Friday, May 05, 2017

The challenge of teaching in a Flexible Learning Environment / Computers for or against / and Autumn leaves

Project based learning

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

Teacher knows best? Not any longer as parents muscle in on the classroom
Feel familiar to you?
‘Abusive behaviour by parents is experienced by a third of primary teachers, either online or on the school premises, at least once a month. A fifth of secondary school teachers are exposed to such behaviour once a month, according to the study. Female teachers were more likely to report such experiences.’

Projects, Passion, Peers and Play: Seymour Papert’s Vision For Learning
‘Papert had a vision of children learning with technology in ways that were revolutionary. He believed that kids learn better when they are solving problems in context. He also knew that caring passionately about the problem helps children fall in love with learning. He thought educating kids shouldn’t be about explanation, but rather should be about falling in love with ideas.

Can Technology Change How Teachers Teach? (Part 1)
Thanks to Tony Gurr for this one.
Judging whether teachers have actually altered their daily classroom practice is surprisingly hard to do. Teachers, imbued with the culture’s values, often say that they have changed their lessons from week to week, year to year due to new district curricula, tests, and programs. Yet policymakers and researchers are less certain of such changes.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Nicholas Meier Author
Will Computers Free Teachers to Teach More Creatively?
‘At a party of a friend recently I got into a discussion with someone about education and the use of computer technology. The person I was conversing with suggested that educational software could and should be developed to relieve teachers of the technical aspects of teaching.I argue that we do not need to focus on developing or advocating for such software what we need to do is  to focus instead on creative and critical thinking for the purpose of developing democratic citizens. There is a real lack of movement in that direction in the public schools.’

Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements
An excellent article
If done well, PBL yields great results. But if PBL is not done well, two problems are likely to arise. First, we will see a lot of assignments and activities that are labeled as “projects” but which are not rigorous PBL, and student learning will suffer. Or, we will see projects backfire on underprepared teachers and result in wasted time, frustration, and failure to understand the possibilities of PBL. Then PBL runs the risk of becoming another one of yesterday’s educational fads – vaguely remembered and rarely practiced. To help teachers do PBL well, we created a comprehensive, research-based model for PBL – a “gold standard” to help teachers, schools, and organizations to measure, calibrate, and improve their practice.’

Bruce has put together a set of articles that provide ideas about how to make use of Flexible Learning Spaces that are now almost the norm in our schools.

Lisa Squire Hobsonville Point School
Brightworks - Tinkering School a blog by Lisa Squire (NZ)
“The only way to appreciate how other schools work is to visit them. Lisa Squire  from Hobsonville Point Primary and her principal Daniel Birch are current;y visiting schools in the USA featuring student centred  learning in flexible learning environment ( Modern Learning Environments/MLEs). Lisa is writing a blog to share her experiences and for teachers interested in such learning environments will find her blog enlightening. This blog is about her visit to a Brightworks a ‘Tinkering School’.”

Nuevas Upper School – a flexible learning environment (FLE)
‘Another school recently visited by New Zealand educators is Nuevas Upper School which offers an educational environment in which students feel safe to be themselves, to step out of their comfort zone and to follow their passions. This is the highest rom  of both self discovery and collaboration. This will be of interest to teachers working in flexible learning environments (FLE). One of the central pillars of a Nueva School education, Design Thinking is thoroughly integrated, developing in the students a way of thinking, seeing, and doing that increases their effectiveness.’

Brilliant examples of project work from High Tech High Schools
‘When visiting schools the work on display indicated the range of content being studied and the depth of student thinking.  Below are examples of project work  done at  High Tech High Schools. It is their record of what they have done and how they achieved their results. Teachers can utilize ideas illustrated by the displays to get ideas for their own school. Through displays students can show their parents and friends the work that they have done, and the community can see how project based learning enables students to do and learn.’

Carolyn Stuart
Are we expecting too much too quickly of our teachers?
Interesting thoughts from New Zealand blogger about Innovative Learning Environments(ILE).
‘I sense that there is a deep exhaustion across the sector at all levels of the teaching profession. I think much of this exhaustion has come from under-estimating the enormity of the changes we are currently demanding of the sector. Moving to shared teaching spaces, or Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) is one example of expecting too much too quickly.’

Transforming Secondary Education – the most difficult challenge of all.
‘One of the educationalists working towards a new conception of secondary education working in what we now call Flexible Learning Spaces (MLE) was Charity James of Goldsmiths College and in 1968 she published her book ‘Young Lives at Stake’. I think I must have one of the few copies
available and it remains at the top of my favourite educational books. Charity James believed it was important to get secondary education right if all students were to leave able to take advantage of the exciting opportunities the future might offer. Her book provides ideas about how to organise learning in flexible spaces relevant to today’s challenges.

Haere ra Hekia ParataNew Zealand’s Minister of Education .
Hekia Parata has just stepped down - here are a couple of not particularly flattering tributes to her performance over the the last five years. Overseas readers may want to compare her to whatever flavour of educational politician they are stuck with.

A Report Card for Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education

Interpreting Hekia Parata’s legacy
Peter O'Conner
‘As Hekia Parata steps down as Minister of Education, trying to assess the legacy she leaves behind is difficult. That she was the most passionate, most controversial and most polarising Minister is probably not debatable. But what did she achieve? Parata never gained the full trust of teachers. She continued to pursue an agenda that was completely out of step with school leaders, education academics and the teacher unions. So what is the Minister’s legacy?’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Autumn - a chance to develop inquiry skills
Northern hemisphere readers will have to park this one for 6 months!
‘Autumn is too good not to take advantage of.All too often the results of Autumn studies seen in many classes ( usually Junior rooms) are superficial, to say the least, but this need not be the case.If there are deciduous trees in, or near, the school grounds what a brilliant opportunity to develop a small integrated study.The study could be prefaced with the provocation, 'Why do some trees lose their leaves?' Such questions introduce an inquiry approach to the students.

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