Monthly Archives: January 2009

We have to stop thinking its homework…

There is still an unfortunate and overwhelming belief that schools are supposed to subscribe to the Qantas method of education; face the front, sit up straight, turn off all electronic communications devices, we are landing now and will be for the next 20 minutes – after, you can move freely and join the world once again.

For a generation of kids who were born into a connected world, for whom always-on constant connection is second nature (however superficial), it’s self evident that denying them such connection is only making schools increasingly irrelevant in the learning process. Note I’m not decrying the value of schools as social places, places of role models, of networking, yes of education, and friendship development, and of so much more than ‘learning’, but that’s a whole other discussion.

But! Prattling on about how iPods and PDAs and other mobile devices are good for homework – is missing the point (http://tinyurl.com/87oa8f). It makes the assumption that learning is a delimited thing by both venue and time.  Kids can only learn between the 9am bell and the 3:10 buzzer; rubbish. There should no longer be such a thing as homework; there should be less reliance on neatly bounded sharply delineated periods of learning and subject focus. Learning happens from wake up to sleep; it’s a collaborative thing between parents, peers, teachers and life in general.  If something is worth learning, kids will learn it regardless of when where or how. iPods, netpads, PDAs, game consoles, teachers faces, are nothing more than portals to information and the time kids access these should be exactly when the info is relevant and likely to stick.

Making something designated ‘homework’ is the same pointless proposition as only learning maths in this time slot only learning history during these designated minutes of the day. No kid’s mind focuses on a single subject at any timeslot, or for any predetermined time quantity. If this were not true teachers wouldn’t talk to students outside of their class time. They’d get all the maths or science or geography in those allotted moments.

Hattie’s findings (http://tinyurl.com/9jxbbu) that homework was less relevant than feedback is right – the methods are open to criticism, the numbers are easily challenged, teachers will always campaign for smaller classes, but the findings are still right.  Kids will learn when they have cause and interest to learn and they need ‘input’ in order to learn. Rename “feedback” to “providing answers, information & stimulating thought” and there it is – teaching, the thing we all do well. Hattie has supported that, but sidelong, kicked out the idea of delineated timeslots of learning.

Stop calling it homework, assume kids are connected and learning all the time and homework stops being something to endure and suffer.

Twitter is/was good – now, maybe, the too familiar is creeping in

Twitter is still one of the more brilliant components of a personal learning network. For example, the links to good stories and articles, websites about new innovative products and methods would be a 24×7 job to find if you’re doing it alone. This, plus the collective knowledge and memory of your followers still makes Twitter an invaluable asset. The closeness and supportiveness of some of the relationships within Twitter are very clear and obvious. Peer knowledge is unsurpassed as the way to stay ‘with-it’ and informed. Without doubt the talent and professionalism of many tweeps shines and inspires.
BUT!
There is a sense of familiarity and take-for-granted creeping in. A bit like after the first half dozen dates – no more taking extra time to appear at your best, no changing outfit six times till one looks right, no more sucking in the gut when being photographed, no more finding flowers and small gifts to bring along. Some tweeps have started feeling comfortable. Too comfortable. When the useful is interspersed with absolute nonsensical rubbish about someone’s kid being toilet trained and woots when they don’t crap themselves and how someone has a headache so they are not the happiest little vegemites in the jar, the system has become an old dressing gown. I don’t get the value of being told that someone is now in a taxi. Unless it’s the first and only taxi ride you’ve ever had and you need to share, we all know about taxis – keep it to yourself.  I don’t see the value of knowing that they ate wheeties for breakfast – and please don’t include that the reason is to keep you ‘regular’. I have no interest that you think your toothbrush needs replacing – you’re grown up, go buy one. I don’t care to share those sorts of details about life’s ablutions with any one. I even spare my beautiful everloving wife the finer details about how I neatly shaved my top lip this morning and remembered to put the toilet seat down.

Surely it is possible to be a close-nit supportive group with all the tremendous benefits that brings without resorting to mundane, inane, dull nonsense. If you haven’t anything constructive to say, don’t keep up your tweet numbers by tweeting the dull. Like my gran said, if you haven’t anything fruitful to say don’t say anything at all. Twitter isn’t a competition, there is no prize for having the most tweets, and trying to have the most tweets by being a twirp doesn’t make you worthy of a gold star on your forehead.

When face to face with your PLN members, you have good conversations, but I’d bet they never resort to “oh dear the hem on my second best dress has a slipped a stitch” – so why should Twitter do the same?

Just a thought…