We are delighted to offer our readers a regularly updated range of papers and books around our core interest – education and inequality.
Group members, from whatever region or country, may submit papers for publication, sharing and discussion at any time.
From the archive – The Dynabook and Alan Kay
Alan C. Kay is a renowned U.S. computer scientist and educator, who is a Fellow of the RSA, and has garnered many other awards and accolades, during a distinguished life in technology.
Recently, whilst researching for another topic, we happened upon an early paper of Kay’s work ‘A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages‘. (In Proceedings of the ACM National Conference, Boston Aug. 1972.)
We include both this paper and one written decades later for review. Both are worth consulting, whether a teacher or a technologist.
Insightful looks to the world our technology came from, and how the world might have developed in the absence of populist tech start-ups and rigid adherence to rote.
In this formative paper Kay speculates about the creation of ‘personal, portable information manipulators’ which could be used by children and adults alike. The view from the early 1970’s was clearly that society’s travails could be allayed by technology, a mantra no less vociferous in 2017.
Kay’s paper recognises that to see children as ‘pigeons’ or ‘rats’, in their relationship with technology as a repetitive learning tool, is deeply flawed – rather that the machine should be ‘…the mechanism through which the individual can acquire a model of his or her surrounding environment in order to deal with it‘.
Kay argues that a machine may, in fact, be no better than a book, as technology is not a necessary constituent of learning. ( A mantra not often heard from contemporary technologists.) Better he says, that technology seeks to provide the learner with a ‘better book’ instead. Kay was writing long before the creation of the Amazon e-world.
The author describes his imagined machine as a DynaBook. A hand held, screen driven, keyboard interrogated processor, which to all intents and purposes, from the illustrations in the document, pre-figures the iPad in a way that most young people may find alarming.
Not least to know that the tech they mediate the world with was the concept and invention driven output of a series innovations, created by ‘greybeards’ at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Park.
In Alan Kay’s second paper, ‘Afterword: What is a Dynabook?‘, which was written over forty years after the first, the author refreshes the potency and depth of ‘…the romantic social and technical idealism of my research community’.
In this second reflection, Kay references a 1960’s thinker, J.C. R. Licklider . ‘It is the destiny of computers to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for all people pervasively networked worldwide‘.
What is wonderful about this second paper, we felt, is the passion for history, philosophy and psychology that entwines the story of thinking about technology, computing and users in education. It is the context of a history of technology which we feel is remarkable for its philosophical, cultural and societal references. Delivered in a way, which is quite antithetical to the popular writing on techology. Indeed, on technology in education even.
Here is a narrative that stresses individualism and self exploration. The world of systematic duplication, test scoring and peer group pressure is absent. This may be undoubtedly due to Kay’s breadth of learning even at the start of his research life journey, but we suspect, that in the Facebook age it is hard to escape the fact that numbers perhaps count more than knowledge?
Despite our slightly Luddite narrative tone, we recognise that we are empowered by our tech and would commend this archival material and the work of Alan Kay to you.
Self Evaluation – the arts, children and young people
A miscellany of toolkits and guidance
We were recently, following a glorious burst of Spring sunshine, tidying the cupboards in our Cambridge office. We realised that the toolkits, featured below, had been critical sources of information and guidance for our work flow in the development of arts and creative projects with children and young people.
The delight at re-discovering lost resources, event lost temporarily, is matched by the realisation that evaluational gold lies between their pages.
We recommend them to you, especially if your are planning a creative project.
Formative evaluation can be a powerful aid to providing a scheme of work and a road map for your activity. Summative reporting, post-event, is also vital in order to retain the interest of your funder…we would argue.
Partnerships for Learning – A guide to evaluating arts education projects, by Felicity Woolf.
”Partnerships for learning aims to help everyone involved in arts education projects to understand evaluation clearly and to evaluate effectively, according to their particular needs. In the long term, the aim of the guide is to raise the standard of arts education projects.
Arts-based projects are difficult to evaluate and the guide
does not try to suggest that there is only one way of
approaching evaluation. It aims to provide a flexible
framework, which can be applied in many different situations and used to evaluate short or more extended projects.
Partnerships for learning is for everyone; whether you are
experienced in evaluation techniques or an absolute beginner…”
Source: p4. Introdction – Partnerships for Learning
Self Evaluation and Grants for the Arts
An information booklet from The Arts Council
”Artists and arts organisations should make evaluative judgements about their work. There are clear benefits to you if you evaluate your work. evaluation helps with planning, as it makes you think about what you’re
aiming to do, how you will do it and how you will know if you’ve succeeded…
- ongoing feedback keeps you on track and helps to avoid disasters
- evaluation helps you to adapt/change as you go along
- evaluation is a good way of dealing with ‘quality assurance’ – you’re
keeping an eye on things to make sure quality is maintained
- evaluation helps prove the value of what you are doing
- evaluation records your contribution to the field you are working in
- your evaluation can help others working in the same field
- information you collect can also be used for reporting back to those with
- an interest in the activity (e.g. participants, funders) and telling others about what you’ve done
- the evidence you collect can support future funding applications”
Source: Arts Council Booklet p2
Evaluation Toolkit for the Voluntary and Community Arts in Northern Ireland
By Annabel Jackson
This toolkit is over a decade old now, but if you are lookng for a primer in first principles, then the NI Toolkit still resonates (Ed.)
”This evaluation toolkit was written…to help voluntary and community arts organisations in Northern Ireland to evaluate their work, especially their social impact on participants.
Arts organisations in Northern Ireland are subject to strong pressures to measure their achievements and some already have excellent evaluation systems. This toolkit aims to increase the consistency of evaluation work so that individual arts organisations can better understand and explain their effects, but also so that the entire sector can make a stronger case to the Government.
The toolkit is the first stage in a larger process that will a) see evaluation extended to all sectors of the arts, and b) will evaluate the impact of arts organisations’ work on audiences as well as participants”.
Source: N.I. Booklet – introduction
A Sociology of Special and Inclusive Education
Exploring the manufacture of inability Professor Sally Tomlinson
Following a recent well received talk to our London Group, we are delighted to share information about Sally Tomlinson’s work on the sociology of special education.
”A Sociology of Special and Inclusive Education brings sociological perspectives to bear on the social, political and economic policies and practices that comprise special and inclusive education, and the education of lower attainers. Despite a plethora of literature on special and inclusive education world-wide, governments are still unsure of the reasons for this sector’s expansion in their national education systems.
Professor Tomlinson applies critical sociological perspectives to the social processes, policies and practices that comprise special and inclusive education, particularly in England and the USA. She clearly examines the way in which people or groups exercise power and influence to shape this area of education, and discusses the conflicts of interest that arise in resulting social interactions and relationships.
This book will be of interest to a wide range of educators, professionals, practitioners and policy-makers concerned with special, inclusive and vocational education, in addition to undergraduate, post-graduate and research students and academics”.
You can view more details and order the work via the image link above.
The work contains reflection in the following areas…
- A Sociology of Educational Expansion
- The Emergence of Special and Inclusive Education :England
- The Emergence of Special and Inclusive Education : USA
- IQ, Ability and Eugenics
- A Strategic Maintenance of Ignorance
- Professional and Political Interests
- Parental Interests and grievances
- Vocational Inclusion and Exclusion
Education in England – Annual Report 2016
The report is authored by Natalie Perera, Mike Treadway, Peter Sellen, Jo Hutchison, Rebecca Johnes and Lance Mao. The introduction to the work is provided by David Laws, in his role as Executive Chairman of CentreForum.
CentreForum describes itself as an independent think tank. Developing evidence-based research to influence both national debate and policy making. Education Datalab brings together a group of expert researchers who all believe we can improve education policy by analysing large education datasets.
Paul Mason, writing perceptively as always in The Guardian, sets the report findings in the context of the Thatcherite landscape. A topography that actively diminished working class culture and had, tellingly evidenced in the report, a problematic effect on the expectations and educational outcomes of ‘poor, white kids‘.
Mason writes...’we thought we could ride the punches. But the great discovery of the modern right was that you only have to do this once. Suppress paternalism and solidarity for one generation and you create multigenerational ignorance and poverty. Convert Labour to the idea that wealth will trickle down, and to attacks on the undeserving poor, and you remove the means even to acknowledge the problem, let alone solve it’.
The key findings of the CentreForum report are offered below. They make for depressing reading for an education system under attack and a culture and community of interest depleted of energy and empowerment.
- Attainment is improving, but over 60 per cent of secondary and over 40 per cent of primary pupils are still failing to achieve a world-class benchmark.
- As a result of the new, more challenging, GCSE examinations in 2017, we expect the number of pupils achieving a ‘good pass’ in English and Maths to drop very significantly.
- There is a North/South divide at secondary school, with 44 per cent of pupils reaching a world class benchmark in London, compared with only a third in the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
- The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains significant, with 4 out of 5 disadvantaged pupils failing to achieve a world-class standard at secondary and more than half not reaching our primary benchmark.
- The relative performance of White British pupils falls as they progress through school. In the Early Years, White British children are among the highest achievers but, by the time they finish secondary school, they fall ten places in the rankings to just below average.
- Pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL) make significant strides throughout school.
David Laws, commenting on the report, stresses the vital importance of early education and support. ‘A good education, especially in the Early Years and at primary, can be the single most transformative factor in the life chances of young people, particularly for the most disadvantaged’.
Paul Mason in concluding his Comment is Free article in The Guardian has it that the school system , as currently modelled, is failing and recognises that ‘…educational reforms alone will barely scratch the surface. We have to find a form of economics that – without nostalgia or racism – allows the working population to define, once again, its own values, its own aspirations, its own story‘.
The notion of a balanced mix of educative effort, economic balance and equality, coupled to a vibrant and regenerative social contract between a government and its people is the recipe to halt the empty echo of expectation from our children…
Children, their World, their Education
Final Report and Recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review
(By Robin Alexander, Michael Armstrong, Julia Flutter, Linda Hargreaves, David Harrison, Wynne Harlen, Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, Ruth Kershner, John MacBeath, Berry Mayall, Stephanie Northen, Gillian Pugh, Colin Richards, David Utting)
The Alexander Report (The Cambridge Primary Review – view or buy on Amazon here) was launched in October 2006. Sometimes seen as yet another policy review determined to mediate national policy. In fact the Alexander Report contained much that was local, immediate and telling for the individual practitioner.
‘Up and down the country there are primary schools whose ethos and practice are explicitly steered by the Review’s educational aims, its attention to children’s voice, its advocacy of a community curriculum, its evidence that standards and curriculum breadth are interdependent rather than mutually exclusive, its stance on pedagogy, its insistence on the importance of well-structured classroom talk, and many of its other messages’.
We add it to our Mongraphia list with a sense that it has perhaps become less of an immediate currency in educational exchange, in the hope that by revisiting the report, our readers will glean the deeply reformative and practical nature of the work.
You can tap into a more current debate by viewing Robin Alexander’s The Best That Has Been Thought and Said? (FORUM, Volume 56, Number 1, 2014 www.wwwords.co.uk/FORUM).
Alexander opines ‘..the article returns to one of the Review’s (and this author’s) abiding themes: the public discourse of educational policy and policymakers’ handling of evidence. In both matters, the current government, like its predecessor, is found severely wanting, and the author argues that these discursive and evidential deficits not only continue to frustrate educational progress but are also in themselves profoundly anti-educational, not to say ill-educated’.
The debate continues…
Fair and Equal Education: An Evidence-based Policy Manifesto that Respects Children and Young People
Released in March 2015 this manifesto lays claim to a set of policy proposals that will transform English education and re-define the experience of education for children and to create a new landscape of rights and responsibilities for children and young people.
The manifesto is the outcome of an series of engagements by six working groups of the British Educational Research Association (BERA), in an attempt to define ‘a fair and equal education that has the interests of children and young people at its heart’. The Association have produced a very informative blog that records the tenor of the debates in the creation of this manifesto, The Respecting Children and Young People Archive.
Although no longer updated, following the manifesto launch, we commend it as an interesting and useful resource to frame the manifesto creative process.
Some Manifesto key points:
We need to raise all children and young people’s educational attainment to high levels, while promoting and developing their non-cognitive outcomes, including health and wellbeing.
We need to ensure children and young people have equal access to
a stimulating and enriching curriculum that balances academic knowledge
with opportunities to develop creative expression and practical skills.
We need high quality schooling that is equitably distributed (both
between and within institutions),and accessible to all.
We need to recognise that children and young people’s entitlement
to good quality education extends beyond school to include early
childhood, further education, higher education, work-based and vocational
learning, informal learning and out-of-school activities.
We need to encourage children and young people to form opinions about
and participate in the decisions that affect them.
We need institutions that are accountable to children, young
people and the communities in which they live.
We need to create a more equal, fairer and flourishing society where
all children and young people feel included and have a sense of
belonging in 21st century Britain.
Wherever you stand, as an individual, on the education reform debate, there can be no doubt, surely, that the meta-aims of the manifesto lean us towards a more compassionate, equal and fairer generational and societal outcome through the education of our children?
Read this BERA inspired manifesto and join the debate…