Saturday 30 July 2016
A trip across the pond!
So I was lucky enough to be taken to the IB Americas conference with the 'inthinking' team a couple of weeks ago. We went to man an exhibition stand aimed at spreading the gospel of the inThinking subject sites on that side of the pond. Of course, that comes with being able to attend one of these events and meet a whole host of educators from different backgrounds and this is always a fascinating experience and broadens the horizons. As an added bonus for me, the conference was in Toronto, Canada, where I lived for a while as a boy. We returned home as a family in 1983 and this was my first visit back since! I was given a warm welcome by old family friends but also found the city buzzing with a genuine firendliness that was very welcoming. That was then extended into the conference where I found educators, mostly from the americas region, to be very warm, friendly, curious and interesting. It was great to chat to teachers hopefully many of them will become subscribers soon!
What was my sales pitch?
There was a constant flow of educators through the exhibition hall and at breaks and lunches they were lured in with coffee, snacks and treats which menat that we were very busy indeed. As such, it became quite important to try and be as succinct as possible about what it is we do with the thinkIB.net sites so here is what I generally said.... It was nice to be constantly reminding myself of what I am setting out to do!
Our websites are all about helping teachers to make their classrooms rich, engaging and effective
The DP teacher has a lot on their plate at the moment - the ATTL initiative is a great summary of all the apsects of the IBs vision for great education and reading it can be daunting! Our websites offer support for teachers to deliver that philosophy including,
- Great ideas for rich, thought provoking and inquiry based classroom activity
- Ready to go resources to support those ideas
- Huge amounts of support resources for essential practice
- All the advice a teacher could need for mananging the course and its assessment (both internal and external)
Would you like to have a look?
It was also reallly good to talk about some of the factors of teaching IB that are particular in this region. I was struck reading statistics about the number if IB schools in Canada that are bilingual schools (French and English) and the issues this presents. On the same theme many of the educators at the conference are offering the IB in Spanish - whilst I could do the French I had to refer to my colleague to handle the spanish requests.
I have long been aware, but became more so by talking to teachers, about the number of public schools that are offering IB alongside the American curriculum in US schools. This is a real challenge for those teachers and hopefully this site does make life a little easier.
On all of these issues, I'd be interested to know if there is anything we could add to help. I'd love to make all of this available in different languages, but this would be a huge challenge and is not on the immediate horizon.
It is always interesting to listen to keynote speakers at these events and often a great opportunity to hear about interesting lives and experiences. The art of good public speaking really interests me. At conferences, that art needs to be carefully balanced with offering eductaors more than just entertainment but some genuine food for thought. Of course there is a big role for the listener there as well! The closing plenary was delivered by author Margaret Atwood and the main theme of her discourse was to defend the role of the arts in schools. Clearly a popular topic and I have not met a teacher in my career who is not on board with the arts. A few parents and often their children, but mostly it seems that governments and politicians are the biggest threat to the arts and I know there is good reason for some concern. This talk offered an opportunity to reflect on this and mostly contributed to my current wish to see more integration of subjects and less dsicrete separation between the Arts and the sciences. I think this has mostly developed in me as a ToK teacher where I have had more opportunities to reflect on the similarities as well as the differences between the Arts and the Sciences. Its just food for thought for now becuas the structure of the DP makes integration quite a challenge. It is always worth thinking about though.
My abiding memory form this talk will be her opening offering which went something like this...
'We are always hearing that students should be pushed more towards Mathematics and the Sciences because this will make them more employable - well if employability is our main concern then we should seriously consider pushing students in to the porn industry - there is lots of money to be made there'
Sometimes we need to hear policies taken to extremes to think about their wisdom - and again it makes me reflect on this choice that we have about what we put at the top of our priority list - Economics first and then social progress or the other way round. We can argue that either way, the former will take care of the latter, but lately I am not so sure....
I didn't get to go to as many of these as I would have done as a delegate since I had exhibition hall duties, but there were some great sessions on offer. I did try to get to the session where there would be information on the changes to the mathematics courses to get a sense of peoples reactions. I made it at the end where I learned that it would be offered again because of the number of people who had not been able to get in! It is not surprising that there is interest in these changes since they are going to take some adjustment. I made the second session and was asked to say a few words about the curriculum review process to reassure teachers that we are fellow classroom practioners working hard to try and do the right thing and make the transition as smooth as posisble. If you haven't already read the latest reports on the OCC then I recommend that you do! You can start by reading the last blog post I wrote on this subject - Curriculum review. There should be another one soon.
It was great to see and hand out the new brochure we have for subject sites. If you are ever teling a colleague about the sites and want to show them the brochure then hit the 'Download our brochure' button at the top of this page.
As ever, like most of us these days, I am always on the look out for bits of mathematics to photograph. We came across this fabulous inflatable sculpture by the harbour which really caught my eye. With a distinctly parabolic appearance and lots of all kinds of curves, I thought it was another nice example of some mathematical art.
In search of symmetry - I have an underused instagram account where I post pictures of (often) lovely bits of symmetry that I see. Here are a few that I caught on my trip to Canada, including the fabulous, if a little brown, carpet designs on the exhibition room floor!
Thanks Toronto - it was nice to see you again