What Ho! Gove

Television - JEEVES AND WOOSTER

Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves in the 1990s Granada TV series

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10755585/Michael-Gove-puts-whizz-bang-back-into-A-level-science.htm

Wooster: I say Jeeves, this Aberdeen Angus Gove chappie certainly seems to be sorting the nation’s education out with a bit of a whizz and a bang! According to his latest speech there’s going to be more exciting experiments to do in school science. Sounds like we’ll soon all be jolly clever again and take up our rightful place as best in the world in everything! Of course, speaking personally, I couldn’t do with any more education. I was full up years ago!

Jeeves: If you say so, sir.

Do I detect a note of incredulity in your voice Jeeves? I mean these lucky young blighters will be doing more practical work and learning more about British History, and really having to knuckle down to it if they are going to get to University. Tally Ho! I say. In my day it was all reading stuff from textbooks and writing long and boring essays.

Indeed, sir.

Come on then Jeeves, out with it. I’m all agog to know what’s going on in that inscrutable mind of yours?

Well sir, it’s just that I can’t help noticing that although science lessons will as you say include more experiments, what will really count is an ability to write an essay about them sitting alone in the school hall. So actually being good at collaborative, practical work in the way that real scientists have to be won’t matter very much. Oh, and perhaps you ought to know that Elizabeth Truss recently made a speech in which she advocated a return to the use of proper traditional textbooks instead of worksheets.

Ah, well yes, I suppose I hadn’t thought about it that way. As for this loony Truss woman, she’ll get no support from me.

I should think not, sir. And it’s not just in science either. I mean, asking A level Art students to write an essay seems to be a tad inappropriate, to say the least.

You mean essays in Art are where you’d really draw the line, eh?

Oh, very droll, sir.

And what’s this I read in the old Daily Twittergraph? Seems this Hoover chappie Dyson is really sucking up to Gove – He says he’s ‘looking forward to helping shape the new Design and Technology GCSEs’. I jolly well think there will be quite a bally lot of hot air expelled when he realises that all that will involve is deciding what our budding young entrepreneurial designers will have to write an essay or two about.

Quite so, sir. And the problem is that simply making something harder to achieve doesn’t actually mean that everyone will get better at doing it, does it? All it means in practice is that more children will fail to achieve the necessary standard.

Point jolly well taken. Still I suppose there’s always work for the unfortunate outcasts down the mines. What?

If you say so, sir.

Well there’s only one thing to do about it Jeeves. If we’re going to put an end to all this rot I shall have to send this blithering imbecile Gove a strongly worded note. Have you got your telegraph pad handy?  Take a message:  @MichaelGove  Emplore you rethink current policies STOP Stop talking through your hat STOP Just stop everything you are doing at once STOP Advise immediate resignation STOP   There, if that doesn’t do it, nothing will.

Indeed, sir. I’m very much afraid probably nothing will. However, I’ll attend to the matter at once sir.

Well I’ll be dashed! Would you believe it? I’ve just been reading this short story called ‘The Custody of the Pumpkin’ by this PG Wodehouse novelist writer chappie, and there’s a line here that reads ‘It has never been difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine…’ That seems to rather well describe this pompous rotter Gove down to a tee doesn’t it? And it would make a jolly good line to end a post about his policies with, wouldn’t it?

Indubitably it would, sir.

Remember, remember…

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Now what was it I was supposed to remember?

 When All Change Please! were nowt but a young schoolboy it was regularly asked to learn poetry for homework, or to read Chapter Whichever for a geography test the following morning, neither of which it found in any way easy. Initially it spent long hours doing what it could, but before long thought better of it and found something more interesting to do as it never really saw the point of trying to remember some incomprehensible 18th century verse or the number of cabbages grown in some distant country it had never heard of.

Of course it was all too easy for those who seemed to have some sort of amazing, just-read-it-once verbal photographic memory, but the trouble is that if you are good at doing something, it is difficult to understand and appreciate how others can find it almost impossible. And that’s one of the problems with traditional academic learning, in that it’s largely taught by people who find remembering large volumes of words on pages easy-peasy. Meanwhile they also seem to believe it’s just a matter of endless hours of practice, or some strange, never properly explained concept called ‘trying harder’, or ‘doing your best’ whatever they might involve. It’s as if that if you don’t happen to share their god-given super-powers, they don’t want or see the need to give you any techniques to help you develop them for yourself.

Indeed for some time All Change Please! has wondered why no-one ever suggested any methods of helping make the recall of verbal information a bit more achievable, and indeed why we still don’t now. For example, the other day it came across this article which suggests a whole range of techniques:

How to never forget the name of someone you just met: The science of memory
http://blog.bufferapp.com/how-to-never-forget-the-name-of-someone-you-just-met-the-science-of-memorization

Remembering stuff is all about making strong connections between sequences of synapses. And one way of doing this (and which apparently dates back to the Greeks and Romans) is to construct a ‘Memory Palace’ which essentially associates vivid visual and spatial cues with whatever it is you want to remember. Another is to use the Peg or Link system. To recall a passage of text there is the ‘First letter text method’. Of course it’s a matter of choosing the appropriate method, and the ones that work best for the individual.

As well as understanding more about our short-term ‘working’ memory it would also seem a good idea if we learnt a bit more about the different types of memories.

The science of memory (and 4 uncommon ways to enhance it)
http://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2014/04/04/science-memory-4-uncommon-ways-enhance/

For example:

Declarative memory: Facts and knowledge, like the capital city or your birth date.
Episodic memory: Memories about life events, like your last birthday party or your first day of school.
Procedural memory: Your own how-to manual, essentially. Memories about how to ride a bike or cook your favorite meal.
Semantic memory: Meanings and concepts that you’ve learned, especially useful for reading.
Spatial memory: Your map of the world, inside your head. These cover your environment, landmarks and objects.”

You’d think teachers would know about and apply all this sort of stuff, wouldn’t you? But if they do, they don’t. Instead traditional teachers persist in clinging on to the idea that every child learns in exactly the same way, and it’s that some are just lazy and all they need to do to succeed is to try harder. Perhaps instead, as the article above suggests, the Classroom of Tomorrow will have a coffee machine, fresh rosemary, portions of blueberries for every child and an area in which to sleep or meditate?  And schools will become places where you go to learn how to learn.

Of course all this doesn’t only apply to how to remember things. Think back – were you ever given any practical suggestions as to how to run faster or jump higher? Or how to actually ‘be more creative’? No, just keep trying, and one day you may, or may not, somehow get it.

Meanwhile the important question now is whether All Change Please! will manage to actually remember to get round to publishing this post?

 

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deanpemberton/301397423

Meducation: the learner’s little helper?

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Now if All Change Please! were to write that in the not too distant future all you will need to do to learn something new will be to take the appropriate knowledge pill, you would doubtless think it had finally flipped its lid, completely gone off its rocker and that it wouldn’t be long before they would be coming to take it away to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and it would be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats…

But if it did, it might go on to suggest that if you had a serious knowledge addiction problem, just as Michael Gove obviously has, and, for example, wanted to learn about rocket science, there would be a pill for that, and a different one to take if you wanted to know everything there is to know about brain surgery. To be taken only under the direction of a qualified teacher, obviously.

And just imagine the uproar at the Daily Mail headline: ‘All school children to go on the pill’. Or perhaps it might be a ‘morning after’ pill that was taken if you had forgotten to do learn Chapter 23 the night before? There would also probably be clever headlines such as “Is this the next generation of tablets for use in schools?’

Doubtless educational academics would write papers and attend long conferences where they would earnestly debate the amount of prescription that would occur with this type of so-called independent learning, and whether or not it should be henceforth referred to as ‘Meducation’. Should schools be henceforth renamed clinics? Would there be hard pills and supposedly easier-to-take soft pills? And of course, most importantly, they would need to decide what colour pill to assign to each subject area of the curriculum, e.g., yellow for English, blue for maths, orange for science, etc.

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Meanwhile, don’t worry, All Change Please! intends to keep taking its tablets and as a result has no plans to make such a crazy suggestion. Especially as someone else already has. And not just anybody, but no less a person that Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/03/negropodamus-disses-internet-of-things-predicts-knowledge-pills/

Yes, the very same Nicholas Negroponte who in the mid 1990s was ridiculed for suggesting that one day people would buy music and books over the internet. And who around the same time was developing early prototypes of automated GPS driving systems, wearable computers and digital street maps, all of which no-one thought would ever come to pass. So obviously he’s no idea what he’s talking about. And his latest prediction is just as hard to swallow:

‘In 30 years, Negroponte said, we’re going to be able to literally ingest information. Once information is in your bloodstream, some kind of mechanism could deposit the information in the brain. You could take a pill and learn English or the works of Shakespeare. He said little else on the subject, but Negroponte assured the audience that the idea is not as ridiculous as it seems.’

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And of course, as fans of The Matrix are doubtless already thinking, there is a parallel here with the choice between taking the red pill and the blue pill. The blue pill allows the person to remain in the blissful ignorance of the fabricated virtual reality of the Matrix, whilst the red pill would lead to escape from the Matrix and into the painful truth of the real world. Presumably those heading for Oxbridge would take the blissful blue knowledge pill, while the rest of us would be given the realistic red one?

Meanwhile here at the All Change Please! Institute of Technology we are secretly working on a slightly different pill. One that isn’t about knowledge acquisition and recall, but one that makes it easier for people to be more creative and collaborative, and to accept and strive for positive change in the future. Now that really would be something worth having.

 

Image credits (Flickr):   Top: bwjones  /  Middle: emagineart    /   Bottom: buttersponge

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”

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A new initiative by traditional academics insists that very small children should first be taught a rigorous programme of structural theory and have a good knowledge of the scientific application of forces before being allowed to play with building blocks.

OK, this time just kidding, but admit it, for a moment there you were willing to believe it!

Meanwhile All Change Please! recently read an account of a prospective employee, who when asked a knowledge-based question in an interview, admitted he didn’t know the answer, but that when it became important to the work he could suggest various ways in which they would be able to find out. The employer was impressed, both with his honesty and resourcefulness, and he got the job.

Or as US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so clearly put it in 2002: ‘Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.’

In contrast, reading much of Gove and Truss’s spin or the writings of traditional academics, one could easily believe that an abundant store of known knowledge is an essential and the only prerequisite for any future employment, and at the same time not a single child has been taught a single piece of knowledge since the 1960s. This is of course, all complete nonsense. The reality is that the majority of children in the majority of lessons have continued to be formally taught existing knowledge. Indeed there is current trend in the production of resources intended to support teachers who have never used a project-based learning approach before.

And if All Change Please! reads just once more the supposed myth-busting  revelation triumphantly proclaimed by traditional academics that ‘you can’t look everything up on the internet’ it will scream. Let it make something clear. NO ONE IS SUGGESTING THAT CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE TAUGHT ANY KNOWLEDGE.

All so-called ‘progressive’ teachers of any worth recognise the value and importance of knowledge. What they do however is to question the type and amount of knowledge needed and to try and relate it as much as possible to practical application rather than abstract theory. They are also keen to develop children’s abilities to independently discover and learn – and question the reliability and validity of – new knowledge.

What’s really missing in the education system though is a structured programme of the development of thinking and learning skills, properly coordiated, monitored and rewarded across the whole school, instead of the current very patchy, haphazard exposure children might or might not encounter, depending on which teachers they just happen to have that year. When that finally happens then perhaps we will really be able for the first time to assess how effective or not it is.

OK, quiz question for budding traditional academics. Who is supposed to have said “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”? No cheating now…

In case you were away from school the day that was covered, the answer is Albert Einstein. All Change Please! is happy to admit it didn’t previously know that. Indeed it was only after searching online to discover the source of the earlier saying “A little learning is a dangerous thing” that it discovered Einstein’s version. Sounds like a little searching might be a good thing.

Of course, a little knowledge can, as it is said, be a dangerous thing (as Gove has demonstrated through his lack of knowledge of teaching and learning). but so is too much. As well as more specialists we need more generalists who are able to see and work with the bigger picture. And as All Change Please! might just have mentioned once or twice before, what we’re currently completely failing to do is engage in any sort of debate about exactly how much formal ‘just in case’ knowledge of a given subject is now appropriate, and what that knowledge can best be delivered’ as it now can be, ‘just in time’.

Instead of nervously looking over our shoulder at the future while grasping to keep hold of an ever receding past, we should be striding positively towards tomorrow, learning from the mistakes of yesterday. Or as someone else once sang:

There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

Shinin’ at the end of ev’ry day

There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

And tomorrow’s just a dream away.

Now I wonder who wrote that? Well, this time it certainly wasn’t Einstein. But there’s a clue in All Change Please!‘s last post.

I, Govebot

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Metal Mickey was a popular children’s TV show from the 1970s.

I, ROBOT is a science fiction story written by Issac Asimov in 1939 about a robot that confesses to murdering its creator and then wisely switches itself off to protect humanity. One can only hope that in the near future Metal Mickey Gove does the honourable thing and admits it has similarly murdered education and wisely resigns to protect humanity…

But until that day happens we will need to continue to read Metal Mickey’s special-advisor generated political science fantasy inspired roborage spin. The latest gobbledegove nonsense nostalgically predicts the early 20th century coming of the futuristic ‘Second Industrial Revolution – a New Machine Age’ in which robots do all the making and everyone in the country has a Russell Group University Degree.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/michael-gove-speaks-about-the-future-of-vocational-education

In some ways it is a remarkable speech in that it identifies and acknowledges the scale of the changes ahead. But unfortunately the more Gove says, the more obvious it becomes he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. His  current reforms of the curriculum, examinations and eBacc-led league tables are  in the process of producing a generation of children unable and unwilling to face the challenges of developing the new ways of thinking and doing that will be needed if the country is to flourish in meeting the threats and opportunities of whatever the next ‘age’ actually turns out to be. Simply making vocational courses more academic in content and in examination is not going to work.

“To ensure we lead the world in the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking required to design and create the new and emerging products and services of the Information Age, we need to completely abandon the notion that the memorisation of academic, out-dated knowledge is the way forward. As a result we shall be completely changing the eBacc to fully reflect the new requirements for teaching and learning in the 21st Century. All students, however academic, will therefore be required to study the Creative Arts, Design and Technology until the age of 18″  – Gove somehow completely omitted to say.

Instead he simply perpetuated the myth that in order to create anything worthwhile you have to first spend the vast majority of your time in school and college studying theory, absorbing knowledge and not daring to ask any awkward questions, such as Why? And at the same time he unwittingly consigned those who learn, succeed and grow best through practical and creative subjects to the growing numbers of NEETS.

Other things he said ranged from the ridiculous:

“….curricula and exams are more rigorous – with a proper emphasis on the centrality of academic knowledge in the education available to all.”

“Giving all children access to high-quality teaching in maths, English, physics, chemistry, biology, languages and the humanities to the age of 16 provides every child with the opportunity to flourish whichever path they subsequently choose.”

To the highly questionable:

“And more than giving children choices, that academic core also trains our minds to be critical and creative.”

“The work of cognitive scientists…..has shown that the best way to develop critical thinking skills is to ensure all children have a firm grounding in a traditional knowledge-based curriculum.”

“You actually need to have knowledge in your head to think well. So a knowledge-based curriculum is the best way to get young people ‘ready for the world of work”

And to the quite outrageous:

“…factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning. So, the more knowledge students accumulate, the smarter they become.”

“And it’s demonstrably the case that the higher order thinking skills we need – even and especially, in the sphere of technology – can be and are successfully cultivated through traditional intellectual disciplines.”

He even managed to equate Design & Technology with little more than the development of skills of traditional craftsmanship (although to be fair, that’s what it still is in many schools).

“In the existing design and technology curriculum students have had the opportunity to work with traditional products – wood and metal in resistant materials, wool and silk in textiles – to learn traditional methods of production. There is – and always will be – a demand for skilled artisanship of this kind.”

Meanwhile All Change Please! has recently been making a first hand study of the works, words and wisdom of Walt Disney, the creator of the educationally maligned but commercially and culturally highly successful Mickey Mouse. Perhaps Metal Mickey Gove should listen more to what he had to say:

“Our greatest national resource is the minds of our children.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it”

“It‘s a mistake not to give people a chance to learn to depend on themselves while they are young.”

It’s just a great shame that Walt Disney is not our current secretary of state for education.

Sadly a picture is no longer worth 1000 words

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All Change Please! has recently had cause to learn a bit more about the forthcoming changes to A level examinations in Art & Design. Yes, that’s right, the ones that Michael, Mickey the Mixter Gove wants to make ‘more rigorous’. Anyway at a cost rumoured to be not that short of the amount Facebook recently paid for WhatsApp, vast amounts of tax payers’ money was allegedly spent on highly paid executive consultants, university professors and exam board directors in an attempt to develop higher A level specifications that would better prepare students for the higher demands of higher education. And after the usual round of excellent lunches, luxury hotels and personal visits from the dfSS to remind them that they didn’t want to end up unemployed, now did they?, they all simultaneously came up with and agreed on exciting new initiative that would do the job nicely. Yes, they decided that in future students taking Art & Design at A level would all be required to write a 1000+ word ‘continuous prose’ essay on something or other to do with Art & Design.

Now this does of course have one major advantage in terms of making the Art & Design teacher’s job a little bit easier. Because when a GCSE student asks “Please Miss, should I do A level Art & Design or take a BTEC in Art & Design next year?“, the answer suddenly becomes very simple and straight forward. If you get a A* to C grade in GCSE English then you should do A level, but if you don’t you would be better off doing a BTEC. No two-tier system here then…

However, All Change Please! thinks it only fair that this sort of approach is adopted in other subjects at the same time, and is most grateful to Tony Wheeler for coming up with the following set of proposals in which students will be required to:

  • dance their Science A level practical exam
  • mime a passage from Shakespeare in English Literature
  • make a conceptual installation representing WW1 reparations as part of A level History
  • improvise on a musical theme at Maths A level in order to resolve Pi to 6 decimal points

And that marks will be deducted for the inappropriate use of Fonts, excessive Underlining, poor choices of Colour, absence of letter Kerning and lack of use of Information Technology. Just as Spelling and Grammar are known by the acronym SPAG, this will of course also doubtless be referred to by its initial letters.

All Change Please! knows what it likes, and it’s certainly not a 1000+word essay…

Image credit: Wikimedia

The Joy of Trending

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Just in case you didn’t know already, All Change Please!‘s alter-ego curates two Flipboard magazines created especially for students of the Creative Arts, Design and Technology.  All Change Please! recently managed to catch up with itself and asked what they were all about.

First of all, can you explain what a Flipboard magazine is?
Flipboard is an app that works on a variety of tablets and smart phones, although the magazines can be viewed on any PC with a web browser connection. The app brings together images and articles from the web selected by the curator into what are known as magazines. The ‘pages’ can then be easily ‘flipped’ through. An image and the first few paragraphs of an article are shown, which gives just enough of an idea to know whether it’s something one wants to look at in more detail before opening the original source web page. The results look stunning on screen, and it’s a pleasure to use. And of course, it’s all completely free. There are a few advertising pages within the articles themselves, but they are not obtrusive or offensive. As you’d expect it is available worldwide, anytime, anyplace.

How easy is it to create a magazine?
Very simple. So easy that even a teacher could do it, let alone a student! Of course it would be great if teachers of Art, Craft Design & Technology started to create their own personalised magazines for their students that directly supported their courses. Students could then flip the pages they found particularly interesting into their own magazines. Even better, similar to the way students use sketch books as a reference journal to collect together things that interest them, they could create their own magazines and share them with each other. And perhaps their teachers could then flip the best finds to create a bespoke departmental Flipboard magazine.

So what’s special about AC:DC and All Things Design?
There are a lot of amazing images and fascinating articles on the web about everything to do with Art, Craft, Design and Technology. Some are very superficial and others are inappropriate for some reason, so the problem is finding the ones that are just right for students of the subject. The content of these two magazines is carefully chosen to be exactly right for students between the ages of about 14 to 18. AC:DC  Art, Craft Design & Communication is aimed more broadly at all areas of Art & Design, while All Things Design is more for those doing 3D Product design based courses. But a lot of the material is suitable for both. As well as delivering inspiring images and ideas, the diversity of the material will considerably widen students’ awareness of all the wide variety of creative arts and design activities that are currently going on, as well as the historical and cultural dimensions of Art and Design. It’s intended to be playful, surprising and ask questions and arouse curiosity. Both magazines are updated on a near daily basis, so there’s always something new to discover.

I’ve heard a rumour that you’ve recently been trending?
Yes, that’s correct, though only in a modest sort of way. Until a couple of weeks ago about 250 people had viewed All Things Design at least once. Then someone who had over 600 followers tweeted it, and the numbers suddenly started to shoot up. After 3 days it had become 500 readers, but then suddenly on the 4th day it became 2000 and by the 7th day it was 5000. It then continued to grow but at a slower rate, but a week later it had climbed to over 7000. It’s very exciting to watch something trending online and to see the numbers escalate so quickly – one of the new, must-have experiences of the 21st Century! Especially as from some of the comments it was clear that these readers were coming in from all over the world. But it is still important to keep it in perspective, given that there are some 100 million global users of Flipboard!

It’s been interesting to try and analyse exactly what happened from the limited data Flipboard makes available. But it seems that it was just one link that proved to be particularly popular:

Olympic Skier Wears Mariachi-Inspired Race Suit for Mexico
http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/2014-winter-olympics-sochi-mexico-mariachi-race-suit

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So it was probably the combination of sport and fashion – a lethal cocktail of two extremely popular searches – that drove it onwards and upwards. Meanwhile as it started ‘trending’ a clever little algorithm buried deep on the Flipboard servers went into action and featured it on its ‘Flipboard Picks’ pages, so that then extended its exposure even further.

Surely every child should be learning about how things go viral on the internet. Or to put it another way, perhaps every child should be explaining to their teachers how things go viral on the internet?

And finally, why is there a photo of a large inflatable plastic duck on the cover of All Things Design?
I’m glad you asked me that! When I was an Industrial Design student we got fed up being asked to design high-end consumer goods that didn’t solve any problems that really needed solving. Someone suggested we might as well be designing yellow plastic ducks, so that’s what we did – we created a series of renderings, technical drawings and production models for what we called Yellow Plastic Duck Technology. If you look at some of my previous publications there’s often a photo somewhere of a yellow plastic duck – so it’s become somewhat of a personal signature!

So what are you waiting for? Click on the covers below to check the magazines out, and then make sure you subscribe! And if you are a teacher, pass the links on to your pupils before they pass them on to you!

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And finally… here’s some helpful advice to help you set up and maintain your on-line life more effectively – you are keeping up now, aren’t you?

http://mashable.com/2014/02/17/twitter-time/

The Gove Who Went Into The Old

1S-3430584863_fee28879df_bCheckpoint Govie. You are now entering the Private Sector.

It’s beginning to seem that Weird Uncle Govie has a bit of a thing about wars. Following his claims about the purpose of the First World War, he has now drawn reference to the Cold War and his grand plan to knock down the Berlin Wall, i.e., the divide between communist-led state and the capitalist-led private schools. When entering a school, Govie says, one should not be able to tell if it is state or privately funded. Until, that is, one counts the number of children in each classroom. And observes the state of repair of the school buildings, the lack of playing fields and the absence of boarding facilities, cadet force, a good rowing club, pupils wearing straw hats, etc.

2S-P1080383Anyone here happen to know which school this is?

Govie has, of course, completely misunderstood the situation. It’s not that we want our state schools to produce the sort of Gove-alike arrogant, self-opinionated, over-confident children that many private schools do – it’s that we want private schools to produce normal, well-adjusted children that will fit in with the rest of society and not assume they are automatically going to end up running the country.

And then there has been his own private war against Ofsted, in which in order to try and disguise his political agenda he rather foolishly suggested that a refreshing change of leadership every three or so years was a very good thing, which immediately resulted in teachers up and down the country frantically searching the internet to discover exactly how much longer than three years Gove had already been in post.

Not to mention his ‘tough on discipline’ announcement in which he described what happens in most schools anyway as if it didn’t, giving the impression that he alone, heroically and triumphantly, has sorted everything out for the thankful nation. What a pity he didn’t go on to talk about being tough on the causes of in-discipline which might have included the out-dated 19th century curriculum he expects children of the 21st century to follow.

All Change Please! would like to suggest that in reality Govie is not actually particularly interested in education. If he did, perhaps he might try to understand it a bit better.  What he’s really trying to do is to destroy the Teachers’ Unions, Thatcheresque-style. Meanwhile the bottom line is that he, like the rest of the Conservative Party, have votes to win at the next election, which is far from a foregone conclusion. So his real focus, with the help of the media, is essentially in sending out a message to the electorate that in this time of great uncertainly about our future prosperity, with the Conservatives we can safely return to the nostalgic world of the golden age of the 1950s where children not only knew what their ps and qs were, but minded them too*, and the country was a simpler, more certain and predictable place to live (even though of course in reality it wasn’t – but these days most people are too young to know that). It’s a strange world in which a return to the way things once were is now presented as being something new and innovative.

And finally, here’s the latest discovery from the priceless Michael ‘I’d rather you hadn’t seen this’ Gove archive:

* ‘Minding your Ps and Qs’. That’s an interesting phrase. I wonder where it originates from?

Top image credit: Flickr: mauro_ventura

Middle image credit: Tristram Shepard

 

200 posts that failed to change the world

5679642883_24a2e905e0_zJust checked. Yes, pretty much still the same as always.

When it was young, all All Change Please! wanted to do was to change the world. And as it grew into middle age it still wanted to change the world, although it had decided that changing education would probably be enough to be getting on with for now. And now, as it eases into retirement and becomes ever closer to being no more than a long forgotten series of ones and zeros drifting blissfully unaware in The Cloud, it still has vague hopes that someone, somewhere is still reading its rants and raves.

For today, believe it or not, All Change Please! is 200 posts old, and as it deftly removes its invisible cloak of modesty it can reveal that over the years its ramblings have had over 20,000 views, though how many viewers actually stopped to read and think is, of course, another matter.

Quickly picking up All Change Please!‘s well thumbed copy of ’1001 Blog Posts You Must Write Before You Die‘ in an attempt to come up with a good way of making its celebratory post a bit longer, it glances through the introductory advice, which by a remarkable coincidence says that the great secret to getting more readers is to give a post a title with a number at the start. So observing the number of successful books that now seem to begin with a number, All Change Please! waits with keen anticipation in the hope that ‘200 posts that failed to change the world‘ will shortly start trending on Twitter.

At the same time though, All Change Please! can’t help lamenting the passing of the real book title, and is pondering setting up a ‘Real Book Title’ campaign. Just imagine, for example, if the marketing departments of the publishers of some of our greatest authors had managed to convince them otherwise we might now be reading:

  • 1,984 Things That Might Happen In The Future by George Orwell
  • 501 Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • 250 Grapes by John Steinbeck
  • 42 by Douglas Adams
  • 15th March by George Elliot
  • 007 by Ian Fleming

And here are a couple that obviously did get through:

  • 1001 (Arabian) Nights
  • 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith

Meanwhile, as a result, perhaps not unexpectedly given All Change Please!’s years in educational publishing, it can proudly reveal that it has come up with yet another great idea for a book that is never likely to see the light of day. It’s cleverly and provocatively entitled ‘1001 Things You Don’t Need To Learn At School Anymore‘, and essentially it contains 1001 facts that can now easily be looked up on the internet when you actually need to know them. So for example, it’s no longer necessary for everyone to remember the names of the planets and the order in which they orbit the sun (just search for: names, planets, order).

But the real value of the book lies in something we really should be addressing, which is identifying the things children do now actually need to learn at school, which in the above example might be that the Earth is one of a number of planets that orbit the sun. The internet has created a new hierarchy of knowledge and understanding that ought to be changing everything we teach and learn in schools.

Or, to take another example, it’s not important for children to know that Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Education. But what is essential is that they, and their parents, know that the irrelevant curriculum and out-dated assessment methods he is imposing are seriously damaging their futures.

But for now, All Change Please! just plans to keep taking its pills…

Projekt 365_200

Rest assured that All Change Please! will resume normal service later in the week when it will comment wisely on Gove’s latest series of pronouncements.

Education At War / Gove-centred learning

1S-8091867592_81f1b1790d_cUK teaching and learning is coming crashing down…

Last week Civitas, a right-of-centre think-tank commissioned by Herr Gove to report on education standards, announced it is to call for a new inspectorate for academies and free schools. Calling for the scrapping of ‘Sixties-mired’ Ofsted, apparently it will argue that ‘the Education Secretary’s wish for schools to develop their own approaches to teaching is being held back by child-first orthodoxies among inspectors, who are stifling innovation‘.

Well, not surprisingly this seemed to make Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw just the tiniest bit cross, or as it was widely reported in the media he was ‘spitting blood‘, and that he had even fallen out with The Great Dictator himself.  Of course perhaps General Von Wiltshirehoffen should have known better than to announce that he would not hold back from criticising under-performing Free schools and Academies, and consequently preventing the complete ethnic cleansing of the entire left-wing in education. Even more surprisingly he apparently also said: ‘extreme educational philosophies’ had no place in modern schools, that some of his critics want  ‘children to be lectured for six hours a day in serried ranks’. and that such ‘rote learning would not produce successful learners who can think for themselves‘.

So is General Von Wiltshirehoffen in reality a Marxist Enemy Of Promise Double Agent in disguise? Anyway it’s good to know the enemy are busy fighting their own internal battles. Well, they were for a few hours anyway, because later that day Herr Gove said he fully supported General Von Wiltshirehoffen and would immediately execute exterminate dismiss anyone who said they didn’t, and then they both sat down together and had a really nice cup of tea and agreed they would be jolly good chums again, forever and ever.

But wait, they thought it was all over, when on Monday along comes David Green (Who’s he then?), the chief executive of Civitas, who clearly has no intention of allowing a peace process to erupt. Writing for The Spectator he is heavily critical of Wiltshire and Ofsted and promotes the need for a knowledge-led approach to learning in order to increase the performance of children who come from disadvantaged homes. So, if Herr Gove is true to his word, presumably one day soon there will be a knock on the door and David Green will never be heard of again.

Meanwhile All Change Please! was puzzled by the last phrase of Civitas’s original statement. First, what are all these unidentified ‘innovative approaches to teaching‘ that are being stifled? Presumably these involve traditional, old-fashioned approaches combined with a little help from computer-generated online knowledge-based, multiple choice questions, and a selection of dull and boring video clips, and based on the belief that all children are both created and grow-up equal, i.e. their needs are all exactly the same at any one point in time and space. And secondly, when Civitas criticises ‘child-first orthodoxies‘ is it really suggesting that the children should be seen to be of secondary importance in schools?

1S-Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 12.22.39Which came first? The children or the system?

All Change Please! suspects that the concept of ‘child-first’, or ‘child-centred learning’ is completely misunderstood by those whom it suits to do so. They believe it means allowing children to do exactly what they like, when they like and not imposing any order or notion of discipline or sanctions for misbehaviour, when in reality it involves a flexible, yet strongly structured, scaffolded approach to learning, focusing on and prioritising the interests, abilities, and learning styles of the students, rather than the needs of those involved in managing the educational process, such as teachers and administrators – and of course politicians. Thus it recognises the learner as an individual, rather than a future mass-produced widgit (ie a small gadget or mechanical or electronic component device). Which is not to say the needs of the teachers and administrators should be ignored, but just not prioritised over those of the children.

Then there is the curious belief, again strongly promoted by Civitas, that it is the local authorities that have been solely responsible for promoting ‘discredited, out-dated progressive child-centred learning‘, as if setting up Free schools or Academies will, entirely all on its own, completely by itself, without anyone else’s help, solve the perceived problem and enable teachers to get back to those so-called innovative methods of whole-class teaching.

But wait, there’s more… will you welcome please The Employers with a completely different priority. For them it’s not schools or children first, it’s the future economic success of their own businesses, or as they prefer to call it…’the country‘. Sadly, while the great and good generals, politicians, company directors and academics all appear to be having great fun scoring points of each each other in the name of education, it’s the innocent children and teachers in the trenches who are being slaughtered on a daily basis.

What’s really needed is some sort of balanced consensus that meets the differing needs of the children and the country, delivered within the realistic constraints of the schools, the managers and the teachers.  Surely that’s what the politicians should really be trying to achieve?

Meanwhile, the one clear approach that seems to be winning through can only be described as Gove-centred learning, and surely destined to produce a country full of Mini-Me Gove replicants. And in seems that in Australia it’s already happening….

“The clue about the approach Pyne is seeking to follow this week is in the snappy new glasses he unveiled at his Blue Room press conference. They are remarkably like those of Michael Gove, the current British secretary of state for education, who is busy prosecuting a culture war in English schools. This combines a radical commitment to setting up new schools outside of the framework of local government or professional regulation, while simultaneously trying to make exams harder, the curriculum more “fact” based, and leftie social workers named as the root of all contemporary evil.”

Image credit (top) SDASM Archives

Image credit (middle): Flickr vivido/rosefirerising