iPads in Education

Another excellent site – from Ian Wilson – some really useful information compiled by Ian here:

iPads in Education.

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Opportunity to Support Mencap

My good friend Marc is sailing across the Pacific for three months as part of a Clipper Round the World race, leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. He’s raising money for Mencap – a great charity that needs support in these times of drastic cuts. Please give generously if you can.

You can follow Marc’s progress here:

Clipper Round The World

And you can donate money here:

JustGiving

Thank you

iPod Touch leads to homework revolution

A recent purchase of an iPod Touch for our daughter’s 9th birthday has already revolutionised the daily homework grind. As expected – the functionality, ease of use, general Apple lushness of the device and the ease of use of various educational apps has meant previously dull activities such as learning spellings, doing times tables etc has suddenly become almost engaging.

Whereas before, a mini version of the battle of the Somme would take place every evening: us sending regular salvos of parental artillery across the table, sounding like the manic, abusive parent in Pink Floyd’s The Wall: “You must finish your homework before you can have anything nice!!!” (while I rant incoherently about attacking the next school governor’s meeting to demand an end to pointless, dull, educationally invalid, family harmony sapping homework…), while our darling mutters, “..no, I’m staying firmly entrenched in my bunker, adamant I won’t try these boring spellings on these flimsy and crumpled, crappy bits of paper I have to bring home from school, when I could be doing something more meaningful in my young life, like practicing some nifty new moves to Swan Lake.

But gosh..this morning the sun came out and as our solar-powered plastic butterfly fluttered it’s wings at the strong light beaming across the breakfast table, the iPod came out silently, the gentle ping of a new word learned blessed the air..no fuss..no hair-raising screaming from us…most of the week’s spellings sorted before school, five days early..job done completely independently..bliss. And after the spelling s were sorted some times tables were also dispatched successfully in a bloodless coup..

So – some great educational apps that we’ve installed to get her started (and there are squillions more out there..):

  Test you spelling – works a treat – there are loads of other ones..

Same as Times Tables – all sorts of these, including some that are created as games rather than straight sums. Lots of score board treats to suck ’em in..

As a family who love photography, here’s a few we’ve used and put on the iPod:

  

OldBooth is great fun – make you Dad look like an eighties icon or even a camp squaddie from the fifties.

Hipstamatic allows you to shoot square framed images with an array of retro, Polaroid effects, nice movie style black and white and much more. You can swap film, lenses etc.

Here are some great science apps that will teach your kids about the stars and the solar system:

   

If your kids are keen on wildlife…here’s one on birds (costs a bit but has all UK bird songs, images, data etc..)

And finally for now…some great Google reference and research apps and GoogleEarth on your iPod:

       

As and when we toy with more apps that work well…we’ll let you know.

Cheerful China?!

Please forgive the cynicism and angst but let me introduce you to an example of how unpalatable truths are kept hidden from children in schools. Some interesting questions here on the nature of ‘education’: at what point in a child’s education do you tell them about the political and human rights horrors of certain regimes, as opposed to merely the points of cultural interest.

My six-year-old daughter’s teacher has sent home a slip of paper asking for us to help create a mind map to see what out child knows about China..or even china. Topic title: ‘Cheerful China’. Do I hear dark laughter from some readers (in fact…are there any readers..?) As someone who has read books such as Tears of Blood – A Cry for Tibet by Mary Craig, or the equally distressing and compelling Fire Under The Snow Testimony of a Tibetan Prisoner by Palden Gyatso, the notion of ‘cheerful China’ seems naive and ridiculous at best. But how to approach this with young children?

When working as an English teacher in the 90s, potentially controversial issues emerged often as part of our study of literary texts. In fact, this is one of the great attractions of studying literature – stories become the mirrors within which we can scrutinise issues about humanity, morality, love, war …whatever. Unfortunately, the prevailing liberal wisdom of the time required teachers to strike a balance between opposing views, to remain impartial for fear of over-influencing young people’s views and ideas. Most of the time my own moral voice was screaming to emphasise the political injustices that swirled around life in the UK at the time. The dying days of the Thatcher and Major governments saw that party continue to shred the fabric of British society and prepare the ground for the economic woes then exacerbated by Blair’s rampant over-spending. But I digress..

The question for educators I want to ask is: at what age and to what extent do you introduce young people to the horrors of  certain regimes: in this case the current and past Chinese government. To state the obvious – China is a miserable place to live and work for many Chinese people. The disgraceful and shocking torture and cultural devastation, nay genocide, visited on the Tibetan population (including many monks and nuns) since Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ makes most sane people boil with rage, sorrow and indignation. And this is only exacerbated more by British governments’ repeated efforts at toadying up to current Chinese leaders because they desperately need their cash. Even under Blair, members of the Free Tibet Campaign who were present at a cavalcade for a visiting Chinese Premier were harassed by officials and required to take off their campaign t-shirts: in our blessed Blighty where there apparently we have freedom of speech.

I could go on – but read the two books listed above and you’ll no doubt feel the same anger. So, back to my daughter’s mind map. Do we suggest she includes important Chinese inventions (silk, rice, toilet roll) and a few china cups and saucers (we have a pretty hand-painted Royal Doulton set of china –  we could include that as an important cultural artifact and symbol of Chinese cultural and political supremacy, because it’s made of china – which has been suggested by the teacher..). Or – should we do an electronic mind map with links to various texts, YouTube videos, campaign websites and images of self-immolating nuns? I know what I’d prefer….