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

Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog!

“Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog!” or to those of us who speak English: “It’s worth taking a look at this blog!” Thank you to Jan Webb for including me in her list of 10 blogs that are worth taking a look at.

If you are included below and wish to take part in the project; simply copy the image from above and the title of this post. Make a new post on your own blog; including them, and your list of the 10 blogs you think others should take a look at.

Okay. On with my list:

Doug Belshaw is an inspiration to many of us who marvel at his insane levels of productivity! His blog is always insightful, always useful and being someone who loves clean aesthetic design, his blog is beautiful to look at/read. Doug and his blog were one of the final catalysts that led to me writing my own blog and I have tried to borrow some of those design aesthetics in putting together my blog.

Richard Byrne seems to be a man on a mission to catalogue and provide his PLN with an entire library of educational tools, apps, software and websites; keeping them innovating in the classroom until the end of time. He is the most prolific blogger in my Google Reader. Simply awesome!

Tom Barrett quickly became one of my heroes when I joined Twitter. He will retweet you, recommend you and help you get your PLN off the ground. His posts centre around educational technology posting about great apps and tools. However, as a leader in the edtech community, the true worth in Tom’s blog comes from his ideas and thoughts about edtech itself and the pedagogy involved. To see what I mean check out this post called “Whispering Change”.

James Clay‘s blog is another great edtech read, particularly his series of posts titled “100 ways to use a VLE”. As an avid user of my schools VLE (Moodle) I find these posts exceptionally useful whether they introduce a new idea, reinforce something I have already been doing or remind of something I had forgotten about. This brings me nicely to the next two blogs which are also Moodle related.

Ian Usher is Buckinghamshire’s eLearning co-ordinator and helped set up our VLE. He is a “Moodle” afficinadao and his blog tends to centre around this – exploring the use of Moodle across a series of schools which he has worked. He also blogs on other edtech related ideas, pedagogy and tools. And as an added bonus, if you subscribe to his blog feed you will also get regular updates from his delicious links.

Kristian Still is someone I have gotten to know recently; he, being directly involved in this years Moodle Moot. (You can read his guest posts featured on Moodle Monthly about the #mootuk10 here: Day 1 and here: Day 2) Kristain posts regularly on a wide variety of education related areas including edtech, leadership and 21st Century Learning – a topic that is if great personal interest to me as it has been at the forefront of my thinking and classroom practice for the last few years. His writing style serves him well, creating clear and informative posts with a personal conversational tone.

David Mitchell‘s blog is really interesting as he is simply not afraid to try out new and innovative ideas inside and outside of the classroom. Search back through the posts to see how he is getting on with using mobile technology in the classroom, Cover It Live, Voicethread for peer assessment, Twitter and class blogging amongst other things. Reading about his methodology and his sheer willingness to give it a go serves as a constant reminder that you must not stay stagnant as an educator. You must keep looking for ways to improve the learning for your students.

Dai Barnes writes on edtech, pedagogy and innovation. His posts are always stimulating and, like several of the other educators I have included in this list, he is leading the way in thinking about 21st Century Education. His blog is well structured to allow you to find information on key areas of interest including Moodle, eLearning and mobile technology.

Chickensaltash is a great educator who waxes lyrical on day to day learning, edtech and the 21st Century Classroom. His posts regularly end up in my Instapaper account to read later as the guy can write and write and write! Therefore, I often need to save them till I have more time to read them and digest the ideas within.

I have included the Instapaper Blog in this list as Instapaper is my favourite web app of all time. It is integral to both my web work flow and personal productivity. It was the second web app that I used Fluid to turn into a desktop based app and the excellent, regularly updated iPhone app has become my most used app on my iPod touch. You can read my post about creating desktop apps with Fluid (including Instapaper) here. Their recent posts have included many updates on the development of their iPad app which looks stunning…check out the pics in this post. If you love design simplicity like I do you will love the way this app looks!

And that’s it; 10 blogs I think you should take a look at. Please leave comments if you wish and as always you can contact me on Twitter @jamesmichie.

#mootuk10 (Holes In Walls & Cyberspace)

I just found out that I have been quoted in an article on Moodle Monthly written by Kristian Still (@Kristianstill) and Craig Sumner (@hamblecollege). The article offers a recap of the first day of this years Moodle Moot UK. You can read the article here.

I am quoted, responding to the back channel discussion (via Twitter) that was flowing, in response to Professor Sugata Mitra’s keynote on “Hole In The Wall”. A stunning and humbling project which began in 1999 when he was working in Delhi. Working next to a slum he knocked through a wall and stuck a computer in with an Internet connection. After just a month many kids had taught themselves to use the computer improving their literacy and numeracy skills. This turned into a huge project that has seen massive success.

His talk, while I am yet to see it, was clearly very inspirational as it prompted masses of praise on Twitter and sparked a very interesting discussion about the nature of learning, literacy and the benefits/drawbacks of different learning environments.

Learning environments is a topic within eduction that I have been researching and discussing quite a lot recently after reading “Campfires in Cyberspace” by David D. Thornburg, Ph.D. I was therefore naturally intrigued by the discussion arising on Twitter and got involved.

I am currently working on a visualisation of the ideas presented in “Campfires in Cyberspace” and will be blogging about this in the near future. To help myself in this process I used MindNode to create a mind map (click to view/download the mind map) of the concepts presented in the paper, collecting my thoughts and ideas as I read.

Both Prof. Mitra and Prof. Thornburg, Ph. D. through their research raise some very interesting ideas about the way learning takes place and the environments in which that learning happens. My own thoughts at the moment are centered (as the quote in the article suggests) around the idea that the traditional notion of the classroom as “learning environment” is outdated and that “learning” is not constrained to any one environment but is facilitated by multiple / interchangeable environments – many of which are free of walls; be it outside (like the “Hole In The Wall” project) or virtually (in “Cyberspace”).

Here is the quote as featured in the Moodle Monthly article:

I will stop there as I am using up content that will be included in a future post.

Moodle Moot UK (#mootuk10) seemed enthralling and I really wish I could have been there today. I was happy to follow the conversation online however and as usual the wonderful people on Twitter provided me with much food for thought today. You can catch up with and follow the tweets from Moodle Moot UK via Twitter Search here or view the archive on Twapper Keeper here. Why not go one step further and join in with the discussion – the hash tag for the event is #mootuk10.

Find out more about Professor Mitra and the “Hole In The Wall” project at the following links:

Find out more about Moodle and Moodle Moot UK here:

Find out more about Professor Thornburg, Ph. D. here:

Thanks to Kristian and Craig for including me in their article.

If you would like to know more about anything mentioned in this post please e-mail me or contact me on twitter @jamesmichie. Comments are always welcome.

Help Them Take The First Bite!

tree of knowledge

 

The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

~ Arthur Miller

Not only am I eager to help my students take the first bite of the apple, I’m literally clambering to help them rip the apple from the tree in the first place. Knowledge is power and attaining it is a challenge; even in the age of Google.

Teach your students to question, define, discuss, imagine, share, criticise, explore, speculate, evaluate and most importantly…to enjoy doing it. Teach them “to see more, not less”!

Image courtesy of j4mie on Flickr.