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Old Hong Kong

Causeway Bay 1955The older I get the more interested I seem to become in the history of the place where I grew up: Hong Kong. Having read a few books on the subject (Hong Kong, History of Hong Kong, Diamond Hill and Gweilo), …

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An Evening With CogDog (aka Alan Levine)

CogdogLast night I was lucky enough to play host to the very knowledgeable and laid back Alan Levine (aka @cogdog on Twitter) as he presented to a group of 50 educators. With teachers from 12 schools from around Hong Kong, and a few intrepid students, …

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Paradox

SocratesParadoxes are a great way to get student thinking and talking about thinking. The initial state of confusion, followed by the illusive, enigmatic feeling of understanding is somehow enticing and enjoyable. I spent a little pastoral time discussing the following paradoxes with a group of …

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Backchanneling

Lecture HallBackchanneling is an idea that has been around for a while, and is something that I have encountered at various education conferences. Despite the technical-sounding name, a backchannel is simply a real-time conversation, happening online in parallel with some kind of face-to-face communication. For example, …

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Technology=Idiots?

There is plenty of speculation that technology is making us less intelligent. Certainly, in the classroom, I am seeing evidence that it is hindering the development of social skills, especially in boys. As per usual, it seems like Einstein knew exactly where we were headed: Einstein Note: image of unknown origin, not covered under this site's Creative Commons license.

Visual Compare & Contrast

Personally I really like asking students to observe two artifacts or phenomena, and ask them to compare and contrast what they have encountered. I have found that students usually come up with excellent observations, and that these can be used to prompt further discussion and to encourage deeper, more critical thinking. This is especially true when the observations are visual in nature, such as a videos, physical artifacts and real-life events. I recently did this with my Year 8 pastoral group, using 15 minutes to watch and discuss the following two videos: I find these two videos fascinating on their own, but together they let the students cogitate on and discuss some of the following ideas:
  • Times have changed - look at the advancement in materials, tools, techniques, and compare the resulting products: what a different 70 years can make. It seems white work overalls are here to stay though.
  • Media has changed - the way we tell stories has become more sophisticated and much more subtle. Less use of voice, and more use of imagery, implying a more sophisticated/educated audience capable of making their own deductions.
  • Technology obsessions - the two videos show how much technology amazes us, and how we marvel at pushing boundaries and creating new things. Both focus on technologically-empowered people ("wizards") at work, as these are people that are held in high esteem.
  • The cutting edge - what seems advanced and sophisticated at one point in time (e.g. the planes and music in the first video) soon becomes outdated and comical to some degree. The same will happen to the second video over time, even if that seems unlikely to contemporary viewers.
  • Non-metal - both videos celebrate the use of non-metal materials, which flies in the face of what we see every day in terms of how most cars, planes, trains and boats and constructed.
  • Purpose - media is made for different purposes: in the first case it is as propaganda to boost moral and promote unity, in the second it is to further brand image and as artistic/creative expression.
There are a myriad other ways to look at these two clips, but this article is limited to a narrow point of view: can any readers suggest alternative perspectives or ideas?

Connected Quiz

Friday mornings are a great time to try new things in form time: students are ready for a change, and it helps get a slow day off to a better start. This morning I was thinking about giving a quiz to get things going, but …

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Press Pause Play

Press Pause Play is a feature-length documentary that is part inspiring, part demoralising and all stunning. Using a patchwork narrative, it explores the constantly evolving landscape of digitally-empowered creativity. A lot of amazing new work is set against the views of industry veterans, who spend a lot of time bemoaning the demise of creativity as the domain of the cultural elite. A typical tale of freedom and choice pitched against the profitable machine. The juxtaposition of hope and inspiration played against maintaining the status quo, was extremely powerful. In my opinion, creating, as an active endeavor, is generally more fulfilling than consuming, and I see nothing wrong with a world full of individuals and groups creating in earnest. In the end, the best talent will still rise to the top, as there will always be plenty of consumers with an ear and eye for what is great. After all, being a producer does not prevent me from consuming: rather, I think it makes me a more thoughtful, engaged consumer. Thanks to David Dworsky and Victor Köhler for producing such an entertaining and thought-provoking piece which will hopefully lead to a lot of interesting conversations within education.

Why I Must Speak Out About Climate Change

I've been a committed believer of climate change for at least 10 years, but I have to admit that in the last few years I have started to have my doubts. The reading that fixed my mind in the first place (The Weather Makers, Boiling Point, etc) has diminished in my memory, the movement seemed beset by scientific scandal, and there seems to be a fog of FUD obscuring the issue. This video provided a timely reminder of the urgent need for action if we are to avoid destroying ourselves and huge parts of the world around us. It is important to focus on the message provided by the science, and in the strength of the scientific method, which is, after all, one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

Stop Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony, head of Uganda's LRA (Lord's Resistance Army), is responsible for the abduction, sexual enslavement, multilation and militarisation of thousands of African children. Although he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, he remains essentially invisible to the world's media, governments and armed forces. Kony2012 is a massive online and real-world campaign to push for the capture and prosecution of Joseph Kony this year. Watch this video, share it, and take action. My current thinking is to bring this to my students in the hope that they will be inspired to take action.

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