Not sure how it got to be December already…and the end of December at that. Where did 2015 go? It’s been a year to remember for me as many things continue to change and grow as we make our home here in Seattle. This is our 3rd full year living here…one more and we match our longevity record of Bangkok. So we’ll see if that holds true.

As I have been thinking about writing this blog post I can’t help but think what went wrong with The Thinking Stick this year. By far the fewest blog posts I have written since I started the blog in 2005. Yes…10 years of blogging this past September and that didn’t even dawn on me until just a few weeks ago.

Why haven’t I been writing more here? Does it mean that I’m not creating content anymore? I’ve been thinking about this over the past few weeks and I think I’m producing as much as I ever have, it’s just not all in one place. For better or for worse there are now four different companies that I am a part of and each of those have me creating and producing content in some way shape or form for them. Maybe my goal for 2016 should not be to blog more here, but to make sure that more of what I produce in other places ends up here as well?

So here’s 2015 by the numbers.

117,000 miles flown

I’m really liking this first number. A far cry from the 250,000 miles I flew in 2013…and I’m really excited about that. I would like to keep this down to around 100,000 miles a year if possible. That’s a good number for me. 14 countries and roughly 100,000 miles is a good goal for 2016 as well. As I continue to do more here in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region in general the less traveling I’ll have to do. I still want to travel and I know the opportunities will continue to be there. It’s just nice spending more days at home than traveling.

29 Blog posts

15 here on The Thinking Stick and 14 over on the Eduro Learning Blog which honestly surprises me a bit. I really didn’t think I had written that many blog posts. If you missed them here are a couple of my favorites from this year.

Understanding Wikipedia in 3 clicks

The Millennials are here

Where do we teach email?

The death of cursive writing

Citizenship and Chromebooks

8 Podcasts (COETAILcasts)

CC-profileEvery year I find a way to continue to podcast. The last couple of years it has been over on the COETAIL site. Our COETAILcast is approaching 30 episodes for COETAILers and everyone alike to listen to us discuss some of the pressing issues in education and educational technology. It’s a global crew that gets together once a month to just talk and learn together. Find us in all your favorite podcast apps as well as on YouTube. Hangouts continue to get better and so do we with producing these monthly discussions.

87 Days of Training Delivered

I delivered 87 days of training over the year from what is in my calendar. This still is where my passion lies in helping teachers learn how to authentically and purposefully use technology with students. I’m excited as I look at my calendar that I’ll probably end up right around this number of days again in 2016.

3 Days of Substituting

mruOn days when I can, I substitute for teachers at the school my wife works at. This past year that was 3 days total. Not a lot, but 3 days that I got to be in a classroom in front of kids and allow a teacher to take a sick day, or do some PD training themselves. Just a small way for me to give back to educators that do the day to day hard stuff of teaching students.

Day to day running of 4 companies

Who starts four companies? All this means is four bank accounts to manage, four company taxes to keep track of and a host of talking with lawyers and accountants to keep things going. By far my greatest learning this year and where all my “downtime” was spent was learning about businesses. Everything from Eduro Learning with stockholders to Learning2 which is now a Non Profit 501(c)3. Each one of these companies (COETAIL and my personal consulting being the other two) serves a different purpose and all of them have different needs. I have learned more about business law, accounting and taxes than I ever really wanted to know. However as I look back on what I’ve learned this year, it truly has been a journey of learning something and learning that has not always been fun or what I have wanted to spend my time on. To that end however, all four businesses seem to be doing well moving into 2016. What does it take to make it as an educational consultant today? It means having your hands in many different areas of training.

83 more COETAIL Graduates!

CIRCLE-RGB-300pxBetween our Online2 and our Online3 cohorts we’ve graduated another 83 COETAILers. This program continues to be some of the best professional development that educators say they have ever had. Why? Easy…it focuses on classroom practice, reflection, and doing meaningful work with students. If you have some time go check out some of the final projects and if you want to join COETAIL or know somebody that might want to our next online cohort starts in February so register today!

6 more online classes start at Eduro Learning

google-plus-profileOver at Eduro Learning we created 6 online courses for educators with more coming online soon. Over 100 people have already taken the courses and our goal for 2016 is to continue to build these courses and create courses that teachers want to take and are meaningful to them and their classrooms.

1 School District in Transition

MSD Logo_Only_MSOfficeBy far the biggest announcement of 2015 and where the majority of my time has been spent and will be spent for the next few years is with Marysville School District (MSD). Eduro Learning signed a five year contract with Marysville in early 2015 to take roughly 450 educators through three years of training on teaching in a connected classroom. This past October/November the school district rolled out over 5000 Chromebooks to all of its Middle and High schoolers. Now it is our duty to help the district and the community understand what that means in the way of learning. It is a long slow journey but one that I am very excited about. You will be able to follow along with us over at the Eduro Learning PD training site. We have made all our training materials open to the web to help others and to see the training we are taking this district through. More to come on this long-term training over the years, however 2015 marked the beginning of this incredible journey.

Overall, it was a whirlwind of a year. Looking back I did create content just not all of it in one place. My content creation is mirroring my work life for sure…..kind of all over the place. We’ll see what 2016 brings.

Happy New Year!

How time flies as the miles pile up. I have just passed the halfway point of a crazy two months of traveling and presenting. Yes….From the end of September to the end of November I will have flown 70,000 miles and yes….all of it in economy (because I know you were wondering).

It has been a tired, fun, exhausting, passionate time and now that I’m somewhere over the North Pole on my to Seoul, Korea to start course 4 of COETAIL, I finally have time to think about what my learning has been and reflect on this journey.

ICS Addis Ababa – COETAIL

It was great to return to Ethiopia where things continue to move at an incredible rate within the country. I was there for a week to kick off course 3 of COETAIL and while there was asked by the Administration if I would help them bring the Learning2 conference to Africa. I’m exciting to announce that Learning2 Africa will be held September 18-20 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the campus of the International Community School. You’ll be hearing more about this for sure here on the blog. We believe this is the first ever educational technology focused conference on the continent and definitely the first geared towards international schools.

glassGoogle Apps Summit South Korea

Jim Sill and team put on another great Google Apps Summit in South Korea. It was very well attended and I got to finally try on a pair of Google Glasses. Mind blowing cool.

Learning 2.013 in Singapore

Another amazing Learning2 conference this year in Singapore. This conference continues to change and evolve and re-event what a conference experience should be. I find it so interesting that this conference and it’s different formats have been HUGELY successful over the last 7 years yet no conference has tried to replicate it. I have been to a lot of conferences but none that push the boundaries of participants expectations, learning, and community building like this one.

ITEC Keynote

I had the great pleasure of keynoting the Iowa Technology Educators Conference in Des Moines. As the second day keynote I saw it as my job to motivate and spark passion in the conference goers to make this conference matter to them and their schools when they went back to the classroom. We’ll have to wait for the survey results to see if I hit my mark.

It was also great to chat with Scott McLeod again. A great guy doing great things in the state of Iowa.

ISTurin 50% Anniversary Celebration

I was honored to be asked to keynote the 50% anniversary of the International School Turin in Turin, Italy. I had a great time with the staff and the keynote went well. Best part was an hour talk to the high school students challenging them to create their digital profiles now. To be creative, to tell the world they exist and to matter. Still love talking and working with students.

What’s my big take away?

Throughout all this travel and experiences I have to say my biggest takeaway is just how amazing of a time we live in. As I said in my keynotes, we are living in a time where science-fiction is meeting reality. Flying cars by 2020, self-driving cars by 2017, watches that we can talk to and talk to us, glasses that give us information instantly when we need it and space travel becoming a common thing. Just the fact that I leave Iowa and 18 hours later can be in Italy is amazing…it really is.

We are so lucky to be living in this time period….and it’s just getting started. What about 3D printing, medical advances, and the global connections that will continue to change our way of thinking. The world is changing at an amazing pace and most of it, I would argue, for the better.

However, when I look at education I’m not sure where it’s going. Is it keeping up? Is it transforming like the world around it? If it is…..I don’t see it. If it isn’t then where does that leave us? 99% of all schools in America will have Internet access the greatest resources known to man by 2018 and yet it hasn’t changed the way we think about education or educating. The Internet is the greatest app on any device. By itself it allows new learning opportunities that we couldn’t and still can’t imagine possible. Yet very few classrooms, fewer schools, and even fewer districts are really looking at how this single resource transforms learning in amazing ways.

Something has to give right? I mean the educational system at some point needs to adapt to society’s norms correct? If it doesn’t where does that leave us? I understand that education is conservative. I understand that education is slow to change. But the world has changed I’m experiencing it first hand from conversations on airplanes with business leaders (yes….they fly economy too…I know right?…who is in business class?) and global workers, to just what I observe in the corners of the world I have been so lucky to visit. We need to do better for our students because the world that they are going into is incredibly awesome and my hope is they’ll be ready to take full advantage of it.

Photo Credit: JacobYarboroughPhotography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: JacobYarboroughPhotography via Compfight cc

I have been fascinating with a the idea of giving both students and educators 20% time based on the writings of Dan Pink and the book Drive (a must read for all educators in my opinion). There has been some momentum growing in education around this idea and this past year I followed a few teachers who implemented “Genius Hour” in their classroom. A great name for this idea of getting out of the students way and allowing them to do great work.

I haven’t had a lot of time to implement 20% time into my consulting work. One hour workshops just don’t lend themselves to this kind of deep learning. That is why the three day Learning Institute I did in June in London had me so excited. Excited to get out of educators way and allow them to do great work.

I started off by learning something new myself. I set up a Tumblr account to run the three day institute. You can see all the learning here: http://litechaslondon.tumblr.com/

I had a Tumblr account but hadn’t used it that much and was looking for a place that not only could I set the outline for the three days of learning, but also find a place for participants to reflect easily without having to create an account. So I took my own 20% time before the institute started and watching a bunch of YouTube videos….mostly made by Middle School girls…..I taught myself how to set up a Tumblr site and how to allow others to submit reflections to it without needing an account.

Honestly I didn’t know how the participants would react when I told them at the beginning of the first day that each day I was going to give them 1 1/2 hours to do a project. Their project could be on anything they wanted. Play a song, write a poem, bake something, or do work based on what they were learning over the three days of the institute. The only catch was they had to have something to share the last hour of the last day of the institute.

You can read the reflections on the blog, but it was a pretty powerful experience for all of us. The really interesting thing was this institute was held at the end of the school year. Students had finished school just two days prior and all logical thought pointed to teachers being burnt out, checked out, and ready for a well deserved vacation. Instead they were passionate, they were excited, and they were reflective. Why? Because they controlled the time, the outcome, and the project. It was personal, it was productive, and it was mastery.

I realized as soon as I received the list of participants that ranged K-12 educators and administrators coming from 15 different International Schools that there was no way I was going to give each person what they needed and wanted from these 3 days, so instead I got out of their way and allowed them to do the work they wanted to do. The work that mattered to them.

In the end all I did was give them the time we hear so much about. “If only I had the time to learn…..”, I told them from the beginning this wasn’t an excuse for this institute as I was giving them that time they craved.

My own reflection that I’m still struggling with is this: These educators paid to come to an institute to find time where they could learn something. They paid to work on something that they could have done anywhere at anytime. They paid for me to say “I give you time”.

Yet…they paid for more than just that. They paid to be in a room with others, where ideas and learning were everywhere you turned, where excuses where turned into challenges and where being social was the focus. They were in the presence of other learners and allowed to learn on their own.

This is why schools still matter. We not only need that social interaction…we crave it! It is where learning takes place, where excuses become challenges and where real work happens. Schools matter because learning is social and schools are social. Let’s not forget that!

A couple of interesting things over the past 6 months or so that I have been a part of and/or witnessed that I wanted to share and reflect on.

I have been working with a lot of International schools over the past six months. I find it fascinating that in a lot of these schools, I end up having conversations with the administrative team where someone (usually the head of school) will say something along the lines of:

“You have spent a couple of days with us now, how do we compare to other International Schools you have worked with in the region?”

There is this sense that we need to keep up with our neighbors…the idea that we don’t want to get too far behind. I have yet had a head of school ask me.

“Jeff….what do we need to do to be a leader in the region?”

Photo Credit: Kadath via Compfight cc

Please do not get me wrong. I have consulted with schools now from coast to coast in America and in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. International schools are far ahead of their counterparts in the US, and in the International School world, Asia schools are leading the way. Part of it is money, part of it is where Asia is right now in the world and its own pace of change. Part of it is teachers, administrators, parents and students who I think see a change that is coming.

However, I don’t see a lot of schools pushing. Maybe schools that are pushing don’t need my services…which is alright by me. But there are many schools that have in their mission statement to “be a leading school in (Asia, Region, World)” but then they ask if they are keeping up?

So, what should schools who want to fulfill their mission statement be asking/talking about/planning for? Looking at the next three years, I think you’ll see many of these International Schools in Asia going to a “2 to 1” program. Many of them are already 1:1 or in the midst of rolling them out. The conversation has now turned to what comes after 1:1.

I don’t want to name schools here, but let’s just say there are many in the Asia region who have started looking at 3 year technology plans that call for both some sort of tablet device as well as a laptop for MS and HS students. Some schools are picking up the cost for both, other schools are buying the computer while having the student buy the tablet, and yet others are putting it all on the shoulders of parents. The individual school community is what determines how each individual technology plan plays out. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Textbooks are changing and schools are preparing for that change…although personally once you go this route, I think you do away with textbooks pretty much all together. In a 1:1 culture you can, in a 2:1 culture it’s easy.

2. Feedback from students: Personally I can’t find too many students who say they love it when a school turns their textbook into a PDF to use on their computer. Really…this isn’t the “new textbook” this is an old textbook in PDF form. So wrong on many levels.

3. What a tablet offers is a new way to interact with information. Tablets, as I have stated before, are mainly consumption devices. Yes…you can create with them…but they are consumption devices first and foremost and they do an amazing job at it. Once we start creating material that is specific for the interactions that tablets allow we “get it”. Tablets allow us to interact with information in a touch sensitive way, much the same way as books do. I’m reading a book in the Kindle App right now and I get to look words up, highlight, and take notes much the same way I did in old textbooks. But I also get to click on links, rotate objects, watch videos and interact with information that a paper-based textbook (or a PDF version of my old paper-based textbook) just can’t allow. The size and feel of a tablet is…well…made for this type of learning.

I am also happy to report that within these conversation all around the world, Professional Development is making its way more and more into conversations (maybe because I’m pushing it, maybe because the technology has been in place for a while, maybe because people are seeing that the technology without the PD is ineffective). Which is why I think we are still seeing growth in programs like COETAIL and for the new GAFE Course. More schools are encouraging PD around technology. Either in preparation for 1:1 rollouts or in preparation for what’s next.

So what will the next three years of education look like? Personally I think we will continue to accelerate in the transformation of a new type of education….what I think that will look like and technology’s role in it is a blog post yet to come. 🙂

At the end of last week I flew to Seoul, Korea to spend two PD days with educators at Seoul Foreign School (SFS). SFS, like so many other international schools in Asia are in the midst of rolling out their 1:1 program. This year their 5th adn 6th graders are in the program and next year they will be expanding that upwards through the grade levels as they continue the role out. 

It was a fun two days filled with conversations and ideas. I met with math teachers on the second day and promptly stole everything that Dan Meyer has to offer (Thanks Dan!).  

I also met with the primary teachers who teach 3-5 year olds. I had my hardest time talking technology with this group of educators. I believe what the brain research is telling us in that this age group should be spending as little time in front of computers as possible. The TED talk below is a good place to start and talks about how to develop the language center in the brain you can’t substitute computers for human contact.

I’m not sure it’s a good move for a consultant who is brought in to champion tech to say….you shouldn’t be using very much. I do think limited exposure isn’t a bad thing, but the key word there is limited. I still want these kids playing with blocks and with each other.

In the end it was great to spend time at a fantastic school who like the rest of big schools in Asia are asking big questions, innovating at every turn, and taking a risk on what the future of education might be. 

I can’t believe how time is flying by this 2nd Semester. It’s our last 6 months in Thailand and of course when you want time to slow down so you can fit everything in it does just the oposite. 

No excuses, I haven’t made the time to blog lately and find myself sitting here at 6am in the van on the way to school with a moment to reflect. 

What I’ve been up to:



All of a sudden the last two weeks have been packed! Our school is hosting the regional basketball tournament and this year we’re going to try and live stream the games as well as have students commentate them live. When you have 5 teams flying in from 5 different countries not everyone can travel with them, so streaming the sports has become almost expected by spectators back in their home countries to keep up with the action. We’ll be live February 2,3,4 here in Bangkok and you can watch the games and see how we set this up using Ustream, Google Docs, and a blog here.

Also on the school front, I took advantage of the holiday season knowing that teachers were going to come back to school with new toys; iPhones, iPads, Android Phones and new computers. I saw an opportunity to provide some training to teachers around their own personal use of technology. We know that if you start using technology in your personal life where it’s meaningful to you that those skills and understandings transfer over to your work life as well. Learning to take a video of your kids and e-mailing it to family is the same as taking a video of your students and e-mailing it to the parents. 

The after school sessions were the best attended sessions I’ve had so far this year even with the power going out during the Android training, we found an emergency light and carried on. 

People are hungry for information, especially when it relates directly to their personal lives….make trainning personal!

Ninja Program:

Logo for our T-Shirts @ ISB

The Google Apps Ninja Program that I started back in September and blogged about here has completely taken me by surprise. There are now over 150 educators who have access to the Google Docs. Seeing that there might be something here that I can support long term I decided to move all the files to their own Google Apps domain. So the Google Apps Ninja Program is now officially found at www.ninjaprogram.com the website isn’t finished but after reading this blog post if you are interested in using the files and helping to keep them updated, fill out this form and I’ll get you in. I’m excited to focus on this next year as one of my projects.

COETAIL Online Cohort:


As I blogged about here a couple weeks ago the COETAIL Online Cohort will be kicking off February 5th and I’ve been hard at work preparing for the almost 50 International Educators who have signed up to take the course. WOW is all I have to say about that! I was hoping for 25 (one full cohort) and have 42 people registered with the February 1st deadline just a few days away. If you’re interested there are still a few spots left. 

Update: I did get clarification from Buffalo State – SUNY that Canadian Educators living in Canada are eligible to take the program.Basically any educator outside the U.S. is eligible to take the program (don’t ask me why…some Higher Ed thing).

I’m looking forward to a great year of learning with these educators spread all over Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 


That’s what has been keeping me busy these past few weeks. I’m finding myself in this weird place of starting project and preparing for all the things I want to do next year as a consultant and starter of cool stuff and the full time job I still have. It’s leaving very little time to do much else….but I can’t complain because I’m doing what I love! 

As the van pulls into school….let another day begin. 



It’s that time of year again in the international education world of contracts, decisions, and thinking about your future. Kim Cofino has a great post about finding the right fit…the right school. Whether you are an international educator or not it’s worth a read.

International Teachers are different…we’re weird….we don’t like stability, we like change and challenge. We like travel, culture and to be honest I think we all like just being different. If you’ve met an international educator you’ll know what I’m talking about. Countries, airports, and airlines are just common conversation. We talk about “Bali Belly” the “Shanghai Shits” and the “India Illness” like it’s common conversation….seriously never start a conversation about being sick with an international educator….we share way more than you ever wanted to know. 🙂

But that’s us…..we live on year by year contracts, don’t try to make us sign a multi-year deal….cause that’s a deal breaker in itself (part of the reason we left Shanghai). We’re renegades, we’re individuals, and nobody is going to tell us where we’re going to live or that we can’t leave….cause we will just to prove you wrong. Yeah….International Educators are different. We expect open bars at conferences (over 50% of our food budget for Learning 2.010 was spent on alcohol…cause if you don’t have it people won’t come). We expect conferences to be in amazing locations. Borneo, Bangkok, Greece, Shanghai, Singapore, Egypt, Nice, etc. Yeah…..international conferences are rough.

And then there is the friendships you create. Deep meaningful friendships with people who become your family. My best friends little brother, who I’ve known since he was in 6th grade graduated from University at an elementary teacher and decided to try out the international teaching thing. His first posting has been Kuwait where he’s in his second year, meaning that he’s now having to decide whether to stay another year or decide if it’s time to move on. He wrote a blog post, a couple lately actually, talking about his decision and how attached one becomes to friends, a country and these amazing kids we have the honor of teaching. Some very reflective blog posts from a young teacher trying to figure out life, education, and the meaning of it all.

Created on an iPad by a Kinder Teacher for me. 🙂

And then there’s me…..maybe this blog post is describing me more then the general international educator (I’m sure they’ll let me know in the comments), but I’m constantly searching for something. The perfect school (doesn’t exist BTW), the perfect balance of online and offline, and what it is I want to do when I grow up.

As I’ve done more consulting and conferences in the past two years people ask me quite often, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

It’s a questions I honestly can’t answer because I don’t know where I see myself in 1 year. But here’s what I do know.

I know I love teaching, I know that in the past two years as I’ve presented at more and more conferences, and consulted with schools, and now running the CoETaIL program with Kim, that I love teaching teachers. It’s not that I don’t love teaching kids….I miss it every day, but as I evolve, as my thinking evolves I find myself enjoying the presentations, the consulting, the courses, and the discussions with educators near and far.

So this year when it came to deciding to sign contracts at ISB for another year we sat down with the administration to see if I could have my cake and eat it too. Could I work in a school with students and continue to consult and present? Three years ago we reached an agreement that allowed me to take days without pay up to 20% to do consulting. Which brought me to ISB in the first place. With a new contract season upon us it was time to see if we could come to an agreement again….and I’m happy to say we did.

Next year I’ll be on a 90% contract at ISB as the High School Technology & Learning Coordinator. So I’ve given up 10% of my contract to focus on following my recent passion of consulting and presenting.

I have to pinch myself to see if this is still really my life. Working at a school willing to work with me (and all my craziness), being able to do what I need to do to stay stimulated as an educator, to keep growing as an individual, to be able to follow my passion, and to be married to a woman who not only supports me in my craziness, but pushes me to follow my passion (benefits of being married to a counselor?).

It’s hard to believe that I’m actually doing this…that I’m going to try my hand at consulting and presenting and seeing where it takes me….and if I don’t book any gigs…well…I get an extra 20 days next year to blog. 🙂

Today I find myself in downtown Minneapolis after driving in last night from working with educational leaders in northern Iowa. I was looking forward to getting out and walking around the city, but it so happens I arrived the same time a winter storm has hit with high winds and what’s this white stuff I see falling from the sky? Yes….two days ago it was 60F today 38F and by Friday when I leave back to 63F. A little cold for my tropical blood so I’m doing the only logical thing you would do…..hanging out at a laundry mat catching up on laundry and thinking.

I’ve been very impresses with how far Scott McLeod, Jamie and Nick have been able to move Iowa educational leaders in the conversation of what needs to be done to keep education relevant in rural America. 

As I’ve talked with Scott and the educational leaders I’ve been working with throughout the state I keep coming back to Clayton Christensen book Disruptive Class (a must read!). He talks in the book about how disruptive technologies start by filling a niche need that is not mainstream. But they gain momentum fast and by the time mainstream knows what hit them they’ve become irrelevant (my basic paraphrasing of the book).

Iowa finds itself trying to compete in a world where populations are moving to more urban settings, leaving rural states like Iowa looking for ways to stay relevant. I met one Superintendent who has 700 students covering something like 400 square miles and their population is increasingly getting smaller and older. How does a small rural community compete in a wired fast pace world?  

You teach students to connect and be creative.

The number of schools/districts that have gone 1:1 in the past couple of years is about to reach 100 a 50% increase from the year before, and I have a feeling the adoption rate of 1:1 in rural states like Iowa will continue to outpace those of urban states in the near future. 

You then look at online learning and what the book Disruptive Class really focused on. That as these rural areas shrink they can’t afford full time teachers to teach every subject and online learning fills the void of offering classes that cannot be offered or supported locally. 

We talked about ways that these educational leaders could connect their communities that are spread out over great distrances. Of course Facebook came up in our conversations and instead of the usual “We can’t do that” that I’ve been hearing in the US for the past 3 years, there was a different conversation. This time one around “How do we do that?”

We discussed how much of their population, even the elder generation are probably on Facebook. Most figured probably upwards of 80%. If your community is in Facebook, and they won’t come to you for meetings, training, or to get information on bond issues, etc. Then you need to go to them and that is increasingly becoming Facebook. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with how they handle your data, but with 500 million users and 80% of your local population already connected, you can’t ignore it either. 

We also had some great conversations around the use of cell phones in the classroom. Even in some of the poorest of rural areas educational leaders where estimating that in 4th and 5th grade probably 30 – 40% of students have a cell phone. 

We discussed ways to use the camera, text messaging and my favorite idea: QR Codes

I’m going to come out right now and say that 2011 will be the year of the QR Code. We’re seeing them pop up more and more and as industries like aerospace continue to adopt them as a way to give out electronic boarding passes they’ll become more mainstream. 

It’s been fun to talk with open minded educational leaders and have conversations around the future of learning. We continue to say we need to get the leaders involved in these conversations and the work that Scott and his colleagues are doing in Iowa is opening up opportunities for change. 

For the first time in my three years of consulting with American schools I’m feeling hopefully that the conversation is changing.

As I wrap up my time here at the International School of Brussels I can’t help but think about the students that get an opportunity to go to such an amazing school.

I had the pleasure of sitting last night and reflecting on my time here as I watched my first American Football game in over 8 years. I’m proud to say that ISB beat SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) and the hamburgers grilled up by the head of school (Link to his new blog) were fantastic. For a moment I felt like I could have been in any small town in the heart of American enjoying Friday night football. As I sat there in the crisp fall air the memories of my own high school days of Friday night football games came back. Sports were the reason I went to school, they were the only reason why I tried to pass classes. You had to have a 2.0 GPA in order to play and, well, lets just say I did pull at least that…..most the time. Motivation to do well comes from many different sources for kids. For some it’s sports, for others it might be band or theater, and yet for others it’s school itself that motivates them to do well. But understanding that each student is unique in what they are passionate about and what motivates them to do well is what every school, teacher, educator should strive to become.

ISB is a unique school internationally. While most large international schools have rigorous entrance exams ISB-Brussels has taken a different approach…..one of inclusion.

As their Impressions brochure states:

1500 students, ages 2 1/2 to 19, from 70 countries. Each with his or her own learning style, skills, interests, passions, personality,hopes and dreams, 1500 students, 1500 ways of being intelligent.

My favorite conversations of the week revolved around this idea that every student is unique and with that we need to find unique ways to reach each one of them. ISB is a 1:1 school from 3rd-12th grade. Two years ago they took the plunge, with little to no known research backing 1:1 laptops programs in the elementary school. But it doesn’t take long to get a feeling that at this school it’s students that matter. That if there is a way that putting a laptop in the hands of every child might help….then they were going to do what was best for kids. Research or no research they had a gut feeling that computers at all levels could help students learn.

Many conversations revolved around the whole child and the whole class. Not every student is a reader, not every student is engaged by technology, and that’s OK. How can we put the tools in the hands of teachers and give them the opportunity to use them where and when appropriate.

It’s what many of us have been saying for years. That the technology is just a tool that can lead to learning, when you have as many computers as pencils in your classroom it makes it easy to choose the right tool for the lesson. My message to the people that attended my sessions was start with the learning outcomes and see where it all fits. Where do you write with a pencil, where do you watch a video, where do you interact with digital media, where do you create content for the world, and how do you meet the needs of each of your students?

You could feel a culture within the school (mostly around the heated passionate discussions in some of my sessions) that ISB is not a school that is going to find research and then react…..instead they are out there creating the research themselves. They’ve been 1:1 in the elementary school for two years now and are starting to collect some data around learning. What I love is that their first round of student tablets are about ready to be replaced and the school is asking itself what’s next? Are tables the best tool? Is there something better? Where do we go from here?

When you are a school, as the slideshow says above, believes in innovation, innovation, innovation, it means celebrating your successes and learning from your failures. The school is not perfect, they know that, and in this day in age we all feel like we have a lot to learn and that we will never be able to learn it all. That’s a mindset I believe many people feel with the pace of change today. As some point we need to stop trying to learn it all and learn how to learn what we need when we need it. In my session on Digital Literacy we only made it through 3 of the 10 slides I had. The conversation was intense and passionate, as we tried to answer the questions:

What is the role of a teacher is today?

How is technology changing that role?

What does it mean to be literate and how do we teach that in all subjects to students?

It was a great session (I thought anyway) that allowed people to share what they felt it meant to be a teacher, something I think we do not get enough time to discuss within our schools.

At the end of the day if you are a school that believes in innovation, innovation, innovation and that through being innovative you can reach each child and give them “multiple opportunities to success” then you are a school on your way to truly changing the world.