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Munich International School

A Learning Story from the Foothills of the Alps

By Leah Treesh, Jenny Little and Pia Druggan
Munich International School, Germany.

german-flagAt Munich International School we walk onto campus each morning to a view of the Alps. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for learning, an enchanted place for story-telling. Just as there are millennia of geographical phenomena behind the beauty of the Alps, so too is there a story behind what we now see taking shape in our schools every day: students demonstrating their learning by telling powerful stories with digital technologies.

According to an oft repeated adage, good things come to those who wait. However, anyone experienced in administering a successful program would likely beg to differ. At Munich International School (MIS) in Starnberg, Germany, we adamantly believe instead that good things come to those who plan. Smiles surfaced on each of our faces as we rolled out 550+ machines to five grade levels in August, one grade level at a time, seemingly with ease. Crouching behind our smiles was knowledge of the extensive groundwork, dating back three years, that we laid in preparation. The foundation we built is not only indicative of a strong belief in team work, but is characterized by it.

After receiving Board approval in October, 2007 to institute a 1-to-1 program using Apple technologies (a complete platform change from the existing Wintel environment of the school) the following school year, our team collaborated to build on prior groundwork, intentionally planning to cover all of the proverbial bases. As our technical infrastructure was updated to prepare for the demands of 700+ additional MacBooks on campus, we worked to ensure that every person involved with the project was suitably prepared for and, hopefully, even excited about the increased learning opportunities awaiting us.

Our teachers were issued MacBooks in the spring of 2006. After the initial familiarization with this new technology we continued our journey with our professional development offerings focusing on the learning opportunities that would become available in a 1-to-1 environment.

Munich School settingWe were also acutely aware of the need to involve our parent body, in understanding our rationale for moving to a 1-to-1 environment. The best way to do this was to share with them the learning possibilities by conducting parent classes using the same technologies their children were using.

During the laptop rollout to students, we focused our workshop sessions on digital citizenship and what that now meant with a laptop in hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The workshop outcome required our students to work collaboratively in a small group to create a digital product -- movie, podcast, slideware, comic - that demonstrated their understanding of an aspect of digital citizenship. These products were created using only their MacBooks and were uploaded to be shared across the whole grade. Lessons and discussions concerning digital citizenship and maintaining life balance are ongoing.

Still in our inaugural year, our team is constantly taking note of what is working well and makes adjustments accordingly. Data is collected with departments so we can understand successes, frustrations and needs. Data is also collected from students concerning academic progress, amount of computer usage at home and school and ethical concerns or issues they may have within an online learning environment. Much of this data is collected through our laptop audit process: students are selected at random and participate in a conversation about their learning, their management and their time online.

All educators involved in technology rich learning environments understand the need to be clear with faculty about expectations of technology use and learning. We have been exploring Ruben R. Puentedura's model, SAMR Model of Technology Use (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) to provide guiding models.

Munich School StudentsThrough our data collection and professional development of teachers and training of students we hope to not only capture our story, but to revise it as needed. But the most powerful story does not concern the work of the team. That designation is reserved for the impact ubiquitous access is having on the learning taking place in our classrooms. In fact, the use of the word story is most appropriate here, since although the story has impacted people across the ages, technology is redefining its characteristics and power, as seen in the example from just one of our 8th Grade Humanities classes:

In a Humanities grade 8 unit of study, The Americas: Internal and International Migration, students delve into the guiding question: What type of events force people to leave their homes? Students take on a role of an imaginary, but probable. person during the time of the Great Migration in Southern USA in the early 20th century and develop the character's life, deciding, with supporting arguments, whether their character would or would not migrate. Previously, the assessment task required students to demonstrate their understanding via an oral presentation, maybe supported by projected images, with the printed script handed to the teacher (Augmentation in the SAMR model). The task was redefined to enable the students to demonstrate empathy (an essential element of understanding) for the people being studied through the creation of a short Digital Story, placing the students in the role of the characters, making the students not only the script writers, but the directors, producers, and actors of their story. They then posted their story via a Moodle forum for their entire grade level (100+) to view and feedback. Through the use compelling old images and music that significantly enhanced their story, the students were able to invoke empathy for their story's characters. They portrayed their character using appropriate voice, creating a product that invoked in the viewer strong emotions. These powerful stories remain with us and could not have been produced had it not been for the intentional use of the technology alongside a solid understanding of the learning outcomes of the unit of study (Redefinition in the SAMR model).

We hope you see yourself in some elements of our story and can find the chapters here that will help bring your own school and classroom stories to life.

Leah Treesh is the IT Integration Specialist in Senior School. Prior to joining MIS two years ago, Leah was an English teacher involved in the laptop programme in her school district in Kentucky, USA.

Pia Druggan is the IT Integration Specialist in the Middle School. Pia joined MIS four years ago from the American School of Milan, where she was an integral part of the laptop implementation team.

Jenny Little is Director of Curriculum and Professional Learning. Prior to joining MIS three years ago, Jenny was Executive Director of AALF after being actively involved in the implementation and evaluation of laptop programs in Australia.


Center for Digital Storytelling

Gerald Bailey and Mike Ribble, Digital Citizenship in Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, Washington D.C., 2007

Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.New York: Riverhead Trade, 2006.

Puentedura, Ruben. "As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice." Online Sound. Apple. .

SAMR Model of Technology Use, Ruben R. Puentedura,

For more information concerning the Munich International School's initiative, please visit the technology page of their website.