Wayfinder Learning Lab

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


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Creating Cultures of Thinking: Summary Cards

COTCards-WABdangloid

Keeping it handy.

I love Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart of Project Zero at HGSE so much, and refer to it so often, that I made these aide-mémoire cards and chapter summaries, and I carry them with me for planning, coaching and collaboration meetings. The front side has a visual and chapter line, and the reverse summarises the key subheadings of the chapter.

Of course this doesn’t replace a deep reading of the book. I find them a useful reminder and a tool for use in conversations. If you haven’t read the book (or taken part in a COT workshop or course), don’t rely on these for understanding. 

In my current role as learning & ICT coach, I use the cultural forces as a filter for thinking and development. They can be used to notice and name forces in a situation. Which forces are being influenced with this? Which force(s) might be in high or low resource? How can we make sure the influence is positive? How can we help make it easier to do better things?

Click here to download them as a pdf.

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Other COT resources I keep to hand

Most of these are hosted on Ron’s website.

 

“Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” 

(Vygotsky)

Our role as teachers and parents is to provide an intellectual apprenticeship for learners. As Ron mentions in the video below, via Howard Gardner, their time with us should be “time well spent”. This interview outlines some key ideas from the Cultures of Thinking project, and is well worth listening to.

 


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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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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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Using Tweetdeck to Curate a Twitter PLN

Twitter is an amazing tool for building a PLN (personal learning network), but as you follow more accounts the main stream can be too fast/distracting to follow, and dipping in at random times is inefficient. Tweetdeck is ideal for curating your feeds: create a column for each topic of interest. Here’s an ugly image for an overview. It’s also great for keeping up with rapidly-moving feeds (such as twitter chats or breaking news).

Using TweetDeck

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 21.28.20Some tips: 

  1. I find TweetDeck for Chrome works well
  2. I get rid of the “Activity”column, it’s distracting
  3. Click on >> (lower-left) to see more options
  4. I add columns for many topics of interest. Each is its own potential PLN.
  5. Some Twitter users curate “lists” of accounts. You’ll get notified if you are added. If you look in the list, there may be other interesting people to follow.
  6. When an interesting conference or event is on, I follow the #Hashtag and am able to review the feed to learn vicariously. Too many columns can slow down Chrome, so delete them if they’re no use.
  7. “Likes” are often used as bookmarks, though the poster will know. On the main Twitter app you can “save bookmarks” but not here yet. Sometimes at the end of an exchange, a user will “like” the final post as a polite way of ending the conversation.

Some MYP-related Hashtags/Accounts you might want to put into columns. Copy everything, including OR. As you follow more accounts, you can see the kinds of #tags they are using. 

  • #MYPChat OR @MYPChat OR #IBMYP OR #IBChat
  • #PYPChat OR #IBRebelAlliance
  • #IBATL OR #SkillsFirst OR #DOKChat
  • #EdTech

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Update: here’s a short tutorial video by Dan Klumper (@danklumper)


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What does this look like in the classroom?

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John Catt has a two-fer offer with Tom Sherrington’s “Learning Rainforest

This post is a quick recommendation for a very practical resource for teachers, coordinators & learning coaches. “What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice”, by Carl Hendrick & Robin MacPherson, with illustrations by Oliver Caviglioli, is available in paperback from John Catt (and Kindle). This review is written from the perspective of an international school educator and coordinator.

Make sure you visit the “What Does This Look Like?” website for more posts on these topics, colour images and discussions. It’s a great resource.

The authors have designed a very useful text that can be read in a single sitting and/or dipped into as a reference. I would recommend it in teacher training, and it should be read by anyone responsible for professional learning. Each chapter is written in a Q&A style, with introductory key points, and practical questions each answered by two experts in the field of the chapter (it’s an impressive and credible lineup). They wrap up with a summary of the ‘streamlined classroom‘, with six key practices to create flow. More on this below.

Overall, I found this text accessible, conversational and practical. I really like the format of the chapters and there is a strong focus on what teachers really need to know (away from fluff and distraction). I hope they continue to develop their blog, and look forward to a future edition in a few years’ time. It would be good to see more on international/multicultural classrooms, or even additional chapters for different disciplines.

I’ve listed the chapter and contributors below, with a few of the key issues addressed in the chapter and links to the authors’ Twitter profiles. This book in itself is a great example of the power of Twitter as a PD tool – I have followed many of these contributors for a long time and have a learned a lot from them as a result.

Feedback Summary: Wiliam & Christodoulou

Sample Summary (click to enlarge)

Assessment, marking & feedback: Dylan Wiliam & Daisy Christodoulou

  • Student ownership of and engagement with feedback
  • The testing effect, past papers and strategies
  • Efficient marking & feedback practices
  • Using student data

Behaviour: Tom Bennett & Jill Berry

  • Classroom culture: relationships, expectations, communication
  • Managing low-level disruption and poor behaviour
  • Engaging students (and keeping them engaged)

Reading and literacy: Alex Quigley & Dianne Murphy

  • Reading comprehension and sustained ‘deep reading’ (in a technological society)
  • Building vocabulary and shared roles in developing literacy
  • Reading for pleasure

SEN: Jarlath O’Brien & Maggie Snowling

  • Supporting students with behavioural and learning difficulties (including the role of tech)
  • Challenging students who find it ‘too easy’
  • Supporting EAL learners

Motivation: Nick Rose & Lucy Crehan

  • Extrinsic vs intrinsic, and motivating non-academic students
  • Growth mindset & independent learning
  • Testing anxiety, resilience
Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 10.40.47

Learning Scientists Site

Psychology and memory: Paul Kirschner & Yana Weinstein

This whole section is packed with fantastic stuff, and I highly recommend leaping out to the Learning Scientists’ website, with some printable resources (also illustrated by Caviglioli).

  • Strategies for effective learning (spacing, interleaving)
  • Remembering, forgetting and strategies for developing long-term memory
  • Working memory and cognitive load theory (as “the single most important thing” for teachers to know (Wiliam))

Classroom talk and questioning: Martin Robinson* & Doug Lemov

  • Student-active vs didactic techniques (and teacher talk)
  • Questioning styles and encouraging quality conversation
  • Generating balanced, quality discussions where all students contribute

From here, I’d recommend teachers also have a look at Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart and The Best Class You Never Taught, by Alexis Wiggins.

Learning myths: David Didau & Pedro de Bruyckere

  • Multiple intelligences vs learning styles
  • Creativity, critical thinking and 21C skills
  • Taxonomies
  • Learning in the digital age (Google & remembering**)

Technology: Jose Picardo & Neelam Parmar

  • Impacts of mobile technology and balance
  • Academic honesty
  • Making the most of available tech

Independent Learning: All contributors

Perspectives on developing independent learners from various contributors. Worth reading and comparing to your own experiences. Creating independent learners through strong development of the approaches to learning skills (in conjunction with solid disciplinary an interdisciplinary knowledge) is a touchstone of a strong IB education.

Conclusion: The Streamlined Classroom (Carl Hendrick & Robin MacPherson)

Distilling their findings into the ‘honeycomb conjecture‘ below, the authors present an idea for an effective classroom to ensure solid foundations of learning and progress. This in itself would make a great introduction to the book as a PD resource, giving multiple entry points for teacher discussion.

I’ve written a lot on here about meaningful, effective, pragmatic inquiry, defining it as “Creative, critical reflective thought, built on a solid foundation of well taught/learned knowledge, skills and concepts that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?” . This book and its advice aligns with this definition, giving more concrete practices that help enhance a high-quality IB education. ***

In thinking about how to integrate effective tech use into teaching and learning, I can see potential applications for a streamlined classroom tech toolkit.

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Footnotes & Blog Posts

* I reviewed Robinson’s very interesting “Trivium 21C” for International School Magazine, here.

** No, Google will not replace knowing: Content & Inquiry in a Google World.

*** International School Magazine article on defining inquiry here.

If you’ve read the book, continue the discussion in the comments below, or find me on Twitter:

 


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What If..? MyIB & MOOC PD

 At a recent MYP Coordinators’ network meeting we were discussing how – despite lots of moves towards quality control and great efforts by the IBEN team – we still had occasional concerns on the reliability of the received message from online and face-to-face (f2f) workshops. Whether this comes from an unclear message, a side conversation, a misunderstanding across languages or the participant’s personal filter, we don’t know, but it led me to think about what steps might be taken to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding. 

If this is already in the pipeline, I’d love to know more about it…

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The Proposal: IB MOOC-style short courses

In the early stages of the MYP/DP teacher’s experience, the coordinator needs to know that the teacher knows the basics correctly, knows how to access the correct information and knows how to correctly operate their guide/criteria or other requirements. As unglamorous as it sounds, this seems to call for a reliable delivery method to build a baseline knowledge; a way to check the guides have been read and understood, with some reliable tasks and worked examples. A new teacher with a well-learned foundation of knowledge and skills in their subject area will be better equipped for interactive, inquiry-driven approaches in their later experiences in workshops and school-based PD.

edx-3001Over the last decade, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have become popular: where a university or institution has developed a great set of course materials, they post them online in a structured format for free participation – see Coursera, EdXUdacity and many more at Class Central. Typically these courses work in self-paced (enrol and get working) or cohort (timed start and end) models. Although it has been estimated that only around 5-6% of participants complete the course they enrolled for, they offer learners the opportunity to try courses at a university level that they might not have access to otherwise. They democratise learning. Furthermore, many of the courses can be verified with an optional low-cost certificate after completing the course and assessment successfully – and this is where I see the opportunity for IB professional learning.

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My IB as a MOOC Platform

In the current model of IB professional learning, online and f2f workshops are a great way to build a working knowledge of the programmes and make connections with colleagues from other schools. However, they are expensive and many schools have limited resources to support multiple attendees; if a workshop does not have the intended impact on the participant, it can feel like a waste of resources.

What if IBPD developed a series of short content-delivery courses in the MOOC-style so that access to the required, vetted and updated knowledge was open to all? Participants from anywhere with an internet connection could take short courses to update their understanding, at no cost: new teachers, existing teachers, those in IB schools and those who might want to be. Think a course in the style of Google Certified Educator Level 1: it doesn’t need to be ‘taught’ as all the materials are online (subject guides!), but has activities to demonstrate competence in the skills. Similarly, on the path to becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator you can collect badges & certificates through a personally-relevant pathway.

Anyone could join in, everyone would get the same reliable information. 

my-ib-updatedTo get verified/certified, the participant would need a MyIB account. The participant or school would pay a small fee (around US$100 is common on verified MOOCS), complete the assessment and receive a digital certificate. This would be great in supporting in-house professional learning (particularly when guides update). Typically sending one teacher on a workshop costs my school up to $2,000 in workshop fees, flights and accommodation; that’s a lot of potential MyIBMOOC certificates. I’d love to have something like this form part of a differentiated model of in-house professional learning.

Would this model be appropriate for new teachers entering a school? Moving school, country and system can be daunting enough; taking on a full workshop out of context is not always effective. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know, and although we need to get up and running quickly, we don’t usually have great questions until we’ve taught it a while. I’d love to be able to share a couple of ‘learn the basics’ short-courses with incoming teachers, to relieve their stress and help them tune in to their new programme.

What if completion of an entry-level MyIBMOOC was required for registration into a workshop? Would this reduce the impact of inappropriately-placed workshop participants on the workshop outcomes? As the demand for IB workshops increases, it puts more pressure on the stellar work done by the IBEN team. Would this model reduce pressure on the WSL pool and ensure participants are at the right starting point to move forwards with the group effectively?

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Design Principles for a Successful MyIBMOOC

What design specifications might make this model work? Here are some to get started. If you think of more, please add them in the comments below, or find me on Twitter.

  • Short &  focused. Long online courses are a draaaaaaag. A short course doesn’t need to deliver three days of f2f content; units on assessment & getting started in your subject, global contexts, being a personal project/EE supervisor or any other programme elements would be great.
  • Always up-to-date and linkable. “What’s the page number?” is an IBEN mantra, and the same should be true here. Don’t hide information where it is hard to access, especially where accuracy is important.
  • Clear assessment, focused feedback. We need to know that what we know is correct. Save the discussions for deeper-dive workshops, this idea is for building foundation knowledge only.
  • Translateable. Clear and concise content might later be translated into other working IB languages. Here in Japan, as more “Article 1” schools come online, would this help get schools up and running?
  • Platform agnostic & light. Of course, it needs to work on all broswers, not be blocked in any countries and not be so data-heavy that it can’t work in areas with slow internet.

What do you think? If this is already in the pipeline, I’d love to know more about it…

 

 


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Bold Moves for Schools

This is a quick-and-dirty review of a book that ticks all the boxes for a curriculum nerd like me: Bold Moves for Schools, by Heidi Hayes Jacobs & Marie Alcock, from the ASCD (2017, 207 pages).

It’s a practical and comprehensive, yet concise and quotable handbook of where to take curriculum, learning and leadership for modern learners. Educators in international schools will see many familiar themes emerge, from student agency and creativity in the curriculum to effective assessment, learning spaces and teacher development. There is much here that can accelerate a well-implemented IB curriculum (or standards-based learning model), and this book will sing to coaches or coordinators as it does to me.

“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.”

As a “pragmatic idealist” I like how the book connects a future-focused, genuinely student-centred education to the best of what we’re already doing. It avoids falling into the trap of trashing the traditional, instead framing bold moves through the antiquated (what do we cut?), the classical (what do we keep?) and the contemporary (what do we create?). Jacobs & Alcock insist throughout the book that these bold moves are mindful, that we are not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and that “meaningful curriculum composition versus meaningless imposition” is the goal.

How can we build a genuinely exciting contemporary educational experience that keeps the joy in the learning, the future in mind and the students in the driving seat? Through a systemic approach that focuses on what works and what could be: one which empowers teachers as self-directed professional learners and curriculum architects. For anyone trying to effect change in an existing (long-established) system, well-reasoned handbook is worth a look and resonates with my belief that we need always to respect the journey in our work.

“What is most critical is that the outcome reflect quality.”

I hope that much of what is in this book is not new to most curriculum leaders – particularly in the IB context – but it is great to have a volume that pulls it together in one place, with practical resources. This would make a great book study (guide here) for curriculum leaders and teachers. You will find interesting surprises, resources and provocations littered through the text, worthy of further discussion.

You may even make some bold commitments as a result…

Bold Moves 3 Elements

Three big ideas in Bold Moves for Schools.

Quick follow-up: I was at a Bold Moves Bootcamp with Marie Alcock recently, and it was great. There is a post about one of my outcomes (a DOK4 filter for transfer) here.

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Check it out

Without being too spoilerific, here are some useful links and resources from the book: