Education? MacDonald’s or Michelin Star

Sir Kenneth Robinson in his TED Talk in 2010 compared most education systems standardised form to McDonalds standardised fast food and pointed out that we should be aiming for the breadth and variety of Michelin star restaurants. In this TED talk he points out that the industrial model of education that is most commonly still used; which is linear and conforming needs to change to an agricultural model that is organic and that with the right conditions would allow students to flourish.

Project based, Problem based and Challenge based learning are ways in which we can give students the opportunities to discover their passions and interests, allow teachers to customise and personalise the education of students and help students (our future workforce) to develop their own solutions. By building these opportunities for meaningful learning into the curriculum, students will be more engaged, will build thinking and communication skills, learn how to collaborate effectively and be more accountable for their learning.

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Challenged Based Learning is very similar to the above two but focuses on a real life problem that the student has identified and tries to solve. The action that comes from the inquiry should then lead into making a difference and it should be ultimately shared with others.

How do I use these learning methods in my own teaching?

As a IB PYP teacher I do have the opportunity to use project and problem based solving in my teaching because our curriculum allows us to be flexible and to use the methods that we believe best suits our students learning requirements.

We structure our inquiry using Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle in that we drive the initial inquiry with a provocation or questions and then we tune in the students by structuring learning experiences that will help the students understand some of the concepts and lines of inquiry that we are focusing on. We then let the students find out and sort out their understanding often through project based learning.

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For our How We Organise Ourselves unit the Central Idea is:

Government systems and decisions can promote or deny equal opportunities and social justice.

The tuning in part involves Thinking Routines that allow the students to think about the concepts, guest speakers, discussions about issues and government organisation.  They then looked at some of the current issues that were happening in Ukraine, their own countries and around the World. At the same time we were reading Shadow by Michael Morpurgo, which is a novel about an Afghanistan boy who enters the UK as an illegal immigrant. The students then carried out a personal inquiry into an aspect of the story that they wanted to find out more about. Some of the projects were:

  • Immigrants coming into Europe via Greece and Turkey
  • Comparing health systems between Afghanistan and the UK
  • The Afghan War both in the 1980’s and 2002.
  • Sniffer dogs
  • Women in Afghanistan

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The benefits of project based learning such as a high level of interest, planning, communication of their findings, engagement in learning, integration of literacy, self directed learning, differentiation, self management skills and learning about real life issues were all present.

In maths we often use problem based learning such as in our computation unit where the students chose a project of their own design which they have to research and do all the calculations. These boys worked together to budget for buying their own island. Lots of maths and high engagement.

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During the Exhibition we have many students working on challenge based learning projects because we ask that they incorporate a local issue into their inquiry. The students create their own questions for research using the PYP Concepts. They use both primary and secondary sources, take Action and present their findings at the PYP Exhibition to other students in the school, parents and teachers. One student looked at the treatment of ponies in local parks, others looked at how tech trash is dealt with in Ukraine and took responsibility for the safe disposal of batteries in the school. One student who is a Crimean Tartar wanted to raise  awareness of the ways in which Tartars have been discriminated against and he presented all adults and older students with a video on the problem. The students enthusiasm for these projects, their engagement in their learning and the action that they take is challenge based and extremely motivating for all.

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Most important are the reflections of the students as they show what the students have taken away from the process:

“The biggest thing I understood during the exhibition is that you can change something in your community or the world that you feel passionate about  by taking action. The action can be big are small it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that by that you changed something a little and if everybody will do that something big might change.” PSI Student reflecting on Exhibition 2017

This is what makes this kind of learning worthwhile.









Always learning to transform students learning

I remember when the first IT classroom was created in my school in Bristol, UK. We were so excited; up to that point we had had a couple of desktops in our classrooms and students would get to use them when it was their group’s turn. Now we had more than 30 computers that we could access twice a week and a dedicated TA to help us when things went wrong – which they did frequently! That was back in 1999 if I remember rightly. We used the computers predominantly for either word processing or to create graphs from either simple graph software for younger students or teaching IXL to the older ones.

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Now I have 15 Chrome Books one for each student. They have access to them all day and are even allowed to take them home for homework purposes. Tech is no longer taught once or twice a week as we integrate technology into all subjects and teachers are expected to be able to use technology to enhance student learning. When I consider the access that students have to information and the ways in which they can learn and present their learning it truly is a whole new world.

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So we have now reached a time where the expectation is that we integrate technology and we now need to consider the ways in which it really helps our students to learn. Is it just a substitution for paper and pencil or does it transform their learning?

I decided to consider how my students used technology during the PYP Exhibition and track that on the SAMR Model.

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During the Exhibition students did a lot of research, trying to research the questions they had generated about their issue. To do this they needed to use both secondary and primary sources. The students have been taught research skills and note taking skills so they are used to using the internet to find a range of sources. By using the internet they have access to a much wider and more up to date range of sources. For some of their issues they would find it almost impossible to research using books only and so I feel that this would fall into the Modification part. All students are expected to use primary sources but for some this was their predominant method of research. One student looking at discrimination in the dance world based most of her research on interviews, for these she used Skype or face to face interviews and recorded the interview so that she could transcribe them later, she would never have managed to get all the information without this. Many of the students recorded interviews and also used Google Forms to collect survey information or to use for interviews. By using Google Forms they were able to reach a much wider group of people and had a lot of data that they could analyse.

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For their presentations the students used several technology tools to share their work including; Google Slides, Infographics and videos, as well as using Google Docs for their reports. As part of the Exhibition they included arts projects which they collaborated on using Google Docs to share ideas and comment and Audacity to edit the music they needed for group musical presentations.

Mary Beth Hertz says:


  • How will technology help your students better understanding content–will it push them to deeper understanding?



When I look back on what they achieved I believe that there was a mixture of the different skills called for by the SAMR Model. Using Google Forms for surveys, Audacity for their music, Skype interviews and recordings would all come under the Transformation part of the model as all of this would have been almost impossible without the technology. Because of these tools they were able to dig deeper into their understanding of their issues and so learn in more depth.

In the Samr Pechakucha video they talk about how the SAMR model shouldn’t really be a linear model but a cycle. This I would agree with as we need to give students and teachers time to ‘dabble’ with new technology as and when it is introduced. There will also be times when substitution is what is required e.g. publishing a story on a Google doc but we should be at all times aiming to give students the opportunities where possible to redefine so that can build a deeper understanding of their learning.

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Resume using infographics

I have been using a Word document for my resume. It is fairly bog standard, with the only colour being my photo. It actually covers two pages but the second one is even less interesting!

Sarah Browne CV 01.2015

I spent a lot of time exploring different types of infographic resumes and was impressed by all the different features, colour and graphics. They were certainly eye catching!

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But I began to realise that most people with these colourful, interesting resumes were either in the technology or graphic design business.

What would be appropriate for someone in education? Someone looking for an elementary teacher post? 

Looking at TES and other similar sites it seems that most teachers are still using Word or Pages and that the general feeling is that education, particularly elementary is still very conservative. I then started to look at what previous Cohorts have done with this assignment. Many of them seemed to have the same feelings as me; that you need to find the fine line between safe and stand out.

So here is my new look resume.

It has colour; possibly too much. I have tried to include some different design features such as for interests and the colour blocks. I have deliberately used mainly muted colours so it isn’t too garish. I wanted to include at least one chart so I chose one for teacher experience. I have tried to keep the font uniform and taken care over the formatting. I used Piktochart and Google Drawing.

Sarah resume

Here is the link in Google Photos Resume 2017

My thoughts one the new resume:

  • It’s colourful, possibly still too much.
  • It has all the main information I want on it.
  • It still seems too crowded
  • Should I have used bullet points for all the lists?

Will I use it?

Probably not as it stands. It still certainly needs more work (when I have more time!) and I would like to get some feedback from recruiters so will definitely ask my Admin what they think. If I was to use it I would probably buy the upgrade for Piktochart so that I can access more features.

Feedback very welcome!!



Infographics and Exhibition

We are now in the Exhibition process, a busy time of the year. This means that I want to make sure that anything I use in class is useful for Exhibition but doesn’t involve too much new learning as the students already have a big workload. I am limited to apps that are free and that are compatible with Chromebooks. I have used infographics before, mainly Google ones such as Google Sheets and Lucidchart. For our place value unit we used Google MyMaps. The students planned and budgeted for a trip and plotted it on a map of the World. They could include pictures/ videos of where they were visiting and add data to each place.Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 15.59.19

Lucidchart is a Google App that you can use to create flowcharts. It is a good way of the students showing their understanding of the Exhibition process or of the different parts of their issue. This example here is a student showing her understanding of her Function concept question.

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This one is a student’s understanding of the Exhibition process.

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I will be introducing Piktochart to the students over the next few weeks. During the process they can use some of the infographics  to share their data after they have collected it, as an alternative to Google Sheets. We will explore some of the charts as it offers some interesting alternatives. They can embed it into their electronic presentation. Unfortunately I have found that it is difficult to print most of the infographics so for their display boards we will look at creating a poster using Piktochart as these can be printed. I have had a go at creating a chart from a former student’s Exhibition.
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This includes different elements of the Exhibition Process; passion, issue, concept questions, action etc. The students can create their own posters using any of the tools that we have used. I am sure that given some time to explore Piktochart and Lucidchart they will be a lot more adventurous than I have been!

It’s all in the way that you tell it!

I have to admit this week’s assignment made me feel a little panicky as I have very little knowledge of digital story telling and have never really addressed it with my students. After reading some of the articles and websites about digital story telling I now feel that I have a better understanding of what it is and some ideas of how I can use it in my classroom. Of course I have used some aspects of digital storytelling but only on a simple level; images and story or music with the images and story.

Especially helpful were fellow Coetailers Michelle Beard  and Dan who led me towards some wonderful resources. I also enjoyed watching the different stories Michelle has told about her sons and the different techniques she has used.

So where do I start?

What is a digital story?

It is a story that combines a story of any kind with digital content, such as images, video and sound. It is a continuation of the oral tradition of storytelling that has been around for thousands of years; communicating thoughts, ideas and traditions. Most importantly in my opinion is that it needs to connect somehow to peoples experiences.


What does a digital story need?

  • It should combine narrative with digital content.
  • It needs to have some kind of emotional pull
  • It needs to think about the audience’s perspective
  • It needs to have a purpose
  • Where possible it should be a positive voice.
  • Critical thinking as the writer has to carefully think about how to combine the audio and visual techniques to get their message across.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY it needs a story!!

Possible resources to use

  • Storybird– a good resource for reading and writing stories with images
  • Pixton– a comic strip resource
  • Screencastify- using Google Slides with video and sound or images.
  • Powtoon– animation
  • iMovie- video, images, sound

The choices seem endless but some of the tools are quite expensive so I feel it is best to look for ones that have a free or lite version such as Storybird and Screencastify. I also am limited to tools that can be used with Chrome books as those are the computers my students mainly have access to.

How will I use digital storytelling in my classroom?

We have just recently had a visiting author Marc Levitt at our school. He has been talking to the students about writing stories and shared his website on Third Culture Kids with my Grade 5’s. We have already begun by looking at some of the stories that other students have shared on the website. His technique is to get the students to tell their stories orally first and to ‘interview’ the student by getting them to really think about how they felt when they had that experience. What could they see? Where were they exactly? What sounds could they hear? How did it make them feel? A great way of connecting to their experiences.

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So we have started to explore their own stories orally and our next step will be to create a story map. A story map helps the students to see that there can be ups and downs in a story. The story has to emotionally grab the viewer. I will then get them to work on the story script. I particularly liked Jason Ohler’s idea about using a story table.

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I think then I will get them to use Screencastify to tell their stories digitally. I will share Michelle’s example with them.

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Looking through the work that my students have been doing I can see the opportunities for them to use digital storytelling as a way of communicating their ideas and stories. After Exhibition we do our How We Express Ourselves unit and we treat this almost like a mini exhibition where they can choose any aspect of the transdisciplinary theme. This looks like a great opportunity to develop the idea of digital storytelling further and maybe branch out into some other ways such as through video and maybe looking at some mash ups to give more inspiration.



Presentation simplification

It is that time of year again. PYP Exhibition began this week. The next 7 weeks will have many ups and downs both for the students and myself but it will all be worth it when we get to X-Day on April 13th and the students will be able to share their learning and efforts with the whole school community. The Exhibition really involves the whole community as we all have to be there to support the students. The teachers that work with them in different subject areas, the mentors and the many members of staff who are willing to be interviewed and surveyed as the students carry out their research.

We have begun this year by getting the students to put themselves on the Fullan Learning Curve.

Fullan's Learning Curve

This shows their feelings about the Exhibition and as they can move their post-it at any time during the process we will be able to see how they are feeling at different times.

Another important group are the parents as they have to support the children with their work as well as their emotional ups and downs. So we always have a meeting with the parents in the first week of Exhibition. At this meeting we try to cover different aspects of the Exhibition, the parents role etc.

I decided to look at the presentation that we have used for the Parents in the Exhibition meeting. We have used this presentation for 2 or 3 years and just tweaked it a little each year.

As you can see there is a LOT of information in this presentation. There are also lots of photos and images that make the presentation very BUSY!

I decided to try and simplify the presentation by:

  • Taking out a lot of the text. From my reading I learned that the audience don’t really need a lot of text. They should be able to read everything from a distance, thus making it easier to listen to the presenter and the details can be given in a handout. On some pages of this presentation, such as the Process page and the assessment page we have writing that it is almost impossible to see. So instead of straining to read this tiny print the parents can listen to what we have to say.
  • Only including images that were completely relevant to the presentation and that helped to get the message across to the audience.
  • To try and incorporate CRAP into my presentation.

Here is the new presentation. I think there is a big improvement and it is a lot more accessible to the parents.

Unfortunately despite all my efforts to have a clean, simple presentation for the parents to enjoy there was one aspect I had not considered: what would happen if on the day the power wasn’t working. So unfortunately on the day we had to present without an actual presentation and so you are the first people to actually see it! Oh well, there’s always next year.