Will Distance Learning Be Permanent?

The short answer to the question is yes, distance learning will be permanent. The real question is how widespread it will be.

Distance learning has been around in one way, shape or form since correspondence courses by mail sprang up in 1728. With the advent of the internet the industry saw a huge influx of asynchronous and live, synchronous learning, the kind that Banyan Global Learning specializes in. With the pandemic, of course,  the great majority of education started happening at a distance. 

Much of that learning was, frankly, not very good. Teachers were thrust into the use of tools with which they were unfamiliar to teach via a medium with which most had zero hours of experience. Because of the immediacy of the need to transition, the great majority of schools offered little training, rather depending on a workforce of teachers who suddenly lacked students to “just figure it out.” Some – especially digital natives – flourished. Most did not.

This fall will be the first real test of whether or not schools will be able to adjust to providing quality distance learning experiences. This spring offered little time to adjust. Now, schools have had since March to figure out a good plan, train teachers and adjust curriculum. Frankly, it may be unreasonable to expect such a drastic jump in quality so quickly.

However, marked improvement by schools this fall could help the industry’s “brand” and increase the likelihood that demand for these services sustain post-pandemic. Sadly, what is more likely is that many people will treat their bad experience with distance learning as indicative of the medium itself and write off the experience in favor of in-person learning once that becomes available again.

Regardless of that, the industry existed before all this and was increasing in prominence due to widespread use of technology, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Another trend that supported the industry pre-pandemic and will only increase post-pandemic is that of homeschooling as parents become increasingly disenchanted with a public education system that has been systematically defunded for decades. Add this to the number of people for whom distance learning really did work well during the pandemic – including but not limited to introverts, digital natives and students lucky enough to engage with seasoned distance learning professionals (excellent teachers who also have solid tech and performance skills) – and it is safe to assume that distance learning will remain an important piece of the educational landscape even after in-person learning resumes.

Best Practices for Online Teaching Using Interactive Video Conferencing

Online Contingency Plan for Educators

This guide is a crash course for how to transfer learning magic from your classroom to an online environment.

  • You’ve probably never done this before. That’s ok. We’re here to help.

BGL’s TITAC training method has effectively transitioned classroom teachers to online environments for over a decade.

  • We recently presented this method at the NCCE conference in Seattle. Here are the slides from that presentation which can support overview training.

This training video is an overview of BGL’s TITAC method for how to teach over interactive video.

  • Due to our decade-long experience in the field we find ourselves in a unique position to support educators so that learning can continue during school closures.

(Updated 3.19.20)

Other Tips for Teachers Quickly Transitioning Online

  1. Even though you know your students already, treat it like the first day of school. Spend time first building community and your routines for this new virtual classroom.
  2. If possible split your class into small groups. Large groups will be harder to manage especially at first. If large groups are inevitable, Zoom’s breakout rooms are a good way make things more manageable.
  3. Make sure your students or an adult in the room are prepped on how to use the technology you plan to use. Especially important will be the ability to mute people; they will be in their homes and random noises can disrupt the lesson. In Zoom, you yourself as the host of the meeting can mute participants.
  4. Many teachers will not connect with their students daily over video conferencing. To stay connected to your students record a short video greeting every day. This is an uncertain time for your students and you are a grounding force in your students’ lives. Little efforts toward human connection can go a long way toward keeping them feeling safe and engaged.

We’d like to send you more of our free training and resources. Give us your email?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Here’s a Summary of TITAC (Also Covered in the Video Above):

This resource is intended to help quickly transition teachers to an online teaching environment using interactive video conferencing (IVC).

Overview

Distance learning and teaching vary widely in methodology, with some online classrooms having equivalent (Bernard, Abrami, Lou, Borokhovski, Wade, Wozney, Wallet, Fiset, & Huang, 2004; Cavanaugh,  Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, & Blomeyer, 2004; Bertsch, Callas, Rubin, Caputo, & Ricci, 2007) or even greater success than traditional classrooms (Harris-Packer, J. D., & Ségol, G. , 2015) . Given that online teaching and IVC are not monolithic, constant forces with consistent elements, BGL has developed the TITAC method to create a powerful education environment.

TITAC Method Overview:

  1. Teacher – The IVC teacher is effective and highly engaging.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to lesson design.
  3. Technology – The technology used is driven by learning goals and enhances the learning experience.
  4. Aesthetics – The aesthetics of the lesson engage the learners.
  5. Collaboration – Open communication facilitates collaboration between all stakeholders.

TITAC Best Practices for Online Teaching Using IVC:

  1. Teacher: The teacher is effective and extra engaging.
    1. The lesson design, pedagogy, teaching methods and tools are founded in best practices, meticulously planned and optimized for the student population and delivered effectively.
    2. The IVC teacher brings excitement and passion that extend beyond the 2-dimensionality of the medium.
    3. The IVC teacher’s word choice, pace of speech and intonation are appropriate for the medium and audience.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to the experience.
    1. The students have frequent opportunities to lead and to share their ideas.
    2. A sense of global citizenship – including cultural respect and empathy – is developed while connecting with otherwise unattainable people and places.
    3. The interaction introduces students to and/or reinforces 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  3. Technology – The technology used enhances and is driven by the learning experience.
    1. Operation of supplementary technology is internalized and back-up plans are on the ready.
    2. All stakeholders are invested in the capacity of technology to redefine education and prepare students for the future.
    3. In 1:1 environments, blended learning tools redefine student work and teacher assessment.
  4. Aesthetics – The presentation looks and sounds good.
    1. The IVC setting and all people in it are camera-ready and professional.
    2. The IVC feed is well-framed, well-lit, has good acoustics and good use of color.
    3. The IVC visual and aural experience is multi-dimensional and dynamic.
    4. Any digital resources are pithy, visible and well-designed.
  5. Collaboration – The relationship of stakeholders to each other is communicative and collaborative.
    1. Teacher roles – both on-site and IVC – are well-defined beforehand including classroom management and assessment.
    2. The teachers have an open back channel with which to communicate during class.
    3. All teachers know the lesson plan, design and contingency plans and discuss these beforehand.
    4. The classroom teacher handles individual behavior management.
    5. The IVC teacher has an accurate class roster.

In addition to the free resources that will be available soon on our YouTube channel and our website. Follow up training sessions are available by writing to info@banyangloballearning.com or by clicking here.

Background

Teaching with IVC removes limitations of physical location and therefore dramatically expands possibilities for human connection. Mastering these connections is critical in a world where unanticipated school closures can restrict access to education and where demand for flexible school environments is increasing. IVC prepares students for a future where essential human skills are prioritized and technological advances create unprecedented opportunity for widespread collaboration. Therefore, more than ever, a model for delivering high-quality educational experiences over IVC is essential.

This model is based on 10+ years experience teaching over IVC trans-nationally to whole groups of students in Asia. The benefits of this type of IVC education also include 1) the steep reduction of cost and carbon footprints 2) the ability to drastically expand the audience for any given educational content and 3) the real-life human impact of communicating directly with people from different backgrounds. The added challenges of IVC include logistical complications and the need to develop cultural understanding.

As more providers use IVC to teach, this paper provides a guide map for factors to consider. It is a supplement to established resources such as Ben Newsome’s account of successful STEM experiences over IVC and Cole, Ray and Zanetis’s trailblazing book Videoconferencing for K12 Classrooms. Critically important aspects of the IVC experience – including curricular goals, classroom setup and definition of stakeholders – are described in those resources.

Table Top Mandarin with Teacher Mike

My name is Brittany Michael and I’m euphoric to be a new employee of BGL this year. I am part of the team in Kunshan, China and moved here a little over two weeks ago.

Teacher Brittany, about town.

Teacher Brittany, about town.

Throughout the time I’ve been here, I’ve had the privilege of diving right into Mandarin under the tutelage of our very patient manager, Mike Maraghy.
img_3291
On Day 1 in China, Teacher Mike eagerly began teaching us all Mandarin. This was in addition to Mike’s heading up the English department at Xing Kong, the first school to be operated in China by BGL and Tsai Hsing. Mike works with and constantly translates for Xing Kong local teachers and administrators and  prepares the American teachers to teach the BGL curriculum. He also manages the myriad details of our transition from America to living in China. My colleagues – Lucas, Courtney, Heather – and I marvel at how well Mike utilizes his Mandarin skills to communicate with school faculty and deal with the unexpected issues that arise when moving halfway around the world. We couldn’t be more grateful for his patience, perseverance and selflessness as we embark on this journey with him.

Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

When we began learning Mandarin, we had our first lesson on a legitimate blackboard within one of the classrooms of our school building. We discussed basic sounds, touched on vowels and went over a few vocabulary words.

Our second lesson took place in Mike and Lucas’s apartment as they have a beautiful, floor-to-ceiling window in their living room with a gorgeous view overlooking one of the many lakes and parks of Kunshan. Mike creatively used dry-erase markers to write all over the window as we reviewed the vowels we’ve learned and important phonemes that differ from English and then touched on a few new vocabulary words and useful phrases.

9229094_origIn between lessons, Mike checks our retention in real life contexts and points out Chinese characters when we see them. We make Mandarin lessons out of every opportunity: during our trips to nearby Shanghai, by interacting with locals, speaking to administrators and teachers at the school and recognizing characters on signs we pass when walking/biking around Kunshan. Our third Mandarin lesson took place at a local shop called Forrest Coffee. The place is quaintly filled with a variety of little succulents and one of the main workers, Yoku, is working on his English and enjoys practicing with us. Mike used the coffee table to write out our lesson for the day and, during our bike ride to the gym right after our lesson, we continued our Mandarin practice by shouting sentences, requests, vocabulary words and phrases back and forth (much to the delight of the locals walking or zooming past us on scooters; as if five Westerners on bikes was not already a spectacle!).
9008654_origOur fourth Mandarin lesson was written back at Mike and Lucas’s glorious window during the day of the angry Kunshan storm. The wind was incredibly vicious this day and the sky poured down rain as we munched on baozi and cha ye dan inside. With more days like this to come, we hope to continue to pick Mike’s brain as we enhance our abilities to truly connect with the local culture.
img_3383

Teaching in Taiwan: Some Differences between Mandarin and English for Teachers Abroad

Teaching English as a Foreign Language, like any teaching experience, is part art and part science. While there are best practices that can transcend the experience, getting to know which approaches are best for your students requires an intimate knowledge not just of your students themselves but of your host country’s culture and customs. There may be behavior management techniques that work better in different parts of the world, and knowing the specific differences between English and your students’ language can help teachers anticipate difficulties, empathize with challenges and devise successful strategies.

It is toward that end that we offer a curated a list of differences between Mandarin and English for teachers abroad. Thanks to BGL’s Teacher Jill and Teacher Nate for the assistance in writing this post.

Learn Chinese!

Learn Chinese!

Grammar & Syntax (for more info see here)

– there are no tenses in Chinese (instead time is told mostly from context but also through modifying words added to the ends of sentences), so verb conjugation can be tricky. With lower level students, in the beginning you may want to try to speak to them using as few tenses as possible and as many infinitives as possible.

– Along these same lines, many words function simultaneously as all parts of speech for that word (for example, the noun, adjective, and verb versions) whereas in English we would have different suffixes that denote the form of the word.

– Chinese uses the same word for he/she/him/her (ta, first tone) so students may often confuse these terms often.

– Also, if more than one person is mentioned they are most often mentioned together (for example, “He and I went to the store” versus “I went to the store with him” –> the first one is more familiar for Chinese speakers).

– In Chinese sentence structure, time comes toward the beginning of the sentence either directly before or after the subject. After time and subject comes location (if applicable), the verb, and then the noun. For example:

Sentence: 我昨天去電影院看電影. In English, we would say “Yesterday, I went to the cinema to see a movie.” In Chinese, it’s similar but a little different: “I yesterday go cinema see movie.”

我 = I (subject)

昨天 = yesterday (time)

去 = go (verb)

電影院 = cinema (location)

看 = see (verb)

電影 = movie (object)

Pronunciation

– There are tones in Chinese (four or five of them, depending how you count), which means that words that sound the same to English speakers are actually different words because of what we would call the inflection of the word (or, to put it another way, the way in which you pronounce the vowel within the word). This has a lot of effects for how Chinese speakers learn English:

  • Firstly, it’s critical especially in younger grades to stress the vowel sounds of given words and teach students how to make the sounds correctly.
  • Also, when you introduce a new word to students they will often repeat the exact inflection with which you pronounced the word because, in Chinese, they need to repeat the tones exactly to get the word right.
  • And, the second and third tones go up at the end the same way that we, in English, might go up at the end of a sentence to denote a question, which is another difference to be aware of and/or teach to your students.

– Almost all phonemes in Chinese end in a vowel, so students might have a hard time pronouncing the ends of words that end in a consonant. They also may add an extra “uh” sound at the end of a word that ends in a consonant so as to make it sound more like a Chinese word.

– R’s and L’s may be difficult because the Chinese R sound is a combination of an R and an L in English. To make the Chinese R sound, you place your tongue where you would if you were making an L sound but then attempt to make the English R sound (try it!). So, to make the L sound students will need to open the mouth, place the tongue where they would for the Chinese R sound but then push air out and move the tongue down without moving the lower jaw. To make the English R sound, they will need to make the Chinese R sound but move their tongue from the roof of their mouth to the empty space between the upper and lower jaw.

– Students may also have a difficult time differentiating between short e’s and long a’s, between long e’s and short i’s, and between soft TH and F’s/S’s. As native English speakers, we can show students how to shape their mouth/tongue in order to make the sounds correctly.

Print

– Chinese uses a different set of punctuation marks than we do in English, so this element may be challenging especially to young students.

– Common errors include:

  • confusion between comma & period to end a sentence
  • lack of capital letters to start a sentence (there is no equivalent in Chinese)
  • starting new sentences of the same paragraph on a new line

– Taiwan uses traditional Chinese print as opposed to the simplified print that is used in China (and was introduced to increase literacy rates in the 1950s and 60s). It is actually illegal to teach simplified print in Taiwan, so if you are providing written translations to your students be careful to make sure it is traditional print.

– As an interesting note, Chinese language dictionaries are organized by stroke count, or the number of strokes it takes to create a given character (there also is a prescribed order in which each stroke should be made to create any given character). Within a given stroke count, words are then organized by radicals, or what we might think of as a “root word” (although the root exists usually only in print, not in the sound that is made for the word). There are about 200 Chinese radicals that are among the first pieces of writing that students learn. Speaking of learning to write, Taiwanese students generally do not learn how to write Chinese until they are in about second grade.

– There is a separate written language in Taiwan referred to as “bopomofo” that is used to teach the phonetics of each Chinese character or word. It is not used in normal writing, just to break down the phonetics of Chinese words, mostly in elementary school but also as a digital input tool. There are 37 characters, each with their corresponding sounds.

 

 

If you are interested in teaching abroad, please see our current job listings here.

 

 

12 Practical Takeaways for Teachers from EdSurge’s Tech for Schools Summit

Those of us who were lucky enough to attend EdSurge’s Los Angeles Tech for Schools Summit 2014 became intimately acquainted with the newest and best products from over 30 leading companies of the industry. This post is a collection of the most practical ed tech tools we at BGL plan to use both in our distance learning program and our on-site bilingual program in Taipei, Taiwan.

The EdSurge team is introduced in Los Angeles on 9/13/14.

The EdSurge team is introduced in Los Angeles on 9/13/14.

 

We have broken up the post into two categories, one for all teachers and one for teachers of 1:1 classrooms.

Ed Tech Tools Recommended for All Teachers

1. Zaption – Everyone showing videos in class should use this to ensure that your videos achieve your curricular goals. The teacher can arrange videos in a queue, edit length of videos, and make video interactive with additional annotation and questions (open response and multiple choice). There’s also a discussion element, you can embed the videos anywhere, and you can ask for login (such as Google) to ensure privacy or make comments anonymous. The best part are the really cool analytics that come free with the product. AMAZING!

2. Share My Lesson – free K-12 lessons plans and materials. For teachers, by teachers. Similar to Teachers Pay Teachers but FREE! Includes helpful kindergarten centers ideas.

3. Gonoodle.com – series of “brain breaks” videos that are designed to get kids moving in between lessons and during transitions. Create a class with an avatar and when you complete the brain breaks your avatar grows. Aligned with math and ELA standards. Not compatible with ipad.

4. FreshGrade – Two functions: gradebook and portfolio. Can use one, the other, or both. Teacher has a capture app that can collect video, pictures, audio or text. Easily tag students to add to their portfolios, even share with parents. Gradebook is good but you have to manually enter student data (this may be changing soon as they add an import function). Can tag with skills/content (including Common Core standards, which are already built in, and customizable standards) to track student/class progress. App will automatically notify you of students who are improving or challenged in various categories. Parent and Student codes allow each student to track their progress at home.

5. Class Dojo – classroom management tool with avatars for individual students. It’s popular and has been around for a while but it now has a parent communication option.

6. News-O-Matic – app-based news source that puts real news stories on your students’ reading level. Daily, differentiated stories and audio reading. Teacher can buy one app ($5) and can display it to the classroom. Individual apps are same price for students but only make sense if you consistently incorporate current events into your curriculum.

7. Newsela – same concept as News o Matic but the website is free for everyone. Premium version has analytics but is a bit pricey.

 

Ed Tech Tools Recommended for Teachers in 1:1 Classrooms

8. Brainrush – A series of customizable web based games and quizzes. Can format existing game/quiz or easily make your own. Ease of use makes this product a real winner.

9. Educade – 700 gaming curricula you could use tomorrow. Hands on, role play, search by subject, page range, tools for lesson plans, websites, apps, etc. Vetted by teachers, includes a teacher community – give feedback on resources & strategies.

10. Exitticket.org – simple way to ask questions at the end of a lesson and track the data instantaneously. Could replicate with Google Forms but this product has more analytics. Can also display an abridged view to the class that takes off names. Fremium model.

11. Mathchat – easy to create math problems, students can draw responses, help each other, ask friends for help all through a live communication function within the app.

12. Flubaroo – already installed as an “Add-on” in Google Drive spreadsheets. Use to easily grade the results of online assessments.

Look out for EdSurge’s upcoming summits in Silicon ValleySeattle, and St. Louis. In the meantime, try these tools out for yourself, and let us know how it went in the comments section!

7 Tips for Success in Teach Abroad Interviews

Please see our current job postings for Taiwan and China here.

Teacher Leia has come full circle with BGL, years ago interviewing for our first foreign teacher positions and now conducting those interviews herself.  This journey puts her in a unique position to offer advice to others seeking the same experience.  See her post 5 Tips for Teacher’s Abroad and her interview tips below.

Being the interviewer is, not surprisingly, way more fun than being the interviewee. However, it can also be more challenging.  I need to communicate an accurate portrayal of the teach abroad experience that excites without misleading.  I also need to glean from a brief (often online) conversation enough information to formulate an accurate opinion of the candidate, all the while keeping the conversation flowing naturally.  But there are things that you, the teaching candidate, can do to make my job easier.  Here are some tips from the other side of the table:

1 – Own your experience.

Don’t talk about what you’ve seen other people do; tell me what you’ve done or will do in the future.  Understand that even though you’ll be teaching abroad, children are children everywhere.  Your experience is the most relevant part of your application, and discussing it can help you to show the interviewer where your skills and talents lie.

2 – Speak coherently and specifically about classroom management.

Anybody who has set foot in a classroom knows the importance of setting up rules and routines. Without this, even the most creative, intelligent teacher with the best lesson plans and ideas will crash and burn.  And, while you can discuss philosophy here, make sure that you support that with concrete examples, actions, and plans. Give enough details that your interviewer can clearly picture how your class is run.

3 – Communicate a sense of humor.

Living abroad is hard and lonely at times. If you can find the lightness in a situation you’ll show that you are able to roll with the punches.

output_6dzmEG

Teacher Leia conducting an interview over Google Hangout. Click through to see the animated gif.

4 – Show your personality.

A big part of teaching is being personable. If you show comfort and enthusiasm in an interview it is assumed you will do so in the classroom.

5 – Show that you are curious.  

The more curious you are about the the school and the experiences of the interviewer, the more likely you’ll appear ready to approach the daily education that is teaching and living abroad. 

6 – Show that you are diplomatic.

No matter how open and interested you are in the culture, differences will arise.  Show that not only can you deal with this, but you thrive when learning about other cultures.  You can do this if you are able to separate people from their actions, seek out to understand others’ perspectives and goals, and understand that sometimes neither your way nor the highway are acceptable options. 

7 – Don’t be afraid to talk about your failures.

Any good teacher is also a lifelong learner, and having an occasional lesson flop is just part of the game.  Only by reflecting on these strikeouts can we truly grow.  If you discuss this in an interview then you’ve shown that not only are you good, you will get better.  But, like the answer to the quintessential interview question “What are your weaknesses?” you need to toe the line between confidence, humility and reality.  Framing your weaknesses as stories about growth – rather than just presenting a positive trait in disguise – can help to strike this balance.

5 Tips for Teachers Abroad

Please see our current teach abroad job postings here.

This post is a reflection on a year teaching abroad in Taipei from BGL’s Teacher Leia:

After three years of teaching in a high-needs public school in East Harlem, I was thrilled to take the opportunity to teach at a prestigious private school in Taiwan. For the first time ever I would have pre-selected materials provided to me, ahead of time at that! I would have parents who helped their children with their homework and who were eager to communicate with me – but in a good way! To boot, Taiwan is a country where education and, by extension, teachers are well-respected and highly valued!  I expected this whole thing to be a cakewalk.

I also expected that compared to East Harlem the kids would be angels, whereas what I got, instead, were kids.  And instead of a cakewalk I got an experience that was challenging and rewarding in ways I never expected.

My first grade class in Taiwan.

My first grade class in Taiwan.

The biggest challenges came from the language and cultural differences of not only teaching in a different country but also of moving from public to private.  Having come from different educational backgrounds, my expectations didn’t always match those of the other teachers and administration.  This could be fixed with some clear communication, but oftentimes people found it difficult to communicate with me and avoided doing so as a result.  Normally in this situation I would turn to my fellow teachers or friends for support, but I was living 8,000 miles away from my usual social supports.

But like many things that do not kill you, I left Taiwan stronger than before.  Now safely back home, the trials and tribulations of that year seem far away and so manageable. Retrospect is easy like that. Also, I take pride in my successes there because they resulted from patience and persistence.  It was also permanently life-affirming to have lived and worked in the kindest, warmest culture I have ever known.

So how did I make it through?  Put simply, I gave it some time.

For those of you thinking of taking a similar journey, here are my top tips:

1) Build slowly as you constantly assess and reevaluate
Students are not only learning from you a foreign language, but in most cases they will do so through methods that are unfamiliar to them (in my case, it was an explicit goal of my position to introduce Western methods such as small group work).  Take nothing for granted and assume that thing will take longer and be more challenging than they were back home. Don’t give up, but constantly assess and reevaluate your goals and pace. Break things down into the smallest components possible, proceed slowly and step-by-step, with constant review. This is especially important given that you might provide the students’ only interaction with the target language.

2) Be patient with yourself
Give yourself the same patience you give your students. In some ways this experience made me feel as though I was a first year teacher again (though really, it wasn’t nearly as difficult). I didn’t have that familiarity and automaticity that made everything so much easier in my last teaching position. But I came to realize that it was more a matter of being different than of being difficult. You need time to process and to adjust. Everything will gradually, subtly become easier (both personally and professionally).

3) Put yourself in others’ shoes
Many countries have different notions of work ethic, and despite America’s teasing of European 30-hour work weeks, Asia tends to put in more hours at the office than most Americans can imagine.  Furthermore, it is expected that workers will do whatever is asked of them whenever it is asked of them, even in relatively low-paying jobs like teaching. During these times, it was important for me to remember that everybody at the school had the same goal in mind – to provide the best learning experience possible to their students.  Taking their perspective helped me to not expect them to understand, anticipate, and accommodate differences in work ethic when it was myself who was on their foreign soil.  Reminding myself of this helped me to take it in stride.

4) Tread softly, but keep going
The values of respect and face are strong in Taiwan and in many countries that value education. Foreign guests must be tactful and gentle, but you can still be proactive and advocate for your educational beliefs and ideas. Offer suggestions for consideration, or frame your suggestions as discussions of your experiences.

5) Find an outlet, and then another
Most likely you have extensive travel experience if you make the choice to teach abroad. The defining difference between a trip and living abroad, obviously, is time… and it’s easy to forget that the initial excitement of being in a place will fade into a more comfortable (if less exciting) everyday reality. Part of that reality is finding the things that make you happy on a daily basis.  My personal outlets while in Taiwan were doing yoga regularly (where I got exercise and community), jogging, hiking, and cooking. I also kept regular Skype dates to keep me grounded.  In between, I forced myself to explore new corners of the city and to exalt in the random.

Some other teachers and I traverse the city.

Other foreign teachers and I traverse the city on our way to a famed Taipei urban mountain trail.

In following these steps, I was able to fulfill my goal of going abroad: to learn, to grow, and to become better.  It is an experience that I will always recommend to others and will never forget.

Ed Tech Hot Links: School-Wide Tech Development

This week’s Hot Links post is dedicated to the efforts of administrators and tech professionals working to implement technology on a school-wide basis.

We start with the unavoidable truth: tablet computers are invading the classroom.

Is that a good thing?  Studies suggest that both math and reading scores are positively affected by educational technology.

Now that you’ve made the decision to add more technology to your curriculum and methods, the most important thing is to design quality lessons independent of technology and to use tech only when it enhances learning.

With that in mind, make sure you avoid the pitfalls of bad pedagogy, and try your best to avoid issues inherent to technology use.

So, how to implement technology across campus?

– Look to successful models when designing your own curriculum.

– Have teachers share their methods with faculty on a regular basis (or, flip your faculty meetings). Below, a teacher shares her approach to technology with her colleagues in Taiwan via video uploaded to a private Facebook group.

Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 1.11.56 PM

– Consider hiring a technology integration coach to meet with individuals or departments and discuss how technology can work for their existing curricula.  It works, and it gives students a sense of empowerment and ownership.

– No money in the budget for a coach?  Give students course credit for helping teachers implement technology in their classrooms.

And, it’s important to get parents involved and to educate them on how to manage their children’s media consumption.

Enjoy the process with your students and, once you’ve done something great, share your success with other teachers!