Friday, September 28, 2012


Good conversation matters. It changes everything.

Today I had the most amazing conversations with two teachers at my school.

The first conversation I had was with our International Baccalaureate coordinator.  This is my third year working in a school that offers IB courses and I decided it was past time to gain a better understanding of  exactly what International Baccalaureate is and what role the library can play in supporting this rigorous curriculum.  Mr. Thompson enthusiastically detailed the origin of the International Baccalaureate, the curricular areas included, and the methods of instruction and assessment.  I love the inquiry based model of learning associated with the IB program. This was of learning is very different than the way I was taught as a child and the way I was taught to teach as an adult.  In my experience as a student and teacher most concepts were taught in isolation through worksheets or endless pages in a textbook.  The inquiry based model for learning enables students to discover and learn within the context of a project.  I hear a great deal of talk in education circles about Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship as key components to learning.  The IB program in it's very nature meets these three learning components.  One component of the IB program that  would be valuable for every student to experience is the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

The theory of knowledge (TOK) requirement is central to the educational philosophy of the Diploma Programme.
It offers students and their teachers the opportunity to:
  • reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and on areas of knowledge
  • consider the role and nature of knowledge in their own culture, in the cultures of others and in the wider world.
In addition, it prompts students to:
  • be aware of themselves as thinkers, encouraging them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge
  • recognize the need to act responsibly in an increasingly interconnected but uncertain world.
As a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge, TOK is composed almost entirely of questions. The most central of these is "How do we know?"
It is a stated aim of TOK that students should become aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases, regardless of whether, ultimately, these biases are retained, revised or rejected.
TOK also has an important role to play in providing coherence for the student as it transcends and links academic subject areas, thus demonstrating the ways in which they can apply their knowledge with greater awareness and credibility.

The International Baccalaureate mission statement speaks volumes and other schools should take a serious look at their own mission statements in comparison.

"The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. 
To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. 
These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

The second conversation I had was with one of our social studies teachers while I was installing some software on his computer.  When working on computer issues in classrooms, I always make it a point to ask teachers how they are doing and how their classes are proceeding for the school year.  I was thrilled when I didn't get the standard obligatory remark, "Everything's good".  Instead, Mr. York proceeded to tell me about how he was stepping outside of his comfort zone and experimenting with using four different teaching styles to see which one(s) the students responded to best and performed at a higher level.

Let me stop here for just a moment and tell you a little about Mr. York.  First, he is an amazingly talented teacher.  He is just a few years away from retirement and his standard method of teaching is lecture based. While we all know that lecture is generally a big "no-no" in the education community there are exceptions to this rule.  Mr. York is one of them.  His lectures are intriguing and captivating. I would love the opportunity to record all of his lectures so that generations to come can learn from him long after he has retired.

With that said, I will now continue my story:  Mr. York then shared with me that he was influenced by what I had said during our mandatory "Develop Your PLN with Twitter" professional development session.  I had shared with the staff my experience as a teacher near retirement and how connecting and growing my PLN through twitter had completely transformed my professional and personal life.   He said it caused him to take a look at where he was and reflect on his teaching methods and he decided to try something new and different, including a version of the flipped classroom.  I am excited about his willingness to step out and do something new to reach students. I can't wait to hear the results of his experiment.

I am so grateful for these two conversations.  I challenge you today to start a real conversation with a co worker. You may be surprised what you find out!

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