Project for Course 5 trời ơi!

This is still a work in progress. Next year I will be a teacher/integrationist in a Grade 5 class. I am excited about the possibilities for next year! This project being one of them. I plan on kicking it off at the start of the year to build community and prepare the class for the rigor of Grade 5. I am a fan of place based education and it will work well with accomplishing the academic tone of discovery I want to set for the rest of the year.

I plan on using Google Sites to implement instruction and also to model for the kids as they will be expected to create their own websites on Vietnam. I think I will follow a Problem Based Model where they will group together for ideas and research but then each will create their own website. I want them all to gain experience with Google Sites as we are going to be using it for portfolio management and learning throughout the year.

The unit is Understanding Modern Vietnam through the Five Themes of Geography. Google Earth skills will also come into play and the interactive White Board. We have one in our classroom and I want the children to be able to use it better than I. I want it to be their tool rather than mine for instruction. Below is the UBD it still needs fine tuning. This will happen going into next year as I collaborate with the team and flesh out the available devices with regards to the BYOD policy.

1.)Describe the project: What will your students do? The project will be about understanding Modern Vietnam through the 5 themes of Geography. They will research about their home country through the 5 themes and connect these themes with real world challenges their country faces today. They will reflect on these developments and how it connects to their lives as children and other children living in the country. They will share their viewpoints on the positives and negatives of growth while at the same time look towards what action they can take to shape their future.

2.)How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL? The project is a big one. Just like Coetail. At first Coetail was information overload and daunting because there was so much. However it then turned into a saturation of knowledge and started to become more inherent. Now bits and pieces from every lesson float and connect with tasks I do and conversations I have. If there is a Coetail “culture” it will is one of reassurance, positive feedback and reflection on the process. I want to duplicate this and model it for the class. I want my class to have the same culture of learning. I will also be applying the “nuts & bolts” of what I learned such as creating a website, hyperlinks, CRAP, remix and Creative Commons.

3.)What goals do you hope to achieve with this project? To give an authentic, engaging learning experience that deepens perspective about their country and its development. Vietnam is changing very quickly. The majority of my students live in a bubble of privilege. I hope to plant a seed of mindfulness & empathy regarding change and its effects. The children in my class will grow up and become decision makers for the future of others but I want them to understand in today’s world even a child can take action to make a difference. You don’t have to wait and grow up. It’s never too early to start. Goals: Authentic learning experience Remove the culture of “just get it done” to “can’t wait to work some more” Plant seeds of mindfulness & empathy Know in today’s world anyone can take action to create positive change

4.)Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project? I realized with Coetail is that it’s not just learning about edtech it’s the culture of learning that comes with advent of using technology as a tool to learn. The devices, apps and programs will change. It is how we approach the chaos, what questions we ask and what decisions we make to navigate the world around us. I am a fan of place based education (yes another term!). This Unit will kick off the year to build community on a local, national, international and global scale. It will be a Tsunami of information and work that will at first overwhelm, then level out as the children gain knowledge and understand how learning in the classroom takes place.

5.)What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit? I am concerned about finding “experts” in the regions and themes the children will explore. The children are Vietnamese they learn about Vietnam through their Vietnamese classes and previous units of study in other grades. I want this experience to tap into their background knowledge and hope they can make the connections. While it may seem like old content I want it to have a “new” feel in terms of discovery and creating meaning. I don’t want to hear “we did this before!” Making it “fresh” with experts is part of a way to make it new, interesting and different. Formative and Summative Assessment is also in the back of my mind. The children and I will record and publish the process for reflection. This will serve as assessment and continue with other projects during the year.

6.)What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you? Interesting question…I will have to focus on connectivism and teach the managing of knowledge versus gaining knowledge. We will definitely be discussing Knowledge Half Life and what that means for them. I am also curious about fostering community in the class with regards to online genres of participation, learning and creating content. How can we connect the dots between sources of information and decision making? I am also interested in game based learning. I haven’t decided if I will use this in the unit. The idea of badges intrigues me. I would love to make Vietnam a puzzle or mystery for them to figure out instead of the standard research project with an artifact at the end.

7.) What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students? Oral and written communication skills are going to be key. I like the Vietnam focus because they can communicate in their native tongue and English. There is always a fine line between independence and following directions. I plan on implementing the school’s BYOD policy in the classroom. Prior to this their work was done in the lab. There will be a learning curve as they get to use devices in the classroom for work and play. We will work together regarding a “screen time” policy in class.

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Small Celebrations


My school does not currently provide any devices in the classroom. There are two labs with standing PCs for the children to use. The school has a BYOD policy but teachers were not receptive to this because they did not want to be held responsible if something were lost, broken or stolen. Yet, there has been a lot to celebrate.


The school opened its new campus this year and has a lot of inexperienced teachers. Next year I will be a 5th Grade Teacher/Integrationist. The admin wants a team that will model instruction and edtech. It will be tight as they are not hiring another full-time integrationist but I am really looking forward to working with my team and we are going accomplish a lot next year.

I could write about my prior experience with devices in the classroom but I would rather talk about the future and how I plan on implementing BYOD in Grade 5. During the first parent teacher night I plan on introducing how technology will be used in the classroom. I will introduce Google Classroom and Google Sites. I will also direct them to the Classroom Facebook Page. There will be a Google survey and devices will be a part of classroom instruction.

The children at the school do not have the experience of using devices for learning in the classroom. The goal is to show them how to use devices in the class as a tool for learning. There will not be a set “computer” time. The device is a school supply just like a pencil bag. It must be brought in and taken care of. We will set up routines for this as well.

We will have discussions about “screen time” in class and what that means. We will also share the fun of technology. We can share what we know about SnapChat, Musically and what else is in the pipeline. We will discuss the “why” behind these apps and if or how they connect to education.

We will record the process of how we create content so we can reflect and share. We will enlist the help of “experts” in what we want to learn about and realize we are also experts. We will connect globally with other children to share and learn about how they view the world through their lens. As I write this I am so excited to think about all we can do with regards to re-mixing and innovation. More importantly we will also have face to face conversations with each other.

In my research I came across an article from the New York Times regarding Steve Jobs and technology in his home. He wasn’t a big proponent. There is a place and time for everything. This is what we will remember and learn in my class next year.

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What the real world uses…

Because of technology, education as we know it has changed. It is individualized and on demand. It has changed my life. Technology introduced me to online gaming MMORPG. I connected with people from different races, backgrounds and ages from all over the world. I did this in game and out of game through blogs and forums. With Youtube I was more interested in Michelle Phan and her makeup tutorials. I learned cooking tips and how to install a new fan in my computer. What I need is at my disposal if I take the time to search properly.

How this looks in education and academics is a vastly different scenario. In the next 5, 10 to 15 years I don’t believe it will change in a vast manner. In the coursework readings I noted the dates on the reading assignments. Some were dated up to 2013 one went as far back as 2004. Have things changed that much? In terms of half-life of knowledge these articles should be way out of date. So I began to search for more current articles and discovered in regards to education they still seem to be pretty timely. To me this reflects the world of academics has yet to catch up with the “real world” in terms of technology and education.

Other examples are I received my Masters in Teaching in 2008 from Lewis and Clark College. There was not one edtech course in the entire program. As students we used Facebook to connect and share as a co-hort independent of the college and program itself. Fast forward to present day 2017 to my current school where I am the Integrationist. A private international school in Vietnam. The primary school does not have any portable devices. There are two computer labs. The current ratio of computers to student is 15:1. Last year I taught at a public elementary school in America the entire school had 30 chromebooks for 800 students. There were also two labs and the computers in the labs are older than the students. The digital divide is real.

Just as you will find pockets of edtech engagement in schools it is the same for academia as a whole. There are the elite public and private schools where technology is funded and supported. The others struggle to keep up. However while it seems things are moving at a glacial pace inroads are being made. MIT for the first time has awarded academic prizes for innovation with regards to its online course work. University of Michigan is working to break out of the campus/classroom paradigm with their new Teach-Out series of MOOCs. One of the things that struck me with both schools is the word choice used to describe the course work. They used words like beautiful and compassionate. This touched me because it is what learning should be and if one wants to instill a “love” of learning then the language needs to match it. Technology has made learning beautiful and compassionate. It has connected people to one another and to life in an unprecedented way. Nothing will ever be the same again…

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Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away…


The idea of reversing content instruction to an independent learning activity can be an empowering motivator to learn. It can take the mundane or complex and meet the student where he/she is and let them pace the content. While its successes may be evident with upper education. I am unsure how this would work in lower primary grades. Our Kindergarten children are reading at home on Raz Kids. Third graders are practicing Math on Prodigy (which touches on game based learning). Teachers are not actively connecting this work to in class instruction and there is no assessment to see if it makes an impact on skills.

I began to think about lower elementary and flipped or reverse learning. In Googling “flipped learning kindergarten” the first three hits were two youTube videos and a Coetailer blog on the subject. The writer was a Kindergarten teacher and at the time (3 years ago) she had concluded it would not be a good fit for Kinders instruction and had some great wonderings. Then my mind wandered to my own learning. What did I do when I was little and not in school? Television actually taught me alot. It was the original “flipped” learning model. Looking back at Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and The Electric Company (God Bless PBS). Children were coming to school with some introduction to numbers, the alphabet and character development via mass media of television.

Next year I am going to delv into flipped learning for Grade 5 for Mathematics. My students are Vietnamese and generally seem to have a strong number sense. They struggle with problem solving and real world application. I will use Khan Academy, exit tickets for in class assessment and the rest of the time will have a Problem Based Learning focused on Mathematics.

Technology has taken game or play based learning to the level of transformational learning. Never before has someone been able to play, communicate with others on a global scale in real time. I would like to investigate game based learning in more of a place based learning platform. I want to start in our 5th grade classroom, in our country and see how we can expand on this to include experts and other players to collaborate and learn with via some type of play activity. To date a teacher has taken off with Minecraft. His class has created a server, with the intention of creating a community and an economic system. The children actually first approached me and asked about the possibility of creating a server for recess. I discussed it with the teacher and it has become their cumulative project for the year.

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Where do we go from here…

There are many terms used in education today to describe learning. Project, Problem and Challenge based learning are terms that are thrown around and used in classrooms. There is also Play, Inquiry, Place based learning to name a few more, yet the focus these days in my current elementary school is on the latter. Before the readings I didn’t really discern between the three. It was rather the same banana peeled differently and to some degree this still holds true.

Educators at my school would benefit from understanding the difference between the three. To understand these terms and their processes would save planning time and determine which process would best serve the learning population. Each one has their own strong points. I wonder how they would would in my classroom and in our school as a whole. I created a Venn Diagram to illustrate a condensed understanding of Project and Problem Based Learning.

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As an elementary school teacher project based learning bridges the gap between instruction and application. There isn’t added on evidence such as a drawing or writing piece at the end but rather a whole process that ties into an artifact reflecting knowledge. Technology embeds itself well into this term because it is a tool and a means to an end through media choices for the artifact. It makes me think of a 4th grade class at my school where kids in the class have chosen their own form of electronic media to represent their learning. It is empowering for the students to choose how they want to create their artifact they are choosing between Adobe Spark, Powtoon or Google Slides. Some are collaborating others are working individually. I am encouraged by their engagement and work ethic to finish their projects especially at the end of the school year. I see the value with problem based learning and I use it to actually solve problems and create routines in the classroom. It is a great strategy for creating community. I haven’t used it much for teaching content because it is very open ended and with younger students the focus can be lost as they digress onto other relationships and connections to a problem. Using technology as a research and collaborative tool can make for short work on Problem Based Learning. Instead of poring over texts and individual notes. Students can work together curating and creating in real time.

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I have experienced Challenge Based Learning at Ed Camps. It is great for PD I have yet to implement this in the classroom but I introduced it to a colleague and I am ready to try it next year. I like the planner, it dovetails well with UBD. Next year I will be a Grade 5 Teacher/Integrationist Coach. I am eager to have the opportunity to try all three and blog about the successes and challenges of each.

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What You Practice Grows Stronger

As a small business owner I realized I maximized redefinition to transform systems, improve communication and increase productivity. I was constantly researching how I could make things run better, smoother and faster with cell phones, gps, programs, and the internet. Time and profit was the motivator. I wanted time for myself, content employees and happy customers.

As a new educator I still focused on the same systems of improving communication and increasing productivity. Getting these tasks automated as much a possible so I could concentrate on the craft of teaching was a new motivation. I used the internet for lesson plans and snappy websites like Brain Pop! I had one computer and a projector. All the computers were in a separate ICT lab. My students had a separate ICT Class and I can honestly tell you I have no idea what they did in there. I did not collaborate with the teacher. I was very busy at the time trying to survive my first year.

It took time for my TPACK learning curve to develop. My formal education had furnished me with a deep pedagogical schema that to this day serves me well. Depending on the grade, content knowledge shifts. Tech knowledge is ever changing regardless. I got comfortable with being confused in the sea of technology change and in the confusion I have learned how to problem solve and make decisions.

My first real tech transformation with regards to SAMR happened because of professional reasons. When I first came back from teaching abroad I had few if no connections to network with to get a job. It was my dear brother who suggested I reach out to the edtech community in Portland. I began to attend edcamps and connected with educators through twitter, Google+, Instagram and Facebook. Instead of just reading a teacher’s blog and remixing their ideas I began to communicate and share with other educators all around the world. My PLN has expanded exponentially and I have many experts to refer to. Really cool people who love learning, share their ideas and restarts when things go awry. I am not alone!

My education, experience and embracing a digital PLN of mentors my teaching now started to blend technology in a manner that was more immersive for my students. We learned together how to use different platforms and decided together what tools would best serve our needs. Later as other teachers would come to me asking about a program I could send a student to teach them (I taught 3rd and 4th grade) and the class. Through technology adoption we all transformed into teachers and learners in the truest sense.

Getting ready to Vlog

Getting ready to Vlog

SAMR is next to impossible in the classroom if you have no technology tools for the students. This is what my teachers are facing in their own classrooms at my current school. Yet, there are two stand alone computer labs and while it’s not 100% Redefinition it is a start…

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Quick and Dirty

My biggest takeaway from this class was not just the nuts and bolts of visual thinking. It was time. Creativity takes time. Making visuals is more time consuming than writing. When I taught a session on infographics I purposely gave more time than instruction on content. The reality is we need to make the time for ourselves to create and also for our students. Balancing this with instruction is a challenge.

We rely on words for our presentations because it is so much easier to write and bullet point. Then we put everyone to a slow simmer when we read aloud during our presentation time. In researching infographics I found this website by Curtis Newbold aka the Visual Communication Guy. He noted what type of content lended itself well to infographics. He mentioned specifically things that tend to be skimmed such as a syllabus. For a class he taught on infographics he modeled by making the syllabus an infographic and blogged about the process. The big take away for him was he did not have a single question about due dates or expectations of the class from students.

He had another blog post where he specifically gave examples of documents that work better as infographics and resumes were also on this list. My visual resume is a work in progress and so are my skills at creating infographics. It definitely takes practice. I am looking for the perfect online creator that feels intuitive and not tedious to use. My resume was created with Venngage. It is very simple. I want to add more detail but it is still too wordy for my taste. Learning how to translate information into pictures is still a steep learning curve.

Debra Hernanz Resume

I need to make the time to work on my visual literacy. I started the year with visual note taking and this has fallen wayside. So a gentle reminder to myself to continue with my work or craft of creating visuals with my hands and online. I was given the task after spring break to create a summary and action plan for the edtech department at our elementary school. I was told I could present the information in an infographic. I am excited to give this a try. Stay tuned for updates on how it comes out next month!

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Lights, Camera, Devices, Apps, Action

I really enjoy creating short clips for my Instagram feed. Adding sound and motion to content really puts the viewer in the context of the moment and shows the tone of what’s happening. Ten seconds is usually my limit. I was sad to see the demise of Vine. I loved the idea of what content one could push in six seconds. Zack King (a fellow Oregonian) showed us what was possible with movie shorts and Vine. His Ted Talks is one that I showed to my class to inspire them to tell their story.

I am constantly taking pictures of the classroom process to document progress which I also share on social media such as Instagram. My Instagram is private and is where I share mainly with my PLN what’s happening in my corner of the world.

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Creating videos has serve multiple purposes in teaching and creating community. This year our school started a Club called Eagle Vision where we share what the school’s Core Values mean to us as learners. The kids work on ideas for content and we create a video for the monthly assembly. We also do a trailer for the upcoming Core Value. I have found iMovie to be useful for this as there is a Movie Trailer Template.

Using Animoto I created a video as closure during a long term substitute teaching job. The students and I were very attached to one another. They were going to have to transition back to their regular teacher. The video remembered the good times we had and served also as a communication tool for parents.

I unashamedly use the movie shorts from the Assistant in Google Photos. I found if you can show children what they look like on task their confidence increases and it strengthens our community of learners. They never tire of seeing themselves learning. This goes for teachers too. During learning walks I take pictures and short videos of them in action. This extends to the learning community as a whole because parents also view these videos. Teachers also benefit seeing themselves in action and can reflect on their own professional growth.

I have a YouTube Channel where you can view some of the videos I have created using Google Assistant, Animoto and iMovie. I still have only scratched the surface of iMovie. Our school uses the Adobe CS6 Suite and Windows Movie Maker. Both I haven’t yet investigated.

My next challenge is to encourage teachers to use these media choices with their instruction. It is important for them to model creating content with different forms of media for their own professional development along with teaching kids about how to remix and construct new meaning through various forms of media.

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Vietnam Infographics

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The fourth grade team at our school had created a unit on Vietnam Culture for socials studies. They wanted the children to create infographics as a final assessment. I was asked to help with this because they wanted to use an online media source to create the infographic.

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Since the children were studying Vietnam I decided to search for Infographics on Vietnam and I was surprised to find so many. This was great because it also meant if the children searched on their own they would have resources to see as well.

This assignment was awhile ago so at the time I wasn’t aware of CRAP. Instead I looked at The 6 Principles of Design I created an anchor chart and went through this with the children. I had the students divided into groups and they looked at the Vietnam Infographics. They looked for the principles of design in the Vietnam infographics and we shared as a class what we liked, the principles we could see and what the infographic was about.

In doing the assignment again I would have the students look at CRAP and point out where they saw evidence of this.

I would include some other questions as well:

Questions to ask: What is the story in this infographic? What makes this different than say a poster? What makes this different than say a mind map? How is data presented?
Can you point out where you see CRAP elements? (I can’t wait to say this) How does it help your learning? What topic would you want to create with an infographic?

I would also share Kathy Shrock’s short view presentation on infographics. Adobe Education Exchange is also great free resource for teaching infographics and other visual literacy concepts.

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Less is More…

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In February I ran a session at the Vietnam Tech Conference at Saigon South International School. The session was on visualizing ideas through infographics. The session was actually a final project in a previous Coetail Course.

I had an hour for the session and it was a lot of content. My goal was to have the teachers work on their own infographics. I created a google slide and decided to keep my whole class instruction to fifteen minutes. In reality I ran over about ten minutes. This was because the presentation also had a short video. The original slide show makes me cringe…it was very wordy and I admit I read aloud parts…

My revision is much more visual. I realized it was impossible to push this much content in such a short amount of time. I needed to pare things down and offer resources for later use. I used photographs I had taken from student work and had the benefit of pictures from the session so I added these too. This made me feel the presentation was more authentic.

I also included an infographic I created myself modeling the finished product.

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The biggest revision I made was changing the links to pictures with the links embedded. In the interest of time I dropped the bio slide.

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The slide show was meant to be a tool for the teachers to use while they worked. Embedding the links gave a visual for what was to come instead of just a blue line. I also had given the teachers paper copies of infographics to use as resources. I had eight examples. Next time I will only do three. Less is more.


Jeff Utecht mentioned it is time consuming to collect pictures for a presentation. I agree. I found myself overthinking on what pictures to use. It is much easier just to type out words on a slide instead of finding the right visual concept. Just like painting it’s the prep that counts more than the final coat.

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