September 2019: What's News in Education

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Digital detox camps, investments into AI for education, the magic of music, an abundance of visual maths ideas and more.

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Mathematics Education

In this thoughtful piece, maths education researcher Maria del Rosario Zavala reminds us, “Children are sense-makers. They are always making sense of new information in relation to what they know.” And then poses a challenge: to not think of misconceptions in students, but current conceptions.

We have a strong theme of mathematical visuals this month. Enjoy! …

Your Bad Chart of The Month is this beauty found by maths teacher, Drew Foster:

Graphicacy is the ability to understand and represent graphical and visual information. What does the research say about early development in this area and implications for teaching? Read on.

The annulus area problem is a classic in geometry. This blog from Loop Space and Catriona Shearer dives in, with some insight into writing a puzzle.

What’s one way to get more people thinking and talking about maths? #sidewalkmath says it all.

Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

Research to inform teaching practice:

Other ideas to inform teaching practice:

If you walked through an Australian school in mid-August, chances are you would have seen Book Week in action. Included, was the announcement of 2019 awards for “books of literary merit, for outstanding contribution to Australian children’s literature”.

What do students think about science? This article highlights research done to understand student attitudes and awareness towards the field.

It’s not just academic skills and competencies that can get assessed at scale. A new study on Social and Emotional Skills from the O.E.C.D. will assess hard-to-quantify social and emotional skills in 10- and 15-year-olds.

Does money matter in education? Well, yes. More and more research is supporting this idea, with four of the latest studies summarised here.

Stories of Learners & Teachers

“When you think of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kid, or in fact, any kid, imagine what’s possible. Don’t define us through the lens of disadvantage or label us as limited. Test us. Expect the best of us. Expect the unexpected.” 

— from the Imagination Declaration, presented to the Prime Minister and Education Minister’s across Australia at this year’s Garma Festival.

A method to remove microplastics from the ocean has won the grand prize at this year’s Google Science Fair. The winner? Eighteen year-old Fionn Ferreira.

“Hello from Bill Demirkapi :)” Just an ordinary message, sent to thousands of parents, students and teachers, after teenager Demirkapi discovered bugs in software being used across his school district.

With a maths and physics degree under his belt plus a proof that enables geometry to be calculated faster than a computer, 21 year-old Ivan Zelich is ready to take on the world (and Cambridge).

Challenge 59, Green Hope Foundation and Initiative For Peace are three educational initiatives enabling young people to use their voice and communicate effectively about contemporary issues. See what they’re about here.

“[A violinist] started playing and his whole world exploded. He had never heard anything so amazing. He wants to be in an orchestra, and for our students, that wasn’t in their vocabulary.” Check out this beautiful story of how the Australian Chamber Orchestra is working with schools like St Mary’s North Public School.

Education Policy & Politics

“Partisanship has coarsened public discourse about education… But education is complicated and nuanced, and making sound judgments requires differing viewpoints, an open mind, and a modicum of humility.” 

— John Ewing, president of Math for America, on what education partisans get wrong.

Speaking of extremes… There is an ‘infrastructure arms race’ going on in Australian schools, dividing the haves from the have-nots. ABC journalists Inga Ting, Alex Palmer and Nathanael Scott have compiled the data on 8,500 schools to interactively show the relationship between average yearly income and infrastructure spending.

“[I]n primary and secondary Australian schools 5.3 per cent of students are Indigenous, yet in the teaching workforce only 1 per cent identify as Indigenous.” As teacher Rachel Bos explains, this disparity is a problem that affects students.

A report released in 2018 on issues faced by students with disabilities in Victorian state schools has been met with inaction on the part of the Government. Can any reform in the sector be expected?

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians is currently under review. In this paper, Jen Jackson and Zoran Endekov from the Mitchell Institute reflect on the data to date in relation to how we have gone in meeting the Declaration’s goals.

Student pathways beyond secondary school:

“[ATAR is]a very, very strong driver of subject choice, so ultimately this incentivises students to purely maximise their ATAR rather than think about what they want to do and prepare themselves by taking the right subjects.” 

— Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, on the need to implement pre-requisite subjects for students seeking to go to university.

A two-year federal government freeze on support for undergraduate places is being lifted in combination with four new performance measures that university funding will be tied to.

How can high achievers be attracted into teaching? A new report from Peter Goss and Julie Sonnemann at the Grattan Institute examines the strategies needed.

ICYMI: Preliminary NAPLAN results are out, with the headline-grabbing finding that “average national student scores across most age groups and domains have barely budged since testing began more than a decade ago.”

‘From the Archives, 1990s’ is a series of articles from The Age on the hundreds of school closures that hit Victoria over 15 years ago and what it felt like on the ground.

Education Around the World

Britain: The British Labour Party is seeking to abolish the private school sector. Here’s why.

China: While many countries are arguing over how best to integrate technology into education, China hasn’t waited around. “In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded…Tens of millions of students now use some form of AI to learn.”

Estonia: A new Higher Education Act will mean that students completing professional tertiary studies will, for the first time, receive a bachelor’s degree, bringing them on par with others across Europe.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong school system places undue stress and pressure on students from as young as 6 years. In this article, tutor Millie Fung shares her observations from inside the sector.

New Zealand: To support those whose jobs are most at risk from automation, a $14 million fund has been announced to train up lower-skilled workers in literacy and numeracy.

South Korea: In a country where 95% of adults own a smartphone and nearly 10 million people are at serious risk of internet addiction, digital detox camps for teenagers are starting to be run to curb the problem.

Sweden: The use of facial recognition technology in a Swedish high school has resulted in the country’s first General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fine.

Evaluation & Research Practices

Citation metrics “are commonly used to gauge scientists’ level of impact and influence in their respective fields of research.” New research from ‘ meta-researcher’ John Ionnidis, however, has shown how problematic this approach is due to a practice known as ‘citation farming’.

No black carrots have ever been sold in your local grocery store. So do black carrots really exist? An article on absent evidence, from me.

In this blog, Robert Slavin, Director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, examines what it means to have a cost-effective intervention in education, what’s appetising about such interventions, but what we also need to be wary of.

Maths, Science & Tech

A “planet so hot that heavy metals boil through its atmosphere, venting into space”: meet ultrahot exoplanet WASP-121b.

From John Marra, is this piece on carbon-14 — perhaps the most important isotope — and how it revolutionised science.

Catalytic converter —“that thing in your car’s exhaust pipe that transforms nasty, unburnt hydrocarbons into less toxic emissions” — has a fascinating and ancient history. More from geochemist Dominique Tanner.

231 millions years old. That is the age of an ancient sabre-toothed squirrel, resembling Scrat from the Ice Age movies, that has just been found by palaeontologists.

Finally, the shortlist for the 2019 Eureka Prizes has been announced. The awards recognise excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science. Check out the final 50 here. Congratulations!

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