, being able to experience them makes me happier and a better person/educator. Could I live without them, of course, but do I want to?  No.  

Flexibility is needed in order for learning, with or without technology, to happen. Looking back on my days as a college student I appreciated the professors that gave me both of these things. When I had the flexibility to make the learning my own and I had the consistent presence of support I knew I could go to.  Pre-technology it was laying under my desk to read the class text or doodling with markers while listening to the lecture. When I was allowed to figure out who I was as a learner I felt more connected to the teacher and therefore was more interested in her class. I’m not sure if that is because teachers like these tend to have more dynamic and engaging classes or I felt obligated to after the flexibility I was given in class, either way it led to me being interested.

We can see how technology has changed our lives for the better, and just because it might distract students doesn’t mean we push it out. Instead, we should embrace it with balance.  When doing my own learning for COETAIL and my Masters courses I needed Facebook breaks to help me refocus, and sometimes through mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed a brilliant thought would hit me and further my learning. Common Sense Media shares about different types of screen time not all being equal and how to try and find the balance of it all.

  • Passive consumption = watching TV, listening to music
  • Interactive consumption  = browsing the internet, gaming
  • Communication = social media, video chatting
  • Content creation = creating digital art and/or music
Generation Y by Margaux-Marguerite Duquesnoy
Generation Y by Margaux-Marguerite Duquesnoy


I don’t appreciate the negative fear mongers out there that infringe on my learning with a computer/device. Just because I am on my device during a meeting (or in class) does not mean I’m avoiding work or entering the friend portal, in fact I may be deepening Rushkoff’s principles of time, place, choice, complexity, scale, and identifying and through my reflection I can make connections to the content, myself, and the world around me. I don’t fully agree with the study against multitasking, but rather see it is a way to get supplemental information whilst the professor or a classmate is sharing.  In Megan’s post she shares her assumptions about professors that banned technology, I couldn’t agree more.  

The most powerful learning experiences I have been a part of had one thing in common…student engagement. It didn’t matter if it was playing Oregon Trail or writing a bill to present to our class Congress, if I was enthusiastic about the learning task I wasn’t distracted by outward things. For me I see technology as a tool, how I use that tool is up to the professor.  They can encourage me to access more information or discourage me to make connections outside of their classroom, I prefer the former.  

Designing the Future

In high school we did an assignment where we wrote a letter to our future selves five years down the road.  While at my parents’ home for spring break I found that letter, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. This week’s prompt made me smile at my lack of fortune telling as a high schooler. However, I’m more confident in my prediction of where education is going. I think it’s pretty safe to say that education will change because of technology.  Technology has changed our world and that is (or should) impact our educational system, teachers’ pedagogy, and school design. As far as myself, I hope that in 5, 10, and even 15 years time I am adapting and evolving with (dare I say before?) all the advances. However, that is a long way away and I know it will require me to be a true cliched “lifelong learner”, but I am confident I will be motivated and dedicated because at my core I believe in technology integration.

Perusing the topics for this week I was immediately drawn to global collaboration, I love giving students the ownership of their learning through experiences and connections with others.  I read information about Flat Connections, Kim’s Step by Step Guide to Global Collaboration and had to stop because I immediately started to miss teaching in the classroom. I took a few hours and researched the move to open source textbooks (like Flipboard) and other future trends. After remembering something from a previous week, I decided to tackle school/classroom design because a few comments on school design from the video on High Tech High.

I read Tricia Friedman’s post, Learning Lives Here, about redesigning classrooms to enhance student learning, as well as comfort level.  Tricia quotes David Jakes post, Words Matter, about design thinking…

If you could identify the single most important factor that is missing in schools, what would it be?

For me, it’s an easy call.


Tricia’s idea for her classroom redesign came from Paula Guinto’s talk Heart to Hashtag at Learning2 in Europe. Paula redesigns her classroom each year with a different themed hashtag.  Her students connected to the theme and her welcoming learning environment to bond together in class and on social media via the hashtags #levelup and #build. I have always loved designing learning spaces that are welcoming and create a risk free environment for students to grow, but had never thought of hashtaging my theme. I understand this isn’t the future of education, but I think it can lead to bigger design thinking about creating purpose driven brick and mortar schools.

In the article ,The Classroom is Obsolete, I read how classroom based schools are outdated and there is a need for change. The article states, “research clearly demonstrates that students and teachers do better when they have variety, flexibility, and comfort in their environment—the very qualities that classrooms lack.” It goes on to say, Each student “constructs” knowledge based on his or her own past experiences. Because of this, the research demands a personalized education model to maximize individual student achievement. Classrooms, on the other hand, are based on the erroneous assumption that efficient delivery of content is the same as effective learning.”

Crown by Andreas Wecker
Crown by Andreas Wecker

I looked up a few interesting school’s that have changed the approach to learning and have built or remodeled a school to fit their needs:

School of Environmental Studies 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC42_q4Yfic  [/youtube]

The School of Environmental Studies is a Project Based Learning and Service to Community school for  11th-12th graders that offers school credits for community contributions.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMv2y1U4U-4  [/youtube]

The High School for Recording Arts aka Hip Hop High

At “Hip Hop High” the education is tailored to students’ interests and needs, and guided by faculty advisors. Advisors guide them through the creative and business process of the recording industry and support their pursuit of music careers.  


A Hip Hop High student’s work

Hellerup School 


Hellerup School’s concept was to make a school that looked and felt like a workplace, it has no classrooms. Students have choice and freedom to move around in learning.
These are just a few ideas of moving toward a purpose built school that supports the philosophy and unique learning of the school.  While this is not super futuristic, I think it is where schools should head.  

Game Based Learning: From Oregon Trail to Mindcraft

Game Based Learning, I went into this week expecting read about students hooked up to virtual reality games and Minecraft building the minds of our students. However, I was surprised that really it is just the modern version of what has been happening since at least the 90s, just modernized.  It has been around since I was in school, does anyone remember Oregon Trail? In elementary school my world was filled with games, our teachers created games for everything and because I’m a competitor I loved it.  When I began teaching in 2006 my students played games (albeit board games) to reinforce content, heck even our math instruction was based on students playing review games.  

When I read A Guide to Game-Based Learning I loved the simple explanations, examples, and all the resources (hello Game Based Learning Wiki!–different from this week’s blog wiki)  that are out there to modernize Game Based Learning.  However it didn’t just focus on digital games, it also shared some ways to bring gaming into your classroom through traditional games. When I taught I loved to do simulations with my class. Interact is an amazing company with simulations across disciplines that my students absolutely loved. The level of engagement and focus was incredible, and still to this day I have students that talk about the colonization of America with me because of their class’ simulation.  I have to admit, even though I feel comfortable with technology the thought of adding gaming into my class intimidated me. I loved that traditional games were included, because in my opinion Game Based Learning is similar to SAMR, not all learning requires a crazy innovative game.

Now, how do we use Game Based Learning to support that “Our schools that aren’t failing: it is our theory of learning that is failing. Once we rethink what it means to learn in a way that is based on passion, imagination, inquiry and questing, it becomes easy to reshape classrooms to those goals.” Gaming (both virtual and in real life) foster all of these things. While I feel more comfortable with IRL (in real life) gaming,  Jane McGonigol’s TED Talk opened my eyes to how people’s emotions, inspirations, and possibilities ebb and flow while playing virtual games.  In addition, it sparked my interest on how to create an environment in real life where students feel they can be as successful as they can in their online gaming. In What Video Games Can Teach Us James Gee stated, “Kids diagnosed with ADHD because they can’t pay attention will play games for 9 straight hours on the computer,” Gee says. “The game focuses attention in a way that school doesn’t.”


My visual notes on Jane McGonigal's TEDTalk
My visual notes on Jane McGonigal’s TEDTalk


I watched countless videos about virtual gaming, and found a brilliant trinket of information, but with so many tabs open I unfortunately closed the one video that this came from.  I’ll set the scene and hope it can make up for my negligent citing of the source.  A panel was discussing why teachers should let/encourage their students to game.  One of the panel members shared about Tony Robins theory that in order to make a permanent change in your life you have to associate a emotion with it. He compared education to gaming; education is not emotional, there is a long time between the feelings of accomplishment (grading) whereas in gaming you experience highs and lows about every 10-15 seconds. It becomes addicting, yet at the same time if you hit a low you know you can bounce back soon.  I thought that was an interesting point related to feedback and motivation.

As I said earlier, just like the SAMR model Game Based Learning depends on matching the right game to your learning objective. So how as educators do we find the correct game to foster learning and reinforce learning.  After thinking about this I came to the conclusion that games can be used for different outcomes.  First, you have your content games, to reinforce the content you’ve already taught or possibly to introduce an upcoming unit.  This would be like EDM games, Kahoot (now available in teams), review games, etc. Second, you have the games that will teach your students all the non-tangibles–creativity, collaboration, imagination, perseverance, etc–hopefully through class content, but not always.  And thirdly, you have the games that will expose students to the problems our world is facing and empower them to think critically, problem solve, and communicate clearly in order to participate in their future. The last two are intertwined, the difference being one is more tied to content and the other not as tied in and possibly more open to higher order thinking.

What now?  Honestly, I am not sure.  I am so intrigued by Game Based Learning, and I am searching for ways to incorporate it into my job. As I stated in earlier courses my school is trying to figure out how to use the Dynamic Learning (DL) class more effectively, and this seems like a great option.  As we head into the end of the year I am keeping it in my mind to find online simulations/games that are age appropriate for students to work through together.  I’m thinking DL could be a mix of Genius Hour (Passion Projects) and Game Based Learning.

I’ve also shared the resources and ideas with my teachers. Just passing the resources along won’t be enough, our time is tight here and the curriculum is full so I think it would behoove of me to sit down with teachers and look for direct links into their class curriculum. I’m on the hunt for Portuguese games/simulations to share, so if anyone has any resources please send them my way.
To conclude I want to share Fun Theory with you, this is an initiative of Volkswagon that solves problems in a fun way. They’re all about “changing human behavior for the better by making it fun to do.” The company is the child of Problem Based Learning and Game Based Learning, this is the direction that education should head.  Check out the winners (fair warning you can spend some time watching all of them!).


Empowerment and Productivity aka Project Based Learning

I dove into Problem Based Learning this week.  As an administrator sometimes I feel like I am constantly solving problems–lots of people come to me with their problems on a daily basis.  I love Problem Based Learning (PBL) and when I was a teacher I did lots of it, but in a new role I am looking at it from a different point of view.


I read lots of articles on PBL, but this report (albeit a bit old) hit all the important parts and gave a good summary of what it is, “Project-based learning is a form of situated learning (Greeno, this volume) and it is based on the constructivist finding that students gain a deeper understanding of material when they actively construct their understanding by working with and using ideas. In project-based learning, students engage in real, meaningful problems that are important to them and that are similar to what scientists, mathematicians, writers, and historians do. A project-based classroom allows students to investigate questions, propose hypotheses and explanations, discuss their ideas, challenge the ideas of others, and try out new ideas. Research has demonstrated that students in project-based learning classrooms get higher scores than students in traditional classrooms (Marx et al., 2004; Rivet & Krajcik, 2004; William & Linn, 2003).”

As I read I kept nodding my head as I read obvious statements such as, “In the 1980s and 1990s, education researchers increasingly realized that when students are bored and unengaged, they are less likely to learn (Blumenfeld et al., 1991)” or when the authors stated that students are learning at superficial levels and rarely get to the conceptual levels. I became frustrated because once again in education we know what we are doing isn’t working and we aren’t changing.

The article went on to say that a PBL environment had the following things:

  1. They start with a driving question, a problem to be solved.
  2. Students explore the driving question by participating in authentic, situated inquiry – processes of problem solving that are central to expert performance in the discipline. As students explore the driving question, they learn and apply important ideas in the discipline.
  3. Students, teachers, and community members engage in collaborative activities to find solutions to the driving question. This mirrors the complex social situation of expert problem solving.
  4. While engaged in the inquiry process, students are scaffolding with learning technologies that help them participate in activities normally beyond their ability.
  5. Students create a set of tangible products that address the driving question. These are shared artifacts, publicly accessible external representations of the class’s learning.

Dewey argued that students would have more personal investment in authentic tasks that emulate what experts do in the real world do, however I would argue if they are authentic meaningful problems that are student created from what they face in their everyday lives.

Another two things the article mentions is that students learn social interaction with others and learning how to collaborate through PBL. In my past experience I would say this is one of the biggest takeaways for students.  Upon their reflections they learn more about themselves as learners, but also as part of a group. It’s almost like the content and concepts seep in naturally without them noticing, but the experiences with others sticks out and is brought to the awareness level.

Rubik's Colour Brokah by formerly_of_devon
Rubik’s Coloured Brokah by formerly_of_devon

Now, how does this impact me and my practice? Rewind to a few months ago Lee Crockett came to my school and spoke on the 21st century literacies, with a particular focus on Solutions and Media fluencies. Our teachers’ minds were blown. Fast forward to this week of COETAIL and my mind kept going back to how I could help teachers being PBL in their classrooms. The link connected and I realized that I could do a couple of things tying back to Lee’s workshops.  

The easiest thing to do would be to do a book study of his book and have teachers start looking for PBL connections and ties into their curriculum.  This being the end of the year is actually a good time to review the curriculum, and maybe I could get some eager teachers in a virtual book club over the summer. If not, I think it would be a great idea to have it begin next school year and continue during our monthly staff meetings.  

The other idea I had was to actually do PBL with my teachers.  As I said before, teachers come in with lots of problems that are important to them.  What if, I harnessed their desire for solutions and we spent a day (we have a week of PD at the end of the year) and gave teachers the opportunity to collaborate and solve their own problems.  My vision is to have a big problem dump session where teachers can identify problems they have or we have as a school.  Then teachers can select the one they want to work on in a group and they get down to it.  The benefits are twofold–teachers are experiencing PBL first hand and problems are getting solved!  It is empowering and productive, two of my favorite things.


A Letter to Myself on SAMR

Dear Megan,

This week of reflection on technology integration was hard for you, you felt frustrated when you reflected on your technology integration according to the SAMR and TPACK model. Sure, as a teacher you felt confident because you knew the content and pedagogical approaches which made finding the right tech tool to take the task/learning up a level felt natural. As a first year administrator you realized you are still finding your footing.  Your day is taken up with tasks that revolve around a computer, but let’s be honest most of it is substitution and augmentation.  

You did find articles on SAMR for educational administrators about file management, staff presentations, community interactions, classroom evaluations, and staff input that were helpful, but what got to you the most was that these articles focused on managerial tasks; not the educational, creative, and passionate stuff you love about education and your job.

You broke your reflection down into three topics: leading by example, supporting teachers, and community. This task made you feel a little better because you really are doing some good “SAM”ing, but as far as redefining administration you aren’t there yet.  

Here are some of the things you came up with: (S=substitution, A=augmentation, M=modification, and R=redefinition)

Lead by Example:


-Google Forms for feedback/reflection (M)

-Today’s Meet (M)  

-Structure of the meeting (less sit and get, more interactive) (M)


-Google Docs you’ve created–teachers can make copy and customize (A)

-Articles and resources you’ve found on Twitter with teachers (A)

-Teachers and students’ brilliant work on Schoology page (A/M)



-CARES student projects–student created videos shared on Schoology  (R)

-cross divisions (A)

-My PLN via Twitter–5th grade DL passion projects, hooking teachers up with others ®



-Share them via Google Drive (A)

-Presentation Zen (S)


Supporting Teachers

Grade Level Meetings

-schedule via Google calendar (A)

-Share minutes via Google Drive (S)

-Teachers compile information prior to meeting via Google Drive (S)



-create and share editable docs (A)

-Data, data, data via Sheets (A)

-Created Google Folders to house live curriculum and student data (A)


Share Resources

-Make “How To” videos for Schoology, PowerSchool, SBG (M)

-Articles (A)

-Apps (Literably,  Seesaw, Shadow Puppet)  (A)



-Google Form for drop ins and sent directly to them (M)

-Student data analysis with Google Sheets (A)


Community Interactions 


-Create informative videos for parents (M)

-Highlight learning with weekly photo posts (M)  

-Disseminate information and ask for feedback (M)  

-Announce parent sessions and important events (A)


Highlight EAC #wearegiants

-Twitter (M)

-Schoology (M)


Parent Sessions

-Interactive (A)

-Infographics for ELL parents (S)


Ask for Input

-Google Forms (M)

-Schoology (M)


The thing that irks you is that you know how powerful technology is as a tool for connecting and pushing people forward in their thinking, but you just can’t figure out how to get it working with where you and your school are now.  But Megan, you need to be patient. When you stepped back you realized how far your school has come in the 4 years since you arrived and then you get excited because that amount of growth is just the beginning.

So Megan, keep doing the substituting and augmenting, keep leading by example and planting little seeds into teachers’ minds, and definitely keep connecting them to other amazing educators around the world. It may take some time, but the seeds will grow, and then although you didn’t implement the redefining moments of learning you did help plant them. As John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions others to dream more, learn more, and do more and become more, you are a leader.”

I know you, and your brain is already thinking of ways to redefine what you do.  Connecting and collaborating with other administrators via #adminchat is a start. Put questions out there, read other administrators’ blogs (like this one), and become a student of great ones you are surrounded by every day.  And Megan, don’t forget purpose and audience, because sometimes you get a little carried away and it’s my job to keep you in check.

May the force be with you,

Your reflective conscience