Friday, July 29, 2011

Repeat to remember - more on Brain Rule number 5

Repetition is important to remember something.  If a certain type of information isn't repeated within 30 seconds, it disappears.  If it is repeated, it moves into working memory, where it will stay for an hour or more.  If it isn't then repeated within this period, it will again fade.  The important think here is the time frame; don't expect to repeat something quickly three times to remember it, repeat something over an extended period and it is more likely to be embedded in your memory.

Check out this brief presentation to embed this post in your own memory, then repeat what you see, then watch it again in 60 minutes.

How to remember something - or make someone else remember

Brain Rule number five focuses on short term memory.  A key point that is highlighted in this rule is the necessity to ensure that you understand the meaning of what you are trying to learn.  As teachers, this obviously means that we need to ensure that students understand the meaning of the content covered, otherwise it simply becomes a case of trying to remember the shape of letters or numbers in, for example, a word or number problem. 

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, explains it as follows:

'If you don't know what the learning means, don't try to memorize the information by rote and pray the meaning will somehow reveal itself.  And don't expect your students will do this either, especially if you have done an inadequate job of explaining things.  This is like looking at the number of diagonal lines in a word and attempting to use this strategy to remember the words.'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Iconic education leaders give their advice on creating a great education system

This article comes from today's New Zealand Herald.  It shares the ideas of two iconic New Zealand educational leaders, Sir John Graham and John Taylor, on what should be done to get the best out of school and country.  The article starts:

'The following suggestions for debate and action are based on our experiences and observations as secondary school teachers and principals over the past 50 years.'

'We appreciate that times have changed and that, as revealed in the recent NZ Institute publication, "More Ladders, Fewer Snakes", the under performance of our disadvantaged youth in our schools is as much a societal as an educational problem, and a key cause of NZ's being anchored in the bottom half of the OECD.'

In brief, the five key factors for improvement identified are:
  1. We need to be far more pro-active and bold in attracting, retaining and rewarding high quality teachers.
  2. The role and importance of the Principal needs to be more effectively recognised, supported and rewarded.
  3. NCEA should be fixed to make it more acceptable to, and adopted by, all secondary schools throughout NZ.
  4. The Board of Governance structure set up under Tomorrow's Schools 20 years ago should be reviewed and enhanced.
  5. There should uniformly higher expectations and insistence on basic disciplines and respect for the rules

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What to teach a child about how to be successful

This TED presentation is a condensed three minutes of a talk that Richard St. John gives to high school students that usually lasts for two hours.  He does do a fairly good job of getting his point across in the limited time, going over the eight steps to become successful:

Passion - Be driven by passion.  Do it for love, not money.  The money will come anyway!
Work - It's all hard work.  Nothing comes easily.
Focus - Focus on one thing.
Persist - The number one reason for our success!  Persist through failure.
Ideas - Listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, problem solve, make connections.
Good - To be successful put your nose down in something and get good at it! 
Push - Push yourself physically and mentally.  Push through shyness and self-doubt.
Serve - Serve others something of value.

To see what Richard St. John means, watch the presentation.

Rupert Murdoch's views on education

Rupert Murdoch might not be flavor of the month right now, and deservedly so.  However, this doesn't mean that he hasn't a useful thing or two to say,  This is certainly the case with his speech on education at the G8 Forum in Paris.  Murdoch makes a lot of interesting and valid points that you can read by clicking here.

One point that he does make that I have often read is the following:

'Think about that. In every other part of life, someone who woke up after a fifty-year nap would not recognize the world around him.

In medicine, doctors who once diagnosed patients with tools they could fit in their leather bags would be astonished to find their 21st century counterparts using CAT-scans and MRIs.

In finance, brokers who once issued old-fashioned share certificates have been replaced by online brokerages allowing people to trade across the world at any hour of the day.

In my industry, editors who put out newspapers the night before now marvel at the sight of readers getting news delivered to cellphones and tablets.

But not in education. Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution. The person who woke up from that fifty-year nap would find that today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age: a teacher standing in front of a roomful of kids with only a textbook, a blackboard, and a piece of chalk.'

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am a big fan of the use of technology to support education.  However, when I read what Rupert Murdoch highlights in the above excerpt I think to myself that all of the advancements that he gives in the fields of medicine, finance and news (interesting to see where advancements with the last two have led to lately!), have come about and been developed by those who have been through an 'old fashioned' education system.  This is certainly something to ponder before significant changes are made to the way in which we teach and expect our students to learn.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Schools logging on to online learning

The Sunday Star Times today featured an article (which, ironically, I can't find on the online version) about small New Zealand schools taking advantage of online learning opportunities.  The gist of the story is that small rural schools that aren't able to physically provide the teachers for a broad range of subjects, are able to provide online courses in these subject areas.

The upside, according to parents and students, is that it is more motivating to learn through an online environment.  This coincides with a feature article from the other New Zealand Sunday paper, The New Zealand Herald.  Deborah Coddington highlights the underachievement of many New Zealand students.  She suggests that underachievers should be provided with a broader range of strategies to motivate them, one of which being online learning.

At my own school we support class programmes with online strategies, two of which being for Te Reo Maori and French.  The sites are an excellent way to reinforce class content and to prepare for upcoming units of work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Replacing textbooks with digital media

With the current debate about Orewa College adding the iPad to the stationery list for Year 9 students in 2012, it's interesting to see what is happening in other countries, particularly South Korea, as outlined in this article from the Associated Press that appeared on the Stuff news website this morning.  The article starts:

'Outside the classroom a hot summer day beckons, but fourth-grade teacher Yeon Eun-jung's students are glued to their tablet PCs as they watch an animated boy and a girl squabble about whether water becomes heavier when frozen'.

Click here to read the article in full.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Google Sites v Wikispaces

I attended a course today in which I ran a training session on Google Sites.  My presentation followed an earlier one on Wikispaces, with both presentations aimed at introducing teachers to a means of having an online presence.

Having experimented with both I have a strong preference for Google Sites.  I find the whole interface more user friendly and intuitive.  My preference is reflected in the fact that during the Wikipedia presentation I found that I had already set up a long forgotten Wikispace for my school, before moving onto Sites, which is the platform that I use for our school website and student portfolios.

Another factor that influences my preference is the whole Google package, with Sites tied up with Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, and so much more.

However, I do acknowledge that there are schools that are doing fantastic things with Wikispaces, one in particular being Apiti School.  Whatever your preference is, it is important that something is used, as an online presence is a great way to share what is going on in your school.

For anyone interested in using sites, I have set up a number of lesson plans to help you get started.  The lessons are specific to my school's Google Apps accounts, but from about step 6 for each lesson plan you will find that they are applicable to any Google Account.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why we should use mobile devices in the classroom

The Pew Internet@American Life Project has completed research that has found that American consumers are adopting smartphones - faster than just about any hi-tech product in history.  The research has found that many households are now using smartphones instead of computers for Internet access.

In my own useage I have found that I am now using my iPod touch as my main means of checking emails and surfing the Net.  I have also found that creating content on the smaller devices gets easier the more I do it; thumb typing isn't as difficult as I though it would be on small touch screens.  Additionally, apps that have traditionally been available only for laptops and PCs are now available for smartphones and mobile devices; three examples being iMovies, Pages (for Macs) and Google Docs.

To me this sends a clear message that schools who want to be seen as game changes need to move away from the big expensive devices and lead the way with mobile technology.  There are two key advantages in doing so: buying power - more devices per child (three iPod touches for the price of one cheap laptop), and the fact that children exposed to the mobile way of thinking and working are being better prepared for ICT usage in the future.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brainrule # 4: How to keep children's attention

This brain rule is particularly relevant to teachers.  The way to keep a child's attention is to understand that they will only pay attention for 10 minutes.  The same applies to adults; I recall many occasions in which I have drifted off in meetings or during powerpoint presentations.  According to Brain Rule # 4 I needed to be refocussed every 10 minutes.

The secret to refoccusing your class or audience is to do so in a way that stays with the topic or theme of what is being taught.  A good example of this for me was when I was on a Web 2 course for principals.  The presenter broke the presentation up with the fantastic You Tube clip, 'The Book' (a great choice, as most in attendance were ICT strugglers)


Without being aware of the rule I have applied it myself in a presentation that I did on the always enthralling topic of assessment triangulation / overall teacher judgement.  Checking through the presentation you will see that I have added clips that are related to the topic in an attempt to keep the attention of those I was presenting to.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Google making us stupid?

On the 1st of January I completed a post titled 'Does the Internet make you stupid?'  I was interested to see a similar article in today's Dominion Post titled 'Web frees up brain power for analysis'.  However, the thing that caught my attention for the article was the flyer on the front page 'Is Google making you stupid?'

As I stated in my earlier post, I believe that we could become little more than over reliant dumb terminals if we're not too careful.  The brain isn't like a computer with a limited memory.  The more we use it, the more it grows and the more powerful it gets. 

The Internet is a fantastic tool, but there is an even more impressive one between your ears!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

30 day class challenge

Watch this TED presentation and be inspired to try something new in your classroom for 30 days.

If you do a 30 day class challenge, it would be great if you could comment on this post to let me and other readers know what it is.  My 30 day class challenge will be to take a photo of my class every day for the first 30 days of Term 3, starting on the 1st of August.  You will be able to see the photos on my class blog.

Schools need to embrace cloud computing

I read an article in yesterday's Dominion Post titled 'Small firms need to get heads in a cloud'.  The article starts:

'A survey of small businesses in New Zealand has shown a "surprising" degree of ignorance about cloud computing technologies available for businesses.'  (click here to read the full article)

I would argue that 'small businesses' could be replaced with the word 'schools' in the article.  I recently attended the Interface Magazine Expo Day in Palmerston North.  In a straw poll raise of hands, a vast majority of attendees signaled that cloud computing was something that they hadn't yet introduced in their schools.

The good news is, it's never to late to start.  The bad news is, if schools don't start soon a large number of students will be as ignorant as their teachers!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Plus for my School - I can't wait!

I am really looking forward to introducing Google Plus at Lakeview School.  I believe that the implications for sharing and support are huge.  One possible example could be to set up times in which teachers will be on line and avialble to support students outside of regular school hours; for example, a regular 5pm to 6pm weekly slot to help with homework.

For an introduction to the Google Plus project, click here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Give me a pushy parent over a neglectful parent anyday!

This article from the New Zealand Herald comments on how gifted children are susceptible to becoming anxious when their pushy parents fill up their schedules with too much extra curricular activities.

My feelings are that I would much rather see this type of 'abuse' than the other extreme, with parents who neglect their children by not providing them with any extra stimulus whatsoever.  However, there are some interesting points in the article, which starts:

'Gifted children often feel pressure to over-achieve in order to excel later in life - and teachers and parents are often responsible.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Phonics - not the answer to teaching reading?

This article from The Dominion looks at research that demonstrates that the explicit teaching of phonics beyond a certain point is not beneficial to the long term reading development of children.  The article starts:

'Having children "sound out" words is not the best way to teach them to read, a new study says. 

A joint project by Victoria and Otago universities has found that learning through phonics, or "sounding out" words, does not help children to develop their reading after the first few weeks of school.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All brains are wired diffferently

I have just finished reading Brain Rule number three in John Medina's excellent researched based book, Brain Rules.  The key point with this brain rule is that all brains are wired differently, develop in different ways and at different rates.

Taking school children into account, the idea of national standards does not fit comfortably with this rule.  A stringent set of aged based standards assumes that we all develop brain wise in the same way.  John Medina uses only scientific evidence based research in Brain Rules to negate this.  The following statement from his website highlights the point I am trying to emphasise:

'Regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people. The brains of school children are just as unevenly developed as their bodies. Our school system ignores the fact that every brain is wired differently. We wrongly assume every brain is the same.'

I think it's time to look at the education of our children in a more scientific way.  I strongly believe that this isn't the case with national standards, which to be seem to be little more that fear mongering that goes against PISA findings which rates New Zealand's education system as one of the very best in the world.