Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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My Best Books, 2017-18

This year has been high on transition, anxiety and exhaustion, and very low on sleep. On the plus side, we’re feeling positive about the move to an amazing school, and the sleepless hours have meant even more reading than normal. Here is a selection of the books that have kept me going and inspired me over the past year.

Factfulness

“Please return your brain for a free upgrade.”

I really think all international educators should read this book by the wonderful Hans, Anna and Ola Rosling, of Gapminder. I’ve been a Han Rosling fanboy for many years over on i-Biology and this is the perfect tribute to him and summary of the important messages from years of research, action and TED Talks.

Buy it! It’s better in print than on Kindle, and on Gapminder you can try the global ignorance test and their Dollar Street project.

I’ve written a more complete review of Factfulness here, and have been tweeting about it with Friday #Factfulness.

 

The Binti Trilogy, Akata Witch & Akata Warrior

by Nnedi Okorafor

“Being in this place of diversity and movement was overwhelming, but I felt at home too… as long as I didn’t look at the ships.”

“Prepare to fall in love with Binti” says Neil Gaiman’s cover recommendation, and he couldn’t be more right. Nnedi Okorafor has created an outstanding body of work, with Binti as my introduction to her world-building, characters and afrofuturism. I won’t spoil it, but give Binti a go – it’s a quick read, packed with imagination an you could well be as hooked as I am. My own 11yo daughter loved it too. I immediately read Home, pre-ordered the trilogy finale, and got stuck into Akata Witch (and more recently finished Akata Warrior). The Akata books (Sunny) are renamed in the UK (here and here).

Okorafor is my new favourite author, and this short TEDx talk by her is well worth the nine minutes. I can see Binti becoming a great reader for MYP Lang Lit units of inquiry as it will resonate with Third Culture Kids (TCK’s).

 

Bold Moves for Schools

by Heidi Hayes Jacobs &  Marie Alcock

I’ve blogged about this before, and tweeted about it plenty. Reading this really resonated with who I am as an educator and curriculum/pedagogical leader. It is clear, provocative and practical, with lots of great ideas and suggestions encompassing curriculum, pedagogy, leadership and more. I had a great time at a Bootcamp with Marie earlier in the year, and it got me thinking a lot more about Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer. Well worth a look, especially if you’re looking to the future. Read more here. I also enjoyed Quest for Learning by Marie Alcock, Allison Zmuda and Michael Fisher (see here).

“Innovation requires courage coupled with a realistic sensibility to create new possibilities versus “edu-fantasies”. Moving boldly is not moving impulsively or for the sake of change. Moving boldly involves breaking barriers that need breaking.”

 

The John Catt Stable

These last few years, John Catt publishing in the UK have produced a range of great books on education. Back in 2014 I read and wrote about Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21C as a vision of a well-implemented IB Diploma Programme, and reviewed it for IS Magazine. This year I’ve read and loved all of the following, though my particular favourite has been “What does this look like in the classroom?” by Carl Hendrick and Robin MacPherson, illustrated by Oliver Caviglioli (reviewed and linked here).

These are the kinds of books educators should be reading in initial teacher training, as well as keeping as reminders of what works and why – particularly if you want to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater in a quest for dynamic learning. Other gooduns I’ve read this year (and there are more than this):

 

Reasons to Stay Alive

by Matt Haig

A wonderfully-written, honest and raw description of living with and through depression and anxiety, and great twitter account to follow. Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is warm and funny whilst dealing with serious issues.

I look forward to reading his new follow-up, Notes On A Nervous Planet.

 

Recipes for Wonder

by Alom Shaha & Emily Robertson

This book is so beautiful I got three copies: one for us, one for my niece and one for the school library. Alom Shaha (@alomshaha) is on a mission to help parents become their child’s first science teacher and with this book, illustrated by Emily Robertson, he has a winner.

Books of “experiments at home” have been around for ages, but this goes far beyond: with personal stories, “the power of I don’t know”, inquiry questions and “Mr. Shaha says” explanations, it helps frame each activity through thinking as a scientist. Get it here, or in real shops.

 

The Idiot Brain

by Dean Burnett

Who knew brains could be so funny? Dean Burnett, neuroscientists did, and The Idiot Brain is a witty, readable and up-to-date primer on what we know about our brains, how they (kindof) work and how we know.

If you’re at all interested in how your jelly mass is ruling your life, and sometimes working against you, give this a go.

Grace of Kings

by Ken Liu

In summer 2016, a tweet from Saladin Ahmed sent me down a rabbit hole of rediscovering fantasy/sci-fi through nonwestern authors and stories. One of them, which I only got to in this year, was Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings. Epic, detailed and well-developed, the Dandelion Dynasty is a universe I’ll return to in the future.

And you know how it goes with Amazon recommendations connected to your “likes”…

Ember Quartet (Books 1-2) &  The Grisha Series

Excellent YA fantasy, the Ember novels by Sabaa Tahir and the Grisha novels by Leigh Bardugo are fast-paced, with rounded characters, solid arcs, darkness, humour and plenty to set them apart from traditional fantasy. Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are also a fun heist novels set in the Grisha world.

Authors like these have given me a renewed interest in a genre which I had abandoned years ago through boredom. I wasn’t aware of how much great stuff was out there.

 

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On my summer reading list (let’s see how many I get through):

 

So… what are you reading? Recommendations below, or find me on Twitter.

Happy holidays!

Stephen

 


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Connecting ISTE NETS & IB ATL Skills

Back in 2016-17, I worked with a group on a project to connect the IB ATL Skills to the ISTE Standards for Students and AASL Standards, to generate our own school’s Instructional Technology & Information Literacy (ITIL) Standards. CA is a three-programme IB school (PYP-MYP-DP). The goal was to create an alignment of the ISTE and ATL skills that would allow us to put the language of ATL first in conversation and collaborative planning with teachers, but to build on the excellent work and resources of ISTE in our co-planning and tech integration.

At the same time, it brought together a range of people responsible for working with teachers on their units of inquiry, and built a stronger connection through the library. This group included tech integrators, librarians and Liz Durkin (@lizdk), who along with being Associate Secondary Principal is now Ed Tech Director. I was in the role of MYP Coordinator and PK-12 Director of Learning. Planning took place in the library, and by the end of the 2016-17 year we had a framework to get started on, with some spaces for further development.

This post outlines some of the processes, decisions and next-steps for the project. This was a big project, starting almost two years ago, and I’m sure there will be parts I’ve forgotten, but now it’s the summer, there is some time to reflect and capture thoughts.

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A section of the resulting spreadsheet, showing the outcomes.

Decision 1: Keep the ISTE Standards but put ATL first with teachers

This fits in with a longer-term school-wide goal of better embedding the IB ATL skills framework in the school, and we were wary that adding another new set of language for teachers to use could create a block to implementation. We have kept the ISTE Standards and Strands as published, but unpacked each strand into a cluster of ATL skills that we saw as contributing to the realisation of the skill/strand.

Later on, ITIL co-planners as ‘gatekeepers’ of the ISTE standards would be able to articulate the connections. Also, as the IB MYP ATL skills framework was being developed in 2013-14(ish), it was clear that some skills were directly derived from 2007 ISTE NETS. With the 2016 ISTE for Students update, and seeing future directions of ATL in PYP and DP, we saw a timely opportunity to get to work.

Decision 2: Add a “Lifelong Reader” Standard

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 08.15.13This allowed for the stronger connection of the libraries as a research/ATL centre, but also made explicit the reading role of the library, referring to the AASL framework. The structure is the same, with standard, strands and ATL skills. We included, but are yet to develop (it’s in next year’s goals) a “mother tongue” strand to work out how the library can support ATL development through mother tongue and language acquisition support.

Decision 3: Adapt for context

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 08.12.20As we went through the collaborative process of unpacking the ATL skills against the strands (first on paper, then on the spreadsheet), we spotted some opportunities to adapt to better suit our own context, or to generate custom ATL skill descriptors to better represent the meaning of the ISTE strand. We coloured these differently (blue in the example to the right), as a reminder that as specialist skills these are very unlikely to be covered in other classes and so will need to be found a ‘home’ in the curriculum.

Decision 4: Determine Descriptors

This was an attempt to align the four levels fo mastery of the ATL skills with the ISTE standards, to show our expectations of learners over time. We started with the third column (practitioner/demonstrating) as “meets expectations” and determined a statement of a competent student. Very quickly we realised the ISTE standards statements, with minor modification, fit the bill. We then developed band 2 (learner/developing) and band 1 descriptors (novice/beginning) as steps towards competence. Finally we decided to leave the fourth column blank and ‘aspirational’ as an opportunity for inventive and diverse high-level implementations to be opened up. After all, tech moves fast and we don’t want to cap creativity with artificial descriptors. See Cult of Pedagogy’s Single Point Rubric post for more discussion of this.

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Four levels of description. Aim for green, work towards it, aspire beyond. 

Decision 5: What skills do we need to know?

Although this project developed a strong connection between ISTE and ATL for the purposes of EdTech integration, we still needed to know what skills teachers and students need to know to be successful in our high-tech school. A supplementary process identified a “CA Tech Skills” inventory for orientation/support to help people get up and running successfully.

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Next steps & future development

This was a really enjoyable curriculum project and it worked well as a tool to bring co-planners and integrators from different sections of the school together. Next steps, of course, are to further implement the ISTE standards through embedding ATL into units and instruction via the library-tech and co-planners. Over the 2017-18 school year work began on this, and Liz Durkin expertly led the TALT & Tech Reps group in adopting the RAT model (replace, amplify, transform) of tech integration, identifying lots of amazing uses of tech in the school and spreading them through celebrating and sharing success. Over the next year, things will really click into place, including the work being done on digital wellbeing.

As I move on to a new role as learning/tech coach at another school, I look forward to continuing these discussions and collaborations.


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Getting Going in MYP: Student Orientation

Here are some general resources for helping students get oriented in the MYP. Click here to open full-size in GoogleSlides, with instructions in the speaker notes. The goal here is to provide some ideas and printables that can be used to help initiate students into MYP, in an enjoyable but informative way (and not launching right into “here’s how you’ll be assessed”).

Big thanks to Alison Yang for her ideas, discussion and posts (see here and here), and to Lenny Dutton for her creativity. If you have an idea to add, please let me know.

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I’ve also posted this to i-Biology with some ideas for MYP Science.


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Life Coaching & International Educators

A year ago we decided to move: the administrators’ timeline at our school is before summer for the year-after-next.

It was a very tough decision to leave behind a great school and this life that we love so much in Japan but the timing is right and although I find the current admin role rewarding, I’ve been missing students and the lab too much.

After seven years in amazing Kansai, and a middle -schooler on the horizon, we felt it was a good time to make a change.

Around about the same time, Sam Sherratt posted this. I completed the form, and didn’t think much more of it. I missed the podcast episode.

The summer was anxiety-ridden. I was looking for a return to a non-admin role and so knew it’d be months before anything was posted. In the unknown, I worried a lot about what I was doing to my family. Did I mention we’re at a really good school with a great quality of life in beautiful Japan? The anxiety was accented by the pressure from the Search associate to prioritise admin roles (even though I was looking to get out), as a single-income family.

Then I remembered Sam’s tweet and followed-up with a DM. He pointed me in the direction of Kavita Satwalekar (InnerSenseCoaching), a life coach used by ISHMC. I’ve been through Cognitive Coaching training with Ochan Powell and I think it opened me up to opening up. We got in touch and Kavita guided me through a dilemma coaching session, one of her first online. It helped unblock my thinking and get to grips with what I really needed. There was a sense of relief and I was able to ignore the admin jobs and focus on what was important.

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 22.21.27Luckily we’re in the visa process for a new life, but moving on is hard (did I mention Japan is awesome?), and it brought me back to the podcast. For the first time since the coaching session I listened to the episode featuring Kavita, and I recommend it to anyone on the recruiting trail, in transition or any school administrator with a heart.

Links: iTunesCastbox

If you have an hour, I recommend listening to the discussions between Sam, Cathy Brown, Chad Walsh and Kavita. Without spoiling it too much, listen out for conversations on:

  • Do we truly understand what stress is and how it interacts with us? Why do we need external forces to realise this?
  • How do we truly take care of others and ourselves in a  community where we’re in each others’ pockets? Who’s taking care of those who are taking care of you?
  • What can we learn from observing ourselves through ideas from the book “Don’t sweat the small stuff at work”?

I find it interesting that they discuss how the survey results suggested a strong desire for a (totally impartial) life coaching role in school communities. Personally I’m glad I followed the lead and invested in it.

If you’re coming up on recruiting and in a dilemma, give the podcast a listen and think about coaching. It might help. It did for me.


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Wayfinders: Respecting The Journey

After a decade acting in coordination/leadership/HOD/coaching-type roles, I think one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned – and want to encourage in others – is to respect the journey. This generates more questions in my head than most topics, as it is so nebulous and complex, yet so important.

Where I like to think of curriculum as a compass, not a calendar, in my experience so far the same rings true for developing people and practices. Schools, teams, teachers and students alike are all on a combination of shared and personal journeys to growth, with different starting points, strengths and needs.

We are all Wayfinders

Not all departments or individuals can be treated in the same way and they certainly won’t respond in the same way to standardised approaches. Sometimes – often – we need to go slow to go fast, to listen and respond accordingly. This can be challenging if we feel like there’s too much to get done.

As a community of wayfinders, it is important to respect the journey so far, and for it to be told in a respectful way. Large-scale change doesn’t necessarily mean that what used to be was bad, but the future direction must be good and be clear to all, built with the culture in mind. Being dropped into this culture on the move can be a shock the system as we try to find our place and role, especially if we were well established in our last role, and we might want to establish credibility early on.

So as schools what are we doing to “respect the journey” in transition? 

  • How can we best support and encourage the experience and expertise of new faculty, whilst enculturating them to the positive elements of “what we do here”?
  • How can we best support and respect diverse teams where everyone is working on varying degrees of expertise in terms of the vision or mission? Where some see the vision as aspirational and yet to others it’s already their daily practice?
  • What can we do to protect teachers from unnecessary burdens that become the blocks to forward movement? To “move your ‘BUTs’, in Teresa Tung’s sense?

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As I  move on I want to ensure that the stories of change here are passed on faithfully and respectfully. As I prepare to find my way with a new community going through its own changes I want to be sure to listen respectfully to their journey so far, and avoid as much as possible falling into the trap of “in my old school…”.

Exciting times ahead.

grandma-tala-advice

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Let’s All Meet Up In The Year 2000… (on #Factfulness)

… won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown? 

November 1995: I’d just turned 15, Britpop was at its peak (who did you prefer, Oasis or Blur?) and Pulp released this singalong anthem. We loved it.

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I couldn’t predict the year 2000, even in 1995. I had no idea I’d be ringing in the new year behind a bar in Belfast while studying to be a marine biologist. The thought of living in Indonesia, Japan or China had never entered my mind, never mind the notion that I’d be raising a cross-culture family in international schools, or that so much of our lives would be shaped by travel and the internet. My barely-myelinated teen brain was busy enough navigating embarrassment-avoidance, dodgy hair and GCSE’s.

51kmdnvzmsl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Disco 2000 popped back into my head (and wouldn’t move, thank-you), as I was reading Hans Rosling’s wonderful #Factfulness. As we form our worldview, it is often shaped by early experience; genuine conceptual change takes some effort and cognitive dissonance.  I wondered how the world has changed since my own worldview had first formed, and how the countries I have lived in compare now to the UK back in 1995 or 2000.

The world we are in now is far from my 15 year-old reality and the future is possibly even more uncertain now than it was when I was singing along to Pulp: make sure you read Aloha’s post on the agile learner in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. As the Roslings state in their book, “the world can be both bad and better“. We can educate for hope, not despair, but we need to ensure that through factfulness, our programme frameworks and position of privilege we can help create the conditions for knowledge-rich inquiry that connects the Global Goals to sophisticated learning. We didn’t need to worry about this in 1995, did we?

Now we’re approaching 2020 these aren’t 21st Century skills, they are now skills. We can’t accurately predict the future, but we can temper our learners, developing wayfinding global citizens that maintain a positive outlook. Take the Global Ignorance Test here.

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Shifting Perspectives: The Four Levels

This is important learning from the Roslings’ work, helping to break the us/them, west/rest view of “otherness” that we can tend to in our world view. See also Dollar Street, an interactive way to develop IMaGE through peeking into the lives of others like us.

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Learning Forwards: #Factfulness in an international inquiry context.

I’m really looking forward to connecting with more IB educators on discussing this book. The presence of the word “fact” can cause a knee-jerk reaction in some, a misconception on the title perhaps, but this book is more about high-quality inquiry than many I have read.

In our positions of great privilege in international schools, we owe it to our learners to ensure they are not ignorant of the world. We can achieve this through factful inquiry: lines of inquiry that rely on data, real perspectives and avoiding the danger of the single story. We can move beyond stereotypes,

I want my own children to be empowered as knowledgable investigators, creative problem-solvers and open-minded wayfinders. We’re already using Dollar Street at home to look into lives aroud the world (comparing our “halves” of Indonesia and the UK, for example).

Check out Rosling’s statements on education at the end of the book. If you have read it and want to chat more, come on over to #Factfulness.