End of first trimester at St. Timothy’s – A self-evaluation :)

So, it’s the end of my first trimester at St Timothy’s School this coming Friday (Nov. 18th 2016)! And what a trimester it has been…

As part of our employment agreement, we have to submit a “self-evaluation identifying three strengths, three areas for improvement, and an action plan to support our professional development”, so here goes!

Three strengths:

1- My rapport with the students and the ability to establish relationships with them: I love the students at this school, and I feel like I have quickly built a solid connection with them all…

2- My use of the classroom facilities and resources: I have quickly embraced the new work space, I love that I have a massive National Geographic World Map in my classroom (picture below):

This map allows me to integrate lots of World Geography in my teaching of World History and makes it much easier to connect both disciplines (which are absolutely interdependent). My use of the technological facilities is also another one of my strengths: I enjoy using the EnoBoard and EasiTeach to create notes for my students to access after class or if they’re absent, as well as of course my expertise in integrating iPads in the classroom (all students have iPads = woohoo)!

3- My embrace of the community duties and responsibilities: I believe I have a very positive attitude and I have readily embraced the extra duties that come with working at a boarding school like roaming duty on certain weekends, organizing activities like dance classes for students, putting on performances for International Festival etc…

Three areas for improvement:

1- Using more differentiated teaching methods: I believe I do an ‘ok’ job when it comes to differentiating my instruction. However, now that the trimester is over and I have gotten to know my students better and assessed a lot of their work, I’m starting to see more differences in learning styles and learning needs and I need to reflect on and adjust my instruction accordingly.

2- Providing more support for my advisory group: I believe I can sometimes get bogged down with all the grading, lesson-planning etc, and forget to check up on my advisory group members, though I enjoy being their adviser very very much!

3- Allowing for more inquiry in my classes: I sometimes get carried away with how much content I have to teach in my IB DP classes, and would like to better plan my lessons to allow for further inquiry. In my MYP classes, I do sometimes stress about the content I have to cover and miss out on plenty of opportunities for further inquiry, even though the MYP class should not be so content-heavy. However, I have a rigorous curriculum I have received upon arrival and there is an expectation to go through ‘most’ of it.

Action plan to support my professional development:

1- Undertake MYP training as soon as possible: I enjoy online IB training modules and need to undertake MYP training soon to allow me to improve my instructional and assessment methods in the MYP classroom.

2- Continue building my library of instructional videos for IB DP Economics: I believe I need to make more used of flipped teaching methods to free up class time for further inquiry, and this means I need to update and add to my library of instructional videos on YouTube (an example of a playlist is here).

3- Attend a workshop or undertake an online training module on incorporating inquiry in teaching IB DP Economics: I believe networking with other teachers and see what they do to incorporate inquiry in the DP classrooms may benefit me a lot and give me plenty of ideas.

This Friday is the end of my first trimester at St. Timothy’s School and also my three month-iversary since arriving to the US. Here’s to another great trimester!


D-ram-ata: Using Data in the Drama Classroom!

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Self-assessment and peer-assessment play a very important role in the Drama classroom. Getting into the habit of constantly reflecting on one’s performances and the performances of others is paramount to learning how to think like an artist. Ever since the introduction of iPads in our school, I have made use of eLearning tools to facilitate the processes of self-assessment and peer-assessment in my drama classes. One of my favorite tools is Google Forms.

Before class, I would create a form with the indicators that need to be self- or peer-assessed (examples of each attached: peer assessment form and self assessment form), and then QR-code the link to these forms. Before the performances, students would scan the QR code and gain access to the Google Form. I would instruct them to read the form and have a think about the criteria upon which they are assessing themselves and/or their classmates. After watching the performances, students would then fill out the relevant form and click ‘Submit’.

When I started using Google Forms, the process would end there: clicking ‘Submit’. I would then encourage them to write a short reflection on their self- or peer-assessment and keep it in their folios. However, I felt like this data that I’m collecting in spreadsheets is so valuable and gives me such a great insight into the students’ feelings about their creations in the drama classroom (my undergrad degree had a huge ‘statistics component’ so I actually get really excited about ‘data’!).

I wanted to share those insights with the students, but didn’t really know how to make it relevant. Until one day, I decided to actually show my students the ‘summary of their responses’ (I have attached a PDF of such a summary generated by Google Forms, scroll down to see how data is represented visually). Google Forms has a wonderful feature where it summarises responses as bar-charts, and I showed these bar-charts to the students. Their initial reaction was: ‘Sirrrrr this is DRAMA not MATHS!’ We looked at some of these indicators and discussed the meaning of the data. What does it mean when the indicator ‘I projected my voice well enough during my performance’ got a 50% response of ‘sometimes’, and a 25% response of ‘usually’? It means that we need to have a discussion about voice projection and ways to improve it! So, we started going through these bar-charts and discussing the areas where we, as a class, may need to work on, whether it’s voice projection, or use of the performance space, or use of facial expressions.

I have found that this approach really got the students thinking about indicators they need to pay more attention to in order to develop as performing artists. The students realized that they weren’t alone, and that there are others in the classroom who struggle with the same skills, and it was done anonymously through Google’s wonderful ‘summary of responses’ feature! The students now actually request that I show them a summary of the responses whenever we use Google Forms in the drama class!

It has been said that feedback is the main driver behind learning; and this is a great example of how data can be used to give meaningful and timely feedback that can move the students’ learning forward!

10 ways I use Google Forms in my tablet classroom

This is my second blogpost for the Oxford University Press ELT Blog. It is about using Google Forms in the tablet/iPad classroom.

Oxford University Press

Mohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at ways of using Google Forms in the classroom.

I am one of Google Forms‘ biggest fans! I have many reasons to love the service, and I use it in many different ways.

While there have been many other advantages, the biggest advantage of using Google Forms in my classroom is being able to give students immediate feedback. I often connect my tablet to the projector, and hide the column displaying the names of students submitting their responses (whether they are responding to a test, or self-assessment or peer-assessment, etc.). The students like to see the spreadsheet being populated by all their submissions. We use this as an evaluation and feedback exercise after a test or quiz, for example: we look at each question and together agree on the most accurate and well-written responses. This is also a very useful literacy-building exercise because we…

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10 things ESL students can do with Evernote on their tablets

My first blogpost for the Oxford University Press ELT Blog about using Evernote in ESL classrooms where students use tablets. The ideas in this blogpost can be applied to all subject areas.

Oxford University Press

Tablet in handsMohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at how Evernote can be used in the classroom

Portfolio assessment in the ESL classroom offers many benefits. On the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ website, a portfolio is defined as ‘a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum’. Brown & Hudson (1998) have also described portfolios as a ‘family of assessments’. Some of the benefits of using portfolios, as described by Brown & Hudson (1998) include: (1) focusing student attention on learning processes; and (2) increasing student involvement in the learning processes. I have always been a fan of such ‘alternatives in assessment‘ because of the fact that they focus a lot more on the ‘process of learning’ as opposed to the ‘product of learning’ (Brown & Hudson, 1998).

Now that iPads and tablets are spreading into many…

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‘Instant Edmodo How-to’ by Dayna Laur

Edmodo has become very popular as the Learning Management System (LMS) of choice for many schools and teachers around the world. I can not think of any reason why that would not be the case: Edmodo offers a free and user-friendly service. Dayna Laur, a social studies teacher with 14 years of classroom experience, has created a wonderful how-to eBook demonstrating the steps taken to integrate this LMS in the classroom. The eBook, titled ‘Instant Edmodo How-To‘ is targeted at educators and administrators, and is written using very simple language, outlining clear & detailed steps for performing a wide variety of functions using the Edmodo LMS. I would highly recommend reading the eBook for teachers who wish to become more familiar with using Edmodo in their classrooms.

The eBook contains 14 short chapters, each with a different focus. For example, there is a chapter titled ‘Setting up your Profile’ which outlines the steps involved in creating and building your teacher profile on Edmodo. The chapters are also labelled ‘simple’, ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’, depending on the level of tech-savviness of the reader, or their level of comfortability with the platform. Each chapter follows the same structure: a short introduction to the Edmodo function or feature, followed by a ‘Getting Ready‘ section to outline prerequisite steps, then a ‘How to do it‘ section listing the steps in a summarized format, followed by a ‘How it works‘ section explaining the steps in more detail. The last part of every chapter has a ‘There’s more‘ section that offers further features or steps for the teacher that would like to try them out.

Dayna Laur has written the eBook using very simple language that I believe is accessible to all educators, regardless of their ICT knowledge or expertise. I also believe her style of writing is very practical and not too technical, and the steps outlined or explained in every chapter follow a very logical sequence. Organizing all chapters using the same structure also helps the reader follow the instructions, and be able to easily identify areas where they might need more reading. Additionally, the eBook is full of screen-shots that help the reader with following the steps outlined in each chapter. The formatting of the eBook is also very appealing to me as a reader: the use of clear sub-headings, the font size, and the appropriate use of ‘bold‘ font and numbered lists. I would definitely recommend Dayna Laur’s ‘Instant Edmodo How-To‘, as I believe it is a useful guide ‘for educators who intend to use Edmodo for instructional support in classrooms or in professional development sessions’.


Edmodo + Evernote = my ideal iPad-classroom workflow!

edmodo evernote

I have been teaching in iPad classrooms for nearly 18 months now. During the first few months, the biggest obstacle I faced was creating an efficient workflow between myself and the students. By ‘workflow‘ I am referring to a system that enables the teacher to easily distribute tasks to the students, collect that work back from students, and efficiently give them feedback on their learning. Initially, I would e-mail the students the task sheet, then they would download it and open it in another ‘app’ that allows them to work on it. Once finished, the students would e-mail me the work back. Lots of e-mails got lost, or my e-mail became too hard to organise and manage. Also, students could not e-mail big files like videos they’ve been working on. Additionally, having to e-mail all feedback to students was not fun. Basically, an iPad workflow that relies mostly on e-mail can be a big headache (in my opinion, at least).

Towards the end of 2012, Edmodo introduced a wonderful new feature to their iPad app: the ability to import a document from any iPad app into Edmodo, and hence upload it to your Edmodo Library. This was a great update, and many teachers got excited about it. This meant that now I can use my iPad to upload handouts/task-sheets and then attach them to an ‘assignment‘ post on Edmodo. It also meant that students could download these task-sheets/handouts, work on them in another app, then upload them back onto Edmodo to submit for an ‘assignment’ post. I quickly started using Edmodo in that manner with my year 8 Humanities class. It was great!

All minor tasks and major assessments were assigned through Edmodo, whereby the students would download the task-sheet, work on the assignment in the designated app (Pages, Keynote, iMovie, Notability and Skitch are the most popular in my classroom), then submit their finished product back on Edmodo. Once all assignments are submitted, I then download each student’s submission, mark/grade their work and give them the numerical grade and feedback comment all on Edmodo. The same applies for Edmodo Quizzes: the students can solve them on Edmodo, and view their answers and marks/feedback on Edmodo. In short, Edmodo offers a very efficient, manageable and free workflow system for teachers in an iPad classroom: teachers can easily distribute work to students, collect work back, mark/grade it and give feedback all on the one platform! Below are some annotated screenshots of all the great things Edmodo helps me accomplish in my classroom:






However, I quickly realized that I also wanted my students to collect all that work they’re doing into one easily accessible ‘portfolio’, as opposed to it just being on the other apps, and then submitted on Edmodo. This is where Evernote has been a great help. Any student-created Keynote presentations, Pages documents, annotated PDFs, and annotated photos that the students submit on Edmodo, they can also export to Evernote (in their ‘notebook’ which they ‘share’ with me). I always ask my students to export and submit everything in PDF-format as it preserves the formatting of the document. Once I mark the assignment on Edmodo, the students take a screenshot of the feedback comment and the numerical grade. These screenshots are then added into the same note on Evernote where they attached their work in PDF format. An example of this is shown below:


Since the students had free accounts on Evernote, I could view everything they added into their ‘Shared Notebook’, but I could not modify or edit any notes. Therefore, by the end of the first term of this year, I decided to trial having a premium account. I created a notebook per student, and shared it with them. Since mine was a premium account, that allowed the both of us to edit and modify notes. We continued to use both Edmodo and Evernote in the same way, however I could now leave my feedback directly in their Evernote notebook for the minor activities finished in class, and use the Edmodo ‘Assignment’ feature for the major assessments. One way by which these shared Evernote notebooks have also been a great help is how I use them to give feedback on quizzes completed on Google Forms. I often create quizzes and tests on Google Forms for my students to complete. The students would access the quiz/test through the URL that I post on Edmodo, and take a screenshot of their filled-in forms before clicking ‘Submit’. I would then open the form responses in  spreadsheet-format, copy each student’s ‘row’ of responses and the row of questions, and paste both into their workbook along with my feedback and mark. Here is an example:


I have also previously written feedback notes in the students’ shared notebooks where I would attach a PDF rubric, and an audio-note along with the numerical marks. I usually do that at the end of every term. Here is an example of that:



To conclude, Edmodo and Evernote together have really helped me setup an efficient and manageable workflow for my iPad classroom. All tasks can be distributed through Edmodo, downloaded by students from Edmodo into other apps, submitted or ‘turned-in’ through Edmodo, marked/graded on Edmodo, and students can even receive feedback on Edmodo. I would definitely direct any teacher interested in finding out more about it to the ‘Edmodo Help-Centre‘. Furthermore, Evernote has been a great help in allowing the students to collect all this work (along with the feedback received on it) into the one place in the form of a portfolio. Below are some screencasts explaining certain how-tos associated with my workflow, and a screencast giving a tour of my one of my students’ shared notebooks.

Creating digital portfolios on iPads using Google Sites: it’s doable!

This year the eLearning leaders at our school were asked to find a “cost-effective” way to allow students to create digital portfolios (ePortfolios) that can be exhibited during the school’s end-of-year exhibition. Evernote was definitely considered as an option, but the cost of the premium account was a deterrent. Additionally, we wanted something that can easily be viewed on the Internet to help with the portfolio assessment process and to share with parents.

I have always been a big fan of Google Tools, and I’m an even bigger fan of Google Sites. However, the Google Sites interface is not the most iPad-friendly, and uploading attachments requires a slightly longer process and a lot of patience. But, it’s feasible!

I noticed that on Twitter, the whole discussion about ePortfolios for iPads does not mention Google Sites at all. Surely, there are more iPad-friendly tools like Evernote, Three Rings and Easy Portfolio. But our school is a Google school, and so all our staff and students have Google accounts, that’s the first reason we decided to choose Google Sites. Secondly, building an ePortfolio on Google Sites will not follow the same process on the iPad as it would on a laptop/desktop computer, as there is no ‘hard disk’ on the iPad from which you can directly upload the artifacts to be exhibited. That presents challenges, but I still insist that it is doable, so long as teachers & students are patient and keep an open mind.

The combination of apps our students use to build those portfolios includes: Pages, Keynote, ShowMe, iMovie, Notability, Google Drive iPad app, and Safari. Any document the students have on Keynote or Pages can be uploaded directly on Google Drive through the iPad app, and I ask them to ‘open in Google Drive’ as a PDF (because it preserves formatting). If the students have a video on iMovie, it can be exported to the Camera Roll and then uploaded on Google Drive through the iPad app, the same with any photos in their Camera Roll. If students have work on ShowMe, it can be uploaded onto their ShowMe.com profile, and then the ShowMe can be ’embedded’ directly into the Google Site by using the embed code. If students have any annotated PDFs on Notability, they can be similarly exported to the Google Drive iPad app. I think that pretty much covers all student work!

Basically, I tell my students to upload one artifact at a time, and then create a Google Document in which they will write up their reflection on that artifact. Once all artifacts are uploaded, and the associated reflections are written up, students then must change the sharing setting of these artifacts and reflections to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’. Each artifact is then hyperlinked in the Google Sites ePortfolio, and the associated reflection is embedded right under it.


Here are the detailed written steps of this process, followed by some video how-tos:

Detailed Written Steps:
1- Create a folder in Google Drive (through the iPad app) called ‘Portfolio Items’ or ‘Portfolio Artefacts and Reflections’.

2- Choose the artefact you want to upload, whether it is a Pages document or a Keynote presentation and ‘Open in Google Drive’ as a PDF. You can also directly upload pictures or videos from your Camera Roll onto the Google Drive iPad app.

3- Once an artefact is uploaded onto Google Drive, rename it so you can easily identify it later, and then create a new Google Document where you will write up the reflection associated with that artefact. Give that Google Document a name similar to the artefact but with the words ‘reflection on…’ at the beginning.

4- Repeat steps 2 & 3 for all other artefacts you wish to upload and reflections for each artefact.

5- Once all artefacts are uploaded and each artefact has its own associated reflection, log onto Google Drive through Safari.

6- Select the artefacts and associated reflections and change their visibility (through the ‘sharing’ button) to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’.

7- Open the artefact you want to add to your Portfolio from Google Drive and copy the ‘hyperlink’ to it.

8- Go to your ePortfolio on Google Sites and click ‘edit page’ and type a sentence that explains what the artefact is.

9- Select a part of that sentence that you want to ‘hyperlink’ and click the ‘link’ button at the edit bar, then paste the link to the artefact from Google Drive as a ‘web address’ Remember to select ‘Open in a new window’.

10- After you have hyperlinked the artefact, the next step is to embed the associated reflection. Click ‘insert’ at the top of your Google Site and select ‘Document’ from the menu of options. You will be taken to your Google Drive Documents and select the required document.

I published these steps and the videos on this Google Site for the staff and students’ reference: iPad Portfolio How-tos

I would like to clarify that I am not arguing that this is the ‘best’ way of creating digital portfolios on iPads, or that it is more superior to the other options like Evernote, Three Rings or Easy Portfolios. I am merely arguing that schools who might be in similar circumstances to our school can choose this as an option, and that while the process on the iPad is not as intuitive and the interface is not the most iPad-friendly one, it’s still DOABLE!