This, from Jack Welch, makes a lot of sense:
“I’ve always believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.”
Given how quickly things are changing outside schools, it makes me wonder how best to keep the rates of change inside them up to speed.
There’s a lot of talk about 21st century education. There are the skills that children need, the jobs that don’t exist yet, the access to learning anywhere and all the wonderful things the internet enables us to do. All of this is valuable, I think, but I wonder how much it is side-stepping the real issue?
When I first started teaching, the wonderful Annie Younger pointed something out to me. She said that “children will learn from you even when you don’t want them to. It is a blessing and a curse.” What she meant was that in a school you are constantly observed. Not just in lessons, but in the corridor, talking to colleagues, spilling soup on your shirt in the dining room and the children learn from that too.
Much of the 21st century thinking about schools that I have read has focused on overt areas( e.g. assessment and badges) and times (e.g. homework and flipped classrooms) when we do want children to learn. Badges, flipped classrooms and the like. This is all good. Perhaps, though, we are ignoring think more about the tacit, unintended, soup-spilling messages our 20th century schools are giving out.
The main one, for me, is the structure. Perhaps more out of tradition than intent, schools are hierarchical, command-and-control beasts. While yes it’s good to look at ways to reinvent the classroom, what if we had a closer look at the way our schools were structured? It’s always easier to think in binary terms – hierarchy (bad) vs wirearchy (good) – and there is a danger that that blurs much of the goodness in the overlap but should we be beginning to adjust the organisational structures to fit a more fluid world? Does a school need a head? How do we embed teams? Should we? How do we engage in a less us and them manner with parents and communities?
Dave Gray‘s talk below is a great starting point for thinking about this.
As a teacher it’s hugely exciting to be able to use all the magic of technology. It’s great to be able to tweet and blog and share photos and get classrooms connecting with others around the world. That is, as Annie Younger might have said, part of what I want the children to learn. What I’m not sure I want them to learn is that all of this happens despite, not because of, a school’s structure. The values that are implicit in what I am trying to teach are not necessarily carried through in the way my colleagues and I work. That is the soup on my shirt.
Thought I’d share a little slideshow I’ve made to introduce my class to SOLO. Been mulling over trying it this summer and thank in large part to the theory here, some serendipitous resources mentioned by Ewan and the sheer enthusiasm of Tait, I’m taking the plunge.
Would love to hear any tips.
One thing that has struck me is that it might dovetail nicely with DSRP, with SOLO providing the direction and DSRP the engine so to speak.
There’s a lot of talk about making learning personal at the moment. We should all be tailoring it to the needs and interests of the child. Much of it is sensible and I agree with much of the sentiment.
I also think there is a risk that comes attached. That risk is an overt focus on self-knowledge and an assumption of some positive understanding, breadth and direction that isn’t there. The child, so the thinking goes, chooses what he/she wants to learn and then builds up from there, with more vigour and more enthusiasm and more lasting success.
Well, possibly. But as Andre Gide said,
“Know thyself” – a maxim as pernicious as it is odious. A person observing himself would arrest his own development. Any caterpillar who tried to “know himself” would never become a butterfly.
While we shouldn’t stop personalising learning, we should neither decide too early against the idea that there are some things, beyond the child’s knowledge or perceived interests, that they will look back on and thank us for the introduction.
Have been thinking a lot more about the ICT curriculum and had a little Damascus moment earlier on. Often, when I have sat down trying to get thoughts clear about all this I find I get overly drawn to the “how” of teaching. This is fun, but ultimately back-to-front, I think. The why and the what should come first.
The first thing IT teachers need to agree on, I think, is the “why”. There needs to be a rationale to give it shape, to balance the competing claims of Computer Science, Digital Media, and Digital Literacy amongst others.
Next, we need to agree on the “what”. Given the rationale, what do we want students to learn? What attitudes, what skills, what knowledge? That, I think, is what we will be assessing the children on.
These two, by and large, are where I would expect schools to want to find some consensus and some comfort in numbers. But they are miles away from the “how”. I admit, I love the idea of schools doing hackdays, for instance, but that is my leaning. And to try to work backwards from “stuff I like” is not necessarily the most sensible approach. How these goals are achieved or organised can vary massively, from individual lesson plans like those being shared at #ictcurric, to the astonishing mindmaps of @teachesict suggested portfolio approaches like Brian’s. If you take a look at those resources, you can see that the how is a huge, flexible, customisable beast. It will, I suspect, and perhaps even should vary from school to school. It will depend on staff, on equipment, on children.
There is a huge amount of goodness to learn from all of the “how” resources, but I think the discussions would be most fruitfully centred on the why and the what. If we centre on the how, my fear is that we will spend too long discussing differences that we don;t need to be discussing.
So a while ago Michael Gove said the current ICT Curriculum is being scrapped. To be honest, hooray. The current offering is dismal, almost unforgivably so. There already seem to be a bundle of energetic, committed characters looking to redraft a better one and in response to Chris and his call for ideas here are some first thoughts.
Don’t call it ICT.
I’d never heard of ICT before I became a teacher. I worked in IT in various capacities for 15 years before becoming a teacher and have an MSc in Computer Science. People work in IT. Please let’s call it that. Or pink elephants. Or anything that isn’t ICT
A ‘these truths I hold dear’ of sorts. Any IT curriculum should:
And by contrast, no IT curriculum should ever, ever be a slop-bucket for other subjects’ technical projects, “oh because, you know, it involves a computer and the internet”.
So what should the IT Curriculum contain? I’m jotting down notes here but I’d think the key strands could be something like:
It’s probably a little OTT but I think these almost map onto Shannon and Weaver’s 3 modes of communication.
Concerns from #ukedchat
I had a look through Brian’s #ukedchat session and the following seemed to be the key concerns.
If you’re interested, some medium term plans are beginning, slowly, to take shape here:
I have nothing against private tutors – let me say that straight out. But I think without openness in the communications between tutor, child, parent and school everyone suffers significant problems for schools, parents and children. Equally
The Problem for the School
Heads of Department, in fact private schools in general, draw a huge amount of succour from their results. If they are getting children in to strong, academic schools then that is seen to be indicative of strong, academic teaching (with the knowing wink that some children were so gifted they didn’t need any help).
Certainly in London, this is no longer the case. Tutoring is rife but this is not necessarily a problem. There are plenty of valuable reasons for tutoring, such as
What is more concerning it that tutoring is rife but there is very little open discussion about it.
There seem to be two types: school-advised and outside world.
School-advised tutoring is a bizarre creature. Much, if not most of the time, it is well-advised. For instance, if a child has to catch up after moving from another country, tutoring can work well.
What is bizarre, though, is when schools are simply happy with the fact that everyone gets tutored. If parents are paying good money for education, shouldn’t the expectation be that their child’s needs will be met? At the moment, in less kind moments, it can feel like RyanAir. OK, yes you paid for the flight but the lifejacket costs you £50 …
The sad thing is, with the stress of securing the best (or more healthily the right) school for their children, it seems parents too rarely demand to know exactly why my child’s needs were not being met in class.
When tutoring is advised by the outside world (friends at coffee parties, peer pressure, nervous grandparents or whoever) there are different problems. As a teacher, I only hear in passing which children in my class are being tutored and which aren’t. Often parents have asked the child not to say anything. [Note to self: must be more proactive and ask parents to tell me direct!] I can guess four possible reasons for this, there may well be more.
This communication breakdown, intentional or not, has three effects, neither of which benefit the child.
The Problem for Parents and Children
Here I am vastly less experienced but here, as a slightly pathetic attempt at completeness, are some possible problems:
The problem for the tutor
A Simple Fix
Much of this comes down to schools, I think. There is nothing that anyone can do to stop someone getting their child tutored. Nor, arguably, should there be.
|Impetus for tutoring||Solid Reasons||Less solid reasons|
|School||Brief tutor or agency and communicate regularly, share results from school/tutor with parents, assume short term||Just say no & advise parents against, run e.g. maths club in school for free|
|Outside World||Gauge from parents why being tutored, assess internally if this highlights an area of weakness in the school offering, ask for tutor/agency contact details and if possible present parents and child with joint, results-based plan||Gauge from parents why being tutored, assess internally if this highlights an area of weakness in the school offering, ask for tutor/agency contact details and if possible present parents and child with joint, results-based plan. If communication and co-planning not given, then advise parents strongly against.|
All of this is predicate on a school audit of tutoring and one wants to get really OFSTED a policy in place for tutoring.
Basically, though, isn’t it all common sense?
Sorry …. turned into a monster …
Character building in the UK, I think, needs a little bit of an upgrade. Part of that means having a clearer idea of what we’re trying to build.
Character building 1.0 & The Welsh 3000s
Currently, character building is a euphemism for any experience that is uniformly dreadful and unrewarding. One example, from my childhood, was a challenge called the Welsh 3000s.
“It’s very rocky, and both uphill and downhill sections are demanding. Navigation can also be problematic without previous knowledge of this area of Snowdonia. For some, the walk involves camping/bivvying at the top of Snowdon the night before, adding to the weight of kit for the initial section. Additionally, one mountain, Crib Goch, is very exposed – several people have died on it.
This challenge is commonly underestimated – you need to be very fit to walk it in 24 hours.”
And no, it was not rewarding, nor enjoyable, nor could I see the point. Still, these challenges abound and are perhaps especially prevalent in the independent sector. Even the wide-eyed Wellington progressive Anthony Seldon says that “Hikes and gruelling expeditions should not be the domain just of the posh”.
Character Building 2.0
The difficulty with this is not that the hikes shouldn’t happen. Simply that they need to be given a context. Saying that they are simply good things for their own sake is not, I think, good enough. I like this from KIPP, Duckworth, Seligman et al.
SELF-CONTROL – SCHOOL WORK
Comes to class prepared
Pays attention and resists distractions
Remembers and follows directions
Gets to work right away rather than procrastinating
SELF-CONTROL – INTERPERSONAL
Remains calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked
Allows others to speak without interruption
Is polite to adults and peers
Keeps temper in check
Recognizes and shows appreciation for others
Recognizes and shows appreciation for his/her opportunities
Is eager to explore new things
Asks and answers questions to deepen understanding
Actively listens to others
Gets over frustrations and setbacks quickly
Believes that effort will improve his or her future
Finishes whatever he or she begins
Tries very hard even after experiencing failure
Works independently with focus
Able to find solutions during conflicts with others
Demonstrates respect for feelings of others
Knows when and how to include others
With it, you can begin to give children a) some meaningful targets and b) some meaningful reasons. At least, then, at the end of a nightmarish hike across the Welsh mountains, one might feel a sense of achievement, not pointlessness.
More from Mr Pink. Would be interesting to make a quick taxonomy of school behaviours that benefit from a carrot-and-stick approach.
Michael Ellsberg has a book out called The Education of Millionaires, which outlines the 7 key skills you need to know to become a millionaire like college drop-outs Zuckerberg or Gates. The argument, loosely, is:
What is also left out of the debate about higher education is that its purpose is not just to provide a pathway paved with gold for the nation’s elites. If we frame the discussion that way, we may unintentionally serve to disparage the people who are in charge of the daily management, maintenance and smooth operation of our civilization — the men and women who deliver our mail, comprise our police force, serve in our military, work in our libraries, teach our elementary school children, and devote themselves to a thousand other jobs that, if not performed with responsibility, commitment and creativity, would undermine the basic structures of our society. Though these individuals may not be reaching for the kind of stars that Michael Ellsberg and others would have them aspire to grasp, most are doing something even more important: they are engaging in the useful tasks of good citizens and contributing to the common welfare, including providing for their families. And perhaps they are even carrying out what Marcus Aurelius called “one of our assignments in life … to do what needs doing.”
Spot on, in my book. Any mass educational system will have a hard time dealing with those at either end of a bell-curve. But surely the failures of these systems to cope with exceptional cases does not invalidate them? Rather than eulogising these exceptional cases – Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg – as icons in the fight against an impractical education, they should be celebrated, I think, for having the self-awareness to decide that college was not for them. No less, no more.