I’ve often thought that if I were still teaching, one of the first tasks I’d set my students would be to create a 30 second video that could be uploaded to YouTube and that would achieve a million views. The exercise involves a close analysis of just what is it that makes something ‘go viral’ and appeal to people in such a way that causes them to have to share what they’ve seen with others. It’s more than just doing something funny, and clearly the normal expectations of ‘broadcast’ quality video do not apply. Somehow it has to tap into a collective consciousness, and at the same time be undeniably creative. Ultimately the learning is about the techniques needed to go ‘viral’ in order to communicate one’s message to the world.

Another, somewhat lesser challenge, might be the posting on a blog that is viewed by over 800 people. And it seems that last week, All Change Please! managed just that. After being linked to the ‘Guido Fawkes’ blog, the number of hits rose from our usual 20 or so a week to over 400 in the first 24 hours, with a further 400 over the next two days. There was also a marginal knock-on effect on some other posts, each being viewed 25 or so times.

So how did it happen? Like many creative ideas it started with a remark made by someone else, and a chance viewing of an image of nice Mr Gove that was indeed remarkably similar to a puppet. Searching for suitable images to use, it became noticeable that, with a little help from Photoshop, certain other Thunderbirds characters bore a striking resemblance to members of the current government.

Then, after the post had been published late afternoon on last on Sunday it was passed on by a regular reader to a contact at the Daily Telegraph and then onto the ‘Guido Fawkes’ blog where it prompted over 250 comments – though not all exactly ‘on-topic’ – and in turn the hits on All Change Please! Without asking, another regular reader passed it on the the editor at the Spectator. And yet another created his own masterfully Photoshopped image of Brains as Nick Clegg, although there is currently  little evidence to confirm this is true.

Why was the post successful? First, it took on a much wider topic – politics in general – rather than just education. It’s hard to imagine 800 teachers  somehow getting as excited about anything they’ve seen on-line to do with educational matters (except maybe cuts to pensions?). Then it makes reference to the well-known cultural icon that is Thunderbirds, re-popularised by a 2004 film and two TV ads from 2008, and of course reflects the growing sense of unease about the present government.

Anyway, this week All Change Please! seem to have not only managed to achieve its 15 minutes of fame, but also made its contribution to Mr Cameron’s announced on Monday, forgotten about by Tuesday, ‘Big Society’ initiative, though I suspect it wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

* Talking of ‘Not only…but also’ (see last paragraph), SuperThunderStingCar was the title of the wonderful Thunderbirds spoof sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from the 1960s, well worth watching again!

Thunderbirds are Gove!


Following up a recent tip-off,  it seems like that nice Mr Gove leads a secret double life. ‘All Change Please‘ can now reveal that Michael Gove is actually Alan Tracy from International Rescue, pilot of Thunderbird 3. Beyond the obvious visual similarities – the superficial, somewhat glazed appearance and expression – they are both seem to have wooden heads, and are unconvincingly controlled by their puppet masters. According to reliable website sources Alan sees his work at International Rescue as ‘a vital service to mankind. However, he is also a bit of a joker and somewhat reckless’. That’s rather what we had rather suspected all along.


Meanwhile further investigation by All Change Please! can now exclusively reveal that in fact the country is secretly being run by International Rescue. Unbelievably, the cabinet are International Rescue in cunning disguise.

Based on the remote Cameron Island, Scott Tracy, captain of Thunderbird 1 is taking on the role of David Cameron. In perhaps his toughest challenge as a character actor, in contrast Scott himself is usually known for his ‘complete lack of arrogance which enables him to assist his brothers with the day to day tasks of running International Rescue’.

Meanwhile Virgil (Thunderbird 2) is taking on the duties of George Osborne. Apparently Virgil: ‘is the most serious of all the Tracy family…Virgil has no sense of fear and his iron nerve makes him one of the bravest pilots. As pilot of Thunderbird 2 he cannot afford to put people at risk by acts of carelessness.‘ Do try to remember that, George. Or should that be, Virgil?

And do you recognise Lady Penelope masquerading as Theresa May? According to her IR file, she: ‘passed her exams with flying colours and leaving Roedean after being elected ‘Head Girl’, Penelope went to finishing school in Switzerland where she had a wonderful time ski-ing and touring. On several occasions she visited other countries in Europe.’

Is Samantha Cameron really Tin-Tin in real life? An obvious choice for the role as she is: ‘ Feminine and sweet, and yet highly intelligent, Tin Tin is a true credit to International Rescue, proving that women can be a great asset to such an important organisation.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is the revelation that, would you believe, the ‘father’ and leader of the team, played by Jeff Tracy, is actually – Norman Lamont!

The question that arises though is that if Britain really is being run by International Rescue, why are we still in such a mess? The answer could be that a key member of the Thunderbird team appears to be missing. Significantly, All Change Please! was unable to identify anyone from the current government with any resemblance to surely the most essential member of the IR team – Brains…

And finally…

Police have warned for the public to keep a look out for this ruthless man – International Rescue’s Enemy Number 1 – a master of disguise, known simply as ‘The Hood’.


Gove’s gang of right ***nkers

Something that is rather disappointing about maintaining this blog is the frequency in which the same old issues keep reappearing. So here we are again, back to the need for more so-called ‘rigorous’ A levels.

Now strange as though it may seem, I actually agree with nice Mr Gove that A levels should be academically more challenging – I’ve nothing against academics being assessed in ways that are appropriate to their needs. And if it reduces the number of students taking so-called ‘hard and of little practical value’ subjects, then so much the better.

The problem though is what is going to happen to the much larger majority of students who will now get poor A level grades, fail their A levels, or even more likely than not either drop out or never even start such courses? The real problem to tackle is not so much about making A levels more academic, but about making non-academic courses more socially acceptable and desirable.

I also recently read an item in the Evening Standard entitled “Historian Simon joins Gove’s gang of Right thinkers”, about various historians being asked to join the coalition team of educational advisors. Rather worryingly the general direction of so-called ‘thinking’ was that the focus in teaching History should be ‘the rise of western domination of the world’.

Perhaps a more subversive approach is  needed in which we are somehow invited to join the coalition team of advisors, and, after gaining their confidence, we can start to disrupt things internally. I therefore propose that D&T is replaced by a new subject called ‘The worldwide history and influence of great British engineers of the Industrial Revolution”. Nice Mr Gove would surely leap at that?

But maybe Mr Gove’s recent performance over the ‘Schools of the Future’ list is an indication that one day he will make a major slip-up. This isn’t the first time he’s caused Mr Cameron some embarrassment with incorrect information. Let’s just hope he won’t be with us for much longer.

“I want to teach the world to learn…”

In my last post I innocently asked one of my famous awkward questions when I queried how we might actually start the learning revolution advocated by Sir Ken Robinson?

It’s true that education has got so far behind the times that a major change is needed, but unless we can imagine school-children, students and teachers rioting in the streets and sending all the Oxbridge-educated politicians and journalists to the guillotine in a bid to achieve a really effective sort of education cut, it’s hard to imagine what other event could possibly act as a catalyst for the revolution.

Instead, somehow we have to find ways to be more sophisticated and strategic, working from within, getting the politicians and the journalists to buy into a simple media message that sounds positive and attractive to Daily Mail readers, and that isn’t going to cost too much to implement.

Now I’ve always considered that learning is a basic survival skill, not that far behind breathing, eating and keeping warm and dry. Children have an instinctive desire to learn, but the problem is that what they are currently being taught is not what they know they need to be learning. There is no longer a fixed body of knowledge that will see them through their lives, and the former holy grail of an academic degree is no longer a guarantee of life-long employment and a good pension.

One of the main problems with education is that as a society we still think of school as being somewhere children go to learn about things, and that’s what is they are then examined on. Perhaps all that’s really needed to achieve something more appropriate is a shift of focus towards an emphasis not so much what you learn, but how you learn? The QCAs ‘Personal Learning and Thinking‘ skills have been around for a few years now, but I doubt whether many teachers are aware of it, and students are certainly not assessed and certificated in things such as being independent enquirers, self-managers and effective participators. Of course a reliable and valid means of ‘on the fly’ collaborative assessment would need to be found to enable students to measure their progress against the learning performance of others, but we all know something that will do just that, don’t we?

Wouldn’t it be great if teachers were encouraged to share and pass on their own expertise in how people learn, instead of keeping it to themselves?

And as an employer in the 21st Century I’d much rather my future workforce had certificates to show that they have the capacity to work collaboratively to acquire the unforeseeable knowledge, understanding and skills that will emerge over their future working lives, rather than having a list of academic qualifications rooted in the incomprehensible suburban sprawl of the ‘just in case’ subject knowledge defined the National Curriculum.

So as a more positive reason for going to school, maybe ‘Learning how to learn‘ is a catchy enough proposition to one day persuade some enlightened and ambitious education minister (sadly not the present incumbent) that here is the basis of a policy that might actually make a difference and also be a potential vote-winner?

Let’s provide some TLC in our schools! That’s: Thinking, Learning and Creativity.