Archive for August, 2011

New Maths Educational Board Game Added To Keen2learn Range

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Keen2learn has just added some great new Numenko educational games for maths to their range. Coinciding with the news that children are still reluctant to learn maths these fun games can be played in school and at home by two – six players. A sound foundation in numeracy is essential to allow children to progress in maths and if this learning can be made to be fun the desire to learn can be accelerated through practice.

The UK is still failing in maths. Although the recent round of improved GCSE results were an improvement on last year there is a hidden concern. Maths, science and engineering are in decline replaced by a trend for children to take easier subjects in order to gain a better score and exam points. Our heritage is at stake, as our inventiveness will decline without a sound grounding in maths and more children than ever are dropping maths after they are 16 years old.

Many children find maths difficult because they can’t see the fun that can be had by playing maths games. Numenko is a board game using wooden tile to form maths answers in a crossword fashion similar to Scrabble. Addition, subtraction, division and multiplication form the answers on the board with the score being the answer to the statement. 6 x 2 =12 gives the player a score of twelve. The simplicity of the game makes it possible to for children of different ages to play. A second version of the game –Numenko in a Bag does away with the board to let children play anywhere – the winner is the first to use all their tiles.

Seeing how easy maths can become through playing Numenko will help children to break down any fear about maths which helps to build their confidence and develop a deep seated interest in numeracy.

Schooling Policy In Wales Fail Exams

Monday, August 29th, 2011

This years crop of GCSE and A Level exams taken by children in Wales has shown an alarming decline in performance. This has  stranded many students wanting to take degree courses at university. But the real concern is the change in the educational policy introduced in Wales that abandoned annual exams and tests which monitored learning progress which seems to have created the downfall.

The ideal seemed well founded. Scrap the tests which previously involved extensive periods of grooming and practice in how to pass the exams. Instead allocate this time – estimated at nine weeks per year, towards further learning. The concept seemed ideal, it made logical sense and in theory should have improved the range of education for Welsh children. But something has gone wrong in the equation. By not honing children in exam technique and assessing their performance annually seems to interrupted the ability to pass exams. Results are poorer than in England which maintained the status quo.

The experiment is an eye opener but maybe should not be abandoned wholeheartedly. This pedagogical conundrum need further investigation. The bench mark of exam performance in England is far from  ideal. Exam results have been manipulated by children taking the easier subjects. The need for Maths and the sciences, which could help students in future careers in this changing world, have swapped for and abundance of courses in media studies etc.

Wales had a problem which needs significant soul searching to modify the measured outcome in final exams. The Educational authourities must accept that the educational benefit of allocating those precious nine weeks into learning rather than exam techniques. But for the sake of good order  they also have to come up with a better measure of ability and academic progress. Now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater.   more..the implications for Wales’ school system

School Term At Free Schools Starts With Low Attendance

Monday, August 29th, 2011

The success of the new Free Schools to be run by parents and teachers is off to a wobbly start. These new educational establishments were set to change the face of the our teaching resources in the UK. Freed from the normal controls instilled in the state sector they were heralded by educational secretary Micheal Gove as the way of the future.  But there is a flaw. It required  local parents to take a gamble with these schools with no pedigree and enlist their children. But they are not.

The Free schools are to draw funds from the government based on a fee per student. It is essential these schools have a full compliment to make ends meet. The operating and payroll costs would have set in the budgets assuming a 80 per cent occupancy but some are falling desperately short of their targets. This poses an awful conundrum. No erstwhile teacher will want to work for a reduced salary or even nothing. The chances of the free school taking off during the first critical years will be severely impaired if the better teachers abandon ship and leave. Schools Freed From Educational Authority Could Flounder

The scheme has a further vulnerability. Set up by interested parents they will inevitably have a finite interest. A concern is the whether these parent’s will maintain the operational energy  after their children have moved away from the school, and the headteacher retires. Many a parents group or parent-teacher interface folds when the driving force moves away or their children leave the school. Although their are supposed  safeguards the fallibility of the free school structure is yet to be proven.

The schooling journey of a child is 15 years. This critical time is made perilous enough with government initiatives, many of which fail or are heavily criticised by the teachers who are required to operate them. As the clock moves on interruptions to this valuable learning time lost can never really be recovered. Let us hope that the Free School experiment does not implode and leave countless children stranded by parents who were led to believe it to be a good idea or a solution to the failing local state school.

Are We Learning From Our Mistakes In Education Policy?

Friday, August 26th, 2011

We like to think we’re developing as a nation but as our educational prowess has just taken its annual hammering with the GCSE and Advanced level exam results. Despite the supposed improvement in results much is linked to the popularity of easier subjects. The quality of our teaching resources and schooling system languishes in the “could do better” zone. Such criticism would not merit respect except it comes from the very Head teachers responsible for our children’s education.

Despite state and private education being around for 100’s of years it has fundamentally failed to track with economic, social and technical developments. Countless secretaries of state for education have come and gone. Many leaving behind turmoil and failed educational initiatives that have cost billions of pounds. Their policies have been short-lived, created by short-term government ministers who hold the post for a desperately brief tenure leaving behind confusion, frustration and a deep-seated concern for the future of our children. We are slipping down the international educational league tables at an alarming rate and as yet do not have a concerted policy that can address this trend. Exam Results Reveal failure in Educational System

Accepting the strategic importance of education it seems crass to hand this vital role to a government minister who inevitably is equipped with an Eton and Oxford background. Having therefore benefited from a pinnacle of education being expected to empathise with the overall failings of the education system that serves millions of our children seems remote. Countless schemes and national initiatives have been introduced that are openly criticised and condemned by the very head teachers responsible for their implementation. Failed or abandoned trials leave hundreds of thousands of children stranded or robbed of the education they deserve. The policies cause undue stress within our teaching resources and having a negative influence on new teachers 50 per cent of who abandon the role within five years. This staggering waste of expensive educational resource remains an unresolved indictment of the educational sector.

Key performance indices (KPI) introduced by the bureaucrats to measure performance have been duly manipulated by the more savvy head teachers and clouded the true results and trends. Yet government educational departments busy handling the introduction and measurable the next initiative seems bereft of prior consultation with the unions, colleges and teaching resources. The fate of well meaning radical reforms and learning schemes could be vastly improved and the doomed schemes aborted before they damage our schooling systems.

Above all politicians zest for glory could be muted. As the average tenure of an educational Secretary is around 18 short months they hardly have time to get to grips with the status quo let alone develop and in depth strategic plan.

Our children deserve to be among the best educated in the world. Educational traditions of quality extend back hundreds of years for very few institutions. And over the next 10 years the numbers attending primary school will swell by a further 300,000 children. We have a UK wide problem that should take precedence in government planning. We must invest in these children after all they will run the economic recovery of the UK and replace the government of today, hopefully, from a much wider platform.

New Zealand Follows UK Options To Improve Education

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

As the UK educational secretary pursues the free schools and academy options Don Brash New Zealand’s leader of the opposition ACT party is also pushing for successful schools to be able to expand and take over other schools.

Much of the rationale for the change in direction is based on the 1992 development in Sweden that allowed any group to open a school and receive governmental financial support. His proposal also promoted the concept of schools receiving funding per student and parents being allowed to choose their school. The better schools would receive the allowance per student whilst the poor performing schools would loose children and subsequent funding ..more

Parents Need To Be Behind Real Educational Reform

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Politics and education do not mix leading to a sequence of games played between government, authorities and the teaching resources in schools. A recent report by Steven Brill  summarised his two-year investigation in the USA which he found enormously frustrating.

The worlds of education and politics have been odd bedfellows generating continuous ideological spin that pervades all from early learning to high school. He believes if you repeat a lie often enough you can convince yourself that it is true. State education is failing children and it is not about money or the size of the class but rather who is at the front of class. He believes that parents need to become more involved in the children’s education and refuse to put up with inadequate and failing or inappropriate  educational standards. more

Online Education Needs Adjustment To Avoid Previous Errors

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

A lead article on Huff Post Education states that online education has some critical failures and could be replicating previous failures in pedagogy. In the conventional class teachers have the ability to adjust the learning style to suit the educational  ability of the children, whereas  critically, online courses cannot. The advent of online education has instigated a review of the technique by teachers. Rather than accepting the technique as gospel, teaching resources at many schools are reviewing the pros and cons of the  technique to formulate a better fit from early learning to learning games that will supplement the classroom activities. Clearly a range of learning styles is required to suit the variety of children’s needs. Read more….

To Learn Maths You Need Essential Handwriting Skills

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The advance of technology in teaching resources would at first glance have cast handwriting skills to the waste bin. Keyboards, touch pads and stylus operate electronic equipment at the slightest touch. So why on earth do we still need to teach children how to write. Surely the relevance of the  technique has gone in this digital learning games age?

Teachers have long been pushed to adopt technology in the classroom and children are immersed in digital input, in and outside the school; how many do not own a mobile cell phone? Yet handwriting is one of the most complex skills children will learn. Both fine and gross motor skills are involved and the learning process will involve around 3000 nerve endings connected to the brain. Research has proven handwriting to be essential for children to learn shapes, letters and improve expression. At a leading school handwriting skills have also been linked to improved skill in maths. Read more from Juliann Talkington

Small May Not Be Beautiful In The School Classroom

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

One of the greatest issues facing education are the number of experts, consultants, authorities and research investigations that issue confusing statements and data. A frequent bone of contention has  been the size of the class, thus  a class of 15 students per teacher would always have the edge over a class of 30 children. But latest research indicates this may be wrong.

Parents have long sought the smaller class and good teacher. Indeed Independent schools consistently  promote class size to teaching resources as a key performance indicator. This critical ratio of teaching focus on children appeared  paramount in any measure of achievement but surprisingly the effects of class size are not that clear. Our assumptions that a child in a small class learns more  is refuted by  research that highlighted the crucial influence in learning is the skill of the teacher and the way the curriculum is taught.

The classroom with 15 students seems little to benefit compared to the a class of 30 children with a great teacher.  Yet a further influence often overlooked is the level of parental involvement that is more prevalent in the smaller class size. The teacher has more time to liaise with parents, who in turn do not feel they have to join a lengthy queue to speak to the teacher. But the research rates  teachers prowess as the key feature in any learning programme. Structured teacher training, a clear and well-sequenced curriculum,  regularly evaluated and solid teacher support are  four of the “seven pillars of wisdom.” For decades, class size was largely a function of a community’s population. Class size grew as more children were crammed into existing schools.

As we move within economic recession and the  inevitable cancelled school rebuilding programmes we will need to cram more children into existing facilities. Around 300,000 additional primary places will have to be found over the next 10 years to meet population expansion. If the research on class size is correct we will have no option but to invest in improving the quality of the four pillars of educational  wisdom and especially concentrate on the skill of teachers. This may improve their overlooked standing in society,  give children a better chance and, hopefully,  through more effective education make the recent riots in the UK a one off event.

School Green Energy Project Supports Science Education and Income

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

One of the best forms of science teaching resource in renewable energy is the hands on practical experiment. Providing the essential practice function that generates learning retention it is good to learn of another school  combining learning with generating electricity and earning cash for the school.

A 300-foot wind generator is to be installed at a Bay Path Technical High school in the USA. This will generate electricity to power the 1500 pupil school and importantly earn income for the school by feeding the grid during low consumption periods by the High school such as school holidays and weekends.

No only is the facility a practical form of green renewable energy setting a good example to students it is to be joined by a 30-foot wind turbine that will be used for practical science and STEM experiments. Built alongside the green energy house at the school the 30-foot, 2.4 kilowatt turbine will be used to power educational programmes in green energy and join the existing geothermal, solar voltaic and solar thermal facilities.

Understanding the critical role of green energy for the future is a vital element of the curriculum. Inspiring students with the opportunity to see the practical application of renewable energy is a fantastic way to generate enthusiasm in science and an income for the school.

Combat Pay For Teachers In Troubled Schools

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

We have all read about the negative impact on educational attainment in schools from  troubled and  disruptive children. This battleground for educational achievement where learning is frequently interrupted by the antics of the class also has a substantial negative impact on the resolve of the teaching resources involved.

Rather that attempting to solve the root cause of the problem a novel idea from DeWayne Wickham a USA Today correspondent suggests teachers, councilors and administrators in low-performing schools should be paid “combat pay” as per military custom.

Responding to Ann Duncan, U.S. Secretary Of Education who noted that some teachers were not prepared to teach properly in these schools the danger money might entice some teachers to fill the void. The scheme based on measurable results will give greater support to children and help dissuade the 50 per cent of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession. The military approach extends to hiring ex military personnel to become teachers in troubled areas. Their disciplinary approach may be ideal to control disruptive classes. But inevitably there will reaction from the teaching profession who want to see the credentials of the proposal. On the face of it the scheme could provide the role model these troubled children need and that has to be a good thing. Read more…

Grimbsy Opts For Joint Venture To Improve Education

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

In these austere times Local Educational Authorities are having to generate savings. The ideal aim is to somehow achieve this  without detracting from the service being provided. Is Grimsby’s plan to improve the schooling standards in North Lincolnshire by  investing £10 million in a joint venture with Serco Ltd. the ideal approach.

A spokesman for NELC said the partnership is expected to be launched in September.”The council had already concluded that the old ways of delivering school improvement services were no longer fit for purpose, and that what is needed can no longer be provided by a local authority alone.” Is this a piece of good policy, a tilt at the government or a stark admission of failure. The fact children in North Lincolnshire will see a change in their schooling programme can only be  judged a success or failure in a few years time. Let us hope that the judgement has been made positivity to improve things rather a fall back plan to replace the prevailing  inadequacies of the support  from NELC. Read more…

Obama Educational Policy Slammed By Matt Damon

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The educational authorities in the USA  are on the verge of introducing some new educational polices from the Obama administration. All is not well. The criticism by the teaching resources in the USA has been encouraged by a strong and extremely well received viewpoint from actor Matt Damon  “My teachers were empowered to teach me. Their time was not taken up with a bunch of silly test prep, a bunch of drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning,” he said to rousing cheers at the New York teachers rally last weekend. The son of teacher parents Damon presented his the case passionately and more to the point for UK audiences the similarities with the UK teaching  policies are profound. If nothing else today you may care to take a look at the video of his 10 minute address.  Could be the rallying cry for the NUT. watch the video..

Two Year Old School Laptops In Australia Are Too Slow

Monday, August 1st, 2011

A great scheme to equip children in years 9 to 12 Australian schools with educational notebook computers is going sour. Just two years after the Aus Dollar 1 billion scheme provided school children across the nation  with new Lenova notebooks, these teaching resources are now too slow to run the software.

The scheme introduced by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had the best intentions. Give every child an educational  boost by allowing  them to progress with their learning in the classroom and at home. But computer design is perhaps the most rapidly evolving technology  imaginable. Two years is a long time for anything but the best computer to survive with its operating platform intact. Regretfully the choice of a low powered notebook has been overwhelmed  by the demands of the latest educational software the kids need to use in school. The notebooks now run desperately slow causing frustration by school children parents and teachers alike.

It was a great idea that lacked the forethought of the demands the educational software would place on on the notebooks. Let’s hope the computers that were issued in the UK’s Home Access scheme fare better. read more…Kevin Rudd’s computer giveaway

Teachnology, Are We Using Too Much Technology In Education

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The phenomenal growth in social media and technology is having a profound effect on our teaching resources, educational values and learning techniques. But has the pressure to  use more technology overtaken reason and the innate ability of teachers to teach?

The pressure from  leading edge educational suppliers and authourities is having a profound effect of how we teach. The combined marketing weight from global palyers such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Twitter is clamoring for the time and budgets of schools from early learning to GCSE. All new products and technologies attempt to provide the answer to improve performance in tests and exams. The must-have element of the technology is dificult to resist but are we responding to this marketing pressure in a sensible way. The pressure to perform aginst targets ans league tables can influence judgement especially when, overall, our educational system is deemed to be failing. In the UK we are sliding down the OEPD international educational league table at an alarming rate. Is this the result of the clamour to use technology in teaching – “teachnology” at the expense of well honed schooling principles.

The infamous interactive white boards, where every clssroom had to have one, resulted in huge investment  to utlise amazing new ways of displaying data. But the vast majority were never used  anywhere near their design potential, instead most are used as a chalkboard with the power off. Failure in the system or fuanctionality unknown to the teacher didn’t help.  PowerPoint is another drain on teaching resources. Hours can be spent preparing slides complete with amazing animation, sound and highlighting features that conspire to have a negative effect on the audience in the classroom. Bewitched and bewildered by the presentation content children’s attention drifts or become engrossed in how they could correct the technical failings of the teacher. The lesson content becomes sidetracked by technology. Certainly the benefits of having a lesson prepared for repeated use is a positive aid to a teacher but not if the presentation is flawed. Many commercial operations have banned PowerPoint, recognising the drain on resources from the time invested in its creation and the often overelaborate nature of presentations. Meetings have been proven to be more succinct and memorable when the speaker is addressing the audience rather than reading endless slides.

Schools are beset with an ever increasing array of new technology. Barely a week goes by without some new and astounding gismo arriving on the scene. And we have to have it! Be it a completely  new product or the latest update the marketing boys are after a sale. But there are hidden costs. Anyone who has bought a new computer knows that it will take about two days to upload all the information from the old PC. Swapping operating software takes weeks to achieve and that ignores fundamental changes from say a PC to a Mac. In school the relaince on the IT guy is critical. If they are too busy the new project joins the queue.

The supposed gains from the use of computers in the classroom leads to amazing frustration when they don’t work. The teacher may make a valiant attempt to correct the fault only to lose half the lesson. And now we all need to have iPad tablets in class. Costing twice as much and far more vulnerable to damage the investment by any school takes a quantum leap as manufacturers continue to update their products to boost sales. And we haven’t touched on any socially divisive elements of the have and have nots that such equipment has on schools and parents with low budgets.

Is all this technology worth it? The stark answer is use with with caution. Despite the wonderful opportunity technology claims to offer our teaching achievement in the UK has slipped. With some notable exceptions we are generally going backwards in the quality of education being provided. Therefore the quality of teaching before the gizmo’s arrived had higher relevance and impact. We can’t ignore technology but we need to make sure the must have facilities actually work in the class and not take the advances claimed as sacrosanct.

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