Jun 14

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. TV shows like  The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s now how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure i care. I want education in our primary schools to look like dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited all the time? Did you love it when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I did and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), Lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning.
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?
Jun 09

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons…

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. And shows like The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s not how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure I care. I want education in our primary schools to be dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited when teachers taught this way? Do you remember when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I do and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. 
Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s – really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning?
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?

PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices they have! Sign up now:


<!–End mc_embed_signup–

Jun 06

What skills will your kids need in today’s workforce?

What did your kids do today? Was it the same as what you were doing at their age? I’ll bet it’s a whole lot different.
The reason we promote technology in education is that if our schools don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the world, we risk becoming out of date very quickly. If all we did was teach handwriting and long division, we wouldn’t be doing our kids any favours.
How would they be ready of the world? How would they find jobs that excite and inspire them if they don’t have skills or experiences that mirror what’s going on in the world?
The image below is of the Pope’s inauguration, well both recent inaugurations, 8 years apart. Notice how the folks are engaged in what’s going on. In the first image (2005), they are all facing the front, you can see 2 phones, and these phones don’t have great cameras (that flip on the right won’t be getting a good shot, guaranteed!). So only those there, and those watching official broadcasts will experience this event.
The second image was taken in 2013 (6 years after the iPhone launched in 2007 and just 3 years after iPads appeared in 2010). Thats one massive change in how people engage in major events. All ages, backgrounds and genders attended both events – not just the wealthy or tech-savvy. These changes are pervasive and are impacting large (huge!) numbers of people in the first world (and increasingly in the third world). They are sharing, tweeting, liking and commenting on the event. You didn’t need to be there (or rely on official broadcasts) to have quite a full experience of the sights and sounds from within the audience.

The way in which everyone engages with events is changing (has changed really!) – and so should education. If  we try and teach our kids using methods that don’t include contemporary technology, then we are doing them a disservice – just look at how these everyday people in the image below are making use of  technology. Shouldn’t the next generation of learners, learn more, do more and explore more than casual users of technology???

what skills will your child need in today's workforce

image source: http://petapixel.com/2013/03/14/a-starry-sea-of-cameras-at-the-unveiling-of-pope-francis/

So if we teach our kids today as if they are living in 2005, well, first of all you can see the challenges teachers would face with getting kids interested in learning!! But more than that, we need to make sure the next generation of adults are safe, capable, creative and collaborative – using online tools. If for no other reason than it will give them skills to engage with the modern workforce.

Have a look at this data from a big survey of CEO’s in industry today (this may all change AGAIN by the time your child gets done with their schooling!).
what skills will your child need in today's workforce

Fastest growing jobs? There are now more and more new job titles appearing.
Ever heard of these jobs – Big data miner? Social engagement leader? Ethical hacker? Crayon Evangelist? Digital Prophet?
They exist now (and others – check here for more! ). And yes, these titles are a little….creative!! But the work these jobs point to a is real and growing need.

The next time someone tells you that they don’t ‘need’ to use technology in their classroom or a teacher suggests that technology ‘just wasn’t used this term’ in a school report, maybe, gently, show them these images (and blog post if you like!). Remind them that we can’t just do what we always did when everything is changing around us :0)

 

 
PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices they have! Sign up now:

 


Jun 02

How digital books can help your child to read!

There are lots of great apps for iPads but the ones I love the most are the interactive ones. A favourite series of apps is called Big Cat Stories. Just like a book series, there are several apps, each focused on a different story.
The one I’ve used most recently with kids from ages 4-6 is called Farmers’ Lunch ;0)
Big Cat Stories Interactive books

Collins Big Cat Stories

I love these apps as they offer a few different ways of ‘reading’. Your kids can read traditionally, or hear the text read out to them or even record their own voice to listen back to. It means that kids tend to engage more in what they are reading – and maybe pay attention a bit more too.
how digital books can help your child to read
Many of these interactive book apps also offer games and activities that help our kids read more closely or think more about what they are reading. Games like re-ordering the sentences to tell the story or adding in extra ‘scenes’ are activities we use at school all the time. We know it helps kids focus on understanding (not just ‘barking at text’) – and that’s what reading’s all about right?
how digital books can help your child to read
But don’t forget these apps are designed to be fun and engaging too. With a love of reading you can learn – pretty much – anything! Astronaut, zoo keeper, neurologist, journalist…for every job there is something that can be learned from reading, so let’s get our kids excited to read with multimedia books that let them create, learn and have FUN!
PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.
BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
 ‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’ 
 
Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices they have! Sign up now: