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Alternative Facts

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs siteAlternative Facts  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.


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This week a post on The Adventures of Library Girl (a blog by written by Jennifer LaGarde,  the Lead School Library Media Coordinator/Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist for New Hanover County Schools in Wilmington, NC.) titled Fake News, Alternative Facts and Librarians As Dedicated Defenders of Truth pushed me to think about the idea of Fake News and how librarians, classroom teachers, ICT teachers and schools in general have been working for decades to help students sort the wheat from the chaff when they are "doing research". 

IB schools, which are constantly working to inspire their students and teachers to be Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced and Reflective have been teaching "digital literacy", "digital fluency", "computer literacy", "digital citizenship", etc. So have many other schools and organization, of course, but I think that in the IB context, these attributes are more than skill sets.

Long ago (2009), Chris Betcher posted this slide set on SlideShare.net:



In her recent post, Jennifer LaGarde shares a poster with much the same information, designed to help students spot Fake News. (There are many helpful resources on the web - do an image search for "evaluating websites" )


I've always thought that finding answers to the questions asked in these slides or posters are very difficult, if not impossible, for a student (hm, yes, and sometimes even for teachers), for reasons I will not digress upon here. (I would be happy to write about that in another post.)
If you Google 'fake news' you will of course get more results than you could read in a life time - 172.000.000. Some are more enlightening than others, and many, I'm sure, are "fake" - studies, webpages, reports, and news about news.
However, I can recommend a few:
  • Joyce Valenza has written an excellent post on the School Library Journal blog. In Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world, she writes that "Our kids need new types of filters. Beyond larger notions of information literacy, I see the case for a specific focus on news literacy. Not as a lesson of good vs. bad. Not as an attempt to pitch traditional media against social media or peer review against popular publication.  Not through the examination of hoaky hoax sites. And certainly not as a one-of, checklist type of lesson for a 9th grade social studies teacher in September...This is a new landscape from the one we taught in even five years ago. We need new compasses for navigation." She shares this TEDEd video by Damon Brown which offers a student-friendly explanation as well as strategies for analyzing news sources:

This story on the BBC News site, Cambridge scientists consider fake news 'vaccine' on 23 January 2017, offers some interesting ideas for teachers to consider adding to their digital literacy lessons. " "Misinformation can be sticky, spreading and replicating like a virus," said the University of Cambridge study's lead author Dr Sander van der Linden. The idea is to provide a cognitive repertoire that helps build up resistance to misinformation, so the next time people come across it they are less susceptible." " Another story about the Cambridge research on the Huffington Post  adds Dr. van der Linden's thoughts that “The idea is to provide a cognitive repertoire that helps build up resistance to misinformation, so the next time people come across it they are less susceptible.”" You can read a more detailed description of the study, and download the report at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication's web page.

Computational Thinking for All Educators

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: Computational Thinking for All Educators.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.
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Recently there has been a lot of talk about "coding", and about the difference between "coding" and "programming".  In several of the articles I read discussing these issues, a free Google online course was mentioned:  Computational Thinking for Educators.  So I went to investigate.  The "real time" experience of this corse is over, but all the materials are online, and you are welcome to explore it at your leisure as a self-study program.  The course was designed to help Humanities, Math, Science, and Computing educators integrate computational thinking into their curriculum.



The course is divided into these segments:
  • Introducing Computational Thinking: What is CT? - What is computational thinking, where does it occur, why should you care, and how is it being applied?
  • Exploring Algorithms - Walk through examples of algorithms used in your subject. Recognize why algorithms are powerful tools to increase what you can do and that technology can be useful for implementing and automating them.
  • Finding Patterns - Explore examples of patterns in various subjects and develop your own processes for approaching a problem through pattern recognition.
  • Developing Algorithms - Increase your confidence in applying the computational process to a given problem and recognize how algorithms can articulate a process or rule.
  • Final Project: Applying CT - Create a statement of how CT applies to your subject area and design a plan to integrate it into your work and classroom.
It guides you from the beginning to see the material you are already teaching through the conceptual lens of computational thinking. As I worked through the course, I thought that probably most of the ideas/activities presented would not be new to IB teachers.  What would be new is the paradigm shift in naming what you've been doing in your classes as "computational thinking" - perhaps a new conceptual understanding for you!
This is a chart from the first segment of the course, which illustrates this shift:

screen shot from Computational Thinking for Educators

Let me expand on that idea by enlarging on a fragment of IB text: "Conceptual understanding is a significant and enduring goal for teaching and learning in IB programmes.


photo in the public domain from pixlbay.com
"A concept is a “big idea”—a principle or notion that is enduring, the significance of which goes beyond particular origins, subject matter or a place in time (Wiggins and McTighe 1998). Concepts represent the vehicle for teachers' and students’ inquiry into the issues and ideas of personal, local and global significance, providing the means by which they can explore the essence of a subject.
"Concepts have an essential place in the structure of knowledge. They require teachers and students to demonstrate levels of thinking that reach beyond facts or topics. Concepts are used to formulate the understandings that teachers and students should retain in the future; they become principles and generalizations that  can use to understand the world and to succeed in further study and in life beyond and outside of school."

There is a "companion" website at Exploring Computational Thinking (ECT)  which hosts "is a curated collection of lesson plans, videos, and other resources on computational thinking (CT). This site was created to provide a better understanding of CT for educators and administrators, and to support those who want to integrate CT into their own classroom content, teaching practice, and learning."  It includes more than 130 lesson plans and  demonstrations aligned to international education standards, and videos showing how Google uses CT and the 7 Big Ideas from the CS Principles.

Two other fine free, self-paced online courses created by Google are Power Searching and Advanced Power Searching.

Not so secret ingredients in learning with technology

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs siteNot so secret ingredients in learning with technology  I've re-posted it below.
Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.
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Part of my morning routine, after looking through email, is checking through new Scoop.it and Flipboard postings.  I often have to check the date a story was posted originally, because even though it is "new" on the sharing sites this morning, it may be "old" news, and has been shared and re-shared again and again, only now turning up in the thread of a subject or person I follow.  That's what happened this morning: an interesting title caught my attention scooped by Nik Peachey onto Learning Technology NewsResearchers Hunt for ‘Secret Sauce’ of Digital Learning Success - an EdTech Magazine story from March, 2015.  But never mind, it's still relevant, and interesting.



Subtitled "A new report studies what worked and didn't for five districts' digital learning strategies" Frank D. Smith wrote about a 2014 report by the America’s Promise Alliance’s Center for Promise. The study is titled "Wired to Learn: K-12 Students in the Digital Classroom," examining how five school districts implemented digital learning strategies to help students succeed in the classroom and how those initiatives performed. Hence the use of "secret sauce" in Smith's blog post title!  (If you're unfamiliar with the term, read this post at AllBusiness.com).


The report's publishers write that it "explores digital learning as a strategy to improve student classroom experiences, and highlights the efforts of five school districts across the United States as they use technology to reshape the traditional K-12 learning environment.  Our research findings illustrate how carefully planned and implemented digital learning initiatives can powerfully impact how students learn,” said Jonathan Zaff, Executive Director of the Center for Promise.  'Identifying innovative, yet practical ways to involve students in meaningful teaching plans that meet their individual needs and strengths is critical for creating positive pathways toward graduation.' "

The study's five important points for tech integration in schools are:
  • planning and investing in bandwidth and wireless connectivity to power educational technology
  • providing ongoing professional development opportunities that equip educators to effectively integrate digital learning and employ new instructional approaches
  • restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning
  • developing creative strategies by connecting with stakeholders outside of the district, and
  • using data systematically to improve learning and instruction.
As is so often the case, serendipity was at work in my mail box: two unrelated sources expanding on the same idea at about the same time.  A few days earlier,  my email alerts for the IB OCC Web 2.0 in the IB classroom forum postings had brought these lines from Barbara Stefanics, reminding me of the IB Teaching and Learning with Technology documents: online at Teaching and learning with technology and a summary pdf at Teaching and learning with technology: An executive summary (PDF). (Visit my own OSC post about this document.)

Interestingly, the IB also lists five points illustrating that "IB schools benefit from sharing common understandings, policies and frameworks to develop their own concepts and choose the things that will work best with the IB curriculum. These things and concepts are presented here in this series as “IB technologies” to model the idea that the distinction between things and concepts aid in thinking about technology and how it functions in our communities":

  • evident but seamless in the curriculum
  • accessible to all learners, used to facilitate classroom environments that are inclusive and diverse by design, and useful in enhancing curriculum design and lesson planning
  • adaptive to many contexts: cultural, physical and educational
  • supportive of intercultural understanding, global engagement and multilingualism—specific hallmarks of an IB education
  • helpful in fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content.
As you would expect, the points come from different perspectives, but work well together, and indeed, are often the same concept expressed differently. "Evident but seamless" means "planning and investing" accompanied by "ongoing professional development".  "Using data systematically" is "fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content".  "Accessible to all learners" is "restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning".

Is there a "secret sauce" for the approaches to learning with technology in an IB classroom? Well, I think there is a "sauce", but it's not very secret. There are reports, documents, blog posts, videos, conference presentations, ad infinitum, in addition to schools full of undocumented experience. Like many good facets in good cooking, a "successful" "digital" implementation in  learning  takes research, communication, collaboration, organization, reflection, creative and critical thinking, and time.


Further reading on this topic:


Wired to Learn: K12 Students in the Digital Classroom. A white paper from the Center for Promise at America’s Promise Alliance. 2014.


The integration of technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Summary developed by the IB Research Department based on a report prepared by Lucy Cooker, Charles Crook and Shaaron Ainsworth The University of Nottingham April 2015.


The Integration of Technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Final Report. Dr Lucy Cooker Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Nottingham Charles Crook Professor of Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham Shaaron Ainsworth Professor of Learning Sciences, School of Education, University of Nottingham. Also Pedagogical practice and technology integration in the Diploma Programme in IB World Schools, Paper presentation by Lucy Cooker (presenting), Charles Crook (presenting), Shaaron Ainsworth, at the European Educational Research Association Conference, 2015.


4 Reasons Technology Based Learning is Integrated Into the IB Curriculum. H International School, July 2016.


Promoting inquiry through technology. IB Community Blog, December 2015.


The role of technology in IB programmes, Sharing the PYP Blog, December 2014.


The Global Search For Education: Got Tech? IB Schools in a Virtual World. Huffington Post, October 2014.


Use of Technology in Secondary Mathematics, Final Report for the International Baccalaureate.  Paul Drijvers, John Monaghan, Mike Thomas, Luc Trouche, 2013.