Monday, June 20, 2011

Graduation 2011

My last post ...

Congratulations to Eashita for winning the Governor General Award and to Jamil for being selected Valedictorian by his class.

Here are videos of the speakers from the evening. I have a full video of the entire ceremony. I will leave a copy at the school in August.

Thank you CIS staff, students, parents and directors for 7 amazing years.

I will truly miss this community.
Ted Cowan
High School Principal 2007-2011

High Commissioner Mr. David Sevigny

Head of School Dr. Glenn Odland

High School Principal Mr. Ted Cowan

Valedictorian Introduction

Valedictorian Address - Jamil Schulze

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

PD Day of PLAY - Take 2

Last school year (October 2009) we ran a High School Professional Development Day called the PD Day of PLAY, where PLAY was an acronym for Passionate Learning About You. It was a scaled down version of the IB-MYP Personal Project based on the readings of Dan Pink and Sir Ken Robinson along with John C. Maxwell and Todd Whitaker. Teachers had the day to explore an area of Singapore, investigate a problem they wanted to solve or create a project ... all on their own schedule for the day. Teachers wrote and recorded music, some just wrote, they learned software, some explored the far corners of Singapore, a couple kayaked, one learned a new art, one worked on her Mandarin and a few experimented with some new recipes. All in all the feedback was positive. So much so that I felt I need to share the success of the day at the IBO Conference in March 2010.

My Prezi for the IBO presentation in March 2010 and staff reflections from the first PD Day of PLAY:

But as this school year developed and I wanted to run another PD Day of PLAY, something just didn’t sit right with me, I was one of the kayakers, there were two of us. There were three aspiring chefs, but the rest of the staff chose to work in isolation. Don’t get me wrong, they did some amazing things. But as an educator in the 21st Century, I can hear everyone screaming “collaboration” from the top of the internet satellites. That along with my recent ADE 2011 experience, where sharing and learning together were consistent themes ... I felt I needed to address this.

So on May 17, 2011, the basic idea was the same, full day, do what you’re passionate about. But we ran through some exercises (thanks to Rebecca Stockley) that engaged the staff in finding out more about each other, exploring common ideas and forming groups. The reflection at the end of the day was different as well. The groups had five minutes to present their findings to the rest of the staff. Here’s what came out of the day:

1. A emotional day of volunteering at an old age home

2. Photography and camera work at Jurong Bird Park

3. Writing and recording an original score

4. Creating a movie of the people of Singapore

5. Learning Yoga and biking the area around the new campus

6. Individual challenges with photography around Singapore

7. Exploring Kent Ridges Park, Science Centre and the Asian Civilization Museum

8. Learning new software

9. Risk Analysis and Golf ECA inquiries

Staff reflections on PD Day of PLAY - Take 2 are in the comments below:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

MYP Personal Project Exhibition

Today was the big day for the grade 10 students to present their Personal Projects to the rest of the school and to the parents. The students had a choice of "displaying", "discussing" or "demonstrating" their projects and they have done a great job of all three!

This is a day I've come to love because I get to discuss the students passions with them. They speak eloquently and knowledgeably about a wide range of topics. Today, I learned about making a computer, Foot and Mouth disease in Korean farm animals, wakeboarding tricks, the battle of Normandy as seen through Google Sketch-up drawings. I spoke to a student who researched child soldiers and then wrote his own short story. I saw students dance, play their own musical creations using software, perform their own musical scores, one with a Chinese guzheng and another with harp, who incidently, also sang!

Thank you to Mr. Mark Patton for overseeing the entire process from start to finish as our Middle Years Programme Coordinator. He has again raised the bar for the current grades 9 for next year's exhibition. Thank you to all of the teacher supervisors who supported the students in completing their projects, edited their personal statements and monitored the displays. It has been the efforts of many that have made today a success.

But the biggest thanks goes to the students who have put in countless hours following their passions and creating the projects that we saw in today's exhibition.


Monday, May 2, 2011

How Social Media is Changing University Admissions

Thanks to David Warlick (2¢ Worth) and his new Infographic-a-day Blog.

There was one that particularly caught my attention.

Here's the Infographic (click here for a larger version):

I think you'll agree, the simple answer is ... yes it can, both positively and negatively. As the last stat indicates, students can also find out information about potential colleges and universities as well.

Teacher Advisors will be asked to discuss the data in this infographic over the next week with their classes, I encourage the same discussions at home.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child ... and Put on a Drama Production

First of all Kate Potosky did an amazing job to pull together our production of "Little Shop of Horrors" despite what seemed to be an enormous amount of karma working against her. That said an equal amount of drive, friendships and hard work was definitely in her favour.

Let me give you a little history about this production. I knew from day one when I met Kate at the new staff orientation last August, she was sick and had been for a couple of days, but she managed to steal my ear for probably half an hour and we talked, ok I listened, about all the great possibilities for this year's drama production. I could feel the energy. I sensed what was was coming when she wasn't sick. Kate was going big. We are a small high school. 250 students. 26 teachers. She's Audrey 2 and was about to gobble up CIS.

Let's quickly run through the challenges. First, the rights, scripts and scores. Where to get that in Singapore ... of course New York City and Musical Theatre International. Never used them before, but they were very good. Scripts and scores arrived a healthy 6 weeks before the show was to hit the stage ... luckily we had the approval earlier. Enough said. We are in a new campus with a big hall, lights, speakers ... but none worked. This was discovered two months before showtime. OK, haul in the contractors, call maintenance to change lights, get Mr. Laflamme onto ordering the mics for next year's state of the art theater ... now.

Band, CD, Band, CD??? CD won out in the end.

Now sets ... this is not a black box show. You can see the set above with 4th generation Audrey in the middle. This is where the staff's respect for Kate came through loud and clear. She was able to garner support from high school teachers, middle school teachers and support staff, usually with a smile. Except maybe when Halim had to climb ladders.

But here's the kicker, two weeks before showtime, it was realized that four of her cast and crew had to be on a flight to Ladakh at 11:00pm on the last night of the show. Show ends at 9:30, 45 min to the airport. It was going to be tight. Again though, the staff banded together, checked the students in before the show began and had a taxi waiting immediately after. Not sure if you noticed the shortened intermission on Thursday?!?!?

A fantastic performance!

(Thanks to Mark Patton for the photos)

Cast, you can hold your heads high. You delivered an amazing show. I was asked at one of the intermissions, "Are you really only putting this on twice? Is there anyway you can do more shows? Is the press here?"

Crew, you made the show run flawlessly, from the lighting to the sound to the props and sets. Great work.

Staff, on behalf of Kate and myself, thanks for all your support both behind the scenes and in the audience.

And Kate, I won't be around to see the build-up to the production next year. But, I will definitely be back to see what you create for 2012. Thanks for all you hard work, late nights and dedication to our students.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Howdya Like Dem Apples - ADE '11 Greatest Moments

I'm still fairly new to the international education gig, but in my seven years I have had the opportunity to attend a number of conferences, workshops, institutes and courses (Which I would like to thank the Canadian International School and it's directors for supporting). The ADE 2011 Institute ranks very high on the list. I dare say the top in terms of educational collaboration and connection, and consistent (and seemingly never-ending) positive energy. Yes, I guzzled the Kool-ADE. Here are my 11 Greatest Moments of ADE 2011 (in no particular order). Some of these obviously apply to all 60 of us, some are more personal and focus on the fantastic groups I had a chance to work with. Feel free to add your own to the list in the comment section.

  1. Warm-up, ice-breaker and group activities presented by Rebecca Stockley. More activities can be found at

  2. Photo sharing and tips by Joseph Linaschke.

  3. Thinking different with Rob Ferrin, Hillary Daniels and Jabiz Raisdana. Creating a video for the Saigon Race contest that satisfied the least number of criteria ... and winning.

  4. Feeling like bumbling idiots, scouring the streets of HCMC with Sean Deetlefs, Steve Katz and John Wu looking for potential interviewees ... while Br. Dennis Magbanua, Dianna Pratt and Hillary were holding new born babies.

  5. Fantastic Food!

  6. Evening connection time.

  7. Meeting the sweetest little girl in the market. And the ensuing conversations about her story.

  8. Being introduced to the "3 Idiots" ... not literally ... the movie.

  9. Spotlight Sharing (the REAL TED talk) and Un-Conferences (thanks Rebecca and Mano)

  10. Accessibility session and the tricks and tips learned! Thanks Sarah!

  11. The stories of Chow Pei Sze and Chai Yee-wei.

  12. I had to add a 12th ... watching the amazing 59 other application videos and tortuously waiting through all four days to have mine shown second last.
Thanks Adrian and the rest of the Apple Team, the ADE Alumni and the ADE Class of 2011. I'll see you online soon. Ted

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ADE - Day 2 and 3 - Out and About in HCMC

Day 2

6:00 am - Morning Photo Walk - We started the day early with a walk through the morning market as the vendors set up for the day. It was led by Joseph Linaschke who gave a us a few tips before setting us loose to shoot in HCMC. Here are few of my shots. Hmmm ... a bit of a math and patterns theme? For the faint at heart, I kept it to pictures of fruit rather than raw meat and fish.

AM - We chose two of five sessions that were offered.
  • Accessibility in the classroom for every learner
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Logic Studio
  • Basic Aperture
  • iOS Webapp development
I chose Final Cut Pro. Looks like a great piece of software, sometime in the future I could see creating some pretty cool videos with the layering features, but for now I still need to master iMovie! The second session for me was Accessibility. Lots of great tricks, tips and shortcuts to assist every learner in the classroom! Did you know in any Apple document, if you highlight a word and press "Control Command D" the dictionary definition pops up! And in System Preferences then Universal Access select "Voice Over", then highlight text, double click and select speech to have the text read to you while you read it. Fantastic and easy!

PM - The Saigon Race

We were to find a list of about 50 items and capture them on film (video or still) and create a 2 minute video in iMovie on an iPod Touch displaying them. We loved the challenge, but thought the tools selection was maybe a little restrictive. We were trying to decide if we would ask students to create a movie on an iPod Touch as opposed to gathering the footage and creating it on their laptops. After a little frustration (OK a lot for Jabiz Raisdana - @intrepidteacher) and 15 items, we decided to Think Different. We created a video that satisfied the least number of criteria ... and won the contest. Hmmm ... maybe it pays to be a risk taker?!?!

Great dinner, great conversation and lots of laughs to finish off a long day.

Day 3

Project Saigon 360

Today we self-organized into groups based on interests. We had all day (10am to 5pm) to explore HCMC and answer a question, solve a problem, investigate or explore an element that was of interest to us and present it back to the whole group in 5 minutes at the end of the day. My original thought was creating a Math Trail around HCMC (I first heard of this idea in 1990 from Ron Lancaster). But as we were deciding, Rebecca Stockley posed a question to us. "If you could do something that interested you, but would take you out of your comfort zone, what would it be?" A Math Trail was not the answer. I joined six others, with the general topic of prostitution in HCMC. We wanted to get to the bottom of why women in HCMC get in to it, how they get into it and can we assist in stopping the cycle. Hey, we were big dreamers at the beginning of the day. This was a draining day. Physically and emotionally. Thanks for the push Rebecca!

We watched about 12 fantastic presentations on all of the various projects and capped the evening off with a showing of the Bollywood movie, "The 3 Idiots". A hilarious movie about following your passions.


Yet another exhausting day, but worth every minute!

I'm looking forward to the grand finale day tomorrow Un-Conference and Spotlight sessions.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ADE Day 1 - The Brand of Me

My first day at the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Workshop was a long one, not long in the sense of "drawn out and when is this going to end" long. But, "full of energy and man I'm beat, we talked about a lot and reflected a lot" long. It was a great start to the workshop and apparently things will ramp up tomorrow with the HCMC ADE Race.

Most of the morning was spent talking about "Personal Branding", both as an educator and as an ADE. It was uncomfortable. It was difficult. But that's what makes us grow. Educators aren't used to talking about themselves. We like to talk about the great things students (and in my case the staff as well) are doing, creating, publishing and achieving ... not ourselves. The sessions made us think about who we are and what roles we play in life, both educationally and personally. The idea being that we have to tell "our story". After paring down the brainstorming list of roles I play to three, here's how far I got using a Mind Mapping App called Total Recall.

The next steps are to refine, revise, reflect and create the presentation as a movie, photo, on the stage or written. I'm leaning towards a movie or a presentation. The afternoon focused on pointers to enhance each of the above modes of presentation.

Then, the day was capped off with a rousing and passionate keynote address by film maker and director, Chai Yee Wei. Here is a review of his first film Blood Ties. Probably not something you'll see in a classroom anytime soon ... at least I hope not.

I'd love your feedback on the Mind Map and if you feel there is anything I could add.

Thanks. Early start tomorrow with a Photo Walk of a HCMC wet market at 6:00 am.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teaching Science and Humanities with Technology

Part of the focus for ongoing professional development this year at the high school has been learning about new and meaningful ways to implement technology in classroom. I'd like to share two recent classroom activities with you.

First, Tanya Nizam's grade 9 Science class. Tanya has been using blogs to have students share hypotheses and data. They also used the blog to analyze data, charts and the MYP assessment criteria, giving the students the opportunity to comment on each other's posts. It was a great way for the students to be engaged in a virtual discussion that could be happening at any time. Then follow-up discussions in the classroom reinforce the concepts and understandings.

1.jpg 1.jpg
Second, in Travel and Tourism, Scott Little had students create a "glog" using Glogster. The students' glogs were to showcase an adventure or eco-tourism travel destination of their choice.

One student told me that she felt she learned more by creating a glog, rather than writing an essay, because it was fun to create the glog (so she was more engaged in the activity) and she got to illustrate her travel destination using photos, videos, sound clips, charts and graphs as well as text (addressing multiple intelligences).

Click to see student glogs about Italy, Malacca, Chamonix, Tanzania and Kenya

Enjoy the learning!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sleepy Teens and 21st Century Possibilities

On Friday, February 18, we had the pleasure of listening to John Joseph ( for the second time in as many years. John’s specialty is “Learning with the Brain in Mind”. He also treated our parents to an evening of “Parenting with the Brain in Mind” on Thursday, February 17. He talked about the brain being a changeable system rather than a fixed one, where students can continue to grow their brain and it is not limited in what it can accomplish. He spoke about teachers being second only to the students in their “sphere of influence” in attempting to close the achievement gap (peers are third and family is fourth). And feedback for learning being one of the most important aspects teachers can provide based on John Hattie’s work from October 2003, Teachers make a difference - What is the Research Evidence.

Sleeping in Classphoto © 2007 Yuvi Panda | more info (via: Wylio)

But the main message that came out of his presentation was related to the hours of sleep that current teenagers are getting and whether it is enough. Much research stipulated that teenagers should be getting 9 hours sleep a night. 9 hours! I’m not sure many of our students today adhere to that. He also went on to say that melatonin “kicks in” for teenagers around 2:00 pm, making them tired and ready for a nap. If you have ever taught Math last period of the day, you have first-hand experience with this phenomenon. So given all of this information about teenagers, we obviously need to educate our students about the importance of sleep and sleep patterns. So my questions to think about:

· Knowing this along with the opportunities that current technologies present, how long can we continue to offer a 20th century structure to 21st century students?

· What is the best educational model for teenagers today?

· How flexible can/should the schedule be?

· How much responsibility can we put on the students?


Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Learn, Take a Test ... Really?!?!


I was just sent a New York Times article from one of our teachers entitled, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test. The article, in general, says that the results of their study indicate that students learn better by taking tests rather than repeatedly reading information or by drawing concept maps (also referred to as mind maps). I have skimmed through the full research article and have a few concerns about the research.
  1. The students who did better on the test, already wrote a test on the same content, thus received an extra practice round. this also leads to my next point.
  2. These students are university undergraduates, presumably trained to do well in testing or exam writing (since that is generally the main assessment tool used to determine grades for university admissions). I don't think I'm going too far out an a limb here to say that many high school classrooms train students to write exams, by practicing exams. In this experiment, the students are asked to "study" using a method (concept mapping) that is foreign to them.
  3. Tests generally, evaluate one's ability to regurgitate information back. The questioning needs to be of a higher order to assess for understanding. Difficult to do on a test. And isn't understanding more important?
I'm not convinced, but I welcome any thoughts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Arts Night

The Hub looked spectacular last night. Congratulations to all of the budding artists who either performed in the cozy venue set up on the mini-stage of the Hub or displayed their art work for all to see. Thanks to Mr. Laflamme, Miss Potosky and Miss Grainsky for making the evening a success.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back on the Blog-Wagon

As you can see it has been a year and a half since I typed my last entry. I blame it on a lack of focus. I had to ask myself why I was blogging. If you take a look back, most of the entries are announcements with the odd celebration thrown in for good measure. Like any school we already have multiple ways to share announcements and celebrations. The blog wasn't drawing any new readers. Parents got weekly updates. Students already heard all of the info. I wasn't on Twitter. My audience was limited.

I hope that has changed. I've refocused to talk about education and how the staff, students and parents are growing from the experiences they have at CIS. I hope to ask thought-provoking questions, share my views and of course, include a little bit of celebration.

So 18 months on ... I resume.

Our last staff meeting was full of lively discussion. So much so that it lasted two days ... sort of. Let me back up.

For homework, before the meeting, I asked staff to watch Jeff Utecht's TEDx talk below. Jeff is the Technology Coordinator in Bangkok and author of the blog, The Thinking Stick.

A great 16 minute and 33 second talk, where he talks about technology, but actually uses very little technology (a microphone). The topic: "Community trumps Content". We then proceeded to share our thoughts about the video through PMI (plus-minus-interesting) discussions. During the interesting talks I also asked staff to formulate questions they would want to pose to Jeff. The next afternoon we did that, through a Skype call with Jeff.

I think I can safely say that as a staff we mainly agree on the general idea of the talk that yes, in fact, Community Trumps Content. However, the staff did have a few questions for Jeff. Here are some of the teacher comments that arose in the meeting:

"... his thesis that suggests "Communities Trump Content" neglects to consider both skills and contexts as factors. Those two elements, in my view, trump communities."

"... the only thing missing in "virtual communities" is human beings ..."

"There is no greater skill in life than being able to get along with people--with that being said, we need to demonstrate and model to students how there is a difference between face-to-face reality and hiding behind a cyber mask."

But my favourite, that summed up the first day of discussions was:

"... The point (of the talk) was that being connected is all they (the students) know and is completely irreversible. ... To believe our past is their future is misguided nostalgia and burying our heads in the sand. Perhaps it is going to destroy interpersonal relationships and change the way we deal with people, but it isn't going away. ..."

With that I agree wholeheartedly, so it is up to me to continue to work with staff and students to pave the way at varying speeds to enhance and improve learning in the mobile world these students are destined to or should I say, already in.

I won't try and quote (or misquote) Jeff on any of his responses. I let you read Jeff's version on his blog.

Thanks Jeff for answering all of our questions with a smile!