This from 'The Press' newspaper in March
New Zealand schools get a new curriculum next year and it is winning approval from many quarters, writes JOHN McCRONE.
What is the capital of Ethiopia? Which year was the Flagstaff war? What is the chemical formula for sulphuric acid?
A generation ago, we might have expected educated people to carry such facts around in their heads. Now we would say forget it, just Google it.
The world is not merely changing, but changing at an accelerating rate. Information is growing exponentially.
In 1900, a scientist could pretty much keep on top of every important development as only 9000 research papers were published in any year. By 1950, it was 90,000. By 2000, it was 900,000.
Today, drinking from this well of knowledge would be like trying to sip from the Huka Falls. Every 24 hours another 4000 papers are churned out.
A good job all this human wisdom now goes online because even university libraries have long since given up trying to accommodate the flood. They do not have the shelf-space. And extrapolate the curve 10 or 20 years into the future and you can see what a hopeless task faces our children.
Some parents do not understand this phenomenon yet. Just look at the rough ride given to the NCEA exams, the constant calls to go back to basics.
But it is the reason why the Ministry of Education is about to tear up its old curriculum. Next year, with the adoption of the new curriculum, New Zealand is plunging wholeheartedly into a different style of learning. And the rest of the world is jealous.
Top Canadian educationist and director of the Council for Human Development, Stuart Shanker, of York University, is here on a whistlestop tour of the country's schools.
We meet at Rangi Ruru, the private Christchurch girls' school. Through the window, we see young women toss rugby balls back and forth. But Shanker spent the morning at low-decile Linwood Avenue Primary and to him, the view was not really that different.
Shanker says he is bowled over with what we are attempting here. New Zealand is already top five in the world for its quality of education -- something he is puzzled to find we do not seem too aware of.
"It's been kind of surprising that New Zealanders don't seem to see that they have an outstanding education system. Here I am looking at all the great things you're doing and the only questions I seem to get asked are what are we doing wrong?"
But it is a fact. Shanker says just check the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment results which place our school children near top of all English-speaking nations for science, mathematics and reading.
Now we are going to be the first country anywhere with an educational curriculum specifically designed for a knowledge economy, for the internet age. "What you're doing is what other people are saying -- you know, at a think-tank level. But you're actually doing it. And doing it at the population level, so every kid benefits. I mean no-one else has gone near that far," he says.
So what is this curriculum all about? For such a revolution, things have gone rather quiet since the slim document was released in November.
The reason for the silence has been the new curriculum appears to be that rare beast -- a radical policy change which has met with almost universal approval. Everyone from teaching unions to business leaders are saying it is a job well done.
Mark Treadwell, an e-learning consultant and member of the curriculum's review group, says it would only be natural to expect moans. Teachers are going to have to put in a lot of extra hours to prepare. And problems may arise once theory begins to be put into practice.
"But people have been going rah-rah. No-one's complaining. They've been saying this is fantastic, it's what we dreamt of as teachers," says Mark Treadwell.
The old state school curriculum, which covers what pupils are expected to learn in both their primary and secondary years, had become an enormous tick-list of topic points to be taught. Facts to be crammed into small heads, says Treadwell.
Each year, new essentials seemed to be added and teachers were rushing through course work so they did not get marked down by school inspectors for skipping mandated items.
The new curriculum goes in the opposite direction. It is light on details, emphasising broad principles and flexibility. The thick manuals have been thrown out.
Indeed, the new curriculum is written in such wholesome tones that those with an old-fashioned view of education -- the chant-your-times-tables, sit still and shut up brigade -- will find it positively toe-curling.
There is a vision statement that speaks of creating confident, connected, lifelong learners. The new curriculum lays down principles like excellence, equity, cultural heritage and coherence. There is a long list of values to be fostered, such as integrity, respect and care for the environment.
And there are five key competencies which our education system is now meant to teach. These are the ability to manage self, relate to others, participate and contribute to the community, think clearly, and be comfortable with language, symbols and text.
Yes, it sounds more like a bunch of hopeful New Year's resolutions. But Treadwell says it is bang on for many reasons.
Take a step back, he says. The old education system was designed for the print age. You read books and memorised the facts. There was a premium on how much you could store in your head. And clerk or carpenter alike, good hand-writing and quick arithmetic would get you ahead in life.
Another big difference was that children learnt values and basic life skills at home. Parents were not working all hours and had time to talk. There were no chatrooms or PlayStations to distract. Modern life and the modern workplace have irrevocably changed and so a new kind of education is required.
"The internet has made a fundamental shift of the kind we haven't seen since the 1450s when the printing press was invented. And we're only a few years into it. The transformations it will make over the next 10 or 15 years are going to be stunning," says Treadwell.
It is all about the quantity of information and the ease of tapping it.
"This shifts us from a `just in case' kind of framework -- learning stuff just in case it might one day be useful -- to a `just in time' framework," he says.
But a Google-based approach to life then requires a new set of "meta-skills". Treadwell says children have to become more expert at evaluating sources, more questioning, more able to apply the knowledge they glean.
Some schools, such as Christchurch's Cobham Intermediate, have already pioneered classes with this inquiry style of learning. In inquiry-based teaching, children are encouraged to work in teams. They choose their own study projects and present their findings to the class. They are not pinned to chairs and forced to work through a textbook but go out into the real world to gather information from businesses and community groups.
Treadwell says it sounds dangerously like having fun. People are fearful about children having too much control over what they learn. Parents are naturally conservative and prefer any educational experiments to be carried out on someone else's kids.
But what is education for but to teach children the exact skills they will need to employ in tomorrow's workplace? Teaching them yesterday's skills would be ridiculous.
Treadwell says we already need to be lifelong learners. The facts on which jobs are based are no longer static but always changing.
In the old days, it was conformity that was valued. Learn a trade or profession and then apply that knowledge mechanically. Only about one in 20 would have a job that was in any sense creative. But now economies are being held back by a lack of creative self-starters.
"Creative cities like Dublin are saying their growth is stalling because they're running short of clever people."
Treadwell says the new curriculum plugs important gaps. There is a new emphasis on statistics as that is crucial to evaluating the quality of information. Second languages are being pushed, vital for working in a global economy. And perhaps surprisingly, oral skills have been identified as a new priority.
Treadwell says teachers everywhere are finding children are becoming more inarticulate. And yet 80% of jobs are in the service sector where being a good speaker, a polished presenter, is arguably the No. 1 requirement.
An obvious criticism of the new curriculum is that it may suit some but not others. Some may blossom with the freedom of inquiry learning. Others might find it too airy-fairy and prefer the comfort of strong structure.
Treadwell says this is a misunderstanding. In fact, the move away from a prescriptive "one size fits all" curriculum to a more flexible approach means schools are being encouraged to find the strategies that best suit each pupil.
"It will allow for a more vocational style training if that's what the child requires."
The new curriculum's focus on values might seem another "warm fuzzy". But Treadwell says the need is obvious. If we want children to be good citizens these days, we actively need to teach it.
Sadly, he says, many children are not learning the lessons at home. But also a more complicated world means children have to have the skill of navigating their own path through life. Moral debates which were once for the few are now a requirement for the many.
And Treadwell says the greatest misunderstanding is probably that all the old subjects will be junked from next year as children just study competencies.
In fact, what children learn will remain largely the same. It is how they learn it -- a nationwide shift to inquiry learning -- which is changing.
Principals who have been looking at the new curriculum, such as David O'Neil, of St Mary's Primary, in central Christchurch and Chris Reece, of Linwood Avenue Primary, agree.
Reece says in many ways, the new curriculum is simply endorsing changes already made at many schools. The old curriculum did nail down what needs to be taught and that will be carried forward. So all that will alter next year is teachers will be given more freedom to apply effective teaching methods.
One concern is there might be a knee-jerk reaction from parents to the new curriculum. Feelings that the NCEA was a dumbing down of standards quickly led to pressure for international qualifications such as the Cambridge exams and International Baccalaureate.
Treadwell says it is widely agreed the introduction of NCEA was bungled. It was not the shining success that the new curriculum seems to be.
But tinkering is seeing the exams come right. And half the problem was that they were simply ahead of their time. Treadwell says NCEA stems from the same educational philosophy, valuing understanding over rote learning, and so should sit much more happily with the new curriculum.
It all sounds like good news. Much too good really. That old Kiwi inferiority complex rises to the surface again. We are taking a bold step. Are we sure we are doing the right thing?
Treadwell, and others like Shanker, have no doubt. This is no whacky liberal exercise, says Shanker. It is the kind of training required for tomorrow's jobs.
Treadwell says other larger nations, like the United Kingdom and United States, have fallen for the political call to go back to basics. An obsession with testing has led to an environment where children are just taught how to pass tests.
"In America, for example, the `no child left behind' policy brought in by Bush has just reduced every school to a testing machine.
"The educational system there is going backwards at an incredible rate. Whole states in the US now don't teach things like drama or art," he says.
These countries responded to the dawn of the internet age and the apparent erosion of standards by going down the wrong path. Treadwell says that is the theme at every international educational conference he now attends.
New Zealand is lucky because we are small enough to react quickly. We can be the first to embrace the new direction. But the rest of the world is scrambling to follow.
Treadwell was actually on his cellphone from Australia, there to tell them about what we are doing. Treadwell reckons Australia is about 10 years behind in its policies. He says Tasmania did try to make a new curriculum-style change but stuffed it up by being overly ambitious. However, the new Rudd Government will soon be throwing serious dollars at the issue.
And if on this side of the Tasman there is an Achilles' heel, this looks like it. Resourcing.
Robin Duff, president of the Post Primary Teachers' Association, says the theory of the new curriculum is right, the practice is do-able. But will our government really spend what is required?
Duff says promises have been made about giving teachers time to prepare, and to provide other support, but he has learnt to be cynical about such commitments.
"Our experience with recent initiatives like NCEA has been that they say here it is, we've spent a lot of money creating it, now you go put it into operation."
Duff says another nagging issue is that, so far, the new curriculum covers the early years, yet is missing the detail of what happens over the NCEA years. It would be helpful to have that sooner rather than later.
But as to the new curriculum itself, Duff agrees it does indeed seem that rare thing, a case of a well-considered, well-timed policy change.
By Greg Carroll
this is very cool!
Great for the classroom or cluster. Simple drag and drop interface
Stixy helps users organize their world on flexible, shareable Web-based bulletin boards called Stixyboards. Unlike most personal productivity or project management software, Stixy doesn't dictate how users should organize their information. Users can create tasks, appointments, files, photos, notes, and bookmarks on their Stixyboards, organized in whatever way makes sense to them. Then they can share Stixyboards with friends, family, and colleagues.
I stumbled across an amazing post from Smashing Magazine I have no idea who they are or what they normally write about. The post was linked from Guy Kawasaki and his blog, How to Change the World However this article puts together a fantastic collection or visual tools. Tools that harness the power of th web in many cases to collate information or as a mode of sharing. The opening paragraph puts it well,
Data presentation can be beautiful, elegant and descriptive. There is a variety of conventional ways to visualize data - tables, histograms, pie charts and bar graphs are being used every day, in every project and on every possible occasion. However, to convey a message to your readers effectively, sometimes you need more than just a simple pie chart of your results. In fact, there are much better, profound, creative and absolutely fascinating ways to visualize data. Many of them might become ubiquitous in the next few years.
So what can we expect? Which innovative ideas are already being used? And what are the most creative approaches to present data in ways we’ve never thought before?
Let’s take a look at the most interesting modern approaches to data visualization as well as related articles, resources and tools.
Some of these tools have interesting applications for education either as research tools, identifying the links / relationships between certain topics. Well worth the read and play.
Thomas (his middle name) is a fifth-grader at the highly competitive P.S. 334, the Anderson School on West 84th. Slim as they get, Thomas recently had his long sandy-blond hair cut short to look like the new James Bond (he took a photo of Daniel Craig to the barber). Unlike Bond, he prefers a uniform of cargo pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of one of his heroes: Frank Zappa. Thomas hangs out with five friends from the Anderson School. They are “the smart kids.” Thomas’s one of them, and he likes belonging.
Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. Not just from his parents but from any adult who has come in contact with this precocious child. When he applied to Anderson for kindergarten, his intelligence was statistically confirmed. The school is reserved for the top one percent of all applicants, and an IQ test is required. Thomas didn’t just score in the top one percent. He scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.
But as Thomas has progressed through school, this self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, ‘I’m not good at this.’ ” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two—things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.
For instance, in the early grades, Thomas wasn’t very good at spelling, so he simply demurred from spelling out loud. When Thomas took his first look at fractions, he balked. The biggest hurdle came in third grade. He was supposed to learn cursive penmanship, but he wouldn’t even try for weeks. By then, his teacher was demanding homework be completed in cursive. Rather than play catch-up on his penmanship, Thomas refused outright. Thomas’s father tried to reason with him. “Look, just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you don’t have to put out some effort.” (Eventually, he mastered cursive, but not without a lot of cajoling from his father.)
Why does this child, who is measurably at the very top of the charts, lack confidence about his ability to tackle routine school challenges?
Thomas is not alone. For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.
When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.
But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.
Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”
Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
Full article here
I did several 90 minute workshops on this topic. If only you tube had been around 3 years ago. Anyhow here is a link to Tony Buzan (creator of mindmaps) explaining the ins and outs of mind maps, essentially mindmapping 101. Thanks to Greg for finding this and blogging it.