The Process Is More Important than The Product


The process is more important than the product.

This is something I regularly say in my MYP Design (Technology) class to my students.  I truly mean it when I say it.  In grade 7 & 8, I want my students to challenge themselves and be independent learners as much as they can, take risks and work hard.  I want them to feel comfortable with making mistakes.  I hope I have created this environment for them.

As I worked on my final project for Course 3 of COETAIL, I repeated this mantra in my head.  I made many mistakes.  One being that I over extended myself the first quarter of this school year with my coursework, traveling to two conferences, being a parent and all of this on top of my normally heavy workload (including a new course this year).

I’m not here to bore you with my excuses.

I learned a ton on this project.  While I didn’t learn a lot more about movie making or digital storytelling, by doing, I learned a little more.  What I learned the most was what my students go through when I assign them projects like this.  In my eighth grade class, I do have a digital storytelling project.  It was great to follow the design cycle like my students do to create a product.


My video:

I was inspired by a few things.  After watching Kelsey’s Commute in Hanoi, I started to think about how totally opposite (and boring) my commute was.  However, it is a time I enjoy in the morning, as I follow my son to school.

Second, we are often asked by friends back home, “Why?”

“Why do you live overseas? “

“How can you be away from family?”

“When are you coming home?”

Our answer is not simple, but one of the greatest things about being an expat in a foreign land is how the mundane things in life, going to work, work itself,  and going to the store, become not-so-ordinary.  Sometimes they are more of a  hassle, sometimes they are simpler.  But they are often very different, interesting and thought-provoking.

Lastly, my brother, his wife and my sister are all visiting us right now.  A month before they visited, I started writing blogposts on Thirty Things About Japan.  It made me think of so many things that people don’t know about our daily lives and it was also nice to have it documented for when we do move on to a new place.  This also influenced my topic decision.

Here is my story:

My mistakes: 

First, I started this project way too late in the course.

Second, I struggled with my story.  I couldn’t decide what to tell at first, and now, I feel like although I liked my concept, I don’t think I told it well.  I originally was going to do a fast version of our “mundane day”, but after doing all my filming, I was not happy with the results, so I had to change my idea a bit.

Third, I had way too much junk on my laptop and I ended up running out of space on the hard drive on my laptop and this slowed me down even more.  I should have used a desktop for this project.

Lastly, I wasn’t happy with my filming/editing.  After taking the video and editing it for a few days, I wished that I had just used stills the whole way through.  Or, I should have used better equipment (other than my iPhone) to film my daily movement.

Unfortunately, I settled with what I had, and even that was two weeks late.

My learning:

Coming up with a topic I was really passionate about (for an assignment, on a deadline) is really hard.

Editing and downloading media on a laptop is timely and can cause many problems.

Finishing and publishing a project I wasn’t proud of was hard to do, but necessary.

Don’t over extend myself.

Be empathetic with my students when they run into problems.



Infographic Issues

I’m just going to start this post by saying that I don’t love infographics.

I struggle to read and find meaning in infographics, the same way I don’t really enjoy reading graphic novels (but I still encourage my students to do so).

The two main reasons I don’t like infographics:

1. I truly have a hard time reading them.  Do I read the words first?  Do I go sentence-image-sentence-image?  Do I go left to right/top to bottom?  I sometimes look at infographics and struggle to find the focal point.  Maybe I’m just looking at the wrong infographics.  I can’t seem to find a flow or get into a “zone” when I’m reading something with a lot of visuals.

2. I think that sometimes the source is hard to find.  I often find really visually attractive infographics with no source listed or a source that I really need to hunt for to find the authenticity or it’s an aggregration of many different sources that may take way too long to validate.

But, I do realize that they have a place.  There are some that are really nice.  I find visual resumes, especially the ones noted here and here, done really well and I can imagine that these applicants definitely have an edge over their competitors.  (Even so much so that I decided to create one of my own a few years back, although it needs a little love before I’ll need to use it.)

So, what type of infographics would I use in my classroom?

Image Credit: XPlanations via

I like this a lot.  I first saw it in Paula Guinto‘s room and she referred to it when she was talking about her learning environment for her kids – both in the room and an extension of that on the web.  I love this and want to post it in my room, but more important, make this happen all the time in my teaching/learning.  A negative to this infographic is that it has a TON of information on it both with text and visuals, which makes it challenging to analyze and synthesize.


Here’s another one I like because we frequently talk about digital citizenship in my classes.  Unfortunately, the audience for this infographic is adults.  I would love to find these statistics for high school and college students and create one for my middle school students.


The reason I like this is that it’s clear and succinct.  It is easy to read from far away (if printed on a poster in a classroom, for example).  It is really relevant to my middle school students.


I like this infographic.  I agree with this to a point, but more importantly, I think this is provocative and can really start conversations in the classroom.

Last one, I promise…

I really love this infographic: Words Waiting to Be Added to the Oxford English Dictionary and the conversations it could start in an English classroom.  This could promote writing, like a piece to the OED trying to continue to convince them to add this word, strongly advise them not to, or suggest another word be added to the OED (this would also promote them researching to see if the word they want to add is added or not).  There are some design issues with this infographic, one being the upside down text and another being the years, is that how long the word has been used?

That’s a lot of infographics for someone who doesn’t like infographics.

I think in writing this post alone, my appreciation for infographics has grown a bit.  I still think there are a lot of bad ones out there and I just need to look for really clear infographics that I think help communicate ideas if I’m going to use them in my classroom.

Presentation in Design

Photo Credit: Colors Time via Compfight cc

We all have sat through horrible presentations and we have even made a few.  While I think mine have gotten better over the years, the current COETAIL Course 3 has made me rethink my presentations more.  After looking at a lot of good presentations like from the Learning 2 Leaders, I realize that mine still need a bit more work.  While I don’t think that I could ever be that super engaging, inspiring public speaker, I can at least make up for it in my presentation.

I have a few presentations that I need to revise.

Including most of these.


I think this presentation on the four design principles needs the most work, especially after going to Noah Katz Presentation on Visual Literacy this past weekend.  I’m embarrassed to say that I took the scaffold of this presentation from my wonderful first tech teacher mentor, Gaby Ezyaguirre, many, many years ago and the presentation hasn’t really had any “love” since. … and is that it’s about DESIGN, for goodness sake.  (This is when you know COETAIL has created a safe learning environment… when I’m really willing to post up embarrassing work!)

There is too much white spaces

It looks dated

There are no strong visuals

It does show some of the elements of design, but in a boring way, that I wouldn’t want my students to replicate.

When I first started teaching technology about 8 years ago, I was using this presentation to teach myself as well.  The not-so-pretty PowerPoint template it was created on is pretty bad too.  What is maybe MORE horrible is the amount of views/downloads this has gotten on since I put it up there three years ago.

Here is my revised Elements of Design Presentation:


This presentation is definitely prettier than my old presentation.  I do worry about my students really understanding the information I am trying to present.  I will definitely have to provide other resources to my students and do more work in class showing examples of what the design elements look like on different forms of media, specifically ones they create: video, posters, presentations using different materials and software.

Now I definitely need to give Haiku Deck a lot of credit on this, as well.  They make it really difficult to create a bad presentation.  They have beautiful images and the formats only allow for limited text.  This forces the creator really to think about their presentation.

I will be presenting this to my seventh graders later in the year.  I’m thinking I’m going to give a pretest to my students before I give the presentation, then retest them after.  I am even considering giving the old and the new presentation to different classes.  While I definitely know this new presentation is more visually appealing, I need to figure out how to support this presentation to my students, especially students with oral comprehension difficulties and second language learners, who may need more support while I’m presenting.  I’ll try to remember to reflect back once I share this presentation with my students.

As far as the presentation uploaded to Slideshare, the more I reflect on this presentation, the more embarrassed I am by the presentation.  But, it has gotten a lot of views and downloads… but it’s also connected to my name/brand.  Should I just take it down?  I need to take a look to see if I can just revise/replace the presentation at that URL but I’m not sure that is possible.  I welcome any feedback regarding this.

The Power of Visuals

This post is in response to our Course 3, Week 2 assignment to use Creative Commons image search to find an appropriate image to use in at least one of the classes you teach. 

The overarching digital citizenship essential question for the year for our middle school is:

How do YOU positively contribute to YOUR (digital) community?

I’m trying to make as many connections to our new Responsible Use Policy as I can.  I will be presenting the RUP to a variety of audiences and am trying to get the students to engage with it as much as possible this year.

I was search Compfight for a while looking for Creative Commons images that would allow me to add the question directly on the image (both in rights and contrast/whitespace).

The first two with pensive girls at their laptop seemed to fit that need, but then I thought they were too literal and that this wouldn’t necessarily connect with the larger population at my school.

Photo Credit: owenstache via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: owenstache via Compfight cc

I like the black & white and the pensive look, but doesn’t use the Rule of Thirds

Photo Credit: mer chau via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mer chau via Compfight cc

*I like the bleached out whitespace in the upper right, and it’s a good use of thirds, but can my male students connect?

I then thought about responsibility, but could really find anything and couldn’t think of what to search for to get an image that would visually depict responsible acts well.

Then I started thinking more about community and contribution:

Photo Credit: Storm Crypt via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Storm Crypt via Compfight cc

*Maybe this image will make them think of community, but maybe too concretely?

Photo Credit: debaird™ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: debaird™ via Compfight cc

*I like how this is a visual of different imprints of a community and what people choose to “post”

Photo Credit: graphistolage via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: graphistolage via Compfight cc

*On a stage?  What is she contributing?  She seems empowered and brave.

Photo Credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via Compfight cc

In the end, I think I like this last one best.  I wouldn’t be able to add any text to the slide because it’s so busy already and I think it would get lost with the different colors and textures going on in the image.

I like what this picture “says” to me:

The holding hands represents community

Each child looks different and they all have different expressions on their faces

A few children seem to be looking at a guiding hand, while some are not

I love the power in the girl-in-the-front’s eyes.  I love that she seems to be silently leading or maybe just more aware?

So now I’m left with a few questions:

1. What do you think of this image?  Do you think that this would be good to show when I’m presenting our essential question: How do YOU positively contribute to YOUR (digital) community?  Are you drawn to any of the other images or have any other suggestions?

2. Can my pre-teen and teen students connect with this – or are the kids too young and the image not edgy enough?

3. I’ve been using a lot less text on my slides the past year or so, but I do love the non-text slides.  How will this impact parent presentations?  When I present to parents many of them have low English skills.  Is this confusing them even more?  Can I give them what they need in a supplemental handout?  Will they just be reading that and tuning me out?

I’m interested to hear your feedback and to see what images you have chosen for your blogs!

Design Challenge: Beautify my Blog

Little Bits of Change

Little Bits of Change

I always like to start my school year with a fresh, clean, organized classroom and a clean and organized computer.  The same goes for my blogs.   Thanks to the new blog templates and this week’s COETAIL assignment, I’ve breathed some new life into my blog.  A goal I had last year and one I want to continue to work on, is “to inspire my students”.  Through a Design teacher’s eyes, to me, this is inspiring my students  to be creative.  I like to share examples I find in the real world, things I create, and I’m trying to design more inspirational spaces in our classroom and Design labs.  COETAIL Course 3 seems like it’s totally in-line with this, so I’m excited to learn more and implement all these new ideas in my class and teaching.

After reading this week’s readings, it confirmed that I’m on the right track.  There were some good examples I can use, especially when I talk to my students about their blogs and how the design of their blogs impacts their readers.  In particular, I found the article, Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design very useful and it provided good examples that I could even use with my students.

I spent a lot of time updating my COETAIL blog today, and I’m happy with the way it turned out.  I started playing with it before I started this first assignment, so I don’t have a true before/after picture.

Here’s a sort-of before (but not what it looked like the past six months) – I loved the simplicity of the theme I activated at the beginning of the COETAIL course, but I did not like the fact that someone had to click on an individual post to find the comments section.  It wasn’t very intuitive.

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 2.26.02 PM


Here’s another screenshot about an hour into Project Design: COETAIL Blog:

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 2.29.53 PM

I love green and gray, but I felt that there was too much gray and too much white space, which left my blog looking a bit boring.

And the last one I’ll bore you with:

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 2.43.42 PM

I think I tried all of the templates and like bits and pieces of each theme, but not one of them 100%.  In the end, I am happy with the Berlin theme.  I created a new category named “Latest Posts” because I think that blog readers immediately want to see the most current posts (as I do) and the “recent post” widget can only be put half way down the page.  I’m not sure what this will look like in the long term, but I’ll change it later if need be.  I’m wondering if my posts are going to get lost after leaving the “Latests Posts” sections.  I’d love some feedback on this!

One element I had to play around with was the “featured image” because I think that the power of the Berlin template is in its image display and slideshow.  However, I struggled to give attribution to these images, especially because I like using the “Insert by URL “option when embedding media because then I feel like it’s not wasting extra space on anyone’s servers.  This is a piece that I need to play around with a bit more.

I struggled with what pictures I should showcase in the slideshow feature.  I ended up uploading four photos – a mix of student projects, my classroom/Design Lab and my students working.  While these images may be better on my class blog, I think it’s important that I’m connecting who I am as a teacher on this blog.  Since we are all spread out all over the world, my fellow COETAILers and I don’t have the luxury of walking into each others’ classrooms.  We learn a lot from each other by reading each other blogs, commenting and tweeting ideas and questions, but there is a greater gain from being able to really see what others are doing in their classroom.   Hopefully through images and reflections, we can better share who we are in the classroom as well.

Now that my blog is visually where I want it to be, I just need to catch up and add more content!  Week two post, coming soon!

Coming Back + Responsible Use Policy Update

Photo Credit: AfroEklund via Compfight cc

to school…

to Coetail…

to life.

I love being a teacher and being able to start fresh every August.  You get to do the good things again and scrap the things that didn’t work and try out new ideas.  A new year brings hope and promise and a huge to-do list that is already 100 items long.

I’m unfortunately starting COETAIL a week late.  I presented at the International Food Technology Conference at NIST this past weekend.  The conference was created by Natalie Lindon, former COETAIL student, who I stumbled upon on Twitter and who actually introduced COETAIL to me.  She is a great Food & Design Tech teacher who put together this conference to connect Design teachers who specialize in Food Technology.

Natalie convinced me to present, and I’m glad she did.  I enjoyed collaborating with other MYP Design teachers, I made great connections with other Design teachers in Asia and I ate entirely too much.

On to other exciting news… I proposed to our administrators and tech department that we implement the Responsible Use Policy through the IB Learner Profile.  And, what do you know… they adopted it!  I’m really proud of the document that Katy, Ju and I put together. I’m glad I get to do more with it and it was more than just an assignment for a class.

My goal now is to make it come alive at our school.  I am the tech coordinator in the Middle School and I only teach grade 7 & 8 students, so I’ll depend on the Elementary School Tech Coordinator and the Secondary Associate Principal to give it life in those respected schools.  But, I know they will!

I first started by giving small groups of my seventh and eighth graders parts of the RUP and have them create a visual for it – a photograph, illustration, short clip, etc.  After looking at the products at the end of the class, I realized I needed to take a different approach.  So, the next class, I prepared gave the kids papers with “tech scenarios” on them.  Students had to then match those scenarios with the Learner Profile attributes – as described in the RUP.  This was a much more successful activity and the conversations at the tables were lively as they were analyzing and synthesizing the information.

I have also posted the RUP on the large bulletin board outside my classroom with the question,

“How can I use technology to positively contribute to my community?”


Now I just need to figure out what to do next.  I’ll post more as I come up with ideas, but please feel free to share any you may have too!