Sunday, 28 August 2016

Edology EdTech Updates is out! Edition of 28 August 2016

Edology EdTech Updates
Published by
Nick Chater
28 August 2016
Science Education Sports Art & Entertainment Leisure Technology #cpchat #edchat
Today's headline
Coding needs a new youth movement
thumbnail techcrunch­.com - Josh Seides is a freshman at Harvard University, nonprofit founder of Technocademy and contributor to Entepreneur, Yahoo and Fast Company. Let's face it — coder or not, at one point or another you'...
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Smallrivers SA, Innovation Park EPFL, Building C, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Promoting Cultural Capital: We are naming our classrooms.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 10.09.20

As part of a long-term, school-wide initiative to develop our students’ cultural capital, we are going to be giving each of the spaces in our school an identity linked to a significant person.  Each department has been asked to select people who represent their subjects, blending historical and contemporary figures and seeking to achieve a balance gender and ethnicity.  The selection process in each department included staff and student input which generated some heated debates at the end of last term.  We haven’t quite finished it yet; some departments are still deliberating and we have the Library and Main Hall still to be named. Across the whole list we’re also intending to make sure it represents LGBT and disability role-models so there will be some final tweaking to be done.

Inside and outside each room there will be a simple prominent display highlighting the person’s contribution to the disciplines they are associated with.  Students will encounter these people as they move around the school; they will become part of the fabric of the building and the backdrop to their learning.  Since many of the people chosen will seem fairly obscure at first, students will have cause to stop and think about who they are and teachers will have lots of talking points.

Collectively, the people we have selected symbolise many of the values and attitudes we want our students to adopt around academic learning or striving for excellence or making a difference to society in some way.

So – here is the list so far.  A work in progress….

Name Room Faculty / Dept
Albert Einstein SC1 Science
Edwin Hubble SC2 Science
Rosalind Franklin SC3 Science
Gregor Mendel SC4 Science
Marie Curie SC5 Science
Isaac  Newton SC6 Science
Charles Darwin SC7 Science
Elizabeth Loftus SC8 Science
Stephen Hawking SC9 Science
Srinivasa Ramanujan MA1 Maths
Leonhard Euler MA2 Maths
Hypatia MA3 Maths
Emmy Noether MA4 Maths
Alan Turing MA5 Maths
René Descartes MA6 Maths
Maryam Mirzakhani MA7 Maths
Sophie Germain MA8 Maths
Pythagoras Maths Office Maths
Abraham Maslow Nurture Student Support
William Shakespeare Office English
George Orwell EN1 English
Chinua Achebe EN2 English
Orhan Pamuk EN3 English
J.K. Rowling EN4 English
Carol Ann Duffy EN5 English
Kazuo Ishiguro EN6 English
Mary Shelley EN7 English
Sylvia Plath EN8 English
Maya Angelou EN9 English
Karl Marx Hu1 Humanities
Margaret Ann Bulkley Hu2 Humanities
Oscar Romero Hu3 Humanities
Ibn Khaldun Hu4 Humanities
Doreen Massey Hu5 Humanities
David Attenborough Hu6 Humanities
Patricia Hill Collins Hu7 Humanities
CLR James Hu8 Humanities
Tim Berners-Lee ICT1 ICT
Steve Jobs ICT2 ICT
Shigeru Miyamoto ICT3 ICT
Laurie Anderson ICT4 ICT
John Maynard Keynes BS1 Business and Economics
Igor Ansoff BS2 Business and Economics
Deborah Meaden BEC Business and Economics
Edward de Bono BEC1 Business and Economics
Leonard Bernstein MU1 Music
Marin Alsop MU2 Music
Miles Davis MU3 Music
Edward Elgar MU4 Music
David Bowie MU5 Music
Esperanza Spalding MU6 Music
Jimi Hendrix Studio Music
Evelyn Glennie PR1 Music
Leon Goosens PR2 Music
Johann Quantz PR3 Music
Nicola Benedetti PR4 Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart PR5 Music
John Cage PR6 (Quiet room) Music
Wilmer Wise PR7 Music
John Paul Jones PR8 Music
Yinka Shonibare tbc ADT
Phyllida Barlow tbc ADT
Walter Sickert tbc ADT
Alexander McQueen tbc ADT
Zaha Hadid tbc ADT
Michel Foucault tbc ADT
Susan Sontag tbc ADT
Che Guevara MFL1 MFL
Frantz Fanon MFL2 MFL
Mariela Castro MFL3 MFL
Simone Veil MFL4 MFL
Coco Chanel MFL5 MFL
Frida Kahlo Office MFL
Maria Montessori WellBeing Centre Student Support
Louis Braille Literacy Room Student Support
Hellen Keller Intervention Room Student Support
Sigmund Freud Counselling Room Student Support
Nelson Mandela Office Student Support
Thomas Coram Staff Base Student Support
Ira Aldridge Dr1 Drama
David Tennant Dr2 Drama
Stanislavsky Dr3 Drama


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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Exam grading is inherently flawed; but there’s no conspiracy.

 

Silhouettes of Business People Meeting with Business Symbols

The Grade Setting Conspiracy??  (Image via utgoffandbreitner)

 

To put this post in context, previously I have written various other posts about the nature of exam grading, the way OfQual operates, the bell-curve of norm referencing and its role in setting standards, the degree of error that is inherent in any assessment and grading process.  Here is a selection:

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There are lots of contentious  and/or  technical issues packed into our examination system that require detailed discussion based on a fairly detailed level of understanding of the issues:

  • The weight given to examination outcomes in determining students’ progression routes
  • The weight given to exam results in the school accountability system and the weighting given to some subjects and particular grades within that system.
  • The extent to which exams can measure the learning outcomes we see as important and desirable.
  • The statistical nature of examination grading and the problem of grade boundaries with the inherent property of cliff-edge border-lines and the degree of (evidence-informed) subjectivity required to determine where they should fall.
  • The fundamental power of the bell-curve in informing our sense of standards – i.e. the fact that there really are no absolute standards that we give value to in practice. The conflict between wanting to get more students over the bar whilst also raising the bar – and the inherent reciprocal relationship these two goals have in the short term.
  • The degree of expertise and technical experience needed to set assessments that are consistent over time and provide the appropriate level of challenge and opportunities for success for students across the attainment range.
  • The scale of the challenge of setting and marking national exams that can deliver fair, consistent outcomes across multiple exam boards in any given year and between years.

In my experience, there are lots of commentators and teachers who do not fully comprehend the complexity of the system that they are critiquing.  It’s so depressing that, every single year, we have people complaining about the unfairness of grade boundaries going up ‘robbing our children of the grades they deserve’ or bemoaning our slavish devotion to norm referencing – as if this, in itself, is inherently wrong.  Every time anyone makes these arguments, it tells me how little they really know about exams.

Here are some realities people need to face – especially if they are going to pass comment on the exam system:

Grade boundaries will always shift as a fundamental part of the task of keeping standards for grades as consistent as possible over time; this process is difficult and inevitably has a degree of subjectivity to it – but it is informed by the analysis of a national data set.  If you think you can scan a test paper and decide that it is the same standard as last year and, consequently, persuade yourself the grade boundaries ought to be the same, you’re kidding yourself.  You can only tell how difficult a paper is by looking at the results from all the students who sat it – or a reasonable sample.   If students nationally get slightly more marks on a similar paper, it means that it was slightly easier. That’s all.  There is a lot of statistical noise around each boundary; some students just sneak in above it; some just fall below it.  That’s how it works. It can seem harsh – or a lucky escape – but that’s how it has always been.

Grade inflation isn’t a good thing (because it undermines the credibility and value given to every child’s achievements). OfQual has been correct in trying to halt this since 2010.  Michael Gove may take credit for a change in policy in this area but the fact is that OfQual is a technocratic organisation; the annual process of grade setting is a highly technical process that politicians have absolutely no input into.  There are no secret meetings where ‘they’ are sitting around trying to rob children of their life chances by putting the grade boundaries up in some kind of devilish conspiracy of hate. There are just lots of (probably fairly heated) meetings where professional exam setters and markers examine the spread of grades and, using a range of cross-referencing methods, try to set the boundaries in the most appropriate place so that, in their collective judgement, grades match to the standards students have reached, comparable over time and consistent from exam board to exam board.

Of course, this all should have consequences for how we view exam outcomes – i.e. with a pinch of salt informed by a sensible understanding of the limits of their accuracy and absolute meaning. But let’s at least debate the issues with the level of technical understanding the issues deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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This much I know about…unfettered teaching

I have been a teacher for 28 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about unfettered teaching.

As I approach three decades in the profession, teaching English still thrills me.

When I began teaching at Eastbourne Sixth Form College back in 1988 I taught five A level literature classes in my NQT year. It was blissful. I coaxed the students into becoming active readers of texts and spent the rest of my time modelling how to write literary criticism.

When I moved to an 11-18 school in Hove and began teaching lower school classes I could not understand why we waited until the sixth form before we taught students how to write analysis of literary texts. To me, the skill of making a point, backing up your point with evidence from the text and then explaining what effect upon the reader the author intended when choosing one or two individual words or images, seemed teachable to any student of any age.

Over the years, as I was promoted and found myself teaching different subjects and fewer lessons, I ended up no longer teaching lower school English. This year, however, whilst the bulk of my timetable is Economics A level, I have an hour, first thing on a Friday morning, when I teach a Year 7 class of 30 students. It is my favourite hour of the entire week, bar none.

I enjoy teaching this one hour of Year 7 English for a number of reasons. Our Year 7 scheme of learning is more challenging than it has ever been and I am teaching Macbeth, the first taste of Shakespeare for every single student. We have stopped assessing using National Curriculum levels; instead we are using our professional judgement as to what standard of work we expect of students by the end of Year 7 considering their starting points.

Whilst it is a group of students with mixed KS2 starting points, I have ignored any inherited assessment data about the students and instead I have taught relentlessly to the very top, expecting that everyone in the class can write literary analysis of the Scottish Play. It has been liberating.

Another couple of things. We begin most lessons by reciting aloud the first scene of Macbeth by heart, which is great fun. And occasionally I share extracts from my next book which has encouraged half a dozen students to share their own writing with me; we are close to launching our own writers’ blog.

Macbeth as a text helps. It’s so great. When I asked Olly to come up to the front of the class and, with an imaginary sword, unseamed him from the nave to th chops, the whole class was groaning in fascinated revulsion. The Fair is foul and foul is fair metaphor is woven so deeply through the text that the students were highlighting examples I had never noticed. It is fair to say that every single one of us has had great fun for that hour every Friday morning since September.

At the heart of my teaching has been the insistent modelling of the Point-Evidence-Analysis (PEA) paragraph. I have taught the PEA paragraph structure explicitly, made good use of formative assessment as the students have tried, failed and tried again to shape effective paragraphs, and convinced the whole class that they can write GCSE quality essays.

These slides are typical of how I have modelled PEA paragraphs, transforming the students’ relatively shapeless efforts to ones which are sharply analytical:

1

2

This slide could be the guidance slide for A level literature students:

3

My expectations of what the students can do have been higher than ever before. In essence, my single expectation has been that the Year 7s will be able to write analytical essays if I teach them well.

Here are some examples of what the students have written. In this first one, James makes an astute point about Lady Macbeth:

4

Writing is a real challenge for James, yet the shape of the PEA paragraph is intact and the comparison of Lady Macbeth with the devil is all his. James, it turned out, is a secret writer at home. He is working on a short story which he wants, eventually, to publish on our class blog.

This next paragraph sees Anna, who is one of the class’s highest starters, relish the writing of literary criticism:

5

What we must not do is rob Anna of her distinctive style as she moves through the school by dictating exactly how to write PEA paragraphs. She has understood my basic model and yet retained her tangible enjoyment of the writing process.

Sometimes, irrespective of the PEA model, students write something which surprises. William drew this perceptive general conclusion about the play:

6

William’s intense engagement with Shakespeare’s language has required every ounce of his concentration. His resulting essay was a highlight of my teaching year.

One of the things I explained to the whole class is that there is no point me setting them work they find easy. I have to challenge them with activities beyond their current capacity, teach them well and believe, without a shred of doubt, that they can meet the challenge.

I love teaching unfettered by expectations. Ignoring students’ minimum expected grades is a subversive joy. At the recent Year 7 Parents’ Evening, parent after parent reported that their child loved the Shakespeare lessons; apparently, one or two have been reciting random extracts from the play at home. I stunned the parents by reading some of the critical analysis written by their sons and daughters. It is no exaggeration to say that it was the most enjoyable Parents’ Evening of my career.

Only one parent enquired about the grade her son’s essay would have been awarded. I told her it didn’t matter. I explained how she had been comforted by her son’s SATs level in primary school without ever knowing what it meant. What I told her was more important – that her son was making above expected progress. What I want her son to do, I told her gently, is to come home and tell her what he has learnt in English today and what he needs to do to improve his writing skills.

Dismantling students’ own modest perceptions of what they can attain seems to me to be one of the most important priorities for classroom teachers. If we can set the level of challenge at a high level early in our students’ secondary career, the better equipped they will be to tackle the increasing demands of GCSE and A level.

Those of us who learn at Huntington School do so in a culture of the possible. We do not believe that anyone can achieve anything; rather, we believe that with dedication, industry and know-how individuals can make progress beyond what anyone, including themselves, could have imagined.

What dismays me slightly is that it has taken me the best part of thirty years to teach how to write literary criticism to Year 7 students. My only comfort is that my job continues to surprise me and I am still learning.

 

This article was first published in the Summer 2016 edition of The Use of English magazine.



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The Capital Letter Problem Part 2: Pressure and release

In my last post I explained what I defined what I’m calling The Capital Letter Problem and set out some of its causes. Briefly, children pick up and embed bad habits when writing and, although they often know what should be done, they’ll revert to what’s been practised when under any kind of pressure.

One solution could be to take a lesson from the world of horse training. Horse trainer Linda Parelli talks about the use of pressure and release. As she explains it, “Pressure motivates, release teaches.”

… teaching and training horses really is quite simple, because it involves not much more than the appropriate application of pressure and the exquisite timing of the release. But those adjectives, “appropriate” and “exquisite,” are where the real challenges lie, because these are the very things that make the difference between a horse having trouble, responding obediently, or responding with enthusiasm.

Teaching children is more complex than training horses, but it too relies on careful application of pressure and the pleasure of release to doing the right thing independently.

Appropriate pressure

In horse training, appropriate pressure is the minimum necessary to urge a horse to respond as desired. Parelli says you know whether the pressure applied was appropriate because, “the horse responds calmly, without fear and with good expression. As you progress the horse becomes more responsive and more willing.”

There comes a point when teaching children to use the correct spelling and punctuation where they know what to do. It might seem reasonable at this point to allow children to simply be creative and learn to love writing stories, but this would be a mistake. First, being creative is not simply having ideas, it’s working within constraints. Learning and using writing conventions allows children to be more not less creative. Second, letting children do what they enjoy in the short-term often does them a disservice in the longer-term. How many children love writing in say, Year 3, and then learn to hate it by the start of secondary school? It might be fun to just dump your ideas on a page as they occur but at some point children will realise academic success depends on the ability to communicate fluently in academic language. If they haven’t practised getting the basics right this makes everything more difficult.

Using appropriate pressure is not about cruelly forcing children to use capital letters, it’s about creating the conditions where they become “more responsive and more willing.” It’s about never lowering our expectations and saying, “That’ll do.” It’s about teaching children to take pride in their work and that the little things matter. It’s about explaining that while you may know what they mean and will judge their work charitably, there’s no guarantee anyone else will. The world is biased against those who misspell common words and fail to punctuate correctly.

Don’t just apply pressure until children get it right, apply pressure until they can’t get it wrong.

Exquisite timing of release

But all this carefully applied pressure only really pays off if children are released at the right time. This means that when children start doing the right thing, you stand back and let them show you what they can do. There will always be an element of trial and error to this. Releasing pressure too early means students may not have automatised the basics, too late may mean they’ve become bored or frustrated.

Teaching proofreading is key to applying the appropriate pressure to write well and knowing when to stop is crucial to helping students learn to get things write independently. See this post for more detail.

Ultimately, release really happens when you stop teaching writing and just teach content. It comes when the careful application of pressure means that children don’t even have to think about when to use capital letters, they do it automatically. When spelling and punctuation rules are embedded in long-term memory, students have so much more capacity to think about the content. This is where the shift from novice to expert starts to take place. Novices need careful pressure to build up the skills to experience the joyful release of growing expertise.

None of this is to say that playing with ideas and enjoying language for its own sake needs to wait until students have mastered the technical aspects of writing, but it does suggest that writing is a technical discipline which might benefit from greater separation form spoken language. By all means discuss and encourage children to perform all their wonderful ideas, but be warned that turning these into writing has consequences. What we practise we get good at; practising poor writing might end up making it harder for children to write well.

The post The Capital Letter Problem Part 2: Pressure and release appeared first on David Didau: The Learning Spy.



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Friday, 26 August 2016

The Capital Letter Problem – Part 1

I have almost never met a secondary age child who doesn’t conceptually understand how to use a capital letter.* But, you’d never know. Students regularly hand in work liberally sprinkled with missing – or extraneous – capitals and conscientious teachers spend hours circling the errors and patiently explaining why proper nouns and words at the beginning of a new sentence need capitals. In return, students say, “I know. It’s just the way I write.”

It’s pointless to give someone feedback about something they already know – lack of knowledge isn’t the problem. The problem is caused by practice. Contrary to what my mum believed when she’d tell me that ‘practice makes perfect’, what practice actually makes is permanent. The more we practice something the more automatic it becomes. If we practice doing something badly we get better at doing it badly. For students, many of them have become superb at not using capital letters.

This is frustrating for teachers. After all, we get them right all the time. If I’m writing a shopping list I don’t have an internal debate over whether to give Marmite a capital letter, I just do it. You know how students can write their own names in lower case? I can do that, but it takes an extraordinary effort.

The answer is, of course, to practice getting capital letters – and all the other boring technical aspects of writing – right and to make sure students correct their mistakes. It’s not enough to practice until children get it right, we need to get them to practice until they can’t fail. Using capital letters needs to be automatic.

Writing is essentially unnatural. Children don’t independently learn to write in the way they learn to speak. Speaking is something with evolved to do over millennia.  Writing has only been around for a few thousand years and it’s only in the last 100 or so years that we’ve expected everyone to be able to do it. We are not evolutionarily adapted for writing.

That said, complex as it may be, pretty much everyone can be taught to write, but our working memory is fragile. Most people are only able to hold on to about seven items or less at any one time, and anything which occupies our attention reduces our capacity to think. If, when we’re writing we trying to remember spelling and punctuation conventions, as well as trying to communicate what we know about a subjects aw well as trying to make what we know sound interesting, we very quickly become overburdened. There’s too much to remember and something has to give. Although students may know how to use a capital letter or how to spell ‘necessary’, if it’s not automatic, they’ll forget to do it.

These things need to be embedded in long-term memory. When we’ve stored a process in long-term memory it tends to become automatic. Remember when you learned to drive a car? At first the experience was overwhelming. You can to pay attention to the steering wheel, the gear stick, the pedals, the mirrors, your speed and what everyone else on the road was doing. You crept along at 20 miles per hour and it felt terrifying! You stalled, you instructor yanked the wheel to avoid hitting a Renault 5, you ended each lesson with a tension headache. Then, six months after passing your test, you found yourself half way done the M5 with conscious awareness of the last 30 minutes. We’re very good at automising skills. As soon as we can make a process automatic, we do.

Writing is similarly complex. The trouble is that if we don’t automise  using capital letters – or anything else – we’ll automise not using them to make space in working memory to think about more interesting things.

In my next post I’ll write about solutions to the Capital Letter Problem in more detail.

* That’s not to say there are none, just that they’re rare.

The post The Capital Letter Problem – Part 1 appeared first on David Didau: The Learning Spy.



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Paradigm Shift badly needed in Education/ Teachers are 'burning out'; we need to listen to the 'voice' of our students; and t he need for Inquiry based creative learning.

Time to escape the box!

Education Readings

By Allan Alach


I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Paradigm Shift Urgently Needed In Education
Childhood stress levels are at an all time high.
‘The way to combat this childhood suffering is by creating a paradigm shift in how we currently educate our children. One which addresses both the universoul nature (our inner essence) and intellectual development of children. In the 21st century, children need hope and inspiration. They need guidance toward inner peace as much as they need guidance towards academic achievement.’

No grades, no timetable: Berlin school turns teaching upside down
Pupils choose their own subjects and motivate themselves, an approach some say should be rolled out across Germany.
‘The philosophy behind these innovations is simple: as the requirements of the labour market are changing, and smartphones and the internet are transforming the ways in which young people process information, the school’s headteacher, Margret Rasfeld, argues, the most important skill a school can pass down to its students is the ability to motivate themselves.’

Why Are Teachers Burning Out?
Many teachers feel suffocated by the teaching profession because of the intrusiveness of curriculum, district and federal mandates, behavior management systems, state testing and a constant re-vamping of all of the above. Very few of these norms” are ever generated by the adults on school campuses, and that disconnect creates a sense of disempowerment.  

Cognitive Offloading: How the Internet Is Changing the Human Brain
‘Though the ease of acquiring information in the modern world has improved our lives in so many ways, it is also changing how our brain works and processes information. Some wonder when taken altogether, whether the results are better or worse for us. A new study published in the journal Memory looks into the process of cognitive offloading,” or relying on Google, GPS, and other external devices for what we used to use our memories for. It considers the impact on learning and problem solving as well.’

The voice of the child in 21st Century education matters, now more than ever
‘In education systems today there is a real danger of children’s voices being swamped by those of
bureaucrats, economists and politicians. I believe to ensure we remain responsive to learners we have to listen and respond to what children have to say about the world around them. My particular concern is for the voices of young children and children with autism to be heard.’


Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Personalized Learning: Enabling Student Voice and Choice Through Projects
"When you're able make learning relevant to a student it helps them want to do it and not just because that's what's expected. The whole focus of personalized learning is that students see the relevance of what it is that they're doing. The outcome is students are engaged, and they're enjoying the learning process."

Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Driven
Tech in the field
Ralston educators are building a culture of inquiry, empowering students to ask questions like:
   How do I problem solve through this?
   How do I persevere?
   How do I understand the cause-and-effect relationships that occur in every field?


Curriculum Conversations: 7 Do's and Don’ts
One way to help students own their role (power) in the curriculum-making process is for teachers
to include them in the conversation. Here are seven conversational do's and don'ts to consider when involving students in curriculum decisions:

Fraud, mismanagement, lies, failure: John Oliver takes on Charter Schools
If you’ve not watched this, here’s your chance. if you have watched this, it’s well worth watching again.




From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

An inquiry based classroom
Teacher : Deborah Frewnch
‘How is your inquiry programme going?' seems to be a common question asked by principals these days.Behind such a question seems the idea that inquiry is another programme to include in the school day along with literacy and numeracy.Two things are wrong with this.Firstly inquiry isn't a programme to simply be added to the daily programme rather it is a disposition ( their 'default' way of learning) that children are born with until it is 'flipped' by life experiences and by schooling.Secondly the teachers I have admired over the years see inquiry as the basis for all learning - literacy and numeracy included. Today many teachers ( and schools) have allowed literacy and numeracy to all but 'gobble up' the entire school day. National Standards will further dissipate this missing inquiry dimension.’

Don't touch the bananas!!!!
Cultures condition
The power of culture – don’t touch the bananas,
‘It is always amazing to see how exposure to an environment, or culture, can change how we think without us even knowing – I guess this is called conditioning. New ideas always rely on those individuals who can see reality without the blinkers. The truth however is not always welcome and it is always easier to go along. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘The truth makes you very unpopular at the club.’”

Howard Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.
Howard Gardner:Being creative is vital but it isn’t always easy.
‘Gardner says his audiences expect him to fully endorse creativity but creativity in human history was ‘neither sought after nor rewarded’Human societies are naturally conservative – and
Charles Darwin
schools particularly so. Humans strive to maintain their current position and in schools this mitigates against educational innovation and interdisciplinary leaps Many people we regard as great thinkers had in their day a difficult time with their ideas –  Galilee Galileo comes to mind but at least he wasn’t burnt at the stake but had to officially recant his ideas. People like Bach and Vincent van Gogh, Freud and Darwin were not at first appreciated.’





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