"Always Learning" is a blog I recommend to teachers who are looking to deepen their understanding of teaching overseas. The blog is authored by Kim Cofino, a woman with extensive experience teaching throughout the world. International education is a topic that I am passionate about, because traveling and learning about new cultures is my favorite hobby, and because I have worked overseas. Many of the topics on her blog were intriguing to me due to the fact that the stories resonated with my own teaching experiences abroad. The author attest that her, “philosophy of education is to provide an inquiry-based, constructivist approach; helping students learn how to learn and instilling a process for life long learning through the use of project-based learning projects developed using the Understanding by Design process.” Understanding by Design encapsulates a well rounded, higher order approach to teaching that encourages a process of applied knowledge to inform an understanding of the world around us. The first post on her site is entitled, “Creating a Breeding Ground for Motivation.” The author highlights the importance of fostering “intrinsic motivation” among students as opposed to using any form of “external pressure” as a method to motivate and engage a class. The author describes her frustration as a teacher when she can see potential in her students, but is unable to motivate students in a direction she feels they should pursue. According to the author, a teacher should use the following motivational techniques when attempting to encourage students:
- “value them as learners and individuals.”
- “discover what they are passionate about.”
- “prioritize their voice - and listen.”
- “respect their experience and knowledge.”
- “help them find what’s next in their zone of proximal development.”
- “tailor the learning to their needs and developmental level.”
The author conducted action research in which she compared the results of students who were “forced” to complete tasks, as opposed to those who were encouraged to share their “passions.” Using a chart Mrs. Cofino illustrated the differences in results from forced task completion when teachers encouraged students to pursue their passions. When students were not given the choice about whether to complete a task, the work outcome demonstrated that students were just trying to “get through it.”
Skipping ahead to the next topic on her blog, entitled, “Designing Learning Experiences,” Mrs. Cofino describes a 9-step process in which teachers, “design learning experiences.” She illustrates this process with a visual presentation posted on the blog. See below for a basic framework included in her model:
- “Share a teaser or inspirational item (in this case it was a video) to get participants thinking about the big ideas for the session.
- “Connect the big ideas from the teaser to personal experience.”
- “Model the process of connecting to personal experience for the participants.”
- “Provide opportunity to participants to document their thinking at this point in time, as an entry to the actual content to come next.”
- “Connecting personal experience to content.”
- “Personalize the content so participants have ownership over their learning.”
- “Highlight practical connections to everyday work.”
- “Summarize the content and bridge to the next activity.”
The advice given at the end of the model was that, when designing a lesson plan, the teacher should always keep the end goal in mind. The teacher at all times should be aware of the learning objective and how it can be achieved in a deliberate, motivational, goal oriented manner.
The last blog that stood out to me was a site that I found on the site "Movingforward." The blog was entitled "Love What You Teach," authored by Swiss elementary school teacher Abbie Fox. The first blog post that appeared when I clicked on the page was titled, “A New Start to Learning: Learning an International Approach to Education. The post was a quick introspective observation about Mrs. Fox’s teaching experiences abroad. Mrs. Fox shares her unfolding life as a teacher living abroad in Switzerland with her husband. She describes some of her goals as an IB teacher, as she attempts to synthesize class content. The article is broken down into three components labelled: International-mindedness , Components of the PYP Curriculum, The Written Curriculum, A Constructively Theory, and Looking Forward. In the first section, International-mindedness, Fox describes some of the similarities and differences in the values taught by IB programs internationally, in the United States, and some of the variance in those values among US states. She goes on to describe the PYP model, in Components of the PYP Curriculum, specifically describing the pre and post summative and formative assessments used by the program. Lastly, The Written Curriculum, is a discussion addressing the underlying themes within the IB program. The article continues with an in-depth look at aspects of the IB program and the authors positive feelings about its efficacy. Having worked at an IB school overseas, some of what she described was familiar to me and resonated with my own experiences using an IB format. In subsequent posts, Fox shares articles she finds inspiring as she seeks to improve her pedagogy. Overall, her blog is a great resource for teachers with an appreciation for international education who are looking for more information about existing programs.
In conclusion, blogs can be a great way to learn from other individuals experiences in various aspects of teaching. It has been my experience that with blogging, you have to sift through a great deal of unstructured literature before you find quality resources on the internet. Like perusing a library, some books offer more pertinent resources than others. Similarly, the self-published work on the web can be hit or miss. The two blogs I shared serve as resources that can be used to enhance your personal understanding of teaching theory and teaching as a pedagogical practice. Good luck with your blog search!
Coffin, K. (2016). "Creating a Breeding Ground for Learning." Always Learning, Retrieved from: http://kimcofino.com/blog/
Coffin, K. (2016). Always Learning, "Designing Learning Experiences." Retrieved from: http://kimcofino.com/blog/
Creative Commons. (2016). "Education Blogs by Discipline." Moving Forward, Retrieved from: http://movingforward.wikispaces.com/Education+Blogs+by+Discipline
Fox, A. (2014). "A New Start to Learning: Learning an International Approach to Education." Love What You Teach, Retrieved from: https://lovewhatyouteach.com