The Global Citizenship Diploma

Last year I was invited along to a meeting about the Global Citizenship Diploma (GCD). I had no idea what it was and I was sceptical that it was adding even more work onto our busy students schedules. However, after attending the meeting, with GCD coordinators and those involved in the GCD from around the world, I was really sold on the idea, what is stands for and how it goes about asking it’s students to demonstrate their international mindedness.

The GCD defines a global citizen as:

A person who conducts their daily life with a commitment to understanding others; who makes decisions with an awareness of how they affect communities locally and globally; and who advocates and holds themselves accountable for social and environmental sustainability.

As such, I would hope that all international schools strive for their students (and their teachers) to be described in this way. Students show their proficiency towards becoming global citizens by reflecting on the amazing experiences they already have in their current education, such as the outdoor education adventure trips they take part in, the opportunities they have to serve a community, their public communication experiences and so much more. The different elements that students need to demonstrate experience in and the different levels of recognition for the GCD can be found in the one page doc here. In order for students to demonstrate an understanding of an element, students are expected to reflect on their learning in a public digital portfolio which can be shared with high education institutions, others schools or anyone else interested in getting to know the students and their education a little better.

This year, I have been on a team of five teachers as a GCD coach for one class in Year 10 and one class in Year 11. Our goal is to have all students, by the end of the Year 11, complete a Global Citizenship Certificate and hopefully inspire them to take a shot at getting a full diploma in their final two years of school (the differences between a certificate and diploma can be found on the GCD one page doc). As a result, all of the coaches have agreed to also get their Global Citizenship Certificate, so over the coming months, expect more content from me on a range of different GCD elements.

My Year Teaching Year 10 MYP Product Design

Students independently working on their products.

Last school year I took on a new professional challenge. The MYP Design department at NIST needed a someone to teach one more class, so I put my hand up to help out. I took 10E Design in the design lab for a year of product design. It was fun to transfer my knowledge and understanding of MYP Design to an older age group in a new field and it was a great opportunity for me to refind my teaching skills in a new setting. I also learned a LOT about all of the tools we have available to the students, from laser cutters to 3D printers, bandsaws to drill presses.

The boys working together to use the laser cutter.

It was also fun to see these students so much more often than I was used to. For 5 years in Munich, I was teaching MYP Design on a rotation basis and before that, I was in Japan where I taught technology classes, but I would only see each class once a week. So seeing 10E every other day helped me to developed some really great relationships for the first time since I was an elementary homeroom teacher.


Using the bandsaw to cut some wood.

The students inquired into some really interesting problems, developed some creative solutions, where they designed, built and evaluated some high quality products. They developed a range of skills throughout this process, from specific things like bending acrylic, to transferable learning skills like planning out long term assignments. I was extremely proud of my students, they taught me so much and authentically engaged in the design cycle process so well.

Bending acrylic.

As a learning coach, you see so many roles and positions I would like to pursue further as a future career path and being an product design teacher is definitely one of them, especially after getting a taste last year. I just wish I could clone myself so I could teach all the classes that interest me.

The girls working together to create wood joins.

Swift Playgrounds VS Duolingo: The Different Between Game Based Learning & Gaming

A super powerful game I’ve played and had some students play is called Swift Playgrounds. It is an iPad app that walks the user through learning how to program using Apple’s Swift coding language. It’s super engaging and fun, but also highly educational. You become engaged in the game of it all, without realising you are learning how to code! It walks you through levels by progressively building skills over time. There are a lot of similar games like this that teach coding and computational thinking, but I think Swift Playgrounds is the most polished, engaging and powerful of all of them. When you finish the game you have enough skills to build your own app from the ground up, which also adds to the motivation factor. The only downside that I see is that this learning experience is only possible on iPads (and new ones at that). If it were available on more platforms, then I think it would be extremely popular.

Duolingo on the other hand is an app that tries to teach you a new language through a game based approach. It’s a similar model to Swift Playgrounds, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark as you get lost in the game instead of learning. At first, you are super motivated to play as it makes learning new languages accessible and fun. You fly though the first few levels, the instant feedback grounds it in learning, you receive notification to keep playing if you haven’t played for a while and you get in game encouragement and positive reinforcement. It all sounds and feels like a super powerful way to learn a language. However, after a while I realised that I was simply ‘playing the game’ and getting positive feedback, level ups, etc. but I wasn’t actually learning any new vocabulary. Maybe this is what Moore & Pflugfelder (2010) are referring to when they state that games can be less disengaging for student because of a “the lack of pedagogical direction” (p.250)?

It’s interesting that both apps use a very similar model and approach, but their education benefit can vary so differently. Has anyone else played these games before? I’m curious if you had a similar experience?


Moore, K., & Pflugfelder, E. H. (2010). On being bored and lost (in virtuality)Learning, Media and Technology, 35(2), 249–253.


BookSnaps are a great way to share ideas, create visual cues to help solidify learning and make dry, text based print media a little more engaging. They can be used in a number of ways, for a number of purposes, you are really only limited by your imagination.

I recently made a these examples for a middle school war unit:

Predominantly, BookSnaps are creating using Snapchat. I think this is a great way to engage students in the technology they know and love and show them ways they can use it for constructive, educational purposes. But you don’t need to have a Snapchat account to create a BookSnap, you can make them on your computer from screenshots using Google Draw or other tools you have access to. You could even create these using slideshow software (Keynote/Powerpoint) or tools to create posters and visual media such as Canva.

Below are some great video tutorials on the logistics of how to create BookSnaps using a range different of tools. Choose the video based on the tool you would like to use.

How To Create A BookSnap Using Snapchat

How To Create A BookSnap From A Screenshot Of Text On A Computer

How To Create A BookSnap Using Google Drawings

Another Way To Create A BookSnap Using Google Drawings

A big shout out to Tara Martin who came up with the idea and who narrates of lot of the videos above. She makes some excellent BookSnaps too, here are some examples of hers and some other great BookSnaps I found on Twitter:

The Minimalist Approach To Email Organisation With Gmail

Emails do not stress me out as I have a very easy and minimal way to organise, sort and deal with my email. This short video explains my system of handling email using Gmail (sorry for the echo, I work in a fishbowl/glass office).

Robotics In The MYP Design Classroom

Last year I took over the robotics program at my school. There are compulsory classes for all grade six and seven/eight students. In grade 6, all students do five different rotations of design, with five different teachers doing five different units for approximately seven weeks. The students work with wood in the wood shop, they work with plastics, they cook in the kitchen, they do a digital creation project and they do robotics with me. In grades seven and eight, they do longer rotations spanning closer to 13 weeks which makes it six units over the two years. The units/topics are similar to grade six, with one elective making up the sixth class at the end of grade 8.

In grade six, the students get give a simple, real world problem that they must create a robot to solve. But in grade seven and eight, I give the students a range of different possible real world problems to solve. One of the most popular problems is a robot alarm clock. The students have to design, build and program a robot that uses a sense other than sound to wake up the user. So I decided to give this problem a go myself and build a robot to address this issue. Here is my robot and an explanation of how I programmed it.

In the pictures below, you can see the dock I built for the phone, along with the sound sensor (the orange piece on the front left of the robot) and the pressure sensor (red) at the front to detect obstacles.


You can see from the bottom view below that there are two motors at the back to make the robot move. Two motors are used because it allows the robot to move not only forward and back, but also left and right by moving one motor forward and the other backwards at the same time. There is a metal ball at the front as a third contact point so the robot rolls and to allow it to move in any direction, without resistance.evernote-camera-roll-20161012-155427

The 6 P’s

I have found a lot that in my class, my students want to rush to get to the fun part, but when they get there they find themselves ill prepared for the challenges and problems they face. So I made them this poster to remind them that planning is just as important as building and making. Feel free to hang it in your classroom/office/living room! Just give me a shout out for it.

If You Want To Build A Ship: The Importance of Vision and Philosophy on the Success of PD and Technology Integration

If Somekh (2008) was correct when she wrote “radical structural changes to education systems are needed if schooling is to be transformed by ICT” then school leadership are the only ones that can do this (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). They must use PD to generate the change in our schools that is so much needed (Somekh, 2008). That change should not be focused on technology, but to change the pedagogical approach of teachers (Bain & Weston, 2012; Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). As a result of change in pedagogy, teachers and students will have to use more technology for exceedingly more transformative tasks (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007). Armfield (2011) and Matzen & Edmunds (2007) both suggest that to put this into practise and to make technology integration a success, school leadership must create a clear vision for all stakeholders. If you think about it, Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed it perfectly:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

When we take all of this into consideration, we are approaching a much larger elephant in the room. School leadership, management, educational philosophy, vision and direction are much more important than professional development for staff. One way to successful communicate an educational philosophy and vision is through PD, but it is just one means to do so. The philosophy and vision must first be developed collaboratively between leadership, teachers, parents and students. Everyone must be on the same page before anyone can move forward. One way to articulate this vision, is through professional develop programs for teachers to help them meet the vision that was developed. So what do you think? Is it time we all developed a shared vision? Do we all need to believe in the same approaches to education before PD can be successful? Can the same be said for educational technology?


Photo by Luca Laghetti, 2015Photo by Luca Laghetti, 2015


Bain, A., & Weston, M. E. (2012). In the learning edge: what technology can do to educate
all children. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 42(3), 255 – 284.

Matzen, N. J., & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 39(4), 417-430.

Somekh, B. (2008) Factors Affecting Teachers’ Pedagogical Adoption of ICT. In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (Ed.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education: 449-460. New York: Springer.

Technology In The Classroom And The Real World

I use a lot of technology in my everyday life. I could not live without Evernote. I use Wunderlist extensively. I read web articles using Pocket and share the ones I find interesting on Twitter. My days schedule would be a mess without my calendar app. I use Google Drive when I’m doing any word processing and What’s App to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues. I rely heavily on my laptop and when I’m out and about, I use my smartphone as a substitute. I really don’t know what I would do without technology, it helps to keep my life so organised, it stores the content I need to remember and allows me to easily access it when I need it. And I feel my students should be able to use the technology they have then same way I do. I explicitly teach them how to use almost all of these tools and I make sure I am a positive roll model for the use of technology inside and outside of the classroom. I believe restricting technology in the classroom is foolish, education and setting a good example is the best way for them to learn how to use the power of technology responsibly. And I look forward to the day I can teach my own children these same life skills.

Digital Life Class: Explicitly Teaching Students To Be Safe, Responsible and Efficient With Technology

When I started in my current position as a technology coach, I was very excited to see how my school managed their 1:1 program. I had not been in a 1:1 school before, but I had been in the planning process for implementation, but unfortunately did not see it come to fruition. At my new school, the 1:1 had been around for years, so to draw on that knowledge and experience was going to be very interesting.

What I saw in the first few weeks of school was that the students receive their laptop, they got a short one hour introduction to make sure everything was working, then away they went into the world with their own Macbook. It was especially interesting to see the grade seven students, who are the youngest to receive laptops. Giving the students their own computer sounded like a great idea, these students are digital natives after all, so they know how to use a computer, right? We use an integration approach to technology and we want to teach them “just in time” don’t we, so we shouldn’t need technology lessons?

Well yes and no. The students may know how to edit their GoPro videos from their weekend holiday or set up a Minecraft server, but there is a huge gap in the knowledge when managing their computer for educational purposes. We had a purely integration model for the students to learn how to use their device and it worked well. The students gain the knowledge and skills to create a range of presentation types, they all know how to word process on a range of different software and they can all edit a movie of some sort. But the problem is if no one explicitly teaches the kids the skills they need to stay safe and manage their machine, then the kids will not learn it. Being an elementary school teacher, I have taught children how to hold a pencil, how to cut a piece of paper and how to write each letter of the alphabet explicitly. So not teaching students explicitly how to manage their machine seemed strange to me.

After seeing the problems that arose from this, I mentioned the problem to my boss. He was receptive, but held off on going forward and fixing the problem straight away. Throughout the year, I was involved with a lot of the behaviour incidence involving technology, so whenever these problems arose, I mentioned the idea of explicitly teaching students how to use their computer, in a stand alone class. It seemed like the more time I was called to the office to help deal with a behaviour issue involving technology, the more my boss came around to the idea.

Finally he agreed and through conversations with the head of technology and my team, I developed a new class named Digital Life. I wanted to shy away from calling it digital citizenship, as it is meant to be much more than that. I also didn’t want teachers to think the digital citizenship was all going to be taught by me, we all know that all teachers have a responsibility to teach their students how to be a good citizens on and offline.

The new school year started and in the grade seven and eight timetable, each student had a class with me every two weeks. These are the youngest students in our 1:1 program, so I teach them a lot that they can carry through into older grades. I focused at the start of the year on getting the students to use their computer more efficiently. They learned about and set up bookmarks, modify their docks, set up folders for their work, change settings to suit their own individual needs, etc. All the little things that help them use their computer quickly and easily in every class they attend. Not just teaching them, but giving them time to do it and ask questions really helps the students and the teachers that have them in their classes. Later in the year we move onto teaching an extension of our digital citizenship lessons in this class, along with password lessons, we talk about GPS services, we research and implement back up solutions and a range of other lessons to make sure the students are being safe and responsible. However, the curriculum is very flexible. If an issue keeps popping up at school, I modify the order of the lessons so we have time to discuss it in class. I try to make the lesson ‘just in time’ for the learner, so the learning is in context for them.

These are the links to my Evernote notes where I document my scope, sequence and the dates I taught them. These are rough working notes, if you would like more detail, then let me know:
2013-2014 grade seven and eight
2014-2015 grade seven
2014-2015 grade eight

I had the idea to have specific technology classes in a 1:1 integration model school many years ago, but I never had the opportunity to implement it until now. It has been amazingly successful. Now all students in grade seven, eight and nine (one year out of the program) manage their own backup solution. Every one of these students has bookmarks for the most used online services we use at school. I could give a range of success stories for the new class, but the one I am most proud of is the improvement to the students behaviour involving technology. I tracked the class of 2018, the grade who go their laptops in grade seven, before Digital Life classes began. I looked at their behaviour records and narrowed down all of the entries to those that involve technology. I found the difference in their negative behaviour involving technology declined 86% from grade seven, when they didn’t have Digital Life classes, to grade eight, after the introduction of Digital Life classes. I’ll repeat that so it sinks in. The students negative behaviour involving technology declined 86% once Digital Life classes were implemented! That figure alone makes the class worth it. To add icing to the cake, now that the same grade is in the senior school and they know long have Digital Life classes, the behaviour incidents continued to remain low, at about the same level as what they were in grade eight. This shows that the lessons had impact and that they really took onboard the concepts and ideas presented to them.

I am very pleased with the outcomes of this new class. I would highly recommend it to any 1:1 school with an integration model and will push it at any school I teach at. If you need some help getting it set up, or if you want any advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I would be glad to help you.

So what do you think? Could you see this working at your school? Are there any topics I have not mentioned that I should cover?