Educational Readings May 30th

By Allan Alach

I’ll be out of action next week, so you can have some time off….

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

This week’s homework!

If a student learns….


“In education a common misconception is to believe that significant learning only happens when students are taught.  In reality students are born learning machines, they learn all the time, everywhere. But teachers are needed to enhance those individual learning experiences and help students to dive deeper into the subject or the area of their interest. Documenting and testing should not be the primary focus of teaching.”

Stop The False Generalizations About Personalized Learning

“Today’s factory-model education system, which was built to standardize the way we teach, falls short in educating successfully each child for the simple reason that just because two children are the same age, it does not mean they learn at the same pace or should follow the same pathway. Each child has different learning needs at different times. Although academics, including cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, and education researchers, have waged fierce debates about what these different needs are—some talk about multiple intelligences and learning styles whereas others point to research that undermines these notions—what no one disputes is that each student learns at a different pace.”

Latest research shows class size DOES make a difference

An article written for an Australian readership, but its applicable all over (John Hattie take note)

“I found that reducing class size in the first four years of school can have an important and lasting affect on student achievement. The more years students spend in small classes during grades K-3, the longer the benefits for achievement last during grades 4-8.

Smaller class sizes are especially important for children who come from disadvantaged families. I need not point out these children are overwhelming the responsibility of public schools in Australia.”

How can teachers introduce forest school principles to their curriculum?

“Forest schools help students develop confidence and creativity by teaching practical, outdoor skills – and teachers don’t need a woodland on their doorstep to incorporate the ideas.” c

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Ellen Langer explains the concept of mindful learning.

Bruce comments: ‘Good advice for teaching or just living.’

I agree – this is well worth watching, mindfully of course.

Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer is the author of “The Power of Mindful Learning”. Langer says mindful learning is more than just paying attention; it is making a conscious effort to be “in the moment.”’

Numbers never tell the whole story.

An article by Bill Ferriter (always worth reading) discussing lessons from baseball that can be related to education.

“The lesson to be learned:  Professions that celebrate numbers above all are inadvertently incentivizing the wrong behaviors.”

The handcuffs holding us back

Another from Bill Ferriter:

“But the simple truth is that practitioners are all-too-often handcuffed by the #edpolicy choices made by legislators working a thousand miles from the classroom.  Until that reality changes, I’m hesitant to lay the blame for a stagnant system at the feet of principals and teachers.”

Cultivating Passionate Learners in Common Core Classrooms

An article that suggests ways to work around the deadening effects of standards based education.

“Some may feel that the standards or curriculum being cast upon us and our students stifle any form of creativity. I don’t agree. While these things certainly establish limits, I believe we have to find our own freedom and creativity within them.”

Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp

Bruce comments: A review of an interesting book

“Passionate Learners asks incredibly important questions of teachers. One of the most difficult pieces of the profession today is keeping up with the pace of change and adjusting classroom methods to reflect the tools and resources available now. Early on, the reader is challenged to consider one of the most important questions any teacher can be asked: Would you like being a student in your own classroom?

Wake up you f…..g adults.

The Treehorn Express

I Love #@$ School Kids

I was looking at my grandson’s facebook and it was headlined “I Love Fucking Science”. Not impressed, I thought for a while about Brodie’s use of such language and scrolled down the pages. There were two other grand-children, a highly respected lady from Amsterdam and other Treehorn readers all quoting the same sentence!

It’s a facebook page started by a charming Pommy lass, Elise Andrews, now living in Canada, who loves science and started providing satirical messages from the world of Science. The messages have gone feral and there is now a TV show based on the topic. Millions of people now love science more than they ever did and are motivated to learn more about it.

I love school kids, especially primary school kids, the most neglected species on the planet, the most unloved specimens of humanity. I know that more interest would be taken in their welfare in the classroom if adults were not so indifferent. If more adults did take an interest, then the world would not entertain fear-driven standardised blanket testing devices that ruin the mental health of children, their learning capacity, their opportunity to develop their intellect no matter how different it is, and they would enjoy the world of learning as their natural instincts prefer that they do. But No. It just doesn’t happen that way. Australia for instance, maintains its NAPLAN testing even though it can’t really afford the money to do so and the adult Aussie attitude borders on general dislike for school kids and their classroom teachers. Very, very few give them a second thought. I Love Them.

Maybe a blog that is titled like the above would work! Something bold and naughty. Whoa. The obvious has overtones that the crude would notice and take advantage. Forget it.

There has to be something that get the world to take an interest in kids, perhaps in much that same way that Elise Edwards has managed….moderated….perhaps….maybe crudity works best….it wakens the couldn’t-care-less. Poor Treehorn who first shrank to unreasonable proportions and nobody noticed and has now turned to a violent green colour unnoticed, hasn’t been very persuasive just by telling adults about his misfortunate life. Help!

How about “Wake up you fucking adults!” ?

Elise Edwards, where are you when we need you? Have you any better suggestions?


Phil Cullen [……loving school kids. Lonely.] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 0407865999

The relevance of NAPLAN.

The Treehorn Express

[Unable to be received in any state school in Queensland, Australia]

NAPLAN Testucators 7 vs LEARNING-based Educators 0

It’s a nasty contest.

Kids Suffering : 1,000,000 young Aussies per year.

Guesstimated Loss to future economy : $1,000,000+ per day.


The Relevance of NAPLAN

A NAPLAN victim asks:

Why do i have to go to school

The three-months long wasteful NAPLAN molding period in Australia finished last week. The Budget and Gonski claimed more interest at the time. Yes, NAPLAN, by its very nature, generates economic and intellectual desecration, but it didn’t get much of a mention. (Joe Hockey kept his Year 3 child home from school on the first day. Canny bloke. He know what’s best for the little one.)

Learning-based educators throughout Australia now hope that the cruel and nasty toxic molding disappears from schools as quickly as the money allocated to states disappeared on Budget Day. Maybe kids will now be released from the pathological attacks on their mental health well before the next –2015- round of zombic molding testocracy. There is now a better chance of state money being reallocated to school learning …. and the NAPLAN Circus closed down.

There can be no whinging from educators about allocations to states while states waste so much money – many millions – on useless testing. To keep spending it on wasteful mumbo-jumbo while the rest of the population tightens its belts and kids continue to suffer just doesn’t make sense.

Thoughtful state politicians and treasury officials will have to choose. The $80billion usually allocated to education and health by the federal government is no more. State treasuries and education departments will have to think seriously about what is important and what is not. Bye NAPLAN.

The news is good, Kids.

Let LEARNACY prevail.


Phil Cullen […..for kids.] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 0407865999

One-size non-education.

The Treehorn Express

The following article appeared in Queensland’s Bayside Bulletin, written by educator, commentator and school principal, Paul Thomson, Principal of Kimberley College, Carbrook.

One size fits all in a non-education approach.

The Australian curriculum ignores the differences in ability that occur within school grades, with tragic consequences for the education of children.

“Apart from the rather silly pretence that there is one standard for a ‘grade’ there is deep concern that pressured teaching is leading to bizarre teaching practices. These include huge amounts of homework for young children, many hours of test practice and work of extreme difficulty.”


                                        The Australian curriculum has not been adopted by all states – and for good reasons.
Paul-Thomson[1]How do you implement a curriculum which has, to date, 15 subjects? How do you enthuse teachers abut a curriculum that does not recognise the huge range of abilities within a grade?

The grade number, for example the seven part of ‘grade 7’, is a better indicator of difference rather then of sameness.

To illustrate, in grade 7, there is an approximate seven year’s range in ability. How does the Australian curriculum cope with this reality? It ignores it. It ignores the fact that some grade 7 children can write to a grade 10 standard, while some struggle to achieve a grade 4 standard. That’s the real world which is ignored in the interests of ‘rigorous’ teaching.

The ignoring of these differences has tragic consequences for the majority of children. The high achievers become bored and the less academic are humiliated daily. Of course, this grade-based ritual is further ‘legitimised’ by NAPLAN, which is designed to help diagnose learning problems.

Apparently it is considered that teachers are incapable of detecting children’s difficulties and “helping them learn from mistakes”.

If the basic purpose of schooling is not to educate, then the National Curriculum and NAPLAN are useful tools. The non-education approach is to concentrate on the one-size-fits-all lessons and then assign a rating. Game over. Put your ‘clients’ on a bell curve and sprinkle around the As, Bs, Cs and Ds.

Too bad for all you kids who got a 0, but you’ve got to accept your lower status sometime or other.

Take your medicine early, kids.

Now the NAPLAN season is still fresh in our memory, it’s time for some reflection – a reality check…….

Apart from the rather silly pretence that there is one standard for a ‘grade’, there is deep concern that pressured teaching is leading to bizarre teaching practices. These include huge amounts of homework for young children and many hours of test practice and work of extreme difficulty.

When concern is expressed that a Year 2 child cannot locate an adverbial clause in a sentence, something is seriously wrong. Of course, the vast majority of adults would not be able to perform this less than vital task.

The above is not intended to criticise schools or principals. Principals are heavily pressured to ensure that there are few, if any, withdrawals from NAPLAN and understandably, this pressure becomes part of the school culture. A passage in the NAPLAN handbook warns principals against “influencing parents to withdraw children.” Perhaps I should, at this stage, ask all parents to disregard this article to keep myself safe from my unspecified punishment for exercising freedom of speech.

Final questions :

If NAPLAN is such a valuable education tool, why is bullying of teachers, principals, schools and systems necessary on a national scale to ensure compliance?

If, after the passing of 170 years are the words of Charles Dickens so relevant when he criticised educators for “being ever ready to weigh and measure every parcel of human nature to see exactly what it comes to?”


Phil Cullen […… paranoiac about helping school kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 0407865999

Educational Readings May 23rd.

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Children need to be taught.

“You often hear the phrase that small children are sponges, that they constantly learn. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in a way that makes it sound like the particulars don’t matter that much; as long as there is a lot to be learned in the environment, the child will learn it. A new study shows that for one core type of learning, it’s more complicated. Kids don’t learn important information that’s right in front of them, unless an adult is actively teaching them.”

Guest opinion: Learning doesn’t have a distinct look

“I’m not proud of the direction of education and of evaluators who demand rigor at any random moment of any random classroom. For this reason and other experiences leading up to it, I am leaving the profession after 17 years of teaching. I don’t believe what is expected to go on in classrooms is best for students or teachers.”

The irony in new study that bashes popular teacher evaluation method

Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post, looking at more evidence about the ineffectiveness of value added measurement of teachers and which rebounds on Bill Gates.

While  there are economists who argue that VAM can measure teacher effectiveness adequately, testing experts, academics, and other economists say that more than abundant evidence shows that it doesn’t, and that reformers should stop trying to evaluate teachers and principals with unreliable and invalid measurement tools. “

Our Brains and Art

So much for narrowing the focus to standards based schooling.

Many in the field now suggest that both hemispheres of the brain are involved in art making and are necessary for artistic expression. There is clinical research on drawing as well. A study by Rebecca Chamberlain and colleagues in the journal NeuroImage (2014) debunks right-brain and left-brain thinking to argue that those with visual artistic talent or who identify as visual artists have increased amounts of grey and white matter on both sides of the brain.”

The future of knowledge in the coming era of intelligent machines

Opinion: Futurist Gerd Leonhard says the rise of artificial intelligence means we need to rethink the way we learn

“We need to unlearn the habit of acting like machines and relearn how to act like humans. Quite likely this means – as Sir Ken Robinson has been pointing out in his amazing TED talks – going back to what did as children: playfulness, experimentation, listening, imagining, dreaming and failing fast, failing cheap and trying again. “

What Motivates Teachers? Education Reformers Have No Idea

“You gotta’ admire those education reformers. Despite their almost total lack of experience in education and despite all the research and evidence that flies in the face of their bankrupt ideas, they cling to their ideology like a sloth to a low hanging vine. One area where I think they can come in for particular ridicule is teacher improvement. Basing their theories on the all encompassing business model, the education reformers have decided to motivate teachers through a system of threats and rewards.”

Sacrificing Our Children

“… the fact of the matter is that the corporate education reform movement functions in way that the educational quality experienced by poor children is harmed when school privatization occurs, and corporate profit is greatly increased.”

What Teacher Trainees Should Know…15 Things You Don’t Always Hear

“This is not a definitive list of things.  We would be here for a long time if I was to highlight everything, but this is a list of some of the big important things that our new teachers are not always told but should know.  There are miles of lists out there that outline what new teachers need to do or know in the classroom – this list focuses on some of the obvious but not always talked about things.”

The Absurdity of Teacher Evaluation Systems

Read all about teacher evaluation in USA. Want a version in your location?

“The twin methods that are put together to form a teacher evaluation system are absurd, muddled, and unreasonable.  Even more, the assumptions which are used evaluate teachers are rooted in false claims about what is effective teaching, and how one knows when effective teaching happens.  At its stupidest level, bureaucrats who sit in front of their computer screens, and who’ve consulted with agronomists, believe they have the algorithms that will actually measure in some quantifiable way, just how much a teacher adds to student academic achievement.”

When PISA meets politics – a lesson from New Zealand

An article by Professor Martin Thrupp, one of the signatories on the recent letter to the OECD about PISA.

Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand – and probably in many other countries – any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

End of Year Burnout: How to Finish the Marathon in Stride

One for northern hemisphere teachers….   some good fun things to do with your class

“You are at mile 23 and your lungs are bursting, your legs are cramping, your mind is in a jumble, and you just want say, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Yet, just as the marathoners make it to the finish line, so can you. Here are five ideas that work.”

Tech Tools That Inspire PBL in High School

Bruce comments: An interesting article ( an informative small video) Based on investigating a local issue – by a statistics teacher in a high school. A concept of learning applicable from junior classes to year 13 – one many NZ teachers have been making use of for decades!

‘”When will I ever use this?” This cringeworthy comment slipping from a teenager’s lips can swipe away the sense of accomplishment felt by a teacher who has spent a week crafting a lesson that she thought would have staying power. If you cringe too, it may be time to lock onto the practice of PBL, which is variously referred to as project-, problem- or inquiry-based learning. Where blended learning gives students some flexibility as to where and when they do their work, PBL offers them a choice of what they do.’

Crazy Snail 3: Every Thing

Bruce comments: One if the most successful studies  a teacher I worked with  did an integrated study based around a snail involving  science, language art , reading -researching other molluscs, and  even eating them!The teacher concerned used the snail to encourage hard looking through observational; drawing  ( and later imaginative snails) to develop the idea of ‘slowing pace of work; to develop quality. Too many kids spoil their work by rushing believing; first finished is best.

Contributed by Phil Cullen and Mary MacKay

ALEC and Charter Schools are the New Dog and Pony Show

“Since reformers pushing charter school tsunamis washing over cities across the country have little real data or proof that their scheme works, they must rely of some tricks probably learned from the makers of Fruit Loops.

You see, reformers don’t need facts. They’ve got money. And money can make illusions appear real. With enough money you can host and populate your event under some thin veil of legitimacy, and pass it off as “official” and sell it out into the public narrative as “fact.”  They make star studded Hollywood tear jerkers like Won’t Back Down and Waiting for Superman

Educational Readings May 16th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Math, Science, History: Games Break Boundaries Between Subjects

Having observed how much my 6 year old  grandson has learned from playing Minecraft, I agree with this article.

Because video games are basically simulations of particular kinds of experiences, or problems, they require a kind of active engagement that simultaneously calls on diverse ways of knowing. Similar to the way most activities in life require using multiple cognitive skills simultaneously, scenarios in the game world can be constructed in such a way that individuals are forced to apply a variety of intellectual tools.”

Schools as Factories: Metaphors That Stick

Reinventing the past:

“Here is what Professor Ellwood P. Cubberley, of Stanford University said in the early 20th century: Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.”

Is Common Core Creating the Code for a Computerized Education System?

Another thoughtful article by Antony Cody. New Zealand readers – think PaCT as you read this, and then extrapolate.

“First of all, we need a discrete set of measurable learning objectives that everyone agrees are the goal for the K-12 system. We need curriculum and most importantly closely aligned tests that tell us if students have met these objectives. We need devices that students work on capable of recording and transmitting their every keystroke, their every written thought, and everything they have read or viewed on their screen. Then we need data systems to track the performance of all the parts in the system. We want to know how the students are doing, but we also want to measure the effects of various learning technologies, readings, assignments and, of course, the effect of their teachers. So we need systems to record, store, and analyze all this data.”

6 Scientifically Proven Brain Facts That eLearning Professionals Should Know 

I’d suggest this is relevant way beyond elearning.

“While the content, layout, and navigability of your eLearning course are important; determining how a learner’s brain actually acquires and retains information is an essential aspect of eLearning design and development. Without a firm grasp of how the brain works and the processes involved in learning new concepts, ideas, and skill sets, even the most experienced Instructional Designer will be unable to develop an effective eLearning course.”

Smart People Problems

Ever wondered why supposedly smart people think GERM is the solution?

“We’ve been asking for years now how such smart people can come up with so many dumb ideas about fixing schools, but I would submit that they come up with these dumb ideas precisely because they are smart people– smart people who have no idea what it’s like to not understand something.”

America’s dangerous education myth: Why it isn’t the best anti-poverty program

The excuse for school reform in many countries is that it is the way to deal with increasing poverty and inequality. This article shoots down that feeble justification.

“The upshot of this lesson is that the fixation on education as a solution to poverty, inequality or any other distributional problem is totally wrongheaded. Good and equitable education is a huge plus for all sorts of things, but it doesn’t create an egalitarian society. Those who say it will – a group that includes reformers and their opponents – have no idea what they are talking about and, through their ignorant distractions, help sow the seeds of never-ending stratification and low-end material insecurity.”

Give the Kid a Pencil

What would you do in this scenario?

‘I recently taught a university course in Seattle for graduate students seeking master’s degrees in teaching. In one lesson, our focus was on creating a psychologically safe learning environment for students. It was an issue of managing students and supplies. I posed a question:

“If a student shows up to class without a pencil, how should the teacher respond?”’

Carrots and sticks are wrong way to motivate teachers

Michael Fullan, writing for Alberta, Canada, useful all over.

“You don’t develop a profession or an organization by focusing on sticks and carrots aimed at individuals. All high-performing entities develop the group to focus collectively and relentlessly on quality work linked to high expectations and standards. If you don’t base policies and strategies on purposeful group impact you inevitably end up with low yield results along with gross distractions.”

Why Sudbury schools don’t [try to] change the world

“Every day, we rely on the natural genius of our students to navigate the world of ideas. They discuss, play with, think about, and consider ideas. They try, accept, and reject different ideas. They build and test models of the world, and ideas about how to live their own lives. Far from minimizing differences between people,  pluralism allows our students to develop into all sorts of different people, and to develop deep respect for one another and those differences.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

This Is A Video Everyone Needs To See.

‘“This media we call social is anything but, when we open our computers and it’s our doors we shut”… This is one of the most vital messages that everyone needs to hear.’

Digital Learning Futures – 3 things you need to know about the future of learning.

A slide share from Steve Wheeler:

Bruce’s comment: Great for a stuff discussion/ PD. So many quotes we share but ….

A View From the Edge

A slide share from Bruce. Similar themes to Steve Wheeler.

Happy NAPLAN Day

Aussie Friends of Treehorn



NAPLAN TESTING –Winner of the Frankenstein Award at the Global Education Stuff-up Contest – 2008, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Today’s the day. No other profession would allow the kinds of things that this day’s school activities represent. No other profession would allow such an assault on the mental health of young children.

No other profession would fracture basic democratic principles by hiding important information from the parents of young children. No other profession would allow outsiders to dictate what and how tests should be conducted, nor what defines performance, nor how it should be assessed. {We do not allow bankers to decide the standards for firemen or footballers, do we?} Today’s the day. Today these issues coalesce.

In this nation of sustained illusion that is called Australia, the corporate owned media ensure that misinformation, forced silence, slick comment and stifling of democratic comment pass for journalistic reporting, and the Australian public buys it hook, line and sinker. Market driven approaches have one goal in mind: increased profit from the pain of vulnerable children through forced hush-ups.
We hail places like Finland as models, but have no intention of copying its better approaches to schooling [teacher respect, high salaries, age-7 starting age, no blanket testing, wise modes of accountability, shared evaluation] nor of attempting to design an even better, possible indigenous learnacy model of schooling. We ban teachers from having a part of assessment and curricular procedures.

We allow the bubble-filling, fear-based test items that children will sweat over today to pass for accountability. We brand our teachers as untrustworthy. They are the enemy. We encourage them and everyone else to cheat as much as possible. We don’t trust parents to make sound decision about their child’s education. Our curriculum demands fidelity so that this assembly-line version of schooling can be controlled by the oligarchs and no one else.

Clearly, what is now passing as an essential element of schooling is nothing more that a smoke and mirrors trick designed to fill the pockets of profiteers, to control the curriculum and to stupidify Australian education.

Today is the first of three dark days for Australia’s future.

Sorry kids. Some of us tried.

We failed this year. THEY have big guns


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