Friday, January 18, 2019

Some quotes to think about before beginning the school year.

Something to think about before you return to school

Short quotes I've collected using the screensaver facility on my smart phone I think they are worth a quick read - they may confirm ( or challenge ) your teaching philosophy.  Obviously I've chosen quotes that  reflect my own view. Unfortunately I didn't think to note the authors or source of the quotes. The Modern Learners site is a great source of quotes.

About current assessment

There are those that seem to think that knowledge is no longer important as it can be accessed through the internet but I, for one, don't agree.

Many current ideas have a long history. For me John Dewey is as relevant as ever and possibly the best book on children learning as a community of scientists and learners is Elwyn Richardson's In the Early World first published in the 60s and recently republished by the NZCER

Now is the time to see the schools role as one of identifying and nurturing student talent 

Time to see identifying and nurturing of student talent as the number one role of the school

Giving the students' voice and choice
What happens to students' innate curiosity - their desire to make sense of their world?

An excellent quote from Modern Learners. The teachers' role is to create the conditions for students to do their own learning. As Jerome Bruner says  the teachers' role is 'the canny art of intellectual temptation'

How might we  provoke learning?

Promoting and provoking curious minds.

The inquiry model - it's not 'rocket science'

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dawn of a new creative era / Tomorrows Schools Review / For and against MLEs

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Readings set Two 2019
The dawn of a new creative era in education
Our next set of readings will feature practical activities to begin the school year but this set provides reflective readings Bruce Hammonds and I have found that might to help you clarify your teaching philosophy.
In the latest Principals’ Magazine ( Nov 2018) the president Whetu Cormack makes the point, with the move away from standardisation with the change of government ( and their
Whetu Cormick - an exciting new era
removal of National Standards), that we are entering into a more creative era – an era that many teachers, he writes, have not experienced. He believes schools are no being given the freedom to rethink what learning experiences they want to offer young people. In particular, he writes about the importance of the creative arts and their role in developing the imagination. As he says that the ‘decades of neo-liberalism has almost suffocated the life out of the arts ‘We have a chance to ‘rebuild our battered
The importance of creativity
and bruised education system
;. Another writer, in the same magazine, talks about the opportunity to have a ‘broader, deeper, richer curriculum’ and that a ‘fresh breeze is rising’ and that teachers need to be ready ‘to take up the challenge’. For teachers to ‘promote a bit more surprise, and dreaming, and wondering and creating in our classrooms'.

The Tomorrows School Review.  The end of a neoliberal experiment – don’t forget to have your say!
If Minister of Education Chris Hipkins needs confirmation that the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce
Chris Hipkins
report had got it right, the negative comments of several prominent Auckland secondary school principals will have him absolutely convinced the review is on the right track. .  Thirty years of a business model approach to education has wreaked havoc on our schooling system. It has created some schools as winners at significant expense to the poorest and most vulnerable communities. We have seen this two tiered education system mirror and then reinforce growing inequality, and the creation of an increasingly rigid class system.’

Our schooling system needs changing - and here's why by Bali  Haque
Bali Haque - Review Chair
The Tomorrow's Schools Independent Taskforce spent almost six months looking at the evidence and held over 200 meetings all over the country. So is our current education system still relevant? Does it work for you as a parent or school board member? Does it meet the needs of our children today?’
Forget literacy and numeracy – it’s all about talent development.
Surely our first task in schools should be to identify what each one of our students can do. What
talents do they have?  There’s increasing evidence that suggests that if students show a preference, passion or natural aptitude for a certain area, then ultimately, despite what “school” might think, there’s a very good chance that it will be those areas that will provide them with their best career and life choices. And then we have to have the discussion around expertise. To what extent do we provide our students with the opportunity to become exceptional? To be able to go deep.’
The importance of inquiry, imagination and agency.
‘The public debate around what our schools could and should be has finally reached a tipping
point.  It’s a tipping point where talk becomes action, a point when the need for change becomes so overwhelming that school leaders across the country are now urgently wanting to be better informed about the choices they now have and critically, the pathways to get there. The overwhelming pace of change in our personal lives can inhibit our ability to reflect on the consequences for our professional lives. Too often it causes us to hesitate or postpone making the necessary commitment to make changes in our practice and in our schools.’
 How Curious Are You? What happens to students’ curiosity?
‘If we assume our young people arrive on the planet curious about the world around them, asking
questions about anything and everything, what happens to them? Do they just ‘lose’ their natural curiosity and ‘grow out of it’, or is it that we really do manage to teach the curiosity out of them? If curiosity is really the essential food of learning, then the obvious question is, why don’t we focus more on developing searchingly curious minds as a priority in our students?’
Inside an ‘Innovative Learning Environment  -  For.
‘Next year a fresh cadre of bright-eyed and refreshed students will enter schools around the
What are your thoughts?
country. For many, at both primary and secondary level, they will be walking into a sleek modern building.  Welcome to the Innovative Learning Environment, or ‘
ILE’.  The Ministry of Education is committed to giving every school access to ‘a learning environment that best supports educational success. So what’s it like behind the glass? What goes on for students and teachers? Well, first of all there’s a terminology to master.’
Modern teaching trends a “monstrous threat to social justice” What do you think about this? 
Kevin Knight isn't keen!
‘Some of today’s school settings, typified by open-concept classrooms and heavy use of digital devices, are “downright dangerous and causing harm”, according to a leading New Zealand educationalist. Kevin Knight, a director of the New Zealand Graduate School of Education leader says despite good use of 21st century learning concepts, he has concerns about extreme interpretation and the wholesale promotion of the 21st century learning movement, and the denigration of traditional practice.’
Rethinking Data: How to Create a Holistic View of Students
‘For at least a decade now, the driving force behind education reform has been data. We talk about collecting data, analyzing data, and making data-driven decisions. All of this data can certainly be useful, helping us notice patterns we might not have seen. And yet, we know this is not enough. We know our students bring with them so many other kinds of data. So many other factors contribute to academic success.’
 What if personalized learning was less about me and more about us?
‘The project in this article typifies the mix of personalized and social learning that has been a mainstay for 25 years at King, a founding member of a school network called EL Education. The network sets these schools apart from a more recent wave of personalized learning, which has been dominated by technology and dogged by criticism that it isolates students from each other and from larger purpose of learning.’
 We Need to Make Kindergarten Engaging Again
‘Across the country, kindergartners are being told what to do and how to do it, every single step along the way, all day long. They play less and study more than they did 20 years ago. This is what kindergarten has become, and it’s not a good thing. Besides diminishing children’s sense of wonder and their ability to see themselves as learners, this constant push for children to learn academics through routinized activities can negatively impact their learning.’
Make Your Classroom More Like a Playground Than a Playpen Using ‘Hard Fun
I often use the metaphor of “playgrounds versus playpens” to distinguish between learning experiences that are likely to have a wealth of benefits and those that are less useful.’
A message to high school students who hate school and why you hate it!

I believe that every single subject taught in high school is a mistake. What I write here will
infuriate teachers,
but teachers are not my enemy. It isn’t their fault. They are cogs in a system over which they have no control.’

Friday, January 11, 2019

Holiday readings

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Start your year with some reflective readings.

Bruce Hammonds and I search out articles about creative teaching to share with teachers who might be interested in a progressive or holistic approach to education. This first set for 2019 includes general reading to think about for beginning the new term. Please share with others.

If you come across articles worth sharing send them to  - Allan Alach

Making Learning Whole – an excellent book about learning.
‘Recently, I've had the pleasure of reading a text that validated many things that I have experienced in the classroom with actual research. David Perkins' Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education was full of ideas and research that demonstrated why project-based learning or other embedded learning experiences produce more impactful and lasting learning.’

Student-Centred Learning: It Starts With the Teacher - a short read.
‘Teachers encourage student-centred learning by allowing students to share in decisions, believing in their capacity to lead, and remembering how it feels to learn.’
How to Use Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom
‘What Is Problem-Based Learning? The roots of problem-based learning can be traced to the
progressive movement, especially to John Dewey's belief that teachers should teach by appealing to students' natural instincts to investigate and create. Dewey wrote that “the first approach to any subject in school is to  organize education so that natural active tendencies shall be fully enlisted in doing something, while seeing to it that the doing requires observation, the acquisition of information, and the use of a constructive imagination, is what needs to be done to improve social conditions’. Dewey 1916, 1944, p. 13
How children learn naturally. A great pre term read

 ‘In order for educational settings to be successful they need to be aligned with how children naturally learn. Children’s innate curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, playfulness, individuality, imaginativeness, resourcefulness, social intelligence, and love of learning need to be respected and supported. It isn’t rocket science, it’s just basic wise parenting and effective teaching. Most of us have helped children develop skills and learn informally, before they went off to school. And all of us mastered skills on our own, so this is something we understand intuitively.’
Why Kids Need Wilderness And Adventure More Than Ever ( for your own kids! )
‘Our younger kids and teenagers need wilderness and adventure in their lives and who better to model it to them than us, their parents. I would actually argue that it is more important than a lot of the scheduled activities we have them in now. Wilderness and adventure will help develop them into well-rounded young adults.’
How the Outdoors Makes Your Kids Smarter – a quick read.
‘The freedom to move and play outside inspires creativity and improved brain function.’

‘What is a teacher’s most important quality? Likeability’
‘This head says it is crucial for teachers to be liked by students, and to see themselves more as coaches than educators’

Friday, November 30, 2018

What makes a teacher great ? Read what Sir Ken Robinson says

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at
This edition will be the last one for 2018. We appreciate it a busy time with political action, end of term activities, and school reports but suggest you save readings to cherry pick mid January

Sir Ken Robinson: What makes a teacher great?
‘Education innovator Sir Ken Robinson, School News deliberated over misconceptions about great teaching. “It’s assumed, I think, that to be a good teacher essentially all you need is to have a good degree in whatever it is you’re being paid to teach,” Sir Ken noted. “It’s simply not true, it was never true.’

Rewards Are Still Bad News (25 Years Later)
By A
lfie Kohn
‘It’s not just that these two are different but that the first tends to undermine the second. Intrinsic motivation (loving what you do) is also the best predictor of high-quality achievement, which is why — brace yourself for another counterintuitive discovery — people promised a reward for doing something often end up doing it more poorly than people who weren’t.

How Schools Thwart Passions
‘Pursuit of passions requires time for play and self-directed education. Play, almost by definition, IS following your passions.  But we’ve pretty much removed play from young people’s lives.

The habits of highly effective teachers
Teachers who have high levels of self-efficacy, or those who believe in their own abilities, have the biggest impact on student learning, a new University of Melbourne review shows.'

Every Kid Can Do Amazing Things
‘Potential identified, at a very early age; then nurtured,
rehearsed, practiced until potential becomes a passion. Isn’t that the perfect mix?  Or is it that his passion showed his potential? What comes first? Either way, helping him to navigate where his passion might take him becomes the main game.’

 War on Boys 
‘What ever happened to letting "boys be boys?" Take these two cases: In one, a seven-year-old boy
was sent home for nibbling a Pop Tart into a gun. In another, a teacher was so alarmed by a picture drawn by a student (of a sword fight), that the boy's parents were summoned in for a conference. In short, boys in America's schools are routinely punished for being active, competitive, and restless. In other words, boys can no longer be boys. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains how we can change this.’

Finland’s digital-based curriculum impedes learning, researcher finds
'The more that digital tools were used in lessons, the worse learning outcomes were. This was
found in all areas of the Pisa measurements," she said, noting that it was not a question of students being unable to use the devices. Instead, she said students can easily be distracted by the devices themselves - like laptops or tablets - and often start using them for something besides schoolwork. Saarinen said the results surprised her, but only to a certain degree.’

Why Pedagogy First, Tech Second Stance is Key to the Future
While I am a huge advocate for the purposeful integration of technology in schools, we must resist the temptation to think that this is the solution to solve all the ills in our current education system.
What concerns me most is how many districts and schools are going all in with one-on-one or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives with no real plan for implementation and evaluation of effectiveness. This lack of planning and support will likely result in devices never achieving the outcomes that they were designed to achieve. It’s foolish to think that students will learn just by putting a device in their hands.

If People Talked To Other Professional The Way They Talk To
I am sure you will all relate to this!

Cursive: the reason it is still relevant today and the science behind it.
Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world
around us. Cursive is a great example of many specializations taking place at once.’

Student Writing in the Digital Age
‘Essays filled with “LOL” and emojis? College student writing today actually is longer and contains no more errors than it did in 1917.’

Grouping students in mathematics... more than just mixed ability
Sue Pine
‘In recent years many teachers have moved away from the use of ability groups in mathematics towards a more flexible approach using mixed ability groups.When students are given the opportunity to work in mixed ability groups on carefully designed tasks they begin to see themselves as being able to do mathematics, which builds a positive mathematical mindset and identity.’

A Grading Strategy That Puts the Focus On Learning From Mistakes
'Teachers know that students learn a tremendous amount from scrutinizing their mistakes, but getting them to take the time to stop and reflect is a challenge.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

A short story : Why isn't Sione in the dance group.
‘This short story was sent to me by a 'teachers' friend' from the North. It poetically illustrates the
dangers of imposing a narrow standards based approach to learning. Schools need to tap into the interests, culture and motivations that students bring with them and not try to fit them into middle class boxes.’

Creativity – its place in education
‘Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.’

Quality learning: William Glasser - 'Schools without Failure' ; and Jerome Bruner - solving 'learning blocks'.
‘A number of years ago many schools implemented the ideas of Dr William Glasser . Glasser had written a number of books all with a focus on achieving quality work.’

Time to throw out formulaic teaching - be creative

Friday, November 23, 2018

Teachers strike / Creativity at Spotswood College NP / outdoor educ. / future education - Sir Ken Robinson

Education Readings
By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Teacher strike. Put yourself in teachers' shoes
‘Teacher strikes are an inconvenience to parents for all of one day but I wonder if those who moan have really put themselves in the shoes of the teachers. Have they asked why they're doing it? As the teachers say, they are doing it for the future of our children.

Our teachers earn apples and oranges so let's bring back the 1970's way of offering them free housing
‘The day the teachers went on strike, someone put a simple graphic on Facebook. It set out two sets of salary numbers.: MP $18,000 - Teacher $17,360; Today: MP $160,024 - Teacher $78,000.This was something I'd been lamenting for ages, possibly even in this column: when I was at school, the pay for an MP and a teacher was about the same. Not any more.’

Wellness centre and new curriculum part of college revamp
Nicola Ngarewa took over at Spotswood College, New Plymouth, at the start of term four and is already making changes to align the school with the best learning institutes in New Zealand.Among the new initiatives are a new curriculum, based on international research, where students can create their own timetables around their own interests, and an optional wellness centre.’

The great outdoors: What our young people need
‘This alienation, referred to by Louv as nature deficit disorder, has become increasingly acknowledged as detrimental. Conversely, research is increasingly showing that time spent in nature is beneficial. Not only does time spent in nature increase general well-being, but it improves certain types of thinking, stimulating creative thinking in particular.’

Educating for an unknown future
Marion Brady:
Marion Brady
‘What lies ahead for students are major messes — global warming, nonstop wars, disposing of radioactive waste, reversing wealth concentration, and dozens of other problems they didn’t create but have to try to clean up or figure out how to live with.To do that, they’ll need to generate new knowledge, but they aren’t being taught how. Instead, they are spending most of the school day cramming existing information into short-term memory.’

Questioning: The Real Technology
Jamie McKenzie:
‘This article contends that questions and questioning (mindware) are critically important human technologies that might enable young people to solve problems, make smart decisions and score well on the tests of life as well all the other tests that loom in a child's world. Without strong questioning skills, information technologies contribute little to understanding or insight. There is even some chance that they might dilute understanding and interfere with thinking.’

Abandoning the Factory Model of Education
‘Still, the question remains: Why are many educators still necessitating the silence, conformity, and traditionalism of the factory model of schooling? Is it fear of change or sheer stubbornness that is holding us back from embracing this much-needed cultural shift in education to meet the ever-changing needs of our world?’

Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class
‘Evidence from brain science suggests that far from being “babyish,” the technique is essential for mathematical achievement.

Ways of Thinking, Not School Subjects
‘I think the concern arises because we wrongly think of things like math, history, and science as subjects. But they are not. They are ways of thinking, and once we treat them that way, the answer to the question becomes more obvious: self-directed learners learn things like math and history when they encounter things they want to do that require those ways of thinking.’

It Really is Time to Change School
‘So what’s changed in our schools? For too many, not much, but for an increasing number the past four years have meant a big shift in thinking about what school could and should be. Hopefully that’s you, but then maybe you’ve been in that space for longer than four years, so the exciting thing for you is… now you’re not alone.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Transform Education? Yes we must. Lets listen to Sir Ken Robinson
If educationalists were to stand up they already have the ideal supporting document – the, all but side-lined, 2007 New Zealand Curriculum. To do this would means breaking out of compliance mode which sees schools focussing on looking after their own self-interest.’

A great little study: The Flax bush
There are few schools do not have flax bushes in their school grounds - or , if not ,they ought to.
November is an ideal time for a class to study them as they are in full flower. A good idea is for teachers to learn with their class as 'co-explorers' and the easiest way to begin is to simply visit a plant and observe through the senses.’