May 03, 2006

Accountability be damned

Stealing from Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine a few weeks back and this wonderful excerpt from my brother’s boss, Emily Bell, I would like to adapt the business world to that of education and further back up my belief that the digital divide lies in people's minds, not their internet connection.

Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Unlimited, issues a peeved though eloquent defense of the business model of blogging. Ewan McIntosh swaps a few words and finds the defense of blogging and podcasting and wikis for educators.

The man who doesn’t believe that blogging is a revolution or is educationally sustainable is one of many sceptics and countercultural poseurs who like to preach certainty where the only certainty is that there is none. The problem the sceptics battle with is that there is no viable accountability model, still, for much of what happens on the internet. Or so they think - and this particularly applies to traditional teaching models.

But then one could more powerfully argue that finding a teaching model for any medium, old or new, at the present time is an exercise in mining unsustainability. There are plenty of teachers who get good marks out of old style teaching with no new technologies, and a growing number that get their students very good marks and learning experiences out of the web.
The crucial problems start when old-style teachers expect to be able to apply exactly the same kind of lesson model to the web as they have to their old classes….

Read the original post with Emily.

Update: See Jeff's excellent post about Not Knowing What We Don't Know, which describes the kind of thing teachers are generally comfortable with and why this might not be the best way forward. I really want to use that as my new talk title. Will he allow it?!


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In Scotland one of the biggest stumbling blocks is going to be the SQA. Our secondary curriculum is assessment driven and so will not change to "new things in new ways" until the SQA leave the 19th century!

But you can still do new things without having to stop assessments. Doing things differently is intended to improve attainment, and assessment can slip in quite easily when it's not rigidly planted in the school calendar. So really, IMO, the onus is firmly with the department or individual teacher, not solely the SQA.

Accountability be damned sounds good, and I believe that blogs are educationally sustainable but I am not so sure they need to be a revolution. blogging could be seen as the extension and development of normal practice, giving purpose and audience, expanding the classroom display. Podcasting is even nearer, class talks and presenting at school assemblies are standard practice we just have the ability to record it twice and edit.
I am really not sure if blogging is a revolution or not, but presenting it as a slight extension of common classroom practice might be a way of evangelising.

Yeah, you're right. You know I think of it as an extension of good teaching. The problem lies in this: how many teachers get students to keep learning logs? How many teachers do collaborative learning and rich tasks most days? Therein lies the revolution, not in the blogs but in the teaching behind it all.

The above comments are teaching old things in a new way???? (aka Will Richards I think)

what about teaching new things in a new way? Hence my remarks about SQA!

I was thinking about this in the train last night as I was listening to Wes Fryer's podcasts on what he calls messy assessment and after reading about a 'day in school' in the new Becta new tech guide. I'm beginning to see what you mean. Whether it's new or not depends on your perspective, but it's certainly desirable. What's 'it'? Fewer distinct subjects when so many of them play alongside each other. What's the assessment alternative?

Before you start to develop a consumer product you do the market research. Our education provision is largely based on the nineteenth century market research which led to the idea of universal education.

Before we go any further, we need the market research for what is after all a very very big market. We really should ask fundamental questions about what is best for future generations. Then you need the analysis and development of solutions, trials of different models before roll-out. Included in there is a system to assess if the desired result is being achieved.

But to give an example. There is much wringing of hands about plagiarism. Canute did not stop the tides. We cannot stop cheating in the present assessment model. So instead of assessing prior knowledge, assess in a live exam how well students can use the internet to gather relevant data on a question they have only just seen and then how able they are to assess its worth and draw conclusions, and, if it is a problem, postulate possible solutions.

There's a podcast coming out today on the MFLE of Marc Prensky where he asks:
"If your child calls you up to ask a question and you know they are in an exam, would you tell them the answer?"

I was tempted to say yes, but would probably ask why they weren't using the internet on their phone to find out. ;-)

In my scenario, I would answer yes!

I am away for a week or so but hope this discussion bears fruit.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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