Showing posts from 2017

Dream Big

Back in 2014, while I was on my Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University, my apartment in Cunningham Hall was the place where the Humphrey Fellows met every week. There we talked about serious and less serious matters, we laughed a lot and cried a little, and we dreamed big and small. One of our dreams was to write a research paper and have it published by a renowned publishing company.

And yesterday my dream arrived per mail! A paper that I co-wrote with my colleague and best friend Bart Verswijvel, was published by Routledge. Bart and I were invited to contribute to the book International Handbook of Teacher Quality and Policy by Dr. Gerard LeTendre and Dr. Motoko Akiba.

In 2014, I met Dr. LeTendre at the Humphrey Fellows Welcome Reception. We talked about education and I mentioned eTwinning. He was amazed to hear about this unique community of European teachers and wanted to learn more so he invited Bart and me to talk about it to the Teacher Leadership F…

Climate Action Project

I'm delighted to take part in a global project empowering students to address climate change. Climate Action involves more than 250 schools from 64 countries. Students in these schools will work together to raise awareness and to find ways how to tackle the issue of climate change.

So far I have launched or participated in a number of international projects on such a large scale, (e.g. my award-winning project Greetings from the world involved 27 schools from all the 6 continents), and in all my projects I encouraged my students to come up with  their own ideas. Still, I was there, their guide by the side, directing them in the way I thought was the right way!

However, in the Climate Action Project, we teachers intend to get out of their way completely - we want  our students to have their say in all the stages of the project. My plan is to make myself invisible and let my students be responsible for their learning and take ownership of the project and its outcomes. During the 4-…

My 10(-ish) Year Blogging Anniversary

I just noticed that I've been blogging for 10 years and 6 months! I forgot to mark the 10th anniversary, but it's never too late to do so. Some stats:
I've written 334 blog posts, received 371 comments,  my blog has been visited 134,121 times, I have 58 followers, most of my readers come from the US.
I've written about traveling quite a lot, both  as a tourist and as a teacher traveling for educational purposes (conferences, school exchange visits, etc.) and also about teaching with technology. I don't know how many miles I've traveled, maybe there's an app for that!

My most visited post is First lesson, new students and no computers, followed by Tech Tools To Boost Verbal Thinking. My least visited post, with only one view is Easter Sunday in Galway (I still think it's a well-written post about a beautiful Irish city).

When I started this blog I used Picassa for sharing photos, but as Google discontinued this service my photos in my blog posts can'…

Stop Chasing Dreams

When you work hard, you work and work and all it results in is failure after failure, and you look back and try to improve and make it better and work again and work and work and nothing but failure comes out of all this hard work, how do you get up and keep going? How do you gain the strength to overcome your failures? Where do you find determination not to give up? How much grit does it take to succeed? How do you know that there is success at the end of the tunnel filled with failures? What if success happens to other people, what if it will never come to you, no matter how hard you work? How do you know when the time is right to turn over a new leaf? How do you know when to stop following your dreams? How do you know that your dreams are too big to fulfill?

Top 5 Tech Trends To Dominate This School Year

According to ISTE, the following top tech trends  will dominate 2017-18 school year:

1. Coding 
2. Real-Time Learning Feedback 
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality
4. Media Literacy
5. Digital Citizenship

Check out the full article by ISTE Connects here: 5 Tech Trends To Watch This School Year.

Turning a blog post into a video with Lumen5

Lumen5 is an amazing user-friendly app that turns a blog post or an article into a video! All you have to do is copy paste the link to the blog post and Lumen5's Artificial Intelligence will automatically create a storyboard for the video. If you don't like how "Natural Processing Algorithms" have shaped up your story, you can easily edit it any way you want.
The next step that AI performs is choosing the appropriate audiovisuals from a huge library of copyright free videos, photos and audio clips.  If you're not happy with AI's choices, no problem, because you can upload your own visuals. Before you publish the video you can add your logo and your watermark if you want to. The video can be published directly on Facebook or it can be downloaded as an mp4. file. Here's my first video that I created very quickly, it took me about half an hour to turn one of my blog posts into a video in the way I liked it.

Lumen5 offers a free plan with an unlimited number …

Trends, Challenges and Developments in Educational Technology

It's been a huge honor and privilege for me to serve on the Expert Panel of the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report for two years in a row and to examine applications and manifestations of trends, challenges and technology developments. This year, the Panel was composed of 61 education and technology experts representing 20 countries across 6 continents. The Report can be downloaded here. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition was produced by the New Media Consortium in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking and made possible by mindSpark Learning.

The expert panel examined an extensive set of background materials that identified and documented a range of existing technologies and proposed new topics and technologies that are relevant for teaching, learning and creative inquiry in K-12 education. The final topics selected by the panel are detailed in the Report.

Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Ho…

Slowetwiam Inspiration

When I first came up with this idea to organize a slow Twitter chat that would last for five full days, 24 hours a day, at a time when most teachers from European schools are still on holidays, I had absolutely no clue how it would go! But I liked the idea and proposed it to Irene Pateraki, eTwinning CSS Pedagogical and Monitoring Manager, who gave me her full support.

Two weeks ago the word slowetwiam didn't exist. Now,  it is a lively buzzword that has attracted teachers from Europe and beyond to learning and sharing on Twitter.

More than 1,000 tweets, retweets and replies have been sent out by 90 teachers over the past 5 days! Some teachers actively participated from the beginning to the very end, while others chimed in whenever they could. Our tweets have been delivered to Twitter timelines more than 2,283,000 times!

We had our ups and downs during the chat:

We discussed five topics and inspired each other with so many great ideas.

#slowetwiam :a great way to get us in the moo…

Computational Thinking? Yes, I can teach it!

"Computational thinking is a way humans solve problems; it is not trying to get humans to think like computers. Computers are dull and boring; humans are clever and imaginative. Equipped with computing devices, we use our cleverness to tackle problems we would not dare take on before computing and build systems with functionality limited only by our imaginations."

According to J. Wing, this is one of the characteristic of computational thinking. To me, this is what makes computational thinking so tremendously exciting: combining computing with imagination and knowing that the sky is the limit.

We don't need to be rocket scientists to understand and teach computational thinking. Check out my posts about  how to teach computational thinking with tech tools.

Tech Tools To Boost Visual Thinking Skills
Tech Tools To Boost Verbal Thinking Skills
Formulate Problems In A different And Fun Way
Tech Tools To Recognize Patterns
Tech Tools To Teach Abstract Thinking: Scavenger Hunts and …

Tech Tools For Algorithm Design

Algorithm design, the fourth and final element of computational thinking, may seem like rocket science to educators who have only a vague idea of what an algorithm is, let alone design it! Or teach it!

But fear not! You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand and design algorithms - and then teach algorithm design to your students! Because computational thinking is much less computational (rocket and computer scientists, please don't get me wrong!) and much more thinking! And when I say thinking, I mean using our brain - not only the left, but also the right side, to solve problems. Because we need logic AND creativity to come up with innovative solutions.

In fact, we already ARE teaching computational thinking to our students. Their computational thinking skills are being developed whenever they work out a rule, determine a principle underlying a process, and create a tutorial or a step by step guide to solving problems. Or when they are learning programming and …

Tech Tools For Abstract Thinking: Scavenger Hunts And More

Abstraction is the third element of computational thinking. Abstract reasoning or abstract thinking refers to the ability to identify and analyze general principles that generate the patterns we previously detected.

In activities that require abstract reasoning students are asked to interpret, analyze and evaluate information or ideas, connect the "dots", form and explain viewpoints, and draw reasonable conclusions.

There are many activities and tools that we can use with students to develop their abstract thinking skills. They can play games, take part in debates or solve puzzles and riddles.

To create puzzles, cryptograms, riddles and rebuses, you can use Discovery Education Puzzlemaker, CryptoclubRebus Generator or Riddle Generator. These tools are especially useful for online scavenger hunts.

Scavenger hunts are great to boost students abstract thinking skills. A scavenger hunt is a game that consists of a number of different types of tasks or activities.  Students …

Tech Tools For Recognizing Patterns

After visualizing and verbalizing problems, students can now proceed to the second stage of computational thinking: recognizing patterns, detecting trends and finding regularities in data. They can use graphic organizers to identify relationships between objects, connect and classify information and recognize patterns.

Here are some tools and websites where you can find free printable graphic organizers:
Graphic Organizers by Scholastic
Graphic Organizers by Education Place
Free Graphic Organizers by edhelper
Student Handouts

On this site you can find a very easy-to-use Venn Diagram Maker. Gliffy and Lucidchart that I mentioned in my post on verbal thinking can also be used to create Venn diagrams to indicate which elements are common and which are unique in a list of things.

On ReadWriteThink there are a lot of useful graphic organizers, such as
Compare and contrast
Connection stem  and Connection Web for making connections, e.g. in a text
KWL Creator

Check out ten free downloadable graph…

Slow Twitter Chat

Twitter chats represent an excellent opportunity for professional development.

A Twitter chat is an online conversation about a specific topic. It usually lasts for an hour during which a facilitator tweets out questions. There are usually up to 6 questions posted during a Twitter chat. The participants send out tweets, retweet other participants' tweets and reply to them to make the conversation lively and diverse. While sharing their ideas, experiences, examples of best practice, as well as links to interesting and useful websites,  they use a predetermined hashtag (#) to make it easier to follow the chat, because Twitter chats are usually "fast and furious".

So far I've facilitated a number of an-hour-long "fast and furious" Twitter chats for eTwinning teachers. In such chats, there are sometimes a lot of tweets sent out at the same time, which makes it difficult to follow. That's why I decided to  do a completely different Twitter chat - a SLOW one…

Web 2.0 Tools For Problem Finding

Wait, what? Tech tools for problem finding? Seriously? Don't we have enough problems anyway?

Of course we do, but problems urge us - and inspire us - to come up with innovative solutions. Problem finding is one of the key components of computational thinking.

In the classroom students are usually given a problem or a challenge that they have to solve to show their learning and they usually do it in the way we want them to do it, e.g. answer a question, create a comic book, do an experiment. Why not add a bit of unpredictability or randomness to the problems and the way they can be solved? This will make students much more engaged in performing "unexpected" and randomly assigned tasks and activities to present their learning. To do this you can use tools known as learning event generators.

Learning Event Generator - LEG is a tool created by John Davitt. It functions so that it randomly generates problems (DO) as well as different options or ways how to solve that problem …

Tech Tools To Boost Verbal Thinking Skills

In my recent post from the series on Teaching Computational Thinking, I shared some web 2.0 tools to boost student visual thinking skills. In this post I'm sharing some tools for enhancing verbal thinking skills.

However, it is important to understand that verbal thinking skills should and could by no means be separated from visual thinking skills. They do not exclude each other; quite to the contrary, they are closely interwoven. "They coexist in every mind, and creative impulses emerge when they interact. (Otis, 2016).

According to Repenning et. al (2016), informal doodling on napkins is an excellent example of verbal thinking. But doodling can also include visual elements, just like sketchnoting, a combination of verbal and visual thinking. Besides doodling and sketchnoting, students can use sticky notes to break down information, they can identify problems by writing a storyboard or they can create timelines to verbally organize information. Here are some web tools to bo…

Tech Tools To Boost Visual Thinking Skills

As described in a previous postthe first stage of computational thinking is decomposition, or breaking down data, procesess and problems into manageable parts. This first stage of computational thinking is also known as problem formulation and it includes problem finding (Repenning et al., 2016). Both problem finding and problem formulation are crucial for computational thinking, because if we want to come up with innovative and creative solutions, we first need to identify the problem to decompose it – to break it down into smaller parts in order to create innovative solutions. 

Decomposition can be performed through visual and verbal thinking. Visual and verbal thinking help us conceptualize problems visually and verbally.  Mindmaps, diagrams, spreadsheets and simulations can be used to boost visual thinking. They help students visualize problems and visually organize information. Informal doodling on napkins is an excellent example of verbal thinking. To boost verbal thinking skill…

Computational Thinking? Yes, but how do I teach it?

Briefly put, computational thinking is a problem solving process that combines critical thinking with the computing power and as such it represents the foundation for creativity and innovation (ISTE).   Because computational thinking can - and should be applied to all aspects of life, it is an important skill that our students need to master.   But how can we teach it to our students? Are we teaching it already without being fully aware of it? Yes, we are!

I have just stumbled upon a course by Google for Education that provides an excellent explanation as well as lots of resources on how to teach computational thinking.

First of all, to fully understand what computational thinking really means, the course authors break it down into the following four elements:

Decomposition: Breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable partsPattern Recognition:Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in dataAbstraction: Identifying the general principles that generate these …


It was in August last year that Instagram introduced InstaStories - pictures or short videos  to which users can add stickers, emojis, drawings, filters and what not. InstaStories do not appear in our Feed, but on our profile and in the row on the top of our followers' feed. Our followers can see our InstaStory if they tap on the colorful ring around our profile picture. Most interestingly, Instastories disappear after 24 hours - which is strikingly similar to Snapchat and for which Instagram gives credit to Snapchat. With many new features added to InstaStories on a weekly basis, it has  now become more popular than Snapchat with more than 200 million users per day.

We can save InstaStories and prevent them from disappearing forever. Our followers can post comments to each InstaStory and we can reply to their comments.

I discovered them only recently and immediately fell in love with them. Not only that, but I think InstaStories have huge potential in the classroom. Our students…

FCL Summer Academy

From July 3 - 7, Bart and I designed and led a new course in the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels. The course FCL Summer Academy focused on the enhancement of creativity and innovation in the classroom. There were 34 participants, teachers from 9 European countries.

We have just received course evaluation results and we are delighted and proud of the fantastic feedback given on the course and our expertise by the participants.

Read more about our FCL Summer Academy on our  course blog: Enhancing creativity and innovation in my classroom and on the FCL website: A week full of creativity, innovation and joy of learning.

Dancing With Teachers In Milan

On Saturday Bart and I gave a keynote on Global Networking at the SMILE conference in Milan. We were invited by Italian educators Mariella Brunazzi and Elena Fusar Poli, who organized the conference that marked the closing of their multinational Erasmus + project SMILE.

There were 300 educators from 8 countries at the conference. Our keynote was very interactive and involved a lot of activities that the audience had to do. We even made them dance and they greatly enjoyed it.

Padlet is now even more awesome!

I just discovered that Padlet introduced some excellent new features which are definitely going to make  our teacher lives so much easier. Besides creating a Padlet as a blank page, it is now possible to choose from one of the eight different templates (BTW, more templates are about to come and what's more,  the kind Padlet folks will even create a new template if you tell them what you want!).

My absolute favorite template, one that I've been dreaming of for many many years is the interactive KWL chart! It's easy, it's user-friendly, it's intuitive and it takes just one click to create - simply put, it's perfect. And you can add as many columns as you wish!

The other templates that I'll no longer be able to teach without are Q&A, To Do List aka Kanban Board and Storyboard! Moodboard, Bookmarks, Video Playlist and Org Chart will come in handy too!

Another thing that Padlet recently introduced are formats! There are no layouts anymore (Stream, Freeform,…

Typeform - a nice tool for surveys, forms and quizzes

On my Croatian blog The Fellowship of Twitter, I write about new tools that can be used in the classroom. Today I wrote about Typeform, a very nice, user-friendly and intuitive tools for creating forms, surveys and quizzes, but as is very restrictive regarding embeds, I embedded my sample Typeform here. You can read my post about Typeform here.

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