Lessons from the Danish Education Fair

20170304_171720-collageThis 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 21Skills.dk 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.


My first edcamp

Today I participated in my first edcamp. A great experience for me! I have been teaching quite a few years, and participated in workshops and conferences before, but this was something else! I participated in edCampAsker  which was initiated by Thor Ivar Eriksen, @pute68, and organized with Simen Spurkland @simenspurkland and Ingeborg Gude @GudeIngeborg in Asker Kommune.

First everyone got to brainstorm ideas they’d like to have as topics in this edcamp. We put our ideas on notes, and next we voted on the topics we’d like to discuss. The organizers then put together the program based on which topics belonged together, and which got the most votes. Everyone could attend any seminar, and walk out too, if it wasn’t what you thought it was. A great concept. This is why edcamps are called unconferences, they are free, and based on the ideas of the participants.

The first session I attended was about flipped classroom. Everyone shared experiences, and ideas of how to use this method in our classes. What was very interesting to me, was other teacher’s examples of what had worked for them, and how their pupils and parents have responded. Great examples came from Charlotte Lundell and Marthe Johnsen @marteswritation, both from Larvik kommune.

My next session was about deeper learning and critical thinking. This session resulted in a great discussion with teachers from both primary- and secondary level schools. The most interesting example came from Simen Spurkland. He told us about how he and his colleagues at Vøyenenga skole in Bærum kommune created a cross curricular topic which lasted about two weeks. In this period the students had goals to complete each week, and the end goal was an art exhibition where the students assessed each other’s end products, the teacher assessed the process, and a report made by each student. A great learning experience, and an inspiration for me regarding developing my own practice as a teacher!

The final session I participated in concerned design of digital tasks. Many counties and schools in Norway are going all in with digital devices for all the students in both primary- and secondary schools. My school; Ramstad skole, is a secondary school in Bærum kommune, where all our students got an ipad each this term. This requires that the teachers learn more about how- and when we should use digital devices. The discussion in this session centered around the principle of the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedora. The idea is to use technology not only to substitute tasks done by hand before on apps and devices, but to create new tasks and learning processes altogether. We discussed our experiences, and this is where I shared my experiences with eTwinning. eTwinning is the community of teachers and students in the EU. It promotes project based learning, where teachers can connect their classrooms and create tasks where the students need to communicate with students in other countries, learning more about cooperation, cultures, language and digital skills. The possibility to learn more with other teachers are great, and you can design digital tasks together which reach the highest levels in the SAMR model. I invite everyone to check it out, and see if it is something they’d like to try!

I was lucky to connect also with Eva Steffensen @EvaSteffensen from Oslo kommune today. She shared her experiences using Apple’s Garageband app, which allows students to create their own music when they make digital news presentations in a video, or need background sound for their book trailers. A great idea for me to explore with my students!

After this, my first edcamp experience, I have got a lot of new ideas about how I can develop my practice as a teacher! I have made new connections with teachers I learnt from and hope to collaborate with in the future, and I definitely want to come back next year! Hopefully, you want to come too?

A big shout-out goes to Thor-Ivar Eriksen, Simen Spurkland and Ingeborg Gude, who organized this edcamp, and to Asker Kommune, which lent its facilities to the edcamp and provided lunch for all the participants!

eTwinning is a learning community

It was fitting that the annual workshop for eTwinning ambassadors was set in Rhodes, Greece this year. This beautiful island of roses, whose patron saint is the personification of the sun; Helios, has a truly multicultural heritage.

This year 144 enthusiastic ambassadors from 34 European countries came together to learn, share best practices and network. The eTwinning ambassadors’ main focus is to support our over 400.000 teachers, and to spread the word about eTwinning. If you think: “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” We’d love to tell you!

eTwinning is the community of teachers and students in Europe. We are connected educators promoting 21st century skills through project based learning (PBL). Since the beginning in 2005, over 50.000 projects has been carried out, and member countries are continuously expanding.

When a project is registred in eTwinning students and teachers start a journey with others. eTwinning provides a safe room to connect, collaborate in mixed nationality teams to co-create products, and to grow understanding of their topics and cultures together. Being connected leads to engagement and participation, which fosters belonging and enjoyment. These are powerful experiences.

Over time we are creating new learning paths and creating learning communities where valuable skills are not always tangible; knowledge, problem solving, teamwork and negotiations.

Project based learning is the roots of eTwinning. It is a different approach to learning than lecturing. Students encounter real world problems, phenomena and challenges in a project. By exploring learning materials to solve problems, the students are active creators and engaged in their learning with their peers, which means they can take ownership and knowledge is better internalized. These students will be constructing knowledge and experience empowerment. Not a small thing!

The best projects are integrated in the curriculum, and impacts the communities of their partner schools; through new friendships, increased cultural understanding, language skills, inclusion and digital citizenship. Their products vary from exhibitions, fairs, ebooks, bake sales, articles, stories, videos, competitions and more. The eTwinning ambassadors support teacher members in their work, and are role models. Join us in creating learning paths of the future.

A big shout out goes to Irene Pateraki, the Greek National Support Service, and all the Greek ambassadors for hosting this year’s conference, letting us connect to improve education in the multicultural wonder of Rhodes. A big thanks also to Tiina Sarisalmi, whose workshop I attended on Project Based Learning. Two of her slides on PBL are pictured in this blog post!

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!



End of term reflections 2015


This last term I went paperless in class. My students opened notebooks in Google Docs, and we hardly used any textbooks at all in any of my subjects (English (ESL), social studies, religion and an elective called international cooperation). This was a new approach for my 8th graders, but they didn’t bat an eye before diving into it.

All my students bring their smartphones to class. We have a BYOD policy (link to Edutopia), and I have embraced this a few years already. Now it was essential! Without notebooks, they had to use their phones to access their Google Docs, and of it meant starting our journey together on digital citizenship (Edutopia).

Needless to say, some time was lost due to lack of battery, wifi troubles and password confusion when working with new tools and apps, but I believe we encountered these obstacles earlier, and have learnt from them, rather than thinking we could have avoided them altogether.

The tools and apps we have used the most are Google Docs and Google Slides. This has allowed my students to work collaboratively in groups and as a class without regard to time and place.

Creating a global classroom is something which has been important to me for a long time. All my classes are involved in eTwinning projects, with project partner schools in Italy, Portugal, France, Lithuania and last but not least; Lillesand, my hometown in the Southern part of Norway. Activities differ according to the topics of the projects, but they are communicating and they have a real audience for sharing their work. They will experience collaboration across time zones and borders next term, and increase their cultural understanding, which are some of the primary goals when using eTwinning.

This term my students also used Soundcloud and shared stories in Padlet. Sadly not everyone managed to access Soundcloud from their device, but the lesson was a powerful one: recording and sharing their best work. Audacity might be a smoother working alternative, so I will continue exploring tools for this kind of work next term.

Kaizena proved to be almost exactly the sort of tool I was looking for when grading English texts. My students add their Google Docs in Kaizena, and I can edit their documents in Google, and give feedback on their skills, and post lessons which are relevant to each student according to their needs to improve. One drawback is that Kaizena is not compatible with Microsoft Explorer, so when using the school computers we came up blank trying to connect to Kaizena. This meant that we had to rely on the smartphones, or our computers at home to use it. The upside is that the students can keep track of their skills and play posted videos or read articles about skills they need whenever they want to.

We started out enlisting in Curriculet for reading novels online. It was easy to set up the whole class, but the available books turned out to be a bit hard for my 8th graders, and the free classics only appealed to a few of them. I have to explore other apps and reading experiences for them this term, and maybe come back to Curriculet next term, when we have classics lined up as a topic in our English classes.

Formative assessment (Edutopia) is something I have used always, to some extent, but I haven’t been conscious of the term or how to best use it to improve my student’s learning. This term I used Socrative and Answergarden more and shared it with parents. These tools have lit up my understanding, and I recommend them to everyone!

A new tool I have tried in my English classes this term is noredink. It assesses each students’ grammar ability, and gives them new tasks according to their skill level. A gift for any teacher! It is calibrated for native speakers, so choosing the grade level with care is important. I look forward to exploring this tool further in the upcoming term.

My school, #Ramstadskole, will start giving each student an ipad 1:1 this next term. Before this happens our broadband facilities will be improved, and the teachers and students will get some training. I hope that the experiences we have gained so far; going paperless and using edtech tools will make the transition to ipads easier.

Which experiences, ideas and tools were the most important in your teaching this last term? Inquiring minds want to know!



New School Year – New Plans

Ramstad, August

It’s that time of the year again; time to start a new school year. We have a few days of planning before I meet my new students on Monday the 17th of August. This year I am teaching Grade 8. My students are 12-13 year olds, and I am excited to get to know them!

The last few years I have had a goal to open my classroom to connect with pupils and teachers in other countries using eTwinning and Skype Classroom. I plan to continue with these projects, and I also hope to connect with a friend’s class in the Southern part of Norway. I am certain we can learn a lot from each other, both similarities and differences within our country.

I also hope to go more paperless this year. I will explore using Google tools even more, and maybe it is time to let the books go too? I have a feeling I will need to use them to some extent, but this is something I want to try out. I would like to use real world events and more authentic problems and cases in my classes. One of the first topics in English and social science is The American Revolutionary War, and I plan to use the Storyline methodology, a method students often get really excited about!

In this spirit I will try out Kaizena when receiving texts and giving students feedback in my English (ESL) classes. It looks great, and I hope my students will like it too. I also want to put more emphasis on reading in class, and I hope to be able to use Curriculet for this. I had planned to use it with my Grade 10 classes last year, but time ran out when the last exams loomed in the horizon. This year, I’ll definitely give it a go!

Have you set any specific goals for the next school year? Have you used Kaizena or Curriculet before? I’d love to hear about it! I wish everyone a great new school year!