Friday, May 23, 2014

Educational Readings- for the critical educator

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Children need to be taught.

You often hear the phrase that small children are sponges, that they constantly learn. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in a way that makes it sound like the particulars dont matter that much; as long as there is a lot to be learned in the environment, the child will learn it. A new study shows that for one core type of learning, its more complicated. Kids dont learn important information thats right in front of them, unless an adult is actively teaching them.

Guest opinion: Learning doesnt have a distinct look

Im not proud of the direction of education and of evaluators who demand rigor at any random moment of any random classroom. For this reason and other experiences leading up to it, I am leaving the profession after 17 years of teaching. I dont believe what is expected to go on in classrooms is best for students or teachers.

The irony in new study that bashes popular teacher evaluation method
Value added testing a waste of time!!

Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post, looking at more evidence about the ineffectiveness of value added measurement of teachers and which rebounds on Bill Gates.

While  there are economists who argue that VAM can measure teacher effectiveness adequately, testing experts, academics, and other economists say that more than abundant evidence shows that it doesnt, and that reformers should stop trying to evaluate teachers and principals with unreliable and invalid measurement tools.

Our Brains and Art

The arts change our minds
So much for narrowing the focus to standards based schooling.
Many in the field now suggest that both hemispheres of the brain are involved in art making and are necessary for artistic expression. There is clinical research on drawing as well. A study by Rebecca Chamberlain and colleagues in the journal NeuroImage (2014) debunks right-brain and left-brain thinking to argue that those with visual artistic talent or who identify as visual artists have increased amounts of grey and white matter on both sides of the brain.

The future of knowledge in the coming era of intelligent machines

We listen then seem to ignore!
Opinion: Futurist Gerd Leonhard says the rise of artificial intelligence means we need to rethink the way we learn
We need to unlearn the habit of acting like machines and relearn how to act like humans. Quite likely this means as Sir Ken Robinson has been pointing out in his amazing TED talks going back to what did as children: playfulness, experimentation, listening, imagining, dreaming and failing fast, failing cheap and trying again.

What Motivates Teachers? Education Reformers Have No Idea

Now showing in NZ
You gotta' admire those education reformers. Despite their almost total lack of experience in education and despite all the research and evidence that flies in the face of their bankrupt ideas, they cling to their ideology like a sloth to a low hanging vine. One area where I think they can come in for particular ridicule is teacher improvement. Basing their theories on the all encompassing business model, the education reformers have decided to motivate teachers through a system of threats and rewards.

Sacrificing Our Children
“… the fact of the matter is that the corporate education reform movement functions in way that the educational quality experienced by poor children is harmed when school privatization occurs, and corporate profit is greatly increased.

What Teacher Trainees Should Know...15 Things You Don't Always Hear
This is not a definitive list of things.  We would be here for a long time if I was to highlight
Look after yourself!!!
everything, but this is a list of some of the big important things that our new teachers are not always told but should know.
 There are miles of lists out there that outline what new teachers need to do or know in the classroom - this list focuses on some of the obvious but not always talked about things.

The Absurdity of Teacher Evaluation Systems

Read all about teacher evaluation in USA. Want a version in your location?
The twin methods that are put together to form a teacher evaluation system are absurd, muddled, and unreasonable.  Even more, the assumptions which are used evaluate teachers are rooted in false claims about what is effective teaching, and how one knows when effective teaching happens.  At its stupidest level, bureaucrats who sit in front of their computer screens, and whove consulted with agronomists, believe they have the algorithms that will actually measure in some quantifiable way, just how much a teacher adds to student academic achievement.

When PISA meets politics a lesson from New Zealand

An article by Professor Martin Thrupp, one of the signatories on the recent letter to the OECD about PISA.
Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed
We don't need Schleicher in NZ
carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand
and probably in many other countries any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

End of Year Burnout: How to Finish the Marathon in Stride

One for northern hemisphere teachers.   some good fun things to do with your class
You are at mile 23 and your lungs are bursting, your legs are cramping, your mind is in a jumble,
How to win the marathon
and you just want say, "Beam me up, Scotty."
Yet, just as the marathoners make it to the finish line, so can you. Here are five ideas that work.

Tech Tools That Inspire PBL in High School

Bruce comments: An interesting article (  with an informative small video) based on investigating a local issue by a statistics teacher in a high school. A concept of learning applicable from junior classes to year 13 one many NZ teachers have been making use of for decades!
"When will I ever use this?" This cringeworthy comment slipping from a teenager's lips can swipe away the sense of accomplishment felt by a teacher who has spent a week crafting a lesson that she thought would have staying power. If you cringe too, it may be time to lock onto the practice of PBL, which is variously referred to as project-, problem- or inquiry-based learning. Where blended learning gives students some flexibility as to where and when they do their work, PBL offers them a choice of what they do.

Crazy Snail 3: Great video!

Imaginative snail
Bruce comments: One if the most successful studies a teacher I worked with  did an integrated study based around  snails involving  science, language art , reading -researching other molluscs,
Real observation
even eating them! The teacher concerned used  snails to encourage hard looking through observational; drawing  ( and later imaginative snails) to develop the idea of slowing pace of work; to develop quality. Too many kids spoil their work by rushing believing; first finished is best.

Contributed by Phil Cullen and Mary MacKay

ALEC and Charter Schools are the New Dog and Pony Show

Charter schools??????
Since reformers pushing charter school tsunamis washing over cities across the country have little real data or proof that their scheme works, they must rely of some tricks probably learned from the makers of Fruit Loops.
You see, reformers dont need facts. Theyve got money. And money can make illusions appear real. With enough money you can host and populate your event under some thin veil of legitimacy, and pass it off as officialand sell it out into the public narrative as fact.”  They make star studded Hollywood tear jerkers like Wont Back Down and Waiting for Superman

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