Global collaboration: What motivates us?

What motivates us?

I found the YouTube video of Dan Pink’s seminar on “Drive-The surprising truth about what motivates us,” to be very interesting. Pink stated that it is human nature for people to be active and engaged. He gave specific examples of how rewards and punishment could lower human motivation rather than increase it. If you take money out of the equation because a person feels they are being treated fairly, then most people will typically behave in a certain way. Pink described how human intrinsic motivation when dealing with creative tasks is based upon three precepts:

  1. Autonomy: We perform better when we direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery: We inherently want to make progress.
  3. Purpose: We desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

This summer, a week after I arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of my summer vacation from teaching, I attended a workshop on a new method of appliqué. I didn’t really think I was interested in appliqué because I had always viewed it as too time consuming and difficult. I thought I didn’t have the patience for it. But after the second day, I had made my first appliqué block and discovered that I enjoyed it. I proceeded to make a few more blocks. After making four blocks, I thought to myself, “I could stop now and make a table runner.” But with a little of encouragement from my mother, who was also making her own blocks, I kept making more blocks. She stopped at four but I ended up making 20 blocks by the end of the summer, enough to make a twin-size quilt. After my mom finished her four blocks, she started to help me in sewing the blocks I started to assemble after I had picked out the fabric, pressed and glued on the pieces to the background fabric. Without her help, I couldn’t have made 20 blocks in two-months time. It soon became apparent to me that I didn’t want to stop until I had made every pattern from the workshop so that I could have enough to make a whole quilt, not just a table runner. I know if it had just worked alone, I probably wouldn’t have finished all 20 blocks. It was because I worked collaboratively with someone else that I felt the need to keep pushing myself until it was finished. I didn’t want to let my mother down. Even though she was fine with me stopping at anytime. We kept saying to each other, “We can always finish this next year,” but I really felt driven to keep pushing till the end. I still have to sew all the blocks together for the finished quilt but I have the most of the work behind me.

I teach high school digital media classes that are creative task related. Dan Pink’s seminar on “Drive-The surprising truth about what motivates us,” has helped me to understand how to motivate my students in my classes. Punishments and rewards don’t work. I have to keep in mind as I start my classes again this fall that: autonomy, mastery, and purpose motivate my students to succeed in creative tasks.

"My Whimsical Garden Quilt" pattern

“My Whimsical Garden Quilt” pattern


Game-based, Reverse instruction, and the power of Play

Game-based learning is perfect for math because of its instant feedback to problem-solving activities. Rather than giving boring worksheets to students, students can progress faster through the different levels in their understanding and mastery of math problem-solving abilities with game play interactive software that is now readily available online.

Currently our school used Math IXL for elementary students through middle school as a supplement to their math instruction. Students are expected to login to their Math IXL accounts and practice on a weekly basis. Recently I check how much students had been using the program and discovered that the fourth grade class used it the most, then the second, and then the third grade classes. Fifth grade students had not used it very much, similar to the first grade students.

Interestingly though, even though the fourth grade students used it more often, the second grade students had a higher level of mastery with fewer practice tries. So knowing how to interpret the data would be important in using a game-based learning approach. Also keeping students accountable throughout the school year by their regular teachers by logging in to the administrative account to find out how often it was actually being used and encouraging more usage would be helpful in making sure students are actually using the program.

I have to agree with the authors of the book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (CreateSpace, 2011) about the importance of play as a critical part of learning. I know that I am a person who has to “play” to learn new technology skills. I have taught myself how to use technology, so my method of teaching is often allowing students to have the opportunity to discover how to use technology through play. I believe the power of play can “ignite a student’s passion and cultivate their imagination”, which is the premise of this book. (Q&A With the Authors of A New Culture of Learning)

I have been looking into learning how to use VoiceThread or Educreation on my iPad and also on my Mac to try learning how to use the reverse instructional model. I don’t think every lesson should be a reverse model. But a variety of instruction models help keep the classroom interesting and the students engaged in learning. I am not 100% sold on the Flipped Classroom because if every teacher used this method, students wouldn’t have enough hours in a day to watch all the videos that the teachers would want them to watch. I also think watching too many video lectures can just become boring and the students will quickly quit doing it, but try to pretend that they did it. The best students are the ones who learn for the sake of learning. They are intrinsically motivated to learn. Very young children have this intrinsic curiosity to learn, but often lose it through the tediousness of “school.” We as educators must find a way to keep students impassioned to want to learn and to use inquiry to motivate play as a way to learn new ideas.

Yearbook Journalism Exemplifies Project-Based Learning

Every time I read about Project-Based Learning, it makes me think of my yearbook journalism class because the description of PBL resembles how my students function in this unique class. My yearbook journalism class is like non-other in the school. I tell my students at the beginning of the year that their final is the distribution of a 176-page book in which every student, teacher, and community member will grade, by making comments about its accuracy and appearance. And if they don’t like it, they don’t have to buy it. This is in a sense a business. We need to break even every year between the sale of the books, and the ads that are sold or it would be difficult for the school to continue to allow us to have a yearbook if it didn’t support itself. Not only do they have to satisfy their teacher to earn a grade, the students need to produce a product that all the students, faculty, staff, and community in their school can enjoy and love. Our staff needs to sell as many books as possible to break even on the printing costs.

Yearbook journalism is project-based learning exemplified – if it’s done well. Students learn how to collaborate together, and develop communication skills, while producing a book that will be publicly shared as the culminating product at the end of the year. What better example of a Project-Based Learning approach than yearbook journalism–and it’s been around longer than the term Project-Based Learning. So what can yearbook journalism staffs teach us about PBL?

I have been a yearbook advisor for eleven years. And in that amount of time, I have learned that before you can let the students go, and begin making a project, you have to lay down the foundations for success. I first like to find out about each individual and what are their strengths and weaknesses to be able to organize a team that can function well within their abilities.

The yearbook roles can be divided up into layout designers, info graphic designers, writers, copy editors, reporters, and photographers. When I first taught the class, I assigned each student pages that they were responsible for, but over the years I have discovered that few students are good in all areas of finishing one spread.

Rather than one individual finishing the whole spread, I soon learned it was more efficient to assign roles to individuals based upon their personalities and gifts. As a writer, a person might be writing editorial or feature articles on a number of spreads with some more urgent than others. They would be responsible for interviewing students or staff members to get the most accurate information and then writing the best story that he or she could from the information gathered from first-hand eye witnesses and participants.

A designer might only make the initial layout a first, choose the dominant photo, then pull colors from that dominant photo for colors to be chosen for the rest of the spread. The designer has to work closely with the writers, info graphic designers, and reporters for secondary alternative copy to ensure a space for three-levels of entry for a reader from the following possibilities: feature story, alternative side story, survey results, he said/ she said debate, question and answer, individual collection of quotes, as well as captions for every photo on the spread that include quotes from people who are in the photos.

Finishing even one spread in the yearbook takes a lot of collaboration and communication between not only the members in the yearbook staff, but also the collaboration of the community of students who want to assist in making their yearbook the best that the staff can make by cooperating when asked for quotes or clarification for a photo caption.

Creating a strong voice throughout a yearbook requires a theme and critical thinking skills in deciding how to solidify that theme throughout the book, so that every reader will understand through the use of visual imagery through pictures and text. Having background knowledge of the elements of design is essential for students to be able to produce a yearbook that is visually appealing to the reader. Strong visual design encourages the reader want to stay on the page and draw them into the story.

Surprisingly it is difficult to find information about yearbook journalism and its strong tie in with Project-Based Learning. I have tried to find other articles that link the two together and I have found a few references, but nothing really written that I could quote from for this posting. I hope this post will encourage others to see the strong relationship between the two.

Technology Integration

I have decided to write this definition before reading the articles about technology integration. I am doing it this way because I want to analyze how my perception of my job as technology integration facilitator changes after having read the articles.

This is my first year, in my new job role. I believe technology integration means incorporating technology in the learning environment as students create, communicate, collaborate, research, and manage large quantities of information through problem-solving and critical thinking while adhering to correct ethical usage of digital works and applying the skills necessary in performing technology related tasks. The tasks could be project-based, challenged-based, or game-based, as well as any other method that someone later thinks of to help students to use the technology that is available to them. My definition comes from the technology standards based on the NETS as the foundation for integration.

I see myself as a coach for the teachers, who comes into the classroom to assist teachers to become more empowered to use new technology without the fear of failure at trying something new. I can assist teachers by finding resources and helping them set up the learning environment needed for their students. I can also be a sounding board to discuss their ideas about the “big idea” or concept that they want students to know when planning a unit based on a backward design approach to technology integration. I am also an advocate for technology integration at the resource planning level when administrators and department heads debate on where and how the educational money should be spend. I recently wrote a proposal that explained why I thought money should be allocated next year to put a set of iPads in the early education program for kindergarten and first grade rather than computers. I work closely with our computer department chair concerning all aspects of technology integration throughout our school. This has been the first year that we have dropped computer skill lessons for the elementary students by them going to a computer lab to learn skills in isolation. Instead at the beginning of the year, I came into the classrooms and taught a few skills on a timely bases based upon the projects and curriculum that were currently being taught. The teachers have taken the teaching role away from me, that I have had to come into the classrooms less and less, as the teachers have become more proficient in teaching technology.

After reading articles about technology integration approaches, the approach that I relate to the most is the Technology Integration: A Six-Pronged Approach as described in Tom Johnson’s blog post. According to Johnson, there are six key points in this approach:

  1. School meeting integration
  2. In-class push-ins
  3. Individual meetings with educators
  4. Organization of technology groups
  5. Online presence
  6. Professional development

Since this is my first year as a technology integration specialist, I found this article very helpful in understanding my role and also helpful for other teachers that I work with to read, so that we all have the same understanding of my role. The elementary teachers this year started an online presence, but I would like to expand that presence into some of the other areas that Tom Johnson mentioned in his article. I would also like to see this trend filter throughout our school’s k-12 curriculum. I had introduced “blogs” to my high school digital photography students and I could tell that few of the students had any previous knowledge about how to post on a blog site. I know that we are just getting started with technology integration in our school and I think this article will help to remind me what I need to be doing in the years to come to further our efforts.

Technology Standards in Education

This has been a very difficult blog post for me to write because swimming in the deep pool of standards in integrating technology in education has been where I have been living for several years. I find myself reading the NETS over and over, and just when I think I’m confortable in living with these standards, I learn about another set of standards. I have to admit that I did not know about the standards from the American Association of School Librarians. So I decided to try to make a chart to compare the two, so that I could visually see the differences. This is what I came up with: 

In viewing it in this chart, I conclude that the two are very similar in basically covering the same areas, however it appears that technology and operations is omitted from the AASL. However, the skills in the AASL is a subcomponent of every standard, so in a sense it is then similar to the NETS.

One major difference between these two standards is that the AASL attempts to address the disposition of the actions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies of the individual learner. If someone knows how to change a teenagers disposition and attitude toward learning and promote self-motivation and assessment in a high school student, they should bottle it and sell in on E-bay. I’m sorry, but I really think this standard goes way beyond what should be included in a standard. Because if it is a standard, then it is our responsibility to make sure it is obtainable and measurable. The sub-categories of disposition of action, responsibility, and self-assessment strategies would be difficult to assess and to obtain. Our school has adopted standards that are a blend of our school-wide standards and the NETS. I am happy with this set of standards.

I enjoyed reading the article, “What Difference Might One S Make?” David Warlick talked about the difference between teaching computer applications and teaching computer application. By dropping the S, it changes the meaning entirely. By dropping the S, it emphasizes that as educators, we shouldn’t teach a specific application, but rather skills using computers so that students can later solve problems using a computer on their own from their previous experiences. The reason I teach computer skills while trying to integrate technology in education is because not all students have the skills they need to be able to produce projects easily due to a lack of background knowledge in frequently using a computer. Warlick articulated this well in the following excerpt:

On the other hand, there are also many students who have not had the benefit of convenient access and have not attained the experience necessary to continue to grow their own information and communication technology (ICT) skills.  These students desperately need the opportunity to develop skills in using ICT and to gain the experience needed to be self-directed learners.

Several people in the session suggested that without a course, students could develop these skills within the context of other subjects.  This has the enormous advantage of being a much more authentic way of learning.  Still, it has the disadvantage of relying on teachers, who sometimes lack the confident to adapt their lessons to include ICT.

via What Difference Might One “S” Make? : 2¢ Worth.

Because some teacher’s lack the confidence in using technology for specific lessons, as a technology integration facilitator, it is my job to come in to teach a lesson on occasion and to demonstrate to the teachers the technology, so that in the future the teacher will become more comfortable in teaching it themselves after having it demonstrated to them with students in the classroom- similar to a mentoring or coaching approach to teaching. My teachers feel that even though they have tried to integrate technology in their classrooms this year, they also feel that teaching skills is an important element that cannot be neglected as we integrate technology into every classroom and abandon the computer lab teaching model approach.

Course 3 Final Project: Multimedia Presentation

I worked on this assignment with Sunita Devadas and Eileen Wilson. They worked on the lesson plan and rubric, while I put the multimedia presentation together. The only thing I needed to change since showing our project the first time, was to add an audio voiceover track. I used iMovie to do this since the project was already in iMovie.

Isn’t curious how we don’t like to hear our own voices recorded? This project should have been done a month ago, but I was really dreading putting in the voiceover. Not because it was hard. It was actually quite easy. The hard part was listening to myself when I reviewed it. I really would have preferred getting someone else to do the voiceover. I think this experience has made me realize that if a student wants to record someone else’s voice rather than their own, we shouldn’t discourage it. It is probably not because they don’t want to do the work and they are lazy. It is for the very same reason that I didn’t want to do it. I have to hear myself speak! Ugh! Do I really sound like that?

Well enough about the voiceover. Let me explain how I completed my multimedia project. First I used iPhoto to collect all the photos that I had taken for this project. I separated the photos into albums with the album name as the compositional tip. Then I selected “CREATE” at the bottom of the screen, and then chose “SLIDESHOW.” I then chose a theme for each album, so that the animation would be different for each of the compositional tip topics. I then changed the audio music of the theme to music that I had already downloaded into my iTunes, from www., called “Photograph.” I used the freeplaymusic because it is royalty free, so that I wouldn’t have any copyright issue by publishing my movie onto YouTube.

After creating each album into a slideshow with different themes, these slideshows then appeared into my iPhoto library as slideshow. I then opened iMovie and created a new movie and imported the slideshows using the media browser button that can find the iPhoto slideshows and move them easily into iMovie. I then dragged each movie up into my movie pane one at a time, and put them in the order that I wanted them to appear.

I added the sound track to the background of the whole project by dragging it to the back of the clips rather than directly on a specific clip. This then became my background music for the media slideshow presentation. It wasn’t long enough, so I dragged to song in again a second time so that it would end when the clips ended. I also double clicked on the audio clip and used a fade out for 1.5 seconds at the end of the music to help end the movie with the fading of the music.

I finished the project by adding the voiceover. I first researched what I wanted to say. Typed out my script, and then read it while I hit the voiceover microphone in iMovie, and then touched the clip where I wanted it to go in the movie to begin the recording. It counted down three second and then I began to speak. I hit the microphone in iMovie again to stop the recording.

Here is our finished product for a multimedia presentation and Unit Planner on a google doc.

Finding the Pot of Gold in March



Being the month of March, we all want to find that ‘pot of gold.’ Well this year, I found it!

At my first meeting of our YIS@Coetail, we were all asked to start gathering good resource sites for us to subscribe to using RSS and Google Reader? I really struggled knowing where to go look for those “best” resources. Where are the best blog sites on TechEd? I didn’t have a clue where to go. I didn’t know, back in September that I should have just looked up the past award winners each year from EduBlog. That would have made my search a lot easier.

Okay, I admit, I’m a little out of the loop, I just found The Edublog Awards for 2011 that was voted on in December 2011. But I just recently found it, thanks to my colleague, Jean, who led me to a site that had been nominated. We had been talking lately about how to direct elementary students when researching and Jean emailed me this link on 20 Great Research Websites for Kids. I was surprised how good this resource was and that it was only nominated. After looking at the nominated site, it got me curious about the winners. If this site is this good, then how good is the winner?

I went to The Edublog Awards and found that there wasn’t just one winner, but many because of the many different categories:

  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best librarian/library blog
  • Best school administrator blog
  • Best group blog
  • Best free web tool
  • Best ed tech/ resource blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Best Educational wiki
  • Best open PD/ webinar series
  • Best hashtag
  • Best individual tweeter
  • Best use of a social network
  • Best use of audio/ video / podcast
  • Best individual blog
  • Lifetime achievement

I was at first interested in the Tech Ed category, which I have listed the top 5 from the list below:

Best ed tech / resource blogs
Free Technology for Teachers:
Cindy L. Meester’s Blog:
Speech Techie:
I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!:
Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning:

But then I realized what a wealth of information the other categories will give me too. I could spend a good six months looking at all of these sites. But best of all, when someone asks me, do I know of any good resources for technology. I now have an answer!


Infographics and Wolfram Alpha

I recently found a blog post from Wolfram Alpha on using interactive info graphics to simulate how buildings can be built to withstand a large earthquake. It was written a year ago soon after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan area.

It is a difficult topic for those who were here in Japan when it happened. I was fortunate in a way to be in the U.S. when it occurred, but under unfortunate circumstances. My mother had a stroke and my sister passed away unexpectedly. I flew to the U.S. on a Monday, (after just having arrived back from an Apple conference in Singapore where I met Kim for the first time) and the earthquake happened on Friday. Today is the anniversary of my sister’s death and she has been on my mind a lot lately. I have also noticed a lot of small tremors lately and it makes me worried that I might not be lucky enough to be out of the country the next time.

For those who understand how to use Wolfram Alpha then the new Computational Document Format (CDF) might make sense to you. I find it over my head. I downloaded the CDF player, but then didn’t know what to do with it. However from the Wolfram Alpha blog site there were examples of interactive info graphics such as below.

Earthquakes are oftentimes caused at the boundaries of tectonic plates, which form huge faults on the surface. When large enough forces are applied in two different directions, they overcome the friction between the boundary and cause a sudden movement. The phenomenon, also known as strike-slip, is one of many mechanisms that causes earthquakes. The following animation simulates the strike-slip at a fault and seismic waves caused by it.

 Simulating Seismic Base Isolation

It is comforting to know that most of the buildings in Japan are built to withstand strong earthquakes. This model above helps me to appreciate how the Japanese build their high rise mansions.

Digital Storytelling


My video class is one of my best classes. I get to see my students grow and stretch themselves creatively. Everyone has to start somewhere and some first come into the class with no experience at telling a story visually. However after making four projects throughout the the semester, usually I can see improvements in everyone’s work.

I have been blessed with students who really love making short films. Their passion for creating digital stories help ignite the others in the room. They also provide technical expertise when others get stuck. I don’t usually get questions directed at me. They usually problem-solve among themselves. I enjoy listening to their interactions as they work through the issues that can arise.

Recently one of my students, Connor, attempted his first clay animation story. I thought he did a really good job with it. I asked him the significance of when the character steps into the mud because it seem poignant to me. He replied, “What did you think it meant?” After I told him, he said that he really didn’t mean for it to be that poignant or a turning point of the film, but if I interpreted that way, then he was pleased. He then went on to explain that he wants people to come up with their own interpretations. He said that often in his films there is no right or wrong answer–only opinions.

Here is his clay animation, called Soiled. He took almost 1000 photos to make this film. It is all digital photography and not video. It was fun watching him make this. This is what Connor said about his film.

What makes a film good isn’t always the acting, the story, the cinematography. I believe its the emotion that breaks through in it whether through music or the character development. I try to capture this in my films.


I also really liked a movie that he did with his little sister who acted in it. Here it is. Also if you want to see his other films, here is his YouTube Channel.

Digital storytelling is fun!

The importance of visual literacy



I have been a yearbook advisor for eleven years. When I first started I was visually illiterate. Our school joined Columbia Scholastic Press Association that first year that I took over and I began studying examples of award-winning yearbooks that this organization could provide. I even attended a workshop at Columbia University in New York City in the summer of 2005.

I didn’t really know it at the time, but as I look back I realize that was when I was first introduced to visual literacy education. I received training in how to see a layout spread and break it up into its many elements.

I started to notice the different levels of white space: a column, a pica, and a 2-point close register for grouping pictures together as a unit. I began to notice the importance of a dominant photo and how this one element could draw the viewer’s eye into the spread. But my education didn’t stop there. This year, I have started to notice the importance of having three points of entry for the reader: main story, captions, and alternative copy such as quotes, secondary stories, informational graphics, charts, or quick read survey results.

He said, she said makes an interesting alternative copy story in a yearbook.

This year I have trained my staff to put photos into the spread, then pick a main color from the dominant photo that grabs your attention and use that color for the headline and secondary headline text color. They can then choose a complimentary color for a large drop cap for the beginning of the first lead paragraph and for secondary headlines or alternative copy, so that no more than two colors are used exclusively on a spread.

Some teachers don’t see the importance in yearbook journalism. My yearbook editor was told by one of the math teachers that she needed to take a fourth year of math instead of yearbook even though she plans to pursue journalism in college. That having a fourth year in math was more important for her future. Fortunately, I didn’t lose my editor.

I recently watched a TED YouTube video of Brian Kennedy, director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, about the growing field of visual literacy.

According to Brian Kenndy,

90% of all the information that we take in from the world, we take in visually. A full 30% of the brain cortex is given over to vision. We actually read non-text 60,000 times faster than non-text.” I would like to advocate is a little bit of slow looking. I would like all of us to look so that we could really really see. Just like we hear so that we could really be listening. Why? Because we need to put some order on our chaos and we like the idea of some harmony among our disharmony. Here is a method for “slow looking.” You can all use it anywhere.

  1. Look at it.
  2. See it.
  3. Describe it.
  4. Analyze it.
  5. Interpret it.
  6. Construct meaning from it.

We all need to know and use visual language to be able to communicate what we see in the world by comparing the similarities and the differences in things. Our vocabulary should include such terms as:

  • shape
  • form
  • volume
  • line
  • composition
  • color
  • rhythm
  • pattern
  • movement
  • unity
  • value
  • hue
  • intensity

We need to train our visual capacity. We need to train our ability to construct meaning from images. According to Brian Kennedy in his Ted talk, “visual literacy is needed across the curriculum.” I couldn’t agree more!

If you want to watch his presentation, here it is.