Contextual Learning- the fifth year

Students in Middle School have their first CL ( Contextual Learning) Day of the year tomorrow.

Contextual Learning is a project-based educational program that uses direct experiences to teach early adolescents about themselves and their place in the world.

Tomorrow’s  theme is team-building.  The Grade 6 students will have their first exposure day and learn about the ongoing projects that CIS Middle School students are involved in on campus.  The Grade 7 & 8 teams will be off campus hiking and team building near Nandi Hills.  India Hikes will lead the Grade 8 group to challenge themselves trekking for the day.  Grade 7 will experience Discovery Village taking part in Zorbing, High Ropes, Ziplining, and other challenge activities.


Grade 7 On Site Students climb at Rain Forest Retreat in June 2017.


Contextual Learning is a CIS experiential learning experience initiated, developed, and implemented by Nannette Bertschy that begins with five school days per year. These are the planning and preparation days.  Students learn and experience a non-traditional classroom setting.  Each day has a theme.  Many have excursions out into Bangalore or guests coming to share on campus.  There are no subject classes on Contextual Learning days.  There are no formal assessments.  Students grade themselves according to a rubric.  Teachers provide formative feedback through the day and year.  Each student has different challenges and different strengths.  Contextual Learning gives students and teachers time to learn about each other and their community.


The Discovery Portion happens for 3 weeks, and the last week of the school year is our Reflection week culminating in a “Share Day”.

There is a theme for each year and teachers use the PBL model to plan projects that engage and excite our students.

6th GRADE                     SELF AWARENESS
Self-awareness is not brought through a routine but through change. It is when faced with the unknown that the CL students learn a bit more about who they truly are.

Understanding develops when we truly appreciate another’s point of view. This deep immersion in a larger community broadens the students’ capacity for acceptance and shows the intertwined relationship between family, culture, religion and government.

Compassion requires empathy, and empathy is best established by making connections. These links are initiated by practical projects that help other people, animals, and our planet.

Student choice is an important part of Contextual Learning. During the year, the students are presented with choices and sign-up for projects that fit their own interests. Students independently explore their interests, sustain curiosity and creatively express understanding. During the Discovery program, students (and their families) choose to attend an On Campus or an On Site program. The On Site programme is a week of travel throughout Southern India for Grade 6 and 3 weeks of experiential learning for Grade 7 & 8.  Grade 7 students remain in South India, while Grade 8 students travel to Northern India.


Grade 7 On Campus Students experience an Escape Room and then create their own Break Out Room in May 2017.

During Contextual Learning, students blend traditional reflections and journaling on pen and paper with blogging, reporting, documenting, and film making.  Student leaders are developed and organizational skills are honed.  Students reflect on their essential questions and attempt to connect their experience to their place in our community. Contextual Learning provides a lot of service learning projects and allows students to work with the community to learn from each other.


Along with team building, tomorrow’s ongoing projects exploration with the Grade 6 students includes  The Organic Garden, Composting, Bees, and Solar Energy.  Most of these are projects have been started by the CL students in past years, and Middle School students will continue to care and develop these ongoing projects again this year.

Check out our Contextual Learning blog updated regularly by the students.  Do students at your school participate in “Parachute”, “FedEx”, “Off-timetable”, “Week without Walls”, and/or experiential learning?   Is learning initiated before and extended after the event?  How is planning conducted?

Over the course of this year, I will attempt to document our CL journey on this blog. Please do share your thoughts.




TechConX Feb 2017

CIS invites you to TechConX on Febrary 23 and 24th in Bangalore.  We have expanded the Technology Conference to include a Pre- Conference  of learning and classroom visits.

Please save the date and register on Dec 5th.

TechConX SAVE the DATE.jpg

What does the future look like?

On September 23rd, I was invited to speak to about 200 Educational Leaders by Edutech Review at their one day conference in Bangalore.  It was a great please to share my ideas with so many passionate school leaders from across India.

Please take a a look at the slides below.  By reviewing a lot of  Future Work/Job Skills research, I tried to connect education with preparation for the future.  I do believe that Problem Based Learning, when done well is absolutely the strongest learning experience that can prepare students can have as they move from school to working in the “real” world.

Do you agree with this look at the future?



Canadian International School(CIS) teachers are getting ready to host classroom visits and to lead workshops on Feb 15th.  CIS boasts 3 Apple Distinguished Educators and all 3 will be leading workshops.  We have a day planned that includes something for everyone.  We are even adding an implementation and leadership strand lead by CIS administrators.  While this TechConx will focus on iPads in the classroom, there will also be many web-based technology ideas shared.

There will be two hours of classroom visits, 3 workshops, and a keynote to end the day.

Here is the link to our workshop:

#cistechconx: Please complete this survey.

After spending a day with @E_Sheninger last Friday,  I vow to blog more.

After spending a day work shopping with colleagues about digital leadership, #digilead, we decided that in our fifth year of one to one learning with iPads, CIS is ready to host and share our best practices and ideas.

We would like to host a one or two day workshop at Canadian International School Bangalore in early 2016.  To help us gauge interest and to help us plan, we ask that you complete the following survey.

Why should you attend this workshop?
Teachers have been guiding learning with iPads for 5 years in our secondary school.
Secondary students have been aided by 1:1 iPad learning for 4 years.
Elementary teachers have been using iPads for 4 years and have had iPads available on a sign out basis too.
Our Elementary tech suite opened in August 2015 with iPads and tinker equipment.
This workshop is for teachers and all sessions will be lead by teachers.
All secondary courses are planned and taught using iTunesU- the free platform that provides a clear, simple to use i interface for pedagogical planning.

Please come learn with us at CIS.  Please share this survey with other schools in India.

Side note:
Being happy is the key to becoming more successful!  I recommend reading this blog post.

High School Students give their feedback on their second year of learning in a 1:1 iPad Environment

Approximately half of  CIS’s IGCSE and IB Diploma students completed the iPad survey this year.

Opinions vary widely amongst this group.  Parental interaction with this group and their iPad is definitely low.

Most students happily use the iPads daily, but some “wish” to BYOlaptop instead.   This is a wish which will not be possible to grant as we are more than likely moving to iTunesU next year.  Many have already started to created their iTunesU courses.  In August, CIS will have a few more public iTunesU courses for all to access and use.  At present, we are the first school in India to be publically providing iTunesU courses.  That number is sure to grow, as India got approved for iTunesU only in February 2014.

Most of these students are using iPad2 16GB models with wifi, as that was the recommended purchase when we began the program for students in August 2012.  They have been learning with iPads for 1.5 years.

Do you have data from your school and its use of technology?  Are you experiencing reluctance from IB students to see the value in an iPad?  I would love to hear from you…

Thanks to Survey Monkey for making this data easily to present.

Middle School Students provide feedback on learning in an 1:1 iPad environment

With almost 100 students, students in CIS’s middle school have been learning with iPads for 1 year only. Their iPad journey began in August 2013, with all students and a parent/guardian attending a compulsory iPad BootCamp.

Here is what they have to say after approximately 6 months of using the iPads in their classrooms.

iPads are CIS are student-owned. Each student and their family signs an iPad user agreement. 

How do they results compare to your school or your learning environment?

How is your school collecting data on iPad pilots and implementations?

Would love to hear from you…

Teaching with iPads- our 3rd year

As we began, our 3rd year of 1:1 Learning with iPads at CIS, Shwa and I, with complete support of the administration structure, created this document as a guideline for documenting iPad use, as a reflection tool, and as a Rubric for refining the way iPads are being used in our secondary school.

Three Steps are outlined.
Add iPad integration to all Course Outlines.
Collaborating and presenting SAMR as a department.
Create a SAMR video reflection of teaching with iPads in your classroom.

All steps will be completed by the end of the month. I can’t wait to see the amazing videos that CIS teachers create. How do you monitor, reflect, and assess 1:1 effectiveness at your school?

SAMR Video- Reflections of a 1:1 iPad Chemistry Classroom

Melanie Kells: SAMR in the Chemistry Classroom at CIS from Melanie Kells on Vimeo.

This is a very accurate reflection on how the iPad is used in Grade 9 IGCSE Chemistry at Canadian International School Bangalore.
This video was created using an iPad and an iPhone. It was edited in iMovie. The Garageband jingle was created by my son, Spenser Kells.