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Learning Even Deeper

Developing deep learning strategies

“Technology, strategically integrated with the other core components of the new pedagogies, unleashes deep learning.” A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

My experience of using technology in teaching was while being the role of “Compters Teacher”. Every time I was teaching a technology concept, such as coding, text editing, digital design, I had a feeling of the concept itself being “naked”. Every time I had to think of a theme that could support learning on using digital tools. This way, I made my first steps of tech integration and began meeting teachers to discuss the curriculum content that could be supported by technology. Our school didn’t have a position of technology integrator yet and technology was as a separate subject. This role was obviously missing something. This was an example of how “technology used without powerful teaching strategies (and deep learning tasks) does not get us very far”. Learning about digital tools separately didn’t get us far until the establishment of the position of a technology integrator. After this improvement, everything has changed. Collaboration between teachers has significantly changed shape and structure of lessons. Student tasks became more complex and generally goal-directed, which brought new learning experiences for students. Such change has brought positive changes that motivated students as learners. Teachers had more experience of efficient collaboration and content creation that improved teaching methods. Therefore, students developed their skills in even more effective and attractive ways. Of course, it took a while to define the use of technology in the classroom as well as come up with the most effective strategies on how to implement technology integration with a certain subject. Technology integration is a  process requiring a lot of creative thinking. In general, I must admit that our teachers are very creative and very often their requests surprise me (in a positive way). Thanks to constantly improving digital platforms technology provides wider opportunities for effective learning.

“Without changes to the fundamental pedagogical models by which teachers teach and learners learn, technology investments have too often simply layered slightly more entertaining content delivery or basic skill practice on top of conventional teaching strategies that focus on the reproduction of existing content knowledge.” A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

According to the same research by Michael Fullan Maria Langworthy, digital tools and resources create opportunities for new content discovery, global collaboration and new knowledge creation. Moreover, the effective use of technology allows teachers to improve students’ abilities to take leadership of their own learning. Technology provides an opportunity for students to learn collaboratively outside the school. This way students raise learning effectiveness.

When pedagogical and deep learning capacities are clearly defined and developed, digital tools and resources enable the:

1) discovery and mastery of new content knowledge;

2) collaborative, connected learning;

3) low-cost creation and iteration of new knowledge;

4) use of new knowledge with authentic audiences for “real” purposes;

5) enhancement of teachers’ ability to put students in control of the learning process, accelerating learner autonomy.

Today, technology as a separate subject almost doesn’t exist. It is more likely to be a tool for raising the efficiency of every subject being taught to students. Here are some examples of “Technology-Based Interventions in our school:

A digital book creation tool (WriteReader or Book Creator) supports student learning from age 4 – 11, which they use to improve their language, writing, research skills as wells as deepen understanding of science concepts, and much more. Our young students demonstrate high engagement while using this digital tool. They are using it surprisingly often – even during their free time. Students are actively developing their research skills for gathering relevant information for the digital book, this way taking leadership of their learning, designing and managing their own learning, because of their highly increased motivation. A very exciting moment for the students is sharing the created books in the classroom with the school community.

Photo by stem.T4L on Unsplash

Music – our students have a joint music and technology integration project, during which they learn various genres of music, make a music remix, and program Sphero robot to dance to that music. Moreover, they record a video of the dancing robot and edit it by adding pieces of the chosen music. Students learn, explore, experiment with variations of coding algorithms. This project lasts about 7 weeks. Students are highly motivated and involved during the entire project, they are looking for the best creative solutions in order to come up with the most original dancing robot.

French or other foreign languages – by using Thinglink during french class students create an interactive dictionary. For example, they add a picture of a bedroom and include tags explaining each item in the room in French. At the end of the project students visit each other rooms and learn new words by exploring peers’ rooms.

“It is therefore the pedagogy of the application of technology in the classroom which is important: the how rather than the what.”

One step back and two steps forward

Vulnerability – the quality of being vulnerable = able to be easily hurt, influenced or attacked. (Dictionary

If you are brave, you will fall, you gonna get hurt. (Brené Brown. “Daring Classrooms”)

Brené Brown in her speech (Brené Brown. Daring Classrooms – SXSWedu 2017) has emphasized four main skill sets of teaching courage in the classroom – Vulnerability, Clarity of Values, Trust, Rising Skills.

According to Brené “no vulnerability – no learning”. It is very important to create shame resilient classroom environment. Otherwise, students who are closed inside themselves are no longer learning. Students have to learn how to get up after failure or experience of shame in the classroom. Being able to admit being guilty because of not putting enough effort into learning is a part of being vulnerable. Without being vulnerable, we can not learn and teach empathy.

“Learning is inherently vulnerable and it’s like you’ve got a classroom full of turtles without shells.”

I’m teaching courage by emphasizing students’ mistakes as the best way of learning. I always encourage students to make mistakes and learn from them. This way I am teaching students courage for failing, backing up, and going forward. Sometimes, I see students crying while learning a new coding concept and I simply explain that this is part of the learning process. Mistakes are important, we can’t avoid them as well as we can not be experts of a new concept once we begin learning it. Just being a human I am vulnerable. Sometimes I understand my mistakes in teaching. Then, I admit the mistake in front of my students and sometimes even look for their support. It’s because we are learning together. I like learning empathy, a different understanding of the world surrounding us, creativity, courage from my students. It’s great to be different and special.

Dialogical learning

Paulo Freire describes five ideas that he believes are important for dialogue:

  1. Humility – according to Paulo Freire, “Dialogue cannot exist without humility”. I will always remember the words of one of the professors of my pedagogical study – “You have to manage to raise yourself to the level of a child”. I am always considering my students being equal humans and sometimes even higher. We, adults, have lost so much of what we had while being children – the courage of being silly, never-ending energy, curiosity and so much more.
  2. Hope – “…believing in students is a core part of instruction and learning.”  This is an invisible process, that is happening while learning. I “keep my fingers crossed” every time we learn a new concept. When we fail, I’m looking for other more effective ways of teaching it. This way I improve my teaching abilities.
  3. Faith -“…having faith in students can instill a true and profound sense of self-worth and help them to value themselves in all future relationships.” I don’t think learning can be successful without faith and trust. Students trust me when they know that I trust them, and this way our learning journey gets started.
  4. Love – Students always subconsciously analyze and feel us – adults. When we teach with love and passion, they learn the same way. The effect is reversible.
  5. Critical thinking – “students will not think unless we approach them with an openness and a desire to learn from them.”  In my classes, I love using inquiry-based activities to encourage students to think of the concept from different perspectives. This trait is essential in learning research strategies. I teach my students to be skeptical about what they read online and always look for more resources of information. Similar rules can be applied to the real world.

These traits can be demonstrated through classroom activities. By teaching digital citizenship skills  I encourage my students to think of positive sentences that describe rules of becoming a responsible digital, citizen.

My favorite practice is to let students take the teacher’s role and help classmates learn. We all are different and see the world differently, so learning from each other opens new horizons and points of view on the same things. No matter what age you are.

Research is a key to the future

While teaching research, I always discuss with my students the importance of this process for their future. Students have to gain this skill and develop it further in high school, college, university, and future “real life”. How can you buy a good car without making research? How can you bake a delicious cake, without analyzing a list of different recipes?

Digital research is one of the most popular methods for learning. However, there are way more things to learn to make regular “Googling” an effective research tool. While teaching students valuable searching tips, I encourage them to look deeper and think the way the search engine “thinks”. We are looking at the possible connections between search results and how we can find results that are not showing up for us, just because of our location. Why? How do the ads work? Why do we all get different results by typing the same keywords in search? This also develops a better understanding of digital literacy among students. Being digitally literate opens opportunities for being self-taught.


After rethinking this week’s reading, I will focus more on the creation of deep learning assignments for students, as well as meet teachers and discuss possible changes of students’ activities, that could be related more to deep learning experience. I will offer more ideas that would allow students to learn from real-life situations. I’ll rethink and develop teaching plans and assignments based on the SAMR framework for learning. Students are different as well as their abilities to learn and it is amazing how much technology allows us to differentiate learning material for students.

I was really inspired by this great article by Dr. Monica R. Martinez (6 Powerful Strategies For Deeper Learning In Your Classroom), who described six powerful strategies for deep learning in the classroom.

1. Connect: Create a Community of Learners

2. Empower: Activate Students to Lead Their Own Learning

3. Contextualize: Use Human Themes

4. Reach: Network Beyond School Walls

5. Inspire: Personalize The Learning

6. Wire: Make Technology the Servant, Not the Master

I think that students can learn together even more effectively. Sharing knowledge and working together towards one goal brings really great results. One of my goals for the next year is to gather a group of students who could help teachers and students solve various problems with technology in the classroom. Students will come up with common goals on how to help teachers in the classroom when a technology-related problem occurs. Any student willing to learn more about technology and take the role of “tech support” in the classroom could join the group. It should be cool to get a role like that.

Giving a real-life experience for students is so important. Students are much more motivated when they see the connection between learning concepts and their application in real-life. If we are learning to code, where can we use it? For example, we can program a robot that is cleaning our house. Or program a spaceship that would fly to Mars. It’s all about programming. I would like to relate my teaching concepts to real-life situations as much as possible.

As Susan McCray, a teacher from Casco Bay High School states, “Everything is related. Everything matters, and we are all working all the time to help them [students] see the connections.”

As I’ve mentioned before, without integration with other subjects, technology doesn’t have the power as it could. Moreover, students participating in integrated classes accelerate their learning process because of better and faster understanding. Connections help learn.



It is all about Empathy. The Course #2 Final Project

Our Course #2 final project goal was to create a collection of resources that would help educators teach … Empathy. Empathy was one of the key elements of this COETAIL course. Our main focus was the ISTE standard for Educators 3.a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that builds relationships and community.
Our group (Simona Schultz, Christel Toilier, Paul Mooney, Luis Moreno, and myself) gathered to create a collection of great resources for other teachers. As our team consists of 5 participants, we came up with the title Hi 5! Resources. “Hi 5!” shout out itself sounds very positive and friendly.

A Better World – YouTube

All of us tried to look at teaching empathy from our own perspectives. I’ve developed a unit plan on teaching empathy through online digital tools, empowering students for online communication and collaboration by writing reflective blog posts. By sharing their posts, students could also contribute to the school community. Simona, as an artist, decided to spread kindness teaching empathy through the art lessons and uploaded her lesson plans accompanied by visual materials, created by herself. Paul decided to make his contribution to our website as an IB teacher and relate an empathy topic with his TOK lessons. Luis works as an Educational Technology Coordinator and Christel is Teacher-Librarian at the MHS Library decided to share even more exciting ways to teach empathy.
This collaboration project made us know each other better. Our first communication was via email, however, we came up with a common decision that Twitter Chat would be more efficient for quick and effective communication. One of the collaboration challenges was getting to live communication knowing the fact about the different tines zones we all live at the moment – South Korea, Brussels, Panama, Lithuania…

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

During the Course #2 I was greatly excited and pleased by opportunities of global collaboration. I’ve familiarized myself with such projects as Ematico and PenPal Schools. These resources inspired me for global communication even more. Even after a great experience of 7 Traveling Tales 🙂 Participation in similar projects is very effective while teaching empathy – you can see it grow with the involvement of every additional school and student from somewhere out there in the wide world.

Working on this project I felt even more nostalgic about our school. This school year we are not coming back to school because of the pandemic, even though it has passed it’s highest peak in our country. I feel that mostly I would like to come back to school and teach the unit about empathy as well as empower students’ communication and contribution to our small school community. Can’t wait to test it out 🙂


Privacy Matters

While thinking about privacy online I remembered my personal experience with this matter. I always used to turn off my location sharing on my old cellphone. Unfortunately, one day I broke it and got a better one. This new device made me much happier. All the apps were working faster and better, I could use map navigation without any difficulties. It was so convenient! However, once I had to take my car to service, therefore I had to use public transport. When I got to a bus stop, my new phone was very kind to send me a notification with the schedule of buses coming soon. Obviously, I forgot to change my location sharing setting. This made me rethink how all of the convenience provided by the technology could bring possible danger to my privacy.


On the other hand, once I accidentally left my cellphone in a store. When I got back home, I realized, that I don’t have it. I immediately “Googled” how to find a location of my phone and Google helped me out 🙂 Find your phone only required to sign into my Google account and I could right away know the current location of my phone! The next morning I came back to the store and got my cellphone back. I was lucky that people were fair and kept my cellphone safely in order to return it to me. Yap, sometimes when your head is a mess – technology might be helpful even without respecting your privacy.

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy By Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel

If you would like to make sure your privacy is protected while using smartphones, here are some useful tips that were emphasized by By Stuart A. Thompson and Gus Wezerek in an article – “Three steps to protect your phone
Firstly, making sure, that your device isn’t sharing your location with apps. This can be changed in your device settings. It’s great, that after disabling it your locations still will be known to emergency responders.
Secondly, disable your mobile ID. Your ID will not be sent to advertisers and app makers anymore.
And lastly – prevent Google from storing your location. Go to your account’s location activity controls and turning off location sharing.

Participatory culture and privacy

According to the research (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) students have to develop textual literacy as a central skill in the twenty-first century in order to become a part of participatory culture. They must be able to read and write. Moreover, new media literacies should be considered as a social skill.

Youth must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Being a part of participatory culture enables students to take care of their personal data protection. Meanwhile, educators inevitably take an essential role in this process. Common communication in the digital environment requires knowledge of data protection.

In such a world, youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

There are so many regulations on data protection such as GPPR – General Data Protection Regulation – really important in all EU countries. FERPA – Federal privacy law that applies to educational agencies and institutions and applicable programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy is a great guide to any educator. It includes all of the descriptions of regulations with scenarios.

As a teacher working in one of the EU countries I have to be familiar with and follow GDPR, which had a very big impact on my day to day job. It made me read all the policies even better, check compliance of online tools with GDPR regulations, etc. We have to keep our students’ names, birth dates as well as other sensitive information private. Almost nothing can be shared online without prior parents’ agreement. This created many difficulties in communication and collaboration with students from other schools. For example, before sharing any students’ works to exchange the experience, all the names have to be removed.

My role at school is to ensure the maximum level of students’ privacy and make sure publicly accessible data complies with GDPR regulations. I think all teachers need to have at least a basic understanding of how to protect students’ privacy online as well as be able to explain the main privacy concepts and even more importantly… browser/smartphone settings to students in order to ensure a secure educational process using online tools. This is mostly applicable to Middle and High school students where students are using personal cellphones. As an elementary teacher, I have to make sure, that I provide appropriate digital tools as well as ensure privacy settings on the devices, provided by our school. A great online tool for all educators to begin taking care of students’ privacy – Common Sense Media – it lists out essential steps for enabling a safe digital environment for students. Check out the list of evaluated online resources.



When I was a child, communication was so much different compared to communication opportunities young people have access to today. I remember a dial-type stationary phone at home. I used it to call my friend and invite her to go outside to play. It was a success if I could find her at home at that moment… Another available communication tool was mail. I had some penpals living in other towns and every month I used to send them mails to tell how I am doing and exchange stamps with them in order to fill each others’ collections. All of the other forms of communication were face to face.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Now students are using online chats, video calls, and sometimes emails. Emails aren’t that popular in our school in youth circles. Social media came to my life only when I was 16 and it didn’t really seem to me that I could learn something useful using it. Years have passed and my opinion of the ways in which we can use social media has drastically changed. Few years ago I discovered Twitter to be a great tool for gathering and sharing information with other educators all over the world. The entire world of educational contacts, as well as resources, has opened up to me. This twitter experience made me seek for more and find new educational resources shared by groups of educators via Facebook: EdTechTeam Global Community, Seesaw Tech Integrationists, Seesaw Ambassadors, Teachers Using Google Suite For Education, Technology Teacher Talk With Brittany Washburn, Facebook Group Teach With Tech. Now I am successfully using these and many other resources found on social media for my professional development.

New trends in education are approaching us online every day. As I’ve already mentioned in my other COETAIL blog post, # is a really helpful character in this process. It allows me to search for appropriate content sorted out by specific keywords. For example #earthday or #coetail, etc. allows me to find all topic related posts shared by other people on social media. It is a real treasure for an educator if you know how to use it 🙂

Before the beginning of my COETAIL journey, my opinion about social media was completely different. My students are up to 10 years old and I can’t really use social media tools with my students – they are too young for it. However, I realized that there are ways to utilize special/closed social media platforms or communities created for specific purposes, such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Sites, Blogger, etc. Such online tools might work as an affinity space for small groups of students where students can share their learning experience, help classmates to learn, and even come up with new solutions and trends. Learning model based on communication might be an introduction to participatory culture for younger students. Students can build a basic understanding of proper communication online and see the value of sharing ideas with other people as well as working towards the same goal in groups. Unfortunately, sometimes teachers are still asking to disable chats on some learning platforms – I don’t see many reasons to do that. How will students learn proper communication online if they don’t practice it?

“…participatory cultures represent ideal learning environments. Gee (2004) calls such informal learning cultures “affinity spaces,” asking why people learn more, participate more actively, engage more deeply with popular culture than they do with the contents of their textbooks.” Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 24 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly,” so it’s essential that they know how to handle themselves there. Rules for Social Media, Created by Kids (NYTimes)

Since many students, especially older ones, already have some social media skills and are using it quite actively, I think it can also be a great place for learning. Especially, having in mind all of those stories of success of young people building their own learning and sharing environment and, as a result, coming up with some successful business ideas.

Ashley Richardson (Jenkins, 2004b) was a middle-schooler when she ran for president of Alphaville. She wanted to control a government that had more than 100 volunteer workers and that made policies that affected thousands of people. She debated her opponent on NationalPublic Radio. She found herself in the center of a debate about the nature of citizenship, about how to ensure honest elections, and about the future of democracy in a digital age. Alphaville is the largest city in the popular multiplayer game, The Sims Online. (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)


Lurking? This experience is also valuable…

I have encountered the term “Lurker” for the first time on Twitter. My associations with this word were related to staring at something or looking for something. Later, I found more definitions of this term. White (2001) has defined lurker/reader term as a role/type of PLN community member (Journal of Social Media in Society “Online Personas: Become When We Learn with Others Online”).

According to MacArthur foundation research young people born in the 21st-century have adopted the lurker habit very quickly and naturally. They were born in the “new media” world “where more traditional media, such as books, television, and radio, are “converging” with digital media, specifically interactive media, and media for social communication” (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008).

As I see it, lurking is a fundamental stage of a learning process. Even Edelman (2013) explained the importance of a “lurker” role in PLN’s (personal learning network) – “lurkers watch and observe, but don’t interact. They do absorb and refer where required.” (Journal of Social Media in Society “Online Personas: Become When We Learn with Others Online”).

Moreover, I would compare lurker to a learner of a new language. The beginning stage is very similar. The learner is silent and only listens by building his own understanding. This also reminds me of a well known to all educators Bloom’s Taxonomy learning model which emphasizes the beginning stages of the learning process – knowledge and comprehension. As an educator working at International school I could observe this process of watching my students who come from other counties without any English language skills. During the first half of a school year, they are silent, but later, real “explosion” comes and they begin talking in English quite unexpectedly.

Talking about myself, I must admit that I AM A LURKER and I am purposefully changing this role of mine to a communicator. I haven’t established any of my PLNs yet. I was thrilled watching how amazingly and successfully has Kim Cofino established her PLNs with Web 2.0. However, I can’t wait to see myself in a similar role. My steps were a bit smaller – I’ve begun using Twitter proactively and little by little I am sharing my professional accomplishments with the world. That’s why I am here on this COETAIL journey. I want to share and communicate more through my PLN via Twitter and my blog posts.


ISTE Standards for Educators and My Learning Goals

As an Educator of technology integration, my main goal is to explore and learn the best new methods and digital tools to empower and inspire students and teachers, motivate them to strive for better results and make educational process more effective.

On the other hand, one of the main goals for COETAIL journey is to broaden my horizons, because, as one wise man said, the more we know, the more we realize that there is so much to learn. I would definitely want to get more ideas on how to improve technology integration in all kinds of classes, as well as discover effective methods to help teachers develop technology-rich units.

Finally, I would like to get to know more innovative professional educators and get be inspired by their ideas, which will push me forward as an educator.

For this COETAIL journey, I’ve chosen a Non-credit COETAIL course and I would like to focus on the following ISTE standards for educators:


Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.


Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.


Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.


Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.


Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.


My learning communities

In this mind map, I’ve added all learning communities I am a part of. Overall, my best learning experiences are being a part of the Learning2Europe community as well as following innovative educators on social media. I get a lot of valuable information through Twitter and use it to exchange and discuss my own ideas. In my opinion, Twitter is one of the best tools to get great ideas for teaching and learning.


Hello world!

Dear Friends,

My name is Julija Balčiūnė. I was born in Vilnius – the beautiful capital of Lithuania. I love this place and I am very happy to live here as well as work as an Educator of Technology Integration at one of the best schools in town – the American International School of Vilnius. I’ve been thinking about starting my COETAIL journey for the last two years and I am more than excited to begin it now with all of the participants in a Cohort#12. Let’s hook up on Twitter! 🙂 @JulijaBlium

I started thinking about taking the COETAIL course once I’ve heard about it from my good friends, highly professional educators in one of the international schools in Switzerland. I am blessed to know them and they are my role models of educators who are inspiring and motivating. I am looking forward to learning other, new ways of teaching, as well as using new tools and change my teaching style to more exciting, effective and even more fun!