Friday, December 16, 2011

The highest branch on the apple tree it was my favorite place to be (Crowded House)

In 2007 I saw graphic evidence showing the sharp drop in engagement of NZ students from primary to secondary school . Generally Year 10 continues the drop and then there is a steady improvement until Year 13 but even that is still below the high engagement figures from primary years.

I’ve been considering that graph in student engagement ever since and wondering why it is that students become more and more disaffected. 

What we ultimately end up with is a load of disaffected students in our secondary schools. I recently found  a helpful definition of all these terms.
Engagement versus disaffection in school refers to the intensity and emotional quality of children’s involvement in initiating and carrying out learning activities…Children who are engaged show sustained behavioural involvement in learning activities accompanied by a positive emotional tone.  They select tasks at the border of their competencies, initiate action when given the opportunity, and exert intense effort and concentration in the implementation of learning tasks; they show generally positive emotions during ongoing action, including enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, and interest

The opposite of engagement is disaffection.  Disaffected children are passive, do not try hard, and give up easily in the face of challenges…[they can] be bored, depressed, anxious, or even angry about their presence in the classroom; they can be withdrawn from learning opportunities or even rebellious towards teachers and classmates.
I am interested in this apparent correlation between engaged students and positive behavior patterns. On the surface it seems a no-brainer. We need to continue the flavour of primary high engagement through to secondary school (particularly for boys).

Why is it we are unable to do this. An inquiry method investigation would help with this.

As I’ve blogged recently – the behavior of our students at Ali bin Abi Taleb School is relatively good and the emotional engagement of students at our school is reasonably high given the Arabic context for males (many are eventually headed for government jobs - the police force or the army are two lucrative career paths).

In a NZ context it would an interesting area of action research. Maybe it's already been done?

I'll consider this and get back to you. I'm off tomorrow on holiday back to New Zealand. It's the end of the first Trimester here, the second starts on January 8.

While I'm away I will endeavour to keep up with the blog but you'll understand if it's not so regular for a while.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All things in moderation, including moderation (Mark Twain)

This week has been quite busy at school with all of our students doing tests in English, mathematics, Islamic studies, Arabic studies, science, geography, history and social studies.

The first trimester ends this Thursday and we have a three week break over Christmas before Trimester Two starts on January 8.

My dream team of advisors assist in English, mathematics, science, and Arabic so we have all been heavily involved with moderation of marking (Gavin is the ICT advisor but there are no ICT tests for him to moderate).

I’ve posted on this before but it’s worth repeating – Nu Zild educators could learn heaps from the rigorous moderation procedures we use here BEFORE the teachers mark their tests. They then have a benchmark to mark against. It so much harder to moderate after the fact.

And less is more, as this extract indicates (and Mark Twain's quote summarises):
Moderation is considered a key part of a person's personal development in Taoist philosophy and religion. There is nothing that cannot be moderated including ones actions, ones desires and even thoughts. It is believed that by doing so one achieves a more natural state, faces less resistance in life and recognises one's limits.Taken to the extreme, moderation is complex and can be difficult to not only accept, but also understand and implement. It can also be recursive in that one should moderate how much they moderate (i.e. to not be too worried about moderating everything or not to try too hard in finding a middle ground).
Anyway - here is a selection of photos showing the moderating process at work in mathematics with Jan, English with Peter and Arabic studies with me, without being too try hard!

Maths - Ahmed (HOD), Samir, Samer, Jan juggles the glasses. 

English - Peter, Nidal (HOD), Hichem, Jalal.

Arabic studies - Abdulla, Salem, me, Abdelazim (HOD), Shaban.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Monsters! Dying! By axes! Bleeding in the burning light! (Dream Evil)

Professional Learning and Development (PLD) appears to be the new fancy way of saying Professional Development (PD).

Don't ask me why we needed to overthink this and add learning to the title - maybe we weren't learning anything while we were being developed before. Who knows?

That’s a rhetorical question by the way.

Here’s some more:
  1. Why do we do PLD?
  2. What does it look like?
  3. What impact does it have?
  4. And – How do we know?
Actually I lied – these ones aren’t rhetorical at all. They are monsters to be slain by axes!

I’m going to have a go at answering them. My success criteria is to do so without overthinking it and without being too glib and hip (to the jive daddio). I'm going to leave them bleeding in the burning light!

Yes - I know, it's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it.

Less is more.

Here are my answers:
  1. No brainer - because learning is intrinsically good for us.
  2. It looks like this, according to me  –

     3. It improves teaching practice and results in improved student learning.
     4. And we know this because our teacher observations indicate improved teaching and  
         examination results indicate improvements in learning.


I love my job.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chinese music under banyan trees, here at the dude ranch above the sea (Steely Dan)

Further to my musings on the generally good behaviour at my school from a couple of posts ago – I have recently revisited an excellent little article by Jon Saphier and Mathew King called Good Seeds Grow In Strong Cultures.
They make a couple of good points.
School improvement, they say, emerges from the confluence of FOUR elements
  1. The strengthening of teachers’ skills
  2. Systematic renovation of the curriculum
  3. Improvement of the organisation
  4. Involvement of parents and citizens in responsible school-community partnerships.
Underlying all four though is school culture.

It can either energise the four or undermine them.

At Ali bin Abi Taleb School we have a team of advisors from Cognition Education (lead by me) who aim to address the first, third, and fourth ones. The Abu Dhabi Education Council is aiming to address the second one.

But without a positive school culture it’s a house of cards...built on sand...with a howling asefa rum liah (desert dust storm) blowing. You get the idea – school improvement is not going to work without it.

So, back to my little school.

Because of the strong, positive supportive culture here, (according to Saphier/King) improvements in instruction will be significant, continuous, and widespread.

In short – good seeds will grow in a strong culture.

Now that's a comforting thought!

Monday, December 5, 2011

She was gazin' to the future, riding on the Jack of Hearts (Bob Dylan)

The UAE celebrated its 40th birthday last week with fireworks displays, outrageous car decorations and blaring horns. Here are some images from the general UAE wide celebrations.

At school we had our own series of events for National Day. These involved a selection of animals, singing, dancing and poetry.

A selection of AbAT's finest.
Nidal leads the choir.
Wayno with a python at Khalifa Boys'.

Ali bin Abi Taleb staff and students

Some of the boys brought their hunting dogs for the day.

Jan with a falcon.

Hisham tries to translate falcon-speak.

The falcon's owner with the Principal (Mohammed).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I believe in a celebration, I believe you set me free (U2)

Punishment and reward. I've been musing over behaviour management of late.

In my little school there are very very few discipline moments. No exclusions, no suspensions, no malignant defiance of staff, no assaults on staff, verbal or otherwise, no drug or alcohol issues, no physical assaults between students.

Oh sure - it's a boys' school so there are the incidents of name calling and teasing and rough and tumble during the day, even a fight between boys from time to time but they are resolved quickly, and the spill over into serious discipline incidents is very rare.

Even the minor stuff is resolved quickly and without fuss (no detentions, no keeping in at break time, no punishments that I can actually name aside from boys who are not paying attention in assembly are moved to a visible position in front of their peers).

The answer from what I can see is good relationships and positive reinforcement of behaviours. Actually - forget good relationships, fantastic relationships. Fantastic relationships that start before they arrive at school.
The quality of attachment (early in life) predicts later development, positive relationships with peers, teachers and performance in school (Ngozi Onunaku).
The father son relationships I hear about and witness in school bare testament to this.

The great relationships that I see between the teachers (plural and to a man) and the students builds on this foundation.

Which all leads to a conumdrum.

Is it possible that this situation can be replicated in a New Zealand school context? Or is it unique to an Islamic/ Ali bin Abi Taleb context?

Mmmmm? I'll ponder that one for a spell.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

So round and round and round I go, and where I stop I don’t know (Edgar Winter Group)

This post is about some great teachers. But first some back story.

I had some dental work done this week and while I was waiting (unsuccessfully) for the anesthetic to kick in I had time to chat with my dentist - a lovely Hungarian lady called Monica.

I asked Monica about when she had decided to become a dentist. She answered that she trained to be a dentist as a mature student; she'd flirted with other jobs before deciding that that would be her career.

She said, "No one can decide what they really want to do when they are 15 or 16 years old".

And I said, "I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was 12". She was amazed.

Mr. Lindsay at Manukau Intermediate was my initial inspiration. He was a mathematics' specialist and a young enthusiastic guy but he was only my actual teacher for a short time (I had the deeply unpleasant experience of having Mrs. Kay for the bulk of those two years at intermediate).

When I went for my out of zone interview for Mt Albert Grammar in 1970 and the Headmaster (Mr. Hall) asked me if I had a job in mind for when I eventually left school I said, "I want to be a maths' teacher".

My father (another Mt Albert Grammar old boy) who came to the interview with me must have looked at me in an interesting way. I don't remember articulating this desire to him or my mother before this interview.

So my bliss found me aged 12 in August 1970.

I love the fact that I'm a teacher. It's all I've ever wanted to be; I know, in one form or another, it's all I will continue to be. 

Anyway this post was spost to be some great teachers so here's a random gallery of some great teachers who are no longer with us that have sprung to mind in the last five minutes. That would be Siddhartha Gautama (a.k.a. Buddha), Jesus of Nazareth, Walt Whitman, Frank McCourt, Confucius, Henry David Thoreau, and, finally, with the TV show Lost in mind - John Locke (you'll be able to suss who's who).


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For no apparent reason (Anouar Brahem)

I haven't included many photos of school activities lately so I'll correct that now with a few from this week.

Before taboor with Ahmed, the music teacher.
Mathematics certificates (with Jan and her three maths
teachers on the far right)
Abdulla is the MC, Mohammed is between me and student.

Arabic studies students in the library.

Adbulla has never met a microphone that he doesn't love.

Shaban wraps up the festivities.

Khamis shares a joke with Jan (maths advisor)

Some of the students work at recreating the UAE flag.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Your destiny may keep you warm (Oasis)

Data driven teaching is today's topic.

I am so grateful for the Cognition Education twin thrusts on data driven improvements and evidence based inquiry. It gives such a solid foundation for building improvement, and while it seems absolutely self evident it is surprising how much we’ve got it wrong in the past.

Okay – how much I’VE got it wrong in the past.

Not through negligence, through ignorance.

And I’m not alone (pheww). Generally teachers and most administrators are not assessment literate (Popham's claim in 2001).

Oh sure we’ve looked at test scores and summative results and done some data analysis on that to a lesser or greater degree. But it’s hit and miss.

I now realise that I’ve been bad at making assumptions about students and their learning in the past and I haven’t asked the right kind of questions to improve their classroom conditions, instruction, and provided a repertoire of interventions to properly differentiate my teaching.

I didn’t learn how. I loved my time at teacher training college in 1982 but that was a long time ago now.

I’ve done a lot of management development over the last 12 years in New Zealand (a Masters degree in Educational Management) and the UK (the National Professional Qualification in Headship) but it took working in a little school in the UAE for me to properly appreciate how to use data properly to improve teaching and why it’s important.

My job here (and the other advisors) is basically to prod teachers to collect meaningful data on their own and ensure that they begin to ask questions and change their teaching practice.

The beautiful thing (yes beautiful) is that it’s happening!

Teachers here are challenging their assumptions, challenging themselves to find out more about their students. They are looking at their results for trends over time and talking to their colleagues in new ways.

I was really thrilled that the mathematics advisor (let’s call her Jan Thomas) organized a meeting for all the Cycle 2 mathematics teachers recently.  

Obviously this is not new in a NZ context but it was a revelation here and the teachers communicated in a new way – they talked about teaching strategies and how to improve their students’ learning. Fantastic.

Who would've thought? English teacher me - a cheerleader for data driven improvements!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't give me that, you snotty faced heap of parrot droppings! (Monty Python)

A colleague gave me an article recently called, Forgetting about friendship: using conflict in teacher communities as a catalyst for school change by Jorge Avila De Lima (thanks Jan).

Along the way he makes some challenging comments about collaboration, collegiality and communities of teachers. For instance he says;
It is ...clear that not all communities of teachers are favorable to educational change. The propensity of these communities to foster this change will vary with the nature of the elements that bond its members together.
My past experience has certainly been that some staffrooms are much more receptive to change than others. In fact I can only think of two staffrooms where the whole staff was united as one community and moving in the same direction as the Principal. The first was Macleans College when I was an English teacher there from 1985 to 1989, and the second is my current school - Ali bin Abi Taleb School in Al Foah (Al Ain, UAE).

But I didn't really want to focus on that bit of the article.

In analysing the community of teachers he identifies three elements.

1.      Community of understanding (common values, shared beliefs)
2.      Community of practice (mutual support, collaboration, collegiality)
3.      Community of affection (meaningful relationships)

In a statement that I know my friend PJ will embrace whole-heartedly De Lima says:

The only thing that seems to be absolutely imperative that teachers share in order to form a community of professionals is a deep commitment to students’ learning, development and well being. Strong personal bonds are by no means essential (my emphasis).

But I didn't really want to focus on that bit of the article either.

De Lima goes on to discuss the idea of trust in close relationships. Trust in close relationships reflects ‘confident expectations of positive outcomes’ from a partner.

Interpersonal trust can be defined as ‘the confident expectation that a partner is intrinsically motivated to take one’s own best interests into account when acting – even when incentives might tempt him or her to do otherwise’.

My company has embraced the concept of a ‘Performance Enhancement Payment’ scheme this year and we are required to submit a ‘stretch goal’ (see earlier posts on this concept).

A colleague who is also a friend, let’s call him Colin Donald, suggested we work on ours together as we have a history of working together on Professional Development ideas in Qatar a few years ago.

I had no problem placing my faith in his benevolent intentions and saying, “Yes – great idea”. We have that interpersonal trust and I have that confident expectation of a positive outcome.

It comes from history and the mutual professional trust that has built up. He trusted me in Qatar to do my job. I trusted his leadership abilities.

Of course, Colin and I didn’t need to be friends to work in this collegial way but it helped that we trusted each other’s abilities and motives.

But I didn't really want to focus on that bit of the article either.

De Lima makes a good distinction, when discussing collegiality and interpersonal ties in teaching between being friendly and being friends with colleagues.
While friendship ties us to others through positive sentiments of affection; due to our desire to establish some interaction beyond the relationship implied by our formal role, we often maintain friendly relations with others to whom we are not particularly attracted or whom we may even dislike somewhat.
[This is very blokey isn’t it? I can just imagine saying to Colin – I’d like to work with you because of a personal sentiment of affection. Yeah right!]

The point of the article promised in the title is coming soon I promise. But we need another slight digression.

When I attend meetings called by representatives of my company I can’t help notice how the men always sit together and the women sit separately. Partly this reflects the segregated nature of schools and society in the UAE. I am in an all boys’ school with no female teachers. Girls’ schools have no male presence beyond the security guard at the gate. Boys and girls have staggered bus timetables so they are not on co-educational buses.

But there’s more to it than that.  

The male advisors gravitate towards each other, so do the women (although less so). Friendship, especially at deep levels, is developed among people who view one another as similar. The male advisors are similar not only in race and sex but also in interests. Yes we do like to talk about sport and masculine pursuits.

De Lima’s thought is that in a schooling change scenario teachers not in close friendship groups can open doors of change wider than can the ties that bind together very close friends.

This is contentious. Andy Hargreaves says that in order to work successfully teachers need to feel some kind of commonality with the people with whom they gather and work.

As indicated above, for men that means other men.

Okay so…cognitive conflict (De Lima’s term and no pun intended with the company I work for – Cognitive Education).

De Lima’s point (yes we got there) is
Instead of pursing deep levels of friendship and harmony among teachers, sponsors of educational change in schools would be better off by going after cognitive conflict, by arranging ways of bringing together previously unacquainted colleagues in new and innovative combinations across subject areas, grade levels and even school buildings.

Basically – conflict is good. Even more than that, ‘school cultures will not flourish and develop dynamically without internal controversy’.


If you’ve made it this far you deserve some more Monty Python.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Well everybody's hoppin', everybody's boppin', boppin' at the High School Hop (Jerry Lee Lewis)

This post is brought to you courtesy of the inspiration derived from Michael Smith's PrincipalPage blog (link is in my blog list on the right).

Here's my list (in no particular order) of 25 things to be thankful for in my job as Lead Advisor at Ali bin Abi Taleb School.

    1. The laughter I hear in the corridor outside my office every day (from a revolving cast).
    2. Air conditioning - couldn't do it without you Mr General.
    3. My dream team of advisors. Take a bow Jan, Peter, Davego, David, and Gavin.
    4. Sharing an office with our translator, Hisham (a mutual support network of two).
    5. The band at taboor (assembly) every morning.
    6. Watching the teachers walk arm in arm with students.
    7. Shaking hands with students at break time.
    8. The Arabic teacher meetings - a riot of laughs.
    9. Morning greetings with the staff and handshakes all 'round.
    10. It's a boys' school with an all male staff - alhamdolilah (praise to God).
    11. It's a Cycle Two school (Grade 6-9) so nowhere near the same pressures as in Cycle Three.
    12. Mohammed, the Principal.
    13. Holy Qur'an readings by the students which float in the morning breezes.
    14. The view of the trees outside my office window.
    15. School rituals.
    16. The music coming from Ahmed's room (with Nidal's singing from time to time).
    17. Abdulla (one of the Arabic teachers) and his daily greetings.
    18. The boys' enthusiastic singing of the national anthem at taboor.
    19. The friendly warm relationships.
    20. Vice-Principal Fadhil's laugh and cheeky smile.
    21. The enthusiasm for learning and embracing change.
    22. The lack of private agendas that sabotage improvements for students.
    23. The sweet black tea.
    24. The open gate that symbolizes a lot about the welcoming atmosphere at the school.
    25. Blogs from Michael Smith that keep me amused, grounded AND inspired.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm deep inside myself, but I'll get out somehow (Neil Young)

Time for another TED talks experience. The ICT advisor (Gavin) suggested this talk to me and it's both fascinating and timely given what we are doing in our schools technology wise.

I notice that the Labour Party in Nu Zild is advocating laptops or tablets for every student. Michael Fullan would say that that is the wrong driver and I'd agree with him. Improving teachers and teaching is much more powerful than handing a new tool to a student.

Larry Lessig in this talk makes some powerful points about what we are doing to our 'kids'. It's worth watching until the end!

Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity | Video on

I also came across this Larry Lessig talk where he explores the same theme.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On a boat in the middle of a raging sea (Cream)

Today's hot topic at school was the Student Support Team's meeting.

Actually it wasn't.

Not even close!

The hot topic was really the upcoming National Day festivities.

My Student Support Team meeting was after the staff meeting that discussed how we were going to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the U.A.E.'s founding and I kept some of the staff (those on the team) from a Jordanian lunch so I wasn't very popular.

Ah well. In the grand scheme of things it's a shrug of the shoulders. would be great if the hot topic was students with Special Educational Needs (boring but great). That's what the Student Support Team is all about - focusing on the less and more able. That equates to roughly 5% at each end of the student spectrum in my school.

I was interested that one teacher took issue with me for using the word 'weak' as in 'the really weak students' to describe the ones who needed the Individual Educational Programs (IEP). I can see his point (he didn't want to stigmatize those students) but I don't see anything wrong with the acknowledgment of weakness.

I love playing tennis and my game is pretty sound but I am weak on a topspin backhand. As in I can't do it. I can slice and hit it flat but topspin? Forgetaboutit! No one has showed me how to do it effectively.

It would have been good if someone had said to me when I was 12, "Hey Warren, your backhand is a weakness in your game - mind if I give you some pointers? We could design an IEP for you and the backhand would be as good as your forehand."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You're the apple of my eye (Badfinger)

It seems that there is an awful lot of Steve Jobs product out there at the moment. I'm talking about books and articles on him rather than the ubiquitous ipad, iphone, ipod, Pixar, iMac presence in our world.

Bookshops are full of him. I can't help but notice the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and there is also a book being advertised called I, Steve by Mr Jobs himself.

I bought the latest Rolling Stone magazine yesterday, with a cover story on Steve (I'm sure he won't mind me be overly familiar - he feels like everyone's favourite uncle).

I love the pose in each of these covers. We don't change much in fundamental ways and we can't run from our genes.

I started reading the article in the bookstore and got hooked. Mainly because his former girlfriend (who he had a daughter by that he claimed wasn't his until DNA proved otherwise) wrote such a loving piece about him.

Until the last paragraph that is. Later he became (according to her) 'a despotic jerk'; before then he had shared a romantic youth with her and others.

The accounts I've read of him seem to bear out her characterisation.

In shorthand - he was a romantic dreamer in his youth with abandonment issues (he was adopted by the Jobs' family), a seeker of enlightenment, a Dylanologist, a hard driving visionary boss who embraced capitalism, a despotic jerk, and finally a micromanaging Apple figurehead who came to terms with his life and loves after the cancer diagnosis.

Like any shorthand it's both wildly unfair while containing grains of truth.

Whatever and whoever he was as a man (and he's nothing if not fascinating) he was someone who changed the world.

I love this quote from him when challenged about starting up a for-profit company like Apple:
Remember in the sixties, when people were raising their fists and saying, "Power to the people"? Well, that's what I'm doing with Apple. By building affordable personal computers and putting one on every desk, in every hand, I'm giving people power. They don't have to go through the high priests of mainframe - they can access information themselves. They can steal fire from the mountain. And this is going to inspire far more change than any nonprofit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mystery train smoking down the track (Elvis)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Einstein.

I love the idea that imagination is more powerful/important than information. J.J. Abrams' mystery box is a TED talks presentation that uses a number of modern references (Star Wars, Lost, ET and more) and Abrams' own career to illustrate this essential point.

You've also gotta love his energy and sheer enthusiasm. His vitality and forceful delivery takes a bit to get used to but I was hooked as soon as he mentioned his own grandfather.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ev'rybody's gonna need a ventilator (Rolling Stones)

We are currently enjoying an Eid break (three days holiday, back to work tomorrow - Wednesday).

The students didn't arrive for school in any great numbers on the Thursday before Eid so the school sent them home early. We are not expecting students at school tomorrow or Thursday. Usually the government extends Eid to include these two days but, unlike every other Emirate and Arab country around us, this year it hasn't.

The minister has said that Abu Dhabi needs to be more serious about education and not take extended holidays.

Upshot is though that the families and students will take the two days anyway.

My school was very relaxed about all this. Very philosophical. No problem.

As last Thursday was unfolding it was great to see this. I suspect in New Zealand there would have been large scale angst and hand wringing about the boys losing class time and there being no structure for the boys who did come to school. With only about 30 students arriving some composite classes were run for a couple of hours but then the place was empty by about 10am.

There was no panic, no sense of events spiraling us out of control. It was all very calm and orderly.

It was most impressive.

We could learn a lot from how this was all dealt with.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Take me disappearin'...down the foggy ruins of time (Bob Dylan)

From time to time I have wondered whether Human Resource Management (HRM) is an area I'd like to move into more.

As a Deputy Principal and Principal I used to enjoy resolving personnel issues. This was part of my overall job (a very small part come to think of it), but a bit that I was good at.

Then I came to the Middle East and witnessed the business model HRM at first hand, where it is a distinct area of expertise, and I realised it is not going to be part of my future career thinking.

Being involved as an educational advisor at Ali bin Abi Taleb School has made me realise how much I love being in a school.

I have nothing against the people tasked with HRM - they are wonderful human beings. Certainly all of the ones I've met in my company involved with HRM are very accommodating, uniformly helpful, upbeat and cheerful. I don't know how they do it.

I now realise it would drive me mad!

Peter Drucker is one of the best-known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on the subject of  management theory and practice and he once said (before Star Trek was on TV):
The constant worry of all personnel administrators is their inability to prove that they are making a contribution to the enterprise.
I've lost count of how many restructuring exercises have taken place in HRM during the year.

It seems that HRM's image of itself is also rather nebulous as well.

I did a Google search on 'HRM images' and there was an abundance of either group shots or vastly complicated organizational diagrams.

Does HRM actually make an impact?

It is generally thought that HRM affects performance for the better but it is difficult to understand HOW they produce an effect. It may even be impossible because they are dealing with so many variables:  people's feelings and foibles and difficult to measure things like how much they influence the climate of an organisation.

Like I said - I don't know how they do it (nor does it seem like anyone else does either).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brain salad surgery (Emerson Lake & Palmer)

I'm home sick today from school - sore throat has gone but it has been replaced by a runny nose. This means a stuffy head full of mucus and waste bin full of tissues. Just the right conditions to write about today's subject - the brain!

I am, by nature, both fascinated by and suspicious of many of the latest edufads - learning styles, De Bono's damned hats, talk of the right and left brain hemispheres, the knowledge wave and so on.

In education I often get the distinct impression that an interesting idea gains fadhood by being essentially misunderstood. It then goes viral and every educator who wants to appear au courant propagates and increases the misunderstanding

The Knowledge Wave idea gained fadhood a few years ago in Nu Zild. Everyone was quoting Jane Gilbet's book (Catching the Knowledge Wave?). It became a catch phrase, a conference theme, a training website, a T-shirt and Marvel were considering making a movie of it. Okay I'm making that last bit up (I hope).

Thing was, I don't think many people actually read Gilbert's book. I did and it made sense to me as a way of dealing with the production model of education.

The right and left brain people would have us believe that we are one or the other. Educationalists, who always appear to want to simplify things, therefore seek ways to accommodate each side's characteristics in teaching practice.

I found this talk recently which may take a few views to follow but I enjoyed both the delivery and the message.