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 helping people to think for themselves


Writing a report of an event that took a year to plan and involved over 500 student and teacher delegates is a challenge, as such this report is divided into the following sections:

  • Compassionate Action: Catchy theme or guiding principle?
  • How do you live up to the GIN mission?
  • Keynote speakers: Afterthought or corner stone?
  • Student empowerment
  • Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) Workshops/Pyramid2012
  • ICARE2: Actions speak louder than words
  • Michael Furdyk/TakingITglobal (TIG)
  • Post GIN reflections

Compassionate Action: Catchy theme or guiding principle?

The 2012 EARCOS Global Issues Network Conference took place at the International School Manila during the period 17-19th February 2012. GINManila2012 was based around the theme Compassionate Action, a theme that was designed to reflect what the ISM student-faculty steering committee identified as the two key prerequisites to tackling global issues; an appreciation of humanity as a whole and a willingness to act in the interests of humanity as a whole.  Compassionate action was more than just a catchy title for GINManila2012. The reference to ‘compass’ alluded to Alan AtKisson’s compass of sustainability that the entire conference was based around. The word ‘action’ was included in the theme to emphasize the central role of action at GINManila2012 whether it is the sustainable action plans or in the day of ICARE2 service action in Manila.

How do you live up to the GIN mission?

The mission of GIN (as detailed below) is simple in theory but extremely complex in practice.

‘To empower young people to collaborate locally, regionally and globally in order to create sustainable solutions for global issues’

At GINManila2012 we were dedicated to living up to the GIN mission but felt strongly that students needed to be provided with a solid structure in order to achieve this; after all we are asking them to achieve where adults have failed.

In order to support students in achieving the GIN mission GINManila2012 did the following:

  1. Recruited Alan Atkisson as an opening keynote speaker and adopted the use of his pyramid tool so as to provide a structure to the conference and a method to the workshop sessions
  2. Trained our students in the use of the pyramid tool so that they would be empowered to take control of conference workshop facilitation
  3. Our student-faculty steering committee created a blog full of online resources so our student leaders could begin the pyramid process prior to the start of the conference proper. In effect the conference began over two months prior to delegates arriving in Manila, as that is when the workshops began.
  4. The entire conference of over 550 students and teachers all participated in a day of action in Manila so as the development of action plans was grounded in the reality of global issues in a developing Asian mega city.
  5. Recruited Michael Furdyk as the closing keynote speaker and awarded twenty grants to the TakingITGlobal Sprout program (an online mentoring course for young people with brilliant ideas for global issues focused initiatives but need support to make them happen).

Although there were many other important speakers and components to GINManila2012 it was the 5 developments above that provided us with the essential structure i.e. a means of making maximum use of the three day conference time, of directing students towards focused outcomes and providing them with the platform to implement their ideas post conference.

Keynote Speakers: Afterthoughts or cornerstones

‘What an inspiring speaker Mr AtKisson was. His sustainability compass is such a sensible way of viewing our life on Earth and the actions we should take.’

(Sam Pryse)

GINManila2012 had four keynote speakers:

  1. Alan Atkisson
  2. The Stairway Foundation
  3. Jurgenne Primavera
  4. Michael Furdyk

The choice of the opening and closing speakers was essential for the structure of GINManila2012 but as important as they were the significance of the Stairway Foundation and Jurgenne Primavera should not be ignored. Both Stairway and Jurgenne are local Filipino organizations that are involved with incredibly important work.

Stairway works with sexually abused street children and their keynote was in fact a theatre production performed by former participants of the program. Their performance was on the evening of the first day when most people were tired but the power and energy of the performance had everyone on the edge of their seats. As delegates left the conference to return to the hotel for the night they were left with plenty to think about prior to their day of service action in Manila.

Jurgenne Primavera was the Time Magazine environmentalist of the year in 2008 on account of her pioneering work on the vital importance of mangroves. It is something of an irony that despite being an internationally acclaimed award wining scientist Jurgenne is as unheralded in the Philippines mainstream as mangroves are among the average people on the street. Jurgenne’s keynote address on the final morning of the conference was sharply intelligent and delivered with humor much appreciated by the audience.


Student Empowerment

The decision to train our students in the use of the Pyramid toolkit and appoint them as workshop facilitators was based on the reasoning that GIN is about student empowerment. This decision also benefited our students’ conceptual understanding, knowledge base, trans-disciplinary skills development, dispositional awareness and emotional intelligence. An additional benefit of this decision was that it saved money that would have been spent on hiring workshop leaders, especially as all training of our students was in-house. Rather than recruit outside experts we worked with our students in the year preceding the conference and thus we developed as a community in the process. Observing the personal development of our students before during and after the conference has been quite awe inspiring!

Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) Workshops/Pyramid2012

GINManila2012 named the pyramid sessions Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) workshops, as the outcome of the process was a specific action plan developed using a sustainable methodology to tackle a specific problem. Below is a brief overview of the process (for instructional videos and other resources see

‘Really, really fun! LOVING all the PYRAMID making.’

(Jerome de Jesus)


Stage 1: What is happening?

  • Split into compass groups
  • Identify a central challenge (in this case one of the issues from High Noon refined into a manageable sub issue)
  • Identify common visions
  • Identify indicators of the issue in each compass group and create behavior graphs of the trend

Stage 2: Why is it happening?

  • Make connections between indicators
  • Create systems maps
  • Identify feedback loops and leverage points

Stage 3: What can we do?

  • Idea brainstorming

Stage 4: How can we do it?

  • Gillman’s equation

Stage 5: Let’s do it

  • Ending debrief
  • Sprout program




The decision to invite Alan and use his Pyramid toolkit provided the spark that created, a global event with GINManila2012 at its centre. Alan was so inspired by the ISM invitation to open our conference, and by the fact that we were basing the entire conference around the toolkit that he created, that he felt obliged to take it further. Alan declared that the period February 17-19, 2012 would be the launch of a global pyramid-building event that would last until the end of March 2012. The viewers of the live stream of GINManila2012 from 23 different countries bare testament to the scale of the event that unfolded around GINManila2012 as do the reports that are being published and communicated on the Pyramid2012 Facebook page and website (a few of which are highlighted below).







ICARE2: Actions speak louder than words

‘What makes this conference special is the ICARE trips. I get to go hands-on action rather than staying and talking about problems and how to solve them. During the trip, I get to take a lot of photographs and interact with the kids living in the community.’

(Elena Lie)

As stated previously we felt that it was imperative for students coming to Manila to discuss global issues to see more of Manila than the luxurious bubble that is ISM and its surroundings. ICARE is the name of the service week that all high school students participate in annually at ISM and thus we simply did it again for one day only and without leaving Manila. Although this was clearly an enormous logistical challenge, the feedback from students and teacher delegates was that ICARE2 was one of the most valuable components of GINManila2012 because as well as opening their eyes to the reality of life in Manila, and providing many examples of successful service projects, it provided balance to the conference and gave delegates a different context in which to network. Below is a selection of images from ICARE2.

The Tzu Chi Foundation

Renovate to Educate

Gawad Kalinga

Constructing Learning Through Technology/SPECS/Rags to Riches


Michael Furdyk/TakingITGlobal (TIG)

While Alan Atkisson provided the guiding methodology of GINManila2012 with his pyramid toolkit, Michael Furdyk provided the platform for continuity and actualization of the sustainable action plans developed during the SAP workshops. TIG is the world’s largest social network focused on global issues and Michael’s story of how he came to create it at an astonishingly young age had student and teacher delegates alike awestruck.

Michael performed four speaking engagements at GINManila2012; his first two sessions were held with the teacher delegates of the conference. While the students were working on their sustainable action plans Michael was opening the eyes of the teacher delegates to the potential of TIG to be of use in their classrooms and as a launch pad for student project ideas. Neither the student nor teacher delegates were yet aware of the fact that GINManila2012 and TIG had collaborated to provide grants to the students of each SAP workshop identified as the most likely to bring each plan to reality. The grants awarded were for the TIG Sprout program, an online course that pairs up young people with great global issues focused project ideas with mentors who have been their and done that. The objective of the course is to provide the young student innovators with the necessary toolkit and support to turn their plans into reality.

And so by the time that Michael came to give his closing keynote address the conference was alive with expectation and he did not disappoint!

Post GIN Reflections

It is my firm belief that GIN conferences should not be judged on the events of the conference proper but rather on the actions that they inspire. Right now it is far too early to measure the positive outcomes of GINManila2012 but it will be absolutely fascinating to see just how many of the project ideas generated during the conference materialize.







The EARCOS Global Issues Network conference 2012 will be held at the International School Manila during the period 17-19 February 2012.

Those with knowledge of the Global Issues Network will be aware that it is a loose collaboration of individuals and organizations inspired by the ideas of the former VP of the World Bank Jean Francois Rischard as expressed in his book High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 years to solve them, written 10 years ago.

Rischard’s key idea is that population, economic and technological growth curves are exponential but the global institutional capacity to manage these phenomena are not. Rischard proposed the establishment of Global Issues Networks; organic, flexible and dynamic collaborations of the private, public and non governmental sectors as a means to better keep pace with global trends.

The Global Issues Network is a manifestation of Rischard’s ideas. Born out of a collaborative service project involving several international schools in Europe, GIN has blossomed into a truly global network with representation in every major region of the world. EARCOS is the administrative center of GIN in SE Asia and for the past 5 years an EARCOS member school has held an annual conference for students and teachers from within the region.

GIN Manila 2012 aims to support the vision of Rischard and the mission of GIN by making this academic year’s conference action based and sustainable in method, hence the theme ‘Compassionate Action’. Those aware of Compass Schools will no doubt notice the purposeful reference to the ideas of Alan Atkisson, founder of the Atkisson Group, our opening keynote speaker and methodological guide.

As well as featuring keynote speakers and global issues workshop presentations from all GIN delegates GIN Manila 2012 will include sustainable action planning workshops (SAPs) that will be facilitated by ISM students who have been trained in the use of Atkisson’s ‘Pyramid‘ strategic planning tool. Furthermore, GIN Manila 2012 will have a day of action in Manila during which delegates will have the opportunity to participate in projects, such as PCF, geared towards addressing the global issues that they discuss during the conference.

Teacher delegates of GIN Manila 2012 will not be left out as they will have the benefit of a series of sessions with Michael Furdyk, the founder of TakingITGlobal, our closing keynote speaker. Michael’s organization may just provide the platform through which the sustainable action plans developed by the  student delegates during the conference can live, breath and come to fruition post conference.

Finally, the most exciting part of GIN Manila 2012 is that it continues to grow and evolve. Alan Atkisson has been so inspired by our conference vision that he is using GIN Manila 2012 as a launch pad for a truly global event, Pyramid2012. During the weekend of the conference organizations all around the world will be developing SAP Pyramid’s of their own. Although this project is still in it’s infancy there are confirmed events occurring in 9 other countries; Indonesia, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Iceland, UK, Senegal, Thailand and Germany. Each of these events will revolve around the ‘hub’ in Manila and all will feature on a web platform that connects them.

If you are not fortunate enough to come to GIN Manila 2012 then sign up to Pyramid 2012 and be part of its global influence.

We look forward to your involvement in person or virtually!

Tom McLean

International School Manila




I am currently blessed with the role of conference coordinator for the next EARCOS Global Issues Network conference which will take place at the International School Manila during the period 16-19th February 2012.

The Global Issues Network is a loose collaboration of educationally minded individuals who have been inspired by the writings of Jean Francois Rischard, the former Vice President of the World Bank and the author of High Noon: 20 Global Issues, 20 Years to Solve Them.

The key idea of Rischard is that, while demographic and technological/economic change is exponential in it’s growth curve, the current institutional bodies tasked with addressing the world’s most urgent global issues evolve their policy initiatives at an inadequately slow rate.

And so the question has been left to my students and I:

How do you create a conference that lives up to Rischard’s ideals of merging the best characteristics of civil society, corporations and political institutions?

The story starts at 

I hope to see you there!

Tom McLean

Conference Coordinator

EARCOS GINManila2012






This video covers some basic teaching and learning strategies that are based on contemporary brain research.

YouTube Preview Image

The Value of Face 2 Face Interaction

I recently took part in the Learning 2.010 ed tech conference in Shanghai. In the words of Jeff Utecht, one of the conference organizers, the thinking behind the conference was:

‘In a world where content is continually changing, and you can learn almost anything for free, what’s the point of going to a conference?’ Read more

The short answer to the above question was to be able to communicate with others in a way that is just not possible via Skype etc

And for me, so it turned out.

At the end of the first ‘Education in 2020′ session run by Steve Hargadon, of Classroom 2.0 fame, a former administrator from my current school entered the room to ask if he could change to this session. What followed was a totally unplanned un-conference covering topics as wide ranging as the evolution of humankind and the likelihood of standardized testing going the same way as Paranthropus Boisei. It was such a fantastic way to get to answers to the questions that have been troubling me for a long time i.e.

Big Questions?

Why is it that teachers are continually told to change their practice so as to foster student development of 21st century skills when the culmination of the majority of students school careers is to sit standardized tests that inadequately, at best, assess these skills?

Is this not an unfair burden to place on teachers?

Why does Harvard advocate such teaching practices but demand stratospheric test scores to gain entrance to Harvard?

Is this not totally counter productive and contradictory?

Why is pre-school the most pedagogically sound learning environment and high school the least?

To paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, do schools kill creativity by systematically discouraging risk taking, trial and error style learning (in the spirit of the scientific method) and encouraging an approach that is dominated by fear of failure?

Fear to try something new as the potential impact on GPA scores may lead to (a life ending) refusal from Harvard!

Fear to try something new because IB external examiners value content and detail over evaluation and analysis despite what the IB mission, vision and assessment criteria state.

Fear to try something new because the school system that most of us work in does not allow the kind of individualized curriculum that most students need to develop authentic intrinsic motivation and consequently teachers motivate via the extrinsic tool of ‘yes, it is graded!’.

Change: Top Down or Bottom Up?

In answer to my question, ‘Do you know much about university entrance Steve?’

Steve replied: ‘Yes, I do. My father was the Dean of Admissions for Stanford and Princeton.’

Tom: ‘And so are they likely to change their admissions requirements so as to seriously lessen the influence of standardized test scores any time in the near future?’

Steve: ‘No they are not. It is a matter of logistics as there are just so many applications that the process of evaluating these applications is so heavy on resources that a simple and efficient measure is needed.’

The realism of his response was both demoralizing and liberating. Demoralizing in that there will be no quick fix master stroke from above that will change the face of education for the better but Liberating in the sense that the task ahead is clear i.e.

Education must be changed from the bottom, via changing classroom practice, and sides via emerging alternatives to the conventional educational model.

Alternative Concepts of Success

  • Students need to be offered alternatives to college
  • Schools need to connect students with the real world so as facilitate alternative options to college on completion of high school
  • The internet offers a great deal of potential as a medium for real world connections
  • Contextualization of learning is essential but not enough, particularly in high schools
  • High school students should be engaged in genuinely authentic tasks in the REAL world not in some make believe classroom based scenario
  • Parents should be educated on the variety of post school options their children have open to them
  • Schools should provide opportunities to engage with the wider communities in which they are situated both globally and locally, virtually and in person
  • Teachers and administrators should model by connecting with and responding to their communities
  • Schools should celebrate alumni for other reasons than the college they managed to get into

There is more to life after school than college and more to life in school than preparing for college!

Choose life not college

This post is about:

My attempt to create an authentic audience/assessment for my anthropology/world religions class using

I have been aware of Slideshare for a few years now but it was not until I participated in an educational technology masters course run by Stale Brokvam, the former IT director of ISM, that I really started to use it. Prior to this course I would search for ppts whenever I had failed to plan for a lesson or when I was really struggling to find resources for a lesson but that was it.

Powerpoint-Wiki Integration

During the ed-tech course Stale introduced us to free Wiki’s such as Wetpaint and Wikispaces and this led me to develop a class Wiki for my students that would perform the function of a central container for our learning (see earlier posts on collaborative note taking). Up until this point we had been using Google Docs which were great for simple small scale collaborative tasks but I was becoming increasingly aware of their limitations at performing the much grander purpose that I had in mind for them. One of the many advantages of the switch from Google Docs to a Wiki was that we could now embed ppts into the class wiki and we started doing the same things that we had always done but in slightly different ways i.e.

1. I would make a lesson outline ppt including objectives and a breakdown of the overall lesson plan but this ppt was now embedded in the the class wiki (and thus each students notes).

Consequently, I would think about the content more carefully as I new it was going to ‘last’ and that students (and perhaps parents) could refer to it over the duration of the course. Actually, even though I am more aware of the lasting impact of my presentations I am still ashamed to say that I haven’t done such elementary things with ppt as design my own template!!

2. Students would find ppts that related to the lesson topic and embed them in the page.

I am sure students tried to find online resources before we started using Slideshare but most of them felt guilty for doing so and thought that they were cheating. Having students actively search for other people’s work to embed in our notes encouraged my students to change their attitude towards the learning process, where once it was individual and secretive now it became open and collaborative.

3. Students would create ppts, upload them to Slideshare, where others could use them, and then embedded them in our Wiki so the rest of their classmates could learn from them.

In this way students were contributing to the collaborative learning environment as well as taking from it. As such they became vital components of the teaching and learning process and thus the long held divide between teacher and learner became increasingly blurry.

Doing Things Differently

Although the wiki/slideshow combo added value and longevity to the learning in my classroom, provided students with a more friendly space to interact with content and encouraged them to be creators of knowledge as well as receivers the ways that the ppts were created and used was fairly orthodox.

Pecha Kucha

During the aforementioned ed-tech course Stale got us thinking about new and different ways of using old tools. We were encouraged to reflect upon how we delivered information in terms of our slide design, presentation structure and the role we played as presenters when using Powerpoint. A key idea being that the presenter was the important part of the presentation as opposed to the content. If the content of the presentation could be more effectively delivered by allowing students to read the information (off the slides) then why choose to present at all? Why not just give them the information to read?

Rather than try to explain Stale’s message view the following ppt as my descriptive powers can’t do it justice!

Visual Design Pecha Kucha

The presentation was done in the Pecha Kucha format, the key idea being to get to the point rather than labour it. For information about the origins and mentality behind the format take a look at the following link.
How I Utilised Pecha Kucha in My World Religions Class

This post is about:

How I use the system, mentioned in my previous posts, in my classroom on a day to day week to week basis.

I am now getting a little bored about writing about this topic and am desperate to move on to something new, however a job worth doing is worth completing, if not doing well!

One of the reasons why I am reluctant to write this post is that the more I think about it the more I realise that I adapt my teaching on a day to day basis and that talk of a ‘system’ sounds a little too formulaic for my liking. Furthermore, I feel like I have laid down enough of a framework in previous posts for teachers to get the gist and apply the ‘system’ in their own way if they so choose. As teaching is all about the students learning, and learners needs are so specific, talk of a system sounds a bit like standardisation and I don’t like standardisation. In my classroom adapting to where students are ‘at’ is the basis for everything and so I would hope that other teachers take a similar approach and apply the ‘philosophy’ as opposed to the ‘system’.

So to the point, how do I use Wiki’s on a day to day, week by week basis. Note taking is something that happens after class has finished when students have time to reflect on the activities of the day’s lesson. I appoint students to write up the learning of the lesson in their own time outside of school on a rotational basis. The students that are not immediately responsible have a different, and in my mind more demanding, role as editors. Every student not responsible for creating the Wiki page is instead responsible for providing evaluative feedback via the comment thread at the foot of the page. Both page creators and editors use a rubric (student designed with teacher led discussion) to guide their page creation/feedback.

If you do follow the link please excuse the adverts on the page as Wetpaint has recently decided to make you pay to avoid the distraction of adverts. My earlier Wikis did not have such problems (this one is for a grade 9 geography class that I have been teaching since January) as Wetpaint previously allowed teachers to apply for educational use status (no adverts) but have since retracted this offer. As I always get new classes to create new Wikis (all the learning and creativity is in the blank page) I have fell foul to this new advertising policy, however, I now plan to delete all of the info from the earlier (no advert) Wiki and reuse this one again and again. You might want to try Wikispaces as an alternative.

The benefit of the editors role is in learning how to evaluate the worth of the notes. I make a point of emphasising to editors that ‘good job’ is not acceptable feedback and often use good student feedback to emphasise the qualities that I am looking for e.g. specific, positive and likely to lead to an improvement in the quality of the notes. The number one point I make is to tell students that if they have not demonstrated an understanding of the page content in their feedback then it is unacceptable. See the comment rubric for more details.

I grade the page creation and the students comments BUT it is FORMATIVE. Their contributions do not count towards GPA and will not be held against them other than as a reflection of the standard at which they are working. I report their grades on our ‘Powerschool’ system (which I am not a big fan of) so as they and their parents can see their progress and this is the main point of the grade (discussion of where they are placed on the rubric, and why, is buy far the most important part of this assessment-not the grade). I also tell the students that although it is not GPA graded it does provide me with evidence of their capabilities, and effort, and that I will use it in the event of them making a mess of a summative assessment i.e. if they have been producing brilliant work on the Wiki then that will be considered and if they have failed to contribute then that will be considered too. I know this is not ideal but I work in a grade conscious environment!

The Wiki is also a forum where I can provide resources for students to digest prior to class so as they have the thinking time to digest the next lesson’s content in a stress free environment prior to the interactive lesson to follow.

At the moment I am producing short video summaries of the learning objectives of upcoming lessons, uploading them to Youtube and then embedding them in the Wiki. During the lesson (that are often seminar based, again, at the moment!) the students will consider the content at their own pace and a student (or pair of students) will create a short video summary of their learning, also uploaded to Youtube and embedded in the page, that acts as a review. Consequently, students will have an intro to the lesson that they can refer to repeatedly as and when they choose, the notes created by their class members, an evaluation of the notes in a discussion thread at the foot of the page and a summary video of the main points raised during the lesson.

If you are really interested in this method see the link to a page that some of my grade 9 students are working on right now.

OK, I have had enough now. If you are still interested then ask me a question.

Next Post: Authentic assessment in a world religions class.

This post is about:

Questions to ask yourself before attempting to implement the collaborative note taking system that I described in my previous post in your own classroom.

  • Am I and my students comfortable with the idea of creating a classroom environment in which everyone’s ideas are essential but always open to question? This system is about everyone learning alongside and from each other, including the teacher.
  • Do my students have internet access at home? This is not totally essential as students can always use school facilities. However, in order for you to use lesson time for interactive activities and homework time for the creation of notes and reflective/evaluative discussion posts then it is highly advantageous for students to have a reliable internet connection at home, without it their will be issues.
  • Do I trust my students students to make sound decisions about their own learning? An essential part of this system is for the teacher to allow students a significant amount of control. Without trusting student’s judgements progressively more with time and experience this is probably going to lead to more work for you rather than less. Furthermore, I doubt that learning would be positively affected= waste of time and energy.
  • Do I have basic computer/internet skills and am I prepared to learn more alongside my students? You DO NOT have to be an expert in the use of technology as wiki’s are remarkably simple to use, at least at a basic level, (see video below) but you and your students MUST see the value in using technology and be willing to embrace it. Giving up the first time that there is a poor internet connection or because Youtube is blocked in your school is not an option and nor should it be. Would you give up with pen and paper because the ink ran out? Furthermore, as a teacher in this system you MUST be prepared for your students to learn some things faster and to a higher level than you. Is that not a good thing anyway?


Video: Wikis in Plain English

  • Am I and my students ‘bought into’ the idea that we are more effective (will create better notes and learn more) as a team than as a group of individuals? If the dreaded grades question comes up how will you answer it?  You and your students need to believe that this system will lead to better learning for all and thus better grades for all. Developing a solid collaborative ethos in your classroom is crucial to this system being successful.
  • Am I comfortable teaching internet literacy skills or at least happy to learn them alongside my students? You are all going to be very dependent on internet based sources of information and the evaluation of their quality is essential. See this example about a white supremacist organisation masquerading as a Martin Luther King organisation from Alan November’s site for a compelling reason to develop such skills.
  • How will I deal with students who do not have faith in this method or become disillusioned quickly? You should be prepared to accept that some/many students will find the transition to this system difficult and thus allow them to continue as they normally would i.e. take their own individual notes every lesson. My experience is that many students still take their own notes as and when they think it is important but do so in an increasingly focussed and expert manner.  See the selected screen shots below of a student feedback survey taken at the end of the first year of the IB HL course for an idea of how my students felt about this system.

Note: I particularly like the eighth answer to question 5 about the students doing all of the work and not the teacher!

  • Is a Wiki the most appropriate tool for me? Quite possibly not. There are many tools that could be used for this type of system such as Blogs, Wikis, Nings etc (see Jeff Utecht’s recent post about selecting the best tool for the job or Kim Cofino’s post on the same issue).  The right choice for you is the one that best suits your specific circumstances and for me the Wiki provides the functionality that I require to create the type of learning environment discussed in my previous post. However, during the recent EARCOS conference I was impressed by a presentation from Brian Taylor about how he uses Microsoft OneNote in his high school science department at Bangkok Patana. Some of the additional functionality offered certainly seemed advantageous to someone running a department but I am not sure if it will add enough to the learning of my students to make it worth adopting. I will have a play about with it and see.

Next post

The Big Idea 1: Students as collaborative authors and editors. Part 2b: How I use this system on a day to day, week by week basis.

Screen shot of the class Wiki

This post is about:

The reasons why my students have created a Wiki as a central collaborative ‘note’ as opposed to having all students create their own individual notes.

  • The Wiki as a tool for collaboration. The class can all work together bringing in 15 pairs of ears, eyes, hands and brains into the process. Rather than everyone scrambling to keep up with the pace of the lesson e.g. ‘what was the 2nd point again please sir’ and ‘can you go back to the 3rd point’, students can spend class time interacting with the lesson topic and each other and processing the information in ways which help them establish meaning.
  • The Wiki as a tool for differentiated learning styles. The notes will incorporate the perspectives of students with varying intelligences e.g. spatial and logical-mathematical and thus broaden the depth of the notes.
  • The Wiki as a discussion forum. The notes themselves are subject to evaluation by the students (each page has a discussion thread in which those not involved with creation are allocated feedback/editing responsibilities) and thus there is a quality control placed upon them. This has 2 benefits as the notes become better and, arguably more important, the students evaluation skills improve. As a higher level IB teacher this ability to evaluate is of great importance to me as students cannot access the top mark bands without demonstrating evaluative skills.
  • The Wiki as a product of the community. The responsibility placed upon the students who have been charged with taking notes for that day has a positive effect as the students feel the eyes of the rest of the class on them. They know that the other class members are relying on them and realise that they will let down more than just themselves if they lose focus. I would like to take this further by allocating more specific tasks as in Alan November’s digital farm idea.
  • The Wiki as a tool for asynchronous reflection. The Wiki allows students to continue developing the notes together after class has finished. It also provides a discussion forum where students (and teacher) can debate the quality of the notes and make suggestions of ways to improve them. Almost all of Wiki development actually takes place outside of school as this opens up class time for interactive activities and the Wiki development and evaluation happens when students are at home and are in a good position to reflect on the days work and the notes that they have come home with.
  • The Wiki as an organisational structure. Some students are terrible at organising their own notes and so this centralised system is extremely valuable to them. The Wiki provides a navigational framework that imposes order on what in many cases would be chaos. Furthermore, the Wiki will not be lost, left behind in another class or eaten by the dog and it is accessible except on very rare occasions (and this risk can be overcome by backing it up).
  • The Wiki as a media rich environment. The Wiki provides opportunities to incorporate multimedia. The Wiki is not limited to text and simple graphics. The students Wiki notes include, text, links, images, audio, digital forms, video etc. This, again, offers the benefit of catering for multiple intelligences and thus aids with differentiation.
  • The Wiki as a record keeper. Teachers no longer need worry about monitoring who did what and when as the wiki records all of that information. It is extremely easy to see exactly which student created specific bits of content and exactly when they did it. Students know this and there is no argument.
  • The Wiki as a global audience. Although this has not really worked as well as I had initially hoped this Wiki has linked my students to a global audience. After meeting up with a group of geography teachers on an IB workshop I invited many of them to join the Wiki and get their students involved in the process. Many of them did and now the Wiki has 65 members (including teachers and students from at least 4 other school in Asia) although it started with just me and my 15 students. Many of the teachers at my school have expressed an interest and become members and several of them have adopted and adapted the idea to suit their own needs.

Please feel free to have a look at the class Wiki (I now have several more for different classes with slightly modified ideas) and provide feedback/ask questions. It is a long way short from being perfect, as this was the original trial version, and thus considered feedback would be a big help.

Next Post

The Big Idea 1: Students as collaborative authors and editors. Part 2a: Questions to ask yourself before implement this system in your classroom

  • This post is about why I need to re-engage in blogging.

As I sit at home trying to digest the 2010 EARCOS teachers conference, held at the International School of Manila, the burning feeling is that I have moved from a position of needing to try to a position of needing to reflect and share.

After spending the majority of the conference listening to the forward thinking ideas of Alan November, Jeff Utecht and Kim Cofino about the direction education is taking in the 21st Century and then discussing them with my colleague TheThinkabouter I had the pleasure of realising that I am actually practicing much of what they preach.

18 months ago I had the good fortune to participate in a professional development course run by Alan at ISM. Being a teacher way more comfortable with a role as supportive coach than as an expert lecturer his ideas about how to use technology to create a more collaborative and student centred classroom had an immediate effect and in the very next week Google Docs were up and running in my higher level IB classroom.

Shortly after Alan’s visit the first course of my SUNY masters began and conveniently it was on the subject of educational technology. The course was run by a man named Stale Brokvam to whom I will be forever grateful on account of his patience, integrity, expertise and sound rational i.e. do not force people to do things unless they see the value, technology is only educationally positive if used in positive ways.

Stale introduced us to Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Screencasts, Pecha Kucha presentations and much more. The technology was an eye opener but the philosophy behind how best to use it was truly inspirational. I thought ‘education really is moving forward and who knows maybe the world really will become a better place’. As part of the course we were obliged to engage with the web 2.0 tools listed above. To me by far the least interesting were blogs. I thought ‘what do I have to write about, I want to spend my time and energy facilitating my students use of tools that may change the way in which they learn forever’.

And so here I am 18 months down the line listening to the likes of Alan, Jeff and Kim repeat their message and I am still inspired but now I am ready for blogging. Now I have something to say about what I have been doing with my students and I need some feedback.