Friday, April 19, 2013
The Wellcome Trust remind us that we are in a state of decline, descending into disorder, and that our world is doing likewise. Though the writer tries to make brave fun of it, the pessimism of such an attitude remains. I am reminded, however, that outside my window evidence of spring continues. A special thanks for victory over entropy goes to our robin then; he is singing as though the world was the most spectacular place.
One of the difficulties of student-centred learning is defining the outcomes. There is also a place for routinised teaching, learning by repetition or rote. Edutopia, however, offer a good example of project based learning, one worthy of exploration.
I was reminded once again this week that pupils are defined in relation to a teacher, students in relations to learning. I am astounded then by the latest suggestion from Michael Gove, that the school day should be longer in order to improve performance and make life easier for parents. If we want children to learn, then we need to give them time to do so; and more controversially, perhaps, parents, not the state, should be looking after their children outside of school hours.
Monday, April 8, 2013
The Secret Teacher ends with the question How helpful is our help? The concern is that the perennial battle to take students over the C grade boundary, is not helpful to them, or indeed to teachers or schools. I am reminded of this every time I opt for the word student; students, by definition, are learners. When we teach, coach, coerce, monitor, prepare students to the point where they are simply repeating what is needed to obtain a grade, they have ceased to learn; they have rather become parrots. We need to be brave and recognise that this C grade is losing whatever value it once possessed.
An interesting conference on the future of digital resources for learning and education. This is potentially a very exciting development, though I imagine that any success will take many years to reach fruition.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Simaula offer a new platform for learning to teach using avatar students. It seems an interesting and promising idea, certainly one worth following.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
One of the highlights of my career was working with a dynamic, energy fuelled PE Faculty. The competitive urge is always fraught, needs direction; yet this teacher reminds me of both the adrenalin and the potential of schools with a clear focus. Harnessing learning through sport and social media he suggests that education is possible.
An interesting sentiment, and one that is readily recognisable. Tim Lott writes about how he chose schools for his children, and how many parents forget their morals as they choose schools for their own. The idealist in me says that this should not happen, and the critic says that it happens because our schools are just not up to it; we have to do what's best in a crass system. I remind myself cynically that this is peace-time Britain; everything is as it should be.
Having spent many years, some as a Senior Manager, championing the righteous necessity of obtaining C Grades, I am delighted to be able to say that this is no longer my mission. In truth I never really believed in that mission; grades are the educational equivalent of Santa Claus, they become more real the more we suspend our disbelief. As an ex-teacher, however, it is possible and refreshing to read the Secret Teacher's criticism of my erstwhile pursuit. There are clear winners when we hothouse, coerce, manipulate, cheat our students into grades that they don't deserve; students, learning and education unfortunately are not among them.
One of the nuggets of information I treasure most from my university days came from Terry Jones, during a guest lecture he was giving on the Knight's Tale. He said, to paraphrase, that in medieval Britain, country labourers worked on average for three months every year; the rest of their time was given to leisure. I have never confirmed this assertion, but I am happy to believe it nonetheless; and I believe further that such a life is something that we should strive for. We work too much, and too much of our finite life is spent wishing away the years. In this context I offer the case studies into teachers' overwork from The Guardian. Whether their lot seems easy to you or not (lots of people work long hours) it is surely daft to establish long hours of working as a norm, or an expectation in contemporary society.
I hated, disliked or was consistently unmoved by my experience of Secondary School. University, by contrast, opened a whole new world of wonder. Chief among its qualities was the fact that I didn't have to attend. I could be social, remote and scholastic, or a combination of the two; and the only measure that seemed to count was whether I passed the exams/essays or not. It amuses me then to read that students from UCL, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and St Andrews, are having an unfair time because they have so few contact hours; that was what I enjoyed. I can see the argument, however, for fees to reflect the level of service, as well as the level of investment from the different universities.