Goodbye 2009

A year that was, for me, a wonderful and amazing year with many great experiences.

My favorites? Hard to say, but they include:

– Driving through Switzerland in the summer

– Buying a car

– Completing my degree in “Learning, Technology and Research” with first class honours

– Spending so much time with my wonderful husband

– Moving to a fantastic new house in the “near-countryside” in Italy with a GARDEN!

– Trying many (new) foods

– Attending the PYP Curriculum Development Meeting at the IB in Cardiff

– going to the beach

– and meeting lots of nice new people (including the famous David 😉 )!

It was a great year!

Wishing you all the best for the passage into 2010!


What should my classroom look like? PYP Classroom design

The wonderful thing about a long Christmas break is that you can wind down and new ideas will come to you. I have a lot of them, but one I struggle with, and one that obviously needs attention, is the classroom design.

I am not talking the contents as much as the physical design at the moment, but have had a look at a few interesting bits and pieces on the net on what a PYP classroom should look like.

This graphic in particular caught my attention:

Well, while I believe I have most of these things present and obvious in my classroom, there seems to be one point that all those documents and all the people discussion PYP Classroom design agree on:

  • The classroom needs to be flexible
  • Students and teachers need to have access to a variety of resources
  • The classroom needs to allow for a grouping and regrouping

At the moment my classroom, which is small, is laid out more or less like this:

The room is just this rectangular, boring shape, very small. We manage with 11 students in there, but we know it could be better (have I mentioned that we are moving soon?)

Right now I have three group tables, one PC table and two shelves. One divides the room a little.

For the new term I want something different. I won’t go too far, due to the move, but I want to change something that I can use with my class. I like having 3 group tables because it allows for flexibility. Students do not have a fixed spot in class, we regroup all the time. The students in my class are 8 to 9 years old!

What would you do? Any ideas?

Do the holidays disrupt the learning process? | Edutopia

Do the holidays disrupt the learning process? | Edutopia.

What an interesting question to ask! And not only around the winter break, but at any point.

Assemblies – Big class assemblies take up a lot of time. In the last year, we had two per class. But this sometimes took the focus away from the Unit of Inquiry. As a result, we changed it to once a year. With the students sharing their learning experience after every unit, we found this was acceptable.
My assembly is coming up next. I have chosen the Rights and Responsibilities unit for it, and a lot of my drama objectives will fall into that. As a result, I think the unit won’t lose its focus. But preparation for an assembly takes time! I like the students to be in control, which often takes a little bit more time even.

Performances – Oh dear! The big P! I love performances. Last year we had a whole-school end-of-year performance. It was great, but it took up an awful amount of time. The children practiced their songs and lines in class, then they had to come down for line-up time early, so they could practice the songs together, and then the proper rehearsals started a few weeks before the performance. It cut into the curriculum, but on the other hand it also met many drama and music objectives. It was a big job, and with a growing school, this could become harder to manage as a whole-school project in the future.

Parties – We invite parents in at the end of every unit. It is not a party, but I can see how we spend the last 2 hours of the day cleaning up, decorating one last time, preparing. Worth it, yes! But again, it costs times.

Decorating, art projects etc. should be authentic. While having an odd Christmas or Easter session, or even an art workshop with an artist is great, I prefer to keep art in context. This year we didn’t have the time to decorate! We were too busy with our UoI and then the reflection. The children did not even ask to decorate or do crafty stuff for Christmas, as they were too involved in their work.

My answer to the question is simple: Yes, it can disrupt the learning process, but we should try to make it authentic and support the learning process. Holidays are part of who we are, what we believe in and worth knowing about!

Technology in Schools: Tools and Apps

Furthermore to my post yesterday, I will continue my discussion on technology in schools by looking at applications and tools that are available to us.

One of the things that is changing right now is our school website. Once that is done, I might even post a link to it here. Until then, lets say that it needs an upgrade which is currently underway.

The only other web presence of our school is My Class Blog. I started it at the beginning of the school year to communicate better with parents and to share what is happening in the classroom. Right now I am designing a unit of inquiry that will get the children involved in the blog as well.
So far, I am the only one at the school to have a class blog. I am not sure if any of the other teachers have a professional or personal blog. This is something we could work on in professional development, because there is certainly a need for teachers to know the web and its possibilities.

So, blogs are one way to communicate. I also tend to use Ning, Facebook, Twitter, and just signed up to  Diigo to save my bookmarks as I go along. Another application I have signed up with, but not used to its fullest is Netvibes. When I came across this wonderful Netvibe by Copenhagen International School, I could see how well it would suit the purpose of sharing learning and communicating within the school community. What an excellent example of networking. The PYP Threads Netvibe is also exemplary of networking.

Wikispaces is well known and something I am going to explore in my next Unit of Inquiry. I want the children to create their own wiki and then possibly use it as a tool for collaboration with either another school, or the other class doing the same  unit of inquiry.

There is a lot out there, I am not here to review all the possibilities for education. I am just here to reflect on my own practice and to share.
What do you use with your class or in your school? What has been effective, what has been problematic and what would you like to see developed?

Technology in Schools: Hardware

Our school has a long way to go when it comes to technology. The current state is quite sorry, but we are aware of it and we are working on it. The school has grown considerably from 15 to 60 students in just 4 years and now we are looking to move into better facilities and to be IB authorized.

As part of this, I have taken it on myself to make sure we upgrade our technology. Preferably I would like my role to shift into that direction as well, in the future, because I can see the need. After all, right now I am PYP Coordinator and Classroom teacher and I am being called in for any sort of technological disaster. Self-fulfilling prophecy maybe! After all, I did complete my degree in LEARNING, technology and RESEARCH. While learning and research are part of my job already, technology has not been too prominent.

Anyway, the current state is: Each class has one laptop available, with two floating laptops (library laptops). Those are the classes: 3-4 year-olds (14 students), 5-6 year-olds (17 students), 8-9 year-olds (11 students) and 10-12 year olds (14 students).

We have one Flip camcorder and one digital camera (although I tend to bring in my own, and so do other teachers). We also have one data projector and screen. That is not a lot. We know that.

In hardware we have been considering:

  • Students aged 7 and up will have their own laptop. They will be able to take it home, and access the school network this way. We were considering small netbooks, to keep costs and weight down.
  • The classes 3/4 and 5/6 year olds will have more laptops. How many is good? Depends on our future space. I am inclined to say one or two per class for the youngest ones are definitely enough. The 5 and 6 year olds could do with about 1 for every four children.
  • Every class will have a flip. This is not ideal yet, but we are working on it. The flip should be accessible for all students.
  • Every class will have a digital camera.

The library, that is a different story and will require a lot more research on our part. If I had my way, we would have PCs and MACs in the library, just so that multi-platform working is already promoted.

What about your school? Your opinion! I would like to know what hardware a school could use to make sure that technology is authentically integrated! Can you share any links or your school pictures?

Another snow day

Students in Germany, at least in this part of Germany, still have school for another three days next week. When I went to school, I have never had a snow day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring

Today we went for a walk in the snow, which is quite a snowstorm, because it is windy. We took some pictures, picked up some rolls from the bakery and then made our way home. We decorated the Christmas tree and had some egg nog!