Sunday, 26 September 2010

windmills of your mind

Hmm . . . interesting.  The world seems to have moved on a few stages whilst I was looking the other way.  As a teacher, the initials AQA have always meant an exam board.  However, if you text 63336, you get another company called AQA. Any Questions Answered.

I thought I'd try it out - it costs £1:50 but they seem to want you to use the facility so I got another one free. Anyway, I thought I'd be a bit clever and rather than try "What's the Meaning of Life" type questions, I'd ask something a bit harder. So I tried "How Many Times Do You Have To Fall Before You End Up Falling?"  (the title of a Richard Thompson song as any fule no*).  Within minutes, I received a reply:

"Some children don't fall at all when they are learning to walk. Others fall dozens of time (sic). The average age children start walking is 16 months."

Okay, not the answer required but I don't know what I was expecting - possibly a long wait and an incomprehensible answer.  But they delivered!  My god!  I'm going to use this in the classroom.  If the buggers are going to keep using their phones, they might as well be using them to help them become useful adults!**  What a wonderful resource.

Just for your information, I'm reading Ian Gilbert's guide to 21st Century teaching called Why Do I Need A Teacher When I've Got Google? I won't  be a teacher for too much longer in this century but I do want to remain useful for a year or two more.

*Obviously, the song is about making mistakes - of the heart most likely, knowing RT.
** It's not what knowledge you have but how you use it.


Mike C. said...

Google -- like 99% of the commercial web -- trades on literacy and, as far as I know, Google hasn't yet started teaching people to read.


Dave Leeke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Leeke said...

Hmmm . . . more thought-provoking than you may have realised, Mike.

As a trained SECONDARY teacher, I've not been taught to teach children how to read.

As far as I'm concerned, children should enter Secondary education ABLE to read. Of course, I've fumbled my way through helping my own three children to read - but I take no credit for it - I just helped*.

As far as I'm concerned, as I said, they should enter High School capable of reading with some comprehension ability. As time goes by, this is becoming less and less the reality. I enjoy one-to-one teaching on the rare opportunities I get but for some modern teachers it is becoming an everyday occurrence. Various government initiatives are attempting to correct this situation but . . . But. Money. It's an economic thing, isn't it? However, Mike, you also have pressed a button that requires a response about the need for literacy. Of course, if they can't read (or understand WHAT they read) then Google becomes pointless. You're See more... right - they trade on literacy. No, they'll (Google) not be able to teach people to read (at least for the time being)but it's still the first stop for most students when asked to "research" something.

Still. let us literate ones keep an interested eye out for their 20 million ($/£?) race to the moon.

*opinions invited from offspring here.

NB - the missing comment is due to one tiny spelling error which I felt needed correcting.

Dave Leeke said...

"You're See more... right - they trade on literacy."

Sorry, I have no idea what I meant to say here because - ironically, the internet messed up my comments. I tend to work on quick responses and after dinner on a Sunday evening, the Australian Shiraz isn't going to let me work out what that brilliant poignant point I was making was all about!

I was trying to agree with you but the internet is still not as good as the spoken word. You have to delete everything and rewrite it to become erudite.

Not that I ever have been. Erudite, that is.

Mike C. said...

The last time round the government tried to abolish teachers, the NUT came up with an odd car sticker: "If you can read this, thank a teacher". It always provoked the thought, "Yes, but what if someone can't read it, or only with great difficulty?"

Universities have the same problem, not so much with basic literacy, but with students' inability to compose a simple structured essay, or to talk clearly about (or even form opinions on) a subject in tutorials. Worse, students are arriving to study subjects like physics and engineering without basic "advanced" maths skills they should have picked up in school. Some departments are running remedial classes!

Never mind, we'll all soon be retired (though I'm not keen on the thought of being treated in old age by doctors and nurses who get confused about decimal points and find reading difficult stuff too tiring...)

[Saw the "removed comment" and wondered whether you've yet had one of those cut'n'paste green-ink rants from a loony. I quite enjoyed the first one...]