Friday, August 28, 2015

Leading and Learning Educational Readings for Creative Teachers

By Allan Alach

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

Science Proves Reading To Kids Really Does Change Their Brains
Teachers of school entrant children will already have suspected this is the case; now heres some proof.
Pediatricians often recommend parents routinely read aloud to their young children.
Now, for the first time, researchers have hard evidence that doing so activates the parts of preschoolers' brains that help with mental imagery and understanding narrative -- both of which are key for the development of language and literacy.

Kindergarten boys less interested in language activities, study indicates
Following on.
"We have not looked at whether the differences in reading abilities between boys and girls have any connection with participation in language activities in kindergarten. However, wedo know that systematic linguistic stimulation promotes language skills in children. Unequal participation in activities that promote linguistic stimulation may be a factor in reinforcing the differences that already exist between children. If these gender differences persist, we can imagine that girls will have an advantage and boys and girls will start out on a different footing when they start primary school.

A Dictionary For 21st Century Teachers: Learning Models & Technology
Thanks to Phil Cullen for this one.
An index of learning models, theories, forms, terminology, technology, and research to help you keep up with the latest trends in 21st century learning.

This could change everything about school for kids, teachers and everybody else
Excellent article by Marion and Howard Brady.
Marion Brady
Were convinced that systems theory is the key to creating a general education curriculum free of the core curriculums major problems. And were dead certainbased on extensive classroom experimentationthat helping kids lift into consciousness and use their already-known systemically integrated information organizer moves them, in just a few weeks, to performance levels not otherwise possible.

At the end of our tether
Steve Wheelers observations about the potential impact of mobile technologies on learning.
Being able to choose when and where to learn is part of the freedom to learn. It is not just about freedom of thought and freedom of speech, but also freedom of space and place. It is about choice. The is academic freedom. We have no excuse now. We are living at a time in our history where the small device in the hand of the student is able to provide opportunities for any time, any place learning.

Leave the World Better than We Found It
This article is the introduction to the book A Peoples Curriculum for the Earth, which looks as though it could be very worthwhile.

We educators need to imagine, cooperate, create, hopeand at times, defy and resist. And we need to see ourselves as part of a broader movement to build the kind of society that is clean and just and equal and democratic. One that seeks to leave the world better than we found it.

Research examines relationship between autism and creativity
Time to have another look at autistic children in your classroom?
People with high levels of autistic traits are more likely to produce unusually creative ideas, new research confirms. While the researchers found that people with high autistic traits produced fewer responses when generating alternative solutions to a problem, the responses they did produce were more original and creative. It is the first study to find a link between autistic traits and the creative thinking processes.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

18 Activities That Make Creative Writing Actually Fun
Here are some great writing strategies and prompts that will honor your studentsimaginations and free their muses to soar.

The Best Advice for Creating Student-Centered Learning
The below article includes an excellent small Australian video showing educational changes from 1950s to modern times worth viewing.
Student-centered learning puts the emphasis on experience and hands-on learning. Buzz words are: Inquiry-based learning, case-based instruction, problem-based learning, project-based learning, discovery learning, and just-in-time teaching.Whatever you call it, the emphasis is on students becoming empowered to own their learning. So lets embark on a little journey exploring student-centred learning.

Students Advise New Teachers: From Structure Comes Freedom
Advice for new teachers.
Follow these tips and you can build a classroom culture of respect, rapport, and learning. When the classroom culture is positive, students are more apt to participate in all types of learning activities.

Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform
Michael Fullan asks have we been using the wrong driversfor educational reform? Short answer  - yes!
Successful drivers of change focus on relentless development of  ‘capacity building’ – to make learning more exciting, more engaging, and more linked to assessment feedback loops around the achievement of higher order skills.
Michael Fullan
A wrong driveris a deliberate policy force that has little chance of achieving the desired result, while a right driveris one that ends up achieving better measurable results for students.The culprits are 1. accountability: using test results, and teacher appraisal, to reward or punish teachers and schools vs capacity building; 2. individual teacher and leadership quality: promoting individual vs group solutions; 3. technology: investing in and assuming that the wonders of the digital world will carry the day vs instruction; 4. fragmented strategies vs integrated or systemic strategies. Although the four wrongcomponents have a place in the reform constellation, they can never be successful drivers. It is, in other words, a mistake to lead with them.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

Guy Claxton's Magnificent Eight
Guy Claxton believes that teachers need to focus on how they relate to students in their classrooms. What is important , he writes, are the values embodied in how they talk, what they notice, the activities they design, the environments they create, and the examples they set day after day. These represent the culture of the class.Every lesson invites students to use certain habits of mind, and to shelve others.

Bureaucratic 'creep' and curriculum drag'!
Bureaucratic creep and curriculum drag 2004 have things improved? 
Tomorrows Schools ( when schools were made self governing in NZ in the 80s) was all about community control - or so the publicity went. It sounded good at the time but the possibility of local control and creativity was quickly crushed by the imposition of confusing curriculum statements and time wasting assessment requirements.

In praise of slow
The ideas of Carl Honore, in his book In Praise of Slow, are a real antidote to our current obsession with productivity, speed, consumerism and workaholism, which has filtered its way into all we do including education. Carl Honore believes too many of us are living our lives on fast forwardand as a result our health and relationships are paying a heavy price. Obese children are but the most recent symptom of this fast life. Carl writes that we are to over stimulated and overworked and struggle to relax to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends.

Inspiration and challenges for today

Pioneer New Zealand creative teacher Elwyn Richardson recognised and some good advice for today's teachers.
In April of this year (2005), at the age of 80, Elwyn Richardson was given an honorary doctorate by Massey University to recognize his work as one of New Zealands most inspiring, innovative and influential teachers whose ideas were ahead of his times'. His recently republished book In The Early Worldoutlines his philosophy of learning and teaching including his respect for the emerging abilities of the children he taught. They are my teachers as I was theirs and the basis of our relationship was sincerity, without which, I am convinced, there can be no creative education.At the ceremony Professor Codd said that, It is timely in the 21st century to recapture teaching as an art. In the early World inspires teachers to take risks, to contemplate values and philosophies as central to the teaching learning process and to adapt prescribed curriculum to the childrens own desire to explore , inquire and create.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It's all about politics( including educational reform). Market Forces ideology has demeaned the common good.

A rock star lifestyle for  the rich elite!

Time to move away from 'rock star' leaders

A recent article in local  our paper said that maybe we need to move away from ‘rock star’ leaders. Maybe ,it suggested ,that leaders need to be some sort of charming rock star is a myth’ and ‘one that is detrimental to the success of any organisation’.

Qualities of good leaders

Which one exhibit over confidence?
‘Good leaders’, says professor of business psychology Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (University College of London and New York Columbia University), ‘have four general qualities. The first is trustworthiness and integrity, the second is good judgement. The third is having a vision,- a compelling story that persuades a team to put aside their own selfish agendas and to work for the collective good’. The fourth quality is self-awareness, and it is a lack of this that can result in an ‘epidemic of overconfidence’.

It is interesting to compare National’s John Key and Labour's Andrew Little on these qualities.

Time to let go of the 'free market' knows best myth.

What happened to the 'trickle down'?
Our current ‘rock star economy’ is based on the belief that the ‘market knows best’ along with the idea that self-interested individuals need to be free to develop their selfish agendas. For the less fortunate the wealth created was supposed to ‘trickle down’ but this has also been a myth. The rich have got richer and the poor poorer.

Free market in free fall.

The ‘rock star economy’ is now at risk as milk prices fall and as the Chinese economy is showing signs of ‘speed wobbles’ - the 'great fall of China'. It seems our success was more to do with forces outside our own borders than political leadership. Simply leaving the logic of the free market to work without constraint has developed  an elite owning the lion’s share of any wealth generated. The collective good has been forgotten; there has been a stagnation of average and median earnings.

Time for an alternative vision.

The time is right to right to develop an alternative story. Thirty years of market forces politics has created a very unequal society. Issues about sustainability and ensuring that all citizens are able to contribute and benefit need to be placed back at the centre of the debate.

A n inclusive vision
A challenge for Andrew Little and Labour.

Andrew Little and the Labour Party need to develop a new vision for our country that will  not only make up for current ‘market imperfections’ but also lead us in a new direction.. We need a vision that sees a stronger role for the government to construct a more democratic, humane and caring society to ensure all citizens get a fair deal.

'Free market' policies flawed.

New Zealand is no longer the egalitarian society we once proud of and growing inequality is placing a strain on the social fabric of our country. As well the emphasis on growth at any cost, consumerism and a deregulated financial ‘free for all’ is placing the sustainability of our environment at risk.

Free market policies are now being seen as flawed – the rise in inequality the obvious symptom.

Now is the time to develop a vision that creates the opportunity for everyone to get a fair share.  Currently we are at risk of letting an elite rich shape the future of our country.

The real winners
Inequality and climate change the defining challenges of our time

Inequality and climate change are becoming the defining challenges of our time. After three decades of ‘market forces’ there is developing a sense of unease or discontent felt by those who find it hard to see themselves as ‘winners’. This unease will grow as the upwardly mobile middle classes find  their future  being placed at risk
We need an inclusive model that serves all citizens.

We need a new model of economic growth that serves the needs of all based on decent work, environmentally sustainable development and economic of production for social ends – growth that has the potential to put more life into regional economies
We need to have a conversation about what kind of country we want to be? 

We need to look at successful countries that have avoided such inequality; countries that have not gone so far down the market forces ideology.

Time to value the collective good.

Political decision need to be made to ensure that the collective good is protected and that all citizens are given every opportunity to contribute to the nation’s wealth. New infrastructures and public services need to be developed.  Democracy needs to be reinvigorated to respect the ‘voices’ of all citizens? New directions   in health, education taxation, housing, power provision and welfare need to be in place to ensure all can contribute according to their talents?

Thirty year experiment has had it day.

Market forces and privatisation that have dominated New Zealand politics for thirty years has failed to produce a healthy society that all feel part of. The consequences of such thinking  now need to be faced up to.

A vision to get through rough times
An opportunity to develop a better vision.

The situation we now find ourselves in provides an opportunity to draw together a vision of a better world. It is an opportunity to challenge the ideology that underpins ‘market forces’ of the minimal state, privatisation and speculation and to replace them with principles based on democracy, justice, sustainability, redistribution and collaboration.

We need thinking leads to a new vision to take our country into a more successful future for all members of our society not just an elite few; a country that will be a fit place for the younger members of our country to inherit.

Need to speak out about 'free market' failure.

Andrew Little and the Labour Party need to speak out against the present inadequacies of current policies and to speak out about the advantages of a more equal society. They have the challenge of developing in the public understanding of what is at stake. The advantages of freedom and choice, promised by ‘market forces’ are limited to the rich –  while the rest of the population  move further into debt.
 Well said Pope Francis!

We need a vision of a better society

Time to make a choice
 But most of all the Labour Party needs to articulate  vision of a better society that is both achievable and inspiring ; one capable of developing meaningful reforms; a vision where the talents and skills of all citizens are seen as the countries major resource. 

As the article in the paper referred to said there is a need for ‘a vision- a compelling story that persuades a team to put aside their own selfish agendas and to work for the common good’. We just ust need to replace ‘team’ with ‘country’.

It is time for real choices to be made.

There is an alternative

Friday, August 21, 2015

Leading and Learning Education Readings for critical educators: Gene Glass/ Sugata Mitra/ Growth mindsets/ killing public education/ MLEs / Haiku curriculum and the SS Titanic

By Allan Alach

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

The King Has Abdicated

Phil Cullens take on the announcement by US academic Gene Glass of his withdrawal from the discipline of educational measurement due to its misuse by the school reform movement. 

This is big news!!!

If ever there was a giant amongst educational measurers of the world, it is Gene Glass, Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The seminal mega-research of Glass and Smith into Class Sizeis a study to which any studious commentator refers if ever he or she mentions anything about the efficacy of class size on child learnings. It had an enormous impact on world discussion about class size. His leadership during the 1970s Minimal Competency Testing movement was profound.

The Great Learning Gap

Sugata Mitras controversial new study summarised in the TES here suggests that self study on the internet can boost a childs performance by seven years. Basically, 8 and 9 year olds studied GCSE content online before being examined three months later in examination conditions. They were successful. It sounds astounding, but its true, at least for the small number of children involved. And actually I dont think its that surprising. To me, this is not a study about the power of the internet. Its a study about the power of children.

Growth mindsetis not just for school students, teachers can grow their minds too

This is is a must for teachers, much more than the can in the title.
Most educators would be aware of the term growth mindsetby now. The idea is you can work on being smarter. Whatever abilities and talents you have are just a starting point, if you work hard, make mistakes and keep trying, you can achieve. Teachers are using it to encourage and motivate children in their classrooms.
But there is another application for this idea; it can be used as an underlying ethos for the professional learning of teachers.

10 Ways To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

Its 2013, so whatever youre doing in your classroom right now is technically 21st century
learning. Semantics aside, we all can improve, and many of us are being held accountable for improvement by administrators, blogs, and the local PLC to bring the next generation into the 21st

century. With that kind of pressureand constant district walk-throughsit may be necessary for you to fake a 21st century thinking and learning environment to make the right kind of impression with the right people, and give the appearance of forward-thinking.

Plays the thing

Theres a lot of useful information here, both in and out of school.
Somehow the importance of play has been lost in recent decades. Its regarded as something trivial, or even as something negative that contrasts with work. Lets not lose sight of its benefits, and the fundamental contributions it makes to human achievements in the arts, sciences and technology. Lets make sure children have a rich diet of play experiences.

Imagine that you wanted to slowly kill public education

Does this article by Scott McLeod ring any bells for you?
Somehow you have to create a narrative over time that erodes citizenssupport for public schools and counters their incredible historical legacies of college and career preparation, citizenship development, cultural socialization, economic opportunity creation, and facilitation of intergenerational income mobility. Here are some things that you and your like-minded colleagues might try to do:

How Should Learners Influence Classroom Design?

Researchers and designers of learning environments often debate whether the learner should adapt to the learning environment, or whether the learning environment should adapt to them. Arguably, this is the wrong question. A better question is: how does the environment shape the learner, and in turn, how does the learner shape the environment?

Why Schools Should Teach Meaning and Purpose

I believe it is the responsibility of a school to help students develop their personality, but this is not possible when a school tries to be efficient. You need pointlessand ineffectivestudent
activities that dont lead to better grades if you want them to live a life of meaning and purpose. Sacrifice a bit of your academic excellence and make room for personal development. The system wont thank you for it, but the students will by living a more fulfilled life.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Does a MLE suit all learners?

By Derek Weymouth NZ
Essentially, I don't find this sort of question helpful. There are some more important questions that should precede it. Thats not to be dismissive at all of the fact that people will be interested in these sorts of things – its important that these themes are fully investigated as new approaches are being adopted in our schools and learning institutions. It's like asking "does an MLE suit all learners?" when the equally valid, yet often uncontested question is "does a traditional egg-crate classroom suit the needs of all learners?'

The neurons that shaped civilization

Culture Counts
Seven minutes Ted Ed talk to illustrate the power of culture and learning from others a change the rational scientificGERM approach to learning.
Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.

If life is a game, then education is play

Education is best when built upon such notions of play.
Play embodies our natural inclination to explore and experiment with objects and systems outside of us and integrate them first-hand into our psyche. Through educational play, we get to explore new ideas and come to know ourselves, as well as those around us in often-profound ways.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

'Haiku Curriculum' - simple and deep!

At some point the Japanese threw away complex poetic forms and invented haiku.This is what we ought to do with our current incoherent curriculums Since the 90s schools worldwide have had to implement a complex set of curriculums imposed on them by expertslong removed from the reality of the classroom.

Messages about education.

I have been reading an article on the web about the pressures being placed on young children and their teachers in the United States to achieve expectations set by standardized tests. In the process teachers have had to narrow their curriculum to ensure their school does well when results are published. And as well, I guess, they would be worried about their tenure?

Why are teachers so reluctant to change?

Over years of visiting schools it seems mean to say that there has not been as much change as one
might have hoped for considering all the imposed reform efforts. Ironically the biggest change I have seen was when a more progressive pedagogy entered our primary schools in the late 60s and early 70s. Out went straight rows, the strap, and the overbearing role of the teacher. Even the introduction of computers hasnt yet changed school structures as much but there are signs they will.

Sailing into the future on the educational SS Titanic!

Many school structures still reflect a Titanic mentality
Many of our current organizations may look impressive but there are plenty of signs that all is not well. There are social icebergsof discontent and alienation ahead that will eventfully force change on us. Just as it takes a tragedy in our personal lives for us to face up to new reality, so it is with the wider world of organizations particularly those designed in, and for, past eras.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Educational Readings - ideas for creative teachers

By Allan Alach

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

Choice Stifles Learning for Educators
What is it about a mandated, contractually obligated, professional development conference that inspires some teachers and completely turns off many others? Why do some teachers glow with excitement at conferences and many others complain as they go through the motions? Is it the conference itself, or the attitude of the educators attending, or a combination of both?

Read what Tara says
Nothing you learn at university has any relevance in a classroom
This article doesnt reflect the title.
But teacher education in Australia has become a zombie discipline. Its brains are being eaten by expertsthat hold no proficiency in teaching and learning, but are offering a view because they attended school at some point. These expertsare instructing universities holders of self accrediting authority about the necessity to return to the basics.

Why Dyslexia Is No Bar To F1 Champions
This isn't strictly educational but then again it shows how people can succeed at the highest level in spite of their reading disability.
Vancouver neurotherapist Mari Swingle insisted theres scientific basis for Stewarts theory, saying that dyslexicsbrains have an affinity for things like racing.
Theres a different form of spacial perception that dyslexics have, so its almost fundamentally what hurts them in their learning to read actually helps them on courses and tracks,said Swingle.

7 things that doodling does for you that will probably make you want to start doodling again
Seems we should allow to doodle in classcan you cope with that?
Shelley Paul and Jill Gough, two learning design educators, have taken the call to doodle into their
A meaningful doodle
classrooms. Armed with research and some colored pencils, they've come out with some hands-on experience that really illustrates why doodling is the jam.
So here are seven things doodling can do for you.

Too young to test - not in the UK
Too much too soon? What should we be teaching four-year-olds
Young children with oral language deficiencies are becoming a very common problem in New Zealand schools and this article suggests that the first schooling experiences should focus heavily on redressing this.
We need to develop childrens oral language skills early and leave formal classroom instruction until children have the foundation skills they need to achieve. This should raise the attainments, and esteem, of all children.

Climbing a tree can improve cognitive skills, researchers say
Get children outside as much as possible!
The study, led by Drs. Ross Alloway, a research associate, and Tracy Alloway, an associate
professor, is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities, like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time have dramatic working memory benefits. Working Memory, the active processing of information, is linked to performance in a wide variety of contexts from grades to sports.

Signing off: Finnish schools phase out handwriting classes
Im in two minds about this. I can see the logic but then again theres evidence to support the value of handwriting to childrens learning.
Is handwriting out?
While purists mourn the loss of personality and the human touch, some neuroscientists stress the importance of cursive handwriting for improving brain development, motor skills, self-control and even dyslexia. French education officials took heed of these findings and reintroduced cursive writing classes in 2000 after a brief hiatus but in Finland, theres been little response to the proposed scrapping.

How the Arts Prepare for a Life's Work in any Discipline
Here is an outstanding keynote by Dr. Root-Bernstein, who after researching over 200 biographies of outstanding scientists found a correlation between their sustained art and craft avocations to their achievement in other disciplines, especially the sciences.  His talk begins with a quick display of childrens' art which quickly reveals a playful and powerful connection to some great minds.  In other words, this is not a passive Art Appreciation class here, folks, but a case for active and continuous making, doing, tinkering (especially in high school).

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Seeing Struggling Math Learners as Sense Makers,Not Mistake Makers
I recommend you all read this.
Teachers and schools that are capable of creating real-world, contextualized, project-based learning activities in every other area of school often struggle to do the same for mathematics, even as prospective employers and universities put more emphasis on its importance. This struggle may come from a fundamental misunderstanding about the discipline and how it should be taught.

Valuing students ideas
New Zealands all but forgotten science research about valuing the both the views students hold and the process of learning to clarify their thinking The Learning in Science Project.
Science teaching in primary classrooms cannot be ignored or forgotten. Primary schools need to provide worthwhile challenges to stimulate and challenge childrenspresent ideas as well as providing  opportunities to 'learn how to learn'. Primary science, above all else, needs to encourage children to take an interest in their environment and their own learning, explore ideas, and seek and develop understandings about their world.

My Longstanding Beef With Instructional Leaders
Principals as instructional leaders yeah right!
Two articles by Bill Ferriter:
But the truth is that despite working for some remarkable principals over the past 22 years, Ive never turned to them for help with my instruction and they never volunteered any instructional strategies that challenged my practice in a positive way.  Instead, I have always turned to my peers for that kind of professional challenge because I know that my peers are wrestling with instruction on a daily basis.  The expertise that I need to change my teaching rests in the hearts and minds of other practitioners not my principals.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died
The Geranium on the Windowsill just died but Teacher you went straight on.
A book to encourage teachers to listen to the variety of voices of their students and reminded them of what it was like to be small, penned up, bossed around; and for students retain a sense of resiliency and joy during the time they are at school.

Schools - so last Century
Schools so last century still
At the end of the nineteenth century schools were developed to meet the needs of an industrial age to transfer knowledge to often reluctant students and, in many ways, they have changed little since those
beginnings. In contrast almost every other aspect of our lives has been changed through technological advances. Roland Barth, from the Harvard Leadership Centre has written, many of our schools seem en-route to becoming a hybrid of a nineteenth century factory, a twentieth century minimum security penal colony and a twenty-first century Education Testing Service.
All to true!!!

Whose learning is it?
Without meaning to many teachers not only diminish their students authentic sense of self but miss out in inspiration to develop engaging personalized programmes. As DH Lawrence wrote, you have to know yourself to be yourself. At school students learn to fit into a world designed by teachers and not all students will thrive in such an artificial environment.