Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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PaperPile: Managing Research & References in GoogleDocs

As anyone involved in studying (or a job that requires looking up a lot of research) knows, managing citations and remembering sources is a challenge. This is doubly difficult when you’re balancing it with full-time work and use the same tech hardware for both. Alongside using tools for my own purposes, I look for alternatives (replacements or improvements) that I could with classes or show colleagues to make their lives easier.

With PaperPile (Chrome extension & add-on), I think I have found one of those solutions. This, to me, was the solution to the final problem that kept me using Micro$oft W0rd: reference libraries, one-click citation and auto-bibliographies. I’ll keep testing it as I go through the dissertation, but for now, check it out.

……….o0O0o………

Updated: January 2017

Long-Term Review

The dissertation is long-since completed, but I have kept my subscription to PaperPile going for now, as I found it worth the money for work. Now that my library access from Bath has been disconnected, I am debating whether to keep it or if I should downgrade back to the free version.

Here’s a quick user review, based on my experiences.

Things I loved

  • Connecting to the uni library was easy and super-helpful.
  • Researching from within a GoogleDoc make things more efficient that before.
    • Often I could bypass the uni library search tools altogether.
    • When searching through Google or Scholar, a button appears next to possible citations, which pulls the paper back into the system.
  • Automatic download of available pdf files is amazing – it backed them up into my Google Drive for reference, and was easy to download.
  • Live updates to citations helps a lot, as with the Word Citation Manager.

Limitations

  • Sometimes the citation format is squiffy and needs to be manually updated. Be careful with this if you refresh the paper references, as if you forget to check you might end up with some irregularities.
  • When I was finishing my dissertation I was working on a simple netbook on a sluggish internet connection in Indonesia. Drive with Paperpile is pretty heavy in terms of internet, and sometimes typing and citing were frustratingly delayed. Predicting this, I installed Office 365 and finished the dissertation using Word.
  • There doesn’t yet (as far as I can see) appear to be a reciprocal citation manager with Word. It would be awesome if switching between the systems would update in both.

Recommendations

If you’re a Google Suite user and active researcher, I’d recommend giving PaperPile a go. It looks like it is going to get better with further development and would be great in a Chromebook environment.

 

 


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The IMaGE of an International School

It’s crunch time for my MA International Education studies at the University of Bath, with a big literature review in progress and some data collection coming up, aiming to submit by the summer break. As much as I’ve loved the study, I’m looking forward to reclaiming some balance. 

………o0O0o……..

My plan for the dissertation is to update and pilot-test my web-chart of the international dimension of a school, aiming to tackle the challenge of defining a nebulous concept through visualisation, based on self-reporting, to generate “the IMaGE of an international school“. (IMaGE = international mindedness and global engagement). The small-scale case-study will generate an IMaGE for my own school, and the pilot study will help evaluate the usefulness of the visualisation and metrics.

Web8Sample (2)

A sample of the web chart in use, with the IMaGE showing the evolution of a school or a change in perception. The eight radials are still under development, and there will be descriptors for each in the final project. At first glance, where would you rate your won school? What do you see, think, wonder about the results of this (imaginary) school?

The idea of trying to evaluate or measure the ‘internationalisation’ of a school is not new: we already have metrics, practices or handbooks from various organisations, including the IB, CIS, ISA, ACE, OECD. This project aims to learn from, adapt and distil these qualities into an accessible tool that will generate a ‘visual definition’ for a school, as a starting point for further investigation.

Although some of the ideas within the chart have evolved a lot since the initial idea in 2012 (and I have found many more studies), here is the original assignment.

 

 

 

 


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Aspiring to the Life we Live (or, Why we only post the good stuff)

I quite like social media. I like sharing photos on Flickr and moments on Instagram. I like sharing learning on my blogs and Twitter and family stuff on Facebook. I like the little connections (and reconnections) that come out of a comment or a “hey we’ve been there too” coincidence. My media are journals for different audiences, though mostly for myself.

But I tend to only share the good stuff.

Because when days are long, work piles up, patience frays and bodies fail, it’s reassuring to see what we’re working towards and who we’re doing it for. To me, it’s like a protective mental health strategy; being prone to worrying and anxiety, my timeline is a reflection on the positive, a force to push the stresses or concerns from valuable mindspace.

Of course, it didn’t (or did?) help when I read that we only have 940 weekends with our kids. Time and childhoods pass so quickly. Finding the balance between building a good life for our kids and enjoying it with them is tough. When I look back on these years, I don’t want to see voids of time where “Daddy was too busy to…“. So I’ll take the snaps and share the smiles.

The images of the good times will survive the fog of the slog.

 


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Defining Inquiry (again)

Since my (re)defining inquiry assignment for Bath and article in IS-Mag, the importance of careful definition and action on inquiry has been on my mind.

Education continues to be a battleground between polar views on “what is best for the kids” and I find myself frustrated by the consistently dichotomous nature of the arguments: traditional vs progressive, schooling vs making, teacher-led vs student-driven.

I recognize the position of extreme educational privilege we occupy in the international school sector: with strong, evidence-based frameworks and quite a lot of freedom to choose what we teach and how. As we make our choices, we need to be informed, critical, creative thinkers in our own right. Make space in the curriculum for play, creativity, curiosity and action, but make sure that the foundations are solid.

As teachers we should follow the research and we should create it. We should be coaches, mentors, guides and activators of learning (in the Hattie sense). We should be inquirers, seeking to know our impact as we branch out into new territories.

………o0O0o……….

Here’s my updated definition. It’s tidier than the last, less academic, and includes “creative”.

creativity260_tcm4-619441

Education Scotland has great resources for creativity: check it out and think.

It’s important here to define creativity as more than the arts and certainly more than a perception of something generally fun. It balances creative expression, teaching and learning with innovation and problem-solving. Creativity could be a catch-all term for the higher-order thinking skills, that in themselves require the foundational concepts, skills and knowledge to be worthwhile.

After all, everything is a remix ;>.

  • Which elements of the “traditional” do you see here? How about the “progressive”?
  • How would this look in a (traditionally) high-content course? How about the early years?
  • How does the student’s average day, week, unit, year feel with this in mind?
  • How can we use this to excite genuine, meaningful learning and avoid the fuzzy-buzz of pseudolearning?
  • How does this look across the IB continuum? How about the Trivium schools?
Defining Inquiry

Inquiry is critical, creative, reflective thought, built on foundation of well-taught knowledge, skills and concepts that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?”

 


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Taking on the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Learning

Here’s a quick post of some work we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. Now that the foundations of MYP: Next Chapter are bedded in, with teachers using the guides, working well with the assessment criteria and coming up with some interesting inquiries, it’s time to tackle interdisciplinary units (IDU’s).

Although the school had some (nominally) IDU’s before, these tended towards more thematic connections; the publication of the IB’s”Fostering interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the MYP guide demands a higher level of sophistication and planning, as well as the use of a separate set of assessment criteria. In the interim period before MYP:NC, we disconnected a few IDU’s to focus on strengthening disciplinary practices, so that when we re-connected, they would be stronger and more authentic to those involved. As a result, more teachers are asking for ways to connect, some of the IDU ideas are evolving and becoming more adventurous and a keen group of teachers have attended (or are about to attend) IDU workshops.

The challenge as coordinator? How to manage and encourage this, whilst ensuring the energy remains in the connections without being diminished by the perceived added burden of a new planner, criteria and restrictions. My solution (for now) is to take on the formal documentation of the new IDU’s and build some support resources, so that the teachers can get on with it. In this prototyping year for the new IDU’s there will be plenty to test and evaluate. One of the key differences in this approach compared to our normal unit planning is that I manage the IDU ATLAS planners: while teachers discuss and plan together, I observe, question and clarify and record the results into the planner. The planner itself won’t be ‘complete’ until at least the second cycle through as we reflect and tinker, but at least we get to test the unit in ‘beta mode’ and see how it grows.

I’ve tried to capture the flow of the IDU in this poster, the purpose being a visual supplement to the IDU guide that will help us through the process clearly. As usual, it’s made in GoogleDrawings, so that I can embed, refine and include links where needed. I’d love to read your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter.

IDU Planning Poster Taylor

IDU Planning Flow-Chart for CA; an attempt to make the IDU guide more visual and quick-reference and to create a flow that will work for our busy teachers.

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