Friday, April 17, 2015

Education Readings: Modern Learning Environments/ Privatization of Education/ICT Report/ creativity and lots more!

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Report debunks earlier is betteracademic instruction for young children
Are you surprised? New Zealand has a wonderful early childhood curriculum (Te Whāriki ) but how long will it survive under the present government?
‘Rather, she says, the research suggests that preschool programs are best when they focus onsocial, emotional and intellectual goals rather than narrow academic goals” and provide early experiences that provoke self-regulation, initiative and sustained synchronous interaction in which the child is interactive with others in some continuous process, rather than a mere passive recipient of isolated bits of information for stimulation.

For Pearson, Common Core is private profit
While this article discusses the USA, Pearson Group is a major threat to education all over. Do you want your country’s education to be defined by a multinational corporation? A definition that just happens to include both their testing and instructional products?
“Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatchers motto “Dont tell me what, tell me how,Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics e.g., standardized test scores to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the worlds largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.”

In the Digital Age, How to Get Students Excited About Going Outdoors
Thanks to Innes Kennard for this.

“Louv has since become famous for coining the term Nature-Deficit Disorder not as a medicaldiagnosis, but as shorthand for whats happening to kids who stay, for the most part, inside, away from nature, for the majority of their young lives. He uses strong research to support his claims that rising rates of obesity, depression and anxiety, and ADHD symptoms could well be linked to kidsdisconnection from trees, fields and streams.

Demystifying the Muse: Five Creativity Myths You Should Stop Believing
Another one from Innes - I may have posted this before …
“We've built up an image of what creativity is that is completely wrong. If you don't believe me, here are a few of the biggest myths about creativity that most of us still believe:”

How Bad Journalism Is Driving the Collapse of Our Once-Great Public Education System
This USA story is easy to transfer to other countries.
Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clueless business news outlets.

Modern Learning Environments the underlying philosophy to success
A modern learning environment!
Modern Learning Environments (MLE) are all the talk in educational circles right now. Schools, around the world, are knocking out walls and creating bright stimulating classrooms with multi purpose furniture and giving students access to technology. On the surface it looks fantastic, however I am concerned that without a big pedagogy shift, students will be simply just learning the same way many teachers have been teaching just in bigger classrooms with new furniture.

MLE and MLP- a returning fad, or something that could be truly transformative?
In a similar vein:
Has to more than architecture and WFI
If nothing else changes except collaborative spaces and collaborative teaching then the end result will not change. You are just repeating the open plan experiments of the 70s and 80s and it will fallover sooner or later. If you are still taking reading groups and writing groups and math groups in thesame way, just on a bigger scale with more thatchers and with several classes, then you are just streaming and making more work for everyone, because of the communication and organisation required. You are teaching traditionally in a shared space. You are using a MLE, but not practising MLP.  There is a huge difference.

Go Team: Why Teacher Teams Struggle To Work Effectively Together And How Schools Can Create The Conditions For Success
Following on, teacher teamwork will be vital if any modern learning environment is to have any chance of working.
“Even when schools recognize the potential of teacher teams to have a measurable impact onimproving teaching and learning, many teams fail to achieve the results they seek. Is it simply a case of good or bad chemistry, or are there concrete steps schools can take to cultivate collaboration that works?”

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Why Talking About the Brain Can Empower Learners
Bruce's comment: Every teacher should know about Carol Dweck
Stanford University professor of psychology Carol Dweck, who has been leading the research in this field, discusses The power of believing that you can improvein this TED talk.

The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools
Bruce’s comment: An easily read but challenging document about technology and its
transformational implication for education. My advice set aside a wet afternoon to read and think about the implications. The diagram on page three is a good summary.The report is  all about in-depth learning; technology enhanced learning; authentic learning; user friendly technology ; user friendly technology, the changes  (for some) of the role of the teacher; new modern learning environments  and personalised learning;  and other considerations.

A Brave New World for "Personalized Learning”?
Bill Ferriter:
‘"Relax, Bill!" I'll say in the middle of my incoherent ramblings and cold sweats.  "SURELY there are good people at big corporations who are developing products with PURE intentions.  It's NOT about capitalizing on fears and making a fast buck. It's about improving schools FOR THE CHILDREN!”’

Effective Communication Needs Common Language and Goals
Bruce’s comment:
To develop a quality learning across a school you need agreement on common goals/ teaching beliefs a common language to align all teaching behind and to evaluate teachers progress and to provide appropriate feedback and help. A great idea as long as it encourages individual teacher creativity as well. To greater enforcement of consistency (of Common Cores or National Standards)  can be counter productive.
“So, how can schools ensure that all leaders are communicating effectively and keeping the school on the right path? By making sure that everyoneteachers, administrators, and support staffuses a common language to work toward common goals.”

Evolution of the goodteacher
Bruce’s comment: A great read for the thinking teacher!
“What is good teaching? Does any body really know? The below link struggles with some possible answers. What is clear is that no approach fits all students.Teaching is in the middle of a change, anevolution, a revolution the intensity of the description depends on whom you ask. One could argue that this change is natural and part of an ebb and flow cycle, but this change feels faster, and possibly more frenetic likely due to technologys role in the change. Is good teaching now for the 21st-century markedly different than it was previously?”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative teaching
Bruce’s comment: Elwyn Richardsons thoughtS are more relevant than ever. We have standardised teaching (or in Elwyns words normalised) and as a result creativity has been all but lost. Even art, the most creative of learning areas, is now clone like - the result of zealous over teaching of criteria and oppressive feedback. Poor old Vincent van G wouldnt last 5 minutes. Its now a paint by numbers education system and no colouring outside the lines.
“A 'good' classroom should develop in students a personal commitment to their learning. Teachers can do this through: talking, discussion, focusing students' attention, helping them look closely at things,by taking trips into the immediate environment, and by tapping their personal experiences. From such activities students develop ideas to research and share and emotional feeling to express through words, poems, paintings and other art media.”

Education for a Creative Age
Bruce’s comment: Teacher the Geranium on the Windowsill just Died and you kept on Talking’ – more on the death of creative education.
“At the very least schools talk about the Information Agebut, according to perceptive commentators, this ‘agehas already passed its use bydate. According to Juan Enriquez, in his book, As the Future Catches You, the future belongs to countries who build empires of the mind.

Importance of Observation.
Bruce’s comment: And an antidote might be to return to encouraging focused observation
interesting that some of schools where Silicon Valley parents sent their students to are computer free!
“Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

Education Readings Sir Ken Robinson /paradigm shifts/ art education/Robots /STEM or STEAM and Bruce's 'oldies'.

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Sir Ken Robinson: Creativewith the truth?
This article by Donald Clark may rattle a few cages out there:
It is difficult to go to any educational conference without being assaulted by the accusation that Creativityhas been sacrificed on the altar of traditional education and schooling. Robinsons main thrust is that all children are born creativeand that school knocks it out of them. I'm not so sure.

A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners
A lengthy and detailed article by Yong Zhao but dont let that put you off reading it - this is very good.
America is not the only nation that has been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmamentin the world. Over the past few decades, many Western democratic and
developed nations have engaged in such suicidal educational reforms. Led by the same mistaken assumptions that gave birth to A Nation at Risk, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and others have made or are about to make similar changes in their education systems. These changes, just like the changes the U.S. has made, are simply trying to do the wrong thing more right. They are putting the world at risk.

Why the conventional wisdom on schooling is all wrong
A very good article by Marion Brady.
Educators can solve this problem, but theres no point in their even trying as long as the rich and/or powerful are on their stumps peddling the myth that what ails Americas schools are educators clinging to the status quo and kids with insufficient grit to do what theyre told to do.

Telling Time with a Broken Clock
What if standardized test scores arent telling us what we think they are telling us? What if the scores are illusions that are giving us false confidence? What if our reliance on standardized testing to judge our schools is like relying on a broken clock for time?

What If Education Reform Got It All Wrong in the First Place?
Wrong reform
A very good question .
Thats the conclusion of a growing number of researchers who argue that 30 years of test scores have not measured a decline in public schools, but are rather a metric of the countrys child poverty and the broadening divide of income inequality.

The Importance of Art in Child Development
A topic close to Bruces heart
When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,says Kohl. Art is a way to encourage the process and the experience of thinking and making things better!

Robots as teachers?
“…the concept of am instructionally oriented teacher being replaced by a robot like this doesn't exactly excite me it's rather like replacing the traditional paper based exam with an online equivalent and calling it an advance in assessment.
Standards Based Education is Bad Education Theory
This is a must read article. 
Say no to standardization
What is the root of the persistent and two millennial old tendency for politicians with minimal knowledge of education creating education standards and mandating testing accountability? It
 originates in a deep rooted innate and evil desire in humans to control other humans. If we do not fight this tendency, we are doomed to live in an authoritarian society where political elites ensure subservience by controlling education standards enforced by standardized testing.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Pivot Point: At the Crossroads of STEM, STEAM and Arts Integration
Bruces comment: A move from STEM to STEAM  a positive shift towards integration. A way of teaching that creative NZ teachers used and hopeful still do . Maybe the key to unlock the all too often unrealised potential of Modern Learning Environments (MLEs)?
In addition, there has been a movement over the last few years to change STEM to STEAM -- adding the arts to the mix -- as a way of further integrating creativity and artistic skills and processes across content areas. But there is also the arts integration approach to education, which teaches the selected content in and through the arts. With so many choices for integrated learning, it can paralyze us with fear of taking the next step.

Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist; Inventor; Artist.
Bruces comment: Anyone want to learn about Leonardo the original STEAM learner mind you Leonardo didn't go to school? He home schooled himself through curiosity, observation , drawing and note taking.

4 Tips to Transform Your Learning Space
Bruces comment: Some good ideas for transforming libraries.
Recently, I wrote about the transformation of libraries from archives of resources to active learning commons that encourage exploration, creation, and collaboration. However, in that post, I profiled a number of locations that made significant financial investments in their redesign. Million-dollar learning spaces are often not a reality for most schools. However, that is no reason to abandon the concept of transformation.
Don't Become a Teacher, Advises Award-Winner Nancie Atwell
'Don't become  a teacher'
Bruces comment: Scary stuff who would want to be a creative teacher in America.
An influential language arts teacher who recently won a $1 million international teaching prize has some surprising advice for young people considering joining the profession: Dont.

Why Americas obsession with STEM education is dangerous
Bruces comment: So much for this STEM education agenda
read what they have to say!!
A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that its in Apples DNA that technology alone is not enough that its technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”’

From Bruces goldie oldiefile:

Educational change and leadership - bottom up!
Bruces comment: The principals role in creating conditions for teacher creativity rather than conformity.
Like the class teacher the principals role is to ensure such gifts are affirmed and shared with other t
Yours or everyones?
eachers. The principal
s role is to create the conditions for the expertise of teachers to be shared and to develop an overarching vision and agreed teaching beliefs for all to hold themselves accountable. A with a creative class teacher the principals job is to ensure all teachers do not move away from what they have agreed to that is unless new ideas are developed that need to be included.

What do good learners do?
Bruces comment: What do good learners do ( and this includes principals and teachers). Some attributes of good learners from a book Teaching as a Subversive Activityin the 60s. Are your students realising such powerful learning habits?
Good learners seem to know what is relevant to their survival and what is not. They are apt to resent being told that something is 'good for them to know, unless, of course, their 'crap detector' advises them it is good to know in which case, they resent being told anyway.
An idea whose time has come; schools and teachers working together
Bruces comment:  The government is proposing an expensive scheme to superprincipals and teachers to work with other schools. A bit ironic because the original intention of Tomorrow's School was to compete not collaborate . The idea of empowering teachers to share ideas has long been part of educational thinking. The link below has a few suggestions and an idea suggested just before the introduction of self- managing schools.
As the focus is increasingly on student learning then developing the capacity of teachers as leaders is an imperative. Teacher creativity, not imposed standardisation, is central. Teacher creativity needs to be celebrated, recognised and shared. Principals who can share leadership with their teachers and then with other schools will be seen as the real future leaders.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Easter Education Readings - innovative ideas to consider

The price to pay for holding contrary beliefs

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Would you try competency-based education in your class?
First listen then help me learn
Time is the first element of individualization of learning or at least it should be. We all have our own ways of processing the information that is thrown at us in formal education. It is foolishness to imagine that all students would take exactly the same time to process things to be learned. This is exactly why I LOVE competency based education: when you are done learning one concept/topic, you can move on.

There Is No Proper English: Never mind the grammar scolds. If people say it, its the right way to speak.
It's about communicating
Interesting article that makes the idea of English standards even more unsound.
The grammatical rules invoked by pedants arent real rules of grammar at all. They are, at best, just stylistic conventions: An example would be the use of a double negative (I cant get no satisfaction). It makes complete grammatical sense, as an intensifier. Its just a convention that we dont use double negatives of that form in Standard English.

The Writing Paradox
I started looking at the responses of the survey that OUP ran regarding writing in the classroom, the comments from around the world had a similar theme, they dont even write in their own language, pace of life is very fast and they dont have time to write, writing is a bore.  This created a curious paradox in my mind.
The written word is becoming more and more important in terms of communication emails, texts, tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube comments all require writing skills. Yet students dont see a link between these and what they are doing in class.  So what are the differences?

The choice to lead, follow or hide 
Learning in Flocks, Hives and Swarms
In a world of new tools, evolving curriculum expectations and innovative learning strategies, the learning of any single teacher triggers ripple effects that impact the entire learning community. Now more than ever, there is incredible potential for the inspired individual to influence the whole. Using models of group behaviour from the natural world, lets consider the many ways an individual might participate in and subsequently impact a learning community.  

How to design a primary school where learning has no limits
Interesting article from Cambridge, England.
Taking inspiration from the book Creating Learning without Limits, based on a Cambridge University project focusing on teaching and learning without ability labelling, Barfield sought to create a school with a strong presence at the centre of its community, and democratic feel within where every voice mattered. The desire to ensure the school had a heartled her to the notion of a courtyard, linking the school architecturally to the Cambridge college courts.

The tip of the iceberg
This article looks at the contrast between public perceptions of teachers, and need for ensuring the best quality teachers work in our classrooms.
Teaching needs to be seen as a profession not a job so that teachers themselves are responsible for making the best decisions for learning and teaching.
As Finland has demonstrated, minimum academic standards for teaching are just the tip of the iceberg.

For the Love of Reading: Engaging Students in a Lifelong Pursuit
Reading will hold little appeal if a student has trouble decoding or has problems with comprehension.
But what if a student is a fluent decoder and generally understands texts that she tackles? What if she just doesnt often choose to read? What might be done to motivate her, both at school and at home?

The idea you can put a number against a child's ability is flawed and dangerous
UK Headteacher - uses no grades
This is not about being soft and fluffy. Its about believing that listening to pupils matters, she says. The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous. Potentially, it leads to the individual and the people around them having a very limited set of expectations.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Bruce - the teacher
101 Things Ive Learned So Far In Teaching
Bruce’s comment: This is a great list to quickly read what would be your top 10 or 20?
“The title is self-explanatory and the context is fairly clear. Well, actually it probably shouldve been title 101 things I think I think about teaching,because what I think I think changes almost daily. Here we are nonetheless.”

Fostering Critical Thinking Skills with Online Tools
Bruce’s comment: ICT and thinking skills
“Fostering critical thinking skills is always a challenge in teaching. Educators still honor Blooms Taxonomy as the basis of learning. But with that giving way to its revised and updated interpretations, we now have tools that can help in all of the key components of critical thinking skills.”

12 Ways to Teach Critical Thinking Skills
Heres a question to critically think about: What exactly are critical thinking skills, anyways? Its more than just thinking clearly or rationally—its about thinking independently.
The idea with critically thinking about something is to formulate your own opinions and draw your own conclusions about it, regardless of outside influence. Its also about the mental discipline of analysis, and being able to see the connections between ideas.”

Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson
Bruce’s comment: One more to throw into the mix an interview with Sir Ken Robinson.
‘But creativity isn't just about coming up with new ideas; some ideas might be completely crazy and impractical. So an essential bit of every creative process is evaluation. If you're working on a mathematical problem, you're constantly evaluating it, thinking, "Does that feel right?" If you're composing a piece on the piano, part of you is listening to what you're doing and thinking, "Does that work? Is that going in a good direction?”’

 Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best
Bruce’s comment: The importance of the arts as ‘basicto school achievement.
‘"Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence," sculptor Magdalena
Abakanowicz has said. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it's closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.’

Nine Dangerous Things You Were Taught In School
And now for something different
“5. There is a very clear, single path to success.
s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file

Guy Claxton - building learning power.
Good question
Bruce’s comment: Guy Claxton, well known to many NZ teachers, provides good advice to engage learners- to help them see the point of school( the title of his excellent book)
“I agreed with Guy Claxton when he said that much of what is seen in many classes makes little impact: thinking styles -we all have our own style; de Bono's hats - more displayed than used; and mind maps - poorly used. Not that, he
 said, they all can't be useful. And all that drinking of water! With much isolated thinking skill teaching their is little evidence of transfer into new situations. Teachers have to help their students develop this facility in new situations; use it or lose it.”

Power through reading!
Bruce’s comment: Literacy is all too often these days is reduced to measuring achievement levels and arguments about the place of such things as phonics when really it is all about empowering learners. It is as much a political act as it is an educational one in reality it ought to be one and the same thing. Dictators know about the power of reading thats why the first thing they do is burn books and hunt down alternative thinkers. Creative teachers see reading as a means to an end ensuring all students see themselves as meaning hunters.
“In New Zealand, one such pioneer, was Sylvia Ashton Warner who developed her ideas in the 50s. Thankfully there are still some creative teachers who still utilize aspects of her ideas. She called her approach 'Key Vocabulary' and started her students reading and writing with words from their own experiences. She saw her young students as having a mind 'inhabited by instincts; wants, fears, desires and loves, hates and happiness.”

Are you a creative thinker?
Bruce’s comment: Recently I attended a stimulating presentation  in my home town by a visiting lecturer whose thesis was the value of the integration of the arts and the sciences. This ‘oldblog reflected his ideas.

 Prof Bruce  Sheridan   ( born in our own province) is now the Director of the biggest media centre in the US ( Chicago). His studies showed that brain research shows integration , creativity, making, play and collaboration are vital to develop modern thinkers. That schools do not feature such things is a real concern - they unintentionally mis-educate. More about his ideas to come.  
“Schools ought to be about fostering creativity of all students rather than focusing on academic achievement. If they were to foster creativity they would value their students curiosity, passions and talents and to assist them push the boundaries of their own personal discoveries.”