Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Edutopia - a great site( established by George Lucas0 for creative teachers

A site that regularly supplies us with interesting ( and practical ) links is Edutopia. Edutopia is a site set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. I recommend you joining their  newsletter – add your e-mail on the Edutopia site.
I have copied some information from the Edutopia site and links to a few of their articles.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) documents and disseminates the most exciting classrooms where these innovations are taking place. By shining the spotlight on these inspiring teachers and students, we hope others will consider how their work can promote change in their own schools
Message from George Lucas:

'Education is the foundation of our democracy -- the stepping-stones for our youth to reach their full potential. My own experience in public school was quite frustrating. I was often bored. Occasionally, I had a teacher who engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. Those were the teachers I really loved. I wondered, "Why can't school be engaging all of the time?" As a father, I've felt the imperative to transform schooling even more urgently.

Traditional education can be extremely isolating -- the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don't usually connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and many schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.

Project-based learning, student teams working cooperatively, children connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical'.
Edutopia Mission:
We are dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process through innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives.
Edutopia Vision:
Our vision is of a new world of learning, a place where students and parents, teachers and administrators, policy makers and the people they serve are all empowered to change education for the better; a place where schools provide rigorous project-based learning, social-emotional learning, and access to new technology; a place where innovation is the rule, not the exception; a place where students become lifelong learners and develop 21st-century skills, especially three fundamental skills:
•how to find information;
•how to assess the quality of information;
What Edutopia Does
It’s a place of inspiration and aspiration based on the urgent belief that improving education is the key to the survival of the human race. We call this place Edutopia, and we provide not just the vision for this new world of learning but the real-world information and community connections to make it a reality.

We pursue our mission through three primary sets of activities:
identifying, describing, and promoting effective models and innovations in K-12 education by producing video and other digital media;
•funding and developing research to identify and evaluate rigorous practices for learners, educators and schools; and
•developing advanced software, technology and material for educational purposes.
 Message from George Lucas
 May 8, 2012
'I was bored in school.
It's true. I didn't feel like the school system was designed for my
learning style. It wasn't until college where I could pursue my passion, making films, that I found my way.
Recently on, we published observations from 8th graders about what they believe creates an engaging learning experience. Their answers were straight-forward and definitive: project-based learning, technology, and an enthusiastic teacher. I couldn't agree more.
Today, with the power of the Internet, we are experiencing a force that is revolutionizing education and offering opportunities to reach and engage diverse learners like me. When technology is deployed effectively, it can free up teachers from standing in front of the class and presenting information. We can "flip" the classroom with lectures occurring at home via
the Internet and rigorous project-based learning taking place in cooperative groups at school. In this environment, teachers can be guides and coaches to the students. What is more powerful in education than a student who is guided by an adult who truly cares -- someone who knows your name, who encourages you, and is committed to your success in life?
By learning about and replicating strategies that work in education, we have the potential to transform our schools. By creating strong cultures of creativity and curiosity, we can
engage students as active participants in their own education, rather than passive recipients of facts and formulas. In a world where information is at our fingertips, our greatest challenge is help students learn how to find information, assess its accuracy and apply it to solve problems. All around our country and the world, there are teachers and schools succeeding at the task, many featured on Edutopia.'
Some Edutopia links to explore
The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or "making" has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel
The power of the joy of learning.
These eight ideas by Carol Tomlinson  synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught her are the most important principles for teachers to understand
Great range of u-tube videos ( staff meetings)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Educational Readings- focus on creativity

Our readings compiler is now holidaying in Arles
By Allan Alach -  bonjour from Arles

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

This weeks homework!

Creativity is rejected: teachers and bosses dont value out-of-the-box thinking.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to themschool. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what theyre told.

Its ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the worlds most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.

Poverty and the Moral Imperative of Education

An important article by Peter Greene, dismantling the neoliberal claim that education is the cure to poverty.

This is the "education fixes poverty" mantra. If we get everybody through high school
prepared for a good job (defined in many PD sessions as "a job with an above-the-poverty-line" wage) then nobody will be poor and everybody will be healthy and happy and successful. There are two huge problems with this argument.

Failing school does not cause poverty. And it's not even right to say poverty causes failing school. The high level of failure among students living in poverty is a sign that our schools are not meeting the needs of those students.

Swedens School Choice Disaster

Neolibs - take careful note

Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at whats happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their countrys steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for Americas middling but consistent
Crisis in education
results. What
s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesnt necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.

Great technology requires an understanding of the humans who use it.

MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesnt boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychologyboth studentsand teachers. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.

How can schools feed student appetites for sourcing sustainable produce?

Thankfully the workshop leaders were undaunted by the challenge of slowly unpicking the jargon to help students understand why it's important to think about how their meals
got to their plates. From food miles and Fairtrade to the environmental and health benefits of becoming a vegetarian, no aspect of the journey from soil to supermarket shelf was unexplored. At the end of the class, the penny finally dropped. Asked what they can do to source more sustainably, the response from pupils was emphatic: "Grow my own vegetables," shouted one girl. "Buy foods locally," offered another.

This weeks contributions from

Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect

Bruce: Importance of valuing mutual respect.

A pivotal aspect of fostering mutual respect among teachers, students and staff is adhering to the following eight expectations, which Ive witnessed fundamentally change the way schools function.

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Childrens Executive Functioning

Bruce: Over structuring results in students missing out on social skills is this happening in NZ classrooms?

When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working
Freedom to learn vital
toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what theyre going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.

From Bruces oldies but goodies file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul - Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

Bruces comment: I really like the message of this blog. There has been a recent
Ann Murphy Paul 
Education Review Office Report on Secondary school achievement saying the most impressive school was one where the school tailored the curriculum to students
interests e.g. linking maths to information technology. Seems obvious to me. Personalised learning is the pedagogy of relationships.  We need to focus on what students are thinking they are too often a neglected resource ignored by teachers to busy teaching to listen to student voice..The blog below is about the transformative power of interest. 
The future is about learning not education. Education is what someone gives to you learning is what you do yourself. We need to focus on teaching students how to learn to seek, use and create their own knowledge as it says in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Children as scientists

Bruce: An oldie something written in 1947 which is reflected in 2007 New Zealand Curriculum

I recently came across an extract from an article called 'Children are Scientists' written in 1947 by Herbert Zim. That we haven't yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much 'our' curriculums, what 'we' think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.

More 'Magic' of Teaching

Bruce: Evolution of computer use in classrooms by a creative South Island
Mike is now Princ at Waimari

It would seem to me that if we want to develop a creative education system, able to develop the talents of all students, then we need to listen more to those teachers who have gifts they could share with others. All too often 'we' think that all good ideas come from 'on high' but hopefully this myth is losing its power as current curriculums are being found wanting - ironically by the very people who introduced them.

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

In this posting Bruce references an article by Kelvin Smythe about St John Hattie.  This is a must read, as Hattie and others of his ilk threaten true holistic child centred education.

 Hattie:Peddling meta research
As I visit classrooms I have become increasingly concerned about the use of a number of strategies as defined by John Hattie and promulgated by the contracted advisers spreading the word about his 'best practices. Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of 'school effectiveness' research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case - we need to be very wary of such so called 'meta research.'. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts aways seem to know best - or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.

This weeks contributions from Phil Cullen

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.

There are many ways of being smart... Headteacher writes to pupils saying not to worry about exams

You might hope that every school would want pupils to work their very hardest and pass any exams with flying colours.

But one primary head has decided there is more to life than educational achievements, and has written to her final-year pupils to tell them not to worry about their results.

Headmistress Rachel Tomlinson and her head of year six, Amy Birkett, told children that there are many ways of being smartin the message, which was included with their Key Stage Two results.

They asked the 11-year-old pupils to remember that the scores will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learning your way into the future - applied to a Space Study

You are here!  What are your thoughts and questions?
 The Future is about learning not education.

A recent TED Talk presenter, when talking about developing innovative enterprises, said the future was about learning not education. He continued that education is what others do to you – learning you do for yourself and that it is important to learn how to learn. ‘We need’, he said, ‘to learn our way forward’.

He could have been talking about the intent of the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum with its emphasis on ensuring all students need to ‘learn how to learn’ defined by the Key Competencies.  Competencies such as Thinking – how to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’; Using Language – to make meaning of experiences including mathematical and scientific language;  Managing Self – developing a ‘can do attitude’ and ‘seeing themselves as ‘capable learners’; Relating to Others; and Participating.
An evolving universe.
The Effective Pedagogy gives further emphasis to achieve the curriculum’s vision of ‘life-long learners
My feeling is that schools that base all their learning on such beliefs are hard to find.
The curriculum, if implemented to the full, requires a transformation of our school system and not adding on some inquiry teaching to the current traditional emphasis on literacy and numeracy in primary schools, nor the fragmented curriculum of secondary schooling. The reactionary introduction of National Standards with its obsessive assessment requirements reinforces traditional teaching narrowing the curriculum in the process.
Transformation of our schools is vital if they are to remain relevant in an era when information and digital technologies are expanding exponentially.
Powerful technologies will, by themselves, not be enough but they will need to be integrated into the learning experience. A shift to 21ST C teaching and learning is not just about the tools but requires transforming the way most teachers teach today.

 A visit to your local primary or secondary schools will show that teachers are still teaching as if it is they who control the learning. Current teachers reflect the way they themselves were taught or are conformed by accountability systems and pre-defined curriculums. If you do visit schools note the time spent on literacy and numeracy in primary schools and if learning is integrated across subjects in secondary or taught in separate subjects. Read some of the work of the students and ask does it reflect their thoughts and ideas or what has been ‘taught’ to them. Are student grouped by ability or working in mixed groups?
What is happening?
Instead of being ‘the teacher’ who is in total control – instead of that traditional pedagogy, we need a 21st century vision of teaching where there is less teacher talk and more student talk, where teachers focus on how to help students take responsibility for their own learning. Many years ago educationalist Jerome Bruner wrote that ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation.’
Learning is the default mode of the very young but as they progress through the school system many lose their passion for learning. Retaining and amplifying this passion for learning is what 21st century schooling is all about.
To retain this passion requires the personalisation of learning by ensuring students see the point of what they are doing, where the learning is relevant to them; where their unique gift and talents are valued and engaged; and where they take responsibility for their own actions and learning –
Can students find the Sth Cross?
the point of the New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies.
In a 21st century classroom inquiry learning is the key and if done well makes use of all traditional Learning Areas. The current studies/topics/projects needs to provide the energy to give purpose to learning across the curriculum. Although the competencies are vital learning requires students to dig deeply into content; competencies are both a means and an end and a study without challenging content is a study at risk.
The teacher’s role is to ‘tempt’ students to become involved in learning. Some students may well have developed poor attitudes through previous experiences and this will provide teachers with a real challenge. Such students can only be recovered by experiencing on going success.
A teacher with a personalised teaching philosophy will come to understand each student’s strengths – what their interests are and how each student learns best. For all students to contribute requires respectful mutual relationships which for some students will take time.  Through success all students can become confident learners willing to take the risks required to learn. This is the artistry of a successful teacher.
Who is Neil Armstrong?
Perhaps the best way to develop such a 21st century approach is to think of the next unit you would like your students to become engaged in.Imagine your topic for the next few weeks is Space and Astronomy.
In some cases you may have had no choice of the unit but non the less how you develop it still provides plenty of opportunities to ensure your students are their own meaning makers – able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ and in the process develop their own particular interests and talents.
Consider what big ideas you would like your students to gain – time to check out curriculum objectives in the curriculum or other guides. Gather appropriate book resources. Also search Google for appropriate Khan Academy lessons ( excellent) . Download  Apple Apps for searching the night sky - fascinating. Also explore space using Google Earth.
Consider what learning area might naturally be integrated into the unit obviously science activities, maths activities related to size , distance and orbit time for planets ; language both scientific and creative; art both observational and creative.
Next consider how best to ‘tempt’ them; to tap into their innate curiosity?  Perhaps a short u-tube video? Maybe a display of photos downloaded from Google image? Maybe an expert visitor? Maybe a simple learning challenge: ‘What do we know about Spaced and what can we find out’? ( Background for teacher/older students)   (Worth showing - ideas about how big the Universe is 7min) (7 min space images)
What is famous about this footprint?
Make sure students know there are three aspects to the study – one is to learn space knowledge (and to develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about space); secondly how to go about learning – the inquiry approach; and finally to improve their learning competencies.
Get them in groups to think of question they might have – after groups have shared their ideas a set of study questions can be negotiated with the class. Negotiation is important to develop ownership and to pass responsibility over to the class. Negotiate 5/6 study question- remaining questions could be useful for individual interest research
In groups again get students to provide their current answers to questions decided upon. This prior knowledge will be useful to evaluate the learning gains at the completion of the unit.
Negotiate how they might present their findings – booklets/charts/ PowerPoint/models/ exhibition. Whatever is chosen may require ‘lessons’ to develop appropriate skills.
Data to interpret integrating science and maths.
As a means to transform the class into a 21st century learning environment ‘reframe’ literacy time by developing research skills around space content ( researching study questions) and creative writing inspired by space photos during this time and do the same for numeracy by involving the class is space maths tasks. Also use literacy time to teach design/presentation skills required. There may be School Journals with information to study.

Lots of activities for you to present to your students;

Why was Galileo tried as a heretic?
During the designated inquiry time students could work in rotating groups competing negotiated individual or group tasks.
How the study evolves will depend on teacher knowledge, students interest ( and interests) and time allowed for unit. Some teachers/ students may wish to explore Maori cosmology or Christian beliefs about how the universe was created. The history of space exploration/theories would be interesting – flat earth/round earth heresy.

To conclude the study consider what has been learnt (compare to prior views) and what questions
Life in space???  
have been impossible to answer or understand.

Have the students improved in their ability to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ about space; does their work reflect their own ‘voice’?
The Earth from the Moon
Have the students improved their Key Competencies?
Reflect on your teaching/children’s’ learning in this unit and how will you change things in the future (Teaching as Inquiry as it asks in the New Zealand Curriculum?)

Have you ‘learnt you way forward’?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Educational Readings- for the creative educator

By Allan Alach

Enjoy France Allan
Heres this weeks mixture of articles. Expect the next issue when it arrives, as Im off to France at the end of the week.

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

This weeks homework!

A Close Look At Close Reading
David Coleman and other proponents of close reading clearly dont have respect for students or the learning process. Common Cores emphasis on deep analysis of text and close reading is an inappropriate and misguided approach to reading instruction that will discourage and dispirit many students.

Why the World of Public Education Has Never Been Worse, and Why I'm Excited To Be a Teacher Anyway
Another Peter Greene blog, written about the USA but with obvious relevance all over.

A far-reaching network of rich and powerful men is working to take the public education system as we know it and simply make it go away, to be replaced by a system that is focused on generating profit rather than educating children. Teachers have been vilified and attacked. Our professional skills have been questioned, our dedication has been questioned, and we have been accused of dereliction and failure so often that now even our friends take it as a given that "American schools are failing.”’

The Brave New World of Twenty-First Century Learning (A Retort)

A central tenet of twenty-first century education is the child-centred approach which boils down to placing the needs, interests and personal background of our students above the syllabus. The problem with trying to 'measure' memorization skills (by looking at test results, for example) is that it seeks to measure an outcome that is not the top priority in 21st century teaching (marks / grades / results), using a methodology that is outdated (tests / exams / memorization tasks). It's a bit like estimating the age of the earth: now that we have better methods, we can use better means of measurement in order to gain better evidence and arrive at better results.

The Struggles and Realities of Student-Driven Learning and BYOD
New Zealand Labour Party - take note.

The reality is that while some teachers have found powerful ways to use mobile devices both those owned by students and those purchased by the school teachers at schools in very low-income areas are often battling a persistent student culture of disengagement. Many students have learning gaps that make it hard for them to stay interested in grade level materials and little desire to be in school at all.

To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap
US educator Linda Darling-Hammond - another one to add to your follow list.

Linda Darling Hammond
Countries where teachers believe their profession is valued show higher levels of student achievement. Nations that value teaching invest more in high-quality professional learning -- paying the full freight for initial preparation and ongoing professional development, so that teachers can continually become more capable. To recruit and retain top talent and enable teachers to help all children learn, we must make teaching an attractive profession that advances in knowledge and skill, like medicine and engineering.

Why so many kids cant sit still in school today
Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England, suggests yet another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school.
In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.

This weeks contributions from

This weeks collection from Bruce all come from his oldies but goodies file. Bruce has been writing on New Zealand educational issues for many years and was one of my main inspirations in my school principal days.

On Knowing - Jerome Bruner
Jerome Bruner
He comments Love Jerome Bruner best quote teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation.

“Schools are special communities where students are challenged 'leap into new and unimagined realms of experience' so as to 'open new perspectives.

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

As teachers we need to focus on what it is that individual students are interested in. It was an interest in nature that drove Darwin, an obsession with observing that drove Leonardo da Vinci and an interest in magnetic force as a five year old that drove Einstein Darwin , Einstein and da Vinci became obsessed with the search and the process of creating.

The End of Education: Russell Hvolbek — February 06, 2012

“I argue that as we absorb the socio-economic values of our age, an age ruled by business, we have drifted away from what we in the educational community should be doing: teaching students to think, to see, to read, and to write. Education as a dwelling in the human experience of reality is ending. As with the Roman Empire, it is ending with a whimper, not a bang. The root of the problem is that we have absorbed the socio-economic and intellectual values of our age, an age ruled by business and science.”

L.I.S.P. New Zealand's lost research!
This innovation in Science teaching was superb and it was a real tragedy that it was lost in the rush to standards based instruction.

“Learners must actively construct, or generate, meaning for themselves from their own experiences. No one can do it for them. Knowledge is constructed from within. Learners must take a major responsibility for his/her own learning behaviour. Without some appreciation of the learners existing framework of ideas successful teaching becomes difficult.”

Sharing the wisdom of creative teachers - the agenda for the future.
Very relevant, given current New Zealand government education policies, that mirror GERM policies from the USA and UK.

“Learning from other teachers, both within and between schools, is the most powerful form of professional development. Every teacher respects and appreciates the reality that any such advice is based in contrast to many current advisers who , more often than not ,  give advice about things they have never put into practice. That school leadership has not taken advantage of expertise between schools has meant that wisdom and an opportunity for teacher leadership has been lost.”