Course One | Final Project

To wrap up COETAIL’s course one, we were asked to do a final project.


Essentially, pick a unit that’s already planned, one you want to tweak or design a new one. You don’t have to teach it.

Goal: Show what you’d include or change as a result of your learning in course one.

The rubric can be found here.

My project

Course one of COETAIL directly coincided with an IB PYP inquiry unit the grade fours in my context were embarking on, so I felt choosing this unit for my project made the most sense.

In a nutshell, here’s the unit, using COETAIL’s UbD planner:

The timeline we shared with students. Template credit | Slidesgo

Key resources:

Key project questions – answered


  • Why did you choose this topic? These standards?
    • As mentioned above, this unit coincided with COETAIL course one. So it was a nice unit to suggest and make tweaks as it was contextual.
    • The standards were chosen by my team, the PYP curriculum coordinator and our instructional coach. “Sharing the planet” is one of the six transdisciplinary themes that PYP students learn from each year within IB’s PYP. You can learn more about the IB’s 6 themes on pages 2 and 3, here.
  • If you revamped a previously created learning experience, what have you changed and why? What’s been added and/or removed? Why?
    • Assessment criteria: One thing I often try to do, yet often fall short on, is co-construct assessment criteria with the children. As a team, we didn’t do this and we definitely will next year if we do this unit again.
      • What exactly needs to change? The student self-assessment (aks success criteria checklist) for their infographic.
      • Why? 21st-century learning is not teacher-led and respects agentic learning that drives learners to be self-efficacious.  This stems from the work of John Hattie and many more. However, these are some great-research based reasons why you should do co-constructing success criteria with your learners.
      • How? Easy. We could easily do a “See-think-wonder” visible thinking routine to come up with our own criteria, similar to what you see here.

        Exemplar credit – Cindy Kaardal (@innovative_inq)
    • Respecting and attributing intellectual property: This was changed this year. Not that it isn’t important, but we’ve been strongly building on this digital citizenship skill all year, and we want to keep building mastery towards this whenever it is authentic and contextual.
      • Why? Since COETAIL is so heavily aligned with the ISTE Standards, then you only need to look at the Standards for Students to offer some sound justification. Particularly from “Digital Citizen” standard indicator 2c – respecting rights and obligations with intellectual property, as well as “Creative Communicator” – 6b – with responsible repurposing.
      • How did we accomplish this?
        • We told children that they should credit their 2-3 top resources so others could seek out more information if needed. It also would add authenticity to the quality of their research, too.
        • In addition, any logos used in the infographics were either created by students in Sketches School, Keynote, or from attribution-friendly media like within Canva, Flaticon, or The Noun Project.


    • More choice in media to create infographics: Last year, students only used Keynote.
      • Why change? Choice is a big part of learner agency.  It is also a quintessential component of the way an IB PYP practitioner teaches. If you need a quick revisit or are new to the topic of agency, here is a great website.
      • After the first introduction of the infographic, my kids asked me, “Why just Keynote?”, and it got me wondering and inquiring within my team. The kids are fluent in Keynote but are also developing fluency in Canva and Slides, too.
      • To be totally fair to last year’s team, there was and is an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) on the team. She was the rest of the team’s sole “techspert”. Her fluency within the medium to create infographics (which she could support the rest of the team within their learning journey), meet the marketing team’s specifications as well as promote creativity were all strong reasons for using only Keynote. And sure, probably a little Apple bias, too, as ADE’s need to keep up with their requirements. 😊
      • Another reason why? ISTE for Students – Creative Communicator – 6a – Students choose appropriate media for best communicating their idea.
      • For me, it always comes down to “What are we assessing?” – Is it, “The students’ ability to design an infographic in Keynote?” Or is it, “Design an infographic in accordance to what the lines of inquiry are about, the key concepts and/or the central idea?”.
      • Keynote is amazing; I love it, too. However, it is one way to create an infographic; not the only way. I do love that you can easily create your own icons within it and that is an advantage, absolutely. Not every designer creates their own icons – there are perfectly good sites for designers to use attribution-friendly icons, images, video and more. Our only constraint for our infographic was that it needed to be digital because the best design would be printed and put up and advertised within our primary campus. This had specific size requirements as well. Thus, this year, I supported all learners within the Studio to create an infographic in Canva, Keynote, and Slides.

        Slide pushed out to the students to allow multiple choices in media for their creations.


    • Peer formative assessment – feedback loop: Not sure how extensive this was done last year, if at all. Perhaps not uniform or collaborated amongst the whole team?
      • Why? Timely feedback; metacognition; social construction of knowledge; and Vygotskian Zone of Proximal Development theory, especially when thinking one learns better from peers (see “skilled partners”) just above their level than from experts.
      • COETAIL Learning Link: Since course one – week four shared an excellent Teach Thought article on 15 questions for effective EdTech Integration, here is another article from the same source about 20 tips for effective feedback.
      • In addition, this Seesaw-based feedback loop would work regardless of whether we were learning face-to-face or not. Thus, ISTE Standards for Students –  Learner Standard Indicator 1c has a beautiful fit – Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their learning.
      • How did we support our learners with this? Planning for either F2F or learning from home in mind, I suggested this activity for the team to run in our expert workshops. In case you want a little more on TAG feedback, here’s a great little Edutopia video on it.
        • TAG Feedback criterion credit: Tony Vincent | Learning in Hand |

        Student example of peer feedback given


    • Post infographic creation, learning from other experts activity: This changed this year.
      • Why? Connectivism – a heavily posited learning theory in week five of this course – teaches us that learning is distributed. After reading up on this theory during COETAIL orientation, I proposed the idea to my team. Needless to say, it was an easy sell as they’re all amazing educators. 😎
      • Authentic audience – Since students had to create infographics for their ISHCMC community, in addition to their peers to learn from, it gave them a very authentic audience and fuelled their intrinsic motivation to do better. Here’s a nice Edutopia article that talks about the benefits of increased engagement when students have an authentic audience.
      • F2F or learning from home? Since learning could be either or during this pandemic-ridden period time, we figured learning from others through connected Seesaw class blogs would work in either context, if we needed to “Flip the switch”, which has been heavily posited into our planning and learning experiences this year. All students needed to do was to publish their finished infographics to their respective class blogs. Since students regularly give feedback on other blogs around the school, this wasn’t another big thing that needed to be taught.
      • How did we communicate this to our learners?
        • Student instructions for jigsaw activity


        An example of blog feedback given.


        Completed jigsaw activity


  • How was this learning experience (unit plan) different from or similar to other learning experiences (unit plans) you have designed?
    • Honestly, having two COETAIL-ers on the team, both highly fluent in Educational Technology and how to effectively integrate it into our learning – not much has changed.
    • I feel like our units always keep getting better – the learning provocations in course one were certainly that extra fuel to think a little bit deeper as to how to make it that much better. Sometimes we are all creatures of habit that look for the path of least resistance. Teachers have to “step out of their comfort zone”, too!
    • In addition, many individuals on our team are lifelong learners who are continually engaged in professional learning throughout the year. As a benefit, creativity and innovation are our strong suits, along with being open-minded to new ideas and approaches to our craft. In general, if the outcome has the potential to benefit those under our care, then we just roll with it and throw it into the formative feedback innovation loop.

So how did the learners do?

    • Check out some of their finished infographics below!
    • How would you rate them against the self and peer-assessed success criteria?
    • What T.A.G feedback would you give them?
Some of the finished student infographics from this year


Last year’s winners. Which infographics will be selected to inform our primary school community this year?! – Photo credit: Cindy Kaardal

What about Constructionism?

This week’s learning for Course 1, Week 5, centred on various learning theories.

ISTE for Educators link:

Learner 1c – Stay current with research & the learning sciences to support student learning.

Prior knowledge

Having done a (fairly) recent Master’s of Educational Technology from UBC (2017), I’m fortunate that I come from a place where most learning theories in the readings this week, including Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy were not new to me.

Still, it was nice to review and revisit the readings. It brought me back to some UBC-MET activities in which I compared and contrasted subsects of constructivist theory along with understanding what a weird period of time we were in when Skinner’s Behaviourist theory was strongly purported.


One learning theory that was introduced in the orientation of COETAIL, and more strongly this week, was that of George Siemens’ Connectivist theory.

In particular, I loved the succinct breakdown by Siemens (2004) in Bell’s (2011) musings on the theory. Bullets one and three are particular favourites.

A quote from the Bell reading that highly resonated with me were the thoughts on research (2011; p. 106)…

“Good research is not only informed by theory but also helps to build it.”


I had some serious sad face emoji this week when von Glasersfeld gets honourable mentions with his deviant radical theory of constructivism (sorry,  Ernst – not a believer), yet good ol’ Seymour Papert doesn’t even get one cricket. Especially in COETAIL, a certification build upon the advocacy of technology in education. Even more so in a week where Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is introduced with its premise of “Creating” being at the upper echelon of this theory. Tisk, tisk, COETAIL — 😢

All bias aside, Papert, after researching with Piaget for four years, derived his own variant of Constructivism, which he called Constructionism. Aptly named, of course, because… well… he thought people learn best when “constructing” things that are personally meaningful to them. If interested, you can brush up more on Papert’s theory here, and more on Papert’s legacy, here.

I could quote Papert all day – but, this quote sums up what he advocated in his theory:

Thankfully Seymour Papert lives on today with his two proteges – Mitch Resnick (who also has one of the coolest job titles on the planet) and Gary Stager. “Lifelong Kindergarten” and “Invent to Learn” are two must-reads for any educator, authored by Mitch and Gary, respectively. If your school has a maker space, Fablab, or kids who love to code, you can thank Papert.

Gary did a beautiful homage to Papert in his 2014 TED talk, “Seymour Papert: Inventor of Everything“.

COETAIL: This would be a good “skim” resource to add to this week’s readings in future cohorts.


The readings this week, with my consolidation, introduction and connections led me to think more deeply about what Stanford math expert, Jo Boaler, posits as to the way our brains grow and change.

In fact, I elucidate this so often to my learners, that this week’s readings, in true “Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy” spirit, has intrinsically motivated me to “create” my own infographic on the topic.

What are your thoughts on this infographic? Does it make sense? Too overly simplistic? Anything more to add?

What new theories were introduced to you this week? Was Papert’s Constructionist theory new to you?

What theories were consolidated from previous learning experiences?

Did any theories or learning this week connect you to any other ideas?

Effective Edtech Integration

This week’s focus for #COETAIL13 Course One – Week 4 is centred upon effective strategies for educational technology implementation and integration.

ISTE Educator Learner Standard Indicator 2b –  Shape and empower a shared vision of learning with ed-tech with your stakeholders.

From the readings, the two most influential and enjoyable, which I’ll unpack below, were:

Edutopia Article

This article won me over in their intro about looking out for “devils in sheep’s clothing” during the pandemic. In other words, stick with less gimmicky items and focus more on good pedagogy – your gut should take care of the rest. If there are too many sparkles, it may not be the best for your learners.

These five tips shared offer a great starting point:

  • Efficacy: Does the student learning actually look great behind all the bells, whistles and other testimonials?
  • Student experience: Try and experience the medium the way your learners will.  Is the user interface engaging and simple to use?
  • Intrinsic motivation: Think more open sandbox and fewer points, bells, whistles, etc. when choosing a medium.
  • Vygotskian ZPD factor: I don’t think this is a “must”, but is the medium adaptive to personalize each user to be operating just out of their comfort zone and in their challenge zone?
  • Teacher experience: What benefits will this app give you, your colleagues, or other teachers in your organization? For example, will it offer data in a way that is easy for you?

TeachThought Article

These questions are gold.

I can’t even narrow down this list to any questions that I don’t like.

It’s that good that I’ll be using this for future coaching, workshops and more.

One question that transitions nicely into my next sub-heading is, “Have I started with purpose and pedagogy instead of the tech?

Start with TPaCK

Being passionate about Edtech for years, I’m often sought out by colleagues with inquiries about technology integration-specific questions and help amongst my colleagues.

My starting questions are usually about the enduring understanding of the unit they are teaching. In other words, I want to know the GRASPS statement, the summative task, or “What knowledge and understandings do you want your learners to walk away with?”. This is the way… the UbD way.

More importantly, it is the TPaCK way. If you’re unfamiliar with TPaCK, I highly recommend watching this short video. Essentially, you start with your curricular or “content knowledge” (i.e. the standards drive the learning in your context). Next, you know your craft, or, put simply, are the expert in the “pedagogical knowledge” as to your delivery of the content. Lastly, the “technical knowledge” is understanding what “tech” will best make the understanding and knowledge of the content visible.

Other super important consideration – knowing your learners and the context in which you teach (represented by the dashed line below).

The sweet spot is where all three circles overlap 😎.

Matthew Koehler, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Matthew Koehler, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

So let’s stop for a second.

Close your eyes and ask yourself – “What is ‘technology‘?” or, better yet “What do I see when I see ‘technology‘?”

What did you come up with?

Did you include some of the things in this photo?

Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay

Remember that technology is all around us. Papers, pencils, computers, and chairs combined. Digital technology is just one aspect when it comes to putting a label on this term.

In sum, curriculum first, use your pedagogical expertise to scaffold the learning, then select the best tech to get you there.

Add in some and/or all of TeachThought’s 15 questions and this should steer you to an excellent end result!


I can’t write a post on this topic and not include SAMR. However, I do put it at the bottom of this post for the following reasons:

  • It is a much better post-unit reflection tool for teachers rather than an initial integration planning tool. TPaCK is much, much better, in my opinion. Think of SAMR as a “How could I use digital technology better next time?” metacognitive process.
  • It’s a rather intimidating model for those who are starting out. If the goal for a coach and a teacher is to build confidence with integrating more digital technology into their pedagogy, then shooting for “redefining” from the start, or worse, each time can be daunting. Augmenting and modification are perfectly acceptable results, too.
  • It is a good litmus test to see whether or not an activity is just “substituting” the digital tech for the sake of it. However, during a pandemic, I would say that sometimes substituting can get a pass if it is one of the options to complete an activity at home.


Some final questions I’d like you to ruminate upon when considering which educational technology to use in your classroom are the following:

  • Am I offering “choice” for my learners in the way they would like to make their learning visible? Does the choice include a balance of digital and non-digital technologies?
  • Are the choices I’m including/teaching allow for all of my learners to communicate their “voice” in a variety of ways?
  • Have I listened to the “voices” in my classroom and been open-minded to other options for students to make their thinking visible? This is a great time to be vulnerable and learn alongside and from other students. Empower them to lead a workshop! If you’ve co-created and communicated your success criteria well enough, then students may come up with some amazing ideas!

The by-product of saying “YESS!” to these questions is creating “ownership” in learning. In other words, building self-efficacious and empowered learners!

Tonya Gilchrist has summed up what AGENCY means in the context of the curriculum in which I deliver my craft beautifully (which stems from the work of Albert Bandura) in this illustration below.


Hopefully, I have empowered you to think more deeply about the ways you integrate educational technology in your teaching context.

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes on the subject, by George Couros

Connected learning

This week’s COETAIL13 – Course One emphasis was on connected learning.

ISTE Educator Learner Standard links:

  • 1a – Set goals
  • 1b – Networked connections

Connections to some major education concepts, themes and topics:

10,000 hours vs. 20 hours?

Not sure I align 100% with what Josh Kaufman posits in his TED Talk; it’s a little too generalist and oversimplified. If you haven’t watched it, Josh elucidates that one can get “good enough” at anything in 20 focused hours, rather than Ericsson’s well-cited 10,000-hour theory.  To be fair to Josh (and Ericsson), he does clarify that the 10,000 hours was always defined as an “expert” level theory and the “expert” part is often left out (suffering from a case of telephone game as it’s passed on).

With Kaufman’s 20 hour oversimplification, I’d be more sold if he used the term “basic foundations”, rather than “good enough”  on anything with 20 solid hours.

When I think about three of my passions (tennis, climbing and photography), which I still approach with “Shoshin” and have spent well over 20 dedicated hours, “good enough” would not be even close to a label/level of comfort I would be satisfied with.

All three are lifelong and enduring. They continually challenge me, empower me to persevere and have enough varying degrees of challenge. Jocko Willink and Joe Rogan term this as “embracing the suck“.

Essentially, all three continually ask me to step out of my comfort zone.

Therefore, Kaufman would’ve sold me more by specifically narrowing his theory to something like, “20 hours is an appropriate amount of ‘good enough’ time for smaller (or bite-sized) learning projects/passions.”

COETAIL’s Call to action

This week, we were asked to be put on the hook, setting a goal to “geek out” and get “good enough” with.

So, here’s my action plan…

Goal: Continue to gain perspective and skill in photography

My actionable next steps:

  • Go on a Saigon Photo Walk with budding photographers one Sunday
    • Why: To gain varied perspective; F2F networking; F2F skill development
    • How: Group on Facebook – sign up via invite and pay a small charitable fee
  • Share photos from Photo Walk to Photo Walk Group and COETAIL
    • Why: To seek constructive feedback online
  • Try one challenge from Dave Caleb‘s Photography Toolkit
    • Why: To seek new perspectives; gain new skills; try something new; learn from an expert who’s also an educator.
  • Share Photography Toolkit Challenge on Twitter and Facebook with related hashtags (and tagging Dave)
    • Why: To seek constructive feedback online

Due date: April 1st, 2021

Now to test if my goals are SMART enough…

Specific ✅ Measurable ✅Achievable ✅Realistic ✅ Time-sensitive ✅

What impact, connections, and or empathy piece could this have for my learners?

  • Underly the importance of regular goal setting
    • Here’s a blog post that talks about how my learners set goals for reading
  • Providing opportunities for student-driven inquiries in the curriculum
    • This Tweet has some photos detailing how my team and I make this happen.
  • The importance of scaffolding skill development and goal-setting (e.g. SMART goals)
    • Here’s a simple slide deck I use to workshop with students on setting SMART goals
  • Respecting the voice, choice and ownership (i.e. human agency) of my learners and being sure that this is at the forefront of all pedagogy in my context.

What about you?

  • What’s a passion that you’d like to “geek out” on? Why not write a “SMART” goal-setting contract to yourself to achieve your limitless potential?
  • What implications and/or next steps could this reading have for your teaching context?





Research musings

The focus of Course One : Week Two was based on the ISTE for Educators Learner standard indicator 1c – Staying current with research to improve the teaching and learning in your context.

In addition, some of the readings and resources centred on teaching research skills to our learners, which would align nicely with the Citizenship ISTE Educator standard, 3b, which centers on the critical examination of online sources, building digital literacy and media fluency.

In a connected world, research should fall on your lap…

I like RSS feeds (Feedly’s my preference), sure, but Twitter and knowing some Boolean Search basics are fundamentals in today’s age.


Just recently, I was catching up with a friend who is currently doing some Master’s research. He mentioned he was struggling to find information for his literature review. Whilst listening, I threw out my advice (EBSCO, KQED, etc.) and also tweeted this to my connections on Twitter. Within 24 hours… the skies opened up for him! My tweet put him in touch with experts locally and abroad, as well as links to some great published papers.

Developing, curating and being an active participant in professional learning networks (PLNs) pay their dividends when it comes to times like these. They are, almost always, my first port of call for any major wonderings (after I’ve done some searching as well).

Google Ninja Skills

Whenever my kiddos and I do some info report writing and/or work on our research skills, I usually run a workshop around some of Google Ninja Skills (a top 10 curation).


In addition to some Google Ninja skills belt upgrades, it’s crucial to teach kids about TRAAP (aka as CRAAP, for lack of a better acronym) testing their resources. In a world of deep fakes, fake news and more, this is a super important litmus test to teach and apply to any resource.

After watching the video linked above, here are a few resources that I use with my kiddos:

MISO Research

And whilst we’re talking about research, it is worth mentioning the MISO method, championed by the service-learning guru, Cathyrn Berger Kaye. We were lucky enough to bring her in as a keynote speaker in a pre-pandemic, face-to-face, professional learning conference with my current employer.

The MISO method is such a great scaffold for building action research skills.

MISO stands for media, interview, survey and observation. It gels lovely with design thinking, too! Here are some resources that I find helpful in regards to MISO:

How about you?

  • How do you curate research to push to you?
  • What skills or tools do you use to make the curation of information a breeze?
  • What are some skills that you teach your learners to develop their research skills and be critical consumers of information?

Some other resources related to this topic worth sharing:

Beyond “lurking”

This week’s readings brought up several ideas worth discussing

Creativity stems from creative consumption of media – not just consuming

Jeff’s blog post, “What does it mean to disconnect?“, the message of focusing on creating rather than consuming, linked me to John Spencer’s amazing video, “Why consuming is necessary for creating“.

If you liked Spencer’s video, follow it up with his amazing blog post on the subject.

New media - a portal to creativity and peer collaboration

Balance is important in no matter what we do, online and off, and there’s certainly value to consuming, especially when it’s used to create.

This is a message I strongly purport to those I guide, my son included.

“New” Media

Ito, Mizuko, et al.’s  reading on, “Living and learning with new media“, had many connections to my youth. I remember all the chat’s on Napster, MySpace, and IM. Anyone else guilty buying those gamer magazines for those “cheat codes” or lethal combo strikes for games like Mortal Combat or Street Fighter?

Even the dating element struck a few chords. While I may be a bit old for apps like Tinder, I do remember flirting on Facebook and even tried some online dating websites when I was a free agent…haha.

Moving beyond “Lurking”

Whilst both readings may be dated, the messages within them are not. They both still relate to the theme of this week  of peer connected learning and moving beyond the “lurker” stage.

I love seeing my son, in his true digital native form, navigating, communicating, exploring and learning with his peers, (mostly) uninterrupted for a defined time period in online spaces. Some days it’s learning about how to build the next best thing in Minecraft, others it’s how to advance his skills in the latest Roblox game with his friends.

I particularly enjoy the way he and his peers build each other up in their community so they can all enjoy their passion together. This is particularly salient when they may not be able to see one another due to whatever pandemic related lockdown restrictions may be in place.

Often I catch him in the moment of learning on an online math site, or perhaps watching a YouTube video, then seamlessly, with no intervention, asking Google or Siri something he doesn’t understand, then flicking back to the original content.

Sure, there’s a lot of noise to eventually get this signal, but it’s moments like these that solidifies the argument that the best time to live is now. In other words, all of this digital technology can undermine our well-being, if not used with intentionality and purpose.

“New media” = An outlet for self-directed learning and agency

Interests are easier to pursue online since it connects us to anyone with a device and an internet connection with similar interests.

The world is truly our oyster and niche interests, knowledge and experts are accessible because of this new media.

Just imagine a world without places like Wikipedia, Reddit, TripAdvisor, and more?! Crowd-sourcing is truly a remarkable thing.

In sum, “new media” is the perfect culture for a beautiful milieu of Vygotskyian social constructivism, Pink’s ideas on motivation, and Bandurra’s theory of self-efficacy. In other words, learners strive when they step out of their comfort zone, have autonomy, learn and seek feedback from peer experts, work towards mastery, have a purpose and more.

Some wonderings that arose from the readings…

  • What role will VR take as it becomes more ubiquitous and accessible to today’s youth?
  • Now that AI is becoming more porous into our everyday, how is that changing the way the next generation learns, navigates, connects, communicates and finds balance?
  • What are schools doing to educate children in terms of becoming leaders in these domains? Are they going beyond just citizenship in these digital spaces?

A call to action – Questions to ask, as educators…

  • How do you use “new media” to empower, energize and engage your learners in the ability to self-direct their own learning?
  • How do you leverage the use of “new media” to connect learners beyond the borders of your classroom to increase their perspective, or perhaps help them find more people interested in niche topics suited to their personal interests?
  • How do you model, share, discuss, provide opportunities, reflect and promote leadership in “new media”?

Three great resources to extend your thinking on this topic

If you struggle with answers or are looking for ideas to any of the above questions, here are some great resources/ learning opportunities for you:

  1. Read Social LEADia – A guidebook to empowering your learners to become leaders in digital spaces.
  2. Read Lifelong Kindergarten – School yourself on Papert’s construstionist ideals and wisdom through his number one protégé, Resnick. Definitely ticks the “geeking out” box.
  3. Reach out to Adam Hill & Jennifer Casa-Todd and enroll in their Empowered Digital Leaders course – Another way to get more connected and learn from some expert peers on various topics to empower you and your learners around digital leadership.