Animating the secret power of time

Beyond the general content of this extract from a recent interesting and thought-provoking talk given at the RCA, which includes a short section on the direction in which education needs to be going, is the delightful post-production animation. Maybe one day PowerPoint presentations will be like this, somehow automatically producing a visualisation of what is being said!

Bye Bye Becta

So, Becta is no more. Alas poor Becta! I knew him well…*

Too well in fact. After a short spell in the early 1990’s working on secondment for NCET, the forerunner of Becta, and a number of more recent associations with the mighty micro mammoth, surely one of the most welcome decisions of the new ConLib demolition government has been to officially dismantle, scrap and abolish (depending on which news report you read) this outrageous waste of public money. It’s not that it didn’t employ some interesting and capable people (and a few who weren’t), but it was too bound up in its own administrative procedures and ways of doing things that must be done that way, with the result that its ability to actually influence change and make things happen was extremely limited.

Anyway, for digital posterity, I hope those of you who have worked with, for or against NCET or Becta over the past 20 years will take this opportunity to record some of your personal memories of your experiences using the comment box below.

Rest in PCs, Becta.

* The Shakespearean scholars amongst you will doubtless be quick to point out, that this is in fact a common mis-quotation, the original being ‘Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio;..’

There’s no such thing as a Free School?

Over recent weeks I’ve been a bit puzzled as to why the Conservatives chose to use the term ‘Free schools’ in relation to their policy to enable parents and other organisations to set up and run their own schools with public funding.

Perhaps no-one has told them that there were so-called Free Schools in the 1960s that grew out of the social movements and counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s? Inspired by popular authors of the time such as A. S. Neill, and Ivan Illich, they promoted substantial change in public education and hundreds of totally independent ‘free’ schools were set up, mainly in America but with a handful in the UK. At the extreme was the notion of  ‘deschooling’ entirely.

A book by Ron Miller on the Free Schools Movement was published in 2002.

In his review of the book, Frank Lindenfeld writes:

“The role of staff in these schools was to act as models, guides, mentors and leaders, and not as authority figures. Decisions were generally made in meetings of staff and students, one person, one vote. The schools were usually small—20-60 students and 3-10 staff and volunteers. There were no compulsory classes, age groupings, pre-set curricula, or grades. Supporters of free schools did not believe this model was suitable for all children, only that such alternatives work for many kids, while public schools are sorely deficient as well as oppressive.

And they believed in experiential learning, rather than merely learning from books and expert authorities. Children are naturally curious: in their own time they will learn what they need without being told what to do.”

And E. Wayne Ross (editor of The Social Studies Curriculum) adds:

“Free Schools, Free People is about the ongoing struggle for the freedom to teach and learn; the clash between technocratic systems of education that rely on bureaucratic and disciplinary authority to achieve standardization and efficiency and those people in pursuit of humane, holistic, and non-authoritarian approaches to education.”

So bring on the Free Schools, I say…

And finally, just as we’ve finally worked out what the letters DCFS stand for, that nice progressive new Education Secretary Mr Gove has come up with a new name. Well I saw new, but in fact it’s back to the good old ‘Department for Education’. Except this time, note that it’s the DfE rather than the DFE. There’s progress for you.

A bit of an oBarmy idea and a bigger iSplash?

Given that Barak Obama’s presidential success was at least partly due to the power of the social networking campaign it was surprising to read a report that apparently he doesn’t know how to operate an iPhone or an iPad. What’s more worrying though is his lack of understanding of the potential use of mobile technologies in education. In a recent speech at Hampton University he even delivered an ‘e-leaning is bad for you’ message to graduates, claiming that when using such tools:

“information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than a means of emancipation.”

However, despite the negative presentation, probably without realising it, what he is actually prompting is the need for more thought about and research into the nature of education in a digital age. How, as I’ve suggested before, we come to terms with a proliferation of  ‘information snacks’ to achieve a balanced diet in which we know when to go online and when to use more traditional methods of learning.

Meanwhile in an age where so many artists have rejected digital media it’s good to see David Hockney embracing it and exploring its impact on the process of creating art:

“What is also unique is that with the iPad you can actually watch a playback of your drawing. I have never watched myself actually drawing before”.