Educational Readings March 28th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

To Foster Your Creativity, Don’t Learn To Code; Learn To Paint

And if you want to foster those creative, problem solving skills, the solution isn’t learning to code – it’s learning to paint. Or play an instrument. Or write poetry. Or sculpt. The field doesn’t matter: the key thing is that if you want to foster your own innovative creativity, the best way to do it is to seriously pursue an artistic endeavor.”

‘Closed’ v. ‘open’ systems of knowing

Scott McLeod:
“To fully prepare most students for life – and, arguably, to reengage many of them in the learning, not just social, aspects of their schooling – they need greater immersion in open systems of learning where questions are raised, answers aren’t fixed, and solutions are often contextual. This is true for all grade levels, not just secondary. So far most schools don’t do a great job with this.”

Pearson’s Vision for the World

Welcome to Sir Michael Barber’s version of Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Warning to teachers, everywhere.
‘The “digital ocean” that this paper introduces is coming. Just as “big data” is transforming other industries such as insurance, finance, retail, and professional sport, in time, it will transform education. And when it does, it will resolve long-standing dilemmas for educators and enable that long-term aspiration for evidence-informed policy at every level, from classroom to the whole system, to be realized.’

What have we done?

US educator Jamie McKenzie reflecting on 20 years of the internet in classrooms
“The Internet came to schools with much fanfare in 1994-95, as browsers converted the previously text-based World Wide Web into something far more user-friendly and attractive. Some of us felt these information technologies might transform schools in dramatic ways as students would have wide open access to information much richer than what was available previously. We hoped the Internet would foster independent thinking and originality. Two decades later, how many of these possibilities came true?”

Lessons from Disney Pixar on how creativity leads to more summative success

Ewan McIntosh:
“Pixar, since it was purchased by Disney, gives off an air of resilient creative and commercial success, but the journey is rarely that smooth. In fact, the more creative the output, the more commercially successful it is, for Pixar at least, and the processes used by the teams is remarkably close to what we see in highly effective classrooms.”

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 3): Creating Illusory Models of Excellence

Part 3 of Zong Zhao’s series on PISA.
“The product of most public value, the national league tables, are based on so many weak links that they should be abandoned right away. If only a few of the methodological issues raised in this volume are on target, the league tables depend on assumptions about the validity and reliability which are unattainable.”

Not choice, bro – I want to opt out

A tale from New Zealand mother (and very active anti-GERM campaigner) Dianne Khan, about her son who has just started school.
“He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education.  His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked.  He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year is in the system, and god only knows what they are recording about him.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Like a Wood Duck: Finding Peace in the Classroom

“After a hard day of teaching, I often plop down on my desk chair at home and gaze up at a framed drawing hanging on the wall above my desk that a dear friend of mine gave me. It is a detailed depiction of a pair of wood ducks serenely floating on a calm pond. One of the ducks is male that has brightly colored feathers and beak; the other is female that is plain gray and nondescript. Yet both are at peace and comfortable with each other. Struggling to help students to learn can sometimes destroy our internal peace and serenity, especially when students resist our best efforts. I’d like to share some things that help me to stay calm as a wood duck.”

Concerns about Use of Standardized Tests a Constant over the Years

Bruce’s comment: “Politicians determining education – shades of TVs House of Cards!!!!”
“I think we can generally agree that standardized tests don’t have a good reputation today — and that some of the criticism is merited,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last April during the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). “Policymakers and researchers have to listen very carefully — and take very seriously the concerns of educators, parents, and students about assessment.”

New School Year – what has been achieved ?

Bruce’s reflections after visiting classrooms six weeks into the 2014 New Zealand school year — what was to be seen? Care to make a guess?
“I wasn’t expecting miracles on my visits. I was just hoping for the early signs of the beginning of quality learning – the beginning of the class being a home for mutual studies by teachers and their students. Students as ‘seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge’. ( New Zealand Curriculum, 2007)”

What’s Your Learning Disposition? How to Foster Students’ Mindsets

“Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets has dominated much of the attention around how students can influence their own learning. But there are other ways to help students tap into their own motivation, too. Here are a few other important mindsets to consider.”

Holistic or SBTs?

Holistic or SBT Curriculum?

By Phil Cullen

Kelvin Smythe leading educator from New Zealand, recently wrote a definitive article called “Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil. Please make sure that you read it….over and over.

All world teachers should read it carefully. He refers, in the text, to ‘national standards’, the New Zealand version of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT], known as ‘NAPLAN’ in Australia; as ‘No Child Left Behind’ in the USA; and ‘Standards’ in the UK. His title fits any system that relies on testucation rather that education and, so, I have dared to substitute the word ‘NAPLAN’ for ‘national standards’ in my extract below… because I’m a proud Aussie primary school teacher. I’m proud to be, in Smythe terms, one of those “Teachers [who work] in the interests of children and professional integrity, committed to an open-minded consideration of educational issues.”

Those of us who worry about kids, suggests Smythe, “…will make no headway against the full propaganda weight of the politicians who deal in simplistic messages expressed in abstract nonsense, lies, distortions, non sequiturs and evasions…..Their words have flowed in a near impenetrable disengagement of arrogance-laden toxicity; their arguments dependent on a fantastically protected ignorance and an unrelentingly calculated slantedness.”


The object of this edition of The Treehorn Express is to highlight Kelvin Smythe’s explanation of a system, based on an holistic curriculum and a NAPLAN [Please excuse, K.S.] one.

It is so appropriate for Australian educators at present; as the general curriculum is under review.


“The holistic curriculum is about a combination of knowledges – teachers and academic; about the interaction of the affective and cognitive;

about teaching and learning being organised by broad aims [assisted by criteria that can be considered converted objectives];

about those broad aims being an expression of the essence of curriculum areas;

about a broadly-based curriculum encompassing the wide range of human experience;

about learning being meaningful, exploratory, and challenging [hence the attention to discovery learning and problem solving];

about learning being open to the transformational and sensitive to the immanent;

about learning being coherent and organic not fragmented and desultory;

about teachers having considerable individuality of response within the broad school aims;

about children having significant control over what and how they learn;

about evaluation practices being proportionate to that which is educationally important [to the holistic’]

about all learning being quality learning;

about attending to individual needs through a combination of class learning set up for individuality or response and one-to-one teaching;

about class and school practices, for instance, evaluation, and group learning being learning enhancing [hence the emphasis on observational evaluation and group learning being mainly mixed ability]; and

about protecting and enhancing the crucial bond and trust between classroom teacher and child.

What parent wouldn’t want this kind of education for their children?


The NAPLAN curriculum is about the measurable which does not fit with the affective; the holistic curriculum, in being expansive, fits it perfectly.

The NAPLAN curriculum is instrumental; the holistic curriculum is democratic and participatory.

The NAPLAN curriculum implies certainty and someone who knows; the holistic curriculum imples openness and collective exploration about what is known.

The NAPLAN curriculum , because it implies certainty and someone who knows, leads to a hermetic system based on fear and dependence.

the holistic curriculum, because it implies openness, leads to continuous exploration based on trust and independence.

The NAPLAN curriculum is hierarchical and standardising; the holistic curriculum is democratic and characterised by variety.

Because the NAPLAN curriculum is about hierarchy, certainty and standardising – this means no variance and it mean compulsion.

Because the holistic is about variety, about democracy and participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.”

Read more from Kelvin Smythe :

Thank you, Kelvin Smythe. Let’s hope that your message sinks-in to those who tend to be indifferent to major curriculum issues.


Phil Cullen [….for kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings March 21st

By Allan Alach

 I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Return of the Math Wars

Great blog on constructivist mathematics by Canadian teacher Joe Bower:

‘If I had to distill the math wars down to a simple idea, I would probably say that constructivist math calls for an increase emphasis on understanding while simultaneously calling for a decrease emphasis on direct instruction of facts and algorithms. The math wars get heated when critics come to see these changes to mean an elimination of basic skills and precise answers.’

 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

Don’t expect school reform to foster these!

“Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.”

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 2): Glorifying Educational Authoritarianism

Part 2 of Zong Zhao’s series on PISA.
Because some authoritarian education systems seem to generate better PISA rankings, it has been concluded that educational authoritarianism, the systemic arrangements designed to enforce government-prescribed, uniform standards upon all children, should be emulated by the rest of the world.”


“First, national standards and national curriculum—enforced by high stakes testing—can at best teach students what is prescribed by the curriculum and expected by the standards. This system fails to expose students to content and skills in other areas. As a result, students talented in other areas never have the opportunity to discover those talents. Students with broader interests are discouraged, not rewarded. The system results in a population with similar skills in a narrow spectrum of talents.”

50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education

What do you think of these? Which ones do you agree/disagree with? What changes would you make?

“Below are 50 ideas for a new education. Note, most of these are about education as a system rather than learning itself, but that’s okay. It’s often the infrastructure of learning that obscures anyway. Few of them may work; even fewer would work together, and that’s okay too. As long as we’re dreaming anyway, let’s get a little crazy.”

Teachers: life inside the exam factory

A story from England that will start to ring true in New Zealand and probably elsewhere if present GERM based policies are fully implemented.

“As a lot of teachers see it, they are the focus of bitter hostility from ministers and educational high-ups, and the victims of an increasingly oppressive machine. Schools are swamping their pupils and staff in data and targets, leaving no room for the kind of human values that were once at the centre of what teachers did. These aspects of education, teachers say, also distort their priorities, so filling in spreadsheets sometimes takes precedence over actually teaching kids.”

  The Long Death of Creative Teaching

An article for USA readers but as usual applicable all over.

‘Imagine your brain surgeon having to “follow the book” while operating on you or lose his job. While you are on the table, he discovers an unforeseen problem that, because of his experience and practical wisdom, calls for a spontaneous change of plan, yet he can’t do what he knows will work. You die on the table. So have students. He retires early, frustrated with conditions. So have the best teachers.’

 The DNA of GREAT Teachers – 3 “listicles” you have to read!

“What does the ‘DNA” of a great teacher look like?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Problems, New Approaches: The Rise of the Generalist 

Bruce’s comment: I like the ideas of the gifted generalist (dot joiner) as against the narrow specialist. Kind of secondary versus primary thinking?

“The new Generalist is in fact a master of their trade. They bring expertise and experience in several areas, fueled by insatiable curiosity and the ability to “hyper-learn” new concepts and ideas. They practice empathy to fully understand and break down the nature of complex problems and collaboratively engage specialists in reframing the problem in order to arrive at potential solutions.”

25 Tricks to Stop Teacher Burnout

“There’s a reason why teachers receive a sad, knowing nod from others at a dinner party or when meeting new people. The profession kicks us around and often kicks hardest when we’re down. We teach for the pleasure of sharing a subject or skill that we love and hope to infuse a passion in someone else. We don’t teach for the pounding headaches or the late nights grading. We don’t teach because we like low pay and instability. So, in the light of how teachers are treated, it’s only natural to see teachers burnout more quickly than in any other profession. That’s why we need to take steps to protect ourselves from the inevitable because it can be prevented and controlled.”

Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?

“Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students’ success — and just as important to teach as reading and math. Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it’s that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback.”

 Bridging the Language Deficit Gap – appreciating that before the word comes the experience!

Bruce’s latest blog article:

“Teachers need to value their students’ views, thoughts and questions by entering into dialogue with their students to extend, elaborate and enrich their ideas (Hattie’s ‘rich conversations’). The model of teaching encouraged was a ‘co-constructivist’ one – challenging students’ ideas and clarifying their views.”

From under the bozone layer

The Treehorn Express 

From Under the Bozone Layer

Down Under

She, who continues to be obeyed, speaks. Self-appointed major testucator and proud purveyor of Kleinism into Australia, Julia Gillard says, “There should be no mystery about how our children are learning.” It is she who established the pre-historic notion that fear-driven testing is the key to the collection of better data aka ‘J.G. Learning’. Unfamiliar with classroom interactions that develop a love for holistic learning and for behavioural attitudes that sponsor unrivalled achievements, her kind of sick sophistry contends that all Australian children must contest her U.S. friends’ version of SBT tests….and that it promotes ‘better learning’. Fallacious as her canards are, she is sticking with them. She has a very different view of learning from those who work in the field. For six years, now, her kind of purulence has infected the learning emotions and attitudes of children at every Australian school. She had the power to emasculate learnacy. She did it well. Her successors have continued to mess it up on a massive scale. Her test data focus has moved school learning nowhere, but backwards; and thousands of children still vomit, lose sleep, get distressed and turned-off learning forever, because they have to do the kind of NAPLAN schooling that she desires.

Who causes all the stress and trauma of NAPLAN testing?

It is not the tests. She says, “This is a reflection of how adults conduct themselves. If parents and teachers maintain a sense of calm about testing, so will the children.”

Now there’s an expert talking. She deliberately arranged a system that forces schools to practice testing for weeks leading to mid-May, encouraged by their superiors, using sure-fire booklets, post-school tutors and pharmaceutical supplements, instituted rules that prevent parents from having their say…and she now tells them to calm down!!! That’s education Australia??

The lady also says that “…education will spiral down to being nothing more that ‘teaching to the test’. Once again the adults need to conduct themselves sensibly.”

You’re on the money, honey. We are spiralling down, thanks to your efforts. We do teach to the test. One must suspect that she firmly approves of this conduct as it might help the Australian school children of 2025 to be in the ‘top 5’ on those weird PISA tests conducted in peculiar ways in various countries for their 15 year olds every 3 years. She is fixated on PISA and uses an elastic band to measure a piece of broken string. A former colleague of hers would surely utter: “Please explain.”

And yes, she did say recently say that we should adjust NAPLAN tests to suit ‘slow learners’ [that’s the kids that tests destroy utterly]. ACARA has responded and will arrange it on-line. Aren’t these manipulations a picture of peculiar test patterns if one wants “….a measurement system that works. Our big picture has to be an accurate one, not an erratic jumble of superficial impressions.” Pardon ?

She suggests that Australian children are fortunate to have her as a senior fellow at the Brooking Institutions helping “…through the Learning Metrics Task Force to develop measures of quality education.” More of it kids!

From beneath the bozone layer, which, defined by the Washington Post Mensa Invitational as “The thickness that prevents wisdom from penetrating the intellect of those people who don’t know what they are talking about”, she speaks. NAPLANists! Jump! She’s been your ‘senior fellow’ since 2008.


 Thanks to Allan Alach for forwarding the article with the comment: “This will curdle the milk in your coffee.”


Phil Cullen [….for school kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings March 14th

By Allan Alach 

Thought for the week – what do we do to children to kill this kind of  behaviour? (Deliberately obtuse wording….)

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Promoting a Culture of Learning

‘Learning is a culture. It starts as a culture with the students as human beings needing to understand their environment. And it ends as a culture with students taking what we give them and using it in those physical and digital environments they call home.

Even the practices that promote or undermine the learning process itself are first and foremost human and cultural artifacts. Literacy, curiosity, self-efficacy, ambition and other important agents of learning are born in the native environments of students’ homes.

Further, learning is ongoing, perishable and alive — just like culture.’

Creativity in the young learner classroom

‘A creative classroom is a joyful and motivating place where children feel empowered to learn, where all ideas are welcomed, and where learning is deep and meaningful. Children who are allowed to be creative are better learners, and they are more aware of their own learning styles. Creativity is a lifelong skill that our students will take with them into their adult lives to solve problems and help build a better world.’

If Not for Those Darn Kids

‘I have long considered that the Masters of Reforming Our Nation’s Schools view children as widgets, as little programmable devices, as interchangeable gears, as nothing more than Data Generation Units. I had considered that these MoRONS were indifferent to children. What I had not considered was that reformers are actively hostile to children.’

 The Right Questions, The Right Way

‘What do the questions teachers ask in class really reveal about student learning?

The fundamental flaw in the traditional questioning model is that it makes participation voluntary. The confident students engage by raising their hands—and by engaging in classroom discussion, they become smarter. But others decline the invitation to participate and thus miss out on the chance to get smarter.’

Vygotsky, Piaget and YouTube

Steve Wheeler:

‘Today, the bold claim is that anyone can learn anything they wish, because social media channels can provide that scaffolding. It’s open to discussion, but whatever way we look at it, tools such as YouTube are opening up unprecedented and very rich learning opportunities for anyone who has access to the Web. Informal learning will never be the same again.’

 The Universe of Learning and a Sense of Wonder

‘There is no body of knowledge that all students need to learn.  We do not have scientific evidence for this.  In this standards-based era of eduction, we’ve been convinced that all kids need to learn the same set of standards or same set of content. We shouldn’t support this idea. Instead learning should be about a sense of wonder.’

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 1): Romanticizing Misery

Zong Zhao:

‘PISA, the OECD’s triennial international assessment of 15 year olds in math, reading, and science, has become one of the most destructive forces in education today. It creates illusory models of excellence, romanticizes misery, glorifies educational authoritarianism, and most serious, directs the world’s attention to the past instead of pointing to the future. In the coming weeks, I will publish five blog posts detailing each of my “charges,” adapted from parts of my book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education.’

 This week’s contribution from Bruce Hammonds:

The educational world according to John Hattie. – controversial conservative?

Bruce’s latest and very good blog article:

‘It is not that I disagree with all he says but I find him contradictory and very much in the conservative camp for all his criticism of current teaching. At times over such things as National Standards he seems to hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.’

 Contributed by Phil Cullen

 New era of accountability: Reducing students to “anonymous data points.”

‘Data, instead of informing decisions about real kids, serve instead to displace those real people, substituting virtual representations based on selective bureaucratic decisions about what is important to know about them, often based on what is easiest to measure and classify about them. When these selectively constructed virtual students replace real kids as the focus of education, teaching and learning veer off the tracks. Most fundamentally, as data points, these young people and their teachers lose their humanity…’


Aussie Treehorners: Hold the Phone!


Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Guiding Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently 

Trying to prevent PNSD – Pre-Naplan-Stress-Disorder


Californian Teachers comment on GERM in NZ

 What Happens in Finland?

 Leading Kiwi educator, Allan Alach, has provided a very recent article [9/03/14] by David B. Cohen on the impact of GERM’s standardised testing regime [called ‘National Standards’] on New Zealand schooling, usually amongst the very highest quality in the world. Just click the above.

You will notice the comments by Mr. Chris Hipkins, NZ’s outstanding alternative Minister for Education. One can be quite sure that, if he becomes the next Minister, the NZ tourism industry will increase manifold….more attractive than Cadbury chocolate! Its schools will be more earth-shaking than any other natural phenomenon. NZ has always had such a better, sounder, more progressive attitude to schooling than most other countries and its natural features are more attractive than Finland’s! [Sorry Pasi]

However, if you wish to learn what happens in Finland, spend 28 minutes listening to Pasi Sahlberg [click above]. Every Australian, children included, should watch this clip. If a viewer is not impressed by the background to Finnish education……!!!!….don’t let him or her near a school….for the sake of our children.

The first article’s focus is on cheating. GERM countries’ modes of managing standardised blanket tests encourage cheating at all levels. China, as you know , manipulates PISA tests as some other countries do, illustrating the stupidity of relying on PISA results to describe a country’s education system. The confrontational GERM ideology of blaming teachers, mystifying parents, encouraging excessive test-practice, adapting tests on-line issues a challenge to motivated teachers and districts and states to ‘beat the system’. One has to ask, however, “Who are the biggest cheats?”

No wonder Dean Ashenden calls NAPLAN a ‘self-fulfilling, rolling disaster.

NAPLAN and “these GERM approaches will fail in the long run.” [David B. Cohen- above] Let’s hurry it along for the sake of present-day kids.


Phil Cullen [Lobbyist for Kids at School] 42 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443