I ❤ January 2015

When TV shows run out of ideas, they fall back on that old faithful: the clip show compiling all of the ‘best bits’.

And when they run out of their own TV shows, there are always clip shows made up of the best bits of other people’s shows: the I ❤ 1984 (etc.) model, featuring talking heads from D-list celebrities reminiscing about the time that dog said “sausages” on That’s Life.

As a D-list blogger myself (what do you mean I’m getting above my station?), this regurgitation of other people’s brilliance is the perfect model for me to reminisce on the best blog posts of each month (with the added implication that I’ve run out of ideas).

(In all seriousness, I got to the end of 2014 and realised I’d read so many great blogs but not really collected them anywhere. So this monthly blog is a way for me to compile an anthology of some of the best reading in one place and be able to access it when I want to call upon it again.)

So without further ado, this is my ‘clip show’ of the blogposts that I read and enjoyed the most in January…

  • The nonsense of the grade descriptors by @chrishildrew: Chris went down the rabbit hole of grade descriptors and has exposed us to the mad tea party. As Alice said, “How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”
  • Why I Hate Highlighters! by @HuntingEnglish: I like this because Alex confirms what I think I might have always feared, but never quite confronted: highlighters often put a garish neon gloss over a lack of actual learning. Rumours are unconfirmed that this is the first in a series of ‘Why I Hate…’ blogs, which will feature other such objects of Alex’s anathema as children and Maths teachers. (For balance, and because I like him, this is highlighter advocate @jon_brunskill‘s rebuttal.)
  •  Some Problems With “Action Research” by @Bio_Joe: Thanks to this brilliant post by Joe, I’ve now added the word significant to my list of words-that-are-used-in-a-way-which-often-leaves-their-actual-meaning-behind-in-order-to-promote-a-pedagogy (see impact, evidence, research, etc.) The “study” Joe picks apart here comes from a website riddled with spurious arguments and “research” in the name of “evidence”. Which is a shame because it is an area I’d like to see some reasoned thought around.
  • Can we teach students to make inferences? by @atharby: Andy precisely and eloquently pinpoints the very reasons why teaching thinking skills is largely unhelpful, and why building student knowledge is a much more effective approach. I wish I’d had this to hand when I sat through a cognitive acceleration training course that promoted thinking skills in English recently.
  • How do we get them reading? by @katie_s_ashford: Katie generously shares the fruits of her scrutiny on the research and approaches to solving “the problem of reading”. These systematic and practical ideas are absolute gold – send this to your literacy coordinators/English department/SLT/everyone now.
  • Undermining teachers is easy by @LearningSpy: The blogdaddy David Didau reiterates the necessity for schools to master behaviour as requisite for learning, and decries the damaging line of thought (avowed in this instance by a school inspector, no less) that states that good behaviour is merely a product of good teaching.
  • A lesson is the wrong unit of time by @BodilUK: A second blog from Bodil, in which she questions why our discourse and measurement always revolves around ‘the lesson’ as a unit, when the reality of learning expands way beyond that unit’s boundaries. She’s absolutely right, as usual.
  • I Did Not Speak Out by @SurrealAnarchy: Martin’s writing always provokes deep thought, and this clever channelling of Pastor Niemöller is a stirring illustration of the constantly shifting focuses and measurements in schools (and the impact of these on pupils and teachers).
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8 thoughts on “I ❤ January 2015”

  1. Hi James,

    Some interesting choices here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I take issue slightly with your 6th choice. Not with Joe’s blog itself, which, although slightly uncharitable in conception (I left a comment on Joe’s blog yesterday explaining why I think so – still in moderation as I write this), gets to the point succinctly about the importance of getting your methodology right.

    My issue is with your description of the website you mention, to which I contribute regularly. You describe it as a website riddled with spurious arguments and “research” in the name of “evidence”.

    Could you please give examples of these “spurious arguments”? It would be very helpful if you could substantiate your reasoning as well. Also, could you also point out examples of where we describe anything we say as “research” or “evidence”?

    Like you, we would like some reasoned thought and informed discussion around this subject. The kind of swaggering tough talk and shooting from the hip you employ in the criticism of our work does not exactly contribute to this, does it?

    Best wishes

    José

    1. Hi José,

      Thanks for responding. I think there are plenty of spurious arguments on the website – that’s the nature of promoting something with very little evidence. The website is ideological and, much like most of what I write on here, discusses ideas rather than cold, hard facts. It is perfectly reasonable for me to disagree with those ideas and thus call them spurious, as much as it is reasonable for someone to find my arguments spurious.

      Just a quick re-read of the website, there are plenty of arguments and statements on there which I consider invalid.

      As for presenting research in the name of evidence, I think Joe’s post highlights a good example of this.

      As for your last point, I think using epithets like ‘doom-sayers’ to mean critics of tech adoption is certainly a worse kind of “swaggering tough talk” than anything I’ve said.

      Kind regards,

      James

  2. Hi James,

    I also agree with your right to disagree with everything and anything that any of us say on there.

    However, I’d like to make a couple of reasonable points;

    I think the posts on the site are only ideological in the sense that the 5 of us writing them think that technology can be a useful tool for learning and teaching. In our combined decades of experience of working in schools, we’ve each seen that the judicious use of technology can add genuine value, accelerate and deepen learning, and make the previously impossible possible. We don’t think it’s a Good Thing per se, that would be very stupid, and we’re hyper-aware that so much of its success relies on context, implementation and support for the humans involved. In fact, the majority of the stuff we write is about how to get this support working well, rather than about the tech itself. So, yes, I guess we’re ideologically promoting the potential for technology to be an effective learning and teaching tool where applied carefully, slowly and with skepticism.

    The second point is just on the ‘doomsayers’ post you pick up on. FYI, you’re not alone in taking against this language, but I would invite you to read beyond the title, as the opening paragraph makes it clearer. I guess I succumbed to the lure of click-bait headline writing on this one 🙂 The content is pretty even-handed: http://www.educate1to1.org/ipad-education-technology-issues/

    Dominic

    1. Thanks for responding, Dom. I’m pleased that you accept that your site is ideological. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who don’t think they are being ideological because they are so attached to an idea.

      I did read the post – I have read a lot of the website (it isn’t fair to level criticisms without reading what it is one is criticising first!), but the content that follows it doesn’t negate the use of the term. As you say, you use it as “lure” and “click-bait” precisely because you know what it means and the effect it has.

      Kind regards,

      James

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