Reflection on Course 1

Right, finally finished with the first part of the course, and now for some reflection. I am very conscious of not mixing my frustrations with the IT situation here in Luanda (which is a bit of a disaster considering the internet speeds) into the general discussion, but it’s a little difficult to keep things separate when doing a course specifically about technology! I often found myself sat in my classroom, head on the keyboard, thinking of Dilbert:

Things I Liked about the Course

  • I found out what a useful tool Google Drive can be. In fact, a colleague is currently migrating all of our Humanities resources onto it from our server. I am going to get my students on there as well for some paperless units, something which our Secondary Principal has already had a go at I think.
  • I spent a lot more time thinking about how to incorporate technology into my lessons, and saw some really good examples from other people. While I have contacted other teachers at other schools before, this forum seems to have been much more productive.
  • I was pointed in the direction of some great RSS feeds (also with useful stuff for my lessons), written by some highly qualified people.


  • Getting set up at the beginning of the course took a while. I was not particularly clear on what was required of me, and jumping back and forth between the various sites we use just led to more confusion!
  • Video based instructions took a long time to load. I guess that’s an Angola thing.
  • The blogging format felt a little bit arbitrary at times. What if you don’t have five things you want to share with the world by the end of the course? I find that I tend to read a lot more than I write in forums, yet this activity is not tracked (at least not on Google Drive). I would rather not post something than post an unconstructive comment. Maybe that’s the British side of me worrying about what people will think of what’s been written…
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Course 1 Final Project

Here’s the final project which I cooked up with Sheila Allan.

The unit that we are working on with the Year 8 students is on migration, both voluntary and involuntary. The significant concept is that:

The movement of people causes countries to be interdependent.

I’ve included a lot of detail in the attached Word document, but the main aim is to get them creating a promotional video to encourage migrants to come to your country (either Angola or Brazil) or to encourage migrants from your country to return (stop the brain drain). The promotional video is basically a video tour of Luanda or Rio using Google Earth, with recorded audio narration.

UbD Lesson Plan Oscar Scafidi

I haven’t got much to reflect on with regards to the success of the project as it is currently unfinished. However, I made a similar video using Google Earth with some Year 11s a few years ago and they responded very positively to the visualisation of the city. It is quite an impressive sight, especially when you can make set it up in 3D.


ATL (Study) Skills: Embedded or Separate?

In the IB MYP Programme study skills are referred to as ATL skills and include things like: organisation, collaboration, communication, information literacy, reflection, thinking skills etc.

The big debate we have been having at our school over the past few years is whether this stuff should be embedded into everyday curriculum across the regular subjects the students study, or whether students would benefit from some additional classes which specifically focussed on these skills. In the end our school has gone for a mixture of the two.

Every student in Years 7 to 11 has one ‘Enrichment’ class per week. There are a number of aims to this programme, but one of the key aims is to improve their ATL skills, so they do all sorts of skills-focussed activities.

We are also aiming as a school to ensure that every teacher focusses on ATL skills in their classroom, and support is being given through workshops and resources to help people get this sort of thing into their regular teaching.

Some people say that in an ideal world there would be no need for separate classes to ‘top up’ their ATL skills, as they would get everything they needed from the regular MYP subjects. Others feel that focussing on the skills, while not having to worry about content-delivery or assessment, is beneficial and a more efficient way of improving the student’s ATL skills than simply trying to up the ATL content of the mainstream subjects.

What do people think?

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How do we teach students to know what they don’t know or what they need to know and what they won’t need to know?

Mr George Siemens’ article on Connectivism makes some good points about how our access to digital technology is changing the way we learn. I agree with the conclusion that “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” One of the key principles he identified was that choosing what to learn is in itself a skill that we need to focus on. I am not sure if he meant analysing a source before deciding to commit it to memory. I hope not, as that doesn’t really fit in with what I want to say (but is of course also an important skill)!

Just to clarify my title question: I do not mean how do we teach the students new stuff they didn’t know before. I meant how do we teach them to identify gaps in their knowledge or skills effectively, to anticipate when they will need to know something or how to do something in the future? Also, how to do this efficiently, without wasting time on work irrelevant or marginally relevant to the task?

The only thing I can think of is the rubrics we provide students with. Here they can look at what is required of their final product, then decide what information or new skill(s) they will need to acquire in order to meet the objective. However, this is slightly spoon feeding them, as they are not really identifying the gaps in their knowledge independently.

In Humanities, we often add a box to the task instruction sheet that says: “In order to be successful in this task, I will need to:” and then asks them to fill in three bullet points. They are also asked to draw up Action Plans as part of Criterion B: Investigating. However, in each case, I rarely see much insight in what they are writing.

I like to think that I am very good at this process: quickly identifying potential gaps or even problems in a task before I begin it, and getting what I need to complete the task efficiently. Whether it is writing a dissertation or planning my workload for a course I am studying, I rarely find myself in the position of being part way through a task and then unexpectedly having to change the plan or my approach. I also do not find myself at the end of a task with a load of unused research, or look back and regret the relative time allocation for each task.

However, I have no idea where this skill came from. Was it subtly taught through a school subject? Is it something you pick up once you hit uni and all the independence that brings?

Year 10 are about to do a carbon audit of the school. This is a very complex process involving a lot of calculations and requires careful planning. How do I get them to approach and break down a task like this like a group of adults would, beyond giving them step by step instructions?

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Full connectivism article can be found here:

Living with New Media: do young people really behave the same online?

I was interested to read the comment in the conclusions of The MacArthur Foundation report that “In our work, contrary to fears that social norms are eroding online, we did not find many youth who were engaging in behaviours that were riskier than what they did in offline contexts.

I would have to disagree. I have seen plenty of examples over the past four years of students at our school interacting online (both with each other and outsiders) in a way that they would most likely not do in an offline setting.

I agree with the report that students who have limited access to technology due to socio-economic circumstances are at a distinct disadvantage both in the social and academic contexts. However, it does not necessarily follow that unbridled access to such technology in educational settings such as schools and libraries would be a positive thing, as the article seems to imply.


I have been teaching in various capacities for six years, although I would class my current role here at Luanda International School as my first “sensible” teaching job. I am currently teaching MYP Humanities as well as DP History with some TOK thrown in for good measure. My latest educational project is helping out with designing a brand new Homeroom curriculum for the entire secondary school. I am hoping that this course will provide lots of inspiration for using digital resources throughout the new course.