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June 2019: What's News in Education

How to think like a fact-checker, the world's high demand chalk, tips for the classroom and more.

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Mathematics Education

“No one expects a math teacher to tell a talented student that he or she could become the next John von Neumann. (… perhaps the greatest mathematician of the 20th century ...) And no one expects math teachers to talk with the kind of fire, or to demand the kind of commitment and accountability, that football coaches do. But I wish they did.” — mathematician and footballer John Urschel on why maths teachers should be more like football coaches.


Remember the quadratic formula from school? Probably not. It’s got a square root, four pronumerals and a fraction. Kalid Azad has got a simplified formula which he carefully explains. Check it out.


Pedagogical perspectives:

Teacher Mark Trushowsky is encouraging us to take to the streets, with chalk and to do maths:



“Each discipline we engage with shapes our minds and exposes us to ways of thinking we would not have had otherwise... Mathematics is no different. Without maths at our side, there are countless patterns and realities in human society and its environment that will sail over our heads.” — teacher Eddie Woo on why society needs to shift its view on maths.


Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

“The truth is, it is not that hard to do things right in kindergarten; to do things in such a way that optimal learning is accomplished and the child experiences joy, growth and even wonder.” — education writer Valerie Strauss on the problems with kindergarten.


How do we learn to read? 

To help Australian students learn more about the nation’s Indigenous history, author Bruce Pascoe together with ABC Education has released a new online resource. Check it out and read more about it here.


What is more linked to educational outcomes: socio-economic status, or parent educational attainment? Researcher Michael O’Connell has analysed PISA survey results to find out.


To reward or not to reward? Helpfully, researcher Harry Fletcher-Wood has summarised the literature on how rewards can affect behaviour and identified three features that rewards need to be successful.


8 ways of learning is an Aboriginal pedagogy framework. In this video Tyson Yunkaporta, who led the research project that gave rise to the framework, answers some frequently asked questions about it:



The benefits of online professional networks:

Teacher well-being and support:

  • A study conducted by La Trobe University on teachers’ experiences of bullying and harassment in Australian schools has found that “70 per cent of teachers were harassed or bullied by students and 60 per cent were harassed or bullied by parents” in the year leading up to the study. More on the topic here.

  • Wellbeing is influenced by individual and contextual factors: “By focusing only on the more ‘easily treatable’ individual factors (sending teachers to trainings to build competencies, for instance), only a small sliver of well-being is addressed. If real change is to happen, the onus cannot be solely on the educators themselves.”

  • The freedom to manage your own time is deceptively superficial argues teacher Ryan Breeze. Why? “EVERYONE is naturally terrible at managing their time and [t]he amount of work a teacher can do is INFINITE.” Fortunately, Ryan has some tips on what you can do.

  • Are you a casual relief teacher? Here are some tips for the role, including job seeking and preparing for work at a new school.

Ed-tech happenings:

  • One of the largest gatherings of edtech companies and entrepreneurs was recently held, giving insight into the sector and what’s big right now. Here are four trends and how they might take shape in education.

  • After Victorian state schools were banned from using facial recognition technology earlier this year, universities are now introducing the technology in an effort to stop cheating in exams.


Stories of Learners & Teachers

What do the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks have in common? All started their careers as teachers.


And here are some teachers who joined the profession after a career elsewhere. Explains teacher Ying Qin, “The main shock was actually going back to something that you’re a beginner at”.


Malak Primary School principal Lorraine Evans likens the school to Sleeping Beauty:But it wasn’t a handsome prince, unfortunately, it was our data that woke us up”. Here’s what they did to better support students and turn around reading outcomes.


Education Policy & Politics

A new 24/7 crisis centre run by the Victorian Department of Education is monitoring and helping schools respond to crises in real time, including “bushfires, burglaries, death or an attack in the schoolyard”.


From 2020 the Western Australian Certificate of Education will offer students a choice of three pathways: going to university via an Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking, and following a Vocational Education Training certificate II pathway and a new “mid-ground between the two”.


In a similar but less formal vein, more Victorian students are taking an alternative pathway in Year 12 via an unscored VCE. Here’s why.


We’re facing a drought:

  • Australia is facing a maths teacher drought. With student populations booming and low numbers of graduate teachers specialised in maths, a careful and long-term solution is needed.

  • Analysis from a Queensland State of the Sector report has found that Principals are concerned about the quantity and quality of teachers coming in for key subjects, including maths, physical sciences and the senior secondary years.

New analysis by the Grattan Institute has found that “Government funding boosts to private schools outstripped increases to public schools in the 10 years to 2017, despite the Gonski reforms and a national consensus on the importance of needs-based funding”. More from the Grattan Institute here.


The final state to sign on to the Federal Government’s Gonski 2.0 funding agreement, Victoria, has now reluctantly come to the party.


An Australian federal election has passed with a flurry and a surprise or two. Reinstated as Education Minister is Dan Tehan.


You thought we’d pass through NAPLAN season without a whisper? Not a chance.


Education Around the World

Canada: An Indigenous curriculum for Grades 9–12 is being released by the Ontario Ministry of Education. The release, however, comes with controversy after collaboration with Indigenous partners halted last summer.


Germany: A particularly difficult end-of-school maths exam has resulted in thousands of students protesting and a state investigation.


New Zealand: The New Zealand Government is getting rid of National Standards in education. From Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, here’s why.


U.S.A.: A report on the Condition of Education in 2019 has been released by the National Center for Education Statistics. The report covers “48 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons”


Evaluation & Research Practices

“How can we stop people from believing the lies that proliferate online?” In this article, Beck Supiano describes studies examining this question and how to think like a fact-checker.


An ‘efficacy portfolio’ involves summative, formative and foundational efficacy research. It can help “edtech company leaders think about efficacy in a proactive way from the very moment they conceive of their startup”. Here’s what it involves.


Maths, Science & Tech

“The legend around this chalk is that it’s impossible to write a false theorem”. There’s chalk — and then there’s chalk, the rolls royce of chalk that is hoarded by the world’s best mathematicians.


Lungs, the British coastline and hiking trails all have one thing in common: fractals. More on the topic from academic, Mitchell Newberry.


“Le kilogramme est mort, vive le kilogramme.” Between 19 and 20 May an extraordinary thing happened. The ‘kilogram’ as we’ve known it for 130 years was retired, and replaced with a new and far more accurate definition.

It seems that an oil company’s climate change predictions in the 1980s were spot on.


How do vaccines work? And how dangerous are they really? An informative video that answers these questions and more, from Kurzgesagt.


Mathematical computational genetics involves writing “mathematical models that can help translate the lab work into real-world answers”. These models are tools of the trade from researcher David Balding, who successfully used this approach to solve a 40 year-old murder.


“Scientists have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code.” Wow.


The most comprehensive “history book” of galaxies has been compiled into one single image, thanks to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and 16 years’ worth of observations. Check it out.

© 2019 by Michaela Epstein. 

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