November 2019: What's News in Education

Self-learning robots, learning ideas for students, puzzles with purpose, awards galore and more.

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Mathematics Education

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has compiled a series of guides on common manipulatives and representations, including algebra tiles, bar models and number lines. Each guide explains what the manipulative/representation is, why it is important and how it might be used. (NCETM)

From the NY Times’ weekly feature, What’s Going On In This Graph, is a graph on outcomes for cats and dogs in shelters over the past decade with discussion prompts for taking this to your class. (NY Times)

A quick yet thought-provoking question from maths educator Marilyn Burns:

A lesson plan is just the starting point. From instructional designers Christopher Danielson and Michael Fenton are three ways to launch a lesson:

  1. One question

  2. Notice and wonder

  3. A story. (Desmos)

On the maths students learn, economist Steve Levitt asks: “Does anyone actually use this kind of math in their daily life? Is there any benefit, at all, to learning this stuff? And are there not more useful things they could be learning?” (Freakonomics Radio)

Puzzles with purpose:

  • Mark Chubb, teacher and instructional coach, introduces us to Cuisenaire Cover-Up puzzles as a way of exploring composing and decomposing shapes. More than just the puzzles themselves, Chubb considers assessment opportunities and what benefits such puzzles bring. (Building Mathematicians)

  • Esti-Mysteries: when estimation meets mystery. Teacher and instructional coach Steve Wyborney has compiled these puzzles to get students thinking about the structure of numbers. (Steve Wyborney)

  • From mathematician Alex Bellos is a dot-to-dot puzzle with a difference: Find all the ways to arrange four points so that only two distances occur between any two points. (The Guardian)

  • Maths teacher and geometry enthusiast Catriona Shearer has no shortage of puzzles for you to ponder:

Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

Do children’s positive mental health when they start school influence learning outcomes in Year 3? Research from The Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Australian Council for Educational Research and the University of Otago has examined this question. (ACER)

Can simple prompts help encourage more trainee teachers to apply for placements in rural and remote schools? Karen Tindall from the Behavioural Insights Team Australia discusses the work being done in this area. (Teacher Magazine)

Assistant Principals Tom Cain and Matt McLaren have helpfully summarised the ‘silver bullet’ myths and guiding principles for navigating educational research from Dylan Wiliam’s book Creating the Schools our Children Need. (Thinking About Teaching)

“Like with tasty junk food, it is possible for your mental tastebuds to get hijacked.” Educator Georgios Zonnios explains what happens when we integrate knowledge and the type of information our brains like when learning. (georgios)

The N.S.W. Government Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, in conjunction with Concord High School, has compiled a practical resource on managing cognitive load through effective presentations. (CESE)

On the humble textbook: Target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals “calls for ensuring all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.” Andy Smart and Esther Care look at how textbooks can be optimised with content and pedagogy in mind. (Brookings)

“Since the early 1980s with the appearance of desktop computers in schools, questions about their presence in classrooms have been debated.” Professor Emeritus of Education Larry Cuban outlines what’s changes in the use and goals of technology since that time. (Larry Cuban)

A team from Australia’s Innovative Research Universities has conducted a two-year study on student understanding and concerns, as well as principles for universities on approaching learning analytics. (IRU)

Stories of Learners & Teachers

Aayushi Khillan is an undergraduate student and new board member of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Khillan is the first student representative on the board, following a Victorian Student Representative Council campaign last year. (The Age)

Gunditjmara elder, Uncle Locky Eccles is one of the few people who can speak Peek Wooroong, one of about 140 endangered Aboriginal languages in Australia — and now he is teaching children in Warrnambool how to speak it. (The Age)

Over in Western Australia, there is growing demand for Aboriginal language teachers. Gooniyandi teacher Lynette Gordon shares the work she is doing at Halls Creek District High School. (ABC)

How did world famous maths teacher Eddie Woo end up where he is today? Here is his story. (ABC)

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute has held its Choose Maths awards to celebrate mathematical achievement, creativity and excellence in schools. Here’s the award-winning entry from Margaret River Senior High School. (YouTube)

More than 1,000 student films have been created under the grassroots-developed ‘Film by…’ initiative that supports students to be script writers, video editors and everything in between, and teachers to lead film projects. (The Educator)

Agricultural teacher Justine Fogden has been awarded South Australian Secondary Teacher of the year, for her work in developing industry contacts and opportunities for her students, and in mentoring other teachers. (Stock Journal)

Education Policy & Politics

The ATAR is again being vigorously debated. ‘Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change’ puts forward three recommendations on changing the pathway for young people beyond compulsory schooling. (ALL)

Your monthly NAPLAN update: the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has stated that NAPLAN data is to be demoted on the MySchool website, so as to give more prominence to student growth data. (The Age)

The N.S.W. Education Standards Authority has released an interim report of its curriculum review, “the first comprehensive review of the whole curriculum since 1989.” (NESA)

Meanwhile, the N.S.W. Government is looking to make maths compulsory for Years 11 and 12 (although not for the H.S.C.). (SMH)

VCE English and English as an Additional Language are being overhauled after a review found that Victorian students are not being taught different styles of writing in Years 11 and 12. (The Age)

Last month the Victorian government was proposing cash incentives for teachers to relocate to rural areas. Now, similar incentives are being considered for teachers who remain in the hardest-to-fill roles across the state. (The Age)

About 3,880 students in W.A. were registered for homeschooling at the start of 2019. Home education programs use the School Curriculum and Standards Authority to guide their activities and undergo regular evaluations by the Department of Education. (WA Today)

An analysis from the Telethon Kids Institute and the Mineroo Foundation, in collaboration with other organisations, has found Australian governments spend $15.2 billion each year on high-intensity and crisis services for problems that may have been prevented with early intervention. (Colab)

Results from the 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey — Longitudinal are out. The survey measures the medium-term outcomes of higher education graduates. (APO)

Education Around the World

Estonia: The government has ruled that children of third-country nationals living in Estonia have a right to a place at school. (ERR News)

Netherlands: An advisory group made up of 150 teachers and school leaders has handed down recommendations to government on curriculum reform. (NL Times)

Singapore: Educators and leaders have spoken about how Singapore fosters successful teaching and learning whilst also building rewarding and desirable career trajectories. (NCEE)

U.S.A.: The history of gifted education in the U.S. highlights a tension that has been long-running, between egalitarianism and individualism. (The Atlantic)

Venezuela: Escaping low pay and dilapidated classrooms, approximately 40 per cent of Venezuela’s teachers have left their schools in the last three years. (The Age)

Evaluation & Research Practices

“The way we interpret research results depends on what we already believe… If a result surprises experts, that fact itself is informative. It could suggest that something may have been wrong with the study design. Or, if the study was well-designed and the finding replicated, we might think that result fundamentally changed our understanding of how the world works.”

 — researcher Eva Vivalt on how collecting predictions about research results can help improve science. (The Conversation)

This month’s edu-myth: the Learning Pyramid. Despite a 2013 literature review highlighting the Learning Pyramid’s mythical status, an analysis by medical researcher Ken Masters has found, the number of citations of it in medical education literature has increased dramatically since then. From Masters:

“it is necessary for this article’s Abstract to state unequivocally: The Pyramid is rubbish, the statistics are rubbish, and they do not come from Edgar Dale.” (Wiley Online Library)

On context in research: teacher and education researcher Greg Ashman examines how “‘everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere’ [can] be consistent with the existence of broadly applicable principles of good teaching”. (Filling The Pail)

Maths, Science & Tech

Artificial intelligence research organization OpenAI has achieved a new feat in self-learning robots: solving a Rubik’s cube one-handed. (YouTube)

From the delightful Ben Orlin are eight ways to end a proof. (mathwithbaddrawings)

A group of MIT scientists have 3D printed materials to make a replica bridge designed, but never built, by Leonardo Da Vinci over 500 years ago. Turns out, had the actual bridge been made, it would have been incredible sturdy. (Live Science)

Food-tech startup Aleph Farms has successfully made lab-grown meat in space, a sign that meat could be similarly produced in extreme environments on Earth. (Business Insider)

A device developed by physicists at the University of Oregon offers a new way to measure light that is faster and more sensitive than conventional methods. The device uses the vibrations of infinitesimally thin drums. (PhysOrg)

A hole in the ultraviolet filtering ozone layer is the smallest it’s ever been — around four million square kilometres smaller than this what it usually is at this time of year. However, NASA has warned “It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.” (Geelong Advertiser)

A creature on display at the Paris Zoological Park known as Physarum polycephalum, “the many-headed slime”, or more fondly as the ‘blob’, looks like a fungus yet can detect food and digest it. (ABC)

’Tis Nobel Prize season…

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists — James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz — for their “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe, and Earth’s place in the cosmos”. (ABC)

And the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to William Kaelin, Peter Ratcliffe and Gregg Semenza. ICYMI, here’s a rejection letter Ratcliffe received earlier in career, which clearly didn’t turn him off:

Over in Australia, the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been awarded, with mathematician Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger for her contributions to group theory and combinatorics. (ABC) The full list includes prizes for excellence in science, mathematics or technology teaching. (DIIS)

The Geological Society’s 2019 Earth Science Week photo competition winners have been announced. They include this photo from Jocelyn Middleton of Namib-Naukluft national park in Namibia. (The Guardian)

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