Strict classroom discipline improves student outcomes and work ethic, studies find

SMH 10.11.16

Strict discipline and pressure to perform? Or a child-centred, individual approach?

The debate over the relative benefits of Eastern and Western styles of school education has been kicked off again by two new studies which find evidence that strict discipline in the classroom produces better academic outcomes and a stronger work ethic in students, in results that could have implications for Australia’s sliding academic performance internationally.


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The lead author of both studies, associate professor Chris Baumann from Macquarie University, said the findings suggest Australian classrooms should return to the more strict discipline approach that was pushed out by “permissive” education in the 1970s.

In the newest study, “School discipline, school uniforms and academic performance”, published in the International Journal of Educational Management, the researchers crunched OECD data on classroom discipline, finding that strict, high-discipline countries were the highest performing countries academically. They also found uniforms correlate with better discipline in the classroom.

“The argument does not mean that we have to be super strict, of course we have to care for our students and have a loving approach,” said professor Baumann, “but it does seem that discipline has been overlooked a bit.”

And the related study, “Work ethic formed by pedagogical approach”, published this year in the Asia Pacific Business Review found that in all the Asian countries studied, strict discipline was a statistically significant driver of a strong work ethic, defined as a positive attitude to work.
Most Western countries are falling behind East Asian countries in education outcomes. Australia’s performance in the OECD’s latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results means that an average 12-year-old Korean student’s maths and science problem-solving abilities are equivalent to that of an average Australian 15-year-old.

East Asian education systems are heavily influenced by the ancient Chinese tradition of Confucianism, with its emphasis on respect for elders, harmony and collective values.
In practice, this was likely to mean clear and enforced classroom rules, a focus on manners, punctuality, respect for teaching staff, consequences for poor performance or incomplete homework and an enforced dress code, professor Baumann said.

Western education, on the other hand, was less concerned with formalities, respect for teachers and collective discipline, instead focusing on the individual child.
The often-heard counter argument is that Western systems are better at promoting play, creativity, innovation and questioning authority, which might have harder-to-measure benefits. But professor Baumann is sceptical about this.

“The likely outlook is that Western countries may sooner or later aspire to a balanced pedagogic approach to education, where the playful elements remain, but discipline might be tightened up again since the successes in Asia suggest strict discipline and a focus on academic performance ‘pay off’, and the results of our study point in that direction.”

Dr Jennifer Buckingham, education researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies, said it was important to “be cautious in making those broad comparisons when the demographics and the context is really different – it’s so hard to ascribe cause and effect when there are so many other factors at play”.

She suggested a key overlooked factor may be the high use of private tutoring in countries like Korea and Singapore, which could have a bigger role than the school systems in driving student outcomes.

However, “there’s not much doubt that families’ cultural emphasis on education is really important in terms of academic success”, she said.

“The value that’s placed on academic achievement that is seen in east Asian families is certainly a factor when you’re looking at the demographics of selective schools [in NSW] for example.”

The countries studied in the work ethic research were Australia, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Britain and the US, using surveys of at least 500 respondents per country.

School Not Working For Your Son? Try This

February 25, 2015 By Jennifer L. W. Fink
Since the Washington Post published my essay, Why Schools Are Failing Boys, I’ve heard from dozens of parents & educators. Sadly, my essay struck a chord with a lot of frustrated families. And what I’m hearing from those families is It’s so reassuring to know I’m not the only one and What can we do?

It’s easy to feel hopeless when your son is struggling in school. After all, most of us have already tried talking to our sons’ teachers, and all of us deal with resource limitations. But you have more power than you know.

A teacher who “gets it” emailed me shortly after the article appeared online. She teachers 2nd graders and understands their innate need for movement, so every 20 minutes or so, she’d turn on music in her classroom and let her students dance. Administrators put the kibosh on those dance breaks; six minutes an hour is apparently too much instructional time to sacrifice to something as silly as physical movement. This educator asked me to share one message: Parents, she said, are the ones with the power. Parents need to let their voices be heard.

If your son is struggling in school, don’t give up! Here are some suggestions to help you improve your son’s educational experience. These steps can help your son, his classmates and, ultimately, thousands of boys:

Share information about boys with your sons’ educators. Some of my sons’ best teachers were also — and not-so-coincidentally — men or moms of boys. These educators possessed an intuitive or hard-earned understanding of boys. They understood and appreciated boy humor and boy culture, and that understanding infused their interactions with boys. Unfortunately, not all educators understand how boys think and learn; gender differences in learning and education aren’t extensively covered in teacher education. So share some helpful resources with your sons’ teachers and school administrators. Our Resources page contains a wide variety of books & websites. Consider donating books about boys & education to your sons’ school. (I strongly recommend Kelley King’s book, Writing the Playbook: The Practitioner’s Guide to Creating Boy-Friendly Schools.)
Discuss your concerns with other parents of boys. You’ll likely find that your son isn’t the only one struggling. Sharing your concerns with other parents of boys allows to compare notes, brainstorm solutions and organize as necessary to get things done. One parent complaining about a lack of recess time (or the use denial of recess as a discipline strategy) might not get much done. A group of organized parents stands a much better chance of affecting change. I heard from one parent who is organizing a phone list of other concerned parents; together, they plan to approach the school’s principal to ask for a clearly defined recess policy that respects students’ needs.
Compliment your sons’ school. As the old adage says, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It’s so easy to get fired up about whatever is wrong at your son’s school — and so hard, when you’re fired up, to recognize the steps educators are taking to try to meet the needs of all of their students. It’s also really easy, as a parent, to forget about the fact that educators are working with limited resources, under a great deal of pressure. Taking the time to acknowledge educators’ efforts –– especially when they do something that helps your son — will help you build a productive working relationship, instead of an adversarial relationship, with your sons’ school.
Stop making such a big deal about homework. Listen: your sons’ value, and your worth as a parent, does not depend on the grades your sons earn in school. Do not allow homework to damage your relationship with your son, and don’t let homework occupy your the entirety of your sons’ evenings. If your son is resisting his homework, try to find out why. If he doesn’t understand the work, he made need some extra academic support, either at school or at home. If the homework is pointless, it might be time to talk to the teacher. And if he’s perfectly capable of doing the homework but resisting it anyway, try some of these options.
Support your sons’ interests. The world is much bigger than Science, Social Studies, Reading and Math. Unfortunately, many of the things boys are interested in don’t fit into neat academic categories; in fact, many aren’t considered “educational” in the academic sense at all. But an interest in anything can lead anywhere, and real learning is all about setting goals, gathering information, trying things, adapting and rejiggering your strategy as needed. So instead of squashing your sons’ non-academic interests — think video games, motorcycles, paintball, ballet, farming or Pokemon — encourage them. Boys tend to learn best when something matters to them. I know plenty of boys who learned to read while playing video games or collecting cards.
Stand up for your son. Despite the fact that school is ostensibly for kids, their voices are not often heard or considered as part of educational planning. And most kids are well aware of the fact that their voices and opinions (regarding what they’d like to learn, how they learn best, why they’re struggling to sit still) are not welcome at school. It’s up to us to politely and firmly share our sons’ concerns and to stand up for their interests. That’s why I’ve been talking to my sons’ school about recess. It’s why I regularly email my son’s teacher. If you have a question or concern regarding your sons’ education, don’t be afraid to call the school and ask for an appointment with his teacher or principal.
Explore educational alternatives. Be creative: full-time public school, private school and homeschool are not the only alternatives out there. One parent who emailed me worked out a deal with her son’s school: when he was in kindergarten, he attended school four days a week; each Friday, he’d do an activity or field trip with his mom instead. Another parent has enrolled his kids in a virtual academy; the kids are home, but attend a public school online. The school’s flexible schedule gives his kids plenty of time for music lessons, field trips and free play. Other parents have found ways to combine paid employment with homeschooling.
Advocate for change. Want to bring about change in a big way? Support the efforts to establish a White House Council on Boys & Men. Consider education and your sons’ needs when you vote for government officials. Take a stand against educational practices that you consider harmful to your son and others and support efforts to create learning environments that respect students’ need to move and to learn via discovery.
Share your story. Odds are, your story will resonate with another family and give them strength to find educational alternatives and solutions. When we share our stories and solutions, we empower others to join us in creating a better world for boys. As one mom so eloquently told me, “All we can do is help each other. We have much power as parents to change the school system — and we should wield it.”

Let’s scotch the myth that boys don’t read

At the second school, the introductions were barely over before the headmistress was leading us to the dyslexia unit. At the third, I was told: ”Don’t worry, Mr Furedi, we know boys often struggle with reading and we have a wonderful system of support in place.’’

Until these visits, the idea that my son would not become a good reader had never entered my mind. But, by the time we completed our tours, I was beginning to doubt he would ever be able to read a street sign.

During the weeks that followed I discovered that many educators take for granted that boys and reading problems come as a package. Yet nothing in my study of the history of reading shows that boys need be at any disadvantage when it comes to books.

“The fact that we now presume that boys are alienated from books may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy with children playing the part expected of them.”
In the 19th and early 20th centuries Victorian moralists complained that boys were far too absorbed in reading cheap sensationalist fiction, while their teachers and parents worried that they were being led astray by it.

One hundred years or so on, and critics complained that boys were abandoning the classics in favour of gory adventure stories popular in the Twenties. The capacity of boys to read was never in question.

In 1940, when George Orwell denounced the powerful cultural influence of “Boys’ Weeklies”, his concern was not that boys had difficulty reading but the ease with which they absorbed what he took to be objectionable ideals.

Breakthrough: learning to read is the beginning of his autonomous lifeChildren will often play the part expected of them

What is true is that since the 18th century the reading habits of the sexes of all ages have often diverged. Women have always been more drawn to novels than men. Male reading was more often associated with non-fiction. And while girls read stories written for boys, the latter were not keen on books with female themes.

It was during the Twenties and Thirties that some teachers started to complain that boys were often too active to sit down with a book, although the claim that it is “impossible to get boys to read” is of a more recent vintage. Today the assertion that boys simply don’t read has acquired the status of an incontrovertible truth.

The fact that we now presume that boys are alienated from books may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy with children playing the part expected of them. In too many schools teachers inadvertently reinforce the idea that they expect less from their boy readers than from girls.

If we want to cultivate a love of reading among boys we need to raise our expectations of them. This requires a drastic rethink by those educators who have internalised the doctrine of a male reading deficit.

“A father sitting on the sofa absorbed in a book can have a profound influence on how his sons think about reading.”
Anxious parents who have been told that “boys don’t read” have also assimilated this message. Many tell me: “It does not matter what they read as long as they read something.” The mantra of “get them to read something” also pervades schools.

Well-meaning educators try to help boys by giving them texts allegedly “relevant” to their lives in the hope that if they can readily identify with the subject matter they will be encouraged to read. Often the reverse seems true and “relevant” learning resources turn off young readers.

The truth is many boys are unlikely to find pleasure reading about familiar experiences. To stimulate curiosity, boys need stories to carry them into different worlds. Take the Harry Potter publishing phenomenon. J K Rowling’s books grabbed the attention of young boys precisely because they pulled them into a world nothing like the life they knew. It appealed to their sense of idealism and their evolving sense of right and wrong.

Not that boys always need tales of high adventure: what they need is to experience reading itself as an adventure, as a medium for exploration. Stories conveyed through rich language and challenging plots are likely to encourage boys to carry on reading despite occasionally stumbling on words or sentences.

Fathers spark ‘imaginative discussion’ when reading to their kidsOnce boys understand that reading is a grown-up activity half the battle is won. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

To get boys over the first hurdles to their reading adventure it is important to normalise it. Parents are constantly advised to read to their children. No doubt storytelling plays an important part in the education of young children.

But what is arguably more important is to make it normal to read at home. It is when boys see adults engaged in reading books that they begin to perceive this activity as what grown-ups do to have fun.

A father sitting on the sofa absorbed in a book can have a profound influence on how his sons think about reading. From a young boy’s outlook, reading is no longer what adults do with children but also what they choose to do on their own. Once boys understand that reading is a grown-up activity half the battle is won.

We must also dispel the myth that boys don’t read. Boys entranced by their digital gadgets are constantly reading, but they do so in ways that are motivated by pragmatic concerns. The problem is not that boys don’t read but that many don’t read for enjoyment. According to recent figures 13 per cent of boys – roughly twice as many as girls – do not read for pleasure.

To reiterate: whether or not young boys will discover the pleasure of reading depends on the example we set them. In 1921, the inspirational Newbolt Report on the teaching of English in England recognised a crucial point: that the transmission of a teacher’s love of reading is the precondition for educating children to love reading.

Thankfully, it is not necessary to be a qualified teacher to communicate the love of reading. Fathers telling stories, mothers reciting poems and other adults talking to children about the books they love, can have the desired outcome. In such a cultural climate, boys will read.

Books to get boys reading

Under fours:
• Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie
• The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
• The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Age four to six:
• Revolting Rhymes and The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl
• Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss

Age seven to 11:
• The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
• Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton
•  Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
• Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
• Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

Age 12-15:
• Amazon Adventure by Willard Price
• The Owl Service by Alan Garner
• His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
• The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
• The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
• The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Frank Furedi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. His book, Power of Reading: From Socrates To Twitter (Bloomsbury) is available from

Playing Thru Pain

Junior Seau, Sports Illustrated & Playing Thru Pain
If you follow football (or the national news), you probably know that former NFL great Junior Seau committed suicide at the age of 43.

News reports speculate that repeated brain trauma, the result of years in football, may have contributed to his self-inflicted death. As a healthcare writer and nurse, I find that possibility intriguing, and am glad that Seau’s family has donated his brain for research. If repeated head injuries are indeed causing long-term, life-affecting damage to football players, it’s time to rethink the American approach to football.

But at least one Sports Illustrated writer suspects head injuries may not completely and totally explain former football players’ higher rates of depression, or Seau’s suicide. In the May 14, 2012 issue of SI, Peter King writes:

I’ve been wondering about our part in all of this. The media’s part, the hero-creating part, the Seau-as-superhero part. Did we lionize Seau for his toughness to the point where it was impossible for him to even consider asking for help?

It’s a poignant, and important, question.

Seau was revered, in part, for his ability to play through pain. Article after article, including some penned by King, played up and celebrated that tendency. But in hindsight, King wonders if that wasn’t a mistake:

…when you don’t acknowledge pain in your professional life for years and years, how will ever acknowledge pain when the cheering stops?…for that reason, I know I’ll be a lot more careful about praising men as heroes for playing with injuries they shouldn’t be playing with.


Our culture praises boys and men who solider on, in spite of their pain. It’s part of the Boy Code. Boys are expected to push down their pain and keep going, no matter what. Those who do — like Seau — are lauded and honored. Those who ‘fess up to their pain, who admit that they can’t go on anymore or that they need a break, as labeled as whiners and viewed as weak.

Think about the message that sends to our sons!

That’s part of what Kate Stone Lombardi wrote about in her book, The Mama’s Boy Myth. Mamas, she argues, are particularly well-placed to expand their sons’ definitions of masculinity, to let them know that it’s not weakness to express pain.

It’s a message our boys need to hear. Clearly, most of them won’t grow up to be NFL players. Most won’t ever have to deal with the physical ramifications and lingering pain that result from a life of football. But all of our boys, at some point in time, will experience physical or psychological pain, and our sons need to know it’s OK to admit it, and to get help. The consequences of not doing so are stark. Consider:

Men are much less likely than women to visit a doctor. Studies indicate that men often delay seeking medical care. As a result, their symptoms are usually more pronounced when they finally seek care — and their diseases more advanced. “Macho” men are half as likely as other men to pursue recommended medical care.
Men are less likely to see help for depression. Women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression, but that doesn’t mean that women are more likely to be clinically depressed than men. Rather, many researchers suspect that men fail to seek help for depression, and instead turn to alcohol, drugs or other unhealthy behaviors. Is it any surprise, then, that the male suicide rate is 4 times that of women?
Think about those statistics the next time you’re tempted to tell your son to “stop crying.” Or the next time you’re tempted to tell your son to “shake it off and get back in the game.” Think of those statistics the next time an NFL announcer goes on and on about a player who’s playing through pain. Think about those messages, and have some honest conversations with your sons.

But don’t stop there. Show your sons, through your words and your deeds, that it’s OK to seek help.
Better than OK, in fact. Let him know that admitting, confronting and seeking help for a problem is the manly thing to do.

Proof You Shouldn’t Blame Teachers For The Achievement Gap


Teachers shouldn’t be held responsible for the big gap in the achievement levels of rich and poor students, new data suggests.

By looking at the effectiveness ratings of teachers who work with students from varying socioeconomic classes, Mathematica Policy Research determined that rich and poor children generally have access to equally impressive educators. The research, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, stands in the face of arguments that a more equitable distribution of teachers could substantially move metrics of educational attainment.

Affluent students outperform their low-income peers on meaningful educational benchmarks. They have higher high school graduation rates and higher standardized test scores. Policymakers have said in the past that teachers might influence this gap. Indeed, previous data shows that low-income students tend to have less access to experienced teachers.

“We know from past research that there is a very large gap in achievement between high- and low-income kids, and we also know some teachers are quite a bit more effective than others,” said Eric Isenberg, senior researcher for Mathematica. “So we were interested in exploring whether there’s a link between those two things ― if achievement gaps could be explained by low-income kids having less effective teacher than high income kids.”

It surprised me its just how little difference there is on average between teachers in those two groups of kids. Eric Isenberg, senior researcher for Mathematica
The study looked at effectiveness ratings for English language arts and math teachers in 26 districts over the course of five years. These teachers worked with students in the fourth through eighth grades.

Researchers used a value-added model to measure the effectiveness of a teacher. This statistical model is controversial in the education world ― Isenberg called it an “imperfect measure,” but he said it’s the best available option. This statistical technique is used to isolate how students’ test scores change from year to year, and how much a teacher is contributing to these changes.

Although researchers did not work with a nationally representative sample of school districts, “the study districts were chosen to be geographically diverse, with at least three districts from each of the four U.S. Census regions,” the report says. About 63 percent of the students in the studied districts qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and the districts’ achievement gaps tend to reflect those at the national level.

Overall, researchers only found small differences in the average effectiveness ratings given to teachers working with low-income and affluent students. The average teacher of a low-income student rates around the 50th percentile, while the average teacher of a more wealthy student rates around the 51st percentile.

“It surprised me its just how little difference there is on average between teachers in those two groups of kids,” Isenberg said. “We’re limited to looking where we had data … We’re open to the possibility there could be larger gaps in earlier grades or high school or other subjects, but still the fact is, we’re not seeing very strong differences in the effectiveness of teachers for these different types of kids.”

A few studied districts stood out as outliers in the research. There were meaningful differences in quality of math teachers in three of them. Low-income students receiving equal access to effective teachers could close the achievement gap in these districts by a few percentile points, the study suggests.

If teacher effectiveness is not contributing to the achievement gap, Isenberg said, researchers should look at what other factors are affecting children.

“I think the conventional wisdom is where you have a school with lower test scores, it must be the school or teachers,” he said. “It might be surprising that when we actually measure this, it’s not that the teachers is are actually less effective. Something else must be happening.”

“Things going on at home or in those early years before kids enter school and inequality between different types of families” could be playing a role, he said. Indeed, there is already an achievement gap by the time students enter kindergarten.


Rebecca Klein –


“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Pullman Philip 2

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering…

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The Trends and Challenges Shaping Technology Adoption In Schools

By Katrina Schwartz
SEPTEMBER 16, 2016


The Trends and Challenges Shaping Technology Adoption In Schools

Every year for the past 15 years the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) have been taking the pulse of where education technology stands among K-12 educators. A panel of 59 experts from 18 countries discussed major trends in education that are driving the adoption of technology, as well as the big challenges to effective implementation. This collaborative effort helps to paint a picture of where things stand now and where they might be going. This year NMC and CoSN have also put together a digital toolkit to help educators and policy leaders start conversations about these trends in their community, with the hope that some of the changes they see happening in pockets around the world will become more broadly accepted.

“It gives lots of way to facilitate activities at a PTA meeting, at a school board meeting or a local chamber of commerce,” said Keith Kruger, CEO of CoSN. “We’re hoping you don’t see the report as something you read once and file away, but that you start using it to really start stimulating conversation.”



Redesigning Learning Spaces: Panelists identified changing learning spaces as a trend that educators and district leaders have embraced for quite some time and which is likely to continue. An increasing number of educators are finding that collaborative, hands-on learning requires a different type of space than most traditional classrooms offer, and that the learning environment greatly impacts both pedagogy and student engagement.

Rethinking How Schools Work: Another trend educators have long talked about is the need to make learning more interdisciplinary, interactive and student-driven. Many schools are moving toward these goals by adopting pedagogies like project-based learning and competency-based learning that allow students to move more organically between academic tasks and rely less on rigid bell schedules and siloed disciplines. Technology could be a productive part of this shift by changing where and how students engage with learning.

Collaborative Learning: In the next three to five years, experts see collaborative social learning as an important factor in what educators are trying to do with students. Teachers have long known learning is a social process — when students create meaning together, often the results are much more effective. The NMC/CoSN Horizon report highlights four principles of collaborative learning: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction, working in groups, and developing solutions to real-world problems.” Working in this way necessarily pushes students to create solutions, rather than passively consume content, lectures and lessons handed out by teachers.

Deeper Learning: Last year the expert panel identified deeper learning as a long-term trend, but this year is has moved to the medium term. The report focuses on how deeper learning can once again deepen student engagement with ideas and problem-solving: “Pedagogical approaches that shift the dynamic from passive to active learning allow students to develop ideas themselves from new information and take control of how they engage with a subject.”

Coding as Literacy and Students as Creators: Over the next one to two years, experts on the panel expect that more schools will accept coding as a new kind of literacy. While this will drive the adoption of technology, it also requires explicit planning for equity. Similarly, educators are recognizing that the most powerful uses of technology in the classroom position students as creators of content, not passive consumers. However, a problem remains in equity of use, where schools serving socioeconomically disadvantaged kids are given fewer opportunities to create with technology.


As with any changing industry, there are many problems standing in the way of effective technology implementation. Some problems are already being solved in creative ways by educators setting an example of the way forward, while others are more difficult and haven’t yet been solved.

Authentic Learning Experiences: One challenge that persists in mainstream education, although it is one the panelists say is well understood and can be solved, is how to create truly authentic learning opportunities within the bureaucracy of schools. As with other education buzzwords, many schools believe they are providing authentic learning, but they don’t offer the apprenticeships, vocational training and relationships with outside experts that often characterize work that carries larger life lessons.

Rethinking the Role of Teachers: The other challenge identified as a lower-bar challenge is how the role of the teacher will change. Just as the expectations of students are shifting from memorizing content to what they can do with information, so teachers must shift to create environments conducive to that type of work. This evolving expectation requires teachers to engage in their own professional development in different ways, pushing them to be active learners, too.

Advancing Digital Equity and Scaling Innovation: Equal access to high-speed internet at home and at school remains a problem that educators can easily identify, but for which solutions are elusive. As more learning moves into digital spaces, this access gap has the potential to deepen the achievement and opportunity gaps, rather than close them. Scaling promising innovations is another problem that most educators run up against, but don’t know how to get around. The report notes, “Success in teaching is closely tied to test results, and teachers are not frequently rewarded for innovative approaches and improvements in teaching and learning, much less allowed to scale and replicate these breakthroughs.” This environment of stagnation frustrates many teachers and prevents good ideas from spreading.

Achievement Gap and Personalized Learning: These are two issues that the 2016 Horizon Report identifies as thorny challenges — those that are “complex to define, let alone address.” The achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and experiences has long existed, but it is promising that this report has finally identified it as a major challenge in technology implementation. Similarly, while the term “personalized learning” has been used among educators for a long time, its presence in this report as a “thorny challenge” indicates that merely adapting the pace of a student’s learning with software doesn’t achieve the full potential of what it means to make learning personal.


Makerspaces/Online Learning: In just one or two years, experts predict makerspaces and online learning will be common in schools. Makerspaces have emerged as one way to pack many of the trends identified above into one experience; students can identify problems, design solutions, problem solve and learn in hands-on ways in these spaces. Online learning, on the other hand, has been around for decades, but the panel notes that adoption of online learning components in brick-and-mortar classrooms has increased. Teachers are becoming more comfortable with this idea of “blending learning.”

Robotics and Virtual Reality: While the panel still agrees these technologies are two to three years from widespread adoption in K-12 learning spaces, experts predict more schools will be teaching with robots and asking students to design and build them as part of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses. Virtual Reality, on the other hand, is just entering the K-12 space, but is garnering a lot of excitement. Educators see VR as a way to give students experiences that could promote empathy and expand access to novel locations.

Artificial Intelligence and Wearables: On the four- to five-year horizon, experts see artificial intelligence and wearable technology making more of an impact on K-12 schools. Included in the report as a bit of a “wow factor,” the panel sees huge potential in these technologies to inspire creativity in kids and educators. While it isn’t making a big impact yet, the report notes that as AI improves it could dramatically improve online learning experiences, adaptive technology and digital simulations.

While by no means comprehensive, the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: K-12 Edition offers a snapshot of the ed-tech industry as the larger picture into which they fit. Sometimes technologies on earlier versions of this list have gained a lot of attention and then receded from view in subsequent years, like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or game-based learning. Others gradually move from a projection into the 20 percent adoption rate that’s considered mainstream by the report.

Perhaps one of the most important things is to keep in mind is that all the technology operates within an ecosystem of trends and challenges that ultimately determine the impact it makes. And no technology can make a positive impact on learning without strong pedagogy behind it.

Why we need to give boys space to be themselves


I recently became the grandmother to a little boy. He is five-months-old now and completely divine but, like all tiny babies, he is still a riddle wrapped in a mystery enclosed in an enigma. His personality will unfold as he grows and responds to the world and I look forward to getting to know him day after day. He is a very vocal little chap and likes to have animated (if incomprehensible) chats with anyone who will listen and many inanimate objects that won’t. He is almost never still unless he is asleep, but does this mean he will be a chatty person with a lot of energy? Or does it just mean he’s a baby?

His family are trying to just wait and see what sort of person he will eventually become, but it sometimes feels like the rest of the world has already decided. In fact, they made up their mind about him long before he was born.
Why? Well, my daughter knew he was a boy by the time she was 20 weeks pregnant, and if people asked her she told them. What was quite extraordinary was how many people then immediately told her, with total confidence, just what her 20-week-old foetus was going to be like. Once he started moving in the womb, every kick indicated a potential football player, according to these behaviour experts. Really? We wondered. Why not a ballet dancer?

People often made a particular noise when told the developing foetus was a boy; it was kind of a laugh mixed with a knowing snort. “You’ll have your hands full!,” they told my daughter. “He’ll run you ragged!” “Boys love trucks, noise and getting dirty.” “Boys never sit still and read or draw!” And then, as a sop, they’d add, “But boys love their mummys.” (Does that mean girls don’t?)
I could offer no perspective on this as I only had daughters (though my memories of caring for them includes a fair bit of running around, a lot of getting very dirty, and remarkably some real affection). Back in my day it wasn’t quite so common to know the child’s sex before they were born. Nevertheless, when people identified my newborn as a girl, they also made a noise in response, but it was different from the boy noise. It was more of an “Awwwwww” drawn out on a falling note. Then they’d tell me that my baby was “cute” or “sweet” or that we’d have our hands full when she was a teenager because girls were “complicated”. If my husband was with me, he was often advised that he’d need a shotgun once she was in high school.

I know that this is just the conventional small talk that nice people often make with parents of newborns and we always responded with a smile and a laugh, as was expected. My daughter does the same when her son’s personality is described to her by strangers. But we can’t help feeling a little exasperated by it, too. We want this little human being (who has no more idea at the moment of whether he is a boy, a girl or a turnip) to be allowed to be himself – whatever that may turn out to be – and we worry that this will be harder for him than it should.

We go to specialist baby shops a lot at the moment, and frankly they are outrageously gendered. Worse, given we are shopping for a boy, the policing of gender for boys seems much more restrictive to me than it does for girls. The number of clothes to choose from is usually much more limited and the palate of acceptable boy colours depressingly dull and bland. Blue, green, grey, brown and a particular shade of muted red seems to be about the size of it. We glance over at the (much larger) girls section (baby girls are apparently already much more interested in clothes and their appearance than boys… !!!) and it is a sea of pink, orange, aqua, turquoise, yellow and purple with glitter, sparkles, chiffon and frills. Girls wear flower and fruit motifs, boys are restricted to machines and animals.

Perhaps all this seems trivial to you, but if it is so trivial, why the palpable shock if a boy is dressed in pink or has a ribbon is his hair? My grandson often wears a pair of watermelon-coloured leggings and looks particularly fetching in them in my opinion but I can see the confusion on people’s faces when they realise he is a boy despite such attire.

When we say “boys will be boys” with a mock exasperated sigh, we are usually using the phrase to excuse some sort of bad behaviour. When they are little, it may just be clumsiness or lack of consideration. When they are adults, it can be used to excuse really serious behaviour, even crimes. Maybe it’s time we stopped rigidly defining what boys are allowed to be, and instead just left them alone to be themselves.