Ten Years After

 

For the benefit of the younger reader, Ten Years After were a popular U.K. blues beat band combo of the late 1960s and 70s, who performed regularly in music festivals, including Woodstock. As an ‘album’ band, they were best known for the track ‘I’m Going Home’. Uncertainty remains as to exactly what it was that had happened to them Ten Years Before, but it’s of no great importance because, apart from their name, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with the band.

The only connection is that today is All Change Please!s 10th birthday, which makes it exactly Ten Years After it published its very first post. A lot has happened since then, except of course in education where things have generally gone backwards to the way things were Fifty Years Before.

Anyway, as usual, All Change Please! likes to take this annual opportunity to report and reflect on its posts from the past twelve months in the pathetic hope you might be encouraged to re-read some of them, or, more likely, catch up on ones you didn’t read in the first place.

The three most read posts, presented in reverse order to increase the suspense, have been:

3. Just Williamson

With nothing better to do, All Change Please! likes to amuse itself by trying to be the first satirical educational blog to comment on the announcement of a new education secretary, which isn’t difficult as there aren’t many other satirical blogs out there for it to compete with.

Having likened Gavin Williamson to Richmal Crompton’s ‘William”, All Change Please! was careful not to mention the tarantula he keeps on his desk, and his being sacked for taking a Huawei leak while Defence Secretary, but hey – no-one’s perfect…

2. Michaela the Unconquerable

Now, to be quite clear, this post was not intended to be written as an angry attack on Michaela students, their hard work, politeness and consideration for others, their backgrounds or their success at gaining GCSE results – but it was meant as a considered critique of the school’s narrow conservative academic curriculum and strict behaviour policy.

1. Beyond Our Ken

This special edition of All Change Please! was a tribute to writer, designer and educationalist  who sadly recently passed away. Ken Baynes was one of the very few people who understood the potential of design education, not primarily as a means to produce a future generation of professional designers, but as a powerful and important learning experience for everyone, and one that potentially extended across the curriculum as a whole.

 

But as usual, All Change Please!’s favourite posts do not necessarily reflect the Will Of The People, and it would therefore also like to nominate:

Br’er Exit

“Well now, that rascal Br’er Exit hated Br’er EU on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Br’er Exit decided to get rid of Br’er EU if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. First he persuaded Br’er Dave to call a referendum. Then he fix up a contrapshun like a red bus, painted it with slogans he had made up and sat it in the middle de road.”

Also during the past twelve months All Change Please! has launched its audacious ‘Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Education…’ in which it reports on the different but also similar approaches to education on the nearby distant parallel Planet Urth…

‘A’ is for…

‘B is for…

‘C’ is for…

‘C’ is for… Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘C’ is for…. Continued

It’s been a long time coming, but here from All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun is the rest of ‘C’ is for…

Just in case you’ve been living in an alternative reality and have missed ‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for… (Part Duh), then this is All Change Please!‘s report on its recent visit to Planet Urth. Being a parallel universe, their world of teaching and learning bears a striking resemblance to our own: many things are exactly the same, but due to their particular fractured timeline, some things are rather different in an interesting way.

Comparative Pears

Comparative Judgement involves comparing series of ‘pairs’ of school work with each other and deciding which is of higher quality. When applied across a range of pieces of work and compared by a team of judges a measurement scale, from best to worst, emerges. It has been found that this process is quicker and more reliable than the traditional method in which each piece of work is assessed separately by one judge.

On Planet Urth, this process was developed centuries ago and is known as ‘Comparative Pears Assessment’ and was derived from the fruit industry where the technique was developed to produce a reliable grading scale for pears.

 

 

 

Creativity and collaboration

On our planet, most people seem to have a very limited understanding of creativity that just involves being able to reproduce pretty pictures in the style of a famous artist, play a classical musical instrument, perform in the school play or be able to think of more than one possible use for a brick. At the same time, teachers who have simply told pupils to ‘work in groups’ quickly, and not surprisingly, decide that it’s an approach that isn’t going to work.

The fact that our current cohort of predominantly privately-educated, academic Russell Group University alumni politicians seem quite incapable of any creative collaborative problem-solving is a powerful indictment of what’s missing in our current education system: these days, knowledge on its own isn’t power.

On Planet Urth everybody understands that creativity and collaboration involve a great deal more. There learning about creativity is seen as acquiring a state of mind that is curious, persistently looking for and open to new ideas, searching for different ways of doing things, taking risks and transforming and combining things in original ways. Teachers have also realised that team work doesn’t just happen, and that learners need to be systematically taught how to analyse and improve the performance of their team. As such both creativity and collaboration are highly valued, planned across the curriculum and each year group, properly monitored and rigorously assessed – and not by writing an essay in the school hall.

Cognitive Load Theory

On Planet Urth ‘Cognitive Truck Overload Theory’ sensibly states that there’s only so much stuff you can pile on to a lorry before it won’t be able to move very far. Thus it becomes necessary to reduce the load – but how do you decide what to take off and what to leave on? The obvious answer for the supplier to simply take all the lightest items off and just deliver all the heaviest components, without realising that whoever is due to receive them needs them all to be able to assemble the product they are manufacturing. Thus a much better approach might be to take some of the lightest items off and some of the heaviest ones as well to achieve a balanced delivery.

Unfortunately in education on our Planet Earth the knowledge merchants don’t see it quite like that, because they are convinced that removing absolutely any of their facts and figures is out of the question. “We can’t do everything” they cry, so off come all what they consider to be the heavier creative problem-solving skills, critical analysis and collaborative work that they believe only adults should be allowed to manage, and on instead goes even more knowledge, all neatly and conveniently packaged into self-contained regular-sized and easily measurable subject boxes. Apparently in extreme cases it can even include removing things like classroom displays, experimental modelling activities, discussion – anything that gets in the way of those pure, unadulterated quickly-testable nuggets of knowledge, delivered from the front of the class.

In real life we face a constant process of deciding how to allocate our time between absorbing, responding to and exploring new material and deciding how and when to best apply it. Loading and off-loading what we are trying to remember according to its importance at a given moment is in itself a high-level skill children need to be learning and developing as they grow up, rather than just having it decided for them by so-called grown-ups.

Commuter Studies

Commuting was first introduced into schools during the 1980s. Commuters in schools are often to be found crowded together in special rooms that contain workstations, and discussing the timetable and which platforms to use. They are staffed by special teachers known as servers, presumably because they spend their time serving tea and coffee to everyone.

The lights in these commuter rooms are always flickering as they are constantly being turned off and on again.

Cross-curricular

Cross-curricular work happens in schools where teachers use an interdisciplinary approach to learning that involves exploring the connections that exist naturally between subjects, just as it does in the real world children will encounter when they leave school. However, as it involves taking considerable risks and teachers need to step outside their specialisms, many of them get very agitated and upset when trying cross-curricular approaches.

Hence their belief that the opposite to a cross curricular approach is a happy curricular approach.

Constantinople

“Constantinople is a very long word. Can you spell it?”
This sums up the level of popular grammar schoolboy humour in the 1960s – the unfortunate victim proceeds to spell ‘C – o – n.., before being informed with mock astonishment that he doesn’t know how to spell the word ‘it’. What a laugh! Even more extraordinary is that at the time Constantinople was still thought of as being the capital of Turkey, even though it had officially become Istanbul in 1923, so the joke probably dates back to to an even earlier time. So much for the non-existent coverage of current affairs at the time. Generally speaking, if it happened after 1900, it wasn’t on the curriculum.

Cursive writing

A lot of people are concerned that children are no longer being taught cursive writing. However, on Planet Urth more progressive teachers are now discouraging children from learning how to write curses as it is generally considered to be anti-social, there’s quite enough of it on TV already, and anyway these days it’s difficult to find regular employment as a witch.

Along with learning how to write spells (known as ‘Spelling’), it’s seen as yet another example of children being taught things that are out-of-date ‘just in case’ they ever need them at some point in the future.

 

 

So that’s it for the letter C, but watch out there’s a letter D on its way soon…

 

Photo credits:  Carol Mitchell/Flickr , Pixabay.

‘C’ is for…

Next up in ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ is the letter ‘C’. For some curious reason schools are full of things that begin with the letter ‘C’. Here are just a few – with more to come later.

If you somehow managed to miss them, here are links to ‘A’ is for… and ‘B’ is for…

Careers

On Planet Urth Careers Education is taken very seriously in schools, and children are positively encouraged to consider a wide range of possibilities, including working in Business, the Arts and the IT industry. For many, technical and vocational courses in Further Education are seen as being more appropriate and interesting than academic University courses, which can always be taken up at a later date as part of a well-established programme of life-long learning. There are well-established links with local, regional, national and international employers.

Back here on Earth, the only thing that seems to matter in schools is for students to get into a prestigious Russell Group University, and anyway, why does a car need ears anyway?

Carry On Teacher

One of the annoying little problems in education these days is the fact that no-one wants to be a teacher anymore, and those that already are tend to leave and starting writing regular blog posts that are highly critical of government policies and politicians. On Planet Urth the Df-ingE has therefore commissioned a new film intended to promote the profession. It’s called ‘Carry on Teacher’, and is set during a school inspection in 1958. If that doesn’t bring them back, what will?

Classrooms

The first schools on Planet Urth were built on three floors, and the rooms were allocated to children based on their social class, hence the name ‘class-rooms’. The rooms in the dark and damp basements were for lower class children, while the ground floor class-rooms were for children whose middle class parents could just about afford to pay the fees if they scrimped and saved. The uppermost floor class-rooms, which were airy and bright, were for the extremely wealthy upper classes who didn’t have to worry about money at all. They often featured ivory towers from which the gleaming spires of Oxford could be clearly seen from the windows.

Some of these schools had separate buildings to one side known as ‘workshops’. Badly-behaved, less academic children would be sent to these rooms to work at making useful items that were then sold on at a profit to the school, hence their name ‘work-shops’.

Chemistry

Chemistry teachers frequently claim theirs is the best subject on the curriculum because of all the unpleasant smells and explosions that occur in various experiments, as they believe that this is something that all children enjoy. This is strange because in later life we go to a lot of trouble to avoid unpleasant smells, or being anywhere near anything that is likely to explode. It’s also a puzzle as to why they’re called ‘experiments’ as the teacher knows exactly what the results are going to be, unless of course the lab technician has put the wrong chemicals out.

Chemistry teaches us that if we look at the things around us through powerful microscopes we are able to see that the world is made up out of a series of tiny colourful billiard balls, all connected together with plastic drinking straws.

More inquisitive students have questioned the point of having a periodic table without periodic chairs to go around it.

Children

It’s often forgotten, especially by politicians, that children play an important part in education – indeed without them there would not be any schools in the first place. Despite this most conferences, seminars and discussions about education take place without any children in the building.

Teachers seem to hold one of two distinct views about children. The first is that they are empty vessels to be unquestioningly filled up with knowledge by vastly superior adults, and the second is that they actually have their own thoughts about what and how they need to learn, and it can be well worthwhile entering into some form of dialogue with them. In the real world the supplier of any product or service who does not in some way consult and try to understand the needs and wants of their potential users is destined to be a failure.

On Planet Urth, things are much less binary. Teachers and politicians listen to children and respond to their learning needs by building a flexible framework for them to move more freely through. This combines a rich mixture of teacher-led knowledge input and exploratory learning.

Clever clogs

No-one likes an irritating, know-it-all clever-clogs, so it’s a bit odd that that’s exactly what the government seems to want everybody to be. Mind you most politicians often like to pretend they are clever-clogs, which probably explains why they generally don’t have many friends.

Back in around the 18th Century the first ‘clever-clogs’ were actually called ‘clever-boots’. They were always at logger-heads with rival gangs of ‘bossy-boots’ and used to go to Margate on Bank holidays for a good kick-about. However, back in those days most forms of footware were highly alliterate so they decided to change their name to ‘clever-clogs’.

Of course some clogs are cleverer than others, and manage to decorate themselves with intricate designs so that everyone knows they’ve been to a really good university. Less clever clogs end up working much harder having to actually make stuff and so wear plainer, more functional clogs.

A new generation of wi-fi, internet-enabled ‘Clever Clogs 2.0’ are expected to launch soon, and will be called ‘Smart Shoes’. They will doubtless be immediately banned in schools.

Constructivism

On Planet Urth schools and politicians understand and apply the Constructivist approach in which children learn best when they are allowed to construct a personal understanding based on experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.

Meanwhile here on our most wonderful Planet Earth, schools and politicians understand and apply the term Constructivism as children learning through constructing wooden boxes in their D&T lessons, which, because it doesn’t teach them any academic facts, is seen as being a complete waste of time, not to mention wood.

 

Continued (To be…)

Tune in again soon to learn all about some more things beginning with the letter ‘C‘, such as: Creativity and Collaboration, Cognitive Lorry Overload Theory, Commuter Studies, Constantinople, Cross-curricular and Cursive Writing.

‘B’ is for….

Yes, it’s the second exciting volume of ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ in which it reports back on its recent visit to Planet Urth. Being a parallel universe, their world of teaching and learning bears a striking resemblance to our own: many things are exactly the same, but due to their particular fractured timeline, some things are rather different in an interesting way.

If somehow you managed to miss ‘A’ is for…, then you can  catch up here.

 

Bash Street Kids (from the 1954 Beano Report into Education)

On Planet Urth The Bash Street Kids were created in the early 1950s as a model for schools in the second half of the 20th Century. The kids were highly subversive and learnt quickly how to take charge of an oppressive situation and turn it to their own advantage, thus acquiring essential skills for the future. Unfortunately as a result of cuts to public services, today’s schools are still exactly the same as they were before. Perhaps when Smiffy, Danny and Plug grow up and all become successful politicians in charge of education, things will finally start to change. Let’s face it – they couldn’t do a worse job than the current ones.

Billy Bunter

Billy Bunter is a fictional schoolboy. According to Wikipedia he features in stories set at Greyfriars School, where he is in the Lower Fourth Form (Year 9 in New Money). Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited, although he does not realise any of this. In his own mind he is an exemplary character: handsome, talented and aristocratic. All these, combined with Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and inept attempts to conceal his antics from his schoolmasters and schoolfellows, combine to make a character that succeeds in being highly entertaining but which rarely attracts the reader’s lasting sympathy.

But that’s all on Planet Urth. Of course, no politician in public life on this planet whose name begins with B could possibly resemble this monstrous character in any way… or could they?

Blackboard

The blackboard was invented in the mid 19th century in America, but, quite unlike the introduction of change in schools today, many teachers refused to use them at first and demanded they be removed as it needed them to alter the way they taught: they were now required to stand at the front of the class with everyone staring up at them, which understandably they found somewhat off-putting.

On Planet Urth during the latter half for the 20th century as part of the move towards political correctness blackboards were renamed as whiteboards. Today they are known as ‘interactive’ whiteboards, although the first interactive whiteboard was invented by one of All Change Please!’s very own teachers in the 1960s (Geography, natch) who instructed his class to ‘Watch the board while I go through it‘. He was also famous for telling one boy ‘If you need to use a rubber, use the boy’s behind‘, and instructing another to ‘Go and see if you can squeeze some more milk out of the dinner ladies‘. But that’s another story…

Blended learning

Blended learning is an approach to education that combines a mixture of a variety of digital online and printed educational materials and opportunities for traditional face-to-face teaching and distance learning techniques.

These are then all crammed into an industrial-sized blender and emerge as a strange looking, tasteless, mushy dark green pulp which is then drip-fed to all students to regurgitate as and when required.

 

 

Board rubber

On Planet Urth the board rubber was invented on in the mid 1880s expressly for the purpose of throwing at children who were not paying attention in class. It was only many years later that some of the more progressive teachers realised that it provided an effective means of creating chalk-dust clouds in the classroom and they could pick on some poor unfortunate child to be ‘board monitor’ to save them the job of having to clean the board before each lesson.

Boarding School

Most children find schoolwork boring and their subsequent employment tedious. Boarding schools on Planet Urth are where wealthy parents send unwanted children to learn how to be the best at being bored. Instead of expending all that energy doing interesting stuff and exploring their world, taking responsibility for themselves and having fun, they are taught how to sit still and keep quiet, and to do exactly as they are told by highly experienced boring adults who are largely well past their best-before date.

Brexit

So far, Brexit has had very little to do with the improvement of education, which is probably why there has been very little improvement in education in recent years. Which is pretty daft, because we’re going to need some major improvements in schools to produce the young people we are going to need to get us out of the current Brexitmess we are creating for them.

Meanwhile Theresa May’s assertion that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ has caused some problems for the Awarding Bodies. For example, when students have been asked in an exam what the meaning of the word ‘Equivocation’ is, they have answered: ‘Equivocation means Equivocation’, which is factually correct and therefore has to be given full marks.

Of course some examiners have argued that Mrs May never means what she says, and thus have not given such an answer any credit. In this situation many candidates have demanded endless meaningless indicative re-marks until they finally get the result they want.

Bullying Policy

Thankfully these days all schools on Planet Urth have carefully worded Bullying Policies. These lay out the correct procedures for teachers to follow when bullying children, including how to most effectively demean them in front of their friends, the frequency of telling them how worthless they are and when to threaten them with perpetual detention if they do not do exactly as they are told. There are special sections on picking on and shouting aggressively at children in the face for relatively minor incidents using a policy somewhat strangely called ‘flattening the grass’, apparently intended to get rid of bad behaviour and ‘create a level playing field’.

Such so-called teachers would surely be better employed flattening some real grass outside on the school playing field, ideally in the pouring rain.

 

So that’s it for ‘B’ – watch out for ‘C is for...’ coming your way soon.

 

‘A’ is for…

The universe an absurdly weird place. And, when you start to think about it, one of the weirdest things in our universe are the schools where we prepare our children for their adult lives. And now they are about to get a whole lot more absurd as All Change Please! slips down a handy quantum-encrusted wormhole to discover an alternative, sometimes more enlightened but often just as weird parallel universe called Planet Urth.

This is the first in a series of posts entitled ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ in which it reports back on its recent visit to Planet Urth. Being a parallel universe, their world of teaching and learning bears a striking resemblance to our own: many things are exactly the same, but due to their particular fractured timeline, some things are rather different in an interesting way.

Be warned: you may never think of Education in the same way again….

ABC

On Planet Urth learning the ABC is one of the basic 2×4 red and white LEGO building bricks of education. In earlier times only the very wealthy who went to private schools could afford to learn the alphabet. It was eventually the introduction of mass-produced, widely available and affordable Alphabetti Spaghetti there in the 1930s that revolutionised teaching methods, although it was rejected by many teachers who preferred standing at the front of the class endlessly shouting it out while the children made notes.

Some children still find the order of the ABC difficult to learn and often ask their teacher why the letters are in that particular order. They mainly do this because they know the teacher doesn’t know the answer, which is that no-one really knows. The latest theory is that the letters were drawn at random in that order one day during an extended episode of Countdown.

The secret to the success of the alphabet is that because the letters are in a particular order it makes them easier to be taught to much larger classes through chanting. This avoids children claiming they knew all the letters but were just reciting them in the wrong order.

Academics

Academics cleverly called themselves a name beginning with an A in order to emphasise their importance by appearing early in the dictionary. An earlier suggestion on Planet Urth was that they should be called Aardvarks was narrowly rejected, which, when you think about it, was a bit of a shame.

For some inexplicable reason, everyone thinks they want to be an academic when they grow up, with little or no practical ability in the real world, other than to end up teaching the next generation of academics. A bit like the ‘product life cycle’, this is known as the ‘academic life-cycle’, which probably explains why so many academics ride around on bicycles.

Aesthetics

One of the weirdest ideas on Planet Urth is that some children are given a colourful cocktail of pleasurable aesthetic experiences so they won’t be conscious during an unpleasant practical procedure. General aesthetics are sometimes administered to help difficult students get through complex sessions so that they fall into an alternative state of consciousness and don’t disturb other learners. In shorter lessons a milder, more musical local aesthetic will often be sufficient.

Some schools run academic courses in the theory of aesthetics, but students in these classes tend to fall asleep very quickly of their own accord.

An Apple for Teacher

Some people, and especially those that are Daily Wail readers on Planet Urth, believe that the idea of giving your teacher an apple as a present originated when an apple dropped on the young Sir Issac Newton’s head and he took it into his teacher to explain what this thing called gravity was that he’d just invented. Today, in the more enlightened 21st Century, teachers often tell children that the fruit is not the sort of apple that is appropriate anymore and that they should be giving them an Apple iPhone instead. It is not known how successful this approach has been.

Out there on the internet there are, however, other much less believable theories as to the derivation of the idea: for example, the apple represents the ‘fruit of knowledge’ – the forbidden fruit unwittingly plucked by Eve and for which God put her in perpetual Detention.

Or perhaps it originated in the 19th Century American mid-west where families whose children attended schools were often responsible for housing and feeding their teachers, and who supplied them with apples as a token of appreciation? The Df-ingE has denied it has been considering a similar arrangement for funding education in post-Brexit Britain, but a spokesperson did remark that it seemed like ‘an interesting idea worth looking into’.

Art

Another of the more startlingly different ideas on Planet Urth is that having attended Art School is a pre-requisite for becoming a politician, so they really do have a real understanding of creativity and problem-solving and that Art involves a lot more than colouring things in, learning the names of famous artists and being able to produce skillful reproductions of well known paintings and then writing an essay about them. There everyone understands that Art isn’t just for thick kids who are good with their hands and who might benefit from a more relaxing therapeutic re-creational subject, instead of dragging down the results of a much more important academic subject.

Asking Questions

People on Planet Urth place much more importance on developing curiosity and enquiring mind. As a result schools place a great deal of emphasis on teaching children how to ask interesting questions that are often difficult to answer. In fact they all take a GCSE in which instead of writing answers to questions set by examiners, they have to write the questions themselves. They then need to outline how they would set about finding the answers, e.g., who would they ask and what sources they might refer to. Top marks are awarded for questions that are deemed to be of great significance and importance, and to which it is unlikely will ever be fully answered.

Meanwhile on Planet Earth the inhabitants are of course quick to point out that you can’t make any money just asking interesting questions all the time. Except you can if you become a member of the Quora Partner Program. The more people who view your question thread, the more you earn…

Assembly

In Roman times citizens used to gather round in the forum to listen to the great and the good make speeches. Today, while the rest of us receive the wisdom of our leaders though TV, Facebook and Twitter, sadly schools on both planets still attempt to keep the old ways alive by making children assemble in silence in regimented rows in the school hall once a day to hear the deputy head make a speech that no-one bothers to listen to because they know there isn’t going to be a test on it afterwards.

A funny thing happened on All Change Please!‘s way to a school assembly once, but that’s another story.

Assessment

Many people in education say that assessment is ‘the tail that wags the dog’. This might make sense if you attend the Barbara Woodhouse Academy for Young Puppies, but for everyone else it’s a load of bollocks. Dogs wag their tails when they are pleased or excited, not when they are sitting their GCSEs.

On Planet Urth dogs are only assessed when they are ready, and on what new tricks they have actually learned, rather than what academic knowledge some barking-mad, sly-dog politician thinks they should have learned.

Awe and wonder

At the turn of the 21st century, Ofsted expected schools to demonstrate that pupils were experiencing ‘awe and wonder’ during their lessons, or as one nameless maverick inspector on Planet Urth once wrote on his Evidence Form: ‘There was plenty of ore in the metalwork lessons, but the children’s attention soon began to wander…’

Tune in again soon for the next exciting installment of All Change Please!‘s Alternative A to Z of Education, which not unsurprisingly features the letter B

 

Image credits:  Image credits: Pixabay (all), except School Assembly:

Roman Forum (Wikimedia Commons)

Saint John’s School (Flickr Commons)

It’s for you, Mr Glibbly…

Last week one of All Change Please!‘s faithful followers commented in a Tweet to the effect that that its attempt to explain music education to Mr Glibbly was about as likely to succeed as getting Trump to understand how climate change worked. Undeterred, and doubtless with just as little success, this week All Change Please! bravely sits Mr Glibbly down in a nice comfy chair and patiently tries to explain to him the importance of mobile phones to a child’s education…

No-one would doubt the importance of teaching children how to read, write and do arithmetic, because they are necessities, and we all need to need be fluent and confident in them as a necessity to get us through life. There are of course other important areas of knowledge, understanding and skill we need to learn as well, and an increasingly important one has become our use of mobile ‘smart’ devices. It’s not enough to simply know how to switch them on and off – we need to learn when it’s appropriate to use them, and more importantly when not to use them. On-line safety and being able to identify fake news and political propaganda are also essential for children to learn.

In particular our children need to go forth into the digital world with a mindset that will enable them to comprehend the further changes to mobile communication devices that will inevitably occur during their lifetimes (which may well extend into the 22nd Century). They need to be to able to critically evaluate such developments, and most importantly to know how to use them to continue to effectively learn from them, as they will need to to long after they have left formal education. And what’s the point of learning how to code in school if you don’t have access to the devices your program will be used on? Banning mobile phones outright in schools may make a good Daily Mail headline today, but prepares our children for none of these things.

The smartphone has emerged as probably the most disruptive technology of the century. Yet, barely 10 years old, it is still in its infancy – we are going to be carrying around internet connected computers and communication devices for a lot longer yet, and they will continue to evolve to become smaller, more powerful and connected than they are now. But despite its youth the smart phone has already become integral and central to social and workplace interaction, and is used by every social level to apply for permanent and temporary jobs (not to mention UK residency), arrange childcare, organise the weekly delivery of shopping, keep up to date with the news, check transport times and conditions, watch movies, listen to and compose music, take photos, dictate memos, monitor one’s health and bank account, etc. Meanwhile in the workplace they are used to access and analyse data, organise shifts, send emails and messages and so on. Indeed last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared that the internet was a basic human right.

Of course the real problem isn’t mobile phones at all, it’s often the content and delivery methods currently used by teachers in the classroom that fails to engage children sufficiently to the extent that they don’t feel the need to be distracted by them, at least for purposes that are not directly related to what they are supposed to be learning.

But for now, many teachers seem quite capable of enforcing the simple rule that mobile phones should only be used in class as directed by, or with the permission of, the teacher. If a teacher isn’t capable of doing that, they shouldn’t be in the classroom in the first place.

But let’s leave the last word to Christine Swan, who recently tweeted:

Well, not quite the last word. Here’s a text All Change Please! posted back in September 2015.

All Change Please! decided to undertake some virtually unreal digging, and somehow managed to convince itself it had found the following letter in the archives of the Times newspapers.

Dateline: September 1915. The London Times Letters page.
Sir. – It has come to my attention that schools are now in the habit of providing children with these new mass-produced pencils and notepad devices which seem to becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to the tried and tested slate. I have been so informed that they often use them as a distraction to play noughts and crosses on, and to write messages to each other which often contain offensive words and rude comments about their teachers. In some of the worst and most unruly schools they have also used them to draw rude depictions of famous women on. It is my opinion that they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes. Whilst I am convinced these new pencil and paper devices are no more than a passing fad, writing on them should only be allowed with the greatest caution and only when supervised and directed by an academically well-qualified and experienced teacher. Of course it will also be essential to regularly check that pencils and associated carrying devices are of the correct length and of uniform colour, adding significantly to the teacher’s workload.

There is no research evidence to support ideas that using pencils and paper aids a child’s education, and the cost to taxpayers of replacing these throw-away items on a regular basis is horrific. There are those who say children should be given pencils and paper because they enjoy learning with them, but the reality is that they just enjoy using pencils and paper. Parents who allow their children to stay up late writing and drawing with the result that they arrive at school tired should have scholarship money withdrawn.

The traditional slate is of the ideal size, proportion, weight and appearance to work with, and it is my sincere hope that one day schools will sensibly return to some sort of similar device that can be used with or without one of these new ‘pencils’.

Meanwhile I am also of the firm belief that there is absolutely no need for children to have access to encyclopedias from which they are likely to learn about things we do not necessarily want them to. Teachers must cease telling children to refer to them to complete their homework, which is like guiding them to a library without a librarian. Teachers also have a duty to point out the frequent mistakes that occur in them.

Yours, &c.,
No Change Please!

Did you get all that Mr Glibbly? No, thought not…

Mr Glibbly plays all the wrong notes in the wrong order

The use of the word ‘Bollocks’ on the cover of the Sex Pistol’s 1978 infamous album is generally thought to be a negative reference to the so-called ‘progressive’ music of the time…

Overture
Mr Glibbly, the Df-ingE’s current Secretary in a State about the school curriculum, recently woke up one morning feeling kind of blue. He had been told that the Fabian Society Report criticising the lack of provision for Arts education in UK schools was about to be published. To help stave off his rather crotchety, downbeat feeling he opened a pack of quavers – his all-bar-none favourite breakfast – and to try and cheer himself up he turned on Classic FM. And that gave him an idea. On the very same day as the report came out he would triumphantly pitch his grand-piano sized plan to improve music education! News about all those special model ‘music by numbers’ lesson plans and music hubs would sound truly uplifting and strike a chord with everyone, and they would clap and cheer at the end and as a measure of its brilliance shout for an encore, quite deafening out anything the Fabian report might have to say. Mr Glibbly never misses a beat does he?

Next Mr Glibbly invited lots of important sounding professional musicians to work together to come up with exactly what should be taught in schools in order to do it ‘Mr Glibbly’s Way’. Sadly of course he accidentally on purpose forgot to include more than a couple of actual real teachers on the steering panel. If he had, perhaps they might have told him that there was a lot more to music in schools than learning how to read music and how to re-create and appreciate great pieces of classical music written by dead white men from the Western world.

The sound of music goes well beyond what appears to be Mr Glibbly’s understanding and knowledge of 17th and 18th century forms of music, let alone modern music education. Like most politicians, he quite wrongly assumed that what had been good for him would be good for everyone in the country.

First movement
Here’s a mix-tape mash-up of some of the things he said:

“My own love of music began in primary school almost by stealth. As we all filed into assembly there’d be a piece of classical music playing in the background: Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; Saint Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals; Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.”

“Singing in the St Edmund’s Parish Church Choir in Roundhay, Leeds, gave me a lasting love for choral music. The delight I still feel today when I listen to ‘Zadok the Priest’ or Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ can be traced back to my schooldays.”

“We want to make sure their lessons are of the very highest quality and pupils leave school having experienced an excellent music education so those who wish to do so can take up opportunities to pursue musical careers.”

“This new model curriculum and the new money for our successful music hubs will make sure the next generation of Adeles, Nigel Kennedys and Alex Turners have all the support they need in school.”

“As well as ensuring all pupils can benefit from knowledge rich and diverse lessons, it is hoped that the curriculum will make it for easier for teachers to plan lessons and help to reduce workload.”

But music education is about so much more than knowledge of the classical repertoire and being able to sight-read music. It’s just a pity Mr Glibbly doesn’t believe you can learn anything useful from Wikipedia, because if he did he might have discovered that:

“Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics (loudness and softness), and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the “colour” of a musical sound). Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements.”

Music and Meaning
Music is a reflection and statement of contemporary cultural values, not just those of the past. Meanwhile it’s important for children to learn that music has different meanings to different people in different situations, and that playing and listening preferences often serve to reinforce social status and belief systems while at the same time representing a rejection of alternative points of view. Which is of course exactly what Mr Glibbly is trying to do at a time when, according to recent research, more than two-thirds of young people are already active musicians, singing, playing an instrument or making music on a computer – mainly outside school, and therefore his control.

Music and Motivation
Mr Glibbly seems to want everybody to be able to read music, play a ‘proper’ musical instrument and become a member of an orchestra: but just because people can read the Daily Mail out loud, it doesn’t mean that they are all going to want to become creative writers. To appeal to and motivate the majority of young people, modern music education needs to be relevant to music they are listening to, otherwise they are likely to switch off faster than they can say ‘Alexa, play something different’.

Music and The Arts
Meanwhile perhaps if Mr Glibbly had taken his fingers out of his ears and opened his eyes for long enough to hear and see what was been happening during the 20th Century he might have noticed that in an increasing number of works, music has moved away from being a single discipline: dance, drama, design, fashion, performance art, film and television are now created with close reference to each other. Mr Glibbly doesn’t seem to have got as far as Modernism yet, let alone Post-modernism.

Music and Technology
And something else that seems to be missing in the space between Mr Glibbly’s ears is the fact that a good understanding of and a capability and confidence in the use of digital technologies in one’s area of expertise is now essential, as it is in just about everything these days, and particularly in music where it has been particularly disruptive during the past 20 or so years. It is not acceptable for traditional educators to avoid their obligations and responsibility and, as they often do, use the excuse that children know more about the new technology than they do, so they will leave it to them to teach themselves.

Yet learning about music technology is not mentioned anywhere in Glibbly’s model world. Indeed he reveals his own lack of understanding of contemporary music technology when he writes:

“Forget Spotify: I want every child to leave primary school able to read music.”

Doesn’t he know that there is plenty of classical music on Spotify, and that the service enables users to explore and access a wider range of music than ever before in order to discover what they do and don’t like? And anyway why should listening to Spotify prevent any child from learning to read music?

Of course, at the same time new technology enables the creation of music without the need to be able to read formal notation in a way that is far more likely to encourage children to want to learn more about the academic theory of classical music. The opportunities for children to develop their creativity, confidence and self-esteem through experimentation, composing, performing and recording their own music, rather than failing to match the standards of professional classical musicians, have never been greater.

Coda
And last, but by no means least, is the purpose really to create a new generation of ‘Adeles, Nigel Kennedys and Alex Turners’? These people will emerge whether or not they learn to read music in school: music education needs to meet everyone’s needs.

The Sex Pistols sang ‘Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it’:  Mr Glibbly clearly does know what he wants, but fortunately it seems he doesn’t know how to get it: his new model scheme, unlike the music national curriculum, will not be compulsory. And, if every child is to learn how to read music – not just those attending the special music hubs – then there’s the little matter of finding the money to pay for all those music teachers

Whatever, one thing is clear – Mr Glibbly’s plan is certainly not the Very Model Of A Modern Music Curriculum…

“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” (Charlie Parker)

“If this word ‘music’ is sacred and reserved for eighteenth and nineteenth century instruments, we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound.” (John Cage)

Encore

Eric Morecambe with Andre Preview ‘playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order’.

 

Number 9

It seems like it was only this time last year when All Change Please! was celebrating its 8th birthday, but today it is 9 years old, and as traditional, this is the review of the best of last year’s posts.

First to announce the winners of the highly prestigious ‘most viewed posts’ of the last twelve months. In highly appropriate GCSE reverse order they were….

3. School Island

‘A group of children who don’t know each other are isolated in a secondary school for five years. In this unreal situation they are not allowed access to mobile phones or gain any other information about what is currently happening in the outside world.’

2. Glibbly’s All Fool’s Gold Signature Collection

‘Meanwhile Glibbly’s glistening All Gold EBacc curriculum collection needs some urgent re-branding. Perhaps re-naming it rather more accurately as Glibbly’s All Fool’s Gold Assortment – known for its superficial resemblance to qualifications that are actually worthwhile – would be a good start?’

And the winner is…..

Wait for it….

1. Art Failure at the MichaelGova School

‘But by yet another All Change Please! (Patent Applied For) Amazing Coincidence it seems that the nearby, and entirely fictitious, MichaelGova Community School is also recruiting further teaching staff for its Art Department. Somehow All Change Please! has exclusively managed to obtain a draft of the forthcoming press advertisement’

Then, as usual, in no particular order, here’s All Change Please!’s selection of its own three favourite posts:

Playing the GCSE Numbers racket

‘We never expected him to do that well, especially as his teachers kept saying how unsatisfactory his work was, and that he wouldn’t get his E back. Mind you I wasn’t surprised they had confiscated it – I kept telling him not to take drugs into school – but I expect his teachers needed it themselves.”

Tonight at Morning Break

“Independent schools announce they will now only accept children who are eligible for free school meals
School children will hold Ofsted inspectors to account
Children will meet teachers and parents on cold winter evenings to discuss their progress as adults
And a portrait of Michael Gove will be hung upside down in the entrance to every school…”

Is Nick Glibbly Having A Laugh?

‘This Christmas Nick Glibbly is appearing in Pantomime at the Df-ingE, where he will play the comedy role of Michael Gove. He has also been nominated for a Derrière Comedy Award at next year’s Edinburgh Festival in the ‘Least Likely Politician To Succeed In A New Career As A Comedian’ category.’

 

Meanwhile, in a far distant galaxy sometime in the not-so-near future that has nothing whatsoever to do with formal education, All Change Please! has recently found itself writing some very different sorts of posts, contributing to a blog site analysing the Beatles’ ‘White’ album, prior to the 50th anniversary of its release in November 1968. If you weren’t there then, or were and don’t remember it, there was definitely something in the air – a real sense of hope that things were starting to change. It was a time of revolution and riot, well at least it was if you were a University student – the rest of the country read about it in their newspapers or watched it in the comfort of their homes on their black and white TVs.

Today the Beatles’ double album is still a remarkable achievement, showcasing the band at the height of its musical creativity, experimenting with the new technology to discover new ways of creating music that matched their subversive multi-layered lyrics. The extraordinary ‘Revolution 9’, which featured a repeated voice saying ‘Number 9’, was strongly influenced by modern classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was an eight minute collage of sound recordings that today would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being included on the latest album of a best-selling, chart-topping globally successful group. As such it is almost certainly the best-selling piece of ‘avant-garde’ music of all time, even if most people tended to skip it after the first listen!

Meanwhile, 50 years later, All Change Please! is still waiting for Revolution Number 1 to start happening in the current education system. It guesses it will just probably have to wait another year…

Image credit: Ian Melbourne93

Getting IT Wrong

All Change Please! recently came across a fascinating post about an article written by one Samuel Moffat some 50 years ago – in 1968 – that anticipated the future use of computers in education.

At one level, it is extraordinary to see what the author got right:

  • children sitting at a PC with a keyboard and screen, wearing headphones
  • on-screen questions, assessed and scored by the computer
  • one or more IT suites in every school, including primary schools
  • individualised learning, with support for pupils who need more help
    children can work at their own speed
  • a global network of computers (though seemingly limited to the US) facilitating remote access to teachers
  • the prediction that computers will soon play a significant and universal a role in schools as books do today.

And amusing to see what he got wrong:

  • the computing machines mechanically load and control external film and slide projectors, tape recorders and record players
  • a boy being allowed to work all day on a science project.

The predictions are remarkable for the time, given that there were no calculators, photocopiers or video recorders in schools in 1968!

But at another level, it means that we’ve had at least 50 years to work out, agree and implement the most effective ways of using computers in school – something that so far we have pretty much failed to do. Although a few schools have effectively adopted the concept of ‘computer-aided learning’, there are still far too many where the approach is to ask for PCs to be removed from classrooms and the use of mobile phones to be banned.

As with most aspects of our working and domestic hours, IT has proved to be much more than being ‘just another tool’ as it was frequently described in the 1990s. That was a bit like saying that the introduction of the combustion engine driven car of the early 20th century provided ‘just another way to get from A to B’. Or that on-line shopping would never take off, and that people would continue to buy physical music CDs forever… And at the same time, IT was widely seen as a cost-saving method of automisation, rather than something that would begin to fundamentally change the way we live our lives.

Unfortunately, in many schools, the old-fashioned penny still hasn’t dropped. Most teachers still see Information Technology (IT) as ‘just another tool’, and continue to misuse it to attempt to deliver an automated, out-dated curriculum in an out-dated way. Like it not, IT will at some point significantly disrupt the processes of teaching and learning. And the problem is that while many educationalists continue to pretend it will one-day just go away, they are failing to define and demand what is an appropriate new pedagogy. As a result, big business and politics are rapidly moving in to make those decisions for them, and instead of computers being used to effectively support the ways we teach and learn, it is increasingly taking over and replacing our input into the process, if for no other reason that computers are cheaper to run than teachers are to employ.

IT still provides an extraordinary opportunity to discover new and better ways of learners acquiring knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, and making informed decisions about conflicting options. In the palm of our hand we now have the extraordinary potential to access in-depth information and ideas from around the world, to be able to collectively communicate with each other, and to manipulate vast amounts of complex data. Yet our current education system continues to prioritise essay-writing and answering Multiple Choice Questions – sitting isolated in the school hall – as its only method of assessing  achievement and capability.

At the same time, fifty years on, we have still to determine the way in which our children should be most effectively taught about IT and how to use it for themselves. The current, entirely unacceptable, excuse for not doing so appears to be along the lines of not seeing the need to bother because ‘the children understand more about it than we do’. To be fair, there is also a shortage of suitable teachers, and especially those with up-to-date experience of coding. But not everyone will need to be able to write complex computer programs in the future, just as not everyone needs to be able to design and construct an internal combustion engine to be able to drive their car.

However, children do need to learn to become capable and confident users of IT, to know about the way it impacts their lives, and how and when to use it, and perhaps more importantly, when not to use it. Unless we start to address the core issues in our schools we are likely to end up with a future society where individuals might potentially suffer from poorer cognitive function, reduced capacity for deep thought and contemplation, reduced ability to concentrate, increasing levels of pathological narcissistic behaviour, lower levels of empathy, an increase in depression and loneliness, and a whole host of physical problems stemming from the constant release of cortisone from the stress response together with an addiction to dopamine. Banning the use of mobile phones in schools will do nothing to help prevent this.

The world has moved on since 1968. Sadly education in England hasn’t.

Knowing exactly what it would say, All Change Please! didn’t bother to invite comment from the Df-ingE, and as a result, their spokesperson didn’t write…

‘As politicians and civil servants with no experience of the real world, we know all there is to know about education and the processes of teaching and learning and therefore do not intend to waste any time listening to anyone else. Our well established and highly successful educational policy involves continually repeating: ‘Thanks to our reforms, the evidence proves that we are providing the first-class world-beating education system demanded by employers and universities’ – a statement that readers of the Daily Mail appear to actually believe.’

Is Nick Glibbly Having A Laugh?

Following recent reports in the TES, Nick Glibbly appears to be preparing for a new role as a stand-up comedian for Comic Relief.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm round of applause for a former politician and newcomer to the Comedy Club – I give you Knickers Glibbly

Polite applause, and a titter or two at Glibbly’s Red Nose

“I say, I say, I say… Did you hear the one about PISA? Yes missus, that’s the Programme for International Student Assessment. I don’t believe it – they are trying to politically influence the international rankings! Of course, here in England we would never dream of letting politics determine our educational policies, would we?!”

Mild laughter as the audience absorb the irony

A funny thing happened on my way here this evening. As usual I was licking the boots of Andreas Schleicher – the head of the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that runs the PISA tests, and whom Michael Gove once described as ‘the most important man in English education‘ – wrong again Michael, you know that’s really me, don’t you? – when all of a sudden he tells me about his latest plans for the tests.

Now in the past, the PISA tests were just about regurgitating facts and figures. Therefore in order to improve our world rankings we changed the entire curriculum to ensure our children would receive teacher and knowledge-led instruction and thus achieve better marks and climb higher up the league table, because after all that’s what educational achievement is all about, isn’t it? Boom! Boom!

Some polite applause

But now it seems PISA are introducing a more progressive approach to education, called ‘the 21st-century incompetence-based curriculum’, and so they are introducing new tests in things like creativity and collaborative problem-solving, which of course we’ve been completely ignoring in our schools! And so, ladies and gentleman, here comes the punch-line – yes that’s right – we’ll be back down the bottom of the league table again! What a joke!”

Laughing out loud and occasional whooping – or is it weeping?

“Of course, because I don’t understand anything about these 21st century incompetencies, what I’ve not realised is that the OECD doesn’t either and their tests are extremely limited and ineffective, so it’s really not going to make much difference at all!”

Increasing laughter and applause as the audience begin to realise the true extent of the incompetence of the 21st Century Df-ingE

“What’s really strange though is that when I challenge the the OECD about it, it seems I’m the only one who disagrees, so obviously that means I must be right!” Am I bovvered? In future that stupid boy Andreas Schleicher can lick his own boots!

Hysterical laughter brings the house down.

“My name’s Nick Glibbly. And I’m the Most Important Man in Education! Thanks for learning, and it’s Good Night from me!”

This Christmas Nick Glibbly is appearing in Pantomime at the Df-ingE, where he will play the comedy role of Michael Gove. He has also been nominated for a Derrière Comedy Award at next year’s Edinburgh Festival in the ‘Least Likely Politician To Succeed In A New Career As A Comedian’ category.

You couldn’t make it up, could you?