Reflections on Teaching from Home

Since 2013 I have tried to open my classroom more. I have applied different methods of teaching to engage my students and hopefully let them build skills which will be needed in the future. When our schools in Norway closed because of the Covid-19 virus the 12th of March, the digital classroom was front and center like never before.

First, we are very lucky to live in Norway! Our government has handled the virus well, and we are a developed country. In my county, Bærum, our students have the advantage of having an iPad each. They are digital natives. In addition, my colleagues and I had the infrastructure necessary in terms of learning systems, like itslearning and Showbie. My challenge is thus not so much reaching my students, which have been hard for a lot of teachers since the lockdown, but instead teaching online for an extended period with no fixed end in sight.

During the first weeks, my students and I settled into a sort of rhythm. We greet each other in the beginning of lessons. I learned to divide the content into smaller parts, and to adopt a step by step approach, instead of publishing a flood of information all at once. I provide booklets with material, and those who want to can listen to a recording instead. When they hand in tasks they receive a comment, and their work is registered as accepted in our learning system. So, in tandem, we managed to achieve structure and accountability quite fast.

Feedback from students and parents has been vital. Our culture of open dialogue between teachers and students, and a quite flat organisational structure is important. Teaching online can feel like walking around with a blindfold. I depend heavily on observation in my classrooms. By watching my students, I can tell what I need to repeat or change in a lesson, and if someone looks very happy or maybe sad. This is much harder when we are teaching online. One might be inclined to think something is working well, until we ask directly.

It is hard to replace face-to-face meetings!

Getting to the point of talking directly with my students proved to be a stumbling block for me. We didn’t have a reliable and safe online tool for meetings at my school. A tool surfaced, but half of my students had trouble of some kind when trying it. Hence, we were back to talking on the phone. We talk once a week or so and these are opportunities to listen to any grievance. We have tested the online meeting, and I learned that only half of them could see me, while the other half could hear me but they didn’t see anything. However, what also manifested was grief, the awareness of everything we are missing!

In Norway we are onto week six of teaching online for Grades 5-10. Grade 1-4 will start tomorrow, and if all goes well, I hope we might get back to school before soon too. I know now that I will be able to teach online if it is needed another time. I am grateful beyond words for our situation of worrying about lesson design and the quality and safety of online meetings. I know colleagues all over the world have much more pressing concerns to deal with. My hope is that we will bring what has worked in this lockdown into our work on site. By sharing our experiences we can learn from each other and improve as educators. I have learned that the digital classroom has worked beyond expectation, but it is not everything. I miss teaching at school!

My school: Ramstad Secondary School in county Bærum in Norway.

Lessons from the Danish Education Fair


This week I went to the Danish Education Fair in Copenhagen to participate in a program focusing on integrating eTwinning and 21st Century Skills in projects with students. I saw great stands focusing on student projects, literacy, coding and games, among many others! There was also a program of great lectures, some of which were open to all teachers! From all these impressions there are two lessons I want to bring back to my students and colleagues:

  1. Breaking down 21st Century Skills in steps understandable for my students

I have planned and participated in eTwinning projects a few years now, in an ongoing effort to open my classroom and to go paperless. At this Education Fair, I learnt how the Danish Ministry of Education has mapped six of these 21st Century Skills, and have had students’ help to make them understandable for their peers. Look at this picture from to see what I mean:


My goal in eTwinning projects is to let my students work in international teams, communicating and solving tasks together to make a product. This way of breaking down the skill of collaboration into levels; where 1 is no collaboration and 6 is when the students are co-creators and fully collaborate to make a product, helps me understand this skill better. A vital requirement if I am going to succeed in explaining it to my students! In my next eTwinning project “Exploring Fables Together”, our goal is to work towards reaching level 6 in student collaboration. Do you think this kind of mapping of a competency is useful too?

2) Integrative Complexity

The lecture which made an impact on me at this Education Fair was called “Integrative Complexity Thinkers are Prepared for Digital Citizenship” by Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan from the University of Cambridge, UK. Dr Boyd-MacMillan explained how social media can be an entry into an echo chamber, but with guidance, our students can also enter a learning galaxy of new ideas and information. How can we help them past the echo chamber and into the galaxy? A definition of integrative complexity (IC) offered by Prof Peter Suedfeld & Prof Philip Tetlock is that it is a thinking style… the how of thinking. Dr Boyd-MacMillan has worked to operationalise the IC concept and found a way to design courses to help students develop their way of thinking and solving problems. No small feat! Their goal:


This is an important goal for most teachers: Helping our students become active participants and contributors in our civic society. Integrative Complexity can be hard to develop. Over-simple, polarised positions, and maybe fake messages, are attractive to us because they are easy for our brain to process. It is harder to develop high-level integrative complexity if we remain in an echo-chamber. Digital citizenship can accelerate learning. We can help our students increase their understanding by this acknowledgement: We can all be part of the problem. Equally, we can be part of the solution; to respect and listen to each other to learn.

These were the lessons I wanted to share the most from the Danish Education Fair. Did I manage to visualise how competencies can be mapped out, and to give you an introduction to integrative complexity? I hope so. I’d love to hear your ideas too, so please leave a comment if you want to. Inquiring minds want to know.

eTwinning and 21st Century Skills

This week I went to the conference for Nordic eTwinning ambassadors in Køge, Denmark. We are educators advocating for teachers to join the eTwinning community to connect and collaborate with other teachers and students from 42 countries in Europe to do projects together and enhance 21st century skills in our classes.

When preparing our students for the future; critical thinking, creative thinking, communication and collaboration are essential skills. eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe. The portal offers a safe environment for project based learning where students and teachers can learn new skills together. It’s easy when we do it together!

eTwinning allows for students to use a safe environment when they are learning. The teachers are verified by the member countries National Support Services (NSS). In Norway, where I come from, the NSS is The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education.

New teachers in eTwinning can join the Vergilio group, which is dedicated to getting new teachers started with eTwinning. It’s good to know you are not the only one who’re new!


During our Nordic conference this year, we explored using Ozobots to teach students more about coding. Ozobots can follow simple lines and dots drawn on paper and execute commands the students decide they should do, based on easy colour codes. Coding is so simple and easy to understand this way!


We also tested micro:bits which allows students to use code blocks to create commands which will be shown in the micro:bits display of lights attached to the computer. This activity is a great follow up if your students have participated in the Hour of Code and want to learn more!


The Ozobots and micro:bits are made for educational purposes, so they are not expensive! Letting students explore Ozobots and micro:bits engages students in both critical and creative thinking; when they are solving problems using code. If you create an eTwinning project with a fellow teacher using eTwinning, you practice communication and collaborative skills too!

At the conference we were so lucky to have David Heathfield work with us. He had a storytelling session and a workshop where we learnt more about storytelling. Stories are great to connect people across borders and to build bridges. Many eTwinning projects explore similarities and differences in our heritage; a surefire way to engage both teachers and students! eTwinning and storytelling go hand in hand!


eTwinning projects come in all shapes and last for a few weeks and  up to a year. Since the start over 50.000 projects have been carried out, and soon teacher number 400.000 will register in eTwinning. Maybe you will be that eTwinning teacher?


I would like to give a big shoutout to the Danish NSS and the Danish ambassadors, for facilitating a great conference! You can follow us on twitter: @eTwinningdk @eTwinningEurope @eTwinningNorge and look up #eTwinning




Reflections on going paperless in class


Teaching without textbooks or notebooks

This term my students and I continued our digital journey together. We had our notebooks in Google Docs, and most of the content and learning resources were found online. At the end of the term, they have all their notes from class and homework, inserted with images from the blackboard, the projector screen and pictures of their brainstorming maps. All kept for as long as they want them, without demanding physical space. This will be very useful next school year!

However, some of my students expressed that they missed the textbook. They felt they lost control, and didn’t get the big picture without it. This became apparent before tests. The tests were designed to capture concepts and ideas we had discussed in class, not pages or tasks from a textbook, but I understood their concern. We brought the textbook back for our last topic, and the relief was apparent among these students, and quite a few parents too, who felt it was hard to help their students without a textbook! This is something to keep in mind when going paperless. We have both the students and their parents who need to find and understand the content we teach.

Most students kept the same Google document for all notes and images in one subject. This document became quite long by the end of the year! We found that using the outline function in Google Docs helped us navigate long documents. Whenever a student make a headline, it will pop up as an entry in the outline in the left margin of the document. Very handy! Nevertheless, not all my students chose to keep only one document for the notes in a subject. Some made a new document every time they had a lesson, or did a homework. If they used titles wisely, this was not a big problem. On the other hand, those who forgot to use titles, had endless documents to search through to find the right one, when prompted to share their homework in pairs or small groups in class. I learned from this that I will have to include digital structure, using folders, titles and outlines in documents in the beginning of each class I teach next school year.


Going paperless hasn’t meant we have not used paper at all. We have! This year I introduced my students to Sketchnoting. My inspiration is Sylvia Duckworth. (You can follow @sylviaduckworth on twitter, and maybe you will be inspired by her work too.) We made sketchnotes mostly when summing up the work we had done on a topic, and used a presentation to prompt ideas. The students loved making sketchnotes, and I was glad to set aside time to ensure everyone could make a good one.The actual paper with the sketchnote might soon be lost, but when the image is inserted in the Google Docs, the students keep their work, forever? You can see an example here. It is in Norwegian, but I think it illustrates the concept well:20160523_130753

International collaboration and co-creating content

Some of the materials we used this year, we created along with fellow students in other countries. My students in the elective subject “International Cooperation” wrote letters with their Italian and Lithuanian partners in our eTwinning project “Hostel Europe”. We used the eTwinning platform to establish teams, and they co-wrote letters in Google Docs. We wrote suggestions to our local administrations with suggestions to help integrate people who have had to migrate from their own country because of war. We printed the papers, signed them, and sent them to the Mayor in our towns. You can see our letters below. We also received a letter back from our Mayor, thanking the students for their concern and good ideas about integration!


In one of my classes, we also created an ebook using Calameo, with all the stories we made in our eTwinning project “The Old Man and His Fiat600”. This was a lovely project where my students collaborated with partners in Italy, France, Finland and Portugal in creating stories about a fictional figure “The Old Man” who we made a paper copy of, and sent from country to country. While he visited each country, we wrote stories, and made presentations about his visit, and shared in the eTwinning portal with all our partner students. We also used Padlet to let the students collaborate in international groups to create padlets about their free time, favourite dishes and summer greetings. Padlet is super easy to use, and a gift to all educators. It is free to use, and has endless possibilities! Go try it, if you haven’t checked it out yourself yet. Here is a picture of “The Old Man” when he visited us at Ramstad skole this term:


Each class added a small bag with small pictures of typical items from their countries. My students went on excursions outside of school in order to take better and more interesting photoes of him, from our neighboring city Oslo, and some took him along to their cabin in the mountains, to show our project partners more of our country’s nature. It was touching! Everyone was a bit sad too, when we sent him along to Portugal!

Next term, let’s make the textbook ourselves!

Going paperless has been a process for me. It started gradually, with using eTwinning and Google Docs, Evernote, Skype, and making videos in class. This year I went all in, and left the textbooks and notebooks behind. My students never questioned why we did this. It seemed natural to embrace technology which they use all the time anyway. After a while, some students missed the safety of the textbook, and some parents thought it was easier to help their teenagers when they had a textbook too. So, I keep this in mind going forward. Most students benefit from having book or a booklet when working with a topic. What I am thinking now, is that we are going to make that booklet ourselves next term!

I’d love to hear your ideas, and learn about your experiences when going paperless too. Inquiring minds want to know!