Panthers of ISKL #8 - The Continuous Learning Tech Team featuring Dr. Bron Narsiman, Chami Hutterd, Max Wright & Steve Katz
This week we caught up with faculty members, Dr. Bron Narsiman, Chami Hutterd, Max Wright & Steve Katz from our Continuous Learning Tech Team. They have been instrumental in conceptualizing and implementing Continuous Learning - a virtual learning program for ISKL students. Handling ES is Max Wright and Steve Katz, followed by Bron Narsiman in MS and Chami Hutterd in HS. Below, are their stories.
1) Can you tell us more about yourself and where you worked before coming to ISKL?
Bron: I'm from Sydney, Australia. Being an educator is my second career - my first was as a Computer Specialist in Corporate Finance. After ten years of stress and not much sleep, I made the life-changing decision to retrain as an ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL) educator. I was a student teacher in an Early Childhood Centre in Sydney and then moved on to teach EAL.
Chami: I am from New Zealand. I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to New Zealand when I was eight. Before I came to Kuala Lumpur, I was working in London in a private girls school where I was a Computer/IT teacher.
Max: I have worked in the Philippines, Japan, and Cambodia. Before that, I was a teacher in California in Marin County - just north of San Francisco, which is where I am from.
Steve: I am originally from Southern California and have worked in Korea, Costa Rica, California, and Malaysia. I was initially an MS teacher in social studies. I moved into technology early in my career, but I have over 20 years of Middle School (MS) classroom experience. This is my first assignment in Elementary School (ES), and I have been delighted to do it. I like the students, and the work plus the teachers are fantastic.
2) Can you tell us about your job role and what your daily activities are?
Bron: The fantastic thing about the Technology Coordinators role is that you get to wear many different hats. I support students, faculty, parents, administration, and also teach classes.
Activities vary day to day; planning with teachers, solving problems offering solutions, conducting Professional Development, following up with students, conducting Laptop Orientation sessions - there are too many activities to mention! I love being able to teach a class, and it keeps me grounded.
Chami: My daily activities are varied. One of the things I love to do is to work with teachers and work with students - helping them to implement project-based learning or how to use a tool in their classroom. I also spend a lot of time empowering teachers, one-on-one.
Max: My role has changed quite a bit in the last few years. I have gone from a classroom teacher to a computer teacher where students will come in and do basic programs on computers in a computer lab.
Then when we started to get devices (that stayed with the students), my role changed to become a facilitator - where I would coach teachers and students ways to use this new technology in meaningful ways.
Steve: I am a teacher first, so I am always looking at things through the lens of a teacher. My job is to support the teachers - to innovate technology and design thinking into their learning. We follow the International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) standards for educators, students, and even coaches - and that in turn guides the practice of the Technology Coordinator.
3) Can you tell us about any exciting projects that you are working on right now?
Bron: Prior to working on Continuous Learning, I was heavily involved in the Agency Initiative, Malaysia Week, as well as my other duties.
Chami: That would be Continuous Learning - it has been a big project for our Tech team which comprises Max Wright and Steve Katz in ES, Bron Narsiman in MS and me in HS. We have been working on this project for many months now. We have been working on refining, researching, and talking to people globally - getting information and thinking about how it fits here at ISKL.
It has been a rewarding experience and is one way to get everybody to look at their practices - to change how they are teaching to meet 21st century needs.
Steve: So we come up with a plan, implement, and co-teach the lesson while getting the students to do cool stuff. The students are creators and producers - not just consumers of what is going on. Getting the students to produce content of all different formats - especially movie-making is my favorite thing. We make different kinds of movies - not just film, and we edit using different apps for various purposes.
Max: I am loving what we are doing in the Maker Space with regards to STEM or STEAM activities that are happening across ES. The Maker Space is a common area that allows classes to come up and build, design, modify, construct prototypes/models, or robots - things that bring their learning to life.
We have instituted something called 'Tinker Time' so any students from Grade 3, 4, and 5 can come to the Maker Space at an allocated time. I love to see the creativity and interest students show. From using hand tools, building, constructing, using 3D printers to programming and coding our robots to building more complicated structures - this is all, so fun to see!
4) What challenges do you face being a Tech Coordinator?
Chami: Because we are divisionally bound we do have very different needs and wants. From our teachers, from the administration. It is very difficult for me to talk on behalf of everyone. They have to be adaptable to what is going on at the moment. Being involved in so many facets of the school. The role requires you to be flexible and empathic, we need to understand what teachers or students are facing and remember that they might not know all that we, Edu Tech team, know.
Max: As a tech co-ordinator challenges I face are - I want to get more classes into Makerspace and get more classes doing STEM and STEAM-based projects. I would love to see more classes doing problem-based learning type of projects. Innovation is sort of this big vague word now and the challenge for me lately is to define what innovation means at ISKL. I think we are getting closer all the time which is one of the beauties of being and working at ISKL - we really want to try and be the most innovative and be all; we can be, be all we are.
Steve: All of the students and in this case all the teachers at ISKL are my students in that sense - they are all at different levels and have different needs. It is really challenging to differentiate for all their needs on campus. That is the same challenge I had when I was a social studies teacher - you have kids that have different skills and different learning needs, different styles - those kinds of things are the same with adults. So to try and meet the needs of everybody is probably the biggest challenge, and finding the ones who really want to learn - those are the best students.
5) When and why did you join ISKL?
Bron: I joined ISKL in October 1999. To cut a long story short, we moved to KL for a year, and I began working in the Melawati campus as the Grade 3, 4, and 5 EAL Teacher.
Working with MS kids is where I belong. I'm continually looking for new challenges - the common thread for me has always been a fascination with technology integration and tinkering with gadgets. My MS career so far at ISKL has started from being the MS Student Resource Teacher (SRT) Team Leader to Grade 6 Team Leader, from EAL Teacher, EAL Science, Humanities, MAP Coordinator, and now Creative Innovations Team Leader and Middle School Technology Coordinator.
Chami: I joined ISKL in 2012. When I first came to ISKL, I taught multimedia for five years in High School, and I absolutely loved it! I then moved into the HS Technology Coordinator position in 2017.
While we were based in London, Rob, my husband (who is an HS PE Teacher at ISKL), and I, had twins and we soon realized that our busy life had to take pause. We also wanted to move closer to New Zealand - coming to Malaysia meant that we were just one flight away as opposed to two. We didn't think that we would stay here for this long, but we have enjoyed our time immensely!
Max: This is my 12th year here at ISKL! ISKL has one of the best reputations for international schools in South East Asia. My wife, Chris (Wright), an ES counselor at ISKL, and I love the region of SE Asia, especially Malaysia. When we interviewed for our jobs at ISKL, we felt that it was a great fit.
Steve: I joined ISKL in 2015. My wife, Miriam Alvarado, (an ES Spanish teacher here), and I thought it was the best school for our kids. Although we had offers for more exciting career positions (moving up on the ladder, etc.) - we chose ISKL because we thought this was the place our kids were going to flourish and be happy at.
6) Can you tell us more about your hobbies and interests? What do you do after work?
Bron: I love Scuba Diving, reading, watching movies, and hanging out with my family (via facetime) as both of my daughters live overseas.
Chami: I have three small children who take up a lot of my time. A few years back, my husband Rob went on a hiking trip in Kathmandu - I was wondering then, "what do I do?". During the time he was away, I told myself, "I am going to start puzzling, baking, gardening, and cooking."
When Rob came back from his three weeks away, he said, "What happened to you? You have old people's hobbies!". I also read a lot - both for work and for fun and enjoy puzzling as it helps me to turn my brain off.
Max: Music is a big part of my life. I love to make music - I play the guitar, harmonica, and accordion. Both my wife, Chris, and I are avid scuba-divers, which in turn led us to become scuba instructors! Malaysia is an excellent hub for going out to some incredible places for scuba diving.
I have started gardening quite a bit at home, and we have quite a troupe of dogs and cats living at our home too. Technology is clearly an area of interest - I love drones and photography.
Steve: I am one of the Varsity Fastpitch coaches. It is disappointing that our season got cut short because this year, we have the strongest team with some wonderful young ladies.
I also swim in the Panthers Master swim club twice a week. I do open water swimming whenever I can. My biggest swim was from Kapas Island on the east coast to Marang. The distance was 6.5 Km long - and I am pretty proud of myself for doing that.
I teach a university course for a Master's leadership program for the University of Northern Iowa. I am also an instructor for ISTE and one of the ten people outside the US that teach and certify others. I also teach a cohort for other teachers here at ISKL.
6) Who or what inspires you?
Bron: Women who are trailblazers, who challenge the norms and expectations of others. Women like Joan Clarke - a Code Breaker & Cryptanalyst, Ruth Bader Ginsburg - a US Supreme Court Judge, Florence Nightingale - a Social Reformer & Statistician, and lastly Oprah Winfrey.
Chami: Everything inspires me. I am the kind of person who sees one thing and then connect it to something else. I prefer to look at things and see how that fits into my world.
Max: My wife, Chris, inspires me; she is the most empathetic person I have met in my life. I strive to show the empathy that she shows to people and animals. The school is lucky to have her - she is fantastic. I think besides my dad, my wife is the person I look up to and admire the most.
Steve: What motivates me most is my kids. I want to provide them with the best life they can have. My wife feels the same way, and we do everything we can to make sure that we are giving them the best opportunities.
My wife inspires me, too - she is the yin to my yang! I have been able to keep my priorities straight thanks to her help and inspiration.
7) What does Be All You Are mean to you?
Bron: For me, it means that our Creative Innovation Team in MS can look at ways in which we can inspire students to become Makers, Creators, and Entrepreneurs. We want students to look within and realize that there are so many possibilities available for them.
Chami: To do the best that you can - it doesn't matter where your bar or marker is. It's not about how you are keeping up with everyone; it is about how much you have grown - it is about doing the best that you can even if it is less than the person next to you.
Max: Be all you are means striving to push your interests and abilities to their utmost. It means not being satisfied with being complacent in your learning and educating (as a teacher) but pushing the limits of your abilities constantly.
Steve: It means being your best self, whether that is academically or personally. Most mature adults are looking for self-improvement - and that is something we come onto later on in life, being our best selves. We can impart that message to kids even the youngest age - to be your best self physically and emotionally.