Posts Tagged ‘education’

D&T Pedawhaty?

Posted 14 Nov 2010 — by cheersphilip
Category Rant

Its good to talk. We were having a nice chat in my department, and ended up with the view that we’re all going to hell in a hand-cart, teachers and students alike.

Okay, maybe its not that bad, but in these swingeing (who made up that word?) times it’s fairly easy to convince oneself that everything is rubbish.

Take the state of our D&T curriculum, f’rinstance. Hi-tech machinery that does everything for you, students not knowing which end of the ruler is the sharp end (I have literally seen a 14-year old lad hammering a screw into his work), greater pressures on teachers to produce which reduces the possibility of risk-taking in terms of classroom creativity, which in turn leads to more rigid projects, which leads to everyone doing the same, which results in a drop in student motivation, which results in teachers spoon-feeding, which results in everyone having a results-centred approach to D&T; in that all students want is to get the ‘thing’ at the end, which all leads up to the probability of any given student reaching the end of a project without having learning a flippin’ thing, merely having followed a series of stringent instructions as to how to construct some pre-fabricated kit with flashing lights that is guaranteed to capture their attention for the duration of the project but that has no real significance to the greater part of their lives, especially as they could buy something equally gaudy but more interesting from the poundshop or anywhere else you care to mention.

Doesn’t it make it all seem like a god-awful waste of time?

Yet D&T offers so much more than this – it is design, it is technology. What D&T is not is CDT – that look is so early-nineties.

I would really like to think that we have moved on from the ‘make this because I said so’ pedagogy, but to what? The problem is that you need that do-it-until-you’ve-learnt-it approach, if you’re to pick up the skills that you need later in the curriculum.

A spread of projects that reads ‘year 7 – laser cutter, year 8 – laser cutter, year 9 – laser cutter’ can result in only one thing come years 10 & 11, surely?

Yet what student honestly wants to know about tenon saws and housing joints when they can pop to Ikea for a full bedroom set for pennies?

In my experience each D&T department is better off when it wrestles with these questions – more alive, more searching. Each department will, at this point in history, have some sort of schizophrenia over which camp it sits in, even each teacher, even within each lesson.

Things aren’t as bad in my department as we were talking about, but the elephant is definitely in the room. My guess is that it’s not going away anytime soon.

And another (!) thing – touchscreens – everything has them now, but it’s not the sort of thing that you can use in the classroom. It makes us look so, well, basic.

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Notes on Addiction

Posted 31 Oct 2010 — by cheersphilip
Category thought

In follow up to my post ‘Addicted to Trash’ I can now present my findings.

However, as during this period of time, according to my stated addiction, I have been mostly playing trashy computer games, this post will be fairly biased in this respect.

To be fair, I did get a lot of information from those nice people at Futurelab but, to be honest, their findings can broadly be summarised as follows:

Young people – Fairly interested in computer games

Adults – don’t really get what all the fuss is about.

So I think we can quite fairly leave all that and get back to what is, for me, the central question of why the hell do i find these games so compelling?

The way I see it, we can break this down into three separate areas:

  1. Need to understand
  2. Responsibility avoidance
  3. Relaxation paradox

1: Need to Understand

How do they work? How have people made them? What makes them tick? The same drive that drove me to be a technologist, taking apart anything and everything I could find applies to computer games too.

I know that games are made with ‘sprites’ and ‘pixels’   …

[Ok, this is now an old post that i am just puttin up to show how far I got before being distracted]

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Faith Schools #ukedchat

Posted 08 Sep 2010 — by cheersphilip
Category Rant, thought

A friend recommended the Pod Delusion, and I was intrigued by this podcast, which deals with Faith Schools, amongst other interesting things.

Having worked for six years in Faith Schools, I must say that I don’t feel it’s as bad as the British Humanist Association makes out.

They paint a picture of discrimination, indoctrination and a narrowing of horizons, that frankly I just do not agree with.

There was no place on the BHA’s website that I could leave a comment or express my views, so i am choosing to do that here, although more to get it off my chest than convince others.

My experience of Faith Schools has been one of nurturing and caring for the individual and the community. I fail to see how non-faith schools can tap into an accepted moral framework without reference to religious doctrine. In my opinion this doctrine provides a tried and tested, ready made scaffold to individual expression and personal growth.

I do not think it appropriate to explain in scientific terms how the world works to a small child, who will be, and should be, thinking in more abstract and mysterious terms than an adult. As science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, (or god, if you like), I do not feel that scientific doctrine has the facility to guide people on how to live their lives.

Don’t get me wrong – I am a scientist; Evolution, Darwin, technology – all good. Also, I am not religious in the conventional sense – but I do reserve the right to believe what the heck I want about the world around me and ‘why’ we are here. Science provides fascinating and compelling evidence of the mind-blowing elegance and beauty of the world around us – but it provides ‘how’ rather than ‘why’.

I referred to religious doctrine as a good thing. I’d like to point out the difference between doctrine and dogma, where the former, as I comprehend it, is following an established pattern for an explicitly understood reason, and the latter is without understanding – blind. Both science and religion have both doctrine and dogma (whether they like it or not) – any system that has human beings in it will tend towards dogma, as people crave a framework that they can rely on and not think about any more (constantly reevaluating your baseline assumptions is extremely hard, and is to be respected in both religion and science).

However, having now read the Dossier on Independent Evidence on Faith Schools I am in turmoil, being presented with a goodly amount of statistics and informed opinion that runs contrary to my own experience (reevaluating those assumptions!).

There doesn’t seem to be a very good case for faith schools, I’m afraid. Many of the comments, including those of the NUT, refer to increasing inclusion across all schools, and not just faith schools. It appears that social impact of faith schools is worse in some parts of the country than others, and it that if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender then you are not going to have a good time at a faith school.

My mind remains open – to the views of others on their reasons for the hinting down and eliminating of faith schools, and to my own experience of faith schools being friendly, supportive and positive environments to work and learn in.

I suspect, as I end this rant, that the significant factor that will lend itself to successful schools is not faith or non-faith, but to the quality of its management, as in the schools that I have worked in.

Cheers,

Philip

PS: this is a BLOG. it is not a scientifically researched paper and all opinions expressed are my own. I have not made up my mind about this topic, and remain open to reasoned argument and persuasion either way. Hope you enjoyed it – now get back to work!

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You want to ban THIS?

Posted 26 May 2010 — by cheersphilip
Category Rant

You want to teach Design & Technology in your schools, but you don’t want your students to use these:

Do you have any idea what these things can DO?

This is not an advert for mobile phone companies – it is a call to arms against the anti-tech tyranny!

Do you, school leader or administrator, have any idea of the capability of these devices? Can you not see that all students, from all backgrounds, already have and regularly use one of these devices? Most of them have better ones than i do!! They can do more things, faster and easier, than most of the programmes supplied with my free teacher laptop! And the students ALREADY OWN THEM!!

Yet you want me to teach Design & Technology like it mattered, whilst pretending that nobody has one of these, that we’re all in some era where D&T is softwood mortice & tenon joints and ‘chalk and talk’ lessons. Ridiculous.

Rise up, D&T teachers of the world, (well, the UK then), and unite against evil tyranny of technology oppression!

Petition your headteacher and Local Authority to allow the use of mobile phones, in order to raise student engagement and cut unnecessary spending on duplicate resources. Throw off the yoke of alleged cyber-bullying and educate your students on the use of digital technology – send them the message (via text? <ouch>) that their culture is not subversive, but that it is the future!

You can do it if we all do it.

Cheers,

Philip

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Crikey, it’s interview fever!

Posted 26 May 2010 — by cheersphilip
Category diary, Rant

Okay, so I went to an interview on Monday – and I got the job!

Sweet – a part time design & technology teacher in a nice school in Norwich – exactly what i was looking for.

But then…

Then I heard back from the SSAT. They were looking for a National Network Coordinator on secondment, which on paper pretty much looked like my dream job – travel around the country talking to specialist D&T departments. Lovely.

Except now I already have a 0.5 appointment. I wouldn’t want to change that; they are extremely nice and I’m really looking forward to starting in September, it’s just that the SSAT job was the one that i originally wanted…

However, the SSAT have kept me waiting OVER TWO MONTHS after the application date to inform me of the shortlist. Okay, they were waiting for the election and some certainty about their funding. (goodbye BectaX – the right idea, just a little too late!).

So, what I am going to do is go to the interview (tomorrow – short notice!?) and see what happens. I think some negotiating is going to be called for.

But… if i get the secondment as well, what am I going to do about my RDTHSC training? I won’t have any time left to go and train teachers how to use their workshop machinery. Crikey.

Onwards and upwards. In other news, I’m still making oak boxes, fully mitred, for my wife’s degree show, selling our campervan, renovating my Vespa, moving house and progressing with the DVDs. Will this ever calm down? A part of me hopes not!

Cheers,

Philip

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