How can we innovate more in education? With Dr Sue Black – who I’ve been privileged to have a (rather boozy) night out with on the South Bank a couple of years ago …
What has been good/bad about your own educational experience? Are we doing the right thing now in educational institutions?
When did Sue first realise she was a geek? Around age 7… Saving pocket money to buy maths textbooks at the weekend 🙂 Primary school – a particular problem to solve & work towards solving it – loved being challenged. Grammar school = hated it = too much ‘fact cramming’ into the brain. Started A-Levels, but didn’t fit with need to earn money – so went to work, then became a full-time mother. Read a lot to stimulate brain… then joined an adult education college for ‘return to study’. Unable to finish course as moved to single parenthood. Back into education via favourite subject – maths (always follow passions, I believe!). Decided with kids needed more education for better earning potential. Joined the Polymaths course – got problems to solve in class… Aged 31 finally got a degree.. as David Kernohan put’s it “what a great example of social learning” – but James Clay reminds us that education system has worked for many.
Raises the importance of the question of the personal learning journey – and how do those within the school system manage to cater for all styles?
Interesting quote from Helen Beetham:
It’s interesting how many people in e-learning have studied very broadly (including university of life!) or switched subjects a lot. Perhaps says something about the problem of pushing learners into narrow channels too early.
Sue moved into PhD programme & part-time teaching whilst very shy – shaking with fear in front of class first session – then enjoyed it (me too!). Force yourself – life can become more enjoyable!
Hurrah Marianne – yes to History – great subject as a base for so much in the future:
Good: doing a non-vocational degree in a subject I loved (History). Learning for learning’s sake. But the skills I learned stood me in better stead for employment than my vocational PG course.
Sue, prefers tutorials more than lectures – getting people inspired in the classroom, and getting students thinking about what they are thinking and how that relates to the real world. Started terrified of teaching small classes, now happy to go on TV! Each new challenge accompanied by adrenalin. Comment in chat area – how many other areas of work would put people in with “so little support”.
My First Teaching Session: Definitely rammed a HUGE amount of content in, and now work hard to take more and more content out! However, got positive feedback (was a 3rd year class, invited by my PhD supervisor) that style was pretty dynamic, etc. Every time having a ‘why am I qualified to do this?’ moment, have to remember a range of those positive feedback comments – not the handful of negative which tend to stick in the brain!!
Becky Thomas talking about now undertaking a course with the OU:
I feel that my ideas are valued and that I can pace my own studies…definitely a good educational experience
Another comment from James Clay:
We are doing the right thing for some people, but not all people.
Learning now is a positive experience because I’m doing it for myself & chosing subjects that I want to study, not because ‘I have to’
Something we want some of today’s students to think about!!
People arrive with a lot of ‘baggage’ (good and bad). A critical teaching skill is finding out what people bring with them. It’s really disengaging when techers (or facilitators of workshops) ignore what the participants bring…
I think it’s important to nuture teachers as well as students to enable them to empower students….if the institution is poor at this then both parties suffer.
Important point from Helen Beetham:
@Lis when I was teaching ‘difficult’ modules I found that satisfaction dropped off quickly through the first few weeks but later on they often said it was the best thing they had done. I worry that the focus on student satisfaction scores will punish innovative teachers – students can be conservative (probably because they feel relatively disempowered and want to hang on to ‘what’s going to work’) and don’t see the value of being challenged except in retrospect.
Why was the UK one of the leaders in the industrial revolution? Are we leading the way in the digital revolution?
Sue, synonymous with Bletchley Park!
Hadn’t known much about it when she first went to visit it, and then found many women were involved (young, silent about what they were doing). Tales of men/women working there – one of whom it was crucial to sit and think to work out the problem – rather than always ‘doing’. (See Decoding Bletchley Park)
Some Tech Heroes
Many uncelebrated – partly because they had to work in secret, but also British are not good at celebrating such things.
- Tommy Flowers – built Colossus with own ££ (see Bletchley Park page)
- Jerry Roberts – Lorenz Cipher
- Bill Tutte – Lorenz Cipher
- Dina St Johnston – world’s first software house (Obituary)
- Steve Shirley – international software company (on Desert Island Disks in May 2010)
- Tim Berners-Lee – invented WWW
- Women: First computer programmers
Q: How did Bletchley work as an organisation? How did the structures and policies support innovation?
i.e. why did the person who sat & twiddled their pencil in the name of thinking creatively not get sacked? BP saw as valuable…
Sue’s recent visit to Silicon Valley
Many lessons learnt as a range of people from different perspectives visit to see how things being done to take back to own countries
- The importance of the positivity of ‘failure’ – have not failed – have moved forward from what you knew before. ‘Fast-Fail’: accept that we will fail, so get it failed and move on – fast! [Thomas Edison quote springing to mind!]
- If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to do something, you are encouraged to just go for it anyway. Dream amazing things, be positive – may never get to your ultimate dream, but will move further forward.
- Some of the best innovations tend to come out a recession, the lean times – where have to find interesting ways through things – can’t just buy your way out.
“If you’re not prepared to fail you’ll never create anything original”
The fast-fail cycle is definitely relevant to FE – for some teachers if we persuade them to try a new technology and the experience isn’t an immediate success they don’t have the confidence to try again
I had someone take feedback really badly and say ‘I wouldn’t have shown it you if I didn’t think it was perfect’ – that exemplifies a lot of the issues with learning and misunderstanding of what learning is
Californian cultural conintuation of hippy esoteric stuff such as meidatiation and insightfulness part of the digitial industry reflected in this idea of learning through mistake
What are the conditions for innovation to occur in education? What do we need to do to lead the digital revolution?
Setting up The <GoTo> Foundation
See video (6 mins)… as someone who was living in poverty, this is a powerful driver for Sue.
@James @Helen Raspberry Pi excellent for reducing the fear associated with things perceived to be “too technical” – in my experience most people who claim to be computer illiterate are scared of exploring and experimenting in case something goes wrong!
Digital really can revolutionise distribution, access–can make things FREELY accessible FOR ALL–an idea far beyond the industrial ‘revolution’ As a library person, I think real dissemination of information can be a very powerful thing
@Saffra – totally agree – we need to encourage students to be creative with digital media and critical of messages in digital media, not just to be capable of learning their employers’ IT systems.
See also ‘appsforgood‘.
Sarra Saffron Powell – how get excitement for all subjects?
I think the innovation is in the approach not the subject?
Good question Sarah:
What is a ‘tech savvy’ person? Does it have to grow from early experience with tech or can it be learned later?
What does the digital allow us to do that is so much more than we ever dreamed of before? How do we celebrate what we do more? How can we get people interested in all kinds of subjects by ‘teaching them in the right way’? Give a challenge problem – encourage/enable people to work it out in their own way.
Matt Lingard (I think I’m with you here – we need to learn right tactics for each discipline):
I can see how these activities are wonderful for problem solving, collaborating and creative skills. But I’m struggling to understand why we need to know how to program or use a rasberry over a blackberry. For me, becoming tech savvy in terms of web savvy – critical thinking, online identity, privacy is a higher priority
Nice response from Helen B
@matt totally agree that knowing e.g. what happens with our data is a critical digital literacy. But just as we get students writing to understand how texts are constructed, getting them to do stuff with tech helps them to be more critical about what they are offered.
@Peter I think fear has a lot to do with it, fear of loss of control, fear of change, fear of loss of status, the myth that technology, and indeed teaching, are some sort of magic that you have to have special powers to perform.
I love the idea of stimulating innovation – but we also need too, to ensure the innovative activity is embedded, diffused, evaluated and hence impacts on more students. A session on such at the ALT-C had fewer than 10 people in the room . Need to make sure we don’t just create small, brilliant yet locally relevant activities
Read more at http://www.sueblack.co.uk, and find the discussion online (registered conf delegates!). Think about ONE innovation you would put in place in education… Inspire teachers and parents as well as the children!
Celebrate the small innovations, as well as the big ones! The power of personal story to engage with bigger institutional questions also.