Collaboration Course 5 Design iPads

So proud of my students … Course 5 Final Project

For a while already I’m so proud of my Grade 4 students (and about myself) and finally I can tell you about it. The two Grade 4 German classes advanced level published their eBook about interesting facts about the brain.

The classes created, collaborated and contributed and it’s my hope that this publishing experience was something where learning started and future learning will happen.

Who can’t wait, here is the Link to the ebook on iTunes: Interessantes über das Gehirn.


Here a quick overview of what was happening in the classroom:

The students …

  • read nonfiction as learning about the brain
  • watched videos as learning about the brain
  • inquired into features of a nonfiction page
  • inquired into a chosen topic
  • applied the reading strategy “determine importance”
  • summarized nonfiction information
  • organized and created a nonfiction page with Book Creator
  • practiced and improved their German by using the language

=>  experienced the publishing process of a book
=> created a resource that will be available for download across the world

Here again the link to the iTunes Store: “Interessantes über das Gehirn“. The students will be more than happy to see that people are actually download the ebook and maybe even write a review. Thx.


The whole planning started in mid december with an empty “Understanding by Design” unit template which was very helpful in terms of thinking through the entire project. I had done the unit before therefore I knew the content and could focus more on redefining and recreating the unit. If you want to have a closer look on the planning, feel free to do this here:


The whole project ended with a video which describes it and reflects on it.

The students, my colleagues who were involved and I indeed had great learning experiences – we were all risk takers and learners in order to go a step further in terms of teaching and learning. Many things like learning through a flipped classroom, creating and publishing an eBook as well as working with a limited amount of iPads or own iPads students brought to school happened for the first time.

My colleague and I were amazed by the high level of motivation of the students. The fact that they watched movies to acquirer knowledge about the brain; the fact that they could chose their own topic to inquire into; the fact that the eBook will be published to a real audience; the fact that they got the chance to work with an iPad motivated them immensely. The students were learning and improving the German language through using the same.

One challenge I didn’t expect: the parents. The majority agreed to publish it on iTunes and also to mention the whole or only the first name. One student in my class didn’t even want create a nonfiction page with the iPad. “And my parents don’t want this either.”, he said. He couldn’t explain why and the parents never approached me and until today I don’t know what the reasons are. The student create then the page on paper.
Another parent couldn’t understand why it has to be published on iTunes. Unfortunately it seemed to be difficult for them to articulate their concerns. I have an idea of their concerns and maybe I still will get a chance to talk to them.

Obviously I took it for granted that parents agree to authentic and meaningful learning, partly also because they chose a PYP school for their child. I see now the need to let parents now even more and in detail what our ideas of teaching and learning these days are. Creation yes, (internal) collaboration yes, but I wonder now how important is contribution to a real audience for the parents (and for teachers)?!

Thank you COETAIL for a wonderful and exciting learning experience!

What comes next? Well, luckily the Coetail experience won’t end here! I’m excited to read and watch about the other final projects as well as to follow other educators within Coetail and around the world. Contribution will be a bigger part of my online life and I hope that once in a while I’ll inspire other people like so many great teachers and educators inspire my life.

So let’s keep in contact through Twitter (@blaho_blaho), through Google+, and email (blahoblaho at or whatever will be invented. It became so easy! Btw. I was the only one at our school who did the Coetail Course so I wouldn’t mind a Google Hangout to celebrate a little bit. Who is in?

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.