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.

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.

Problem Solving vs Problem Finding

I have spent the summer in a bit of a pedagogical turmoil. I have fantastic new challenges ahead and an incredible opportunity to work in an incredible space with incredible people and children.

I am, I guess, about to live the dream but I am not naive enough to think that it is going to be an easy road.

I have a sense of what I want to achieve but it is sometimes difficult to put it into words, so I have spent the summer sniffing around online, meeting up with great people, and even reading (!) in the hope of 'going in' equipped. Sometimes I worry that my learning experiments could be too much.

Today I happened to come across a TEDx talk by Ewan McIntosh that not only motivated me, but simplified my quest against the traditional standards-based education that has been troubling me for sometime. He delicately shifts problem solving to problem finding and, oh, what a difference it makes. The images of children sharing and celebrating their learning brought a sense of absolute delight.

It was one of those moments when all the thought bubbles circling around in my head stopped.

I am sure as time goes on the bubbles will be shaken up again and will start to float around looking for more problems to find, but for the time being I feel content. Not because I can rest, but because I have more of a direction, focus and plan about what I can do.

pic attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubbles_3D.jpg

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why should the fat kid have to deal with this crap - surely life's hard enough!

Sometimes something can be so ridiculous that it can actually help your case.  The recent NZ Herald article Mark students on weight - diet guru is one of these.

In an attempt to cure the obesity epidemic  diet 'guru' Pierre Dukan "suggests that students in their last two years of high school be awarded extra marks if they manage to maintain an acceptable Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight".

Now initially this put me into a bit of a spin. There was the obvious argument:

Do we really want to create a society so standard that we all think the same and now look the same?

The way we are going about education is deeply flawed, when some new problem comes along we mindlessly add it to the prescription of learning. We saw this mistake being made with ICT where separate stand-alone computer suites and learning programmes popped up all over the place as opposed to intergrating ICTs into the learning.

Adding things to the prescription is not the answer - a personalized, flexible, integrative, approach would address all of the issues. Personalised learning addresses issues that administrators and 'experts' could never imagine because personalised education enables the essence of education:

Teaching people to feel a richness in themselves, a belief in themselves and to learn about themselves 
(Elwyn Richardson)

Now while we're on the subject of obesity - could standardised testing be a contributing factor? When cramming for standardised tests the process is so much more enjoyable if you're ramming a few twinkies down your throat and washing them down with some sugary fizzy.  So why not authentically educate our children so that they did not have to (literally) sit and cram for standardized tests and instead learn about and believe in themselves?

However, this article provides good evidence that we can not (and should not) measure people using standardised tests! BMI is a great example.  If we were to 'grade' children on their BMI it would be as ridiculous as grading children academically using a multi-choice test (oh wait, we do that!).  Just like our academic tests BMI does not work for all ethnicities, it forces people into gendered roles, it is not recommended for children, and of course does not work for pregnant women (last time I looked it was okay for pregnant people to be educated - I hope that is still the case). The All-Blacks' BMI has (shock horror) risen over the years. Will high BMI rugby players be allowed to Graduate?

It is also important to note that diet 'guru' Pierre Dukan is simply a business man selling his high protein diet to celebrities and to anyone else that will listen. Perhaps John Key could fly him over to New Zealand and assist him in opening up a Charter School?