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.




iPads-Back to the Future


CIS is beginning its 7th school year of learning with iPads. Only this year, did we realize that we didn’t have a technology vision.  We have been evolving constantly- moving from DropBox to Google Drive to iTunes U.  We have been tethered to our projector and then India got Apple TVs.  We were assured that certain online service would come onto iPads sooner than they did.  We have had 2 years of MAP testing on iPads. We are beginning our 4th year of all grade 6-12 teachers building iTunes U courses for all subjects. iTunes U replaces our plan books and unit plans.

We even got rid of all the Windows desktops from all teachers’ classrooms and replaced them with Mac Minis.  We kept learning and kept adapting.  We created an iPad User Agreement.  We host iPad Bootcamps. We studied the SAMR model, then TPACK, and then the decided to concentrate on “The 4Cs”.

This year we begin with a re-boot.  We are going to make sure that all the students that have jumped on the CIS iPad train are ready to create efficiently, to annotate work appropriately, to enhance the teaching and learning experience, and most of all, to be excited by the easy use of the iPad in helping our students learn. We have decided that the best way to do this is to differentiate our Technology Workshops to allow experienced iPad users to develop ideas differently than those who have used them for teaching for a shorter period of time.

CIS’s Technology Vision 

Canadian International School strives to prepare students to act with INTEGRITY, CARE, and RESPECT in an increasingly digital world. Our students will be able to use technology to INSPIRE  others and to create a JOY of learning and sharing with our community.

Our technology vision support CIS’s vision and mission. It incorporates our core values of Joy, (Joy of connecting with our school, our community and the world around us) and Inspiration (Inspiring to be the change),  Integrity (Integrity in academics, relationships, and in decision making), Caring (Act with empathy and kindness towards each other and the changing World around us), and Respect (Respect for individuality, community, diversity, and for our environment).

Our Digital Citizenship Vision

Canadian International School strives to prepare students for an ever-changing global community by developing lifelong skills including digital citizenship. At CIS we encourage our students from K-12 to safely, ethically and consciously explore, create and communicate in a 1:1 environment so that every student at CIS will become good decision makers and consider their digital footprint from a personal and community perspective.  As knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens our students will be able to harness the learning potential of an increasingly connected world and lead happy and successful lives.

Many CIS teachers are Common Sense Media Educators and PK-12 students do experience the complete curriculum throughout their learning experience at CIS.

These vision statements drive decision making at CIS.  

We are lucky. Our students are lucky.

Please check out this video created last year during Contextual Learning on Technology Day.

I can’t wait to see the students back at Day 1 on Friday.


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:

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?

Tech Gurus at CISB- next step, get students involved…

Tech Gurus is a club or an extra-curricular time, called ECA at Canadian International SchoolBangalore.
A student group that meets for 45 minutes per week.  Students sign up once per term and must attend for 11 weeks, and hopefully the entire year.

Five brave and adventurous high school students signed up for this club.  They didn’t really know what it was for or about. Two hope to get CAS (community, action, service) time for these sessions to aid them in completing their IB diploma.

My goal for this group:  I would like these students to facilitate the “out of the box” sessions for students next year.  I would like them to be able to help teachers connect their iPads to their projectors and to help them send a print job to the c

ECA- first day with ipad -excitement!!

orrect printer.  I would like this group or some of its members to attend or become involved in the Flatclassroom project.

Our first meetings:  We talked about my big ideas for the club and what they saw as important for this club.  Excitement built when I told them that they would be using my iPad to learn and to guide others with.  They agreed to start a wiki.  Two students started a tumblr and a wikispace.  Both are shell pages only at the moment, but I do hope to see it used a  place to share ideas and to document their experiences.

A great suggestions was made at this first meeting.  Could a Payment plan for iPad Purchase start soon, so that students and their family could start paying for the iPad now in installments?

In the past 5 weeks, we have attended one teaching teachers session- the “out of the box” session for teachers, they have interviewed two different campus visitors. They have documented Club time using video and pictures using the iPad.  They have been exploring Comiclife and creating Tech Guru advertisements.  They have been rallying and recruiting members for this club.

Tech Gurus- 1st day with an iPad

Jaideep has decided to document all CIS events and create a term summary video for each term this year.

Next steps: Create a student survey for iPad use. Develop our wiki. Look into virtual participation at ASB Unplugged 2012!

The iPad Plan-first post since August! UGH!

iPad photos- Day 1

The Plan

  • Give teachers and CIS infrastructure a one year headstart in learning and planning, so that in August 2012, approximately 150 students will arrive with their iPads in hand, ready to learn.
  • Order 40 iPads and Smart Covers, add wifi structure to the entire secondary school. Make sure bandwidth is enough to support this learning environment.
  • Have teacher’s personalize their iPads and be in charge of their care and updating. Have teacher’s sign a iPad contract. Have our IT department help with registering, updating, and facilitating purchasing from Bangalore-based Apple product distributors.
  • Our goal is to have at least 10 hours of iPad PD in this year, to help teachers gain confidence in using this tool in their classroom.
  •  iPads do not require a lot of cords and wires and servers. iPads charged the night before will last throughout a whole day of learning. Many iPad features work without internet connection required. At CIS, electrical outages and Airtel network downs occur regularly. iPads may be personalized, they are portable, they are fun.
  • Engaged and excited teachers create enthusiastic learners. Each teacher will sign up for their own Apple ID and decide on once place to sync their device. The choice is theirs:- a home computer with iTunes installed or a school computer (in the staffroom). Teachers will be responsible for the loading and installation of apps and updates. They will be encouraged to personalize their iPads.
  • The teachers are modelling what we will expect from the students next year. They will feel the energy and the frustration of learning a new skill. CIS will learn and troubleshoot along the way, creating a strong student rollout plan for August 2012.