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Month: June 2008

Social Fabric

Torn SeatI’m becoming increasingly aware of the importance of schools as social fabric. Some cynics might call it my becoming more institutionalised, but I would disagree. There’s a reason why we can’t just break with what has gone before and radically alter schooling – witness the French and Russian revolutions, with radical changes such as 10-day weeks, equality of students and teachers, and attacks on the church.

No, I’m now a firm believer in evolution over revolution. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy to leave the profession at the end of my career pretty much in the state I found it. Not at all. Just because I’m focusing on evolution doesn’t mean it can’t be a speedy process. :-p

The reason for my change of heart is my family. Before I was a father I could afford to spend hours in the evening planning radically different lessons, putting together projects and writing proposals that would aid the rapid change of the focus of my school. Now, it’s my family I want to spend time with. Whilst teaching will never be ‘just a job’ to me, I very much more sharply demarcate time spent working towards education-related ends and that set aside for my family. Perhaps that’s why, on a poster which reproduces 19th century ‘rules for teachers’ in our staff room (put up for humorous effect) it says that women who marry will be dismissed instantly. Perhaps we need a profession of driven, single people?

But I think not. We need diversity in the profession. We need young people to come into contact with as many different types of people from different backgrounds as possible. Teachers, although they necessarily come from a smaller pool than that which reflects the world’s population, can still give students a taste of different perspectives. Instead, what we should be doing – which has been called for time and again – is give teachers more time and smaller class sizes so they can really make a difference. I’ve said this many times over the last few weeks, but it’s only since my Year 11s have left that I’ve had time to cope and keep up with the multitude of tasks I’m expected to perform in my daily life as a teacher. Given that ‘changing the educational landscape’ comes over and above that, there’s been some things that have suffered this year. Marking, especially of classwork, springs to mind immediately! ­čś«

So, to return to the beginning of this post, schools need to change. We all know that. But we need to bring along all stakeholders with us, not just leave them behind. To some extent this involves ‘digital literacy’ (the subject of my thesis), but mainly it involves demonstrating by example how we can do things differently. And to do that, we need time. I, for one, am going to be looking to the future when allocating my education-related time next academic year… ­čśÇ

Image credit: Seat by Ti.mo @ Flickr

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Doug lives in rural isolation thanks to the Internet

Years ago, before I saw the light and used Macs, I used to subscribe to PC Pro. There was a guy who wrote for that magazine called Davey Winder whose short bio simply read ‘lives in rural isolation thanks to the Internet’. I can remember thinking that must be great. Now I’m living the dream:

Obviously I’m not going to link to a Google Map showing exactly where we live. I don’t want to give the SWAT teams too easy a time… ­čśë

Home broadband will be installed in a few weeks’ time due to issues I won’t go into, but for the meantime I’m very happy with mobile broadband access on a pay-as-you-go basis via the 3 network. I’m sharing the connection obtained through HSDPA with Hannah courtesy of our Macbooks’ Airport feature.

Life Chez Belshaw is peachy. No non-human/animal/bird created noise. Rolling fields. A 19th century mill within our grounds. What more could I ask for? ­čśÇ

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I want educational technology to be boring.

A few weeks ago on an episode of the excellent podcast EdTechWeekly, Jeff Lebow, one of the co-hosts, expressed how he is still a little amazed by wireless networking. It started me thinking about how much technological stuff in my everyday life I take for granted these days – and how that’s a good thing. ­čÖé

Then, in a post which referenced my recent issues with a certain VLE provider, Will Richardson linked to a presentation by Clay Shirky. For those of you who haven’t heard of Shirky, he’s the Next Big ThingÔäó after Thomas Friedman. He’s written a book called Here Comes Everybody that I feel I should read this year. Within the first couple of minutes of the presentation, Shirky said something that made me lose track of everything which followed:

Clay Shirky on technology

Absolutely! I don’t mean by the title of this post that I want educational technology to be ‘boring’ in the sense of it being tedious. No, I mean ‘boring’ in the sense of it being so commonplace and ubiquitous that it isn’t thought about. I want us to get to a stage with all of this Web 2.0 stuff1 where we’re constantly focused on what we can do with the technology. A bit like wireless networking – at least for most of us… :-p

1 Tom Barrett’s getting there with his pupils and Google Docs

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