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Posts from the ‘Professional Development’ Category


Technology & Innovation “Look-Fors”

Walk-throughs, sometimes referred to as Learning Walks, are a common practice in schools used for building collegiality and providing feedback for teachers on instructional practice and classroom management.  A walk-through can be a short 5-minute observation or a longer 30 or 45 minute time period and is not meant to be an evaluation of an individual teacher, but instead a means to provide on-going data collection of “look fors”, monitoring of specific program or professional development training practice, or build a common understanding among teachers in a school of instructional practice.


Walk-throughs are often conducted by principals, but also can be conducted by headsof department, grade level leaders, other teachers in the school, or by a group of teachers.  There is often a protocol used that has a list of “look fors” that the observer makes comments, sometimes in the form of questions, that can be given to the teacher being observed.  Some schools organize their walk-through look-fors to include Marzano’s Instructional Strategies (Marzano, 2001).  Another option is to organize the look-fors around Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction (Gagne, 1965)  or Hunter’s Elements of Lesson Design (Hunter, 1984) as a framework.  There are many formats and protocols for walk-throughs to consider.

To what extent should technology integration and innovation be included in walk-through look-fors?

One element that is starting to show-up in walk-throughs is educational technology use.  The way in which the category is developed on the walk-through and the feedback given can be a critical component in helping build a common understanding of instructional practice and expectations within a learning community.  Certainly, the lone use of an educational technology component on a walk-through will not provide the change in practice without additional supports, but it may be helpful when used in addition to other educational technology professional development and training within a school.

Questions that come to mind regarding including the educational technology integration component on a walk-through:

1. Should the look-fors focus on use of technology alone or the integration of technology into the instruction in the class?  How would these look different on the walk-through form?

2. How should integration be included in the look-fors?  Could an integration model, such as SAMR, be translated into look-fors for a walk-through?

3. To what extent should innovation be a look-for in a walk-through?  If innovation in learning, transformed classroom learning, is the one of the goals in educational technology use, how could we provide feedback to teachers on a walk-through form?

“The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction [Paperback].” The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction: Robert J. Marzano: 9781416605713: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

“Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne).” Conditions of Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

Marzano, Robert J., Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001. Print.

“University of Tasmania, Australia.” Mary Ann Hunter. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2013.

Hunter, M. (1984). Knowing, teaching and supervising.  In P. Hosford (Ed.), Using what we know about teaching (pp. 169-192). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


“Life-long Learning” Has Changed


Do you remember the first time you heard the words “Life-long learner”?  I remember hearing it as a child, but cannot recall the first time.  People in my life have encouraged me to be a life-longer learner as long as I can remember.  Typically people are referring to the “love of learning” or they are trying to encourage others to be avid readers and try new experiences.

The concept of life-long learning can be used to refer to informal learning experiences or more formal experiences such as adult education.  In either case, it has changed drastically over recent years as more educational institutions have moved content to open, online spaces.  Many universities are moving their courses to an open format and this makes life-long learning much more accessible!  We can now learn from any location and at any time.

Do you use any open courseware content for secondary school teaching?


Here are are some great places to go for free online, open courses:

  1. Apple iTunesU (Stanford, Harvard, many others) (University list)
  2. MIT Open Courseware
  3. Yale Open Courses
  4. Tufts Open Courseware
  5. Berkeley Webcast

Things I learned at my first Barcamp

A little more than a week ago I attended my first Barcamp.  Prior to the event I was filled with anticipation because I had heard from others how much they learned from and enjoyed the “unconference” venue.  Additionally, the rules of the event require those in attendance to be participants (not just spectators), usually by giving a presentation.  While I am used to giving presentations, I was anxious to present in an environment where I had no context of the type or topic of presentations.  Looking back now, I can say that my experience at BarcampSeou4 was very positive.

A few things that I learned about Barcamps:

  1. The Right People – The people who show up to a particular barcamp ARE the right people.  There really are no “wrong” people at a barcamp.  BarcampSeoul4 was the first international barcamp in Korea.  The people in attendance had very different backgrounds.  Some were from Korea, but many countries were represented.  Some were from a business background, other were from K-12 education and others from higher education.  It was exhilarating to interact and share with people from very diverse backgrounds.
  2. No Expectations – One of the most powerful parts of a barcamp is that you do not arrive with specific expectations because you have no idea of the topics that will be presented until you arrive and set the schedule for the day.
  3. Bring an Inquiring Mind – When you put people from various backgrounds into a room and they begin to present on topics that they are passionate about, you can’t help but have rich discussion.  Be prepared to ask questions, connect the experiences and ideas of other people with your own experiences, and to learn.

A few things that I took away from BarcampSeoul4:

  1. As an educator in a K-12 school, I often think about preparing students for university.  However, I rarely interact with university educators.  At BarcampSeoul4 a large portion of those in attendance were university professors.  Listening to their presentations and interacting with them made me think about how much K-12 schools need to spend time on university campuses and research current trends in higher education.
  2. Virtualization is here to stay.  The physical world is something we are familiar with and comfortable with… however, the cross-over between the physical and the virtual worlds and the ways the virtual world will be governed are very interesting topics.  As much as many educators would like to protect students from the virtual world, it is here to stay and students must be able to navigate it successfully.  This presentation was particularly interesting to me: [ ?posts_id=2839393&dest=-1]
  3. Don’t prepare for your presentation at the last minute…  my presentation was put together early on the morning of the Barcamp.  I wish that argument and presentation would have been much more cohesive, but it wasn’t.  On the other hand, I am tremendously glad that I did present.  The discussion was interesting and I’ve had a number of follow-up conversations with faculty at my school since the barcamp.  Here is my presentation: [ ?posts_id=2839430&dest=-1]

Digital Portfolios – Positive Feedback

Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.001This week I have given two presentations concerning the digital portfolios that are being launched in our middle school.  My expectation was that there would be some resistance to both the launching of portfolios and that they would be digital (online).  It has been surprising to experience positive reactions from both groups that experienced the presentations.

On Monday, during our middle school faculty professional development meeting, faculty reflected on the value of portfolios from different perspectives (students, parents & faculty), discussed an overview of the implementation of the digital portfolios at our school, and began to build common expectations for the portfolios.  On Wednesday I was able to introduce the digital portfolio idea to a group of middle school parents during our Middle School Principal’s Coffee meeting.  Both groups were very receptive and were overwhelmingly in agreement that making the portfolios digital was the best choice.Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.002

I am looking forward to meeting with small groups of middle school students to introduce them to their portfolio (a Google Site Wiki) and teach them how to use it.  We still have considerable work to do so that we all agree on the responsibilities and expectations that each group in the community should fulfill, but we are off to a good start.

Further, I am confident that our digital portfolio initiative will enhance student learning and lead us to hold successful student led conferences in spring.


BarcampSeoul4 – Anticipation

A month or two ago I was alerted to BarcampSeoul4 by Brian Lockwood (@Brianlockwood).  Although familiar with the BarCamp concept, I’ve never participated in one.  Tomorrow that will change.  I am looking forward to participating in my very first barcamp tomorrow  in Seoul.  It is being sponsored by Daum Communications and hosted in their building in Hannam-dong.

Daum Communications Building, Seoul - Event location of BarcampSeoul4

A barcamp is an “un-conference conference” that is mostly organized on the day of the event.  All participants are expected to present.  All presentations are listed at the beginning of the day and participants vote on which presentations they would like to attend.  The agenda for the day is created on the spot.  Each presentation is generally 20 minutes, including questions.

While I haven’t had much time to put together a presentation, I am considering a discussion entitled, “Death to the Libraries”.  Questions surround concepts of future libraries, digitization of literature worldwide, and how e-readers will change the landscape of libraries.

The BarcampSeoul4 website is here.

I expect to report some very interesting things that I will learn from this experience.  Stay tuned.


Carb Slump

This weekend I am attending my first International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) workshop.  It is great to be back in Thailand and this is my first experience really spending time in Bangkok.  Flying Asiana Airlines from Korea was nice even though we did not have personal entertainment systems.

Why are you attending a DP workshop?

Last year and a half I spent considerable time developing a good understanding of the IB Middle Years Program (MYP).  However, the more I explore the development of the MYP in grades 9 and 10, I realize that it is important to have a solid understanding of the intricacies of the DP program (grades 11,12).  Because of the “high-stakes” nature of the IB DP exams, it is very important to align the two programs so that students completing the MYP (grade 10) are fully prepared to enter the DP (grade 11).  Whereas we are making some progress in accomplishing this, I am ill-equipped because of my limited understanding of the DP.  Therefore, I am spending some portion of my professional energies learning more about the Diploma Program, the requirements, and especially the assessment system during the 2009-2010 school year.

Therefore, I am currently sitting in a DP English A1 workshop here in Thailand that is being hosted by New International School of Thailand.  There are some striking differences between the MYP workshops that I’ve attended and this DP workshop.  I suppose that it is largely because of the workshop leader, but I have yet to determine if it is limited to only this workshop leader.


First, there is a lot of lecture.  The workshop leader has spent considerable time sitting behind a table with her laptop, lecturing (with a semi-soft voice) to the workshop attendees.  The Powerpoint presentation that she is using is filled with excessive text.  There have been little to no graphics or visuals.  Immediately following lunch the workshop leader started a lecture…  there was some major CARB SLUMPING going on throughout the room.  People were completely disengaged, almost asleep.

Other things that I’ve noticed:

  • Little patience to answer questions and engage in discussion that is not on the agenda
  • Focus on dissemination of information
  • Teacher-centered with great expectation that participants do things the way the workshop leader requires
  • Little attempt to identify or build background understanding and to help people build on what they already know

On another note, there are some fascinating people here.  Overall there are approximately 450 faculty from various countries in the world attending a variety of both MYP and DP workshops.  It is great to see some people that I met over last year and to hear their stories about implementing or growing their programs.  Building a professional learning network in this context is quite exciting.

Interesting Experience

When I walked into the multi-purpose room this morning to attend the large group “welcome”, all of the other faculty from my school were already there, seated together, and working.  Of all the faculty in the room, every GSIS faculty attendee had their laptop out, were online, and were engaged online.  It was quite funny to see…

Our faculty that are in attendance / Engrossed in technology

Our faculty that are in attendance / Engrossed in technology


Is it Reflection (or Complaining)?


Is it wrong to feel like screaming?

This post is the beginning of a collection of 3 series that may seem as if they are a string of complaints.  I must admit that I do have some complaints that I would like to express, but my goal is not to simply complain or critique, but to reflect upon my experience and outline a core list of issues that are seemingly not working.  These issues are related to external organizations that work closely with and provide supporting services to schools.  I have started discussions with people in each of these organizations during the 2009-2010 academic year. Through outlining these issues, I hope that a process of consideration will begin so that I can continue to work towards solutions or improvements.

In these series I will explore the following:

Rubicon Atlas: It’s Like Windows 95
Is it relevant or obsolete?
Does any teacher actually like it?
Does it help or hinder the mapping process?
Software that can or software that can’t?
Is it really collaborative?
Web .0003 or Web 3.0?

IB Asia Pacific Regional Professional Development: The Anti-Exemplar on Technology
Why is there a deficiency?
Where’s the exemplary tech integration?
What is it reasonable for IB to provide?

Apple Asia: A Work In Progress
Who are these people?
Wow! You sing pretty songs. What’s the key?
ADE – Will it be born in East Asia?

Throughout the series, I will have to work hardest at maintaining objectivity while writing about Rubicon Atlas.  I’ve spent countless hours attending training, training faculty, working through unit template reviews and changes, and maintaining our school Rubicon Atlas system which is used by each division for curriculum mapping.  This has been a real source of frustration and I hope to outline more clearly, for myself, Rubicon, and schools in the region, my thoughts.

As an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP) Coordinator,  I am an open, exuberant champion of IB.  Since becoming familiar with the programs and seeing the changes in our school, faculty, curriculum, and most importantly our students, I am thrilled to a part of an IB World School.  I have attended more than my share of regional workshops (subject area, coordinator, online).  One thing that is noticeably missing is the positive, exemplary use of technology.

Of these three organizations I am writing about, I have come to know Apple Asia from an educational standpoint only in the last couple of months.  I’ve lived in Korea almost 5 years and have extremely disappointing experiences with Apple Korea from a personal consumer perspective.  The intent of the series on Apple Asia is to explore issues in regards to what I am learning about their educational services.  Nevertheless, I openly admit that my perspective comes from experiencing Apple Asia through Korea.

As these series roll out, I welcome your shared or different experiences and comments.


Backward Design – My Experience

Training of Trainers program with Jay McTighe

Quote from Stephen Covey

Understanding by Design is a becoming a core part of the value system of our faculty.  It is a challenge to create a culture of UbD, especially with so many initiatives that are underway as a young school.  Having made considerable progress across all divisions, we are really beginning to see some of the principles reflected in curriculum development.  Teaching for understanding has become a discussion topic throughout the school and implementing in with obtainable goals is enriching our professional culture.

Participating in a Training of Trainers program with Jay McTighe, one of the authors of Understanding by Design, is proving to be an invaluable professional experience.  Seventy-four international school educators are Understanding by Designparticipating in a 2 year program that is to provide two levels of training for participants:

  • Year 1:  The first year focuses on developing knowledge and skills to conduct basic in-school training, review and give feedback to unit designers, conduct peer review sessions and assist in long-range UbD training.
  • Year 2: The second year focuses on developing knowledge and skills to conduct advanced training, support curriculum development with integration of differentiated instruction, and coordinating an on-going UbD program within schools.

This course is deepening and solidifying my understanding of UbD.   An introductory course last summer at the ASCD Summer Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, taking the online professional development course from ASCD and working with our faculty this year to build this philosophy into our culture has been a good start, but the Training of Trainers program is strategically important to support the school’s ongoing commitment to the UbD philosophy .

My Experience at our first workshop meetings

Recently, the 74 participants gathered for three days of meetings at Singapore American School, which is hosting the program.  This was the first meeting and I was impressed with many of the people in attendance.  While I had never met many of them, others I knew personally or had seen at regional trainings throughout the year.  Prior to our first workshop meetings, participants were required to participate in online discussions and complete both unit design and unit review exercises.  During the workshop sessions there were many discussions, collaborative activities and presentations.  Jay McTighe is a master communicator who is keenly aware of his audience and he constantly scans for non-verbal clues to guage audience engagement.  Jay speaks with his hands a lot and I find it interesting to watch him as he interacts with people in a large group setting.

Though the participants had varying degrees of UbD understanding and implementation at their schools were at many different stages, there was significant time allocated for collaborating and working with people in similar school setting and/or with people that have similar professional responsibilities.  One of the highlights of the event was sitting at a table with a group of other MYP Coordinators from the region.  The discussions were interesting although they sometimes (ok… often) centered around IB-MYP.

Further thoughts

Understanding by Design by Jay McTghe and Grant Wiggins is an important, undergirding philosophy for teachers that want to build classrooms for 21st century learning.  Teaching and learning is not simply about memorizing fact and being knowledgeable.  Teaching and learning is about “understanding”.  In conversations on modern pedagogy, this concept arises again and again because of the need to shift our pedagogical idealogy away from more traditional schemes of learning assigned sets of information/curriculum that is often limited to lower level skills and knowledge.

Additionally, Understanding by Design undergirds and supports the successful implementation and operation of IB programs within a school.  While many would argue that UbD is mostly applicable to PYP and MYP programs, it became increasingly clear during our workshop that it is important for IB-DP as well.  UbD gives our whole school a common terminology, understanding and pedagogical outlook so that we can have professional discussion across divisions.  It gives us a greater coherence in curriculum design across the IB programs and school divisions so that the continuum is clearer for faculty, parents and students.

– Many thanks to Singapore American School and Mark Boyer for organizing this training (
– More about Understanding by Design – McTighe and Wiggins (