September 30, 2005

Raw Materials for the Mind (2)

Returning to the subject of this post, a subject which has come up often in my recent conversations, blogs, readings, is this: to what extent should teachers/schools be preparing students for "real world" working experiences, and if so, what kind of real world working skills will they need?

Author Warlick addresses this issue; indeed, it is a main theme of the book.
The fact is that most parents, members of boards of education, or legislators were educated in industrial age schools when it was believed that a majority of our schoolmates would work in industrial age jobs...Admittedly, there are basic skills, and we must assure that those skills are mastered. When I was in school, a literate citizen was one who could read instructions, fill out a job application, and calculate change. Those days are dust.(p27)

He then tells an anecdote about his two young children: his 12-year-old girl was doing some English homework which consisted of sorting nouns into 12 different types. Meanwhile, his 9-year-old son was playing a video game:
He owned a very old Sega Genesis system for which it was nearly impossible to find compatible game cartridges. The only extensive source that my son had found was the local video rental store where he could rent games for three days at a time. The problem - or learning opporunity - was that most of the games came without a manual. Therefore, my son learned to play the game by diving in and exploring it. He had to discover the operation, goals, and rules from within the game and then how to use the rules to accomplish and excel in the goals. I believe that between the two activities, my daughter's work in memorizing a classification of nouns and my son's unguided exploration of a video game, my son was developing skills that will be more relevant to his future, a future of constant change. (p29)

Later, he returns to this theme:
There was recently a discussion on the esteemed WWWEDU mailing list... regarding real world working skills in relation to current educational standards. Jedd Bartlett, of Jedd Bartlett Associates reported a project in his country, New Zealand, where teachers were asked to spend a day shadowing a professional in the workplace. The purpose was to identify and reflect on the skills and knowledge that appear to be most critical to success in their field. The 2001 compliation findings reported the following skills as most critical:
  • information (and information literacy)

  • communication skills

  • problem-solving skills

  • self-management skills and

  • cooperative skills.

The report also found that most professionals learn most of their critical knowledge on the job.

Warlick's writing on this issue is cool, calm and collected, knowledgeable and forward-looking. He is obviously excited about the possibilities being presented not only by technological developments and gadgets themselves, but also by a world which is becoming increasingly populated by and reliant on those technological advances. Yet he is not a breathless convert. He has several blogs, but the only one I read regularly is 2 cents' worth, which I highly recommend. He also has a podcast (perhaps several), but annoyingly I can't find the link to it again.

His writing makes a strong contrast to that of another writer I'd like to examine on this blog in later postings: Melanie Phillips.

Raw Materials for the Mind

Crossposting, as this might be of interest to teachers, too:

September 28, 2005

Maori figure on a canoe

The canoe, or waka, is a key element in Maori culture, understandably enough. It takes on mythic significance. And here is Mythic, standing proudly at the back of a huge long waka, urging the young warriors on, no doubt.

Independent Learning Association Conference

Me and Pinky, on the job.

September 27, 2005

Some pix of New Zealand

Some pix I took while in New Zealand for the ILA Conference. One of the highlights of the conference was the Powhiri, a Maori welcoming ceremony that echoes the coming ashore of visitors in a canoe.

I was impressed with the efforts New Zealanders have made to incorporate Maori language and culture into the exported British-white-man's culture. Maori became recognized as the second official language of New Zealand in 1987, but what impressed me was that much of the opening ceremony was in Maori, and Maori words and phrases are bandied about in a large-scale example of code-switching.

I started class today, so still do not have as much time as I'd like to blog. More later.

September 04, 2005

Effortless Language Acquisition

AJ of Effortless Language Acquisition writes
British and American Studies student blogs:
BAS stands for 'British and American Studies'. They are first year students at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. Most are between 18-20 years old. They are intermediate and above in English ability.

The BAS class meets once a week... for three hours every Monday afternoon. The course started in mid-August and will continue until the end of December.

Below is a list of links to their blogs. Please visit them and comment. If you are a student with your own blog... please leave them a link to your site and invite them to visit!!