Final Project

So it is the end of my COETAIL journey and below you will find the video explaining the final project. The project ran over a 6 week period and was very successful. I am sure that I will be completing many other projects like it future. At the core of the project was student directed learning. I set up blank documents for the children to contribute to and the children then decided what to add and where to research on the web. The children enjoyed the freedom of the project and learned a great deal about search and how to present ideas successfully.

More information about HAPARA can be found here.



Course 4 Final Project Post

The  idea I’m considering for my Course 5 unit of work is:

– A collaborative research project using Google Docs and Hapara

When my Year 4 children return from the Christmas holiday we will be beginning a new unit of work based around human habitats. They will be learning about how different human habitats can be. Using Google docs, drawings and presentations the children could research about one type of human habitats then present to the year group so that all the children have access to the information and learning about each different human habitat.

The wonderful thing about this different way of delivering this unit would be the way students can work collaboratively on different research projects and then share that learning at the end. Each group of students would be required to research one area each week on a shared Google doc. At home they would then find images that could be used in a presentation.

Each Google Doc, Presentation and Drawing would be shared and managed using Hapara. It is the perfect tool for monitoring children as they build research projects and blog posts about it. An essential part of the unit would be building the presentation and the children learning the skills of public speaking based around a presentation that supports the speaker and not simply gives the information to the audience. Children could present to parents and also record a narration so that the presentations can be uploaded and saved for future.

The one problem is the reliance on technology. If the internet connection is unavailable then there is no backup as the while unit is based around the research and how it is collected, analysed and presented through Google drive. Fingers crossed the connection remains!

Problems – Everyone Has Them & Now I want Them!

Problem Based Learning is nothing really new. Providing children with a relevant context to their learning inspires and engages them fully. Problem based learning takes this further and allows learners to direct and navigate their learning whilst all the while working towards a shared outcome/solution. Allowing children to tackle problems like these gives opportunities for unexpected learning and a joy of learning to flourish. PBL is not easy. Children I have no doubt will find it challenging and fun but the real challenge is faced by educators. Planning and preparing a PBL unit of work is both tricky and daunting. As teachers we often try to control every element of the classroom and allowing children to direct their own learning is a frightening thing. There is also the danger that too much freedom leads to children getting lost in the task and not reaching the desired outcome. Assessment is also tricky. If 12 children have all directed themselves down differing avenues and learnt different things what mark should they be given? If the learning is different the common thread is the skills that are used to get there. Children would need to be taught the skills of logical thinking, problem solving and using tech to support this. Technology to support PBL is essential. Whereas in the past a teacher could present children with a problem that they would then have planned and resourced using fictional yet realistic data today teachers have access to real world data and sources. Skype in the classroom can link students with working professionals in their field, blogs give up to date information and opinions on what is happening now and YouTube can provide some excellent insight also. All that is required is an excellent inquiry and skills based curriculum that has brave and open minded teachers to deliver it.     Image from

Connectivism – A Place My Students Will Be


Not so many years ago, when I began my student life, the only way to access learning was to go to school and complete the course in the classroom. Now the choices of online courses are truly overwhelming. Some provide credited qualifications while others may just be a way to improve a hobby. This theme in education is only going to develop further. I see the majority of universities of the future combining online course elements into many of their modules so that professors with expertise in their fields from other universities across the globe can deepen learning and understanding.

Is this really relevant for my class of Year 4 children? In many ways yes and in others no. My children need to come to my daily lessons to learn the initial stages of literacy and more importantly begin to interact and manage an online profile. This is done by making those initial links with other learners in nearby classes or year groups. Working on online collaborative projects with other students is in my opinion the perfect way to start online learning and connectivism. It gives the children an initial foray into learning online and is also a very safe and secure way too.

Once links have been made between classes, the next logical progression is to do this between schools. This, although easy to consider and say, is not always easy and in my experience does not happen very often. It relies on children and like minded teachers and parents to want to connect. Unfortunately, school policy, a fear of new ways of learning and the monster that is the ‘Internet’ have not helped this happen. Hopefully this will change in the very near future.



Reverse To Go Fwd – A nice theory but….

The idea of a flip classroom is an intriguing one. Learners digest the content away from the teacher then demonstrate/further their understanding. It lowers the importance of knowledge of content and raises the importance of creation/adaptation of knowledge through understanding. I can see a place for it with older children and skilled learners but, as much as I hate to be a traditional and conservative, I have to say I will employing the flip classroom method rarely if ever in my teaching. For a number of very important reasons.

Firstly, younger leaners are just coming to grips with reading critically and questioning the information presented to them. This is a delicate process that I believe needs a teacher on hand to support the learning and nurture initial research skills. Many would argue that this could be done at home with the help of an adult such as a parent. It is my experiences that generally parents do not make the best support at home when it comes to nurturing learning. Yes they want the best for their child but ramming facts into heads and putting pressure on their children to remember them certainly won’t foster a sense of life long learning.

I am also of the opinion that children work rather a lot during their time at school and should not be spending a huge amount of time continuing to work after school too. Many of the very privileged children I teach will finish school an then learn another language, go to a instrumental lesson and also extra curricula club too. They need down time just as much as adults do.

Inevitably, there are always some children that have not completed the learning that was asked of them home. What do these children then do during flipped lesson? Yes they could go off to a room where they complete the reading/watching/content acquisition task but they still end up behind in the end. They also miss out on the key interaction with the teacher And this for me is huge.

Teachers are trained to probe, question and navigate children thew the murky waters of learning. Young learners so easily adopt misconceptions and misunderstandings from what may seem to be the simplest of learning tasks. When the learning is taking place in front of them the teacher can more easily scaffold the learning, differentiate it and ensure the children don’t fall into the possible pitfalls that others regularly do.  Please don’t misunderstand me. I like the idea of children being asked to learn about a concept or topic then demonstrating their learning I just feel that both steps should be done in the classroom when working with younger learners.

Who knows, perhaps in years to come I will be proved wrong? Children may be learning abstract physics concepts from YouTube (check minute physics if you haven’t already!) and then creating their own videos to show real world implications. But for now I will wait to see what happens.


Just Add An e (Or i If You Love Apple :-)

Although I do not consider myself to be in any way old, I was actually allowed to play outdoors without adult supervision and climbed trees, I can remember a time before the letter ‘e’ was added to everything. Ebooks, Email, Elearning, Ecommerce, Epublishing, Enewsletters and much more. The the letter ‘E’ seems to have permeated the English language and indeed modern cultures to mean easy, new or convenient – BETTER? A more in depth analysis can be found here.

The marketing hype and developing cultural understandings of ‘E’ can easily fool teachers into believing that the simple act of turning on a laptop, handing out an iPad or loading a website makes Elearning, and this is new, faster, BETTER. Simply put this is not so. Doing something because it is new does not make it better, or indeed necessarily faster.  Every teacher needs to consider the true impact of implementing or using any technology on the learners in their room. Fortunately the SAMR model is an elegant way of considering the impact of technology.

The SAMR model is not new to me and I regularly consider it when I’m choosing which tech tools to use in the classroom. If I’m being honest, I don’t frequently hit the redefinition end of the scale and I will sometimes be at the substitution end. I would say I generally hang around the augmentation stage. The important issue is that I have thought about the value of the tech to my children and this is something all teachers should be doing whilst planning to use any technology.

Redefinition can happen, and when it does it is wonderful. This year I have had two such lessons. Teaching in Ho Chi Minh City can be limited and with the rather hectic traffic, nearly impossible to take the children out of valuable field trips. There are tool great tech tools to combat this. One is Google street view. The list of amazing places that google adds increases daily but the one place I always use with my year children is in Antarctica. My class are currently learning about explorers and the moment and one we study in depth is Ernest Shackleton. The hut that he built over 100 years ago is still there preserved in perfect condition and thank to Google you can actually walk around it. My children were blown away!

The other place I like to visit is the Smithsonian museum. Their virtual tour is amazing. It is inconceivable that my children could walk around a museum like the Smithsonian. This site enables so much extra learning that would not really be possible without the use of technology. Seriously, you have to click this link. I dare you not be amazed!




Imitation – The Early Stages Of Remixing

So after completing the weekly readings for week six of course three,  I was left feeling a bit overwhelmed. The remixing examples that I have seen were highly creative and more importantly very highly skilled. Although extremely impressive and enjoyable to watch, I was constantly reminded that the children I teach do not have close to the skills that are needed to create a remix.

My role then, and the role of all who educate younger learners, is to start at the beginning and begin to infuse a culture of remix and sharing. Here at the BIS VN TX campus we have introduced information literacy lessons for all children in reception right through to Year 6. It is new at the school and the curriculum is developing around a culture of children using technology to inform and share their learning with others.

My Year 4 children have been creating their own blogs which are open to all and we have thought carefully about what and how to post. Our most recent English project looked at performance poetry and it is here that YouTube and the wonderful world of Michael Rosen was invaluable. The students were able to evaluate how creative Michael Rosen was during his performances and then produce their own performance based around imitations of his style. As the blog post title suggests, before you can create imitate. The children were able to record and edit using iMove on an iPad then share their work on their blogs and the class blog too. I would like to stress that this is  95% of their own independent work with little support from a teacher.

It’s not quite a remix of Michael Rosen but thus begins the journey of my class into remix and mashup culture.


As for my personal experiences using ideas of presentation zen and video editing please follow links below to a couple of examples if the mood take you.


A short presentation I gave to staff explaining how and why the whole campus has adopted blogging as its key method of communicating with parents and students. All images were sourced using Google’s advanced image free to share use or modify search results. Here it is.

Talk & Listen – Why read for hours?

I’m a big fan of infographics. This is partly down to my visual learning nature and mostly down to me being a lazy reader. I enjoy reading, but when I need to know key facts and data, I would rather look and a graph that see a complicated results table or worse a paragraph of writing with some large numbers here and there. And this is where infographics are great. They often present key information immediately and with little confusion for all who read them.

As a teacher of younger children, many of whom English is not their primary language, using infographics can be a great way to break language barriers. Yes, the majority of them have language on them, but they often have more simple language and key vocab related to their subject matter – perfect! What more could a primary teacher ask for? I have used infographics many times with my children and they constantly provide a great tool for engaging students in interesting discussion whilst giving them some key vocab and stimulating ideas. I find I use infograohics based around Science and Geography more often.

I found this inforgraphic below and will be passing it on to my colleagues in Year 5 who are currently teach space. I’m sure they’ll like it as much as I do.

Plan To Work Less & Save Time

To begin with I would like to say digital story telling is anything but easy. And that’s from my adult perspective! The majority of people you meet enjoy watching the latest drama series or new releases at the cinema. And just when credits begin roll they either skip the DVD to the next episode or leave the cinema without fully appreciating the rightfully long list of names of those involved in the creation of said episode or film. The level of thought and preparing that goes into making a film is staggering.

Teaching this to children then becomes a very daunting task indeed. Early on my teaching career I was fortunate to be sent on a film creation and editing course and it is thanks to this that I have had moderate levels of success with my Year 4 class. I currently teach a persuasive writing unit that is solely based around movie trailers and creating one. There is much discussion about the features of trailers and their purpose but the real learning comes from using the cameras and computers.

I have refined the unit over the last 4 years of teaching it, and I can definitely say with 100% confidence that if you want a good short movie you must ensure the children understand the value and purpose of story-boarding. I endeavor to teach my children that if they have planned, and filmed according to their plan, they will have less work to do on the computers and it will take less time. This is totally TRUE. Plan and storyboard well and you end up working less and saving time. The short videos I have made that have taken the most time are the ones where I’m not really sure of the message I’m trying to convey.


When I do edit, my editor of choice is iMovie. I find it an excellent tool that children can work well with. Also the prepared movie trailer templates are fantastic and save even more time. I’ve embedded below a couple of movie trailers that my previous Year 4 class made. Honestly, the work is 90% them. With the right planning and enthusiasm children can learn quickly and create some fantastic work. The class reevaluated their trailers and would have gone back to improve them further had time permitted. Enjoy.

Media Rich Classrooms – Which words have you painted today?

For the longest time, perhaps over 20 years, I have always known I would be a primary teacher. It’s in my blood you see. Parents, grandparents, aunties, sisters – we are all primary teachers and it I think using visually stimulating images is what primary teachers do well.

The majority of us ‘COETAILers  are teaching in internationals schools spread across the globe. This means teaching classes filled with EAL children. The use of images for any child is important, but it is essential for children with EAL. Everyone knows the phrase that pictures paint a thousand words and it is totally true. Through pictures children are stimulated to discuss and use a wider range of vocabulary. It brings both literal and metaphorical colour into the classroom and I would recommend using images and pictures wherever possible.

To that end let me leave you with a thought and a suggestion. Which words did you paint today?


 Photo Credit: Giulio Magnifico via Compfight cc

Try the Guardian Photo app if you want an image to stimulate discussion. My campus has just invested in iPads and I will be using this app to stimulate discussion. And its FREE