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)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Educational Readings- focus on creativity

Our readings compiler is now holidaying in Arles
By Allan Alach -  bonjour from Arles

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

This weeks homework!

Creativity is rejected: teachers and bosses dont value out-of-the-box thinking.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to themschool. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what theyre told.

Its ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the worlds most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.

Poverty and the Moral Imperative of Education

An important article by Peter Greene, dismantling the neoliberal claim that education is the cure to poverty.

This is the "education fixes poverty" mantra. If we get everybody through high school
prepared for a good job (defined in many PD sessions as "a job with an above-the-poverty-line" wage) then nobody will be poor and everybody will be healthy and happy and successful. There are two huge problems with this argument.

Failing school does not cause poverty. And it's not even right to say poverty causes failing school. The high level of failure among students living in poverty is a sign that our schools are not meeting the needs of those students.

Swedens School Choice Disaster

Neolibs - take careful note

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
Crisis in education
results. What
s caused the recent crisis in 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 doesnt 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.

Great technology requires an understanding of the humans who use it.

MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesnt boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychologyboth studentsand teachers. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.

How can schools feed student appetites for sourcing sustainable produce?

Thankfully the workshop leaders were undaunted by the challenge of slowly unpicking the jargon to help students understand why it's important to think about how their meals
got to their plates. From food miles and Fairtrade to the environmental and health benefits of becoming a vegetarian, no aspect of the journey from soil to supermarket shelf was unexplored. At the end of the class, the penny finally dropped. Asked what they can do to source more sustainably, the response from pupils was emphatic: "Grow my own vegetables," shouted one girl. "Buy foods locally," offered another.

This weeks contributions from

Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect

Bruce: Importance of valuing mutual respect.

A pivotal aspect of fostering mutual respect among teachers, students and staff is adhering to the following eight expectations, which Ive witnessed fundamentally change the way schools function.

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Childrens Executive Functioning

Bruce: Over structuring results in students missing out on social skills is this happening in NZ classrooms?

When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working
Freedom to learn vital
toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what theyre going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.

From Bruces oldies but goodies file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul - Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

Bruces comment: I really like the message of this blog. There has been a recent
Ann Murphy Paul 
Education Review Office Report on Secondary school achievement saying the most impressive school was one where the school tailored the curriculum to students
interests e.g. linking maths to information technology. Seems obvious to me. Personalised learning is the pedagogy of relationships.  We need to focus on what students are thinking they are too often a neglected resource ignored by teachers to busy teaching to listen to student voice..The blog below is about the transformative power of interest. 
The future is about learning not education. Education is what someone gives to you learning is what you do yourself. We need to focus on teaching students how to learn to seek, use and create their own knowledge as it says in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Children as scientists

Bruce: An oldie something written in 1947 which is reflected in 2007 New Zealand Curriculum

I recently came across an extract from an article called 'Children are Scientists' written in 1947 by Herbert Zim. That we haven't yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much 'our' curriculums, what 'we' think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.

More 'Magic' of Teaching

Bruce: Evolution of computer use in classrooms by a creative South Island
Mike is now Princ at Waimari

It would seem to me that if we want to develop a creative education system, able to develop the talents of all students, then we need to listen more to those teachers who have gifts they could share with others. All too often 'we' think that all good ideas come from 'on high' but hopefully this myth is losing its power as current curriculums are being found wanting - ironically by the very people who introduced them.

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

In this posting Bruce references an article by Kelvin Smythe about St John Hattie.  This is a must read, as Hattie and others of his ilk threaten true holistic child centred education.

 Hattie:Peddling meta research
As I visit classrooms I have become increasingly concerned about the use of a number of strategies as defined by John Hattie and promulgated by the contracted advisers spreading the word about his 'best practices. Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of 'school effectiveness' research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case - we need to be very wary of such so called 'meta research.'. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts aways seem to know best - or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.

This weeks contributions from Phil Cullen

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.

There are many ways of being smart... Headteacher writes to pupils saying not to worry about exams

You might hope that every school would want pupils to work their very hardest and pass any exams with flying colours.

But one primary head has decided there is more to life than educational achievements, and has written to her final-year pupils to tell them not to worry about their results.

Headmistress Rachel Tomlinson and her head of year six, Amy Birkett, told children that there are many ways of being smartin the message, which was included with their Key Stage Two results.

They asked the 11-year-old pupils to remember that the scores will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.