Technology and IB: “Un-Gaming the System?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the International Baccalaureate recently, mostly for personal reasons. My school year at ACS is coming to a close, and my courses for this term for Michigan State have all ended. As I’ve juxtaposed the two, it’s been quite stunning to me the contrasts I’ve witnessed between how many teachers interpret the International Baccalaureate and the precepts of technology-driven pedagogies. I’ve witnessed two years of reactions to technology in the IB world, and they range from quizzical to downright hostile. The priorities of teachers in the Diploma Programme in particular are so much geared in the formats and demands of culminating assessments that any thought of technology being “in the mix” seems at best an intrusion. This is not true in the PYP and MYP programs to the same extent, but this is also in part because those programs are already more project-based and by nature somewhat more flexible. Still, even in these programs, problems exist as the tension builds between reliable assessment and solid pedagogy. 

One thing that is noteworthy about current IB courses online is that they echo the content of IB courses, and are still extremely content-based. One of the more fruitful experiences of learning online is that content is only part of what you can use — technology and creative thought are the others. The best courses combine these through multimedia experiences and matching assessments. Pamoja Education, the current provider for online IB courses, makes the effort to create interactive experiences amongst students. What I don’t see, however, is a change in what the assessments demand: online courses can also provide opportunities for creativity and technical mastery that face-to-face courses don’t. These are important elements to creating individualized, unique projects and outcomes.

I think it will be difficult for some practitioners of IB to accept the individuality and creativity online learning provides. DP teachers in particular are notorious for “gaming the system”: they spend a good deal of time trying to figure out what will be on the test and teach to it. Sometimes, the guessing game gets so intense that it is difficult to tell if IB teachers trust themselves enough to know how to assess a creative project. They are very much tied to the system, and I think for some, the transition to trusting oneself as an educator and not a “gamer” of the system will be more difficult than anyone can anticipate.

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