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It was a long time ago that I shared the message here on NovaNews which was given to me by one of my first professors – Dr Leo Murphy:

Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he could be, and he will grow to be that man.”

Back then, I never dreamed that his words would have such a huge and long lasting impact on my professional and personal approach to education and learning.  Both in and out of the classroom, I hold dear to the principal that success breads more success and that achievement feeds into continued achievement and growth.  I have always believed that a positive, warm and non threatening environment in the classroom in which risk taking is encouraged are important ingredients to nurture lifelong learning skills.   I also believe that the same holds true to successfully encourage teachers to pursue their own lifelong learning and wrote a series of articles in Educational Technology Solutions in 2015 actively promoting this concept. (See Articles 1-5 ETS listed in the side panel here on NovaNews under the Favourite Posts tab)

Written in my very early days of blogging, I really summed up my own philosophy well when I wrote:

Providing our students with tools to develop as lifelong learners must be paramount in our approach to teaching.   Providing our students with opportunities and situations in which they can safely and confidently develop knowledge and skills should be equally paramount in our approach to teaching.  As I have eluded to in past blog posts, risk taking in a safe and secure environment is a wonderful way to learn.   Establishing a level playing field, in which we recognize that teachers and students are able to learn much from each other is also equally valuable.   But establishing expectations that our students can become whoever it is they wish, is really a focus that has dominated my approach to teaching.   Instilling confidence in our students that they are able to learn and achieve at a level well beyond their present level is a gift that I strongly believe is of the utmost importance in an approach to teaching.”

Not long after, I encapsulated my philosophy to learning into a graphic:

Learning begets learning inc C

So coming across a TED video by Carol Dweck, a  world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, titled “The power of believing that you can improve!” vindicated my educational philosophy.  Reporting on researched based evidence in terms she describes as

the power of yet vs the power of not yet”

Dweck forcefully presents the argument for motivating ways in which to engage, challenge and inspire our students to grow and succeed.  Throwing up rhetorical  questions for us to ponder, Dweck questions how we are raising our children:

  • Are we raising kids who are obsessed with getting A’s?
  • Are we raising kids who don’t know how to dream big dreams? 
  • And are we raising kids who need constant validation of their success?

Dweck talks about building bridges:

  • praise kids, not for their talent but for the process they adopt to engage: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their improvement – traits which will develop hardy and resilient kids

Dweck speaks clearly and forcefully.  Take 10 minutes to listen to her advice and the research evidence she has in abundance to support that advice!

When I see a headline like this in the newspaper (The Age: May 3, 2016) my thoughts are drawn to not only what we are teaching our students, but how we are preparing them for their future lives in the workforce.  As stated in the article:

The world of work is in a massive transition to an ever more global, technology-driven, flexible economy in which whole professions are being altered, new professions are coming into existence, and traditional jobs are being swallowed by automation.”

Quoting the conclusion of an August and September 2015 report by the Foundation for Young Australians the future of education becomes patently clear:

In a world where change is the one constant, a 15-year-old today can expect to have upwards of 17 jobs in five different industries over the course of their working life …

… In the new work order, young people will need excellent enterprise skills – digital literacy, critical thinking, creativity, financial savvy, flexibility, the ability to collaborate, self-sufficiency – to survive and thrive in a radically altered economy.”

Noting that ‘collaboration’ is one of the key skills needed to be acquired by students before they enter the workforce, this video of an amazing duo, highlights the enormous benefits to be gained when  people work together.  It struck me as an inspirational video to share with students.

The discussion raised in this article by Jan Owen, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Young Australians, raises many interesting considerations which could make for an excellent spring board for whole school staff discussion.

I read a great article in a recent issue of Scientific American: A math genius like no other which, by way of reviewing the recently released film: The Man Who Knew Infinity also shares insights into the life and character of the amazing self-taught Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

A paragraph toward the end of the article caught my eye though,  as the questions posed by Emory University’s Professor Ken Ono resonate strongly with those of us working in education:

The Man Who Knew Infinity also forces us to reflect on the current state of education in the world, says Ono. “Ramanujan flunked out of college twice. (‘It is the worst instance that I know of the damage that can be done by an inelastic educational system,’ commented Hardy.) Today’s educators are flooded with a depressing litany of complaints–disaffected students, teacher burn-out, overtesting, failure to keep up with technology, inadequate and unequal funding, and lack of relevancy, to name a few. How would we recognize and nurture an outlier like Ramanujan today? This is the question that demands attention.”

Indeed – the questions raised are well worth discussion.  How many schools stop to consider such important issues though?  I fear those reading my thoughts are also shaking their heads – which if true – is a sad state of affairs.

Knowing little about Srinivasa Ramanujan before reading this article, I was keen to see the movie.  The performance by Dev Patel & Jeremy Irons is breathtaking.  The story told is deeply moving.

Watch the trailer and be inspired.

Go see it!

As schools across Australia brace for the annual NAPLAN tests to measure basic literacy skills, opinion articles analyzing the reason for declining reading levels among our teens start popping up.

A recent article by Christopher Bantick: Why parents must unplug their kids to improve their literacy suggests that ever increasing screen time spent by teens in front of smartphones, tablets and computers is a significant factor contributing to low reading levels.  Parents, it is intimated, need to  encourage their children to switch off and read more in the home.

What would help would be if families read together.  A half-hour reading period where every member of the family read, sends a very positive message.

….. To get kids to read is not about ordering them to do so, but modelling behaviour. If parents don’t value reading, or privilege it over screens, it is hardly any wonder than children do not?”

I totally agree with Bantick.

While peer pressure can be very strong, behaviour traits learned and acquired at home are most often more powerful life lessons.  So reading to children from a young age, valuing print in the home, reading together as a family, sharing literature read – are all very powerful ways to implant the value of reading into the minds and habits of our children.

But ….. modelling reading habits at school is just as important!

Bantick suggests that schools “manage children in classrooms and the range of activities that they are asked to do. Reading is one of them.”

Really?

I’m yet to be convinced that reading is really valued in our secondary schools!  Competing demands of completing curriculum content or analyzing texts (to death) seem to predominate whenever I’ve found myself in discussion with teachers.   So, I’m left asking:

  • How much reading is really happening in secondary classrooms?
  • Does reading only ‘happen’ in English classes?
  • Is reading being incorporated in subject across the curriculum?
  • Are students encouraged to read widely beyond their comfort zone?
  • Do teachers model reading to their students?
  • How many classes start their periods with a 10-15 minute reading session?
  • How many teachers themselves put aside time to read?
  • How many teachers read YA literature?
  • How often do teachers chat about books and reading with their students?
  • Indeed – do our teachers value reading?

Sure – reading within families is important, but reading within our school communities is equally important!  If NAPLAN reading literacy levels for our teens are to improve, an increased emphasis on reading needs to occur in our secondary schools.  Reading is the cornerstone of all education.

Reflecting on the message of Fleur Morrison’s recent Huffington Post article Anyone who says they are too busy to read is talking fiction may go a long way to help sway educators to make a shift in what and how they operate in secondary school.

Mark Zuckerberg spent 2015 reading a new book every two weeks. Bill Gates consider himself a great reader and Barack Obama packed six books when he went on his summer holiday last year.  Former White House reident Theodore Roosevelt famously conumed one book a day when he was busy, and two or three when had a free evening.

And yet, whenever the issue of reading comes up among my friends and family, it seems like everyone says they don’t have time to read books …..”

Ian Burkhart, a 24-year-old from Ohio, was left a quadriplegic after a diving accident while on holiday five years ago.  His severed spinal cord effectively blocks messages being passed from the brain to his limbs.

But a pea sized chip inserted into Burkhart’s head to read brain signals is now facilitating communication by a device called NeuroLife, which reroutes messages from his brain to his hand, wrist and finger muscles, effectively bypassing the spinal cord.

The development of this computer software has the capacity to transform the life of quadriplegics like Burkhart and give them back a degree of independence lost.   With a computer plugged directly into his brain, Burkhart is now able to grasp a bottle, pick up a spoon and perform other fine motor skills that he never thought he’d be able to do again.

Watch the video and read more about this amazing application of technology.

347 years after his death, this painting was unveiled in Amsterdam just a week ago.

Titled ‘The Next Rembrandt’ it is not, as you may think, a long lost work by Rembrandt which has just been discovered.  Instead, it is a computer generated painting based on an 18 month study of Rembrandt’s works.

In the words of Ron Augustus:

We’re using a lot of data to improve business life, but we haven’t been using data that much in a way that touches the human soul.  You could say that we use technology and data like Rembrandt used his paints and his brushes to create something new.

The painstakingly process involved in studying Rembrandt’s technique is as fascinating as the process put in place to create the painting.

For art lovers the world over this is a fascinating development and offers a challenge to those of us working in schools to inspire and challenge students to explore the never ending ways in which technology can be used.

I very rarely look at the stats of my blog.  Quite honestly, I’ve better things to do.

But the other day, I was poking around on the NovaNews dashboard looking for something and came across an incredibly high number of hits for a post I wrote back in late 2012:  Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers.

I was amazed to see that in just the first three months of this year – 2016 – there have been a total of 962 hits on this post, a figure which equates to 43% of the total number of hits on the same blog post last year.

Learning to learn - 10 essential skills for teachers!

So I’ve been sitting here for a while puzzling over why this post should be generating so much interest.

Perhaps my post may be garnering some attention via Twitter, but a check of recent stats on my WordPress analytics suggests not.  Most of the ‘referrers’ to this blog post are in fact coming from search engines which suggests

that many ‘out there’ must be searching for ways to improve their own teaching skills and that is the really interesting finding in all of this!

Inadvertently, it seems, I’ve discovered that my thoughts are being read far more widely than I’d previously thought.

Ah, I say with a smile on my face:  the power of blogging!

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