Monday, 26 October 2015

Year 10 Can Be the New Year 12

The daily newspapers picked up on the number of student dropouts to lead their news coverage of the Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015 report released the week of October 26.

Twenty-six per cent of 19 year-olds or 81,199 people are not finishing school which is taken to be Year 12. What do you think about that? In the US, it's much, much higher.

Probably more important though was that the Report highlighted Year 7 as a sort of benchmark of a middle point in education. This showed that 71.6% of students met the milestones meaning that 28.4% didn't. Do you think that is high? And girls were higher achievers than boys (no surprise there).

However, these reports while full of tables and information, nearly always stay clear of strong, unequivocal comments. Sort of a self-protection mechanism. Don't rock the boat syndrome. Maybe only the authors are satisfied!

And they are difficult to read. Presentation style anyone!!

But the key questions are never answered:

  • Dropout rates ... so what? How important are these when there's a wide world out there and schools generally don't provide the answers for a working family with a couple of kids in school. What's really acceptable? Not 100% for sure.
  • Learning Mix. Are we providing the mix of learning that compels students to stay at school longer? Definitely not. Have you views on this?
  • Less that 12 years?. And can we provide the necessary knowledge to students in less than 12 years. I think we can when the full power of tech-integrated learning is unleashed. We talk all the time about the maturity of students at ages lower than when we were at school don't we?
  • Year 10 not Year 12? I believe the transition to Tertiary education should and can occur from Year 10 not Year 12. Learning can be accelerated.
The report can be downloaded from

MathsRepublican Alan Power

Sunday, 4 October 2015

It's the 3Ps Which Make Good Teachers

I've been mystified over the years why our educational bureaucrats don't get it (to this add most Principals and Head Teachers). Get what makes a good teacher.

Well I can now let you in on the secret (it must be a secret because everyone seems to spend their time looking all over the place for something else!).

My Maths tutor at a Melbourne Teachers' College told my group that a good teacher emerged from a complete understanding of the 3Ps ... Preparation, Presentation and Personality but of the three, Personality was the most important. By the way, the tutor's name was Lloyd Senior and he should be revered in the manuals of good teaching.

Let's focus on Personality and what is meant. Throughout your life you meet and interact with people who attract, connect and engage you. It starts in early school days when you were drawn to those classmates who had something special. I bet you can recall teachers you had who were also special throughout all of your schooling years. They had Personality.

Of course this all begs the question as to whether Personality can be learned!! But Lloyd said it could be learned and I believed him.

We all had poor learning experiences when we had a teacher who may have had the best degree yet he/she couldn't manage a chook raffle let alone a lively class. The same goes for those of us with career experiences where natural leaders emerged with Personality. Those who didn't have it didn't make it to the higher levels. We all referred to them as backroom boys etc because although they may have had great thinking skills and were achievers in their more restricted worlds, they lacked Personality.

Here's what I would do:

  • Focus on developing Personality with all teacher-graduates (it's too late for those currently teaching). How this is done is for others to decide but hopefully they will get started.
  • In all supervised teaching of graduates stress with them the key elements of Personality in connecting with students
  • When a graduate starts teaching, assign a mentor who actually does something ... one who has most of the Personality traits (difficult I know because many don't) with which to communicate the key elements
  • Take Professional Development seriously and provide in-school and outside workshops far more frequently. Many schools pay only lip service to it.
That's enough for you to absorb in this Blog. How about joining the movement to provide learning of Personality with all our new teachers? Then our students might stand a chance.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Status Quo is the Elephant in the (Class)Room

The recent OECD report on Computers and Learning (covered in my last blog) noted that changes to T&L pedagogies faced the normal resistance to change from the education bureaucracy which flowed down and through the schools to the teachers in the classrooms. They would always opt to maintain the status quo. No surprises here.

It's a peculiar upside-down situation isn't it? The targets and beneficiaries of all pedagogies are the students. Yet they are the group hardly considered because the 'grown-ups' call the shots and think they know best. Do you think you know the mind of a student from 20+ years away??

The status quo is the elephant in the room. And it's pointless trying to move it. So if an advanced and contemporary pedagogy is to be introduced then we need to work around the elephant. Here's how:

  • Integrate Problem-Solving into your programs. Start by setting Tasks weekly (
  • Support the Problem-Solving with lessons on specific topics as they are presented because problems mix concepts (we're not referring here to those endless examples of the same topic from textbooks)
  • Invite students to present their thinking strategies to the class. Encourage discussion. Note what emerges during this time.
You'll be amazed at how your students enjoy the interactions the simple process outlined.

Then you'll be ready to think about Collaborative Learning which will be the subject of my next blog.

Please post any comments. You're part of the team working around the elephant!

Friday, 18 September 2015

OECD Report Reinforces Positioning of MathsRepublic

OECD Report Exposes Once Again Last Century Thinking of Our Educators

We have to replace Industrial-Age Thinking with Cloud-based Thinking

The latest OECD Report on Students, Computers and Learning Making the Connection is an excellent document ... but I fear its strong message is buried and that educators will grab the info which support their traditional, 20th Century teaching and learning thought processes through the superficial media grabs ... that computers do little for learning of students. Well I thought that was going to be it (again) when I heard a radio report only to discover that OECD has got it right after I downloaded and read the report.

I had already got nicely angry and was ready to start blasting away. But then I read on and found so much good stuff in the report. My view to anyone who will listen to me is that those websites which merely mirror the existing curriculum in web format are a major part of the problem. They do nothing for dragging T&L pedagogies into the 21st Century. But they provide a complete illusion that they do. Consequently, we are really getting nowhere which the report highlights. These websites in my opinion exacerbate the resistance to change.

I yelled hallelujah when I read the report. It provides all the support we need to convince schools that our thinking at MathsRepublic is spot-on. But implementation through a resistant education bureaucracy is quite another thing. 

The report notes that we may over-estimate the digital skills of teachers (that's for sure) and students (I have found that most are very skilled). My experience here is that teachers are (in general) poorly skilled for many reasons and only teach within their own limited knowledge-frames.

Also there's:
  • Bad policy design (from the outset each year's curriculum is really designed for textbooks)
  • Poor implementation strategies
  • Poor understanding of pedagogies
  • Generally poor quality of education software and courseware
The report contains real positive pointers and advice. "We must get it right" it notes. Learning environments that support 21st Century pedagogies with 21st Century skills are needed in tomorrow's world (I say today's world). Technology is the only way to expand access to knowledge.

Why should students be limited to a textbook printed two years ago and designed 10 years ago? We must focus on new pedagogies. We want to invite students to participate in the changes needed now.

We need:
  • Collaborative workspaces (hear, hear for MathsRepublic)
  • experiential learning
  • problem-based and project-based learning (hear, hear again)
  • learning communities
  • new tools, remote and virtual labs
  • Utilisation of social media
  • Serious games
Given the uncertainty that accompanies all change says the report, educators will always opt to maintain the status quo (Amen to that).Teachers must also become active agents of change, not just as implementers of tech innovation but as designers.

Next blog I will provide the solution which will be based on creating a new system. 

In the meantime take a lead ahead by checking out problem-based video learning at Yes we designed it a year ago so we were very happy to read the comments in the OECD report.