Nelson Mandela has finally passed away after a long illness. The scenes from St Georges’ cathedral where Archbishop Tutu celebrated (as he usually does every Friday) the early morning Eucharist were broadcast to the world by the television crews and press photographers. In his homily, he prayed that the memorial to Madiba be not one of stone, but of every South African working to realise the dream of a just and equal society.
His stance of forgiveness and reconciliation astounded a world readying itself for retribution and bloodshed. The transformation of South Africa into a multi racial democracy has been due to his leadership. He has been the moral compass of the nation and the Archbishop Emeritus spoke of this in his homily during the service this morning.
Blessed are the peacemakers – for they shall be called the children of God.
Hamba Kahle, Madiba…
NKosi Sikelel’ iAfrica….
If, like me, you are an Apple fan who works with both Android and Windows 8 platforms as well, you often find yourself in the comparison game. Its not a good place to be. I’m a firm believer in making EdTech choices based on need (see my last blog post for more on this) and so I have no problem working across all three major mobile operating systems. I’ve worked with both Apple and Microsoft and I’m really impressed with what they both have to offer and with their commitment to education, be it through the Apple Professional Development programme or Microsoft’s Partners in learning and Excellent Educators. I’ve also done a bit or work with a fantastic Android device supplier and know that Android is catching up fast.
If I’m honest though, my iPad mini is the best piece of tech I’ve ever actually owned. For me personally, it does everything I need a mobile device to do. Thats not to say that other devices don’t have their own places or niches. There are some great Android functions and apps and Windows 8 devices have this interoperability with desktop machines that is a real advantage for those who are a bit less tech savvy than others – its the simplicity and familiarity factors coming into play.
But in education, the Apple IOS offering is still ahead of the game when it comes to apps. The killer three really set the iPad apart from the competition. BookCreator, iMovie and GarageBand are the killer three when it comes to schools. The creativity goes through the roof when kids are set free to work on these apps and its a wonderful thing to see. My good friends at Apple in the UK have introduced me to some incredible individuals and schools who are making fantastic use of these three apps.
Android and Windows 8 are pushing Apple all the way for market share in education tablet device use. To me,what they really need to work on are the killer apps. Where are the Android and Windows ‘killer’ three to take on the Apple triumvirate? get this one cracked and we could see the battle for market share really hotting up
The concept of the Flipped Classroom has really gained some traction in recent years as video on demand has become much more accessible on the internet. YouTube has become the search engine of choice for many folks, and the growing availability of tablet devices has pushed video much higher up the standard education resource list for teachers and students.
There is a great article on the Microsoft Schools blog about classroom flipping. There is also a special Flipped classroom event happening in London early next month, run by the Tablet Academy together with MediaCore and the eLearning foundation.
Its shaping up to be a great looking event and an excellent professional development opportunity too.
So do we still need teachers in this age of heutagogy? What are the necessary checks and balances, if any, to the notion of knowledge grazing? Sugata Mitra takes it to the extreme with his notion of the hole in the wall computer and self organised learning environments but is this the way education is going or is it more a case of a journey with many different potential routes and destinations? Will there even be a final destination (in the form of an exam or exams) in this age of lifelong learning where learning ‘bites’ can be rewarded with badges evidencing achievement.
Well, I believe we still do need teachers, because society is by its nature a structural paradigm and one of the structures underpinning society is this concept of ‘getting an education’. We rightly value education in present day society just as much as we ever did. It is seen as the way out of poverty in the developing world, it is valued as a prize to be achieved. Ask most people how they obtain a better job or status in society and they’ll tell you that doing well at school is possibly the biggest single factor leading to such an elevation in status. But is it still school that can deliver this? Two particular current authors of books about education certainly doubt this. Guy Claxton asks the question, what’s the point of school? And Clayten Christensen posits the disruptive technology paradigm, so might the more self directed heutagogical alternative to traditional schooling be a sort of ‘disruptive technology’ to traditional schooling?
The glue which might stick all of this together for me is formative assessment. One of the biggest influences on teachers of my generation was Dylan William and Paul Black’s work on formative assessment and the concept of Assessment for Learning, because it reminds us what great teachers can achieve, not by transmitting knowledge (of which they are not even the gatekeepers anymore) or by drilling facts into memory, or even to its most radical extent, pointing or signposting the way to set ‘versions’ of knowledge, but by directing the learner towards a path of self fulfilment and lifelong continuous achievement.
Society does need teachers and it perhaps needs to realign the concept of education to better fit an evolving understanding of the value of learning as an adjunct to development rather than the be all and end all. The days of passing exams to get through stages in education are probably coming to an end, at least in compulsory schooling. But what, if anything, do we replace them with?
Pasi Sahlberg, in his book, Finnish Lessons, might just point the way. In his re telling of the story behind the success of the Finnish education system in recent years, he makes a number of important points, but most of them can be traced back to societal shift. This, when added to a realignment of the national structures governing education has driven forward an agenda of huge improvement in the education (measured, it has to be said by testing achievement in a way which is most un-Finnish: the standardised test). Trusting teachers to assess rather than transmit knowledge has been a big driving force behind this change. I saw this when I visited the country some years back, a focus on continuous formative assessment forming the basis of almost every interaction between teacher and student. The professional status of the teacher in their society is high. There is much societal capital in being a teacher. It automatically conjures up the image of a highly educated child centred person in the mind of most Finns. It is something to aspire to being in the same way that being a doctor or lawyer does. The Finnish teacher education programme is built on the twin pillars of high academic achievement (masters level degree followed by excellent teacher training) and career long CPD
But it’s rather more than just having excellent qualifications and top notch training. The system is free from external ‘brakes’ to slow down learning. Such things as external inspection and examinations are a thing of the past, replaced by trust and a willingness to keep faith with this excellent foundation of good people well educated and trained for their job. . The Finns have built in agency to their system as well as capacity, in that it is continually generating improvement due to the structures in place and the recognition of its importance to the success of their country in the world.
Assessment is why we need teachers. Not examinations, or even summative assessment, but assessment for learning. We need assessment to define the route map which can be followed so that kids can direct their learning toward their goals in life. We need teachers to question them on what it is they have learned, and how well they understand it directing them back and forth through their knowledge grazing journey. Teachers are needed to help them self assess their progress, and to help them reorient where necessary, not to tell them what to learn but to show them where to go on their journey through knowledge acquisition, and more importantly, skills acquisition.
It is generally recognised that there does need to be a curriculum of sorts I believe. Children do need to be literate and numerate and more than this, to be able to recognise that learning does need to have a direction, or set if goals if it is to lead to college, training, jobs or university based careers and professions. So there is still a place for school but not perhaps as we know it, for the Finnish lesson has been the disruptive paradigm pushing a change agenda.
Formative assessment might be the disruptive paradigm to traditional instructional models of schooling, and so this traditional model of schooling should be replaced by something more akin to real education. Badges are the disruptive paradigm to examination and summative assessment.
Good formative assessment signposts the way towards valuable achievement and attainment. Good teachers recognise that this is their skill-set and their evolving role. They can direct knowledge grazing toward fresh pastures without reining it in and keeping it in exhausted fields. This type of teaching encourages skills acquisition rather than knowledge transfer which is a redundant concept in this Information Age. Those pictures of Aristotle standing holding forth to a group of enraptured students are not what school is about. Perhaps having Aristotle sitting amongst the students subtly influencing the direction of their discussions is more apt if we are to transpose the image onto a more modern day vista.
Leading from the middle perhaps?
Formed by the highly respected and influential educational technologist Professor Steve Molyneux, Tablet Academy has established itself as one of the UK’s leading training providers for mobile device use. Steve is a well known and respected independent consultant in the use of learning technologies to support education and training both across the UK and internationally. I’ve been doing some initial groundwork with Steve in Scotland and I’m pleased to say that Tablet Academy Scotland is now up and running, headed up by new CEO, the wonderful and equally well respected Pam Currie.
It is certainly an interesting and busy time for Tablet Academy as the business grows around the world. Tablet Academy UK is growing in Europe, and also Tablet Academy Africa is already up and running across Africa and the Middle East. This growth is in no small part due to the product on offer; tablet training and consultancy across all the three main operating systems. Apart from a well established portfolio of completely flexible and client-centred iPad training courses (ideal for organisations wishing to have their training completely personalised to suit their own specific needs) Tablet Academy has Apple Distinguished Educators who can deliver the full catalogue of Apple professional Development courses. This is significant for those taking advantage of the training on offer through the Scottish Government Tablet procurement Framework after purchasing iPads.
You can contact Tablet Academy here for some great deals on all of these course portfolios not available elsewhere.
Tablet Academy was also the first training consultancy to design courses for those education organisations choosing devices running Windows 8. Full details of these courses can be found here. Included is an introduction to using Office 365 which might be of particular interest in Scotland where the national schools intranet has started moving across to its new home based in office 365 and SharePoint. I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing training guides for Office 365 in Education and with huge growth worldwide in its use in schools, colleges and universities, I can certainly see Windows 8 tablets challenging the iPad for market sector dominance in many countries around the world. The new Microsoft Surface 2 is a lovely machine..
Android courses are already up and running through Tablet Academy Africa and will also be offered to the UK and Europe very soon. With Google introducing the new Play Store for Education and working with tablet manufacturers (including Asus and HP) to pre-install Google Apps for Education, there is more significant investment into the Android platform. The devices are usually less expensive than iPads and so appeal to those with tighter or more limited budgets. In most cases, this in no way diminishes their value in the classroom and for learning.
So if you are a school, college, or university, browse the new website, and get in touch with Tablet Academy to discuss your training needs. Local Education Authorities, districts and provinces can take advantage of even better pricing by becoming Tablet Academy regional training centres and accessing a whole range of benefits including software and cloud service discounts and free training places on all courses they run, MediaCore being just one of these. All the trainers are teachers with expertise in using mobile devices in learning and teaching. They are usually all local and so in Scotland for example, they will have direct experience of working with A Curriculum for Excellence across all sectors and subjects. It is this local capacity which perhaps sets them apart from other training businesses offering their services to education establishments.
And if you’re interested in working for Tablet Academy anywhere in the world, they are always on the look out for experienced educators with classroom experience of using mobile devices to enhance learning and teaching so have a look at the website and get in touch…
(as with all the posts on this blog, readers are advised to note the contents of my standard disclaimer)
This week is a momentous one for Equal marriage as the legislation finally reaches the chamber at Holyrood for its first debate. It has been a long road, particularly so for those of us who have been involved in the campaign over the past few years. MSP’s on both sides of the argument will be honing their speeches and interventions and no doubt the media will be sharpening pencils and cranking up the cameras. From where I’m standing it certainly is a momentous week, and there will probably be many opinions aired, both written and spoken. Ruth and I have been involved in this campaign, and I apologise unreservedly to everyone who has had to watch me repeatedly throwing the wedding bouquet every time there is a news item on equal marriage on the television here in Scotland (and just to correct a point, we didn’t actually hold a ‘mock wedding’ as many in the media have termed it, but we did have a blessing on our marriage). We are fortunate to actually be married which was important for us and so keenly feel the pain of those who are unable to marry currently or unable or even unwilling to have to travel abroad to marry, as we did.
Most people who have travelled this journey on both sides of a very polarised debate have managed to remain respectful whilst debating robustly over their strongly held views. Some people, unfortunately, were not able to exercise such restraint and we have seen some particularly nasty individuals creep out from under the furniture whilst the consultative and legislative stages of this process have been polished up. I’m still involved in criminal and civil proceedings surrounding this (both of which are still rumbling on, and will be for sometime yet as the various processes run their respective courses in the higher courts) so I can’t comment on this at the moment. There have been some notable causalities along the way, none more so than Cardinal Archbishop Keith O’Brien (whose own homosexual advances towards other priests were uncovered) and the spokesperson of the Scottish Roman catholic Bishop’s conference, John Deighan,who rather spectacularly lost the plot, and went completely off-message whilst debating with the ever cool, calm and reasonable Tom French from the Equality Network during a television news show.
It is absolutely not ‘homophobic’ to disagree with same sex marriage, but the abusive and derogatory language used by some people and organisations during this campaign has most definitely been beyond what anyone would term, robust debate, and that has certainly been homophobic and unacceptable in a just and equal society. Free speech carries with it a responsibility to keep within the law and those who are unable to step up to such a responsibility put themselves outside of the debate, and of relevance to the arguments taking place within the law.
One thing is for sure though. The legislation itself has received a huge amount of scrutiny and the vast majority of the legal and political opinion is that it is a good bill with completely adequate protection for those faith groups who don’t wish to celebrate same-sex marriages, as well as empowering those faith groups who do wish to be able to solemnise such marriages. Freedom of religion has to cut both ways and this legislation enables this. Churches and faith groups do not carry out marriages which are against their own belief systems and this just won’t change. Roman catholic priests don’t marry divorcees do they? And you can’t marry at a Mosque if you’re not both Muslims? Priests can refuse to marry a couple without having to give a reason (although most would) as they have freedom of conscience in this respect.
One regret, for me anyway is that individual clergy will still not be able to celebrate same sex marriages and this will undoubtedly be a cause of great sadness for a significant number of Church of Scotland ministers as well as Scottish Episcopal and Roman Catholic priests. I know that any of the clergy team at our church would have been very happy to have been able to marry Ruth and I. So I suspect that many of these ministers and priests will simply opt out of doing weddings at all until their own particular faith groups change their own canon laws which currently do not allow same sex marriage.
Many people have changed their views on marriage equality as this proposed change to marriage law has progressed over the months. This is perhaps in no small part due to the excellent and respectful campaign run by the Equality Network which has concentrated on facts rather than dogma and love rather than rhetoric. Stonewall Scotland has also been involved. If you contrast these with the scare campaigns run by, amongst others, the oddly-named Scotland for Marriage then you’ll see why so many people including a huge majority of MSP’s and all the political party leaders now support full marriage equality. The consultation exercises, contrary to what some might say, indicate that a majority of the Scottish people are in favour of this change. Professor John Curtice, one of Scotland’s foremost statisticians explains how and why this is so here.
So anyway, here are six very good reasons for supporting same sex marriage for you undecided folks out there to ponder upon…
It has been a long road, with some bumps along the way, but the journey’s end is now thankfully in sight. And so if you’ve not yet watched it, here is the wonderful, touching, beautiful short film made by the Equality Network.
So yes, it is time…