Posted on 22-02-2008
Filed Under (teaching) by gashed

www.zulunotes.com is a wiki established to allow students to collaboratively establish an online resource for all leaving cert subjects. 

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Posted on 19-02-2008
Filed Under (Mobile technology) by gashed

Seems the Asus Eee PC has caused a bit of a stir.  Elonex has plans to bring out it own ultra laptop, ‘one’.  It is due to be released at the end of the year and will retail at under 120 yoyos.

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Posted on 11-02-2008
Filed Under (Mobile technology, Technology) by gashed

This is a headline from todays Guardian newspaper.  The laptop they mention is the RM Mini-computer, this the Asus Eee PC we mentioned before, but sold as a educational tool.  They look at the price and reckon for the price of a IT suite, a whole year group can be given their own laptop.  I agree with Stephen Fry, this is the future of educational computing.

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Posted on 09-02-2008
Filed Under (Creativity, teaching) by gashed

Returning to the purpose of education, what does our heirarchy of subjects say about why we school in the way we do.  The compulsary subjects of maths, science and english are placed above the humanity subjects, who are in turn seen as more worthy than the arts.  Whose subjects are thought so lowly of that, even in our education system, we don’t assess them.  Their is no Junior Cert in dance and movement.

 This choice of subjects arises from the interpreted needs of the world of work.  Schooling seems to have a narrow focus on preparing students to get employed.  This extends to the students and their families pick of subjects, where choice exsists.  You could agrue that the arrangement of the control structures in schools is to replicate the world of work as well.  I always find it amazing that we can have such faith in our capacity to predict the future that we will guide our children away from areas that they enjoy, and areas where they may excel, because we know where they will get employment in a decades time.  It is ridiculous and arrogant to think that we can forecast anything about the world in 10 years time.  The only thing that we can say about the future is that the children will need to have the capacity to learn and be creative.

The heirarchy of subjects seems to arise from our traditional view of intelligence.  School sometimes seems to be a protracted process for university enterance.  We seem happy to force children along a path towards university or the virtual world of work we invisage.  We ignore the vast diversity in childrens’ intellegences, interests, skills, loves etc. and corral them along this path.  If they don’t follow they are rendered failures.  This results in a waste of human potential and, critically, a lack of diveristy.  Diversity is strength; homogeneous opinions, skills and interests are inherently weak.  Lack of diversity removes the capacity for an interaction between people from which so much creative ideas emerge.  With so many problems in the world requiring creative solutions, we seem content to ignore talents that may allow us to build a society that may solve these difficulties.   More diverse and creative people will also result in a tolerent, less dogmatic society.

Apologies for the spelling. 

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Posted on 09-02-2008
Filed Under (teaching) by gashed

TED have posted a talk by Bill Strickland entitled ‘Rebuilding America, one show at a time’.  He rejuvenated an innercity area of Pittsburgh with a high crime rate and endemic racism.  He did so by giving people a vocational high school in a wonderful building; he gave people time, hope, respect and a fountain.  Well worth listening to his story.

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Posted on 09-02-2008
Filed Under (Miscellaneous) by gashed

Here’s something interesting.

All the English words for meat before it is cooked: cow, swine, sheep, calf etc. are Saxon in origin.  While the words for meat after it has been cooked are Norman in origin, e.g. beef, pork, mutton and veal.  Any idea why?

As the Normans conquered the Saxons in the 11th C, the Saxons became the servants.  In the kitchen they used their own words for the meat, but when serving in the dining room the Norman words were required! 

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Posted on 08-02-2008
Filed Under (teaching, Technology) by gashed

Damien wrote over on www.mulley.net about Mary Hanafin’s launching of a new Internet safety programme for kids, parents and teachers.  As often I find with this Minister, it is a good idea, but an isolated effort and it is unclear whether there is an overall philosophy or coherent plan behind it all.  At least this inititative seems to focused on helping teachers to help students understand their actions online and make good decisions.

I attended a NCTE Bebo bullying course last week; it was a fair introduction to those who had no experience of social networking and explained well the anatomy of a BeBo page.  But what was more interesting was the tremendous gulf between the teachers’ environments and the world the students communicate in. 

Technology training for teachers is a good idea, but unless it is part of an overall policy of closing the expanding gulf between the students world and the backward world of the school, it is doomed to failure.  I reckon anyway.

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Posted on 07-02-2008
Filed Under (Miscellaneous, teaching) by gashed

What is the purpose of education?  In Ireland, as elsewhere, often discussed is the methods or techniques of schooling, how best to engineer learning in the classroom.  Less reflected on is the function of the education system, why do we persist with compulsory schooling Ireland, to what end does it serve.  What is the philosophy that determines the subjects and cirrula that are taught.

 In 1878, W. Nielson Hancock saw a role for compulsory education in reducing the levels of crime in the country.  Nowadays I’m not sure what the philosphy of those guiding the Irish system is.  It seems that they strongly link education with economic productivity.  Often I see them viewing the primary role of education system as serving the business interests of the country.  The funding for various initiatives and subjects offered at second level seems to depend on whether they are closely aligned with the economic interests of the country.  The educational system is viewed as a vocational training ground.  Much of the credit for the recent upturn in the Irish economy has been traced back to the free second level education and travel brought in by Donough O’Malley in 1968.  The link between education and economic productivity however is weak.  Ironically though the creative, entropronarial and learning skills required by those in businesses are neglected. 

Perhaps one purpose, or a goal of education, should be to educate children to be custodians of the planet and global citizens.  We should understand that memorising a body of facts in today’s connected world is not useful.  Students should understand that our fate is closely linked to all others. In this context squabbles with neighbours or racist tendencies are self-evidently defeating.

I dunno, what is the purpose of education?

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Posted on 07-02-2008
Filed Under (Mobile technology, teaching, Technology) by gashed

I have just purchased one of these from ebay.ie . There are very cheap and handy.  They are capable of recording 30 minutes of video (1GB version) and couldn’t be easier to use.  You point and press the big red button!  Each time you stop and restart a new clip is formed.  It has a x2 digital zoom if you wish to get closer.  It is exceptionally light and about the size of a pocket camera.

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The best thing about this is how easy it is to download to your PC – there is a pop out USB connection that acts as a memory stick with video clips on it.  There is software bundled with it, but I’ve never used it.  The clip can be played through media player on a PC or brought into movie maker.

Very handy in the classroom for taking videos of experiments, kids presentations or for the kids to go out there and record the world.

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Posted on 04-02-2008
Filed Under (Mobile technology, teaching, Technology) by gashed

I have bought an Asus Eee PC; it’s an ultra portable laptop computer and it is mind boggingly brilliant.  The screen is only 7″ wide (a version with 10″ is to be released soon), so it is tiny.  It is robust and quiet as there are no spinning parts, it has no CD drive and a solid state hard disk memory.  They ship with Linux but you can get XP installed; both work great.  In Ireland they are available from www.expansys.ie for about 345 euro.  You can get more variety and cheaper options on www.ebay.ie

It is easy to imagine that every kid will have one of these in their bag soon.  They pop into class and crank up their ultra laptop (boots in seconds) and update their blog, work on a wiki, check their RSS feeds, open the class moodle course etc.  These laptops are perfect size and functionality to allow easy integration into the classroom and if the costs continue to fall it won’t take long.

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