Beijing Learning Summit – A reflection

Ideas for tomorrow, tools for today

The Beijing Learning Summit 2010 certainly delivered what was offered: ‘authentic, just-in-time PD that is both effective and affordable.’ We had over thirty presenters from eight different schools – the vast majority were classroom teachers who came to share ideas on how to enhance the teaching and learning in the classroom, and beyond, through the effective use of technology. We were joined by a diverse range of educators: over 170 participants from over 20 local and international educational institutions from Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Shanghai and Bangkok, Thailand.

Jim Pojman's 2 minutes in the Technology Smackdown

The rich conversations started on the pre-conference day tour of the technology facilities at three International schools: WAB (Jeff Holte), ISB (Rob Cormack and Russell Layton) and BISS (Julie Lindsay) with our out-of-town presenters: Brian Lockwood, Ann and Billy Martin from Nanjing International School, Jonathan Chambers from Shanghai American School and John Burrell from Bangkok Patana School.

Our theme this year was ‘Ideas for tomorrow, tools for today‘ which was explored by our two

Ian Stewart closing the summit

keynote speakers, both of which are parents of WAB students: John Ball from Microsoft and WAB board member, Ian Stewart. John presented a number of exciting future technologies such as the way we will communicate and interact and with technology through developments in avatar technology. His suggested that the student’s ability to succeed and excel will directly correspond to the skills and knowledge acquired whilst they are obtaining their education. Ian’s provocative ‘TEDtalk-type’ close challenged the relevance and purpose of today’s curriculum: to what extent are we preparing our students for tomorrow’s world?

The lunchtime student panel was insightful. For me, a HS integrator, this Q&A session was an anecdotal measure of the extent to which technology is an integral part of their learning. The panel comprised a handful of articulate and engaging grade 11 and 12 students; students who will graduate from WAB with a ticket to the next step in their journey. Some students believed that technology limited their capacity to retain knowledge and preferred to use more traditional ‘pen and paper’ tools for

The student panel

note-taking and writing essays. It became clear to me that until the tools for assessment catch up with technological advances, (for example, the majority of these students will hand-write their exit examinations), we have a challenge on our hands trying to finding the right balance in the use of technology. I cannot help but wonder if we are effectively employing or applying the tools we currently have in order to enhance the learning of these students?  And in the longer term, does and should the curriculum address the opportunities that are presented by the technological developments as described by John and Ian? Is it the curriculum itself or the delivery of the curriculum that may hinder our students’ digital development and hence limit their future prospects? Is the tension increasing between curriculum and technological advances? Can I detect an emerging digital divide? And if so, what as an educators are we doing to bridge this gap?

Sesson on understanding of the technologies which help us "connect"

This summit certainly helped narrow this gap for me and I hope for many of the participants. Although it will take time to synthesize and make sense of the big ideas in order to effect change for the long term, I took away a huge number of diverse, practical and ‘just-in-time’ tools and ideas that I can use now in my teaching. One idea learned in the morning solved my problem of simultaneous voice recording; how to get a clear narration with 20 students in a small room all trying to do record their ‘sound bytes’ on individual laptops?  Who would have thought that a paper cup with a tiny hole in it’s base placed over microphone would make such a difference?

So thank you to the 170 busy front-line educators who came together on a busy weekend to learn and share and continue the conversations. Although exhausted – I am looking forward to Beijing Learning Summit 2011. Who wants to join me?

The first Beijing Learning Summit (2009) was a grass-roots initiative led by five Apple Distinguished

Session: City in the Sea

Educators (ADE): Rob Cormack (ISB), Jeff Plaman and Thomas Galvez (formally ISB), Sheldon Bradshaw (WAB) and myself. This year, the core team (Rob, Sheldon and Madeleine) were were joined by Julie Lindsay (BISS) and Jeff Holte, Beth Gourley, Tom Adamick and Muhammed Azeem (all from WAB) along with major contributions from the ADE network in Beijing. This summit could not have happened without the support of the school representatives, the student geek force and discussion panel, the WAB student Fan Club (who provided hot cookies straight from the oven throughout the day), along with the sponsors to keep the costs down, Bitepita (for lunch) and Fish (beverages) the large number of behind-the-scenes staff, and the overall support of WAB.

Four Conferences and a Project

This academic year I have been actively shifting towards online collaborations and communications. Being based here in China adds an interesting perspective due to a number of Web 2.0 services not always being available. However challenging this may be at times, for me, it is extremely important to prepare for  “tomorrow’s ideas” using “today’s tools” and to be part of a global community; how else can I help prepare students for tomorrow’s world? With the Shanghai Learning 2.010 done and  dusted, I now look towards four conferences (two f2f and two online) that I am involved with.

The 2010 K-12 Online Conference is now underway. It is a conference for educators interested in innovative ways that Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. Julie Lindsay and I will be presenting presenting our experiences six weeks into our InsideITGS project: “Cyber-Students Share their Connected Learning”. The presentation video is scheduled for October 21st. Our teaser promotional video is here.

InsideITGS a collaboration that started between our two schools in China, Western Academy of Beijing and Beijing (BISS) International School. The aim of Inside ITGS is to join IB Diploma Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) students together in a flattened virtual learning environment thereby providing enhanced opportunities for cultural awareness and global collaboration as well as explore and evaluate IT tools and systems in an authentic and social context.

After the success of our first Beijing Learning Summit last year, we are busy organising the Beijing Learning Summit 2010, a technology conference hosted at WAB for teachers by teachers on Saturday November 13th. This year’s theme was inspired by one of our presenters ‘Ideas for tomorrow, tools for today’. The idea is to give teachers practical ideas to use in their classrooms straightaway whilst also thinking about the classrooms of the future. To keep up the conversations flowing,  we are having ‘lunch-on-the-run’ where participants will pick up their packed lunch and join ‘unconferenced’ conversations.

The week after, from November 15 -20 is the online Global Education Conference. Held in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days, the conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives. My role as one of the mentor chairs has been to collaborate with our team of five to develop a mentoring program, the aims of which are to provide conference participants the best possible experience by helping participants choose and get into Elluminate sessions in addition to assisting participants who are interested in taking part in collaborative global education projects or beginning a project. More details about this program is here.

Finally, I will be joining the Flat Classroom Conference in an official capacity as an ADE and co-leader of a cohort. The Flat Classroom Conference will be held at Beijing (BISS) International School from February 25-27, 2011.

Points to ponder:

  • What does it mean to participate effectively in an online conference?
  • What will your classroom look like in 10 years time?
  • In what ways are you preparing your students to be online learners?
  • What does it mean to be part of a global community? What are the challenges?

Learning 2.010 : Reflections from the First Steps Cohort #3

At Learning 2.010,  the more you put in, the more you get out. It is a place where you make connections and develop your personal learning network. It’s about you finding out what you want to learn and then how and where to learn it.

In the First Steps cohort, our aim was for participants to walk out with a digital shared space which contained:

1. A vision for how they want to change their classroom/community
2. A practical action plan/road map on how they might get there
3. An expanded Personal Learning Network which may include a mentor for guidance

My cohort was a very diverse range – as is always that case with any group of educators – ranging from low to high technology skills; high school to kindergarten, arts to science, tech integrators to tech beginners…all highly professional and all experts in their own fields. Wow – what a bunch!

Did we achieve the goals? Absolutely, the majority of the cohort not only developed (collaboratively) their road maps, but also published online and linked up with a co-mentor. Here is the amazing array of goals, each one leading to a unique road map/action plan:

  • Address NETS.S standards through digital portfolios (Paul Welsh,  SAS Singapore)
  • Incorporate blogs into both 7th and 8th grade classes to encourage more on-line participation (Peter Dratz, HKIS)
  • Producing student digital portfolios for regular reflection (Helen Douglas, CIS-HK)
  • To become more aware of the issues of wikis and digital citizenships (Janice Dwyer, CIS – HK)
  • Rearranging the room for constructivist use of technology (Kent Peterson, SAS Singapore)
  • To create a professional blog (Kate Grant, NIST)
  • To develop a Moodle course & introduce social bookmarking (Michael Etheridge, SAS Singapore)
  • A global book club using Shelfari to increase students’ abilities of collaboration, communication and reading comprehension (Keith Ferrell, SAS Singapore);
  • Expand students’ understanding of digital citizenship expectations though using ePals email and Google Apps (Susan Sedro – SAS Singapore)
  • developing an IT Toolbox (Jane Cooper, NIST)
  • Introduce to students the web based note taking tool “Evernote” (Steve Early – SAS Singapore)
  • Updating a weekly blog; getting kids excited about blog and adding to it (Jamie Clayton – SAS Singapore)
  • Identify a variety of tools and activities that teachers could use with their students (James Shin-Gay, SAS Singapore)

For me, it was a huge learning experience and one of the best professional development experiences I have ever had. From the onset, being invited to be one of the cohort facilitators was a major achievement but also one of the most daunting and terrifying experiences. Two days before the conference, we came together from places near and far. For 48 hours, we talked, discussed, planned and bonded and become a community of cohort facilitators. The second 48 hours, we then formed a community of learners with our cohorts. In 4 days, 450+ people came together as the Learning 2.010 Community.

Amanda, Mike and Mads

Thank you to my cohort team: Amanda DeCardy (SAS), Michael Boll (Concordia) and David Elliott (ex-HKIS) the First Steps team. We planned, we discussed, we bonded and it was an awesome ride!

Suspending the ‘micro-moments’ to actually think!

In my classroom today I find that the more students use technology, the poorer their note-taking skills have become. The majority of resources I present to my students are in electronic format. When asked to make notes, I find that the students tend to copy and paste sentences and phrases without little thought for layout and organization. When asked later to recall, students tend to just read from their notes without any deep understanding of what they have jotted down. Technology is not a substitute for thinking and I need to correct this; not only is the thinking time reduced but also the very act of writing the notes has been removed; and most worrying, the problem of plagiarism creeps in.

So how to we ensure that students develop good note-taking skills effectively using laptops?  Luckily for me I get in-class support from the ESOL department from Pat Bradley. I see this as a great partnership; Pat is able to offer a wide range of great strategies and I find ways to implement these in our 21st Century classroom. Here is an outline of a model we used in class with our new set of Grade 11 ITGS students – we were discussing keypads at ATMs:

  1. We tend to use web-based or electronic resources. By viewing the web-page in Safari, or a PDF document in Apple’s Preview, you can right-click on any work and the dictionary definition will appear. A great tool not just for our ESOL learners.

    Right-click in Preview for the dictionary definition
  2. We have students read a section at a time. Some students read ahead giving the others times to read. Once all had read the section, we close, yes – close, our laptops. We suspend those ‘micro-moments’ to actually think!
  3. Using the IWB (or lots of colored whiteboard pens) we brainstorm the key words and main ideas of each section. As our class is about the use of Information Technology, we tend to discuss technical terms, and this allows students to to add their own information so that the key points are expanded and become more detailed as well as give the students a sense of ownership.

    Brain storming on the IWB - keypads at ATMs
  4. Students then discuss the key points in small groups; this is very important for ESOL students as it helps with fluency and prevents regurgitation of meaningless set of words and phrases.
  5. Finally, students open their laptops, fire up Evernote and type up their notes using the prompts on the board.

Points to ponder:

  • What technology tools do you use to help students in note-taking?
  • Do you think that technology erodes thinking time?

The ITGS cyber-class is here

I have been teaching the IB diploma Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) course for almost ten years now. It is probably one of the most demanding IB diploma courses in terms of lesson preparation and delivery as technology moves so fast giving rise to new ethical issues and social challenges. Each year the range of online resources and tools become more powerful and sophisticated and I rarely delivery the same lesson twice. For example, this year the ethical discussions focus more on the pirating of eBooks, the introduction of the newspaper pay-wall to ensure high-quality news and the controversial airport security weapon – the body scanner. These replace the ‘so-last year’ issues of music piracy, gaming addiction, the wonders of citizen journalism and biometric information embedded in RFID chips in passports. In our ITGS classes, we are constantly connecting to new tools and resources to extend our learning and this year we are taking the next step by connecting with other ITGS students.  I will working alongside my friend and colleague, Julie Lindsay from BISS, as  we team up our two Grade 11 classes. Our intention is to work together to develop and co-deliver the course, have our students communicate and collaborate with each other, encourage participation from ITGS schools around the world, as well as documenting our journey along the way.  Our journey has begun! It is a journey that will explore the challenges of learning in the 21st century.  Our vision is for our students will become ‘connected learners’; students who can seamlessly move between our physical classrooms and our evolving ITGS cyber-school and beyond.

If you would like to learn more about our ITGS cyber-class, please visit: – our blog that aims to document our journey
insideITGS.ning – our global network that allows classrooms to connect, communicate and collaborate – our wiki of resources that we will build on the way

In her latest post in our blog, Julie writes:

“The Challenge with Connecting is finding the right tools to facilitate efficient connections AND adopting behaviors for connected learning. Participants in online learning communities need to realize that the learning and therefore the connecting does not stop once the face-to-face class has ended.”

Some questions to ponder:

  • Are your students ‘connected learners’?
  • What online learning communities do you participate in?
  • How connected are you for learning?

The Annual Laptop Rollout

All students have a WAB customised Macbook complete with screen savers

We’ve just had the annual MacBook rollout  with 150 Middle and High school students picking up new laptops – the majority of which are new to WAB and more importantly, new to Mac.  As usual, all the students wanted to do was to get the MacBook home and start to play. Our goal was to persuade them to stay for an additional 20+ minutes of instructional orientation so that they can hit the ground running on the first day back.

This is my third annual rollout and we pretty much know what we need to impart. Here is our essential list:

  1. Getting connected to the Internet at home. After all, our students really want to get connected to Facebook 24/7 and even though it’s blocked here, we are pretty sure they’ll find a way to get through!
  2. WAB Online resources, specifically WAB online email and Moodle which is our virtual learning environment. Students need to know the lingo such as ‘enrollment key’ as many teacher will have the Moodle courses ready to go from lesson 1.
  3. Mac 101 – a crash course on how to use the Mac – a quick tour of the dock, finder and spotlight – and for the PC users, how to ‘right-click’. Organisation – not always a strong point with students – however as a 1:1 school with very few paper resources, students need to learn from day 1 how to make folders and store files appropriately so we feel 5 minutes investment of time to demonstrate is crucial.
  4. Backup – we encourage all students to buy external hard drives and use Time Machine. We also use the mantra ‘Back up before your pack-up’ using Dropbox, a USB memory stick or the very least, email the document to themselves!
  5. And finally and new this year, the introduction of Evernote, which takes the pain out of backing up as it automatically syncs to the cloud and helps with organisation with notebooks (folders) and tagging.

All this in 20 minutes….

Tom (MS Integrator) and Madeleine (me) delivering the essential information

We also added a word of warning to parents about losing their child to the world of cyberspace. Last year our advice was to remove the power cable – after two hours the battery would be empty and there would be a good chance of some sleep! This year, this is not the case as the battery life is probably longer than a night’s sleep – so our advice to parents is to have all communication devices out of the bedroom and on the dining room table overnight! Good luck with that one….

On my digital holiday with my head in the clouds

Clouds Along the Road By Reinhold Stansich

I’m on my digital holiday – well, this is what I am calling it. School’s out for summer and half the family are off in far away Oz battling the winter whilst I volunteered to remain behind to ensure that the daughter produces the required 4000 words of her Extended Essay. Beijing may be pretty empty of any social distractions but I have been totally digitally distracted with my head firmly in the cloud doing all those leisurely tasks that I never seem to do during term time such as:

  • Watching the World Cup on TV with the sound muted and streaming the radio commentary – it’s amazing how synchronised it is – as well as keeping up with the real-time reactions through tweets – if only that goal was allowed for England…
  • Streaming my favorite TV programmes (but not telling where from) and listening to current affairs podcasts
  • Downloading easy step-by-step recipes with my daughter – getting her repertoire of cheap student meals ready for when she takes off next year (Thank you, Delia)
  • Learning Chinese and using GarageBand to record the lessons and then downloading for listening on my iPod whilst I take the ‘foster’ dog for a walk
  • Making song lists from Spotify and playing very loudly (through my headphones)
  • Stalking friends on Facebook – I’ve finally made contact with my best friend from school – only 2 degrees of separation and a lapse in FB privacy settings made this possible
  • Downloading a variety of  apps for my new iPad (which arrives from Oz next week)

I’m worried that I have an addiction. Actually I’m not. I am very contented having time-off in my digital world. I’m refreshed, updated, caught-up and ready to face-to-face the world again when we all take off for a month in Europe. Actually, I’m thinking that it’s more about being prepared and able to see the world through the eyes of family and friends..or rather the friends of friends, especially at those dreaded summer dinner parties. It’s a matter of ‘be prepared or prepare to be bored’ because it’s always the same, three polite questions on expat life then the conversation usually swings back to the local fare: and I really must mug up on all things English so I can at least try to keep up.

Nevertheless, I will be leaving my MacBook Pro and iPhone behind. I will disconnect from my digital world and be sociable. I will go retro and listen the 7 o’clock news and talk-back radio, plan our socialising and sightseeing around the TV schedule and take an entire week to get through the paper version of the Sunday Times. Will I risk dropping into the local public library to borrow last year’s best sellers? Or will I just use my new app, Spots, to locate a trendy WiFi hotspot and download more holiday reading trash onto my iPad whilst sipping a chilled glass of wine or a bolt of espresso?

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you bother to keep up with the local news and events from back home? If so, how so?
  2. What would do on your digital holiday? What clouds will you be visiting?
  3. What is your number one digital distraction?

A few comments about the links:

Frank Lampard said the introduction of technology was “a no-brainer” : England v Germany: Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ reignites goal-line technology debate

Spotify is a new way to listen to music. “Any track you like, any time you like. Just search for it in Spotify, then play it. Any artist, any album, any genre – all available instantly. With Spotify, there are no limits to the amount of music you could listen to. Just help yourself to whatever you want, whenever you want it.”

Visit Delia Online. Delia is the most tried and trusted of British TV cooks. I have consulted Delia for years and years and always overseas where I often have to be a little creative with the ingredients. What I can say it this: Delia’s recipes always seem to work out!

Digital Tattoo – where’s yours?

A digital tattoo - where's yours?

I’m in the midst of marking ITGS portfolios and have come across the term ‘digital tattoo’ – I am sure has been around for æons but clearly I missed it until now.

“Just like a tattoo, your digital reputation is an expression of yourself. It’s highly visible, and hard to remove.”

Another piece of the parent-lecture jigsaw falls into place. Here’s a snippet from my parent / teacher-of-high-school-students lecture repertoire: ‘Remember, oh young ones, a tattoo is more of a commitment than marriage and a baby; a marriage you can get out off (I think you just change your status on Facebook these days) and a baby will eventually grow up and leave (redirecting email elsewhere and un-following you on Twitter); however, a tattoo is for life.’

We all know getting a digital tattoo is so much quicker, cheaper and infinitely more permanent than a real one. And what’s worse, what are the chances of getting digitally tattooed without even knowing about it? What would you do if you suddenly discovered a full-sleeve Amy Winehouse makeover on one of your arms,  a spread eagle on your back and the Union Jack in a place that the sun don’t shine? Well, at least you can cover up or fork out for laser treatment….whereas a digital tattoo is there for the world to see whenever and wherever…remaining online forever.

So some questions to ponder…

  1. If you had to have a digital tattoo, what would it be?
  2. How many unwanted digital tattoos do you have? Or should I ask, how many unwanted digital tattoos are you aware of?
  3. How can we prevent unwanted digital tattoos?

To help answer the last question, please go this this resource, the Digital Tattoo Project, which is being developed with grant funding from the University of British Columbia’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund and from BC Campus. The goal of this site and the Digital Tattoo project is to share resources to encourage you to think about your presence online, navigate the issues involved in forming and re-forming your digital identity and learn about your rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen.