Monday, April 30, 2012

An excellent online resource for learning Mandarin

I have found the Learn Mandarin Online to be an extremely effective resource for learning Mandarin.  It's well worth a look if you are aiming to develop your ability in the language that non-Chinese from all over the world are clamoring to learn.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Five key lessons from PISA to create a quality education system

These five key lessons are from top performing education systems: Shanghai, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. (those identified by PISA surveys as success stories):

Lesson 1
First, make education a priority. A strong performer is a country that has made education one of its flagships. Yet, that alone doesn’t get you very far.

In some countries, students are separated into different tracks at an early age because of the erroneous notion that only a subset of children can achieve world class standards. However, PISA shows that those systems tend to be fraught with large social disparities and freeze such disparities over time. In top performing systems, most students achieve high standards.

Lesson 2
Second, don’t be shy. High performing education systems do not refrain from setting out clear and ambitious standards. They are focused on the acquisition of complex, higher order thinking skills, which they align across the system. As a result, everyone has a shared sense of what is required to move on to the next academic level, in terms of content and performance. Students know what they have to do to realise their dreams and they put in the work that is needed to achieve them.

Lesson 3
Third, teachers’ quality pays. Strong education systems pay careful attention to the profile of their teachers. Much like corporations, they make sure that their teaching force is the best.

Careful consideration must go into making the teacher profession attractive; recruiting and selecting teachers; rewarding and training them on the job; recognizing the best performers and helping those who have merits but are struggling to grow.

Lesson 4
Fourth, the importance of autonomy. High performing systems provide considerable discretion to school heads and school faculties in determining content and the curriculum. Indeed, PISA shows that autonomy is closely related to school performance, provided that this is achieved under conditions of effective accountability. That said, we do not see a performance advantage of privately managed schools, once social background is accounted for.

Lesson 5
Last but not least, equity is key. World class education systems deliver high quality learning consistently across the entire education system. To this end, they invest educational resources where they can make the most difference: by attracting the most talented teachers into the most challenging classrooms, by making effective spending choices that prioritise the quality of teachers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A key reason schools should use iPads instead of Macs

This article highlights a key reason why schools should look towards iPads instead of MacBooks if embracing cloud computing is the direction the school is looking to take.  The article starts:

'iCloud is one of the most blatant examples of Apple neglecting loyal Mac users in the rush to embrace the iPad'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Another perspective on charter schools

This article from Fast Company Magazine discusses charter schools in New Orleans, where 71% of students attend these schools of this type.  The article starts:

'With 71% of New Orleans schoolchildren attending charter schools, the atmosphere is ripe for testing new educational ideas. Enter 4.0 Schools, a nonprofit incubator that helps turn teachers into entrepreneurs'.

It's interesting to note that the article states:

'While charters' performance as measured by student test scores both nationwide and in the city has been mixed, they undeniably increase the local appetite for trying new educational ideas'. 

On reading the article you will find that many of the 'initiatives' highlighted have been in place in New Zealand state schools for a considerable time, clearly demonstrating that New Zealand doesn't need charter schools to be innovative in education.

Click here to read the article in full

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pasi Sahlberg on the success of Finnish education

This is an interesting presentation from Pasi Sahlberg on the Finnish education system and why it is so successful.  The presentation relates to Sahlberg's book 'Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?'

Teachers deserve respect and admiration

This is an interesting article from today's New Zealand Herald.  It discusses how teachers in New Zealand aren't given the credit they deserve, and later goes on to identify key factors in the very successful Finnish education system.

Click here to read the article.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The balancing act of nurturing talent without being a pushy parent

I really enjoyed this opinion piece by Megan Nicol Reid from today's Sunday Star Times.  It discusses the balance act of providing opportunities and having dreams for our children without crossing over the boundary to becoming a pushy parent.  Here's a small piece from the article:

'As a parent it worries me that you could miss their calling. What if you don't sign them up for that extra-curricular activity that could lead to fame and riches ... well, personal fulfilment at least. My son would like to do soccer, rugby, drums, tennis, karate, kendo, bmx-ing, T-ball, basketball, golf, surf lifesaving and cubs. I've found myself limiting him to two a week'. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Apple TV + flat screen tv + iPad = a great interactive whiteboard option

This is a fantastic article on the use of an Apple TV, flat screen TV and an iPad to create an interactive whiteboard at a great price.  To read the article, click here.

Google + makeover

Interesting to see Google + has had a makeover.  I personally like the new look, that you can see on the Lakeview School page. 

You may also notice that we still only have a limited audience, with many yet not appreciating what Google + has to offer.  However, the lack of interest seems to be only a local thing, as there are 170,000,000 who have signed on to the service.

To find out more about the makeover, check out this article from today's New Zealand Herald.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to learn Mandarin online

This is the best resource that I have seen for learning a language online.  If you are looking for a fantastic resource to support your class programme check out

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to SUCCEED at anything

I really like this acronym from the Jolt Challenge programme.  To get better at anything, you need to:

C-onsistently and
E-ach and
E - very

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Learning online with MIT

This Google Talk highlights a fantastic resource, the online courses that are provided for free by MIT.  To find out what it's all about, enjoy this presentation.

Here's an example of what's available.  I'm looking at learning Mandarin.  I searched the open source database and found this.  I now have access to an online course, complete with worksheets and audio clips.  The cost to me to do the course is nothing; absolutely free!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to become a learning lab for next practice in education

The ideas below were shared by Simon Breakspear in the Wellington regional school leadership conference that was held at Te Papa last week.  

New Zealand needs to look at being a learning lab for next practice globally.
5 key strategies
1. Question in the pursuit of better.
  • Smart may have the answers but stupid has all the interesting questions
  • Smart has the plans, stupid has the stories.
  • Similar outcomes every year means that the system is designed to ensure that outcome.

2. Embrace pemanent beta mode
  • Beta - it's never finished / it's always improving.
  • The tech world is always in beta.
  • The school should always be in beta mode. We are always looking to improve, to make things better.

3. Harness your network
  • Most good ideas come from networks.
  • RSA presentation on where good ideas come from.
  • Great ideas spend a lot of time in the partial hunch mode.
  • Hunches in bunches create great ideas. Take hunches from different people to create great ideas.
  • Chance favours the connected mind.
  • Connectivity now makes it easier to create ideas in conjunction with others.
  • Most innovation happens in the networked non market zone.
  • Performance pay leads to us keeping ideas to ourselves., therefore stopping the network.
  • Creative commons - we can use it, but don't make money of it and acknowledge my work.
  • Could Wellington be the Silicon Valey of Educatlon?

4. Develop a bias towards action
  • Just get going before it all pans out. Don't let the committee kill progress.
  • What are five actions that we could take to get going in the next week? The steps can be very simple.
  • Google - launch, learn reiterate.
  • Get people out there bold enough to test things.
  • The person who started flickr started off wanting to make an online social game. The photo sharing became the focus because this is what people wanted.
  • Google puts out the minimal viable product - the MVP.

5. Reframe failure
  • Fail fast, fail forwards.
  • Getting everyone to the same standard requires different processes for all children. This isn't the same for industry; getting a Coke can to the same standard requires only one system.
  • We often need to ensure failure to enjoy success.