Thursday, February 16, 2017

Using technology to personalize learning - part 5: mobile devices

As we discuss personalized learning at school, I'm often part of conversations about giving students a choice about how they express their understanding. Inevitably this may depend on the students' ability to choose the tools he or she wants to use. At school we have a BYOD programme, so students already have a choice of which laptop they bring to school. However, they do have to have a laptop as their primary device - just relying on a mobile device is not an option at this time. What we discovered, through various prototypes over the past 5 years, is that mobile devices do offer a different way of doing things - and that one device may not be the answer to all of a student's learning needs.

In our Grade 4 we have just completed a historical narrative which formed the summative assessment for the Where We Are in Place and Time unit. Students were given the choice of making paper slides, using Book Creator, iMovie and Voicethread. At the same time students were encouraged to use whatever devices they had for making these narratives. Some students continued to work on their laptops, others brought in mobile devices from home. Some students even used a mixture of devices, for example green screening on one device and putting the project together on another.

One advantage is that students are able to use the devices that they already have at home instead of or in addition to the laptops that they use in school. These other devices are likely to be the ones that they will be using in the future. Being flexible about the devices they are using is also a skill necessary for the future, as they need to adapt to the rapidly changing world of technology.   Students then published their narratives onto the Grade 4 blog - another tool that they are becoming increasingly confident in using and which supports the aim of the Grade 4 teachers to have their students become global communicators.

Photo Credit: Zach Frailey Flickr via Compfight cc

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Leadership: a rank -v- a responsibility

Last week our Head of School, Craig Johnson, shared a video clip with us about Simon Senik's new book Leaders Eat Last.  Craig wrote:
Much of what Senik says (and much of what the book speaks to) is what we are about at ASB.
Although the clip is only 4 minutes long, there are some important points:
  • Leadership is a choice - to put others before yourself.
  • A leader is like a parent - we want our children/employees to achieve more than we have ourselves.
  • Leaders risk their own interests so that others may advance.
  • Trust and cooperation are feelings produced by the environment in which we are working - and that environment is created by the leaders.
  • When we feel our leaders have our interests in mind, we look out for each other; work harder, are more innovative, and give our best talents and ideas.
  • When times are tough - a great leader makes sure that each person suffers a little so that no one person has to suffer a lot.
  • Great leaders put people before numbers (heart-counts not head-counts)
  • The leader points to the direction in the distant future - we feel excited to participate when we are given ownership and responsibility for the mission. 

Photo Credit: Baron Reznik Flickr via Compfight cc

Saturday, February 4, 2017

We rise by lifting others

This is my fifth year in India, and as I consider the future I think it's also good to reflect on the past.  I came to India once before, as a 23 year old, and when I left to become a teacher in the UK I never thought I'd be back.  And yet, in 2011 when I accepted a job in India I wrote, "Now I feel I've come full circle: I'm returning to the country where it all started as I've accepted an exciting new job on a wonderful new campus of ASB that is being constructed in Mumbai. I am thrilled by this new opportunity to completely redefine 21st century education, but above all I have a profound feeling of karma - I have gone full circle and come back to where I started."

Little did I know how true these words would turn out to be.  When I first moved to India I started to learn Hindi. As we were moving onto the past and future tenses, I came across the Hindi word "kal", which means yesterday and also tomorrow. I asked my Hindi teacher how the same word could mean two things that were totally opposite of each other. She simply smiled, knowing I'd been in India before, and said "But Maggie, don't you know that in India time is circular?"

In my first year in India I often said I felt a very strong sense of karma - of being in exactly the right place at the right time - but I didn't know why.   Five year on, however, I truly believe that the reason I was meant to move back to India was to get involved in the TTP (ASB's Teacher Training Programme for local teachers who are working in NGOs).  I cannot tell you what an inspiration it has been to spend time focused on teaching adults.  These teachers work in the most challenging of situations, and often for lower pay than they would in the Indian state schools. The TTP takes place on Saturdays from August through to February each year.  After the TTP Saturdays, the teachers that participate in this programme go back to their schools, train their colleagues, and making a difference in the lives of thousands of students. These dedicated teachers are building India's future and I'm humbled to be able to help them on this journey.

Today was our last day of this year's TTP cohort.  We have around 70 teachers who have gone through the programme this year from various NGOs around Mumbai and beyond.    These were divided into 10 cohort groups with about 7 teachers in each, and each group had an ASB coach and in some cases a translator.  My cohort group is in the photo above - they have all just received their graduation certificates.

Here are some of the NGOs and what they have learned and implemented in their schools as a result of attending this year's TTP.

This organization was founded in 1990 with the vision of a world where every child counts.  They work to provide supportive environments for families living in marginalized slum communities and on the streets.  Their focus is on both education and health, having evolved from an organization that worked with lepers to one that now deals with families and children with HIV/AIDS.  Currently they are working with around 7000 communities in Mumbai, and the teacher who spoke to us about her learning mentioned that she works in one of their crisis centres.  She identified many areas of key learning this year.  For example on our first session, we did an activity about our names.  She said she has used this in the centre because they deal with many orphans who really don't have a history (or at least they don't know it).  She has had the CCDT teachers look into the history of the children's names and in some cases used this to help students create their own histories.  CCDT has embraced the idea of holding morning and afternoon meetings and using positive teacher language, and felt they learned about the difference between classroom management and discipline. Other areas where they felt they grew in understanding include the development of the brain and how it affects learning, skill development in oracy, listening, reading and writing, and differentiation. They tried out the 6 Thinking Hats, the Hour of Code, and coaching. They feel their teachers are now more sensitive to their ESL students, and they have implemented PLCs.

This year 3 teachers from this school came to the TTP.   The school was established in 2012 and serves students aged 5 - 18 with learning challenges.  The intention is to help students develop the skills, knowledge, understandings and attitudes necessary for them to lead fulfilling and productive lives – as independent and successful individuals that actively contribute to society.  The Gateway teachers felt they had taken onboard many of the responsive classroom ideas, in particular morning meetings which are now used across the school, interactive modelling, positive teacher language (reinforcing, reminding and redirecting language) and various protocols.  They now have classroom rules and classroom norms and are also enthusiastic about differentiation using academic choices.

The iSanctuary joined the TTP for the first time this year.  The iSanctuary works in the red-light districts of Mumbai where the average price of sex is just $8 and where trafficking of minor girls is a $1 billion a year industry.  We had one teacher from the iSanctuary, and he told us that worldwide there are over 27 million victims of human trafficking, 18 million of these in India.  The iSanctuary works with the survivors of the sex trade, and since 2007 has served over 300 young women and girls aged 12 to 25 who have been rescued from sex trafficking.  These girls receive education, counselling, medical care and employment.  The aims of the iSanctuary are to offer a place of dignity for women to return to education.  He told us that everyone in the iSanctuary has a dream and that their students challenge and inspire each other as they pursue their curiosities and discover their passions.  The programme consists of core subjects, life skills and personal development.  An individual learning plan is drawn up for each student to address their unique educational needs.  The teacher who joined the TTP from the iSanctuary this year identified his key learnings as Responsive Classroom, WIDA, the 6 Thinking Hats, how to teach integers and PBL.

This is an NGO working with underprivileged children.  Through various interventions, the aim is to improve their standard of living and to enable them to lead a life of dignity.  This year the participants on the TTP were focusing on spoken English.  They told us that their key learnings were Responsive Classroom, classroom management, differentiated learning, adolescent behaviour, the use of technology in learning and reading workshop and EAL.  They told us that they had started using the 6 Thinking Hats with their teachers.  They also said that the TTP had helped them as individuals in the following ways:
  • It made us realize the importance of being a good listener.
  • It gave us an insight into the mind of an adolescent.
  • We understood that class management is about how I manage myself rather than students.
  • We learnt that reading and writing can be enjoyable activities.
Muktangan is an NGO founded in 2003 to provide quality, child-centred, inclusive schooling to 3,400 underprivileged children in Mumbai. They believe in "education for the community by the community," and also run a teacher training programme for local teachers.  The teachers are from the same neighbourhoods and communities as the students, creating empowered change agents.  Their key learnings from the TTP this year were EAL, the morning meetings and energizers, reading and listening strategies, the hour of code, classroom management and science and Maker.

At the end of the day we reflected on the TTP this year.  This is our 6th year of TTP and we have just graduated our 4th cohort of teachers.  We felt we achieved our goals of sharing our professional practice and in addressing the mindset that every child can learn.  Their students will have the skills they need for the future and the confidence to turn their dreams into realities.  At the end of the day our High School principal, Josh Bishop, spoke and reminded us of our strategic plan where we used the term "making a ripple".   Dropping a stone into water makes a small, but ever spreading circle, and the TTP is just like that - it starts small but makes a bigger and bigger impact.  As this cohort of teachers leaves us,  this ripple will continue to expand outwards - and who knows how many children it will eventually impact.  Each one of the 70 teachers in the cohort is making a difference - together we are making a change to education in Mumbai.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's new learning about concept-based curriculum and instruction

While I was a NIST I had concept-based curriculum PD based on the work of Lynn Erickson, but it's truly an honour to be in the 2 day workshop being hosted at ASB with Lynn.  While I'm familiar with most of what we did today, there's also some new learning for me that I want to share with you.

The Structure of Knowledge and the Structure of Process
Now I've been familiar with the structure of knowledge for many years - this is something developed by Lynn back in 1995 and it looks like this:

Lynn explained today that this model works well with subjects such as social studies and science - those traditionally heavy in content dealing with facts and topics which are locked in time, place or situation - but was seen as less useful in process driven subjects such as the Arts, foreign languages and English language arts which are more skills based and focused on what students are expected to be able to do, not the fact that students are expected to know.  In 2012 Lois Lanning came up with a similar model for the Structure of Process - this was new learning for me.  If we look at the 2 models side by side we can see how they work together.  This image is taken from the Corwin website - the publishers of Lynn and Lois's book Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction.

First of all both these models show the lower cognitive levels of facts and skills at the bottom of the diagrams, moving up to principals and generalizations at the top.  In fact Lynn explained to us today that both are essential in any subject.  For example social studies, which draws upon facts, also requires students to understand skills (for example research skills), and process orientated subjects like art also requires students to develop knowledge and understand facts.  In our table group today we talked about these being like the difference between the consumer and the creator - knowledge being the consumer where facts are put together into concepts and then generalizations, and process being the creator as it is focused on the craft of the subject.

No-no verbs in central ideas
I've talked about these at PYP workshops that I've led when participants have been writing central ideas.  These no-no verbs are:  affects, impacts, influences, is, are and have.  The reasons for this is that they lead to "weak generalizations".  Other no-nos include using the passive voice, using proper nouns and pronouns.  Of course I've seen many PYP units that have these in their central ideas, so what we worked on today was to rewrite the central ideas to get rid of them.  

Moving from Level 1 to Level 3 generalizations
Central ideas that contain these no-no words were referred to as Level 1 generalizations.  To get better generalizations or central ideas it's first necessary to ask the questions "how?" or "why?" Here's an example:

Level 1:  All cultures have celebrations
Level 2:  Celebrations express traditions of a culture

Now for most units of inquiry it would be perfectly OK to stop at a Level 2 Central Idea.  However at times it might be worth going further and trying for a Level 3 generalization.  The example continues as you ask the "so what?" question:

Level 2:  Celebrations express traditions of a culture
So what?
Level 3:  Traditions help unify a people

As you can see, when moving from Level 1 to Level 3 the ideas grow in sophistication and become clearer.  Lynn advised us to be careful with this - roughly 2/3rds of all central ideas should be at Level 2, and only 1/3rd at Level 3 - and obviously you also need to take account of what ideas are developmentally appropriate.

Finally this image is a photograph I took of a cartoon in our workbook.  It deals with what happens in schools when students are exposed to more and more factual knowledge.  In the Early Years, Lynn explained, many things that might later on be regarded as topics in school are actually concepts at that age.  Because of this engagement is high.  However beyond Grade 3, when conceptual engagements decline and factual knowledge increases, motivation also generally declines between Grades 4 and 12 as we have to "cover" more content.  Contrast this with the bottom cartoon, where concept-based instruction is now introduced into Grades 4 to 12. You can see that students become more positively motivated - and that both conceptual engagement and factual knowledge increase hand in hand.  
It has been a great day of learning at school today - and I'm excited to go back tomorrow to learn even more!

Structure of Knowledge image taken from the following blog post:  Concept-based Learning by Edna Sackson
Image comparing structure of Knowledge with Structure of Process is taken from the following blog post:  What you need to know about the Structure of Process by Corwin

Concept-based curriculum and instruction

I'm in a 2 day workshop with Lynn Erickson on concept-based curriculum and instruction.  For our "homework" tonight we are in groups of 9, each of us reading a chapter from Lunn's book Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction.  I was happy that when we numbered off, I ended up with number 8, thus having to read Chapter 8 which is about what principals and coaches need to understand about implementing concept-based models in schools.

Now, I have to say that for over 20 years I've worked at schools that already have a concept-based curriculum - the PYP.  However I've also consulted with schools that are moving from a more traditional way of teaching as they have decided to take on the PYP.  As with any new curriculum, change is hard - and those leading the change need to consider up-front what they can do to both to avoid the stresses and failures that might be associated with change, and to sustain any changes that do take place.

In Chapter 8, Lynn writes about how to set the stage for curriculum implementation.  This falls into 3 main steps:
  1. Examining the hidden impediments to change - for example principals who do not provide the necessary support will certainly make change less likely to succeed.  Some people embrace change (the early adopters) and others are reluctant to move out of their comfort zones. Coaches and principals need to consider the different personal characteristics of their teachers to help them to successfully implement change.
  2. Setting up the learning team - some schools know they need to change because students are struggling, yet teachers in these schools may be reluctant to change because of past failures. Conversely, schools that are experiencing success may not see the need for a change towards a concept-based curriculum.   In both cases, setting up a school learning team made up of teachers and instructional coaches is important before implementation.  This team should have members that are well respected by their colleagues, have diverse perspectives and be committed to a concept-based curriculum.  It's really important that there are teachers on this team, as they are the ones dealing with the change and can help anticipate and resolve the problems, as well as help mobilise the buy-in of the rest of the teaching faculty.
  3. Shaping a shared vision - it's really important to show teachers what a concept-based curriculum looks like in practice.  The teachers who are the ones implementing the changes are often not the same ones that were part of the decision making and curriculum development process.  Many teachers who are expected to change their practices experience anxiety and fear of failure, so support, modelling and coaching are vital. 
When adopting a new curriculum teachers go through fairly predictable developmental stages:
  • Self-oriented - wondering what it is and how it will affect them
  • Task-oriented - wondering how they do it 
  • Impact - questioning how the change is working for students
Coaches need to recognise what stage their teachers are at and design differentiated job-embedded PD to address the level of concern that individual teachers have.

When adopting a concept-based curriculum it's also important to consider student assessment. Traditional assessments measure knowledge and skills, but often don't provide much data about student understanding.  Assessments will need to be redesigned in order to focus more on conceptual understanding.

I have had an absolutely brilliant time today and can't wait to get back to school tomorrow to continue the learning.

Photo Credit: Anne Davis 773 Flickr via Compfight cc

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A meeting in Bahrain

I was really excited to be invited to be part of the NESA (Near East and South Asia) Ed Tech Leadership collaborative.  This 5 person team from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Israel and India met in Bahrain last Sunday.  Our task to was to plan and lead professional learning for the NESA community.  Although this was only our first meeting I felt we got a lot done.  Below you will find our purpose statement along with the strands we identified as priorities for professional learning.  I felt a great rapport with the other members of this collaborative and look forward to working with them all again as we move forward.

Purpose Statement
The Ed Tech Leadership collaborative is designed to meet the needs of educational leaders by:
  • Providing a variety of sustainable professional learning opportunities; 
  • Nurturing innovative leadership; 
  • Fostering collaborative partnerships; 
  • Identifying and sharing best practices; 
  • Aligning and contextualizing policies and procedures; 
  • Defining areas and direction for professional growth;
  • Inspiring purposeful pedagogical change. 
  • areas of professional learning will your plan focus on?
Strands (the areas of professional learning we will focus on):
1. Technology leadership and coaching
2. Using data
3. Innovation and change
4. Personalizing learning
5. Technology and standards
6. Digital citizenship

I will be attending the NESA Spring Conference in Bangkok in March to be presenting on coaching and using data to personalize PD for self-directed learning.  I'm really looking forward to this!

Photo taken at the Bu Maher Fort, Bahrain

Monday, January 23, 2017

Social media - your partner in teaching

I heard from Danny Rabara Jr last week in response to my post about PD using social media.  He sent me an article about using social media in education and asked me to share it on this blog. Now I don't often respond to people who work for organizations who try to get me to publish their work in order to promote a service they offer, but this resource was a bit different from most. Having read it through I thought it contained some valuable information and I did want to share it.

The article starts by referring to the fact that the way we search for and consume information has changed dramatically over the past 20 years.  Now most people search for information online, and as well as this by subscribing to various apps and feeds, information comes straight to you.  Because of this social media is referred to as "your partner in teaching".

The first part of the article gives reasons for teachers to be on social media.  These include using it to teach digital literacy and helping students to become better digital citizens.  Other advantages are keeping current with breaking news and sharing your class news with your students' parents.  As well as this you can become part of an online community of fellow educators using tools such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.  There's some good advice too about keeping your personal and professional life separate on social media.

The second part of the article is an in-depth analysis of several social media tools and the educational benefits of using them.  There are also suggestions on how to integrate the tools into class activities and a list of various educational groups that you can join within them.  The tools highlighted are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.  If you have never used these social media tools as a teacher, this article is a great place to find out how to integrate them into your class learning engagements.

Photo Credit: ePublicist Flickr via Compfight cc