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Brian Hamm

ASFMLearns Bio Photo Template (23).png

Edmonton, Canada

Live Curious, Go Beyond Technology as Tools

I believe that every student can be engaged in an educational experience that allows them to live curiously and go beyond as they discover their own “Moonshots”. I'm motivated to work with educators to leverage technology, not simply as a way to digitize the educational experience for students, but to redefine it.

My true passion focuses on collaborative purposeful projects that impact and empower students and teachers to make a difference in their communities. I also agree with the common view that tech integration is a journey rather than a destination.

Since I first played Oregon Trail on my school’s Commodore 64 I have been passionate about technology, and now I navigate my own trail as a teacher, a traveller, a husband, a father to two wonderful little up-and-comers, a Manchester United fanatic, and an Educator at heart.

Areas of expertise: Google Apps for Education, Blended Learning, Learning Management Systems,  

                                Design Thinking


                 Twitter: @Hamm_Ed

Feedback Beyond Likes

posted Nov 11, 2016, 12:25 PM by Brian Hamm   [ updated Nov 11, 2016, 12:28 PM ]

We all like “Likes”, and social media does little to discourage this shallow form of feedback, but when applied to the feedback in an educational context, it has little value while developing meaningful representations of learning. In this article we are going introduce you to five formats for feedback which you and your students can use to move beyond “Likes”. 

“P.Q.P”: Praise, Question, Polish. Advise your students to give peer feedback with structure, to encourage further discussion and project development over time. This also gives educators a method of evaluation of feedback beyond participation. 

2. Specific and Kind: This model works well while developing representations of learning, projects, with a specific outcome in mind. For example, in the Austin’s Butterfly video, students were asked to draw an animal of their choice which historically they would illustrate and turn in for grading with little or no feedback. It is amazing to see that by allowing multiple drafts, giving specific feedback which is kind, students are more willing to try again and their representations of learning increase in quality dramatically. 

3. User Focused Feedback:
When we leverage the Design Process for creativity or product development, our feedback needs to focus on the experience of the user, not the rubric. Now this can be difficult for students and teachers to fully comprehend, but failure to do so can negatively impact what could be a meaningful project. During the Discovery Phase (Research), it is critical to tease out drivers and constraints which will purposefully guide the development of your iteration and prototyping phase. While developing these ideas and prototypes, it is essential to tie the evaluation and evolution of them directly back to the drivers and constraints. For example, while redesigning the ice cream scoop with IDEO, Zyliss discovered that essential element to enhancing the ice cream eating experience was the “likability” of the Ice Cream Scoop. Thus, “likability” became the driver for design which all prototypes were evaluated against. Each time a user experienced the new ice cream scoop, they would be asked to rank, the likability of the utensil. This would drive the next prototype, and the next, and so on and so on for 100+ prototypes prior to the launch of the product. This is how we encourage creativity, by offering multiple iterations, attempts in learning, which are directly related to a user's needs and experience. This encourages students to build prototypes to learn from, listen for meaning, and build empathy. 

4. One Word Feedback: For the most part, it’s harder for us to summarize how we feel or what we think in one word than it is to talk about it for 10 minutes. If you want to get to the essence of how a group or person feels about an experience, ask them to describe it in one word. For example, when we redesign learning spaces we ask users to “describe in one word” how walking into the classroom makes them feel. We then take them through the Discovery phase to tease out the emotions which are essential for creativity and learning, then design prototypes to enhance these drivers which we will evaluate to. We find that when we just asked how the experience makes them feel, we don’t get feedback directly connected to the driver we are seeking feedback on, and the user tends to get off track. We find One Word Feedback offers quick, useful, direct feedback, which quickly driver iterations to where they need to go, creating an inspiring learning experience. 

5. Democratic Feedback: Depending on the user experience being developed, sometimes all you need is likes, views, and comments to move a prototype forward. Believe it or not, your students understand this. This is how social media and many of the video games they play work. Roblox is an extreme example, a MMOG (Massive multiplayer online game) with over 4.5 million active users which is impressive, but what really makes this platform worthy of reference is that all games are created democratically, by the users. To date, users have created over 15 million games which are ranked solely by likes and dislikes.  Currently, 13,000 users are playing the most popular game now. Games evolve multiple times a day based on users rankings and feedback and your students love it. 

Now how can you apply Democratic Feedback to education? If you are asking your students to create videos, presentations, publications, etc., then is it possible to include likes, views, and comments, from an authentic audience, as part of the assessment? Your students will ask how many likes, views, comments do they need for full marks. To which I always responded with; “how many friends do you have on Facebook?” My argument is, if what you are creating isn’t interesting to the majority of the friends you have on social media, then start over. Learning needs to impact students lives and social media is a large part of that. Give them the opportunity to democratically receive feedback by truly valuing it and you will see the quality of projects increase.   

Feedback is essential to learning and shortening the feedback loop is central to the effectiveness of feedback. As we progress to standards-based grading and reporting, grading and giving feedback to the standards will become a normal practice, but if we want students to give feedback that matters, we need to give them a structure to do so. If you have one that works for you, please share via the comments section. 

Kicking off Learning 2016

posted Aug 17, 2016, 5:25 AM by Diana Salda–a   [ updated Aug 17, 2016, 5:42 AM ]

This is the year I want to learn more about what I don't know. The trick is, you don't know what you don't know. So the challenge is finding those gaps and blind spots. As a Tech Director, this takes an additional edge. For example, I have no idea what quantum computing is, other than the description the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, gave to a cheeky reporter. So I need to explore what this is and what impact is it going to have on our students. 

Another gap I want to learn more about is, coding in lower elementary. In China they start introducing coding to kids in Kindergarten, and they have dominated the world of computing for years. More than that, coding builds a skills set which transfers to all areas and is in high demand. This year I want "Go Beyond" the week of code with students and explore integrating coding into other areas of learning. 

Lastly, we are getting a lot of traction with Design Thinking, which may sound like Edu jargon to many, but in reality, is the global language of creativity and product creation. Every product we touch has gone through the design cycle, some better than others, but all none the less. If we ask students their process for being creative, they will tell you they take a problem solving a approach. Think of problem, brainstorm possible solutions, try one. The problem is, this is me focused, not user focused and rarely creates products that impact or solve problems which matter. I believe that if every student can be fluent in the design cycle, they will be able to see the world from a position of creation and have skills that matter now. 

Announcing the Digital Teacher Team for 2016/17

posted May 12, 2016, 9:58 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated May 13, 2016, 11:49 AM ]

We believe that all students can be engaged in an educational experience that compels them to "Live Curious and Go Beyond" as they discover their own “Moonshots”. The Digital Teacher Team is a group of innovative educators that bring that vision to reality on a daily basis at ASFM.

We are excited to announce that for the 2016/17 school year we will have a record number of Digital Teachers, with 44, spanning almost all grade levels and subject areas.

They are Innovators, risk takers, defenders of ideas, and change agents who will be trained and lead in a variety of project areas such as: Blended Learning, Innovative Pilots, Inspiring Spaces, and Innovative Leadership.

Please join us in welcoming:

ELEM Digital Teachers
NurseryCassandra Salas
Pre-KinderBarbara Brunell
KinderAndrea TrujilloAlbertina Villarreal
Grade 2Clarrissa ChavezCecy Chevarri
Grade 3Jenn Couch
TechnologyMonica GarciaBarbara Casale
Grade 5Amy HartSara Golinvaux
SpecialistsVeronica MartinezSofia Lopez
ResourceMichele Neale
SpanishAle GarzaVeronica Diaz
Grade 4Brendan Solomon
Grade 1Fer Ferrigno
All gradesMiriam Campas

MSHS Digital Teachers
MathScienceSpanishWell BeingLearning SupportSocial StudiesEnglishBusiness/TechPE
Grade 6Ashley KramerMeghan BurnhamJane WongLea Woodward
Grade 7Jessica HernandezCarilyn GarretBobby BeldenMercedes Ugarte
Grade 8Mark OsbornAriel AlmioteGina ElizondoPaty Cazares
Grade 9Kaitlyn HoganAmanda WendtGaby SanchezGuy Gagnier
Grade 10Liz Every, Brad BrandvoldMichael Constantini, Jenny CollisAdeel Farooq
Grade 11 Maricarmen del Bosque
Grade 12Joe Hart Joelle Hernandez
All grades Federico Robledo
OtherJohn HickeyJose Alvarez

We would also like to express our thanks and gratitude to our departing Digital Teachers. The extra time, effort, and passion you have put into “Going Beyond” does not go unnoticed and will be missed. We wish you all the best in what lies ahead for you.

Digital Teacher Alum 2016


Your Tech Integration Team

Live Curious, Go Beyond 2016 Recap

posted May 10, 2016, 10:52 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated May 16, 2016, 12:15 PM ]

Live Curious, Go Beyond 2017 is Closer Than You Think

The 2nd iteration of the Live Curious, Go Beyond Tech and Innovation Conference this year made for an exciting and engaging event. As a result of feedback from the 2015 event, we decided to make a few tweaks, take a few risks, and expand our audience and the length of the event. This year we welcomed educators from the Tri-Association and ASOMEX and expanded from one to two days to include a Saturday option. This presented a challenge for the Live Curious Leaders team to engage ASFM faculty who are not required to attend. Some of the additions to enhance the event and draw faculty in on Saturday are listed below.

Live Curious, Go Beyond 2016 additions:

  1. Chill Zone:

  2. Digital Playground:

  3. 6 Strands focused on Technology and Innovation in Education

  4. Beyond Strand: includes Mindfulness and Yoga sessions

  5. Complimentary Saturday Childcare

  6. Keynote David Jakes

  7. New Website

  8. Going Beyond the Keynote Saturday Morning Collaborative Activity

  9. Challenges with prizes

  10. Enhanced catering

Our two goals for the 2016 Live Curious, Go Beyond were:
  1. To bring our vision, We believe that all students can be engaged in an educational experience that compels them to 'Live Curious and Go Beyond' as they discover their own 'Moonshots', to a reality.

  2. To build community around Technology and Innovation in Education in the region.

To recap, this years event was attended by more than 350 educators from over 16 schools in the TrI-Association and ASOMEX region. Our overall experience rating increased 80% to 91% and the rating of the sessions increased from 74% to 93%. More than that, the comments and compliments, some of which are highlighted in the LCGB Feedback Slides above, were greatly appreciated and will help lead us into 2017. Additionally, the informal feedback from external attendees was overwhelmingly positive, as was the atmosphere.

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is coming to ASFM April 27th.

posted Apr 11, 2016, 11:43 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated Apr 11, 2016, 12:02 PM ]

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is coming to ASFM


The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is a program that is traveling the globe inspiring educators to leverage the power of Google Cardboard to take kids where buses can’t go. They are comprised of virtual reality panoramas and are led by a guide or teacher which go to over 200+ locations and experiences such as; the Amazon, Wembley Stadium, the Moon, the Taj Mahal, Career Expeditions: Attorney General, University Tours: Berkley, and much more.   

As I am sure you can imagine, demand is high for bringing

this experience to schools. Luckily, the American School 

Foundation of Monterrey was selected to be one of the few schools to host, an honor bestowed to a handful of school in Mexico and Latin America.  On April 27th a team from Google for Education will lead 12 groups of N-12 student through the 30 minutes experience over the course of the day. This type of experience is one on the innovators edge of the innovators adoption curve which will be sure to spread as we see the proliferation of mobile technology in schools around the world. If you are interested in exploring how this technology can impact student learning, watch this space, as are waiting to receive an order of 60 Google Cardboards and will be able to facilitate similar experiences once we do.

ASFM Tech Access Survey for Faculty March 2016

posted Mar 15, 2016, 10:53 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated Apr 11, 2016, 1:52 PM ]

Back in January and February the TI and IT Departments asked all faculty to complete the ASFM Tech Access Survey for Faculty in efforts to gain insight into how we can work towards removing all obstacles to integration. Our goal is 100% uptime and making sure the tech tools we provide educators and learners enhance the redefinition of learning as much as possible. This is the first collaborative survey of all faculty in this area of focus but we hope that by sharing the data and actions we are taking to improve, we can continue to remove obstacles to purposeful integration. Thank you again for your participation and we look forward to growing with you in this endeavor. 

10 Tips to Conquer an Education Conference

posted Jan 29, 2016, 11:55 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated Jan 29, 2016, 11:56 AM ]

1. Follow Topics Not Friends:
If you are attending with a colleague from the same department or even school as you, divide and conquer. While learning is social and attending sessions with your BFF can make for a good experience, it might not be the most meaningful or efficient one from a learning perspective. If you have a common goal, think of attending as an opportunity to gather resources, after which you can compile later.

2. Follow the Event Hashtag:
 Often the best things you walk away with are the little trick
down time or after the event to peruse the conference hashtag for hidden gems shared by attendees from other sessions. These can easily be compiled by liking or retweeting them on twitter, or by creating a Storify feed. This is also the first place most conferences post updates, so if you want to avoid showing up to an empty room, follow the hashtag.s, tips, videos, quotes, ect which spark further exploration and insights. These can also be found on the digital platform of many conferences, Twitter. It’s amazing what 140 characters can provide. While you may only be able to attend 7 of the possible 100+ sessions offered any given conference, you can still learn from many of them. Take the time during 

3. Have a Plan of Attack: There is nothing worse than arriving to a conference and deciding on the spot where to go, arriving at your session to a full house, having to find another, only to find that one is full as well. Preview the schedule prior to arrival, arrive early, and have a second or even third option for each time slot. I promise it is time well spent and will help alleviate anxiety on the day of the event, as well as help you focus on learning.

4, Vote With Your Feet:
This is a common approach to Unconferences but needs to be adopted by all Edu Conference. If at anytime you are not actively learning during a session, get up and leave; vote with your feet. During Unconferences this is not offensive as all participant and presenters understand we all have different areas of interest, needs, and are all there to learn. Move to where the learning is happening, FOR YOU.

5. Build the fire:
Often we attend conferences to light a fire, pack our schedules while there trying to fit in as much as possible, then return back to our lives as educators where we rarely have the time to feed that fire. Great inspiration, insights, and learning that took place have to wait for the next break to be developed. By this time, the landscape may have changed and you have forgotten application opportunities. Take a break during the conference to develop what you have learned. This is not skipping class or wasting your school's money; it is making the most of the moment. Don’t let great insights slip away. It’s better to come away with 1-2 great ideas or concepts that can change tomorrow, than an overload of information that has to wait. Launch                                                                            early at the event.

6. Seek Your Discomfort Zone:
Try attending a session or two that are out of your area of expertise. A couple of years ago I attended an IT strand at the massive EduTech Conference, and during sessions I felt as though they were speaking a different language. Throughout the event I was googling, asking simple questions, and felt lost the whole way through, but I learned. I threw myself in the deep end and may not have learned to swim in the IT world, but I at least I learned to tread.

7. Make a friend
: We are social creatures, but often as educators we don’t get to make connections with others outside of our departments or divisions. Networking is common in business, and often critical to continued success and employment, but in education we retreat to our classrooms of isolation. Make a friend and open the door to collaboration. In 2016 it is possible to connect, as our friend Jeff Utecht promotes “across space and time”, so make a friend and start connecting.

8. Attend in Analog:
There is nothing less engaging an audience behind laptop screens. Often, in the same day, I will run sessions that are techy with most people behind screens, then transition to facilitating a Design Thinking workshop where no laptops are present and attendees are up moving and thinking on their feet. Which sessions do you think people learn more from? Most conferences provide presenter’s resources on their website, or presenters share afterwards, so you don’t have to scramble to record or find everything being discussed. Attend with a simple notepad and pen and truly be present during the sessions. Even techy sessions are going to go at breakneck speed and you are going to feel that you are drinking from a firehose, so listen attentively, and jot down insights to follow up on later on your laptop.

9. Hack Monday:
In each session, approach with the mindset of “Hacking Monday”. Ask yourself how can I apply this to something that can make meaningful gains in learning on Monday. Launch early, start small, and iterate throughout. Too often we wait to make a change until the conditions are perfect, or until we have more time, and that time never comes.

10. Bring a Water Bottle:
Bottled water is wasteful and conferences tend to facilitate this consumption all to easily. Staying hydrated is also essential to being attentive and starving off fatigue so make sure you are ready to maximize your Edu conference experience in optimal condition all while making a minimal impact on the environment

PechaKuchas using Google Presentations Quick Start guide

posted Nov 13, 2015, 10:41 AM by Brian Hamm   [ updated Nov 13, 2015, 10:43 AM ]

PechaKucha Google Presentation

Quick Start guide

Are you tired of giving or viewing the same old presentations? If so, try something new. PechaKucha is a simple presentation format where you show 20 slides, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically so you can focus on the message, not the images. This YouTube video of a Pechakucha is a great example of how to develop a strong message using this format and below are the instructions of how to get started building one now.

1. Click Create and select “Presentation”

2. Create a 20 black slide presentation by clicking the “+” icon pictured below and selecting blank.

3. Insert your image for each slide by selecting “Slide” then “background”.

4. Create automated transitions by selecting “File” then “publish to the web”.

5. Select “Start publishing”.  

6. Select the duration each slide will be displayed under “automatically advance to the next slide”. Present by copying and pasting the “Document link” into a browser of your choice.

To Record:

1. Paste your Google Presentation link into a browser and open full screen. Open Quicktime.

2. Select “File”, then “New Screen Recording”.

3. Select “Start Recording”. Make sure you remember Command-Control-Esc to stop the recording.

4. Make sure the audio dial is up to record audio.

5. Upload to YouTube

Please note: Publishing to the web turns your document into a webpage. Changes made to the document will be synced as you update. You can also share your presentation via YouTube, Google+, Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter.

ASFMLearns Reach report

posted Nov 4, 2015, 11:11 AM by Brian Hamm

The ASFM Learns Team has been working hard to reach a broader audience in new ways since the launch of the website. This is the first of a bi-monthly report which will share the reach your publications and pushing out on social media has had. I hope you enjoy and please keep sharing. Reach for October 13 - Nov 4

#ASFM Tweet Reach for Oct 27 - Nov 4

6 Quick Questions for Refining Your Blend

posted Oct 28, 2015, 7:57 AM by Brian Hamm

How does my “classroom” create:

1. Community? (Personal Learning Network)

Every time you meet as a class, a community is formed, but how do you enhance or continue the community when that class ends? Far too often conversations are interrupted by the bell. By leveraging discussions in your LMS, Twitter, Today’s Meet, or a collaborative Google Doc, you can Blend how your class engages as a community.

- Go beyond by embedding twitter into your LMS

2. Environment? (Learning Management System (LMS)

In the physical classroom teachers collate content, communicate with students and parents, organize the learning experience and bring content alive through various activities and projects. The virtual learning environment needs to reflect that level of structure and activity in order for it to be meaningful, relevant, and enhance learning for students. A great rule to keep in mind when organizing your LMS  is “Two Clicks to Content”, once a user has to click a third or fourth time to access content, your chances of losing them increases exponentially. A great way to achieve this is by structuring your pages for your units thematically, not chronologically, and try your best to have all the essential content on one page. Consistency is also key. Once you have structure to a page that you find is useful, keep that structure for all pages. This will greatly improve the efficiency of the user experience for students and parents. Think of this as laying the foundation for building your virtual classroom.

3. Feedback? (Formative Response Tools)

Teachers give instant feedback to students continually throughout lessons in various ways, and often send students home with areas for reflection and improvement. Unfortunately, once out of the classroom, the feedback loop has to wait for the teacher to collect and and review material in order to guide instruction, and by then the impact has dramatically diminished. By leveraging Google Forms, Polls, the Comments features, and many other tools, teachers can continue the feedback loop and impact learning immediately, preparing for tomorrow today.

4. Publishing? (Electronic Portfolios)

Publishing to the teacher is great, publishing to peers is better, but publishing to the world is what learning looks like in 2015. It increases engagement and makes learning relevant to students today. 95% of recruiters go to LinkedIn first for hiring, more and more Universities are requiring students to submit an E-Portfolio as part of the application process, and even more require students to publish to the world throughout their post-secondary studies. Students  developing and controlling their digital presence is essential to their success, and they don’t have to build a website to get started. Uploading videos to YouTube, “publishing to the web” on Google Docs, and sharing projects via social media to hashtags with like minded people and experts makes learning more relevant and meaningful.

5. Discovery? (Open Ed. Resources)

In the physical classroom teachers encourage discovery through a variety means, visuals, readings, books, presentations, videos, music, conversations, etc, but harnessing this and enhancing it online is the art of showing students where to look but not what to see. In the virtual classroom, how do you encourage kids to join in the journey of learning and not just map a destination?  Simply having a series of links, YouTube Playlists, or prompting students to go and explore and report back what they find makes learning personal and shows students just how open their discovery can be.

6. Collaboration? (Collaboration Tools)

In the physical classroom collaboration runs rampant, formally and informally, but the truth is your students are collaborating virtually with or without your knowledge. So how do you encourage collaboration that transcends “space and time” -Jeff Utecht? Locally, this can be students in other sections collaborating together by leveraging Google Docs or your LMS. Globally, the possibilities are endless. Getting started can be as easy as communicating across the sections you teach or between classes with partner teachers. Students taking responsibility for how that happens is what problem solving looks like in 2015, and helps build foundational leadership and collaborative skills.  

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