Tomorrow’s bloggers

Screenshot of the blogging system WordPress.
Image via Wikipedia

I have been asked to go into a local secondary school tomorrow and talk about blogging.

I decided that I would try and show the students what blogging was all about by actually writing a blog entry. So here goes…

By blogging you will be able to communicate with people of like mind and interest… my blog has allowed me to be in contact with many educators like myself who share a passion for learning and for making schools better places than they are now.

By blogging you will be able to express yourself to an audience. This blog post may not be read by a huge number of people but it will be read and maybe even commented upon. The comments are great (so far I have received 161 comments in the posts I have written, some of them complimentary, some of them critical but all of them showing that what I write is read and that it has an impact upon someone else’s thinking).

By blogging you will create a record for others to see (and for you to reflect on) about your thoughts, emotions, ideas, concerns. It will show you what real writing is all about and it is not in becoming a published author of a bestselling book… it is about communication… pure and simple.

My advice to you is:

Blog because you want to

Choose your own subject

Connect with others who think the same way as you do

Enjoy the thrill of having produced something that someone else will want to read and who isn’t just a teacher giving you some mechanical exercise that means nothing to you.

Give it a go… you may find it hard at first but it is something that you will improve on and feel pride in producing. Write about cars or space or elephants in Malawi whatever… research the net… find photographs, videos and maybe some other blogger’s writing or a newspaper or magazine article.

Most importantly… ENJOY…… it is something that can give you a great buzz and in many ways can change your life.

Richard Byrne : Getting up to date on new technology for teachers

Richard  Byrne has produced an excellent Issuu presentation called “How To Do 11 Techy Things in the New School Year” . If you know of anybody who wants to get to grips with this “new technology” in education thing, then this is a must read.

His blog, Free Technology For Teachers  is an excellent read and highly recommended. If you want to subscribe to his site via RSS Feeds then go to this link.

To get an idea about Richard’s influence with teachers see the following video:

Think For Yourself


This Beatles song says it all…

“Do what you want to do…..

Go where you want to go…

Think for yourself because I won’t be there with you”

It came to mind today as I was working with a young student on problem solving in maths. She got to a particularly sticky problem that involved some careful thinking. She struggled a bit to get to grips with the ideas and then, exasperated, looked at me and said “You tell me what to do… you know the answer.”

“I won’t be there when you have a test or have to apply your ideas for yourself,” I said.

It made me think of the need we have for our students to think for themselves.It is essential for their future and for the future of all of us. We want the youth of this world to run our planet when we are old or gone. They can’t get by saying “you do it for me”. They need to think for themselves.


The miseducation of Carl Sagan

The video above is a reading from Carl Sagan‘s 1995 book “The Demon Haunted World“. It is the part of the book where he reflects on his education and his early interest in astronomy in particular and science in general.

Sagan is scathing about his education. He could not understand why he was taught things which were stated as facts but which were not explained. He mentions long division that was taught as a method with no explanation as to why things had to happen as they did.

His escape as a child was into science fiction and science fact books. The library became a place where he could allow his boundless imagination and interests.

It reminded me so much of the library where I would go as a child. This was not school where you were given a strict diet of information and not allowed to ask questions. Here you could explore questions in your own way, allow yourself to wander around the many shelves full of books covering so many areas of life.

It was only when Sagan went to the University of Chicago that he was able to really explore ideas and ask questions and meet minds that were open to discussion and debate. It was here, as he explains in the book, that he was able to “fill in the many gaps in my education”.

Sagan was a very bright child who was able to use school to his advantage whilst realising that he gained little or nothing from it. How many children of his generation and indeed of generations before and beyond were not so lucky? These children were expected to sit and be taught the facts like empty vessels that needed to be filled. There was no wonder, no excitement, no space to dream.

What might Dr. Sagan make of our current educational debate?.. of a return to a form of schooling that he hated and which did not allow real learning to take place? Of an obsession with results which means tests of facts and facts alone?

The title of his book was perhaps very apt….. “the Demon Haunted World”.

Freda’s return

I was sent an e-mail today from The National Schools Partnership. This is an organisation that has developed a number of free resources for schools.

I have received regular e-mails about their resources and occasionally have passed these on to schools. Today though I decided to investigate the resources in greater depth.

Searching down the list of resources I found one that caught my eye…. it  was   “The Holocaust Explained”.  This leads to a series of excellent survivor’s testimony and interviews.

The one that I found fascinating was “Freda revisits Auschwitz”. This was actually part of a CBBC series called “Joel’s Journey” where Joel DeFries, the then presenter of Blue Peter, retraced his Jewish roots.

This is the section of the programme where Joel went to see Auschwitz to try and understand the immensity of the holocaust. He took with him Freda, a survivor from the camp. Freda explains with great clarity her memories 64 years after, of life and death in Auschwitz. The moment that got to me was her statement that she arrived at the camp and went with her mother, father and brother towards the notorious figure Doctor Mengele. He told the guards which direction each person had to take….. hers was to life (although she could not know that at the time), her mother, father and brother’s was to death.

Freda does not cry throughout the film. It is a brave, powerful video that would add so much, along with the other films and material on this excellent resource for those studying and trying to understand the terrible immensity of the concentration camps. An excellent  resource for schools.


When perfection is achieved

The fight was worth it. The Educational Fixer leant back and admired the sheet of paper in his hand. The paper stated that every school in the land was now perfect. The students in every school were all A students and had achieved previously unimaginable results in their tests.

It had not been easy. There were fights with unions, mass sacking of teachers, debates on the mass media and they needed a bit of help from some friends in high places. He was looking forward to his starring role in the new documentary film “No More Need For Superman”.

There was though a small problem. There had been rumblings from industry and commerce. The products of the schools were like robots, they could give you an answer but not formulate a question. They could write a report about what was but not dream up what might yet be.

There were reports that China had changed from an intensive test system because it produced robots who could mend and make but only to specifications developed elsewhere. They considered the need for creativity important whilst the fixer had seen creativity literally squeezed out of the system.

There was little music in the schools, there was little joy, there was no spontaneity and dreams were not allowed inside the gates. The new teachers were efficient at getting results but could not (or would not) take any further steps.

The fixer stared at his paper again and considered his victory. He had produced a school system that was as good as it could be… why was the rest of the world not beating a path to his door? Why were they looking eastwards? Why did his son never sing?

Google Doodles

On Thursday, my wife was on her laptop when I heard the strumming of a guitar. I asked her where the sound was coming from and she said that it was from the playable Les Paul Google Doodle

I have seen these wonderful “Doodles” on many occasions and this latest one was such an innovative idea, I just had to get it up on my own netbook and strum along! I noticed that there was also a recording device so I could explore some ideas and then record them.

This was yet another example of Google’s ability to “think differently”. A while back I wrote a post about how it might be if Google were run like a school (see “Google School”). The sheer innovation, ability to explore ideas in a creative manner and then share the ideas for all the world to see (it must be a large proportion of it since it’s Google!) is something I feel that schools would benefit greatly  from. Instead of Google being run like a school… maybe schools should be run like Google!

The photograph below is one of the winners of the “Doodle4 Google” competitions, where schoolchildren can let their imaginations flow and design and create a Google Doodle that will appear for one day and be seen by literally tens of millions of people. What a great idea and what a great opportunity.To get an idea about this process please see the video below:

Google have their critics but I am constantly amazed at the free online materials that they have available and the way that they are always looking to innovate, design, create and think outside the box…. keep it coming please.