Saturday, August 02, 2014

Educational Readings- literacy/school reform b/s / and the arts

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Being a Better Online Reader

Certainly, as we turn to online reading, the physiology of the reading process itself shifts; we dont read the same way online as we do on paper.

The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.The contrast of pixels, the layout of the words, the concept of scrolling versus turning a page, the physicality of a book versus the ephemerality of a screen, the ability to hyperlink and move from source to source within seconds onlineall these variables translate into a different reading experience.

Brain waves show learning to read does not end in 4th grade, contrary to popular theory
Teachers-in-training have long been taught that fourth grade is when students stop learning to read and start reading to learn. But a new study tested the theory by analyzing brain waves and found that fourth-graders do not experience a change in automatic word processing, a crucial component of the reading shift theory. Instead, some types of word processing become automatic before fourth grade, while others don't switch until after fifth.

10 School Reform Phrases That Should Trigger Your BS Detector
What others can you add to this?

Education is filled with jargon, buzzwords, and BS. I've had a lot of fun over the years skewering the inanity that gets bandied about in education research and professional development. Education policy and school reform are rife with their own vapid vocabulary.
A must read!!!

It's worth flagging this stuff. Doing so reminds us that fatuous phrases don't make problems go away.  It helps puncture sugarplum visions fueled by hot air. Left unchallenged, pat phrases allow wishful thinking to stand in for messy realities. After all, these fatuous phrases are pervasive. Hell, I've lapsed into using them...plenty of times.  So this is less about calling anybody out than ensuring that we don't let pleasant words stand in for careful thinking. Here are 10 phrases that, when heard, should cause listeners to ask the speaker to explain what he or she means, using words that actually mean something:

Teachers have to make lessons dullfor Ofsted inspections
Not just restricted to England, Id suggest.
Teachers have to make their lessons dull and mechanical during Ofsted inspections in an attempt
to be judged outstandinginstead of making the lessons enjoyable and creative a report has claimed. In a wide ranging report by the University of Sunderland, researchers found that teachers are constrained by the structure of the school day and the push for conformity is hindering progress in deprivedschools.

Swedens School Choice Disaster
Hey GERMERS, maybe you should read this Oh sorry, I forgot - you prefer ideology to evidence. My mistake.

Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at whats happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their countrys steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for Americas middling but consistent results. Whats caused the recent crisis in
So much for charter schools
Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn
t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.

What Happens When School Design Looks Like Game Design
Quest to Learn has featured in previous reading lists. Heres another article.

Digital games can be amazing tools, but only when used to make it easier to contextualize the gifts weve received from Shakespeare, Socrates, Euclid, and others. The thing about tools is that their strength is usually derived from the way they approach a problem rather than in the particularity of the solution they offer. For example, consider the hammer: a great technological innovation that our
human ancestors imagined more than 2 million years ago. What made it revolutionary was not so much in the material from which it was assembled, nor the particular object it bashed. Instead, the hammer was revolutionary because it forever transformed human experience by introducing the possibility of striking, and therefore altering, our natural surroundings. It changed the way we look at things.

Passion and Purpose

Learning should be passion-driven rather than data-driven and focus on the needs of students rather than the needs of the tests. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for students to connect with their dreams, feelings, interests, and other people rather than demand students read closely and stay connected to text.

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning
Hey GERMERS, heres another one. Convinced yet?

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain's learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the
qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.
Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen -- literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research. Shouldn't it be our challenge and opportunity to design learning that embraces these ingredients?

The arts as "the basics" of education.
This article comes from a site run by US educator Kieran Egan (thanks to Robert Valiant of the US Dump Duncan Facebook page for bringing it to my attention). Egans site has a lot to explore and is highly recommended.
Bruces comment.This article gives insight to his thinking that young learners have powerful, rich, affective imaginative lives that we lose as we grow and that a developmental
approach (that we move from the simple concrete to the abstract) fails to recognise. The idea that students learn though stories and metaphors is worth thinking about.

I want to suggest that the problem we find ourselves in--sidelining the arts increasingly even though we recognize their centrality to education--is in part tied up in our having accepted a set of basic educational ideas that are mistaken. That is, I want to make the uncomfortable case that the root of the problem is a set of ideas that most readers of this article probably take for granted.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

First up is a series of art relate links, a discipline that Bruce is passionate about.

Arts Teach Deep Noticing
Bruce: Exposure to the arts teaches observation, or deep noticing. There is a difference, as you know, between looking and looking closely. When students are asked to draw something, they must look closely to accurately observe the lines and shapes of the object they are trying to portray. Students learn to see tiny differences and to record them. Doesn't this sound like what a scientist does.

Add caption
Observational drawing tips for senior students
For many students, drawing is the core method of researching, investigating, developing and communicating ideas.

The Prince's Drawing School

Bruce: Video Clip about drawing. Many people think camera and computers have made drawing obsolete. Through drawing you learn to see the world as if for the first time. Drawing is a way of asking questions and drawing answers. It slows the pace of the mind and as a result of drawing the world looks different. In our classrooms too many spoil their work by rushing( thinking first finished is best) This slowing the pace of mind is hard to achieve with a camera although cameras are great for gathering visual ideas.

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback
Help students observe like Austin
Bruce: This is a great little video helping young children learn to look hard and to draw. You cant get this  kind of skill using digital media.

Bruce continues: Lots more neat videos from the people who bought you Austin's butterfly example.

Moving on

Pasi Sahlberg: Five U.S. innovations that helped Finlands schools improve but that American reformers now ignore
Bruce: Time to get back to Finland enough of this neoliberal GERM nonsense that has infected education in Australia, the UK , the US and next year in New Zealand if no change of government.

The question should not be: How to have more innovation in education?The real question is: How to make the best use of all existing educational ideas that are somewhere in American schools and universities?The answer is not to have more charter schools or private ownership of public schools to boost innovation. The lesson from the most successful education systems is this: Education policies should not be determined by mythology and ideology but guided by research and evidence from home and abroad.

From Bruces oldies but goodies file:

Transforming Secondary Education the most difficult challenge of all.Thoughts from a past age – ‘Young Lives at Stakeby Charity James
Bruces comment: An oldie but  relevant for rethinking education for students from middle school to senior secondary. Based on thinking developed 40 years ago by Charity James, the approach provides the basis for a truly transformed education based on developing the gifts and talents of all students.  Very much in line with the intent of the  largely side-lined , 2007 New
Zealand Curriculum which asks schools to develop students as seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge.

Secondary schools, if anything, remain determined to lock both teachers and students in a fossilised 1950s punitive environment of isolated specialist teaching, arbitrary periods of time, timetables, streaming by ability, uniforms and hierarchal power structures. Such schools are dysfunctional but there seems little pressure to change them instead teachers are criticized for studentslack of success and even poverty is not to be seen as an excuse. 

This weeks contributions from Phil Cullen

Teaching Strategies: A Practitioners View

This is an excellent article by Phil, that all teachers should read.

Maieutic strategies convey midwifery roles to teachers; and the strategies towards the right-hand end of the continuum imply that a childs natural desire to learn is helped to manifest itself as the child
develops. The teacher is there at the birth of learning of something new and nourishes the childs personal control of it. Learnacy is part of a childs psyche from birth and its development is the real business of the concerned teacher. The pupilling processes accelerate cognitive development with genuine concern for achievement.

Neoliberalism The New Religion

Another gem from Phil that is everyone (not just teachers) should read.

Profit before people. Profit before social services. Profit before environmental welfare. Profit.Profit. Profit.Leads to : Men before women. White before black. Right-wing before Left-wing. Sycophancy before experience. Adults before children. Bureaucrats before Mums. Testing before learning.

UTS campus becomes innovative public school

In one of Sydney's most striking public buildings, the age of students will not dictate what they learn, teenagers and preschoolers will study together and Skype hubs will put students in daily contact with their peers around the world.
Professor Heppell said the recipe could include developing the school as a village for all learners of all ages, creating small schools within the school, a focus on studying "by stage not age" and ensuring it was technology rich with a global focus.

Education expert Dr Yong Zhao says schools stifle creativity
Dr Yong Zhao

Another expert for the Australian government to ignore, mind you, given Prime Minister Tony Abbbott. whod be surprised?

Internationally renowned education expert Dr Yong Zhao told principals in Brisbane on Thursday there was a global mismatch between skill shortages and unemployment and schools need to shift from a sausage-making model, in which they produced students with similar skills and similar knowledge, to one that encouraged creativity and entrepreneurialism.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Educational Readings - the creativity of teachers. Leonard Cohen /Ray Bradbury

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Is Education as We Know it On its Way Out?

Your thoughts?

Call me old-fashioned, but in my mind, I still feel teachers have their place in the world. Setting aside other considerations, there is something intangible that a one-to-one interaction with a teacher brings that cannot be replaced. Every person I've ever met has a story about at least one teacher who played a significant role in shaping who this person is. Not all teachers are the same, and it is telling that every person mentions this one teacher who made an impact.

How One Designer Bridged the Gap Between Play and Learning

How can we reflect this in primary schooling?

Boston Chlidren's Museum
When we talk about playing and learning, we naturally think of childrens museums. Most major cities offer some experience like this, where kids are able to get their hands dirty, and shocking! learn something at the same time. The museums at least the good ones are always both engaging and interactive in a way thats fun for kids, but theyre also fun for grown-ups too. As weve been reporting for our series on play next month, it got me wondering: What goes into creating great museum experiences, and how do designers go about them?

Leonard Cohen on Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is Youre Quitting

Not strictly educational but Im sure you will be able to make the connections. This is a gem.

Before I can discard the verse, I have to write itI cant discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.

Ray Bradbury on Failure, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors

On a similar vein to the above article

I can only suggest that we often indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being important only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom. Can we wonder then that we hate it so?

An Open Letter to My Sons Kindergarten Teacher

This is good!

It concerns me a bit that you are going to require him to With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers. I appreciate the guidance and support from adults, in fact I expect it, but Im confused about him publishing his writing. You see, he cant write.

This is educational innovation?

If you still have any notion that the OECD/PISA manipulation of education has any beneficial features, this article should put an end to that. More madness
Find New Zealand!

The ability to measure innovation is essential to an improvement strategy in education. Knowing whether, and how much, practices are changing within classrooms and educational organisations, how teachers develop and use their pedagogical resources, and to what extent change can be linked to improvements would provide a substantial increase in the international education knowledge base. Measuring Innovation in Education offers new perspectives to address this need for measurement.

Stuck in the past?

UK academic Steve Wheeler:

“… there is conflicting evidence that technology has actually delivered any significant change to the pedagogy practiced in school classrooms. The answer to the question for many schools, is that technology brings very little change to the way teachers educate. The mass production pedagogy model stubbornly persists, and personalised learning seems far from the reach of many young people.

Marion Brady: We Need the Right Kind of Standards, Not CCSS

Another excellent article by Marion.

School subjects are just toolsmeans to an end. We dont tell surgeons which scalpels
and clamps to use; what we want to know is their kill/cure rate. We dont check the toolbox of the plumber weve called to see if he (or she) brought a basin wrench and propane torch; we want to know that when the jobs done the stuff goes down when we flush. We dont kick the tires of the airliner were about to board; we trust the judgment of the people on the flight deck.

This weeks contributions from

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning

Bruce: The real oil about brain friendly learning

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain's learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.

Classrooms Flooded with Devices

Article from New Zealand with relevance all over!

‘“It is increasingly important,says the ministrys head of student achievementRowena Phair, that school leavers have the skills to succeed in the digital age. A student with their own device can learn any time and anywhere, and connect and collaboratewith students and experts outside the school. Plus there are loads of great educational resources online. That sounds fair enough, yet theres something naggingly familiar about some of the rhetoric. Sixty years ago, Skinner said his Teaching Machine offered vastly improved conditions for effective study. Last month, a report from the ministry-backed 21st-Century Learning Reference Group told us that digitally-based education can significantly improve learning outcomes”’.

But is that really true?

Edutopia - a great site for creative teachers

George Lucas
Posted by Bruce on his blog.

A site that regularly supplies us with interesting ( and practical ) links is Edutopia. Edutopia is a site set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. I recommend you joining their  newsletter add your e-mail on the Edutopia site.

Chipping Away: Reforms That Don't Make a Difference

A sculptor was once asked how he could start with a big block of marble and create a
beautiful statue of a horse. The answer: "I just take my hammer and chisel, and I knock off everything that doesn't look like a horse.”’

Among a plethora of bad ideas being shoved at educators today, here are five myths that we should knock off:

From Bruces oldies but goodies file:

Educating for Creativity

Bruce: An oldie always good to read/listen to what Sir Ken has to say.

It is a shame that schools, secondary schools in particular, have such fixed routines that ensure their students receive an outdated fragmented view of learning and in the process that deaden the human spirit.

Linda-Darling Hammond: Lessons for New Zealand from America

Bruces comment: Perfect pre election reading (New Zealand has a general election on September 20, which we hope will bring the end of GERM in New Zealand).

“‘The Flat World and Education,  a book by Linda Darling-Hammond is a must read for educationalists and politicians who want to develop an alternative to the technocratic style of education that has been slowly destroying the creativity of students and teachers  in New Zealand and, in turn, the social fabric of our increasingly troubled society.

Learning is about constructing meaning.

Dame Marie Clay
An oldie:Wise words from Dame Marie Clay.

I was pleased, many years ago, to read an article by Marie Clay in which she wrote about the importance of the creative arts in the learning process. All too often, as soon as children enter school, early attempts to write and draw are subsumed by a sect like obsession with literacy. It may be time to redress the balance? In earlier, more creative times, it was common to see 'language experience' and 'related arts' approaches to learning.

This weeks contributions from Phil Cullen

Corporal Punishment

Australia, under the Tony Abbott led government, is returning to the 19th century in many ways. This includes suggesting that corporal punishment has a place in 21st century schools.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Edutopia - a great site( established by George Lucas) for creative teachers

A site that regularly supplies us with interesting ( and practical ) links is Edutopia. Edutopia is a site set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. I recommend you joining their  newsletter – add your e-mail on the Edutopia site.
I have copied some information from the Edutopia site and links to a few of their articles.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) documents and disseminates the most exciting classrooms where these innovations are taking place. By shining the spotlight on these inspiring teachers and students, we hope others will consider how their work can promote change in their own schools
Message from George Lucas:

'Education is the foundation of our democracy -- the stepping-stones for our youth to reach their full potential. My own experience in public school was quite frustrating. I was often bored. Occasionally, I had a teacher who engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. Those were the teachers I really loved. I wondered, "Why can't school be engaging all of the time?" As a father, I've felt the imperative to transform schooling even more urgently.

Traditional education can be extremely isolating -- the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don't usually connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and many schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.

Project-based learning, student teams working cooperatively, children connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical'.
Edutopia Mission:
We are dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process through innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives.
Edutopia Vision:
Our vision is of a new world of learning, a place where students and parents, teachers and administrators, policy makers and the people they serve are all empowered to change education for the better; a place where schools provide rigorous project-based learning, social-emotional learning, and access to new technology; a place where innovation is the rule, not the exception; a place where students become lifelong learners and develop 21st-century skills, especially three fundamental skills:
•how to find information;
•how to assess the quality of information;
What Edutopia Does
It’s a place of inspiration and aspiration based on the urgent belief that improving education is the key to the survival of the human race. We call this place Edutopia, and we provide not just the vision for this new world of learning but the real-world information and community connections to make it a reality.

We pursue our mission through three primary sets of activities:
identifying, describing, and promoting effective models and innovations in K-12 education by producing video and other digital media;
•funding and developing research to identify and evaluate rigorous practices for learners, educators and schools; and
•developing advanced software, technology and material for educational purposes.
 Message from George Lucas
 May 8, 2012
'I was bored in school.
It's true. I didn't feel like the school system was designed for my
learning style. It wasn't until college where I could pursue my passion, making films, that I found my way.
Recently on, we published observations from 8th graders about what they believe creates an engaging learning experience. Their answers were straight-forward and definitive: project-based learning, technology, and an enthusiastic teacher. I couldn't agree more.
Today, with the power of the Internet, we are experiencing a force that is revolutionizing education and offering opportunities to reach and engage diverse learners like me. When technology is deployed effectively, it can free up teachers from standing in front of the class and presenting information. We can "flip" the classroom with lectures occurring at home via
the Internet and rigorous project-based learning taking place in cooperative groups at school. In this environment, teachers can be guides and coaches to the students. What is more powerful in education than a student who is guided by an adult who truly cares -- someone who knows your name, who encourages you, and is committed to your success in life?
By learning about and replicating strategies that work in education, we have the potential to transform our schools. By creating strong cultures of creativity and curiosity, we can
engage students as active participants in their own education, rather than passive recipients of facts and formulas. In a world where information is at our fingertips, our greatest challenge is help students learn how to find information, assess its accuracy and apply it to solve problems. All around our country and the world, there are teachers and schools succeeding at the task, many featured on Edutopia.'
Some Edutopia links to explore
The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or "making" has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel
The power of the joy of learning.
These eight ideas by Carol Tomlinson  synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught her are the most important principles for teachers to understand
Great range of u-tube videos ( staff meetings)