Screen Time from Head to Toe 

Authors: Caleb Hill and Randen Morisako 

In our high speed, high tech and highly global word, we may find ourselves doing more of what you are doing right this second – looking at screen. Like me, you are probably longing for the offline world to resume what is so important for developing children. An analog world of using your hands to create art with a paint brush, gain insight from a newly opened book or give a task-affirming high five just cannot be recreated through eLearning 
Teachers, parents and students alike need to manage this carefully in order to avoid overuse, stress and yes, injury.  


If we aren’t mindful of screen time many of us are at risk to develop what ophthalmologists call “digital eyestrainFor children and adults this can lead to dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision. While some symptoms may be temporary; they can persist if breaks are not taken. These symptoms do not mean special glasses are required or that an eye condition if forming; instead it could mean they aren’t taking enough breaks.   
Most doctors recommend what’s called the “20-20-20 rule” – Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that is 20 feet away (about 6 meters).  


If you find you oyour child’s eyes are drying out quickly you may need to place a humidifier close to your eLearning space, use eye drops, and drink more water. The level of lighting in a room when using a computer or iPad should be roughly half as bright as other activities such as writing on paper. Decrease the brightness on your screens and try to position computers so that light from uncovered windows, lamps and overhead light fixtures aren’t shining directly on them.  
If you find dry eyes persist it could also be an issue as simple as not blinking enough. Blink! 


Adults and children need to be moving. School has changed over the years and rarely at ISB will you find a group of students all sitting at desks for long periods at a time (exam time excluded). Students are missing that up and down interaction with their classmates and teachers and it adds a lot of extra pressure on parents. That’s why its so important to TAKE BREAKS. 
There are zero negative side effects to taking a physical activity break when you are working. It will help you work smarter and more efficiently after getting your heart rate up. As mentioned by Lissa in Strategies to Survive Working at Home its important to move your body. Students should take AT LEAST ten-minute break once every hour to rest their eyes and move their bodies. Set a timer to limit yourself and take breaks.  


PE teachers are providing workout videos or activity suggestions multiple times a week and encouraging students to get at least 60 minutes of activity every day with 30 minutes of vigorous activity. This means that they are raising their HR and potentially getting hot and sweaty too.  
If you can safely do it, getting outside and taking a walk is more than enough to get your blood pumping. Get out for a morning walk before you start your eLearning, breathe some fresh air and look out the window to give your eyes a break. 


Do you find yourself bending your head down to look at your screen? This is called “text neck.” For every 15 degrees of downward gaze your spine experiences an additional increase in stressYou can limit the risk of text neck by monitoring the amount of time, you spend staring down at your phone.   
Another strategy is to ensure that your laptop or computer monitor is set up at the right height. Your monitor should be set up so that the top of your monitor is perpendicular with your gaze. This ensures that you should be able to see the bottom of the screen with no more than 15-degree downward gaze. 


When using a keyboard and mouse we are at extended risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is an overdevelopment of the wrist/forearm muscles and causes irritation the nerves in the lower arm causing pain, numbness, and even tingling. Making sure that your hands and wrist are in the right position while working may prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Periodically massaging or stretching your forearm muscles may also prevent muscle tightness in the forearm.  


A simple forearm stretch is to straighten one arm out in front of you with your palm facing out and fingers pointed to the sky. Using your other hand, apply light backward pressure to the tips of your straightened hands finger. You can repeat this stretch with your fingers pointed down for a different muscle group. 


Long bouts of sitting may cause back pain especially in the lower back. Be sure to sit properly with a straight spine. Using a lumbar support chair or small pillow on your lower back may support muscles there and keep your back from slouching.  


During this time, one technique may be to try using a standing table. If you decide to do so make sure that the desk is high enough so that you don’t have to look down at your monitor and develop text neck. 
Sciatica is characterized by pain, numbness, or tingling that runs through the lower back, through the buttocks, and sometimes down the lower leg.  
By using a well cushioned chair and making sure that each buttock is evenly on your chair are some strategies to prevent sciatica. Other strategies include taking periodic breaks and including stretching or foam rolling of the glute muscles to make sure they do not get overdeveloped from prolonged sitting. 
Staying physically active during this time is extremely important. With a regular dose of physical activity, we can help limit the effects of prolonged sitting and screen time. Your eyes, brain and body will all thank you. Now… take a break! 

The power of integration

The power of integration

We often hear about the changing demands of work and life in the 21st century due to rapid technological, economic and social changes, placing pressure on education to better prepare students for an uncertain future. One well-documented example of this is the impact of automation on employment, with workers in many different industries around the world being displaced by technology. While new opportunities are being created – often in congruence with those same emerging technologies –  we must prepare our students for the uncertainty and opportunity of a rapidly changing world.

In short, we must ensure our students’ skills remain relevant.

In response to the shifting demands on education, ISB developed the L21 Skills of; Communication & Collaboration, Creativity & Innovation, Leadership & Responsibility, Global Thinking, and; Inquiry, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Our school is expanding the way we integrate discrete disciplines and skills into our teaching and learning, from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Integrated Learning is an approach that models real-world working conditions by connecting different disciplines within learning engagements, occurring within a lesson, a unit, or an entire course. Integrated learning is most effective when aligned with project or inquiry learning models as students experience the collaborative and interdisciplinary environments they will likely encounter in their future careers.



“Rather than a nice add-on to our current formal education system, (STEAM) should be the concept around which the entire system is understood and organized” – Hans Vestberg, World Economic Forum, Sept 2018.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Maths) has become a popular system for addressing the educational needs of the future. At ISB, STEAM is gaining traction as a means for ensuring hands-on design and engineering projects effectively address our Science Standards while facilitating creative, authentic problem solving and personalisation in the Arts and Humanities. STEAM learning is often characterised by technology-rich activities such as robotics or coding, but in essence it needn’t be about specific technical skills. Yes, technology should be ubiquitous in STEAM lessons, but, as long as there is a conscious integration of the STEAM disciplines, technology needn’t be the main emphasis. STEAM can be a vehicle for building engagement in a single activity or entire unit, it should be intentional and offer students opportunities to consolidate and synthesise their learning.


“(what’s needed is) …a personalised learning environment that supports and motivates each student to nurture his or her passions, make connections between different learning experiences and opportunities, and design their own learning projects and processes in collaboration with others” OECD Learning Framework 2020

Metacognitive skills such as collaboration, communication, organization and reflective practice are each integral for effective problem solving in integrated curricula. In fact, these skills can actually be the focus of integrated curricula, particularly at times when more domain-specific topics aren’t relevant to an entire unit. Further, integrated learning requires teachers to apply a similar set of meta skills toward planning, delivery, assessment and reflection, presenting opportunities for modeling of effective metacognitive skills.

ES Strategy
This year, Each ES grade has embarked on a process of designing integrated units of inquiry, and, while this process is still in the early stages, we hope to create a model for successful integration of a wide range of units. While further refinement is always required, a number of ES teams have planned and completed a round of integrated units in 2018-19:

Grade 2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This integration point for this unit was around the topic of sustainable use of the earth’s resources. Students worked on personalized design projects that focused on campaigning the school for improved sustainability.

Grade 3: Forces & Motion

How can we, as designers, use what we know about magnetism to address a problem within our environment? This unit allows students to apply what they know about magnetism to design everyday products that help people they know.

Grade 4: Engineering Design

How can we, as engineers, use what we know about design to address a real-world problem? This unit is integrated through the theme “making good better” – using feedback, refinement and reflection as a common theme through which a number of different subjects are linked.

Grade 5: Global Citizenship

Foundations of a global citizen – what we believe = what we do = who we are. This unit is integrated around the theme of identity – that our values as people, learners, mathematicians, writers, scientists, engineers and artists are defined by what we believe and what we do.


See you next year in the HS!

As I prepare to move to the High School next year, I look forward to further opportunities for integration at ISB. In the meantime, I’d like to offer my thanks to the ES teachers, admin, support staff, students and parents for your support and enthusiasm during these two excellent years in the elementary school!


OneDay 2017

At ISB, OneDay is a day in which middle school students can design their learning.  OneDay gives students the time to follow their passions and individually personalize their learning for the day.  Teachers facilitated the process throughout the month of January during homeroom Mentoring time to help students follow the ISB Design Process to create a goal, investigate, design their day and plan.

It is amazing to walk around the middle school on OneDay as students take learning into their own hands.  They were engaged on the sports fields and gyms,

in the kitchen,

in the band rooms,

art rooms,


hovered around laptops collaborating

and were nestled in cubbies as they typed fan fiction.

We want to continue to improve OneDay and will work on a feedback session with middle school teachers in an upcoming faculty meeting.  Please feel free to add any suggestions in the comments.
I’d also love the idea of a OneDay as a PD model.  It would be difficult for me to decide what I would do that day, but I think it’d be a good exercise for teachers to take ownership of their own learning and also experience what the students did as they prepare for OneDay.
For more OneDay projects, check out the ISB OneDay Blog.


 Why is design an essential part of a school’s curriculum?

The most important benefits of Design classes and/or units in the curriculum are: complex thinking, development of technical skills, analysis of media and products around them and hands-on creating.
Design courses or projects have two specific purposes:

  1. To learn skills to become highly proficient in different technical skills
  2. To learn to use the process of designing for problem solving and to create authentic products for a specific client or audience.

What does this all mean?
First, students need to develop a variety of skill sets.  In order for students to create high quality products, they need to develop their skills.  In Design courses or projects, students can learn how to use tools and learn techniques in different areas such as:
Creating with resistant materials: Wood, Plastics, Metals and Composites
Graphic Design
2D & 3D Drawing for Laser Cutting and 3D Printing
Food Preparation Techniques

The second important component of Design in education is design thinking.
Students follow a process to create a product – this could be a materials-based product, a digital product or even a system.

Prototype of ISB Design Cycle


Student analyzing children’s Chinese storybooks to identify components to create their own.

First, students are given a guiding question or a problem to solve. Then they begin to inquire and do research. They define their goal and find an audience, empathize with their potential clients to gather a better understanding of what is needed. They then analyze existing products and do further inquiry and research.
In this stage of the design cycle, students create success criteria (design specifications) so they know what their product must have in order to be successful.  They develop a few design ideas and then justify the design they will try to develop.  Students then create annotated sketches to show their ideas on paper.  Finally, before creating, they  make a plan to organize their time, materials, tools and locations where they will work.
In this stage of the Design cycle, students first start by making a prototype of their design.  They reflect, gather feedback and test their product to see if it meets the success criteria.  They continually create and iterate to improve their product.

Students testing their polymers in a chemical engineering design project

Students, like all designers, reflect throughout the design process.  Students are expected to self reflect and have confidence to give and receive feedback from their peers to help guide them through their design process.
We also want students to share their process and final products with an extended community to make an impact and to have a larger audience to further their learning.
There are a lot of great design projects and design thinking happening at ISB and our design program is growing through the engineering strand of the Science curriculum, through middle school Design class, enrichments and other design integrated projects.  Later on in the year, we’ll be sharing more student design projects throughout the school.

Personalized Learning, Personalized Teaching

When we first adopted [our personalized learning system], I was pretty hesitant about the idea of giving my students free reign to direct their own learning. I’m a control freak that wants things to go a certain way, and I was afraid that students wouldn’t learn as much if I wasn’t in control. But I’m also a risk-taker and I like trying new stuff, so I decided to give it a try even though it was scary. The kids rose and exceeded my expectations. It was really cool to see how engaged they were. Now I feel like I’m finally able to address their needs, and I can focus not just on filling skill gaps, but on teaching them how to learn. [emphasis added]

flickr photo shared by fOtOmoth under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
flickr photo shared by fOtOmoth under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

So says Sophia Thomas, a teacher at a school in California that helped to shape a personalized learning system for their school, in Connecting Ed & Tech (July 2016) by Thomas Arnett for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
While we are still working on shared vision of what is meant by the term Personalized Learning, it is important to remember that a shift to personalized learning will also mean a shift to personalized teaching. From an educational technology perspective, this means finding (or developing) systems, platforms and tools that can be used across a wide array of grade levels and classrooms in ways that are adaptable to the different needs and strengths of each teacher to meet the different needs and strengths of each learner.
Just as we continue to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, we continue to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to using technology in your classroom. All of the hard work and professional learning that has been put in by teachers in the area of EdTech already – from 1:1 laptops to iPads in classrooms to Office 365 & new horizons for collaboration – can be leveraged in so many different ways to help all of our students learn. Combined with all of the experience and expertise our teachers possess in the areas of assessment, classroom practice, unit planning – along with a continued commitment to reflection and improvement – we are well positioned to journey along the path towards personalized learning. As reflected in the quote above, it can possibly be scary and maybe even uncomfortable for the teachers, but the students will undoubtedly rise above and beyond our expectations!

The Future, Office 365 and OneNote

L21 new compassI am often asked about future trends in technology. What will be the next great piece of software or hardware? I don’t know. I try to keep up with tech trends but I don’t know what Apple, Microsoft, Google or the myriad of startups have up their sleeves. I don’t know if we’ll be using Word, OneNote or iMovie ten years from now. I am confident that we will be using software and hardware tools that help us communicate, collaborate, innovate and work globally. In other words, we will be using tools that help us use L21 skills.
There are a lot of sites and software tools that are geared to L21 skills. Sometimes it feels that there are too many. I can’t keep up with them all. That’s why ISB is implementing Microsoft’s Office 365.
Office 365 is far from perfect but it gives teachers and students opportunities to work in connected and collaborative ways–ways that help us get our work done and give students the opportunities they need to build and practice working in this way.
Microsoft is making changes to Office 365 all the time. Today I’d like to highlight two useful features available in OneNote–OneNote Web Clipper and Send Emails to OneNote.
Before I talk about the new features let me say that if you haven’t given OneNote a try, I suggest you do. It provides a familiar notebook interface into which teachers and students can place text, photos, videos and more. I can search through my notebooks much faster than I can search through folders of files. Also, I can use it on my Mac, iPhone or iPad and everything syncs between my devices automatically. I can start something on my iPhone when the inspiration hits me and finish it up later when I get back to my Mac.
OneNote Web Clipper is a browser extension that allows users to clip webpages. The clippings are automatically added to the user’s OneNote notebook. The clipping includes a link back to the page from which it was clipped.
This has great potential for research projects. Students can quickly clip pages or parts of pages for later use. Obviously, we don’t want students to just copy and paste information into a document and call it a research project but for quickly and seamlessly gathering information, OneNote is great!
Personally I used OneNote to research my recent trip to Vietnam. I grabbed information on places to go and things to do. Because OneNote syncs to all my devices, when I got to Vietnam I had it where I needed it–on my phone!
Office Lens is another handy OneNote tool. It’s a smartphone app that syncs with OneNote. It’s like having a scanner in your pocket. Here’s how it works. You snap a photo of a document or notes on a whiteboard. Office Lens will crop, enhance and sync the image with your OneNote notebook. It’s available for iPhones, Android and Windows phones. Many of our older students have smartphones in their pockets. Office Lens can help them capture notes on a whiteboard and sync them into their OneNote notebooks.
Finally, Office 365 is changing all the time. If you’re keen to keep abreast of the changes to OneNote specifically, I suggest you follow the OneNote in Education blog.


arduino_unoFor quite a few years’ people have been talking about STEM. If you have not heard of it yet STEM stands for the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Then the A was added a few years ago to make it STEAM with the “A” being the Arts. There has been a lot of talk about how to make this work in the classroom as well as finding ways it can be integrated into the curriculum. For some teachers the hard part is finding a project, unit or material that has all those elements in a unit. You might do well to have two or three of the STEAM components touching on a project but not them all. The search to find that right project is daunting If you Google STEAM units you will will come up with many. Where to start you might ask? Well I am here to tell you that I have one solution. I have a little electronics board that might hold the key to a STEAM program that could be used not with one unit, project or PBL but one that might follow with a student from mid elementary school right up to high school.
What am I talking about is an electronics board called an Arduino. A silly name yes but an extremely powerful electronic device that can be used in an infinite number of projects. A basic Arduino board has 14 inputs and outputs that you can connect hundreds of things to it. Your choice of add-ons ranges from many different kinds of motors to move things like robots. you can also add sensors that can detect motion, lights, sound, or a button to name just a few of the many sensors you could choose from. As well you can connect your computer to an Arduino that will accept input from your computer to the Arduino and from the Arduino back to the computer. The simple Arduino can even connect to the internet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Allowing your control your Arduino with many portable devices. I can even control my Arduino from my computer without having to be in the same room with it.
But wait how do you get it to understand all of this? Built into the Arduino is a programming language that would do us all good to learn. You write the program on your computer and then send it to the Arduino to run. I know I said that even elementary students could build things using the Arduino and they can. The folks at Scratch have created easy to use block type programming that makes programming the Arduino simple and quick. Others have picked up on the block type programing language and now there is about 4 easy to use programing environments for young students to use.
The best part about an Arduino is the cost. A basic board can cost as little as 50 RMB and a kit with ten or so parts including sensors electronics parts wires and more.  This kit will get you going and the price is about 250 RMB. That is cheep enough that every student in your class could have one of there very own. As well that basic kit could get any willing teacher or team a start at looking at ways to build a new STEAM unit or using it to integrate into an existing unit.
The Arduino is all about programming, building circuits, learning about electronics, building the things that go with or around the Arduino and its components, sensors, motors and much more. That looks like all a great STEAM program needs I would say. Wait what about that A in STEAM how does it fit into this? Well believe it or not the Arduino got it start by and for artists. As a mater of fact when you write a program for the Arduino it is called a sketch. The are now whole programs in University teaching art students how to use the Arduino. The courses are called Physical Computing and artists all over the world are using them in amazing art shows. Look up Physical Computing and you will be amazing what this little board can do in the hands of a talented artist.
The Arduino can be made to control many different things. I myself have used them in my robotics projects in Grade 4 unit on systems. Besides that, I have made many other personal projects using sensors, LEDs, making noise, and telling me when my plants needed watering. I have used them in projects that interfaced with my iPad and Android Phone as well. The possibilities are endless where you could use an Arduino. I myself have just scratched the surface of the many projects available.  Some of the first personal 3D printers used an Arduino to control it.
Ok by now your thinking you might try this thing out but wait what about the common core standards or the new Science Standard. I will admit there is not much out there as of yet but I know you are a teacher that likes to be on the cutting edge and this is just the place for you. I am happy to sit down with teachers and talk where this mighty device will fit in. I am happy to tell you all I know about the many different ways an Arduino can be used in the classroom.
If this has perked your interest in STEAM integration Let’s Talk!

mBot-13Randy Stadham

Main Arduino web site
Different ways to program using Block code:
Blocky Code
Scratch for Arduino
Tutorials on YouTube

Bang for Blogs

Post by: Pim Arora
At ISB, all middle and high school students have WordPress blogs.  In the elementary school, upper elementary students also use WordPress, while younger students utilize private blogs as an online portfolio.  This format allows parents to see their child’s development over the course of the year.  The school places an emphasis on students using blogs creatively to showcase their learning. However, we also want to ensure that they are using these online tools safely. The ISB Publications Protocol outlines privacy policies and blogging expectations for both students and teachers.

In the middle school, blogs are a great way for students and teachers to connect. It can serve as the hub of the class.

Teachers can use a blog to provide clarification on assignments, as a place for students to submit work, as a way to communicate updates or reminders for parents and students, and as a place for students to peer review work. This Edudemic  article details additional ways teachers can use blogging in their classrooms. Just recently, a student in our 8th grade student tagged an author in her blog and the author responded to the student’s post. This was a great surprise to the class and a awesome example to the other students to get active on their blogs.

As students move into high school, they may want to use the blog to “brand” themselves or as a place to showcase their work.  Blogs can be a repository for many things: writing, art, music, and/or multimedia presentations.  Online portfolios like this can be helpful when applying to colleges or universities.  Access to a student’s blog allows admissions representatives to get a much more comprehensive view of the student. Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 14.17.00 After a student leaves ISB, he/she can migrate their work from the WordPress blog to a new platform to ensure ongoing access.

Blogs aren’t just for students. In addition to the ways that teachers can use blogs in the classroom, there are many other personal and professional ways to utilize blogging. Just as students can use a blog to showcase their work when applying to university, teachers can also use blogs when recruiting.  By uploading sample assignments, classroom videos and other artifacts, teachers are able to provide potential employers with a realistic view of their teaching style and expertise.  Blogging is also an easy way to connect with like-minded individuals or learn more about the latest innovations in your field. Finally, a personal blog is a super way for expats to document their adventures and share these experiences with far flung friends and family.
Some tips for blogging include:

  • Blog as yourself or take on a consistent character
  • Blog responsibly, this a live publication
  • Blog regularly
  • Share your blog on social media
  • Use correct grammar in your creative writing
  • Know your audience

References to popular student and teacher blogs:

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