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Showing posts from January, 2011

Teaching styles in the Movies #4: Lionel Logue, The King's Speech

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In a film of many wonderful moments, there's an especially wonderful moment at the beginning of The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's Oscar hoover currently tarting around an Odeon near you. Prince Albert, the future King George VI is suffering yet another quack cure to remedy his lifelong stammer; this time, the portly sawbones is trying to get him to entertain a host of marbles in his royal mouth in the manner of a small boy's pocket. This state, plus the act of speaking through them will, the fat quack assures him, lead to the exorcism of his oral awkwardness.

Of course it does no such thing, instead nearly bringing about what would surely be history's least dignified regicide: death by marble-gargling. Understandably, Albert stalks off in a hissy fit, spitting slimy marbles on a perfectly good regency carpet and undoubtedly bemoaning his inability to have the man locked in the Tower. 'It worked for Demosthenes,' says the good Doctor, in his defence (moments a…

Review in The Cambridge University Journal of Trainee Teacher Educational Research

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All good reviews are, of course, wise and fair, and this review of my book The Behaviour Guru, is very wise and fair indeed. Jenny Turner the reviewer is, in my opinion, possessed of discernment and poise, and probably extremely good company to boot. May fragrance follow her, and rose petals anticipate her every tread.

It's an emergency! For God's sake, get me a social scientist! Why misunderstanding the aims of research is crippling education.

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I'm elbow deep in gizzards this week with the number of geese I've slaughtered in the name of prognostication. I haven't developed an emergent tendency towards serial killing; I've just been trying to answer an age-old educational conundrum: do schools need more money? And answering that seemingly simple question led me to question the whole educational research racket, or at least its misappropriation by the people we trust to run the show.

My unconventional approach to divination and revelation was prompted  when the government published school-by-school spending figures along with last weeks' league tables. Although the DfE is being coy, claiming that this publication is purely linked to the aim of greater transparency, we all know that nosey Noras will be asking if schools give value for money. Very sneaky. So how do we know if more money actually leads to better results in education anyway?  A BBC report from the 14th of January looked at the evidence:

'A…

All your homework are belong to us: Policing Cyberspace, and the week's news in education

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As I write, the Catholic Church is setting an extra space at the table for married priests; Zsa Zsa Gabor has had her leg amputated; the Periodic Table is being rewritten to allow for average nuclear weights; MySpace is being dressed for a coffin; somewhere in an endless, vast blackness, Voyager 1 is close to entering interstellar space; and in Italy, the Prime Minister has demonstrated that he could toe punt a cardinal into the Tiber and still get elected. We live in interesting times.

Here are some other interesting things in education this week:

1. Spoke to a brilliant school police officer, PC Anonymous, who told me about the virtual problem taking up a real-time chunk of his life: Cyberbullying. I've written about this here. This is now a huge problem, as the anonymity of the internet, and the dislocation of intent and harm caused by typing away on your lonesome, contributes to an explosion of children saying very nasty things indeed about their peers in a very public way. Th…

TES Behaviour Training: the live show (and this time it's real)

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I'll be running some training seminars for teachers who want to learn the fundamentals of getting their classes to behave, and running a disciplined class. I nearly said basics, but fundamentals makes it sound much more like some kind of ancient, arcane wisdom, as opposed to something anyone can learn. Which they can, incidentally

It's being run and hosted by the Times Educational Supplement, and I'm the lucky guy taking the classes. The thing I think is great about these is that it's a half day seminar, so instead of losing a day out of your life in an agreeable mid-budget hotel writing on sugar paper and telling the person next to you something nobody else knows (and wondering if you can hold your breath until you pass out), I'll just get straight to stuff I think people need to know to tame a class. And believe me, it isn't nuclear physics.

Better still, because it's hosted by the TES, the costs are kept as as low as possible so it's within most bud…

Game Over: the perils of Gamifying the classroom.

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An excellent article in this week's New Scientist called Power Up, by MacGregor Campbell, about an increasingly ubiquitious phenomena in teaching and even the real world : Gamification, which is exactly what it sounds like, i.e. the process of introducing game play elements into real life interactions. Turning life into a game might sound implausible, but as a social phenomena it's well documented, especially as wireless technology becomes so miniaturised and pervasive as to allow our real life functions to be tracked and evaluated in game-like ways

How is this achieved? By imagining that your life is an enormous arcade game; only, instead of achieving new levels by demolishing pixelated obstacles, eating power pills or shooting invader sprites, you do so by performing more mundane, every day actions like brushing your teeth, doing the ironing, or similar. A sensor such as your mobile phone, or even just your own input could collect the data you need, and provide the interface…

We need you to be rubbish: when to ignore whole school policies

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I just answered a question on the TES behaviour forum; it made me hopping mad, so I thought I'd repost my answer to it here. Basically, a teacher wrote in with an interesting problem. They've got great relationships, behaviour management, etc...but because the SLT want to introduce some whole school standards of classroom conduct, they're in a dilemma- change what works, or submit to the spur and the lash of the almighty teaching cookie-cutter. This is my response.....

'Only in the Wacky-Races world of education would we even have to consider such a farcical situation; you have great relations with your students; you have great behaviour in a school where that isn't the absolute norm (which means you're beating the curve), you love your job, you're delighted to help out and you're keen to work with the team. And you're being encouraged to upset this fantastic balance.

It reminds me of the Simon Pegg character (Nick Angel, I believe) in Hot Fuzz

Teaching Styles in the Movies #2: Mary Poppins and the Montessori Method

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Like most people, I don't often watch BBC3. It appears to be a Madame Tussaud's waxwork imitation of ITV4+1, without the charming adverts and endoscopic examinations of Katie Price's entrails. Never mind: at least it served up a decent New Year's film without adverts yesterday. Can there be a teacher more emblematic, more beloved than Mary Poppins, the eponymous heroine of what is, let's face it, the universe's most charming  movie? Apart from Mr Sands in Alan Clarke's 1979 masterpiece Scum, possibly. So how does her teaching measure up with the baseline of ideal practise, the OfSTED inspection? Here are a few highlights of her observed lesson.

1. She practises the Montessori Method. Obviously as a home tutor (or 'Nanny' as they call her; perhaps 'Governess' sounded too formal) she can't be scrutinised in a whole class environment, but some things are still glaringly obvious. For a start, she believes that children are the be…