Friday, December 02, 2016

Stress in teaching// the problem of school choice/ killing creativity/ Finland / Frank Smith and John Taylor Gatto

Enuf is Enuf - time to fight back!!

Education Readings

By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Teacher Stress & Anxiety in New Zealand Schools
The results clearly illustrate the extent of the problem of stress and anxiety in NZ schools today: the majority, 54% of respondents (365) answered Yes.  44% (296) answered No, and understandably,
due to the sensitivity of the subject, a small number 1% (11 respondents) declined to answer. These results are extremely concerning because no matter how subjective, for a majority of teachers to feel it is necessary to take time off in order to recover from workplace stress and anxiety, there will inevitably be consequences for the health and well-being of staff and potentially for the quality of teaching and learning in NZ.’

The Problem with Choice
Choice?
‘I know too many people who are not educators (and some who are) that are in favor of the choice movement in education. The biggest reason people want choice is to improve the education for their own children and then create competition so that other schools will be forced to improve or shut down. Unfortunately, both reasons are based in misconceptions about education.’

Russell Stannard: Why are digital literacies so important?
Russell Stannard
‘I have just returned from Finland where if you can’t use the internet you are massively hindered in your day to day activities as almost all government/ municipal contact is done online. They have huge problems for example with older people, immigrants and refugees, who cannot interact with the system. It is becoming harder and harder to survive in society without having the basic digital literacies.’


Instead of “Job Creation,” How About Less Work?
Increased automation has not reduced our workload. Why not? What if it did?
So, I say, down with the work ethic, up with the play ethic!  We are designed to play, not to work.  We are at our shining best when playing. Let’s get our economists thinking about how to create a world that maximizes play and minimizes work.  It seems like a solvable problem.  We’d all be better off if people doing useless or harmful jobs were playing, instead, and we all shared equally the necessary work and the benefits that accrue from it.’

What Kills Creativity in Kids?
‘Creativity is a choice—and if children are going to choose to be creative then parents (and teachers) have to be careful not to stifle it. What kills kids’ creativity? Here’s what to avoid.’

Standardizing Whiteness: the Essential Racism of Standardized Testing
But when you define a standard, an ideal, you make certain choices – you privilege some attributes and denigrate others. Since the people creating the tests are almost exclusively upper middle class white people, it should come as no surprise that that is the measure by which they assess success. Is it any wonder then that poor kids and children of color don’t score as well on these tests? Is it any wonder that upper middle class white kids score so well?

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Big Picture Learning School’s story
‘In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would be at the center their own education. They would spend considerable time in the community under the tutelage of mentors and
they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, and heart  – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.’

The school of the future has opened in Finland
Child psychologists have long argued that changing the approach we take to education would help many children learn to love school rather than hate itWe've all heard pre-schoolers talk about how they can't wait to sit at their school desk and run to their next lesson with their rucksack over their shoulder. In fact, we probably remember that feeling of excitement ourselves the first time we
went. But right from the first days of school, many children feel a huge sense of disappointment with what they encounter.At the Saunalahti school in the city of Espoo, Finland, they've found a brilliant way to overcome this problem. Starting just with the school building itself, you'd look at it and never think it was a school. Instead, it's more a like modern art museum - wonderfully light and airy.’

To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society
John Abbott
‘Because disaffection with the education system reflects a much deeper societal malaise, it’s imperative that we first figure out what kind of world we really want: a world populated by responsible adults who thrive on interdependence and community, or a world of “customers” who feel dependent on products, services, and authority figures, and don’t take full responsibility for their actions? The answer, he says, will point to the changes needed in all three pillars of education — schools, families, and communities.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Frank Smith
Quotes from Frank Smith and John Taylor Gatto
Both of these authors should be on your reading list.
John Taylor Gatto is the author of 'A Different Kind Of Teacher'. Frank Smith's book is called 'An Insult To Intelligence’.  As well, Smith’s book “Reading” is a must read.

Teaching for thinking
‘There is a lot of talk about teaching thinking in schools and all sorts of thinking processes are often seen on classroom walls. The trouble is that more than talk and processes are required - there ought to be some real evidence of students thinking to be seen. All too often was is seen is 'higher order thinking for thin learning!’.'

Importance of School Values
‘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 behaviors 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.’

Friday, November 25, 2016

Design thinking/ 21st C thinking/ Girls and maths/ Empathy / transforming secondary education....



Ideas to read and share - pass on to two poeople

Education Readings

By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

10 Things That Happen When Students Engage in Design Thinking

‘Unfortunately, the system isn’t designed for innovation. For years, schools have been stuck in a one-size-fits-all factory model, where students passively consume content. Some people will point out that this model is outdated. However, I would argue that factory education was a bad idea from the start. Because here’s the thing: kids aren’t widgets. While one-size-fits-all works great for socks, it’s not ideal for minds. Kids need to dream and wonder and imagine. They need to design and build and tinker. This is why I love design thinking. It’s a flexible framework that guides students through specific phases in the creative process.’

What Neuroscience Can Tell Us About Making Fractions Stick
‘Fractions are a notoriously tricky part of elementary math education for many children. Too often teachers struggle to ensure students are grasping the conceptual underpinnings of this complicated
topic, resorting to “tricks” that will help them learn the procedures of adding or multiplying instead. This is particularly troubling because studies have shown that students’ knowledge of sixth grade fractions is a good predictor of their math achievement in high school. This is largely because a deep understanding of fractions plays out in algebra.’

Critical Thinking in the 21st Century and Beyond
Many of the 21st Century skills that are emphasized today were evident in the project that took place in 1988.  It is not that this type of learning is new. Heck, everything we see and hear for the most part is not new.  What has changed is how technology provides a new avenue to actively integrate this type of learning in ways that many of us could never have imagined.  The key is to focus on project-based and authentic inquiry. Taking the example I presented from my schooling consider the following elements and the ubiquitous role technology should play…’

Gender gaps in math persist, with teachers underrating girls' math skills
‘The study, published in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, also shows that teachers give lower ratings to girls' math skills when girls and boys have similar achievement and behavior. In addition, using two national datasets gathered more than a decade apart, this study finds that teachers' lower ratings of girls are likely contributing to the growth in the gender gap in math.’

School Autonomy in England Fails to ‘Unleash Greatness’
So much for the big claims that have been made. Surprised?
‘The UK Government promised to ‘unleash greatness’ in English schools with its radical school
autonomy plan to convert all schools to independent academies. A new comprehensive review of the experience with academies shows the plan is failing. It concludes that academies are an imperfect way to address the challenges faced by struggling schools and their students and that school autonomy has clear limits as a school reform strategy.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

An environmental study for New Zealand teachers:A chance to do some real inquiry: Harakeke study and other ideas
Bruce’s latest article - great suggestions that can easily be adapted for other countries.
An environmentally alert teacher always keep an eye open for interesting things to introduce to his, or her students. November/December is an ideal time for environmental or ecological studies. My visits to schools this term indicates such awareness is a lost art.’
New Zealand Flax  ( and Nikau Palm ) by Taranaki artist Caz NovaK


Marion Brady: De-Legitimizing Public Education
Marion wrote this article about US education in 2010. How well was his crystal ball working, given Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education?
‘The quality of American education is going to get worse. Count on it. And contrary to the conventional wisdom, the main reason isn’t going to be the loss of funding accompanying economic hard times.’

Joey Moncarz - teacher
the Deep Green Bush-School
A new school opening in New Zealand:
‘The Deep Green Bush-School is a democratic  nature-immersion school for Years 1-13, based on thousands of years of indigenous wisdom and on how humans actually evolved to learn - in freedom. Our highest priority is the health and happiness of our children and future generations, and we will nurture a new generation of young visionaries who will rise to the challenge and help heal our world.’

Why Empathy Holds the Key to Transforming 21st Century Learning
Like other aspects of modern life, education can make the head hurt. So many outcomes, so much important work to do, so many solutions and strategies, so many variations on teaching, so many different kinds of students with so many different needs, so many unknowns in preparing for 21st Century life and the endless list of jobs that haven’t been invented.What if we discovered one unifying factor that brought all of this confusion under one roof and gave us a coherent sense of how to stimulate the intellect, teach children to engage in collaborative problem solving and creative challenge, and foster social-emotional balance and stability—one factor that, if we got right, would change the equation for learning in the same way that confirming the existence of a fundamental particle informs a grand theory of the universe?That factor exists: It’s called empathy.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Henry Giroux - lessons for New Zealand educators. Revitalizing the role of public education.
‘I was recently sent a rather long article written by Henry Giroux. I struggled to read it but I believe it is important to share the ideas he writes about if the true aims of education are to realised. Giroux sees education as central to the development of a just and democratic society currently under attack by neo –liberal thinking.’

Learning: from 'novice' to 'expert' from John Edwards
‘When anyone undertakes new learning ( including first appointment as a principal or teacher)one starts in the 'novice' position. At this point individuals need to know clearly what is expected of them and how to go about it.As learning progresses the need for rule governed behaviour decreases. When the 'expert' position is realised then people are able to use their experience ( having internalised rule governed behaviour). Such 'experts' are able to 'read' the context and make decisions intuitively.’

All learners fit on a novice expert line

Transforming Secondary Education – the most difficult challenge of all.Thoughts from a past age – ‘Young Lives at Stake’ by Charity James
‘So far the teaching profession has not offered creative alternatives to parents. In contrast, school are becoming even more conservative to cope with the political straitjacket of National Standards and Ministry targets. Standardisation rather the personalisation is the current political agenda. Time it seems for some courage from educators to provide viable alternatives to parents.  The field is open for change but any alternative needs to be realistic, intrinsically interesting and relevant.’

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An environmental study for New Zealand teachers

A chance to do some real inquiry: Harakeke study and other ideas


Flowers on phormium cookianum - mountain flax  .
An environmentally alert teacher always keep an eye open for interesting things to introduce to his, or her, students. November/December is an ideal time for environmental or ecological studies. My visits to schools this term indicates such awareness is a lost art.
Dramatic flower stalks

By term four students should be fully equip ed with all the skills and strategies in place to undertake inquiry topics on their own or with minimum assistance. The ability to do this would indicate that students are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge' as asked by the New Zealand Curriculum.

Driving around last month I couldn't help but note the untapped resources available for teachers to involve their class in exploring.
Flowers emerging on Phormium tenax

This is a great time to study harakeke or flax, one of New Zealand iconic plants. Students could visit to admire the shapes,patterns and movements and to observe the recent flower stalks and developing seed pods. Digital photos could record various aspects to later draw or write thought poems about. From such activities questions will arise for students to research. If you can find some last years pods count how many seed on an average flax bush - this will involve estimation.

Other interesting areas to explore are roadsides, lawns or wilderness grassy areas, to find out what plants thrive in such special conditions. There is no need to worry about naming plants - this will evolve with time.In the first instance take digital photos of plants and record how common they are on a scale the class can develop themselves. Individual plants an be studied, drawn , described and named where possible ( there will be experts in the community you could call on). If there are daisies on the lawn throw some PE rings and count out how many there are - or run a line across the lawn and count the daisies ( or any other plant) touched.This is a simple line transect - real maths in action.

Most schools have interesting plants ( annuals or shrubs) flowering at this time of the year.Take digital photos of some, do observational drawing of them, study them and display what has been found out. Vegetables and fruits make interesting studies - study them and research where they originated.

What birds inhabit the school grounds - once again take photos and descriptions and research back in class.
Flowers and young seed pods

Some schools might be near the seashore with the possibilities of ecological studies of rocky shore or sand dunes but at this time of year time might not be available for such interesting studies. Same with the bushHowever many schools have native plant gardens, what plants have been used. Take digital photos, draw and research.

Leaving natural science studies students could just develop artistic and aesthetic awarenessThe digital camera is ideal. Send students out in small group to photograph, say six, interesting patterns, tree trunks, maths patterns, very small things, strange small plants..anything. Print and display. Add thought poems.

Classrooms should be full of such things.It is time for blue penguins, disaster studies, and save the rain forest studies to move over and let the real world in.
Flax feature in  Taranaki artist Caz Novaks painting




Friday, November 11, 2016

Educational readings: Intrinsic motivation; 'bottom up' reform; the arts; the future of learning and parent expectations.



Education Readings

By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

How Intrinsic Motivation in Education is Undermined by Extrinsic Motivation
‘I have heard many people talk about intrinsic motivation and how we need to get more of it – especially in schools. But what exactly is intrinsic motivation and why should we nurture it? This is a 2-part blog post. In part 1 (this one) I explore what intrinsic motivation is and why it matters. In part two (follow the blog to get informed when it’s online)  I will explore how intrinsic motivation can be implemented in the classroom.’

Teacher research and why it is more important than ever for our schools
‘For some time now we have seen suspicion of any form of educational research not fitting into the ‘gold standard’ of randomized controlled trials. Qualitative and context-sensitive research has been excluded from the evidence base and teachers have been compelled to implement ‘evidence-based’ practices. It has seemed in some quarters that there is no longer any need for teachers to ask questions; they are all being answered by science. Indeed, teachers’ questions are seen as obstacles to their faithfully following pedagogic scripts. Currently, however, education systems are starting to see the limits of top-down reform and particularly of attempting to impose single solutions on teachers. It turns out that ‘what works’ does not always work for all students in all classrooms.’

The Reading Rules We Would Never Follow as Adult Readers
Food for thought.
‘The number one thing all the students I have polled through the years want the most when it comes to reading.  No matter how I phrase the question, this answer in all of its versions is always at the top.  Sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, sometimes just stated as a matter of fact; please let us choose the books we want to read. Yet, how often is this a reality for the students we teach?  How often, in our eagerness to be great teachers, do we remove or disallow the very things students yearn for to have meaningful literacy experiences?  How many of the things we do to students would we never put up with ourselves?  In our quest to create lifelong readers, we seem to be missing some very basic truths about what makes a reader.  So what are the rules we would probably not always follow ourselves?’

'The devastating decline of the arts in schools will hit the poorest children the hardest’
A sad and almost inevitable outcome of the standards based education agenda:
‘I would like to see vice-chancellors of universities, employers and educators speaking up for the value of creativity in schools, for all learners. It is not a fanciful exaggeration to reflect that otherwise we may head back to class-based culture wars where arts are for certain classes only, and the others can make do. In other words, social immobility for all.’

Why Teaching to the Test is Educational Malpractice
‘… as a teacher, you can be singled out, written up or even fired for refusing to engage in malpractice. You are bullied, cajoled and threatened into going along with practices that have been debunked by decades of research and innumerable case studies. Take the all-too-common practice of teaching to the test. Not only do students and teachers hate it, but the practice has been shown to actually harm student learning. Yet it is the number one prescription handed down from administrators and policymakers to bring up failing scores on high stakes standardized tests.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Multiple Creativity Studies Suggest: Creating Our Reality Requires Detaching From It
Sir Ken - the creativity guru!
‘I pore over studies on creativity, and recently I noticed a consistency across these many creativity studies that took me years to notice, let alone articulate. A consistency that most authors of these studies allude to in some way, and in different ways. I’d like to share a unified way of thinking about creativity, supported directly by these many studies, that helped me to better understand this important skill, but, more importantly, could help us all be more creative in business, marketing, and in life.’


To improve quality in education, reconsider true definition of 'good teacher’
‘It is assumed, therefore, that teachers and the actions they take in the classroom fundamentally impact students and what they learn. Often we, as a community of education stakeholders, take this assumed relationship so far as to assert that educational systems are only as good as the quality of their teachers.However, this nearly universal valuation of both teaching and teachers glosses over the sober realization that individual teachers have differential effects on student learning.

5 things we should teach in school but don’t
Let’s be honest: our education system is screwed.I mean, almost all of the important history I learned between grades 5 and 12 I could probably find on Wikipedia and understand within a few weeks now.And pretty much any scientific knowledge you could ever want to learn is explained with pretty videos on YouTube.’

The Future of Learning
What is the purpose of school & the role of EdTech?
‘There’s a constant tension within the education system. This is a tension that isn’t a new one. It’s been going on hundreds of years in fact. John Dewey in 1902 wrote a book called The Child and The Curriculum that had the same tension, the same argument about whether education about subject knowledge and content knowledge or is it about self-realisation of the child, learning for the fun of learning and opposed to learning because you had to get through some tests? That’s been a constant tension, as it is today, and more so in a way because we’re beginning to use technology in a way that reinforces the format, the idea that education is about mastery of content, of subject knowledge, and then regurgitating it at an examination.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The NZC curriculum nautilus
The nautilus – a metaphor for the New Zealand Curriculum
The shell of the nautilus is a symbol, or metaphor, for beauty and proportional perfection. First used on a New Zealand Curriculum in 1993 it has become a familiar symbol for New Zealand teachers. Or has it? The ‘new’ New Zealand Curriculum introduced to schools in 2007 comes with a redesigned nautilus shell.To introduce the ideas of the curriculum to students (and teachers) it might be worth giving thought to the reason for the selection of the image. If it were possible to show students a nautilus shell (or a series of pictures) this might inspire some insightful thinking. We all seem to have a fascination for sea shells, most homes have a shell or two on display, and capitalizing on this fascination would result in an equally fascinating study at any level of learning.’

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21stC?
Apart from the surge in technology use, and the new skills teachers need to adopt, implement and harness new digital media and tools (a subject for another blogpost), I would argue that little has changed in our expectations of good educators.

School Reform: more political than educational
‘I would think that if we had focused on recognising, and sharing, the ideas of creative teachers and innovative schools in the first place, and if the various governments had seen their role as creating the conditions and providing resources, we would be in a far better position than we are in now. And, as well, we would have teachers who have faith in their ability to develop new approaches to teaching and learning without distorting and disabling the total system. The politicians have had their day – time to put the trust back to those who have the practical experience to develop new ideas school by school, community by community.’





Friday, November 04, 2016

Readings: early education; daydreaming; meta-cognition; school failure; Dr Beeby and more.....



Education Readings

By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz


What are our students doing 400 minutes a day?
‘If you are a parent you may wonder every now and then what your kids are doing all day in school. But, as an educator, teacher, and administrator (oh yeah, and I’m a parent), I’ve wondered out loud what a typical day-in-the-life of our students looks like.
In an effort to make this as visually appropriate as possible, I’m sharing with you the 100 block theory of learning.

Children should be starting preschool at 3, Victoria University study says
Another link from Phil Cullen, who comments:
Paul Wildman describes this as the ‘end of childhood’. It also  gives testucators the opportunity to condition the very young to NAPLAN preparation as a cultural imperative. Its feral nature makes it easy.  Sandal-makers should welcome this move with open arms. Down the gurgler we continue to go………
"We think it could be manageable and we think that the long-term benefits of that investment mean that the returns absolutely outweigh the costs.
"It means children are much more ready when they start school, they start school on a much more equal footing, it has flow on impacts to their NAPLAN scores, to their rates of Year 12 graduation.”

Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children
On the other hand …
‘Katz writes that longitudinal studies of the effects of different kinds of preschool curriculum models debunk the seemingly common-sense notion that “earlier is better” in terms of academic instruction. While “formal instruction produces good test results in the short term,” she says,  preschool curriculum and teaching methods that emphasize children’s interactive roles and initiative may be “not so impressive in the short run” but “yield better school achievement in the long term.”’

Why Daydreaming is Critical to Effective Learning
‘Most kids have cellphones, use social media, play games, watch TV and are generally more “plugged in” than ever before. This cultural shift means that in addition to helping students gain the transferable skills and knowledge they’ll need later in life, teachers may have to start helping them
Time to daydream
tune out the constant buzz in order to get their message across.
It’s never too early to learn smart strategies to focus in on priorities and tune out what’s not immediately necessary. Many people believe they are skilled multitaskers, but they’re wrong. Neuroscience has shown that multitasking — the process of doing more than one thing at the same time — doesn’t exist.’

The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It
Children are biologically designed to pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they do, to know what they know.  Through most of human history, that’s how children became educated, and that’s still largely how children become educated today, despite our misguided attempts to stop it and turn the educating job over to adults.’

The Role of Metacognition in Learning and Achievement
Thinking about thinking
‘Metacognition, simply put, is the process of thinking about thinking. It is important in every aspect of school and life, since it involves self-reflection on one’s current position, future goals, potential actions and strategies, and results. At its core, it is a basic survival strategy, and has been shown to be present even in rats. Perhaps the most important reason for developing metacognition is that it can improve the application of knowledge, skills, and character qualities in realms beyond the immediate context in which they were learned.

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Great expectations: how to help your students fulfil their potential
When you believe in your pupils, they will believe in themselves. Here’s how to create a culture of positivity in your classes. In the 1960s, a pair of researchers ran an experiment that changed the way the world thinks about expectations. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson told a group of teachers that some of their students had been identified as having the potential to become very high achievers and that these students would bloom over the course of the year. These pupils were, in fact, chosen completely at random. But when the researchers returned at the end of the year, they found that the chosen students had, on average, made significantly more progress than their peers.’

Getting Restless At The Head Of The Class
‘They read a book quietly under their desks, pester the teacher for extra credit, or, perhaps, they simply check out and act up. Every classroom has a few overachievers who perform above their grade level and don't feel challenged by the status quo. A new report suggests they are surprisingly common — in some cases, nearly half of all students in a given grade.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Who dares wins!
Are you an innovative thinker?  If you fire off ad hoc answers, hate timetables and resent authority you are a potential winner according to research on potential innovative thinkers by Dr Fiona Patterson, an occupational psychologist at Nottingham University.’

The source of school failure
‘One in five Melbourne four-year-olds have difficulty using or understanding language, a new study has found, putting them at risk of long-term learning difficulties. The study of 1900 children, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that social disadvantage played a major role in the language outcomes of four-year-olds - despite having little effect at age two.


Looking back
A look back to the days when New Zealand had a real visionary in charge of education.
‘Dr Beeby believed in a creative role for education. He reminded those present in 1983 that the most important thing realized about education in the previous decades had been the discovery of the individual child. It is not that individuality wasn't appreciated earlier but that the school system was based on a mass education vision which made realizing such an idea impossible. A system, developed in the 1870s, couldn't conceive of individualising learning.’

Power of print
The rebirth of education - a real Renaissance
‘There are some who say we are now entering a new age -'A Creative Age', or a 'Second Renaissance'.  Our current institutions, shaped by Industrial Age thinking, are no longer able to cope - they are all well past their 'use by date'. We now need new minds for the new millennium. New minds will be shaped by the new communication mediums - where ideas can from anyone, anywhere, any time. An age of inter connectivity and creativity - a new Renaissance.If we are to revitalize our schools so as to engage all our students, and ultimately save our planet, it will require the death of education and its rebirth.’