TeachMeet 08 and an argument with Doug Belshaw

Having sworn blind I’d never attend another BETT, I couldn’t resist going to TeachMeet 08 there on Friday. And what a treat it was. Short presentations from lots of people knew of, or knew online, but had never met.

Doug Dickinson from FlickrMy favourite presentation was Doug Dickinson promoting the free ICT support from IctOpus. Ignoring all the technology on offer, he leapt from one side of the stage to the other holding up keyword flashcards, in complete silence. The old ways, sometimes, really are the best. Photo left; lots more event photos on Flickr.

Highlight of the evening though was the argument I got into with top educational blogger Doug Belshaw, as we enjoyed pizza after the meeting. My ideal school contain only 200 pupils, and run right through from 5 to 18. Rather than try to base subject experts in the school, I would use technology to link them to the students. Meanwhile, the (generalist) teachers who are permanently based there have a chance to really get to know each student. Doug thought this was bonkers. Of course, he’s a teacher, and I’m not – but then again, perhaps he is too close to current practice to see the alternatives?

Whose side would you be on?


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5 responses to “TeachMeet 08 and an argument with Doug Belshaw”

  1. Argument? Shurely not…

    I enjoyed our conversation, Ian, and look forward to further encounters. I’m a History teacher but not entrenched so far that I can’t see where you’re coming from. The relationship with students is crucial for real learning gains to take place.

    I’m all for mixing-up education and the shap of schooling in this country, but I think the way you represented the two sides of what I considered to be a very interesting discussion is a little simplistic. Perhaps you or I need to expand our thoughts in future blog posts? 🙂

  2. Ian,

    I wish I’d been able to stay for that discussion. I would tend to be on your “side”. I cannot see why every school still needs to have a team of specialists when, using technology we can easily gain access to specialist resources from elsewhere.

    I’ve been looking at this from the point of view of very small schools (eg. on the Scottish islands), which are currently unviable. There’s no way they can provide the resources a standard school system needs.

    Let’s say a learning mentor was attached to a group of children (say 1 teacher to 20 kids), supporting them locally but with access to specialist resources perhaps from other “schools” in the group, or from a central resource. The administration (which needs economies of scale to work) can be done from a central location. The group of schools could use the OU’s summer school model to cover off the stuff that needs specialist equipment etc.

    It would need a different curriculum & assessment model (perhaps something similar to what’s happening in Knowsley, or Tasmania), and the unions might not like it…

  3. @ Steve: but you are actually doing this, and have been since RevisionGuru days. You were/are one of the original inspirations.

    @ Doug: yes, being three beers down tends to lend rather more passion than precision to any argument. And this particular argument merits much sober discussion. I shall certainly be posting more on the issue, and shall look out for you doing the same. Btw do you know any research that would back up either of our positions?

    @ Mark: yes, this is very much what I had in mind. I see the ‘learning mentor’ as being the pivotal position, and I would love to see it become the most prestigious role capable of recruiting the very best teachers. I’m not familiar with either Knowsley’s or Tasmania’s model – can you point me to something on these?

  4. Grrr, I knew you would be able to turn around my post into your favour! Many schools are turning to themed days, weeks or even terms where students will spend time with learning mentors; specialist teachers will dip in and out of the group as required. Part of the rationale behind this is to aid the transition from primary to secondary school. One supposes that a logical step would be to have the specialists deliver via a method that didn’t require them to be in-situ.

    My disagreement lies in the area that I predominantly teach, A level. Larger schools lead to economies of scale that enable a wider range of subjects to be taught. However much of an advocate of technology and its uses within education I am, I believe in the power of building relationships and delivering material face-to-face.

    As for KS4 – I guess there’s some middle ground there….

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