Three education black holes you’ll want to avoidPosted: January 9, 2016
A black hole is a place in space where the gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. You wouldn’t want to get sucked in to one. And you wouldn’t want to get sucked into any of the following educational practices either.
1. Making everything flashy
Many teachers burn themselves out by spending inordinate amounts of time planning complicated, flashy activities. They think that the students will appreciate these activities or other staff will see them as innovative. If your students are impeccably behaved and respectful, you might have some luck. Otherwise, there is a chance that the activity that you’ve poured you heart and soul into will not be taken seriously and will be a cue for lots of messing around. Take this example from the Edutopia blog which was tweeted earlier by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership:
“Students write down what they learned on a piece of scratch paper and wad it up. Given a signal, they throw their paper snowballs in the air. Then each learner picks up a nearby response and reads it aloud.”
The trouble is, if you start messing with this stuff it becomes an expectation. Just say, “No”, kids. Teach your students something instead.
2. Rubbish Edtech
I am not against all Edtech. If it provides an efficient way of doing something and makes your life easier then that’s great. BUT WHEN HAS IT EVER DONE THIS? In a previous life, I had the job of persuading a school staff to use a particular Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). “Look,” went the pitch, “you can enter multiple choice quizzes and it will score them for you.”
Many staff pointed out that they didn’t use multiple choice quizzes. Those that did, tried the VLE and found that they could not enter mathematical notation unless as an image file. Even without any notation, the quizzes took ages to create. The VLE file system was slow and painful – constantly uploading – and then no students would log on because they had forgotten their password.
We don’t need solutions in search of a problem. We need solutions to problems that we actually have and that are better and quicker than what we’re doing at the moment.
3. Learning Styles
I know, if you are familiar with education blogs then you will already be aware that learning styles are a dodo. However, some folks have recently started to say things like, “I know there’s absolutely no evidence for learning styles but what’s the harm? It’s a bit of fun, isn’t it? What’s the worst that could happen?”
Aside from wasting everyone’s time, the worst that could happen is that male kids or kids from ethnic minorities who are struggling writers get labelled as having a ‘kinaesthetic’ learning style. Instead of getting the intensive extra writing that they need, they will be given mindless cut-and stick activities or blocks to play with and will fall ever further behind.
Labeling children, whether it is with a learning style or a mindset, is never right.