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A Learning Visit to Academia Cotopaxi, Ecuador


I was thrilled to have been invited to visit and work with teachers, administrators and parents at Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador.


“Learn in Community” is a motto that every visitor to the school “feels” immediately. Not only is the “slogan” used as a school wide hashtag, it is visible on campus, parents know about it and above all it is not only a saying, but you can see and feel that learning is NOT reserved around student learning at Academia Cotopaxi alone. Equal thought is given and action taken to support teacher learning, administrator learning AND parent learning.


I worked with about 25 educators around the topic of learning how to learn, being the lead learner in our classrooms and schools and how digital portfolios could be the glue to hold all initiatives, community outreach and communication, innovations, metacognition, documenting thinking, learning, reflection and growth together.

Again, “learn in community” was apparent by not only the visibility of the head of school and the division principals at the learning events, but their ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT and PARTICIPATION. Academia Cotopaxi models their mantra of “learn in community” every step of the way. When an outside consultant is brought in, they do not only introduce them to their faculty and then are off, but they are right beside their teachers learning, reflecting and sharing.


Educators were encouraged to share their notes, thoughts, connections, responses or resources via a backchannel (created on TodaysMeet) or the Twitter Hashtag #learnincommunity

The main goal of these “exercises” was for us to

  1. EXPERIENCE the power of collaboration and documentation

  2. gain exposure, practice and confidence to use a variety of tools that support collaborative, amplified and connected learning

  3. be aware of the skills needed to use these tools FOR and AS learning

  4. compare the benefits of discussing and sharing face to face versus documenting and putting our thought, ideas and reflection in digital form in order to preserve, curate, add multiple perspectives, and make them shareable.

  5. realize the potential of crowdsourcing for note taking, resources, perspectives, etc.

Below you will see screenshots of the backchannel as well as comments left on various blog posts as part of an exercise during the workshop. The benefits of taking the time to write down your thoughts, respond to questions, taking notes together with others and having a lasting archive are evident, but what else is to be gained from the the shift from isolated note taking and in-our-own-head reflections to a collaborative, transparent, shared backchannel or public blog?

From my perspective of the presenter/workshop facilitator, the following was gained:

  1. realization of possible discrepancy and misunderstanding of what I intended to say and share to what was heard and interpreted

  2. ability to learn about individual participants’ interests (and share these interests with other participants) without having to ask them one by one nor make them say it out loud

  3. ability to follow up with resources for topics with specific individuals

  4. understanding of connections participants made to material/topic/ideas I shared

  5. benefit of additional resources (links) participants shared

  6. questions to extend understanding and learning goals

  7. passive/asynchronous participation in a secondary conversation happening in the backchannel

  8. individual take-aways from participants

  9. additional perspectives

  10. time to reflect, revisit and unpack individual contributions (or non-participation)



Participants had time to browse Langwitches blog posts under the category of “Blogging” and were asked to choose a title, read the chosen post, then comment on the blog post (directly on the blog or in the backchannel). The activity gave educators not only the opportunity to read about blogging as a pedagogical tool, but they were also asked to be aware of their own thinking and learning paths as they wrote down and shared their thoughts on a digital platform.

Hello Silvia, Thanks for your presentation today. This will add to my communication and feedback with my students and parents. “Record keeping/documentation and the paper portfolios” will no longer be used in my classroom. Hopefully the learning that happens in my subject will now be permanently available to the student not in a book they return at the end of the year.
About three years ago, I explored the Reggio approach through some reading and online work. As much as I was interested in it, I left it at the “reading” level, with very little processing and reflection. The result? I wasn’t really able to bring it to practice in my PK classroom. Luckily, I found an opportunity to visit and experience a Reggio-inspired classroom myself and have a more meaningful understanding of the relationship between play, imagination, creativity, environment, provocations, communication and time. Lots have happened in my classroom in the last two years, and lots to document. I am attempting to use more meaningful ways for students, an not only me, to communicate the growth and discoveries that are taking place. I have noticed that taking the time to reflect on the process behind the product and, then write about it, adds immense value to the work that is displayed and shared, and then, it’s not just a nice wall, there’s actually a world behind it.
This is definitely a strong aspect to consider when blogging, posting in social media or more. I know that I have 2 seconds to engage a reader in FB and if they skip my post, I will not be in their feed-stream next time. Then, communication is off, so posting is useless. My thinking here is that we need to know our audience (students, parents, or any other target) to know what engages them. So FEEDBACK and INTERACTION are determining quality in a blog?…
As someone who took a hiatus from teaching to start a sustainability company , I find your imperative of seeing blogging as core to teaching rather than a “bolt on” solution very similar to discussions about sustainable engineering and design concepts throughout my time in private business. More pertinently, I grew convinced that sustainable considerations in design were so vital that one day the word itself would grow out of fashion. In other words, sound engineering would be by definition sustainable, and the word itself would become redundant. Perhaps blogging will travel the same road in our perception of what authentic teaching is.

Justin on Truly Global?

I think this is a really good conversation to have. The more I delve into the concept of “connected education” the more I get excited about the possibilities. However, that being said, even in that image I construct in my mind, I am thinking of conversation and collaboration opportunities in English. I suppose that’s my own fault for imagining a world where land or distance boundaries aren’t an issue, but language isn’t even something I’m considering when I imagine implementation. I can see now how collaboration via text translators could be made possible but I am left with the question of initial conversation. It is one thing to post a product and have global contributors respond, edit, and improve. However it’s another thing entirely to collaborate and create in real time WITH other people. That’s true collaboration. In that sense and with that scope, how do we cross the language barrier to establish these relationships if language is still an obstacle? Where do we start? Or am I just getting ahead of myself?

Andrea on Truly Global?

I recently was asked to do a workshop on integrating technology in the classroom here in Quito, Ecuador. As I was preparing for this workshop, I realized how much there was out there for me to share… in English! And when I was looking for the same information in Spanish, it was either brief or outdated. I was wondering about how much information was out there in other languages that we didn’t know about because it wasn’t in English. Who is willing to help out with translating information so we can have a GLOBAL perspective and GLOBAL ideas on how to change education.

Below see the slidedeck that was shared during the Digital Portfolio presentation. What are the added benefits when a presenter, speaker or teacher openly shares their materials, resouces and slidedecks?

The afternoon was spent preparing for a Maker Faire for students and parents and for the following parent presentation workshop in the early evening.


One of Academia Cotopaxi’s priority is parent involvement and education. The school realizes the importance of not leaving parents behind, as the teachers and students are looking to support, strengthen, and continue to develop “now literacies and skills“. Again, “learn in community” includes parents to become partners in understanding the paradigm shift in education that requires all of us to learn, unlearn and relearn many of our concepts and notions surrounding education.

Madeleine Maceda Heide, the head of school, was there to support her parents to engage, collaborate and share their own understanding and learning with the community.


Before the official beginning o the Maker Faire, we asked parents to think about their understanding of what learning looked like. We asked them to LOOK for learning, CAPTURE learning with an image, then get a QUOTE from a student or another parent about their learning, ADD that quote to the image and then share that image with us. (For more images contributed by parents, take a look at the video shared below)



Although the task seemed to be simple, it is worth the time and effort to develop a common understanding around the concept of making thinking and learning visible. In the age of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms, which are developing the culture of taking images/videos, adding words and sharing, we need to focus on thinking and learning versus focusing on the visible in education.

From the Maker Faire, we moved on to the parent presentation and workshop. Below is the slidedeck, I shared with parents to point out the urgency of the changes that are affecting all of our lives and require schools, educators, parents and students to take more than baby steps.

Again, administrators and parents were learning right along side of each other.


I invited all participants to attempt to complete challenges to test their “now literacies” and skills. All tried to collect as many stars as possible by completing up to 11 challenges of various skill levels and literacies.

Take a Look Around.001
Take a Look Around.002

After reflecting and sharing with others about their experiences of solving the challenges, one more activity awaited participants before the evening was over. They could choose from three different exit tickets:

  1. Post-It Notes On a post-it note, not using more than 140 characters: How has learning changed? How does teaching have to adapt?

  2. 30 second video Record a video with your cell phone, completing the following sentence:I used to learn in school…nowmy child has to learn…

  3. 1 Word Write on a piece of paper 1 Words where YOU have experienced change in the area of education. Take a selfie, showing that 1 word to the camera.

Take a Look Around.006


Take a moment to watch the video below, a collection of parents’ perspective and take-aways from an evening of learning in community.

More learning happened during informal, face2face conversations, during other moments and at shared meal times. For many educators these learning conversations happen exactly the same way… in hallways when one passes by…in the lunch room… these conversations are rich and meaningful, but possibly become fleeting moments, when one does not take the time to write it down, reflect on it and amplify the learning by re-sharing it with other colleagues.


Kyle Heide, after many informal conversations during my visit at Academia Cotopaxi, was able to summarize and express his perspective of what he heard (Thank you Kyle for making your thoughts visible and shareable!)


Another tool for documenting, archiving and making thoughts and learning visible around an event, a visit or a moment in time when participants contribute and share via Social Media is Storify, Reasons you might want to use such a platform, could be:

  1. curation purposes

  2. selection

  3. organization

  4. archive

  5. presentation

  6. display

Thank you Academia Cotopaxi and its learners for two very rich days of learning together! I hope that this reflection, not only benefited me as I was able to re-live our conversations at a deeper level, make connections beyond that particular synchronous moment in time and make it visible and shareable to others.

I challenge YOU, the reader of this post (hopefully you made it to the end of it), to be aware of your own thinking and SHARE your thoughts (in the comment section) of the benefit of documentation, organization, archiving of learning occurred to re-visit, reflect and connect your own thinking and learning.


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