Weekly Newsletter Monday 28 April

http://goo.gl/ZCs3Aa for the picture edition

Preamble

Those that know me understand my mantra about being ruthlessly and relentlessly optimistic. In my opinion, there is no point being miserable, if for no other reason than starting the day with a smile makes the day seem brighter at the start. There are times when the Groundhog day of education does get to me; it seems daft to my mind that those who run education find it difficult to learn from the mistakes of the past. As this article today in the Scotsman shows, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence seems to have provided for its learners at upper secondary level the same experience Controlled Assessments and modular A levels have in England – a never ending treadmill of examination upon examination.

Lessons from the past, or is that the future?

Reading came to me all of a rush, around the age of 11, when I discovered James Bigglesworth. Once I had managed the entire series of Biggles’ books, written by Captain W.E. Johns, bought whilst on a family holiday in Scotland, I branched out into more advanced fantasies, of other worlds and universes. Perhaps the single most influential author of my teenage years was Isaac Asimov, and the most influential of the many books of his I read was the Foundation trilogy, inspired in turn by Edward Gibbons ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. Asimov’s work won the Hugo award for the ‘Best All time series’ – and if you don’t know his work do give him a chance.  Perhaps the short story book I, Robot is the starting point.

The 1964 World’s Fair was held in a park in Queens, New York, just a few minutes away from Manhattan

Anyway, the point about surfacing Isaac Asimov in April 2014 is that we have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of his predictions from the World Fair in 1964, and a right old mix his choices were. Some were pretty close for 2014, such as

1. “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

2.  “Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare ‘automeals’, heating water and converting it to coffee.”

3.  “Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with ‘robot-brains.’

You can read Asmiov’s article in the NY times of 1964 here – http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/23/lifetimes/asi-v-fair.html

and an excellent summary of his predictions in this BBC extract.

The BBC article finishes with this comment

But perhaps his most prescient observation, or warning, was that while technology, both then and now, has the power to transform lives, without efforts towards equal access, it can hurt, rather than help, the goal of “peace through understanding”.

How true is that!

10 images to inspire

Last week, I caught this nice post from Justin Tarte in which he celebrated 10 images, designed to inspire. My favourite is this one, but do go look at the other 9 he highlights!

By the way, he has a weekly post of these, so be careful, you’ll find yourself being sucked back in time to see the previous series of pictures he has posted!

By way of these images, there’s a clear series of social comments being made, largely focussed on being valid and real for the children we teach and hopefully reach in the classroom.

Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori

Last Friday I spent with our History department and our Y10 History Students, on the Ypres Salient. There is no doubt in my mind that such a trip provides for an outstanding experience for young and old alike. An experienced hand at visiting Ypres, I was nevertheless quite surprised to see just how many more visitors there are there now than there were last year. The 100 years anniversary has kicked off already, and the town, museums and places of interest to visit were all much busier than I expected. It was ANZAC day, 25 April, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”

Y10 Tyne Cot, 25 April 2014

As a result, when the Last Post was played at 8 pm, we were also entertained to a Military parade by ANZAC forces and their band and Maori choir. Alongside them, and English school choir and band also played – the whole performance still not lasting more than the planned 20 minutes, but of incredible quality and enhanced by the amazing acoustics of the Menin Gate, a monument to 54,896 who lost their lives on the Salient, but whose bodies were never found. After the somewhat arbitrary date of 15 August 1917, a further 34,984 UK missing are to be found on the Tyne Cot memorial instead.

It was Wilfred Owen who penned the title of this section “It is sweet and right to die for your country”, words that highlight the gulf between the reality of war and the public’s appreciation of it, far as they were from the trenches. 100 years on, the debate continues; is it right that we have forgotten the nature of ‘Britain’s triumph’ in the war as Michael Gove would have us believe? I’d rather follow the plans as laid out by the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, as he plans his own play for performance later this year in Ypres, based on the 1914 Christmas Truce and football match.

Speaking recently, Morpurgo gives this as his role to play  “To tell the story of soldiers who died, of those who witnessed the war on both sides, who lost loved ones – fathers, brothers, sons – is the only way we have left to remember, and the only way to pass it on. And it is important to pass it on, important for the men who died on all sides, all now unknown soldiers, for those who suffered long afterwards and grieved all their lives. If they gave their todays for our tomorrows, then, I am sure, after all they went through, and died for, they would wish to see us doing all we can to create a world of peace and goodwill, a world that one day will turn its back on war for good.”

Given that all of Europe’s leaders are to be present in Ypres for their June summit and are going to commemorate the anniversary at a ceremony at the Menin Gate, I rather hope there will be no triumphalism from the UK government delegation, despite Mr Gove’s rather unpleasant personal views. The No Glory website covers the various events rather well, and carries their impassioned letter to the coalition government to promote peace and  international understanding.

21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020 by Shelly Blake-Plock

Now Shelly first posted this list at the start of this decade and time moves on – I wonder how many you can already check off as having happened:

1. DESKS

The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

2. LANGUAGE LABS

Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. COMPUTERS

Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: ‘Our concept of what a computer is.’ Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we’re going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can’t wait.

4. HOMEWORK

The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more; we need them to ‘learn’ more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

So you get the drift – you can read the other 17 here, but it’s quite possible for us all that we can guess what will be obsolete by the turn of the decade. Try emailing me with your suggestion and I’ll build a post around that!

Best wishes for what looks like a Rainy week!

James Wilding

jtw@clairescourt.net

jameswilding.wordpress.com

 

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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