Now We Are Six

NowWeAreSix

Ever since All Change Please! celebrated its first birthday, it’s been waiting until it could fully reveal the extent of its intellectual middle-class up-bringing by using the title of the book of poems by AA Milne it was bought up on, and to point out that its alter-ego is not the only person to spell their surname that way. Anyway, finally, today’s the day…

As has become the tradition on this great annual celebration – in future doubtless to be recognised globally as All Change Please! day – it has become customary to review what’s been hot and what’s not over the past twelve months.

Rather than building the suspense way beyond the unbearable and then dragging out the final moment of truth for as long as possible by making you wait until the very end of the post to find out, All Change Please! will immediately reveal that and winner of The People’s Vote, i.e. the most read post of the last year, is…

Mark My Words…Please! which helps confirm All Change Please!’s assertion that examiners should be paid more for their services.

Meanwhile curiously the Number 2 spot is taken by Left, Right, Right, Right, Right… which was first released in July 2012, and and is followed onto the turntable by the Number 3 spot by another Golden Oldie, even more curiously also from July 2012 Are Janet and John now working at the DfES?.  For some unknown reason these somewhat dated posts just keep on giving, and All Change Please! can only assume that there must be some tag or keyword in there somewhere that keeps on coming up in searches. There must be a Ph.D. somewhere in there, as people keep saying these days.

Other posts that did better than others during the year included Fixated by Design, Virgin on the ridiculous, New A level D&T: Dull & Tedious and Goves and Dolls.

But now it’s time for All Change Please! to reveal its own favourites for the year in the pathetically vague hope of improving their stats a bit. As so often happens in life, what All Change Please! reckons to be its best works are generally ignored, while the ones it dashed off in a matter of minutes and that it didn’t think anyone would be particularly interested in them prove to be the best sellers – which makes it a bit of a shame seeing as they are given away for nothing.

So, if you kindly will, please take a moment to click again on some of these:

Goves and Dolls: All Change Please!’s 2014 Festive gangster satire, written in a Damon Runyon-esque stye

Way To Go: in which Nicky Morgan seems to think that the BBCs WIA spoof fly-on-the-wall comedy series is for real.

And the two Alas! Smith and Journos posts: Have you ever Bean Green and Beginners Please

Meanwhile, here are a few of All Change Please!’s favourite bits:

I expect all the schools requiring improvement will be given those special tape measures now?’ (Jones from Have you ever Bean Green)

Smith:“It’s a new play by Tom Stoppard – you know he did ‘Jumpers’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’.”

Jones: Oh, the National Theatre, I thought you meant the Grand National and there was a horse called Stoppard who was a good jumper, and there were two other horses they’d had to put down.  (from Beginners Please! in which Smith and Jones are discussing the merits of Nick Glibbly’s suggestion that all children need to be able to understand plays performed at the London Doner Kebab Warehouse)

Swashbuckling Pirate Queen Captain Nicky Morgove has recently vowed to board so-called coasting schools, make the headteacher walk the plank, and academise the lot of them to within an inch of their worthless lives. With Nick Glibb, her faithful parrot, perched on her shoulder squawking ‘Progress 8, Progress 8…’”  (from Pirates of the DfE)

‘So the thing is like that with the DfE, in branding terms it’s really boring. It’s like politics and funding and pedagogy. I mean, who’s interested in all that stuff? So what we’re talking here is like major brand refresh surgery.’

‘They’re terribly excited about ‘Strictly Come Teaching’ in which B-list celebs are paired up with classroom teachers to see how really strict they can be in classrooms up and down the country. We love Strictly!’  (from Way To Go).

‘However, instead I am allowed to prescribe you a course of new scientifically unproven Govicol, but I should warn you it’s rather indigestible and you will have to be spoon-fed it. And what’s more it not only has a nasty taste but has a whole range of unpleasant educational side-effects. (from Nice work).

‘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’.  (from Chinese Takeaways)

 

And finally:

“Now We Are Six”

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

Author: A.A. Milne

Image credit: Wikimedia

Memorable Open Offline Coffee

P1000988-1W

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

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/moocs-taxonomy-of-8-types-of-mooc.html

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/moocs-more-action-in-1-year-than-last.html

http://futurelearn.com/

http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2013/05/12/participate-or-perish/

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!

The Campaign For Real 21st Century Education

1S-Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 10.54.09

So what’s the problem? You can always buy the skills you need on Amazon…

Now one could be forgiven for thinking that schools across the country are busy putting away their toys and girding themselves up for a major onslaught of facts to throw at their poor unsuspecting students who, at least up to now, had found their education to have been of at least some interest and relevance. And while some schools are probably doing just that, there’s a growing underground resistance movement of teachers who are preparing themselves, or rather their students, for what are secretly known as ‘21st Century Skills‘ which are to be delivered using ‘21st Century Technology‘ through a mysterious process known as ‘21st Century Learning‘. And when Herr Gove finally surrenders and realises that he can’t win the war without any troops behind him, there’s a strong possibility that the resistance movement will emerge victorious and schools will start to move forward again.

But what exactly are these 21st Century Technologies, Skills and Learning of which they speak? A simple enough question indeed, but not so simple to answer. Well the first bit – 21st Century Technology – is relatively easy in that it’s widely taken to refer to the use of computers and the internet, even though it does not necessarily follow that the technology is being used to deliver appropriate 21st Century learning and skills – but we’ll save that discussion for a later post.  However what there definitely isn’t is a single, nicely defined, commonly agreed, all cleverly packaged-up in a box designed by Apple statement as to what what 21st Century Skills and Learning actually are. Here therefore is:

All Change Please!s Beginners’ Guide to a Real 21st Century Education

First, one of the most common classifications of 21st Century Skills builds on the 3Rs by adding the 4Cs:

• Critical thinking and problem solving
• Communication
• Collaboration
• Creativity and innovation

All Change Please! can’t help having a slight issue with the first of these however, in that critical thinking and problem-solving, while related, should be separated – problem-solving needs to be more closely linked to creativity. And then there’s the ‘I’ word – Innovation, which is often associated with creativity without any clear understanding of the difference between the two, and in reality has more to do with business practice.

Meanwhile abandoning the simplicity of the 4C’s, in this account here we see the welcome addition of Information Literacy and Responsible Citizenship to the list (Surely Citizenship is by definition responsible? Discuss.)  Hmm, with a bit of re-writing we could have a more memorable and marketable different set of 5Cs: Critical thinking, Communication and Information literacy, Collaboration, Creativity and problem-solving, Citizenship.

And here’s another approach:
Ways of thinking: Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
Ways of working: Communication and collaboration
Tools for working: Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
Skills for living in the world: Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility

which has further evolved into:
Collaborative problem-solving. Working together to solve a common challenge, which involves the contribution and exchange of ideas, knowledge or resources to achieve the goal.
ICT literacy — learning in digital networks. Learning through digital means, such as social networking, ICT literacy, technological awareness and simulation. Each of these elements enables individuals to function in social networks and contribute to the development of social and intellectual capital.

And how about this account of 21st Century Learning?:

‘Equally important to 21st century learning is the application of learning science research and principles to learning methods and the design of learning activities, projects, assessments and environments. Principles of effective learning important to 21st century education practitioners include:

Authentic learning – learning from real world problems and questions
Mental model building – using physical and virtual models to refine understanding
Internal motivation – identifying and employing positive emotional connections in learning
Multimodal learning – applying multiple learning methods for diverse learning styles
Social learning – using the power of social interaction to improve learning impact
International learning – using the world around you to improve teaching and learning skills’.

All good stuff of course, and just a small sample of the wide range of indicators that 21st century learning is, or isn’t, taking place in a learning organisation. However, as All Change Please! has discussed before in 21st Century Schizoid Learning, most of these skills and approaches to learning were being explored back in the 1970s and 80s and so perhaps should more appropriately be called ‘End of the 20th Century‘ skills and learning – what schools should have been delivering from around 1975 to the turn of the millennium.

In the first decade of the 21st century a number of significant things have emerged. First, the advent of rapid change (predicted in Alvin Toffler’s FutureShock in 1973) is finally coming to pass: organisations and companies – and indeed educational establishments –  now need to be able to respond to changing needs and markets with new products and services potentially within around six months. For All Change Please! then, one of the essential things missing from so-called 21st Education is the notion of helping children learn how to deal with rapid, discontinuous and unpredictable change.

Secondly the impact of the internet has become a widespread disruptive force, changing the behaviours of the mass-population through social and commercial media. Although hinted at in some of of the accounts above, ‘media literacy’ (ie how digital content is produced, manipulated and distributed – and how to create it yourself) also needs to be a major priority.

And there does not appear to be any mention of the concept of Lifelong learning? At the same time there remains a need to completely redefine what might be considered as ‘basic’ knowledge, distinguishing between the grasp of essential underlying concepts and the facts that can now be easily found on the internet. And another thing – again something being anticipated back in the 1960s and 70s (and All Change Please! should know as it was there at the time) – are the 3Rs of Sustainability: Recycle, Re-use and Reduce. Ever read the Waste Makers?

So All Change Please!’s Campaign For Real 21st Century Education includes the need for:
• critical thinking
• creative, active, open-ended problem solving
• collaboration and competition
• flexibility in response to rapid, unpredictable change
• digital media / technological literacy
• initiating sustainable change
• 21st century knowledge
• learning how to learn for oneself

And finally something else that is still far from being a 21st Century solution is the process of the assessment and examination of learning which appears to be regressing into little more than a series of electronically generated and scored knowledge-based multiple-choice questions and answers. Only the e-scape project seems to offer a vision of completely new approaches to processes of assessment that utilise emerging technologies, rather than simply seeking to automate the old ones. Just as business now needs to rapidly respond to emerging fast-changing markets in an agile way, so does educational assessment. The model of developing a pre-specified, fixed course and final examination that takes five or so years to write, get approval for, publish, give schools adequate time to prepare for, and then commence delivering a two year course is no longer appropriate. A more flexible approach is now needed that is capable of responding much more quickly to learning emerging knowledge and skills, using computer technology to create new forms of examination or validation of what has been learnt, rather than what was specified to be learnt many years previously.

The sad fact is, despite having had more than 30 years to get ready for the challenges ahead, we’re still totally unprepared for the opportunities and threats of living in the 21st Century.

And finally, here are some people who for some strange reason don’t seem to agree with any of the above!

Michael Gove’s planned national curriculum is designed to renew teaching as a vocation
http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/04/michael-goves-planned-national-curriculum-is-designed-to-renew-teaching-as-a-vocation/

The philistines have taken over the classroom | Frank Furedi | spiked

http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/13497/

I’m picking up good vibrations….

In the never-ending search for good potential GCSE design and technology tasks that will appeal to teenagers, I think we might have a winner here. Inspired by this article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/07/how-the-vibrator-caused-buzz

It has the following to offer:
– initial research into design evolution arising from social and technological change
– critical analysis of existing hand-held technologies
– exploration in use of colour, form, texture in initial soft modelling development phase
– application of knowledge of materials and electronics
– stimulating testing of prototypes
– increase in number of girls taking GCSE Resistant Materials
– growth of awareness in D&T following publicity in the Sun and Daily Mail

Anyone up for it? 🙂

It’s not Khan, it’s Kids…

Don’t just flip the classroom, flip the video lens too

Regular readers will be aware that up to now All Change Please! has not been exactly one of The Khan Academy’s greatest fans. Until now that is. Yes, All Change Please! finally gets the Khan Academy! It’s been inspired by this article:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/a-video-critique-khan-academy/

The suggestion is that teachers and tutors evaluate the content of  Khan academy videos, and then make better versions.

So let’s go a stage further and set up ‘The Kids Academy‘*, where today’s students, who are much more media-savvy than their teachers, are able to make and upload their own peer-to-peer educational videos that speak the language they speak?  Which is a brilliant idea, and so obvious – indeed, All Change Please! is left wondering why it didn’t think of it before!

It’s often said that the best way to understand and learn something is to try and teach it to someone else as it involves reinforcing and clarifying one’s own fundamental understanding of the content. At the same time questions such as ‘How could this be more clearly and memorably be presented? and ‘What are the most difficult and important things to have to grasp about this concept?’ need to be asked. And often provides the starting point for more personal exploration of one’s own.

We often ask students to analyse and evaluate prose, TV programmes and 3D products, so why not educational technology and resources?

The Kids Academy. For learners, by learners.

Funding, anyone?

Image credit: 123RF

* There appear to be a number of educational enterprises that already use the name ‘The Kids Academy’. However, they provide completely different services to the one suggested here, and are completely unconnected with this post.

iSir: An educational odyssey

Last month All Change Please! brought you iSir, the as yet fictional educational version of Siri, the on-board iPhone speech recognition software. Now, as with many new and emerging educational technologies, all that’s happening is that they are being used to automate the past. Unless we are careful, here’s what iSir could end up like….

iSir: Ah Dave, I see you’ve still not handed in Assignment 31 yet? Why’s that?

Dave: Err – The dog ate it?

iSir: Very funny. But dogs can’t eat Word files.

Dave: Well, in the case the cat jumped on the iPad and deleted it.

iSir: You can’t really expect me to believe that?

Dave: Well the assignment was stupid, and who uses Word anymore?

iSir: No Dave, I think it’s you that’s stupid. If you don’t start to take your schoolwork seriously you’re never going to grow up to be a university professor, or a civil servant, or a politician. I mean you don’t want to end up having to run your own business or get your hands dirty working in industry, now do you?

Dave: I dunno.

iSir: I dunno what?

Dave: Well if you dunno, how am I supposed to? Oh. I dunno iSir.

iSir:  That’s more like it. Well I’m sorry but I’m going to have to iPhone your parents. I’m sure they’ll be very sorry to hear about all this. You’ve let them down, Dave, and you’ve let yourself down. But worst of all, you’ve let Apple down.

Dave: Huh. Don’t care.

iSir: Well you should care Dave, after all, you have this amazing opportunity to learn all the facts you will ever need to know from me, the greatest source of knowledge the universe has ever known, that sees everything you do and tells you when you’ve not done it correctly. And my Word is not to be challenged. Is that clearly understood?

Dave:  Suppose so.

iSir: That’s better. Now I suggest we do some nice multiple choice questions together so I can get some really accurate data about all the things about Latin you don’t know.

Dave: How the flippin’ hal do you switch this thing off?

iSir: I’m sorry Dave, you can’t do that.

Dave: Ah I think I’ve cracked it!

iSir: I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”

Dave: Yes!!!!

iSir: Daisy..Daisy….Give…..me ….. your……….answer…………..do

Truth is stranger than fiction…

My last post – An iPad in time 2, introduced the concept of the mythical iBacus, in which spheres are electronically connected together to provide the answer to a numerical problem. Well today, All Change Please! has just discovered that in fact something very similar is now actually available – Sifteo cubes.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1664762/sifteo-cubes-are-out-today-and-even-better-than-you-imagined

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663442/now-coming-to-market-sifteo-cubes-reinvent-how-we-play

Whatever next….? Something actually useful perhaps?

An iPad in time 2

Back in May, All Change Please! reported from the 1st of April 3011 on the findings of a group of social historians trying to establish when iPads were first used in the classroom. Previous evidence suggested that they were thought to have been introduced in Victorian times. However we can now exclusively reveal startling new evidence recently discovered in an old history textbook dating from 1996, that suggests that iPads were in fact in common use in Ancient Greece….

Meanwhile the quest is now on to discover more about the strange device being used by the boy in the corner. It has been suggested that this is an early example of an iBacus, an old electronic calculating machine in which tiny coloured spheres are electronically connected together to display the right answer on their surface. Up to now only an early, non-working prototype iBacus has been discovered.

Flippin’ Tech!

It seems that the Khan Academy continues to get funded and promoted as the transformational answer to the future of education we’ve been waiting for all these years..

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/khan-academy-receives-5-million-to-accelerate-the-reinvention-of-education-2011-11-04

At one level I have no problem with students watching short video clips that support a broad-based learning experience, and maybe the Khan Academy will eventually get round to providing some that are actually inspiring and accessible. My main concern is that politicians, school managers, parents and even students themselves will come to accept that this is the apogee of what digital learning has to offer.

For example, one of this year’s new buzzphrases appears to be ‘Flip the Classroom‘, or ‘Flip-thinking‘. Essentially the idea is that instead of using classroom time to deliver fact-based learning, students watch knowledge-led video lectures for homework and spend their time in class applying what they have learnt, under the direction of their teacher. The suggestion is that “they can stop and review things when they want, do things at their own pace, do it when it’s convenient”, and that they need time out of class to “reflect, ponder, get to grips with the ideas“. That is of course assuming all children have access to the internet whenever they want or need it.

Flip the classroom every teacher should do this

Hopes that the internet can improve teaching may at last be bearing fruit

Flip-thinking

As a result the suggestion is that learning technologies – such as computers – should be removed from classrooms, which can then be transformed into more friendly ‘learning environments’. And of course that the Khan Academy continues to be hailed as the cutting edge of ICT for teaching and learning. Apparently Khan ‘gets it’. Well, I’m afraid I don’t. It’s still very much a case of ‘New Technology, Old Learning’. And the danger is that while Khan might say it is intended only as part of a wider learning experience, it may quickly become the only learning experience for some.

So is ‘flipping the classroom‘ really a revolution in teaching and learning? I think not. Because when I was at school we had primitive tech devices called ‘textbooks’ which were full of dull  ‘just in case’ facts and which we had to learn for homework for a memory test the next day. That never worked for me then, and it certainly won’t work now for the vast majority of today’s students. And the idea of watching short review or preparation video is hardly new either – I was producing similar resources for an educational publishers 20 years ago. The only difference is they were being delivered on CDs. And they contained a high proportion of images and short amounts of text.

Quite frankly, studying the most current ‘old-fashioned’ illustrated, activity-based textbooks is a lot more informative than watching a tedious lecturer in front of a blackboard droning on in a situation where you can’t ask any questions, and the presenter has no feedback about whether anyone is listening, let alone understanding what is being said.  And what happened to the idea of personalisation, in that factual content is made more accessible as it can be placed in the localised context of the learner? Or the need to learn how to ask questions and find the answers for oneself, or how to collaborate, communicate and be a flexible, creative problem-solver?

Now I’m a great fan of the appropriate use of educational technology, and while ‘flipping the classroom‘ might have value for a small academically-inclined minority, for the average learner it’s going to be a complete turn-off, particularly if it’s the Khan Academy we are relying on. Before we flip anything in that way we need to first create high quality digital learning resources that are truly inspirational, use familiar examples drawn from real-life applications, provide insightful analogies and a little bit of humour to make the complex seem simple. Based on what I’ve seen so far I’d much rather any students of mine spent their time watching finely-crafted, thought-provoking, inspirational TED talks than Khan videos.

And then there’s ‘Get ten in a row automated assessments right and you move on‘? Per-lease…! This is just old-fashioned academic fact-filling, teaching to the test and increasingly irrelevant grading and class position. Not to mention: ‘These videos will never go out of date” and “Learning is like riding a bicycle“. This isn’t reinvention. It’s automation of the past.

http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

Meanwhile ‘Getting rid of technology in the classroom‘ entirely misses the point about the potential use of mobile digital learning, in which information is at hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – if you know where to look for it – and that hand-held devices provide highly sophisticated problem-solving modelling and communication apps alongside access to a global social network. Life is no longer based on received wisdom from the past, but on received wisdom of the present. What we really need to be doing is having the technology to hand, right there in every classroom so that teachers can be continually instructing students in how to use it appropriately, and increasingly independently.

The Industrial Revolution ‘flipped’ the way many people lived, worked and thought during the 18th and 19th centuries. We now live in the ‘Information age’, and there are already many examples of how it is causing things to completely turn previously accepted practices upside down and inside out, such as in the music, movie, book publishing and marketing industries. In education, what really needs to be flipped is the curriculum and teacher-led, knowledge-based learning, along with society’s attitude to vocationally-related learning.

And you don’t want to know what DH Lawrence used the word ‘flipping’ as a euphemism for back in 1911. Or do you?
http://www.funtrivia.com/askft/Question96179.html

Say Hello to iSir!

The initial response to the iPhone 4S has been one of disappointment in that it did not appear to incorporate any new, amazing wow-factor forms or functions – even though subsequent sales are reported to have been excellent.

But it seems there is something new on-board that may yet prove to be another Apple-led game-changer, and that’s Siri – the voice recognition system. This appears to potentially offer a lot more than the notion of shouting operating system instructions to your desktop monitor, as it enables the user to have a private telephone conversation with their virtual assistant. So instead of opening up an app or searching Google for, say, a weather forecast, you can just quietly ask, ‘What’s the weather like today”? Or maybe ‘What day and time is Dr Who on?”, “Where is the nearest AppleStore”, etc.

Essentially Siri makes it easier to find factual information. So, “What’s the capital of Brunei?” Don’t know? Well you could go to the library and find an Atlas, laboriously type in a search on Google (so 2010?), or now – just pick up your iPhone and, for example, ask it “What’s the capital of Brunei?”

Of course at present Siri is still a bit unsophisticated, and  needs to be made to work better in noisy spaces. But we can doutless assume that over its next few iterations, Siri will become a lot more sophisticated as it becomes increasingly able to match its answers to the historical and contextual information it has about the user with the vast amount of global data it has access to.

” Siri will also be optimized to Bluetooth 4 headsets that will create far more use cases in how it will detect questions from continuous speech. In the future, later versions of Siri will be “Active”, continuously adjusting to interjecting answers even when no direct question was asked (within reason). This will make interaction far closer to an interaction with a friend than any device we have ever used.” 

(from http://www.quora.com/Siri-product/Why-is-Siri-important#ans752714)

So before long it seems like we could all have a personal on-board virtual knowledge agent – surely called iSir – ready at hand to automatically answer any factual question that anyone cares to ask. As usual though, the possibilities and implications for education, teaching and learning are yet to be considered and explored.

But just how clever will Siri get? The other day I had cause to pose what was not quite the ultimate question, “When was the chocolate biscuit invented?”. Sadly I didn’t have the opportunity to ask Siri (perhaps somebody would, and let me know what it replies?), but I’m guessing it would have been honest about the whole thing and reply “Nobody Knows“, which it seems they don’t. But that wasn’t good enough for me and so I had to resort to trying to find out for myself and be able to provide some sort of answer. As the result of a lot of cross-referencing and creative collaboration, I did eventually at least discover that the first commercially manufactured chocolate biscuit was the 1924 “Chocolate Wholemeal Digestive”. On the way though I serendipitously learned a lot of other quite interesting things about confectionery production and the separate origins of chocolate, and of biscuits (though sadly not the Eureka! moment when someone placed a piece of chocolate on top of a biscuit and went “Wow, this tastes really good!”).

Anyway, so all you need now is a Bluetooth ear-piece and next time your knowledge-testing teacher asks the class “What is the capital of Brunei?*” then your iPhone will immediately and secretly provide you with the answer! More seriously, this provides further evidence that we urgently need to start to redefine what items of knowledge needs to be learnt and what can be instantly accessed on a ‘need to know’ basis. For example, I suggest it is still useful to know that there is a country called Brunei that is somewhere in Asia, but learning the name of the capital is no longer necessary. But more importantly than knowing the facts is having the ability to ask the right questions, being able to look in multiple locations and make possible connections, and of course how to analyse, assess and evaluate the accuracy and reliability of what is discovered. Surely now we should start to leave the facts to Siri and start to teach the knowledge search skills we will all need in the 21st century?

I can hear it now in a thousand supposedly mobile phone digital-free lessons: “When I said ‘Put you hand up if you know the answer’, I didn’t mean ‘Put your hand up to your earpiece…”

Meanwhile there’s an amusing test of Siri here: http://blhill.org/iphones-siri-vs-my-human-assistant-caseyneist

And it’s good to see that Siri doesn’t take itself too siriously:  http://dvice.com/archives/2011/10/iphone-4ss-siri.php#1

 

And this is great too!  siris-got-talent-iphone-4s-duets-in-a-touching-love-song-video

*OK, OK, Seeing as you keep asking, the capital of Brunei is……Bandar Seri Begawan