Friday, November 6, 2015

Planning, Implementing and Evaluating a Connected Learning Experience for HS Students

In line with one of my goals for this year, I have been working with a teacher from California to plan and implement a connected learning experience for our Grade 9 English students.  We have had the privilege of co-presenting our work at the Learning 2.0 Africa conference held this weekend at my school.  Here is the Prezi that we developed for our talk.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Goals for the Year

Goal #1:  Work collaboratively with members of my department to ensure that all UbDs are fully completed and of high quality.

Last year, our department reworked our entire Grade 9 and 10 English curriculum to ensure that our students will be well-prepared for either IB Literature or IB Language and Literature, whichever they should eventually choose to take.  We also adopted a new set of standards.  These were big changes for us, and we need to ensure that everything is documented in Atlas Rubicon and peer-reviewed for quality and consistency.  Hopefully this curriculum review work will lead to increased engagement and improved learning outcomes for our students.      

Goal #2:  Develop opportunities for global connection and collaboration for my students. 


This is my favourite of my three goals for this year.  Building on the principles of connected learning, I hope to get my students connected with each other, with peers from elsewhere, and with experts as we explore the various texts and ideas that we will be learning about together.  I already have my IB Language and Literature 2 students tweeting away, and have set up a global exchange for my Grade 9 English students with Grade 9s from Mountain House High School in California.  Wish us luck!       

Goal #3:  Introduce and implement system for peer observations within my department.
I am fortunate to be working with an amazing team of professionals here at AISJ.  There is so much that we can learn from one another.  I'm hoping to use the pineapple chart hack to ease us into the practice of peer observations, so that we, too, can reap the benefits of greater transparency in our teaching for our students.

What are your goals for this year?   

What will you do to accomplish them? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#JoMUN13 Director's Letter

We have accomplished a lot this year with our Johannesburg Model United Nations (JoMUN) Conference.  Here is my director's letter from this year:  

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the thirteenth annual Johannesburg Model United Nations (JoMUN) conference.  You have chosen a fantastic year to be a part of it and we are absolutely thrilled that you have decided to join us!   

Working closely with the student organizers of this event, Jose Foppiani (Secretary General) and Arijit Pandey (Deputy Secretary General), along with a truly remarkable group of chairs, we have been able to implement a number of important changes this year, all designed to improve the overall conference experience for everyone.  These changes include:
  • Shifting the conference venue to AISJ’s beautiful campus in an effort to make it more affordable for outside schools to participate
  • Offering a homestay option for outside schools
  • Doubling the participation of outside schools as compared to last year
  • Including students from AISJ’s Pretoria campus in our conference for the first time ever
  • Working hard to make our conference greener
  • Improving our conference website
  • Introducing a new committee room:  the Historic Security Council
  • Providing more rigorous preparation for both chairs and delegates
  • Communicating more clearly and effectively with delegates, teacher directors, and parents

We trust that these changes will result in a higher quality of debate as well as in greater enjoyment.  At the same time, we recognize that there is always room for further improvement.  We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding how we can make next year’s JoMUN even better.   

I would like take this opportunity to thank the other members of my team:  Ms. Evi Singleton, who was responsible for finance, Ms. Deanne Slattery, who worked with the members of the Secretariat once again this year, and Mr. David Goetz, who helped with logistics.  I must also thank the many teachers who generously gave of their time and expertise within the various committee rooms this year:  Mr. Matthew Fron, Ms. Penny Keet, Dr. Michael Kissack, Mr. Robert Langlands, Ms. Shahnaz Malik, Mr. Ross McGlothlin, Ms. Beatrice Murgues, Ms. Ana Rollon, Mr. Dharma Sears, Ms. Julia Stock, Ms. Marie Pirker, and Mr. Aaron Thompson.  You have all been fantastic!  In addition, I would like to thank our hew High School Principal, Mr. Geoff Smith, our two Assistant High School Principals, Ms. Sandy van Nooten and Mr. Will Hurtado, and, of course, our School Director, Dr. Andy Page-Smith, for their ongoing support of this valuable learning opportunity.

As JoMUN XIII draws to a close, we have already begun to look forward to JoMUN XIV.  We hope that you will consider joining us again next year as we continue to grow and improve our MUN program at AISJ.  

Katherine Maloney

MUN Director

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Infographic Syllabus

There was no doubt about it:  my syllabus was in dire need of a makeover.

That is why I was so excited when my colleague @themrfron said that he was going to try to create an infographic syllabus for the IB Language and Literature course we teach together, sharing this example with me.

Inspired – and not to be outdone – I quickly decided that I would try to make one, too.  I created a free Piktochart account for myself and began to take a look around.  I knew I wanted a syllabus that would:
  • help to generate excitement about the course
  • inform students of what they could expect, both visually and verbally
  • be easy to modify and update
  • not take me a lot of time and effort to create
Athough Piktochart also allows users to make their own, unique creations, I felt that using one of the templates was probably a wiser choice given that this was my first foray into the world of infographics.  I ended up going with the “2015 Resolution” template because it fit perfectly with the number of units that we had planned and also because the imagery of the window and the flowers seemed a propos to the learning journey we had in mind for our Grade 9 English students this year.

Using the template, I was able to quickly and easily plug in:

  • the title of the course
  • a brief course description
  • the titles of our various units with images to match
  • our intended learning outcomes
  • the activities we had planned for the year
  • our expectations of learners, and
  • teacher contact details
all within the span of about 20 minutes.  The experience was quick and painless and the final product not too shabby, even if I do say so myself:

Now that I know how it all works, I can’t wait to start exploring Piktochart’s more advanced features, and especially to begin using it with my students.  21st century literacy includes the ability to interpret and communicate using both words and images, and what better way to introduce young learners to this skill than through the creation of their own, beautiful infographics in response to the various texts, themes, and ideas that they will encounter in English 9 this year.        

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Review of "What Connected Educators Do Differently," by Whitaker, Zoul and Casas (2015)

I recently finished reading What Connected Educators do Differently by Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas (2015).  This was a practical, hands-on book best suited to the needs of educators new to connecting both face-to-face and online to create a personal learning network, or PLN.  Even as a more experienced connected educator, however, I was still able to find much in the book to inspire me to continue on in my efforts to connect both my students and myself.

The authors outline eight key areas in which connected educators differ from those who are not.  They:
  • connect to a personal and professional learning network
  • learn in an ongoing, personalized, and flexible manner
  • communicate, collaborate, and build community
  • give…and take
  • are positive and extend that positive influence as far as possible
  • build strong relationships with a diverse array of others
  • model the kind of connected learning that they expect of others
  • balance their on- and off-line lives 

The key tool that the authors recommend is Twitter, providing a wealth of suggestions as to who to follow along with practical steps educators can take to begin developing their own Twitter-based PLNs immediately.  However, part of the beauty of creating a PLN is that the tools that you use - along with every other aspect of your learning - are completely up to you.  Many connected educators are having great success connecting through Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, and a whole host of other Web 2.0 applications either in addition to, or instead of, Twitter. 

Still, the book was a quick and easy read and is a useful resource for helping educators prepare themselves to begin their journey to becoming more connected. 


Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casas, J.  (2015).  What connected educators do differently.  New York, NY:  Routledge. 

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