Monthly Archives: February 2012

East Asian Students are Superior (??)

Source: WSJ, Feb 2012

The report said that the top education systems in the world were all in the Asian region – namely Hong Kong, South Korea, Shanghai and Singapore.

The average 15-year old in Shanghai is performing math at levels that are two or three years ahead of students in the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Europe, according to the report, which was based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment.

Hong Kong students are at least one year ahead in reading and math when compared to U.S. and European children, the report said.

East Asian primary and secondary schools are better at addressing their own weaknesses and know how to improve the classroom through policy, the study said. In 2006, Hong Kong raised the reading levels of its students to No. 2 in international assessments, up from 17th just five years earlier. Singapore has cut courses for teachers that don’t result in higher performance for their students.

Educational institutions in East Asia are also doing more with less, the study says. South Korea spends around half of what the U.S. spends on its primary school students, yet South Korean pupils outperform their U.S. counterparts in reading, math and science.

The U.S. has already taken notice of East Asia’s educational prowess. Earlier this month, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Singapore and the U.S., building on an earlier agreement in 2002 that focused on the teaching and learning of math and science. The new MOU continues to prioritize the two subjects as key areas of collaboration between the two countries, with Singapore having some of the best math and science high school scores in the world – and the U.S. some of the worst.


Predicting can Lead to Learning

Source: MindShift, Feb 2012

 A new study published by two Michigan psychologists reports that middle-school students asked to anticipate how linear and exponential factors work—before this information was taught—became more curious about the content of the lessons they then proceeded to learn. Even more importantly, the act of venturing predictions prompted them to understand the material more deeply as they engaged in reasoning and sense-making about math instead of mere memorization.

Making predictions, Kasmer and Kim explain, helps prime the learning process in several ways. In the act of venturing a guess, we discover what we know and don’t yet know about the subject. We activate our prior knowledge on the topic, readying ourselves to make connections to newknowledge. We create a hypothesis that can then be tested, generating curiosity and motivation to find out the answer. Most of all, making predictions leads us to think deeply, to “explore the ‘why’ that underlies challenging problems,” in Kasmer and Kim’s words.

Students who view mathematics as only memorizing facts and procedures, they note, are often unsure of when or how to apply what they have learned. Making predictions requires students to actively grapple with new concepts instead of passively receiving them.

The authors suggest that teachers—and parents and learners themselves—make generating predictions “a habit of mind” that they engage in each time they approach a new learning situation. My prediction: doing so will make learning more effective, not to mention more fun.

Portfolios in Place of Transcripts

Source: Mindshift, Feb 2012


As students progress through their educational careers and prepare for college or work, parents can provide guidance to help students capture relevant information and showcase their best work.

“Parents are the first portfolio keepers,” Barrett says. “That family scrapbook or that digital album of photos is a portfolio.” Once kids go to school, parents keep their portfolio tradition alive by saving artwork, school assignments, and all of the other mementos of their child’s schooling.

Parents can involve their kids, even at a very young age, to help them not only pick their favorite works but also to assess and reflect on their learning. The reflection component, much more than the presentation element of digital portfolios, is where Barrett believes they reach their full power.

As students get older, they may need a more formal digital portfolio tool. Some school systems encourage students to use blogs to post their reflections of what they’re studying, drafts of work for feedback, and finished pieces. 

Some Asian educational systems ahead by up to 3 years

Source: EdVantage, Feb 2012

SYDNEY – Western schoolchildren are up to three years behind those in China’s Shanghai and success in Asian education is not just the product of pushy “tiger” parents, an Australian report released Friday said.

The study by independent think-tank The Grattan Institute said East Asia was the centre of high performance in schools with four of the world’s top systems in the region – Hong Kong, South Korea, Shanghai and Singapore.

It said Hong Kong and Singapore had made major improvements in reading literacy in the past decade, while the test by which the students were ranked was not conducive to rote learning as it required problem solving.

Reinventing Education with Sal Khan & Stanford’s AI Class

MIT Students Participating in the Google+ Hangout

Learning Without Teachers

Source: ASCD, Jan 2012

By pairing personalized learning and technology, a teacher can help students learn what they need to learn through the topics that interest them most.

Beyond Differentiation

In this era of access, personalizing learning means allowing students to choose their own paths through the curriculum. For schools and teachers, it means connecting our expectations to students’ passions and interests as learners. 

The ability to learn what we want, when we want, with whomever we want as long as we have access creates a huge push against a system of education steeped in time-and-place learning.

are we preparing students to learn without us? How can we shift curriculum and pedagogy to more effectively help students form and answer their own questions, develop patience with uncertainty and ambiguity, appreciate and learn from failure, and develop the ability to go deeply into the subjects about which they have a passion to learn?

Charting Their Own Course

At some schools, that shift is beginning to happen. Teachers at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey have been moving to a more inquiry-based, personalized approach to learning for the last three years. Instead of working through a one-size-fits-all curriculum, students are allowed to chart their own course to meeting school and state expectations. For English teacher Cathy Stutzman, that means encouraging students to take ownership of their own learning and guiding them to course outcomes in individualized ways.

That’s the new dance that teachers have to learn in order to guide students to success—letting each student create his or her own learning experience yet still meet the expectations of the class, the school, the state, and now, perhaps, the nation. At Hunterdon Central, that starts with students creating their own personalized learning plans with the help of the teacher. Those plans clarify the destination in terms of what objectives the students want to achieve, but the route each student takes to meet those objectives differs. Students may select different books to read, use different media to reflect on their progress, and create a variety of artifacts that bring their learning to life.

“It requires a totally different skill set on the teacher’s part,” Stutzman says. “We have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because we don’t know the exact direction that a class will go when we walk in. Depending on student questions, reflections, or activities, our plans could quickly morph into something we never dreamed would happen at the outset.”

In other words, it’s risk and reward. “It’s scary not to know exactly where your students will go if their curriculums are potentially different, and it requires a lot of adjusting,” Stutzman explains. “But the benefit is that students get to see our genuine reactions to new discoveries as well as to challenges, and they see us model the learning process together.” Students understand that there is no one “right” answer that the teacher expects, that there are many answers, and that the teacher and students will likely discover many of these together.

Personalized vs. Personal

Despite the promise of personalizing learning and some teachers’ best efforts to give their students more agency in the education process, many educators wonder whether the concept goes far enough in preparing students for the wide array of learning opportunities outside the classroom.

Many educators cite an important difference between “personalized” learning and “personal” learning—the latter connotes a deeper degree of autonomy for the learner. Some, like Stephen Downes, a senior researcher at the National Research Council of Canada and a longtime education blogger, see that as an important distinction. “Autonomy is what distinguishes between personal learning, which we do for ourselves, and personalized learning, which is done for us,” Downes (2011) tweeted last fall.

In other words, the truly personal, self-directed learning that we can now pursue in online networks and communities differs substantially from the “personalized” opportunities that some schools are opening up to students. Although it might be an important first step in putting students on a path to a more self-directed, passionate, relevant learning life, it may not bring about the true transformation that many see as the potential of this moment.

It’s a potential summed up nicely in the white paper The Right to Learn (Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, 2011). The authors write,

We need to shift our thinking from a goal that focuses on the delivery of something—a primary education—to a goal that is about empowering our young people to leverage their innate and natural curiosity to learn whatever and whenever they need to.