Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

I explored connectivism in the context of blogging for my culminating assignment in #inf530 Concepts and Practices in a Digital Age in my Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).  Over the past few years, schools have introduced blogs for their students although it would appear that these are not used extensively. Certainly, the students in my school in the higher grades are not fans of blogging.


I started to explore connectivism,  a new emerging learning theory widely attributed to Siemens (2005) and Downes (2005), and the connected tools that are essential to promote a connectivist learning environment. Certainly, the extensive features of a blog hits all the buttons.  My goal was to examine the relationship between connectivism and the use of blogs in a K-12 environment and try to understand the conditions required to promote a connectivist learning environment.

The comments from my inspirational lecturer (@junewall) led me to sharing this work through this post and at the recent Learning2 Asia conference at SSIS. Clearly I was not going to read out my paper over the three-hour extended session at Learning2 and therefore, with the help of @jenasimon, a colleague at WAB, found a way to present my findings through an interactive, hands-on, learning-by-doing workshop. I also reached out on twitter to those posting under #connectivism and  was fortunate to be given feedback on my workshop outline from Katie O  (Thank you Katie and Jen).  What I discovered was the power of being brave and putting your stuff out there!

The slides are here and resources here.


So what next? @jenasimon has written a wonderful blog post entitled The Blogging Dead: Infuse New Life into ‘Zombie’ Blogs and we are now presenting a shortened version of the workshop for colleagues.

C++ Programming Lock-In for Seriously Wannabe Geeky Students

We don’t have a formal coding class however we do have many, many wannabe coders in our school and we do have an extra-curricular Geek Force club who decided that our goal for the year was to learn how to code – and not just in any language but C++, a derivative of the mother of all programming languages (which to me is C).

IMG_0395So why C++? Firstly, our Geek Force are gamers and interested in learning C as it is widely used in gaming. Both C and C++ are low level languages that get you close to the silicon allowing for extreme optimization to maximize the resources available and make games slicker and faster.Of course, we are not aiming to get to that level of complexity nor are we looking at a deep understanding at object oriented coding however by learning C or C++, it will be easy to pick up another language with the added bonus that some students may develop an understanding of how software works on a lower level. Secondly, I used to be a C and unix programmer back in the day (yes, before C++ was even invented), so why not challenge myself to pick up C++?

Learning to program takes time and we tried to follow an online tutorial (C++ in 21 days) but as we only had a weekly lunchtime slot, we found that, collectively, we were not making much progress. What was needed was a big chunk of time to really lay down the basics and learn together. Hence the lock-in concept.
However, it takes some effort to organize such an event and so I enlisted the help of @rgentleman, our Grade 6 MYP Design teacher, who also was a programmer in a former life. Our objectives were:
  • to have time to develop C++ programming skills
  • to have a friendly competition where everyone can compete no matter what level of expertise
  • and to have fun!C++Schedule

We organized 3 x 30 minute challenges (sprints) with 3 x 15 minute team challenges in between each sprint plus some time for the obligatory pizza and diet coke! Surprisingly on a Friday night, we were joined by a number of budding geeks and two teachers who wanted to join the competitive fun. Here is the link to the fantastic write up from Michael, one of our Geek Force Leaders.

And here are some examples of the programming challenges:

Basic: First Program HelloWorld.cpp

Watch this short youtube video [C++ Hello World using Xcode (Mac)] to create your first program Hello World. Modify the code to output your name and age:

Hello World. My name is x and I am y years old.

Intermediate: Currency Conversions (using nested if statements)

  • Input: Choice of currency (eg USD, RMB or one more of your choice), amount
  • Processing: convert from choice of currency to target currency (eg USD converted to RMB)
  • Output: amount in target currency (eg RMB)

Advanced: Currency Conversions (using switch statement)

  • Extend the above program to have a number of currencies (maybe up to 5) so that the user can select the input currency and the target currency.
  • Bonus points for using constants (which are declared in UPPER CASE
  • Bonus points for using an easy user interface (for example, enter 1 for RMB, 2 for USD…)

The Arduino Challenge

In random teams of 3 or 4, students were given an Arduino set and access to a large number of input and output devices (lights, fans, sensors etc). The challenge was to create something – they could use the internet and even download code – however they had to modify the code or the structure and be able to explain what they did.

If you would like to have access to the challenges, please contact me by email (madeleine_brookes at

No Longer Waiting for Formal Learning

Waiting by Jlhopgood (via Flickr)
Waiting by Jlhopgood (via Flickr)

Technology has changed the learning landscape. No longer are students limited by the resources that we offer within our schools. No longer do students have to wait for formal learning. Just think of the last time you used YouTube to show you how to do something – for me it was how to break open a lock on a suitcase (well, sometimes you just lose those keys). And what about the times when you can’t find the answer through searching online? Have you have thought about throwing out your questions into that cyber community of experts? See this wonderful video, shown to me by Dr Alec Couros, University of Regina (@courosa), of a young boy trying to start a fire with a bow drill who is asking for help by posting his problem on YouTube. A longer narrative on this can be found here.

What other ways have you used the internet to find experts to help you in your learning? Here’s another great example, again shown to me by @courosa of the Speaking Exchange project which connects students in Brazil with Americans living in retirement homes.

Have you ever shared something online that you learned so that someone else could benefit from your knowledge? Here are an example from our younger WAB students demonstrating how to ride a taxi in Chinese:

Our elementary school uses blogs as their learning management system. Each student has their own blog, their digital desk. It is their space where they post their ideas and work, where they explore, where they document their learning and where they interact and exchange ideas. They frequently upload examples of their learning to our in-house tigertube which in turn are embedded into posts for sharing and generating conversations about their learning.

We are in the process of relaunching blogs for our middle schoolers and re-igniting the interest for our high schoolers. Here is our landing page (soon to be revamped). Why? Why not? I look at this blog and how often I post and, most importantly, who I post to – who is my audience and why am I writing posts to them? What is the purpose? What do I want from my audience? I know that I am not as active has I have been and I am not sure if anyone out there is listening or cares which means that I need to take time to find my audience(s).

Another challenge that we face is this: Unlike the elementary school, we have a separate learning management system (Moodle), and therefore the blog is not the first point of digital entry each day. Therefore, will our students be prompted to blog and if so, will they find value in blogging? I have many questions which I am pondering below:

Why blog? As we all know, blog posts can have many uses: observations, reflections, stories, a show-and-tell, sharing of personal news, or even a soapbox. There are no hard and fast rules about what a post can or cannot be: length, media, number of links are entirely arbitrary as is the content: It can be a public display of homework, a photographic record of an event, a link to a video of a class project, a meme or even a diatribe (hopefully not). A post is [generally] publicly shared maybe purposefully to a known audience or perhaps just put out there into the ether to be stumbled upon by an unknown, anonymous audience. For me, however, the key is the ability for the author to engage their audience in a conversation. It allows our students to break down their classroom walls and to explore their learning in a more authentic setting through the interactions that may ensue – many of which may be with strangers.

What platform? Should we provide our high school and middle school students with a blogging platform, like we do with our elementary students, or should we encourage them to use the platforms and social media tools that they are already familiar with such as WeChat, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube? However, if we, as their teachers, are not in their spaces, how can we guide them? Do we need to guide them? I suggest that we should provide them with a platform that they see as a learning tool so that we can be their guides. Once they get the ‘hang’ of it and if they are able to gain from the use of blogs and see the value of those gains, there is nothing stopping them from transferring those skills to their other social media platforms, seeking out their audiences as needed.

Who is the audience for our students? This all depends on the nature of the post. For example, a student may want to showcase a piece of work that they have completed. Their audience might be their parents, friends, and future employers. The message might be ‘look at what I have achieved’. Conversely a student might be seeking help or advice. They might outline a brick wall that they have run into in their learning and may want their audience to provide help on how to proceed.

How do our students find their audience? Perhaps we should circle back to the large network that the student may have built through their social media platforms. Why not encourage students to send out the link to their latest post through their established networks in order to drive traffic to their blog? Why not actively seek help by challenging their social network to find their audience for them?

I’m excited about relaunching the blogs and wonder where this will take us and I would like to thank Alec Couros for getting me to think more deeply about the purpose of blogs and how we can re-ignite the blogging culture here at WAB.

Please join in the conversation if you have thoughts, feedback or anything to share that will help me continue to develop my thinking about blogging for our students.

How Many Facebook Posts Does 1 Litre of Milk Cost?

897px-Facebook_like_thumbWould you trade your Facebook data for food at a supermarket? I stumbled across this video as I was doing some research with my students on Big Data in Supermarkets as part of the IBDP Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) course which examines the social and ethical issues arising from the use of IT systems.

The following explains the experiment outlined in the TEDx video below:

In Hamburg, Florian Dohmann, Manuel Urbanke and Maximilian Hoch created an experiential art experiment that made data trade truly visual. They set up a supermarket where customers could only pay with their personal Facebook data. Likes, comments, messages and photos for milk, bread and fruits. No money. No credit. Data as a currency. What did they experience during their week behind shelves? And does this project have the potential to be a realistic forecast for future ways of economic transactions?

The shop was set up for a week in an affluent area of Hamburg. Only five basic products were traded for Facebook data. At the checkout, the customers were required to type in their username and password for Facebook into an iPad which then ran a background app that harvested Facebook data as payment. Basically you paid with the history of your past and the app worked by looking into your Facebook profile and doing a liquidity check to see that you had enough data to pay for the purchases. For example, a can of fruit was five Facebook photos which taken at random from the store of photos uploaded by the user which were then printed on the receipt as evidence of the data that was traded for the products. Dumplings were paid in Facebook messages, milk in posts and so on.

Customers were amazed how far back the data was taken from:

“I totally forgot I wrote that”

It was interesting to note that the customers did not hesitate to type in their Facebook authentication details into a device that they had no control over and even came back with other accounts from relatives and friends so that they could make more purchases.

The lessons revealed from this art experiment are so interesting. It really highlights how little value some people place on their privacy. It demonstrates how little thought is placed on the consequences of actions today: that the data could be passed on in the future to insurance companies or future employers.

We all know that social media companies mine our data – we know that data is the new oil – however this is a very quirky way of visualising the concept.



Driving Collaborative Projects using an Agile Methodology

About 12 hours after arriving back from #elc14 and I’m about to walk into a class that I can honestly say I completely did NOT plan…not even think about it until I was stepping across that threshold. There, I’ve admitted it, I was winging it (again). Eighty minutes later I emerged having taught one of the best lessons ever on the most boring, dry, would-rather-stick-needles-in-my-eye topics, Project Management, a High Level topic in the IBDP Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS).

Why? For me, one of the big takeaways from #elc14 was agile development. It was mentioned in at least two workshops – Ewan McIntosh and in a Shanghai American School presentation. We have to study agile development in IBDP ITGS so I decided to apply the principles to move along a rather stagnant project.

Essentially Agile development is a methodology that is used by lean start ups and software developers, especially gaming. It relies heavily on client input and is developed in stages, known as sprints, with defined outcomes (or deliverables) for each sprint that generally can provide an income for the company. The key is the rich in-the-moment client and customer feedback that is essential to determine the next set of deliverables that will be schedule for the next sprint. This agile development method mitigates risk as there is constantly a feedback loop allowing projects to pivot or proceed.

Also appealing to student (and adults), is the fabulous terminology.  In today’s class, we appointed a scrum master – the leader of the project. The project is divided into sprints where each sprint is allocated a set number of days and the scope of the sprint is defined by what the team can accomplish and deliver to the client what is known as the sprint burndown (the number of days of each sprint). Unlike a more traditional, waterfall style project, where the requirements specifications are defined and more or less fixed close to the start of the project, in this method, the requirements are developed throughout the project in terms of user feedback and client requirements. These are knows as user stories, which capture the essential element of any client experience, empathy. Agile development lends itself to projects where the end goals are not clear as the direction is dictated by the client and customer feedback and documented as user stories – hence lean start-ups where it’s essential for the business to be creating revenue from almost day 1.  If you recall the development process for

  • For the first sprint, the deliverable was a website that sold limited range of books using an online catalog and shopping cart.
  • Sprint two may have been based on the customers desire to have an interactive experience, by posting reviews and comments about the books.
  • Sprint three may have been the introduction of alternative payment methods, such as PayPal in addition to another deliverable, such as client wish lists and diversifying into electrical goods and so on.

With a clear reflective process after each sprint, the user stories are generated and developed to help the team and the client decide where to go next. A truly market-driven endeavour.

When the team is in the midst of a sprint, at the beginning of each day, there is the daily scrum, a 20 minute stand up meeting where each team member answers the following three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What obstacles are in the way?

These are recorded and the scrum master’s role is help deal with the obstacles and records the progress on the sprint burndown chart.  At the end of the sprint, there should be the completed tasks, the deliverables, ready to present to the client. Once implemented, there is a reflective stage where feedback is collected and user stories are developed.  Then it’s time for the next sprint where he team along with the client is ready to select the next user stories and off they go again.

So basically, agile development is a short iterative process of sprints where there is success (deliverables) at each stage with market-driven goals.

So what could Agile development look like in the classroom?

In my Grade 12 classroom, my students are in the early stages of a rather dry case study on Big Data. We really haven’t stayed on target due to so many interruptions and the perceived blandness of the topic. We are not excited about it as yet and we really need to be. Firstly we have to make sense of the technical terminology and get our heads around the scope of the topic. For years @achurches and I have been pooling our resources by having our classes work collaboratively and have set up this year’s wikispace – an online learning space that our students work in by adding the content and discussing their learning. However, there is not set format of how to teach or explore the case study and perhaps a perfect project to develop using the Agile principles. So I decided to mix things up by introducing my students to the Agile philosophy.
To get the students tuned in, we watched the YouTube viral sensation, Building Planes in the Air –  the ultimate agile development project!


Then we also looked at some of the details of agile with CA marketing video here: An Introduction to Agile.

Then we appointed a scrum master – lucky Antonin – and collaboratively we decided what the deliverable(s) would be by the end of this sprint.  We decided that it would be to collectively research a set of terms as background to this year’s case study on Big Data. The goal was to have 12 definitions (2 per student), posted on our collaborative wikispace and peer-reviewed. These included terms such as Business intelligence software, Clustering/pattern analysis, Data analysis/data analytics.

We then had our scrum run by scrum master (AKA Antonin) who asked the following three questions:

What did you do (yesterday)?

What are you going to today?
What obstacles are in your way?

Each student was in a different stage of their definitions but clearly knew the parameters and the expectations. Interestingly the obstacles were limited access to the wikispace, time and some students not sure what definitions they had chosen. Yes, we were in a poor state!  Then over to our student appointed scrum manager who problem- solved with the team to overcome these issues and also documented where we were in and finally set the sprint burndown date (we have to get a move on – it’s next week!).

So how might this process positively impact the learning process?

  1. Imagine being appointed as a scrum master? That’s student empowerment as they get to run the meeting and record progress as well as trouble shoot any issues of the day.
  2. What’s even more powerful is that everyone on the team gets a turn to speak in the meeting and contribute to the overall success of each sprint.
  3. A huge project is now chunked down into smaller projects so that it’s not nearly as overwhelming – especially when a project is so open-ended.
  4. Students learn about feedback and empathy and soon realise that there was no point in proceeding with some ideas if that’s not what the client wants or market needs.
  5. As with design thinking, there is that exciting element of being in a constant rapid prototyping mode in order to garner essential feedback and effect good change.
  6. This is a truly transferable model for problem-solving and large-scale project management. Students can use this in their community service projects and beyond.
  7. As leaders in schools, we can use this to facilitate new innovations.

Next class we will start with the three questions and our scrum master will once again ensure that any new obstacles are worked out and off we go again until the sprint is over. Then we will review our work with our peers in New Zealand (@achurches) which in turn will determine our new direction and set of deliverables for the next sprint. We can keep this up until May 2015, then they will sit their exam. I’m looking forward to seeing what we will achieve.

Of course our students totally recognize this agile model – gaming companies put out pre-release versions of games with limited features which are based on the user feedback. It’s a great marketing ploy – not everyone gets a pre-beta copy to play with so it’s made exclusive: ‘Here’s your limited release version, we value your feedback and you’ll get the next version….’ Why not use your clients as your beta-testers? After all, if you are creating a product for the market, use your market to help you do that.


More links to explore:

The J-School Scrum: Bringing Agile Development Into the Classroom

Managed Chaos: How I use Agile and Scrum in the classroom


Design Thinking Workshops: WAB & ICS Addis

IMG_5249Western Academy of Beijing

Following on from our trip to #beyondlaptops, Rachella and I offered to share our Design Thinking (DT) experience with our faculty. Ray Gentleman, MYP Design, was also keen to be part of the process as he is also a supporter of the DT ideas from the With help from a few others, namely our PYP coordinator Angela Meike and  ES Teacher-librariran John Byrne, we organise a session for the entire WAB faculty (approximately 200 people).

The materials from the’s Virtual Crash Course are available to share and re-mix and that’s exactly what we did. Here’s some of the changes we made to personalise for our school:IMG_5252

  1. We took the Gift Giving challenge as the basis of our challenge and tweaked it for our audience. Firstly, we wanted to make some concrete links back to the classroom, so participants were given the option to share and explore either a personal problem, such as re-thinking their last gift-giving experience or to explore a school-related problem, from ‘How do we re-think our classroom spaces’ to ‘How can we be more collaborative in the classroom’.
  2. We decided that the hands-on rapid prototyping wIMG_5248as essential, even if the solution was an action plan. This allowed our participants to become really creative in their approach to demonstrate and communicate their solution to their partner. The idea is to put the prototype into the hands of the person you are creating the solution for and then observe how they interactive with the prototype in order to learn more about the solution: what worked, what didn’t work, what ideas you now have and what changes you would make for the next prototype. In addition, it allowed each partner to ‘gift’ their solution at the end of the session as a souvenir of the experience to display in their classrooms or workspaces.
  3. Finally, bringing it home was important. How does this experience link with our goals and IMG_5259 curriculum? As this year’s focus is on inquiry, the link was clear. In addition, we mapped the stages of the process to the Approaches to Learning and the IB Learner Profile. For example, the IDEATE stage, the ATL s identified were creative thinking, communication, reflection and critical thinking and the IB Learner profile attributes identified were communicator, open-minded, principled and caring. We thank Andrew Mayle for exploring these links here.

Each time I run this workshop, I gain a deeper understanding of the DT process and continue to gather ideas that can translate into our classrooms. For example, I have adapted the ideate stage for my IBDP ITGS Grade 12 students. When we are trying to respond to a complex question, for example, ‘To what extent…’ students really need to think of a large number of ideas before distilling down into the key points. Using white boards around our classroom, I have the students work in teams to throw out as many ideas as they can in 3 minutes then we share the ideas quickly with the other teams and then give another 3 minutes to rank and organise into the top three main themes. So a quick process to have students move from divergent to convergent thinking.

International Community School, Addis

We’ve just held our first Learning 2.014 Africa conference which was hosted at by the fantastic crew at ICS Addis. What a blast and more on that in another post. With all schools that host the Learning 2.0 conference, it is an expectation that (a) the school holds a PD day on the Friday of the conference and (b) there is a cap on the number of faculty from the hosting school. What this means it that while the conference is going on, the rest of the faculty are somewhere else on campus with their own PD sessions. Now Learning 2.0 is really a team effort and when the schedule allowed, the Learning 2 Advisory, offered to run workshops for the hosting school. Jeff U ran a session on the Wednesday afternoon and Simon May and I ran the Design Thinking Challenge workshop back-to-back for the Middle and High School faculty.

I tend to find High School audiences  to be tough especially when doing something as hands-on as this. However in Addis, the High School teachers seem to really embrace the challenge and came up with some really interesting and imaginative ideas and solutions, from magic wants to training the on-campus tortoises to retrieve the javelins during Track and Field Practices. It’s all good fun and the learning is in the doing. I now tell the participants that at the very least they get to spend an hour or more getting to know someone else on the faculty. After the digging deeper part of the empathy stage, we (jokingly) ask if there were any tears as that is a good sign that connections are being made and that the partner is really listening and asking good questions to learn more about their partner.

What I did learn was the ICS teachers clearly enjoy the challenges of living in Ethiopia. The most surprising element of the workshop was the request to keep the tin foil that we put in the boxes for the prototyping materials. Little did I know that large sheets of tin foil are difficult to acquire and quite expensive – so we had a few happy teachers who are now saving this coveted commodity for their Thanksgiving Turkey!

IMG_5361 IMG_5357

Design Thinking: Innovation is a Team Sport

The recent #beyondlaptops mini-conference at Yokohama International School was #beyondexpectations. I learned so much, yet still have so much to learn.

PICNIC10 Paul Pangaro IIMy first share is the session “How Can We Solve Our Own Challenges”, an introduction to Design Thinking based on the work from the Institute of Design at Stanford. This session was excellently facilitated by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green (THE #knockemdead tech coaching team from SAS). I love hands-on workshops where the participants are fully engaged and this was one of those. Our challenge was to design something useful and meaningful for our partner in less than 60 minutes!  Here’s an outline of the stages of the challenge that we covered and some commentary my additional research, mostly gleaned from the’s Virtual Crash Course resource page:

EMPATHIZE: We started off with interviewing our partner (4 mins each). It was important to gain empathy so so then dug deeper for stories, feelings and emotions. We needed to ask ‘why?’ (another 4 minutes each).

DEFINE: In three minutes, we needed to reframe the problem. Firstly by capturing our findings into ‘needs’  and a few ‘insights’ that we found of interest that we may use to leverage when creating solutions (in 3 mins). Then we moved onto defining the problem in a statement that is ‘juicy and actionable’: {name} needs a way to {user’s need}. Unexpectedly in his/her world, {insight}

IDEATE: Step one was to ‘sketch to ideate’ which meant generating, not evaluating, a number of radical ways to meet our user’s needs. This meant going for volume in a few minutes. Step two was to share our solutions and capture the feedback from our partner. We needed to listen to our partner and resist the urge to defend our ideas. The point was not to seek validation but to use this as an opportunity to remember that this was about building empathy (about 4 minutes each).

PROTOTYPE: Taking this valuable feedback, we incorporated what we have learned about our user and some of our suggested solutions, looking for areas where we hit ‘pay dirt’ and also where some of our ideas  ’tanked’. We needed to take the understanding and pull it into one single solution (3 mins). In a longer sessions, to build a prototype (in 6 or so minutes) we would have created a 3D model using whatever resources available such as lego, tape, paper, card, glue and other small items.

TEST: Finally, in 4 minutes, not as a salesmen but as an anthropologists, we needed to share and get feedback (what worked, what could be improved, questions and ideas). The idea of the 3D model would be that our partner could touch and feel the idea/solution that we were trying to communicate.
On completion of this challenge, it’s important to reflect on what we just did and why. The challenge was a quick exposure to the process where we focused on our user and their needs. However, the goal was to focus on ourselves as innovators and what we learned from the experience.
  • How did engaging & working feel like with a real person?
  • How did we feel about testing ideas with a real person?
  • How was the pace – the iterative, quick process?
  • What would we do next if we had to do it all over again?
  • What stages would we revisit?
  • How did (would) we feel about giving our ‘client’ unfinished solutions (prototypes)?
  • What did we learn from listening carefully to our ‘client’?
Overall we gained a sense of the attitudes required for this process:  prototyping,  understanding our client’s needs and being collaborative.

  “Innovation is a team sport”. George Kembel, cofounder and executive director of

Rachella, my partner-in-crime and colleague, came up with a solution for my problem which was how I could share my learning from this conference (and continue to reflect and continue to learn). The solution was to use this blog to create a series of posts and then to share the links by email and other means to targeted audiences. Let’s see if it works!

The slides that Heather shared with us are here and lots of projects can be found here. For an overview of #beyondlaptops, please read Kim Cofino‘s post here.

How does this apply to me & my students?

I will certainly use this process with my IBDP ITGS students for their Internal Assessment which is a real-life solution to a real-life problem with a real-life client. This process closely mirrors the Design Cycle that we use in MYP Design and as a basis for the MYP Personal Project and therefore Rachella and I are planning to facilitate this challenge-based workshop with our colleagues to generate discussions on how we can use this process with our students. More on that soon – I hope!

Why Do I Examine?

I’ve been teaching the IBDP Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) for almost 15 years and have been examining for well over a decade, probably more.

Students will be writing exams in for foreseeable future
Students will be writing exams in for foreseeable future

So, why do I examine?

Yes, it’s great professional development

I am now a team leader for one of the papers and therefore get to be part of the online standardisation meeting and really get to grips with the paper. Then there is the mentoring role for the examiners in my team where you set up online group team meetings to go through the paper, answer questions and guide the team. During exam time, you are ‘on call 24/7’ to advise, discuss, coach, mentor, encourage… It’s a great collaborative effort and you feel very much part of the overall ITGS team.

Do I do it for the money?

Absolutely not! Like teaching, I don’t think that any of us are in it for the money!

Bottom line: I do it for my students

It’s mock exam week and I am now marking my students’ papers. Being so familiar with the workings of a paper has really paid off as students have risen above the common pitfalls, interpreted the questions correctly and have structured their answers to maximise their marks. OK, maybe we need to work on their content, but their exam technique is really coming along nicely.

What do I really think about exams?

Ideally I would love to see the demise of the high-stakes terminal examinations (and I could write a whole Extended Essay on the reasons why) but the reality is this: if you are an IB DP humanities teacher, your students will be writing their exams, by hand, in your school gym each May (or November) for the foreseeable future. So the best I can do for my students is to ensure that they are fully prepared for those exams and if that means teaching them how to play the ‘exam game’, then so be it.

Oh, and one more thing, if you are in a 1:1 school like I am, you may also want to give them handwriting practice…and ‘gift’ them a black pilot pen or two!

Cycle 3: iPad Trials in the WAB High School

We are now in Cycle 3 of our Collaborative Action Research iPad trials in the High School here at WAB. We are exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. Our research question is: In which areas is an iPad a better learning tool than the MacBook Pro?

In May 2013 we completed the analysis of Cycle 2 of our Action Research iPad project. We found that:
  • For a school that is already 1:1 MBP, the iPad does not outperform the computers in most areas. As one teacher put it, “MacBooks are the real workhorse,” and the student data reinforces that, with over half of students either unsure or disagreeing that iPads are an effective learning tool.
  • The areas where the iPad outperformed the MBP were in areas where the iPad was used at the redefinition level of the SAMR model. The iPad allowed for the creation of new tasks, which were previously inconceivable, even on the MBP such as using Coaches Eye and NearPod.
  • While we initially believed institutional ownership of the iPads would not be viable, given the iPads individualized nature, if only used for specific, transformative tasks, iPad carts seem a more reasonable way to go, rather than implementing 2:1 policy for 2013-14.
  • By far our biggest surprise lay in the power of the action research process to create a community of empowered learners.  Almost without fail, when surveyed as to the highlight of this project, for them, teachers replied, “Sharing ideas,” “It was interesting to see how different teachers utilized the iPads in their classroom,” and “Teachers from different departments work together, share ideas, and inspire each other. You can think out of box that iPads can be used in different ways in different subjects.”
Thus, we feel the need for another cycle, exploring how to use the iPad for transformative learning. We started in December 2013 and will publish our findings in May 2014. The course is available through iTunes U and is based on the course we developed for Cycle 2 with considerable revision.