Building a PD Learning Hub for your School

Teachers and administrators struggle to find time to work and learn together in meaningful ways. There are plenty of meetings scheduled. Many teachers leave these meetings though with the feeling of “could have spent my time doing more important things”.

  • How do we squeeze in one more meeting to help teachers grow as professionals?
  • How do we add one more opportunity for teachers to learn important new skills?
  • How do we give teachers the time to learn with and from their own colleagues?
  • How can teachers learn from what is going on in the classroom next door?
  • how do we build capacity for professional development from within?

One answer could be to build a Professional Development Learning Hub for your school! Having a platform to document learning, organize and archive initiatives, action research, and institutional memory will give your teachers not only a place to reflect, make their thinking and learning visible, and learn from each other, it will also give them a space to practice valuable “now” skills and literacies. Always remembering, that if we want teachers to deeply embed the skills of communicating, collaborating, connecting and creating as well as media literacy, information literacy, network literacy, global literacy and digital citizenship in their teaching, they have to be able to experience them in their own learning.

  • How is your school crowdsourcing professional learning, so everyone can learn from a conference, workshop or a book study, not only the selected few who were physically present.
  • How is your school amplifying learning by extending and connecting professional learning that most often happens in isolation?
  • How is your school sharing best practices, action research, and innovative practices in education beyond your campus?

It might be time for your school to build a PD Learning Hub!

You can read more in previous blog posts:

Below my slidedeck for a recent presentation at the Tri-Assocation conference in San Jose, Costa Rica.

A Scavenger Hunt to Connect and Document Learning

I remember scavenger hunts from my childhood in Germany. A group of people, divided into teams, were given a series of missions to complete and then return to the point of beginning as fast as possible. The first team to return with all the missions completed won. The missions usually took the teams to a variety of locations in a specific area. Some of these missions were bizarre, like “Knock at a stranger’s house and ask if they had an egg”, the egg would then be evidence of having completed the mission. Another mission was to go to the local cemetery and find a specific grave following an included map. The name on the grave would be evidence of completion.

The GooseChase app has taken the organization, management and submission of evidence of the hunt digital (Hat tip to Wes Fryer for making me aware of the app). I immediately thought of the potential of using the scavenger hunt concept as a way to gamify the creation of artifacts to document learning as well as the potential to connect educators at a conference.

The opportunity to test it out came as I was planning to cover the Tri-Association’s Annual Educators’ Conference. Over 600 educators gathered from International Schools from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia in San José, Costa Rica. While the management side of the game is handled on the desktop version, participants had to download the app on their mobile devices to see the missions and submit the evidence of completion.

Hence the Game: Tri-Association: Building a Learning Network– A Scavenger Hunt to Document Learning and Build a Learning Network Among Educators of the Tri-Association Region was born!

My goal was to:

  • gamify the experience of documenting learning
  • give attendees the opportunity to meet, collaborate and connect with other conference attendees.
  • amplify the learning by sharing the gathered artifacts among the different teams
  • introduce and have participants use different strategies to document learning
  • encourage participants to push themselves outside of their comfort zone with social media
  • scaffold missions to move participants through different levels and skills in using social media FOR learning

During the opening session of the conference, I was able to introduce the concept of the scavenger hunt and share instructions on how to participate.

The app allows for individual participants or for the creation of teams. For this particular conference, the creation of teams according to the country, the participant worked in, was a convenient choice. Since there were over 600 educators, it also seemed to even the playing field, since some countries had more participating schools than others. Each country team could only submit one artifact as evidence of mission completion. Once a mission was completed, it moved from “available missions” to “completed missions” in the app, hence preventing a team from earning points for the mission for a second time.

GooseChase has an incredible pre-created mission bank, which I was able to draw from as inspiration and to edit and customize for the International educator crowd and the conference venue. Since the participants would not be leaving the conference center, some of the GooseChase missions had to be adjusted. Each mission required participants to submit evidence of completion either in a text format (could be no longer than 300 characters), as an image or a video (which could not be longer than 15 seconds). The app also allows a submission of evidence via a GPS location (one option that I did not use, since we did not leave the conference venue).

I created missions under the following umbrellas:

  • Fun/Entertainment/Team Building
  • Documenting Learning
  • Reflections (session specific and overall)
  • Crowdsourcing of Resources
  • Social Media skills
  • Connected Educator
  • Appsmashing (required participants to use  Flip Grid to complete the mission)

I created a total of 58 missions for the three-day conference. Some of the missions I added during the game to keep the participating teams on their toes.

Each mission was given a predetermined point value upon completion. The harder or more involved the mission, the more points would be awarded. As the game facilitator I also had the option of awarding bonus points for being the first team to complete a mission or for an especially creative artifact submitted. Although the platform awards points automatically, the facilitator has the option to delete any submission and share the reason for the deletion with the team, if the submission did not follow directions or missed to give evidence of the mission goal or learning.

These point additions or deletion subtractions, coupled with the notifications from facilitator to team members added a certain spice to the game, that made the game more exciting and even dramatic, as the scores on the leaderboard fluctuated constantly.

The app takes care of all scores (additions and subtractions) immediately, which was reflected in the Leaderboard instantly.

Click on the image below to see a full list of the missions with their description (you might have to zoom into the loong image 🙂

Each submission gives the participant the choice to also share their artifact via social media. The app automatically added the conference hashtag, which I had filled out. 

As the facilitator of the game, I was able to send messages to each team or to all participants at the same time. The updates to the leadership board are instant and contributed greatly to the friendly competition that ensued.

The platform could not make it easier for the game facilitator to download all the media created by the teams and organize it to further unpack for learning

Once the zip file is opened, the app creates folders with the submissions and the media named with the team’s name.

Here are samples of submissions by participants:

The overall feedback of enthusiasm during the conference was visible. Team spirit grew as missions were completed and teams were fighting to move up in ranking on the leadership board.

  Also check out the conference reflection blog post submitted as part of a mission:

There were a couple of things I noticed that could be improved with the app, whichI tweeted @GooseChase :

  • Participants need the ability to not just record a video or shoot a photo from within the app, but be able to select and upload a video or photo that is already on their camera roll. This is especially important when there were already artifacts of learning created and saved as well as allow more flexibility in appsmashing (artifacts being created in other apps, example a digital sketchnote or a collage). Currently the only way to “get this evidence into goosechase” is to take an image of another digital device displaying the file”. It also turned out hard to be able to take a quality image/video for some of the missions, without being able to edit a photo or video.
  • During the game I noticed, that text submissions were “hidden” from other participants, versus photos and video submissions were open for everyone to see. Since one of the goals was to SHARE resources, ideas, quotes, recommendations, etc. this was an important component to be missing by hiding any text responses from the other teams.

GooseChase was kind enough to acknowledge and respond to my tweets that they are aware and updates are in the works.

I felt that the scavenger hunt was an overall success for the conference participants as well as the goals I had set for myself in engaging and connecting the participants via social media, documenting learning, strategic reflection and sharing learning. Participants were engaged, they were having fun, they pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone, they learned in new ways, they went beyond attending a conference to participating in their learning. In addition they had an experience, which allowed them to take it back to their schools and apply with their faculty and students.

My next idea is to create a global scavenger hunt with teachers and students from different continents and countries. The goal to bring awareness of culture, country, language, traditions, geography, etc. Interested in being part of that global scavenger hunt? Leave me a comment or get in touch with me via Twitter (@langwitches).














FlipGrid: A Platform to Crowdsource Reflection, Metacognition and Perspective

I recently learned about this platform, FlipGrid, and am very enthusiastic when I think of the potential it can bring for teachers and learners.

The idea is quite simple.

  1. An administrator (teacher) creates so called grids of overarching theme or course/classroom section.
  2. Add individual topic to encourage responses and contributions. Specify length of allowed video response
  3. Share a specific flipgrid or theme via a link, a text code or a QR code
  4. Your students or other potential contributors use an app or the web version to record a video response
  5. Once the video is published, a transcript is automatically generated, and feedback via a reply video and reactions in form of emoticons can be left.

Again, I see tremendous potential for crowdsourcing ideas, perspectives, content, and answers. I can see how the process of reflection and metacognition can be streamlined, embedded and easily shared.

I am in particular excited with the possibilities within the Documenting Learning framework, which Janet Hale and I explore in depth in our upcoming book A Guide to Documenting Learning- Making Thinking and Learning Visible, Meaningful, Shareable and Amplified (to be published in January 2018)

Want to give FlipGrid a try? There is nothing better than to experience before your wheels start spinning how you could apply this in your own situation.

    • Follow the link to the topic: How do you make your learning and thinking visible? or
    • Use this code when you open the FlipGrid app (iOS or Android) : f11cb5
    • Scan the following QR code
    •  or directly use the embedded topic on this blog

When using the app, you can check out all the other contributions and then “Add Response” by clicking on the green bar, then pushing the red circle to start recording your own response. I set a limit of 30 seconds for response videos. Give it a try… push beyond your comfort zone and record yourself to add your own perspective to other educators from around the world and be part of making-learning-visible strategies and ideas.

Another possibility opening up with FlipGrid, are their Global Grid Connections. Once logged into the admin area, you have access to tons of other educators who are sharing their grids and videos to solicit responses across countries, classrooms, and learners.

In their words:

The potential is there, it now depends on you and your imagination of HOW you could use such a platform to deepen and amplify your and your students’ learning. My wheels are turning how to use FlipGrid FOR your own  learning or FOR the learning of others. Are yours?

  • Documenting Learning: Learners reflect during specific moments during learning process to capture thinking and evidence of their understanding at current moment in time. Replies to previous videos serve as reflection of learning growth over time.
  • Heard about a Time Capsule Activity from Lisa Holtz . Have students record a video at the beginning of the school year, then have them watch and respond to it at the end of the year.
  • Reading: Convince someone in 30 seconds to read a book, who does not like to read.
  • Book Reviews: Create a Book Review Grid, with individual book titles as topics. Kids share their short book reviews via video for a specific book. Print the QR code out and attach to the physical book.
  • Visible Thinking Routines: Use any of Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines to help learners make, well, their thinking visible.
  • Have students create videos to document their thinking and learning during each step of the KWHLAQ (What do I know?  What do I want to know? How will I find out? What have I learning? What Action will I take? What further questions do I have?) routine.
  • Create a weekly/daily topic question for a Wonderopolis– style question grid.
  • Parent Engagement: Encourage parents to leave replies for their children’s learning contributions. Ask them to contribute their knowledge, perspectives, stories and questions.
  • Professional Development: Go beyond learning from colleagues you share an office, a building or students with. Connect with teachers from around the world, about a specific topic you are interested in learning more about or are willing to share your expertise and knowledge.
  • Connect your Classroom with other classrooms from around the world. This is especially useful when synchronous video conferencing is not possible due to time zone differences.
  • Metacognition is supported by using questions that support the learners awareness and thinking about their thinking, such as “What do you think about what was said?”, “How might you convince us that your way is the best way?”, etc.
  • Cross-Pollination: Allow two or more sections of your class to watch, listen, and respond to each others contributions.

Follow #FlipGridFever hashtag on Twitter to connect with other educators and to harvest more ideas.

Crowdsourcing a Classroom Library

The Langwitches Blog has been free since 2006. I don’t use premium areas, nor subsidize my expenses of hosting, time and passion that I invest in putting into creating and maintaining the site with advertisement that might clutter up and dilute my message.

if you have enjoyed reading about my work and thinking around education and feel like contributing in some shape or form, I would love for you to contribute a book or two to my daughter’s classroom library.  Marissa is a 5th grade teacher and works at a Title 1 school. She is passionate about bringing the world to her students through books.

It would mean a lot, if you would be part of a crowdsourced effort in stocking her classroom library. She has created a wishlist on Amazon. You can pick any book from the wishlist and then choose to have it directly sent to her.

Thank you in advance for paying it forward!


Blatant Stealing

I was simply looking for Sketchnoting supplies on Amazon yesterday, when the algorithm suggested the following book: A Simple Guide to Sketchnoting by Dorothy Bell. Immediately, I was taken aback, since as I was looking at the cover of the book, I looked at one of MY own sketchnotes.

It was an odd feeling, when the realization set in, that this self-publishing author, had simply lifted the image, which I had shared in 2014 on a blog post, titled Sketchnoting for Learning.

The image was a blended sketchnote I had created from a Stock image (the nutshell) I purchased from 123RF.

I then created the sketchnote in my Paper Fiftythree app on the iPad.

I have to admit, I was pretty upset, with that blatant way this author, just lifted the image and used it for her own work. I receive many request from people around the world, who are interested in using my images on presentations, in their libraries, with their students, in course work, etc… And I am always happy to allow these with proper attribution and for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes. This Amazon book was just too much and left a very bad taste in my mouth!!

I tried to locate the author, Dorothy Bell, on Amazon, looking for an author page, but could not find one. A google search did not allow me to find a website, a twitter or facebook presence. Since there was no evidence of an “author”‘s online presence , it fueled my suspicion further.


  • author with no (or not easily find-able) Internet presence
  • very similar title to another from another author  (the words in the title are just switched around a little)
  • a google search showed that the book in question has been uploaded to all different Amazon country sites
  • there is a feeling of an automated copying bot (I share that feeling with another message I received via Twitter)
  • in a google image search (see screenshot below) of another book title from the author, I received three VERY SIMILAR book covers with the same name , but attributed to different authors (Dorothy Bell, Olivia Russel & Amanda Smith)

My first impulse was to write a “review” on the product page, but I decided to go to Twitter and ask for further help or ideas in locating the author. I wanted to see, if I could directly get in touch with her. My network agreed, that this author was rather suspicious.

Becky’s tweet, made me think to document this incident and to publish on this blog in the hope to continue to raise awareness of copyright, digital citizenship, and share what to do with you are confronted with copyright infringement. I am also wondering how to turn the incident into an example, lesson or project for students. Could they become copyright infringement detectives? How could their radar for detecting copyright infringement online be honed and set to alert when they see something suspicious?


At the same time, I reported copyright infringement directly on Amazon. I am happy to report that Amazon responded within 12 hours and within 24 hours the page to the book by Dorothy Bell was removed (I checked the .com/.uk/.it site and they were removed, while the book was still available on the German .de and France .fr site of Amazon). While some Amazon  sites  have taken the product down, this does not mean, the “Stolen image” has no already spread to other sites (Pinterest, Goodread) with little or no hope that the spread will be contained.

If you are thinking of a way to use this incident to model good citizenship, literacy, etc. for and with your students, please share in the comment section below.


The Magic of Learning