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Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

On this week's podcast Education Historian Dr. Thomas Walsh applies a historical perspective to analyse cotemporary policy and practice in curriculum, early childhood education and more. Among the topics we discuss are:

  • The career trajectory that brought him to working in the Education Department of Maynooth University.
  • Working in the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education
  • Influence of nationalism and Catholicism on the curriculum of the 1920s
  • The Commission on Manual and Practical Instruction and its influence on the 1900 curriculum
  • Removing subjects to focus on the Irish language in the 1920s
  • Becoming interested in the study of curriculum and curriculum change over most of a century
  • Influence of John Coolahan on Tom’s work
  • How a historical perspective on curriculum enriches our understanding of curriculum today
  • The Stanley Letter from 1831.
  • The importance of context in curriculum development
  • Policy as text and policy as discourse (Ball). Curriculum implementation – dance between policy and practice
  • Influences on curriculum change in Ireland – timing and context affect the influences
  • Immigrant, internationally educated teachers and controlling who can become a teacher
  • Migrant Teacher Project and Turn to Teaching Project (Maynooth)
  • Team teaching: when it happens; what needs to happen for it to be successful? Planning for team teaching.
  • Policy and practice in relation to team teaching
  • Resources for team teaching (PDST and Maynooth websites)
  • Early Childhood Education in Ireland today
  • Legacy of Professor John Coolahan. He featured on two episodes of Inside Education, here and here.
  • School placement: from supervisor to placement tutor. What’s in a name change?
  • Gert Biesta article, Resisting the seduction of the global measurement industry: notes on the social psychology of PISA and book, The Beautiful Risk of Education.

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney

On this week's podcast I interview the editors of a book titled Challenging perceptions of Africa in schools: Critical approaches to global justice education. They are my colleague Dr. Barbara O'Toole, from the Marino Institute of Education and Dr. Ebun Joseph and Dr. David Nyaluke from University College Dublin. Among the topics we discussed on the programme are the following:

  • How our education system is focused on a Eurocentric view of people from Africa
  • Chimamanda and the Danger of a single story
  • What teachers are doing well when presenting Africa to their students
  • How history is taught impacts on the past and on life today
  • The need to hear the story of Africa from a different perspective
  • How our system encourages us to perform racism
  • The benefits of reading African authors to see how they represent Africa
  • The need to present a balanced story of Africa
  • Why discussing Africa with a deficit perspective needs to be balanced with a discussion of its strengths
  • Negative portrayal of Africa in Irish primary school textbooks
  • The need for unlearning: self-questioning and reflection
  • What critical race theory is (a theoretical framework and an analytical framework)
  • White Teacher by Vivian Gussin Paley
  • Knowledge justice
  • The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  • Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Books by Ali Mazrui.
  • How Europe is portrayed in African education
  • Decolonising education and Alice Feldman
  • How this affects every subject across the curriculum
  • Just Connections, Just Trade resource for teachers
  • The importance to develop a race consciousness and how race impacts on people’s experiences
  • There is a stereotype in all our work – we need to think about how we can erase them
  • Being in a crisis of knowledge and a crisis of solutions
  • Moving to a mindset of social justice can permeate every aspect of a teacher’s teaching
  • Relative size of Africa compared to Europe and the United States

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

On this week's programme I am delighted to interview my colleague, Dr. Jennifer O'Sullivan on the topic of teaching reading. Specifically, we explore the areas of phonemic awareness, phonological awareness and picture books. Jennifer also recommends several useful resources for teaching reading.

Among the topics we discuss and the resources mentioned are the following:

  • Jennifer's route to becoming a teacher
  • The joys and challenges of teaching in a junior school that had disadvantaged status
  • Doing a master’s degree in literacy.
  • Specific challenges teachers experience in their first year of teaching
  • The research base for how children learn to read
  • The path to learning to read: alphabetic principle, apply sounds of language to print on page, decoding, comprehending meaning
  • The importance of teacher content knowledge in diagnosing what a child needs to work on when learning to read
  • The importance of phonological awareness and what phonemic awareness is
  • Why not to introduce phonics to children too soon; start with speech and then move to print (rather than working from print to sounds).
  • The need to teach children how to separate sounds in words and to blend them back together.
  • The need to explicitly teach that, for example, a word like “eight” has only two sounds but five letters and that this makes the subsequent introduction of phonics easier for children.
  • The App she’s developing to assess phonological awareness
  • Why dyslexia is caused by a phonological deficit
  • Visual literacy and close reading
  • Reading a picture
  • Picture books to use in primary school:
  • How to use picture books in school: discussing difficult topics, developing empathy, developing vocabulary, springboard for writing, visual literacy, challenging stereotypes.
  • What parents can do at home to help their child read better
  • A billboard message for all teachers
  • Jan Hasbrouck.
  • Mark Seidenberg: Language at the Speed of Sight
  • Louisa Moats (What do we need to know as teachers to teach reading?). Book, Speech to Print.
  • Clara Fiorentini’s Little Miss Teacher blog. Here is a link to the interview I did with Clara Fiortentin.
  • The Literacy Channel on YouTube.


Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

My guest on the podcast this week is Dr. Pam Moran who is the Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning and is a former superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools.

Among the points we discussed in the podcast were the following:

  • The role of a superintendent in US education
  • Desmos software that is used to teach mathematics.
  • The reintroduction of maker skills into US education in response to narrow testing and the benefits of it


  • Students who take making courses
  • Safety in maker learning
  • Involving the wider family in maker learning
  • How maker learning is reflected in the school curriculum


  • Her thoughts on professional development that works best for teachers
  • Professional development to help teachers teach online
  • Flipgrid


Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

On this week's podcast I discuss drama and theatre in education with Madeline Michel, a teacher in Monticello High School in Charlottesville Virginia. Madeline was the 2019 winner of the Tony award for excellence in theatre education. Among the topics we discuss in the course of the podcast are the following:

  • How she approaches theatre education
  • How a sports –competitive – paradigm is mistakenly applied to the arts
  • Theatre in education versus drama in education
  • How she tried to make her class more diverse
  • Teaching multiple grades in her classes
  • Letting students know that their stories and their talents are important
  • Her credo: art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable
  • How she became interested in theatre in education
  • What she reads
  • How education is a microcosm of the wider world
  • Stimulating teenagers to write plays
  • The first day in her drama class and building community
  • Collaborating with other teachers
  • Staging a school production
  • The importance of dance and movement in a production
  • The shortcomings of drama on Zoom
  • What students learn through drama
  • Assessing drama
  • Winning the Tony Award for Theatre in Education
  • She recommends the Nice White Parents podcast: (about school segregation in New York City)

Thanks to John Heffernan who suggested Madeline as a guest for the podcast.

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

On this week's podcast my guest is Professor William (Bill) Damon from Stanford University Graduate School of Education where he directs the Stanford Center on Adolescence. He is the author of many books, including The Path to Purpose. We discuss how students can be helped to find purpose in life. Among the topics discussed on this week's programme are:

  • Many young people looking for something to believe in - about a quarter of them “drifting”
  • Responses to being adrift: hedonism, anxiety.
  • Being adrift originates in not finding something that is a positive direction for themselves.
  • Profile of young people who are drifting
  • How young people have found purpose in previous eras (national, economic…)
  • Difference between seeking a purpose and seeking a meaning in life
  • How having a sense of purpose can help you have a psychological balance
  • Any activity can be purposeful if you believe in it, do it well and give it your all
  • How teachers can model a purposeful life for their students
  • Profiles in purpose
  • A teacher’s role in helping students find their purpose
  • When parents dislike the purpose chosen by their daughter or son
  • Most of us have multiple purposes in life
  • The link between purpose and entrepreneurship
  • Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal
  • The relationship between mission, commitment and purpose
  • Where people find purpose
  • The importance of “why” questions for teachers
  • How exams could be purposeful
  • Barriers students encounter in trying to find their purpose in life
  • How he conducts his research
  • Questions to help people find their purpose
  • Diane Ravitch

On this week's programme I speak to Paddy Madden about teaching and learning outdoors. Among the topics we discuss are:

  • How weather engages the senses when we learn outdoors
  • Benefits of teaching outdoors
  • Forest bathing
  • Noticing Nature
  • Cloud watching, listening to the sound of birds, smelling flowers.
  • Daily 15-minute walkabout
  • Teaching outdoors across the curriculum
  • Book: Sue Waite Children Learning Outside the classroom
  • A silly symphony
  • Preparing for outdoor learning
  • Learning outcomes
  • Ways of Knowing by John Quinn
  • A spiral curriculum – revisiting topics at a more complex level
  • Teaching outdoors in September
    • What to do when a wasp enters your classroom
    • Spiders
    • Planting a square metre of wheat
  • Integration across the curriculum using topic of wheat
  • Painting – called The Gleaners (I mistakenly called it “The Garners” in the recording)
  • Places to visit at this time of year
  • Fruit and seed walk: Dry fruit (e.g. helicopters, nuts) and succulent fruit (blackberries, rowan berries, sloes)
  • How school grounds can sometimes be barren
  • Paddy’s vision of ideal school grounds
  • Creating raised beds in a school grounds
  • Furniture for outdoors learning
  • Making a pond safe for a school setting
  • Making clipboards from recycled corroboard
  • How to position a bird box correctly
  • The value of a compass in school for showing directions
  • Why he dislikes terms such as a “bug hotel” or a “bug viewer”
  • Working outdoors in an urban environment
  • Using window boxes to grow food
  • Using binoculars with early finishers
  • The “Engage with Nature” website
  • Nature as a stage
  • The value of unstructured play
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  • John Feehan’s books
  • Richard Louv: "The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need."
  • Sacha Hamilton, the Duchess of Abercorn and activities of the Pushkin Trust

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

This week on the programme I interview five colleagues who participated recently in an Erasmus+ project titled EDUCATE. This project involved developing materials for teachers, providing providing professional development, and conducting research on how to combine challenge and differentiated instruction in the teaching of mathematics at pre-primary, primary and post-primary levels. Project materials are available here. The guests on the programme are Charalambos Charalambous from the University of Cyprus, Ann Marie Gurhy from the Marino Institute of Education, Despina Potari from the University of Athens, João Pedro da Ponte from the University of Lisbon, and Evridiki Kasapi from the University of Cyprus. Among the topics we discuss are:

  • Realising that mathematics is more than memorisation and drill and practice.
  • How the study of differentiated instruction and challenge in mathematics came about
  • What it means to introduce challenge to mathematics tasks
  • An overview of differentiated instruction
  • Using enablers and extenders to promote differentiated instruction
  • Why a teacher needs to know a student’s cognitive, social and affective needs in order to differentiate
  • Observing teachers’ needs in differentiating and providing challenge through reading research and observing lessons
  • Developing materials to support teachers
  • Using video clubs as a model of teacher professional development
  • Challenges teacher encounter when working with challenging tasks
  • The difference between video clubs and lesson study
  • Overview of the modules created as part of the project (each module is based around a number of cases of practice)

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

This week on the podcast my guest is Derek Sivers, a musician who founded the CD company CD Baby before leaving it to write and practise philosophy. His website is well worth checking out. Among the topics we discuss on the podcast are:

  • We all have the ability to be smart or to be stupid and how some environments reward stupidity and others reward being smart
  • Thriving educationally in and out of school: being engaged and receiving direct feedback
  • The power of finding the intersection between students’ interests and a nudge from parents’ towards learning/growing experiences
  • Why being smart (critical thinking, challenge assumptions, look past the obvious, to question the world) is more impressive than being educated (you’ve done the assignments)
  • Naval Ravikant is an example of someone he thinks is smart.
  • Smart is something you do, not something you are
  • A list of books Derek Sivers has read and the notes he made on them.
  • A great teacher or educator interrupts expectations: teaching a mindset (questioning assumptions, interrupting expectations) rather than delivering information. Teaching students how to carry on or learn on their own, to be smart out in the world).
  • You don’t have to copy the teacher's example all the time; as long as you get the gist of an idea, you can get creative within it.
  • Impact of Kimo Williams on Derek.
  • Why the typical school curriculum goes way too slowly
  • Being in awe at the patience of public school teachers
  • Intrinsic interest in music following an initial foundation in music
  • Moving from being passive in the education system to taking control of his own education: from mediocrity to excelling. His love of learning came after school
  • The importance of having something to pursue, something you want, something you’re driven towards – whatever it is. By learning to be great at that one thing, you learn everything else (how to learn, improve, practise, mastery) as a side effect.
  • How well his education prepared him for being an entrepreneur
  • Why he things entrepreneurship cannot be taught successfully (it’s very holistic, about psychology, thinking about things from the customer’s, client’s, partner’s point of view), being out in the world staying at the forefront of people’s minds, bring flexible.
  • Seeing learning as a key to his success; loving having his brain tickled – learning new ways of looking at things
  • The need to have a focus for what you want in life. His current focus is on being a great writer, programmer and dad.
  • Recognising that sometimes we just stumble into things (e.g. circumstance or a recommendation from someone we admire) or deliberately spreading out in other directions.
  • Audio version of The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson:(listened to after hearing a podcast between Tyler Cowen and Emily Wilson)
  • Avoiding distraction by finding work that is not so easy that it’s boring and not so difficult that it’s overwhelming as described in Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Maintaining focus by hating having something unfinished
  • Learning for the sake of creating something
  • Pain and anger as sources of ideas.
  • Things he wants to create (build a house from scratch; a company that will host websites after you die); a forum on which to highlight the next generation of musicians (BMajor); build a 100-acre forest over 15 years; create an app to connect people who like talking on the phone; and Cloud Free a service to teach people technical independence
  • Finding something that is endlessly interesting (computer programming for him)
  • Learning from different media and perspectives: reading diverse books, listening, multi-media videos, courses that give assignments
  • Mastery School (with coaches) sivers.org/masch: Pick something to do and make it happen
  • The Flipped Classroom

He recommends the following books, article and pieces of music in the course of the interview:

Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

On this week's programme school librarian from the Albemarle School System in the State of Virginia in the United States, Ida Mae Craddock (Mae) makes the case for having a school librarian in every school. We discuss her work as a school librarian. Among the topics covered are:

  • A description of the school she teaches in
  • Allocation of librarians to schools in Virigina
  • The job of school librarian
  • Describing the library and the services offered
  • Doing a masters in library science (Old Dominion University)
  • Content of masters course
  • The challenge and importance of locating resources that are relevant and used
  • Developing the library collection
  • The library of things
  • “Being stuck at home is no fun, being stuck at home with no books is tragic.”
  • Cataloguing library materials
  • The kind of literature that is popular among the students in the school she works in
  • Loss of library stock
  • Value of having a librarian in a school
  • The history of school libraries
  • The future of school libraries – innovation hubs
  • Writing regularly for School Librarian Connection and School Library Journal
  • The Maker Educator Collective
  • Laser cutting and 3-D printing
  • CRICKETS – Computer Aided Cutting
  • Teaching as a subversive activity by Neil Postman
  • Walden by Thoreau

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