Saturday, 24 January 2009

Collaboraiton is not democratic?

I feel a bit like a 'Red Top' journalist with the title of this post. Having selectively taken the title from the following quotation by the President of Encyclopedia Britanica. The full quote was:

"We believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one."

An interesting comment that I'm not too sure I fully understand.......

The quote is part of a short article on the BBC website, so go have a read of the full thing for yourself and see what you make of the thinking behind the quote.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Education is now the currency of the Information Age

The title of this post comes from a report on the education policy direction being espoused by the new US President, Barak Obama. I quite like the sentiment but would of course change the word education to learning! 'Learning is the currency of the Information Age' - has a nice ring to it!

Also, education is usually used to refer to a set period in time whereas learning is something that is continuous - a more appropriate sentiment for the 21st century and certainly one that many will need to ascribe to bearing in mind the challenging times we find ourselves in at the moment.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Home Education

An interesting development in the provision of education. The Government is commissioning a review into home education. This area has long been a problem for two main reasons. Firstly there is no definition of what an 'education' means. The current law states that children must have an education but stops short of saying that it must happen in a school and stops short of saying what actually constitutes an education.

In state funded schools the National Curriculum provides the framework from which an education is judged to be effective by external inspections. With the ongoing number of 'failing schools' we can what a generally ineffective job many Local Authorities do in meeting those standards. If you pay for your children to be educated privately (the Independent sector) there is no compulsion on the school to follow any prescribed curriculum. Quality is judged by external inspection and often the results in public examinations are seen as proving the quality of the provision. We often fail to mention that in the Independent sector they select pupils by ability so any failure to get good grades in examinations should be questioned very closely.

The current review appears to be fuelled by a paranoia that if children are home educated they might be being subjected to some kind of abuse and because the child does not have to be in contact with any external agencies, there is no way that abuse would be spotted. What a sad state of affairs we have reached when such suspicion and paranoia prevails.

This appears therefore to have very little to do with education, or learning, and a lot to do with a core and crucial point about where the line is drawn between the rights of individuals versus the responsibilities of the state. I guess even further though it could be seen as an indictment on the society we have created where the abuse of children by a very small minority of people creates the need for such a response, rather than a measured response that targets those people who are causing concern. Local Authorities have the right to ask to meet with home educating parents and from there they have the right to express concern that can lead to the usual child protection processes to be invoked. Why the focus on home education? Should not the focus be put on to Local Authorities to show that they are making reasonable contact with those who choose the home education route and that if any concerns are raised or felt, that the correct processes and procedures have been invoked? Having looked closely at the home education situation it is clear that Local Authorities have the responsibility already but each chooses to exercise its responsibilities very differently, usually choosing to poorly fund this area.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


Funny the things that you find when routing about. Above is a picture of a genuine NGfL ( National Grid for Learning) Lollipop! It must be around ten years old so I'll not open and taste it....just in case!

Maybe I'll put it up on ebay and see if anyone thinks that it is an object of desire!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Round rooms......

The title of this blog refers to a saying I have that if you don't want people to hide in corners then build round rooms. Well one school is doing just that. Follow this link.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Rushing together at a rate of knots

I am spending a good deal of time at the moment composing music, something I've done on and off since..... I can't remember. In fact I recall rushing to finish my exams at school so that I could use the remaining silent time to get e few notes on paper. I've used technology since the mid 1980's and currently make extensive use of the Sibelius programme and the Pro Tools programme. And here's where things get really interesting. Making music is a fascinating thing. There are those who compose by writing down the dots and lines that constitute western notation. This truly universal language can then be read and interpreted by anyone who studies music anywhere in the world - the true universal language? Then there are those who simply pick up an instrument and start playing, out comes something magic but with no knowledge of how to write things down this music was originally passed on through an aural tradition and then through the recording of sound. Technology got in on the act a while back and the recording industry supplied a never ending stream of music to listen to and enjoy. Technology also provided solutions to those folk who write notation by creating programmes that do for the musician what the word processor does for the author.

For a long time however there have been two distinct tracks in the technology world. The recording of an analogue and now digital audio stream that is packaged and played back and the creation of a musical score that then is played and interpreted by live musicians who can read the notation. If however you wanted to take a live piece of music and create a score from the audio recording it involved someone usual sitting down, listening to the recorded sound and then translating that into a score.

Now along comes Avid. This parent company now owns Digidesign who produce Pro Tools and Sibelius. Pro Tools is one of the leading programmes that are used to capture live recorded music whilst Sibelius are one of the leading companies in producing notation software. Recently a new release of Pro Tools integrated some of the aspects of the Sibelius programme meaning that for those people who play and have no knowledge of notation can now have their music magically transcribed in real time into notation. And vice versa of course, start with some lines of music notated in the traditional sense and then add some live stuff to that to create a recording. For those of us who approach composing from both ends of the spectrum this is a great time saver and a creative godsend.

Anything here to do with learning? Well of course there is. Having taught music to many young people they are all massively creative but often have not had the opportunity to learn the musical notation language, so by using the two programmes they can have the best of both worlds and their creativity should get a bit more 'unlocked'.

This also leads me to my main point here, if you've read this far of course! I often get into debates about how on earth people, but especially educators, can keep up with the pace of technological change. I have always maintained that technology has still got a very long way to go to get to where we need it to be. This is a great example for me. It has taken twenty-five years for technology to get to grips with how creative musicians work and there is still a way to go until the two programmes become one and the process of playing in live and then creating a publishing quality score becomes one process. In other spheres technology is still woefully lagging behind. We are only just getting a portable device with sensible power that will run all day, pretty much a prerequisites for learning. Whilst we are compelled to chase the newest device by the manufacturers, we are still only a part way towards what we really require for learning. Not that this approach ever goes down very well until educators finally switch from asking what the technology can do and start making a list of what they need it to do to support learning outcomes, then and usually very dramatically a drastic and sharp focus is bought to bear on the compromises that technology is still asking us to make.

So to very badly parody a well know phrase: Ask not what the technology can do, but say what you want technology to do for you. With sincere apologies to John F Kennedy!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Learning and shopping

Back in the late 1990s I wrote a set of eleven essays that were collated into a book called: The Empowered Citizen, Growing up in an information society'. The writings covered many topics but all related to how young people looked at things and how technology was fundamentally changing the way the young perceived the world. One of the ideas I put forward was for Supermarkets to offer 'Learning' as a product in the same way as they offer fruit and vegetables. Well it is always nice when things actually happen. In my local supermarket you can now get some learning with the weekly shop - Explore Learning have opened a centre for learning and kids can now access learning whilst their parents and guardians struggle with the BOGOFs.......personally I think I'll go straight for the learning and leave the BOGOFs......much more fun!

(Not so) Broadband

Progress, progress, progress. I recently upgraded a key piece of software that I use in my music work. Digidesign released the long awaited upgrade to version 8 of their Pro Tools software. Ok, so not a big deal to most people unless you are into composing music. But they only released the upgrade for download around the 19th December, with the option for an upgrade DVD being released in late January 2009. The file for download was just a bit less than 4GB. My broadband provision down the end of a quiet semi-rural road in deepest West Sussex only gives me 500k of the alleged 2meg. So the download time was sixteen, yes 16 hours - oh and you guessed right, the first time the download failed after fourteen hours and I had to start all over again.

So broadband.....well I guess if you live on a cable route then fine, but the reality for me is that my 'not so broadband' looks like it is not going to get any better as the investment from BT and the likes is all focused around larger conurbations where the revenue returns are going to be better and I wonder how my neighbours, and me for that matter, would take to having the road dug up just for better broadband provision.

Monday, 5 January 2009

When is a school not a school? Part 2

I was interested to see the article on the BBC website where a school has dropped the word 'school' from its title and is called itself a 'Place of Learning'.

Interestingly the local MP cannot see the justification for dropping the word school. If the focus really is on learning then fantastic. Is this just semantics? Well maybe not if you read some of my other postings on education versus learning and the role of schools. Let's watch to see if anywhere else drops the word School. Personally I thought that quite a few schools had already dropped the world school - Academies for example....