I am fortunate to be able to travel and meet fellow teaching professionals, a few of whom still seem to enjoy taking every opportunity to bemoan their students for not achieving the high standards that was expected of themselves, often harking back to a legendary bygone era in which all children were model students and society’s treatment of teachers was akin to that bestowed upon doctors or lawyers.
Standards have slipped apparently. Year sevens can’t spell. Year eights can’t concentrate. Year nines can’t keep quiet. Year tens can’t take school seriously. Year elevens can’t write essays. Year twelves can’t stay awake. And year thirteens are lazy.
Year sevens may struggle with the spelling of the odd word and txt speak may show its unwelcome face occasionally, but children age eleven can these days do all sorts of things we could have never dreamt of. Which is really not that surprising, as the world they live in is quite different to the world we grew up in.
The challenges we faced then were different to the ones they are facing now. Yet we expect the same standards that were applied to us back then to be applied to our students. This is nonsense.
Leaving to one side whether such bygone era ever existed, or whether it is true that children were once able to concentrate through boring lessons but are no longer, one can’t help but wonder: Why are we holding our pupils to fifty year old standards? Why do we force them to learn the way we learnt? By doing this, are we not condemning the vast majority of them to failure? And lastly but crucially, are they failing by our standards or, rather like I suspect, are we failing to set the right standards?
My own son, now six, could browse and install apps intuitively on my phone before he could read. He regularly uses a computer unaided to play educational games and do his maths homework and do basic browsing. He is able to dextrously handle and successfully operate all the electronic equipment I own, often with incredibly creative results (I’m thinking of my digital SLR and my Flip camera in particular). On the other hand, he is only just started learning to write in joined up letters.
He has also recently learnt to cycle at a local beauty spot. Learning to use all the tools he will need to live a fulfilling life does not and should not stop him from playing outdoors and learning to be sociable offline as well as online. Believing otherwise is just a load of tosh. Our standards must change.
Although I can’t help but feel this nomination is wholly undeserved, especially given the quality and achievements of the other nominees, it is nevertheless a recognition that is gratefully received. I am just delighted to have received the nomination.
The ceremony will take place in London on Monday 10th January and, if you want to have your say as to who wins what, remember that you can vote for your favourite nomination in all the categories.
This video, above, gives you a good idea of the philosophy behind Learning Without Frontiers and, most importantly, a fantastic opportunity to be inspired by some of the most exciting thinking from 2010. A fantastic way to end this year and look forward to an innovative and happy 2011.
Totalitarianism is a ruling system where a single political person, faction, or class, recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life. Totalitarianism is generally characterized by the coincidence of authoritarianism (where ordinary individuals have less significant share in state decision-making) and ideology (a pervasive scheme of values promulgated by institutional means to direct most if not all aspects of public and private life). Source: Wikipedia.
I am not talking about a former Soviet republic. I’m referring to the way most schools are run in this country.
Earlier this term a small group of Year 13 students – born in 1993/1994 (Yahoo was born in 1995, Google in 1996, Facebook in 2004 and Youtube in 2005) – asked me if I could order Spanish newspapers so that they could have authentic materials to read in Spanish.
They were asking for actual printed newspapers to be brought in daily from Spain.
Since access to Spanish dailies is somewhat limited in Nottingham, and given that all these pupils had high end mobile devices with 3G and Wi-Fi and access to high speed broadband services both at school and at home, I felt at a loss having to remind them that they could easily access authentic Spanish materials off the internet anytime, anywhere.
“But Sir, when you’re on the internet it’s difficult to concentrate, what with Facebook, BBC sports… I’d much rather read the actual paper” came the reply.
I was recently reminded how useful smartphones actually are when my family and I became stranded on the corner of Marylebone Road with Gloucester Place after our car broke down. Not a very good start to our short holiday break in London.
From live maps detailing the position of the roadside assistance van relative to mine to apps helping us to make sense of the London bus and underground network. From apps which helped us find and book train tickets for the car-less return trip to the brilliant Google Maps app.
These apps have always been useful. But you really become aware of just how incredibly useful they are when you’re broken down in a strange city with a one- and a five-year-old.