Tag: Education (page 2 of 24)

Indie Tech Summit: On raising the next generation [VIDEO]

On U.S. Independence Day this year I was in Brighton (England) for the Indie Tech Summit. The focus was on discussing sustainable & ethical alternatives to corporate surveillance. Aral Balkan, the organiser, invited me to speak after we had a long discussion when I crashed the Thinking Digital closing party and I wrote this blog post.

All of the videos from the Summit are now up, and the Indie Tech team have done a great job with them. Here’s mine:

(not showing? click here or here)

The slides I used can be found on Slideshare and a full verbatim transcription of the talk is on this page.

I’d be interested in your reaction to what I have to say in this talk, especially if you’re involved in formal education in any way (educator, parent, etc.)

Announcing Maker Party Newcastle 2014

I’m delighted to announce that we’ve confirmed the date for this year’s Maker Party Newcastle! Building on the success of previous ones held at the Centre for Life, this year we’ll be at Campus North, home of the Ignite100 startup accelerator on Saturday 13th September. Many thanks to Lyndsey Britton and Lauren Summers for their help in making this happen.

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/makerpartyncl14

Maker Party Newcastle 2014

Maker Parties are for everyone, but given Ignite100’s links with Code Club, we’ve decided to make it relevant to the new English primary school computing curriculum. Children of all ages will be welcome, but if you’re a teacher – or aged between 7 and 11 – it will be particularly relevant!

We’re looking for mentors to help out with this event. The most important qualities are enthusiasm and a willingness to be a co-learner. Some rudimentary HTML and CSS skills would be a bonus. Extra points for JavaScript!

If you’re based in the North East of England, please do share this widely with your networks. 🙂

Questions? Please direct them to doug@nullmozillafoundation.org.

Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation [DMLcentral]

Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation

My 20th post for DMLcentral has now published. Entitled Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation, my aim was to point out a fundamental problem with the way we ‘pay’ for our technology (i.e. through user data) and how that applies to education.

I’d love your comments on it – I’ve closed them here so you can do so over there!

Click here to read the post

 

Rethinking Literacy for the Web [Educating Modern Learners]

Educating Modern Learners, a new subscription site from Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon, is now live. Excitingly, the editor of the site is none other than Audrey Watters, whose blog and newsletter I’m sure you already subscribe to.

They commissioned me to write one of the first articles to appear on the site, a process that meant I benefitted from the editorial eye of Audrey. The post is currently available via the free subscription tier for the site, so you’ll need to sign up to access it.

The article is entitled Rethinking Literacy for the Web. In it, I provide an introduction to what the web means for literate practices, the challenge for educators, and ways we can respond.

The time has come to move beyond discussions of whether the web, social networks, and mobile devices are inherently “good” or “bad.” Debates about whether such things can (or should) be used for learning drag on while the next generation cobble together their own understanding of an increasingly blended online/offline world. It’s time we as educators stepped up and taught more than just “e-safety.” It’s time we started facilitating learning experiences around reading, writing, and participation on the web.

Once you’ve had a read I’d be interested in your comments here (I don’t think they’re turned on over there!)

Image CC BY-SA Alberto Garcia

Re-imagining the Where, When, and How of Educational Practice [DMLcentral]

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Re-imagining the Where, When, and How of Educational Practice, it’s an attempt to cover briefly three topics:

  1. The role of money in education
  2. ‘Disruptive’ innovation
  3. The DML conference 2014

I think my favourite paragraph is this one:

The priority here in education, formal or informal, should be upon facilitating learning, not finding ways to use the latest technology that comes along. While there’s an undoubted thrill in, for example, finding ways to use something like Google Glass, we as educators shouldn’t feel pressure to do so merely because it exists. We should focus on creating learning environments that integrate technology use, not throw the baby out with the bathwater in the name of ‘disruption.’ Education isn’t broken, it’s just being systematically defunded in order to let private providers ‘save the day.’

I’d really appreciate your comments – whether you agree with what I’ve got to say or not. I’ve closed them here to encourage you to comment on the original post.

Image CC BY The Knowles Gallery

A Hacker News for education?

I visit Hacker News every day. It’s a great resource of technie-related things – not just code stuff but things that people who work in that kind of area are likely to be interested in.

I’ve created something similar: http://ednews.meteor.com


Eight years ago, Will Richardson tried to create a ‘Digg-like site’. For whatever reason, it didn’t work in the medium to long-term. But his reasoning still stands:

[Th]is is all stemming from a bigger burr in my brain of late that has to do with the seeming randomness of all of the really great work that people in this community are starting to create. It’s just feeling like it’s all over the place, and that if we could in some way get our collective act together, we could start creating an incredibly valuable resource. I know it’s all about small pieces loosely joined, but wouldn’t it be great to point the newcomers to one spot that was a clearinghouse for all of this work? Not to mention the value it would have to us old timers in terms of bringing people in. I mean all of a sudden, it seems like everyone has a wiki, and most all of them have great intent and good content. But there’s also a lot of duplication of effort, and more importantly, dis-connection, at least that what it feels like to me.

Yes, these days we have Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and many other social networks. But if the tech community find value in Hacker News (and they do!) why not one for education? I know there’s sites like Spigot but, while I find them useful, they’re not community-contributed links.

If there’s interest and it gains some traction, then I’ll work together with a few folks to deploy it to its own server/domain. 🙂

Try it! Add some links of your own: http://ednews.meteor.com

PS Let me know in the comments what you think (and if you have any problems with it!) I came up with the idea literally just now and did a quick search to see how I could deploy something today!

The Web Literacy Standard is dead (long live the Web Literacy Map!)

I spent a good chunk of 2013 working with colleagues and a community of stakeholders creating a Web Literacy Standard. The result is testament to the way Mozilla, as a global non-profit, can innovate on behalf of users. I’m delighted with what we created.

Until recently, the literature and language in the field of Web Literacy has been relatively undeveloped. This is important, because although it doesn’t always seem like it, words are hard:

This seems to be a problem for anyone trying to explain the unfamiliar. If you invent new words, few people will know what you’re talking about, but if you make analogies using existing words, you bring along all their context, whether you want to or not.

In early 2013 we wanted to avoid creating just another ‘framework’. Why? Although we wanted to be more descriptive than prescriptive, we still didn’t want people to just pick-and-choose the bits they liked. Instead, we wanted to co-create something more holistic. That’s we chose to call what we were creating a ‘Standard’. The idea was for the community to come together to build something they felt they could align with.

And that’s exactly what we did. We created something that, while not perfect, we can feel a justifiable pride about.

A problem we’ve encountered is that because words are hard and dependent upon context, ‘Standard’ can have negative connotations – especially in North America. So after announcing the first version of the Standard at MozFest we, as a community, started to have a discussion as to whether ‘Standard’ was a word we wanted to keep.

The result of that consultation is that we’ve decided to move away from ‘Standard’ to describe what we’re doing here. While we could fight a valiant crusade on behalf of the term, it doesn’t seem like a battle that’s worth our time and effort. It’s better to focus on winning the war. In this case, that’s ensuring the newly re-titled Web Literacy Map underpins the work we do around Mozilla Webmaker. After all, we want 2014 to be the year we move beyond the ‘learn to code’ movement and focus on a more holistic understanding of web literacy.

We decided on Web Literacy ‘Map’ because we found that most of the language we used to describe what we’re doing was cartographic in nature. Also, it means that our designers have a lot more scope around visual metaphors! It’s going to be (and, importantly, look) – amazing!

Why would I send my child to secondary school?

You don’t have to believe in the lazy education is broken meme to think that there’s something wrong with the way we educate young people. As someone who worked for seven years as a teacher and senior leader in schools I’m not just some guy who has a view on education: I’ve seen what it looks and feels like behind the scenes in both ‘outstanding” and ‘failing’ schools.

I want to make it clear that nothing I’m about to say has anything to do with the role, status or professionalism of teachers. As I’ve said many a time, most teachers I’ve ever come across do a fantastic job and are dedicated and hard-working. My target here is, specifically, the English education ‘system’ (if we can even call it that).

It’s also important to bear in mind that I’m not talking about my own choices as a parent here, but rather me qua parent. The question I’m asking isn’t “should I homeschool my child?” but rather, “how should we as a society educate young people?” It’s a symptom of our age that the former is always assumed whenever I bring it up. Individualism and the logic of the market seems to pervade everything these days.

I’m also going to be setting aside the purpose of education for the moment. Going into any depth here would make this into either an inordinately long post, or a series of posts. That’s not my aim and, in any case, I spent a couple of years exploring that question with Purpos/ed.


Secondary school is a huge waste of time. I mean that literally.

Let’s do the maths.

Many secondary schools I’ve taught in divide the day into six 50-minute lessons. Children go to school five days per week so that’s 5 x 6 x 50 = 1500 minutes (or 25 hours) in lessons. However, in terms of learning time, once we’ve factored in changeovers, settling, the costs of task-switching and routine tasks/admin, that’s probably down to 5 x 6 x 30 = 900 minutes (or 15 hours).

The way that people get better at things is through formative feedback. In other words, someone gives you timely advice on a thing you’ve just done and shows you how to improve it. That could be how to write persuasively or how to swing a tennis racquet. In a class of 30+ children formative feedback happens less often that we’d all like.

So, going back to the calculations, the learning that takes place in 15 hours per week with a 1:30 ratio could probably take place a lot more quickly and accurately with a 1:1 or 1:5 ratio. I’m well aware that the research on class sizes shows that numbers have to be cut dramatically to make a difference but with these kinds of ratios Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development starts kicking in on a regular basis. My son’s footballing skills came on a lot more during 16 hours in a small group during half-term than they would have done in 16 one-hour lessons within a large group over four months.

We can, and I believe should, organise learning differently. We could have smaller learning groups for 20 weeks per year and the other 20 weeks could be the equivalent of apprenticeships – putting those knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours into action. Or each week could be divided into two. Or they could do one week on, one week off. There’s many permutations.

I know I’m likely to get some pushback in the form of how important a role schools play in terms of socialisation. I get that. But I think it’s important to realise that, as parents, we seem to have outsourced learning and socialisation and conflated it with reliable babysitting to allow us to go to work. We’re missing the point by tinkering around the edges.

Having worked in schools with extremely poor pupil behaviour, I realise that this, too, is likely to be another objection. But then, behaviour is the responsibility of those who construct the environment as well as the actions of the individual. If we organised learning differently, in re-imagined spaces, then we’d probably get different kinds of behaviours.

In short, instead of asking what we need to do with schools to perpetuate what we’ve already got, perhaps we should be thinking about the society we want to create for our children when they grow up. All I’m asking for is a rethink. There’s no point in adding epicycles. Iteration is all well and good but, to begin with, you have to be heading in the right direction.


If you haven’t already read Will Richardson’s book Why School? I’d recommend it as a short read that fleshes out some of the points I’ve made above. Also, Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA Animate on Changing Education Paradigms is a must-see on just how crazy the system has become. Once that’s whetted your appetite, then dive into Prof. Keri Facer’s marvellous Learning Futures. 🙂

Image CC BY-NC-SA donnamarijne

Profit: the purpose of education? [GETideas.org]

I had the good fortune to bump into Lucy Gray at the DML Conference in Chicago back in March. She asked if I’d write something for GETideas.org, “the community for education leaders”. Slightly belatedly I’ve duly obliged and the post below is now published on the site.

I believe education to be public good, as something that profits the children’s mind, body and soul – not as something that should lead to financial profit for large corporates. I want teachers to do things in the classroom with an eye on my children’s learning and development, not on making sure they can pass a performance review in order to meet their mortgage payments.

Schools can, and probably should, be run in line with some business principles. But allowing schools to ‘go to the wall’ (as has been suggested in some quarters) because of the vagaries of the market sounds horrendous. Schools are places where human interactions should take place, not financial transactions.

Read the post in full here: Profit: the purpose of education?

Many thanks to Lucy for the invitation to contribute! 🙂

Why educational reform is like Jenga.

I’ve just been playing Jenga with my six year-old son and it struck me how it’s a partial analogy for how educational reform (or any kind of reform, for that matter) works.

If you remember, the aim in Jenga is to build the highest tower possible by removing bricks from lower down the stack. Eventually the whole thing becomes so unstable that someone makes a false move and it collapses.

When educational reform moves quickly it might look like things are getting better by some ‘objective measure’ (e.g. height of tower / PISA results) but significant gaps can be left. Unless these gaps are backfilled, the whole thing is in danger of falling down.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect analogy as it presupposes a finite number of bricks of a uniform shape and size. And it also assumes everyone’s trying to play the ‘game’ by the same rules…

Image CC BY-NC-SA jose.jhg

 

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