Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

The power of integration

The power of integration

We often hear about the changing demands of work and life in the 21st century due to rapid technological, economic and social changes, placing pressure on education to better prepare students for an uncertain future. One well-documented example of this is the impact of automation on employment, with workers in many different industries around the world being displaced by technology. While new opportunities are being created – often in congruence with those same emerging technologies –  we must prepare our students for the uncertainty and opportunity of a rapidly changing world.

In short, we must ensure our students’ skills remain relevant.

In response to the shifting demands on education, ISB developed the L21 Skills of; Communication & Collaboration, Creativity & Innovation, Leadership & Responsibility, Global Thinking, and; Inquiry, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Our school is expanding the way we integrate discrete disciplines and skills into our teaching and learning, from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Integrated Learning is an approach that models real-world working conditions by connecting different disciplines within learning engagements, occurring within a lesson, a unit, or an entire course. Integrated learning is most effective when aligned with project or inquiry learning models as students experience the collaborative and interdisciplinary environments they will likely encounter in their future careers.

 

STEAM

“Rather than a nice add-on to our current formal education system, (STEAM) should be the concept around which the entire system is understood and organized” – Hans Vestberg, World Economic Forum, Sept 2018.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Maths) has become a popular system for addressing the educational needs of the future. At ISB, STEAM is gaining traction as a means for ensuring hands-on design and engineering projects effectively address our Science Standards while facilitating creative, authentic problem solving and personalisation in the Arts and Humanities. STEAM learning is often characterised by technology-rich activities such as robotics or coding, but in essence it needn’t be about specific technical skills. Yes, technology should be ubiquitous in STEAM lessons, but, as long as there is a conscious integration of the STEAM disciplines, technology needn’t be the main emphasis. STEAM can be a vehicle for building engagement in a single activity or entire unit, it should be intentional and offer students opportunities to consolidate and synthesise their learning.

THE META CURRICULUM

“(what’s needed is) …a personalised learning environment that supports and motivates each student to nurture his or her passions, make connections between different learning experiences and opportunities, and design their own learning projects and processes in collaboration with others” OECD Learning Framework 2020

Metacognitive skills such as collaboration, communication, organization and reflective practice are each integral for effective problem solving in integrated curricula. In fact, these skills can actually be the focus of integrated curricula, particularly at times when more domain-specific topics aren’t relevant to an entire unit. Further, integrated learning requires teachers to apply a similar set of meta skills toward planning, delivery, assessment and reflection, presenting opportunities for modeling of effective metacognitive skills.

ES Strategy
This year, Each ES grade has embarked on a process of designing integrated units of inquiry, and, while this process is still in the early stages, we hope to create a model for successful integration of a wide range of units. While further refinement is always required, a number of ES teams have planned and completed a round of integrated units in 2018-19:

Grade 2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This integration point for this unit was around the topic of sustainable use of the earth’s resources. Students worked on personalized design projects that focused on campaigning the school for improved sustainability.

Grade 3: Forces & Motion

How can we, as designers, use what we know about magnetism to address a problem within our environment? This unit allows students to apply what they know about magnetism to design everyday products that help people they know.


Grade 4: Engineering Design

How can we, as engineers, use what we know about design to address a real-world problem? This unit is integrated through the theme “making good better” – using feedback, refinement and reflection as a common theme through which a number of different subjects are linked.

Grade 5: Global Citizenship

Foundations of a global citizen – what we believe = what we do = who we are. This unit is integrated around the theme of identity – that our values as people, learners, mathematicians, writers, scientists, engineers and artists are defined by what we believe and what we do.

 

See you next year in the HS!

As I prepare to move to the High School next year, I look forward to further opportunities for integration at ISB. In the meantime, I’d like to offer my thanks to the ES teachers, admin, support staff, students and parents for your support and enthusiasm during these two excellent years in the elementary school!

Sam

Sustainable Design in Schools


When I first started working as a Design teacher, I was so excited by all the projects and opportunities I was going to have making with my students. I started to thinking about SUSTAINABILITY without even really thinking about the term in two ways:

  1. How will we manage materials and waste responsibly?
  2. How can I give students’ opportunities for open-ended client based projects when I only saw them for a year or a semester, but manage the sustainability of good projects?

 
And even after ten years, still don’t have answers, but it still something I continue to think about and work on as an educator and facilitator. No matter what school you are at, this is usually an issue, but it’s not something that is frequently discussed or solved easily.

First, let’s think about the question with the clearest answer:
How can we manage materials and waste responsibly?
Originally, I thought maybe I could use primarily recycled or upcycled materials.  I think this can be done with balance.  It is hard to create high quality products with old cardboard boxes and old food containers. School communities are great at collecting materials, but then Design/Maker labs quickly turned into a trash heap on one side. We also created more trash with the trash in some instances.  Some of the products would definitely not be used.
As international teachers, we move around frequently, and often do not have the language acquisition for procuring materials.  Or the budgets nor time to be really picky.  I would love to know the source of all my materials and be able to use high quality, sustainable, ethically and realistic for my budget.
As many of us have realized… there is no answer.  It is a balance of upcycling/recycling, and ordering ethical and sustainable materials.  We have started recycling our own plastics at ISB, using the Precious Plastic model, which has been a great asset to our design program. I do wonder how I can find out more about the origins of my products and educate our community more on local sustainable products.
Now, on to the second part of sustainability in school projects:
How can we give students’ opportunities for open-ended, authentic, client based projects and manage the sustainability of those projects and products?
This is more difficult to answer.  I am constantly trying to figure out this one.  Frequently, students come up with great ideas for projects that could truly solve an authentic problem in our community, but once that student leaves the class or the school, that project is often dropped.  Sometimes I’ll try to suggest to the student that he/she should create a “sustainability plan” for example: create a club to continue the work that’s needed…
Sometimes a younger student will pick up the project…
And sometimes, I’ve just got to let it go, no matter how great it is.
In Design, a high quality product is desirable and we want kids to achieve that, but the reality is the process and the learning that goes into design thinking is most important.  Maybe those students continue the work at a new school, new community, or even at university.  I will never know, but there’s hope.  If nothing else, I hope that our students continue to use design thinking to address issues, identify problems and seek opportunities in all areas of their lives.
In many design thinking frameworks and processes, there is a part of the reflection piece where students need to consider the impact of the project/product on themselves, others, the environment and be reflective on their social, emotional and economic impact of their project, especially for them to imagine their product going to mass market.  This is essential in our teaching and our Design classrooms, no matter the project.
As international teachers, our students are the future leaders, businessmen/businesswomen, and parents of the next generation.  I hope they always consider their impact as they design and create new businesses, products and solutions to problems that may not even exist yet.
So is this something we need to put more at the forefront of our teaching as Design Teachers?  If we are not teaching it, who is, especially in such a hands-on way?
Should we always be looking at the sustainability and impact of the project, even as young as elementary school?
I think, yes.
 

Personalized Learning through the Passion Project

Image Credit: I can still be a kid sometimes  by Austin, a Fall 2017 Passion Project student

ISB has made a commitment to personalized learning as one of our Strategic Initiatives.

Personalized Learning is offering a variety of student opportunities and resources that fosters students’ learning, allowing them to design learning experiences based on their own interests, curiosities and competencies. In our high school, there are many different pathways and course selections for students to gain knowledge, skills and foster L21 skills.  The Passion Project course is an opportunity for students to design their own learning for a semester.
This course description is as follows:

The Passion Project is a dynamic approach to learning in which students explore passions, problems and opportunities and follow the ISB Design Process in a hands-on approach to create a product, event or system.
In this innovative course, students design and complete an individual project that is geared to their particular interests, aptitude, needs, and desired outcomes. This self-directed study could take many forms. The Passion Project aims to provide students with the opportunity to find, develop, and experience a passionate endeavor.

This is an amazing opportunity for students to follow their passions with the guidance and mentoring of a teacher.  This allows students time in their schedule to work on their Passion Project, reflect, and conference with the facilitator.
Students use a design thinking mindset, guided by the ISB Design Process to over the course of a semester to achieve their goal. Using the scaffolding of the ISB Design Process students inquire, develop their ideas, plan, create and seek feedback to improve their process and product.

At the end of the semester, students will choose their own way to share their products and learning.  This can be as simple as meeting with a few teachers or their parents to share their work.  This could also be much bigger where students could present at an assembly or for another audience in our community.
Students post their weekly progress on their blogs and are always seeking feedback, inspiration and ideas from our larger community.  Please be a part of our students’ learning journey as they document their Passion Project through process journals. We encourage you to comment on their blog posts through: questioning, advice, suggestions, and any other constructive feedback.
Here are our semester 1 Passion Project students this year:
Austin’s Passion Project process journal   – His goal is to publish a book of his comics
Maggie’s Passion Project process journal   – Her goal is to create a portfolio of her illustrations for stage design
Tiger’s Passion Project process journal   – His goal is to raise and potential breed bearded dragons
Sarah’s Passion Project process journal   – Her goal is to design and publish a graphic novel based on mental health for teens
Jane’s Passion Project process journal  – Her goal is to write and publish a novel

OneDay 2017

At ISB, OneDay is a day in which middle school students can design their learning.  OneDay gives students the time to follow their passions and individually personalize their learning for the day.  Teachers facilitated the process throughout the month of January during homeroom Mentoring time to help students follow the ISB Design Process to create a goal, investigate, design their day and plan.

It is amazing to walk around the middle school on OneDay as students take learning into their own hands.  They were engaged on the sports fields and gyms,

in the kitchen,

in the band rooms,

art rooms,

makerspaces,

hovered around laptops collaborating

and were nestled in cubbies as they typed fan fiction.

 
We want to continue to improve OneDay and will work on a feedback session with middle school teachers in an upcoming faculty meeting.  Please feel free to add any suggestions in the comments.
I’d also love the idea of a OneDay as a PD model.  It would be difficult for me to decide what I would do that day, but I think it’d be a good exercise for teachers to take ownership of their own learning and also experience what the students did as they prepare for OneDay.
For more OneDay projects, check out the ISB OneDay Blog.

Learning to Learn with a MakerSpace

I found this great blog post about MakerSpaces. Please have a read and write your comments below.

Making, Maker Centred Learning and STEAM fit neatly alongside Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) for many schools. Commonly this approach includes a constructivist view of knowledge and teachers seek to establish conditions which allow students to explore questions and ideas with greater independence than may occur in the traditional classroom.  Learning becomes a collaborative partnership between teachers and students with a clear focus on a learner centric approach. These core beliefs are enacted through a combination of scaffolds such as those developed from the research of Harvard’s ‘Project Zero’ where cultural forces, thinking routines, and an awareness of habits of mind focus the learner’s efforts on developing positive dispositions for learning while building deep understandings. In such an approach to learning Making becomes a pathway to developing the dispositions required for success in the 21st Century and a way of demonstrating one’s competence within a creative and collaborative environment.
This philosophy of teaching and learning has significant implications for the nature of inquiry and Making in schools. Student projects are developed as responses to the problems, wonderings and questions which result from the student led inquiry process. The long-term goal is that students become effective and tenacious problem finders and solvers and this requires that students have a sufficient degree of freedom to identify the problems and subsequent projects which they explore within the necessary constraints of the curriculum. Success in this goal is indicated by the degree of autonomy evident in the student’s projects; the deviation from the norm present in each response and the variety of processes used in achieving a final solution. This brings challenges in terms of resources, project management, time-frames, lesson planning, assessment and evaluation. For teachers with experience in a traditional classroom each of these challenges require an adjustment to not only how they teach (pedagogy) but to how they perceive and value what they teach (curriculum) and significantly the place that assessment has in the teaching/learning cycle. This shift most critically requires teachers to place greater value on the processes of learning (the capacity for empathy, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity their students develop) rather than the product produced or the knowledge retained. This is made increasingly difficult given the current quantitative assessment and accountability frame through which educators, schools and systems are evaluated.
A MakerSpace brings with it new affordances and this is reflected in the projects undertaken by students. The most significant use of the space that I share with my teaching team thus far has been that associated with the Year Six, ‘Personal Passion Projects’. In this, students are given time across a semester to develop a project that extends their interest in a personal passion. Many of the projects undertaken included an aspect of making as a way of concluding the project and sharing a solution to a problem defined through the initial planning phases of the project; the ‘Why?’, ‘What if?’ and ‘How might?’ questions that students started with. The diversity of Maker Centred projects undertaken was significant and included items of furniture, mixed material artworks, clothing/fashion projects, sporting equipment, instruments, games/toys and basic electronics. With this diversity came the use of a wide range of materials, processes, tools and subsequent skill development.
This diversity shone a light on the challenges to pedagogy, curriculum and assessment identified above which result when students are given autonomy in their pursuit of inquiry based learning but this was largely overcome by measuring the success of each project against the broader skills which were involved. In each case the student projects offered clear evidence of learning associated with project management, problem solving, application of a design process, attention to detail, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. Teachers quickly found that they became ‘insiders’ with students on the projects and from this perspective as co-learners and collaborators a very clear view of the learning that was achieved by each student was evident. In many respects the Maker Centred Learning environment is an opportunity to make visible the student’s ability to take charge of the inquiry process and all that it entails from initial ideation to concluding performance of understanding.
Parallel to the development of the ‘Makerspace’ has been the enhancements made to the ‘Media Lab’. While the Makerspace supports projects which are large and messy, the Media Lab caters for projects which are born out of digital explorations and designs. The addition of two 3D Printers to this space and a campus wide subscription to Makers’ Empire has allowed Year Five students to include a maker aspect to their study of ‘Space Exploration’. Using the Makers’ Empire students design vehicles and environments that reflect their understanding of the challenges of exploring other worlds. The designs are 3D printed and students use these as they explain their research and understanding to an audience of parents and peers. A similar process was undertaken by Year Six students who used the software to create models of great buildings from the cities they studied in Term Three. In this instance the technology was supporting student understanding of mathematical concepts such as 3D Shape, scale and ratio. Two laser cutters are also available and it is hoped they will play a larger part in Making projects throughout 2017 as students explore options for the accurate cutting and engraving of lightweight materials with CNC accuracy.
Working with younger students, the level of scaffolding required for effective learning increases and with this the degree of autonomy offered seemingly decreases. Working with sticks, leaves, soil and recycled cardboard, students in Year Four have explored the construction of houses from the Australia of the mid to late 1800s. The use of common materials and methods resulted in projects with many common elements and presentation. Looking more closely and listening to students explain their designs and the processes they used reveal that even here students have brought individuality to the projects and achieved varied learning goals. Bringing Making to the younger years as an introduction to Maker Centred Learning, Design Thinking and as an extension of existing models for ‘play’ with loose and found materials should serve to strengthen what students are capable of producing as they move into Stage Three and beyond.
A current limitation to the projects undertaken in the Makerspace is that created by the knowledge, skills, imagining and comfort level of the teachers and students using it. Presently there is a bias towards projects which use timber and associated construction methods; advanced craft projects with additional tools and jointing methods. Some projects extend this into the use of plastics and composite materials (fiberglass) and there is some limited exploration of electronics including the use of ‘Littlebits’. This bias results from a variety of factors but most notably from teacher expertise and familiarity and the influence that early starters have on the projects which other students subsequently mimic. This bias has been identified and efforts will be made in 2017 to broaden teacher understandings of the sort of projects which can be attempted in the hope that this filters into the ideas explored by students. Late in 2016 the Year Six teaching team attended a workshop offered by ICT Educators NSW on the use of Arduino boards and other forms of physical computing within Maker Centred Learning as an evaluation and initial exploration of this for inclusion in student projects throughout 2017. While this offers new possibilities and would allow Making to move into new areas such as Internet of Things (IOT), data harvesting and automation it brings with it a need for greater professional development and new costs in providing suitable development boards and ancillary equipment.
The question of how to fund Maker Centred Learning in schools requires consideration. The materials used in many cases cannot be re-used and in essence become the property or valued trash of the students. Particularly where students are not creating the same product, where they are using widely differing materials, and where they may require relatively expensive materials the question of how this is to be funded cannot be easily answered. Providing a pool of resources to be used is a partial solution but ensuring equitable access to this brings new difficulties. Equity issues are exacerbated when the quality of the finished work is a consequence of the materials to which the student has access and even though teachers are evaluating the processes and thinking behind the product the final display is judged by its audience as an amalgamation of inputs both human and physical.
In looking for evidence of successful STEAM and Maker Centred Learning projects in the wider community there is evidence that many schools are not offering students significant autonomy in how they respond to or develop design challenges. While there are interesting projects being undertaken, the final results often have a very similar look and feel. Instead of an inquiry process driven by student questions, that results in a diversity of ideas, the projects on show resemble colour by number artworks where the real thinking and learning occurred before the students become involved. It is also disappointing to note that very few of the STEAM projects involve the unique DNA of each discipline. Rather than a rich intermingling of ideas revealed by a multitude of lenses, STEAM projects can frequently be typified as amusing technology or simple engineering projects. An important goal for the Maker Movement and STEAM will be to ensure student projects are driven by student ideas and require them to embrace the values and value of each discipline under the unifying umbrella of STEAM.
 
By Nigel Coutts

Design@ISB

 Why is design an essential part of a school’s curriculum?

The most important benefits of Design classes and/or units in the curriculum are: complex thinking, development of technical skills, analysis of media and products around them and hands-on creating.
Design courses or projects have two specific purposes:

  1. To learn skills to become highly proficient in different technical skills
  2. To learn to use the process of designing for problem solving and to create authentic products for a specific client or audience.

What does this all mean?
First, students need to develop a variety of skill sets.  In order for students to create high quality products, they need to develop their skills.  In Design courses or projects, students can learn how to use tools and learn techniques in different areas such as:
Creating with resistant materials: Wood, Plastics, Metals and Composites
Programming
Circuitry
Graphic Design
2D & 3D Drawing for Laser Cutting and 3D Printing
Textiles
Food Preparation Techniques

The second important component of Design in education is design thinking.
Students follow a process to create a product – this could be a materials-based product, a digital product or even a system.
isb-designcycle-graphic2-1

Prototype of ISB Design Cycle

STAGE ONE: DEFINE & EMPATHIZE
img_1242

Student analyzing children’s Chinese storybooks to identify components to create their own.

First, students are given a guiding question or a problem to solve. Then they begin to inquire and do research. They define their goal and find an audience, empathize with their potential clients to gather a better understanding of what is needed. They then analyze existing products and do further inquiry and research.
STAGE TWO: DEVELOP & PLAN
In this stage of the design cycle, students create success criteria (design specifications) so they know what their product must have in order to be successful.  They develop a few design ideas and then justify the design they will try to develop.  Students then create annotated sketches to show their ideas on paper.  Finally, before creating, they  make a plan to organize their time, materials, tools and locations where they will work.
STAGE THREE: CREATE & IMPROVE
In this stage of the Design cycle, students first start by making a prototype of their design.  They reflect, gather feedback and test their product to see if it meets the success criteria.  They continually create and iterate to improve their product.
img_1360

Students testing their polymers in a chemical engineering design project

Students, like all designers, reflect throughout the design process.  Students are expected to self reflect and have confidence to give and receive feedback from their peers to help guide them through their design process.
We also want students to share their process and final products with an extended community to make an impact and to have a larger audience to further their learning.
There are a lot of great design projects and design thinking happening at ISB and our design program is growing through the engineering strand of the Science curriculum, through middle school Design class, enrichments and other design integrated projects.  Later on in the year, we’ll be sharing more student design projects throughout the school.

Make Something!

I’ve always been interested to see how far students could take their imagination if they were given the resources to do so. As we move towards our L21 goals, I’ve been reading up on Maker Space and the different Maker environments to see what there is out in the world, here in China, and right here at ISB.
IMG_0004Michael Gorman talks about some of the reasons that our students should be “making” something in our classrooms. As we move towards a Project Based Environment in our schools, some of these “maker” skills can be applied to these projects as well as incorporate STEM skills.  Maker students can envision, plan, play, innovate, collaborate their projects in the most creative ways. Given the space and resources to do so, we can see students learning with their experiments in their original and creative ways to make their ideas into a reality.

Some points that Michael makes about positive outcomes of Maker students include:

  • Provide for student opportunities to enhance Project, Problem, Design, Inquiry, and Challenge Based Learning
  • Introduce students to the iterative process for problem solving
  • Promote service student learning by identify and inventing solutions to local and world problems
  • Introduce students to the iterative process for problem solving

For the past couple summers, there have been Maker Faires in Shenzhen, China’s “Silicon Valley”. This exposed many local and international groups especially in education to include some sort of Maker opportunities and emphasis in their schools.  Randy Stadham has gone to the last two Maker Faires and has been leading the Grade 4 in making robots for competition.
In Middle School, Randy Williams and Steve Sostak have their own “Baby Maker Space” up in rooms 3122 and 3123  and have been creating all sorts of projects in their lab . Students learn a skill and then create in Open Make.
I was also part of a group of students that presented some of their Maker projects as part of the Middle School Global Issues Network(GIN) Conference in Singapore this past May. Students were able to tie their ideas into a sustainable COMPASS education model.
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 14.36.42
My curiosity has led to see  that we are part of a growing, great, creative, collaborative, and awesome Maker Movement here at ISB.
Further readings and ideas for activities:
http://makezine.com/
http://www.instructables.com/
http://www.inventtolearn.com/
https://www.clarity-innovations.com/blog/sberry/five-ways-bring-maker-education-your-classroom
Post by: Pim Arora

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