About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who is fudging the data?

When I first thought about standards and their implementation I thought (like many others) that if National Standards were aligned with Performance Pay we would have cases where teachers could corrupt the data to suit their needs. I thought that if League Tables came into play, that principals could manipulate their school's data so that their school looked like a 'good' one compared to their neighbours (who are now their direct competitors).

Maybe I am naive, I dont know, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Government would fudge the data. I guess underneath it all I thought that they did have good intentions and that the did actually want to lift achievement for our children. 

However, I have learned an even worse truth. It is not the teachers and principals fudging the data, it's our Ministry. They don't want to lift achievement, they just want to be seen to doing it.
 Click here for Exhibit one:   This changes the pool of students who are reported as 'Maori'. Why would you do this?

So that your government can be seen as the one who lifts achievement for Maori students. 

But they are not. They are fudging the data.

Click here for Exhibit two:
How can you make it look like achievement is on the rise? Fudge the test! Why would you do this?

  So that your government can be seen as the one who lifts literacy achievement. 

Exhibit three -
This question is being removed from the JAM numeracy test because it is 'too hard'.  
It's not too hard - all it requires is discussion based and relationship building teaching. 
But we won't shift achievement that way. Why? It's not efficient!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Capturing Evidence

As you know, I often rant about the evils of standardised assessment. Primarily my big concerns are how it:
  • Narrows the curriculum
  • Encourages teachers to 'teach to the test' 
  • Reduces 'achievement' to mean 'successful at regurgitating what the test wants to hear'
  • Is a 20th century European industrislised modernist model in an increasingly 21st Century multi-cultural post-modern era.

But not only do I rant... I also try to do something about it. I think, I read, I watch, I research. I am also in a great team who listen to (and value) children.
I want to share a little something we do alongside our standardized assessment regime.
Every term, we sit with our kids 1 on 1 and they set themselves learning goals. If you do not have the time to do this, may I suggest you set 2 minutes aside after your next round of running records and co-construct just 1 goal.  It's a great start.

Once they all have a goal(s) it is important that reflection time is timetabled (thus valued) into your learning programme. We do ours every Friday. During this time the kids reflect upon their week, their goal, their learning behaviours, their friendships, and they have opportunities to raise any general questions with us.

This started off fairly simple. They were given a bunch of questions on a Google Doc that they would answer. The same thing could be achieved on ordinary paper. But we found the Google Docs great especially for giving feedback.

After a while we (us and the kids) got tired of the format so we played around with video responses and audio responses. We're also looking at 'drawing' your reflections where SMARTpens could be useful. But good old pencil and paper would be just fine.

Kids are amazingly onto it when it comes to using the 'best' rather than the 'newest' technology.
For example:

  • we taught the kids how to use the scan to email function on the school photocopier, (they showed us that you could achieve a similar result more efficiently) by snapping a page with an ipod touch. 
  • We taught them how to use the easi-speak mics, (so they used the voice recorder on the ipod touch). 
  • We taught them how to link their docs (so they instead started embedding them).

Then something amazing started happening. Kids started capturing 'evidence' of learning. So instead of writing about it. They started showing us excerpts of learning that they considered relevant.  They would find their best writing piece, they would submit pics directly from their maths books, we started receiving pictures of artworks, songs and song lyrics they had written, websites they had created, Google forms they had created at home for sports teams, YouTube vids of them learning the times tables strategies. Fridays are crazy and vibrant times!

Then one Tuesday, a kid wondered past with an ipad,
"What are you doing with that?" I asked in my best teacher voice.
"Oh," the kid said
"I just did some maths relating to my learning goal so I thought I would take a pic now so that I am not rushed on Friday..."
Another day a kid went up to Urs,
"Urs, I have achieved my learning goal. Here is my evidence. I think I am ready to move on ..."
By giving kids the technology and the knowledge of what learning evidence is, they are creating their own personalized assessment system. They are identifying their own next steps, and they are essentially creating their own learning portfolios. They won't be constricted by our oldfashioned ideas about how to capture because they are in a flexible environment. Just like there is no correct way to set out a maths book, there is no correct way to capture evidence.
Give it a go! Do it with what tools are available to you. It doesn't matter how your kids do it ... just let them do it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Telling stories, opening doors, and being unforgettable

Telling stories, opening doors, and being unforgettable were my three take-homes from uLearn this year.

For the entire day one I indulged in Jason Ohler.  Hanging on every word of his key note, then attending both of his breakouts. I first became intrigued with Ohler after watching  It's About where I was very much taken by the line:

Yet we TEST through text about facts that we will probably never remember

Ohler reinforced many of the ideas that I have around assessment.  One striking example came from a tale he told about his entry into music education. Luckily he had a teacher who deviated from systemic requirements and opened doors:

The system was that you had to be able to read music to get into the course.  However, Ohler's teacher didn't care what the system said and gave Ohler a listening test instead.

We have a lot to learn from this.  The system may say that a student's/school's/teacher's "success" and "next steps" are measured by Eurocentric Archaic Standardised test scores.  Yet we are in a time where we can open more doors that we ever have before.

But is it cheating if we ignore the standards and let children do what they are passionate about despite their test scores? Is learning linear?  Do children really have to do things in the order that a matrix or teacher dictates? Who or What should decide what their next step is? Should it really be a standardised assessment tool?

Is giving a kid a different 'way in' or opening a different door cheating? Do you have to write music before you can make music? Do you have to know how to measure before you build a tree house? Do you have to know the concept of 3 before you can learn about a triangle?

As Kevin Honeycutt said,
"Is a wheelchair ramp cheating? Is a speech to text app cheating? If we can give kids an onramp, then shouldn't we?"

All four of the Key Note speakers showed at least one of their old school photos and told stories about the teachers that they absolutely adored.

I left hoping that one day one of my students will talk about me with an authentic twinkle in their eye.  And if deviating from the system, rattling cages, and opening new doors is the way to do it - then that is what I will do.

Be UnForGettaBle!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Breaking a PaCT

NZ primary school teachers are about to get a new treat thrust upon us.  It's called PaCT.

It appears that this idea came from a (well intentioned) academic who teaches in the tertiary sector.  I started my career in the tertiary sector and this experience bears absolutely no relation to what goes on in Primary School education.  The two sectors are worlds apart.

The tool is being developed to bring consistency to our overall teacher judgements (OTJs).  Or, as John Key might say, it is to ensure that the data is not ropey. The people developing PaCT are really excited.  They do believe that they are doing the right thing. Here is an explanation from an MLE post

Lets say the Rubric Maths has 5 sub-categories (think: counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying and division) and each of those sub-categories has 10 ability levels – this gives us 100,000 permutations (possible sub-category skill level combinations that a learner could have) – each of those combinations will result in a different OTJ score (think ability age) for this rubric. This when combined with the number of years of teaching that the learner has had can give us an overall idea whether the learner is where we think they should be for this rubric.

The teacher (and parents) will be able to see the students progress over time in a fashion that ensures the measurement is not distorted by the fact that the assessments were undertaken in different schools and by different teachers. What we are trying to achieve is to give you a view of the students progress as though YOU were the one that had done all the assessments since day one. How cool would that be?

I can see how non-primary school teachers would think that this kind of model may be useful.  It is all very scientific.  However it assumes that all teachers teach the same content, assess the same, and judge the same.  In fact, the only way that this tool would work is if we did all teach the same, assess the same, and think the same.  And if the tool is mandated (which is highly likely) we will be mandated to teach, assess, and think the same.

They are striving for a system where a child can exit one school and enter another one (armed with his/her number) and the teacher can keep going from the point where his other teacher left off.

For this to really happen we would have to coordinate it so that we all taught the same stuff at the same time.  For example, I have horrific visions of being mandated to all fill in the 'addition rubric' by term two all in the name of consistency or, even worse, the government then produces consistent resources (on the N4L) so that we are consistent in the way we teach too.  How cool would that be? NOT COOL AT ALL!

The other thing that alarms me is the complete lack of student voice and co-construction in this tool.  It seems that the tool is for Teachers, Parents and the Government.  It is assumed that teachers do the assessment to the children.  This is a rather old fashioned view. We have started assessing by giving students ownership of the task. Students identify and capture their own progress and bring it to the attention of the teachers.  Not the other way around. You see, assessment drives the way we do things.  If students drive the assessment, they drive their learning.  Or, if we are using rubrics, we will teach to the rubrics. We'd be mad not to if we consider:

In terms of the comparisons you mention, PaCT will enable this, because it will be possible to measure how much progress, on average, a class of students make in a given year.

The progress captured by the PaCT tool that is.  Not any other kind of progress.  This is horrendously problematic in the Primary School environment.  Where will the motivation be to teach the non core-curriculum subjects if they will not be considered in the 'overall progress' of your class in a given year?  It also assumes that there are 'classes' of children taught by one teacher over a year.  Do these academics know that many of us are team teaching in open learning environments over multiple year levels?  I dont think they do.

This exorbitant tool is not sustainable - as I have shown above the assumptions underpinning it are already dated.  

The consultation process is an embarrassment.  Check out this little beauty where we have been asked important questions like what colour we would like the tool to be.  https://pact.intuitionhq.com/progress-and-consistency-tool-or-pact BUT do be aware that "if you have a strong aversion to the PaCT tool... leave the feedback to those with a different opinion".  Oh, really?

I tried to stand up for us but unfortunately got cautioned for "pissing people off".  All I wanted was the ministry to consider a less standardised more flexible, assessment programme.  An assessment system that can be tailored to different communities and where all aspects of the curriculum can be measured.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Future Learning

Watch it, think about it, forget about the shiny, and repeat.

More here

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ask the positive deviants

In her latest post (and indeed in many posts before) Dianne Ravitch makes the clear point that focusing our attention to poverty will have more of an impact on raising the quality of education for our alleged failing students than any other intervention, such as merit (performance) pay based on standardised testing:

"It has never worked. It failed recently in New York City, Chicago, and Nashville. In Nashvile, teachers were offered a $15,000 bonus to raise test scores. It didn’t make a difference." 

So what would make a difference? This made me wonder about the goodness that could be achieved if we started thinking about poverty using a positive deviance approach.  

For a start, I prefer the term 'remoteness' over poverty. This enables us to include more groups of children in our societies (examples include, and are not limited to, those who are socio economically remote, culturally remote, geographically remote, and those who are marginalised through gender (including roles and identity) and disability).

Positive deviants are those who, despite having the odds stacked against them, manage to  lead successful happy lives (using the same resources and knowledge available to them as their counterparts).  

Instead of providing a community with external experts, the positive deviant approach enables the community to take ownership and leadership in their research and to come up with their own solutions using the expertise of their positive deviants.  It also requires that the community identifies that there actually is a problem, rather than an external expert coming in and telling them so.

Much like the Minimally Invasive Education approach, positive deviance encourages self-organised and participant driven knowledge to take the stage and teach us all something new.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Discussing Democracy with Deetz

Yesterday I stepped back 15 years to re-explore Bauman.  This has led me to another defining moment of the time - Stanley Deetz and his ideas around democracy.  In his book Democracy in an age of Corporate Colonization Deetz exposes how corporate domination is embedded into our everyday decision making.

Organisational theories such as these are becoming increasingly relevant to all who are involved with education as we travel down the corporatized road. In this post I'm not going to tell you what to think as my ideas are as much effected by corporate colonisation as anyone.  Please watch this 5 minute video from the man himself.

I just love the cereal box idea.  How else can we ensure that the less dominant corporate narratives can be accessed by students in our schools?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bashing Bureaucracy with the Bauman Stick

In a previous life I specialised in business ethics where I studied the effects that modernity and bureaucracy had on our organisations. Zygmunt Bauman opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking in relation to modernity, efficiency and bureaucracy.

In his work Modernity and the Holocaust Zygmunt Bauman looks at the role that modernity and bureaucracy play in events such as the Holocaust.

He shows how horrific events, such as genocide, can be achieved by the masses through the careful separation of tasks. Initially genocide was achieved by killing people with rifles at point blank range and the bodies were then dragged to mass graves.  This method was seen to be primitive and extremely inefficient.

In order to make genocide more efficient victims were lined up at the edge of the trenches and were then shot with machine guns en masse.  This way the bodies fell straight into their graves and the murderers were never sure whose shot was the one that killed.  This meant that there was no direct responsibility for who murdered who.  Even so, it was still the case that:

it was exceedingly difficult for the shooters to overlook the connection between shooting and killing.

So a search for a more modern and efficient method ensued:

The search was successful, and led to the invention of first the mobile, then the stationary, gas chambers; the latter - the most perfect the Nazis had time to invent - reduced the role  of  the  killer  to  that of the  'sanitation officer'  asked  to  empty  a 
sackful  of 'disinfecting chemicals'  through an aperture in the roof of a building the interior of which he was not prompted to visit.

But this is an extreme case isn't it?  Whilst modernity and efficiency were used for evil in the holocaust, when it comes to industrialisation it's not bad, is it? If it wasn't for modernity we wouldn't have home comforts, we wouldn't have technology, we wouldn't be as efficient and we wouldn't progress.

But are we more efficient? Have we made progress?  

Using the metaphor of the modern industrial factory Bauman points out that there are two kinds of lorries in the factory yard.  There are the  lorries that deliver the consumer goods to the stores and there are the lorries that deliver the trash to the dump.  The narration of modernity speaks to only one kind of lorry - the goods.  This creates a history of industry purporting rising comforts and efficiency.  

The lorries that carry the waste and reject materials from factory production, however, are excluded from our history of modernity. Our idea of what efficiency is could be very much changed if we had a balance of the two narratives.

Further, many kinds of human beings become dysfunctionalised through this narrative of progress and efficiency.  Akin to the weeds in the garden, if humans do not fit the new re-ordered world they must either be eradicated, separated or assimilated. (Remembering, of course, that weeds are defined only as plants that deviate from the gardener's perceived ideal image of what a garden should be.) 

I worry about education.  I worry about the way we bureaucratize our learning into separate parts.  I worry how we obsessively categorize our learners into weeds and flowers. I worry how we attempt to assimilate our weeds insisting that they grow petals. I worry how we assume that all our students are annuals even though some may be perennials or biennials.

I worry that our narrative speaks only to one kind of lorry - the goods.  We hear about the lorries leaving our schools with numerate, literate, 'successful' children.  We dont often hear about the lorries heading off to the dump disposing of lost creativity, shattered childhood beliefs, and interrupted day-dreams.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Elephant? What Elephant?

I enjoyed reading this today.  It was also a day where I was contemplating the work of Salvador Dali.  The two blended nicely...
Swans reflecting elephants - Salvador Dali
Use Rationale
Marion Brady:
"Meanwhile, the kids will continue to choke on unorganized and disorganized information. They’ll study Standards for the Study of Tusks, Standards for the Study of Trunks, Standards for the Study of Ears, Standards for the Study of Legs, Standards for the Study of Flanks, Standards for the Study of Tails.
Elephant? What Elephant?" 

The one in the classroom perhaps?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mitra's next step...

From a lecture in Bombay (May 2012) Mitra outlines his research on Remoteness, The Hole in the Wall Experiments, and the Granny Cloud. He shows how the children in his experiments were able to Self Organize their learning and reemphasizes the importance of connections and working together in groups. When Mitra talks of children learning on their own, he means in the absence of adults (not in isolation). It is crucial that children work in groups and these are often refereed to as Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLES).

As stated in a previous post Mitra discusses that his research has shown that the future of education requires the following skills:
Reading and Comprehension,
Search and Synthesis,
A system of belief.

He goes on to outline his new research:
If children can self-organise their learning, can they then self-learn these fundamental skills?

In other words:
Can children in remote areas teach themselves to read in SOLEs?

This is the new and exciting next step in his research where he will be investigating this very thing. Can we open up a whole new world of opportunity for our remote learners? We can only wait and see.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Clear and Honest Reporting - Tart Up that data!

So the data isn't pretty enough to show parents yet? Does that mean clear and honest reporting has to be 'tarted up' first? Interesting. I wonder if it made his positivist brain explode?

I imagine John Key's feelings are akin to the ones you get when you are an actual educationalist, you know, the ones that actually teach children. You come up with this great idea, you invest a lot of time into it. And often, especially when you are a beginner, you will even fund the idea with your hard earned money.

The day comes, you pat yourself on the back as the most amazing educational breakthrough is about to be unleashed! Guess what? - it's not what you think it was going to be. Sometimes you even find out that your great idea has been tried (and failed) before. It's all a bit disappointing, it's all a bit ropey.

Why? Because there is no single solution to teaching and learning. Children are all different. They are not tidy inputs. They bring with them a variety of different experiences and ideas, and they certainly do not output tidy data packages.

I've said it once, and I'll say it again (and again). The problem lies in our assessment methods:
  • We are using 19th century tools to assess 21st century learning
  • We are encouraging children to think outside the square, then demanding they complete multiple choice tests
  • We tell our learners that they learn best when they collaborate, then insist that they take a test in silence and in isolation
  • We open our learner's eyes to a range of 21st century tools then measure their knowledge allowing them to use only pencil and paper
  • We cheer at conferences about unleashing creativity then measure 'achievement' by looking only at Numeracy and Literacy
  • We encourage children to re-craft their writing and then we measure their writing ability (using a one-off , e.g. AsTTle, test where they are required to write for 45 mins, in silence with no resources)
  • We tell ourselves that we have standardised assessment systems (yet a 'Stage 6' in maths means one thing at one school and something else at the next)
  • We have different teachers with different beliefs, who move readers through the levels for different reasons (decoding, comprehension, consolidation)
  • And as for moderation meetings - you could write a TV series on them alone.
So the data, ropey as it might be, is bogus anyway. Even if we did get to a point where the data was all presented in the same pretty format, and the children all took the same test, it will actually tell us NOTHING. And while we are on this 'one test' chances are that it will be Eurocentric (which, by the way, is not addressed by simply switching the subject's names from John to Hone). Questions will require only one narrow answer and the 'results' will be spat out by some efficient machine.

But ... the data will be tidy, and the league tables will be easily generated by the push of a button. If that's what he wants, chances are, that's what he will get.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Playing with thoughts

Alan Musgrave is an amazing (philosophy) teacher. He taught me to be intrigued by math by regaling us with 'gossip' about Pythagorus. He had a golden glint in his eye as he genuinely wondered about a straight line (even though he would have delivered that same lecture over 100 times before). He could capture a lecture theatre of well over a hundred people and get them to play "What If..." without anyone shouting others down - no matter how absurd our ideas were. And although the room was filled with a most diverse bunch, he had the ability to challenge our assumptions where we 'let it all go', and played with our thoughts. We would often leave the theatre giggling with delight as our brains popped and buzzed with new possibilities. He was a mind alterer, a mind expander, and a superb story teller.

He showed us that playing with ideas was delightful and for the first time I felt okay with the fact that I had 'wasted' my intermediate years by dreaming things up. My self directed (corridor) maths curriculum involved an obsession where I tried to find a triangle whose angles did not equal 180°. At other times, I had an overwhelming urge to find (or imagine) a new colour (not a shade of an existing colour) a new colour - (I blame the yellow highlighter for opening up this possibility). And I also had an 'unhealthy' obsession with money (not the value of it, but the pictures on it). The $10 note, for example, had pictures of the Mt Cook lily (which is very closely related to the edelweiss). I found these (pre-google) connections fascinating and told everyone I knew - complete with a rendition of the song from The Sound of Music whenever I saw someone with a $10 note - some liked it, others seemed more concerned with buying their dagwoods from the school canteen.

I think we should encourage the playing with our thoughts more - it's so much more exciting than just putting other peoples ones in.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another bang on the assessment drum

Assessment is the thing that determines a student's perception of where they stand in the world. Or, as the children say, tests are the things that tell them whether they are awesome at something or whether they suck. If we were really committed to clear and honest reporting I propose the categories to be:

When the government rolls out the '1 in 5 children suck' statistic, this is based on assessment.

It's our assessment practices that suck, not the children.

Our technologies are pretty awesome. We have the tools and the know-how to provide personalised, relevant, and deep assessments. If we spent half the time, energy, and money that we do on 20th century testing, and poured this instead into the more meaningful tools that already exist, education would look quite different.

Currently we are in a position where we teach awesome things. Then we assess using ordinary tools. Awesome things are pushed to the side because we discover ordinary "gaps". We then teach to the ordinary "gaps", we fill the ordinary "gaps", and we pat ourselves on the backs for raising ordinary achievement. But achievement of what? Of something quite ordinary.

If you assess regularly you will raise achievement. Of course you will. If you assess regularly, what you assess becomes the focus of your programme. The kids get awesome at it because they're practicing it more. The kids who suck, will suck less (but the awesome kids get more awesome so it's all relative.) It's all a little ordinary.

Isn't it time we challenged ourselves to break this cycle? To actually do what Sir Ken Robinson suggested (two years ago!) and bust apart this factory model of education?

Why do all children have to take the same tests?

Why don't we assess LEARNING as opposed to content?

Why do we lie to ourselves and believe that giving the students the same test at the same time is standard? There is no such thing as batches of children who live in the same sterile conditions and environments, so why waste time striving for something that just doesn't exist?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed students in groups and actually reported that data?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed maths by the student's abilities to ask the right questions instead of just giving the right answers?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed reading with a combination of digital literacies and paper literacies?

Wouldn't it be awesome if writing assessments were ongoing edited and re-crafted works with assistance from peers and teachers, rather than stand alone one off assessments done in isolation and in silence on a given day?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we valued digital citizenship?

Wouldn't it be awesome if gardening and art was held up high. If parents said:
"never mind her maths (we have a calculator at home), what I really want to know is how's her garden going?"

Wouldn't it be awesome if we valued all areas of the curriculum?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed students by the positive impact that their learning might have on the community?

We can.

Meaningful learning portfolios could allow this to happen. If done well they allow us to assess real growth, real learning, and the real picture of our students as vibrant individuals. Unfortunately though learning portfolios are too often digitized versions of the ordinary. Scanned copies of standardised tests with reflections to the side.

I don't think we totally suck but I do think we're a little ordinary, let's get awesome.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting the most out of the school day - make it snappy!

Children using the Harakeke Snappers

I completely agree that the students should be creators and not 'done to' and quite often the flipped classroom gets accused of merely being the use of video to spice up traditional teaching methods. What I believe, is that it is all to do with the use of the tool and not the tool itself. I tire when I hear people complain about the Khan Academy and the Ted Ed talks. These complaints are laden with the assumption that teachers are non-creative imbeciles.

Any tool, even the sacred book, can be used in boring and non-creative ways. This is especially the case if they are used only at their face value. If teachers get creative and peel back some layers they can make any tool or resource a wonderful thing. If a teacher is awesome enough, he or she can inspire and learn with children even if the only tool they have is brown paper and a vivid or a stick in the mud (which, by the way, gets a very bad rap!). Even the dreaded work-sheets can inspire learning - if we take time to think about how we use them.

We have taken many steps to get the most out of the school day. One of which was the Leadership team's decision to embark on Team Teaching. I cannot emphasise enough how incredible that is in terms of creating a quality education (but that is another blog-post).

Another thing we have done is cut-out the morning roll call completely. The children sign in on a google form each morning and one of us transfers the information to eTap as they walk through the door. We have all 3 of us out in the hub meeting and greeting the students and by 8:55 all bonding is done and we start the programme immediately.

How do the children know what to do? That is taken care via our 'Whats On' page which is updated daily. Often children will access this from home and know what's up before they even get to school.

We are currently taking a look at what we call Snappers. The snappers are in the emerging stage. We are creating them on a 'just in time' basis. We are currently doing a batch on basic maths but our 'vision' is to have them cover all curriculums areas.

From the outside the concepts covered will look somewhat traditional and very much based on the National Standards. That is the point. We are using Snappers to cover the essential skills. When covering the alleged essentials we need to ensure that we are 'keeping it snappy'. I think all of us will admit that we can drag a simple concept out for far too long to an audience who has mostly 'switched off'.

We are also purposefully not taking advantage of readily available 'flipped classroom' material because we believe that the art of making snappers ourselves is a meaningful form of Professional Learning. Although they may appear simple, we had many debates that has tightened up our conceptual understandings. For example, what is a fraction?

Ordering Fractions

Even watching them back informs our teaching practice. We have a relationship with our kids which is vitally important and I think that it is more effective having us up there. It's brilliant role modeling too - if we can do it, they certainly can, and they will!

I also like how the snappers can motivate self learning. In our 'using texts' and 'locating materials' snappers students are empowered to make their own decisions about their personalised learning (and they do it very well).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Speedy Reflections

Another cool trick we picked up from Sharon and Sharee at ignition was the idea of 'Speed Dating'(we renamed it to speedy reflections). Speedy-refections works by lining the students up opposite each other. One side talks (uninterrupted) to the person opposite them for (in this case 30 seconds) then a bell rings and the other partner talks. Once this is done the line moves down one and the process is repeated.

To bring our amazingly full-on week to an end we tried it with the kids where they reflected on their highlights of the week. This put them in an awesome head-space for the end of week acknowledgements that followed.

Thanks for a cool take-home idea :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

5 year olds, iMovie and MIE

In my last post I rekindled my passion for both Sugata Mitra and Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). I have always appreciated the way he addresses remoteness in educaion.

Remoteness was first addressed by Mitra in a geographical sense.  For example (in the context of Delhi) he found that the further schools are from the city, the lower the educational outcomes. He then went on to discover that remoteness was not just a developing nation problem but happening in all countries across the globe.  Even in developed nations there continues to be areas where there are clusters of 'under-achievement'.  When it comes to access to, and knowledge of,  digital resources this is often referred to as The Digital Divide.

Like remoteness, the digital divide can lurk anywhere.  It is often assumed that the higher the decile ranking the more access children have to knowledge and digital literacies.  However this is an incorrect assumption - there are many cases where children in decile 10 schools can have very limited access to eLearning and, at the same time, many decile 1 schools have exceptional eLearning programmes and opportunities.

It can also be the case that there are digital divides within schools. For example, there are many teachers who bring old devices in from home, encourage students to use their personal eLearning devices (often their smartphones), beg borrow and acquire older computers from wherever they can, and basically do anything they possibly can to increase the computer to student ratio.  Yet, in the class next door, there could well be only one classroom computer sitting on the teachers desk while their Tela laptop remains at home and is lucky if it is used once a week for facebook and trademe.

Just as Sugata Mitra has said, the most important factor to increasing learning is very much down to the individual teacher. Too often a student's digital literacy experience is limited by what their teacher can do.  How often do we hear "I can't do eLearning unless I get adequate PD first".

Enter Minimally Invasive Education.  Today a couple of exceptional junior school teachers and myself pooled all our iMacs together to see if we could encourage our 5 year-olds to gather in SOLES (Self-Organised Learning Environments) and teach themselves how to use iMovie.

Within less than an hour they were creating projects, dragging photos into iMovie, adding sound effects, adding titles, adding transitions, and recording their own voice-overs.  They were self-teaching, they were exploring, they were empowered.  The topic of their inquiry this term is Beauty and Joy.  As an outsider looking in I was overjoyed and it certainly was a beautiful thing!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Beyond the Hall in the Wall - Mitra

I've been waiting on this one for a couple of months. Here (and in his book Beyond the Hole in the Wall) Sugata Mitra suggests that what were once known as essential skills are now becoming obsolete. He also outlines why Reading Comprehension (the 'reading' of digital sources) is most important as well as Information search and analysis skills and a rational system of belief (to protect them from future, or past, indoctrinations)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Tara's Top Ten from Ignition 2012

1. The food and the staff that worked tirelessly in the kitchen. They cleaned our plates and cups. They kept our caffeine levels up. They engaged in friendly meaningful conversations. Truly Awesome!

2. Sharee and Sharon's day two activities (world cafe and speed dating) What a fantastic way to start the day. We're definitely taking that back to school! Bravo!

3. The 'three things' introductions - an efficient way to get to know a large group of people! Clever!

4. Billy from Pakuranga High Schools iphone App session. App development need not be specialized unachievable and complicated. We CAN do it! - Inspirational!

5. Vodafone for minimally invasive sponsorship. We couldn't have come without you. - Legends!

6. Watching my friend and colleague Lisa pull out an ignition talk with very short notice where she spoke from her heart and made us all so proud - Sensational!

7. Lightbulb moment #1 via Chris Clay - Why don't we measure achievement by ones contribution to the community (whether that be a school, a teacher or a student). Brilliant!

8. Lightbulb moment #2 via Mark Osborne - Excellence is finite so why not strive for 10% better and then move on to the next 10%. It's infinite, but achievable. Say waaaaa?

9. Being there with so many people from our school. These guys are sensational and we are preparing ignite talks to present to our BOT - THIS THURSDAY! Now that's commitment!

10. And last, but certainly not least, TeacherNZ's augmented reality session where he pulled out this wee gem. I physically felt brain cells growing while endless possibilities screamed through my head. - GENIUS

Albany Senior High - if achievement is measured by contribution to the community - I think you might be on to something... Aspirational!

Looking forward to the basics

I remixed this video for an ignite talk at #ignition2012.  It explores themes of disrupting competitive standardized written assessments and looking forward to a more personalised digital assessment model. The video does stand alone but there are points missing because when presented I was speaking too.  Below is a basic overview of my thinking.

As time goes on in this rapidly changing environment, I wonder if we should be equipping our children with digital literacy and digital citizenship and prioritizing this over more traditional forms of literacy.  This way learners will be able to 'own' their assessment, identify their learning needs, and articulate and document this via digital technologies. I find it exciting to think that once basic digital literacy is established learners will be able to document and share their learning (including traditional areas such as reading, writing, maths, the arts, sport, PE) with their families, teachers, and community. Young children will learn about crucial digital citizenship issues such as creative commons, contributing educational knowledge to their communities, and being cyber smart.

This changes our teaching role significantly where instead of marking books 'after school' we have opportunities to collaborate with our learners 'live' in online environments (if, and only if,  they have the digital literacy and citizenship skills)

This will enable children to frame their learning in a more relevant cultural context as opposed to having to be assessed with standardised (and predominately Euro-centric) reading material.

Looking at this on mobile? Try this version:

Friday, April 13, 2012

OLPC - the latest headline victim

I can only hope that many will read beyond the above headline of this article that is currently doing the rounds.

If you do you will find that the outcomes of the OLPC was not about raising 'achievement' in relation to standardised test scores but to instead:

provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

In fact during the 'testing' it was found that the children's cognitive abilities had increased. 

Then, of course, a right hook to Sugata Mitra and Minimally Invasive Education (MIE).  But no mention of SOLES (self organised learning environments) an essential feature of the MIE pedagogy.

The article then goes on to say at the very end:

But is that failure?  It doesn't feel like pointing to standardized test scores in math and language is the right measure at all to gauge this.  It goes against the core of the OLPC mission.

So great!  Cheers for that.  That's just awesome.

Monday, April 2, 2012

OWNing it - reflection from ELS 12

I spent the weekend at the ELS. Here's my perspective.

My light-bulb, popcorn, eureka (or whatever you want to call it) moment would have to be the concept of 'ownership' vs 'buy in'. Interestingly it was one of the last sessions where this came to fruition and fortunately it made some of the earlier sessions a lot more powerful.

Fuel to my 'owning' fire came from the statement that, when using sound ownership processes, 'no decision made has been the wrong decision'.

My interpretation of this is that if all interested parties come together to make an important decision, create a model, or design a program in a genuinely collaborative way then the decision/model/programme produced will be the right one.

So what do I mean by a genuinely collaborative way? Here's some ideas that I pondered over the weekend (there will be many more).

  • The supermarket trolly design model (to be honest I was not particularly taken by this session at the time but the ownership vs buy-in statement turned that trolly right around for me)
  • The world cafe technique (I have had the pleasure of experiencing this at the 2011 emerging leaders symposium and have found it to be a powerful classroom tool ever since)
  • The idea of teachers having time allocated to using the inquiry model to enhance their practice and pedagogy (as opposed to lengthy admin meetings)
  • Providing our families (interested parties) with the same information that we have so that they can own the decisions made for their child's education programme. 
    • Show them the content of assessments rather than just the result. (I know that as a parent my illusions of test content were shattered when I saw what was actually in them). 
    • Share every accessible thing that adds to your insights around pedagogy with your families. For example, here is a Conrad Wolfram TED talk. What do you think about this in relation to your child's maths programmes?
    • I read this article - here it is.  What ideas did you take out of it?
    • I observed a child teaching himself how to use a google site in the classroom, it reminded me of this theory, what do you think of that?

Of course such dialogues and discussions would not be compulsory but the opportunity and transparency should be there for children and parents to 'own' their education and not just 'buy-in' to it. I try to do this with my blog but, on reflection, I do far too much telling and not enough asking.

Perhaps that is part of the issue I have with standards. At the end of the day we all want similar outcomes for our kids. Not many would want a system where we spit our children out at the end innumerate and illiterate. But we are told what is important and what is valued and we must 'buy-in' to this, not 'own it'.  Why not provide  opportunities so that we can explore and inquire into this ourselves? Why not let us do the learning? How about we stop wasting money on glossy publications that others have had the privileged opportunity to own and create? Would it be an easier, faster but more importantly an empowering process to give the users (i.e. me) the opportunity to 'own it' rather than trying to make me comply or 'buy-in?

And the same works for our kids. As I have mentioned in a previous post in relation to Ewan Macintosh's Problem FINDING vs SOLVING we can help our kids be better learners by giving them the space to OWN their ideas and not BUY-IN to some plan we might have slapped together on a Sunday night.

So thank you #els for inspiring me to the point where i am blogging on a SMART phone at 2:44am (apologies for typos and poor grammar) And thank you Mark Osborne for providing the ELS glue. Problem is, am I buying-in to this concept or owning it?

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Maths tests are stupid
They point and shriek
at those who fail to solve maths questions
Out of context.
If only there was a math test
That pointed and shrieked
at those who fail to pose and solve maths concepts
In context
Oh wait
There is
It's called
But by then
It's too late.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Enhancing social stories via video

I have always enjoyed using video in my learning and teaching.  In an ideal world I would teach the entire curriculum through video, movie making and movie editing.

I was intrigued by the idea of social stories for children with ASD. I am no expert in either ASD or social stories.  From what i can gather social stories are personalised stories for children to assist with an understanding of what is expected during the (school) day. Quite often social stories are in relation to class-room routines, for example, lining up.

Here is a social story on playing, learning, recalling, tidying and putting away.  There may be too much going on with this one (they're supposed to be simple) but it's a start.  If anything, it celebrates one of the many awesome children I work with!

Corey adores the Cars 2 movie and has learned many scenes from it, so I have chosen to use the Cars 2 soundtrack.  The music therefore is not licenced under the CC-BY license otherwise applicable to this blog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflecting in a new school...

Being a foundation teacher of a new school is a curious time. We are never short of authentic inquiry projects because there is just so much to do! This photo pretty much sums up how we feel on a very regular basis.

Photo by Matt Ives

These kids are trying to figure out the best way to spend our book budget.

Other inquiries include:
Setting up a sustainable school recycling system
How to create sustainable school tours for our visitors
Creating a community garden
Exploring the possibilities of a sustainable and ethical 1:1 model
Figuring out digital signage and other ways to broadcast our learning
Creating a healthy and sustainable school lunch ordering system
Managing and Creating an emergency procedures system

The wonderful thing about this learning is that we are as much in the problem posing phase of learning as the kids are. The teaching team (Me, Matt and Urs) spend many hours sharing,
"you'll never guess what the kids have come up with now!" stories. When planning the next day we often look very much like the kids in the above photo.

In only 6 weeks the kids have created so many google docs that they have to use collections to organise their work. It has got to the point that the children choose not to use paper as they need a tool that is collaborative, that can be shared with others outside of the school boundaries, and that can be worked on from home. Children organise documents and share them with other members of their group without specific instructions. The photocopier machine barely runs (I have used it two times this year)

Our multi platform environment has enabled the children to learn the best tool to use for the job. Where iPads were a most popular tool in the beginning of the year our Asus netbooks have grown to be the hot device around the hub. They are small and portable, they connect to the web, they access google docs and that's all we need. Apple tools continue to be the preferred tool for movie making.

Photo by Matt Ives
Making movies

In the past I have worried that a 1:1 model would threaten the important aspect of children conversing and problem solving with each other face-to-face in structures that Sugata Mitra refers to as Self Organised Learning Environments. I have observed, however, over the past two years that this interaction still occurs despite the children being behind a device each. With tools such as google docs they manage to have a written and spoken dialogue at the same time. This has meant that it is very difficult to differentiate between an oral language, writing or reading activity as all three are occurring simultaneously. I think that this is a good thing.

Photo by Matt Ives
Oral language, Reading, or Writing?

We (the teachers) tend to do the same thing when we are documenting and discussing our plans for the next school day. We do all our planning on google sites, docs, and calendar which we make available to everyone. Students know their learning responsibilities for the day via our (updated daily) 'What's On" google site. Our buildings are filled with wide open spaces and huge windows. We try to make our pedagogy just as transparent. Our hub blog works as another window into our learning where parents can view and comment from their homes and work. Extended family members from all over the world watch and comment also.

I think that there is a lot to be said for the power balance that comes with a new school. The teachers were as new to all this as the kids and we have had a great partnership for negotiating and establishing routines and systems. There is something very liberating about NOT hearing the phrase "but we've always done it this way". Our equivalent phrase would have to be the shrugged shouldered "I dunno?". It's empowering.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Confession: I catch and spread

If we were all to stay in the same place forever, would anything ever happen?

I have worked alongside some phenomenal educators (and children) all of whom have marvelous skills and traits that I am now able to share and cross pollinate with others.

Social networks are great for allowing us to share great ideas, resources, and learning experiences, but they do not capture the magic we see everyday when working alongside others.

The daily grind stuff, the stuff that is too hard to put into words, the stuff you learn from each other through osmosis. The behaviour management, the I-love-the-way-he-dealt-with-that, the little gap fillers. The way things are set up and introduced, the little games, the silly songs, the crafty craft, the tricks of the trade.

And when you go to another place you'll find that there are other amazing people who do things slightly differently that they have gained from others - and we can extract their goodness for next time.

Goodness carriers are in a very special situation - we can take all the great (and dispose of the not so great). The new children we teach are treated to the same you - but with a slightly tweaked operating system. You can't upgrade at the same school as easily - because the people are already there doing their great stuff. You need to take it and share it elsewhere (thus leaving a gap for another to come in and share their acquired goodness).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How well do we celebrate those with the lowest GPA? - my story.

Today I read this:

I wonder about the students who slipped through. I wonder about the ones who failed out.
I feel like they are the ones we should be talking to.
They are the ones who understand the impact of schooling. Enough of the smartest kids in the class always getting to answer the questions. I want to hear from the kids for whom school didn’t work. I want to hear from the alumni who feel cheated by the system. I want our schools to be judged by how well we respected the humanity of the student who graduated with the lowest GPA and how we celebrated and engaged his or her capacity within society.

Here is my story. I still remember the day the School Certificate results were posted in the mail. Our mail was often late and I had been fielding phone calls from friends all morning who were 'suicidal' because they got a B1 that had somehow damaged their otherwise pristine list of A1s and A2s. Being the person I was I would counsel them through it - suggesting conspiracy theories and talking them through the bell-curve that they seemed to not understand.

I had always had this sinking feeling that I might be dumb.  And this day it was about to become official.  Walking down the path toward the letter-box I fantasized that I would see a row of A1s - but really (I told myself) I was more likely to see a row of B1s (the passing grade) and that was fine.

I opened the letter-box door.

They were here.

There was a row.  A row of three C1s and two B2s.

"Are they here yet"
"Nope" I said cheerfully and retreated to my room.

How the hell is a 15 year old girl supposed to break this to their parents? What is she supposed to say when the phone rings and her best friend is on the other end asking her how she went? How can someone, so young, who is now officially a failure hold their head up high and get through the next day?

I do not remember anything else about that day. I do remember that things changed. 6th form is a serious blur.  I remember Geography Camp.  I remember an 'awards ceremony' on the bus on the way home where my teacher awarded me 'most promising geographer' ... as a cruel joke... and having to walk down the aisle of the bus to receive the fake award while the whole bus laughed at me.  I remember watching some amazing bands at the Empire bar. I remember being punched in the face in the Octagon. But I barely remember school.

By the end of 6th form I decided that I had had enough of Dunedin and went up to Christchurch to attend Hagley Community College where I was treated to a course of film and media studies and drama.  This was cool but I had lost faith in education by then. So I dropped out.

 What a school drop-out might look like

My new life was looking at the job boards at The Employment Service until I eventually got a job. It was fitting seat-belts into Japanese car imports, where I would work alongside guys who would have seriously demeaning conversations about what they did to their partners in the weekends, and I just worked in silence.  After my 12-week trial period was over I was called into the bosses office where he told me that they would not be renewing my contract as I did not fit in with the team.

So back to The Employment Service I went where I spotted the life changing notice - working as a volunteer for the Family Planning Association as a peer educator.  There were a team of us.  All deviants. We had teen prostitutes, a virgin, gay guys, gay girls, drug addicts, musicians, actors, anorexics, and me. We loved our job. We collaboratively wrote and delivered education programmes to 4th formers around Christchurch schools using the medium of Drama.  The muso/drama guy introduced me to his drama friends and got me a regular gig where we worked at nights at the then Performing Arts Centre. For the first time since those school cert results I felt like I was a success.

After two years the "Community Task Force" funding dried up for the FPA gig and the Performing Arts Theatre was demolished for the Tram Track. And that was the end of that. I had learned that I loved teaching and performing and that was what I wanted to do.

So I was now 20 years old which meant that my tertiary study pathway was no longer closed.  I headed back to Dunedin and applied for Teachers College (and didn't get in because of my School Cert marks).  In the meantime I did a Commerce degree (it was the easiest one for me to get in to) and then applied for Teachers College. I didn't get in because Management was not considered to be a relevant qualification. So I did an Arts degree in Gender Studies and applied for Teachers College. I didn't get in to the one year diploma course, but did get into the 3 year course (hooray).

I am who I am because of who you all are, and I thank you all for that. Perhaps I would not be the teacher I am now had I not had to go through this series of experiences to get here.  What I do believe I am qualified to say, however, is that our educational assessment system is fundamentally flawed. We  only celebrate those who meet a very narrow criteria.  In primary school we are getting to a point where we will only 'value' numeracy and literacy. We try to 'fix' people with numeracy and literacy.  Once kids demonstrate certain skills they are deemed 'standard'. If they can't do this we deem them as 'failures' and we will teach them more numeracy and literacy until they get it.  Where there are standards - there will always be those who don't reach them. 

Being told you are 'that person' from age 6 will not help you - but it will sit with you forever.  It wasn't the act of labeling me as a 'failure' that led me to where I am now.  It was that my passion was ignited by people who believed in me and that we had an authentic meaningful task to achieve.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Learner Voice - ask the kids!

This is a really interesting talk from Stephen Heppell in relation to Learner Voice.

In this talk Stephen highlights the importance of student voice. He shows how our learner's satisfaction with technology is increasing while at the same time their satisfaction with the curriculum (as we know it) is decreasing.

He shows compelling examples of self-learning from a child who has been ejected from the education system, the importance of allowing children to skype with other children around the world to share what kind of learning works, and he brings in fresh footage from a child-designed school. (I want a whiteboard surface table now!)

Given the acceleration of new stimulating technologies, how can we make our school seductive and places that children want to be?  How can we engage our kids so that they cannot wait to get to school each day? The answer is really quite simple. Ask the kids, and make them a part of the decision making process in all facets of education. Ensure their voice is heard.

Like the sound of it?

Invest 46 minutes of your time in this - (Fresh off the press from the 21st Century Learning Conference - Hong Kong)

Be Very Afraid

Stephen Heppell Saturday Keynote Address from Graeme Deuchars on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In spirit of Valentines Day - 6 of the best

Very often I will blog, say or tweet that I Love the great work that people do for education. In the spirit of Valentines Day here are my top 6!

Conrad Wolfram:

For opening my eyes around maths education. I especially LOVE his observations around our heavily weighted calculation-based curriculum.

Ken Robinson:
For a brilliant explanation on the need for a paradigm shift in education. I especially LOVE what he has to say about fixing our programs before we anesthetise our kids.

Elwyn Richardson:
A pioneer who has been fighting the good fight for years. I especially LOVE the things he has to say about purposeful authentic learning in this book

Ewan Mcintosh:
For the good things he has to say about education and sharing in this Ed Talk.

I especially LOVE the things he has to say about Problem Finding Vs Problem thinking.

Helen May:

Wonderful woman who inspired me to teach. I especially LOVE her for her latest book and insights in relation to National Standards. Check this out!

Sugata Mitra:
Most famous for his hole in the wall studies. I especially LOVE the way he cares about children in remote areas.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What I want my teachers to know about me

Allanah King has set up a challenge.  Check it our here

Five things I would like my teachers to know about me:

1. I like it if you take time to ascertain my knowledge and any preparation or experiences I may have on what you are attempting to teach me
2. I appreciate the use of multi-media
3. I would prefer it if you said "you don't know" rather than avoiding my questions
4. I don't generally take notes - but when I do it is so I can focus and engage with the material (let me do it - even if you have notes to 'hand out' at the end)
5. Gross generalisations turn me off - humour turns me on

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wolfram: Making Maths Real

Today Conrad Wolfram's TED talk was shared with me (thanks @traintheteacher).

If you are feeling frustrated by existing maths programmes I recommend you watch it.

I was impressed with the way he broke down maths into 4 parts:
  1. Posing the right questions
  2. Real world ------> Math Formulation
  3. Computation
  4. Maths Formulation -----> Real World, verification
He then suggests (I was leaping for joy at this point) that we stop wasting 80% of our students time on Step 3 and instead use computers for this.  This means that our students can spend more time on the more important steps (1, 3 and 4)

What I find particularly brilliant is his ability to counter-argue the arguments you have most likely been presented, and even stumped, with. For example, I have been confronted many times with the suggestion that kids need to learn 'the basics' first, and that is why they must do 'paper-work' before they can 'move on' to computer work.  Wolfram argues:
People confuse ... the order of the invention of the tools with the order in which they should use them for teaching. So just because paper was invented before computers, it doesn't necessarily mean you get more to the basics of the subject by using paper instead of a computer to teach mathematics.

Then the thing that really made me smile was that HE DID NOT GLOSS OVER ASSESSMENT!  He argues:

it's very important to get computers in exams. And then we can ask questions, real questions, questions like, what's the best life insurance policy to get? -- real questions that people have in their everyday lives. And you see, this isn't some dumbed-down model here. This is an actual model where we can be asked to optimize what happens  

It made me think about how many times I have seen people on social networks asking for advice on the best data plan for their mobile, or the best broadband plan for their homes and schools. I would much rather that kids had assessments with these kinds of questions. That way learners compare real information and make judgements based on their particular needs and situations instead of mindlessly computing things that are irrelevant.  

He leaves us with a challenge:
So I want to see a completely renewed, changed math curriculum built from the ground up, based on computers being there, computers that are now ubiquitous almost. Calculating machines are everywhere and will be completely everywhere in a small number of years. Now I'm not even sure if we should brand the subject as math, but what I am sure is it's the mainstream subject of the future. Let's go for it, and while we're about it, let's have a bit of fun...
As they say in theatre-sports land - "Yes, Let's!"

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cool team building art-based activity

This week,  as part of the induction process at Amesbury School, Mike ran a great team building activity. 

We were challenged with the task of creating a collaborative art piece.  The brief was to individually practice our favourite doodles and then come together to discuss and create a way to bring them all together.  As well as the awesome conversations that were had, here is what team Harakeke came up with...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Making connections with Elwyn Richardson

...an excerpt from my MIE wiki - but I think it stands alone :)

Making connections with Elwyn Richardson -

Another good influence and believer of authentic and non-standardized education introduced me to the work Elwyn Richardson. What I think is most striking is that the fantastic and motivating stories were written in the 1950s yet those of us using these ideas are considered to be 'innovative' and 'creative'. I am absolutely frustrated with the government's direction that is leading us away from Richardson's blissful, honest and authentic pedagogy. But, that aside, there is much to be gained from his reflections, insights, and beautiful examples of how he taught back in the day.

Where Richardson used the medium of Fine Art (pottery, lino and wood cutting) to create amazing language and mathematical experiences. I have found the same experiences using video. This is not intended for me to make the bold claim that 'I am like Richardson', but that it's not about what we are teaching but how we are teaching.

Where Richardson thrived in a rural environment where children observed birds and animals and harvested clay, us urbanised, suburban, (post)modernised counterparts can achieve the same. It is my intention to find these parallels to show that we can all achieve authenticity whether we are in a rural environment, purpose built 21st Century environment, or traditional cellular classroom. The point Richardson makes is not that students learn best with birds and clay but that students learn best with things that are relevant and accessible to them.

Other striking examples can be found in his book where children have meaningful learning conversations, learn in high-trust flexible learning environments, and peer assess each other.

One example he refers to is that his students were able to produce beautiful poetry and artworks about native birds and plants - but not from snakes. Why? They hadn't experienced snakes. This is in the same way that my students produced their best writing about how they felt about being robbed, but not so much in response to some arbitrary text in a standardised test.

For those who like the sound of Richardson, try this vid for starters.