Becoming a YouTube Educator (COETAIL Final Project Reflection)

Hey folks!

We’ve come a long way these past two years, and I’m proud to present this video summary of my COETAIL personal project:

Becoming a YouTube Educator.

The Process Reflection

This project represents only the beginning of what I hope is a powerful tool for my career, for the learning needs of my students, and for the learning needs of other tinkerers, gamers and makers around the world. I’ve reflected on the process quite a bit so far, so I encourage you to check out some of these posts and videos that I mention in the project summary video above.


Preparing for YouTube: Notes, observations, and prototypes



Research, Culture, and Technical Challenges


YouTube Report for Parents


Surveying Students: A Report of Children’s YouTube Use


A YouTube Guide for Parents (video)

A Reflective Experience, Literally

Image from The Muppets, photoshop by Matt. :)

There is something inherently narcissistic about a solo video project. Throughout this experience, this was the part that bothered me the most, even though I could see the benefits in reflecting on my own presentation and teaching techniques. Spend 100 hours editing video of yourself describing and explaining things and you may learn to hate the sound of your own voice, become persnickety about how you move, look, or habitually react to things. It’s easy for this to have a negative impact on your self-image and to become overly critical about aspects of the work that are not crucial to the desired outcome of producing the video.

For some time I played with the idea of removing myself as a presenter from most videos, relying on voiceover narration. I asked some kids and coworkers to watch clips from two videos, one with me as a presenter and another with voiceover only. They all preferred the version where I presented. I received feedback that it was “easier to understand” when they could see me, and decided to stick with it.

So while working through my hangups as a presenter and video editor, I realized it wasn’t all bad. I could use this intimate mirror on my teaching and begin to work on correcting some of the quirks of my presentation style that might adversely affect students. I noticed I sometimes use technical vocabulary beyond the understanding of younger kids, and sometimes speak too quickly. This isn’t a problem in the video world, but it’s certainly feedback I can use to improve my classroom teaching. These are just two examples of how recording my teaching and reflecting upon the videos was more informative than most classroom walkthroughs I’ve had, and I highly recommend that every teacher occasionally records themselves teaching for future reflection. You don’t need to spend hours watching yourself repeat the same phrase while you try edit the perfect backdrop, but don’t be afraid of the camera once in a while. When it comes to self reflection, video is more honest than a mirror.

Value and Community

This began as a project to enhance student learning, but it became one to inform our community.

Although I’ve yet to reach the number of viewers/subscribers that would tip the scales of value vs. effort in favour of value, the effort has paid off in different ways and there is infinite room for growth. The discussion this has generated in team collaborative planning meetings at school has opened teachers to new understandings of how their students learn and entertain themselves. It has resulted in new lessons in units about performance and digital citizenship, more conversations about privacy online, and changed administrative priorities on how students publish their work. The greatest impact however, has been with the parent community.

Since publishing my YouTube survey results with a blog report for parents and creating my video guide, I’ve met with 43 different families from our school community to discuss it. Both parents and kids were present for all of these meetings, and the discussions I facilitated between them ranged from time spent on YouTube, creating content and privacy, tools to help parents participate, and age appropriate content, but I believe the most valuable was in connecting adults with children’s interests. Out of the 43 families, only one parent could name their child’s favourite YouTube channels at the time of our conference. After all of my research, I couldn’t help but feel that this was negligent. How could parents be so oblivious to the hundreds of hours of video their children were consuming?

I decided to approach this as a literacy problem, and an opportunity for growth in our school community. I choose not to think that parents are negligent, but that some parents underestimate the impact of YouTube in their children’s lives and have difficulty engaging with new forms of media or content that they do not understand. Gaming videos, for example, may look innocent and seem beyond the comprehension of non-gamer parents, so they don’t engage. That’s a lost opportunity to learn more about their child’s interests, but it’s also a risk as many of these videos contain vicious language our school would deem inappropriate for young kids. How would a parent differentiate between the constructive, kid-friendly, how-to-build-something YouTuber and the foul-mouthed, competitive bully?
They need to spend some time with their kids watching it. It’s the only way. And because of this project, I am confident there are dozens or families who are tuning into this way of thinking.

The Future is That-a-Way!

I have no aspirations of being out of the classroom by making videos for kids. This powerful tool and a familiar workflow for making effective videos quickly can really cut down on the need to repeat instructional content and it can create opportunities for differentiation. I imagine being able to cut down on teacher-lead instructional time and make more time for applying that learning to projects and experiments. I envision being able to make alternate versions of content for students with varying needs, and provide opportunities for students who need content repeated or slowed down to have that individualized experience. Using video as a potent instructional tool is the closest I can get to cloning myself, and for any busy teacher struggling with complex schedules and diverse student needs, that’s a dream come true.

Thanks COETAILers, for being a part of this project. For reading and watching, and your valued feedback. Please keep it up as we move on to more independent pursuits, and as always, feel free to reach out here or on twitter if you ever need a hand.

With great respect,


Follow @matthewdolmont

Parent Guide to YouTube

Hi folks!

I know I know, it’s deadline time for final projects and I’ve yet to show my final video. It’s all been waiting for me to finish the final piece of the puzzle.

In my quest to become a YouTube educator and make videos for kids, I’ve learned a lot that I feel is valuable to the parents in my school community, and so I decided to take my experience and research on student YouTube use and make a video for the parents out there. So without further ado, I present my video guide to YouTube for parents, along with the results from my survey of 257 elementary students, and some supporting resources to delve a little deeper.

VIDEO: Parent’s Guide to YouTube (2017)

Students and YouTube Use

Students from Grade 1 to Grade 5 attending an international (non-profit) IB school were asked to complete a short survey regarding their use of YouTube outside of school. Grade 1 and 2 students were guided through the questions by teachers. All students were encouraged to provide honest answers with no repercussions for identifying choices or behaviour discouraged or prohibited at school.

With 54% of student respondents watching videos five or more days a week, YouTube clearly plays a major role in the entertainment choices of students at this school. Most content appears to be fine (if a bit silly or weird). Many popular channels feature educational, DIY or other productive content. Following is a summary of data collected from 257 elementary student respondents to a survey regarding their use of YouTube. All answers were provided independently by students, and may include all the biases and irregularities that go along with that.

TOP 10 Most popular YouTube channels by survey respondents (257 responses):

Gaming, challenges, silliness
Minecraft and educational, silliness
vLogs, fashion, cosmetics, comedy (teen)
vLogs, challenges, silliness, games
Gaming, silliness (Inappropriate content)
vLogs, comedy for teens
vLogs, DIY, fashion, life tips, comedy (teen)
vLogs, challenges, comedy
Comedy skits and vLogs, managed by parents.

Out of a total 197 YouTube channels recommended by 257 elementary survey respondents, these received the most mentions. Though some of these channels may contain risque content targeted at teens and older, the creators mostly self-censor to reach a wider audience. Ten minute reviews of each only identified one channel containing harsh language, violence and aggression that was clearly inappropriate for elementary school children (#6, pewdiepie).

Notably, our school accounts do not support YouTube, so this requires a private email address to create. Many parents ask about this during conferences. It’s not currently an option in Cambodia, but should this change in the future the school will review our policy to see if this is the best option for enhancing learning and protecting our kids.

Students are encouraged to use their school accounts as much as possible, but it’s more child-appropriate, secure and accountable to use a private account with YouTube than no account at all.

Outside of school, a private account is necessary to use restricted mode (formerly safe mode), which removes all content tagged inappropriate for kids by YouTube.

Phone/ iPad or other tablet / Laptop or Desktop computer / TV

Most students watch YouTube on a laptop or desktop computer, with iPads and tablets coming in a close second. Note that students were able to select more than one device here, and many students have access to more than one device for consuming video. This has implications for parental controls such as restricted mode, which require an account to be signed in, and identifies a clear weakness in website filtering or blocking software unless it can be consistently applied across all devices the child uses. It may be interesting to note the trend that younger children prefer tablet and phone devices, with older children preferring laptops or desktop computers.

These categories were taken from YouTube analytics and Common Sense Media studies of the most popular genres of YouTube videos.

  • “Let’s play” videos (playing videogames with commentary) were by far the most popular category of video, highly popular with Grades 1-3 where they often do not have access to the games themselves.
  • “Challenges” were a big trend popular with grades 2-5. Flash mobs, mannequin challenge and bottle flip are examples of these.
  • Fashion and cosmetics, a huge category for YouTube and teens, was oddly only popular in Grade 3 (and a couple G5s).
  • vLogs (video blogs) were non-existent in G1/G2, but very popular in G3+. This category is worth note because of the personal nature of the videos and likelihood of these YouTubers being role models for kids. This category often blends with Fashion and Cosmetics, where YouTube personalities may endorse products or discuss their personal lifestyle choices (including fashion). May include examples from all other categories.
  • Educational (how-to) videos were very popular with 4th and 5th graders, but almost non-existent below that.
  • Music was popular in all grades, Funny/Silly stuff in all grades.

The 9.7% here that are publishing on YouTube without parental help are 25 students made up of 5th graders (11), 4th graders (8), and 3rd graders (6). Though this is a minority, it indicates an increased need for digital citizenship and privacy conversations regarding online publishing in these grade levels.



Our students, our children, are living in a world with unprecedented access to media. It is our responsibility to become a part of that.

Thank you so much for reading, watching, and being engaged with what your children are doing online.

I welcome feedback, suggestions, your own experience and comments here on the blog!



The YouTuber Experience

Hey folks,

It’s been a month since my last update, and by now I thought I’d be sitting here with a big grin enjoying all the results of my work on creating a kids-oriented edutainment channel on YouTube where I could post videos about skills based activities we don’t have time for learning in our inquiry-based school curriculum. By now I’d thought to have plenty of kids subscribed, a wide mixture of different maker projects featured, and all of them tying into units, lessons, themes or digital citizenship in some manner.


Well, not quite. Check out my humble beginnings over here at “MattMakes on YouTube“.

There is a lot more to consider for this project than I’d originally thought. In the beginning, I watched content from YouTubers my students were into. I tried to learn what it was that made them engaging and interesting to kids, and at first thought, “hey I can do better than that!”. A lot of their commentary was inane and silly, and I wanted there to be at least the occasional nugget of learning in between bouts of maniacal laughter and superfluous language. It didn’t seem like much of a stretch, but I had a lot to learn about YouTube culture, audience, and the technology involved.


As evidenced throughout my past two COETAIL courses, I’d been learning a lot about working with video. I’ve taken a few courses through a free trial on the excellent how-to website (free months of premium classes for both of us if you sign up through that link!), learning the basics of Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. I also watched a lot of YouTube advice for new YouTubers, even some content that was created through my local Cambodian Google Educators Group:

Community involvement


There’s nothing like feedback from an authentic audience. I threw a question out to the Twitterverse to see if my PLN had some suggestions:

And they did!

Twitter shoutout
But it was only a drop in the bucket of information I needed. When your audience is kids, no amount of research into blog posts, news articles, or even other adult YouTubers can tell you the whole story… you’ve got to go to the source. So I asked permission to survey the G1-G5 kids at my school. Here are the questions I’ve asked 327 kids:

  1. Do you have your own YouTube account?
  2. How do you like to watch? (Devices)
  3. What are your favourite kinds of videos? (choose from extensive list)
  4. How often/how long do you watch?
  5. Do you publish your own videos?
  6. Who are your favourite YouTubers?

I’ll post the results here once they’re in. Here’s a sneak peak:
How often
I particularly like the last question, as I’ve started to realize there is a lot of inappropriate content being consumed by kids, and that adults (parents and teachers both) are largely oblivious to the influence and impact some of these YouTube entertainers have on their audience. This is causing a shift in my immediate goals as a YouTube educator/entertainer, more on that in the Status Report! at the end.


There is a unique culture surrounding YouTube, one that I’m only beginning to understand. Content creators form communities, and support each other with shares, likes and shout-outs. Kids are very concerned (dare I say “too concerned“) about statistics such as “likes” and “subscriptions”. Slang, drama, and collaborations are common among popular channels. Copyright issues abound, including copyright trolls claiming your content is under their ownership. I’ve never had a better example to teach creative credit and copyright before this experience (more on this below). There are expectations of certain functions and language to be used within videos. If I had to help someone understand the YouTube culture experience in one sentence it would be: “Dive in, sink or swim”. Publishing on YouTube as an educator and entertainer is something very public, and so you need to resign yourself to the fact that your learning and growth are also very public. Your failures are public. It’s a lot to adjust to when your critics are tugging on your arm in the school hallway to suggest ways to make your videos better, but it’s an amazing way to learn.

It’s left me wondering though, if so many of our kids are learning this way, and so few teachers and parents understand this culture or know which creators they are watching, are we missing an opportunity here? Are we letting them down?

Technical Challenges

Aside from the camera/microphone/video editor combo necessary to start creating, there are lots of tricks to making your YouTube videos more dynamic, interactive, and engaging. I’m still working on that, but there are two main issues that I underestimated when I started planning this project. Regional account restrictions, and copyright bots.

I’m launching my channels from Cambodia, a country where Google does not have an official business presence and so Google Apps deployments here lack some features. One of those is the ability to have a YouTube channel with that account. You can still create YouTube accounts using any private email address, but students at our school can’t like/subscribe/comment/publish or curate content using their school email address and google account. This is a big problem when you want to provide regular content to a user base of kids who most likely do not have another account other than the one used at school. It \impacts the number of subscriptions and local success of the channel, and creates barriers to student access that result in many email links to individual videos as a workaround. Not really happy about this, but nothing much I can do about it other than work around it.

Copyright bots are everywhere! Within minutes of posting my videos I inevitably receive copyright claims on my content, disputing my ownership to music or images included in my video. Since I’m creating everything myself, using short clips under “fair use”, or citing royalty free or copyright free content, it shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately the bots don’t know that! They recognize snippets of my content as belonging to someone else and file copyright claims automatically, allowing them to disable features of my videos (such as mobile viewing) or monetize them with advertisements unless you successfully dispute the claim with YouTube. So far I’ve always been successful, but there is something “dirty” feeling about a company you don’t know placing ads on your video without your permission. It’s also annoying and time consuming.

Status Report!

The new information I have about culture, technical restrictions, and student watching preferences has put a spotlight on the need to better understand YouTube as a cultural phenomenon as much as a potential learning tool. This has put a bit of a spin on my project, as I’ve decided to split into two channels, one for adults and one for kids. Although my focus for this project was on creating educational, entertaining content in a “YouTuber” style for kids to extend learning beyond classroom lessons, I think that I can better achieve that by reaching out to our community and trying to help parents and teachers better understand this phenomenon. My next video will be aimed at that audience in a “YouTube for parents” video. Following that, I’m shifting the content I’d planned for some of the upcoming videos to be better integrated with the content students are learning in school… less green screen and video tips, more coding. Time to make a virtual pet using Scratch!

Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear your comments below. Best of luck to any COETAILers out there in the last stages of your final projects!



Sneaking up on YouTube

This post is in reference to a flipped classroom YouTube channel I proposed a couple months ago.

I’m excited, I’m intimidated, I’m having trouble breathing over here, folks. Can flipping and extending the skills-based learning “from class time to online” engage children and benefit their classroom inquiry? The massive amount of learning I had to do to get to this point is desperate to find out.

I’m always after my students to focus on the planning first, but it’s not easy to be thorough when the fun stuff comes after. I realized in my previous post where I made a video discussing games-based learning that there is a lot more to creating quality content than sitting in front of a camera and hitting record. First step, research. I decided to start by investigating some of the YouTube channels that I like, that are successful, and that are popular with kids. I also threw in some questionable “how to” videos for good measure.

A few of my observations:

  • Content is more important than quality. Giving your audience what they want, when they want, is more important than any fancy effects, camera work, or presentation skills.
    (This is what I am most struggling with in the beginning)
  • Keep it short, focused. According to this article, the average length of a “most-watched” YouTube video is under 5 minutes, with a maximum under 10 minutes.
  • Intro logos, music, etc. should be less than 5 seconds. Get to the point.
  • Popular children’s YouTube channels stay focused on fun, the learning can happen in the background. Include silly or unpredictable moments.
    Unlike teaching a class, audience attention isn’t mandatory. Viewer engagement is priority number one.
  • Presenters should be relaxed and natural, speaking directly to the camera in a non-formal conversational tone unless engaged with an activity.
    It’s not a formal interview, slideshow presentation, or a news desk (unless that’s what you’re going for).
  • Creative credit and copyright is a big deal on YouTube, and bots will flag your content for infringement regardless of citations, even if your use of content falls under “fair use principles“.
    • “In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.” (Rich Stim, Stanford Library, Copyright and Fair Use, 2010)

I realized then that my personal YouTube account where I’ve posted the odd travel video or online course content wasn’t going to be appropriate for my intended audience. I didn’t think my teacher-y photos would hook in kids, or properly represent the content I had been planning. I literally went back to “the drawing board” and tried to sketch out my ideas.

20170125_134019IMG_0899  Screenshot (9)

Whiteboard rough draft to virtual whiteboard tracing. That got a little bit rough, so I grabbed the parts I liked and upgraded to Photoshop. I surveyed some students and teachers regarding names and, although I’m a long way from perfect, I think I’ve settled on a “brand” identification for the content that balances the education and entertainment aspects.

What do you think of this concept?

Youtube Header snip

Mister Matt Makes, a YouTube channel for making things, exploring apps and gadgets, playing games and practicing technology based skills that support learning in school.

I’d love to hear your feedback as I prepare for the next step: my first video.



Follow @matthewdolmont

Video + Games (Based Learning)

Hey folks!

Following on with a previous post on challenge based learning in the PYP curriculum, I decided I’d tackle Games-based learning next. Perhaps unfortunately for me (or at least my COETAIL deadlines), I was also thinking about my upcoming project concept: a YouTube flipped classroom channel for skills- and games-based activities based on student demand. I knew that if I was going to go through with that, I’d really need to up my video production game. I purchased some new equipment and software, and decided that I would take this assignment into the realm of video for my own learning experience.

So now it’s three weeks late. Oops.

Lessons learned along the way?

  • A good microphone makes a huge difference.
  • Not all video formats are compatible with one another. Re-encoding hours of 60fps 1080p video to another format may take 30 hours. Choose wisely before filming.
  • Large amounts of high-quality video fill up all of your hard drives so that passively filming your classroom all day fails and you lose all your evidence if you don’t keep an eye on it.
  • Adobe Premiere is way more powerful but considerably different to work with than iMovie. Hellllooooooo hours of online video tutorials (thanks Skillshare!)
  • Lighting is super mega incredibly important for using chroma key video effects. I look like a grey zombie.
  • When lots of footage gets wrecked, you can replace it with an image from your website for shameless self promotion. 😀

This video was a massive learning experience, but I’m pretty disapointed by it, because it could have been so much better (it’s much more shallow than intended). The process though, oh what a learning experience. I’m not deterred from my upcoming video project by this at all… I learned that even despite some of those frustrations, I really enjoy editing work!

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments, please feel free to get picky on the technical stuff, this was a big step for me and I want to get it right before I start making content for the kids.


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Channel Change: A flipped classroom for technology skills?

(COETAIL Course 5 Project Proposal)

Hey folks,

I’d like to share a little project idea with you. I’ve been thinking hard about what strengths I bring my classroom and how students respond to the lessons we do at school. How might I leverage these strengths to further engage students and challenge myself as a learner? First, I needed to address two issues that have been nagging me throughout my Technology Coach journey.

One: I’ve received feedback from a wide variety of teachers in informal discussions as well as formal feedback during workshops I’ve run and attended such as Tosca Killoran’s Rebrand session at this year’s Learning2.Asia conference. One of the things that stuck with me was repeat feedback that my enthusiasm for the work that I do doesn’t always come through on first inspection of my digital footprint, my previous websites and portfolios being carefully cultivated as professional self promotion rather than a window into my work. It just wasn’t “honest”, wasn’t “me as a teacher”.

Two: I’ve been struggling with some consistent student feedback: there is never enough time in school for their favourite technology skills and tools. Since we follow a technology integration model at our PYP school (something I am a firm believer in), it means that technology is rarely the focus of a lesson… merely the medium we use to inquire into it. That focus has drawbacks for those who wish to take their experience further, extend their learning, or improve its quality by exploring more deeply into these tools. I am frequently contacted by students and parents requesting assistance to access these skills and tools outside of school. Though they are optional for our learning engagements, I am loathe to see eager students limit their passion for learning to a single area.

My  students have a bubbling passion for internet video. They want to learn more about the games and apps we use at school. They want access to them at home and continue to question me about them long after units and planned lessons have moved on to other things. I’ve been asked more than a dozen times this year if I have a YouTube channel, and those that have sought me out on YouTube are disappointed at my boring videos about pedagogy. Here is something that students and parents want, and time-poor teachers can use, that represents my true passion for educational technology… and it’s staring me right in the face!

With a YouTube channel featuring content supporting in school learning, I can flip the skills-based technology focus to YouTube, freeing up more time for student inquiry at school, and providing resources for student extension and parent involvement. I can bring my teaching style and enthusiastic voice to these projects, and hope to create entertaining content as well as resources for learning. I’m pretty excited about it.

But I do have a few concerns!

I’m an amateur video editor, and ran into lots of delays and troubles with a recent video on Games-based learning, so the process I use for creation and the quality of my content needs a significant boost to be engaging. Engagement is key, and if the videos don’t cater to student interest, their optional nature in our curriculum can leave a lot of my time and effort stagnating on the internet. With such a public performance-based concept, what is it going to say about me to others, including future schools or employers? How to balance relevance to in-school learning with external entertainment?

This concept requires a shift in my pedagogy as well, in that I am used to teaching with a focus on unit content rather than tech skills, but it’s also an opportunity for me to “geek out” a bit with kids on topics that we don’t normally have time to explore. The biggest shift here will be finding a balance between entertainment and education, an act that is necessary to engage students who will not be required to use this additional learning to be successful in the school curriculum, even when it can elevate their performance.

I’m excited. I’m intimidated. I’m going more public than ever before. I’ve tried to fit this ongoing, multi-grade, multi-unit plan into a UbD planner to provide an overview of goals and learning outcomes within a six-week trial framework. I’d totally owe you one if you had time to give it a glance, and leave me some feedback on this overview in the blog comments.

(Link to Course 4 UbD Project Planner – Draft: Channel Change)

Is it worthy of a COETAIL final project? Do you think this will enhance student learning? Do you think a flipped classroom for boosting skill can help tech integration in the long run?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


Follow @matthewdolmont


Hey folks!

This week fellow COETAILers are geeking out a bit about the devices in their classroom and how they are used. Not everyone has access to the same types of resources, and in both my practice and my school’s philosophy, it’s an area that shies from in-depth discussion. Good pedagogy before technology is a great philosophy, and one that I believe in deeply, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few gadgety gems worth having a discussion about. That said, this week I want to introduce you to a few of my favourite technology tools and how I use them to enrich the classrooms I visit. As a primer, the International School of Phnom Penh  (which I’m using for the following examples), has limited numbers of iPads available in each classroom. Low end portable laptops are also available for check out, a computer lab can be booked for heavier-duty lessons, AppleTV is available in each room with a projector for screen mirroring. We also have some cameras and other A/V equipment that students can access from check out. I’m always pining for new resources, and feel limited by low student to device ratios, but I try to remember not to take these things for granted and to use what we do have effectively. Here are a few tips on leveraging these resources and some devices to complement them:

Next-level Video: Greenscreen Setup, Tools, and Tips

Last year I discovered how easily an iPad-equipped classroom could take their video projects to the next level for about $15. The extremely easy-to-use app Green Screen by Do Ink ($5) and $10 worth of Green Fabric stuck to my wall with sticky tack was all it took to have students swimming under the sea or describing their work in front of a giant background of it. Students can independently record Chroma-key videos with their own backgrounds using this app in Grade 2, perhaps sooner, and importing clips into iMovie for iPad means that my Grade 4s can completely record and edit video projects on an iPad and save them to Google Drive.

There are limitations to the iPad experience though, so I brought a few of my own personal tools to school for my own projects. Editing video on a Mac or PC is much more powerful (iMovie, Adobe Premiere and Final Cut are some good applications) and brings some other possibilities into the mix.


Using a webcam and microphone (built in laptop stuff works), you can create multi-layer and picture-in-picture effects using a green screen and the free open source software, OBS. Youtube tutorials can walk you through it. I decided to spend a little money and get a quality webcam (the Logitech c920 works great with chroma key) for 1080p video, and cannot understate the value of a good microphone. The Blue Yeti can connect via USB and has great dynamic range for recording large spaces, multiple voices, and has enough gain to catch even those tiny little shy voices.

We use chroma key (greenscreen) video to act out stories, reflect on our learning, present information to others, and create creative projects. When all you need is an iPad and some green fabric, you can find these popping up in classrooms all over our school, from Early Years to Grade 5. Good quality webcams and microphones can also be used to turn any computer into a video effects workstation!

Make Your Own Music

Videos need sound. In fact, I think it’s one of the most underappreciated aspects of good quality video. A major problem for video projects, especially those shared publically by students on blogs or YouTube, is making sure that the music and other audio is not copyrighted material. Luckily, the immense music-making power of affordable apps such as Garageband can turn an iPad into a music production studio in no time. Thanks to built in smart-instruments, a KG teacher with no experience using Garageband or playing any musical instrument was able to make the following musical track in 30 minutes. What can your students make with a little practice? You’ll be impressed!

On-the-fly Blogging for Younger Kids

These days, I’m always harping about “not just turning it in”, encouraging teachers and students to “publish it!” instead. That works great for our independent bloggers in Grade 3+.

Sometimes, particularly with young students up until Grade 2-3, that experience seems beyond the time available to the teacher or capabilities of the students. Yet with iPads and smartphones in the classroom, there are awesome ways to publish student work fast and efficiently. Thanks to fellow COETAILers and tech integrators, provides two-click recording and uploading for students and has flexible pricing options (parents pay, you don’t!) for schools and teachers. Once you set it up, students as young as 5 can blog away all day and you need only preview their video for approval before it’s posted. If you’re interested in a little bit more of a social-media or teacher-driven easy blogging experience, our  Early Learning Center teachers have really taken to the Storypark platform out of New Zealand. Although it’s a bit more expensive, teachers can micro-blog anything they catch on their phone or iPad and tag students with it, adding it to “stories”, which are essentially social media posts about learning.  It’s been more successful in boosting parent engagement here in Cambodia than anything else we’ve tried.

Electricity Experiments with Games

Here’s a fun toy to experiment with: The Makey Makey.


I’ve done a number of great lessons on coding and electricity using this little thing, and since it’s an open-source design, local electronics fab shops sometimes make them for cheap.

The MakeyMakey connects to any computer with USB, and when clipped to any material conducting electricity, it sends signals through that material to a specific input command on the computer. Connect a banana to the spacebar, or a stapler to a mouse click. Create your own custom controllers for coding games like Scratch or learn about what materials conduct and which don’t by connecting them to a drum machine.

Coding Games for Kids

Since this week people are globally honouring the “Hour Of Code” event, I thought it worth recommending some great iPad-based coding games that are popular with students in my classes. Although devices aren’t necessary to teach coding, they can create engaging opportunities for kids to challenge their logic and critical thinking skills from a young age.

For Pre-Readers! (Age 4+)

The Foos


For Storytellers(Grades 1-3)

ScratchJr. – Create animated cartoons and simple games using Scratch coding.

For Explorers and Game Players (Grades 2+)


SWIFT Playgrounds – Apple’s new iPad exclusive coding game! New modules are being released as of this writing.

Hopscotch – From games to art projects, this powerful coding app can turn an iPad into an interactive maze or a gyroscopic lightsaber (for a start!)

For suggestions to some non-iPad resources, check out (Code Combat is my favourite). There are great tutorials for mature beginners at, too.


These are just a few examples on how devices in the hands of teachers and students can redefine learning experiences and open doors to future opportunities. From interacting with our PLNs, capturing learning on the fly, publishing our work or empowering our students to make amazing things independently, the devices are just the start. It’s up to you to use them effectively.

Comments, questions, any suggestions you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Future Proof

At the time of this writing, I’ve been a teacher of children for 2.5 years. A teacher of adults for ten.

And everything has changed.

That doesn’t even account for the change in education since I was a student, sitting in my assigned spot being lectured to, completing worksheets, working on my cursive writing.


The future of technology use in education is something that everyone can try to imagine based on their present and past experiences, but no one can predict. In fact, my role as a technology coach was created as a response to teachers’ perceived inability to cope with the rise of technology integration and prevalence of new tools, techniques and data management expectations. I often joke that my job is to make myself obsolete, something that would be impossible to do if I was teaching skills and tools that may not be around a decade from now. Instead we endeavor to adopt new learning strategies and an understanding on the capabilities of our tools and ourselves so that we can, as learners along with our students, adapt to the pace of change. If a technology coach was truly successful in this mission, there wouldn’t be a need for them any more. Although my love of my job treats that as an internal conflict, perhaps the future of education is one without technology coaches at all. Perhaps it is a transitory role as traditional teachers and digital natives coexist together in education. Perhaps it is already happening, as some schools begin to rebrand these roles as “learning coaches” or “digital literacy coaches”. Kim Cofino had some great thoughts on this in her post on facilitator, coach or coordinator.

While I enjoy fantasizing about a future of growth mindsets, tech-literate educators, and classrooms of learners that include guidance by a learning facilitator rather than a “teacher”, not everything seems to be moving in that direction. Digital literacy is on the forefront of my thinking recently with the prevalence of “fake news” websites and burgeoning capabilities of my fourth graders (who have been image editing convincing portrayals of Donald Trump being abducted by aliens or marrying Hillary Clinton). Though both students and teachers are becoming remarkably savvy with technology tools, the immense amount of data and content being produced and shared online has created a new challenge: sifting through this infinite library in search of truth.

(Trump abduction by Jiwon, ISPP, Grade 4 / No political views were discussed with students)

Stanford University recently published a study demonstrating that middle school children were unable to tell the difference between real and fake news articles on the web. I believe many adults are faced with the same problem. Craig Silverman at Buzzfeed recently published an analysis showing how fake news outperformed real news on Facebook during the last days of the US presidential election, and likely strongly contributed to the results of that election. Students have several times pointed me to an image or video on the internet as proof that faeries exit and UFOs are constantly parading around earth’s skies, and I am forced to draw their attention to the green screen we use to record them in space or under the ocean to demonstrate how something like that might be faked.

I believe my role in the future will often involve delving into the immense amount of information available and raising student awareness of digital media and strategies to verify the information they find. This role will fall to teachers, and librarians, and parents as well. Coincidentally, Common Sense Media published a great article with tips to get us started identifying fake content today, but as our technology increases the production and dissemination of information while blurring the lines between real and contrived, I believe this to be one of the great challenges for future educators. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts or tips in the comments below.


Challenge Accepted

Investigating Challenge Based Learning through the lens of the IB PYP.

Teaching in the
Primary Years Program for an IB school has allowed me to experience first hand the values of inquiry and collaborative projects. Although since my teacher training I admit that the nuances of project-based learning (PL) and problem based learning (PBL) had begun to blur together in my mind, reviewing them reminded me that they formed the foundation of many lessons in my repertoire and those of my fellow teachers.  Jon Banules shared some great examples of his experience as a teacher at our school. Although our adventures in COETAIL might label them “past innovative learning strategies”, this unit was my first introduction into challenge based learning, or CBL. Being someone who thrives on something new, I endeavored to develop my understanding of how this might also fit in our program of inquiry, and as a tool for a technology or literacy coach. If you’d like a primer, here’s where I started learning  about CBL, and in true CBL style, you might rather use your own informal learning skills to check it out (wink, wink; I’m told sarcasm doesn’t fly on the internet).

CBL in the PYP

Just as PL and PBL, CBLs philosophy fits right into an inquiry based curriculum model like that of the IB PYP.

Bear with me here, I didn’t mean to charge into this post throwing acronyms around. Check out some of these principles that create the framework of the PYP Curriculum:

Essential elements: Five fundamental elements are designed to underpin student academic, social and emotional needs to support responsible independent learning of how to understand and function in the world. Knowledge, Concepts, Skills, Attitudes and Action represent the avenues students might use to approach learning when exploring new questions.

Pedagogical approach: Support student endeavors by providing provocation with new experiences, guiding students to draw upon their prior knowledge, and creating opportunities for reflection. Collaboration is key to this experience.

Action and Assessment: Essential to provide information about student learning, teachers gather evidence of formative and summative tasks to document understanding within the essential elements, meaning that assessment is determined by the learning journey and not only a final product. The development of positive attitudes and ability to take responsible action are as important as concept, knowledge and skill mastery.

(via The IBO online curriculum overview and their publication Making the PYP Happen)

Now let’s contrast that with the framework for CBL (CBL Classroom Guide, Apple Inc., pg. 4):


The “Big Idea” and “Essential Question” represent inquiry in its first stages. Any of the essential elements (and likely more than one) can find a home here, and the pedagogical approach of the PYP considers this step indispensable. Both models suggest similar strategies in examining world events and circumstances for concepts that involve multidisciplinary knowledge appropriate to the learners.

The CBL Classroom Guide states that “The Challenge turns the essential question into a call to action”, which is both an essential element of the PYP and part of student assessment. Guiding, through questions, activities and the provision of resources is the primary strategy of the PYP pedagogical approach. Just enough structure to allow students to reflect upon and learn from their mistakes (and maintain your teacher sanity).

Solution and implementation draw upon the skills, attitudes and action elements to create a product or process that addresses that challenge. This is where CBL most parallels PBL and likely cannot exist without multidisciplinary knowledge to bring the other elements together. Projects like these might exist at any point throughout the PYP, but it is most represented by The PYP Exhibition, an extended collaborative project in the final year where students inquire into real-life issues and share these with the community through an action project.

Evaluation and Assessment in the PYP look at the continuous journey of learning, something that works well within a challenge or project, and CBL is quite specific in putting much of this in the hands of the students and planning for it in the beginning. This is a focus that I think works well within the PYP but is less explicitly stated, something that some teachers are uncertain how to employ effectively or fear may not produce reportable summative results. Putting student self-assessment in the forefront of planning “The Challenge” seems an crucial step towards CBL summative assessment success in the PYP. As for formative, that integrates well with Publishing student reflections, a step that takes the archetypical student Inquiry Journal and shares it with others. The Publishing steps exist at the end of the CBL framework, but align best with the PYP when used throughout the learning process. The key element for CBL here is making it public. Responsible action with evidence and audience, sounds like a perfect fit for the PYP, which might need to leverage some technology to make all of these things come together.

CBL in the Technology Coach Toolkit

Technology in the PYP is intended to provide opportunities to transform learning. An integration model is best suited, where students are enabled to investigate, create communicate, collaborate, organize and be responsible for their own learning and actions while pursuing inquiry rather than focused on a specific skill or tool. Both the CBL Classroom Guide and The Role of ICT in the PYP advocate for leveraging technology to support student learning in a real-world context. Publishing, rather than private journals or turned-in assignments, is a poignant example of how they relate. As a technology coach and integrator, CBL seems the perfect model for engaging and relevant knowledge and skill development as long as the students are empowered to choose the technology most appropriate for their challenge. That also presents a challenge as a coach, as such a breadth of skill and tool possibilities within a class is difficult to plan and prepare for. Situations such as these (the PYP Exhibition is a great example) can be flipped to learn with students and model informal and self-directed learning skills. These opportunities are important and represent what I expect is CBLs greatest asset to technology integration and learning in general.

Using CBL as a coach isn’t straightforward. It demands collaboration with teachers across disciplines within the challenge or unit, and pre-planning toward potential outcomes and student self-assessment steps may be essential to success. Yet I believe the same applies to the PYP, and just like PL and PBL, Challenge Based Learning is right at home in both its toolkit and mine.

What are your thoughts on CBL in the PYP? Does it seem as appropriate for your discipline, and how could a tech coach better serve you and the needs of your students during a project or challenge?

I’d love to hear in the comments below.


Integration Diplomacy


Technology integration has well passed the “buzzword” stage in the schools I’ve been working with, with discussions of SAMR often making an appearance in collaborative planning meetings. In fact, those discussions are becoming less common as the philosophy and model becomes less controversial and more embedded into school culture. Does that mean these schools have reached a “fully integrated” utopia? Has a new philosophy won a victory over the old?

Not… yet.

As a technology coach, I am the vanguard of deliberate integration strategies in our school, and I’d like to think that modification and redefinition are typically the drivers behind the technology choices I make. Admittedly, that’s not always the case, because sometimes compromise is the tool that builds confidence in those that I work with, confidence to try new things in the future. I’ve learned to pick my battles, model when I can, and encourage small victories even if a small substitution exercise gets my foot in the door (gasp! Tech coach blasphemy!).

During a recent accreditation visit, collaborative planning involving tech and the philosophy underpinning teachers’ use of technology were well lauded for their presence and obvious implementation, yet from my perspective we were just getting started. I realize that true integration is an ideal that may never be fully achieved within a school culture that is growing and changing as the bodies within it also grow and change with each passing year, especially in an international school. It’s easy to imagine the scenario as an ideological battle waged between the old mindset and the new, but it’s more subtle than that. While new staff and students arrive, and those who have long been mainstays of the community move on, there is more to the scenario than progress and regression. I reflect on my experience not as a battle, with technology tools brought to bear upon the naysayers and tactical pedagogy turning the tide with a cavalry charge of scaffolding and differentiated learning. Instead it is more akin to diplomacy, of building relationships of respect and treaties of balanced understanding, equal parts trepidation and bravery.

SAMR and TPACK provide a foundation from which to start a discussion, and analyze our relationship with the technology we might employ and the learning we strive to achieve. They provide an anchor, grounded in reason and valuing sound pedagogy over the esoteric wonder that new and exciting gadgetry might elicit. Their value for me in practice has been to provide a retreat when enthusiasm has waned, a place to go and discuss the rationale and ambition of new technology in a way that is accessible to critics and traditionalists. SAMR and TPACK are my voice of reason when I get carried away with new technology, or when another distrusts it despite clear evidence of it’s potential. I treat them like mediators, both internally and when working with others.

When I reflect on technology integration in my work, I can see there is a long way to go. I can see teachers take risks they would never have considered two years ago, revel in their success and learn from their failures. I can see others intimidated by the limelight this brings, and resist to prolong comfort in the things they know and understand well. Technology integration has had little to do with savvy know-how or hacker skills, and everything to do with balance, understanding, and building a community of like-minded learners who support each other in growth and failure. I’ve often been advised to focus on the “middle of the pack”, letting front-runners run and providing hope to those in the back rather than focusing efforts directly on them. When resources and time are limited, it is about making the most of what you have. As a coach, I believe it’s about giving others ownership of the tools in their possession, and encouraging them to apply those tools even when you are not there to support them. That includes the philosophy, and the ability to reflect on where you are using the models that exist. Learn from our mistakes, celebrate our victories, strive for integration, even if you might never reach integration utopia.
For a balanced execution including the elements of SAMR and TPACK, I found the Technology Integration Matrix full of potential. Although I’ll hesitate to introduce a new model into my current environment just as others become comfortable with those they have, I encourage you to explore this model if you’re starting your integration journey.

Infographics Going Forward

eup-in-the-pyp WEB poster
Hi folks!

Last spring, I learned a lot about creating infographics when I worked on an Empowered Use Policy with @jonbanules and @shanegower on a COETAIL project. I knew right away this is something I wanted to use with my students, whether I was explicitly teaching it as a skill or exploring it through learning about an integrated subject. Here it is on the left (or get the original on Google Drive).

Last month I posted some infographic resources I was planning to use with my students while discussing creative commons licensing, CARP design principles, and some of the resources I was thinking of using when I finally put the lessons together. Since I’ve already gotten into “the thick of it” with my own infographics, I thought I would use this opportunity to reflect on how that lesson evolved with some tips for those who might take the DIY route to using infographics with your students.


I actually went the traditional book route when introducing this lesson, because my Grade 3 students were learning about Solar Systems and I really loved the fantastic Infographics: Space book by Simon Rogers. There is a whole series of these books and they do a superb job of demonstration creative, effective infographic design that represents the CARP principles I am teaching. Check out Big Picture Press for other books in the series that might suit your unit.



iPad document camera FTW









Third grade were really into two of the CARP principles, Contrast and Alignment. We focused on these for lack of time, but a few other tools were really useful for getting these points across. We made our infographics using Our students have Google Apps accounts for school and this made it easy using their “Log in with Google” feature so that we didn’t need new accounts or passwords for this service. It also helped when teaching the principle of alignment to have the built in rulers and guidelines that this app provides. Students were able to implement what we discussed immediately with this handy scaffold.

The good ol’ Colour Wheel was also invaluable for teaching contrast, but some students dug a bit deeper and decided they wanted to colour match things exactly using HTML colour hex codes they found for colours on the opposite side of the wheel. One student recommended this handy colour calculator tool to his friends as “the best colour wheel ever!”. I made a note to share it with you!
matt-teaching-infographics-3 matt-teaching-infographics-4

My biggest takeaway from this lesson wasn’t the infographics themselves but how motivated the students were to research facts about the solar system once they had an engaging way to present them. It integrated so well into the students’ Unit of Inquiry as well as my other teaching. Ease of using the tool and the way it encapsulated the design principles while providing ways to reinforce our creative commons/labelled for reuse digital citizenship learning were just tremendous bonuses at that point.

I’m planning on running further with this as the year goes on, if you’ve got any questions about using piktochart, CARP or infographics in a lesson, leave me a comment!


Explaining Stories Part 2: Methods to the Madness

How to use Explain Everything to tell collaborative digital stories with students.

This post is a follow up to “Explaining Stories in Strange and Wonderful Ways” and represents a final project for COETAIL course 3: Visual Literacy.


I learned a lot during this course about the media I like to use. Driven to try some new things, such as Open Broadcaster Software with a Green Screenrebranding your web presence, web design, and infographic resources such as the noun project. Having watched my fair share of how-to videos during this process, I thought I would make my own how-to video (sometimes at a small sacrifice of my own storytelling dignity) to demonstrate how I worked with students to create the live, collaborative stories that were featured in my previous post.

Here is the original Asteroid Hero, as told by me with the story elements and characters provided by students:

Here is “The Making of Asteroid Hero” using Quicktime to screen record my actions on an iPad. It was further edited in iMovie to cut down on the length of the video so that only the most important elements were included.

I’d love some feedback in the comments and especially, if you try out your own digital story in the manner, I would love to see it, hear about it, or perhaps someday even collaborate with your class for one!

As always, thanks for reading.