Catalysts for Communities was born from conversations about the Mentoring program at ISB. Our Mentoring or Life Skills or Homeroom or Tutor program that is run across our Middle School is in the process of a re-write as we pull different standards from subject areas and consider What do we need to include in the program? and What is the purpose of the program?
Perhaps the purpose, vision , nd mission is aligned more to our school ISB vision and mission but as we do not follow one set of standards (each department went on a focused journey to find the standards that are the best fit for us and are stellar data driven standards that are actively supported by their educational owners) and as we are not an MYP or other curricula school we are free (curse and a blessing I believe) to create the standards that we feel are best for the program we wish to create and use and then to complete the content within that framework. This is a long process as we are pulling from a number of sources. I imagine that if you were in Australia, USA or Canada that you would run the program that paid consultants had prepared based on the rest of the curriculum. Curriculum writing and lesson progressions are not easy work when you are trying to hit on so many things and make them vertically and horizontally useful.
I have had the pleasure of working with our Futures Public Radio group this year carefully constructed and now managed by Steve Sostak and Aaron Moniz who have created an amazing program for our MS and now HS and ES students. Students create stories, learn how to write, ask questions, film footage, frame ideas and then share this with their audience. It has quite a cult following but our low hits on YouTube led me to ask who is watching and how could we re-use or label this content so that it is accessible to our community in a meaningful way.
Our mentoring program is made up of skills and lessons that our children will benefit from. As a teacher, I can either use the lesson plan that is shared by the mentoring leadership team or I can take the theme and run lessons of my own around the ideas, standards, and themes that are agreed on. So as any teacher does, I turn to search engines like Google and YouTube to find content that could be used for these 20-minute lessons. But after working with our student journalists, I wondered why couldn’t we use their work in these important life conversations in our classes? So here is the opportunity for Catalysts for our community. How could we share ISB student content back into our own classes? How could we do this? And what would it look like?
Through the Google Innovator training in Stockholm, I started to weave out some of my ideas about how this might look. My mentor, Anita Chen, asked lots of questions and my teammates pushed me to consider both what this idea might look like if it were a framework for other schools but also what it might look like at ISB. As Google is not our school toolkit of choice, I have found some pushback from teachers who would like to know why I am using Google apps rather than Microsoft 365 apps. There is a long way to go here but initially what I have done is create a Google Form. My thoughts were that through the form we could populate a database (a yet to be determined space) that would allow teachers and students to both upload content and to search for content through a variety of keyword search options.
The form was originally focused for MS teachers and students, but I have found that there is no reason to limit the additions of ideas and work to the form and therefore the database. I want to make the collection of data meaningful but also utilize the school systems that we have in place. Currently, we house ISB videos on our own Dragon Tube program that is located in-house behind a passcode login for community members. We can use YouTube but this is only accessible through a VPN and not everyone has access to this. So, students and/or teachers could upload their work to Dragon’s Tube and then submit the form that includes the URL link to their work so if I am looking for an opinion piece on Empathy, and you have just created a video in your Drama or PE or Humanities class on Empathy, I will be able to find it, and play it through our ISB video channel. If I want to find some images that show something on a theme around Emotions, I can now find images that have been uploaded to a specific ISB photo space from our HS IB art show that have been tagged through the form and are in the database.
I am still meeting with different audiences and trialing the form with first teachers but next is the students. I would like to see if we could talk to the FPR people about where possible, creating 2 different videos of their journalistic work – one that is between 3-5 minutes and the other that is the whole interview. Most of the content we watch at school is not more than 5 minutes. And if it is, it is significantly longer and is written into the program of study. But in our Mentoring program, we have 20 minutes, 3x a week to make an impact and so the Catalysts for conversations in these community spaces needs to fit into a time frame that is accessible. I don’t want to dilute the amazingness of our FPR or other student created video spaces, but to ensure that we have an audience to watch them, we need to be more aware of the time frame people have and the places in our school day where we can view them.
So, my next steps are to meet with students and let them try the form. My hope is that either teachers will share outstanding work through the form or that they will ask students to share their work through the form, and so over the course of a year, we will have a lot of content available to share.
The next stage is to meet with our Tech department and chat with them about how we might use this work meaningfully at ISB – and if the administrators see value in us doing this. Then convincing others that this would be a super way to share our ideas and student-created work to educate others rather than using strangers on YouTube in our classrooms.
I welcome any feedback you may have or ideas for progression!