16 December 2013

Items to Share: 15 December

Education Focus
  • Why good teachers leave teaching (theconversation.com) Australian—but it's the same the whole world over, except perhaps in Finland. 'Too often new teachers are treated as “empty vessels” who are simply required to slot into existing programmes and methods. This would be fine, if all we want is to keep doing what we have always done in education.However, all the indicators tell us that what we’ve always done isn’t good enough anymore.'   
  • Hands Up (Scenes from the Battleground) 'I want to talk about the practice [...] of having a “no hands up” policy in a school which is intended to apply in all lessons. I consider this to be one of those ridiculous, wrong-headed reactions to a genuine problem.'
  • How best to teach: knowledge-led or skills-led lessons? (Pragmatic Reform) A very useful summary of the embattled positions, unfortunately marred by little reference to levels of study or the epistemology of subjects, and an odd take on Bloom, and neglect of dialectical processes (sorry about the jargon). In short, he acknowledges the variety of the curriculum, in respect of the pupils' experience over the whole timetable, but not that such variety also calls for different teaching methods. How about looking at constructivist chemistry, or cognitive PE? And here's Harry Webb's latest contribution to the debate.
  • Reading is fundamental. | More or Less Bunk Points which needed to be made about what different media (live lecture, video, textbook, source material) are good for, and how they needed to be treated as complementary rather than in competition, as MOOC advocates (and others) often treat them.
  • ...and even worse at the other end of the scale: BBC News - Newham College students 'never sat courses they passed' 'A college in east London has received large sums from the government by awarding qualifications to students who say they never took the courses.' Unintended (I hope) consequences of the neoliberal agenda of commodified education. 
  • Thoughts on Art and Teaching: Sense and Sensibilities (distinguishing and discriminating) (Jim Hamlyn) '...what differentiates novices from experts is that novices have not yet integrated their affective states into a conceptual system, with the consequence that their attempts to verbalise their feelings fail to do them justice. Experts, on the other hand, have a much more stable grasp of their conceptual system and the ways this describes and frames their underlying affective states. [...] What this research reveals is that experience alone is insufficient for the development of our sensibilities. 
Other Business
  • The beautiful guts of a motorcycle - Deus Ex Machina - Aeon Film (video) 'What would a motorcycle look like if you didn’t cover up its insides with bright sheets of plastic? Beautiful, says this craftsman, who is building a bike that proudly displays every tube, wire and bolt. Like the bookshelf of a scholar, the tools of his shop record the ebb and flow of his passions over the years. This film explores the intimate relationship between a man and his machines.' This is the video counterpart of Matthew Crawford's The Case for Working with your Hands (Shop Class as Soulcraft, in the USA). 
  • Parkinson’s Law (farnamstreetblog.com) 'We’ve all heard of Parkinson’s Law — “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” I bet you’ve lived this. After all, who hasn’t sat in an hour-long meeting that really ended after 30 minutes. The rest of the time is just filler. It’s already booked after-all. [...] More than that, Parkinson comes up with the brilliantly insightful Law of Triviality; “The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum [of money] involved.” '
  • Keyboard Consciousness 'The majority of typists couldn’t tell you how they type if they tried, according to a study published in October [...] The finding comes from a body of typists who averaged 72 words per minute but could not map more than an average of 15 keys on a QWERTY keyboard.' (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the pointer.) 
  • The boy whose brain could unlock autism — Matter — Medium 'Imagine being born into a world of bewildering, inescapable sensory overload, like a visitor from a much darker, calmer, quieter planet. [...] Just to survive, you’d need to be excellent at detecting any pattern you could find in the frightful and oppressive noise. To stay sane, you’d have to control as much as possible, developing a rigid focus on detail, routine and repetition. Systems in which specific inputs produce predictable outputs would be far more attractive than human beings, with their mystifying and inconsistent demands and their haphazard behavior.'
  • Taking Photos Makes Your Memory Worse | Motherboard 'Two new studies published in Psychological Science found that people who took pictures of objects had more trouble remembering specific details about them, where they were situated, and even if they had seen them at all.' 
  • Why the cult of hard work is counter-productive (Steve Poole in the New Statesman) 'We are everywhere enjoined to work harder, faster and for longer – not only in our jobs but also in our leisure time. The rationale for this frantic grind is one of the great unquestioned virtues of our age: “productivity”. The cult of productivity seems all-pervasive...' 

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