Apple, it seems, plans to sell you your own home movies over iTunes for just $1.99 (probably 99p in the UK):
“As soon as you record that precious footage of your daughter’s first steps, you’ll be able to buy it right back from iTunes and download it directly to your computer and video iPod.….…the videos will be presented unedited and in their original form, save for a small Apple logo in the lower right-hand corner of the image to protect the company’s copyrighted materials from Internet piracy”
Who says so? The Onion, of course!
I believe them.
I purchased a Scotsman newspaper yesterday because the lead story on the front page covered the awful death of Irene Hogg, headteacher of Glendinning Terrace Primary School in Galashiels, here in the Scottish Borders. Irene, it seems, took her own life shortly after hearing a verbal report from HMIE following their recent inspection of the school. Whether the two events are related is not for me to speculate on — others will determine if there is a link, or none. I do not envy them their task.
Her Majesty’s Inspectors have a tough job, I believe. For all the esteem they seem to be held in by so many in Scottish education, they are basically foot-soldiers slogging their way from one school inspection to another, addressing the same pre-ordained set of issues in every school they visit, observing teachers and headteachers at their daily work with youngsters, analysing attainment figures, testing a broad range of stakeholder opinion on the school, and, finally, drawing up a detailed report that sets out their assessment of the workings of the school and its staff in quite minute detail, as well as a set of recommendations for improvement.
Given the importance that is conferred on the published HMI report, it is only natural that teachers and headteachers take the whole process of inspection and reporting so seriously. And not only school staff — local authorities, understandably, set much store by the perceived quality of education within their jurisdiction that can be affected so much, negatively or positively, by the general tenor of reports published over time about their schools.
And it is accepted, of course, given the system of schooling that we currently have, that the quality of education in a school should be subject to professional and considered assessment on a regular basis. The lives of many children can be affected by a badly-run school or a poorly-performing teacher within a school. The quality of schooling received by the child in a school is, rightly, the real focus of HMI inspections.
I think, generally, that this process works reasonably well, for most schools, most of the time, even if it can be a tough process for school staff to go through. But I believe too that the process, if it is likely to founder at all, is more likely to do so in relation to the management of small rural schools across the country than for any other kind of school.
Why might that be the case?
If I think about all the various jobs I have had in education and beyond over the 28 years since I started working for a living — class teacher, headteacher of a small rural primary school, depute-headteacher of a large urban primary school, headteacher of another large school, local government official, policy analyst for the Scottish Executive, project manager and Director of a large-scale national ICT project, and education business development manager in the private sector — all the really tough jobs were those that took me into the classroom either as teacher or as headteacher. Every job I have done has been rewarding in different ways, but the most rewarding (in terms of job satisfaction if not in monetary terms) were those that put me in front of children to help them learn. But they were also the toughest.
And the toughest of the lot? I was headteacher of a tiny country primary school in the old Grampian Region many years ago. I was a teaching headteacher — like Irene — and I taught for four days a week while, at the same time, running the school like every other headteacher in every other school in Scotland. Even when your school roll numbers less than thirty kids, the curriculum is the same size, the expectation of parents and the local authority are the same, the complexity of the rules and procedures you have to follow are the same, the demands of creating a vibrant learning environment are the same, and the need to ensure the continued professional development of the teaching complement is the same — and you have to do all of that whilst also teaching your own class for part of the week.
Of the two headteacher roles that I had the privilege of doing — head of the small rural school, and head of a school with around 450 pupils and a large teaching complement — running the small school was by far the harder job! Very few in Scottish education either recognise or acknowledge this basic truth. Why? Because very few that are in positions of authority in Scottish education ever experienced the nature of that role at first hand — most have held senior positions in large primary schools or in secondary schools — and most believe that job complexity for a headteacher is simply a function of size and scale. It is not.
Even experienced professionals in Scottish education will speak blithely of a “2-teacher” school, or a “4-teacher school”, forgetting that even the smallest schools in the country can have many other professionals coming in and out of the school every week to deliver various discrete elements of the curriculum. As headteacher of a large school, I had a senior team of 5 or 6 good professionals to work with (depute head, assistant head — in the days before that post was abolished — and three or four senior teachers). I was able to share the load quite considerably across this team, and I did. The head of a secondary school in Scotland usually has a senior team of twenty or more to work with. As a teaching headteacher, in that small country school in beautiful Aberdeenshire, I had to carry out what was probably the loneliest management role of my whole varied career. I was sustained in that role by the quality of the teachers I had working with me, by the kindness and support I received from some local authority staff (in Aberdeenshire, of course, there were usually some senior staff who had been able to begin their management careers in small schools — not a common occurrence in most parts of the country), and by the informal support structure of the many other heads of small schools around me.
The simple fact is that when I moved away from that small school to become, first the depute head of a large primary school in Edinburgh, and then on to be head of another large school in West Lothian a couple of years later, I moved to easier jobs that paid better salaries. Of course, none of this can be simply about salary, but it should at the very least be about recognising, and acknowledging, the innate complexity of the teaching headteacher’s role, and about ensuring that teaching heads are able to enjoy rich and effective support structures, both formal and informal. Every headteacher I have ever met understands the importance of being able to share problems with other headteachers on a regular basis — that is even more crucial when you are in the lonely position of a teaching headteacher with no immediate senior staff in the school to call on for support.
And, given the topology of Scotland, with large rural hinterlands in so many parts of the country, there are many hundreds of teaching-headteachers out there who, perhaps, deserve better recognition than they currently get from a system that tends to be led by people who have no experience whatsoever of the complexity and the criticality of the role that every one of those teaching headteachers play every day of every week . It is perhaps about time that we offered that recognition and that acknowledgement.
Brilliant news on the Blackboard patent nonsense, although by no means finalised as yet. Michael Feldstein has been a true hero throughout this sorry tale!
“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”
Thomas Paine: “The Rights of Man”
“Nobody on the centre-left should be in any doubt that if the Nationalists ever came close to achieving what they want, the winners will be few and the losers will be many.”
Wendy Alexander: “Change is what we do”
Paine’s reputation as a pamphleteer is under no threat from the current leader of the Labour Party in Scotland. Wendy Alexander’s pamphlet was published to coincide with the Scottish Labour conference in Aviemore this weekend. I would predict, having worked my way through its painful prose, that it will have precisely no effect whatsoever on the electoral prospects of the Labour Party in Scotland, and it will have even less effect on the overall political dynamic in Scotland at the present time.
The problems are many, and the solution, it seems, is to play ostrich and to stick our necks deep down in holes in the sand, hoping that the good times will return anew when the Scottish people eventually recognise the SNP government for the bunch of charlatans that it so obviously is. Not much of a policy.
As someone who has been a lifelong supporter and member of the Labour Party, the current slough into which the party panjandrums have cast themselves and the party as a whole is painful indeed. I am no fan of the clamjamfrie of zenophobes, naÃ¯fs and the occasional political sophisticate that is the SNP, but every Labour Party member I have spoken to in recent months, and that includes many current activists, are clear that Alex Salmond is doing a very good job indeed. The main opposition, on the other hand, is most decidely not doing a good job.
One reason for this, I believe, is that the heads-in-the-sand attitude has lumbered the party in Parliament with various leftover dregs from precisely the same group of people who put the Scottish Labour Party where it is in the first place, in the doldrums, and the SNP in government. A shift from Jack McConnell to Wendy Alexander was no shift at all, merely a change of wallpaper from one dated design to another. Despite the pamphlet’s title, change is most certainly not what these people do. All they really do is whatever bidding comes their way from the ‘gifted politician of the centre-left’ currently gracing 10 Downing Street.
One former Labour minister, Henry McLeish, dares to express what we all know is a widely held view within the wider Scottish Labour movement — namely that we should at least contemplate the option of independence for Scotland — and he is immediately stamped upon from on high by Sam Galbraith, the former Minister of Education who managed to achieve precisely nothing for Scottish education whilst in office. These people forget that ‘home rule’ has been an honourable and abiding strand within Scottish Labour thinking since the days of the ILP.
The fundamental problem with Scottish Labour is that, while this interchangeable group of adolescent-like in-fighters were vying with each other for so many years, both before the foundation of the Parliament in 1999, and in Government until the last election, no one bothered to nurture the next generation of Labour politicians to take on the challenge of the SNP and the challenge of a world that this group is simply unable to comprehend. Their only hope in the medium term — and it could happen — is that one or two of the more eccentric nationalist MSPs within the SNP will find a way out from under the lid that Salmond and Sturgeon are sitting so tightly on at the moment and cause embarrassment to the party of government. Again, not a positive policy for change, I would suggest, for Scottish Labour.
And the pamphlet itself is a massive disappointment as an agenda for change. How can a statement of policy for the Scottish Labour Party have nothing to say about poverty, about trade unions, about workers’ rights, about unemployment (and under-employment)?
I found my way to the section on education with at least some hope, thinking that this was a subject that might be kept away from the petty party politics that dominate the rest of the document. But I was disappointed, of course.
Alexander, it seems, simply has no conception of what education in the 21st Century ought to look like. Her policy for primary education, for instance, can be summed up as ‘making sure that primary pupils are properly prepared for secondary schooling’.
“At the primary school stage, parents want to know whether their child is guaranteed a firm grasp of the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and oral communication before they go to secondary school. Lack of these basic skills is a prime cause of the disciplinary problems that blight too many of our schools. Scottish Labour must seek out ways to guarantee that all children leave primary education fully equipped for secondary school.”
Where does she get this tripe from? The sad fact is that the SNP have no more idea than Wendy does about what a relevant education for today’s young people might look like, so she has missed a chance to offer some genuinely radical thinking on a core area of government policy.
“Children learn differently and many will have a time in their school careers where they struggle with a subject or a concept. It is a time when they could do with extra support to maintain their enthusiasm and confidence. If we want all pupils to leave primary school ready for secondary education, we need to be willing to put our resources into much more individual attention for those who need it. This would take the pressure off the classroom teacher and other pupils who may be suffering when their classmates are disaffected or disengaged. Getting it right for every child through their own ways of learning and discovering their interests and strengths should increasingly be part of the school experience from the primary years.”
All I can do when I read this kind of meaningless guff is to shake my head in disbelief at the chasm between this particular politician’s view of education in Scotland and the reality that will be faced by every child currently in Scottish schools as they leave over the next few years to enter employment or to continue their education in other ways. This verbiage does not even begin to meet their needs.
I’ll leave the last word to Thomas Paine:
“A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.”
“Change is what we do” does not even manage ‘moderately good’.
|Just Look at the Eyes.…|
Apologies to Judy, Jenny and Tess for taking so long to get around to the Passion Quilt meme — I always intended doing it, and I always knew where I would find the photograph I wanted to display — I just wasn’t sure of the message I wanted to provide.
The photograph is meant to represent a whole Flickr site full of amazing and wonderful photographs from the Children At Risk Foundation (CARF), which works with street children in Brazil. Every photograph on the site opens up a different emotion, a different hope, a different dream, a different memory for each of the children and young people in the frame. I like the one above because it shows what I take to be a quiet and confident diffidence, but flick through the photographs and you will see every emotion and every hope, dream and memory that it’s possible to see on a child’s face.
For me, education is, more than anything else, about helping children to understand their fears, to hold on to their aspirations and dreams, and to find the means within them, through learning how to learn, to make their way in the world. That may seem easier to do in some settings than in others, but every child, no matter where they find themselves as they grow up, deserves the chance to do the best they can. Teachers have the awesome responsibility to nurture the positives in a child’s life without adding to the negatives, which we do every time we do anything that adds to the fears and anxieties they already bring with them to school.
And for me, it is the eyes of the children that I see mostly when I look through these photographs, and I know that something of the same range of feelings and fears and future desires can be seen in the eyes of any classroom full of children anywhere in the world — they are simply, perhaps, more obvious in the harsh settings in which the CARF photos are taken.
So, just look at the eyes!
For the thoughts of this particular young girl, click the photo and read her words.
Read about CARF in the Flickr profile, and look at their mission for change. Geoffrey J Smith, CARF’s founder, is a fellow of Ashoka: “Ashoka envisions a world where Everyone is a Changemaker: a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.”
Here are the rules:
1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to Miguel Guhlin’s original blog entry.
4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or blogroll or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
Ever wondered why the Net seems to slow down during the evening? Could be something to do with the fact that, “…10% of serious peer-to-peer file sharers.….hog around 75% of the internet’s bandwidth, making it perform significantly worse for the rest of us…” and because, “.…ISPs typically use ‘traffic shaping’ between about 5pm and 11pm, which basically slugs the net for everyone…”
Jack Schofield points to a paper by Bob Briscoe (Chief researcher at the BT Network Research Centre) entitled: Flow Rate Fairness: Dismantling a Religion, and produced for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
The paper’s abstract tells us how rivetting a read it is.….….
“Resource allocation and accountability have been major unresolved problems with the Internet ever since its inception. The reason we never resolve these issues is a broken idea of what the problem is. The applied research and standards communities are using completely unrealistic and impractical fairness criteria. The resulting mechanisms don’t even allocate the right thing and they don’t allocate it between the right entities. We explain as bluntly as we can that thinking about fairness mechanisms like TCP in terms of sharing out flow rates has no intellectual heritage from any concept of fairness in philosophy or social science, or indeed real life. Comparing flow rates should never again be used for claims of fairness in production networks. Instead, we should judge fairness mechanisms on how they share out the ‘cost’ of each user’s actions on others.”
.…but this is important stuff for all Net users!
Jack got the reference from a ZDNet post: Fixing the unfairness of TCP congestion control. Almost as interesting as Bob Briscoe’s paper itself are the dozens of comments on the ZDNet post!
How wonderful to see two great educationists that I have worked with both named in Edutopia’s ‘Global Six’ for 2008 (the outward face of the George Lucas Educational Foundation).
First, Laurie O’Donnell, Director of Learning and Technology at Learning and Teaching Scotland, has been named for leading, “…a project that many in the United States might consider a mission impossible…” — in other words, Glow. I regard Laurie as a personal friend and as a great colleague who has stuck with Glow right from its roots when we started up the Scottish Schools Digital Network project back in 2001. When you consider all the other leading-edge work that LTS is doing right now — in educational gaming, in social technologies, online communities, virtual advisory service, and so on — the Global Six Award is more than deserved.
Secondly, Clotilde Fonseca has also been named in the Global Six for 2008. It has been a unique privilege for me to be able to meet with Clotilde and her colleagues in the Fundación Omar Dengo (FOD) in San JosÃ©, Costa Rica, on more than one occasion in the past year. A highlight of the past year for me was being invited to speak at a conference at FOD just a few months ago — I knew I was amongst friends the moment I heard the first mention of Paulo Freire, a name that came up more than once during the two days. Clotilde is a lovely person with a ferocious intellect, and the work that FOD does carries her influence far beyond the borders of Costa Rica itself, to other parts of the Central and South America, and even as far as Macedonia, where I encountered mention of her advisory role while working there too.
Well done, Clotilde and Laurie! Both of you, I know, will extend the glow (sorry!) of your success to the brilliant teams you have around you, but the awards are deserved for your mutual ability to create those high-performing teams in the first place.
Maybe it’s time that Scotland and Costa Rica came together in some way to develop the great educational thinking and development work that is going on in both countries?
Nice link from Ewan — Intel have found a way to stretch a wi-fi signal some 60 miles. They have already tested the technology in India, Panama, Vietnam, and South Africa. The abiity to connect sparsely populated rural areas with nearby urban areas could have important implications for parts of the world that would otherwise be difficult to bring into the connected ‘fold’.
And, at around 6.5mb throughput, the system is good enough to support video conferencing and telemedicine.
I’ve never been a big fan of home-schooling — too many parents playing out their own neuroses and past social and psychological histories on their kids for my liking (although I guess that could define a significant chunk of parenthood generally). But one thing that home-schooling parents have in their favour is that they are, at least, making a decision about the education of their children and not merely leaving it to the default position offered to them by the state or by the schools ‘market’. As such, they are thinking, whether logically, ideologically or wholly irrationally, about the benefits and disadvantages of any one kind of education over any other.
Stephen Downes recently stepped into the debate [original comment — follow-up video — further comment] by stating that: “…it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it.”
Despite the criticism that Stephen received from some American home-schoolers, his basic statement is difficult to disagree with. If you don’t like, for whatever reason, the kind of education your child is likely to receive in the local state primary or secondary school, but you then choose to place your child in the hands of someone who is incapable of providing a good education (and that person may well be yourself), it is hard not to see that as a form of abuse.
What, then, to make of the travesty of education to which the poor — home-schooled! — kids in the video below are subjected?
As PZ Myers, Associate Professor of Biology at Minnesota, Morris, writes in his blog, Pharyngula:
“Aside from the general pattern of lies from the tour guides, two things jumped out at me.….….The really awful pedagogy. Over and over again, the creationist says some stock phrase and then pauses, waiting for his kids to fill in the missing word. This is simply demanding rote learning. Similarly, he leads the kids in asking a good question â€” “how do you know?” â€” while training them to ignore any answers. Right there on the wall is a description of radiometric dating methods, for instance, and they turn their back on it.
Then there is the twisted logic. T. rex has big sharp teeth; they know, though, that he was a vegetarian, because “if this creature was designed to eat meat from the very start, what would he have to do until Adam and Eve sinned, and death entered the world? What would he have to do? Fast and pray for the Fall.” Oh, and of course, he then says, “Is that likely? Everyone look at me and say…
This is child abuse. Those kids are getting their heads stuffed with ignorance.”
So, in 8 minutes of video, a perfect example of what Stephen was writing about.