Monday, December 11, 2017

Enhancing the PYP: focusing on the learner

The enhanced PYP is on its way - and to facilitate the transition the IB is sending out emails and informational documents, conducting webinars and developing a series of workshops.  Last week was the webinar on The Learner which together with the document The Learner in the Enhanced PYP was the first deep dive into the changes.  Of course I was more than delighted to see that voice, choice, ownership and agency are at the heart of the enhancements for everyone in the learning community, so that students, in partnership with teachers and others in the community, will be empowered to take charge of what, where, why and with whom they learn, and they will be supported to take meaningful action.

What does agency look like?
First of all it's important to point out that agency is not a skill - it's a mindset.  The image below is taken from one of the slides in the webinar.  It shows agency in action.  It draws on the fact that students are capable learners and natural inquirers.  As Tim Scarrott pointed out on Twitter, "Student - initiated action will be considered a dynamic outcome of agency and an integral part of the learning process that can arise at any time."

What about early learners?
An important change is that the early years range has now expanded to students aged 3-6.  There will be an increased emphasis on play and schools will be able to offer a minimum of 4 units of inquiry each year for this age range.  The key emphasis at this age will be planning uninterrupted time for play, building strong relationships with students and their families creating and maintaining responsive/interactive learning spaces for play and offering many opportunities for exploration and expression.  Basically we are recognising that learning is play and play is learning.  Ply is a vehicle for learners to make sense of the world and teachers need to notice and name where the learning is in the play.  They can look for the ATL and learner profile attributes that are being developed through play.

How do assessment and action work in the enhanced PYP?
There will be a shift in focus from summative assessment to continual monitoring, documenting, self-assessment and feedback.  Action won't be something that happens at the end of a unit - it can also be something that takes place over a period of time.  Action is a manifestation of student agency.  The graphic below was shared during the webinar illustrating the various elements of action in practice.

These changes will inevitably have a knock on effect on the PYP Exhibition.  Again there is the move away from the Exhibition being an assessment with more emphasis on process rather than product.  Students will have agency about what they want to inquire into.  It will be more student-led as far as design and implementation.  Schools will also be able to choose whether on not the Exhibition sits inside or outside of the Programme of Inquiry - it does not have to be the 6th unit!

I'm super excited that there will be more releases and webinars coming up in 2018.  In January  and March the focus will be on learning and teaching, and in May on the learning community.  The digital resource will be released in August.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Connecting your classroom - part 2

This is my final post based on the book Your Connected Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers.   I agreed to review this book by Eduro Press on Amazon, and these blog posts are my initial thoughts before I write a review.  This post deals with Chapters 6 - 8 which are about media literacy, global connections and parent education.

The authors explain that connecting your classroom is a great way to teach media and digital literacy that is both authentic and purposeful.  Our students are often already confident in using technology for social purposes, and it is our job as teachers to help them see the benefits of using it academically.  Students need to build their skills, for example how to read a search result - especially in these days of "fake news".  Chapter 6 addresses the skills needed such as learning about how Google automatically filters our searches based on our previous history.  It also addresses the CARP test for validating the information found.  A connected classroom is also an ideal time for the teaching of digital citizenship:  how to keep personal information secure, how to build a positive digital footprint, online behaviour and how to deal with some of the undesirable behaviours such as cyberbullying, safety and the availability of explicit material.  The final sections of this chapter deal with issues of academic honesty.

Chapter 7 is all about the skills that students will need to be globally competent.  There are many examples of ways to break down classroom walls and connect with the "real-world" such as virtual field trips, Google Expeditions and exploring using Google Earth and Google Maps.  Other options include connecting with "experts" using live video chat such as Skype.  There are other tools that will allow you to connect with people not in your close time-zone, such as VoiceThread and blogging.  Of course blogging and other social media can also allow you to open up your own classroom to the world.  There are pages and pages of tips for getting started with all these projects in this chapter.

Chapter 8 is about reaching out to parents so that they understand your purpose for using technology to create a connected classroom.  Parents need to be made aware of how learning today is very different from the times when they were at school and the ways that they can support their children at home.

I'm very grateful to Kim Cofino for sending me a copy of this book and I'll be condensing my three posts about it into one review within the next few days.

Photo Credit: The Fanboy Flickr via Compfight cc

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's not about the tech, it's about the learning

Let me start by saying that the image on the left is ironic - it is deliberately contrary to what I'd expect from a teacher designing projects and engagements for students.  I'm writing this post after a pretty fraught couple of weeks at school where my mantra has been "it's about the learning, not about the tech", so it was great to read this same sentiment right at the start of Chapter 5 in Your Connected Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers today.  To recap, I'm reading this new book from Eduro Press in order to write a review on Amazon - and at the same time I'm blogging about it.  Anyway, my heart was singing as I read the above statement, and I'm convinced that this is the most important chapter in the book so far, as it deals with designing rich learning experiences (both with and without technology).  The authors start by telling us to "mentally toss out whatever you've done before and start from scratch.  Forget about your curriculum documents and resources and start with just the end goal: what you want students to know and be able to do and develop from there.  The idea behind this is to give you the freedom to re-imagine the unit completely differently than you may have taught it before."

The design process envisioned by Eduro centres around the APLE planner (authentic, purposeful experience leading through a logical structure for the creation of a product).  It draws upon UbD, PBL, SAMR and the MYP Design Cycle - all great models that I have used for years when designing learning engagements.  I was really curious to see how all these elements combined into one planner.  In a nutshell, the design is as follows:
  • Start with the relevant standards you want to assess
  • Think about how to make this content relevant to students - in particular how it connects to the real-world
  • Identify an essential question - one that is open and inspires curiosity and interest and one that cannot be Googled
  • Think about what authentic product students will create to demonstrate understanding - and possibly think about the audience for this product
  • Think about the use of SAMR so that technology is used purposefully.  Also consider that the finished product does not have to use tech.
  • Break the creative process into steps, so that students can dive deeply into the content and so that at each step you can formatively assess their understanding.
The important idea here is that as a teacher you are facilitating the learning, not directly teaching.  As the Eduro team point out this is more work in the planning stage, but less during the actual teaching.  The stages follow a clear path:  
  • Provocation/exploration/research - a hook to get students into the student-led investigation where they are learning the content.  As a teacher you are providing the resources for students to explore to develop understanding.
  • Planning the finished product - the balance I've always tried to stick to here is that 60% of time should be on pre-production, and 40% on production and post production (a great tip I learned some years ago from Bernajean Porter).  Generally I've found that students initially don't like this balance, but that if there is any less than 60% of time spent on planning then the finished product really lacks depth.  Students eventually do come to realise that time spent planning is really valuable.
  • Creating - it's great to allow class time for this so that you get to check in with each student to  understand how they are progressing.  When I think back to the time I spent teaching MYP design tech, all of the creating was done in class.
  • Reflecting and evaluating learning - this stage is where students get feedback and where they are involved in self-reflection.
Chapter 5 ends with several links to APLE and design resources.  This is a hugely valuable chapter, and for one I am certainly going to prototype this process with my students.

Photo Credit: Photo Extremist Flickr via Compfight cc

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Connecting your classroom

It's a cyclone day today!  It has been pouring with rain for hours in Mumbai which is really unusual as generally there is not a drop of rain between October and June - but today the rain is a result of Cyclone Ochki and the Education Department in Mumbai has declared it's a holiday for schools in the city today.  Classes at my school have been cancelled, and I've had the unexpected bonus of a free day to catch up with friends over email, and to read and blog.

Last month I noticed a post on Facebook by Kim Cofino.  Kim mentioned that Eduro Learning has now set up a new enterprise, Eduro Press, for publishing books.  The first book is called Your Connected Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers and it's available on Amazon.  Kim offered to give a review copy to her connections who were willing to review the book on Amazon - and I was happy to do this.  I haven't yet finished reading the book, but decided that I'd also blog about it - and this post is based on the first 4 chapters of the book that I read this morning.

The book starts with a discussion about what a connected classroom is.  Technology can be used to connect students beyond the physical limitations of space and time in the traditional classroom.  Students can connect to each other as part of a virtual classroom where resources, materials and discussions can be shared, as well as connecting to other students and classes around the world.  When students are connected, it's the ideal "teachable moment" to introduce important issues such as digital citizenship, academic honesty and so on in an authentic context.  This is important both in a "closed" virtual classroom as well as when students are publishing publicly for others.  It's likely this would also provide a good opportunity for discussion about topics such as international mindedness, culture and community building, which might not otherwise be addressed.

One emphasis that I really like in these chapters is the purposeful use of technology - not being fixed on the tool but instead thinking about how to transform the learning experiences for students.  The book explains very clearly several models of technology integration such as SAMR, developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura (who incidentally is coming to ASB Un-Plugged this year), and TPACK.  SAMR is basically giving you a framework in which to view learning tasks, and it also gives you the language to have conversations about the "so what" of technology-rich learning.  I've written about the model a number of times on this blog - and these remain the most popular of all my posts (click here to see an example SAMR being used to transform learning).  TPACK works well with SAMR to use technology with a focus on learning (another popular blog post), as TPACK looks at the 3 critical domains of knowledge (technological, pedagogical and content) and strives for a balance in all 3 when designing learning engagements.  The book gives several examples of how teachers can use SAMR and TPACK together to help teachers evaluate the use of technology.

Kim recently spoke at Learning2 about her struggle as a student with maths.  My struggle was with languages.  At school I tried to learn both French and German unsuccessfully.  However when given a purpose for learning, such as actually moving to a new country as was the case when I started to learn Dutch, the learning became much easier.  There is a lovely quote at the end of Chapter 2 that I really related to:
To learn another language, one must take risks and acknowledge that his/her lens isn't the only lens to view the world.  This opens the door for empathy and tolerance.
I thought a lot about this because I'm currently designing some new Category 1 workshops for the PYP and the first modules are about international mindedness.  It's really clear from this quote how language is important in strengthening relationships and the building of international mindedness, which is at the heart of all 4 IB programmes.

Chapters 3 and 4 are about becoming a connected teacher and managing a connected classroom.  Of course if you are not connected to others as a teacher it will be really challenging to find ways to connect your students!  These chapters outline how to go about building a personal learning network (PLN) and explain the difference between a community and a network - for example when you join Facebook you join a community, but within that you network to connect to people you know or who share similar interests.  A quick look at my Facebook groups shows that I have some professional groups such as the PYP Workshop Leaders Network and the International School Teachers group, and I have other groups based on personal friendships I've made in the various schools where I have taught.  In addition I have groups based on interests such as mindfulness and one group just based around things like events, restaurants and shopping in Mumbai which is a great place to get local recommendations.  These chapters also deal with some of the tools for creating and growing PLNs such as Twitter, and a step by step approach to creating and managing your connected classroom including a number of shared resources that can be accessed using QR codes.

I'm now about halfway through the book and keen to read on and blog about the rest - and to write that Amazon review of course.  Upcoming chapters deal with designing technology-rich learning experiences, media literacy, global connections, parent education and how to continue learning.  The book sells on Amazon for $7.79 which is extremely good value and affordable for all teachers.  Look out for another blog post about the second half of this book in the coming days.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Less is more

For the past 3 weeks I have been with my mother in England.  Readers of my blog will know that my mother suffers from dementia and needs a lot of support.  She doesn't have wifi at home, and even the telephone connection is quite sporadic as she lives out in the country.  Apart from looking after her,  I've done very little "work",  though I've had lots of time to think and read.  As I'm interested in moving forward into more of an innovation position, I've been reading George's Couros's book The Innovator's Mindset, and reflecting on this and how it relates to my life and the schools where I have worked.  Every day, sometimes twice a day, I have taken a break to walk around the grounds where my mother lives.  I've been enjoying the autumn sun, wind and colours.  The photos and questions in this post are all from my daily "thinking walks", and the quotes are all from George's book.

How can we focus on and support deep learning?

Less is More

  • More so than ever before, educational organizations need to focus more on depth than breadth.  Quality should always override quantity.  But that isn't what happens in schools where teachers feel inundated by new initiatives and a myriad of organizational objectives.
  • As leaders we must recognize, as we're adding what's important and removing what's unnecessary from our staff members' "plates" that every single person's plate size is different.
  • How would your staff members and students respond if someone asked, "What are the 3 big things your school is exploring?"  Would they all say the same 3 things, or would you have double-digit objectives being shared?
  • As a school, when we limit our initiatives, we give ourselves time to discover what deep learning can really look and feel like.  Focusing on a few key things promotes innovation in teaching and learning.
How far away is our "horizon"?  What will we need to learn for the next 4 years and for the next 40?

The tyranny of choice
  • When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable ... but as the number of choices keeps growing negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to escalate until we become overloaded.  At this point choice no longer liberates but debilitates.  It might even be said to tyrannize.
  • Although offering too many choices can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, it is imperative that leaders are careful not to constrain those we serve by only allowing them to explore designated tools or resources.  If you do not model constant exploration, teaching practices can become stagnant.  Trial and error, even if they are messy, is where powerful learning happens.
How can we get out of our educational silos and connect with others?

Creativity and innovation
  • Creativity is where we start to think differently and innovation is where creativity comes to life.
  • A focus on doing less allows us the time to go beyond surface level learning and to really explore so we can build a knowledge that enables us to move forward and innovate.  Time to explore is paramount in being successful at creating something new.
  • True innovation in education will only happen when a new structure is created: one that nurtures critical thinkers, supports risk-takers and encourages ongoing transformation, and that places a high value on creative and insightful learning.
  • We can think more creatively if we open our minds to the many connected environments that make creativity possible.  As educational leaders we must promote and capitalize on open, connected learning.  If we want to accelerate our own growth we must actively participate in the sharing of ideas.
What is the best way to create and support an "innovation ripple"?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Knowing enough to know what you don't know

I came across this TedEd video on Facebook today, which deals with inaccurate self-perception and the "invisible holes in our competence".  It was such an interesting video that I really wanted to share it.  The key to knowing how good you really are:
  • ask for feedback from others
  • keep learning

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tough questions for tech departments

Back in September I wrote a post entitled Is the role of tech director dead?  It's interesting that today I've been reading on in George Couros's book The Innovator's Mindset, and I've come across a section that refers to the role of a school district technology director as obsolete because it inhibits learning.  George asks 4 questions that can frame the work of IT departments:

  1. What's best for kids?  Should we block social media sites or should we educate students to navigate these as we give them the skills to understand how to stay safe online, digital citizenship and the impact of their digital footprint?
  2. How does this improve learning?  Is the software that the school subscribes to designed for learning, or is it simply a business application that comes with a site licence?
  3. What is the balance of risk -v- reward?  Many tech departments want to work in a low or zero risk environment, hence various websites are blocked.  Can the message that we trust students bring its own reward?  Teachers need to be able to articulate the rewards of technology.
  4. Is this serving the few or the majority?  When we decide on a policy, is this for the many who use technology wisely, or for the few who may misuse the technology?
Photo Credit: Scott Beale Flickr via Compfight cc