Tag Archives: recruiting

Bitter Sweet

I have wanted to make this announcement for a very long time, but now that I am actually writing this post, I find myself a bit saddened by the news that has had me so excited for the last few days. Let me get the sweet stuff out on the table, so I can explain why the long face. I am very pleased to announce that I have been offered and have accepted a new post at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore for the academic school year 2012/2013.

My family and I are beyond excited by opportunity to work at such a first rate school with what we have already begun to call the DreamTeam. Furthermore, moving to a dynamic and cosmopolitan city like Singapore will be an amazing experience for my wife and I, as well as our kids.  As you can see, the sweet stuff is just that: Amazing.

The hard part is leaving Sinarmas World Academy, our amazing director and friend John McBryde, and what I have affectionately been calling “My Baby” e-Hub. I say my baby, but what we have built here in such a short time has been a massive team effort. After hours of meeting, planning, and discussing, we are at the starting point of a dream project. I cannot imagine an administration that would be more supportive than John, at times we have had to tell him to slow down. It feels weird to instigate and inspire such a massive project and leave before it is on its feet, but sometimes opportunities arise that we cannot pass up.

I have written at length about what we are doing here, and will continue to document our work, but in short, we are trying to build an authentic community of learners through the use of K-12 WordPress blogs, Google Apps and teacher development that focuses on building understanding before skills training. The purpose of this post is to invite members of my network and beyond to contact me if you are interested in joining the SWA team to carry this project forward. We are looking for blogging teachers with WordPress and Google Apps experience who can fill a collaborative role with teachers to authentically embed technology into the classroom experience for all students by supporting the implementation and integration of information technology and 21st Century Literacy Skills throughout the SWA/JWA community. He/she will plan and co-teach with subject teachers, bring new and innovative ideas into the classroom. Together, they will learn new ways to meet the needs of all students, and explore the possibilities to connect, communicate and create on a global scale. He/she will provide regular professional development opportunities for teachers and administration, as well as assist students and parents to ensure that the integration and use of technology reflects current best practices that are in line with the mission and educational philosophy of the school.

I will be more than happy to speak with you in person about the school, this project and life in Jakarta. It feels strange to recommend a school so highly when you are leaving, but this really has been an amazing opportunity for me as a professional, and I know that it can be for others as well. If you are an IT coach/facilitator looking for a place to push the envelope, try new things, and put your money where your mouth is, you will not find a more innovate and supportive environment that SWA. The administration is excited, the staff is inspired and things are happening. I am proud of the work we have done here, and I want to make sure that it continues when I am gone. Send me an email and let’s talk.


Thoughts from The Nam (An ADE reflection)

The fact that I don’t like corporations comes as no surprise to anyone who has read my work or talked to me for five minutes. They’re big and scary and faceless and subversive and greedy and dictate too much of how things are done in the world for my taste. Because integrity, honesty, passion and art are so important to me I am constantly disappointment by the concept of selling out. Giving in. Joining the dark-side. I mean, is there anything worse than seeing a song you love, being used to hawk a car or a TV?

I came to the Apple Distinguished Educator’s conference with a heavy heart. Was I selling out? Was this ultimate copulation to the very corporate forces I am constantly deriding? Because while Apple is hip and shiny and sexy on the surface, their main goal is still global domination. Of this there is little doubt. So what would a corporate sponsored educational institute look like exactly? How much of my soul would I have to sell? What was in it for me? There is a running joke surrounding the ADE program, likening it to a cult or saying that once there you drink the Kool-Aide you will be never shut up it again.

This post is random scattering of thoughts and ideas of my experience over the last four days in Vietnam.

Every organization, every conference, every school, every company, every story is about the people. Who they are?  Their beliefs and values, and how they work with others are critical aspects of how they function as a bigger group. And so of course, it was the people that really grabbed my attention. From the talented and inspirational speakers like Rebbeca Stokely and Joseph Linaschke, to all advisory member facilitators and sixty plus ADEs, their was a tangible sense of excitement about the future of not only technology but how these tools can be leveraged to a global shift in how our students learn. The wild card group for me was the ADE educational team from Apple. I was excepting a bunch of disconnected suits from the corporate office, but really the Apple team are a dynamic, diverse group of men and women dedicated to the success of this program.Let me throw a quick thank you to Adrian for his dedication and passion to education.

Which brings me to what I think is an important point. What is the point of the ADE program? Here is my take:

To take innovative educators from within a region, who are already using and excited by the Apple brand, connect them to each other, build a tight-knit (almost cult like) community, so that they can work more closely together, have a wider global audience in hopes that they, (we?) can build a critical mass in the institute with which we work, in order to shift the paradigm. Could the cynic argue, he always does in my mind, that Apple created this program in order to have the sales department move in right after and turn whatever schools these ADEs are working in to Mac schools? Of course. But really, I am not here to write about that. Stop it! I can here murmuring , “sell out” under your breath, but really the truth is that I would choose to go to a Mac school over a PC school with or without the ADE program. What I learned this past week was the dedication this company has shown to this program. Hold on….had another cup of Kool-Aide, but really at the level I am working in now, I am proud to be a part of it. Should it ever change or demand more of me, than of course I will reconsider. For now, I feel a part of a healthy and exciting symbiotic relationship. I feel that I have the opportunity to stay honest, keep my integrity and write openly and honestly about my role as ADE. If at any point my views and theirs should diverge than I am sure we will be happy to end the relationship, but in the mean time I am stoked and excited to have met so many other amazingly talented individuals. Many I already knew through the network, but others who are a bit new. They are doing amazing work in their schools, but needed this platform to join the global conversation.To all the new ADEs I met this week, welcome to the conversation. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. This is where the remainder of our work together will be done.

My favorite part of this week was the professional development I saw. We were seldom asked to listen or watch. We were asked to do, to create, to reflect, to share. It made me feel like a student and I loved it. It taught me how to work with others and listen. It taught me that you might learn more if it is not done your way, that another person can add to your ideas and together you can sculpt shared ideas. I really hope to incorporate some of the activities and general ethos of the instiute to in-service days at my school for next year.

And of course it reaffirmed my belief that learning is done in process and cannot be assessed by product. The very experience of creation is important not the creation itself. We all know this, but we often need to be reminded of failure and mediocre products, so we can ease the pressure we put in students. The conversations I had with members of my group during our day on the river, or the emotions I felt while talking with locals being pushed off their land and from their homes in the name of globalization and progress, is impossible to document or assess in a four-minute video. I was left thinking of how much learning from our students is lost or forgotten in the search of a grade. There must be so much they are learning that we never see, because we are asking for such specific proof. This experience made me appreciate the role of reflections and student blogs as places of more holistic learning. A sort of expansive landscape, where if done right students as well as teachers can really design a more accurate picture of learning, one that does not require a rubric or standards, but when experienced as a whole over time reflects the journey of its creator. Much more on this soon.

This institute also gave me a chance to really look at my own current landscape and take inventory. Who am I? Am I spread to thin? What are my values? What do I want to promote and share? Am I on the right track? What does my name mean to others? Does any of it matter? Stay tuned for updates. I am working on re-worked, consolidated brand. I still hate that word. Maybe when I can articulate it, it will have a new name.

In the meantime, I am proud and excited by the work I did, the thoughts I had and the people I met. It is always a shocking experience to be thrown into such a crucible. I am sure the effects will be long lasting. I am looking forward to continuing the conversations we had this past week with everyone who was there, as well as all of you who were not. Not sure if I answered any of the questions I had going in, but I don’t feel like a sell-out and that is good. I feel like I am leading a fast moving train headed to great places. Come on! What are you waiting for. Get on. We have work to do.
Of course I would appreciate all my critical thinking, trouble making friends to tell me I am wrong about all of this, because there is nothing more dangerous to growth and learning as complacency


Apple Distinguished Educators – Class of 2011

A few minutes ago, I officially sent off my application to become an Apple Distinguished Educator. Some of you may be asking why? I guess it boils down to this:

After reading the description-

The Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program is a select group of K-12 and Higher Education professionals around the world possessing an identified expertise in educational technology leadership. ADEs are trusted advisors on the realities of integrating technology into learning environments; passionate advocates for the potential of innovative technologies to engage and empower students; authentic authors who share best practices for the advancement of teaching and learning; and global ambassadors who empower each other to expand the walls of the classroom to provide global experiences. This group of over 1,500 educators spans the globe with membership in the USA, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.

I thought to myself, “I can do that. I do do that!” So why not get the title, the training, and the opportunity to learn with other dedicated teachers around the world. I won’t find out whether or not I get in until March, but I am hoping I do, because the first training and ceremony session is in Bali. You can read about what this distinction actually entails, mostly workshops, presenting and getting extra training in all things Mac, on the website. In order to apply I had to answer some questions and create a video.

I am quite please by how it turned out, and I was told that it is okay to share before the announcements are made. So wish me luck and tell me what you think!


There's No Such Thing As Virtual: It Is All Teaching

It has been an interesting week in Doha. The government Supreme Council has decreed that all schools stay closed until October 4th in an effort to curb the spread of Swine Flu. What makes matters more complicated is that this announcement came on the tail of a weeklong holiday for Eid, so I haven’t seen my students in over two weeks. The decree caused a lot of anxiety for all the schools here in Doha, because no one was sure how long it could last. People began to speculate and spread rumors that Qatar may follow the examples of other Gulf states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia who will remain closed until November, but it looks like we will be back in school sooner than that. This temporary closing of schools, however, has brought to light some very interesting aspects of distance learning. (E-Learning, “virtual” learning)

Because my school does not have a virtual school platform like Moodle or Blackboard, we have opted to simply asked the teachers to post pages, links, .pdfs and .doc to our school’s CSM run website. While this presentation of worksheets and online activities is limited in scope, it is still better than nothing.

The American School, where my wife works, is fairing a bit better and has even received some press for their use of Blackboard. For years they have been encouraging teachers to use Blackboard for such an emergency, and while teachers have begrudgingly posted a few assignments here and there the tool has largely been unused till now. Now that the emergency is upon them, however, teachers are scrambling to quickly learn how to become “virtual” teachers, and in doing so are finding the limitations, not only of Blackboard as a tool, but they are also realizing that teaching using online tools is more than simply posting assignments on a web storage space.

Teaching online, or being a virtual teacher, is more than a skill set; it is a mindset and a philosophy. Teachers who are well versed in a variety of tools, not just Blackboard will fair much better in times of crisis and will be better prepared for finding ways to reach their students than say teachers who rarely use technology at all. Teachers who themselves are connect and use many tools for their own learning will barely miss a step. While I understand the unease these teachers are experiencing, I think their apprehension speaks more to the limitations offered not only by blackboard, but of school philosophies when it comes to technology use and pedagogy.

This crisis has clearly illustrated that creating a valuable web-friendly ethos/community of teachers well versed with technology, is the first step in creating a sustainable system to deal with not only emergencies, but in helping to maintain strong ties between teachers and students beyond the classroom. Communicating with students outside the classroom whether through Blackboard or other free online tools must be an ongoing activity for the entire school. If students are used to checking a blog for assignments or working on a Google Doc with a peer, then not being in school will not impact their schooling as much as say a student who has no way to contact their teacher beyond email.

I am not writing this post to make teachers feel bad about their or to discredit any schools. We are all doing the best we can. I just want to point out that using technology is not something that schools can force their teachers to do only in times of emergency. Teachers who are not familiar with a variety of tools that will help them connect with their students will stumble and become anxious when forced to change the way they teach. Schools must imagine different possibilities:

We need to imagine a school where everyone blogs- teachers, students, parents, and administration. Imagine a school that has its own youtube channel and podcast space. Imagine a school that uses chatzy as a back channel even when school is in session. Imagine a school where students are constantly working together using Google Docs and wikis. Imagine a school where almost every knows how to use several tools to connect, communicate, and collaborate. Imagine a school where the school day never ends, and the work can be done anywhere any time. Imagine a school where the teacher uses class time to coach and guide and not lecture or “teach.”

This is the type of school I am trying to build. You can use Blackboard, but the beauty of the Web is that it is all free and available to us all. We simply must be able to take some risks and trust our students to learn from their mistakes.

Here are some examples of what is possible:

I had planned to use this week to get my students started on our online 2.0 journey. I already have two classrooms, one in Canada and one in Thailand, waiting to meet us. We have sketched out some rough ideas of how our three classes will interact, but I needed to start showing my students the tools and skills they will need to make the kinds of connections I want them to make throughout the year. I was going to walk them through each step in class, but due to Swine Flu we were forced to “just do it.”

I was actually a bit excited when I heard we would not be in school. Rather than fumble around with how I would deliver my traditional material, I began instead to think about how I would help my students quickly learn about and use a variety of tools that would help them connect and stay tuned with our class community. I was not interested in posting worksheets for them to complete. I wanted to recreate our classroom online, so we could have conversations. It is this sense of community that I feel is missing from Blackboard.


The first thing I did was launch our class blog. I had planned to start blogging soon anyway, so it was perfect timing. I used the blog as the central place to communicate with the kids. Unlike Blackboard where individual classes are closed and hard to access, a simple blog allows me to share information, media, and much more in an environment that inspires commenting, conversations, and community. The hope was to quickly create an area where we could meet and move onto completing a variety of tasks.

Once the blog was published, I had to find a way to direct the kids to it. Out of 50 students I had the emails of about 29; I started there. I posted a link on our school website under the page for English work, and on the first day I had 81 visits to the blog. Because my students are not yet familiar with RSS, I had to find a way to let them know when there was going to be new posts.


I decided to create a Facebook Fan Page, (I have asked that adults not become a fan of the page yet. I want my students to feel safe and really understand what we are doing, before I introduce our network to the bigger global network.) In three days already has 23 fans. I embedded a Facebook feed in the sidebar to allow students who do not have Facebook a chance to stay tuned with announcements. I can now also send the group updates straight from Facebook. I now have an easy way to share class announcements with the kids in the place where they spend their time online. Instead of hoping that they would check Blackboard, I know that they can simply get an status update telling them to take a survey on the blog as they chat with their friends.

For the first task, I asked students to create Gmail accounts. Later in the year I want to use Google Docs and Google Reader, so I felt that this was a crucial first step. With little help from me, I now have 23 students created Gmail accounts. A few students had problems so I set up a chatzy chat room to answer questions. I experimented with various video conferencing sites and dodged a major bullet and didn’t use Tiny Chat due to some inappropriate material on their site, but found TokBox to be very useful and I hope to use it in the future.

I’ve used Youtube as a way to create videos for my students who are not native English speakers and may not be able to read all of the text on the site. As the students perform each task, I give them a little more to do. They have in three days: created Gmail accounts, commented on a blog, signed up to be a Facebook Fan, responded to some quotes and images, and finally answered a survey I posted from a Google Form.

Not only have I not fallen behind this week, I have actually helped my kids learn real life skills by doing and not just talking about it. By quickly building our online community, I think the kids will better understand the power of these tools and how they can use them to help their learning.

I hope you will stay tuned to what we are doing throughout the year. I have big plans for the year and this is a great group of kids. We will create individual blogs next week, as well as set up RSS on Google Reader, begin to think about tagging bookmarks with Delicious, and we will set up a class wiki and Flickr page. Why have I chosen these tools? I see them as the most vital for my own learning. I use them often, feel comfortable using them, and I really understand their value in creating a network.

Empowering teachers to use these tools is a huge first step in creating a school that can function on or offline without missing a step. Swine Flu or no Swine Flu, I know my class will be connected and ready to learn, share, and teach others. The question now is how do we get other teachers on board and feeling comfortable using these tools?

If you are interested and want ideas on how to be a more effective virtual teacher join us on our journey. We are learning as we go, but would love the company. What do you think? How has Swine Flu affected your teaching? What has worked for you? What has been hard? Do you find Blackboard useful? Do you use any other tools to connect with your students? Let the conversation begin!


Life as an Open Book

On June 4th, I gave a talk called Life as an Open Book at Qatar Academy for the first ever Tedx event put together by Julie Lindsay.

I spent quite a bit of time planning the talk, but the execution was not exactly what I had in mind. I was plagued by repetition, false starts, and a general sense of incoherence. I have attempted to piece together as much of the original talk as I could.

The main idea is:

How can we encourage teachers to look beyond their fear, follow their passions and begin to create open honest online identities that reflect their true selves in order to better connect with their students for a more authentic learning environment. Eventually creating a system that not only allows for teacher creativity and expression but actively promotes and encourages it, so teachers are not too busy or scared to express themselves online, and actually given time to reflect, create, and share.

Life as an Open Book from Intrepid on Vimeo.

I would appreciate any and all comments.