K12 Digest® - February 2022 - International Edition – Balkan Countries Special

Page 1






Aleksandar Petrovic, Serbia

Harun Herceg, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Aleksandra Filipovic, Serbia

Liz Keable, United Kingdom

Dr Anita Tufekcic, Croatia Biljana Krnjajic, Croatia

Maja Milosavljevic, Serbia Nadezda Golubovic, Serbia

Bill Tihen, Switzerland

Nicholas McKie, United Kingdom

Dr Conrad Hughes, Switzerland Dr Neil Hawkes, United Kingdom Gordana Kovacevic, Serbia Gordana Pavlovic, Serbia

Dr Paul Magnuson, Switzerland Tatjana Koluvija, Serbia Tracy Moxley, Switzerland Vasiliki Akritidou, Serbia Zdravka Majkic, Serbia




K12 Digest February 2022



12Digest Digest KK12 February 2020 2022 Sept-Oct

K12 Digest Sept-OctK12 2020 Digest February 2022



Fabruary - 2022

Vol - 3 Issue - 2

Balkan Countries Special Head of Advisory Board Dr. Varughese K.John, PhD

Special Editor

Dr Valentin Kuleto

Consultant Editors

Dr. Johny Andrews Andrew Scott Joseph Alex

Naomi Wilson Stanly Lui Emma James

Enquiry: admin@k12digest.com

Art and Design Charlie Jameson

Sales & Marketing

Jennifer Anderson Rachel Roy

Monica Davis Anna Elza

Enquiry: adim@k12digest.com



International Representation

London Connecta Global Ltd. 27, Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3AX, United Kingdom


Bangalore Connecta Innovation Pvt. Ltd. Carlton Towers, Old Airport Road, Bangalore - 560008 India Dubai Focus Innovation Technollgies FZE P.O. Box 48299, Dubai Silicon Oasis Dubai, UAE


K12 Digest February May-June March 2019 2022 2020

K12 Digest is a digital magazine published by Connecta Innovation Private Limited. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in the content and pictures provided are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Connecta Innovation Private Limited or any of its members and we do not assume any responsibility. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for the advertisements, its content, pictures, and all representation of warranties made in such advertisements are those of the advertisers and not of the publisher. K12 Digest is a Free Subscription digital magazine strictly not for sale and has to be strictly for internal private use only. Publisher does not assume any responsibility arising out of anyone printing copy of this digital magazine in any format and in any country and all matters related to that.


Creating a Better Education System


emands set upon a contemporary professional to be successful in the 21st-century society have drastically changed in the past decade. Emerging from experiential learning, modern education requires the rapid development of a new set of competencies, which are applicable in real-life situations and beyond. Setting trends in education calls for a progressive vision of a future of learning. This is the very reason why LINKgroup Educational Alliance empowers educators and learners to grow intellectually in futuristic learning environments, where the fusion of the latest educational approaches and technological delights inspires the creation of new knowledge. Our classrooms are already future-ready, providing an overarching concept for competency-based education, where both teachers and students engage in dynamic interaction. Keeping pace with the technological advances while striving to respond to futuristic ambitions, we are working on successfully introducing AI, Machine

Learning and robots as teaching tools to support further development of digital skills. Humanoid teaching assistants, which have become an integral part of the futuristic whole-brain pedagogy, are being integrated into our learning spaces. As we look upward and onward, we embrace the knowledge that is far beyond what traditional learning can provide. By creating innovations, we are able to pass on the intellectual legacy to the new generations of the makers of tomorrow. Building a better educational system in this part of the world by networking and sharing experiences and ideas is a true expression of how strong our community of future-ready educators is, and how important it is to have continuing professional development. We see the Balkan Educational Summit as a platform to express that vision and pass it on to the wider community of educators, who strive to create a better world, right now, by looking into the future.

Dr Valentin Kuleto President, LINKgroup Educational Alliance

K12 Digest February 2022



Maarit Rossi

Former International School Principal, Former Group Project Director at a World Class Learning Group, Education Consultant - Wright Solutions, United Kingdom

Founder & CEO - Paths to Math Ltd, Former Mathematics Teacher and Principal, Global Teacher Prize Finalist, Finland

Dr. Stuart Grant Colesky Principal, Rundle College, South Africa

Zeljana Radojicic Lukic Exceptional Educator from Serbia, Founder of Association of the Best Teachers of the Former Yugoslavia, Founder of Magical Intercultural Friendship Network, Founder of Creative Magic - Children’s International Festival, Founder of Magic Village, Serbia

Asst. Prof. Dr. Poonsri Vate-U-Lan Assistant Professor in Education, Ph.D. Supervisor and Researcher, Thailand

Stephen Cox

Elena Shramkova

Chief Education Officer, New Nordic School, Finland

Liljana Luani

Senior Teacher ‘Pashko Vasa’ school Shkodra, Exceptional Volunteer, Albania

English and Literature teacher, Owner of “The Smart Teens Studio of English” in Belgorod, Russia

Ralph Valenzisi Chief of Digital Learning and Development, Norwalk Public Schools, Connecticut, United States

Hatem Slimane

Servatius (Servee) Palmans Former Director School Administration & Business Operations (Large Education Group), Chief Operating Officer - BBD Education, Dr. Lilian Bacich Netherlands & UAE Senior Educationist, Author, Keynote Speaker, Co-founder Tríade Educacional, Brazil


K12 Digest February 2022

Founder & National President - ATAST, General director of IFEST² the international projects competition in Tunisia, General secretary of MILSET Africa, BRISECC member, Tunisia

Juan Manuel Pico Education Soul Co-founder & HundrED Country Lead Colombia, Colombia

Hidekazu Shoto

Dr. Venus M. Alboruto

Angus Duthie

Master Teacher, Researcher, Innovator, Trainer, Philippines

Former Vice President Security (Large Education Group), Former British Army Officer (Airborne Forces), Senior Advisor – Resilience and Crisis Management (Emerald Solutions Group), United Kingdom & UAE

Innovative English and ICT Teacher, Author, Japan

Ian Deakin

Deputy Head and Dean of Faculty, Dalton Academy, Beijing, China

Shady Elkassas Rania Lampou

Global Teacher Prize Finalist 2019, 15 International Awards on STEM, STEM Instructor, Educator, Neuroscience Researcher, Trainer & Author, Greece

Director of Innovation Al Ittihad National Private School-Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Fethy Letaief Distinguished Senior EFL Teacher, ISA Coordinator with the British Council, Motivational Speaker, Tunisia

Herwin Hamid

Ha Nga

EdTech Specialist, Speaker and Teacher Trainer, Innovative ICT Educator, ICT learning multimedia developer, Indonesia

Revolutionary English Educator, Globally Connected English Studio - Hanoi, Vietnam

Dr. Leonilo Basas Capulso Master Teacher, Speaker and Researcher, Philippines

Kihyun Park Innovative Educator of Online Classroom, Pungsaeng Middle School, South Korea

Mr. Ngô Thành Nam

Technology Academy Manager, Microsoft Learning Consultant, Global Trainer, Vietnam

Dr. Varughese K.John, PhD Former Program Director, MS in Management Program, GSATM - AU, Thailand & India

K12 Digest February 2022


C O N T E N T S 8




K12 Digest February 2022




ANXIETY AND LEARNING – LEARNING ABOUT ANXIETY Aleksandar Petrovic, Psychology Teacher and School Counsellor, International School, Belgrade, Serbia


IMPROVISED PUPIN’S CREATIONS THROUGH STEAM AND EDTECH LENSES Aleksandra Filipovic, Class teacher, International School Crnjanski, Jagodina, Serbia

K12 Digest February 2022





THE COALITION TO HONOUR ALL LEARNING Dr Conrad Hughes, Principal, International School of Geneva, Switzerland

Dr Anita Tufekcic

Biljana Krnjajic



KAMISHIBAI THE ART OF STORYTELLING Dr Anita Tufekcic, Librarian, Croatian Language and Literature Teacher, Primary School Antun i Stjepan, Radic, Gunja, Croatia & Biljana Krnjajic, Librarian and Class Teacher, Primary School Sinisa Glavasevic, Vukovar, Croatia

K12 Digest February 2022



Gordana Kovacevic, Serbian Language and Literature Teacher, Primary School “Jovan Sterija Popovic”, Vrsac, Srbija


FROM BUILDING A LABYRINTH TO BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP Gordana Pavlovic, Kindergarten Teacher and Head of School, Preschool “Decji dani”, Belgrade, Serbia

Liz Keable, Founder, Learning Pockets UK, United Kingdom



Harun Herceg, Educational Counsellor and Psychologist, Elci Ibrahim- Pasha’s Madrasah, Travnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina

60 K12 Digest February 2022





66 ESCAPE CLASSROOM – A UNIVERSAL TEACHING METHOD Maja Milosavljevic, Primary Teacher, Author and Moderator of online courses, ECC – Educational Creative Center, Belgrade, Serbia


Dr Paul Magnuson

HOW MENTORING CHANGES US? Nadezda Golubovic, Biology Teacher and STEAM Coordinator, International School, Belgrade, Serbia



Dr Neil Hawkes, Founder of Values-based Education (VbE), UK

Nicholas McKie, Director, Persyou Ltd, United Kingdom


K12 Digest February 2022


86 EDGILITY Dr Paul Magnuson, Research Director, Leysin American School / Faculty, Moreland University & Bill Tihen, Software Engineer / Former Teacher , Garaio REM, Switzerland

92 AN ASSERTIVE AND MINDFUL APPROACH IN SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT Tatjana Koluvija, Global Perspectives Teacher, International School, Serbia

HOW THE DESIGN FOR CHANGE METHODOLOGY ADDRESSES THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS IN THE 21st CENTURY Vasiliki Akritidou, Director of the Design for Change Program, Vega Youth Center / Design for Change, Belgrade, Serbia


96 OUR LIVES ON A CONTINUOUS LOOP – THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND WELLBEING Tracy Moxley, Director of Education and Innovation, VIE Education, Switzerland

SEL AND WHY IT MATTERS TO STUDENTS Zdravka Majkic, English Teacher, Elementary school “Bratstvo jedinstvo”, Kucura, Serbia


K12 Digest February 2022



K12 Digest February 2022

Digest Higher EducationK12 Digest February 2022 December October January 2019 2020



NEUROTRANSMITTERS IN THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING DR SVETLANA BELIC MALINIC ACADEMIC DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY EDUCATION, LINKGROUP EDUCATIONAL ALLIANCE, BELGRADE, SERBIA Dr Svetlana Belić Malinić is an international thought leader who has been inspiring teachers to experiment with new teaching approaches for more than 20 years. She gained her MA in Educational and Social Research at the UCL Institute of Education, whereas she merged her knowledge and experience into a PhD in International Education at the University of Leicester, UK. Dr Belic is also a Programme Leader for Cambridge International Professional Development Qualifications and a member of the Cambridge Assessment Specialists Team. With a digital growth mindset and creativity, Dr Belic has shaped educational trends in the region, pioneered school concepts and ideated innovation at many levels.


K12 Digest February 2022

K12 Digest February 2022



eople learn in various ways, using their head, hand and heart. In psychology, they are called three domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. A lot of theories explore learning, thinking, memory and similar phenomena related to the brain processes. Bloom’s Taxonomy explains the development of intellectual skills. This includes the recall or recognition of specific facts, procedural patterns, and concepts that serve in the development of intellectual abilities and skills. The cognitive domain (Bloom, 1956) enables learning in six levels: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. However, the “Bloom” that is less explored taps into the other two domains, psychomotor and affective. The psychomotor Bloom tells us that we can use skills from imitating to naturalising to learn. It includes physical movement, coordination and use of the motorskill areas, which requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance, procedures or techniques. The affective Bloom, on the other hand, explains ways to grow socially and emotionally, from receiving phenomena to internalising values (Figure 1).

Growth Mindset: Flow Swimmingly For too long, it was believed that teaching was only about imparting knowledge. But, now we know that students’ mindsets play a critical role in whether they learn well or not. If we inspire them to care about learning, enjoy and value effort, we help them grow a positive attitude towards acquiring new knowledge. In other words, when students adopt this mindset, their motivation to learn is enhanced and they feed on the learning success. Dr Carol Dweck is a world-leading expert and researcher in the field of motivation and a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. In her book, she explored why people succeed and how to foster success. “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value”, she says. There are two types of mindsets, she holds, fixed mindset and growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset believe that… ● Abilities can be improved by practice ● Failure is a chance to learn ● Critical feedback is a chance to improve ● Tasks are easy to solve

Figure 1: Three domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy (adapted from European handbook on defining, writing, and applying learning outcomes for IVET qualifications)


K12 Digest February 2022

● Obstacles are a chance to experiment ● Focus is on a journey of continual improvement ● Creative risks are a way to innovate and improve To foster a growth mindset, we have to think of how to balance the challenge and skill levels of a task. When we strike the right balance, the students are “in the state of flow”. They like what they do and they do it enthusiastically. They are happy, and happy students learn best. However, if a challenge level is set high and students struggle with their skills, then we create learning anxiety, which is obviously not good. On the other hand, if there is little challenge and students are quite skilled, they get bored. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a creator of the Flow Theory and a father of positive psychology, a flow state, also known as “being in the zone”, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of an energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time. Activities that lead to the state of flow are called autotelic (auto=self, telos=goal) because they are enjoyable

K12 Digest February 2022


and they are not the means to an end — the process of being engaged is the end itself. An autotelic student: ● is interested in achieving the goal, a sense of control and involvement in the task; ● has the necessary support to achieve it, including receiving feedback; ● feels confident that their skills can meet the challenge. The state of flow obviously empowers students to assess the task given, evaluate their strengths and


K12 Digest February 2022

weaknesses when approaching it and plan accordingly. While discovering alternatives to their learning strategies, they apply various solutions and reflect along the way. This process is called a metacognition cycle. It is a powerful pedagogical tool which may affect students’ intrinsic motivation and a sense of accomplishment. When students have a growth mindset, they are more likely to believe that their intellectual abilities can keep on developing. They enjoy the challenge of a task and see failure as a new learning opportunity. Unlike students

with a fixed mindset, who tend to avoid any effort, the students with a growth mindset see a true value in effort and time to solve a task. Motivation is their driving force and motivation happens in the brain. It is controlled by brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The Role of Neurotransmitters in Learning A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that carries, boosts and balances signals between neurons and target cells throughout the body. These target cells may be in glands, muscles or other neurons.

Billions of neurotransmitter molecules work constantly to keep our brains functioning, managing everything from our breathing to our heartbeat to our learning and concentration levels. They can also affect a variety of psychological functions such as fear, mood, pleasure and joy. Four of them are particularly important for learning: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin. D.O.S.E. is a daily dose of happy brain chemicals. ● Dopamine is a “reward hormone”. It enables motivation, learning and pleasure. The effects of dopamine are fleeting due to its instant gratification feeling, which leaves you desiring more. The overstimulation of dopamine can become a real problem because of its addictive nature. ● Oxytocin is a “love hormone”. It enables bonding and care. Unlike dopamine, oxytocin gives you a lasting feeling of calm and safety. It can help fight stress, improve relationships, and promote long-lasting positive emotions.

K12 Digest February 2022


● Serotonin is a “happiness hormone”. It makes you feel good about yourself. It results from finding opportunities to assert or prevail while creating a sense of belonging and appreciation. ● Endorphin is a “euphoric hormone”. It alleviates pain, stress and depression. The release of endorphins acts as a natural pain killer and diminishes your perceptions of pain. Navigate the Strategies to Enhance the Growth Mindset When inspiring students to embrace the growth mindset, try using these guidelines: ● Create tasks which are intrinsically rewarding. When your students face a challenge but have the capacity to solve it, their brain will release dopamine, which, in turn, will increase their motivation and love for learning. ● Foster teamwork but choose the members wisely. When students trust each other, they create healthy relationships which stimulate the release of oxytocin. Through peer learning and collaboration, students will easily acquire new knowledge with zest. ● Make your students happy by giving them control of their own learning. Such agency will drive


K12 Digest February 2022

their interest and inspire them to investigate and explore various concepts. Learning will become an enjoyable experience, serotonin will rise and they will dive for more. ● Inspire creativity in your classroom. Invite students to use their imagination to produce the evidence of their learning and turn it into a formative assessment. Ask them to reflect on their accomplishments and allow their endorphins to create positive reactions. ● Finally, to weave the collective impact story, try to put all these activities together. Give them various perspectives and illuminate paths to learning success. Balance a skill level and challenge level to create

flow and scaffold your students in all three domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. A growth mindset is key for life-long learning. In the interplay between the level of task challenge and the students’ level of knowledge, teachers have to strike the right balance and guide the students towards the state of “flow”. When students are inspired to love what they are learning, their brains discharge a D.O.S.E. of neurotransmitters (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins), which enhances memory lanes, embeds lasting knowledge and stimulates the growth mindset. This is when the magic happens: it creates intrinsic motivation and fosters a culture of learning.

K12 Digest February 2022


Anxiety and Learning – Learning about Anxiety Aleksandar Petrovic, Psychology Teacher and School Counsellor, International School, Belgrade, Serbia

Aleksandar has been working with students as a counsellor for a couple of years, and alongside that, trying to implement as many psychological interventions, knowledge and skills as possible in the classroom. Although without much experience, he has noticed that some of the main issues in the classroom are relatable to his experience with helping students. He believes that a holistic approach to school life of a student is more than a mere necessity, and is trying to spread awareness of the reparatory and corrective function of school.


K12 Digest February 2022


ou enter your classroom and hand out the final exam to students. As they start writing the responses, you notice something different about one of your good students in the class. They are still petrified in front of the piece of paper with a somewhat bewildered look on their face. As the students start handing in the papers, you realise that the aforementioned student is giving you a blank piece of paper. No small number of teachers have come across such a situation, and have had no small a task to handle it. Why indeed, did the student hand in a blank piece of paper, when they had demonstrated nothing but understanding during the year and even their assessment results were satisfactory? In order to answer this question, we have to look into more personal, or rather, more personality-related matters. Anxiety is a widely known feeling, most frequently characterised by strong physical sensations, mostly unpleasant, and apprehension of a negative outcome. Perception of a threat is an integral part of anxiety. It has deep genetic roots, and if we look back, we’ll notice that all of us have, and had, either of the two universal responses to a threatening situation: fight or flight. For our ancestors, that meant running away from predators, or attacking prey, but for us today, it might simply mean using your knowledge and skills to obtain the highest results at an exam, or sitting petrified in front of a piece of paper. But what is threatening about a piece of paper? As research results have shown, a lot.

Don’t evaluate, or I’ll freeze! Test anxiety, or more broadly, performance anxiety is a state of apprehension and fear of the consequences of being unable to perform a task or of performing it at a level that will raise expectations of even better task performance. Test anxiety, a state of tension and apprehensiveness associated with taking a test, frequently resulting in a decrease in test performance, is just a type of performance anxiety, related to school situations that include written or oral evaluation. Test anxiety is a problem for many students, and as shown in studies, is related to different aspects of functioning. Not only has it to do with lower performance and overall results, but it’s also related to negative attitudes towards school, teachers, and even peers. That frequently leads to behavioural problems, aggressiveness and higher school dropout rates. Performance anxiety does not have implications just for result-oriented academic functioning, but for overall academic, school, and life functioning, as well. Numerous studies conducted over the last three decades have shown that stable presence of these effects is a proven fact. Adolescence is a peculiar period of human development, and in many ways the beginning of adulthood. Adolescence is the period when many important questions emerge. The notions of self-respect and self-esteem become essential, more than ever before in one’s development. The level of school engagement is altogether under the influence of these notions. Besides, the level of engagement is directly influenced by selfrelated factors. Such factors, or self-variables, are many, and

Test anxiety is a problem for many students, and as shown in studies, is related to different aspects of functioning

K12 Digest February 2022


this is not the time or place to enter into a theoretical discussion about the number and characteristics of each and every one of them. Overall, what we can say with certainty is that one’s appraisal of one’s own ability, as well as the situation, plays a major role. In other words, the level of student engagement, and consequentially, performance success, will depend on the outcome of the analysis of the question of whether one is capable of achieving the goal, or not. If a student thinks they’ll achieve the desired results, great! But what if self-assessment goes in another direction? What if failure appears inevitable? Students deal with this situation in many ways, but it seems that in many cases, they are unaware of how they’re dealing with it. A healthy, beneficial, and productive way would be learning from the experience of failure. A student should acknowledge the situation, accept that their resources and skills were not enough to meet the demands that would lead to achieving the pre-set goal, and see what they can do to improve and overcome the obstacles. Unmotivated or motivated to fail? In a 2013 study, the authors outlined the ways in which students avoid dealing with failure. Defensive pessimism


K12 Digest February 2022

is a strategy implemented to alter the meaning of failure by having unrealistically low expectations for completing the tasks where one’s performance will be evaluated. That results in feeling lower levels of anxiety and changing the meaning of failure. As one student put it: If I do better than I expected then it’s a pleasant surprise, and if I do worse than expected then it’s less of a failure. You just try to minimize the fall. This behaviour preserves one’s self-esteem, but in the long run, leads to lower GPAs, higher life stress and dissatisfaction, and increased likelihood of psychological problems. Another mechanism students employ in order to preserve self-esteem is self-handicapping. This distortion of failure occurs when it’s easier to blame my low effort and me not studying for failure, rather than my abilities and sense of competence. This is achieved through behaviours such as task-avoidance, procrastination, choosing other performance-oriented activities (e.g. sport, clubs, extracurriculars), even alcohol and drug use. In other words, the behaviours that are frequently teachers’ nightmares. That leaves us teachers caught between the students and their anxieties. Teachers are not miracle workers, but with some extra care, and additional activities,

process. Rather educate them about it, through different workshops, lectures, and other activities. Take small steps. If students expect miracles over night, they will be easily disappointed with their inability to reach pre-set goals. Most likely they’ll resort to, or return to avoiding failure.

If students always expect success, they won’t be able to recalibrate their own resources

Consults counsellors. Teachers are frequently not educated or trained for such assessment and activities. Also, teachers have limited resources in terms of time and duties. Counsellors should be actively involved in classroom functioning, especially when it comes to anxiety triggering situations. Consult other teachers. Other teachers who had previous experience with the same group of students, might give you another perspective, and be valuable allies in approaching students. Consults parents. Communication has to be a twoway process. Sometimes parents might be the ones who always demand success and have an inappropriate attitude towards failure. Even if they don’t, they might provide information and assistance based on previous experience.

we can assist students to respond to those anxieties in healthier and more productive ways that are beneficial in the long run. Normalise failure. If students always expect success, they won’t be able to recalibrate their own resources. Instead of always promoting success and high results, promote learning from failure and low results. Stress can be beneficial. Sitting exams is mostly obligatory for students as their grades, GPAs, placements and admission rates depend on exam results. So, these are inevitable. Rather than let students eliminate stress and anxiety by lowering their goals and aspirations, or opt for self-handicapping, try to normalise failure, and their reactions to it. Explain the effects anxiety has on our performance, and how to cope with the reactions and the whole situation. This clearly calls for higher awareness of the corrective role of the teacher. Assist students in making their own goals and selfassessment. Again, a teacher has limited resources and cannot approach each and every student in such a complex

Where to? We should strive towards a more holistic approach to students. All the literature and experience suggest that academic performance and achievement can’t be isolated from the global psychosocial development and functioning of a young person. Our assessment tools need to be broadened in order to be able to encompass all the important factors and correlates to academic results. If we want our students to achieve better results, and become healthier, and more constructive individuals tomorrow, we have to aid them properly today. Our view of what a student can, and cannot do is not only frequently wrong, but also under the influence of their own perception, which is, as outlined above, frequently erroneous. This doesn’t mean that there are no limitations, of course, but we shouldn’t be quick to say where the limitations lie, or what they consist of. Take multiple perspectives, collaborate with other teachers, counsellors, parents, and most importantly, students themselves. They should be empowered and supported as much as possible, so that their skill set and knowledge serve them well in the future in an academic sense and provide a firm foundation for living better lives overall.

K12 Digest February 2022


Improvised Pupin’s Creations through STEAM and EdTech Lenses Aleksandra Filipovic, Class Teacher, International School Crnjanski, Jagodina, Serbia

With her creativity and digital skills, Aleksandra Filipovic has successfully adapted her teaching practice to the capacities of her students, encouraging them to work in a stimulating environment based on the principles of modern teaching. Inspired by the benefits of digital technology in education, and the biographies of her country’s greatest figures, she created interdisciplinary websites to transform abstract content into engaging STEAM adventures, thus encouraging students to independence, research, logical reasoning and teamwork. Her classroom is often transformed into a variety of different learning environments, and she insists on innovative teaching models, such as problembased instruction, programmed, exemplary and differentiated instruction, as well as didactic tools that help students to embark on daring virtual adventures. She translated her ideas about the integration of seemingly incompatible content into several handbooks for integrative teaching, published by Eduka. She also started a blog “The roots of learning may be bitter, but its fruits are sweet”, whose title reflects her professional motto. Aleksandra’s readiness for innovation and implementation of different methods of active learning have been recognised by the most renowned educational experts, which is why she is the winner of numerous awards and accolades in the field of education, which also motivates her students to utilize their talents in different contests and competitions.


K12 Digest February 2022

Working on virtual stations, students get acquainted with interesting things from Pupin’s life through logic tasks and the concept of questions in the form of Escape room, and encourage independence and perseverance in work


ffective education is guided by changes that encourage students to develop problemsolving skills and deal with the consequences of the potential outcomes of their efforts. Inspired by the words of Pupin’s mother, which were the main motto of the project, “Knowledge - a golden ladder that takes us to heaven”, I implemented a project with the 3rd grade students of the international school that represents an unusual adventure through life and work. It grew from many inspirations and proved to be the best guide for further progress in order to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, taking advantage of working conditions in a modern school and the stimulating learning environment. It features digitalisation of the STEAM project based on the prior theoretical research of the life and work of the famous Serbian scientist, Michael Pupin, which was, due to the heterogeneous structure of the class, implemented bilingually: in Serbian and English. The project was guided by the principle of the 4C STEAM concept, which includes the four key skills for 21st-century education: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. It implies an interdisciplinary approach to the areas that were the center of interest of the fearless scientist in order to better understand his life path along the line “from pasture to scientist”. The main feature of the project is the independent work of students on the author’s Wix site “Improvised Pupin’s Creations”, which is a kind of treasure trove of e-tools incorporated into the site to facilitate student navigation, which is one

of the important prerequisites for successful work of students of this age. Golden ladder to the knowledge by using EdTech Working on virtual stations, students get acquainted with interesting things from Pupin’s life through logic tasks and the concept of questions in the form of Escape room, and encourage independence and perseverance in work. Each station has a symbolic name and deals with special periods of this great man’s life. The tasks to be solved before entering each station are diverse. What connects them all is the obligatory observance of spelling rules when entering potential solutions. Station 1 The station “Idvor roots” points out to the importance of Pupin’s curiosity for his further progress. By reading selected excerpts from the autobiography “From Immigrant to Inventor”, they get acquainted with the period of Michael Pupin’s childhood. Selected passages serve as a project “anchor”, which introduces the project and inspires students to show further interest. Station 2 Following the “Trace of Curiosity”, as the next virtual station is called, the students, using Polybius Square and following the given guidelines, receive instructions on how to simulate Pupin’s famous childhood game to determine the direction of sound movement. Further interest of students in researching the topic of sound

K12 Digest February 2022


is aroused through the practical performance of the experiment: “Does a pencil have a heart that beats”, “Let’s SEE the sound” and “Sound art”. The survey is preceded by assumptions about what will happen in order to develop hypothetical thinking. Station 3 “The Great World” station opens by decoding the word AMERICA, which is hidden in the form of anagrams in Pupin’s famous thought, “It is not unfortunate for a young man to be without money at all, if he decides to pave the way to independent living, provided he has enough strength to overcome all the difficulties he will face”. This sentence depicts the content of this virtual station, which aims to acquaint students with the problems that Pupin faced with an emphasis on language barriers and his perseverance, which enabled him to become an excellent connoisseur of not only English but also Latin and Greek. Station 4 “Master of electrical inventions”, as Crnjanski, who our school is proudly named after, once called Pupin, is the name of the station that students approach by decoding the word SCIENTIST and as a reward they get the opportunity to try themselves in the role of scientists exploring light, stars and electricity - three large areas that were the center of interest of Michael Pupin.


K12 Digest February 2022

Station 5 The “Scientists’ Club” marked longitudinal research in order to examine the degree of mastery of knowledge about the life and work of Nikola Tesla, acquired in the last year’s class project “Tesla’s Fairy Tale”, which was organised in a similar way. In order to draw a parallel while emphasising the distinctive differences of two brilliant minds, the students must use previous experiences and bring them into a new context. As one of the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in this section, students are given a task of a creative nature, which involves applying knowledge about the life and work of these greats by designing their conversation while working in Scratch. Station 6 The last station “Homeland at Heart” is determined by the contents about the ways in which the legacy of Michael Pupin is cherished in his homeland today and the possibility of a virtual visit to his museum in Belgrade. At this station, special emphasis is placed on the development of creative thinking and creative work of students through writing a postcard to the mother from Pupin’s angle, using

Using the Phet simulation of perceiving different colors, students embark on a virtual expedition that helps them see that the set of all the rainbow colors our eyes perceive as white the available online tools. A short empirical research is being conducted in order to examine the level of familiarity of 5th and 6th grade students with the life and work of Michael Pupin. Pupin’s curiosity in the STEAM environment Entering the world of astronomy and physics was accompanied by students’ practical work on the independent performance of experiments and continuous encouragement of hypothetical and inductive thinking of students. Using the Phet simulation of perceiving different colors, students embark on a virtual expedition that helps them see that the set of all the rainbow colors our eyes perceive as white. Their stay in the star kingdom was inspired by Pupin’s need to enjoy the beautiful celestial scene of summer nights in his native Banat, which he describes as stark opposites: “the stars are unusually bright, and the sky, on the contrary, is black”. Students at this station gain knowledge about the types of constellations and their characteristics. They have the possibility of a virtual visit to the planetarium and making an improvised constellation projector with the help of materials from the immediate environment. As a form of motivation for further work, the students after this step learn that Pupin’s interest in the mentioned areas helped him make an invention that facilitated longdistance communication. In order to encourage creative thinking and apply the acquired knowledge, they are given

K12 Digest February 2022


an additional creative task to describe what it would look like just one day today in their family or neighborhood that there is no possibility of communication at long distances. By processing the collected data, it was established that 5th and 6th grade students know the data about Pupin’s creative work and recognise his inventions, but need to improve their understanding of Pupin’s childhood and leading role models, who helped him find his way through. This provided a basis for a joint effort to draw up and deliver a public presentation, in front of all students of the school, which was symbolically staged on Saint Sava’s Day (Saint Sava is a school patron). The symbolism draws on Pupin’s quest for knowledge which began on the very date, when he showed his skills in front of a packed court hall and delighted everyone with his speech. “Pupinmeter” in the function of work evaluation The final stage of the project included the evaluation of the work using the Likert scale in a digital form. Students first expressed their views on the self-assessment within


K12 Digest February 2022

the project through a five-point numerical scale, and the results showed that students have improved in reading comprehension, public speaking, working on various tools, are able to list at least five interesting facts about life and the work of Mihael Pupin, and make a comparison with the life and work of Nikola Tesla. The evaluation of the success of the organisation and implementation of the project by the students was performed using a five-point descriptive scale, where the results showed that the choice of tasks and tools was appropriate, and the instructions for work were clear and precise. The same scale was used for teacher assessment. Analysing each segment of work and coordinating the work of my students, I noticed the possibility of teamwork and joint work as the greatest advantage, while complementing each other by using their strengths. Insisting on following the guidelines resulted in partial drawing of conclusions, where each student is able to explain in their own words what was done in a specific stage of the project and critically review their progress within it.

Continue Learning with A Secure Virtual Classroom for K-12 JOIN SESSION Easy login, no downloading or installation

Share and record video and audio

Create personalized profiles

Share files and applications

Poll students

Interact with breakout groups

Chat with fellow participants

The raise hand feature ensures every student has a voice

Use in the classroom and beyond

K12 Digest February 2022


Biljana Krnjajic

Dr Anita Tufekcic

Kamishibai The Art of Storytelling Dr Anita Tufekcic, Librarian, Croatian language and literature teacher, Primary School Antun i Stjepan, Radic, Gunja, Croatia & Biljana Krnjajic, Librarian and Class teacher, Primary School Sinisa Glavasevic, Vukovar, Croatia


K12 Digest February 2022

Kamishibai contributes to the development of social and intellectual competencies, enriching vocabulary, encouraging creativity and enhancing imagination

Kamishibai - A View of Japan Kamishibai is a type of traditional street storytelling which features pictures on a small wooden stage, rooted in Japanese cultural heritage. It is a form of art which combines visuals with narration, creating a vivid interaction of speech and image. The word “kamishibai” is derived from two Japanese words: “kami”, meaning paper, and “shibai”, meaning theater or stage. Some call it “paper theater” and “suitcase theater”, but one thing is for sure: it’s the art of storytelling and narration using visuals, which merges several forms of art. Kamishibai had lived on the streets of Japan for a long time until the advent of television, when it remained only a memory and a valuable cultural heritage. Between the two world wars, kamishibai narrators opened a window into a world of magic, fantasy and storytelling to many Japanese children. Carrying a small wooden stage in a suitcase on a bicycle while going on errands, the kamishi narrators brought a touch of magic to anyone who needed it, selling handmade sweets sprinkled with joy along the way. Kamishibai as a Pedagogical Tool Kamishibai is a blend of many arts but it decidedly combines oral and visual elements in storytelling. Through kamishibai workshops, children can create their own

stories, paint the stage and perform the plays. Kamishibai contributes to the development of social and intellectual competencies, enriching vocabulary, encouraging creativity and enhancing imagination. A simple kamishibai can only consist of images narrated by the narrator while an elaborate kamishibai can include a wooden box - “butai”. Most kamishibai stories consist of 12 to 16 solid cards. The images tell the story for themselves and form a connected sequence of action when switching from one card to another. Illustration is a wonderful medium that combines visual language with written language, weaving together a small work of art. Children experience the story through pictures and living words, which inspires them to discuss and develop critical thinking skills. What is especially emphasised in creating images for the kamishibai show is the frame. In a picture, the frame is determined by the format of the picture on which it is taken. Given the movement and the impression that the images are moving, the key to kamishibai stories is the need to alternate frames as in the film to achieve that effect. Kamishibai is intended for listening, not reading to children. The biggest difference between kamishibai and picture books is that it is enjoyed by the whole group, not just the individual. For a kamishibai, there must be at least two persons in order for it to be performed: narrator and

K12 Digest February 2022



Dr Anita Tufekcic Anita Tufekcic is a school librarian and counselor. Her professional interests are primarily focused on media and media literacy. She has been leading the film troupe Young SKIG members (SKIG - Studio of Creative Ideas Gunja) for six years, participating in numerous film festivals, shows and screenings. She pays special attention to information and communication technologies through her work on film, and in the library. Anita was the recipient of the award for the best education professional given by the Croatian Ministry of Education for three consecutive years, in 2018/2019, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021. In her free time, she enjoys drawing and painting, which additionally motivates her to organize various creative workshops for her students, both in school and outside of it.


K12 Digest February 2022

listener. The narrator who performs kamishibai is called kamishibai, and the work created by the performance is called “kamishibaiya”. “Hyoshigi” (clapping sticks) is the name for wooden sticks with which the narrator, hitting each other, announces his arrival and the beginning of the narration. As a pedagogical tool, kamishibai: a) encourages reading, b) nurtures love for traditional heritage and history, c) enhances oral language expression, d) prepares students for public speaking, e) nurtures and encourages a culture of speaking and listening (mutual respect).


Biljana Krnjajic Through her positive pedagogical approach, Biljana highlights the importance of the role of teacher/ librarian, which is not just to transfer knowledge, but also to transfer ethical values, positive values and beliefs, accept students’ interests and capabilities, develop independence and encourage creativity as a key competency for lifelong learning. Competencies, individuality and affinities are the factors that can liberate students and enhance their enthusiasm, while her role as the initiator and advisor is to encourage, advise and guide them. Her creativity has found an outlet in different forms, methods and approaches to teaching. Participating in courses on different online platforms gives her the How to Perform Kamishibai The kamishibai form of storytelling can be used as a very good tool to achieve interaction between a listener and a narrator. It is more interesting for children if they participate interactively in the story itself, than just listening. When performing the story “Little Red Riding Hood”, you can also give instructions to the students. For example to agree on joint movements and sounds. When the students hear a specific word, they perform an accompanying action: ● FOREST - they tap their feet on the floor and the sound of shhh represents the rustling of leaves ● Little Red Riding Hood - they swing on chairs and sing LA-LA-LA

opportunity for continuous professional development and to express and further develop her creativity with the aim of improving her teaching practice and encouraging creative thinking. Biljana was the recipient of the award for the best education professional given by the Croatian Ministry of Education and Science for two consecutive years, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021. She wishes that teachers, expert associates and librarians join forces and implement activities aimed at engaging students, encouraging them to think, and teaching them how to react creatively to different situations.

K12 Digest February 2022


● WOLF - they wave their hands as if scratching with the sound of GRRR growling ● HUNTER - the sound of A-ha, hands as if holding a rifle and the sound of shooting ● GRANDMA - they grab their back and say AAAAAAH! An example of the story “Little Red Riding Hood”, performed by kamishibai was prepared by Biljana Krnjajić at the link: https://youtu.be/r5fKpperfSQ. The story that the narrator is telling can be enriched with an instrument, sounds or background music. Each narrator becomes a storyteller by practice and tells the story in different ways, as we are all of different temperaments. Every story is shared in an authentic way and has its own sensibility that the listeners have to respect. The listeners may also interpret the story in their own way, which creates multiple impressions when the story is being reiterated on


K12 Digest February 2022

various occasions. All storytellers observe the World Kamishibai Storytelling Day, 7 December, when they bring together their imagination and fantasy.

The kamishibai form of storytelling can be used as a very good tool to achieve interaction between a listener and a narrator

How to Construct a Kamishibai Stage Required construction material: - 180 or 200 g A3-size paper (dimensions of butai frame). - sketch pencil, eraser - paints, pastels, markers for drawing, painting, collage paper, glue and duct tape, scissors - depending on the technique you will use, you can make it from newsprint or pebbles - different materials with which you create the illustration (optional). Writing instructions: - Adapt the text of the story to the speech performance. - Divide the story into the specific number of cards (1016) + title of the story card + end of the story card. - The first card is the cover and it states the author of the text and illustration. - You can paint the last card as you wish, emphasizing the end of story. - Do not describe in the text the things that are in the picture because the picture itself sends a message. - Use short, expressive and meaningful sentences. - If you want to involve the audience in the performance, determine the places where you do it. - Pace the story well on the cards. The Learning Path of Kamishibai Storytelling in the classroom has proven to be a very effective tool that not only encourages students’ active learning in the classroom but can also be continued outside of school. By linking teaching material and storytelling, students can connect what is already known with new content. In this way, the story becomes an interesting form of learning, which scaffolds further development of imagination and creativity, encourages the use of spoken language, enhances reading skills, raises awareness of the sense of belonging, discusses emotions and relationships that are created from an early age. The great value of this method is in the idea that the stories are made by the children together with the teachers, who guide them in it. It is a participatory practice because children are fully immersed in the creation of the story. The whole process is extremely dynamic and open to many incentives, which include making individual contributions, creating relationships in the group, respecting others and practicing cooperation and togetherness.

K12 Digest February 2022


The Coalition to Honour all Learning Dr Conrad Hughes, Principal, International School of Geneva, Switzerland


s students make their way through the formal curriculum of most schools, the pattern is similar across contexts and systems: primary and middle school involve creative transdisciplinary projects, a broad-based spread of different types of learning with the arts and physical education featuring prominently. Days are fairly short and there is not too much homework. However, as students enter the secondary school, they move closer and closer to terminal examinations that tend to be high stakes and narrow (meaning that they measure

a handful of competences only, generally timed writing, knowledge regurgitation, analytical response and the structured presentation of ideas). The valency of these examinations casts a shadow over the last years of high school: students are stressed, teachers have to teach to the test, scores and grades become the most important element. So much boils down to what happens in an examination room. This is not the case for all systems: the North American approach asks students to do well consistently over the last years of their schooling and to show evidence of a rounded

Dr Conrad Hughes led two major projects with UNESCO-IBE to rethink the guiding principles for learning in the 21st Century and preventing violent extremism through education. He has published three books on different aspects of 21st Century learning. Understanding Education and Prejudice (2017) looks at how schools and universities can reduce prejudicial thinking in students and instructors; in Educating for the 21st Century (2019), he investigates how educational systems can address societal challenges such as sustainability, the rise of AI, post-truth politics, mindfulness and future-proof knowledge. His latest book, Education and Elitism (2021), discusses how access to high quality education can be widened. Dr Hughes is a member of the advisory board for the University of the People and research assistant at the University of Geneva’s department of psychology and education. He is a regular contributor to the World Economic Forum’s Agenda blog and speaks in conferences across the globe.


K12 Digest February 2022

If we can change what we ask of students, how we ask them to perform, who we ask them to become, we will be doing good work

K12 Digest February 2022


character. However, even in this system, the grade average becomes the critical gateway, and that is calculated using the end of year grades. European and British universities are essentially only interested in the end of high school examination performance, or if they are interested in more (critical thinking, interview technique, personality), it comes after, and only after, examination performance. With global pandemics, conflict, increasing pressure on university entrance, bleak forecasts about Generation Z’s chances of economic prosperity in a predetermined world economic market, it is not surprising that student wellbeing has become the number one issue to address in schools. Mental illness, anxiety and depression are soaring in young people. And yet, the factory line of examinations, pitching one individual against the next, driving students into the ground, keeping them awake till unholy hours, continues. As a Head of School, I cannot look at this situation and do nothing about it. We need to reform the system and the place to start is with the piece of paper that students are working towards to leave school, since it is this document that casts the longest shadow over the end of high school. If we can change what we ask of students, how we ask them to perform, who we ask them to become, we will be doing good work.


K12 Digest February 2022

This is why I created the Coalition to Honour all Learning, a federation of schools and universities across the world that aims to influence the discussion on school leaving certificates. We represent over 100,000 students in national, independent and international systems across the world. The schools in the coalition are using alternative transcripts or are on the journey to implement alternative transcripts. By alternative transcript, we mean a credit system that looks beyond academic grades only. These include the Ecolint Learner Passport, microcredentialing, the global citizenship diploma or mastery transcript, to mention a few. We invite all post-secondary institutions, including universities, colleges and industries across the globe, to open their admissions criteria beyond academic subject grades and to recognise competences as captured in alternative school transcripts. Our group meets periodically to share how we are going about this important work in our different institutions, we release a monthly podcast and are developing an interactive competence framework matrix that will allow universities and schools to communicate their graduating protocols and admissions policies.


Amazing Opportunity for Teachers and School Leaders to enhance their knowledge through FREE Teachers Academy masterclasses from international education experts !!! For more details and registration www.teachersacademy.com

Higher EducationK12 Digest Digest November 2021 February 2022


Innovation and Creativity are

Two Sides of the Same Coin Gordana Kovacevic, Serbian Language and Literature Teacher, Primary School “Jovan Sterija Popovic”, Vrsac, Srbija

Gordana Kovacevic is the author of scientific papers and professional lectures, but also an evaluator of textbooks for primary school. She is one of the teachers who participated in the online teaching project of the Ministry of Education with two lectures during the pandemic. As an associate of the Institute for Contemporary Education, she held an online lecture “Working with talented students: the application of a special individual plan in the teaching of Serbian language and literature.” A special feature of her teaching career is working with talented students, application of individualised and project teaching, application of the teaching concept “Flipped Classroom”, multidisciplinary approach to teaching language and literature, and development of social and emotional learning. She especially nurtures the work of the literary section, whose members have won numerous awards at domestic and international competitions, and their most successful fairy tales, songs and stories will be published in the magazine “Inspiration”, which especially motivates creativity in Slavic languages.


K12 Digest February 2022


he role of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in contemporary education should be based on carefully conceived curricula developing student competencies in the direction of this kind of learning. Interdisciplinary competences are a key developmental factor of SEL. Project-based instruction and individualization should be the best teaching methods directly developing SEL competencies. Continuous monitoring of curricular and extracurricular student achievements, developing collaboration, mastering the techniques necessary for conducting negotiations, conflict resolution, opinion exchange and accepting the values of others different from our own are the main directions in the educational process. From professional experience I used SEL in my practice in civic education classes that I had been teaching for more than a decade. It is in these classes that students acquired social and emotional skills leading to a decrease in the levels of violence, aggression and conflicts in the classroom, as well as improved quality of interpersonal relationships and overcoming (social, national, peer…) differences and fostering tolerance and accepting every individual and all their differences. In the course of the numerous talks, debates and panel discussions, the students learned the

basic principles of democracy applying them in other classes as well. By getting my students involved into Student Parliament activities, as a coordinator, I strove to provide them with connections to other legal, social and administrative institutions in the community, thus preparing them to take on their future civic responsibilities and social engagement via some future professional duties. The classroom has always been a place where trust and respect reigned and students felt safe, appreciated and equal, which was bound to lead to the development of empathy as a key element of the Social Emotional Learning process. The same principles and rules trickled down to native language and other classes alike, so everyone of us could reap the sweet fruits of our labour in the classes of civic education, an elective, but very important subject. Native language and literature classes provide an environment for daily development of - application of multifunctional curricula of Serbian language and literature; - application of individualised teaching as a form of education that develops SEL in more far-reaching ways than any other methods and forms of teaching; - application of project-based teaching as a multidisciplinary social, emotional and learning platform in the contemporary teaching practice;

These are timeless sources of inspiration and trailblazers of motivation and science for young people

K12 Digest February 2022


- application id the Flipped Classroom teaching concept focusing on the individual and all his or her traits, skills and abilities. The participation of my students in a project launched by the Ministry of Education marking International Day Against Peer Violence on 24th February, 2021 deserves a special mention. I have been working with gifted students for years now, following a special, individualised and expanded curriculum for talented students and that has become the hallmark of my career. My online lecture on that topic was published by the Institute for Contemporary Education in November 2021. Creativity as an imperative of contemporary education This is the world of prominent creatives: web designers, graphic designers, designers of flying cars, research scientists and inventors. Everything that we have ever read or learned about was conceived and patented by some creative individual. Everything that we touch is the fruit of someone’s genius and ingenuity. Milutin Milankovic and Nikola Tesla are the biggest 20th century thinkers and creatives. The books Through the Universe and the Ages (Kroz vasionu i vekove) by Milutin Milankovic and Tesla’s Autobiography are on the literature classes reading list. These are timeless sources of inspiration and trailblazers of motivation and science for young people. Therefore, the work with talented students has left a particular professional mark on my career, especially with 14-year old Vuk Stanojevic, 8th grade student who


K12 Digest February 2022

is one of the most awarded and successful students in the region. The criteria for drawing up his individualised curriculum were developed based on the Social Emotional Learning principles with the aim of enhancing linguistic, stylistic and creative competencies. Creativity is simply multiplication of creative competencies combined with cognitive knowledge and the sensory sphere and comprehension. In the developmental intellectual and emotional process, talent emerges from the functional layers of knowledge, uniting critical thinking and a completely original experiential context. A careful analysis conducted a year ago revealed that this student had been developing photographic memory. He was able to conduct and memorise three cognitive activities at the same time. That was proof of highly developed personal intellectual resources along with creative competencies. Multidisciplinarity is the main feature of his character. He studies mathematics, chemistry, history, mythology, linguistics, as well as languages and literature. He focused his attention on folk art and national history and read the works of the most prominent Serbian and international authors acquiring information about the peculiarities of their literary and artistic styles. Research is the basis of his approach to study material. His regular activities in class include teamwork and the role of a mentor (offering support). This way, Social Emotional Learning is firmly rooted in the entire class by providing support for a gifted student. Individualization serves the purpose of improving the quality of work of the entire class and the relations I - I and I - others provide a solid foundation for social and emotional development. The talented student is included in scientific research and he is also the leader of the group of six students who will be competing in a scientific research contest to be held at the Regional Talent Centre. Moreover, Vuk Stanojevic writes short stories. He received multiple awards at literary competitions. He was one of the participants in the World Essay Writing Competition held in Tokyo in 2021. The topic of his essay was What is Life. The story on the topic Smells and Sounds Conducting Conversations is an example to be analysed here. It was awarded at a literary competition held in January 2022. By combining the sensations brought about by different experiences and different senses, a new archetypal space opens up where past experiences and the present moment being experienced are brought together. What is felt by the senses are just impulses opening visions dominated by the feelings of happiness and fullness of life, unlike the present moment where only emptiness and loneliness exist. A touch of hands

Innovation has become but a facet of creativity. These are the two sides of the same coin

committed to memory introduces a completely different perception of the past. An animistic view of the world stems from the subconscious, inherited context of experience and reality. In the story, every sensory manifestation speaks, lives, breathes, whispers and sings. Sufficiency is a totally new and different category incorporating unity of feeling, experience and temporal distinction: the beginning and end of the story, the feeling of a worn out life existing in some memories, the relation of the meaning of life to the meaning of death (spring, the awakening of a new life and autumn, a late season and the gradual dying out of life). Sufficiency as a philosophical constant is given a particular meaning here, quite new and different, previously unheard in literature. The choice of words gives the story a special multifaceted quality. It is directly related to the animistic experience of nature and the world. The names of the protagonists, Dragisadrag (Dragisa-dear) and Dusanka-dusa (Dusankasoul) featured in the combination of words draga dusa (dear soul) carry new meaning. In this story, every word brings a breath of fresh air and a new impulse of life into the surroundings and readers’ experience. In view of its maturity and literary and artistic features, this is undoubtedly Vuk’s best story so far. The analysis of this story which is just one among other stories forming the broader body of his work reveals his linguistic and creative competencies. The richness of the selection of the books he read, combined with a continuous development of creative competences resulted in their multiplication and the development of metacognitive creativity (the term borrowed from Dr Svetlana Belic Malinic). This kind of knowledge provides the highest level of support to individuality and intellectual potential. Innovation has become but a facet of creativity. These are the two sides of the same coin. Conclusion This work stems from the need to explain and prove the views about the importance of active inclusion of all SEL resources into the general curricula of individual subjects in primary (and secondary) school and also in higher-level education. The power potential of SEL enriches the emotional, cognitive and intellectual development of every individual (student). Different subject-related and teaching resources, methods, kinds of work, scientific approaches and teaching concepts are easily added to and integrated with the most important features of SEL.

K12 Digest February 2022


From Building a Labyrinth to Building a Relationship Gordana Pavlovic, Kindergarten Teacher and Head of School, Preschool “Decji dani”, Belgrade, Serbia

Gordana Pavlovic is a daycare teacher and head of the kindergarten Mrvica, which is part of the Preschool “Decji dani”. She is the author of the blog “Playground for Everyone” and co-author and co-editor of the kindergarten blog “My Mrvica’s Window”, which she writes and manages together with her fellow daycare teachers. Her work on the “Mind Sprint through the Labyrinth” was awarded as an example of good practice in the event Day of Intelligence – Stimulating Intellectual Development 2021. This year, she received her first open badge for innovative teachers awarded at the Science on Stage festival. She considers working with children an exceptional privilege and contributes to the development of her profession by her creativity and love of teaching. Her aim is to help students, future doctors, scientists, artists, and pioneers, to spread their wings and change the world for the better.


K12 Digest February 2022


roblem solving is considered to be an important skill for the 21st century. The rapid development of technology has a significant influence on the educational paradigm. Educators are faced with the challenge of preparing children for a constantly changing world. To digital natives, as the children born in this millennium are referred to, the use of technology comes naturally. There are two parallel approaches to early childhood education with different views on the use of technology. The proponents of the first maintain that children need “digital diet”, a radical ban of technology, and a change of focus to bring them closer to nature. The advocates of the second approach believe that technology must on no account be excluded from education, and that digital competencies are to be highly valued in both children and adults. A shift in the educational paradigm assigns children the role of active participants interacting with the environment to build relationships that contribute to their well-being. By developing the Realistic Programme in a kindergarten, we designed a number of planned learning situations in collaboration with children, as part of a project conceived as having the working title Bees and Their Good Deeds. The planned learning situation to be presented here was named Mind Sprint through the Labyrinth. It is an example of how playing and solving problems and using new technologies make it possible to simultaneously develop both 21st century skills and Realistic Programme.

Tentatively speaking, the Mind Sprint through the Labyrinth project features a creative race to build a twodimensional followed by a three-dimensional maze, from various construction elements, building blocks and other materials, on different boards, designed for coding. This is followed by programming Bee-Bot, a robotic bee to get from start to finish safely. The approach to this planned learning situation, was led by the desire to achieve the general goal of developing a disposition for lifelong learning in children, namely, openness, curiosity, resistance (resilience), reflection, perseverance, trust in one’s own ability to be a capable student and a positive personal and social identity. Thereby the foundations for developing educational competencies are laid. In addition to solving problems of different levels of complexity, children were faced with the challenge of working in groups, as a team, having to show not only persistence and perseverance, but also resistance to failure, while, at the same time becoming involved and respectful of others. Building the child - child relationship through the construction of the labyrinth How did we create a safe environment for children in building relationships? Using the same construction elements used by children almost every day while playing games, we provided them with predictability, where their previous experiences are a starting point for approaching a newly presented problem. Moreover, this group of

Working in small groups allows every child to leave its personal stamp and contribute to the project

K12 Digest February 2022


The educator as a partner must respect the interests, goals and needs of children and must remain involved

children is not new to coding games. They are good at it and feel safe doing it. Giving the children themselves the possibility to choose the group in which to work resulted in the formation of groups with very unevenly distributed features. Our focus certainly was not on forming uniform groups, because as we stated, all children mastered the materials at their disposal to a greater or lesser degree. The intention was to set up groups in such a way so as


K12 Digest February 2022

to provide a predictable and safe environment where all the children would feel good. It should be noted that the initial group of participants consisted of children of mixed age, the youngest were 4.5, while the oldest were about to leave the kindergarten and start school. The children based their choice of group also on the affinity for a particular theme (universe, hive ...), as well as on the closeness to its members. This resulted in groups

that were not uniform in terms of size, and were mixed in terms of age. Building the labyrinth, brought out the capacity of children to develop the skills necessary for conflict management. We saw that while taking part in the construction, they relied on each other and got involved in decision-making and making choices about the shape and size of the maze, as well as planning the paths along which Bee-Bot would be moving. How did we build relationships through participation? Working in small groups allows every child to leave its personal stamp and contribute to the project. All children were actively involved, and had equal chances to build, program, or share information about their discoveries and enter into a dialogue with other children and adults based on mutual respect and exchange. The educator is in the position to address important questions such as: “What was difficult for them?” “What was easy for them?” “When did they have the most fun?” “Were there situations when they got angry or sad?” “How do the cubes behave as Bee-Bot passes through the labyrinth?” “What did the children easily agree on and what were the points of disagreement?” Through reflection of the labyrinth, the children had the opportunity to be truly consulted and sense that their feelings and opinions matter.

K12 Digest February 2022


Building the educator - child a relationship through the construction of the labyrinth The relationship between an adult and a child is somewhat asymmetric. There are differences not only in the level of knowledge, experiences and skills, but also in power. The asymmetry of power in the adult-child relationship must on no account turn into overprotecting or overmanaging the child. In this case, the educator gives the power to the child to decide everything. The role of an educator is to be the creator of a stimulating environment, an observer who is ready to respond to the needs of children by providing answers to their questions, or capturing an interesting moment they want recorded. Besides, educators are researchers at the same time, because the questions they ask encourage self-evaluation and reflection in children. If establishing a partnership with children is aimed at, the educator must not be a mere observer. The educator as a partner must respect the interests, goals and needs of children and must remain involved. The partnership means having common needs, interests, and a shared job to do. How to spot an educator who has a good relationship with children? It is an educator who knows children well, who developed great sensitivity to children’s needs and can recognize and respect them. Emotional stability and self-control, as well as the control of verbal and nonverbal expression are the qualities of such an educator. What is the benefit of this kind of work? The outcomes based on this type of learning are: - accomplished, satisfied and happy children - involvement in a creative and purposeful activity - being surrounded by that which is well-known and by new challenges at the same time - involvement in decision-making and making choices - development of digital competencies through play - play - synthesis and analysis - reflection If we want a kindergarten that fits children’s needs, it must be based on certain values. What is meant by that is following the examples of respecting and accepting, the rights and responsibilities of individuals, as well as equality and inclusion. When we value the process more than the product, when the environment is rich in incentives, based on the principles of freedom, then small masterpieces are made. It is important that children always have a choice to participate or not, because only when there is a choice can they gain independence, learn about responsibility, take an active role in their own life and feel competent and happy.


K12 Digest February 2022

K12 Digest February 2022


Anxiety and Dealing with Student Examination Situation Harun Herceg, Educational Counsellor and Psychologist, Elci Ibrahim- Pasha’s Madrasah, Travnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Harun Herceg has fulfilled his love of psychology by pursuing applied psychology in everyday life. Together with his students, Harun has participated in an interfaith high school project. He attended numerous seminars and training courses in the field of psychology, human resource management, business communication, project cycle management, modern teaching methods and assessment, conflict resolution, and stress at work. He is the author of the book “Test Anxiety and Coping with Exam Stress among Students”.


K12 Digest February 2022

Exam anxiety increases with increased complexity of teaching content, but also with increased severity of the social consequences caused by failure


he very term anxiety is used to denominate the feeling that people experience when faced with a threat, danger or when under stress. Vulic-Prtoric (2006) defined anxiety as “an emotional state characterised by feelings of discomfort, restlessness and tension, and antipathy to possible danger, as well as many physiological reactions including rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure and physical tension”. In this regard, anxiety disorders are not clustered as one disease, but represent a group of diseases characterised by a long-term feeling of great stress as well as extreme discomfort. Anxiety is a very common problem nowadays. Approximately one in ten people consult a doctor for feelings of tension, anxiety or worry. Anxiety has the following symptoms: sweating, tingling, trembling, feeling choking, nausea, dizziness, stomach problems and feeling that some kind of catastrophe is bound to happen. The Concept of Examination Anxiety According to Erceg (2007), the intensity of exam anxiety increases as a function of age following a negative acceleration curve - it first rises sharply after which its growth levels, and finally stabilises at the age of eighteen. Exam anxiety as a trait is a relatively stable characteristic of the individual, with many stimuli related to assessment

situations perceived as a serious personal threat with a tendency to intense anxiety (ibid.). Exam anxiety is most often defined as a state of excitement, tension and feelings of discomfort that occur in assessment situations, after them and while thinking or conceptualising them. Here we have the following factors that affect exam anxiety: reduced performance is associated with lower school performance and low self-esteem, negative attitudes towards school, addiction and passivity are associated with aggression, unfavourable status among peers and poor relationships with teachers. The Role of Family and School in the Development of Anxiety in Children Some research suggests that the family may play a role in the development of anxiety in children while learning. Namely, an association between parental behaviour and child anxiety has been established. Children of parents who model anxiety behaviour, i.e. describe problems to children as unsolvable or threatening, may begin to believe that there is no successful way to deal with problems or develop strategies to reduce anxiety. Likewise, parents of children with learning difficulties are more anxious than parents of children without such difficulties. According to Vulić-Prtorić (2004), anxiety symptoms are usually

K12 Digest February 2022


grouped into four main areas that interact with these are “physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioural”. For the examination, they used scales containing lists of described symptoms compiled on the basis of scales for adults, and their task was to assess the frequency or intensity of the symptoms. Fear that occurs after physical symptoms or anxiety sensitivity is crucial for development of anxiety. We label anxiety sensitivity as the fear that the changes associated with anxiety, such as palpitations, tremors or abdominal pain, will have negative social, psychological or physical consequences. Relationship with Regard to Age Children’s fear of assessment has increased in recent years. The reason for this trend is either because children address psychologists more often or because the number of the concerned indeed rises every year. The ratio of detected to undetected children is assumed to be 1:8. Since the results of research often determine the entire further professional and personal life of an individual, it is considered of great importance to study this concept within psychology. Studies on the existence of age differences in exam anxiety


K12 Digest February 2022

have shown that it occurs in lower primary school, that it increases with age, especially in children aged 9 to 12. These changes take place in parallel with changes in cognitive development. Exam anxiety increases with increased complexity of teaching content, but also with increased severity of the social consequences caused by failure. Causes of Tension and Stress It is important to understand that exam anxiety arises from tension, not stress. Stress is the body’s response to all the demands made. Tension, in turn, occurs when the body responds wrongly to stress causes. Stress is like body temperature - it increases and decreases. We have to strike the right balance. Our body cannot distinguish between positive and negative stress. For some people, a certain amount of stress improves the success of a task; but for most, stress diminishes the ability to perform a task. Stress is a biological term for the consequences of an individual’s inability to adequately respond to emotional or physical threats to the body. These threats can be real or imagined, and involve an alarming state in which the release of adrenaline increases, causing great exhaustion.

Emotions experienced in assessment situations can help the students achieve their set goals and have a beneficial effect on their subjective personality, but they can also be devastating

Anxiety in Students In today’s society, schooling is one of the most important areas during the life of each individual. This points to the fact that learning and achievement in school have a strong impact on the experience of student emotions. Students often face stressful school situations, such as writing assignments, challenging tasks, peer contacts and group work. These are situations that inevitably provoke different emotional reactions. According to Pekrun (2005), since the 1990s, researchers in the field of educational psychology have begun to focus on different emotions in students, but also in teachers, as well as the impact on learning, behaviour, personality traits and health. Emotions began to be studied as part of motivational processes. In the same vein, Pekrun’s (2006) theory of control and value is interesting because he states that emotions play a primary role in activating, maintaining or reducing student motivation and processes closely related to motivation. Dealing with the Examination Situation Emotions experienced in assessment situations can help the student achieve their set goals and have a beneficial effect on their subjective personality, but they can also be devastating. “Emotional regulation refers to attempts by individuals to influence what emotions they will experience, when they will experience them, and how they will express them” (Gross, Richards, John, 2006:14). Emotions and their regulation can also be viewed as part

K12 Digest February 2022


Anxiety disorders are not clustered as one disease, but a group of diseases characterized by a long-lasting feeling of great stress as well as extreme discomfort

of a broader process of students’ self-directed behaviour, which includes transactions that lead to a goal and in which students make assessments of their own performance with respect to achieving that goal” (Schutz and Davis, 2000). These assessments determine the type of emotions experienced, their intensity, attempts and ways to regulate them, and the probability of success in achieving the desired goal. Emotional regulation in assessment situations involves different processes by which students monitor, evaluate and modify their emotional experiences.


K12 Digest February 2022

Exam Anxiety More and More Affects the Students Anxiety becomes a problem when it occurs at a time when there is no real threat or when it continues long after the stressful situation has passed. Anxiety disorders are not clustered as one disease, but a group of diseases characterized by a long-lasting feeling of great stress as well as extreme discomfort. The diagnosis of anxiety disorder is usually made in people when the degree of their tension reaches an extreme that greatly disrupts their daily lives and prevents them from doing what they would like. During the assessment, it is necessary to take into account the students’ abilities, the conditions in which students work and live, and their prior knowledge, skills and habits. The child brings to school a set of certain knowledge, skills and habits that are collected through interactions in the family and preschool institutions. The task of the school as an educational institution is to nurture the already acquired characteristics of students, systematically and gradually expand and deepen them. Emotions experienced in assessment situations can help the student achieve their set goals and have a beneficial effect on their personality, but they can also be devastating. A key element of emotion regulation within the task-oriented process dimension relates to trying to keep the focus on the exam task itself. This includes thoughts and tactics that help the student stay focused on the task and prevent the occurrence of potentially distracting and negative thoughts about themselves or the task.

Want to Sell or find Investor for your Business?

K12 Digest February 2022


Supporting Mental Health and Academic Outcomes for Learners through ‘Metacognition in Practice’ Liz Keable, Founder, Learning Pockets UK, United Kingdom

What is Metacognition? What exactly is ‘metacognition’ I hear you say? Well, you’re not alone in feeling insecure around a definition, as even experts vary in their response to that question. A frequent translation is; ‘thinking about thinking’, but using that explanation doesn’t acknowledge ‘meta’ as a prefix, which means ‘going beyond’ or ‘transcending’ whatever follows. In this instance, meta is followed by ‘cognition’, so we need to think about what that signifies. Cognition usually refers to all the mental skills required for learning, ie; gaining knowledge, appreciating it’s significance, and then being able to use it, either in real life settings or imaginary ones.

So, meta-cognition is when a mind turns attention to itself (and what has been learned), usually for the purpose of making changes to the thinking process in order to get more productive results. Modes of Learning Cognition by itself is a natural unconscious process that we use from birth onwards to learn about our environment and our place in the order of things. We learn to walk and talk at a very young age without using any mental effort, driven by our own curiosity and without any real sense of ‘self’. It’s a very effective way of taking on board

Liz Keable is a qualified teacher and a Masters level Trainer with 2 decades of experience in Teaching and Learning, and a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management, the Society for Education and Training, and the Chartered College of Teaching. She is focusing on development of ‘metacognition in practice’ for students to support mental health and academic outcomes in the wake of a pandemic via a consultancy service to schools, plus training for school staff and parents. She understands the struggles of the students to learn and has committed herself to supporting them. She takes great delight in making a difference to educational and life chances of children and young people by helping schools and parents appreciate exactly how they can support students to become metacognitive in their approach to learning.


K12 Digest February 2022

Now learning becomes ‘conscious’, requires mental effort, is driven by expectation rather than curiosity and a sense of ‘self’ becomes essential, because metacognition is what enables learners to make effective progress within education

K12 Digest February 2022


information (sometimes called primary learning), and serves us well in the early years as we pick up a great deal of information from our own experiences, whilst soaking up what happens in our surroundings. Once we start in formal education however, the expectation is that we will gradually transition into using ‘secondary’ learning, the process of taking in information from being taught by someone else, rather than through our own experience. Now learning becomes ‘conscious’, requires mental effort, is driven by expectation rather than curiosity and a sense of ‘self’ becomes essential, because metacognition is what enables learners to make effective progress within education. Barriers to Learning For a range of reasons, many children do not make a successful transition from one kind of learning to the other and very quickly fall behind their peers. Physical disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders, language barriers, executive function disorders, a poor self-concept, the impact of trauma and specific learning difficulties all have an impact that reduces a learner’s ability to use secondary learning effectively.


K12 Digest February 2022

As a starting point, we must help students recognise that they need to have an active role in the learning process

We also now have the impact of Covid19, which has taken a toll on the mental health of learners, disrupted education to the point of widening the disadvantage gap, and caused even previously confident learners to start struggling. When formal education is required by law, quite a large proportion of students feel that schooling is something imposed on them against their will, and as a consequence create a further barrier, that of passive engagement. There are no quick fixes to any of these issues, but there is the opportunity to establish a new normal, where learners don’t have to feel lost or unable to engage, whatever barriers they face. There is a sustainable solution that lies within the power of teachers (who have also felt the draining impact of teaching during a pandemic), and which genuinely implemented in practice will lighten their load. You’ve guessed it. We introduce students to their powers of metacognition. Metacognitive Learners The ten characteristics of a metacognitive learner are; 1. Recognising their own role in the learning process 2. Believing in themselves as a learner (#) 3. Appreciating the opportunity for whole brain experiences 4. Recognising challenge as an integral part of learning (#) 5. Dealing with the stress of leaving their comfort zone (#) 6. Knowing the value of making mistakes (#)

K12 Digest February 2022


7. Constantly striving for improvement 8. Seeing the need for practice 9. Changing their thinking in order to get different results (#) 10. Being in control of their own progress (#) (#) Indicates a link with Mental Health I hope you can see now why I state that we can support both mental health and academic outcomes for all learners through the use of metacognition. As teachers we have to recognise this as a process that goes on inside our learner’s heads, so the emphasis has to be on their learning, rather than our teaching. This means making slight adjustments to the way in which a traditional classroom functions, but as students develop a metacognitive approach to their learning, they become more independent, more motivated, more aspirational, and more responsible for their own progress, making life easier for the teacher. I therefore invite you to consider the following. Metacognition in Practice As a starting point, we must help students recognise that they need have an active role in the learning process! A fairly straightforward way to do this is to plan the kind of lessons where the students can learn from


K12 Digest February 2022

experience, rather than being taught. Let them find out what you want them to learn rather than telling them. That requires a bit more of the teacher at the planning stage, but if you think more about ‘how’ your students will learn something, ie; what activities you can put in place to help them, your role in the classroom becomes easier. The learners are more engaged and invested in the results whilst you are free to support them from the side-lines. Another way to help learners play a more active role is to provide ‘whole brain’ experiences! The learning brain can be divided up in various ways, but however you choose to do it, the fact remains that the more of the brain that is engaged at any given time, the more memorable the learning will be. Consider the following three options; Right and left hemispheres - one hemisphere focuses more on practical aspects of learning whilst the other is more facts based. Both halves however perform more efficiently if they are engaged at the same time! So, when planning, ask yourself; ‘Will this lesson involve physical activity of some kind for my students?’(Introduce some if not!) Thinking and emotions (Frontal Cortex and Limbic System) - to ensure that both are engaged in the same activity, ask yourself; ‘Will this lesson engender some kind of emotion for students? (Their memory traces will be much stronger if so.) Conscious and subconscious - which means arousing the natural curiosity that comes with ‘cognition’ (even whilst following a curriculum). When planning, ask yourself; ‘Is this activity novel enough to arouse the curiosity of students so that they want to know more?’ As teachers we are responsible for creating an environment that is conducive to learning. If we want learners to be more metacognitive, then they need to become comfortable with the learning process. Are you providing a safe, non-judgemental space so that they can do that effectively? Metacognitive learners are prepared to leave their comfort zone and face challenges, are happy to make mistakes and learn from them, and practice until they get it right! We need to help students embrace that natural, experimental way of learning from ‘experience’, by providing well planned activities, with the time, space and encouragement that empowers learners to achieve even beyond their own expectations. Support your learners mental health and academic outcomes more effectively by introducing them to metacognition through your classroom practice.

K12 Digest February 2022


Escape Classroom – A Universal Teaching Method Maja Milosavljevic, Primary Teacher, Author and Moderator of online courses, ECC – Educational Creative Center, Belgrade, Serbia

Maja Milosavljevic is a versatile person, always eager for new knowledge, experiences and broadening horizons. She is a passionate traveller and globe trotter. Maja is as imaginative as a child, curious as a child, almost as creative as a child, but she works like a grown-up. She enjoys sports and foreign languages, web tools, decoupage and, inevitably, books. She has worked in several Belgrade schools, both as a teacher, and educator in after-school care, as well in the project BG Internship 2014 within the Secretariat for Sport and Youth. She is the author and moderator of the online seminar “Escape Classroom – A Universal Teaching Method”. The seminar is designed for professional training of teachers and educators and is available as part of the ECC seminar offer. She has recently started a blog and YouTube channel “Open E-classroom”. She adores her calling, because she likes the idea of being able to shape the future.


K12 Digest February 2022


o you like Indiana Jones films? Do you enjoy books by Dan Brown and their film adaptations? How many of you rooted for Harry Potter to win against Voldemort? Are you getting more and more excited while these heroes keep solving riddles, having embarked on dangerous and secret adventures? Back in antiquity, Greeks had the Minotaur who was defeated by Theseus after he passed through the labyrinth. Egyptians have the Sphinx, the one whose riddles are almost impossible to solve. The literature of the ancient world is swarming with heroes who, in addition to physical strength, must exhibit ingenuity and logic in order to overcome all the obstacles facing them and become favourites of gods and humans. If we take a closer look, we will see that a number of remarkable books, legends and films follow the basic principles of Escape Room. Namely, the protagonists are faced with seemingly illogical and incoherent clues and riddles. Once the connection and the solution are found, the final solution and the reward are within reach. In view of the fact that people have loved this kind of adventures since the time immemorial and that such stories are part of our DNA, why not use this information for educational purposes? The pitfalls of traditional teaching According to Simeon Markovic, “the main shortcoming of traditional teaching is its dogmatic and reproductive

nature – the independence of students is repressed. They are viewed as objects of instruction, acquiring ready-made knowledge from lectures delivered by teachers or from textbooks. This is what they memorise and reproduce. The teacher’s word is almost the sole criterion of truth. (...) For them (the student), thinking is a habit, rather than an ability. This teaching method lacks curiosity, initiative, self-confidence, spontaneity, tolerance, critical thinking, courage, patience, flexibility, broad and diverse paths of contemplation. What prevails instead is schematic one-sided behaviour, along with insufficient motivation, stereotypes, narrow interests, submission to authority, pressure, insecurity, fear of failure, the feeling of guilt, resistance to changing deeply ingrained habits, setting limits, persistent imposing of goals”.[ Simeon Marković: “Metodika kreativne nastave srpskog jezika i književnosti”, Beograd, Kreativni centar 2013.] “We do not know how much creativity is killed in the classroom with its emphasis on learning”.[ Aleksandar Nil: “Slobodna deca Samerhila”, Beograd, BIGZ, 1990, str.43.] Children of preschool age spend most of their time playing and spontaneously discovering the world around them, while schoolchildren have content and approaches to work imposed on them. By comparing facts, it turns out that preschoolers are geniuses, while the abilities of students finishing primary school are mediocre, which reveals a crucial piece of information – children learn best through play and not through application of traditional instruction methods.

If we take a closer look, we will see that a number of remarkable books, legends and films follow the basic principles of Escape Room

K12 Digest February 2022


Children of preschool age spend most of their time playing and spontaneously discovering the world around them, while schoolchildren have content and approaches to work imposed on them


K12 Digest February 2022

A realistic solution or magic? Believe it or not, a solution to these problems exists. It takes the form of none other than the Escape Classroom method. The concept is very simple. The participants i.e. players have to solve logic puzzles chain linked into a single entity. Being logic-based, this activity requires no background knowledge, rather it relies on the use of logic, namely, the ability to make inferences. Moreover, the connections between certain phenomena or objects in the game itself are significant and meaningful and have a place in gameplay. The puzzles are arranged in a certain way, forming a chain or path to be followed to get to the solution. Here are some of the reasons why this method should be incorporated into your teaching practice: it is fun for everyone, it is suitable for all subjects that are taught, it develops collaboration and team spirit. Furthermore, it is student- and outcome-oriented, etc. The application of the Escape Classroom method influences the development of the following key student skills: ● Problem solving ● Social skills ● Resilience development ● Lateral / divergent thinking ● Time management ● Involvement This method represents the best of gamification in teaching when all its principles have been upheld. The two biggest concerns of today’s teaching, the attention span issue and student involvement can be overcome by taking advantage of it. This method like all others has its advantages and shortcomings. Some of the advantages of the application of Escape Classroom in teaching are: ● Strengthening the desire to learn ● Increasing the attention span ● Lowering student stress levels ● Encouraging active learning On the other hand, the shortcomings include: ● High level of engagement and training of teachers ● Increased distraction levels ● Difficult class management The key factor here is the teacher’s skill, creativity and knowledge of teaching methods. The teacher should be the one to gauge the difficulty, diversity and number of tasks, while making sure that every detail functions as part of the whole and preserving its logical and thematic coherence. It is often the case that students are not clear about the purpose of learning some elements of the curriculum and it happens that they refuse to learn them, or they just cram to get grades. The essence gets lost because they

lack awareness of the reasons why this knowledge will be necessary in the future. In this method, the aim of the game is clear – collecting the pieces of the puzzle, arranging them in a predefined order and winning. That way, students acquire information naturally, quite unconsciously, as part of the game itself. This ensures long-lasting effects of the acquired knowledge i.e. skills, while students receive a positive emotional stimulus, at the same time, and “emotions are the most important factor of intellectual and all other activities”[ Simeon Marković: “Metodika kreativne nastave srpskog jezika i književnosti”, Beograd, Kreativni centar 2013.]. It is also important to point out that the student gets feedback immediately after completing the task, but it is very important to analyse the process at the end of the class, in order to gain an insight into all the features that can influence the creation of future Escape Classrooms and at the same time analyse student satisfaction and success rates. At one point, after applying the Escape Classroom method, I asked the students for feedback. They were required to provide responses to a set of questions rated on the scale from 1 to 5 (where 1 is the lowest and 5 the highest rating). Here are the results: ● I enjoyed playing this educational game: rated 5 by 81% of respondents, while 19% rated it 4;

● I would like teaching to take this form as frequently as possible: rated 5 by 56% of respondents, 4 by 38% while 6% rated it 3; ● Thanks to this kind of activity, I’m sure to have mastered all the content we were taught: rated 5 by 63% of respondents, 4 by 31% while 6% rated it 3; ● I enjoyed teamwork: 5 by 88% of respondents, while 6% rated it 4 and 3 respectively; ● I find solutions to problems more easily when working in a team: rated 5 by 81% of respondents, 4 by 6% while 13% rated it 3 ● I can master the content we are taught more easily when it takes the form of a game: rated 5 by 50% of respondents, 4 by 38% while 12% rated it 3 ● Evaluate your own success at mastering the content taught on this occasion: rated 5 by 63% of respondents, while 37% rated it 4; Student knowledge was assessed in a test in the course of the class that followed, where 80% of students got the highest grade (5), while 20% got grade 4. Since the test featured a question that was not formulated in the Escape Room and that particular question was where the 20% of students failed, we can conclude that knowledge acquisition reaches a high level of up to 100% when using this method.

K12 Digest February 2022


Having in mind the current circumstances caused by the pandemic, the fact that this method yielded excellent results in regular, hybrid and online classes alike must be pointed out. Digital Escape Classroom projects are applicable to any form of the teaching process and therefore worthy of additional attention of teaching specialists.

Digital Escape Classroom projects are applicable to any form of the teaching process and therefore worthy of additional attention of teaching specialists


K12 Digest February 2022

Fast forward to the future We must also keep in mind that we are the ones preparing students for the future. Thus, we might as well add that Escape Room based questions will be part of job interviews in the future. Human resources staff are looking for new ways of finding talented individuals among the many people who have the skills possessed by the majority. Companies have been using computer games for a long time now to measure the skills of job applicants to manage time and activities efficiently. This is an excellent way for companies to see how people cope with uncertainty and fit in with other colleagues, how they communicate and make decisions when faced with time constraints. The use of the Escape Classroom method in the teaching practice targets the development of these skills precisely.


Higher Education Digest October 2020

K12 Digest February 2022


How Mentoring Changes Us Nadezda Golubovic, Biology Teacher and STEAM Coordinator, International School, Belgrade, Serbia


embers of the human race have a biological need to be part of a group and to be seen as equals. This specific, builtin, need to seek guidance from the more experienced is an evolutionary relic. In the animal kingdom this is known as having the leader of the pact. This trait has helped us not only survive for thousands of years, but also develop the traits that make us modern humans. As a biologist, I am aware of the connection between evolutionary relics we all carry and the actions we take

as humans in the interactions with one another. The mentorship program taps into the innate trait to seek guidance and look up to those we see as more experienced and established in the population. What is mentorship? A true definition of the term mentorship in education can be hard to find, and in business terms, it can be described as a relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced colleague, referred to as mentee. This whole construct was taken from the world of business and

Nadezda Golubovic was introduced to teaching early on through different projects in the Youth Office where she worked as an educator on different projects in collaboration with Erste Bank, Jazas, Erasmus+, and many more. Her other duties included project management, marketing, peer education and mediation, and mentorship. After obtaining her master’s degree in Plant Physiology from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Biology, she started working at International school as a chemistry and biology teacher and STEAM department coordinator. As a biology teacher, Nadezda strives to make the world of this natural and experimental science relatable to students by using modern teaching methods, as well as creative experiments which serve to demonstrate the importance and wide scope of application that biology has in the real world.


K12 Digest February 2022

Like any relationship, the one between mentors and mentees has to be based on honesty and trust

K12 Digest February 2022


adapted to be applied in the educational setting. If you asked our students to describe mentoring, most of them would say that they felt like they gained an additional family member and consider us to be their older siblings. Teachers, on the other hand would say that they are a bridge connecting students to teachers and parents alike. How is the connection established? Like any relationship, the one between mentors and mentees has to be based on honesty and trust. Knowing teenagers and kids, and how good they are in reading


K12 Digest February 2022

non-verbal signs, honesty is essential in building trustworthy relationships. They will test your honesty; make sure not to fail this test, since once lost, trust is very hard to regain. By basing the relationship between the mentor and mentee on honesty and trust, this habit will be transferred into the world outside the educational institution and incorporated into the relationship with your co-workers, loved ones and family members. By doing so, there will be a significant improvement in the quality of life and the connection between you and other people.

Which obstacles may I encounter? As in any relationship, not everything will run smoothly all the time. This is where your skills as a listener come forward. It is essential to remain calm and think things through if you sense that there is a need for it. Through practicing mindfulness and being well-aware of the situation you are in, both you and your interlocutor will feel more confident and be able to see the potential obstacle even before it becomes a problem. Moreover, you must be aware of your limitations as a mentor and ask authorised school personnel, parents and others for help if necessary. Through all the obstacles you may encounter, you, as an educator as well as a human being will grow and develop interpersonal skills. Daily practice of solving problems is an excellent way for you to grow and it leads to an improvement, not only in the workplace but also in the domain of communication with your friends and family.

Daily practice of solving problems is an excellent way for you to grow and it leads to an improvement, not only in the workplace but also in the domain of communication with your friends and family

What are the benefits? Research is mostly focused on the benefits of this program for students, but what about the ones meant for mentors? What I have witnessed, being an active participant in this program, and seeing my colleagues do the same, is that the benefits educators reap go way beyond school and work setting. Firstly, by relying on honesty and trust in our interactions, we become more aware of why these are beneficial and improve all our relationships. Secondly, students are very good at reading non-verbal cues, so, naturally, our senses will become sharper and we will become way better at reading these cues and acting accordingly. Many of us are actively searching for professional development programs and webinars which will help us become better at establishing healthy relationships with our students. By building and polishing our skills, we become better educators and mentors. Is it worth it? This question is easy to answer if you have had the honour to be a mentor. By mentoring we are fortunate to see our mentees grow and improve in terms of academic, as well as, social and emotional development. Consequently, mentors experience growth in the same fields. It is priceless to see students who suffered from anxiety when speaking in class get onto the stage and perform. These victories will stay with us for a long time, and knowing how we helped them in their dark moments just by pointing to the light makes our hearts fill with joy. Even if they may not be aware of it, our mentees probably do as much for us, as we do for them in terms of development. It is important to remember that both parties will have their own ups and downs. However, in the end, both will become better communicators, listeners, supporters, and maybe, most importantly, better human beings.

K12 Digest February 2022


What is Values-based Education (VbE)? Dr Neil Hawkes, Founder of Values-based Education (VbE), UK


society holds together through the quality of its shared values (virtues), which are produced through a shared conversation. (Sachs, 1997) What appears to be missing from many schools and society at large is a shared vocabulary, based on shared positive human values, which can provide a sense of direction and vision about how to create a stable moral society. The purpose of this article is to argue that teaching about positive human values (e.g., respect,

honesty, compassion, care, humility and responsibility) improves the quality of education in schools. Such work creates Values-based Education. A values-based school seeks to promote an educational philosophy based on valuing self, others and the environment, through the consideration of a values vocabulary (principles that guide thinking and behaviour) as the basis of good educational practice. My experience, as a former Headteacher of West Kidlington School in the UK, is that when a school seriously

Dr Neil Hawkes is well known as an inspirational speaker, educator, broadcaster, author, TEDx presenter and social commentator. Neil’s thinking is having a profound influence on education and more widely in society. Neil worked with a school community to devise and implement a pedagogical system that would give pupils a transformational vocabulary, based on values such as respect, tolerance, humility and justice. The school community found that pupils were empowered to be self-leaders, with an active ethical compass that affected behaviour, their thinking and the quality of their schoolwork. Today Neil’s philosophy has spread into all aspects of society and is known as Values-based Living. He is one of the V20 Task Group that is advising G20 leaders about the importance of values to humanity. He is also an Ambassador for the Foundation for Education Development. Neil founded The International Values based Trust and its educational arm Values-based Education. His bestselling book, From My Heart, transforming lives through values, celebrates the success of VbE worldwide. Neil’s latest book co-authored with Jane Hawkes, is called The Inner Curriculum, how to nurture wellbeing, resilience and self-leadership.


K12 Digest February 2022

The effect on individual pupils, of developing Values Education, is that pupils take greater personal responsibility for their learning and behaviour

K12 Digest February 2022


develops the moral and spiritual aspects of the curriculum (that is, those that positively contribute to the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions of the teacher and the pupil), the school community become more reflective and harmonious. The effect on individual pupils, of developing Values Education, is that pupils take greater personal responsibility for their learning and behaviour. They develop ethical intelligence, the ability to ethically selfregulate their behaviour. My research, undertaken at Oxford University (Hawkes, 2005), indicates that the most effective teachers of values are those who work to be more self-aware and take time to reflect on the deeper meaning of the values being emphasised in the school. Self-reflective work by teachers is seen to have a powerful impact on pupils, who appear to make a connection between what the teacher says and what she does. Such teachers are authentic, meaning that they seek to achieve congruence between their thoughts, feelings and actions. They are aware that they have the potential (as we all do) to be consumed by limiting emotion (e.g., greed, jealousy) and for this to be inappropriately


K12 Digest February 2022

translated into action. Developing reflection as a tool to aid self- control enables both pupil and adult to behave in ways that reflect positive human values, such as compassion and respect. Teachers describe their own positive behaviour as walking their talk: living their values. Such reflective work leads to teachers’ developing a deepening understanding of the values words. They also have a clearer perception of their own attitudes and behaviour and seem willing and able to model the values. Teachers believe that the pupils will learn from their positive example. Therefore, an outcome of my research is the view that the process of Values-based Education must begin with adults (what could be described as the work before the work), before adopting it in the curriculum. From the evidence, Values-based Education cannot be taught in isolation from the teacher’s own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It is therefore important for all who work with children to pay attention to looking after themselves, physically, mentally and spiritually. Such wise selfishness then enables the adult to be a positive role model.

Teachers in values-based schools report that teaching about values has a positive effect on what they term, the inner world of pupils

Teaching about values affects teachers thinking, and consequently the way that they teach. Teachers are not neutral with regards to values, as values are embedded within their attitudes and exhibited through their behaviour. This implies that, for there to be consensus and consistency of staff expectations and behaviour throughout the school, a whole school Values Education policy needs to be introduced, based on my blueprint for Values-based Education. The blueprint enables a school to create a structure for Values Education that fosters a climate for learning that makes the role of teachers easier. Teachers believe that the reason for this is that Values Education fosters good interpersonal relationships. They consider that consequently this helps to raise pupil self-esteem and confidence. The result is that the pupils produce quality work, respect staff and are well behaved. Teachers in values-based schools report that teaching about values has a positive effect on what they term, the inner world of pupils. They think that by talking about their feelings, pupils learn to express themselves more clearly, control their behaviour, and empathise with others (all aspects concerned with the development of emotional maturity). The teachers believe that the pupils learn about values by talking about them in the context of good teacher-child relationships. They believe that repetition and reinforcement of the values words, across the curriculum, is important for reinforcing their meaning. The evidence to show that the pupils understand the values is demonstrated by their use of them in everyday conversations. Pupils appear more aware of their behaviour in the playground and out of school. This contributes to the establishment of a positive climate for teaching and learning. An important conclusion of my research concerns the introduction and development of a values vocabulary. This ethical vocabulary acts as the platform on which pupils and staff develop, and deepen, their understanding of issues concerned with ethics and morality. It appears that the systematic introduction of a common vocabulary encourages reflective thinking, which leads to more positive and ethically based behaviour. Also, frequent repetition and regular discussion about values reinforces their meaning, with the result that they are more likely to be internalised in the unconscious. This in turn reinforces the pupils’ positive dispositions and acts as a check on behaviour. It cannot be assumed that such a vocabulary will generally be introduced to children unless schools plan to do it through the curriculum. Values-based schools aim to encourage pupils to be reflective by teaching a technique called reflection/ mindfulness, which gives space and time for pupils to

K12 Digest February 2022


A key aspect of a values-based school appears to be a greater emphasis on the development of good quality relationships between staff and parents

focus their minds, allowing their intrapersonal intelligence to be enhanced. Pupils are seen to be able to sit still in personal reflection for extended periods of time, a perceived outcome being that they became more aware of their capacity to determine their own behaviour in a positive way. The evidence indicates that the success of this is influenced by the staff modelling the behaviour. In school assemblies, for instance, staff model the behaviour expected of the pupils. The pupils therefore model their behaviour on that of the teachers. Teachers believe that if they are reflective, it has a positive influence on their own behaviour, enabling them to be more effective. Teachers consider that they are more careful about how they present ideas to children because of Values Education. They maintain positive attitudes that give affirmation and positive reinforcement to the pupils. The teachers believe that the pupils were more likely to reach their academic potential in a class with values-based discipline.


K12 Digest February 2022

A key aspect of a values-based school appears to be a greater emphasis on the development of good quality relationships between staff and parents. The teachers recognise the vital importance of the role of families in educating children. They emphasise the importance of developing open, sensitive, active, positive teacher- parent relationships. The development of Values-based Education is shared with parents through newsletters and parents’ evenings. This ensures a positive partnership between home and school. Behind my thinking, lies an understanding that Valuesbased Education is far more than a process of instilling values in pupils. It is concerned with the very meaning and purpose of education; a statement about the quality of education that can be achieved and the impact that this can have on society and the world. With this view of the role and purpose of education, schools that adopt a values-based approach can positively influence the development of positive values, which sustain a civil, caring and compassionate society.


Classroom Headset Management

Standalone VR Headsets

Secure Storage & Charging

Curriculum Aligned Content

Installation & Training






@ClassVR K12 Digest February 2022


The Path to Creating a Coaching Culture in your School Nicholas McKie, Director, Persyou Ltd, United Kingdom

Nicholas McKie is a Professional Certified Coach and Director of Persyou Ltd working with individuals, teams and organisations all over the world to unlock their leadership potential and enhance the quality of educational practice. His book, ‘All Ways Coaching’ outlines how to create a coaching culture in schools. His award winning podcast, ‘Inspiring Leadership’ brings engaging stories from across the world of educational leadership. Nicholas’ career path has been rich and diverse, starting as a professional musician, before entering teaching in the UK and then internationally, rising to school Principal and ISI inspector. He has led schools in Japan, Egypt, China, the US as well as the UK. As an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, Nicholas developed and established Warwick’s inaugural PGCE international course as well as iQTS with the Department for Education in the UK. Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @McKieNicholas and @ PersyouC or on LinkedIn. Website: www.persyou.com


K12 Digest February 2022

In my book All Ways Coaching, I explore a framework of pedagogical approaches that align with three ways of coaching, also known as coaching domains: Fundamental, Systemic and Transformative


am a passionate advocate of the value of coaching in education settings. Coaching underpins the development of skills that learners need to fulfil their potential, such as managing change, ownership of learning, agility, and the ability to work with ambiguity. It also has the capacity to positively impact all individuals in a sustainable way across education, revolutionising professional development in the process, from CEOs and headteachers to teachers, students, nonteaching staff and parent communities. Let’s be clear what is meant by coaching. Coaching has influences from many spheres, including selfhelp, psychology, psychotherapy, business, sport and cognitive behaviour. If any of these areas sound ‘fluffy’, be in no doubt that coaching in an educational context is based upon a huge volume of research evidence and transformational outcomes. The overwhelmingly positive impact a coaching culture has includes:* ●Improved staff performance and teaching practice ●Enhanced staff wellbeing ●Sustainable and embedded Continuing Professional Development ●Provides peer support ●Supports trainee teachers ●Improved conversations around teacher development

*van Nieuwerburgh, C. & Barr, M., 2017, ‘Coaching in Education’ in Bachkirova, T., Spence, G. & Drake D. (eds), 2016, The Sage Handbook of Coaching Creating a coaching culture in your school can shift us away from traditional performance-management cycles to an evolution in the way we manage schools based around people and focused on purpose. Good coaching comforts the troubled and troubles the comfortable. In my book All Ways Coaching, I explore a framework of pedagogical approaches that align with three ways of coaching, also known as coaching domains: Fundamental, Systemic and Transformative. Understanding these ways of coaching and fusing them with differing approaches to teaching forms the foundation for a coaching way of teaching. Any teacher who is interested in creating a coaching culture in their school will need to evolve through each of the three coaching domains. Fundamental The Fundamental domain is the first step on the coaching ladder and I have found it the most widely used and well-known approach across the education sector. It is concerned with the basic skills, processes and models of coaching in a one-to-one coaching relationship, such as in a classroom.

K12 Digest February 2022


Using Fundamental coaching skills can enhance learning and development through increasing selfawareness and a sense of personal responsibility. The coach facilitates the self-directed learning of the coachee (in this case the student) through the core techniques of questioning, active listening, empathising, acknowledging, paraphrasing and summarising, clarifying and forwarding the action. These are all underpinned by ‘holding’, the creation of a supportive and encouraging environment or space where your student(s) feel confident to engage with you. Fundamental coaching skills help you move from focussing on yourself to focussing on the coachee (your student). You must strive to be non-directive and nonjudgmental and avoid deciding what is best for your coachee. In practical terms this requires the defining of goals, holding


K12 Digest February 2022

the student accountable, and helping students to think through things and come up with answers themselves. Systemic The Systemic domain acknowledges that educational contexts are fluid and can be unpredictable. The Systemic way of coaching reflects that we are part of communities and cultures that shape our language, ways of being, thinking and doing. This is about having a broader perspective, looking beyond the individual to the patterns and dynamics at play in your setting. Each person’s system is made up of different parts, such as family, community, and social context. Systemic coaching entails acknowledging the backdrop to your students’ lives. That is not to say you should get caught up

in their storyline but have an appreciation and awareness of their context. As a teacher you need to be reflective and self-aware, mindful of the attitude and approach you bring to lessons. In a coaching mindset, we must reflect on what values we are bringing to the table and not let these influence our coaching way of teaching. Educationalists must develop an awareness of the systems to which they themselves belong and these will include leadership, teachers, nonteaching staff, students and community. As well as individual coaching, Systemic skills and techniques lend themselves to team coaching and group coaching; there are key differences between the two. Group coaching is the coaching of individuals, where individuals take turns to be the focal point while the other group members become part of the coaching resource for that person. The group of people may have a shared interest but no collective responsibility. Unlike group coaching, team coaching is the coaching of a team that has a collective purpose and objective which all members are jointly responsible for fulfilling. Transformative The Fundamental and Systemic domains are an apprenticeship into the mastery of Transformative coaching. Transformative coaching takes into consideration the multi-faceted context of educational settings rather than a linear outlook focused on an individual or system. It is about being fluid and agile rather than rigid in approach. Agility allows for space and creativity to happen, you can provide direction for the conversation and ensure progress is made by referring to your own experience – this challenges the orthodoxy (or fiction) of impartiality in a coaching partnership. Your challenge is how to act with principle: drawing out internal values from the students rather than risk unconsciously imposing your own. Creating a coaching culture in your school will not happen overnight. The best place to start is to learn, understand and implement basic coaching skills at every opportunity within your school. For a coaching culture to truly embed, flourish and impact student outcomes, every part of the school community must be involved, from leadership to students and beyond. Kai Vacher, Principal of British School Muscat is a proponent of coaching for school improvement: “If you trust your staff and if you give them the tools, the inspiration and encouragement and support them, it’s incredible what our teachers can do.” Irfan Latif, Principal of DLD College, London, agrees: “We feel that by giving our students the ability to be coached by our staff and our staff to have those coaching

skills, does lead to high performing teams within our school environment, whether in academic departments, in pastoral teams, in the house system or overall as a school.” Coaching in education has the potential to improve student outcomes, support greater staff autonomy, and encourage confidence and ambition across school communities. What I’ve touched upon here are the first stages of incorporating effective coaching skills into teaching; for a coaching culture to truly flourish and positively impact a school it requires the involvement of all stakeholders, not teachers alone.

K12 Digest February 2022


Dr Paul Magnuson

Bill Tihen

EDgility Dr Paul Magnuson, Research Director, Leysin American School / Faculty, Moreland University & Bill Tihen, Software Engineer / Former Teacher , Garaio REM, Switzerland


K12 Digest February 2022

EDgility can help us move from frontand-center to side-by-side, from sage on the stage to coach and facilitator


e have been playing with educational agility for nearly ten years. Agility is a flexible approach to working in iterations informed by a steady stream of feedback, managed by everyone involved, and made possible through transparent communication. Agile is big in the software industry and, increasingly, education (see Agile Research Consortium for Schools). Initially we followed pioneers in the field, notably John Miller (see Agile Classrooms) and Willy Wijnands (see eduScrum). Over the years we have moved to a collection of practices, influenced by agile’s early history (see the Agile Manifesto) and our conviction that changing one’s practice requires internationalization through self-exploration. We call our practices EDgilty. Some are 21st century skills (e.g. collaboration and retrospection) and some borrow directly from lean and agile (e.g. pull vs. push and iterate & adapt). Some borrow from workplace psychology (e.g. uplift and psychological safety). What they have in common is a connection with agility, notably scrum, lean, and kanban. Looking back, we realize that adopting an agile mindset in education has largely been an exercise in

supporting student agency. EDgility can help us move from front-and-center to side-by-side, from sage on the stage to coach and facilitator. Below are selections from blogs originally published with The International Educator. The reflections are about agency in school environments, which are ironically rather anti-agency. If the excerpts speak to you, we encourage you to explore agile education a bit more. First, do our schools really undermine student agency? Jennifer Groff, Innovation Fellow at WISE and experienced school reformer, thinks so. “There’s just so much about the old model that doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for quite some time. In fact, there’s a lot of research to support that many of the common structures that we just assume are fine … are actually rather problematic. “When you spend 12 years thinking that the world is chopped up into linear bits and there’s a right answer that’s that short … you are doing immense damage to these kids. They don’t know how to handle the complexity of the world.” We are “sending them out into this complex world without the agency and the self direction to navigate it.” Ouch, but yes. “Schools “have many things that need redefining and addressing, there’s … just loads of evidence to support that.”

K12 Digest February 2022


When you consider that school curriculum is determined before teachers ever meet the students they are going to teach, you should get an inkling that agency is not a high priority. Teachers want to support agency, but they are highly constrained. Administrators may say they are all for agency, but there you should push back. How is agency intentionally supported? Is there really any time?


Dr Paul Magnuson Over the past ten years, Paul Magnuson, with several colleagues, created a research center for professional development at the Leysin American School. Teachers learn through sharing action research with each other and with the world via blogs, school visits, presentations, and publications. EDgility - pulling agile into education - originated in discussions with Bill Tihen in the IT office.


K12 Digest February 2022

Matt Barnes: “I ask teachers all the time what they want, what is the dream environment for their learners … They want learners to be independent, they want learners to be excited about learning, curious, to be autonomous and have a high sense of agency. They want that. But the system they are in doesn’t. The system they are in is built to create dependent learners.” Sugata Mitra, famous for his hole-in-the-wall studies, points out one significant step toward greater student agency. “When we make a curriculum … we have to tell the children WHY we had to learn this. It’s not okay to answer “You will understand when you grow up… or because it’s good for you.”

So how do we answer? One could also ask “Why don’t we teach this or that?” Answering “Because that hasn’t been in the curriculum before” is not allowable. We believe, like David Perkins (2014), that much of our current curriculum is arbitrary. Uniformity is an administrative convenience and a constraint on student agency. If children do not have to all learn the same thing, there’s a lot more room for choice and personal interest. Tim Logan, host of Future Learning Design, emphasizes an interesting shift in thinking in order to provide more choice. In a conversation with A J Juliani, Founder/CEO of Adaptable Learning, Tim mentions the principle of pull vs. push. We should consider focusing on “... a pull system instead of a push system. Everything gets pushed on kids, the master schedule, content, [it all] gets pushed on kids. And actually what we need to switch to is a pull system.” What will be meaningful to do next? What will be most productive? In a jam-packed curriculum, we often feel there is no time for students to make decisions about what work, when. The combination of little choice tied to a permanent grade plays havoc with motivation. A J reminds us that we want


Bill Tihen In collaboration with Paul Magnuson, Bill developed EDgility to encourage new learning methods informed by several practices and values. He found that when students ‘play’ with a topic through exploring, they make small experiments and learn to assess and adjust their work. EDgility is composed of several practices that encourage teachers to afford students greater personal agency.

K12 Digest February 2022


Agency can be supported in many ways and it desperately needs our support, because agency is frankly difficult to find in schools

“to get students to care about the learning and not the grade. You don’t want kids just doing something for marks … we want them learning because they like learning.” This is a big ask for schools. But we can all work on it. Internalizing the notion of pull vs. push will help. We can also intentionally teach collaboration, autonomy, stick-to-it-iveness, and so on, if we have a mind to. For starters, we need to figure out the co-existence of content and skills, a debate which wrongly pits content and skills against each other. For Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, that’s framing the problem too simply. “We shouldn’t treat knowledge and skills as two ends on a spectrum … one without the other is of very little value.”


K12 Digest February 2022

Indeed. And since we have lots of content, let’s add more skills (and yes, take out some content). Then let’s start reporting learning in a manner that supports the learning of skills. Conrad Hughes, principal at the International School of Geneva and founder of the Coalition to Honour All Learning, says his students tell him that they have lots of things they like to do, but not enough time to do them. They are stuck in a push system. “We’ve created a system that drowns out creativity and passion … So much of what students want to do they can’t do anymore, because of the way that we’ve designed high school.” Hughes warns us not to send the message that “this is not your place. Your star cannot shine here.” What if the curriculum was built in such a manner that students had the time and energy to pursue their interests? And what if the high school transcript reflected those skills we claim are important - yet aren’t currently reporting in any way commensurate with subject specific achievement? Agency can be supported in many ways and it desperately needs our support, because agency is frankly difficult to find in schools. Pick an EDgility practice and give a nudge toward greater student agency. You don’t need to change the world, you just need to shift a little bit. Then reflect on your students’ learning and choose another practice with which you can promote more student agency. We’ll leave you with a final agile term: kaizen. Kaizen is a mindset, or culture, in which everyone feels empowered to make improvements. Do what you personally are able to grant your students more agency. Practice a bit of kaizen, because together we can move mountains.

K12 Digest February 2022


An Assertive and Mindful Approach in School Environment Tatjana Koluvija, Global Perspectives Teacher, International School, Serbia

Although she originally planned to become a Serbian language and literature teacher, Tatjana teaches a highly interactive and interdisciplinary Cambridge subject at the International School – Global perspectives. This subject further strengthened her competencies related to instruction where students acquire the skills of academic writing and critical thinking, which Tatjana already possessed. She uses a conscious and assertive approach to teaching and communication, which yields excellent academic results, but also contributes to the development of student’s socio-emotional competencies. In her practice, Tatjana aims to help students understand the purpose of education and advancement, but also how to apply that knowledge in practice and everyday life. Through the school club she runs at International School, Tatjana presents the techniques of conscious and assertive communication, which is a very useful skill. The relationship with oneself and others, ways in which we cope with stress and relieve stress are the basics taught in her club. All these elements are also applied in communication with parents and colleagues, so one of the school projects coordinated by Tatjana is “Parents’ Turn to Teach” within which she establishes closer communication with parents through direct interaction. In addition to the said project, she also runs several workshops with the aim of teaching and advising her colleagues on how to cope with stress, and how to become more aware so as to save their strength for future challenges that teaching entails.


K12 Digest February 2022

An assertive and conscious, mindful approach is the way to stay stable, balanced and motivated


eing a mindful teacher with a conscious approach to teaching and learning is a new MUST since teachers work in difficult times and face a lot of stress: challenging students, lack of student motivation, bad communication among students, parents and colleagues, noise, low living standard. Teachers work overtime and use a lot of vital energy throughout the day spent teaching, guiding, communicating, mentoring and providing support for others. Who helps them recharge? Who reciprocates all that love and commitment? Their students. They give energy to the classroom and their teachers. In the time of the pandemic, students left school and faced the distance between them and their teachers. Still, teachers had to continue their work in cyberspace and in the classroom. How difficult has it been? An assertive and conscious, mindful approach is the way to stay stable, balanced and motivated. Changing the approach and being ready to accept new forms and ways of teaching and learning is the key to a magnificent field of opportunities that will bring peace and prosperity to the personal and professional life of teachers. Therefore, this approach to teaching can be a new way of facing issues and earning the best rewards in teaching - peace, acceptance and mindful life.

Gates to Now These are the first and the most important ways to start engaging in conscious practices. The so-called Gates to Now approach provides an introduction to the following techniques. According to Ekhart Tolle, it can be easy for anyone to understand and implement them. ● First gate: Conscious breathing It is advised to focus attention on breathing, so before every class, every meeting, make sure you focus your attention on breathing. Each time we take a long inhale, and a nice long exhale, we can notice that we feel calmer and focused. This is presence and consciousness. This is the method we should practice and repeat all the time. ● Second gate: Meditation Meditation is an ancient and recognised approach that introduces more balance into everyday life. It can be practiced in a traditional way, or keeping our eyes open, which is the perfect way to do it all the time, on every occasion. Teachers who do not practise it because of their religious beliefs, should focus on breathing techniques. ● Third gate: Power of the present moment The key factor here is to become aware of your body, your inner being, your organs. We need to be more aware of

K12 Digest February 2022


Mindful practices in school environment demonstrate teachers’ ability to focus on the present moment, to direct conscious attention to the work, results and personality of their students


K12 Digest February 2022

presence, since we tend to spend too much time in the past, too much time rushing to the future, trying to find happiness and peace in the upcoming events and accomplishments, while our life is happening in this moment. Being more present in each present moment will bring calm, presence and acceptance. Spending time in silence As pointed out earlier, noise can be a significant stress trigger in school environment. Teachers sometimes aren’t aware of it; they get used to it and live with it. This should be practiced and is considered to be helpful after an exhausting class, or meeting. It is nice and recommended to spend some time in silence. It does not have to happen

at any particular place or time, it is important to become aware of the silence within. We need to feel it, to become aware of it. If you try and feel it, you will notice that you can be at any place that is crowded and noisy, but you will feel profound peace and silence. Conscious approaches Now, imagine a teacher who spends most of his time in school in this state of mind? This teacher would be productive, but calm, happy and willing to transfer his state of mind to others, students, colleagues and parents. In addition, silence is a natural state and we were all aware of it before our mind won and that awareness was lost. Doing this takes us back to the beginning of our path, our life of peace and joy. Let silence be your everyday guide. Mindful practices in school environment demonstrate teachers’ ability to focus on the present moment, to direct conscious attention to the work, results and personality of their students. A mindful teacher has a nice personality, he/she is calm, ready to cooperate, open-minded, less prone to stress and students recognise that on a very specific level, the level of joint communication and positive emotional exchange. Academic results and social emotional stability will follow. Attention and awareness are equally important in the communication with parents and colleagues, since parents are sensitive, especially to criticism, yet they tend to criticize a lot, and on the other hand, teachers are under stress and can react negatively in times of burnout. If an issue is approached mindfully, stress levels are decreased and people are able to find creative solutions to problems. Consciousness is endless It is impossible to start mindfulness and conscious practice and then stop it. This process will never stop, it is going to be part of your daily routines. However, it may sometimes seem that you are miles away from it when you feel anxious, tired, exhausted or even depressed, but it is impossible to stop the practice or to leave this path once you start. This is an endless cycle and a skill to last you a lifetime. It is important to remember that you can be down for a while, but using mindfulness can be a solution for difficult life challenges - finding peace and acceptance mode in every situation. Teachers are very important to society, so their personal spiritual growth is the most important investment that will pay off and help them and the generations to come. Hopefully, teachers will become more mindful in the future, so we can expect the same from future generations. This will be essential for collective consciousness and awakening.

K12 Digest February 2022


Our Lives on a Continuous Loop – The Relationship between

Social Media Use and Wellbeing

Tracy Moxley, Director of Education and Innovation, VIE Education, Switzerland

Tracy has extensive experience in educational innovation, new pedagogies, teacher professional development and school improvement. As a curriculum developer, Tracy is committed to interdisciplinary, innovative global citizenship education and service learning. Tracy has previously been involved in research with Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero in the development and implementation of innovative pedagogy through teacher action research, exploring the creation of innovative communities within educational institutions. More recently Tracy has written new online course content to support student wellbeing through exploration of identity and new media.


K12 Digest February 2022


t can be said that we are living in the age of exponentials, the age of accelerations, the age of disruptions, the technological era, or the fourth industrial revolution. We all know that there are jobs of the future that don’t yet exist, and we have seen jobs disappear. “We’ve seen movements rise, and countries fall. We’ve seen websites grow into digital nations, cars start driving themselves, robots develop emotional intelligence, and artificial intelligence trounce humans on game shows. It’s said that the pace of change we’re experiencing today is like 20,000 years of human progress in just one century. That’s like going from cavemen to cappuccinos in the span of 100 years.’ (Brett Schilke; VIE Academy; Thrive; Unit 1: 2021) For many thousands of years, humans have lived on earth in in small communities, generally not affected external factors, and we evolved with nature to anticipate change on an incremental scale. Today, our reality is vastly different. Humans live in incredibly complex societies, the majority away from rural settings, interacting with other people, communities, and organizations on a regular basis without ever even meeting them. We are living in two worlds; our daily ‘real’ world and a virtual world that is relatively new and that looks

nothing like the world that humans have evolved within. We are experiencing rapidly advancing technologies - exponential technologies - that are transforming the way that we work, communicate, do business and operate as a civilization. What does this pace of technological change mean for us? The rapid explosion in technological advancement of many technologies at the same time has been described by Peter Diamandis as convergence. The concept of convergence is the idea that a wave of exponentially accelerating technologies converge to impact our lives at the same time. These multiple technologies ensure fantastic societal impact but we don’t yet know the full extent of this impact. The increase in social media use is one such exponential growth area, where Facebook, Instagram and TikTok boast ‘populations’ bigger than some of the largest countries on Earth. ● Facebook with 2.89 billion active users ● TikTok with 1.1 billion active users ● Instagram with 1 billion active users What are the impacts of so many individuals joining together in these social media platforms? What we do know is that these online countries provide incredible power to a handful of tech giants and

We are living in two worlds; our daily ‘real’ world and a virtual world that is relatively new and that looks nothing like the world that humans have evolved within

K12 Digest February 2022


can make anything happen, election hacking, change of policy or politicians, they can literally use these groups to change the world. This is groupthink on a massive scale. The 2020 Netflix Documentary, The Social Dilemma attempted to highlight some of the detrimental effects of technology and our relationship with social media platforms. The Social Dilemma, viewed by more than 150 million people around the world, was produced in collaboration with the Center for Humane Technology, a non-profit in San Francisco that is working to expose the negative effects of technology on our society’s functioning, and in turn enhance humanity’s capacity to solve the most pressing challenges of our time. In the documentary, Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology in San Francisco says:


K12 Digest February 2022

“While futurists were looking out for the moment when technology would surpass human strengths and steal our jobs, we missed the much earlier point where technology surpasses human weaknesses. It’s already happened. By preying on human weaknesses -- fear, outrage, vanity -- technology has been downgrading our well-being, while upgrading machines.” The Social Dilemma takes a serious look at how technology evolves and can be used in unexpected ways, and how we as a society need to reframe our view of it to build better safeguards. ‘Technology has been downgrading our wellbeing.’ But social media makes us feel good, doesn’t it? One of the most positive aspects of social media and posting images is that it allows a bank of memories to be saved for all eternity. Social media has enabled a generation of children to have agency over their own images and to make decisions about what to share and with whom but there is no room for error it seems. In the End of Forgetting; Growing Up with Social Media, Katie Eichhorn notes, ‘What we are now facing is the prospect of having documentation of our youthful lives broadcast on what may best be described as a continuous loop.’(Eichhorn; 2019) So, prior to social media, if there was a particular moment that had been captured on film, the solution was easy, throw the image away! But now, this action that only took seconds, now is almost impossible. Was the photo deleted? Is it gone? Has a friend or family member saved it? Has anyone been tagged in it? Does it exist on another device? How do I really know it’s gone? It seems nothing can be deleted on our social media platforms – it lingers online for others to find for eternity. Growing up is about moving forward in life and creating distance between our past and our present. What happens when we are unable to distance ourselves from our past? To young people this can seem like an insurmountable problem that may torment them for some time. Our images of childhood will now go on forever.

What is the effect of this perpetual childhood? Maybe it’s too soon to tell. Psychologists most commonly use the term “identity” to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. Meanwhile, sociologists often use the term to describe social identity, or the collection of group memberships that define the individual.” Tajfel and Turner ( proposed that there are three mental processes involved: ● Social Categorisation We categorize objects in order to understand them and in a very similar way, we categorize people in order to understand the social environment. We use social categories like black, white, Australian, Christian, Muslim, etc, because they are useful. We find out things about ourselves by knowing what categories we belong to. An individual can belong to many different groups. ● Social Identification We adopt the identity of the group we have categorized ourselves belong to. There is an emotional significance to our identification with a group and our self-esteem becomes bound up with group membership. ● Social Comparison Once we have categorized ourselves as part of a group, we then tend to compare that group with other groups. There are clearly many reasons why social media has been linked with anxiety and depressive symptoms, negative body image, sleep problems and cyberbullying (Royal Society for Public Health, 2017), but increased social comparison is one of the most powerful. Social comparison is a form of sociological selfesteem, where we derive our sense of self through comparing ourselves with others (Festinger, 1954). Festinger argued people have a tendency to make downward social comparisons with those who are worse off or less skilled than them, and this can raise their selfesteem. Conversely, upward social comparisons can reduce self-esteem, and are more likely with social media. Alfred Adler pointed out, “to be human is to have inferiority feelings” (Ansbacher and Ansbacher, 1964), and

Social media may be a vehicle for distress, increasing vulnerability, as the user makes upward social comparisons, which can result in self-disappointment and low self-esteem

K12 Digest February 2022


in the age of social media, this is potentially heightened and amplified. Social comparison in the real world usually involves the self and a few others, while the digital universe of social media presents almost limitless potential for people to compare themselves against others. Research predating social media estimated the average person had 10-20 close relationships and up to 150 wider social relationships (Dunbar, 1993); the average number of online ‘friends’ is estimated at 338 (Pew Research Center, 2014) and up to 500. While social connection offers people many positive opportunities, the more connections, the more opportunities there are for social comparison. Many people try to present their ideal selves on Facebook (Zhao et al, 2008) and the same could be assumed for other platforms. Although every human experience is different, Williams and Garland’s five systems cognitive-behavioural therapy assessment model illustrates the role that social media and social comparison may play in mental health problems (Fig 1 from Williams and Garland 2002). Social media may be a vehicle for distress, increasing vulnerability, as the user makes upward social comparisons, which can result in self-disappointment and low self-esteem. Evidence is emerging of links between increased social media use


K12 Digest February 2022

and mental health problems, but more research is needed. The key ideas highlighted here are: ● Social media encourages unhelpful social comparisons as users often present idealistic versions of themselves ● Social comparison on social media can reduce self-esteem and some patients may benefit from education around this ● The possible effects of social media on vulnerable people should be considered, particularly when people’s distress relates to how they see themselves Our own self worth is tied to our social media approvals/ likes. The externalisation of our self worth is tied to these companies who control it. We are vulnerable to social approval and we care about what others think of us. We care when we are tagged in a photo or when we put a new profile photo up and we want people to like it. The tech companies control when the profile photo pops up on a feed and for how long. These techniques are designed to hijack our attention and hold it. But as we have seen, it causes us and our young people so many issues too that range from cyber-bullying to self esteem issues and a bunch in-between. Former Facebook president, Sean Parker, described the platform as a, “social validation feedback loop”, and admitted the ‘like’ button had been deliberately introduced to give “a little dopamine hit” and encouraged continued use.’’ (Solon; 2017). So, is this ethical? Is it fair that we are being manipulated in this way? Are the tech companies playing on our weaknesses? Of course, they are. But forewarned is forearmed and we can support young people with strategies to deal with the social media dilemma. One of those strategies is to include our relationship with technology as part of the curriculum in schools, if only to address the inaccurate perceptions that boys and girls have of each other. A heart-breaking statistic is that, ‘By age 13, 80% of girls distort the way they look online.’(US survey on Social Media). As recent Facebook research has concluded, Instagram damages the mental wellbeing of its young female users as it was linked with anxiety, depression, body image issues and suicidal thoughts. Melissa Hunt, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the feelings of two groups of undergraduate students assigned with different daily usage online. After three weeks, the group assigned 30 minutes per day, reported fewer feelings of loneliness and depression. Exploring research such as this and highlighting the persuasive techniques used on our social media platforms is another way to help build resistance to them and resilience for their continued use.

K12 Digest February 2022


How the Design for Change Methodology Addresses the Needs of Students in the 21st Century Vasiliki Akritidou, Director of the Design for Change Program, Vega Youth Center / Design for Change, Belgrade, Serbia


nstilling a desire to learn in young people has become a difficult task in the contemporary world. Children grow up in a world of instant answers (Google offers them in seconds), instant solutions (YouTube has all the tutorials you need) and instant gratification (all you can imagine is just a click away on Amazon). Desire is driven by scarcity and having the world’s knowledge so easily available in the palm of your hand has resulted in children and young people losing the desire to learn… at least the way formal education has been addressing

learning until now, which is through academic knowledge and acquisition of grades. Life Skills in the Digital World Fortunately, learning is a lot more than that. If the paradigm of non-formal education is applied, learning has a much broader meaning incorporating critical thinking, social and emotional intelligence and awareness, intercultural understanding, learning to learn and other life skills important for becoming an active citizen. The issue

With an interdisciplinary background in Architecture and Visual Anthropology, Vasiliki decided to dedicate herself to working with the youth and to non-formal education. She has almost 15 years of experience in creating and facilitating training courses for young people and youth workers. She discovered Design Thinking six years ago and fell in love with it because it combines empathy with creativity, both of which have always been her focus. Since then, she has been designing and facilitating Design Thinking workshops for children, youth, educators and youth workers, and the most important part of her work is training teachers to use the methodology in project-based instruction. Viewing life as a playful experience through which one can constantly learn is her most powerful weapon that makes her happy, strong and optimistic, even in difficult moments. She is passionate about Design for Change because it helps her spread that attitude among children and young people. She is the Design for Change partner for Serbia and works hard to inspire teachers to use the methodology in schools and empower every child in Serbia with the “I CAN” mindset.


K12 Digest February 2022

The Design Thinking movement, launched in 2009 in India, has been trying to fill this gap by offering a simple framework that can be used in the classroom to offer meaningful teaching with a focus on teaching children to feel good and do good

K12 Digest February 2022


of developing these life skills has not been sufficiently addressed in the digital world: watching more informational videos does not make you a critical thinker and chatting with your friends on Snapchat does not develop your social intelligence. Since life skills are rare in the digital world, the need for them is increasing and igniting the desire for learning in this broad sense is getting easier. The problem of formal education nowadays is that it keeps offering non-desirable knowledge, without placing sufficient emphasis on the much needed and desirable skills necessary for developing active citizenship. The Design Thinking movement, launched in 2009 in India, has been trying to fill this gap by offering a simple framework that can be used in the classroom to offer meaningful teaching with a focus on teaching children to feel good and do good. Design Thinking – A New Challenge With a simplified Design Thinking process consisting of four simple steps: Feel, Imagine, Do and Share, Design for Change has been proven not only to develop the life skills that students will find necessary, such as empathy, collaboration, leadership and more, but also raise the level of positive feelings of hope and optimism, as well as of motivation (https://www.dfcworld.org/SITE/Research). In the Feel stage, students become aware of their surroundings and identify what bothers them and does not


K12 Digest February 2022

coincide with their ideal world. Children are going through a major mind shift. As we do not often give them the possibility to decide on what they are to study, offering them the chance to take responsibility for this process is their main motivator and sparks the desire for learning. As early as the beginning of the process, they raise the level of their own social and emotional awareness by acknowledging their values and comparing them with the reality of their environment. After listing a number of challenges that they previously identified, they make a joint decision and vote for the challenge they consider the most important and the most motivating. This requires an exchange of arguments and sometimes making compromises in order for the team to function and for students to develop collaboration and leadership skills, critical and analytical thinking. With the mentorship of their teachers, children analyse their assumptions on the subject and conduct interviews. Expert opinions are taken into account but the most important facts come from interviewing the people who are part of the challenge or are directly affected by it. In a world that moves at a fast pace, the Feel phase teaches patience and asks students not to jump to solutions (as people are inclined to do when faced with a problem) before they examine the legitimacy of their assumptions and develop empathy for the people involved in the challenge. By conducting an analysis of their findings, students pinpoint

the source of the problem and redefine their challenge statement. Follow-up discussions during which the students reflect on each activity help them acknowledge their newly developed skills. The next step, Imagine, lets creativity flow. Having a well-framed problem generates “How might we…?” questions that are a call to action. These questions are used as prompts for brainstorming sessions that invite students to let their imagination go wild and think of as many ideas as possible. The first twenty to thirty ideas come from memory areas of the brain and it is only if we aim for quantity that we discover innovation. When a

Design for Change projects are not simulations of reality and do not stop at the idea or prototype level

brainstorming session is done correctly, divergent thinking is promoted and ideas pop up without censorship. All ideas, even the most unrealistic or nonsensical ones, are considered valuable and are written down in the form of a list because they have the power of creating new associations in the minds of the group members who are brainstorming. Here children discover the power of cooperation and learn that ideas can be interconnected and belong to everyone, while they allow themselves to make mistakes and be spontaneous. This is a powerful lesson for children who are very sensitive when it comes to being

acknowledged as authors of their own ideas and those who are reluctant to express themselves out of fear of ridicule. After a long list of ideas has been created, it is time to switch on the convergent thinking mode and choose the best idea. This is done in a methodical way, according to the criteria decided on by the students, such as how impactful, realistic or innovative the ideas in their list are. They then create prototypes of their idea in the form of a physical model, a storyboard or role-play. The prototypes that help the team understand their idea better are presented to others who can provide feedback. Having incorporated the feedback obtained from the people who interacted with their prototype, the students move to the Do phase. This part of the DFC process distinguishes it from typical project-based learning. Design for Change projects are not simulations of reality and do not stop at the idea or prototype level. Instead, they connect the school to the community and give children the opportunity to implement their ideas in the real world. In order for ideas to become reality, students need to unleash their organisational skills, to consider their resources and to manage their time. At the same time, this step might force them to lower their ambitions in order to complete a realistic action. Simple solutions might be chosen over more innovative ones, but the important lesson here is that a small action that is carried out results in a bigger change than a big idea that never gets to be put into practice. Moreover, implementation offers satisfaction and develops the “I CAN” mindset, enhancing self-confidence and maintaining the motivation for future actions. Finally, in the Share step, kids reflect on the whole experience, undergo self-evaluation, to become aware of their knowledge and learning and organise activities to promote their work and inspire more children and teachers to create positive changes. They create a three-minute video that explains the four steps they went through and upload it on the global online platform of the Design for Change movement. The video becomes one of many thousands of testimonies DFC is collecting to prove that children CAN change the world NOW! “I CAN” Mindset Working closely with teachers, from kindergarten to high school, for the last three years, we have seen that the ones who systematically follow our instructional material report a transformation, not only in their students but also in their own “I CAN” mindset. In a country like Serbia, where teachers work with minimal resources, Design for Change offers a hopeful framework that reignites the desire for learning and empowers teachers and students to feel good and do good.

K12 Digest February 2022


SEL and Why it Matters to Students Zdravka Majkic, English Teacher, Elementary school “Bratstvo jedinstvo”, Kucura, Serbia


o you remember playing hopscotch or hide-and-seek when you were a child? People who were born in the previous century used to spend hours playing outside when they were children. My granny told me she used to be forced to kneel on corn when she was a student. Although our teachers weren’t so strict, our education wasn’t filled with vivid, happy memories. I still remember our geography teacher’s stick, with which he would punish us in front of a map, if we missed a mountain or a river in the middle of nowhere… We had a happy childhood. We didn’t know anything about the global economy or world crises, but when we grew up, we weren’t ready for real life. We used to adopt new knowledge without asking too many questions

because we just knew it was obligatory to know all the dates of the battles in the two World Wars. The educational system was designed to develop the skills needed on factory floors. In the meantime, the society got redefined, and it is high time education accepted that and transformed itself accordingly. Today, in the classrooms, we develop more empathy for others within the community and it helps students to be better, more productive and self-aware. A few years ago, the world was a hive of activity, crowded and busy, but then the pandemic started and everything stopped. It was so unexpected that most of us didn’t manage to function normally at first. The whole planet was brought to a halt. For a while, there were no traffic jams, planes were grounded, schools were closed

Zdravka is not only an English teacher but also an edu-enthusiast. She believes that working in a small rural school requires enthusiasm and perseverance to teach great things with little resources. She is an author and co-author of several published lesson examples in the Proceedings of Good Practice, where she showcased her pedagogical ideas. She was the finalist of the first Science on Stage Serbia festival, where she merged language and science. She is very digital competent and curates an online blog English corner, where she scaffolds students to learn English with fun. She is also a co-author of the website “Let’s share knowledge” and the seminar “With a little effort to STEAM skills”.


K12 Digest February 2022

Today, in the classrooms, we develop more empathy for others within the community and it helps students to be better, more productive and self-aware

K12 Digest February 2022


SEL is everywhere around us, when students help each other or engage in different activities together, when teachers show compassion and try to understand student needs

and most people were desperate and locked in their houses. After a prolonged school lockdown had disrupted children’s routines, including normal school days, it also blocked their access to the basic forms of support that schools provide and, of course, face-to-face contact with teachers and friends that is fundamental to child development. Although many teachers dispute the spread of technology, during the pandemic it has been the only way of communicating with students and other colleagues. Social networking allowed all users in the educational system to join in and rally around causes. For example, in the school where I work, a Serbian teacher directed and staged a school play on-line. She was communicating with students on Facebook, and they all took part in it. The play was great, and for students it was really important to stay in touch with their friends and teachers. When the lockdown was over,


K12 Digest February 2022

we all summed up the consequences that were obvious at first sight. We saw that empathy, resilience, and the ability to cope with anxiety turned out to have a major impact on children’s daily lives, and must be focused on just like school subjects including maths, history, science, social sciences, or foreign languages. Teachers around the globe incorporated social and emotional skills into their educational practice and by combining them with lifelong learning not only succeeded in surviving the pandemic, but also improved student academic performance. How can we incorporate SEL into the curriculum? There are many definitions of SEL resembling one another, but all of them include humanity, positive energy and support, and lifelong learning, which is the basis of the whole curriculum.

change professions many times in their lives. Besides, being a teacher means having a profession that helps build all others. Students need our help not simply to become successful, but to accept failures as a step forward on their way to success. Our job is not only to teach them algebra, history, geography or languages, but also to encourage them to continually make progress, no matter how slow, and to be role models to our students as far as the quest for lifelong learning is concerned.

SEL is everywhere around us, when students help each other or engage in different activities together, when teachers show compassion and try to understand student needs. There is no need for grand gestures, it is enough to accept that everyone’s growth looks different, and to let them grow! We dispute the spread of technology and keep saying that children spend too much time in front of different screens instead of joining them in making learning an endless game. Let’s use phones and computers as part of the learning process, let’s make learning interesting to 21st century students. Why don’t we join them in the learning process? Instead of teaching them numerous facts, figures and data, we should teach them how to use them, how to adapt them to their future needs, because they will

What are the benefits of SEL for students? “Research proves that social-emotional learning has positive, lasting effects for K-12 students, including improved academic achievement, reduced conduct problems, lower emotional distress, and higher rates of graduation.” —Tia Kim, Ph.D., Vice President of Education, Research & ImpactCommittee for Children What are the five components of socialemotional learning? CASEL lists five core social emotional learning competencies: ● Self-Awareness ● Self-Management ● Social Awareness ● Relationship Skills ● Responsible Decision-Making

K12 Digest February 2022


How can an average teacher include SEL into his or her classes? First and foremost, you need to think out of the box, and not be afraid of disappointment. You need to be strong enough to help others even if you are struggling with your own paperwork problems. Teachers must also use their own social-emotional skills to establish high-quality relationships with students (Jones, Bouffard, & Weissbourd, 2013). During the pandemic we all have grown closer to our students by maintaining regular contact; we used all the available means of communication in order to help them master educational content. Moreover, both teachers and students had to further develop their digital skills which they had before the pandemic and it resulted in more innovative classes in real life. Digital competencies are very important for SEL and STE(A)M education, because they are based on using digital technologies. A few years before the pandemic had started, I found my teaching to have been rather old fashioned and began introducing new methods. I started publishing lessons on my blog, set up a Google classroom


K12 Digest February 2022

SEL provides many benefits for students, but for me personally, the most important thing is being part of a group, feeling that you belong to a team, and that together we can make it

for my students and shared additional materials in it. I started exploring a wide range of tools available on the Internet, which proved to be very useful when creating different class materials. Students were very pleased because they could combine studying and playing games. When we moved back from virtual to real classroom, we were already keen on using games in English classes. Students enjoyed using phones, the interactive board and other digital content so much that they started creating educational software with my help. In the beginning only a small group of students were willing to participate in order to help their classmates learn lessons more easily. Soon other students were encouraged by their friends to contribute and now all my students take part in creating lesson plans and activities. They are all more interested in learning and cooperating even when someone is in isolation, because technology allows us to connect with each other. SEL provides many benefits for students, but for me personally, the most important thing is being part of a group, feeling that you belong to a team, and that together we can make it. One of the projects I am very proud of is Tree of

Wishes conceived by my students. At first, we had an idea to make an interactive season’s greetings card for those children who were isolated because of COVID-19. But when we started making the interactive card, we shared it with the students in isolation, and they all took part in creating the 2022 Tree of Wishes. Instead of shiny ball-shaped decorations, the card featured a Christmas tree that had the names of students on its branches, and when you opened the card, the picture with season’s greetings was shown. We shared this interactive Christmas card with parents and other teachers. Students were very proud of their teamwork, knowing they created it together using their own skills. Simple activities like this one improve their self-confidence very much. There is a wide range of SEL activities at your disposal, think and act out of the box, be creative and enjoy your classes as much as your students do. Implementing digital tools and SEL provide numerous opportunities for adapting classes to the needs of all students. It is important to accept that students and teachers alike have their own individual needs and requirements that have to be met for growth to occur. Instead of creating barriers, bring teachers and students together!

K12 Digest February 2022



K12 Digest February 2022

K12 Digest February 2022




K12 Digest Higher Education Digest February October2022 2020

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.