Friday, March 08, 2013

Educational Readings - fighting back on behalf of teachers

By Allan Alach

The corporate dream of online education via streamed video instruction (Khan Academy) should be well known. The next version of this lunacy has been developed by News Corp (yes, Murdoch’s empire) under the oversight of one Joel Klein, the self appointed expert in raising children’s achievement through stringent testing regimes. Klein’s name will be well known to Australian, as it was his influence with then education minister (and now Prime Minister) Julia Gillard that resulted in the scourge of NAPLAN being imposed on primary schools.

Klein’s latest brainwave is the development of an instructional program for tablets, such as iPads, and New Corp’s own product.

‘Amplify is creating exciting new curriculum offerings that reinvent teaching and learning in English Language Arts, Science and Math. These products combine interactive, game-like experiences with rigorous analytics that align to the Common Core Standards, all driven by adaptive technologies that respond to individual students' needs as they evolve. These new learning experiences are being developed by a team at Wireless Generation, together with some leading partners such as Lawrence Hall of Science and Lapham's Quarterly.’

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

This week’s homework!

A Civilised Society

OK, so this isn’t a reading. However it is a must watch for anyone who wants (needs?) to know about the neo-liberal takeover of New Zealand education in 1990. The battle we are presently fighting started way back here and the ‘spin’ (to be polite) that was used to justify this is a serious threat to one’s sanity. There are lessons here for other countries as well.

‘This documentary looks at the new right ideology that transformed public education in the 80s and 90s and the schism it caused with teachers. Interviews with parents, teachers and unionists are cut together with archive footage of treasury officials and politicians advocating that schools be run as businesses. There are vexed board of trustees' meetings, an infamous deal between Avondale College and Pepsi, and teachers take their opposition from the classroom to the streets.’

‘Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.’ (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

Whoo-Hoo! Occupy the Schools

An article by US educator Susan Ohanian (another excellent person to follow) about the Common Core Standards, that are frighteningly similar to New Zealand’s National Standards. This sentence, in particular, should send shivers up the collective spines of New Zealand teachers:

‘Lots of school watchers believe the sole purpose of the Common Core State (sic) Standards is to drive the national test which has been on the corporate agenda for more than two decades.’

The significant difference is that New Zealand is developing an online system (PaCT) to rate each child’s achievement from ‘data’ inputed at regular intervals by his/her teacher. This has the potential to be far worse than a test regime. One would also have to wonder whether New Zealand is being used as the guinea pig for this approach to testing, before it appears in other countries. As a small country, with only one unified education system (unlike the separate states in Australia and USA, for example) it would be much easier to develop and trial this online system here. Watch this space.

Schooling the World

Must be video week….  Here’s the trailer to a movie that needs really demands to be watched. Have you ever really thought about the drive to bring education to the world? Just whose definition of education is being used?

‘If you wanted to change a culture in a single generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children.’


‘Generations from now we'll look back and say, 'How could we have done this kind of thing to people?'

Occupy Your Brain

'We dont want your mind control'
A blog article from the Schooling the World site:

‘The problem with this scenario should be obvious:  who gets to decide what the world’s children will learn?  Who decides how and when and where they will learn it?  Who controls what’s on the test, or when it will be given, or how its results will be used?  And just as important, who decides what children will not learn?  The hierarchies of educational authority are theoretically justified by the superior “expertise” of those at the top of the institutional pyramid, which qualifies them to dictate these things to the rest of us.  But who gets to choose the experts?  And crucially, who profits from it?’

George Orwell
How George Orwell might explain school reform

There are many w   ,,,,,,,,,,,,

Sugata Mitra: Slum chic? 7 reasons for doubt

While TED Prize Winner Mitra has indeed demonstrated some intriguing things about the way children can learn technology, we need to beware of seeing him as the way to the future, following on from a previous TED Talks ‘star’, Salman Khan. The reformers will leap on anyone whose message can be subverted to their needs.

Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core’

Here is an honest and open disclosure from a New York principal. All credit to her. I wonder how many Australian and New Zealand principals would have the same courage and integrity to do likewise? I wonder how many have the educational insight to see behind the surface fluff? I will happily publish any letters from down under principals along this theme.

A Letter to Mr Pyne

Last week I linked to an article where the Australian Liberal Party spokesperson on education was quoted as calling for a return to didactic teaching.

He said, “we would immediately instigate a very short term ministerial advisory group to advise me on the best model for teaching in the world, how to bring out more practical teaching methods based on more didactic teaching methods, more traditional methods rather than the child-centred learning that has dominated the system for the last twenty, thirty or forty years…”

Here’s the response from a large number of highly qualified Australian academics, not that Pyne and his fellow ignoramuses will be open to any research based evidence. This article has value for educators all over.

Rearranging The Deckchairs
Send the experts down with the ship

‘What if the so-called “world class” education systems that have been so painstakingly under construction in countries like the UK and the USA turn out to be very similar to the Titanic?

*  Made from the very best materials

** Designed by the best architects

** Constructed by the very best craftsmen and builders

** Crewed by the very best professionals

** Fundamentally flawed in their basic concept

** Completely doomed through unfitness for purpose and disastrous leadership.’

How Children Succeed - grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character.

Excellent post by Bruce Hammonds, reviewing the book of the same title.

Schools these days seem to becoming focused on closing the ‘achievement gap’ by means of tests centred around literacy and numeracy  ‘but what’,  Paul Tough asks,’ if we’re wrong?’”

No comments: