The week ahead in the cyber-classroom

On November 21, 2010, in Madeleine Brookes, Uncategorized, by Madeleine Brookes

Grade 11 – The Great Debate

We look forward to this week’s work where the insideITGS students will be starting on the Great Debate project. We are using a fictional country “Edtopia” for our setting and students will assume the roles of various Edtopian citizens.

Front page of Le Canadien, November 22, 1806

Here is their brief:

Edtopia is a country that has a dictator ruling the people. Edtopia Press is a publishing company that produces newsletters and magazines for clients. Edtopia is moving into the 21st Century and starting to embrace more online and multimedia forms of publication, including the use of social media to attract more readers and therefore generate more profit for their clients. However, with the development of new forms of publication including online social media, many clients and businesses are now creating their own publications and managing their own online distribution.

The essential question that will be debated is:

Has the introduction of freely available online facilities and tools for publication (including desktop publishing and Web 2.0 forms of social media) been a positive step for society?

This project will take place over the next 3-4 weeks. We have broken it down into 4 stages: technical knowledge, research, debate and synthesis/evaluation. The students from the three participating schools (BISS, WAB and Vienna International School) will be collaborating on the first three steps and then will be required to generate their own evaluation for the last step, where each student will produce their own paper to address the question.

This week we will be looking step 1 and 2. For step 1, students will look at the technical tools and IT systems associated with this topic and will be collaborating in wikispaces to build a set of notes to share. At some stage we will be assessing their individual technical knowledge with an IB-style quiz.  We will also be allocating roles to teams of 3+ students, each from one of the participating schools: so that they can research, collaborate and produce their position paper which they will then use as a basis for their presentation in Voicethread.

We will blog more on this project as it develops. In the meantime, please join us here or leave us a comment.

Grade 12 – The 2011 Case Study

EthioGift - delivery service in Addis Ababa

I also have a Grade 12 class who will be working on the May 2011 case study. Again, collaboration will take place with the students at Andrew Churches’s school in New Zealand, where again, thanks to wikispaces, the students can build and develop their technical knowledge.  If you are interested in this aspect of the case study, the wikispace is accessible to anyone but to be able to edit the space you must be a member of the space. Teachers are invited to become organisers of the space and they in turn can invite their students to become members of the spaces.

The case study is about e-commerce and at WAB we are kicking off with an investigation into a very interesting ecommerce site,, which is a gift delivery service in Addis Ababa. Our students will be looking at the underlying technology and the issues associated with this specific site,  for example: one of the of the ‘hot buys’ is a 35kg sheep. How does the company deliver the sheep in a country where addresses are vague and the phone service is limited? Please leave a comment here if you are interesting in learning more about this activity.

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UPDATE!! Here is the FULL presentation created by Inside ITGS teachers and students in Beijing, China

Inside ITGS: Cyber-Students Share their Connected Learning

Here is our promotional ‘teaser’ for our K12 Online Conference presentation: Inside ITGS: Cyber-Students Share their Connected Learning. If you are based in China, go directly to this upload.

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Learning how to learn together in different ways

On September 27, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

Learning is social, learning is collaborative, learning does not take place in isolation. This is the premise for our Inside ITGS flattened learning structure. The challenge of being an effective learner is to be comfortable, adept and inspired in different learning situations. Ultimately a 21st Century learner must be able to survive and thrive in an online learning community as well as a face-to-face learning community, and be able to move from one to the other seamlessly.

Last week my students at Beijing (BISS) International School took a field trip to meet, face-to-face, the class they had been collaborating with and interacting with via the Ning and the wiki since August. A 25 minute bus ride took us out of the Beijing 3rd ring road area and further nth west towards the airport, to Western Academy Beijing. Out of nine students in my class 8 of them had never been to WAB before. BISS is a very different campus to WAB, so one of the first surprises of the day was discovering how large the WAB campus was, and how amazing the High School building was, with it’s open plan environment, grand piano in the communal area, and many other facilities that were alien to our BISS campus.

Watching the students adjust to new surroundings and meet their team members and ITGS partners for the first time was interesting, with shyness and awkwardness of the average teenager predominating. Luckily we broke the ice with food (WAB students catered for us…..hmmmm, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Chocolate cake! yum!) and then with some mixed team activities. Madeleine had lined up a team drawing game where they had to draw and label input devices (very ITGS), they later had to work with a map of the world to mark in countries and capitals high and low income areas, referring to the digital divide. I was surprised that even with an international clientele, many students struggled with simple geography!

Also as part of our visit we spent time discussing the tools we are using to create the Inside ITGS collaborations and how the students felt about online learning including strategies they were adopting to improve their own success at online collaboration. There was an ulterior motive to this discussion as we videoed many conversations in order to put together our presentation for the K12 Online Conference in October entitled: Inside ITGS: Cyber-Students Share their Connected Learning, more about this in a future blog post.

What puzzled me about some of these interactions and conversations is how the students do not quite get what it means to be an online learner. They easily moved into effective classroom team work and seemed to feel comfortable and engaged with new friends. However, so far in Inside ITGS and work on the Ning and on the wiki I am not seeing true connected learning. I am seeing students who are asked to post information and products into online spaces, which they generally do quite well, and I am seeing some conversation and follow up. However, I am not seeing bonding and community building and connectivism that ultimately joins our classrooms into one……yet. We continue to act like 2 classrooms that are in the same spaces, almost by accident sometimes. I do not see the students coming back to discuss, reach out, share, communicate in a community conscious way…….yet. Maybe I am being too hard on them?

When asked the other day what their strategies were for connecting and sharing many said they relied on email. This I found surprising given the facility of the Ning and wiki! I do not think they are feeling comfortable with the Ning….and I am not sure why! After all it is sort of like a FaceBook……isn’t it? Maybe they lack ownership? Maybe they just do not know HOW to belong to a connected online community. So, our challenge as educators is to lead the way, lead by example, and model good connected and collaborative learnign ourselves. I know that Madeleine and I are doing this, but then again maybe we are NOT sharing our collaboration process effectively as a lot of it is in the background.

Lots to ponder! I want my students to appreciate the benefits of online learning and also understand how a face-to-face opportunity can cement this cyber-relationship. As Madeleine commented to me, if the students (who are meant to be more tech-savvy) don’t get it, then how can we expect the teachers who are struggling with digital tools and spaces to get it? Comments and advice from readers of this blog post most welcome!

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Working with Multimedia and Web 2.0 to Communicate

On September 14, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

Our first real collaborative project, the Introducing……. assignment is finished and as I review work here are some pertinent comments as a way of reflection.

Students were asked to upload their finished multimedia artifact to an online space for sharing, via hyperlink or preferably via a Web 2.0 tool that allows an embed code to be used on the Ning blog post. Needless to say we had a variety of methods, including the following:

  • The use of, a local Asian alternative to YouTube that is not blocked in China
  • Uploaded to Windows Live (however I object to this method as I do not want to have to download software to my laptop to view student work)
  • PhotoBucket – another video host that is not blocked in China and seems to be working quite efficiently
  • The WAB media server – Introducing Shawn as an example
  • Voki, audio with avatar speaking text
  • – PPT on steroids!

Products generally showed good technical skills but some did not reveal such good communication skills overall. It is very important to be able to use the technology and be creative, but if the message is lost or not clear then it is pointless.

The use of Web 2.0 tools was good and many students embedded their artifacts back into the Ning blog post. The WAB server is also fairly robust, and in fact does provide an embed code that the students decided not to use this time. I really prefer not to have to open another website or server space to view multimedia. It is much preferable to have the frame embedded into the blog post for easier viewing.

My Favourite Examples:

Introducing Yae, by Alejandro

About Mariana, by Yae

This one I really like for it’s uniqueness

Introducing Ding by Queena:

Introducing Philip by Kae:

Reflections on Our First Collaborative Project

On September 6, 2010, in General, Madeleine Brookes, by Madeleine Brookes

The ‘Introducing….’ project was our first attempt at collaboration with our two classes.

With the exception of one or two slight late submissions due to a technical hitch, all artifacts were submitted on time. What an achievement! How often do we ask students to contact another student in a school, ask a number of probing questions as well as a few images and video footage, then create an one-minute artifact to introduce their partner to the world? Yes, the whole world as each and every artifact is now viewable by anyone with access to the Internet.

What learning took place? We asked our students to reflect on their experiences in their blog entry. Here are some insightful extracts:

Kyle from WAB wrote:

I learned that it’s not as easy to communicate with others via the internet as I thought it would be. It is difficult to be on at the same time, and I also couldn’t not really control your partner, so it was up to me to trust my partner.

Bhargav, Kyle’s partner from BISS has similar views:

I had problem communicating but later on it went very smoothly and I was starting to have a lot of fun knowing new people. The thing I really enjoyed most was communicating with my partner.

Alex from WAB reflected:

First off I learnt many things about my partner Shawn. He was quite different from me in terms of technology use and also in the terms of how much technology he owned. So I found it quite interesting to see exactly how others understand and use technology in their life.

What were our aims as educators?

  • To have our students understand and develop online collaboration skills. We feel that we achieved this goal as evidenced by all students submitting a completed assignment.
  • For students to deepen their understanding of being responsible on-line; not only did they have to seek permission from their partner to display the artifact but also they learned more about creative commons licensing and the use of copyright-free images and sounds.
  • Importantly in an international school, we wanted to gauge the students’ command of the English language; often we are faced with students who, although very be quiet in class, have good written communication skills. By encouraging communication through the internet, most students used type-based tools such as MSN, the Ning message system and the chat feature in Skype. This allows students the time to work out the messages asked and to craft their own messages. The final products and the blog entry are also evidence of the level of English and a good starting point for us to work from.
  • Finally we wanted to see the level and diversity of technical skills which will be very important in our preparation for the major piece of internal assessment, the development of an original IT product for a specified client.

In terms of syllabus coverage, everything that the project entailed could be directly related to the ITGS – the use of technical tools, research techniques, the use of the Internet as a communication and collaboration tool, working with rubrics and examining social and ethical issues – the main ones in this project being: 1.4 Intellectual Property, 1.12 Digital Citizenship and 1.8 Globalization and Cultural Diversity.

I think that we also touched on all aspects of the IB learner profile: risk-taking, communicating, reflecting, principled…..

So all in all, this was a very successful project on many levels. For me, with any new class, the key is to ‘start with the learner’ (Bruner), and now we have some great formative assessment and evidence from each student from which we can build on and plan for.

Please visit the blog section of the ning to view the students’s work. We will also be posting in the wikispace.

Verification via Skype – our first realtime linkup

On August 26, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay
ITGS Skype August 24, 2010

ITGS students at BISS communicate with WAB partners via Skype linkup

This week we had our first Skype call class-to-class. Being in the same city, Beijing, of course the timezone was not an issue. However we very rarely have classes on at the SAME time. Madeleine has an 8-day rolling timetable so the probability is that sooner or later we may be in class at the same time for a whole afternoon, or section of the morning. This week we overlapped by about 15 minutes and grabbed the opportunity to verify the other classes existence.

It is always exciting to see a group of people waving at you from the digital projector screen. Their faces were a little blurry and their movements not fluid, however each student from each class came up to the camera and waved and identified themselves. Students called out greetings, some already familiar with their partner through our first assignment that continues until next week. To some I think it was the first time they realised there really was a face and a person at the end of the Ning!

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Connecting for Learning: A 21st Century Challenge

On August 21, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

Our first week in ITGS was all about Connecting. We are connecting ourselves to the resources needed to learn more about ITGS, as well as connecting ourselves to the people we will be communicating and collaborating with. The Challenge with Connecting is finding the right tools to facilitate efficient connections AND adopting behaviors for connected learning. Participants in online learning communities need to realize that the learning and therefore the connecting does not stop once the face-to-face class has ended. There is an ongoing expectation that a 24/7 approach will be taken and communications received and responded to in an ongoing way.  Despite our students being very connected via their social spaces (FaceBook, online games etc) they are often NOT connected for learning and do not understand how to be a connected learner. Therefore, getting started for ITGS we have started to put into place essential connection tools and strategies for this. Here is a brief review of what tools my class have started with:

Social bookmarking: Delicious is the tool we can access, however strangely the RSS feed for the ITGSopedia Diigo account is visible to all via the Inside ITGS Ning

Educational Network for community learning and sharing: All students have joined the Inside ITGS Ning, set up a profile and started to connect with the other class at WAB. Their first assignment is to connect with a partner, so friend requests have been sent, and students wait somewhat impatiently for replies. This handshake is very important when establishing an online learning community, and it requires participants to be online in order to connect. The less aware students will be the ones missing out in this first instance as they may not understand the importance responding and connecting.

Wiki-centric classroom: My class ITGS Wiki will be the center of all BISS activity. My students will join this wiki and have collaborative assignments and be expected to contribute to this knowledge base. We have also set up a joint wiki, Inside ITGS wiki, for classroom collaborations and joint communication to do with the curriculum.

Classroom Monitoring Portal (CMP): We are trying to set up an RSS startup page, or CMP. This is another essential way to connect with the outside world and with each other. This page will feed the information to us. It will contain news feeds for latest technology happenings, feeds for our online spaces, and bookmark feeds, and more! We had a frustrating lesson on Friday trying to find a tool that works in China. I want to use NetVibes or PageFlakes, but despite lots of positive energy in the classroom we could not get these to work properly without a VPN. We are going to use iGoogle I think, but even that kept going down for minutes at a time (probably because it is monitored by the Internet police and a surge of users, even a small number, shows up). I would be interested in any suggestions readers of this blog may have for an alternative. iGoogle is doable, however it lacks the public sharing feature (as far as I can tell), so I can only share a tab with others via personal emails. I really want this to be a definite ITGS portal for RSS feeds……..more about this next week.

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Getting Tool’ed up for ITGS

On August 16, 2010, in Madeleine Brookes, by Madeleine Brookes

Today was our first ITGS lesson where we focused on a cyber-orientation.

We started with our internal system, WAB Moodle which is our virtual learning environment where each physical class has a corresponding Moodle course. At WAB we use Moodle as a repository for class-specific resources, a place where homework is submitted and interact with the large variety of tools such as forums, wikis and glossaries. Now that Julie and I are flattening our classrooms and sharing our resources and collaborating in a variety of activities, I can see that the school-specific course is not going to get much mileage this year as I am hoping the most of our resources, forums and wikis will be open and available for all interested schools and ITGS students and I don’t want to be double-posting. Suggestions please!!

In terms of productivity tools, I had students set up Evernote and delicious accounts. The good news was that many students already had these in place thanks to some of our tech-savvy teachers from last year.

Evernote is a powerful note-taking tool and is free. It allows students to make numerous notebooks – we suggest at least one for each subject. Each note can be tagged and are automatically sync’ed to the server so that even if students lose their laptops or forget to backup, the notes can be accessed online and through other devices such as iPhones and iPads. This year we are promoting the use of Evernote throughout the MS and HS and have Evernote on our school image so that all students in MS and HS already have Evernote installed.

We also set up delicious accounts for our social networking. We would like to use diigo as this is the social bookmarking site used for ITGSopedia, however diigo is blocked here in Beijing. So this is our work-around for now until diigo is unblocked or we can access ‘legally’.

Finally we looked at ITGSopedia. I didn’t have time today but I will introduce the ITGS global tagging system used for the ITGSopedia diigo in hope that the students start to use these conventions in both delicious and Evernote. Time will tell!

I strongly encouraged students to use their school email addresses for these two accounts as they do have a tendency to use a number of email accounts and often forget the account name and/or passwords. One great new feature of Evernote allows encyption so students can enter their usernames and passwords into an Evernote accounts, highlight the password and then right-click to Encrypt Selected Text.

Next lesson we will look at the external ITGS resources: our ning and this blog so that we can get started with our first collaborative activity.

Big Ideas to start the Year with ITGS

On August 15, 2010, in General, Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

My colleague, friend and ITGS examiner and guru, Barbara Stefanics wrote the following list recently to encourage teachers to think BIG and to share their BIG ideas for approaching and implementing ITGS. Tomorrow I have my first ITGS class for the year.  Excited to be starting on the BIG 2-year adventure here in Beijing.  I have revamped my wiki-centric class portal, ITGS, but it is like a blank piece of paper waiting for inspiration! Our collaborative Ning, Inside ITGS, has been setup for BISS and WAB to connect, and it is anticipating the amazing collaborations and learning that will take place starting very soon.

The following “BIG IDEAS” are fundamental to ITGS and may be used as a check list when creating ITGS lessons:

  • ITGS TRIANGLE is a part of every lesson and all parts of the triangle need to be considered in every activity.
  • Students must understand and use ITGS terminology and concepts. ITGS terminology and concepts refers to both IT terminology/concepts and to the terminology/concepts relating to social and ethical impacts.
  • ‘Process’ is an important word in the course. Students need to follow step-by-step development processes for the Project / preparing for Paper 2 and Paper 1 examinations, answering questions requiring the description of step-by-step IT concepts, conducting research for the Case Study in preparation for Paper 3, and the Extended Essay.
  • Research and investigation are important aspects of ITGS (i.e. current news articles in preparation for Paper 2 (and Paper 1 to some extent), HL Case study & Paper 3, and the Extended Essay)
  • Students learn through a range of media including audio and visual material. ( addresses multiple approaches to the topics in the ITGS Guide. Many thank yous to all of the experienced ITGS teachers who are collaborating in this project.)
  • Students understand the use of IT through hands-on activities.
  • All aspects of ITGS must be placed in real context with real examples.
  • Command terms (i.e. organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy) need to be used for all discussions, assignments and in-class tests so that students become familiar with them.
  • Discussion and analysis of current news items relevant to ITGS need to be regularly included into ITGS lessons.
  • Students need to be given adequate opportunity to write responses to ITGS exam-type questions and receive feedback.
  • Teachers need to integrate “International mindedness”, the Learner Profile and TOK into ITGS activities.

Thanks Barbara!


ITGS – ‘G’ is for Global

On June 21, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

ITGS puts the ‘G’ into Global in Beijing! I think we both feel there is no reason not to join our classrooms together for this ITGS course. It is an exciting adventure, and we could in fact be any two classrooms, anywhere in the world. However, here we are, both in Beijing. So, not only will we flatten our learning environment by using virtual and Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts) we will also be able to have real-time meetups and collaborations that join ours students together.

I am thrilled to be embarking on this ITGS collaboration with Madeleine and her class. I know I will learn a lot, and think the new ITGS syllabus will be interesting to work with. I taught ITGS last when in Bangladesh, and ran a wiki-centric classroom, in conjunction with a class blog, ITGS Forum. We are still working out what will be yours, mine and ours in terms of spaces and places. It is very important that we join our classrooms in an online learning environment that provides resources for discussion, sharing multimedia, content and research collaboration, and group project work. The students must become familiar with social media tools and adept at blogging and wiki work, as well as creating multimedia.

This blog will be for us as ITGS educators to share and reflect. We will invite guest bloggers in as well, possibly even students. Don’t forget also to follow us on Twitter.

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