Back to Badges


There’s a growing trend in on-line learning to award students electronic badges for succeeding at various tasks:  and

Now never having been a Beaver, let alone a Cub or a Scout, All Change Please! has been somewhat sniffy and superior about the idea of badges, especially as neither it, nor its alter ego, has never won an award for anything, ever. Until now, that is, because the very kind and lovely Jenny Pellett, a regular All Change Please! reader and forthwith legendary No.1 Fan, has very kindly nominated its Can I See Tea? post for a ‘Memorable Moment Award‘. And as a result All Change Please! has had to very carefully re-examine its attitude to badges, and has decided that actually, on the whole, all things considered, it now really rather approves of them. Especially as what the world needs now is more skills and less academic qualifications.

So, according to the rules, an acceptance post must be published – which is what this is – and in turn further nominations for an Memorable Moment Award must be made for one or more posts by other bloggers. So, in no particular order, the All Change Please! nominees for a Best Memorable Moment Award go to….

(insert inappropriately long pause here to build tension)

(wait for it…)

(and keep waiting interminably and/or you’ve given up all interest and have gone to put the kettle on)

JJ Charlesworth for his post: Are You Experienced?

Most art critics spew out a load of incomprehensible gibberish, but JJ is a rare example of someone who has something interesting to say that is eminently readable. At the same time he somehow manages to convey the impression he is actually enjoying what he is writing, and, like All Change Please! isn’t afraid to plunder popular music titles of the late 1960s. The fact that he is a former A level student of mine from way back when is, of course, entirely co-incidental.

Next, Carla Turchini for: I Do Not Like This Game

There are no holes barred in this hard-hitting, no-nonsense critique of what it is like to work in the design industry where the value of good design is being severely compromised by short-term commercial pressures. The fact that Carla is the designer of many of my most successful books is, of course, entirely co-incidental.

And finally, Simon Shepard for: Fundamental Principles: One In, One Out

for his ability to take an ordinary, everyday situation and use it as an analogy for an approach to writing code. That’s my boy. The fact that…, etc., etc.

But wait – I should have known better… How could I forget this blog (which it seems I did)? So, from me to you: a special Lifetime Blog Achievement Award for Fred Garnett‘s visceral ‘9 after 909’ account of music, society and culture in the Sixties. An absolutely excellent and memorable read, and particularly so if you are a Beatles’ fan. Oh dear – it’s all too much.

Rules for the BEST MOMENT AWARD:  1. These nominees (now winners) repost these rules completely after their acceptance speech. 2. Winners now have the privilege of awarding the next awardees! The re-post should include a Thank You for those who helped them, a NEW list of people and blogs worthy of the award (up to 15), and the winners posted here will then notify their choices with the great news of receiving this special award.   Download the award’s logo at and post it with your acceptance.

And finally, thanks again to Jenny Pellett, without whom this post would not have been possible.

So as All Change Please! breaks down in tears and is helped, or rather dragged, from the stage, all it needs to do now is to find a needle and thread so it can proudly sew its first badge on. Anyone got a woggle they no longer want?

DIB DIB DIB, as they used to say in the 1960s. Apparently DIB stands for Do Your Best, which perhaps explains why spelling amongst the 50 somethings is sometimes a bit erratic. Oh and just in case you weren’t wondering, DOB DOB DOB stands for Do Our Best. Not a lot of people know that, as Micheal Caine apparently never said.

Gove to abolish ABC


As regular readers will have doubtless noticed, All Change Please! has a penchant for punning headlines, and was therefore greatly amused by The Independent’s recent front page story: ‘Gove to abolish ABC‘ Not of course that Herr Gove means the actual letters of the alphabet, although there’s no knowing if that’s just something a bit further down on his list. It’s to do with the current method of identifying levels of performance at GCSE grades, and, as we all know, that’s the main thing that’s not been driving the recent truly alarming fall in educational standards that isn’t actually happening in our schools.

So what better way to enure everyone gets to go to Oxbridge than to go back to the way things were and award numerical levels instead of these new-fangled marxist-inspired easy-peasy, softy-style letter grades? But why stop at, say, 10 numbers? 100 might be interesting. A candidate who scores 100% would be awarded a 1, a score of 99% gets a 2, and so on until a 1% mark receives 99.  Sounds daft, so expect it to be announced shortly…. oh – seems they already have… a recent suggestion in the Daily Mail was for student’s actual marks to be included, so on their CVs it would appear as 1/350 UMS. Ummm. What’s UMS then, you quietly ask yourself? You were never any good at doing UMS in school and you don’t know what it means? Well, thanks to Google, it seems it stands for Uniform Mark Scale. Ah – something to do with how well dressed you are then? And only getting 1 mark out of 350 doesn’t sound very promising does it?

Meanwhile our ever present roving reporter Tony Wheeler writes:

When will someone in the media rise above all this nonsense and tell the real story. It’s not about the bloomin’ numbers or letters, or even what they stand for, it’s about the difference between awarding to performance criteria (If you can do it you get the grade. If everyone can do it they all get top grades – hooray well done everyone),  or to norm referencing where there are only 10 top grades so we are going to have to ration them (irrespective of how good you all are). So-called grade inflation has happened because we moved from norm referencing to a form of criterion referencing and (not surprisingly) because of league tables, teachers got better at lock-stepping kids through the criteria and each year more kids passed.

Returning to the nonsense of norm referencing might get Gove headlines in the Telegraph but it is fundamentally flawed, unfair and, if you were playing the system, you would simply elect to take your exam with all the failed-first-time retakes in December.

I still don’t understand why we want to “mark” at all. Surely “describing” would be so much more informative for everyone.

All Change Please! assumes that letters or numbers are essentially a quick, simple and generally unreliable way of informing potential employers or other educational institutions how good a teenager is at passing exams, being born on the 1st September and not suffering from hay fever during June. But what most people ignore is the fact that whether they are letters or numbers the difference between them is very small, given that pass grades tend to fall between around 40 and 70 marks of 100, so using them as a reliable measure to distinguish between the clever and the useless is, err, somewhat useless.

If we must, let’s make the system more similar to other forms of certification in which there are just three possible outcomes, e.g., Distinction, Pass, and Fail. Which, when you think about it is much more like real life, where you tend to be able to do something either extremely well, acceptably, or not at all.

Image credit: Leo Reynolds  Flickr

Memorable Open Offline Coffee


Today’s mystery acronym is MOOCs, which know-it-all All Change Please! can proudly reveal stands for Massive Open On-line Courses. And when they say Massive, they really do mean Massive – the size of enrollment often ranges from 10,000 to 80,000 students.

Such things have been called into existence for two main reasons. The first is to enable access to learning to anyone, anywhere, anytime, which is of course a great idea. And the second is to enable Universities to market themselves as being at the forefront of the use of new technologies, and if they just happen to generate some extra funding to compensate for the reduction in full-time student numbers, then that’s all to the good too. Having said that, they do require a lot of initial up-front investment, except that seems to be increasingly being supplied by commercial publishing companies who are obviously going to prescribe their own online textbooks, and as a result the courses are somewhat likely to become more Closed than Open.

Meanwhile, clearly any A level student about to make a decision to apply to university needs to be well informed about the variety, type and quality of MOOCs being offered by different institutions and of the impact they are having on the more traditional lecture and tutorial content of the courses. It appears that there is not just one species of MOOC in existence, but a diverse range of the gargantuan creatures. Donald Clark – quite possibly the Darwin of MOOCs – has recently identified the following taxonomy of mutations and cross-species:

• transferMOOCs – the transfer of existing courses into an online format
• madeMOOCs – less formal, including software driven interactive experiences
• synchMOOCs – have fixed assignment delivery times, course start and end dates
• asynchMOOCs – have no fixed assignment delivery times, course start and end dates
• adaptiveMOOCs – uses algorithms and data analytics to provide personalised learning experiences
• groupMOOCs – small, collaborative groups of students that come together for short periods of time
• connectivistMOOCS – MOOCs that attempt to harvest and share knowledge, rather than teach pre-defined knowledge
• miniMOOCSs – short-term and intense courses in specific subjects, often commercially run

Although currently the play-thing of Higher Education establishments, MOOCs are an approach that can’t at some point be ruled out for secondary education, because computer terminals are cheaper than teachers, especially as it’s administrators and accountants that make the decisions these days. And just as with any style of teaching and learning, on-line courses suit certain types of students, but by no means all types – indeed course-completion rates are apparently low, with many students complaining they found the courses ‘boring’. On-line learning is also clearly most appropriate for knowledge transfer, and not so good for practical, experimental and creative work. But do the administrators and accountants know that?

Now All Change Please! has nothing against MOOCs – apart perhaps from their rather silly name – providing that is they don’t end up being the be-all and end-all of education, in which the poor sit in front of a computer terminal all day and the wealthy get to be taught by real teachers. MOOCs have a positive contribution to make, but it’s only a contribution and not a substitution for the real thing. Indeed just the other day All Change Please! enjoyed its own disruptive variation in the form of a Memorable Open Offline Coffee in town with two former colleagues, both from different subject disciplines. Over the course of two hours current educational theories of learning, Lord of the Flies, Postmodern Design and Music, and Dark Matter were all rigorously discussed and debated. As we departed we all agreed we had each learned and understood more in the past two hours than any textbooks, day-long series of lectures or on-line courses could have provided.

While one day computer technology might facilitate such a rich and compelling dialogue, All Change Please! suspects it’s still some way off. There’s the possibility of video conferencing, but it somehow just isn’t the same as real-life interaction and cappuccino. But that’s how people really learn – not just by being ‘taught’ facts, or even doing practical work, but informally discussing and exchanging ideas and information with the opportunity to explore challenging questions with people they know personally.  Teaching and learning at its best is a two-way, almost mystical process of an exchange of brain waves that produces permanent change in each other’s minds.

It seems that Plato bloke really knew what he was talking about when he said:

‘The teacher must know his or her subject, but as a true philosopher he or she also knows that the limits of their knowledge. It is here that we see the power of dialogue – the joint exploration of a subject – ‘knowledge will not come from teaching but from questioning’.

Another Massive Mocha anyone?

Don’t say:

‘A Mini Mooc was a popular beach buggy made in the 1960s.’

‘Don’t Mooc now! is a terrific film made in the early 1970s’

‘It’s a mooc point, but…’

‘Have you ever watched the Moocs of Hazard?’

Image credit: All Change Please!

A beginning, a muddle and an end?*


The doctor who doesn’t seem to care about the narrative

Now All Change Please! is not exactly stupid. It even has a number of your actual original, authentic Gold Standard O levels and A levels, taken in the days before they were supposedly dumbed down and made so easy that a child of five could pass them. Not to mention a proper degree from a time long ago when there were real lectures and weekly tutorials to attend, even if you didn’t.

But despite all this, it still has problems making any sense at all of the plot of Doctor Who, which has itself been recently (and fairly enough) dumbed down to make it more of an adventure story for younger viewers. Except for the stories to work it throws in references to some highly sophisticated and completely unexplained notions of time and space, and of the nature of artificial intelligence and self-consciousness.

Take last week’s episode (Series 7, Part 5). The TARDIS (which apparently, like the rest of us, seems to have some serious reservations about the Doctor’s new companion) somehow gets dragged on board a passing space ship and is seriously damaged. A mysterious pair of legs are identified sticking out from under some debris, but are never referred to again. In an attempt to repair the TARDIS, despite lengthy and emotional protestations from the Doctor, some essential parts of its workings are stolen, but after a while this plot line simply disappears. Next, a character who ‘believed’ he was a robot discovers he is actually a real person, and yet seems to have no problem walking round a few minutes later having had his left entire arm amputated. Finally after meeting themselves from the future the Doctor throws a mysterious gizmo with a message on it through a rift in time back to himself at the start of the episode, somehow enabling him to prevent everything happening in the first place. Maybe there’s a 5 year-old out there somewhere who could kindly explain it all to me?

But of course it’s not just Dr Who where such liberties are taken. These days it’s all special FX and dynamic quick-cut editing that seems to count the most. It really doesn’t seem to matter whose shooting Who provided it’s visually dramatic enough. Meanwhile car chases have become sequences random incoherent and shots vehicles colliding of speeding seemingly of, or to put it the old-fashioned way, incoherent sequences of shots of seemingly random speeding and colliding vehicles. And, when the dialogue is actually audible, it’s usually not worth listening to.

Now All Change Please! hates to be a fuddy-duddy old killjoy of a Gove-sounding supporter who thinks we should get back to making movies and TV drama the way they did in the 1950s, but nonetheless it has to admit, in this respect at least, it is. It thinks children – and their parents – deserve better than this. Whether the stories are told backwards, forwards or inside out, all it wants is a half-decent plot where all the clues, red-herrings and loose ends are neatly tied up, with everything reasonably explained and edited together in a coherent richly-worded narrative that represents something more than just a beginning, a muddle and an end. With perhaps even the odd unexpected plot-twist or a ‘Or did they?’ thrown after the essential ‘They all lived happily ever after…’ finale.

While new interactive and personalised digital narratives will undoubtedly change the nature of storytelling in the future, it is important that new media companies continue to provide quality content. And more than ever before, teaching and learning media literacy is needed, yet it remains conspicuously absent from the National Curriculum. Somewhere along the lines the government seems to have lost the plot too. Perhaps someone should call for the Doctor?

Or maybe not?

*Possibly attributed to C E Lombard

Image credit: BowBelle51