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Obliquity, PISA, and ‘shareholder value’ in education.

At TEDx Warwick last Saturday I was first up, meaning I could sit back, relax and listen properly to the other speakers. Whilst I could write several posts about floating islands, medical implants and sustainability, I want to focus on just one of them.

John Kay, author of Obliquity: why our goals are best achieved indirectly, gave what I considered to be a fascinating talk. His book has been on my Amazon wishlist almost since it came out and I’ve now got several more reasons to read it.

Before I go any further, the stimulus for writing this post comes from the TES article ‘Wales asks schools to teach to the Pisa test‘. As I mentioned in my recent Purpos/ed Ignite presentation, education is under the control of governments, and PISA is pretty much the only tool they have to compare educational outcomes. Unfortunately, it focuses on a very narrow aspect of education and is accused of using discredited statistical techniques.

John Kay’s key point was that we often achieve the ends we desire indirectly. He summed this up perfectly by his example of ICI, the chemical company. I haven’t got the exact quotations he used, but in the 1970s ICI’s mission statement focused firmly on innovation and customers. ‘Shareholder value’ was merely a by-product of the core function of the company. By the 1990s this had reversed, with ‘shareholder value’ being the number one priority.

Of course, ICI no longer exists having lost its innovative edge. Likewise, if we focus on narrow and questionable measures of education to make comparisons with other countries, we miss the point of learning. PISA is the educational equivalent of ‘shareholder value’. Focusing on the by-product rather than the core mission is worrying.

Perhaps it’s time to take education out of the hands of politicians?

If you’re interested in debating the purpose(s) of education, you might want to join the debate at purposed.org.uk. Look especially at our call for more #500words contributions!

#ukedchat #fail: TES attempts takeover cover-up whilst Pearson muscles-in on grassroots Twitter teacher CPD.

Fail Whale

Every Thursday night on Twitter there’s an hour-long conversation around the hashtag #ukedchat. The idea is that interested parties (mostly teachers) vote on what they want to talk about relating to UK education (almost always UK schools) and a moderator keeps things on-track. It’s a bit anarchic and intense, but worth it. I dip in and out and have moderated one session on the purpose(s) of education. Afterwards the moderator tries to ‘tell the story’ of what was discussed, including the most influential (usually the most reteweeted) tweets. It’s a fantastic example of grassroots innovation and, dare I say it, even a form of CPD.

But.

Last night the topic was the Pearson learning awards, hosted by someone from Pearson. I wasn’t the only one who thought that was a bit strange and that #ukedchat seemed to be going in a new direction. Low and behold I received a couple of Direct Messages (DMs) that suggested not only was Pearson muscling in on the success of #ukedchat but that, in fact, the Times Educational Supplement (TES) was taking over the running of the weekly discussion. Those who had been told were hushed to secrecy.

Being committed to open education and transparent practices I decided to, without revealing the names of those who told me, inform those involved in #ukedchat discussion. Things were already going so awry that the moderator had decided to switch topics half way through the hour. It was an example of companies doing social media in completely the wrong way. Whereas for-profit organizations such as Scholastic and BrainPOP! really do get social media as being about openness and conversation, the TES and Pearson seem to have conspired to commodify #ukedchat in an underhand, Machiavellian way.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, despite the claims of the TES to the contrary, that #ukedchat – an example of grassroots innovation by teachers, for teachers – has been effectively ‘sold off’ behind closed doors. Part of the problem is that busy teachers are delighted when a big name comes in and is interested in their enterprise. What often occurs, and my teaching career is littered with examples of this, is that companies become parasitic upon the goodwill and enthusiasm of teachers. They take what they can and suck the life out of it.

Teachers, don’t let this happen. Strike for better pensions on the 30th November and, if necessary, set up a new #ukedchat. You’re worth it.

(I’ve curated tweets from that hour using Storify here)

Purpos/ed featured in the TES

No April Fool here! Purpos/ed was featured in the Times Educational Supplement today – on the front page no less – with a double-page spread on p.26-7. It’s a testament to just how much need there is for a non-partisan debate of this kind.

Many thanks to Michael Shaw at the TES for his work behind-the-scenes. Much appreciated!

Purpos/ed in the TES

Purpos/ed in the TES

It’s also one year since some people were rather shocked at my announcing I was leaving schools to work for JISC infoNet: The end of the beginning. Much cake was eaten in the office.

Ways to find great resources and ideas for lessons

 

lesson_resources_large1

Where do you get your lesson ideas from? Do you just follow the scheme of work? When you innovate what is the spark for your inspiration?

Do you sometimes struggle to find time to discover resources and wish there was somewhere you could go to prevent you from doing the lesson planning equivalent of rediscovering the wheel?

Where can I go other than search on Google?

Teachers in the UK are probably aware of the TESconnect Resource Hub. If you’re not, that’s a great place to start! Before the TES launched this, one of the main UK-based repositories for lesson plans and ideas was the Teacher Resource Exchange, run by the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

Talking of the NGfL, they have regional hubs which can be found quickly by typing (for example) NGfL resources into your favourite search engine. 🙂

Learning from colleagues in other schools

Most school subjects have spawned forums on the Internet where teachers of those subjects can discuss ideas, resources and issues. I know of the ones for subjects I currently teach (or have in the past) For example, History teachers have the History Teachers’ Discussion Forum and historyshareforum.com, Geography teachers have Staffordshire Learning Net, and teachers of ICT have the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum.*

Searching for the name of your subject plus the word ‘forum’ in a search engine should bring up some promising links. Alternatively, try the excellent Shambles.net. Links galore! 🙂

Digging deeper

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AaSnY4XjMg]
What about if you want do something original or obscure, though? That’s when finding websites that previous visitors have marked as especially useful would help you on your quest. Enter social bookmarking services. There are many of these, but the two main ones are Delicious and Diigo. The former has been discussed on elearnr before, but in a slightly different context.

The idea behind social bookmarking sites is that instead of saving your ‘favourites’ or ‘bookmarks’ in the web browser of one computer, you store them in an account online. You can then ‘tag’ these with keywords and make them visible for others to see. These sites then, as you can imagine, become very useful as hotbeds of links to fantastically useful websites.

Have a go right now. Head over to Delicious and Diigo and type in the name of your subject followed by resources. Click to enlarge the images below which show the results I obtained when entering history resources!

Delicious search results - 'History resources' Diigo search results - 'History resources'

The ultimate targeted resource and lesson idea finder

All of the above are great ways of using the power of communities to help you find something, but what about if you need something very, very specific – and fast? Enter Twitter.

Twitter is a micro-blogging social network. It’s like text messaging meets Facebook in that you have 140-characters to send a message. Educators worldwide use it en masse to share good practice, ask questions and find fast answers. A future E-Learning Staff Session and elearnr blog post will tell you all you need to get you signed up and interacting. 🙂

What? You can’t wait? Head over to Twitter For Teachers to find out more!

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* My Twitter network directed me towards these additional forums:

** Thanks @mtechman for reminder of this excellent resource!

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