A COVID-19 adventure

On February 3rd 2020, our school closed almost without warning. My family had left home on January 24th in order to take a weeks holiday by the coast in Vietnam with my parents in law who had been visiting us since just before my birthday.

On the last day before the holiday I had attended a meeting where we were told that there was an 80% chance that the campus would not open. By that time there were 5 cases of the virus in our city and the news of the outbreak in Wuhan had been on people’s minds all week.

The day we flew, all of us were already paranoid so that we didn’t leave the house for the day and wore masks all the way to the airport and on the flight to Vietnam.

As the holiday week progressed, we were told that the school would be closed for two weeks but staff needed to be back in school order to deliver online learning. This later evolved to an acceptance that no one would be allowed on campus – a rule brought in by the municipal government.

During the weeks holiday in the last week of January, the situation in China appeared to get worse and worse. We were glued to the BBC news app and watched as the UK FCO closed the local consulates and upgraded their travel advice all the way to do not travel unless it is essential.

Towards the end of that  holiday my wife and I were already worried about going back. With the change in the advice from the UK FCO, the clearly escalating situation, and the stories we were hearing from friends about food being cleared out of the supermarkets, we didn’t feel comfortable heading back but were worried about the stance our school was taking in initially insisting we come back.

Eventually the decision was taken out of our hands as our return flight to China was cancelled as the Vietnamese government took the decision to suspend all flights to and from China.

And so began our first 7 weeks of teaching and parenting away from home and away from school. During that initial 7 weeks we moved from Vietnam to Thailand because our Vietnamese visa was due to expire soon after our holiday and we knew we had 30 days visa free in Thailand as British nationals. Surely 30 days would be enough?

After 30 days we found we were still not going back and so we moved back to Vietnam after some issues surrounding visas which meant an aborted early morning trip to the airport in Chiang Mai.

I am sure that anyone reading this who lives in a house where both parents are working full time and have two children under 5 and has any experience of isolation/social distancing under the current COVID-19 pandemic will instantly understand the pressures that this situation presented. How do you both work full time from home and also look after small children that need constant supervision?

The added difficulty for our family in those first few weeks was that we didn’t know when we would be asked to come back for school reopening. It seems silly to write now, but at the time we thought we would be back to school in a few weeks at most. We didn’t want to be too far from our schools timezone so that we could stay in sync with the school timetable; if we went back to the UK we would conceivably have to teach at night and parent in the day. We also didn’t want to return to our school city because of the FCO advice and the stories we were hearing about the lockdown procedures being implemented in the city.

This left us planning week by week where we going to live as well as having to full time parent and work. Some weeks worked better than others, my wife and I finding a routine for ourselves and the children, even eating in the same local eateries for lunch and dinner. But that very much depended on the amenities that you found yourself with after making a decision to live somewhere based on booking.com info!

This continued until early March. All the while the disease appeared to be limited to China, we weren’t expecting a global pandemic based on what we were reading and our school began making plans to get teachers who were stranded outside of China back.

It is amazing how quickly the situation evolved in early March and it’s also incredible how different the picture looks with hindsight. In order to remind myself of the situation I was in I wrote much of this post on the plane back to the UK on March 25th.

In early March, we were informed that the school was planning to reopen and that staff who were not in their home country should aim to come back by the end of March. In order to see how the re-entry process went, the school Principal, who had also been out of China, was to return first and if that was successful the Site Based Leadership Team were to return followed by other “third country staff”.

After a successful return to China where the Principal picked up a direct flight to Chongqing from Bangkok with Lion Air my wife and I booked passage on the same route along with some other colleagues who were also stranded in “third countries”. At the time, in the middle of March, we were living in Hoi An in Vietnam and felt that we could easily get back to Bangkok from there to pick up this direct flight. Our Principal was also able to be picked up at the airport by school HR and taken straight to their apartment to begin their 14 day home quarantine.

Soon after however, it was clear that other staff were having some issues over their flights and it turned out their flights on the same route had been cancelled. Ours were still scheduled as initially Lion Air cancelled flights only to 31st March on that Monday (we had booked on the Sunday night) but by the Friday of that week (20th March) they had expanded that to 30th April.

So the Principal’s experience quickly became obsolete and the plan of having a guinea pig to see how re-entry procedures to China went became obsolete. The Principals return turned out to be the smoothest and easiest of all those who returned because the situation changed so rapidly in the last two weeks of March, when it became clear that the COVID-19 epidemic had expanded into a pandemic.

After our Lion Air flights were cancelled, the only options from Bangkok were via Chengdu or via Guangzhou. There were no flights to China from Vietnam since our original return flights from our holiday on 2nd Feb got cancelled.

When you are living it, a week can be a long time but when you think back on it it can seem very short. Memories become compressed and it’s easy to forget the feelings of anxiety that you live with in slow time when everyday you worry that the situation may change.

That week after we booked our China flights on the Sunday on the same route as the Principal, it seemed quite natural to be able to fly on 27th March so we could have our second week of quarantine in the Easter holiday.

My wife and I had already learned how difficult it was to plan and teach our own classes, deliver our eldest daughters online learning and parent both of the children well all at the same time, so when discussing our return home to China we knew that the only way we could manage a home 14 day quarantine without the distractions of any outside space was to plan the quarantine period in the holidays. We had expressed this desire as soon as we were asked to come back because we had already been having the conversations.

Now in light of our current actions I am sure that some will interpret our reluctance to fly earlier as us not wanting to go back at all. This is not the case but we felt at the time that we had to make the best decision for our two children.

It’s hard to get your feet in someone’s shoes. A colleague expressed concern by telling me why they thought our plan to quarantine at home during the Easter holidays was a bad idea because they felt we wouldn’t get a break. It was hard for them to understand why quarantining in the holidays was going to be the best break we could get! It meant that our children would benefit from not having two parents constantly torn by the demands of their needs the needs of the school. It meant that we would only have one week of work where we were trapped in the house with no outside space and no where to really separate work and play.

Being responsible continually for other people and placing their needs above your own, continually is a very hard thing to understand until you have had to do it.

Two days after booking our initial return flights from Bangkok to China we found the same airline had cancelled our colleagues flights on the same route. This was Tuesday 17th March, only a week after we were told the school plan to get everyone back and four days after the Principal had successfully made it back on the same route.

On Wednesday 18th March we were told by our landlady in Hoi An, that airlines were cancelling flights out of Vietnam. She was concerned about us being able to leave the country. Remember that there were no direct flights from Vietnam to China? Well now there seemed that there was going to be no flights anywhere else.

Faced with the looming realisation that we might get stuck in Vietnam we found our anxiety rising. Particularly as we already had an exit flight back to China from Bangkok. That evening that we got the news from our landlady, we booked an air Asia flight for the coming Saturday from Da Nang to Bangkok.

The next morning we woke up to find that flight cancelled. This was Thursday morning 19th March.

More airlines closing. More panic. We found tickets for a flight leaving to Bangkok a day earlier – leaving on Friday 20th March. It was more dear but we had passed counting coins at this stage. This was also the day that our Chinese nanny, after waiting for weeks for us to come back, resigned so she could find other work.

There’s a pandemic. You are separated from your home nation and from the nation you are resident in. Governments are making last minute announcements. Airlines are cancelling flights. It is hard to stay on top of the information. You live with anxiety constantly about the changes, about what is going to happen. This is on top of already emotionally, mentally and financially challenging “home-work” circumstances that we had lived with for 7 weeks already.

The next morning, Friday 20th March, we woke up to the news from the FCO that Thailand was bringing in new immigration requirements. Our flight was that day and we had no way of meeting the new requirements. We went to the airport with bated breath. Unsure if we would be able to check in. unsure if we would have the correct paperwork. Unsure if we could immigrate into Thailand.

Thankfully checking in went smoothly , although that entire check in procedure and exit from Vietnam was one of the tensest moments of my life. At the airport every flight, bar ours, was cancelled.

When we arrived in Thailand we received news that our Lion Air flight on 2nd April had also been cancelled. After panicing to get out of Vietnam back to Thailand to be able to get our flight back to China we no longer had a flight back to China.

We couldn’t wait around any longer hoping things would work out. We could see that the sand was shifting around us. The travel picture was changing. Immigration requirements were changing. Information you had on one day was obsolete the next.

If we booked a flight there was no guarantee that it would go. Plus because of the increasing expense of flights, we needed to trade off economical flights with leaving as soon as possible, before the situation changed further.

A delay of 24 hours would push prices up further. A delay of 24 hours would leave us more exposed to the risk of sudden changes in flight schedules and immigration policies.

We seriously felt at risk of being trapped in Thailand with our two small children during a global pandemic.

This was a real risk that we couldn’t afford after 8 weeks already of living out of bags while parenting and working.  We had initially packed for a one week holiday. We needed to get home and we needed support with the children so we could focus on work.

We also had no clarity on what the quarantine procedures would entail for us. Our Principal has been able to go straight home and quarantine at home, which would be manageable if we could do it in the Easter holidays but as we saw over that weekend, that rapidly changed. With no direct flights back to our city, there was an increasing chance that teachers would be held in quarantine in hotels in other cities that they flew into. it wasn’t clear who would be responsible for these costs.

We booked refundable flights back to the UK and waited. Over that weekend we began to see the challenges of no direct routes. Flights were available via Guangzhou, Nanning and Chengdu. These were clearly different and by the time recommendations came to not go via Chengdu people had already booked flights on them. Some colleagues ended up being quarantined in a hotel there. We also heard that families were to be separated for the two weeks with the children being quarantined with their mother. By Friday 27th March it was clear that home quarantine was not an option.

It was not the time to wait. We had to make decisions based on the best data we had available. In the future you may look back and think you did the “right” thing, or you may look back and think you didn’t. In the here and now there is just no way of knowing. Often when you look back your perception of the events is changed so it’s important to be clear with yourself in the present moment what your reasons are.

On the plane home on Wednesday 25th March I wrote:

Sitting on this plane I still feel anxious. I am relieved too. Relieved to be getting my kids back into the UK where their grandparents want to see them. Back to the UK where I have been amazed at the deep support network and its ability to collectively find a solution. But I am anxious. For me the anxiety has now changed. No longer anxious about getting trapped. I’m anxious about what my employer will say. I’m anxious that I’ll be jobless and that I’ll lose my bonus. I’m anxious that my actions will damage my career. I’m even anxious that I can’t now access the internet, so accustomed I have become to reading the BBC news hourly, sending and receiving messages like never before. Constantly connected in my hours of panic, I’m now unused to being disconnected.

The day after we returned the UK the Chinese government announced that it was closing its borders to all foreigners except diplomats, a sensible thing to do when individuals and companies were disregarding the governmental advice to limit travel to essential travel only.

On Thursday 26th March the Thai authorities brought in stronger lockdown procedures including road blocks and checkpoints. There was a possibility of further flight cancellations and stronger shut down measures. Those who waited may be forced into being stranded for a long time. If we hadn’t booked our flights back to the UK and rebooked to China we would have been stuck in Thailand and facing the national lockdown there. I am sure we would have managed but it wouldn’t have been great for our two little ones.

Unfortunately, I think that often teachers and school leaders become so focussed on learning, that losing learning time can be the worst thing in the world. Forward planning becomes narrow and very short term, long term planning almost obsolete, or very rare. Maybe it’s worry about accountability to parents. Maybe an inability to think, plan and articulate long term scenarios. Maybe it’s a lack of training.

In this scenario, I wonder if more would have been achieved long term if more time had been taken to adequately train staff in the short term and plan for the long term instead of assuming it would all be over in a few weeks.

Perhaps we should have had a short, medium and long term plan.

It’s easy to say that in hindsight though.

eLearning on a hairpin

Some great advice for managing online learning

Our campus closed on February 3rd 2020, although effectively it was the 24th January when all the students and teachers went on holiday for the Lunar New Year.

In this post I want to outline how I have approached eLearning, the tools I have used and how I have used them, along with my perception of how students have recieved them.

My thoughts cover the period from the 3rd February until the end of March 2020 and are based on needing to get to grips with a new approach, with little to no training, amidst some personal challenges that I will outline in a later post.

Our school closed with almost no warning and we were provided with voluntary training (which I attended during the holiday) on ClassIn which we didn’t use (but looks very good), followed by one day of prep on Monday 3rd February before diving into delivering the full program.

My classes have already become fairly routine driven. I have a method and I stick to it. This is partly because I juggle a lot of different responsibilities and having a repetitive plan takes some of the strain away, which is good for my students because they don’t benefit if I am constantly stressed out.

I found the initial switch quite easy as my routines could transfer quite easily into an online environment and for the first two weeks we were not required to hold live classes.

Quizlet

I have been using Quizlet a lot over the last few years and have completed construction of key terms decks for the entire 2016 IBDP biology course and the current CAIE IGCSE biology course. Links below:

Links to my IGCSE Quizlet decks
Links to my IBDP Quizlet decks

I use Quizlet in a variety of ways. Any activity can be used in class or at home but I focus on the learn activity for students to pre-learn vocabulary before starting new concepts. In my classes, students who complete this task quicker can work through the other learning activities to overlearn the words.

The live activity makes a great team starter to review prior learning and can easily be combined with share screen on Zoom. The gravity and match activities also make good starters that have a competitive edge for individuals. Mostly I use Quizlet to pre-learn vocab and access prior learning. This formative assessment is great for review as well.

All in all Quizlet is hugely versatile and can be used in any sequence. For a vocab heavy subject like biology, I would argue it is essential.

Kognity

One of the best moves I think that we made last year was to move to digital books. There was a variety of reasons for this. Procurement of books in some countries is not always easy for a variety of reasons.

Kognity acts in the same way as a normal textbook and I have always been keen for my IGCSE and IB biology students to develop independent note taking and writing skills. They need to be prepared to be independent adult learners and need the skills to be able to self study. I use the connect-extend-challenge routine regularly in class and so have made sure to give students time during their eLearning to continue with this exercise when encountering new concepts and topics.

But Kognity has two features that make it exceptionally better than a physical textbook: 1) the practice section for students 2) the assignments and statistics sections for teachers.

The inbuilt practice functions of Kognity lend themselves to formative assessment really well. Not only do students have to take questions to mark a section of the textbook as having been read, but they can self assess through strength tests and strength battles. In the strength tests students can pick any section of the textbook and take 5 multiple choice questions on that topic. In the strength battles they can compete against a friend or the “bot” to see who can answer the questions first. Combined with Zoom breakout rooms the strength battle tool is a great way to get kids interacting in small groups. I have found that they are more comfortable talking and socialising in smaller groups than in front of the whole digital class.

I use these as starters to access prior learning and may spend a fair bit of time getting students to review this material together or in groups. Using breakout rooms in Zoom allows students to be grouped into pairs to do strength battles.

Teachers can set assignments in the form of sections of the textbook to be read, multiple choice questions or extended response exam style questions. These assignments can be scheduled, allowing you to plan for weeks at a time.

The statistics pages are very useful in allowing you to see how many questions students have taken for a topic and how many they have got right in total, easily allowing you to spot trends of topics that may need further teaching. In the statistics pages you can also easily see what assignments students have or have not completed and can also even see when students last logged into the textbook.

Zoom

Zoom was the biggest learning challenge for me during this period (and remember my wife and I are both teachers with a 3yo and 4yo at the time and not working from home but from random hotels – so there wasn’t a lot of time for personal CPD). I had used it a couple of times for meetings but now teaching one live lesson a week per class with it felt like quite a lot to learn.

Zoom allows you to share your screen so that you can take kids through a PowerPoint or explain instructions for using Kognity or Quizlet etc. You can also pause the screen share if you need to bring something else up, like emails, that you don’t want your whole class seeing. During screen share you can also add annotations, text and drawings, that you can save.

Combined with sketch pad this becomes a very powerful tool for “chalk and talk” where necessary.

Another feature of Zoom that I really like are the breakout rooms. Here you can assign students to “rooms” within the call so that they can work on individual of group tasks. You are able to enter and exit the rooms as much as you like, as well as broadcast messages to all rooms. Using breakout rooms I have students go head to head in strength battles, design Kahoot quizes for their peers or take the time to meet with students one to one or in small groups.

One of the things that I learned in my first few weeks was that Zoom lessons are not like normal lessons. Students may well have been sitting in quaratine or home isolation for weeks, not leaving the house and certainly not seeing friends. I think it is important to create as many opportunities for our students to chat to one another and play games. I find that breaking them up into smaller groups in Zoom rooms helps them get over some shyness and actually connect with each other.

Seneca

I discovered Seneca while on this learning adventure and has been a fab resource for my IGCSE class, adding something different into the mix.

From the teacher side it allows tracking and setting of assignments like Kognity and is free.

From the student side it encourages recall through self testing and therefore thought to improve retention. I introduced it to students during the eLearning period and they said they prefer Kognity.

Kahoot

Combined with Zoom this is a fun tool. Give students the opportunity to make their own Kahoot quizzes to test each other. These can be made in breakout rooms, by pairs or small groups of students. Or teachers can deliver their own quizzes, like running a Quizlet live session.

Screencasting & Sketchpad

I have one live session a week where I run some of the activities outlined above. I also use the live lesson for checking in with students to find out how they have been getting on with the other asynchronous tasks that I have set.

I find that screencasting is quite difficult to get right without a silent room, good microphone, or space to annotate and draw effectively – my mac track pad with sketchpad is not ideal. Sketchpad is a great tool though when you can get it to work!

A final word of advice

Go easy. Even if you were lucky enough to prep, you and the kids need time to adjust to a new scenario.

Be mindful that the students situations may be very different. Some kids may be looking after siblings. Some kids may have to share a laptop with other siblings. Don’t set so much work and don’t expect it all to get done. Be compassionate and try to understand the issues your students are facing.

This piece of research, although aimed at managers, is useful for teachers, particularly the first point. It is important to understand the students individual situations. I wish I had appreciated this more at the start.

Finally, your students may be isolated away from friends with limited opportunities to socialise. Give them the chance in your live lessons to talk and play. Zoom breakout rooms are great for breaking the class up into smaller groups. Give them a collaborative task to get on with and let them catch up with their friends. This is a scary and stressful situation for all of us.

Scratching at the bark

In my first term of teaching in 2008 my mum was hospitalised.

She had been unwell for several years. There were some really quite alarming events surrounding her health for us as her family over the years leading to her hospitalization, and there were lots of strange explanations from GPs who clearly, in hindsight, failed to diagnose her illness properly.

Mostly, as her family, we were quite confused.

Until she got admitted.

When she was admitted, her condition in intensive care rapidly declined, until a specialist finally correctly diagnosed her issues and was able to treat the underling problems.

During her alarming decline, my dad called me to say that this may be it and that I should come and be with her.

After 6 weeks in my job as unqualified, untrained teacher I had to request leave, to go up to London, and to visit my mum in hospital. I wasn’t sure how much time I needed and I said so.

After a few days staying in London with family and visiting my mum at UCH in Euston I had a call from the “Undermaster”.

I don’t really remember much about the call except that he asked “Is your mum really dying?” and said “The kids are missing you”.

At that stage, at 25, it was enough to make me feel guilty and with my mum’s condition improving I felt the I needed to go back. I felt the pressure to go back. Infact in 2008 I was lucky to have a job as a recent MSc graduate.

I had to go back. After all who would look after my classes for one more day? What would happen to my students learning if I stayed away even one more day to help my Dad, to spend time with my mum who I very nearly lost.

In hindsight, and soon after my mums recovery I am ashamed to say that I even questioned my own motives for going to see her. “See, she was fine!” “There was no need to go.” “I just wanted an excuse to not be in work”. This was the self talk I gave myself for a few years until I had convinced myself that she wasn’t really dying when I went up to the hospital in 2008.

My sister put me straight recently. Her memory was very clear. Mum very seriously nearly died.

I realise now, that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Mum’s situation could have not recovered and I may not have gone. What would I think about myself then? It is very easy to look back at an event and to look at is skewed. Facts just don’t seem the same after an event as they did before.

Unintentionally or not I was manipulated. My senior colleagues’ concern was not for my welfare in light of my mother nearly passing. He just needed me back in work to keep the ship running. Thats true. But it is also true that this motive was probably obscured even to himself.

Teachers really are amazing people. Mostly, they go above and beyond all the time, continually making personal sacrifices in the name of the learning, and of their students. And they can be easily manipulated into doing so.

But where does that stop? When do we draw the line? When is it more important to focus on the wood than stare at the trees or even scratch, up close, at the bark?

Often I think about the focussing illusion and how it impacts our working lives as teachers. I think that this is a major factor in our working, day to day decisions to sacrifice for learning. We spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week, thinking about other people. How to help them learn, how to differentiate for this kid, how to hook in another, how to enthuse, how to inspire, how to bend ourselves backwards and spend all night making whizzy animations on our PowerPoint just to engage a student.

When we are in this mode, learning is the MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL TIME.

Unfortunately, the downside of this thinking like this is that we lose the ability to recognise when learning isn’t the most important thing in the world.

Learning is important in so much that it benefits an individual and enriches society by having well educated individuals collectively. Often we place our students learning above our own wellbeing but no one can keep sacrificing themselves indefinitely.

Eventually you get to a point where you have to stop going the extra mile today, so you can keep walking tomorrow.

In this age of the coronavirus, I hear stories of teachers complaining about loss of learning time if schools close. The focussing illusion is rearing its head again. We are anchored on learning. We think learning is more important than keeping people alive and keeping people healthy.

In this age of the coronavirus I hear other Diploma Coordinators complaining about their teachers who, after staying away from a virus hit country will not come back as the dust settles. They forget that this is now going on all over the world. They are anchored on their schools, on their concerns.

For international teachers, the game has changed. The rules have changed. No longer is it just about school closures in one country. It’s about global travel bans. Border closures. Indefinite quarantine. It’s about family members on the other side of the planet who are now also exposed. It’s about the limited and decreasing availability of flights. It’s about uncertainty about when this may be over. And it will be over, eventually.

And yet, while this forest grows round us, some of our school leaders are focussed on one tree and mending it – school closures and getting them reopened. They forget about the rest of the forest that has grown up around them. They forget about how some of their staff may now have other considerations, they didn’t have a month ago. They will even ignore government advice in their pursuit of re-opening a school.

My mother said its barmy. The UK government wants to self isolate over 70s for up to four months. She can’t understand why COVID is so different to SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, Ebola, that causes the global government reacts so. It is hard to comprehend.

COVID is way more infectious than any of these other diseases. It can be transmitted without the individual evening knowing they are infected. Super infectious and super transmissible. Thankfully it isn’t as deadly as Ebola, but is probably 10x more deadly than seasonal flu.

I just hope that school leaders, in their eagerness to re-open schools and get learning on campus up and running again, step back from scratching the bark and look at the wood and the myriad obstacles it presents for their staff.

I just hope that school leaders can be strong enough to allow their teams to be humans when they need to be.

The Core: Extended Essay in the DP

A summary of my week hosting #DPChat focussing on the integration of the extended essay into the rest of the IBDP.

With much thanks fo the many educators who got online and joined the discussion that week and provided the ideas that I have collated here. These are the people to follow on Twitter:

@JeffersonLars @Elfdaws @ExtendingEast @agudteach @rajashree_basu @trigrama @malikah_sheriff @AdrianvWJ @shoey_sarah @geogeducator @IdeasRoadshow @zoebadcock @bear48

Why is the EE important?

At the most basic level, it’s good preparation for university.

Students get to follow an interest (lacking in some subjects) develop excellent research skills, work one on one with their mentor (communication, self development) fine tune essay writing skills for further Ed.

I think EE is a great project that is an opportunity for students to formally connect content, concepts, and context in a meaningful way. Investigating, researching and reporting a detailed evaluation of diverging viewpoints is a life skill.

As a former IB student, the two takeaways that you keep for life are: 1) learning about learning, the ATLs that make you a lifelong learner; and 2) knowing about knowing, which comes from #TOK and builds up your critical thinking skills.

Ideas for structuring the EE

We’ve just kicked off the EE with our EEco @MalinMeiLing . We started with a fair to celebrate the end of the grade 12s. They gave tips to grade 11 & their essay review. Next was the intro workshops explaining process & looking at global issues. Next week we’ll have fair with subjects represented.

#DPChat As a mentor it seems to be my job to teach my #IBEE std how to reference and use the library databases and walk them through appropriate EE structure. Students didn’t even know about the reflections they need to do.

I think as a minimum the cohort should have some workshops in the library about how to use online databases and how to reference properly using the different conventions. I don’t believe this currently happens at all.

We have an EE coordinator (@ExtendingEast) and she does an incredible job of structuring the EE for both students and supervisors, including introductory carousels, support workshops, and an EE day for focused writing and research #DPChat

HoD’s present mini-workshops (20 min) based on subject area. 1/2 our #G11 students choose which 2 they’d like to attend; the other 1/2 attend a research/writing workshop in the library. The next day, they switch. This all takes place during mentor time in the morning.

We hold sessions in the beginning working on organization and research skills. We have whole group and supervisor check ins. Reflection on the process is a skill specifically taught right after the first interaction. Citation specific session is held at the end.

On #EECelebrationDay, our G12’s came dressed as their #EE after submitting their final drafts. Special thanks to the supervisors who guided them & the parents who fed them! Congratulations, G12’s! #buzzbuzz

Ideas for integrating EE into the DP

We have EAL learners and for support and development of ATL skills of research , thinking and communication we use some templates in the initial part to induce and develop these skills. We have core lessons where explicit strategies for skill development are taught

New Lang A syllabus = new opportunities for the EE. The focus on global issues is a great segue for students to start thinking about a WSEE. Can also be more seamlessly connected to both TOK & CAS. Loving the layers of learning here

I think the knowledge framework from ToK is a great resource for World Studies EEs, helped students to clearly understand and article the different approaches of their two subjects.

This year I had students do a practice ToK presentation on their EE topic. This helped them (I think!?) to frame their topic as a knowledge question, and think a bit more about their methodology.

I think we need to structure the EE for all students in task-specific goals for each step of the EE. Break it down into doable segments with frequent meetings and strict deadlines. ATLs should be developed BEFORE DP, but we have to remember, these are NOT yet responsible adults.

We just did this service workshop with @cbkaye . The MISO method is a great way to ask a lot of questions in a short period of time. Connect your EE to #SDGs or #service and you could most likely combine your CAS and EE in an awesome way. Is this ok? Or is it double-dipping?

It’s great! In my experience consulting for #IBO they loved when there was intersection between EE and CAS. More connected learning through different vantage points and experiences.

I love sentence starters. As often know the information but may need help getting sentences and paragraphs started.

#DPchat I suggest adding one more discussion point to the #IBEE discussion: What is the role of librarians in support students with their #EE? Librarians can provide important training to students and advice on academic honesty. #lksw2019 #intlchat #sisrocks #IBDP

For EAL students doing the EE I’d say it’s actually not so different? I’d suggest going over the assessment criteria along w/ subject-specific expectations from the EE guide. I’d also want to discuss research practices to be sure they’re drawing upon quality sources …

In many cases those could be in their best language, but also pulling a lot from research in target language (probably English).I’ve been doing the EE, but realized recently I need to support the handling of sources better: finding/selecting, reading, analyzing/evaluating, using.

Integrating TOK into the IBDP

A summary of my week hosting #DPChat focussing on the integration of TOK into the rest of the IBDP.

With much thanks to the many educators who got online and joined the discussion that week and provided the ideas that I have collated here. These are people to follow on Twitter:

@tuckbarrows @alexbclearning @agudteach @simunderhill
@melloluiz2 @natalie_carman @jdesegonzac @soloelsie
@ian_huffaker @richard_royal @malikah_sheriff @AdrianvWJ
@JungnitschM @UzayAshton @steppescience @Elfdaws


The general consensus was that TOK integration is thought to be important for furthering students understanding of the subjects they are studying and also for helping students inquire more meaningfully about their subjects. A focus on TOK in subject groups enables concept centered and inquiry focussed teaching.

The need to justify ideas and insights is central to most classes and that integrating TOK terminology into our lessons on justification presents a great opportunity.

DP teachers need to understand they’re more than single subject specialists. Too many DP teachers see themselves as “just X” and separate themselves from TOK.

Teachers cannot understand TOK any better than the students if they have had no specific training on it. They think it is the subject whenever a problem is debated. So to use GMO in foods or not becomes a TOK link. This is NOT TOK and saying this is unhelpful.

Ways to integrate TOK

  • Train the faculty on TOK. The Cat 3 “TOK for subject teachers” is a great way to do this when deployed as an in school workshop.
  • Link TOK to CAS by asking TOK teachers to explain and discuss early in the DP year the term “ethics” in context and how this knowledge can be applied by students when reflecting on one of the CAS learning outcomes: “consider the ethics of choices and decisions”.
  • Collectively brainstorm the essay titles with the DP teachers. Can be conducted informally and allows for rich discussion. Insights from different subjects can also help the advice we give students.
  • During whole faculty  time, create an opportunity for DP subject teams to complete a blank template for their AOK’s knowledge framework. Promotes great discussions and helps Ts to learn about TOK reqs.
  • Carve out common planning time for TOK teachers and subject teachers. Have open conversations and invite staff into your classes is a great way to start a conversation.
  • Have a small TOK icon to signpost RLSs and TOK concepts in student materials in other classes- this is a visual reminder for all of us that there is potential for making TOK connections which we flesh out together in class.
  • Concept based teaching is one good way to incorporate more TOK into lessons. I also ask my students what they are currently studying in TOK & try to build lessons around that. Good way to get our kiddos involved, too.

Resources