Boredom Can Really Kill You

Here’s a great article somebody sent to me from a Canadian newspaper, looking at the relatively little researched area of ‘boredom’, especially in the context of the phenomenal ability that schools have developed and refined for boring children and teachers.

Montreal Gazette Article

It highlights many of the issues I’ve been drawing attention to here in this blog around the lack of relevance in education, the dislocation with aged antiquated processes and approaches and the relaities of the complex, multi-tasking, dynamic world in to which school children will eventually emerge.

To those educators who believe the answer is to throw in a bit of audio-visual in lessons from time to time, to break up the boredom of otherwise boring ‘lectures’ I suggest they check the body language, the unspoken signals in terms of whether this is really rendering school lessons ‘boredom free’.

When you’re in a classroom of energized, engaged students the feeling is palpable. Things like bells and timetables become somehow less significant. There are some teachers who can make this happen on a regular basis – and contrary to what the article suggests, they can be teaching any subject. So, then the questions become;

a) How can more teachers make such excitement happen more of the time?, and
b) How can schools be designed, set up and run in ways that enable more such learning, without it spilling in to anarchic chaos within which learning for any particular student becomes a battle against the odds?
c) How can you achieve a) and b) whilst also having students accept the inherent ‘citizenship’ duty to respect the equal right to learn, right to be respected etc. of others? (i.e. avoiding degeneration into a hedonistic hell in which each individual simply pursues only their own interest, excitement and ‘non-boredom’, regardless of implications for others)

Teaching Today’s Children for Tomorrow

For the interest of those who might not have seen it – here attached is the Foreword article that i wrote for the 2009-10 school magazines.

Student Magazines Article 2009-10

Who’s Got it in for Private Schools?

It is perfectly possible to buy the arguments that the Right to Education Act is a piece of broad enabling legislation designed to guarantee the right of every child in the country to go to school and receive a quality education. It’s very plausible that the act is aimed to right the undeniable wrong that there are still millions of children in the country who are denied the right to go to school. That is, until you read the Act itself. Then, you soon realise that whilst that may be true of large parts of the text there are some very specific elements that have been ‘dropped in’ like depth charges that have very narrowly defined implications for the private unaided schools.

Now, again, critics could easily describe these as the self-serving protestations of greedy ‘fat cat’ educator barons who care only about profits and nothing for the education of the masses.

However, I believe you have to start suspecting that there is a very genuine intention on somebody’s part to fundamentally undermine the private unaided schools in this country when you see that so close on the heals of the RTE comes another piece of legislation – this time specifically targeting private schools:

I-Government Article

To read this article and especially the quotes from the senior source in the HRD miinistry one can immediately sense the scorn and derision towards these schools.

However, let’s share a few fact about these schools;
a) The vast majority of them offer more than one syallabus. Thus, whilst offering the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge IGCSE it is likely that they also offer CBSE (or most often ICSE), or occasionally state board. In other words, when it comes to their facilities and standards of education these schools are already answerable to an Indian authority body.
b) Beyond this, these are two organisations (IBO & CIE) of impeccable international reputations. Are they really likely to give affiliations to schools in India that undermine their worldwide reputation?
c) The IBO India representative is Farzana Dohadwala, CIE’s representative is Ian Chambers – both in my experience are thorough professionals committed to high quality education.
d) Taking CIE as an example, students in Indian schools affiliated to CIE have repeatedly won recognition, including coming top in the world in their subjects (hardly evidence of shoddy schools or examination standards)
India Edunews Article
e) The article casts doubt on the quality of teachers in these schools. ironically, if there is one major difference between these schools and government ones that really stands out it is accountability – teachers in these schools have to perform, otherwise they lose their right to keep their jobs! This applies both to indian and overseas teachers.

So, do we not have a basis for questioning the intent behind such actions?

In Delhi, the assault on private schools comes in many other ways;
a) Multiple court actions, usually instigated by the self-styled Social Jurist, lawyer Ashok Agarwal.
b) Just within the last few days circulars dated 12th April and 16th April from the Directorate of Education, firstly setting out stringent rules for the establishment of PTA’s (not bad in themselves), followed by a ruling that states that PTA’s must pre-approve fee increases before they are put to Managing Committees – a bit like inviting the diners of top restaurants to decide for themselves what the bill should be!

What motive could anyone have for wanting to pull down the private unaided schools? There is a radical viewpoint in the world, particularly held by some socialists that states that the only way to have anything approximating quality education for all is to abolish private education. Then, the wealthy and influential people in society would have no choice but to send their children to the local neighbourhood school. They would use their power and influence to ensure accountability.

Of course, nobody planning such a strategy would openly admit to it. They may even be able to hide their true motives from those they work alongside. Instead, they rely on the frog in the boiling water theory. India’s private schools could be in a battle for their own survival.

Why We Are Working With Franklin Covey

In July last year the management team of the school started working with local trainers of Franklin Covey South Asia. We had a three day retreat at Sariska looking at the 7 Habits and foundations of leadership. These were explored both from the perspective of how we can be more effective individuals in all aspects of our lives, how we can be a more effective management team and more effective leaders.

However, there is another level on which this and the subsequent follow up sessions have just been the first stage in a longer journey. ‘Leadership’ in the personal sense offers an opportunity throughout an entire school to ‘work at source’.

We hear lots of times about schools running programmes with students about values, about bullying, cyber/ online risks, smoking, drinking and substance abuse etc. However, i always have a strong sense that these are addressing symptoms rather than tackling issues at their root.

The following article written by Stephen Covey for the Huffington Post perfectly explains the approach that we are exploring.

Stephen Covey Huffington Post

We are already in discussions with the Franklin Covey heads in Delhi to explore training for in-house trainers who will help us to spread the programme throughout the school. The argument is a simple one: children (people) with strong character built through strong, healthy productive habits have strong self image. As a result they are far less likely than others to engage in inapprorpriate, self-destructive or negative behaviours.

This will be a gradual process, but i will put updates here as time goes on.

Ultimate Cyber Safety Resource

One of the beauties of the internet is the sense of sharing, the ubiquity of knowledge.

Here is an amazing example. Someone (or I suspect maybe a group of people) care passionately about cyber crime and online safety for children. In fact, they care so much that they have put in an enormous amount of research to put together a colossal online resource on the subject.

Here you can find a link for every aspect of the issue, to ensure that as a parent or an educator you can keep children as safe as possible online.

Simple K12 Internet Safety Resources

Social Media in the Classroom

The debate rages on about Social media in the lives of young people today.

This first link includes a link to a survey which shows very clearly how, even in the US children and educators are just on different pages when it comes to social media and its usage.

I<3Edtech Article

While the debate goes on most schools continue to filter or block pretty much all social media from school IT networks. However, educators do need to keep a close eye on what’s happening, especially where intelligent and passionate educators are producing evidence that suggests real, valuable ways of using social media to enhance student learning in schools.

Dangerously Irrelevant
Dr Howie DiBlasi

What do people think?

Should we be seeking to build use of social media in to school curricula?
If social media was allowed and in regular, productive use in school, would students use social media more responsibly?

Indian Answer to Kindle

This looks like good news, especially as it suggests that there are going to be even more innovations to come, at even better value points.

Nevertheless, the Infibeam looks tempting at little more than half the cost of a Kindle:

Infibeam Pi
India Today Article

I was particularly impressed with the way it already offers the full reading experience in many Indian languages – is this the way to get our students reading Hindi??

Homework & Class – Reversed !!

When i read this blog post from an American Maths teacher I was blown away with a massive WOW! factor.

His starting point is simplicity itself, but the implications and ideas that can spin off from it are, I believe, enormous.

Please read Karl Fisch’s blogpost in full:

KF Blogpost

Imagine the implications – class time in school used totally for exploring concepts an issues together, seeking to find the underlying principles. Then the ‘lecture’ part delivered as a video (which, ofcourse, the student can watch as many times as they want/ need to).

The more I watch this, the more the potential uses I can see. The other reason you have to like it is that it’s so much less harrowing for children than the old-fashioned approach to sending ‘problems’ home for Maths particularly. We all have memories lurking in the back of our minds of the torture that we underwent when we discovered that the homework was beyond our current level of comprehension and understand. Caught between obligation, expectation and a feeling of overwhelm caused by ‘impossibility.’ This could transform all of that.

Heaven for Learnivores

So, are you one of those people for whom the phrase ‘Lifelong learning’ is not some nasty phrase forced on you by others, but your idea of heaven on earth?

Well, if you are, then I think you’ll enjoy this link. It takes you to a web page that has pulled together links and information regarding some of the most phenomenal learning resources available from all over the world – that are FREE !!!

New York Times – Free Educational Resources

So, whether you’re looking for Astronomy, learning a language or brushing up on Jane Austen it’s all there for you, at no cost.

In 50 years time we may look back and conclude that material like this was the most globalising, democratising influence of all time.


Encouraging ADHD Research

Here’s some potentially good news where children are being diagnosed ADHD. In my book anything that reduces the amount of drugs being given to children. the better.

BBC Article

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