Bookmarked Does a quiet classroom quietly harm children? (

I think every classroom and school has a duty to this generation in particular, who spend so much time isolated on their phones and online to make it a weekly, if not daily, norm to say hello to somebody new and look to work on something together. The challenge to my high school’s staff was to just choose one lesson per two-week timetable so that across subject areas every student might have 15% of lessons where the class is mixed-up and speaking to others is normalised. In a short space of time, this regular practice during learning can change expectations and remove the fear and anxiety towards meeting, greeting, and working with anyone you’re with at any time. 

Richard Wells goes beyond the well-meaning quiet classroom and puts out the challenges to consider allocating time for students to practice ‘working with others’. He suggests that not getting students to engage outside of their usual groupings because they hate it becomes a self-perpetuating myth.

For me it says so much about what it is we consider important. It also reminds me of the work of Sherry Turkle and her argument that we need to reclaim conversations through unitasking.

The trouble with talk begins young. A few years ago, a private middle school asked me to consult with its faculty: Students were not developing friendships the way they used to. At a retreat, the dean described how a seventh grader had tried to exclude a classmate from a school social event. It’s an age-old problem, except that this time when the student was asked about her behavior, the dean reported that the girl didn’t have much to say: “She was almost robotic in her response. She said, ‘I don’t have feelings about this.’ She couldn’t read the signals that the other student was hurt.”

The dean went on: “Twelve-year-olds play on the playground like 8-year-olds. The way they exclude one another is the way 8-year-olds would play. They don’t seem able to put themselves in the place of other children.”

Replied to Why schools avoid complexity and why they shouldn’t (EDUWELLS)

Schools need to follow the practical examples outlined in this book (including elementary classrooms) and embrace complexity with a comfort that you can’t be wrong because no answer is absolutely right. We need the next generation to understand themselves, their role, their community, and how the elements and actors within complex systems relate to and impact each other.

To avoid another generation leaving school with no understanding of how the world really operates and full of anxiety about the speed of change and unpredictable events, every teacher needs to introduce and refer more often to anything’s “bigger picture” and enjoy it’s complexity.

Teaching for Complex Systems Thinking sounds like an important read Richard. It reminds me of a series of posts by Dave Cormier on complexity verses complicated in education.
Liked Relationships before Numeracy and Literacy (EDUWELLS)

If relationships were valued it would be what schools were most inclined to measure and test. I don’t know of a parent who rushes to see their child’s relationship grade on the report card. On the whole, having a friend at school is the extent we concern ourselves with this area of knowledge and ability.

Replied to Why do people choose crosswords but not lessons? (EDUWELLS)

In crossword terms, New Zealand teachers work with learners to look at which clues have been answered so far and so make the judgement as too which would be the easiest and obvious next clue to answer. Learners ‘fill out the crossword’ at different speeds and in different order but the longer term journey from start to finish is always visible in the national learner curriculum levels.

I grew up watching my grandfather spend hours over crosswords, just wonder what to say about those who don’t buy into it?
Bookmarked Make a Digital Escape Room with Google Apps (EDUWELLS)

Google apps are useful and Google Classroom has made teaching in a digital environment wonderfully easy. There is a downside though. Teachers are confident with Docs and Slides and too often happy …

Richard Wells provides a few notes associated with the creation of digital escape rooms using Google, including a useful graphic:

Richard Wells' graphic associated with the creation of digital escape rooms

Bookmarked [Free book] A Learner’s Paradise: How NZ is reimagining Education (EDUWELLS)

New Zealand education has charged further into the future since 2015 and so it’s time to make this book free. I received fantastic feedback from readers and a huge thank you to all those who bought a copy.

I really enjoyed Richard Wells’ book, now he is giving it away for free.
Liked Visible Learning could end exams (EDUWELLS)

If a nation agreed to classrooms consistently developing an environment of Assessment for Learning where there are open and transparent activities designed for students and teacher to track, feedback and reflect on strengths, weaknesses and gaps in knowledge and skills as part of the learning, then maybe this “AFL record” could be what formed the final record of achievement for a student. This record would have been visible and moderated all along as it developed with the student, teacher and school agreed in what it reported about the learner.

If we had no exams and a exiting school was centred on students’, teachers’, schools’ and parents’ involvement in a national system of learning progress and transparent dialogue, teachers could return to a focus on learning and progress and not preparation for the divisive and alien environment of exam silence.

Replied to 2 Uncomfortable High School Truths (EDUWELLS)

The system is so fixed, most students understand the sort of success they are likely to aim for and achieve before they start based on their home life relative to others around them. Killing time always becomes a priority over using it.  It really is time to align school systems with the increasing control young people have in their personal lives. My question is how long do they have to wait?

This is another great reflection Richard. I was left think recently about home life and the anti-library. Although books around the home may not equal reading, it at least says reading books is a good thing.

In regards to students being glad to waste away time at school – a feeling I have experienced teaching numerous electives in the past. Do you think that it is realistic to believe or hope for an environment where students do not celebrate such waste or is this just a part of being a teenager?

Liked School Reborn 2020: part 11 – keeping open & agile! (EDUWELLS)

For the last 5 months, we have had 16 teams of 6 teachers working on interdisciplinary units that combine 3 of our traditional subjects. This was on the basis that each unit was 9 weeks long and most teams by now were pleased with the planning so far. But … and it’s a big but … it became obvious to all that 9 weeks was just too little time to do anything significant. Our middle leaders proposed us cutting the number of annual units to 8 and dividing the 16 units already planned over two years. This just made too much sense to nearly everyone and we quickly moved on it.

Liked School Reborn 2020: Part 9 – Down to business by Richard Wells (Eduwells)

Although I’m very happy with our progress to date and think the two teacher-only days were generally a great success, I’m not going to hide away from the fact that one in five teachers and parents are still somewhere between “we should not be doing this” and “it’s sounds good but I’m really not sure it will work.” My hope here is that there was enough evidence of staff having ‘light bulb’ moments during these two days that as we get more down on paper and detail added, all staff will get more comfortable and excited at the prospects of not having to micro-manage classes of students through exactly the same workload.

Bookmarked 4 Guidelines for making #Posters, Slides, & #Infographics (EDUWELLS)

I’ve recently trained some teachers in the rules I use for posters, infographics, and slides. Given that I produced a poster about my guidelines during the session, I thought I may as well share them here. We looked at ensuring slides etc have the most impact and the desired response. Studnets in all schools see so many slides and posters around the place that it can easily start blurring together. As the look of everything can be limited to a small number of default templates that appear first in the apps, teachers good intentions then get hampered by overlapping in the visual memory of the learners. I offered 4 decisions that keep each product more unique.

Richard Wells breaks down his workflow for creating graphics into four steps. This is a useful resource to support visualisation. It continues his efforts to show his work.
Richard Wells builds upon a preview post. I have written about trees before and the way in which they each grow in their own way, depending on a multiplicity of reasons. Interestingly, Yong Zhao suggests that gardeners are in fact dictators. In part, this is what Bernard Bull touches on when explaining that how we pick the produce impacts what produce we pick. What I find intriguing about gardens is that they do not stop growing if we stop caring for them, something that I learnt when my mother died.
Liked School Reborn 2020: Part 3 by Richard Wells (EDUWELLS)

Ideas and connections made in just the first 6 months of our two-year journey include: timetable redesign ideas from staff and students; how to fit mentoring into the existing timetable until we change it; how we can develop project-based learning within the existing structures to prepare material for 2020. Teachers have made their own links with other integrated and project-based schools (without being asked to).

Bookmarked Welcome to Workload High School (EDUWELLS)

Proposal: Changing your high school structures to match the thinking of Finland, New Zealand, Ken Robinson, and many others will halve your class sizes and stress levels.

Richard Wells reflects upon the structures of high school and potential of projects to shake this up. He provides a series of ideas to support this:

It’s easier implemented as a full school and not in a seperate programme.

Teachers design a menu of interdisciplinary projects based around themes or phenomenon that have a focus on key existing curriculum.

All non-teaching / personal time slots are simultaneous for all. This means all teachers, rooms and resources are timetabled for simultaneous use, meaning each teacher shares the load and you have smaller student numbers to monitor on either a project and mentor group.

Consider Zoning groups of classrooms into Project zones. The usual 5 teachers from 5 rooms are timetabled into the zone to each mentor their smaller number of students.

All teachers take on a general academic mentoring group to focus on learning and project progress.

Teachers share the planning and monitoring of projects which makes the measuring of progress more palatable than traditional standardised teaching and marking.

Projects can be designed generically enough around a theme or phenomenon that they can be simultaneously offered to different age groups with appropriate expectations for outcomes. This can save teacher workload.


Richard, I love this point:

“There is no such thing as a typical day. Every student’s day is different and no two students have the same timetable.”

I worked at a school that went with a choice based program a few years ago. The problem with it was that it was as old as I was.

Although the students had choice, it was choice over what teacher’s were willing to offer. I guess that would be the next step.

I like the work Greg Miller is doing in this area.

Replied to Is your School an X or Why School? by Richard Wells (EDUWELLS)

Students and schools focussed on why they exist develop stronger engagement in all activities and this results in making achievement in what we do much easier.

I really enjoyed Sinek’s book.

One of the interesting points that I found was that ‘why’ is not necessarily something that you just sit around and decide. It involves culture and therefore action. In some respect it reminds me of trust. You cannot necessarily create ‘trust’, instead you put in place the conditions for trust to prosper. I think that the challenge we face is creating the conditions for why to prosper. I think that your book goes some way to doing this. However, I imagine that it will always be based on context and involve idiosyncrasies.

Replied to Let’s break 2 molds that hurt everyone’s wellbeing (EDUWELLS)

In 1980 the average Auckland house price was the same as ONE Auckland Teacher salary. In 2018, it is the equivalent of NINE Auckland teacher salaries.

I like your point Richard of looking at wellbeing from a systemic point-of-view. I just finished reading a report on teachers in West Virginia living from paycheck to paycheck. What stood out was the attempts to link bonuses with exercise. We want impact and effect sizes, but are happy to ignore equity because it is beyond our control.