Education Readings August 7th

By Allan Alach

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

You can do it, baby!

Interesting observation on the ‘you can be anything you like’ messages that children receive.

“‘You can be anything you want to be’ is pithy advice that isn’t helping most of the young launch careers or find satisfaction in life. If we really think about it, few of us mean it literally. Twenge has told her daughter that ‘when people say you can be anything, it’s not true. For example, you can’t be a dinosaur.’ Perhaps what we’re really trying to say to our children is that we trust in their ability to build a meaningful life.”

A Myth for Teachers: Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

We’ve often heard the phrase “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . “ and I must confess I’ve used it myself. However….

“This is a claim used to justify dumbing-down, the idea being that if technology changes working life really quickly then there is no need to teach content as it will be irrelevant by the time our students get to the workplace. The widespread use of the claim in educational environments can almost all be traced back to the “Did You Know?” or “Shift Happens” videos that went viral among fashionably minded educators some time back. These consisted of a variety of poorly sourced and dubious claims about the future accompanied by enough bright colours and loud music to hypnotise the congenitally gullible.”

We need more misfits in #education

“Misfits don’t see a problem with asking ‘why’ and asking for justification and misfits don’t base their actions on what is safe and what is ‘status quo.’”

Encouraging the Einstein and Edison in Everyone

I’m a little dubious about the long term effectiveness of these kind of approaches but then again they are better than all the nonsense associated with ‘raising achievement.’

“The 21st century will require solutions that are fashioned differently from how the problems were made. The solutions of this century will come from creative people who are willing to look at doing things differently. As such, the future will need more Albert Einsteins and Thomas Edisons — and by the way, there is a bit of them in all of us. Here are some ways to nurture both in all of your students.”

Whose fingers on the button?

Here’s an article by Seymour Papert (acknowledged as one of Piaget’s protégés) that was written in 1998 about the use of digital technologies in education.  Papert’s book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, published in 1980, is still extremely relevant and should be on your ‘must read’ list.

“From this follows a political aspect of child power as a factor in the interplay of change and resistance to change in education. For if the computer industry, the education establishment and the politicians have a common vested interest in keeping school as it is, children do not. And if just 10 per cent of children came to school with the experience of far richer learning outside, and with the expertise to show the school how to do it better, the pressure for change would quickly become irresistible.”

What I’m really thinking: the soon to be ex-teacher

Is this familiar?

“A bloated body of managers, many of whom haven’t taught in years. Driven by data and every new initiative, they have lost touch with where they came from. Without teachers who prioritise their rapport with pupils and make learning a fun, collaborative experience, the school is losing its soul.”

NAPLAN: Shakespeare would have failed the year 9 literacy test

Thanks to Phil Cullen for this article that discusses an unexpected outcome of Australia’s national testing programme. I suspect similar comments could be made about other national testing regimes.

In online sample tests [of the year 9 NAPLAN], 25 of the 50 questions relate to spelling. It is a fair bet that Shakespeare would have done very poorly on these. He would probably not even have understood why the questions were being asked. He would have performed better in the section in which students are required to complete sentences, but his approach to punctuation would almost certainly have been considered substandard. He would have excelled in the grammar section, and easily identified metaphors, alliteration, similes and rhymes. But overall he would either have failed or scored a very poor mark.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Three Traits of the Best Principals.

Bill Ferriter:

“Let me start with a simple statement of truth:  I am JUST a classroom teacher.  

I’ve never worked as a building principal — and my knowledge of the principalship is limited to tons of reading, tons of conversations, and my first-hand experience working with tons of different principals and assistant principals during my 20+ years of teaching. What I DO know is that regardless of their unique sets of strengths and weaknesses, the best principals that I’ve ever worked for shared three traits.”

The Secret Power of Differentiated Instruction

If Bart Simpson understands the destructive use of ability grouping teachers ought to as well.

“Do we separate students based on ability and continue to let the best ones in the other class get ahead while the “special” students fall behind because of a lack of ability? Bart Simpson said it best: “Let me get this straight. We’re behind the rest of our class and we’re going to catch up to them by going slower than they are?”

Project-Based Learning Activities—on a Budget!

“Project-based learning activities can be daunting for a teacher new to the concepts. If you are new, here are some key issues to know about real project-based learning:

1 Project based learning begins with an inquiry into a real-world problem.

2 Learning often takes place in collaborative groups, where students build a sense of community.

3 Research into the authentic problem involves going beyond the textbook, and involves activities such as interviews, web searches, and inviting guest speakers to class.Keeping in mind these criteria develop some great project-based learning activities on a budget?”

Personalised Learning – an idea for its time or just another buzz word

“I was re-reading Sir Ken Robinson’s latest book (which must be a must read for creative teachers looking for inspiration in this age of educational conformity) and was captured by his thoughts about the two worlds students live in.  One world – the personal one – all but ignored in classrooms. It is this personal world that was/is the world that creative teachers help students value and explore.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Learning is about constructing meaning.

Marie Clay and constructivism

“Marie Clay – more than just about reading. In most teachers’ minds mention Marie Clay and they think of Reading Recovery. To me, I attribute to her the remark that, ‘if a child hasn’t learnt to learn something we haven’t yet found the way to help him or her’ or that, ‘all children will learn with the right task, the right help and enough time’. Marie Clay was a ‘constructivist’ or more accurately a ‘co-constructivist’ believing, like such researchers as Jerome Bruner, Piaget and Vygotsky that students create their own meanings and that this is best achieved by sensitive teacher interaction, always leaving the responsibility of learning in the child’s hands. Holdaway (79)calls this need to make meaning a ‘semantic drive’ – one that it put at risk by insensitive teachers who do not value student creativity as the source for all learning.”

Time to throw a spanner in the works!

“It is not hard to see secondary schools as artefacts of the 19th C .They so much resemble the Industrial Revolution on which they were based. They may be kinder gentler places today – for some students that is debatable, but they retain the features of a true industrial aged hierarchical organization or, worse still, a factory!”

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL) 

“The 21stC will require a personalisation of learning and the cultivation of student talent and creativity. It is important for a country like New Zealand for schools to encourage such innovation and creativity but to achieve this will require considerable transformation of the current system.American educationalist Thom Markham is an enthusiast for Project Based Learning (PBL) and believes that the most important innovation schools can implement is high quality project based learning.”

The Right to Learn – an agenda for the 21stC; challenging the status quo.

“As we enter the second decade of the ‘new’ millennium what has changed in education? Not much.We can do a lot better.What is needed are fresh perspectives.So far reforms have not changed the basic assumptions of traditional schooling. A new vision is required. We need to let go of what has gone on before and think of how to use technology to re-imagine the experience for learners.”

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