Friday, November 16, 2018

What teachers did under National / the urgency to unlearn / the future of learning / the challenge of creativity.

The end of a week of rolling strikes in NZ
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

Why didn't teachers strike when National was in? I'll tell you what we did!!
Confronting National's Min Tolley
This blog post aims to put that to bed.  Because teachers did not sit quietly during National's tenure.  They, with the NZEI and PPTA, stood strong against #GERM neoliberal policies set up to destroy our free quality public education system.  Because of teachers, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and the coalition government have the bones and a bit of flesh still left.’

Why Are We Still Assigning Homework?
‘I am asking that teachers who are assigning homework really think about why you are assigning it. I want parents to think about why they push for it.  As I have talked to parents, teachers, kids, administrators I have never heard anyone say, “I love homework. My kids get so much out of it!”’

What we don’t teach children
What is real? It’s a simple question, but one worth asking if you’re at a young age.
In my work in education, I’ve often come to the conclusion that the most important thing we can encourage students to do is this:Question reality.

The Magic of Validation
Validation is the act of recognizing and affirming the feelings or perspective of another person. It’s acknowledging that these thoughts and feelings are true for that person. It’s a very simple, astoundingly fast way to make progress in a conversation: It eases tension, builds trust, and gets you and the other person to a solution more quickly.’

The Urgency to Unlearn
‘To be blunt, in the 10 years since posting, none of the things on my list of “10 Things We Need to Unlearn” have we actually unlearned. In fact, I’m hard pressed to argue that we’ve even made inroads on any of them. That said, is anyone surprised?’

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?’

The future of learning - Australia
‘Very quickly I realised this school is unlike most others. Firstly, traditional classrooms don’t exist; instead, the learning spaces are rich and engaging in their own right. Instead of rows of desks, you’re presented with learning spaces offering a real difference.Most of the spaces have been crafted to provide engaging and immersive environments designed to spark the imagination.’

Learning About Learning
‘After more than forty years learning about learning, I’m intrigued by how much I still need to learn. Does this apply to you?’

4 Skills and Traits Great Schools Teach That Will Always be Essential
'Most educators are aware of the “Four C’s” (Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication) and their importance in schools for ensuring the development of today’s skills in our students. But there are other essential skills and traits that are extremely important;.

How to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher
‘Transformational teachers share best practices, build mentoring relationships, observe their peers, keep things fresh, model their subject's usefulness, and demonstrate caring beyond what they teach.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.
‘Gardner says his audiences expect him to fully endorse creativity but creativity in human history was ‘neither sought after nor rewarded’.  Human societies are naturally conservative – and schools particularly so. Humans strive to maintain their current position and in schools this mitigates against educational innovation and interdisciplinary leaps.’

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938
Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey.That Dewey's ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education.’

Friday, November 09, 2018

Burnt out teachers and stressed students / Armistice Day / creative education

11th of the 11th 1918

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

I know a school

I know a school where almost all the students are successful. It's an interesting place.
They don't give grades at this school.
There are no numbers.
No test scores. No SAT, ACT, no GPA or other acronyms.
No rankings.
Yet, the kids are more than alright.
They create amazing things.
They contribute to their communities in all sorts of ways.
They're happy.
They love coming to school.
Those that want to go to college after they graduate.
Others take different paths, which everyone celebrates.
We talk about success in schools as if it were a data point.
It's not.
And even if it were, you really think the data we're collecting now equates to success in any but the most tenuous ways?
Look at your kids.
Talk to them.
See if they love to learn.
See if they have passion.
See if they care.
See if they're happy.
Those are much clearer indicators of "success" than any set of numbers can supply.

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

Armistice Day
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice that ended WW1 came into force.  Here are some websites that may be of use to teachers.

Armistice Day from the New Zealand History website

Papers Past
Older children could be asked to go back into time to read copies of newspapers from 1918. There may even be copies of letters.

Ten Facts About The Armistice

Armistice Day in WWI: Definition & Facts

We’re sure you will be able to find plenty of others and make this into a major study.

Moving on:

After National Standards - Have your say about the emerging ideas
Following the removal of the compulsory use of National Standards and Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori in December 2017, the Ministry signalled it would work with the education sector – with input from students, parents, whānau, iwi and communities – to focus on progress and achievement across the National Curriculum We want to know what you think about the emerging ideas developed by our Ministerial Advisory Group.’

Teachers: Move On Before You Burn Out
Have you moved on in order to keep from burning out? Have you changed a subject or grade you taught, or even your school? Sometimes this is the best choice.’

Why are kids impatient, bored, friendless, and entitled?
‘“Kids today are in a devastating emotional state! Most come to school emotionally unavailable for learning. There are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this.” . I encourage every parent who cares about the future of his/her children to read it. I know that many would choose not to hear what she says in the article, but your children needs you to hear this message.’

Drawing Is the Fastest, Most Effective Way to Learn, According to New Research
‘But according to a fascinating new study, the right answer is whenever was the last time you tried to learn anything new. Put away the highlighter (really, science shows they're worse than useless) and skip the flash cards. The fastest way to cram new information into your brain is by drawing it, concludes the research.’

How Jo Boaler Hopes To Mold Math Mindsets
Jo Boaler
Boaler — who teaches at Stanford — travels the country with a message of hope for teachers. There are obvious flaws, she says, in a system that uses stressful tests to decide who's got a brain for math and counts on rote memorization to build mathematical curiosity. With her talks, her research, and a website full of videos about mathematics, her mission is not to build memories — but mindsets.’

To Learn, Students Need to DO Something
‘First, let me say that authentic, project-based learning is probably the best way to have students experience meaningful learning. But many schools and classrooms aren’t quite there yet: They deliver instruction in a more traditional way. That model can still result in solid learning, if it’s implemented correctly. And that’s where I’m seeing a problem. I think we’re skipping over one of the most important steps in our lesson plans.’

Less is more – practical tips for teachers for students with a disability.
‘An education assistant can be an invaluable resource in the classroom to support the teacher to include a student with disability.  They can assist the class teacher to provide a great educational experience to all students as well as increase the independence and social connection of the student with disability.’

Be neotenous: The importance of curiosity for teachers
As teachers, I think we are genuinely interested in generating and nurturing curiosity in our learners. We worry about squashing curiosity and the childlike wonder in our learners, particularly when they start school. We believe that curious learners are engaged, passionate, excited. But I’m not sure that we invest enough in our own curiosity as adults.'

Why “Goldilocks” Parenting Helps Build Executive Functioning Skills
‘Increasingly, researchers are discovering that “just right” is an important concept for how we parent. It has to do with how kids develop executive functioning.
Executive functioning is the “air traffic control system” of the brain. It helps kids focus, remember rules, resist temptation and think flexibly. The way we parent can affect how kids’ executive functioning skills develop.’

Head, hand and heart
Steve Wheeler:
‘Hyman's perspective is that change is needed and that a repertoire of curriculum strategies is required to give young people a rounded education. These include real world learning (which presumably involves immersion in real world probems, challenge based learning etc), maths mastery, oracy techniques and storytelling - and dialogue, plenty of dialogue.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all - lessons from the Masters
‘Although there have been individual teachers who have developed creative classrooms most classrooms could be classified as benign environments where students achieve success by achieving teacher determined objectives. Imagine an education system premised on developing every students talents and passions!’

Transforming education: Stop teaching and begin learning with your students
Teachers spend hours and hours of their time preparing lessons for their students but all too often the only person learning anything are the teachers themselves. Even the most attentive and compliant of students do not get what the teachers    intend – and worse still researchers have shown that that such teaching does not change students’ minds – and changing minds is the definition of learning.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Teach critical thinking / reading too soon?/ need to trust teachers / anxious students

Pink Floyd - 'we don't want no education'

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

When Should We Teach Critical Thinking to Kids?
As a media educator, I engage in critical thinking and questioning every day. For me it first started when I heard Elizabeth Thoman, the founder of the Center for Media Literacy, say: “Media literacy is not just about asking questions, it’s about asking the RIGHT questions.”'

The ‘Lawnmower Parent’ Is Destroying Future Generations
Also known as the snowplough parent…
Their goal: To ‘mow down’ every obstacle in their kids’ way so they’ll go through life without experiencing anything remotely unpleasant.’

Why Children Aren't Behaving, And What You Can Do About It
‘"We face a crisis of self-regulation," Lewis writes. And by "we," she means parents and teachers
who struggle daily with difficult behavior from the children in their lives. Lewis, a journalist, certified parent educator and mother of three, asks why so many kids today are having trouble managing their behavior and emotions.’

50 Ways To Measure Understanding
Thanks to Tony Gurr.
By dictating exactly what every student will ‘understand’ ahead of time, certain assessment forms become ideal. It also becomes much more likely that students will fail. If students can learn anything, then they only fail if they fail to learn anything at all or fail to demonstrate learning anything at all.’

Reading too soon…
‘There is a widely held belief in this country (and many others) that if we start teaching children to
read, write, and spell in preschool and kindergarten that they will be ahead of the game (and their peers) by first grade. We think that pushing our kids to start early will make them better and give them the edge.
But it doesn’t work that way, in fact it can be detrimental.

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. What’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders
‘Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. There is a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.’

From Australia – prioritise capabilities in education
Things like critical thinking, creativity, resilience and communication skills have been found to help young children prepare to learn, improve outcomes in school and increase lifelong wellbeing and job success.’

From Australia – how to implement the capabilities.
The general capabilities - critical and creative thinking, social and emotional capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding - were introduced into the Australian Curriculum as a way of turning this powerful vision into reality.’

The Problem Finders – The Design Thinking School
‘The Design Thinking School, a pedagogical framework that borrows from enquiry-based learning and problem-solving curricula to bring new meaning and relevance to students, and we’re finding that such a framework works regardless of curriculum, country, culture or language.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Why schools don’t educate – John Gatto
We live in a time of great school crisis', Gatto began his presentation, 'and we need to define and redefine endlessly what the word education should mean.Something is wrong.Our school crisis is a reflection of a wider social crisis - a society that lives in the constant present based on narcotic consumption.'

Pink Floyd – ‘teacher leave that child alone’. The difference between education and schooling
‘We don’t want no education’, sang Pink Floyd but it would more accurate to have said ‘we don’t want no schooling’, because education and schooling are not always the same thing. And schooling wouldn’t have fitted into the tune so well.’

Friday, October 26, 2018

John Dewey / Carol Dweck / Howard Gardner / and beautiful learning

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Happy birthday to John Dewey, visionary educator, social reformer, psychologist, and philosopher. Dewey was central to the development of the so-called progressive movement in education, which emphasizes the importance of student participation and meaningful activity in the classroom.

Dewey began his career as a classroom teacher. After becoming a professor of philosophy, he shifted much of his attention to education, founding the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and writing School and Society, which argued for the need for collaborative practical experimentation in the classroom. His emphasis on practical skills and learning by doing upended the inherited wisdom of the time, which valued obedience and rote memorization.

John Dewey died in 1952. Over the course of his long career, he published 40 books and 700 articles on a wide variety of topics, and indelibly influenced the world’s classrooms with his meaning-oriented, democratic approach to teaching and learning.

This weeks readings 

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

Howard Gardner
Multiple Intelligences Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood
One of the most popular ideas in education is applied in ways that its creator never intended.The big mistake: In popular culture, and in our educational system, the theory of multiple intelligences has too often been conflated with learning styles, reducing Gardner’s premise of a multifaceted system back to a single “preferred intelligence”: Students are visual or auditory learners, for example, but never both. We’ve stumbled into the same old trap—we’ve simply traded one intelligence for another.’

Students on first-name basis with teachers as titles become old school
Teachers are allowing students to call them by their first names as some schools move away from the use of titles and surnames. Advocates of the approach believe it fosters a more personal relationship, removes languages barriers, and puts students in a better position to take charge of their own learning and feel more confident to question adults. And they say a title does not earn respect.’

If Not Learning Styles Theory, Then What?
An alternative take on the learning styles debate.
Departing from the traditional notion of fixed styles or abilities, he proposes that maybe it’s not the individual that the learning style depends upon but rather the task at hand. Maybe we all have more cognitive flexibility to switch between styles than we’re giving ourselves credit for. Maybe we just need to adopt different approaches for different kinds of information.’

Beautiful Learning
'We use that word to describe things that we find inspiring or awe-some in some way. Something that makes us want to stop an linger. Something that we hope to experience again. Which for some
reason led me to wonder, why don’t we use that word very often about learning? I mean certainly, there is such a thing as “beautiful learning,” a moment in our own lives or that we observe in others that inspires, that we hope to experience again.

Why do teachers find it so difficult to change the way they teach?
‘Research shows that people find it extremely hard to change their behaviours, and teachers are no different.  I’m sure you plenty of personal experience of this yourself! How many times have you started to make a change in your life and given up? Have you ever wondered why? wondered why?’

A Message To High School Students Who Hate High School
Here is why you hate it.
‘Of course, it is not only high school math I am against. 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. I believe there are many great teachers, and I believe that teaching and teachers are very important.’

Carol Dweck Explains The 'False' Growth Mindset That Worries Her
‘Dweck believes educators flocked to her work because many were tired of drilling kids for high-stakes tests and recognized that student motivation and love for learning was being lost in the process. But Dweck is worried that as her research became more popular, many people oversimplified its message.’

Do we really want computerized systems controlling the learning process?
I quickly found that the conference organizers were thinking about personalization very differently than I was. The presentations at the conference focused on new software systems designed to personalize the delivery of instruction to students But I’m skeptical about personalized tutoring systems.’

Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)
But the short version is the reading war claim that we are failing reading instruction is a long history of false claims grounded in selling reading programs.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The urge to collect is strong in people of all  ages
People collect things for all sorts of reasons. Some people focus on collecting varieties of one item while others are more eclectic. Some collect because they just like the objects they collect, others collect because aesthetic or visual reasons, and some because they buy and sell their objects.’

Guy Claxton’s Magnificent Eight
In his book 'What’s the Point of School' he outlines what good learners do (as against being a 'successful' students). He has sorted the dispositions of good learners into what he calls his magnificent eight’. Teachers need to encourage all of them.’

Time for a rebirth of the creative spirit?
'The time is right for a true educational revolution! We need to listen to lost voices and rediscover our own. Who wants to join the fight to return to creative education?'