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What did you Learn Today?

June 7, 2016

What did you learn today?


As a parent I ask this without thinking. I often expect a mundane response. I wonder how many parents get a ‘nothing’  or ‘not much’ as a response. My guess is a few. If so, we are asking the wrong questions. Why haven’t we been asking ‘What have you been learning’? That opens up a conduit to dialogue. It empowers us to talk about their learning, even if they haven’t learned it yet, they are in the process and that what we want to talk about.


But enough of the overthinking, the lexis. In the end we want to see evidence OF learning right? Why not do this and use this as a discussion point. We want to see kids…

  • show process- (messy drawings, scribblings)
  • uncut video clips/photos
  • notes that aren’t ‘presentable’. make no sense without the author
  • verbal ideas with wonderings, confusions
  • conclusions that are flawed
  • value mistakes as a learning point
  • see the thinking


But how can learners document this?:

  • video/audio
  • written journals
  • scratch books
  • a designer notebook

What I’ve started to really value isn’t the packaging of kids thoughts and products but trying to unpack their ideas. The raw stuff. ‘Schooling’ has done an excellent job of valuing the packaged, that it has become hard for educators to unpack the product to uncover the deeper meaning of the learning. Notebooks, note-taking. Raw thinking, scribblings.

And so when we ask our kids what did you learn today…and they say nothing, well they  can at least show what ‘nothing’ looks like. 

Its been a fantastic first year of doing nothing.



Giving Time to Take a Moment

May 10, 2016

I was going though a bunch of those drafts in my blog….if you are a blogger you know what Im talking about. The blogs ideas, mind-splashes, stuff you write down and leave and maybe come back to. I’ve got about 40 of those posts that will never see the light of day or (the blog-o-sphere) and that’s probably a good thing. But today I went back into those drafts to check out how my thinking has changed. Looked through a few to see if  I might learn something from my old thinking. Or at least have a chuckle.


I came across this half baked idea from 4 years ago about giving more time to teach, to think and learn. I sort of scoffed because I think (know) I give time priority in our learning. It has been a mindful goal of mine for 2 years. It was reassuring because I value giving time and I sort of blogged about it here and here.

So I thought about what I did now, what I need to continue to do and maybe what I don’t do enough of and brainstormed this:


  • Build in playtime
  • Have a framework – not a timetable
  • Make transdisciplinary links for inquiry
  • Be flexible
  • Smile and take a breath
  • Allow play for the sake of play
  • ‘Take a moment’ or even ‘Go Noodle’  to step back
  • Be happy and enjoy the day

And of course the above applies to the kids we teach too.

I think the last bullet point is the most important to me. If you cant be happy, if you don’t enjoy something how can you be in the right mindset to learn. A growth mindset. I often wonder.. we teach to a curriculum, we need assessments. However do we build happiness and enjoyment into our teaching and curriculum.  Is that assessed, can it and should it be?These ingredients are crucial to learning and building, we need a culture of flexibility to follow passions. We need time to think. Quiet time. Collaboration time. Educators need to carve out this time to help learners stop.Listen. Rest. Be mindful. And we do. I wonder though how many teachers allow themselves the same. My guess is not many. Servant leadership and dedication to our clients.

So even if you are not an educator,  make time to sit, think, reflect, meditate, talk to someone. Time is elastic. The time you spend to take a moment comes back.




Bye Bye Bessie

April 16, 2016

So honored to be part of yet another Travelling Teddy Project. I’ve been involved in the project for the last 4 years. Thanks to @PanaAsavavatana and her team.

Bessie spent about 2 weeks with 3JG at Jakarta Intercultural School and the kids loved it. One of the highlights was when Bessie went on a becak ride during Indonesia Week.


Bessie enjoys a becak ride during Indonesia Week

Bessie spent time with us and went specialists classes, lunchtimes and recess. You can read more about it in Bessie’s blogpost Bessie the Bear Comes to Indonesia and JIS. We really enjoyed seeing where Bessie has been around the world (Ireland, Hoboken, Newfoundland, Beijing…) and to see the artifacts she collected, many of them which we used in our own inquiries and had lots of wonderings.

So what did the learn from this global project?

  • the opportunity to connect with another class around the word (skype in with another class to share Bessies adventure)
  • the opportunity to inquire into different cultures, different parts of the world
  • collaboration and communication skills (kids made a farewell video and creating a blogpost for Bessie)
  • empathy, sharing and caring – everyone wanted a piece of Bessie and there were some conflicts
  • using technology to enhance learning, iMovie, QR Codes, photography and visual presentation skills
  • responsibility to look after the bear and her belongings

So would I recommend this global project? Absolutely. The Traveling Teddy project is all set up for you so you can focus on the learning opportunities with your kids. It is one of the projects where if you put more into it you get more out of it. I did a bit of pre planning, some guided inquiry to start us off them let my Grade 3s have ownership. We checked in to the Traveling Teddy blog to see what she was up to, where she had been and most importantly when she was coming.

Selamat Jalan Bessie! Sampai jumpa lagi.

If They Build it, They Will Learn

April 9, 2016

Today I gave the Grade 3 a design challenge. (Check out @johnrinker  for some cool design stuff. Total guru). It was to build this tallest tower of pasta that could hold a marshmallow. I based the engagement loosely on this. Its been done a million times across the globe I know. I allowed learners to work on their own, pairs or groups. They all has the same amount of materials each: 1 marshmallow, 1 30cm of string and 20 sticks of uncooked pasta. Also at their disposal was tape, scissors and rulers. The couldn’t use anything else.

The plan. So we started out talking about how we would work together. What behaviours or actions were we anticipating? The first and really important part was the sharing the resources. I roughly divided up the materials but it was their responsibility to be fair, share, negotiate to ensure each student had an equal amount of resources. I know my class well and this I knew would be a challenge for quite a few. In the end, I was pretty amazed at the speed they sorted this out (I knew they’d be able to do it) so we go on to the design part. Design happens.


An 8 minute plan

The design. Learners were given the freedom to work with whomever they wanted to. They then had 8 minutes to draw up or discuss some plan but not start building. I didn’t do a lot of pre teaching I just let them at it. I walked around and recored responses ranging from ‘If we try this..this might happen’ and ‘I know that we need a fat base- like buildings- yes thats how they build tall stuff’. So already I was getting a sense of prior knowledge of what they know about mathematics, about basic engineering.

Interestingly enough in this Ted Talk by Tom Wujec, he talks about how business people, adults in general do rather  poorly in this activity and how young children do better. Its because adults start with the structure first, then the marshmallow. He found that when adults finish the structure they then test the design only to find out that it wont hold the marshmallow. Because the design test is essentially last, adults run out of time and work in a crisis mode for the remainder of the timed challenge. Children on the other hand start with the marshmallow and test along the way. Something to say about summative versus formative assessments! (And by the way, most of the groups I observed did in fact start with the marshmallow).

The build.After  8 minutes we were ready for the build. 18 minutes of thinking, failing, frustration, teamwork, collaboration, a lot of cheering, an  argument and a tear. Again I took note of the words and the interactions as I observed. These would be important later for reflection.


Evaluation and reflection.  We saw some proudly standing structures and some sad slumping piece that just didn’t work. One group had a meltdown and didn’t produce anything and essentially gave up but the had some sort of ‘irreconcilable differences’🙂 so didn’t get it done.

The results. So as we did a gallery walk, each group/person/pair explained the ups and downs of the build. What worked, what changed, what they’d do next time… Some suggestions were made.


Finally we ended up in front of the board and reflected on words that we felt captured this experience in  the Wordle.

Screenshot 2016-04-08 23.07.59

It was only 50 minutes and the kids really wanted more time. I showed them some other designs other people had made in the post and they were like’ Ah!! Can we try!’ Lots of passion and ideas to further their design. One learners said something that made me stop and think. She said’ But but if we take someone’s ideas and use it, we are copying and stealing’. I thought wow… teachable moment here.

Big takeaways – Students got to be:

  • creative
  • collaborators
  • thinkers
  • problem solvers

Next time I’d like to:

  • give more time presenting to an authentic audience, like a skype with our buddy class in Sri Lanka, o even have another class come in to show what made, talk about the process
  • Find a space to leave the towers where we can have the opportunity to reflect and change the design as we consider other design options
  • Find a way to make the whole thing more authentic


2016-17 Same School but New Role

April 4, 2016

As I reflect on this past academic year I think wow it’s gone by fast. Is it almost over?

It seems like yesterday I was hired and walked into my Grade 3 classroom at Jakarta Intercultural School  (JIS) for the first time. To make it even sweeter, my daughter is in the classroom next to me, my oldest daughter loves it in the Middle School and my wife @susijava99 is our newest Bahasa Indonesia teacher at JIS. Very grateful and fortunate.

The first few months were a blur. Fast paced, exciting, tiring and so beneficial to me as an educator. Loads of PD. Discussions. Challenges. The great Grade 3 team I work with were awesome, helping me out. Listening when I needed someone to listen. I learned so much from them and other leaders at the school. As well as my personal learning network- PLN. Invaluable to have folks to bounce ideas and frustrations, challenges and ‘wins’ off of. Small moments in time add up to experiences to reflect on.

So here I am about finish Grade 3 and get back into the ‘tech’ stuff as a Digital Literacy Coach. This is pretty exciting in many ways:

  • Firstly, I get to work with everyone. How fortunate is it that I get to help out students, teachers and the wider community.
  • Secondly, I get to work with a pretty awesome tech team. How cool is it to learn from and with others who are passionate about things you are too.

So Ive started to think about approaches to my new role. I thought the best place to start is to go back to the job description so I have chosen  the following three criteria to focus on and assess on December 1 2016.

Pedagogical Leadership

  • co-planning, co-teaching, co-assessing units of student which authentically embed 21st century literacy skills

Success Criteria:

  • Contribute to the development and implementation the JIS  Digital Citizenship Framework (in draft form now) based on Common Sense Media Standards.
  • Attend PLCs as required and understand how technology might enhance learning in the units of inquiry
  • attend the Learning2Asia conference in Vietnam in October and embed big takeaways in our learning. I have been to four L2Asia conferences over the past 7 years and have taken away so much. I believe that this year’s theme “Reimagine Learning” will help me to reconnect with other educators trying to promote thinking differently in the way we learn with the kids, and continue to develop a growth mindset. I can clearly see the connection of using design technology and design thinking and how I can apply this to the JIS dreams:
    • Harnessing the potential of technology to enhance and liberate learning.
    • Providing real, collaborative processes that provide authentic learning.

As part of my new role I see myself as more than the ‘tech person’ but a leader in helping others try new ideas to enhance learning. It is also a great follow up to one of the best conferences I have been to and presented at  Unleashing Learning in Melbourne last March.

Curricular Leadership

  • Leading the exploration into new areas such as robotics, application development (code), virtual environments(Minecraft)

Success Criteria: 

  • Develop the Maker area (aesthetics, programme, agency)
  • Identify areas of authentic connections that promote digital citizenship ie: blogging for an authentic audience, Common Sense media Digital Passport, design skills, programming (Raspberry Pi) and coding
  •  Introduce (and convince) the leadership team to promote and support the culture of Digital Badges for professional development opportunities for the JIS community as a means of recognition. Using open badges  by the Mozilla  Foundation allow for many possibilities for students including earning badges  for after school activities or contribution of leadership roles. Parents and staff may also earn badges f
    learning 2

    Learning2  Badge

    or a variety of reasons to recognise achievements or participation.

To find out more check out the video below by Michael Boll @autismpodcast 

Team and Collaborative Leadership

  • Working with staff to develop and promote use of 21st century tools for efficiency and productivity in their jobs

Success Criteria: Provide ‘just in time’ support to the JIS community. This might include parent/teacher workshops, cohort unconference sessions or the creation of a  ‘JISTech’ blog to promote and celebrate  the use of technology to enhance learning at the school. Great Techexpectations is an excellent example of school’s technology blog by @klbeasley and her team at United World College South East Asia in Singapore. Just in time in class support is essential. One model I’ve used in past years as a tech coach is based on Kim Cofino’s Collaboration Cycle.  It’s a post I often go back to and read. I like the freedom it gives both the coach and the teacher/student. Its differentiated and empowers the learner. I like how the emphasis is teamwork and that both teacher and coach are facilitator of learning.

collaboration cycle

Collaboration Cycle by @mscofino

Bring on next year.

Structured Word Inquiry Part Tiga (fini)

March 24, 2016

After a month or so ‘off’,  not teaching Structured Word Inquiry (SWI)- Im not sure why I didn’t keep up with it, I do know that this takes time from other things… as inquiry tends to do.

We got back into it investigating what adaptation means. We looked into the meaning on a surface level but then started to look at where did this word come from. What did it mean? Why does it mean what it means.

Instead of going into the process of what we did (which is important but it seemed to play out in a very similar way to what happened here)   because thats just the way I knew how to do it…I thought Id focus on my own reflection of the whole process.

Structure Word Inquiry is my professional goal for this year. I was inspired when Pete Bowers came to JIS, I blogged about it here. I am still interested but I hit a bit of a wall 3-4 months later. One reason was because I wasn’t sure where to go next with it. Another might be the time factor, in some units if seemed to fit better than with others and Im all about the trans disciplinary approach and less about single stand alone lessons. Perhaps another reason is my focus has shifted, next year I wont be in the classroom (well I wont have my own classroom) as I transition into a new and exciting  role at my school. From a personal growth perspective Ive got a lot to learn about this. I knew very little. Now I know more. I am a learner and tried something new.

So I look back at the success criteria I set for myself to achieve my goals and gave them a Grade🙂

Success Criteria:

  1. I learned something new -Grade A
  2. I used SWI effectively in my class Grade C+ (theres got to be a way to make deeper connections)
  3. I used SWI in meaningful way – Grade B
  4. Learners came away with a better/deeper understanding of a word – Grade C+
  5. Learners were able to inquire into and question ideas about words Grade C+

Obviously my ‘grading’ is tongue and cheek but I do believe that I needed more time, better authentic connections, deeper understanding (me and the learners) and perhaps a mentor. I encourage anyone to go forth and give it a go and this as the last and perhaps MOST important success criteria I give myself the Grade A. I gave it a go. I learned along the way, made mistakes, tried again and it was NOT a waste of time. Id love to know how you go if you try it.

Small Steps, Big Reminders

March 17, 2016

I must admit, I rarely get inspired to write a blogpost while on a plane. There are too many other distractions like the latest Star Wars film or sleep. However, I find myself on the plane tonight as I leave Melbourne with about 7 hours to kill on the way back to Jakarta and pretty excited about the ideas that were ‘unleashed’ at the #unleashinglearning conference at Mt. Scopus Memorial College in the last few days.  What IS Unleashing Learning? Check out @whatedsaid reflection post here.

 Ill start with the big takeaways:

  • Learning can be tailored
  • Learning doesn’t have to be ‘bound by timetables’
  • Learners need choice
  • Teachers need to try things out and possess a growth mindset
  • Don’t over plan 
  • Let kids drive the inquiry with guidance as required
  • What world are we leaving behind for the kids?

I may be preaching to the converted……and you’ll go yep, agree, of course.. but do you know what really inspired me? My big aha moment was Sam Sherratt’s Agricultural Model of education.


Im still trying to unpack it, thinking about it and it makes sense. We need to think of learners as a growing thing that blossoms. Nurturing. A community that has a chance to grow and be whatever it wants to be. A community that does not spit out the same product at the end. Ive long been a bit disenchanted with the traditional education model, as a learner, as sometimes as an educator. As a learner I was able to adapt and manipulate the educational model to do well. I had a great memory. I was very successful in high school but I cant recall learning being really meaningful. Maybe thats what has drawn me into education with some glimmer of hope that I may play a part of changing it. I do believe we can change things. Its why Im overseas at least there are perhaps more opportunities, flexibility to serve the learner.

I found it challenging to think in a new way about education and about learning. I had to unlearn how I was taught in school to be an effective educator. And Im still unlearning and relearning. It the unlearning thats hard. Being schooled has not helped me to think critically. I shouldn’t throw my past teachers under the bus here, they were teaching they way they were taught, and it did ‘work’ so Im not saying the system is broken. The education system works just fine, just as its supposed to. However is this best model for learners, communities and is it sustainable?  The industrial model of education works great, it produces workers. Soem argue it is designed to produce shallow thinkers where creativity is devalued. (The old joke when I was in school is that those who didn’t know what to do in Uni was to do an Arts degree).

Its not all gloom though. Changes can start today and these are what Ive chosen to be more mindful of when I get back into my classroom:

  • Let passion, curiosity and learning find a way, give it time and nurture it
  • Be open to possibilities
  • You are prepared to fail along with you students
  • Have a sense of humour and remind yourself about it
  • Know your students and your curriculum (@sherrattsam)


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