ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Newsletter Welcome ACTS Conference 2010 Michael Russell’s replies Charitable Status AGM10 Supporter Membership Stirling Lunch Teachers as Researchers Take 4 Chartered Teachers… Book review Maths, Creativity and Twitter Edutalkr takes to the air Upcoming events New Discussion Forum on Glow Group Join ACTS Contact ACTS
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Welcome to the April 2010 edition of the ACTS Newsletter. “Mr Watson…come here…I want to see you.” What must Mr Watson have felt like, in 1875, hearing his employer’s voice transmitted by electricity for the very first time? He could not possibly have been aware of the impact the invention and development of the telephone would have on the world, and yet surely he felt a tingle of pioneering excitement?
I felt something of this pioneer’s tingle when contributing, last week, along with others on a panel, to the first broadcast through the Edutalkr project. This project, the brainchild of David Noble, uses ipadio, an application which allows you to broadcast from any phone to the Internet live. More in this newsletter.
I have grown accustomed to the tingle I get from Twitter. I read Tweets nearly every day to extend my professional knowledge, and it still excites me. In this newsletter, you can read a creative response to the kind of links that Twitter makes possible.
Communication is such an important aspect of our work as educators; it was no surprise that many of those who attended the ACTS Winter Conference commented on how much they appreciated the opportunity for professional dialogue. The video conference links were also appreciated by those who could not attend in any other way. Read about the conference, Michael Russell’s responses to written questions and a report of the AGM.
Most people will receive this newsletter by email. You are welcome to print it out to give to colleagues who may be interested. Reading about four teachers’ experiences of the Chartered Teacher programme may encourage and inspire some of them.
Once again, if you have items that you feel would interest other members, please feel free to contribute, however briefly. A book review or a short description of your reflections on parts of your practice – all would be gratefully received.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
ACTS Conference 2010
The Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland conference took place in the tranquil surroundings of Stirling Management Centre on Saturday 6th February 2010. Entitled “Chartered Teachers engaging with new practice, research and policy”, the conference attracted a mix of accredited Chartered Teachers and those who are at various stages of the programme. After a very lively and tuneful introduction from the young players of the Session Extra group from Stirling, Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, opened the conference. Participants were then treated to thought-provoking talks from Frank Crawford (HMIe), on Learning Together, the Future of Learning Networks; Walter Humes (University of West of Scotland) on Releasing the Creative Potential of Teachers; and Jenny Reeves (University of Stirling) on Research and the Chartered Teacher. Each talk was followed by a range of workshops following the themes of the conference. Some participants were able to join the conference remotely by video conference link through Glow and Flashmeeting, and some parts of the conference were broadcast live through the TV link on the ACTS website and have been reviewed since the event.
The excellent lunch provided both refreshment and the opportunity to exchange opinions and experiences.
Participants responded with enthusiasm to the quality of this event. “a great, stimulating day…has given me a fresh lift.” “…a really productive and positive ethos to the day” “…a high quality Conference”
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 You are now able to view the keynote speeches, and the content of many of the workshops through the ACTS website http://acts.edublogs.org
ACTS is very grateful for the financial contributions of The Scottish Government, the University of West of Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland and Learning and Teaching Scotland in support of this event.
Michael Russell MSP Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning. Unfortunately the Cabinet Secretary was ill and could not attend the Conference. We were pleased to welcome Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Life Long Learning, who spoke in his place. However, Mr Russell has kindly provided answers to these questions submitted by members. Question 1. In the current financial climate, how does the SNP Government intend to fund the implementation of CfE? Question 8. Could the minister tell us what the plans are for supporting funding for the education sector in terms of new build schools and rolling out the Curriculum for Excellence and the high Quality CPD required for teachers to ensure that Scotland's Educational provision is not just fit for purpose but once again becomes-second to none?
In relation to general funding of local authorities for education the Scottish Government is currently providing local government in Scotland with a total package of funding amounting to £35.0 billion for the period 2008-11. This represents a £4 billion (or 12.9%) increase over the period 2005-2008. Furthermore, local authorities plan to spend more on education in 2009-10 than they did in 2008-09. They report estimated net revenue education budgets for 2009-10 that are, at the Scotland level, 4.1% higher than those they set for 2008-09. In relation to Curriculum for Excellence we have put in place or are putting in place the following resources and initiatives: • An additional implementation year. • Announced in January 2010 a further in-service day in support of the three additional in-service days previously announced to supplement teachers' annual 35 hours CPO time and 5 in-service days.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 • Invested £4m in 100 extra teachers to provide support for implementation to every school in every local authority area. • An on-line National Assessment Resource will be available from autumn 2010 to support teachers in their professional judgements. • Events to support teachers - around 1,000 early years and primary school teachers attended 5 Scottish Government regional events in October. Frequent national, regional and local CfE events organised by our partner organisations, such as HMIE. • The Scottish Government are hosting 5 events across Scotland in March 2010 to support staff in implementing the skills agenda outlined in Building the Curriculum 4: Skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work. • Invested £3m in 2005-06; £7.3m in 2006-07; £8.1m in 2007-08, £3.8m in 2008-09 and £15.3m in 2009-10 to prepare for curriculum for excellence. • Invested £47.5 million in Glow (2005-12), the only example in the world of a national education platform connecting every school in the country. • Funded the implementation partnership led by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland to co-ordinate local implementation by local authorities. • Funded Scotland's colleges to consider local implementation and professional development on behalf of the college sector. With regard to the school estate the Scottish Government have in the past 3 months announced support for £700m worth of school building projects, which 35 new or refurbished schools benefitting over 18,000 pupils. This is in addition to the 260 new or refurbished school projects which have been completed since May 2007 benefitting over 110,000 pupils in schools which are able deliver the modern curriculum. In addition, we have already substantially increased capital resources available to authorities under the terms of the concordat signed with CoSLA. In total, local authority capital funding will amount to £2.0 billion over the two year period 2008-10, a significant increase over the previous years. The annual increases mean that the 2008-09 figures are £82 million (or 9.5%) higher than in 2007-08 and the 2009-10 figures are £99 million (10.5%) higher than in 2008-09. It is for authorities to decide on and justify decisions as to how they prioritise investment. Question 2. This session, the Scottish Government has funded a hundred extra teachers across Scotland to assist with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. Will this funding be repeated again next session? This was one-off funding for the school year 2009/10 only. However, as indicated in the response to question 1 the Scottish Government have or are investing in a range of initiatives to assist with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Question 3. Glow and the Curriculum for Excellence are closely linked. What intentions does the Scottish Government have to enable access to good internet connections for all learners across Scotland so that they can have equal access to all the benefits of these initiatives? The Scottish Government recognises the importance ICT plays in supporting the curriculum and enabling the young people in Scotland to develop new skills and competencies that are necessary for employment, education, self development and participation in society. In terms of investment in educational lCT, Scotland is adopting a more strategic approach, one based on sustainability, innovation and collaboration. We have invested heavily in Glow (the world's first national education platform) and this can be accessed from any location; schools, libraries, hospitals or home - anywhere with a normal internet connection. This flexibility allows learners access to Glow at any time. The Scottish Government provides local authorities with high speed broadband access to Glow via the Interconnect network which forms the connection between the Glow servers and the local internet provision. Beyond this point, access remains the responsibility of the local authorities and is governed by their individual levels of IT service. Pathfinder Pathfinder is a broadband connectivity project for parts of the public sector in the Highlands & Islands and the South of Scotland. The two Pathfinder projects have used an aggregated approach to provide high-capacity/-bandwidth broadband access to schools, libraries, prisons, museums, and Local Authorities' Council Offices and other public sector sites throughout rural areas in the PF regions. The Scottish Government has allocated a combined total of £90m between the two Pathfinder projects; £63m to Pathfinder North (PN) in the Highlands & Islands, and £27m to Pathfinder South (PS) in the South of Scotland. The roll-out of PN in Argyll & Bute, Highlands & Islands, Moray, Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands Councils began in March 2007 and was completed in December 2009. It now connects 805 sites. The roll-out of PS in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway Councils began in November 2006 and was completed in December 2008. It now connects 384 sites.
Question 4. Two years ago. at the Chartered Teacher conference in Edinburgh. I asked the then Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelonq Leaming. Fiona Hvslop MSP how HMIE would view Chartered Teachers and. unfortunately. I wasn't provided with a clear answer. As I recall, Ms Hyslop explained that this was something that was not clear at that
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 point and would be addressed in the future. So. almost two years on. I am still left wondering what happens to Chartered Teachers when HMI come to call. Are Chartered Teachers themselves inspected or is it how the school utilises the skills of CTs that is the focus?
HMIE do not single out any group of teachers for specific attention during an inspection. However, in our consideration of leadership, they would look at the extent to which it is distributed and focused on learning across the school, and how the school capitalises on the expertise of staff. This is in line with the expectations set out in The Revised Standard for Chartered Teacher, which states that "Chartered Teachers are expected to be at the forefront of critically engaging with practice and to take a leading role in its development and implementation of change in current and future educational initiatives". HMIE's findings of the role of Chartered Teachers are set out in our publication Learning together: Improving teaching, improving learning (pages 27-30) which was published in 2009. Question 7. My school is having the benefit of a visit from HMle in a couple of weeks time. What will the Inspectors be expecting to see as evidence of the added value I give to the school as a Chartered Teacher? Operational matters in relation to how HMIE undertakes inspections is, of course, a matter for them. However, the Scottish Government would expect that HMIE would be looking at whether the full contribution of all members of staff is directed towards achieving the best outcomes for children. That will, of course, include Chartered Teachers, who have excellent skills and relevant experience to offer.
Question 5. 'What mechanisms will the government put in place to ensure Chartered Teachers are supported in continuing to develop their area of expertise within the working day.' Chartered Teachers have the same rights and responsibilities as other teachers to make the best use of the 35 hours per year contractual time for CPO to continue to develop their skills and experience. That should take account of personal development, needs arising from the school improvement plan and national priorities. We expect Chartered Teachers to work with their line managers and senior management to identify, through professional review and development, how best they can continue to develop their skills and how that can be made best use of within the school. Those discussions need to take place in the context of the revised Standard for Chartered Teacher, and the associated Code of Practice. As these new documents bed in the Scottish Government will be interested in feedback from the range of stakeholders on how useful they are.
Question 9. Would the Minster agree that a simple means of positively raising the profile of Chartered Teachers in Scottish schools, increasing awareness amongst parents of the important Chartered Teacher role and promoting Chartered Teachers in the delivery of CfE
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 would be for staff lists in school, as a matter of course, to indicate CT status in much the same way as currently PTs, DTs and NQTs are identified? The Scottish Government is committed to promoting the Chartered Teacher programme and heightening awareness of them. This certainly sounds a simple and effective way to achieve this. Question 6(a). In view of the continuing rise in the number of pupils in Scotland for whom English is not a first language, will there be any extra money available to local authorities to train English as an additional language teachers and to hire more EAL teachers? There are no plans to provide specific funding for EAL training. Under the Concordat, the Scottish Government is investing record levels of funding in local government to enable education authorities to respond appropriately to their own local needs and priorities. This includes providing for pupils for whom English is an additional language. It is for local authorities to recruit, train and deploy their EAL teachers. We would encourage local authorities to use their specialist EAL teachers to develop the capacity of all of their schools and front line staff in meeting the demands of pupils for whom English is an additional language. Question 6(b). As Polish is now one of the most widely spoken languages after English, are there any plans to develop a Higher Polish exam similar to the one that has been developed in Urdu? SQA has no plans to develop a Higher in Polish. They currently offer units (as opposed to full courses) at Access 3, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Higher in Polish for Work Purposes. Advanced Higher units in Polish for Work Purposes may also be developed in future.
ACTS thanks the Cabinet Secretary for providing these responses
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
ACTS and Charitable Status After a good deal of hard work and implementing advice from OSCR, ACTS is now a registered Scottish charity.. As well as the benefits this affords us in terms of our ability to reclaim VAT, it also allows members who are tax payers to use the Gift Aid option so that the association can benefit more from the subscriptions of its members, as it means we can add 28p for every £1. Forms will be sent to all members shortly.
ACTS has 5 trustees. These are Annie McSeveney, Christine MacGregor, Dorothy Coe, Juliette Daly and Mickie Milne. The trustees undertake to fulfil 4 general and 5 specific duties. These are: General Charity trustees must act in the interests of the charity. Charity trustees must operate in a manner consistent with the charity’s purpose. Charity trustees must act with care and diligence. Charity trustees must comply with the Act and other legislation. Specific Charity trustees must give OSCR the information it needs for the Scottish Charity Register. Charity trustees must report to OSCR by filling in an annual return and sending OSCR the charity’s accounts each year. Charity trustees must make sure that the charity keeps a record of the money it gets in and the money it spends and arrange for preparation and examination of accounts Charity trustees must make sure that anyone who raises funds for the charity has an agreement that says how much they will get paid to do it. Charity trustees must make sure that the charity’s details are on all the charity’s paperwork, like letters and invoices.
Images from OSCR website www.oscr.org.uk/ 9
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
ACTS AGM10 The 2010 AGM, our 2nd, took place after the conference in Stirling on 6th February 2010.
Annie summarised ACTSâ€™ activities over the year. The accounts were presented, and a new committee was elected, comprising Office bearers Chair Annie McSeveney Vice Chair David Noble Treasurer Christine MacGregor Secretary Dorothy Coe Committee Sarinder Bhopal, Helen Celnik, Juliette Daly, Karen Farrell, Lucy Hare, Fearghal Kelly, Duncan Mackay, Paddy Miller, Mickie Milne, Sheila Waddell, Julie Wilson Rob Mckay and Kathleen Thom were co-opted to a subcommittee based in Aberdeen. Former committee members Rosemary Newlands, Heather E Cameron and Jeanette Forbes were thanked for their hard work for ACTS.
Some minor amendments to the constitution were approved, to bring it into line with the requirements of the Office of the Scottish Charities Register. Members agreed to change to an annual date for subscription renewal, with a reduced fee for those joining part way through the year.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 A new category of membership, “Supporter”, was proposed and this was adopted after discussion at a specially convened meeting on 27th March 2010.
Supporter membership Chartered teachers who are no longer registered with the GTCS - perhaps they have retired, or are taking time out of teaching for one reason or another - are still welcome to remain in ACTS, so long as they are still following the principles in the Code of Conduct. They can attend meetings, and receive the newsletter, but they won’t be able to vote or to serve on the committee. The annual subscription will be £15.
Chartered Teachers always were a sociable bunch and in fact ACTS arose partly out of the desire of the initial groups of Chartered Teachers to extend and develop professionally the social links already set up through some very enjoyable lunches. ACTS was delighted to organise a lunch on 27th March at the River House in Stirling. This was attended by about 15 Chartered Teachers who enjoyed a relaxed event in pleasant surroundings. ACTS intend to organise regular opportunities for Chartered Teachers to meet informally in this way.
Teachers as Researchers Look out for information which will be sent to you about this event in Aberdeen on 18th September 2010 The aims of the event are: •
to provide an opportunity for teachers researchers to discuss their research with peers;
to develop support networks amongst teacher researchers.
It is expected that this event will follow the format of some others with a research focus. Small groups of teachers at different stages in their research from “just thinking about it” to “nearly there” will get together to ask questions and share experiences of all the aspects of action research. Information will be sent to all members shortly. 11
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Take 4 Chartered Teachers…. by Jeanette Forbes, Chartered Teacher, working at Crieff High School. Everyone on the route to Chartered Teacher status will be making their unique journey to professionalism. The following responses to Jeanette’s questions reveal different ways in which individuals tackle the challenges of the CT path.
Roberta McFarland Unfortunately, no picture of Roberta was available.
is a PE Teacher with Perth & Kinross Council and has 27 years service behind him - more than a life sentence! He has been following the CT Programme on a fully tutored/modular route through the University of Edinburgh. The Programme leads to CT Status and a Masters Degree
is a Support for Learning teacher, en route to CT status via the modular programme. She came into teaching when she was forty two years old – a late developer – after having had a career in business and travel. Her first teaching posts were in FE colleges but she gravitated towards secondary
qualified from St. Andrews University with a Master of Arts (Honours) in Geography and International Relations in 1993. She immediately did her Teacher training post graduate in Secondary Geography and spent her first year as a teacher in the supply army. Her first teaching post was a Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) teacher in Peterhead Academy and, having been promoted to Assistant Principal teacher there, she temporarily changed careers to the business world before
is an English and Media Studies teacher who has just completed the CT Programme, the results of which will be communicated in March. Sharon has been a teacher for ten years. Her first post was at Crieff High where she is still based. She came to teaching late having worked as Accounts Executive at HarperCollins 12
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 (M.Teach). He has completed five modules to date.
schools after a few years. She moved to Scotland five years ago and feels she has had a steep learning curve adapting to the Scottish education system.
coming back to teaching, where she has been a Support for Learning teacher at Crieff High for 5 years.
Why did you choose this particular route? I chose the I am doing the CT via Initially I chose to do the Masters tutored route as – the modular route, modular route. A personal given my length distance learning challenge to gain another of service, with UWS. I am degree and get a chance to combined with doing it this way study academic writing which I student and because I feel that I had not really done since leaving probationer want to learn new University. The programme run teacher contacts things, not go over by Aberdeen University was over the years – I past glories. Also I excellent and very well want to re-design can choose which supported and I really enjoyed it. my teaching to be modules I study from Having discussed the different more in-keeping a varied menu to suit routes with other teachers at the with current my particular interest Summer school, I decided that pedagogy. and CPD needs. maybe I did have the ability and enough evidence to go for the full claim. The current financial climate has meant hard decisions and the Masters route just became too expensive in comparison. It was a tough decision to take on the challenge of ‘going it alone’ and attempting the full claim, but supportive colleagues at my place of work and the support group we were able to establish with SMT backing persuaded me that I should try. I aim to submit this year, so the decision is not yet proven to be a good one, and it remains to be seen whether I will gain CT status.
I decided to travel the Accredited Charter Teacher route, mainly because a colleague persuaded me it was time for me to progress. I did not want to go the modular way as it would take too long.
What proved to be the most difficult aspect of the journey to Chartered Teacher status? I couldn’t say I’ve Setting up a regular The most difficult aspect as with The most difficult had a negative pattern for study – it all teaching today is time. I think aspect is the waiting. reaction to any is easy to I have found this especially You are always aspect to date? procrastinate; difficult trying to juggle a full time waiting, to find out if 13
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 Most problematic is the logistic of getting to tutorials and seminars in Edinburgh on a week day for 5.00pm!
learning how to search for resources – when I did my first Masters there was no internet.
job and small children with study time. You have to be very disciplined with your daily time management every day for a considerable time in order to complete the work required to the standard required. You need to remember that you are working to a postgraduate study level and the presentation, analysis, language and organisation needs to be at this level. Again a challenge, but one faced by students gearing up from Standard Grade to Higher and so on.
What have you most enjoyed about the journey? I have thoroughly This sounds a bit Definitely the academic enjoyed and been cheesy but I have research. I loved the motivated by the enjoyed learning new International relations aspect of wide range of things via the my degree and tend to find teaching modules. It has made politics endlessly interesting, professionals and me a more rounded therefore the study into the students with teacher and I now political manipulations and whom I have have greater purpose of a national education mixed in each of understanding of system was fascinating. Making the modules. This some of the myself find the time to research has been a difficulties the pupils I my subject and become more particularly work with have to informed generally in aspects of enjoyable and overcome. my work has been interesting. enriching Finding the confidence to deliver experience. CPD to peers and accept criticism from colleagues and students was also constructive in improving working practice for my students. I have also enjoyed this as I can see the benefits and always aim to make things better. What do you consider to be your greatest quality as a teacher? My greatest Empathy – I don’t My ability to get on with others of quality – at least mean being “pally” all ages and find solutions to in my opinion (!) – with pupils but trying help students learn. Also my is tenacity, to see things through strong sense of fairness. determination to their eyes, being produce and aware that their world promote high is very different from standards. mine, their lives
you can go ahead, waiting for colleagues to write testimonials for you, waiting on Authenticity Statements, waiting to hear from your tutor, waiting to hear if you have passed, waiting to have a nervous breakdown….
I have enjoyed reflecting critically on my teaching styles and methods. I have enjoyed hearing and reading what others think about me.
Communication skills and really liking children!
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 revolve around electronic gadgets while I have trouble setting the clock on my oven! Education is a two way process. What advice would you give those teachers considering embarking on the CT route? Do it! (1) Be prepared to Make sure you are prepared for I would advise all work very hard for the amount of study required teachers to embark on a long period of and the level of academic writing this route if they feel time. The twelve required. Make sure you have they have become modules can take up to date readings – More than complacent. It is six years to 10 years old and it is probably important to know you complete if you out of date! Organisation and are good at what you do two per year. self discipline is key – leave the do! (2) Be open to new hoovering for someone else. learning methods And enjoy it! and experiences. In what way do you see the CT Programme having a positive influence on learning and teaching in Scottish schools? If approached Lending support to Chartered Teachers become up with a mentality of colleagues in the to date with current policies and life-long learning following ways: practice locally, nationally and and professional (1) being up to date internationally. CT’s are definitely development, I with current practice in more reflective and evaluative of would strongly CFE, AiFL etc as this their work and Learning and advocate the can be a valuable Teaching. CT’s are more contribution that source of information; confident to contribute to many CT programmes (2) supporting and aspects of school life and may be make to the advising teachers with more interested to contribute to promotion and small scale research wider educational issues. CT’s support of projects within their are well read and can empathise learning and departments or cowith and support students teaching in ordinate across the experiencing study difficulties. Scotland school; CT’s are enthusiastic about trying (3) being able to use new things and can encourage newly acquired others to move forward. I think knowledge in specific someone who would take on the areas to deliver CPD to journey to CT status is a small groups personality who is driven by (4) being able to personal challenge and is the develop learning type who would be aiming to community within constantly update and improve school and across the their learning and teaching council area so that practice anyway. These are experiences are shared teachers who are dedicated to etc their jobs and to the students they support. 15
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Andrew Wright, Critical religious education, multiculturalism and the pursuit of truth, A Book Review by Antony Luby
This Review first appeared in Education Today 59(1) 2009, p26.
Andrew Wright, Critical religious education, multiculturalism and the pursuit of truth, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 290 pages, hardback, £75 (ISBN 978-0-7083-2057-0)
A compelling argument is presented by Wright who poses the reasonable question ‘What is the role of truth with regard to religious education?’ Some influential religious educators see truth as having no part to play in religious education but this position is untenable. Is truth avoided in mathematics? In history? In science? Is RE to be concerned with half-truths? Clearly not. If a religious community makes a claim such as ‘Jesus was resurrected’ then pupils have every right to ask ‘Is this true? What is the evidence for such a claim?’ To deny them the right to ask such questions and to examine evidence concerning such a claim is anti-educational.
Wright sets a four-part agenda for an educational approach to the study of religion that incorporates truth at its heart. In the first part he argues that religion is concerned to discover the truth about the ‘ultimate order of things’ so that one may live a truthful life. This search for truth and truthfulness he maintains is best pursued within a politically liberal society that “enables adherents of various religious and secular traditions to pursue contested visions of the good life in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support” (p51). Unfortunately, so Wright contends, our primarily ‘comprehensive liberal’ UK society promotes freedom and tolerance to become whatever one wishes at the expense of criticality. It is reminiscent of the scene in the Matrix film in which Neo is given the choice of taking either the ‘blue pill’ or the ‘red pill.’ If he selects the blue pill (comprehensive liberalism) then he is free to believe whatever he wants; but if he chooses the red pill then he will begin a journey to discover the truth (political liberalism). Modern-day RE gives no such choice to pupils today – only the blue pill is on offer.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 In the second part Wright identifies and analyses three main streams to religious education – classical, liberal and critical. From classical religious education we learn that RE must be holistic, formative and engaged with the truth of the ultimate order-of-things. However, the liberal religious education of modern-day RE has ‘effectively turned its back on classical religious education’ by suppressing questions of truth in case they conflict with freedom and tolerance. Simply put, it is better to have a tolerant society in which people are free to pursue their own ideas of the truth than to have a society in which people are free to seek and understand the truth. Wright acknowledges that such an approach may raise fears of social intolerance but he argues that critical religious education is a means by which to allay such fears about the well-being of society: ‘Has the pursuit of truth in religious education anything positive to contribute to the liberal desire to promote social harmony? The answer is not immediately obvious. Possibly a simple description of the beliefs of religious communities is all that is required to achieve this end. Indeed, the rigorous exploration and evaluation of such beliefs may only serve to highlight fundamental differences between different traditions and hence run the risk of generating social tensions. My suggestion is that, on the contrary, a religious education committed to the meticulous pursuit of truth is far more likely to promote a harmonious society than one merely concerned to describe diverse truth claims’ (p111).
Wright believes that such an evaluative approach is necessary as it is by pupils learning to discriminate between situations in which tolerance is appropriate and those in which it is not that social harmony is best promoted.
The third part of this book is the most challenging to read and yet, at times, the most enjoyable as Wright gives a masterly overview of a heuristic conceptual framework for critical religious education. He examines four dimensions of religious truth – ontological, semantic, hermeneutic and epistemological. In so doing, an ‘unapologetic’ Wright, who is clearly in his element, delves deeply into the world of religious education. By contrast though, the fourth part on the pedagogy of learning, which is the most accessible to read, is also the most disappointing. His discussion of the Variation Theory of Learning (VTL) is interesting but this section fails to excite the classroom practitioner. Although his argument may be correct that VTL can encompass a wide variety of approaches to learning and teaching, if he is to win 17
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 ‘hearts and minds in the classroom’ then Wright needs to put more ‘flesh on the bones’ by illustrating more fully with examples drawn from classroom practice.
This potentially ground-breaking book is marred by the excessive number of typographical errors (a rushed job for the 2008 research assessment exercise perhaps?) Hopefully, a paperback edition will be produced at a price to bring it within the budget of RE departments – for it is thought provoking, refreshing, intellectually challenging and a ‘must read’ for all practitioners of religious education.
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Maths is Beautiful by Dorothy Coe
Maths is Beautiful
A bar somewhere in Scotland at the end of the second sunny day of the year. A group of teachers round the table.
Stephanie pushed the Guardian newspaper across the table. “Have you seen this today?” she asked, excitement in her voice. Dot scanned the article and then sighed.
“The ten greatest mathematicians? There's something wrong with me. I just can't get excited about the achievements of these apparently great minds. Look at this one – guy called Tao gets a prize for finding out that you can find sequences of primes of any length in which every number in the sequence is a fixed distance apart. Um. Good.”
“If we forget that maths underpins science, nature and the whole world we live in, we'll be in trouble. It's all exciting!” suggested Stephanie, while Nick spluttered and banged his glass down on the table, almost spilling the contents.
“Are you kidding? Euler and Gauss must be two of the greatest ever minds in history!” he said loudly.
Dot looked incredulous. “So tell me something they found out that will excite me,” she challenged. 19
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
Nick picked up the paper, gesticulating wildly as he talked “Gauss gave us the basis for models of how the universe works from the petals on a flower to variations in star cluster to finance. Euler, complex numbers, without which no electronics nor even a.c. power. His maths give you the light you read by. He discovered the square root of negative numbers, Gauss, curved space-time - both new dimensions - literally - of thought.”
He looked around the table. “A fine argument, well made,” said Stephanie with an admiring smile. Robert sitting sleepily in the corner raised his glass in approval.
Dot raised her own glass and one eyebrow “Good with the light thing - that's persuasive. Square root of negative numbers though. Why would that affect me?”
Stephanie nodded “You make a fair point - it's our biggest barrier to teaching and learning sometimes…’but Miss, Whyyyyy?’ Have a look at this video as a start” She scribbled down a web address.
Nick searched for an apt analogy “It's like when your language isn't enough to express an idea, so you resort to painting and music to make your point.”
Robert stirred once more. He swirled his whisky gently round the glass, and spoke with reverence. “It's more than just important. It's… beautiful.”
Dot nodded vigorously “I liked that and I can understand that analogy, Nick. I wish,” she added wistfully, “I wish I could see numbers as beautiful.”
Kenny leaned over from the next table “I'm with Dot on the maths. I once watched a programme though about a guy who could remember pi by visualising it as a landscape…”
Nick looked sympathetic “Dot, you don't need to have all the maths to get it: just listen to people who have the math and the passion like Richard Feynman.”
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 The musician who’d been playing soothing airs in the corner put down his fiddle and joined them. “JS Bach did,” he said simply.
Dot looked doubtful. “JS Bach created some music that stirs the soul. Numbers themselves don't do that.”
“It's not the numbers, so much.” Nick waved his arms again. “It's the beauty of the universe. When you get it, even the striking of a match is an amazing thing...”
The violin player continued “Bach’s music was maths and maths is music. Literally.”
Dot was not convinced. “Some of it is, Gordon yes. But not the best stuff.”
Gordon pointed to the strings on his violin “Music is sound waves and frequencies. Chords are combinations of these and so on.”
Nick nodded vigorously “The relationships are the textures and the rhythm of the music. The numbers are the score on the page.”
Dot frowned “But I don't need to know that in order to create beautiful sounds, or an emotional response. Maybe maths describes phenomena in a way that appeals to one kind of mind?” she suggested
Nick nodded again “I think it adds depth of understanding. Feynman again, asserting that the scientist can appreciate a flower no less than an artist.
Dot couldn’t help pointing out glumly “The "maths" we do in school isn't like this though.”
Nick grimaced. “It is when I do it,” he asserted. “A suggestion for your kids is to get them solving puzzles: shapes, patterns, connecting ideas, words, sequences. For fun. That’s maths”
ACTS Newsletter April 2010 Dot smiled. “I understand that maths learning is not linear, so would you say that playing with numbers is as important as playing with language?”
Nick responded, “Both are symbols of something else. Connections and connectedness. That's not just maths, that's knowledge.”
With this profound thought, we leave them and ponder how to reconcile this inspiring and lively concept of maths with the pressures of everyday teaching, and the HMIE requirement for evidence of pace and challenge through test results.
Of course this conversation could not really have taken place in one cosy bar, as Stephanie is in Thurso, Nick is in Edinburgh, Gordon the violin player and Kenny are in Glasgow, Robert (who had his mandolin beside him but was too tired to play it) is in North Berwick and Dot is in the Scottish Borders. North, South, East and West mean nothing to Twitter however, and 140 characters mean everything.
Thanks to @sdisbury (Stephanie), @cullaloe (Nick), @gbrown057 (Gordon), @Kenny73 (Kenny), @jonesieboy (Robert)
Patterns in Nature http://www.teachers.tv/videos/3499 Maths is not linear http://prezi.com/aww2hjfyil0u/math-is-not-linear/ The 10 best mathematicians http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/apr/11/the-10-bestmathematicians
This post produced the following responses on Twitter @mvass the wonder of twitter…going to re-think how I teach maths, too! @ddblane Lovely use of Twitter and the creative imagination @cullaloe a brilliant example of how powerful is a Twitter PLN. @krysiaS the power of an online community indeed. (not the best at maths but find symmetry amazing) @parslad My favourite blog post of the year:
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
New Discussion Forum on the Chartered Teacher Glow Group
Thereâ€™s a new Discussion Forum on the Chartered Teacher Glow Group. Itâ€™s much more user-friendly than the previous version. Give it a try! If you have a Glow username, but are not yet a member of the Chartered Teacher Glow Group, simply find the link on the National Site list and request membership.
Edutalkr debates hit the airwaves
The first Edutalkr debate took place on 22nd April. It was a live broadcast, using ipadio, featuring a panel of educationists including Andrew Brown, Ewan McIntosh, Jaye Richards, Katie Barrowman, Allan Hamilton and Dorothy Coe, who all took part using phone technology. It was chaired by David Noble. The areas for discussion were formulated by consensus on a wiki, and for the broadcast everyone used a phone, or Skype to engage in the discussion 23
ACTS Newsletter April 2010
The topic was Glow, and questions considered included “Is Glow fit for purpose?” and “What needs to happen for Glow to become indispensable to teachers?” The lively and professional discussion makes interesting listening. You can listen again to the broadcast here: http://ipad.io/IpX
The second show takes place on Thursday, 10th June 2010 from 8.15 - 9.00pm. The focus of the discussion will be 'out of school learning'. Find out more and make your own suggestions at http://edutalkr.pbworks.com/FrontPage
Upcoming Events of interest
2010 Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC) Conference Developing and Delivering Curriculum for Excellence Through Partnership When? 26th April 2010 Where? University of Strathclyde
Conference SCSSA SELMAS Conference 2010 Leading Scottish Education When? 21 May 2010 Where? Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
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ACTS Newsletter April 2010
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