Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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It’s worth noting the odd tributary when I pass it. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one.

 

Reading the Little Princegave me permission to be childish again. As a young adult it broke me out of the urgent teenage years of self importance and over-philosophising.

 

To be honest, I can’t remember the story too well – I had two copies one in English and one in French, but I lost my English copy. I do remember the point made at the start of the book that children are taught out of drawing – out of being creative by self-imprtant adults – the picture of the hat

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(or not the hat as the author points out) is a graphic illustration of adults ‘not getting it’.

 

It’s a point that Sir Ken Robinson echoes in his well known TED talk of a couple of years ago. Click here, if you haven’t seen it.

 

It’s also something I reflect on when I think of my own children’s creativity. When my daughter was three she was painting pictures like this one.

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I predicted that someone at her school would teach her out of painting what she sees and start teaching how to draw an outline. Now I’m no expect on the development of observational art and it may well be that when she was three that was just a step she was going through. But the warnings of both Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Sir Ken Robinson tell me that I need to protect their creativity. I need to keep their learning enoyable, help them work co-constructively with peers and adults, and teach them how to be reflective.

 

All these are fundamentals to our change school programme at Paganel.

 

It’s only a small tributary on the river, but seems significant today – thank you to Google for marking his 110th anniversary.

 

As a footnote, the other thing about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is that I always planned to turn one of his quotes into a song. He said “Aimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.” This means (roughly, as my French is not too good) “Love is not looking at each other, it’s looking together in the same direction.”I have some chords (well 2 of them – G and D) and a tune and also the idea to get people singing the line in different languages. Maybe that could become a Year 6 project for the future…

Technology Tree Conference

It was my second year at the technology tree conference and I got to present my thoughts about how it links in with the primary curriculum. Marcus has already written a blog entry on his views, so for a different perspective, look here.

 

 

I mainly went there to show off our Paganel Scalextric project. 3 children came with me and were able to talk about the process of making their own car, racing the cars and commentating on the races. It was great to see the children commentate on the adult delegates as they raced the cars the children had built. It was also great to have at least 3 schools sign up for the project next year – we can now have a primary school scalextric competition – how FAB will that be?

 

 

In my presentation I wanted to say how the national curriculum has been a rigid framework for education over the last 15 years just as the rest of the world has been discovering that the network is more important than the framework.

 

 

I started with a slide full of words that Michael Gove had recently spoken. I know it’s bad form to use loads of text on a Powerpoint but I wanted to make the point that the curriculum change wanted by the new government are just words at the moment. I highlighted words like ‘prune’, simplify’ and ‘over-prescitpive.’

 

I followed with this picture:

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It shows a rigid framework – some scaffolding. It’s my picture for the national curriculum of recent years – something that has helped build an educational structure of standards and rigour, but something that has also deskilled teachers from thinking for themselves. You can tell this by the use of the word ‘delivery’. Teacher’s ‘deliver’ the national curriculum. That verb really devalues the word ‘teach’.

 

 

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Next I showed this picture. It shows a network – rather a large one. Ewan McIntosh showed a very similar picture at a talk he gave a few months ago – thetalk that got me blogging again. I said how teacher’s had been deskilled not only from thinking for themselves, but also valuing networks just at the time when we need to be teaching our children how to network effectively.

 

 

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Then I showed these pipes. I had been reading some stuff about educational theories and how all our education system is based essentially on two theories – behaviourism and constructivism. But a new theory has been developed in recent years called connectionism. This is summed up by the statement “the pipe is more important than the contents of the pipe“. I held up my phone and pointed out how easy it is to access information through it and so we need to be teaching children how to use networks accurately and safely.

 

I then showed pictures of 2 different kinds of coffee cup.

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Professer Anne Bamford had used similar images at the Creative Partnerships Conference back in February to illustrate the value of design. One coffee can cost£1.00, the other could cost£5.00. Design makes a 500% mark up – it’s worth something.

 

Just as the processes learned in technology tree through working with business on designing and making somethingare also worth something.

 

I finished by pointing out the links inherent in technology tree – inspiring witing and maths, developing speaking and listening and also linking between teachers – all things that make more teaching more effective and efficient.

Google Teacher Academy

I’m quite excited about the prospect of attending the Google teacher Academy in July this year. It’s the first one to be held in London and I got in to it partly on the strength of my video which you can see here.

 

The video is a bit mad really – you obviously can’t teach telekinesis to primary phase children – it’s more of secondary school job if you ask me.

 

It also helped to start discovering some well helpful people on the internet who can give advice on technology and the like. Doug Belshaw was one. His blog lives at http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/

Leaps in technology

Some of us are a bit slow in the uptake.

We’re teachers.

We’re a bit slow because we’re so busy doing what we think we should be doing that we don’t take time to make our lives easier.

If only we spent a few moments finding the things that would make our lives easier, then we’d be less busy and teach better.

The pipe is more important than the contents of the pipe.

Today I made my life a bit easier. I learnt how to do Twitter. It took me 10 minutes. Then I learnt how to e-mail remotely into my blog. I’m doing that now from my phone.

Leaps forward in technology – for me anyway…

Exploring Children’s Attitudes towards Mathematics

The river winds on its course and today has taken an unexpected detour from Scalextric into maths.

I’ve just read a paper by Ben Ashby with the above title and for my MAST study I’m to reflect on what the key factors are that inhibit maths learning within my setting. I think the two main ones are confidence (particularly in girls) and self-belief.

Confidence
I think Mr Ashby is spot on when he writes that girls ‘frequently attributed success and failure to external factors, such as luck and the perceived difficulty of a question.’ I’m often frustrated that talented bright girls don’t take any credit for their own skills – it’s almost as if it’s not cool for them to do so – they have no role models who are good at maths – no-one to aspire to – so why should they be. If only every up and coming female celeb was as forthright about maths as Carol Vorderman…

I disagree, however, with the the author of the paper when he writes: ‘The reason for this is currently unclear and warrants further research.’ From reading the ALPS book, which draws from a range of well-known brain-based learning research, including Howard Gardner, it is clear that high achieving girls in particular have a problem with their concept of intelligence. They think they can’t learn more past a certain point – that they have reached the limit of their intelligence. I spend much of my time with higher achieving girls teaching them the attitude of resilience rather than discrete knowledge or skills. Not that I’ve cracked it yet…

Self-belief
This is a big problem at our school. So many of our children have convinced themselves that they are no good at maths. Some parents tell them that they were no good at maths either. It’s also not cool to be good at maths.

We have tried some things that have addressed the balance. Maths happens first now each day, so that children can do it when they are most alert. We also use sets in Key Stage 2 so that the range of ability is not so vast as it once was. This helps both the teachers, who have less differentiation to sort out, and the children who can see that everyone in the group suffers from the same amount of struggle.

We have also tried maths classes for parents, but so fare only a small number (10 or so) have taken it up – but I think changing parental attitudes is key.

I’ll be back on Scalextric tomorrow.