The Battle of the BLs



AAARRRGGGHHHH!!! I found myself challenged by all the different X-based learnings out there. But then as I read quite a few (too many in fact!) articles on the said topics, I started thinking about the IB itself. Teaching in a PYP school we come across all of these X-BLs. Yes, there IS a driving question but the end result varies from student to student as they have the autonomy to show their learning in their many different ways pertaining to their understanding. So whether it is Problem-based, Project-based, Game-based or Challenge-based, I think it all boils down to INQUIRY! It places the students’ questions and ideas at the center of their learning journey. The IB students learn and build their knowledge by exploring and doing things not just by doing projects. It also helps them to build 21st Century’s 4Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Technology, Pedagogy and Usology

keyboardI have been trying to wrap my mind around how project/problem/challenge based learning applies to my curricular area/grade level and my own theory on technology in the classroom. Conclusively, PBLs can powerfully engage and effectively teach your students! But the more important question I asked myself here is that how would technology support these methods of teaching pedagogies in my classroom? Since technology usage in my classroom is not student-driven I decided to shelve this question for now and concentrate more on my personal and professional usage. Does my or my team’s usage of technology before, during and after planning each unit affect, enhance or challenge our students’ learning process? Does it help them to build their Communication, Thinking, Social, Thinking and Self-Management Skills? How can our students apply this knowledge and understanding? And most importantly, are we designing learning experiences that are meaningful?

Of course the more I read and question, the more overwhelmed I get. But then I went back to what Robert suggested in his post and literally took his advice.

Don’t get too hung up on the names! 

What matters now

The article Designing Learning That Matters helped settle my mind somewhat.

Learning is fundamentally an act of vulnerability. It is an acknowledgement that what one knows is not sufficient, and that new information and new thinking about that information is needed. – Jal Mehta

In this article, Joshua Block talks about how challenge/problem-based, inquiry-based and project-based learning creates an impact on long-term learning. Even though this article is not about technology integration, it brings forward the idea that we as teachers need to design learning experiences for our students that relate to them and create deeper understandings. After all, learning should not just be creative and engaging but most importantly it should be FUN!



Stars and Wishes

If only…

In my ideal world, I would have iPads in my classroom for my kiddos so that they can use them regularly and tech usage would be student-centered instead of teacher-centric. But alas! I have just one iPad (mine) and one computer to work with (I guess I should be thankful I have that at least).  

Now do keep in mind that in Pre-K it’s all about ‘visual literacy’, they cannot read or write. Their pictures are indecipherable but they have a wealth of meaning behind each. My little ones have been working with Seesaw since the beginning of the year and now they are at a stage where I do not have to tell them how to log in to their account and start doing what they want to – be it recording themselves or their friends while (pretend or picture) reading, drawing or simply taking a picture (all related to the unit of course). Of course the pictures or the videos are not good enough but hey they’re just four years old. 

My class recently started using Puppet Pals (Technology – TPACK) for our unit ‘How We Express Ourselves’ (Content – TPACK). It is mostly controlled by me but yes the students choose the characters and setting. They are learning to use their voice to portray the characters and their emotions. They are getting better at recording and then replaying to listen. So I guess we’re going back and forth between ‘substitution‘, ‘augmentation‘ and the ‘modification‘ stage. The fact is that my students would not have been able to share with their parents what they’re doing in class if not for these two platforms. Oh and let’s not forget our class Twitter account.

How would I evaluate my own practice of technology integration?

It could be that I am not looking in the right direction, but most of the blogs or websites that I read for integrating technology were not geared towards  preschool. While reading “What Is Successful Technology Integration?” I came across the following:

  • Routine and transparent
  • Accessible and readily available for the task at hand
  • Supporting the curricular goals, and helping the students to effectively reach their goals

Based on just this, in my classroom, technology is NOT

  1. being used on a daily basis (but we’re using it at least thrice in a week)
  2. students do not have access to it themselves (I get the iPads from the bookstore when I need the students to work on them)
  3. other than their parents they are not collaborating with anyone else

Yet on the other hand they are

  • getting the opportunities for expressing their understanding 
  • learning in an active and engaged environment with content that is relevant and this also gives me an opportunity to assess them in an authentic manner.

So then what level of Technology Integration am I on? I guess it differs with grade level work. For Pre-K, I am dangling between basic and comfortable since my students are using two different platforms (Seesaw and Puppet Pals) on a fairly regular basis. But they are not using a variety of tools and this could be because I am not competent enough.

The past few weeks I have been mentoring the Grade 5 students for their PYP Exhibition and I got them to work with Canva and iMovie for their final presentation. I do have a small group of students in my Coding Club working on different ‘plugged’ and ‘unplugged’ activities. Previously, I have used Kidblog with second graders where they have collaborated with each other in the classroom as well as the class parents. so here I might be tottering on the ‘comfortable’ stage.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that varies between not just integration in different grade levels but in my own professional practice. Does that mean I am climbing the SAMR ladder? Haah if only that were so. I still have a long way to go, but this CoETaIL journey is certainly helping me wrap my mind around it. 


Looking To The Future – (Course 3 Final Project Reflection – Part II)

flickr photo by kevin dooley shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by kevin dooley shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


Before I start with the reflection, I want to share the process behind our presentation so that the readers would be able to understand the logic behind each slide. Abby and I started a brain dump on a GoogleDoc using WHY-HOW-WHAT and worked backwards for the slides. But before we even did that, we used good old-fashioned paper and pencil (storyboarding) to jot down our crazy random ideas. As I mentioned earlier, this presentation is made with the purpose of later on introducing the staff at our school to the RUA for Teachers that we made at the end of Course 2.

Why is technology important in the classroom?
• Importance and benefits to self and students (WHY)
Amplifying learning, making connections and productivity (HOW)
Students’ and teachers’ achievement (WHAT)

Initially we were thinking of using either the IB Learner Profiles or a transdisciplinary approach to our question. But then we decided on using Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle, as we felt that our fellow teachers would be able to relate to it better this way (putting ourselves in the audience’s shoes). For the staff presentation itself, we plan to share the link to the slides with them through Atlas on the big day.

Our high aspirations

For our cover slide, we used an image of a tree as we felt that it denotes growth. For this particular presentation – growing with technology! Note that the transition slides are all the same – the inquiry cycle. Also, the colors used in the hexagon are same used for the slide representing it later.

For the Tuning In, we plan to show the video of how elders (or anyone who is not tech-savvy) would react to Snapchat. This is primarily so that everyone shares what teachers know about technology, how they have gained this knowledge and their experiences within the classroom.

For the Finding Out stage, we have inserted some clickable resources in our slides. During this time, the teachers can click on any of these resources to gain more knowledge about productive use of technology in the classroom. We have not made the list too long as we felt that others can add to it with time. We also do not want to overwhelm the audience by giving them too many resources to look into. 

Throughout the presentation we plan to keep a mix of activities. For Sorting Out, we plan to do a paper and pencil activity. There will be chart papers at each table with the WHY-HOW-WHAT circles. The driving question is Why is technology important in the classroom? Teachers are expected to fill in the HOW and WHAT circles, using their prior knowledge and the resources they looked at during the Finding Out stage.

Going Further, we want teachers to share their knowledge and understanding. We plan to share an interactive GoogleDoc with the following two columns to be filled out – Questions I still have and Share my knowledge.

For Making Conclusions, we plan to use Padlet. We have also put in the QR code in our slide, for teachers to access Padlet. We will be using this platform to make connections between what teachers are already doing in the classroom and what they plan to do differently in the future after this workshop. 

For Taking Action and Reflecting, we want teachers to post their thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag AISQ8. We want to know how their feelings and thinking has changed during this inquiry process, what their take-away is, how they will improve their professional learning along with their students and effectively use technology to benefit all.


My reflections

It has been quite a process using the learning from Course 3 for the presentation itself. While using the pictures we had to constantly think and rethink as we wanted them to speak our thoughts (effective communication through design and layout). We have shared the data (resources for Finding Out) through logos (links within them) because it is easier for the audience to focus on these rather than the resource list as a starting point (audience and purpose affect what you communicate)

In each slide Abby and I have tried to be very careful with the contrast between colors and fonts, repetition of the inquiry cycle to keep the flow of understanding, alignment of pictures with words and lastly proximity of the same. We have also made an effort of aligning activities for the staff and made sure there are no repetitions (different information mediums require different strategies…).

When we present this workshop, I hope it goes really well. But till then I would like your opinion to help us improve it – not for ourselves, but for our audience!

Looking To The Future – (Course 3 Final Project Reflection – Part I)

This post will be in two parts.

Course 3 was by far the most interesting in the courses that we’ve done so far. For that matter all the choices for the Final Project got me excited and initially I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to do.

math-night-2016 %281%29

Putting Learning into Practice

Before I go on to talk about the final project, I want to share some exciting things that I have been trying my hand at. I used the knowledge from this course to help me with the Math Night coming up at our school. I created a poster using Piktochart (not my first time though) and a video to advertise the exciting event. I did have some help from a colleague in putting the video together. I still don’t know what others think of it since it’s been an extremely busy time of the year for most teachers…assemblies, DRAs, conferences, mentoring for PYP Exhibition, yada yada yada… Saying so I would appreciate feedback from my fellow CoETaILers regarding both.


Back to the Future

Okay so back to the final project. After thinking really hard, I decided to go with a preZENtation. Actually it is for the RUA for Teachers that Abby, Joy and I helped put together for Course 2 Final Project. Abby and I had initially only started off with the notion of making it a working document for our school. We had also brought it up with our Critical Friends Group (led by Christina and Lissa) through the Tuning Protocol. This was very valuable as we got some excellent (warm and cool) feedback from the others in our group. It has helped us to make some adjustments to the RUA before we present it to the IT SIP Committee.

Anyways, I felt this would be a good opportunity to take the RUA forward. I emailed Abby if she would like to collaborate for this project, and Lissa to get her advice if was a feasible idea. Once I got their confirmations, I then checked with Robert if Abby and myself can work together again. We could not have done this without your support Robert. YAAYY!!! Thanks!

Moving On…

The next step was sitting down with Lissa ‘The Coach’ to hash out how we take things forward. I realized how difficult it is to coach, you cannot let your ideas overwhelm the other person and at the same time you have to facilitate them in the right direction. And Lissa does this beautifully!

After the chat with Lissa and taking the learnings from Course 3, I listed down some simple strategies for our ZEN style presentation.

  • Plan, plan, plan (WHAT)
  • Put yourself in the audience’s spot and ask (SO WHAT)
  • Make your ideas stick
  • Edit and restrain – leave audience hungry for more (NOW WHAT)


While we’re fine tuning our presentation please don’t go away. Stay tuned for Part II of ‘Looking to the Future’.

Visualizing Content in the Teaching Arena

In the years that I have been teaching, I have been up and down the Blob tree, hanging upside down, swinging from a branch, just hanging on for life…it has now become a part of who I am. It has taught me that yes I might fall off but then I also have the strength and the ability to get up and start climbing again.

Same goes for the SAMR ladder. I feel I have never gone beyond the Substitution and Augmentation rung, but these infographics have not just shown me visually where I am and where I can be, but more importantly they have guided me to how I can get there. It might take a long, long time but I can do it!

What is an Infographic?

According to Kathy Shrock ‘Infographics are a visual representation of data. When students create infographics, they are using information, visual, and technology literacies.’ They don’t always have to be done on a computer or iPad, they can be made the old-fashioned way using good old paper and pencil. They teach students the 4Cs of the 21st Century – creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. That would also be a good time to teach them about CRAP.

Visible thinkers and learners

We are visual learners and so are our students. We are living in the fast lane, everything has to have a quick access. Think about Twitter, Snapchat, Vines, Instagrams… they are visually attractive yet they carry the message effectively in 140 characters or less. In the same way, infographics carry the message across to the audience in a visually engaging and creative manner. Even though infographics might have started off as marketing tool, they have fast become a tool used in education as well.

IBPYP at a glance by

We find infograhics like the above around the school which make it easier for teachers to grasp the information presented at a glance. Another infographic that my colleagues and I regular refer to is the Inquiry Cycle by Kath Murdoch. Whether we’re planning our Unit of Inquiry or individual lessons, it is a very helpful tool. In fact, while working on our Course 3 Final Project, Abby and I have referred to these questions to prepare our presentation slides.

In our classes we also have the Learner Profile posters which we use for teaching/learning moments. Next year, I also plan to print and laminate these Learner Profile badges for my students.

One of my favorite blogs is Langwitches by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano and I love all her infographics and sketchnotes. Recently one infographic that has become my personal favorite is for Documentaion. I have been using it for some time now for documenting my students’ growth but I still need to refer back to it from time to time. Therefore I have it on the bulletin board right next to my desk.


When I looked back at the understandings for this week, this particular infographic created with LEGO came to mind. I am sure students would love  it as it explains a complex data by categorizing it in various colors. Students can apply the same techniques during and after research to categorize important information and present it in an appealing manner.

created by Hot Butter Studio with Brandon Rossen Photography



How are you incorporating aspects of data visualization into your lessons?


Telling Stories in a New Way

Me and my Lazy Eyes

I took forever to post because I was under the impression that we had to make a video for this week. Math Night at our school is coming up and I am putting together a movie for that. I was thinking of using that but I was also wondering how to blur the students faces since I do not want to share them on the web. It was after I had a talk with Abby that I was able to breathe. She told me that we do not have to make a video for this week, rather that’s an option for the final project. That’s when I realized I had a bad case of Lazy Eyes in the jungle of words. She also told me how she posted about her students using Seesaw to tell their stories. Well, my students are using Seesaw only for retelling purposes. They cannot yet remember the stories they make up themselves. The following is an example of my student retelling ‘The Mixed-Up Chameleon’ while drawing what he perceives. (Note when he erases everything because the chameleon wanted to change back to it’s original form, not be mixed-up any more, catch flies and be happy.)



So yeppp back to the beginning …I’m still stuck thinking of what to post. AAAGGH!

So what is digital storytelling?

Digital stories revolve around a topic and have meanings just like age-old and regular stories. It is just a modern way of creating and sharing stories using digital media, music, images and words. As with any other form of storytelling, the most powerful element of the story is the storyteller. Yes, it certainly impacts a larger group as it has the ability to reach out to far-flung areas of the world through the power of the internet or more appropriately the social media.

So how does this new form of storytelling differ from forms in the past?

As I was reading different articles and watching videos on YouTube, I came across this one by Emily Bailin. She talks about giving students the opportunity to voice their stories in an engaging way by using photographs and  music.

And as I watched it, I was reminded of the video my son had made in Grade 9 for his English class.

Okay so I didn’t know back then that was digital storytelling, I was just proud of his creative work. But now I had the chance to go back and watch it again. It talks about his beliefs, values, knowledge and tradition.  In the video he expressed himself not only with his words but also through his selection of music, reflecting his individuality and thus “owning” this creation. The things that I did notice now (with my CoETaIL sense) was that I had difficulty reading the words as they faded in and out (CRAP) and secondly, the images used were not attributed. He has come a long way since then, but this got me thinking that we need to start teaching students in lower elementary about digital citizenship and copyrights.

Reading the article Becoming Screen Literate  has made me wonder, if we are people of the screen, then are Snapchat Stories and Instagram part of digital storytelling? And if so, then why don’t we use them for educational purposes more commonly? Why don’t we look for student interests and turn them around to benefit them academically? Wouldn’t that be real-life learning and impact their understanding and knowledge more than the traditional ways that are in being used in schools? Let’s get onto the bandwagon of this new form of storytelling different from the forms in the past and embrace 21st century learning ourselves before we go forth to teach our students.

What’s next for me?

With our Pre-K Spring Show coming up, I have so many ideas now going through my mind of creating a digital story to share with parents. I don’t know how it will turn out since it never comes out the way I visualize things in my mind. Okay, time to start freaking out…


Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember

A Critical Eye

My first thought when I  read this week’s assignment was to use the slides that I used for my presentation at the PEAK Conference in December 2015. I presented a workshop with a colleague on ‘Coding in Elementary’. On second thoughts, I looked at it with the CoETaIL glasses on and found that we had used pictures from activities in our class. We used appropriate fonts. We had less info on the slides and preferred talking to our audience rather than reading off the slides. BUT… we used one of the Power Point templates available rather than making our own. So if I do the same workshop next time, I will definitely start with a blank slide and own it in every way.

My CRAPless Presentation

So that brought me back to square one. Yikes! When does a Pre-K teacher use slides in her classroom?! Hmmm. STOP! Rewind! Oh yeah, I did use a Power Point in the beginning of the year for Back-to School-Night. I got that out and looked at it and there were so many things wrong with it. Double yikes!!!

Redo, Transform and Redesign

After looking at these slides again, I compiled a long list of mistakes that I had made, but came down to the following most important ones. My Back-to-School-Night slides had:

  1. too much information (no wonder the parents did not really read it after the first two slides)
  2. I did not have any visuals or images
  3. more than three different kinds of fonts
  4. not a good template (too much color)
  5. visual vomit (each slide looked very busy)
  6. lack of prep is evident(I borrowed some information from a colleague)

If I had to redo this presentation (with Power Point or any other software) I will keep the following in mind.

    • Know the audience I have mostly Kuwaiti and Arabic speaking parents
    • Know the situation parents are tired after a long day of work, they do not want to read lengthy slides
    • Slides are an aid not a crutch have handouts ready
    • edit & restrain not too much information, short n sweet
    • Avoid clipart use images (school uniform, students, etc.) to complement content and presentation style
    • BE A STORYTELLER FIRST!!! well I did engage my parents and kept talking to them about the information on the slides – So I guess I should continue to do so

Oh and now I need to remember to keep my CoETaIL glasses on all the time.

Inquiry with Images in Room 102

Building Empathy

Our unit of inquiry is ‘Sharing the Planet’ and we have been inquiring into living things, how they survive and our responsibilities towards them. In class, we have been reading books about plants, farm animals, pet animals, wild animals etc. During ‘story-time’, when asked where wild animals live, most of the students responded that they live in the zoo. This week we are going on a field trip to the zoo. Before we go, I wanted my students to think whether a zoo is a natural habitat for the wild animals. So on Thursday, I used these images to provoke their thinking. 

flickr photo by Wildcat Dunny shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by Furryscaly shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license


We used the See-Think-Wonder routine to provoke the thinking process. We thought about what lions in the first picture could do as compared to the second one. We wondered how they would be feeling in that particular environment. We also talked about how they would feed themselves. These 3 year olds are precociously eloquent. They debated that in the zoo the zookeeper can feed them meat, whereas in the wild they have to look for food themselves. They will be hungry and die. So according to them it is better if the lions are in the zoo. I asked them how they would feel if their parents gave them the iPad or any other game to play but told them to stay in their room for always. That made them think, some of them said they can always ask for a slide or trampoline in their room. We ran out of time before we could come to any sort of conclusion. I have suggested that they stay at home over the weekend and not go out anywhere. I will see what they have to say on Sunday morning when they come back to school.

The bigger role that images play in our life

With the advent of smart phones, cameras and just social media in general , images are playing a major role in our lives. Whether it is a positive or negative impact, that all depends on how the message is relayed and received. Photos are becoming the “universal language”. The fastest growing social media networks are not surprisingly Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. An example of negativity is using photoshop to portray how perfect models are, even though that may not be the case. The younger generation is easily influenced by what they see and follow. To counteract this manipulation, it is important that in schools we teach them how to read and understand the images that they see on social media all around them. 

A CRAPpy eye

Visuals, design and the eye

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Or is it? Well there are some who would agree to the quote, whereas others would not. When I think about pictures in this context I think about cave drawings and even the ones done by Ancient Egyptians. Does that mean everyone reads pictures the same way? Of course not, each and every one of us have a different perspective, depending on how we look at it and then how we analyze it. And now how about ‘visual media’, does everyone see it the same way or differently? And what makes them perceive it in that way? If everyone communicates and interacts differently then what exactly constitutes a good design? Does it all come down to the ‘eye of the beholder’?


In Pre-K it is all about visual literacy. These three year olds are not ready or able to read words but they can very well read pictures. They gain knowledge by pretend-reading or picture-reading books. Our Word Wall is full of pictures under each alphabet. They can read graphs and charts, all because they are represented in pictures. And what appeals to them visually, appeals their hearts and understanding. And therefore our calendar is all about pictures rather than dates, which of course they could not relate to.

 class calendar

These kids cannot remember what happened on a certain date, but with the pictures they relate those activities and thus remember how their day or week went. The appealing power of the visual gives a stronger message to the student rather than the text or number in this case!

This fact is also mentioned in the article about preschoolers and brands 

“Learning to classify things by name is a deep part of learning language,” says Alison Gopnik, author of The Philosophical Baby.

The child might connect a word with a certain visual, even if it does not make sense to the adults around them. And that is why one of my student’s calls a ‘marker’ a ‘colol’. She has just sorted it into the category of colors and not markers.

I remember when my son was little he was very fascinated with the ‘Golden Arches’. Every time we passed one, he would want to go to McDonald’s – not for eating but for the play area. He had not yet learned to talk but he could definitely spot the visual and know that he could go there and have fun in the play area. He had associated the visual with his feelings of happiness.

Us as learners

We are visual learners, some more so than others. Personally, I consider text a part of visual learning. So learning by reading something, looking at pictures or infographics, even watching a video or by following someone’s example makes us visual learners. We are capturing information through our eyes first and then analyzing with our brains.

I was just thinking, Pinterest is a good resource for many but at times I feel overwhelmed because there are so many things on a single page that my eye sort of runs all over the place. UUGGGHHH!!! This might not be a good example since Pinterest is a website and I am thinking about changing the appearance of my blog.

So what matters now is…

I look at all the other CoETaIL blogs and I think how interesting and appealing they look. I tried to make a couple of changes to mine by following the videos posted by the instructors and ended up making a jumbled mess. I have been pulling my hair out since I am not tech-savvy. So what do I do now?! I want my blog to be eye-catching in a professional way so that anyone looking at it would want to know more and read more and maybe follow it too.

When I look at the design elements mentioned in the article by Dustin Wax, and think about my posts, am I using the techniques mentioned under contrast for my text? Uh… at times I use headings, other times…uh…What about repetition? Check! Alignment? Check! Proximity? Still working on that. I guess the foundation of my blog’s face is okay but how to take that one step forward and make it interesting? Well that’s the goal I’m working towards.

Design is about creating harmony among the elements and having them come together in a final product that is unequivocally outstanding.


Playing with Piktochart 

With time on my hand during the winter break, I decided to play with Piktochart. I’m still not satisfied with what I’ve done so far but I decided to put it up so that my readers could help me figure out what I need to do more. So here you go people…

Rahila Mukaddam – Resume | Piktochart Infographic Editor

Source: Rahila Mukaddam – Resume | Piktochart Infographic Editor