#edjournal: available to download – NOW!

I am pleased to announce that after a successful online launch of #edjournal, the PDF edition is now live and available to download. You can download it from the site or direct from here. An EPUB version is still in the works but the process is not as straight forward as I had assumed. However, I will persevere and make it available as soon as I can.

You can also read and download #edjournal via issuu – see it embedded below:

Over on the site, I have added the Disqus commenting system to article pages so that readers can add opinions and ideas. We really want to generate discussion around the articles that we publish, so if after reading you feel inspired, please leave a comment. You could ask a question of the author, offer further ideas or start a debate. In the process of doing this I learned how to create my own Google gadget.

There is also now an #edjournal Twitter account. Please follow us at @_edjournal to keep up to date.

Or you can subscribe to the site feed over on the homepage or by clicking here.

Nick and I hope that you enjoy reading #edjournal in its intended format. Comments, ideas, constructive criticism are welcome as usual!

Gove + Zuckerberg = Elitist Victorian Education 101

Mark ZuckerbergThis past week, education secretary Michael Gove suggested that he wants a national curriculum that will create the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Okay, that’s not quite what he said. If that had been what he’d said, I might not have bothered to write this post, as surely that would have implied a curriculum that was creative, fostered ingenuity and was embracing of new technologies. What the education secretary actually said was:

“When Zuckerberg applied to college he was asked what languages he could speak and write – as well as English – he listed, French, Hebrew, Latin and Ancient Greek. He also studied maths and science at school. He would have done very well in our English baccalaureate. And the breakthroughs his rigorously academic education helped create are now providing new opportunities for billions.” (guardian.co.uk, 2011)

Now, I’ve got no problem with Mark Zuckerberg. He created a website that has revolutionised social networking; he’s an astute guy, working alongside some brilliant individuals who have helped him to grow his creation into a billion dollar company; and from what I can tell, he is not actually the complete a**hole that the book: ‘The Accidental Billionaires‘ and the film: ‘The Social Network‘ would have you believe him to be. However, I do not believe that the fact that he can speak and write “French, Hebrew, Latin and Ancient Greek” or that he “studied maths and science at school” had anything to do with his success. I’m fairly certain that his study of IT had a significantly large part to play in it. That, coupled with a healthy dose of ingenuity (not a subject on the national curriculum) and creativity (again not a subject in itself) had a major role in helping him create Facebook.

You see, there are two significant problems with Michael Gove’s thinking. One, there is plenty of proof to suggest that education does not guarantee success. The myriad of entrepreneurs who have been successful ‘sans-education’ is huge. Two, the subjects he refers to as being part of an “academic education” are only a small piece of the puzzle in helping young people to develop the skills they need to survive in the 21st century. The point being, that a student who studies Philosophy, Drama and Art is just as likely to be the next Mark Zuckerberg as a student who studies Maths, IT and Latin.

What I resent is the implication that certain subjects are considered more academic than others. In fact, we should insert the word ‘better’ in place of academic, that is what Michael Gove means after all! This is the sort of elitist thinking that was being steadily eroded during the Labour party’s time in government. It is now being rebuilt by the so-called ‘coalition’, like elitist bricks stuck together with an alarmingly unhealthy dose of cynicism towards new technologies. The curriculum review is a waste of time and tax payers money; nothing more than a placation exercise; as I firmly believe that Michael Gove knows exactly what he wants the national curriculum to look like. In case you haven’t heard, Michael Gove wants lessons to “emphasise the learning of facts”. I think both my own students and Mark Zuckerberg would tell Michael Gove to go shove his lessons where the sun doesn’t shine. After all, he can find out anything he needs to know via Google or by asking any one of the 500 million people who are on Facebook. I’m not suggesting that facts have no place in education but to see them as the basis of an “academic education” is more 19th century than 21st.

It’s time to make our voices heard. One subject is not better or more important than another. We should be offering our students greater choices and freedoms not taking them away. And we should not be considering a return to a Victorian era curriculum that will certainly leave British school children wanting in comparison to their European, American and Asian counterparts. It’s time to take a stand. It’s time for disruption, it’s time for the edupunks to stand up and be counted.

Who’s with me?

Image: Jolie O’Dell

Email productivity in five.sentenc.es

sparrow inbox zero

Be concise – check out five.sentenc.es.

Be organised – try inbox zero.

Place things you need actioned at the beginning of emails NOT at the end.

If you include questions, number them in order of importance.

One day a week DO NOT check your email – give yourself a break and return to your inbox refreshed; ready to tackle the latest deluge.

3 things I do every weekend that make me a better teacher

1. Get out and about

What I enjoy most about the weekend is the chance to get out and about in to a non-school environment. This could be as trivial as walking down the road to the local Costa Coffee for a flat white or to the local supermarket to get the groceries. Or it could be something more meaningful such as a short train journey into London to visit a museum or see a play. Whatever it is, I enjoy being able to spend time with my wife; to eat, drink, interact and enjoy myself – free from the day-to-day experience that is my working week. This does not mean that I am completely switched off though. On the contrary, It is out there, in the real world that many of the ideas I have for teaching exercises reveal themselves. You see, if all you walk and talk all week is education with other educators, eventually the conversation becomes stagnant and new ideas dry up. My best ideas come to me usually when I’m nowhere near school; out there, in the real world.

2. Read the newspaper

During the week I am essentially locked in an education bubble. Sunday morning is catch up time. I need to know what is going on in the world, as both an English and Media Studies teacher, news has a significant impact on my teaching. I prefer to read the news on a Sunday as not only are the “really” important stories reflected on and pulled apart but being the weekend I feel I have the time to truly immerse myself into reading the news. I don’t buy a newspaper however. Instead, I read the Observer online via http://guardian.gyford.com. If you have not experienced either the Guardian or Observer newspaper in this way then I suggest that you give it a go. I feel that it offers the perfect balance between an online and paper based reading experience. And, while I don’t own one I am certain that it would work really well on the iPad.

3. Tidy up loose ends

On a Sunday evening I look through my work inbox and todo list and spend 60 minutes clearing as much as possible before Monday. I try to do something similar on a Friday afternoon before I leave work but there are often bits and pieces that just don’t get done. It could be the case that an email needs to be replied to; a handful of assignments need to be marked; a request for some data or other information needs to be submitted. Or it could be the case that the last few days may have simply been very busy and I have a backlog of emails that either need to be archived or deleted. Once the 60 minutes is up, anything that remains in my inbox or todo list is usually too large a task to be completed on a Sunday evening; requires input from a colleague; or I don’t have all the information to hand. This process has become a ritual and helps to ensure that I return to work on Monday morning free of clutter and ready for the challenges ahead.