Saturday, August 6, 2011

The IB Profile and My Class!

ib_crest_imagelargeBack in 1995 I enrolled in the first ever International Baccalaureate (IB for short) program at High Point Central High School in High Point, NC. Now, 16 years later, my life has come full circle because I get to “pay it forward” to approximately 150 IB students every year. While teaching has always been the ultimate career for me, teaching through technology is my passion.

If you’re not familiar with what IB is and what it stands for, I recommend you reading these two articles:

  1. What is IB
  2. About the diploma program

learner_profileEvery student and teacher of the IB program follows a simple guideline that we call “The IB Learner Profile”. This profile is broken into 10 separate characteristics that we all (teachers included) strive for. After thinking back to my high school days and who impacted me the most, I came to the conclusion that being an inquirer was one of the most important characteristics for me to follow. And after recently traveling to Rice University for an educational conference encompassing technology, I found a new website ( to add to my repertoire.

With so many up-and-coming websites out there, I have to carefully choose what I’m going to invest my precious time in. First and foremost, I’m a family man who has to juggle my time between my wife and two kids. Afterwards, I am the teacher/mentor/facilitator/motivator; therefore, it’s all about “hitting the target”. If I waste time on projects that have little to no meaning, I end up losing quality time at home and potentially losing students in the classroom. Subsequently, everything I do must have a purpose.

So why did I choose to integrate into my class? Three concrete reasons: One, it’s simple, easy, and FREE (all a must). Two, it absolutely, without a doubt made sense. And three, it supports my research with brain-science.

With little to no learning curve, I was able to jump right in and start my classes with little effort. I think I had all of my classes setup in less than 5 minutes and immediately designed a structure for how I wanted my students to be involved with the website. One particular attribute that must be mentioned is that the information is all online, accessible from any computer once you login. Therefore, it really didn’t matter if my students worked on their flashcards at home or at school (either in the media center or from the portable laptops), they were able to access their material. Even more, students with an Apple or Android phone were able to download the free app and study right from their phone. This really got my students’ attention when they found out that they could use their phones in class for studying purposes.

And speaking of purpose – I truly believe through research and independent studies, students who study more frequently on a consecutive basis outperform students who “CRAM”. gave me the perfect opportunity to motivate students away from cramming and into a more consistent approach to studying.

Therefore, I’d like to see myself as an innovator who is curious, critical, and open-minded to trying new things. In this case, I was looking for a piece of technology to engage my students. I found it. I tried it. And most importantly, met and surpassed my expectations and needs as a fellow-teacher.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclaimer: I am a member of the Teacher Advocate program initiated by I am paid a compensation for my discussions and advertisement of the company.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How to tweak the brain for optimal performance!

If you stop and think about it, our brains are one of the most complex organs in the universe. At any given second, we're sending thousands upon thousands of signals to our body. Just to type this message my brain had to capture memory on how to spell the words that I'm thinking, signals to my eyes to focus on the screen, and signals to my hands and fingers to use muscle memory and recall the correct keystrokes to type. In essence, it's the most complex "multitasker" known to man.

As a teacher, student success is often linked to one's ability to perform on a test. So why is it that some students can perform well on a test with minimal studying while others have to work so hard just to stay afloat? Although there many variables involved, here are a couple ways (in my opinion) to tweak the brain for optimal performance:

1. Get adequate sleep! While my body only requires 6-7 hours of sleep each night, most students require more. Your bodies are growing. Your brains are expanding. Believe it or not, just because you're young - YOU STILL NEED SLEEP :) Ever had a day where you didn't have anything to do so you just slept in? Chances are - you felt amazing the following day. That's your body saying a big "THANK YOU". Your brain is no different considering it's the one thing that decided your attitude for you.

2. Eat with balance in mind! Ever heard the statement, "You are what you eat"? There lies some truth to that statement. Food has a major role in affecting our attitude, our attention span, and our ability to recall information in a short-term manor. If you're not convinced, go eat a large bag of (insert your favorite candy) and wait 15 minutes. I guarantee you'll be ready to catch some Zzz's before the man on the moon has risen. Instead, eat small portions of a balanced diet as frequent as your schedule will allow. Keep the food colorful and leafy if possible. Mix in some quality protein and you'll be one a force to deal with in the classroom.

3. Study smarter - not harder! You've probably heard that by now, but what does it mean? Well, for starters, it means that just like every other muscle in your body, you can't grow a strong brain overnight. Here's a quick question to consider.

Q. Do runners compete in a full marathon (26.2 miles) their first time out?
A. Absolutely not!

They start off by running small intervals working up to the big race. Power-lifters don't max out their first trial. They work up to their maximum weight. We have to start treating our brains in a similar fashion. We've all heard of "cramming" for a test. While cramming has provided a marginal service, we really only proved that our short-term memory is functioning properly. What we really want is a conversion to long-term memory. And there's only one effective method to this... Practice! Practice! Practice!

Just as I said we need to eat small meals often, we need to study in small portions as well. Our brains perform better when we input knowledge in short bursts followed by a recovery time better known as sleep. Subsequently, there are many paths to complete the journey and one utility that I want to share is is one of several resources that I've come to love, not to mention - it's 100% free. In particular, this online resource offers my students a vehicle to study smarter and not harder. In short, one could sum up what they offer into three categories: 1). Online/mobile flashcards; 2). Online notes; and 3). Personalized quizzes which I like calling my own "quality-check". Add the ability to access all of this from an Apple or Android smartphone, and you've created your very educational healthy-choice meal.

The online flashcards are by far some of the most user-friendly I've encountered. The easy-to-use interface has little to no learning curve, leaving that much more time for you to study. Simply start typing notes on one side and answers on the other and you're off to building a digital masterpiece. BUT.... you can't stop there. You have to go back and review these flashcards often. Not just once. Not just twice. 3 still isn't enough. I recommend seeing these flashcards for at least the next 5 consecutive days for only 5-10 minutes total. By rapidly viewing the material over those next 5 days, you're essentially telling your own brain, "Hey! This information is important, so don't lose it". Afterwards, it's routine maintenance. Come back to review once a week followed by once a month. Your brain will feel like a well-oiled machine just off the assembly line!

Oooooh.... there's so much to say. I'll pause for now, but I'm just getting started. Tune in for more details and secrets on using


D. Rothrock

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Teacher Advocate program initiated by I am paid a compensation for my discussions and advertisement of the company.