Sunday, September 25, 2016

Food for Thought: Technology and Learning.

Dear all,

Thank you for another good week at school. This was the best spirit week that I can remember and it created a fantastic buzz around school. Although many students did dress up and were obviously having fun impersonating us on Friday, they did not forget why they are in school and were engaged and focused in their classes. The Cognita team were very impressed by the ambiance of the school and left with a very good impression of what we are trying to achieve at ISHCMC.

Image result for students and technology

This week's Food for Thought is a reflective essay from AEON magazine about students use of technology in their lives and its impact upon their learning. This essay is a longer read and is the reason there is only one article this week. It is worth reading as it will certainly provoke thought, discussion and reflection about how and when we use technology in our classrooms. For me it raised questions about the amount of technology we provide in the school; the effectiveness and depth of student learning with technology;  whether we should be giving students time away from devices and technology; how technology contributes to the illusion of multi-tasking; how technology distorts and puts pressure on the concept of time and its management; and finally, are we contributing to the issues by failing to use the SAMR model and instead of transforming learning through new and varied activities we are still giving too much time to using technology merely to replicate note books. Embedded in the essay are lots of interesting links to research that will encourage further your deeper thoughts on this topic. Definitely lots to think about and how we can find an optimal balance.

Have a relaxing Sunday,


"My college students are never entirely present in class, addicted to texts and tech. Is there any hope left for learning?

"While my students – undergraduates at Boston University who are taking classes on writing and research – agree that there’s a problem if they can’t go 50 minutes without checking their phones, few of them can resist, despite knowing that this is my biggest pet peeve. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln study indicates that 80 per cent of college students send text messages during class. Nearly 100 per cent of them text before and after class. In the minutes before class – the ones I used to spend shooting the breeze with students about TV shows, sports or what they did over the weekend – we now sit in technologically-induced silence. Students rarely even talk to each other anymore. Gone are the days when they gabbed about the impossible chemistry midterm they just took or the quality of the food at the dining halls. Around the 30-minute mark in class, their hands inch toward their backpacks or into their pockets, fingers feeling around for the buttons as though their mere shape offers comfort. When I end class, they whip out their phones with a collective sigh of relief, as though they’ve all just been allowed to go to the bathroom after having to hold it all day."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Food for Thought: Mastery not grades

Dear all,

Another good week at ISHCMC in the classrooms. I just wanted to let you know I have been very impressed so far this year during my visits to classrooms with the high quality of teaching that I have observed across the school. In particular I am very pleased to see authentic and applicable learning taking place; the release of learning to students; activities that encourage students to uncover learning rather than just cover it; and lastly the level of engagement of students with their work. I am not alone in feeling this and have had comments from all our recent professional development consultants who have been working with you on your classrooms that support mine and SLTA's feelings. Well done everyone, and if we continue to collaborate and learn from each other I can see our classroom pedagogy getting better and better.

This week's Food for Thought focuses on our classroom and how we should use assessment. The first by Salman Khan, of Khan Academy fame, looks at mastery and mindset. This is important for us because in our mission engagement is emphasized and this depends upon students being motivated in our classes, and as I have talked about in previous posts a key factor in this is mastery. He raises important questions about how our schools are structured and like Sir Ken Robinson points out that this in very much an age based factory model not one based on academic mastery. Once on this conveyor belt students move forward not based on mastery of material but on artificial time restraints created by us as teachers and schools. Salman Khan paints a picture of classrooms that provide individualized learning for their students, are supported by blended learning and help students practice to be resilient and gain mastery. At the end of his 10 minute talk he refers to the future model of our changed society, a model you have heard me talk about and share with parents many times, a world that today needs creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers. He argues that through mastery based education a change in society becomes possible.

The second article i am sharing, student centered formative assessment, will help provide tools that can be used in your classroom that will help support some of the possible learning from Salman Khan's video. When you click on the above link it will take you to Common Sense Media and you should watch the introductory 2 minute tip video that provides ideas about how we can, using apps, make our assessment more formative for our students. The site then provides a long list of apps that you can explore. Of course some of you are already familiar with many of these. This may not immediately create the Mastery that Salman Khan talks about but it should give you the data to decide whether your students have learned what you think they have learned, information about whether it is time to move on, increased feedback about your teaching and what are you students goals are for the future.

Have a good Sunday,

See you tomorrow,

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Food for Thought: By changing who we are we can make a difference to those around us and in the world

Dear all,

Thank you for another great week.Our community continues to buzz even as we re-energize from our 3E conference. A wonderful look at who we are on Friday that thoroughly engaged our parents with their children's learning. Lots of very positive feedback. And then on Saturday we had over 100 swimmers with their parents bringing even more energy to our campus for the first of the season's time trials. Again a wonderful community atmosphere with new and old parents meeting, supporting each other and all the swimmers.

This week's Food for Thought keeps us building on the who we are theme and involves a short TED, only seven minutes by Dan Gilbert that links perfectly with our mission and the Achievement Culture that we aspire to create. One of the strands that we work towards is, 'it is never too late to learn.This strand asks; 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? It encourages to presume competence in all students and look for each and everyone's true potential.. This positive presupposition is important for the interactions that take place everyday with students and links to Positive Education and Choice Words. This TED supports this idea by showing us that;

 "Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished." Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the "end of history illusion," where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we'll be for the rest of time." 

Hence, we have the power to influence both who we are, and who our students become. This leads to the second video which captures the amazing journey of John Francis who by making remarkable changes to who he was hoped to influence others and the world.

Together these two videos show why our inquiry into who we are can be so empowering for us as educators and for our students as future citizens. Without taking time to listen and understand ourselves and the world around us, how can we expect to maximize the potential of each one of us to make a difference in the world.

Have a good weekend,


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Food for Thought: My 3E Reflection

Dear all,

Hope you are having a relaxing weekend after the thought provoking and stimulating two days of 3E. A huge thanks to all of you who ran workshops, facilitated inspiration groups, and gave Inspire talks. A very special thanks to Sam who is the originator of the thinking behind this conference style PD and to the team around him that allowed an idea to become a practical reality.

With my head whirling round with ideas and thought originating from the 3E workshops and Inspire talks I thought that it would be a good idea if this week's Food for Thought focused on some of my reflections. This will be a long post with lots to watch and read and should be enjoyed over a longer period of time.

  • The Need to Redefine our Schools

As I have expressed countless times since doing an educational Master Class with Yong Zhao and listening to Tony Wagner, Sugata Mitra and Pasi Sahlberg talk about the revolution that is needed in schools. Our 3E's conference reinforced the potential for that change to be led by teachers working with students in their classrooms using modern pedagogy that engages and motivates learners to be innovators, thinkers, creators and problem solvers.

This first video is of Yong Zhao explaining the need for World Class Learners and why education needs to be revolutionized if we are to prepare our students adequately for their futures.

At 3E the documentary Schooling the World was showing in the iMac lab. This documentary was directed by Carol Black and many things that were discussed in the workshops that I attended resonated with her thinking about redefining school. Here is an extract from an article on her website and is followed by a twelve minute video of her talking at a conference about Happiness. 

This is a long post but definitely worth reading with a cup of coffee or tea as she is a very good writer:

"Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged. "

Carol Black: Reclaiming Our Children, Reclaiming Our World

Once one has listened to the compelling arguments of  Yong Zhao and Carol Black it becomes even clearer that there is journey that must be embarked upon to produce an education system that looks and feels different from that of the 19th and 20th century models.

  • Engaging and Motivating our Students
With out doubt the most common train of thinking about redefining schools that arose in all the workshops that I attended was ensuring that students were engaged with their learning. This might be related to teacher pedagogy, application to real world examples, relevant to a 21st century students life or simply and interesting activity. Of course underlying all these is motivation and what ingredients are needed to engage students with their learning. This is where the work of Daniel Pink and his book Drive becomes an important resource that is worth reading. This book pulls together so many of the ideas that are prevalent in education today. For those of you who might prefer either a preview or a short cut, I am sharing a 15 minute video which delves into all the important concepts covered in the book. Every time that ideas such as Google Hour, Think Tank Thursday, Passion Time etc were mentioned their success was dependent upon the key facets of motivation, Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. Watch the video to find out much more.

The question of how well do we really knowing our students came up in several of the discussions that I was involved in and blends perfectly with ISHCMC's year long inquiry of  getting to know who we are. It makes a great deal of sense, if you stop and think about it, that our teaching will be enhanced by really knowing the students in our classes so that we can understand who they really are. Of course from this knowledge grows empathy and trust which will make the classroom learning environment safe for all students. This article is from the New York Times  and, although it focuses on Primary students, I think this exercise would be equally applicable to all students across the school and could be done at least in advisory class.
  • Why We Need to Ensure the Right Side of our Brain is Leading our Thinking
As you know we start all our days at ISHCMC with 10 minutes of mindfulness. This is part of our progression towards Positive Education and providing students with the skills to take control of their lives. (empowerment) It is also vital for allowing the right section of our brains to establish control from the left. This struggle is so important in many ways and is essential if we are to live positive and happy lives. If our left brains are allowed to dominate our lives and thoughts our ten positive emotions will be overwhelmed and we will never be able to achieve the positive to negative emotions ratio of 4:1 promoted by Positive Psychologist like Barbara Fredrickson. In this blog post by Eric Barker he analyses the neuroscience around Mindfulness and the control of our left brains

The importance of the Right Side of the Brain was first brought to my attention whilst giving an MYP Leaders Workshop in Beijing by a fellow workshop leader whoi asked if I had read a Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. From a different perspective Pink identifies the importance of right brained thinking for the future. In many ways this links back the the work of education researchers such as Sir ken Robinson, Yong Zhao and Tony Wagner who stress the importance of right brained thinking for our schools. Here is a concise presentation that will take you through Pink's argument.

Having taken this time to reflect upon the 3E conference it is clear to me that the majority of the challenges facing education today were discussed at some level in the conference. It will be the bringing together of these discussions to transform ISHCMC classrooms and student learning that will redefine who we are as a school.

Have a lovely weekend and extra day on Monday.