Collaboration Connectivism Course 1

Creating a Wikipedia to share our knowledge

Using technology for teaching has always been a goal for me. First it’s my personal passion since I can think of and second it is, it will be the future of the children I teach. Last but not least it is motivating for the children and gives them the chance to be an independent and creative learner.

It’s the second time my students of Grade 4 create a Wikipedia about a brain. As a German language teacher the focus last year was writing, only writing. It was less about being connected, creating and sharing knowledge and learning from other. That is probably part of the Coetail Effect. Thanks to everybody, it’s so important. My mind works already differently. As you can see in my planner, of course it is still about language. Most of the students in class are native German speakers and the few Germans as an Additional language speakers could get differentiated support to improve their written language skills.
To support the students I produced for the first time some instructional videos in advance. I wanted them to use the help instead of asking me constantly. As differentiation few students got the chance to produce an additional video by themselves. It was a great possibility to create and contribute something for the help section.

The post of Beth Queeney Dressler: Tapping into Collaboration made me think about using the Wikipedia in class. She questioned whether it is doing old things in a new way.

I didn’t write a single post. The students chose a topic to read about the human brain, showed their understanding by filling out a attached sheet and created then a post for the wiki. I also asked them to comment on each others posts and reflected about what is a appropriate comment.
But I agree – what will be the follow up? Will the wiki die now? For me it would be already a lot if they understand the purpose of a wikipedia. And who knows, maybe one day, sooner or later somebody will be an editor on one of the countless wikis that exist online. Or they will start commenting on each others blog (portfolios). It is/was about getting them aware …
Here now my planner:
Collaboration Connectivism Course 1 Learning Landscape

It’s Already Happening – Online Collaborative Projects

When I for first time read about “online collaborative projects” this week I was reminded of a conference (European 1-1 Learning Institute) last November at the FIS (Frankfurt International School). One of the keynote speakers was Ian Jukes. He spoke of a new book and mentioned that he wrote that book with two other people who he has never met in person. The whole process took place online as a collaborative project. I was impressed and I remember thinking: Probably that is the future.

It is not the future – it’s already happening. Last week I asked around mostly non-teacher curious about whether they are working somehow collaborative online. Several examples in a business or programming environment came up and I was confirmed that it’s already happening. Additionally my mother sent me by old-fashion mail an article Die Ungeduldigen. Eine Geschichte über Neugier und Fragesteller (in English: The Impatient. A Story about curiosity and questioner). The article describes three young teenagers who are already involved in programming projects. The author also ask what impact it has for teaching (Yeah, also in Germany is a mind-shift going on!) And guess how they are working: online and collaborating through their network. It’s already happening.

Of course I was curious what is going on in education:

  • How are teachers involved in online collaborative projects?

So far I know about two groups of teachers at our school. Both collaborative projects are happening within their professional development. They are inquiring into new concepts, exchanging their findings, their opinions and conclusions, their learning as a group at school but then also and as much as important online on a specific platform. It’s already happing.

  • How can we involve students in online collaborative projects?

It’s also already happening. There seems to be endless websites already to create projects and to find projects. Teachers and classrooms from all over the world create, inquirer, find out, exchange and a lot more. Here are some websites: CIESEtheteacherscorner.netKidlink, … There are tons of projects already going on. I even don’t know whether those links are the most popular amongst all options. So please feel free to add links you explored and you want to share.

So how is technology changing the learning landscape and global education?

Using technology for online collaborative projects gives students the possibility to get meaningful and authentic learning and live experiences. It allows sharing knowledge and experiences with other students from all over the world. Automatically they are having an audience that is like-minded and driven by the same interest. Learning doesn’t happen exclusively in the classroom anymore – it’s global. And it should be global because we have to solve global issues locally. Students get the chance to be involved in something. It will be the start for being active and creative for a network, for a community or for the whole society. If students/people get to know each other, if they know from each other their way of living, the obvious and the hidden part of culture (The Cultural Iceberg), we can take responsibilty together for our world like Plant for the Planet.

I definitely see myself being involved with one of my classes in an online collaborative project. It’s just a matter of time and opportunity. I will make it happen.
Inspired by the fact that I’m working at an international school, by the video Where is home?, by the phenomena of TCK (Third Culture Kids) and a project called Where do I live? I could imagine a project called Who am I? to let the students get to know each other and themselves better, to get a deeper understanding of their family background and their own identity.

The next question came up immediately: What tools are already out there? There is a List of collaborative software, collaborative plattforms, and a List of Wiki Software … but that goes to far for me at the moment …


Connectivism Course 1 New Media literacies Random Thoughts Self Organized Learning Environment

The Totally Underestimated Network

It’s amazing and I can’t describe how thankful I am how the network works and how much I am learning. It seems to come all together at the same time. Just a few examples:

  • All the reading difficulties my German –  and German as a Additional Language – speaker have led to a conversation with my ICT colleague about our Reading Curriculum and how reading on the internet is integrated. At the same time Jeff asked: “What are the strategies for reading on the web? Are we teaching these to our students?” So important. And we want to pay more attention to it.
  • I’m thinking planning of implementing to implement a Tech Tuesday at our school and then Katy Jean Vance posted about her setting and her experiences. Thanks again!
  • It’s my goal to explore Google for professional use with colleagues or/and other networks as well as in classroom more often and this morning I got the chance to experience a shared google document with an very interesting article called 5 examples of how the languages we speak can affect the way we think. Following I had a long discussion with my colleague. Thanks Lissa Layman.
    And there are more examples … I couldn’t ask for more …
    And Jeff … the Coetail Effect … I had to check what “to wordsmith” actually means … 😉
    For me it is about getting aware what is possible. Yes, I observe, I try, I realize that it works, I try old things in a new way and hopefully sooner or later new things in a new way …. I’m getting encouraged and more courageous. There are more chances and possibilities than we think which gets me highly motivated.
    And now I would love to get more into “Online collaborative projects” and other technology innovations (The Horizon Report) but today is my computer-off-evening … Tomorrow. No, I still have some reading time during my commute home. 😉
Course 1 New Media literacies Self Organized Learning Environment

How radical / risk-taking do I want to be / can I be?

… to try new things in new ways??

Probably most of you already heart about Sugata Mitra and his great experiments in India. What a smart idea to give children some computer, leave them with a question and see what will happen:

Sugata Mitra – Here a great TED talk:

As a result of his experiments over the last 10 years he developed a concept about how to set up his ideas of teaching and learning: SOLE – Self Organized Learning Environment. You get ideas to set up a classroom, to give them good questions to inquire into, you get an idea of the role of the teacher and a student manager as well as some examples of results of the students.

The video and SOLE made me think a lot about Grade 5 (Exhibition) – Sharing the Planet. In German we decided as a team to integrate with Ecosystems, more or less like an own unit. From the beginning I felt hesitation. It’s so hard for me this time to make it meaningful for them. We decided it’s meaningful because Grade 5 haven’t done enough Science before they will move to middle school. Not a good reason in my opinion. The TuningIn was already quite difficult for me and for them as well. Most of them found questions but 2 students mentioned that they know already “everything”. A sign for me?

Again: How radical can I be? I’m tempted to just give them the laptops and few main questions (Lines of Inquiry) regarding ecosystems and follow the idea of a self organized learning environment. I could think about my students and even differentiate the questions depending on their level of German. Although I’m pretty sure that they are able to find answers anyways.
Must – question:
How does a ecosystem look like?! (FORM)
How does a ecosystem work?! (FUNCTION)
Answer at least one question:
How is it connected to other thing? (CONNECTION)
How does it change? (CHANGE)
Present the results which shows your understanding and which you can share with others.
But: Will it be more meaningful for the students? It might become more meaningful because they determine the way of learning, their interests and also pace of learning.
How much do I risk?
How much do I risk if I fail?
How can I explain and justify to my colleagues that I want to try new things in a new way?
Thanks to a train trip from Padova to Munich I had a lot of time to think … and I really would appreciate some thoughts from you! Thanks!
 Update (04.05.2013)
So I took the risk and it was a learning for me and for them. I showed them (Grade 5) the following picture:
N.d. Photograph. Iexperten. Web.
After that they got clear instructions regarding building the groups, the inquiry questions, the links and search engines for information as well as the form of presentation.
They were able to describe that it is their responsibility to take over ownership about their learning.
I observed students who were able to build teams, to work in teams (3/4 of them) and it was a very positive and most of the time productive working atmosphere in the classroom.
The student manager took her job very serious. She documented the team work by taking pictures, how and where students were searching on the internet, how they took notes and what form of presentation they choose. Almost all students went to her if there was any issue. She also is producing a document which shows her reflection. I’ll use this document for reflection.
The students choose different kind of presentation forms which motivated them a lot.
I just had a quick reflection on the work starting with the following question:
Was there anything which was difficult during the inquiry? And actually the students confirmed my concerns and my observation:
It was difficult to find the information.
It was difficult to understand the information.
It was difficult to write the notes.
It was difficult to put the understanding in own words (verbal and non-verbal).
My outcome / questions are:
Reading comprehension is a very, very important skill. What are the reading strategies for reading on the internet? Are they different or the same?
At what age should students be able to search on the internet for information?
How does a good framework/scaffolding for becoming a good searcher look like? Does something like this exist already? When to start?
Anybody any experiences to share???
That is enough for the beginning. My mind goes crazy at the moment. On Wednesday I go a step back and I’ll give them a text on paper – let’s see what the outcome will be.
Connectivism Course 1 New Media literacies Self Organized Learning Environment

I can’t live without it anymore …

How did using technology change my learning and me as learner?

Technology gave me and gives me the chance …

… to be an independed learner. I have ownership about what I want to learn, how and when I want to learn and who I want to follow and listen to as well as my improvement and development.
… to learn with my own pace and depending on what kind of learner I am.
… to view beyond my local learning environment – colleagues and also in Germany – by using Twitter to follow people who I’m interested in, by using a RSS Reader to channel all the interesting and inspiring thoughts which are out there, etc.

But since I’m with Coetail there is even more. I have the possibility …

… to learn through the exchange (connect, collaborations) with like-minded people.
… go a step further and do action (following the Inquiry Cycle by Kathy Murdoch) by writing a blog, commenting on blog entries of others to reflect and asking questions as well as by sharing experiences face to face to encourage others. Once I created a cycle as a reflection for the job application (Reflection – PYP Verena Zimmer). It’s time for a new one …

In future I vision myself as a learner who  …

…  creates and contributes to the network in a confident way – even though this is still a little bit undefined for me how this will look like in my case. I’m getting there. Just explored a little bit – there will never be boredom.

By the way I hope to improve my writing skills in general, my English as a second language, my deeper thinking skills as well as how to demonstrate my thinking.

 How did using technology change my teaching?

Since 6 month Evernote is helping me immensely to organize my planning, my observations, my assessments, organizing my different areas of professional development, etc. I don’t use it to it’s fully extend yet, f.e. sharing notebooks, web clipper, sending an email to a notebook – is there a possibility to integrate an RSS Reader? I’ll google it later.

Using new tools gives the students the possibility to show their understanding and learning by CREATING. Here are some examples:

  • iMovie / Garageband (Grade 5 – Students create a advertisement jingle for their products during the “Shop until drop” unit)
  • Apps for StoryTelling (Grade 1 – Students show their imagination by telling a story on StoryWheel focussing on details.)
  • iStopMotion (Grade 5 – Students show their understanding of “Der Zauberlehrling” of Goethe)
  • App Book Creator (Grade 3 – Students create a simple Picture Dictionary.)
  • Storybird / ComicLife for creating stories
  • Filming with the iPad for Reflection purpose
  • Producing an instructional video (Grade 4 – Producing a video which explains how to insert a picture)

PARTICIPATING / CONNECTING to others allows them to experience learning as meaningful and authentic. Again few examples:

  • Students publish their PSA (public service announcement) on Voicethread to the Humankind about inventions, students reflect on each other
  • Wikipedia (Students write for a wikipedia about “Our brain”.)
  • Writing blog entries together with the students.
  • Skype Interview with an expert (Thanks mum!)

Okay, above I just listed few examples of using technology during my last 1 1/2 years. I realized I still do a lot of new things in an old way but my focus was always that the students create something. Just consuming has never felt right. Searching skills have to get way more attention. As a language teacher I got only once the chance on how to find good search words. The internet provides endless resources and allows me to tailor them depending on student questions / each student, there is no need for following a book anymore. Regarding resources and apps for the iPad the German market seems to be not so developed yet. Hopefully the learning gets more meaningful for the students. Often through using technology I realized that there is an audience for student’s learning and it becomes more authentic. I really want to avoid creating a gap between time in school and time outside of school. There is a huge difference regarding documentation of formative and summative assessments compared to few years ago. Documented assessments and observations allow me to tailer the instructions and the learning even more. It also gives students a better way to reflect on their own learning. Students can overtake ownership for their own learning.

If I want the students to be independent and self organized life-long learner I still have to figure out and be a risk-taker what using new things in new ways in teaching exactly means and how it looks like. That’s why I’m here. I’m getting there sooner or later.


Connectivism Course 1 New Media literacies

The Reality of the Youth

It really seems to be the reality – the youth is connected, networked, online, creating (and more and more parents I spoke to confirm this) and we as teacher/parents let the gap getting bigger and bigger and bigger or even create an intergenerational wedge. (Living and Learning with New Media, page 37).

The summery of the The John D. and Catharina T. MacArthur Foundation in (Living and Learning with New Media, p. 35-39) articulate the reality of students in America (any other comparable research of other countries? Germany? Maybe the KIM-Studie? Europe?) very clearly and points out the following:

  • The youth is using networked publics for searching information as well for social and recreational activities online. Students hang out or messing around there, it can be both interest- or friendship-driven, but and it’s the first step to become more creative in a direction in which the youth is passionated for. (page 35)
  • The youth faces economic, institutional, social, and cultural barriers (page 36) which hinders a development from just hanging out to geeking out.
  • The youth is hanging out (friendship-driven) OR they are meeting link-minded people to share and contribute knowledge. Both groups use the networked platforms for developing social norms (without parents and teachers) to develop their identity.
  • The youth get chances of peer-based learning through networked activities whereat peers are important drivers of learning.
  • The youth creates own new media literacies like f.e. norms for being online.

And here it comes my perspective of a teacher:

If we don’t want to create this intergenerational gap, what do the new media literacies mean for us a learners and teachers?
Obviously Henry Jenkins and his team already thought about this few years ago: New Media Literacies.

We need to get trained, even more important train ourselves (Personal Learning Network) and share our knowledge and skills. My personal goal is to share more often and encourage people to be curious and excited about their learning. The make the goal more precise: I want to share here on the blog and our iPad blog at school and I want to share during our staff meeting as much as possible. I’m going to try to connect Primary and Secondary School vertically somehow because there are so many fantastic tools which are rather for teenager than for primary. That’s the beginning, I don’t know yet how to realize this in detail.

A big question for me still is – how do I (who is using technology in learning and teaching already a lot) get to the next step to actually CREATE something for a community? I guess, the unit planner is a start … Let’s see.


Course 1 Random Thoughts Uncategorized

Are you ready? Educators everywhere in the world?

One thing I really appreciate almost the most is that I find through COETAIL people who are likeminded. At school (LS) there is one person who is as interested in the revolution like many COETAILers seem to be. By the by she just thinks we should do a geek weekend. 😉 I feel free to speak about my visions and passions and this is something I rarely ever experienced before.

Today I started getting into the ISTE Nets for Teachers. WOW – I’m so fascinated by the fact that something like this already exist for a while. It took me 2 1/2 years working in an international school environment to find them. I really recommend to have a look.

My big question is:           Are you ready? Educators everywhere in the world?

Are you ready

  • to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity?
  • to design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessment?
  • to model digital age work and learning?
  • to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility?
  • to engage in professional growth and leadership?
From my perspective it all starts with the willingness to get engaged in professional growth. It will open our eyes by itself. Second step probably is to share your own professional growth, your learning and your visions as well as to model digital citizenship.
And the moment I feel like a bubbling bottle of coke (thanks Astrid for this expression). I would love to speak the whole day about nothing else. But how can I reach others? I wish to be somebody who is opening eyes. What kind of support can I give?

The ISTE organisation also provides Essential Conditions. The document showed me that probably everybody of us does already a lot. But still everybody could ask the following (and even more) questions:

  • Do I really live the shared vision? How?
  • How skilled am I? (Here a test of Edutopia.)
  • How can I make sure that I develop myself professionally?
Let’s get ready!


Course 1 Random Thoughts

Aaron Swartz – A geeky Role Model?

I can’t remember fully when I heard the words nerd and geek the first time in my life. Probably it was during my time working for a Software Company as a trainer for their products. I thought some of my colleagues were nerds/geeks and for some reasons I was very impressed by them.

In theory everybody can be a geek and geeking out (Living and Learning with New Media, page 28ff.) on the internet. Compared to hanging out and messing around it is very intense, only interest-driven, therefore very knowledgeable, and highly social and engaged learning. Another big difference is the fact that

geeking out engagement involves accessing as well as producing knowledge to contribute to the knowledge network. (page 29.)

At the beginning of the year I read about the sad news of Aaron Swartz (Wikipedia) who killed himself. Unfortunately it was the first time I heard from him – probably I was / I am not geeky enough to hear from him early (or because I’m not surrounded by geeks anymore). It difficult for me to list what he was involved in and what he was fighting for – Wikipedia does it’s job. Anyways – I’m still very impressed by his knowledge, engagement, activism, understanding of complex topics, networked thinking, etc.

Today at school I had a group of five students (Grade 5) and I took some time to ask them what they are actually doing when they are on the internet. They definitely all playing games like f.e. Minecraft – hanging out with friends (chatting, etc.) and also kind of messing around (producing Minecraft-videos and posting them on youtube).

It’s a start but as a educator it would be great to support them to become more skilled on the internet, to use technology in a geeky way, to use their networks and eventually do action on whatever they are passioned about. Like Aaron Swartz who died way to early.


Course 1

Finding the Balance

Those three very important questions of Tim Gascoigne and all the reflections including the reflection of Jett Utecht gave me a lot of reading and thinking during the weekend. So for the readers of this blog, here they are again. They are so important that I decided to repost them. Thanks for Tim asking them.

  • How do we encourage our students to flourish in this world of networks when our organizations are built on outdated theories?
  • As a networked teacher, how do I start encouraging my students to network appropriately?
  • What is my role as their teacher in a world where knowledge and learning is at their fingertips without me standing in front of them?

I would like to add a question:

How do we build/support a healthy balance between the use of technology, the use of their network and the connection/interaction with real people?

An article “Focusing the Digital Brain” in the “Educational Leadership” from September 2009 gives some ideas. Even though we wish the students to be networked learners, let’s not forget the following:

  • Provide Reflection Time
Let’s give the students time to reflect and think about what they did online, no matter whether it was a blog entry, using the iPads, creating something, hanging out/messing around/geeking out, etc. Reflection makes them think and be aware about their choices and action in life.


  • Disarm Them
I don’t like this term disarm so much, but for me it’s about being balanced in classroom. There must be time for both technology use, being connected online and real face to face time. Yes, I still want them to experience to listen to somebody actively, to be focused on a conversation, to make eye contact while speaking and not to get interrupted by a text message or similar.


  • Let Them Teach
If they are using technology why not let them explain each other whatever it is. Often they know better anyways then us as digital immigrants.


  • Build Emotional Literacy
That reminds me of a friend who mentioned the other day that it is so much easier to cancel a meeting with a friend by sending a text message or email. Yes, indeed because we don’t have to deal with possible emotional reactions. Let’s be balanced between online and offline time not to lose the skill to read others emotional reactions and body language. And the same should happen in classroom.


Students digitally conditioned brains are 21st century brains, and teachers must encourage these brains to operate fully in our classroom. We must recognize that relationships and focused attention are key to learning in this century. If we can help students balance the gifts technology brings with these human gifts, they will have everything they need. (page 39, Focusing the Digital Brain)

This quote leads me to my understanding goal of Week 3 of Coetail. Let’s see.

All core content teachers are responsible for authentically embedding technology within their curriculum.




Course 1

Becoming a Role Model

While reading the chapter “Messing Around” in Living and Learning with New Media I always tend to think about myself and my habits in regards to the internet. For unexplainable reasons it annoys me. I feel it shouldn’t be about me. Instead I want to reflect on my teaching practices, my students I’m teaching and how I can improve.

Something changed my thinking: I need to think and reflect about my habits and goals first. Only then I’m more aware of how to be a role model for my students and how to integrate educational technology into my teaching practices.

I never really was hanging out with friends online, except maybe for chatting with friends overseas. Messing around, which means for me tinkering, exploring, searching information, experimenting with pictures and videos and also creating, getting an understanding of technology, Facebook and similar, for sure. Although I never went so far to be within an interest-driven network which is changing now with Coetail and it makes me smile. I wonder whether the name of my blog will change sooner or later.

What are the ways for me/us as (language, primary) teacher to be a role model in the classroom?

  • Openness and curiosity for change.
  • The use of technology devices (Laptop, iPad, smartphones, etc.) during lessons goes without saying, almost naturally. Good to have natural curiosity.
  • The use of software/apps means constant learning by trying, experimenting by myself and together with the students.
  • Using tools like RSS Reader, Twitter etc. to develop myself professionally.
  • Integrating technology into my unit planning to facilitate higher thinking skills and deeper understanding.
  • Inspiring young people to try something new which let them explorer something new to create.

I’m sure there is way more. Please feel free to add. Yes, I want to be a role model for the students I’m teaching. In addition, I also want to inspire other teachers who are on their way like I am and who are inspiring me countless times.