Open Thinkering


5 things it’s currently fashionable to say (without much evidence)

1. iPhones

The thing about the iPhone is that it’s not a very good phone.

Really? In what sense?

2. Self-organised Learning

Teachers just need to get out of kids’ way – they know how to organise their learning.

I’m not sure they do, actually. I agree education needs to change, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater…

3. eBooks

By 2015 eBooks will have replaced paper books as the primary means of reading.

No they won’t. They’ll grow in popularity, no doubt, but paper books will continue to be printed – just like people still ride horses even though there are cars, and people continue to watch TV despite the internet.

4. Teaching

She’s a born teacher.

Really? So if she’d been brought up with wolves in the middle of the jungle she’d be as good at teaching?

Everything takes practice; you have to learn how to do things. This takes time. To say otherwise is to abdicate responsibility in developing yourself and others.

5. Social networks & productivity

If you want to be more productive, limit the time you spend on Twitter and other social networks.

It depends what type of productivity, what you’re producing and whether you’re looking for quality or quantity. I literally couldn’t do my job to the same standard without the connections I’ve got on Twitter.

12 thoughts on “5 things it’s currently fashionable to say (without much evidence)

  1. Regarding point 1, whenever I’ve seen that comment it looks like they’re in the USA so clearly on the AT&T network (bear in mind that nearly all Apple “news” sites assume that the only people who use Apple products are in the USA too…). Like you, I suspect, I’ve not really had any problems in the UK

  2. Point 4’s interesting to me, Doug. I’d always thought that to call someone a ‘born teacher’ was quite a compliment, but I wouldn’t assume that (s)he would not improve with practice/effort/feedback!

    Shurely, for two (or more) people born in the wild and living with wolves, we’re just comparing like with like and trying to decide whether there are certain qualities that might make Romilly a better teacher than Rita, given no other intervention. No? Yes?

    But I’m finding it an interesting exercise to try to work out what I consider to be desirable teacherly attributes. Do we assume that you don’t have any presuppositions as to what makes a (potentially) good teacher?

    Thanks for the stimulus – as ever 😉


    1. My presuppositions over what makes a good teacher – or otherwise – were challenged when my wife began her teacher training. I was going to caution her against it thinking she wouldn’t be suited, but actually she’s awesome at it! 🙂

  3. “The born teacher” thing is interesting. I think it’s entirely reasonable to postulate that some individuals have character, intellectual, and organisational traits that predispose them to teaching. Or being a doctor, or an actor. Those traits will have some grounding in genetics. That doesn’t mean that great teachers don’t have to work at it too.

    Usain Bolt is a “born sprinter”. He is clearly geneticall predisposed to being unbelievably quick. He still trains incredibly hard though. I don’t really see the distinction between physical and character traits.

    … actually I kind of do, in this respect. There’s really only one way to be as quick as Usain Bolt, a particular type of build. There are lots of ways of being a good or great teacher. The trick is to find the way that most closely matches one’s own traits.

  4. Here’s an attempt at an analogy: 🙂

    In evolutionary biology, there’s a concept of an “adaptive landscape”. Imagine a mountain range made up of lots of mountains. If you’re at the peak of one of those mountains, you’re a “great” teacher, say. But there are lots of peaks – ie lots of possible ways to be a great teacher. Some people are “born” further up a mountain than others. Other people are “born” (ie genetically predisposed) in such a way that they start their journey in the deepest valleys. It is highly unlikely, no matter how much work they do, that they’ll ever scale a peak.

    The point of the last paragraph in my previous post was that to become a good teacher, you need to identify the peak that is nearest to where you start; ie if someone starts half-way up the mountain for “friendly, approachable, inspiring, slightly madcap teacher”, it makes little sense to go back down the mountain and try to scale an alternative mountain to “greatness” which is less in tune with the characteristics bestowed upon them by nature and shaped by the history of their lives.

    (Maybe I’m stretching the analogy a bit too far here!)

    I would imagine that an adaptive landscape for painters would be similar – lots of peaks. I, for one, was born in a deep, deep valley in that context. Similarly for actors. For sprinters, though, there might only be two or three peaks: Mount Ben Johnson (with a secret, chemically-powered cable car), Mount Carl Lewis, and Mount Bolt, towering above them all.

  5. We could extend the scope of the analogy further with ideas / questions like:

    – Is the adaptive landscape different for different contexts? The landscape for teaching in an inner city Secondary comprehensive may be very different than for an Infants teacher working in a prep school.

    – How many people are working in the wrong adaptive landscape? How many secondary teachers would be more successful in primary and vice versa? Would those people in secondary who profess to loving Sixth Form teaching but dislike anything else actually be better off in HE?

    – Is the landscape stable? New government regulations, new qualifications, or a new Headteacher in the school may all affect one’s individual landscape, changing what “success” looks like.

    As a teacher, as long as you’re climbing, you’re doing well.

    I’m not sure what cold, hard research would look like in this area. Still, the thought experiment is interesting!

    1. I agree, it’s interesting stuff, but I’m just wondering how different what
      you’re positing is different from mere ‘personality’. And, given that I
      believe that personalities develop and are not fixed, I suppose that’s why I
      believe teachers are made, not born!

  6. Love all these statements, especially the last one. As a teacher and an advisor for Liverpool LA, there is no way I could ever have progressed in my work as quickly as I have without the help of my'Social Network' friends, that have been pure inspiration and a great support system…and I LOVE Facebook/twitter and the like, even though I am Liverpool's E-Safety Lead and I am plagued on a daily basis with FB/Social Networking 'incidents' I still see the excellent benefits and potential. Thanks for the list Doug.

    1. Indeed. I enjoyed using social networks as a teacher, but literally couldn't have done my last job or carry out what I need to do in my current job without Twitter and the like!

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