Education Readings September 26

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


William Mathis on “Economics, Education and Sitting Bull”

“Facing the extinction of Sioux culture, Sitting Bull realized that their hope – their only hope – was in the life they made for their children. Confronted by this reality, he saw that education was something far more than the narrow teaching of a set of test-based, academic skills. Education must impart the knowledge of the ways of the society, of fruitful interactions, of sustaining and nurturing cultural beliefs and rituals, of language and of the economic order, if you will, of a group of independent but related nomadic tribes. (And when the Anglo forces won, they established Indian schools to stamp out this culture).”

Fostering Creativity In The Learning Process

As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, there are 2 things we can do. We can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process. Or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents.”

Franz Kafka and the Metamorphosis of Teacher Evaluations

“One morning, when Mr. K woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his classroom into a horrible insect. He lay on his segmented brown belly propped against his teachers desk. He had fallen asleep trying to grade English papers again. His armor-like back ached and wiry thin antennae kept bobbing into view like stray hairs. If he lifted his head a little, he could see his many tiny legs waving about helplessly each holding a pen or pencil.

 “What’s happened to me?” he thought.”

Engaging students in learning, not just schooling

“In any given lesson or class, some students are engaged in their own learning process because they are inherently interested in the topic.  Other students may just be attending to get it over with. These are the students we are losing, because they are only engaging in their schooling, not in their personal learning. But, how to help these students to engage in their own learning?”

Imagining Successful Schools

“The main thing that works is treating teaching as a profession, and teachers as professionals. That means that teachers are as well paid as other professionals, that they have a career ladder, that they go to elite schools where they learn their craft, and that they are among the top quartile of college graduates instead of the bottom quartile.”

Do girls learn differently?

“Neuroscientist Lise Eliot has argued persuasively that, while small inherent differences in aptitude between males and females do exist (even as infants, for example, boys seem to have an edge in spatial cognition), society takes these small differences and makes them much bigger—by supporting boys in math and science, and by discouraging girls who study these subjects.”

The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy

“What if we celebrated the students who regularly try the hardest, help each other the most and lead? What if we fast tracked those students, and made it clear to anyone else willing to adopt those attitudes that they could be celebrated too? What if you got cast, tracked or made the cut because you were resilient, hard working and willing to set yourself up for a cycle of continuous improvement? Isn’t that more important than rewarding the kid who never passes but still scores a lot of goals?”

‘Pseudoscience has nested in schools’

“When Nick Rose worked as a parapsychologist, his job was to investigate why people believed they had been haunted by ghosts or abducted by aliens. When he became a teacher, he expected that all this would be replaced by hard facts and a rigorous curriculum – but teaching is “rife” with myths and pseudoscience, he believes.

At a major conference on the use of research in education, Mr Rose said schools had “very little immunity to nonsense” and urged teachers to have the confidence to ask “impertinent” questions about approaches that had no scientific basis.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

How iPads, mobility and a pedagogical mind shift can transform learning.

Bruce’s comment: A creative teacher shares ideas about using technology in her MLE classroom.

Here’s a series of links about modern learning environments.

Bruce’s comment: Modern Learning Environments are the ‘in thing’ but most of the material seems to relate to architectural and resource feature but the link below does provide how pedagogy and modern learning spaces interact. For those with very long memories such  ‘open plan ‘ modern learning environments were all the rage in the 70s – in the UK, the US and New Zealand. Take a quick look at the link below but get down to the real school examples from Australia, the US and the UK at the end. The proof of course can only be judged by the quality of the students’ in depth thinking across the Learning Areas – to be successful they ought to reflect the things you would see  at Science, Technology and Maths  fairs or Creative Arts performances.

Linking Pedagogy and Space.

New Zealand examples are Pegasus Bay School

and Hobsonville primary and secondary schools.

Modern Learning Environments.

Bruce’s comment:I find it hard to accept that the ideas expressed about ‘Modern Learning Environments’ are modern or new but I like the questions on page 5 in the link below. Principals of such schools would be well advised to search out ‘Living and Learning’  book published by the Ontario Department of Education 1968! This 220 page book covers school design and pedagogy to a greater detail than is currently available.

Why Classroom Wall Displays Matter

Bruce’s comment: Someone I totally agree with ! A MLE teacher in a Singapore School. MLEs should produce powerful displays of in depth learning.

“In the 21st century we are all very focussed on utilising digital technologies with our students as a tool to support learning. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for technology in the classroom, and this article is not an anti-technology battle post. One of the thing that I have found recently when I have been in amazing digital schools is that often classroom wall displays are lacking, I found myself asking why ….”

Classroom Display Inspiration

Bruce’s comment about this Pinterest site: Maybe there are a few ideas below  to inspire displays of student thinking?

Education Readings September 19th

By Allan Alach

Guten tag!

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

This week’s homework!


Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor And Affluent Students

Why does this only help poor students? I suggest that all children benefit from music education. The poverty problem needs be solved by reducing inequality. Anything else is a cop out.

“These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.”

Look at Life Through Autistic Eyes

“For their senior film at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Marisabel Fernandez and Alexander Bernard created an animated simulation of life through the eyes of a non-verbal child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “and her constant struggle to cope with the world around her,” as they write in their artist statement.”

Link to video included in this article.

Ray Bradbury on How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity

Here’s something to incorporate into classroom written language.

“How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.”

5 reasons why we need physical activity in schools

“So, in closing, let’s increase opportunities for our students when it comes to physical activity. When we add physical activity to our overall instructional programming rather than cutting it, we might just get the results we are looking for…”

The Myth of Monotasking

This is a timely counter to GERMers spin to justify standardisation.

“… I hope, helps lower anxiety about how well we are or are not doing against some mythical standard of sustained, focused attention.  Bottom line:  the mind wanders a lot because the mind’s task is to wander.”

Teacher: Finnish schools let down two-thirds of kids

Here’s a provocative article!

“A provocative new book by teacher Maarit Korhonen calls for urgent action in Finland’s classrooms to stop children being marginalised by what she sees as outdated and uninspiring teaching. The outspoken Korhonen says Finland’s high scores in the PISA international rankings have spread complacency among the educational establishment.”

An End to the “Close Your Door and Do Your Own Thing” Era

More than ever before, we need to work together to better ourselves and our profession. In this age of high stakes testing, the need to prepare students to be college and career ready, and with a changing teacher evaluation system we need to support one another. Our success and our students’ achievement are directly tied to our commitment to learn from, with, and on behalf of one another.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Lowdown on Longhand: How Writing by Hand Benefits the Brain

Bruce’s comment: This sounds mighty old fashioned in this era of digital communication but the act of penmanship has a positive effect on learning. Just as the act of conservational drawing has more positive learning effects than using a digital camera. Both give the brain the time to absorb ideas, to consider alternatives, pose questions – some of us older teachers ( retired) used to believe in the importance of ‘slowing the pace’ – ‘doing fewer things well’ – to develop a more reflective mind-set ( and also allowing time for the teacher to come alongside the learner to assist and/or challenge). Students who rush to finish ( assisted by fast moving digital technology) miss out on thoughtful learning.

“So in this age of technology, I’m suggesting that students take notes with paper and pen. It’s a crazy idea, but hear me out.”

How the Maker Movement Is Moving into Classrooms

“The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or “making” has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel.”

The Student Side of Making

What do a jacket, a set of paintings, a wood sculpture, and a series of photos have to do with a student’s success in life? Maybe everything.That’s because making these pieces requires skills for modern learners — namely, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and persistence.

Mastering the Teaching Game

Bruce’s comment: These eight ideas by Carol Tomlinson  synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught her are the most important principles for teachers to understand

“There are several paraphrased points that I hope will resonate with other educators as affirmations, challenges, or both. These eight ideas synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught me are the most important principles for teachers to understand.”

Education Readings September 12

By Allan Alach

I’m early with this week’s readings list. As I’m still travelling in Croatia, it pays to make use of good wifi reception when I find it!

There are so many good articles floating around at the moment that I could post next week’s list as well, but I will spare you from that torture!

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

This week’s homework!

STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts

“A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level.”

The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform

“Nevertheless, I believe that this “movement” (to whatever degree you can characterize it in those terms) may be doomed to stall out in the long run, not because their ideas are all bad, and certainly not because they lack the political skills and resources to get their policies enacted. Rather, they risk failure for a simple reason: They too often make promises that they cannot keep.”

Boys Learn to Interrupt. Girls Learn to Shut Up.

“When boys and girls play together, boys interrupt more. A lot more.”

“The more boys there are in the group, the less often girls in the group interrupt.”

“When girls play together without boys, they interrupt more. A lot more.”

Why replacing teachers with automated education lacks imagination

The corporates behind GERM have this fantasy of classroom where computers do the ‘teaching’ with adults available purely as backup. All to make money, of course, and nothing to with actual education.

“The belief that technology can automate education and replace teachers is pervasive. Framed in calls for greater efficiency, this belief is present in today’s educational innovations, reform endeavours, and technology products. We can do better than adopting this insipid perspective and aspire instead for a better future where innovations imagine creative new ways to organise education.”

Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?

Education must be personalized – responsive to the real needs of each student. This could mean the abolition of grade levels based on age. When education is personalized, it emphasizes student interests, teaches skills using worthwhile content – and most important – shows kids how to tap into their own innate motivation to learn. It puts the onus of learning on those who have the most at stake in school: students.”

Beyond Caricatures: On Dewey, Freire, And Direct Instruction (Again)

This week’s ‘heavy duty’ article but don’t let that stop you from reading it! This is important.

“The empowered student necessarily requires the classroom offered by the empowered teacher. Any who teaches must first work through the philosophical evolution that Dewey and Freire represent—as well as continuing beyond the possibilities offered by Dewey’s progressivism and Freire’s critical pedagogy.”

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification:What waiting for a marshmallow doesn’t prove

By Alfie Kohn:

“Underlying self-discipline and grit is the idea of deferring gratification—for example, by putting off doing what you enjoy until you finish your “work.” The appeal to many educators of transforming kids from lazy grasshoppers to hardworking ants explains the fresh wave of interest in a series of experiments conducted back in the 1960s known as the marshmallow studies.”

Gifted primary school children need more than special classes

“Many gifted boys and girls find the gifted label stigmatising, and go out of their way to dodge the dreaded nerd status. Would these children be better off in specialised school environment? The gifted education community is sharply divided about this issue with some educators perceiving that the specialised school environment is the ideal setting for gifted children, whereas others believe that they would be better off in the regular school milieu.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Common Core’s Five Big Half-Truths

Bruce’s comment:The US has a Common Core Standards that are neither  common nor core (Sir Ken Robinson calls them a ‘race to the bottom’) New Zealand has National Standards that are neither national or standard. Both are political and populist. Both narrow the curriculum, encourage teaching the tests and side-lining of creativity and  the arts. Both are the equivalent to the ‘McDonaldisation of education’.

School is back in session, and debate over the Common Core is boiling in key states. As governors and legislators debate the fate of the Common Core, they hear Core advocates repeatedly stress five impressive claims: that their handiwork is “internationally benchmarked,” “evidence-based,” “college- and career-ready,” and “rigorous,” and that the nations that perform best on international tests all have national standards. In making these claims, advocates go on to dismiss skeptics as ignorant extremists who are happy to settle for mediocrity. The thing is, once examined, these claims are far less compelling than they appear at first glance.”

4 Big Things Transformational Teachers Do

Bruce’s comment: Are you a transformational teacher – read this then decide.

“Transformational teachers don’t react. They anticipate and prepare. Lee Shulman, as reported by Marge Scherer, suggests that expert teachers demonstrate the following, despite enormous challenges:”

Planting the Seeds of Innovation in Education

Bruce’s comment: An innovative high school class/teacher.

‘Don Wettrick is on a mission: revolutionizing the world of education by training the next generation of innovators. A reformed teacher (he taught to middle and high school students for 17 years), Don started planting the seeds of innovation at the Franklin, IN High School 3-and-a-half years ago, having found inspiration in Daniel Pink‘s book “Drive”.’

Leading the Shift to Digital: School, System & City

We’re living through the most significant shift in how human beings learn—it’s bigger deal than the printing press and happening a lot faster. Almost everyone has a stake in the quality and speed of transition from the old model organized around birthdays and books to personal digital learning. In the near future, in cities and across networks that lead the shift, we could see a significant improvement in career readiness and economic participation.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file…

The corporate takeover of society and education.

“Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society.   As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.”

Creativity – its place in education

Wayne Morris’s essay on education for creativity. Brilliant  – from one of Bruce’s closest associates.

“Creative students lead richer lives and, in the longer term, make a valuable contribution to society. Surely those are reasons enough to bother. Creativity in the classroom – what does it look like?”

Howard Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.

“By definition all life is creative and schools ought to be the best place to develop the creativity of all their students but this is currently not the case.”

Education Readings September 6th

By Allan Alach

Apologies for the delay in posting this – I’ve been in an internet free world for a few days, at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Add this place to your bucket list!

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

This week’s homework!

The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

This article describes what seems to have been a coordinated dirty politics attack (as part of a government wide dirty politics programme) on New Zealand primary principals (including me) in 2011, for daring to object to the government’s national standards in education agenda.

“And if deep collusion has occurred and basic human rights have, indeed, been transgressed, I look forward to the day when a test case for damages to individuals is undertaken, substantial damages awarded – and with that done, a process of truth and reconciliation following.”

Welcome To The Teaching Profession: Are You Ready To Go To War?

“The teachers who stay in the profession have realized that they are in the fight of their life. Teachers can no longer do what they love, what they spent years being educated to do; they have to fight for their students, their parents, their colleagues, and their selves. They have to fight against the education reformers who have never been teachers but somehow are allowed to make policies that impact other people’s children while their children go to private school.”

The Cult of Order

Yet another gem from Peter Greene – education’s version of big brother?

“Many, many, many reformsters are members of the Cult of Order.

The Cult of Order believes in blind, unthinking devotion to Order. Everything must be in its proper place. Everything must go according to plan. Everything must be under control.”

Newspapers are Bad News for Teachers

Some research from Australia that is applicable all over.

“As such, an accumulation of negative and critical media reportage about teachers is likely to erode public trust for teachers and the teaching profession. This is an unacceptable situation where a teacher’s role is made more difficult with the gaze of non-educationist onlookers ‘second-guessing’ teachers’ every move; and the status of teaching become less attractive for those contemplating their career opportunities.”

Parents, I Cannot Protect Your Children

“Parents, I cannot protect your children. I must be honest in telling you that the war is alive and well in our classrooms, and children are being harmed every day. What is happening is evil, cruel and abusive.”

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

Don’t know why we need scientists to tell us the obvious!

“When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.”

“Got Grit?” Great on a T-shirt, not so good in a gradebook.

“Without rehashing the entire story, the basic premise is that to teach grit, the school and its teachers create an artificial obstacle or challenge that students must overcome (almost like a washout course in college).  Along the way, the mantra of “growth mindset” and “grit” are common, but the basic positive regard for students seems to be deliberately hushed.  The teachers and leaders actually avoid confidence boosting statements like, “You are a smart kid”, they discourage the usual positive comment as “dirty words” in favor of the new language of grit, “failure is success”.  This story struck me as a decent idea gone awry.”

OECD Says That Competition in Education Has Failed

The OECD has issued a damning verdict on education policies that promote competition between schools. Its latest PISA in Focus brief says bluntly that the PISA international test data shows that more competition has failed to improve student results and has increased social segregation between schools.

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

‘Grit’ May Not Spur Creative Success, Scholars Say

Seems Bruce has been following this grit meme as well…

‘Ms. Grohman found that neither grit nor two related characteristics of consistency and perseverance predicted a student’s success in various types of creative endeavors, including visual and performing art, writing, scientific ingenuity, or even creativeness in everyday problem-solving.”These are ‘no results’ that we are actually excited about,” Ms. Grohman said during a presentation on creativity. “Creative achievement and grit, intellectual creativity and grit, everyday creativity and grit: no effects whatsoever.”’

Back to School: Looking beyond the 3 R’s

Bruce’s comment: Ontario could be the first province in Canada to measure not just what students learn in school, but also how well the needs of the whole child are being met. A new programme launched this week aims to objectively examine how schools promote creativity, develop social skills and teach citizenship.

‘“These are the things schools say they have been doing for the past 100 years — developing a child’s ability to relate to others, to understand society, to appreciate the arts, to become a citizen, so let’s take it seriously and measure it,” he said. “We can measure creativity, we can measure whether a school attends to students’ mental health. We can measure whether a school provides a positive school climate.’

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do

Bruce’s comment: So what do you think – formulaic teaching or student centred learning?

“Differentiated Instruction (DI) casts a spell on educators as to how it meets all students’ needs. The skillset required to differentiate seems mystical to some and incomprehensible to others in this environment of state standards and high-stakes tests. Where does one find the time? The reality is that every teacher already has the tools to differentiate in powerful ways for all learners.”

6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with Your Students

Bruce’s comment: Some useful ideas to explore.

“What’s the opposite of scaffolding a lesson? It would be saying to students something like, “Read this nine-page science article, write a detailed essay on the topic it explores, and turn it in by Wednesday.” Yikes — no safety net, no parachute, no scaffolding — just left blowing in the wind.”