Author Archive

The Power of Backward Design for teachers

by Alec Patton

I’ve just been reading an extract from Understanding by Design,by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, which is about what they call ‘teaching for understanding’.

One of the key compononents of this is ‘backward design’, the essence of which is that

Our lessons, units, and courses should be logically inferred from the results sought, not derived from the methods, books, and activities with which we are most comfortable.

They contrast this with what they call ‘content-focused design’, a typical example of which would look like this: (more…)

May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am 2 comments

Thinking about Matthew Syed and the ‘Talent Myth’: maybe we should stop looking for the truth, and decide what it’s most helpful to believe

by Alec Patton

Last Wednesday, Radio 4’s Today programme included a not especially edifying debate between Matthew Syed (author of Bounce), and Peter Saunders, author of Social Mobility Myths, chaired by John Humphreys. (more…)

May 16, 2011 at 10:50 am 1 comment

Keri Facer’s thought-provoking piece in the TES

by Alec Patton

Professor Keri Facer (one of the instigators of Purpos/Ed, among her various roles and achievements) wrote a very interesting piece for the Times Educational Supplement’s ‘Insight’ section (which, incidentally, often has really exciting stuff, and is worth a weekly visit).

The piece is a defense of the role of schools within the landscape of 21st century education. Context is everything here, and depending who you are, this may sound reactionary, refreshing, or just incredibly obvious. Whatever your response, I’d advise reading the piece – it will open your mind, and make you think twice about what you espouse.

Here’s the heart of the piece:

The reason we need to continue to invest in the school as a physical space and a local organisation is because I believe it may be one of the most important institutions we have to help us build a democratic conversation about the future. A physical, local school where community members are encouraged to encounter each other is one of the last public spaces in which we can begin to build the intergenerational solidarity, respect for diversity and democratic capability needed to ensure fairness in the context of socio-technical change.

Moreover, the public educational institution may be the only resource we have to counter the inequalities and injustice of the informal learning landscape outside school. The school is also potentially the most powerful local institution to help resist possible futures of breakdown and dispossession that seem increasingly possible.

The notion that schools as the the only place where people who share physical proximity without sharing interests or social class ever actually meet each other as equals is disturbing, but also pretty convincing.

May 16, 2011 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

The World’s Most Innovative Schools: HSRA, St. Paul, Minnesota (“Hip Hop High School”)

(in this video, HSRA’s founder explains what it’s all about)

by Alec Patton

I found out about the Hip Hop High School thanks to the High Tech High School – specifically, Samuel Steinberg Seidel’s article about it in Unboxed, High Tech High’s ‘Journal of Adult Learning in Schools’.

St. Paul, Minnesota’s High School for the Recording Arts (HSRA) is a chartered high school driven by project-based learning, and run on hip hop principles -interpreted by Seidel as follows (this is just a sampling – so to speak – of the design principles that he identifies): (more…)

May 12, 2011 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

Harris Student Commission on Learning to launch its findings at the Whole Education event 16th May

by Alec Patton

Since 2008, over 250 students and staff in London’s Harris Federation of academies have conducted a major enquiry into teaching and learning methods (supported in part by Learning Futures). Students have interviewed experts on learning, spoken to students across the globe (via a Skype-enabled overnight ‘learn-over’), visited innovative schools in Britain and the US and tested different approaches in their own schools.

Now, at the Whole Education Whose Curriculum Is It Anyway?  event in London on 16 May, the commission is launching its ‘new design for learning’. (more…)

May 5, 2011 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

The World’s Most Innovative Schools: Digital Study Hall, India

by Alec Patton

India’s “Digital Study Hall“, founded by a former headteacher, records teachers’ lectures and distributes them to schools in rural areas and slums, using what they call the “Postmanet” (in other words, they send DVDs by post). Every participating school is given a TV and a DVD player. I like this because of the way they’re working with the grain of existing technology. DVDs and TVs are readily available (often as a single unit), so they use them. The internet isn’t, as of yet, so they just use the post.

Once the DVDs arrive, students watch itwith a “mediator” in the room with them, who leads discussions and activities. The “mediator” may be a trained teacher, a local resident, or a student. At one Digital Study Hall, the Kannar afternoon school, one group of students attends the morning school for free in return for teaching others in the afternoon school.

Read More

Digital Study Hall website

May 4, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Alec’s three-slide presentation for the PurposEd summit for instigators #purposedpsi

by Alec Patton

I spent Saturday afternoon at the PurposEd Summit for Instigators on Saturday. This is the presentation I put together for it. Enjoy!

May 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Nearly-live blogging from #purposedpsi – growing enquiry through the cracks in the pavement

by Alec Patton

At my table (@pjjames, @LizRich, @IanYorkston, @Darney-ictteach, @Nikable) we’re talking about the environment and preoccupations of schools, and how to grow a space for a rich environment for education within a standards-driven, stressed institution.

Here’s some (rather loosely transcribed) quotes from the table: (more…)

April 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm 1 comment

What Masterchef can tell us about Project-based Learning

by Alec Patton

My partner and I don’t own a television, so we tend to watch programmes in iplayer-enabled week-long marathons. This week we’re catching up on Masterchef. As it happens, I’m also hard at work on the guide to enquiry- and project-based learning Learning Futures is creating with High Tech High. This means I bring a very particular perspective to the much-loved competitive cooking show, and within it, I’ve found four lessons for project-based learning: (more…)

April 28, 2011 at 7:30 am 2 comments

The World’s Most Innovative Schools: Bugrado Edutrade

by Alec Patton

This South African programme is probably better described as an ‘innovative after-school programme’ than an ‘innovative school’, but I still think it warrants a mention here, because it’s fascinating and inspiring (my two basic criteria for this list):

Founded by Ashoka Fellow Flick Asvat, a former refugee, the Bugrado Edutrade process begins with a volunteer team consisting primarily of unemployed graduates and tertiary-education students, who identify young people with leadership potential and trains them as mentors.

The mentors then identify a particular ability that they possess – whether in dancing, mathematics, football, singing, drawing, or anything else – and find young people who want to learn from them, creating their own  “after-school programmes”. The organising principle is the skill they are teaching, but the mentors also play a pastoral role for their “buddies”. The “buddies” go on to become mentors themselves, creating their own groups and thus scaling up the Bugrado concept.

After Bugrado’s first year, children as young as five years old were teaching younger children. Children were also developing their own programs, promoting themselves to the community and doing their own fundraising. Frankly, this weirds me out at the same time as it seems cool, because mentoring seems like possibly not the best use of a five-year-olds time. I guess one needs to examine it in context of what else local five year olds are doing (and I’m afraid I don’t know what they’re doing, so my expertise has run out for this week).

Read More

Flick Asvat’s Ashoka Fellow profile

April 27, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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