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- From Richard Byrne's "android4schools" site. A free Android app that is designed to help younger students learn how the human body works. The app features eight sections: circulation, muscles, the senses, kidneys & urine, skeleton, respiration, digestion, and brain & nerves. Each section contains short animated videos that explain the functions of each system and how it works. - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
- Downloadable A4 writing aid for quick reference - words to describe someone's voice - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
I am a big advocate of technology enhancing face-to-face relationships, but if I had the choice between webcam and face-to-face, I will take the latter any day. The commercial below illustrates that beautifully.
Perhaps the weakest area of the typical one-to-one computing plan is the complete absence of leadership development for the administrative team—that is, learning how to manage the transition from a learning ecology where paper is the dominant technology for storing and retrieving information, to a world that is all digital, all the time.
Leaders must be given the training to:
- Craft a clear vision of connecting all students to the world’s learning resources.
- Model the actions and behaviors they wish to see in their schools.
- Support the design of an ongoing and embedded staff development program that focuses on pedagogy as much as technology.
- Move in to the role of systems analyst to ensure that digital literacy is aligned with standards.
- Ensure that technology is seen not as another initiative, but as integral to curriculum.
Leaders also must learn how to support risk- taking teachers and creating cohorts of teachers across disciplines and grades who are working on innovative concepts—such as students designing libraries of tutorials to help other students learn, as Eric Marcos has done with Mathtrain.TV.
via Alan November Why Schools Must Move Beyond 1 to 1 ComputingAlan November (November Learning, 2013)
“There is one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing. Say nothing. Be nothing.” says Aristotle. Criticism comes with breaking new ground. Criticism comes with putting yourself out there. But how do you respond when that criticism turns to hatred?
Hatred is a hard thing to handle, particularly when you feel it is unjust. But I’m writing this for you today: DON’T LET IT STOP YOU.The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the Speech “Citizenship in the Republic” given at the Sorbonne in Paris, France April 1910
We are all people of the arena. Every human has to cope with this question:What to do when someone hates you
Hatred is a hard thing to handle. Humans usually posses a me-centric view of the world. We’ve all seen two good people can have a vastly different opinion. It happens.
No matter what you do, how kind you are, or anything else, I promise you this: in your human-ness you will attract haters. No way around it.
Haters are are an inevitable part of life if you’re accomplishing anything of worth. You can decide what to do with it.
It will also shock and surprise you just how long some people will nurse hatred. It can be years later and they’re still hanging onto something you barely remember.Tip 1: Not Every Criticism is Motivated by Hate
- A person giving you constructive criticism wants to help you improve and become better.
- A hater wants to hurt you and wants you to die.
Determine if love or hate is the basis by who gave you the criticism and how it is given. What was the intent? Help or harm?Why Do We Notice the Negative?
You can be in a crowd of ten thousand and give an incredible speech. One critic blasts you on their blog or on Twitter and what do you notice? You don’t see 100 positive tweets – you see the one negative.
You can captivate your whole classroom but one student has decided to dislike you. You don’t relish 29 joyful happy learning kids – you languish because one student (and their parents usually) don’t like you. (I’ve been there and goodness – it is hard when it happens.)
Jon Acuff talks about this phenomenon in his book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters calls this “critics math.” Jon says
1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult
Jon goes on to tell the story of Larry David, the inventor of the hit show Seinfeld, he went to New York and went to a ballgame. When the organizers spotted Larry in the crowd, they showed his picture on the big screen and played the Seinfeld theme song as the entire stadium stood and applauded.
After the game as Larry walks to his car, a stranger drove by, rolled down his window, and yells
“Larry, you suck!”
Which did Larry remember later? The one stranger who said he sucked.
Are you kidding? One rude person can erase 49,999 giving you a standing ovation?
This math doesn’t make sense.Tip 2: Reject Critics Math
The first step in overcoming critics math is to realize you’re doing it and refuse to go there.Tip 3: Keep Perspective
For me, when I deal with the haters I admit there’s room enough in this big wide world for both of us. Good people can dislike me. I can even dislike good people. Good and evil is not determined by whether people like you or me. This helps.
I recall a professor in college who drew a little x at the corner of the board. Across the board he drew a cloud.
He points at the cloud and says, “this is the universe.” He walks across the front of the room to the tiny x and says, “this is you” as he addresses the whole class. Then, he says something profound. “Notice that you (pointing at the x) are not at the center of the universe (pointing at the cloud.)”Tip 4: Center Your Thoughts in Healthy Ways
Nope. I’m not. But we can choose to center our thoughts daily. When hate rears its ugly head — it hurts. And yet it gets easier with time. Focus on your goals. We’ve got things to get done!Tip 5: Focus on the Likers not the Haters
Stop focusing on the futile: making the haters like you.
Focus on people who like you. Spend time cultivating relationships with those who like you and perhaps they’ll come to love you (and you them.)
Focus on helping and serving others and being kind. Choose to ignore those who may be speaking negative about you – that can quickly become paranoia. Usually people aren’t even talking about you at all – I hate to tell you what I tell myself – you’re not that important. Keep perspective and keep to your task.
So, decide. We’ve already heard Theodore Roosevelt tell us clearly, “It is not the critic who counts” but why do we give such things power over us? Why let haters distract us from living an epic life?Tip 6: Celebrate Good Times and Progress
My first boss sent a memo to his manager praising my performance. He brought the copy to my desk and I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it. Then, he told me something I’ll never forget.
‘Create an at-a-girl folder for those hard days. They’ll come and you’ll need to remember who you are and who you can be. This is your first at a girl. Keep it.”
I still have the folder and made one in Evernote. It has pulled me through dark days when I failed at something.
We all fall. We all fail. It is part of life.Tip 7: Keep Moving Forward
Failure becomes permanent only if we stop trying. It becomes success when we learn from it. It also helps to remember the good days when the bad days come.
But let’s be clear about the difference between failure and criticism. Criticism is not failure. Having a hater is not a failure. Being criticized and having a hater is part of being human.
Dr. Phil Adler, my favorite professor, always talked about racism and sexism and how to overcome it. He would tell us that there were people who would not want us to be included in conversations because of our gender or race.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you. The best revenge is success and proving them wrong.”
Ever since that moment in class, I’ve repeated this thought when faced with a hater of me or my gender.Tip 8: Be Excellent In Your Work.
Your best revenge against haters is to prove them wrong. Succeed and work your best to do a fantastic job at whatever you’re called to do.
Some just want swift justice in their me-centered world that demands it. Well, life is a marathon not a sprint. Be a turtle. (As I share in Chapter 13 of Reinventing Writing.)
Hating hurts the hater most of all. I read a story of the freed slave Frederick Douglas riding a train through Pennsylvania. Told to ride with the luggage, and several white passengers came to the car to express how upset they were. Douglass responds by telling them that he is not degraded but that those who did this to him were degrading themselves for treating a fellow human being with disrespect. (Paraphrased from the story included in Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington.)Tip 9: Commit Not To Hate
- Hating is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
- Hating is like tying a dead body to your back – the body doesn’t care they are lashed to you but you bear the burden.
Hating hurts the hater most of all.
When you are bothered by a person’s hate it gives them power over you. They can rejoice because they ruined your day. They purpose is to wound you and cause you pain and would probably only be happy if you were dead. Since there’s nothing you can do to make them happy you have to learn to live with it!Tip 10: Live Life!
And live with it you do! Don’t just live – thrive and succeed and enjoy your life. Fulfill your mission and spend time loving the 99.9% of people who don’t have a problem with the fact you are breathing air at this moment.
Life is too short to make a big deal of a small person. And hate does that – it has a way of making a person smaller and more incapable of success.
So, my friends – forgive, move on. Do whatever it takes but let go of hate. If someone hates you -sing the song from Frozen and “let it go.”
Haters are gonna hate. The question is: what will you do about it?
As the owner of a company that now consults school districts in their technology plans, I have zero patience for administrators that fail to see the importance of professional development when new tech is welcomed. My feelings have been hardened by first hand experience working in education and seeing how hopeless new tech initiatives were when the assumption that “if you provide it, they will learn.”
Just laying claim to the fact that technology was purchased and dropped into classrooms doesn’t make up for the negated fact that it will be next to useless without the correct training. Not only training, either; districts need to make concentrated efforts in championing not only the functional aspects of technical aptitude, but also the integrative possibilities with how instruction can be transformed through a digital paradigm…
If teachers have a common understanding of where the technology is taking their instruction, the student body will only then be capable of being led by the next generation of instructors.
From Derrick Wlodarz “7 Big Mistakes K-12 Education Needs to Avoid in 1:1 Computing Plans” via betanewsDerrick Wlodarz (BetaNews: 7 big mistakes K-12 education needs to avoid in 1:1 computing plans, 2013)
Philip Guo had an interesting post on the Blog @ CACM titled Python is now the most popular introductory teaching language at top U.S. universities which summarizes his survey of the 39 top US PhD granting university CS departments. It’s interesting that Python now has a slight edge over Java in those universities. But what does that mean for high school CS? After all that is where I teach and where my current main interest resides.
Does it mean anything at all? There is a big difference between high school students and university students. Sure I have some students who could (and will) get into those top schools but a) most of my students will not and b) even those students are not up to college level work as freshmen or sophomores when I teach them their first programming course. What works at MIT may very well not work at the average high school.
The article doesn’t go into why universities chose Python (or what ever language they did teach) so it is hard to evaluate a need or even a reason to change at the high school level from that article. On the other hand I know that a lot of schools at all levels (middle school though university) are moving to Python. There are a lot of popular options in K-12 that do not show up at the university level.
Scratch is the only visual, blocks-based language that made this list. It's one of the most popular languages of this genre, which include related projects such as Alice, App Inventor, Etoys, Kodu, StarLogo, and TouchDevelop. The creators of these sorts of languages focus mostly on K-12 education, which might explain why they haven't gotten as much adoption at the university level.
So even though they are not used by universities they are used at the earlier years. That makes sense because of the age, maturity and experience level of younger students. Just because universities jump to a new first programming language doesn’t mean that high schools should jump the same way.
Now I know that the AP CS A course tends to follow universities. The exam followed from PASCAL to C++ to Java in its history. Will it follow to Python? Quite possibly if the justification is there. Honestly though I think that if AP CS A is a high school students first experience with programming that is not a good thing. The article mentions the importance of a first impression of computer science.
Because the choice of what language to teach first reflects the pedagogical philosophy of each department and influences many students' first impressions of computer science. The languages chosen by top U.S. departments could indicate broader trends in computer science education, since those are often trendsetters for the rest of the educational community.
I believe that we have to be a bit gentler at the high school level than the university can be. That is why I don’t automatically follow the lead of the “top universities.” Still I think II ‘d like to see my students have some exposure to Python before they leave high school. Maybe as the first language, maybe as a second or third. I have to learn more about the language and teaching with it first. More learning for my summer I guess.
What do you think about Python? Are you using it to teach in high school and if so what advantages do you see with it?
- A great list of links that suggest how you can use Lego to teach literacy. - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
#184960872 / gettyimages.com
As I looked into moving into “leadership positions” within my own district, I believed that I did not have the experience to get into a role that I had wanted. The tricky thing is that if you don’t have the experience, how do you get the job?
“Leadership” is not about title, but often influence and the ability to help others. There are many administrators who aren’t necessarily leaders, and there are many teachers who exemplify the definition. Yet for many, the idea of moving into “leadership” without the experience, seems insurmountable. The reality is, the experience is already there within your current role, you sometimes have to just connect the dots for others, and more importantly, yourself.
So how do you do this? As I applied for administrative positions within my school district one of the best pieces of advice that I received was to look at Alberta’s “Principal Quality Standard”, which is the evaluation tool for administrators within the province. Most provinces or states will have something very similar. After looking at the seven standards, I was given the task to look at what I was currently doing in my role as a teacher, and how I was already meeting the standards.
For example, the first “quality” for leadership was regarding “Fostering Effective Relationships”. This standard is not exclusive to school administrators, and the best teachers do this in an abundance. To be able to make this connection on a resume and a portfolio is a great reflection for yourself, while also being able to showcase this to others.
Another “quality” is on “providing instructional leadership”. I have watched many teachers share ideas from their own classroom, and make an impact on not only other teachers, but students in the school (sometimes outside the school as well) that they do not teach. Again, this is not a quality that is exclusive to an administrator. In fact, a great administrator will not only be an instructional leader, they will develop others with these qualities as well.
There is a saying to “dress to the job you want, not the job you have”, but if you look closely enough, you might realize that you have already been playing the part. You sometimes just need to connect the dots.
During summer days, if you’re a top teacher, you’ll take time to improve your best asset — you. If somehow it’s not clear why that’s so important, look at it this way: when financial times are tight, our schools can improve the bottom line in four ways, three which aren’t beneficial for us as teachers.
- They can cut teachers and staff.
- They can cut benefits.
- They can lower quality.
- We teachers can become more productive and better at our jobs.
The best choice for our students, schools, and us is #4 — becoming better teachers. But how? We’re so tired!
Here are 12 tips that I use to level up every summer.1. Rework the Worst to Be the Best
Based on student feedback, rework your least engaging lessons to make them the most exciting lessons the next year. Create costumes or comb thrift shops, make room decorations, and spend time inventing powerful learning experiences. Top teachers never settle.
- A useful comic poster from CC Poland offers a good resource to begin discussions about Creative Commons. 6 types of licenses are discussed with with their separate conditions attached to each of them. " - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
“An entire life spent reading would have fulfilled my every desire; I already knew that at the age of seven. The texture of the world is painful, inadequate; unalterable, or so it seems to me. Really, I believe that an entire life spent reading would have suited me best.” Michel Houellebecq
“I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I’m alone, inside the world of the story. My favourite feeling in the world.” Haruki Murakami
Winter holidays are the best holidays for the hedonism of reading while consuming gallons of quality green tea. I have an unusually large number of great books on the go at the moment with many more that need to be loved (with one week remaining of the break). I’d like to share my reading with you and hope you have time to post about yours.
As usual, during the course of the year, I frequented our excellent local library, spent too much money via booko.com.au and Audible, as well as procuring ebooks from a variety of sources. Audiobooks are one of the major reasons I can read anywhere remotely as much as I wish with the business of work and life. Not driving a car also helps as I can read on the train. I have written about this previously.
This a relatively brief post (with little reviewing of the books) about the best of what I’ve read so far in 2014 (and here’s the complete list for the genuine enthusiast***).Fiction
I recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt to everyone. I loved the characters, loved the philosophic insights and think it thoroughly deserving of any prize awarded. Tartt has many passages that explore the sublime:
And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky – so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quite frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime.
Tartt did win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction although some felt it a controversial and ‘lowbrow’ choice. I would have thought there were enough clever passages exploring 21st century ennui for even the most ‘highbrow’ critic. Oddly, strangely but truly, reading about a character’s ennui always cheers me up:
(humans)…travelled and distracted themselves with all kinds of gadgets and devices, flooding themselves incessantly with information and texts and communication and entertainment from every direction to try to make themselves forget it: where we were, what we were. But in a strong light there was no good spin you could put on it. It was rotten top to bottom. Putting your time in at the office; dutifully spawning your two point five; smiling politely at your retirement party; then chewing on your bedsheet and choking on your canned peaches at the nursing home. It was better never to have been born – never to have wanted anything, never to have hoped for anything.
Chris Flynn and Ned Beauman are relatively new novelists and I read them for the first time this year (although came across Beauman in a Granta anthology in 2013). I have just started Flynn’s, The Glass Kingdom and am looking forward to finishing Beauman’s, The Teleportation Accident (both read on the strength of their first novels, A Tiger in Eden and Boxer, Beetle). Both authors create (and feel like) very authentic voices. One suspects their best work is in front of them.
I am uncertain if I recommend the most recent Man Booker winning novel, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, to you or not. It is cleverly structured and transported me to mid-nineteenth century New Zealand but somehow I felt cheated by the end. The promise of it all is never realised and it lacks the gravitas I suspected it was going to convey. Anyone else read it and feel the same? Victorian pastiche should have been more amusing…or something.
There are other novels that I would not have usually read that I can wholeheartedly recommend, insist even, that you read. The only reason Burial Rites by Hannah Kent graced my bedside table was that I am travelling to Iceland in September and I felt obliged to read it. The novel is truly a moody joy and deservedly on any ‘must-read’ list. It is an amazing debut novel by any standard and one suspects it should be read by more men.
“(Knausgaard) broke the sound barrier of the autobiographical novel”. Jeffrey Eugenides
Karl Ove Knausgaard has been a sensation in Norway for some time and one can see why after reading the first three of his six autobiographical novels, My Struggle (as in Hitler’s, Mein Kampf). I wonder what the next three hold in store but one assumes more ennui about the ”banalities and humiliations of his life”. You really need to check him out. I will be able to join the national conversation when I spend a week in Bergen, Norway, where the controversial author used to live.Non fiction
I truly struggle with knowing what to read next, there’s so many essential books in the areas that interest me at the moment. History continues to be an abiding passion and my reading is taking some new paths in recent months. I have read a great deal about genealogy and DNA this year and highly recommend Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond by Emily Aulicino to anyone grappling with comprehending how DNA analysis can assist the family historian. Colin Renfrew, Francis Pryor, Jean Manco, Bryan Skyes, Spencer Wells and Barry Cunliffe are all teaching me about prehistory generally and how analysis of DNA (including aDNA) is furthering our understanding of the distant past. It is such an exciting intellectual adventure I could spend all day every day thinking and learning about it all.
If you want a treat, find out some more about paleoart, that wonderful blend of the creative and the scientific for anyone trying to learn more about prehistory. Paleo-artist John Gurche‘s wonderful, Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art, and Imagination Help Us Understand Our Origins is a book I wish to spend more hours savouring. The scope of his work can be best appreciated by this video trailer:
“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” George Orwell
There have been a number of excellent non fiction books published by Australian authors that examine some long-running contemporary issues of absolutely critical importance for our society. Taking God to School by Marion Maddox should be read by all parents, educators and politicians. Maddox uses hard data to explore the growing inequity in education policy and funding that has developed in Australia over the last three decades. Another essential read is Anzac’s Long Shadow by James Brown which has the advantage of being topical, as ‘celebrations’ of military centenaries abound, brave and particularly well-written. This is a passage to admire:
Up close, Quilty’s paintings are strong yet discombobulated shards of paint. They make no sense. In the thronging crowd no one can quite get theperspective they need to admire what he has done. So too in war, perspective is elusive. Most Australian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan have such a limited view. A valley here, a village there. Death or worse is close at hand – in your face and at your feet. A moment’s inattention can be your, and your mates’, last. The close-up intensity of survival removes the luxury of perspective, the step back to make sense of so much chaos and noise.
Brown not only explores Australia’s relationship with military tradition and challenges political policy, he takes on many sacred cows. Only an ex-officer could get away with calling Anzac Day a ‘military halloween’. You must read his book, particularly the chapters that examine what kinds of savvy, well-educated men and women are needed to fill the officer cadre of a contemporary 21st century nation and how the ‘ANZAC legend’ conspires to make this difficult.
I have not finished Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty (yet) but can see why it has excited so many people who are thinking about inequity in our nations. Piketty has assembled more data than one could imagine possible in his quest to examine economic orthodoxies. This recent post shows my thinking on the matter.
Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan William is one for teachers. If you read one book about assessment, and of course we all should read many, this would be it.
I am re-reading Cultural Amnesia by Clive James (actually, I am enjoying listening to the author read the book). It is an odd pleasure knowing that the man is so ill. I will be re-visiting more of my favourite books, especially his memoirs in coming months.
Last but not least of my fav reads this year was Brian Epstein’s, A Cellarful of Noise (1964). It is a delightful memoir for any Beatles fan. It was a great follow-up to all the other books I read in a Beatles binge over Christmas.
What have you read so far this year?
***Here’s my reading from the last couple of years.
“He is a storyteller, a poet, and has the unique ability to communicate with all Australians, across all age groups and gender. Collaborating with indigenous musicians, young performers, and artists of all genres, Kelly has created some of the most important songs of our times.”
I grew up with Paul Kelly. His music and distinctive voice just seems to have always been quietly bobbing along in the sea of our popular culture. The quality of his music has allowed it to last in what is, by definition, an ephemeral landscape. He is a poet.
Most Australians know Kelly and he has much to offer an international audience, on multiple levels. For the fan, or the uninitiated, I highly recommend the audiobook version of How to Make Gravy, which is memorably read by the singer. He has distinctive voice (in all senses of the word). The structure of the book – an A-Z set list of 100 of his songs – works to evoke the music as his storytelling, like his lyrics, is something special. There are some great human stories as he traverses our cultural, as well as his personal landscape as a performer. He is unashamedly literary in his interests and often talks about his reading. I was not surprised to hear that he read Marcel Proust and Herman Hesse so avidly in his youth.
Coincidentally, I was listening to this wonderful musical memoir when the documentary, Paul Kelly – Stories of Me, was released by Shark Island Productions. When I played some of his songs to my Year 10 English class late last year they knew them – without necessarily knowing Paul Kelly. Everyone, every single kid in the class, knew the anthem, ‘To Her Door’.
The class was interested, so I decided to show them the documentary and use the quality teaching resources that are freely available online for the film. You register here (NB check your email for the activation link). After that you can login to access the resources, gain a student code and view the ‘schools version’ of the film. Here is the Facebook page and Youtube channel. If you have not viewed the film I recommend you check out these teaching resources while previewing it these holidays. It wont seem like work spending some time with Paul Kelly and I think we should celebrate his work as widely as possible.
Australians need many more quality documentaries that explore our cultural landscape that are also engaging for teenagers. The Shark Island Institute should be commended for their philanthropic ventures, especially in supporting schools with teaching resources. I recommend you check out Good Pitch2 for more excellent feature-length documentary projects.
NB Seven new films will be screened at the Sydney Opera House on October 8, 2014.
What have been your experiences using the ‘Paul Kelly – Stories of Me’ at school (or do you intend to try it out in second semester)?
- "the way I use Evernote to go paperless has evolved, and while some of the earlier posts I wrote are still useful, they don’t always reflect how I do things today. So I thought I’d use today’s column to describe some of the ways my use of Evernote to go paperless has evolved over the years." - Roland Gesthuizen
During my keynote at Edutech a few weeks back I outlined some of the false pedagogic dichotomies that are present in education. In addition to these supposed tensions there are natural forces and tendencies at play such as moving between fantasy and reality. In this post I will share some of my thinking on the importance of that creative thinking.
Previously I have outlined the importance of saying “I don’t know” to students, encouraging them to discover for longer – not just to start discovering, questioning and digging deeper, but to do it for longer. To stay in the question. Saying “I don’t know” opens learning up to students:
- to take responsibility
- to ask more questions and explore further
- to remain in the state if the unknown for longer
- to continually ask more complex questions
For youngsters they cannot readily explain their world away with existing knowledge and in fact they remain in the unknown for a long period of time. That world is surely a mysterious one, filled with sights and smells that make no sense. Colours and lights casting images on a young mind, a nurturing world filled with odd sounds and language that is not yet understood.
However that young learner does not attribute the same meaning to the world as we naturally do and so is free of such a burden. As a young adult we certainly go through a time when we think we know everything and the remnants of this mindset are still evident into our adult life. We see the world around us as Known. But it is not that simple.
For one thing as we grow older we are continuously learning, however that illusion of knowledge can descend and we are comforted by just enough information to get by, things become normalised, we begin to believe in the “illusion of the known”. A state that can breed assumption and potentially masks our natural instincts for curiosity.
Secondly the extreme of the Unknown is not so extreme after all. That colourless canvas is rich with ideas and connections. Because while we were choosing kidney beans, our little learners are devising an imaginary world along the Canned Fruit and Vegetables Aisle. Whilst we are watching out for traffic, our little learners are dodging spaceships. Whilst we are helping them to understand the concrete, known world around them, our little learners are dancing in the world of the abstract – splattering the canvas with rich imaginative explanations of their own.
This can often be an imaginary world we don’t see. We have all been there, quite possibly some of you are there now! We all have had our ticket stamped to this place and we must continue to remember that we work with children who are continually exploring this world. It is a world where we need to leave the illusion of knowledge at the door because almost anything is possible.
In this next clip, which I would hope you would have seen, a father who is a special effects technician for films has, in a way, begun to imagine what his own son’s view of the world would be like.
It would seem that the boy’s father deals with the imaginary world pretty regularly himself don’t you think? I love how he depicts what must be happening as his son imagines those scenes unfolding before him. I especially like the bubbling lava in the lounge amongst the sofas I remember leaping from sofa to sofa myself – “it’s crocodiles infested waters, now it’s lava!”
It is not as simple as saying learners are in a known state or in an unknown state when they are young, because they are rapidly moving from one world to the next, building and collapsing them as they go – inviting their friends into them and playing together – exploring and building again, refining and then abandoning them as quickly as they grew. Also they need little if anything at all to help them do this, stories, worlds, scenarios, predicaments and challenges can spring from them effortlessly – just spend some time watching children playing together freely.
Children use their imagination to explore both the things they know and the things they don’t.
Maurice Sendak – the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are left an indelible mark on me as a youngster with his depiction of Max, in his wolf onesie and his imaginary world. We read the book when I was young and then for many years it drifted into my distant memory, returning with a significant bump when I became a teacher and I discovered the book in a class library whilst on teaching practice. I think it was the faces of the monsters that I remember the most, their beady eyes watching Max.
Sendak’s work perfectly captures how our young learners weave the tendrils of their imagination into and between the concrete world around them, not only shifting effortlessly between these worlds but blurring it too.
With Sendak’s words I will leave you and encourage you to see the world through the eyes of our youngsters. But also to continually consider how we can design conditions for learning that embrace these natural imaginative tendencies and present opportunities for children’s ideas and “What if’s” to have the impact on the world that they deserve.
New research suggests the tax office should expand the list of acceptable explanations for procrastinators' yearly extension requests and late tax filings. Two possibilities: "I was born this way" and "failure to evolve".
Contrary to popular (female) opinion, you can have all the symptoms of the flu without being infected.