Category Archives: Education

Is Education stuck in a rut?

The factory driven state of education. Compartmentalisation of subjects. Heavy emphasise on state testing. Prescriptive education driven by age. Traditional education, hasn’t changed much for the last century.

Education for children was brought in to have “semi-literate and semi-numerate” workforce. Is this still true today?


The factory driven state of education is still alive today. Gove stated the Education department will “increase freedom and autonomy for all schools, removing unnecessary duties and burdens, and allowing all schools to choose for themselves how best to develop.” But still highlights that the education is all about jobs: education will “define our economic growth and our country’s future.” If the state is dictating that they want schools to mass produce economic viable students, is it not an indoctrination control of children.

The compartmentalised subjects are a very conservative policy. But do jobs in the ‘real life’ as segregated as much as they are in school? Teachers begun to teach physics in relation to music, as the connections are strong, and in turn reinforces, adapts and expands children’s knowledge and understanding of both subjects. It has been shown children can transfer skills, yet why are the conservative government aiming for a subject-driven curriculam ‘body of core knowledge’ which would allow them to function as fully rounded citizens? But is this wrong, highlighting the basic core knowledge a child needs to know to fulfil the states need for an economic viable curriculum. Proffessor Andre Pollard, who was a member of the advisor pannel for the curriculum, stepped down as he believed ministers showed ‘a cavallier disregard’ for research on goving freedom for pupils freedom to develop their skills.

State testing allows politicians and governing bodies to compare and contrast. But are children just viewed as a number by the state? What does testing offer? A way to determine a child’s ability to answer a set of questions on a particular day in the summer term? But high test scores do not necessarily highlight a child’s understanding.

“In schools do you train for passing tests or for creative inquiry?” (Chomsky, 2012)

Sanctioned by age, some children are certainly restricted by whom they can physical work with. Why is education affiliated with pace-setting, moving one step at a time. Is this the right attitude.

Schools and education appears to be needed to be built once again from the beginning. To physically stop, look and listen at what is happening and decide what our next steals are. But this will never happen. We will never recreate and build a completely new system from scratch, a system that we could never prove would be better than what we have now.

So what freedom do we have as teacher? As parents? As governors?


Why are we stuck back in the dark ages when synchronisation; compartmentalisation; batch process and standardisation were what was needed of education? Is this true now?


John Adcock ‘In pace of schools: A Novel Plan for the 21st Century’ is a story which opens in late December 2029 when schools as we know them have largely disappeared. Personalised learning plans; No more 9-5; anytime, everywhere learning; teachers have proffessional oversight but have strong collaboration with parents; no physical restrictions; time to tinker and explore…the list goes on.

Why do we try and fix what is already broken?


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What is your purpose and vision in life?

From the classic: What do you want to be when your older?

To the philosophical: What is the meaning of life?

We all need a purpose in life. A goal to thrive for; and a way to figure how to achieve it. This becomes particularly pertinent when discussing the purpose of education.

As a child, I wanted to be a firefighter. I did not want to be a footballer like many of my peers, because unlike them I knew I would never be the next Lionel Messi; but I did want to be a hero (and beside, I always liked the idea of the a firefighter). That idea was quickly put aside, and it turned to wanting to be in the army, but that was never going to be a realistic option for me. And then opportunities arose in leading youth work, and my passion to become a teacher arose relatively early on in my secondary education. Even at that age I had opportunities to lead groups, organise cross curricula events and even teach circus skills to children affected by the Chenobyl disaster. However I never considered my purpose in life would entail; and certainly not my philosophy of education.

“For the first time we are preparing students for a future we cannot clearly describe”

David Warlick

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. We cannot embody the complete holistic view of education (surely another blog post on how free can we be in education will have to be considered later on); but Ron Miller (1990) does suggest we can have certain freedom within society. Yet Gove (2010) who states the Education department will “increase freedom and autonomy for all schools, removing unnecessary duties and burdens, and allowing all schools to choose for themselves how best to develop.” Still states that the education is all about jobs: education will “define our economic growth and our country’s future.”

Does this freedom encourage people to find their purpose in life, and discover how to achieve it?

Is there a middle ground between being free and having a job, whilst achieving ones own purpose?

Oliver Quinlan wrote how we should move away from preparing children for jobs to ‘helping people to find out what they want out of life.’ . Though this begins a whole new ball game with the need to provide rich and diverse experiences for children to explore, in order to find what their aspirations and purpose in life is.

Education is ugly. Both in its process and structure. But when an individual achieves their purpose, whether a good score on a test to becoming a forefront thinker in their profession, the achievement at the end seems so worthwhile.

We live in expontial times, in Britian the education culture is changing. Within all this cofusion, and mixed messages we are recieving from the State, we as educators need a purpose; a philosophy of our beliefs, backed up by solid evidence and our own experiences and reflections. Our philosophy and purposes may change, elvolve and adpat, and yes it should. I know my purpose is to be a teacher, I am gaining a degree to help me obtain my purpose; but now it is time to discover what is at the heart of my own philosphy of education, my vision and my values. A vision that will stay with me whereever I go, and allow me to value what is at the heart of all of this: the children.

What is your vision and values of education?

“From a holistic perspective, it is the dynamic interplay between freedom and structure that best educates a young person as he or she grows into this evolving world. If education is a response to a dynamic world, to the dynamic process of growth, discovery, evolution, and development, then teaching methods must not be rigidly fixed or prescribed. Education itself must become dynamic, spontaneous, self-organizing and emergent.” (Miller, 1990)


Department of Education. (2010) ‘The Importance of Teaching’. London:DfE

Miller, R. (1990) What Are Schools for?, Holistic Education Pr.

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A case study into the effect of children’s attitudes towards blogging

Its taken several months to complete my Independent research project into the effects of blogging on children’s attitudes towards literacy, as part of my Undergraduate degree classification. I have included the project (minus the interview transcripts) for anyone who may find it useful. Though it doesn’t raise any groundbreaking concepts, it does highlight some key points: children’s awareness of a worldwide audience; how commenting is essential for maintaining a blog, and finally the need to integrate the blog into the curriculum for children to become (at their own pace, and not forced) entangled and engaged in its potential.

My initial concept of this research project was to consider how literacy should be taught in school incorporating the need to teach and recognise digital literacy. University courses such as Journalism, have adopted their programme to include specifics on writing on the web for a different audience. Whether this, has any coloration or need to adopt practice in primary schools, was something I was interested in; however I would not be able to fully investigate during such a relative short time period. Through consolidating my ideas, I finial considered the effect of children’s attitudes towards blogging, especially since initiatives such as the 100WC, Quadblogging and have become profilent in the last year or so.

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#ukedchat 15.03.12

‘What should be taught to the next generation of trainee teachers?’


I’m a trainee teacher at Plymouth University, in my 3rd year of a 4 year course.

We are lucky at Plymouth University to be classed as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted in the last two visits; of which the latter I had the opportunity to talk to the inspectors. We also have some innovative members of staff such as @timbuckteeth (of whom I have not yet met), @ethinking, and @oliverquinlan. They are constantly at the forfront of discussions at Twitter and are constantly up for awards and asked to speak at many events.

For us as trainiee teachers we are inspired and lucky to have them. They inspire us to go and find new opportunities to expand our horizons.

Throughout my course, my school experience equates to a school year on placemnt. I know I certainly learn an awful lot from these hand on experiences of teaching. But from teachers and educators alike, what should the next generation of teachers be taught on their course? Do you believe there is enough teaching practice? What good/bad practice have you seen from NQTs that you want to be promoted or eradicated at University?

What are your thoughts of the different avenues into teaching?

We are the generation that has grown up with Harry Potter, mobile phones, and  laptops being a part of everyday life. By no means am I saying we are a digital native (a good article here), but does this mean we should, or we are more acceptable to integrate technology – but with the danger of overlooking the pedagogy at the roots of teaching.

What can trainee teachers do, outside of the course, to enhance their learning experience. We have an excellent Education Society who put on many events such as streaming BETT talks, placement guidance and mock interviews – but not all trainee teachers use this opportunity. And does it necessarily mean they will be any worse a teacher for this?

What would you as teachers, educators etc. want to see on a trainee teacher course? and what would you want to change if you looked back at your own course.

The #edchat talk will be on Thursday 15th from 8 to 9pm, where I hope as we can have a discussion on the roots of becoming a teacher and how we can become the best that we can be.

In the meantime, while not look at some of the plymouth uni students blogs, and @oliverquinlan list of those students on twitter.

Now I’ll better get back to my assignment!

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“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”

 (Bill Bradley)

Ambition is the path to success. Well it certainly helps. Without ambition where will you be?

The Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. It takes on fifty new member each year and this year – with the encouragement of @oliverquinlan  – I had a go.

You can either complete a one minute video on ‘Classroom Inovation’ or ‘Motivation and Learning’. Well I didn’t particularly feel like technology should be used to motivate learners, so I chose Classroom Innovation. Here is my video:

Even though I did not get a place in the Google Teacher academy I did learn something. Ambition is important. It is integral to being the best you can be. Even going through this process and filling out the form will stand me in good stead for future opportunities.

Ambition will lead you somewhere. I have taken a lot out of this whole process. From the physical act of creating a video – combining skills that I haven’t used before. To my professional development. I am now more open up to opportunities out there. To be ambitious is good. It will lead somewhere. Though it may not be a physical place, such as attending the Google Teacher Academy, you will develop internally in ways you may have never thought possible.

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Google Docs as a collaborative tool

Over the last few weeks I have realised the power and possibility Google Docs for collaborative learning.

As part of the #eict350 module at out University we were encourage to use tools such as Google Docs for collaboration and Google sites to make multimodal resources for children. Google docs allows for collaboration which several participants working alongside each other on the same document. Google docs allows the power of unobtrusive collaboration, as written by Tom Barrat. He introduces the idea of ‘live marking’. Children are working on a piece of work that is shared with the teacher – and at the same time the teacher can add comments and marking to the document. But, as Barrat emphasises there still needs to be some kind of human contact – as a way to reinforce the comments to actively engage the children.

As opposed to written work – a teacher can silent monitor the children’s work, moving in and out from documents adding comments, whilst reinforcing some points to the children in person. This unobtrusive collaboration, does not intrude the children’s flow of work and can ignite new ideas into the children writing.

This only works effectively as Google has created a truly real time collaboration – where each character is updated in real-time on the readers computer. Children can reply and react to comments that the teacher puts. Instead of stopping the whole class to engage them in their writing, this can be done from the ‘confort’ of the teachers desk – engaging several children at a time, with multiple documents in several tabs.

However, the success of Google docs is in how the teacher uses it effectively. I can be used for effortless assessment for learning, praising good comments, and can modell good sentences on the class projector in seconds. However, it can be a more intrusive method than writing in books for those who find collaboration is key. Children’s typing skills may be holding them back – and teacher still need to use talk. But Google docs can be a very powerful tool if used in the correct way, and I can see myself using this for my own study and when I’m next in school

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Draft Literature review

I have to emphasise this is a draft – and in no ways a final version. I have to credit Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) for his work on defining digital literacy. I used it his work as a my starting point to look at further areas of interest. There was so much I could add in, but will try to in other sections. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Literature review

In the last few decades the Internet has become a technological and a social phenomenon. It has become a “fact of life, a way of being in the world, a producer of social subjects that, find it unremarkable, so unremarkable that it seems ‘everybody uses it.’” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:470) It has allowed new social access, eradicating the need for face-to-face communication.

To fully understand the term ‘digital literacy,’ literacy must be defined. At its very basic level, literacy is a form of communication, including the ability to decode symbols and messages for the purpose of sharing information and meaning. Current pedagogy (DfES.1999) goes beyond this, and as well as reading and writing, literacy involves the development speaking and listening skills.  People must be able to encode and decode symbols to be classed as literate or subsequently illiterate. Although an ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’ (UNESCO) report addresses the issues in defining literacy:

“Literacy is a characteristic acquired by individuals in varying degrees from just above none to an indeterminate upper level. Some individuals are more or less literate than others but it is really not possible to speak of illiterate and literate person as two distinct categories.”

 (UNESCO. 1957:18)

A simple definition of being literate as being ‘able to read and write,’ sets up a “false dichotomy (between those who ‘can’ and those who ‘can’t’), but makes no allowance for reading and writing using various tools and for different purposes.” (Belshaw. 2011:50) Literacy viewed as making and creating meaning “has generally dominated curriculum and pedagogy.” (Dighe & Reddi, 2006). It is a set of skills that complete mastery of is never attained, as there is always a way in which a person can be more skilled, or a better reader or writer.

Street (1984) outlines two different models of literacy, the autonomous and the ideological. The autonomous model, states literacy as being independent of and impartial towards trends and struggles in everyday life. An ideological perspective, view “literacy as an active relationship or a way of orienting to the social and cultural world”; (Lankshear & Kobel. 2008:97) its reiterated by Lewis & Fabos (2005) who perceive that “all writing is socially motivated.” Digital illiteracies are ideological and subjective; they adapt with change and constantly need to be developed.

A definition of ‘Digital Literacy’ began from Gilster’s (1997) book entitled with the same name. Glister was criticised for giving multiple definitions (Belshaw. 2011); however at the beginning of the twenty first century his work was beginning to have an impact. Glister (1997) did not describe digital literacy as a set of skills but “as an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources and regarded it simply as literacy in the digital age.” (Bawden. 2008:18)

There is ambiguity when digital illiteracies are referred to, Bawden (2008) paraphrases Eshet-Alkalia  (2004) view that there are “particular inconsistency between those who regard digital literacy as primarily concerned with technical skills and those who see it as focused on cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of working in a digital environment.”(Bawden, 2008:24) Futurelab (2010) defines digital literacy as functional skills required to operate and communicate with technology and media with the ability to “participate in a range of critical and creative practices.” Belshaw (2011) in his doctoral thesis combines the work of many theorists and identifies eight core elements of digital literacy, namely:

  1. Cultural
  2. Cognitive
  3. Constructive
  4. Communicative
  5. Confident
  6. Creative
  7. Critical
  8. Civic

Belshaw (2011:82)

Belshaw (2011) moves beyond looking merely at the technological skills required, but highlights that digital literacy captures the notion that the literacy practices referred to are enacted in digital spaces. Martin (2008) similarly breaks down digital literacy and reiterates that it is more than a set of skills. However this emphasises that the term ‘digital literacy’ is ambiguous, and continually evolving in new and innovative ways.

An aspect of computer-mediated communication, which is an integral part to ‘digital literacy’ are weblogs or ‘blogs.’ A blog is an “instant publication of text or graphics to the Web… [with] ways for people to provide comments or feedback to each blog post, the opportunity to archive past blog posts by date, and hyperlinks to other bloggers.” (Hufaker. 2004) This medium allows one or many contributors to present and express themselves online in a way that is not possible in traditional literacy.

Blogs are created and maintained for diverse purposes and as elements or dimensions of diverse social practices. Lanskear and Knobel  (2008) identify some key topics of blogs, such as: personal diaries; critique of news events; to sell products; to express personal opinions; to achieve memories and so on. Though not to dissimilar to websites, blogs provide many advantages over traditional sites, including; providing a personal writing space; invite contributors and be managed accordingly and need little or no technical background knowledge. (Peter & Axel. 2006:2)

The educational benefits of blogs (Peter & Axel. 2006) allow children to develop their cognitive and critical potential though analytical thinking whilst reading, writing and collaboration on a topic to post. Its structure promotes taking critical risks and makes sophisticated use of language and design, (Peter & Axel. 2006:3) and provides a space in which children can reflect on their learning and review and comment upon other people work. Morris (2010) a class teacher, states, “blogging is authentic.” Students have a purpose and a genuine audience, where there can be a daily occurrence within a classroom. It gives children a meaningful audience “that will see their writing and personality through blogs.” (Ackerman. 2006:7) Traditional literacy conventions such as spelling and syntax can be taught in the “context of writing on the blog rather than stand-alone, one off lessons.” (Morris. 2010) Children’s lack of motivation directly collates with students not doing well (Kelly & Neal. 2002) where by framing tasks differently and giving students a real audience, “students are motivated to use technology to write.” (Ackerman. 2006:1)

Channeler (1997) states, “in the act of writing…we are written.” To motivate children emerging writing skills, to make writing purposeful, challenging and real to life, blogging offers this opportunity. Additionally, blogging provides a sense of community, where global connections can be made with other schools. Quadblogging develops this sense of community where each of the partnership schools has a week of hosting the blog, providing a focus for others to participate in and to make comments, offering an “environment where learning is not limited to the classroom.” (Huffaker. 2004) As the popularity of blogging continues, one provider stating 500,000 new posts every month (WordPress. 2012), is it an engaging medium for children to benefit from? And does it in turn improve their literacy skills? This research project aims to build upon previous research and asks the question:

‘How can one classes use of blogs promote positive attitudes in literacy?’

Word count: 1,076





Ackerman, J. D. (2006). Motivation for Writing Through Blogs. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green State University. Available at: [Accessed: 06.02.12]

Bawden, D. (2008). Origins and Concepts of Digital Literacy, 17-32. in Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. Digital literacies: concepts, policies and practices. New York, Peter Lang.

Belshaw, D. A. J. (2011). “What is ‘digital literacy’?”  Available at: [Accessed: 20.01.2012]

Chandler, D (1997): ‘Writing Oneself in Cyberspace’ Available at: [04.02.12]

DfES (1999) The National Curriculum for England and Wales. London: DfES.

Dighe, A. & Reddi U. V. (2006) Women’s Literacy and Information and Communication Technologies: Lessons that experience has taught us New Delhi: Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) & Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13 (1): 93-106

Futurelab. (2010) “It’s not talk and chalk anymore”. Available at: [Accessed: 18.01.12]

Gilster, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York, Wiley Computer Pub.

Huffaker, D. (2004) The educated blogger: Using Weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom. First Monday. Available at: [Accessed: 07.02.12]

Kelly, P,R., & Neal, J C. (2002). Delivering the Promise of Academic Success Through Late Intervention. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 18, pp.101-117.

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices: Introduction.  New York: Peter Lang

Lewis, C & Fabos, B (2005) ‘Instant Messaging, Literacies and Social Identities’ in Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 40 (4), pp470-501

Martin, A. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy and the “Digital Society”‘ in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang

Morris, K. (2010) Literacy Skills: How Far They’ve Come! Available at: [Accessed: 03.02.12]

Peter, D. & Axel, B. (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006. Brisbane. pp: 31-38.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

UNESCO. (1957). World illiteracy at mid-century, a statistical study. [Paris], UNESCO.

WordPress (2012). Available at: [Accessed: 08.02.12]

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Doug Belshaw, known for his doctoral thesis on ‘Digital Literacy’ has started a new project titled the ‘Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.’

I’ve just become involved in this project, giving advice and feedback on each section on the e-book as he begins to write it.

Check out his work from the above link

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If no body has heard of it, where have you been?

Julia Skinner an ex-head teacher began giving children topics to write about on her website – but it became such a phenonimum she had to hire volunteers to help her to give quality comments to children.

As describes on the 100wc challenge website:

It is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16 years of age. Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and the children can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. This should be posted on a class blog and then linked to the 100 Word Challenge blog. The link is usually open from midnight on Wednesdays until midnight the following Tuesdays.

And recently, I have become one of the many volunteers who give the children quality comments. I am already impressed by the quality and imagination of the children who entered. I wish this was around when I was at school, as a motivation tool and have an audience to write to.  But I know I can offer my future class, wherever they are this amazing opportunity.

Its not everyday you can get a comment on your creative from an worldwide audience.And each week, several pieces are showcased for everyone to read and comment on.

But its not just 100 words. Julia has recently just promoted a ‘5 sentence challenge’ aimed at Key Stage One children – and a 500WC for this who want to higher their horizons.

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English and communication technology

© Communication Task Force

In the last few decades the Internet has become a technological and a social phenomenon. It has become a “fact of life, a way of being in the world, a producer of social subjects that, find it unremarkable, so unremarkable that it seems ‘everybody uses it.’” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:470) It has allowed new social access, an instant connection to friends through a whole host of digital literacy’s. These new literacy’s have inevitably influenced the English Language; but it does not currently have a concrete place in the national curriculum. Yes, Information Communication Technology (ICT) is becoming a core subject in the new curriculum. But what about the communicative aspect of the Internet.

Several years ago, MSN had a huge popularity with teenagers. It had a huge impact of the linguistics aspects of the English Language. Lewis and Fabos (2005) research discovered that “in general, young people favoured IM over all other kinds of communication.” It provided an excitement of staying on top of multiple conversations; it was convenient because most people were constantly online and available. It also assuaged social relationships; making all potential threatening exchanges, such as face-to-face or via telephone, less problematic. Those interviewed in Lewis and Fabos’ study still occasionally used electronic mail (email) for telling longer stories, yet still preferred instant messaging over chat rooms, since “communicating with strangers was not nearly as engaging as communicating with one’s peers” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:482)

Social networking has grown and became an integral part of commuter-mediated communication. Since the launch of ‘Myspace’ in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Bebo in 2005, the Office for Communication (OFCOM) has found that “almost half (48%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on a social networking site.” (OFCOM, 2008) Even though these sites restrict children aged thirteen or fourteen, OFCOM have found that “27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that they have a profile on a site.” (OFCOM 2008) Social networking “is now a mainstream form of communication, offering new ways for children to communicate and socialise.” (Dowdall. 2009:91) They, offer children the ability to create an online presence

In all of the above communication methods, children are involved in, and they are self motivated to learn the new communication methods.

In modern journalism courses, they have begun to teach how to write for an online audience. Why isn’t this integral part of what we now teach children? Blogs are emerging from teachers and students alike, from those with the technological know how, but it’s not all schools and not all children. As communicating online, whether through email, instant messaging or from social networking, is becoming an integral part of people’s lifestyle and social identity.

Should we introduce digital literacy into the classroom?

If yes, how can we introduce digital literacy in the classroom?

As part of my dissertation, I want to investigate these new literacies, and how do children communication differently on the world wide web.

(aspects taken from ‘English and Communication Technology’ linguistic assignment)


Lewis, C & Fabos, B (2005) ‘Instant Messaging, Literacies and Social Identities’ in Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 40 (4), pp470-501

OFCOM (2008) ‘Social Networking: A Quantitative and Qualitative research Report into Attitudes, Behaviour and Use’. OFCOM. Available at [Accessed 11th February 2011]

Dowdall, C. (2009) ‘Impressions, improvisations and compositions: reframing children’s text production in social networking sites’ in Literacy. Vol. 43 (2), pp 91-99

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