Sustenance or swish?

Part II of the #IBDP Language and Literature course has long held a special spot in my heart.

Just yesterday I was delighted to come across this amazing new feature via the NY Times, a monthly feature challenging our graph/media-literacy. Now, more than ever before, an awareness of the media’s power and an ability to analyze how that power is made is crucial. Mass media is bigger, faster and more omnipotent by the year.  Adults and students alike struggle to cut through the noise, to decipher sustenance from swish, and to know what is trustworthy:

When presented randomly selected photos — some real, some altered — only 60 percent of participants could pick out the manipulated photos. Of those, only 45 could pinpoint what had been altered.

Test your own abilities to navigate the news via this WaPo quiz.

Illusion flickr photo by tinou bao shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Beginning to unpack part II? Here are a few activities to get you started:

Show an awareness of the potential for educational, political or ideological influence of the media:

 Take a look at the way the NY Times covered the Holocaust below.  Have students create their own short film imagining what the next generation will say about the way they’ve reported on a major issue today.


Examine different forms of communication within the media:

“Facebook is where everyone is actually sharing and discussing that information…”


Host a follow up debate with students to look at the rise of ‘citizen journalists’ and to question whether or not it is doing more good or harm.  Check out this resource and then this one to get started on research for opening statements.

Show the way mass media use language to inform, persuade, or entertain:

“We need to get serious, very serious about making important news important.”


Can your students create a campaign which gets attention? How do they learn to ‘charm us into goodness?’


Thanks Flickr for providing the featured image

Look What PD Made You Do

Networked flickr photo by nrg_crisis shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Why invest time in portfolios?

As we continue to explore portfolios/reflection as a part of our strategic plan this year, we are bound to come back to the question above again and again.  A healthy, meaningful network of portfolios relies heavily on time–the most coveted of teacher-resources.  The philosophy behind our portfolios is here, and yes, it is aspirational.  So let’s unpack some of the cousin-questions (and please feel free to leave more questions in the comment section below) provided by the English Dept:


1. How can I be persuaded to create and maintain my own blog?

I’d suggest signing up for our teacher portfolio challenge and experiencing the tool first hand.  What have other educators said about the process? Here’s what Madeleine Brookes has to say:

For a longer read, check out Dean Shareski‘s thoughts:

“I’ve yet to hear anyone who has stuck with blogging suggest it’s been anything less than essential to their growth and improvement. I’ve no “data” to prove this but I’m willing to bet my golf clubs that teachers who blog are our best teachers. If you look at the promise of Professional Learning Communities that our schools have invested thousands, more likely millions to achieve, blogs accomplish much of the same things. The basic idea of the PLC is to have teachers share practice/data and work in teams to make improvements. A good blog does this and more.” (full text here)

2. I’d like to know a little more about how others might use the portfolios in inventive ways

 My long answer is this list of 44 different ways schools around the world are using it as a tool to connect.  Ceci-Gomez has been leading students at her school through the ‘This I believe’ challenge for the past few years at SIS.  Students create a podcast as a response, and the school hosts ‘The big deal,’ a day where they spend the morning listening to the submissions and leaving comments. A portfolio is also useful for the student to be able to bring all their learning together at the end of a unit, here’s an example of just that.

3. How can we best encourage authentic reflection, rather than just ‘talking the talk’; how can we best use portfolios to extend rather than just record learning; how can we maximise student buy-in?

Choice. If we want portfolios to be a reflection of our students as learners, we need our learners to have the means to shape those portfolios.  If I want students to reflect on some aspect of our learning through the portfolio I’ll provide a choice of prompt, a choice of ways to reflect, and I’ll offer my own reflection as a mentor text.  If we want students to engage with reflection, it helps if they see us model why and how it is significant.  Reflection has a bad wrap, and it is important to recognize where that rep comes from.  For too long, schools have required students to reflect…and then have done nothing with those thoughts.  The portfolio becomes a time-traveling machine where students can return to prior posts.  One prompt I’ve had success with is asking which of these ‘future ready skills,’ the student feels were most accessible during a given task/unit.  Their response doesn’t need to be lengthy–but I do ask them to provide examples which illustrate their response.

Buy in comes with an audience.  Once you’ve walked your class through the ‘campfire cycle,’ and initiated a protocal of commenting and responding, the students are no longer writing for just one person–but rather for their peers. Kim Cofino speaks to this better than I am, so check out her thoughts on The Power of Audience.

4. How do I access class portfolios or set it up as a class?

I think the #uwclearn teacher portfolio challenge models this.

Step one: provide the prompts (allow for time)

Step two: bundle the posts

Step three: provide time for commenting

5. Are students ready to go/know what to do if we ask them to do something in their portfolio? What’s the language we use for asking them that, make an entry etc?

Students will have a range of experience with the portfolios depending on the teachers they have, and the amount of experimentation happening in those classes.  They do have access to this list of ‘basic bootcamp for WordPress’ and may need to return back to it.  You are also welcome to invite me into the classroom.  Our school is a diverse place, and students are accustomed to diversity in instruction.

5. How can I use it positively in combination with the platform and structures that are already in place?

I think of Teamie as the auditorium—here’s where I go to see the show.  The rehearsals, the hardwork, the direction and choreography takes place via our Google Apps, WordPress, and post-it notes.  The portfolio is the sandbox for the student’s thinking, and your OLP class is the space for the entire class.  Just as this post I’m composing here is a representation of my own thinking on the topic, I’ll be sharing it via the English dept workspace on Teamie.  Could I just have written all of this on Teamie? Yes, sure I could have–but I want to take my learning with me, and this post is one of many–and I know my own thinking about portfolios will change and evolve, in coming years I may wish to go back to this post.  I also may want to share this post not only with the English team, but with another department.
The biggest structural shift here is likely to be the benefit the student sees.  The portfolios ask them to curate their learning, to develop an archive of thought, to map out connections.  In the words of a former colleague, who I believe would even consider refering to himself as a converted blogger, it opens things up:
“The process of learning is social. We understand this implicitly when we take on the roles of teacher and student and believe that by putting people in a room together, learning can happen. And blogging, more so than, say, writing in a notebook, opens up our learning so that it is easily accessed by peers anywhere with an internet connection: it gives you an expanded, flexible, networked learning environment. ” (full text here)

Flipboard is an IBDP teacher’s BFF

Looking to extend your students (your self and colleagues) collaboratively this year? Flipboard is a great tool for that.

Step One: Start your free account with Flipboard

Step Two: Consider adding an author to curate with you

Adding contributors to your magazine can create a new dynamic for you on Flipboard. Another person’s perspective can expand your reach and round out your magazines with articles you may not have thought of or discovered yourself (Full text here)



                                                 (CLICK ABOVE TO SEE THE STEPS IN ACTION)

Step Three: Learn from Flipboard users around the world.  #FlipboardChat happens weekly, you can join or just surf the wisdom left behind, see how educators are using it-and build your PLN:

Step Four: Curate on the move–make the mobile app work for you.   Here’s a quick guide to using the app to curate when you are stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or having a walk on the treadmill.

Step Five: Flip it!  I love using the Chrome Extension to add content–this is probably the most powerful tool I use for building magazines.

Step Six: Integrate with your portfolio!  You can embed your magazine directly into your WordPress site:

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 8.39.54 AM

Step Seven: Add your own comments.  This is a new and powerful feature that you can use from the web or app.  More here.

Lastly: Want to connect Flipboard and your PLN? Here’s How:

From fire hydrant to drinking fountain

Welcome to your 2017-2018 Academic Year!

I had a(nother) great chat with our Head of PSE, Louisa the other day, and it inspired this post (thanks, Louisa).

We teach and live in a world with more resources than ever before.  With all we have access to, sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, what to prioritize, and how best to access the ‘grand cru’ of educational media links.  As I write this post, I write it not to curate a definitive list, but rather to spark a conversation with you–the reader.  My list attempts to offer you my Top Ten Favorite ‘watering holes’ online–these are the ten places I go back to week after week–gathering fuel for myself and my students.  I’ve focused on resources which have felt the most relevant to me this year.  Please–like Ann Powers did in her NPR piece over the summer about the top albums by women in music—debate the list, leave me a comment and feel free to e-shout at me about the resources that I missed out on.

My Top Ten Online Watering Holes for Educators:

10. Vox’s Vox Almanac Youtube Channel

What it is: Mindblowing

Where you may want to use it: Right Across the #IBDP

One of my favorite episodes:

9. Deep Look: from KQED and PBS

What it is: A Scientist’s Delight

Where you may want to use it: In the Sciences or ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

8. Great Big Story

What it is: A great buffet of untold stories that you are going to want to hear more about.

Where you may want to use it: Everywhere and Anywhere

One of my favorite episodes:

7. Today I Found Out

What it is: Bizarre and fun.

Where you may want to use it: Great for start of class/meeting provocation

One of my favorite episodes:

6. The School Of Life

What it is: All the stuff you wish you knew when you were a teen

Where you may want to use it: Excellent for PSE, mentoring of anyone

One of my favorite episodes:

5. ASAPScience

What it is: A weekly show bound to get you hooked on Science

Where you may want to use it:  Theory of Knowledge, ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

4. The Infographics Show

What it is: Gorgeous Information

Where you may want to use it:  Any Humanities course, occasional links with Language and Literature

One of my favorite episodes:

3. The Economist’s Youtube Channel

What it is: Bound to make you strike up fabulous lunch table conversations

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

2. The Guardian’s VR Playlist

What it is: Youtube journalism at it’s best

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

1. Slate Magazine’s Youtube Channel

What it is: The stuff that will keep you awake at night with wonder

Where you may want to use it:   great for PSE, Global Perspectives

One of my favorite episodes:

What’s on your top ten list? Please tell me all about it in the comment section below!

*Featured Image via Twitter: Ten by Andrea Passoni

Blogger’s Block: A quick remedy

generator.x show flickr photo by jared shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

What can nine post-it notes do for your next post?

I think of this space as a sandbox for thinking. Blogs can be a place to curate questions, ruminate, ideate and more. Seth Godin’s blog is one of the best-known examples of blogging for clarity. But sometimes an analog pre-blogging protocol is needed.  Here’s one you may want to try:

Step one: Get nine post-it notes ready

Step two: Have a quick look at Sunni Brown’s ‘Curriculum for a Future Mind’

Step three: Answer each row of questions on this planner. Give yourself three post-it notes for each cycle of questioning:


Row one: Who are the stakeholders involved in this issue? Your potential audience for this might be? When unpacking this issue, which perspectives are of value?

Row two: Go back to the Sunni Brown work and consider potential links with your thinking. OR take a look at this list of future-ready skills and consider the commonalities.

Row three: Which tools need to make their way into your toolkit for you to continue considering this issue? Who might be potential consultants and what would you want to ask them?

Roads At Night: Left, Left, Right flickr photo by Cayusa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

And then?

You can either:

  1. video/audio record yourself explaining and exploring your post it notes
  2.  try to boil your thinking down to five key bullet points
  3. find three key images which underscore the essence of your thinking.
  4. write an open letter to potential stakeholders asking them relevant questions
  5. curate a list of current resources you have which are pivotal in unpacking this topic

…an online learning community is a manifestation of connectivism as knowledge is distributed throughout the community of people and devices. A blog would serve as a connectivist tool as it facilitates interaction between peer and social communities of learners, continuity of conversations and allows for anytime, anyplace, anywhere learning (Garcia et al., 2015). Other tenets of connectivism addressed through a blog include the ability to involve external experts, control of the environment by the learner as they make and maintain their own connections, and the shift in the role of the teacher as students become accountable to one another (Garcia, Brown, & Elbeltagi, 2012).