Jun 042012

On Friday, the article which follows went out in the AIS Newsletter. I also cross-posted a version of it this morning on the AIS ICT and Learning blog. I wrote it in response to several who expressed concerns about our new Laptop Boot camp program. (FWIW, I’ll also state here that I’m not a fan of calling it “Boot camp,” but this decision was made prior to my arrival at AIS and it would be rather confusing to change it at this point in the journey, so I’ve let that battle go.)

Soon I hope to have the actual checklist of “Essentials” in some kind of real digital form to share. At the moment it is simply a Word Document. We already have a Laptop Essentials wiki, but it’s already out of date. I’m hoping to merge it with our new checklist and make it more relevant. It’s been on my list of “projects” for some time now and hopefully I’ll get to it after our Semester Break!

I’ll add here that all of the changes we’ve made have been a direct result from conversations and thinking that happened at ASB Unplugged and #beyondlaptops, which we think is pretty cool. Never before have we been to a PD experience that has resulted in change so quickly!

Learning as a sport by jenn.davis, on Flickr

ICT and Learning

As AIS grows, so does our 1:1 laptop initiative in the Secondary School. Last August, at the beginning of this journey, I wrote that I was learning every day not only about my role as ICT and Learning Coach but also about best strategies to foster students’ growth as 21st century global citizens.

The learning continues.

At the start of our 2012 academic year, Mark Holland (Director of ICT) and I wanted to address one of the growing concerns we had at the end of 2011: that of supporting students new to AIS. From an ICT and Learning perspective, this meant ensuring students who had newly arrived to our school were digitally prepared and organised for learning.  Within the MYP, providing such support comes under the Approaches to Learning skill areas of Self-Management, Time Management, and Accessing Information. If students do not learn to function in these skill areas, they struggle to be successful. Our goal was to ensure that new students acclimatise to our analogue and digital environments and emerge well-adjusted and ready to learn.

Our first 2012 addition was to implement a rolling ‘laptop boot camp’ on a fortnightly basis. Every Monday Week A, when their classmates were in PGD [Personal Growth and Development] class, AIS’s newest arrivals would come to us where we would ensure they could do the ‘basics’ with their laptop: access wi-fi, log on to school email, set up OneNote, and so on. While this new system helped us identify new students and get the technical aspects of their new laptop to work, we soon discovered some flaws. Firstly, the amount of time in one lesson was not nearly enough needed to learn the basic organisational and productivity tools for success. Secondly, we discovered that by offering the ‘boot camp’ only once every two weeks, we were at times unable to connect with students soon enough. If they arrived on a Tuesday Week A, by the time we saw them nearly two weeks later, they may have had folders set up incorrectly, with no backup strategy, and had already lost several assignments. Lastly, we felt our sessions were too teacher-directed and we struggled to give the learning an authentic context. New students were arriving alone, often with others from different year levels they did not know, and disconnect was apparent. Learning is social, and our sessions were not.  It became clear very quickly that if we truly wanted success for our students, we needed to increase the frequency of our sessions, lengthen the time spent in them, and make them student-driven.

With approval from our Heads of Welfare, we made significant changes to ‘laptop boot camp’ in May:

  • Laptop boot camp is now student-directed; new students and their assigned buddies must attend. During the session, buddies lead new students through a check-list of learning points. They are free to ‘teach’ their buddies in whatever way works. Mark Holland and I act as facilitators and guide all students to ensure they are accessing, connecting, and organising digital information appropriately. By putting the learning in the hands of the students, we hope that it ‘sticks’ better and that it is more applicable to each student, as different year levels have different needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
  • Laptop boot camp is now on every Monday and occurs during both periods 5 and 6. This means that new students and their buddies miss one academic lesson and one PGD or Assembly lesson. While we are cognizant that students need to be in class to learn, we feel that the collective welfare and organisational benefits of a student missing one class per year to help support a buddy far outweigh the loss of academic learning for that particular missed lesson. We also understand that there may be exceptions for scheduled in-class assessments.
  • Laptop boot camp is now a required part of a new student’s buddy sheet and is listed as another part of the checklist they receive from the school secretaries and/or their Home Group teacher when they arrive. We hope this means that our sessions will be an appropriate part of our already successful system of supporting new students and their families at AIS.

Of course, we will continue to look at our initiatives critically to see what other aspects can be adjusted to best meet the diverse needs of our students.

We look forward to developing even further as our 1:1 laptop initiative approaches its one year anniversary in July.

And the learning continues!

Adrienne Michetti
ICT and Learning Coach, Middle Years (6-10)

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Apr 302012

I returned from Yokohama more than a week ago.

(It’s been busy. Well, you know.)

Since I returned, a lot has been said. Really, a LOT. But I haven’t said anything here yet, though I’ve spoken on other peoples’ blogs and in the Twitterverse. So, here goes.

I’ve been a “recipient” of professional development ever since I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a “professional development provider” of some kind for a much shorter length of time, but enough to feel like I’ve seen and done it all.

#beyondlaptops was the best yet.

  • it pushed me
  • it pulled me
  • it made me uncomfortable
  • it made me think
  • it made me DO STUFF
  • it made me wanna DO MORE STUFF
  • it was collaborative
  • it was not sit-and-absorb
  • it was differentiated
  • it was not structured-workshoppy[1], nor airy-fairy
  • it was conversational

I could go on, but those are the off-the-top-of-my-head reasons.


Okay, I’ll go on.

Here’s the thing: we spend all this time going to PD sessions where we sit and are challenged by Ms. BlogsALot and Mr. BigNameTechDude to DO STUFF. And we do it. And we sit and muse, and go, “Ahh yeah, that was good. Man, I’m going to use that next week.”

And maybe we do.

But even in the unconference types of conferences, I’ve found there’s a lot of unstructured sitting around talking about coffee and sharing practice — which can be good.


(you knew that was coming, huh?)

But, what are we doing after we share our practice? Where and how does it evolve? How do these PD experiences — even the unconference types — push us to contribute to the continual development of the practice within our profession? How do novices and experts alike collaborate to push our practice and our profession further?


In the case of those working in the field of ICT/tech integration/facilitation/coordination [2], there are few opportunities for us to move beyond our practice. I personally feel that this is because our practice is still relatively new, and we often disagree about what it encompasses.

“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.” -B.K.S. Iyengar

“Whatever it takes to make mutual engagement possible is an essential component of any practice.” -Etienne Wenger

Here’s another thing: even most unconference types of PD don’t facilitate this kind of stuff.

#beyondlaptops was organized. Without some framework, the conversations simply become back-patting and sharing, and “Oh, I wanna do what you’re doing with that task in year 10!” This is nobody’s fault, per se. But with better design, I think we can have better PD experiences similar to those at #beyondlaptops.

#beyondlaptops involved (primarily) decision-makers and change agents within schools. This was key. This was not (primarily) a PD experience for teachers. That’s not to say the teacher voice wasn’t there — loud and clear! — but rather that our conversations were about how to move schools forward. And let’s face it: sadly, in many (most?) of our schools, teachers aren’t the ones moving the institution forward: the leaders are. If you have good leaders, you luck out. If you don’t, you can find your way pushing and pushing and pushingandpushingandpushingugh to make all that wonderful transformational change you dream of…. only to see it end at your classroom doors.

To have decision-makers and change agents in the same space is important. This is one of #beyondlaptops’s primary success points. I found it extremely valuable to hear stories and experiences from other practitioners in my role, and to hear also from other leaders’ perspectives in a very non-threatening, honest way what drives them crazy about what people do in my role. Not only was it valuable just to sit and listen, but to probe their thinking, and to find out why something worked or didn’t work a particular way, and to then reflect on whether it would (or wouldn’t) work the same way at my school, and why or why not.

#beyondlaptops was contextual. It allowed for the differences that exist between schools. Participants represented 21 different schools in 10 different countries. Sure, many have similarities — American curriculum vs. IB frameworks, and more. But none of us have the same student demographics, and therefore none of us can or should be doing exactly the same thing. Conversations at #beyondlaptops allowed for that. I found that I took few notes about the things I learned during the two days. Rather, my “notes” were mostly questions: How can we maximize PD during the school day at AIS? Can I convince our MYP coordinator to help me map the ISTE NETS standards? How can I help parents see value in using mobile devices? How much influence will our Tech Director have on our 1:1 program in the Junior School, and how will this affect my role in the Secondary School? Where will we keep our e-portfolios, and who will use them? 

#beyondlaptops was small. Fewer than 60 attendees. I would argue — and I think Kim and other participants agree — that it should be even smaller. The conversational setup of the two days meant that it really was about dialogue. I wanted to be able to engage in conversations with everyone there, but sadly I probably only was able to engage with half the participants. Still, this allowed for some powerful discussions.

#beyondlaptops allowed discussions to be framed, but also allowed for us to push them in another direction if we wanted. The conversation frames sometimes pushed us out of our comfort zone (Thanks, Scott!) and other times made us work hard to understand.. Hey, why do we need to talk about this topic, anyway? [3] There were also break-out sessions for interested parties to Get On With Things — namely, those separate agendas of our own we all brought. Kim was good at giving us space to do this, and I suspect after the first day we maybe could have even had more.

Back to what I was saying (and what Iyengar and Wenger were saying) earlier about practice…

Practice makes our profession. Practice makes the change. Practice pushes us forward.

Practice is the action. 

Sitting and talking and planning and sharing is great, but what comes next?

#beyondlaptops was the closest I’ve come to discovering a Community of Practice in the making for our fieldand you know I don’t say that lightly.[4] I want our profession to grow. Unlike some, I don’t think that the role of “ICT facilitator/coordinator/whateveryoucallyourself” is going to disappear any time soon. I also don’t think that it’s the goal of our job to make our job obsolete, but that’s another story. [5] I want us to be supported and I want us to support others. And I want us to do it well — in the ways that are best practiced in the specific contexts of our learning environments.

Those of us at schools in Singapore are already talking about a #beyondlaptops “support network” to share what we are doing and challenge each other to carry out the great ideas and goals and actions that came out of discussions in Yokohama. I am excited about this initiative and I think it has potential to be powerful and transformative. I also love that it would be ongoing and highly contextual, rather than yearly and external. I suppose I’m excited about the idea of a Community of Practice within a Community of Practice. :)

I can’t wait to see where this all goes. I am confident that #beyondlaptops is “bigger” than just a group of us like-minded peeps sitting around and chatting.[6] It will drive the action. It is bigger than us.

Already at AIS we’ve begun to implement two fairly big “things” that came out of discussions at #beyondlaptops:

  1. Our Laptop Bootcamp[7] for new starting students will become student-led (rather than Tech Director-and-ICT-Coach-led) and will be offered weekly, rather than bi-weekly. We have new students nearly every week at AIS, so frequency was becoming a concern. Further, we wanted to capitalize on the well-established Home Group buddy system already in place at AIS thanks to our Student Welfare Admin team, which previously we really were ignoring, TBH.
  2. Our Behaviour Management protocol is being re-designed to include clearer processes and procedures for students with regard to actions and consequences for behaviour related to digital citizenship. This will be in place within the next few weeks, but prior to its implementation it will be subject to feedback from our student leadership team at AIS.

There are a few more irons in the fire, but this is all I can definitively share at this point. Neither of these were on the action agenda prior to #beyondlaptops. I hope to share much more as we move… #beyondlaptops.[8]

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something that they know how to do and to interact regularly to learn how to do it better.” — Etienne Wenger

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  1. [1] don’t get me wrong – workshoppyness has its place
  2. [2] (could we have any more descriptors?)
  3. [3] budgets, data, and parent input, anyone?
  4. [4] If you’re new here, you might not know that this is what my monster Thesis was about. Yeah, I’m a Communities of Practice junkie and it really revs me up to think that we might be onto this here.
  5. [5] For those who know me well, you’ll note that I’ve come full circle on this now, after having looked at bundles of research and history of education and technology/media.
  6. [6] which, really, admit it, is what Twitter is.
  7. [7] I hate this term, but that’s also another story. Picking my battles!
  8. [8] cue cheesy music and credits
Nov 032011

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram may have already seen the photos I posted of the Rangoli Art at my school. This beautiful work was part of Singapore’s Deepavali celebration, and was done by Year 6 students guided by their teacher, Nick Coulter and Vijaya Mohan and her assistants. Every time I walked past this on my way to the canteen, it was in a different stage of development and I just couldn’t stop snapping photos and pausing to catch it at different angles as it unfolded. I think it’s pretty hard to dispute that the results were gorgeous:

Yesterday Mr. Coulter uploaded some video to show the student process of creating this breathtaking work. All I can say is, “Wow!”

For more cool stuff that happens at AISS, follow our YouTube channel and Twitter account. I’m very proud and excited to be working with such talented educators and creative students!

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 3 November, 2011  Posted by at 1:37 pm International Education Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »