Education Readings September 18th

By Allan Alach

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

Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous

Other countries who are being sucked into STEM need to take note.

“A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”’

Weapons of maths destruction: are calculators killing our ability to work it out in our head?

It’s not the calculators that is the problem…

“Sadly, the potential for calculators to transform school mathematics and enhance our facility with mental arithmetic is not being achieved. We are not being provided with opportunities to solve real and interesting mathematical problems in the most effective ways”

How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive


“Sassoon’s analysis of how we’re taught to hold pens makes a much stronger case for the role of the ballpoint in the decline of cursive. She explains that the type of pen grip taught in contemporary grade school is the same grip that’s been used for generations, long before everyone wrote with ballpoints. However, writing with ballpoints and other modern pens requires that they be placed at a greater, more upright angle to the paper—a position that’s generally uncomfortable with a traditional pen hold.”

A New Kind of Social Anxiety in the Classroom

“Kids who constantly use phones and computers tend to be more nervous in face-to-face conversations. What can teachers do to help?”

Making and the Reggio Emilia Approach: Making the Connection

“The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education places among the children an atelierista with two primary responsibilities: to conduct deep observation of the patterns in each child’s growth and use these observations to lead children into the process of the artist. Atelieristas often refer to this process as the “aesthetic dimension,” full of desire for meaning, curiosity and wonder.”

Four Reasons to Worry About “Personalized Learning”

Alfie Kohn deconstructing the corporate view of “Personalized Learning”:

“Certain forms of technology can be used to support progressive education, but meaningful (and truly personal) learning never requires technology. Therefore, if an idea like personalization is presented from the start as entailing software or a screen, we ought to be extremely skeptical about who really benefits”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Putting the Passion in Project-Based Learning

“How do we as teachers get our students to define their own driving questions? One way is by pairing design thinking with project-based learning. If you want students to develop leadership, confidence, and solid core content knowledge, then this is a strategy that works “learning miracles.”Students crave assignments that are relevant to them. That’s why project-based learning is the best way to get students to take control of their learning. Here are some keys to getting the most out of project-based learning.”

Most Likely to Succeed,’ by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

New York Times review of Tony Wagner’s excellent book  is well worth a read

‘“Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era,” by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith — argues that the only way to ensure any kind of future security for our children is to totally upend the education system and rethink what school is for.Many of the disruptions the authors suggest — an interdisciplinary approach; hands-on, project-based learning; student-directed curriculums — are already in place in some of the country’s best schools. Less convincing is the assumption that undergirds this whole tract: that every person can — or should — be molded into an entrepreneur.’

Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach

“A mountain of evidence indicates that teachers have been painfully slow to transform the ways they teach, despite that massive influx of new technology into their classrooms. The student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.”

Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities

“Research suggests that considering the following interrelated elements when designing and implementing learning activities can increase student engagement behaviourally, emotionally, and cognitively, thereby positively affecting academic achievement.”

Igniting Student Engagement: A Roadmap for Learning

More good advice on engaging students.

“Here are three practices that, when incorporated by teachers, offer entry points for students to invest in their learning.”

Know that you have it: Keys to self-driven, self-loving, self-supporting education

“In life and learning, sometimes it isn’t what we know, but knowing that we have it that makes the difference. How can we cultivate an education system that values both how we feel and behave, as much as what we “know?” Imagine if you went into school every day and learned, along side your core studies, how to listen, communicate, and collaborate; how to honor each other; how to see the best in each other. The possibilities are endless.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Negotiating the Curriculum

“In the Australian book ‘Negotiating the Curriculum, edited by Garth Boomer,  four steps are suggested to negotiate a study with students applicable for any level of schooling. Essentially it is an inquiry model that emphasizes valuing the ‘voice’ of students in the their own learning. It is very much in line with the ‘co- constructivist’ teaching philosophy.The four steps outlined below are premised that the study has not yet been widely accepted by the students. In this situation the teacher and the learners should ask four questions and together negotiate the answers. This is essentially about power sharing leaving the agency for learning in the hands of the students.”

And further ideas:

How to engage students – advice from the experts!

“Engaging students at the year 7 to 10 year age groups seems to be a growing challenge worldwide as non ‘academic’ students are finding their learning boring or irrelevant. The obvious answer would seem to be to ask the experts themselves – the students!

This is what was done by the innovative Australian project ‘Negotiating the Curriculum’ of the early 80s edited by Garth Boomer.”

Transform schools or exclude students

Either we transform schools or exclude disengaged students.

“On Sunday night TV One a play, ‘Ahead of the Class’, based on the true story of how Lady Marie Stubbs turned around a notorious school in South London was shown; this school, no doubt, had more than it’s fair share of suspended students; the previous principal had been murdered by a pupil! The play faced up to the challenge of ‘turned off’ learners that face too many of our secondary schools. And it also faced up to a staff who had accepted that the problem lay with the students.”


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