Reflections on Ending A School Year and Saying Goodbyes

As another school year is coming to an end, it is evident that once again, being an expat and learning/teaching at an international school can be very emotional, no matter how many times we go through the cycle of re-settling in a new country only to leave it a few years later…

As we reflect on the time we spent at a place, on our students’ personalities and growth, on the tears shed for seemingly no reason, on our children’s adjustment to the new place and their need to say goodbye, it is important for us adults to remember that we need to be kind.

In most cases, we are the ones making the choice to come to a place, or to leave it. Even as well-traveled and emotionally experienced adults, we still have strong emotions, and we still find ourselves feeling like we have not done enough, seen enough, spent enough time with the incredible friends and family we have made during our short time in this place.

And then we have our children and our students, who have usually been having little to no say in our decision to come or go- not the “when”, “where”, or “how”. “That’s it kids, it’s time to say goodbye and start this torturous cycle all over again”…

At the beginning of every school year I remind my students’ parents that the sad truth is that being a global trotter is not for the faint hearted. In order to continuously do it and survive with minimal damage, one has to learn how to make friends quickly and how to say goodbye and detach quickly.

So how can we, as educators, support our students and their parents, and our colleagues and friends? How can we ease the transition into a new life and try to make the most out of our or their last few important moments in a place? Here are some thoughts and ideas we could all practice to support each other, and especially the young generation, who is still learning about what it means to make friends, to be a friend, to be “from somewhere”, to leave others behind, and so on.


  • Talk About It- In many cases, children are not sure what they feel, and don’t even know if they have the permission to feel a certain way. Sharing and explaining the situation to the students is very important. Talking about reasons and feelings, validating their feelings and reminding them that there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad or angry, would allow them to feel OK with those feelings, which would hopefully allow for further processing. Sharing our own feelings and thought processes would help students understand these feelings are natural.
  • Be Kind- Remember that this is a very emotional and sensitive time for our students and families. Students may react strongly to events, to words, to their thoughts and fears. Some would keep to themselves while others will externalize their feelings and translate them into actions, appropriate or not. Try to be patient and understanding, to not be punitive, and to give students time to digest and share their feelings.
  • About “Anchors”- Changes, changes, changes… Continuously moving countries and cultures, learning new languages and forgetting old ones, losing and creating new friends, not seeing older siblings or grandparents, etc. are all natural side effects of this lifestyle. As a parent of a third culture 10 year old, I do my best to make sure he has people, places and objects in his life that ground him; that are a “constant” in this ever-changing lifestyles. Whether it is a weekly family day, a traditional/religious holiday, a weekly Skype call with family, or even buying an apartment in a country I do not wish to be my home, these things are what my son can fall back on, and he knows that whatever happens, these are his and they are a part of his identity and roots.
  • Choice- What would we do without choice? What if we were told we will be leaving everything familiar and move somewhere else for no logical reason? The feeling of a lack of choice is very serious. Without choice we feel helpless; we feel no one cares about what we feel, think or want; we feel we don’t matter. Try to give your students or children some choices- whether it is what to do in the last few days at a place, what to do over the summer break, how to celebrate an end of year party, what to do with free time, etc. Empower them and give them the feeling that they are in control and that they matter.
  • Sharing and Visualizing- Upon leaving Ghana a few years ago, our school counselor suggested that we sit together as a family, take a large piece of paper, and divide it into 4 squares: At the top, 2 squares reading “I am glad to leave behind” and “Things I will miss about this place” (about the place we are leaving), and at the bottom squares (the place we are going next) are “What I am looking forward to” and “What I am not sure about”. She suggested that we sit as a family, and take turns sharing one thing (yes, adults too!) about a square, and take turns until no one has anything else to contribute. There are no wrong answers and no judgement. This is an exercise in reflection and connection. We tried it back then, and it has become a family ritual whenever we move to a new school/country.

  • Honoring the people- The clock is ticking and not much is left before it is time for us (or a dear friend) to leave for good. Consider the time you have left and plan it accordingly. Think about the people you (and your children) met and spent time with and the relationships you created with them- friends, colleagues, guards, maids, etc. Try to schedule time for you and/or your children to spend quality time (one on one or a small group is the best) with them to properly say goodbye. Simply avoiding it is probably not going to feel right later on, and is likely to come back and haunt you down the road.

  • Honoring the place- Although places are not living things, some are more of symbols and they do hold important memories and feelings in our lives. Think of the places you have been to where you live. Were there any places which became important to you and your family? To your children? Make sure you take the kids there one last time- whether alone or as a family. Saying goodbye to a place helps you process that you are leaving.

I hope the above ideas resonate with you. Whatever method you choose to bring the school year or the experience in your country to a close, please make sure you keep the kids’ feelings, thoughts and experiences in mind, and validate them by listening and sharing your own feelings, and you empower them by giving them choice.

Happy end of the 2016-2017 school year!

Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students: Knowledge Constructor

ISTE Standards- 3-Knowledge Constructor.jpg

In this blog post, I discuss and provide tools and ideas for classroom implementation of the third 2016 ISTE Standard for Students, “Knowledge Constructor”. If you would like to read the blog posts for the first and second standards, here they are:

ISTE Standards- 1- Empowered Learner           ISTE Standards- 2- Digital Citizen

For more background information about the new standards, read my blog post “Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students (1 of 8)”.

***Please be aware that I do not pretend to be an expert on the new ISTE Standards. This blog post series was initiated as a “project” for me to learn and understand these standards, so that I can provide better instruction to my students. If you have any comments, questions, corrections or suggestions, please do not hesitate to share them in the comment section.

ISTE and its contributors have been publishing excellent documents that explain and support educators in the adoption and practice of these standards. Here are a few of them:

  • I recommend following ISTE on Twitter. By checking their feed you can find lots of articles about the different standards.
  • ISTE Standards– This is a link to all ISTE Standards (for students, teachers, administrators, coaches, and computer science educators)
  • The ISTE Standards Community– Check out this living and breathing online community for discussions, announcements, community blogs, and much more!
  • ISTE Standards for Students- eBook– ($10)- This eBook contains explanations, examples, suggested skills for implementation in different levels, a comparison to the 2007 Standards, a suggested Scope and Sequence, and more!

Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

This standard focuses on students’ ability to locate and use digital tools skillfully and critically in order to create artifacts that showcase their understanding and learning journey. The sub-standards focus on research and evaluation skills, the use of collection and curation tools, and exploration of authentic issues.

Now let’s dive into the standard and explore some tools and ideas teachers could use in their classrooms:


 Standard 3a.

Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

skillsyouneed  TeachThought  ReadWriteThinkYouTube  bingCommonSense  mindshift  google-search  lifehacker SweetSearch

According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “research” is defined as:

  1. careful or diligent search;
  2. studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws; and,
  3. the collecting of information about a particular subject.

The reason I began with the definition is because in many instances students have a wrong idea of what research is. Sometimes they think that merely “looking for information” would satisfy the requirements, when in reality, research is much more than that. In order to look for information one has to open a book or find a website (no matter how mediocre) and read. “To research” means that we embark on a journey of inquiry; we investigate; we interpret facts and theories; we confirm and refute theories; and eventually we construct our truth. This ISTE Sub-Standard focuses on students’ ability to understand how to research effectively and efficiently, and use these skills both in their personal and school lives.

Asking Questions

In order to become a good researcher, one has to know which questions to ask. Here are some resources that would support students as they learn what questions to ask and how to frame them:

  • SkillsYouNeed– An overview of different types of questions and responses.
  • TeachThought- Two excellent articles about questioning. The first, A Guide to Questioning in the Classroom, offers information and strategies about the importance and purpose of questioning, and essential questions. The second article, Seven Strategies to Help Students Ask Great Questions, is an in-depth examination of tested tools and strategies: Socratic Discussions, Paideia Seminar, Question Game, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Question Formulation Technique, and Universal Question Stems.
  • ReadWriteThink: A strategy guide on Socratic seminars. Check out the lesson plans and the Professional Library for additional resources.


Once students know how to ask questions that would elicit the kind of response they planned to have, they should be ready to understand how to utilize their knowledge online. Here are some resources to help students understand how search engines work, learn how to filter results, and how to choose a search engine for their needs.

  • Learning how to Search:
    • Bing’s videos about basic terms and functionalities:
    • The Key to Keywords (a lesson from CommonSense)
    • MindShift– An article about building good search skills and the hallmarks of a good online search education
    • Google – Teach your students how to search better using Google-made lesson plans- from beginner to advanced. Make sure to check out the webinar archives for more content.
    • Google Search Education– Google-Made lesson plans on a variety of topics: Picking the right search terms, Understanding search results, Narrowing a search to get the best results, Searching for evidence for research tasks, and Evaluating credibility of sources. Check out the Live Trainings as well!
  • Choosing an appropriate search engine:
    • LifeHacker– Knowing who to ask and when… 10 different search engines that give 10 different types of results
    • FindingDulcinea: Search engine with tested results (and why it’s better):
    • Don’t forget to ask your school librarians about your school’s subscriptions to databases (WebPath, EbscoHost, etc.) for tested and age-appropriate materials.

Standard 3b.

Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources. 

facebookgoogle-searchslateSnopes CommonSense  Harvard Library UWisconsin  Schrock Juniata

Research does not end with locating information. It is important for students to be able to predict which source would provide them with more reliable information, why different websites hold certain perspectives, what information makes sense, and how to make sure the information they receive is accurate. In short, students need to learn how to properly evaluate their sources.

Evaluating information sources is becoming more difficult, with Fake News becoming a hot topic recently. These made-up stories created to mislead readers in issues relating to many important topics, brought Facebook to shutting down 30,000 fake news websites in France ahead of the presidential elections. Many websites, like Google or Slate are now offering their version of fact-checking services. Snopes is another site dedicated to exposing urban myths and legends.

Here are some resources for teachers to use with their students in order to improve their ability to evaluate sources:

  • CommonSense’s News and Media Literacy toolkit is a great teacher resource. Divided into 4 different grade levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12), these toolkits has lesson plans, interactive videos, student take-home activities, parent involvement materials, and more.
  • Harvard– An excellent resource for background information, links, and tools. There’s a great infographic you could use as well.
  • University of Wisconsin– 6 simple ways to tell if a website if credible
  • Kathy Schrock’s website has plenty of resources for critical evaluation skills- for different aged students to evaluating iPad apps, field trips, digital stories, online videos, and more!
  •– you can use the CRAAP tool to evaluate sources
  • Real or not? Use TeachByte’s 10 hoax websites to teach students how to evaluate resources. This is a great tool you can use with your students to better evaluate websites. Have them research the incredible Dog Island, decide if they should visit The Republic of Molossia, or help save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. If nothing else, your students will feel pretty silly for believing what they read…


Standard 3c.

Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions. 

zeef  Only2Clicks  Symbaloo Diigo goodreads libib  twitter   BagTheWeb  seesawmaharawikispaces  PBWiki PaperLigoogle-sitesSoundTrapiTunesU

This sub-standard focuses on students’ resourcefulness and creativity. Students choose digital tools to display a collection of works, or that would make it easier for them to access information. Either way, these collections are supposed to be means to an end, because the purpose of this curation is to show the connections they made and the understanding they arrived at.

It is important to note the difference between curation and collections. Collections are a group of things that may or may not share something in common. Curation is more than that- it requires conscious thought and effort because curated artifacts are collected, and organized to tell a story or highlight something. So let’s look at tools that support students in the collection of artifacts to display (as a resource), and tools that allow students to dig deeper and tell a story:

Collection Tools:

  • Resource: Zeef– Robin Good’s collection of lists of absolutely everything you can think of- from marketing to newsletters to fashion to recommended curators around the web!
  • Only2Clicks and Symbaloo– Two of my favorite teacher tools I have been using to curate resources for my students (and colleagues). Only2Clicks allows users to create tabs with different resources in each. There is a preview window, title and it is possible to add notes to describe each resource. Symbaloo works in similar way, but all resources are organized on one page, and you can customize the icons and “brick” colors to differentiate topics and themes.
  • Diigo– Diigo is a great website for students to collect resources, annotate them, organize and share them with others. They can bookmark sites, organize them according to tags, and build a personal library. There are convenient tools to quickly add resources onto the library (such as Chrome extensions)
  • GoodReads– Like other book curation sites (such as BooknShelf), GoodReads allows users to create an account and build a bookshelf. They can then share their books and browse other users’ bookshelves. I chose to to feature this one because of its immense collection of books (it recently bought Shelfari and is owned by…)
  • Libib– (free with a paid option) This site (and app!) allows users to create and share multiple collections of books, movies, and video games, and lets you annotate/tag
  • Twitter Lists: Students can create their own lists of Twitter chat accounts. This is a way to group and filter results for easier browsing.
  • Tweetdeck: Another Twitter tool, this is a dashboard of sorts- Students can build and organize collections, keep track of users, lists, and activities, create custom searches, and even manage multiple accounts.

Curation Tools:

  • Resource: CoolToolsForSchool blog has a fantastic entry on curation- what it is, what it looks like, what tools are available, and much much more!
  • BagTheWeb– A healthy list of curation tools and an overview into what each is and what you could do with it.
  • ePortfolios: ePortfolios tell (or should…) our story in a digital form. We share important artifacts that can be seen as milestones in our journey, and reflect on their importance. The following are four different ePortfolio options I shared in a previous blog entry about ISTE Standard 1: Empowered Learner):
    • Seesaw– This is a simple ePortfolio option for young learners. It allows students to easily show their work using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. They can then reflect on their work using text, audio or drawing. The teacher interface allows teachers (and parents) to access and monitor student work.
    • Google Slides– This is another child-friendly ePortfolio option. Google Slides allows your students to embed a variety of file formats from their Drive folder- documents, images, drawings, animations and videos, and add text to them to show their learning. In my classroom, I make sure students create a Table of Contents slide whenever they use Google Slides and hyperlink the text or images to other slides in the presentation.
    • Google Sites– I have been using the old Google Sites as my own website and ePortfolio for several years now. Although it was not the most intuitive tool, it did provide great options and I was able to embed documents, images, presentations, etc. from my Drive. However, soon, the old version will become obsolete, and the new Google Sites will be the only option. Albeit simpler interface, it does little of what that old Sites can do. This being said, integration with Drive is fantastic, and it is really easy to embed student work and insert text to explain it. Two problems with it though- you cannot (yet?!) create templates for students to use, and images randomly turn sideways… (to get around it we paste them on a Google Doc or Slide and embed it on the portfolio page).
    • Mahara– Mahara is an open source software used by many secondary schools and universities around the world to document and store student work. Although by no means simple to navigate through, it does offer many higher-level options for users, since it is not “just” an ePortfolio platform. You can create network of friends, use open-source coding, and more. It is also highly customizable at the institution level, so it can do pretty much anything you’d like. Lastly, it has excellent integration with Moodle, and many plugins continue to be developed to make it even simpler to use together.
  • Wikis– What if all students in our schools participated in the creation of a school website that has information about anything related to the school (potential for a countless number of topics, I know…)? WikiSpaces and PBWiki are two websites that allow you to do just that, and more…
  •– Curating links from articles, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Students can use this free service to collect information about a research topic, or to display their work in an interesting style.
  • SoundtrapSoundTrap (for Education) is a collaborative tool that allows users to create music and podcasts online. Within the platform, students can collaborate via embedded video-conferencing with classrooms around the world. Teachers can guide global learning teams by creating group assignments that encourage expression, creativity, communication, and cooperation. Digital artifacts can be stored and shared with global audiences following completion.
  • iTunes U– This link will take you to Apple’s podcast for educators (free). This 25-lesson podcast will guide you through the whats and hows and what-ifs, so you can start your own institution’s iTunes U account. iTunes U is basically a gigantic digital library of educational institutions’ self-published materials. Freshly brewed is Apple’s iPad integration app, which is a mini-LMS that allows you to assign iTunes U content and check work, assign grades, have group and private discussions with students, etc.

Standard 3d.

Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

DesignLearningBIE  Newsela  sciencenewsforstudents CNN10 ClassroomInc pinterestgoogle-search  zeef  YouVisit

How many times have you heard a students asking, rightfully so, questions like “Why are we learning this?” or “What’s the point of learning that?” Well, in order to prepare students for the “real” world and for life after school, we should make sure we explain the real life application to everything we ask them to know. This would increase motivation and understanding, and would create the kind of students who are ready to think critically, come up with ideas and theories, and ultimately solve problems.

This standard focuses exactly on these skills. Here are some ideas we could use in our classrooms to develop these kinds of thinkers and problem-solvers:

  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)- PBLs are “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge” (
    •– The Buck Institute for Education website is a fantastic resource to learn about what PBLs are, how and why they are/should be used, and basically everything else a teacher would need to learn about, and implement it in any classroom. Make sure to check out the Resource section to read, watch and interact about all-things-PBL!
    • DesignLearning– This website is dedicated to engaging students and educators in creative problem-solving teaching and learning best practices. Students follow the Design Learning Process.
  • Current Events- Exploring real world issues through the media is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to engage students in exploring the world around them, even if many issues might be too complicated to solve. Here are some news websites you could use with your students:
    • Newsela– A real gem, Newsela features a growing collection of news articles in a variety of topics. Each article is adapted to 3-4 different levels with corresponding writing assignments and quizzes so teachers can truly differentiate their Language Arts curriculum. The Pro version allows teachers to keep track of their students’ quiz scores, to push articles to their students, and more.
    • ScienceNewsForStudents– This excellent website features stories about recent research and current events (related to STEM). Stories are grouped according to topics and sub-topics, and there are many important educator features such as a readability level for each article, power words, further readings, and more. A Chemistry colleague of mine swears by this website. Highly recommended!
    • CNN10– (Formerly “CNN Student News”) World news, simply explained, in 10 minutes. This is a great way to get students (from ES up to HS) aware of what is happening around the world, and begin discussions into the state of our world. Past editions are easily accessible.
  • Educational Simulations- Professionals in a variety of fields have been using simulations (“imitations”) to train people for decades. Simulations in the education field is a relatively new phenomenon that grew with the development of the digital world. Some simulations, especially those experiences which would be difficult to impossible to do in real life, require different technologies, while others can be classroom activities that simulate certain experiences.
    • Carleton College’s Science Education Resource Center maintains an excellent website dedicated to simulations and their use in (higher) education,
    • Here are some websites with simulation resources:
      • WeAreTeachers– 10 interactive science simulations
      • TechTrekers– A variety of Math-related simulation ideas for the classroom
      • ClassroomInc– Several online simulations for different workplace settings (a publishing company, a bank, a clinic, and more)
      • Pinterest– Social Studies simulations. Pinterest is another place to find plenty of simulations.
  • Virtual Reality- There is a variety of virtual reality categories, including ones that require equipment (“wearables”). Currently, the cheapest was to create a VR is Google’s Cardboard.
    • General resources:
      • Zeef– This is a collection of a variety of VR-related information and activities
      • TES– Google’s partnership with TES to address the UK curriculum resulted in a great collection of VR lessons!
      • Gear- Microsoft, Google, and a comparison of the best VR headsets for 2017.
    • Virtual Tours:
      • Google Expeditions– Google’s
      • YouVisit– A variety of VR tours to museums, cities, sites, sporting events, and much more! You can even create your own virtual tour.
      • OpenUniversities– 100 virtual trips you don’t want to miss- cities, landmarks, museums, college campuses, how things are made, and more.



Students as Knowledge Constructors. I hope this blog entry provides you with some high quality resources to use in your classroom or at home. As always, if you have any other ideas for good resources, any corrections for what I wrote, etc. please leave a comment below.

Next one up, ISTE 2016 Standard for Students #4, Innovative Designer!

Gamifying Assessments- The Easy Way

During a recent team meeting we discussed students’ lack of excitement about both existing formative and summative math assessments (which we now call “Celebrations”- because who doesn’t like to have a party?!)

Thinking critically about what we can do to increase student motivation and involvement, the answer came immediately to me- Make it a game! I looked back at an earlier blog post  I wrote while attending Boise State’s Master’s in Educational Technology, which dealt with, and highlighted the benefits of gamifying our classrooms- “games make us feel good, motivated, inspired to collaborate and cooperate, feel like this is the best version of ourselves, and help us find the motivation and courage to get up and confront obstacles.” I decided to share this idea with the team, and show them how the use of technology is not really reinventing the wheel, but rather it can take an existing activity and with a few simple technological innovations and creativity, make it unique and engaging.

So… How did I do this? Here are the eight steps you need to go through in order to gamify an assessment (or pretty much any other activity…):

  1. Figure out what you want to assess
  2. Categorize the different topics/skills, so that later you will be able to create challenges
  3. Under each category, come up with a number of challenges.
  4. Choose an interesting game theme
  5. Come up with a backstory (an interesting one!!!)
  6. Create a reward system and a set of badges
  7. Create the specific challenges
  8. Create a record sheet and print the badges

Here is a more detailed explanation with a concrete example:

1. Figure out what you want to assess

This is a simple one. What is the skill (or preferably set of skills) you have already planned to asses that you would like to improve? We wanted to assess pure computational skills, so we decided to assess students’ understanding of the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions).

2. Categorize the different topics/skills, so that later you will be able to create challenges

The four skills we decided to use are a good starting point because we will later come up with specific sub-skills under each area.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.59.34 PM

3. Under each category, come up with a number of challenges.

You can decide to organize the challenges in a descending order according to difficulty, according to theme/sub-topic, or to just create a list of  challenges without any particular order. Keep in mind that some adventures require team work, which could require its own category. You could even create a different set of (both individual and team) challenges for different roles within a chosen topic (such as challenges for the team’s “Engineer”, ” Builder”, “Scholar”, etc.) I decided to keep it simple and organize the skills according to topic and difficulty levels. This is what the challenge hierarchy looks like (ignore the ninja theme. We’ll visit it later):

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.59.54 PM

4. Choose an interesting game theme

In my class, we play a fun game called “Ninja”, where students try to “tag” each other, and at the same time they learn about becoming more mindful, attentive, resourceful, patient, and creative. So the decision to come up with a Ninja theme for this gamified assessment was not random…

Ideas for game themes would sometimes depend on the subject you wish to gamify. You can consider anything like “Conquer the World”, “Are you smarter than Einstein?”, “Become a skilled pilot” and more. Start with thinking about what your students are interested in.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.59.02 PM

5. Come up with a backstory (an interesting one!!!)

Choosing the Ninja theme had forced me to do a bit of research into the history, culture, weapons and moves used, and to find a specific historical event that would lure my students into the world of the Ninja…

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.16.37 PM  Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.16.53 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.17.05 PM

6. Create a reward system and a set of badges

I decided to force students to work through all 4 operations, and to pass challenges in all levels before they attempt the ultimate duel with Lord Rokkaku. So if they don’t win at least one badge per level, they are not allowed to challenge the Lord. If they fail the challenge, they need to go back and collect a second badge by winning all challenges in a particular level.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.00.26 PM

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.00.11 PMNeed badge-making resources/ideas?

7. Create the challenges

Initially I was thinking about creating our own task cards, like this one:

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.41.27 PM

But then I decided to use a resource I have already been using, which is a set of ready-made Fractions task cards. I chose two cards for each of the levels, so that when students are ready for the challenge, I can pull them quickly. Please note that you do not necessarily need to create task cards. Some activities, like this Gamified Field Trip I put together, could be done using technology.

Another resource

8. Create a record sheet and print the badges

How are students going to receive their badges? Where are they going to store them so they (and you) can keep track of the great work they have been doing? I created mine on Google Docs

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.58.58 PM
Student Track Sheet
Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.52.21 PM
Badges to print and cut











And… You’re done!

Here are the resources I created for this project:

  • Google Slides of the game, rules, badges, etc.
  • Google Doc of the ideas for challenges (and some free to use ninja images)
  • Google Doc of the student track sheet and teacher badges

*** Feel free to use as is or modify any of these resources!

And here are some more professional books you may wish to look into/ purchase:

  • The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education (First Edition) by Karl M. Kapp.
  • The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon.
  • Digital Game-Based Learning (First Edition) by Marc Prensky.



Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students: Digital Citizen


ISTE Standards- 2- Digital Citizen

In this blog post, I discuss and provide tools and ideas for classroom implementation of the second standard for students, “Digital Citizen”. If you would like to read the blog post for the first standard (Empowered Learner), click here. For more background information about the new standards, read my blog post “Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students (1 of 8)”.

***Please be aware that I do not pretend to be an expert on the new ISTE Standards. This blog post series was initiated as a “project” for me to learn and understand these standards, so that I can provide better instruction to my students. If you have any comments, questions, corrections or suggestions, please do not hesitate to share them in the comment section.

If you would like to read some of the documentation created by ISTE to explain and support educators in the adoption and practice of these new standards, here and here you will be able to find useful information

 Standard 2: Digital Citizen

Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

This standard focuses on helping students understand the digital world and their role within it, both as individuals and as members of digital communities. It goes further to emphasize the importance of their safe, legal and ethical awareness and participation in this world.

Before I break down this standard into its objectives, I think it is very important for every educator to be familiar with the CommonSense Media Education. This is your one-stop shop for everything! This comprehensive site has a wealth of information and resources about everything related to digital literacy & citizenship, website reviews, a complete K-12 scope and sequence documents with fantastic engaging and interactive lessons, and much much more.

 Standard 2a.

Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.

NoBullying CommonSense  internetsafety101 edmodo  todaysmeet flickr facebook  g  wikispaces  twitter google-searchTEDsnapchatpinteresttunblrCNetbing

How do we get students to understand what their “digital identity” is? That what they show or post online is a reflection of who they are? That they can, and should, take advantage of the exciting opportunities and possibilities that come with a “connected world”- a world where people half way around the world can view and listen to each other’s experiences when they actually happen? That the more they actively participate in this expanding digital universe, the more exposed they are to potential dangers, and that their online behavior may result in seriously offending or hurting others, and even themselves if they are not aware of the “rules of the game” and are making careful choices?

Digital Identities and Reputation

Most students’ digital identities already exist- whether if they have been using e-mail, participated in an online discussion, or submitted class assignments in a digital form (even within a “walled garden” environment, such as a school’s Google Apps). Digital identities may also exist independently of students’ behavior, for example when families share information about them in the digital world- baby photos, vacation destinations, etc. It is important for us to ensure they understand this simple fact, and that they do their best to maintain a positive identity in cyberspace.

A good place to start educating students about digital identities and their reputation would be through sharing with them other people’s personal stories, so they get a chance to learn from the types of behaviors that may lead to unfortunate experiences:

It would also be a good idea to make sure students understand key definitions related to the digital world, such as HTTP/HTTPS websites, what “malware”, “cache page”, “cookies”, a VPN, and private/anonymous browsing are (and that pages can be traced back…). You can go here and here to find more Web-related terms and their definitions.

Once students understand what’s at stake, it is important to go further and discuss and explain to them how to communicate appropriately online, and to give them opportunities to practice within a variety of closed online environments, so that once they are communicating online on their own, they already know how and why to present themselves in a mature and respectful way.

Here are some walled garden (closed platform) environments you could use to give students the stage to communicate, model acceptable communication, and provide them with constructive feedback when needed:

  • Edmodo– This evolving educational social network is the answer to Facebook’s age restriction. Here you have the oversight they need to ensure students communicate effectively. Create groups and invite students’ parents, assign work and quizzes, post discussion groups, award badges, and much much more. If you decide to go for it, don’t forget to look at all the plugins developers keep creating. Finally, there is a very active and supportive online community if you have any questions!
  • TodaysMeet– A backchannel chat room that allows teachers to invite students to invite-only chat rooms, monitor conversations, mute students, and more.
  • Flickr– Create a private class group to share images and videos, and have students communicate with, and express each other. Read TeachThought’s article about ways to use Flickr in education.
  • Facebook Secret groups– Create an unlisted group for your students and have them collaborate, share information, and study together, with you moderating content and discussions and without anyone else knowing about it.
  • Google+ Communities– Create your own private class community and take advantage of all the other integrated Google tools. Here is an excellent slideshow about how to use G+ in (higher) education, and here is one for a more general audience.
  • Wikispaces Classroom– This is an excellent social writing platform educators can use to have their students work on their writing both individually and in teams. Includes a news feed, wiki pages, projects, and more.
  • Twitter– Create a class account and get involved with the world all together. You can discuss what students want to express, look at or share information together, and moderate it before you are posting.

The Permanence of Actions

As children’s cognitive and metacognitive abilities develop and they are able to see beyond the immediate scope of their feelings or actions, they also acquire the ability to understand the concepts of “short-term” and “long-term”. It is our role as educators and parents to help the next generation understand that what everyone does has consequences, just like the unfortunate stories mentioned above. Teaching students to “think before you click” or to never post anything online when they are upset, can help prevent some issues, but it is important for students to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet’s “permanent nature” and what can be done about it.

  • The Mind Reader– Especially with older students, this incredible video can have a strong impact, provoke interesting discussions, and hopefully some behavior changes. I’m not going to write more about it because you MUST watch it!
  • Search Yourself! (That’s what your friends, and potential mates and employers are already doing…)- Experiencing firsthand what their (and their families’) existing digital identity (on the most basic level) is would be a good start. Have students search their name, eMail addresses, and favorite online name (when used in online forums, discussion groups, etc.) and report what others can find out about them. This is a great “detective” activity, which can be quite enlightening. A personal example is that years after posting my son’s baby videos on YouTube I decided to change the privacy settings. When I googled my personal information, I found that several other sites copied and published those same videos, making it seem like I posted them there as well… Since I never signed up with any of these video-hosting websites (spam?!) I did not have accounts, and so could not manually delete them.
  • How information spreads– (for teenagers) the YouTube channel has good videos about being aware and smart on the web. This one is about thinking before letting a rumor become widespread and permanent.
  • TED– Juan Enriquez’s short TED Talk about electronic tattoos and immortality. A great talk to view, discuss and contemplate how it applies in our students’ lives.
  • Check your social networking sites’ account settings: Google, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
  • CommonSense Media– Excellent lessons about our digital footprint (grades 6-9)
  • CNet– How to delete yourself from the Internet. OK, we don’t need to get radical, but there’s a lot we can learn about our digital identity from this article and video.

Finally, did you know you can request Google and Bing to remove certain information about you?

Standard 2b.

Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.

TeachThought ISTE CommonSense  GCFLearnFree  brainpopjr MediaSmarts  WellCast YouTubeNationalGeoKids wikipedia

This objective is very straightforward, but its interpretation and application might cover more grey areas. As educators, we must ensure we equip our students with the knowledge and skills that would allow them to evaluate their actions and findings, and take appropriate steps to prevent and manage potential dangers and violations. Here are some tools you could use to provide your students with these understandings and evaluative skills:

  • Maintaining a positive image online:
    • TeachThought– An excellent article with tips on how students can manage their digital footprint.
    • ISTE– (free) Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity is a guide/report that “outlines expectations, essential questions, and steps educators can take to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive as responsible digital citizens”.
    • CommonSense posters– These posters are neat-looking and thought-provoking. Post some in the classroom, hallways, or in the media lab/library!
  • Learning about potential dangers online:
    • BrainPopJr.- An introductory video (with activities) about internet safety.
    • Internet Safety for K-3 students– A simple video to teach young students basic information about what the internet is and how to stay safe.
    • MediaSmarts’s online Privacy Playground game (with quiz) for kids- teaches young students about what to share and what not to.
    • Bad Behavior Online: Trolling and Free Speech is an informing video for teachers that would be good to share with students.
    • GCFLearnFree– Excellent tutorials for middle-schoolers through adults about staying safe online, protecting your online privacy, and other topics. I also like this introduction page about teaching kids about internet safety.
    • CommonSense– A video search for online safety- privacy, trolling, texting tips for parents, social media rules for teens and tweens, and more (all ages).
    • WatchWellCast– A simple-to-understand video with four tips on how to stay safe while surfing the Net (digital permanence, personal information online, phone safety and what to do when hacked).
    • WebQuests– WebQuests are a great way to get kids to learn about internet safety through a self-paced exploration journey in which they read, listen to, and view information about different topics, and answer questions to show their understanding. Here are a couple of WebQuests you could use with your students, but since I could not find high quality Internet safety-related WebQuests, I would recommend you create your own (you can use this or this website for templates, or create one using Google Forms):
      • Keeping Safe Online– Covers information about online safety, cyberbullying, and privacy, and includes a short final project.
      • Middle School Internet Safety– In this WebQuest (more of a jigsaw-type activity) there are four “characters”, each researching one topic (cyberbullying, netiquette, social networking, and chat rooms), and then create an individual PPT and a group poster.
      • Facebook- A Blessing or a Curse– This WebQuest asks students to research about the social networking world and Facebook in particular, look into the pros and cons, and write up a persuasive essay to share their learning and position.
  • Legal and ethical behavior:
    • The Truth about Truman School is a thought-provoking book for middle- and high- schoolers to learn about building websites, cyberbullying, good intentions turning bad, and the dangers and consequences of sharing sensitive information online (please note: LGBT content).
    • Social networking communities’ guidelines: Public Domain, YouTube, Twitter, SnapChat, and Facebook. You could discuss with students being a part of a community- What a community is, what rules and expectations we should have of its members, what we should not do, what to do when we come across content that violates the agreements, etc. You can use this site to view different social networking sites’ guidelines to ensure students are aware, safe, and playing according to the rules.
    • Privacy Policies: You can review commonly used social networking platforms’ privacy policies (Edmodo, SnapChat, Facebook, National Geographic Kids), or view/discuss the evaluation of privacy policies for many sites done for you by CommonSense.
    • Wikipedia: An extensive article about privacy concerns with social networking services that includes pretty much everything about online privacy and dangers associated with it.
    • Microsoft’s Digital Civility Index is the results of a research conducted into youth and adults’ civility and safety online. You can use this research analysis document to discuss different threats and consequences people experience worldwide.

!!!  One very important aspect of this objective, especially for international students, is the fact that laws are different in different countries. What is acceptable/allowed in one country (for example, what’s allowed in India might not be OK in Spain), so always make sure you and your students are aware and are in compliance with international and local laws.

Standard 2c.

Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

WIPOTED CommonSense CopyRightKids plagiarism CreativeCommons YouTubetwitter  ShutterStock  teachingcopyright  EducationWorld  edutopia  TES  Pexels  EasyBib   CitationMachine    zotero

It is one thing to understand that if we use someone else’s work, we should give them credit for their hard work and ingenuity. It’s quite another to get students to both understand when and how to do it, as well as to actually do it… And we, teachers, sometimes forget as well…

The WHATs (information)

The HOWs (teaching resources)

  • Idea- Jigsaw activity: Read copyright agreements to various social networking sites, such as YouTube, Twitter, ShutterStock, have them discuss what they are, what was obvious and what was surprising, and have them share their findings with each other.
  • TeachingCopyright has some great curriculum to teach about many different copyright-related topics (grades 9-12).
  • CommonSense’s K-12 Scope and Sequence is, again, an excellent resource for all digital citizenship topics
  • Education World’s The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use
  • Edutopia’s Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators (includes a great video playlist and many teaching resources)
  • Computing: Re-using images on Websites– A great unit about searching and using Creative Commons (CC) licensed images (free with log-in)
  • Searching for free-to-reuse media:
  • Citation resources:
    • EasyBib: create citations in MLA, APA and Chicago/Turabian styles, a works cited list and in-text citations
    • Citation Machine: cite sources using many different styles by plugging into a formula the information you have. The cite also has a plagiarism checker and writing resources.
    • Zotero: A plugin that allows you to collect, organize, cite, and share research sources. Easily create footnotes, endnotes, in-text citations, or bibliographies, and export them into Word and OpenOffice.
    • Need even more? Here is Smart.Study’s blog on 25 best free citation generators

Standard 2d.

Students manage their personal data to maintain digital privacy and security and are aware of data-collection technology used to track their navigation online.

codeStaySafeOnlineCommonSense  KeePassLastPass TOR HideMeGhosteryAdBlock HTTPS Everywhere Abine PayPal  AliBaba ThunderBird  spideroak Avast  AVG  Kaspersky   BitDefender  lifehacker

Being aware of the threats of being a part of the digital world is required in order for students to be able to protect themselves against such dangers that may result in disclosure of their privacy, loss of money or jobs, or the malfunctioning of their devices. Understanding how the data they share can be used against them would hopefully encourage them to be more conscious of their actions and make better choices when they are engaging online.

Managing personal data for Privacy and Security

Before students learn how to manage data for privacy and security, it would be a good idea to ensure they understand how the internet works, so that they have a better understanding of the big picture. The following three links should cover the topic.

  • How the Internet Works– (video) A step by step explanation of how information travels back and forth
  • What is “The Internet”– a playlist of seven videos from that will teach your students (and you) everything about what the Internet is, what different parts are, how it works, privacy and security, and more.
  • The Internet- How It Works– A video explanation for lower ES students.

Teaching ideas:

  •– The Internet. A lesson on how the internet works through getting students to “flow through the internet” while learning about about Internet connections, URLs, IP Addresses, and the DNS.
  • StaySafeOnline’s C-Save curriculum offers excellent complete resources to teach about cybersecurity, cybersafety, and cyberethics.
  • CommonSense– An excellent lesson called ‘Does it Matter Who Has Your Data?’ (grades 9-12)

Staying private and secured:

  • Lesson Idea: generate a student list of what they do to keep their privacy online, use the resources below to find out if they are leaving out anything, and self score, create posters to share, surveys for other students, or write a manifesto of what they’ll do to keep themselves safe and private online.
  • Google’s Get Off to a Safe Start page offers great tips and tricks to stay safe, such as keeping your device clean, tips on online shopping, using secure passwords, and more.
  • How third party cookies work- The Guardian and Imagine Easy Solutions (videos)
  • StaySafeOnline has a nice list of how to stay safe online while using social network sites


Data-collection technology

Understanding why companies would want to collect information about us, what information they collect (theory vs. reality), and how they collect the information is extremely important. The resources below would help students understand how the data-collection industry works, and equip them with some information about the net neutrality debate.

  • Boston Globe: Should ISPs be able to store our data and sell it as they like?
  • CommonSense Media: A very good lesson called ‘Does it Matter Who Has Your Data?’ (grades 9-12)
  • BayNote: Use this infographic to discuss with your students how big companies use the data they collect
  • LifeHacker: Why would health apps sell your data? (text)
  • Forbes: How Target figured out a girl was pregnant before her father did (text)
  • Business Insider: Net Neutrality for Dummies
  • DogoNews: An even simpler way to look at Net Neutrality

That’s it. As time passes and we use more and more technology in our lives, the meaning of “digital citizenship” and the issues of privacy and security will continue to evolve and play a major role in how we make decisions and what we teach our students. I hope this blog entry provides you with some high quality resources to use in your classroom or at home. As always, if you have any other ideas for good resources, any corrections for what I wrote, etc. please leave a comment below.

Next one up, ISTE 2016 standard for students #3, Knowledge Constructor. It’ll take a while though… Stay tuned!

Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students: Empowered Learner


ISTE Standards- 1- Empowered Learner

In this blog post, I discuss and provide tools and ideas for the first standard for students, “Empowered Learner”. Future blog posts will include appropriate tools for the other six standards. If you would like to get some background information about the new standards, please read my previous blog post “Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students (1 of 8)”

***Please be aware that I do not pretend to be an expert on the new ISTE Standards. This blog post series was initiated as a “project” for me to learn and understand these standards, so that I can provide better instruction to my students. If you have any comments, questions, corrections or suggestions, please do not hesitate to share them in the comment section.

If you would like to read some of the documentation created by ISTE to explain and support educators in the adoption and practice of these new standards, here and here you will be able to find useful information

Standard 1: Empowered Learner

Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

This first standard captures the essence of the new set of standards updated in 2016. Throughout the refresh process, the theme of empowered learners surfaced repeatedly. Empowering students in our classrooms provides many present and future benefits. To quote the Redefining Learning in a Technology Driven World report, “[Empowered students]… do better in inequality of access situations, are able to personalize their learning and achieve regardless of ability and build dispositional skills, such as executive functioning, perseverance, self-awareness and tolerance for ambiguity, that many believe are necessary to thrive in current and future society.”

Let’s dive into the tools and activities educators could use to support and empower their students both in and out of the classroom. I decided to break down the standards further (into their specific objectives), so that it provides a clearer understanding of each, and will be easier when educators look for a specific one to work on.

Standard 1a.

Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.

lifetick goalsontrack  joes-goals  accelerated-reader

seesawgoogle-slidesgoogle-sites maharaexplaineverythingadobe-spark

Setting Goals and Keeping Track of Them

LifeTick– This is my favorite goal tracking site. The school version is not free (30-day trial), but is totally worth it. It helps students learn about SMART goals, there is a journal integration (with categories and sub-categories), a progress visualization tool, and more. The interface is simple yet very customizable. Teachers can interact with their students by sending instant messages and leaving comments.

GoalsOnTrack– Create SMART goals, break them down into manageable chunks, and come up with measurable results. Keep track of them daily while online or offline, create a to-do list, track how long tasks take you, print out daily planners, and even visualize your success by uploading your image and watching yourself celebrate! There’s a lot to do to set up, but it’s an ongoing and engaging site. The app supports all major mobile platforms. There is no option for teacher oversight, so students will need to be more independent to keep track of their goals, and screenshoot/print them as evidence.

Joe’s Goals– This is an extremely simple (one page) goal tracking site Joe made for himself and now we can use it too. Students can simply create an account, type their goals, track them daily, and work to achieve them. There is no option for teacher oversight on this app as well.

Accelerated Reader– (Paid) This is a reading management program that aims to encourage independent reading habits. Students read books, take a quiz on each book, and together with their teacher can set goals and reflect on their progress. Teachers can assign reading levels and goals and modify them, view the quizzes taken and delete them, and more. Here is a study about the program’s effectiveness.

Reflection Tools

One excellent tool to set goals, achieve them and reflect on them is the creation and maintenance of an ePortfolio. There are several excellent free tools to create student ePortfolios, varying in appearance, difficulty level, and control/sharing option.

Seesaw– This is a simple ePortfolio option for little ones. It allows students to easily show their work using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. They can then reflect on their work using text, audio or drawing. The teacher interface allows teachers (and parents) to access and monitor student work.

Google Slides– This is another child-friendly ePortfolio option, which works best if your school has access to the G-Suite (formerly GAFE- Google Apps for Education). Google Slides allows your students to embed a variety of file formats from their Drive folder- documents, images, drawings, animations and videos, and add text to them to show their learning. In my classroom, I make sure students create a Table of Contents whenever they use Google Slides and hyperlink the text or images to other slides in the presentation.

Google Sites– I have been using the old Google Sites as my own website and ePortfolio for several years. Although it was not the most intuitive tool, it did provide great options and I was able to embed documents, images, presentations, etc. from my Drive. However, soon, the old version will become obsolete, and the new Google Sites will be the only option. Albeit simpler interface, it does little of what that old Sites can do. This being said, integration with Drive is fantastic, and it is really easy to embed student work and insert text to explain it. Two problems with it though- you cannot (yet?!) create templates for students to use, and images randomly turn sideways… (to get around it we paste them on a Google Doc or Slide and embed it on the portfolio page).

Mahara– Mahara is an open source software used by many secondary schools and universities around the world to document and store their students’ work. Although by no means simple to navigate through, it does offer many higher-level options for users, since it is not “just” an ePortfolio platform. You can create network of friends, use open-source coding, and more. It is also highly customizable at the institution level, so it can do pretty much anything you’d like. Lastly, it has excellent integration with Moodle, and many plugins continue to be developed to make it even simpler to use together.

Other ideas/tools for reflection:

Video reflections- Have students respond to prompts while recording themselves speaking or demonstrating their understanding. For video reflections all you need is a video camera, but here are some tools to upgrade the experience…:

Explain everything– this iOS app is a fantastic tool to demonstrate understanding. It is basically an interactive whiteboard you can screencast (both audio and video). Students create their canvas (texts, images, shapes, audio, video, documents, etc.) and record their understanding and/or reflections, and at the same time rotating text, flipping it, and animating it. My 5th grade students love it!

Adobe Spark– Make your stories come to life! This is a great tool to create all kinds of high quality visual content. It works all the way from younger students to adult professionals. There are three options to choose from:

  • Spark Post- add text and filters to images; annotation of work in progress
  • Spark Page- create online stories by turning images and text into magazine style communication tools
  • Spark Video- record voice, add images, icons and soundtrack

Here are some more journaling apps to choose from (from AppAdvice).


Standard 1b.

build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.


Building networks

Providing students with opportunities to create networks and extend their learning beyond the classroom (or their country) is an important task. Although most students with access to tools and internet access do so by taking part in internet-based multi-player games, or keeping in touch with friends using Skype, Facebook, or Instagram, these environments focus on the social aspect rather than the academic one, where they utilized these connections to extend their learning.

Below are several tools, which can be used in classrooms, to help students learn about networks and communities, and utilize existing tools create and maintain them:

Twitter– A great way to tell the world what our class is doing and to connect with other classes, groups, or individuals that could contribute to the class’s learning. It also works great when students want to learn about particular topics or want to ask the community questions.

Edmodo– With over 75 million users, this evolving educational social network is the answer to Facebook’s age restriction. This is a walled garden (closed online social environment), and teachers have the oversight they need to ensure students communicate effectively. Teachers can create groups and invite students’ parents, assign work and quizzes, post discussion groups, award badges, and much much more. If you decide to go for it, don’t forget to look at all the plugins developers keep creating. Finally, there is a very active and supportive online community if you have any questions!

Facebook– Creating groups (or secret groups…) is a great way for teachers and students to communicate and learn about other communities and individuals. Different educators and parents feel differently about Facebook, but here is one educator’s experience and views on Facebook and Education.

Skype in the Classroom– This growing educational network is a fabulous way for students to connect with other classrooms, places and experts around the world. The experiences are divided into 5 parts:

  • Virtual field trips– take your students anywhere without leaving the classroom!
  • Skype lessons– Looking for an interesting lesson about biomes? Aliens? Hook up with other educators and browse the extensive list of lessons created by fellow educators and curated by Skype.
  • Skype collaborations– Teaching a unit about architecture? Connect with other educators around the world and collaborate to learn about how similar and different architecture is in different parts of the world.
  • Mystery skype– A fun activity where students in one part of the world meet another group and asks questions to find out where they are from. A great Social Studies lesson with a possible Language Arts connection (pen pals?)
  • Guest speakers– Learning about anything in particular? There’s someone half way across the globe who know what she is talking about! Why not have your students interview her?

Instagram– Create a class account, share different aspects of your classroom, and connect with other classrooms. Use images to connect your students to the world- create a scavenger hunt, show a class field trip, share reading recommendations, and more! Here are some more ways to use it in your classroom, and here are some hacks for educators.

Google+– (age 13+) A G+ account would allow you and your students to connect with individuals, groups, and communities across the Web. Create specific Circles for specific members (members are not required to add you to their circle even if you added them!), share resources, learn collaboratively, and more. You can also connect using Google Hangouts, but that’s a different story… Here is how to start your own G+ community.

Customizing Learning Environments

Differentiation is a buzz word these days. Educators understood that the one-size-fit-all instructional practice used in the past is not the best way to reach every student in our classroom, and so began the journey into ways we can tailor our teaching to the individual learner. Blended Learning and Flipped Classrooms are two instructional strategies we can achieve this goal as educators, so let’s examine some tools for students to customize their own learning environments.

The key to this objective is choice. Choice in what students wish to focus on (the process), or how they would like to show their understanding (the product) is extremely important. Among other benefits to it, choice increases student self-esteem, motivation and ownership, but it is important for students to know who they are as both students and humans, so that their decisions have more positive long term effect.

Khan Academy– This incredible website offers users (kindergarten to high-school) free self-paced online courses in subjects such as mathematics, science and engineering, arts and humanities, economics and finance, and even offers a variety of test preparation courses. The website allows students to choose their course, read and watch instructional videos, practice their understanding, and get assessed. Using adaptive technology, the website identifies students’ strengths and gaps, and adapts instruction to their level. Being a school-friendly website, one (or more) teachers can create classes and push a variety of content to their students, in addition to the content students choose for themselves.

EdX– A Harvard/ MIT collaboration from 2012, this website offers almost 1,000 college and university courses in subjects such as computer science, languages, engineering, psychology, writing, electronics, biology, or marketing, for free (or for a minimal fee if you want a “verified certificate”. Those who successfully complete a course receive a verified certificate, which they can use to show their university or employer they completed the course. There are courses in 12 languages

Here are some more website that offer similar courses.

Another way to approach this objective (thank you, Aaron TD!) is to examine the ways in which students set up and tweak their work environment to become more successful. Let’s look at how this could look like in the classroom:

Personalizing browsers- Knowing what your browser can do and how you can use it to your advantage is a must, if we want to be organized and get things done quicker. The great ideas Firefox or Chrome have come up with have pretty much become an industry standard- Bookmarking, pinning tabs, using add-ons (Firefox) or extensions (Chrome), adding users, finding pages we visited, setting a homepage, browsing the net privately, deleting third-party cookies, or erasing pages we visited are only a few of the options we get to customize in our browsers. Here are some tips for making Chrome, Firefox and Safari truly your own workbench.

Picking tools just for us! Although this could go under the above category, I think it deserves its own space. The tools I’m referring to are both things our tools can “innately” do for us (such as assistive technology tools) as well as the add-ons and extensions that can help us do work better- ones we can add to our browser and get access to immediately. Here are some examples:

Google Chrome:


Here are assistive technology more tools- whether Mac or PC, Android or iOS…

Learning from others– As a regular tech user, I know my sources. If I’m bored and need to build something, want to know how something works, or need to find if last night’s twitter rumor is true I know where to go. There are many tools students can use to help them in their studies, passions, or free time. Here are a few:

  • Feedly (RSS Feed)- Hear about what you want from whom you want when you want!
  • Subscribe to the blogs you like so you can learn and get enriched!
  • YouTube Channels– Finding a great teacher online can sometimes be a daunting task. Find the “teacher” you like, and subscribe to their channel.


Standard 1c.

use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

g-suite  wordpressweebly goodreads explaineverything screencastify imindq

Seeking and Utilizing Feedback

The importance of teacher and peer feedback cannot be understated. When students work and create products but do not get the opportunity to receive constructive feedback, they rarely know how to improve their work. Here are some tools that allow students to receive feedback and engage in conversations that would hopefully allow them to reflect on their work and know what and how they could create better products.

G-Suite– The collaborative nature of the Google Suite is what I like most about it. Students can very easily work with others to create products, to discuss and analyze it, and to hear what others think about their work. Allowing peers to “Comment” (rather than to only view or to be able to edit a document, presentation, etc.) is an excellent tool to give and receive feedback once students have revised and edited their own work.

Blogging (any blogging platform, such as WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, etc.)- When students share their learning and ideas with the rest of the world, it is inevitable for others to have an opinion about it. Having students create and share their blogs with peers or with the rest of the world, and making sure they get sufficient practice commenting and responding to comments would allow them to be more conscious of their authoring.

GoodReads– This and other online book depository that allow users to share their books, often also let them engage in book discussions about different topics, hence expressing opinions and giving/receiving feedback. For example, I set up a closed book discussion group for my 5th graders. I pose discussion questions, they reply to them, and then comment on each other’s thoughts, opinions, and understandings. A closed group discussion allows them to practice giving and receiving feedback before I introduce them to groups that are open to the rest of the world.

Demonstrating Learning

Explain everything– Explain Everything is a great (iOS) screencasting app that allows students to show their learning in a visual way. Creating tutorials of learned concepts (my students love creating their own multiplication tutorials!), or simply explaining how something works or how they figured out a concept.

ScreenCastify– (Chrome extension) Another great screencasting tool to allow students to show their learning through the recording the screen and adding a voice explanation. The free version allows for up to 10 minute videos, which is plenty to explain concepts (or at least create a “part one”…).

Video Recorders- Especially for more visual and active learning, videotaping is a great way to demonstrate acquisition of skills. Can students dribble a ball? Can they explain how they solve mathematical equations? Videotaping themselves (or someone videotaping them) is a great option.

iMindQ– This and other mind-mapping tools allows for students to show the ways they organize things and make connections. iMindQ is a paid software but a real powerhouse! It offers many templates to start with, it has a great integration with MS Office for flowcharts and presentations, and it is a collaborative tool. If you want to learn about more MindMapping tools, you can do so here.


Standard 1d.

understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.


Understanding How Technology Works

In order for students to understand how technology works, they often need to step away from the couch and cross to the other side- to take off the consumer shoes and get into those of the creator. Here are some resources to help students learn how technology works, both as consumers and as creators.

Tutorials- From video software tutorials on YouTube to interactive ones “on the job” (such as the Chrome Extension “G-Suite Training”), the Web is full of tools that equip users to learn how to solve their own problems. It’s no wonder YouTube is the second largest search engine (after Google, of course…). So whenever students are not sure what to do, consider directing them to Google and YouTube to find their answers.

Coding- and Hour of Code have become a commonplace in many classrooms. Whether it is coding using block-based programs like Scratch or Tynker, language-based coding like HTML5 and CSS, C, Java or Python, or coding in a Robotics Club using Lego Mindstorm– all of these options give students opportunities to develop their patience, thinking, mathematics, collaboration, and much more. This glimpse of what happens behind the scenes allows them to understand how the technologies they use every day work.

Google Search– Learning how to find what you want is a lucrative skill these days. Learning how Google Search works saves time and a lot of energy. Teachers can, and should, start educating our students from a young age what the “do not include” (-) or quotations (“”) do, and how to use the advanced search and Search Tools for each of the types of result (All, Images, Maps, Videos, etc.). Here is a Google Search for Google Search Tips and Tricks.

Choose, Use and Troubleshoot Technologies

Giving students time to use and tinker with different software and apps is the best way to get them to learn how to solve their own problems, so if you incorporate a variety of technologies in your classroom it means you’re already on the right track. This being said, in order for students to be able to troubleshoot, they will need to have the right mindset- the one of an engineer who is not afraid to try, fail, and try something else again and again until an acceptable solution is found.

Here are a few ideas and resources to help students solve their own problems:

This is a great website that encourages students’ problem solving thinking and skills.

G-Suite’s App Training– If your school is a G-Suite one, then your students would be able to take advantage of the training that’s specific to your school, so ask your administrator it that is available. The trainings are great- providing students tutorials and hands-on activities to test their understanding across the suite. If your school is not, you can still take advantage of the G-Suite Training Chrome Extension that offers simple and interactive tutorials to get you on the right track.

Transfer Knowledge (to Explore Emerging Technologies)

How can students use technology to apply what they learn in new situations and settings? Helping students become familiar with the tools they use, and giving them ample opportunities to practice and explore is the first step. Here are some ideas that would encourage students to do just that, and at the same time have fun to do and/or create what and how they like (that choice word again…):

  • Unstructured time on the computer- The best learning takes place when students are actively exploring their world. Giving students opportunities to play around can illicit some interesting and creative results. For example, when I reward my students with “free” time on the computer, they do some amazing things- trying out different customizations in Google Slides or Bitmoji, and other software, teaching each other how to actualize their ideas and plans.
  • Exposing, Modeling exploring and applying- Teaching students how to use particular tools and then exposing them to similar programs where they can apply their understanding to create better products, is an excellent way to
    • Taking Notes: Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Microsoft’s OneNote, Google Keep,
    • Research: Begin with a basic search (on Bing, Google, YouTube, etc.), and deepen their understanding using Google’s Search Tools (for images, news, videos, etc.). MS/HS students can use Google Scholar, online reference systems (like EBSCOHost), and news site feeds that collate information that are arranged by topics (such as Science Daily or Newsela).
    • Organizing information: Start with paper graphic organizers, then have students use mind-mapping software like xMind, or create their own graphic organizers using net.
    • Presenting information:
      • Posters: Progress from a paper poster to the online interactive posters like ThingLink or Glogster, or even create an infographic using the beautiful Canva.
      • Presentations: Start with PowerPoint, then move on to the collaborative Google Slides, or the more advanced Prezi.
  • Hour of Code (see links above): Learning how technologies work helps students to understand how programmers and designers build websites or games, how videos and other content are embedded, and more. These understandings and skills gives them the tools to do so themselves. For example, using the block-based coding software ‘Scratch’ builds students’ understanding of how language-based coding such as Java or HTML5/CSS work, which in turn, they can use these skills to create their own website.


That’s it… I hope you find above set of activities and tools useful when thinking about, or working with your students on, standard one, Empowered Learner.

Next one up, standard two, “Digital Citizen”. Given the fact that research and tool collection for this standard took me about 8-10 hours, it might be a while before the next one comes out. Please bear with me…

Talking Tech: The New 2016 ISTE Standards for Students

Before I get into the new standards for students and how they can be utilized in the classroom, I decided to read the comprehensive Redefining learning in a technology-driven world (2016) report written by the International Society for Technology in Education (“ISTE”) to have a better idea as to what circumstances brought about this third update.

The upcoming series of blog posts will include information about this much-needed update, and then get into the seven standards for students- unpacking them and providing readers/educators with classroom resources and activities that support implementation of each.


In this first blog post in the series, I share findings from the above-mentioned report. I hope you find it useful and continue to learn and examine the new standards with me as I examine each of them.

So why do we need new technology standards?

As technology continued to evolve, schools and educators worldwide realized that clearer guidelines were needed in order to match the learning environment in the classroom with the world outside it. In the same manner we no longer use wall maps, floppy discs, 35 mm film or cassettes (we do miss them, though!), so have schools been changing- from computer labs to laptop carts to one-to-one environments in which technology is utilized to not only substitute existing tools, but to innovate and extend learning. These changes in equipment and tools were the first part of our educational evolution, but we soon learned that having the tools does not mean we know what to do with them. It is necessary to focus on leveraging these technologies to create a real transformation in our schools and our world.

Hence, the 2016 ISTE Standards were designed with a focus on pedagogy, not tools. They provide a framework for using technology to begin this transformation in our schools, and to prepare students for life in an uncertain future. The new standards aim to develop students with diverse skills, nimble minds, technologically savvy, future focused and adaptable- citizens who are empowered to have a voice and choice in their learning journey.

The 2016 standards provide guidelines, knowledge and approaches necessary to learning in the digital age. It is encouraging to learn that the new standards are research-based and were created with participation and feedback from credible institutions and educators around the world. To quote the report, “…Throughout the standards refresh process, ISTE’s methodology has been collaborative, purposive and grounded.” And so, a framework was created with both the present and the (unknown) future in mind.

As I mentioned above, in the next blog posts I will unpack each of the new standards and provide classroom activities and resources. Stay tuned…

Jazzing Up Our CVs

This morning I decided to have a look at my CV and give it a tune-up. I did not expect to be shocked at how boring it looked. It made me wondering when these CV designs came into place, and when their final hour of death would arrive… So I decided that tonight I’m going to do something about the way I advertise myself.

I debated between creating an interactive image (a FDF, perhaps?!), and working on Photoshop and inserting images and graphs. I started with thinking about what my professional history would look like in numbers and images. 13 years of teaching experience, 3 degrees (AA, BA, and MA), 6 countries I taught in, my personal information, activities I took part in since 1999, and so on. I began working with Google Sheets to create some graphs and charts, started a new Photoshop canvas, turned to PsPrint to create an interesting-looking business card for my personal information, looked for transparent and free to use images of flags, and imported images of my credentials. That’s about when I realized things are going quite slowly, which made me think about the 21st century and all the available tools we have in place to do things…

A tedious process involving Adobe Photoshop CS6…

The word Infographic suddenly popped into mind. A quick Google Search revealed many different tools to create infographics. Since I already had an account with Canva, and have been quite impressed with their articles about design and simple yet powerful tutorials, I decided to give it a try.

The interface was simple and intuitive, and I very quickly found a template I found appropriate for my educational technology “Infographical CV” (I coined the term!) I replaced the original images and numbers with some of my own and some free-to-use ones off the Web, made sure there’s some variety in the way I represented my professional experience, and voila! A new way to look at, and share my teaching journey with friends, colleagues, and potential employers. Is it perfect? By no means, but it’s a great place to start thinking about the need to break away from the traditional way we’ve been doing things.

The results are below. If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them!

My infographical CV: