September 28, 2007

A parting of the ways


Five Paces
Originally uploaded by Charlotte Augusta
I'm shutting up shop. My blog and I are parting ways. My primary intererest has shifted away from autonomous language-learning and teaching. I am still interested in teaching and learning, but not within the field of autonomy.

Rather than adapt the blog, I'll leave it here (for posterity, ya know), and create a new one.

Before that, I'll take the opportunity to put my thoughts in order, and summarize as briefly as possible why I originally started this blog, and where I am now and why I want to change directions. This will be an exercise in mental self-discipline, best illustrated by the quote:
I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have time.
(I thought this was Mark Twain, but Wikipedia tells me it is by Blaise Pascal,
Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte,
although Wikipedia adds (rather unhelpfully)
This quote has been also attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Cicero, and others besides.

One thing I've learned from blogging here: I'm a lone ranger. I don't blog in order to create community. I know it's not politically correct to say so, but I couldn't care less about community, frankly, tho I do care about the individuals who've dropped by here and taken the trouble to leave a comment. Thank you. I've learned a lot and enjoyed the company.

I write, selfishly, primarily for myself, to marshal my thoughts, and gain insight into what I really mean. As E.M. Forster wrote, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

September 21, 2007

Pink revenge


What do you do if you see a 9th-grader being bullied for wearing pink at school?

Read what two brave 12th-graders at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia did.

(Mouse-tip to Aventures d'organisation for the link)

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September 14, 2007

Making time


After tracking the amount of time I was spending online just reading posts in my Google Reader (even just scanning them), I decided to throw them all out, and give myself an extra hour per day. They're fascinating, and most of them are still in my blogroll (sidebar). But I really need the extra time as classes start in 2 weeks' time.

(Photo credit: mdpNY on Flickr

September 11, 2007

Irony?

Apparently even Monsanto shies away from Monsanto products.

First Starbucks, then Safeway announced they would no longer use milk that contains rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), primarily made by Monsanto.

Then I read that Monsanto goes GMO-free... in its cafetaria!


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September 09, 2007

Do schools today kill creativity? part deux


I should have waited a bit before blogging my earlier entry, until I'd seen this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson (a fellow Brit I'd never heard of). Makes a similar point to Michael Rosen but with a lot more power and in less than half the time (20 minutes). (See Ken's Wikipedia entry and his official website.)

September 08, 2007

The end of school as we know it? Or will it be just more of the same?

This caught my eye:
Knowsley Council in Merseyside, has abolished the use of the word school to describe secondary education in the borough. It is taking the dramatic step of closing all of its eleven existing secondary schools by 2009. As part of a £150m government-backed rebuilding programme, they will reopen as seven state-of-the-art, round-the-clock, learning centres.
Originally in the British newspaper, the Independent, I found it on the Wales-Wide Web.
Go read Graham Attwell's blog entry, especially the comments and the links in them.

Here's one:
When you read the material supporting the 'Knowsley Experiment', it really is the proverbial Curate’s Egg. There’s some progressive educational theories, spin, Blairite ‘newspeak’, consultants’ verbal diarrhoea, paying homage to Microsoft and the downright dangerous.
and it's downhill from there, and well-argued (and not very complimentary to American education, either).

Of course, if the testing and "benchmarks" (there, that shows how with-it I am, doesn't it?) are all still in place and unquestioned, then...

If you watch the beginning of this 45-minute video I blogged about previously, you'll hear Cambridge University lecturer, Dominic Wyse, tell how
since 1988 and the National Curriculum, politicians have exerted greater and greater control.

Will this tendency suddenly change or lessen? What do you think, boys and girls?

September 07, 2007

Phonics or... creativity?












I just re-discovered teachers.tv, a British website (and actual TV programme?) that hosts a host of information about teachers and teaching in British schools. Obviously most of the content is going to be of more interest to people who actually live and teach in Britain, than to people who don't (like me), but I enjoyed this 45-minute video by children's author Michael Rosen from the programme School Matters on the subject of phonics and the teaching of reading. Apparently, phonics is now the British government's official teaching-to-read method. Michael Rosen, though, is in the "whole word" camp. He visits a number of schools and interviews different people, teachers and researchers and people in government. It's a very well made video. Rosen's purpose is to examine whether phonics and testing stifles children's (and teacher's) creativity.

I don't think the whole-word argument is convincingly made in this video, and certainly the question of whether it really is an either-or argument goes begging through the entire 45 minutes. Equally unasked is the question of why the government needs to decide on a single approach at all, and then mandate that for the whole country.

Here's the video blurb:

Author Michael Rosen questions whether the current political enthusiasm for synthetic phonics, designated literacy hours, and league tables is turning off young readers.

Rosen examines the evidence for claims that these devices have led to higher literacy standards, and finds it wanting. Unlike many critics, he suggests ways of encouraging reading, and he's not afraid of advocating poetry, often one of the most difficult and frightening tasks facing both teachers and their classes.

In his journey to discovering ways of improving literacy Rosen hears from heads, literacy experts, teachers and academics and even Jim Rose; the man whom he holds principally responsible for the imposition of synthetic phonics throughout the land.


September 03, 2007

September 02, 2007

Lost in translation


Here's a good example of how your words may not always convey what you intend them to convey:

The video clip's actually in French, but that's not the cause of the "mis-translation".

The secret of Brokebank Mountain.