Future

The Tools of the Trade

The changes in teaching tools over 50 years

I first walked into a classroom as an underqualified teacher in 1972. Being a slow learner, there were still some units of study to complete at University. I had started in Economics but switched to History and this change caused a delay. So I wasn’t fully qualified until 1974. What I didn’t know or understand at the time was that I was on the threshold of huge changes in the way that education would develop in the next 50 years. Slow learner or not, I would have to keep my skates on to keep up.

Ocean Grove Primary School circa 1957 – Pieter with slate

A few years ago I visited a great indoor/outdoor museum in Ostersund, Sweden. In the schoolhouse there were desks made up of sand trays – a desk with a thin layer of sand so you could practise your letters or do you sums in the sand and then erase them to leave a blank layer of sand for the next exercise. In Grade 1 at Ocean Grove Primary School we had large black slates and a stick of chalk to do our writing and arithmetic. Things had been this way for a long time.

In 1972, when I began my career, if a teacher wanted multiple copies of a document, a spirit or ink duplicator was used. Spirit duplicators were good for handwritten documents and short runs of under 50. The colour in the stencil would disappear but the students loved the methylated spirits smell and held the sheets of paper to their noses. The ink duplicator would use a wax stencil that had the material typed on it or inscribed with a stylus. This could print hundreds of copies and be retained in a sleeve of blotting paper for future use. The downside was that playing with the dark ink was a messy affair. I would regularly be berated by my child bride for ink on the shirt cuffs. Newfangled photocopiers were too expensive to use for class sized duplication and most copiers still used a grey tinted photographic paper.

Overhead projectors were expensive and the few in the school would be in strong demand. Then video recorders started making an appearance in schools during the mid 1970s. They added some flexibility to the TVs that had been recently brought in, but they were hideously expensive and there were at least three different formats to choose from: Betamax, Phillips and the ultimate winner,VHS.

Even later in the 1970s and into the early 1980s personal computers such as the Vic20, C64, Atari, Apple and a myriad of others were making their appearance, starting off a format war far bigger than the video cassette wars. In this decade the first computers were making their way into schools but they were rare and seen as a gimmick by many.

Still to arrive was the Internet, Data Projectors, large class sized LED screens and apps and devices galore.

I write all this simply to show how much the tools used in education have changed over the years and I haven’t included the change from blackboards to white boards and then interactive white boards.

But all this leads to other questions: Has teaching improved? Have these tools made education a better experience? Have these tools enabled students to reach their potential?

A film can introduce a child to a new world of wonder. It can lead to questions, inquiry and further exploration. But it can also be used as a baby sitter and time waster. A printed sheet may sharpen a child’s maths or English skills or simply fill in some left-over minutes in a lesson. The same is true for a tablet and an app. At the heart of the tool’s effectiveness lies the competence and passion of the teacher. As a general rule I would suggest that a teacher with knowledge and passion, without these tools, is more effective than a teacher with these tools but without a deep knowledge of his or her teaching area and no enthusiasm for their craft. It is a roundabout way of saying that it is the teacher not the tools that sits at the heart of effective education.

Furthermore, it is the way we use these tools that carries with it another hidden layer of meaning. What are the values and attitudes that accompany them? What are we showing, living and implying to our students in the way we use these tools?

Are we reinforcing the pervasive and mind-numbing entertainment culture of our society? Are these fascinations available to us to while away the time and to titillate us or are we suggesting that these tools are there for us to explore the world, enhance our understanding and thereby serve God and our neighbour more effectively?

The way we teach and the way we use tools are laden with a subtext – for good or ill.

Has teaching changed over 50 years. I would suggest it has become even more complex, not simply because society is more complex, but our very teaching style can carry with it a sense of complicity with the values of our culture, or, in stark contrast, something far more radical – a critique of culture. Our teaching can reveal the good or ill of the tools we are using. It can encourage students to be, not just critical consumers, but more importantly, judicious and productive users of the tools at their disposal.

It was far simpler to practise one’s letters on a sand desk.

Categories: Education, Future | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

What the Future Holds

A few days ago when I was writing about the joy of family life I included a photo of my grandparents, my mother, an aunt and two uncles, taken in the late 1920s. Later as I reflected on that picture I thought to myself that my grandparents had no idea of what lay before them at this time.

Soon after this photo was taken the world would be gripped by the Great Depression (The Global Financial Crisis on steroids) and then would come the second Great War. They had lived through the first as children. Two of the children in this photo would emigrate:  one to Australia, and later, one to Canada. The daughter (my mum) travelling to Australia would take the only grandchild (me) they would ever see.

One of the uncles in the photo would die of starvation in a home for people with special needs during the later years of WW2. This period was known as the “hunger winter”. My grandfather was incapacitated by heart problems and both grandparents would be dead before 60 years of age.

They did not know what the future would bring. One of my uncles, who was born just after this photo was taken,  often reminds me that it was a tough time. But for all the seeming bleakness of this story there is a bright shaft of hope. These amazing people left a legacy of faith in their family. Despite the hardships there was a trust in God and His promises for His people and His Kingdom. They were faithful in bringing their children up in the knowledge of God and were members of a church.

Even though they had no idea of what the future would bring, they prepared their family as best they could, for it. All the people in this photo are now dead. Earlier this year my mum was the last to pass on. But I am convinced that they live on in the presence of God right now and their faith lives on in many of their children and children’s children.

We do not know the future either, but like my grandparents we do have the opportunity to sow seeds of hope and eternity.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children —
with those who keep his covenant 
and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103: 17 & 18

Categories: christian, Christianity, Faith, Family, Future, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

15 Reasons Why Christian Education is Important

  1. Sound Christian Education takes the Bible seriously.
  2. Truth is seen as absolute.
  3. Christian Education believes a Christian worldview can make a positive difference.
  4. It gives students a strong foundation in a world of shifting values and morals.
  5. Christian Education recognizes God’s sovereignty and Christ’s Kingship, and …
  6. therefore God’s claims over all of creation are taken seriously.
  7. No subject or curriculum is outside the orbit of God.
  8. Students are recognised for who they are: sinners in need of God’s grace in Christ.
  9. Also students are given a vision of God’s Kingdom and their place in it.
  10. Good Christian education recognises the unique, God given gifts and talents of the students and
  11. challenges them to achieve their amazing potential.
  12. It assists parents in their God given mandate.
  13. Sound Christian Education treats the student as a whole person whose aim is to grow in Christ-likeness..
  14. A foundation in God and His world prepares the student for tomorrow.
  15. Healthy Christian Education develops critical thinking by having the courage to explore other world views from the perspective of its own worldview.

What reasons can you add?

As this post proves to be regularly accessed I have included some other sites:

Australia

http://www.cen.edu.au/   Christian Education National

http://csa.edu.au/  Christian Schools Australia

A wonderfully informative website:

http://www.whychristianschools.com.au/wcs/index.html

 

USA/Canada

http://www.csionline.org/  Christian Schools Internation

http://aacs.org/ American Association of Christian Schools

UK

http://www.christianschoolstrust.co.uk/find_a_school  Christian Schools Trust UK

Categories: christian, Education, Faith, Family, Future, Jesus, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments

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