Saturday, 31 December 2016
Well, over 800 posts in 2016 and I was going to cut back!
That was a big year! Putting Brexit, Trump and Turnbull aside ( Brexit was an hilarious own-goal, Turnbull was always going to win but is a 'dead man walking' but Trump however is a genuine worry!) the biggest concerns in education are the lies about Gonski and the anticipated dismantling of public education in the US post Trump. ( that will be worth watching because the far-right in Australia get their cues from the US right.)
Glen Park had a giant year. A year of review and a new strategic plan is a big deal in any school but a giant task in a one teacher school. We did it well though, getting lots of praise from our reviewer. DET doesn't understand what it takes. They are in full 'tick the box' mode which is very frustrating and for me just continues the isolation and frustration. But I get things done as I always do and have always done.
I thought this year might have been a problem but it turned out ok, one of my better years at Glen Park. The kids were engaged and motivated and did well. My grade 2 made great strides, my grade 3 did exceptionally well in NAPLAN, one of my grade 6 kids got a scholarship for 2017 and the other really blossomed. ( my teen library mostly comprises of books she devoured in 2016)
It will be challenging for us in 2017. More promotion will be needed to increase our enrolments but we will have loads of excursions, gym, swimming, our volunteers will return, Simone will return with LOTE and Alison will be back. As far as Learning with Literature is concerned. We should notch up 100000 views in 2016. I will cut back on blog posts but increase Facebook posts and start a Learning With Literature Twitter account. I will also be keeping an eye of DeVos and public education in the US, Turnbull and Abbott's Gonsku lies, May's cutbacks to U.K. Education and general pressures on state education from the far right.I'll also be monitoring the lame 'education state' here in Victoria, the Fiskville Inquiry dead end and important rural education issues which continue to be ignored by the state and commonwealth.
Looking forward to 2017 like most other people.
Friday, 30 December 2016
From the Washington Post
Folks who identify as “creation scientists” have no problem with the notion that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth. They just think the beasts lived alongside humans on a planet that’s only about 6,000 years old.
Their extinction theory? The dinos were wiped out 4,000 years ago in the worldwide flood described in Genesis.
This is the version of history on display at the Ark Encounter, a $100 million theme park in Williamstown, Ky., that features a reproduction of Noah’s boat. And it’s the subject of “We Believe in Dinosaurs,” an upcoming documentary that is fundraising through Indiegogo.
The secular team behind the film — including Morgan Spurlock of “Super Size Me” fame — believes in evolution and promises to tell viewers “the story of the unsettling and uniquely American conflict between science and religion.” They have three years of footage of the building of the new ark, the protests against it and interviews with individuals on both sides of the issue. Two of the big names in the film are Ark Encounter leader Ken Ham and science educator Bill Nye, who squared off in a high-profile debate about evolution in 2014.
You’re less likely to have heard of former creationist David MacMillan. He joined the directors of “We Believe in Dinosaurs” for a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to explain why some people accept “creation science.”
One key question: Why is it called “science”?
The label is popular with creationists, MacMillan writes, because it allows them “to set themselves up as participants in an equal controversy, as if there are two equal sides to choose from.” To bolster that idea, he adds, “some creationists also try to mimic the appearance of hypotheses, research, and so forth.”
When a child is raised with creationism — as MacMillan was — it’s the default position. If that’s what’s taught in school, the curriculum limits exposure to the mainstream evidence that life on Earth is far older than some Bible-based believers insist it is.
“The whole focus of organized creationism is advancing the idea that all the evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways and everyone is biased,” MacMillan writes. “Plausible deniability, you know?”
So dinosaur fossils, which should make creationism a pretty tough sell, are actually considered “talking points.” MacMillan offers some stock responses to people who question creationism: “Well, maybe humans just were better organized and made it to high ground faster than dinosaurs! Or maybe we just haven’t found the fossils together yet because there aren’t a lot of human fossils!”
Although these ideas are easy to debunk, he adds, even analyzing the evidence for himself wasn’t enough to change his mind. “It still took a lot of exposure to outside voices before I fully accepted it,” he writes.
Thursday, 29 December 2016
I spent 5 hours up at work today
But I'm not sure what I got done but the classroom is ready for the first day back. I've decided to do Treasure Island but I haven't decided on an Australian book yet. Tomorrow I have some cleaning up to do in the office then I'll take a break until after the new year.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
Saturday, 24 December 2016
Among New New York Public Library's most treasured Dickensian artefacts ( they also have his letter opener) are prompt copies of A Christmas Carol the classic 1843 novella, which blends elements of science fiction, philosophy, mysticism, satire, and cultural critique to tell a timeless story about the benevolence of the human spirit and our heartening capacity for transformation and self-transcendence.
Free download of A Christmas Carol for Kindle: (free download)
Neil Gaiman, champion of the creative life, man of discipline, adviser of aspiring writers, contemplator of genius — read one of the greatest writers of all time, in exactly the way Dickens intended for his classic work to be read, based on the annotations and directions in that precious NYPL prompt copy of A Christmas Carol.
You can listen to Gaiman's performance on Sound Cloud from this link:
I was interested to hear that beginning in the 1930s, Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884–November 7, 1962) — First Lady, dedicated humanitarian, writer of controversial love letters, timeless philosopher — penned a series of books aimed at young readers, discussing various social and political issues, from voting to international relations.
In 1940, in the midst of a grim holiday season marred by the realities of WWII and the Nazi occupation of Europe, she penned Christmas: A Story - the tale of a little Dutch girl named Martha, who struggles to find meaning, love, and peace in a world of destruction and uncertainty after her father, Jon, is killed in the war.
I have only glimpsed bits of it online because sadly it and her other children's books are out of print and have been for some time. The illustrations are precise, detailed and delicate and the cover art lovely. Although the 'Christ story' is embedded in the tale it is more of an allegory for the notion that we don’t need to seek permission to believe in goodness, even in the face of evil. A timely message given the rise of the right across the world this year and the legitimacy of violence, fear, the normalisation of misinformation and the rising belief that greed is not only good but desirable.
Maybe these books will find a new publisher ( I'm surprised the Roosevelt Presidential Library doesn't publish them) cor a new era in our post Trump world?
Friday, 23 December 2016
Thursday, 22 December 2016
Once again East Asian countries have dominated the global education tables. In recent weeks, both the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) published their rankings of education systems worldwide based on students’ skills and knowledge. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan secured the top places across the board, with the city-state claiming first place in both instances.
So what lies behind East Asia’s success? Many countries in the region place significant cultural emphasis on education; this is reflected in the willingness of students to famously dedicate longer hours to extra schoolwork and tutoring, while parents are willing to spend more on their child’s education.
But to say these countries are living in ‘edutopia’ is to miss the point. While the rankings are commendable, critics often point out the weaknesses of the standardised testing on which TIMSS and PISA scoring is based; according to this line of argument, the tests measure students’ aptitude to take tests, rather than academic aptitude. To some, Singapore and its peers are mere beacons of rote learning. Additionally, the results may reflect a country’s superficial desire to perform well in the rankings, rather than a commitment to improving national standards of education.
Nevertheless, since being launched in 1995 and 2000 respectively, TIMSS and PISA have gained notable traction in global media. While recent coverage has been singing praise for East Asia, Australian journalists have been preoccupied writing headlines such as ‘Why Australia's PISA results are a catastrophe’ in light of its falling rankings.
This trumpeting of rankings hasn’t gone unnoticed. Policymakers have begun to watch the triennial release of results with growing trepidation. It’s no longer about having the best education system in absolute terms, but rather having the better education system in relative terms. In other words, a gain for Singapore is a loss for everyone else. While on a national level education is treated as a positive sum game (where the aim is to bring all students up to a certain level), on the international level it has become zero-sum. And so the real success story lies less in the test scores and more in the soft power that accompanies them. Education has become East Asia’s flagship product and the latest tool in a state’s soft-power toolkit.
Yet one striking trend in the rankings is less commonly contemplated: within Asia there is a prevalence for smaller countries and territories to top the list. Singapore is a city-state of around 5.7 million people, dwarfed by neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia. Similarly, Taiwan and South Korea lurk in China’s ever-expanding shadow. It is worth considering whether the educational arms race we are witnessing in Asia is driven to an extent by neighbourhood geopolitics.
Small neighbours must rely on an educated workforce if they hope to maintain and grow economies that are more sophisticated than their larger counterparts. When a territory is overshadowed by a country in other measures of geopolitical competition (landmass, natural resources, and population) human capital becomes the primary source of national power.
Furthermore, smaller geographies have proven they can use size to their advantage. When it comes to implementing education reforms, smaller is better; it tends to be easier to centralise control over education policy, cherry-pick successful policies and roll them out with relative ease. Small-neighbour status might just be the silver bullet for education that policymakers have been scrambling to put their finger on since the test results were published.
Whatever the reasons for Asia’s education success story, the global effects are tangible. Where until now knowledge transfers on teaching methods typically flowed from West to East, recent years have shown a reversal of this trend. British schools are looking to Asia’s well-reputed methods for teaching mathematics, while teachers are being flown over in hopes of raising the United Kingdom’s rankings. Similarly, if a budding expat with school-aged children were to seek advice from HSBC’s Expat Explorer, they would find Singapore at the top of the list for two years running.
There is a curiosity-piquing logic in the notion that education is an effective way for a small neighbour to punch above its weight internationally. If this is the case, perhaps these rankings are more than an over-mediatised tally of memorisation skills; they may be telling us something profound about the changing distribution of power in Asia.
By Bonnie Bley from the Lowy Institute
Meanwhile....in Trump's America
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Dedicated readers! Hard-core readers visit a bombed out library in London WW2
From 774 ABC Melbourne: Simon Leo Brown
With sunny weather outside and digital distractions inside, it can be hard to keep your children reading over the summer months.
But Dr Belle Alderman, emeritus professor of children's literature at the University of Canberra, said encouraging your children to pick up a book was worth the effort.
"We know that reading children's literature does make changes in the brain. We know that it can create empathy and understanding," she told 774 ABC Melbourne's Steve Martin.
School-aged children who do not read often enough during the summer break can see their reading skills decline, a phenomenon known as the "summer slide".
However, Dr Alderman said there was plenty you could do to ensure your children continued to read throughout the holidays.
Have books in every room
Dr Alderman said the best way to encourage your child to read was to immerse them in a good collection of books.
"I would have them in every room of the house. I would have a whole range of them and also ask [your children] what they like as well," she said.
10 best kids books of 2016*
Hello Little Babies by Alison Lester
Who Sank The Boat? And Other Stories by Pamela Allen
One Minute Till Bedtime written by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrations by Christoph Niemann
Welcome To Country written by Aunty Joy Murphy, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy
The Sisters Saint-Claire written by Carlie Gibson, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie
Amazing Animals Of Australia's National Parks by Gina M Newton
Artie And The Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh
Radio Rescue written by Jane Jolly, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
*Chosen by Dr Belle Alderman, listed in order of reading age from babies to teens. Source: The Conversation.
If you don't own many children's books, heading to your local library or bookshop will see you spoilt for choice.
"The fact of the matter is that children's books are selling really well in all of the English-language countries that I know of," Dr Alderman said.
"In Australia 35 per cent of the publishing is children's books."
Poo and wee may be key
She said that, unsurprisingly, the best way to get your child reading was to give them books they would enjoy.
"We know that children like funny books.
"If there's a lot of poo and a lot of wee ... if they're silly, if they're madcap adventures — those are the sort of things that often do capture children."
She nominated Australian author Andy Griffiths as someone who writes books that will appeal to reluctant readers.
Hook them on a series
Dr Alderman said it was a good strategy to have "a range of series books" available for children.
That way, if a child enjoys one book they can move on to others in the same series.
"Once they are introduced to a particular character, they want to keep going."
Dr Alderman recommended Aaron Blabey's series The Bad Guys for children who may not normally be enthusiastic about reading.
"They're almost like graphic novels with pictures as well as words; in other words they're not too heavy," she said.
"I have seen young children walking down the street as if it was an iPhone with these books in their hand."
High-octane books 'boys will love'
While hesitating to use the term boys' books, Dr Alderman said Gabrielle Lord and Jack Heath both wrote "high-octane" books for children aged nine and up.
"[They are] books that you know boys are really going to love.
"Those are the ones that he could read under the covers with a flashlight and really enjoy."
Christmas is a strange time of the year, when people merrily do all sorts of bizarre things. Try explaining to a judge in June that you were allowed to kiss somebody without warning because there was a parasitic shrub hanging from the ceiling, and call me when you’re on the register. But, just as often, people confidently claim that they know exactly why they are doing them.
How many times have you heard somebody say: “You know it’s all pagan, of course?”, as though the barely recorded history of pagan activities in north-west Europe was something they happen to be terribly familiar with. Trees? Trees are pagan, don’t you know? No. Trees are just there. They’re trees and there’s nothing pagan about them.
The truth is, we usually have no idea of the origin of these curious traditions. So here, as a public service, are 10 myths of Christmas.
1 Coca-Cola designed the modern Santa Claus as part of an advertising campaign
This is one you always hear at dinner parties. It makes the speaker sound rather clever and cynical. Except it’s tosh. Coca-Cola did start using Santa in advertising in 1933. But Santa had been portrayed almost exclusively in red from the early 19th century and most of his modern image was put together by cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1870s. Even if you were to confine your search to Santa in American soft drinks adverts, you would find a thoroughly modern Santa Claus in the posters for White Rock that came out in 1923.
2 Jingle Bells is the essence of Christmas
Except it’s not. Jingle Bells was written by James Pierpont in 1857. Pierpont was American and the song (originally called One Horse Open Sleigh) is about Thanksgiving, and about winter fun and frolics more generally. How un-Christmassy it is can be gleaned from the other verses, which never make it into a British carol concert. Verse two goes like this:
A day or two ago
I tho’t I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Was seated by my side.
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we – we got upsot.
3 The Bible tells us there were three wise men
No, it doesn’t. Matthew 2:1 tells us that “when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”. Did you notice the word “three”? Nor did I. They brought gifts with them: “they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh”; yet the Bible never says how many magi there were, only that they were plural. There could have been two or 200. Magi, by the way, were Zoroastrians. There were believed to be well-versed in mysterious arts, hence our modern word “magic”.
4 Christmas is just a Christian version of the Roman festival of Saturnalia
Saturnalia was originally held on 17 December. Later it was expanded until it lasted all the way up to 23 December. But it never shared a date with Christmas. There was a Roman festival on 25 December, the festival of Sol Invictus. But there were Roman festivals on most days of the year (more than 200 of them) and Sol Invictus is not recorded before Christmas and neither it nor Saturnalia have much in common with it.
5 Good King Wenceslas
That name is only three words long and there are two problems with it. Though Wenceslas existed, he wasn’t a king and he wasn’t called Wenceslas. His name was Vaclav and he was duke, not king, of Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic) in the 10th century. He may have been good. However, it’s equally likely that people looked back on him with rose-tinted glasses after he was succeeded by his brother, Boleslaus the Cruel. Boleslaus really earned his name, not least by killing Vaclav to take the throne. Soon, legends of Vaclav’s goodness had grown so popular that he was posthumously declared king by Otto the Great.
6 Kissing under the mistletoe comes from the Viking
The story goes that after the Norse god Baldr was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe, his mother, the unfortunately named goddess Frigg, swore that the plant should never harm anybody else and that instead it should encourage kissing. This, though, isn’t found anywhere in Norse mythology. Well, the mistletoe arrow is, but Frigg’s response has nothing to do with kissing and everything to do with torturing Baldr’s killer for all eternity. Mistletoe is an English tradition. It seems to have been little-known in 1719, when Sir John Colebatch wrote a whole book on the plant and the customs associated with it. But it was well-known enough in 1786 to appear in a popular song from the now-forgotten musical Two to One.
7 Christmas starts earlier every year
There’s nothing in the Bible about the date of Jesus’s birth, but the earliest calculation, made in the second century, reckoned it was in March. So we’re nine months late on the whole.
8 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
That’s not the first line of the hymn; that’s not even a line of the hymn, at least according to the man who wrote it. Charles Wesley wrote a hymn that began “Hark how all the welkin rings/Glory to the king of kings”. Another preacher called George Whitefield then published a version with the line we all know now. Wesley responded by saying that people were welcome to republish his hymns “provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able.”
9 Advent begins on 1 December
Advent begins on the nearest Sunday to St Andrew’s Day on the 30 November. So, this year, Advent began on 27 November. The idea that it starts on the same day every year was put about by the manufacturers of Advent calendars, so that they could use the same design each year and sell off old stock.
10 Prince Albert invented the Christmas tree (or at least imported it to Britain)
This one would have surprised Queen Victoria, who had a Christmas tree as a child. So did the sizeable German immigrant population in Manchester in the early 19th century. Victoria and Albert popularised the Christmas tree when they were pictured with one in the Illustrated London News in 1848.
There was one Christmas tree recorded in England in 1444, but nobody knows what it was doing there.
From The Guardian
Myer Christmas window display in 1956 ( Olympics in Melbourne )
Christmas crackers at our school Christmas lunch and getting a gift from Santa from under our tree.
HOORAY.....92000 views of the blog to finish the year and a record number of posts ....even though I said I'd cut back this year.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
The states have only received 20% of the Gonski funding that Abbott promised and Birmingham and Turnbull are hell bent on making sure we don't get any more. It has been proven that it makes a difference in schools ( it has in mine) when only a fraction of it is made available. Birmingham is 'embarrassed' by recent Pisa data but instead of saying we must redouble our efforts to invest in education he prefers to say that money in education hasn't been well spent ( I'd say a lot of it has been misspent on private schools that don't need it!) and that teachers are at fault....in state schools of course. Last week while I was away on camp the state ministers met with him and rejected his 'plan' to scrap Gonski and replace it with something else.
Below is the story from the Daily Telegraph:
Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones said the Turnbull Government gave its first indication of looking to cut funding for kindergarten at today’s Council of Australian Government’s meeting in Melbourne.
The Abbott Government locked in funding for the hours until the end of 2017 in the 2015 budget after an outcry from the states, parents and service providers.
But no funding has yet been announced beyond that time.
“Simon Birmingham let the cat out of the bag when it comes to kindy funding,” Ms Jones said after the meeting.
Education funding was the main topic of conversation at today’s COAG but no major agreements were reached.
Federal minister Simon Birmingham had the final 2016 NAPLAN results and a pair of international reports on how Australians students fare in maths and science — not so well — to bolster his case that it’s not about how much money but where you spend it that matters.
A new deal is expected to be finalised with state and territory leaders at their next COAG meeting, likely in April next year.
Ahead of the meeting today, Senator Birmingham revealed universities will be forced to
declare their entry requirements in a new website from 2018.
The website, which will allow students to compare admission requirements, is the centrepiece of a raft of new measures to make the tertiary sector more transparent.
“These reforms are about clearing away the fog and doublespeak that has clouded higher education admissions processes so prospective students can make well informed decisions about if and what they want to study,” Senator Birmingham said on Friday.
“We’ve heard too many stories about students who have changed courses, dropped out because they made the wrong choices about what to study, students who didn’t realise there were other entry pathways or who started a course with next to no idea of what they were signing themselves up for.”
Universities and other tertiary institutes will now have to use a common language on admissions processes and requirements.
Tertiary admissions centres will also reportedly have to make it easier for students to apply for universities in other states.
At the COAG meeting today, Senator Birmingham wants states to agree to conditions including testing of Year 1 students, minimum school leaver standards, and better teacher training in exchange for commonwealth money.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli will keep pushing the commonwealth to fully fund the six-year Gonski agreement he struck with the previous Labor Federal Government.
He says the Commonwealth’s proposals largely mirror what NSW is already doing and he’ll lobby other states to introduce minimum entry standards for people who want to be teachers.
Northern Territory minister Eva Lawler highlighted the importance of all jurisdictions having a say on how the new funding arrangements are implemented.
“The Territory education context is very different to that of Melbourne and Sydney and we need the flexibility to ensure reforms are implemented in a way that will achieve success for our students,” she said, highlighting the large proportion of very disadvantaged schools and students in the NT.
Ministers will also discuss university entry schemes and child care at the meeting.