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….

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October 20, 2007 Posted by | TeachMeet | , , | 2 Comments

Learning Festival

I’ve been meaning to get along to a TeachMeet for some time so with the  Scottish Learning Festival being near to home I managed to go and lurk. Listening to the seven and 2 minute presentations sparked lots of ideas which I hope to follow up.

It struck me that the way I carry out my own learning and development has changed hugely over the past few years. We’ve had lots of discussions recently in the authority where I work, about the need for fewer short courses and more over a few days where deep learning can take place. To an extent I think this is a good idea. Having spent a week in the summer at a summer school on leadership – the time to reflect and discuss keynotes in process groups was invaluable and has helped me to re-evaluate my ideas.

But short snacking is something we also need to encourage amongst teachers – I wish I’d been able to hear Ewan MacIntosh speaking about how young people snack on media. I found the TeachMeet a real life representation of the learning snacking that I do daily online – finding short snippets of info that might or might not spark more investigation. When they do spark something then that learning can take me down routes and to places which I would never have imagined, where deep learning and collaboration occurs.

The thing that preys on my mind is that as a profession I see a divide opening between teachers who naturally do this kind of investigation and learning and those that don’t. What I can’t see yet is whether this divide and ability to snack but also learn deeply is about digital natives and immigrants or whether it is more than that.

Sitting at the TeachMeet with a teacher from the school I work in you could see the people there just got it, they’d embrace change, go for it with ACfE, develop collaborative online communities with colleagues and had a hunger to learn, they were trying new innovative and creative teaching with ICT tools to help them.

Things are certainly looking better than when I used to teach ICT to teachers with a new fangled mouse attached. After giving what I thought was a clear instruction to use the mouse to move the pointer on the screen, I found people holding their mouse onto the screen and moving it around the surface. And I’m guessing the TeachMeet evaluations would have been more encouraging than one we got after one of our computer courses.

Question – What do you intend to do as a result of this course?

Answer- Go for a curry and a pint!

August 22, 2007 Posted by | TeachMeet | , | Leave a comment