Innovation @ NIST

| Bangkok, Thailand Curated by NIST's Learning Innovation Coaches

Innovation Spotlight: March Media Mentor Month

In our ongoing effort to support healthy media use, this month we are celebrating Media Mentor Month! Media Mentor Month is an idea developed by educator Keri-Lee Beasley, the director of digital learning at GEMS World Academy Switzerland. The Media Mentor Month initiative helps bring focus to the digital and media literacy circumstances facing families today. It’s a great way to engage the whole family in proactive and productive conversations around media use in your home.

From Keri-Lee’s blog:

What is it?
Media Mentor Month is an initiative to help parents develop a positive relationship with their children around digital technologies. Just as we want to be mentors for our children in reading or having a healthy lifestyle, we also want to mentor them in their digital world too (see more details about being a Media Mentor here). The trouble is, sometimes we don’t know exactly how to go about that. Media Mentor Month provides parents with some ideas and strategies to help foster and develop that relationship.

Who is it for?
Anyone, really, but probably best suited to parents who are looking for direction to connect with their children around technology. Especially the ones who feel they only ever battle with their kids about being on screens too much (see more about that here).

When is it happening?
Ideally, March, so we’re all on the same page. Realistically? Any time that fits into your family schedule.

What do I need to do?
You can participate as much or as little as you like. Personally, I would love to see you share some photos of your family engaging in the challenges. Make sure to add the hashtag #MediaMentorMonth so we can follow your progress

You can find this on Keri-Lee’s blog “Tip of the Iceberg”.

Innovation Spotlight: Going Deeper With The Global Citizenship Diploma

NIST has been supporting students in their desire to complete the Global Citizen Diploma (GCD) since 2015. Recently, however, there has been a push to have a greater number students participate because, we believe, the benefits of going through the process are meant for all. What are those benefits? Well, the main advantage is that students develop the very useful skill of metacognition (awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes ie: thinking about your thinking). Being aware of what you think is an incredibly powerful skill, and it is not always easy to do. To help their peers ‘dive deeper’ into their understanding, the Student Steering Committee of the GCD developed the Metacognition Framework (shown below):

As the text in the middle indicates, it is all about developing new understanding. Most do this by describing an experience, making a connection, comparing it to other experiences, and then exploring other possibilities. Although the process just described is the norm, a student could start from corner of the framework and then link to the other three.

This might sound abstract, and perhaps it is, but it also challenges students to develop another key benefit of completing a GCD post; creating a narrative. It is the story behind the thinking that really brings about a true understanding of one’s thinking…and makes the reading of the posts that much more engaging. Luke, in Y11, wrote about his growth in an Intercultural Communication post that focused on his experience working in his grandparents’ ramen noodle shop in Japan. In his post he shows the significance of how language shapes how he interacted with customers. Anna, also in Y11, spoke frankly about her international education in a Global Understanding post. A self-proclaimed ‘Surfer of the Continents’, she has noted subtle but significant differences in cultures like the understanding of food sharing at the dining table in Asia versus the individual portions found in North America. Hana, in Y10, explored how her switch from gymnastics to dance has really helped her to find happiness in her Wellness post.

If you read one, or all three, of the posts you will get a true sense of what the GCD is all about. These students, and others, have delved deeper into what they have done and have truly grown from awareness of their thinking. That awareness gives them a better sense of self which, in turn, should serve them well in future pursuits, academic or otherwise.

Innovation Spotlight: Battle In Bangkok

On 2 February, 73 robotics students from around Bangkok and overseas gathered together in the Pongpanit Centre to battle for bragging rights and invitational spots at the 2019 VEX Robotics World Championships. Teams from International School Bangkok, NIST International School, Ruamrudee International School, Thai-Chinese International School, and Robo Buddy in Indonesia worked for months to design, build, test, and strategize in order to prepare to compete in this one day tournament.

Tasks for this year’s game, Turning Point, included launching balls at flags, flipping caps, lifting caps onto posts, and parking on raised platforms; it is quite challenging! More than just winning the games, the teams learn engineering skills and the importance of collaboration towards a common goal.

One of the NIST teams has been invited to participate in the world competition in April, where they can test their skills against the best in the world. We wish them the best of luck at the competition.

Innovation Spotlight: Computer Science in the Early Years

Coding. Everyone is talking about it. Experts are saying that we need to teach our kids to code to prepare them for jobs of the future. Many people say that computational thinking is now just as important as knowing how to read. But what about our younger students? If computational thinking is an essential skill for future careers, how can we ensure that all our students are exposed to these skills?

Coding is not just a skill, but also a literacy. Computational thinking is simply the ability to follow a step-by-step process to solve a problem. We do it every day in our daily lives- when we tie our shoelaces, when we make a sandwich or even when we get ready for school every morning. Algorithms, or step-by-step procedures, are a part of our daily lives and they don’t have to be taught using computers or robots. Unplugged activities, using physical, real-world objects, are a great way to introduce the idea of coding and programming to our younger students.

In the EY and Y1, we’ve had a lot of fun exploring communication skills and directional language through coding unplugged activities. This allows students to build mathematical communication skills through visual, concrete approaches. Learning experiences that involve coding enable students to develop skills related to mapping, the position of objects in space, and the relationships between different objects in space. Our younger students have learned to give clear directions, follow directions and develop critical thinking skills. While working together in partners and groups, they’ve developed their cooperative skills and gained greater empathy for others. Debugging requires a lot of persistence and analysis, which helps students increase their metacognitive skills and develop perseverance.  

This semester, classes in EY and Year 1 will be exploring Computer Science through experiences such as following algorithms in action songs and creating programs with event blocks and symbols, using checkerboards and large Lego bricks. Writing code to make a computer or person move or perform a task requires the programmer to be metacognitive about how to communicate effectively to bring about the intended actions. As students write code or give instructions, they are anticipating how their instructions will be understood and executed by a computer or other humans, something that requires them to become metacognitive about their mathematical communication. This then leads to a better understanding of the skills needed for coding online, when students can explore sequencing and conditional situations through apps such as Kodable.

Computational thinking is a part of our daily lives and even our Early Years and Year 1 students can learn to code!

Innovation Spotlight: Game of Life

In a recent Year 9 Individuals and Societies (Humanities) unit, students were given a fictional job and had to plan out a monthly budget for themselves. Each student had a different amount of income each month. Some jobs included fitness instructor, game designer, construction worker, janitor, etc. A full range of professionals and as you can imagine, some professions were not paid very well while others had a more generous income.

For the monthly budget, students had to decide on 10 wants and 10 needs. They had to research the prices of their wants and needs and budget accordingly. A part of this included primary research in the form of interviewing various adults to find out more about how they budget their lives.

Students created fictional social media accounts to document their life and the experiences they were a part of. This also allowed them to interact with other students that were also a part of the “Game Of Life”. Players were also able to provide loans and receive donations from each other.

During this unit, we each experienced a life changing event such as adopting an exotic pet (which costs more), a promotion (which provided extra income), an illnesses or injuries (which could be costly if the players didn’t take into consideration health insurance), etc. At the end of the unit the students were able to develop a better understanding of social economics, personal budgeting and personal responsibility through an innovative and engaging game based learning approach.

Innovation Spotlight: The Visual Paragraph

The students leaders of both the Student Council and Global Citizen Diploma recently, before the winter break, received some ‘professional development’ with visiting communications expert Kendal Zoeller. Mr. Zoeller focused on what he calls the choreography of presenting using a tool called visual paragraphing. He asked the students to reduce what they wanted to communicate to two or three things, or impact statements, and then physically move to a new position when changing from one impact statement to the next.

To illustrate, the Global Citizen Diploma students have been emphasizing the idea of metacognition (critically thinking about one’s own thinking). While presenting this topic they might:

  • begin on the right side of the room with the definition of metacognition,
  • then move to the left side of the room to provide an experience of how it works,
  • and finally show how the use of metacognition helps in deeply understanding an experience

The students left the session with a greater understanding of the importance of not just what and how you present material, but the significance of considering the manner and positioning when presenting. Our Student Council and GCD students should all benefit as a result.

Innovation Spotlight: Computer Science Education Week 2018

Students across the school at NIST, from the Early Years to Year 13 diploma students, have been creating dances and games throughout Computer Science Education Week. Classes from the Elementary school have teamed with Secondary school students to create their own dance parties and participate in Hour of Code events. Our Year 13 Computer Science students created a curated list of activities for their fellow secondary students, and the younger students loved the activities chosen. Year 12 and 13 Computer Science students also ran Hour of Code sessions for some Year 7- 9 classes.

In the Elementary School, some students have created their own games using Scratch and have started learning Swift through Apple’s Swift Playgrounds, others have participated in coding unplugged activities, and many are learning to code using Kodable. Even our youngest students in the Early Years are learning to code, creating their own movement programs with giant Lego bricks! Our students are learning to code both online and offline and are developing the skills needed for the future of work in 2030, such as effective communication, creative and critical thinking, problem-solving and people skills.

Try your own Hour of Code activity. Better yet, create something as a family.

What will you create?

Innovation Spotlight: WeLearn – Teachers Teaching Teachers

Last Friday, during the In-School Education (ISE) day, teachers were busy participating in the inaugural WeLearn Conference. Hosted by the NIST Learning Innovation Coaches, the intention for the day was to tap into the skills, talents, and knowledge that our teachers possess.

The day began with two excellent keynote addresses. The first, by Year 13 student Ainsley Vanzyl, spoke about the joys and challenges of taking a year off to travel and learn with her family. Her talk, and workshop presentation afterwards, definitely provided food for thought as we consider NIST’s Vision of providing individualised and authentic learning pathways for future students. The second keynote was given by Learning Innovation Coach Ben Sheridan. The theme of his talk addressed how best to use professional capital; a phrase coined in the book by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan. Entitled, ‘Together We Are Better’, Ben spoke to how Professional Capital (the multiplier effect of Human Capital x Social Capital x Decisional Capital) helped in his decision to get just the right tattoo. It was a great send off for the day as teachers then attended sessions hosted by their peers to improve their professional capital.

Over 50 sessions were hosted throughout the day. The topics of the sessions included everything from exploring robotics to hosting effective meetings to brain science to using images to take notes. Wellness sessions concluded the day, allowing teachers to choose how to unwind. Participants could choose to be actively engaged in a sport, learning about new books, being mindful in a yoga session, or cooking food for dinner. Overall, this rejuvenating conference confirmed that sometimes our best resources are ourselves.

Innovation Spotlight: Year 5 Writing Week

Year 5 students recently spent a week delving deep into writing fiction books with a common primary goal: ‘Based on personal interest, students will collaborate and create an engaging book or series while developing their writing skills.’ Students selected one genre of writing to learn about or upskill during the writing week. Options included Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy Fiction, Action/Adventure, and Science Fiction. Homeroom subject blocks were eliminated and students across Year 5 simultaneously engaged in projects that invited them to group themselves based on interest rather than by homeroom teachers. Once students had sampled all of the options on offer, they selected one from the menu and committed to pursuing an in-depth inquiry into it for the week.

Throughout the week, students observed, practised and refined their writing skills. With each writing process they experienced, a culture of talking through ideas with peers and seeking out feedback from others began to grow. The purpose of this week was to leverage a growing authorship culture and offer an experience that more authentically reflects the collaborative process of publishing a book. Working in teams of two to four, students were able to take on a variety of roles, such as ideators, writers, editors, proofreaders, illustrators, layout designers and more. These roles allowed students to work from positions of strength and passion to co-create books based on a shared vision, while at the same time transferring many of the writing skills they had been developing throughout the year. The extended period provided students with the opportunity to get into the writing flow, go more in-depth with the writing process, and encouraged higher quality publication. At the culmination of the week, students exhibited and celebrated their projects to a broader audience and reflected on the skills and mindsets applied during the week-long learning process. Students cultivated a sense of joy, motivation and inspiration as authors, and the week sparked an interest in pursuing student-driven collaborative writing initiatives in the future.