Will Youngsters Wait for Education Reform

A wonderful story about how a 15 year old girl juggles high school and making $500,000 a year running her own business!!

Mashable – Story

(Click on the link above to read the story)

What a balanced and sensible approach this girl has, meaning that she doesn’t believe that somehow different aspects of her life need to follow a neatly sequenced timeline. She recognises that there is value in completing high school and ‘doing the school thing’, but doesn’t feel the need to wait to make a contribution in the world (or to have success). As I come across more and more cases like this it just reinforces to me that we have to face hard questions about the relevance (or lack of it) in much of what goes on in schools today.

What Kids Want

Radical !! Asking kids what they want from school – what an idea !! And, what’s amazing – their ideas make so much sense!

Relevant school and the opportunity to learn – pretty simple, really.

Mindshift – What Kids Want Out of School

School Lunch – More Than Just Food

The topic of school lunches and food come up very often in conversations between parents and school. There are so many dynamics at play. For example, I well remember a case where a boy used to tuck in heartily to his school lunch every day, but went home repeatedly telling his mother he didn’t like it, wasn’t eating it etc. Eventually, the school counsellor teased out of him gently that his Mum was a very proud cook. he really liked the school lunch, but feared he would hurt her feelings if he told her this!

Here’s an interesting article that makes visual comparisons of school lunches around the world (and finds the typical US example uninspiring!).

School Lunches Around the World – Fast Company

What is very clear is that school lunch as a common, shared meal is the norm in most education systems. Most see great benefits that outweigh any of the inconveniences. I am very firmly convinced that school meals are a very positive aspect in the schooling of children in a holistic environment. I have seen extreme cases of what happens when there isn’t a common, shared school lunch; Indian students with such narrow food tastes that they either turned down superb overseas university placements or returned home early. I’ve also seen troublesome cases where vegetarian children were being fed non-vegetarian food by their friends, against the wishes of their parents and also where the entire food taken to school consisted of junk food and fast-food take outs.

Having school meals together when i went to school wasn’t always a fun activity. Staff and teachers didn’t eat or move in the areas where the children were. The results included brutal bullying and struggles in the queues to get served, food stolen from people’s plates and some general nasty behaviour. Thankfully, these situations are no longer the norm. Meal times in school with all children eating the school meal together, in the company of their educators are a valuable time in the day to come together informally when things are calm, when conversations can be insightful and reflective and the school bonds as a learning community. Children, through teacher and peer influence broaden their food tastes, reduce fussiness, learn table etiquette and manners. The menus and recipes can be guided by nutritionists so that the children are eating in ways that are healthy and supportive of effective energy levels to learn and be physically active.

The jokes and cliches about school dinners are a thing of the past. Now, I believe, quite simply, its a key constituent in a truly holistic learning environment.

Do We All Mean the Same Thing When We Refer To ‘Personalization’?

The simple answer to that question is – no we don’t. For pure profit motives this term which means a perfectly laudable aim and intention in progressive education has been latched on to, corrupted and made to mean something else when used by the EdTech companies when they come peddling their latest snake oils, charms and amulets.

This article sets out well the confusion that has been caused by the mangling distortions of the word. Plainly, to me, the definition used by progressive teachers that emphasises creativity and freedom of learning paths is the most appropriate use of the word.

Mindshift – Big Ideas Article

One interesting aspect of the article is the reference to current educational testing goals being incompatible with personalisation. I’m really not sure this is necessarily the case. I see personalisation as being very closely entwined with differentiation (not mentioned in the article). As one of the comments below the article points out, school systems will and probably should all have common end goals for every pupil. For example, every student should acquire the skills to carry out algebraic equations to a certain level of competency. However, differentiation and personalisation offer the idea that whilst the eventual end goals may be the same for different pupils, modern educational methods (including those that harness the benefits of IT) enable different students to take different paths to the same destination.

Even differentiation gets subjected to a lot of abusive corruption where it often appears to be a simplistic process of setting students in to different ability groups and then adopting different paths with each group that almost always pre-suppose different levels of eventual outcome (high, medium and low end goal expectations). Instead, I see differentiation and persoanalisation as harnessing all the tools available to educators (include ICT) to enable different students to take different paths, different sequences of units and activities, different pacing and methods, but with THE SAME level of end expectations and goals.

In this way, personalisation isn’t incompatible with common end tests and exams.

BBC News – Seven big myths about top-performing school systems


This is a very interesting article that sets out to put straight some of the myths and wrongful notions that exist around the PISA tests and the data that is often used to compare the education systems of different countries.

However,  I would advocate some caution in how it’s read.  Is PISA or any other international testing system a definitive way to determine what represents high quality education or what is best preparing children for the twenty first century?  It is a well known fact that a number of the countries that score very highly in PISA are looking to majorly reform their education systems as they perceive that they are not necessarily doing all that well in preparing their population for the needs of the world tomorrow.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Seriously, stop using your smartphone in bed


Apparently,  the weight of evidence is growing.  If we keep electronic devices in the bedroom,  or use them during the last hour or so before going to bed we are harming or sleep.  Good enough reason to reconsider habits.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Numbers Rule, OK?

Do you ever have an ‘off day’?

Maybe, a day when you don’t feel at your best, when your energy level is down, when concentration comes a bit harder, when that sniffle and cold that won’t go away is getting you down, when you had a disagreement with a family member and said some harsh words that are now playing on your mind, when the demise of a beloved pet has left you feeling sad and listless?

I’m guessing everyone reading answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of those – after all, to some extent, these are the things that make us human.

Now, supposing you knew that whilst experiencing ‘one of those days’ you were to be subjected to a high stakes test that could have earth-shattering impact for your future, maybe even cause you to lose your job? Well, as an adult, of course, you would figure that, as hard as it might be, you would need to put aside your emotions, park them or pack them up in a box for a while and deal with them after the high stakes test is over.

But, what if you were just 10 years old?

We talk about being a profession that wants to be respected. We talk about being child-centric, learner-centric and caring about the ‘whole child’. Then, we go and make Class 5 children stake their futures on high stakes tests. In all of that, how much faith and trust are we placing in the ‘test makers’ to practice an exact science that ensures that the high stakes test really measures what it intends to measure (let alone that it tests what needs to be tested).

These are just a few thoughts that went through my mind when I read this superb and impassioned blog post from my good friend, Dr Sue Lyle. In it she reflects very effectively on the dangers inherent in the current trend to want to use hard measurable data to drive decision making in education, both at the level of the individual student as well as at a whole school or even whole state/ district/ County level.

Dr Sue Lyle – blog post – Number Rule OK
(Click on the link above to read Dr Lyle’s article)

This is a debate on which more educators need to speak up, not necessarily just to talk about what ‘we don’t want’, but also to explore and brainstorm alternatives that can meet the needs of systemic improvement whilst preventing the harm caused by the remorseless pursuit of simplistic data. I, for one, don’t want to reach the day when we just shrug and accept that the best we can hope for is that schools and teachers teach well to the test!

The Qualities of Great Teachers

In many ways the debate about great teaching goes to the very heart of the debate about education’s purpose, objectives and what teachers ought to be held accountable for (and hold themselves accountable for). If we can figure out what it is that great teachers do, or at least do more of, we all hope and believe that we can bring about significant improvement in quality and standards of education for all the children in our schools.

In these days of obsession with data as ways of measuring and defining when good education is or isn’t happening, it’s dangerously possible to forget that there can’t be good education without good teaching. Whilst I’m an advocate of things like Khan Academy, I truly believe that the school and the teachers in school have the ability to support critical learning of 21st Century skills in ways that IT alone cannot (the key is to have teachers harnessing the powers of IT as critical tools in the process).

Over the last few months, I’ve been gathering together some interesting materials that reflect on these issues of what makes a great teacher. One of the things that i found most interesting is the combination of timeless attributes and ‘new’ 21st Century skills.

The first resource is a video presentation by Sir Michael Barber for an education conference in Jamaica. He was one of the presenters in the film “We are the people we’ve been waiting for”, a senior adviser to the Tony Blair government in UK on education and now a thought leader for Pearson’s on education policy and future directions:

Next we have a debate/ exchange of ideas amongst a panel of five prominent educators with some interesting reflections:

NPR-Ed - 5 Great Teachers on What Makes a Great Teacher

The third piece is an ASCD blog post by educational consultant, Elliott Seif who deliberately sets out to discuss 12 qualities that are given less attention, but are nevertheless vitally important. He sets them out as a brief list first and then elaborates in some detail on each of the 12:

ASCD Blog Post - One Dozen Qualities of Great Teachers

I would love to hear what people think. Do you agree with specifics in some of these pieces, or think the writers and presenter are missing the point? Are there some qualities listed here that you really think shouldn't be focused upon? Are the qualities of great teachers culturally specific or do the same qualities hold good in every education system in the world?

If we were to agree that these represent a great foundation for defining great teachers, is it realistic to look for these qualities in all teachers, or is that just too far beyond what's possible?