Saturday, October 30, 2010

RSA Animation does Sir Ken Robinson

This RSA Animate presentation starts with 'Every country on Earth at the moment is reforming public education. There are two reasons for it...'.

To find out more, watch this wonderful presentation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Value of Professional Development

In the book Development of  Professional Expertise a lot of  focus is on the military and how the military can get better at what it does.  Schools are obviously a lot different to military organisations, but one thing that schools can learn is highlighted in the following extract :

'An SAS (British Special Air Services) officer remarked ... on the problem that afflicts many third world armies, of concentrating on acquiring expensive technology rather than applying basic training and skills.  On his own travels abroad, he said, he found again and again that his hosts disbelieved all that he told them about the achievements of the SAS being based on intensive, ceaseless and meticulous training and preparation: they all secretly believe that there is some pill you can take if only you will tell them what it is.'

When you read the quote substitute:

  • SAS (British Special Air Services) officer for  successful school leader 
  • Third world armies for under-performing schools
  • SAS for high performing schools
'A successful school leader remarked ... on the problem that afflicts many under-performing schools, of concentrating on acquiring expensive technology rather than applying basic training and skills.  On his own travels abroad, he said, he found again and again that his hosts disbelieved all that he told them about the achievements of high performing schools being based on intensive, ceaseless and meticulous training and preparation: they all secretly believe that there is some pill you can take if only you will tell them what it is.'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why the Internet is Wonderful

I really like this quote from Steven Fry, taken from the awesome BBC series The Virtual Revolution.  It really highlights why the Internet really is such a wonderful thing.

'We have the knowledge of the ages gathered for us to browse in, in our pockets, and if we seriously think that's a bad thing, if we seriously think that's something we should turn our backs on or sniff at then we really deserve a slapping. This is astounding technology and we should just take a moment to celebrate the power and the reach that it gives us across time and across ideas, and across continents, both past, future and present to connect with people.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nicholas Carr; The Conversation: Is the Web Rotting Your Brain?

Some more food for thought on the impact that the Internet may be having on our lives.  You may not agree with Nicholas Carr, but it does make some interesting listening.

Unfortunately I couldn't paste the code into this post, so you will need to click this link to see the four minute You Tube clip.  Click here to check it out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More debate on how smart or dumb the Internet is making us

On the 10th of October I did a post titled 'Could Google make you dumb'.  I was interested to see this theme covered in the Sunday Star Times today with Sarah Harvey's article 'Are we smarter or stupider with the internet?  Experts can't agree.'    Click the link to check it out, or read the article, which I have pasted on this post, below.

Is the internet making us stupid? Sarah Harvey searches for the answer. 
OUR ONLINE reading habits are making us stupid and unable to read anything longer than a paragraph or two, according to research in London.

But New Zealand psychologists reject that notion, saying we are actually getting more intelligent because of the screeds of information available to us at a click of a button.

Journalist Nicholas Carr said, in an article published recently in The Atlantic and republished here in the Neurological Foundation's Headlines newsletter, that he was no longer "thinking the way I used to think".
"I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. That's rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

"I think I know what's going on. For more than a decade now, I've been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the internet.

"What the net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation."
University College London researchers agreed that our habit of skimming stories, reading what we wanted to read in short digestible pieces and not stopping for long on anything else meant that our concentration was diminishing.

They looked at research from different generations on the way young people get and process information and watched the way people from different ages used two web-based information resources.
They found lots of people indulged in a form of "skimming activity", while about 60% of e-journal users were found to view no more than three pages and a majority (up to 65%) never returned.

"It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense. Indeed there are signs that new forms of `reading' are emerging as users `power browse' through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense."

But Tamar Murachver, from Otago University's psychology department, said it was the same old "scaremongering" that occurred when there was any change in society or technology.

"When people started reading books, when books were first in print and were available in everyone's homes, there was scaremongering about how this was going to ruin the social fabric of society because people would sit in the corner and read instead of conversing with one another.
"People made similar kinds of arguments when we had television, and then it was computer games and now it is the internet. It's almost like if there is a change, it takes people a while to adjust to it, and initially they just see that any kind of change is bad." She said there was more evidence that over the last decade intelligence has been increasing.

"It might be that being exposed to a lot of different ideas and having to integrate them could be a good thing for thinking."

Prof Michael Corballis, of Auckland University, said one could make the argument that the internet was an alternative to our memory so maybe our memory would be affected.

"It's a revolution something like the printing revolution – a step up making everything more accessible – but I don't know that it makes us stupider. In some ways it makes us more intelligent. But I think there is a natural tendency to balance things out, and if it's all crap, people will look for more intelligent pieces of information."

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Focus on Pedogagy

There are three major parts that make up education, these being: the curriculum (what we learn); assessment (how well we do at learning); and pedagogy (what The Oxford Dictionary describes as 'The science of teaching').  It seems to me that the focus in education always seems to be on both curriculum and assessment, with pedagogy being the poor cousin.

A suitable analogy for this would be the manager of a football team focusing only on the rules of the game and the results, while paying little attention to coaching players to actually play the game.  It's time that we started to focus on the best ways in which to get our children to learn through an emphasis on improving teacher practice.

I really like Sir Ken Robinson's (yes, him again!) comment from his book The Element:

'There isn't a great school anywhere that doesn't have great teachers working in it.  But there are plenty of poor schools with shelves of curriculum standards and reams of standardised tests'.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Mentor Teacher

I am reading Sir Ken Robinson's book The ElementAs he describes the role of a mentor I can see how the same steps used in mentoring can also be applied to teaching.  Sir Ken outlines four steps in the mentoring programme:

Identifying the skills that the student has.  Traditionally intelligence was seen as being either number or word smart.  Howard Gardener introduced the idea of multiple intelligences, in which anyone can be recognised as intelligent in a number of ways.  The role of the teacher mentor is to recognise the way in which all students are intelligent.

The student will feel that he or she can achieve something that was almost improbable to the student before coming under the guidance of the mentor teacher.   The mentor teacher will stand by the student, reminding him or her of the skills that they already have and what can be achieved through hard work.

The mentor teacher will help students by offering techniques and strategies to achieve learning goals, knowing that students will falter along the way, but will learn from mistakes that are made.

The effective mentor teacher will push students past perceived limits.  Students will not be allowed to produce less than what they are capable of doing, always striving to be the best that they can be, never settling for being 'average'. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How IT can benefit students in those places where few are prepared to teach

Check out this TED talk by Sugata Mitra; totally inspirational!  It goes to show that where the Internet can reach, quality education can flourish and children will learn and achieve.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The owner of the best gym in the USA gives advice

I was listening to the fitcast podcast when I was in the gym today.  This is a great source of fitness advice for anyone interested in personal health and fitness.  The podcast featured an interview with Mike Boyle, who runs what Men's Health magazine has rated the best gym in America.  I found that a lot of the common sense that Mike Boyle talked about the fitness industry could be directly related to education.  Here are four key points that really struck a chord with me:

Some of the 'new' approaches in health and fitness are simply what was being done 30 years ago.
Often when I hear about a new fad or approach to teaching an experienced teacher will tell me that the same thing was being done years ago, only then it had a different name.

Too often we are making simple things seem a lot more difficult than they actually are.
See my post from the 23rd of September in which I discuss how to get really good at something, as outlined by Professor Anders Ericsson.
Put yourself in environments that will help you to become successful.
As teachers we need to create the stimulating environment that gives our students the optimal chance of achieving success.

The more great trainers that are developed, the more people will benefit from and become healthy and fit.
The more great teachers that we have, the more successful members of society we will teach and inspire to contribute to making the world a better place.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Could Google make you dumb?

I write this post as an unabashed fan of Google and ICT in general.

At the end of the last school term I organised and ran an inter-school netball tournament.  As I was about to sit down and manually create a round robin draw, I thought 'why not do a google search?'  I typed in 'six team round robin draw' and sure enough there was the draw and my work was done.

My point is, are we becoming more reliant on the likes of Google to do the work and thinking for us?  Sure, I saved some time and I will do the same for numerous other tasks in the future.  However, it is important that we don't lose the skills and ability to do things for ourselves.