Tag: purposed (page 1 of 3)

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

Lesson plans, social bookmarking and the purpose of education: a response to the latest Hack Education podcast

Hack Education

I was fortunate enough to meet the amazing Audrey Watters and Steve Hargadon when I was over in San Francisco earlier this year. The authenticity of the ‘Irish’ pub in which we met was questionable, but their commitment to furthering education certainly isn’t!

Steve and Audrey have a weekly podcast in which they reflect on Audrey’s (prolific) written output over the past seven days. Today I listened to the one embedded at the bottom of this post (also here). They’re both so insightful that I wanted to be part of the conversation. The only way I can do so at the moment is by adding my thoughts here.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Lesson plans

Steve brought up the point that companies build business models around the idea that teachers want to share lesson plans. He questioned whether that’s actually true.

Not in my opinion.

In my experience, the needs of classroom teachers (which used to include me) are on a spectrum related to interest. So, for example, I’d spend hours researching and creating resources around 1066 and the Norman Conquest. I love that period of History.

On the other hand, I tried to get the Agricultural Revolution out of the way as soon as possible, and used resources in my lessons almost entirely created by other people.

And that’s the difference: if you’re a motivated teacher, you don’t want prescriptive lesson plans for stuff that excites you. Of course, if you’re an ineffective, demotivated teacher, you’ll grab as many lesson plans as you can.

Lesson plans are different to learning resources. I used to have a huge collection of both physical and digital resources, neatly categorised, upon which I could draw. Very motivated and effective teachers within the UK History teaching community would share these – but do different things with them.

Sharing lesson plans as a business model misses the point, I think. Learning, as both Audrey and Steve pointed out, is about relationships not content-delivery.

Social bookmarking

One of the tangential conversations Steve and Audrey had was around social bookmarking. Steve ‘confessed’ to not really using social bookmarking services such as delicious or diigo any more.

I’m glad it’s not just me.

Since delicious has changed hands from Yahoo! to some randoms, I haven’t even got the bookmarklet or Firefox extension installed. I re-find things either through a search engine, my Thought Shrapnel tumblr or Evernote. As Steve mentioned, the personal (primary) benefit is more important than the (secondary) social benefit in this regard.

What I did find interesting is that Audrey uses Pinboard which positions itself as ‘social bookmarking for introverts’. I’ve got a (paid) account there, so I may give that another try.

The purpose of education

Time and time again, Audrey came back to the purpose of education. It’s not about content delivery. It’s not about power. It’s not about money.

This is something that’s obviously close to my heart.

I really enjoyed listening in to Steve and Audrey’s conversation and shall do so regularly. I just hope that as the podcast develops they summarise the stories before analysing them. What’s huge in the US (for example) is sometimes barely reported over here in the UK. I had to read between the lines of the Penn State controversy, for example.

But that’s a minor, nitpicking point. Listen to the podcast. It’s awesome.

Purpos/ed: #500words Take 2

Purpos/ed #500words Take 2

We had a great response to our second call for 500-word contributions to the Purpos/ed campaign. The aim was to get people to reflect on what they believe to be the purpose(s) of education within a constrained word limit.

You can find all of the contributions at http://bit.ly/purposedu500 or by scrolling through the 500 words category on the Purpos/ed website. 🙁

Changing thinking vs. Changing systems.

I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the moment. It’s a bit of a classic, so I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to it.

Last night, I came across the following passage. It must be quite famous as I’ve stumbled across it before:

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.

This made me think about Purpos/ed. Andy and I are often asked when we’re going to produce a manifesto, or what the ‘next level’ is. Well, that’s the kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.

Pirsig reminds us that even things that seem purely physical (such as steel) are nevertheless human constructs. Despite seeming permanent and ‘natural’ steel is not a substance that exists in nature. It’s the product of human imagination.

Likewise, there is no ‘state of nature’ for education systems. No natural way that we should organise learning.

We’d do well to remember that sometimes.

Purpos/ed #500words Take 2

Purpos/ed Take 2

I’m co-kickstarter (with Andy Stewart) of an organisation called Purpos/ed. We’re trying to provoke and sustain public debate around the question What’s the purpose of education?

We’ve had a number of campaigns (and a conference) since we started in February 2011, including a very successful one last year where people contributed 500 words on what they believe to be the purpose(s) of education.

I’m delighted to draw your attention to #500words Take 2, running throughout May 2012. You can see the schedule here: http://bit.ly/purposedu500

If you’d like to follow what’s going on, why not subscribe to the RSS feed, follow us on Twitter (or the hashtag #purposedu), or add us on Google+ or Facebook?

(PS You’re very welcome to send us an ‘unofficial’ contribution – email us at countmein@nullpurposed.org.uk with the link!)

What’s the point of education? [Guardian Teacher Network]

What's the point of education?

The Guardian Teacher Network published my piece on the purpose of education yesterday. I like to experiment with new formats, so the whole piece is made up of questions – much like Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood: a novel?

I’d be interested in your comments over there (I’ve turned them off here to encourage you to do so!)

7 upcoming events about which I’m super-excited.

Update: We’ve decided to postpone the Purpos/ed event and I’m no longer involved with the Google Apps for Education workshop.

I’ve got a busy time coming up. Of the following seven events, I’m either organising or speaking at six of them. I’m also looking forward to going on holiday to Malta (or, more accurately, Gozo) in the middle of this at the end of October!

Mobile Learning Now and the Future (28 September)

Today I’m off down to London to present at the above event at the College of North West London. I thought it was going to be fairly small, but it seems to be turning into a bit of a who’s-who of mobile learning. I’m presenting with Steve Boneham from JISC Netskills about Implementing Mobile Learning in Your Institution based on the Mobile Learning infoKit.

Future of Technology in Education (7 October)

Tickets for FOTE are free and usually go very quickly. Last year I managed to snag a ticket but then had to look after my son as we had childcare issues. I’m delighted to be able to make it this year and to be presenting with my colleague (and co-kickstarter of Purpos/ed) Andy Stewart. We’ve got a slot in the #140challenge meaning we’ve got 140 seconds to talk about our vision of the future of technology in education. We’re going to argue, provocatively, that it’s fairly bleak.

Mobility Shifts (10-16 October)

Due to the generosity of Scott McLeod, Director of CASTLE, I’m attending the Mobility Shifts conference in New York. I’m going to be writing about my experiences over at his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant. The conference programme looks like it was put together just for me! I’m going to be one tired Doug when I get back from…

Mozilla Festival (4-6 November)

I’m a big fan of Mozilla’s work, and especially the more recent educational stuff around Open Badges. Matt Thompson asked if I was going to this festival – yes, of course I am! Can’t wait.

Google Apps for Education: from Zero to Hero (16 November)

Along with fellow Google Lead Learner, Zoe Ross (DoDigital) and Google Certified Teacher, Steve Bunce (Vital) I’m helping organise a day-long workshop on Google Apps in Gateshead. It should be very Google Teacher Academy-like and inspirational! Get your ticket here.

Guardian Innovation in Education (17 November)

I was surprised and honoured to be on the keynote panel for the Guardian Innovation in Education event this year along with Lord Knight, John Dunford and Ian Fordham. We’re talking about the impact of technology on education and I’ve been interviewed as part of the lead-up to the event.

Purpos/ed Oxford: Hacking Education (19 November)

If you’re thinking of joining me at just one of these events, make it this one! Purpos/ed Oxford is all about ‘hacking education’ for the better and we’re delighted that Prof. Keri Facer (who inspired Andy Stewart and myself to start Purpos/ed in the first place) will be there in person this time. We’re going to be crowdsourcing the sessions and it promises to be an event not to miss if you can make it!

 

A quick rundown of what I’m up to until Christmas.

Calendar

Whilst I no longer have six-week summer holidays or, in fact, nearly as much holiday time as I did when working in schools, I much prefer my current arrangements. Flexible working hours and being able to book my holiday for (pretty much) whenever I want make for a fitter, happier Doug.

I’m using up my remaining annual leave for this academic year by making this weekend a long one. Last December, for my 30th birthday, my wife bought me a ‘Supercar Fantastic Four’ track day that I’ve finally booked in, so I’m heading down to York today to drive a Ferrari 360, Porsche GT3, Lamborghini Gallardo and Suburu Impreza WRX. I hope this isn’t my last blog post… 😉

Stepping out the stream is a good time to reflect on what I’ve got coming up in the next few months. This overview post, then, is as much for my own benefit as to give readers a heads-up on some stuff I’m involved in.

Here goes:

16 August – 30 September: Semester of Learning on ‘Open badges and assessment’ at P2PU.org

6-8 September: ALT-C conference (delegate; launching Mobile Learning infoKit)

20 September: JISC infoNet Planning meeting

21/22 September: Scottish Learning Festival (delegate)

23 September: JISC OER Phase 3 meeting

28 September: Mobile Learning Symposium (presenting with Steve Boneham)

4/5 October: JISC Digital Literacies and Assessment and Feedback startup meetings

6 October: JISC Digital Literacies workshop (participant)

7 October: Future of Technology in Education (FOTE) conference (presenting)

19 October (provisional): JISC RSC Online Conference (presenting)

24-28 October: Annual Leave (Malta)

8 November: Century Challenge meeting with Prof. Keri Facer, et al.

14 October: JISC OER Phase 3 startup meeting

16 November (provisional): Google Apps workshop with DoDigital and Vital

19 November (provisional): Purpos/ed event

22-25 November: JISC Online Conference (presenting)

6-7 December: JISC infoNet planning meeting


Ongoing: #openbadges weekly IRC meetings (Saturday evenings, 20.00 UK time), EdTechRoundUp Weekly (Sunday evenings, 20.00 UK time)

To plan: #purposedassess meeting (September, with Tom Barrett), November Purpos/ed event (open planning model)

Hopeful about attending: Mobility Shifts conference (10-16 October)


In addition, I’m hoping to submit my Ed.D. thesis by the end of August and then defend it in September/October at my viva voce. Interest in working with me through Synechism Ltd.  is increasing; having worked with Greg Perry and Future Behaviour, I’m now meeting regularly with Zoe Ross and DoDigital to work on digital development as well as doing some work with Stephen Haggard for a faith-based organisation on digital futures (they wanted to remain anonymous).

I’ve got plenty to be getting on with until the end of October, but do get in touch if you want me to speak, write or advise you or your organisation. My main fields of interest continue to be Open Educational Resources, Mobile Learning and Digital Literacies. 🙂

Image CC BY DafneCholet

A brand-new campaign for Purpos/ed: #purposedassess

Assessment

After a brief lull (as I’ve mentioned before it’s all about the ‘cadence of engagement’) we’re back with a new campaign for Purpos/ed!

For those who haven’t been paying attention:

We’re a non-partisan, location-independent organization aiming to kickstart a debate around the question: What’s the purpose of education? With a 3-year plan, a series of campaigns, and a weekly newsletter we aim to empower people to get involved and make a difference in their neighbourhood, area and country.

This time we’re discussing and debating the question:

What’s the purpose of assessment?

Details on the Purpos/ed website, but you can jump straight in by following +Purpos/ed Team on Google+ (which is the platform we’re using for this particular campaign!)

Image BY-NC-SA KTVee 

Purpos/ed, the #neverendingthesis and productivity [Ed Tech Crew podcast 165]

Ed Tech Crew

In the spirit of owning my own data and keeping everyone up-to-date with when stuff is published elsewhere, this is a heads-up that Andy Stewart, co-kickstarter of Purpos/ed and I were interviewed by the Ed Tech Crew recently. We covered everything from Purpos/ed itself to my doctoral thesis and productivity.

Give it a listen! (Running time: 1 hour 25 mins. Size: 61.9 MB)

I’ve got a backup copy saved locally and have uploaded another to the Internet Archive for safekeeping (in case the link above goes down).

 

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