Wayfinder Learning Lab

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


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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.


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Updated: The Challenge of Interdisciplinary Learning

Since the original post in early 2016, we’ve made some progress, experienced some great successes and uncovered some further challenges. Enthusiasm is building behind Interdisciplinary Units (IDU’s), though there is still work to be done. I’ve updated the flowchart below to show some other “ways in” to IDU planning, and for potential inclusion in MYP IDU support materials. The pdf version has live links to supporting documents.

Click through to read the full post (1,500 words).

IDU Planning @sjtylr

A sample flowchart for working through the IDU process, distilled from “Fostering interdisciplinary teaching & learning” and MYP Coordinator Support Materials. Click to download as pdf, with active links. Updated April 2018.


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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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Curriculum as a Compass?

Over the last few years as a science teacher and coordinator I’ve been thinking a lot about how we might create a culture of thinking that balances vigorous and challenging outcomes with student co-creation (or navigation) of inquiry, particularly where there might be high-stakes terminal assessments looming. The “Curriculum as a compass, not a calendar” metaphor* helps me wrestle with these ideas. 

This one has been brewing a while and is still pretty drafty, so I reserve the right to edit ;> With so much written about inquiry and edtech in recent years, there is likely little new in here, but writing helps clarify thinking. Also, my kids and I love Moana, hence the images and gifs. 

*See the “Heritage of the Idea” at the bottom of the post. 

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Inquiry as a Quest (or Journey)

The Japanese term Tankyuu ( 究), meaning inquiry, journey, quest or investigation, is a nice fit for this idea. It aligns with a pragmatic definition of inquiry, suggesting that there is a journey worth taking, knowledge worth learning and many paths worth exploring.

It suggests depth and vigour, a level of sophistication that empowers learning, building on (and feeding back into) a solid foundation for the future.

questforlearning-530_1This is no new idea, and has been written about in many different ways. Most recently, in Quest for Learning by Marie Alcock, Alison Zmuda and Michael Fisher, inquiry is presented as a part of a “quest” that is enhanced by effective networks and elements of “gaming” that drive learners. Hop on over here for a review of their book.

Curriculum as a Compass, not a Calendar

@sjtylrCurriculumCompassIf we think of inquiry as a voyage, then we might think of curriculum as a compass –  map and compass set. As a map the curriculum outlines the destinations and checkpoints, obstacles and viewpoints. The curriculum outlines the “need to knows” in context (national/international standards), but doesn’t dictate the route to take – or the schedule for the learning. There may be well-trodden paths to lead us to tourist hotspots but there might also be areas uncharted, adventures waiting to happen where the questing learner (co-)creates new knowledge, ideas or outcomes.

The compass holds “true north”, ensuring that whatever the path taken, learners can find themselves back on track, relatively unscathed. The compass can help the tempered self-regulating learner decide “If I’m here, and I want/need to get there, then I have to ______ .” In the PYP context, you might want to read the ever-great Edna Sackson’s post on “curriculum shouldn’t be linear“.

With curriculum as a map and compass, teachers and learners can navigate the “need to knows and where to go’s” with some confidence. They might even be ready to set sail into the blue yonder…

Just in case & just in time:  the navigator’s toolkit

MoanaSail

Just enough to get going… [source]

What are the roles of knowledge and skills in an inquiry context? Under this metaphor, we might think of them as the “need to knows” to start the journey: the contents of the voyager’s backpack.

  • What does the explorer need to know and be able to do to set the course? What experiences and provocations can inspire the journey and create the moving force to get going?
  • What do they need to know and be able to do to get going? How will they know they’re making progress and how will they generate feedback to take action on the journey? What are the most effective ways to learn this foundational knowledge, misconception-free, so that they are prepared for the journey ahead?
  • What are the “just in case” lessons or resources that the teacher might have to hand (or workshop with), in prediction for challenges ahead? “Ah, I can see you’re heading up the mountain…. do you have the right rope?“.
  • What are the “just in time” lessons that the teacher might need to prepare, or have at their fingertips, as the journey progresses? How can we spot and take appropriate actions on the little nudges that get the lost wanderer out of the bog?

The Teacher and Learner as Wayfinders

grandma-tala-advice

Moana’s Grandma Tala: Inspiration, Provocateur, Wayfinder. [gif source]

Through all these decisions the teacher makes (or helps the student make), we can hold the following in mind:

  • What knowledge might help here, and are they on track?
  • What disciplinary skills are useful here and do they know them well?
  • What approaches to learning skills can drive this forwards?
  • What tools – physical, digital and strategic – might be needed and how will they access them? How much of this is just in case or just in time?
  • How can this connect to other learning, in this quest, other classes or outside?
  • TalaMoanaWho can help as journey-mates, experts or co-navigators?
  • Are they holding “true north” and how far off course is OK until we need to step in?

So what is the role of the elder in the hero’s quest?

Inspiration? Co-creator? Director? The holder of cultural knowledge (curriculum)? Guide? Instructor? Coach? Confidante? Expert?

As the adults in the room, with a great weight of responsibility, it is likely to be all of the above. The challenge is knowing who needs what and when, helping our own learners find the joy in uncertainty and the fulfilment of doing the hard work of learning to find our way.

Perhaps sometimes, like Moana’s Grandma Tala, we need to transform ourselves, to become Wayfinders and join them on their journey [gif source].

Technology can help bring the magic…

With potentially transformative technologies in our voyagers’ backpacks, our quests have the potential for charting new territories, creating new outcomes and connecting across the map.

MauiHookFrom productivity to efficiency, creativity to critical thinking, wellbeing to connection, the potential for technologies to really elevate learning is endless, and can amplify (or transform) a knowledge-rich, student-owned learning adventure.

Reach out and connect: it’s a rich world of shared learning and collaboration that can give the voyagers access to learning that might not have been possible otherwise.

…but don’t let SatNav ruin the adventure

SatNav, as wonderful as it can be, has two main flaws. First, it gives “the answer” quickly, even though it might not be the answer we need (and may sometimes lead down a dodgy path). Second, it can be annoyingly fiddly, dominating your thinking when you should be driving the car. As the teacher it can be hard to resist jumping in with the answer (or an assumption) that steals the opportunity for thought, like a satnav giving shortcuts that miss out on the best part of the journey. Similarly, edtech is not always the solution and even in the age of Google our students need to be masters of valuable knowledge.

I like to think about these “get out of the ways” (and I’m sure will add more):

  • If surface-level enquiry (looking up simple stuff) is wasting mental energy that could be better put to work on true thinking (inquiry with an “I”), find a more efficient way to teach the basics and move on to better questions.
  • If the adult is getting in the way of the real thinking, step back and listen.MoanaShiny
  • If the tech is just a “shiny” distraction, reconsider its worth. Do we really need this side-plot in our adventure?
  • If the tech tool is creating an unproductive struggle (a “clicky-clicky timesuck”), ditch it for something more truly interactive and/or effective.
  • If grades are getting in the way of learning, find ways to separate them from feedback (feedback first, feed-forwards and so on).
  • If the navigators are lost (or antagonistic), teach the teamwork skills that are needed to move on.
  • … (can you add more?)

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“It’s not just sails and knots…”

… it’s seeing where you’re going (in your mind). It’s knowing where you’re going by knowing where you’ve been.

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So there you go. My two cents on curriculum as a compass, inquiry as a quest and ATL skills, edtech and more as navigation tools, using Moana gifs. If you have any thoughts, please add them in the comments below or find me on Twitter.

MoanaMaui

The apprentice becomes a wayfinder in her own right. [gif source]

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*The Heritage of an Idea

When I heard the phrase “curriculum is a compass, not a calendar“, years ago, it resonated, but I couldn’t remember where I heard it, Found it: it was Aaron Duff  (in 2014) – and I’d even made (and forgotten about) a graphorism when this account was on my old handle (@iBiologyStephen), a symptom of years of output littered across the web.

In a Twitter exchange on #PubPDAsia I tracked down an even earlier use of it (2008), and found a quote in Research on Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspectiveedited by Karen E. Johnson, Paula R. Golombek. It’s amazing what focused search strategies can turn up in the context of a rapidly-moving live twitter-chat! 

Now, as I think more about curriculum development and future adventures in high-quality, learner-driven, vigorous (and knowledge-founded) inquiry, I think about the toolkits and strategies we might put in place. Connecting the pieces of the the programmes (MYP, DP, NGSS etc), along with big ideas and frameworks from Bold Moves, Quest for Learning, Cultures of Thinking, Making Thinking Visible, I move closer to the image of the learner (adult or student) as a Wayfinder.

Aue Aue! 

Aue, aue, we are explorers reading every sign
We tell the stories of our elders
In the never ending chain