Archive | September 2012

An iPod Touch For Every Child or Every Teacher?

When the new school year started a few weeks ago many children in our primary schools were given a new pen, a pencil, a ruler and an assortment of exercise books. All of these deemed to be the essential tools the children would need for the coming years learning journey. How many, I wonder, were also given an iPod Touch? Or even given an iPod Touch instead of  the pen, ruler and exercise books? When I started primary school in 1955 pen and paper were the tools of the day. Is this still the case today? Are they the tools we adults use in our daily lives and jobs?

So why not give each class of youngsters an iPod Touch. ‘Hang on a minute’, is the cry I can hear coming from many teachers, ‘That’s easier said than done. Have you thought about the cost and then there’s the problem of them getting broken and what about ……’ and so the excuses begin to tumble out. One problem, though rarely mentioned, is the fact that these devices scare so many of our teachers. They don’t know what to do with them and what’s worse they know the children probably do!

So, instead of giving all the children an iPod Touch, why don’t we start by giving all of our teachers one? Let them discover for themselves the power of this learning tool and the myriad of apps that go with it. Give them time to play and learn. They can then share their issues, their successes, their discoveries safely with one another. Then, when they are ready, start to involve the children. Teachers are, after all, learners as well and this learning tool will help them on their own learning journey.

There are a number of teachers and schools, across the whorl, taking this bold step. Have a look at Tony Vincent’s great list of ‘Dos’ & ‘Don’ts’ with regard to classroom sets of iPod Touches. Much of this advice would work well for a staff set of these devices. A great blog called, ‘I Teach Therefore I Pod’ by a teacher called Harry Walker is well worth looking at. Or you might want to look at an online community of teachers/schools using iPod Touches in which case visit, ‘The iPod Touch Classroom’.  If you have now decided you fancy having a go with an iPod Touch here are some educational apps to get you going.

Meetings Are Toxic

I have just read an interesting book called ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried & David Heinemeir Hansson. The contents page itself makes interesting reading with chapter headings like :

‘Ignore the real world’
‘Learning from mistakes is overrated’
‘Planning is guessing’
‘No time is no excuse';
‘Meeting are toxic’

While I might not agree with everything they say, they certainly challenge your thinking and what we might consider the ‘status quo’.

Under ‘Meetings are toxic’ the question really is why do we have them and more importantly why do you go to so many? As a Head I went to many meetings lasting many hours – how productively was I spending my time? I wasn’t. They are not saying that all meetings are a waste of time, but that you have got to choose wisely & make sure that the meetings you go to have a clear purpose. They talk about meetings being the worst interruption of all and here’s why:

They’re usually about words & abstract concepts not real things.

They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.

They easily drift off subject.

They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for.

They frequently have agendas that are so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal.

Meetings procreate. One meeting leads to another, which leads to another, which  leads to …….

Are you planning to go to any meetings like this?  Maybe it’s time to question the meetings you go to, or the ones you call & lead. What interruptions have you got planned for this week!

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Where do our good ideas come from? We are often led to believe that many of the great ideas of the past have come as flashes of inspiration. We can picture  Archimedes leaping from his bath shouting ‘Eureka’ when he realised that objects displace water and Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree  watching apples fall and coming up with his ideas about gravitation.

Steven Johnson in his book, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ suggests that breakthrough ideas rarely come from flashes of inspiration. Instead, he argues, good ideas come about through a collision of smaller hunches.

Ideas need time to incubate. Hunches need to collide, often it needs a hunch in one person’s mind to collide with another hunch in someone else’s mind. How can you create systems that allow those hunches to come together? So that they become something bigger than the sum of their parts.

 

He argues that in the past coffee houses were such places where people met, talked and shared ideas and ‘hunches. The same is not true of today. While we do have a growing coffee-house culture it is one that is often inhabited by people on their own, either reading, writing or surfing the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who does just this on a regular basis, there is nothing wrong with it! In fact the coffee shop is an ideal place for writers and thinkers, a place where they can relax and dream. But what do you then do with those dreams?

Recently I was lucky enough to sit with Steve from Footsqueek and a small group of primary Headteachers and listen to them share ideas, hunches about an app that could be used in school to collect evidence for school self-evaluation. It was fascinating watching different ideas collide into one another. In the end they came together and the QSI App was born.

We live in a much more highly connected world. Technology today allows us to share thoughts, ideas with anyone, anywhere in the world. This blog, for example, gives me the opportunity to potentially share my thoughts with the world. Tomorrow sees the launch of the new iPhone 5 and in October we see the new Amazon Kindle Fire being available in the UK. What will devices such as these do for the sharing of ideas?

If you want to create a space for innovation, you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you. Chance favours the connected mind.

How connected are you?

 

What Are ‘The Basics’ In Education?

survey of American companies concluded that the 4 C’s -

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication Skills

…… are as important as the more traditional 3R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Once upon a time mastery of the 3R’s was enough to get you a job – but the world is changing.

Proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic has traditionally been the entry-level threshold to the job market, but the new workplace requires more from its employees. Employees need to think critically, solve problems, innovate, collaborate, and communicate more effectively—and at every level within an organization.

Yet we still want to test our children on reading, writing and maths only. What assessments are schools undertaking to measure the attainment of children in critical thinking & problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills?

According to the survey results, executives said these skills and competencies are priorities for employee development, talent management, and succession planning.  In addition, job applicants are assessed in these areas during the hiring process.

Thomas Friedman, in his book, ‘The World Is Flat’, gave the following advice to his daughters:

Girls, when I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, “Tom, finish your dinner – people in China and India are starving.” My advice to you is: “Girls, finish your homework – people in China and India are starving for your jobs.” And in a flat world, they can have them, because in a flat world there is no such thing as an American job. There is just a job, and in more cases than ever before it will go to the best, smartest, most productive, or cheapest worker – wherever he or she resides.

The world is changing. Accountants in India are preparing tax forms for citizens across the world, online. Radiologists in Asia read X-rays taken in North America. If educators are to prepare young people for this new world we must assume that they have some idea of what to prepare them for. I fear that this is not the case.

In the following video you can listen to what Sir Ken Robinson thinks. These are the highlights from his talk in March 2011 at Learning Without Frontiers – ‘Out Of Our Minds – Learning To Be Creative’

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