Sunday, May 29, 2016

Food for Thought: Being brave enough to lead

Dear all,

This will be a short Food for Thought because I know many of you are so busy. Lats night's Graduation ceremony was definitely one for all of us to be proud about. It was a quality event and one that our community and VIP's certainly appreciated. It reflective the incredible talent that we have in our students body with excellent speeches and musical performances. Michael, Emma and the rest of the secondary team put in hours of work behind the scenes to ensure everything was organized and under control down to the finest minutia. This attention to detail created a very smooth and slick ceremony that flowed perfectly. Everyone involved deserves huge congratulations.

This weeks Food for Thought comes from a combination of an blog post, 'Poking Holes in Innovation,' that I follow by A.J.Juliani and from looking through old youtube videos that I copied because I thought that they might be useful in the future. Combined they raise similar questions that relate to leadership and the spread of ideas and change. Since joining ISHCMC in 2013 it has been wonderful to see how open minded and risk taking many of you have become and how willing you are to move teaching and learning forward, not only in our own school, but also beyond. I suppose the question is where do you think we are today in this progression and how far can we go in influencing a revolution in education.

I realize that the camera is a bit shaky and in no way wish to liken you to the 'happy campers' who are enjoying a beautiful day on the hillside, but rather the commentary about the chain of events that occur.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Food for Thought: The Cognita Way

Dear all,

Another incredibly busy weekend at ISHCMC with us hosting the awesome Stingrays Invitational event. ISHCMC won very convincingly with an outstanding team effort. It was a wonderful two days of swimming involving 450 swimmers that tested our excellent administration and organization of such large events; our community spirit; and the growing competitiveness and desire of our students. Congratulations to Heather and her parents committee lead by Kellie Wheeler. Huge thanks to all of you who helped as scorers, time keepers, marshals and announcers; without such an efficient team the meet would not run so effectively. Please talk to the students in your homeroom tomorrow and congratulate the swimmers for their effort and achievement.

On Thursday and Friday last week, I attended the Regional Heads Conference in Singapore. The first day focused on the Cognita Way, which focuses on pedagogy, learning and growth. The key substance for the Cognita Way links very nicely with our mission and values. The reason for developing the Cognita Way is to create a common understanding of what a Cognita School offers educationally. The new CEO, Chris Jansen is totally committed to the idea that within a safe learning environment our priority is education and when we get that right everything else follows naturally. He sees the Cognita Way as the important "why" of what we are doing as a Cogniat School. He is very committed to changing education so it prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century.

Below is the model that has been created across all of the Cognita regions and now SLTA's will be populating through their Strategic Development Plans. But what is really missing is moving the model away from being 6 square boxes. This might be useful for collecting information but gives the wrong impression, as Chris Jansen wants this model to encourage schools to move forward and provide a 21st century education for their students.

Below is the model that has been created across all of the Cognita regions. SLTA will be populating through their Strategic Development Plan and Goals. What is really missing is moving the model away from being 6 square boxes. This might be useful for collecting information but gives the wrong impression, as Chris Jansen wants this model to encourage schools to move forward and provide a 21st century education for their students.


Inspiring and empowering children within a safe environment to achieve more than they believed possible

The ingredients of a Cognita education

Below is the model that has been created across all of the Cognita regions. SLTA will be populating through their Strategic Development Plan and Goals. What is really missing is moving the model away from being 6 square boxes. This might be useful for collecting information but gives the wrong impression, as Chris Jansen wants this model to encourage schools to move forward and provide a 21st century education for their students. The best that has created so far is below, but I know that many of you are very creative thinkers and could design something better yourselves or with your students. Any ideas or designs very welcome as I'd hate to have 6 square boxes represent our way of educating.

Have a good evening,


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Extra Food for Thought article

“There is a momentous, broad-based cultural shift underway that has struck at the roots of every industrialized system of education. The result is a demand for more personalized learning, brain-friendly environments, less recall and more thoughtful application of knowledge, optimal conditions for eliciting intelligent behaviors, constructivist tools, and respectful, caring relationships that honor the learner.” — Thom Markham

The impetus for the cultural shift that Markham describes in Redefining Smart: Awakening Students’ Power to Reimagine Their World is well-documented. The wide-ranging dialogue concerning this new reality — a radically different conception of learning — is no longer a debate. Part of the complexity for schools seeking to address this challenge includes the obligation to make the transition without unduly alarming those who assess the quality of schooling through a lens traditionally known as rigor.

There are many misconceptions that govern the worldview of rigor in education. At its most fundamental level, advocates of rigor believe that school should be “hard”. Rigor is most frequently characterised by an abundance of homework, tests, grading, and compliance. In a school that is “hard” some students will be successful, while others will not. The notion of a learner-centred school context might be new to many of us educated in the 20th century. For parents, there are only the familiar elements of their own school experiences to relate to. The paradigm shift that can be dramatic for professional educators must be incredibly daunting for parents who note a fundamental shift in the way we think about learning. According to Markham: “Instead of measuring difficulty in terms of information retrieval, or amount of homework, the new standard of personal rigor puts thinking and intelligent behaviors at the forefront. How a student expresses those personal qualities become the standard for capability and performance. In effect, we’re starting to redefine what is ‘hard’ in school.”

So what happens when a school takes the shifting digital landscape seriously, acknowledging how the brain works, the essential need for intrinsic motivation, the reality of the declining value of fixed knowledge, the importance of social and emotional learning, and the critical need to focus on learning how to learn in new and dynamic ways? What must proponents of traditional rigor think when their child attends a school that:

Does not grade homework or believe in assigning it unless it serves a clear learning purpose.

Believes that averaging grades is illogical and allows students to negotiate assignment deadlines.

Eliminates streaming to increase challenge while believing that every student can succeed.

Regards the development of a digital presence and personal learning as educational priorities.

Is committed to the arts, design, creative expression and physical education as core curriculum.

“The chief barrier to moving forward is an outdated definition of rigor. The core task of the modern world is not to prep students for standardized tests by delivering content, or even to make them “college ready,” but to prepare them to judge the quality of information, generate new ideas, filter them through a net of critical analysis and reflection, and share and move the ideas through a design process to create a quality product, either as an idea or a material object.

Much of the above, for some, represents a lowering of standards, a dilution of rigor. The reality of where we have come from and where we need to go is clear, but the pursuit of this direction is not without its challenges. “It is indisputable that a set of industrial beliefs are ingrained in the mental model we call education… Moving from the quantifiable apparatus of schooling to the qualitative expressions of deeper intelligence — and to more personal, individual standards for thinking and accomplishment — is a huge thought barrier to cross. Welcome to 21st century life.”

Of course, it is not acceptable for schools to declare that rigor is a thing of the past, that new approaches to learning should not be open to scrutiny or that a commitment to excellence has become less important than in the past. What is required is a new definition of rigor and a commitment to educating all stakeholders in understanding why learning has changed and how schools need to change accordingly. This process will take time, patience, strong leadership and an acknowledgment that not everyone will accept the need for change or applaud the implementation of transformations that unsettle the core of traditional certainty. But continuing to do what we have always done does not honour our obligation to students and the realities of our interconnected, digital world. As Markham points out:

The task of redefining rigor is an important one. I like the new definition that Brian Sztabnik has set forth: “Rigor is the result of work that challenges students’ thinking in new and interesting ways. It occurs when they are encouraged toward a sophisticated understanding of fundamental ideas and are driven by curiosity to discover what they don’t know.” This definition is notable in that it makes no reference to getting into the “best” college.

I was fortunate to enjoy a screening of the film “Most Likely to Succeed” at theCoSN Conference in Washington DC recently and to hear the perspective of executive producer, Ted Dintersmith. I highly recommend that schools make arrangements for a screening of this important film. There is one scene in the film that especially resonated with me. In this scene, a teacher at High School Tech in San Diego, (who is using modern learning strategies with his students), holds a meeting with some of his “stronger” students who appear disgruntled with these methods. To paraphrase the exchange, he asks these students whether they would like to be equipped to lead meaningful lives or to ace the test. The shared perspective that the test results were more crucial than learning how to live meaningfully — that the development of personal interests and passions could wait — speaks volumes about the cultural expectations around schooling these days.

The real essence of rigor is doing the right thing for students and ensuring they have the most dedicated, personally invested teachers to guide, mentor, coach and support them. We must have rigor in schools, but in a new context. Modern learning needs to be productive and have purpose. That purpose is related to the real world, not the game of school, long the domain of traditional rigor. While learning will inevitably look different in this new context, the core essence of the relationship between engaged students and caring teachers has never been more important.

Eric Sheninger, in his new book, deals with the issue of rigor in some practical ways that are the hallmark of his writing. He suggests that teachers in the contemporary digital landscape need to take care to consider whether modern methodologies are still as structured, rigorous, and relevant as before. For Sheninger, the critical instructional design questions modern teachers need to ask include: “What capabilities do I want my students to develop? In what specific ways is my instructional design rigorous, relevant, and goal oriented? What are my benchmarks for rigor? Relevance? Relationships? Clear objectives?”

Engagement and personal meaning are the new rigor. Digital learning, balanced with traditional, challenging expectations deepen, rather than dilute rigor. Parents and educators are right when they suggest school needs to be rigorous. But if we accept — as we must — that the needs of the first half of the 21st century are inevitably and distinctly different from the second half of the 20th century, what this rigor looks like needs to be reconsidered and embraced with the modern mindset required. Nothing less than a rigorous commitment to this paradigm shift will prepare our young people for the futures they deserve.


Brian Sztabnik. A New Definition of Rigor.
Ted Dintersmith. Most Likely to Succeed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Food for thought: Thinking about technology

Dear all,

Brian Rogove, the Cognita CEO for South East Asia was in school on Thursday and was incredibly impressed by what he saw and heard from both teachers and students. A special moment was when Grade 10 students presented their Minecraft rendition of the new school which lead to a very lucrative business proposition being sent their way. He will back at ISHCMC for the PYP Exhibition to speak to our students and find out more about their learning experience at ISHCMC. He assured us that building is definitely about to start on the new campus following regulatory delays. Very excitingly he would like to start refurbishing the existing campus which will be converted into the ISHCMC Primary school. Hence, next week we will be working hard on firming up plans for the building using the work of the Primary School Refurbishment Committee that has been working throughout the year on this project.

The next few years could be even more exciting than the past,  as we transform our learning environments to match our vision for 21st century education.

The Food for Thought this week focuses on technology. The first part illustrates how schools and teaching can potentially be changed and how quickly this transformation could occur. This sort of tech will be here much sooner than one might imagine. It could replace science labs with ordinary classrooms, at least for the older students, and could provide the most incredible and creative individual learning pathways for students in the future. This video builds on one of the Speed Geeking concepts shared by student "Titans of Tech" to secondary teachers last Thursday morning.

Also the educational theory about technology is very sound and comes from the SAMR model for use of technology which encourages us to use technology to transform the learning experience rather than just replicate it by using tech. The link takes you to a commonsense media video that explains the SAMR model.

The second part of this weeks Food for Thought comes from the perpetual fear that many parents have about student addiction to technology. This fear leads to you being asked by parents about technology use, screen time etc etc. Obviously the appropriate use and balance for technology has to be an important part of our thinking regarding our homeroom and advisory programmes as they are reviewed. Our main source of information regarding managing the tech world for our students comes from commonsense media and so does this article, What Educators Need to Know about Technology Addiction.

Have a good weekend,