Friday, August 24, 2018

The New Zealand Curriculum / Creative teaching tips / and all you wanted to know about MLEs


New Minds for a New Millennium 
Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

We won’t publish o ur readings next week as Bruce will be off travelling. The readings will be back the following week (  Actually I  might do a quick post featuring a creative school I recently visited! Bruce)

Are you engaging with the New Zealand Curriculum?
Most great conversations start with a really purposeful question. A question that’s simple but not
simplistic. A simple question posed in conversation recently was, ‘Are you engaging with the New Zealand Curriculum?’ Before you answer, think carefully about what that question actually means. In my humble opinion the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) is one of the finest documents created. It has guidance, it asks questions, it can define your view of education. In any purposeful conversation or debate, there is usually a catalyst.’

Ako: The little bush school in the big city
‘Based at Awataha Marae on Auckland’s North Shore, it promises education with a difference: “play-based, child-led, passion-driven and outdoor-centered.” Children here will learn as much from the native bush as they will in the classroom.’

The Swedish for-profit ‘free’ school disaster Also known as charter schools, academy schools (England) and partnership schools (New Zealand.)
‘It’s the darker side of competition that Milton Friedman and his free-market disciples tend to downplay: If parents value high test scores, you can compete for voucher dollars by hiring better teachers and providing a better education—or by going easy in grading national tests. Competition was also meant to discipline government schools by forcing them to up their game to maintain their enrolments, but it may have instead led to a race to the bottom as they too started grading generously to keep their students …’

School runnings: Why Kiwi kids are better off in barefeet
‘A bee-stings-and-bullrush childhood spent running about in barefeet seems a thing of yesteryear New Zealand.But new research has suggested Kiwi kids' contemporary choice of footwear - or lack of it - isn't too far from that at all.What's more, plenty of time spent barefoot has likely been bringing them big benefits.’

“I don’t believe I left teaching. Teaching left me”
 What the experts have in common is considerable distance from schools. Far too many have a
blinkered view of what kids are and what schools could be. They rarely have the inside view that teachers have. But teaching is an all-consuming profession: good teachers are immersed in where they are and what they are doing, and rarely get the chance (or make the time) to step back to see the bigger picture.  At the end of the school day you don’t reflect, you recover.'

Tony Gurr, from Turkey, is a great source of educational articles. Here are some that he recently posted on Facebook.

20 Tips To Promote A Self-Directed Classroom Culture
What separates good teachers from the excellent ones? The excellent ones are handing out fishing poles; creating a culture in the classroom of independence and self-reliance. These students don’t just recite facts or regurgitate information- they have learned how to learn. They know that if the answer isn’t in front of them, they have the tools to do the investigation and research. So how do you cultivate a culture of “I can…” in your classroom?’

Why do we group students by manufacture date?
‘Grouping students by age or manufacture date is a contrived sorting mechanism. It assumes that same age kids are alike in their intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development; that they have commonalities in addition to their age. Academic standards used by almost all schools are based on the false and incorrect belief of the average student. Todd Rose quoting Mike Miller’s research on brains found that “not a single one was even remotely close to the average.’

Questions can be extraordinary learning tools.
Tony: “I've always said that it's QUESTIONS (not answers...esp. when they are spoon-fed) that 'drive' LEARNing...So...What methods and approaches are there to help students learn how to ask better questions?”
“A good question can open minds, shift paradigms, and force the uncomfortable but transformational cognitive dissonance that can help create thinkers. In education, we tend to value a student’s ability to answer our questions. But what might be more important is their ability to ask their own great questions–and more critically, their willingness to do so”



Need to look beyond the buildings themselves to the learning 

Here’s a selection of articles about modern learning environments. While the long term outcomes of these is yet to be determined (there seems to be opinions either way on their effectiveness), we support a holistic integrated approach to teaching and learning – one that develops the gifts and talents of all students. This needs to underpin both the traditional single room model and modern learning environments.

To MLE, or not to MLE, that is the question: An open letter to my colleagues
So, another MLE story has been put out by Stuff – students in MLEs as guinea pigs this time; and
another deluge of negative comments about MLEs, not just by parents or the media, but by our very own, in forums such as The New Zealand Teachers (Primary) Facebook page of which I am a member - comments that are often dismissive of MLEs as failing and worthless.  Now we see some teachers aligning themselves with some parents and the media against teachers-in-MLEs. The focus of “teacher bashing” just seems to have shifted.’

Modern Learning Environments: Not ‘any colour as long as it’s black’
‘When Henry Ford said of his Model T cars ‘You can have any colour you like… as long as it’s black’, he could just as easily have been talking about high school when I was young. Apart from a few amazing teachers who were as inspiring as they were enthusiastic, most lessons were pretty black and grim. Thankfully, Henry-Ford-style learning has disappeared from most classrooms, but there’s no escaping the fact that we ask many of our best teachers to inspire and engage young people in buildings designed around the time Henry Ford was making cars.’

All MLEs are not the same: Towards a "high level" definition
‘So many people have opinions to proffer and comments to make about MLEs (modern learning environments) or ILEs (innovative learning environments). To be honest I am not a fan of either term. . The assumption that all MLEs are the same is not true and neither is it helpful because it leads to a binary view of us and them – a false dichotomy that may not really exist. I have often felt invisible, sitting across from people who say MLEs are this and that. Well, I am here and we are not!’

Secret Teacher NZ: Why I left teaching?
The trials of teaching in a MLE.  
‘Imagine a large hall-like space with three teachers in different areas, each reading with a small group of children. Scattered around are more groups of children, some on laptops, some on tablets, some with board and card games, some sitting in corners together working in their exercise books. You might imagine its harmonious, a buzz of children learning, both independently and supported by teachers. Unfortunately, for the majority, this is not the case.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What are Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) or Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) really about?
‘Education is about an ‘ecosystem where learning is personalised across a range of institutions across a range of institutions and spaces …. And it is a move away from the mind-set of school as a “be-all “and “end all”’.  This obviously refers to the idea that with modern technology learning can occur anywhere, anytime from anyone.’

How to organise the school day for personalised learning and MLEs
There are a lot of exciting ideas about teaching these days but one thing that gets little mention is how the day is organised to make best use of them.’

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