Design Thinking and Fitness

Knofick FITT is fully up and running through another round of FITT goals for 9th and 10th grade students.  This project has really blossomed into a fantastic proof of concept for using Design Thinking for goal setting.  Students have recently finished their first round of FITT goals and are in the process of “Choosing” and “Adapting” goals through the end of the year.

263797412_origGraphic Source:

Student reflection videos are currently being posted to a shared playlist.  Students commented on their progress, modifications that might need to be made, and whether or not the social media aspect helped keep them accountable for their goal.

Stay Tuned project updates!!!

Why you should buy an @Oculus Rift for your school right now.


The Oculus Rift is amazing. There’s no doubt about it.  Literally every person I’ve seen don the headset drops a, ‘Woah!’  immediately.  It’s unlike anything you’ve experienced and it’s going to have a profound impact on the ways in which we interact and learn through technology.

You encounter a problem though, when trying to explain exactly what the Oculus Rift does.  To invoke Morpheus, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Oculus Rift is.  You have to see it for yourself”.  Unless you’ve actually put on the headset, preferably with earphones, it’s difficult to comprehend the level of immersion and realness you feel.  So for the uninitiated, it’s Virtual Reality done right.  Wear the Oculus Rift and you’re transported to another place; the moon, the back of a dragon, or in the Giza Necropolis; wherever.  If it can be simulated in a computer, you can experience it.  Needles to say, gamers are excited.

And while the impact on gaming is clear it’s interesting to see that there are already strong learning applications emerging.  Apps like ‘Titans of Space let you tour the solar system and provide a profound sense of the scale of the universe.  Ocean Rift places you alongside sharks and whales as you glide along the sea floor.  VR Cinema gives you an entire 200 seat theatre to yourself while Street View takes advantage of Google Maps letting you tour the world.  And we haven’t touched on the innovations to storytelling and film.  You can even spend a moment as the star of one of Japan’s most successful films, Spirited Away.  Soon there will be movies where YOU play the lead role.

It’s not all beer and skittles though.  Some games make you sick.  You literally need to develop ‘VR legs’ for these.  I was heavily nauseated after 30 minutes of Half-Life 2.  Apparently, the new Oculus Rift dubbed Crystal Cove, alleviates some of this this with a HD display, reduced latency and motion tracking.  I’m hoping to get sick playing GTA4 soon but I can’t get it working yet.  That’s the other bit, you’ll need to be prepared to troubleshoot and explore (which you’ll probably enjoy anyway).

What’s most exciting though are the implications for inclusive settings.  People with physical or mental disabilities will have access to learning experiences and scenarios that were previously difficult to establish.  Learning will become more accessible to all.

So, if you’ve got the budget (around 300 bucks plus a hefty PC or Mac) get your hands on an Oculus Rift.  It’s going to influence the way we interact with technology (check out the minority report style computer in The Cave) and become an integral part of any blended learning environment.  It won’t be too long before it has the form factor of Google Glass.  That will certainly make things interesting.

Follow @Oculus for more information


Getting FITT @ SIS

Many of us have recently welcomed 2014 with one or more new year’s resolutions.  As much as most of us try to stay motivated throughout the year I’ve never been able to successfully maintain the appropriate level of perseverance to achieve most of my past resolutions.  This loss of focus is especially quick when it comes to fitness goals.  So when it came to finding a way to get 9th and 10th graders to make fitness goals, prepare a routine to follow and document their progress, Colleen Knoflick (@KnoFITT) REDEFINED the process to gain student buy-in and maintain accountability.

Knoflick Fit’s Timeline

Planning phase of the project (using the SAMR framework):

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Using social media to expose student progress to a wider world-wide audience:


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Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 8.55.10 AMAfter the project started, it was immediately picked up by students and they began posting their progress.  It is easy to see that students had access to feedback as well as encouragement by the SIS community and even relatives from abroad.  This encouragement helped keep students Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 8.26.06 AMaccountable according to the interviews conducted half-way through the project.  The comments also gave students a chance to reflect on how they were documenting and sharing their progress.

The connection to the larger world audience is strengthened with having a service option connected with Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 9.21.34 AMGirls on the Run” and Athleta.  Student posts were shared to raise money for this non-profit organization simply by using the hashtag #myfitwish


(Click on each of the thumbnails to see full size pictures)


BYOD – Chromium OS


What Is It?

It’s a Dell Latitude running Chromium OS, a downloadable OS created by Hexxeh. It’s very much similar to  a ChromeBook running Chrome OS. This is the cheapest way to see if a ChromeBook is for you, the user interface is nearly identical with a few features that are not accessible. Anyone with Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X is able to follow instructions of downloading and extracting files on to a 4 GB USB jump drive. The user then boots through the USB key to access Chromium OS. User can also download the OS on to a virtual box or VMWare if they so choose to boot Chromium that way.

 Who is it for?

This is for anyone who wants to use a computer solely working on the web or cloud based applications. There is no need to backup to ones local HardDrive because Chromium OS is running off a 4 – 8 GB  USB jump drive. Keep in mind that is a maker’s ChromeBook. The features that are not available due to licensing are Flash, Java, and Google Voice/Video plugin. Great for connected education institutions and businesses.

photo credit: Ivan Zhekov



Whether you are converting an old or new PC laptop into a “ChromeBook” in this instance a ChromiumBook, the hardware it must have is a USB port, ethernet port, and WiFi connectivity. The design, look, and feel is purely from the users prospective, it’s experience of having Google Chrome web browser, Chromium in this case as their only computing highway.  The user has to hit the boot option key(F12) in order to select the USB jump drive to have Chromium be the main operating system. Otherwise, when powering on a PC with deciding which environment to boot in, the default OS will run instead. On the other hand a user deciding to purchase an actual ChromeBook is offer several designs and specs to meet the needs of that particular consumer.

Using It

The user interface of Chromium OS is very simple. The application task bar or what is known as launcher, resides at the bottom left hand corner. By default have the user has quick access to Chromium(Google Chrome), users Google Drive, and Android-esque approach on accessing the users Apps that they have installed from the Chrome web store. Toggling through the users App drawer, they are able to customize their launcher by right clicking and add any App that they have installed from the chrome web store to their launcher for quick access.

Access to chrome web store

The chrome web store can be accesses through the launcher, icon resembles a dial pad. Chrome offers a wide array of applications that can be installed into Chromium, most of which are free. However, due to the fact that Chromium is missing Flash and several other plugin that allow for animation, a error message will pop-up after a few seconds attempting to install the app of your choosing.

Google Drive

If you are familiar with Google Drive, then this should not be any news to you. First time sign on to Chromium OS gives you direct access to your Google Drive. Adding and editing working documents are seamless.

Settings Draw and Notifications

The right hand corner of the desktop interface, the user has a notification button that he or she can manipulate to their liking. Adjacent to the notification button is the settings drawer. Here the user is able to lock the computer, set up Wifi, or log-out of their account. Keep in mind its all through the USB jump drive that is running Chromium OS.


Cloud based computing, it’s the future of doing everyday operations in education and business. Chromium has the potential for the user to test out the goods before they invest in an actual ChromeBook. Though a ChromeBook starts at $199 USD, depending on what you want out of it, the ChromeBook Pixel is $1299 USD, equivalent to a 13-inch MacBook Pro.  Overall, I like the concept of no local storage.  No worries, no backups, it’s just there when you want it.

Don’t Like

Due to the fact that this review is focused on Chromium OS with the understanding that it has several missing features, that says it all. I am not able to load anything that requires Flash or play video.  I don’t like that I am not able to use the camera to capture video or images to upload straight to my Google drive. When setting up Chromium OS, it doesn’t allow me to bind to a WiFi network right away, I have to hardwire an ethernet cable. When the computer goes to sleep it basically freezes and I have reboot the system again. Finally, this will only work if you are connected to the internet.



Should I Buy It?

You don’t have to buy anything, you can test and experience this on your computer now or an old computer thats collecting dust. This is just the gateway for you to decide if you want an actual ChromeBook or keep using what you have.  This will only work if Google works all the time, there are several countries that censor Google and their applications. Nonetheless, it’s certainly something to experience, but it would be a waste of your time to actually use this on a daily basis.




Feedback Loop


Both Hillary Lauder and Meaghan Wilson wanted to be able to make an impact on their students they teach every week. They wanted to view their thought process and make authentic comments on their work, to provide a value learning experience. Both of these teachers wanted something that would be a game changer in students’ assignments, reflections, and assessments. A feedback loop if you will.

After a couple of weeks I followed up with Hillary and Meaghan and asked if anything developed from our conversation on using Moxtra. This is what they shared with me.


Hillary Lauder :

What is so important about using this tool as apposed to sitting down with each student individually and conferencing with them? 

“First of all this is a paperless process, so making a conscious effort about environmental awareness.”

“Second, my commenting is so detailed that typing out my comments on their science inquiry reports would actually take more time. With Moxtra I am able to record my voice and annotation and keep that private between myself and student. I am able comment on their work while I am working outside of school hours and this done in real time. So the learning actually never stops. I’m really happy with how this also eliminates a lot of wasted time because time is so important in education.”

What is the feedback that you are receiving from students, since using this tool?

“I have received positive remarks on using this tool to make a bigger impact on assessing their science inquiry reports.”


Meaghan Wilson:

What is the biggest change that you have had in your curriculum this year?

“Reflection is critical in PE or in any subject for that matter because it means so much to learning. It was a tedious process in the past because students would email me their reflection and I would reply with my comments. This year I needed something more and Moxtra has been that for me.”

Do you and you students go beyond reflecting through Moxtra?

“I use Moxtra throughout the entire block. I prep my students with a document, video, or recording that they have to view. I then document what every student is doing and upload that content to their binders. Before class is over, I give the students ten minutes to go to their Moxtra binder and reflect on what they have accomplished in PE that day.”

“What I have started to see is that many of my students go beyond my simple reflection prompt. I have students critiquing their skills through more writing in their Moxtra binder. I now get a chance to hear students that I normally don’t hear on a regular basis through voice recording or video they capture and load to Moxtra.”

What kind of impact do you feel this has on your students?

“I feel that they are able to speak to me everyday even if I don’t get a chance to speak to them in person. I feel like I am able to make an individual impact because I get to comment on their work in real time, there is no waiting.”


Since then, the use of Moxtra has started to disseminate into other classes. So, is this the game changer?

Global Connections Bring Students in China and Brazil Together

globeA Connection is Made

It all started with a tweet on Twitter.

“My third grade class here in Brazil is looking for a class in Asia to share cultural facts with. Anyone interested?”

SIS grade 4 teacher Mick Huiet replied and within a few days a global connection was made between his 4A class in China and Myra Oksness’ grade 3 class at Graded, the American School of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Communication and Collaboration Begins

The communication between 4A in China and G3 in Brazil started with an exchange of emails written by and responded to by students.

Mr. Huiet recalls 4A’s introduction to Ms. Oksness’ class.

“Our first big email came on the Learning Comes Alive day.  Within minutes we were on our way to Sao Paolo [via Google Earth] and walking around the outside of their school as the parents watched in awe.”

 Mr. Huiet and Ms. Oksness have communicated to work out logistics and provide each other with support and suggestions about technology, collaborative documents and academic topics.

After a ‘getting to know you’ period, where students shared information about their school life, local foods and drinks, and language (Chinese and Portuguese),  students began sharing their learning and work on academic topics such as migration and data collection and analysis. Planning for a collaborative writing project is now in the works.

Mr. Huiet's Grade 4 Students in China

Mr. Huiet’s 4A Class in China

Ms. Oksness' Grade 3 Students in Brazil

Ms. Oksness’ Grade 3 Students in Brazil

Learning Connections

4A’s global connections and collaboration with G3 in Brazil is not unique at SIS. We have classrooms throughout the elementary school and ECLC that have made (or are in the process of making) connections with classrooms in Korea, Vietnam, United States, Singapore, Australia and other schools within China.

Not only do students learn from and teach each other about academic topics through connecting with another classroom outside of SIS, our students are also able to develop and demonstrate our ESLRs (Expected Student Learning Results). Students have the opportunity to be…

Communicators who effectively share their learning and growth through a variety of mediums (written pieces, audio, visual, discussions, etc.).

Collaborators who contribute positively in accomplishing common goals.

Global Citizens who participate as respectful, productive members of diverse communities.

These global connections, facilitated by globally connected educators, provide our students with wonderful opportunities for learning and collaboration.

Additional Resources

Building Global Collaboration
The Global Classroom Project
The Global Classroom Project Community on Google+
Flat Connections: Connect, Collaborate, Change



Photo Credit: . Entrer dans le rêve via Compfight cc

Physical Making + Virtual Making = Learning to Make

We have been taking full advantage of virtual learning spaces here @ SIS. Our next step is to broaden our teaching horizon with tinkering and making learning happen. The eCoaches recently attended Learning2.013 conference and was apart of an extended session called Learning in the Making with @briancsmith . The whole session was making things from soldering simple circuitry, LED lights, play doh, to programming with arduino and raspberry pi prototyping platforms. Brian has done brilliant work on making this happen at his international school, he host all of these resources on his site. We look forward to taking those ideas and make learning happen @ SIS in the near future.

“Coding” – A New Foreign Language

After returning from the Learning 2.013 conference a couple of weeks ago, I have been trying to code my own mobile app for use here at SIS.  Although this type of coding is fairly intricate, the basic logical arguments can be beneficial for students of all ages.  Most of the basic programming links below are games that introduce programming language to students.  There are so many great coding resources so these are by no means extensive.  Please add any other’s to the Diigo List or to the comments section below.

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Basic ProgrammingTurtle Art, Scratch, Light-Bot

Web Design CodingDash, Hackasauras, Radii, Google Web Designer

App CodingxCodeSDK Developer, MIT App Inventor 


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  Signup for an Hour of Code – It’s Coming


Diigo Resources Page - Learning 2.0

CodeAcademy – Learn to Code