Tag: learning (page 9 of 10)

Into the Wild world of Hitler and Attachment Theory.

Christopher McCandless devant son Image via Wikipedia

Adolf Hitler’s father whipped him as a boy. His parents died (separately) when he was in his teens. He spent some years drifting, fought in WWI, and eventually became the monster we have all learned about.

Chris McCandless’ parents argued and fought when he was a child. Their lies about how they met, about the circumstances of Chris’ and his sister’s birth drove him, after university, to leave his savings to charity and eventually end up in Alaska. Trying to live apart from society in the wilderness, he died and his story was made into the film Into the Wild (which I watched this evening).

Both Adolf Hitler and Chris McCandless could be said to suffering from a lack of emotional attachment to parental figures. This led to tragic consequences in both cases. As an educator, I see pupils who show tendencies, perhaps not on the same scale, but certainly on the spectrum certainly as McCandless. This is why I was fascinated to come across Don Ledingham’s recent blog post on Attachment Theory.

It was a real eye-opener. I know I’m only four years into my teaching career, but there tends to be ‘nothing new under the sun’ after a while. The same-old, same-old keeps getting churned out and repackaged. What I read about Attachment Theory, however, really made me think. Schools can be discriminatory places, sometimes indirectly. Take, for example, the wildly different parenting experiences two pupils in the same class could have. Believing that we, as teachers, can modify a pupil’s behaviour simply through rewards and sanctions seems somewhat misguided in this light. Here’s Don’s gloss on it:

However, Attachment Theory suggests that such a model cannot influence a child who has not experienced secure parenting, nor formed a secure relationship in their early years. If we reflect upon what adults are doing with children under 3 we can characterise good parenting as being caring and empathetic. Recent brain research shows that the brain does not develop the same in an environment where the child has not experienced a secure parenting environment. So such things as neglect and abuse; overt family conflict; hostile and rejecting relationships; or death and loss can all disrupt the normal secure attachment that a child requires to properly develop.

By the time such children come to school they are not in a position to understand or control their behavour so the dominant behavioural models which most schools and classrooms depend upon are doomed to failure, as they assume that all children are the same and that they have had the same parenting and don’t make allowances for those that haven’t.

We need to educate the whole child. We need to teach young people with reference to their norms and the context in which they have been brought up and operate. I’m going to be looking for more on Attachment Theory. I think it’s got a lot to say to educators.

What do you think?

Serendipity, living in an echo chamber, and Learning to Change.

A few months back I bought a book entitled World Changing: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. I managed to get it for the bargain price of Β£3 from a discount bookshop. I even haggled for money off as the cardboard sleeve had a small tear in it. What can I say? I’m a skinflint… πŸ˜‰

But I’m drifting off my point. I began reading the Editor’s introduction this morning, which includes the paragraph:

Because the planet seems so large to each of us as individuals, it’s easy to forget how many of us there are (over six billion and counting) and how much stress we collectively put on the earth. Though it’s not always east to see it as we go about our days, our current way of life is unsustainable, and that which is not sustainable does not continue. We are using up the planet, one person, one day, one decision at a time; we’re not considering the consequences.

And then, just now, going through my feed reader, I come across the following blog post from CommonCraft team kindly shared by Richard Platts:

We work from home. We make videos, we put them on the Web, people watch them. We track our views, our Technorati links, our mentions in Twitter, our blog comments. A good percentage of people we see in social situations in Seattle are aware of our work. Most of the email we receive is about the videos and of course, it dominates our discussions at home. This is all misleading and a bit unhealthy.

It’s too easy to start making assumptions – assumptions about general awareness, about the number of people who really know what’s happening in “our” online world. Viewed from the comfort of our living room, bookmarked pages and social circles, the Web looks pretty small and awareness looks pretty big. It’s too easy to assume that people have heard about the tools and sites we use everyday.

But they haven’t. In real terms, no one has. I look at Las Vegas as a cross section of the US. At any moment there are people from every state and many countries. They are the General Public in a lot of ways. I sat back and asked myself – forgetting Common Craft – do these people know about Twitter? Has Flickr become part of their world? What about wikis, do they care? Are they using RSS readers? My completely anecdotal evidence says the answer is no. In our own little online world, it’s too easy to assume they do.

Richard Platts shared the above with this note:

It’s easy to assume a change is happening in the world of education because we see more and more people joining the edublogosphere. But in terms of the number of educators the world over, it’s just a drop in the ocean.

What are we doing to get the message out about the way young people should be taught in the 21st century? Are we just preaching to the choir?

I hope not. Next year, I’ll be E-Learning Staff Tutor at my school. In practice, that means half a timetable of teaching, and the rest of the time working with members of staff, encouraging them to use educational technology, team-teaching, researching and developing, and so on. One of the first things I’m going to show them all together is the following:

Thanks again to Richard Platts for the link. OK, so it might be slightly biased, but it’s a great conversation starter.

What are YOU planning to do next academic year to get the message out?

Things I’ve been reading online recently

Blog LinksI don’t like it when people automatically post their daily del.icio.us/diigo links on their blog. It just clutters up my feed reader. What I do like, however, is when bloggers share what they’ve really enjoyed reading.

So here’s what I’ve enjoyed reading recently with a brief synopsis! πŸ˜€

  • Lifehack.orgHow to Be an Expert (and Find One if You’re Not)Some great advice; I like this bit especially: “In addition to knowledge, an expert needs to have significant experience working with that knowledge. S/he needs to be able to apply it in creative ways, to be able to solve problems that have no pre-existing solutions they can look up β€” and to identify problems that nobody else has noticed yet.”
  • indexed No matter what the DNA test saysJessica’s diagrams on index cards can be somewhat hit-and-miss, but I love this one reminding me what being a Dad’s all about!
  • Lifehack.orgQuantity Breeds CreativityThis post about creativity references problems with the school system, not least, “[W]hen our students leave school they are steeped in a system that says find the β€˜right answer’ and you have solved the problem. Unfortunately the real world is not like that. For almost every problem there are multiple solutions. We have to unlearn the school approach and instead adopt an attitude of always looking for more and better answers.”
  • aphopheniadoes work/life balance exist?An honest post with some swearing, so be warned! I like this bit: “Underneath the sensationalism, there’s a core point here: those who are passionate about what they do do it to extremes.” In other words, you don’t get anywhere by half-doing something… πŸ˜‰
  • BectaEmerging technologies for learning: volume 3 (2008)Several bloggers gave the heads-up on this. No great surprises, but interesting reading!
  • Drape’s TakesPrensky: Valiant Efforts on the War on BoredomDarren Draper summaries Mark Prensky’s article Turn On The Lights. I like the idea of working towards 100% engagement and being intolerant of anything less! πŸ˜€
  • ICT in my ClassroomTwitter – A Teaching Learning Tool Tom Barrett’s excellent post on how Twitter can be used in a pedagogically-sound way. Ironically, he composed the post when completely off-grid (“No mains gas, no telephones, no mobile signal, no internet connection, no possible way to interact with my personal learning network”). I love it when bloggers incorporate useful graphics in their posts. Very helpful – thanks Tom!
  • Drape’s TakesDrop.io: File Sharing With RSS = Endless PossibilitiesDrop.io looks like a great tool. A one-stop solution for sharing resources automatically with students!
  • Teaching SagittarianInspired by 3 Steps – Reflections on this video that looks at 3 steps to a more creative classroom. Great links and great ideas. I just wish I had most of my students for more than one 50 minute lesson per week!
  • Middle School Ed Tech BlogWeb 2.0 Overview for AdministratorsLinks to blogs you might not have read yet. Also good for ‘that’ conversation you’ll inevitably have with a member of your Senior Leadership Team!
  • Steve HargadonWeb 2.0 Is the Future of Education – ‘Web 2.0′ isn’t a great term, but some of what it represents are extremely powerful. The technologies really level the playing field and allow users to be very creative. Perhaps best summed up by this quotation, “I believe that the read/write Web, or what we are calling Web 2.0, will culturally, socially, intellectually, and politically have a greater impact than the advent of the printing press.”
  • RuminateSocial Fluency and Improvisation – Mainly useful for the excellent diagram at the beginning of the post. It’s a Venn diagram showing ‘Social Fluency’ as being a combination of ‘Knowledge’, ‘Communication Skills’ and ‘Thinking Competency’. It’s certainly interesting stuff… πŸ™‚
  • ConnectivismPedagogy First? Whatever. – Although I usually agree with him, I don’t agree with George Siemens here. The most important sentence in this post which sums up his position is, “Pedagogy is not hte starting point of planning to teach with technology. Context is.” George quite rightly points out that ‘pedagogy’ can mean many and diverse things and that anyone can find research that backs up their own position. But that’s not to say that learning shouldn’t be put first. Of course context is important, but it’s a consideration on the way to creating learning activities. Otherwise, the learning is unlikely to be rigorous, or indeed, useful and long-term.

More and more I find myself using the mobile version of Google Reader on my Asus eee, starring and saving what I like in order to come back to it on a bigger screen.

I shared and starred the above items and you can see all the posts I do this to (and subscribe to the RSS feed it creates) here.

Timelines.tv points the way to the future of learning History

Timelines.tvIn an average week I probably receive 2-3 emails asking me to review websites, products or software. One random person this week even asked if they could guest blog solely so they could advance their career! Most of these go straight in GMail’s trash folder, but one I received earlier this week was different.

I received an email from Andrew Chater, Bafta award-winning producer of seminal documentaries and History-related programmes. He’s recently launched timelines.tv, which, he believes:

…is a new and exciting on-line history resource provided free for the user…. It offers a wealth of quality TV documentary, arranged on interactive historical timelines that put you in control of your journey through the past. The content covers all aspects of British history from 1066 to the present day, arranged on three parallel timelines: social, political and national/imperial.

I have to say that I’m rather impressed by it. Not only does it help visitors gain a handle on chronology, but introduces themes to enable them to get a grip on how concepts such as ‘leadership’ have changed through time.

Perhaps the best way to use this resource is in a 1:1 laptop situation. In fact, it would be ideal with each learner having an Asus eee each! (are you getting sick of me talking about these little marvels yet?) πŸ˜‰

The size of the digital video is probably (just) big enough for viewing on an Interactive Whiteboard/projector, but I think the bitesize nature of them means that setting the watching of them for homework along with an activity is a real possibility.

I’m really looking forward to more sites like this springing up. Very well done, Andrew – and kudos for making it free to all! πŸ˜€

THIS is how technology can enhance learning

I can remember last year seeing a prototype of an alpha of a proposal for something at a university in the US. It was showcasing live 2-dimensional ‘real’ physics simulations. It was amazing, but not available for us mere mortals to play with.

I’m delighted to say that today, via the wonder of popurls, I came across a video showcasing a freely-downloadable piece of software called Phun that allows you to do the same! Have a look at it, a thousand words of mine wouldn’t do justice to the simplicity, elegance and intuitiveness of it:

It’s currently available for Windows and Linux with a Mac version coming soon. You can grab it as a free download here! πŸ™‚

Schools SHOULD be small!

School protestA couple of linked BBC News reports caught my eye today. The first, that schools are seeing an increase in the amount of spare capacity they have and the second that there have been demonstrations in Shropshire about proposed school closures and amalgamations. Here’s my thoughts…


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5 things School of Rock can teach us about real education

School of RockI watched School of Rock a couple of nights ago. Unbelievably, given that I absolutely love High Fidelity – which stars Jack Black in a somewhat similar role – I’d never seen it before. The film was great and I really enjoyed it; I also thought it gave some pointers as to what real learning experiences should look like. :p

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7 ways to improve your productivity as a teacher

I’m fairly productive. Not outstandingly so, but reasonably. I try to pick up tips for improving my outputs from websites such as Lifehacker, amongst others. What follows is a brief rundown of seven tips for being more productive as a teacher. πŸ˜€

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Knowledge Management & Networks

Cognitive Edge image

I’m thinking expanding the scope of my thesis (probably at a time when I should be thinking of focusing a bit more, but never mind). Instead of perpetuating the dividing walls between schools, universities and businesses, perhaps I could look at broader themes and trends and then bring them down to a practical level for each. Kind of what George Siemens has done with Knowing Knowledge – although there’s no way I could write anything as magnificent!

Stephen Downes links today in his OLDaily newsletter to an article by Dave Snowden entitled Natural Numbers, Networks & Communitiies. Dave realizes that attempts to create a taxonomy for knowledge management followed by forcing people to adapt to it does not work. Instead, he advocates embracing the messiness of learning and development through informal communities.

He goes on to talk about natural numbers and the amount of people who should be involved at each stage which isn’t relevant to what I’m doing. What is relevant, however, is his identification of a ‘messy learning’ approach to knowledge management and the ways in which this can be harnessed in a positive way. If only schools were that responsive…?


In the 21st century it is almost impossible to be an expert on anything. There is so much information – and indeed knowledge – out there that we could only ever become experts in ever-diminishing content areas. Instead, we need to ourselves become, and train our students to likewise become, experts in connecting knowledge. This is where connectivism comes in:


Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

The theory is advocated most passionately by George Siemens via his connectivism.ca blog, in his article on connectivism at elearnspace, on the Learning Circuits blog, an article for the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning and his excellent book (available via PDF or on his wiki), Knowing Knowledge.

Some notes:

(There is a connectvism online conference running in February 2007 that should be worth checking out…)?