Teacher Predictions – What’s In Store For 2013?

Mind map of questions on blackboard

The Guardian asks, “Will 2013 see us wave farewell to the local authority, a rash of strikes and more teachers on Twitter?” Some interesting ideas put forward by different professionals involved in our schools:

“2013 will be the year when everyone says we need to teach programming and computer science in primary schools but very few teachers will be bothered to learn how to do this.”
Ian Addison

“I predict that more and more teachers will turn to Twitter as their first port of call for ideas, resources, inspiration and personalised CPD.”
Eugene Spiers

“In 2013 the digital divide between teachers will reach a critical level.”
Adam Lopez

What are your thoughts about what might happen in our schools in 2013?

Read the full article – Teacher Predictions: What Will 2013 Bring For Education

Batman Or School?

My 5-year-old nephew was visiting us today, first day of the half term break. He was keen to tell me about his new game for his Wii – Lego Batman. He was extremely pleased with himself because he had got to Level 5 but was having difficulty getting to Level 6. He then gave me a detailed and animated account of the game so far and more importantly what he thought he needed to do next to get to the next level (something to do with battle shields, I think!)

His resilience shone through as he catalogued what he had failed to do so far and what he intended to do next to overcome these failures. His problem solving skills were evident as he explained, in minute detail, what he thought he needed to do to get these battle shields and how he had come to this conclusion. His language skills were great as he recounted the adventure so far. He was obviously learning a great deal and having tremendous fun.

I then felt sorry for him, though I didn’t say so. Next Monday he goes back to school. Will he have this much fun – I doubt it. He certainly wont be problem solving at anywhere near this level nor being asked to recount such a complicated story. Those developing resilience skills will not be challenged to anywhere near the same level. His learning will ‘power down’ until he gets home again.

Marc Prensky in his book, ‘Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning’ says,

……it’s obvious that we are in the midst of a huge period of invention and innovation. Not so much by us, the Digital Immigrants, but by the Digital Natives for themselves. Our kids have recognised in this new digital technology an incredibly powerful tool, and they are making the most of it, using it in ways we can’t even imagine. So why not let them reinvent school?

Now, is that a frightening thought or an exciting one?

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’

Only 15% Of Learning Happens In School

Here we are, half way through the Summer holiday, and it got me wondering just how much learning is happening now that schools are closed?
Did you know that only 15% of learning takes place in school. It makes you wonder where and how the other 85% is being achieved.
Anybody interested in education and I would argue, we should all be, would enjoy reading  John Holt. He was an American author and educator. In his book, ‘How Children Fail’, which was published in 1964, he suggested that the academic failure of children was not despite the efforts of the schools but actually because of the schools. 
As you can imagine, he upset a lot of people.
I was struck by these words,

“…….. children are passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of the world around them. Children observe, wonder, find or make and then test  the answers to the questions they ask themselves. When they are not actually prevented from doing these things, they continue to do them and to get better and better at it.”

Does school ‘prevent’ them from doing these things? Will more valuable learning take place during August while children are away from the constraints of school? 
John Holt uses the metaphor of the assembly plant to describe schools, where rows of empty containers pass along the assembly line and the workers try to fill them with various amounts of substances – reading, writing, maths, history, etc. 

Upstairs, management decides when the containers should be put on the assembly line, how long they should be left on and what kinds of materials should be poured in and what should be done about those containers that have smaller openings or no openings at all. He goes on to say,

“No one seems to ask the obvious question. How come so many of the containers, having had these substances poured into them for so many years, are still going out of the factory empty? If students don’t know enough, we insist, it is because we don’t start pouring soon enough, or didn’t pour the right stuff or enough of it.”

Education is, I believe, at a crossroads. On the one hand we have politicians and educators who want to take us back to ‘the good old days’. They want to dictate exactly what should be ‘poured’ into children and want to start doing it an even earlier age. On the other hand you have the technological revolution that surrounds our daily lives and is having a profound impact on how we all learn. 
At the moment, many of our schools are not using the sophisticated, technological tools at their disposal to help our children make as much sense as they can of the world around them. Take a look at this video, see what the children of today think.

What do you think? We would welcome your thoughts.

Charities Given the Opportunity to Win a Free Mobile App

Footsqueek are giving Charities, Sports Teams and Good Causes the opportunity to win a free mobile smart phone app during July and August 2011.

There are now more than 500,000 apps in the apple app store (Apple, 2011) with more than 1 billion mobile app downloads in the week leading up to Christmas 2011.

Mobile apps can be used to provide a key communication tool which is particularly useful to membership led organisations but the cost if often prohibitive meaning that organisations are not able to take advantage of the resource.

Anyone interested in entering the competition should like the FaceBook page www.facebook.com/Footsqueek where details of how to enter will be published on Monday 9th July 2012.

Steve Westgarth (Managing Director) said “Mobile apps are becoming more prevalent in everyday life however good causes often miss out because they don’t have the financial resources to commit to the development cost.Footsqueek hopes to demonstrate that a mobile app can be of huge benefit to smaller organisations by building a free app for a local good cause.”

E-learning in the 21st century

The term e-learning is possibly one of the most overused phrases in education. In recent weeks we have been having several conversations with educationalists about the term; what has been surprising is the range of views we have encountered as to what e-learning actually is.
One superficial answer that is often given is that e-learning is our “Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)”. Scratch below the surface and very quickly it becomes apparent that in many instances all the VLE is used for is a document sharing repository where students can access PowerPoint slides or worksheets that have been used as part of an in class exercise.
I have received many odd looks when I have then asked “what part of your students learning takes place online?” The answer is inevitably centred around providing easy access to materials from any location, which, is clearly important but to my mind is a very small part of the e-learning picture and something that can easily be achieved without the investment in a fully deployed e-learning platform; after all even open source platforms such as Moodle need to be supported by a team of technicians which is inevitably costly.
E-learning in its truest form was originally pioneered by organisations such as Learn Direct. These providers delivered content solely in an online format where students were required to logon and follow the on screen instructions. The model worked well but inevitably many users had difficulty and as a result a number of “Learn Direct” centres were set up where users could go to learn “online” in a supported environment. This style of teaching can certainly be classified “e-learning” but in many ways current delivery methods seem to have regressed in favour of simply sharing documents.
To my mind e-learning is only beneficial if a student is able to get something from the electronic medium that they would not get through face to face contact. A good example is the use of a Twitter Wall presented using a website such as http://www.visibletweets.com. By using this technology the educator is able to get live feedback from students during a presentation, and the feedback can be shared amongst participants. The use of this technology does not require a “VLE” and as a result purists may argue that this is therefore not “e-learning” – I, however, would suggest that using tools such as this in a supported environment is e-learning in one of its most advanced formats.
A recent experiment was undertaken by a module leader at the University of Chester where a series of seminars were delivered entirely using FaceBook as a delivery medium. Students participated in discussion activities, skype calls and made extensive use of the chat function. Clearly document sharing was required element of the delivery but it was a relatively small part of the package.
As a result of innovations such as this it is evident that visionary educators are exploring alternative means of e content delivery which can be used to deliver distance learning or to enhance a blended learning approach – the industry does have to overcome a damaging misconception that seems to have become embedded into education that if the organisation has a VLE then without any further effort the organisation is allowing students to learn online.
Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that e-learning strategies that have not fully evolved are already being superseded.

iPad 3 – Are we going to see a new iPad in March?

Speculation is rife across the internet concerning the imminent launch of the apple iPad 3. This week the rumour mill went into overdrive as it was reported by several technology sites (including AllThingsD and iMore) that the new device will be launched on March 7th 2012.
Many questions surround the launch, not least what will the new product be called – will the market stand the release of an iPad 2s? Or is consumer demand focussed on accepting nothing less than a true next generation iPad 3?
Another key concern is that the iPad 2 has only been on the market for 12 months. It is surely unlikely that early adopters of iPad 2 will be willing to upgrade so quickly – perhaps, however, iPad 2 users are not the target market. I adopted the iPad original in September 2010 having waited first to see what all the hype was about. I decided last March I simply couldn’t justify an upgrade – does this make me the perfect iPad 3 candidate? I guess the answer is am I going to buy one? The answer is obvious – YES.
There are many reasons for my decision …
Firstly I am the only iPad user that I know without a camera. I originally thought I didn’t need one but in only a few short months I have come to realise that the iPad camera is more than just a gadget. The ability to make skype calls on the move has over the past year become a critical requirement and in my view the iPhone screen is simply too small to use all of the features available during video calls.
Another key reason is that I am desperate for a better battery life. The iPad original simply cannot stand the levels of usage that I require without having to be charged midway through the afternoon. The rumours that iPad 3 will be thicker than iPad 2 to accommodate a better battery life don’t concern me, I’d much rather have a device that works all day.
The rumoured better screen resolution as a result of the ‘Retina’ display, faster A6 quad core processor, increased 128Mb memory, and the fact that the device will be 4G ready, also clearly have an impact on my wanting the latest device. I am, however, still concerned that Apple will in 12 months-time release another iPad that will make iPad 3 old news.
I’m not sure an iPad upgrade every 12-24 months  can be justified or be sustainable, simply because I don’t know what else I want the device to do. Yes, iPad is useful in my everyday life and has changed the way I think about tablet computing but a part of me wonders how much more my viewpoint can be stretched before I am simply happy with the revolutionary device that fits my everyday need.
Despite this view Apple historically have a tendancy to reinvent the way consumers think about technology. I won’t be surprised when the next feature becomes a core part of my life even though as yet I don’t even know what that feature is!

iPhone 4s – Is It worth it?

If, like me, you’ve religiously following the iPhone craze since the beginning you too were probably very disappointed when Apple announced last year that they were launching the iPhone 4s and not the iPhone 5.

This decision certainly led me to question whether upgrading from the iPhone 4 to the 4s was worth the time, effort and expense. So much of the decision seemed to rest upon the timescale for the release of the next version of the iPhone …. at least that was my first thought.

iOS 5 released a wealth of new features, many incredibly useful, the new notification centre, the reminders app and Find my friends to name but a few. Initially I thought I had effectively all of the 4s features on my iPhone 4 but then, as people around me started to get the 4s I very quickly found myself craving what I origionally thought was a novelty – I really wanted Siri!

When I first heard about the concept I wasn’t excited, I didn’t see the point of being able to ask my phone to do things, but as I started to see demonstrations of the ease with which the phone could interpret natural language I started to feel that the technology had a natural place in my life.

Earlier today I took the plunge! having wrestled with myself for 4 months I decided I couldn’t do without it any longer. I’ve spent the whole evening playing with Siri and entertaining myself by asking it to find information, set reminders, send text messages and more.

For me the technology is incredibly exciting, not just because of what it can do now but because of the potential it has in the future. The accuracy of the voice regognition is so good that it’s not an unrealistic proposition that it could be extended to simply transcribe what is being said around me, in meetings, on the bus and on the move. The GPS tagging feature could even be used to geotag transcribed voice notes and automatically set reminders to follow up on meeting actions. In many ways this seems to be the beginning of a resolution where computers actually understand and interpret what we want or ask them to do without us taking explicit action!

To return to my initial question, is it worth it? I guess for me it depends if you like useful gadgets. I like new gadgets as long as they are useful. For what it’s cost I think Apple are once again going to have an impact on my life that will change the way I do things and as such I believe iPhone 4s to be worth every penny!

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