Motivating students as the year draws to a close
Whether you're at the end of a calendar year or an academic year, it can be difficult maintain the energy to motivate students when they have completed assignment work and can see a school holiday approaching. We asked Pamoja teacher Ruth West for some ideas to help motivate students as the year draws to a close:
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Studying Mathematics HL with a global perspective
My name is Karenna and I am a junior at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, New York. I take the IB Mathematics HL course on Pamoja. Outside of school, I am a varsity rower, I play cello in a piano trio, and I am a member of the mechanical sub-team of a FIRST Robotics Team, the Wilson X-Cats.
I have always been interested in STEM and specifically mathematics, from taking math courses during the summer to participating in my robotics team. I love the logic and the challenge surrounding each process in math. As I advance in math, I have started to learn the ‘why’ behind processes that I took for granted and delve into the reason behind math, which is part of the reason why I have been enjoying this IB course so much. IB teaches me, not only to do, but to constantly question and evaluate my thought processes. In the context of math, this translates into learning the history about formulas and how they were developed as well as gaining vital communication skills.
In terms of the Pamoja course, the teachers are extremely clear and available for questions. The group discussion forums and projects are one of my favourite parts because they allow you to interact with students from around the world. For example, in my group project right now, there is a girl living in Barbados. IB promotes intercultural and global understanding and that focus is evident every day that I discuss logarithms with a hundred teenagers from around the world, or am in a live lesson with students from Japan and Argentina, even more than in a standard classroom.
If I had one piece of advice for a new Pamoja student, it would be surrounding time-management. Pamoja is extremely clear about the course timeline week by week, but when you don’t have a classroom teacher nagging you about your workload, it becomes much more about self-motivation. This is an extremely important skill for the future, so working on developing it now will only help you in the long run! Make sure you stay on top of the timeline and are clear and communicative with your Pamoja teacher because this not only increases you understanding of concepts, it also allows you to develop your communication skills.
Given I am a student athlete, I thought I was previously good at time management, but taking an online course has pushed me to prioritize and develop my own schedules. It is more flexible than a formal class, which allows you to do lessons at home or on weekends, which is advantageous for me with such a busy schedule. The self-driven aspect of the course has also pushed me to understand the concepts even more fully.
Karenna - student at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, New York
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Pamoja Taught courses at Lincoln Community School
My name is Frank, I teach at Lincoln Community School and I work as assistant student support - we help students out with various subjects but my role is within the sciences and math. I am also in charge of the Pamoja online courses, working as the Site-based Coordinator (SBC) to provide the link between the teachers in the platform and the students here in my school.
At Lincoln Community School we’ve used Pamoja Taught courses for some time, so that we can offer more Diploma subjects to our students. For example, we don’t have teachers for Psychology and Business Management, and so if any students opt for these courses we refer them to Pamoja.
This year is my first year working as the SBC and so far, so good! There have been a few ups and downs, but the Pamoja School Services Team are very good and have come to my aid very quickly when I’ve sent in requests.
Feedback from our students is also always good, although it can take them a bit of time to adjust. With online learning, the students have to manage their own time, and sometimes they find this tricky at the beginning. However, they learn quickly how to balance their work to meet the deadlines, and I’m here to support them to ensure they succeed. For example, the year 11s are new and so they struggle a bit, but after a month or two they are completely relaxed and know exactly what to do.
Lincoln Community School, Ghana
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World Teachers’ Day 2017
Teachers are fundamental. They inspire the next generation, working hard to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to become creative innovators essential to global progress. Today is World Teachers’ Day, a worldwide celebration of educators, and we can think of no better time to say a planet-sized THANK YOU!
To mark the occasion, we sat down with two of our Heads of Course Delivery; the people at the helm of our global teaching network, and asked them a couple of questions:
“What’s your favourite thing about teaching?”
“My favourite thing about teaching was listening to the strange, bizarre, and interesting things that students would say about literature - I could never quite predict their reactions! Listening to their conspiracy theories, anecdotes, and their realisations that a character has done what they’ve just done. Sometimes you would expect it but often not, and that unpredictability was definitely the best bit about teaching.” – Hannah Senel-Walp
“What will the classroom of the future look like?”
“I think the classroom of the future is going to have no walls and no boundaries – it’s going to be completely different to where we are today. This is what we do at Pamoja; we break down these walls and boundaries so that you can learn anytime, anyplace, anywhere. You could be sitting on a beach in Florida soaking up the sun and studying, or you could be in a classroom in the middle of Oxford. It doesn’t matter, because it’s about having access to quality teaching and collaboration; working together on a global scale and really learning from each other.” – Perry Perrott
As we continue to take giant leaps in science, technology, engineering and more, let’s ensure teachers receive the respect they deserve and acknowledge the incredible role they play in our global advancement. After all, learning is a fundamentally human experience.
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Student tips: 6 steps to success in a Pamoja online course
The 2017/18 academic year has begun, which means a whole new cohort of IB Diploma students have joined our global community. We asked Pamoja’s Spanish B teacher and Course Advisor Emilia Carrillo for her top tips for new students, to ensure a happy and successful first year:
“You are in the process of starting out on your online journey with Pamoja. You are all signed up for your course(s) and full of eager expectation, as this is possibly one of your first encounters with the online education world.
“Pamoja online courses are incredibly unique and require dedication, as you are going to be learning a lot of information. The key is to take small steps daily to ensure progress and success. Remember, you are the main driver in this online journey, so you must take control of the wheel at all times! However, never forget that you are not on this journey alone - your teachers, your Site-based Coordinator, and the Pamoja School Services Team are always here to support you.
“To get you off on the right path, here are a few simple steps that will guide you through what you should be doing to succeed with your online Pamoja course(s):”
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My transfer experience: dedicated teachers and a global community
My name is Chloe and I am a Pamoja IB DP transfer student. At the beginning of my IB journey I had just moved from China to Sweden, and wanted to continue learning Mandarin. However, my new school didn’t offer it and so I was given the chance to take the course online with Pamoja. I enjoy learning languages; aside from Mandarin and English I also speak a bit of Swedish and understand a lot of Indonesian. I believe that learning many languages will be beneficial later on in life, especially as the world becomes more and more globalised.
I started the course at the beginning of the second year, and so I was initially unsure as to how I would find catching up. Luckily, there was a transfer student orientation which was really helpful; it made me understand Pamoja and how my online course would work. The catch up ended up being no problem because I had a very supportive teacher who was always there to help me when I needed it. The process was very smooth, and it also helped that I was eager to learn!
I’ve been a part of an international community since I was very young, and being in Pamoja offered that unique experience again. I am currently living in Sweden but have lived in Kuala Lumpur for six years and China for ten years. As you can imagine, moving to a new school on the other side of the world is a very sharp contrast, so I was really happy to know that the friends I was making were within that globalised community. I completed the transfer student orientation with students from other subjects too, and during the process we spoke with some of the teachers and answered various questions about where we were from, and where we were living. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s international backstory and also see just how huge Pamoja actually is!
Through taking my Pamoja Mandarin course, I’ve become a lot more diligent in my work because I’ve been much more responsible for my own learning compared to in a face-to-face class. Instead of fulfilling somebody else’s expectations I’ve been fulfilling my own and achieving a lot more because of that. I’m also a lot better at communicating my difficulties; I really had to vocalise my issues with the teacher and get support which gave me a lot more confidence in asking for help. I loved my teacher – she was so wonderful and supportive. I honestly wouldn’t have been as successful as I was if I hadn’t had such a dedicated teacher.
The skills that I’ve gained in the last year are definitely lifelong, and learning with Pamoja really does help with university. I was speaking to other students who took a Pamoja course the year before me and they said it had been amazing for their university applications as well as in gaining experience of that learning style. My parents thought it would be a really good experience because digital education is the future, and they were right! I also loved the format of the platform; it was very easy to use and made your progress through the course really visual.
I’m very glad I had the opportunity to do my Mandarin course online with Pamoja. It was different from what I was used to but I actually really enjoyed that, and it has benefited me immensely.
Chloe - former student at Kungsholmens Gymnasium, Stockholm
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Closing the skills gap with collaborative learning
Why are employers reporting a skills gap between the abilities of the recently educated and the needs of their business? This shortfall undoubtedly has a negative effect on our progression toward a brighter future. Whilst the question cannot be answered in any simple way, it is essential that we go back to the beginning and pose an alternate question; what can we do to help close the skills gap?
Global progress, from innovation to humanitarian aid, is most often a result of worldwide collaboration. The ability to collaborate effectively does not necessarily come naturally; it needs to be developed throughout a person’s education. This can scale across all stages - from children in nursery simply working together to create, to Diploma students directing their own group discussions around topics of interest before putting pen to paper. So how exactly do we ensure that collaboration is not only commonplace in our classrooms, but is the instigator of other essential life skills?
When collaborative learning is encouraged, students work together to help one another gain a greater understanding of the topic at hand. Teachers act as facilitators rather than directional authoritarians, and as a result the classroom becomes learner-centric. The day-to-day benefits of such a method have been proven in schools that have adopted the style, and include better student engagement, less class disruption, and decreased classroom anxiety amongst students. Self-esteem has been seen to improve, which in turn allows students to fulfil their potential and thrive.
The real benefit of collaborative learning lies in the skills gained. Students reach out to others to test their theories and share knowledge, as well as think critically and constructively criticise ideas rather than people. Social and communication skills are built; compromise, understanding, being open-minded and even peace-keeping to a certain extent. Learners begin to acknowledge and accept the differences between individuals which subsequently leads to the promotion of diversity. Inevitably, students grow to learn much more than just the subject; they become pro-active individuals who ask questions and seek answers beyond the scope of any lesson given by a teacher.
Further to this, within the context of arts subjects in particular, collaborative learning aids student understanding of the effect of their classmates’ socio-economic backgrounds on the way they perceive. Whether it’s poetry, literature, or even history, learner-led discussions and collaboration incite awareness of cultural identities. This develops a kind of globally-minded view that takes young people well beyond being an asset to a workplace, but into the realm of being an asset to the planet.
So, what can we do to help close the skills gap? We can make collaborative learning the norm within our education systems and subsequently provide our students with the space and support to become globally-conscious, cooperative individuals who positively contribute to our international progress.
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Individualised learning requires flexibility
Ensuring that all students fulfil their potential, acquire essential life skills, and achieve the best possible academic outcomes through an enriching educative journey requires a personalised learning experience. In order to achieve this, education needs to be agile; fast-changing and ever-responsive to a multitude of varying needs. These needs must arise directly from each individual student, not from a historical and generalised assumption. When requirements come directly from the students, they can come at any time, meaning that flexibility is essential to deliver individualised, needs-based responses.
For teachers to provide their students with the best quality of education, there has to be room for movement. Whether it’s improving a certain skill, achieving a particular grade, or learning to contribute and collaborate in class, ambitions will differ student to student, and how a teacher gets their class to hit their targets does not have to be (and should not have to be) set in stone. Rigid guidelines can actually hinder the learner’s progress, because if there is no flexibility then there is no space for improving or personalising teaching methods.
If teachers are provided with high quality course content and resources that are flexible and adaptable to their requirements, then by closely monitoring students’ progress they can alter the content to suit individual needs. Simply by having access to these ‘ready-made’ resources, a teacher’s workload of content creation and planning would be reduced, allowing more time to be spent doing what’s most important; educating!
Flexibility of course content and improved student progress monitoring would be aided by a ‘flipped’ classroom. With students absorbing topic-specific content outside of school hours, there would be more time in class to ensure complete understanding of the subject matter. Teachers could deliver a variety of different activities, catering to a multitude of learning needs in just one lesson, rather than spending precious class time on search engines or reading textbooks. This combination of adaptable, high quality course content and resources, alongside flexibility and the capacity to monitor student progress, would equip teachers with the ability to provide totally individualised learning experiences, for the benefit of the student.
Sound like something you want to introduce in your school? Contact us today!
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Confidence, independence and global friendships: my Pamoja experience
I started studying my Diploma Programme with Pamoja two years ago. At that time, I was not a confident student; I used to hesitate to ask my teachers or classmates anything in case they thought my questions were stupid. Now, after two years of studying online with my scholarship, I’m more open with my teachers and my communication skills have improved. I’m much happier to ask questions both in and out of class, and because of that I learn a lot more.
As well as helping me gain the confidence to ask questions, learning with Pamoja has drastically improved my time management skills. I fully understand my abilities now; I know my strengths and weaknesses in each subject. One surprising thing I learnt along the way is that maths is my best subject! Through learning independently, I realised I don’t particularly need a teacher – once a mathematical concept is introduced I can figure the rest out on my own.
Online learning is particularly well suited to International Baccalaureate group 3 subjects like ITGS. When studying these subjects face-to-face in a ‘regular’ classroom environment, the resources given to you are very limited. Unlike this, Pamoja allows us the flexibility to choose our own resources. The topics are not limited by what you have in your textbook; you’re given the headings and can explore the themes in anyway that you choose to. In a face-to-face class teaching one particular topic, I might know nothing about it, whilst the person next to me may know everything. This would make the lesson a waste of time for them. With Pamoja, if you’re good at a topic you can spend less time on it, choosing to spend that time going deeper into areas that you need more work on; it’s an exceptionally efficient way to use study time.
This flexibility and independence does take some adjusting to, but as you can imagine I am well adapted to it now! I know how much time to give to each subject, how to study it, and what part of the course is best for me. For example, for ITGS the discussions are really helpful, but in languages like English and Mandarin the course content itself is of more use. Discussions are for sharing your learning with classmates, and in ITGS this is where you get a lot of content.
The highlight of my experience with Pamoja was definitely group work in ITGS. I was always assigned students that weren’t from my country – in India, Germany, Singapore etc. At first it was relatively difficult to communicate with them, but because we had the same group members each week I got to know them so much better. We made a Skype group, followed by a Whatsapp group, and have become very close. Even though I’ve never met them, we are now great friends and regularly share resources, discuss other subjects and exams. The biggest advantage of this multi-cultural set up is perspective. By living in countries all over the world, each of my classmates has a different perspective and often a different way of learning. Although time zones could occasionally be tricky – the deadlines were at 3am for us here – if anything it just meant I’d finish my work early. Occasionally online conferences were at awkward times, but they’d all be recorded so we could go back and look at them when it suited us. The fact that all lessons and conferences are recorded is something you don’t get in a face-to-face class, and is a real edge.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my Pamoja scholarship. I am now a confident, independent person with the ability to manage my time effectively, and I’m looking forward to taking these skills into the next stage of my life.
Aayisha – student at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis
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Could AI replace teachers?
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to propel us into the long-imagined “future” of flying cars and virtual reality, its multi-industry uses become more apparent and even more ground-breaking. It can easily be reasoned that it won’t be long until AI is quite literally everywhere, including in our classrooms. On a recent trip to Japan, we met a rather friendly robot who got us thinking about the future of AI and its educational possibilities.
It takes only a little research to find that in some places AI is being used semi-regularly to advance learning. In the U.S, its usage is predicted to increase by almost 50% in the next four years* – but does that mean our teachers are going to be replaced by robots? Whilst the technology in robots is astounding, it’s hard to imagine them completely supplanting educators as classroom leaders. Could you imagine a ‘Shelbot’ schooling our children; some unique (and altogether strange) blend of human and machine?
There are certainly countless uses of AI in schools that can benefit pupils. By analysing historical data to understand student strengths and weaknesses across topics and activity types, learners can be grouped based on the task at hand to ensure the optimum outcome for all. Knowing student habits also allows AI to create effective schedules, reducing the time spent by staff on administrative duties. As well as this, language gaps can be bridged with translation services, promoting greater diversification within schools.
The advantages of utilising artificial intelligence become even more apparent when looking at teacher possibilities. Through discovering patterns of student issues, AI can inform a teacher of tension points that show a change in method is required. Further to this, it can be used to detect misunderstanding and alert teachers to students who need more help than others. This is essential to quality schooling – children have varying needs and these are often not addressed in ways that benefit each individual. Admin tasks like grading essays may also be undertaken, to free up vital teacher time.
However, it must be noted that none of these uses take on the task of actually educating. For this, emotion has as much of a part to play as process. It cannot be forgotten that as human beings our emotional needs are fundamental, and especially important during formative years. Could these be met by AI? To address the far-off (and justifiably feared) concept of learning led entirely by robots, the importance of human interaction for our mental health and happiness cannot be underestimated. Undoubtedly, learning is a social contract between student and teacher.
Artificial intelligence could therefore be utilised in the modern classroom for lower order activities such as grading, grouping, and scheduling so that teachers can spend more time actually teaching. What we know for certain is that the role of the teacher is more important than ever; technology won’t replace them, no matter what the advances in AI are, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those who do.