Posts filed under ‘Childrens’

Danish bacon!!!!

internet prohibition

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted about my 12 year old son having been told by his science teacher that the homework he had handed in was good, but that he would have got more marks if he found out more stuff from the internet.

The next day he came home with the prohibition notice pictured above. ‘DISQUALIFICATION’ if caught in exams with mobile phones, ipods, MP3/MP4 players or any products with an electronics communication/storage device or digital facility.

So if students use certain digital tools to gather information in the first place, as they are encouraged to do, they are disqualified from using them in an exam situation. All of which highlights one of the big problems with exams. If you happen not to be able to remember stuff you won’t do well. This is nothing to do with understanding. It’s simply memory testing, which isn’t real knowledge.

How refreshing then that in Denmark they are considering allowing wired computers with internet access to be used during exams ( This is to allow students to look up relevant facts during the exam.

Of course, it is immediately pointed out that:

“There are a number of potential pitfalls, however, not least protecting against plagiarism and the problem of students lifting information from online sources to pad out work”.

It seems that in Denmark, as well as here in the UK we assume young people will want to cheat, so guarding against this becomes an overriding concern. How trusting of our young people is that? There are all sorts of ways of guarding against this, and I do hope that these concerns don’t get in the way of this enlightened initiative.

Can’t see it happening in the UK though, not for many light years anyway. Apart from the fact that our mistrust of young people is very deep rooted, we just love exams, labouring as we do under the misapprehension that somehow exam results indicate something of a child’s understanding or abilities and can be used as a means of perpetuating a two tier system of haves and have nots.

November 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm 2 comments

Let’s not wait until the iceberg melts

Icebergs small

Last night my 11 year old son told me that he had gone from hating history at school to loving it. When I asked him why, he said that he now had a good teacher. I haven’t yet quizzed him, as I will, on his perceptions of what was bad about the previous teaching and what is now good, but it is interesting that he makes that distinction. In my view teaching in a way that is interesting and motivating is not just desirable, but should be required of every teacher. I admire and respect teachers for undertaking a difficult job and when it is right in enhancing a child’s life. But I abhor bad teaching because of the serious harm it can do.

If we want to know what is good teaching or bad teaching we just have to talk to the young people who are being taught. They know what they like and don’t like, they know what switches them on and what turns them off. And we should listen to what they have to tell us about this and do something about it, even when we hear stuff outside our comfort zones.

As parents we celebrate each child’s individuality even if it’s only to extent of ‘he’s got his fathers eyes, but his mother’s nose’. Yet we force them to endure an education that expects uniformity, that expects an 11 year old to achieve the same standards in the same subjects as their 12 year old mates, or a class of 30 to express equal interest in all things.

We do this not because of any considered philosophy of education, but purely through means of practicality. How else can we ‘control’ a class of 30, a year of 120, but by imposing strict criteria on required outcomes.

My son also recently had a science test coming up and was told by his teacher to revise for it. That’s all. Not any guidance of how to revise, what to revise, even where to look for advice. Just ‘go away and revise’. Oh yes. There was some advice to try BBC bitesize, but not to do everything there because it was not all relevant.

That evening I caught him in our front room aimlessly flicking through the various folders of the work he had undertaken during the year not really knowing where to start, which things to concentrate on.

And then he asked me if I would test him so he could get an idea of what he knew best and importantly what he knew least. This is ‘assessment for learning’, a concept that he arrived at of his own volition, understanding that finding out the gaps in his own understanding could give him a structure for revision.

Unfortunately his teacher had not had the foresight to arm his pupils with some past tests in order that they could test their understanding in this way, but we were able to find some appropriate stuff online. In fact BBC bitesize was not the most helpful or structured. Many more structured resources were to be found on other sites simply by Googling ‘Year 7 science tests’.

Why do I say all this? Two reasons. Firstly on the question of practicality we do have the opportunity to really, seriously deliver (or I prefer to say ‘allow’) ‘personalised learning’ by appropriate use of digital technology. Going online to find appropriate revision materials is just the tip of an enormous iceberg.

Secondly, young people are wholly capable of being properly engaged in the debate about their own learning. So let’s ask them, listen to them, trust them, believe them, and act on what we hear.

And instead of just fiddling around the edges let’s do it now before they lose interest and before the global warmed digital iceberg disappears.

July 1, 2009 at 11:32 am 4 comments

More Balls!


This is another post about SATS. I really don’t want to give the impression that I am obsessed here but I believe that what happens with SATS is a good indicator of how things may pan out in the shorter term future particularly in relation to issues around assessment.

A boycott of SATS next year by the NUT supported by the NAHT would in my view be extremely positive and help forward the end of these unnecessary tests. However, the signs that this will happen are not good. For a moment on Saturday I was rather more optimistic when the NAHT meeting here in Brighton appeared to have voted to support the boycott. In fact it turns out that they had voted to ballot their members in respect of their support of the boycott. Somewhat lily livered I’d say.

I have already heard noise, also, that the NUT were potentially backtracking on the boycott in light of the possibility that the government will be willing to make some compromises, although what compromises could possibly be acceptable if the tests still remain is a mystery to me.

Ed Balls has said that he doesn’t want ‘pupils and teachers overly stressed by the Year 6 SATS’. Well, part of the problem is that teachers and pupils do get stressed by the SATS so he should scrap them.

He also has said that ‘a boycott of the tests would set a bad example to children.’ Absolutely right if you think that the only example that should be set to children is to never question government wisdom, that faced with universal unpopularity amongst parents, teachers and children alike government policy should always go unchallenged.

Perhaps that’s the example Mr Balls is setting for his children. I’m not setting it for mine.

May 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm 1 comment

Boys and girls alone

There’s a programme on channel 4 at 9.00pm tonight called ‘Boys and girls alone’. It’s about ten boys and ten girls aged between eight and eleven who live on their own in two houses (one for boys and one for girls) for two weeks without adults.

I haven’t seen the programme yet (it’s a four part series) but I heard an interview with the commissioning editor, Dominique Walker and some of the parents and children who participated:

The programme is intended as an exploration of the issue that many parents face of achieving an appropriate balance between doing for your child, and letting them do for themselves. Do we tend to wrap up our children in cotton wool, do everything for them and then wonder why they struggle when released into the world in their own right?

As the Dominique Walker rightly pointed out children these days get very little time when their lives are not being dominated by adults. There is far less unsupervised, unstructured time than ten or twenty years ago when children played more on the streets and were free to wander farther away.

The result of this is that children take far less decisions for themselves than they used to even though they are capable of more than we allow.

By all accounts the experiences of the children in the programme were varied and at times harrowing. What was interesting to me, though, was comment of the mother of a boy of eight called Jason who took part.

Jason, it seems, did have something of a hard time during the two weeks but was also of the view that the whole experience had been worthwhile. The mother said that the lesson she had learned from the experience was that we don’t allow our children enough control, and we tend not to allow them to take responsibility for things.

As a result, since the experience, Jason has been allowed greater control and greater responsibility in many things. The result, she says, is that he takes a pride in discharging these responsibilities and feels a real sense of achievement as a result.

What this says to me is that, ironically, our attempts to protect our children actually dispossesses them and leaves them less prepared for the world.

And this extends to the world of education where our young people are given no real responsibility for their learning, this being undertaken by their elders.

February 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm 1 comment

Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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