Monday, June 28, 2010

Inventing a Creative Education System

While a few years old now (TED 2006), this talk by Sir Ken Robinson still makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures, rather than undermines, creativity. Robinson asserts that children are exceptionally innovative and that schools suppress this creativity as children pass through the educational system.

Personally I don't believe "schools" suppress creativity. By that I mean the physical buildings or the teachers. I believe that it is, in fact, the creativity of schools and teachers that are suppressed, which may in turn to lead to the undermining of children's' creativity and innovation. Government policies, poorly constructed syllabi, lack of facilities, terminal state exams, a general lack of funding, uninspiring buildings, disputes over salaries, public perception of teachers and schools, all contribute to this stifling effect. Some schools, my own included, try to overcome these barriers and do manage to promote a sense of wonder in education through innovative approaches to teaching and learning. However, not all of these can be overcome by schools alone.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why I Love My iPhone ... and its apps!

I've had my iPhone for a few months now and it has changed me! Sounds dramatic I know, but I think it has. I must confess - I love my iPhone. My previous phone was a HTC Touch - a powerful Windows mobile with everything I needed - email, Internet, calendar. So I thought I didn't need an iPhone - no one needs an iPhone - but it has made my life so much easier. What makes the iPhone brilliant is the abundant supply of apps - apps for everything. Simple apps like Awesome Note, Calendar, the new Irish Times app, EvernoteSkype and the brilliant Quick Office make everyday easier, especially in work. When I'm bored I play Touch Physics or Angry Birds. When I want to be informed I click on the Guardian app, RTE News, the TelegraphTreehugger or the ITN app. When I feel like connecting I open up FacebookTweetdeck or Blogpress. I'm never off the damn thing. And then there my role as a science teacher - oh yeah nearly forgot that - and the iPhone offers plenty to keep me occupied here too. To be a good science teacher you need to be informed about what's happening in the world of science and there are plenty apps which let me do that. The picture over shows some of the science related apps on my iPhone, I emphasise the "some". NASA has become cool again (at least in my eyes anyway), the Hubble app mesmerises me with wonderful images from deep space, the Planets app has given me a sore neck from looking up at the night sky, Discovery News lets me know when a new frog species has been discovered (I'm kidding), Speed Anatomy makes sure I know my arms from my elbows and Science Dump contains brilliant videos from YouTube of scientific interest - all great. Then there is the amazing Sky+ app, which makes sure I will never forget to record that documentary on the BBC when I'm out again! The iPhone is here and here to stay and with the new software update making it easier to use, it's getting better. But the iPhone didn't arrive empty handed - it has brought loads of wonderful apps to play with. Never to bored, misinformed or disorganised again!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Agricultural Science Exam Update

This piece first appeared on The Frog Blog. It was my second post reacting to this year's Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science Exam.

I wrote an email this morning to the Chief Examiner for Agricultural Science for the State Examinations Commission, (not pictured - that's a cow) highlighting my concerns about yesterday's Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science exam paper. I stressed that the exam simply did not reflect what was on the syllabus and I urged him to reform the paper and his drafting team. I understand that he is not from an agricultural background and has little experience in the subject, thus must trust his drafters to produce a paper that will accurately assess the syllabus and the pupil learning. I urged him to form a new drafting team that will accurately reflect the syllabus (outdated as it is) in future exams.

Exam Reaction - Agricultural Science

This post first appeared on my other site, The Frog Blog, a few days ago. I had been reacting to all the Leaving Certificate Science exams, me being a science teacher, but this particular exam got under my skin. I have been teaching Agricultural Science for nine years now and I am sick of the exam "shifting the goalposts" every year.

Let me warn you! This gets nasty! I am so frustrated and annoyed, both for pupils of Agricultural Science and my fellow teachers. Every year the exam seems to expand our already ancient and outdated syllabus and this year is no exception. This year's higher level paaper is a travesty - an utterly unfair assessment of the typical Agricultural Science pupil's learning over the past two years. How this exam is supposed to reflect the syllabus is unknown to me, and many of my fellow teachers that I have spoken to in the last hour. There are questions on this paper I can't answer - and I am a good teacher. I know for a fact that the majority of Agricultural Science teachers in this country couldn't answer all the parts of this questions - they couldn't even find information on them, as the syllabus (or any of the textbooks) doesn't mention them (Click here to see the syllabus by the way). Let me go through the paper first and outline how the syllabus and the exam simply don't match.

A New Venture - More Stress, Less Success

I am a teacher, of science, and I have something to say.

I've had the name of this blog in my head for ages, a play on the title of popular revision books for Junior and Leaving Certificate pupils, but never had the desire to really kick it off. I've just begun my well deserved summer holidays and I am somewhat inspired to get cracking on something new. I wanted to create a blog which allows me express my opinion on various aspects of the teaching profession, a blog which will allow me study and investigated how teachers are perceived by the public, a blog which will allow me explore how much teachers are valued, if at all, by the wider public and a blog which will allow me air my frustrations on the education system in Ireland.