What if…?

October 28, 2010 at 8:56 am | Posted in Education | 2 Comments

Have a read through the list below.

Think about each one.
Would it make a difference?
What sort of difference would it make?

  1. What if teachers could focus on the real issues of education rather than petty issues like school uniforms being worn incorrectly?
  2. What if we could teach what the students want, which is relevant to them, rather than focus on what is required to achieve in the next assessment?
  3. What if we didn’t have so much paperwork?
  4. What if all teachers embraced technology instead of reacting to it?
  5. What if all teachers could guide learning rather than drive learning?
  6. What if policy makers realised that, with so much information literally at our fingertips, it is more useful for students to learn effective searching/researching techniques than to memorise a whole lot of facts?
  7. What if teaching students how to think, question and learn was our primary goal?
  8. What if we spent more time celebrating success instead of worrying about the problems?
  9. What if all teachers shared more with each other – both what has worked for them and what hasn’t?
  10. What if we could help children keep their initial passion for learning?

These are just my thoughts. I have had to change my thinking and practice around some of them. In fact it is only recently that I have really become passionate about learning! It scares me that a teacher, such as myself, could be trying to encourage students to learn, when he was not excited to learn himself. I’m hopeful that I was one of the minority. I love learning now – and love teaching! I’m still challenging myself with some of the statements below. Feel free to agree or disagree with them, they are simply my thoughts at this time.

Assessment and teaching

October 27, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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Here’s an interesting video that sort of adds to my last post about assessment. I saw it first at The Answer Sheet.
It’s amazing how important assessment/data is to some…

Teaching for assessment vs teaching for learning

October 26, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment

final exam

Right now, here in New Zealand, we have two major things going on in relation to national assessment. We have the NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) revision with the revised standards to be assessed from 2011, and of course we have the 2010 roll out of National Standards for Years 1-8. If you are from New Zealand you will know that the NCEA has been in place now for about a decade. The revision is to bring the standards in line with the 2007 revised New Zealand Curriculum document (which incidentally also has to be used from 2010 onwards). So for teachers of Year 11-13 students, having a set of standards for students to be assessed against is not new. For teachers of Year 1-8 students this is new.

Anyway, this post is not about whether or not we should have standards-based assessment, and it is certainly not about my view of National Standards (which is a hot topic right now), but it is about assessment and/or learning.

I have heard a lot of talk that the introduction of National Standards will mean that teachers will start ‘teaching to the standard’. It’s so important to be reporting to parents on where their children are at against the standard, and then for the board to report to the MOE their results, that the only way a school/class/teacher can ensure that all the students can meet the standard is to ‘teach’ the standard. This is an example of teaching for assessment.

Now, I realise that there may be some things in standards that need to be taught on their own in order to ensure that students have the best opportunity to be working at or above the standard, however I strongly believe that teaching should be closely related to learning rather than assessment. My belief is that if we teach students in relevant contexts, a lot of what they need to know at a particular level will come out of the learning time, or can be drawn out by the teacher.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have student driven, just-in-time learning that is relevant and interesting. Where we did not have to worry about the ‘test’ (or other assessment). Where we could enjoy learning with our students, and then at the end of the topic, term or year we can go back and show that the student has demonstrated that they meet this standard, this standard and that standard. (Better yet – I’d be happy to have learning without the need for assessment, but that’s for another time perhaps.)

I’m not saying this idea is easy, or even possible right now, but I’m just throwing out some ideas (some of which have been suggested by colleagues). I would love to be able to spend time facilitating/guiding learning that has a point to our students – not just to gain credits or a qualification – and helps our students learn to think, question and learn.

I know that I’m still mulling over some of these ideas so this may or may not be the only post on this. I’m finding it so valuable to discuss these sorts of ideas with my colleagues though.

Image: dcJohn: Flickr

Relevant, just-in-time learning

October 19, 2010 at 11:06 am | Posted in Conferences, Education | 1 Comment
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The key theme for me, that came through the ulearn conference was about relevance. We need to ensure that what we are teaching has meaning; has a point for our students.

For many years (many) educators have taught things ‘just-in-case’ it is in a test or examination. However these things that are taught often have little meaning on their own.

Lane Clark, in her keynote, said two very important things:

Are we teaching for their future, or our past?

Teachers often bring in relevance at the end of a topic, when it’s finished.

We need to make the learning relevant from the start!

Lane pointed out that as adults we go into a project/research knowing the relevance – why we want to research it; what is the point. But for some reason, teachers often hold off with the relevance of a topic to the very end.

Why do we do this? Is it for control? I don’t know the answer, but I know that I’ve been guilty of doing it!

Relevant learning could include real-life or authentic learning. Immersing students in a real-life situation where questions can be generated and problems solved. This is not simply placing learning within a context, but actually placing the students in real-life learning situations.

I’ll leave you with this:
Is the teaching and learning that occurs in your class relevant to your students? Is the teaching and learning relevant to today and the future?

Ulearn 2010 – Day 3

October 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | Leave a comment
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Well after a spectacular conference dinner at the end of Thursday, things seemed a bit quieter on Friday with many people tired and recovering. Here are a few notes from the breakout sessions I attended and the final keynote. I was one of the tired ones so my notes ended up being a bit shorter and my tweets were also fewer! But here goes…

Breakout 5: Leigh Duncan & Waveney Bryant – Environmental education and ICT – an unlikely combination
  1. Garden to table programme:
  2. Teach students to grow, harvest and prepare food
    Positive influence of food choices

  3. Don’t hold back – teach from early on to use knives (chef knives etc) in the kitchen. (so that students are ready to go for it at year 3)
  4. Authentic, relevant learning occurring where kids grow food, cook food – then put into place at home as well!
  5. Kids go home buzzing after ‘garden-to-table’ programme – it shows that is effective and engaging!
  6. http://ee-ict-meadowbank.wikispaces.com/ – Meadowbank school wiki for environmental education.
Breakout 6: Derek Wenmoth – Future focused schools

I wish that this breakout had been earlier in the conference. Derek had so many good things to say but I didn’t manage to record them all.


  1. On the site of a future school. Some things to think about:
    1. · What would kids learn

      · How would they learn?

      · When would they learn?

      · Who would they learn with?

      · What would they learn on or with?

      · Where would they learn?

      · How will they/we know when they have learnt?

  2. We need to be thinking about educating for the future rather than educating in the future.
  3. “Organisations that are built to change have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.” – Lawler and Worley (2009)
  4. Learning should be part of the DNA of an organization/school. Not just students learning, but all learning!
  5. Educators need to speak to each other, bounce off ideas and draw from best practice. Share what we’ve got with each other!
Keynote 4: Professor Stephen Heppell

I’m not sure if there was a title to this keynote address. I certainly didn’t get one. Professor Heppell was humourus, relaxed and inspiring. In an unusual style he seemed to be chatting about education through retelling personal stories. It was a very effective presentation style. www.heppell.net

  1. Experience vs expertise – experience is so important. More than just writing/talking about it – it’s actually practised!
  2. Stop talking about 21st Century learning. (We’re 10% into the century!). It’s difficult to talk about what schools could be like in the 21st century when we’re already well into it!
  3. Every turned off device is a turned off child”.
  4. Let the children go for it! Don’t limit them with our limitations.
  5. UK Minister of Education says that teachers need to be given professional freedom – ministry needs to ‘let go’. (a bit different to ours in New Zealand!)

That’s 5 key points for this keynote, however I want to add a couple of quotes from Heppell himself:

“When people come to their senses and stop talking about standardized tests…”

PDF = pretty dull format


So that’s the end of ULearn 2010. It was a fantastic conference and I really hope to attend next year! Over the next few days I hope to reflect a bit more about the conference and get down some general thoughts or key ideas that seemed to be coming through from the keynote speakers (and also through some of the breakout sessions.

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