My random thoughts, musings, rants and stories will appear here over time.

Why Touch Technology is what Mathematics Education has been waiting for

Written by Mark McCourt on Thursday, 27 October 2011.

For many years, mathematics education specialists have joined forces with software and hardware developers to create new tools for learning. But still, decades on, the mathematics classroom remains one largely about teacher exposition and bookwork practice. Technology has made little impact.

Yet, technology in mathematics can help to de-abstract-ise the subject. All those apparently meaningless processes that we have all been taught at some point in our lives can suddenly be made to come to life. Just watch a Gapminder animation or use a virtual manipulative and you will see what I mean. No longer does the mathematics teacher have to explain some new concept while drawing inadequate diagrams that contradict their words. Technology can solve this. So why hasn't it?

Teachermon

Written by Mark McCourt on Saturday, 08 October 2011.

Teachermon was a straight forward rip off of one aspect of the incredibly popular (at the time at least) game Pokemon – in which cards containing information about little creatures are used to play a battle. Sort of Top Trumps on speed. It exploded out of Japan in 1996 and suddenly the kids of the world went Pokemon crazy.

So when a boy in Year 10 approached me and asked if it would be ok to create a version of the cards based on the teachers at the school, I thought it simply genius.

Michael Gove's speech, Conservative Party Conference 2011

Written by Mark McCourt on Saturday, 08 October 2011.

Many people have asked me this week what I thought to the Secretary of State's speech at the Conservative Party Conference, and maybe at some point I will get round to writing up a response.

In the meantime, I thought that some of you might find it helpful to catch up with what was said if you were unable to attend the conference, so here is a transcript of Michael's speech.

(if there are spelling errors or such like, well tough, I was typing pretty damn fast!)

The Ingredients of a Great Lesson?

Written by Mark McCourt on Wednesday, 05 October 2011.

I guess if you think back to school, or watch TV, or think about stereotypes, a lesson is when 30 children sit in a room, at desks, on chairs, in a school. A teacher imparts some information, which the children take notes of, then the children undertake some task from a book, writing their responses in another book, which they carry to and from school.

But that is not a lesson.

What State Schools Should Learn From Private Schools

Written by Mark McCourt on Friday, 30 September 2011.

Before addressing that question it is important to establish some knowns.

The quality of teaching in State schools is diverse. There are amazing teachers, there are crap ones.

The quality of teaching in Public schools is diverse. There are amazing teachers, there are crap ones.

9/11

on Sunday, 11 September 2011.

Sam was beautiful. Her hair was a firey red and her eyes shone.

There is a collection of huge granite spires that stand thousands of feet above the Kern River at the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada in California. As eager fresh faced graduates, we took the easy drive down from Los Angeles with a trunk full of beer and the most basic of climbing essentials. The four of us had been climbing together for years, and had long since abandoned ropes in search of a purer form of excitement. When people would quiz us about the purpose of such apparent foolishness, telling us that we were risking death, our stock reply was "well that's kind of the point." It was exactly that knowledge, that gut-wrenching feeling, that your life is literally in your hands we were trying to capture. There is something about facing your own mortality nakedly that makes the pettiness of much of life disappear and allows you to taste and feel those things that truly matter.

Hidden Genius

Written by Mark McCourt on Saturday, 20 August 2011.

I believe that there are many hidden geniuses out there (in fact, I believe everyone is a genius – just that we all have different fields of expertise). They are hidden because the education system that they are a part of does not provide opportunities for unlocking the genius.

Here are a few examples of moments that have warmed my heart over the years:

Britain is not Broken

on Wednesday, 10 August 2011.

David Cameron has just spoken about the violence that has sprung up across England over the last few nights, and in a strong and passionate speech he made some excellent points. Unfortunately, the spin doctors have insisted on the use of the broken Britain rhetoric. And in questioning, he alluded to better discipline in schools as being a part of the solution.

Detentions Are Pointless

on Tuesday, 09 August 2011.

When I was a teenager, each and every Tuesday for years at secondary school, I would have to attend a lunchtime detention. Religiously set by my Religious Studies teacher each and every Thursday afternoon for reasons I failed then and fail now to comprehend. I was no angel at school, far from it, but I was also no bad apple either. For whatever the reason, RS was always chaos and I seemed to have a face that asked for a detention. So there I would sit for 35 minutes during Tuesday lunch, copying out page after page from the Bible.

Why are we failing SATs?

Written by Mark McCourt on Tuesday, 02 August 2011.

What strikes me this morning, listening to Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, is yet again schools are being used as the punch bag. So when ill informed, trying to get a soundbite, journalists state that 33% of children are "failing", Nick's immediate response is to talk about schools and standards of teaching and learning, blah-de-blah-de-blah.

At not one point does he mention that, actually, if your kids can't read, write and do simple arithmetic at age 11, then blaming the school is a red herring, take a long honest look at your own parenting.

Helping Homework Work

Written by Mark McCourt on Monday, 01 August 2011.

It's a funny old thing, the homework malarkey. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that doing homework has any impact on students' understanding of mathematics or the standards that they achieve, yet still all over the country it is seen as a given that students must do homework. And in mathematics this often looks like students wading through question after question after meaningless question.

Does Democracy Harm Education?

on Friday, 29 July 2011.

and will our children die before their time?

What kind of society would you like to live in? What kind of society would you like our children and grandchildren to live in?

The actions that we take now will shape their lives, their opportunities, their happiness, successes, fears and dreams.

Join me if you will for a moment in the future. Let's say 2050. My driving license has long since expired, and statistically it's likely that I will have too. What kind of Britain would you hope to see? What kind of society would you like to leave as our legacy?

Does Democracy Harm Education?

Written by Mark McCourt on Friday, 29 July 2011.

and will our children die before their time?

What kind of society would you like to live in? What kind of society would you like our children and grandchildren to live in?

The actions that we take now will shape their lives, their opportunities, their happiness, successes, fears and dreams.

Join me if you will for a moment in the future. Let's say 2050. My driving license has long since expired, and statistically it's likely that I will have too. What kind of Britain would you hope to see? What kind of society would you like to leave as our legacy?

Is Inclusion a Misnomer?

Written by Mark McCourt on Monday, 25 July 2011.

In 2005, speaking at a Special School in Gloucestershire, David Cameron, the then education spokesman for the Conservative party called for a halt to the number of special schools being closed. Since coming to power in 1997, the Labour government had overseen the closure of around 10 percent of all Special Schools by 2005. Every teacher knows that one of the biggest buzz words in education under New Labour was "inclusion". In relentless pursuit of this ideal, schools had more and more pressure put upon them to make provision for students with any type of special educational need. Clearly there is an ideal, a deeply held philosophical belief here. Students should not become social outcasts because they have been born with challenges such as physical or mental disabilities. It is hard to not agree. It is hard to think that anything other than full inclusion is right. But, in my opinion, what stemmed from an ideal, a dream, has turned in to something altogether different. Students who were happy, successful, social and ambitious have been thrown in to mainstream schools and been poorly provided for, bullied, marginalized and lost their self-esteem.

Bully the protest out of students

on Friday, 22 July 2011.

When I was 16 years old, I plodded off across Europe in the hope of seeing the astounding Pink Floyd in concert. North of Paris in a field with one hundred and fifty thousand other fanatics, I spent a hot summer afternoon waiting for the band to begin and then another three happy hours immersed in music and fuelled with the spirit of the night. As the concert ended and the crowds dispersed, I became separated from my friends and was left alone wandering around the tiny village a couple of miles from the concert venue trying to catch a train.

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