A new school, a new country, a new life

One of the many advantages of teaching overseas is the opportunity to live and teach anywhere in the world. What makes this opportunity even more exciting is the uncertainty of not knowing where in the world will you end teaching and living once you have signed your letter of intent with your current school.

Last December I made the decision to leave Cebu International School and the Philippines after five years of teaching here. Of course the decision of moving does not mean that I was unhappy where I was. Anyone who knows me well will tell you how attached I became to the Filipino people and land in these five years and how grateful I am to Cebu International School for all the opportunities to grow professionally as an international educator.

However, being Cebu International School my first international post and seeing many of my colleagues over the years pursuing their professional careers in a new exciting place, Aurora and I decided that it was time to follow a new path, and to experience again the excitement and challenges of a new country and a new school. So we did, and just before the Christmas break, I accepted a double job position at Beijing BISS International School, as head of the library Media Center and technology integrator. Aurora and I couldn’t be more excited about our next move.

BISS has a strong reputation in Beijing for the strong emphasis on technology integration in education, pushed in great measure by Julie Lindsay, our e-learning coordinator. I feel so lucky to have the chance to work with this real innovator. In her two years at BISS she has managed to revolutionize the way teachers at BISS interact with each other and with students by integrating technology into the school at the macro and micro levels. Here are some highlights of our thriving technology environment:

Highlight 1: A one to one school where all staff and students have a laptop for their dedicated use at school and at home.

Highlight 2: Studywiz: An Online Learning Environment that our school uses to complement our 1:1 laptop program. I have to admit that for me this is a tough pill to swallow since I still believe in open source solutions as a viable, sustainable model for education, and I don’t see Studywiz being any better than Moodle.Only time will tell how things unfold. But pioneers are made in the dust of unknown not after the dust settles. In the meantime, I am slightly trying to convince our Admin Team that Moodle is the perfect alternative to Studywiz and I have already built our Media Center website on top of the Moodle 2.1 package an then installed it in one of our servers. It just takes SQL, PHP and Apache on an old webserver to make it run. Check it out! http://moodle.biss.com.cn

Highlight 3: Extensive use of Wikispaces as an integral part of our digital learning environment. BISS now has a ‘private label’ account with wikispaces.com. This means all teachers and students have the opportunity to create wikis for school projects or curriculum purposes under the BISS umbrella. Wikis are a great 2.0 tool for projects and for class-to-class collaborations in Beijing, including global interaction…despite all the challenges faced (hello!!!,..a school in China committed in transforming itself into a thriving digital learning environment????

Highlight 4
: A media server which provides a fully searchable central archive of audio and video footage, a real “Video on Demand” facility. The system is capable of storing over 3 Terabytes of high quality video content, which comes from the school’s existing stock of videos. The system has the potential to deliver a different video stream to each computer in the school simultaneously. In addition, our students will soon be able to log in from home using their username and password, upload their school videos and embed them later on in their wikis and blogs. I am very excited by this new addition to our IT provision. This truly opens endless windows for the the library-media center. By the way, does anyone know of any open source solutions that would do such a thing?

The ultimate goal is actually to put all these tools to good use and help students and teachers identify and plan for key success factors and strategies that will help them get started, expand their existing projects, or take them to the next level.

Cheers for a new school year!

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