Professional Development for a Global Audience

Global Education Conference

It was an honour to be a guest in Amy Hollinger‘s session on Professional Development for a Global Audience at the 2013 Global Education Conference. Amy is the Director of Professional Development for Global Online Academy and was my co-teacher in a recent online professional development course for teachers: Introduction to Online Learning Environments.

One of the things we talked about today was dealing with some of the challenges that get in the way of developing solid connections with people in online environments. It’s harder to do when you don’t have the cues provided by seeing faces and reading body language in a face-to-face situation.  Ideas that we discussed to personalize and humanize online connections included sharing personal details to learn more about each other’s context. This included simple things like sharing pictures of family, pets and where we live; showing on a map our geographic locations; and using icebreakers to uncover common interests and


Sharing online is not necessarily comfortable for everyone. Modeling what and how to share, and suggesting common areas of interest can make it a little easier. We set up a Google+ Community for our course to help build connections and foster a professional learning community for participants.  Themes that emerged in our class discussions flowed into categories for ongoing threads on Google+.

Learning how to learn in an online environment is experiential–sometimes you just need to experience it to understand it! I hope the participants in our course got a taste of some of what is possible.



Digital Citizenship Week–Remix & Mash Up

Our high school is celebrating Digital Citizenship week with a focus on content creation, copyright and remix culture.

For Students: Student Council are sponsoring a Mad Movie Mashup designed to promote the message for students to be proactive about building a positive digital footprint; to be creative and responsible content makers.

For Teachers: In our CreateIT  sessions for teachers over the next few weeks we will be focusing on remix culture and how it relates (or not) to copyright and fair use. We’re also encouraging people to sign up for some of the seminars that Commonsense Media are sponsoring. (I’m particularly keen on this one:)

Teaching Copyright and Fair Use to the Remix Generation
Wed, Nov. 13, 1-2 p.m. PDT
(Hosted on EdWeb)
Click here to register

In preparation for the sessions we’ll run at ASIJ I have been bookmarking some sites I’ve been finding or have been pointed to by other educators. Rab Paterson opened his session at the NYU Technology in Teaching Seminar by contrasting two quite different remix examples. One of the pieces Rab shared, by Kutiman (below), is an artful synthesis of content that Larry Lessig said, in a blog post, you could watch and it would basically encompass all he tried to impart in his book Remix. It certainly is a good example!

Defining Remix

The following collection of voices have helped me get my head around what Remix culture and theory looks and sounds like.

“Generally speaking, remix culture can be defined as a global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies. ” Remix Theory by Eduardo Navas

Read more by Eduardo Navas including an overview of the history, and an in depth definition. Then there is Kirby Ferguson’s work which includes a four part video series building the case that Everything is a Remix. In Part 3 where he discusses The elements of creativity–an particular passion of mine. Of course, Larry Lessig has been long time passionate advocate and authority on remix culture. His TED talks are worth every minute.

Thinking about this topic from a creators point-of-view is worth some contemplation. The following Pogo (Nick Bertke) talks about finding his own voice in the act of creating remixes from cultural classics.

While these examples touch on music and film there are voices addressing how writing culture in the remix generation is being reshaped too. Tanya Sasser’s blog post Digital Writing As Handicraft is an enlightening read.

“As the limits on who can create and publish digital media have broken down, and as those media have become part of an open collective commons, the ability to create, use, hack, remix, and hybridize cultural products has made manifest William S. Burroughs’ redefinition of the work of creating as a “process that occurs in collaboration with others” (emphasis added). Blogs are not the only form of digital writing that makes such a process possible. Twitter, for example, mimics the kind of mechanically juxtaposed form of composition that Burroughs emphasizes in his cut-up method. Like the cut-up method,Twitter encourages a mixed-media style of writing, as authors integrate images, hyperlinks, hashtags, and the tweets of others into their 140-character compositions–sometimes randomly, sometimes strategically, but always, like Burroughs’ scissors, “render(ing) the process explicit.””

It’s a deep and engaging topic–most worthy of delving into during Digital Citizenship Week!

Thinking Visually

This week ASIJ opened the new HS Library which includes a dry erase wall. Floor to ceiling in the IdeaXchange is now a visual thinking space.

IdeaXchange--learning space

A learning space in ASIJ’s new HS Library

For some time I have been wondering how we might encourage students and teachers to do more visual thinking. The unveiling of this space is a terrific opportunity to model and promote this as a valuable strategy for learning.

Over summer I was fortunate to attend a session on Visual Thinking presented by Lisa Kay Solomon and Patrick Vander Pijl, and supported by graphic recorder Giselle Chow, at the Nueva Design Thinking Institute. I was reminded of the power of getting ideas out of our heads so others can interact with them. Lisa shared ‘5Ms’–Maps, Metaphors, Meaning and iMagination–each with practical applications or inspiration to illuminate how thinking visually leverages communication and innovation. Patrick gave us a ‘drawing alphabet’ and some practical ‘how-to’ examples.

So, I’m now looking forward to putting some of their ideas to work in our new learning space.



Essential skills: Image search

At this time of year a few teachers plan alternative final assessments instead of an exam. (I love that!) Some of the essential skills for projects involving multimedia include finding and appropriately citing content. Sometimes we take for granted that kids have these things in their ‘know-how’ tool kits. Below are a few tips we provide to emphasize quality and a culture of citation.

Learning about creative & intellectual property in a ‘share & remix culture’

Criteria for success

You can locate images that are licensed to share and reuse.
You can check sizes of images (pixel dimensions) so they are not fuzzy in your presentations.
You can cite the sources of images appropriately.

Your Work, Creative Commons & Copyright

Watch this 2.5 min video about for a quick overview.

Which search tools?

1. Creative Commons Search This is a good place to start:

Change the settings to look for something to Modify, adapt or build upon > Type in your search terms > then click which source you want to search. (I suggest you take a look in more than one! Try Wikimedia Commons, Google Images, and Flickr.)

Creative Commons Search








2. Google Image Search

Within Google’s Image Search there are some helpful tools well worth exploring that will help you narrow your search further to content suited to the project. Take a peek under each of the heading — Size, Color, Type & More.

Google Image Search

To refine your search terms you can also go to the Advanced Search > click the wheel on the right.

When does size matter?

No one enjoys looking at fuzzy images in a presentation. There are two things to consider; the ratio of the pictures you choose, and their pixel dimensions.

Most computer screens and TV monitors have a ratio of 16:9. (Also called High Aspect Ratio or HD – High Definition.) This diagram helps visualize this. (It is 16 units wide by 9 units high.)

  Pixel diagram

Pixel dimensions This tells you how big an image is. You will want to find images that have enough pixels per inch to completely fill the screen ratio.

Most cameras shoot 4:3 ratio which means images won’t fit neatly. As a guide, look for images that have dimensions that are between 2048  x 1536 , 1600 x 1200, or 1024 x 768.

(Images dimensions of 640 x 480 are borderline–they will look slightly soft not crisp and clear. Anything below this I would completely avoid!)

Look for landscape oriented images. (e.g. otherwise you will have to crop a portrait oriented image if you are going to fill the whole screen.)

my breadfast


Sizes smaller than these will mean you have to stretch pictures to fill your screen resulting in poor quality results that look fuzzy and pixely.

low pixel dimensions = fuzzy poor quality images


Game On! Gamification in Education & the Power of Play.

My MOOC experience continues. Gamification is my third foray into the world of Massive Open Online Courses.

Gamification is a relatively recent thing, but as Professor Kevin Werbach pointed out in this week’s Office Hours Google Hangout, it’s a field that is likely to continue to become more mainstream, much the same way social media has become part of life over the last ten years. Using game elements in non-game contexts is getting some serious attention–just check out the Gamification Research Network for a taste.

Gamifiy remix
Gamifying learning
One of the principles of games is voluntary participation or choice — we voluntarily choose to play and follow a set of rules. It’s part of the fun! How then can gamification be applied in an educational context which most often involves lots of compulsory elements and pathways? Some time ago I read about Quest To Learn in the book Now You See It by Cathy Davidson. Quest To Learn is a full scale model of how games, game theory and gamification can be applied in a school setting. It’s inspirational and well worth investigating.

Before tackling whole school gamification 😉 I thought I’d like to try tinking around with applying game elements in a few of our high school classes. Right now I’m working with one of our Social Studies teachers and our IT support folks on gamifying a project about ‘the way history is recorded in the digital age’. We’re using the Japan Digital Archive as the playground and students will be invited to role-play being an archiver, researcher and curator. The game elements we’re employing include awarding points for different kinds of work, and badges for completing a series of challenges. We’ve set up a simple site where players can log their work and see updates on the whole classes progress as well as their individual achievements. Our goal is to motivate students to explore the world of the archive and since some of the activities are a bit mundane we’re hoping to make it more fun and engaging with game elements.

I’m excited to see how it goes. I’ll be sure to write about the ups and downs in a few weeks time.


Digital Research – Essential Skills

I had two experiences this week that brought home the message strongly visualized in the excellent graphic below by

In one class I visited students were conducting some independent research to review a topic. They were using each other, their textbooks, class notes and their laptops to clarify any concepts and terms that still seemed fuzzy. Over and over again I am shocked by how students go about searching. I frequently ask students what strategies they use when I’m visiting classes. Despite our best efforts to teach search strategies across the curriculum it seems some students never move beyond the default: ‘I just type my question into the search box. ‘ Then, from the seven million or so hits they get they simply pick from the first page that comes up. How do we support students to move beyond this threshold?!

The other situation was a conversation with librarians from another school. We were meeting to share how we are tackling the challenge of Creating a Culture of Citation. It was a rich discussion and again it highlighted the need for students to become much more competent at digital research including developing effective search strategies, in evaluating and validating sources, and citing sources appropriately.

As points out:

the instant gratification of the modern search engine certainly may pose some unhealthy research habits

Digital research skills are essential to master for life in the digital age. If we are serious about preparing students for life, then these skills need to be taught and reinforced across every discipline.

Digital Research Infographic



Learning from Google

Google Post-it Installation

What can we learn from innovative organizations like Google? How might we adopt some of their cultural markers to inspire students? When we knew ASIJ would be the host venue for the first Tokyo Google Apps for Education Summit I wondered how we might use it as an opportunity to touch students and not just host a PD event for faculty.

What I envisioned was a week of ’20 percent time’ projects, cross divisional student activities and workshops, Scratch writing Slams & Play-offs, Dance Parties and maybe even a filming session for a Lipdub project that was underway. Needless to say thinking big doesn’t always mean you get to act big. Disruption is not always warmly welcomed, right? 🙂

While the scale of those ideas were not realized this time around, as I reflect post the Google Summit, the goal of getting students involved was achieved and the event did have an impact on some of our students.

The transformation of the high school lobby and library space into a Google style environment, intended to inspire idea sharing and collaboration, did create a buzz with students leading up to the event.

photo 3


Google colors

In the lead up to the event a group of students were a key part of a collaborative video project designed to give Google a decidedly Japanese flavor. They crafted the logo out of nori rolls and sushi – then ate it! Creative and delicious.


Google Sushi

Our middle school art teachers launched a ‘Google doodle’ extravaganza which resulted in hundreds of colorful logo designs being displayed around school.

Google doodles

A project that engaged many of the ASIJ Student Envoys during the event was the Google Post-It installation. Attendees were invited to help create a giant Google logo with Post-It messages about the conference under the direction of student helpers. They photographed each stage which we then turned into a stop-motion animation for screening on the Sunday afternoon. It was a fun, creative and collaborative effort by everyone. Grade 11 student, Kyoko emailed me about the experience; “It turned out beautiful! Thank you for integrating my moving arrow in the end of the video! I had a very inspiring day today!” I loved what she did – she had embraced the challenge to inject her own ideas into an open-ended project.

Maybe that’s it! Time for creativity, and challenges and opportunities to collaborate.

Google Apps For Education Tokyo @ASIJ

Over two hundred educators converged on ASIJ on February 9th and 10th. It was a weekend of play, passion and purpose. Over twenty-five different workshops and keynote presentations were offered with participants attending from around Japan and from as far away as Indonesia.  Browsing through the Twitter stream #gafesummit you get a sense of the energy, ideas and connections that were made over the two days. Aside from attending some great sessions these kinds of events are about bringing interesting people together. Ideas were swapped and sparked through informal exchanges that were as much a part of the event as the opportunities to interact and hear from the Google team and workshop presenters.


“The Demo Slam”–3 fast & furious minutes in which to demo a tip, tool or idea. I shared the “Googles” function on a mobile device.

Rushton Hurley, Director of Next Vista for Learning opened Saturday morning and had people laughing from the get-go. In subsequent sessions he shared a wealth of resources from search skills to creative projects which I’ll be digging through for a long time to come.

Jim Sill‘s entertained and inspired us with his keynote address on Sunday. We were invited to think about the kind of world are we are now living in by contrasting it to the ‘material world’ of the 1980’s. Madonna’s hit song blared out and helped bring home some of the shifts that have occurred in the decades since it first aired. One example Jim shared was that now 72 hours of footage are being uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s certainly a digital and very connected world. What can teachers make of the opportunities this affords?


Throughout the whole event Wendy Gorton kept the energy high as our MC. In the closing session Wendy also shared about some of the fantastic projects she’s involved in around Asia, and how she uses whatever technology is available to keep connections going and to support learning.

Overall it was a very energizing event. Like the collaborative installation that attendees helped create, GAFE Summit Tokyo was a culmination of lots of different peoples ideas, effort and commitment. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of it.




Living in a digital landscape

In the book A New Culture of Learning, John Sely-Brown and Douglas Thomas describe an exciting era in the technology age of living and learning. It is inhabited by connected people. People drawn together by interests and a common focus. ‘Collectives’ they say:

learn through their interaction and participation with one another in fluid relationships that are the result of shared interests and opportunities.

That’s the positive side of living now. A whole new world of connections and learning; peer-to-peer, finding mentors and joining ‘collectives’. I particularly like that they stress interaction and participation, along with these, I think confidence and resourcefulness are also necessary to navigate in this landscape. I was reminded of this recently when I heard about the following situation.

A student discovered they had been named in a public post describing them as being involved in unsavory activities. Real or completely fabricated, the post was damaging to have out there connected with their name. A major digital footprint compromise!


Managing your digital identity means being proactive and a positive contributor to it in the digital landscape.

Disconnecting or double checking your privacy settings wouldn’t help in situations like this. The student didn’t post it – it was done ‘to’ them.

We need a two pronged approach to preparing students for digital life. Both require them to be proactive. First, we want our students to know what to do when something like this happens to them or their friends – and be confident to act (not react! No posting to even the score – it just adds to the mess.) Knowing where to go to lodge a complaint on Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites is being resourceful and helps them to manage their digital identity in a positive way. (We recently sent out an update to our high-school students about how to do this.)

Second, encouraging and enabling students to be positive contributors to their own footprint builds a robust identity. By publishing their best work, ideas and perspectives they will build a positive digital presence. Then, in a Google search, they will be revealed for their many postings as the creative global young people that they would want family, friends, and potential colleges or employers to see them as.

Global citizenship is a big topic and one that we need to keep on the front burner. (‘Bystander behavior’ is another area that needs work.)

The underlying theme in all this for me is encouraging students to be thoughtful and proactive in both the real & digital landscape.


Colleges are experimenting with a variety of ways to scale and democratise learning in higher education. Some really big name schools are involved. The article Heard: MOOCs Growing From Standford to Georgia Tech to MIT to Udacity to Udemy describes the rise of Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs.) A number of high caliber colleges have been experimenting with this model and there have been some surprising repercussions including things like well known professors leaving to join start-up companies who want to connect successful ‘learners’ with prospective employers. Is this model going to test whether ‘college’ is the only pathway to highly desirable careers ?

Coursera is a venture described in the article. Coursera’s aim is to make “the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it.”  As of writing this post it offers 198 courses from a stable of 33 colleges and universities world wide. There are just under 1.7 million people currently enrolled in MOOCs through Coursera as stated on their site. You can watch Daphne Koller’s TED Talk, cofounder of Coursera, to hear about what she and her colleagues have been learning from their work.

I started my first MOOC course on Oct 22.

While I’m not new to design or using design processes I value the opportunity to keep learning and expand my knowledge. I jumped at the chance to enroll in this course on design partly because of the topic but also because I am curious about MOOCs. In this Coursera course I have about 5,000 or so other classmates from countries all over the world. This morning I have spent time not just doing my homework but browsing the forum and connecting with people. There are all sorts of activities and extra-curricular connections springing up from Facebook groups, twitter hashtags, and even Video blogs (like this by a student living in Germany who is keen to share how she’s tackling the challenges we are set.) I find myself in an interesting collective, a term described in the book A New Culture of Learning and one I keep thinking about as my experience in a MOOC progresses. It is quite the adventure and its only been two weeks!

Here’s a short reflection about my design first project.