MYP Workshop Debrief

I just received the feedback forms from my first MYP Mathematics workshop that I led in March.

It’s mostly encouraging, although the few responses in the “Strongly Disagree” column really jump of the page.

  • One person strongly disagreed with the statement “Information was presented in a clear and organized manner.”
  • One person strongly disagreed with the statement “I gained a deeper understanding of how to achieve horizontal and vertical articulation.” (This was probably, overall, my weakest point according to the results.)
  • Two people strongly disagreed with the statement “I can use what I learned in this workshop to collaborate effectively with other teachers in my department/school.”

In general, the feedback was quite positive. 78% rated the overall quality as “very good” or better. 88% were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the workshop. Overall, I’m not too concerned if one or two people didn’t like my presentation style: I know it is impossible to please everybody. I also know that we (as a group) chose to focus on certain things, such as assessment, at the expense of others, such as interdisciplinary planning. It does concern me that two people walked away feeling that didn’t learn anything that would allow them to collaborate effectively with others, especially since the main thrust of many of my sessions were around using Zoho Docs to create and edit collaborative documents, particularly when it came to planning.

In the free response section, some of my strengths were listed as:

  • Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Listened to participants very well. Led discussion well and allowed time to cover topics participants needed to know about.
  • He obviously is an extremely organised teacher with very thorough methods of assessing his students. He was reactive to needs of the group, was able to answer (almost) any question that was set and clarified some of the less concrete MYP requirements (the unit question/significant concept debate)
  • He was very open to people’s ideas – and as result participants were very open to share and accept feedback. He did not allow arguments about assessment to go onto long.
  • Kept the group on task, listened to everyones point of view, accepted the times when someone disagreed with him and was always open to other people’s points of view.

Some of the suggestions for me:

  • Some people in the workshop kept having private conversions during the workshop which made it very distracting. I wish he had a creative way of addressing that situation.
  • differentiate the sharing session by grade levels
  • some of the participants were a little disgruntled that we started things and put them aside without unpacking them or wrapping them up (eg. the newspaper exercise). That said, the ability to share our work and ask numerous direct questions about our practise meant that something had to give…
  • Make a summary of what has transpired in a previous session before proceeding to the next session.
  • More time is needed sharing resources and actual units of work. More time spent on mathematics and less on general IB topics.
  • I thought the first day included too much introductory information about the MYP as this was a stage 2 course. (Not a big issue but this would be my only criticism of the course.)

Probably my biggest concern as the workshop leader was my midjudgement of time. As two of the suggestions point to, we didn’t have enough time to complete the task and then have a discussion about the task. I had hoped that a lot of that ‘unpacking’ would have happened in their own personal reflections on the session (I tried to incorporate a different Visible Thinking Routine for each session, both to model the use of VTRs and to give some variety in how participants were reflecting upon their learning).

Any ideas on how I can address those suggestions? My future workshop participants – next up: Kobe, Japan in October 2010; like one person said to me, I couldn’t have sucked that bad if they asked me to do another one! – will certainly appreciate it. So will I! =)

Google Earth in English, pt 2

A while back I wrote about Mr. Whatley using Google Earth as  a way for students to create their own ‘life maps’ in Grade 8. Here’s an example: Bloomability Life map (10MB .kmz file). This was also featured in our Speedgeeking session in February.

Now it looks like the Grade 8 Humanities class is going to use Google Earth to create a timeline (of sorts) of events worldwide that led to Vietnamese independence. I think it will be a great way to show the inter-dependence of events in France, the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam and how they collectively affected Vietnam.

March Madness!

ASB Unplugged Logo

No, not that March Madness…

I’m off to Mumbai today to attend ASB Unplugged 2010 at the American School of Bombay.

I’m back on Sunday and then off again on Wednesday to Beijing to lead a Category 2 MYP Mathematics workshop at Western Academy.

I’m back on Monday afternoon and then leave again early Tuesday morning to join our Grade 6 team on their annual trip to Cuc Phuong National Park.

Madness, I say… I better buy my lovely wife something pretty special for leaving her alone with 3 small children.

Image: My What Big Ears You Have by Frank Peters (CC BY NC ND)

Electronic Portfolios – A Short Survey

(I tried this before with no success. So here we go again!)

I’m sitting on a task force that is charged with the creation of an electronic portfolio solution for our school. We are defining the rationale behind using portfolios at the PYP, MYP and possibly DP levels and then determining what platform would best suit our needs in (trying to) creating an electronic portfolio solution for the school.

An important part of this process is learning what solutions are already being used at various schools. I have already contact a few people directly via Twitter (thanks @DearLibariAnn, @MaggieSwitz and @adecardy) but if you would like to add your experiences here, I would greatly appreciate it!

(If the form does not load on this page, it can be found here.)

A Criterion Based Gradebook

The Problem

I’ve searched everywhere for a digital gradebook solution that can handle the rigors of criterion-based assessment. The MYP isn’t predicated on percentages (how can you give an 84% for an English essay anyway? How does it differ from an 86%?) but rather descriptors of performance. A mark of 4 out of 8 doesn’t mean the student got half of the things correct; it corresponds to a description of the work. A good description of the nuances of MYP assessment can be found here (.pdf).

Since I couldn’t find a decent ready-made solution I decided to create one. I’ve tailored it to the needs of my school: we are a tablet PC school so I thought it would be nice to use the stylus to input the marks. I’ve also created several iterations for different MYP subjects to fit with their specific criteria and grade boundaries. The Math version is linked below. It’s nothing fancy; just an Excel document with a few macros (nothing malicious, I promise!). It gets the job done, though.

The Walkthrough

Summative Grades – This is for the major summative tasks. Each task may be assessed on more than one criterion so it is important that you input date and title for each criterion used.

Formative Grades – This is where homework can be recorded. You can also assess classwork on specific criteria or record results from quizzes. I was thining of the old +, √, – method here and used a numerical equivalent.

ATL Skills – Approaches to Learning, for the un-MYP among us, are specific study skills that are explained in detail through the program. I found it useful to track these ATL skills to better provide reporting data.

The Macros

At the end of each reporting period the teacher is required to determine at what level each student is performing for each criterion. To aid this, I’ve set up a simple sort macro which groups all of the same criterion grades together in chronological order. You can then return it to its original order by using the date sort. It’s probably a good idea to put in the reporting period headers and date first before sorting by criteria so that you have a place to put your final assessment.

The Disclaimer

Like all work on this site, these gradebooks are shared under a Creative Commons 3.0 Non-Commerical Share Alike license. If you find ways of improving upon this, I would love to know!

MYP Gradebook Math;
MYP Gradebook Language A
MYP Gradebook Language B
MYP Gradebook Humanities
MYP Gradebook Science

Implementation of Electronic Portfolios – A Survey

At UNIS Hanoi we have recently formed a task force to look at the best options for implementing electronic portfolios across the school. We currently use portfolios in our PYP and MYP years. We are looking for solutions – both in terms of pedagogy and platform – that will help us implement electronic portfolios across the school (even in the Diploma Program, which currently does not keep portfolios). If your school is currently using electronic portfolios, I would love to have your input. I have put together a Google Form (link below) to help collect information about how schools are currently using electronic portfolios. All responses are public and can be found at the second link below. Thanks in advance for your help!

Survey – Implementation of Electronic Portfolios

Results – Spreadsheet

Image: Anoto Digital Pen by Anoto Group licensed under CC BY NC ND

Twitter, Professional Development and MYP

This has to be the best weekend for all-around professional development – bar my MYP Workshop Leader Training – that I’ve ever had. And the best part: I very rarely left the comfort of my house. With the 21st Century Learning (#21CHK)  conference taking place in Hong Kong and the MYP Workshops (#MYP) taking place in Bangkok, I had my two main areas of interest covered. Add to that the webinar given by Dr. Helen Barret on e-portfolios, sponsored by Classroom 2.0, and I was set.

The MYP Octagon

This is by far the liveliest Twitter discussion on MYP I have ever seen. One aspect stood out in particular: How does MYP prepare students for Theory of Knowledge in the Diploma Program? Eric MacKnight weighed in with his feelings on his blog and he bring up some very good points about the implementation of TOK. A major concern is that “students have little or no experience thinking about the sort of issues that arise in TOK.” His solution:

So let’s solve two problems at once. A weekly or biweekly ATL course in the Middle Years program would provide an opportunity to address learning habits and skills explicitly, and to engage in the kind of age-appropriate discourse that would give students invaluable practice thinking about how they think, so that when they arrived for their first TOK class in Grade 11 they would resemble fish in water, instead of deer in headlights.

This is a very logical solution for the TOK issue except, as my friend and (ex-) colleague Adrienne pointed out “the idea of ATL as [a] separate course is directly in opposition of philosophy of MYP’s AOIs.” (emphasis added)

The MYP, when practiced conscientiously, is a very good program. It has taken me years to be able to write that sentence – when I first laid eyes on it in 2002, I hated the MYP. Part of the problem I had, I realize now, was that I was looking at it from a Diploma Program point-of-view. There were too many things that I felt it didn’t do to prepare my students for the content -heavy IB Diploma. I didn’t buy in fully to Interdisciplinary Units (IDUs). I didn’t fully understand the importance or centrality of the Areas of Interaction (AOIs). (In my defense, neither did very many other people. With the recent release of the document “From Principles to Practice” (.pdf 1.26 MB) it has become much clearer. This is a must read – cover to cover – if you are an MYP teacher.) In short, I was teaching my MYP courses like they were Diploma courses.

The MYP is not designed to be a pre-IB Diploma course. It’s organization and structure do not explicitly follow from or lead into the Diploma Program**. The only thing that seemingly binds them is the IB Learner Profile. But if you teach MYP for the sake of MYP, if you use the AOIs to give focus to your units, if you use significant concepts to forge links between subject areas, if you strive to integrate the Approaches to Learning skills into every lesson, students will be well prepared to tackle any content-focused Diploma course, including Theory of Knowledge.

Thanks to @melanievrba, @krea_frobro747, @BrianLockwood, @ericmacknight, and  @amichetti for a fantastic discussion. I hope we can do this again!

** – While the organization and structures of all three IB levels (including PYP) are all explicitly different, I would like to see the introduction of a common vocabulary between the three programs. That would make everybody’s life so much easier!

Status Report

A quick synopsis of things on my plate at the moment:


  • I’m planning the grade 10 trip to Sapa that’s coming up in a couple of weeks.
  • I’m working with MsMichetti to design/deliver an inservice to our fellow teachers about the new MYP Unit Planner. (Edit: I forgot this one first time through.)
  • I’ve got my Grade 10 Coordinator responsibilities to keep up with.
  • I’ve got MYP moderation samples to prepare.
  • Related to this, I’ve got quite a bit of marking coming in to allow me to finish up my MYP moderation.
  • I’ve got an MYP personal project that I’m supervising that needs finishing up.
  • I’ve got IB Math SL mock exams and exams coming up.
  • I’ve got a board presentation next Tuesday. (I’m not alone in this one but still…)
  • I’ve got 5 different preps to continue to plan and teach.
I’m going flat out at work, with no end in sight (at least until mid-April). I’ll make it to the end; I always do. But still…
Image: My 2008 by FredArmitage



It’s a shame that we’re just finishing up Quadratics Functions in my IB Math SL course today. After being pointed to the Radio Lab podcasts from NPR by my buddy Shane, I found this video on parabolas in the real world. 

It would be interesting to start the unit next year by doing the same pendulum experiment, showing them this video and then discussing the imagery that is shown.

If you were going to center an entire unit on quadratics around a single concept/idea/question, what would it be? Using the MYP holy triumvarate of Significant Concepts, Unit Questions and Area of Interaction focus, this video compels me to think of universal laws (SC), “Why are parabolas used in art and architechture?” (UQ), and Human Ingenuity (AOI).

(For the non-MYP crowd out there, what would be your theme of your parabolas unit?)