Another Brick on the Bridge

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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 https://ammaryasir.wordpress.com

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.

Resources:
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.
DIFERENTES RAZONES Y PROPOSITOS DE LA MIGRACIÓN_Page_1DIFERENTES RAZONES Y PROPOSITOS DE LA MIGRACIÓN_Page_3DIFERENTES RAZONES Y PROPOSITOS DE LA MIGRACIÓN_Page_6

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

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“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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I.M., The DNA of change in Learning

 

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Cultural Awareness in Language Learning
This paper was written in 1997 for the subject of Language and Culture, taught by Caroline Moore.
University of Guadalajara, School of Modern Foreign Languages. 

Learning a foreign language requires entering in contact with the culture of the target language. Moreover, since each culture has a system for dividing right from wrong, or good from evil, acquiring a new language includes embracing a new set of values and different views of appreciating what is considered to be true. 

Comparisons are inevitable when one learns a language, and since finding similarities and differences is one of the first attempts learners are tempted by, the presence of judgments and assumptions might blur one’s genuine appreciation of the actual character of the target language if there is a lack of awareness. Thus, it is a foreign language teacher’s duty to serve as a mediator in the understanding of the new culture; to serve as a guide when clarifying the elements of culture that do not explain language and social behavior; and to be an enabler of openness, fairness and a universal/international consciousness. 

Languages are at times associated with a particular geographical latitude, with traditions, celebrations, ways of being and ways of knowing. Yet, one must not assume that because a series of individuals coexist in the same cultural context, their behavior and attitudes will be identical. There will always be sets of subcultures within a culture that will cause both language and culture to become diversified. For instance, while most people speak English in the USA (up to this day), the culture and speech of people in New England and the Mid West are completely different.

Thus, when learning and teaching a new language, one must not overemphasize one’s focus on the similarities and differences between one’s culture and that of the target language. One’s aim as a learner should be to eventually be an active participant in that culture; and to constantly contribute as a translator of social, cultural and linguistic events and paradigms as a teacher. One’s openness to learning should directly become the means by which one’s background will become enriched and through which one will be enabled to cause change within our social groups.

Culture is such a complex thing to deal with since people perform differently in their interpersonal relationships. Thus, there are no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ in a culture; there are only cultural differences that are the elements that constitute a culture’s genuineness, authenticity and uniqueness. For this reason, the moment one starts learning to express ideas and thoughts in a different language, one is automatically enabled to bring that experience into one’s culture and, inevitably, positive modifying its nuances. When one learns a new language, one is no longer the same person one was before the learning experience; and since one is then able to see the world through different perspectives, we are conversely able to participate in a diverse range of knowledge exchanges that cause us to evolve in a more complex way.

For the arguments stated above, it is clear that learning a foreign language is not limited to solely speaking it, but to understand what is behind its structure, its words, its sounds, how it is used, as well as the reasons for the differences that it embodies. Moreover, since learning a new language signifies slowly becoming a part of its culture, one needs to understand that the target language’s culture will never be stable for new learners bring baggage of experiences with them; and it is this collections of understandings what gradually contribute to the evolution of the target language’s culture. E.g. the English language culture is not the same at present, compared to what it was like before English became the language of choice around the world.

It is important to point out that acquiring a new culture, or enriching one’s mother culture, should not be a threat to one’s identity, integrity and social composure, for these days the world is becoming unified by the understandings promoted in foreign language classes. This effect is causing people to become more open minded and ready to appreciate other cultures without losing theirs. In a few words, learning about other cultures only teaches us to become better observers of the salient features we respect in our own culture.

Regardless of the distance between cultures, the emphasized differences, and the surprising similarities, any individual who aspires to learn a language is a LEARNER in principle. Therefore, learners must embrace any secondary learning that emerges from the process they are undergoing. Slowly, world culture is becoming accessible and enriched. Each culture is truly embracing its contribution to the world culture, and, conclusively, developing an understanding of how learning a language is a tool to understand the world should be included in all aspiring language learners’ set of expected learning situations.

For this reason, International Mindedness (I.M.) is the DNA of Change in Learning.

 

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Language teachers – Psycholinguistics Combo

Why should language teachers be interested in psycholinguistics?
This essay was written by J. Rafael Angel Mendoza in 1998, for the subject of Applied Linguistics, taught by Carol Lethaby.
University of Guadalajara, Modern Foreign Language School

Psycholinguistcs is sometimes defined as the study of language and the mind. As the name suggests, it is a subject that links psychology and linguistics and, therefore, its purpose is to find out about the structures and processes that underlie humans’ ability to speak and understand language (Aitchison, 1986). For this reason psycholinguistics is presented as an instrument of communication among people that arises in every social area; for example, teaching.

Aitchison (1986) states that psycholinguistics is not only focused on language interaction between people; it is also focused on what is happening with the individual. Among the variety of topics, three seem to be the most relevant:
1. The acquisition problem, which refers to the human nature of being born equipped with a certain linguistic knowledge, or to the humans’ capacity to learn language due to their intelligence.
2. The link between language knowledge and language use, which consists of the internal representation of language anyone has (linguistic knowledge), rather than the way people actually use language. Language usage is linked to language knowledge in a way that one can:
a) Understand sentences (decode)
b) Produce sentences (encode)
c) Store linguistic knowledge.
Nevertheless, the way people store linguistic knowledge would appear to be the defining element in the reason why language teachers should possess interest in psycholinguistics, since it is he only area where linguistics can actually calculate and obtained fata from the internalized language one has acquired.
3. Producing and comprehending speech, which is the fact occurring exactly when a person understands and produces sentences. This means that when one is producing/using language, an infinite number of sentences can be generated and understood.

Thus, since psycholinguists deal with the different aspects of language, language teachers’ interest could arise when considering different methodology explorations, as well as language development: acquisition phases, learning stages, grammar/structures dominance, degrees of production, among others.

Language is extremely complex; therefore, it is essential to realize how essential it is to become familiar with all the processes comprised in language learning. Since the language classroom is the lab room where different learning experiences take place, language teachers can function as researchers who, utilizing the principles psycholinguistics offers, can find and devise methods and approaches that benefit students’ language learning and development (Jackendoff, 1994).

Likewise, involving psycholinguistics paradigms in one’s appreciation of the teaching process has many advantages, as each new way to teach will result in a multiple diverse ways of learning. In other ways, the rapport between teachers and learners will diversify, as teachers will be able to provide differentiated ways of learning according to learning styles. Moreover, students’ performance should offer teachers new scenarios for continuing to enhance their strategy repertoire and their understanding of the teaching/learning process.

Conclusively, since part of language teachers’ duties is to empower students to understand their own learning process, the study of linguistics equips teachers with the background to visualize how learners interact with their learning, with a series of understandings to best concoct learning situations in which students, besides acquiring and developing language skills, also enhance their learning process as a whole.

Aitchison, J. (1986) The Articulate Mammal (2nd edition). London: Huitchison pp 10-14.
Jackendoff, R. (1994) Patterns in the Mind, New York.: Basic Books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers.

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The Voice of 2013-14: A reflection

 

 

The Most Powerful sound in a language: your voice
(As published in EMWS Ecolessence 2014)

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If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.
-       General Erick Shinseki

 When I was a child, I used to appreciate teachers who had a peculiar and rather particular way to conduct activities. I remember I once wrote a note to literature teacher for teaching Cien Años de Soledad (100 years of solitude) as if it was all family gossip. I still wonder if originality was easy to attain, or whether my classmates and I were easy to please. Thus, considering the amount of information and stimuli out there, both in live and virtual environments, I wonder what is the standard of good learning experiences in these days?

So, what was different this year in comparison to my two last years at École? Certainly, it is possibly the year when I have shared my class control with my students. I have disrupted what could be considered a routine so many times that some specific learning moments are almost the result of an idea that one of my classes implanted in me, and another class gave me the forum to address it. This was a very busy year, but it was the most productive yet as well.

When I was learning English, one of my EFL teachers used to tell us: “think in English” every time that we attempted to produce a good idea and ended up structuring sentences in a Spanish-like construction for we had not yet developed that je ne sais quoi that makes learners sound like real speakers of the target language they are studying. To date, I am still unable to comprehend what it means to think in English, French, Spanish or any foreign language one can be studying. I wish some of my EFL teachers had said, instead: “use your voice in English!”

If I were to mention a common practice among the classes I taught this year, the use of students’ voice would definitely be my favorite pick. My 6th graders conducted a phone interview with some Spanish speakers living in Mumbai; My grade 9 and 10 students participated in Skype conferences with speakers from other latitudes in the world; my grade 11 students ‘designed’ some case studies and sent them to IB schools in Japan, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi, eliciting solutions, and they got a response from IB Spanish SL and HL students; and last but not least, my grade 12 students read excerpts of the book Días de Rojo (Days in Red) by Pablo Argente, wrote a letter to the author criticizing the ethical issues in La Tomatina (the central topic of the book), and got a response from him. In small or big quantities; with a strong accent or without; with plenty or no hesitation at all, students were making use of their voice, most undeniably. 

I do not if this is how we create relevance in a foreign language class, but for me, this is how we fill our experiences with substance and create content. These experiences have allowed students to use their language skills with a goal in mind, getting a taste of its flavors; and their reflections will certainly serve as parameters for comparison when other students take part in these kind of involvements and then have the chance to read what others found out and evaluate their own experience.

I have enjoyed witnessing the ‘telling’ moments when students share their stories in their respective learning experience; I have become fond of the way in which their narrations motivate me share this new content instantly via twitter or my blog. I have realized, truthfully, that telling the stories that transpire in my classes at École adds value to my students’ and my learning. 

I have repeatedly said to some colleagues of mine that it feels good to be in a constant state of creation, and maybe this is how I bring to life the words of Alan Kay when he said that the best way to predict the future was to invent it. It is hard to know whether there is some kind of future in the making here, but I am certainly enjoying the sounds that are produced as ideas are generated, as I ask my students to let me hear their voices, and read their thoughts. 

This is my voice in English, with Mexican accent.

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