Friday, February 28, 2014

Educational Readings - Grant Wiggins, Inquiry teaching( Kath Murdock) testing to death, google and innovative classrooms

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Teachers are Learning Designers

Conditions = Culture
What really struck me is that great teachers create the conditions for success, just as gardeners do. You can't make a flower grow, but you can design and improve the condition for that flow of naturally occurring events. It's the same for our students. We have the power and the duty to create the best conditions for students to flourish.

Testing and thinking (thanks Tony)
Great article by Grant Wiggins.
it raises troubling questions about the validity of all typical tests of achievement used to evaluate student achievement and school effectiveness. Because if the tests reward content knowledge but not powerful thinking yet, all Standards highlight important thinking then the tests may be yielding invalid inferences and thus very harmful consequences.

How do inquiry teachers.teach?
Kath Murdoch.

Inquiry is not just about knowing how to plan its about how we teach. Its about what we say to kids and how we say it. Its about the way we listen and the way we feel about what our kids are saying. Its about knowing when to step back and when to step in.  The language we use and the silences we deliberately leave.  Its about what we are thinking about what we are doing.

Play: Is it Becoming Extinct?

In an era of high-stakes testing and teacher accountability, playthe cornerstone of child developmentis slowly becoming extinct. As more and more schools are doing away with physical education, recess, and curriculum that allows for children to engage in play activities, teachers find
Good enough for Einstein!
themselves relying on more teacher-directed instruction. Teacher-directed instruction includes activities and lessons planned by the teacher. The teacher guides the entire daily schedule and this type of instruction is the most structured teacher-centered form of planning. In schools and homes today, free-choice play, imaginative play, and physical play are almost gone in a child's daily schedule.

Learn about Taylorism and how it underpins the standards and accountability movement.
Very important article!
Dehumanised workers
When education is reduced to test prep, rich curricula and the craft of teaching are imperiled. The vapid classroom of neoliberal school reform mirrors the vapid workplace of Taylorism. Teach for America, which implicitly advances the idea that the sparsely trained can out-teach veteran educators, engenders deskilling and deprofessionalization.

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar:

No more diagramming sentences: Students learn more from simply writing and reading.

Well what do you know? Are you surprised? After all teaching writing through rules is the written version of paint by numbers.
These students are victims of the mistaken belief that grammar lessons must come before writing, rather than grammar being something that is best learned through writing.

Bigger Gains for Students Who Dont Get Help Solving Problems

Doesnt fit with the standards movement.

Authentic learning
First, choose problems to work on that challenge but do not frustrate.Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what theyre doing. Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.
By allowing learners to experience the discomfort of struggle first, and the triumph of understanding second, we can ensure that they have their cake and eat it, too.

Infographic: Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools
Wheres the big money in privatization? Take it from the teachers.

The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the countrys schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

Does this ring any bells for Australian, English and New Zealand teachers?
Until about 1980, Americas public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind

Norman Rockwell

of Norman Rockwell patinagenerally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.
  Since then, what a turnaround: Were now told, relentlessly, that bad-apple schoolteachers have wrecked K-12 education; that their unions keep legions of incompetent educators in classrooms; that part of the solution is more private charter schools; and that teachers as well as entire schools lack accountability, which can best be remedied by more and more standardized bubbletests.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Getting Beyond the Blame Game

Not surprisingly, surveys indicate that teacher satisfaction has declined dramatically in the last five years, on some measures to the lowest level in the last 25 years (Harris Interactive, 2013). A decade of belt-tightening and unprecedented levels of teacher and union bashing from pundits, philanthropists, and all sides of the political spectrum have finally come home to roost.

Nine-hour tests and lots of pressure: welcome to the Chinese school system
The secrets behind Shanghais PISA results. Warning - 'germers' are flocking to learn from this.

Even though Shanghai students scored well on the test, this doesn't mean that Shanghai's education system doesn't have any problems," said Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University. "In fact, it's the opposite."

The New Classroom: A Vessel for Innovation

Bruces comment: Taking Google environment to the classroom isn't it what good NZ teachers do (or used to ?)

Google culture
When people walk into my classroom -- renamed The Hive Society -- they aren't quite sure what they've entered. There are no textbooks, there is not one single desk, there are no stock motivational posters with children in neon eighties garb, no signs telling students to turn off their voices. Instead, desks have been replaced by conference tables, vintage stools, low-to-the-ground tables, and area rugs. Authentic student work and thought-provoking prompts leave no room for cliché posters. Textbooks have been stacked away in closets while tablets and desktop computers are easily accessible. And students are greeted each day with the challenge to activate their voices.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Educational Readings -Sir Ken Robinson's quotes; Alfie Kohn, Tony Gurr and Bill Gates

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Written about New Zealand and very applicable all over.

Consequently, the whole question of whether teaching is a profession, or can become one, is a bit of a red herring. The real issue is the degree to which teachers can resist deskilling and maintain some measure of autonomy within the schooling system. For that to happen I believe we need a complete re-think about what our schooling system might be like as we sail merrily into the 21st century using 20th Century models of thinking supported by a 20th century Education Act that fails to place the learner at the centre of all subsequent policy and resourcing decisions.

Asphyxiating Education
The following quote refers to USA but the same rhetoric is used to justify reform all over.
A coincidence of course????

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

What EXACTLY are the Skillsneeded by 21st Century TEACHERS? The Robocop” Upgrade

Tony Gurr
Tony Gurr commenting on the role and skill set of teachers in Turkey, applicable all over.
But, my business is LEARNing (as if you didnt know) - not TECHNOlogy. And, Im interested in how we actually do something with all the talk-we-are-talking these days - talk about the ”new kids” on the ”curriculum block:

Bill Gates, On the Record
Anthony Cody:

Bill Gates is a charlatan as far as education is concerned. He has discarded the expertise of educators as if it were trash, because it did not align with his concept of how learning ought to be measured and improved. In its place, he has fostered a worship of almighty data. He will come to the National Board singing the praises of accomplished teachers, because he wants to bring leading educators to his side, even as he devalues their expertise and autonomy.

7 reasons educators secretly fear creativity

Developing creativity in the classroom, in the school, in the district is not particularly difficult. Simple teaching techniques can spur divergent thinking. Innovation can be a part of all content areas and disciplines. Any project can have recognition of originality in its assessment. But creativity tends to be actively suppressed by teachers and administrators. Here's why.

Psychologist on a mission to give every child a Learning Chip
Brave New World? Nineteen Eighty-Four? Or something written by Philip K. Dick?
Mind you the title is misleading. the article has little to do with chips and much more to do with the debate over genetics and learning.
The education world, he thinks, doesn't take enough notice of genes. Learning about genetics should be part of teacher training, he says, so that teachers understand how to draw out individual talents. His big idea is personalised learning. He's against all labels: dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, gifted and so on. Every child has special needs, he argues. Schools should therefore offer the widest possible choice of subjects and extra-curricular activities, even if it means them being very large.

Five bad education assumptions the media keeps recycling
Alfie Kohn:
While the occasional journalist and even politician may acknowledge that, just possibly, were overtesting kids, almost all take on faith that test scores are appropriate for judging a students, schools, states, or nations education status.  If it turns out that standardized tests are inherently flawed indicators not just misapplied, overused, or badly implemented then all judgments based on those numbers would have to be rethought. ‘

The 4 Most Profound Ways Privatization Perverts Education
But there's no market-based reform where children are involved. Education can't be reduced to a lottery, or a testing app, or a business plan. Equal opportunity in education ensures that every child is encouraged and challenged and nurtured from the earliest age, as we expect for our own children.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

To Help Students Learn, Appeal to What They Value
The nonacademic passions, social intrigues and fads we would dismiss are among the things students value and, ironically, are a springboard for learning. What are your ideas for uncovering and working with students' values? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered
Expert teachers know how to give students choice and voice, finding ways to design learning experiences that tap into what students value. This isn't always easy, especially if our preparation experiences didn't frame learning this way. Here are five questions that can help us develop and refine the teacher strengths needed for creating a student-centered classroom. Use them to start the new year off right!

Quotes from Sir Ken Robinsons 2013 TED talk
Ken Robinsons talk How to escape education's death valleyis one of my favorites. It was recorded in April of 2013. I highly recommend that you watch his latest talk on The quotes I assembled for the talk are the ones most salient to me personally. This is not an attempt to summarize his talk in anyway, but perhaps a quote or two will be useful for you in your own presentations related to education, etc. The slides are in PDF, but you can easily cut and paste text as you wish. You can of, course, get the entire transcript of the talk on the website (in many languages). Lets keep the conversation regarding the education revolution going.

Seven Types of Projects that Foster Powerful Learning
Research projects are an important tool for both instructing students and assessing whether students have developed critical knowledge and skills for college and career success in a 21st century world. Students also have the opportunity to explore their interests, which increases their motivation to learn. They learn how to develop questions, find, sort and evaluate information, read widely and deeply, analyze, think creatively, write in many different formats, problem solve, and communicate results. Students also learn how to work independently and collaboratively. Many of the soft skills, such as curiosity, perseverance, grit, and dealing with failure and frustration are developed while working on a research project. Like the musician or athlete, students who conduct research projects have the opportunity to practice and improve important skills that they dont normally get to use regularly in traditional classrooms.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cicadas - a simple science/language/art experience.

Summer has arrived - time to go outdoors.

They have taken their time but the cicadas are now in full song.

Information about NZ cicada    And more great stuff

What do we know about cicadas?
It is always the way. As soon as the summer holidays have past summer actually arrives.

Teachers and their students, who have up to now had little experience of real heat, are now feeling it, but now confined to their classrooms.

Let's hope teachers have decided to vacate their rooms and do their learning in the cool shade outside.

Teachers who have not forgotten that environmental literacy is as important as book literacy will no doubt be really enjoying themselves. The big issue of the coming decade is not a literacy crisis but a climatic one.

The sooner students develop an awareness of their environment , and in the process learn to love and respect it, the sooner they will see the need to sustain and protect it. As the future generation they will need to see it as the number one world problem.

If teachers do take their students outdoors they might begin to see that it is through rich sensory experiences that their students develop real insights and in the process expand them their all important vocabularies. They might even understand that in the beginning was not 'the word' but that in the beginning was 'the experience'.

So teachers ought to take this hot weather as an opportunity to go outside and let their children explore the environment through their senses. If it was good enough for Leonardo da Vinci; it is good enough for their students. Like Leonardo they need to see and interpret their experiences as, artists , poets mathematicians and scientists.

Outside children can sit under a tree and let their minds go for a walk. They can be taught to educate their senses - each sense introducing information for their growing minds to process. Listening bring in dimensions of sound, smelling will remind them forever of environmental experiences, touching opens the world of textures, and sight the world of movements, colours, and shapes.

Teachers who understand how brain grows will help their students expand on their ideas by encouraging students to see connections, to use language metaphorically , or to get them to simply describe what they can see. Teachers who appreciate the power of observation will encourage their students to draw what they can observe - encouraging them to focus on something of particular interests. Digital cameras assist in this process by bringing images back into class to further process.

In rooms ,with teachers who are environmentally aware, the evidence of students curiosity will be all around to see. There will be three line nature poems ( simple haiku), drawings , imaginative paintings, exciting phrases in their written language, and studies developing out of their reawakened curiosity.

Such teachers appreciate that by building on students questions and ideas about the immediate environment there is no need for imposing teacher planned curriculums on their captive students. By developing environmental awareness both teacher and students can learn to be co-explorers.

So with  this  in mind this is an ideal time to go outside and listen to the cicadas. What questions come to mind - and what are your students prior ideas about cicadas?

Collect cicada nymph cases seen on tree trunks - they make ideal observational drawing subjects, and through drawing questions and ideas will come to mind to explore.

It may be possible to uncover some nymphs before the emerge but possibly easier to capture some adults to observe/draw and to note differences between nymph cases and adults.

Students could then research answers to their questions. They might learn that many of their questions do not have real answers - not everything has been learnt about the 42 different types of New Zealand cicada! Do all cicada 'sing'? What is the point of all the 'singing'.

To conclude a display could be developed featuring drawings, thought poems and researched questions.

This is 'authentic' learning - building on how our brains were developed to work.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Educational Readings - inquiry learning and does size matter?

Educational Readings

By Allan Alach

The list is shorter this week (do I hear sighs of relief?) as my brain has gone AWOL.

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

This weeks homework!

Does size matter?
Article on class sizes written for a Canadian readership but as usual applicable all over.

Mr. Biased Columnist points out that places like Finland, Korea, Singapore (among others) have class sizes that are larger than in Alberta, and still perform better on PISA (this is fact). What he deliberately neglects to tell us (Logical fallacy of Omission – Stacking the Deck) though, is that teachers in those countries spend far less time in front of students than we do in North America.

Parsing The Unintelligible Stefan Pryor

Article about the inability/unwillingness of an Education Commissioner to speak plain English when discussing education. You will, of course, note the similarity with language used by similar people in your country.
The model that we established for evaluation with the inclusion of teacher observations of student learning indicators to making sure that we are looking at student outcomes and other features that was arrived at by consensus through our Performance Evaluation Advisory Council.

From failing to killing writing: computer based grading.
Computer testing

The ultimate nightmare, the death of creative writing.
Our studentswriting has something the tests and machines will never be able to measure,and it is now the duty of all writing teachers to make known the art of human assessment of writing.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Debunking the Left Brain and Right Brain Myth

There is a common belief in many management and popular psychology circles that a persons creative ability is determined by which part of their brain is more active. People often refer to people who work in the creative industries or find it easy to come up with ideas as Right-brained,
whereas people who are more methodical, logical or process-focused are Left Brained. Im here to show you why these terms should be ignored, and give you more of an insight into how the brain actually comes up with ideas.

Inquiry-Based Instruction Explores, Then Explains

It is common for lessons to follow an "Explain-before-Explore" model, which includes reviewing previous work, introducing a new concept, modeling that concept, and then student practice with the concept in a controlled, prescriptive exercise. The goal is for students to be able to replicate solution methods or to parrot what was told to them. With the Explain-first model, ask yourself, how are you challenging students to think deeply every day about science or mathematics? Alternately, an "Explore-before-Explain" instructional model allows students to grapple with the ideas and skills within a concept before the concept is thoroughly discussed and described.

The Art of Thinking Like a Scientist

Through the arts, students learn to observe, visualize, manipulate materials, and develop the
creative confidence to imagine new possibilities. These skills and competencies are also essential to scientific thinking and provide a strong argument for transforming STEM education by integrating the arts.

Innovation: Are You a Gardener or an Architect?

Integrative Thinking is the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative solution of the tensions in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Educational choices in an election year - personalisation or standardisation? Steve Maharey or John Key?

A new school year is underway.

2014, as an election year will be an important year for education. All with a stake in education, parents, teachers and students need to be as informed about the alternatives available.

Steve Maharey, Minister of Education in the previous Labour Government was enthusiastic about ‘personalised education’  – an educational approach focused on catering for the individual needs of each learner. At the time it seemed a real alternative to the technocratic standardized curricula that had been imposed on schools since the introduction of ‘Tomorrows Schools’ in 1986. ‘Tomorrows Schools’, at first, seemed an encouraging move to democratic local control of education with its concept of ‘self-managing schools’. The New Zealand Curriculum that followed made it clear local control was more to do with responsibility for finance, buildings, property and staffing than curriculum.

The philosophy of devolution has had its successes but also its detractors. At first School Boards of Trustees were fully occupied with their new responsibilities and the teaching teams with trying to implement an increasingly difficult  technocratic curriculum – a curriculum with learning areas , strands and, most problematic, an impossible range of learning objectives to implement and assess.

 Since the introduction of ‘Tomorrows Schools’ governments have ‘tinkered’ with curriculum requirements to make it more acceptable but finally, in 2007, the then Labour Government introduced a ‘new’ New Zealand Curriculum.  This curriculum still remains in place but it has been all but side-lined by the present National Governments National Standards requirements.

Sadly the vision of a personalised system has been replaced by moves to standardise learning.
Non standardized individuals!

Schools these days have, knowingly or not, implemented a formulaic ‘best practice’ approach to learning.  National Standards now require all schools to grade their students against standards in literacy and numeracy as ‘above’,’ at’ or ‘below’ standard. The premise is that this will ensure the ‘one in five students seen as failing’ are given due attention. The consequences of such an approach is to push schools to narrow their curriculums and in the process side-lining other more creative or personal areas of learning – and in the process, as mentioned, the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

As a result it is impossible not to observe, in most schools, ‘formulaic’ practices that conflict with more creative approaches that they have all but replaced.
 Kelvin Smythe, previously a Senior Inspector of Schools prior to ‘Tomorrows Schools’, had the presence of mind to predict the uncreative direction that lay ahead. At the time he was all but ignored but today his worst case scenarios have come to pass.  He warned that the educational approaches being promulgated would denigrate the professionalism of teachers, would introduce a restrictive curriculum based on reading and maths replacing the broad holistic approaches, would impose stiff bureaucratic controls, fragment the curriculum into arrays of narrow objectives accompanied by a heavy regime of classroom and national testing, less professional sharing between schools,  He foresaw   educational direction relying on management systems based on compliance rather than one valuing inspired classroom teaching – a system corrupting the declared aims of liberal education.
We need to listen to Sir Ken!

 He wondered ‘what kind of society will such an education system create?’  The application of this neo liberal approach to education, he has written, has reframed education in such a way to exclude rational debate and, all too often, sees teachers as ‘self-interested and standing in the way of “progress”’.

Kelvin believes there is nothing inevitable about current approach. He believes that we need to ‘fight it with our own ideas based on a clearly formed vision of society and the place of education within it’. Kelvin is not against economic imperatives but believes both economic success and humanistic education needs to value ‘imagination, creativity and variety’ not efficiency based standardisation.

So it seems in 2014 there are two agendas for schools to consider
Firstly a standardised agenda with National Standards and increasing assessment and accountability demands and the possibility of League Tables or a more personalised one based on diversity, creativity and self-responsibility. A choice between restrictive agenda of National Standards allowing narrow school comparison, or the broader humanistic curriculum as defined in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum. Economist Brian Easton has written that league tables will result in a Stalinist education system.
I have a cunning plan!

John Key’s State of the Nation speech, though seemingly acceptable to the wider public (and ironically the PPTA) will enforce the standardised approach of the government – it certainly will not encourage creativity and innovation. Twenty ‘super’ principals are to be chosen, from those successful at achieving government policies, to work with underachieving schools. Other principals are to be chosen to work with schools in local clusters and finally lead teachers will help those of their colleagues who are seen not to be achieving as required. All are to be well rewarded. Questions remain unanswered. Who will choose the ‘super’ principals and teachers, and by what criteria – obviously those schools who have implemented the government’s standards? Performance management lays waiting in the wings – and payment by results. And schools found ‘failing’ open the way for private charter schools to be established, ironically being offered freedoms not provided to state schools!

Evidently our current Minister of Education has scoured the world to gain ideas that fit the government’s agenda and has settled on gaining inspiration from Asian counties that score highly on international tests (themselves increasingly being seen as suspect). Her search for ‘best practices’ has sadly ignored the more progressive and sympathetic approach of Finland. Singapore is evidently a favoured model but one thing that is ignored about Singapore is that when they demolished their slums they resettled their citizens in mixed socio –economic estates avoiding the low decile communities that have been created in New Zealand. The one in five ‘failing’ in our schools echoes the ‘one in four students’ living in poverty – hard to ignore except by the Minister.

The approach as outlined by John Key is as bureaucratic as anything before Tomorrows Schools. It appears to revert to a medieval system of barons, knights and pages (very keen to do what is expected) to enforce monarch John’s wishes. John Key talks of using the influence of the ‘best in the business’ (as if schools are businesses) and compares his approach to the All Blacks employing specialised coaches! The idea of schools collaborating is commendable but John Key’s approach has nothing to do with fostering, the diverse talents of all students, or the importance of creativity and diversity- it has more in common with the collaboration of Vichy France.
The government’s approach is an unsympathetic to encouraging the unique talents of individual students and teachers - so much for his All Black analogy!
Contemporary education is increasingly about testing, measurement and surveillance; about teaching to imposed formulas and narrow targets. As a result educators are becoming increasingly ‘risk averse’.  And, as part of the government’s agenda, the effects of poverty are totally ignored. Teachers are certainly the most important factor in a child’s success but only within the school. The greatest effects on learning disparity (the ‘one in five failing’) are created outside of the school gate – any alternative view needs to see the wider picture. Max Rashbrooke ( and recently economist Brian Easton)  provides all the evidence of this growing disparity; Easton writes the only way to solve thisdisparity is to alleviate child poverty.
Time for new thinking!

As the election draws closer everyone needs to consider the options available. It boils down to a choice between the neo liberal approach of every person for themselves (which inevitably will widen the gap between then rich and poor) or a philosophy which is based on a fair go for all; ‘me first or we first’; greed or equity; private need( greed) or common good.

So this is an important year not only for schools.

It is all about what sort of country we want to become.

The choice couldn’t be clearer.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Educational Readings - Steve Wheeler, Deborah Meier, Marion Brady, Uncle Tom Cobley and all!

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Secret Teacher: why I've given up my dream job in teaching

A story from England that will ring bells for many teachers all over.

I have nothing but respect for those who don't find it a toxic environment to work in and manage to maintain their enthusiasm they must be far more resilient than me. The problem is that we shouldn't feel like that about a job that is so incredibly important for the future of our society. Most of all I miss the feeling that being a teacher meant something.

Inventing the future

UK academic Steve Wheeler discussing a keynote presentation by Brian Solis:

He dwelt on organisational use of technology, and presented us with some challenges. He suggested that the future will either happen to us or because of us. In other words, it is up to us to shape our own futures, but our own inability to push forwards is often what holds us back. He argued that
technology is a part of the solution but can also be a part of the problem, and unfortunately technology in organisations is usually imposed on us from above.

Setting Children Up to Hate Reading (thanks to Michael Fawcett)

Many children will not be readynot because theyre slow, not because they have learning disabilities, but because theyre normal and moving along at their own pace! The door should be opened to them in kindergarten and beyond to learn how to read in a relaxed manner. Even when a child has difficulty learning to read (dyslexia for example), you dont attack the problem by pushing the child to read beyond what is considered normal.

Deborah Meier is another US educator battling against the school reform movement. In this article
she follows the big money that is underpinning the reform movement in the USA.
Publishing companies and private tech companies saw $$$$$ everywhere. By the time we wake up to what is happening we will no longer have a public education system in reality.

School choice, Australian style
Madness in Australia.

The choice really is whether we continue to dabble in superficial solutions for our fractured and hierarchical schools, or whether we try to create a better balance and improved opportunities for our poorest students and families by boosting their schools and national achievement levels.

Why Common Core Isn't the Answer

US educator Marion Brady - while hes writing about the USA, much is applicable to other infected countries. Highly recommended.

Ill start by affirming what I believe most thoughtful educators take for granted: The main aim of schooling is to model or explain reality better. As you read, dont lose sight of that. The aim of schooling isnt to teach math, science, language arts, and other school subjects better, but to expand our understanding of reality.
Political power must be exercised, but parents, grandparents, and thoughtful, caring citizens are the only ones with enough clout to exercise it effectively. They need to recognize poor policy when they see it, organize, and act appropriately.

Control Will Be the Demise of Education

Written for USA, however relevant to New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere.

So again our education system is in a pickle consisting of an outdated model and the pressure to prepare students for an absurd amount of testing days throughout the school year. The world does not rest on standardized tests. Success now lies in one's ability to create solutions to problems,
collaborate with peers to meet a goal, communicate effectively, and develop unique ideas that can change things for the better.

Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note-taking

Especially relevant in light of reported schools going 100% digital, either with iPads or using Google Docs.
Apparently there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information -- and instead to process and reframe information in their own words, with or without the aid of asterisks and checks and arrows.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Darwin's notes
Following on from the Ink on Paper article..
Handwriting instruction has been found to contribute to success with beginning readers. Brain scan studies show that early manuscript lessons help activate and coordinate reading circuitry.

Time for an Education Reformation
(as opposed to reforming schools)

Too often the disparity between the lessons we intend to teach and the lessons we actually teach causes angst and confusion for students. While we preach the idea of systematic conformity as a route to success, virtually every example of greatness, success, genius, innovation, or profound influence that we use in our classrooms is an individual who did not conform. The current shift to the Common Core State Standards will not change this. Our diplomas will continue to signify the successful completion of a prolonged course in conformity unless we insist on something more.