It’s hard to believe we’re only 5 days away from the end of the first semester here at YIS. The first year in a new school is always busy, and this semester was no exception. Despite the non-stop action, the most exciting part of this first semester in a new school has been how much we have been able to accomplish in such a short time. Not just on the individual teacher level, either, much of the work I have been focusing on has an impact on the whole school. As I said to Stephen (my fantastic tech director) on Friday, it really feels like we have made a big difference in only a few months. We’re clearly in the right place at the right time.

Here’s what we’ve been working on:

Enhancing and expanding our Learning Hub blogging portal for student eportfolios: Already every middle school student has their own blog, and most are writing regularly either on their own or for the English, Humanities, Art, Drama, and Tech (yeah, that’s me) teachers who are expecting them to share their learning via their blogs regularly. About half of the high school students have blogs and our upper elementary students are getting ready to be collaborative authors on their classroom blogs.

Creating a Sharing Culture: Along with student bloggers, I’ve been working with many of our teachers to use their individual Learning Hub blog as a classroom website. Previously our classroom websites were behind a password (only provided to parents and students at YIS), which made it difficult for our teachers and students to connect and collaborate with others beyond our immediate learning community. Using the pre-existing Learning Hub (set up by Brian Lockwood and Colin Campbell) has really helped teachers in our elementary, middle and high schools see the value of the read-write web and the possibilities for connecting beyond their individual classroom. Plus, we’re now posting the daily bulletin here (no longer sent via e-mail to teachers only so students can see) and most of our admin team are blogging as well.

Transitioning from FirstClass to GoogleApps: Thanks to the amazing work of Genki and Stephen, we have had a seamless transition from the astoundingly clunky and outdated FirstClass (for email, shared calendars, teacher forms & bulletin boards) to Google Apps for Education (for all that and more). What a difference! It took a few months to get everything sorted, but the end result is pretty impressive. As I keep saying to our teachers and admin during training sessions, one of the best things about fully using the entire Google Apps for Education package is that we get to take advantage of all the new features Google rolls out regularly. Who doesn’t love priority inbox? Or calendars that can be overlaid to find ideal booking times, or documents that can be shared, private or public? And this doesn’t even take into consideration the recent announcement that all of Google’s features will be enabled for Apps users (hello Google Reader and analytics for teachers and students! Now blogging is going to be even more powerful.)

Supporting Teachers: This is the first time that YIS has had a Technology Coach (or facilitator or coordinator or teacher) in the secondary school and I think (hope) it’s really helping teachers use technology more efficiently, effectively and authentically. I regularly offer after school technology training (every week on Tuesday afternoons), work with departments at their request on specific needs – like this blogging Scope and Sequence project for our English department, co-plan, model, co-teach in classrooms from grades 4 – 12, create and manage our school’s subscription accounts – like VoiceThread and Edublogs, and generally just am available to answer questions whenever teachers have them. I’ve also been doing my best to regularly post interesting ideas, videos or resources for teachers on our IT Department blog.

Raising Awareness of Technology Resources: One of the challenges with technology resources is that if teachers aren’t aware of them, there’s no real way to “see” them – they’re not like chairs sitting unused in a room, they’re basically invisible. After a few weeks at YIS, I realized we were/are paying for lots of great resources that teachers are not aware of (not sure why), so I’ve been making an effort to share ways that those (well-chosen) resources can be used in the classroom. Now we’re almost at our limit of VoiceThread accounts, the number of teacher and blogs are growing every day, students and teachers are sharing media on our SmugMug and Vimeo accounts, and more and more teachers are taking advantage of the full suite of Google Apps.

Formalizing Change: Lucky for our tech department, we are in the midst of our ten-year accreditation with ECIS and NEASC. Although the process started last year so we were not able to form a specific tech committee, we were able to add several questions to the self-study process specifically about academic technology. (If you haven’t noticed, it’s absolutely shocking the way the current accreditation process does not include any questions about educational technology.) The resulting discussion based on the questions we added allowed committees to formalize both areas of need as well as areas of strength for technology at YIS – without those questions, the discussion never would have happened.

Prioritizing Professional Development: Knowing that YIS has not had someone in my position in the past, I’ve been really making a concerted effort to highlight the importance of professional development in a variety of formats. Everything from job-embedded PD in team meetings, fun tool-focused sessions after school to build comfort level and general understanding of what’s available, an in-depth weekend workshop with Julie Lindsay to develop deeper understanding of the power of global collaborations, on-site focused meetings on specific issues relevant to our school with attendees from around Asia, sharing external professional development opportunities, to representing YIS by presenting at conferences.

Facilitating Committees: Although not quite so glamorous, I’ve somehow managed to volunteer myself to facilitate a number of committees. All of which have been valuable opportunities to collaborate with staff and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard on topics important to teachers and students. We’re looking at designing the Classroom of the Future, re-thinking our parent portal, and how to best implement a 1:1 learning environment. In the new year, when a lot of the work on these committees will be wrapping up, we’ll start a formal Technology Committee as well as a 1:1 Steering Committee both involving students, parents and teachers.

Engaging the Parent Community: Last week Brian Farrell, our Head Librarian, and I held our first Parent Technology and Literacy coffee morning. What an astounding success! We had at least 40 – 50 parents in attendance (for a school of 700 students, that really is incredible – we never had that many in one session at ISB, a school of 1800) and the discussion was so positive. As we saw at ISB, parents are hungry for information about technology, literacy and digital citizenship. It’s clear that we’ll be having not only more of these morning sessions, but also specific topi-focused and hands on sessions later in the year – and we’ll need a bigger room! Plus, we’re taking advantage of our Learning Hub to share the big ideas from all of the different parent education sessions (math, literacy, middle school life, etc) on the new YIS Community Learning blog – authored by all of the YIS admin and curriculum leaders.

And, um, one last thing:

Planning for a 1:1 Learning Environment in Grades 6 – 12 Next School Year: The biggest success we’ve had already has to be the Board’s approval of our Connected Learning Community proposal two weeks ago. Considering Stephen and I are both new, and we have a new Headmaster (though James is not new to YIS), it’s pretty amazing that we have the green light on such a huge project so quickly into the school year. Tons of work to do between now and then of course, but at least we know where we want to go.

Final Thoughts

So, it’s been a busy and very rewarding few months. In less than a week, we’ll be on our way to Kerala, India for our semester break. I’m already looking forward to coming back refreshed and ready for more! My list of to-do items is growing as we speak…

CC Images:

15 thoughts on “Making a Difference

  1. Kim,

    Thanks once again for laying out your work in such a clear and generous way! There is much to ponder and aspire to for us at The American School of Paris – especially since we are heading towards Google Apps too and the first pilots have shown themselves to be most successful. The video support on Vimeo is fabulous – what was the software used to highlight screen areas so well with those zooming circles? Such professional presentations and lots to inspire students and educators alike!

    Chris Chater´s last blog post ..Whiteout

    1. @Chris,

      Thank you, as always, for your positive feedback! I’m happy to offer any advice about Google Apps, if/when you need it. Aaron, our Database Manager, made those tutorials using Screenflow for the Mac. It’s a fantastic screencasting software (not too cheap) and well worth the purchase (I’m not sure if it’s also for PC though).

  2. That’s an impressive first semester! I hope you have a great break in Kerala. And I was super glad to be reminded of the blogging scope and sequence you’re working on. I need to make something like that.

    1. @Ben,

      You are more than welcome to use some or all of the scope and sequence we’re working on (and to contribute as you see fit). It’s a creative commons project (attribution, non-commercial, share-alike, same as this blog), so please feel free to adapt as you need. Of course, it would also be great to see how you use it and hear if it works. Now that we’re back for the second semester, I’ll be working on it again with Susie and we’d love to have your input too!

  3. Wow Kim! These are the carefully crafted amazing blog post that normally intimidate me from commenting, but I am turning a new leaf and commenting more often. As always by reflecting on what you have done or are doing, you are laying down road maps for where people can go. Our school, although 1:1 is still laying down these basic structures and I am happy to say that I met with our principal and it looks like blogging has been approved as our tool for portfolios and so the work of creating a “hub” or culture of blogging is underway.

    Our school’s IT structure is unique, but having great ideas and evidence of success is great for teachers like myself to go to admin and say this is what is possible, here is evidence, I can help us get here…let’s roll. So in a sense by you sharing your work it is like you are on my IT team as well, which I hope this is what all this sharing is all about.

    So we are looking at blogging platforms and hoping to move to Edublogs Campus next year and hopefully Google Apps as well.

    Anyway, I am rambling now, but I wanted to say that from a far it is clear you guys have a clear vision of what best practice could look like. we are all watching and willing to pitch in when asked. That blogging scope and sequence for example will be a very powerful and useful document for everyone who is headed down the path you have laid out.

    Now I am going to email this post to my principal!

    1. Thanks Jabiz! I really do feel like we are on the same team – anyone who is willing to share and learn together is on my team. Congratulations on getting blogging approved as a vehicle for your portfolios! I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to collaborate on the development of that “hub” and helping our students to build their own personal learning networks.

  4. Love the read. And I am exploring your blogs. I just had students great blogs but we created an internal server for them, as we are practicing for their future online presence.

    I’ve bookmarked you and will continue reading the great posts and following what happen. You have lots of great thing I would like to start at a school.

    1. @Carlos,

      Thank you! Am happy to help answer questions anytime too. If you can build up to hosting WPMU at your school (but allowing the blogs to be public), I think that’s the best option. Love the control that you have over WPMU, the speed of having it hosted on site, and of course being public for the sharing purposes. Good luck!

  5. Congratulations Kim! You have accomplished so much in such a short time. I will be getting my grade 6’s blogging when we get back from winter break and have a few observations and questions. I noticed from your student blogs that you are not using real names. I had not though of that. We will also review with the students acceptable use policy before we launch but any other suggestions to get students started blogging successfully? Hope you are enjoying your vacation! See you in Beijing in Feb.

    1. @Margherite,

      Congratulations on blogging with your grade 6s! We are actually using their real names – first names only, but they can choose to use a nickname if they prefer. If it’s a real concern, nicknames to go along with their avatars (pictures that represent them, but are not them) is a very good option.

      I think it’s worth having a discussion about thinking before you post, how to comment, and how to behave responsibly (to avoid cyberbullying) as you get started. If possible, it’s great to connect them with blogging buddies (would you like to connect with my class?) so they have someone specifically they know is reading their blog (and blogs for them to read). Finally, if you can give them some freedom over the content, so that they aren’t just blogging for homework, but rather writing about something they’re interested in, that makes it a more authentic experience.

      So so so glad I’ll see you in Beijing in Feb! Really looking forward to it!

  6. You’ve had such a great start. What wonderful work. I can’t wait to hear about the 2nd semester. I’ve been looking at the kindergarten blogs at your school. I hope we can connect our classes when everyone returns for the next semester. Looking forward to learning together.

    Thanks for all the inspiration.


    1. Thanks Maria! I will definitely e-mail Zoe, our fab kinder teacher, right now with your details. I’m sure she would love to connect. You guys would be an awesome pair! You’re the inspiration, Maria :)

  7. Hi Kim,

    So much to read on your blog! Thanks for sharing what you’ve been up to.
    Was wondering how you got your school to start thinking about changing from firstclass to googleapps. We’re on worldclient right now and it’s so limiting. Want to see some changes in my school.

  8. Hi Kim,

    Great to get an update on how things have gone over your first semester at YIS. Also really pleased to see some of the projects we worked so hard on over the past few years are still part of the set up as you and Stephen move things forward.

    There is a nice cycle to how this process developed – we would not have pushed so hard on the open edublog/ wordpress side of things in my time as MS curriculum coordinator at YIS if I hadn’t seen people like yourself and Ewan McIntosh speak in Shanghai at learning 2.0 08 where Brian Lockwood was insistent that we go as a team. That conference really helped me to understand what Brian, Genki and Christine were trying to do. The learning hub blog set up we created was very much a work in progress so delighted to see that the you have built upon that framework and found new ways to make it an even more open and collaborative community resource.

    @Margherite I agree with Kim on the real name side of things, we were keen for the learning hub blogs to help the students think about when to use their real name and when a nickname might be more appropriate. As the blogs were originally conceived as part digital learning space/ part digital portfolio the notion of identity and ownership was really important. I found this post on Konrad Glogowski’s blog really useful as we developed the use of blogs at YIS. This post in part suggests ‘teacher assigned’ blogging is problematic as blogs grew from intrinsically motivated individuals writing when they wanted in their own terms. I still feel blogging tools are a great resource for educators but I think you need to be very careful how you present them to students.

    Also interesting to see the YIS move towards google apps. We had a lot of debate about using google docs for curriculum mapping last year and our hope was that by bringing in part of the google suite for one function teachers would start to improvise with it and use it for others, something that just isn’t going to happen with more specialised and ‘walled garden type’ software. Will be interested to hear you use some of the other google products with teachers and students at YIS.

    Thanks again for the update and look forward to hearing how the move 1 to 1 goes over the next year or so.


    Colin Campbell´s last blog post ..A much needed kick in the pedagogicals

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