Sunday, March 25, 2018

Food for Thought: our Wandering Minds

Dear all,

Thanks to everyone involved in the Grade 4 Mini X, MRISA Arts and STEAM Festival, and all the other school activities this last week and this weekend. I know it is a very busy time and thank you all for making it a good one for our students and their learning.

This week’s Food for Thought provides further evidence from neuroscience that our desire to empower our students by giving them the skills to control their lives is spot on, and very important. As you know one set of these skills is what we do through mindfulness. This Ted talk by the neuroscientist Amishi Jha, How to tame the wandering Mind, has much relevance to us in education. The research focuses on the importance of attention in framing our minds perceptions. The results clearly indicate that when a person is bored, this can be through repetitious activity as well as other things, our minds start to wander. It is also clear that attention is reduced by stress. We have known for years about our students attention span varies between 8 and 20 minutes, although a much debated recent articles implies that today due to social media and modern media and lifestyle trends it may be shorter than a goldfish’s at 8 secs.  Whatever the exact figure is we should be thinking about it when we plan our lessons and how we pace lessons and phase lessons to ensure that students remain engaged with their learning. There are obvious implications for preparing students for examinations. The talk concludes with research findings about the impact of deliberate mindfulness activities in increasing attention and assisting students and ourselves in taking control of our minds.  Doing a quick internet search on strategies to maintain attention it was interesting to see that the majority had mindfulness at or near the top of their list. This article on paying attention is just one example.

This type of research supports our mindfulness programme by providing scientific evidence of its importance in providing students with the skills that they will need to control their lives in the future. It is clear that mindfulness should be a daily exercise and even beyond that a technique that is used during class to help students control their wandering minds.

Have a good Sunday,


PS Just received my weekly post from Barking up the Wrong Tree and it is about 
How To Increase Your Attention Span: 5 Secrets From Neuroscience. Guess what meditation is there in the list.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Food for Thought: Personalized Learning 3

Just returned from a wonderful few days chaperoning the U14 football teams in Hanoi so apologies for the late edition of Food for Thought on Personalized learning. This week I have decided to share a short article for you from Edutopia about how personalized learning can go further than being trapped within our traditional curriculum structures. This where we need to be going as we attempt to also break down some of the systems that restrict the move from teacher controlled learning to real student agency. In order to maximize the use of this article you do need to follow the links because they provide valuable additional Food for thought.

Personalized PBL: Student-Designed Learning

June 27, 2014

" I wrote a blog about one of the pitfalls of personalization for the ASCD Whole Child Blog. Specifically, that pitfall is the lack of engagement. With all the focus on personalization through time, pacing, and place, it can be easy to forget about the importance of engagement. No matter where students learn, when they learn, and the timing of the learning, engagement drives them to learn. When we factor all the pieces of personalization together, we can truly meet students where they are and set them on a path of learning that truly meets their needs and desires. Project-based learning can be an effective engagement framework to engage students in personalized learning.

Moving Past "Course-Based" PBL

Due to the antiquated restraints of the education system, most educators are forced to implement PBL in a "course-based" manner. This means that the project occurs within the traditional discipline structures, where there may be integration, but learning is framed within grades and competencies. In addition, start and stop times, driven by the Carnegie unit, force teachers to start and stop a project for all of their students around the same time. What if PBL wasn't held to antiquated rules of time, space, and discipline constructs? In that ideal situation, students could be engaged in personalized projects.

Student-Designed Projects

Students at Phoenix High School have been engaged in a model similar to the one I've described. In it, students design their own driving questions and select the 21st century skills they want to work on, as well as the content learning objectives. They select and design their own products to show their learning in a true commitment to performance assessment. They decide on due dates, benchmarks, and the authentic audience of the work. There is also a heavy push toward community impact and work outside the four walls of the classroom.
My PBL colleague, Erin Sanchez, (formally Erin Thomas), created an amazing graphic of this continuum that shows the power of PBL truly aligned to the learner. As teaching colleagues, we did our best to implement personalized projects for students, and we experienced many of the same challenges faced by teachers who attempt to do this. However, we also saw the payoff: engagement! When students are truly in the driver's seat of their learning, the impact of their work and the learning associated with it can be powerful!

Role of the Teacher

When teachers move toward personalized PBL, their role continues to shift, just as it does when teachers move traditional instruction to "course-based" PBL. While still involved in the design process, they also serve as advisors. Teachers frequently use question techniques to help students focus and crystalize their projects and project plans. They coach students in creating effective driving questions and student products. They're still involved in frequent formative assessments, but instead of planning all instructional activity for the students, they help students plan it themselves. In addition, teachers help students select standards and learning targets that will align with the project and products. Teachers at Phoenix High School, for example, help ensure that all standards are targeted for a year, but do not limit the standards that students may want to hit in a project. Here the teachers create and facilitate the infrastructure for the learning rather than designing the PBL projects themselves.
Not every teacher may be ready to jump into this type of personalization. To make it work, they'll be required to adopt a different teaching role. They'll need strong management skills and a commitment to disruptive innovation. In addition, the current constructs of the education system may hold us back. What if we could make this dream of personalized PBL a reality? I say that we work toward it, creating a push on the system that demands change in the education of our students."

Have a good evening,


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Food for Thought: Thinking about Personalized Learning in Practice

Dear all,

At the Cognita Leadership Conference, Simon Camby, the Cognita Director for Global Education spoke about Personalized Learning, as it has an important place in the Cognita Way, for those who missed information on the Cognita Way from a previous post, here it is for you. It was clear from his keynote that we are ahead of most schools in our interpretation of Personalized Learning and making it happen. Last week this article on school disruption was share with me and hence I wanted to share with you as Food for Thought. Immediately I thought of the quote attributed to Gandhi be the change you want to see in the world.” I say attributed because whilst browsing, I discovered that there are researchers who say that Gandhi never actually said these words, although he would probably agree with them. The power of these words, that certainly align with Gandhi's philosophies, are that they encourage us to stop judging others because they replace complaining with a call for self-reflection and the need to action and take control ourselves. What it appears he actually said was much deeper and is this quote:

Image result for ghandi quote but we mirror the world

I suppose it doesn't matter who said these words as they are very useful for encouraging individual action. So returning to the article you will find that it provides support for the direction that we are moving as school again demonstrating its power for student agency and learning.

"It may not seem like “school” in the classic sense—but then, that is the point. NuVu is an off-the-grid, independent “micro-school,” whose 60 students are stretching the boundaries of what constitutes education in America. Such boutique programs offer highly personalized environments on a tiny scale, in a tech-enabled reinvention of the one-room schoolhouse that eschews lockstep schedules and standard curricula for student-led learning. They represent a handful of private schools in the country today, but their rapid growth and embrace of sought-after “deeper learning” goals raise important questions about how to scale and democratize the approach."

In the last section the debate arises about if this form of education can be expanded beyond micro-schools and this is where we come in with Studio 5 moving to Grade 6 and 4. We know it can be done because there are several models in countries like new Zealand and Australia, it is the will to change that matters. I enjoyed the final sentences,

"Wildflower’s Kramer is sympathetic but believes that the benefits outweigh the liabilities. “If you think about what modern neuroscience research tells us, the basic principle of learning theory is that kids learn more when they get to follow their interests,” he said. “What we need are human-scaled, autonomous school environments. Micro-schools are not a magic solution, but they do work on important topics that we haven’t figured out at scale anywhere else.”

Lots to think about in this article,

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Food for Thought: Personalized Learning

Dear all,

Hope you all enjoyed the International Festival on Saturday afternoon. It was a great afternoon, I felt the best in my 5 years because it was more relaxed with a street party atmosphere. It is afternoon’s like this that differentiate true international school communities from want to be international schools.

This week’s food for Thought is going to be in two parts so that it is manageable for everyone. Part 1 starts with an amusing 10 minute Sir Ken extract that is shared to provoke you to think about personalized learning in an indirect context. His talk touches on unexplored talent, the miracle of being born and ends by saying, “nothing is so important as an idea whose time has come,” which I believe is why we need to be focusing our ISHCMC future on Personalized learning. Sir Ken then says, “nothing is so influential as a life well lived,”  and for us that lays down the challenge has to how we create the foundation for that life through the education and experience we give each and every one of our students. Again this has to be by seeing each ISHCMC students as an individual and personalizing their experience. 

Understanding Personalized learning is very important for all of us because as ISHCMC moves forward it needs to become more and more embedded in our classrooms, if we are to truly assist students be the best learners they can be. Five to ten years ago we were talking about differentiated teaching strategies, then it was individualized learning, both of which are controlled by the teacher. Today we are talking more and more about personalized learning where teachers pass control to the students. The new PYP model stresses Student Agency. Other system refer to this as Personalized Learning or Student centered learning. This short video introduces you to the transformation that is needed. It stress four key principles that need to be present for this transformation of education: Personalized Learning, Competency Based Learning, Learning Happens Any Place and Any Where and finally Students Take Ownership. 

One of the key areas that becomes very obvious when one reads about personalized learning is the use of data to both identify and then track student development of skills and the impact of these upon their learning. This is a fundamental part of personalized learning and one that we will have to work very hard to develop at ISHCMC. This short promotional video highlights how algorithms and systematic planning can make personalized learning come true in schools. 

Next week we will go deeper into this topic.

Have a good afternoon,


Additional News Article that you might like to scan.

Here is article about the importance of philosophical thinking routines for our changing world. Again it supports our move to introduce Philosophy for Children across all Grades in ISHCMC. Again we are aligned with progressive thinking about education.