The New School: Twenty-First Century Pedagogical Priorities for Students and Teachers


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Learning Styles Are as Important as Ever. So Shut Up.


Learning styles have been 'discredited' – using the ability to recall facts as a baseline. They have “no measurable effect” – if you measure their effectiveness using standardized tests designed to test recall.

Meanwhile, in real teaching and learning (where we teach a bit more than facts to be regurgitated) they are as important as ever.

So please stop using the saying that “learning styles have discredited, don't you know” to justify your monotonous, dull, one-size-fits-all lessons.

A longer rant here: Learning Styles


That is all.



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Last Term Was A Good Term At the Chalkface

(Note: So sometimes I use my blog to be open and honest about my successes and failures as a teacher. This is one of those. Please skip it if you prefer my rants to my cathartic moments.)

Last term was a good term.

I am not going to moralize about it.

I am not going to try to sublimate out a ‘deeper’ meaning.

Just this:

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Kids Have Their Say: 11 Things We Need to Stop Pretending are True About Education

(This post is a follow up to 5 Ugly Truths About Education.)

Again following Scott McLeod’s lead, here’s what a few of my bright sparks think we need to stop pretending is true about schooling:

  1. Teachers need to stop thinking they’re under more pressure than us.
  2. That school and our education are the only important things in our lives.
  3. That the subject a teacher teaches is the most valuable/important subject to us.
  4. It would be nice to focus on the journey rather than the result.
  5. We need to stop pretending that all of our classes will actually help us in life.
  6. That all learning happens in the classroom.
  7. That STEM subjects are the most important. And that MADD* isn’t.
  8. That the teaching of our syllabus isn’t based on when the next test is.
  9. That people that do well in school (academically) will automatically be successful in the real world.
  10. That school doesn’t teach us much more than how to play the system.
  11. That standard normal education is something for everyone.

*MADD: An acronym my school uses for Music, Art, Drama and Design (I’d like to add the Humanities, but it doesn’t quite fit. DAHMD seems too ominous. MAHDD perhaps?)

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Message to the Class of 2015: Find and Give Happiness


Dear Class of 2015

Here are a few things that will happen to you as you move through life:

  1. Many people will not care about you. Many may not even like you.
  2. Unfair things will happen more often than you ever thought they would.
  3. You will not always get what you want.
  4. There will come a time when you do not have anyone to turn to and you feel overwhelmed and helpless.
  5. You will get dangerously angry. You may even lose control completely.
  6. You will come to realize that not everything revolves around you.
  7. You will have to work harder than you ever imagined.
  8. You will fail.
  9. You will feel despondent about the state of the world. (The Germans even have a word for this, they call it Weltschmerz.)
  10. Your heart will break at least once more.
  11. You will be wrong and have to apologize.
  12. You will die.

But even though all of this will happen, life (while it lasts) can be beautiful and richly rewarding. Take your lumps, learn your lessons and move on. Don't dwell on the negatives and avoid spiraling into a dark place. It can be close to impossible to get out again once you do.

The trick is to be kind as often as possible, to laugh as often as you can and to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Think, go on adventures and appreciate what you have. And most importantly, find the things that make you and others around you happy. (If possible, make a career out of these things.)

And remember, although all these bad things will happen to you, they will also happen to everyone else. Any small amount of comfort and joy you can give to others makes it better for them – and for you.

We are all in this together.

Mr H




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5 Ugly Truths About Education I Would Like to Change – Or, 365 Days to Stop Pretending (My Mission to Make School Different) #MakeSchoolDifferent

Here’s something Scott McLeod posted today on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant:

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

  • that short-term memorization equals long-term learning.
  • that students find meaning in what we’re covering in class.
  • that low-level facts and procedures are a prerequisite to deeper learning.
  • that analog learning environments prepare kids for a digital world.
  • that what we’re doing isn’t boring.

He’s turning these into a challenge – presumably to change what he does and / or the environment he is in – as well as to inspire those within his sphere of influence to make similar changes.

I would like to suggest my own ugly truths about education that I would like to work to banish in whatever small way I can. Some of them are the same or similar to Scott’s.

I’m giving myself a year.



Five Ugly Truths About Education I Would Like to Change

It’s time we stopped pretending that…

  • exams and tests are the most important means of judging a student’s mastery of the knowledge and skills acquired in class.
  • the syllabus and associated standards are the most important thing in teaching and kids need to ‘get the facts into their heads’.
  • low-level facts and procedures are a prerequisite to deeper learning.
  • incentivizing academic achievement (with awards and prizes) encourages students to excel at acquiring twenty-first century skills.
  • kids have enough time to process learning deeply and effectively.

It time we stopped pretending these things are true. I am going to do what I can. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I am tagging and challenging Melani van der Merwe, Antony Egbers, Tiaan Lotter, Dorian Love and Robyn Clarke Rajab. I know they’ll be up for it!

Why not join? Tweet your post using the hashtag #MakeSchoolDifferent




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5 unfortunate misunderstandings that almost all educators have about Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Sean Hampton-Cole:

An excellent post which urges teachers to take a little bit more care when using Bloom’s taxonomy.

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

Admit it: you only read the list of the six levels of the Taxonomy, not the whole book that explains each level and the rationale behind the Taxonomy. Not to worry, you are not alone: this is true for most educators.

But that efficiency comes with a price. Many educators have a mistaken view of the Taxonomy and the levels in it, as the following errors suggest. And arguably the greatest weakness of the Common Core Standards is to avoid being extra-careful in their use of cognitive-focused verbs, along the lines of the rationale for the Taxonomy.

The 5 misunderstandings:

  1. The first two or three levels of the Taxonomy involve “lower-order” and the last three or four levels involve “higher-order” thinking.

This is false. The only lower-order goal is “Knowledge” since it uniquely requires mere recall in testing. Furthermore, it makes no sense to think that “Comprehension” – the 2nd

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How to Build a Teacher in 10 Steps

Introduction: On Touchstones and Magic

Right now there is an aspiring teacher who is working on a 60-page paper based on some age-old education theory developed by some dead education professor wondering to herself what this task that she’s engaging in has to do with what she wants to do with her life, which is be an educator, change lives, and spark magic. (Christopher Emdin)

Student teachers. I don’t have them often, but when I do, I am dismayed (that’s right, dismayed) at how they are evaluated. Obviously I only see this part of things, but how they are evaluated must speak in a large way to what they are taught at university. And it seems to me that in their lectures, more attention is paid to the orderliness of their resource files than on teaching them to find amazing content, that more weight is given to how well they stand and deliver than on teaching kids to find things out independently, and that learning to discipline a class is more important than learning to keep them engaged.

Of most concern to me is the fact that teaching the syllabus always seems to be more of a touchstone than teaching the young people in front of them.

Is it any wonder that it takes dynamic teachers years to recover from their teacher training years? And, sadly, the great majority some never do.

In his amazing TED talk (quoted from at the beginning of this post), Chris Emdin talks about what he thinks should be happening during a teacher’s training years:

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Hitting an Albatross: On Teaching Off a Zero Handicap

Teaching is like playing golf: as much as we try, most of us will never be perfect at what we do. I have yet to meet a teacher (and I’ve met many truly masterful ones) who can teach off a scratch handicap. Most of us just try to get a little better every time we teach – slowly trying to eliminate our mistakes while adding a few new skills.

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How to Become Well-Read

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading. Maurice Sendak

So you want to become ‘well-read’?

When reading try to think your way through the experience. Form an opinion about what it is you’re reading and/ or try remember a few key facts. Being well-read is not just about how much you read, but how well you’ve understood what you’ve read. It is just as easy to be poorly-read after having read many books as it is to be well-read without having read much. I have friends who read a book a year or fewer, and yet I consider them well-read because they can discuss what they’ve read in remarkable detail.

Being well-read is about reading what you read well, that is: understanding it and making it your own, not about reading as much as you possibly can. That said, though, reading widely does help you to forge stronger, better reasoned and more diverse ideas.



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Reimagining Learning Spaces (Images)

This gallery contains 47 photos.

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The case for Chess as a tool to develop our children’s minds

Sean Hampton-Cole:

In case you still aren’t convinced about the benefits of chess for young minds:

Originally posted on Moves for Life Blog:

2015-02-10 08.23.59Is chess an art? A science? Some claim it’s both. Yet let’s be honest, it’s really just a game. Fun, challenging, creative: but still a game, not much different from tennis, cricket, football, or golf.

But there is one striking difference to these other popular games. While learning to play almost any game can help build self-esteem and confidence, chess is one of the few that fully exercises our minds.

Many of us could probably use this exercise, although it may be a bit late for some. (At least for those of us old enough to read an article like this voluntarily!) It’s not, however, too late for our children.

Chess is one of the most powerful educational tools available to strengthen a child’s mind. It’s fairly easy to learn how to play. Most six or seven year olds can follow the basic rules. Some kids as young as four…

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Terry Pratchett on Geography


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The Quiet Revolution: Critical Thinking Goes Mainstream (Or, How Google Will Change the World… Again)

This week the world changed for the better. A seemingly small thing happened that will undoubtedly have massive consequences for the way the world works. And so many people missed it: Google is considering ranking pages and sites according to the reliability of their facts rather than how many links they contain.

Just how Google might do this is fascinating in many respects, but their proposed use of Google Knowledge Graph and Knowledge Vault in order to distinguish more reliable sites from the bum-fluff has to be chief among them.

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Things That Can’t Hurt in Education (That Actually Do)

Check your horoscope now and then, why don’t you? It can’t hurt.

Drink three glasses of water before 10am. They say you need eight a day. And it helps you lose weight. It can’t hurt.

Add a multivitamin or three to your daily supplement intake. And why not some herbs and minerals and essential compounds? An antioxidant or two, some wort and some root and you’re set. It can’t hurt.

Try a bit of feng-shui around the house, why don’t you. And check out that lottery you didn’t enter that you just won. It can’t hurt. Surely.

Grab your lucky rabbit’s foot, your four-leaf clover and your misprinted penny. Avoid black cats, open umbrellas and walking under ladders. You need all the luck you can get. And it can’t really hurt. Can it?

Give your kids as much homework as you can. It can’t hurt.

And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of stress. It gets them motivated. Surely that can’t hurt?

The classroom is no place for fun. Keep things strict and disciplined and focussed at all times. A bit of rigor can’t hurt.

Pummel kids with as much content as you can in a lesson. Stand and deliver. It’s their job as students to digest and remember it all. How can that hurt?

Let’s test and examine kids as often as we can using standardized assessments. How else will we know that they know? It can’t hurt. Can it?

Only, it can – and it does.


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Fairy Tales, Irony and the Dismal State of Education


A little rant:

Do you know the one about the teacher who brain-washes his students all day with supernatural fairy tales? At that private school that openly tells the world that they are proudly fairy tale orientated? The guy who says, without a trace of irony, that the state of education in the rest of the country is in a dismal state? The same fairy tale mongerer who, again without the slightest nod to irony, bemoans the fact that kids these days can’t think critically and reason independently?

You must know him. Or her. I know hundreds of them. I wish they would just stay away from the teaching profession instead of filling so many curious young minds with such obvious nonsense – and closing them off to rational thought.

That is all.

Live long and prosper. _\\//




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The role of Chess in modern education

Sean Hampton-Cole:

A thought-provoking read on the value of chess in education…

Originally posted on Moves for Life Blog:

2015-02-17 12.06.58-1According to Murray, Chess originated at the end of sixth century in India. The game was different then, elephants replacing the present day rooks and peasants replacing pawns. The “firzan” now known as the queen could only move diagonally one square at a time. Still, the basic elements of modern chess were present: the game was played on an eight by eight board with pieces and the sole goal being to checkmate the opposing king.

The game of chess has been dominated by Russians for nearly 70 years. With the exception of Bobby Fischer who won the world championship in 1972 and relinquished it in 1975 the past 11 world champions have been of Russian decent. Why are Russians the dominant figures in world chess?

Chess has been part of the curriculum for most Russian schools for over 40 years. Adolescents were encouraged to play chess at a very early…

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16 Ways Chess Makes Kids Smart

These are the key ways in which chess helps to develop young (and not so young) minds:

    1. Chess improves focus and attention by encouraging sustained mental alertness.
    2. Chess develops the skill of tactical and strategic planning.
    3. Because players need to find novel solutions to unpredictable problems, chess improves creativity and problem solving skills.
    4. The great game teaches kids to deal positively with stress and to think on their feet. A large number of tactical problems encountered over a game of chess will be unique and need to be solved under pressure.
    5. Chess nurtures evaluative and critical thinking skills (because kids need to deliberate over, and weigh multiple options carefully).
    6. Chess engenders a positive attitude towards learning. Moreover, because it is a game, and they’re having fun, kids aren’t necessarily aware that they’re learning valuable cognitive skills while they’re playing.
    7. The game builds logical, sequential and analytical thinking while simultaneously bolstering the ability to synthesize information.
    8. Chess players develop an acute sense of spatial awareness by having to be alert to opportunities and threats in multiple locations.
    9. Very importantly, chess hones pattern recognition aptitudes. The solution to particular problems often provides a template for solving later problems.
    10. For those who think they matter, IQ scores have been shown to improve with methodical chess instruction.
    11. Through the careful study of openings, middle and end games, players’ ability to memorise improves.
    12. There is a strong general link between chess and improved academic performance in school kids of all ages.
    13. Chess provides a stimulus and a challenge for gifted students.
    14. Chess teaches patience, determination, perseverance and old fashioned grit. It also brings about a different attitude towards failure as something to be deconstructed, analysed and learnt from. Every failure brings with it an opportunity to improve.
    15. When players analyze their own games in order to diagnose and evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, the essential skills of reflection and metacognition become ingrained.
    16. Most interestingly, I have noticed that kids with ADHD (hyperactivity) and ADD (the inability to focus) have shown significant improvement when exposed to chess. Also, kids with social / emotional problems learn to be more confident.

    Intriguingly, chess is also a great leveler. It teaches us all that what matters is not what you look like or where you come from – nor is it how old you are or how much you have (or don’t have) – what matters most is what you do with what you have.

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    The Benefits of Chess in Education (A Short Reading List)


    Essential Reading:

    Other Interesting Resources:

    A Few Longer Articles and Studies

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    What I Believe About the Fundamental Nature of Reality (An Exercise in Fallacious Thinking)


    Irony is Everything

    I believe, firmly and resolutely, and to a degree that makes it impossible for new evidence to convince me otherwise, that the universe and all things are made up of fundamental, intangible, generative waveform-forces I call ironies.

    There are four sub-types of irony that are at the heart of all things:

    1) The cruel irony

    2) The subtle irony

    3) The normal irony

    4) The ‘is it irony?’ (i3) irony

    These ironies combine with one another in every combination possible (although I cannot fully describe the process yet) and give rise to electro-magnetism, the strong atomic force, the weak atomic force and gravity, as well as the various strings and membranes which physicists today erroneously believe constitute the building blocks of all things.

    The various intricate interactions between the fundamental ironies and the irony compounds which arise also go a long way towards explaining the absurdities of existence, the beauty of art, the strangeness of time, the complexities of the human mind and experience, as well as where missing socks and teaspoons go.

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