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.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Food for Thought: We aren't alone in our educational universe

Dear all,
I hope you all enjoyed your four day week, and made the most of Wednesday to relax and re-energize.
There are days when the constant push for clarity, accountability and data get me down and my release is walking around your classrooms and talking to you. When I do this I remember that what is most important about a school is what you are doing in your classrooms. Every time I visit classrooms I am never disappointed and enjoy observing the captivating activities and units that you are planning and are having such a positive impact on our students and their enjoyment of school. When I see students engaged in such innovative and challenging activities classrooms I stop and think, are we alone in trying to move in a new direction with education?  The answer is no, and in this week’s food for thought I want to share a few examples that I have been made aware of over the past week.
Last April/ May I attended a conference in Singapore which was encouraging an educational revolution. As you know one of the guest speakers Dr. Yong Zhao whose one day master class I attended. If you didn’t have time to read my account of his ideas last year they are posted here.
He is inspirational because he articulated exactly why schools need to change from the 18th century model and what they need to focus on. IB schools aren’t so far astray providing they take the Learner Profile and AtL skills seriously and don’t just focus on grades. However, to be exactly what is needed to educate children for the 21st century we need to be going beyond the restrictions of limited subject choices, traditional subject combinations by allowing students far greater choice and the opportunity for individual path ways. If we do this then every child can be successful; everyone has skills, its just a matter of allowing students to discover them.

In this article you can read about Templestowe School, near Melbourne, Australia, and how they have radically transformed their school whilst at the same time saving it from imminent closure. When you watch the short video at the start you will see lots of ideas that many of us believe should be part of our curriculum. The idea that students can create their own courses and teaching them to other student certainly reflects our desire to have students following their passions and being empowered.  To hear that these progressive ideas do not diminish student’s abilities to take formal educational qualifications such as the VCE, but in many cases accelerates their access, is reassuring for the more conservative amongst us.  
This second short article was passed to me last weekend about schools at Hobson Ville Point in Auckland, New Zealand, that are focusing on the future to determine the needs and curriculum for their students. Casey has contacted the Head, Brian, and started a conversation about theirs and our ideas. What was wonderful was how quickly he responded and how open they are to sharing what they are doing and what they are discovering about student learning. It’s worth visiting the schools website.

Finally, another example of a school that is doing things differently comes from Mindshift . In this article, “Is School For Everyone? Some Say ‘No” of a school that is successfully approaching education differently but is very much aligned with the ideas being expressed by Dr Yong Zhao, Templestowe and Hobson Ville Point,  

“Several years ago, few people who knew Hannah Noblewolf would have thought that she would turn out to be an outgoing, articulate, self-assured young woman who has successfully completed her first year at her top-choice college.
For years, she struggled with social anxiety, depression and, as a result, school. She had always been bright — she even skipped fourth grade — but her intellectual acuity, paired with being younger than her classmates, made her school life deeply unpleasant. Noblewolf comes from a highly educated, upper-middle-class family where academic success was not up for discussion. Neither she nor her parents would ever have believed that dropping out of school would be what was best for her.
“I couldn’t get out of bed,” Noblewolf said of her junior year in high school. “I made it to school for a full day maybe twice every two weeks.”

 It is clear to me from reading these articles that our vision and mission certainly encourages us to continue in the direction that we are going. In reality many of the ideas that are being expressed are ones that we are either already engaging with in our classrooms, or at least thinking about in our discussions and meetings.
Have a great weekend,