Monday, December 30, 2013

Instagram and Twitter age limit frustrations

I find it very frustrating that there are age limits for some Internet resources that could be so valuable in a primary school class. I had hoped to set up student accounts for Twitter and Instagram as a means of students connecting with their families and teachers, but have since found that there is a 13 plus age requirement for both services. I am hoping that this can be overcome with parental consent and setting up a family account.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to learn the ukulele

I have been learning the ukulele for a while now and have made pretty good progress through using a number of web resources.  However, I do need to jump from site to site to find what I need, and have not, until now, found the one site that is free and is really good for a beginner.  The site I am recommending for beginners is on You Tube; it's The Ukulele Teacher.  Click here to check it out.

A great site to learn Te Reo Maori

I have just completed series 2 of the Toku Reo Te Reo Maori programme and fully endorse the resource as a great way of learning one of New Zealand's three official languages.  To access to progamme for your own learning, click here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Back blogging - Blogger v Twitter

I am re-starting this blog. I had moved to Twitter, but for the purpose of sharing ideas of my own, and commenting on the ideas of others, I believe that blogging is a more effective format.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Now on Twitter @SchPrincipal

This blog has now been replaced with my new Twitter feed, @SchPrincipal.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Inspire children to read

This feature article from today's New Zealand Herald on children and reading is very interesting.  It starts:

'The most influential person in my life was my sixth-form history teacher. He repeatedly emphasised that absolutely everything is interesting. As there were only six pupils - our fellow "students" mostly gone at 15 into the labour-short Hutt factories - we had virtually personal tutorage and quickly bolted through the syllabus'.

I've taught in schools for the last 17 years and I strongly believe that kids love reading.  Visit any class during a library visit and you'll see children engaged in and excited about books.  As teachers and parents we simply need to make sure that we provide children the opportunity to be immersed in books.

To read the article in full, click here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ridiculous research!

I came across this in today's New Zealand Herald. It basically states that students of higher ability will do better in lower performing schools. The problem here is that this depends on schools having under performing students for the limited few of high performers to benefit.

The articles starts:

Parents are being warned against sending their children to the best-performing school in the neighbourhood if they want their children to do well.  

Research from the London School of Economics shows they could be more confident and therefore successful if they came top of the class in a worse school which does not do so well in tests or exams.

To read the article in full, click here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

iWork, iPhoto and iMovie for free - a game changer in education!

While most people were excited about the announcement of the two new iPhones in the Apple event last week, the news that I found most exciting was the announcement of iWork, iMovie and iPhoto being free. This really does make the iPad an even more obvious choice for schools.

The iPad has always been a great tool for accessing content, now it is a truly great (and affordable) tool for students to create and share content too!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The value of content knowledge

This is a really interesting article from today's New Zealand Herald. The article discusses the lack of focus on content knowledge in The New Zealand education system. The article starts:

'New Zealand's school curriculum has been hollowed out of knowledge as academic learning is increasingly abandoned for a misguided focus on skills and the process of learning, an academic claims.'  

I agree with a lot of what Professor Rata has to say. The human brain is not like a computer hard drive with limited capacity, rather, the more it contains, the more it can contain. From a computer analogy perspective, we want our students to be more like MacBook Pros, as opposed to a Chromebooks.

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The success of the Finnish education system; a reoccurring topic!

Check out this article from today's New Zealand Herald.  It's about he success of the Finnish education system, with some insight as to how the level of success is achieved.  The article starts:

'I'm a bit in love with Finland. Or at least its education system. I've never been there but I'm enamoured with it after reading an excerpt from a new book called How Do Other Countries Create Smarter Kids?'

To read the article in full, click here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Preparing today's students for their future careers

Here's another interesting article from Fast Company Magazine.  The article looks to the future to identify eight possible future careers (that don't currently exist).  To find out what they are, click here.

Are our students going to be ready for these possible futures, or will educators keep doing what we've always done, because that is what we know how to do?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to make children happy (and more successful at school)

We want our students to be happy, because happy students are more likely to be engaged students, with engagement leading to higher levels of achievement.  Check out this article from the Fast Company website.  It includes 10 scientifically proven ways to make us happy.  All are things that could easily be done, either at school or home. For those children who we feel don't get the backing from home that we would like, most could be done at school alone.

To read the list, click here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A possible future for education

This is an article I did for a course I'm doing for my Masters in Education.  It's an article written from a future perspective on what could happen in education.

Students Take Over the 'Classroom'
Teachers are a thing of the past; children have taken over the classroom to design their own learning programmes.

Education has changed a lot in recent times; students are no longer following a timetable and lesson plans set by their teacher within the four walls of a classroom.  They are now planning their own learning and doing it anywhere; at home, in the local library, or even in the park on a sunny afternoon!

Since the introduction of online learning programmes and the availability inexpensive hardware to access content, there has been a significant change in the way that many students are going about their learning.

With the nationwide availability of ultra fast broadband and inexpensive throwaway mobile learning tools, personalized learning is available to just about anyone who chooses this means of education.  However, there are 'losers' in this story; those teachers and educators who didn't prepare for the future back as far as 2013 and start to up-skill themselves and future-proof their schools to meet the needs of the next generation of learners.  The teachers and schools who saw where education was heading, and took the time to participate in professional development, are now in high demand to plan learning environments to meet the needs of the independent learner.

This news is significant and newsworthy as it shows how what was once seen as the only way of educating students, this being in a traditional school environment, can change through the use of new technology and a change of mindset.  Other organisations need to beware and forewarned; if it can happen in schools, it can happen in hospitals, the armed services; nowhere is 'safe' from the growing reach of new technologies.

Back in the early part of the century many aspects of using computers and ICT technology were quite complicated, often beyond the reach of primary school children.  A significant change happened with the introduction of the iPad and the app system that ran alongside it.  Since then technology has become increasingly accessible to even the youngest child.  No longer were children required to know complicated computer code; they now had access to a huge range of learning tools at the press of a button.

Around the same time as the iPad was introduced there also came a wealth of online courses that enabled students to participate in personalized learning programmes.  Remember the Khan Academy?  At the time it seemed to be groundbreaking, but only a few 'tech savvy  teachers were prepared to use it in the own classrooms.  Now teachers who don't utilize online programmes are seen as old fashioned relics who are trying to hold onto a system that is long past it's use by date.

Children are now able to design their own school curriculum with the aid of online tutors and quality interactive online learning programmes.  Children are working at a pace that suites them, and are no longer having to wait for their slower paced peers to catch up with them before moving on to a new concept. Virtual classrooms are now being set up all over the world, with New Zealand students in the same 'class' as children from Switzerland, Argentina, South Africa and anywhere else there are others with similar learning needs.  Students are now truly 'global independents' who are able to participate in their learning at anytime that suites them, not just simply between the hours of 9.00am and 3.00pm.

There hasn't been a new school built in New Zealand since 2020, and many schools are losing students in droves to online learning environments.  This has led to huge cost savings for the Ministry of Education, with funds now being targeted directly to teaching and learning, and away from bricks, mortar, administration and auxiliary staff wages.  This has enabled the Ministry to fund resources for every child moving to online schools, meaning that the latest technology isn't only available for those families who can afford it.

There are some who oppose the move towards student centered online learning.  Members of the Luddite School System have gone on record stating that children are losing their ability to interact with others in a normal face-to-face way.  The Luddite Charter School System strictly forbids the use of any modern technology in their classrooms, preferring their students take part in teacher led, practical hands-on activities with other children in their age group.

It will be interesting to see which education approach will win out in the long term.  However, at this point of time the move towards student centered online learning environments is attracting more students everyday.  It is clear that those who saw this type of learning as a possibility back as far as 2013 have had the advantage of being prepared for the future that has now happened.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'Six things kids should learn...'

This article appeared in today's Stuff website; six things that should be taught in schools:

1. Driving
2. Finance
3. Democracy
4. Real computer skills: 
5. First aid
6. Swimming
What do you think?
To read the article in full, click here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What it takes to be successful with ICT implementation in a school

This video contains a number of interesting points about what it takes to be successful in implementing ICT strategies and policy within a school.  It's only a little over four minutes, certainly well worth a look.  Click here to watch.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Schools divided along wealth lines

This is an interesting article from today's New Zealand Herald re the socio-economic divide in New Zealand schools. The article starts:

New Zealand schools have less of a mix of rich and poor students than in the past, a new report shows.
Principals have reported the growing division, and say some parents are driving their children large distances to avoid local schools.

To read the article in full, click here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why students should learn to play chess

I have recently started a chess club in my school.  I am looking to extend this to teaching chess to the new entrant class (five year olds) that I teach in for one day a week.  This article reinforces my belief that a chess in schools programme could be extremely beneficial to students, even as young as five years of age.

Here's a key paragraph from the article:

'What the elite private academy and the inner-city public school both know is that "Chess makes you smart," a slogan of the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF). A growing body of research is showing that chess improves kids' thinking and problem-solving skills as well as their math and reading test scores'. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The pressure to succeed in Chinese education

This is an interesting article on the pressure to succeed in Chinese education. The article starts:

Every year, police road blocks are set up around schools and nearby construction sites are ordered to fall silent as the country is plunged into two days of "Gaokao fever".
This year, 9.15 million Chinese high school students are sitting the notoriously tough university entrance exam.

To read the article in full, click here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why we should keep practicing

This is a great and timely article about the benefits of practice.  Here's the key message:

“The message from this study is that in order to perform with less effort, keep on practicing, even after it seems as if the task has been learned,” said Ahmed. “We have shown there is an advantage to continued practice beyond any visible changes in performance.”
Practice works.  Just ask Ray Allen.

To read the article in full, click here.

To see concrete evidence of how practice has been so beneficial to Ray Allen, watch the You Tube clip below of Allen's under pressure, and effectively series winning, three point shot from the NBA finals earlier in the week:  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Four words that will vastly improve learnng!

Four words that will vastly improve learning:

'These people are special'.

To find out more, read this article from the author of The Talent Code, Dan Coyle.  The areticle starts:

'Talent identification is the holy grail of sports, business, parenting, and education. We dream of having the magical ability to quickly and accurately assess who is destined to succeed; to sort the contenders from the pretenders'.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

IT classrooms of the future

It's all very well to have one-to-one classrooms with students using ICT devices.  The most important factor is how the resources are being used; are the tasks being done on ICT devices simply the same tasks that could be using traditional resources, or are students being introduced to a whole new learning dimension that are reliant on them having access to iPads, teblets, netbooks, etc?

Here's a take on IT classrooms of the future from today's New Zealand Herald.  The article starts:

'Students and parents give their blessings to new e-learning computer technology

Meet the classrooms of the information technology haves and have-nots.
Marshall Laing Primary School, a decile-six multi-cultural school in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill, has two pilot classes based on the increasingly popular Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) electronic classroom'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to teach Mandarin using Google Plus

I have recently started a Mandarin language teaching programme using Google Plus.  For an overview of the process click here to view a Google presentation.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More from Sir Ken Robinson - How to escape education's Death Valley

I have posted two previous TED presentations from Sir Ken Robinson, both of which have been entertaining, informative and funny.  Here's his latest, I am sure you won't be disappointed!

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What do children need to succeed? GRIT!

This from the TED website:

'Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success'.

To find out more about grit, watch the six minute video below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mandarin language programmes in New Zealand schools

Here is an interesting editorial from the New Zealand Herald.  It is very reaffirming to those schools in New Zealand who are implementing Mandarin language programmes for students.  The editorial starts:

'The drums are beating for more children to learn Mandarin. The Prime Minister wants more pupils to consider it. Education expert Wendy Pye goes further. She wants it to be compulsory for all New Zealand primary schools to offer children a chance to learn Mandarin. Compulsion would be a step too far. But it is not difficult to understand why there should be every encouragement for children to learn the language'.

To read the editorial in full, click here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Tech Divide in Schools?

This article, from today's Dominion Post, investigates the impact and value of technology in schools.  The article starts:

'Education historians want teachers to question whether iPads and tablets are the way of the future for today's schools - but they don't wish for learners to live in the past. 

Professors Howard and Gregory Lee, education historians at Massey and Canterbury universities respectively, are calling on their fellow educators to ingest a grain of salt with suggestions that e-learning will enhance education quality'. 

My view is that when there is a considered plan and strategy for the implementation and use of technology in schools, the likes of iPads, tablets, netbooks and Google Apps for schools are extremely powerful and beneficial tools. 

Another point to consider is the reducing cost of technology; a $300 mini laptop or a $500 tablet is able to do more than what a $2500 desktop could do only a few years ago.  Additionally, there is a wealth of free resources to use in the world of technology, Google Apps for Schools being a prime example.

To read the Dominion Post article in full, click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Staff 'Reading' Club

A 'Reading' Club has been set up at St Mary's School for staff.  The aim of the club is to examine critically articles, presentations, You Tube clips; in fact, pretty much anything to get us thinking about education and our approach to teaching and learning.  Our first 'reading' is Dan Pink's thoughts on motivation. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Interesting thoughts on bilingualism in schools

This article from the New Zealand Herald discusses the benefits and problems with second language acquisition.  It starts:

'Proficiency in languages opens many doors but needs maintenance - the ultimate 'use it or lose it'.

My view is that 'a little often' when learning a new language will have a positive impact on on language acquisition,  but the important thing is to be consistent  

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Students need to know that their work is valued

Watch this TED presentation, then have a think about why feedback is so important.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Five Great Education Talks on TED

This came to my email today as a TED subscriber; Sugata Mitra's five favourite education talks on TED. Click here for the link to hear the talks listed below.
  • Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity 
  • Arvind Gupta: Turning trash into toys for learning 
  • Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we're born 
  • Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge 
  • Neil Turok makes his TED Prize wish

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Children 'better off playing than doing homework'

Here's an interesting article from today's New Zealand Herald, based on University of Canterbury research. The article starts:

'Educators say Kiwi kids are better off doing exercise or learning a musical instrument out of school hours. Children are better off playing after school than doing hours of homework, educators say'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Plant a garden in your school

This is an inspirational video; it has three key messages for me:

A garden can be grown anywhere
If kids grow kale, kids eat kale!
Don't sit around talking, start doing!

Watch Ron Finley and be inspired.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Can a struggling education system be saved by the iPad?

This is a really interesting article from the Wired website.  The title of the article gives you some idea of the content:

'Can the iPad Rescue a Struggling American Education System?'

The article raises a lot of interesting points.  One that resonated with me is the comment that because iPads are so easy to use, students are learning the lesson, not the hardware.

To find out if the iPad can rescue a struggling education system, click here to read the article in full.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A cheesy Apple education profile

Even though this profile is a little cheesy I still find it quite inspirational, particularly the accessibility of the principal.  To see what I mean, click here to watch the Burlington High school profile.

Build a school in the clouds

The blurb for this inspiring TED talk is:

'Onstage at TED2013, Sugata Mitra makes his bold TED Prize wish: Help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other -- using resources and mentoring from the cloud'.

I strongly encourage you to watch this talk, it's well worth 22 minutes of your time!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Digital Classrooms in the 21st Century

Have a read of this article from the Stuff website.  It's about plans for 21st century learning in New Zealand.  The article starts:

'A classroom where a digital teacher delivers a lesson from another city is being touted as the way forward for education in the 21st century. 

The education and science select committee's "Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy" focuses on redesigning education and creating modern schools'. 

I really like some of the ideas and vision in the article.  However, what I can say from my own experience as a teacher and leader in New Zealand schools is that there is a long way to go in regards to infrastructure and resource allocation before these ideas come to fruition, especially in low decile schools. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Using Twitter as class blogs

Lakeview School has recently started using class Twitter pages instead of class blogs.  Already I can see that this is going to be a lot more successful.  Here's why:
  • It's so easy to send a Tweet
  • Posts are only 140 characters
  • Attaching photos and video is very simple
  • Parents can access through their phones (this is the only Internet access some of our families have)
  • All teachers have been provided with iPads, with the Twitter app loaded, signed in, and ready to go.
You can check out our Twitter pages through the links on our website homepage.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Making Science Teaching Fun!

This is from the TED website:

'High school science teacher Tyler DeWitt was ecstatic about a lesson plan on bacteria (how cool!) -- and devastated when his students hated it. The problem was the textbook: it was impossible to understand. He delivers a rousing call for science teachers to ditch the jargon and extreme precision, and instead make science sing through stories and demonstrations'.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Colin Powell's thoughts on kids needing structure

Check out this TED talk from Colin Powell (former U.S. Secretary of State) re kids needing structure.  Some interesting thoughts and ideas.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What's worth learning?

I enjoyed this short thoughtful piece (although not necessarily agreeing with all that he has to say) from Professor David Perkins on the question 'What's worth learning?'. Professor Perkins feels that 90% of what is taught is a waste of time!

Watch the short You Tube clip to find out what is meant by 'Understandings of wide scope'; this being what Professor Perkins feels should be being taught in schools.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Every student to have an iPad

Check out this story from today's Stuff website. It's all very well for the Ministry to come up with ideas that would lead to New Zealand students 'leading the world in digital literacy', but to do so, it will need to be funded somehow. The article starts:

'The prospect of every pupil having a touch screen tablet or laptop in the classroom has raised concerns it could create a gulf between the haves and have-nots'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Talent Code

This is so inspirational!  Please watch it and gain more appreciation for what can be achieved with so little!

The Talent Code

Monday, January 7, 2013

A quality (and free) education for all!

I found this TED presentation from Daphne Koller absolutely inspirational!  Daphne finishes by stating three things that providing a top quality (and free) education could achieve:

  1. Established education around the world as a fundamental human right, where anyone with the motivation could attain the skills and knowledge to make a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
  2. It would enable lifelong learning.  Learning doesn't have to stop when we finish high school or university.  
  3. Enable a wave of innovation.  Talent could exist anywhere; from downtown Manhattan to the far reaches of village Africa.  The next Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein could be a child, who is right now living in an Indian slum.

To find out what else Daphne has to say, watch her presentation in full.