Saturday, March 27, 2010

Understanding the Role of a MUN Program Advisor

by Ben Wagor

Model United Nations (MUN) is one of the fasting growing and most popular programs in the international school community. It provides students with skills in leadership, consensus building, debate, conflict resolutions, research and writing, as well as critical thinking and analytical reasoning. The program is focused around students representing delegates of United nations countries and debating current world problems and finding solutions. Ben feels that by providing teachers the opportunity to advise this program they are providing students around the world more access to MUN.

EARCOS Teachers Conference 2010, Manila, Philippines

Unfortunately, there is no professional development available for MUN. It's mainly on-the-job training or mentoring. In Ben's school it's been opened up to 7th and 8th grade. This leads to more experienced and confident kids in a very competitive international activity. Ben doesn't say no to any student, but he also doesn't say no if they want to quit. If they aren't ready, they may want to try again next year.

With kids you can start with a trivia powerpoint to find out who knows about the history of the UN. This will give you a clue as to who already has an interest. For example:
  • When was the UN started? 1945
  • Who were the first five members? (winners of WWII)
  • How many principal organs are there in the UN? (6)
  • What previous version of the UN existed? (League of Nations)
A good MUN student will be outgoing, mature, a self-motivated learner, and confident. They must also have the ability to write and speak well. Students who are quiet and require a lot of structure, but may be considered for MUN because they are high achievers academically, tend to have a more difficult time participating in MUN.

To teach kids parliamentary procedure, one can practice debate on any subject with the teacher acting as the chair with the rules projected up on a screen at the front of the room.

What is MUN?
It's a program for students run by students. Peer to peer knowledge transfer is essential to a successful program. We leave schools, and if there's no institutional knowledge, then the program dies. In Ben's school, high school kids train the middle school kids. An after school current events program supports MUN.

What will MUN do for students?
It provides them with the ability to utilize and improve the following skills:
  • debate
  • research and writing
  • consensus building
  • leadership
  • critical and anlytical reasoning
Miss International, Anna Gabriela Espinoza, was Ben Wagor's MUN student!

What kind of students join MUN?
Students who are:
  • self-motivated learners
  • confident speakers or willing to try
  • like to debate and have an interest in current events happening in the world
What are the benefits of MUN?
MUN allows students to:
  • travel around a country or region to participate in MUN simulations,
  • develop the skills to make them the future leaders of the world,
  • have a program on their high school transcripts that is valued and respected by universities all over the world.

What is the advisor's role?

  • Always encourage initiative and provide direction, but students must walk the path to achievement ontheir own.
  • The key is to move your program forward every year with achievable goals communicated to the students, not just to maintain it.
MUN is a fast paced program that is growning around the world in the international school community. MUN experience is now considered a very valuable skill for a teaching applicant to recruiters.

John Joseph: The Brain Man

Educating the Whole Child

EARCOS Teachers Conference 2010, Manila, Philippines

We need to take all the weighted elements and level the playing field for students. A study asked student to rate the things that affect their performance, and the top factor was sleep patterns. Children today get nine hours less per week than their parents got. So in one generation, we've wiped out one full night of sleep. So if a child is underachieving, it could be that they have lack of sleep.

It is the student himself that has the largest sphere of influence on their own learning, then the teacher, family, and peers. Intelligence is not fixed; we call this brain plasticity. Three things are important: motivation, confidence, and strategies for learning as well as time.

Narrowing the achievement gap can be done in two major ways: #1 giving kids feedback, #2 teaching kids learning strategies.

Kids fall into five categories:
  1. Anxious learner (high motivation, low confidence)
  2. High Flier learner (high motivation, high confidence)
  3. Conpetent learner (average motivation, average confidence)
  4. Struggling learner (low motivation, low confidence)
  5. Underachieving learner (low motivation, high confidence)
Here's where it gets fascinating. When you ask parents where they would like their kids to be, they never choose Struggling or Underachieving. Teacher never do either, but students DO sometimes! John asks them to rate themselves by subject, and there can be dramatic differences - it all has to do with care and belief. Emotion is tied to learning.

Is there also a teacher plot? YES! Created by kids:
  1. Anxious teacher (I love this job, but I have no clue what I'm doing!) high willingness, low knowingness
  2. High Flier teacher (This is a challenge; let's do it! but...We work as a team, and we do it my way.) high willingness, high knowingness
  3. Competent teacher (I leave my work at work at the end of the day. PD has to be practical.) average willingness, average knowingness
  4. Struggling teacher (School is a great place when there're no kids here.) low willingness, low knowingness
  5. Cynical teacher (They're frustrated high fliers. I've been teaching for 125 years, and it didn't work then, and it won't work now!) low willingness, high knowingness
The Four Worlds Model

World 1 - My identity, hopes, dreams, soul. A healthy world one is essential, and the vast majority of kids have this. Those that don't see life as a treadmill, may be depressed, cannot bounce back. A healthy world one means you have a good life regardless of your circumstances. It is not always a factor of parenting. (The Heart)

World 2 - The concrete world, the forte of early world educators. Students who are in this world ask, "Why do I need to know this? When am I going to use this?" It includes everything that we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. You get to meet people, go places and do things. World 2 includes everything you do with your hands and experience firsthand. (The Hands)

World 3 - The indirect experiences that are part of learning. It's the learning that requires generating mental images from words. Schools excel at world 3 learning. Those kids who don't do well in world 3 soon learn that if you create enough crises in the classroom, they'll give you some world 2 stuff to do. If you put in the world 2 without putting in the world 3 stuff, you leave out the intellectual attachment that comes with learning. (The Mind)

World 4 - The unknown world is the world of our hopes and dreams and possibilities. (The Unknown)

John sees parents who are living through their children, pushing them to do things that are not in their hearts. Passion for learning comes from doing what you love.

The 21st Century Educator: the power of personal learning networks

by Kim Cofino

"Teachers who know how to use technology efffectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not." - SN Beach

EARCOS Teachers Conference 2010, Manila, Philippines

presentation resources:
professional blog:

Video: Learning to Change, Changing to Learn

Idea: Parent-Teacher Coffee Morning once-a-month, show a video like the one above, then tell the parents that if they think it's important, talk to your child's educator.

The way we have school today will not last forever, and if you are a teacher, you need to be prepared. If you're not, you will fall behind. We need to learn how to teach online and create PLNs.

Your professional development is there 24 hours a day online. It's PD on fast forward. The best rises to the top, so I'm never concerned about missing something. It will come around again and again. It's responsive because you are filling your PLN with people who helpful to you. You are connected with all of these people, learning together.

The hard part is taking time to create the networks. Before Kim had her PLN, she felt alone and isolated as a teacher. Conferences allowed her to connect once or twice a year. She read Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts by Will Richardson. (Other book recommendations: Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century, A Whole New Mind, The World is Flat, Wikinomics, The Long Tail).

She started with 6th grade and had them make their own blogs and figured she'd make one herself. Now after four years, she's found her voice and improved her writing. Then she discovered online conferences (K-12 Online Conference, entirely free!). She created an RSS feed, formed groups, began making personal connections, and finally, involving the students by investing in collaborations.

The next step was joining Nings. It's like walking into a neighborhood of likeminded people. And then...she discovered Twitter. Kim's recommendation, however, is to do it in this order:

  1. RSS feeds are an absolute necessity. Kim uses Google Reader.
  2. Join a social network. Find a site that interests you.
  3. Start your own blog. That's where you get that depth of thought and model what you want kids to be doing. Kim prefers
  4. Make personal connections. Find people you connect with and stay in touch.
  5. Attend online conferences.
  6. Make a twitter account. Don't forget to make a bio!
By doing this you are creating your digital identity. You need to be in charge of your digital profile and think about your digital footprint. Think before you post, no matter how private you think it is!

Cool Tools:

Blended Classrooms Are the Future

by Jeff Utecht

EARCOS Teachers Conference, 2010, Manila, Philippines

"It is predicted by 2019, 50% of high school courses will online. A study released in November found that blended classrooms (those utilizing both traditional and online learning formats) lead to great is a whole new way of engaging learners in the learning process."

Florida Virtual High School is the largest virtual high school in the US with over 300,000 students! A portion of kids are high achievers who graduate early and move on the university, but a large portion are kids from low socioeconomic status who need to earn money for their families, so they work a full-time job and still go to high school - online. Some are using online classes for summer school to catch up or get ahead.

Studies showed that the more interactive, the more learning was going on in the online environment. 80% of incoming undergrads will take at least one online class before they graduate from university. Online enrollment in universities is skyrocketing! This is where universities are seeing the majority of growth.

We're talking about personalizing the educational landscape. Your kids do not come to school to learn. Why do they come to school? To see their friends and socialize. What is it that you are doing in your classroom right now that I don't have to take class time to do? It's that stuff that you can put online in order to maximize the face-to-face time.

Social bookmarking is a way that students can prepare for tomorrow's discussion. Their homework could be to use a site like to bookmark their sites. Then in class you can discuss why people bookmarked what. We're really good at having kids put stuff on the Internet, but we're not really good about pulling that content back into the classroom. Kids are creating amazing blog posts, but are we having kids come back in and explain why the wrote what they wrote?

Build your lessons and allow your students to create something to show their learning. But at the end of the day, they have to answer the question, they have to reach the learning outcomes. In the beginning, some students will complain, "Please, please, just tell me what I need to know so I can memorize it and pass the test!" You'll have to retrain them. Can they not only create something, but can they analyze it? Do they know why they're doing it?

At Jeff's schools, students start the day with a blog post. One teacher will pick one kid and share it with the class. He'll ask the students to share their thoughts about it, too. (They use

OK, my computer's battery died there, so hopefully I'll find the notes later and post them here. Jeff Utecht is a virtual fount of technology pun intended.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Building Learning Communities

by Alan November

Earcos Teachers Conference, 2010, Manila, Philippines

Idea: use Google Docs to get students to take communal notes and invite you so you can view it immediately.

Idea: Start a Ning site and post a video for reflection and discussion before class. (see Usually, when a class ends a teacher doesn't have any evidence that the discussion and reflection continues even after the course is finished.

Idea: Get commentary beyond your own classroom. Take advantage of the global motivational force of a worldwide audience. Have students create a Ning site for news stories written by the kids themselves. [This could be a school newspaper!]

Idea: Any novel you read in class from now on, get on the web and connect your kids to people who live in that town. In fact, contact the author (if possible, naturally). Get the students to write to the author and they may get a response. If you get the students to engage the author they're going to take their writing a little more seriously.

Idea: Global elementary classrooms for free with Skype. Find sconnection with teachers around the world across the curriculum.(Youtube: Real-Time Global Education for FREE with Skype)

Idea: to create a custom search engine. Invite teachers from around the world to add sites to the search engine. Your students can contibute sites to the search engine. Imagine if all the history teachers of the world got together and created a search engine, it would be better than any one search engine created by one teachers! Add your CSE to Imbed it on your class blog or website.

Idea: Make one kid every day the official researcher of the class. While the teacher is teaching, one kid's job is to find the best resources on the web and add them to the search engine (above). All you have to do is invote the kids of the class or whoever to contribute.

Here are the collaborative notes for this session:  

Partnering With Parents: Five Steps to Home-School Collaboration

by Cirecie West-Olatunji, Ph.D., University of Florida

Earcos Teachers Conference, 2010, Manila, Philippines
(These session notes are the words of the speaker, in some cases, paraphrased, and others, quoted.)

The aim of this workshop was to provide us as teachers with new skills for partnering with parents. She asked, "What are your current challenges to partnering with parents?" We answered with things like:

  • no adequate, easy-to-use systems in place at school
  • wrong email or phone number information for parents
  • parents traveling a lot
  • not knowing when and how to approach the parents
  • parents not understanding the programme/assessment at school
  • desire to deal with student first, parent as a last resort
  • some parents view contact as negative; "My child is in trouble"
  • parents are unwilling to self-reflect or change
  • teacher colleague parents and friends of teacher who are parents
  • finding time to meet
  • western values colliding with other culture expectations
  • parents not being accessible in general; lack of time, for ex.
  • low level of parent education
  • really bad home life for the students
  • parents who have high expecations for kids but aren't willing to take the time to help them
  • language differences
  • differences in values
  • parents who say they know what's best for their child
Socioeconomic status [SES] is NOT always a factor in these problems. We need to partner with kids, value what they know and then use that. We need to start every interaction with the assumption that they want to be involved and engaged. Even with parents who come in very bossy, evidence shows that this may mean they actually are NOT confident about what to do. So address the fear first. Explain the procedures and protocols and what happens next.

As a parent it is so hard to feel blamed for our children's shortcomings. This can lead to resistance and reluctance to partner with teachers in collaboration, especially if the family has had previous negative school experiences - they've got baggage! Our goal is to get the parent to see us as an advocate for their child. The parent-teacher relationship needs to be like a parental bond - they have to be on the same page even when they disagree, present a united front - otherwise, the student/child will drive a wedge between the parents and teachers.

When someone speaks with a particular pitch or with gestures, it is often assumed that the person is agitated or angry; rarely is it conceived that there night be a misinterpretation of behavior because of culturally embedded norms. What we are saying isn't being communicated, and what we're hearing isn't what's being said! Silence is a useful tool; wait to hear what parents have to say. We can't be afraid to interact with people because we don't understand them. This is where recovery skills come in. Don't be afraid to apologize, and be willing to start over.

70% of what we do should be PREVENTION.

Families should be seen as experts in their children's development and educational needs and thus significant partners in children's education. Funds of knowledge (Moll and Gonzalez): People are not empty vessels. Students and parents come to us with funds of knowledge, and we are most effective when we assume that they have that knowledge and are willing to work with that. We need to think about the way they've socialized their children, particularly in a cultural context. Acculturative stress occurs when the child's home culture collides with the culture of the school. However, the new literature shows that children can and do deal with this stress very well, if we give them the tools.

Family involvement is not just volunteering at a school event or signing a planner, but is a two-way sharing of information that engages families. A caregiver may never set foot in the school and yet still be involved. Unlike traditional "parent involvement" activities that emphasize passive support roles for parents, home-swchool collaboration views education as a shared responsibility in which families and educators develop shared goals and plans that support the success of all students. As teachers, we are challenged to think of new, nontraditional ways of involving parents.

3 questions for parents: Ask them what their schools and families did that helped them! Then you can ask them, "OK, tell me how you're doing that with your child." How can I help? That is partnering with parents. It's empowering, culturally responsive, and it's collaborative.

By focusing on what students' families think, value, and do, it validates and honors differences that exist and brings multiple dimensions of students' lived experinces into the classrom. Understanding students' families can enable teachers to create lesson plans based in students' existing skills and competencies. As a result,
students become more engaged and successful, teachers learn from families, and families engage more in their children's education in and out of school.

  1. Educate yourself about community/family history.
  2. Increase self-awareness about your biases.
  3. Respect parents' funds of knowledge.
  4. Ask questions instead of assuming.
  5. Seek parnerships.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Criterion E for Grade 8

Click on the image to make it larger.