AAIBS 2009 Conference Notes

The blog posts below dated April 20 are my responses to some of the sessions I attended at the Association of Australasian International Baccalaureate Schools Conference, held at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, South Australia over April 17 to 19th.

For a while now I’ve found that making notes in sessions as a kind of draft blog post helps me to really focus on MY reactions and responses to what’s being proposed, and helps me focus on what I want to take away from each session. ┬áSometimes I’ve actually blogged these live, but this time round I was using OneNote to record my notes, with another page open for key points to take to key people back at school.

I’ve made blog posts on five sessions I saw, which others might find interesting.

The other thing that was interesting was the giant water-lilies in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I didnt have my fancy camera so had to make do with the Nokia E71 but you get the point. They’re beautiful! Ingenious.

Human Ingenuity: An Overview of IB Thinking

This presentation from the AAIB 2009 Conference was from Malcolm Nicolson – Head of MYP (Cardiff)

He talked about the 1986 split into IB and IGSCE? and the history of the IB and how the various sections had developed individually and how the different programs talked about inspiration and ingenuity.

He acknowledged that the IB currently didn’t have an over-arching focus on ingenuity, but that was a goal they were working towards as a direct result of this conference. It was a fairly tenuous link he made at times. It was also blue dotpoints on the official IB template. Hmm.

It was more interesting when he discussed where IB should go in the future; ie. Can we address 21st century learners with these structures. This had been the focus for a recent discussion in England and came up with some points such as:

Teaching and assessing in multiple ways, disclipined minds, synthesising minds, creating mind, respectful mind, ethical mind…

How easy will it be for students to be individuals and have time for personal reflection with a desire for developing self-reflection skills when students are ‘never alone because they’re on Twitter and Facebook’ Students are wanting to present their learning on Facebook, on blogs, on wikis. What is the IB going to do about that? How relevant is the written exam now?

Should IB do more about sustainability?

How should IB respond to technology overall?

He talked about their work with Harvard Graduate School of Education (USA) and publications coming from that association. One of the emphases here was on rigorous learning in the discipline and interdisciplinary synergy as well as focus on real world projects and issues.

One interesting point he made was that the MYP program provided opportunities for creativity and innovation in a way that many state-sponsored curricula didn’t. Teachers are ‘given the freedom to create their own courses.

Reframing Schooling for Today’s World (Greg Whitby)

‘It’s all about the cloud: anytime, anywhere’

Whitby was the first keynote of the AAIBS 2009 Conference. After a brief attempt at getting his audience to do the chicken dance, he began by talking about something of the bad press that education gets; that we somehow need a ‘revolution’ to make schools right. (Or politicians need one to get elected?)

However, he argued that disengagement of students was the key factor in education today, and argued that educators need to ‘re-take the ground’ on the education debate.

He argued that young people were disengaging because the structures, processes, procedures schools put in place no longer matched the world they live in.

Governments want a silver bullet. Educators need to be creative and collaborative about solutions and resist such simplistic approaches

How do you scale innovation in a school? Ingenuity is a better world than discovery because it involves bringing expertise to the problems

He argued that the laptop computer was not liked by students (?: not my experience) because the computer was always right (?:huh?) and that the Iphone was a step to learners constructing the knowledge (?) moving away from the hierarchal to the conceptual.

He lost me through this bit but then ended by saying that by marching kids into computer labs once a week and calling it ‘technology’, while all along they all had more powerful computers in their pockets which were officially ‘banned’ by their schools, was somewhat silly.

He then went back to reaffirming it being about the learning, not the technology. Okay, I was back. He then said it was about learning for this century and talked of the recent OECD work which described learning having four components:

Customised: 1-1 learning

Knowledge sources: Cloud, anywhere, anytime learning

Collaboration: between teachers and students, students and students, and teachers and teachers (Called in the literature as ‘de-privatising practice‘) Learning is a ‘mediated practice’

Assessment: here, he emphasised ‘assessment for learning’.

Whitby has an almost aggressive style of delivery, striding the stage and declaiming that change was coming and that it was all going to get harder but in the end I liked, and agreed with, most of what he was saying.

It got more interesting when he began taking about what these things looked like in real life; what do we do in real life in our schools on Monday?

Whitby’s new schools would have a different framework, different learning spaces, no bells, individualised and based around a conceptual framework not an industrial framework

Such models are more complex (that’s why we don’t see many schools doing it) and require some background ‘grunt’ in knowledge management systems to deliver it.

He also talked about the work of John Hattie, who I’ve been looking a lot at lately, who argues that the two biggest influences on student learning are the teacher, and feedback.


Whitby argued that teacher learning, especially about pedagogy, was often hugely ignored, and yet it was critical. The best form of professional learning is a workspace approach, not a workshop approach, learning with colleagues n a school. The systems that are making the biggest difference are building time for reflection on practice.

When I got back to work I found this YouTube video from Whitby, which discusses some of the concepts he was exploring here.

Human Ingenuity – Pedagogy for the 21st Century

I’m in Adelaide this weekend at the AAIBS (IB) 2009 Conference with the ambitious agenda of ‘Human ingenuity; Pedagogy for the 21st Century. But it’s begun well and I’ll add some more details notes and responses to the sessions when I find a powerpoint and a hotel that doesn’t charge $55 for internet access.

The Conference website is HERE