Education Readings February 20th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


The Pupil in the Middle of Your Eye

This article by former Queensland Director of Primary Education Phil Cullen is a must read for all teachers.

“So…since learning is institutionalised in schools, pupils need to know why they are at school and what sort of relationship is intended during the schooling efforts. Too often do we overlook this. Children believe that they go to school only because someone says that they have to go. The excitement of learning has been understated. We teach in the schools because we are more expert at the teaching act than other people in the community and we want to honour the contract of helping children to learn how to learn.”

Chile’s Charter School Experiment is Almost Over

So is New Zealand’s, it seems. Yesterday the Minister of Education advised that no new charter school applications will be sought for the rest of this year.

“This week Chile ended the education sector experiment started in the 1980s by dictator Pinochet that had led to, by 2014, around 60% of the nation’s schools becoming charter schools. Like Thatcher and Reagan, Pinochet was a devotee of Milton Friedman’s free market ideology (one that the National Party of New Zealand follows, too), and deregulating schools is key to that ideology.”

What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?

Good points made here – what teachers mean by personalized learning is different from what Pearson Group, et al, mean.

‘“We often say we want creativity and innovation – personalization – but every mechanism we use to measure it is through control and compliance,” Laufenberg said. “Those things never come together as long as that is the overriding moment.” She cautions educators who may be excited about the progressive educational implications for “personalized learning” to make sure everyone they work with is on the same page about what that phrase means.’

Home readers for school kids often wasted learning opportunity, expert warns

Food for thought …

‘Lecturer in literacy education at the University of Canberra Ryan Spencer told 666 ABC Canberra the home reader routine was a wasted learning opportunity if the student was disengaged.

“If they don’t have interest or excitement, or if there’s no motivation to read that book, it just becomes an onerous task,” he said.

“Reluctant readers take [their readers] home because they have to and the teacher has chosen it.

“But by the time they get home, the last thing they want to do is read this book that they’ve already read at school that day.”’

Ten things you need to know about international assessments

Lots of information here, with this quote being very pertinent.

“These assessments were never intended to line up and rank nations against each other like baseball standings.

That’s right. The statisticians and psychometricians who dreamed up these assessments 50 years ago stated explicitly that the question of whether “the children of country X [are] better educated that those of country Y” was “a false question” due to the innumerable social, cultural, and economic differences among nations. But, hey, that’s just a detail.”

One-Size-Fits-All Testing Isn’t What Our Kids Need To Succeed

The message is slowly disseminating.

“What are the skill sets that we as a society see as necessary for the future success of our children? What kind of future do we want to be shaping? Do we want well-rounded children who grow up with exposure to the arts, culture, and music? Or do we want over-tested, over-stressed children who see only the importance of achieving academic growth? Are we looking to provide our children with the skills that are necessary to instill a sense of morals, coping skills, and human compassion? Or do we continue to narrow down the focus of academics to what can be measured on a standardized test, and use that as a predictor for future success?”

The Heavy Hitters Behind a Fund Focused on K-12 Blended Learning

For all you ……….. (insert descriptor of choice) who are buying into the propaganda about blended learning, I suggest you read this blog by Susan Ohanian to see who is behind it.

“Surprise. Surprise. Look at who’s behind Blended Learning.”Blended” is, of course, a diversionary term to distract from the fact that this system of computer-directed instruction should actually be termed, at best, teacher-lite–and, at worst, teacher dumped.”

Why technology will never replace teachers

Here’s a gem from Steve Wheeler:

“When children act unexpectedly, or demand support that requires intuition, only a human teacher who knows that child can support them effectively. Comparatively, the human brain is highly complex, while the computer is a very simple tool. We are only just beginning to understand some aspects of the human brain, whereas computers are fully understandable, because they have been designed by human ingenuity.”

‘You have made us the enemy. This is personal.’ 

Seven New York State teachers write an open letter to Governor Cuomo.

“We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Keeping alive the spirit of John Dewey

Bruce’s latest blog article which includes this sobering comment: “The student centred ideas of John Dewey have, it seems, all been lost in the country of his birth.” That’s a tragic state of affairs.

“John Dewey believed that the need to learn, to make sense of ones experience was the inborn innate way humans learn – until they reach formal schooling. One of his key phrases was that ‘children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today’. Culture counts – for better or worse.”

Using Old Tech (Not Edtech) to Teach Thinking Skills

Bruce’s comment: Making full use of ‘old tech’ thinking skills with modern technology

“I’ve viewed classroom technology as the means to sharing knowledge, in addition to acquiring or manipulating it. Yet I find that not only has the computer itself become something of a distraction, but the students aren’t making enough use of the tech’s “share-ability” — that is, they struggle to work effectively together on it, and to have their ideas cohere in an intelligible way. It occurred to me that co-editing in a Google Doc is a skill that itself needs to be taught and practiced before it can become effective in the classroom.”

Perspectives / Five Myths About School Improvement

Bruce’s comment: Many schools subscribe to the  ASCD magazine Educational Leadership – this latest editorial will give you a taste. There are some good links to explore.

“Indeed, even those who advocate disparate visions about “what works” most likely would concur that there is no panacea that will help all schools all the time. David Berliner and Gene Glass tell why contexts matter in the social sciences. They describe the problems with replicability, transfer, and fading effects of single reforms, but they do not conclude that the reform process is a waste of time.”

How We Make Progress

Bruce’s comment: Too much of our teaching is based on linear thinking – but it seems our learning is not as simple. Well worth the read. I have aways thought that learning was spiral shaped  , ever upwards,  but at times regressing. Another great read from Anne Murphy.

“This is not an orderly ascension up an ever-rising set of steps. It’s something more like waves on a beach, where one wave overtakes another and then pulls back, overtaken in turn by another advancing and then receding wave. “Overlapping waves” is, in fact, the name of a theory of intellectual development proposed by Robert Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Dysfunctional Schools

Bruce’s observations on Kirsten Olsen’s book “’Wounded by School-recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing up to the Old School Culture”

“I don’t think teachers like to face up to the fact that schooling actually harms many of their students but it is clear , reading Kirsten’s Olsen book, it does. Obviously this harming is not done intentionally but it is all too easy to blame failure on dysfunctional students. Certainly too few students leave school with their joy of learning alive and their unique gifts and talents strengthened – not even the so called successful students.”

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

Bruce’s comment: My favourite quote from Bruner is ‘ teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’.Today we  have those (usually politicians) who wish to test for learning ignoring, according to Bruner, that ‘it is difficult to catch and record, no less understand, the swift flight of man’s mind operating at its best’.

“The themes Jerome Bruner covers in his book concern the process of knowing, how knowing is shaped and how it in turn gives form to language science, literature and art. The symbolism of the left hand is that of the dreamer – the right that of the practical doer.The areas of hunches and intuition, Bruner writes, has been all too often overwhelmed by an ‘imposed fetish of objectivity’…’”


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