Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’

Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’

By Graeme Paton

Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, said good spelling and grammar was necessary “maybe a hundred years ago” but “not right now”.

He insisted that children should be encouraged to express themselves in a number of different ways – including using mobile phone text messaging – rather than relying on established linguistic rules.

The comments come despite a new drive by the Government to promote the basics of English language throughout compulsory education.

Under new plans, a revised national curriculum is being introduced that requires pupils to accurately spell 200 complex words by the end of primary school.

 

Another trotting out of the line, that nothing has changed in 100 years, which is false, silly and unjustifiable. But Sugata has a point, to a degree, and the 200 most common word list is a great example. The 200 word list is a compromise because as Sugata points out we require our students to learn them before they use them not as they use them. Technology allows us to learn as we need to, however, it does not replace the need for learning, as Sugata seems to be suggesting, in fact, spelling and grammar is exceedingly more important in todays world of instant publishing.

Maybe the 200 words could be instead used to audit our teaching program? If our students are exposed to a variety of authentic experiences they can’t help not learning those words.

Making Sense of Selfies

Making Sense of Selfies

by Pamela Rutledge

But what if taking selfies is perfectly normal?  The prevalence of selfies is one of many manifestations of the rise in self-publishing of all kinds of information and images.  The venues, such as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Vine, Twitter, YouTube and others, are practically endless.  Social technologies have redefined “normal” as more public.sharable and searchable.  Like most digital self-publishing, selfie-ing is easy.  All you need is a camera phone and a Facebook page or Instagram app.  This makes it ripe for exploration and identity experimentation, particularly among ages where identity formation and emancipation are key developmental tasks as well as for those who are still interested in looking at themselves.  Both of these may contribute to why user demographics skew young.

At last some common sense commentary on selfies, shame it didn’t come from a cyber-safety expert.

Ten big impact measures to have a positive effect on teacher quality and student outcomes

Ten big impact measures to have a positive effect on teacher quality and student outcomes

by Stephen Dinham

“The biggest equity issue in Australian education today isn’t computers, new buildings or equipment. It’s each student having quality teachers and quality teaching in schools supported by effective leadership and professional learning in mutually respectful local community contexts”. (Dinham, 2010)

I think teacher quality, as an individual that effects student learning, is largely a myth, probably perpetuated by universities to keep their perceived value high. The pedagogical approaches and the professional culture of the school is far more important in lifting student outcomes than individual teacher training. You could argue that individual teacher ability might matter more at secondary level but given that students are largely already pigeon holed, as far as their academic prospects, by the time they finish primary school this is probably a moot point.

The Future of Programming

The Future of Programming

Another must watch keynote from Bret Victor, see notes on Bret’s site:

“The most dangerous thought you can have as a creative person is to think you know what you’re doing.”

It’s possible to misinterpret what I’m saying here. When I talk about not knowing what you’re doing, I’m arguing against “expertise”, a feeling of mastery that traps you in a particular way of thinking.

But I want to be clear — I am not advocating ignorance. Instead, I’m suggesting a kind of informed skepticism, a kind of humility.

Everything that Bret is saying about programming could also be said about learning with technology. Before we knew what was possible where we’re we trying to get too?

Disruptive Education: Technology-Enabled Universities

Disruptive Education: Technology-Enabled Universities

by Sean Gallagher and Geoffrey Garrett

We think the best way to understand the ecology of MOOCs is to consider them
the proto iTunes of higher education. The core of the analogy is that iTunes
transformed the music industry not by changing the way music was made or
recorded, but by revolutionizing how it was made available to listeners. Coursera
does not make the Stanford and Melbourne classes on its website, but it does
make them ubiquitously available.

MP3 files are not of the same quality as high fidelity stereo recordings, but they
are so much more convenient to use than even CDs let alone long playing vinyl
albums. Taking a Harvard class online isn’t like being in the Harvard Yard, but it
is so much cheaper and more accessible.

The parallels with iTunes are not convincing for mine: 1) music is rare you can only get it (legally) from the approved source, unless of course you want to hear me belt out the latest Lady GaGa album on my acoustic guitar, learning you can and do get it from other sources than universities, 2) suggesting people will put up with inferior sound quality means they will do the same with learning is simply untrue, if university education was substantially better than self-directed learning then universities wouldn’t be looking at MOOCs in the first place, 3) the value universities have is not in their courses but in their people (professors, lecturers, tutors…), 4) just for fun, Stanford professor Steve Blank insists the music companies were stupid to sign up to iTunes and only did so because Steve Jobs used a “reality distortion field” on them.

Maybe those creating and taking MOOCs are also subject to a similar reality distortion field.

Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education

Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education

In this kind of self-organised learning, we don’t need the same teachers all the time. Any teacher can cause any kind of learning to emerge. A teacher does not need to be physically present, she could be a projected, life-sized image on the wall. A “Granny Cloud” of such volunteer teachers have been operating out of the UK and a few other countries into schools in India and South America for more than five years, using a combination of the internet and admiration to provide a meaningful education for children. We don’t need to improve schools. We need to reinvent them for our times, our requirements and our future. We don’t need efficient clerks to fuel an administrative machine that is no longer needed. Machines will do that for us. We need people who can think divergently, across outdated “disciplines”, connecting ideas across the entire mass of humanity. We need people who can think like children.

 

I’m a bit late to this one but Google is getting a fair run around the traps at the moment so I thought it was worth a response. Google doesn’t replace the need for mentors and more knowledgable others, it changes a lot of things but not that… The idea that a granny cloud can replace teachers and curriculum is ridiculous.