Classroom Design New Media literacies

Your own app – WHY not?

She is now 3 month old almost 4 month old, our little one. It’s a gift and I’m very thankful that I get to experience this journey. On the other hand I definitely miss my work at school and as much the professional input and exchange I always got from my colleagues, my PLN through Coetail, Twitter, etc. It’s time to get into it again at least online. Time will tell whether I can make it regularly but nothing wrong with giving it a try. Here I am again.

Photo Credit: César Poyatos via Compfight cc

Classroom iPads

ChatterPix for Kids – Great app for recording students learning!

Since I’m working in the library I love the fact that I get to know new books from different countries and cultures. As a German I grew up with German children’s literature and I feel familiar with that part of the world. Due to this fact I try to take the chance as often as possible to let the students tell me about children’s books from other parts of the world.

For this context I found a very interesting app for the iPhone or the iPad. It’s called ChatterPix Kids by Duck Duck Moose.

Classroom Collaboration

Padlet as a Great Tool for Collaboration

I’m sure you have heard of Padlet many times and probably  often used it in a variety of situations. If you google Padlet it says:

Picture via a Google Search


My grade 5 students used Padlet several times this year for different purposes. We haven’t collaborated with the world yet, but definitely in class and with classes at school. I would like to share two examples:

1. Example:  
Unit – Migration // Padlet use for collecting and sorting quotes of a book

The students were reading “Milchkaffee und Streuselkuchen”, which is a book about two boys and the life of a German family as well a family that immigrated from Ethiopia. Sammy is born in Germany, speaks German very well, went to a German school, but after a racist attack towards him and his family, he realizes that he is different. He also feels the differences in school through the words and actions of his classmates, especially Boris. However, Sammy will gain a new friendship.

The students were asked to write an entry on the padlet each time they read something about the behavior of the main characters, Boris and Sammy. It was the goal to collect the quotes in order to find out the change of the behavior, change of the perspective of Boris and create a timeline to make it visible. It was a perfect way to work collaboratively in order to get the whole picture.

2. Example:  
Unit – Live is a Stage // Padlet use for comprehension of the ballade “Der Zauberlehrling” of J.W.Goethe

In the context of the unit Life is a stage the students get to know ballades. A famous ballade is “Der Zauberlehrling”. The vocabulary is not easy at all for language learner as well as young German native speaker. The vocabulary was used 250 years ago and additionally I wonder how often does a student in an international environment get the chance to read a German ballade? So comprehension is very important in order to create a modern version of it which will be their assessment.

What did I prepare? I cut up the ballade in 14 pieces and saved each part as a picture. I sent them those pictures by email and asked them to work in pairs and to bring the pieces on a padlet (one padlet for each group) in the right order. Additionally, in order to show me their understanding, the students were asked to write the content of each verse in their own words.
My initial thought was: “That is just substitution.” (SAMR model). My second thinking and repeated reflecting about it let me realize that there are good reasons for doing it anyways. I don’t have to waste to much paper, meaning copying the ballade for each pair. In my previous life as a teacher, the students had to cut the verses in pieces (or even I would have done it) and then glue them in the right order. No, not anymore. Third advantage was that I could integrate spelling practice and sentence structures with the students when they were writing their understanding in own words. Fourth, we could easily compare each others understanding of the verse by reading each others padlets. Fifth, as homework I asked them to write a summery. In my previous life of course on paper. No, they are going to use the padlet.

And now the real collaboration experience for my grade 5 students came up because they started to talk about how they will organize it. “Ok, you do the first half. I do the second.” or “Let’s do it together on Skype.” or “You write but I proof read the text and check the spelling.” or “We write and we check each others text” … Fantastic.

Here you are:


Created with Padlet
Classroom Course 4 Course 5

It’s a different light now – Course 5 final project thoughts.

Picture made with

When I wrote my last post about ideas regarding the final project of my COETAIL experience I already had a feeling that my ideas still have to develop. I was inspired by Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) blog post Taking the Leap: Thinking about Course 5 and by talking to amazing colleagues I luckily have at school. Huge thanks for that already.

Following now a first summary of my planning.

Unit: The Human Machine – The human body is a complex organism, which is made up of many systems that work together.

Integration in German:

  • Form and function of our brain
  • Features/elements of a non-fiction text

The students will know about the brain as one of the most complex systems of the human body by watching the video(s) and taking notes. They will understand the importance of the brain for the functionality of our body.

They will inquire and analyze the elements of a non-fiction text answering the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • Why is it important?

In order to show their deeper understanding of a chosen aspect about the brain (or the human body?) the students will create a non-fiction page using non-fiction features and new technologies. There could be the option to create and publish an ebook together.

The students will be able both to read visual elements of a non-fiction text and also to organize and summarize information by a visual text. They will be able to use technology in order to create a visual text, to collaborate and to share their understanding.

The students will use the German language as their prime medium of inquiry (learning through language). They use the language for creative and effective information processing, organizing and summarizing.

Let me explain how I got there …


Choose a unit that interests you and redesign it in a way that excites you.

I always wanted to inquire more into Visual literacy and it is already part of my appraisal topic (How can I develop more proficient reader in the digital world?) this year. One morning on the way to school my friend, colleague and amazing teacher Wendy @wenfor and I spoke about the final project and she suggested why don’t you focus on features of a non-fiction text? Now in our digital world it is more important then ever. She gave me the following book: I see what you mean. Thanks Wendy.
The unit about the human body with the focus on the brain in German is a good unit because to be visual literate and understand elements of a non-fiction text helps to comprehend and explain readily even more complex aspects of science. Additionally the students use the tools and elements of non-fiction texts to create and show understanding.


Take what you have learned in all the prior courses and put it into action.

I have the feeling that the year 2013 was the peak of my professional learning ever! A reflection of it could be a single blog post. There are so many options but I decided to give it a try implementing the Flipped Classroom. I’m still torn regarding the Flipped Classroom and there is the chance! The focus won’t be the brain only. Therefore the Flipped Classroom gives me the chance that the students get the content beforehand and we focus on the features of the non-fiction text during class.


Think about how you are using technology to support learning in ways that we inconceivable without technology.

The students will inquire into the topic itself through the Flipped Classroom, meaning watching videos. But they will also get choices using technology to show their understanding about elements of a non-fiction text. My concern is that this might not be the redefinition level of the SAMR model, so I will have to think about it more in detail. Publishing a non-fiction eBook would be though.


Make sure you are showing them that you are a learner too.

With them Rebekah meant the students but implementing the Flipped Classroom means to involve the parents as well. I want them to see me as a learner as well.


And the two questions that would make me really think would have to be:  ”Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school? ” and  ”Is student work reflective of their interests or passions?”

I love the first question and it always drives my planning. The answer to this question and my final project I found in the above mentioned book:

We need visual literacy in order to get by in our everyday lives – when we read a magazine, go shopping, visit a museum, visit a museum, catch a train or bus, browse the Internet, text a friend, check today’s weather, or plan a vacation. The visual texts associated with these tasks include diagrams, maps, graphs, and tables. We take for granted that they are part of everyday literacy; but we don’t yet take for granted that they should therefore be a part of the literacy program. (I see what you mean, S.14)


Take risks. Ask for help when you need it. Take control of your learning and let go of control in your classroom. And have fun!!

It’s definitely out of my comfort zone but YES as much as I want the students to be a risk taker I will be a risk taker as well.

what are the next steps …

It would be great to get some feedback. Small advices, inputs, encouragement, opinions, tips, etc. are more than appreciated! I will read the expectations again and again and again like Rebekah recommended. And feel encouraged to use the Understanding by Design Planner to keep going.

Classroom Collaboration Course 4

Let’s light the bulbs!

Warhol's Light Bulbs
Photo Credit: zetson via Compfight cc

I’m thankful that Coetail makes me think about the final project for course 5 early enough. Unfortunately I can’t say yet – Yeah, that is what I’m going to do and I’m very excited about it. Two weeks ago I started having conversations with colleagues about the upcoming units and I got quite different but very helpful inputs. I always tried to keep the following questions in mind:

  • Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
  • What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
  • What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
  • What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

I’ll probably focus on my Grade 4 German advanced class and the unit is called The Human Machine. Those students are already a little bit experienced with the use of technology. They already have certain basic skills like typing, being in the browser, and some searching skills. But I like them as a class very much as well …

The focus in German could be the brain and as one option the students could create an own Wikipedia about the brain (e.g. the following topics: Intelligence, Memory, Brain, Language, Logic, Creativity – let’s the see what the students come up with).

My learning intentions would be on one side the knowledge they get about the brain as part of the body system, but on the other side I want to let them experience to share their knowledge in a very collaborating way, meaning to edit an entry for a wiki collaboratively. I think it is a good possibility for them to understand the concept of Wikipedia, to create and edit an entry (insert links and videos, common sense, etc.) , to share knowledge collaboratively (working in a group) and globally (working and communication with others outside of classroom and maybe even school), and to be a responsible and knowledgeable communicator online. The content itself though is not the most important, even though as a language teacher I’m aware that Determining Importance as well as Summarizing/Synthesizing would be the important reading strategies in this unit. The process of creating the wiki will be the focus. There are so many other wikis than the original one so as an action I could imagine that they are going to use interest-driven wikies more often or even create their own in future. Something I have never done before is to create a rubric, which does not have the product or process as the main focus to assess. Here it rather would be about the collaboration and communication. My concern is that once the wiki will be created, how does it actually continue to grow? And – how meaningful is it really to share that knowledge that particular way?

I have to say I’m not sure about the wiki. Personally I’m using the original Wikipedia, but rarely a specific wiki like PYPchat Wiki or the Minecraft Wiki or 21centuryedtech) – they never really appeal to me. One the other hand I’m aware that people use it to share a interest.

Therefore I thought about a second option. What tool could be a more appealing to the students and to me to share their knowledge collaboratively and globally? The students could be expert groups and create an interactive picture with information what they read about, with videos they found on the Internet; with audio and/or videos files they created using other tools like Explain Everything, iMovie, etc. to show their thinking and learning. The interactive picture can be shared globally and opened for others to add something.

Honestly, both ideas are kind of okay but for me not convincing enough yet. I have to admit that it would rather be a secure thing, although I’m ready to go out of my comfort zone. Ideas are unpredictable so I have to to be patient and creative to light the ideas is the most colorful way. I try to keep in mind Tip#2 by by :

Maybe you will mash-up gamification and digital citizenship. Maybe you’ll make a digital story with people around the world, tapping into your PLN. Perhaps you will have kids from around the world building in Minecraft or have a kindergarten inquiry sparked by Twitter. Perhaps you try Problem-Based Learning in an higher level math class, allowing for open books and open computers.  It could be that you find a way for your kids to design something for that 3D printer your school bought.

Yes, that’s sounds exciting to me … Let’s see. Like always … I’m very, very thankful for feedback. Probably even more than ever. Thanks.



Classroom Course 4 Learning Landscape

Learn for real!

Photo Credit: Mark Brannan via Compfight cc

Project-Based-Learning, Problem-Based-Learning, Inquiry-Based-Learning, Challenged-Based-learning are all pedagogical theories which all have something in common. Their approach is the real-world approach.

One of my goals for daily life teaching and learning is that it has to be authentic and meaningful for the students. As a PYP teacher, as a technology teacher, as a language teacher and as a person I don’t want to separate school from life outside of school anymore like our teachers did 20 -30 years ago. Difficult enough because often old structures and fixed mindsets are still there.

Authentic and meaningful problems, projects, inquiries, challenges motivate me as a learner and I strongly believe that this is also the case for students. Secondly I (often together with the students) always try to find a way to share our learning. Students present their learning, take some actions, give tips for our language learner (in my case), make aware of something, reflect on their learning – I don’t just want to collect the learning in the classroom or even worse just in the notebooks of the students.

Technology / the Internet as well as our local environment provide us a way to make the learning authentic and meaningful, to find projects or real problems to solve, and to challenge ourselves.

Some examples:

Grade 1 German Advanced
Unit: Fairy Tales
Learning Intention: All countries in the world have fairy tales or stories.

The students asked a non-german speaker to tell a fairy tell or story from their culture. The recorded it with (fantastic tool) and then retold the story in German. Again those stories were recorded and finally shared on a world map, so everybody can listen to it. Here is the link to Märchen aus aller Welt.

Grade 1 German mother tongue level
Unit: Material Matters
Learning Intention: Materials have certain attributes for certain purposes

As a scientist the students inquired into a chosen item and looked at it with the following questions:

  1. What materials are used to produce this item?
  2. How does the item look and feel like?
  3. Why were those material chosen to produce the item?

After the research the students published the results for their results by using thinglink. Due to privacy policies I can’t publish them here. Following they were asked to show their deeper understanding by choosing a certain material for a certain purpose. Even more it would have been authentic if we had the chance to actually build something. Next year …

Grade 3 GAL 1 (German as a additional language – beginners)

At the end of the unit the students reflected on how they are learning new words. The fact that the students are beginner language learner it was definitely a meaningful and authentic reflection for them. But we wanted to go a step further and share our reflections. Students came up with the idea to create something for the blog. Finally they asked me to create a little video. They created the tips for other language learner.

Grade 4 German Advanced
Unit: Inventions continue to impact our world
Learning Intention: Deeper understanding that inventions can have a positive as well as a negative impact on our world.

The students inquired into a chosen German inventor with the following prompts:

What is the invention?
How did it improve our daily lives?
What negative impact the invention might have on our life and environment?

To share their learning outcome the students chose to film themselves with the iPads and share it by using voicethread. Following a short part of it (and I learnt how to blur the faces 😉

Grade 4 German mother tongue level
Unit: Video killed the radio star (focus in German: written communication)
Learning intention: Different kinds of written communication are used in different situations and for different purpose.

The students are surrounded by technology and they communicate in a way different way than we did at the same age. They see their parents or older siblings using devices to communicate. Inquire into written communication (using Todaysmeet for the TuningIn; using the learning Links on the Intranet to find more information about different type of written communication), attending a contest writing a letter to a hero of a children book (found on the internet), using Skype to communication with somebody who still writes a lot of letter, touches the reality of the children. They will become experts and can share their knowledge.

Sometimes I get the question: And what is the language focus of the unit? Yes, there has to be a language focus. But especially the German classes learn through using the language. On top of it, even though it is the mother tongue class the learning needs of the children are very, very diverse. Project-based, Problem-based, Inquiry-based, challenged-based learning gives me the possibility to differentiate and support individually so the learning of the language will be as meaningful and authentic as possible. Maybe it is not problem-based, project-based enough … I would love to go out of the classroom walls even more.

Classroom iPads

Let’s climb up the next level

The SAMR model oder here is one very efficient way to evaluate technology integration independent from the device (smartphone, tablet, laptop) and scenario (f.e. 1:1 program).

One of my COETAIL cohort members (Brett MacRury) created a short video and showed which direction we want to go and what steps as well as thinking processes are needed. We don’t want just substitution only anymore. Feel free and watch it for further explanation.
Since the beginning of this school year I observed an essential change of my approach of using the iPads for teaching and learning. I started to evaluate the app I want to use before I use it in the classroom. Usually inspiration came from somewhere (colleagues, twitter, Google+, etc.) and I thought: “Oh, there is a new app, that’s cool, let’s try”. But wait:
Does it really transform and enhance the learning of my students?
Let’s check. That happened with Thinglink and my Grade 1 German class this year. The current unit is about Materials Matters and it took us a couple of lessons to get the vocabulary (nouns/describing words). Afterwards I asked the students to be scientists. The goal was to understand that different materials are used for different purposes. Their task was:

  1. Find a random item you find in the classroom.
  2. What materials are used to produce this item?
  3. How does the item look and feel like?
  4. Why were those material chosen to produce the item?

But what does the a real scientist do with his or her results? It didn’t take long until the students had ideas how they are publishing the results: in a newspaper, on the internet, during a conference, etc. How do we publish now our results? – That’s where the app called Thinglink came into play. Thinglink allows us to take a picture and add text or short videos (Youtube, etc. or selfmade) for further explanation.

Their task was:

      5. Publish your results and your understanding to share it with the world (meaning BIS community in our case).

If I look at the SAMR model – that is beyond Substitution. The app gave the students the possibility to express and explain their results using the right vocabulary and sentence structures. The results will be published on the community intranet. They couldn’t  have done this in a f.e. written form, because writing is not the focus yet. Their results would have been stayed in the classroom.
Did I redesign the task? I’m still a little bit confused about this part. Would be great to get some feedback on this. 😉 Older students could have find some explaining videos on the internet. That was too early for 1st grader.

I have to admit there are still some open questions. It’s never a linear process. Would be great to have that discussion about it. Could we even create a interactive picture of the SAMR model with examples of our practice?

Probably it’s like Jeff Utecht described here:

“I talk about the SAMR model a lot in my talks and presentations because I think it helps frame for teachers the kind of transformation that is possible with technology in the classroom. The one thing I don’t like about all the diagrams I find is that they make SAMR look like a hierarchy of levels rather than what I think they really are which are stages that we all go through when we are presented with new tools technological or not.Based on my own thinking I created the above diagram because what happens is once we redefine something it becomes common place and we start over dabbling with the next great thing.I like to use e-mail as an example. As some point around 1995 some IT person somewhere thought it would be a great idea if all teachers had an e-mail address. So what did we do…we used email to substitute what we use to do, then it augmented the way we communicated, next it modified how we expect to communicate in schools until it redefined everything from in school communication, to communicating with students, parents, and the wider community. Today….email isn’t seen as a disruptor…but it was.As we head into the final weeks I want you to step back and think about how you use technology or how it’s used in your classroom. Hopefully you are a scatter plot on that circle above. A little here and a little there….Redefinition is difficult as stated in the above linkRedefinition: The Technology allows the creating of new tasks, previously inconceivable. Think about that for a second…..that’s tough. That is using technology in a way that there is no back up plan. If the electricity goes out, if the computer doesn’t work that day there is no back up plan. The task you were going to do can not be replicated with paper and pencil or other materials. This is tough! It is not easy to redefine learning at this level…”

Unfortunately there is a downside:

I would love to present the results of the scientist here on the blog (Pls contact me personally if you want an example). Due to the privacy policy of our school I’m not allowed because you can see the faces of the children. My immediate thought was: Is there a way around? Maybe I can blur the faces of the children in the pictures as well as the videos. No idea but I’m was willing to spend a couple of hours. Back to It is possible to download the videos (within the JW Player 6)? When I read that I have to add something to the JavaScript API to get a download button I thought: Ok, that isn’t done in a couple of hours, that is something for 6 weeks vacation. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with APIs.
The whole experience brings me to other question:

How can I enhance the learning experience of my students, let them create, collaborate and share their learning, if I’m restricted by such a strict privacy policy? How does other schools deal with this? How will my students feel when I have to tell them that I can’t publish their results?


Classroom Collaboration Course 4 Learning Landscape New Media literacies

Let’s reflect …

What does integration of technology actually mean in the context of education? Already a while ago educators (Technology Integration in Education) and also companies (Google in Education) started thinking about it.

The SAMR model explains the single steps very well. Here a video: SAMR in 120 Seconds.

How would I evaluate my own practice of technology integration? How did the use of technology change my teaching and learning and the learning of the students?

My teaching career in primary school started a little bit than 7 years ago. Before I had worked for a software company as a trainer and I guess because of that particular experience and acquired knowledge I started to use technology from the beginning of my teaching. Reflecting on my students and my own use of technology based on the SAMR Model, which I first heard of maybe 1 1/2 years ago, I can see three phases:

1. Phase:

1 desktop computer in the classroom &  very few desktop computers for the whole staff to share

Students, f.e.

  • write articles for a news paper of the field trip
  • create posters for announcements
  • use a dictionary
  • use certain programs for learning
  • create a photo story

Me as a teacher

  • organize files

At that time my students definitely mainly used technology just instead of a paper, a paper dictionary, colored pencil, traditional printed photos, and so on. I remember that it was important for me that the students get familiar and independent using the PC because their life is more and more driven by technology. If they don’t know a word, I want them to check it independently. The aspect of creating also played an important role, although I just substituted other tools. As a teacher I just used the computer to save files. That’s it.

2. Phase:

Laptop cart with bookable laptops for each child & my own laptop as a working tool

Students, f.e.

  • search for information
  • search for pictures
  • use feedback tools like VoiceThread
  • write / reflect on a blog
  • recording a story
  • creating a movie

I’m as a teacher, f.e.

–       Use assessing tools like Evernote


The second phase was already a huge change and opened doors for using the technology. Probably I still substituted but new features created new learning possibilities. Information we probably would have found in a non-fiction book but are they updated? Pictures we might have found in magazines but would have there be a possibility to change and edit them? Feedback can be also given orally or in written from but would it have the same audience, would it have left the classroom then?

As a language teacher the way of assessing changed. To assess oral skills I usually just listened to the students. How helpful is it now that I can record them, listening to it again to get a deeper understanding of the needs? Aren’t there way more possibilities to personalize the learning of the children? The tasks for the students were still very similar compared to the use of technology at the beginning with only on PC in the classroom.

3. Phase:

Laptop cart with bookable laptops for each child.
Six iPads for the use in the classroom. My own laptop as a working tool. My own iPad.

Students, f.e.

  • talk in Skype with experts
  • create with coding apps on the iPad
  • develop an own Wikipedia about a certain topic
  • search for / use information / pictures with the knowledge about copyright
  • create a book trailer to promote a book they like
  • create a world map to share fairy tails from a different culture on Google maps
  • show their deeper understanding by using apps like ExplainEverything
  • use GarageBand to compose music to a ballade
  • produce QR codes to provide more information

The change of the task for the children started here. Suddenly the students collaborated way more often or how would they have been able to create an own Wiki if not together? The students get the chance to meet and ask real experts or how could they all Skype to a real passionated writer of letters?

Above I wrote that the life of the children is driven by technology. Sure, they need to know HOW to use technology but they even more need to understand WHY to use one or the other tool. What is the advantage of using a particular tool? Is it easier to collaborate? Can I get meaningful feedback of others? Am I able to create something which will be a benefit for myself or others?

As a teacher I wish to personalize their learning and support the student’s needs; I wish to encourage meaningful collaboration locally and globally in the context of real-world situations and to get feedback of their actions; I wish them to be knowledgeable about how to search effectively to get the information they look for; I wish them to be able to visualize their deeper understanding and create something new. (History of Integration of Technology).


REDEFINITION like in the SAMR model described is for sure our goal. It requires a mind shift and an exciting way of learning. For my own learning I wish to reach that level. Coetail is again a great way to get support and to head to new dimensions.

Classroom Collaboration Course 3 Design New Media literacies visual literacy

Great to visualize “Visual Literacy” in my mind!

It’s my 4th year as a language teacher at a PYP (Primary Years Programme) school now and I’m still learning. Sure, an online course “Making the PYP happen” 3 years ago got me into this curriculum but the real learning is happening in school and through constant (re-) discussion and reflection with colleagues.

During the preparation of the Parent Information Evenings amongst others we came across the “Strands of language” in PYP (Making the PYP happen, page 73). One of the strands is:

Visual communication: viewing and presenting
Viewing and presenting means interpreting or constructing visuals and multimedia in a variety of situations and for a range of purposes and audiences. They allow students to understand the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs. Visual images immediately engage viewers, allowing them instant access to data. Learning to interpret this data and to understand and use different media are invaluable skills. In the area of visual communication, students will learn to:

– understand, critically analyze and communicate information and ideas through a variety of visual media
– make informed choices in their personal viewing experiences
– use appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.

In addition as one of the transdisciplinary skills I found in the same document page 22 the following:

Communication Skills

– Viewing Interpreting and analyzing visuals and multimedia; understanding the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs; making informed choices about personal viewing experiences.

–  Presenting Constructing visuals and multimedia for a range of purposes and audiences; communicating information and ideas through a variety of visual media; using appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.

I think I was kind of aware of it that there was something written in the curriculum. But on the other hand I have to admit it was not there consciously enough regarding planning, teaching and learning. The readings this week make me more aware of the importance Media Literacy. The students should have “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of forms“, because I wish them to be a “thoughtful consumer and effective citizen” (Teaching Media Literacy Yo! Are you Hip to This?). Or even more like Jerry Christopherson said:

A visually literate person should be able to

– Interpret, understand and appreciate the meaning of visual messages;
– Communicate more effectively by applying the basic principles and concepts of visual design;
– Produce visual messages using computers and other technologies; and
– Use visual thinking to conceptualize solutions to problems.

What does it mean for me as a teacher?

The slideshow of Terri Sallee gave me great thoughts and inspiration for my own teaching. The Unit “Cultures” in Grade 5 was a good start for me to get more aware of the importance for the students for their inquiry within the classroom and even more important for their life as a learner.
In the German advanced class we decided to integrate through a German aspect: areas of the German culture. Later as a summative assessment the students will create interview questions, speak to people from other cultures and compare between the German and the different culture.  After a tuning in and brainstorm of areas of culture in general, amongst other topics the students chose to inquire more into gestures. Their question was What gestures exist in the German culture and what do they mean? My goal was to get them aware that there are same gestures but the meaning is different depending on the culture you are living in. Therefor we have to pay more attention using those gestures.

Photo Credit: ..Lobi via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ..Lobi via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ~dgies via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ~dgies via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: hmboo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: hmboo via Compfight cc


Photo Credit: Timothy Takemoto via Google


Photo Credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikipedia cc
Photo Credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikipedia cc





To make sure that the students have a meaningful interaction with the pictures I wanted them to follow the visible thinking routine I see, I think, I wonder. It was important for me that first each student thinks by him- or herself and then shares with the elbow partner and the whole class. The students described what they see (I see), they read the picture (I think) and they questioned the picture (I wonder).

I could have done the gestures myself. By showing pictures I had the chance to get an idea of the prior knowledge of the students. During their talks with the partner I was able to observe the conversation.

The outcome of the whole class discussion was wonderful. It is the German advanced class, all students speak German fluently but there is a variety of culture and language backgrounds. They discovered and discussed the different meaning of the certain gestures with high interest because they could relate to their personal lives.

After a great discussions I gave them choices of non-fiction texts about other gestures. They could choose what they were interested in and practice the 5 key-words-reading strategy which was one of the language foci of the unit. Of course they also good a chance to share their understanding of the text later.

So far I concentrated on viewing visuals. Later towards the end of the unit, as soon as the students are going to prepare their presentation of the interview, my and their focus will change to producing and presenting visuals. It was not so easy for me to find really good and appropriate pictures which are free for use and share. My outcome – I definitely should contribute pictures I took more often.

Anyways … I’m excited to see how the students will visualize and message their understanding and I will try to support them as best as I can.

Classroom iPads

Coding as a teacher?

First time I got in contact with coding/programming was at school (BASIC? I can’t even remember … ) early in the 90ties. It always interested me but for whatever reason I never got into it. Dad, why didn’t you buy me a computer? Just kidding. I became a primary school teacher – no programming at university or similar at that time at all. 2004 I got a second contact when I started working for a software company (Tcl, php … ) as a trainer for their software but I never really had to program. When I decided to go back to work as a teacher I was convinced that I will never get in contact with coding/programming again.

I was so wrong!

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer
because it teaches you how to think.”

First I read the following article (and so many more) few month ago: What 90% of Schools Don’t Teach and it makes it very clear: There will be a huge demand for programmer in future!  Therefore: Are Coders The Scribes of Our Time?  Interesting question as well. Do I teach the students to code? No. I could find excuses. Well, I never really learnt it. Well, I’m a language teacher. And so on. Not yet. One of my goals for the next school year probably will be to get into coding apps for the iPads for primary school students. So far I discovered a few apps:


Hopscotch allows kids to create their own games and animations. Kids unleash their creativity with this beautiful, easy-to-use visual programming language.


Kodable is a free educational iPad game offering a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving. For kids ages 5 and up, and tools for grownups too!


Cargo-Bot is a puzzle game where you teach a robot how to move crates. Sounds simple, right? Try it out!

Daisy the Dino

Learn the basics of computer programming with Daisy the Dinosaur! This free, fun app has an easy drag and drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game.


The new Bee-Bot App from TTS Group has been developed based on our well-loved, award-winning Bee-Bot floor robot. The app makes use of Bee-Bot’s keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns.

Cato’s Hike

“Who says that computer programming should only be left to the adults?… although Cato’s Hike is geared towards children, it can definitely unlock the little programmer in all of us.” — AppAdvice

Move The Turtle

Move The Turtle is an educational application for iPhone and iPad that teaches children the basics of creating computer programs, using intuitive graphic commands.


And I just found … So good that I’m on vacation at the moment …

Anybody any experiences with those apps? Which one do you prefer and why?

The second contact I got very recently is Google Apps Scripts.

Google Apps Script is a JavaScript cloud scripting language that provides easy ways to automate tasks across Google products and third party services and build web applications.

It’s seems to be amazing what is possible and how much effort people put into the programming and then sharing it for free so everybody (every teacher) can use it.

I wish I would have learnt programming/coding on a deeper level. The apps will be a good start to get into it and let’s see where the journey will bring me. It is never too late, right?

Have you ever thought that you will code as a teacher?