And the first 1000 words of the story I am writing over the next 2 months 1000 words at a time is up online in rough edit style! Go to jamesed.com
Saturday, February 28, 2009
And the first 1000 words of the story I am writing over the next 2 months 1000 words at a time is up online in rough edit style! Go to jamesed.com
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Mr. Mohammad Obaid Al Mulla the CEO of the Marine Agency of the RTA was in the studio answering all our questions.
In hour 2 we were joined by 2 committee members of the Childrens Hope Foundation talking about how they are bringing smiles to children!
04-451-1905 is where to call!
Monday, February 23, 2009
This evening we go in another direction and talk about how we might better structure education!
|Are You Dropping the Baton - Foreword |
Ian Gilbert's fascinating foreword to Dave Harris' new book on transition
Are You Dropping the Baton?: From Effective Collaboration to All-through Schools - Your Guide to Improving Transition
Foreword by Series Editor Ian Gilbert
You would think, looking at the make up of the UK’s education system with its patchwork of different schools for different ages, types and classes of learner, of education authorities, inspectors, curricula and examinations, of teachers and teacher training, that it has all arisen out of some well thought-out plan hatched in the minds of great educationalists and dispatched with children’s best interests at heart.
When you look, though, at the history of UK education since the Middle Ages , what comes through is a hotchpotch of ideas, innovations, reformations and other hopeful or misguided stabs in the dark driven by utilitarian, religious, expedient, prejudiced, occasionally altruistic but often heavily self-serving motives that have led us stumbling towards the current system.
Dividing children - and by logical extension first their classrooms and then their entire schools - by age for the purposes of their instruction is one such avenue down which we have lurched for better or for worse. And, as with all destinations arrived at accidentally, it is always worth standing back and asking the question, do we want to be here at all?
The need to educate children has never been an obvious given. John Amos Comenius, a Czech teacher, scientist and writer who has been dubbed the father of modern education, is quoted as saying:
‘Not the children of the rich or of the powerful only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns, villages and hamlets, should be sent to school’
Comenius died in 1670 and, despite the nobility of his claim as we may see perceive it today, the ensuing centuries saw his dream meet with a great many obstructions and objections, notable from the very groups who have ended up in charge of education – the Church and the State.
One such example nearly a century and a half after Comenius is the from the Tory MP Davies Giddy who was explaining to the House why he was a tad upset about educational reform:
'Giving education to the labouring classes of the poor ... would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society has destined them; instead of teaching them the virtue of subordination, it would render them factious and refactory ... it would enable them to read seditious pamphlets, vicious books and publications against Christianity.'
As society evolved so did the perceived need for the education of young people (although still in no small way driven by the need to have workers with enough literacy and numeracy to be able to operate effectively in the factories and mills without thinking for themselves and messing up the ‘industrial method’) and, over the last two hundred or so years, a great deal of time and effort was put into the publication of various reports about the state of education, the direction it should take and a whole raft of ‘big ideas’ picked up from one source or another to be tried out, adopted, adapted, distorted or discarded.
One such idea was the development of infant schools, something that came about in effect as a child-minding service that would enable parents to continue working in the cotton mills of New Lanark in Scotland, an idea subsequently transposed lock, stock and teacher to London in 1818. Originally such ‘schools’ were not so much about formal education and preparation for the next stage of schooling as about teaching children 'whatever might be supposed useful that they could understand, and much attention was devoted to singing, dancing, and playing.' However the tug of war for children’s minds led a Samuel Wilderspin to co-opt such a seemingly wasteful opportunity and introduce more formal instruction to children from the age of two upwards.
That said, the nature of infant education was far more what we would call these days ‘child friendly’ (or ‘trendy, liberal and soft’ depending on which paper you read) than that being practised on older children at the time. Here, educational ‘pioneers’ such as Bell and Lancaster had introduced the ‘monitorial method’. This was, in effect, an industrial-age educational process that allowed hundreds of students to be drilled in formal ways using repetitive exercises by a small number of teachers and monitors in a Bible-oriented curriculum based around the three Rs (with a little needlework for the girls and some light gardening for the boys presumably to relive the writer’s cramp).
The parallel developments in what we know today as secondary education and in infant education left a gap in the last part of our current jigsaw. Primary education was the last piece to fall into place and, here again, we took the magpie approach, seeking out ideas to steal.
1847 saw a book by an Inspector of the Academy of Strasburg translated into English arguing that children should be divided by age for their schooling as a matter of principle: ‘Every school, in obedience to this principle, should be divided into two great classes - the one including children from 6 to 9 or 10, the other those from 10 to 14; and it would much subserve many important purposes, if these could be taught in separate rooms.'
Keeping the smaller children away from the older ones was undertaken, primarily at least, so that the youngsters wouldn’t disturb their elders. Published in 1871 by the Committee of Council on Education, the Rules to be observed in planning and fitting up schools advises that infants need to be taught in a different room 'as the noise and the training of the infants disturb and injuriously affect the discipline and instruction of the older children.'
Another import from north of the border was the thinking of David Stow in the first half of the 19th century who believed that young children learn better as a direct result of interactions with the educated mind of the teacher rather than merely with printed material. Developing a more oral pedagogy entailed smaller classes more finely divided by age and ability and he suggested departmental divisions of children aged two or three to six, six to eight or nine and nine to fourteen. These ideas were further developed in 1902 in Principles of Class Teaching by a Professor J.J. Findlay where children’s development was broken down into stages – infancy (birth to around four year of age); early childhood (four to six); later childhood (seven to nine); boy or girlhood (ten plus). It was Professor Findlay who pushed forward the idea of the distinct break at age eleven between primary and secondary.
So, after a whistle stop tour of four and a half centuries of education reform and innovation, what did we end up with? A three-part system that provides, at one end, baby-sitting with musical accompaniment starting from the age of two upwards with formal instruction in the three Rs to provide you with just enough to acquit yourself in your station in life without rocking the boat at the other end and primary education filling the resulting gap in between, with children separated by age, by walls and subsequently by location and a pedagogy being pulled this way and that by the various intransigent advocates of training, child minding, drilling and educating.
Is it any wonder that transition, the process of steering children through the messy battleground of educational maturation, is as Professor Hargreaves of the Specials Schools and Academies Trust calls it ‘The number one challenge currently facing the UK education system’.
And the latest research backs up the fact that we are, in all honesty, still making quite a hash of the whole process:
• 40% of children lose motivation and make no progress during the year after transition
• Children who were making steady progress in primary school actually go backwards in the first year of secondary school
• There is a discontinuity between the primary and secondary curriculum, and a lack of information passing between schools relating to pupils’ abilities and existing achievements.
• Teachers rarely identified children's individual abilities as making a difference to the transition process, focusing instead on institutional initiatives, an emphasis that carries the risk of creating a degree of helplessness for individual pupils.
However, from the midst of this mess, there is occasionally heard the voice of sanity. A line from the 1931 Hadow Report states:
'A good school is a community of young and old, learning together,'
And if there is one single line to sum up the nature of the book you have in your hands this is it.
What Dave Harris is suggesting is exactly that, In both good school’s and good schooling there is a genuine necessity to have learners of all ages collaborating in their learning, regardless of what four hundred years of often dubious educational innovation may tell you.
What’s more learning science and brain research back this up too. For example, good teachers know that the best way to learn anything is to teach it to someone else. As Virgil said, ‘As you teach so you shall learn, as you learn so shall you teach’. Having children of different ages teach each other is of direct pedagogical benefit to all parties. What’s more, there is neurological evidence that males who are in contact with young children show reduced levels of testosterone . Spending useful time in the company of young children makes for calmer, less explosive teenagers.
And lumping children together by their dates of birth is too blunt an instrument when it comes to the actual nature of neurological maturation. Piaget’s schemata describes transitions in children’s cognitive development between the ages of birth to two, two to seven, seven to eleven and eleven onwards (compare with the stages put forward by Professor Findlay above) yet we also know there can be a two to three year spread in terms of how far an individual’s brain has matured compared with classmates of the same age. Furthermore, male and female brains mature at different rates , with girls starting the adolescent stage of maturation earlier than boys on average.
In other words, where is it written that every child is ready to sit that SAT or that exam at exactly the same time on exactly the same day?
Even the idea of the magical age of sixteen as the ideal time to examine children and so decide the course and subsequent fate of their entire lives is a practice built on sand not stone. Neuroscience is showing that neurological maturation (and by that we mean the process of ‘wiring’ our brains up to be at their most efficient, something that starts at the back of our heads as babies with our visual cortex and ends at the front of our heads with the pre-frontal cortex, also known as ‘the area of sober second thought’) is a process that takes human beings between twenty and thirty years to accomplish. Bear that in mind next time you berate a group of 12 years olds for ‘acting childish’
Doing something because we’ve always done it that way isn’t in itself a justification for dropping it but more often than not in education, the method of ‘we’ve done it that way because we stumbled across it and thought we’d give it a go and now it’s stuck’ seems to be where so much ‘traditional’ practice comes from. The demands of the 21st century demand the best possible 21st century education system and it is for educators everywhere to relish the challenge and re-evaluate every aspect of the system that does not add value to educational experience of the child.
With the plethora of options available to every school as detailed by Dave Harris in this book, from affiliations - chewy or otherwise - to full-scale amalgamation, there is no longer an excuse for transition to be hit and miss affair it currently is for so many young people.
It’s down to you to work out which path you would like to take. And may the 400-year-old spirit of Comenius be with you in your journey…
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Dubai courts suggest this could poison your marriage!
Honesty is not always the best marriage policyhttp://www.thenational.ae/article/20090205/NATIONAL/798450407&SearchID=73345670830213
- Last Updated: February 05. 2009 9:30AM UAE / February 5. 2009 5:30AM GMT
DUBAI // The Dubai Courts’ marriage guidance section yesterday took the rare step of issuing a public statement advising women not to reveal details of previous relationships to their husbands.
The Family Guidance and Reformation Section warned that absolute honesty in a marriage may turn “from a blessing to a curse and may serve to destroy a family” if the information undermined trust or hurt a partner’s feelings.
“It is not the husband’s right after marriage to demand his wife tell him her life history nor ask her questions which would only contribute to increased divisiveness in married life,” wrote Abdel Aziz al Hamadi, a family counsellor in the guidance section.
The statement was prepared after a woman’s query to the section, which offers counselling to couples seeking divorce. The service seeks to resolve marital differences and, where possible, prevent divorce.
The Government has said divorce rates in the UAE have risen significantly in recent years.
In May, the Islamic Authority issued a sermon on divorce, urging men, who often initiate divorce, not to do so lightly.
A sermon in August urged parents not to force their children into unwanted marriages.
Mr al Hamadi said it was counterproductive for a wife to tell her husband about any previous relationships.
He said such revelations would in most cases sow the seeds of doubt and mistrust and have a psychological impact on a husband that would take him years to get over.
“A smart husband would do better not to ask his wife after marriage to reveal her life history, as by so doing he shows that he entered into a relationship with a woman without knowing anything about her,” Mr al Hamadi said.
He added that it was a man’s right to ask such questions before marriage, but not after.
“Such questions as ‘who did you love before me?’, ‘to whom were you engaged?’ or ‘with whom did you go out?’ only serve to increase divisions between a couple and are a warning sign of the imminent end of the relationship.”
He said honesty was a pillar of a happy married life, and that there was no alternative for developing a loving, intimate relationship, but opinions differed over whether such honesty should be absolute or selective.
“Honesty between couples is not as some suggest absolute, since by such a definition honesty turns from a blessing to a curse and may serve to destroy a family, especially if either or both spouses are not mature or understanding enough or have enough trust in each other to accept certain truths,” Mr al Hamadi said, adding that anything that hurts a partner’s feelings must not be revealed. At the same time he stressed that honesty remained the “spinal column” around which a sound family life is built.
“Many forget that a believer is commanded to be discreet concerning events in his or her life in which he or she veered of the straight and narrow,” he said.
“As for a spouse’s life outside the home, whether in relations with friends or a spouse’s own family, such details must not be revealed to a partner, as revealing them does not serve any purpose and friends’ and family’s confidence must be kept.”
The guidance section often deals with requests from wives in desperate situations, either suffering from husbands who are abusive or fail to provide for them adequately, seeking a divorce.
The section’s counsellors endeavour to resolve their differences.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Cheating, the copy-and-paste way
LET’S face it, people do cheat, and sometimes by blatantly plagiarising someone else’s work.
And it seems like it has been going on forever. From paraphrasing a school report, to copying, in verbatim, a catchy phrase simply to increase their chances of winning a slogan contest, it seems that when it comes to cutting creative corners, people can be quite ingenuous.
But while cheating in itself is nothing new, the method by which it is done has changed with the times.
The Internet, regarded as the most invaluable source of information, is also now the most invaluable source of information for cheaters.
Jonathan Wong and Selva Gopal (not their real names), both 29, know how easy it is to plagiarise simply by pointing and clicking.
They know because they’ve done it before.
"The Internet has made it easier for me as a student," says Jonathan, an engineering graduate currently doing his MBA in marketing, in a recent telephone interview.
"If I have an assignment, all I need to do is get on the Web and do a simple search. Then when I find what I want, I simply print it out. From there half the work is already done."
But Jonathan maintains that he does not simply insert his name and pass the whole article/ essay off as his own. He says: "When I come across an article that is suitable, I’ll read through it and cut-and-paste the information that I require.
"If the information is a common idea, I’ll sometimes leave it as it is, word-for-word. If it is technical, I’ll paraphrase.
"More often than not, the end product is a combination of a few different articles," he says.
Jonathan says that he usually refers to the EBSCO Industries website for the articles and essays. (Note: EBSCO is NOT a digital papermill).
Similarly, Selva – now working as an environmental consultant – recalls how as a chemical engineering undergra-duate in a public university, he copied articles directly from the Internet and used them as part of his assignments, and even his final year thesis.
He readily admits: "Back when I was a student, I used the Internet regularly as a source of information. It was so much more easier to search for information online compared to going through books in the university library.
"But then, the temptation to simply cut-and-paste a whole article was there, and you could say that without putting up much of a fight, I gave in.
"All I needed was a search engine, like Yahoo!. Once I found a suitable article, I’d simply make a few changes and I’m done."
Doesn’t he feel any remorse or shame?
"Well, I know that plagiarism – using someone else’s work and claiming it to be yours – is morally wrong, and I believe that if I was even slightly interested in the field of study then, I would have done things right.
"But then, I wasn’t (interested).
"Imagine a situation where those who did not resort to copying ended up with lower scores, then you’ll understand why I did what I did."
Selva feels that it didn’t really matter, because his lecturers certainly didn’t pay much attention to whether students copied or not.
In fact, he claims that his lecturers knew that most students took articles directly off the Net but turned a blind eye to this, and says that the lecturers were only interested in getting the assignment papers before the deadline.
"Even if the lecturers were to make an effort to determine who copied or didn’t, I don’t think they would have gone far.
"There were just too many students; it would have been too time consuming then," says Selva.
Today, there are a number of online companies that offer the technology to detect plagiarised work. Plagiarism.org is one of them.
Jonathan, on the other hand, says that if one were to copy "without being too obvious," then it is acceptable. He says, "To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. I believe that about 90% of students copy in some way or another.
"And the word ‘plagiarism’ itself is not clearly defined. So one can’t say, for sure, that what I’m doing qualifies as plagiarism.
"Furthermore, I never copy a whole article word-for-word. If it is a 3,000-word assignment, I would only copy in verbatim, say about 500 words. And I do put in a few references," says Jonathan.
"Well, I’d say that if you’re going to cheat, then at least do it properly and don’t get caught!"
Neither Jonathan nor Selva have been caught cheating before, they say.
Jonathan and Selva are not the only ones who have plagiarised before. As part of this writing assignment, The Star Online conducted a survey on a small sample of 95 respondents from a local college in Petaling Jaya to determine how severe the problem was among students there.
In the survey, 39% of the respondents said they were of the view that copying is acceptable as long as the whole work is not copied in its entirety.
Another 28% believe that lifting a sentence or two from various sources is acceptable.
Only 16 people (17%) said that plagiarism was "totally unacceptable."
When asked whether they had plagiarised before, as much as 67% of the respondents admitted to plagiarising more than once; 12% said that they had only done it once, while 21% said they had never plagiarised before.
Most of the respondents who plagiarised were never caught (87%), but eight people out of the 95 respondents admitted to getting caught for plagiarising.
Respondents were also asked to rate the severity of plagiarism as a culture among Malaysian students, on a scale of one to five (one being the least and five being the greatest).
More than half of the respondents (53%) believe that plagiarism is severe among Malaysian students; 34% took the middle ground, while the remaining 13% felt that it wasn’t a worrying trend.
About 57% of the students said they believe that the Internet encourages plagiarism the most. The rest ventured that reading material/ research papers and peers are almost equally influential in encouraging plagiarism.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Hour 2 we spoke about the FNC's approval of draft legislation that would see it a crime to somoke in a car with children under the age of 12.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Bill Gates gave a great talk about innovation, engagement and taking ownership of ideas.
Nightline talks innovation.