Blog Archives

The shallowness of judging by appearances

I make a point of not watching talent shows for all the obvious reasons. However, Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent has got so much attention it’s hard to ignore.

Why is she grabbing the headlines?  Why has there been 4,750,992 views of her youtube vid?

Answer – because she doesn’t look the part that such talent shows expect. When she walked on stage there was tittering and rolled eyes from the audience and the judges. Merely because she looked more of a middle-aged unsophisticated housewife than a wannabe west-end stage singer, people assumed she would not be able to pull the song off.  She had to prove her talents to be taken seriously.  Yet, every rational person knows that how you look has no logical relation to singing ability. When did society become so shallow?

Yet, the question must be asked. Do we do that in our classrooms?

Typically, by Christmas of the academic year, I can make a strong prediction as to the students final grades for the subject for the year. But, I remind myself that it is merely a prediction and I’m bound to get at least one or two students wrong.  There is always someone who performs above and below expectations that I have built up. Exam nerves and other on-the-day factors can cause a student to perform badly on an end-of-year exam (the value of exams is a whole other post). But what about the student who does better than expected.

Why do I get this student wrong. The apperance is mis-leading, that is why.  How this student has presented in my class is not necessarily representative of the skills and talents s/he possesses. For whatever reason, those skills lay hidden, dormant or undeveloped throughout the year and give lecturers a poor and false impression of such a student.

The learning point for us instructors is how to nurture this talent through the academic year and let it shine for all to see.  This is difficult. There are a huge variety of reasons why a student might maintain a low profile academically, including reasons that are so private to the student that they never emerge into the full light of day.

Students develop and grow into their abilities and talents at different points. Some take longer than others. Some require more help and gentle pushes than others. Ultimately we all have something to offer, regardless of what our projected appearance to the world might suggest.

Let’s not be so shallow.


Are you smarter than a 10-year old?

I’m a big fan of the Sky quizshow “Are you smarter than a 10 year old“. I’m more than impressed with the confidence and knowledge on show from the 10-year olds in the class. But what I really am enthralled by is the variety and depth of subject domains that 10-year-olds in the UK study on their national curriculum.  I’ve seen numerous versions of the show, and I have to say “I am not smarter than a 10-year-old”.

But now, alas, alas, it’s all changing.

The latest suggest the primary school curriculum in the UK should do away with the emphasis on historical, geographical and ….. other factual type subjects and replace them with more practical and everyday skills like twitter and wikipedia, typing, blogging etc.

I’m a big fan of such web 2.0 tools and applaud attempts to incorporate them into the education curriculum. But such incorporation at the exclusion of important subject knowledge areas like the Victorian period or the Second World War is worrying.

However, as I have mentioned in here previously – at least the Uk are actively trying to get more IT skills and subject matter into their schools. When will Ireland learn the importance of this matter?

Talking about what generation

I came across an interesting item in Weblogg-ed about The Dumbest Generation – a review of Mark Bauerline’s take on how students are not benefiting from the digital world in any way that will make them more discerning, literate, analytical, knowledgeable, etc.

Here’s a copy of my comment –

I’ve been teaching IT in business for almost a dozen years and I believe that the students I see in front of me are getting more and more tech-literate every year. Yes, there are still those who need someone else to set up their Bebo page but they want that Bebo page. What is more interesting is what they do with these tech tools. Increasingly they are reaching outside of their classroom and immediate environment into the wider world, forming attachments with people and (in many cases worthwhile) causes that would be outside their reach if it wasn’t for their tech tools. In my view, to say that students of today aren’t enriched by web2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) is doing them a disservice. It is up to us the teachers and lecturers to reach out to the students “extra-curricular” digital activities and apply / tweak them to the classroom and learning outcomes for our courses. The kids aren’t dumb. If the course content that we want / need to teach them doesn’t grab their attention through traditional means, we need to tune into a toolset that they can relate to. Hello digital media, here we come.