I have been living in the barrio of Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the past two weeks with my new colleagues hashing out the re-structuring of Think Global School’s academic rigor to better prepare students for the demands of the International Baccalaureate Programme (for those of you not familiar with the IB Programme you can find more information at their website). This blog will document my travels, trials and tribulations of teaching multinational students (digital natives) at an internationally traveling mobile boarding school. It is amazingly exciting to be a part of cutting edge education using technology to fulfill the aims of education — which is to create a more sustainable and peaceful world. After sitting next to our founder last night Joann McPike she was explaining her hope that one day these children will be implementing the skills they learn at TGS as ambassadors for their countries at the UN. Now certainly that may seem like a lofty goal, but the new staff here at TGS is embracing the idea of “what if.” What if we flip flop education and the world by teaching these students to be compassionate, empathetic, resilient, lifelong learners who can change the world for the better.
After our first two weeks in country we have democratically sorted out and arranged a number of new protocols and ideals that we wish to fulfill as the educators and role models for these very talented children. The process was led by our new and extremely talented and intelligent Alun Cooper who has led us through some very tough decisions and agreements about what are roles are going to be. At first, coming from a public school background in the state of Virginia in the United States, I found the discussions too staff heavy and awaited a command decision from the top. When culminating our professional development I couldn’t be happier with the collaboration, understanding that because of our input we are all much deeper invested in the successes of our school. These ideas revolved around making important connections between the TGS Core Values and the IB Learner Profile, but also dealt with numerous issues and important goals for the staff and students alike. Sally Booth, anthropologist and head of curriculum at TGS, led us through the ideas of Understanding By Design, Collaborative Cross-Curricular Learning and Formative and Summative assessment. Mike Hourahine, head of technology, brilliantly designed, implemented and instructed us on how to use the open source ThinkSpot which is the “building” for our tech-based school. We learned and worked out the concept of a flipped classroom, and worked to design our own curriculums that involve student-driven, technology enriched learning environments. The teachers agreed that we cannot possibly possess more knowledge that the internet and that the resources for student learning are endless on the internet. Our goal is to develop “digital natives” that are more proficient online researchers whom have the skills to communicate these ideas through writing, speaking (languages offered are English, Spanish and Mandarin), and social media.
Most memorable from our time in Professional Development, which is usually the most dreadful thing for a teacher to hear, was our discussion on assessment and the purpose of interim reports and report cards. We concluded that report cards should be geared to the students and not the parents. Whilst they are written in a way to be both accesible to students and parents the target audience is in fact the student. Here, and in many boarding schools, we are training these students to become independent and autonomous learners. Our goal is to create reflective free-thinkers who take ownership of their own learning experiences, and the student-centered report cards should do just that!
We have a mix of students from 20 different countries ranging from Aruba and the Bahamas to Russia, Afghanistan and Palestine. The students are warm, intelligent, funny and extremely engaged in the purpose and overall mission of TGS. It is a rare opportunity, for us as teachers, to see students so concerned with the success of the school, as they know the success of TGS is because of their hard work and accomplishments.
As previously stated, this blog will document this journey on the edge of changing our paradigm of education through teaching multinational digital natives to become global citizens, thinkers and sollutionaries!