Author Archives: Stephen

Content & Inquiry in a Google World

Space Twins & Epigenetics


Mark and Scott Kelly at the Johnson Space Center, Houston Texas. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Sign up for the Teach.Genetics mailing list from GSLC here. 

The ever-wonderful Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah sent this helpful email update to counter misconceptions around the Kelly Twins’ “Genetic Differences” as a result of Scott’s year on the International Space Station.

You may have seen the headlines about identical twin astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly, now being “genetically different” after Scott spent a year in space while Mark remained on Earth. Yet much of the popular press has failed to explain that these differences are mostly epigenetic modifications leading to changes in gene expression. Or that several of the analyses were limited to circulating white blood cells and are thus mostly relevant to the immune system.


Here are some great resources they shared:

Now go over and subscribe!

They have great resources for students at the Genetic Science Learning Center, and for educators at their new Teach.Genetics site. You can also follow them for Twitter updates hereSign up for the Teach.Genetics mailing list from GSLC here. 

Pomodoro Organizer: Get Stuff Done

The Pomodoro Technique is an effective way to overcome procrastination, get started on big tasks (by breaking them into smaller tasks) and to use time effectively. Essentially, by “hacking” your brain’s reward pathway with manageable chunks of time and small reward breaks, it can help overcome the fear of getting going.

@sjtylrPomodoroImageThis graphic organizer (pdf) is to help set a plan for a working period, recognizing that: 

  • Setting  clear and realistic goal is essential
  • Breaking large tasks into smaller steps helps get things done
  • Rewards/short breaks keep the brain motivated
  • Setting an overall end time is also really important
  • A distraction-free environment will really help

Of course if, once you get going, you find “flow” and can’t stop working… then get it done!

For more ATL-related graphic organisers, click here.

Tech Tools: 


IMaGE Inquiry: Why Them, Why There, Why Then?

Here’s a visual organizer for building quick context in orientation in time and space in a case study or unit of inquiry. It is not only for sciences – it could easily be applied to other subjects with the intention of contributing to a sense of international mindedness and global engagement (IMaGE).  The simple goal is for triplets of students to complete collaborative rapid research around the case: Why Them, Why There, Why Then? Click for pdf. This has been tested in rough drafts, and I’d love for some others to try it out and give feedback.

Some examples: 

  • Recent (or significant) discoveries or events (in the news, science, etc)
    • The Human Genome Project: Who was involved and why them? Where did it happen and why there? Why then and not before?
    • Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovering animalcules. Why him? Where there? Why then? Why not other people, places or times
  • LangLit: Explore the author, location and time
    • I used it for a cover lesson on Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, with a group of students who had almost no prior knowledge.
  • I&S: Considering a significant development, event or innovation
  • Service Learning Cycle: An entry point into the “Research” phase of the cycle and determining reasons, needs and causes (thanks @AlisonKIS).

This is not a tool for in-depth research (though it could be expanded outwards). It is intended to get a quick, reliable orientation in time and space around a case study and the people or organisations involved.

Some great tools for this include Google Maps, Google Cultural Institute, Google Images, Wikipedia,, On This Day (, Charity Navigator and many more.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 13.16.21Also Wolfram|Alpha: People & History, Places & Geography, Socioeconomics, compare countries, compare companies and much more. See Stephen’s page on databases & Wolfram|Alpha here.

The results can be synthesised into further lines of inquiry (to use more rigorous research), but this should give students a vision of the case. What cultural or contextual cues can they recognise? How might this activate further connection and questioning?

@sjtylr Developing IMaGE in MYP Sciences (1)



Webb’s DOK4 as a Filter for “Transfer”

As any teacher knows, “transfer” is notoriously difficult to truly teach, yet it is a part of the IB’s ATL skills framework as it is really important in empowering self-directed learning. Here’s a post on Webb’s DOK4 and how it might be used as a tool for teaching transfer of knowledge, skills and concepts. Also, DOK is a not  wheel.

Webb's DOK4 as a -Transfer Filter-

DOK Filter: DOK4 can be accessed from any other level, using the question “how ELSE can this be used?”. Tools for DOK4 Transfer might include #EdTech, inquiry, challenges, experiential learning, service learning and much more. Diagram by @sjtylr

Reflecting on the Impacts of Science: IMaGE, Global Goals & Connections in MYP Sciences.

I’ve added a new page to to post resources and ideas for MYP Science Crit. D: Reflecting on the Impacts of Science. Some slides are below, but to see the full page, click here.

[IMaGE = International Mindedness and Global Engagment. To see my dissertation & resources on this, click here.]

Is this an inquiry with an ‘I’ or an enquiry with an ‘e’?

Ripples & Reflections

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, and I was reminded to complete it after a question from a student when I was covering a TOK class: “What’s the difference between inquiry and enquiry?”

So here goes…

Defining Inquiry: A Pragmatic Approach

I’ve been thinking and writing about this a lot over the last few years, tinkering with and testing definitions that try to capture what makes powerful, pragmatic inquiry learning. He’s my current best effort and if you pick it apart you should be able to recognise the best elements of the classical with an aspiration towards the contemporary (in the Bold Moves sense).

Inquiry iscreative, critical, reflective thought. It builds on a solid foundation of accessible, well-learned knowledge, skills and conceptual understandings, inviting learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?”  

Although it…

View original post 1,118 more words

Six Strategies for Effective Learning

This post is to share some resources that are of great use for students and teachers, produced by the Learning Scientists (@AceThatTest) and Oliver Caviglioli. They are free (Creative Commons), downloadable, printable, practical, evidence-based and great for DP students.

In IBBio there is a lot to learn. To learn it well – to understand, apply and make connections – takes effort and discipline. But it can be done efficiently, effectively and enjoyably. These six strategies might help you in planning your studies (or designing your course).

  1. Spaced Practice
  2. Retrieval Practice
  3. Elaboration
  4. Interleaving
  5. Concrete Examples
  6. Dual Coding

The Learning Scientists also have a useful podcast and YouTube Channel to explain the strategies. See this example on Dual Coding. If you want to read more, they have an open-access paper “Teaching the Science of Learning” in Cognitive Research: Principles & Implications.


Related Resources:

What Does This Look Like In The Classroom?, by Carl Hendrick & Robin MacPherson. A super-handy book on key strategies and research-to-practice, with Q&A’s from experts in many fields of education.

Learning How To Learn is a great 4-week course on Coursera, from UC San Diego. It would benefit teachers and students alike, and explores how we learn, the traps we fall into and how to learn effectively. This is great free professional learning. If you want to pay and take the assessment, you will get a UCSD certificate.


Crash Course: Statistics

Crash Course are at it again, this time with a new statistics course. This introduction might be interesting as you think about your IA’s. How do we understand what are data are telling us… and how do we design tests that will give us data that we can actually use?

I Contain Multitudes: Antibiotic Resistance

The wonderful Ed Yong now has a YouTube channel, I Contain Multitudes, that builds on his book of the same name. With PBS Digital support and great visuals, this is going to be a treasure trove for IBBio learners.

Here’s your gateway video: on superbugs and antibiotic resistance. Check out the experimental design and explanation about half way in. Thanks Ed!

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