‘D’ is for…

Long after the letters A, B and C, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ turns its attention to the letter ‘D’.

For any new readers, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ takes a mildly humorous look at the way things are in our schools and sometimes compares them to life on the parallel universe of Planet Urth.

Dancing (in the street)
There are some schools in which children are required to move from lesson to lesson in silence and to strictly keep to left or right of the corridor and stairs. But not on Planet Urth where children and teachers are expected to joyously dance down the corridors. What’s more they arrive at the next lesson too tired to misbehave.

Deep Learning
The term ‘Deep Learning’ means that academic theory is studied alongside the development of what, at the rate we are going, look more likely to become more practical 22nd Century skills. Unfortunately however many traditional teachers seem to think that Deep Learning just requires drilling down even further to deliver more and more knowledge in greater and greater depth.

In Victorian times, Deep Learning was what happened when young children were sent down the mines to learn how to dig for coal. In today’s only slightly more modern times children are now subjected to deep knowledge learning in every academic subject they study. This means they never get to see the clear light of day either.

On Planet Urth they initially experimented with opening up old coal mines and transforming them into underground classrooms in an attempt to promote even deeper learning, but the idea quickly fell apart at the seams.

Meanwhile Deep Learning is also a term widely used in the development of Artificial Intelligence. It is based on artificial neural networks, deep belief networks, recurrent neural networks and convolutional neural networks in which computer models learn to accurately perform classification tasks directly from images, text or sound suited for hybrid multicloud environments that demand mission-critical performance, security and governance. But that’s all just a bit too deep for All Change Please!

Deputy Dawg

 

All schools on Planet Urth have at least one Deputy Dawg as part of their Senior Management Team. Training for this role consists of watching endless re-runs of the popular 1960s TV series of the same name in which Deputy Dawg has to protect his produce from Muskie and Vince, battling with some of the peculiar locals and trying to please the Sheriff. However Deputy Dawg is on friendly terms with them most of the time, except when he has to perform his duties as a lawman and keep them from causing trouble. Deputy Dawgs patrol the school corridors muttering ‘Dagnabit’ all the time, which for some reason is thought more acceptable than ‘God Damn It’, even thought that’s what they are actually thinking.

Design Education

All Change Please! looks back, having spent its entire working life advocating Design Education. As a result all schools successfully deliver an exciting and stimulating co-coordinated programme that combines developing skills in interdisciplinary open-ended problem-solving, creativity and communication in a way that enables children to effectively understand and apply the knowledge they have gained elsewhere in the curriculum and fully prepares them for the unpredictable changes that lie ahead for them in the future. As such All Change Please! considers its life to have been both fulfilling and entirely worthwhile.

Michael Gove? Who is he? Nick Glibbly? The EBacc? Oh yes, wait, it’s all starting to come back now.

More morphine, nurse…. quickly!

Design & Technology

Someone once made the mistake of asking what ‘Design & Technology’ meant and they were told that Design & Technology meant Design & Technology, and was quite unlike Design Technology which is confusing as both words mean the same thing. And then it got shortened to DT which doesn’t mean anything to anyone in the real world, unless perhaps you have a Dorchester postcode. Of course in most schools D&T still really means woodwork, metalwork and sewing. For a while it meant cookery and nutrition as well, but it doesn’t anymore as they quit a while ago to go off and form their own group.

Dewey, Dewey and Dewey

A clever American man called Dewey was responsible for perhaps the most major change in thinking about education during the 20th century. Yes, it was Melvil Dewey who invented the Dewey Decimal System in 1876 which meant that libraries could store their books on shelves and then actually manage to find them again later. By allocating a numerical code to each subject and sub-division he led the way for the atomisation of knowledge that made it much easier to simply tick off what one knew and what one didn’t.

Melvin Dewey is often confused with another American, John Dewey (1859-1952) who in the early 20th Century came up with some crackpot theory of progressive education and was never heard of again. However, fortunately John Dewey wrote plenty of books on the subject which can be easily found using the Dewey decimal code 370.1

Another little known fact is that the middle name of Miles Davis, the famous jazz trumpeter, was Dewey. He often used to point out that the notes one didn’t play were just as important as the ones you did. Perhaps the facts we don’t teach children and that they discover for themselves are just as important as the ones we do?

Df-ingE

The Df-ingE is a ministerial government department dedicated to making a complete mess of everything to do with providing a world-class education, training and care for everyone, whatever their background. It consistently fails to ensure that everyone has the chance to reach their potential, and live a more fulfilled life. It has absolutely no idea how it will also create a more productive economy, so that our country is fit for the future.

When invited to comment, a Df-ingE spokesperson didn’t say: “When invited to comment, my prestigious academic Russell Group university degree has successfully prepared me to blindly repeat exactly the same statements over and over again in the belief that if a lie is repeated often enough people will start to believe it.”

Dictionary

At school, All Change Please! distinctly remembers being told: ‘If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up in the dictionary’, which always struck it as being a bit daft really, because the dictionary is in alphabetical order, and if you don’t know how to spell a word in the first place, the chances are you’re not going to be able to find it.

 

Disobedience

Disobedience involves doing or not doing something that someone in authority has told you to do and is keeping a close eye on you at all times to make sure you do, or don’t. And because adults are older than children, for some reason that seems to automatically give them that authority. Now of course there are many occasions when the instructions that adults give children are sensible, appropriate and essential but it is unwise to assume that by definition all adults are sensible and always understand what is appropriate and essential.

Of course this extends into later life, by which time it becomes more acceptable, and sometimes necessary, to challenge someone’s authority and take personal responsibility for one’s behaviour, especially when there is much less risk of being observed or ‘found out’. But this isn’t something we prepare our children for, and they tend to grow up in the belief that those in authority are always correct, and they fail to sufficiently develop the skills of positive disobedience and flexible interpretations of rule-making and breaking.

On Planet Urth there is an organisation that provides an annual award for any person or group that successfully engages in ethical, nonviolent acts of disobedience in the service of society, and in their schools children are encouraged to consider situations in which disobedience is acceptable and desirable for the common good. Actually it so happens there’s an identical award made by MIT on Planet Earth, but sadly here any positive disobedience in schools is just not up for discussion. The only place it might be found is in the Creative and Performing Arts where the weirdos, artists and misfits tend to hang out.

Dunce caps

A dunce is a person considered incapable of learning.The word is derived from the name of the 13th Century Scottish Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus.

In their continuing bid to improve academic standards, traditional teachers have been demanding a return to the good old days when under-performing school children were required to wear special pointed caps to denote their lack of ability. They had to sit or stand in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had successfully remembered what they had been taught. Dunces are often humorously shown wearing dunce caps with a large capitalized “D” on them.

In contrast, on parallel Planet Urth, more progressive teachers believe that Duns Scotus actually recommended the wearing of conical hats to stimulate the brain – so-called ‘thinking caps’ – and this led wizards to adopt the use of pointed hats to denote how clever they were. What a Wizard idea!

 

Dunteachin

All Change Please! used to work with someone who used to remark: “I love my job. I hate my job.” By which he meant he loved working in education but hated senior management whose intent seemed to be to making his job as difficult as possible to do. But that’s all over now, as we’re both Dunteachin, enjoying our retirement and reflecting on how things were so much better in education in the pre-National Curriculum, Ofsted, League Table world of the 1980s.

Fortunately though All Change Please! has not quite Dunbloggin yet and, unless anything more interesting happens first, will be back soon to see if it can make up some unsuitable nonsense about the letter E.

In case you missed them, there’s more merriment to be found in ‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for…,

BROKEN NEWS…

5179626687_0c40c7ab41_zLong delays expected in any sort of change

Statement to Parliament: GCSE in design and technology: delay in teaching

Further to its statement today that new Design and Technology GCSEs are now to be delayed a further year until first examination in 2019, the government has also announced that all new UK industrial and technological development will be delayed until the same date. As a result no new or upgraded TVs, mobiles, computers or any other technologically advanced products will now be made available to consumers until the summer of 2019.

This is in order to give ministers a chance to catch up on what is going on in the world today and to be able to prepare better informed spin, thus avoiding the sort of embarrassment that followed David Cameron’s recent quite impractical, crazy ‘cloud cuckoo land’ proposals to ban the use of certain social network apps.

Meanwhile between now and 2017, some one million children will be denied the chance to undertake a GCSE course in Design and Technology that is more appropriate to the 21st century than to the 19th and 20th – though this will not be a problem as the UK will have got correspondingly further and further behind the rest of the world.

These changes will ensure that the UK prepares students and businesses well for life in a slowly changing, largely backward-looking world“, Nick Glibb didn’t say as he completely failed to grasp the irony in his actual statement that change in educational provision was being slowed down to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.

This will give us all that little bit more time to find a dictionary in order to find out what the word ‘Iterative’ means.” Glibb glibbly continued. “After all this approach to design was only identified by the Assessment of Performance Unit in the 1989, so by 2019 children will only be 30 years behind the time.”

 

Photo credit: Flickr/Will Clouser

 

Chinese Takeaways

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Creativity lessons in China: How many different uses can you think of for a pair of chopsticks?

China turns to UK for lessons in design and technology – Education

All Change Please! didn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry when it read the above story. It covered the announcement that there’s a crisis in China and they need to adopt a more creative approach in their schools to enable their nation to be able to design as well as make stuff in the future. To help solve the problem they paid for a delegation of D&T teachers from the UK to go out and advise them.

Partly because no-one had invited it on a freebie trip to China, but mostly because it wondered what effective advice the delegation might be able pass on, All Change Please! thought it would provide its own D&T ‘Takeaways’ for the Chinese Government, based on established UK practice:

1. Get a politician to develop the specification for D&T, based on her limited experience of what she did in school in the early 1990s. Ensure Horticulture is included simply as a result of pressure from a powerful parliamentary lobby group.

2. Develop an examination system that makes is as easy as possible to objectively assess performance, and consequently penalises students who take risks and demonstrate creativity and initiative.

3. Ensure the final examination includes a rigorous written paper that does not in any way measure design capability but is worth at least half of the marks.

4. Encourage every school to buy a 3D printer so they can mass-produce little green dragons to sell to willing parents in order to raise money to buy another 3D printer to produce even more little green dragons.

5. Decrease the status of the subject by significantly undermining its value in school league tables, so as to suggest it is only suitable for low-ability children.

6. Fail to give D&T a central role in unifying STEM (or better still STEAM) subjects, and build Great Walls between all subjects.

7. Ensure a substantial shortfall of suitably qualified teachers by drastically cutting back the number of available teacher training courses.

8. And – most important of all – fail to make any substantial investment in staff development over an extended period of time, i.e. a minimum of 25 years.

Fortune Cookie* say:  if China can manage to completely ignore All Change Please!‘s Takeaways, then we might indeed soon be seeing more things that are labelled Designed and Made in China. Especially as All Change Please! has every confidence that the DATA delegation will have passed on rather more positive advice of its own.

‘We were most interested to learn that Junk Modelling did not involve making scale replicas of boats’, a spokesperson for the Chinese government didn’t say. ‘The delegation offered to send us Michael Gove and Elizabeth Truss to advise us further on a long term basis, but we said No thanks – not for all the D&T in China’.

‘However we are planning to stage the John Adams’ Opera Dyson In China.’

* Myth-busting fascinating fact: Chinese Fortune Cookies were actually invented in Japan and popularised by the US in the early 20th Century. They are not eaten in China. Well that’s what it says on Wikipedia, anyway.

Image credit: Flickr/Simon Law

The Alternative Guide to Learning

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The other day All Change Please! gathered together some of its chums and went along to the latest and delightfully deserted exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank. Now regular readers will doubtless recall that last summer All Change Please! presented Invisible Learning, which described a virtual exhibition it had curated, based on the Hayward Gallery’s 2012 ‘Invisible Art’ exhibition. This Summer’s show at the Hayward is called The Alternative Guide to the Universe, and, based around Richard Dorment’s entirely sensible review in The Daily Telegraph, All Change Please! is again proud to present its annual alternative alternative virtual blockbuster exhibition: The Alternative Guide to Learning

According to the Hayward Gallery website, The Alternative Guide to the Universe “explores the work of self-taught artists and architects, fringe physicists and visionary inventors, all of whom offer bracingly unorthodox perspectives on the world we live in. Taken together, their work conjures a kind of a parallel universe where ingenuity and inventiveness trump common sense and received wisdom.” Or to put it another way, essentially the contributors are all completely stark raving bonkers, but somehow their creativity manages to joyously explode out into the gallery.

Just like The Hayward’s artworks that have been created by ‘gentle, well-meaning and creative souls‘, so All Change Please!’s Alternative Guide to Learning show has been created by gentle, well-meaning and creative teachers – no Marxist Enemies of Promise here. Taken together, their work conjures a kind of a parallel universe where ingenuity and inventiveness trump common sense and received wisdom and produce a truly creative approach to an appropriate 21st Century education. All Change Please! hopes you’ll all enjoy the show.

On display at the Hayward Gallery are James Carter‘s wonderfully intricate models, diagrams, charts and drawings based on his theory that gravity is an illusion caused by the doubling of the earth’s size every 19 minutes. Meanwhile at The Alternative Guide to Learning‘s virtual exhibition, a fringe physics teacher has used similar materials to represent his theory that learning is a similar illusion caused by doubling the size of his class every 19 minutes.

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Back at the Hayward, French civil engineer Jean Perdrizet exhibits a machine he designed that he was convinced enabled him to communicate with the dead in an invented language he called ‘Sidereal Esperanto.’  Meanwhile in The Alternative Guide to Learning a modern languages teacher exhibits a language lab that he was convinced enabled him to communicate with children in an invented language he called ‘Unreal French’.

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According to Richard Dorment in the Telegraph, recluse Emery Blagdon may ‘have been on the right track when he sought to harness the curative powers of electricity, but he definitely wasted the last 30 years of his life building a healing machine featuring long strings of thin wire festooned with ribbons, butterflies, brackets, spokes and gears‘. Similarly at The Alternative Guide to Learning, a D&T teacher might have been on the right track when he sought to harness the creative powers of woodwork, but wasted the last 30 years of his life building a ribbon organiser container holder box device featuring thin wood festooned with ribbons and internal brackets, spokes and gears.

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In the Hayward‘s exhibition we see Morton Bartlett‘s ‘meticulously detailed plaster dolls of children, each half the size of life, anatomically complete, and dressed in clothes he designed and made himself’. The dolls have realistic faces that express fear, misery, sensuality, and distress and are photographed ‘in a way that is so lifelike that you sometimes have to look twice to determine that these are not real children‘.

But in All Change Please!’s exhibition we see a PE mistress’s plaster dolls of children’s faces expressing fear, misery, sensuality, and distress at the thought of having to partake in a cross-country run in the pouring rain. However, on looking twice at the photographs the viewer realises that these are indeed real children.

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Meanwhile Richard Dorment wonders if it matters ‘that Parisian street cleaner Marcel Storr’s intricate designs for fantastic buildings rendered in coloured inks on paper were intended to be used for the rebuilding of Paris after a nuclear attack’? Accordingly in its exhibition All Change Please! wonders if indeed it matters that an art teacher’s intricate designs for fantastic buildings somewhere nice and warm, rendered in coloured inks on paper, were intended to be used for the rebuilding of her school after an arson attack by former pupils?

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Back at the Hayward are Canadian Richard Greaves‘ buildings that move and sway with the wind, constructed using rope and twine to represent a living organism. At The Alternative Guide to Learning we see Michael Gove’s school buildings that also move and sway with the wind, constructed using rope and twine to represent a living hell (and to save money and ensure rich architects do not receive any awards).

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In the Telegraph, Dorment wisely advises that to see the Hayward exhibition properly we need to ‘spend some time interrogating each art work, determining, among other things, the sanity of the artist or inventor and how that affects our understanding of his or her work‘.

Likewise at the Alternative Guide to Learning we are strongly advised to spend some time interrogating each teacher during parents’ evening, determining his or her sanity and how that affects the children’s understanding of their homework. You don’t have to be mad to be a teacher, but it probably helps.

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Admission to All Change Please!‘s virtual exhibition is free and it is always open to all, but if you want to grow up to be a politician, journalist, lawyer or solicitor, better results might be obtained by paying the termly fee to attend a private view.

Meanwhile a visit to the real Guide to the Universe exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is highly recommended. Better still, take some school-children with you and let them discover that Art and Design is not just about analysing creative intentions and making formal responses to given briefs using the visual elements, but enabling their imaginations, passions and aspirations to run riot.

Flickr Image credits: with thanks to the following, in order from the top of the post downwards.

Damien Cugely 

eddiehosa

GC Communications

Mikaela Danvers

Dwayne

Stephen Mitchell

Zachary Veach

Loving Earth