Archive for the ‘Course 4’ Category

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton


Looking back over the past year, it amazes me just how much I have learnt, grown and changed due to COETAIL. I had been so excited to start the course last February and it has not disappointed. In fact, I believe it has been and still is the making of me. When asked for a 140 character summary to a prospective COETAIL applicant I wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 20.17.57

The Beginning of the End

Reviewing my notes, both written and visual, helps me to remember my thoughts and directions to decipher the way to move forward into Course 5, effectively the beginning of the end of COETAIL. It helps me to rewind through my ideas to see where the most learning and growth occurred yet also to see where the vision for my students crept in during the course. Despite thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to work on, it surprises me, through a comment from Clint, that I had made some suggestions all the way back in Course 1 about connecting my students and helping them to grown in the same way that I had.

A Classroom in the Cloud?

Photo Credit: mugley via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mugley via Compfight cc

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Having rewound through the past 28 posts, far too many words and 21 visual notes, I found it initially hard to decide what aspect would be right to pursue, so I looked back at myself and my passions to help take new direction. It was clear that we gain so much through our connections and often students in Middle School cannot be a part of this due to their age and online restrictions. Yet this is a huge part of my growth and learning and I want students to be a part of it too. From this the idea to connect artists online, bringing together their art work, cultures, discussions and feedback was born. Now I know this is nothing new as many teachers have websites doing similar things, such as Michelle Anderson‘s IB art site (currently not working) and The Incredible Art Department to name only a few, but these are largely teacher driven and I would like my students to drive it. In this way they own it, create it and develop it for students by students. Course 1 asked us to reach out and develop our PLN documenting the benefits from like minded groups and I want to help my students to reach out beyond their classroom, their school and country to learn much deeper with other similar aged youngsters. In Course 2 we looked at responsibility and digital citizenship and I feel that helping students to communicate and post online will help to address and teach students this first hand. In Course 3 we focussed our attention on Visual Literacy and working on a wiki, website or blog will help students to understand good design, aesthetics and functionality. Finally in Course 4, the course that taxed and pushed me the most opening many doors in my learning, focussed our attentions on using Technology authentically. It was here that I grew the most and I know my teaching has changed because of it. Connectivism and problem solving will be at the heart of the project, driven by SAMR to aim towards transforming the way art is learned and shared.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

In the past I have helped students to set up a blog and use Picasa web albums to share their work and thoughts online, connecting with their fellow peers for feedback. They were largely successful and, with my encouragement, began to receive comments but not true connections as a PLN might be. This aspect worries me, as at this stage I do not know how we can create an online forum for discussions like Twitter, exhibit artwork to comment on like Voicethread, connect with a multitude of schools globally yet keep them protected and safe. When I look into blogs, sites and wikis I can see the potential but not the depth or functionality for all to participate or take turns in moderating or curating. It feels like an unanswerable question but:

Is there an appropriate platform out there that would work and if so, why hasn’t someone done already this before now?

How can I ensure all students have ownership and work collaboratively to create, upload, share and comment? How can I ensure students drive this with limited experience of such a task? I have a great Technology team behind me who can suggest and show us ideas and options but even so, any ideas and advice would be gratefully received at this stage!

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

In my last post I was told that problem solving sometimes means you don’t know what the outcome may be and this scared me. But as I look ahead to this project it feels a little liberating and exciting to not know, not plan every step and to believe and trust that my students can work through this with my help. It is odd to not foresee the outcome but I am confident that it will be what it will be and most definitely grown by my students.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

I really want to push more problem solving and student directed work through this project. I know our students are great thinkers yet also demanding of answers, so it will be a shift in what they are used to and possibly unnerving for them (and me!). But the benefits far outweigh the concerns. It will require them to adopt the new method rapidly and to be adventurous in posting, connecting and sharing ideas. Our students are used to technology and work naturally in Google apps so I am concerned they will find “yet another thing” tiresome to adopt initially. It will also rely on them encouraging others to participate beyond their classroom and away from their school but I am hoping that my PLN will help to encourage involvement and to spread the word once it is up and running.

Please look over the following UBD and let me know your thoughts and feedback:

Photo Credit: Andreas Kristensson via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Andreas Kristensson via Compfight cc

It feels rather sad that COETAIL is coming to an official end but reading the outline for Course 5 helps me to realise that this may only be the beginning, the beginning of what happens next. I know the connections we have formed will be long-lasting and I hope that the group will keep posting, sharing and connecting both online and, where possible, face to face. I like the idea of continuing to work with COETAIL, perhaps as a coach if that were to be possible, in order to help others as I was helped and to give back to the community. So perhaps it should read “The End of the Beginning”.

*the above drawing “The Beginning of the End” make visual reference to Escher’s Upstairs and Downstairs, 1960, lithography.

What's Your Problem? PBL visual note drawn using Adobe Ideas on iPad by Nicki Hambleton

What’s Your Problem? PBL visual note drawn using Adobe Ideas on iPad by Nicki Hambleton

Ask Seek Find

When I was at school the biggest problem I remember trying to solve was the Rubic cube. For weeks my friends and I would get so far in completing several of the coloured sides then be stumped. There was no internet, YouTube demonstrations, spoilers or instructions in completing the puzzle, only our brains and trial and error. I cannot quite remember whether I eventually finished it through methodology or just sheer luck but the next step in my circle of friends was how quickly you could complete it.
Photo Credit: electricnude via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: electricnude via Compfight cc

In my school, however, learning in class was quite different. We were there to learn facts and figures, answers, equations, grammar, painting, music notation or, in PE, how to do the hurdles. Today’s hurdles for our students are greater and more complex than in my day.
Projects, blogs, labs, book clubs, journals. So many processes and so little time…
When do we give students the time to pose their big questions? Questions like: Where will I use algebra? What happens when it thunders? Why can’t we time travel? I remember a great book I got for Christmas one year called WHY, a fabulous book my mother still has on her shelf that can answer a multitude of questions a youngster may have. I think the equivalent of it on amazon these days is the Big book of why (or How) by Time, for kids.

But what is the Question?

Questioning is an important part of a child’s education and asking the right questions is the key.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”  Voltaire

Photo Credit: Editor B via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Editor B via Compfight cc

Previously, when I worked in MYP departments, essential questions were the backbone of the unit of work. They opened thoughts and began conversations. Students grappled with the context of the unit and the Big Idea that would help them to unravel not only what they were studying but also why. It is a practice we have continued at UWCSEA with both Frank Curkovic and I having taught MYP for many years, Frank in Japan and me in both Ghana and Italy. Together we have added Essential questions throughout our units across Middle School Visual Art and, despite time being tight when teaching a class once a week, I know that it helps to ground the unit firmly in what we believe to be the root of knowledge. This way students can see the meaning for their work and how Art fits in the whole scheme of things and make sense of it.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

It seems to me that questioning is a fundamental part of learning and that this practice is not new at all. Elementary teachers use questioning throughout their daily routines, as do IB Science teachers. Inquiry based learning is an important part of the IB. But how often do we ask our students what questions they have? I mentioned before the weekly practice of Carl Jenkins, a music teacher at UWCSEA who asks students to pose their question on a google doc at the end of the lesson that helps him to know what they are struggling with or want to know more about in readiness for the following lesson. I love this simple idea and I am adopting it in earnest using Google Forms in order to drive the lesson starters and check in with the level of learning and problems students are facing. With our school well underway in piloting Teamie as our Learning Platform this will eventually make the process far more transparent and easy to manage in real-time open forums. Being married to an IB Physics teacher I see questioning at the forefront of Science topics. Could this student generated practice filter into all year groups and across all disciplines?

“Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.” Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Projects vs Problems

Throughout my years of teaching in different schools and countries and in observing the teaching methodologies of my colleagues I have noticed many students are set projects, often in groups, to work on over a given timeframe. These projects are usually multi faceted and governed by the current theme or topic being covered in class. It seems to be a usual practice in schools around the world. Often they have a prescribed outcome and a step by step method in which to get there along with an accompanying rubric or assessment matrix. Yet, of what benefit are these projects to students? Are they meaningful, current, relevant? Do they teach students the skills and mindset necessary for success? Perhaps the original concept by John Dewey and the idea of setting a real world problem or designing a tangible project or being guided by an open-ended question has in many cases been lost somewhere along the way.
In UWCSEA, Grade 6 undertake a fabulous Humanities unit learning about natural disasters and geographical formations resulting in the making of an impressive model, for example of a Tsunami or volcano. I understand the value and contextual nature of the unit yet not the outcome – model making? Often the students return to class with spectacular results and having spent weeks perfecting the shape construction, textures and details but I am not sure of the learning that has gone on. Is a model the most effective way to understand the concept of geographical features or occurrences? Why not a simulation or diagram?  This perhaps seems strange coming from an Art teacher!
When I was teaching MYP a fundamental part of the units was to have meaning and context. The unit grew around the essential questions and the Big Idea. Yet they were still set by the teacher. These real-world problems being set demanded deep thinking from the students guided by the teacher.
Norbert de Graaff on The Noun Project

Norbert de Graaff on The Noun Project

Back in January 2014, John Larmer wrote an article on Edutopia about the different types of “based-learning”. Over the years there have been many twists on the original concept, from challenge based to design based learning. He refers to BIE’s 8 Essential Elements of PBL. Yet all fall under the umbrella of inquiry led learning. Larmer sets out a clear distinction between project and problem based learning with project based often being centred in post 16 education and being more multidisciplinary, compared to problem based in single subjects and being shorter in length. He documents the typical steps in problem-based learning demonstrated similarly here by Maastricht University:
The narrated animation clearly sets out to explain the concept, procedure (7 Jump), gained skills and the possible problems with PBL. It re emphasises the need in schools for basic skills in communication, thinking as well as listening.

The 4 Cs

Spinning off from Larmer’s article and Maastricht’s video, I find an interesting write up by Robert Kaplinsky on implementing PBL. The article is a great source of further information, particularly if you are a Maths teacher and Kaplinsky shares his thoughts on the four Cs on which a teacher should focus on: Communication, Curiosity, Critical Thinking and Content Knowledge. Kaplinsky refers to Dan Meyer’s TED talk “Math class needs a makeover”, and quotes him saying,
“What problem have you solved ever, that was worth solving, where you knew all of the given information in advance? Or you didn’t have a surplus of information and you had to filter it out? Or you didn’t have insufficient information and had to go find some? I’m sure we all agree that no problem worth solving is like that.”
How can we apply this thinking and strategy to our daily practice? How might we encourage more curiosity in our Middle School and High School lessons? My son, working on his iGCSE Design Technology project had to search for a problem to solve, investigate and develop possible solutions. Being a keen guitarist, he decided on a guitar stand for limited spaces, functional yet aesthetic and his thinking followed clear guidelines which form the backbone of Design Technology.
This process of problem finding continues on into the IB Diploma Group 4 project, a multi discipline Science driven practical activity set over 10 hours. This project brings together the different disciplines of the subject, collaborating in teams to investigate and suggest solutions to Science problems. Students formulate large, almost unanswerable questions to investigate, research and experiment.
This seems to be a perfect combination of these 4 Cs, developing deeper content knowledge through critical thinking, collaboration and curiosity into the problem either given or proposed.
Photo Credit: Kurayba via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Kurayba via Compfight cc

The most interesting part for me from Larmer’s article concludes that both PBLs start with open-ended questioning, in real world contexts and with student independence and inquiry at the heart.
With this in mind, I return to my learning over the past months in COETAIL and to my own classroom at UWCSEA. How do I use PBL currently and what can I do to incorporate it authentically into the existing curriculum for maximum benefit to my students?
Michelle Cordy on Hack the Classroom in November 2014 shares her 6 ideas to start you off in inquiry and PBL: Using a factoid to start discussion, Pushing thinking further through probing questions (Thinking routines), slowing down, noticing thinking, feeding forward and using non-fictions texts.
How might you incorporate these into your classroom?

Design Thinking

Inspired by John Rinker and his many workshops on Maker Spaces, it is fascinating to see so many adults enjoy the prospect of just making, tinkering and playing. So too do students love this freedom to create and this, I feel, is at the heart of Design Thinking. Dropping in on the extensive Storify of the Design Thinking Twitter chat, hosted by Pana Asavavatana, Joe Sergi and Tosca Killoran a few weeks ago, I realise that often Art and Design teachers naturally teach in a PBL manner. Design Thinking, in its nature is cyclical and, working through problems we think we have a solution. Yet delving deeper, it gives forth to further developments.
Twitter Chat: Design Thinking December 9th 2014

Twitter Chat: Design Thinking December 9th 2014

The first question asked on the Twitter Chat gave forth to many interpretations on What is Design Thinking and there was no doubt that it was a powerful and beneficial methodology for our students today. The conversation online ebbed and flowed opening many ideas for justifying its place in education and I particularly appreciated the moment when the discussion sidetracked to Introverts and extroverts, again from Heather McKay‘s tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 17.30.47Why should all learning be group based? Not every student works best in a team and this is an important consideration we need to be aware of with PBL – the balance between group and individual work.
When I first started teaching the Creative Cycle, as it was known then, followed a similar format and Design Thinking can take this more formal approach as in Technology MYP:

It is through this kind of process that PBL seems most clearly connected with. We need to create a culture of thinking if we are to best serve the citizens of the future. My mind drifts to Harvard’s Project Zero and its Visible Thinking Routines.

Creativity and 20%

In Ewan Mcintosh’s TEDxLondon talk “What’s Next” he asks us to encourage and teach our students to find the problems, then solve them not to spoon feed them. He talks about the world needing Problem Finders yet still I find students, often higher up the school at IB level wanting to be given the answers, not to search for them. Yet some years ago Dan Pink told us in his book “A Whole New World” that the creative ones will be the successful ones in the future, the entrepreneurs, the thinkers, the ones who look for the problems, develop these ideas and take the world forward just innovators such as Steve Jobs did.
Photo Credit: rickz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rickz via Compfight cc

Employees at Google have one day a week dedicated to their own new idea or fixing, idea developing or problem finding, known as Google 20%. Google’s 20% time is a feature I would love to bring into every classroom, for students to work on their passions not driven by any assessment criteria, rubric or text book. Through this we can nurture and cultivate true creativity and see that design thinking has its future firmly locked in our youngsters, ultimately the most innovative members of our society. Many schools have already taken Google’s concept onboard, collectively known as genius hour. In Michael Schrage’s article on Harvard Business Review, “Just how valuable is Google’s 20% time?” he asks “do curiosity-driven and/or passion-driven initiatives lead to measurably better innovation outcomes?” It is interesting to read about the changes at Google, from shutting down the intrapreneurial playground Google Labs to Google X, the moonshot research lab that gave forth to Google Glass. I can’t help but recall again Jeff Utecht’s Moonshot Learning 2 Talk. What would your moonshot be? What would you develop, design, find or solve if you had 20% time?

Next Steps

Photo Credit: J. C. Merriman via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: J. C. Merriman via Compfight cc

I am wondering now in anticipation of, not only Course 5 but my teaching in general, how to combine the idea of gamification with problem solving (or problem finding!). Could a unit be a series of problems or quests that determine which direction next? What are the potential big questions students want answers to in my subject? And how can I incorporate more creative time and free thinking to search for those problems in a rapidly changing world?
How is this going to be possible in a 75 minute Art lesson once a week?
Now there is a problem just waiting to be solved……!
I remember a recent conversation with Joe Teft about the next steps. As I recount my woes of indecision and too many ideas brewing, he tells me that “problem setting often means we don’t know what the outcome will be”. He is clearly a wise thinker, but for a Graphic designer that is quite a scary concept! I am going to need a bit of coaching to help me to answer these and other pressing questions.
“Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.” Anthony Robbins
So to the final step, Course 5 – what will I do, how will I decide what best to do for both me and my students?
Now that is a big problem.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

As a young child I loved Dot to Dots, joining the seemingly random patterns to reveal a recognisable image. I loved to try to work out what the dots were going to magically transform into by connecting them via advancing numbers. If you have never heard of or done a Dot to Dot before there is one below. Can you tell what this one is going to be?

Photo Credit: whitney waller via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: whitney waller via Compfight cc

The idea of seeing the whole picture is something that has continued with me; from developing meaningful lessons to my “Big Idea” visual notes and it was whilst planning this current post that led me to recall a quote from Steve Jobs:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Despite the uniqueness of this quote, most people talk about looking to the future than the past, it rings true for so much that we do. In order to move forwards we must look to the past: to learn from it, to move on from it or to take ourselves somewhere new. There is no point thinking we can develop anything without building on the past, it is the way we have always been. Even Picasso said that all art comes from what precedes it and Kirby Ferguson talked about the remix culture in his TedTalk Embrace the Remix in 2012.

Do we look back to the past or into the future? What is the future of Education?

What Learning Matters?

Thinking about the future of education and how it might look, takes me back to the Learning 2 Talk “What Learning Matters” by Charlotte Diller of The Chinese International School , Hong Kong. She begs us to think about what what really matters:

“with so much that is now googleable, what learning is it that is going to position our students in a world that is rapidly changing and for a future that is unknown?”

Learning Online

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Way back in 1969, the Open University launched and opened its doors to students in 1971. With more than 250,000 students enrolled and more than 1.5 million students having taken courses since it began, it qualifies as one of the largest institutions in the world. Many students prefer distance learning, due to age or health reasons or for convenience of studying at home and this concept of “learn when you want” is common practice these days. We learn in so many ways, from watching a video on YouTube to signing up for an online course through Alison, Coursera or iTunes U. Some time ago I set out to improve my digital skills in Art through online courses in Photoshop and a multitude of alternatives presented themselves to me. Alison has 600 free courses available from Accounting to Yoga with over 4 million learners online. My New Years resolution is to learn more about After Effects and thank goodness Alison has a free course! Coursera takes it one notch further, connecting learners with universities and organisations to provide high quality courses again for free. Back in 2007, iTunes U was launched providing downloadable material for learning and encouraging individuals to set up their own online courses. Wouldn’t it be great if teachers backed up their lessons online through iTunes U extending the class material and pushing students further in their understanding? Two years ago an article on Edudemic encouraged teachers using iPads in the classroom to start using iTunes U as a resource as there were so many lessons already available for them to use. More recently, this summer Techcrunch reported an update that allows teachers more flexibility with creating and managing course content on iTunes U through iPad.

Perhaps I should develop a Visual Note taking course online – would anyone be interested?

We can literally learn anything we want, whenever we choose. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) emerged in 2012 as a way of bringing together unlimited numbers of participants to resources and videos through forums and discussions to build community around content. EdX differs from Coursera and Udacity as a MOOC and online learning platform being non-profit, analysing the data of its users and currently has over 3 million users in over 300 courses online.

It seems as technology advances so too does the amount of choice we have in taking learning into our own hands. But returning to Charlotte’s talk, the combination of emotion and cognition is what is important in the future. The skills of perseverance, creativity and thinking are what will be needed in the future.

So how might this look?

Connectivism: it takes a village to raise a child

Like most people, my best learning and thinking occurs around, from and with others. So the visual note above shows that connecting with people and places is the most effective way to learn, and it is this model that is at the heart of the success of COETAIL. At the beginning of Course 1 I looked at connecting and reaching out to begin to build a network of support as well as encouragement and a point of contact to learn and bounce ideas from. I am eternally grateful to those early supporters, like Matt, Ann and Joe who found the time to connect with me and comment on my posts. And they are still with me, despite our difference in backgrounds and distances in locations. Jim Laney at Learning 2, Africa states, “there is no other continent that values personal connection and social responsibility more than Africa”. (The Right Time. The Right Place). Jim quotes that “it takes a village to raise a child” and to me COETAIL is like a village, consisting of the Elders, the wise ones, always there to guide and push us; the coaches, like the graduates in a family understanding our worries and directing us forward through their own experience; and us, the teenagers, ready to embark on our journey ahead. And as valued members of this COETAIL family, we are there for the new members, those staring out, ready to help them to connect and learn too. It is this “engaged learning” that Jim talks about that is the centre of the philosophies of COETAIL. I remember how difficult connecting was when I lived and worked in Ghana from 2008-10, and the isolation and technology difficulties meant we had to find alternative ways to learn together and move forward our thinking. Challenges force us to think differently, to find solutions and change can be rapid.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Temps via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dietmar Temps via Compfight cc

Building a Tribe

There are so many incredible and inspirational educators out there, and through COETAIL and Learning 2 I have been privileged to learn and work alongside them. As I think back to where this all started and map my journey above, I realise that connections and emotion are inextricably linked. Without the will to meet and learn we would not connect. Without the drive and desire to change and develop we would not grow. My tribe started small and close to home, with the enviable names of educators I followed on Twitter starting that journey. As an early Twitterer, Jabiz encouraged me to expand my PLN so I duly followed many educators he followed. I learnt so much in the early days from Kim Cofino’s blog Always Learning, introduced to me by the Elementary librarian Tanja Galetti at LCS in Ghana. I am lucky now to work at UWCSEA with Keri-lee Beasley, Dave Caleb, Jeff Plaman and Paula Guinto, all who have helped me in this journey of development but it was Andrew McCarthy who first tapped into my talent as a mere Art teacher dabbling with technology in the classroom and helped me to where I am now. It took a while to believe I had something worth sharing.

Having a tribe of honest, helpful and caring people is crucial in developing trust and belief and it is with this in mind that I wonder how our youngsters can build their own tribes to support and guide them in their learning. How can we foster this in Middle School when they cannot join many social media sites until they are 13?

The Future is Now

Back in January 2012, Sir Ken Robinson talked about Leading a Learning Revolution. He said that:

“every education system is being reformed yet it is not enough. Reform is no use as it is simply improving a broken model. What we need is not an evolution but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.”

He also stated that people are reluctant to reform or transform as “it has always been done that way”. As I think about this further, I remember Jeff Utecht’s talk “The Future is Here” at Learning 2 Singapore last year:

Jeff told us that we are “in a world where Science fiction meets reality yet Education isn’t changing”. But is it? Are we teaching as we always did? We are bombarded with new ideas and initiatives often when there is barely enough time to teach the curriculum so how can we change for the better, for our students? Maybe we need to change our thinking and ask, as Charlotte did, “What Learning matters, now and in the future?” What walls are you faced with to get around? What is that wall and what is stopping you breaking through it?

Jeff Utecht "What's your Moonshot?" Learning 2 talk 2013 Singapore by Nicki Hambleton

Jeff Utecht “What’s your Moonshot?” Learning 2 talk 2013 Singapore by Nicki Hambleton

From thinking about this course, I ask myself, What am I going to do differently on Monday? The whole experience of COETAIL has led to thinking differently and changing what I do on Mondays, yet I want more and I want it for more students than just the ones I teach. I, like Jeff, am bothered that things aren’t changing and if they are, are they changing for the better, for our students in this unknown future?

Photo Credit: andrew and hobbes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: andrew and hobbes via Compfight cc

For one, I would like to help my students to grow their PLNs whatever that looks like, to find their go-to people, their supporters, encouragers and guides. Working with online services like blogging and image sharing, I hope to assist them in giving and receiving valuable feedback that will take them forward and transform their learning both in and out of the classroom. But, as always this change in culture will take time, but I hope that, like me, they will see the benefit and beauty in connecting and supporting one another in order to grow and develop.

It is incredible how much changes in a short time. What changes will we see in education, what has changed in the time I have been teaching, or even just in the last 5 years? Sir Ken Robinson finishes his 2012 Learning without Frontiers talk by saying that we should be “customising and personalising education to our students” and in the context we are teaching. It is not about finding a new solution but in developing our own solutions.

What is the Future of Learning? Well, whatever it is, it is in our hands…


What if….

Students came to your classroom already prepared to ask questions about a new topic?

What if you already knew the questions the students wanted answering?

Students already understood the new concept and were ready to experiment?

Teachers didn’t have to stand and lecture and students didn’t sit and listen for long lengths of time?

There was more time to work with individual students and help them progress at their own pace?

Students were engaged in meaningful activities right from the first minute they entered your classroom?

Could this be possible with Reverse instruction or by flipping the classroom.

Photo Credit: nataliej via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nataliej via Compfight cc

The concept of the Flipped Classroom is not new. In fact educators have had somewhat of a rocking love affair with it over the years. From an influx of video watching homeworks to a damning of the practice by others. But is it just another fad? What if we could make it work and be of real benefit not just for students but to teachers too?

Chatting with a music teacher at UWCSEA recently Carl Jenkins asks students to ask questions at the end of the lesson submitting these on a google doc or form. He says this helps him to track their learning, to see who “got it” and who didn’t and how to plan ahead for the next lesson. What if this was a fundamental part of a flipped classroom? By reviewing a video of their own work or the demo by the teacher, they could submit their questions in advance of the next lesson or formulate a reflection that helps guide the teacher in gauging the level of understanding? How might watching a video form a stepping stone to the next concept or technique?

Photo Credit: PauliCarmody via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: PauliCarmody via Compfight cc

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams ( Woodland Park Colorado explain the benefits of flipping the classroom in their video below:

Bergmann and Sams use Camtasia Studio to produce their videos. But beautiful and slick as Camtasia is, it also costs and there are lots of other, just as good, alternatives out there to use. Annotating your Youtube videos could work just as well as Patrick Green demonstrates here and he adds Virtual wait time to allow students some thinking time whilst pondering a thought or question..

I have dabbled with using YouTube videos to back up classroom practice or to review a process. I even tried out using TEDed for homework. TED-ed adds the dimension of watching, thinking and digging deeper asking questions to check learning and allowing some followup work. Here is one I found and used on Imagination with Janet Echelman. Have you tried using TEDed or curated your own video in a similar fashion or used an existing one? Can you see how you might use this in your teaching?

Having seen many teachers raving about the Khan Academy I took a look at the site, thinking this could be a great use for reverse instruction. Unfortunately there isn’t really much there for Visual Art and what there is is Art History orientated. It would be great if Art educators added real lessons there too.


Hand crossing fingers by Till Teenck from The Noun Project

Hand crossing fingers by Till Teenck from The Noun Project

But setting this type of homework demands trust. We must trust that students will watch the video, read the text or interact with the Q&A, post their questions or answer the quiz. It would more beneficial if we knew their worries in advance, their queries and questions, whether they are likely to struggle with the concept or skill and what prior knowledge they come to our lesson with. This all takes planning and time. The task must also be achievable work as one frustrated student posted on the comments section of a Flipped Classroom video on YouTube that they felt lost without the direct guidance of the teacher. We must know our students, prime them, instruct them and not leave them to flounder with yet another new approach.

By the nature of reversing the instruction the teacher leaves far more time for the student to practice and apply the technique or concept in class to their own work. This is crucial in an Art room context yet the demos are the most important part so they can literally see and feel the process. What might be lost through watching a video outside of the classroom? Wouldn’t we miss the discussions, the chats as a whole class? Wouldn’t students miss the opportunity to see when an experiment goes wrong or how to fix a problem – aren’t Youtube videos often too slick? Mistakes help us to learn and seeing a teacher work through it right in front of them has to be a great learning moment.

EduCanon and EDpuzzle

EduCanon allows that interactivability into the videos just like TEDed but with more punch. The key features that ensure feedback for the teacher are monitoring and question answers. I love that you are able to know which students have watched the video or not; a bit like Big Brother but in a supportive way!

Andrew Douch raves about its use in his classroom on his blog, citing the way that students cannot just skip through the content by answering the questions without watching the video. This feature ensures that all students will have watched it and you will know this. When you connect the students and the videos to you through a code, this is when EduCanon comes into its own, collecting the data and the responses for you. Reading his followup comments at the end of the blog post I discover a competitor, again free, EDpuzzle, with extra features EduCanon only has on the paid versions. Recently, Edudemic wrote an extensive article reviewing EDpuzzle as a complement to the school’s LMS or MOOC. I know I cannot wait to try one of these out. Can you see how they might be valuable in your classroom?

Death by videos

Years ago we were threatened by Death by worksheets, then in recent years Death by Powerpoint. Now might it be Death by videos?
It seems to me that they are many ways to incorporate the idea of reverse instruction into your classroom effectively and that it isnt just about watching videos or presentations. As educators we can be far more creative with this concept by switching or sliding, as opposed to flipping, the content you would normally dwell over in class. Moving the viewing and discussion out of the classroom totally would be a shame. My students love sitting on the beanbags or sofa at the front of my room talking together with me about the new idea or concept. Students benefit from listening to each others interpretations.
Do I ever lecture? No not really. Do we watch videos? Yes. Could they watch them at home? Probably.
But would it be the same experience, would they lose something?
We go to the movies together to react and experience, we like to ask questions during a lecture or talk and bounce ideas off one another as it is happening. Wouldn’t this be lost if it was switched to home and alone?

To flip or not to flip?

Photo Credit: lamazone via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lamazone via Compfight cc

Reading online it appears flipping is much like Marmite. It’s a love it or hate it relationship. Clearly there are many teachers using it well and finding real benefit from it such as Jane MacKenzie-Hoskyn who uses a combination of Edmodo, Google docs, quizzes and videos with her IB Visual Arts class. In her words, she prefers “rather than shopping at one shop, I am happily shopping around to see where I can find the best bargain!” But reading comments on the Flipped Classroom YouTube videos and on blog sites, many teachers and students do not like it, some slamming teachers as being lazy. Another replying to the post on IncredibleArt says:

“In discussions with the colleague of mine that uses components of the flipped classroom, she has voiced the advantages as well as disadvantages. One of the disadvantages that she expressed was students not completing the assignments or listening to the lectures on the podcasts or online.” – See more at

Ownership, Assessment and Asynchronicity

The success of another strategy in education is in considering who is in charge of the learning. In Flip Love Affair, on PLP Network, Shelley Wright talks about it not being a fad but about ownership. She says:

“I’ve learned that inquiry & PBL learning can be incredibly powerful in the hands of students. I would never teach any other way again. When students own their learning, then deep, authentic, transformative things happen in a classroom. It has nothing to do with videos, or homework, or the latest fad in education. It has everything to do with who owns the learning. For me, the question really is: who owns the learning in your classroom?” PLP Network October 8, 2012


One of the main benefits of flipping lessons I can see is that students can revisit a concept or technique and work through at their own pace as explained in Aaron’s video below:

I am going to revisit videos in and out of the classroom to differentiate learning and help students prepare and revise concepts, ideas and techniques. Just this week I have set my students to watch a TED talk by JR the artist who posts huge billboard sized portrait posters of unknown members of the community. My students are in the midst of a project blending images on Photoshop to create a unique Portrait yet, being egocentric teenagers the works are all about themselves. By looking at the work of JR they came up with the suggestion to raise the profile of our support staff: the cleaners, canteen staff, the facilities and security staff who remain otherwise unknown yet a crucial part of the running of our school. By viewing JR’s website and video, formulating questions and challenges students return this week ready to put their thoughts straight into action. This leaves me time to see individuals about their own work and skill development and the remaining can start the practical work, armed with all they need to begin working.

So with all this talk about flipping, how do you like your eggs? Me, I like them scrambled.

Photo Credit: Hamburger Helper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Hamburger Helper via Compfight cc


If you want to know more about Flipped Classroom see Knewton’s infographic below:

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


Gamification in Education Visual note made on iPad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Gamification in Education
Visual note made on iPad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Could game-based learning have a monopoly on education?

All kids love games, whether they are physical or mental games. As a child one of my favourite games to play was Kerplunk and the sheer fun of watching the marbles fall even today reminds me of the good times we had meeting up with my cousins each Christmas. Nowadays it is all Minecraft or Xbox in my family, games that one plays on their own mostly. We did have a Wii which was popular with us all and fun and we played this together as a family, but times have changed as have my kids. They like the challenges that today’s video games bring and the idea of improving by practice. How different is this to learning a new skill or gaining knowledge in school? Yet the two are perceived very differently by both educators and students.

Photo Credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Compfight cc

What place do games have in the classroom?

Engaging students is important so that they love to learn and games can play a part in this process. At UWCSEA we integrate the idea of games or gaming but how successful is this? As I was searching for a video clip of Kerplunk in action to educate the younger viewers reading this post, I stumbled on an unusual article by a Psychologist using the game to stimulate discussion on natural selection!  Certainly not something I would have associated with the game but an intriguing concept. This in turn reminded me of an ice-breaking task Grade 6 engaged in Life skills using Jenga with questions taped to them to trigger discussion and helping them to get to know one another better. So too was Jenga used in an awareness campaign against Shark Fin Soup yet in a huge format set up in an outdoor space over lunchtime. The idea was to illustrate what happens if you take out one species in the food chain and specifically raising awareness of sharks. In the classroom, I have used buzzers in team games to review content with Grade 6 (specifically on the Elements and Principles of Art and the corresponding vocabulary.) They couldn’t get enough of it! So it appears students love the idea of games integrated into the curriculum. But we must make sure that they are there for valid reasons (not just for fun!). Science teacher, Tony Deeley uses Triptico resources with a variety of classes to check understanding and review work and watching his classes engagement and competitiveness was clear that they have a rightful place.

Uncertain reward

Just last week a podcast on the BBC website ( talked about the cognitive behaviour associated with gaming. Dr Paul Howard-Jones explains how the idea of uncertain reward in most games, ranging from snakes and ladders to Monopoly made the game more engaging, exciting and inspired motivation. Could this concept help students to work harder in a competitive way with their peers? The podcast focuses on a school in the UK using Zondle, a quiz/game show style online software company, within a Business Studies class of Grade 10 students where we hear students battling away in groups and deciding to “gamble” their answer for more reward. One student explains how the competitive nature of these quizzes pushes him to revise more to beat his peers and another says the intense music and the suspense drives him. That reminds me of many nights gripped by Who wants to be a Millionaire.

But is the learning better using this approach? How do you see this transfering to your classroom? How might the concept of uncertain reward help your students to achieve higher and give them incentive to learn?

Gamifying lesson content

Again, just this last week MindShift published an article “A Third graders plea for more game-based learning” and you can watch Cordell Steiner’s inspirational TEDx talk, “Individualization, failure and fun”:

“5th grader Cordell Steiner enjoys spending his time with Legos, golf, basketball and boy scouts. Cordell found value in a classroom that is centred around the individual student through gaming. he looks forward to spreading this concept to other classrooms and schools by telling his personal account of Mr Ananth Pai third grade classroom and extolling its benefits” (TEDx Talks)

I stumbled on Gamifi-ed wiki which has lots of game-based learning activities to try out from cockroaches vs Algebra to the 4 litre challenge. I am sure there are lots of other examples of teachers using this approach to motivate learning but is this what students want? Is it gimmicky or just a fad and is there real learning happening?

Do we ask our students how we can tailor the content of our lessons to their learning or do we listen to their ideas on how they are motivated, inspired and want to learn? and how does this idea of game based learning transfer to High School?

Photo Credit: Sezzles via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sezzles via Compfight cc

Last month at Learning 2 I attended the workshop run by Jesse Scott on Gamifying Assessment and it is interesting to track his progression from his COETAIL post, Everything’s a Game in April 2012 to his practice in the classroom now. The concept lies in intensive planning of the curriculum content where students work at their own pace through the challenges and tasks to reach the next level. Jesse says that he stops the class frequently to input new learning yet students are happily working through the content. It intrigues me and I have a feeling I will be addressing this concept myself during Course 5!

The idea of a Leaderboard worries me though, as I wonder if this would be motivating for the best students, always at the top yet demotivating for the lesser able, always struggling 2 or 3 steps behind, particularly in my subject of Art.

I like the idea of students having progressive levels, perhaps colours that help them progress, a little like the Elementary reading book stages my son had in the early years. I also appreciate the concept of students self selecting and being able to move at their own pace, a bit like an iTunes U course. At UWCSEA our focus this year is on Differentiation and it seems to me that this could be a powerful way to motivate, inspire and engage, yet help all to achieve if planned right.

Superpowers in Art?

Crazy as my thinking always is, I think to my younger son’s previous obsession with Top Trumps, a simple card game played by outwitting your opponent with specific powers or skills:

Photo Credit: Matt Seppings via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Matt Seppings via Compfight cc

Could my Middle School students develop Art Superpowers as the year progresses? Powers and skills such as: observation, thinking, idea developing, analysing and discussing.  Or holistic skills that reflect our school mission like collaboration, resilience or communication. How might a gamified curriculum help students to achieve these skills and gain points for your profile? Would it have to be just in Art, why not for across Middle School? This would not be a small idea, but when have I ever done things by halves? As a Head of Grade I would love to push this forward with my grade group of bouncy gaming boys and highly motivated individuals.



Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

What if the year in Art was a board game or a platform based game or a quest with a series of challenges? Teenagers love challenge and video games for years have had kids hooked yet, according to Dr Paul Howard-Jones, it is the combination of cognitive function plus fun that makes their integration in education so intriguing. Games that are based on choices and reward are the ones that motivate us the most. Think Tetris, Donkey Kong, Sonic, Super Mario, Pacman, Candy Crush or GTA. Knewton and Column Five Media document Gamification through their Infographic on the right. It is clear that there is a difference between game-based learning and gamification. Gamification is the use of game-like mechanics and systems to non-game situations such as Leaderboards whereas game-based learning is simply using games. Serious games is a the concept of using real world examples with the concept of game or simulation to solve problems. Teachthought documents the process of adding gamification to your classroom on the post back in 2013.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Watching Tom Chatfield’s TED Talk 7 ways Games reward the Brain, I am reminded of a conversation with my hairdresser the other week as I read the latest gossip magazine to escape the mountain of emails I could be addressing whilst awaiting my hair to be finished. We laugh at the images of Kim Kardashian in Heat magazine and I ask, “What exactly does she do?” Lydia grabs her phone and shows me her latest app, Kim Kardashian Hollywood, a Barbie World meets Sims concept, where you create your own celebrity character, dress it, go to photoshoots and see if Kim rewards you and accepts you to help you rise to fame and fortune.

Kardashian app

Kardashian app

screenshot from itunes app store for Kardashian

screenshot from iTunes app store for Kardashian


In her early 20’s, Lydia is horrified at how addictive it is and how she is currently lining Kim’s pocket as she dresses to seek approval. I laugh yet see the addictive and costly implications to our impressionable teenagers and how “clever” Kim Kardashian has appeared to be to get (even) richer. Currently it is estimately made the star $43 million in 3 months reported on MSN news!

Surely we could develop a far more ethical app for our already beauty and fame obsessed youngsters, especially girls battling with self esteem issues. Surely with this powerful concept, we can encourage positive behaviours such as caring, manners, or reading for points or rewards.

Maybe then I can give up the day job? Never!


SAMR illustration by Nicki Hambleton

SAMR illustration by Nicki Hambleton

Are you a user or integrator?

The course is questioning the very heart of what I do. That’s a good thing, right?

Being a humble Art teacher, I know that we have limited time each week to get the content of our course across. For Middle School students this is approximately 75 minutes per week amounting to to approximately 45 hours over the 36 weeks of the school year. Sounds like a lot? Take out a lesson here and there for Day of Sports (3) Science trips, Outdoor Education trips and so on and we usually end up with about 30 lessons we can guarantee planning work for. We have a well planned curriculum developed collaboratively over the last 4 years. Our model develops the students skills in the disciplines of Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Printmaking all relevant to the iGCSE Art courses we provide at UWCSEA. We find it near impossible each year to cover all these disciplines and are working currently to spread them over the 3 year programme. Further up the department and into iGCSE and IB the use of Technology in Art disappears almost completely apart from in Photography. I have always been intrigued by Technology yet found few Art teachers integrating it authentically into their curriculum. More often it is seen as an add-on or an opportunity to try something new but rarely redefining. This bothers me. We have so little time to squeeze in all the wonderful work we want to cover, so how on earth do we integrate technology meaningfully, effectively and authentically?

Some time ago I put this question out to see if Art teachers could connect with what I am struggling with or at least give me some hope that the perfect model is out there. So I ask again and wait in hope:

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 14.54.39

It appears that most Art teachers take one route or the other: wholly traditional with a splattering of technology once in a while or predominantly technology (digital art) with a little traditional on the side. Why is it so hard for it to be both?

Integration suggests that technology drives the curriculum (see this wiki) and it is with this incentive that I start to reanalyse where I am at. In scrolling the readings and looking for inspiration online, I stumbled on a comparison grid on teachthought where using technology is compared to integrating technology. It helps to ground my thinking and encourages me to look deeper into my own practice.


The SAMR model shows us that substitution only serves to enhance the content rather than transform and redefine it and that collaborating should be at the heart of it. In the video SAMR in 120 seconds, google docs are a clear example of this and, at UWCSEA they are a common part of our lessons now. Applying the principle of SAMR to the Art classroom, in ways other than google docs however, takes some thought. Earlier this year during a Grade 6 unit on drawing students were trying to comprehend the use of line to define shape and depth. As they struggled to see the reason for using a variety of line, I decided to try out Adobe Ideas with them in capturing trees. We took the iPads outside and photographed the branches of the trees in the distance or looking up to the sky. After a short explanation of the simple tools in the programme the students focussed on the task: to vary their use of line whilst capturing the tree itself. Sounds simple right? The beauty of the app was that the line variation would capture the qualities of the tree as well as emphasising depth and distance. The task reinforced the students learning of the concept through this task. Whilst this was no revolutionary task it served to help the students to understand the concept. Is this substitution or augmentation?

Slide from Grade 6 Line weight and variation lesson UWCSEA Art Department

Slide from Grade 6 Line weight and variation lesson UWCSEA Art Department

How do I redefine this or any other task so that it is inconceivable without technology yet still teach students the basic traditional skills they need in Art?

I feel right now I may be here:

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

So how do I move further up the ladder?

A conversation with my IB Physics husband about his understanding of SAMR in his classroom developed into an example of using the iPhone’s feature slo-mo to capture a ball bouncing. He explained that being able to show this to his students in this clearly visual and practical manner could not have been done without the use of current technology and that it would have been difficult to show in any other way. The iPhone made it achievable and quickly shown in class saving valuable time.

As I look inward to my own practice I think about my current Grade 8s as they begin a unit on Digital Storytelling through photography to develop skills in composition in preparation for iGCSE. They discuss what they see, think and wonder about an unseen photograph to decipher the story behind the image, watch the video (The World’s most Powerful Photographs) and the video by One Direction “Story of my Life”. For homework they are locating a photo of them from many years ago and recreating it now then posting it on Voicethread or Picasa to share with their peers. Here they can reflect and comment on each others compositions and the story that is being told as a opening discussion to the unit. But could we have just shared the print outs and written the comments on post-its? Did their use of online posting transform the task, would they have produced as good a result without technology?

Am I being hard on myself or is my instinct right? The methods are transforming the way that they learn but not transformational.

In the Edutopia article, Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum, it states:

Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.” (Edutopia March 16, 2008)

UWCSEA students have laptops every lesson and sharing their work online is now routine. They frequently use google docs to share thoughts and ideas collaboratively and when planning in groups this method is natural. But to grab an iPad and use an app spontaneously in the middle of a painting or sculpture unit seems rather alien. It takes time for practice to change and students instinctively know what works and when technology is appropriate. Just last week a Grade 10 student was researching artists for her mock exam theme “Food for Thought” and could not find enough contextual information on her. So she visited the website and emailed the artist who, in return answered her questions which took her forward in her planning and idea formation. All in the space of a few hours in the comfort of her home. This would have been inconceivable without the use of technology. Imagine 15+ years ago when looking at an image in a book or magazine was the only way to connect to other artists. Nevertheless this is not a very inspirational a use for technology. So what is? How complex would it be to integrate Skype in the Classroom regularly and how crucial to the Art curriculum is Augmented reality or QR codes for example? Granted they transform the viewer’s perception or involvement in the art itself but is it transformational and indeed imperative or are we including it as a fad or a cool idea?

iPad possibilities

I met Cathy Hunt at the ADE Institute in Bali in 2013. Her website iPad Art Room is chock full of integrating iPads into the Art curriculum and she frequently blogs about learning and technology. One example on her website drew my attention:

Looking at the top bar in the above graphic helps me to see where I may be getting it right. Occasionally students will use the iPad app Explain Everything (or Educreations) to reflect on their work, explaining and annotating what they would do to take their work further or to improve it. Often I would feedback to students in a similar way and, using Google docs we can have a 2 way conversation about their art quickly and effectively. When I first started using Voicethread years ago, some of the clunkiness frustrated me, but when it worked it was faultless in transforming the way students interacted with each others art. Being public they discussed more in depth and perhaps, knowing their work would be online and discussed helped them to work harder to produce higher quality work.

The fundamental question I have though is: What technology really transforms art education?

Taryn Couch explains how she interprets the 4 levels of SAMR in her Art classroom:

Rooting our thinking in Technology

Photo Credit: theqspeaks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: theqspeaks via Compfight cc

Reading Jeff Utecht’s post from The Thinking Stick back in 2007 and the comments following, one particular statement really resonated with me:

What if we truly acted like technology was just part of us, part of education, part of educating students today. What if we start embedding it and stopped integrating it?

Joanne Harvey-Wilcox responds with:

It is only when we root our thinking in technology that we will be able to redefine our teaching.

My thinking is that I don’t want to take out valuable traditional skills but to enhance them with todays. Students struggle to share their work and to receive good feedback so digital portfolios seem to be an effective way for me to embed technology into my curriculum. My students used to blog their learning and seemed to enjoy this process of sharing and connecting online. Using iBooks Author, students may well be able to share and demonstrate their learning more authentically with videos, audio, images, demonstrations as well as photographs and words. Would this be a good use of moving up the SAMR ladder?

I don’t want to be the same or even different, I just want to ensure that technology has its rightful place within my curriculum and that it transforms the way Art is learnt and taught. Is that too much to ask?

Comments and feedback encouraged and gratefully received.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 18.01.46


Update: Following conversations about the cyclical nature of SAMR I am reworking the above seed to tree illustration. Watch this space!