We had two absolutely fantastic grade 5 classes participating in the Life ‘Round Here project over the last two months. Not only did our two teachers, Jennifer and Sandra, jump on board with more energy and enthusiasm than I’ve seen in a long time, but they also made sure to keep their classes learning and engaged with the project every week – not always an easy task on a long term project.

Despite the fact that I started this project within the first week of school, not knowing much about ISB – the technology infrastructure, the curriculum, the teaching styles, past student experiences with technology – we really had a lot of fun and turned out some excellent projects. Having been away from elementary school for the past two years (I did teach grade 5 IT in Munich for five years, though), I wasn’t sure just how much they could accomplish – especially given the relatively short time-frame we had for the project. But, I have to say, these kids blew me away!

We had some pretty thought provoking guiding questions:

  • What is life like here in Thailand?
  • How have we adapted to life in Thailand?
  • How have Thai people adapted to the influence of Western culture?

And very few of the students had ever used iMovie before, so this was an entirely new experience for them. Plus, we started individual student blogs as a component of this project before we “officially” got started, so they had two huge new learning goals to explore.

TeamworkAfter our initial lesson introducing the project, the students spent a lesson or two searching for pictures on their own (we used Google Safe Search, which was perfect for us), then an additional few lessons writing a script based on the pictures they found. Next, we spent at least 3 50-minute lessons creating the videos – importing the pictures, adding titles to organize, citing sources, and recording the narration. Finally, we spent some time reflecting with each class, to give them a chance to think about their learning.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • We learned to work in a group, share ideas, pictures, and work on a long term project
  • It took team work (we had to work together to get it set up and completed)
  • It was easier to work in teams than on our own and we could split up the tasks and responsibilities
  • Teamwork is also challenging because we can get distracted by our friends (chatting, etc.)
  • Some of our friends’ ideas were better than our own and we can combine everyone’s best ideas to make a better final project
  • If you have trouble with part of the project your friends could help you
  • We would like to do this kind of project again because now we know exactly what would produce an even better final project (i.e. write the script before the pictures)
  • Sharing projects gave us ideas for how we might do it next time to improve it
  • Focusing in a group can be difficult b/c people start chatting
  • Distributing/sharing responsibilities helps you work faster
  • Things that will help us focus: groups need to be made up of people who we work well with (not necessarily our friends), start it earlier and have clear steps for when parts need to be finished
  • Script MUST be written first and pictures pulled to match it after
  • Small chunks of time every day, instead of long chunks all at the end
  • Teacher could create a calendar of what gets done and when it is due
  • Keep track of our sources when we pull pictures from the internet
  • Sources MUST be cited

After our class discussion, we spent 2 lessons helping students write individual reflections about the project on their own blog with their movie embedded into the post. What an amazing artifact of their learning!

Let the Chat BeginAs the final icing on the cake, so to speak, we ended the project with a video Skype conference with Tod Baker’s students at the International School Tanjin, who also participated in the project. This was the first time our students had the chance to actually video conference with another school. Again, they blew me away! We had over 40 fifth graders in one (albeit, large) room, all overexcited about Skyping with another school, and they were so quiet and well-behaved, it was amazing. We followed my standard “4 Steps to a Skype-tastic Video Conference” and structured the furniture in the room so that students would be able to easily move up to the “hot seat” and back with a minimum of fuss. As a result of this “first contact” we will be continuing a learning relationship with Tod’s students from IST – do I sense the beginnings of some Personal Learning Networks for our students?

Although we didn’t do everything perfectly this time around, Jennifer, Sandra and I just met to discuss how we would structure the project for next year (hear that, Chris? We want a Life ‘Round Here 2008!). Ironically, this is exactly how I knew I should have run the project this year, but I guess I got caught up in “new school syndrome,” not wanting to force my teaching style onto anyone else’s classroom experience. Live and learn, right?

Here’s how we plan to run the show next year:

We’ll follow the MYP Technology Design Cycle, and I’m in the process of developing a clear Understanding by Design unit planner for the entire project. We hope to propose this project as the common assessment for the grade 5 Adaptation unit which starts the year. Currently, their unit focuses solely on Native Americans, but I’m thinking we could study how different native cultures around the world (maybe Australian Aboriginal, Thai Hill Tribes, Native Americans and Taiwanese Aboriginals) adapted to changes in their environment, and then take those concepts and apply their learning to how they have adapted to life in a foreign country? How amazing would it be to give the students the chance to construct their own learning about adaptation at a personal level? And then to bring it back to a global collaboration with the involvement of other schools around the world? I’m excited already!

Following the MYP Technology Design Cycle, we will:


  • Watch a sample movie from the previous year
  • Pre-Assessment on Adaptation and iMovie to gauge skills and knowledge
  • Run a quick iMovie test session – explore the tools with some sample pictures, just try it out
  • Clarify the goal of the project – ultimate expectation of a multimedia slideshow
  • Define guiding questions as a class
  • Brainstorm ideas in groups on how to approach answering the questions
  • More in-depth research about adaptation or Thailand
    • Language Arts integration: understanding compare and contrast as a strategy and writing structure
    • Social Studies and Information Literacy integration: developing good questions and conducting quality research
  • Student and teacher reflection (on process and learning) – blog, Ning, classroom discussion, or whatever works
  • Skype conference with a collaborating class to discuss the first steps


  • Write script based on the research questions (Language Arts)
  • Find pictures → research, citing sourcing, how to save images, organize images
  • Bring in music for video
  • Student and teacher reflection (on process and learning) – blog, Ning, classroom discussion, or whatever works
  • Skype conference with collaborating class to discuss planning stage


  • Create movie
  • Peer Review movie before final posting & make necessary changes
  • Student and teacher reflection (on process and learning) – blog, Ning, classroom discussion, or whatever works
  • Skype conference with collaborating class
  • Post-Assessment on iMovie – as a reflection of what students have learned


  • In-class discussion of what could have been improved

Now all we have to do is propose this idea to the team and the Curriculum Coordinators. What do you think? Do we have a chance?

Anyone interested in participating in this project with us next year? Maybe we can all convince Chris to run the project again!

Tags: 21stcentury, global, elementary, globalcollaborations, LifeRoundHere, ChrisCraft, adaptation, MYP, TechnologyDesignCycle, UnderstandingbyDesign, integration,

10 thoughts on “Life 'Round Here Learnings

  1. Count me in Kim!!!
    Qatar Academy is an MYP school of course and I joined in with Life ‘Round Here with my Grade 6 MYP Technology class…however due to other considerations in my school, namely that MYP Technology is officially being taken care of by Design technology, I have not been fussed about finalising my unit plan or working through the design cycle pedantically. However, I want this unit to run again next year as a full MYP Technology unit and would love to collaborate with you and be part of Chris’s plans for the future. FYI the new MYP design cycle includes one extra criteria:
    Investigate, Design, Plan, Create, Evaluate (and of course Attitudes to technology)

  2. Kim,
    Just twittered about the videos your students created – there is more to be learned here than in any 5th grade textbook anywhere! What an incredible resource! Loved how you included every step and shared what the kids learned through the group interactions as well as what you learned for next time.
    You are amazing! When do you return to the states? Will you be at NECC?

  3. I’d love to do the project again only if I don’t have to use I-movie. We had so much trouble and it was a huge learning curve for all of us. Our movies got wiped off the laptops. Ugh.

    I wonder if we could use an enhanced podcast instead.

    We are now planning a Travel to an Asian country PPTs. Some of my students are going to use information from the “Life Round Here” movies.

  4. Wow! Amazing Kim. I too took part in the Life ‘Round Here project (Center Elementary in Waycross, Ga). My students loved the project and we are moving onto another great one that I would love for you to look at. http://classroombaids.wikispaces.com

    Back to the topic.. amazing post! Your blog is such a wonderful resource. I am truly impressed with your insight and it’s obvious that your enthusiam is carried into your students/teachers work. Great job.


  5. Julie,

    Awesome! I really wish I was in an MYP school again – I miss keeping up with the new developments – it just seems like there are so few here in Asia. It’s definitely on my list for the next time I go recruiting. Thanks for the update!


    Thank you so much for your kind words! Unfortunately I won’t be at NECC this year – too much going on with my new job – but I’ll be in the US during the summer: Connecticut and Oregon – where are you?


    I’m so surprised you had so much trouble with iMovie! What kinds of problems did you have? Maybe I should write a post about troubleshooting with iMovie :)


    Thank you so much for all the compliments! I’m so glad my blog is helpful to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge