Teaching Perspectives

tpiI was directed to something called the teaching perspectives inventory, which I had not heard of before, by a PGDE student at Moray House. She had taken the survey before starting the course to give herself an insight into her own attitudes to teaching and as a benchmark: she intends taking the survey again at the end of the year to try and gauge how much her outlook has changed as a consequence of the year. If you’re not aware, the PGDE in Scotland is a one-year professional graduate diploma at Master’s level which delivers 18 weeks in university and 18 weeks in school placement. At the end of the year, successful students progress to (paid) probation and on to full registration as teachers.

Those of you that know me will not be surprised that I couldn’t resist taking the inventory test myself, to see where I sit in the five perspectives as a fairly new university teacher. The results are interesting (click the image for the full size).

My dominant perspective according to the analysis is Nurturing: “Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head”. I like this. It is characterised by phrases like, “learners […] are working on issues or problems without fear of failure”, “their achievement is a product of their own effort and ability”, “[teachers promote] a climate of caring and trust”, and “[t]heir assessments of learning consider individual growth as well as absolute achievement”.

I am recessive in Transmission: “Effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter”. I think I like this too. My role as I see it is substantially about developing people and their attitudes, over content. In the survey, I am sure I was a little fuzzy with the responses, still being a recent secondary classroom teacher of physics. Although I have a responsibility to challenge student teachers to assess, challenge and develop their physics understanding (and to continue to do so), my more significant task is in areas like pedagogy, complexity, social justice and professional responsibility.

The other three perspectives (Apprenticeship, Development and Social Reform) sit around the mean. I’m not alarmed by this, although my conscience pricks itself when it comes to Development, “Effective teaching must be planned and conducted from the learner’s point of view.”, because it’s one of my mantras. Perhaps my response to the survey brings this out as below dominant because I put this principle into practice by proxy: in my mind as I do my job, above the needs of the students in front of me, are the needs of the young people they will teach. Controversially, my role has been defined by some as “gatekeeper”, the one who prevents ineffective teachers from making it to the classroom.

There’s more to reflect on here, I think. If you are an educator, you might give it a try yourself?

EDIT: There’s more information on teaching perspectives in Pratt, D. D. (2002). Good teaching: one size fits all?, which includes this:

Perspectives are neither good nor bad. They are simply philosophical orientations to knowledge, learning, and the role and responsibility of being a teacher. Therefore it is important to remember that each of these perspectives represents a legitimate view of teaching when enacted appropriately.



A summer of code

anarchyThe summer has had me getting to grips with the nitty-gritty of internet web hosting, caused by a consolidation and move of all of the websites and services that I host to a new server. I had been using HostPapa in a shared environment for several years but the traffic and resource usage of these sites had been on the increase for about 18 months, to the point that HostPapa invited me to pack up and leave.

After a detailed survey of requirements and possible alternatives, I elected to move to the affordable but much more powerful next-step-up of a virtual private server (VPS) solution from HostingUK. I’ve known these guys since they set up business in the late 90’s and felt comfortable that I would get good support from the people behind the business. I haven’t been disappointed.

The new server runs CentOS 6.4, a version of the Red Hat Linux operating system and has the usual LAMP features of Apache Web server, mySQL and PHP, with the Parallels Plex 11 management panel.

My development has been firstly in the area of learning how to set it all up using the Plex panel: it’s a very powerful tool but it’s not quite plug-and-play. The DNS for each of the domains on the site is best managed at the registration server using their nameservers: they have redundancy built in and although the VPS can be its own NS, if it goes down for any reason, this can lead to problems with mail transport and SEO indexing. Within the DNS records for each domain, minimum configuration requires appropriate A, MX and CNAME  entries as well as TXT or SPF records to stop your mail from being forever consigned to the spam folder.

Further learning has included getting down and dirty with the *nix command line, from basic file operations to examining logs, setting up CRON and managing and installing further packages. I’ve installed Munin to help identify what normal operation looks like. One of the things that my new insight has given me is an appreciation of just how much sustained attack is endured by even the smallest of websites by the likes of Turkish, Chinese, North Korean and other interests. The importance of having decent passwords is underlined when you see 20,000 (yes, twenty thousand) attempts to guess the root password in a single day.

The summer of code has reminded me of what I’m best at, and what I enjoy doing.

And(roid) it’s STILL faulty

Switched my Nexus 7 on today for the first time in a little while today. I’ve got to the point now where I don’t use it much, as it’s such a flaky piece of junk. I can’t be relying on flaky pieces of junk. This is what I saw:

2013-05-24 00.06.37 2013-05-24 00.07.25 2013-05-24 00.07.56

It’s still faulty. Same fault I returned it for back in November. And again twice more since. This is seriously the worst product service I have ever had. And that’s coming from a guy who once bought a Lada. Get it sorted, please, Asus.

Bigotry, spreading

condellI 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”.

NFHe’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.

There’s nothing that can’t be challenged by ignorance


… 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.

Now is the time..

… to say “Goodbye” to the Open University MOOC, h817open. I’ve not been giving sufficient time and effort to participating in the community and course over the past couple of weeks and other priorities have now to take precedence.

Thank you to the Open University for making it available and to all of the community of moocers who have commented, encouraged and argued with my posts, and provided real stimulus through their own posts and contributions in blogs, forums and social media channels that make up the magnificent moociness. Good luck to those who are sticking it out: I’ve learned a lot from you.

The power of the individual

A teacher, relatively new to Social Media networks for professional development and education, posted this with a link to an interesting but not uncommon “test” of the power of Twitter:


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.

cullaloe_2013-04-03So, 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.


Progressing in this mooc on Open Learning, the course now turns its attention to licensing by referring to David Wiley’s 4 R’s Framework:

  1. Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form (e.g., make a backup copy of the content)
  2. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  3. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  4. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

I’d like to add a fifth, or, in true Physics style, a “zeroth” R of reuse, based upon my own experience:

  1. Ripoff – the unchallengeable right of anyone beyond litigation to just steal your stuff and use it or pass it off as their own.

It comes before all the others because it overrides them all. Only rarely have I ever successfully challenged the leeching or theft of my images and content by other publishers. The most recent instance was in fact by a well-known Scottish University who made unauthorised use of an image I owned. After some serious pursuing of the case, they finally paid a royalty fee. The usual outcome is deafening silence.

Having said that, I’ve been more often flattered when somebody takes a post or article, photographs included, and replicates it in their own context, especially if that context involves translation. I had an article on measuring the speed of light in the kitchen replicated with permission which is now one of several versions of this resource on the web. There are other versions around in other languages.

My default position for copyright is to assert “all rights reserved” in the hope that those who would use my material would do so only after having sought and obtained permission, but if I had to choose an open license for OER, it would be Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland. The rationale would be that (i) I live and work in Scotland and I like Scottish Law, (ii) I don’t mind other people making use of my work, (iii) provided that they don’t make money out of it (I don’t) and (iv) they pass on the same obligations to their users.