SAM Labs Institute at ISB

August 2016

Rose and Ivelin from SAM Labs provided a successful two-day Institute at the International School of Brussels. I am happy to have had the opportunity to attend.

Aside, and relevant: Having spent only two days learning about SAM Labs last week, I just today had an amazing experience: I had accepted, for a neighbourhood friend’s son,  to read over one chapter of a University College London – Department of Computer Sciences –  MSc Information Security thesis,  “ A Privacy Enhancing Architecture for Secure Wearable Devices.” And you know what? The two days of exposure to talk about SAM Labs has given me a new sense of awareness about the language of computers that I did not have. So I read the thesis chapter I had committed to, with quite an element of (new) ease, in fact, and was able to focus on my objective: checking English usage.  I enjoyed it! I saw words that I knew I did not need to understand. Very nice.

Hey, a new word for us: new ease….. newease.   Contrary to  unease…..un  ease

Back to SAM Labs:

Rose encouraged us to apply some ideas to a curriculum unit we use. She provided these practical sections headings, to guide us: ACTIVITY, CONCEPT, VOCABULARY, APPLICATION AND CONSOLIDATION.

I chose to apply to:  Grade 7 SS CITIES unit. Prior to my unit choice, Rose had actually mentioned “Smart Cities” work as one of her past experiences with teaching and integrating SAMs.  I hope she comes back to ISB and works with our grade 7s one day!

As it turns out, using SAMs in a SMART CITIES context is about helping students and teachers to understand how all the apps already in play in many cities actually work, and providing students opportunities to explore new ideas: i.e How do they see themselves as  potentially able to solve problems cities are facing?

First, of course, they need to be aware of what “problems” exist. And it will help if they are aware that the word “problem” to one person, may not mean “problem” to another.

SMART CITIES and Integrating SAM Labs : Below are my notes taken during Institute  (N.B. These notes are OK, not great. But they make sense to me. And I will use them as thus when I show them to my students. And maybe someone will me help to find the line spacing command. Why does the text go weird when I use italics?) 

ACTIVITY -students design and build (ex. LEGO)  a smart city or smart neighbourhood

CONCEPT  -what is a smart city?

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants,water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

VOCABULARY    Smart homes  /  Smart streets  / Smart cities  /  Sustainable development /  Mobility  /  Waste management, recycling /  Air quality   /  Security  / etc.

1. Bins full  -alert authorities   –  Students make  props, such as bin  –  SAM: Proximity sensor inside lid   -when full=detected –  Output – light  Each light corresponding to a different bin

Detect fire in bin  -temperature sensor   – Same light above can be used, different color for bin, different colour for fire (heat)

2. Bike parking = how do all the apps work?    Bicycle rental availability    Brussels = “VillO”  VillO bikes to rent in Brussels

Not VillO:  -this does not exist at this time: where you can park safely, current availability – also, you consult an app  Students make parking units and bikes  –  Pressure sensor  -more weight or not  -more weight = not available  -or less weight = available   –  -when busy, i.e. bike parking spot available or not = light goes on, and email goes to system that integrates into the app.

SAM: -sensor, a comparator (values) greater than less than (less weight = available spot), or greater than = spot is taken, a light flashes etc.

3.  Cars   -Dissuasive Parking availability at city entrance zones  -GPS – shuttle bus availability, location, timing….

Students in their city plan have roadways, cars coming in, shuttle busses heading out of city center to city entrance parking lots, some bus stops

Driver coming in from  Namur, will decide whether or not to stop and use dissuasive parking lot

Bus has  SAM light in a door, door opens, light flashes sensor at the bus stops that are a five minute drive and that is 8 minute drive from the parking lot. Sensor recognised the light flash, sends an email to system. The system feeds the app.

4. Additional ideas, possible with SAM:

Public Security :  Mob action = need to alert authorities of this rapid sudden movement of crowd  -measuring footfall – pressure sensors

-and various security-related possibilities….

Smart homes and streets   -light sensors  -homes- heat sensors, turn on fans, AC, etc.


NOT APPLICABLE re SAMS, but good to bring up with kids…..

But how to move forward with these concepts???  What will students think of?

Air quality


-show along routs intensity as cars penetrate -ex. have lights flashing =less at city entrances, increasingly more intense….. Etc.

Correct recycling

-if correct waste goes in bin, sensor reacts positively

-if incorrect waste goes in bin, IFTTT (if this then that) sensor responds negatively + Instagram sent with info re. how to recycle


On a personal note…. I had acquired a SAM lab “Pro” kit recently (2nd generation). Purchased at a fund-raiser for school. I happily popped it in the mail this week. It is gone to Ottawa, to a 21-year-old student, Geemakun. He’s a (Cree) First Nations citizen from Moosonee, Ontario and is studying Mobile Applications at Algonquin College. I hope Geemakun will have a lot of fun with the kit. Rose and Ivelin from SAM Labs are informed and Rose said for sure that they’d love to hear from Geemakun.  I hope something happens. Geemakun is a strong believer that Canada’s First Nations children would benefit from more  computer science education, and in particular coding. I gather this means that First Nations populations in Canada, on the whole, are not on the stronger side of the digital divide. From the little I know about the future, I do realise that the gap will get greater and those on the weaker side stand to plunge. This is frightening. 

I have never been too tech savvy but I have been wide-eyed aware for a long time that the “tech privileged” have a moral obligation to contribute to the less tech privileged populations and geographic areas. This might be a good (blog) time to share a professional experience connected to technology and lessening the digital divide. The International School of Brussels was one of four partners  involved with The Kinshasa Technology Project (2003-2007) , also known as Projet Limete, and as Projet Limete-Université Cardinal Malula.

Along with Mr. Anastase NZEZA BILAKILA, I was co-founder of the original project. The idea was conceived at my neighbours’ house in the Ixelles commune of Brussels, where Mr. Nzeza was staying during a sabbatical leave from Université Cardinal Malula, in the fall of 2002. It is a long, successful story, but the video, dated 2005, sums it up rather nicely in 5 minutes (credits to MJ Farris):

5-minute video on The Kinshasa Technology Project  (detailed hard copy archives available at the commune of Watermael-Boistfort)



Determining Website Credibility and also info on Open Source images

Thank you to Global Digital Citizen team!

This is a great source to help with teaching students about  effectively  using web resources. The word effectively, for me, means ethically too. They go together (effective + ethical).

We teachers really, really have a moral / professional responsibility to ensure time is provided for students to learn the skills needed for 21st-Century research and reporting.

Global Digital Citizen source from Twitter

rubric website credibility

Go further, see the presentation  This is  THIS LOOKS GREAT!!

BIBLIOGRAPHY WORK: fyi, where I work, we use Noodle Tools (annual subscription). I will surely return to this post at a later date!

ALSO, from the same group: highly useful information about Open source images  Open source images_Global Digital Citizen


How to proceed in order to enter a comfort zone re. the terms 21st-Century Learning, or 21st-Century Classroom?

Read about it, perhaps. Here are a few reference documents.

But first, I add here my Twitter feed: My Twitter feed  I keep thinking I am going to go back and review, take notes, research, follow up re. my twitter feed, but in fact, I keep adding to the feed. It is good though, I think. All good.

1. Technology in the 21st-century Classroom: Ontario Public School Board Association discussion paper

This looks like a good starting point. For anyone. I have not yet read it.

(And now, 29 August, Tim Robinson -Ontario – added a tweet + source so relevant: Ont. Ministry of Ed. 21st century competencies

2.The 21st-Century Classroom, by Gabriel RSHAID

In got this book from my boss’ office, have read it, and am now pasting the link to my Evernote notes that I made this summer: 

I plan to make a summary document of the above notes. I’ll share with colleagues and ?  I’ll also show students so they see I am serious about note-taking and summary writing skills (and moving forward with 1st-century skills!)

3.  OPEN  How we’ll work, live and learn in the future by David Price.

I read it this summer but have not taken notes. Also got from my boss’ office.

4. Reinventing Writing The 9 tools that are changing writing, teaching, and learning forever, by Vicki Davis

I bought this myself and have been reading this throughout the summer. Very practical. I can keep up pretty good, but it frequently jumps ahead of me and I have a hard time following, but this only confirms I am behind.

I follow Vicki Davis. She seems very kind, generous and concerned.

Today is 28 August and I am back on htis post form a couple weeks ago. And look, here, just this week she shared this pdf handout -she really is a great gal  179-Fantastic-Tools-forSchools-Handout

5. A Teacher’s Guide to Tech 2016, by Jennifer Gonzalez

This is a digital binder. I asked, and our library ordered it and several copies were made available to colleagues I work closely with. I have not yet looked at it, but still have some time before summer’s end. I follow Jennifer Gonzalez too (A Cult of Pedagogy). I imagine I will be able to highlight, make notes. I hope so. Like Vicki Davis’ book, this is a practical resource. I cannot add it here as although digital, and i think I cna actually just upload it now, it was  not free, so I won’t.  you can buy it

6. Gamify Your Classroom, A Field Guide To Game-Based learning, by Matthew Farber   book ordering details

Today is 28 August and this book just arrived a few days ago bit i have not had  a chance to look at it. It was ordered via Amazon and belongs to me. I want to know about gamification, to gamify… Here’s a couple useful clarifications:

gamification vs game-based learning

playability vs. gamification

7. And one gets winfalls. This slide presentation is amazing. 4 teachers have shared it.  Free for the using. Grade 7 Social Studies teachers. Chromebooks, Technology, and Interdisciplinary Practices in the Social Studies Classroom  These generous teachers are from  Farnsworth Middle School (NY)  THANK YOU!


What does this mean: Web 2.0 ?

So now I begin to write about my experience with 21st-century skills. My learning about tech, as a teacher, for teaching.

For years I have done a not-too-bad job getting my students to move forward, to incorporate new tech skills. I have worked closely with colleagues who are specialists. To ensure my students were getting good training.

And now I want to learn more, for myself, as a  teacher and citizen.


I do not think anyone can assume that “Web 2.0”  makes sense to all teachers, I mean even just those 3 letters and 2 numbers put together.

I found a  good definition and lots more information here:

The definition provided is good, I think, provided by® :

“Web 2.0 is the current state of online technology as it compares to the early days of the Web, characterized by greater user interactivity and collaboration, more pervasive network connectivity and enhanced communication channels.”



I joined classroom 2.0  Classroom 2.0 was started in March of 2007 by Steve Hargadon.  Over 84,000 members. Web 2.0, Social Media, and Participative Technologies in the classroom  I get notifications, invitations to online events. I have not taken advantage of much to date.



My experience with interdisciplinary education

Well, it is now a few months later. It is July, 2016.

I have been thinking….. no one at our MS has given me a mandate to explore interdisciplinary opportunities within the present school. I have been working there these 26 years… I have expressed, over the years, and to various colleagues, my interest in working in interdisciplinary…  our boss has made it clear that he thinks teachers working together in any way possible is great. I have had loads of super experiences working closely with colleagues. Building curriculum, trying out new ideas…In my present role as grade 7 and grade 9 EAP Social Studies teacher, I get to work closely with SS colleagues.

So I have decided to move on and not use this blog to focus on interdisciplinary work. But to move the shift to what it is that unites us all, regardless of what subject we teach, or what learning we accompany, or guide….and that would be technology in education. And 21st century learning is all about tech, but also all about interdisciplinary work, service learning, project based learning…. it all fits together. 

I want to now use this blog to write about my own tech learning.

But before doing so, I want to share here and now one example of interdisciplinary + service learning work done with several colleagues a few years back. It is MS-ECC-ES collaboration. Here’s a (private) YouTube video link. Hope it works! These are my best times, when I am working with other colleagues, as equals, and when we can get students together from different divisions, and when there’s service learning integrated seamlessly….

And that will do for today.


What is in a word?

I have always been interested in, and during my teaching career have had opportunities to actively engage in cross-curricular / interdisciplinary curriculum work / teaching.

Having just returned from a great conference called Learning2, where I saw that the above approach to education is indeed real in many middle schools, I thought, well, now is perhaps time to delve deeper into this approach, starting with getting myself more informed and updated!

Who knows, maybe I could actually be of service to my school in the coming years, and maybe I could even return to university for a Master’s with a focus, a mission to serve my school (which has given me so much these past 26 years!)

I know my colleagues really like the concept (interdisciplinary…) and we are aware of examples where the various courses offered in our MS have logical links that could be so seamless. We could start by just a few calendar/planning shifts for next year (2016-17), easy as pie.

But first, what are the most relevant word(s) to use? Why are there so many Twitter hashtags (#crosscurricular learning, #cross-curricular teaching, #interdisciplinary teaching, #interdisciplinary learning) ? I got the support below from as someone had asked basically the same question in 2009 (without the reference to hashtag) and here’s a fine answer:

Language Forum

They are similar. The curriculum is the course of study (series of classes) for a particular degree, and the discipline is the field of study (biology, chemistry, English literature, etc.). They are synonymous when referring to education, but interdisciplinary can also be used in areas other than education — interdisciplinary approach, interdisciplinary team, etc.

So I think I’ll just go with Interdisciplinary Education, as that came up nicely for a WordPress blog title. But….. a quick Twitter search #interdisciplinary education seems to be bringing me to tweets relating to higher education. Mmmm…..
(Google search) Definition. Interdisciplinary Education – An educational approach in which two or more disciplines collaborate in the learning process with the goal of fostering interprofessional interactions that enhance the practice of each discipline.
The search gives me this link (a hefty bit of info about interdisciplinary education) from Carleton College:
And there’s so many more links – I’ll return to these:
How come everything I am finding seems to be so old?
So maybe I should be considering the wording: INTEGRATED CURRICULUM ??
More soon, I have my work set out for me.