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 for this implementation: 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.



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

April 26, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo


We at Pamoja claim that a critical part of our mission is to empower our students. What does this mean and how do we achieve it? In reading some of the literature the following (in bold) were suggested. (The math department response is in italics.)

Empowering students in Pamoja Math course-14l85oa


  • Give students a voice: through our discussion forums students are encouraged to ask questions and respond to the questions of their classmates. Answers rest not only with the teacher but also with their peers.


  • Have students write reflections on their work: in self-assessed assignments students are required to compare their work to a given mark scheme, give themselves a grade and then most importantly reflect on the work they have done: were the problems easy or hard? Are there problems you still have questions about? How could you have approached this work differently?


  • Have students mark their own work.


  • Encourage /require the use of technology: I am including a link to an math activity that requires the students to explore the relationship between linear and quadratic functions.


  • Have students discover important relationships rather than giving them formulas to memorize. The beauty of the linked math activity is that it guides the students through questions and the use of geogebra software to discover the relationships between the two types of functions. As students work through this they understand material and how to apply the concepts.


  • Provide students opportunities for self-management: in all Pamoja courses students determine their own study schedules knowing that an assignment is due once a week on Tuesday.  

Here are two useful links. The first is to a software program math students are asked to use to investigate the relationship between quadratic and linear functions. The second link is to a downloadable and editable word document that guides the students through the investigation.

  1. GeoGebra
  2. Investigation for students – relationship between quadratic and linear functions


It would be exciting to hear how other departments in Pamoja use their subject matter to empower our students.



Further reading – Articles of interest regarding empowering students:



This post was written by Pamoja Math teacher Ellen Lawsky.

Ellen L Pamoja Math Teacher









Image Credit – Flickr Commons



March 21, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

Those “eat me, earth” moments in our online-teaching career, that we all know too well!

This is a super busy time for us at Pamoja Education with reports, grades, IB assessments, etc, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to share something to get our minds off of the to-dos for a moment.

As online teachers, we are very familiar with online conferencing programs and software. When we are online teacher rookies we prepare for those conferences hours ahead of time, we take into account every  possible detail, do a practice run with someone else in the house and go the extra mile to ensure conference perfection. When we are more experienced online teachers, we still prepare ahead of time, we still do the practice run and ensure our surroundings are spot on. After all, this is the time when we meet our students synchronously and we want to make the most of the moment, get the most information across, motivate conversation and avoid distractions.

But, oh those moments, when the universe conspires against our intact professionalism and something unexpected and horribly unforgettable happens. Those “eat me, earth” moments that we will carry with us as ‘happy/embarrassing/incredible/unbelievable/why my?’ anecdotes for the rest of our lives….

Well, my fellow colleagues, be reassured that we are not the only ones. Please enjoy this video and let go of your “eat me, earth” moment. I assure you this will top it…thankfully!

And well, parodies and jokes need to appear after any respectable online “eat me, earth” moment, so please enjoy this one as well:

Now, I invite you to share your moment and help our community de-stress. Please leave your moment in the comments below: …..



February 21, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo
1 Comment

Work-life balance: using your upcoming Pamoja break to re-energize your teaching!

We all know that a balanced life includes time to spend with family and friends, working, exercising and sleeping, yet many of us have this balance tipped towards the time we spend on work-related activities.

work life balance in online teaching-t5iasu

For those of us in education the notion of having set working hours and a 37.5 hour week has always been a fantasy. However, how many times have you heard someone make a comment about the long holidays and short working days teachers have? It’s amazing there aren’t more people retraining to be teachers! In the online environment it can be even more difficult to manage the time we devote to our students, their work and our colleagues. At least in a face to face school the janitor will tell you to leave when they are trying to lock up the school and they are generally open only five days per week. In the online environment who tells you it’s time to log off or that Sunday mornings really are for having a lie in?!

“You can love your job but your job won’t love you back.”

Cathy Black


Forget those New Year resolutions, let’s all make an end of semester resolution – to log off and step away from the computer. I know most of us won’t manage that for three full weeks (if you’re like me you’re not very good at keeping resolutions!) but take some real time out for you and yours.

“You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”

Artefact Uprising


Reconnect with yourself – have a real conversation with a friend or relative you have neglected; go for a walk without your earphones plugged in; take a scenic drive; write just for the sake of it; stay away from technology; catch up on your sleep; do something you love.

Imagine the well-rested, content, mindful and relaxed version of you. Imagine how inspired and inspiring that version of you can be. Imagine how that person can support their students and colleagues in the new school-year.

How do you start? Have, at least, one off-line day!

It’s time for each of us to stop imagining and start creating that version of ourselves and that will only be achieved if we take some time to re-balance our life. Tip the scales toward yourself and have a happy, healthy and harmonious year and years to come.



This post was written by Pamoja Education Business and Management teacher Ruth West.








Image Credit – Flickr Commons

January 23, 2017
by Emilia Carrillo

6 Must Know Strategies for Implementing an Online Blended Learning Community

[Download our Infograph – “6 Powerful Reasons for Creating Online Learning Communities” at the end of this post]

Schools around the world have dedicated time and effort to develop online blended learning communities or Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) with varying degrees of success.  One of the key challenges most school communities face is not the lack of good ideas from good educators, but the lack of time for creative collaboration.  What if online strategies allowed you to “flip” your PLC, forming blended communities that harness great ideas and put them into action? This blog will explore how online tools and strategies can enhance your Professional Learning Community.

Online Blended Learning Community-1x719o4Image Credit – Flickr Commons

From The Flipped classroom to the Flipped Online Blended Learning Community (PLC):

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of online blended learning in which students watch lectures online and work on problem sets with other students in class. This approach allows teachers to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom and reverse teaching


Flipped Professional Learning Communities:  Flipped PLC’s have the potential to allow for real time collaboration with all the prep-work already completed through strategic material presented online beforehand.  This allows schools to really get to the heart of issues during the precious time they have together.  One of the important tricks is creating a space for this collaborative to start before and continue after any collaborative time. The online blended learning community provides its participants the time and the distance necessary for critical reflection and nuanced thinking.


Online Blended Learning Community Strategies:

The content below will introduce you to a set of strategies that can be used or may form the rationale for why to form an online blended learning community within your school, department, or work group. This will serve as the initial overview for these strategies. The strategies will be reviewed and considered further in subsequent blog posts.


Strategy 1: Avoiding Professional Development burnout:

How do you offer Professional Development in alternate ways from the full agenda one-hour meeting that keeps teachers out of their classrooms or beyond the end of their exhausting day?

  • Push vs. Pull PD: An online community lets teachers go to the information and pull down what they want or need, digest it, and creatively give back. 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.
  • Leveraging Communication Channels: allow members to arrive at meetings informed and ready to discuss. By flipping the agenda a little bit you allow the one hour faculty meeting to gain more ground as opposed to simply presenting information that could have been disclosed before they arrived.


Strategy 2: Ubiquitous community: The convenience store of PD:

Allowing members to access the agenda anytime, anywhere, empowering them to think and take action when it is best for them.

  • 24-hour community: Speaks to the ability to have 24-hour coverage for question and answers, a constantly updated resource library, and access to peers.
  • Just in time support: Just in time learning or performance support. Delay is decay. 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.


Strategy 3: Standardization Practices in Online blended learning communities:

How do you guarantee that teacher marking is standardized when you have multiple teachers of one subject or grade level?

  • Providing dynamic and enduring standardization practices: Allow teachers to have a plethora of examples year on year for how assessment and feedback worked. Allow new teachers to immediately gain experience from the Veterans teachers from recorded and archived standardization sessions. Avoid suitcase teachers from leaving with all of their wisdom by allowing for easy archiving and sharing.


Strategy 4: Supporting Members on the Fringe

Who has not been invited into the community?  Why?  What walls have been built that need to be torn down for the sake of transparency and better collective support?

  • Access: Create an environment that is inclusive and helps community members who might normally be involved find their voice. Is there a place for you to include parents in the planning process?


Strategy 5: Highlighting teacher initiatives and contributions:

Allowing colleagues to applaud the day-to-day achievements they see in the classroom and the hallway as a means of promoting togetherness and community. With all the hoops that admin and teachers have to jump through these days the amazing accomplishments get lost in the wash.

  • Feedback for your teachers: Historically teachers have not received feedback, particularly on their achievements. Colleagues can provide each other with Feedback and support recognizing hard work that might otherwise go unnoticed.


Strategy 6: Gaining Mileage to your Message:

The limits of time create short meetings and hurried agendas.  Online blended learning communities allow for further conversation, ideas, and group-think.

  • Extending your message: Why do important agendas end with the physical walls of the school building? The use of online PLC environments can extend the conversation, draw out those who might otherwise not participate, and bring home important announcements and policy changes.

In future posts we will explore each of these strategies in greater detail as well as explore the technical functionality and design involved with online blended learning communities.


6 Professional Development Strategies for Online Learning Communities-2bahlvx



This post was written by Pamoja Education Faculty Advisor John Willoughby

John Willoughby







Download blended learning infograph-15p61vz

December 7, 2016
by Emilia Carrillo

In Memory of Stuart Cipinko – Pamoja Education Psychology Teacher and Faculty Advisor

Stuart was a central person in our community sharing his knowledge, wisdom and support. We will miss him dearly!

Stuart C

A collection of some of his wonderful writing


A collection of thoughts from the community to Stuart and his family


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