In with the New!


For my final project I decided to use what I have learned in course 3 to upgrade a presentation I have already used, but will need to use again with what will most likely be a much larger and more critical audience. Earlier this year, I did a presentation on a professional learning day for some of my colleagues. My presentation was an interactive session that was to show how a problem-based learning Mathematics approach can be used in the classroom to not only help with student learning of Mathematical concepts, but to also benefit students non-cognitive, soft skills even more. During the session, it was clear to see that it was an engaging topic as all attendees seemed deep in thought and couldn’t help but collaborate with other when solving some of the Math problems. Some of colleagues were even excited to share their method of solving the problem which is the concluding goal and in my opinion the main goal of the idea.


Here is my old presentation:


Although the session itself had some glorifying moments, it is safe to say after taking this course that the presentation part of my session was lacking in many areas. All I really used it for was to read from and have the Math problems present on the board. As I stated in my week 3 blog post, my goal is to “zen-ify” this presentation and use it as a visual support to help send a more meaningful message about making the math classroom a more thought provoking and collaborative learning environment. To do this, I will be working to make my presentation clear and consistent, creative, simple, and media rich and I have embedded my before and after presentations below for all to see. Along with my new presentation I will need to have a handout with instructions for the interactive part of the presentation.


Although I will still need to have the Math problems my audience will be working with on the board, I’ve tried my best to have the minimum amount of text on each slide as possible. This was the biggest challenge for me with the project because what ‘Presentation Zen’ is saying about “using the slides to visually support my message”. In this case, this presentation strategy somewhat conflicts with what some might say is good Math classroom practice by having the problems visual and clear in the class at all times. However, after putting some time and thought into the presentation I am seeing that this more doable than I originally thought and I am actually quite pleased with my attempt. I think it is actually even adding to the simplicity of the problem. What I didn’t find as challenging and what I am seeing is almost enlightening is how fun and sensible is was to use images with one or two words to present the content and I am actually looking forward to my first attempt at using this type of presentation for the first time. Another part of creating this presentation that I enjoyed was using some photos and videos from my own classroom. I’m hoping this will help give my audience a visual that shows a clear and simple way of how the process works for me to make sure my message is consistent with how I am applying this method.


Another presentation strategy I will be attempting during my presentation, comes from a colleague of mine, Miriam, who discussed an idea from a ‘Presentation Zen article’ by Garr Reynolds, where adding “play” or humor to your presentation is another great strategy to promote creativity and engage the audience. I found that using imagery to stimulate this idea is a helpful and easy way to do it. I am looking forward to using this presentation on April 3rd. Also, a little nervous since I will be stepping out of my comfort zone on such a big stage.

New Presentation:

Statistically the Infographic will Probability work!


For this week’s CoETAIL assignment, I will be building off of what I discussed in my previous post. I will be using an infographic to model for students how to use one to present information in a clear, visually appealing and informative way. For our last Math unit this school year we will be exploring Statistics and Probability with one of the focuses being to ‘Investigate chance processes and develop, use, and evaluate probability models’. Here is the page that goes into more depth about the Common Core Standards we will be addressing. As part of their investigation, students will be able to develop an infographic model, use it to discuss their findings and they will also be able to evaluate the clarity of each other’s infographics. I know, I know, by having them all do infographics I am limiting choice, but I think that’s okay for this little experiment.

Usually for this unit, students are encouraged to graph their data in order to clearly display results. This is the purpose of using bar graph, pie charts, etc… However, after stumbling upon this great example of an infographic I found online titled ‘Thirteen Reasons Why your Brain Craves Infographics’, I think the infographic will be able to achieve this and much more. The information in this infographic shows that 70% of our sensory receptors are in our eyes and that 50% of our brain is visual processing. It also suggests that it takes less than a second for us to process a meaning to a visual. The infographic continues by showing us that infographics are more engaging, more accessible and easier to recall. If this is the case, I am hoping to see a lot of great information presented in a different, yet more informative way.

The infographic I will use to introduce the project to the students is below. I chose it because most students will be able to make a connection with cards and many most likely poker.  The infographic will trigger mathematical discussion about why there is certain percentages associated with different hands. This will also be a great way for students to go further into the discussion by presenting percentages and odds for other scenarios involving cards. There are many more examples I will use to show different ways to design infographics. I found that Good Magazine had some choices that will be helpful for my students when brainstorming different options.
In order for students to be able to create their own infographics, I am hoping that we can have some tech assistance in this area and I will need to find out more because this is another situation where time can be an issue. However, to get started, I was able to find a couple of excellent resources in the course reading section for this week.The ones I felt would be good to start with are and because they both see very easy to use and they both come with templates that the students would be able to use to help them get started. Once again, I am looking forward to seeing how this all transpires!

Learn Smarter not Harder

The metaphor used in the article, Towards a Framework for Visual Literacy Learning, about how ear to brain being dial up and eye to brain being broadband is a great way to summarize what I have been learning in this course so far. It also discusses that we have to teach our students the power of visuals and the best way to do that is by modelling it in our classrooms ourselves. I have mentioned on a previous post that a current goal of mine is to increase the amount of visuals in my classroom and actually use data to try and identify a result and I think ‘digital storytelling’ will be able to take this idea to the next level.



Recently in my classroom, my students have been creating and using presentations on different systems of the human body and it has been very interesting for me to see their final products. One of the focuses of the assignment was the visual aspect of their presentation and I feel they did quite well with it. With a lot of feedback and guidance the students were able to find visuals that were quite clear and helpful. However, the amount of wording on the presentations was still a little much and I was also able to have a better perspective on how unuseful it was. They were also unsure how to use the visual as a powerful discussion point, which was also more clear to me as an outsider and CoeTailer. In my opinion, the students are creating their presentations based on the presentations being put forth to them by adults and I believe that when we begin using presentation zen ideas as a guide along with digital storytelling, we will see our students doing the same things.

There are many websites out there that we have access to that do a fantastic job using digital storytelling to present information as a hook to engage students and leave them with a sense of new knowledge after just a few minutes of their attention. Brainpop is a great example of digital storytelling at its best. This is a resource that could be considered almost overused by teachers, but there are not many other resources on the internet that can be so visually and auditorily clear, in such a short amount of time. TED Ed is another example of a digital storytelling resource that can be used to hook the students and give them clear explanations of information. Here is an example of an animated clip that a group of my students showed to help the class visualize the general overview of the respiratory system. Really, it was all they needed to present, it’s so clear and and the story part enables the information to stick. Where can I find the software to create something like this? Watching this is proof itself that strong visuals and storytelling works.
Digital storytelling could be used and is used in my classroom in Math and Science in many ways. One way is by doing what I mentioned above as simple hooks and effective learning tools. Also, I have really pushed this in my Math class is by increasing the amount of problem based learning along with the use of  visual representation. Here an example of a story problem presented to the class. After we have time to read through it, the students are to create a visual representation of the problem, attempt to solve using their visual and an algebraic expression or equation, then collaborate with others in their group to share and discuss their visuals and solutions. After we do this, we then have a class share out. This is an example I feel models only the very beginnings of how I could use storytelling in class, since this process is missing a lot of the digital part we need to be striving towards. I am starting to imagine almost like an updated Bill Nye style of students presenting a digital story about how the solved a math problem using the tools they have and need. After looking at some great resources like, ‘How to Create a Digital Story’ and ‘How to Create Simple Digital Stories’, I see how we have access to some tools to help get us started towards our own digital stories,. I see a big problem with this though because of how time consuming it could be and how much curriculum Math teachers are expected to get through. Hmmm … are we teaching our students how to create digital stories in tech class? And, what kind of digital storytelling software can we get our hands on?

I think I need a Visual Makeover

This week’s assignment comes with great timing, since I am at the beginning process of reexamining a presentation I did during a professional learning day at my school that will be further on display at the annual NESA spring conference at the beginning of April. This will be my biggest stage yet as a presenter, so this week’s course materials have been very helpful and I have been able gather many ideas to help me improve it. I especially enjoyed looking through ‘Kim’s, Making a Lasting Impact presentation’ and was able to take away a few ideas that not only will help me improve my presentation, but also what I need to be thinking about while creating a presentation. For example, I need to remember who my audience is and make sure I am creating a presentation that will engage them specifically. I feel that my session will be engaging to those who enjoy Math, but my presentation itself needs a lot of work. What I will be focusing on are these four items from Kim’s presentation; clear and consistent, creative, simple, and media rich. I think all of the ideas presented are very helpful, but I will start with these items to begin my focus on presentation zen. Also, I feel at this point, my presentation already has the engaging components I am looking for, since the audience will be interacting with the content of the presentation by solving fun and interesting Math problems. I think the topic is quite relevant too, since it will be most likely Math teachers at my presentation looking for ideas on how to increase pedagogy in their classroom.

In combination with these items I will attempting to include the ideas from this ‘What is Good Presentation Design?’ article to help guide the purpose of using the ideas throughout my presentation. What I found most important when reading through this article was, not only the selection of visuals, but the placement of the visuals themselves. The article states that when this is considered, it will allow the context to become more ‘appropriate’ for the target audience. This also lends itself to the idea of ‘simple’ where the more appropriate the visual and context, the greater clarity the message gained from the presentation.


How I will further the improvements in my presentation, I will be giving a ‘visual makeover’ which will help me with my goals if being creative and media rich. By looking at many of the before and after sides on the article hyperlinked above, I was able to get a much stronger idea of how I can add a lot of appropriate media in a very simple way that I feel will definitely enhance the creativity and audience engagement of my presentation.
Below is my presentation that I will be improving. It is also what I will be using for my final project for this course. I look forward to sharing my new and improved presentation.


Is Visual Representation the Key?

Very recently, my colleagues and I began working on what we were introduced to as a “passion project”. The purpose of this project is to give us involved the opportunity to dedicate some of our professional time at school towards a project that we think will help our students and the learning culture at our school. As a Math/Science teacher, it was difficult for me to narrow down my idea to something I could see results from over the next few months. After a lot of research and thought, I decided to go with “increasing the amount of visual representation” in my class to see if there would be an increase in learning as well. Of course, through my personal research and through this week’s readings, my hypothesis is and should be, that it will surely enhance the learning. An article that stood out to me from week one was ‘Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education’ where it is quoted by George Lucas, “If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?” After reading this quote, I feel this is an obvious choice of investigation. 


the image is from Amit Kapoor's slideshare:
the image is from Amit Kapoor’s slideshare:

During my research, I found this ‘Visual Language’ image to be quite humorous, since I once again had to appreciate my own ignorance towards just how much of a story visuals and images can convey.


We are currently working on a Geometry unit in Math, which is in itself a very visual unit. For the unit my teaching partner and I will be having the students construct some form of real life obstacle course (ie. skatepark, dog agility course, parkour course, etc…) to demonstrate their understanding of surface area and volume. Along with the construction, students will need to focus on wood or plastic for the surface area and concrete, as a possible example for the volume within their 3D structures. I will be using the following two images to initiate the instruction and preparation for their project.


By Parkour Visions:
By Parkour Visions:

I feel that these images will be helpful since both images give unique visuals of possibilities for their own project idea and they both will initiate a great discussion about how they see different 3D shapes being used for this purpose. As stated in the Presentation Zen, ‘Nurturing curiosity & inspiring the pursuit of discovery’, “a necessary element of good teaching is curiosity. That is, demonstrating our own curiosity and inspiring and cultivating the natural curiosity in others.” How I further plan to use the images is to begin discussing my own curiosity towards how and why the shapes and designs have be chosen for the courses seen, which can hopeful trigger the curiosity of the students to discover how they can use the shapes for their own design.

Photo Credit: Ellen5e via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Ellen5e via Compfight cc


Finally, I will be using the images to act as the main component of the project details we give students as a checklist to help guide students through the project. After all, according to my passion project hypothesis and the visual language image used above, why would my students need me to write out a bunch of small paragraphs to tell them what they need to show understanding of for their project, when they can just look at a couple of images? I’m looking forward to see how this works out as a start and what my next steps will be! 

Improving my Design Quality

Week one’s topic has already, really got me thinking about how much I need to change the web-based resources I am using for my students and the direction I want to begin going with my CoeTail blog. Technology design is something that I am hoping to improve in my day to day, digital communication and after reading through the “Design better with CRAP” and “Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design” articles, I’ve realized some obvious and simple ideas to help me begin.

Screenshot by Rob Desormeau
Screenshot by Rob Desormeau

My current blog does meet a few of the ideas within these articles that I was originally going for. I wanted a theme that was clear and structured in a organized way and I feel my blog does have proper alignment, repetition and some aspects of contrast to reinforce this. Apart from that however, my blog is pretty boring and I could easily see it being skipped over in comparison of some of the other blog themes I’ve noticed of my colleagues. I have not done a very good job making it “aesthetically appealing”.


A few of the areas I’ve decided to improve in that I think are very important are; ‘contrast’ in terms of color and size, ‘proximity with visuals’ and ‘style and texture’. Through searching more diligently through the available themes, I found that I actually really liked my current theme the most and began to look through my blog site to figure out how to make it a more visually appealing design.

Screenshot by Rob Desormeau
Screenshot by Rob Desormeau

As you can see with my before and after, I have begun to make some pretty great improvements. I started with, what I think, is a more catchy title for my blog along with background and header colors to improve the contrast and style and texture to make the page stand out more and the first glance a better visual experience. Probably the most important thing I figured out to improve the page is the ‘featured image’ tool. By using this tool, I have been able to greatly improve my blog visually through the idea of proximity. By using featured images to represent my posts along with a title, I can allow both components to compliment each other and  better attract readers to my posts. This weeks ideas have made it clear to me that I do need to get better at image choice and titles that represent my posts. Finally, what I like the most about my updated blog site goes along with the idea of ‘density and whitespace’. My page is visually appealing but, is not cluttered which will make it easy for readers to scan my page and easily find what they are looking for.
Although I have improved my page I realize that I have only began to move towards the design potential of my blog site. I have also realized how the ideas from this week will also need to reflect more in my posts as well. I am looking forward to the rest of this course to see what more I will be able to learn and do!

Responsible Use Agreement (RUA)

For the final project of course 2, I worked with colleagues from two international schools from Kuwait and my school in Riyadh to create a Responsible Technology Use Agreement (RTUA) for the Middle School years. The documents we used to help guide our decisions for the document were, Davis School District Technology Resources Acceptable Use Agreement> and a Family Contract for Digital Citizenship found at, the American International School-Riyadh Technology use Agreement and the Jones County Cybersafety Use Agreement for Middle School. Although this document is designed as a contract agreement, we felt that we wanted it to serve other purposes as well relating to the skills we have learned through our second CoeTail course.

Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll via Compfight cc

The document focuses on three sections. The first section is a letter to the parents, that includes instructions for the document as well as the responsibilities of the school and parents regarding the student’s use of technology at school. This section also includes a glossary of terms in order to assist the parents with the language being used throughout the document and for the parents to become more familiar with language being used in schools by educators and students. For other purposes, this section is designed to focus on how their child’s use of technology is not only the responsibility of the school, but that of the parents as well and that a partnership is necessary in order to be sure the safest technology environment possible is being created for the students.

The second section places a focus on the reasons that a technology agreement is necessary in schools and highlights the important points, including the purpose of having technology in schools, that it is a necessary component in education, what to expect in certain situations (loss or theft) and how technology is monitored in school. This part of the document also stresses the importance of the role of the parent and school as a partnership, but is also designed to educate parents, students and teacher about with an increased awareness about the role of technology in schools itself.

Photo Credit: changefusion via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: changefusion via Compfight cc

The last section of the documents focuses on the appropriate guidelines for students when using technology. This is a detailed list of what is expected of the students when using technology at school. The list is designed to help with guidance for the students regarding appropriate use of technology and as an educational component for students, parents and teachers to understand what types of situations could occur by using technology and what is the necessary steps to take when encountered by certain situations as well. Once again, this is section is also designed to help build awareness with parents about what situations can surface by using technology in schools.

Although I felt our group did a great job covering all the important towards making this document meet our purpose of an educational piece along with an agreement, I still feel that it is only a start for providing a safe environment for students. To increase its effectiveness this document would need to be delivered to students alongside parents at an information night early in the year. I doing this would allow the administration to demonstrate their seriousness with this issue and to address any questions or concerns with everyone responsible together. Along with this, it is imperative that ongoing educational opportunities for parents, students and teachers are needed to continuously revisit these ideas, in order to keep this topic at the forefront throughout the school year.

Digital Community

My first thought after looking at the resources and readings for this week is, ultimately I think it is the educational systems job to teach kids about proper digital citizenship. The reason I quickly reach this conclusion is partly based on my own knowledge about the subject by comparing myself before and after becoming a teacher. Sure, it is also a parent’s job to be a part of this, but I think that the majority are very unaware of the level that technology exists, with relation to their child. I have to admit that after I became a teacher about six years ago, I was very surprised about where students are with their technology abilities and this forced me to really have to step up my game with tech.

Further on this note, I had no idea how much bullying and other inappropriate use of technology was happening until I became immersed in this topic after becoming a teacher and spending so much time in schools, with our digital native students. This tells me that it is probably the same situation for the majority of others who are not teachers as well. As teachers, we see it, hear it, and discuss it on a regular basis because we are the ones with the kids and therefore we have inherited this responsibility as educators. As mentioned in the “What Teen are doing online article”, 95% of U.S. teens are using the internet. This is clearly demonstrating that the internet is their main source of community. One that often goes without the supervision of adults and authority.   

I believe that in order to address this topic, child protection programs need to be developed in schools to that include, educating students, parents and teachers about digital citizenship. It needs to become a part of the school culture in order to have an impact and parents need to be a part of it as well, so the conversations and messages can continue outside the school walls. In the “Passport to Digital Citizenship” article the author quotes;

“If we do think about it, are we teaching students to become more responsible with their behavior, and does this carry over when they go home? Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?”

This article gives a clear model of how to guide these necessary lessons and discussions. The common language between parents and students is what stands out to me here because, how fast technology is developing that students are immersed in, there is no way the majority of parents are speaking this same language at home. With this being said I think our schools need to take a look at how we are educating students, parents and teachers as a community in order to help our students and children with their digital citizenship awareness and skills.

We Can’t Empower and Micro-manage

Ultimately, as educators, we want our students to be independent, efficient, self-directed decision makers, just like employers want their employees to be the same. The one thing I find that stands in the way of empowering people however, whether it’s employees or students is micro-management. Businesses want their employees to be self-sufficient decision makers, but at the same time most, if not all decisions with big companies are made from the top down. This is the same in schools. Are curriculum drives what students are forced to demonstrate understanding of, along with behave as our codes imply and mission statements state. I think there are also many situations where students feel confused about when to ask and when to be self-directed. So how can we empower students to use technology in a positive way to impact their world?

I think it needs to start with the big picture and not tell the students how to do it. Maybe instead we can give them many opportunities to discover how they can do it. Also, maybe we avoid defining what that outcome looks like and there can be discovery involved in that part of the process too. Minda Zetlin discusses in an article titled “5 Things Smart Leaders Do to Empower Employees” on that some of the best ways to empower employees is to make sure they care about the task, challenge them, tell them how they will be measured and get out of their way. Although this article is relating to adults I believe we can use the same or similar techniques with our students.

I was very entertained by the story of Martha in the TedX video “Extracurricular Empowerment” and the changes she was able to make by using her technology in, what I thought was a responsible and mature way, for a nine year old.

The speaker in the video then goes on to give many example of how our students are figuring out and using technology in ways that are positively impacting our world and for the most part, I am seeing all these ideas outside the context of school curriculums. So a couple of question from me at this point are, should we offer open technology time in schools and how could that look? And how do we tie it in with everything else that is happening in school?

Simple, but Confusing

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 8.54.42 AM
Source: Youtube Link

Well there certainly is a lot more to copyright than I thought. Especially in our digital age. I have to admit, I’ve been quite ignorant as a teacher since I began this career in China six years ago. Of course, citing sources and referencing has always been obvious and plagiarism is talked about and addressed regularly, but there are many other aspect to copyright that I was not aware of. After reading through a bunch of the articles and watching some videos, I am more aware, but still a little confused about exactly what we can and cannot do? In order to get more clarity in the subject I decided to take a colleague’s advice and search up some copyright basics to help me with this. I went on Youtube and was able to find this video. I’m not sure if this is just me, but during a couple different parts of the video I thought that it was maybe a sarcastically designed clip of just how confusing copyright can be. In the end I realized that the big message is that you have to get someone’s permission in order to use their materials. Something else that struck me in this video was that citing sources actually isn’t enough.


I like the idea this week about thinking in terms of where we are in the world regarding copyright because I’m sure our approach and awareness is different depending on our location. At this point, I don’t know exactly what my obligation is as an educator, since this is not a hot discussion topic in my position. I do think however, that I need to become a lot more educated myself in this topic. Through reading the Article, “Dr. Mashup” by Brian Lamb and watching the video “Everything is a Remix” it is more clear to me, that the easiest thing to do when trying to be creative is to simlpy remix what’s already been done. I’ve noticed that this is always a go to in class. It’s hard for students to come up with ideas when leaving it open to them. There is nothing totally wrong with this, but, as a teacher, I need to continue pushing and guiding students to think more for themselves. I think, as educators, even if the country in which we reside does not follow copyright laws it is still important that we stress the importance of this to our students and colleagues. Why this is most important, is because the majority of our students will eventually be going to school or working somewhere, where this is necessary. What I have learned in Coetail this week, with citing sources with images and videos, I think it is important that I pass this information on to my students this year.