Tuesday, April 10, 2012

EARCOS 2012 Reflections

Over Spring break ASIJ supported attendance at the EARCOS Bangkok Conference of over  35 faculty. In finalizing the reimbursements for the conference expenses there are some valuable reflections and feedback from those that attended. Please take the time to share your reflections and comments on the conference workshops here. 

What do you plan to do with this new knowledge? 

What new ideas has this conference generated for you? 

Share your ideas here by commenting on this post.


  1. Dave Rynerson's PD reimbursement/reflection-

    On Tuesday and Wednesday (3/27 and 3/28) I attended the EARCOS AP Language and Literature and Language and Composition preconference workshop with Danny Lawrence. We discussed strategies for successful essay writing and multiple choice strategies. We shared ideas about how to access and use released exams as practice. We learned about the assessment process and discussed exactly what the readers are looking for.
    For the actual conference itself, I focussed on literacy and technology. Ironically, much of it debunked what I had learned in the AP workshop! Cathy Davidson’s address and workshops were about evolving education and the effects of technology on it. I thought the message our kids need is that education is changing, as innovative university programs look into the future of corporations and research what college students will have to know and be able to do. Students will need a different skill set. The problem will be inculcating those ideas to students who are so bound by an educational model that’s 150 years old! Eventually, those ideas will trickle down into university, and then into high school. Counselors, families, teachers and students will need to revise their thinking to accommodate the needs of the future. We need to prepare our kids with the creative, problem-solving skill set to succeed in careers that don’t yet exist. Our concepts of use of time, physical structures in which we work and learn, assessment and measurement of success and literacy itself will all need to be updated.
    I went to a visual literacy workshop that gave me some new ways of looking at images and video that will be applicable to our film study, beginning next week.
    Steven Layne gave an inspiring workshop featuring ideas of how to motivate kids to read. It was geared more to young adults, but it made me think about what the new “canon” is, if there is one, and how to make books more appealing and accessible to our own readers (and non-readers).
    I went to a third workshop by Cathy Davidson about peer teaching and assessing, the idea being a shared responsibility with the students for determining the direction of the course, collaborating, using technology to connect thinking and determining measures of success.
    I went to the “Know My World” workshop in the hopes that I would be able to develop a network for sharing writing, vis a vis my students’ blogs and access to other schools’ writing. It was about 75% successful.
    Nancy Johnson gave an inspiring presentation about using poetry in the classroom, from which I gleaned some ideas about how to celebrate National Poetry Month effectively and educationally, and also to prepare for visiting writer Sandra Cisneros.
    I learned about the Harkness Method, a version of the Socratic Seminar, in which the assessor graphically records each student’s contributions and assesses them on the spot. The only thing that troubled me a bit was that it entailed the shared responsibility of a group grade, the idea being that it would be students’ responsibility to include and engage every other student.
    Michael Fox’s workshop on using technology to reduce time assessing essays was great. Using “autocorrect,” he has a set of often repeated comments, some even with links to useful instructive and/or remedial information embedded, which he accesses with a coded “misspelling.” Wow- maybe some relief for my carpal tunnel syndrome!
    Jason Ohler explained how to integrate the writing process with the creation of digital presentations. He delineated the learning, assessment and skills acquired in the process of creating videos. Very useful stuff, but I’m reminded of the time involved. He presented the interesting idea of the 80/20 rule, in which 80% of the production can be completed in 20% of the time. Professional film makers spend 80% of the time polishing the last 20% of the work, but students can quit long before the pros do, still learn, and still create a meaningful production.
    All in all, busy week of learning and music, but worthwhile.

  2. I am returning from the conference with four concrete ideas to implement. First, in order to teach a "digital citzenship" curriculum, I learned about the resources at http://www.commonsensemedia.org.

    Second, David Grant at realschoolchange.org gave me a vision for teaching kids the technical skills of video shooting and production in order to create media that can get to the heart of the content without getting caught up with technical problems.

    Third, Steven Layne gave me several excellent ideas on promoting reading amongst kids.

    Fourth, I gained some ideas for how to structure learning around projects that involve Google Earth.

  3. really enjoyed the EARCOS conference this year. I especially enjoyed the second keynote speaker Dr. Steven Layne. I went to two of his sessions plus his keynote presentation and really enjoyed listening to his ideas on helping those strugging readers we all face in our classroom and also ways to encourage students to read a variety of text. I am anxious to try some of his ideas and have started the process of trying to implement a few of them for the remainder of this year and preparing a few for next year as well. I plan to try to have a large class reading log that is visible for all to see. This will help students see the variety of text we read throughout the day/week. For example, the lunch menu, directions to a math game, etc. Another idea I would like to try next year would be to have a Reading Café, where I invite one guest to share his/her favorite children's book or series to the class. This will be a great way to introduce new and old stories to the class, which can help that reader who hasn't quite found a genre or series that sparks their interest.

  4. The EARCOS conference was a great opportunity to reconnect with other educators about some of the key issues we are all working with in international education. Unlike any other conference, one that focuses on International Schools is very helpful because we are dealing with the same type of students with many of the same challenges and privileges.
    There was so much at the conference that was meaningful for me it is hard to put it in one document.
    Each of the Keynote speakers had something that reminded me about what was valuable in the classroom and in our programs. Cathy Davidson’s message was a reminder about how we need to adapt to our changing collaborative environment. She got me thinking about new ways to adapt technology in my classroom to do that. Although Steven Layne’s talk promoted his books a little too much for my taste, his reminders about teachers as inspirers and “balcony people” is always a good shot in the arm and a reminder that we influence a greater scope than we imagine. Jason Ohler’s talk pushed me to also see him in one of the smaller sessions. I really liked the ideas he had on the basis of story behind anything we get students to produce. He showed examples in multiple disciplines that show students using key story behind their ideas. I have already started implementing that in my classes. As I introduced this week problem of the week, I used the preface of the story of their problem solving. I am curious to see if this might alter some of the results I get in terms of presenting a more interesting problem solving adventure. We will see.

    As the facilitator of the ms math job-a-like, it was easy to pull out the value of that meeting. We ended up focusing on two main issues: Standards Based reporting and the Flipped classroom. In both discussions I pulled out some key additions to my own approach and how we are moving in our implementation of both. I was reassured that not everyone who is working with the flipped classroom model feels that they have to use it all the time. We ended up pulling in some of the ideas about mathematical discourse that was covered in another session. We need to ensure that if we flip classrooms we don’t lose those opportunities for the mathematical discourse in the room. We all need to resist the temptation to do one method of delivery all the time of all material. The follow up from the job a like has been my creating a linking up for continued discussion from the people at this session. We have further built up our personal learning community.

    Other ideas I am working with and enhancing based on conference information are: restructuring some of the resources I use online, additional implementation of the Geometer’s sketch pad program, exploring other programs to help address our graphing calculator needs, and tweaking some of the things I do with classroom differentiation. There are others, but that is what I have for now.

    Thanks for the opportunity to attend this conference.

  5. This was my first time attending an EARCOS Teachers' Conference, and I had a very positive experience. I was impressed with the high caliber of the keynote speakers and workshop presenters, and I feel that I learned a lot, was inspired, and came away with a lot of ideas and food for thought. I attended workshops related to technology, digital literacy and general education, as well as some directly related to the visual arts--claymation and animation, to be specific. Some of the most interesting sessions related to recent research on the brain and how people learn, and possibilities for using technology to enhance student learning and motivation. I also met a lot of enthusiastic international school teachers working across Asia and got some good ideas from them. I am very glad I went, and I feel that it was a fulfilling and worthwhile experience.

  6. The highlight of the conference was the highly acclaimed keynote speakers each with a captivating, educating and motivational message. Cathy Davidson: Using research on the brain, she discussed new ways of working and learning. In her workshop session that followed up her keynote speech she introduced new ways of teaching and measuring for assessment, methods that she has currently put into practice.
    Steven Layne’s keynote Balcony People, reminded us all of how teachers make a difference and how we may have inspired and helped who we become.
    Jason Ohler: Adopting art as a foundational literacy to tell stories in creative innovative ways. I attended as many of Jeff Utecht’s digital literacy sessions as possible as well as the digital literacy‘job alike’ sessions. Each presentation opened new doors to working with students from rethinking teaching methods to captivating students’ interest in learning. I appreciated going to the conference to have personal contact with teachers as we broke up in groups to collaborate or just an elbow ‘share pair’ while exchanging our teaching methods.

  7. There were two very good Keynote speakers, Cathy Davidson and Steven Layne. For some reason I feel refreshed, energized and ready to teach anything after listening to really good motivational speakers. Cathy Davidson was so good I decided to go to all of her other workshops. She talked about killing the old American factory assembly line mentality and and getting rid of multiple choice test questions. She is working with education and the corporate world to learn new innovative ways to get students motivated and learning. She explained how she is working with the corporate world to influence colleges to get away from testing and having the final grade. Even her classes that she teachers at Duke are catching flak because she lets students direct the lessons and peer assess. She explained in her workshops that the teacher directed lesson is outdated. Students can gather information so quickly now that the classroom should be a place to bring it all together and discuss how to use it and what is most important.
    Steven Layne the other keynote speaker who teaches literature shared some amazing stories about the people he looks up to most, teachers. He called them, people sitting in his Balcony.
    Jeff Utecht was a presenter of Technology. He spoke mostly about the use of the internet, flipping the classroom and how to use google. I have been using his techniques since day one of coming back from EARCOS. I was jotting down notes all over my booklet and tying in all of what he was saying to as many lessons in my health class. I have been using google to have kids grab information off the web and not have me stand and read off the answers to a worksheet. He talked about the rich discussion time in the classroom that students should be having when they find pertinent information to the lesson or unit. Recently the discussion time with an elbow partner has been increasing. Students in my class are still doing the homework but, when we get to class I try to get them to research the homework they finished and then have a discussion to tie it all together. His key point to his workshops was to give kids the ability to do proper searches so they know at an early age how to access valuable and reliable information.
    I also attended a Counseling work shop put on by two presenters Michelle Vogel and Monna McDiarmid. This was on Talking With Teens About Body Image. I was an interesting topic for me because we had just brought in an outside speaker about this same topic recently to ASIJ. They discussed how they started a "What is Beautiful" campaign. Students and Faculty formed a club and the main activity was to make a short film and photo exhibit highlighting what makes each person in the club Beautiful. The campaign ended up being posted in the school. A school wide assembly slide show was presented to the student body.

  8. Ritu Java

    The three keynote presentations gave me a lot of food for thought. Cathy Davidson came in with some great ideas about learning in the age we live in. I was glad to know that she hates multiple choice questions as much as I do! She introduced the Gorilla experiment (count how many basketballs were tossed between people wearing white) and I think her message in introducing this was how our education is focussed on making kids get better at "counting basketballs". We are the most metric'd people in history. We are so tied up with assessments, grading, standardized testing. We are still using the model of education from the last 'information age' to train people to become good "factory workers". She talked about how Finland did away with standardized testing and everyone thought their students would not do well on international tests. But surprisingly, they did better than most other students.

    I also attended Cathy Davidson's workshop where she introduced the idea of crowd-sourced grading and peer assessment. loved her thoughts on flipping the classroom and creating engaging content.

    I attended Sarah Sutter's presentation on expanding your PLN and am using some of the ideas she shared in expanding my PLN. For starts, I started following her on twitter (ha ha). In addition, I have been following Cathy Davidson, Jeff Utecht, Kim Cofino on Twitter, Diigo and other sites.

    Jeff Utech covered some really good tips that every student (from kindergarten up) should be taught about Google Search. His other session on Flipping the classroom had some good ideas too. In a way it was a follow up on his session on Google search tools. His idea of flipping the class was was about students doing the research before they come to class and then have a "deep discussion" in the classroom, where peers observe each other's conclusions and where the teacher helps to put the "content" into "context".

    Kim Cofino's session on Digital Citizenship introduced the Responsible Use Agreement at YIS. Most of these were similar to ASIJ's. 2 items were different - Balance (between tech life and person life - they introduced the idea of no computers during lunch time) and Community Participation (where they educate the community - parents - in technology so that they can participate in the student's life after school). What I also liked was that they do a refresher of the orientation half way down the school year. They call it the Digital Citizenship Week.

    I also attended job-alike sessions - Technology stream, where it was nice to learn about what other people in Tech teams are working on and how they are tackling various issues. Also interesting was the session by Doug Johnson where he talked about Rules of Engagement: Using Technologies to Motivate Rather Than Distract. He makes a clear distinction between "Entertainment" and "Engagement". Here are his notes:

    # Entertainment's primary purpose is to create an enjoyable experience; engagement's primary purpose is to focus attention so learning occurs.
    # Entertainment is ephemeral, often frivolous; engagement creates long-lasting results and deals with important issues.
    # Entertainment needs have little relevance to the the reader/watcher/listener; engagement experiences most often relate directly to the learner.
    # Entertainment is an escape from problems; engagement involves solving problems.
    # Entertainment results through the creativity of others; engagement asks for creativity on the part of the learner.
    # Perhaps the greatest distinction is that entertain is often passive, whereas engagment is active or interactive.

    I liked his joke about banning pencils and go the BYOD way. He talks about how even before facebook came into the classroom, there was the "comic book" that always found its way into the classroom.

  9. This was my first EARCOS conference and I found it to be a positive and rewarding experience. I went to the pre-conference on Wednesday the 28th that dealt with bridging the school-parent gap. The focus was on effective and transformative ways to engage parents into the educational process. Something that I took away from the workshop and will share with parents is best said by family psychologist Gordon Neufeld, “The current tendency in parenting literature is to cater to the demand for parenting skills or parenting strategies. That is not what parents need. Strategies are far too definitive and limiting for a task as complex and subtle as parenting. They insult the intelligence of the parent and usually the intelligence of the child as well. Strategies make us depend on experts who promote them. Parenting is above all about relationship, and relationships don't lend themselves to strategies.”

    For the conference I went to a few sessions on brain development. One that really stood out was energizing strategies for the brain. Kids are driven to explore the world and overcome obstacles but many of our students’ abilities are not being stimulated because children are not playing and moving. Active movement is the only thing that unites the right and left side of the brain. In order to help kids to build pathways and enhance learning in the brain there are movements we can do in class to help this stimulation. I have tried to do some of these exercises and in class with my kids when we are going to learn something new or to re-focus attention.

    One brain development session I went to was one by Tim Burns on “The Amazing Brain”. He spoke to the audience as if he was doing a presentation to students. I learned a bit more about the importance of drinking water in tweens and teens. A 2% loss in hydration is a 10 % loss in performance. The tween brain is losing 20 billion neurons a day as the brain is reorganizing during this period of growth. The brain wants the teen to get better and better at what they are doing and focusing on. Things that help in this manner are omega 3 fatty acid, eating fresh, healthy food, hydration, and of course movement. The teenage years are not the years to be a couch potato. Tim Burns is available to do workshops. I have been in conversation with other counselors in the Kanto Plains about the idea of sharing the cost of bringing Tim Burns over for some PD for schools. It would be informative for students, parents, teachers to hear a bit about the latest brain research.

    Steve Bennett

  10. This was my first Earcos I had attended and I was thoroughly impressed with how organized the conference was and how each member was taken care of. Most of the presenters were of high caliber and the networking I was able to partake in was and will be very rewarding and inspiring.

    The presenter I want to speak about specifically is Jeff Utecht. One of his sessions was on Google Apps in the Classroom that actually spoke more about how to properly search through Google and how to archive and prioritize your inbox. For the most part, this was new information for me and I am already using the tips I learned in and out of the classroom. He also presented on flipped classrooms which gave me lots of interesting things to reflect on for my health class.

    I am not sure if Earcos is always this put on or whether it was just the location, but I look forward to hopefully attending next year when Physical Education is a focus. Many of the sessions this year looked very interesting but it did not exactly fall in my discipline.

  11. I attended Maggie Moon's workshop - The Best Ways To Support Literacy Development Without Launching A Formal Reading Workshop. The key points I took away from the workshop were:

    Do not begin Reading Workshop until Dec. or Jan. Instead, spend time doing interactive read alouds, think alouds and turn and talk partners, and shared reading, especially using texts sets.

    Writer's Workshop should follow this same schedule - beginning in Jan. Before beginning Writer's Workshop: draw, tell stories, and do interactive writing with your students.

    This schedule is a bit different than the one we now use in kindergarten and I'm looking forward to trying it next year.

    I also attended her workshop on How to Plan Out The Best Possible Mini-Lessons. While most of the information wasn't new, it reaffirmed what I do during Reader's and Writier's Workshop, and reminded me to keep planning and implementing mini-lessons.

  12. This was my first experience attending EARCOS. The workshops and keynotes I attended were excellent.

    Two of the best workshops I attended were given by David Grant, http://realschoolchange.org/, about video recording and video editing. He proposed a paradigm for training students to shoot video and edit the video using iMovie in a structured way that puts the focus of the activity on the curricular content rather than the technical issues around shooting and editing video. He offered practical tips for students to use when shooting video (particularly documentaries) that both save time and produce an excellent product. Since EARCOS, I've been thinking about how I could have my Grade 5 students creating short video interviews and documentaries, using David Grant's techniques.

    I was so impressed with David Grant's work that I also attended his session on Expeditionary Learning. Seeing the kinds of learning experiences he facilitates for classes of students ignited in me a renewed interest in this kind of interdisciplinary learning based on real-life problem-solving. His students tackle real problems, consult real experts, and gain reading, writing, speaking, hypothesizing, researching, synthesizing, problem-solving, and presentation skills along the way. Ideally, second language learning should look this way, too.

  13. EARCOS Conference-Reflection

    I attended a Pre-Conference at the International School of Bangkok run by the President and Vice President of Naviance, the software program we use for most of our college planning and processing. The goals of this pre-conference was for counselors to have a chance to share with colleagues how they use Naviance in their schools and to voice to the folks running Naviance aspects of the program we would like to see added or changed. With about 20 counselors in attendance it was great to hear how other schools are using Naviance, such as how Singapore American uses the program that allows them to keep track of where are alumni are enrolled-which gives them data on how many students transfer. We were also give updates of some changes Naviance is looking at for the future.

    The Job-Alike session is always interesting. We discussed the counselor strand at EARCOS next year and the need for more counselors to be willing to prepare presentations. For college counselors in our region, many of us attend the summer conference (OACAC) so there was some discussion that EARCOS would focus on non-college related sessions. In discussion with colleagues it really made me think about how our HS counseling dept is organized and if we could better serve our students if we specialized (dedicated college counselors and personal/academic counselors). ASIJ is also near the high end with our counselor/student ratio. I also attended sessions on writing the college essay, supporting students who are asked to leave your school for academic or behavioral concerns, supporting students with LD as they do their college search, and two great sessions by Tim Burns on stress, balance and well-being.

    What do you plan to do with this new knowledge? I would like to re-evaluate our current counseling model using data from our benchmark schools as a backdrop. I would like to start a dialogue with the HS English department on how students are being supported curricular-wise with writing their college essays.

  14. I was able to observe several interesting and thought provoking keynote speeches, sessions on math, and sessions on education in general. This PD experience touched in the areas of technology use, the future of technology in the classroom, critical thinking and teaching to think critically, and much more. I found it very useful and for the most part directly applicable for use in the classroom.
    I attended sessions by James Kett, Dennis Sales, and a few others.
    Mr. Kett talked about how to use excel to make distributions in statistics. This fit my intro to stats class needs very well. Although many of the things he covered I already do in class he was able to show several ideas that I will be able to use in class that I was not doing in the same way.
    I attended two sessions by Dennis Sales. He was very engaging and in the first session talked about his 10 hueristics in teaching. Things like goals, self-directed learning, and working memory were talked about. In the second session he talked about a new organizational way of thinking about critical thinking. Instead of using Bloom's, which he doesn't like, he talked about a web of thinking skills, check ins, and then application levels. It made a lot of sense and is something that can be discussed and taught to kids as well.
    Overall I enjoyed the conference and am happy with the knowledge I was able to obtain and the discussions I was able to participate in.

  15. In the end, it turned out to be a good thing that this year’s workshop did not include a Music stream, as I was forced to find areas that could cause me to grow in other directions.

    Technology being the obvious choice, it was a pleasure to learn from our own Sarah Sutter while sitting alongside teachers from other schools, many of whom seemed surprisingly less knowledgeable than I on such as RSS readers (“a way to have a concept of the river that is going by, and dip in for what you want when you have the time for it”), all the gifts Google has to offer that I had not researched, and her advice on putting thought into how we would like our online presence to be named. This sent me on to Jeff Utecht’s similar presentation that was populated not with the reticent, but with the believers, who were eager to share their own favorites.

    During my first semester at ASIJ I was impressed that an expert on sleep deprivation was brought in to speak to our clearly sleep-deprived high school students. Unfortunately, nothing has changed since his visit, so I went to Nathan Schelble’s presentation hoping to return to Tokyo armed with some new information that might make even a tiny difference, and I was not disappointed. He articulated the benefits of sleep, asked us what we have noticed in the classroom, shared some worrisome statistics (85% of US high school students are sleep deprived) and research results (i.e. high school students are healthier and more productive when school begins at around 9:00 am; more sleep = less disease), gave us advice on napping, and asked us to write down personal challenges that might prevent our own healthy sleep.

    As the advisor of SAFE Club I learned a lot from Kenny Peavey’s Environmental/ Green School Job-Alike. I returned with a collection of initiatives occurring at our sister schools in the region, with new incentive to encourage us to abandon bottled water at ASIJ (since more than a few of our peer schools have successfully done so), and with new contacts to share information with. I was less impressed with Cathryn Berger Kaye’s “Going Blue” workshop, which culminated in her offer to sell us her book for the equivalent of $14.95 in any currency.

    For me, the most inspiring speaker at the conference was Cathy N. Davidson, who delivered the keynote on opening day. I later went to another of her presentations as well. Halfway through her keynote I realized she was the author of a memoir I recently read. It was great to see and hear the same person in real life twenty years after the memoir was published. But what she caused me to be excited about is thinking out-of-the-box. I have returned determined to try and change several facets of my teaching style, of some of our departmental formats, and of our performance traditions.

  16. While I certainly got some good ideas and strategies from the conference, it is disappointing that there were very few workshops for my subject (Social Studies). There wasn’t even a job-alike for us.

    I did get a lot out of a (timely, considering the missile threat at the time) workshop from Stanford’s SPICE Curriculum on the two Koreas, and I came away with a CD full of good resources that will be useful for a few different Social Studies classes.

    And while I found the addresses by Cathy Davidson and Jason Ohler to be inspiring and meaningful (Stephen Layne seemed to be most interested in reading his books aloud to us), the main benefit to me and to my teaching was the various ideas, strategies, and resources for technology. The 1-1 pre-conference day was useful for some strategies such as keeping students focused and off of facebook by giving them tasks in small chunks.

    The workshops on Google apps and Google Earth contained a few pieces of useful information, but I found that I was already doing a lot of what was presented. Perhaps the most useful workshop that I attended was the one on digital tools. I think this type of workshop will always be useful as teachers share programs and strategies that work in a variety of subjects. The same workshop a year from now will be full of many different and new techniques.

    David Norris

  17. Attended the 3 day EARCOS conference. Attended 7 training sessions as well as 3 days of keynote speakers. Keynotes provided motivation, and addressed differentiated learning and assessment and incorporating technology into a variety of learning scenarios.
    Small sessions were most beneficial in my area of mathematics. Many great ideas with a lot of focus on technology in the classroom. This was especially interesting since our introduction of one-to-one this year. Discussed “flipping” the classroom by incorporating Google Docs as part of the learning process, exploring new concepts through use of graphing calculators and on-line graphing software, student collaboration on projects, and incorporating a new project as a culminating activity as an alternative to final testing.
    I found it interesting to learn about many new apps available and how various teachers have employed these in the classroom.
    Interacting with colleagues was beneficial in seeing what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom.
    Jeff O’Brien

  18. The conference was one of the more useful conferences I have been to. First and foremost, we have been having great difficulty integrating our middle school grpahing calculator needs with the needs of the high school, particularly as we move into the students having macs instead of PCs. I went to a teacher led workshop showing the free program Geogebra, and that seems to be a decent solution to the problem.
    In addition, one of my biggest problems with using technology more in the classroom is simply not knowing what is out there and so what be useful. At Jeff Utecht's workshop, I was introduced to a whole host of online tools. a couple of which I have already used in the week and a half since the conference!
    Cathy Berghahn's job-alike session also was a winner, as I was able to run a discussion with about 12 other middle school math teachers working at schools that are trying to share student performance information in a non-traditional report card format. One teacher, in particular, shared his work at HKIS and helped us all see what is possible. Although we are just on the edge of creating a non-traditional report card at the MS here, it seems we're actually ahead of the game in terms of understanding what we want in comparison to where many of the other teachers in the discussion seemed to be. Cathy has continued to set up a contact list for us to keep in touch with these teachers and share ideas for what is working and what is not.

    Ben Lewis

  19. One of the keynote speakers really stood out to me. Jason Ohler was inspiration, humorous and had a great message that crossed disciplines. Not being a classroom teacher, I was still able draw useable material out of his 'DAOW of literacy. Another keynote, Steven Layne, was a little less than impressive. He used a significant amount of time reading from his books and then made sure we all knew where to buy them.

    Cheng and Sohn's 'Who Are You' session on essay writing was helpful. It dealt a little more with the nuts and bolts of writing than I really care about (that's English teacher's work) but their slant of finding your own voice was new information. Much of this session related to methodology I already use, but confirmation of good practice is as valuable as learning something new.

    Heinsman's 'Grief: The International Student’s Ever Present Companion' was at points, full of interesting new information that related to 3CKs but after the first 10 minutes we delved into material from the counselor's obvious file (i.e. Grief is the normal process of reacting to loss.)

    As this was the first year for the counseling strand, many of the sessions were really designed for newer counselors. I also think the organizers underestimated the number of counselors participating so the rooms were packed. More advanced sessions would be helpful. Of course, we could present one ourselves...

  20. I attended a sessions on flipped classrooms, animation, iMovie and on "5-minute openers", but the most rewarding part of the conference for me was the Service Learning component, led by Cathryn Berger Kaye's 4 workshops.

    I attended several workshops in the SL stream, and the key for me was defining service learning. In September GIN will be hosting a Japan GIN conference. In this I want to apply what we did at EARCOS by beginning with students working in cross-school groups to define service learning and explore the nature of service. This will be a good start to the year for all service groups involved. We will concentrate on the 5 - Stages of Service Learning, which we discussed in two of the workshops.

    1. investigation
    2. prep & plan
    3. action
    4. reflection (constant reflection)
    5. demonstration

    We'll look at the nature of research - interview, observe, experiment, survey, action research, media. We looked at several examples of ideas being turned into action at schools around the US. I'm going to order the presenter's book

    I really enjoyed the animation workshop. (http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/18004/i-can-animate) After a tutorial we created a short animation in groups. We were the funniest. ;) I'm going to use this in a class next year. (I need the summer to play around with it, but it's very basic) I'm thinking that I can use it for independent living as an engaging assessment. It's a stop-animation program, so I'm thinking it can be done early on when student are doing self-exploration tasks.

    The five-minute openers session was good, but I feel I've done many of the strategies in some form or another through Ontario's Think Literacy program. (anticipation guides, values clarification, mini-surveys, questionnaires, pro-con activities, etc). One idea I did like was giving students vocabulary that they use to predict the theme of a writing piece. It can be used across the curiculum, too.

    The Flipped Classroom was good, but I feel it only reinforced what I already know and sometimes do with google.docs. The nature of the courses I teach are different form Jeff Utecht's examples, but can be applied. A couple of advanced search ideas were new to me. (such as site: (insert subject)
    "-term" (this eliminates the term) and "+topic". (http://jeffutecht.com/flipped-class)

    I realize I know more about iMovie than I thought.

  21. I enjoyed attending the EARCOS conference. In particular, I enjoyed the sessions by Cathy Davidson and Jeff Utecht. They both challenged the traditional teaching model and shared alternative models that have been successful. There were many teachers at the conference who had interesting stories to tell about teaching, particularly in the area of using technology to enhance the classroom.

    Cathy was the most radical in her ideas about having to change to meet the new "information age". Her description of the class she has been teaching the last two years was interesting and inspiring. It makes me want to take more risks in how I structure my classes -- now I just need the time to sort through the ideas and sound them off of my colleagues.

    Jeff shared some good website tools and a lot of ideas about using technology to enhance teaching. He calls on us to get the kids to search more for information. We should not give the kids all of the information -- they need to develop skills for searching. Students are not particularly good at this and are not always efficient at refining their search or evaluating their sources. I would like to include these ideas into a few of the projects and flip lessons that I am currently doing.

    The next stage is working with the department to further develop the ideas. Our next PACT session is devoted to exploring some of the resources we gained at the conference. -- Amy

  22. One of the most interesting workshops I attended was the HS Math Job-A-Like. Much of the time was spent sharing ideas and concerns about the use of technology in the math classroom. It was enlightening to hear what other schools were using for calculators as well as on-line programs. We learned of 3 new on-line programs that need more exploration so we’ve dedicated time on the April 25th PACT day to look at these programs. It is very helpful to have contacts at other international schools in Asia in case we have questions or concerns about this technology.

    Another workshop I attended was Dr. Ohler’s on digital citizenship. One of the themes that created new thinking for me was helping students create a positive image for themselves on the internet. As our students travel from elementary to middle and through high school they frequently present work using computers. Dr. Ohler talked about googling yourself to see what appears. We need to help students make good decisions so when they are googled by other schools including universities that they are aware of the impact this material will have on their future. What will the university or employer learn about a student from their online presence?

    James Kett, ex-Singapore American teacher, led multiple workshops on mathematics. He encouraged math departments to provide opportunities for their students in math competitions, math clubs, and with weekly challenging problems. ASIJ’s HS math department has 3 math competitions our students can enter throughout the school year. We welcome the opportunity to add a Math Club to the offerings, but are aware of the challenges to adding an additional activity in an already busy school day.

  23. I had never attended an EARCOS conference before so I was very curious and a bit excited to see what it had to offer. One of the biggest differences I noticed right away was with the attendees themselves. They were all international educators, not just teachers from the United States or Canada as was the case with previous conferences. It was enjoyable to chat with them about their schools, students, and experiences teaching around Asia. As for the sessions I attended, they were varied and interesting.
    The session about Google Applications in the classroom was crowded and fast paced but it exposed me to a variety of tools that I did not realize existed in Google. I found the information on advance searches especially useful and was pleased to know that there are videos online and poster available as resources for users. I attended another session about using Google Earth as a game-based project. I was surprised to see that Google Earth was really just one tool being used in the project, rather than it being the center of the project, and that proper scaffolding was still very necessary to make the most of the tool.
    I also attended the session on PDP Cornell Notes and found that this can provide much needed structure to those students who are challenged at organizing their writing and in note taking. Unfortunately, scheduling miscues forced this session to be a bit rushed. The session on Frontloading Strategies for reading was useful, as well. I was already familiar with a few but was pleased to learn some new ones. These strategies certainly can be effective in helping students read with a purpose and help peak interest.
    Overall, the conference sessions I attended were good and I look forward to applying the new knowledge I attained to my classroom practice.
    Pete Vergel


    Dave Gotterson

    Keynote speaker Cathy Davidson had interesting ideas on integrating digital age changes rather than just acknowledging them. This implementation argument is relevant to ASIJ as we are looking to meaningfully expand our digital technology usage. I found her appeal to non linear thinking important because this requires a dramatic shift away from reliance on top down teaching models.

    Jason Ohler’s social media presentation was interesting from the point of visual literacy and its application to Film in Society. He takes the process of digital narrative construction into regular courses as a way for students to develop content. It was an effective practical application of strategies to incorporate technology.

    Jeff Utecht’s flipping the classroom was not a new idea and it confirmed for me that it has limited application in the social studies classroom. Reverse instruction in my courses would have students reading texts, digital or otherwise, in class avoiding the important discussion interaction they need to understand the major concepts.

    David Grant’s project based learning seeks to achieve relevance through real life applications with community purpose and community engagement. Clearly important for meaningful learning and to be encouraged where possible but also subject to constraints in the AP classroom with mandated content and concept development. But it was thought provoking for the early high school years.

  25. Earcos this year had both Math and Technology strands, so I had high expectations for gaining valuable resources and information to help with my focus areas this year. I think part of attending EARCOS is a renewal of the energy and enthusiasm for teaching that is so vital to a successful program by interacting with other teachers (and taking advantage of their experience/knowledge).

    I admit to being disappointed that Earcos did not choose the workshop that Amy and I proposed on the TI Inspire calculator and after attending several sessions I am even more convinced that it would have been very well received. While some individual sessions were very good, the general level of presentations was acceptable, but not at all “cutting edge.” However, I did find value in some areas. For example, one of the technology workshops introduced the Explain Everything App which I am currently using as I pilot the Ipad as a replacement for the tablet. Technology was a stronger strand with the workshops providing good resources and techniques that are applicable to my teaching and I will be sharing these with my colleagues.

    The BIG realization I came away with this year was an extremely important one – validation for the work that we do here at ASIJ. I reaffirmed my view that my colleagues in the math department are innovative, and that as a collaborative team we are much closer to the cutting edge than most schools, and doing everything we can to stay there. In the high school math department, we really are leaders in math education. Participating in EARCOS was very important in maintaining this perspective and makes me want to keep pushing for excellence in teaching and learning.

  26. Thanks for your reflection Kristi, it was a mystery to us as to why your presentation wasn't accepted. The positive experience for you however was to validate your departments lead on innovation and next practice. I suppose my question is - how do we continue to look for opportunities to share and celebrate your department's successes both here and outside ASIJ. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Earcos is always a way to connect with other teachers in the region, see what ideas/projects/resources they are devoting their time and energy to, and “borrow/outright steal” the best of the best ideas. It’s a place for cross pollination and a way to reach outside the ASIJ “box” to enhance innovation and improvement in our curriculum. This happens both formally and informally; I got more quality PD/Science resources from chatting with a friend who teaches in Shanghai than I would have believed possible (he uses Twitter almost exclusively for resources). The workshops though were also very valuable, especially from the tech perspective. Kim Coffino and Jeff Utecht were excellent as usual, and revalidated the Digital Citizenship curriculum that I had suggested to the 6th grade team from a prior workshop. Jeff had great presentations on “Getting Social with Students (Facebook in the classroom) as well as tips for Google Apps.

    I also attended David Grant’s workshop on 6 Steps for Great PBL. This was interesting and applicable in some parts, but mainly focused on turning around poorly functioning schools by implementing project based learning. I was hoping for more on PBL, less on revitalizing schools.

    I was really fascinated the workshop on the Harness Method of discussion grading (used extensively and developed at Exeter Academy). Although this was presented from a viewpoint of literature/English courses, it seems adaptable to any discussion. It was fascinating to see a workable method that made students responsible for creating a “group grade” that was both valid and tied directly to the skills and outcomes that were desired by the teacher. The downside is this is a long term process to improve discussion skills, not a snapshot type of grading (or this may be the positive part?). The grading grid for this type of assessment looks like a spirograph art project, but shows both teacher and student where interactions are happening in a discussion and is not hard to use – this is what makes it manageable. I got a whole packet of info if you are interested in this non-traditional method of assessment. This is probably most appropriate at the HS level, but was shown to be effective in MS/Elem classes with modifications. In the last few years my student led discussions in class have been minimized due to a lack of quality control – I am looking forward to trying it out!

  29. Since there is usually no session for my discipline, Japanese language and literature, I often need to go to ESL, English or foreign language sessions and think about how to apply the ideas discussed there to my classes. That was the case for the 2012 EARCOS Teachers’ Conference, and it proved very useful. I enjoyed the Keynote speakers, as well as various sessions I attended. I am already using some of the ideas I have learned at the conference.

    For example, the sessions by Jeff Utecht were particularly enjoyable. His sessions focus on how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning. His sessions were all very practical, inspiring and full of ideas.

    I was especially interested in learning more about Google Apps in the Classroom. What I found very promising is the development and use of Google poster for educators; http://www.google.com/educators/posters.html.
    These materials are copyright free; apparently they can be enlarged, and they hang in the classrooms at ISB. The research skills acquired through their use can be very useful to high school students and of value also when they go on to college.

    I also thought that our students would enjoy and benefit from using the “Google a day” idea to search, find an answer, and learn about search tricks. The time it takes for them to search the answer is recorded on the site, so it motivates them to compete against their peers, too. There is one question every day, so students can try it again and again. Although it did not seem to be available in Japanese (yet), I think the idea was great. I sent the useful links to my colleagues right after the session. The explanation can be found here:

    Jeff also connected Google search skills to FlippedClassroom activities. Because the students do their search and research on the question before the class, they can be prepared for new discussion in class. First, they learn the content in advance, outside the classroom. They will bring the knowledge to class. Then, the class is used to apply the content and knowledge through using skills—in my classroom, they could practice writing and discussion with me in their presence to guide on particular language objectives.

    In sum exchanging ideas with other teachers from other schools was beneficial. Even though I don’t teach the same discipline, I can plan ways to effectively adapt some of their ideas in my own courses.

  30. EARCOS Conference, Bangkok March 2012
    I really enjoyed Cathy Davidson's Keynote. Her humorous take on the evolution over the centuries of "technology" (printing books, for example), and the predicted ill effects of such, echo much of what we have heard in recent years about the dangers of the internet, new ways of communicating, and social networking. Her work and passion, and her call to us as educators is to envision educational systems that embrace and utilize the ways in which people now learn and connect. Even ASIJ, with all of our tech use, is still based in a system that was designed to meet the needs of a very different day and age. It is exciting to feel that schools are on the threshold of creating a completely different way of educating the masses.
    As sometimes happens at conferences such as this, there are some sessions that are not particularly engaging or useful. However, I was delighted at this one to attend a Counseling Strand session about Real Beauty. Monna McDiarmid, a counselor at YIS here in Tokyo, and Michelle Vogel, School Psychologist in Bangkok, put on "What is Beautiful? Talking with Teenagers about Body Image", and it was fantastic. They created a program that I found inspirational- both in their approach and in what they were able to accomplish within their school. In a school like ours where both girls and boys deal with prejudices and pressure about body image, their program was educational and as I said, inspirational. Having dealt personally and professionally with weight issues, my favorite line that I know I will use in counseling, is, "Weight is not a moral issue."
    Another session that I got a lot out of, was the one on Teenage Sleep Deprivation. ASIJ had a sleep expert a few years ago do some sessions with the counselors, parents and students. As this was his field of study his presentations were informative, enlightening and interesting. At EARCOS, it seemed obvious that sleep deprivation was not the presenter's field of expertise, and that most of his research was done just to be able to give this presentation, but I still learned a few things, and getting some reminders on others has already proven helpful here with a few of my students. I also picked up a couple of good resources to use with parents and students. One: Sleep for Success by Dr. James Maas and Rebecca Robbins. He talked a lot about the importance of melatonin for sleep, and gave us a website (www.lowbluelights.com) with products designed to block blue light waves, which block the production of melatonin. While I can't see too many kids buying into the idea, for some parents with kids who really do have trouble getting to sleep early enough, it could be a helpful resource. A sleep myths "Sleep IQ" quiz will come in handy. A useful tool I think for adults more than kids, is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
    A fun session was Tim Burns' Energizing Strategies for Engaged Learning: Using Movement, Rhythm, and Creative Play to Facilitate Classroom Learning. Burns tied together brain development, attentional systems, neural connections and the need for movement and rhythm. He had us up and moving, laughing, and learning. These are definitely techniques that are easily incorporated into classroom/workshop presentations.

  31. EARCOS Conference, Bangkok March 2012 Continued. The session on Bridging the School-Parent Gap, reflected much of what I aleady use in my work with parents. I especially liked his: 7 Disconnecting Habits: 1. Criticizing, 2. Blaming 3. Complaining, 4. Nagging, 5. Threeatening, 6. Punishing (not about consequences, but involves attacking the child's sense of self and risks breaking the relationship), and 7. Bribing (rewarding to control). A good reflective question for parents - "If your boss relied on these 7 habits, how would you react?
    Those in contrast to: 7 Caring Habits: 1. Supporting, 2. Encouraging, 3. Listening, 4. Accepting, 5. Trusting, 6. Respecting, 7. Negotiating differences. Selanders book on Rethinking Parenting is one I'd like to see us consider for one of next year's Parent Focus meetings.
    The Counselors' Share for MS counselors was okay. A little more structure might have helped, but it was still good to network and hear what other schools are doing.
    Overall, I am happy I attended the conference. It was good to see EARCOS finally getting around to addressing more of the needs of counselors, and I think next year's will be even better in this regard. I think that the interest level in many of the counseling strand sessions was greatly underestimated, however, resulting in several with insufficient seating.

  32. I alwaya enjoy attending the EARCOS conference for the variety of workshops that are available for a short time in one place. This time I focused on attending workshops connected to Language Arts, including writng as that was my PG&E goal this year, and an area of focus for the ES. I attended workshops on conferring and taking note taking with childran based on their writing, how to hold a "Poetry Slam", we teach a unit on Poetry for writing, and how to plan good mini lessons for both reading and writing.Ilearned how to organize my conference notes and about a wonderful app called Confer APP. I plan to use this next year as I have the access to an iPad. I learned how my conference notes with kids can help me plan for small group lessons. I learned how to compliment kids while offering them constructive ways to improve their writing. While the Poetry Slam idea is best used for HS and MS I could already think of ways to adapt it for fourth graders.I look forward to planning this event for our kids next year. I think they will love it. As far as the ltieracy element, I learned how to organize mini lessons, how to best use the time I have, to focus on only one strategy or teaching point. I leanred the importance of visual text and anchor charts. I was taught some new strategies for helping kids to share their ideas with partners or small groups. I have also learned how to have texts that the kids are already familiar with to use in minilessons. There is also a need for a balance of fiction and nonfiction texts.

  33. One of the most useful set of workshops for me was Google in Schools. I struggle with using Google tools. There is a fundamental change in organizing data that Google uses. Even Google mail conversation view has been an issue for me. The big light bulb for me was that Google doesn’t want me to sort but instead search. This is a huge paradigm shift in how we deal with information, create scientific theories, and deal with the onslaught of data. Though the presentation dealt with a lot specific Google aps and process, the real benefit for me and my students is a change in how we build our music portfolios and reflect on what we learn from them.

    A unexpected valuable workshop was on stress and its effect emotionally and physically in our lives. As we know stress is an important aspect of our lives and even necessary for success but finding balance has become more difficult and is causing health issues for both teachers and students. The workshop presented specific tested tools to maintain a healthy and vibrant life. I have been sharing appropriate techniques with students and colleagues.