That’s a Wrap!

I did it!!!  I can finally know what is involved in a documentary project assignment when I assign it to my students!  This is huge. 🙂  Here is my final project:


The Basics of the Project

The idea was pretty simple: a Background Research Project on Marjane Satropi, the author of Persepolis. Persepolis Photo by Lindsay Lyon

And yet–how could we make it better? More fun? More 21st Century? Obviously through the hot new Google Sites!  You can learn ALL the details in my movie, and below you will also find the Unit Plan.

The reflections of the Project are all hashed out in the video, so I will instead reflect on COETAIL as a whole.

Because of Coetail, I:

  1.  Know how to use iMovie!! I have been intimidated by this program for years, and feel very proud of having scaled the mountain.7384323418
  2. Am better connected through my PLNs of Twitter and Facebook.
  3. Know how to better think through uses/dis-uses of technology.
  4. Understand how to properly use/reuse/modify media found online.
  5. Appreciate White Space and design, especially in creating assignments for students.

To use32230371475 some edu-speak, my biggest “take-away” is this: Less is STILL more, but the LESS part gets better and better with more effective planning and refined knowledge of teaching tools. In truly getting to know the ins and outs of technology in education, I have moved past the skepticism and hype, and simply accepted it for what it is, and tried embracing it more to better reach students. This involves using technology consistently in the classroom, trying new tools, and actually experimenting myself. It really can be fun, but as always, there has to be a BALANCE.

So long, Coetailers!  See you “on the line!” 

Unit Plan for Part 3



My Grade 9 English team had the pleasure of teaching Gareth Hind’s beautiful graphic novel The Odyssey last quarter, which was super fun.

In reading the text, we introduced the students to graphic novel terminology in order to boost their literary analysis skills. We were also focusing on oral presentation skills, and decided to assign particular pages to each student to “teach back” to the class [Called a “Teach Back!”].


I wanted to do a screencast to model for my students how to do a “Teach Back,” but wasn’t keen to use QuickTime. After a quick search, I looked at this list of other possibilities, and chose Screencastify, because it is a Chrome app, and I know how easy most Chrome apps are to use.

I quickly tested it out and created this screen cast–in one shot!

There are some pros and cons to Screencastify–the major pro in my opinion is that you can save right to YouTube–super convenient!  The major con is that you are unable to download the videos, which is a bummer because I wanted to use it for my final project. BUT–for a quick lesson in class, it is free, easy to use, and quick.

I have used the application since for personal reasons (my son reading a book on RazKids for my parents), and again found it super easy. I highly recommend!

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Community Engagement: Facebook, Twitter, and Google Sites

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Sharing, it turns out, isn’t just a buzzword: it’s an evolutionary trait.”

The Power of Sharing from Joshua Harvey on Vimeo.


I’ve been a master of taking for a good while now–the Less is More philosophy requires me to be smart. When I need a rubric, I don’t start from scratch–I search, find, and adapt. The same goes for any number of resources or ideas I need: I search and find.

Coetail has taught me the importance of giving back, and participating in a community of sharing. As I blogged previously, I have reaped the benefits of sharing online for quite a few years now. Still, I was taking more than giving, maybe from laziness or fear of not adding value to the internets. And indeed, I think it is still very important to think before sharing. Still, as an educator with 12+ years of teaching, I do have some stuff to share.

TOK Facebook Group

One of my community engagement platforms is a TOK Facebook group I joined for educators called “IB Theory of Knowledge Teachers’ Support Group (no students).” This is a place for TOK teachers to share resources and questions. I first began by “liking” shared resources and commenting on teachers’ posts, but later ventured into asking questions, answering questions, and then sharing some of my own resources such as:

After sharing this, I received critical feedback to which I responded by amending the presentation to be more accurate. I also found out some extremely important information regarding the TOK Essay that I had not even noticed in the Examiner’s Report. So–hopefully it was a win-win for all. See part of the dialogue below:

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Screen Shot of Facebook Group


Through this group, I have reconnected with previous colleagues, and also gotten to know future colleagues at my own school. This group has truly helped me see The benefits of Social Networking.


Since joining Coetail, my Twitter involvement has increased. I am following more educators, and my own followers have increased by almost 100–people like me! 🙂  Again, I have become more conscientious of sharing my own finds instead of re-sharing or “taking.” When posting to Twitter now, I try to always include helpful hashtags so that others can quickly find and sort my resources. One of my new-ish Twitter friends, fellow Coetailer Tricia Friedman puts together a called “IBDP Language and Literature” to which I have added various times. I have also participated in various Twitter Educational Chats, and would like to do more in the future.

Google Sites

Finally, I am working on two Google Sites, that I would like to share eventually with my learning communities:

  1. Language and Literature
  2. Theory of Knowledge

For years I have been a huge fan of TOK guru Mr. Hoye and these Google Sites are inspired by teacher blogs and websites. I have learned the most in my career from teachers-teaching-teachers, and would like a place to share my own resources and lesson plans for others. Beginning these sites is also what inspired the Persepolis Background Presentations that is the crux of the unit Miriam and I are re-designing for Course 5.

Final Reflection

My first Twitter teacher explained Twitter through a metaphor of a river–you stick your feet in once in a while and sometimes stay in longer than other times when the water is too cold. Sometimes you stay from the river altogether. This metaphor is fitting for my community engagement as well. My participation ebbs and flows, but I’m always glad once I venture into the water, and wonder why I stayed away too long.

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Persepolis it is!

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Some Rights ReseredAt the end of the last course, I wavered between two options for the final projects, and based on my gut and reader feedback, settled on designing a unit for Persepolis with my colleague, friend, and fellow COETAIL-er Miriam Morningstar. As I am leaving next year and she is beginning a new position as a Learning Coach, this is our last chance to collaborate (sniff sniff!), so we’re going out with a bang.

From my previous post, here is the summary of the Unit:

For the project, the student will read and analyze the text and cultural context of Persepolis, a graphic autobiography by Marjane Sartropi.  The final outcome for the IB is for the students to be able to use this text to respond to an essay prompt for the Paper 2. Since the students are required to have an in-depth understanding of the context of production and reception, there are many “Coetail” possibilities that could include PBL, research, and connectivity. Through this project, my big goal is to encourage students to make connections from the text to their own world that would inspire action. 

We began thinking about the project and planning it starting in January, and are almost ready to begin the implementation. The first “big” project we designed is the Persepolis Background Presentation embedded below:

In previous years, some members of our team devised a similar project, but without using technology.  After first considering using Adobe Spark for the student presentations, we decided to change this introductory product to a Google site in order for students to be able to:

  1. collaborate, and
  2. have a “real” audience

As mentioned here, there are loads of reasons to try out using Google Sites in the classroom. I piloted using the new Google Site with an online portfolio of my TOK teaching resources, and felt that it would be simple and beneficial for students to use collaboratively.

Lindsay Lyon
Lindsay Lyon


Aside from this project, we also have some other ideas about how to encourage students to make connections that inspire action in response to this text….stay tuned for more!


Cultural Frameworks or Persepolis?

Option 1: Intro to TOK–Who are We? Global Citizenship as Shared Knowledge

Our school is currently in the process of getting the “International Certification” through CIS. As part of this process, we have been visited twice by members of the CIS Team, including Ann Straub. during her last visit I was able to speak with her about how to include “Cultural Frameworks” in our Theory of Knowledge classes. I

Shared and Personal Knowledge

My vision is to introduce the Cultural Frameworks into the first course of TOK: “Who are you as a knower?” I believe it fits perfectly with the concepts of shared and personal knowledge that is integral to TOK. Ann was kind enough to pass on several resources which are:

  1. Seven Dimensions of Culture
  2. Diversophy
  3. Riding the Waves of Culture

At this point, I need to read more in order to understand the frameworks more completely, and thoughtfully consider how to interweave them into this first unit. I believe this idea fits well with the idea of Connectivity that has been such a huge part of my learning with COETAIL. By examining cultural frameworks, students will be able to compare their own cultures with those of other students in the class, and hopefully even a wider population. “Global Citizenship” is also current and relevant, and my goal is to better understand this idea and make it more real and practical for students.

The main concern I have about this project is how to incorporate it into an already well-designed unit plan. If I go forward, I will need to solicit the help of my team members, and also cut some of the lessons that we have already designed. I will also need to consider how to make technology a useful and integral part of the unit plan. TOK is a discussion-oriented class, and I will need to plan how Cultural Frameworks fit into the SAMR model. As for my students, they will need to feel safe enough to discuss their own cultures in a brand-new classroom environment, as this will be the introduction to the course, and open-minded in listening and responding to to others. There is a lot to consider, but I do believe it could be rewarding for all involved.

Option 2: Persepolis for Part 3: Language and Literature

My second idea is to design a unit for my SL Year 2 Language and Literature class for Part 3: Literature–Texts and Contexts. As this is my first time teaching this part of the course and the text itself, I will be starting from scratch. Thankfully I will be working with my colleague and fellow Coetail-er Miriam Morningstar, so there is potential for collaboration. That is a huge plus!

For the project, the student will read and analyze the text and cultural context of Persepolis, a graphic autobiography by Marjane Sartropi. Some Rights ReservedThe final outcome for the IB is for the students to be able to use this text to respond to an essay prompt for the Paper 2. Since the students are required to have an in-depth understanding of the context of production and reception, there are many “Coetail” possibilities that could include PBL, research, and connectivity. Through this project, my big goal is to encourage students to make connections from the text to their own world that would inspire action. Since the unit is not yet developed, a strength of choosing this action is that I have to develop it anyway, so I might as well do so for Coetail.

A challenge lies in narrowing down the scope of what I “could” include to the most essential and meaningful tasks that would allow students to practice the skills of analysis and writing that are so essential to this part of the course. A possible shift in pedagogy again refers to how to best embed technology into a part of the course that ultimately requires students to write an essay by hand (IB requirement). The final assessment would have to be a written essay, so the technological aspects would need to be in the research, development, and formative parts of the unit. If I adopt a PBL approach to this lesson, the students will need to “buy in” to the problem, and be interested in investigating and researching the context.

Learning Towards…

At this point, I am learning towards Persepolis. I think that to do something in depth with Cultural Frameworks in TOK could derail the whole unit and get us off track. Maybe it would be worth it, but we are always in a bit of rush, so I would really have to be purposeful in the time frame.

Since the Language and Literature unit is not yet developed, and it must be, it seems more logical to go with Persepolis.  Stay tuned for the grand finale!




A new way of saying Less is More: “Single-Tasking”

Our high school is 1-to-1, as mentioned in previous blogs. Using laptops and technology–for the most part–is second-nature.

This was not always the case

In October 2012 I wrote about the process of going paperless, and some of the challenges. I also worried a lot about plagiarism due to the addition of technology to the everyday classroom. Looking back to pre 1-on-1, these were my thoughts and questions:

I think I’m finding out that the Sophomores may not be ready to have computers at their fingertips at any part of the lesson.  Especially in Spanish, when the students need to be listening above all else.  […]  I am so not interested in policing, or in being an Eye (we’ve been reading The Handmaid’s Tale!).  I’m not sure there is a solution. As for Seniors…they need clear guidelines about when to use the laptops.  They have so much going on, and so many universities to check out, and so many Facebook friends…they are easily distracted.

Fast-forward to 2016…

That year, I thought of having parameters for computers as “policing.” I now think very differently. Tech-usage and computer “behavior” is now a thing. I am very clear about when students can use computers, for what purpose, and for how long. Most note-taking is done by hand, because I believe, like Pam A. Mueller, that

when writing longhand, you process the information better but have less to look back at.

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Students get this, and a simple, “Please shut your computer now” is respected. They seem pretty aware on how distracted they may become with the screen as their shield.

Students complete research and collaborative projects with computers, of course, and are able to find most information quickly and easily. They still don’t know how to put together all the information they find, and I’ve learned that most digital lessons need to be taught like any other lesson.

As for phones–I let them use them sometimes, but most of the time they should be turned off and in their bags. I tend to concur with this study that determined that

Students cannot successfully multi-task in using mobile phones while they are studying.

It seems obvious and there are loads of studies to support this like this one from Harvard, and many mentioned in The Atlantic’s Do Cell Phones Belong in the Classroom?

I feel like a broken record…but–

Balance is Key


Less is More


I must say, however, that I wholeheartedly DISAGREE with the article Could Checking Facebook in Class Help Students Focus? Um….isn’t being in class and focusing a break from the constant smart phone connection?  I completely agree with breaks, but prefer that they be brain breaks or exercise based.

And a new phrase is coined: “Single-tasking is the new Multitasking”



The Future Me

In order to make my predictions about the future, I will consider my past.

The Past

I began my career as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!)Chris McConnell--Some Rights Reserved. There was no technology involved. I taught Spanish using a textbook and a workbook. I remember playing a few Spanish movies on an ancient television. I learned to teach using questions through Total Physical Response (TPR) and TPRS by Blaine Ray. I was also completing my M.A in Spanish at the time, and my classes were tiny, and were taught solely through lecture and discussions.

After graduation I got married and ventured out into international education. This was 2005. I was now teaching English and Social Studies. Again, I had books and workbooks. I used a lesson planning book religiously, followed a linear curriculum. Thankfully my school had a well-developed curriculum with standards and objectives, so that helped. But there was no technology in the classroom. All the students took technology as a class, and there was a computer lab. There were other things.

The next school had a computer lab, and a roving projector that I could check out and hook up to my computer. I started using that fairly often, but most of my lessons still involved books. English and Social Studies students lugged around massive textbooks.

Free for commercial use
Free for commercial use

Nothing was online. They used “Homework Books” and wrote down their homework every night in this book.

The Projector

The next post (2008) brought a huge change: a school issued desktop!  There were a few teachers with Smartboards, even, but I was not one of the lucky few. However, I had a white board, and was now able to start integrating technology into my lessons. This happened slowly, though. We did not have an online learning platform, and I mostly used the projector for showing images and PowerPoint lessons.

Blended Learned

So now that I think about it, I have had the fastest growth of my integration in technology in the past six years, starting in 2011 when we came to AIS-R. I started by teaching Spanish, English, and TOK, and had to learn Moodle fast. I had a great mentor, attended loads of training, and did just that. I remember one of my students that first year telling me that I had gone “link-crazy” in Moodle the month I learned how to link things. 🙂  It changed things for sure. Even those first few years, though, students did not have computers with them, and did not seem to be constantly on their phones. Actually, phones were not even allowed.

Our school has been 1-to-1 now for three years (I think). Blended Learning seems somewhat “old” and yet seamless. It is simply what we do. In IB English, the only books we now use are during our 2 semesters on Literature, and even then some students use their Kindles or computers to read the texts.

And yet….

So, the methods have changed. The classroom does look different. I don’t even have paper dictionaries in my room. The students look different in front of their screens. I have become a much better teacher…but is this linked to technology? Maybe some. But I have also had years of “figuring out” students, their needs, and how to develop relationships. I have tried my best to keep up with their interests, and harness the now-reality of our inter-dependence upon technology.

So now what?

But students still need the texts (online or print) to spark discussions. They still need their pens and pencils to learn how to put together a proper paragraph. They still need discussions that are in person, not online where they are disconnected. They need each other, and they need an expert who can guide them. There is a balance. 

I blogged in Course 1 about MOOCs and the future of education, and it does seem now in 2016 that they were not really the END to traditional education, but instead have redefined the teacher/tech relationship in some contexts. I enjoyed reading the projections of trends in 2012 from Communiqué from the Horizon Project Retreat  and find these metatrends to be true still today in 2016. I especially am interested in this one:

2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to. Increasingly, people own more than one device, using a computer, smartphone, tablet, and ereader. People now expect a seamless experience across all their devices.

Yes. We all want everything at once and fast, and this has come into education. It is a challenge to sometimes slow down and re-consider the purpose, and decide when to use specific strategies for specific purposes.

As an English teacher, specifically, this one is also super relevant:

8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy. Institutions must consider the unique value that each adds to a world in which information is everywhere. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information and media are paramount.


As for me…

In 5 years, I hope to still be building relationships. I hope to be learning from my colleagues and students. I hope to be examining interesting and important questions. The rest is just gravy.

Lindsay Lyon Photography
Lindsay Lyon Photography


All Work and No Play

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Lindsay Lyon Photography


My son began kindergarten this year as a 4-year-old, because his birthday is September 17th, and the school cut off for entering KG-2 is October 1st. I believe in the importance of play, so was naturally pretty worried about him sitting in Reader’s/Writer’s Workshops and math clases and STEM and Arabic….and all the problems that may arise from less unstructured play. 

But…”Playing” in high school?

Until now, though, I had not really thought of my own high-schoolers as lacking “play.” I have paid attention to movement in the classroom, and learned a lot about this through an elementary teacher-led session that introduced me to the Move-It plugin. I try to give frequent “Brain Breaks,” and incorporate activities that have students moving throughout the looooooooong 85 minute blocks we have.

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Lindsay Lyon Photography


I also try to include choice in my classes that let students exercise some creativity that is sometimes stifled in a rigorous program such as the IB. In TOK I just asked student to artistically illustrate a quote on the importance of Arts, as we are studying Arts as an Area of Knowledge. In English 9 our students are writing a humorous anecdote after completing a unit on Humor. I have devised lesson plans for creating infographics that allow students, again, to be “creative.”

But–Again–is this “play?”

Ashley Lamb Sinclaire writes in What if High School Were More Like Kindergarten? about her struggle to reconcile what she wants for her high school students versus the stress her students feel about grades, college requirements, and exams. I, also, feel like she does:

Too often, I see high-school students break down in tears over grades or pile on advanced and AP classes because “that’s what colleges want to see.”

She also points out that–

according to a separate Gallup survey, 79 percent of elementary-aged children feel engaged in school, while only 43 percent of high-schoolers do.

The high school teacher dilemma, then, returns to the concept of balance. It is impossible to have “all fun” in the classroom, because let’s face it–writing essays is simply not fun for the majority of teens. However, maybe it is possible to plan enough fun on a daily basis that at least my students won’t dread coming to class.

I am willing to re-define my ideas about play in high school and take it more seriously. Whether it is a Kahoot or simply saying: “Now we’re going to play a game,” I see a change in the faces of my students’ faces. After all:

Of course play is good for something; it is the essence of good. Watch children at play, and the benefits are so obvious: just look at those ecstatic faces, just listen to those joyful squeals.

But what else can I do?

A simple Google search led me to some great ideas:

  1. Continue PBL…finding solutions for real or imagined world problems engages the same thinking and creativity as play.
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  3. Allow for “free time” in my classes for play-type activities. Similar to Genius Hour or 80/20. This may or may not incorporate technology.

A lot of this goes back to forming relationships with the students and recognizing their individual needs. High school is hard. Sitting in class is hard. It is not that hard to throw them a bone once in a while and break it up, make it interesting, and hopefully, make them dread school just a tiny bit less.

In which the question freak relinquishes control…

I am an Essential Question freak….I love them, plaster them on my walls, and refer to them constantly. See…

Exhibit A

English 9 Bulletin Board


Exhibit B

TOK Bulletin Board


Exhibit C

SL Year 2 Bulletin Board

I use questions at the core of my instruction, and realize that students certainly DO have inquiring minds, which is at the heart of Project-Based Learning (PBL). However, I am not always so savvy in devising the projects to accompany the questions, and engaging the students in their own learning. Part of this stems from…

My worries…

  1. TIME (the teacher’s most sought-after elusive concept)
  2. Varied student needs
  3. And if I am confessing….probably an unwillingness to relinquish control.

However–I really the concepts of PBL, and am inspired to switch up a lesson I already have planned for my seniors in Language and Literature who are timely considering the Language of Political Campaigns, which is super fun.

Anthony Johnson details his use of PBL in  “I Made my Classroom Look Like the Real-World–and Test Scored Scored,” , and phrases this lack of control differently:

PBL gives me the freedom to facilitate and encourage critical thinking. Additionally, I find students work better when the teacher isn’t hovering over them. PBL promotes students to think creatively and build the 21st-century skills they need to be successful in today’s job market.

Point taken, Anthony!

To freshen up on the specifics of PBL, I watched this:

…which reminded me to:

  1. Start with an entry document
  2. Pose a question
  3. Conduct research
  4. Collaborate, Create, and Share Learning

I then followed up with Project-Based Learning: Explained

From these sources, I am revising my previously-devised lesson plan using PBL.

PBL Lesson Plan

Guiding Question: Who won the second presidential debate? [Problem: How do we recognize logical fallacies in debates or in everyday language?]

Possible Additional Questions: (I will allow the students to come up with their own)

  1. How was the winner determined?
  2. Was the debate “fair”?
  3. How do we know?

First, I will show the students the highlights of the second debate. Next, students must closely examine and research the debate from each of the candidate’s perspective. One group will focus on Hillary and one group will focus on Trump. I will provide a preliminary list of resources, but students are able to research, fact-check, and explore more on their own.

They will determine the best way of presenting their findings and conclusions on who won the debate….

While I had already planned this lesson, I like the idea of posing it as as a real-world problem. People are paying attention to this presidential race. How do we know what to believe? How are they using language to manipulate? How can we, as the receivers, know the truth?  They are big questions that warrant real exploration.



S’more acronyms, please

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While I remembered vaguely the term SAMR from the first COETAIL courses, just looking at the acronyms at first made me think: something cooked up by a technology expert with no connection to the classroom. Then I found 2 winners to clear it all up for me lickety split, and make it relevant to my classes: “SAMR in 120 Seconds” and “TPACK in 2 Minutes” by Candace M on YouTube. Clearly, I need knowledge quickly, and more specifically, in 120 seconds. I wonder if my students are the same?

The 2 Models in 2 minutes

SAMR in 120 Seconds

Using the Google Docs examples, I believe most of my tech integration is in the “M” Category: Modification, with a sometimes-foray into the world of Redefinition. As an English/TOK teacher, we use Google Docs all the time, and in the same ways listed by Candace M. First students draft, then self-assess with an embedded rubric, sometimes via a Google Form, I provide feedback in comments, students peer-assess via comments, and then students revise. They then often post to their blogs, which is somewhat of a redefinition, but on the light side. Blogs are a way to make writing tasks real to a wider audience, which is actually inconceivable through traditional print.

TPACK in 2 Minutes

This model does not seem as linear as SAMR. I feel like this is what experienced teachers do intuitively when they embed technology, but I do appreciate the analogy of tech as the “partner” of the teacher. I’m not sure which part of my lessons is the “sweet spot,” but I will start to pay more attention to trying to make that a regular goal when using technology.

At its heart, it seem that TPAC examines the role of teacher/facilitator of learning within a certain context, as noted by Dreaming Weaving Learning:

Education is neither mechanistic, nor  impersonal. No matter what technology is introduced in the classroom, no matter what strategy, teaching approach or even method is being applied, classrooms are the heart of education. They are alive, forever changing and above all, hold youthful humanity,  with its hopes, dreams and fragilities. Hence I cannot claim to be anything else but a teacher, an educator,  who will adopt the best approach for my learners’ context.

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Sacred Valley NGOs 051 – Awamaki weaving tour