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IB Diploma Onscreen Assessment – stepping into the unknown

A year ago I spotted an interesting development for the International Baccalaureate programme tucked away in a blog post on their website.

Substantial planning is underway for the migration of DP examinations from paper to on-screen. We are extremely excited about this important development for the IB. It means that exam papers will no longer be printed and couriered to schools, students will instead sit on-screen examinations on a computer, laptop or tablet. We will have some on-screen diploma examinations available as an option from 2018. (Technology advancements in DP assessment: IB Community Blog)

Yikes, I thought the day where students would do exams online would be years away. Well… it is still is a few years away, but closer that I would have anticipated for a huge organisation with over 150,000 students completing the IB Diploma exams each year. Last year was the first time students in their Middle Years Programme had the opportunity to try an optional end of programme online assessment so it does seems like the next logical progression for them. Since the announcement I have pondered some implications.

The chicken or the egg?

Curriculum and the intended learning goals should always guide assessment. In a “backwards by design” approach we are clear about what outcomes we hope students will achieve and are clear on what kind of evidence we need to collect.

Online assessments open a range of new possibilities in some areas to redefine what we could assess in the final exam. In the traditional hand-written exam the material presented to the students is in many ways one dimensional. We may show them data, a picture or map but is is just printed on a page. We can now provide multimedia stimulus such as video resources or interactives and manipulative resources showing data.

IMG_4325.JPGYet at the same time are we constraining the questions we ask students to what is possible in the online software? How easy will it be to annotate a graph? draw a diagram, or sketch a model in the margin to enhance your answer? I still can’t fathom how student’s in Economics will a draw an unemployment diagram like illustrated here to support their writing? Surely this is a significant issue for Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Will more and more questions default to a text format or response?

If the assessments do indeed broaden what can be assessed in the final examinations will this lead to changes in the various curriculum guides overtime? Will be interesting to see if the online nature of assessment better suit more concept based assessments.

The Mathematics exam seemed to be the most complexing for me, as you are reducing a problem solving process to a range of online boxes. I was yet pleasantly surprised to see the sample screenshots below or an MYP Maths assessment where students could annotate using the drawing pad at the right and then use formula in the boxes at the bottom to complete their answer.

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MYP Mathematics – Sample Assessment (IBO, 2016)

 

Would students prefer the offline or online experience?

As a teacher I feel that student work which is typed assessments is more refined, whilst the hand-written work is more organic and nuanced. Student’s write with sections crossed out as they try to reorganise their thinking. My students comment that the one element they struggle with in the traditional exams is the inability to drag and reorganise their thoughts as they are used to in the online environment.

An interesting piece of research around the MYP eAssessment project is available here written by the IB. It highlights the trend where students are becoming more and more digitally literate, creating a disconnect between the classroom experience and the format of the traditional examination. Furthermore they and others speculate about the connection between the motor skills of writing fluently, either offline or online and “the expression of the higher order thinking skills necessary for high quality essay writing” (Peverly, S.T. (2006). This difference might be especially stark when so many of our students type and work online for much of the school day. Many may find that the slow speed of their handwriting compared to their cognitive ability constrains their ability to demonstrate this understanding in exam situations.

They also comment on the findings in research by (Mogey and Hartley, 2013) focused on essay writing under timed conditions, “that typed responses seem to be slightly longer and score marginally better on readability measures”. Both of these findings resonate with my experience that students now feel more comfortable in the on-screen world and the step back to written handwritten assessment each June, will soon be part of history.

Produced by IBO 2016

A logistical and expensive nightmare?

With nearly 2,500 schools in 143 different countries, the IBs sprawl is amazing. Yet schools are often located in areas with very different socio-economic backgrounds where technology usage is incredibly varied. For this reason I presume that the MYP eAssessments have been an opt-in project for schools who see value and have the technology provision to make it work.

In our school, every student has a personal laptop but if your infrastructure is limited to a couple computer labs then you will struggle to run the assessments. Yes, technology is now ubiquitous in many contexts, but this is usually just an abundance of mobile or tablet devices and not a laptop or PC.

It is likely that for a long time schools will have the ability to run off-line versions of the exam with handwritten responses. You can imagine that the existing English examinations could work equally as well both offline and online when the stimulus provided to students is static. However once you begin to tweak the questions for subjects such as Science and ask questions in a different style of format the offline becomes impossible. Surely all students globally must complete the same format of final examination. Therefore the will be a tension for a couple of years, and issues for school IB schools to scale up their technology provisions.

I visited my previous school last year to see how

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ISS International School

students were using the practice eAssessments, and they seemed rather unconcerned about the development and happy. Behind the scenes there was a world of juggling USB sticks to install the software for each student and later download the files to again upload to the IB servers. For each exam you need to ensure each student has a USB with the examination and then ensure you upload the students work correctly to the system before repeating this for the next examination. For a stretch of three weeks this will be an added overhead to schools, and harder than the current process of storing, opening and then resealing and posting the exam packages.

 

Next steps…

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MYP Maths – Sample eAssessment

The IB organisation has yet to announce any subsequent details about the launch of eAssessments for the Diploma programme and their initial mention was suitable vague about the 2018 phased introduction. In practice I guess this means that some subjects have an on-screen option for Grade 11 students beginning the DP programme in August 2018 for final examinations in August 2020? For our school I think that means our current Grade 9 students will be the first to cohort to have the option in some of the subjects such as English or perhaps History where style of questioning is typically more text heavy. For other subjects such as Economics or Maths the wait might be slightly longer and may match the rollout of the new syllabus and the curriculum reviews.

 

In the meantime I hope our Grade 9 students are practising their speed typing skills.

Further Reading and Resources:

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Concept maps to deepen thinking in Economics

Concept mapping is a visual approach which forces students to focus on the abstract concepts and to make generalisations between interconnecting ideas. It can be used as a pre-assessment or formatively or even revisited through a unit of work if you use a digital tool such as Mindmeister. The approach is applicable to any classroom which is founded on a concept based curriculum and big ideas. Whilst it seems like a mind-mapping or brainstorming activity it has more structure and intentionality where the teacher must outline the key concepts to focus on.

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In Economics our Grade 12 students are grappling with a set of interconnected concepts related to International Trade which form the basis of their understanding of the topic and lead to them being able to answer the key questions for the unit of study. These are very much micro-level concepts and discipline or topic specific, as opposed to more macro-concepts such as opportunity costs. They bigger ideas are more trans-disciplinary or ‘meta’ in nature. There is an excellent paper produced by Lynn Erickson for the IB which digs into this concept based teaching and learning more deeply.

The concepts we explicitly focused on where

  • inflation (sustained increased in average price level over period of time)
  • tight monetary policy (low interest rates to increase aggregate demand)
  • appreciation of currency (relatively value of currency increasing in terms of another)
  • trade deficit (value of exports – value of import)

We could check for the understanding by asking them to write a couple of paragraphs but there is something far more powerful in having them do this activity visually and off-line.

Step 1: Students should all be able to define each concept separately as listed above. This was a knowledge check based on previous definitions of understanding of economic models. The students write these beside or around the circles.

Step 2: Students can begin to explain some of the interconnections between each of the concepts. They can draw a line and then write a generalisation alongside. Some students can probably make one generalisation that higher interest rates would likely lead to the appreciation of the currency. From this students can really diverge in their thinking and begin to find other connections.

img_8240Step 3: A good protocol for this style to activity is to give student lots of independent and then pair thinking space. I gave them 10 mins in near silence first to commit some ideas to paper. I then paired my students up with someone new to discuss their concept map, then again matched  pairs to form groups of 4 so they could develop their thinking even further.

Step 4: The final twist I added was to stretch their thinking through the use of a question that would allow them to transfer their knowledge to the opposite scenario. This is where interest rates fall and to check if the government could possible achieve three macroeconomics goals at once (high growth, stable and low inflation, balanced trade) I think you can always add an additional question at the end which can allow the groups of 4 to ponder a more meta-conceptual question. In economics the meta-concept in this topic is the opportunity cost that governments must make trade-offs when trying to satisfy the five macroeconomic goals. After a discussion students could write an answer to this question in the left panel.

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Extended Essay Day

For the final Monday of the school year, we ambitiously took our Grade 11 students off timetable to spend a day helping them looking more deeply at their Extended Essay. They have all begun defining research questions and conducting preliminary research in the last couple of months.

Our Extended Essay coordinator Joe Jasina, outlined the aims of the day to upskill students in academic honesty, referencing techniques, ways to source information, digital skills and academic writing so they can begin next term confidently and complete their writing. The session began with all 330 students looking at academic honesty and then later splitting into three sets of mini-workshops led by our Teacher Librarian Kurt Wittig and subject specialists. (see detailed overview) We finished the afternoon with a 90 min writing fest to get students progressing with their writing and a good test of our wifi network.

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The day highlighted a couple of interesting things to me. Firstly, our students are super passionate about their topics and many of them truly engage with them in deep and profound ways. Asking High School students to write 4,000 words to critically explore an issue of personal interest seems like an immense challenge, but have always see it as the most interesting and distinct part of the IB Diploma.Secondly, despite our best efforts our student’s digital and information literacy skills need a lot of work !! Over the last five years since introducing laptops for every student we have perhaps left too much of this skill development to chance.

Essential digital and information literacy skills

I see the following as some really essential skills for our students and at the moment we still have a long way to go.

  1. Sourcing academic journals from electronic databases
  2. Digitally annotating PDFs with highlights and comments
  3. Utalising online citations tools effectively such as RefMe to collate references
  4. Quoting, paraphrasing and summarising skills
  5. Formatting and word processing tools (Headings, Table of Contents etc)
  6. Using Turnitin Originality reports as feedback on quality of referencing.

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Along with my other Digital Literacy Coach we introduced some suggested digital workflows which are covered below. I have always felt technology can really enhance and quality of student research when used to help organise and scaffold their thinking. Tools like RefMe are immensely powerful in helping students track secondary research and should help them throughout university.

I also ran sessions looking more deeply at primary and secondary research in Economics. After looking through the past Extended Essay reports from the IB, you can highlight some important points to students.

It is the second time we have run the session at Dover Campus after a few successful similar days at our other campus. I think students really valued the chance to get their head around the topic and as they say

a job begun is a job half done

Bring on the summer vacation.

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What makes effective teaching?

This week’s Economist magazine explored a question I have thought about a lot in my career. Is the ability to teach an innate skill that some have, and others do not; or is a skill that can be developed and taught? Our perception of whether great teachers are either born or made, leads to dramatic differences in how schools structure and emphasis professional development.

What really matters in education?

20160611_FBC639Plenty of research by John Hattie and others, now points to the fact that the quality of the teaching is the most important factor in shaping a child’s educational success. Over and above factors such as smaller class sizes or streaming by ability, the top 20 factors relate exclusively to what the teacher can do in the classroom. Therefore we need to make a very conscious effort in schools to upskill teachers in both the what and how of effective teaching and make exemplary practice more visible to others.

In my experience schools can explain what teachers should be doing to improve practice with documents such as IB Approaches to Teaching and Learning, but struggle to prioritise time to give teachers adequate support in discovering how these ideas can work in their classroom.

How do teachers learn?

With teaching as with other complex skills, the route to mastery is not abstruse theory but intense, guided practice grounded in subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical methods (Economist, 2016)

The article makes interesting reading and highlights what several progressive groups are doing to help new teachers develop mastery through intentional practise, coaching feedback and relentless assessment. I don’t consider this to be anything revolutionary, but it is being done relentlessly and at scale. In my job as Digital Literacy Coach the most significant change has not come from sending out emails of ideas, but from helping teachers seeing how other respected teachers are using technology and then providing cycles of support, coaching and reflection to help the teacher grow and be confident.

In mainstream education, I think the development of teachers pedagogy is left to chance and seldom improved in a systematic manner. It is by chance that someone once went on a course on collaborative group work, or has read a book on formative assessment. Schools must encourage greater structured collaboration between peers and provide opportunities and time for exemplary teachers to support, mentor and coach others. I wasn’t really surprised by the statistic reported in the article below about such incredible isolation in the profession.

Few other professionals are so isolated in their work, or get so little feedback, as Western teachers. Today 40% of teachers in the OECD have never taught alongside another teacher, observed another or given feedback (Economist, 2016)

I do wonder if teachers at our school would respond in a similar fashion? I would hope that more than 40% of our teachers over their career that they have experienced these collaborative aspects. Despite every effort, schools still remain a closed door profession especially in High School settings. However it seems simple to engineer opportunities for greater feedback, observation and team teaching. Once a month could you cancel a weekly meeting and instead ask staff to observe a peer in their free periods?

This article more than most, has piqued my interest and I will try make two of the key observations from the article personal goals for next year;

  1. Engineering more opportunities for teacher collaboration in the form of team teaching, observation and feedback.
  2. Make the how of effective teaching more explicit to our teachers. We have a well document list of learning principles but not everyone has the same practical understanding how some of these could be employed in practice.

Additional Research and ideas

Below is some of additional research mentioned in the Economist article. After a bit of searching it presents a wealth of contemporary knowledge if you want to dive deeper. Hattie’s latest work is a good read.

 

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Quizlet – back to an old favourite

Quizlet is fast becoming one of those Swiss Army knife apps that you end up repurposing and going back to time and time again. Like most teachers you probably got the email about their new Quizlet Live feature so I was keen to give it a go.

In essence using Quizlet is a perfect approach to get students to revise new terms or develop and broaden their vocabulary. In Economics I want student to use the appropriate terms and words to explain the nuances of complicated concepts. For instance we want our students to confidently use the term ‘appreciation’ rather than trying to just say that a currency has gone ‘up’ In my experience Quizlet is a pretty good tool to help develop this basic knowledge.

Quizlet Live is a free games based add-on to the core flashcard tool. The game cleverly takes any existing stack of vocabulary and definitions and then creates a game. On the first prompt students visit Quizlet Live and then enter your class code from the screen. You need more than 4 students to join and then it will place them into groups.

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The best hint is to get kids to then move to sit in the randomly allocated group. Once you click begin, the students have to match up the answers. (see demo) Each member of the group has a different list of four terms which they can use to answer the pop up question. Collectively they use the terms to answer all of questions in the race to reach the end first. A great catch is that if they get one term wrong it makes the students start again.

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On first impressions it sounds a little simple and a bit too much of a game, but it was one of the most fun and yet effective end of lesson activities I have done in a long time. Yet at the same time I think they all have mastered a broader list of terms that will hopefully help develop their ability to write more academically like an economist. Never underestimate the competitive nature of teenagers on a Monday morning.

A couple of hints to make it a more effective assessment task…

  • Share the Quizlet set of terms with the students for homework to look at independently before they do the game in class.
  • Carefully choose your lists of terms. A couple on my list had the actual word in the definition so made it easy to guess. (this was my Macroeconomic set)
  • Add a few terms to really stretch the students, or even from the next topic. 
  • Once the game is finished the screen changes to show feedback… essentially what were some commonly confused terms, what was the hardest to get correct etc. This is a good learning point where students could add to their notes or the teacher could unpack the misconception. (my students all stumbled on the inflation/disinflation/deflation terms and it was a timely reminder when the game prompted the kids to reflect on this at the end)
  • Pictures you might have added to the quiz don’t show in the game at the moment
  • You need at least 6 kids and I think at least 12 terms to make it worthwhile.
  • You can repeat the same activity at the end of the game and choose to keep students in the same groups. If you want to then use a different set of terms you need to restart Quizlet Live and it then resets the groups. 
  • The best Econ terminology sets I have found are here 

Enjoy and please comment if you find it useful or have other ideas on it’s use.

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Essay planning and drafting with Mindmeister

Brainstorming or creating a mind map is a common process to help students develop ideas and to encourage ideation. In many classes, a brainstorm is used as the first planning step in a writing process which flows into drafting.

Online tools such as mindmaps can be a simple way to enhance the planning stage of student writing. When the tool is mutable ie. student can reorder, change and edit their thoughts on the go it should support deeper thinking and exploration of ideas. When doing a similar activity with paper, students are constrained by the size of their paper, frustrated when they need to erase or make a change and struggle to reorder the hierarchy of their thoughts. Whilst you can also plan in a word document and rearrange ideas, the visual element of a mindmap should be an important consideration.

Mindmeister is an online mind mapping tool that our student can use to develop an essay outline and then translate these notes into a text document. A clever export function allows students to export the structure and contents of their mindmap as headings and bullets in a word document. As shown below, this simple trick takes thier ideas into the an essay plan, helping them to draft potentially each paragraph and sentence.

Few tips to get started

  1. A school can subscribe to Mindmeister and this can linked to each students GApps accounts.
  2. Alternatively the free option allows you to do most things, but with limits on the number of maps and the ways they they can be exported.
  3. This can be accessed from the grid app icon at top of GMail/GDrive.
  4. Students can click share, to send a link to the teacher or class site / learning platform.
  5. They can also invite collaborators, but this slows the speed of the website down considerably.
  6. Small downwards arrow at bottom allows export function – MS Word translates document into headings, and sentences, but unselect all of the options to get a cleaner look with only text.

See video below for a full walkthrough.

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With the help of the export button, from this to this…. !

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Full tutorial and more ideas

Teamie – our new Online Learning Platform

UntitledAs I posted last year our school is working to develop a new online Learning Platform or VLE, to support our students and teachers. The research and development and eventual testing has involved lots of my time in the past six months but has been an exciting process. It has been great to have a class this year to trial the platform, and as my students are never reluctant to try something new.

A new Learning Platform will provide an online space for communications and a platform for delivering learning resources, assessments and much more, and it fits very nicely with our thinking on learning principles and teacher practice. The platform has been developed by a Singapore based company Teamie, who have worked very hard to develop a social centric learning platform, the integrates tightly with Google Apps and has some slick curriculum delivery tools to make collaborative units. Overall our explorations of different Learning Platforms was a little disappointing. Probably the two standouts were Schoology and Canvas. Canvas despite some extensive explorations was a bit too higher education and lacked any social classroom feed. Schoology seems to be the market leader at the moment, with a clean and intuitive interface. At the end the Schoology Google Apps integration was a bit simple, and the way to share classroom resources slightly static. The one feature which tipped the balance to Teamie was the collaborative units, which can be shared or cloned from public libraries. Our teachers work in big curriculum teams so the collaboration feature is a big bonus. It is also a small Singapore company so that have been working with us on a weekly basis for six months to develop a product we are pretty proud of. Our UWCSEA version is slight ahead of the public version of Teamie at the moment.

Some of the features we are looking forward to launching over the coming months are:

  • Social centric class pages; The ability to share, thoughts or publish questions to the class feed will hopefully change classroom communication and reduce email traffic for teachers
  • Calendars; from within Teamie our teachers will be able to set assignment dates or set work to be completed. These dates will synchronise into a layer of the students Google Calendar. This will make event information accessible and current.
  • Collaborative Units; some of the smartest features are the way the units operate to package a set of resources for students. They can be shared live between teachers, or cloned from a unit bank. Units effectively work like an interactive eBook, where files can be viewed inline, videos embedded and related assignments and discussions linked. This should provide students with a good overview of resources and greater contextualisation of material compared to the process of sharing a folder between teachers and students. Overtime these tools should support our thinking on personalised learning, flexible progression and the flipped classroom.
  • Google Doc integration; Teamie supports some smart copy functions where you can share an existing or new Google Doc with students and automatically add them as collaborators. There is also tight integration between Google Drive and resources, allowing linking from departmental resources rather then uploading duplicates. Moving forward we see Google Drive as a key repository of our learning resources.
  • Formative Assessment tools – We are also looking forward to using quiz and assignment tools to both gather evidence of learning and to feedback in an effective manner. This includes the use of inline marking using CrocoDoc annotations, rubrics and auto grading quizzes with rich analytics. Overtime we will see how these all link into the concept of online markbooks.

Click through the presentation below for a bigger  preview. For a detailed description of the process download the overview here.

Padlet – for collaboration and low stakes formative assessment

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.25.43 PMI have perhaps become a little reticent of new Web 2.0 tools and the hype lots of them generate for a short period of time, before the next fun toy comes along. Something that I keep coming back to at the moment is a great collaboration tool called Padlet. (previously known as Wallwisher)

I strongly I encourage every teacher I work with, to develop a toolkit of digital tools that the use in the classroom. Overtime the rapid experimentation and sharing leads most teachers to a point where they have develop a set of 3-5 tools which they seem to go back and that they see as an effective teacher strategy. The best tools have a clear link to what we recognize as good classroom pedagogy and are often an enhancement or transformation of an existing ‘non-techy’ approach. Language teachers seems to have a set of tools that fit their teaching style as do Scientists or Geographers.

Padlet fits very nicely with ideas around both collaboration and formative assessment. Especially the idea of setting a quick task to elicit evidence of understanding. Because Padlet requires no-student log in it is an unobtrusive activity in task that seldom breaks the learning routine.  Below is an example from my Economics class this week. I use the mini-whiteboards so much, but this was a chance to modify the task, so that I could look at the both an analysis paragraph and the whiteboard diagram later. The little snippet of understanding shown gives me a good clue to the students progress and thinking.

Below is a presentation I have shared with my teachers, please borrow and repurpose !

 

The basics of flipping instruction – engagement and differentiation

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 9.45.54 PMThis school year I am back with an Economics class of my own and have a chance to put lots of the great ideas I am learning as a Digital Literacy Coach into practise.

A great hint I learned last year from a colleague Steve Vorster at UWCSEA, is to repurpose a Google Form to help students engage with a simple video tutorial. YouTube is full of tutorials on Economics and it is easy to point kids to great playlists from Jodi Beggs the EconGirl or Jason Welker. The struggle is getting students to engage and to elicit some feedback on their level of understanding.

The trick is to find a suitable video. In this case I introduced the basics of demand to my Grade 11 class, and needed something to consolidate their understanding. As this class already has a good grounding in Economics from GCSE last year I can’t spend weeks explaining each determinate but would prefer that students recap at their own pace.

Linking Google Form and YouTube

Google Forms are a simple way to collect some feedback. Create one from your Google Drive, then play the video whilst waiting for a few key points. I try to develop “hinge questions” which really highlight if the student gets a concept, these are explained in the work of educationalist Dylan Wiliam. Less questions the better !

This week Google Forms was updated so you can embed a video directly into the form. Once you have finished share with your students for homework. The feedback spreadsheet of student responses is a great discussion starter/plenary at the beginning of the next lesson.

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Google Forms can now be shared with colleagues so others can reuse and recycle your task. Just remember your colleague needs to make a copy of your form.  Whilst this isn’t revolutionary it is just a nice example of repurposing a few tech tools to make learning a little more interesting and effective, it sure beats reading the textbook each week.

Basics of Demand   Video Tutorial

Bangladesh and Development – A great indepth read

This week’s Economist contains an excellent article about Bangladesh and it’s progress towards development. It was insightful and interesting in so many different ways, but most importantly it explained how the nation had been extraordinarily successful in improving the welfare of the poor.

The article Bangladesh and Development – The path through the fields explained how development had occurred in Bangladesh without spectacular increases in average incomes, but through ground roots initiatives and a little innovation. It would be a ideal case study for any IB Diploma student as it clearly compares and contrasts relevant health and education indicators, but also goes on to explain the development strategies that have worked in the country. Download a PDF copy of the article here.

The article used statistics (top table) to clearly show how Bangladesh has streaked ahead of both India and Pakistan in terms of nearly all development indicators. Some of the drops are amazing, such as a 10 year increase in life expectancy over the past 20 years, and the decreases in infant and child mortality rates. In many ways the article also highlights the issues the India and Pakistan continue to face and ignore.

The article also illustrates how the two concepts, economic growth and economic development can be decoupled. Last week in a class, I spoke about the differences between the two concepts with the aid of a venn diagram shown below. The example of Bangladesh shows a huge focus on increasing access to healthcare and education for all people, but especially women and young girls. The information in the article could also link into an exploration of GapMinder World or the use of Infographics to show patterns in the data. Click on the links above for some ideas for using each of these in class.