Sunday, December 13, 2015

Food for Thought: What is International Mindedness to you?

Dear all,

I'd like to start by thanking you for making my first semester as Head of School so enjoyable and fun. The manner in which you have approached energizing, engaging and empowering our students is inspiring and encourages me to think that there will be a day when we are the best school in the universe. I can see that more and more of you are trying new techniques, activities and pedagogies in your classrooms that are transforming teaching and learning at ISHCMC. I have witnessed many things this year that even a year ago would not have been attempted. You should be proud of what you are doing. Thank you for a wonderful semester's work,

My Food for Thought this week relates back to conversations that I have been having with SLTA and interview candidates about how we truly create internationally minded students who have empathy, understanding and tolerance of and for everyone in the world. I know its not an easy task. If we can take Mindfulness to the next level and have it embedded in everything that happens at school then this will help. If all our students truly cared about others and their environment then this would be another step. But as the saying goes, 'you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.' Is it possible for us to encourage our students to want to understand other cultures and how much do they need to understand to develop compassion for others?


Our complex task is made more difficult because of the perceptions that all of us bring with us to our vision of other people, nationalities, religions etc. When we talk about the idea of international mindedness we all bring a different perspective to this despite the fact that the IB defines it for us and identifies key strands and flows between the programmes. This paper is very long but if you are interested in the IB and what international mindedness could look like it is worth taking a look through. This short video, 'A Portrait with a Twist', demonstrates how perceptions can even change the way a photographer takes a portrait and further emphasizes how our own background, culture, beliefs and social and economic experience influence us all the time in the judgments that we make.

As I have been searching for ideas relating to this topic I came across this lesson plan on the Global Oneness Project site. The lesson could be one that you could use or adapt in homeroom or advisory. . Even if you don't read the lesson plan you should look through the 18 photographs because I think you will find them interesting and maybe you could use one or two occasionally to encourage students to talk about what they see and relate it to their lives and what they do and feel. This would be similar to the TV provocation that is now running near to the entrance to EE. You may also wish to  spend a few minutes browsing the Global Oneness Site, which on its own is very interesting and contains lots of thought provoking information that could be shared with our students to broaden their experiences and thoughts.

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Food for Thought: Getting to know ourselves better

Dear all,

After a sad end to the week with the news about Malani,  I thought that it might be an ideal time to get to know ourselves and the people we work with a little bit better. So here is a link to a personality test devised from the work of Jung and Briggs Myer.

What would be great is if everyone did the test in your Grade level or Department and then you used 15 minutes at the start of your next meeting to talk about the outcome.

I came out as an ENFP

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Food for Thought: Building on Tuesdays thoughts

Dear all,

Unless otherwise notified there is always a 10 minute meeting at 15:00 in the MPR. Last week's meeting is the foundation for this weeks Food for Thought. Following the Paris bombing I raised the question about talking to students about events in the world. I believe that if we are to produce thoughtful and internationally minded students they have to be engaged in conversations about current affairs and the array of differing perspectives that might emerge for any one event. This link discusses why we should be initiating such conversations with our students no matter how old they are. The key point is that the approach may differ but there is no excise for avoiding raising such issues either in class or homeroom and advisory.

Arising from these events or even just our service activities is the difference between empathy and sympathy. This 3 minute video illustrates this difference very well and might provide the source for an interesting provocation in homeroom or advisory. The question this video should raise for us as teachers if we are going to develop a successful service attitude in the School, which do we need to develop most in our students empathy or sympathy? How do we do this successfully?

For your information, with Michael leaving we have been conducting a world wide serach for an appropriate replacement. We have had lots of good applications and are creating a shortish list today and will be Skyping candidates next week and then looking to invite the best ones to school to meet our community the first week of December.

Finally, on Tuesday I talked about how successful the PD day was on the 13th November, and how we would like to build on these workshops at the next series of PD days at the start of January. These workshops should support the theme energized, engaged and empowered. I have already received two applications to run workshops and would like to receive lots more.  The aim will be to have two sets of workshops held over three sessions so that you can attend more than one workshop and so that workshop leaders also have the opportunity to join a session.

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dear all,

Before focusing on our world at ISHCMC I think that we should give a minutes thought to all the innocent French men and women who lost their lives on Friday night as a result of the series of terrorist attacks that rocked Paris. Let's hope that politicians in the western world remember the words of Gandhi and look for a wise response to such a challenge to peace and security rather than meeting violence with violence.

I hope that you all enjoyed the professional development work on Friday. I was extremely impressed with the engagement that everyone showed both as workshop presenters and participants. Every time we do something like this it makes me more and more aware of the educational talent that we have in our faculty and how much there is to learn from each other. This link to Kath Murdoch's blog was sent to me last week and connects perfectly with the work we were doing on Friday. In this short post Kath gives six ideas that need to be considered when letting go and allowing students to inquire. Kath says......

"One of the great privileges of my job is bearing witness to the process of ‘reconstruction’ that teachers experience as they transit to more inquiry-based practice.  Becoming an inquiry teacher can mean a significant degree of ‘unlearning’ as beliefs and roles are reconsidered and re-shaped.  In a series of conversations I held with groups of teachers last week,  I asked what they were noticing about themselves and how they were changing as they engaged in a year of learning about and through inquiry.  We discussed the struggles and the joys of working this way and the new questions and goals that were emerging.  Taking time to do this – to press the pause" 

Finally, thought that you might like to watch this inspiring short video from the Atlantic   that shares Maria Popova’s, a regular contributor to Brain Pickings, reflections on finding fulfillment, satisfaction, and purpose in life. “I share these here not because they apply to every life and offer some sort of blueprint to existence,” she writes, “but in the hope that they might benefit your own journey in some small way.”

Hope you are all having a relaxing weekend, I certainly am in Quy Nhon. 

See you on Tuesday, for a four day week.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Food for Thought: Being not doing.

Dear all,

I will keep my words to a minimum because this weeks food for thought has a couple strands that I hope you will take time to follow.

The first video is about 20 minutes long. It is primarily about high achieving and gifted students but I think it applies to many of our students at ISHCMC. When you listen to the speaker you will find lots to reflect upon and I am sure that, as I did, you will grimace and think, 'oh, I have done that.' It relates and refers to Carol Dweck's work, our achievement culture through the language we use to praise and motivate students and how we differentiate in our classrooms.

The next strand links to the work that is going on with mindfulness. We have made great strides forward with this so far this year. It is obvious that it is taking a better grip across the school and being taken far more seriously. We have colleagues attending bthe positive education courses in Singapore and feeling we are very well placed to become a Pos Ed school. Around the world more and more schools have introduced mindfulness into their curriculum. Mindful Schools have just expanded their resources which may be useful for you to browse. They also have courses that you can be done for those looking for those differentiating items for their cv.

As the 31 day Mindfulness summit came to an end so another opportunity opened up with another 21 day free Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditation course. Of course I signed up and have started and wanted to draw your attention to session 2 which I think was excellent. If you want to hear it you will need to use the link provided and register today (Saturday) or by mid afternoon Sunday to listen to it. If you can't spend 20 minutes just start at 3:00 minutes and listen to provides some ideas you can use with your students. Here is the introduction too session 2:

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We learn that we are what we believe. We shape our identities around what we feel to be true about ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even clearly know what our beliefs are, because many are hidden and unconscious. Beliefs we hold about ourselves may be either mild or passionate, but they all still contribute to who we are. Our meditation today brings us greater clarity about how our beliefs form our identities, because to truly understand ourselves, we need to examine our beliefs closely in the light of our awareness.

Finally a 2:00 minute video recommended by the Mindfulness summit that brings so much of what we are trying to achieve by being mindful, being in the present and appreciating every minute that we have when we have it, trying not to miss that opportunity, BEING NOT JUST DOING. Sometimes we all need reminding to take a breath.

Have a beautiful weekend.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Food for thought: A typical story in developing countries

Dear all,

As you know Pink ISHCMC is primarily about raising awareness regarding female cancer. Obviously this is an important thing to be doing for our community as one never knows what tomorrow holds for any of us or our families and loved ones.. Following on from Friday, I saw this 10 minute video, and wanted to share it with you. It does not relate to pedagogy or directly to our fortunate lives but rather to the lives of 1,000's of girls/ women in developing countries. What I hope it does do is increase our awareness, compassion and empathy for people we interact with everyday in our lives in South East Asia.

This happens to be the story of a Guatemalan woman called Rosa, but as I said, it is typical of many woman throughout our world, deprived of a secondary education, mistreated and turned into outcasts, who despite their own problems maintains an inner strength, an awareness of others and a desire to work to help others. It demonstrates how important education is and how it changes lives and why we should not allow any of our ISHCMC students to waste the privileged opportunity that birth has given them.

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Food for Thought: Replacing screen time with green time is good for kids

Photo: Replacing screen time with green time is good for kids
The keys to change are clear education about the benefits of nature exposure and reducing social and economic barriers to change. (Credit: Melissa Lem)
Melissa Lem is a Toronto family physician who also works in rural and remote communities across Canada. Much of her childhood was spent exploring the beautiful parks and green spaces of Ontario. She holds a faculty appointment with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, is a regular guest blogger on the environment and health for Evergreen, and enjoys being the resident medical expert on CBC television's lifestyle show Steven and Chris. Docs Talk asked Dr. Lem how contact with nature can affect child development.

Docs Talk: What are some of the problems you are seeing in children who don't have a strong connection to nature? How common are these kinds of health issues in children?

Dr. Lem: Time spent in nature is essential for healthy psychological and physical development in children. In fact, some researchers suggest that daily doses of "green time" can be used to prevent and treat many medical conditions.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder gets a lot of attention in the media and occurs in five to 10 per cent of Canadian children. Continuous immersion in urban environments can overstimulate youth with and without ADHD, leading to symptoms of inattention and impulsiveness. The substitution of active outdoor play with indoor sedentary behaviours is also a major culprit in weight gain and obesity, which affect one in four Canadian children. This is raising the childhood incidence of traditionally adult diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol issues.
Other ailments including myopia, asthma, depression and slower social and motor skills development have also been linked to reduced nature exposure.

Docs Talk: What kind of research has been in done in this area?

Dr. Lem: Green space exposure has a wealth of positive effects on pediatric health outcomes.
The existing research is impressive regarding mental health benefits. For example,ADHD symptoms improve significantly after children spend time in nature, with increased benefits seen in more green locations. Girls with greener views from their home windows score higher on measures of self-discipline. Also, depression and anxiety disorders are less prevalent in youth who have greater amounts of nature in their living environments.
Connection to nature also improves indicators of physical health. Studies show that children who spend more time outdoors and live closer to parks engage in more physical activity. It follows that proximity to green space significantly improves the likelihood that a child will maintain a healthy weight. What's more, regular childhood exposure to green space fosters increased preference for nature-based recreation. Natural settings are ideal for children to cultivate creativity and social skills as they enjoy their recommended one hour or more of unstructured playtime per day.

Docs Talk: What kind of activities do you recommend parents do with their children to help them connect with nature?

Dr. Lem: There are two major concepts to consider: role modelling and active involvement of the child. One of the most effective ways parents can strengthen their child's connection to nature is to minimize screen time and embrace green time themselves. The other is to promote a mix of both parent-supervised and independent outdoor play, which encourages children to form and build upon their own nature experiences.
Fun family activities can range from planting a garden to a weekend camping vacation in a provincial park. The backyard is a safe and stimulating place for younger children to explore green space. Encourage them to cloud watch, build a fort, collect stones or come up with their own nature-based games. Outdoor, environment-based volunteering can be an effective way for younger and older children to build self-esteem and strong family and peer relationships.

Docs Talk: What more needs to be done to convince parents, doctors and educators of the benefits of connecting children with nature?

Dr. Lem: It can be hard to see the forest — or the trees, for that matter — for adults who are accustomed to living in spaces defined by asphalt and concrete. The keys to change are clear education about the benefits of nature exposure and reducing social and economic barriers to change.
Doctors should remember to integrate counselling about screen time and outdoor activity into routine checkups. Nature prescriptions may also motivate children to increase their green time. If the pediatric obesity epidemic continues, scientists predict that this generation may be the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This should be a huge wake-up call for all of us.
Author Richard Louv coined the term "nature deficit disorder" to describe the health issues linked to the modern divide between children and the outdoors. His award-winning book Last Child in the Woods is an important resource for parents and educators.

Docs Talk: What can we do to make our communities more "nature-friendly" for kids?

Dr. Lem: Our physical and cultural environments must be designed to allow children to benefit from natural settings during recreation and everyday life. Mixed-use residential areas with green corridors increase the likelihood that children will walk or bike to school and play. Protected urban green spaces have also been shown to reduce health inequalities between children from low- and high-income families. Communities can create natural playscapes that reflect the area's environmental heritage instead of building artificial playgrounds.
Changes in school and educational culture are also vital. Simple measures like planting trees and grass in sight of classroom windows can promote more effective learning. Green time ought to be incorporated into physical education, recess breaks and even regular class hours.
The importance of childhood nature access should be reflected in government policy, whether it be through bylaws mandating child-friendly green space in new urban development projects, tax credits for enrolling children in nature-based recreational programs or ensuring affordable family access to national parks. Now is the time to invest in communities that will raise healthy and resilient stewards of the environment.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Food for Thought: October Break

Dear all,

Thank you for a great first quarter. Have just read this White Paper from Think Strategic and can't believe how aligned they are with us in their thinking.  Reading this paper made me feel that someone had been listening to our ISHCMC Senior Leadership Meetings and discussions. I think that you will enjoy taking a look at what Maxine Driscoll has to say and agree with the direction that is needed in education. 

Have a good vacation,


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Food for Thought: 7 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness

Dear all,
Thank you for another good week at ISHCMC. I realize that not having breaks and outdoor activities is hard for you and the students but feel that it is something that we need to be doing to protect our student’s health. Last week we did have pollution readings that were off the top of the AQI index. Attached to this email is a letter that I have written to parents that explains the procedures that we are following in line with the Clean Air Policy that we wrote last year. I have been asked by many people about the cause of this pollution and have just read this article that might explain it. Let’s hope that next week we return to some normality regarding pollution.

On Friday we have Celebration of Cultures. This PTO run event will be taking place in the MPR and Gymnasium. It will start at 8:30 with a flag parade and school song. Students will be expected to be seated in either the MPR or Gym by 8:20 following Mindfulness. The country performances have been split between the two venues and there will be a 20 minute interval to allow the audience stretch time/ light refreshments and the opportunity to move to a new venue for part 2 of the country presentations. Each country will perform their presentation twice in the same venue. The event will last approximately 2 hours 15 minutes. We did look at moving the event to the afternoon but decided against this because of it being another change for parents, lunches too early and for our younger students a much longer day. More details about final arrangements will be shared early in the week.
This week’s Food for Thought is a short article that suggests 7 activities that you could add to your repertoire of Mindfulness activities to do with your class. It also links with the second attachment to this email which is an excellent opportunity, starting after the October break, to take an 8 session Mindfulness course run by Dr. Rashmi Bismark. Details attached.

 7 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness

I taught a mindfulness class at my daughters’ elementary school this week. Unsurprisingly, the kids taught me way more than I taught them.

While I was doing research to develop the class, I came upon a wealth of information about mindfulness programs in schools. For one, I learned that actress Goldie Hawn has been working with neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and educators to develop a mindfulness curriculum for schools. I was thrilled to find out that their research reported that mindfulness education in schools has proven benefits: it increases optimism and happiness in classrooms, decreases bullying and aggression, increases compassion and empathy for others and helps students resolve conflicts.
If you ever want to be inspired and also have a giggle, ask a group of kids what they think “mindfulness” is. “Relaxing out of our daily troubles and stress,” “A way to stay yourself when you’re going through something troubling” and “It’s like getting off of one railroad track and getting onto another one” were some of my favorite answers from the recent class meeting. Kids can really be fountains of spiritual wisdom!
When I told them the dictionary’s definition (“a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique"), the kids weren’t entirely sure what I was talking about. And so we did some exercises to test it out. Feel free to try these at home!
1. The Bell Listening Exercise
Ring a bell and ask the kids to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Tell them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then tell them to remain silent for one minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. After, go around in a circle and ask the kids to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute. This exercise is not only fun and gets the kids excited about sharing their experiences with others, but reallyhelps them connect to the present moment and the sensitivity of their perceptions.
2. Breathing Buddies
Hand out a stuffed animal to each child (or another small object). If room allows, have the children lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animals on their bellies. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. The presence of the Breathing Buddy makes the meditation a little friendlier, and allows the kids to see how a playful activity doesn't necessarily have to be rowdy.
3. The Squish & Relax Meditation
While the kids are lying down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax. This is a great, fun activity for "loosening up" the body and mind, and is a totally accessible way to get the kids to understand the art of "being present."
4. Smell & Tell
Pass something fragrant out to each child, such as a piece of fresh orange peel, a sprig of lavender or a jasmine flower. Ask them to close their eyes and breathe in the scent, focusing all of their attention only on the smell of that object. Scent can really be a powerful tool for anxiety-relief (among other things!).
5. The Art Of Touch
Give each child an object to touch, such as a ball, a feather, a soft toy, a stone, etc. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what the object feels like to a partner. Then have the partners trade places. Both this exercise and the previous one are simple, but compelling, ways to teach the kids the practice of isolating their senses from one another, and tuning into distinct experiences.
6. The Heartbeat Exercise
Have the kids jump up and down in place for one minute. Then have them sit back down and place their hands on their hearts. Tell them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath, and see what else they notice about their bodies.
7. Heart-To-Heart
In this exercise, the meaning of "heart" is less literal. In other words, this activity could also simply be called "Let's talk about feelings." So sit down and casually, comfortably ask the children to tell you about their feelings. What feelings do they feel? How do they know they se feelings? Where do they feel them in their bodies? Ask them which feelings they like the best.
Then ask them what they can do to feel better when they aren’t feeling the feelings they like best. Remind them that they can always practice turning their thoughts into bubbles if they are upset, they can do the Squish and Relax Meditation if they need to calm down, and they can take a few minutes to listen to their breath or feel their heartbeats if they want to relax.
My hope for the mindfulness class was to give the kids some tools they can use anytime: tools to calm down, slow down and feel better when they are troubled. I sure wish I had these tools at my disposal when I was their age. Imagine if all the children around the Earth learned to use these tools during their childhoods. What a change our world would experience within just one generation!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Food for Thought: Building a Questioning Toolkit

Dear all,

This weeks Food for Thought is taken from a resource that I just rediscovered in my teaching folders but I think will be useful for you all. Good questioning, as I have shared, before is essential for unlocking the door to meta cognition and higher order thinking students. Yet we tend not to spend so much time during our planning thinking about the types of questions that we are going to use with students in each lesson to unlock their learning and to encourage deeper thinking and inquiry. 

Hopefully, by clicking on the type of questions below the questioning toolkit will link with information similar to that of essential and subsidiary questions below.

Have a good weekend,


"Each school should create a Questioning Toolkit which contains several dozen kinds of questions and questioning tools. This Questioning Toolkit should be printed in large type on posters which reside on classroom walls close by networked, information-rich computers.
Portions of the Questioning Toolkit should be introduced as early as Kindergarten so that students can bring powerful questioning technologies and techniques with them as they arrive in high school.

Essential QuestionsSubsidiary QuestionsHypothetical QuestionsTelling QuestionsPlanning Questions
Organizing QuestionsProbing QuestionsSorting & Sifting QuestionsClarification QuestionsStrategic Questions
Elaborating QuestionsUnanswerable QuestionsInventive QuestionsProvocative QuestionsIrrelevant Questions
Divergent QuestionsIrreverent Questions

  • What does it mean to be a good friend?
  • What kind of friend shall I be?
  • Who will I include in my circle of friends?
  • How shall I treat my friends?
  • How do I cope with the loss of a friend?
  • What can I learn about friends and friendships from the novels we read in school?
  • How can I be a better friend?
All the other questions and questioning skills serve the purpose of "casting light upon" or illuminating Essential Questions.
  • Why do we have to fight wars?
  • Do we have to fight wars?
  • How could political issues or ideas ever become more important than family loyalties?
  • Some say our country remains wounded by the slavery experience and the Civil War. In what ways might this claim be true and in what ways untrue? What evidence can you supply to substantiate your case?
  • Military officers often complain that the effective conduct of modern war is impeded by political interference and popular pressures on the home front. To what extent did this also prove true during the Civil War?
  • How can countries avoid the kind of bloodshed and devastation we experienced during our Civil War?
  • How much diversity can any nation tolerate?
  • Who showed greater bravery and courage, the front line soldiers and the nurses who tended to the wounded and dying or the leaders of the war effort?
  • Should there be a law against war profiteering?

 Essential Questions
These are questions which touch our hearts and souls. They are central to our lives. They help to define what it means to be human.
Most important thought during our lives will center on such essential questions.

If we were to draw a cluster diagram of the Questioning Toolkit,Essential Questions would be at the center of all the other types of questions. 
Most Essential Questions are interdisciplinary in nature. They cut across the lines created by schools and scholars to mark the terrain of departments and disciplines.
Essential Questions probe the deepest issues confronting us . . . complex and baffling matters which elude simple answers: Life - Death - Marriage - Identity - Purpose - Betrayal - Honor - Integrity - Courage - Temptation - Faith - Leadership - Addiction - Invention - Inspiration.
The greatest novels, the greatest plays, the greatest songs and the greatest paintings all explore Essential Questions in some manner.
Essential Questions are at the heart of the search for Truth.
Many of us believe that schools should devote more time toEssential Questions and less time to Trivial Pursuit.
One major reform effort, the Coalition of Essential Schools, has made Essential Questions a keystone of its learning strategy. (Visit the Coalition Web site).
Essential Questions offer the organizing focus for a unit. If the U.S. History class will spend a month on a topic such as the Civil War, students explore the events and the experience with a mind toward casting light upon one of the following questions, or they develop Essential Questions of their own . . .
For more on Essential Questions read this other selection.

 Subsidiary Questions These are questions which combine to help us build answers to our Essential Questions. Big questions spawn families of smaller questions which lead to insight. The more skillful we and our students become at formulating and then categorizing Subsidiary Questions, the more success we will have constructing new knowledge. All of the question categories listed and explained below are types of Subsidiary Questions.
We have several strategies from which to choose when developing a comprehensive list of Subsidiary Questions for our project:

  • We can brainstorm and list every question which comes to mind, utilizing a huge sheet of paper or a word processing program or a graphical organizing program such as Inspiration (, putting down the questions as they "come to mind." Later we can move these around until they end up along side of related questions. This movement is one advantage of software. This approach has the benefit of spontaneity.
  • We can take a list of question categories like the one outlined in this article and generate questions for each category. This approach helps provoke thought and questions in categories which we might not otherwise consider.

Best way to involve students in the use of e-mail?

    Worst that can happen?
    Potential benefits?
    Obstacles which must be overcome?
    Available resources?
    Sufficient resources?
    Additional resources?
    Good models?
    How prepare students?
    How prepare parents?
    Relationship to discipline code?
    Who does what?
    Assessing progress?
This outline is transformed in seconds by a simple mouse-click into the following cluster diagram . . .

In the (condensed) illustration below, a team is pondering the following Essential Question:
What is the best way for our school to involve students in the use of e-mail?
They begin by listing every question they can think up. They have one member type the list into the outlining part of Inspiration. They could use a word processor instead, but Inspiration will automatically convert their outline into a variety of diagrams and will allow them to move questions around later.

The lack of order and logic should be immediately visible.
This diagram needs to be re-drawn.
No problem.
Point. Click. Drag!
In just 4-5 minutes, we have a cluster diagram which groups (and colors) questions.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Food for thought: Social and emotional energy

Dear all,

I hope you have had a good two weeks of PD. I know that you have been working hard and need the day off on Monday to relax and re charge your batteries. Hence, I thought this would be the ideal moment to share a few articles and videos that relate to the social and emotional aspects of our mission and values. I am sure there will be something of interest for each of you.

At the Primary PD on Saturday morning Lana talked about how welcoming ISHCMC was to her and how much growth she had noted in a year. Both are pillars of our Achievement Culture. Across the school this year there is a real warmth that is being noted by our stakeholders and visitors. Here is a small extract from an email that was received by secondary administration last week that sums up this feeling you are creating:

"I would like to share with you the overwhelming welcoming feeling I received from the secondary students at ISHCMC, the first weeks at your school. 
Even though I only share the same halls as them in the afternoon - every day I’m been met with smiles and greetings. In all my years teaching ........ at BIS I never experienced anything like this. These children and the warm environment at your school are truly something special. 

The same goes for secondary department teaching staff, especially you and the two Korean teachers I share my room with. All of you have gone out of your way to make me feel welcome. Beside my lovely and hardworking students, it’s things like this, that makes it a joy coming to work."

This first video explores the skills needed for the 21st century through a wonderful problem solving story of an artist, Mary Beth, and her work with Ebola patients. Her story demonstrates the skills; curiosity, creativity, initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking and empathy that support what we are doing with our students. The message of this video is important because it emphasizes the time is here to move from our knowledge/ information  based economy to a human economy. This was again a theme that emerged during the 3 E's conference at the weekend.

The Adaptable Mind from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

Jason Lewis: Resilient World Explorer 

In 2007 you broke all sorts of records, completing the first circumnavigation of the globe using “human power”—no engines, not even sails. It took 13 years, but you covered over 46,000 miles walking, biking, kayaking, rollerblading—even peddle-boating across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans! What motivated you to undertake such a journey? When I started out I had a burning question that I wanted to answer, which was how to understand the world: How do I live my life both to be a better person and to ensure that we don’t trash the planet? I was trying to strip away the layers of who I thought I was, as someone brought up in England. That was my overarching mission, and it was the only thing that kept me going over the 13 years. If I hadn’t had that underlying reason, I probably would have given up partway through.

Three Strategies for Bringing More Kindness into Your Life

One of the best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy. In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, strongerrelationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer.
What’s more, the happiness people derive from giving to others creates a positive feedback loop: The positive feelings inspire further generosity—which, in turn, fuels greater happiness. And research suggests that kindness is truly contagious: Those who witness and benefit from others’ acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves; a single act of kindness spreads through social networks by three degrees of separation, from person to person to person to person.
But just because we have the capacity for kindness, and reap real benefits from it, doesn’t mean that we always act with kindness. We may be too busy, distracted, or wrapped up in our own concerns to pay close attention to others’ needs or actively seek out opportunities to help. Or we’re just out of practice: Researchers have argued that kindness is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through repeated use.
How do we strengthen kindness? Researchers have identified a number of effective exercises, and many of them are collected on the Greater Good Science Center’s new website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), which features the top research-based activities for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience.
Here I highlight GGIA’s 10 core kindness practices, grouped into three broad categories.
Here's what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask "What am I grateful for?" No answers? Doesn't matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn't so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for "good enough" instead of "best decision ever made on Earth."
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don't text -- touch. 

To end with a music video by two people I wouldn't usually listen to but the sentiment is one that we all need to have in our lives......real friends

In case you haven't registered yet here is the link to the Mindfulness Summit that is taking place throughout October. I have just uploaded all the event to my calendar.

Have a relaxing weekend,


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Food for Thought: SAMR

Dear all,

Hope you have all had a good week. It is a busy time for visitors to our school with so many things taking place simultaneously. Wanted to share with you that two of our recent visitors have both taken the time to comment on the positive atmosphere that you are creating and how engaged you are in developing the school. You should all be proud about these sorts of comments because they are aligned with our culture of achievement, mindfulness and our move towards Positive Education. We've all heard the saying, "what comes around goes around." Hopefully through all of us working together to create a positive environment for us, and our students to work and learn in, we will all benefit in our own lives.

This weeks food for thought focuses on technology and is a deliberate attempt to reconnect you with Commonsense Media. One of our main goals for this year is to continue our work on pedagogy. As technology plays such an important part in our classrooms and the lives of our students it is important to remind ourselves of the model that we are trying to develop in our teaching. This article and video from Commonsense Graphite should be very useful for you in developing your understanding of the SAMR model and how it can be used to develop our use of technology in our classrooms

Have a good Sunday,


SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle
For teachers just starting out with educational technology, the task at hand can sometimes seem daunting. Even though tools such as the SAMR model can help, the plethora of choices available can prove paralyzing, frequently resulting in ongoing substitutive uses of the technology that block, rather than enable, more ambitious transformative goals.
The approach below is designed to help overcome this barrier, and is inspired in its form by Alexander’s notion of Design Patterns -- a clearly structured solution to a recurring design problem -- which has been applied to education scenarios by Bergin et al. While it is not laid out exactly as a design pattern would be, it nonetheless provides a framework that a teacher could use in similar fashion.
The goal for the teacher is to construct a simple SAMR ladder that is coupled to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy -- i.e., as the task moves from lower to upper levels of the taxonomy, it also moves from lower to upper levels of SAMR. The two Enhancement levels of SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation) are associated with the three lower levels of Bloom (Remember, Understand, Apply), while the two Transformation levels of SAMR (Modification, Redefinition) are associated with the upper levels of Bloom (Analyze, Evaluate, Create). In turn, within each grouping a similar ordering occurs -- e.g., Remember-type tasks are primarily associated with S-level uses of the technology, Understand-type tasks are associated with either S- or A-level uses of the technology, and so on. The following diagram illustrates this association. 
This coupling of the SAMR model and Bloom’s Taxonomy has several desirable outcomes:
  • The already-familiar drive to reach the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy now also acts as a drive to reach the upper levels of SAMR;
  • The approach outlines a clear set of steps that help guide the introduction of technology in the classroom;
  • Finally, the approach helps avoid pitfalls of self deception -- i.e., assuming that a particular task is at a higher level in either the Bloom or SAMR sense than it actually is.
It is important to realize that this association between SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy is not a necessary -- or even habitual -- coupling. Thus, it is possible to use extremely powerful redefinition-level approaches to make certain types of memorization tasks possible; conversely, it is also possible to undertake novel create-type tasks that only make basic substitution/augmentation use of the technology. Additionally, far more complex couplings between SAMR and Bloom are possible, involving convergent/divergent branchings, oscillations between levels, skipping of some SAMR levels, etc. Nonetheless, the simple structure described above is well suited to beginning practitioners’ needs, and even retains usefulness for more experienced faculty.
In addition to the integration of SAMR and Bloom described above, two more ingredients are necessary for the best results:
  • a clear motivation for the change -- the best results are obtained when a teacher has a strong reason for changing existing practice that is independent of the introduction of technology.
  • a clean app flow, designed to move through the tasks, that is as simple as possible, avoiding needless complexity -- e.g., in transferring work products from one app to the next.
Finally, let’s look at an example of this approach in practice. In this example, we will set up a general pattern for math activities, where the motivating factor is to take math instruction from a mode where -- to use Richard Skemp’s words -- instrumental understanding dominates (how) to a mode where relational understanding is primary (how and why). This shift in math instruction can be seen in changes in curricula worldwide, and is crucial to students’ capacity to use -- and enjoy -- the math they have learned in the world outside the classroom. In the interest of making the example more tangible, the context will be a course in introductory statistics, although the general pattern is readily applicable to other math courses.
1. Substitution/Remember: Students use ebooks and other Open Education Resources to acquire basic knowledge about statistical tools and procedures.
2. Substitution/Understand: At the same time, they begin a process of gathering information online describing applications of these statistical tools to an area of interest to them, using simple bookmark aggregation services (e.g., DiigoDelicious) to collect and tag these resources, relating them to the knowledge gained in 1.
3. Augmentation/Apply: Using a simple yet powerful tool for visualization like GeoGebra, students explore the concepts covered in the resources described in 1., and solve related standard problems. The scope and number of the problems is not governed by what is available in the “back of the book,” but rather driven by the evolution of student understanding, as measured by suitable formative assessment processes.
4. Modification/Analyze: The students also apply similar problem-solving approaches to questions raised in the materials they found in 2. In doing so, they will reconstruct the reasoning of the original authors, and verify -- or disprove -- their conclusions.
5. Modification/Evaluate: Students now select a subset of the materials studied in 4. for further critique and/or development, using GeoGebra as their primary analysis tool. Via a blog, they explain this work to fellow students, and invite their feedback to refine both the clarity of their explanations and the focus of their work.
6. Redefinition/Create: Students refine their blog post into a short digital video project, with the goal that it will be used as part of instructional materials in subsequent years.