Education Readings April 21st

By Allan Alach

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

The hidden dangers of caring about your career too much

‘This is one of the most important social justice and economic issues of our time. Until teachers feel valued and supported in their pursuit of their calling, they will continue to leave the classroom—and our most vulnerable children will suffer as a result.’

http://bit.ly/2oPsekK

Why School Makes Us Stupid

‘If you’ve ever thought school sucks, is a waste of time, or the education system is stupid, then this video is for you.’

http://bit.ly/2ovMEeY

A Look at 6 Digital Citizenship Myths That Must Be Dispelled

When digital citizenship cemented itself into the public consciousness only a few years ago, it definitely had its critics. That remains true even today as we strive to understand what it means and how to practice it in our homes and classrooms. Many digital citizenship myths still have some of us doubting the intrinsic need for its practices.’

http://bit.ly/2p0qHsw

7 Suggestions For How To Treat Wilful Digital Illiteracy In Education

‘A teacher I know asked me last week if I could create a Word document for him so that he could type a list of dates. He has been teaching, I believe, for over 20 years, and is in a senior position in her school. Why has he been allowed to get away with such a basic lack of knowledge for so long?

In this particular instance it doesn’t have any direct effect on the children he teaches, or the staff he manages. Or does it? I am a firm believer in what has been called the “hidden curriculum”, in which what you teach and what the kids learn may be rather different. What are his children and staff learning from his behaviour? ‘

http://bit.ly/2pk3kLu

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class

‘Sit still. It’s the mantra of every classroom.

But that is changing as evidence builds that taking brief activity breaks during the day helps children learn and be more attentive in class, and a growing number of programs designed to promote movement are being adopted in schools.’

http://nyti.ms/2pk5WZZ

What Student Test-Takers Share with Ejected Airline Passengers

By Alfie Kohn

‘Consider the sport of ranking the U.S. against other nations on standardized exams.  Even if these tests were meaningful indicators of intellectual proficiency, which is doubtful, specifying how well one country’s students perform relative to those elsewhere tells us nothing of interest. If all countries did reasonably well in absolute terms, there would be no shame in (and, perhaps, no statistical significance to) being at the bottom.  If all countries did poorly, there would be no glory in being at the top.’

http://bit.ly/2pHZ1GK

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Why Giving Effective Feedback Is Trickier Than It Seems

‘But giving effective feedback in the classroom can be trickier than it seems. It’s more of an art than a simple practice and requires the teacher to be disciplined and thoughtful about what is worthy of feedback, as well as when to give it.’

http://bit.ly/2oVltMC

More to good schools than ranked pass results

‘When choosing schools we need to prioritise much more than ranked test results. Choosing a school is infinitely more serious than scanning ranked examination percentages. We need to know the human heart of a school because design for learning is a complex thing.’

http://bit.ly/2oVuKnY

Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

Is there some truth in this?

‘A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.’

http://bit.ly/2ortBn1

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Learning to be ‘creatively rebellious’. The importance of the Three Ds: being Different, Disruptive and Deviant.

‘Organisations (and this includes schools if they are to be true “learning organisations”) need to become ‘courageous’ and adopt a ‘rebellious instinct’ and to discard old habits and safety nets to remake themselves as 21st C  adaptive organisations. Unfortunately all this is beyond the timid leadership of most primary schools or the industrial aged straightjackets secondary schools operate under.’

http://bit.ly/2pI6e9L

Fundamentals in education

The real fundamentals in education – the creation of a creative mind

‘In recent years education has become more and more cognitive or rational; learning that can be seen and measured so as to prove evidence of growth.

In the process real fundamentals have been overlooked.The creation of the mind is more than simply cognitive. The mind is a unified, active, constructive, self creating, and symbol making organ; it feels as well as thinks- feelings and emotions are a kind of thought. Attitudes are created from feelings and emotions.’

http://bit.ly/13b5vRO

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.’

http://bit.ly/1hARUnP

Education Readings April 14th

By Allan Alach

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

Apostrophe vigilantes: who cares?

Think you’re an expert on apostrophes?

‘The Apostrophe Police are everywhere. Not only do they want you to get apostrophes in what they think are the right places, they are also ready to mock you if you get it wrong. The general message is that the rules for apostrophes are very easy, and only a fool could make a mistake.’

http://bit.ly/2ougcNA

Standardized Testing Creates Captive Markets

‘For example, school children as young as 8-years-old are forced to take a battery of standardized tests in public schools. Would educators prescribe such assessments if it were up to them? Would parents demand children be treated this way if they were consulted? Or is this just a corporate scam perpetrated by our government for the sole benefit of a particular industry that funnels a portion of the profits to our lawmakers as political donations?’

http://bit.ly/2oBEzcG

The one question to ask yourself the next time you’re facing a difficult problem

Can you adapt this for your classroom?

‘A lot of us have trouble dealing with conflict. But there’s an effective strategy for solving problems at work and at home. The only downside? It makes you sound a bit like a toddler on a road trip. The secret to resolving conflict, as first outlined by former Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno, is to “ask why five times.” The idea is that by continuously asking “why,” you’ll eventually arrive at a root cause and learn from the problem—the better to avoid repeating unproductive or ignorant behavior.’

http://bit.ly/2o80ncP

To Become a Better Problem-Solver, Try Thinking Like a Toddler

Following on (references previous article):

‘As Science of Us has previously reported, one analysis found that preschoolers ask an average of 76 questions per hour. That’s a lot of why, especially when you consider the fact that most of the time, they don’t even care much about the explanation.

http://sciof.us/2pwcY9V

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Age of Uncertainty: Who is Bold?

‘Why School?- What are the conditions for optimal, sticky learning? What are we doing in school that can not be Khanified?- What do students need to learn in school when they can learn so much without us? What are the skills that our students need now to succeed?Where do we start?I used to think I knew the answers to those questions. I am not sure (maybe a bit uncertain) as to what the future holds for our concept of “education.”’

http://bit.ly/2o7D82C

School doubles in size after curriculum change brings learning into 21st century

‘A school has doubled in size since changing its curriculum to a utopia-like educational system. Patea Area School’s role now sits at 154 pupils since a “massive overhaul” trialled last year appealed to a large number of people. School principal Nicola Ngarewa said the school now “focuses on preparing children for the 21st century, beyond the school gates”.’

http://bit.ly/2p8nmrX

Teachers struggle with modern learning environments

‘If there’s a pot of gold at the end of the collaborative teaching rainbow, Dave* thinks it’s a small one. He’s struggled with 50-child classrooms at his Christchurch primary school over the past few years and says he’s not the only one, with at least half his colleagues exhausted by what’s supposed to be the future of education. Endless collaboration between teachers sharing the spaces has distracted them from teaching pupils, who are in turn distracted by each other. Learning outcomes have gone down, not up, but no one wants to discuss the elephant in the room, he says.’

http://bit.ly/2o8iiiD

Brian Cox: Don’t use children as ‘measurement probes’ to test schools

‘Science presenter and particle physicist Professor Brian Cox has called for testing in schools to be minimised – and only used when the positive benefits can be proven.There has been concern that too much focus on maths and English – particularly in Year 6 in the run-up to Sats – can narrow the curriculum, leaving less time for other subjects.’

http://bit.ly/2oZmXbq

Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

‘Scholars have identified two thinking process: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Education focuses on convergent thinking — emphasizes on finding definite, absolute answers. But in reality, we actually need divergent thinking more, which is the ability to find more than one way to solve problems, and it is essential to creativity.’

http://bit.ly/2o7CSk9

How Do We Define and Measure “Deeper Learning”?

‘In preparing students for the world outside school, what skills are important to learn. Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the “process of learning for transfer,” meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another.’

http://bit.ly/2oB6fOV

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The balance between consistency and creativity.

For three days the Gisborne principals visited selected schools in Taranaki. Their task was to look for each schools ‘cc’ rating: consistency and conversely creativity across classrooms. Consistency because this indicates shared language of expectations and creativity, for without celebrating each teacher and child’s creativity, it all can become mediocre.The balance between the two is vital.’

http://bit.ly/2p8Itdt

Learning styles

Developing a personalised educational approach

Developing a ‘personalised learning’ approach, tailoring learning to the needs of each students ( as against the ‘one size fits all’), is not as easy as it sounds. In the real world, outside of school, people make use of whatever ways of learning that do the job. For many such people school learning is of little use to them.’

http://bit.ly/1GgidNa

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

The battering of schools by a mega-meme.

“The Plowden Report was an official study, not a brain-fart exchange by two testucating child-mind-bashers at a booze-up in New York.”

“Joel Klein and Julia Gillard would have been tarred and feathered and rail-roaded out of town if they had tried their fear-based stunts then.

Mega Meme-Storm Continues

Devastating Damage

A meme is a vogue-word that covers the description of  an idea or a movement or a behaviour or a style that seems to have come from nowhere, but establishes itself in a culture, then self-perpetuates or mutates or adjusts. Some are strange. Some last longer than others. Think of torn jeans, tattoes, rock music, rap, bad language, school examinations, standardised testing’.  Someone starts something somewhere and it spreads.

Education systems get more than their fair share of memes that are sometimes called ‘fads’. Their origins can be traced and their upkeep can be followed but, in the worst cases, their obliteration can be slow. Others, like zest for learning, mini-skirts, good manners and child-centred learning disappear too fast!

A time line of useful and destructive educational memes can be drawn by any enthusiastic historian, which I am not. I have lived through some extreme ones and they were devastating. Within the limits of my experience – the post-war period to this point  in time-  a little over 70 years – this latest destructive Meme – NAPLANISING – for want of a better term,  has been the worst and most destructive, by a long shot. Why?  Because it aims directly at the mental health of children in a very deliberate way to try to force them to engage in robotic swotting behaviour of the most damaging kind.  It’s also a serious threat to responsible government, because it is killing the magic of learning and potential leadership of international negotiations.

The best meme in this  70 year period was described as ‘child-centred schooling’ or ‘open learning’ or ‘freedom to learn”.   It’s disappeared now, but when it was in vogue, the times were just wonderful and the school atmosphere was magic.

MEME-STORMS,

This is a short personal story about welcomed and unwelcome memes that would be of little interest to present day testucators. The oldies, the has-been educators,  might find something of interest. Let me start at the beginning. I was the most test-focussed primary school principal the world had ever known, and I would never have taken much notice of the crack-pots of the time who were talking about ‘freedom to learn’, ‘integrated days’, ‘alternative schools’, ‘subversive teaching’, allowing children to talk to each other in class, to think beyond the set syllabus, to enjoy learning, even to enjoy school…and all that nonsense of the post-war fifties.  Apart from monthly and terms tests I held tests of Arithmetic [Tables, Mental, Notation, Sums and Problems – as they were called] every Friday and I was working on some Grammar tests when I joined ‘them’.  I ‘heard’ spelling of every child in the school each day, over the intercom.  I was ‘test crazy’….until a little girl cried in front of me, when her main academic rival beat her on one of my monthly tests. I woke up there and then.  I hadn’t joined the teaching profession to make children cry; and I  realised that I must have been upsetting the real learning of hundreds of others in the scramble for better test scores.   Even though my inspectors liked what I was doing and I kept getting promoted, I knew that there was something better that I should be doing, but, despite duodinal ulcers, Bells Palsy and the rest, I couldn’t figure it all out.

I was born at the right time, as it turned out.  It was, almost suddenly,  the sixties; and I was right age to sort myself out. I was in the mood; and the books of the era were the most thought provoking ever. I read voraciously as did my divergent mentor and neighbour, principal Oscar Bell.  Miss Walker, owner of the largest bookstore in Cairns said that we were her best customers,  Cuisennaire was in vogue as was ‘individualisation’, structured reading using S.R.A. packaged reading kits [Shhh!], Reading in Colours, Reading for Understanding [a divergent thought at the time]. Piaget’s theory of social development was No.1 on the charts and  was even discussed at those inservice gatherings at the pub each Friday. He was a hero. Classrooms started to become ‘child-centred’ rather than ‘subject-centred’.  It was the sexy sixties.  Things were changing.  Joel Klein and Julia Gillard would have been tarred and feathered and rail-roaded  out of town if they had tried their fear-based stunts then.

Then came 1967 – The Plowden Report. It’s Golden Jubilee year this year.  50 years. Things started looking up. It was the time when “the hot knowledge of the practitioner and the practical administrator were put into practice”. Its messages are still ignored by testucators even though it was the best thing to hit England since the railway.  It was an official study, led by Lady Plowden, not the outcome of a brain-fart exchange by two testucating child-mind-bashers at a booze-up in New York. Child-centred education looked like being here to stay, putting into  practice what the war and  post-war experiences had taught those at the chalk-face.    I managed to visit the more notable LEAs in England…Bristol, Hertsfordshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Oh, what a feeling! The zest for learning was incredible. Sir Alec Clegg [https://alecclegg.com/plowden/and Eric Hake were absolute masters of the craft, sharing their experiences with a former test-freak from down under!  Magic.  It was 1970 and Australia was already opening its doors to welcome better ways of doing things in the classroom.  South Australia, the A.C.T. and W.A.  were quick off the mark and went so far as to completely alter the architecture of their classrooms to allow for more activity, more cooperative teaching, more opportunities to use the full range of strategies between the didactic to the maieutic that teachers used, to suit the subject and the pupils.

Children were treated as pupils not students.  Openness started to become a state of mind and not just an architectural term. Teaching and learning hugged each other in meaningful progress. What a wonderful period for a teacher to have lived. Wonderful. Wonderful to be a teacher in such times, under such circumstances.

Then came a severe questioning of what was going on in schools in ‘back to basic ‘terms, led by the fake press [especially The Bully in Australia], in the late 70s. It was mischief-making by casual observers of classrooms where children could wander around, talk to each other and share.  The uninitiated thought that it was chaos, because the children were not spending the day, sitting in their seats looking towards the chalkboard and reciting things. This meme-storm, originating  from a low-level series of  academic ‘Black Papers’ [1]in England that hit our shores with the intensity of a Category 5 cyclone. The press made the most of it with special magazine issues, nation-wide TV debates, public meetings, government inquiries and the like. Queensland was a special hot-spot because of its maverick style of governance. The unease was tactile until a special government committee [Ahern 1978-80] tidied up the mess and substantiated the kind of progress being made in teaching and learning terms.  Teachers , in those days, stuck to their guns when their professional ethics were threatened. Despite the appearance of classrooms, they knew what real learning was.

If school leaders of 2008 had remembered any part of this Back-to-Basics Super-Meme, they would never had allowed NAPLAN anywhere near the front gate of their school when it was proposed. .

The ease of influencing political decision, however,  as crazy as they were in the pre-Ahern period, gave heart to groups of moral crusaders who had been hanging around on the sidelines, waiting to clean out the teaching profession  of social justice adherents,  child-centred advocates, readers of subversive books and viewers of doubtful films. All of these atrocities were caused by state school teachers. Schools were promoting immorality. This gross meme had its origins in the U.S. in a large numbers of ‘Southern Baptist’ type institutions but especially the John Birch Society, a bulwark of conservatism and the the Moral Morality, run by Jerry Falwell[whose son is now an advisor to Donald T], a moneyed-up,  extreme right wing group that had established clones in Australia {Committee Against Regressive Education, Society to Outlaw Pornography, Council for Community Standards, Community Morals in Education, Campaign for Responsible Education, Conservative Club, Evolution Protest Committee  were some]. In Queensland, moral crusader Rona Joyner took command of schooling and of the cabinet and managed to ban M:ACOS, a social science program for primary schools and a commonwealth-sponsored social education project,  SEMP, in secondary schools. The teaching profession was a close-knit ethical unit in Australia at the time and the agitation disappeared…as did the Queensland dystopic government.

Then the smarties from the emerging discipline of business administration thought that they knew more about the various kinds of administration, even schooling, than those who’d practised it for ever and had excelled at the academic pursuit of the specialty. These managerialists were allowed to take over the band-wagon.  While it is said that everyone has the right to be stupid, but politicians abuse the privilege. Ours got it all a-about-f and played havoc with the basic principles of organisational structure. They tried to stick square pegs in round holes. Didn’t work, but, as usual, they kept it up. They appointed sciolists and pretenders into important positions and they  buggered things up, big time. The managerialists thought that the possession of a degree meant that the possessor knew more about everything than anybody without one. They thought that a well-prepared CV was a form guide and that the thespian skills demonstrated at interview time meant that he applicant could do anything.  Plumbers were put in charge of nurseries and, worst of all, testucating measurement freaks were put in charge of schooling. The managerial movement of the 80s and 90s was a calamity for Australian education. It was a meme-storm  of hurricane proportions. ‘Debbie’ would be a puff of wind by comparison. We have yet to recover. Maybe never. But. One day, after the cyclonic damage is being tidied up,  in the long distant future ,there is a slight chance that we will have education departments run by the teaching fraternity with curriculums and curricula  knowledge based on children’s needs. One day.

MEME-STORM. CAT.5

We couldn’t stop the Cat.5 meme-storm of 2008. It’s still raging.  Its destructiveness is legendary.

In political terms, what sort of government spends millions of dollars on an abject failure and then spends millions more to continue it?  Our political representatives surely test the standards of stupidity with casual indifference.

  

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1. All five Black Papers – supported by the right-wing press – attacked the concepts of comprehensive education, egalitarianism and progressive teaching methods. They deplored the lack of discipline in schools and blamed comprehensivisation for preventing ‘academic’ students from obtaining good examination results. ‘Education in England: a brief history‘ by Derek Gillard.

What are we doing with Science?

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Where do we go wrong with science?

When I visited the Science section of the Assessment of Performance Unit in England some years ago, I was able to share the difficulties that the testors had. They knew that one could not test science by recording answers on paper. Science is a doing subject.  They were trying to construct a number of diaramas to forward to schools, but the effort seemed to be too cumbersome and expensive. It just didn’t work.  Within the classroom, large scale blanket testing had to be dropped and replaced by hands-on learning. Science was the first subject to drop blanket programmed testing.in England. It was replaced by some really creative  and captivating teaching and learning. Things went well for many years until managerialism hit the fan.     With present day blanket testing-type  projects now, the spirit of teaching and learning science has been blown away in England and Australia by the overuse of preparation for NAPLAN and TIMSS and the like.

If you watched the Charlie Pickering’s Show, ‘The Weekly’ on the ABC on Wednesday night, 22 March 2017,  you would have listened to the opinions of Rock Star Physicist Brian Green.  If you missed it, click here…

http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/weekly-with-charlie-pickering/LE1611V008S00#playing.

He suggests that pupils are turning away from accumulating ‘Knowledge’ because they don’t think they need it.  They don’t want it as it is. He says that ‘it is an outrage that children are being denied the pleasure of learning about the world. They keep being tested and tested and tested in the name of Science. Facts. Facts. Facts. Science  is vital to our life and should be valued in the same way that we value great music or great theatre.

 Australian children are taught, he says, that Physics is  just a collection of facts. “We need a big cultural shift from learning facts back to learning the value of subjects and of learning about the subject itself. It is vital. Learners must engage with their subjects. “Grades [aka scores] are garbage.”

“I can’t stand the way they assess everything a kid does.”

“Schools are not dedicated to educating. They just do credentialing.”

Now, there’s a point.

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Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point Australia  2486   07 5524 6443   0407865999   REFER: Who’s Who in Australia

Education Readings March 24th

By Allan Alach

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

Why even the world’s highest-scoring schools need to change

‘Marion Brady is a veteran educator who has long argued that public schools in the United States need a paradigm shift. The core curriculum, he says, does not meet the needs of today’s students, and schools fail to do the most important thing they should be doing. He explains in the following post.’

http://wapo.st/2mUwwq0

You Probably Believe Some Learning Myths: Take Our Quiz To Find Out

‘We all want for our kids to have optimal learning experiences and, for ourselves, to stay competitive with lifelong learning. But how well do you think you understand what good learning looks like?

Ulrich Boser says, probably not very well.’ 

http://n.pr/2noFahe

We should be cautious about classroom tech

‘However, before we blithely fall off the digital cliff face like pixelated lemmings, we do need to assess the effect of our coming bout with the big gorilla. Education has always been about freeing ourselves from the coercive effect of ideology so that we can live informed lives free from superstition or marketing. However, today we are on the cusp of hitching ourselves to big business with very little empirical research on the effect of technology in schools.’

http://bit.ly/2mVYvDf

Most people are secretly threatened by creativity

‘Creativity is highly prized in Western society—much touted by cultures that claim to value individualism and the entrepreneurial spirit. But scratch beneath the surface, and it turns out that a lot of schools and businesses aren’t actually all that excited about bold new ideas. By and large, we tend to be threatened by creativity—and eager to shut it down.’

http://bit.ly/2nDPS3I

Finger painting as fun, learning and an act of resistance.

“Looking through some old pics of student art work I am reminded that one of the things that drove teacher-hating trolls the most nuts was that I, an elementary Art teacher, was paid a full teacher’s salary for “finger painting with kids.” So I always made sure that during the school year that is exactly what I did. And post it. Kids love to finger paint and it is messy! And I was paid in full.”

http://bit.ly/2neFyhO

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Personalising education by introducing the spiritual dimension – an antidote to linear standardised teaching

Bruce’s latest article:

‘I have just been looking at a book ,’Learning by Wandering: an Ancient Irish Perspective for a Digital World’  sent to me  because the Irish author Marie Martin had made use of some of my writing from an e-zine I wrote in 2009. I felt it a bit of a honour to be included in her book alongside well recognized international  educational writers she made reference to.

http://bit.ly/2noGBw0

Why high-flying Singapore wants more than grades

‘The next update of the education system will have to ensure that Singapore can create a more equitable society, build a stronger social compact among its people while at the same time develop capabilities for the new digital economy. Government policies are moving away from parents and students’ unhealthy obsession with grades and entry to top schools and want to put more emphasis on the importance of values. Schools have been encouraged, especially for the early elementary years, to scrap standardised examinations and focus on the development of the whole child.’

http://bbc.in/2mu91pf

Ignorance Might Be the Best Thing For Your Creative Mind

‘There is no right and standard prescription for creative work. Creativity requires some form of knowledge. But knowledge alone is not useful unless you can make meaningful connections. A more refined design and an efficient implementation are not absolute guarantees of success.

http://bit.ly/2nTbq9V

Educators argue creativity just as important as literacy and numeracy in national curriculum

‘The Federal Government-commissioned report released in October last year recommended Australia’s school curriculum should refocus teaching in early childhood years on literacy and numeracy. But some Sydney schools are worried if there is a shift away from fostering creative and critical thinking skills, students will not learn the skills needed when they enter the workforce.’

http://ab.co/2nKu9Yk

Is school ‘killing’ your child’s creativity? And does this matter?

‘Rote learning, controlling teachers and a “fixation” on standardised tests are crushing children’s creativity, according to a school principal who is on a mission to change things.’

http://ab.co/2noKJfH

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Environmental awareness for pre-schoolers – from ‘On Looking’ by Alexandra Horowitz

‘These days learning using technology – exploring the ‘virtual’ world, seems to the latest ‘silver bullet’ and, all too often, this is at the expense of developing an awareness and appreciation of the real world.’

http://bit.ly/1xo3Ndi

The Way David Hockney Sees It.

‘Hockney’s skill has been his ability to make fresh pictures many based on real technical skill. While I was in England I picked up on an newspaper interview with Hockney and feel some of his ideas are worth sharing  with educators.’

http://bit.ly/2chHAYM