My Top Posts

This is a special post for me… my 300th. So I thought I would take my most popular posts and list them.

It seems like only yesterday that I took the first tentative steps to becoming a blogger…. now here I am at number 300!! Have they all been great?. no. Would I change them?.. probably yes.. all of them in some way. But the great thing about blogging is that it gives you a chance to express yourself, to make your views known….. to put yourself  out there.

I think there are some posts that I am very proud of that never quite got a following and maybe died in the ether… and then there are the ones that made a few waves… hardly viral but still a small following.

So here they are, my top posts..

I would like to take the opportunity here and now at my landmark 300th post to saya big thank you to all the people who have taken the time and trouble to read what I write. Here’s to the next 100 posts!


Finding the dot

My blog is one of thousands and thousands out there in the internet ether. To  me it is wonderfully important. I spend so much time and effort in writing my blogs, saving items that I know will be worthwhile for future posts and commenting on books I have read, videos  I have seen and people who I admire.

I am aware that my blog is just a dot in the blogosphere. That means it is important that there is a means to make sure that my posts are picked up on the radar of blog readers out there who are, like me, constantly scanning the sphere for discoveries of a site, once unknown that contains something really worthwhile.

Every now and again I find a real gem. I make sure that I follow the site immediately because, once lost in the “noise” of the blogosphere it may never be found again. I use Twitter links as a way of finding some really good sites and from time to time there are lists that come out which point me to some excellent material.

The other way that I get links to sites is through the inevitable Google search. This major search engine is the reason why I receive so much of the traffic on my own site. Recently I have had a number of hits for my site for some of my older posts (my Poem about Haiti has continued to have a slow but steady following).

Having a WordPress blog ( just another one) I get some really good data on the number of hits my site gets and also what searches brought people to my blog. Yesterday was quite a good day for me… my latest post (Google School) was popular… but there were a number of hits from searches on Google. There were also a number of links used from my posts.

Search Views
sarah kay b poem 2
are kids getting stupid becasue of technology? 2
handwriting key to learning 2
short haitian poems 2
should school allow mobile phones 1
reasons phones should be used in class 1
sarah kay spoken poetry 1
inspiritational poems for haiti 1
sarah kay spoken word 1
sarah kay b words 1
salman khan video 1
greg mortenson idea for pennies for peace 1
salman khanvideo 1
problems with gaokao 1
the world is open curtis bonk 1
speech on making a positive contribution 1
top 15 ted talks 1
why they should allow cell phone in school 1
david crystal twitter 1
certificate of participation nasa 1
the last lecture rhetorical 1
how to learn because 1
reasons allow cell phones in school 1
nyanzasun odenyo review education 1
Total views referred by search engines 28

I find the data fascinating in that it shows just how much we rely on Google and then links within blogs as a source of information. Helping us find a dot, hopefully a useful one, in the universe.

Google School

Google Logo officially released on May 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine if Google were run along the same lines as our schools.

(1) When the employees arrived every morning they would go into a room with other employees born in the same year.

(2) They would have to register that they were there and then endure some period of sitting in silence or lounging around until the first bell rang.

(3) They’d then go into the room that their timetable had assigned them

(4) They might work in pairs, they might work in groups but often it would be on their own… hardly a computer in site and no mobile phones…THEY ARE BANNED!

(5) At the end of a set period of time they would hear the bell again and wander off down long crowded corridors to their next room and then the process would begin again.

(6) Break times would be set and timed and no rowdy play!

(7) Put your hand up and take a pass if you want to go to the toilet (bathroom)

(8) Lunchtime is a time for rowdy play, long lines for insufficiently interesting or nutritional meals and trying to get yourself heard in the canteen/kitchen/hall… or you can always bring a small lunchbox and eat your sandwiches and chocolate bars (carrots are preferred).

(9) The afternoon goes on forever and there are more rooms and bells… maybe you have no lunch and go to homework clubs and “extra-curricular” events (how to develop a new App/ datasets of the future).

(10) The day ends and you wander home and know that the next day will probably (inevitably) be just like the last one.

Now I know that this is all a bit far fetched… but do we ever really think that a cutting-edge company like Google could run like we run our schools?  Surely we need their  ideas of collaboration, creativity and empowerment of employees to happen in the schools where the next generation of Google/Apple/Microsoft employees will come from.

How about another thought… what if our schools were run like Google?



Ignoring the box

I looked up the word “equalisation”online and got the following definitions:

human action, human activity, act, deed – something that people do or cause to happen
balancing, reconciliation – getting two things to correspond; “the reconciliation of his checkbook and the bank statement”
equating, equation – the act of regarding as equal
Apart from the differences between our British “S” and the American “Z” the actual term is a useful one to use when you consider the way that the web allows us a large degree of equality from many of the things that, face-to-face or on paper  limits us, selects us, catalogues us, compartmentalises us……. puts us into convenient boxes.
As you read this post you are reading for the meaning of the text blissfully unaware (unless you know me personally or have looked up details about me) of my age, sexual orientation, race and creed.
On the web these important aspects of why I am me become all but invisible. This can certainly be considered as a positive thing.  I was thinking the other day of something I was told about some students who had been labelled as underachieving. They were put into categories which said “slow”, “difficult”, “bad background” and “lazy”. The Principal of their school had a great idea, he would ask that all essays and project work would be handed in invisibly… no name just their work which was being looked at, as you are looking at this piece of work by your invisible writer.
The results were very interesting. Many of the labelled children were looked at as having useful things to say and good ways to say them. The teachers were looking at content not who wrote it and what they believed about the ability of the student.
Whenever a child succeeds “against the odds” we look on it as something of a minor miracle but actually it is often because someone has noticed their ability and encouraged them and not let the “boxes” get in the way. There is real potential in all children and it is up to us to help them find it and encourage that potential. It is not up to us to judge based on labels that have been created…. we need to look at the person not the box.

The Child Inside: The World of Peter H. Reynolds

I am so lucky.I have developed a wide range of valuable contacts through my PLN and also through Twitter and many of them now on Facebook.

This morning, I looked at an entry in Facebook from one of the best sources of information that I have , namely, Jackie Gerstein. I was taken to the above video and loved it.

The video led me to investigate the work of the creator/writer. This turned out to be Peter H. Reynolds. If ever there was a person who was saying just what I thought and have always thought about creativity, potential and the need to find the inner-passion and ability within yourself, then here he was.

Peter is very much a polymath, a writer, illustrator, I.T. specialist and the founder of an amazing film company called Fablevision.

The video alone would have been a worthwhile discovery on a grey and cold Monday morning before I went to work. But the discovery of the mind and works of Peter H. Reynolds can only be called a fantastic and inspiring start to the week. Let’s hope my other links are as good!

Phiona Mutesi: Finding your passion

I am, as followers of this blog will know, a great fan of Sir Ken Robinson. I am always looking for stories of how people are able to discover the thing that brings out a real talent or ability from within them.

Yesterday evening I watched the new series of “So You Think You Can Dance” on BBC1. There were the usual stories that one finds from these shows of how someone went along to a dance school to accompany a friend or to meet girls and suddenly discovered that they had a real talent for dance. Their body reacted to music and they found that they could move with timing and grace that defied explanation other than they were “born to dance”.

Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a teacher, I used  visit the car mechanics department in the large secondary school that I was teaching in. I found pupils who, in my maths class were unable to sit still and found a good use of their time in discovering new and interesting ways to disrupt the lesson. Here in the motor mechanics section they were immersed in taking an engine apart. They did not scream and shout, they did not thrown anything. Their teachers would interact with them with a quiet word or two and then let them get on with it.

I realise now that many of these pupils had found something within them that made what they were doing seem worthwhile and interesting. Ut was a far cry from me trying to teach them fractions!

A few weeks ago received a Tweet that had a link to an interesting article in “The Guardian”. The article was called “Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi leads chess revolution from the slums“. The article was about a 15 year old Ugandan girl whose background was one of poverty and loss in Katwe, a vast slum “where streams of sewage crisscross the dirt paths.”

Her brother went along to some chess training that was put on by Robert Katende, a 28 year old who worked for the U.S. charity Sports Outreach Institute, who had already tried football as a means to get through to the children and teenagers of the Ugandan slums who had been forced by poverty to give up on their schooling.

Having tried football he tried Chess as a means to get through to the non-footballers. Phiona went along with her brother and it was one of those things that Sir Ken talks about so eloquently in his many talks and in his book “The Element“. I will not go into the full story as you can read this in the article… but suffice to say this young lady has got better and better at the game that she “took to” and has now had the chance to represent her country at International tournaments.

As John Saunders, who wrote the article says, after an analysis of a game that she played in a tournament:

“So much for the moves on the board, but objective analysis does not tell the whole story. Phiona’s present playing standard is that of a modest but competent club player but, placed in the context of her environmental and educational deprivation, her achievement in reaching such a level has been awe-inspiring. Lacking the huge advantages enjoyed by players of her age in countries with a tradition and easy access to educational material, her journey from unimaginable poverty to respectability ranks as truly phenomenal.”

That last sentence says it all. The finding of one’s passion can and does produce inspirational results. We owe it to ourselves as a planet to get our children to discover their passion and to have the chance to develop it…… it may well prove to be our salvation!

Video Literacy: Graham’s World

This video is directed and edited by 13 year old Graham Cooper. It deserves a much wider audience than the paltry 800 odd that it has achieved so far on YouTube.

I came across it as I looked for examples of videos about the subject of water, which is a huge major problem for all of us on this planet but which is almost untalked about except by a very few activists… and the wonderful Graham Cooper.

What is fascinating about this video, apart from its professionalism is that a digital native who has grown up in a video-based world has, by thirteen years of age, learnt so much about the media and can produce such a powerful video as this.

Graham is probably an exceptional child and obviously has a great talent, but I feel that Chris Anderson is so right in his TED Talk of last year  “How web video powers global innovation” we are moving into a new age where video literacy is as important or more so than conventional written literacy.

Our school systems need to wake up to the transformation that has happened and the need to allow children to express themselves in a media that they find more natural and are at ease with than the printed word that we bombard them with each day in their schools.

Thank you Graham for your skill, your concern and for showing us your potential… there are still many videos for you to do for us and they will get better and better.

Children learn because they want to

About a year ago I read a really good post by Carl Anderson from his Techno Constructivist Blog called “Kay on Motivation, Papert on how schools discriminate against learners, and Dede on social learning” In it was a clip from the 1995 Congressional Hearing On Technology In Education, which I would very strongly urge you to watch.

The clip had Alan Kay and Seymour Papert talking about how children really learn and what was wrong with a set curriculum. I commented on the post saying the following:

I watched both of the video clips that you posted but found this one the most significant. The thing that makes you think is that this was 1995 and in 15 years how much have we moved on? Seymour Papert’s words are profound about the fact that the education system discriminates against many children’s thinking and interests and yet we are more rigid now and testing them to death on things they do not see the point of!
I wrote yesterday about Van Meter schools where they are trying to lead change in the 21st century, but as John Carver says in the video that I used in my post, there needs to be a changed emphasis on what constitutes assessment… i.e. an electronic portfolio representing children’s skills as shown from research that relates to their interests.. I am sure that Papert would applaud this.

Carl replied:

Of the 8 clips from this hearing that I have posted so far I also find this one to be the most significant. I have long felt about schools what Papert brings to light here. I think it fell on deaf ears. I also think it would fall on deaf ears if that testimony were given today. I also found the testimony regarding curriculum vs teaching learning skills relevant []. Taken together these clips nearly summarize the bulk of the problem with our system of educating children in this and other countries. It also makes me nervous about our current push for national standards. After all, aren’t standards just another name for curriculum?

Carl has just come up with another excellent post on the subject of the curriculum his  “Open Letter To Diane Ravitch”

I can only applaud what he says because it resonates so much in my own experience. I know that I can jump around and plan a lesson full of fun and excitement (as I see it) but unless the pupil wants to learn what I have to tell him then it is to no avail. Sometime soon I shall be doing a post on a man who is largely forgotten in education and yet has had a profound influence on many people, Caleb Gattegno.

Briefly, Gattegno wrote about “awareness” which is to say, the point at which the child’s learning capacity was “switched on” and where learning became a natural process, as against the ideas that we have, had in 1995 and many are still trying to promote today…that we must have a set curriculum, where children will learn because we want them to.

No, they won’t….. they learn because they want to… just look at how quickly they pick up the workings of what is to me, somewhat complicated and convoluted games.

This post is just an attempt to bring some more people’s attention to some great posts by Carl Anderson in the hope that it might mean that in another 15 years time we won’t still be bemoaning the fact that we have not moved on in understanding how children really learn.



The 2011 Horizon Report: 6 Emergent Technologies

iPhone using the Wikitude application, demonst...

Image via Wikipedia

The New Media Consortium have come out with their latest (2011) Horizon Report on emergent key technologies. The implications for education are obvious if you watch the video.

To summarise, the key technologies are:

(1) Mobile devices (here now and in use but feared by many and banned from too many schools) but immensely powerful and useful.

(2) E-Books… these are limited at present but there is an example of an e-textbook in the video that shows the interactivity of e-books and the potential for their use. The e-textbook is the way of the future!

(3) Game Baesed Learning: this may be a couple of years in the pipeline but the potential to further skills and knowledge is there and some schools have gone down the road of introducing games in a big way already.

(4) Augmented Reality: This is also a couple of years away from mainstream use but the power and potential of A.R. is beyond dispute.. take a look and investigate it… if you don’t know about it already it will amaze you.

(5) Gesture Based Computing. This is the Wii technology brought into mainstream education. The children are already experts… it is going to take a few years but it will find a place in tomorrow’s schools.

(6) Learning Analytics. This is a fascinating use of data analysis that will eventually be able to tailor-make a programme of study for each child….. literally personalised learning. Again, the report feels that the mainstream adoption of this technology may be a few years ahead.

If you get the chance download the report. There are a number of great links to examples of these technologies and also to where the current research into them is going on.

Our legacy

Every generation inherits the problems and the possibilities from the generations that succeeded them.

I grew up in a divided Europe trying to pick itself up after the massive destruction of a World War that had seen many of our cities all but destroyed. Our legacy was an Iron Curtain across our continent, a seemingly never-ending battle between Capitalism and Communism. In the midst of this battle was the threat of atomic annihilation and the end of both our civilisations.

Because of this legacy I grew up to witness successive brutal wars. I was born at the end of the Korean War, I then witnessed the horrors of Vietnam and recently there has been Iraq and Afghanistan.

But there was also a change in economic fortunes. We seemed to get increasingly richer as the years went by. We found ourselves as the recipients of new technologies that were transforming our world. When I was a teenager the idea of a mobile phone that could take pictures, videos, text, have e-mail, be able to have hundreds of powerful applications on it, would have seemed like science fiction…. and yet here we are in the world that my generation has made.

What are we giving as our legacy to our children?

They will inherit a world where there has all but been an economic melt-down. Many of them will have to work in many types of jobs, at home or in workplaces that are very different from today’s offices and factories. They will need very different skills to the skills that we needed for the kind of jobs that we had which were not a lot different from the jobs that our parents and their parents before them had.

We bequeath them global warming, political instability, religious extremism and we will expect them to pay more for their pensions, work longer and longer for ultimately less when they retire. They may never have a paid home for themselves, they may spend a lot of their life paying back debt incurred for the ability to study at a higher level of education.

We have though, to our credit, continued to develop an incredible range of technology that has already transformed their lives (with the exception in most cases of their schools!). We have recognised that we have environmental catastrophe on our doorstep and have taken the first few tentative steps to addressing it. We are now a huge electronic village and many of the old barriers (the great divide that I grew up in) have all but disappeared.

I have noticed changes in the outward looking nature of the younger generation and the way that they live more comfortably with our many differences of race, creed and sexual orientation. In this respect we are the ones who took the first shaky steps down the road of tackling these issues… we are very much the children of Martin Luther King and we have written equalities into our laws and taught a new morality to our children in their schools.

So our legacy to our children is a mixed one,as was our father’s and grandparent’s legacy to us. We must always remember that any generation does not own the world but are merely caretakers, custodians, who are charged to do their best with it, based on a legacy from their past and hand it on to the their children and their children’s children.

It is strange but true that every generation seems to say the same..we hope you make a better job of it than we have done!




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