Friday, July 29, 2016

Genius in education/ technology and learning Diane Ravitch/ project Based Learning/ Pokemon and much more

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

How to Get Started With Genius Hour for Elementary Classrooms?
Well worth trying in your classroom.
Genius hour
‘I believe that every single child is gifted and that every kid has a talent which we as educators should help uncover. This is not easy when you have a curriculum to follow and tons of material to teach. But that given we need to make time to work with kids in a different and more creative setting. It’s important to let them explore new things that may not be present in your curriculum but are in your students’ heads all the time. This is how we can awaken curiosity in young children and help them develop creative thinking.

Idea to retire: Technology alone can improve student learning
‘Yet each successive wave of technology has failed to live up to its hype, and millions have been spent trying to make technology do what it, alone, cannot do. Ultimately, it is not the technology that does the teaching.  Technology is a tool that is wielded by people to accomplish specific ends.  While it can serve as an accelerator, it can just as easily accelerate poor strategies as effective ones.  It is the teaching approach—the pedagogy—that ultimately determines learning outcomes.  Once this is understood, a series of other misconceptions also fade.’

What Bruner Really Meant: a personal viewpoint
If you are a user of ‘WALTS’ or other learning outcome type procedure, I suggest you read this.
Jerome Bruner
‘The idea of starting with a learning objective is somewhat at odds with a constructivist approach, yet in far too many schools in the United Kingdom, teachers are still required to display just such an objective at the start of every lesson, despite there being no evidence that this achieves very much at all. Just to be clear, a learning objective is a good and important thing, but children are not mere machines – sometimes their thoughts will lead them ‘off script’ and they may make important connections and realisations that fall outside the narrow scope of an objective. Thus it is as pointless as showing them the end of a film before they have had a chance to work through the story and watch the plot develop.’

How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education—and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea
Diane Ravitch
This is an extract from Diane Ravitch’s book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” While written about the USA, we can find the same things happen in many other countries, including New Zealand.
A powerful, well-funded, well-organized movement is seeking to privatize significant numbers of public schools and destroy the teaching profession. This movement is not a conspiracy; it operates in the open. But its goals are masked by deceptive rhetoric. It calls itself a reform” movement, but its true goal is privatization.’

10 Ways Pokémon Go Augments Real-World Education & Student Learning
This week’s Pokémon Go article
‘As with all sudden fads, a host of important caveats have emerged this past week, including safeguarding private information, respecting hallowed locations, and ensuring personal safety. Also, as with most fads, this one game will not revolutionize education. That being said, here are 10 ways that Pokémon Go can support the skills of contemporary learning:’

Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm
An article by Peter Gray that discusses the  ‘school reform’ agenda of making very young children jump academic hurdles.
‘Research reveals negative effects of academic preschools and kindergartens.
The results are quite consistent from study to study:  Early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed.  Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

We Don't Like “Projects"
Project based learning based on authentic inquiry lost in many schools – this applies to New Zealand schools
‘I uncovered some frankly stunning assumptions that many students have about learning:The word "project" is not a happy word. When I say project-based learning, most students grimace as they imagine prescribed PowerPoints;If a teacher doesn't plan it, it's not learning;If there isn't a test, it wasn't real.Their personal interests cannot inform their learning. Learning is sterile, and the actual usage of the word "learning," to them, is quite different from what a professional might consider learning.’

Secret Teacher: My pupils' creativity is being crushed by the punctuation police
Students creativity in writing being crushed- and its the case in New Zealand as well
The technocratic approach to assessment is supposed to be raising standards, but I do not see how. The children in my class have not become better writers this year. They haven’t had as many opportunities to be creative. They haven’t been able to focus on good story writing.’

Facing Resistance? Try a New Hat
Modern Learning Environment leadership and diverse styles.
Leading complex change requires trying on different perspectives to understand the various ways people respond to change.When I first stepped into Lyn Jobson's school in Melbourne, Australia, and
A great basis for working with chidren
saw the open classrooms, I must admit that I flashed back to some bad memories of my own school days in the 1970s, when our "open classrooms" had wide breezeways into shared space instead of doors and were separated by thin, movable walls. What I recall most was the noise, distracting outbursts from other classrooms—and carpenters turning up circa 1980 to reinstall the doors.Yet Jobson's K–8 public school, Alamanda College, was different.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

 Creating Conditions for Creativity. Steven Johnson's 'Where Good Ideas Come From’
‘If organisations such as schools and classrooms embraced creating the conditions for creativity  they would do better at nurturing new ideas. Johnson writes that we are better by connecting ideas than building walls around them – good ideas want to be free, they want to connect, fuse, recombine.’

Survival of the fittest or the best connected - Market Forces or creating conditions for all to thrive. A new look at Darwin.
Charles Darwin
From the same author as above – where good ideas come from.
‘Steven Johnson, in his book 'Where Good Ideas Come From',writes that Darwin realised that the true story of nature was not just one of ruthless competition. Darwin understood well the paradox of the  importance of interdependence as well as competition.Johnson writes that the most creative ideas come from open environments where people share and build on each others ideas - in Darwin's day the coffee shop. Creating such fertile ideas environments is the theme of Johnson's book.

The miracle of community
The power of an organic learning community.
‘For the past decade or so schools have been too busy, sidetracked trying to implement imposed technocratic curriculums and accountability demands, to consider a more effective way of working, that of being a ‘learning community’. And, in turn, teachers have become so obsessed with complying with requirements that they too have neglected the real source of power – shared beliefs that they and their students forge through working together for their mutual benefit.’

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokemon - hard to resist! Coding? Raising brilliant children and learning goals v creativity.

Education Readings by Allan Alach

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

10 ways Pokemon Go portends AR in learning
May as well jump on this bandwagon…
‘Quite simply, this opens up immense possibilities and opportunities for learning. If we could take some of that AR ‘magic dust’ and sprinkle it on learning, we may, at last, lift and augment tasks that were traditionally passive, static and 2D into activities that are active, dynamic and 3D. The real world, in which we live, learn and participate is, after all, active, dynamic and 3D. You can literally superimpose anything on anything, anywhere at anytime for anyone. It is personalised learning in the extreme, with a huge does of curiosity, motivation and addiction thrown in.

Five Things Education Technology Could Learn from Pokémon Go
‘However, during my weekend search for Pikachu, Snorlax, and the other 248 Pokémon, it dawned on me how right the developers of the game got it when it came to building a technology that motivates and inspires users to get hooked and stay that way, even when the searching process gets more difficult. I think about this — how to motivate people and keep them motivated — often, although typically within the context of subject area that most fourth graders (and, lets be real, most thirty-year-olds) find less exciting than the hunt for mythical, magical beings: education.’

Coding in the Curriculum
Another bandwagon…
‘I don’t know about you, but the first thing I asked was who is going to do this? I have met many a good soul who dedicate their lives to teaching students, but who’s computer literacy is extremely limited.  And while the content knowledge required to for Level 1 of the curriculum will be very basic, it still requires a great deal more teaching knowledge to be able to teach it effectively. What are students getting stuck on? What are the next steps? How do I solve the next problem?’

Coding Is Over
This article is not about education but does show that the current ‘teach the kids to code’
bandwagon may have a dubious underside.
‘Companies have an economic interest in lowering the barrier to entry for software engineering jobs, as well as decreasing the number of people they need to hire to push new features and show growth”. If making web applications becomes easier, more people will be available to fill those positions, and salaries will go down.’

Slow Processing Speed and Anxiety: What You Need to Know
Anxious thinker
‘But for kids with slow processing speed, anxious moments can pop up throughout the day, and without warning. That’s because their processing speed issues can impact everything from taking tests to talking with friends. And in some cases, the frequent anxiety turns into an anxiety disorder.’

Abstract thinker
Think More Abstractly to Develop Creativity and Innovation
‘Creative problem solving is enhanced by thinking more abstractly or at an intellectual distance, rather than more concretely, according to research studies.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Need for Adaptation in Schools
‘The young people at the conference want to take an active role in their communities and their futures. It's an upbeat group that’s full of passion.So how do schools provide outlets for these Generation Z students to pursue their passions, be active participants in community life, and steer these learners toward their futures?The answer is adaptation.

How To Raise Brilliant Children, According To Science
‘We're training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts. And computers are always going to be better than human beings at that. But what they're not going to be better at is being social, navigating relationships, being citizens in a community. So we need to change the whole definition of what success in school, and out of school, means.’

Learning Goals… Success Criteria… and Creativity?
While I am aware that setting clear standards are important, making sure we communicate our learning goals with students, co-creating success criteria… and that these have been shown to
increase student achievement, I can’t help but wonder how often we take away our students’ thinking and decision making when we do this before students have had time to explore their own thoughts first.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The World IS flat!!!!
“In his book, 'The World is Flat' , Thomas Friedman shares how the convergence and explosion of new communication technologies and globalisation has 'flattened' the world allowing anybody, anywhere, to be connected anytime, with growing efficiency and speed. Others have called this convergence the beginning of the 'Second Renaissance' while others call it the 'Age Of Creativity or Talent.’”

Henry Giroux - lessons for New Zealand educators. Revitalizing the role of public education.
Time to call an end to neo liberal free market drivel before we ruin our country.
‘There is no doubt that current political leadership, influenced by a neo –liberal philosophy of small government, individualism and the need to privatise of all aspects of living has led to the erosion of the belief in the common good resulting in a growing gap between so called ‘winners and losers’.The winners are the financial and corporate elite - the one percent.The corporate and financial elite, right wing think tanks –and extreme fundamentalist political groups (the Tea Party in America and the ACT party in New Zealand) are increasingly focusing on privatisation.

Digital technology:Over promised and under-delivered?
‘It seems however that modern technology is sold to schools by people who see schools as a 'cash cow'. And,once technology is introduced, there is always new technology to replace old models, new upgrades to 'keep up with the play', eating up scarce financial resources of the schools.It would be wise to spend money on professional development to assist teachers to use the technology sensibly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Inspirational New Zealand teachers and schools

And a few thoughts from Zong Zhao.

The blog I wrote about Opunake School has had a tremendous response.

It might indicate that there is a hunger out in 'teacher-land' for examples of schools sticking to their
Some classes have the 'wow' factor
beliefs and doing the right things rather than complying to politically imposed requirements, such as National Standards..

To fulfill this need for creative alternatives I have 'mined' my blogs to find examples that might fit the bill.

 As a bit of an introduction this morning I listened to an interview on National Radio with  American education professor Zong Zhao  who is in New Zealand to give presentations of his ideas. I have made reference to Zong Zhao several times  over the years as his views are aligned to the message of this blog.

Creative teachers and schools count!!

He was talking, in the interview, about his latest book 'Counting What Counts - Re-framing Educational Outcomes.'  The point he was making is that measuring achievement does not automatically equate to positive students' attitudes to wards learning. He was asking for schools ( or rather Governments) to assess what matters.

 On his website he quotes Einstein to make his point;

'If you judge a fish by its ability to
Zong Zhao
climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid'

Rather than focusing on National Standard we need emphasize the provision of challenges to  all students. Students are born needing to learn - it is integral to their desire to survive, according to Zong Zhao.

 Focusing on such things as National Standards  distorts the curriculum, stifles student growth. and seems to require behavior programmes to 'control' students who do not have the opportunity to be suitably engaged. As a result we suffer from an 'opportunity gap' rather than an achievement gap' .

National Standards discriminate and punish uniqueness ,  ignoring students with strengths in areas not tested, rather than valuing it.

 Education is more than test scores placing students on a ' shonky' bell curve.

Zong Zhao referred to  High Tech High as an example of a school that engages students in authentic problem solving, integrating modern information technology, but he could have been referring to Opunake Primary.

So back to finding inspirational New Zealand examples unfortunately limited to those I know of. 

Someone needs to find and share such examples.

These are schools that place the  intent of  the New Zealand Curriculum ahead of the politically imposed and
NZ Curriculum
doubtful National Standards. Schools that put into practice the phrase from the curriculum that   students need to be able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge'.

Many teachers are aware of the creative approach of New Zealand's pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson. His book 'In the Early World' has recently been republished by the NZCER

The early beginnings of creative teaching in New Zealand : Gordon Tovey and the art advisers.
Perry Rush

Perry Rush of Island Bay School is an inspirational educator. I have visited his school and heard him present his ideas. Perry had the courage to stand out against National Standards.

Gay Gilbert's integrated arts programme Hillcrest Normal School Hamilton. I have known Gay for decades and have had the opportunity to work with her school.

Inquiry based learning at Mt Eden Normal School

I haven't had the opportunity the last few years to visit Spotswood School but it was once one of my favorites. I still hear good things

Woodliegh School New Plymouth Quality teaching and learning.

A visit to an inquiry based junior classroom in New Plymouth : Deborah French.

Inquiry learning motivated by visiting an archaeological dig at a redoubt site

Developing a co constructivist inquiry unit

A critical principal speaks out Dan Murphy

Another critical principal speaks out Danny Nicholls

Reflecting back 30 years - what still holds true? Bruce Hammonds

Fraser and his students making honey

An eccentric and creative teacher  in the far north; Fraser Smith

Bill Guild
Bill Clarkson - a quiet revolutionary.

Native plant study  Bill Clarkson

Thoughts from Bill Guild about teaching and learning

The forgotten genesis of creative junior school teachers.

New Zealand's all but lost Learning in Science Project - inquiry learning model  and valuing the prior ideas of students.

Discovery Time is a New Zealand programme to develop science inquiries in junior classrooms

Rotational group organisation for inquiry learning

Valuing student voice -shadows Jumiors

Ideas to begin the school year - or anytime for that matter.

Developing a stimulating and celebratory room environment

Covering the main strands of the NZC
Books to inspire creative teachers.

Two practical books to implement the NZC

Friday, July 15, 2016

Creative teacher readings; too much maths? too much data? unschooling and the myth of genius.

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

What’s At Risk When Schools Focus Too Much on Student Data?
‘The argument in favor of all this is that the more we know about how students are doing, the better we can target instruction and other interventions. And sharing that information with parents and the community at large is crucial. It can motivate big changes. It’s to serve equity and uphold civil rights, say the latest Ed Department regulations, that states must provide clear and transparent information on critical measures of school quality and equity to parents and community members.” But we’re also starting to hear more about what might be lost when schools focus too much on data. Here are five arguments against the excesses of data-driven instruction.’

Constructivist Classroom: Knowing The Wrong Answers, Too.
Constructing learning
‘Focusing on the wrong answers may seem counterintuitive to many, but doing so helps teachers understand the disconnect between the right answer and students’ common misconceptions. Talking through wrong answers has the incredible ability to make teachers better educators and students less frustrated and more receptive to the mountains of new information presented in the classroom. In short, understanding the wrong” answers leads to learning that lasts.’

We’re teaching our kids wrong: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates do not have the answers
This is a longish article, but don’t that put you off.
‘A close look inside the classroom door suggests that in the past 150 years we have come to think, perhaps without realizing it, that the purpose of education is to make money. Though going to school hugely increases a child’s chance of earning a decent wage in adulthood, that fact need not, and should not, define our thinking about what and how children should learn. Decent wages may be a very desirable outcome of attending school. But that doesn’t mean that money should be the goal of education or the measure of its success. Of course, the skeptic might ask what harm there is in designating money as the purpose of school. As it turns out, plenty.’

Want to Build a GREAT School? Follow These 10 Commandments…
Another article by Tony Gurr.
‘Thou Shalt create an environment and climate that is organised, secure and safe – yet provides for risk-taking, creativity and imagineering at the student, classroom, departmental and school level…’

Study: Controlling parents have maladaptive perfectionist kids
I suspect that this won’t be news to teachers…

‘In a five-year study of primary school children in Singapore, researchers found that children with controlling parents are more likely to be overly critical of themselves, a problem that increases with age. Being too hard on themselves also had long-term consequences: Children with high or rising levels of self-criticalness reported more symptoms of depression or anxiety.

What schools can learn from the unschooling movement
‘According to practitioners, unschooling is a learner-centered pedagogy. Learners choose their own path based on interests throughout their natural lives including, but not limited to natural play, household responsibilities, work-based experiences, travel, family, social interactions, and family.
Unschooling is about one’s personal learning journey — operating on the premise that the more personal the learning is, the more impactful it will be. By design, unschooling questions the relevance of standard curriculum and instructional approaches, as well as elements that will often impede learning such as grading. In the end, unschooling practitioners would argue that the self-directed learning approach truly prepares students for the real world instead of a formal education.

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The myth of the young artistic genius is keeping us from pursuing our passions
Never too old to learn…
A lot of us are experts at coming up with excuses not to pursue our creative interests. Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn to play the piano?” we ask, imagining how foolish we’ll look stumbling over Chopsticks.”Well, we’ll be the same age if we don’t. There is no such thing as a person who is too old” to be creative. But I’m too old” is something adults say in order to avoid the emotional cost of the ego deflation involved in being a beginner.’

The Wrong Way to Teach Math
‘Here’s an apparent paradox: Most Americans have taken high school mathematics, including geometry and algebra, yet a national survey found that 82 percent of adults could not compute the cost of a carpet when told its dimensions and square-yard price.’

Let's Stop Requiring Advanced Math, A New Book Argues
‘Hacker's central argument is that advanced mathematics requirements, like algebra, trigonometry and calculus, are "a harsh and senseless hurdle" keeping far too many Americans from completing their educations and leading productive lives. He also maintains that there is no proof for a STEM shortage or a skills gap; and that we should pursue "numeracy" in education rather than mathematics knowledge.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Terry Crooks NZ
It is all about motivation
‘In all his years in education Terry said he had come to the conclusion that the most important issue in education is motivation.'Motivation', he said, 'is at the heart of learning.''Motivation', he added, 'is far more important than the introduction of such things as National Standards . This coming from an educationalist who has dedicated much of his life to the testing of students achievements was worth hearing.’

30 Years ago - so what has changed?
‘Recently I received an e-mail from a student I hadn't heard of since she was in my class in 1978. She wrote about how great it was to experience the class and how
Student at right lower row
much all that we did has stayed with her over the years. With this in mind I searched out something I wrote, at the time, for the team of teachers I was leading. I was curious to see how much my ideas had changed since then.’

Self managing learners
‘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.’

Monday, July 11, 2016

Opunake Primary - a most amazing school


At the end of the term Opunake Primary  fill two blacked out  rooms ( joined to make one) and the immediate corridor with the work  completed by the classes based on their current theme/study/topic this term all about STEM/STEAM

I have been to several of their open days and always leave in awe of the work done by the students and their teachers. The open days cover three days and two evenings and are the time for students to share their work with their families.  I observed students informing their families and  the visitors were as awestruck as I was.

The school bases its work around the ideas of James Beane and Inquiry learning integrating all aspects of the curriculum.

Link to great information about the James Beane approach

For more information about learning at Opunake School
STEM Teaching at Opunake School
Newsletter to parents about current STEM study

I have written a number of blogs based on my visits to this school which cover the approach the school uses. The below links will give you information on the process Opunake Primary use:
Alice inNumberland

Alice in Numberland

Egypt Are You My Mummy?

Zero Gravity

Shackleton's exploring of Antarctica

One end of term display was web based. CSI

One class web based open day
Watch the science experiment
Solar power challenge
Static electricity experiments

Environmental Science

Maths Science and Harry Potter 

I am still coming to terms with my last visit which was based around STEM ( science technology engineering and maths ) or really STEAM ( as it also involves the arts). The principal and a staff member have recently returned from an inspiring STEM/ ISTE Conference held in Denver - information on the school site.

Opunake is part of a group of schools involved in using technology : The Moa Kluster. Check them out.

The photos below will give you some ideas of the experience of taking part in a visit.

The principal Lorraine talking to a visitor in the corridor

Mecanno robots programmed to move

Every wall covered with students work based on STEAM

Science experiments

Working with electrical switches.
Battery powered machines

Computers and elecronics
Water experiments

Programming the robot

The Three D printer at work

Student informing parent
PowerPoint about da Vinci
Da Vinci at work - a STEAM learner.

Camera less photography - based on Len Lye

Scan to watch student video

Computer generated alien portrait

Liquid clock data

Model making

It is impossible to give a full picture of the amazing work on display

Scan to get student videos of their technology work