Interim reports

Education Learning Log

Not enough asking why.

As always Ewan MacIntosh has lots of interesting things to say. There’s an interesting Google video of his recent talk in New Zealand on his blog.

A couple of things have been making me think recently. Ewan talks a lot about Gladwell’s notion of thin slicing and recently of this idea of digital holiday makers – people who do something neat for a while with ICT then just go back to what they did before at the end of the pilot or project. He also talks about not buying into digital natives and immigrants and I have to agree that people who have inspired me with ICT or indeed with anything in education have not all been mere youngsters, but tend to have been a little older with a bit of wisdom. But that’s the way of things, good teachers or educationalists keep wanting to learn, improve and do better teaching and will actively seek out tools which can help them, whatever those tools might be.

But I’d say that this thin slicing of education ideas goes way beyond just ICT. People who should maybe know better do this in education all the time… I was reading about the small study on using Nintendo DS games and brain gym. One implication was that maybe brain gym isn’t as marvellous as we may have been led to believe. The study is too wee to decide that but why do we all suddenly believe in the claims made for certain things?

Here are a couple of examples of things I’ve watched over the past few years. It appears that something is said whether at a conference, TAPESTRY, Learning Festival or whatever. We do our own pepsi challenge and decide this is a good thing and before we know it we all have to do it because it must be a good thing. We often have no data which leads us to know this is a good thing.

Brain Gym is an example – I have no doubt it gives children a wee rest and wakes them up a bit, maybe even helps relax them but above that……Massage in school – lovely, we’ve done it, kids like it, nice calm atmosphere is had by all, but…..Learning styles, yes we all do the questionnaires, the children discuss it, but is aiming everything at one learning style for anyone sensible? Should we not maybe be using lots of learning styles with all our children to help them learn in different ways than their favourite way? Are we actually doing our children a favour here or not? Just a thought…

So here’s my point – thin slicing is a pretty poor thing for us to do as teachers and results in us doing this holiday maker thing all the time whether with ICT or other educational things, with no real advances in educational pedagogies and no opportunity for staff to do any sort of deep learning. These things appear to happen because of the hold certain communities of thought have within education, a few lectures, a few conferences and we appear to reach tipping point very quickly. This is why Ewan’s Teachmeet events are important. I think this model of bringing people together to have quick bits of input, followed then by social media allowing them to research and really think about what and why they do things is more important than he may realise. It’s giving more of a bottom up way of learning and flattening things out more, which is allowing us to question and ask why much more, giving us much more worthwhile tipping points where we are thinking about learning and teaching as opposed to just sticking in new things like brain gym or learning styles or whatever because we’re told they are a good thing.. Maybe that’s what we should have been doing for a while….Maybe Learning and Teaching Scotland should be using this model much more with ACfE developments…..Maybe we should just ask why before we do things in the future….

October 20, 2007 - Posted by | TeachMeet | , ,


  1. Fascinating (and reassuring) to see that someone else sees it from this view, too. I’ve come away from NZ with much more of an idea of the kind of research I/we need to undertake in LTS, and a much more critical eye for some of the work we do. TeachMeet is about teaching as much as technology (well, it should be) so I’d just like people to bring their ACFE coordinators along to it, their AifL staff… I don’t think either initiative can be done without technology and both could do with the insights of the kind of people who’ve been to TeachMeets before. I’ll be knocking on some doors…

    Comment by Ewan McIntosh | October 21, 2007 | Reply

  2. Interesting comments about the need for research, and perhaps more of the quantitative kind, before jumping wholesale on the latest educational bandwagon.
    ICT is a case in point – I have long felt that there is so much unrealised potential in ICT within subjects as well as ICT as a subject. So often, we get carried away by the techno aspects that it ends up as ICT for ICT’s sake rather than where it really matters, which is of course in the teaching and learning. Of course, ICT can help us take this beyond the classroom. That is what we are about at the moment at Cathkin, with our use of web 2.0 and GLOW, and why we are trying to assess the impact of using GLOW as a platform to raise attainment. The research project I’m working on is classroom based, and is slated for completion and publication later in the year. I think much more clasroom-based research is vital if we are to carry the majority of teachers forward with us down this digital highway…

    Comment by cathkin | February 21, 2008 | Reply

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