I was sent an email recently which contained a link to one of Pat Condell’s nasty xenophobic rants. Personally, I find this guy to be of what we call here, the “Daily Mail” mentality. He represents the most xenophobic of southern English racist bigots, the kind of people like Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin, who will tell you all about a culture without ever having had any contact with it. He wallows in his own ignorance and promotes insular and neurotic stuff like this in the same way that Nazi sympathisers did about Jews, gays, gypsies and freemasons. Condell is viciously anti-religion and has been running his own personal campaign against all forms of religion and faith for several years now. He’s actually an Irish ex-Catholic who is still bitter and twisted about the poverty his father’s gambling and imprisonment brought. He’s what my stepfather Frank would have described as, “someone who has nothing and wants to share it with everyone else”.
He’s worse than that. He promotes highly selective and factually incorrect portraits of religion, in this instance, Islam, wrapped in the Common Man’s language of bar-room Common Sense logic and in so doing, promotes his own brand of personal insecurity to those unable to discriminate.
If you think discrimination is wrong, you make my point.
… the US Embassy has sent this helpful message to all registered US Citizens in the UK:
“U.S. Embassy London informs U.S. citizens that planned demonstrations regarding the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will take place at various locations throughout London from April 13-17. The planned demonstrations have been widely reported in local media and U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor local media for updates about these planned events.
There is no indication that the demonstrations will be violent. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.”
As if any US Citizen would be so rude as to join such nonsense.
We’ve seen these kinds of thing before, and they are a standard gimmick for presenters of CPD workshops on the use of social media. Do these tricks represent power, however? I think they demonstrate something: connectivity, reach, that the new “community” isn’t restricted by geography or even timezone. By themselves, they do not demonstrate power. What is power? Whether you take the common usage or a stricter scientific definition, one could characterise “power” as the ability to change things.
Now, perhaps through jealousy or feelings of inadequacy, or maybe it’s just my age (I should be buying a Harley), I’m deeply suspicious of philanthropy. I regard the motivations of those who would throw money around with suspicion. The arrogance of those who, through whatever means have found themselves with serious amounts of money, then pityingly and patronisingly share life-changing amounts of it with the “poor” or “disadvantaged”, has always irritated me. If we had a fairer society, these benefactors wouldn’t have such disgusting wealth in the first place, and nor would those who needed the help, need it as much, if at all. More to the point, the pet projects and politics of the philanthropist wouldn’t prevail unfairly over more objective criteria.
So, in studying OER (Open Educational Resources) in the h817open mooc, it is mentioned in passing that, “Many OER projects have received funding from bodies such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation“. My own experience in state education made me flinch at reading this. Whether open or not, I have seen that almost all educational resources used in public (state) schools are developed by the class teacher – often on their own time and at their own expense. Hours of time are spent preparing differentiated and engaging resources, often laminated and produced in expensive coloured paperstock, or set up as an online resource for all to use. The latter, as often as not, because the school-provided system is so awful and difficult to use as to become rendered useless. (I’m trying to get this written without mentioning GLOW. Ooops.). All of this, provided in a billion small acts of philanthropy, in those extra unpaid hours and the extra ten- or twenty-dollar expenses not reclaimed.
I read Bill Hewlett’s biography with admiration and recognition that yes, he was a lovely man who leaves a lovely legacy. I have a positive regard for his company (I still carry around an HP-15C from the 80′s). I just find that philanthropy is an unpleasant basis to built a sustainable society upon.
A reader, presumably a teacher, wrote in response to a question I asked recently about experiences in school. My question related to how closely the ethos of the school should match that of the teaching staff. What I was particularly getting at was whether or not it is right that state education provision should be interfered with by the Catholic Church, which assumes a position of anachronistic influence in the appointment of teachers in Scotland.
The response I got was set in a different context altogether and rather struck a chord with me, so I thought I’d share it with you. Quote:
I have been asked by many different people one question: “…would you want to work at that school [again]?” And I say to each and every one of them, no. They don’t seem to understand this. “But it is a nice school, good facilities, etc etc etc.” There are a few things that I didn’t like about it there. One of which is how it looks like to me that all sense of individuality is just taken away from these [pupils]. They have to act in a certain way, they have to be a certain way, they even have to have their hair a certain way, and I just didn’t like it. I could see the progression through the years and how every single year they went up in the year, it appeared as if some part of them was missing. It didn’t sit right with me. I want my pupils to have personality, I want them to be individual and all different. I don’t want to teach the same [pupil] over and over and over again. That is why I will not be going back to that school. I am grateful for what they did for me, but I’m happy that it’s over.
So, who is right? Should a school be able to appoint staff who fit well with their ethos and principles? Should they only be able to do so if the school operates outside of the publicly-funded provision of education?
A question was asked today on Twitter, prompted by a photograph in this week’s TES of BEd students in which only one or two males were present in a larger cohort.
The ensuing discussion suggested that there is not much more than anecdotal data relating to the gender balance in Scottish schools, so I’ve had a little dig around and found some data. Firstly, the IoP has figures for 2007-10 for Secondary schools in Scotland:
These figures show that in secondary, 62% of teachers across the subjects are female but in Physics, this figure is 28%.
The Donaldson Report states, “An overall gender imbalance (76% women to 24% men) is particularly marked in the primary and pre-school sectors (92% and 95% female respectively) and has been consistent over a number of years (75.7% in 2007, 75.8% in 2008 and 76% in 2009)”. Mark Priestley identifies further research published by Taylor & Francis (here and here) as well as a few others.
The Scottish Government publishes teacher census data, the most recent of which for 2012 shows that 91% of Primary teachers in Scotland are female, and 62% in Secondary. The GTCS publishes an annual employment survey, the most recent of which for 2012, shows a fairly even split between males and female probationers finding permanent work post-probation (35% female, 38% male).
This is a good question, and worthy of further inquiry if the question can be framed well enough. “Why aren’t there more male teachers, particularly in primary schools in Scotland?”.
Answers on a postcard, please. Or in the comment below.
The future is technology. So goes the idealistic vision of the future theme of edcmooc and the happy dreams of those who dream of a digital utopia in which our lives are enhanced by amazing geekery and augmented reality.
My world is different. Mine is a world in which technology doesn’t work. It claims to work but forgets to mention the endless hours you will spend trying to get it do what you thought, foolishly, that it would do. Don’t even mention the word “GLOW” in my presence.
I bought a Sony Bravia TV because it had internet connectivity. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It connects to a half-assed clunky version of the internet. It doesn’t, after all, play stuff from the web. I doesn’t let me browse. At all. I discover that I can jigger about with things to make it do that, sort of. I bought a Roku Media Streamer so I can stream digital media from my network to the TV. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It has an interface clunkier than a clunky thing from clunky-land in the far forgotten time of the early nineties. I took it back. I bought a Boxee Box which according to the manufacturers, does all the things I want it to do. It does, sort of, but not the way I understood it. It falls over a lot. The display is intermittently broken and it switches sound output on and off suddenly, threatening my lovely expensive speakers (which were made in the 1970′s by the way and still work when not rapidly switched on and off by a dodgy boxee). I took it back.
I got an Asus Nexus Google 7 tablet which has had a flickering display fault since the day it arrived and despite being returned to the manufacturer twice, still has the fault. The audio output has never worked. I’m sending it back. Again.
The future may be technology but don’t you rely on it doing what you think it will do. It will, sort of, but not the way you understood it.
According to the strapline at the head of this website, “Any teacher who can be replaced by a machine, should be”. The operative word here is can. The context and threat is the increasing use of video lectures and tutorials in delivering learning. The more paranoid teacher will wake up cold-sweating in the night from dreams of having been replaced by online video, screaming Kirk-like: “KHAN! KHAAAN!”. Worse, of having been assimilated within the technology.
The explosive interest in TED and the like reveals a world-wide hunger to know stuff: to learn new things and to keep up with the latest discoveries. The contemporaneous growth in the availability of broadband internet access has fed this demand and the relative inexpense of hand held and tablet video platforms has fuelled the explosion. The attraction is, of course, that users (I don’t like the term, “consumers” of data) can access a vast range of online material at their own convenience: in video bite-sized chunks in the train, the toilet, the traffic jam. As these slices of opportunity to access video get shorter, they fit in the spaces between all the other activities of the day and night like grains of sand in a jar of peas.
Get with it, man, MOOCs are the future
This proliferation of opportunity has led to the MOOC – the Massively Open Online Course – and the packaging of chunks of online reading and viewing into a complete short course has great appeal, judging by the uptake.
Dear Charles Atlas, I have completed your excellent “he-man” course. I look forward to receiving my muscles.
The problem with moocs, however, is that they are massive and open. The course creators rely on large numbers of participants self-organising around social networks to create “vibrant communities” in a paradigm of students supporting and encouraging each other. The reality I have found in the mooc I am following is that the cacophony of the many drowns out the quality of the few. Thirty thousand voices shouting, “look at me!” over the lone quiet voice whispering, “look at this”. This has been of such concern to one mooc educator that they walked away. As a student, I have found that the contributions of the community do contain incisive, stimulating, funny, challenging and articulate contributions but you have to wade through the other 95% to find these. This has become so frustrating that I am now looking less at other contributions, in favour of concentrating the available time on the course materials alone.
Who needs teachers?
Bad ones? Nobody. Mediocre ones? No, thanks. Give me Khan. A book. Anything else. The ones that bring you to the penny dropping, the light coming on, the rush, the boom, the click, the whatever-happens-in-your-head-when-you-finally-get-it? Now you’re talking.
So what is it about the teacher that cannot be replaced by a machine? What makes them so magical? The clue is in the video clip at the top of this post. The magician knows how to manage expectations, create perceptions and deliver a satisfying climax to a sequence of events. Most importantly, he knows all about the observer’s perspective: the entire sequence is designed to achieve an effect in the audience.
The magical teacher plans, organises, details and delivers the learning with a full and detailed understanding of the student experience and perspective. He or she understands that the stages in the lesson have resonance with the stages of magic described by Michael Cain. The Pledge begins in prior learning and relevant context. The Turn is a hook, perhaps new knowledge or skills, something interesting or engaging, full of promise and misconception. The Prestige is the moment when understanding reveals itself – the flourish, the step from dark into light, the feeling that fills your heart, the satisfaction. It takes place in the Zone of Proximal Development.
We can get The Pledge and the Turn of learning by ourselves, given the resources. The irreplaceable teacher brings us The Prestige.