Learning 2.0

A Tip of The Hat to AES

In my experience, teachers by nature seem to be natural collectors.  As an international educator on the move, I don’t collect stuff.  Instead I collect recommendations for schools, principals, and headmasters.  In the back of my mind, I always have an ever changing list of five schools I would like to work at, five principals I would like to work with, and five headmasters I would like to work for.  Although my list is in a constant state of flux because of professional opportunities and retirement, one thing has remained a constant over the years … The American Embassy School (AES) in New Delhi.

CC Photo Credit

CC Photo Credit

Years ago, AES appeared on my radar based on recommendations for principals and headmasters to work for.  Not long after, I began to work and collaborate with past and present AES faculty.  One thing has stood out from my experiences … AES faculty have all been  top-notch educators and innovative professionals.  More recently, my professional work has been enriched by AES’s innovative work with mobile learning and iPads.  In November, I had the opportunity to learn from so many educational rock stars while attending The iPad Summit at AES. Dana, Ben, Stacy, DavidGary, and so many others did not disappoint.  They knocked one out of the park with an amazing professional conference. So save the date for The iPad Summit 2014!

Then AES went and did it again.  A friend and colleague in Taipei shared a refreshing video from AES on Home Learning.  It discusses their shift from being a Homework to a Home Learning school. They understand children. They understand learning. They understand families. They understand technology. Yet again AES is leading the way. It is a shift I hope to see in more schools.  So in my best Stephen Colbert, I wanted to give the great folks at AES a “TIP OF THE HAT” for the wonderful things they are doing.

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I Love My ELMO

ELMO

Many kids, like my 6 year old son, have a favourite stuffed animal that they bring to bed with them every night.  His favourite is a cuddly little fellow from Seasame Street, named Elmo.  He doesn’t laugh when tickled and is beginning to look worn around the edges, but Elmo does bring a lot of comfort and happiness to my eldest son.  Quite simply, he loves Elmo.

Apparently, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because I too am in love with ELMO.  However, mine isn’t red, fuzzy, or cuddly.  I don’t take it to bed with, nor would I want to.  My ELMO is white, shinny, and new.  It sits on my desk in my classroom, next to my computer.  In simple terms, my ELMO is a document camera.  In reality, it is much more than that.  It is a transformative piece of technology that shifted my professional practice and dramatically improved student learning.

For much of the past decade I have worked at the International School Bangkok (ISB) in an environment that continually sought out and supported innovative educational practices.  ISB is a rich learning environment in many ways.  SMARTBoards, scanners, FLIP cameras, digital microscopes, laptop carts, VoiceThreads, wikis, and blogs are integral parts of the learning environment.  However, it’s the people who are truly the source of its wealth.  I consider myself to have been extremely fortunate to have worked along side wonderful colleagues like Dennis Harter, Tara Ethridge, Kim Cofino, and Jeff Utecht, and many others.  Each exemplified ISB’s ideal of 21st Century Learning — creative, collaborative, flexible, tenacious, etc.  Although they were each extremely helpful when technology needed an introduction, explanation, or went awry, the technology was not the focus.  Connectedness and collective knowledge was.  By making their thinking visible, each contributed in their own way to my professional and personal transformation.

This is why I love ELMO.  More than interactive whiteboards, laptops, wikis, blogs or any other piece of technology, my ELMO helps foster 21st Century Learning.  Throughout the day, regardless of subject area or interest, it helps make the group’s thinking visible.  In Math, a variety of possible solutions are shared and discussed.  In writing, author’s can quickly share the process they used to develop an idea.  The mystery of your peers’ thinking disappears and understanding improves.  We learn together, from each other.  In doing so, ELMO has helped improve the levels of collaboration.  It is an invaluable tool for collecting real time feedback, for providing exemplars, and modeling thinking and tenacity.  Accountable talk is an important part of inquiry based learning and ELMO is a piece of technology that does a wonderful job of facilitating our collaborative inquiry.  As a teacher, document cameras, like my current ELMO, have helped me focus on student learning rather than my teaching.  When combined with interactive whiteboards, the impact of a document camera is multiplied ten fold.   More than any other piece of technology, document cameras have truly transformed my daily professional practice and helping develop 21st century learners.