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Over to you … January 26, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in Reading, Teaching Idea.
Tags: , ,

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by clive darra: http://flickr.com/photos/fsse-info/6333531699/

I’ve been ‘tagged.’ No, not in the folksonomic sense, but by my good buddy Nick Jackson as part of the ‘11 Questions’ meme. 11 people are each asked 11 questions and having provided their answers are exhorted to do the same for 11 further people. This being the community of connected educators that it is, the questions in this thread tend to be related (even if only loosely!) to education. You can follow the thread back through Nick’s post, then onwards through my answers to his questions as follows:

1. Why are you a teacher?

It wasn’t and isn’t a mission. It’s not a calling from on high. I guess I almost fell into it when, nearing graduation, I began looking in earnest for the means to earn a crust. Rather than drift into the scientific community the breeze was blowing me towards, I decided instead to pursue my interest of working with younger people; something I’d been doing on a voluntary basis for a number of years. I guess the real reason I’m a teacher is for selfish motives. I simply love the naches you get from helping someone to do, see or experience something they hadn’t before and to see the delight in their face as they revel in knowing they’vemoved forward .

2. How do you/would you answer people when they ask to prove that much of education needs to change?

‘Prove?’ I’m not sure that it is possible to prove that education needs to change. We can take a long hard look around at other aspects of our lives – finance, retail, health care, travel, media and see how those sectors are being disrupted and changed by new technologies. Yet there are other areas which maintain their traditional forms: religion, politics? We need to ask whether the system in which we work is still fit for purpose. Does it still serve the needs of our students, given the unprecedented rate of change in society in general, the way we live our lives and the lives they’ll experience as they grow. My own feeling is that historically, the intent of the education system was to prepare students to be ready for the next stage of their lives, whether that be secondary school, further or higher education or work. Perhaps now we should be preparing students to be able to change and to cope with change, to be adaptable and resilient? I’m not sure that’s currently a sufficiently high priority.

3. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would you your rule be and why?

A ‘rule?’ That suggests something handed down from on high, rather than a commonly accepted and shared understanding. Whilst the former is indeed sometimes necessary (safety of yourself, colleagues and students), the latter is invariably more effective at moving people forward. If I had the powers of a deity, then the rule I would impose would be one of punctuality; being on time to lessons, for meetings and in meeting deadlines. It’s simple common decency in working with others, but something not fully appreciated by all. However if instead a genie had granted me a wish, I’d like it to become universally accepted that as part of the role of being a teacher, you cultivate a professional learning network, through which you’re connected with other educators with similar responsibilities, but also with others from as wide a range of disciplines and fields as possible. I know how powerful that’s proved to be for me and I’d simply like others to enjoy those benefits.

4. What is the important thing you do as a teacher with your students and why is it important?

Help them to learn? Well of course, but perhaps there’s a prerequisite? I’d argue that forging a solid, meaningful and trusting relationship forms the foundation to build an effective environment within which learning can take place. You don’t have to love each other, but you do have to develop respect so that when things get tough and the learning’s hard, you’re sufficiently trusting of each other to be able to work through it to achieve your shared learning goals.

5. If you could set up a dream team of people in charge of education in your state, country, district, etc, who would they be?

Do we have to have people ‘in charge?’ Well for an education ‘system’ I guess we do, but I suspect that the few people I would really trust to do that wouldn’t want the role. I’d much rather think of flipping that around and working towards a time where the learners themselves become sufficiently empowered and capable to be in charge of their own learning. Try as we might, the top-down approach produces a vanilla system which attempts to cater for the student population as a whole, but struggles to really serve the needs of any individual. It’s simply too inflexible. It’s a bit like school dinners where there’s a minimal choice, with perhaps a single option for those with different dietary needs, as opposed to a classy restaurant with a wide selection of delicious dishes. Or ideally being able to cook for yourself and choosing exactly the right ingredients to make precisely what you want. Yes that’s tougher and requires more effort,  but the rewards are worth it. And yes I do see the flip side where some might gorge on fries and ice cream, or be unable for various reasons to access the ingredients they want … but the original question did mention ‘dream.’

6. What do you think the value of ‘celebrity’ keynote speakers at educational conference is?

I suppose the role is to inspire; not necessarily to give practical solutions or ideas, but to set the mental cogs whirring. Keynotes are sometimes wasted where a celebducator is parachuted in, gives their schtick about their latest book or research, then jets off to enjoy the spoils. But where it can and does work is where the topic is closely tied to the theme of the conference and the person speaking has clear interests and expertise in that area. Being able to hold an audience should be a given.

7. What do you think should be taught to young people to make them digitally literate?

Ah you don’t catch me out with this trick question Mr J. Being ‘literate’ isn’t of course a state i.e. there’s isn’t some sort of threshold through which you pass to become literate. What we can do however is help to move students along the continuum that is digital literacy. I’d argue however that you can’t do that in isolation and whilst you might spend some time putting in the fundamentals, continued development  can be achieved in a much more powerful way if it is undertaken in context. To that end, just like it’s the responsibility of all teachers to help students improve their literacy and numeracy, we are all obliged to support and guide students to become increasingly digitally literate. Here we face a problem; whilst most teachers have good levels of literacy and many are numerate, sadly the levels of digital literacy remain quite low amongst many. Resolving that …. well it may take some time!

8. What do you think would happen if students in your school were given power over technology integration in your school for the next five years with only advice from adults and a budget to work with?

I thought the best way to answer this question might be to actually ask them, so I did!

They certainly have a different perspective and and different set of priorities,  though to be fair, I did rather drop the discussion on them with no time to gather their thoughts. Although a couple of things they mentioned about our current provision are factually inaccurate , it matters not because that’s actually their perception and we need to be aware of that and consider carefully how we should act on that information. (Come what may, I definitely intend to do more of these focus groups!)

9. Do you think young people have changed since you were a child?

They got older! But I guess the question is, is the youth of today different from when I was young? I feel that young people are generally more wordly-wise than they were when I was their age; or is that simply because I now come across the spectrum of youth, whereas as a young person I only ever saw the narrow community of which I was a member. I suppose it might be fairest to say yes they are different; neither more nor less intelligent, more nor less aggressive, more nor less sullen and uncommunicative, but given the nature of the world now compared with then, perhaps that’s inevitable.

10. How best can we address the disconnect between different levels of education (primary to secondary, secondary to university)

Another tough one and a concern we’ve been battling for some while. Hard-coded into the very naming of our system (at least in the UK), there are three distinct phases: primary, secondary and tertiary. The term ‘lifelong learning’ is rightly becoming increasingly significant and understood, so perhaps when we in each sector see ourselves as part of the whole, rather than as individual phases within a student’s learning journey, we might begin to address that disconnect. Sadly, concluding each phase with a formal examination on which the performances of the individual, her teachers and their school are judged, does little to help. One small step might be to pursue with far more rigour the notion of young people starting and maintaining a digital portfolio of their learning progress and achievements as early as possible, one which they continue to develop right through life. In their minds at least, the notion of stopping and restarting their education at various ages might begin to blur. Maybe we need to take a(nother?) leaf out of the book of our cousins north of the border and their aspirations for Glow.

<scratches head>I wonder what part the long summer break plays in contributing to the discontinuity?</scratches head>

11. What is the most influential book/article/post you have ever read on education?

I’m going to take the meaning of influential to mean which book has influenced my thinking most. Whilst ‘Punished by Rewards’ (Alfie Kohn, 1999), ‘The Element’ (Ken Robinson, 2010) and ‘Bounce’ (Matthew Syed, 2007) all recently gave me pause for thought, the one which really made me confront my preconceptions was Jane McGonigal’s ‘Reality is Broken (2011).’ Although not specifically about education,  it challenged me to rethink my views about games and gaming. I’m intrigued by the way in which the best games energize their participants to become engrossed, develop mastery, maintain resilience in the face of adversity, behave altruistically and co-operatively and achieve so much … and for those participants to do so voluntarily and repeatedly. What can we in education learn from the research into games and how can we leverage the potential that they might offer? Don’t we all want our learners to be continually enjoying fiero moments?

The questions I’d like to ask of the next wave of potential tagees are:

  1. What teacher had the most influence on you and why?
  2. During your career, which student (without naming them!) most sticks in your mind and for what reason?
  3. What was your most abiding memory of school dinners?
  4. Two Harry Potter inspired questions now. If you had Harry’s cloak of invisibility, what educational event would you like to unobtrusively observe and why?
  5. What aspect of education or the classroom would you most like to wave your wand over and why? Educatio revisiorum!
  6. For any historical figure of your choice, what might they have tweeted at a significant moment for them?
  7. What’s your favourite online video (for any reason) and why? (A link would be good)
  8. In Horizon report style, which technology-enabled educational activity is likely to be becoming more mainstream in 3-ish years?
  9. Which fictional character would you most like as a work colleague and why?
  10. What educational movement or initiative, currently in its infancy, will endure and why?
  11. Which educator (dead or alive, real or fictional, famous or not) would you most like to interview or enjoy the drink of your choice with and what would you be chatting about?

With many apologies to those on whom I’ve inflicted this, I’ve tried to draw as eclectically as possible from educators around the globe that I follow on Twitter and who I’d be interested to hear a little more about. If they’re able to spare the time, I’d be delighted to hear from:

Keri-Lee Beasley @klbeasley

Aaron Davis @mrkrndvs

Jen Deyenberg @jdeyenberg

Michael Fawcett @teachernz

John Johnstone @johnjohnston

Kathleen Morris @kathleen_morris

Lisa Parisi @LParisi

Julia Skinner @TheHeadsOffice

Russell Tarr @russeltarr

Nikki Teasdale @KnikiTea

David Wees @davidwees

And all this has got me thinking about how we might use an ’11 Questions’ style activity with our pupils. Maybe ‘Three Questions about …’ as a way of revising or recapping a topic. Hmm, more to ponder …



1. largerama - January 26, 2014

As usual and can not only trusting your open, honest responses but I can also get varied angles on what my questions intended in the way of answers. Quite lovely Ian, quite lovely.

2. 11 Answers – Part 1 | Tip of the Iceberg - January 26, 2014

[…] The following are Ian’s questions. Read his full blog post here. […]

3. klbeasley - January 26, 2014

I finally finished! It’s harder than you think eh? I hope you find this interesting Ian, and thank you for thinking of me. http://kerileebeasley.com/2014/01/26/11-answers-part-1/

4. Mrs. Parisi - January 26, 2014

I was tagged quite a while ago so I will spare you the agony of hearing from me again. Here’s the link. http://www.thelisaparisi.com/2013/12/lets-learn-about-each-other-or-at-least.html
BTW…I love the idea of using this with kids. Maybe for a quad-blogging type activity.

ianinsheffield - January 26, 2014

Sorry Lisa. Didn’t realise that, but thanks for the pointer back to your contribution – they all paint a picture 🙂

5. Three little questions | Practically In the pICTure - January 26, 2014

[…] I was responding to being ‘tagged’ in the 11 Questions meme by Nick Jackson, I started wondering how this principle of spreading questions and answers might be […]

6. ianinsheffield - January 26, 2014

And in answer to my closing question of the post, here are a few thoughts http://practicallyinthepicture.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/three-little-questions/

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