Jiva Technology

testing, testing …

Its not an original observation, but it does appear that the relentless focus on tests and testing from an early age within the British education might just be turning large swathes of young people off the idea of education at just the time in history when they need it more than ever. The idea of testing makes sense; in management consulting parlance, if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. And with the nation pouring large amounts of cash into the education, its natural to want to know that we’re getting value for money. What’s the alternative? Put up the cash and hope for the best? But school now seems to be an endless succession of hurdles that kids are asked to jump over and where’s the fun in that? Is anyone seriously asking the users of the system how that feels? Because (albeit with a microscpoic sample size), the answers I hear ain’t pretty.

It simply isn’t true that every year of your school life is as important as the others. Surely there’s room to have some years without testing? Years when students can explore topics for fun or push the boundaries a little. The UK is unusual in holding formal exams at 16 and 18, so how about a little give and take? it wouldn’t be difficult to map out muti-year plans that say, ‘you can ease off a bot here because its going to get tough in these years’. Apart from anything else, one of the most valuable skills that students will learn is not passing exams, but in successfully organising and executing indepent inquiry.

If anyone out there has seen any studies or feedback or research on how the ‘users’ of the education system view  relentless testing, we’d be glad to hear about it.

 

Living the subscription lifestyle

There was time not so long ago when I either bought things outright or had finance to buy things outright. But recently, I’ve noticed an increasing number of the things I buy are offered as a subscription. There are some financial reasons (that we don’t need to go into here) why companies want subscribers, but its interesting that the things that used to be offered on subscriptions were old fashioned, like magazines, whereas now it seems that the most cutting edge services like Netflix or Amazon Prime are the ones to offer subscriptions. I’ve been looking to buy a new car and even that is offered on subscription. I won’t own it, I’ll just use it for three years and hand it back or buy a new one. All in return for a monthly payment. Some of the car manufacturers even let me switch cars within the there years. Will everything we buy be on a subscription basis in the future? Is this an inexorable trend?

I ask the question because it occurs to me that if I want to subscribe to television services, then I might also want to subscribe to education services. Perhaps I’ll want the ability to pay a monthly fee, or the government might pay a monthly fee to get an education from different providers. “Ridiculous”, I hear you say, but why not? And what’s stopping it? I could pay monthly for my house (rental), my car (PCP), my TV, so why not an education for our children. Or perhaps I want to have a core of education services two days per week from a single institution and then subscribe to other services for the balance of my time. Some people are already doing this – children go to school and then have ballet, football or additional tutoring around the edge. The barrier to this type of flexibility usually comes down to the fixed costs of delivery and the need to plan in advance, but teachers are fairly mobile, classrooms are pretty uniform and teachers can (within reason) move from institution to institution. Would it make education delivery more flexible? Would parents becomes stressed by the constant movement or would it free things up to deliver the maximum in flexible delivery of education?

It might be a bad idea, but sometimes by thinking the unthinkable, great new ideas float to the surface. You only have to think about how Canadians solved the problem of snow on their power lines to realise that a certain amount of expansive thinking goes a long way.

Patreon Science

As a self confessed fan of trying new ways to get an education (or in hipsterspeak, hack education) I’ve been following Patreon for a while now. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Patreon is the brainchild of a musician who was  popular on YouTube, but found that support for his music wasn’t turning into support financially. At least not for him. Cue a new way of doing things that allowed patrons to support projects they liked and for people to get paid for it.

So far, so simple. Patreon has been successful enough for people to copy it and spawn sub groups that cover science and education. The education sub group is so so, but the science section seems to be the natural abode for the weird and the wacky. The amounts of money involved are not huge and whilst the quality varies, some of them (Mr Carlson’s lab for instance) seem to tackle things that you just aren’t going to learn at school. Or college .. or anywhere for that matter.

School trips

Ross Mountney’s latest contribution to the Tutorhub blog has brought a smile to my face. Ross has been a consistent advocate of  taking your learning outdoors, but there can’t be many amongst who don’t have fond memories of school trips. I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful they are for the teachers, but putting aside any of the things you might learn on the trip, the experience of getting out of school for a day was always memorable.

It was only many years after I’d left school that I realised that one particular trip, which at the time seemed to be a massive distance from the school, it could have been to the Amazon for all I knew, was literally around the corner. When educators talk about ‘teachable moments’, I sometimes think that school trips should be an excellent opportunity to get the attention of young students, but to be honest, all I can ever remember about the trips was the getting there and the getting back. The bit in the middle always appears to be a void. When I see school trips snaking their way around museums today, I can see why. No one is paying attention, there are too many other things going on. But at a time when all we talk about is how school can be effective, how school can prepare students for the world of work, its good to remind ourselves that every once in a while, school should be fun and school trips should be the most fun of all.

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