Friday, 22 February 2013

Friday Reflection!

I've seen this before!

Twitter and the real world!

also on and twitter: @HOLC1

Half-term week in Suffolk and Essex.  Little call on my time from Cambridgeshire so have been working on the Haverhill Online Learning Community.  Have been confident enough in the content and where we are going to start to use the twitter account!  

Twitter does require a bit of effort as I have found over the years that I have had personal twitter accounts.  Finding people to follow is not a problem.  Getting people to follow and continue to follow is the challenge.  Choosing who you follow back when they have followed you is also a judgement call.  Have had this on Google+ Communities recently where obviously some people passionate in their interests  have invited me to some potentially dubious groups that at best conflict a little with the web presence I am trying to maintain.  Once it's out on the web, it's out or exposed so to speak!  Some of the invites are enough to scare the horses (old English saying)!

Gathering pace this week then, HOLC has tweeted a bit,  but not a lot?  In the #fridayreflection for HOLC I have described the meeting I attended yesterday organised by +Elaine Carr of Best of Haverhill at a local hotels' conference venue.  The value of meeting people such as the local mayor and other stakeholder groups will often only reveal themselves on these stages.  You cannot do it all online in a local community you have to meet face to face!  It also provides that personal connection that builds lasting local networks!  

MOOCs this week have seen Coursera become the largest online campus.  The numbers at 2.8 million are still relatively small compared to total populations of students in universities globally but it is massive grow than in just a year!  I struggle at the moment to find the time and inclination to enage with the MOOCs I have signed up for at present.  Work commitments and other interests such as HOLC are taking precedence.  The fact that I already have a Masters and I am not depending on future advancement  upon completing the course are other factors.  It will be interesting to see the measure of drop outs at the end of the first year from the people like myself who have joined out of curiosity to see how they work.  

Genuine figures of engagement of students who are using the MOOC to further their career as opposed to attending a full time residential campus course will be difficult at the measure in my opinion at the moment.  the question will be are they sustainable from a financial point of view?  Should they be sustainable from a financial point of view as a direct replacement for campus based instruction (or do I mean learning)?  Should they be considered as part of the role of providing access to universal education that Universities/Colleges have to satisfy in order to be allowed to grant degrees?

So my reflection for this week is can the MOOC stand on it's own or is it part of the blend of learning offered by Universities and Colleges for the benefit of society?

Next week getting back with the plan for spending more time on the OLC Google + Community that +Jeannie Crowley facilitates and trying to do some Python Programming on the Raspberry Pi



Thursday, 14 February 2013

Friday Reflection!

Winter's Final Blast!

A week of extremes, Monday wintry again and snow.  Thursday (today) and we have torrential rain,  flooding in places and 10C temperatures.   Daily commute for the last few weeks to Harlow over and done with.  an interesting experience from an educational point of view if not from the other side of the car windscreen as I travelled down a major M-way.

Academies are increasingly at the fore front of UK education.  They are the natural extension of Locally Managed Schools (LMS) and Grant Maintained Schools that were introduced as part of the 1988 Education Act.  This apparently formed the basis of the American Act of 2001 "No Child Left Behind".   The chief legacy of the English Act has been to remove schools as Academies from the control of the Local Authorities to a centralised funding model.  In other words the Department of Education now sets the funding level directly and stipulates what has to be taught.

In the wake of the launch of the new curriculum (as mentioned in last weeks blog) a period of change has been heralded again.  The National Curriculum for England and Wales was again a product of the 1988 Education Act.  Over the period since 1988 the complexity of the curriculum and the documentation has increased and decreased depending on the political wind blowing at the time. 

Teachers have had to wade through documentation and teaching resources with names such as National Frameworks and guidelines.   In the pursuit of standardisation that can be measured we have expended a lot of time and effort in the UK that other more "successful" OECD countries involved in PISA test have not. We do talk a lot about the UK's ability to compete in a global market based upon these tests.

In the 25 years since the introduction of the National Curriculum is it possible for us to have one defining document that states what we need to teach?  More importantly is it possible for us to come up with a measure of success that is understood with clarity in terms of Ofsted inspections?  Human cognitive processes have not evolved radically in 25 years.  The systems we are using to teach this generation compared to the last 25 years ago have changed.  

We could argue that the systems being used today are at fault when we become whimsical about a past educational success.   The comparisons being made are not like for like.  In 1988 it was only just coming into force that pupils had to stay until after their the 16+ exams (even this was muted as a title of that exam before GCSE emerged from the GCE and CSE qualifications).  Today we are talking again of pupils moving on from secondary school based education to UTC (University Technical Colleges) at the age of 14.  "School leaving age" or compulsory education and training is gradually rising to 18 in the next two years.  Having a National Curriculum to age 14 makes sense.  What happens after is still controversial in that GCSEs are being "reformed".  Whether this will lead to improvement in competence as opposed to league table positions is the big question.  We need to have more of a pass or fail test of competence in key skills such as Maths and English for the majority of pupils.  The academic requirements of A, B grades for college entry are a different arguement possibly from a certification of competence in skills that can be used in the workplace.  Should we even be considering that a measure at age 16 should dictate life pathways? 

As you have probably gathered from this blog I am having difficulty understanding which way the UK Education is going.   The key question is  if the current stirring of the educational cauldron will achieve the goal of providing UK's (or those in England and Wales) young adults and therefore future decision makers with the skills to make informed choices?  Or are we again becoming embroiled with how complex can we make the dream machine?  Or do we need to go back and sit under a tree and just listen and converse?  Did it work for the Ancient Greeks?  We do not know as they were not PISA tested against other countries, but we do know that their legacy of literature is still used.  Will we say that about the 1988 Education Act in a similar vein of contemplation?


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Friday Reflection!

UK Education changes!

+Philip Spalding

A major week for educational announcements!  The Ebacc that was is not to be (   The much needed re-establishment of confidence UK education qualifications took another twist as stakeholder groups had their input taken on board.  As usual there were claims of U-turns on policy.  This negative phrase goes back to the Mrs. Thatcher declaration the "Lady is not for turning".  Since this time reversals of thinking have become even more associated with failure rather than compromise.  We try to teach children in school is tolerance, considering the other persons point of view, weighing up evidence and making decisions based on a balanced view.

Parliament and politicians reinforce the idea that one individuals opinions are either wholly right or wholly wrong.  In a complex issue such as educational qualifications we have a lot of vested interests from subject experts to exam boards who publish their own textbooks to go with courses that wish to preserve the present system.  Understandable as they have been allowed to create the status quo.  The idea of market forces and demand moulding educational choices has faltered in the educational sphere under the influence  of league tables.  Innovative curricular are often shunned in schools as they take the safe route of following the materials that have all the information produced by a limited number of publishers and exam boards.  Selection of exam boards qualifications are often based on the perceived difficulty of the exam board.

A new curriculum was launched for State Schools.  Again the reporting on this issue shows the combative point scoring nature of British politics.  Academies can choose to write their own curriculum but with Ofsted judging against a fixed set criteria it would take a very brave new academy to risk being out of step. The system appears broken and needs fixing.  All parties should be working to a solution that will not be used just for one parliament. It needs to be allowed to run long enough to be effective in bringing about confidence in young people's skills.  The educational establishment needs to step back and be objective rather than protecting it's own position.  Pupils have an 11 year training period (two and a bit parliaments life times).  The effect of changes at year 5 will therefore not be seen for another 11 years by employers interested in recruiting a skilled workforce.  At the moment the pace of revision means that 16 year old pupils over a five year period can be sitting very different exams.  The GCSE is therefore not a very easy way to compare candidates for jobs and college places who span a range of interests. We have a conveyor belt of school, college jobs that rely on the same age group

The question has to be asked who are the GCSEs actually for, the schools or the pupils who have to enter the stage of their life.  Are they fit passports for a modern society?  Should basic qualifications in English, Maths and Sciences be sat at 16?  Why not 14? We used to test at this age.  The system was scrapped not so much because it did not give a good judgement of skills but because the system collapsed due to a marking fiasco.  With the growth of University Technical Colleges and apprenticeships the need for large Secondary schools delivering academic qualifications to the age of 16 is disappearing.  With the raising of the formal school leaving age to 17 this summer and 18 the following year makes the qualification sat at 16 as a test at school leaving age irrelevant.

The impact of e-learning has not been considered in the new curriculum other than introducing computing as a subject instead of ICT (Information Communication Technology).  As a former head of ICT (and Science first) I have always considered ICT to be a tool and not a subject.  To be simplistic presentation and communication tools such as PowerPoint and  Word should be taught and USED in English.  Spreadsheets taught and USED in Maths and Science.  Use of YouTube and social media taught and USED in Languages which to my thinking does include English (or Communication as it is now titled in some schools), for that matter we should use languages in other subjects as science as well.  Design and CAD packages used in Resistant Materials (this used to be woodwork and metal work) and design subjects.  Where computing will fit has not been stated.  In the EBacc it was to be the fourth science.   Should it be part of Maths?  Do we have the science teachers (who generally biologists in the UK) who can deliver coding in two languages, one of which is text based?  Are we going to have a Scratch and Python literate (Python is available for the Raspberry Pi) school population?   Are we going to have e-texts and BYOD (bring your own devices) for the classroom?  Can school networks cope with 950 or more Wi-Fi connected devices?  Does education have to involve all pupils being in a building at once if e-learning is embraced?

A fundamental question of education's future has been the overriding theme in the news.  My own little project of the Haverhill Online Learning Community (HOLC) has been gathering viewers locally this week with the Local History Week.  I have had a lot views of the timeline and some expression of interest, converting this into active members is again the challenge.  I have had a good meeting with the local MP, who is also Minister of Skills and can be seen pictured sitting next to Michael Gove in this article,  for advice and publicity.  Watch this space for further developments.  Next week  HOLC  is engaged in a little Urban Gardening  which will feature in the Blog   and on the Website.

I will also have to find some time to re-engage with all the Google+ Communities.  Full time teaching in Harlow for the past four weeks has been instructive on some levels for gathering pupil's opinions on use of Tablets and how they see the education they are receiving preparing them for later life.  However, there are not enough hours in the day looking forward to finishing this assignment next Thursday and working a bit closer to home! Have also to buy new devices this week, HP netbook and Kindle have all died!  Looking to go as much Linnux, Chrome and Android as possible, but will still need one windows based Laptop unfortunately.  Expensive times!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Friday reflection!

That Wow factor!

February has arrived!  The end of the month and how has 2013 been so far? Busy!  

The online learning experiences are coming thick and fast at the moment!  Almost too much as also trying to the day job!  Finding the right routine and the enthusiasm  to do the travelling is the essence and the key to succeeding in trying to leap those even minor buildings!

The Science Wow factor for the week from the net has been this from a maker site, the $5 projector .  Really simple idea great for teaching optics far more impact than traditional practicals for majority of children.  How great for awe and wonder in the phone culture!

A week of great changes for education announced in the UK with  the Ebacc causing most controversy.   In my opinion the sticking point with all this is the pre-occupation of using the word academic and non-academic to describe the educational outcomes of the different qualifications path.  The general view point is academic good, vocational bad (borrowing from George Orwell).  This may be due to the make up of the UK parliament being predominantly "middle class", although you probably cannot get more middle class in England than ex-army officers.  We do need to break the cultural link between the traditional stereotypes of "academic" and "non-academic" students being related to socio-economic groupings.  This has been more than a bit of millstone around the neck of the English education system ever since the first education act (and before) in 1870.  Universal education as opposed to mass education is still the debating point.  More recently who is paying for the education is also an issue.

Haverhill Online Learning Community (HOLC), OLC, Coursera Course and  other projects have been a little slow this week owing to the daily commitments of a drive to Harlow.  HOLC  has drawn the interest of the local MP (Member of Parliament) who is also a minister in the Department of Work.  Will have a chat with him next week one to one and see how it goes!

Have started the Cousera MOOC from Edinburgh University e-learning and digital cultures.  Have some videos to watch this morning and a hangout later today.  Will compare this to the edX  course which ton be honest was extremely time consuming as it is a full undergraduate module as if you were attending lectures etc!  Some good links to learning platforms which I will at some point share some if not all.

Full day of working own projects today including being trained online on the Blackboard LMS.  School I am working at the moment having a conference day.  All staff attending have been asked to have a twitter account up and running for collaborative interaction (how social this becomes when account "open" all the time and you can be expected to respond "out of hours" will be interesting to watch in the first few weeks) .  

Next week move onto local history with HOLC.  Have not proceeded as far as wanted to with the Telework Week but will revisit. 

So Cat at least will be happy to have me around all day at least!