This is something I’m pretty passionate about and something I think most schools don’t fully understand yet. In a socially connected world where communities trump content schools need to continue to monitor and adjust where their community is moving to, what tools are they adopting, and what content they are creating, talking about, and using to connect to each other.

It use to be you only had to worry about your school website

Then it was the wikipedia entry

Then came videos that kids were uploading to YouTube and Myspace

Next came Facebook

Shortly after that Twitter

and now location services (Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla and Google Latitude )

Your school does have a presence on all these sites right?

At the end of last school year I was the only one checking into ISB (Foursquare link) via Foursquare. The Mayorship was all mine! Then somewhere around September I get a notice that I was bumped from being the mayor of our school. A little investigation found out that it was an 11th grade girl at our school. Over the next couple of months we battled it out for the Mayorship…I leave for winter break only to come back and find that Foursquare had taken off at our school.


Click to Enlarge

Seeing that the community was building here it was time to make it official as there were a few different venues floating around for our school. So I followed the steps on Foursquare to claim the venue…a pretty easy process. After I officially claimed the venue for our school I could add information such as the correct address, link to website, link to twitter account, and even offer specials to students. 

I ran a special that if students checked in 5 days in a row I would buy their lunch (attendance taker?). I gave away two lunches in January and then started thinking about other specials you could run for parents, students and the community. You really could have some fun with this. (i.e. Check-ins during sporting event give-aways. Attendance check-ins, daily give-aways…..free lunch from the school to a random person check-in.)

Of course you also need to understand that you can’t control everything…especially location based services like this one. We have the school as the official venue on Foursquare. But kids have gone crazy and you can also find:

ISB Library

ISB Cafeteria

ISB Dance Room

ISB Weight Room

ISB Field B

ISB Field A1

ISB ES Playground

ISB HS Art Room

ISB Tennis Courts

For those school leaders who think they can still control the content of the school…let this list speak for itself. You can’t control where the community goes, what tools they decide to use or not use. All you can do is go with the community and engage them, or at the very least let them know you have a presence there. The worse thing you can do is put your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. “We didn’t even know this was happening” isn’t a very good stance when talking to parents or community members. Schools need to become more social-network savvy. It’s time that we create a position in schools to communicate and engage the community where they are at in these growing social-networks. 

The days of having full control over your content is gone! The sooner we realize that the sooner we can move on to finding ways to use these social connections to drive dialog, discussions, and even learning and engagement around our schools.

Other Blog Posts On This Topic

Taking Control of Your School’s Profile: Where to Start

Schools: Take Control or Forfeit your Profile

Who’s Controlling your Profile?


DisconnectedBack from a week in Northern Thailand where I took twenty-one 10th and 11th grade students on a week long journey into manual labor, teaching, and self-reflection. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and the first order of business after arriving at the lodge was to disconnect. As promised I made the students turn in all electrical devices. Cellphones, iPods, etc. The only thing they were allowed to keep was a camera. Nothing with earbuds, nothing that could distract them from each other.

I made the theme for the week Disconnect to Connect and then challenged the students with the following: 

By the end of this week have one meaningful conversation with every other person here…..including me. 

It wasn’t a big task…after all we were going to be spending every waking moment together over the next 5 days. Four of the days consisted of the same schedule. Half of the students would teach English to the students in K-5 while the other half built a new cafeteria for the kids and school. Wednesday would be a team building activity that included building your own raft and rafting down the Maekok River and hiking to a hill tribe village.

I had an opportunity to talk with the principal of the school (via a translater) about living in Northern Thailand. Basically there are hill tribes in Northern Thailand some of them Thai others refugees from around the region. Cambodia, Burma, Tibet, and other parts of Asia as well. The Thai government allows these tribes (villages) to operate in Thailand but does not officially recognize them as Thai citizens. Unlike in the U.S. or other countries where if you are born in that country you are a citizen of that country, Thailand does not follow this same rule and therefore some of these tribes are generations old and yet not Thai nationals. 

Because they are not Thai nationals they do not receive any funding for things like education. For example, the school we were working at (Mae Sa Lak School) there were 160 students K-5, however only 50 of the students were actual Thai nationals, meaning the school only got funding for 50 students to teach and educate 160. To put this in perspective…the Thai government gives the school 10 Baht (32 cents USD) per child for lunch. So instead of having 500 Baht ($16.25) to feed 50 kids. They get 500 Baht to feed 160 kids. The same goes for school supplies, materials, etc. So you can see why this school and many like it in the region are in need of any help they can get. The tribes themselves get some support but it seemed to me to be sporadic in nature. One tribe, tibetan origin, that we visited on our hike on Wednesday had recently received two solar panel power converters to charger their car batteries that they use for power during the night. A huge step forward from having to take the car batteries into town to get them charged. 

An ex-international teacher and his wife set up the MRV Educational Project about 12 years ago and work with local schools like the one we worked at and with schools around the world to come in and help where they can. 

buildingOur students donated 75,000 Baht ($2,437) to build Mae Sa Lak School a new multi purpose building that would be used for a cafeteria, a stage for plays, and just a shaded area to hold class and other gatherings. Mae Sa Lak has been working with MRV Educational Projects for awhile and different school groups have already built a nursery center (for kids 2-5 to go when parents work), a dormitory (so kids didn’t have to walk the 15km round trip to school every day) two sets of bathrooms, and repainted the classrooms. 

I’m proud to say in the four days we worked on the building we completed the foundation, poured a cement floor, and started working on the brick wall. Because it’s so hot in Thailand and because they don’t have air conditioners the main part of the building was to remain open to the elements to allow for ventilation. 

Each day after working on the project and teaching students we would come together to debrief about the day. I would lead the kids through the debrief session that went something like this. 

Thoughts on Today
(Overall comments on the day, something funny a kid said, something you learned.) 

A Moment
(I wanted students to reflect on a moment…one of those moments we have from time to time where you just step back and go WOW. I wanted kids to think about those moments, when did they come and what did they mean to them.)

A Conversation
(I gave them time to talk about a conversation they had with another student based on my challenge above. Who did they talk to, what did they learn?)

A Take Away
(Each night I would add my own observation of the day and try to send the kids away thinking about something. One night we talked leadership, one night team work and another night about the kids at the school and their lives.)

I loved watching the kids get more comfortable with each other and with the process. By the last night….the kids talked for 30 minutes without any prompting. They were reflecting, thinking, and talking about the experience they had. Many of them talked about the kids at the school they had gotten to know over the week and how hard it was to leave them. “I didn’t think it would be this hard to leave” was a common theme on Friday night. I knew the trip had moved these kids when we loaded up to leave the school on Friday and there were tears in many eyes and the ride back to the resort was quiet. High School students who talked, and laughed the 30 minute ride to and from and the school each day were silent, deep in reflection and self-realization. 

I wish every high school student had an opportunity like this…heck…I wish every person had an opportunity like this. To get out, help someone, love a kid for awhile, and change the world….no matter how small it might seems at the time….the students of Mae Sa Lak School where loved for one week by a bunch of high school kids who started the week on a school trip, but ended the week in passion and caring for someone less fortunate.

As part of their assignment ISB students have to write a reflection on their blog about the week. I encourage you to read the students thoughts on the week in their own words on our Global Citizen’s Week Blog here

This coming week I’ll be disconnected from the world…and will be enjoying it. 

Each year our high school students take a week off away from the walls and classrooms and head out into the world to learn. Our Global Citizen’s Week (GCW) is a great opportunity for students to see the word, interact with others, and get to know school mates away from school.

I’m leading a group to the Maekok River Village Resort. We’ll be there for a full week where we’ll be teaching K-5th graders English as well as building a new cafeteria for the school. It’s a great opportunity to disconnect and just “be” with students, with the people in the region and with nature. 

  Here’s what I wrote my students on the trip.

DisconnectedI know I keep talking about taking away your mobile devices and forcing you to disconnect during the trip…and I’ll need your help reminding myself to do the same.

We now live in a time of constant connections. Whether it’s our cell phones, laptops, iPods, or even the TVs in the hallways of ISB.

There are few places left in our daily lives that we can truly just “be”. This is one of those opportunities. An opportunity to be with others, to be with nature and to reflect on the world around us. I for one am looking forward to not having to check Facebook, no e-mail, no buzzing of a text in my pocket and just spending time getting to know all of you and just “being” with people less fortunate than myself and with nature. No screens, no distractions. Just us enjoying each others company.

So know that I will be collecting all electronically devices after we get to the lodge. They will be secured in my room and I’ll take responsibility for them. You will get them back when we board the bus to the Airport on Feb. 12.  Let’s enjoy being disconnected together.

So I’m off the grid this week enjoying time just “being” with kids and nature. I encourage you to do the same at some point this year as well.

“How many of you have done the 18 minute, right before class, copy and paste, plagiarized, bullet point, turn and read off the screen PowerPoint Presentation? Be honest.”

Every hand in the room goes up.

We know it as educators, kids know it as students. The presentation really is about finding information, putting it on some slides, add some transitions and then telling the rest of the class what it is you found.

Then there is the audience who is suppose to take notes on the information. A.K.A. copy the bulletpoints in bulletpoint format onto a piece of paper. Because there is so much learning in copying words from the slide to paper….NOT……and of course as you are busy copying the words you’re not listening to what the presenter is saying…not that it matters they’re just reading the words off the slides anyway. 


Pecha KuchaWhat if there was a different way? What if the presentation was a story, a journey, an in-depth look into some aspect of a book, a time period as told through images and the research of the storyteller. What if the preperation of making the presentation was about learning? What if it was about crafting a story and understanding a topic to the point where you could stand and without notes, without bulletpoints tell your story. 

That’s exactly what I’ve been working with in partnership with one of our high school English teachers. Let me give you the outline.

Students in 9th grade English are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. A classic read for many students in high school. To help students understand the novel and the time period in which it takes place. Each student researches some aspect of the 1930’s. Students are given a list of topics or are free to come up with their own. Some topics include, Adolf Hitler, Fascism, The Great Depression, FDR, Women in 1930 America. 

Students have free range to choose a topic (Autonomy) as long as they can tie it some how to the book, or how this might have affected the characters in the book in that time period. 

Once they have chosen their topic and had a conversation about the angle they are going to take with it and how it ties to the book, they are set free to research (Mastery). 

The Purpose is to craft a story on how or why they feel their topic ties to Kill a Mockingbird

Students use a modified Pecha-Kucha format. Because of timing instead of 20 slides 20 seconds a slide. We went with 15 slides x 20 seconds for an even 5 minute presentation.

Time Period: 2 Weeks (including 2 weekends)

Why a Pecha Kucha:

  1. Equality: Every student gets exactly 5 minutes. No 3-5 or 5-7 minute presentation. Everyone gets 5 minutes to tell their story.
  2. Style: The style of a Pecha-Kucha which is very much telling a story through pictures allows students to think both literally and symbolically about the pictures they use to tell their story. The focus is on the story not the slides. The slides act as a visual representation of the story and are not the story themselves.
  3. Content Knowledge: When using the Pecha-Kucha format there is no faking content knowledge. Students need to know their content to a depth that they can stand and deliever a story using pictures as a visual trigger to the story telling process.
  4. Examplars: Using the Pecha-Kucha.org website students have a vast array of examplar presentations to learn from and get ideas from. 


Because telling a story is all about whether or not you made your point, the audience (students) rated each presentation right after it was given. We created a form in Google Docs. Kids would listen to the presentation and takes notes. Once the presentation was over and as the next presenter was setting up the students would fill out the rubric on the presentation, hit submit and get ready for the next presentation.

Questions on the rubric. Answered on a 1 – 5 scale of 1 = Stongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree

  • The presenter has answered the ‘so what’ factor effectively
  • The presenter has a clear thesis statement
  • Vocal features (tone, pace, volume) are present
  • The presenter has used visual images symbolically and has linked them clearly to the thesis statement
  • The presenter has utilized eye contact and not referred to notes
  • The presenter has provided a handout with sources and a Works Cited page
  • The presenter has shown creativity in their use of Pecha Kucha (15×20 – 5 mins)
  • The presenter – answered questions from the audience with confidence
  • Comments to the Presenter

Use of Class Time: The research and the creating of the actual presentation where done outside of class. Class time was used to teach about creative commons pictures, creating compelling presentation, research skills, a clear thesis statement and answering the “so what” factor as the presentation related to the book. In other words class time was used to teach skills and context of the presentation. (Reverse Instruction)

Student Reaction:

  • Hate it: A lot of work for 5 minute presentation. (Love it!)
  • Hate it: Had to come up with my own topic, just tell me what to research. (Love it!)
  • Hate it: Finding pictures and thinking about how they fit with my story was tough. (Love it!)
  • Like it: I really learned what it was I was researching and in some cases ended up going in a different direction then where I started.
  • Love it: Being in the audience you really had to listen and figure out how the picture tied to the story. 

Teacher Reaction:

  • By far the best presentations I’ve seen from kids hands down.
  • The bump up in learning was amazing.
  • Watching some kids who struggle in class shine blew me away.
  • Will never go back to an “old” presentation style for this project again.

Lastly invite every administartor you know to come in and watch. You can’t help but listen to a couple of these presentations and go WOW. The level of learning, the content knowlede, the creativity and use of pictures is far beyond what even I expected. On top of that some of the angles students took on their research and how they believed it tied to the book was far beyond my own comprehension. Kids are at all different parts of the book as they read To Kill a Mockingbird. More than once students were caught whispering to one another “I haven’t gotten to that point in the book yet…..I need to get reading.” The teacher, loving the format and the learning he was seeing also did this same process with 11th grade IB students. What they produced was college level thinking and the depth that some of them with their thinking can’t be put into words. Simply an amazing project that I believe has changed both classroom practice and student knowledge for years to come. 

My favorite part of the CoETaIL program that Kim and I run is coming up this semester. The 5th and final course for the certificate includes teachers having to apply what they’ve learned in the first 4 courses in their classroom.

Last week I met with Donna Hurst one of our EAL and IB TOK teachers and we hashed out a plan to use technology in meaningful ways with her 12th grade EAL students.

We settled on having the students study and learn vocabulary words not by looking up definitions in a dictionary, but instead by helping to create the dictionary itself. Donna found Wiktionary the sister site to the ever so popular Wikipedia. Within Wiktionary there is a section called Simple Wiktionary that is for English Learners. I love their tips for writing:

  • Keep it simple - Simple pages will be easier to read by people who do not speak English well. But that does not mean the definition has little content!
  • Write good pages - The best dictionary pages are clear and have enough detail to help the user understand and use the word. See also Wiktionary:Entry layout explained
  • Use the pages - These pages help people learn English. You may use pages from this Wiktionary to make pages in a different language. But you have to translate it to your own language yourself.
  • Be bold! - Be bold in creating new entries. It does not have to be perfect, because other editors can make it better. Just don’t be afraid to start new entries yourself.

A perfect place for English Language Learners to not only learn…but add value back to the Internet.

Even better yet was the fact that Simple Wiktionary uses the Academic Word List. The same list our students use and would be choosing their words from.

After we found the site we then starting thinking about how we could adapt the lesson to fit. Instead of having students do all the work, they would be reading the word page, assessing the content on it, finding out what was missing, and then improving the page. One common thing we found missing on all the pages was a sentence using the word. So, the students would write sentences using the word, we then found that some of the ways the students were using the word in the sentence wasn’t the same definition that was on the page, which meant that student would then have to add a new definition to the word. How about a picture, synonyms or related words? What I like about this project is that all of the pages are at different stages so the students have to assess the content of the page, and then add to it in a meaningful way and see if their changes stick.

Donna has set up an RSS feed for each of her students accounts on Wiktionary so every change they make she knows about, can check out and support them in their efforts. 

Overall…..a pretty cool and different way to do vocabulary…..even for a 12th grader.   

I wanted to follow up on the reverse instruction lessons I’ve been working with teachers on.You can read the first blog posts here on the outline in English and U.S. History.

Here’s a bit of the chat conversation:

‹Alex› what if there was no external validation? wouldn’t we all become crazy?
‹TK› we cant live alone isolated within ourselves ‹Holden Caulfiel› yes, by definition
‹Jenna› @TK, well thats because we were brought up that way ‹jutecht› @Alex….yes
‹Holden Caulfiel› a crazy man is one who lives in his own reality
‹Stporn Mint Nit› @Alex – we kind of “create” our own life. we think in some way. we act in some way. and we face consequences according to our actions. however, the existence of others may also affect the way we think in some cases?
‹Holden Caulfiel› however, the reality he lives in, is his own
‹Holden Caulfiel› therefore, he sees everything that everyone else sees, but his perception is skewed
‹Jay› Do we have the right to say someone is crazy then?
‹Jenna› so then a crazy  man can also be an existentialist?

That’s only a snippet of a chat-room that involved 8 students that was very intenses both in speed and in depth of thinking. This was the first time any of these students have been in a chat-room for this type of learning and the feelings where mixed about whether or not they liked it…..let me rephrase that. They all loved the chat-room but they were split on it’s relevance to the fishbowl discussion.

“I felt like I got sucked into the chat and wasn’t listening to the discussion in the fishbowl.”

“I liked it….it was great to grab something that they said in the middle and have a deeper discussion about it.”

The students felt they were missing the conversation in the middle of the fishbowl being so wrapped up in their chat. However, they all agreed that the learning/discussion in the chat was just as valuable…the problem was they wanted both!

by Flickr ID: ChrisDownUK

Debriefing with the teachers afterwards we found about what I expected. That some of the quieter students in class discussions shined in the chat-room. Whether is was just more time to think and write, or not being overshadowed by more vocal students, both teachers found shining moments for some of the more shy kids in the class in the chat-room. Some of the shyer students even asked if they could just keep doing the chat…it was more comfortable to them while those more vocal seems to want to…well…talk. 🙂

I think everyone could agree one of the most powerful aspects of the Fishbowl activity was having the students talk about what they learned from reading their classmates blog entries. To be sitting on the outside of the circle and hearing other kids quote your blog….was pretty cool…even if the kids wouldn’t always admit it…the smiles on their faces when they were quoted was all you needed. The quality of the blog posts and writing was another fantastic outcome from this experiment. You can read some of the blog posts here and their in-depth thinking as they found research and then tried to make sense of what it was they were reading. It was interesting to read these blog posts next to some of the others the students have posted. In this blog post they had an audience (the other half of the class) and they knew that their writing was going to be read. Creating that audience for students in the beginning of blogging is so important. Give them an reason to do their best writing…and “somebody might just happen to read it” is not a good enough reason for an 11th graders. 

We’re halfway through the experiment and we continue to talk to the students as now we have new essential questions and the roles within the class have been flipped. I’m looking forward to what this looks like on a common assessment. 

U.S. History has to be one of the hardest classes to teach at an international school. When at best half your students would be from America and at worse none…yet our U.S. based curriculum says we have to teach it. So how do you motivate students who for the most part have no buy-in into U.S. History? The teachers do a great job of trying to look at U.S. History with a wider lens and that’s what this reverse instruction lesson is about.

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Some rights reserved by ViaMoi

What are the characteristics of a civil war?

What were the causes of the U.S. Civil War?

So those are the questions posed to the class yesterday. The class was broken into two groups. Each group would research one of the questions and was paired with a partner researching the other question.

Our plan followed much the same process as the one I blogged about using with the IB English class. However instead of using the blogs to post their research the students in this class will be using our school Moodle install. We set up a forum for each question. Students will post their information in a forum where their partner will be able to read and comment on it. Everyone in the class of course can read all the entries making one big study guide for the class.

On Friday we’ll be doing a similar fishbowl routine as in the English class. The group who researched the characteristics of a civil war will talk about the U.S. Civil War while those that researched it will be in a chat room listening and commenting on the discussion. We then reverse the roles the second part of class.

The teacher Casey Corning, has been doing a lot of great things with tech this year, and is probably my best user of a teacher blog in the high school. She has a blog for each of the courses she teaches, and has helped to transform our senior seminar class into using the blogs as their semester long reflection. So it wasn’t a shocker when she stepped up to want to try this approach in her classroom. She then decided to take it one step further and we’re doing a little action research around it. She teachers two periods of U.S. History. So one period is getting the “traditional” teaching model while the class I’m helping with does the student-centered reverse instruction model. At the end we’ll talk to the kids and use the assessment to see if there was any knowledge difference in what the students learned with the two approaches. It’s always great when you have teachers willing to take a risk like this.

More to come on Friday.


reverse instruction
reverse instruction

Today was our first day back to school after the holiday break and the first day of my little reverse instruction experiment with teachers and students. Jim Fitzgerald, who I’ve blogged about before, decided he’s be one of my guinea pigs….again.

 What is Existentialism?

Every good student-led lesson starts with a guiding or essential question and here is ours. It’s a simple task really for these 11th graders. Research existentialism and write a blog post about what you believe it is linking to 3 or more resources in the process.

So here’s how we set up the lesson.

Day 1: Introduce the question and the plan


Half the class (9 students) will research the question and write a blog post based on the research they found and what they believe existentialism to be. Their blog posts will be posted by Wednesday at 5pm.

The other half of the class (9 students) starting Wednesday at 5pm have until class starts on Friday to read the 9 blog posts, leave thoughtful comments, take notes, and prepare for a fishbowl activity Friday in class where they will talk about what they’ve learned and what they believe existentialism to be based on the research of their classmates.

Day 5: Friday’s Fishbowl:

Friday in class the commenters will be in the fishbowl along with Mr. Fitzgerald discussing what they believe existentialism to be quoting their classmates and the research they linked to in their blog posts.

The researchers will sit in a circle around the comments not allowed to talk to them (much like watching fish) but will be engaged in a chat-room (within Moodle) with each other discussing what is being talked about by the commenters in the middle. I will monitor the chat-room.

At the end of class…we bring everyone together to debrief about their experience.

The following week we give another question and we switch roles. The commenters become the reports and the reporters become the commenters. I’m really interested to see if the blog posts, comments, and discussion improve the second time through this lesson.

How we use class time:


After explaining how this lesson will work, I took about 30 minutes to talk to the researchers (which is all of them in the long run) about how they find quality information on a topic they know nothing about. We talked about how Google works, how you can narrow down your search and how to use different syntax likes site:edu (which they thought was very cool). We talked about verifying the information once you found it by cross referencing with other sites, looking for an author and a date on the website as well. We talked about using Wikipedia, the links in the notes and the discussion tab as a starting place to narrow down the search to good, already authenticated, resources. 

The kids didn’t touch a computer



Will be used to answer any questions the kids might have at this point and then Mr. Fitzgerald will launch into talking about The Stranger, the book they are reading at the moment, and have a class discussion about the book (which they have finished outside of class time).


The Fishbowl activity described above.

Closing the Circle:

So that’s the plan.

What I love most about this is I talk a lot with teachers about “closing the circle of learning” when it comes to students producing information on their blogs. That at our school, we have students write things on their blog, but we hardly ever use that information they produce back in the classroom. This activity brings the blog post, the research, back into the class to spark a discussion. So the circle is:

Students Research —–> Students writes blog post —–> Blog post becomes classroom discussion —–> Leads to more research/questions

Teacher’s Role:

What is the teacher’s role in all this? Could Mr. Fitzgerald just give a lecture and have a discussion about existentialism? Absolutely! But having the students come to their own conclusions about existentialism before having the discussion guided by the teacher we hope is more powerful. 

The teacher’s role is also to teach the skills the students will need to complete the task. Today that is what I did. I taught the skills the kids would need to complete the task at hand. We talked about search, validity, and authenticating sites. We talked about what a good comment would look like, how you give feedback on an open web, and some strategies to use. We used class time to teach skills…their homework is about the content.

The teacher’s role (Mr. Fitzgerald) will also be to guide the discussion on Friday to ask questions and help students to find their own understanding of what existentialism is/means.

So…there you have it…..I’ll write more on Friday and if I have student permission I’ll include some of their comments and maybe a piece of the chat. Meanwhile if you want to read the blog posts the kids produce you can find them here when posted. The word “Existentialism” will be in the title.

More on Friday!

It is less than 24 hours before I take off for Seattle and 2 1/2 weeks of relaxation. Between work and consulting/conferences I have not had two weekends off in a row since I landed back here in Thailand in August, and I’ve worked through every other holiday we’ve had. So I’m looking forward to disconnecting and spending time with friends and family back in Seattle this holiday season. So the blog will be quiet for the next couple weeks, but don’t worry I’m sure I’ll be active on Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook (Internet connection already active in the condo).

So before I sign off until 2011 I wanted to stop and reflect on 2010…which in many different ways turned out to be a very good year.

Published my first book

Sure…it was self published but I don’t care. I wrote a freakin’ book! Still crazy…even more crazy is I’ve given away over 4500 copies and sold 150 copies to date (thank you to those that bought it!). I still have to pinch myself to think I did this….I sat down…a guy who hates writing, isn’t very good at writing, and wrote a book. If I can do it anyone can…that’s for sure. What I think surprises me the most is how much fun I’ve had giving it away. Which already has me thinking about my next book or next free PDF document (see sidebar). Whatever it is that is next I do wonder if I’ll ever “publish” in paper again.

Ability to Travel and Teach

I’ve only been using tripit.com for a little over a year, but in 2010 I traveled 165,899 miles according to Tripit…and still have 8,000 miles to go tomorrow before my travel for 2010 is over. I’m lucky enough to work at a place that values my thinking and work ethic enough to allow me to travel and teach others, and I’m excited that I’ll be back here next year to build on the foundation and relationships I’ve started working on here in the high school. I’m excited to see that two days ago I lost the foursquare mayorship for our school to an 11th grade girl. That and the launch of ISB Radio means we’ve got some geeks in the school and I’m exciting to pull them in and see what we can build and have fun with around social tools.

I love to travel…I love flying and I love teaching teachers. It’s been a great year, although I think of all the presentations I gave this year my best one was done right here in Bangkok for the TEDx conference back in September (Video here). As educators we’ve all been there. The perfect lesson, the perfect day…everything just clicked….about 90 seconds into this story I was feeling it. The scary thing is afterwards my wife came up to me and said “You were feeling it weren’t you?” She knows me way to well. I hope as 2011 rolls around I’ll be able to do more presentations/more consulting…right now….that’s where my passion is….helping teachers/schools near and far think about these kids in our schools today and how we need to be engaging them differently. I’m having fun motivating people….of all ages.

Top Blog Posts

Here are the top blog posts for The Thinking Stick in 2010 from Google Analytics:

1. Facebook

2. The Thinking Stick Home Page

3. Pre-Paid Data Plan on SIM Unlocked iPhone in the USA

4. Plan for SIM unlocked iPhone with data plan iOS 4.1

5. ’11 the Year of the QR Code

6. Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom

7. Online Community Manager: A New Position in Education

8. Best plan for SIM unlocked iPhone in the US

9. Free Book Download

10. End of the Year Summative Assessment

Looking ahead

I have to say I’m just as excited about 2011 as I was about 2010. It’s a great time to be in education…and to have your passion be technology. Things are changing so fast and I love the pace….I wonder what will happen if it ever slows down.

2011 will see a new theme to The Thinking Stick (in development now), as well as more travel (hopefully) with my now reduces 90% contract here in Bangkok.

It’s a great time to be in education…and I’m excited to see what the new year brings.

Happy Holidays to all of you…thank you for reading…..and we’ll see you in 2011!



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. 🙂