The Blockchain

The blockchain – know what it is? Need to know as an educator?

Yep. I believe so. If it has even a fraction of the impact that it could in the world, then it’s going to have a vast role in the lives of our children.

This video explains it in a way that’s clear for all. I believe this is going to be very very big.

Inadequate Bandwidth, No Digital Learning

This is an article about a report I came across that i thought was really useful for schools or education groups assessing how much bandwidth they need and what other steps they need to take to ensure that they provide the necessary ‘backbone’ to enable effective digital learning, both now and in the future.

The Journal – SETDA Raises Broadband Targets For Learning in the Digital Age

I think, even though it’s written purely from a US state and District perspective it still offers some thought provoking and interesting insights in to issues of equity and fairness in society when it comes to digital access. There is no question that in developing countries equitable access to the internet is already a factor with vast implications and these will only become greater.

It also makes clear that in the private secotor, as we plan to expand the use of digital resources in the future, so we must ensure that we have the bandwidth, the firewall capacity and the networking infrastructure to support educators and students’ greater demands.

Educate The Whole Child – School 21

Educators, we can all raise the bar. Ask every day - where's the WOW?

World’s Largest Lesson

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The World's Largest Lesson 2016 – with thanks to Sir Ken Robinson and Emma Watson from World's Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

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Once upon a time there were the Millennium Development goals - a laudable set of goals and targets set by all the world's most powerful nations for bringing major and significant changes and improvement in the world that would address fundamental issues of human rights, equality of opportunity and reduction of poverty. Whilst there was some progress made, all too often the big powers seemed unwilling to back up the words with adequate finances or action. The result was that the goals weren't achieved.

So, the new, replacement plan was the Global Goals for Sustainable development. These have a 15 year time horizon, strong words and high aspirations. With justifiable reason, there are efforts to get children particularly interested in the Goals and focused on playing a part in their achievement. One such way is through the 'World's Largest Lesson' taking place this week in schools throughout the world;

The World's Largest lesson - Global Goals

Incidentally, that website contains massive of great classroom resources and downloadable materials in relation to each of the 17 goals, plus activities that learners can engage in.

The Goals Explained - The Guardian

However, little more than a year after the Sustainability Goals were put in place, there's clear evidence of the same levels of failure, under achievement and actions failing to live up to the rhetoric;

The Guardian - World Lags Behind on Global Education Goals

Goal number 4 is, in my view, one of the most vital of all in the longer term. if it isn't achieved, then i believe it's extremely unlikely that the other goals will be achievable. A viable primary level education for every child must be taken seriously as a worldwide goal, with priority over petty political issues.

An Amazing Man

roald-dahl

Today is the 100th birth anniversary of one of the most fascinating and interesting men I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Roald Dahl, was so many different things in his life. His writing has been loved by generations of children, even when they shocked and horrified their parents a bit!

For the last two years of Dahl’s life I had the good fortune to speak with him often, to meet with him and to visit him in his home. I well remember the day when I heard that he had passed away. The next day I had to go to his home and professionally work with his wife, Felicity to begin to put his financial affairs in order. One of the most poignant moments that day was when I was left to quietly say my farewells at the door of the little shed where he did his writing. The room was just as he’d left it – right down to his cigarette butts in the ashtray.

Still, as time goes on I learn more about this great man. This article beautifully sums up the man’s resilience and ability to make something good and meaningful out of bad situations;

Good News Network – On Roald Dahl’s 100th Birthday, Learn How His Genius Made Him a Medical Pioneer—Twice

dahl-hut

One day my phone rang and I immediately recognised Mr Dahl’s voice on the phone. He asked me for a date and a time for a meeting. He explained that his ex-wife was going to be over visiting from the US and he wanted me to meet her to advise on some financial matters. I knew immediately he was talking about the great Hollywood starlet and Oscar winner, Patricia Neal. What an honour that was. The meeting was hard – how does a young man remain cool, calm and professional in the presence of such tinseltown royalty?

A big man, in so many ways. In his final weeks he may have shouted at me (more than a few times!) over the phone, but it was clear he was deeply troubled by his inability to fight and overcome the pain he was experiencing. When he finally went, it was in some ways a relief. But, we lost a great man that day.

Let Them Play – Update

Long time readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of pushing academic goals and pursuits on very young children. I’ve always believed that the weight of evidence was already so significant that it couldn’t be ignored.

Here are a number of my previous blog posts around this topic;

Let Them Play
Younger Children and Play
Sad State of American Kindergarten
Long Life Changes Everything

It’s my firm belief that forcing our youngest children on to a heavy diet of academic learning is like playing a form of Russian roulette with their futures. There might be a few who excel, some who do OK – but there will be too many losers in this game and it cannot be acceptable.

Neurology is teaching us more and more about the developing brain. In order to be able to learn a new skill requires that the child must have a neural network that is ‘ready’ for that learning. If you have some children in a room who are reading and some who are not, this is no measure of long term reading potential, but merely a matter of the readiness of their neural networks. However, at both the conscious and unconscious level the child doesn’t know this. Instead, they are put in to a situation where they seem to be a failure, a cause of disappointment to the adults who matter most in their lives. To me, this is a recipe for children with a fixed mindset and a set of beliefs that they are not good at school learning, never will be and are destined to underachieve. Then, they will go through their entire schooling producing the kinds of results they expect of themselves. In short – we are setting up too many children for failure and under-achievement.

If anybody still had doubts on these issues, here’s a recent article from the US that shares some fascinating recent research from Denmark. It carries strong evidence of mental health benefits of delaying the start of school (by which i take it to mean serious, school-type learning, curriculum etc.) which in turn are exactly the kinds of factors that contribute to higher and better academic achievements. The article brought to mind other research that I read recently that said that whilst many children introduced to academic learning early showed some academic benefits in terms of performance these were all wiped out by the end of Class 4 and after that these students slid further and further behind their peers.

Washington Post – Delaying kindergarten until age 7 offers key benefits to kids — study

Here, I want to stress. I believe very firmly that high quality, calibrated pre-school programmes for children up to age 5-6 have a beneficial impact on their later learning, school readiness and academic achievements. However, we must see that the key is that these programmes should focus very much on building pre-school skills, such as prosocial behaviour ability rather than seeking to get an early ‘head start’ on the academic learning that comes later. This also doesn’t mean holding any child back from doing things for which their neural network is ready. However, the fact that they’re ready early doesn’t make them heroes, child prodigies or even praise-worthy. it just is.

We don’t hand out awards for being an early walker, and we don’t put late walkers in remediation – and they all walk!

Skills Development Takes Practice

When a child moves from the early years classroom to the primary classroom it’s very tempting for all concerned – teachers and parents – to perceive that there’s a whole lot of ‘babyish’ learning to be left behind and that now they should move on fully to the more grown up business of learning lots of ‘stuff’.

However, if that were true, then wouldn’t all adults be walking around with perfect interpersonal skills, listening to each other, being sensitive and thoughtful, sharing properly, respecting others’ property and their own, managing their emotions effectively and being nice to others.

The fact is, these are skills that take practice. One really feels for educators who have been screaming these messages from the rooftops for many many years and have hardly been listened to, swamped in the sea of pursuit of the next 1% on children’s grades.

Jenny Mosely, the originator of ‘Quality Circle Time’ has known this for a very long time and has been advocating that Circle Time was not just a valuable practice for very young children, but all the way to higher secondary.

So, it really doesn’t surprise me when I come across articles like this one:

KQED – Mindshift – The benefits of Teaching Lessons Learned In Preschool To Older Kids

I believe the article is absolutely correct to draw attention to the fact that weakness in these critical skills has negative impacts on academic achievements and longer term economic achievements. The reality is that where education systems don’t give due attention to these issues throughout the years of schooling, it will produce students who will struggle to fulfil their potential.

Time spent on social and emotional skills and the development of self-regulatory habits, effective skills of studying and learning (including understanding how the brain works) is time well spent to ‘sharpen the saw’ so that children can truly excel.