May 8, 2018
by Emilia Carrillo

Supporting School Members on the Fringe with Blended Learning Communities

This is the fourth part of the series on “Implementing online blended learning communities“.

Pamoja Education IB Blended Learning Community-1e6xhb3Image Credit – Flickr Commons

A Few Quick Points to Consider

  • Not everyone will feel free to speak in a public Professional Development settings
  • Every community has individuals who will dominate the social atmosphere
  • Universal access to Professional Conversations, Professional Development, and Professional exchanges is possible and can include colleagues, parents, and students.


Have you ever been in a meeting when the “silent” member of the group finally speaks up and what they say changes everything? All this time true brilliance, insight, and answer sat quietly watching the rest of us struggle to conceptualize any type of real solution! Additionally, have you experienced the overwhelming participation of the one or few who “know” everything and dominate any and every meeting?


Essential Questions

  • Who was not invited into your Professional Development community and circle? Why?
  • What walls were created within your community either on purpose or as a side effect?
  • What will it take to break down these “walls” and open up communication channels?


The Use of Online Blended Learning Communities can help you engage any type of fringe member. The silent genius who is reluctant to engage face to face may burn the web with insights given a platform to speak online. Creating a blended Professional Development agenda on purpose can help to take the reins out of the hands of the meeting bully. Creating a community of inclusion by tearing down the walls of the traditional meeting and allowing for exploration and exchange can prove a very powerful Professional Development tool. Why not extend the arms of your PD agenda and allow all members to contribute at their convenience?


Fringe groups you may want to Consider adding to your Professional Development Communities

Parents: It is obvious that some aspects of your online Professional Learning Community will need to exclude parents, but are there areas that having them around can close communication gaps and knowledge breaks? The wonderful thing about online communities is that permissions or invitations can be limited. Do not be afraid to grant parents better access to how you are working together to provide better education for their children.

Parent Teacher Association Members and Board Members: Just think of how powerful it will be for this group to see the extent that teachers within your community are going. Not only will they see a dynamic and enduring standardization practice, but they will also see all of the teachable moments brought out into the light.




February 14, 2018
by Emilia Carrillo

Implementing Online Blended Learning Strategies for Ubiquitous Community

In this third part of the series on “Implementing online blended learning communities“, we will explore the second strategy: Using Online Blended Learning Strategies for ubiquitous community – A convenience store of Professional Development.

Online Professional Community Strategies-283ld4yImage Credit: Flickr Commons

Ubiquitous Community

Allowing members to access the agenda anytime, anywhere, empowering them to think and take action when it is best for them. An Online Blended Learning Community is always available! What are your strategies for the next pandemic? Can your community carry on when the school doors close? Online Blended Learning Communities can allow for continued work and collaboration. Access to community resources, discussion forums, or collaborative spaces can be all the difference when disruptions hit. Additionally, teachers can get to what they need, when they want it, creating freedom and opportunity.


Essential Questions

  1. How can Online Blended Learning Communities extend the “walls” of a school?
  2. How can Online Blended Learning Communities save the day in the event of a school closure?


24-hour community

Just as our students operate on very different schedules, so do teachers. I grew up with an educator. My mom came home, engaged my sister and I, and when we went to bed, she started working. This went very late into the night on most occasions. Contrary to what all students believe, teachers have real lives outside of the classroom. This is something that state policies and school administration too quick forget. This indifference can be alleviated with the use of online blended learning communities.

A dynamic PLC available anytime, anywhere, can empower teachers to get to important school agenda items from home, or at the park. Instead of being pushed through the same bottleneck of Brick and Mortar meetings, administrators should consider flipping the PD agenda and allowing teachers universal access to it on their own terms. This does not mean that important tasks will be incomplete or of less quality. On the contrary, when teachers are treated professionally and allowed to embrace concepts on their own time, they will most likely produce better quality engagement and fulfillment. Add to this mix the collegiality of cloud based department work and students will greatly benefit from happy teachers working at times they have selected for themselves.


Just in time support

Have you ever had to attend an emergency meeting because some administrator could not get their act together? Have you ever had to hold a meeting for your staff because the State or District forced something on you at the last minute? Just in time training and Professional Development can be a valuable tool in your arsenal and can be easily accomplished in Online Blended Learning Communities.


Delay is decay! Hosting all of your training in advance can leave teachers with gaps in their understanding when the time finally comes to apply it all in the midst of a busy school year. Allow hard working teachers to access the standards and policies they need to do their job from anywhere at any time in an online blended learning community.

Just in time support can come in a variety of forms. Professional Development does not all have to happen at one time. Additionally, new issues and circumstances are constantly popping up. Look at some of the suggestions below and consider how else you might use it.

  • Student report writing instructions
  • New Technology policies and uses
  • District policy changes
  • Goal realignment

Emergency Measures

In 2009, I was teaching at an international school in South Korea when the H1N1 epidemic hit the world. Our entire school shut down for a week and many teachers were quarantined for several more weeks. This was an International Baccalaureate school and missing three weeks was not really an option (like this is an option in any school 🙂 ). The school did not have any online or blended strategies in place and suffice it to say, everything came to a screeching stop. What if that school had already implemented a online blended learning community for teachers and students that allowed for the continued learning process? Yes, it would not be the same, but it is hard to argue with a loss of three weeks. The simple use of collaborative wikis, Google Drive, and even community spaces such as a class Facebook page would have allowed for quality learning to continue.


Stay tuned for the next installment:  Strategy 3: Standardization Practices in Online blended learning communities.




This post was written by Pamoja Education Faculty Advisor John Willoughby

John Willoughby

January 29, 2018
by Emilia Carrillo

Do I have to learn Mathematics?

When I was in the fourth grade my teacher, in front of the entire class, intimidated me because I could not do my sums quickly enough. It wasn’t until grade 10 when I was introduced to Euclidean geometry that I found joy in the study of mathematics.

Why IB math_math studies

Over the years, as a math teacher, the question, “Why do I need to know this?” has often been posed to me. There is an argument being made that, in fact, students should not be required to study algebra. See the argument here: Andrew Hacker Debates the Value of Math, The New York Times.


On the other side of the debate, the New York Times has recently initiated a new monthly feature: “What is Going on in this Graph?” This is an effort to educate people across all disciplines and experiences about using data to understand the world. This is a column that students in math, business, science, psychology and even languages might find helpful and interesting. You can access the rationale for this column here:What is going on with this Graph? And you can find an archive of the columns here: What is going on with this Graph? – Archives.


I had the opportunity to develop and teach the course, Statistics for Lawyers, at the University of California at Irvine Law School. The most compelling reason for lawyers and others to understand some mathematics can be found in the Ted Talk: How juries are fooled by statistics.


There are some people who study math just for the joy and beauty of it! Here is an interview with Rebecca Goldin, a math professor at George Mason University in the United States, in which she argues that math is the best way to make sense of the world: Why math is the best way to make sense of the world.


Where do you fall in the debate on learning mathematics? Should the requirement for students to learn algebra be dropped? Or are our lives and understanding of the world enhanced when we understand numbers and how they are used?


This post was written by, Pamoja IB Math Course Leader, Ellen Lawsky.

Ellen L Pamoja Math Teacher

December 11, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

Blended Learning With Pamoja Education

Pamoja Education aims for empowering learners and placing the students at the center of the education process. One of the latest projects that has been released by Pamoja Education is the School-Taught courses. This model, allows teachers to take advantage of our ready course content, assessment material, platform functionality, and tracking capability to run a class with a blended learning experience in mind.

Pamoja blended Learning IBDPImage Credit – Flickr Commons

The courses can be used to introduce a more learner-centric environment, create flexibility, or simply reduce the resources needed for course creation and planning. Pamoja Education respects the school’s timetable, brand and reputation, and follows three principles: collaboration, flexibility and monitoring. The school taught courses are adaptable to the needs of both the schools and classrooms.


Pamoja’s Platform allows for some practical ways to let students have the drivers seat. Below are 2 examples of how teachers can implement the blended learning experience using our School Taught courses:


  1. Rotate Discussion “ownership” or leadership. Let the students deepen the conversation and keep their peers on point. This is very effective in online discussions.
  2. Allow teams of students to work on Unit or Semester overviews/reviews via online collaborations. Be willing to take your hand off the wheel and just let them own it.


There are many other examples of a successful blended learning practices out there, but the experience is only as good as what the teachers and students make of it.


If you are interested in learning more about Pamoja’s School-Taught project and blended learning, visit our website here: Pamoja School Taught.



This post was written by Pamoja Education ITGS teacher and Course Advisor Zena Taha

Zena T

November 29, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

Smooshing – Explorations in Math and How to Best Approach the IA Investigation!

When my granddaughter was 5 years old her favorite activity was playing the board game CandyLand with me. The goal of the game is to be the first to get your figure to the candy castle. After shuffling a deck of cards each player chooses a card. The card indicates how many spaces you are to move. My granddaughter’s method of shuffling the cards was to put them on a table and just mix them around. Amazingly, she won every time.

IB Math IAsImage credit: Flickr Commons


Many people would say she cheated. I chose to say she was strategizing. She would look at the board, compute the number of spaces she would have to move to reach a desired spot, leave the room, stack the shuffled cards in her favor and return, always declaring that she just “happened “ to get a good card. She understood that the cards needed to be shuffled but then felt compelled to rearrange them in her favor.


I subscribe to a math and science journal called Quanta. A past issue had an interesting article about “smooshing”, a way of randomizing a deck of cards. Persi Diaconis is a professor of statistics at Stanford University in the United States and has won the prestigious McArthur Award. He and I attended elementary and religious school together. Thus, I was excited to read about his current research.


Persi started his professional life as a magician and at some point moved on to the study of mathematics and statistics, with an interest in randomization.


Smooshing is the way a 5 year old would randomize a deck of cards – put them out on a table and just mix them around. Persi is exploring questions about smooshing. He has proven that if you smoosh long enough, even cards at the edge will get mixed in. He is interested in the following questions: Does smooshing mix the cards? (He says (proves) yes.) How long does it take? Is there a relationship between the size of the deck to the amount of mixing time needed? To answer these questions and others Persi is using ideas from a relatively new field of mathematics called quantitative theory of differential equations.


During the two- year study of IB Mathematics students are required to investigate an area of interest that is related to mathematics. It is sometimes difficult for students to decide on a topic they would be interested in exploring. I think that what Persi has demonstrated is that you start with something you enjoy (he enjoyed magic), do some research, be willing to think outside the box and “play” with the math.


What is most interesting to me is that looking around you – even at things that 5 year olds do – can lead to interesting and profound mathematical questions.

Download this list of math websites that may be helpful in getting students started on their math IA (internal assessment/exploration.)



This post was written by Pamoja Math Course Leader Ellen Lawsky.

Ellen L Pamoja Math Teacher

October 23, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

IB Language Ab Initio Preparations for the Internal Assessment

If you do a Google search of tips to prepare for exams, you will get almost 4 million results! They will advise you to “organize your space, take breaks, eat brain poser snacks, organize study groups, etc.” Clearly, these tips have nothing to do when it comes to prepare for Internal Assessment in the Ab Initio Language!


After a careful reflection, I realized that, when it comes to Ab Initio Internal Assessment, students begin to prepare for it since day one. The acquisition of a new language is a gradual process that becomes successful with content knowledge and regular practice. All oral activities are vital since it will give you the opportunity to practice what you have learnt and the feedback that you will receive from your teacher. This information will help you in moving forward in the language.


The key points that you must keep in mind to get ready are included in this image:





This post was written by Pamoja Education Spanish Ab Initio teacher Laura Locker.

Laura L

October 11, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

What’s New About the IB Extended Essay Process?

The extended essay is less-than-4,000-word, research-based that is considered a requirement for all International Baccalaureate Diploma students. The process of completing the extended essay may have evolved throughout the years, but the significance behind it has not changed. It is as the IB organization describes it: a “practical preparation for undergraduate research.”

IB New Extended Essay_IBDP-1kt1a34Image Credit – Flickr Commons


For a successful and complete essay, it is still essential for the student to choose a topic that is of his/her interest. The process of researching and writing the extended essay takes about forty hours in total over the course of six to nine months.


One of the most important changes to the extended essay process is the reflection of understanding on the work that is being done. This is now a formal component required by the IB organization. The rationale behind this change is to allow students to critically evaluate their thinking process and highlight their journey while working on the extended essay.


Our Pamoja Education Extended Essay Course satisfies this formal component of reflection in two main forms:


  • Organically: The extended essay course consists of 8 modules and each module has variant number of lessons. Students are assigned reflective activities within these lessons as they progress through the course. Beginning from a basic reflection of their understanding of the extended essay process, initial ideas about the chosen topic, or the research questions, leading to some more complex reflections that dig deeper into the research process, the resources available, and finally the research findings.


  • Formally: There are three formal reflection sessions that are required by the IB organization. The first, the interim, and the final reflection sessions. The outcomes of these three sessions must be recorded on the Reflections on Planning and Progress Form. The student and the supervisor add their comments to the form and the completed form will be submitted with the final essay. This form plays an important role in the decision made by the examiner when it comes to assigning grade for the engagement criterion.


All reflections mentioned above are submitted and forms are completed in one place within the extended essay course. Teachers and students also meet virtually to complete the extended essay process.


Are you looking for someone to help you with the extended essay course?

Check out our Extended Essay Course and contact us!




This post was written by Pamoja Education ITGS teacher and Course Advisor Zena Taha

Zena T




June 14, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

Implementing an online blended learning community to avoid teacher burnout

In this second part of the series on “Implementing online blended learning communities“, we will explore the first of six strategies: How online blended learning communities help avoid professional development burnout.

Blended learning community strategies-yk0a02Image credit – Flickr commons


Strategy 1 – Avoiding Professional Development Burnout

The demand on teacher time has increased drastically because of state standards, teaching to the test, and of course, Common Core and Stem. The traditional faculty meeting before or after school has not been discontinued as a result. In fact, these faculty meetings are far less communal and groupthink oriented and tend to hover around directive “informationals” passed down from district or state levels. What happen to a good memo and the professionalism that you would read and follow through? This post will explore the following questions by considering Push vs. pull technology and Leveraging communication channels.


Essential Questions:

  1. How can online blended learning Communities help you avoid Professional Development burnout at the school and department level?
  2. To what extent have you considered your communication strategy and use of online blended learning communities to better leverage communication channels with faculty and departments at your school?


  • Push vs. Pull Professional Development; Learning from the Business World:

Push vs. Pull is often associated with business marketing strategies. The inbound marketing strategy is all about empowering your potential customers to find you rather then have you appear in their face. The key to its success is strategic targeting. How can schools learn from this process when it comes to strategies for communication and the ongoing process of Professional Development?

School administrators often find that they are competing for teacher’s time. It is difficult to find quality moments as the demands of the occupation have increased. The battle to find quality time is exasperated by the increasing requirements of state and districts. It is important that a smart communication strategy be developed that gives teachers the information they need without creating overload or burnout.


The concept of Inbound PD: An online blended learning community lets teachers go to the information and pull down what they want or need, digest it, and creatively give back. It allows for just in-time training or information as required. The Email all function pushes agenda, tires out teachers, and gets very little traction. Pull communication is initiated by the teacher at a time and place that they are comfortable and engaged.

  • Forms of Push:
    • Mass Emails
    • Most Faculty Meetings
    • Forced in-service
  • Forms of Pull:
    • Online spaces
      • Wikis
      • Blogs
      • Forums

An online Blended Learning Community allows for inbound and pull strategies within education. Utilizing free online services such as Google Drive, Wiki spaces, and Edublogs, can empower teachers to come to the important data on their terms. This can help alleviate stress associated with cumbersome meetings, frustration with hearing the message repeatedly in reply all emails, as well as empower them by giving them a voice in the collective solutions.


  • Leveraging Communication Channels by Flipping Professional Development:

Why would you not allow faculty members to arrive at school and department meetings informed and ready to discuss the agenda? By flipping the agenda you can allow the one-hour faculty meeting to gain more ground as opposed to simply presenting information that could have been disclosed before they arrived. Creating an interactive space online permits teachers to use the pull strategies discussed above to engage the content and each other prior to highly valuable “live” time with teachers. The solution and creative aspect of meetings will expand tremendously when informed members show up who have already started the collective work and process at their leisure. Additionally, those who tend to be quiet at meetings will be more likely to offer support and advise online.

If your school already has a virtual space for discussion forums, or collective work, it is important to consider their current use and if new strategies need to be implemented to better leverage them. If your school does not have any of these tools available, it is time to consider how to implement them as part of school strategies. The simple use of free wikis, blogs, or collaborate work-spaces such as Google Drive can make a big difference in the overall production of your school or department.


Read more about the second strategy for implementing Online Professional Learning Communities here.


This post was written by Pamoja Education Faculty Advisor John Willoughby

John Willoughby









May 19, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

Collaboration is Part of our Success with Online Education

The theory of Pamoja is that students should be empowered to collaborate around learning moments. Learners shift from being passive to active and self-directed, with greater autonomy. A learner for life, not just in school.”

Pamoja online collaboration and learning-25dx03f

For some, this idea is viewed as an invitation to work/learn in isolation: “Go at your own pace and we wish you good luck!” “Be independent, figure things out and, again, we wish you good luck!” For some unknown reason, someone might overlook my favorite part of the above statement: “…student should be empowered to collaborate around learning moments.” Collaboration is one of Pamoja’s strengths!

Pamoja teachers are highly experienced IB educators with international experience and, many of us, have active roles in the International Baccalaureate as well. We have the opportunity to interact with colleagues within our Courses and across the board with other educators from different Subjects. We are fortunate of having colleagues who prepare Webinars to support us in continuous professional development. We continue to expand our repertoire as well as getting more enrichment with the day by day collaboration with fellow teachers. All our students have a teacher who is an expert in his/her area who is in continuously learning more about our own subjects as well as approaches to better deliver content.

All teachers have the opportunity to collaborate with students in different ways. We offer Live Lessons for individuals and groups; we participate in Discussions; we hold conversations when we report progress and students respond to our assessment; we communicate with each other through the feedback that we provide for your assignments and the additional information that students share with us. Few occasions, students are given us the opportunity to support them in an assignment or activity from their schools. I love to get to know more about our students’ talents and interests. Through Pamoja Student Council, we got to learn more about their CAS Projects as well as their artistic skills and their participation in serving their Communities.

Teachers and Site Based Coordinators (SBCs) collaborate to better support our students. SBCs provide us with necessary information about students’ needs, challenges and well-being. We work together to help students be successful in the Diploma Program. SBCs make it possible to have assessments, under examination conditions, where our students get to apply their attained skills. I am thankful for all the support that these fellow teachers provide for our students learning and success.

Pamoja is a genuine Learning Community where we work together to grow as learners! Collaboration has been a key part of our success.



This post was written by Pamoja Education Spanish Ab Initio teacher Laura Locker.

Laura L










Image Credit – Flickr Commons


May 2, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

IB Diploma ITGS Case Study- Review

The IB external examination are coming up next month and our students are in the process of reviewing for their exams. Information Technology in a Global Society Higher level (ITGS-HL) will be taking a Paper 3 exam based off on a case study published by the IB.

The case study this year is based on an exemplar of a tech company that is interested in producing wearable technology. Their first product was a watch that was able to track user movement. The company is experimenting with prototypes that will take this initial watch to the next level!

This blog post provides a link to an infographic that will help both teachers and students in providing quick review resources to prepare for the ITGS Paper 3 examination, May 2017 (or November 2017 session).

Good Luck!

Please refer to this link for a live version of the infograph below and to be able to access all links included in it: Wearable Tecnologies ITGS Case Study


Wearable Techologies_IBDP_ITGS Case Study-2b6aj7v



This post was written by Pamoja Education ITGS teacher and Head of Department Zena Taha

Zena T

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