Creativity in Collaboration


When it comes to collaboration, be more John Spencer.

Every time I watch his “7 Keys to Creative Collaboration“, all I have to say whilst watching it is YES. YES. And did I say, “YASSSSS!”?

Candour. Spending time together. Being vulnerable. Admitting mistakes. Letting go. Structures.

All crucial to the recipe leading to empowerment and creativity in successful collaboration.

Structure… funny that


Many people these days love a protocol. I think there’s a time and a place for them, sure. But I do think some people/organizations tend to overdo them.

Think my point here is to have some structure, but be sure there’s enough room for voice and choice within that in order to empower, rather than disengage.

I do find some protocols very draconian and disempowering. Unauthentic, if you will.

When anything is overdone (see unbalanced), that’s when things start to get cringe-worthy.

So be more like John Spencer; those seven ingredients posited in his video are quite a winning recipe in my honest opinion.

The Collaborative Task

As part of my #COETAIL learning this week in course three, we did an inquiry into collaboration.

In addition, we were asked to reflect on a recent collaborative activity that we recently led, or have had a part in.

So here it goes…

Setting the Context

I teach in a grade 4 context; “Studio 4”, to be exact.

I also lead a team of five other homeroom teachers, three teacher’s assistants, and liaise with three other specialist teachers (EAL, enrichment, and learning support).  That’s a lot of collaboration across a very culturally diverse team.

Our context for learning is online at the moment.  Our beautiful city, Ho Chi Minh, has been pretty hard hit by the Delta variant.

My team and I love structures, too.

In addition, guided inquiry also needs structures (although it may not always be this linear).

Currently, our students are writing personal narratives, which has a nice fit with our current inquiry into “Who we are”.

Students are inquiring into “Who they are” as writers, readers, inquirers and more.

Goal setting

As teachers, we empower our students to set goals. 

This aligns nicely with ISTE Empowered Learner standard indicator 1a.

Here are some ways we plan to do this for writing:

  • Students compose and submit a writing sample, with shared criteria across the grade.
  • Teachers assess two “Stars” and “Next steps” for each child.
  • Children self asses one star and each as well.
  • Teachers and students conference together about initial goals for writing.
Writing sample assessment aligned with curriculum
Teacher and student assessed goal selection.


Co-constructing Success Criteria

Now that the stage was set, we’ve been working on our personal narrative drafts, co-constructing our success criteria for each stage, collaboratively.

This leads to further motivation and empowerment. A shared vision of success from the voices of the community.

Co-creating a Shared Roadmap – The Journey & The Destination.

It’s important, in any big project or inquiry, that backwards design is a part of the plan. This is a productive “structure” essential for collaboration.

The “race” is personalized. But it’s crucial that each learner knows where their personalized writing journey begins and ends. Even better when there’s a visual.

Writer’s Workshop Wednesday

Part of what my team and I collaboratively have designed, as part of our writing “structure”, is at least two rounds of “Writer’s Workshop” in every major piece of writing.

We follow it up with a “Transfer Thursday” where learners inject their newly acquired skills directly into their respective projects the next day.

How does it all work?

Since this was our first round of “Writer’s Workshops”, this is how my team and I collaborated, and some of the structures we used.

  • After analyzing writing samples, as a team, we collaboratively determined six of the most pressing “needs” in terms of what workshops to offer for the students.
  • All workshops were aligned to the 6+1 Writer’s Traits, which is a part of our literacy curriculum.
  • Each homeroom teacher chose a workshop to create and lead using Google Slides and Seesaw Activities.
  • Students selected a workshop from these six areas using a Google Form. They were encouraged to align their choice with their writing goals.
  • Teachers assigned the respective Seesaw activities to align with each workshop to their homeroom students.
  • On workshop day, students attended the respective workshops by clicking on the correct Google Meet link shared with them.
  • Each workshop teacher had a grade-level collaborative mix of students.
  • In each workshop, teachers and learners engaged in provocations, modelled examples, breakout room discussions and small skill-building tasks related to the focus of that workshop.
  • Learners finished the workshop with a short reflection.

Overall, the day was truly empowering for both teachers and students alike.

The next day, students engaged in “Transfer Thursdays” and revised and edited their work with their new skills, while they were fresh. Essentially, adding that layer of authenticity to the skill.

This was just writing.

Final thoughts on Collaboration

We’re called “Studio 4” in what would traditionally be called “Grade 4”.

Workshops and cross-collaboration are key ingredients to what makes our community a Studio.

As a collaborative team, we look for golden opportunities like these as often as possible.

As a school, this is our guiding precept:

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb

Collaboration Curiosity

  • How do you and your team collaborate? Would you say “yes” to most of Spencer’s seven ideas he posits?
  • What opportunities do you create alongside your team where students can learn like a village, rather than a silo?
  • What other key ingredients would you add?
  • What are your feelings on protocols?

Intentional Design

New course, new school year, new job changes…


This week, COETAIL course 3 kicked off with a focus on intentional design.

After going through the excellent readings shared, I’d say most things consolidated my beliefs and practices on this topic.

Below are some skills posited in the readings that I practice regularly, and actively teach with my children.

Contrast – Alignment – Repetition – and Proximity [CARP]


I remember first being introduced to this by Keri-Lee Beasley in her workshop at a Learning 2 Conference in Manilla some years back.

It really struck a chord with me.

CARP is always at the front and center of whatever content I produce and I am often teaching these concepts in small doses or in workshops with my kids.

Here’s a great visual on the topic created by a former COETAIL-er, Reid Wilson.


Thoughtful Organization


Chunking, small snippets of ideas, small lists, sub-headings, space …

Generally speaking, if we can group our ideas into 5 or less synthesized and salient arguments towards one very central and focused topic, that’s a winning recipe to a successful post, in my opinion.

Less is more


A quick search on Google for word limits in a blog post suggests that 2,000 or less should be your target.

I’d argue no more than 1,000. If you’re running over that, think of how you could separate your ideas into two more digestible posts.

As human attention spans keep reducing to less than that of a goldfish, this is great food for thought for intentional curation of your content.

Leave your audience with some takeaways


I like to mix it up with any combination of the following…

-Sage quotes related to your topic

-Other related content to explore

Questions to spark inquiry/further exploration

Intentional Design Reflection:  What are my goals? What could I do better?


– Images: The power of a visual. I think being more aware of balance and where a visual would really add value to ideas.

-Simple language: Definitely guilty of needing to review and simplify the vocabulary I use. This was well posited in the article shared this week by “The Writing Cooperative“.

Some further takeaways on this topic


-Inspirational educator designers: Suzanne Kitto, Keri-Lee Beasley, Tanya LeClair, Sonya TeBorg and Alison Yang

Canva | Graphic Design Basics Course (kudos to Ryan Krakofsky for bringing this to my attention)

Design media: What media do I tend to use to “design” in/with? Google Slides, Canva, Flaticon, The Noun Project, Photos for Class, and UnDraw

A leaving favour to ask of you!


  • As a geek on this topic, do you have any great resources to share?


Design is intelligence made visual.” – Alina Wheeler, Author

Course 2 Final Project – Option 2

As course two comes to a close, participants were asked to choose from several options for the summative task.

Our group chose the following:

Here is the link to our final submission for this assignment.

To wrap up this summative task, COETAIL has asked us to reflect on the following questions…

How did you find your group for this project? How did the collaboration aspect of this project go? 

Honestly, this was one of the easiest globally collaborative groups I have ever worked with. Here were the keys to our success:

  • Early birds get their worms – I knew who I wanted to work with and reached out early
  • Early rumination of an idea that was pitched early; in fact, team member selection was based on option two
  • Frequent back channelling – The team was connected via Whatsapp
  • Video chats – Two – one at the start and one near the end
  • Soft deadlines – Mutually agreeable times to have our respective sections done
  • Timely feedback – All members receptive to feedback to improve our respective sections
  • Agency – Members had a choice and voice on their section of contribution
What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
  • Mutually agreeable times – Not really a challenge, but still needed some thoughtful consideration and flexibility.
  • Flexibility with the pandemic – One of our team members needed to repatriate during this project, so having empathy for her and delaying some of our soft deadlines paid off.
How was this collaborative planning experience different from or similar to other planning experiences?
  • Honestly, with all that has happened in the past year, not much differed in terms of collaborative planning. In these times, we all have experience collaborating on teams where our colleagues may have chosen to repatriate, and yet still meet contractual obligations successfully. This is not limited to just collaboratively planning with their teams.
  • Open-mindedness, carefully thought out meetings, and considerations as to what is essential for asynchronous vs synchronous collaboration are really the only potential “barriers”.
Why did you choose this option? These standards?
  • Of all the options, this is the one that spoke to me. After reaching out and persuading the team, it was one that was the most purposeful in creating for the potential to transfer in all of our respective work environments/contexts.
  • The standards were part of the task, so “choice” wasn’t an option.
How was this learning experience different from or similar to other learning experiences you have designed?
  • I think the pandemic, as mentioned above, has given us the skills to use digital technology in effective ways to achieve this purpose.
  • In addition, my Master’s in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia was all online, so globally collaborating on a shared vision wasn’t anything out of my comfort zone.
How does this experience relate to what you learned in Course 2?

On behalf of my team, I hope you enjoy what we have created and get introduced to at least one thing that gets you wondering or sparks your thinking!

Taking action on … Digital Leadership!

This week’s COETAIL course two, week 5, learning provocation was about taking action towards positive change and empowering others to do “GOOD” with technology.

Which links nicely to ISTE for Educators Citizen Standard Indicator 3A.

Educator resources on this topic

I’ve said it before, but, I’ll say it again, Jennifer Casa-Todd. She’s legendary in this department. She is YOUR expert.

Step 1: Buy and read her book – Social LEADia. You won’t regret it.

Step 2: Enroll in her and Adam Hill’s, “Empowered Digital Leaders“, online professional learning course.

If learning from super nice and empowering people who love sharing their passions isn’t your thing, then Common Sense Education also has some fab resources.

In search of better policy

Without throwing my current employer largely under the bus, I would say we could be better in terms of our ICT mission and vision, documentation and policies, curriculum, communication, training, as well as hiring an appropriate amount of staff in this department and retaining them.

That said, in the three years since I’ve been there, it is getting better and thankfully I’ve got to work alongside some pretty awesome people who share the same passion.

Small steps.

Did someone say policy?

This week we were asked to look into our school’s acceptable use policy on technology.

I inquired and could find very little. I’d share, but you’d come to the same conclusions as me – not the greatest in terms of what we should be communicating to our current and future stakeholders.

I figured there had to be something more.

I took action.

I emailed our tech lead who is trying his very best trying to do two or three people’s jobs. He’s got great ideas, confers with myself and another passionate colleague of mine often. However, most ideas, when he does try to champion them, often get roadblocked.

In my email, I also carbon copied the head and deputy head of school.

I asked him if there was something more but just wasn’t finding it easily.

Answer: No

I did make some positive, actionable suggestions, and also offered to put my hand upon taking action.

Here’s what I proposed:


1. Re-focus on curriculum: Next year, we continue to be given time on our curricular revision groups. Sure, the pandemic did put a wrench in this time and vision. However, it’s been over a year and it’s time to blow off the dust again. This gave us ICT-focused folk the time to vertically and horizontally articulate an ISTE fuelled concept-based scope and sequence curriculum. I’ve got the experience, direction and willingness to persevere on this. It will be awesome!


2. Communication and policy revision: I like Scott McLeod’s suggestion of an EUP instead of an AUP. Empowered, Engaged and Energized is our school’s 3E motto in our mission. So an Empowered Use Policy (EUP) has a natural fit. Plus, it sure rolls off the tongue much better than just an “Acceptable Use Policy” (AUP). This difference is likened to what Jennifer Casa-Todd promotes. She elucidates, why just have digital citizens (ie participants), when we should be promoting digital leaders? What’s more empowering?

In my email, I did mention that our grade level’s 1:1 iPad AUP, had plenty of “DO NOTS” and not enough “DOs”.  I think the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) and NIST both have excellent examples to benchmark from which I also shared in my email.

Advocacy does lead to Action

In fact, advocacy is one of the types of action, according to the IB’s PYP.

Long story short, my email led to a meeting next Tuesday to get the ball rolling on some of these ideas. Exciting!

Thanks for the kick in the rear, COETAIL!

Your turn…
  • How would you rate your school’s accessibility factor to it’s Acceptible Use Policy (AUP), highly visible being a 10 and obsolete being a 1?
  • Would you say you’re happy with your employer’s AUP? Justify.
  • What would you change with your employer’s AUP, if at all?
  • Do you have any great resources to share that match with ISTE 3c linked above?

Building media fluency: Cultivating discerning detectives and caring creators

This week’s COETAIL Course 2 focus was on building media fluency through the lens of developing critical consumers of media (ISTE for Educators link to Citizen Standard Indicator – 3c).

In essence…

When “playing” in the realm of media, we wear two hats – creators and consumers. Sometimes we’re wearing both at once.

As far as COETAIL shared resources go, these, “THINK Before You Post“, tips are great for humans of any age when wearing the creator hat (Kidscape).

How do I help my kids become more discerning detectives in this area?

T.R.A.A.P. Testing

This is by far my favourite tool to share. It’s far less of a humourous acronym than C.R.A.A.P., however, the meaning is quite similar: Timeliness, Relevance, Accuracy, Author and Purpose.

To expand briefly on TRAAP, when you’re looking for media, particularly to give evidence of research in any inquiry/project/paper, you want your source to be as recent as possible (Timely); it should be relevant to your inquiry; you want the source to be accurate (grammatically and in linking to other research); Is the author a salesperson, some random blogger, or a professional in this field?; and think “Why was this media published? Who is the audience?” (purpose). If you want more info on TRAAP, this is a great site.

Here are some resources that I’ve created for TRAAP in my context, that you’re welcome to make copies of and use and adapt to your context:

I also love:

How about you?

  • Do you have any gems, in terms of resources, to share that help build media fluency in this area?
  • What were some of your takeaways from this week’s readings?
  • Do you use TRAAP or something similar? If you haven’t, can you think of a unit that you’d like to try it in? If you do use something similar, care to share how you’ve used it?


Online Protection & Privacy

Data protection. Passwords. Online privacy.

Crucial to be taught and done correctly, yet often, loosely followed.

Humans tend to shy away from this topic similarly to personal finances and savings.

This week’s learning is connected to ISTE for Educators Citizen standard indicator 3D – which is about modeling and promoting privacy of data while navigating and upholding an online presence.

What are things that I do well in this category, personally?

  • Use a password manager: You have to do your research here, and no one application is perfect, but I’ve used LastPass for over a decade and only recently switched to BitWarden (because of information that the former is not going to be free anymore). Essentially, the gist of these apps is that you remember one really good password (that you change frequently), then the app is a safe house for all of your other, really great, randomly generated passwords that you’ll never be able to pronounce or remember. They have add-ons and apps for every device, making life simple and, hopefully, taking any worries away.
  • Share positively and cautiously on Social Media: I have two social media accounts that are active. Twitter more so than Facebook. Basically, if I can post something my employer would approve of, then that’s my litmus test to say it is post-worthy.
  • Review privacy settings (ideally often): These are so highly subject to change, and often, I probably don’t do a good enough job of this. I just went into Facebook and turned off all my ad settings, turned off searchability for me in all areas except one, turned on 2-step verification and re-changed my password to one only my password manager will remember.

What do I actively teach on this topic?

  • Password protection: At the beginning of the year when we’re personalizing our 1:1 tablets, I teach a modified version of Common Sense Education’s lesson on the subject. Afterwards, I encourage students to make their own secure passwords (with the help of DinoPass, if needed). Next, they fill out a “Get out of jail free” Google Form with their new password, which only the adults on my team, admin and our IT department have viewing rights to. The form is useful just in case, or whenever students undoubtedly forget their secure password.
  • “Who we are” Inquiry: As part of our beginning of the year inquiry, we focus a lot on community and how the centric circles branch out in terms of how identity is interconnected. This is an excellent time to build an understanding of who we are in person shouldn’t change from who we are online. During this unit, my team and I run explicit workshops on this topic. Children learn adapted Common Sense Ed lessons about their digital footprint, finding media balance, cyberbullying and more.
  • Parent workshops: To help build that golden triangle of support for our learners, parents also need education and help on this topic. Here is a workshop slide deck that two other passionate educators and I led for our community.

Some good takeaways from the learning this week…

  • Our anchor text for this course, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), had a gem of a quote…
    • “One important goal of media education should be to encourage young people to become more reflective about the ethical choices they make as participants and communicators and the impact they have on others.” (p. 17)

    • I also enjoyed these “How do we ensure that every child has…” questions:
      •  access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?

      • the ability to articulate his or her understanding of how media shapes perceptions of the world?

      • been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and as participants in online communities? (p.18)

    • Lastly, I also loved how the authors, when looking for their own definition, strongly advocate for the need for textual literacy first when it comes to navigating online spaces. In addition, the skills to navigate online spaces are just as much social as they would be the communication skills of literacy (p. 19).

In closing

This topic can be easily ignored due to its nature for one to get legally bound to agreements. Clauses that are so lengthy that, for many of us, it’s “easier” to just scroll bottom and hit the “agree” button without knowing what you’re actually signing up for (yup… guilty). However, claiming ignorance here is not bliss as it could seriously impact those under our care, ourselves, and could potentially cost us our job.

The Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy, shared via COETAIL course two this week, offers nine great tips, from an educator’s lens, to help simplify these potentially overwhelming decisions (p.20):

How about you? Please share…

  • When’s the last time you checked your privacy settings on the online spaces you frequent often?
  • In what ways do you keep your private information safe? Any password tips?
  • As an educator, what do you do well in this area for your learners? What could you do better?
  • Would you say that your organization is “on the ball” with this, “just keeping afloat”, or “not even above the surface”? Care to justify?

Social media – Who is influencing who?

Bahhh… social media.

It’s the monster we love to hate. Yet it also is a vehicle to keep us connected with loved ones beyond our household, particularly highlighted by the pandemic and/or if you’re an ex-pat.

For those of us who grew up learning to navigate it on our own, perhaps some of the consequences were direr. Although, we also know what life was like before these devices, too. For me, I’ve made plenty of blunders as learning experiences, have learnt that being overly positive is “the way”, and know that whenever I’m not in the “Green Zone” of my emotional regulation, I should always wait 24 hours before responding, if at all.

Finding balance

In terms of balance, I also make clear and cognisant choices; otherwise, I end up in a rabbit hole.

My biggest choice is that I only allow Twitter on my phone as the only endless scrolling Social Media app. All others are a distraction for me for time better spent that will actually improve my well-being (e.g. going on a bike ride with my son, playing tennis, having a swim, going out for lunch as a family).

I allow myself 20 minutes on a weekend to have a quick notification check on Facebook (on my laptop), but even that is unnecessary as I find it still sucks me into endless scrolling.

Most of my non-F2F connections are done via Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. I have a fortnightly video chat with my parents in Canada (along with some Messenging back and forth) and that is more than enough time for proper catchup – well, at least for me.

Another big one for me is no work email/apps on my phone. The most pivotal and mindful decision I ever made. Important news gets to me, but it is rare that I ever need to be bothered in non-work hours.

As a family, we stick to a no-screens at the table policy (whether we’re home or dining out) and my son has a device contract that he, my wife and I all had a say in. He is eight.

If I had it my way, there’d be no WiFi or phone use in my bedroom, but I can’t win all battles I guess.

Okay, that’s me personally. And I’m, “old”.

Yet it is this Generation (… that rules the nation) 

Kudos if you know the reference.

Luckily (or unluckily), these kiddos today are digital natives. By that, I mean they already have a generation (or two) ahead of them that made plenty of blunders navigating the waters, and are able to offer some words of wisdom, provide resources, and even write a book or two.

They even have some documentaries to “Netflix and chill” to on the subject.

Therefore, especially as educators, we have a grave responsibility to help them navigate these waters.

This leads us nicely into our COETAIL Course 2 – ISTE Educator Standard Indicator of the Week – Citizenship 3a – which is about not only creating positive digital citizens engaging in online communities but empowering digital leaders within those spaces.

A contextual example to share

One way simple way (of many) that I foster a positive community online is through TAG feedback. We use it as an alternative to “Two stars and a wish”, and use it often in class. However, to take it a step further, we connect to multiple Seesaw Blogs around our school and offer TAG feedback once a week on other people’s work. We rotate whose class it is each week, and the feedback is reciprocated. The kids love having an audience beyond their four walls, and they love getting positive and constructive feedback that drives their learning forward.

To take it a step further, I’d love to connect to some PYP Upper Primary Seesaw blogs globally that are interested in doing something similar.

Not sure where to start? No problem!

Here are some of my favourite, “Go-To” educator resources:

Some adult reading to challenge your thinking / perspective …

Must-read book for educators:

Amazing (Free) Professional Development

And Finally – The kids’ perspectives

Going further, COETAIL also inspired us to have a conversation with our kiddos on the topic.

Without any front-loading, I asked my class to help me out with a survey for this course. I told them it was optional, anonymous, and just to answer as honestly as possible. They are ten years old.

Which of the above are most important to you? e.g. Text message

  • Almost unanimously “Face to face”

I did ask them what challenges they face when connecting with their friends, but most responses were about laggy internet. They mentioned they solved this by restarting their device or trying again later.

In sum, I’m pretty happy with the results. I feel like my kids are and were pretty candid, so it does bring a smile to my face that kids prefer real connections over chatting within Roblox.

I also think the pandemic does and has illuminated the importance of face-to-face connections. The “lockdown” provocation really helped all humans appreciate how hardwired we are to be social creatures.

How about you? Please do share…

  • Has any of the above got you wondering about anything more in-depth on this topic?
  • What are your social media habits?
  • Would you say that you are a role model for positive digital citizenship? Has it always been this way? Have any stories to share?
  • How do you foster a positive online community in your classroom?
  • What has you worried about those you teach and/or parent on this topic?
  • Would you say that your school does this well? Are there just pockets of excellence or is this topic widely practiced?
  • Do you teach PYP upper primary and use Seesaw Blogs? Would you like to connect for some reciprocated TAG feedback as suggested above?

Respecting the Remix

As we begin COETAIL 13 – Course 2, we kick off with a week of respecting the remix. In other words, understanding that we’re all inspired by others and that copying is a true and well a good thing, as long as we make it our own and give credit where we were inspired from.

This aligns nicely with the ISTE for Educators Citizen standard indicator 3c.

Kirby Ferguson’s, “Everything is a Remix Remastered“, was by far the most entertaining and well-crafted resource of the week. I loved his cinema style, humour (the “I’m sorry about Colonialism” genre), detail to a variety of media, and his use of persuasive repetition in threes to get his message across…

Copy. Transform. Create.

Ferguson’s message reminded me of one of my favourite John Spencer videos about, “Why Consuming is Necessary for  Creating“, where Spencer elucidates a similar persuasive three combo – Critical consumption of media (i.e. knowledge gathering; “geeking out”); finding one’s Inspiration; followed by the Creative work.

The Wisdom of Mitch Resnick

I’ve plugged the book before, and it won’t be the last time. Every educator must read, “Lifelong Kindergarten” by Mitch Resnick. A beautiful quote within the book’s, “Top ten tips for learners” section is number 6 – “It’s okay to copy stuff (to give you an idea).” Resnick posits that copying is a two-way street,

“You should feel free to build on the work of others, but you should be open to others building on your work, too.”

Resnick is also the creator of Scratch, a widely popular and free computational thinking application in which children can make their own games and more, either from “Scratch” or by remixing the work of others. The platform makes “remixing” and giving credit to the original author super simple, too!

Resnick lives and breathes all the wisdom that Seymour Papert passed on to him. Resnick has said that all of his major projects have been inspired by the work of Papert (If you click no other link, I implore you to take 5 minutes to watch this one). Papert himself “remixed” Piaget’s ideas and wisdom to create his own theory of learning – Constructionism.

And now, some provocations from COETAIL…


How can you inform your students and peers about the importance of respecting the intellectual property of others?

Simple – model it in action and talk about why. Here’s a video I made for my ISTE Certification on the subject, which I use with my kids at the start of the year.

Also, I know my audience. Every photo I use is either from PhotosForClass or another attribution-friendly source.

Do you see this as an issue in your school?

It would be very naive of me to say that it wasn’t, although I’d say most members of my team, and a select few of my other colleagues do feel passionate about this.

How do we teach copyright in countries where international copyright law is not clearly defined or followed?

Again – – modelling, advocacy, informing and educating.  Just because people do it, doesn’t make it right.  You could kick off the discussion with a nice story like Ellen Javernick’s, “What if everyone did that?“.

What is our obligation as educators?

If we don’t teach it — who will?!!!

What are your thoughts?

  • How do you un-demonize the word “copying”, all the while teaching your learners to respect and pay tribute to the work of others?
  • What could you do better in terms of the way you model this ISTE Citizen standard indicator for your learners?
  • Do you have any contextual examples or ideas you wish to share?


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?