26 October 2015

Items to Share: 25 October 2015

  • Education’s Panacea Fever | @LeeDonaghy | Labour Teachers 'The way forward is actually something approximating another mania that briefly flared in the wake of London 2012 and Team GB’s success in the cycling events: marginal gains. Not the commoditised, hashtagged bandwagon it became on Twitter, but the acceptance that we need to continually seek to refine every aspect of our practice, and that improvement comes from the interplay of many different changes we make to what we do in the classroom.'
Other Business

19 October 2015

On being well out of it

Apologies for delayed posting.

As the new academic year starts, I am at last in the position of having no formal academic obligations. No teaching. No funded projects ("research" as such was never a major feature of my role—thank goodness). No external examining.

So I am now a recovering academic.

Academic life has always (at least, in the UK, in the later 20th century onwards.... [Ouch! It's struck again! I just can't bring myself to make the unqualified generalisations which everyone else bandies {sp.? I've never written that word before...} about)] claimed to be the last bastion of free speech and the disinterested (no—that is not the same as "uninterested"—although I generally go along with Oliver Kamm and Jean Aitchison et al.  in maintaining that language is as language does...) pursuit of truth.

Academe has long fallen short of those high ideals. They were probably always a fantasy, or at best an aspiration. And since the advent of "political correctness" and more recently "trigger warnings" and "micro-aggressions" (at present a N. American issue—but a diluted version will probably pop up here soon) speech is more constrained in academe than in any other sector of society. [Note: this paragraph contains no references...]

It isn't just a matter of free speech. The following egregious corporate-speak appeared in a job advertisement on behalf of the Times Higher Education's "University of the Year" a few weeks ago. The job is "Head of Directorate Office" which sounds grand until you see the salary, "up to £36,309". It's not clear what the post entails, but apparently:
'Supporting the senior team with high quality policy intelligence through research and data analysis, you will generate reports and briefings on strategic issues and manage a range of exciting projects.
[...] Emotionally intelligent, positive and solution-focused, you will have excellent interpersonal, communication and influencing skills. You will also be well-organised with a flexible, enthusiastic attitude, and a positive [...] customer-focused approach.
That is the kind of vacuous HR rhetoric you expect of an advert for a sales position in a second-rate competitor to Sunshine Desserts, rather than an academic institution. (OK, it's not an academic post, but even so you would expect the university to aim for a discourse in keeping with its academic aspirations.)

Sometimes even Laurie Taylor is understated...

Items to Share: 18 October 2015

Education Focus
Other Business

  • Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset' - Education Week '[A]s we’ve watched the growth mindset become more popular, we’ve become much wiser about how to implement it. This learning—the common pitfalls, the misunderstandings, and what to do about them—is what I’d like to share with you, so that we can maximize the benefits for our students. [ ] A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.'

15 October 2015

Off topic: an accolade for Windows 10

My 5+ year old "netbook" (remember them?) ran bargain-basement Windows 7. So much so that I couldn't change the wallpaper. But then there came the chance of a free up-grade to Windows 10. It worked on my main laptop, already running 8.1...

But the netbook was hosting my favourite—very basic—graphics package. Snapgraphics. I got it free on a cover disc on a magazine, and it produced most of the graphics on my original website. It's a Windows 3.1 package (aka "app").

Having had problems with everything since Windows 95, and occasional random successes, it was clear that Windows 10 would be the final kiss of death for this "legacy" software. But I already had Windows 10 on another machine, and was actually very pleased with it; easy migration, improved startup time, more intuitive operation. So I bit the bullet and installed it.

There were a couple of failures in the installation. I had set the download to run, and left it to do its thing—it is 2160 mb after all. I returned to get the failure notice, but that was probably because I had not clicked acceptance of the T&Cs within the required time limit. Once W10 was installed, I clicked on the Snapgraphics shortcut (my desktop was perfectly preserved). As expected, I got an error message, to the effect that this program required the (something like) NTVDM module. But then that changed to a notification of automatic download of that module, and the initiation proceeded seamlessly.

Credit where credit is due; Windows 10 is a great technical achievement, and more user-friendly than earlier versions to boot (so to speak). And free!

12 October 2015

Items to Share: 11 October 2015

Education Focus
  • Banging Your Head Against Bad CPD | FurtherEdagogy Continuing Professional Development 'is [...] a raw, organic process and is unique to the individuals that undertake it, yet FE managers often make the mistake of trying to keep too much control. Controlling CPD to ensure that data can be captured (i.e. numbers attending, evaluation forms, observation grades, etc) negates the impact. This article aims to highlight where FE managers might be getting CPD wrong and how they may reconsider future CPD opportunities for teachers?
  • Reflections on Teach Like a Champion, 2.0 | A few thoughts on education 'I love Lemov’s obsession with the micro-techniques (‘instructional brush strokes’) of teaching. Teaching is a complex process, and with so many variables to consider it’s easy to resort to intuition to explain good teaching. A great teacher looks like a ‘natural’ – she is simply ‘being herself’ in the classroom. Similarly, it’s easy to resort to generic advice – “high expectations!” “Don’t smile til Christmas!” “More pace!” “Engagement!”. Lemov blows these platitudes apart by focusing not on the manifestations of effective teaching but on the systems, routines and procedures that underpin it.'  And Teach Like a Champion is Going Out of Print! (Sort of) - Teach Like a Champion There's a 2nd edition coming out.
Other Business
  • Steven Pinker: 'Many of the alleged rules of writing are actually superstitions' | Books | The Guardian 'The real problem is that writing, unlike speaking, is an unnatural act. In the absence of a conversational partner who shares the writer’s background and who can furrow her brows or break in and ask for clarification when he stops making sense, good writing depends an ability to imagine a generic reader and empathise about what she already knows and how she interprets the flow of words in real time. Writing, above all, is a topic in cognitive psychology. '

05 October 2015

Items to Share: 4 October 2015

Education Focus
  • Taking the Tech Out of Technology [facultyfocus.com] 'Somewhere along the line, our excitement over the latest technological tools has started focusing on the wrong thing. The excitement ought to reside in the praxis of teaching, not the use of technology.'