Friday, November 27, 2015

Education Readings for creative teachers

We need to avoid the political press for standardized teching!

By Allan Alach

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

Robert Sternberg
The Conversation: Why 1904 Testing Methods Should Not Be Used for Today’s Students “Testing is compromising the future of many of our able students. Today’s testing comes at the expense of validity (strong prediction of future success), equity (ensuring that members of various groups have an equal shot), and common sense in identifying those students who think deeply and reflectively rather than those who are good at answering shallow multiple-choice questions.”

Avoiding "Learned Helplessness”
“Instead of coming immediately to the teacher, we want students to experiment on their own. Many of us wonder why students constantly do the opposite instead. I've got news for you. It's our fault. We, as educators, are often responsible for learned helplessness, and we have a responsibility to change it! How can we empower our students to be self-directed learners?”

Growth Mindset: Clearing up Some Common Confusions
Carol Dweck
Recently some critiques have emerged. Of course we invite critical analysis and feedback, as it helps all of us learn and improve, but some of the recent commentary seems to point to misunderstandings of growth mindset research and practice. This article summarizes some common confusions and offers some reflections.”

Moving away from factory teaching
Levels of Understanding: Learning That Fits All
“In order to reach diverse learners, we need diverse teaching strategies. Student voice and choice lie at the foundation of a differentiated classroom. When voice and choice are honored, the one-size-fits-all model transforms into multiple pathways for student growth.”

Why Understanding These Four Types of Mistakes Can Help Us Learn
“We can deepen our own and our students’ understanding of mistakes, which are not all created equal, and are not always desirable. After all, our ability to manage and learn from mistakes is not fixed. We can improve it.”

The Global Search for Education: Just Imagine – Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
“The Global Search for Education consistently focuses on how to better prepare students for the21st century — an age which will be all about innovating and building. Today, we’ve invited education expert Tony Wagner and entrepreneur and filmmaker Ted Dintersmith to imagine the school of the future.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Ditch cameras - draw!
Museum Asks Visitors to Put Down Cameras and Pick Up Pencils and Sketch Pads
“Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, recently launched a new campaign called The Big Draw.” It’s an effort to get museum visitors toditch cameras and simple snapshots in favor of drawing the artworks in order to more fully appreciate the easy-to-miss details The tagline of the campaign is You See More When You Draw,””

Are Schools Designed to Help Children Learn?
In trying to wrap our hands around learning about learning, we  need to understand how to personalize learning by focusing on the learner first. This article discusses three space
One size doesn't fit all
that take up the space as teaching, performance and work instead of what they should be focusing on: LEARNING.
“When you see learners noticing and reflecting on their learning during their learning, that is the Wow of learning. This is the higher-order thinking skills we want our children to adopt: learning about learning and thinking about learning. This makes learning visible.”

Teacher Burnout: What Are the Warning Signs?
“It is not a matter of teachers becoming superhuman and overcoming all horrible conditions and indignities trying to succeed in doing what is virtually impossible, especially in a sustained way. The students need their teachers to stay engaged and fight for them. When the conditions of teaching are bad, the conditions of learning tend to be worse, and children suffer in lasting ways. That's why the collateral damage of burned-out teachers is burned-up children.”

Teaching By Doing Something Meaningful
The illusion of making progress in education, the continuous re-evaluating, revising, and reorganizing of educational principles and practices, and the use of flawed data to direct our course of action, are all part of a grand illusion that is producing much confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.””

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Reflection on my teaching beliefs
“There are many, including myself, who believe we are now entering a new age of creativity- some even call it a 'second Renaissance'. If this is so then many of our current organisations, with their genesis in an industrial age, will need dramatic transformation, as will, more importantly our mindsets. We will need new minds for a new millennium.We will need to create networks of creative schools so as to to be in the forefront of such exciting changes. To achieve this schools, and their communities, need to stop and think about what is required of education in such exciting and very unpredictable times. Traditional education just won't do.”
Get out for a better view

The power of visiting other schools
“It is my belief that focused school visits ( hence the need for a guide) are the most powerful means to gain professional development and, in particular, to gain insights in to what other schools/teachers feel important. This is all the more necessary as schools are increasingly under pressure to distort their teaching programmes by the need to respond to the reactionary and politically inspired introduction of National Standards.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

Make a difference:Creative teacher readings


By Allan Alach

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

The fear of all sums: how teachers can help students with maths anxiety
“The way teachers feel about the subject also has an impact – if we think maths is hard and scary our class will too. Instead of taking shortcuts, teachers must help children see the relationship between the different challenges to ease their anxiety.”

Constructing learning in the digital age
I haven’t included a Steve Wheeler article for a while.
“From a cognitive constructivist perspective, learning is achieved through the twin processes of assimilation and accommodation. The latter implies that new learning is 'bolted onto', or constructed within, existing cognitive structures known as schemas. Learning relies on the individual construction of reality, according to Jean Piaget. Such construction of meaning is unique to each individual, and therefore centres on each learner's efforts to make sense of the subject.”

Children should be allowed to get bored, expert says
“Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says. Dr Teresa Belton told the BBC cultural expectations that children should be
constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.”

Parents aiming too high can harm child's academic performance
All teachers will be aware of this….
“When parents have high hopes for their children's academic achievement, the children tend to do better in school, unless those hopes are unrealistic, in which case the children may not perform well in school, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.”

Art and the Mind’s Eye: How Drawing Trains You to See the World More Clearly and to Live with a Deeper Sense of Presence
Self portrait by John Ruskin
An excellent reason to include drawing in your class programme.
“Drawing, indeed, transforms the secret passageway between the eye and the heart into a two-way street — while we are wired to miss the vast majority of what goes on around us, learning to draw rewires us to see the world differently, to love it more intimately by attending to and coming to cherish its previously invisible details.”

Power, Labor, and Compliance in Education Reform: Why We Must Refuse
Does this sound familiar?
“It appears apparent to anyone who has worked in education for more than a few years that what we have before us is a never-ending avalanche of policies. Further, dedicated and committed teachers try their best to follow instructions.  They try to follow the latest round of to-do” lists hurled upon them from above by experts” and policy makers.
But there’s a catch.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Standardization isn’t Just Killing Students’ Creativity
Standardization is destroying the soul of creativity in our students. My subject area is about reading and writing, something a majority of my students hate doing. This is tragic because they’re both activities that I love deeply and most young kids enjoy. Older students often tell me that they loved reading and writing when they were younger, but they hate it now.”

Service Learning: Growing Action From the Roots of Passion
“Our goal was to create an educational model in which students' passions are the driving force, empowering them as global citizens. While we have limited time to cover required curriculum, we are committed to finding ways of embedding curriculum in "real-life" applications within the project.

What are your students storys
The Power of Story in School Transformation
“Human brains are hardwired to understand the world through stories. This is so true that psychologists often refer to stories as "psychologically privileged," meaning that our memory treats them differently from other types of information (Willingham). Each of us is a collage of our unique life experiences. By organizing these experiences into a story structure, we try to create order from chaos.”

How Can We Harness the Power of Learning Beyond the School Day?
“Discussions of learning tend to focus on what happens in schools, but many students are learning lots of important skills outside of school through extracurriculars like sports, music, art, politics or any other passion. Often students don’t get recognition for the learning they pursue on their own, and many times they don’t even see their passion as learning at all.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing a co-constructivist unit of study
Bruce wrote this after a visit to my school…sadly all this has now gone due to the switch after my departure to ‘raise achievement’ against ‘national standards’ based on the collection of
‘achievement data.’
“A plan for a school to develop a unit of work which values students' ideas and thoughts and then challenges them to 'change their minds' though interactive activities. Before starting the unit the staff need to clarify their idea of 'constructivist' and inquiry learning.”

Mavericks - our only hope!
Creative ‘mavericks’ are our only hope – but times are difficult for creative thinkers in our standardised education system.
“Does your school benefit from the talents and energy of the 'maverick' or does it seek to restrain them?.New Zealand was settled by courageous creative Polynesian and European adventurers prepared to risk all for success in an unknown world. Not for then complying to bureaucrats sitting at their desks or self interested populist politicians.It was anthropologist Margaret Mead who said that every new idea was started by a small group of committed people. Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, 'Every reform was once a private opinion.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Moving into a Post- Capitalist world - A book by Paul Mason. 'Market forces' past its used by date!

Someone once told me I am always captured by the last book I have read.

Paul Mason
There is some truth in this. I also can’t resist ordering books I have heard reviewed on National Radio that capture my interest. One such book was Paul Mason’s ‘Post capitalism – a Guide to Our Future ‘- the author was interviewed by Kim Hill.

The ideas in the book certainly have impressed me and all I will be able to do will share, best I can,  some of his  ideas. I really enjoyed the historical development of the relationship between labour and power and, in particular, the dramatic rise of socialism and capitalism.

Well worth a read. It was referenced by speakers at the recent NZ Labour Party Conference which I recently attended.

The book is premised by the belief that ‘for the developed world the best of capitalism is behind us, and for the rest it will be over in our lifetime’.

‘What started in 2008 as an economic crisis morphed into a social crisis, leading to mass unrest’. There are two ways it can end. In the first scenario, the global elite clings on’ but with stagnating
Escaping the neo liberal box
growth and growing inequality.

In the second scenario, as ordinary people refuse to pay the price, a variant of what happened in 1930s could emerge.

In both scenarios, the serious impact of climate change, demographic aging, mass migration and growing debt will combine to create chaos by 2050.

 Mason proposes an alternative, we ditch neo -liberalism; then we save the planet – and rescue ourselves from inequality – by moving beyond capitalism. There is a growing consensus as to how you do it: suppress high finance, reverse austerity, invest in green energy and promote high waged work. But, as Greece found out, any government that defies austerity will clash with the global institutions that protect the 1%..

‘Neo - liberalism’, writes Mason, ‘ is the doctrine ofuncontrolled markets: it says that the best route to prosperity is individualspursuing their own self-interest…. It says the state should be small…that financial speculation is good; that inequality is good’ and that the natural state of humankind is ‘individuals competing with each other’. And, of course, unions need to be crushed.

The route to a new future beyond capitalism has been created by technology ( just as the printing press provided the impetus to create the Renaissance). Modern  technology, through automation, has reduced the need for labour to produce goods. Secondly information technology corrodes the markets ability form prices correctly - - consider the ease of downloading music from the internet. Thirdly there is the rise of collaborative production – Wikipedia, the biggest information product in the world is free as is the rise the ‘creative commons’.

Networked world
'A networked world',  Mason believes ‘offers an escape route’ and this ‘must be driven by a change in our thinking about technology, ownership and work itself’.

‘In the old socialist project the state takes over the market, runs it in favour of the poor instead of the rich, then moves key areas of production out of the market and into a planned economy’. This has been tried but it hasn’t worked.

The state’s future role is to create the framework for change.   ‘The new information technology has created a new agent for change; the educated and connected human being. Revolutions in highly complex information driven society will look very different from the revolutions of the 20th century.’

The challenge of the future is between the availability of free and abundant goods (with minimal labour input)  and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. ‘Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy, between old forms of society molded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next’.

The power elites and the financial institutions have a lot at stake. The idea of TINA (there is no alternative) is now under attack. ‘Millions of people are beginning to realize they’ve been sold a dream that they can never live’. There is no ‘trickle down’; growing inequalities are a feature of capitalist societies

In his book Mason writes that  in the decades after WW2  prosperity was the result of state ownership and control. It was an era that resulted in technological changes and the spreading of best practices. This came to a halt with the oil shocks of the 70s and with President Nixon removing the gold standard for the dollar.

This was the beginning of neo-liberalism – Thatcher, Reagan and in New Zealand ‘Rogernomics resulting in the dis empowerment of worker unions and the rise of business elites and corporate domination.

Mason’s book is premised on the concept of cycles of political change in power structures; neo-liberalism is coming to end.

It is Mason's belief that the  new information technology, rather than creating a new and stable form of capitalism, is dissolving it; corroding market mechanisms, eroding property rights and destroying the old relationships between wages, work and profit
Recommends Mason's book

More radically it is leading us towards a post capitalist economy; a move as great as when the financial merchant families replaced the power of the feudal monarchs' ; a change that will redefine the nature of work itself as automation takes effect.

This automation will result in making human labour largely redundant  resulting, for many, more free time than work time  leading to the problem of what to do with the millions of people whose jobs are automated? In this process work will lose its centrality as part of a person’s identity. Networked individuals will increasing become a power for change.

Transitions are always hard to understand as the plot of Downton
Changing times in an earlier era 
Abbey illustrates. The question is how will humans have to change in order for post capitalism to emerge?

Four time bombs Mason writes  will create the press for change – all are interrelated an all will require dramatic action.
Peace talks 1939

The first is climate change – the result of ‘free market’ capitalist economic growth -primarily caused by the use of carbon fossil fuels  to fuel economic growth. Strong positive action focusing on renewable energy will help but, as Mason writes, ‘more and more the climate talks…come to resemble the peace treaties that paved the way for the Second World War’.
The aging problem

The second time bomb is the demographic problem of aging, potentially as big a threat as climate change but with a more immediate economic impact.  Fewer and fewer workers will be available to pay  pensions and the  care of an aging population. This is an irreversible change added to by falling birth rates.

The demands of spending on pensions, health and care will create devastating problems of public debt.

The fourth time bomb is the impact of mass migration resulting from poverty. Mason predicts that we have not seen anything compared to what is to come. 'Either poor countries will become richer or poor people will migrate to richer countries.’

Notwithstanding all these problems, even following the GFC of 2008, the ‘financial aristocracy  is determined to go on living as if the threats outlined above are not real,’ believing that market forces will solve all problems. Those in power will do whatever they can to avoid real transformational change that requires the end of neo-liberalism and the development of a post capitalistic world. The illusions, bred over the last twenty-five years, feed our paralysis – the illusion  that everything is going to be OK.

This false sense of security, echoing the feelings prior to the outbreak of World War Two, will eventually require dramatic action.

Only states and states acting together can organize positive actions – responding to the challenges that lie ahead will require more state ownership and will require more planning than anybody currently expects..

Mason’s book provides an antidote to despair. For all the rhetoric about free markets, the capitalist system will not provide any answers and, rather, will contribute the problems..

The theme of Mason’s book is that technology is developing a world that requires fewer workers and introduces the idea of a transition to a world without work driven by information technology able to produce goods almost for free; a challenge to profit orientated capitalism. In the future people will be involved in providing services beyond the market – for example free information through Wikipedia or the creative commons.

In his final chapter Mason outlines what a post capitalist society might involve. He calls it Project Zero as its aims are a zero- carbon energy systems; the productions of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of labour time as close as possible to zero.

This is not about returning to deadening state control but rather will require a state foresight and guidance rather than command and control; networks rather than hierarchies.

 Mason outlines five principles.
The 1 %

Test all proposals on a small scale before attempting them on a larger scale.

Design transitions to ecological sustainability, responding to problems as they emerge.

This transition will not be just about economics but will require the emergence of new kinds of people that will be created created by the growth of networked communities. The growing cohorts of networked citizens will have different perceptions from their parents or grandparents. 

The fourth principle will be to attack all problems from all angles.  The rise of networked citizens allows them to organise meaningful spontaneous actions as powerful agents of change beyond the control of governments,  political parties and corporations. New forms of democracy will need to evolve allowing solutions to be found through a mix of small scale   experiments that, if shown successful, can be scaled up through top down action.

The fifth principal for a successful transition is to maximize the power of information. Already aggregated data about our lives is available too often controlled by governments or corporations.

There will be a need to create democratic control over aggregated information to prevent its misuse by states and corporations.  Once information has been 'socialised' it will have the power to amplify the results of collective action by mapping problems and providing immediate assistance.

In Mason’s scenario decision making is decentralised; the structures needed to deliver it emerge
during the delivery; targets evolve in response to real-time information – and all actions should e modelled through simulations tools before enacted for real. ‘The best method is for small groups to pick a task, work on it for a bit, document what they’ve done and move on.’

Top level aims of a post capitalist project would be:

Rapidly reduce carbon emissions -work towards sustainability

Stabilize and socialize the finance system to take into account problems of aging, climate change and debt.

Deliver high levels of material prosperity and well-being by facing up to inequalities in society.

Gear technology towards the reduction of necessary work – eventually work becomes voluntary with  the rapid transition towards an automated society.

Such changes will require a ‘new spirit’ – a new attitude to replace the current misplaced faith in ‘market forces’ which is unable to solve current problems.

Mason’s solutions provide his best guesses and is open to be changed by the wisdom of others.

‘The most challenging arena for action is the state; we need to think positively about its role in the transition to post capitalism.’

The state has to see itself as one of nurturing new economic forms to the point where they take off.’ Currently the state, under neo-liberalism, has been deregulated to allow marketization, corporatisation and privatisation in such areas as education and health. ‘The state has to reshape markets to favour sustainable, collaborative and socially just outcomes. ’Local energy systems could be incentivised and infrastructures developed to allow local innovation. The state has to ‘own’ the agenda for responses to the challenges of climate change, demographic aging, energy security and migration’.

Governments will have to do something clear and progressive about debts – in countries that are unable to repay debts they could be written off.

Collaborative business models need to be fostered. The tax system needs to be reshaped to reward the creation of non-profits and collaborative productions. 

Large corporations need to be controlled by regulation. This might sound harsh but similar restrictions outlawed slavery and child labour despite protests of factory bosses and plantation owners. 
New minds required

Monopolies to be be outlawed. ‘For twenty five years’, Mason writes, ‘ the public sector has been forced to outsize and break itself into pieces; now would come the turn of such monopolies such as Apple and Google’.

‘Public ownership delivered in the past huge social benefits and in the post capitalist society it would deliver that and more.

Public provision of water, energy, housing, transport, telecoms infrastructure and education would feel like a revolution as these have been privatised under ‘market forces’ for the benefit of a few.

'A mix of government encouraged initiatives and highly regulated corporations would create the framework of the next economic system, not its substance.’ ‘There is no reason to abolish markets by diktat, as long as you abolish the basic power imbalances that the term ‘free market’ disguises.’ Innovation and creatitivity would be rewarded. Patents and intellectual property rights would be designed to taper away. State funded research should be free and shared.

‘The only sector where it is imperative to suppress market forces completely is wholesale energy. To meet climate change with urgent action the state should take ownership and control of the energy distribution grid, plus all big carbon suppliers of energy. Renewable sources of energy need to be subsidized. Mason believes in' decentralizing and allowing local communities to keep the efficiency gains they make’.
The neo-liberal position

The next big piece of social technology would be focused on the financial system. Central nationalized banks should have sustainability targets. Other banks would need to be restructured to reward innovation and to be penalised for speculative rent seeking loans.

The biggest structural change to make post capitalism  possible is to establish a state guaranteed universal basic income. 

The purpose of a basic income is to formalize the separation of work and wages and to subsidize the transition to a shorter working week, or day, or life.

The idea is simple: everybody of working age gets an unconditional basic income from the state funded by taxation, and this replaces the unemployment benefit. Other forms of need-based
welfare would still exist topping up the basic income.

This move would radically accelerate technological progress. One study states that 47% of all jobs in an advanced economy will be redundant due to automation – this would result in an enormous unemployment problem. A basic income paid out of taxes gives people a chance to build a life in a non –market economy allowing individuals to involve themselves in work or non-work activities. 
The fiscal cost for this would be high costing, according to UK figures, twice the current welfare bill.. This would be affordable if current tax exemptions were abolished  combined with cost saving changes to other public spending.

‘Under this system there would be no stigma attached to not working.  The universal basic income would be an antidote to the low paying service jobs that capitalism has created over the past twenty-five years that pay little and demean the worker.

As we pursue these goals, a general pattern is likely to emerge; the transition to post capitalism is going to be driven by surprise discoveries made by groups of people working in teams’. ‘This is not going to be a controlled process. The most valuable thing that networks can do ( and individuals within them) is to disrupt everything above.

Asking what is the end state is not the wrong question according to Mason. Post capitalism is a ‘beginning state’.

As the reproduction cost of labour shrinks dramatically the employment problems that have defined human history will shrink or disappear. ‘So instead of looking for an end state, it’s more important to ask how we might ... escape a dead end.’

We are entering an era when the labour that is necessary to sustain life falls and free time grows – where the division between work and free time is blurred.

Mason concludes his book writing, ‘we are at a moment of possibility; of a controlled transition beyond the free market, beyond carbon, beyond compulsory work.What happens to the state? It probably gets less powerful over time- and in the end its
function are assumed by society.’

‘What happens to the 1%? 

Their ideology tells them their uniqueness has made them successful but their success depends on a plentiful supply of cheap labour and repressed democracy –  where inequality is rising. 'To live in a world so separate, dominated by the myth of uniqueness but in reality so uniform, constantly worrying you’re going to lose it all, is- I am not kidding, tough.’

‘But there is good news. The 99% are coming to the rescue. Post capitalism will set you free.’

Not an easy book to summarise. Best you read it for yourself

Mason is asking readers to imagine a more socially just and sustainable society beyond capitalism – a world we can help shape rather than simply react to problems that face us .

Link to the corporate takeover of society - including education

Pope Francis - inequality and capitalism and Thomas Piketty

Lestor Thorow - challenges that lie ahead for capitalism

Friday, November 13, 2015

New Zealand education increasingly at risk - readings for creative teachers who care,

It is not too late to escape the standardized box
By Allan Alach

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

'World's best teacher' warns on too much testing

Mind you I’m not sure who chose her for this honour, nor what the criteria were, so I’d take the ‘best teacher’ claim with a pinch of salt.
“… she warned against education systems moving to what she thought was an over-prescriptive curriculum.
Such an approach would limit children's range of reading, she warned, so that they would spend too long focusing on a small number of texts in order to pass tests.
"Parents are recognising that their children are being tested rather than taught," she said of US schools.”

Innovation: What Does it Really Mean in Schools?

Tony Wagner
“Technology alone will not make it happen. Indeed, the technology will achieve little unless the ecology of learning and the purpose of technology have been clearly established. It’s about culture, imagination, creativity, risk-taking, failure, learning, questioning and the amplification of this entire process – especially the innovation piece – through the appropriate use of tools and technologies that help extend our ambition and learning outcomes. It’s about how we use those things.”

The Timeless John Dewey

If you don’t know much about John Dewey, here’s your homework - research him!
“Dewey wrote much about the power and importance of experiential learning (learning by doing,outdoor education, hands-on experiences), and how the teacher should be more of a facilitator or guide in a child’s learning experiences rather than the sage on the stage”, which sadly became the traditional approach.”

Peak indifference”: Cory Doctorow on surveillance in education

An important topic, given the ever increasing eyes of the state on our every day activities, and there’s no reason to think that education will be spared from this.
In the educational domain we see a lot of normalisation of designing computers so that their users can’t override them. For example, school supplied laptops can be designed so that educators can monitor what their users are doing. If a school board loses control of their own security or they have bad employees, there’s nothing students can do. They are completely helpless because their machines are designed to prevent them from doing anything.”

What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?
Here is a series of articles exploring the nature of learning.
’It is time to go back to basics of teaching and learning, not those of the 3 R’s, or of rote learning, of the industrial revolution or that of the information technology revolution but instead the basics of relationships and trust in education. It is time to rethink our pedagogy. A time to wipe the slate clean and rethink things from the beginning and not keep adding things that we think will or should work”.’
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Bruce Hammonds - Lessons from the Masters
Want to know what Bruce thinks – his ideas are captured in this PowerPoint presented at a creativity course.

45 Design Thinking Resources for Educators
“Design thinking consists of four key elements: Defining the Problem, Creating and Considering Multiple Options, Refining Selected Directions, and Executing the Best Plan of Action.”

'I can be happy – or I can be a teacher’
“I come across weary, disillusioned teachers on a daily basis in the course of my visits to schools as an author. Now here’s the rub, not one of these good professionals references the very real stresses and strains of the classroom as the factor that could drive them out of teaching. It always boils down to workload, the endless collection of data, the subordination of teaching and learning to tracking, testing and "accountability", which invariably means stress-inducing targets and anxious over-the-shoulder concerns about the next Ofsted inspection.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

Swamp Drop For Skills and Learning.
Here’s an interesting little task to work through.
“This exercise will build your skills in recognising how communications can activate unproductive cultural models. It’s an essential first step in keeping your messages from being eaten by dominant understandings of your issue.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Survival of the fittest or the best connected - Market Forces or creating conditions for all to thrive. A new look at Darwin.
“Competition it is still believed leads to innovation but when you look at innovation from a long term perspective competition turns out to be less central that we have been led to believe.  Survival of the fittest has been oversold - from a long term perspective openness and connectivity may be more important.”
“Shame is that  our current market forces competitive orientated government seems prepared to destroy such an environment by introducing competitive league tables which will destroy the valuable aspects of collaboration and connectivity and, in the process, narrow the curriculum as teachers will naturally begin to teach to the test - a version of the outdated ideas of ' survival of the fittest.”

Importance of School Values
The importance of shared values in a school
“A vision gives an organization a sense of direction, a purpose, but only if it is ‘owned’ and translated into action by all involved.But vision is not enough in itself. The values that any organization has are just as important or even more so because they determine the behaviours that people agree to live within. Alignment of people behind values is vital but too often both vision and values are just words hidden in folders are rarely referred to. What you do must reflect what you believe if there is to be integrity. And any alignment needs to include students and parents as well.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Creative teacher readings - time to fight back against corporate privatization and standardisation

Please share these reading with other creative teachers

By Allan Alach

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

Losing our grip: More students entering school without fine motor skills
This problem has appeared in New Zealand schools as well, and I suspect the same will the case all over.
“Local teachers and occupational therapists say an increasing number of children are showing up for kindergarten without the fine motor skills needed to grip a marker, hold their paper still while coloring or cut and glue shapes.”

Children at play - busy learning
Powerful play: Continuity and inquiry for children starting school
On a similar theme:
“By allowing children space and time to play they will show you what they know, what they are capable of, and what they want to learn about. Through play they explore and express their ideas, interests, and passions — but you need to listen to these carefully to know what to pick up on.”

Seven is the age of wonder, not the age for formal testing
A story from England but its applicable all over.
Why all this testing?
“How can we foster a love for life-long learning when, before the tooth fairy has even collected a full set of gnashers, children are expected to get down and give their teacher 20? It is bad enough that their final year of primary school is riddled with a strict diet of test, drill, repeat twice every half term for the entire year. But to re-introduce yet more testing for children who can barely get themselves dressed, is a regression.”

Philip Pullman decries 'terrible state' of children's education in the arts
“The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy urged the government to make theatre visits for schools a firmly established part of the curriculum”, saying he was concerned about falling numbers of children being taken to plays and concerts.
I do worry what happens to children when they’re deprived of these things by these blasted league tables and this crazy assumption that we’ve got to test everything,” he said.”

'It's time to take a hard look at how we teach reading’
The magic of reading
“We have almost a quarter century of studies that document how literacy blooms wherever students have access to books they want to read, permission to choose their own, and time to get lost in them.
Enticing collections of literature—interesting books written at levels they can decode with accuracy and comprehend with ease—are key to children becoming skilled, thoughtful, avid readers.”

Like it or not, schools are being converted into academies – that’s anti-democratic
‘Academies’ is an English term for charter schools. Readers all over will appreciate the points made here.
Parents against academies!
“Resistance against forced” conversion is not a new phenomenon. The Anti Academies Alliance contains a catalogue of conversions of local authority-run schools into academies that were bitterly opposed by governors and parents. Many within education and outside of it are opposed to the highly politicised nature of conversions and the lack of evidence that these conversions are in the best interests of the students.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Curriculums, Collaboration, And Reinventing The Classroom
Riverpoint Academy in Spokane, WA is an innovative public high school to say the least. Students
Riverpoint High School
are given autonomy to pursue the projects that they are most passionate about and create real-world solutions to problems by incorporating the latest technology into a collaborative learning environment that is fueled by community professionals and an inspiring staff.

What are "tests that are worth taking”?
Annie Murphy Paul:
“Over the weekend, President Obama declared that "our kids should only take tests that are worth taking." But what would such tests look like? I have a few ideas. Here is my Affirmative Testing Manifesto:”

Confessions of a Business Artist
“Unfortunately our public schools are far too focused on indoctrination than education, on repetition over discovery. Our educational system specializes in creating trivia masters and kids that hate school, instead of building a new generation of creative problem solvers that love to learn and explore new approaches instead of defending status conferred based on mastery of current truths (which may be tomorrow’s fallacies). We are far too obsessed with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) when we should be focused on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Music.”

Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world
“The arts have a powerful impact on learning and are important in their own right. Here are ten reasons why, in a 21st century world, we should strengthen and expand arts education, not reduce or eliminate it.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s wrong with Ability Grouping?
“Today there is an understanding of the relationship between socio economic background and school achievement and the cultural background of students. Ability grouping is unfair if it doesn’t take into account young people’s prior experiences and opportunities to learn.
Mixed ability doing science

Self managing learners
“If teachers want to develop personalised learning environment students need to have developed the habit of working independently. Self managing is a 'key competency' both for the smooth running of a inquiry based classroom and to develop vital life long learning capabilities. As such it is highly related to future success. When students are 'self managing' it allows teachers the time to work with students who need help. What independent learning attributes do students in your class exhibit?”