Innovate SSIS: A Magical Night


Congratulations to everyone involved in Innovate SSIS, an absolutely magical evening in every way. The school was a buzz of activity with over 330 students, teachers, parents and community innovators making, creating and innovating together.

I feel that the very first Innovate SSIS was a great success and that comes down to all the effort that the ES admin team, students, staff and teachers went to.

Special mention goes to our Geek Squad and other student volunteers, a team of highly engaged students who gave up countless recess times to get ready for the event. We are so lucky to have so many incredible, motivated, and engaged students on our campus!

“At SSIS, students learn by doing. We solve problems with a wide range of tools, materials, and techniques. We celebrate creativity, innovation and collaboration!”

Coding and Making with a Purpose

IMG_5499Constructionism provides a framework for hands-on and creative ways for students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in math, science and engineering. Grade 4 students at Saigon South International School have been learning about engineering, design and programming within a fully integrated unit called “Thinking Outside the Box”, focused on coding for a purpose, energy and service-based learning.

Creativity, innovation, and problem solving were woven into the literary genre of Fantasy and the topic of Energy. Coding, making and physical computing paved the way for endless inquiry and cross-curricular integration. We began to look at coding as a form of literacy, used our MakerSpace, and introduced our students to the engineering and design cycle. We completed the unit with a service based project. The goal was for students to investigate where energy was wasted in their lives, show the energy impact, and design and build a prototype by combining craft materials, electronic components and programming interfaces, to help them reduce energy waste.

This unit was really about being innovative and “thinking outside the box’- looking at problems and empowering students to believe that with hard work, they can find solutions.
Students learned how computer languages provide an open canvas for creativity that, through the use of sensors, motors and lights, can empower students to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital world and make the world a better place.


Storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of communication. Before there were cameras, computers, or even books, stories held the knowledge of all civilization.

This is why Jason Stevens, our wonderful EAL team leader and I get together every year to create something very special with our students and teachers. This year we put together an A Cappella music video to instill in our community one of our core values, “Sense of Self”. (If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to watch it.)

SSIS Technology Showcased on Asia Life

AsiaLIFE talked to Saigon South International School about the importance of technology in education, not just within the realm of IT but throughout the curriculum. We had the chance to explain why the Mac based platform twe have chosen gives us a cohesive link to students in all grades and all subjects through integration between tablets, laptops and peripherals.

Along with this technology development we had the chance to showcase our new Makers Space, a learning and experiment environment for the Elementary School.

Vibrant Vietnam Film Festival

vibrantWhat an outstanding “Vibrant Vietnam Film Festival” last night.  During the evening, short documentaries made by Grade 4 students were screened for the public.  Each documentary explored the question “How do Vietnamese culture and geographic features influence each other?”
The evening was a great success and proved to set the standard for how we celebrate learning at the culmination of a Super Unit.  Some of the reasons it was successful:
  • Timing: Held at night, it was a special time easily attended by parents.
  • Setting: The auditorium was decorated, red carpet and all, to have a feeling of ‘Cannes Film Festival’
  • Authenticity: The celebration event, a film festival, was an approximation of something that occurs in the world outside of school.
  • Purpose: The overarching question, enduring understanding, and essential questions were communicated to the parents, by the students, at the beginning of the event.
  • Brochure: The brochure for the evening was BEAUTIFUL- very professional, and I wisht all our brochures that we distribute to parents would look like this.
  • Budget: A small budget was allocated to the event so that food and drink could be purchased, making the evening special.
  • Team Effort: All grade 4 teachers, TAs, and related specialists and coaches were actively involved in the unit.  This led to a very celebratory feeling.
  • Trans-disciplinary: evidence of language, technology, science, social studies, music, visual arts, and more was exhibited during the evening.  Parents go to understand what a Super Unit really is.

This list might begin to serve as a guide for our future Learning Celebrations at the end of each super unit.  Congratulations, again, to all staff members involved.  Your hard work yielded great results!

Vietnam Tech. Conference 2015

Last weekend has seen a very successful Technology Conference in school. The Vietnam Tech. Conference is an annual EdTech event organized by Saigon South International School and United Nations International School of Hanoi. The conference was held this year at SSIS from March 7 to 8.

Congratulations to everyone involved, an absolutely positive experience in every way. The school was a buzz of activity with teachers attending from all around Asia. For the first time, a contingent of UNIS and SSIS students joined forces to form the conference’s tech support team: The Geek Squad.

The conference took off with our keynote speaker, Robert Appino, sharing up-to-date research on gamification and game-based learning, and how both of these practices can be used to create highly engaging and relevant learning.

One of the weekend’s highlights was the Speed Geeking session. Speed Geeking is a participation process used to quickly view a number of presentations within a short period of time. The presenters have only 6 or 7 minutes to present one idea and to answer any questions to a group. When the facilitator signals time, the presenter rotates to the next group.

The Conference continued with a wide variety of teaching and learning topics in over 30 sessions. It was fantastic to be part of a proactive teaching community that discusses innovative education methods and shares best practices.

The weekend of activities finished off with a with a lucky draw and the announcement of the winners of the “Selfie Competition” by our Geek Squad.

At SSIS we understand that education is at the crossroads and technology has opened up new possibilities, both for teachers and students alike. Its pervasiveness is changing how we learn and, by facilitating Professional Development in these areas, SSIS is making sure that teachers are trained in how to use relevant technologies in the classroom. Thank you to all the SSIS presenters and Geek Squad students who came in to make of this conference a very successful one. They truly showcased what a great school we are.

Save the date for VTC2016 in Hanoi. It is destined to be another great event.

Multimedia Technologies: Value Writing More than Ever

Common Craft videos are paper slide video projects that begin with a story that is drawn on individual pieces of paper. Students then work in groups to record the video. With an iPad mounted on a tripod students can then narrate while moving the paper slides. Common Craft videos are a great way for students to develop media production, writing and oral skills.

The 2nd grade class just finished their first round of videos and they are all looking really good:

IMG_1572-300x224Take a look at the 2nd Grade blog too if you have the chance. Students have been commenting on each others videos and giving feedback for improvement. You might want to leave a comment too!

As a highly innovative school, SSIS teachers know that adapting writing instruction to technology can enhance their literacy horizons without sacrificing the fundamentals.

We understand that solid conventional writing skills are the basis for filmmaking, and that before applying more advanced technical skills, students need to know the basics of how to shape a story or build an argument.



Apple Distinguished Educator 2015 Application

Finally Apple has opened up the applications for ADE in Vietnam and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on my 2015 Apple Distinguished Educator Application.

As part of my application for the ADE program I had to upload a two minutes video showcasing innovative use of technology in the classroom. That really was a daunting tasks. Showcasing all the work done by my students along the years and the strategies that I use integrating technology in the classroom in just two minutes was harder than I expected.

Getting my application selected and having the opportunity to join the 2015 ADE Institute has been at the very top of my professional goals for the year.

Hopefully at the end of the process I will be selected. Wish me luck!

Good luck too to all the educators who submitted an ADE applications this year.

Here id my ADE Application Video. I edited it using Final Cut Pro X and GarageBand.

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