Warning: This article is a plug for a service – a service I have utmost respect for.
In Venezuela, as in many countries, schools are unable to source and purchase various teaching resources locally. As such, they need to look at using suppliers a little further from home. There are many out there but the quality of service from start to end tends to be below satisfactory. One such service sticks out as an exception: Equip My School.
Some background: During my seven years in Venezuela, it was next to impossible to purchase quality products locally and/or niche products specific to our context. Our previous experience with other companies was full of inefficiencies, time delays and communication issues. It was extremely frustrating. This is when Equip My School came to my rescue – As Head of School, I decided to make the switch to Equip My School in 2015. They were the exception – modern, forward thinking and extremely efficient. From start (order) to delivery, it was always smooth, year upon year.
I have to point out some aspects that are a life-saver for any school that needs such a service:
Immediate and quick communication from the go.
Communication can and often does arrive from ‘the top’.
A personal one-on-one service feel.
Orders arrive as one batch – extremely convenient.
Orders are placed through a bespoke portal created by Equip My School. This portal is in one word – amazing! Easy to use as a school leader and for teachers to place orders. I was in awe when I first saw it.
Once orders are placed, and approved by supervisors, the Equip My School contact will stay in touch, but only as and when needed.
Orders can be placed from the UK and other parts of the world, i.e. USA, Australia.
If a product cannot be sourced, a replacement is offered.
Clear deadlines set, including final delivery. These were always met.
During the 5 years I used Equip My School, I have come to admire their business model, quality service and efficiency. It is sad to hear how the COVID pandemic is currently affecting their work, hence I make no apologies for this article. Schools need quality services such as Equip My School.
I would recommend any school, anywhere, to use Equip My School for your orders, whether small or large. They are truly an exceptional company – way ahead of its competition.
Please do contact me if you have any questions about this fantastic company.
The overall impact of technology in education has been well discussed and researched both in developing and developed countries, especially in the last decade. There are many different opinions, but it is definitely unavoidable. The pros and cons of technology in the classroom are widely debated, changed often, but regardless of everything, technology is part of life, part of modern teaching and we as teachers must find a way to balance between traditional teaching and the technologically aided one. Technology is not replacing the role of the teacher but it is redefining their roles in the classroom. The first step is recognising the importance of technology within education and buy-in that it can improve teaching and learning. It should be seen as an effective way to widen educational opportunities.
In this post, there is an argument that technology does enhance student learning despite some recent studies and comments stating otherwise. Instead it is posited that the real problem is a lack of digital competence (i.e. a digital deficiency), and in turn a lack of quality technology training to effectively improve our students’ learning. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, students are closely connected to technology and we cannot change that. So why not embrace it and use it to our advantage as educators?
Most of the participants in a 2017 study by Lindita Sknderi, agree that technology increases student’s academic achievements. Besides this, the teachers also also felt that technology enhances lifelong learning which is arguably a key goal in most schools, and understandably so. However, the study also showed that teachers did not think the same regarding communication skills. They disagreed strongly that technology has a positive impact in developing communication skills for young people. The non-profit New Schools Venture Fund and Gallup group found that nearly nine in ten U.S. public school students say they use digital learning tools at least a few days a week and more than half questioned said they use digital technology to learn every day. The survey found that classroom technology gets high marks from educators. At least eight in 10 teachers and school leaders said they see great value in using classroom technology tools now and in the future.
When technology is used correctly and effectively, the benefits are clear. Students no doubt are learning more when lessons are delivered by a more competent and confident user of technology. However, when technology is used incorrectly as a teaching tool, the results are not positive, quite the opposite. Technology presents a wonderful opportunity to re-shape education because it is popular in general, with both students and teachers. One study in the US has shown that the introduction of technology makes 87% of students more likely to attend class and 72% of them more likely to participate. Another study by Smoothwall found that 96% of teachers believe technology has had a positive impact on the way children participate and learn in lessons. Another study in 2009 found that the benefits of technology exceed the costs, particularly when considering the enjoyment of students in class and developing an active learning environment .
Many schools have (correctly in my opinion) invested in technology; iPads, MacBooks, Chromebooks, desktops etc, but how many have invested properly in training their staff? How many schools can honestly say that their teachers and users are confident in their usage? How often do these devices simply become a fancy utility? Often used simply to manage student behaviour? What can we do to make teachers more competent with the use of technology, more confident and buy-in to the use of technology to aid their teaching, thus impact positively on student learning? How do we find the balance with the tried and tested methods and the new-age developments?
Firstly, it should not be a choice. Teachers must accept that they need to use devices and technology, agreeing to professional development, both in and outside school. There is an immense need for professional development sessions and appropriate training which could make the best out of teachers and give the best possible to the students. It is all about creating a harmony, a balance, between the traditional and basic forms of teaching integrated with technology.
School leaders should realise that it takes time for teachers to integrate technology in the classroom because it takes a long time to plan, learn and prepare. It takes time to build up confidence and competence. Teachers need time freed up for training and familiarisation. Of course, this is a common request and never easy to do, but many creative ways allow it (e.g. Teachers covering each other). Within this time, ask staff to feed back something valuable, maybe in INSET, maybe in regular sharing good practice sessions. Promote the use of taking a risk – ‘try it, it won’t break’ approach is required! Time is vital. There are too many websites and resources to share. Pinpoint a few that will work and let staff play, teach each other and work with them. Give them the time to do this. Time is key! Use your best users of technology to train others, maybe with a schedule. You will be surprised with the uptake – teachers are professionals, professionals who wish to learn and develop, we all need structure and guidance. Why not get students to train staff? For example, my own personal use of Prezi is entirely credited to Anina, a 15 year old student.
There is no doubt that the future of the workplace will be heavily dependent on technology. The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will see an increase in workforce automation. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that over the next 10 to 20 years, “14 percent of jobs are at high risk of being fully automated, while another 32 percent at risk of significant change”. Hence, it seems imperative that education systems adapt to ensure students are equipped with the right skills to survive in our changing world. While there are many different theories on what and how students should learn, there is no escaping the fact that students will need to be prepared to continuously learn and upskill – people will be learners for life (lifelong learners once more). Technology is playing, and will continue to play, a key role in the way skills are acquired and developed for the future workspace.
Tej Samani, an advocate for more technology advances in education, is quoted as saying, “Our education system has needed significant progression to just keep up, let alone stay ahead of the leaps in technology we are experiencing. While technology will always struggle to replace an effective teacher, it can help develop effective teaching as well as deliver tailored, personalized education to learners of all standards, irrespective of how complex their barriers to learning are. The advancement in education technology can bring in areas such as grade prediction, performance tracking, and personalization – this will help to ensure that the most critical stage of a person’s life is delivered with accuracy, engagement, and foresight”
A word of caution: There are many companies that are focusing on driving positive change in education through technology or are they? Schools and leaders need to be extremely careful before utilising software and technology. Hidden motives, often profit-driven do exist and are a clear conflict of interest. School should conduct a proper and thorough research into all pieces of software and hardware. It does not have to be so costly if done properly.
Finally, make the use of technology to enhance student learning an area of focus throughout the year. Put it on all the developmental plans. Don’t lose sight of this objective – try to make it work for all but also demand it as an expectation. Finally, it is worth remembering that technology is not the answer to everything – we still need classroom leaders and students with an appetite for learning. Schools that find the correct balance, will see the positive outcomes on their students.
Running a high-quality school while managing the huge uncertainty that exists in Venezuela is extremely challenging. I have taught at The British School in Caracas for five years, and things have sadly deteriorated – for pupils and staff – since I started.
Caracas is the murder capital of Venezuela, and the school has had to increase security significantly in recent years: we provide any international visitors and our expat staff with transportation to and from the airport, a night-driver service and regular security advice. The dangerous environment has seen swarms of local people leave the country for a better life: pupil numbers have decreased and budgets are being used to increase admissions.
Funding can be a problem, especially when the income is the local currency, which is losing its value. What was once was a US$2,000 (£1,530) salary is now US$50. This, of course, reduces spending power and saving potential, and the school has to be creative when it comes to helping our local staff.
We provide them with lunches, increased health insurance, and pay them in foreign currencies wherever possible. Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world (estimated at 28,000 per cent): imagine a bottle of milk going from £1 to £2 to £10 all within a week. That’s a common occurrence here – all products normally have a 12- to 24-hour quotation period.
Such a turbulent culture leads to a lot of anger. In 2017, we had more than 100 days of protesting from April to July. We have policies to deal with such events, but it’s particularly tough to deal with during exam season.
Our dedication to ensuring that both pupils and staff have a safe and consistent environment to come to every day is reflected in our staff turnover. In the past two years, we have had an all-time low of 20 per cent, which is amazing given the difficult and challenging political, economic and social times facing all residents of Venezuela.
It is not a great education that is rare here, but any education at all, so teachers are really respected.
Local schools may be suffering with lack of funding, poor teacher training and little resources (some schools don’t have enough desks, chairs or books for all of the children), but education is truly seen positively and isn’t taken for granted.
I arrive for school at 6am. The students arrive an hour later; school starts at 7.30am and ends at 2.45pm. Our primary students have 25-minute lessons and secondary students have 45-minute lessons. We follow the English national curriculum throughout school, mixing it with the international primary curriculum for the younger students. We offer IGCSE in Years 10 and 11 and the International Baccalaureate diploma programme in Years 12 and 13.
I wish that I could ease the worries that my students, staff and parents face. The events that happen outside of our schools’ walls range from disturbing to absolutely horrifying, and the anxiety that this brings affects the day-to-day activities in school. If peace was established, I could see Venezuela once more becoming a powerful and attractive country for all.
Yasir Patel is the head of school at the British School Caracas
In an increasingly uncertain world, we should aim to connect, not divide. We should be promoting love, not hate. Different cultures and traditions should be celebrated, not criticised (also not simply tolerated). Our differences and personal identities should unite us. At the recent Dr. Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, civil rights activist and the Representative of Georgia, John Lewis gave a speech where he emphasised that, ‘love is a better way, the way of peace is a better way.’ Recent events have seen people of different backgrounds, religions, races and nationalities uniting with each other against injustice, and maybe that shows that we should never lose faith, that there is always hope in humanity.
The president of Harvard University pointed out a few weeks ago that ‘internationalism is a paramount source of our university’s strength.’ Drew Faust also highlighted the fact that half of their deans are immigrants and thousands attend their university every year. “In times of unsettling change, we look toward our deepest values and ideals,” Faust wrote. “Among them is the recognition that drawing people together from across the nation and around the world is a paramount source of our university’s strength.”
A recent article by Headteacher Neil Bunting emphasises the need to embrace global citizenship and internationalism, now, more than ever. Despite much education, he points out it is unfathomable that in the 21st century we continue to see events that shock and distress us. We teach our young people to be tolerant, forward-thinking and lifelong learners, yet it seems to contradict with the global trend. Without meaning to go political, Neil writes clearly and concisely. Many may disagree with aspects of his writing but the overall message is hard to argue against; many barbaric and uneducated choices are being made by world leaders, both in the so-called developed world as well as developing world, that seem to be catering to xenophobia, prejudice, stupidity and cultural intolerance and in turn, also promoting them.
Education is key; both in and outside schools, to help people understand the benefits of internationalism, connecting with others from different faiths and religions, and in order to separate fact from fiction (fake news is something we should debate in all classrooms, not just theory of knowledge). History has a tendency to repeat itself – the use of propaganda for ill-intentions, manipulation of information and selfishly looking after number one. More integration, not less, is a major part of the solution. We all have a responsibility to help in this. Connecting all the various and different parts of societies is another major factor. The infamous 1%-99% divide must be bridged, bringing people together and understanding each other’s situation. We should intensify the teaching of global citizenship, of being responsible, balanced and wise decision-making.
Let us promote sympathy and empathy, and condemn hate and terror. Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practise activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship. Students should also be given the chance to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible. The importance of character, kindness and working as a team for an agreed shared goal, cannot be stated enough. Schools should continue to work together with communities in order to enhance all childrens’ learning experience.
Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care, argues that caring should be a foundation for ethical decision-making. How does one become a caring person? Noddings states that a caring person ‘is one who fairly regularly establishes caring relations and, when appropriate maintains them over time’. Noddings identifies education (both in the traditional sense and the not so traditional, including at home) as central to a culture and creation of caring in society. In fact, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for an adjustment of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognise just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people.
We must encourage civil, harmonious and peaceful attitudes towards each other. A critical mind is required in times like these; ask the Why? What? Maybe? questions, which may be tough and initially not seem harmonious and peaceful. But honesty in asking them, with love for each other, seems a positive and genuine way forward. We are fortunate that we now live in a world where many people have worked hard to allow people to travel freely, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. Do we really want to go back to the narrow-minded mindsets where people are judges on their passport or worst still, on their religion? Do we really want our young people to have obstacles when travelling as opposed to the freedom many of us have experienced, and the amazing benefits gained from sharing what we have seen and learned?
‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime’
– Mark Twain –
A final word of warning; it is worth bearing in mind that the distinction between “us” and “them” is often just a step or two away from bigotry and chavinism. It may seem that we are going backwards and reverting to stereotypes and prejudices we thought were long left in the past. Yes it is depressing, but the answer is not to bury our heads in the sand, to give up or become apathetic. We need to champion the values of global citizenship, intercultural understanding, cultural intelligence and open mindedness. At the end of the day, we are one being on one planet. Let’s work together and put our faith in humanity.
Following a recent, valid article on TES Secret Teacher, pasting one I wrote about the same topic in 2011 for a school magazine below.
“When am I ever going to use this in real life?”
230pm signals the end of another day, another teaching day dealing with THAT question, THAT annoying, frustrating yet oh so valid query, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”
The honest answer probably is, “never”, nevertheless we persist in sharing our passion and enthusiasm for the subject. We continue in trying to share its importance with the world, and let’s face it; we think it is the MOST important of all. We still feel we are the cornerstone, heart and the core so to speak of the school curriculum. Rene Descartes is quoted as saying; “Mathematics is a more powerful instrument of knowledge than any other that has been bequeathed to us by human agency.” We still have a privileged position in all educational systems (mathematics is the only subject that all student must study for the IB Diploma) and people still look at mathematicians with a sense of awe. Even the great Isaac Newton once remarked, “Number rule the universe.”
Mathematics is hard, let us be honest, it is not a natural talent for everyone. “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater” said the great Albert Einstein. If difficulty equated to importance, then this article could end now, however it is not so simple.
“Mathematics is like love – a simple idea but it can get complicated” and complicated it does become. Using lego to add numbers quickly becomes mental addition, using a straight edge and compass to bisect lines and draw polygons soon becomes a list of properties and rules, calculating the rate of change ends up with the most amazing (or horrific depending on your outlook!) calculus questions. It is all very exciting and intriguing for us; us being mathematicians.
So what, if mathematics was the language of choice to communicate with possible extraterrestrials? So what, that coding theory was used at Bletchley Park during world war two to crack German war communications?
Buying items, calculating percentages, using recipes, saving funds, budgeting are all concrete examples when Mathematics is being used. However, why does an author need to learn trigonometry? Or a secretary logarithms? We cannot deny that these are valid questions, which lead us back to our favourite question, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”
Yes mathematics is all around us and most people accept that. “Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics” – Dean Schlicter. Most people admit, maybe hesitantly, that mathematics is required and is within everything that we see around us. Unfortunately that still doesn’t address the valid question of those individuals who truly do not see a use of topics such as vectors, matrices and dare we mention it again, calculus, but are forced to learn them during those normally challenging teenage years.
Mathematics teaches students to think logically, systematically, rationally and critically. Students tend to become better decision makers due to the clear and clever reasoning skills they have developed during lessons. They are pragmatic, thinking and acting methodically most of the times. At other times they improvise, think outside the box and act on their feet. Many students become better organisers as a result of years of mathematics classes. They solve problems by making quick decisions yet staying balanced throughout. Judging at face value rarely occurs and plans are thorough, well thought out with all possibilities considered. Leadership qualities are commonly found amongst mathematicians.
Unfortunately for Mathematics teachers and mathematicians we cannot show or “prove” that mathematics is responsible for these vital characteristics!
I guess if all else fails, we can always tell students that mathematics can make them very rich and point to the top twenty jobs in the world in which at least 17 require a high level of mathematics (with the others being footballers, actors and directors). And if we really want to be arrogant, we can simply tell them that it will make them look good and feel important!
Recently (at a wedding) during a conversation with another educator he mentioned that he worked for a government funded organisation in inner city London with children who have been excluded, expelled or temporarily suspended from school. They offer leadership and teamwork activities after normal school hours. It is not a replacement for school, but works on creating traits that could help these children succeed when they leave school. When asked what normally happened to such students when expelled from schools, his reply was, “either they return after a few days or go to another school and will soon be expelled or suspended again.” They worked with such students after school with pleasing results, however, they had limited time available. It seemed strange that they were not THE place for such students. This is when he mentioned that the current “education system is broken and caters for the masses, not the exceptions.”
About two weeks ago, during lunch at a local takeaway in Blackburn on a very grim and rainy day, a fairly young lady with a pram (stroller in American English!) walked by with one child in the pram, one walking alongside her hand-in-hand and two others walking alongside. Although simply an assumption, it is probably fair to state that they were all her children. The lunch conversation (with another teacher) turned to whether these children would or could be successful in our education system? Or maybe the question should be, whether our education system would or could be successful for these children? And what is being done to help both the parent, child and all families?
The new Prime Minister of Great Britain stated in her first speech in July 2016:
If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school. The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.
– Theresa May, 13th July 2016
Is this just a case of more politically correct rhetoric, or is there a real strategy on how to achieve this? The recent talk of more grammar schools does not bode well.
Claim: Education is a broken system, it does not serve its purpose; serving every child.
Schooling used to serve a purpose, like the appendix inside the human body, but now it is only harmful to the success of the child. Education is important and will only get increasingly important, however, schooling (traditional schools) is not allowing education for all children to take place. Many aspects of schooling are problematic. For example, the usefulness of the grading system is debatable. It disincentivises creativity and ‘different’ performance (which are the hallmarks of success in the real world).
Let’s not forget, that education within schooling was a noble and visionary idea. Education for all was indeed a revolutionary movement nearly 150 years ago (The Elementary Education Act 1880 insisted on compulsory attendance from 5 to 10 years in the UK) and it is pleasing to see this occur in the majority of countries, admittedly to different degrees of opportunity and results. However, that was a long time ago and surely how little it has changed must be a concern for all? Such exceptional (and by exceptional it is meant in both an ‘extreme to the norm’ and positive sense) children deserve an opportunity in a system that caters for them and their exceptional qualities. Differentiation and individualisation are rightly expected within school lessons, however, they need to go beyond the traditional classroom. ‘No Child Left Behind’, ‘Every Child Counts’ are simply slogans with naive strategies that do not cater for all. They mean nothing other than offering a ‘one size fits all’ model. It has never worked, is not working and will not work in the future.
Universities also have a big responsibility to stop the top-down pressure it places on the education system to provide certain types of students (e.g. 3 As needed for a Mathematics degree, or 4As needed to enter a medicine degree). The current approach is stifling both teachers and students’ creativity. Especially in the latter years of compulsory schooling where teachers are forced to teach to the exam and students forced to memorise information that will serve them little good a few months later. The Early Years and open-ended teaching methodology in the earlier primary years should be applicable in later educational life. Like big government, the interest of university seems to be no longer primarily in serving the people, which is why it was created, but in serving itself, and making sure the machine “stays alive,” with its cogs turning.
Child of Rage: An old and disturbing documentary about a child badly abused and scarred when a baby, making an amazing recovery due to the very specific attention paid to her early in her life. She went on to be a successful adult due to this precise help provided to her. This individual help can definitely be applied more widely.
Here’s a call for new, non-traditional educational systems operating in parallel to the day-to-day schooling and individualise attention for all children. Let’s develop leadership institutions such as described above. Why not allow parents who may have ‘failed’ in their own schooling to attend an organisation with their own children present? Maybe link it up with parenting lessons? How about vocational and academic organisations earlier? How about work experience at an early age? The option of travelling and learning? The opportunity to learn in an outdoor environment? Can children create their own framework of learning and take in the knowledge on their own terms, learning how they like and to their preferred learning style?
Please help schools and teachers who cannot help but expel children over and over. Surely after children have shown that a school environment is not for them, we should try something new? All it takes are creative strategic thinkers and leaders who are willing to take a risk, not concern themselves with results and work very hard with a determination to make the system work for ALL children. Involve educators – they truly care and can see the issues out there. Idealistic or realistic? A debate for another day!
Finally, for all the critics and cynics, yes it can work with one example shown by this recent article.
In many (maybe most) industries and countries, the most in-demand jobs or occupations did not even exist 10 years ago. In fact, in some cases they did not exist just 5 years ago. The pace of change is astonishing and one that will only continue to accelerate, and at a faster rate. Looking ahead, predictions are that 65% of children entering Primary School today will eventually end up working in entirely new jobs – jobs that do not even exist currently.
So what can we do to counter such a fast and rapidly changing landscape?
Businesses and their current models are finding that they are faced with an immediate and simultaneous impact on employment and there exists a need for new skill sets to be created, developed and maintained. These require an immediate and focussed effort in order to achieve the required change.
The ability to plan ahead, anticipate and prepare for future required skills, job content and the knock-on effect on employment, is required. This is critical for governments, education, individuals and businesses. Thus, predicting, anticipating and preparing for the new (and current) transition is vital.
Debate and discussions so far related to the transformation and transition is clearly polarised between those who foresee limitless new opportunities and those that foresee a massive dislocation of jobs.
Predicting the future
The growth in cheap computing power and ubiquity of mobile internet have already had widespread impact on existing business models and will continue to do so. Computing and mathematically-intensive professions will experience a positive impact and result in very high growth. Similarly, architecture and engineering will be affected positively.
However, there will be a declining demand for occupations related to manufacturing, production and construction. The educational arena will need to adjust to the needs of the new-age student, who is reliant on technology. The use of the internet, blended learning and mobile devices will need to be optimised. The teacher will always be necessary but a newly trained, modern teacher will be required.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
A historical and important voting process took place last week in Britain, with 52% of the voters opting to leave the European Union after 43 years of involvement. Various outcomes have come about as a result with many discussions taking place as to what happens next. Many have stated that whatever one’s view is of the result, it is now vitally important that people join forces and work together collaboratively in order to positively push Britain forward.
Human character can be defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” One’s character can be beneficial to oneself, to others, or a combination of both (although this is quite rare). Our actions with those we interact with regularly (colleagues, family, friends and acquaintances) give an indication of how much our character leans towards serving oneself or others. However, we should be conscious of how we treat each other and how our character plays out with the various groups of people we interact with. Working together and serving others should be embraced, not forced.
In and around North County San Diego, California, you will come across ‘kindness meters’. The idea behind these is to provide the public with a fast and accessible opportunity to do something good for others, including complete strangers. It only takes a few seconds to impact another person positively. More recently, some schools in the area have focussed on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and integrated this within the curriculum. This is nothing new but an explicit mention always helps. In the English curriculum this is referred to as PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education). The benefits of SEL and PSHE, both in the short and long term include academic success as well as emotional wellbeing.
Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care. She argues that caring should be a foundation for ethical decision-making. How does one become a caring person? Noddings states that a caring person ‘is one who fairly regularly establishes caring relations and, when appropriate maintains them over time’. Noddings identifies education (both in the traditional sense and the not so traditional, including at home) as central to a culture and creation of caring in society. In fact, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for an adjustment of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognise just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people.
Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practice activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship. Students should also be given the chances to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible. Would a kindness meter work in schools? Maybe, maybe not, but the importance of character, kindness and working as a team for an agreed shared goal, cannot be stated enough. Schools should continue to work together with communities in order to enhance all childrens’ learning experience.
Outdoor learning and learning outside the classroom is intended to offer children experiences that are not easily achieved indoors, in the day-to-day environment. It is intended to provide sensory stimuli, lead to greater levels of creativity and allow children to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding without the constraints of the traditional classroom.
There is convincing research that suggests good quality learning outside the classroom adds significant value to students’ learning. In 2004, Michael Reiss (a Science professor) and Martin Braund (an honorary fellow at the University of York and an adjunct professor in Cape Town, South Africa) published a book about the importance of out-of-school learning called Learning Outside the Classroom. Research from the book was later published in the International Journal of Science in 2006, which highlights several arguments on why science classes should go on meaningful field trips. More information can be found on the ASCD(Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) website.
Sir Ken Robinson, a leading educator, educational researcher and a big advocate of bringing creativity into the curriculum (see his famous TED talk ‘Schools Kill Creativity’), has pointed out how important it is for human beings to be outside, playing and engaging with nature. TV presenter and author Ben Fogle has encouraged the British government to focus on student wellbeing and connecting children with the natural world, instead of pumping valuable time and money into exams. Juliet Robertson, author of Dirty Teachingpoints out how activities away from the classroom gives pupils freedom to make decisions about their own learning and is incredibly empowering for them.
Some schools, such as Long Crendon School in England have gone further and created a curriculum that revolves around outdoor education. The Headteacher Sue Stamp claims outdoor learning is “a way of life”. The whole ethos of Long Crendon is to be outdoors as much as possible, despite the English weather!
● Physically active and fit children tend to have better academic achievement, better school attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.
● Allocating time for daily physical education does not hurt academic performance, and regular exercise may improve students’ concentration and cognitive functioning.
● Physical activity breaks can improve cognitive performance and classroom behaviour.
● In some cases, more time in physical education leads to improved grades and standardised test scores.
● Regular participation in physical activity has academic performance benefits.
● Single sessions of physical activity can enhance attention and memory.
● The effects of physical activity on brain health may explain improvements in academic performance.
Schools should look into ways of enriching the curriculum for students which involves taking learning outdoors, increasing physical education and sport. This could be a simple lesson outside or a full week away in another country. High Effort? Yes, Effective? Yes, High Impact? Yes, Memorable? Definitely!
“My child listens to music whilst working, surely they cannot learn like that?”
Music affects our feelings and energy levels. Often unknowingly, we use music to create desired moods; to make us happy, to provoke thoughts, to dance, to feel more energetic, to bring back powerful memories, to help us relax and focus. Music is a powerful tool for our personal expression and it helps “set the scene” for many important experiences. Much research also supports the fact that music greatly affects and enhances our learning.
Some areas where music helps are:
Creating an Active Learning Experience: Music activates students mentally, physically and emotionally. It helps to create an environment of learning that enhances understanding.
Focus and Attention: Music can help concentration levels for certain learners. Baroque music, such as those composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, where there are 50 to 80 beats per minute helps to maintain focus.
Memory and Retention: Songs, chants, raps etc help students to memorise content. This is done through rhyme, melody and rhythm.
Motivation: Music in the background helps with motivating students to learn and continue learning.
Creativity and Thinking: Background music stimulates internal processing, that in turn facilitates creativity. This encourages personal reflection.
Community: Music provides a positive environment that encourages students to work together and in teams
Of course the type of music is important and vital. Baroque music (Bach and Vivaldi) and Classical (Mozart and Beethoven) are recommended as is ‘soft’ music (soundtracks with no words). Research from StanfordUniversity has found that humans do better on learning and memory tests after listening to particular music by Mozart (called the Mozart Effect as coined by Dr. Alfred Tomatis in the 1990s). Benjamin Gold, a researcher at McGill University looked at Reinforcement Learning (e.g. studying notes, revising for a test etc) and concluded that “most significantly, non-musicians tended to learn better when they enjoyed the background music, but those with more musical training learned better when the music was neutral.”
More recent studies (by Dr. Emma Gray) have shown that for Sciences, Humanities and Languages, music by artists such as Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus (songs with 50-80 beats per minute) help process factual information and solve problems. When studying Mathematics, classical music was found to be the best choice (60-70 beats per minute) and for students studying English, Drama or Art, it is recommended to listen to emotive rock and pop songs such as Firework by Katy Perry or I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) by The Rolling Stones.
As with many studies, a counter-argument does exist. This has been presented by Nick Penham and Joanne Vizard, who conclude that, “listening to liked or disliked music was exactly the same, and both were worse than the quiet control condition.”