Headlining... Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning

In recent months, and most likely for the rest of 2020, the importance of lifelong learning has come to the forefront. We have watched scientists from around the world work together to unlock the mysteries of COVID-19. We have had nightly cheers for medical professionals as they work tirelessly to find the best treatment methods for those who need care. Governments have had to implement new policies and strategies for the benefit of the citizens they govern. Activists have risen to the call for equity and social justice. Teachers have had to reimagine their school year and what learning and teaching looks like under lockdowns. The lessons learned and discoveries made, no matter the field, all demonstrate that what we know one day may be different the next. Commitment to lifelong learning is now more than ever a relevant and necessary part of our lives. The following inspirations can be used to generate a focused discussion with your staff on being lifelong learners.

Lifelong learning through a living headline...

 Malala Yousafzai full of 'joy and gratitude' after graduating from Oxford

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012 after campaigning for girls to be educated in the country. She went on to become the youngest Nobel peace prize winner in 2014.      The Guardian - 18 June, 2020

The Oxford dictionary defines lifelong learning as “an approach to education which promotes the continuation of learning throughout adult life”.  As educators, this is an aspiration we share for each and every student. While yes, this approach to lifelong learning can be about academic institutions, apprenticeships, certificates and degrees, it can also be about being open-minded and willing to embrace new perspectives, try new hobbies, sports or even a new genre of literature. 

Malala Yousafzai has defied all odds to gain an education and now she wishes to use her education to make the world a better place.  

To consider the importance of lifelong learning, let’s look at a blended learning activity that could be shared with your MYP teachers. 

  1. Ask teachers to post their own definition of ‘lifelong learning’ on a Padlet wall 

  2. Teachers can then Pair and Share their definitions as well as examples of lifelong learning in their personal lives.

  3. Ask teachers to read the headline from The Guardian and watch the video of Malala’s address to her 2020 graduating class. 

  4. Discuss how lifelong learning emphasizes the development of individual capabilities and personal learning competencies. At the heart of lifelong learning is the idea of encouraging students to learn how to learn. It is inherent in the IB’s approaches to learning. 

  5. Using the approaches to learning as a framework, ask teachers to develop an activity that could inspire students to become lifelong learners.

Lifelong learning through a living headline...

Black Lives Matter: Auckland teacher goes viral with lesson on racism

A Kiwi primary school teacher has proven it's possible to tackle the topic of racism with kids as young as 6. In a video posted to her Instagram page, Samantha Richards shared how she discusses differences between people with her Year 2 class. In the video, she explains to the kids that it doesn't matter how people look on the outside, rather it's the brain and heart that matter.  

New Zealand Herald - 11 June, 2020

The IB mission statement “...encourages students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”  Robert Harrison, former Head of Programme Development for the MYP wrote in the IB Community Blog, ‘that other people, with their differences, can also be right’ as high-minded and possibly even wrong! It is hard to disagree with these sentiments, when if we’re honest, we often believe that other people with different opinions and worldviews are not right! We always prefer to hear views that are in alignment with our own. Harrison then went on to share how the founders of the IB believed if young students came together in a school setting with a shared mission, then perhaps a better and more peaceful world could be the future. In other words, if young students are taught the values of collaboration, open-mindedness and diversity, they may not fight wars or engage in racism as adults. 


Do you think the IB can be viewed as a beacon of hope during these times? 

By addressing the issue of racism and Black Lives Matter with our students, can we help to create a better, more peaceful world?

To consider how lifelong learning can help students understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right, let’s look at a blended learning activity that could be shared with your MYP teachers.

  1. Ask teachers to view the video of the teacher in New Zealand teaching her Year 2 class about racism through the concept of human commonality. 

  2. Ask teachers to respond to the following open-ended questions on a shared platform such as Google Docs or Padlet.

How is this NZ teacher inspiring lifelong learning in her students?

In what ways does she address human commonality explicitly AND implicitly?

  1. Ask teachers to watch the following video from Kids on Racism - being 12. 

  2. Discuss in groups of three, strategies that could be used by classroom teachers to continue and/or start these conversations with their students.

  3. Draw out the skill of active listening and ask teachers to share how that looks, feels and sounds in the varying grade levels of their classes.

  4. Ask teachers to read the article from Psychology Today entitled, “Active Listening Techniques of Hostage and Crisis Negotiators". 

  5. Ask teachers to select one technique or strategy of active listening they would like to try and have them pair up with a colleague to practise the strategy and vice versa.

Lifelong learning through a living headline...

Teachers reflect on the difficulties of emergency distance learning during COVID-19 to help inform what they will do better next time

Seven teachers reflect on the difficulties of emergency distance learning during COVID-19 to help inform what they'll do better next time.

Mind/Shift - 14 June, 2020

An aim of the IB is “to develop lifelong learners who have the ability to adapt in a rapidly changing society.” In order to achieve this aim, IB teachers help students to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills they will need to participate actively and responsibly in a changing and interrelated world. Ultimately, students are taught to become independent learners who can recognise relationships between school subjects and the world outside and learn to combine relevant knowledge, experience and logical thinking to solve problems. This attitude is also reflected in the IB learner profile which promotes the values inherent in internationally-minded students across the world.

If IB teachers are expected to achieve these aims for their students, it goes without saying that they also need to achieve these aims for themselves. It can be argued that not only IB teachers, but all teachers have demonstrated how capable they are in adapting to a rapidly changing COVID-19 society. Many teachers had to turn to online learning and teaching over a weekend!

The hallmark of an IB education is the ability to reflect on lessons learned. Here are some reflections from seven teachers on what went well with online teaching and what they will do better next time:

“I really have appreciated and enjoyed the live lessons, whether they've been actual lessons or we've done ‘Fun Friday.’ So it's a whole game hour. All we do is review something we've done throughout that throughout the year, but in game format. They love it.”

“I would have started live classes sooner because we had a lot more kids coming and engaged with the material once we started doing live lessons.”

“Allowing students to unmute their mics and kids chat without an agenda at the start and end of classes was valuable. I think that's magical to just give kids that time.” 

“Recording my own video lessons rather than relying on pre-existing materials was important. Kids come to school for a lot of reasons and a big reason is for the teachers. We can't be content with other people just showing videos or why do kids even need to come back to school? So I'm trying to give them me as much as possible.”

“I think just better practice. Right now I'm so focused on making sure kids are OK that I hope that I can do a better job of making sure that they're still learning the things that they need to learn. ... I really struggled with read-aloud, not having the kids there. So I think I'll talk to some of my teacher friends who have found a lot of success with reading aloud over distance learning. I've just abandoned it. One of the best parts of our days just wasn't working, so I'm trying to figure that out.”

“The Seesaw app made it easy to communicate with both parents and students. So they're doing an assignment, they can click a record button and I can listen to them while they're doing the assignments. … I've gotten videos of them doing whatever the assignment was.”

One teacher anticipated the school closures a week ahead of time and planned accordingly. He took both his IB students and his English language learners to the computer lab daily to get familiar with the technology he expected to use. That preparation allowed him to continue instruction without delay when schools did close. “Fortunately, I think what I've done has gone pretty well. It's been a combination of planning and luck. I don't know what percentage of either one,” he said. “It also helped that I use a fair amount and technology in my instruction. Not an extraordinary amount, but enough that this wasn't new.”

“I would have preferred to be able to spend more time with the English language learner newcomers because those are the students — That's one of the vulnerable populations that's going to take the biggest hit from missing these last few months of school. I think most students are going to be fine, right. But ELLs, special ed students and students who face other academic challenges, they're going to take a hit. So I hope that next year, whatever we do, that we look beyond equality and focus on equity so we can provide extra support to the students who need it the most.”

“I do feel like we finally started to get into a routine once we got into the distance learning … in terms of assignments and Google Hangouts, and we would do a weekly check-in. And so my students expected the same thing each week and that kind of normalcy was really important.”

“Typically, March is when you get to that sweet spot of the school year. ... I would have tried to get that groove going a little bit earlier, because we're just trying to hold on to threads right now.” “I would have hugged all my students as they left because I won't see them again in the same kind of capacity, especially because they're sixth-graders and moving on to middle school.”

“You could hook up someone's Internet, you can get them the laptop that they need, but if their home life isn't stable, if they don't have the support that they have at home, we are doing a disservice to our students expecting that everybody's on the same playing field in terms of their assignments and the support that they have to get those things done. And so that's been kind of eye opening for me because we think that education is a great equalizer … But when it's forced outside of the classroom it really reminds me that there are still a lot of inequities that need to be matched even back in the classroom, too.”

Read the full article here:

We hope these three different perspectives on lifelong learning have provided you with some food for thought. Coming next will be an exploration of how the IB learner profile can be easily adapted to a blended learning approach.

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