Course 3

Are your ideas ever your ideas?

Photo Credit: Pictures by Pascal Lemaître in Wissen – Was ist das?

Reading about remix creativity and remix culture over the past two weeks opened my eyes in regards to the endless possibilities to create these days. The possibilities have always been there and people have always been influenced by others like Brain Lamb writes in Dr. Mashup; or, Why Educators Should Learn to stop Worrying and Love the Remix.

Elements of reuse have always been present in creative work, even though the borrowing may have been framed in terms of “tradition,” or “influence.” Artistic and scholarly works build on the work of others.

But over the past years creation got another dimension due to the immense development of technology. Following few definitions of remix:

“Remix”, in the sense the competition intended, means a creative work that builds upon the creative work of others. … It means using the work of others in a way that it is transformative, or critical. (The “Imbecile” and “Moron” Responds: On the freedom of Remix Creators)

Remix Defined points out three different levels of remixing and creating in the context of music but I think it is transferable to other areas as well.

  1. The first remix is extended, that is a longer version of the original song.

  2. The second remix is selective; it consists of adding or subtracting material from the original song.

  3. The third remix is reflexive; it allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of sampling, where the remixed version challenges the aura of the original and claims autonomy even when it carries the name of the original; material is added or deleted, …

The author describes even a step further and calls it regenerative remix. Remixes are remixed again; it’s a second and anew mix of something existing already as well as constantly updated and changed by the community; “meaning there are designed to change according to data flow.” The article mentions Wikipedia and YouTube as examples of that regenerative remixing.

The article “Everything is a Remix” got me to the thinking that everything is about ideas.

Copy, transform and combine. It’s who we are, it’s how we live, and of course, it’s how we create. Our new ideas evolve from the old ones.

At this point I see a connection to speak with my grade 1/2 students about remixing and creating something new. Often a student comes to me and complains: “Student x copied me.” In that case I try to get the students together and try to explain to them that get copied also means that somebody liked the idea. Of course I also try to point out that it would have been better and fairer if student x asked to use the idea. My experience is that students are fine with this way of thinking.
Next time I could go a little bit further. The following book inspires me to philosophize and to ask children about ideas and where they are coming from.

Was ist WissenOscar Brenifier: Wissen – Was ist das?  (in English: Knowlege – What is it?)

One part is about ideas and it asks fantastic questions which could be a great opportunity to develop a different awareness.  Here are some questions:

  •  Are your ideas yours?
  • Do you have to search for the ideas in your mind or do they come by themselves?
  • Do you decide by yourself what ideas you keep?
  • Did you change the ideas you have?
  • Where do the ideas come from which you read in a book?
  • Is there a world of ideas?
  • Did the ideas always exist?
  • Do you people have to think so the ideas can exist?
  • What would be a world without ideas?
  • Why do you have ideas if you can’t share them?
  • Did you understand your ideas if you can’t make them understandable for others?
  • Do we all use the same words to express our ideas?
  • Can we have an idea without having words for it?
Course 3 visual literacy

Infographics and the Explanation Game (Grade 4)

For the next unit the central idea for Grade 4 is Discoveries and explorations continue to impact our world. In German we are going to integrate through the line of inquiry Past and present discoveries and explorations and to inquire into space and space travel. The language focus will be story writing from a certain perspective using digital tools like Storybird or Book Creator on the iPad to present the story.

At the beginning the students will get (unfortunately only short) time to inquire into the planet system because the focus then will be on the astronaut and his motivation as an explorer. At a certain point I’m going to use the following infographic to introduce the infographic itself as well as the suit of an astronaut.

infografik space

I found the infographic on Printerest and unfortunately nowhere else. Therefor I have to admit that the source is not 100% clear for me. Of course I checked and also the creator Karl Tate who seems to be an infographic artist.

Following the criteria of Daniel Zeevis What Makes a Good Infographic? I tried to evalute this above infographic. The content is reliably ( and timely. It describes and explains the way astronauts can work outside of a spacecraft for up to 7 hours. The colors (mainly light blue, white and black font) chosen by the designer fit into the topic, the layout supports the understanding of the complexity of the suit for space travel. The way the information are presented inspires the interest of my students in space travel.

While searching for an infographic for my Grade 4 German class I had to realize that there are not many infographics written in German for Primary School. I decided to take the one in English and integrate the vocabulary work into the lessons. After understanding the vocabulary and the content I want to give the students the chance to ask questions about what they read, to explain and to think further why an astronaut needs such a complex suit or certain parts of it.

Very useful tools to guide and to tease out student’s thinking are visible thinking routines. One in particular is called Explanation Game. It’s very important to model this routine first to make sure that the students know how to ask the questions of explanation and to give clarification to the others. The documentation of each step is important to let the students follow and comprehend the whole process of their thinking. The following are the steps:

  1. Observation -> I noticed that …
  2. Question -> Why is it that way?
  3. Explanation -> It …, because …
  4. Reason -> What makes you think so? What makes you say this?

Let’s see how it will go …

Course 3 Random Thoughts

Some thoughts about shareability

There are already millions of infographics these days (f.e. Infographic World, Daily Infographic or even on Pinterest).

Some are very good, some are less good depending on data, purpose and intention what to inform about or what message to tell as well as the design. I am following actually Daniel Zeevi how to judge a good infographic.

His overview gives a good idea and standards for the creation of infographics:

What makes a good infographic?

Photo Credit: What makes a good Infographic by Daniel Zeevi via

In addition to the above-mentioned three criteria, which I totally agree with, he lists shareability. Zeevi asks:

How relevant is the infographic? How much does it interest the audience? Is it optimized for the web and the search engines? Can it be shared through social media?

The two questions and also the thoughts Jeff Utecht expresses on Time Creating vs Time Learning made me think. He wrote:

Here’s the thing….creating something worth sharing takes time. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to create a really good presentation, it’s not easy to create a really good video and it’s not easy to create a good infographic…basically….it’s not easy to create something worth sharing.

He is kind of right – it takes time, which is good, but what does it really mean – to be worth sharing, to be interesting, to be relevant? To who will it be interesting, relevant and worth? Isn’t is very subjective? There is a great infographic about the life of Steve Jobs but I know a lot of people who are absolutely not interested in him. The same is valid for a presentation or any digital story. My story was about living your dreams. For some people it hopefully is something inspiring, for others nothing new and boring. In my opinion shareability in terms of relevance and interest is very subjective and depends on each single person. Or is there something like a common shared relevance?

Soon then some ideas how to use infographics in class …

Course 3 New Media literacies Presentation visual literacy

My story finally ….

This is your life.

It’s done. I felt the flow but even more I am feeling the relief at the moment. Somebody said: 1 hour per minute. Forget about it. It felt like ages. BUT: It was a great learning experience and I’m pretty sure I’ll will tell a story digitally again.




Photo Credit:
This is your life. by  Aaron Fulkerson

Here it is:


Let me tell you a little bit about the process:

It took me a while to decide what story I want to tell. Should it be something personal, something related to school or about my passion regarding technology, f.e. Evernote (next time …)? For the first digital story ever I decided to tell a personal story. I thought that is the easiest for the beginning.

Google Drive
Google Drive was again a very useful tool to start with the outline, to save the pictures and the document for the credits. Not to forget, the document for the credits has to be published to the web. Very useful.

Luckily I know iMovie already a little bit from work in school but I have never used it to that extend. It was the first time that I recorded my own voice, that I underlined the whole thing with a song, that I used pictured I found on the Internet.

The pictures I found mainly on Flickr or Compfight. Part of the pictures I took during my time in South Korea. I’m very thankful that so many photographers already licensed their work so everybody can share, use and even modify them. For the near future it is my plan to license my pictures on Flickr as well.
I was never really sure and I’m still not 100% how to cite in a proper way. I create a google doc, published it to the web and put the link at the end of the movie. Is this the best way? I’m excited to hear and see how other COETAIL members found a solution for giving credit.

Luckily YouTube launched a free audio library just recently. What I worried about most at the start the audio was the easiest job to do. It’s not to easy to find on YouTube but you will find it within the Video Manager and then Creation Tools.

I would love to use Digital Storytelling in school more often. Especially for language learner I see the benefit because they can express themselves through pictures and the spoken language. A little concern arises regarding time. I’m curious know and I will definitely inquirer more into it in future.

Course 3 Digital Footprint visual literacy

The Revival of Storytelling

UntitledI asked several people whether they know storytellers and if what story kept in their mind. Some of the answers: “My grandfather always told us stories.” or “I had an aunt. She always told us about her life when she was young.” or “My father knew everything about the people selling animals at the market.” They often said this with nostalgia and kind of sadness that they can’t remember those stories. Interestingly often storytellers were understood as people who tell the stories orally and in front of others, f.e. at the family table.

But that is only half of the story…

Somewhere I read: We are ALL storytellers. Unfortunately I can’t remember where but it is so true. Our life is so full of interesting stories and often we wish to share them. Some people write a book. Some write articles for a magazine. Some tell stories during a dinner when they meet friends. Others make professional movies and record their story. As a teacher I read or tell a story to children. Personally I really like to read autobiographies because they tell the story of an interesting person (Recently of Marcel Reich Ranicki, who is a well known German literature critic and survived the second world war amongst other skills by telling stories.)

There is a new dimension to the storytelling. Everybody is a storyteller but everybody has also to possibilities to record them – Digital Storytelling. Wikipedia says:

Digital storytelling refers to a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. … “Digital storytelling” is a relatively new term which describes the new practice of ordinary people who use digital tools to tell their ‘story’. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, and can be interactive.

This week I saw and listen to so many good stories and I’m amazed by the possibilities. It doesn’t have to be a huge and difficult project anymore. Because of the technology development over the past few years everybody can do it. You can choose to work with your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone. But technology is actually just a tool. If you want to go a little bit further then just recording something, follow The 7 elements of Storytelling or 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story.

Personally I again (like so often during this COETAIL course) feel positively overwhelmed (and stressed?) so I don’t know where to start and whether actually somebody wants to hear my story. I guess I just have to tell the story I have told many times before.

Soon to be continued … Soon one story will be told …


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.

Course 3 Design New Media literacies visual literacy

Small little changes of design

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication - L. Da Vinci
Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer via Flickr

In the article, Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones says,

“Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.”


What actually does it mean – usable, accessible, and logical?!

Isn’t it related to the design of a web page as well as to the content? What is usable for who?! What additional information does the visitor want and how can I organize them? What does the reader wants to access on top of the blog post itself? How does the website make sense and is logical?

After reading the article mentioned above I got a little bit clearer in my mind. But at the same time I realized how complex this topic is.

Personally I always liked and preferred the minimalistic and simplified approach. Too many colors, to much advertisement, and too many information at the same time overwhelm me. Therefor from the beginning I chose a very plain and simple template for my own website. And still I wouldn’t change too much of the design which made me think more about the content.

Following what I thought about the past week and the small little changes I made:

The banner

Why did I choose the picture for the banner of the website?
Like teaching and learning, swing dancing is my passion although I go definitely not often enough. My first dancing partner drew this picture for me and it will always remind me to do things in life which I feel passion for. For me dancing means learning, moving, inspiration, being a risk taker as well as a communicator, and of course enjoyment and lightness. The picture doesn’t tell anything about the content of my blog though.

Well, I had two options: changing the picture or changing the title of the blog. It was/is a tough decision.

Decision for now: Let’s dance through life! Learning is like dancing.

The posts

The way each posts is shown on the website is not optimal yet. I like the idea very much to see each post with part of the picture of the post, the headline, and a teaser. That is a way easier way to scroll through the page and choose what you want to read. I haven’t found the right template yet but I’m working on it. Maybe somebody has an idea?

Information about me

Like I found on some other websites (f.e. I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself right on the first page. Being at the confrence #OERde13 this weekend in Berlin showed me again how nice it is when you can connect the great inspiration you get through faces. It becomes more real and personal. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a little bit. Of course that brings me to my “About me” page which could be improved as well.

Tag Cloud

By placing the tag widget at the top of the side menu, I felt it provides viewers the possibility to  scan the page and they might get an immediate idea of the blog’s content. I have never been really sure about the tags widget and honestly I neglected tags for my own blog post (or Evernote) as well. That will change because I see now the advantage of the tags.

Visitor Counting

Do I really need this? Does the reader really need this? Or is this just my ego which needs some confirmation? It’s nice to know that people read my blog but I came to the decision that I rather want people to comment on posts and to show that way their thoughts and interest. So I disabled it.

Design is still a matter of taste for me although there are certain rules and researches which describe the reading habits of visitors of a website. I try my best to focus on the content support by the design of this blog. Of course feedback is always highly appreciated. Thanks.

Course 3 New Media literacies Presentation visual literacy

Risk the change and the challenge …

As a visual and interpersonal learner I prefer to inquire into something new first by myself to visualize a concept or topic and then second I need the exchange, the chance to talk about it with other people in order to let it settle and consolidate in my mind.

Traditional frontal lessons or presentations have never really worked for me because the auditory approach was not enough for me. That might change as soon as more and more people try to avoid that the audience dies by old style (Powerpoint-) presentations and risk something new.

Even though I know change is good and necessary I always feel like a risk taker, which is good and sometimes cost me a lot at the same time. Coetail (If you need a little bit of a push, go for it!), course 3, which is about Visual Literacy: Effective Communicators and Creators, initiated it again. The offer to jump to week 3 was just right for me again. Next week there will be parent information evenings and yes – we do Powerpoint presentations and nearly made our parents die by Power Point again.

Already last year I was responsible for the presentation and I changed the layout, the structure and honestly I thought it is not too bad. Well, thankfully I had to learn that there are even better and very reasonable ways to present. After getting into the readings and videos like

Presentation Zen Design (video)

Presentation Zen Blog

the idea which most kept in my mind was:

What is the story?
What is the most important to the audience on that day?

German as well as parents from abroad definitely want to get to know the structure of the German Department and us teacher. But even more important is that we want their child enjoy learning German and feel happy and safe.

I tried to follow the Presentation Zen Design ideas, even planed analog, cut out the unimportant bits, tried to keep it simple, want to surprise the audience (let’s see next Monday and Tuesday) and get them emotionally by choosing imagines which give you a hint and make curious at the same time, so our story will stick to their mind and they take home that we care for each individual child.




Two feedbacks I got already from my colleagues:

“Hopefully I won’t forget what I have to say!” – She won’t because she is a professional and passionate teacher who knows what she is talking about.

“Some pictures would distract me.” – Also interesting feedback from another colleague. We changed some visuals and decided to give the audience some time to look at the picture and to process their own thoughts before they will come back to us presenters and will listen to us.

It is a risk for different reasons but it is worth to risk – like so often in life!