Friday, March 24, 2017

Learning myths/ classroom technology/ creativity / Spiritual learning from Ireland / Singap ore thinks again / educating the senses and David Hockney

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

Why even the world’s highest-scoring schools need to change
Marion Brady is a veteran educator who has long argued that public schools in the United States need a paradigm shift. The core curriculum, he says, does not meet the needs of today’s students, and schools fail to do the most important thing they should be doing. He explains in the following post.’

You Probably Believe Some Learning Myths: Take Our Quiz To Find Out

We all want for our kids to have optimal learning experiences and, for ourselves, to stay competitive with lifelong learning. But how well do you think you understand what good learning looks like?
Ulrich Boser says, probably not very well.’

We should be cautious about classroom tech
Teachers are the most imp APP
‘However, before we blithely fall off the digital cliff face like pixelated lemmings, we do need to assess the effect of our coming bout with the big gorilla. Education has always been about freeing ourselves from the coercive effect of ideology so that we can live informed lives free from superstition or marketing. However, today we are on the cusp of hitching ourselves to big business with very little empirical research on the effect of technology in schools.’

Most people are secretly threatened by creativity
‘Creativity is highly prized in Western society—much touted by cultures that claim to value
individualism and the entrepreneurial spirit. But scratch beneath the surface, and it turns out that a lot of schools and businesses aren’t actually all that excited about bold new ideas. By and large, we tend to be threatened by creativity—and eager to shut it down.’

Finger painting as fun, learning and an act of resistance.
“Looking through some old pics of student art work I am reminded that one of the things that drove teacher-hating trolls the most nuts was that I, an elementary Art teacher, was paid a full teacher’s salary for “finger painting with kids.” So I always made sure that during the school year that is exactly what I did. And post it. Kids love to finger paint and it is messy! And I was paid in full.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Personalising education by introducing the spiritual dimension - an antidote to linear standardised teaching
Bruce’s latest article:
‘I have just been looking at a book ,'Learning by Wandering: an Ancient Irish Perspective for a Digital World'  sent to me  because the Irish author Marie Martin had made use of some of my writing from an e-zine I wrote in 2009. I felt it a bit of a honour to be included in her book alongside well recognized international  educational writers she made reference to.

Why high-flying Singapore wants more than grades
The next update of the education system will have to ensure that Singapore can create a more equitable society, build a stronger social compact among its people while at the same time develop capabilities for the new digital economy. Government policies are moving away from parents and students' unhealthy obsession with grades and entry to top schools and want to put more emphasis on the importance of values. Schools have been encouraged, especially for the early elementary years, to scrap standardised examinations and focus on the development of the whole child.

Ignorance Might Be the Best Thing For Your Creative Mind
There is no right and standard prescription for creative work. Creativity requires some form of knowledge. But knowledge alone is not useful unless you can make meaningful connections. A more refined design and an efficient implementation are not absolute guarantees of success.

Educators argue creativity just as important as literacy and numeracy in national curriculum
‘The Federal Government-commissioned report released in October last year recommended Australia's school curriculum should refocus teaching in early childhood years on literacy and numeracy. But some Sydney schools are worried if there is a shift away from fostering creative and critical thinking skills, students will not learn the skills needed when they enter the workforce.

Is school 'killing' your child's creativity? And does this matter?
Rote learning, controlling teachers and a "fixation" on standardised tests are crushing children's creativity, according to a school principal who is on a mission to change things.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Environmental awareness for pre-schoolers - from 'On Looking' by Alexandra Horowitz
‘These days learning using technology – exploring the 'virtual' world, seems to the latest ‘silver bullet’ and, all too often, this is at the expense of developing an awareness and appreciation of the real world.’

The Way David Hockney Sees It.
‘Hockney's skill has been his ability to make fresh pictures many based on real technical skill. While I was in England I picked up on an newspaper interview with Hockney and feel some of his ideas are worth sharing  with educators.’

David Hockney working  outdoors on one of his 'big' paintings

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Personalising education by introducing the spiritual dimension - an antidote to linear standardized teaching An Irish contribution to the debate

Educational ideas from Ireland

'Learning by Wandering' by Marie Martin

I have just been looking at a book ,'Learning by Wandering: an Ancient Irish Perspective for a Digital World'  sent to me  because the Irish author Marie Martin had made use of some of my writing from an e-zine I wrote in 2009. I felt it a bit of a honour to be included in her book alongside well recognized  international  educational writers she made reference to.

The book is all about 'restoring' a vision for education in a digital age ; to help reengage learners meaningfully in their own learning. 'Restoring' because Marie draws on her extensive knowledge of  cultural perspectives of ancient Irish understanding of learning as nourishment for the human spirit, expressed in early Ireland as 'learning by wandering'.

A synthesis of old and new

She believes that a synthesis of ancient wisdom and new technologies can transform our current education system - one that is alienating too many students.. What is missing is 'spiritual' dimension in learning.

Marie is an educational consultant in Northern Ireland specializing in the use of technology in education and presents widely on the use of technology . 'Education by wandering' she sees as an alternative to the narrow mindset that perpetrates current education. Learning by wandering relates to how  very young people learn making meaning of their diverse experiences that attract their attention and equally learn by wandering through the internet to satisfy their personal quest for learning.

It is an fascinating book, ideal for an Irish scholar with an intense interest in creating future learning environments integrating modern information technology  but it is equally relevant to educators anywhere.

Personalized learning.

  Her idea of  learning as spiritual journey to nourish and enable each individual  to realize their  innate potential is, for me, an excellent definition of 'personalized learning'.

Relates to Maori spiritual beliefs - Hauora

Spiritual well being
The books Irish cultural dimension  aligns  well to indigenous wisdom worldwide.

There is a real alignment with the Maori cultural beliefs about learning.  An important Maori dimension is the concept of hauora  or well being which includes  physical, social , mental and spiritual elements ( wairua).

This syntheses of ancient wisdom and education for the future provides a real alternative to the current education system based as it is on linear fragmented thinking  and one that largely ignores the spiritual needs of their students; schools today are far to obsessed with sorting, testing and grading students.

An inspirational book for teaching in Modern Learning Environments?

The book provides insight  for educators wanting to develop authentic learning in the new flexible school building that  now being built ; Modern Learning Environments (MLEs).

A modern learning environment
Modern flexible  buildings provide a real opportunity for new thinking but many fear that, unless new thinking underpins them, they will go the same way as their recent predecessors the Open Plan Schools of the 70s.

 Marie believes that humanistic holistic thinking is required rather than the current reliance on hyper rational testing and assessment based on narrow targets. I would add along with the destructive use of ability grouping and streaming.We have taken standardization and testing as far as we can go and   too often technology has been seen as a tool to improve existing traditional teaching rather than  to inspire new thinking.

A synthesis of wisdom of the past and modern technology

Marie Martin's  book is about a new vision for education based on , as mentioned, a synthesis of wisdom from the past  and the information rich world our students live in.  It is a vision based on a love of learning with students exploring what attracts them ( 'learning by wandering'); an education that 'nourishes the spirit' of each learner. It is a vision that bridges the growing disconnect for many students between school and life beyond the classroom.

Marie sees learning as an individual spiritual quest 
Gathering data outdoors

Modern schools need to provide 'liberating and mind expanding learning experiences' and to  allowing students to 'search for personal meaning'. Such an education, Marie believes ,will 'liberate us from the spirit starving narrowness and rigidity' that has dominated Western society in recent decades. Marie envisions learning with an 'adventurous, ever open mind... a mind that constructs its own knowledge by going where the spirit blows ...there is no end point... there is always more to learn. The process is its own reward. Learning nourishes the spirit and the mind,'
'Seek, use and create'

A pedagogy for new learning environments
Such an approach seem wells fitted to the new flexible buildings and the availability of modern information technology; technology that is not an add on but integral to learning as students 'seek, use and create their own knowledge' as the New Zealand Curriculum says.

Prophetic voices from the past

There have been prophetic voices about curriculum and pedagogy coming from educators since the early 20th C . John Dewey held out for a vision of learning that can capture 'the substance of truth that nourishes the spirit'. Beliefs  such as that : 'students are individuals; that learning is the product of the active relationship between individuals and their environment; and that learning is best organised through collaboration between students and between students ; and the value of
As relevant as ever
 creativity, emotional involvement in learning and participation in a community of learners.

Marie draws on a range of current educators to support her position.  Papert believes such such an approach helps 'creative people recover from the school experience' and  Armstrong who 'believes  education is ultimately about achieving happiness which comes from living living life life to the fullest.' Fullan  calls for 'a total re culturing of schools'.

A discourse of possibility

The book is all about a discourse of possibility ( a phrase she attributes to my own writing)  of teachers and students becoming co -learners.  In this process 'the knowledge built up inside one's head and also expressed outside ones head in the form of something tangible, something shareable; empowered by technology.

Visiting a 'modern learning environment' one would expect to see evidence of the tangible and shareable products of the students' personal studies.

A radical departure from current reforms.

This a radical departure from current educational reforms based on an emphasis on  de-contextualized literacy and numeracy and the alienating use of streaming and ability grouping with their genesis in a past 'factory'  sorting and grading approach to learning. This is an approach based on students as creator not consumers of knowledge with the use of technology as central as the book once was.
Evidence of research - a 'learning wall'.
Modern technology she sees as  truly transformational,  a move away from the linear approach of the book. Learning is now available anywhere anytime - what counts now is the 'spirit' to learn of the student. Schools need to evolve into true 'learner centred learning communities' that 'welcomes divergent perspectives' 'seamlessly integrating technology into the learning process' with students able to 'share their learning to the benefit of others'.

A holistic spirit centred education

Valuing students thoughts and questions
This vision is in contrast to much of current educational reform with learning determined by  teachers. Future  learning is often unpredictable and in a constant state of evolution as learning unfolds and mutates.

Non linear learning adventures.

Prescribed 'chunks of time bound lessons' are replaced in a transformed learning environment  where 'students and teachers excitingly and joyously stretch themselves to their limits in pursuit of projects built on their own visions' - 'non linear information adventures'.

Modern technology has made the 'primary source of knowledge available to everyone' able to contribute to students projects - all learning needs to be focused on the students' 'quest for meaning, purpose and transcendence'. 'this is a holistic, spirit centred vision of learning' that can heal the alienation and disaffection so many students feel about their current education.

A culture of timidity now prevails

Seymour Papert
Too many teachers today are 'victims of  the culture of timidity' ( Papert) that is 'inherent in schools as they come under pressure to concentrate on learning outcomes at the expense of the learning process.'

A love of learning

'What students need most today is to find love of learning in the learning place' (Barth) continuing 'the primary purpose of education should be to nurture this capacity in an environment that is hospitable to learning'. Guy Claxton writes 'a school is a place to learn how to learn, are prepared for the rest of life rather than a life of tests'.

The importance of the teacher.

Marie writes that it is the teacher not the technology that makes the difference; that the attitudes towards learning that are inculcated and modeled by the teacher to be vastly more important than any technology - or for that matter the provision of  new flexible learning spaces. Students need to be 'exposed to teachers who love learning.'

So  for teachers' , writes Marie Martin, 'fostering a love of
learning is the key priority. Part of this is the need to emphasize the need for 'hard fun in the learning process'.

Living walls displaying learning artifacts

Another priority is giving the students responsibility for creating and displaying learning artifacts on, what she calls ,'the 'living walls'. The aim of the teacher is to help students 'become creators and shapers'  or as the New Zealand Curriculum says 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'. Teachers work with students , scaffolding learning so as to free them up to be able to construct their own learning.

Teachers as co-learners

The teachers are co-learners, facilitators, coaches and guides  integrating technology to transform learning into a  collaborative experience based around negotiated authentic learning challenges integrating content from the various learning areas as well as integrating technology to search out and express their findings. Some call this project based or inquiry learning. Marie is  enlightened by Thomas Friedman's  'hierarchy of meaning which progresses from raw data, to information, to knowledge and finally wisdom'. Schools following this approach would be full of demonstrations,
Thomas Friedman

Quality of relationships vital

The quality of the relationships between all involved is vital. Hargreaves states 'the teachers are not deliverers of  learning but but developers of of learners  and that good teachers understand the importance in the learning process of caring relationships and emotional engagement with learning'.

 The same author  decries the 'soulless standardization' of today and claims that school reforms have had no place for joy, spontaneity,  creativity and relationships - the very things that fuel the passion to teach and learn whether in the traditional or virtual classroom.

What visitors should expect to see.

All visitors should leave well satisfied about the quality of the in-depth learning outcomes for the students and feel confident that the unique gifts and talents of students ave been given the opportunity to be realized. Such a learning environment would be 'exhilarating and mind expanding' for students, teachers and visitors alike.

Artifacts - science, technology, and art . Evidence of student involvement

Learning is dynamic and unpredictable - not linear

Marie has come to the conclusion  that 'learning is dynamic and unpredictable'.; it is dramatic voyage into uncharted seas and if this is accepted 'we can free ourselves of learning as linear, controllable, and transferable from teacher to pupil.

This would enable us to be open  to possibilities   to 'change the way we think
and learn' . Such learning is endless as Barth reminds us 'learning is from birth to death'.

Learning is a rich and messy process.

Marie concludes her journey , wandering, or quest by reminding us that 'learning is a rich and messy process ' and is to 'enjoyed and loved for its own sake.'

She writes, 'we are living in a digital age of rapid and emerging change. What we need in these turbulent  and messy times ....are life long messy learners, technologically literate mobile learners who love to learn anywhere, anytime.

 All learning is in a state of constant evolution, learning is no longer a destination'.

Her book is about 'learning being loved for its own sake... born of an endless quest for meaning and transcendence, a quest that which ever impels the learner to wander'. A spiritual journey'.

Hoffner writes, 'in times of dramatic change it is the learner who inherits the future. The learned find themselves in a world that no longer exists'. This lost world is no place for future orientated schools.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Boys education/ art education/ mathematics education/ genius hour/ and flogging dead horses

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

Writing is more beneficial for learning than typing, according to these scientists
‘"When the students were drawing the word we saw that the brain was active in larger areas and also in a very particular way that is indicative of being beneficial for learning," said van der Weel.
The researchers found that when your motor skills are involved, the way nerve cells communicated with each other was found to be better for processing information, he explained. Van der Meer added that using a pen in the process of writing or drawing is often slower than typing — forcing people to process what they're hearing or seeing, compared with passively typing.’

Flogging Dead Horses
Our model of schooling is more than 100 years old and has barely changed in that time
The rest of society – our industrial practices, technology, the media we use, our leisure activities, the global scope of our world, communication systems – has undergone a revolution.’
‘The original purpose of school – designed to sort and sift; to separate sheep and goats – is now redundant.  We need 100% of students to be skilled and capable citizens able to contribute positive agency to both their economic and social world.’

Teacher Quality: A Reader in 2017
‘“The continual dumbing-down of the preparation of teachers is not without consequences.”
I would argue that the “dumbing-down” is about the false attack on “bad” teachers as the primary or even single cause of low student achievement among, specifically, vulnerable students. And the ugly consequence of that assault has been increasing accountability over teacher certification and teacher evaluation (such as using value-added methods) and thus demonizing teachers without improving teaching or learning.’

Busting the attention span myth
You probably won't get to the end of this article. Everyone knows our attention spans are getting shorter. It's just obvious. Or is it?’

12 ways to really make Genius Hour work in your class
‘It’s a class unlike anything you’d see at almost any school. But at
heart, it’s driven by the same thing that drives Genius Hour: helping kids pursue what’s important to them and what’s important to the people they serve. Genius Hour is the idea of giving students 20 percent of their class time to pursue projects related to their passions. The concept is broad and intentionally open-ended, and the results can be phenomenal.’

The changing skill set of the learning professional
‘It comes as a surprise to no-one that learning professionals are operating in a very different world to those of a generation ago. I’d like to highlight four changes in particular that impact heavily on the skill set of the learning professional.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive
‘Art has long been recognized as an important part of a well-rounded education — but when it comes down to setting budget priorities, the arts rarely rise to the top. Many public schools saw their visual, performing and musical arts programs cut completely during the last recession. A few schools are taking the research to heart, weaving the arts into everything they do and finding that the approach not only boosts academic achievement but also promotes creativity, self-confidence and school pride.’

Brava Art Press, Visual Art for Children, Teachers and Parents
An Art site schools might like to join?
‘Children who participate in the Brava Art Visual Art Program express their thoughts, ideas, and
feelings, and at the same time, they develop their own symbols and techniques to create their art works.As artists, children are encouraged to rely on the concept of personal freedom and expression – utilizing a variety of both new and old materials – to transform this Visual Art Program into a very creative adventure.’

Seeing Struggling Math Learners as ‘Sense Makers,’ Not ‘Mistake Makers’
The need to develop an activity based maths programme.
In discussions of progressive and constructivist teaching practices, math is often the odd subject
out. 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.’

Want to Raise Successful Boys? Science Says Do This (but their schools probably won’t)
This is a story about successful kids (especially boys), common sense, and research.
Too much time sitting!
Most of us spend hours each day sitting at work. Science says it's killing us, and we have developed all kinds of fads to combat it--from standing desks to smartphone alerts to get us up and moving. Armed with that knowledge, however, what do we force our kids to do each day at school? Sit still, for six or eight hours. Now researchers say that mistake leads us into a three-pronged, perfect storm of problems:’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Mathematics in education and ability grouping
Bruce Hammonds  recently complied a recent blog with developing active maths programmes with links to practical resources for those interested.
 Mathematics Prof Jo Boaler
‘Recently I had a discussion with some young teachers about the teaching of mathematics in schools - the teachers taught in the middle school area. It didn't go to well! They have to do what's expected of them - and that this was  sadly influenced by what the secondary school maths teachers wanted students to have covered! Change requires leadership and a whole school approach.’

What do the learners think?
‘The people who know best about what attracts student's curiosity, or things that worry them, are the students themselves. A visit to even the most child-centred classrooms will find very little reference to students' questions, views and theories. All too often students are required to respond to what their teachers feel is important for them to learn.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Manifesto for educational change/ technology in education/ performance pay/ reading levels and environmental awareness...

Education Readings 

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

Networkonnet education manifesto for the 2017 election

Kelvin Smythe has produced this document setting out his vision for education for the coming New Zealand general election in September this year. There’s much in this that could be adapted for other countries.
‘The propagandising and spinning of education ‘achievement’ that dominates our current system, the scapegoating, disenfranchising, privatisation, and financial and spiritual impoverishment is not government whim or a series of unrelated actions, but ingrained ideological policy as part of global capitalism and a shift against democracy.’

Five Reasons Why Performance Pay for Teachers is Dangerous Territory

Here’s a discussion paper from New Zealand’s newest political party:
Gareth Morgan
The New Zealand Initiative’s new report calls for performance pay for teachers. It is an alluring concept, and one that intuitively appeals, after all we can all agree that good performers should be rewarded for their effort. However, when it comes to teaching that idea falls down on a detailed examination. Here’s 5 reasons why.’

‘To retain our best teachers we need to stop killing them with planning, marking and meetings’

‘Just about every teacher will recognise the sad truth: they are working longer and longer hours week after week. (It would appear that this is now recognised by the Department for Education, too). The most profound question to address is whether these extra hours spent in the school are actually improving the quality of teaching and learning. Sadly, it would seem, this is not the case. It is rather more likely that we are spending endless hours perfuming menial tasks because that’s just what is expected of us…’

The good, the bad and the ugly: Technology and 21st Century Learning

There are many in the world of education (not to forget the corporate powerhouses in the technology industry) who believe that the world was re-created on 1st January 2000 but it is
necessary for educators to recognize that there is not a single story and to think critically about the place of technology in our schools. Tom Bennett, the recently appointed advisor to the UK government on issues relating to behavior in schools, has pointed out that schools have been “dazzled” by computers.’

A Pedagogical Shift Needed for Digital Success

On a similar theme:
‘I get the fact that technology can increase engagement, but if that engagement does not lead to evidence of learning then what’s the point?’

Three Myths About “Reading Levels”

And why you shouldn’t fall for them…
‘However measured, reading levels can be a generally useful guide to whether a particular text is going to be far too difficult for a particular reader. For example, the student who scored at 4.6 on a recent, valid reading test will probably have significant difficulty reading
and understanding that text at an 8.1 reading level.  Unfortunately, though, the ubiquity and precision with which these reading levels are now being tested and reported has led to their increasingly inappropriate use, especially in schools.’
‘Such misguided policies and practices are based on three very prevalent myths about reading levels.’
Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

‘You somehow imposed your own prejudices on education’ – one primary teacher’s extraordinary open letter to Michael Gove

Michael Gove
Letter to former UK Minister of Education, which also applies to New Zealand, USA, and Australia.
‘The most shocking thing about Michael Gove’s reign as education secretary was that one individual was able to change the system so much for the worse, writes this primary teacher.’

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

‘If you were educated to be a teacher in the 60’s – as I was – you were groomed to see “teaching as a subversive activity” after the leading education prep book of the time by the same name, authored by Charles Weingartner and Neil Postman. Their approach to schooling, known as inquiry education, emphasized student questions more than teacher answers. Teaching was characterized as a tool for questioning the status quo, as a means to talk truth to power and as a salvo against the all too often stultifying effects of the establishment.

Lesson in stupidity: Savage chop in classroom as schools face first real-terms cuts in 20 years

Does this seem familiar in your country?
School budgets are failing to keep pace with inflation, meaning rising prices outstrip the
amount of cash they have to spend. A new funding formals will also see some schools robbed of hundreds of thousands of pounds. And experts have warned classrooms could see more pupils while the number of teachers drops and the loss of teaching assistants altogether. Subsidised school trips would face being axed and equipment budgets could also be slashed, forcing kids to study old textbooks and education chiefs to impose a freeze on buying new computers.Schools are already scrapping music lessons, turning off heating and planning to charge parents for children’s sessions with mental health counsellors.”

In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant

‘In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts? We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?’
From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Pride through personal excellence

A Maori patu - it takes time to achieve such quality

‘It seems these days teachers rush through tasks to ‘deliver’ or ‘cover’ the curriculum.The idea of doing things well has been lost in this rush yet we all know that pride of achievement comes from succeeding so well at a task we even surprise ourselves.As a result students produce little of real substance. Teachers are too busy proving what they have done to focus on the more important need to see each student does the very best work they can.’

Environmental awareness for pre-schoolers – from ‘On Looking’ by Alexandra Horowitz

On Looking – Eleven walks with expert ideas. A wonderful book that reflects the multiple intelligences of Howard Gardner and the importance of different frameworks to interpret the environment.  Love the walk with the four year old and the dog. Or culture fosters inattention but this book will help you uncover the unbelievable things to observe in your environment.
‘Alexandra Horowitz, who trained as a cognitive scientist, explains the startling power of human attention and what it means to be an expert observer.’