Course 5 – The Beginning of the End

We all have heard the phrase “The beginning of the End” and have most probably used it before. The question is: did you mean “the point where something starts to get gradually worse until it fails or ends completely”  (Cambridge Dictionary)? Or was your intent more neutral, such as: “the start of a series of events that leads to the end” (Merriam-Webster)? Interesting to compare both definitions, isn’t it?
And what if we wanted to use it in a positive sense: being happy to see the end start, as it will inaugurate new chapters afterwards? 

This is how it felt, a few weeks ago, when I started the last stretch of my COETAIL journey. Indeed, Course 5 is all about implementing what we have learned in the past 12 months in concrete ways, in our own professional environment. Therefore it is definitely the beginning of new professional practices and projects. It will be the end that brings a new beginning.

Photo by Csaba Talaber on Unsplash

While I considered different options for this final COETAIL work and wrote about them in this Course 4 blog post, as it quite often happens, it finally took a completely different path. For various reasons: this idea might not have met all the final project criteria, or the timing for teaching this other one wasn’t going to be right. Or it would have required working with too many people, including the administration, within a very tight planning frame if I wanted to address all grades in the Middle School for example. 

Or maybe another collaboration was meant to be? You know, this moment when you think of someone and BAM!: that colleague enters your library at that precise moment. And furthermore, when you explain your project and mention COETAIL: BAM! again, as I had no clue this new colleague would know precisely what I was talking about, being a (former) COETAIL-er herself!
It appeared quickly that Grade 10 English classes were the best group to work with, as this year their curriculum is being re-designed, unit per unit, as things progress… Meaning opportunities for me to collaborate with those classes! <3
#everythingfallsinplace (details will follow!)

I tried to hold on to the Social Justice theme, but for some of the above reasons, it didn’t work out.  Luckily there are a lot of initiatives taken at the school in the past year, either campus-wide, either specific ones in each division. It also includes some follow up work based on our two Professional Development sessions with Cornelius Minor.
Here are some examples geared towards faculty and staff, and actually often initiated by colleagues:

  • Anti-Racism Next Steps survey
  • Opportunity to join different discussion/planning groups
  • Diversity Equity and Inclusion Newsletter and website
  • Professional Development opportunities;  for example joining:  “Designing an Inclusive Curriculum Within International Schools.
  • And a few others…

Both libraries are also in the process of analysing their collections through the lens of diversity, focusing on the story but also on the author’ origin. We know we have always paid attention to add on our shelves books that include differences in gender, sexuality, ethnicity or culture, religion or spirituality, family, socioeconomic level, in short everything that make us unique, yet part of a whole.
But we are now investigating if we can cross-reference our students’ country of origin with those data from the books. The purpose is to check that all our students are represented in the books found at their school libraries.

What about your school?
What is put in place for helping educators and staff raise awareness about
social justice and diversity in meaningful ways?
And personally, where are you on that road? 

When I recently came across this article, it also made me think about some aspects of education in international schools, that might not always give a true “international” exposure at the end. Rebecca Stevens A. explains how in the 1980’s she “[…] Went To An International School And Didn’t Have A Single Black Teacher – And that in itself is problematic.”
Together, my two children add up 30 years as an international school student, in the years 2000 (’16 and ’19) and indeed, I can count on ONE hand (well, maybe one and a half) the number of teachers of colour they encountered. Notice that the student population was also (still is) mostly caucasian. 

Why Teachers of Color Matter for Students of Color to Succeed





Course 4 Final Project

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

When it was time to consider Course 5, and the project of (re-)designing completely a unit to “enhance student learning through the meaningful and authentic embedding of the ISTE Standards”, and put into practice what we learned during this COETAIL journey, I was playing with different ideas, especially that nothing was obvious, especially not being a classroom teacher.

The first thing to decide was if I were going to create a project connected to my ‘natural environment’: the library, with for example a project that has been on the table for a while: mapping a continuum of online workshops on referencing, moving up from grade 7 in Middle School to the IB program delivered in the High School. It already exists, but mainly for grade 11 and 12.
Or if I were going to reach out to a classroom colleague and suggest collaborating on designing a project together. The latter one would give me access to students directly, and therefore became my preferred choice.

Our last Professional Development afternoon, in January 2021, was focusing on “Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom”, and held remotely by the amazing Cornelius Minor. I quickly became very enthusiastic about working on that topic for the final project.


My first thought was to create a program on Social Justice for our Middle Schoolers to be delivered during their PL (Personal Learning) sessions.
Plus: there is room to run such a “capsule” program as the class meets for 30 minutes daily. Most of the regular activities had to be canceled due to the pandemic regulations, and the free-choice,  mixed-grades workshops are not running this school year.
Minus: the students are sometimes less engaged. The way it is being delivered in the different PL small groups of +- 10 students: it will have to be taught by the different PL teachers and it might depend on those teachers’ commitment to it.


I will create a unit on Social Justice that would fit that program, and model it with my own PL group as a pilot project with those 10 students that I know well. That will allow me to test the activities and, based on the student’s feedback, modify it before offering it to the entire Middle School PL classes.
Plus/Minus: I will have some flexibility but those students will also need to follow part of the program planned for their grade (a combination of wellbeing activities, organizational skills, watching the news, working on their Bulb portfolios, playing games for the team spirit etc).

What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build?

After a general presentation with some examples, I would help students find a social justice issue they are passionate about or have an interest in exploring.
Using PBL (project-based learning) will help students explore issues that matter to them, in the format that is appealing to them: an open-ended work could be: writing an argumentative letter addressed to a person of their choice, filming community members interviews, choosing of form of persuasive art (digital or traditional), using the green screen to create either a (mini) short movie, or create a news debate.

These are the ISTE Standards for Students that will be prioritized:

6. Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats, and digital media appropriate to their goals.

I think that this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project because it can combine different elements examined through the COETAIL journey.

At the end of the project, students will present to their peers their creation, in our own PL group OR all their creations will be added to a digital “Student bulletin” viewed by the other PL groups. Those will be asked to leave meaningful comments online.


The other idea was to develop a series of more contained lessons and teach them myself within the MS Social Studies classrooms.

Plus: I can work with the SS teachers and therefore get more chances to engage students in a meaningful way. Hopefully, those lessons could fit in the existing curriculum.
Minus: Teachers need to adapt the lessons planned and give me some class time


Approach the HS English Department Head, and check with him if there is room for developing a unit on Social Justice, probably for grade 10 (besides what is already in place on the topic)
Minus: timing?
UPDATE: After speaking to him with him, and although he does not teach gr10 this year, he could see something happening in the Powerless unit, or even in grade 11 English through the multiculturalism lens. He will think about those possibilities before our next meeting.




Putting Deep Learning into Practice

At some point, enough reading, enough thinking… it becomes time to put theories into practice. Obviously, those lesson plans and projects should be based on effective methods and strategies, those that we learned about during this COETAIL journey, those that will facilitate deep learning.

Here are some concrete frameworks and tools to achieve that goal, some that will get students excited and involved!

Image by Jan Kosmowski from Pixabay

Challenge-Based Learning (CBL)

Challenge-based learning (CBL) is a framework for learning while solving real-world Challenges. The approach is collaborative and hands-on, asking all participants (students, teachers, families, and community members) to identify Big Ideas, ask good questions, discover and solve Challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop 21st-century skills, and share their thoughts with the world. The process and the result are authentic and lead to global discussion about real issues.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR)  is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (e.g. video games) and education (e.g. medical or military training).

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.

Virtual and Augmented Reality:
Stepping Into the New Frontier of Learning (Maya Georgieva & Emory Craig )

During a Tech Fair (see below) I had the chance to visit the Eiffel tower while on campus in Brussels. I have been to Paris many times but never climbed this world-famous site as I don’t do well with heights (but visited the original underground hydraulic lift system though, on a specific Heritage Day, much more special). It was incredible as it felt so real (of course, I even screamed when I got too close to the edge); I loved how I could choose the time of the day, and see the sun rising on Paris roofs.
Another experience: a camera had been fixed on one of our American football player’s helmet during a practice game: it was amazing to be IN the game (although I still don’t get the rules lol). The objective was to help all players to analyze their tactics from within the game.
There are many possible educational use of this newest technology, for sure!

Game-based learning

Gaming is playing (that’s the case to say!) a great role nowadays in children and teenagers’ lives, and acknowledging this and using their interest for learning objectives. Check it out in the following blog post: Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer. And you can find some workshop resources in The ALLURE of Play: Game Design for Deep Learning.

Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL): What is it? It is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Student are given time to explore a topic and/or answer a more complex question, and will deliver they findings or share their creation to an audience other than their teacher alone.

Don’t hesitate to join this 30-minute free webinar on Getting Started with P.B.L.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Design Thinking

Collaboration, here again, is a key concept, along with and problem-solving. The design process is a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions. Design thinking is used to enhance learning and support creative thinking, teamwork, and student responsibility for learning.
Here are some resources for Getting Started with DesignThinking.   You can also join this Webinar developed by Dr John Spencer, or look at the Design Thinking in Education (HGSE) where you will also find links to ready-made activities, workbooks, and curricular guides. from Stanford University also curated a collection of resources from their classes and workshops for us to explore. Have fun!

At my school

Teaching and learning at the International School of Brussels is anchored in five interrelated, research-based principles. A lot of those principles are aligned with what we have been exploring in the COETAIL program, including with most of the above frameworks and tools, as the school states that:

  1. Learning is maximized when individuals own the process through personal relevance, choice, autonomy, and creation.
  2. Learning involves ongoing construction of meaning through a constant cycle of inquiry, critical thinking, feedback, and reflection.
  3. Learning is enhanced through connections, communication, and collaboration across diverse perspectives.
  4. Learning in a rapidly changing landscape requires high levels of information fluency, media literacy, and technology integration.
  5. Learning can best be transferred when it is embedded in authentic contexts and is used to address real-world issues in creative ways.

ISB hosted an Open Door Technology Fair that opened to the whole community in November 2019. The event brought together a range of technology companies with a focus on education. The purpose of the fair was to consider our ISB Learning Principles and how new and emerging technologies might help us achieve them. The fair gives students and teachers a hands-on opportunity to explore and create, thereby gaining insights into the possibilities and future of educational technology. 

Apple: a pop-up classroom allowing participants to unleash their creativity through drawing, photography, video, music, coding, and augmented reality.
DELL a programming workshop and  VR devices with interactive educational software.
Lenovo: VR in the Classroom, eSports, and the Orchestration Solution and showcase Google Expeditions.
Microsoft: “Hack your classroom with Hacking STEM” for teachers and  Minecraft: Education Edition for students. From computer science and mathematics to chemistry, Minecraft: Education Edition offers endless possibilities for students to learn programming and to stimulate digital knowledge acquisition.
HP: is presenting  VR/AR/XR Learning Experience , E-Sports Arena experiencelatex printing  and  scanning & 3D printing .
Pi-top: opportunity for visitors to experience first hand the initial “out of the box” challenge with a pi-top. 

Unleashing Deep Learning!

Deep Learning and Technology

Fullan and Donnelly (2013) in “Alive in the Swamp” report

In the fourth chapter of “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, Fullan and Langworthy look at digital tools and resources in education, starting with the “present state” of technology use, which, according to a study, has  [had at the time**] a “below-average impact on learning relative to other interventions” or approaches such as peer tutoring or effective feedback to learners.
**I think we can assume that the results would be quite different if the survey was done now, after nearly a year of craziness brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdown, and Distance Learning sometimes followed by a Hybrid teaching model.

Nevertheless, here again, we are reminded that technology in the classroom for the sake of using new tools won’t be effective. Technology can only play an essential role in education if used in powerful and creative ways. And associated with New Pedagogies: the whole teaching model had to be revised.

Digital Tools and Resources in “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” (Fullan)

The SAMR Model for Technology Integration

We already talked about the four stages of Dr. Ruben Puenedura’s SAMR model but it is relevant to come back to it, as we have expanded our own learning, and moved to the Deep Learning concepts: it makes even more sense to look at the different stages now.
I personally like the graphic description below very much, as it shows very clearly the roadmap (or should I say the “ocean map”?) to the integration of technology into classroom settings.
We have used it at my school and although I have a much deeper understanding of the different steps now, I remember thinking that, unlike some other concepts, this one, and especially with this representation, was extremely clear.

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

Vulnerability, Shame,  and Courage

Brené Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host whose research, and interest, focus on the themes of authentic leadership and sincerity in families, schools, and organizations. She spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. In 2010, Brown’s TEDx talk on her research results went viral, gaining millions of views right away, and launched her onto a national, even international, platform.
Although she also wrote five #1 New York Times bestsellers, this was new to me. But as soon as I started watching the video below, I understood the reasons for her huge success: she is a great orator with interesting and inspiring content!

I spent a couple of hours that evening reading, listening, or watching more of Brené Brown… I haven’t seen the Netflix program “The Call to Courage” yet, but it is on my list!

Brené Brown in Daring Classrooms

Shame:  focus on self =>  ‘I am bad’
There is something inherently wrong with me; how it shows up is by favoritism, name-calling, gossip

Guilt: focus on behavior => ‘I did something bad’

Educators need to find a way to develop shame-resilient classrooms and remember that the antidote to shame is empathy. It helps to know that all of us (at least most) use”shields” as protection from shame. Knowing which one they are can shed a different light on some students’ attitudes!

THE DARING WAY™ (Brené Brown, 2015)

According to Brown, those shields make us:
* moving away: withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping
* moving toward: seeking to appease and please
* moving against: trying to gain power over others, being aggressive,  and using shame to fight shame.

Enthusiasm and attraction should not let us forget our critical sense though. Christina Torres loved how Brené Brown exposed “the need to question who we allow to shame us and how we reclaim our own narratives”. But in her article On Shame and ‘Daring Classrooms’: We Need to Fix Systems, Not Kids, Torres also explains how some of Brown’s “Daring Classrooms” lesson plans need to be handle with care particularly if given without context: it could be hurtful and triggering for some students, particularly “those who had experienced trauma already”.

In her July 2020 podcast, Brené on Shame and Accountability, Brown shares her thoughts about “why accountability is a prerequisite for change, and why we need to get our heads and hearts around the difference between being held accountable for racism and feeling shame and being shamed.” I was able to make connections between her explanations and the recent professional development on “Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom”, held by the amazing Cornelius Minor. Definitely great food for thought!
I also bookmarked a few other interviews or talks, and I encourage you to browse through the “Unlocking Us” podcast series and its “Conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.”

I believe that I will also go back to Brené’s talk about Shame, and will keep in mind the shields concepts, to help me reflect on what I do and what I say to students. I can also see how those concepts apply to our personal lives and our interactions in general.

Dialogical Learning

The book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed written by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in 1968, is still, in 2021, referred to when it comes to education. I haven’t read it (it seems to be a substantial read according to some reviews), but it has been written about and analyzed quite a lot.
Recognizing the learner as an equal is essential for true learning to take place, Freire claims.  He exposes five ideas that he holds essential for dialogue:

Humility = A humble approach that acknowledges students’ powerful role is a great way to ensure improved student learning as well as improved instruction.

= belief in students’ capacity to learn can help them to believe in themselves

= This faith in students paves the way for a deeper trust to be established, and trust is critical in any relationship where real, meaningful learning is a goal.

= Acknowledging the importance of love can be difficult because it requires us to be vulnerable, but love is an essential element to any meaningful relationship, especially for relationships seeking growth and learning

Critical Thinking 
= Connecting learning to student interests – Asking good questions – Using learning structures and teaching strategies that prompt student thinking

But this dialogue is not only important between students and their teachers: it should also take place between teachers, coaches,  and administrators. These conversations will lead to deeper and meaningful learning – Freire the importance of a dialogical approach.


How are you vulnerable with your students? 
As a non-English speaker, it happens that I am looking for a word, or can’t pronounce one correctly. Years ago, this situation could have been painful for me. Now, I just say it: “I can’t remember / I don’t know how to say it / this word is difficult for me to pronounce”. A majority of our students are bilingual (or more), and some of them are still developing their English proficiency. Therefore, I show them that what really matters is to make yourself understood. And if you make some mistakes along the way, this is not the most important. Recognizing some vulnerability and asking for help is healthy. Role-modeling in those areas is very important too.

How do you recognize learners as equals so that true learning can take place?
Respect is, I believe, the best way to show students that you treat them on equal footing. This is then a great starting point to develop good conversation, and in some cases good relationships, sometimes over years. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same regular contact time with our students, but my bonus point is being in contact with students up to six years when they attend Middle School and High School at ISB.

Learning Deeply, Digitally

A fellow COETAIL-er, Shalene, recently wrote in a post this catchy phrase on Deep Learning that helps us to remember well its definition: “Deep Learning is quality learning… that sticks!”
What I like best is the emphasis put on the quality (so important!), but alongside the fact that the learning is acquired “for good”.

Photo by Marek Okon on Unsplash

To help us achieve this ultimate goal, if we keep reading “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, Fullan and Langworthy describe, in the third chapter, how to implement deep learning through specific tasks. As we already know (see my previous post), it needs to happen through a partnership between and among students, and teachers, to be authentic and problem-solving based. And, obviously, where digital learning is a strategy.

Deep Learning Tasks

But the crucial question always comes down to: how to get there? What does Deep Learning look like? 
Fullam explains that deep learning tasks are stimulated by the notion of ‘learning leadership’: students need to take ownership of their own learning,  by defining and pursuing their own learning goals using the resources, tools, and connections that digital access makes possible.


The Learning Design Process (Fullan)

The examples detailed in this article written on the ASCD‘s blog also helped me to recognize what DL looks like in the classroom: What is Deep Learning?  Who are the Deep Learning Teachers?
The author details one example of the more traditional learning, and one of the deep learning. It is very clear how students in the latter are fully engaged in an authentic experience that helps them deepen their understanding and develop complex learning skills. Another essential aspect is how much their learning bring value beyond school, as they are working from potentially real-world experiences, some that students may face later.

Teachers can make a [lot of] difference in their classrooms, but they can’t change the school’s philosophy without the leadership team’s involvement and support. In his book “The Moral Imperative Realized“, Fullan examines the moral purpose of school leadership and its critical role in “changing the context” to commit to serve every student. Look at his explanations in the short video below (start at 00:28!):

Dr. Monica R. Martinez is a vehement advocate both for inclusion and new pedagogies: schools need to meet the challenge of preparing ALL students** for college, careers, and the world today, through a new framework for educators and schools, excellently detailed in Deeper Learning Resources. Actually, I can’t resist adding the subtitle here, as it represents well her objectives: “Creating a foundation for a collaborative learning community, where teachers are learning designers, and students are active Learners“.
** You NEED to watch her enlightening TEDx Talks “A Latinas Story of Attaining A Higher Education” on her personal story, and in which she urges for a truly inclusive education system.

For Martinez, Deeper Learning is indeed “a set of student outcomes that includes mastery of essential academic content; thinking critically and solving complex problems; working collaboratively and communicating effectively; having an academic mindset, and being empowered through self-directed learning” … and it should become the “new normal” in schools.

Deeper Learning - Theory Of Action
By Monica R. Martinez, with Dennis McGrath

Making sure that the learning is equitable for all the students is indeed another responsibility that lies with educators. Jacquelyn Whiting put in place a great exercise to show students that Everyone Has Invisible Bias. This Lesson Shows Students How to Recognize It.
Bias and Social Justice are themes that became more prominent in the past year, mainly through the Black Lives Matters movement

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t mind starting the new year with a Professional Development day: usually, back to school during the coldest Belgian month, with no students on campus, and the challenge to sit in meetings all day after the Christmas break… The COVID-19 pandemic brings very few (very few!) positive adjustments, but this is one of them: first of all, we were granted some planning time at home in the morning, which was a very cozy transition from the Holidays.
Secondly, the afternoon was (well!) spent attending a “
Workshop on Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom with Cornelius Minor“. It definitely gave us cause for hope and optimism for the work ahead, although we know it will take time to deconstruct and reconstruct some of our bias and habits, but we are now formally committed, as a school, to address the issue, as specified in this the framework of “We all need to return to better” published on our school website.
I found those 4 hours very inspiring and energizing. But obviously, it also brought a lot of questions: How can I start that journey? And most importantly, how can I, as a teacher-librarian, offer support to my colleagues? And our students?

Then it struck me: I NEED / WANT to develop a project on that topic, and here is, finally, the first idea for my COETAIL Final Project!!!
I still don’t know what I should put in place, and with who, nor how, of course. But I want it to be on a Social Justice theme.
If you have any suggestions to work with grade 7 to 12, on this theme, don’t hesitate to contact me!

New Pedagogies at the International School of Brussels

Personally, I have witnessed some significant shifts in focus at my school in the last few years, from mainly a content-based education, with daily homework in all courses (still in place in 2013, when my daughter was in grade 9), to problem-solving inquiries lessons and the implementation of 90-minutes blocks (allowing to structure lessons in a completely new way!), the redesign of the space to create Commons, to self-evaluation, and finally the growth of student agency, to name a few. One of the main objective is now to “teach students to learn, rather than feeding them with content”.

Learning Principles: Teaching and learning at ISB is anchored in five interrelated, research-based principles:

  1. Learning is maximized when individuals own the process through personal relevance, choice, autonomy, and creation.
  2. Learning involves ongoing construction of meaning through a constant cycle of inquiry, critical thinking, feedback, and reflection.
  3. Learning is enhanced through connections, communication, and collaboration across diverse perspectives.
  4. Learning in a rapidly changing landscape requires high levels of information fluency, media literacy, and technology integration.
  5. Learning can best be transferred when it is embedded in authentic contexts and is used to address real-world issues in creative ways.

Partners in Learning

Photo by rawpixel from Burst

Babies and toddlers learn from people they love and that love them, usually their parents, and then, in pre-school and during the first years of elementary school, teachers generally provide not only learning but also active care, taking into account the emotional needs of the child, building a relationship that tends to fade when students get older. Lecturer Jacqueline Zeller’s research  on “Relationships and Learning” highlighted, in 2008, the role that teacher-child relationships can have on learning:  “[…] teacher-child relationships appear to be an important part of children’s social and academic success in school.” 

New Pedagogies and Deep Learning

Nowadays, you can easily find information online on any subject. The focus in school should therefore shift from teaching that superficial knowledge to developing the qualities students need for success in their future adult life: complex understanding and meaning, while being ready to develop in an evolving technological landscape.

In “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” Fullan and Langworthy describe how learning should happen through a partnership between and among students AND teachers, for a transformation of the teaching and learning. This new learning also need to be authentic and problem-solving based.
Deep Learning is about understanding and using the 6 C’s :

Character Education





Critical Thinking

It strikes me how much these have in common with the ISTE Standards for Students, looking at a different perspective, sure, but with similar benchmarks and the same ultimate goal: empowering students and guaranteeing that learning is a student-driven process! Actually not so surprising when you know that ISTE is one of the article’s sponsors: they are advocating for the same ideas and creating tools to encourage educators to be brave and take that road, the one leading to student agency.

If you find (as I did!) that Fullan & Langworthy’s study is a little content-heavy, the video below will give you a helpful overview of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning. I particularly appreciate that it was developed by “doing it” rather than being a jargon-filled theory put in practice afterward, and, as an international educator, happy to read that it started a synergy between schools in different countries.

How the New Pedagogies are Different

The diagram below summarises how the new pedagogies and deep learning are different from the traditional model of education (image from: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning)

1) Deep learning goals involve the creation and use of new knowledge in the real world.
2) New learning partnerships emerge between and among students and teachers with a learning process whose focal point is mutual discovery, creation, and use of knowledge.
3) It responds to and is enabled by digital access both inside and outside of schools.

My school has always be tried to be current in terms of pedagogy trends and innovations; for example, I remember colleagues attending Harvard Project Zero workshops years ago, then other Professional Developments like Bambi Betts’ PTC Summer Institutes for our Team Leaders, looking at new models of education, implementing inquiry-based learning, continually seeking improvements.
That led to organizing the first Learning by Design conference in March 2017. Its main focus was: A call to re-imagine the way schools facilitate learning, and the themes were: engage, empower, connect, innovate.

In February 2019,  building on the experience, and implementing a more authentic student participation, the second Learning by Design (LbD) conference was: Re-imagining school requires a commitment to changing culture, courageously challenging old assumptions, and a willingness to play with and test new ideas – even if they fail.
Over 450 ISB faculty and staff, educators and international school leaders from other schools, and leading education experts, came together for this event aimed at re-imagining school.
Ten outside experts in a wide range of subjects related to education came as learning facilitators. This last term is a carefully chosen one: the model was not for a conference speaker to deliver his presentation, but for the experts to facilitate the discussions among the participants.

Here are some of the  sessions that were offered:

As I looked through the program today, so much of the conference content resonate differently now, thanks to my new knowledge and understanding brought by the COETAIL program.

Today I can see better how I need to transform my practice to engage differently both with our students and my classroom colleagues, in order to support not only students learning but also OUR learning. The shift to offering more to our community than the traditional library role started a few years ago at our school, but this is a process that I personally need to implement deeper and I am happy my COETAIL journey is helping me to get there.

Frameworks for Learning

Technology Integration

There was a time when technology in schools was so new that the main question was how to open the right program (let alone using it). No idea when exactly this happened, but I remember clearly standing in the staff room when a colleague opened the door to tell me: “Christel, I left a Post-It on your computer screen to tell you I sent you an email.“… and yes Post-It notes were (also) a novelty for us at the time.
In 2007, this Edutopia article was asking: What is Successful Technology Integration? and defined the concept as “[…] the use of technology resources — computers, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, digital cameras, social media platforms and networks, software applications, the Internet, etc. — in daily classroom practices, and in the management of a school.” This was a valid question at the time (and still is!) as it required a shift from using technology in the classroom to doing so successfully and meaningfully.

Nowadays we have access to electronic devices, apps, and tools that didn’t exist yet a dozen years ago. Things keep changing fast in this field and the tools became much more intuitive. Also, the younger generations don’t have to go through the same tech learning curve anymore.
Therefore the objective of integrating technology in the classrooms should focus on encouraging and inspiring students to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of the course content, not to master the tool itself.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“The ultimate goal of technology integration is to completely redefine how we teach and learn, and to do things that we never could before the technology was in our hands” –  Dr. Ruben Puentedura

The Right Frame

Technology tools effectively integrated into the curriculum can extend learning in powerful ways. With that goal in mind, these frameworks have been developed to help educators design lesson plans that integrate technology in a meaningful way.


About 20 years ago, Dr. Ruben Puentedura created a model to help educators integrate technology into teaching and learning, called SAMR. This technology framework enables teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences for their students.

SAMR is the acronym for SubstitutionAugmentationModification, and Redefinition. While the two first levels bring some enhancement, the ultimate goal is clearly to transform student learning experiences by reaching higher levels of achievement with the transformation ones. SAMR framework’s objective is to easily guide teachers and help them plan and create activities that use technology in an effective and meaningful way, and not for the sake of using these tools.
There are different visual representations of SAMR but I particularly like this one, also used by our Middle School leadership team a few years ago during a Professional Development session. I find it clear and accessible to use as a starting point.

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

For a better understanding of its concepts, here is a video overview of What Is the SAMR Model?, made by Common Sense Media.


The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework was first developed by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra. Based on Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), it puts forward the idea that effective teachers are qualified in technological, content, and pedagogical knowledge in order to promote meaningful learning for their students.
The TPACK framework looks at the relationships between technologypedagogy, and contentin specific contexts. Obviously, there are overlaps of these three main knowledge areas: Technological Knowledge (TK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), and Content Knowledge (CK). The ideal is to build the lesson in the junction of all three, right in the middle of it all.

The TPACK Image (rights free)

As Koehler tells in TPACK Explained: “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge.”

Here again, Common Sense Media offers a clear video explanation of the concept of  “What is the TPACK Model?

TIM – Technology Integration Matrix

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) is another framework for describing and targeting the use of technology to enhance learning in the classroom. It combines five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal-directed. These are associated with five levels of technology integration: entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation. Together, they create a matrix of 25 cells.
And it comes with a great added value I find: by clicking on any of the cells, you access: Extended Descriptors, Video Lesson Examples, and Related Ressources! This can help you determine where you and/or students stand in terms of technology expertise, while at the same time it also helps you develop your next lesson plan.


The International Society for Technology in Education defines itself as a community of “global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education”.
The ISTE Standards are a framework designed to guide students and teachers (but also educational leaders, coaches, and computational thinking) through a transformative process leading to better learning while using technology naturally.
Having started to use some of these standards in a few previous COETAIL units, I can say that these standards clearly outline the expectations both for the teachers and the students. I found out that they include more basic skills as well as high-level efficiency requiring skills, designing the path to a reach the ultimate goal of a successful technology integration.

In the video below, Chris Zook, on the AES CTE Blog, describe the ISTE standards, explaining why they should be used:

More Framing?

Of course, there are more technology frameworks available out there, even if the ones above are considered the main ones. In his International EdTech Blog, Matt Harris presents a long list of the better known Educational Technology standards and frameworks. It is worth a look.

And you, which one(s) do you use at your school?

My School, Technology, and Integration

At the beginning of the 1990s, and for a few years, technology at my school, as in a lot of other places I believe, mainly meant tools used at the first SAMR level (Substitution).
I remember well the excitement when the High School Library acquired its first couple of computers for students to research encyclopedias on CDROMs! It felt like being part of the progress, but looking back, it was only a first step, and mainly swapping one format for another.

Slowly things started to move towards level two (Augmentation), but the first real shift appeared in the Fall of 2006, when becoming a 1:1 school. At first, grade 8 in Middle School and 10 in High School were piloting the program and each of those students, plus all teachers, received a portable laptop.
The full implementation of one-to-one devices started the following school year, in 2007-2008, for grades 7 to 12. Later on, laptop carts became available for Early Childhood Center (up to grade 2) and Elementary School (grade 3 to 6) classes.
For various reasons, a few in the ECC started to also use iPads, which eventually led to the decision of fully migrating the ECC and ES to iPads and Macs in 2017-18. Rather than a decision made by the IT department and the administration, it was clearly initiated by the users’ reflection and the motivation of the simplicity of its use by the school’s younger members, and the large range of apps available for this age-group students.
Soon there will be 30 iPads also available for occasional use in Middle and High School.

At my school, educational technology is definitely not an empty word, but I would say it is a never-ending journey, one that started quite a few years ago already, but as often the best scenic routes are the longest but the most effective ones at the end.

In 2015, the High School hired a part-time HS English/Technology Integration teacher was hired, and when leaving replaced in 2017, by a part-time technology Integration Specialist also teaching math. They both worked with students and teachers to help them implement the use of technology within the learning.
Another step forward was made in September 2019 when our current colleague was hired as Media Resource & Tech Integration Teacher, both for the MS and HS which was a sensible decision I felt, to bring better coherence across both schools. Shifting the offices around, and bringing him together in the same space as some of the IT Technicians and MHS Teacher-Librarians also facilitates mutual understanding of our jobs, and helps to achieve a culture of collaboration.

Another beauty of this COETAIL program: it actually encouraged me to initiate a conversation with him about frameworks, especially in the HS (grade 10 to 12), where teachers are well aware of the pedagogical content (see the TPACK model), but using education technology to the fullest can still be promoted. The IB (International Baccalaureat) program is indeed content-heavy, and teachers are therefore less brave sometimes to take to explore new tools and new ways.
Obviously, the pandemic and resulting lockdown, that lead to weeks/months of Distance learning, gave a considerable kick to all teachers to be on the same page for using some of the tech tools, and re-thinking their course delivery method. This is at least one thing positive to take away from this difficult and unprecedented situation. 



Opening our Perspectives – Course 3 Final Project

We should always aim to open up our perspectives: in the workplace,  collaboration is a great way to achieve that. In Keeping the Door Open to CollaborationMinero explains how “intentional teacher collaboration creates a strong professional culture and spreads good ideas room to room”, which will be beneficial not only for the teachers but also for their students. 

I find a lot of truth in Robert John Meehan‘s above quote, and this Course 3 Collaborative Final Project made it all become real.
The first step was to contact my co-COETAIL-ers to form a group. After talking to different people, we created a team of four members working with teenagers.

While my first idea was to go for option 1 and create a 2-4 hour professional development program, once we started brainstorming it became clear, including to me, that offering extra professional development in a pandemic situation was not wise: in the past months, teachers already had to get used to a lot of new online tools to navigate distance learning, and their days (and evenings) became busier than ever.

Therefore we decided to create a unit planner based on the understandings of this course with the objective to support students in becoming Creative Communicators and Global Collaborators.

Our first challenge was to set up an efficient communication channel:  while using Twitter’s group messages seemed a good idea, it took a while to realize that one of us didn’t receive the notifications. Once it got solved, we also created a shared Google Doc where we could suggest some unit plan ideas and comment on each other’s.

As there is nothing better than meeting in person at some point during a collaborative project, we also organized a couple of video calls. Picking a time was not easy because of the different time zones: between Panama, Belgium, Russia, and Cambodia the common decent time window is quite narrow. I discovered a new tool along the way: and we eventually found a time that worked for us, thanks to our colleague in Panama who is a (very) early riser!
We started the conversation by looking over the shared sample lesson plans and finally decided to revise the unit of one of our colleagues on Migration as he was going to teach it to his school’s grade 9 students  We agreed that it would give us all an authentic experience. Besides, I was personally interested in the topic as I used to collaborate with grade 7 Social Studies teachers on a  unit on the same topic, facilitating the research component in my Teacher-Librarian role.

Here is the Updated Migration Unit Plan that was produced

This type of task still remains a challenge for me, as writing unit plans is not my area of expertise: I usually collaborate with classroom teachers, and the content I deliver is incorporated in their lesson plans. The standards for what I teach independently, like Academic Honesty, are regularly revised but do not require the same type of process.

Obviously, the unit on Migration already included content standards, and our colleague updated them to reflect the newer version. Then we decided together which ISTE standards would be most meaningful, and which activities could be offered in order to improve student collaboration, with the relevant technology tools.

Here are the selected ISTE Standards:

  • 6.c. Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using various digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
  • 7.b. Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

For the technology tools, there were some constraints linked to what the students had already been exposed to: for example, one of our first ideas was for students to create infographics in groups [as it was part of one of our recent COETAIL course content], but that was dismissed as already included in the previous assignment.
After looking at different options, the chosen tool for the final activity is Parlay Ideas, a comprehensive discussion platform that allows students to interact with each other and their teacher, both virtually and in person. I didn’t know this tool before, but it seemed promising, and fitting the ISTE Standards we were aiming for, and to the unit that will be taught.

One issue though: the teachers of the Anglo-American School of Moscow had not used the live version yet.  The two tech-savvy members of our group spontaneously offered to run a PD session for them, going beyond our own course requirements and extending the collaboration spirit. Although I wasn’t able to join the training session, I received its recording and I would now be able to suggest this tool to my own colleagues.

This process was enlightening both from a personal and professional point of view as it showed the richness of our interactions and the power of collaboration.  As international educators, with diverse backgrounds and skills, it reminded us that sharing our experiences can only broaden our perspectives and knowledge, especially at a time when we all have to face a pandemic and the consequences that it brought to our teaching jobs.

Finally, I am hopeful that the updates made to the Migration lesson thanks to our collaboration were helpful and will bring added values for the students and their teachers.


Breaking Down Barriers

Photo by alessandro fazari on Unsplash

The Cycle of Socialization

In the book Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, which covers issues related to identity and oppression from a social justice perspective, there is a chapter written by Bobbie Harro titled: “The Cycle of Socialization” that will help us understand “the way in which we are socialized to play certain roles, how we are affected by issues of oppression, and how we help maintain an oppressive system based upon power” (Source).

It appeared to be an enlightening reading that I encountered at the right time as I recently had a conversation with my nineteen-year-old son and friends on the distinction between innate and acquired characteristics, and it led to some interesting debates. Although a different topic, what Harro explains complements this discussion, adding food for thought, especially about the concept that  “things are the way they are because it always has been that way” (!).
In Resistance to Change: “We’ve Always Done it That Way” Leslie Durr explains how people often continue to apply “the rules” from their family of origin without questioning them, even without having personally experienced negative consequences from having tested those rules.

Thanks to Harro’s graph on the Cycle of Socialization, we can follow the process and notice that there is also hope: at a certain point, some people will be able to break it in order to take their own chosen path. You can find out more about that in The Cycle of Liberation

Technology to Connect with Diverse Ideas and People

This Text Rendering Protocol from National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) is designed for working collaboratively while constructing meaning, clarifying, and expanding our thinking about a text.  It is easy to set up with any group size.
As I applied it to Harro’s text, I realized that it helped me think deeper about what I was reading, especially about what resonated best with me as I had to pick a word, a phrase, and a sentence. 

I recorded myself sharing these on Flipgrid, an online tool to create engaging video discussion experiences around a topic. I had never used Flipgrid before and it required going out of my comfort zone: it can be difficult to hear your own voice as it sounds different on a screen compared to what you perceive when you talk. Same with your own image, gestures, head, and hand movements. To be honest, I practiced a couple of time on my smartphone before going to Flipgrid 🙂
But after this experience, I see how I can take advantage of this tool to integrate technology into lessons when planning with my classroom colleagues. And I know that students are already used to film themselves: after all, they were born with social media apps.
For this project, linking the text Rendering Protocol with Flipgrid is a nice combination as it mixes written text, technology tool, and collaboration: a winning ticket!

In this first Flipgrid video, I mention a word, a phrase, and a sentence that resonated best with me when reading The Cycle of Socialization.

You can view it by scanning this QR code:

Word: Change – Phase: Internalized oppression – Sentence: We fail to realize that we have become participants by doing nothing

The next step was to find out what my co-COETAIL-ers picked up, and watch what they have to say about this text. Here is what I understood from some of them:

Word: Confusion – Phase: Inherited without our permission – Sentence: We are exposed to roles, rules, and assumptions that are not fair to everyone.

Word: Interrupt – Phase: We are innocent – Sentence: It should be simple, but it isn’t.

Word: Humanize – Sentence: Our silence is consent unless our discomfort becomes larger than our comfort.

Word: Empower – Sentence: Once you know something you can’t not know it anymore […].

It would be great if you could join this conversation on our Community Discussion topic

Communication Artists

Becoming Communication Artists

When reading the unit title, what I remembered was “Artist”… and got scared! (as I am not an artist sadly enough). But then, reading the Big Idea we will be working on, I already felt better:
Delivering information and communicating ideas is an art.
As a teacher-librarian, I know about delivering information, so let’s have a look at how I could enrich my practices with some [communication] art! 

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

The IRIS Award is a reading collaboration program between international Schools in Western Europe. In order to advertise the Iris Award Bookbowl, which is an accompanying quiz program, to our Middle Schoolers, a very eager colleague created a poster in Canva, a graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters.
Note: the IRIS 2021 logo with the colorful stripes in the middle is a fixed image on a white background, and we can’t modify it. 
When she showed the first draft, asking for feedback, I quickly realized that there was too much information, too many colors, no clear direction as the eyes don’t know where to land. 

That was easy for me to assess, having just gone through the resources offered in our COETAIL course on visual aids. 
Before we could edit it together, being determined to improve it, my colleague kept working on it, this time adding all the 15 books covers (see 1st image below). Then, realizing it was messy (!), she rearranged them around the frame, hoping for a cleaner finish (see 2nd image below).

No doubt: it is colorful and eye-catching, but maybe not for the good reasons. 
We sometimes need to stop and think again at the objective: what is the MAIN message we want to convey? 

David JP Phillips’ passions are the brain and presentation skills. He combines both in this engaging TEDx talk: How to avoid death by PowerPoint (loved the catchy title by the way!), in which he explains what to absolutely avoid and what matters for creating an effective presentation.

Some of the key points can be transferred in this case:

  • One message per slide (here = on the poster)
  •  Size: eyes will be attracted by a big title
  • Contrast: by adding one subject line at a time, and with more contrast
  • Object: the magical number in a PP is 6 => add more slides if needed

    Garr Reynolds, author and communication consultant on how to design & deliver powerful presentations, insists on the following points in What is good Presentation  Design
  • Context matters: know your audience beforehand
  • Simple but not simplistic: the best visuals are designed with an eye to simplicity yet based on content and context
  • Visual makeover: the goal is to support a single message in a subtle and memorable way that fits into the theme, is appealing and attractive.

    I loved some of the “Before” and “After” illustrated in his presentation: 

With all that in mind, it was obvious what needed to happen to our poster which was going to be used both the old-fashioned way, on the wall in the school staircase, and in a Google Slides presentation during in-person lessons. 
Here are the results: a simple and clear message on each version, as additional explanations will be delivered orally to the students.