Education Readings December 11th

By Allan Alach

As the New Zealand school year is coming to an end, this will be the final education readings for this year. Normal service will be resumed towards the end of January.  To give you something to do until then, this week’s list will be a bit longer than usual!

Phil and I hope you all have an enjoyable festive season with friends and family.

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

No Art Left Behind: Introducing a New Series

Keep an eye on this blog series by Susan Dufresne and Anthony Cody.

“In the past 13 years of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top test-driven education policies, art has been pushed to the margins in our schools. Students have lost countless hours for creating art, music and dance that expresses themselves. But artistic expression is like the seedling that forces its way through cracks in the asphalt. This blog series will explore how students and teachers use art to express themselves.”

Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology

“But the fact that parents working for pioneering technology companies are questioning the value of computers in education begs the question – is the futuristic dream of high-tech classrooms really in the best interests of the next generation?”

Classroom technology ‘rarely used’ by half of teachers

I remember this problem from my principal days.

“Nearly half of teachers rarely use the technology in their classrooms, with a lack of training holding many of those surveyed back, new research suggests. Over a third of teachers in primary schools, and a similar number in secondary schools, also say they are unsure about how to integrate technology into the curriculum, leading to many items going unused on a regular basis.”

Technology makes a difference

However, on the other hand, here’s Steve Wheeler.

“I have often heard the argument that there is no evidence that technology improves learning. This is a vacuous claim that is either a) based on ignorance of the available research literature, or b) possibly the result of a deep seated fear, mistrust or dislike of technology in general. My usual response to such a claim is that children with special educational needs are a classic example of technology improving learning.”

Reflections on Teaching: The Craft of Teaching

Posted on Save Our Schools Australia:

“In Victoria, long ago, teaching was left to teachers. It was presumed that there were people skilled in the craft and they would pass on their knowledge to others. But theory has trumped practice in recent decades. Now teaching has been overtaken by education, which deals with students and clients, rather than children, and which often has little respect for the craft of teaching. But learning begins with teaching, not data collection.”

National Academic Standards – Turning Public Education into McSchools

This is happening all over.
But look almost anywhere in the US of A, and you’ll see a strip mall with almost all of the same stores and fast food restaurants selling the same crusty burgers and fries left waiting for the consumer under a heat lamp. Somehow this has become THE model for public education, as well. Corporations have convinced our lawmakers that the disposable franchise business schematic is perfect to increase student learning.”

Can Competency Based Education Be Stopped?

I haven’t included a Peter Greene article for a while…

‘Every single thing a student does would be recorded, cataloged, tagged, bagged, and tossed into the bowels of the data mine, where computers will crunch data and spit out a “personalized” version of their pre-built educational program. Right now seems like the opportune moment for selling this program, because it can be marketed as as an alternative to the Big Standardized Tests which have been crushed near to death under the wheel of public opinion. “We’ll stop giving your children these stupid tests,” the reformsters declare. “Just let us monitor every single thing they do every day of the year.”’

Why teacher-powered schools are picking up momentum

In teacher-powered schools, students are at the center of every decision. Teachers secure autonomy to make the big choices about a wide array of factors, such as the learning program, school-community partnerships, and budgeting. In many such schools, teachers evaluate their colleagues with peer review processes, as is so often the case in other professions.”

‘Not a Math Person’: How to Remove Obstacles to Learning Math

“Recently, a colleague’s 7-year-old came home from school and announced he didn’t like math anymore. His mom asked why and he said, “math is too much answering and not enough learning.” This story demonstrates how clearly kids understand that unlike their other courses, math is a performative subject, where their job is to come up with answers quickly. Boaler says that if this approach doesn’t change, the U.S. will always have weak math education.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Can a Truly Student-Centered Education Be Available to All?

Is the public school system scared to put students at the centre of education?

“An education which doesn’t use any set curriculum and is instead directed by the child’s interests, is vastly different from traditional public and private schools. While the freedom inherent in the model excites some readers, others question whether young people educated this way will learn the important information and skills they need to become productive adults in our society. Big Picture Schools use the learner and his or her interests and passions as the organising principle of school. The focus is on each and every student, not on a standardised curriculum – an idea pioneer creative New Zealand primary teachers would recognise.”

Why the Greatest Minds Take Long Walks

“Walking isn’t sexy. It’s not the hot new trend or the most enticing productivity hack. Even so, it’s probably one of the most beneficial habits you could add to your routine. But don’t take my word for it. Some of the greatest minds throughout history were notorious for taking walks, from Steve Jobs to Charles Darwin, walking was a part of their routine. Here’s why.”

Stop, Start, Continue: Conceptual Understanding Meets Applied Problem Solving

The end of the year is the time to ask some important questions.

“As simple as these sound, they provided us a safe, predictable set of questions that became habits of mind, a way to pause and reflect before engaging in something else. Our aim was to get better at what we were doing.What should we stop doing?What should we start doing? What should we continue doing?”

Teaching By Doing Something Meaningful

Getting away from corporate testing mad ‘Big Education’ and bringing back the magic of real teaching.

“When my head is in the world of corporate education, my heart isn’t fully in my job. When I am focused on how much there is to “do,” I lose some of my teaching magic…and unfortunately, so does my audience. There are still many abracadabra moments that take me away from the sideshow of Big Education Teaching, in its truest form, is simply inspiring other people to inspire each other, and to learn and grow together.”

A Few Ideas for Better Writing Conferences

Not a new idea for creative teachers – or is it? Personal writing developing each students ‘voice’ and sense of identity was once a feature in New Zealand classrooms.

“That perhaps this was my chance to not lead their conferences.  To not have all of the answers, but instead be ready to listen and support.  To let them tell me what they needed rather than vice versa.  So I did, and it felt like I held my breath all day, but it worked.  It worked!  And I could not be happier with the outcome.  So what did we do?”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

End of year survey – tapping the wisdom of your class/school/community

“At the end of the school year it is a good idea to gather information from the students you are passing on.Not only is this a chance for you to get some insight about your teaching but it is also a great way to value the ‘voice’ of your students.What are your students’ attitudes towards areas of learning?”

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21stC?

This an extract from a blog by Steve Wheeler, Professor of Technology, University of Plymouth, UK.

“In this post I’m not going to dwell on digital skills. Instead I’m going to focus on three essential things teachers need to practice, and without which children would be poorer.The first thing parents should expect from teachers is their ability to inspire children to learn.Another allied skill we should expect from teachers is an ability to understand the child’s perspective. Parents should also expect teachers to give creative freedom to children.”

Teachers’ key role in fostering creativity

“Essential characteristics of creative teachers,are a commitment to: deepen the understandings of the world of each learner; believe in the creative ability of all students; encourage empathy in students; value creative expression in learners; teach in ways that facilitate it; adapt the curriculum to meet students individual needs.”

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.”

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