August 19th, 2019 By colingally Categories: Procrastination

I recently apologized.

The apology wasn’t acknowledged and an email conversation went on back and forth as if I hadn’t taken a step back from the emotions involved and looked at the situation with humility and common sense.

Am I going to lose any sleep over this slight? Nah. But it’s made me want to think more about social and professional interactions.

I’ve always hated, HATED, when teachers (adults) TELL a student to apologize for their actions. If you have to be told then you’re not reallllyyy sorry and you haven’t or can’t process the variables involved in the apologize-able incident. So I started researching what giving an effective apology and effectively receiving an apology actually entails.

Gary Chapman, in his book The Five Languages of Apology states there are 5 ways to structure an apology.

1. Expressing Regret – Saying, “I am sorry.”

2. Accepting Responsibility – Admitting, “I was wrong.”

3. Making Restitution – Committing, “I will make it right.”

4. Genuinely Repenting – Promising, “I will not do that again.”

5. Requesting Forgiveness – Asking, “Will you forgive me?”

Personally, I structured my recent apology via 1, 2, and 4. I think 5 is a little questionable and may come across a tad pleading and annoying but may have a place in close friendships and family. 3 could be effective in another more serious instance where an apology is needed.

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. in a Psychcentral article laid out 7 Ways to Give an Apology and 4 Ways to Accept One. The most important point she brings up is to think about the overall situation and not to get defensive. Whenever we have a moment of disagreement the first thing you want the other person to succumb to is…your point of view! We could drag out an argument or heated discussion and get to the end of it all where we could come out VICTORIOUS! Or emotions could just keep ramping up and both sides would feel like crap. Sometimes you need to assess the consequences of slogging it out in the boxing ring over 12 rounds just to leave mentally and physically exhausted. Tough I know. Stepping back, assessing the situation, with a ruler of common sense can be the best (and toughest) option at the end of the day.

Admittedly Elvira G. Aletta accepts that face to face is more effective where nothing can get lost in translation over an email or text message. Personally, an email worked as the medium in my scenario (with the severity of the incident not at crisis level) but I agree that face to face can lead to more effective outcomes.

The last point I want to focus on from that article is that apologizing and moving on is the best thing to do. Move on with your life and work. Apologizing is a release from ever increasing angst. This leads me on to what needs to be done when accepting an apology as it’s kinda hard to stomach an apology being either ignored or thrown back in your face.

Of course accepting an apology takes as much effort as giving one. Maybe even more-so depending on the severity of the apologize-able (I’m making it a word, alright?!) issue. How can we be the better person on either side of an apology? Dr. Aletta suggests that when receiving an apology you open yourself to the other person’s feelings. Appreciate and acknowledge the sincerity of the apology and for heckfire’s sake don’t drag out the entire situation! I would also suggest in addition to her suggestion of being “direct” in your receipt of an apology is to avoid ignoring or not acknowledging the apology. One person is reaching out after an incident so the initial burn of anger and resentment is dying down on at least one side. Acknowledge that and respect the steps they are taking.

Heidi Grant in a Harvard Business Review article acknowledges that your apologies change with the people involved. Bumping into a stranger on the street? “Sorry, man”. A close friend? You may need to apologize with “Expressions of empathy… recognizing and expressing concern over the suffering you caused” You let a colleague or colleagues down? “you need to admit that you broke the code of behavior of your social group, your organization, or your society”

Allowing common sense to prevail in guiding you to effectively apologize or accept an apology and acknowledging the different variables involved (severity, people involved, environment) can lead to a more productive and mutually beneficial workplace.


August 15th, 2019 By colingally Categories: Procrastination

I last felt compelled to publish something new on January 18th, 2018 (apart from my draft release a few days ago which was all pretty much done a few years ago). The post from January 2018 came about as I had just finished a hugely disappointing online MYP Design course where the online instructor was close to non-existent with their presence. It was shockingly bad and I didn’t receive one bit of feedback for the duration of the course. Because I was/am an online instructor I felt I needed to vent but also suggest how online teaching and learning can work when done right.

So what brings me back to edu-(tech)niques now?

I need something. I need to just write about the profession I am in (and other things I guess) and reflect on my job and what I do and what I don’t do. Now that I’m not working in the Ed. Tech field every day there are other new and interesting things to talk about in other things that I come across. I will even remove the bracketed “tech” in my site name. Yeah that’s right. I actually don’t even like the name edutechniques anymore, I would change it but I couldn’t be bothered. Edu-(Tech)niques – (Tech) = edutechniques. I guess.

This is the start of my second year away from teaching. It’s a bit weird. I spend my days at my laptop interspersed by meetings with my main responsibilities being our self study/accreditation and GDPR. It’s interesting and I like it but the education happens around me in unknown circles. I feel like I’m missing something. I’m hoping writing and taking the time to reflect on things will make me analyse things more than I am.

My plan is to try and stay on my toes edumentally (yeah that’s a word now). My plan is to write (at least) one blog post a week that will help me cook up ideas and just get stuff out of my head. Where will I end up after these two years of non-teaching and not really being involved in any institutional educational decisions? I have no clue. Maybe writing every week will help me. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll take up knitting. Maybe I’ll change fundamental areas of my thinking and outlook on life. Maybe I’ll change professions. Maybe. Maybe…


August 7th, 2019 By colingally Categories: Design, MYP

I have had this in my drafts since my last year of teaching in 2017/18 in Singapore so the writing is me from a while ago. I’m still the same I think. I’ll just add these few sentences here and press publish so that the post is out there. Ta-bloody-da.


Heading into my second year of teaching MYP Design (along with my K-12 Head of Technology and Innovation role) I’m still in need of some visual sustenance when it comes to corralling all the MYP terminology I need to into the smallest bite sized chomp I can. An area that’s easy to visualise what the terminology entails.


The first one was the ATLs. A broad grouping of 5 skills we want our students to develop and master. One tends to need a reminder about the myriad of objectives under each of the 5 skills (Communication, Social, Self-Management, Research, and Thinking).

So I wanted something I could print out and leave in my line of sight. Had to be A3 too. It was a tough task but I managed to squeeze everything in. Not perfect but it solves my problem.

Here’s a link to a pdf of the above image – ATL – Clusters


There are 52 MYP Command Terms that are impossible to recall at the drop of a hat. I needed some sort of flash card visualisation to include a rudimentary graphic and the all important definition. I created a Google Slides presentation using icons from The jury is still out on whether I will print them out and laminate them (for myself and my students) or just have them as a digital slideshow when I need to refresh mine and my students’ brains a bit. It proved quite tricky to differentiate between appropriate icons for a number of the Command Terms but they do the job until I can redefine them. The definitions, for now, are the key areas in each slide to meet my needs.

Here is a link to a pdf of the Google Slides – MYP COMMAND TERMS- ILLUSTRATED

Thanks, me 2018.

Me 2019

January 9th, 2018 By colingally Categories: Online Teaching

Having gained my Masters online with Michigan State University and now having worked with MSU as an online instructor for the past five years I have learned a lot about being an effective online learner and teacher (and I’m still learning so I’m not perfect!). Just recently I was taking an online course with the IB and found myself on the online learning side of the fence for the first time in a long time (at the same time as teaching my online course with MSU!). It struck me how perfect an online learning experience has to be to feel really rewarding as a learner (and as a teacher). Let’s face it, coming home from your full time job and having to do more work (whether it’s teaching or learning) can be a little bit miserable. You can make your experience less miserable by following some guidelines that I’ve learned over the years.




As an Online Teacher
Modules need to be organized in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination. Students shouldn’t be guessing what is meant to be studied or worked on. Modules should not be opened if they haven’t been vetted for broken links or incorrect information. The online teacher should have their own organizational system to keep track of work submitted and assessed. My tool of choice is Google Suite. In the current course I teach in, we communicate (see below) and share a spreadsheet with all students listed, all tasks to be completed, and the dates they need to be completed. Students type “done” with a link to their work as they go through the course.
Course structures needs to organized in a way they students aren’t hunting for the place to go next. Explicitly structured learning areas is key.

As an Online Learner
A bit more difficult to ascertain as everybody’s life is different but there are some general organizational foundations you need to lay down. Create your coursework area on your desktop or in online cloud platform (ie. Google Drive). I like to put a “-” before the folder name so it stays on top alphabetically in my storage area. Create folders for each module. Create calendar deadlines for each task and set reminders. When a module opens, first read through it skimming and scanning for what the general expectations are to get a sense of what you will need to do.




As an Online Teacher
So very important. I strive to be as clear as possible with my online students. Vague and inconsistent communication from online teachers kill an online learning experience. If you say you’re going to do something then do it. Don’t have students hanging around waiting. Timely individualised feedback from the teacher in small online learning courses (not even possible in MOOCs) is absolutely paramount. Communication about each module’s (or each week’s) expectations and tasks is critical in allowing online students the time to plan their to-do list ahead of time and with the minimum amount of stress. Weekly live office hours via Zoom etc. are also mandatory.
Another false positive of online courses is the use of the discussion forum and it’s perceived use in facilitating collaboration and effective communication. More often than not these are prescribed duties a student must do. Students use it because they are told to. Not out of choice. The template of discussion forums in most CMS platforms are counter-productive in facilitating conversations and communication (step forward Moodle). In our recent courses my co-instructor and I have moved these “discussions” out onto Twitter with hashtags where at least some authentic “outside” conversations may happen. Again, not ideal, as forced communication is never the answer if students really don’t have the inclination to do so and just want that passing grade!

As an Online Learner
If you don’t understand content or instructions as an online learner it is up to you to communicate with the teacher about your situation. Although if the teacher has established an environment where communication is minimal at best; you may not bother and I don’t blame you. Waiting until the last minute before a deadline or not asking clarifying questions and just submitting work is not going to work for anyone. Online learners owe it to themselves to communicate everything and anything that may affect their progression in their course. Again, your questions should be few and far between about instructions and expectations if the teacher has communicated clearly course and module expectations.


Attention to Detail


As an Online Teacher
As an online teacher you need to look for trends and behaviour in your students and pay close attention to anything that may be inhibiting effective online learning. You also need to pay close attention to the structure of your course and assess/reflect on whether the learning journey that the students are taking is the most effective. More detailed and pinpointing exact areas for improvement in feedback to struggling students is, obviously, something that needs to be present.

As an Online Learner
Read, re-read, and read again all deadlines, rubrics, expectations, and instructions that are given along with tasks and assignments. In my experience a lot of dropped marks in assignments are due to certain assessment criteria not being paid attention to. It’s as simple as that. It goes without saying if there’s a syllabus or a course guiding document read that. And then re-read it.


Build Relationships


As an Online Teacher
This is hard and something that doesn’t always happen in online courses. Without fail, though, every time I teach a course I end up talking more often to one or two students on a more personal professional level as they may have similar interests to me or hold a similar role. We start off each course with the students filling out a document detailing what their role is and their interests and anything they would like us to know about them.  This helps us, as teachers, understand where each student is coming from and their professional background. From this we can use this information to give effective feedback and relatable stories throughout the course.

As an Online Learner
If the teacher doesn’t offer anything up about themselves (we make a short video at the start of our course introducing ourselves) look up your teacher online…yeah, that right. I want to know the teacher’s experience and expertise, there’s nothing wrong with that. I did it as a student in the online course I did in December. See what they’re up to on Twitter, if anything. LinkedIn is fair game too. What is their educational history?
Initiate conversations and be personable in any questions you may have to your teacher. They are human too and with the same stresses and life events happening. Demanding something or being overly negative is probably not a healthy start to any online relationship. Constructive criticism is always welcome of course; provide a suggested solution to any problems you may be having. The course I am teaching online recently one of our students suggested putting in anchor links at the top of our feedback document to stop us scrolling forever to find the right module. Done. Works great and I don’t know why we didn’t do it before.




As an Online Teacher
Life has a tendency to suck, everyone knows it. It’s how we deal with those life-sucking moments that affects our accountability towards jobs that we are being paid to do. I was laid up in hospital for a few days whilst I was teaching my online course this year. No biggy, I knew it wasn’t going to affect my feedback timing and I let my co-teacher know that he would have to send out our weekly message and postpone our weekly Skype call.
As an online teacher you have an accountability to all students for them to get the most that they possible can out of the online course you’re teaching. You expect them to let you know of any issues that they may have meeting deadlines and you should hold yourself to the same regard.

As an Online Learner
Life has a tendency to suck, everyone knows it. It’s how we deal with those life-sucking moments that affects our accountability towards courses that we have paid or signed up for or our schools have paid for us to take in order for you to develop professionally. Every year at least one of my online students has something come up in their personal life and every year we front-load our course by acknowledging that life happens and to please keep us in the loop if life is infringing on your ability to meet deadlines.

I’m sure I’ll add to this list as I go along my online learning and teaching journey.

October 27th, 2017 By colingally Categories: Design, MYP

Another year starts and another exciting range of Grade 8 students, each with their own unique learning background, pop up in my class list. To know the students’ backgrounds is to know how to teach.

This year I have a wide spectrum of English language learners in my classes and so I need to ensure I differentiate my instruction and activities so that all my students are supported effectively and can achieve the required learning outcomes to the best of their abilities.

So how did I start this year?

I gave myself and my students two weeks to go through a mini Design Cycle project so that the process and the MYP Design Cycle terminology (and the meaning of the terminology) can sink in and we can all get comfortable with MYP Design.

For new students, returning students, and ESL students this started off with doing the following in order:

  1. Making sure students can create a Design folder in their Google Drive and share it with me. Everything that is created digitally will be in that folder all year.
  2. Students create a Google Slides presentation with 5 things about themselves (as this was how I introduced myself at the start of class). CRITERION A: INQUIRING AND ANALYSING
  3. After the Google Slides activity, students develop some logo ideas about themselves with pencil and paper. I showed them my thoughts on my logo ideas and also some examples of famous logos. CRITERION B: DEVELOPING IDEAS
  4. Use Google Drawing to create a digital version of their chosen logo idea. CRITERION C: CREATING THE SOLUTION
  5. Reflect on the logo in Google Drawing and try to simplify it more with youIDraw app in Google Apps (eg. choose one letter and important shapes). CRITERION D: EVALUATING

In the next class I (re)introduced the Design Cycle and showed which activities from the last lesson were linked to which stage. I then got each nationality to translate each stage into their own language to further develop their understanding of what each stage involves. For a lot of our new students at our school and new students to English this was a moment where they actually started to understand what on earth I was talking about and figuring out what stages were involved in Design class.

I reversed Google Translated everything and it seemed okay!
Finally, I got them to make their own Google Slides presentation of the mini design project by adding their own images/evidence for each stage of the Design Cycle.

Phase 3 ESL Student

Phase 3 ESL Student (Used Thai translated words too)

Phase 2 ESL Student

Lessons I’ve learned from introducing and making MYP Design accessible for all:

  • visuals are essential
  • always accentuate with hand gestures (I feel like I’m playing charades at times)
  • colour coding; always use same colour for each stage of Design Cycle.
  • ask students what words translate into the different mother tongues in the class.
  • observe and mention the familiarities in words between languages (eg. French and English)
  • relate (almost) everything you do in class to core terminologies in MYP (Design)
  • repeat all of the above!
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