Education Readings May 19th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Workaholic Teachers

‘If you are a teacher then you are permanently busting a gut, not getting enough sleep, struggling to keep up and very often going to work unwell. Despite all this, you live and breathe teaching and you talk about leaving but know deep down that you won’t.’

http://bit.ly/2q16gbW

Schools told to ditch textbooks and let pupils experiment in science lessons

‘Schools are failing their pupils’ education by forcing them to regurgitate facts instead of letting them take part in practical science lessons, a leading expert has said.

Practical science can be overshadowed by factors such as a need to learn a “mountain” of information, a focus on English and maths and a lack of specialist teachers, according to Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association.’

http://ind.pn/2qX746B

The Saber‐tooth Curriculum

Following last week’s satire about a curriculum for teaching walking, here’s another satire:

‘New‐Fist was a doer, in spite of the fact that there was little in his environment with which to do anything very complex. You have undoubtedly heard of the pear‐ shaped, chipped‐stone tool which archeologists call the coup‐de‐point or fist

hammer.’

http://bit.ly/2qyaZFZ

Your Fidget Spinner Is (Maybe) Making You Smarter

Making use of the latest craze:

‘Why is fidgeting so hot? Because it’s an adaptation to deskbound lifestyles. Society increasingly demands mental work while enforcing unhealthy, sedentary physical habits. Fidgeting is a way to cope. It also has cognitive benefits.’

http://bit.ly/2q1714w

To Engage Students and Teachers, Treat Core Subjects Like Extracurriculars

‘Education researchers Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine have been observing different school systems over the past six years in an attempt to document the variables that contribute to deeper learning. But as they spent more time in schools, it was hard to ignore the ways in which the activity around the edges of institutions — elective courses, extracurricular activities — was where students and teachers “were most fired up,” said Fine, a postdoctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education. ‘

http://bit.ly/2pYvdpe

We are teaching kids how to write all wrong — and no, Mr. Miyagi’s rote lessons won’t help a bit

‘We’re teaching writing wrong.

We must be, because when I meet people and they find out that I’ve spent 20 years teaching writing at the college level, they are eager to tell me how today’s generation can’t write worth a damn.

“What they write doesn’t make sense! I can’t even understand the sentences, let alone the message!”’

http://wapo.st/2qyj5ON

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Student-Centered Math Class

‘…Peter Liljedahl, a professor at Simon Fraser University. Liljedahl proposes three strategies that you can implement in order to create what he calls the thinking classroom: Start with good problems, use visibly random groups, and work regularly on vertical nonpermanent surfaces. I started using these three strategies in my math classes, and they have been an absolute game-changer.’

http://edut.to/2q14rvq

Creativity and risk taking

‘Our vision for Hornby High School (‘A centre of creative excellence’) is pretty big. Trying to get there could be likened to trying to eat an elephant (not that I am suggesting really eating these beautiful creatures…..)

How do you do that?” Well – one bite at a time, of course. So we broke the vision down into three strategic goals, one of which is “To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community”.’

http://bit.ly/2qBUgPS

Saws, mud, rope swings, open fires – and not an iPad in sight

‘Yet an outdoor nursery which shuns modern technology and allows toddlers to roll around in the mud and even cut wood using a huge saw has been rated outstanding by Ofsted.Set in a forest and with no running water or electricity, the Elves and Fairies Woodland Nursery in Dorset says its goal is to teach the importance of nature.’

http://dailym.ai/2rwhYgE

Pity our children – they’re being turned into grammar robots at school

‘Last week the education select committee concluded that the evidence did not show that teaching specific grammatical techniques improved writing; and it recommended that the new Spag – spelling, punctuation and grammar – tests should no longer be mandatory for older primary schoolchildren.’

http://bit.ly/2q1pSwn

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Points of view from Mount Eden School

‘The NZ government’s reactionary National Standards has side lined an excellent curriculum but principal John Faire of Mount Eden School still provides  pertinent advice about how to implement it. Schools, he said, have ‘three choices’ – to ‘bolt it on’, to ‘rewire the school’, or to ‘redesign the school’.  He favours the third approach.With regard to the ‘new’ curriculum John said that for many it is a bit ‘back to the future’ and that the curriculum statements and accountability demands imposed since the early 90s had all but ‘squashed out the creativity’ that was to be seen in the 70s and 80s.’

http://bit.ly/1RbfgSj

The artistry of teaching and future learning attributes

‘The future of education will be substantially determined by the shared perception of the purpose of learning, and that this is best expressed in terms of the needs of the learner. A focus on deep and profound learning would determine the qualities of a learner of the future This in turn has implications for the quality of the teaching provided.’

http://bit.ly/1PsoX3j

Bye Treehorn

I love primary education.  I love primary schooling. I love primary school kids.  When I left school in 1944, I just wanted to get amongst the whole mix of teaching and go bush to teach young kids. My big brother would bring home stories about the kids at Nogo River in rural Queensland and it all sounded so fascinating.   I eventually made it to Teachers College, and by 1947 I was the Head Teacher, of all things, of a one-teacher school. I loved it. My dream achieved.  For eleven years, I did my  apprenticeship in four  different localities. All of my one-teacher schools are closed now but I still remember the names of the pupils. Many have passed on and some are in their eighties. You see,  when I first started as a Head Teacher cum Principal I was eighteen years of age.  My two or three ‘scholarship class’ members were fourteen or fifteen years of age.  I now have a lot of former pupils. Love each one of them.

The years went on and the love for primary schooling and kids just grew and grew.  I now love nostalgia.  I love catching up with former pupils who remember me for the right reasons. It’s the sort of feeling that only schoolies enjoy but can’t explain; and is unique to those who care about kids. I thought that I shared these feelings with an endless number of others. I was sure that every primary teacher was the same way. I kept this belief for sixty years….that everyone in primary schooling loved kids and teaching them, as much as I did; and would go to the ends of the earth for them.

I was wrong.

2008-17 has revealed that many employees in the field of primary schooling in Australia don’t care much about kids. They care deeply about some kids, but not the universal kid. I had accepted, early in the piece, that Australian every-day adults, generally speaking, prefer to have as little as possible to do with kids, apart from coaching the local under-eights footy team.  Treehorn, when I found him, validated the view that all adults, including parents, teachers and principals prefer not to be bothered too much by what distresses kids.   I was disappointed [‘floored’ is a better term] to learn, in particular that Australia’s  school principals don’t have much interest in the ‘generalised’ school child, at all. They like their job and do it well and that’s it. They  meekly and  publicly approve of the extreme. heavy, burdensome NAPLAN testing device because Julia Gillard told them to do so after she returned from New York, overdosed on Klein bullshit, which, they know all very well, destroys the learning spirit of the curriculum in the interests of data-gathering – just for the sake of data-gathering.  Principal’s associations know that. APPA was blatantly ‘Stockholmed’, replaced by AGPPA and then  ‘Eichmannised’ .  They should have known that NAPLAN, under the pretence of being diagnostic and motivational, would destroy our system;  a system that once had the potential to be great. Sloppily, near tearfully,  I must say : They broke my heart by their desertion from reality.

When Julia Gillard introduced this crazy New York system of schooling based on the deliberate creation of anxiety and fear, they had a chance to say to her : “We don’t do that sort of thing to school children.” They didn’t.

I now know what disappointment is.

Then, in January 2010, the Australian Education Union that represents the chalkface operators, unanimously supported a motion at its Sydney Conference that NAPLAN be banned!   I was over the moon. I was so proud of my association with some of the attenders. Amazed that such a thing had happened and so proud that Aussie teachers collectively, it seemed, recognised the implications of naplanising school children ….that they had assured the welfare of little Aussie learners to progress in a child-centred environment, that I did something that I had never done before. It seemed to me like it was the wonder of the age….that our classroom teachers could be so wonderful, so glorious, so up-front.  I could see Cloud 9 way down below me; so I went to Mass on the following day to say thanks. [I’m a Mick. ] I am usually asking for a favour, but here I was doing something that I have reflected upon, often, since:  Going to church just to say ‘Thanks’!!  That’s not normal. Maybe I’ll get the chance to do it again sometime…maybe when politicians  start thinking about what they are doing to children  and ban the stupid thing.  You see…ouch….The motion was at the AEU Conference was withdrawn on the same day and the notion of freedom abandoned.  Never learned why.   Very little mention of NAPLAN by the AEU since. Did the big boys capture Him, or was it the AEU? The big end of town seems to believe that it is  dominant enough  to do either. I may never learn what happened to the original motion.

{By the way, did you listen to all that Budget Yak-Yak in the Federal Parliament?  “We will spend billions and billions on schools and our kids will be the best in the world! We will improve education standards by giving more money to this, that and whatever” The baloney from both sides of the house was vomitous.  NAPLAN, the extreme destroyer of schooling, introduced by Labor  and maliciously ‘fiddled’ by Liberals and Nationals, now supported by their common neo-liberal viewpoints, did not get a mention, even though it wastes billions per year.. the worst ‘bad debt’ in on the landscape……and it was budget time!}

Those who know me, know that, back in the eighties I held super-normous hope for the future of primary schooling in Australia. I could see super-dooper schooling happening and, for some reason, I always thought that by about 2010 [no good reason for picking that year], Australia would enjoy an enormous network of public schools, to which children would burst a boiler to get to each and every day BECAUSE OF THE LEARNING HAPPINESS THERE….for no other reason. Enjoying a thoroughly holistic tailor-made curriculum, each would find real joy in extending their own abilities as far as they could and enjoy every moment of learning at their local community school.  They would not need any sexy inexperienced measurement sciolist from outside the school gate to judge their capacity,  and brand them with a number. Schooling would be real schooling, real learning. School leavers would not need an HSC score or NAPLAN score. Hirers would ask the school about their applicants and be given the full picture.

Garn. No matter what you might like to say, a progressive exam-free system is possible.

Well, things didn’t live up to expectations. Once managerialism and the restructuring fad hit the fan in the eighties, one could see what was happening. We were destined to follow the path ‘back to drastics’.  The last paragraph in my “Back to Drastics” [USQ Faculty of Education, 2006. P.87] was prophetic : “Hope persists. There are some great schools around and classroom teachers still have the real power. Once the teacher and the pupils move into their room together, the educational processes begin. Nobody in any self-important holy of holies has yet thought of starting from such a premise. Structural changes are usually imposed from the politicial apex, downwards. We keep starting at the wrong end. Education 3000?   At all times, the large and dangerous changes have been initiated by sciolistic ne’er-do-wells, who have had their decisions confirmed by the kinds of political party decision-making, for whom absurdity is not a handicap.

Clearly, the managerialism era was the start of Australia’s demise as a world power and of the standards of schooling that were once on the up and up. They are related; so, when Managerialsim and Restructurism made an easy path for the rabid Standardised Blanket Testing routine called NAPLAN because the wrong decision-makers were in the wrong positions, our system went haywire and has been that way for a decade. We cannot claim any growth in world stature in financial, industrial or political terms nor is there any indication of improvement in overall intellectual performance of any kind. We are waiting for the big boys to sort things out.  We maintain a mediocre ranking in world affairs, even though we have the ability [now being crushed] of fighting above our weight.

The forces that keep us in this mid-to-low-level position are powerful, extremely powerful. WE NEED THEM TO GET OFF OUR BACKS. We need them to talk with Rupert and tell their mates, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten that they are allowed to discuss schooling  openly, and not deliberately hide the mention of NAPLAN. Bring it out in the open! Schooling is not about money. The 37 kids from my railway-fettlers’ one-teacher school at Baking Board have contributed significantly to Australia’s welfare as has every other school. Schooling is about the promotion of learning and that banking corporation called UBS, needs to let go of the hooks on our institutions that they use to control our schooling system, our politicians and our media. The cone of controlled silence is too thick, as well.

NAPLAN is now discussed as a generality, a part of schooling, a thing that happens at school, a thing to be feared or wondered about. Rupert and UBS have had their way.  UBS, controlling our top end of town might care to think more seriously about the real meaning of the word SCHOOL.  What is it? What is it supposed to do? Is it doing it? Do kids like learning? Do they do  well at all parts of the curriculum? Why blanket test them when they progress faster and better when teachers share the evaluation of their efforts with them at the time of learning?  If you want to know how well they are doing, why not have a system of mentoring and reporting by highly qualified, experienced experts with a yen for excellence and with pollen on their wings? Why not just give the profession back to teachers?

The Australian education system, without any fear or doubt, is controlled by UBS and Rupert Murdoch [the schooling industry, in testucation mode, is worth $300 billion per year to him…at his last count].  UBS [this  banking corporation that paid the fares of bull-shipper Joel Klein down-under to show us what to do] seems motivated by a lack of appreciation for the ethics of the education profession. Big Bankers don’t like us teachers. [We shouldn’t have given up doing  school banking for them] It does not seem to understand that  a profession can be based on altruistic principles.  UBS, a respected organisation within thee money-making professions, could do so much good for children if it was able to adopt a moralistic view of the treatment of children and a responsible view of the work of the caring professions.

In any case, I’ve tried for quite a few years with the help of little Treehorn and a remarkable Kiwi educator, Allan Alach, to try to help restore normal conditions for Aussie school children through the columns of The Treehorn Express. We didn’t do any good. Treehorn is still that vivid green colour, because no one with any wit, has noticed him.

The two superordinate forces [UBS, Murdoch] are just so enormously powerful and our decision-makers are so very easily persuaded and so very well controlled……

They do not allow ANY political party to discuss NAPLAN.  The party doors are closed to reasoned discourse.

The mainstream press and the ABC aren’t brave enough to investigate the history or worthiness of NAPLAN.  [Kids. You can rely on shock-jock Alan Jones for support, however. He’s just got going.]

Shaky state governments [e.g NSW] believe that, by adding to the ferocity of the NAPLAN notion by screwing around with a relationship to the HSC, something or other will be improve.  Fat chance.

OMG. The place has really gone crazy and the standard of the whole gamut of learnings at school is fading – not just the naplan subjects. Kids just don’t like school much…..for good reasons.

We could end all the anguish in our schooling system if primary and secondary principals’ associations flexed their ethical muscles and told the feds that their members will return to their professional code OR if ACSSO (Australian Council of State School Organsations)  suggested to their members that they say NO to ‘NAPLAN’ OR  more mums and dads at home, thinking seriously about their child’s future, would  refuse to allow their children to participate……. like the parents of those 337 out of 343 pupils at Kimberley College, Brisbane have done OR some political party members would just sit down and talk about the meaning of school.

We all know our test-crazed system  stinks, but who am I [with some aligned colleagues and friends ] to test the might of UBS, Rupert and Co. and tolerate sloppy politicising. We don’t make the slightest impression,  it seems. They’re too powerful. Little Treehorn looks like staying a vivid green colour for a long, long time. We live in an era when there is a serious disinterest in childhood.

I can’t stand it any more. I quit. Thanks Allan and friends. Bye.

Phil Cullen

https://treehornexpress.wordpress.com

http://primaryschooling.net

Finally to those who don’t mind or don’t care how much NAPLAN is used to bash young children : “May the fleas of a thousand camels……”

Follow-up to ‘Why School Makes Us Stupid”.

A TREEHORN FOLLOW-UP

If you missed the clip of the young man’s rant, here is a transcript. Yes. We call it TESTUCATION. He calls it REGURGITATION. Would you really call it EDUCATION?

NAPLAN soon for Australia! That fixes everything!

We flopped last year because the kids don’t like it.

What do we do now?

We could try pupilling in our schooling!

———————————

Below is a transcript for my latest rant video called “Why School Makes Us Stupid” which can be viewed on my YouTube channel Freshtastical here: https://youtu.be/qba-EOaq3NM

Why School Makes Us Stupid
By Spencer Cathcart

Does anyone else find it insane how much of our childhood we spend in a classroom?
As soon as you’re old enough to be in a room without shitting your pants…bam! You’re thrown into kindergarten! And from that day until you’re 18 school becomes your full time job. 5 days a week, 10 months a year, for 14 years. And even then it’s still not over! Because if you want a job other than serving fries, well lucky you, you get to spend 4 more years in college or university!

In that amount of time getting “educated” you’d think we’d all be geniuses walking around contemplating Shakespeare’s use of metaphors, while simultaneously calculating the parabola of the sun’s descent in order to figure out the time we should head home to our wife who’s waiting with a protractor to see if tonight we can achieve an obtuse angle in the bedroom, rather than acute.

Well obviously something went wrong because last time I checked our world is littered with dumb people. Like, I constantly find myself being blown away reading emails by how many people lack basic writing skills. Or the amount of people in line at a store who can’t do the simplest math to calculate their change. Yet all these people spent years in school learning all this, so what happened?

Well the problem is that in school we’re not “learning” we’re just regurgitating. We’re only taught what we need to know to pass a test, not pass at life. So for years we repeat this cycle of constantly memorizing useless facts for a grade. And then forgetting it all a few days later since by then we’ve gone and “secure empty trash” that shit from our minds to make room for the next batch of useless information.

Information that today you’d just Google if you really needed to know.

Also, now that I’m an adult I can officially confirm what we all knew as kids. And that’s nearly everything we’re taught has never applied once in my everyday life. And believe it or not I was actually an A student . Yet now when I look back now at my tests and assignments I have no clue what any of this crap is. So if what we’re being taught has no use in our adult lives, then what use does a kid have learning it? I mean there I am, my balls haven’t even dropped yet I’m learning equations to calculate the density of my balls and the speed of the drop.

A big reason why I believe our world is full of so many uneducated people is because school kills our desire to want to learn. Education becomes something we all quickly learn to hate. Which is really sad because you’d think education is something kids should enjoy. When you’re a kid you’re new to the planet and you have a million questions about everything. It’s why we bug our parents all day asking “why this mommy” and “why” that. But once school begins that curiosity quickly fades and we stop asking “why” and start asking “whyyyy”

It also doesn’t help that school doesn’t take consideration into what we want to learn about. Even subjects you didn’t care about if they were taught in a more engaging way you might realized a whole passion you never thought you had, changing your entire direction in life.

To this day I’ll often come across a random subject from elementary school again, like say ancient Egypt and I’ll think “holy shit, how did they build the pyramids? This is mind blowing!”. But back then you didn’t care because it wasn’t taught in an interesting way. And you were so busy memorizing the spelling of people’s names, the years of birth and other random useless facts that you had no time to actually be interested in what you were learning about.

By the way, fuck Shakespeare. Every single year from grade 6 until my second year of university I had a class where we spent some time studying Shakespeare. Why? The writing is over 400 years old! Back then English was almost a different language. It still makes no sense to me to this day. If you want kids to get something out of English class, maybe give them something that’s written in English! Also I am convinced if Shakespeare wrote in modern day English teachers would find the stories disgusting. It would be like reading prequels to 50 Shades of Grey in class. But I guess the lesson here is if you write anything in old-fashioned English then thou can say anything and thee who come hither to question thy writing skills shall be banished from whence thee came.

And that’s a big problem with school. So much of what we’re taught is about the world of our past and so little has anything to do with our present world. And isn’t that the whole point of school, to prepare us for the world ahead of us, not behind us?

Look I’m not against school. I think the idea of school is great. In fact some of my best memories are being around all random weird people you’d meet through the years at school. My issue with school is with the system of how we’re taught. Because how much can you truly learn being surrounded by four walls all day? And then you get home and you can’t even relax because you have hours of homework to do. And it leaves us with no time to clear our minds and think or explore the world firsthand. And isn’t that what education should really be about?

Instead school teaches us not to question what we’re taught, to abide by the textbook, think within the box of a rubric, and do what the teacher says like they are some almighty authority figure! It’s no wonder when we graduate we wear a square on our head, just to make sure everyone knows how great we are at thinking inside the box. It feels like the goal is to raise us to be suitable employees, not suitable people. When you think about it school kind of feels like a giant practice run of waking up at unhealthy hours every morning 5 days a week so we can get used to that 9-5 lifestyle. And then to ensure we transition into that 9-5 life we have to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to go to college or university which puts many people in debt and forces many to start working jobs they hate right away.

Education is the most important part of our lives because it builds the foundation of who we are as people. And I think a lot of the problems with today’s world are a result of our poor education system. Because when your education system creates uninformed people, with no curiosity to learn, who are forced to work jobs they hate to pay debt from school, well it’s no wonder our world is a mess.
– Written by Spencer Cathcart

Education Readings April 7th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

The Joy Of Opting Out Of Standardized Testing

‘Testing season is a gray period in my classroom. But it’s a joy in my house.

As a classroom teacher with a daughter in the public school system, I’m always struck by the difference. In school I have to proctor the federally mandated standardized tests. But I’ve opted my own daughter out. She doesn’t take them. So at home, I get to see all the imaginative projects she’s created in her class while the other kids had to trudge away at the exam.’

http://huff.to/2nFzqMA

Opt Out 2017: Refusing Education as a Police Power

This article is by Mark J Garrison, whose book A measure of failure: The political origins of standardized testing is well worth reading.

‘All of this harms the quality of education and does nothing to solve the real problems that concern parents, educators, students and their communities. A summation of existing research suggests that test-based accountability systems do not serve to improve the quality of education; annual testing has not been demonstrated to help educators do a better job. Yet, state and federal authorities continue to pursue a direction that the vast majority of students, parents and educators have clearly opposed.’ 

http://bit.ly/2ncI3CE

The First Two Years at School (1950)

Here’s a movie from 1950, examining the teaching practice in junior school classrooms. it’s not often that one looks at something 66 years old and sees that things have definitely gone downhill since then.

An exposition of modern methods of teaching the very young, showing the purpose behind the methods now being used, and contrasting them with past procedure.’

http://bit.ly/2oENPNF

Here’s one secret to successful schools that costs nothing

‘Most factors that help make schools successful cost lots of money — think teachers, technology and textbooks. But a new study suggests one factor that doesn’t need any cash to implement can play an important role in helping students succeed at even the most disadvantaged schools. That factor is what scientists call social capital.’

http://bit.ly/2oDzpxB

How Not To Teach Writing

Nobody teaches writing that way.

No, the entire history of human expression, human literature, human song– it’s about finding new and interesting and surprising ways to say what we have to say. It’s about finding ways to express a thought that are perfectly suited to that particular person and time and place and circumstances. We are moved, touched, excited, and enlightened by those who can string words together in completely different and yet completely appropriate ways.

http://bit.ly/2o4WWWs

What is it like living in Libya these days?

If you think your teaching job has its problems:

‘Libyan activist, Maimuna Aghliw, who has been living in Misrata since 2009, reflects on life there during wartime. Aghliw, 26, spent some time working at an NGO, focusing on psychosocial support, visiting different elementary and secondary schools. She also spent time teaching and tutoring children of various ages.

Here, she talks about her experience as a teacher in war-torn Libya.’

http://bit.ly/2nFToXf

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Schools hit a wall with open-plan classrooms

When will they ever learn?

‘They knocked down walls to revolutionise learning and now they are putting them up again.  Open-plan classrooms have caused nothing but trouble for many schools, which are putting up partitions and walls to counter the deafening noise created in the barn-like spaces.’

http://bit.ly/2oYPuKd

MLEs (Marae Learning Environments) – Lessons from the Marae for Modern Learning Environments

‘Cultural responsiveness is a crucial part of all learning environments and leads to enhanced practices and learning outcomes. The Modern Learning Environment (MLE) is no exception. Modern learning practices move beyond the learning space and seek to challenge the traditional frames of learning. These practices are for the enhancement of learning experiences but need to be infused with robust cultural competencies. For Maori, open plan, communal learning spaces are not new.’

http://bit.ly/2oGUILp

A Continuum on Personalized Learning: First Draft

‘When I went into classrooms to see what “personalized learning” meant in action, I observed much variation in the lessons and units that bore the label. None of this should be surprising since “technology integration” and other reform-minded policies draw from the hyped-up world of new technologies where vendors, promoters, critics, and skeptics compete openly  for the minds (and wallets) of those who make decisions about what gets into classrooms.’

http://bit.ly/2nZlYEX

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Seven myths about teaching – common sense to me!

‘Seven myths about learning  from an American source – common sense to insightful New Zealand teachers?Many people — educators included — still cling to some of these misconceptions about learning because they base what they think on their own experiences in school, ignoring what 21st century science and experience are revealing. Here are seven of the biggest myths about learning that, unfortunately, guide the way that many schools are organized in this era of standardized test-based public school reform.’

http://bit.ly/2oYLBox

Back to the future

Tapping into the wisdom of the past

‘Twenty five years after retiring Bill Guild has been invited back to his old school to share his ideas about quality teaching and learning. It is a half a century since Bill took up his appointment at the school.As well, it turns out, Bill taught the aunt of the current principal who wants to learn about, from Bill, the ideas that first gained the school it’s creative reputation. Tapping into the wisdom of the past is a powerful idea – and it turns out Bill’s wisdom is very current.’

http://bit.ly/1KzIEUx

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL)

‘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. He provides seven important design principles for teachers to ensure project based learning is of the highest quality.’

http://bit.ly/18lBlLJ

In which Piglet looks for a 21st Century Education Part 1

By Kelvin Smythe

(Originally published in Networkonnet)

One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a 21st Century Education to-day, Piglet.’

‘What was it doing?’ asked Piglet.

‘Just lumping along,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘I don’t think it saw me.’

‘I saw one once,’ said Piglet. ‘At least I think I did,’ he said. ‘Only perhaps it wasn’t.’

‘So did I,’ said Pooh wondering what a 21st Century Education was like.

‘You don’t often see them,’ said Christopher Robin matter-of-factly.

‘Not now,’ said Piglet.

‘Not at this time of year,’ said Pooh.

Just as they came to the Six Pine Trees, Pooh looked around to see that nobody else was listening, and said in a very solemn voice: ‘Piglet, I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘I have decided to catch a 21st Century Education.’

Piglet asked, ‘But what does a 21st Century Education look like? Then continued thoughtfully: ‘Before looking for something, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.’

What follows is something I look at as a kind of written doodle thus subject to continual revision (contributed to by what you have to say). In such a matter it is difficult to be comprehensive or fair; if I tried strenuously to be so, I would probably never get going.

We are, it seems, getting ourselves tied in knots about something called 21st century education – before looking for it, as Piglet suggests, it might be wise to find out what we are looking for.

This could be done in respect to how it might differ from what went before, how it might be the same as what went before, how it might be worse than went before, who is supposed to benefit from it, who is calling for it, does it exist, should it exist, what are its aims and, being education, how much is career- or self-serving bollocks.

I intend this posting to be a search for something called a 21st century education.

As part of that I declare my prior understandings about the concept – a concept because there has never been any discussion about something called 20th century education, it was never conceptualised in that way, so why for 21st century education? The formation and high usage of the concept label suggests powerful forces at work – forces, I suggest, taking control of the present to control the future. Those active in promoting the concept of 21stcentury education are mostly from political, technology, and business groupings, also some academics: the immediate future they envisage as an extension and intensification of their perception of society and education as they see it now. And in the immediate future, as well as the longer term one, they see computers at the heart of 21st century education, which is fair enough as long as the role of computers is kept in proportion as befits a tool, a gargantuanly important one, but still a tool.

Neoliberalism is dominant in current economic, political, and education thought so to understand what 21st century advocacy is about, there is a need to recognise the nature of that philosophy. But because it is neoliberalism we are dealing with a complex of abstract and polysyllabic words that need to be uncovered to reveal their true reality, a control, market-oriented, and anti-democratic one. But it is a Russian doll. Those words do more than cover anti-democratic, control ends; they also express a colossal ignorance of our best education understandings about how children learn, which, however, is not irrational, because that ignorance is partly a self-serving slipped-into ignorance.  And the reference to our ‘best education understandings’ is a highly qualified one, because neoliberalism has been hard at work under Tomorrow’s Schools undermining our best understandings and replacing them with their own, meaning the number of people ‘our’ refers to is a dwindling one.

Children have no choice as to what century they reside in, 21 carries no more significance to how one should approach the education of children than 20. I believe that people in education, or around education, should stop looking over the top of children to look at those before them: the best way to prepare children for the future, no matter the century, is to meet their needs now. Those needs would be along the lines of empathy [of which reading should be seen as a key contributor], fairness, independence, collaboration, creativity and imagination, problem-solving, commitment to democratic principles, critical thinking, ways of thinking [for instance, for science, arts, drama, history, mathematics], key knowledge [everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21stcentury transcendental insight].

School education is being pressured to inappropriate purposes by groups who claim a hold on the future and from that hold generate techno-panic to gain advantage in the present.

Another prior understanding is that the inappropriate use of computers for learning has contributed to the decline in primary school education (though well behind the contribution of national standards and the terrible education autocracy of the education review office). For all the talk of personalising learning, of building learning around the child, of individualising learning, the mandating question for 21st century education seems to be: how can we build the digital into learning instead of how can we best do the learning? And even further: how can we build schools for digital learning instead of what is best for children’s learning environment? Large open spaces are not the best environment for children’s learning, meaning that in combination with the heavy use of computers to make large open spaces ‘work’, a distinct problem is developing. Computers and large open spaces are being promoted by 21st century advocates as the two key ideas to carry us forward to the education for the 21st century.

In respect to computers, learning about them and using them is both necessary and inevitable, how could it be otherwise, but from that necessity and inevitability comes the responsibility to protect schools from their disassociating effects. The neoliberal advocates of a computer-laden future are putting at risk the potential of human thought, behaviour, and imagination. Their judgement, based on what computers can do, remains undisturbed, it seems, by any understanding of what the best of learning can be. Computers are going to be everywhere, beyond the imaginations of most of us; all the more important to appreciate the decisive contribution of learning beyond and apart from the computer and the need to challenge the social control that pervasive computer use brings to bear on school and beyond.

The use of computers should not become the defining characteristic of what is called 21stcentury education but it has, and an education and social tragedy is unfolding.  The defining characteristics of 21st century education should be the same as the defining characteristics of 20th century education (expressed above) before the neoliberal philosophy took hold.

In the following paragraphs I will refer to trends deriving from the greatly increased use of computers, also the effects of the neoliberal changes to the education system such as national standards, the narrowing of the curriculum, the fear-laden functioning of the education review office, and the government control of education knowledge.

The particular form of learning most associated with computers is inquiry learning. For all the talk of discovery, creativity, and thinking claimed for that approach precious little seems to be forthcoming. Inquiry learning is the main curriculum practice developed to suit computers and neoliberal education. No matter what a teacher does, if it is called inquiry learning, the teacher is safe; the use of any other name puts the teacher at risk – the system likes conformity, even more obedience, and throughout a teacher’s practice and records the authorities are looking for those little signs of deference that communicate the teacher has got in behind.

Despite a lot of cute tricks and manoeuvres, inquiry learning is simply swept up old-style projects using google and computers. It is considerably an empty shell – yes, children are often interested, but what is missing is the development of the vital ways of thinking particular to a curriculum area. An empty learning shell is a prime characteristic of 21stcentury education.

Another 21st century prime education characteristic is the priority of skills over knowledge – meaning for ends any knowledge will do.  As stated above ‘everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21st century transcendental insight.’

Because the neoliberal education system puts a low value on the arts, drama, and dance there has been a diminution in their quality and quantity, also contributing to that diminution is the cramping effect of national standards which, admittedly, is just another expression of that lack of valuing. In open space schools, which in some respects one would think ideal for the arts, drama, and dance a further diminution derives from the pressure to avoid the noise and activity that typically comes from children’s participation in those activities. The shush factor of the newer open space schools is not as noticeable and inhibiting as in the older ones, but it is still there.  And I miss the independent advisers throughout the curriculum but in the arts their absence is particularly painful. It was a team of art advisers dropping in at odd times that was the crucial stimulus to Elwyn Richardson – oh that they could come knocking again.

Open space schools lack the spontaneity available in conventional classrooms, for instance, allowing the varying of the timetable and being able to carry on with a programme, say for most of a day – a cherished part of the primary school tradition.

A heavy use of paper templates is common in schools today, with iPads providing digital ones, and exerting a decidedly deadening effect on learning. Another deadening effect is derived from an idea imported from America for use in open space classrooms in association with computers, but is also being used in some conventional classrooms as well. It is called ‘the wall’. Its purpose is to have children work independently on activities from a range of curriculum areas but especially the basics. Activities are displayed on ‘the wall’ and a place for the children to sign off when completed. In New Zealand, a direct duplication of the practice has largely been avoided but many classrooms especially open space ones, employ something like it. The crucial pedagogical point is that to avoid organisational confusion and a lot of demands on teachers, the activities provided are routine and a little below the level of challenge for children. If the activities are ability grouped, the activities for the top group are closer to being OK than the lower groups. The practice is unstimulating and limiting in all curriculum areas but especially in mathematics.

Twenty-first century education has also become associated with two harmful language practices – in reading, a trend to more phonics and words in isolation – oh champion; and in writing, on the basis, it seems, that primary children should be prepared for university from early juniors, the emphasis in writing has shifted to the expository and argument and away from children writing imaginatively and expressively. This combined with the use of templates and the asTTle emphasis on using adjectives and adverbs willy-nilly, is resulting in writing in New Zealand schools being smashed.

Another prime characteristic is the way the role of the teacher is defined. The role of the teacher as carried out in the past is first belittled, pouring water into bottles apparently while standing at the front holding forth (which seems quite a trick). And having established that, the 21st century teacher is then defined as being a facilitator (my hunch is that if that facilitator worked out from what to where and how, the facilitator would, in fact, be a teacher).

One of the substantial problems with computer use and learning is the way it encourages or allows teacher to forgo their responsibilities (as I see it) to deepen and extend children’s learning before they go out on their own (so to speak). Learning experiences need an introduction (with all sorts of open questions and activities), gaining of knowledge (interestingly and pertinently), use of that knowledge (with investigation or activities), and a conclusion (presentation and discussion). But the 21st century way is to quickly hand it over to computers and inquiry learning, with the teacher congratulating him or herself on the independence being encouraged.

The reason why the Treaty of Waitangi is hardly touched is because teachers are unwilling or unable to take children into such a topic, to build up the knowledge, to develop a feeling for what happened, and to identify the issues for the children to investigate from there. And a reason why teachers are so fixed on inquiry learning (leaving aside hierarchical insistence) is a lack of knowledge of alternatives. It is important for teachers to know, even if they don’t feel able to change, there are.

Where is the social studies thinking? that is, the comparative thinking based on the interaction of knowledge with the affective.

Twenty-first century social studies is children choosing their own topics or being asked to investigate large, abstract impersonal topics like communication. There is very rarely a true social studies challenge in a topic like that, or a source of empathetic development.

The social studies thinking will be absent.

Where is the science thinking? that is, thinking based on science investigation.

The question: The question that guides the investigation.

 

What I know now: The child records all he or she knows about the question. If the child already knows the answer, then there is no point in investigating it further. The teacher can also at this stage make a judgement as to whether it is possible for the child to investigate it in the time available. Many topics like volcanoes and dinosaurs lend themselves to study-skills rather than investigation processes.

What I did: This is the vital stage and what differentiates science from point-of-view? It is a step-by-step record of what actually happened; it can be in diary or note-taking form. It records the observing, testing, and trying out of the question. The failures as well as the successes are recorded. Others can read what went on and may suggest ways to revisit the investigation by another route. It may help show others not to go along that path. The child also includes references about those who helped and testing methods used.

And so on.

The science thinking will be revealed.

Where is the language way of thinking? that is, sincerity expressed in writing.

Imagine: the discussion, encouraging but not obtrusive to the child’s thinking; the child knowing how previous writing had been used and that imagination was valued; the art that had occurred or might follow; the urging to intensive observation and accurate expression that preceded the writing by the nine-year-old girl who decided to view the world through the grass not toward the grass:

Small balls of rain fall down and spit up in tiny streaks of white.

Leaves knotted by strings of weeds.

Leaves like cups hold blobs of water.

Drops of water trail down leaves and peak at the top.

Bird’s wings doubles as it flies.

Twigs uneven like a fork.

The dripping tap splits into tracks.

‘Did you find what you were looking for? asked Piglet.

‘Yes,’ said Pooh in muffled tones.

‘But I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘This honey pot is a lot more interesting.’

Continued in Part 2

Education Readings March 17th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Writing is more beneficial for learning than typing, according to these scientists

‘”When the students were drawing the word we saw that the brain was active in larger areas and also in a very particular way that is indicative of being beneficial for learning,” said van der Weel. The researchers found that when your motor skills are involved, the way nerve cells communicated with each other was found to be better for processing information, he explained. Van der Meer added that using a pen in the process of writing or drawing is often slower than typing — forcing people to process what they’re hearing or seeing, compared with passively typing.’

http://on.mash.to/2nGsRd8

Flogging Dead Horses

‘Our model of schooling is more than 100 years old and has barely changed in that time

The rest of society – our industrial practices, technology, the media we use, our leisure activities, the global scope of our world, communication systems – has undergone a revolution.’

‘The original purpose of school – designed to sort and sift; to separate sheep and goats – is now redundant.  We need 100% of students to be skilled and capable citizens able to contribute positive agency to both their economic and social world.’

http://bit.ly/2nph6vd

Teacher Quality: A Reader in 2017

‘“The continual dumbing-down of the preparation of teachers is not without consequences.”

I would argue that the “dumbing-down” is about the false attack on “bad” teachers as the primary or even single cause of low student achievement among, specifically, vulnerable students. And the ugly consequence of that assault has been increasing accountability over teacher certification and teacher evaluation (such as using value-added methods) and thus demonizing teachers without improving teaching or learning.’

http://bit.ly/2npdHgf

Busting the attention span myth

‘You probably won’t get to the end of this article. Everyone knows our attention spans are getting shorter. It’s just obvious. Or is it?’

http://bbc.in/2mQmOVw

12 ways to really make Genius Hour work in your class

‘It’s a class unlike anything you’d see at almost any school. But at heart, it’s driven by the same thing that drives Genius Hour: helping kids pursue what’s important to them and what’s important to the people they serve. Genius Hour is the idea of giving students 20 percent of their class time to pursue projects related to their passions. The concept is broad and intentionally open-ended, and the results can be phenomenal.’

http://bit.ly/2mQjzxB

The changing skill set of the learning professional

‘It comes as a surprise to no-one that learning professionals are operating in a very different world to those of a generation ago. I’d like to highlight four changes in particular that impact heavily on the skill set of the learning professional.’

http://bit.ly/2nGsbV9

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive

‘Art has long been recognized as an important part of a well-rounded education — but when it comes down to setting budget priorities, the arts rarely rise to the top. Many public schools saw their visual, performing and musical arts programs cut completely during the last recession. A few schools are taking the research to heart, weaving the arts into everything they do and finding that the approach not only boosts academic achievement but also promotes creativity, self-confidence and school pride.’

http://bit.ly/2npf1PX

Brava Art Press, Visual Art for Children, Teachers and Parents

An Art site schools might like to join?

‘Children who participate in the Brava Art Visual Art Program express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and at the same time, they develop their own symbols and techniques to create their art works.As artists, children are encouraged to rely on the concept of personal freedom and expression – utilizing a variety of both new and old materials – to transform this Visual Art Program into a very creative adventure.’

http://bit.ly/2ntQqGr

Seeing Struggling Math Learners as ‘Sense Makers,’ Not ‘Mistake Makers’

The need to develop an activity based maths programme.

’In discussions of progressive and constructivist teaching practices, math is often the odd subject out. Teachers and schools that are capable of creating real-world, contextualized, project-based learning activities in every other area of school often struggle to do the same for mathematics, even as prospective employers and universities put more emphasis on its importance.’

http://bit.ly/28LOvo8

Want to Raise Successful Boys? Science Says Do This (but their schools probably won’t)

‘This is a story about successful kids (especially boys), common sense, and research.

Most of us spend hours each day sitting at work. Science says it’s killing us, and we have developed all kinds of fads to combat it–from standing desks to smartphone alerts to get us up and moving. Armed with that knowledge, however, what do we force our kids to do each day at school? Sit still, for six or eight hours. Now researchers say that mistake leads us into a three-pronged, perfect storm of problems:’

http://on.inc.com/2muwwdS

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Mathematics in education and ability grouping

Bruce Hammonds  recently complied a recent blog with developing active maths programmes with links to practical resources for those interested.

‘Recently I had a discussion with some young teachers about the teaching of mathematics in schools – the teachers taught in the middle school area. It didn’t go to well! They have to do what’s expected of them – and that this was  sadly influenced by what the secondary school maths teachers wanted students to have covered! Change requires leadership and a whole school approach.’

http://bit.ly/2mQnaeZ

What do the learners think?

‘The people who know best about what attracts student’s curiosity, or things that worry them, are the students themselves. A visit to even the most child-centred classrooms will find very little reference to students’ questions, views and theories. All too often students are required to respond to what their teachers feel is important for them to learn.’

http://bit.ly/2m22JwW

As we move closer to May 9 the day of attrition

Back to ‘Comments on Comments’ soon.

NOPLAN DAY IS NOT FAR AWAY
Time for the wise to withdraw their children.

As Australia moves forward to one of the most important days on its socio-political calendar – the first day of what is now called, The Noplan Tests, we need to consider the climate in which our present system exists. A drum-roll for those who are forced to head for the learning gallows on May 9 to do the tests!

The Climate

* Schooling movements in Australia are moving further away from democratic principles and it is noticeable.

*Australian politicians do not know how to prepare for the future ….the future of work, of living; a future  of doing better at anything we do.

*Australians do not have the courage to stand up to corporate lobbyists who are now determining our  children’s future.

* The obstacles to a healthy school-learning culture are political, not educational.

* The unscrupulous domination of the greedy  controls our entire schooling system.

* Our obedience to the desires of vested interests keeps us from discussing what is important.

*The elements of the devices used to control basic principles of learning, contain their own form of decadence.  [Children fail NAPLAN because of NAPLAN.]

*The greatest social and industrial handicap to Australia’s future is NOPLAN.  Naplan is a noplan. It’s a political curse for which Australia will pay dearly.

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Keeping in mind that the most esteemed educational practitioner of the 20th century, Sir Alec Clegg, said: 
there are two kinds of education: the education of the mind by imparting facts and teaching skills, and the education of the spirit … the child’s loves and hates, his hopes and fears, or in other terms, his courage, his integrity, his compassion and other great human qualities.

Australia has the capacity to have both for its pupils. We are willing and able to do things properly, if we are allowed.. Sir Alec’s little homily is appropriate….
When Michelangelo was going to Rome to see the Pope prior to his being employed to build the great dome of St Peter’s and paint the Sistine Chapel, he took a reference with him which said: The bearer of these presents is Michelangelo the sculptor. His nature is such that he requires to be drawn out by kindness and encouragement. If love be shown him and he be treated really well, he will accomplish things that will make the whole world wonder.

Every child is a  Michangelo  if we believe in the worth of our children.
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Sadly, the climate of Australian schooling is certainly not conducive to child  care, progress and welfare. Aussies prefer that their teachers exert fear and worry and anxiety so they can pass tests.

The Child

* There is good in every child no matter how slow, damaged, ill-favoured or despised by others.

* Children will work to the limit of their abilities.

* All children matter.

* Happy relationships between school administrators, parents, teachers and pupils are extremely important.

* The life of every child is enriched by the development of its creative powers.

* Love and encouragement and having fun at school are much more important than fear and anxiety.

* Children need care-based pupilling rather than fear-based hard instruction and repetitive test-prep.

* Teachers need as much support as pupils. Both thrive on recognition.

Australians, however,  prefer to believe that children go to school to pass tests and examinations; and play sport. Nothing else.

The School

* definitions are clear and meaningfully used

* all adults on the campus think about their place in the scheme of things.

* thinking time is part of each person’s timetable.

* all members concentrate total effort on the improvement of teaching and learning techniques.

* progress through school is marked by increasing joy in the acts of learning as new thresholds are crossed. Such thresholds are not  marked by school years but by growth in experiences.  Schooling is fun.

* there is plenty of shared opinions about activities and efforts. The sharing of helpful opinion represent the limit of evaluation processes, because increases in learning joy would be the aim of any learning conversations. Shared opinions would lead to positive forms of self-evaluation.

* Oracy is part of the every-day time-table.

* ways  are found to develop talents as part of the normal learning process.

Times for unique interests are found but not over-ritualised.

Pupils  exit school with a greater love for some skill or interest of a particular kind than they had when they started.

 When decisions have to be made [e.g. whether to do Noplan tests]  they are based on a simple Four Way Test, not unlike the Rotary Test:

1. Does it help children to learn better?

2. Does it help teachers to teach better ?

3. Does it economise on efforts in the teaching/learning acts ?

4. Does it provide the greatest good for the greatest number ?

When you have the pupil in the middle of your eye, you can’t miss describing an effective, quality institution.

You end up describing joy in the processes of learning, growth in the quest for learning how to learn, and high satisfaction in achievement.

HOW DOES THE 4-WAY TEST APPLY TO NOPLAN? WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comments?                                                                                                                                                  _______________________________________________________________________________________________                                                                                                                                                                              Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486  07 5524 6443  0407865999  cphilcullen@bigpond.com  REFER: Who’s Who in Australia