Friday, October 31, 2008

Work based training and plagiarism

Universities review plagiarism policies to catch Facebook cheats | Education | "Law students were the most likely to plagiarise, with 62% saying they had broken university rules."
Some pretty bad reports about the state of plagiarism in HE coming out at the moment... but... you can't help but give a wry smile at the fact that law students are the most likely to cheat. Who says degrees aren't vocational? :o))

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Learning outcomes and random musings...

I’m sure I’m doing it wrong - elearnspace: "Most educators have been told, during the completion of their degrees, that learning starts with objectives or outcomes. Then, often relying on a Bloom’s Taxonomy verb list, those outcomes are translated into activities and ultimately assessment. It’s an ok model, I guess. I just don’t like it. I have yet to find research that states that learning outcomes contribute to more effective learning (if you know of research on the subject, please let me know). I’m not advocating for disorganized approaches to teaching and learning. Some organization is obviously required. But we can organize with out wearing and educational theory straight jacket. As Dean Shareski states in I’m sure I’m doing it wrong: “Simple. Meaningful. Necessary. Education has become very good at making the simple very complex. That just seems wrong to me.”"
Interesting comment on Bloom's Taxonomy on the elearnspace blog... and... I have to agree with that sense of disquiet which is mentioned. Here's my main issue with the whole constructive alignment (Biggs, 1999) deal... learning outcomes aligned to assessment and activities = successful learning. A + B = C. How simple is that? Great recipe... right? They will learn what you want them to learn, you get inside their heads with the use of a cunning formula. Nice little box to put everything in too. However. What about when A + B = Z? What happens when they don't learn what you expected? What about A + B = C + D, transforms onwards to E... What about you say A + B = C and the student hears Z + S = H?

Learning outcomes are at once amazingly woolly and yet also strangely restrictive. The best you can do is hope that they learn what you intend, and that they enjoy the experience along the way. I've seen learning outcomes stated for various things I've studied. I've worked on courses where I'm meant to comment on how students are doing in relation to prescribed outcomes... but, y'know... I still don't find them massively helpful. Their explicit statement has never ever deepened my learning. I might find them useful to trot out to someone when asked what I've learned on a particular course... but... I don't believe that what was intended for me to learn was all I actually learned. Or that I didn't find ways of subverting the system to turn learning into something personally meaningful.

Hmmmm... I don't know. I think I may be in the 'sure I'm doing it wrong' category too because I really don't like learning outcomes either. I think they smack of something Isaac Asimov once said:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'
Learning. Deep, real, beautifully engaging learning is what makes you mull over an idea in your head in the wee small hours. Which catches you off-guard when you're meant to be doing something else. When ideas divert you from a safe path into exploring something new. It's what makes you write a blog post on something you've been thinking about for a while when you're laid up in bed feeling grotty (holds hand aloft on that one!)

It's really not A + B = C. Learning outcomes might give direction, constructive alignment some superficial achievement of a goal... but they're aiming for Eureka, not 'that's funny'. 'That's funny', however, is the place where emergent, unintended outcomes live and are where creative thinking and deep learning are really at.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Less clever = lazy judgements

Brightest pupils less able than 30 years ago, research shows | Education | The Guardian: "The brightest teenagers were far less clever than a generation ago, while their classmates of average intelligence are more able than they used to be, the research concluded. It found significant improvements in the average performance of pupils."

Hmmmm... think this is going to go in my 'hate this type of 'research' pile. "far less clever" - don't you love that kind of headline-fodder? I think there are significant issues with the whole teaching-to-the-test ethos of the education system in the UK, but I don't believe that it makes children 'less clever'. You don't give pupils the skills to think deeply about problems or allow them to think outside very constrained curriculum-ized boxes and that's the fault of the system, not of the students. We don't encourage children or teachers to be able to enjoy learning broadly. We want boxes ticked. Standards met. We don't think about real learning terribly much. To then turn round and go 'oh, well, it's the children who aren't as clever' is lazy and part of the blame culture which isn't allowing a decent rethink of what's going on. Does someone, somewhere fundamentally think that children's brains have changed so they're not as bright??? Come off it. Empower them. Give them passion for learning. And stop worrying about petty, misinformed teaching to the test which is denying people their full potential.

There. Today's 'feeling grotty' induced ranting, done. :o)

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Wesch goodness and the changing face of education?

A Vision of Students Today (& What Teachers Must Do) | Britannica Blog: "Not surprisingly, our students struggle to find meaning and significance inside these walls. They tune out of class, and log on to Facebook."
Superb bit of writing from Michael Wesch and worth visiting the above and reading the whole thing - but the sentence I've quoted above is just so very true. Every day I go into work and walk past banks of students at their computers... and the majority of them aren't using our official sites. Aren't looking at the library's website or browsing for journals. They're looking at Facebook. Talking to their friends. Discussing. Sharing. Connecting. Oh to be able to tap into that engagement even for a short while instead of the 'this is the way I was taught and it didn't do me any harm' approach I so often hear expressed.

I was writing something about distance learning earlier today and, as with e-learning, I so wanted to dump the word in front and just talk instead about learning. Learning is learning is learning is learning. Yes, there are different things to consider with different modes of learning (but, I figure we cope with differentiating a pen from a pencil... one tool from another... so it's not that tricky to take on board!), but fundamentally what we want is for people to learn, isn't it? We want to translate learning into something rich, meaningful, powerful... unstoppable. Learning is fuzzy. It doesn't have boundaries. It shouldn't have boundaries. It shouldn't be boxed into 'explicitly stated learning outcomes' while the emergent outcomes go unacknowledged. Enough of the shoe-horning into traditional environments! How about some opening up... and really and truly open up instead of just half-heartedly nodding in its direction.

PS Read some of the comments too - some... ermmm... interesting viewpoints!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First check for signs of life before announcing death...

Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004: "Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug."
Wonder how many people have blogged about this today?

How's about just valuing each tool for what it can offer you? Love this quote:

"The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter."
Ermmm... why? Total non sequitor. "The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose" could equally be spent brewing a cuppa, phoning a friend, drawing a small smiley face. And... The time it takes to send a tweet could be spent noting down a phone number, sending a text message, firing off a one-line e-mail.

This is also worth a look:

"text-based Web sites aren't where the buzz is anymore"

Ermmm... so... ermmm... how come you're recommending Twitter? Or Flickr and Facebook where community is enhanced by images, but forged through text? Really not shaping up to be a great argument, huh?

Methinks the announcement of blogging's death is a tad premature. I have a feeling Wired magazine may first need to get to grips with what constitutes living before making announcements about a technology's death.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Twitting point?

Has Twitter reached a tipping point? :: Claudine Beaumont: "Twitter, it seems, could be on the cusp of going mainstream. If you don't know what Twitter is, allow me to explain - it's a 'microblogging' service that asks the question 'What are you doing now', and encourages users to respond in 140 characters or less.

The tech community loves Twitter. Up until now, it's mainly be used as a platform for both canvassing and sharing opinions, and for connecting to other people who might be helpful or useful to you, or who might be able to contribute in some wat [sic] to something that you're working on."

Interesting article about the potential mainstreaming of Twitter. Don't know that it is headed towards mainstream - let's face it, for the majority of people blogging, let alone microblogging, appears on the list of 'eh?' or 'not for me' methods of communicating... but its use is becoming less niche and more and more apps being developed for it mean that it's potential is starting to ramp up.

So, what makes something mainstream? I don't believe that it's the celebrity use which Claudine Beaumont identifies. I think that the type of people using it at present - the young (Andy Murray), the publicity-desperate (Britney Spears) and the techno-embracing (Stephen Fry) - are going to make anyone sit up and say 'wow, this could be relevant in my own life'. I have a feeling that it needs to find a bigger, more purposive difference than just 'celebs are using it'. What does Twitter do that other things don't? Why would someone use it in preference to other things out there?

Me, I like it because I can easily and quickly connect with loads of other people. I can get a sense of the wider community beyond my desk and get / hear opinions / share resources rapidly. It not just the tech community... it's great for the education community too. But, it's definitely go that 'opt in' feeling and people continue quite happily doing what they do without ever actually missing it at all. Just as I do when I don't have time to 'Tweet'. Maybe there isn't a tipping point for it because the adoption of Twitter just isn't like that? It's part of Anderson's long tail of communication and sits quite contentedly in its own particular niche. It's a coming together of particular groups of people when it's used in one way, a mono-directional broadcasting system for others... an evolving, morphing 'thing' which doesn't really need a tipping point on a broader scale. If it tips at all, it tips on an individual basis.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Media facing 'carnage'

Saw this:
Media facing 'carnage', warns Guardian News & Media's Emily Bell | Media | "As many as five national newspapers could fold within two years in a worst-case scenario as the media suffers unprecedented carnage, Guardian News & Media executive Emily Bell has warned."

... said without even vaguely attempting to make jokes about newspapers folding...

What a wasted opportunity... :o)))

PS Yes, yes, serious issue... but... I will read it properly once I've stopped sniggering...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abolition of Sats... when will the new beginning begin though?

Teachers' unions and opposition parties welcome abolition of Sats | Education | "He said the Tories would argue for fewer and more rigorous tests, less bureaucracy and more freedom for professionals, and a commitment to excellence for all – underpinned with a special focus on the most disadvantaged."

Okay... first of all... good news on SATS going for 14 yr olds (should go for all ages, in my opinion, but that's by the by!)... but... secondly, isn't the above little quote kinda scary??

"more rigorous tests"

Here's something which ties in with the above...

Main Entry: rig·or
Function: noun
1 a (1): harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2): the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3): severity of life : austerity b: an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
Yes... yes... more of those 'rigorous' tests, please. That's bound to help. Back to the 'good old days', huh? *rolls eyes* And while we're at it, let's give a 'special focus on the most disadvantaged' (in that vague politician-esque, unspecified kind of way which neither defines disadvantage nor explains what form that focus will take)

Tweak, tweak, tweak with a system which shoehorns kids in at a far younger age than other European countries, teaches them to pass tests... and then looks shocked when they emerge, aged 18, with a clutch of qualifications but no love of learning or depth of understanding. Wonder who's going to be brave enough to do more than tweak and spout meaningless rhetoric?

Internet use 'good for the brain' - no way, huh?!

BBC NEWS | Health | Internet use 'good for the brain': "Professor Smith said: 'A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older.'"

Am nearly ready to file this under my pile of 'obvious research which is common sense tarted up and given funding'... but... well... y'know... guess it's mildly interesting. However, don't you just love the last bit of the quote above. People in "can continue to learn as we grow older" shocker!!! Headline making stuff, huh?


Guess everyone's bored of the financial crisis and is digging around in the desperate pile for variety.

This blog post courtesy of 'cynics 'r' me' :o)

Thursday, October 9, 2008


BBC NEWS | Magazine | The man who reads dictionaries: "Ammon Shea spent a year reading the Oxford English Dictionary - 20 volumes, 21,730 pages and 59 million words - and he rates poring over a dictionary as enriching as reading a novel. Why?

The prospect of talking to a man who reads dictionaries for fun prompts a sudden vocabulary-insecurity complex and a fear that every word he utters might sound like a painful medical condition."

Nice little article... and... I'm about to out (or promulgate *grin*) myself as... *whisper* someone who also loves reading dictionaries. I LOVE them! They're full of little gems and words which describe things you didn't even know you didn't know. And the feel of a new word on your tongue as your pronounce it for the first time. Love that too! Think I may be delving ever deeper into the vat of nerdiness, day by day. :o)

Anyway - an anti-dote to the 'no-one learns appreciates language anymore' stuff. Next time you're after a book to read... flip through a dictionary. There's loads of yummy goodness tucked away there.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Corporal punishment and the way backward...

Corporal punishment seems to have made its way back into the news again this week:
Ariane Sherine: Three compelling reasons why one in five teachers are wrong to call for the return of corporal punishment | Comment is free | "But according to a poll in today's Times Educational Supplement, over 20% wish they could: more than one in five teachers support 'the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases'. No doubt desperately trying to quieten a mob full of screaming, brawling juveniles, while thinking back wistfully to the days when short-trousered pupils listened to their teacher in orderly and thoughtful silence, they've decided that physically hurting disruptive children is the way forward."

Guess this is a handy way to reveal at least 20% of the teaching profession who are 'not suitable for teaching'. First off - lay a hand on either of my children and I will sue you (yes, I'm one of *those* parents) and secondly... remove yourselves from the 1930s and get a check on reality. As the author of this article in The Guardian says - if these kids are unruly and quite possibly experiencing violence at home - to no positive effect - why on earth would hitting them in their only 'safe' space bring anything other than cold, superficial comfort to a teacher who hasn't got better teaching strategies up their sleeve?

I get so tired of this well-worn 'belief' that children are somehow worse than they ever were before. One of the favourite quotes I've read recently about this subject is the following:

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"
(Source: The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn 2007)

You know when that was originally said? Twenty-seven hundred years ago by the Greek poet Hesiod.

Hitting them doesn't work. Being a better teacher. Having better people skills. Better and more creative strategies for working with children. Being given flexibility to adapt and modify the curriculum as appropriate. Wouldn't they be preferable options? Oh, no... let's hit them. And make them wear stupid clip-on ties because that's tremendously effective too.

Children of whatever age are brilliant. They are filled with amazing potential. Tap into it and you'll discover what they can really do. Hit them because you failed - get another job. Please.
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