Archive for May, 2012

Misplaced Purpose #500words

May 28, 2012 2 comments

I think that somewhere in recent history some people lost track of what education was about. Suddenly it was less about teaching and learning, and more about statistics and accounting.

I remember vividly a departmental meeting several years ago at a former place of work where the entire teaching team got together to discuss the departmental operational plan. During the meeting the Director (department head) led the staff through various statistics and accounts of department income, department expenditure and SUM count (SUMs are an amount of money given to colleges for each student based on the course and level). At the end of the Director’s presentation most of the staff had been driven to distraction by the endless figures and statistics, and were finally told to form into small groups to discuss how the department could generate more income.

At my table a discussion began about running more evening classes and offering more professional training courses. I watched, disheartened, as my colleagues grasped at straws to appease the director and create ideas for generating more income.

At the end of the group discussions the director asked for a member of each group to feed back the outcome of the discussions. One by one each table repeated the same mantra – more evening classes, more training courses.

Finally it came to the table I was at. No-one volunteered to give feed back, so ignoring the discussion I stood and said what I had to say. It went something like this –

“I am appalled at the suggestion that our students are simply a SUM, a value on an accountant’s spreadsheet. If the Department Managers, Directors and Principals look into a classroom and see only little bags of money then I am ashamed to be part of this institution. Colleges are social enterprises, not businesses, and should be concerned with education not income. It is truly sad that education has come to this and all that seems to matter is the money. We are teachers. Teachers don’t see little bags of money when they walk into a classroom, they see people with hopes and aspirations. We see people who need nurturing and guidance. The little bit of money that is tagged onto each person is irrelevant to us. We’ll do what we can for these people irrespective of what value has been assigned to them, because teachers see the person. We don’t care about the money, we just care.”

The speech earned a round of applause from the congregation and probably also earned me the brand of ‘troublemaker’.

That’s it, that’s what I think is the purpose of education. It’s about caring. It’s caring whether your students do well, it’s caring about your students’ aspirations, it’s about caring enough that you’ll put in the extra hours to ensure the marking is done, it’s about caring enough to spend time updating your knowledge & skills. Caring leads to action, leads to transformation.

Most of all, education is about teaching others to care about the things that matter.

More #500words can be found at

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Flipped Blooms?

I’ve been reading a few articles recently suggesting changes to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I’ve never been a complete fan of the theory myself as I think it tries to simplify something that just isn’t simple.

Some of the recent ideas about changing Bloom’s Taxonomy are summed up in this blogpost by Steve Collis entitled The Curious Case of the Flipped-Blooms Meme.

Anyway, I just can’t agree with the idea (probably first mooted by Shelley Wright) that Creativity should be the first level of a revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s just not possible to create anything without knowledge or understanding. How can I write a story if I don’t know words or understand sentence structure? How could I create a movie without first knowing how to use a video camera and understanding the basics of shots, scripts and dialogue?

It just seems madness to suggest that creativity comes first.

I agree that it is possible to create something with only a little knowledge or understanding, but what you create probably won’t be very good. Shelley’s blogpost describes a process she uses with her students to create an advertisement.

My students start with the standard elements of an advertisement (product photo, copy, logo etc.)  and create a mockup.  Then students evaluate their mock-up by comparing their ads to a few professional examples and  discuss what they did right and wrong in comparison to what they’ve seen…

What Shelley has failed to realise is that the students enter into the process already armed with a degree of knowledge and understanding. They have been exposed to advertising all of their lives and although they may not have studied it, they will almost certainly have recognised recurring techniques used in the design of advertising, which they will almost certainly apply to their own designs. The first few stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy have already occurred to an extent.

Certainly I like Shelley’s back-to-front process for teaching design, and I can see how it may work in that situation, however I don’t think it warrants the suggestion that Bloom’s Taxonomy should be flipped.

Hands-on game development session for educators

We’re hoping to run a workshop on game development for educators at Scotland’s Colleges in Stirling on Monday June 18th. We’d like volunteers to come and share their skills with game development tools with educators who are keen to dip their toes into the world of game design.

The sessions will be fairly informal with small groups working together and exploring various game development tools.

If you currently teach game design and have some skills in tools such as Blender, Gamemaker, Scratch, Kodu, or any other game development tool then we’d be happy to hear from you.

Post a reply if you’re interested or contact me on twitter @camaxwell.

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Adobe Generation – free creative courses for students

Adobe has just announced Adobe Generation, a website offering free creative courses for students, which starts with a Game Design course on May 10th.

The site will be offering more free courses in September on a range of subjects including animation, photography and digital imaging.

The courses will feature online content and webinars each Thursday evening at 7.00pm.

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