This is a short article I wrote for my school magazine. I hope you find it interesting. As the needs of our society have changed, so the level of expected intellectual ability required by people to enable them to be successful has risen. Prior to the industrial age it was sufficient to learn a process or job that you would have for whole of your working life. This job was likely to be similar to that done by your parents and grandparents throughout their working life. Later, during the industrial age, the primary concern was production, with workers being selected (and socially ranked into classes) based on their ability to read, memorise and use a large number of recognised facts. As time has gone on, society moved from the industrial to the information age. With this change the ability to learn and remember facts has given way to a much more important need for understanding. So what are the characteristics we now need to develop in our students to ensure they have a good chance at a successful, productive and satisfying life? Read More
Now I love technology, but the following is related to an email I received from one of my colleagues who is similarly technological but yet concerned with detrimental effects of modern technology use on our students. This is an email I was writing to him in response. It’s a bit rough and needs more work but contains some important thoughts (if I may say so!!)
Computers and phones in bedrooms will become more and more of a problem. I think a large number (I would guess the majority) of parents have no idea what their kids are up to online. I have always told parents in newsletters and meetings to have the computer in a family area and to make bedrooms a technology free zone where possible. I also tell them to set up these expectations early as it is harder to convince a Secondary age child than a Primary child of where the computers in the house should be. Read More
As I was driving to work today, I had a thought. Teaching is a bit like the act of torture, the principle is exactly the same.
When you torture someone you inflict a level of pain to effect a confession or extract information. In both cases the level of pain needs to be just enough, but not too much. Too little and the victim will be able to suffer the discomfort, too much and the victim will either lapse into unconsciousness or expire – both of little use to the torturer.
When we teach, both the appreciation of the student’s readiness to learn and the design of the lesson have the quality of enough but not too much. The students level of readiness and the appropriate teaching strategy needs to be explored, much as the wiggling finger of pressure on a pressure point seeks first to discover just the right place and then to judge the right level of pressure to bring about the squirming of the victim without causing a complete faint.
With ill-judged application of our teaching methods or incorrect analysis of our students’ readiness to learn (another way of describing the Zone of Proximal Development) we will either fail to interest students due to pitching our instruction too low or cause our students to disengage by overwhelming them with expectations of their learning that are far too high.
Teaching is hard and needs to be precise. Much like the torturer we need to study our methods and try some new ways. Just make sure that not too many of your victims expire before you get some learning happening.
For some reason teachers who ordinarily are comfortable with managing students in their class, find the management of students within a computer area such as a computer lab, extremely demanding. One response to this is that teachers ask for technical staff to block websites citing that the sites are a distraction.
Here is a good response to this issue http://tiny.cc/nTk10.
Within my experience I would say that one of the reasons for students being distracted when in class is due to the trivial and/or unengaging nature of the work that students are set. The cure for this is differentiated learning and the use of powerful questioning techniques. A good reference for this is www.fno.org
As I drove to work today I was listening to Richard Dawkin’s audiobook, The God Delusion. The book is about seven and a half hours long. As I listened to the audio for the second time, I found myself remembering or even visualising my location on my regular journey when I first heard particular sections. The memory, despite having listened previously only once to the book while driving my regular route, was quite unmistakable. I had not tried, during the first listening, to remember either the book’s text or the locations which corresponded to the section of the book I was listening to. However, my memory was pinpoint accurate.
This made me think of the phenomenon of ‘songlines’ as owned, passed down and used by Australian Aborigines as described in Bruce Chatwin’s book ‘The Songlines’. I am not an expert in this field and don’t wish to insult anyone by my naive description of this cultural practice. Indeed, I have recently found out that although having the appearance of a travel book, Chatwin’s book is best considered fictions. However, I was intrigued when I read Bruce’s book twenty years ago. Read More
For part of my Masters course at QUT I am doing a reflective unit. While doing this I wrote the following. It may be of some interest.
“Many educators, for many reasons, often develop coping mechanisms when faced with innovation and/or change in the educational environment. These teachers repackage, resist or sometimes ignore the change, rather than engaging with the thoughts and actions that need to occur. Some have even been known to ignore the changes that are required with the rationale that if they wait long enough the innovation will either be cancelled or the frequent changes that occur in education will mean that eventually the system will revert to the ‘old way’. Unfortunately, sometimes these educators are right. Read More