Skills lie in the eyes of the beholder and in the hands of the doer

Discussing the skills students require to be successful in this century is like eating tortillas for Mexicans, quite common (and please note that I am Mexican). Yet, as Tracy Immel states, it would be worth thinking about the skills that educators of the present need to deal with students who have an incredible amount of resources that allow them to easily showcase these skills. For this post, though, I am driven by a question: how to avoid becoming (or creating) students that heard a lot about highly valuable skills to develop and all the related jargon, but never got the opportunity to experience what it felt like to work in an environment that promotes them?
One of my teachers once told me that when one is a student one is basically a mechanic who is always looking for the best tools to fix things; and for this reason, not only did we need to be interested in finding and collecting new tools, but also to learn which tool to employ in each situation, as well as the reasons why. Hence, taking advantage of an idea a student mentioned, sometimes I like to present learning experiences as if they were video game stages with different levels of difficulty where students need to make choices, plan strategies, and understand why they make the decisions they make, considering the tools they have at hand.

Witnessing the development of their work and hearing why they opt to do it the way they decided to, as well as the reason why they preferred a particular strategy or process, helps to provide students with more accurate feedback and even help them further their inquiries. Thus, observation and dialogue on what has been observed, has been my tool as a teacher-mechanic: observing how students do things, so that I can collaborate with each one in their own way; so that they can develop skills that amplify their talents; and so that they pursue the enrichment of their personalized toolkit.

In the IB programs we have continuum documents that allow us, teachers, to plan, strategize and scaffold the skills students need to develop in each subject group. Yet, I wonder if we often wonder to what extent students are aware of that (scope and) sequence and to what extent they know what is expected of them. As teachers, the skills students are to develop might be very clear, but what if students do not know what these skills and competencies look, feel or are like because they have not become aware of the tools they can employ? What if they are not able to properly label the ‘tool’ so that they can reuse it whenever they want again? Ultimately, that is the goal of transfer: to use what they have learned in a different scenario.

At the beginning of the year, I presented my plan to students alongside the Approaches to Learning categories and skills. We had a brief conversation on what a task would look like when the teacher asked them to use their thinking skills, and how they will know that they are successfully and purposefully demonstrating those skills. Undoubtedly, this helped them become more sensitized on the learning processes they would undergo in the classroom.

Motivated by the quality of engagements I am having with my students as a result of discussing how they perceive what is expected of them and how they will know they are demonstrating such skills, I conducted a survey of students in grade 10, 11 and 12. I took some of the essential components of the MYP and DP for students to tell me how they would knew they’d be demonstrating ATL skills (thinking, social, communication, self-management and research skills) in Service & Action, Personal Project, CAS, TOK Essay and Extended Essay. (S&A, and PP were mentioned in the survey for MYP, while CAS, TOK and EE were mentioned in the survey for DP).

After looking at the answers students produced, here is how they know they will know they will be demonstrating those skills. Evidently, this information should help us, teachers, devise learning scenarios where such experiences can happen.

As a reflection for the ideas stated at the beginning of this post, I feel that teachers will discover what skills they need to develop to collaborate with students of the present by observing how students work, and how they interact with information, and how they make their choices on the strategies they choose to work, and by generating dialogue when asking them why they decide to do it that way. A learning attitude where skill expectations are clear, and where participants witness that they are demonstrate them will empower teachers and students gather a wide variety of ‘tools’, and will allow them to generate an environment where a variety of skills will be at hand for them to choose when solving a problem, when collaborating or when creating new understandings.

Possibly the easiest way to say it is that everyone in the classroom should be a student-mechanic, and that we should exchange our tools in order to see how possibilities can be limitless if we know what each one of us brings into the classroom.

I would like to cordially invite you to join us on November 13, 2014 in an informal chat in the #MYPChat about Communication Skills in our many MYP relationships.


The consolidated ATL Skills document shown above (in 3 parts) can be downloaded (1 single document) here.

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Like, Tweet, Tag and Blog

Source of the image:

I was recently having a conversation with our CAS Co-coordinator about teachers and students’ roles in the present. We discussed ideas ranging from Tony Wagners’ 7 key skills to the abilities and talents that can be developed in constructivist and constructionist environments. However, we made a pause in our conversation when we mentioned dialogue as an element of the teaching- learning process that has either shadowed by many other initiatives or simply ignored.

If teachers and students are key agents in the learning process, they need to have frequent conversations, and two-way feedback. Having this interactions will allow them to develop an understanding of how learning is happening, and teachers will plan learning experiences that will engage students with significant and relevant content knowledge in order to become confident, independent, self-managed learners for life. Sadly, we reflected, very little dialogue can be happening in some contexts, schools and situations.

Source of the image:

Is this the disconnection that the teacher-student idea of learning as a life style is suffering from? Dialogue should be a frequent habit among teachers and students, and should address how both of them are being transformed by the learning that is occurring in the classroom; by the new ideas that are being generated and targeted as projects to pursue and destinations to discover. Dialogue must be genuine so it becomes valuable and, hence, inspirational and transformational.

The teaching-learning process should be inundated with situations where teaches and students become witnesses of each other’s talents, passions and learning plans, so that collaboration acquires a new nuance and maybe, they can learn even more from each other.

So what happens when students encounter stimuli that teachers often discuss, and incentives that provoke thoughts in teachers? What dialogue scenario can this experience generate for teachers and students? Would students be able to sympathize or relate with the ideas that are being portrayed? Would teachers feel uneasy against criticism that could arise? Would students feel troubled if they, indeed, feel that they are not getting what these stimuli say they must?

As we began to launch our new unit on ‘education beyond the 4 walls of the classroom’, I asked students to watch Sir Ken Robinson video on ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ and Tony Wagner’s TEDx on 7 Key Skills, and all I hoped was that they became prepared to share their reflections in class. While some may question the reason why I asked them to watch them in English for the Spanish class, it was their thoughts and ideas that interested me, not their language comprehension.

Once again, students did not disappoint me! On the contrary, they revealed the critical thinkers I expected them to be, and they demonstrated again what good observers they have become in the IB MYP. I was just happy that we could have meaningful dialogue on an item we were both involved in: our education. Ours, because I am a teacher-learner all the time.



And it was here that I started thinking how many opportunities for dialogue we have, not solely face to face, but in the platforms where we (teachers and students) interact, in the trending moments we are a part of or tagged in, and in every ‘like’ we give for every tweet and blog where our learning experiences are carved and tattooed.

This post will be my 1000th tweet, and I think it is worth celebrating it!

This post will be my 1000th tweet, and I think it is worth celebrating it!

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Transformation Witness


Reflection must be teacher-student driven, with eyes fixed on the future.

I firmly believe that effective teaching inspires real learning, and a stimulating and meaningful teaching-learning environments/processes must equally yield effective reflection. Likewise, I am convinced that reflection is not solely a final statement that teachers write at the end of a unit plan, or a series of words put together by students at the end of a learning experience.

What the lines above describe is the equivalent of an experience that fulfills a requirement many teachers and students feel they are to meet to pretend they are bringing closure to a learning cycle. Yes! I said pretend, and I wrote it again in bold, because when ‘reflection’ is merely done to tick a box, we are not actually seizing and valuing the meaning contained in the essence of what truly constitutes meaningful reflection.

Quotation-Confucius-reflection-learningStudents and teachers are both key agents in the learning process and it is, therefore,
paramount that both of them are involved in the retrospective journey of seeing the new understandings that have emerged, and the possible new directions their learning can take as a result of their achievements. Learning is complex and uncountable in nature; and it is for this reason that when reflecting on it, we must take some time to contemplate what we (teachers and students) have become after the learning journey.

I wonder how often teachers and students make a pause in their path to observe and analyze how the ideas they share are changing them; I wonder whether these key people in the co-construction of knowledge ever perceive how they are transforming time and getting future moments ready for new experiences.

1Are we, teachers and students, noticing how learning is affecting us? Are we alert witnesses of their evolution? Once a new understanding is formulated, each and everyone involved in its making is no longer the same he or she was before such idea came to life.

When learning happens, it should be celebrated as a goal that is scored in a soccer game- with that passion and fervor; and those who score it must feel empowered to go out and score more. After the game, revisiting what was done, should serve as an indicator for a different plateau of achievements, where skills are elevated and upgraded.

Meaningful, affective and effective reflection should allow us to be able to generate wholesome, engaging, and captivating learning scenarios where what ‘we are’ should only be the beginning of what ‘we could be; and so on after every new experience.

Thank you for learning with me were the words I said to my grade 10 students after a learning journey in which they summarized on a map the work we did in a unit on migration; as they were receptive to the feedback their peers in grade 11 and 12 gave them on their work; as they took action on the feedback given to present their understandings on the concept to grade 4 students. Learning occurring in 3 programs, through the eyes of different individuals, enriching what everyone involved already knows, and contributing to keeping the fire of the thirst for knowledge alive.

You are invited to view the following video, which briefly documents the journey.

And if you are a Spanish teacher/student and/or speak Spanish, you are most welcome to watch the extended version that focus on the Spanish learning experience.

Thank you for learning with us.

Unit planner here.

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Another Brick on the Bridge


Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.
— Rober C. Schank (Cognitive Scientist)

One of the most effective ways for us to know, appreciate, and learn from what is happening around us is telling our story. The way we acquire and develop certain skills is a direct response to the manner in which we are experiencing life at a certain stage. I even think we cannot learn what we are not ready to.

Most importantly, whatever learning we attain, and whatever new understanding we embrace, needs to be explained by us in order for it to make sense to ourselves and to the world. We need to be able to tell our own story; how we cope with conflict and change; how we combat influences we do not desire; how we perceive what others do; and how we perceive the possibilities that develop in our surroundings.

I have come across so many definitions of the personal Project in MYP, and while I honestly do believe that it encourages students to practice and strengthen their approaches to learning skills and to consolidate prior and subject-specific learning, and to develop an area of personal interest (From the IB Projects Guide); I firmly feel it is also one opportunity to tell the world how they got to this stage of their learning; how they developed the understanding of the world they have; how they are getting ready to shape their future; and a chance for them to realize what they can do with what they know.

At a very young age, when MYP students arrive in grade 10, they face the exciting challenge ofbridge creation. However, while they have been creating since their early years, this kind of creation belongs to the kind of projects that actually contribute to the already existing knowledge in the world. In other words, it is a big deal, and because the nature of the project is PERSONAL, students must be properly guided to tell their story in a way that, once the process is finished, they see the footprints they have left, not the scars they are taking.

The rigor of the MYP truly prepares students to develop a peripheral view that allows them to make the most from the knowledge in their surroundings, and also sensitizes them to take action on issues that matter to them. However, what I value the most in the MYP is how it enables students to develop skills to challenge understandings, commencing by their own convictions, and to establish what is important. For this reason, as the crowning moment of their MYP experience, the personal project must be utilized as the opportunity to tell their story.
ATL skills each student develops are the sign of the differentiation in learning, understanding and ways of working with knowledge. Few things can be more personal than that. Thus, since ATLs are an integral part of the Personal Project, I think it’s paramount to support students as they tell their story.

By Syed Ammar Yasir

By Syed Ammar Yasir

Considering the ATL categories of the Next Chapter, I wanted to find a way to support grade 10 students’ readiness for the PP. Thus, upon discussion with the Personal Project coordinator and the MYP coordinator, the idea of developing skills to collect the resources needed to tell our story (research) ranked as the experience where I could have some input.
Nonetheless, since the PP is initiated with a personal motivation that is further enhanced and nurtured through the findings students come across in the resources they consult, I also wanted them to become aware of how each new discovery causes us to interact differently with our peers, and to handle new ideas with different views. For this reason, I planned a booklet that would accompany the experience of making a choice; that helped to trace a path as students understand their choice in depth; that allows them to visualize the big impact their project can have for themselves and in their community; but above all, a tool that supported their inquiry and helped them claim ownership of the whole process.

In my experience as a Personal Project supervisor, I am aware of the extent to which students tell their experience in an anecdotal way and oversee the source of the idea that caused them to get a hold of the understanding they are describing (the incentive), and it is for this reason that I want to help them add substance and value to their story, for many times this is what one needs to validate one’s growth and progress, more than a number representing ‘achievement’.

So, students, what story are you ready to tell? How relevant in the world do you want your PP to be? Are you aware of the strengths and skills you have to accomplish your goal? In our ATL Vs. PP session we will look at a variety of thinking, communication and organization skills. Hopefully this will help you put another brick on the bridge between MYP and DP.

Please, write some thoughts explaining your experience in this session, considering this post in a comment below. This will be one of your initial reflections.

Below are the resources for students, and for other educators who view this post. All feedback is welcome.

You will be able to download the Googledoc booklet here.
The QR Code student booklet can be downloaded here (this accompanies the googledoc booklet).

The original workbook, with QR codes included can be downloaded here.



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The Information Thief and the Accumulation of Knowledge

Recently I was wondering how many times teachers have made photocopies of a certain task or written the same notes on the board. I was trying to figure out what teachers do with all those great ideas for which they praise their students, and I if they knew whether these ideas could have an impact on different individuals. Such thoughts I was entertaining because I have been getting my students to contribute with their opinions, and to collaborate through a series of discussion topics  in our interactive learning platform: E-Colelingvo. Most interestingly, I have used their productions as teaching resources and idea-activators for other classes. In other words, this practice has helped me trace the history of my classes, and has also helped my students become aware of how their linguistic competencies are evolving.

This practice has allowed me to observe how students are operating in the Language Acquisition curriculum that has been planned for them, to observe their progress (for their work in all tasks is saved from the day ); and the whole experience is clear evidence of how the curriculum is being designed, delivered, aligned, reutilized and purposefully documented.

Below is an example of a discussion forum that I started with my grade 10 students in August 2013, and that I later used with my Grade 12 students to start a debate in which Grade 10 students had to retaliate. And the best part of this experience is that this year I will be using it again with my new Grades 10 & 12, who will be confronting the ideas that they inherited form the two previous groups.

These images are snapshots from the task conducted on E-colelingvo, my interactive learning platform/network that I use to teach Spanish as a foreign language. The task can be viewed here in its entirety.


One of the aspects that is seldom talked about as a benefit of having a good Language Acquisition vertical curriculum alignment across the MYP and DP is the opportunities that are generated to have MYP and DP students collaborate, and share and enrich their perspectives. Since the IB Language Acquisition curriculum is structured following a phase-based sequence, it is important (if students manage to arrive at phases 3 or higher) to create opportunities in the curriculum for them to interact and learn along with students who possess the same or a higher language level.

Thus, in order to make such collaboration happen, students’  historical language inputs need to be recorded in a way that can be revisited. Clearly, this has a direct impact on the way curriculum is aligned, developed and utilized. I am aware of the effective ways in which networks have been used to add nuances to the learning process, but I wonder to what extent administrator are considering them as spaces where the written and taught curricula can ‘interact’ in a way that records of the planning and strategies execution are recorded across levels; while documenting the evolution of a group’s learning process.

A concrete example of the way this meticulously documented delivery of the curriculum has created opportunities for developing new understandings and integrating different levels of collaboration can be observed in this task, which commenced in 2012, and whose content has been referred to by students since.

The experiences that I described in this entry clearly demonstrate how the views that  students generate can be used to generate a forum for discussion and co-construction new ideas. Moreover, they are wonderful archives of information and knowledge that future students will be able to read and consider when trying to formulate their ideas on the same topic.

No effort must be wasted when asking students to state their points of view. And most importantly, students’ contributions should be allowed to live as long as the theme can be discussed, for this is the best way to archive knowledge, to accumulate ideas and to witness how new the diversity in our points of view takes us to different levels of comprehension and appreciation of a given concept.

I feel like I am a knowledge thief, but I am happy I am finding authentic and meaningful use for this accumulation of knowledge.

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Las Inteligencia Múltiples (IM) como herramientas en el desarrollo de las competencias de identificación de ideas claves


“El uso de las Inteligencia Múltiples (IM) como herramientas en el desarrollo de las competencias de identificación de ideas claves en un texto o discurso oral”
Autores: J. Rafael Ángel Mendoza, Jéssica Nohemí Alcántara C. y María Eugenia Avilés C.

Investigación realizada para la Maestría en Educación enfocada en Métodos de Enseñanza y Aprendizaje

 En la actualidad la educación no solo está enfocada a cumplir con los conocimientos, sino a lograr un desarrollo integral y armónico de la persona en los distintos planos, es decir “Saber hacer”, de igual forma, teniendo presente que el desarrollo humano no es algo que se compone por un solo elemento sino que comprende a las inteligencias múltiples, lo primordial es contar con procedimientos y métodos para el enriquecimiento de competencias e inteligencias por igual.

Es esencial partir de la idea de que las inteligencias interactúan entre sí de forma compleja y no de forma aislada. Evidentemente, en el caso particular de este estudio, cuando se habla de la identificación de ideas claves en un texto o discurso oral, la inteligencia lingüística se superpone a las demás, aunque ninguna inteligencia queda completamente ausente en el proceso.

Para justificar a fondo la forma en que el uso de las IM llega a contribuir al desarrollo y enriquecimiento de las competencias de identificación de las ideas claves en un texto, se utilizaron herramientas que ayudaron al alumno a identificar sus inteligencias y a utilizarlas en su beneficio para la adquisición de conocimientos.

Los recursos que se comparten se utilizaron en un estudio realizado en tres instituciones de nivel medio superior, dos en México y una en Jordania, donde se buscó explicar el uso de las Inteligencias Múltiples como herramientas en el desarrollo de las competencias de identificación de ideas claves en un texto o discurso oral. Mediante la aplicación de un test se definió la inteligencia dominante en cada uno de los 25 jóvenes participantes en el estudio, una vez definidas las IM, se aplicaron ocho diferentes ejercicios que implicaron la participación activa de cada uno de los alumnos mediante el empleo de sus diferentes inteligencias, observando que en las competencias de comunicación lingüística (Inteligencia verbal-lingüística) y comprensión de la información (Inteligencias lingüístico verbal y lógico matemático) los resultados fueron mejorando a lo largo de la aplicación de los ejercicios, de tal forma que se puede decir que la utilización de ejercicios basados en las Inteligencias múltiples colaboro en la mejora de la competencia que se estudiaba.

 Sobre los ejercicios que se administraron

La finalidad de estos ejercicios, es crear una situación mediante el cual, el alumno utilice las IM y de esta manera pueda satisfacer las competencias que se buscan enriquecer. El empleo de diversas estrategias está basado en conseguir que el alumno pueda distinguir por su propia cuenta la finalidad de cada reactivo. De esta manera al momento de hablar de una competencia, por ejemplo: la lógico-matemática se utilizarán esquemas que les permitan acceder a sus procesos de pensamiento de este tipo más fácilmente.

Para descargar los recursos, hacer click AQUÍ.

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Towards a New Architecture of the Learning Experience

report bob

Exactly one year ago, as everyone in my department got ready for the IB re-evaluation visit, we all shared one perspective about this experience: we were going to dig as deep as we could in the archive of learning and teaching experiences we had documented for the last 3 years. It was very clear to us that evidence was found and not fabricated, and therefore we threw ourselves into a historical journey in which we came to see why we are who we are at present.

Coming across the 2010 department’s curriculum map outlook, felt like we had found the origin of our evolution, for each of the years ahead clearly showed a step forward towards the construction of the nicely aligned conceptual map we now have in the MYP Language Acquisition Department. When we looked at the monitoring samples archived, each with its feedback along side, we were able to see how we have truly learned to appreciate processes and not products, for even the samples of student work we have saved demonstrate how sensitized we have become about aspects of the teaching-learning experience such as differentiation, focus on specific competencies, and the exploration of different learning environments.

The report includes praise for the diverse repertoire of ‘ learning territories’ we have explored; for the various processes in which we have shaped the learning experience; for the ample range of teaching and learning strategies we have implemented and fostered; for the attitude towards using authentic resources for each of the languages that we teach; but most importantly, for our approach to foreign language teaching: prioritizing the use of language as a vehicle for learning and accessing information, not just as the accumulation of vocabulary and structures.

While it’s truly gratifying to read this praise, we also need to understand the responsibility it implies. If we have succeeded making this foreign language teaching a lifelong learning experience for all of us, teachers, we must clearly take it to a different level. I am aware of the new opportunities that will unfold thanks to this plateau from where we will take off this year, and it is my belief that this is how the spiral of learning continues to evolve upwards and also enriching itself from the peripheries around it.

Moreover, similar to the experience of recovering from a certain illness, we will need to use this vitality to generate new paradigms in the instruction of foreign language at our school. The idea of ‘this is how we did it last year and it worked’ should only be a consideration and not a formula, for we now have the responsibility of adding a new level to the structure of our learning experience. The side effects of good learning also include observing new understandings that are blossoming as a result of our previous crops, so it is also our job to see them grow fruitfully.

In the Language Acquisition department of Ecole Mondiale, we have learned the value of observing how things are done differently, and how each manner indicates a different path for the learning experience. We are fully aware of the importance of an eclectic array of resources and processes in order for learning to be diversified and to go beyond the walls of our subject. We are now married with a very positive attitude of collaboration: from the moment an idea is gestated in a unit, to the occasions when we start generating resources. But most importantly, despite the fact that 5 tongues are taught in our school, we speak the same language, and are ready to truly live the experience of teaching and learning in a relevant environment where each stage of the process matter for both teachers and students.

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