Teenage violence and male role models (Proof!)

Most Year 10 students could spot the flaw in the Herald-Sun’s “logic” this morning:

Just 28 per cent of state schoolteachers are men, down from 32 per cent 10 years ago.

Youth crime has soared in that time

The full article, arguing that the the decline in male teachers in schools has contributed to rising youth violence, is HERE.

Rupert Murdoch vs my Iphone App

I’ve been following the recent bluff and bluster from Rupert Murdoch with interest: ‘Google are ripping off my content’, ‘You can’t do this to me!’, ‘I’m taking my newspaper off the internet’, ‘Pay for view for news is the future’, stuff like that (I’m paraphrasing but you can do a Google News Search and get the exact quotes yourself; what am I, a journalist?) Here’s a snapshot:

Some see it as a bluff, or an attempt to cut a deal with Bing or some other search engine, others see it as the last gasps of a media mogul who just doesn’t get it and/or the desperate last throes of old media.  I heard that a year ago Rupert Murdoch had never done a Google search himself. That figures.

I love newspapers but some of them aren’t doing a great job of convincing me that I care. I loved reading the NY Times when I was there recently and bought it every morning and I’ve got a lot of time for the AGE but then I go there this week and find vitriolic opinion columns from sensationalists like Catherine Deveny or across town the same stuff from Andrew Bolt in the Herald-Sun.  It’s fun for language analysis practice for Year 12s, but you dont’ go there for insight, or even particularly good writing. Can a newspaper that has to be one thing to all people really work any more?

Truth is, when I wake up each morning I check my email and my Google Reader feeds before I check the newspaper online.  I follow 101 blog feeds daily, from people who are expert in their fields, who I respect, many of whom also write better than Bolt, Deveny and the rest. Try Scott McLeod, Derek Wenmoth, Don Tapscott or David Warlick on education, for a start. I could go on!

And I’m hopeful that a new era of open-ness has begun and that the genie is already out of the bottle in a democratisation of the media. We want access to the information that matters to us in exactly the format that works for us and I hope that Murdoch’s view of the world is fading.

I’m teaching the classic text Frankenstein to my literature class next year and have been trawling around for resources. One that struck me was a study guide on the text available as a web site you could visit, a PDF you could download or an Iphone App you could buy for $1.19. You can find it on Itunes.  It’s not anything particularly intuitive except that it understands the ubiquity around content now, and that we want choice in how we receive it.  The ABC seems to understand, they’ve been working hard at delivering their content in increasingly diverse ways, including on hand held devices.

I met with my publisher recently in planning a new text book for next year, maybe. We were talking about models of publishing and they’ve begun to move (slowly) toward a sort of print on demand model where you order a customised version of the book depending on the texts and contexts you’ve chosen to study. But what about making that same content available online? We’ve had a web site resource add-on for a while now, but I’m arguing for the book to be available in other ways too: to be read on the Kindle, downloaded and purchased in bits, even as an iphone app. It’s going to be interesting to see who catches us on quickest in all this; the slow ones aren’t likely to last.

I’ve been following the recent bluff and bluster from Rupert Murdoch with interest: ‘Google are ripping off my content’, ‘You can’t do this to me!’, ‘I’m taking my newspaper off the internet’, ‘Pay for view for news is the future’, stuff like that (I’m paraphrasing but you can do a Google News Search and get the exact quotes yourself; what am I, a journalist?)

Old News

I like newspapers, their feel and their smell, but they are going. A few of us were arguing about this last weekend, and it came up again on the TWIT Podcast I was listening to today (#157) Think of your students; how many of them are going to read newspapers in their futures? It’s old model printing, and old news. This sketch from Comedy Central explores that with the NY TIMES, apologies, embedding failed!

Cycling and the long tail

I love cycling. Riding my bike is a great way to relax after work; it keeps me fit and its got a nice social side to it too, when you get out with some friends on a Sunday morning. I used to ride a lot back in the 1980s, gave it away for a long time and got back into it a couple of years ago. The photo above is from the 80s: Lemond and Hinault in the Tour.

In the 1980s I joined a cycling club and got into road racing.  And became interested in the premier cycling events in Europe such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia as well as a score of other races.  Trouble was, living in a television world pre-internet, the media was dominated by footy and cricket.  I’d wait eagerly for one of about two regular cycling magazines that came out. My favourite was the English magazine, ‘Winning’, which I’d devour cover to cover even though it was four months old before it got to us. I remember sitting in front of Channel 9s’ ‘Wide World of Sports’ all afternoon to catch on my VCR the three or four minutes of Tour de France coverage they’d show, interspersed with hours of sports I didn’t care much for at all.

Which brings me to the long tail.  Or the media version of it. Coming back into cycling post-internet made me realise again just how much things have changed. I can get the results of the Giro instantly, I can follow it live by text and have just discovered that I can actually watch it live on internet TV, which I’ve started doing.  I subscribe to twenty-four cycling blogs from big media organisations like Yahoo down to a bad tempered bike rider in NY.  I joined the Southern Vets Cycling Club and check the racing schedule online. I still buy magazines but mainly for the pictures and for something to do on the tram. I used to make notes about my rides in an exercise book; now I enter them on MapMyRide. I skipped Excel completely.

Things have changed. There’s a long tail.  I no longer have to get what the mainstream media dish out, and anyone into a ‘minor’ sport, a hobby, a recreation, an interest, can connect up.  I can be in touch with other cyclists, with the news of the sport, and with other fans. Even though SBS has come on board with cycling I watch less TV and get more and more of my news and information from the web, and from a news network I’ve created of people and organisations I respect or trust.

And that change, in the way a ‘minor’ sport can be understood and communicated, is repeated elsewhere in a thousand ways for thousand interests. Including education. A change has come.

World Digital Library Underwhelms

The World Digital Library site has a nice interface and a nice mission


The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

The principal objectives of the WDL are to:

* Promote international and intercultural understanding;
* Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;
* Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;
* Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.

so when I read about it in this morning I had to check it our.

Unfortunately, it’s just beginning. The whole library, hosted by the US Library of Congress, has  holdings in English from the dates 8000BC to now has 1170 items in English.  Eleven hundred. Not million.  There are a grand total of eleven documents from Australia, and three from New Zealand.

The US Library of Congress has over 120 million items, so it’s hard not to be unimpressed with a grand launch of a pathetic 1170. It’s either the old tale of library as ‘gatekeeper’ carefully vetting what we should be allowed to access, or it’s example of snail-paced progress.

Memo to self: come back and look at this site again in ten years!

Internet blamed for kids turning to crime

The article from the AGE today later goes on to talk about socio-economic factors, lack of social services and the importance of parenting, but it leads with the headline ‘Net blamed at 10,000 kids turn to crime’ and opens up with police youth affairs officer Inspector Steve Soden who says:

Too many children were viewing inappropriate content on the internet and this, coupled with boredom due to a lack of community services on Melbourne’s fringes, was behind the alarming rise in youth crime.

Like the fear over video games, there’s no evidence of course, but let’s blame YouTube!

Schools in

All the journalists, academics and politicians must be back from their holidays because the media is abuzz this week with all kinds of what should be done to ‘fix’ schools and teachers in the process.

The Federal Government’s rolling up its sleeves and unveiling its education revolution with, you guessed it, a national curriculum! Let’s hope that some teachers are included in the National Curriculum Board which will spend the next three years developing a uniform school curriculum for Australian students. It’s chairman Professor McGaw opened up his tenure with the admonishment that:

Australia has fallen behind in reading because there is too much focus on lifting the results of struggling students, rather than also making our top students perform even better (AGE)

And further, that ‘educators and governments should “behave like women and multi-task”, he said, by working to lift the game of all students.’

Meanwhile, economist Andrew Leigh argues in today’s Education Age that the government should persist with an investigation of performance based pay for teachers (not academics) which is what I thought the other party were in favour of? Leigh is concerned with what he calls the ‘decline in the academic aptitude of Australian teachers’ based on the average percentile rank of those entering education courses. Leigh is a little vague about what might constitute high performance but argues for an opt-in scheme to be trialled.

In the same issue of the big paper Christopher Bantick argues pretty much exactly the opposite viewpoint, that ‘teaching has never been about the money’. Bantick writes:

Should remuneration be a factor in becoming a teacher? Hardly. And money does not make an exemplary teacher either. So what does? The children in front of a teacher are not concerned how much or how little Mr of Ms earns. What they want is to be taken seriously as individuals, and to be excited and challenged by ideas. Learning new stuff is a powerful intoxicant. If teachers forget this, or are distracted by money issues, they may as well resign.

It’s pretty hard to tell exactly what Bantick is calling for except that great teachers are born not made, they ‘touch hearts and minds’ and he urges teachers to

‘…try something unconventional. Shock the students out of their torpor and find your greatness. Be passionate, creative, Yes, take risks’

All presumably within the bounds of the national curriculum of course.

Criminal classes
Oh, and don’t think the Herald-Sun has ignored the burning issues of the day either. It’s cutting edge front page story today by Carly Crawford is called Criminal Classes in Victorian Schools (love the alliteration) and warns its readers that the Victorian Institute of Teaching has quietly allowed 400 teachers who have been convicted of serious crimes in the past to keep on teaching.

So, teachers should get paid more, not care about pay, improve basic literacy and numeracy but don’t neglect the bright kids, think differently and originally but be prepared to teach the same curriculum as everywhere else in this wide brown land. And, don’t forget there’s a lot of ‘criminal classes’ out there.

I wonder what week two will bring?

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