Celebrations Around the World!

Celebrations Around the World!

Our annual, Grade One, How We Express Ourselves unit is back!

After the success of previous inquiries, we are once again looking to connect with staff, students, parents, and schools across the world to help build internationally-minded students through meaningful inquiry.

We would like to invite you to share your experiences and understanding of different celebrations and deepen your own (and your students') understanding of how different celebrations and traditions are expressions of shared beliefs and values.

Getting started couldn't be simpler:

  • sign up using the form below
  • create a response on the Padlet
  • pick a school from below and arrange a time to connect through Skype or Google Hangouts.

During your video call you might like to explain something you found interesting in their Padlet post, something you learned or maybe there is something you would like to hear more about - for example; I understand that the art of folding paper, Origami, is a Japanese tradition that is important in many celebrations.

NB: We are based in Tokyo, Japan which can make it difficult connecting with schools in Europe or America, so we use https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html before scheduling.


Made with Padlet

Pic Collage with Kindergarten

Look what happens when you let Kindergarten loose with an iPad and a Success Criteria...

With Pic Collage, a poster becomes more than just a 'poster' and best of all it's free! It has to be one of my favourite apps! I have used this app with students from Kindergarten to Grade 6.  Check out my blog post: 5 Ways to Use Pic Collage for more.

Touch Screen is the New Touch Typing?

Touch Screen is the new Touch Typing.

While schools have made an effort to integrate computers and mobile technology into the curriculum - with some great success stories readily available for all to see and read - can the same be said for the skill and art of typing?

It appears the more formal and traditional typing class has gone. Now, I am not saying that we should have 50 minutes worth of typing scheduled into the timetable, but how are we able to prepare students for the future if we move away from necessary skills?

It seems that a considerable emphasis, rightly or wrongly, is placed on students creating and consuming.  Young people have become significant users of the technology around them: moving icons and text with the simplest of finger swipes, professional style photos without an actual camera and Snapchat filters, to name a few.  Arguably, the keyboard has become somewhat of an under-utilised accessory with more and more students clicking or dragging the correct answer on an online exam, browsing the school's digital library or scrolling through celebrity news.  Has the interface changed so dramatically, that typing and the keyboard are no longer necessary?

But, wait.

"The skill of writing something using a computer."

And a skill it is ... 

If I am not mistaken, students are still submitting essays, whether they are written by hand, with pen and paper or typed using - yes - a keyboard.  An opinion, maybe, but students need to know how to use the keyboard to write their extended essays, science reports, or English coursework.  Let me take this further.  How much time might be saved over the course of one school year if students were able to touch type and not just touch a screen? 

"It is established that normal users using a QWERTY on a touchscreen device are limited to typing at a rate around 20 words per minute, which is slow compared to the entry rates users can typically achieve on physical keyboards." (The University of St. Andrews, 2013).

Assuming that without keyboarding skills, students run the risk of falling behind in their classwork leading to a downward spiral in academic performance, college applications and workforce performance.  When will you next check that your students can, in fact, type and are not just punching keys?

Mr Towse


2013 | Thumbs Up For Faster Texting | University Of St Andrews. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2013/title,217680,en.php

Seesaw 5.0: It's a Game Changer!

Can You See What I Saw: One Year On!

"Seesaw 5.0 is an absolute game-changer!"

Last year, sat in a hotel lobby in India I was a part of the Summer cohort of Seesaw Ambassadors. One year on and it has gone from strength to strength, and shows minimal signs of stopping. Seesaw and Seesaw 5.0 is an absolute game-changer in education.  Seesaw fails to surprise me; it just keeps getting better and better!

As a Seesaw Ambassador based in Tokyo, Japan, I am available to lead training sessions for individual staff and as school wide PD.  I am excited for the year ahead as my school has committed to rolling out Seesaw for 2017-18.  

I was reading through the IBOs The Role of ICT in the PYP and this particular paragraph resonated with me....

"It is worthwhile to note that there will be opportunities for student-initiated, spontaneous inquiries into the use of ICT that are not directly related to any planned units of inquiry or single-subject areas. For example, a student contributing to a class blog may want to start his or her own blog as a personal reflection journal. These are valuable teaching and learning opportunities in themselves, and provide teachers and students with the opportunity to apply the pedagogy of the PYP to authentic, of-the-moment situations."

I would like to break this down further...

a student contributing to...his or her own blog as a personal reflection journal.

After using Seesaw with students for a little over a year increasingly, I noticed how students shift from the consumer of technology to creators and are empowered when using Seesaw. My mantra is giving students the opportunity to think, create and publish, and Seesaw does it all.

Getting Started

Things to consider:

  • Introducing to Students
    • Get them using it, don't just talk to them about Seesaw- After all, it is a student-driven learning journal.
  • Building Routines
    • Embed it into classroom routines; take a look at what you already have and see how it might enhance current practice
  • Digital Citizenship
    • use this opportunity to talk digital literacy and commenting with Seesaw

Seesaw 5.0

What to expect:
  • Seesaw has just got a make over, and the new look is slick!
    • Customise theme and icon; pick a colour theme and class icon to personalise your class.
  • Simplified class experience;  no more digging to find the tools you need: Journals, Blog, Skills, Inbox and class settings are all on one screen.
  • *Game Changer* Announcements & Messages
    • The ability for teachers to send notifications and messages is brand new in Seesaw 5.0
  • New Family App (Formerly Parent App - FYI it just requires an update!)
    • Feed or Calendar view; Filter by folders; Inbox: This section shows all announcements and private messages from their children’s teachers.

Seesaw Plus

Seesaw Plus is a paid offering with additional tools to support formative assessment and student growth.  With Seesaw Plus you'll have access to a private teacher-only folder, private teacher notes, and skills view. A perk for Seesaw Ambassadors!

To get yourself an extra month of Seesaw Plus, Scan my QR Code!

Otherwise....there is always this email I have been using with my contacts....

Hi - I’ve been using Seesaw - an awesome, free digital portfolio and parent communication tool.

Sign up today using my link, and we’ll both get an extra month of their premium features for free!


For now, I will leave Seesaw 5.0 with you, and I hope this blog post was of use - feel free to share :) 

Looking for individual PD or planning a whole school session, as always Tweet me @MrTowse

What Happened When I Asked My Class to Google Me!?

Well, I have just finished another set of lessons, and in this latest cycle, I have worked with Ms Carnright, ES School Counsellor, and our homeroom teachers in grades three and four.

During this cycle, I attended Tokyo's Google Office and YouTube space, where I learned that when it comes to career aspirations, being a YouTuber is amongst the top three pathways. Based on this information, I wondered: how many of the students I teach are on this same pathway? A simple Google search and browse of YouTube and I soon uncovered the answer to this very question.  Before I continue, a little disclaimer: I fully embrace the power of social media. However, we do not allow students to create personal channels using their educational domain email. [Insert PSA announcement].

Thinking back, it was not until I moved to Tokyo as an Ed Tech Specialist that I discovered the power of social media and YouTube. While training to be a teacher in England, I learned that social media could make or break careers. In fact, even before that it was part of my program director's selection process, Facebook quickly became very public and social media quickly became everyone's business. I have previously blogged about the power of Twitter and how I had a "false start" before taking off - Tweet Tweet!

Heading into these grade three and four collaborative lessons, I decided to Google myself to see what I could find. At first glance, I am a professional cricketer by name, though clearly this is not my chosen profession. The graphic above is my digital watermark. I use Blogger, so you'll find my blog homepage, top hitting posts and authored posts, my Twitter profile is a hit as is my YouTube channel and Google+.  (Feel free to let me know if you find any other hits - FYI, I am not a cricketer). Listening to Dr. Alec Couros who stated, "who doesn't have an online presence nowadays?", and knowing full well that our students (especially the older ones) Google us, I believe it's our responsibility to ensure we leave a positive digital legacy. 

I wanted to use the time with students for them to reflect on their online presence. Working with Ms. Carnright, she and I explored with the girls the notion that our presence, both online and offline, should evoke pride and a positive response from others . How we portray ourselves on social media represents who we are and what we stand for, whether that is our intention or not. As part of this lesson, students were asked to create a digital graphic which was a representation of their digital lives (see images below). 
Unfortunately, we live in a world where everything isn't a bed of roses, and some people make the choice to leave comments, remarks and pictures that are hurtful and unwelcomed. Through contextual and embedded digital citizenship lessons, I believe that we can prepare our students to handle the degree of anger, insults and hatred that is strewn across the internet. Cliche maybe, but I ask myself: "Would I want my Nan seeing this post?"

So, give it a go.  Google (or any other search engine will do) yourself. What do you notice?  What is your online story?  Moreover, does it say what you want it to say about who you are?

I will leave it there for now, but as always I would love to connect and hear your thoughts.  How are you preparing students to be responsible digital citizens?

~Mr Towse

Camouflaged Typing

I have been using 'everyone's favourite' Scouse Moose over at BBC's Dance Mat Typing with grades one and two. Grades three through six all have registered accounts to Typing.com and Typing Club.
It amazes me by the speeds at which young people (and not so young) type on their mobile cell phones, but this does not necessarily transpire into typing. 
As grade one transition into their latest and what is the final unit of the year, I am using ABCYA's World Cloud Typing website to produce word clouds associated with unit vocabulary.

While developing a typing fluency, and maintaining correct positioning students were asked to choose unit vocabulary from the word wall that was new to them either in spelling or meaning.

Here are some examples:

Camouflaged typing. I love it!

I would love to see what how you are using this or any of the other tools outside of school. Be sure to tweet me @MrTowse

Coding: It's a WoMANS World!

According to the National Science Board’s “Science and Engineering Indicators for 2012,” women make up only 26% of Computer Science and Mathematical Science professionals in the United States.  With female participation in Computer Science, specifically,  dropping to 18% from a 37% peak in the mid- the 1980s.

In 2006, the government of Japan established a target to increase the share of women researchers in science to 20% and in engineering to 15%. Unfortunately, in 2016, these goals were not met, with women in Japan representing less than one-sixth (13.6%) of engineering majors.

Arriving in Japan from England, one of the first countries to formally recognise the importance of teaching children computing from aged five and up, I came with a fixed mindset regarding the fundamentals of learning how to program.  Here at Seisen, through activity session with small groups, increasingly I am building more and more opportunities for students to get into coding into curricular content and using coding as a tool for learning.

There is a demand, a "revolution" if you like, with over 1000 apps released daily to the app store and with women installing 40 percent more apps than men, buying 17 percent more paid apps, and paying an astonishing 87 percent more for those apps.  This fact raises several questions: What is currently being done? What needs to be done to ensure coding becomes a part of grassroots learning?

Introducing coding to your children is becoming more and more accessible for those who a) aren’t familiar with the term 'code' and b) the various interpretations.  The number of blog posts similar to this one, the number of open source software and guides being produced and published to the web makes the subject of computer coding easy to grasp for learners, young or old. :) 

Scratch & Scratch Jr.

Scratch is my number one go to, particular the Scratch Jr iOS and Android for getting started in Kindergarten.  Scratch is ideal for children (or adults) with little or even no coding experience. These programs using building blocks, students can create animations, games and digital stories.

Thank you to Natalee (Grade One) who used Scratch Jr to create this digital story while in kindergarten!

Students are starting to ask why? Why will this happen? What happens if I change this? 


I am using Tynker with students who are attending afterschool SASA.  Students commented how this is a "fun" way of learning to code and program.

I find it is an easy way for children to learn the basics of computational thinking and programming skills.

Thanks to Kate (Grade 5) for her take on the phenomena that is Angry Birds!  This is just the beginning - look out App Store :)

Take at look at Sanskriti's Pre-historic Comic


At Seisen, our elementary school students are registered users of code.org. The website was launched in 2013 to advocate for wider access to computer science learning in schools.  Seisen students' each have an individual login, and are able to explore this at their leisure and actively encouraged to do so. Students and staff participate in the Hour of Code, using this website as a platform to develop and deepen conceptual understanding of computer programming in a self-paced learning environment.

Using Minecraft, Starwars, and Zombie vs. Plants to develop conceptual understanding

Parents, teachers & students, I hope you can take something from this blog post and either give one of the above examples a try for yourself when you have some available time and, as always, I would love to hear and see what you are doing with computer programming.  


National Science Foundation, “Science and Engineering Indicators 2012,” http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/c0/c0i.htm, (January 2012).

National Center for Education Statistics, “Degrees conferred by degree-granting institu- tions,” http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/ tables/dt12_318.asp, (May 2012).

Government of Japan, Science and Technology Basic Plan (Provisional Translation) (2006): p. 25.

Government of Japan, The 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan (Provisional Translation) (2016): p. 35.

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, “Population of Undergraduate Students by Major,” School Basic Survey 2015 (In Japanese) (2015).

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, “Female Researchers Support Japan’s Science and Technology: In Honor of Science and Technology Week,” Statistical Topics, No. 8 (2014).


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Using Apps and Games to Deepen Understanding

After having just spent the last two hours 'playing games' with grade six I feel the need to write a blog post and explain my actions :) 

The current unit, Sharing the Planet, in this case, should be called, 'Spreading the Planet with Disease!'

Let me dissect this for you readers:
Box 1 of the PYP Planner
With the above explanation in mind, how do I justify 'playing games' for two hours?  It is no secret that if we give a student an iPad with little or no guidance, they will just ' play around.' They might learn something from it, but do they really know what they have learned and how to record, articulate to others, and share in their ePortfolio?

It is fascinating to watch students frantically press the iPad screen in the hope that something will happen and with the expectation, they can win! It is even more rewarding when I interact with students, observe, listen and facilitate with their inquiry.  

The objective of the simulation app, Plague Inc., might be to spread the disease and avoid a cure being found before it has taken over. However, the REAL learning intention in our classroom is to spread the disease and prevent a cure being found with a critical mind, by developing a strategy, applying previous knowledge, collaborating and learning from others.

Now, let us discuss the "frantic" approach in which grade six tackled this app, and bear in mind that they were asked to record their observations and findings using the below matrix.  Students were expected to document the changes/actions that help spread the disease and record the changes/actions that hinder the disease to spread and examples from the real world.

Question: How many students were actually recording during this "frantic" period?  You guessed it: very little! Remember, they were playing!  
At this point, the students noticeably started to slow down.  The noise levels dropped.  Students became engaged and serious about the task in hand.  It was not about winning that comes with gaming, it became about using prior knowledge to further the spread of their disease, about collaborating with their peers to hear and see what they are doing well and how they might replicate this in their simulation.

A particular stand out moment for me was from Isabella when she perceptively informed those around her that if they were starting in a cold country, they would need to make sure that the cold wouldn't hinder the spread of the disease.

Where would start the spread of a deadly disease and Why?

Students watch their screens, react to the news and come up with strategies to further spread the disease.

Related Blog Posts: Not all screentime is screen time

As always, we would love to hear your comments. Feel free to share and follow me on Twitter!

Mr Towse

It's Time to Type | World Creative Writing Month

What does technology integration mean for typing?

Increased Student Writing? Higher Quality Student Writing?

I believe that being able to type is one thing, but being able to type correctly is something else altogether. Daily, I am amazed by the speeds at which young people type on their mobile cell phones, and often a lot quicker than they can write with a pen or a keyboard for that matter, but are they able to do it properly and what skills are they developing along the way. 

What if we could put this to productive use....

Would your class enjoy competing against schools from around the world?

World Creative Writing Month is back, starting Wednesday 1st March 2017. This global creative writing competition will see students from near and far competing to rise to the top of the league table and walk knowing they gave their best effort and potentially won some awesome prizes. I am truly humbled to be flying the flag and wearing my "Night Zookeeper" badge here in Tokyo, Japan. Night Zookeeper started in the UK before launching in  Fargo USA and Osaka in Japan.

Find out more and sign up here at Night Zookeeper.

If you missed it last year, then check out my blog post: World Creative Writing Month 2016 

I was sharing stories with those near and far, and I am looking forward to being a part of the Night Zoo Ambassador team across the world and sharing stories in the Night-Times.

If you are interested in hearing more or help with signing up, I look forward to hearing from you +Mr Towse

#TechWithTowse - A Model for Professional Learning

Tech With Towse is Underway!

This month I have implemented a professional development model with schedule for ICT/IT/Technology as part of my role, and this is sent out in the first elementary school update of the month.  Staff complete a pre-sessions survey and sign up to the sessions they want - no pressure! 

On the calendar is has the scheduled date, title of the session and is given a star rating for its techie element.  I wanted to create a relaxed learning environment, where staff were comfortable and were able to interact with one another find they had similar tech related questions. I run two sessions on a Friday, one where the single subject teachers choose to attend and the other after school for our homeroom teachers.  This month's sessions were labelled 'Make Blogging Work For You', and with three sessions my goal was for staff to leave the session having Blogged and have done it in a way they hadn't previously.  

I believe that ICT tools and resources when used efficiently and not merely as a substitution tool because it helps tick a box have the power to transform teaching and learning - the aim of my sessions is for others to see that it doesn't take an Ed Tech Specialist to make this happen!

Technology, like any other tool we introduce, should, where possible be shared in a relaxed environment, and one thing I have learned makes this all the better is bringing snacks and refreshments!   

Contact me to hear more or arrange for a session at your school

Stop Motion - Click Click!!

During this year's grade two How We Express Ourselves unit students learned through inquiry (and Stop Motion Studio) that stories can engage their audience, communicate meaning, and express values. In addition to enjoying stories created by others, students also learned how to express one's self in creative ways by using their imagination.

In collaboration with our art teacher, Ms Diane, students learned how to share stories by making stop motion videos. The girls have been retelling traditional folktales and illustrating the stories by drawing pictures during art class.

Introducing iPads, we were able to take pictures of their modelled clay and turn their artwork into stop motion animations with the app, Stop Motion Studio. Students learned new skills and deepened their knowledge from grade one. Learning to make incremental changes between frames so in the final product the illusion of movement is created. Besides the technical know-how, this art form gives learners an opportunity to develop PYP Attitudes - with learning a new set of skills comes the need to preserve!  When we consider it take Nick Park creator of Wallace and Gromit claymation movies take over a year to bring his creations to the cinema.

Do any other of the Attitudes spring to mind?

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Digital Portfolios

With conference season just around the corner, I thought I would publish this blog post. At Seisen we offer two models of conferencing:...

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