Friday, March 28, 2014

Food for Thought: Principles of Learning and Achievement Culture

7229079_3851c68ce3Old Shoe Woman via Compfight cc

Dear all,

 Hope you have had a relaxing break. Hopefully you will have time to read this Food for Thought over the weekend as you re-engage with school.

·         As one of our Principles of Learning is about challenging our students I thought that this video aligned very nicely with where we are going.

·         In addition when I read the following article I thought how well it also aligned with the core of the Principles of Learning that we are introducing and in addition the 5 Pillars of our Achievement Culture (Welcoming Community, Choice words,  Do no Harm, Never Too Late to Learn, and Best in the Universe). I have attached below brief explanation of these 5 pillars and what they mean to us, in case you have forgotten from the start of the year.

“Belonging to an academic community: Feeling connected to adults and peers at school intellectually, not just socially, through an academic community, is a strong motivator. Feeling a sense of belonging in an intellectual community helps students interpret setbacks as a natural part of learning, and not as a personal deficit that sets them apart.

Belief in the likelihood of success: Students’ belief in their own self-efficacy is a better predictor of academic success than measured ability. Students need to feel that they’re likely to succeed in order to sustain the hard work of learning something challenging. When students believe they’ll fail, they often don’t invest in the work or devalue the task.

The work has meaning and value: The brain naturally looks for connections. When students find academic work to be relevant to lives, interests, and concerns they’re much more likely to work on a task in a sustained way and to perform well. It takes much more energy to focus attention on a task that does not have direct value to the student.

Belief that abilities and intelligence can grow with effort: Known as a growth mindset, Carol Dweck’s theory we refer to above) if students believe the brain is a muscle that must be exercised, they’re more likely to interpret setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve. This mindset is associated with the joy of mastering a task, rather than learning for a grade or to outperform others.”

·         In addition following on from something I said in a recent Monday morning briefing about posting information, this TED is about how Twitter protects users, it is interesting and only 9 minutes long, but if that is too long just join at minute 7.30 and see what information each picture that is posted can display but fortunately not on Twitter.

See you on Monday,


CULTURE OF ACHIEVEMENT  (Built on the work of Fisher, Frey and Pumpian)
The culture of achievement is what our mission is built upon and the 5 pillars of achievement connect our culture with our vision.
The pillars are first and foremost philosophical agreements that are then turned into policy and practice. Building the culture is part of our strategic effort.
“The collective power of a school community that turns its attention to building a culture of achievement cannot be underestimated.”
1        Welcome: We make ISHCMC comfortable so that every person who crosses out threshold believes they are entering a place of wonder. Every person should feel; welcome, noticed and valued. If not then our community will not be engaged, energized or empowered. This affective experience sends a powerful message as to what we value.
2        Do no harm: A responsive school culture should first seek to prevent harm to others through measured words and behaviors. All rules, policies and procedures should be intended to frame the way that ISHCMC students learn. What is the purpose of an ISHCMC education? How do the students who graduate from ISHCMC match our mission? ISCHMC discipline codes should teach students to assess their actions as appropriate or not, based on an ethical standard and not simply adherence to a set of rules that are subjectively judgmental and too often inconsistently enforced. Our aim is to build our behavior codes on the principle that one’s actions have consequences and that student’s must learn to take care of themselves, others and the environment.
3        Choice words: We are shaped by the language we use about ourselves and by the language used by others about us.  Language creates realities and invites identities” Peter Johnstone, Choice Words (2004). The language students hear should help them tell a story about themselves. School should be a place students rediscover, develop, and use their talents, gifts and natural capabilities. Students should feel they are capable of great learning and of finding their passions. Teachers must believe in students, their learning and their ability to cultivate quality through their efforts. A growth mindset is necessary for achievement as it produces greater willingness to confront problems, take risks and develop resilience.
4        It’s never too late to learn: Are we willing to do what it takes to teach all students in ISHCMC? Can we develop systems that hold learning not time, as the constant? Can we push students to go beyond the minimum to discover what they are capable of achieving? At ISHCMC we presume competence in all students. This positive presupposition is important for the way we encourage teachers and students to interact. We expect teachers to uncover topics and not just to cover them and this is an important part of our Principles of Learning. We support a gradual release model of teaching that empowers students as they go through ISHCMC to take more and more control of their learning.
5        Best School in the Universe: Declaring this puts our beliefs in the public arena and illustrates that we are confident that we can be what we claim. It’s not just about the future or where we are going and what we can achieve it is also about NOW and every lesson that is being taught, the learning that is taking place, the interactions with and between stakeholders. Every day there are thousands of planned or unplanned interactions between students and teachers some of which will be perfect and make ISHCMC the Best in the Universe for a minute or so and others are not. To be the best we have to acknowledge the slip and think some more, reflect, act more responsibly, learn from each experience and want to be better and build that in the fabric of our culture. Everyone in the ISHCMC community needs to be committed and prepared to proclaim our goal is to be the best we can be all the time.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Food for Thought: Where is ISHCMC's Digital CItizenship Policy?


"7 take-aways from danah boyd’s work

As a teacher, here are some of my take-aways from boyd’s important book. We need to:
  • Acknowledge the role that networking spaces play in the social lives of teens and provide the framework for helping students understand the dynamics of those spaces as a means of connection and communication;
  • Provide more time for shared learning experiences in their lives, tapping into the social spaces of students in ways that acknowledge the strengths of those connections;
  • Come to learning from a positive position, not a negative one driven by fear of the world and fear of the unknown;
  • Understand that social media sharing is in a context that we adults often don’t understand completely, avoid making judgements about a single image or tweet or post, and be open to how “posturing” in some spaces can be a survival technique for some students;
  • Recognize how different online spaces can shape or nurture prejudices and access, so that when white/upper class students flock to Facebook and minority/lower class students remain in MySpace (a phenomenon that boyd noticed a few years ago), the opportunities for education and careers don’t get narrowed;
  • Teach explicitly what it means to find information and understand media influence in online spaces, so that students understand the pros and cons of the communication, and they can learn how to make judgements about the validity of that information with informed eyes;
  • Listen to what teenagers are saying about the complexity of their daily existence, because their voices are important in any educational landscape where learning is not about the moment, but about their lives."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Food for Thought: The Control Shift: A Grassroots Education Revolution Takes Shape

Dear all,

Just about to go to our Firefly training this morning. This VLE is a very exciting piece of software and will certainly improve our systems for communicating with students and parents. It will also allow us a better platform for transforming our use of technology in the classroom which will be a target for next year. The ease with which firefly allows us to create interactive lessons and flip our classrooms is outstanding and has so much potential.

Have also posted a couple of interesting articles this week that were forwarded to me on my parents blog at that I think that you will find interesting and are certainly Food for Thought for you as well as parents.

This weeks Food for Thought for us is about how we as teachers have to be prepared to relinquish control of our classrooms and knowledge and adopt new roles as leaders of learning.

Have a good weekend


Daniel C Bentley via Compfight cc

“So what does this mean for educators who are trying to figure out their role in this age of kids’ self-guided discovery?
“The control piece is really big, because if it’s acknowledged, it leaves educators with this empty hole,” says veteran teacher Will Richardson, the author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. “‘Well, if we’re not doing that, then what are we doing?’ That’s where the conversation needs to be. But it’s a hard one to have. It’s very difficult for people to see themselves in a decidedly different role. But at the end of the day, we have to examine what we’re doing in terms of content in classroom. It should be more about learning, giving kids power to get content on their own.”

“We really do have to change our roles as teachers to co-learners and supporters and mentors. It’s a big shift to make.”

This power shift is at the crux of an education revolution that’s been gaining momentum online. But it’s not about the show-stealing headlines of “Waiting for Superman,” or Michelle Rhee’s vision of school reform that are dominating most of the education-related media.”

Transforming our Classrooms: Transmedia/Digital Storytelling
  1. How Transmedia is Changing TV
  2. Teaching Students to be Multimedia Storytellers
  3. The Pottermore Effect on Ebooks and Transmedia
  4. Resources from Jess McCulloch
  5. 5 Tips for Transmedia Storytelling
  6. Transmedia Storytelling (Henry Jenkins)

Project Examples:

Monday, March 10, 2014

The IB develops the students top universities want

"Rumours of the IB's death have been much exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain. The IB silently thrives and continues to move from strength to strength, educating 5,000 students in 194 UK schools, most of which are state schools. The UK is in fact the third largest user of the IB worldwide, and the IB's reach continues to consolidate, as it has now established three new global centres in Singapore, The Hague and Washington, giving round-the-clock service for schools across hemispheres and time zones.
The IB Diploma is a timeless classic, an icon of educational sense and high standards in a world where educational fashion shifts like hemlines, and much-needed clarity of thinking is elusive. The IB has never been more necessary. First, it believes in knowledge, and enables students to acquire it. It believes in the autonomy of subjects and academic disciplines, but also in their connectivity. It is global in its outlook, truly an education sans frontières. And it is grounded in fundamental values about culture and character. Visionary and inspiring, the IB can liberate and motivate the teacher and student. Practical, instructive and aspirational, it is the best possible preparation for university, for the workplace, and more importantly, for life."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Food for Thought: Promoting a Culture of Learning

Dear all,
For some reason February is generally considered a tough month for teachers and I’m glad to say that we have sailed smoothly through to March and are truly accelerating towards the end of the year. Grade 12 Mocks, the Personal Project Fair and the launch of the PYP Exhibition have passed smoothly and we can look ahead to the Spring Break in March to give us that final chance to energize before the end of the year.
Over the weekend please take a look at the Principles of Learning that I have posted for your comments. This is your chance to have a final say in how they will look. Take the chance to say something, as this humorous video encourages.
I hope that you feel comfortable with the vision they will create for our learning and teaching. Once these are finalized it will become a collaborative goal for next year to thoroughly unpack these Principles and show what they mean to teachers, students and parents.
Here is the onedrive link if you'd like to add your comments:
This week’s Food for Thought is linked to learning and talks about creating a culture of learning in your classrooms.

Have a good weekend,

Yours as always,

Food for Thought reading:
“Learning is a culture.
It starts as a culture with the students as human beings needing to understand their environment. And it ends as a culture with students taking what we give them and using it in those physical and digital environments they call home.
Even the practices that promote or undermine the learning process itself are first and foremost human and cultural artifacts. Literacy, curiosity, self-efficacy, ambition and other important agents of learning are born in the native environments of students' homes.
Further, learning is ongoing, perishable and alive -- just like culture.
Creating Culture

But what about your classroom? Can you promote a certain culture there strategically, or does it just happen, the seemingly random product of the student roster assignments mixed with your personality as a teacher? More to the point, what exactly is a culture of learning -- and can you create one yourself?
The short answer is that a culture of learning is a collection of thinking habits, beliefs about self, and collaborative workflows that result in sustained critical learning.
Or that's how I think of it, anyway.

Can you cause this to happen? Of course you can. Almost anything can be learned -- and unlearned. It is simply a matter of identifying desired characteristics and then using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model (3), intentionally letting it happen.
"Intentionally letting" may seem like an oxymoron. Well, it is. The idea is to create the conditions conducive to some result -- here, a culture of learning -- and then get out of the way. You can't cause curiosity, enthusiasm or affection, but you can let them happen. Intentionally.

Use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
1. Show Them

·         Model the thinking habits, beliefs about self, and collaborative workflows that result in sustained critical learning.
·         Demonstrate the think-alouds, reflective writing, metacognitive conversations and other human practices and habits that lead to learning, and then reflect again on their impact. How were they successful? Where did they fall short? What might you do next time?
2. Help Them
The next step of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model is to help students do on their own what you just showed them how to do. Put them in groups. Have them publish their thinking in a podcast. Give them soft cushions to land on when they fail. Offer strategies, coaching and general support to:
·         Help them publish their thinking -- the right bits at the right time for the right audience.
·         Help them self-assess their performance.
·         Help them create their own standards for their own work.
·         Help them revisit old ideas, old writing and old projects. (This should actually be a requirement.
3. Let Them
The final stage of promoting a culture of learning in your classroom is to simply get out of the way. Give them only just enough for them to take off on their own:
·         A topic
·         A community
·         A project idea
·         An app
·         A problem worth solving
Then let them show what they can do and if they just sit there like bumps on a log, go back to step #1.

If we consider the definition of culture as the customs and beliefs of a community of human beings, then the fact that culture both precedes and proceeds from learning makes sense. There is an ecology to the learning process that can't be extracted, unpacked or tightly sequenced to fit into some edu-box the way you hoped it might.
I mean, you can squeeze it into a box, but at the risk of losing the kind of sustainable culture of learning that's been the whole point of all this. ”

Monday, March 3, 2014

Demanding a different vision of schools

5596698119_77b9a209b1Total Mayhem via Compfight cc

Demand Different

School leaders, teachers, and those that surround the work of education are in a difficult space. The demands to achieve are higher than ever, and the needs of kids, both academically and in the other spaces of their lives, are growing in intensity and complexity, while the resources are growing more narrow in scope. Think of resources broadly. Resources not only include the money used to run schools, but the people and ideas used to feed the schools as well. It is true that teachers and school leaders are working harder than ever, and for most, the work rate is reaching a breaking point. This is creating an unsustainable system. In addition, the metrics of success are often a moving target. Educators see the goalposts as either moving, invisible, or always under construction. Even with this, schools are working to get better each day, but unfortunately, this idea of working to get better may actually be the greatest limiting factor on education today.

A shift, with the potential to transform the learning spaces throughout the country, can come from voices around the country demanding different. Different schools are the ones that everyone wants their kids to attend. Different schools wouldn't allow someone to return from the moon after 50 years and still recognize learning as he or she knew it. Different schools are maximizing the learning and growth of both the students and adults using the passions and strengths that they bring to the table. Different schools aren't taking more tests, but they are testing solutions to the real-life problems that surround them each day. Different schools aren't about raising scores by 1% or 2% each year by wasting instructional time with test prep and unneeded benchmarking tests.

Thinking about different schools is scary, and they are even scary to lead in a time when it is easier to manage and hide in the camouflage of mediocrity that surrounds today's schools. Being with innovative people in innovative spaces that are building allies and networks is a place of hope for those demanding different schools. Different schools, though, won't be demanded around the country until we solve the gap, not the achievement gap, but the courage gap. Education has a courage gap. Educators are risk adverse to a greater degree than most professions, and it is catching up with the efforts to be excellent. It takes courage to lead a school that goes about its business differently. It takes courage to explain to parents that the honor roll assembly, the rewards, and the token economies are failing our kids. Because in a world where most of their children will be small business owners, self-employed, and entrepreneurs, external motivation doesn't get the job done. It takes courage to leverage the resources in an organization that embolden a larger mission while knowing that it will disrupt the inertia and happiness of many.

The schools that we need demand different. They need to support the open and transparent world that is exploding around education. This begins with pushing students into the center of the ring. In the center, there is no room to hide. It is a place of full engagement where real questions about real issues are being addressed with real solutions that will impact real people. Different schools are real. Different schools are life, and different school breath life into the students that they serve. The truth is communities, and this includes the global community, is demanding different, and the volume of our busyness to get better is drowning out the plea. The cat is out of the bag, but schools, for the most part, are trapped in the darkness of the bag. Demanding different means saying no to the industrial testing complex that surrounds the schools of today. It means being sensible about how to showcase learning for the teachers looking to shape new learning experiences as well as the external audiences. It means saying no to testing for the sake of testing, and it means creating excellence without the definition of excellence coming from the tip of a number two pencil.

It is easy to call for different, even to demand different, but how do educators go about crafting different. It begins with three words: engage, empower, energize. These three words should be the mission of all schools. Teachers and leaders that engage, empower, and energize will work tirelessly to push student choice, student voice, and authentic audience into daily learning. They will use these areas as the barometer of rigor and relevance. If they don't exist, it isn't good enough. Without these elements, the incrementalism of getting better creeps back into the equation, and the possibility of schools that are different becomes a dream of only a few.

Pockets of excellence exist, and they are available for replication. They are usually found in classrooms where teachers that are demanding different. They are hiding in plain sight in a school seeking only better. In these spaces, students are connecting to their community by learning beyond the classroom. This may be learning at the beach or the mountains, but community connection can also come from being in the backyard or a public park. Schools that are thinking different are finding ways to balance green time and screen time for kids. Kids are connecting deeply through technology, and there is a need for balance with community connection.

In other spaces, those demanding different are engaging, empowering, and energizing learning through the power of story. Every job, every career, every space in life requires understanding the story of others, crafting a coherent narrative of one's own life, and telling the story of the ideas that are worth spreading. Different schools are required to tell their stories in a poignant, coherent, concise, and beautiful way each day because the community knows better schools, but the community needs helps marrying itself to different schools. It means that students are the storytellers of their learning, teachers are the storytellers of their spaces of learning, and the school leaders plays the role of storyteller-in-chief. Someone is always telling the story of the school.  The storyteller, when done differently, should be such a cacophony coming from the inside that it is impossible for external forces to guide the story in the wrong direction. Different schools know that story connects humans, and that all story forms an ecosystem that makes sense of the world. Different schools make sense for students.

Different schools are making. They are designing, making, and creating in ways that push student passions to the forefront. The design thinking process is foundational to making. It surges empathy into schools, and allows for students to begin to develop their brand. Students have their creations (writing, music, video, inventions) in places for purchase for an audience around the planet have no time to tarnish their digital footprint. They realize that every Tweet, Facebook post, and picture on Instagram could be seen by a potential customer, and they don't have time to lose customers. Making allows for greater student understanding of marketing, economics, branding, and more. Different schools are demanding that their students are passionate enough to creative, willing to risk failure, and bold enough to demand their place in the world.

The best schools, not the ones trying to get better, are nesting learning in a way that eliminates silos, grows connections, and bring creation, collaboration, communication and critical thinking to the heart of things. This isn't happening with a focus on school schedules, earning credits, and having bells to dictate when learning stops. Demand that the chains of schools that have served yesterday release their bonds. Lean into the possibility that being a part of a different type of school will make your infinitely more hirable in the future. Embrace the power to amplify the work of not only the school in which you park your car each day, but all schools as the connections and networks are ready for this to happen. Say yes more often. Close the courage gap. Be willing to work different, think different, and serve different.

Demand different schools that engage, empower, and energize today's kids who are our everything for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Food for Thought: Beyond Knowing Facts, How Do We Get to a Deeper Level of Learning?


Photo Credit: John-Morgan via Compfight Dear all,

Hope you enjoyed the 20th Anniversary celebrations and are still able to have a functional Sunday. I have to say I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and spending the evening with such wonderful, fun loving community.

Have just posted my 50th article for parents and that one talks about our Principles of Learning and shares the ideas in this Food for Thought.

It is always good to know that what we are doing at ISHCMC is aligned with others around the world of education. Hence I'd like to share this article that talks about deeper learning and reflects accurately what you have identified as the main Principles of Learning for ISHCMC. In the article you will see they define deeper learning through the following competencies, " mastering content, critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets," matching very closely to your thinking.

They go on to talk about many ideas that have already been shared with you in earlier Food for Thoughts.

“The great project for education everywhere is to reach all students and to discover that all students are capable of deeper learning........... The question then becomes, how do we find ways to offer access to all learners and in ways that all can shine.” That means letting students get their hands on materials to build things, giving them a real question or problem that’s worth pursuing and making them feel that they are engaged in authentic, valuable work."
 This short 1 minute video explains deeper learning and again illustrates that what we are trying to create in our classrooms with learners is supported by this group of educationalists who have created a "movement to codify the different pieces that define the deeper learning approach, and to spread the knowledge from teacher to teacher, school to school in the form of a Deeper Learning MOOC (massive open online course).

Have a relaxing Sunday,