Becoming Communication Artists (Week 4)

Sharing out about Collaboration and Facilitation

We’ve had some great examples of collaboration and facilitation in the classroom and with colleagues through the Week 2 blog posts. A few to highlight…

Justin shares several examples of how he and his Studio 4 team collaborate in planning and delivery  on their PYP “Who We Are” unit in his post “Creativity in Collaboration”. Justin summarizes, “Workshops and cross-collaboration are key ingredients to what makes our community a Studio.”

In “Building Community through Collaboration!”, Megan shares how and why she used specific protocols and processes in an advisory lesson on child safeguarding and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) keeping accessibility and participation for EAL students in mind.

Michael shows us how the ideas of collaboration can be introduced to our young learners through activities and learning experiences around interacting with others and expectations in school as a basis for collaboration. Check out a kindergarten perspective in his blog post “Facilitating Collaboration”


 “Delivering information and communicating ideas is an art.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When I started COETAIL years ago, my use of digital presentations in class was increasing but I found that I was basically transferring worksheets to the screen. Once I learned more about “Presentation Zen” the shift in my use of digital presentations was transformed. To this day, I’m very conscious about what I’m projecting keeping in mind the audience and purpose. I’m more critical of how I present depending on the context. A great piece of advice I was given was that if I could just print out the presentation and give it to my audience (adults or students), what was the point of presenting it. I now often cringe at workshops or staff meetings where the presentation is basically read to us. 

There are lots of great resources for this week on creating engaging and effective presentations and visual aids that I think you’ll find useful for some self-assessment and reflection. And as many of you have shared, you might already be doing these things already but it’s nice to have a checklist to find areas of improvement or exploration. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Gonzalez and her Cult of Pedagogy blog (with podcasts, articles, and resources) and she shares how learning from Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen guidelines helped her transform a presentation. 



We look forward to you sharing what you’ve learned and how you’ve applied it to your own visual aids to communicate ideas and information.


See What I Mean (Week 3)

Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

As we move into Week 3, our focus is on how “Creatively visualizing ideas and data can enhance understanding and communication.” Looking back to Week 1 you considered visual hierarchy and design principles in how you enhance our communication though our COETAIL blogs (and beyond). 

Colin focused on purpose and audience and then detailed his review and revamp of his COETAIL blog Colin’s COETAIL Adventures in his post “New Wine, Same Bottles”. He summarizes, “Visual hierarchy is meant to help the content creator getting as many people as possible to observe, consume, or interact with what they’ve created.”

In her blog post “Dipping My Toe Into Digital Design”, Danielle shares her experience with digital design from a consumer to a creator and some changes she made to her COETAIL blog A Learning Journey. She includes next steps in her design journey and concludes, “As I pay more attention to the elements that draw my own attention and engagement on the web, I hope to implement what works for me as a consumer into what I am creating.”

Visualizing Information and Data

We’ve always encountered data and information in visual forms but with today’s access to digital design resources, we (and our students) can also create our own visual representations. 

(On a side note: If you want to get more into how data and information visualizations are designed poorly, intentionally and unintentionally, check out Daniel J. Levitin’s A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age)

How do we turn data into something accessible and usable to all of us? How do we share the data that we want to share? How do we tell the story behind the data?

The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

There are many great resources out there to support our learning about and designing of visual representations and many critical thinking skills that go into having our students create their own visualizations to share their learning. 

In addition to the resources we share for Week 3, I’d like to give a shout-out to Jordan Benedict, Data and Learning Coach at Shanghai American School, who is an expert at data and shares his expertise in a very accessible way. Check out his website Visualize Your Learning where he and his team provide guidance and resources for schools, teachers, and students. 


We look forward to seeing your creations for visualizing data and information, your experience and reflections, and additional resources you recommend.


Facilitating Collaboration (Week 2)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As a teacher and coach, learning and applying strategies for facilitation and collaboration have had a big impact on my work with students and teachers and in professional learning environments. As our Big Idea for this week states, “Structured, collaborative learning facilitates deeper understanding.”

Two of my big go-to resources for facilitation and collaboration are Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines and protocols from School Reform Initiative. I’ve used them with students of all ages and with adults as well. I find they empower the thinking and participation of those involved. I also appreciate how these routines and protocols are organized by purpose and intent. 

And with access to technology, we can enhance these routines in a variety of ways. Here’s a chart Visible Thinking & Teaching for Understanding in a Distance Learning Environment developed by educators at Washington International School that could be applied to face-to-face situations as well.  (Thanks to Joel Bevens again for the recommendation)

For more about collaboration, John Spencer has shared many ideas and resources about collaboration. 

Check out his video “The 7 Keys to Creative Collaboration” and more on his blog here

More from John Spencer on collaboration…

Four Ways to Boost Collaboration in Student Projects
Seven Ways to Boost Collaboration in P.B.L.
Taking Collaboration to the Next Level (which includes a section on “Collaboration v Cooperation”)

We look forward to reading more about your experiences with facilitating learning activities and discussions (with students or with teachers) this week! As always, your experiences, reflections, and resources shared will benefit us all.


We are All Designers (Week 1)

Welcome to Course 3!

Course 3 shifts our focus to Visual Literacy: Effective Collaborators and Communicators and ISTE Standards for Educators 4 & 6: Collaborators and Facilitators. 

Week 1: We Are All Designers

What is visual literacy?

According to it is the “ability to read, write and create visual images. It is a concept that relates to art and design but it also has much wider applications. Visual literacy is about language, communication, and interaction. Visual media is a linguistic tool with which we communicate, exchange ideas and navigate our highly visual digital world.”

Here is a short video from Toledo Museum of Art who asked the attendees at the 47th International Visual Literacy Association to define “visual literacy” in their own terms. (Thanks to Cohort 12 facilitator Joel Bevans for the share.) It shares some different perspectives on what visual literacy is to them. What is it to you?

How important is understanding visual literacy for educators? How can it impact communication with our students and community?

In Week One our focus is on ISTE Standard for Educators 6.d: Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.

You will explore questions related to how you see visual media and your own design habits. You will also have some great resources explaining how design principles affect the way we perceive media. 

Personally, this topic and the resources and strategies I learned from being in COETAIL many years ago (along with some influence from some great designers along the way) impacted my visual communication in my professional and personal life. And it’s been important for me to share simple design strategies with the teachers and students I’ve worked with emphasizing that the images we choose to communicate with are just as impactful as the words. 

I look forward to hearing about how learning more about visual literacy and design impacts your communication with those in your school community…and beyond!


Online 13 Course 2 Fantastic Final Projects

Online 13 Course 2 final projects are a testament to our global collaboration as a cohort. Three groups came together across time and space to co-create diverse and unique units and professional learning experiences that integrate COETAIL course learnings. We are beyond impressed with all three projects and are pleased to share them below. 


by Justin Ouellette | David Berg | Megan Vosk  | Danielle Richert | Kimberly Shannon

A masterful product of global co-creation, this professional learning experience is phenomenal. This team of talented educators chose project option 2 and developed an engaging, well-resourced professional learning experience with embedded breakout sessions and a myriad of tools, resources, and participatory experiences. In addition, they planned for a closing Unconference session to foster reflection and action. You will enjoy learning from them and exploring their embedded tools and resources here

Digital Citizenship Mini-Unit

by Brandon Inman | Josmary Adams | Lana Yashchyna | Coleton Tillett

Four elementary educators create a unit essential for students to develop as Digital Citizens, which really connects to being good overall citizens. This unit takes us into the nature of empathy, kindness and participatory culture for young learners, while also helping them stay safe. A wonderful mini-unit to engage students in dialogue, tools and resources. Enjoy it here

How Does the Digital World See Us?

by Civen Ho | Michael Juntke | Abigail Lopez-Salazar

A wonderful unit that incorporates many aspects of digital citizenship while empowering young learners to become creators and kind participants. Students will learn about privacy and copyright as they create their own videos to share, and their learning will culminate in learning about feedback as they reflect upon each other’s videos. Please find the unit here along with a helpful SlideDeck for implementation.

Course 2 Final Projects are a testament to the talented educators in COETAIL Online 13, to the COETAIL experience in general, and to the power of global collaboration and co-creation.

“The smartest person in the room is the room.”  

~ David Weinberger