Education Readings November 17th

By Allan Alach

Now that the curse of national standards is being removed from New Zealand education, the way is clear for schools and teachers to really let loose. Bruce Hammonds’ two articles on Elwyn Richardson provide a really good insight into this teaching genius of the 1950s, whose work is very relevant today in the post national standards world.

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

The Northland school teaching with art

‘There is a place for the arts in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum. Teaching becomes lively and fun; children are ‘doing’ rather than sitting, and the classroom becomes an environment where students love to learn. This is a simple definition of ‘arts integration’ which is being researched by educators globally: A small school in Northland has taken the ideas on board and the results are proving remarkable.’

http://bit.ly/2ARsCmX

Teaching to Forget

Much of the ‘learning’ children do at school each day is gone by the time they walk out of the school gate…

‘The truth that we all know but are loathe to discuss is that the vast majority of what kids “learn” in our classrooms will soon be forgotten. We know this because we ourselves forgot the vast majority of what we learned in classrooms when we were in school.

And the other truth that we don’t want to admit is that the grades that we give that are supposed to show what a student has “learned” are pretty meaningless considering that student will forget most of the “learning” once the grade is given.’

http://bit.ly/2APqf41

Engaging Practice: Making in English Language Arts

Use creative technology tools to engage struggling readers and writers.

‘Creative multimedia tools allow for multiple forms of representation, providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding while practicing literacy skills through writing (text), reading (audio), and illustration (picture walks and visualization). “When students publish their own books, you tap into their innate desire for recognition as they learn to connect to literature, play with language, and beam with pride at their accomplishments,” shares California educator Linda Oaks.’

http://bit.ly/2hCDOib

It’s Time for a New Core Curriculum

‘If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students.  Building on some of the great work from FutureReady.org, the ISTE NETS for Students and keeping in mind those most desired future job skills from above, I would propose the development of the following 7 courses for every student:’

http://bit.ly/2hCjJcb

6 Strategies For Dealing With ‘Difficult’ Students

‘As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six “pillars” can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions. Add or substitute other methods within each pillar to reflect your style and preference.’

http://bit.ly/2zGhCLq

A Surprising Strategy Makes Kids Persevere at Boring Tasks

‘With the onset of early childhood and attending preschool, increased demands are placed on the self-regulatory skills of kids. Children need to start completing tasks that may be much less interesting than the myriad of entertaining distractions around them. Researchers have been interested in how to develop self-control and perseverance in children by teaching them tactics like averting their attention away from distractions.’

http://bit.ly/2hEzJtY

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Use Einstein’s Educational Philosophy to Boost Your Learning

‘Although he overall did well in school, Einstein was skeptical of the schooling system and strongly disliked academia’s restrictions on learning. Here are 10 things we can learn from Albert Einstein about school and education: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”’

http://bit.ly/2zE8neB

Why This Second Grade Handout Should Be Your New Creative Manifesto

‘Last week, I attended curriculum night at my daughter’s school. In discussing the things the kids will be learning this year, the teachers handed us the chart above. My first thought was, what an amazing thing to give a bunch of second graders. I am sharing it with you. I feel like this is as good a guideline for a creative department I’ve ever seen. A simple chart for all teachers at all levels.’

http://bit.ly/2A1c0vP

How This School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent

‘To adapt to changing student needs, some school libraries are reinventing themselves as makerspaces, but this Ohio library took a slightly different approach. Now they’re seeing incredible results. A library as a place where students did hands-on work, an extension of what was happening their classrooms toward more personalized learning.’

http://bit.ly/2yKi9rO

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s the Point of School?

What’s the Point of School asks Guy Claxton

‘The purpose of education’ Claxton writes, is to prepare young people for the future.Schools should be helping Young people to develop the capacities they will need to thrive.What they need and want, is the confidence to talk to strangers, to try things out, to handle tricky situations, to stand up for themselves, to ask for help, to think new thoughts’ ‘This is not to much to ask’, says Claxton, ‘but they are not getting it.’

http://bit.ly/2p5BukY

Reclaiming the joy of learning 

and also

A new inspirational book about Elwyn Richardson – New Zealand’s pioneer teacher

Two articles about the great NZ teacher Elwyn Richardson that all teachers should read.

‘What matters is a curriculum that places children’s natural curiosity at the heart, so that they are encouraged to explore who they are and the world around them.This is evident in Elwyn’s use of an integrated curriculum, focusing on intriguing questions that motivated children to pursue avenues of enquiry. He encouraged the freedom to explore, the opportunity to observe closely, and the discipline to record findings in various ways. He also upheld the value of the arts as a vivid means of expression and not secondary to other subjects. He also realised that one subject informs another; that scientific understanding is enhanced by the aesthetic, and vice versa.’

http://bit.ly/2zMetXW

http://bit.ly/2ijzjXb

Looking back

Dr Beeby and the first Labour Government set an example for today

‘Today teachers need to look back to ideas that have been sidelined by the imposition of the current technocratic curriculums of the 90s and to appreciate that it is these curriculums that have caused our current confusion and distress. Dr Beeby believed in a creative role for education. He reminded those present in 1983 that the most important thing realized about education in the previous decades had been the discovery of the individual child. It is not that individuality wasn’t appreciated earlier but that the school system was based on a mass education vision which made realizing such an idea impossible.’

http://bit.ly/1sPo0SY

Advertisements

Education Readings October 13th

By Allan Alach

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

More than bricks and mortar: A critical examination of school property under the National-led Government

An article I posted last week referenced an article by Dr Leon Benade, School of Education, Auckland University of Technology. Here is Leon’s full article.

‘Teachers are largely unprepared for flexible learning spaces that bring together multiple teachers and students (see my earlier blog on MLE/ILE). These (enforced) changes require students to master new learning habits and routines, while parents’ most recent school memory may have been of sitting in rows or possibly in grouped desks, in so-called ‘single cell’ classrooms with one teacher and no more than 30 or 35 students. So, where has this policy come from, and what does it look like in action?’

http://bit.ly/2yZqQyg

Is Math Art? Dream or Nightmare?

‘I was blown away by this remarkable (and strangely empowering) critique about math education:  how we view it as a culture; how teachers are teaching it (or not teaching it); how and why some students struggle with it; how some students who apparently “get it” don’t; how parents perceive it; how testing may not be showing us what we want to know, and how we can change math education for the better.’

http://bit.ly/2xzU7mI

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

‘A frenzy surrounding reading is caused by school reformers and the media, claiming children are not learning to read fast enough. Kindergarten is the new first grade, automatically making preschool the new kindergarten. If we aren’t careful, obstetricians will show newborns an alphabet chart immediately after babies are born! We’re told that reading is an emergency, and if it’s not addressed by reading programs produced by individuals, companies, and technology, children won’t learn to read—and they won’t be ready for the global economy.’

http://bit.ly/2zh6NMv

Most everything you need to know about creativity

‘It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? And how do you take in and capture those details that you do choose to zoom in on? In other words, how do you maximize your brain attic’s potential? …Everything we choose to notice has the potential to become a future furnishing of our attics.’

http://bit.ly/2gb0jdo

Stop Forcing Introverts To Speak In Class. There Are Better Ways.

‘Class participation is often a significant portion of a student’s grade, and I have felt pressured to force myself to speak in order to meet the participation requirements, as do many introverts. But I was fortunate to have a teacher who offered an alternative, and I strongly encourage other teachers to do the same. How can a teacher recognize an introverted student and support him or her?’

http://bit.ly/2g2etd9

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

‘Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.’

http://bit.ly/2xyX6vM

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Malcolm Dixon: Time to discuss primary school education

‘I don’t know if anyone else noticed but primary school education was seldom mentioned throughout the election campaign and yet for everyone with children or grandchildren education plays an extremely important part in their lives. Why didn’t the Government mention it? In my opinion it was the legacy of the Parata regime and there is very little to celebrate and the current minister is completely out of touch with reality.’

http://bit.ly/2kHTQYU

This Is What Teachers Need And Aren’t Getting

‘An important category of educators: teachers with a high level of professional freedom will be extinct by 2033 if the current rate of loss continues. Like most endangered creatures, their habitat is threatened. When you were a child they were present in every city and town in the United States, but now their world has changed. They can be found only in rare, hospitable environments’

http://bit.ly/2xA7j6k

Raising the bar with flexible grouping

‘Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, a leading researcher in the field of teacher expectations, is based at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. In this blog Christine challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning.’

http://bit.ly/2i6fTYu

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate

‘If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. In this post, I explore why teachers are the innovators, what’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

http://bit.ly/2kIbcVv

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all – lessons from the Masters. Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

An education to develop the gifts and talents of all students.

‘Developing an education system premised on developing the talents and gifts of all students has always been my vision. Unfortunately schooling has been more about standardisation and conformity – sorting and grading of students. National Standards with its emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas of endeavour, is the most recent iteration of this standardised approach.’

http://bit.ly/1ru4wpP

Does your classroom have the ‘wow’ factor?

The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’

http://bit.ly/1FxlCvx

Education Readings October 6th

By Allan Alach

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

How to improve the school results: not extra maths but music, loads of it

Thanks to Al Ingham for this article.

‘But at Feversham, the headteacher, Naveed Idrees, has embedded music, drama and art into every part of the school day, with up to six hours of music a week for every child, and with remarkable results. Seven years ago Feversham was in special measures and making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Today it is rated “good” by Ofsted and is in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths, according to the most recent data.’

http://bit.ly/2klQVoC

Helicopter Parents Need To Let Teachers Do Their Jobs

‘Ms. Streeter realized that “one of the greatest challenges for teachers and principals is dealing with stressed, over-reaching parents who, like me, can’t see the bigger picture. What ostensibly counts as supportive parenting can sometimes inadvertently disadvantage a child.”’

http://bit.ly/2kqWNx8

Education “Reform” Is a Right-Wing Movement

‘Support for charter proliferation goes hand-in-hand with a lack of support for adequate and equitable public school funding. No wonder the political right, which has set the accumulation of wealth for a small elite as its highest priority, loves the charter movement. Second, the ties between SA and the political right highlight a clear reality: The charter school movement is, at its core, an anti-teachers union movement. Unions have been the backbone of the Democratic Party for years — especially public sector unions. And the teachers unions have been pretty much the last vestige of professional unionism.’

http://bit.ly/2yHUkk4

How modern are ‘modern’ or ‘innovative’ learning environments in NZ?

Not very …

‘As Benade argues, a school is not a school until/unless it is about the quality of the learning that goes on inside it. Examples like Strachan’s and Somerset’s show us that these conceptions of modern learning had their roots firmly planted a long time ago in the educational soil of New Zealand. When educators dare to innovate, then conceptions of modern and innovative learning can flourish and thrive.’

http://bit.ly/2yHUo3i

The Pedagogy Of John Dewey: A Summary

‘John Dewey is one of the giants in the history of educational theory, and it’s difficult to isolate one of his specific theories to discuss here. He was influential in so many areas of educational reform, that to choose one theme would do him a disservice, so I will highlight several of the areas in which he was ahead of his time.’

http://bit.ly/2ypQ9x3

Caution: Chromebooks

This article by Gary Stager has sure got people talking.

‘The Chromebook might be sufficient if you believe that the primary purpose of school to be taking notes, looking stuff up, completing forms, and communication. I find this to be an impoverished view of both learning and computing. Children need and deserve more. If you find such uses compelling, kids already own cellphones capable of performing such tasks.’

http://bit.ly/2gcKU98

Education Isn’t the Key to a Good Income

A growing body of research debunks the idea that school quality is the main determinant of economic mobility.  Another neoliberal tenet bites the dust.

‘This “rags to riches” tale embodies one of America’s most sacred narratives: that no matter who you are, what your parents do, or where you grow up, with enough education and hard work, you too can rise the economic ladder. A body of research has since emerged to challenge this national story, casting the United States not as a meritocracy but as a country where castes are reinforced by factors like the race of one’s childhood neighbors and how unequally income is distributed throughout society.’

http://theatln.tc/2xi0mXo

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

National Standards Plus

Current negotiations to establish the next government in New Zealand have a good likelihood of bringing about the end of national standards. However, if this fails to happen, then this is what we will be seeing.

‘The government would have parents being updated in real time every and any progress their child is making in National Standards throughout the school day. They’re calling this ‘National Standards Plus’, largely because of the additional time and energy that is going to be chewing into teachers already busy schedule. The additional testing, the additional data gathering, the additional reporting and notifying and uploading to the app’s system. All this PLUS actually teaching the children.’

http://bit.ly/2xixnma

Consider yourself a ‘visual’ or ‘auditory’ learner? Turns out, there’s not much science behind learning styles.

‘The idea that people have different styles of learning — that the visually inclined do best by seeing new information, for example, or others by hearing it — has been around since the 1950s, and recent research suggests it’s still widely believed by teachers and laypeople alike. But is there scientific evidence that learning styles exist?’

http://bit.ly/2yHTK5S

Children considered ‘average’ miss out as teachers focus elsewhere, report warns

‘Children labelled “average” by teachers are missing out because more focus goes on those at the bottom of the class, a report has found.Experts say children who are classified in the middle range risk having late-blooming ability ignored as teachers assume they are neither struggling nor overachieving.’

http://bit.ly/2xTQ9SQ

Bigger classrooms, bigger problems

‘ILE designs are flexible, allowing for multiple learning areas and activities within the one large space. Generally they are open-plan and can encompass several year groups within the one space.The Ministry’s intention is that by 2021 all classrooms will be modernised according to its prescribed ILE standards.Support for this policy is far from universal among education academics and teachers, with many highly critical of ILEs and how they are being implemented.’

http://bit.ly/2xgD1Ky

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Signs of a creative classroom

‘One thing seems obvious to me, after several decades visiting primary classrooms, is that real innovation only comes from creative teachers and not from imposed programmes. Unfortunately,  all too often, creative teachers are the last ones to be listened to in this era of school consistency and formulaic ‘best practices’. It seem we are moving towards a standardised approach to learning at the very time when we need to value (and protect) our creative teachers and their creative students.’

http://bit.ly/2gMUlNg

Teaching in Modern Learning Environments (MLEs)/ Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs)

‘A number of trends have influenced the way schools and classrooms have been organised over the decades; trends moving from traditional classroom teaching to  a more student centred learning – from ‘the sage on the stage to the guide on the side’ .Today we now have the concept of ‘innovative learning environments’  linked with the development of ‘modern learning environments’.’

http://bit.ly/1VKweOv

Education Readings September 15th

By Allan Alach

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

Data Driven Into the Weeds

‘Having a data-driven school has been all the rage for a while now, because when you express your ideas, thoughts, and biases in numbers, they qualify as “facts,” whereas judgment expressed in words obviously lacks data-rich factiness, and so should be ignored. Yes, the fact that I am 100% an English teacher may make me about 62% bitter about the implied valuing of numbers over words; I’d say I’m at about 7 on the 11-point Bitterness Scale, and that’s a fact.’

http://bit.ly/2vUFcPc

Don’t Spend A Penny On Education Technology Until This Is Clear

‘This ‘keeping up with the Jones” is a familiar practice, especially in anything related to technology. That approach, though, can lead to imbalanced education policy, mediocre edtech programs, and a lot of wasted money. Integrating education technology is a complex thing that depends entirely on local and constantly changing factors.’

http://bit.ly/2h3tRGx

Why Students Should Take the Lead in Parent-Teacher Conferences

‘But at schools built on Deeper Learning principles, the meetings are often turned into student-led conferences, with students presenting their schoolwork, while their teachers, having helped them prepare, sit across the table, or even off to the side. The triad then sits together to review and discuss the work and the student’s progress. The message, once again, is that the students are responsible for their own success.’

http://bit.ly/2x24UUY

The Power of Visualization in Math

‘The power of this moment, the change in the learning environment, and the excitement of my fifth graders as they could not only understand but explain to others what the problem was about convinced me it was worth the effort to pursue visualization and try to answer these questions: Is there a process to unlock visualizations in math? And are there resources already available to help make mathematics visual?’

http://edut.to/2xzgzMH

How can teachers introduce forest school principles to their curriculum?

‘More commonly, forest school is part of a bigger educational mix in which pupils enjoy time outdoors perhaps once a week, but the same principles apply: a drive to build young people’s independence and self-esteem through experiencing the natural world. Lili Pluck, forest school assistant at Ashdon, says: “It’s about learning to realise what is around you, appreciate nature and enjoy the freedom, space and sense of peace.”’

http://bit.ly/2y6NKUH

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Internet Is Killing Creativity – And Analog Is About to Make a Comeback

‘In some ways, I think the internet has made it harder to become creative because it encourages us to be interested in all the wrong things. (Note: I differentiate between becoming smarter–educating yourself on every topic ever, which the internet is like freakin’ fantastic at, and being creative. Artistically putting yourself out there.) Why my negativity around creativity?’

http://bit.ly/2xZTCht

Sir Ken Robinson on how schools are stifling students’ creativity

‘While many Canadian educators struggle to find the solution to students’ declining math scores, there’s one expert who says we may be looking at the problem the wrong way. Sir Ken Robinson – education guru, author and adviser – says relentless testing and the push for standardized scores are destroying students’ imagination and talent. He argues that schools are stifling instead of nurturing kids’ creativity.’

http://bit.ly/2vUPnU2

Reasons Today’s Kids Are Bored At School, Feel Entitled, Have Little Patience & Few Real Friends

‘Today’s kids come to school emotionally unavailable for learning. There are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction.’

http://bit.ly/2vV7Kbc

A Haeata student gives her view on modern learning

‘Three years ago when we knew some of our local schools would be closing, my school, Aranui Primary, started what was called “modern learning”. At first it was really weird and we didn’t know what we were doing, but then the teachers got trained in modern learning. Over three years we changed the way we learnt to the way that best suits us so we could self-manage, but not too much depending on how good you were at self-managing. We had stages: Manager, Self-Managed, Self-Directed, and Self-Driven.’

http://bit.ly/2vUgVsN

The Troubling Trend to Collect Behavioral Data on ALL Children

‘As school starts, many parents are being bombarded with information about behavioral data collection on their children. A lot of this is tied to the trendy push for social-emotional learning (SEL), and the attempt to connect behavior with a child’s ability to read and do well in school. But it’s troubling to see schools monitoring the behavior of every child so tightly. Children will not have perfect behavior.’

http://bit.ly/2vVc5vi

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Back to school to see what really happens in the classroom – Nigel Latta

‘In recent years politicians from the ‘right’ have given the impression that our schools are failing – our current Minister is fond of saying ‘one in five of our children are failing’ and that the introduction of National Standards will solve the situation.  ‘We so often hear stories about how standards have fallen,’ said Latta, ‘that you would be forgiven for thinking the sky has fallen in’.’

http://bit.ly/1C9DHuX

For New Zealand readers – a few articles to consider before the general election on September 23rd, which will hopefully see the end of national standards and charter schools.

National Standards – which Parties will keep them and which will ditch them?

‘It’s election time again, but before choosing which Party to vote for, make sure you know what their education policies are – and pay attention to what isn’t mentioned, too. This time we are looking at National Standards.’

http://bit.ly/2vVfSJ5

Election questions are for all of us

Before we settle on which political party to support this election, let’s ask a few questions of ourselves. An election is traditionally an opportunity to ask questions of would-be politicians. More fruitfully, it’s an opportunity to ask questions of ourselves. Questions to candidates will then follow, but the self-examination is actually the more valuable for democratic engagement.

http://bit.ly/2wYjZrw

Nigel Latta: The New ‘Haves and Have Nots’ – Time for Moral Leadership in New Zealand

As we begin to focus on the upcoming elections it is surely time to move away from on the personalities of leaders and to focus on the real issues facing our country.

The programme was a serious attempt to get to the core of inequality in NZ and its consequences for us all.Once NZ had one of the highest home ownership figures in the world and we didn’t see examples of extreme wealth. Latta is careful to say he is not against people doing well but he was stunned to learn that over the past decades the gap between the rich and poor in NZ has widened more than anywhere in the Western World.’

http://bit.ly/1slX9hB

Government gets an F for education

‘OPINION: My verdict on the Government’s track record in education is that it is an epic fail.

The reasons for this verdict are many and varied, but I will focus on three main areas:

1. Our student achievement data is declining nationally

2. Ideology is overriding evidence

3. Trust has been completely eroded in the sector achievement data’

http://bit.ly/2eXerD5

Education Readings August 18th

By Allan Alach

Apologies for the absence of readings last week. I was hit by a double whammy – our internet connection went down for 48 hours, and then, as soon as that was restored, my computer decided to go on strike. In the end I had to erase the hard drive and reinstall everything. Being a wise person, I had good back ups so it was only an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

Do you have good backups in place, including some off site? Remember that there are two kinds of computers in the world – those that have had a major hard drive issue, and those that are going to have one… and once you’ve lost your data, that’s it.  Goodbye to all those precious photographs …

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

Digital Natives Do Not Exist, Claims New Paper

But taken as a whole, digital natives might be a myth, argues a paper published in Teaching and Teacher Education. Students who grew up in the digital world are no better at information skills simply because they were born into such an era. The study also presents evidence that these supposed “digital natives” are no better at multitasking either. In fact, assuming that they do may harm their education.’

http://bit.ly/2v3oHPz

Fire pits and power tools good for preschoolers

‘While fire pits and real tools aren’t things you’d normally expect to find in an early childhood centre, new Australian research suggests that perhaps they should be.

Exposure to different “risks” within their preschool, including open flames hammers and saws, (yes, you read that correctly!) resulted in preschoolers developing more confidence, safety awareness and better risk assessment skills, according to a new study.

The findings, set to be published later this year, highlight the importance of risky play in a world where helicopter parenting is increasingly common.’

http://bit.ly/2w3igR7

Literate, Numerate or Curious?

‘Here’s an interesting question for your next workshop, faculty meeting, or maybe even a dinner party?

“Would you rather that your children were literate, numerate, or curious?” Pick one, and why?

For many, it’s a tough choice; for most, you want all three. But if you had to choose one, which one would it be? In case you’re wondering, yes this is a leading question, which I’ll get to in a moment. But I for one would want to start my response by first asking exactly what you mean by each of those three words.’

http://bit.ly/2uK7eAA

Talking about Creativity Is Fun, But How Do You Teach It?

‘Nothing in education engenders as many bumper sticker slogans as creativity. We want our kids to develop creative minds. But creativity is difficult to measure and so research in this area is scant, leaving us to our own devices. 

One common notion is that allowing students more freedom to express themselves fosters creativity. Along the same lines, many argue that strict educational systems dampen creativity.’

http://bit.ly/2wgGLds

I’ve got something to say by Gail Loane with Sally Muir

‘This book review encompasses just about everything that needs to be known about children’s writing and makes a mockery of the grotesque Wow! national standards-Hattie culture of today. As I go through the review, readers will come across small matters of difference between me and the authors; my preference being slightly less structure and even more emphasis on expressive writing. But if you based your writing programme on the tenets set out you would be doing famously.’

http://bit.ly/2uKbujk

The Squishiness of Writing Instruction

‘The problem with writing is that it’s squishy, probably squishier than anything else we teach. There is no solid metric for measuring how “good” a writer. Can you quantify how Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Chaucer, Kate Chopin, Carl Sagan, P.J.O’Rourke, Mark Twain, James Thurber, and S. E. Hinton stack up each other by measuring how “good” they are? Of course not– even the attempt would be absurd. Ditto for trying to give students a cold hard solid empirical writing rating.’

http://bit.ly/2wRAEKw

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Dear Justine Greening: your primary school reading reforms aren’t making the grade

‘How do you dress up the great Tory reading reforms as a stunning success if 29% aren’t at the expected level? Might there be a little bit of a problem that too much emphasis has been put on “decoding” and not enough on “meaning”? After all, the ultimate purpose of reading is to understand what it is you’re reading, isn’t it?’

http://bit.ly/2w2Q4hq

The idea you can put a number against a child’s ability is flawed and dangerous

Head teacher Alison Peacock sees the demise of levels as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how children are assessed nationally. But instead of simply replacing the old structure with a new one, she’d like to focus on enabling children to learn in a meaningful way so that assessment becomes “a tool for improvement rather than judgment”.The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous.’

http://bit.ly/2x60wRQ

Teaching and Purpose: A Response to Bill Gates and his Purpose Problem

‘I recently ran across Bill Gates’s blog. Gates ironically reflects on what it means to have purpose in one’s life.I say ironically, because many blame Bill Gates for the current push to replace teachers in our public schools with technology—calling it personalized or competency-based learning.Not only will teachers lose their profession and their purpose, a whole segment of society will be displaced—careers shattered.This will drastically affect how and what students learn. Even our youngest children will obtain their knowledge on machines.’

http://bit.ly/2w3fhIp

Schools Are Not A Business: Making Them Compete Is Insane

‘The real issue here is having schools compete for students. With this system in place, we will always see people abandoning schools in poor areas and heading for richer areas.

We need to abandon this idea that having schools compete somehow improves education. Looking at the international evidence, it simply doesn’t bear out in reality.

Schools and teachers should collaborate, learning from each other, and work to ensure that every local school is the school of choice.’

http://bit.ly/2wQW6PN

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Nigel Latta: The new ‘Haves and Have Nots’ – time for Moral Leadership in New Zealand

‘As we begin to focus on the upcoming elections Nigel Latta’s TV programme is timely. It is surely time to move away from on the personalities of leaders and to focus on the real issues facing our country. The programme was a serious attempt to get to the core of inequality in NZ and its consequences for us all.Once NZ had one of the highest home ownership figures in the world and we didn’t see examples of extreme wealth.’

http://bit.ly/1slX9hB

David Perkin’s Smart Schools

 Dreams are where the dilemma starts ’, Perkins writes – dreams about great schools. ‘We want our schools to deliver a great deal of knowledge and understanding to a great many people of differing talents with a great range of interests and a great variety of cultural and family backgrounds. Quite a challenge – and why aren’t we better at it.’ Some, he would say, is because ‘We don’t know enough. ’Perkins, though, thinks they’re wrong, ‘We know enough now to do a much better job’. The problem comes down to this, ‘we are not putting to work what we know.’ ‘We do not have a knowledge gap – we have a monumental use – of – knowledge gap’. Schools that use what we know he calls ‘smart schools’.

http://bit.ly/1ZGuzro

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 25th

By Allan Alach

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

The forcible conversion of England’s schools to Academies (Charter Schools)

This announcement by the British government has sent shock waves around the country and mass rebellion is developing. New Zealand teacher John Palethorpe, a relatively recent immigrant from the UK, discusses why this is such a giant step into a potential quagmire.

“There is already a growing and vocal opposition to all of the plans outlined above, as well there should. Announcing you’re ditching LEA oversight and support of schools, dumping the need for any school to employ qualified teachers, dropping the National Curriculum, scrapping nationally negotiated terms and conditions and placing schools in a bidding war for new teachers is a huge and complete evidence free attack on the quality and professionalism of education in the UK.”

http://bit.ly/22IMa4k

Forced academisation, shambolic assessment, budgets shrinking, teacher morale in crisis: is this the perfect educational storm?

Another article about the threat to English schools.

“Are we witnessing the final element of the perfect storm for schools?  Probably. This government plans for all schools to become academies certainly suggests we have reached that stage. First of all, a definition: according to one online dictionary, a perfect storm is “a detrimental or calamitous situation or event arising from the powerful combined effect of a unique set of circumstances”. Boy, do we have those circumstances. Unfortunately we have a government totally unaware of what devastation such a storm will have on our profession.”

http://bit.ly/1T8w2qe

A Crack in the Dam of Disaster Capitalism Education Reform?

“When the education reform movement kicked into high gear, the promises were grand and the evidence was thin, but now we are beginning to have evidence of how the grand claims have wilted on the vine, and the fruit is rotting all around us.”

http://bit.ly/1UP1qKv

Blinded by Pseudoscience: Standardized Testing is Modern Day Eugenics

‘Once again, standardized tests are used as the justification for doing something obviously racist. If anyone said, “We’re going to close and privatize all the schools serving minorities and the poor,” people would revolt. However, when you say we’re doing it because of standardized tests – because of “science” – people just shrug and say, “You can’t argue with that!”’

http://bit.ly/1RkfQBh

Why We Don’t Do Art in School (And Why We Should)

“We are now reaping the results of a dedication and devotion to commercialism and consumerism. If we are to evolve beyond a culture that confuses adolescent posturing with political debate, we’ll need to offer our youngest citizens a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination and inquiry. We’ll need to grow a new kind of citizenry. And that means we’ll need to invest in the material conditions that will facilitate the release of every child’s inherent creative talent.”

http://bit.ly/1UPs8m2

Secret Teacher: our obsession with targets is hurting vulnerable pupils

“The government needs to recognise that there is no such thing as a “standard” child. Children don’t develop at the same rate and the increased pressure for them to achieve more and more at a young age won’t change this. All it will do is crush the confidence of those who find it more difficult, for whatever reason – and jeopardise their chances of ever reaching their potential.”

http://bit.ly/22z0sIf

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

“Growth Mindset, Revisited”

“The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. Renowned psychologist and author Carol Dweck describes her work to help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that can show in classroom practice and throughout school systems.”

Watch the first 30 minutes.

http://bit.ly/1UdUzvq

When School Leaders Live in the Middle

Won’t happen to me, I said. I can cope. Hah. Famous last words.

“School leaders are faced with stress as part of their daily jobs; however, left unaddressed, stress has the potential of becoming mentally and physically exhausting. School leaders need opportunities for stress reduction as well as the means to predict and anticipate stress in an effort to minimize its effects. This commentary discusses leadership-related stress and offers strategies to minimize and cope with stress.”

http://bit.ly/1RA2TyX

The Destruction of New Zealand’s Public Education System

“This government is destroying our amazing collaborative, holistic public education system that recently led the world. They are determined to implement systems that have failed spectacularly overseas. Professional knowledge based on evidence should lead education, not political ideology. What angers me the most is what is being denied to our most vulnerable children when they should be the real focus of spending and any systemic change.”

http://bit.ly/1WMOXGj

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing talent in young people?

“I have always been curious about the early life of talented individuals so I was interested to access a copy of an article written on the subject by Benjamin Bloom published in 1985. I have  wondered what creative individuals like NZ filmmaker Peter Jackson would’ve been like at school and what kind of school would such creative individuals invent if they were given the challenge?”

http://bit.ly/1MEXXaB

What do we all need to be life long learners?

“We need to ask what kind of world our students will be entering. One thing is certain it will not be a predictable one and their ‘passport’ to the future will need to contain fully developed gifts and talents along with the dispositions to learn from whatever experience they will have to face (in the language of the ‘new’ curriculum be equipped with ‘key competencies’). Our current education system marginalizes student’s creativity and talents and this will be worsened with national standards.”

http://bit.ly/1q4BBuF

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

High hopes for happy learning

“School is also about learners discovering their aspirations and dreams, with all of these factors not only enhancing learner happiness and well-being, but also making a crucial contribution to their future success in life and work.”

http://bit.ly/1SjWzi2