Monday, March 17, 2008

All about perception?

What is wrong with schools? Are they broken? Do they need fixed? ...Or is it all down to perception?

This post was prompted by a couple of videos Ewan McIntosh posted to YouTube. The clips are of Derek Robertson talking on the BBC about the work of the Consolarium. I saw Derek on the news but missed the introduction, so I was glad Ewan posted the whole interview. However, it was the second set of clips that prompted this post. (See Ewan's post if you want a slightly less grumpy response.)

The final clip of the compilation is interesting. I suppose it's in the nature of news programme interviews that the have to set up conflict but for the interviewer to listen to Derek and then turn to the other chap and say, "Are you happy to hand over your teaching to a computer game?" Bah! I have some sympathy with what David Perks (the other chap) said in reply... we do too often look for the easy fix. However it is not just educators that look for the simple answer. The media also looks for simplistic answers to education's problems. Answers that don't always acknowledge the legitimacy of different approaches for different children/situations. One size rarely (if ever) fits all. I also agree with David that the teacher is more important than the technology. But I suspect Derek would agree with both these points too.

However I'm not sure what David's solution was. He said the problem is that if we perceive school is boring we will end up trying to make it exciting instead of making it better. Or at least that's my interpretation of his position - he didn't get the opportunity to fully explain his concerns or to explore possible solutions. It seemed to me he thought that the main thing that should be done was to change the perception that school is boring. The question remains - how? It reminds me of Billy Connolly's description of his music classes at school where the teacher played music while shouting, "Appreciate! Appreciate!" at pupils. However, Derek got the chance to articulate some of his ideas about improving schooling and he suggested it's about good teachers using a variety of good resources to help children learn effectively. Sounds good to me.

What do you think? Am I being to hard on David Perks? Are we working too hard at entertaining and not hard enough at educating?

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P.S. Sorry that I've been a bit quiet of late. I may say a bit about why in the next post.


Duncan__ said...

"... it's about good teachers using a variety of good resources to help children learn effectively."

I quite agree. And I'm doing my bit to help ... but only three days a week. Grrr ...

Anonymous said...

I've just seen the clips (thanks to Ewan for posting them) and I too thought it was "odd" the way the interviewer staged his question to David. I'm still trying to work out what David was saying, though ... was it "the problem is that school is perceived as boring, but learning maths etc is hard work and there is no point in trying to get round that but it is indeed a problem that pupils think it is boring". Hmm. Not sure if that takes us anywhere at all.
It is excellent, though, that LTScotland are doing a researched study. I'm looking forward to seeing the results. But if it is found that the games don't "improve" leanring significantly, does that mean we shouldn't keep trying things like games? I'd like to see the research paper that "proves" that blackboards improve learning significantly.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the opposite of boring should be stimulating.

Hard work can be stimulating. Intensive study can be stimulating. Lets home the Curriculum for Excellence is stimulating

David said...

Hello Duncan

Sorry to hear that... hope something else comes along soon.

Hello Ruby

Good call on the lack of blackboard research.

Hello Bob

This is something I often talk to the students about. Often, in an attempt to make work accessible to everyone in the class, they make it too easy and as a result... boring! Stimulating, challenging and accessible - that's tricky