Category Archives: thinking


Willingham – Smartphones don’t make us dumb

Daniel T. Willingham, (@DTWillingham) author of books that I have not yet read (yet), has an interesting opinion piece in the NYT (here).  He writes in answer to those fears that we all have that ubiquitous internet, social media and videos about cats falling off televisions are somehow making us less intelligent.  I have certainly felt this myself (as recent blog posts attest).  Willingham suggests that the phones are not making us dumb, but that the ability to call up entertainment instantly and perpetually might be restricting the amount of time that we our thoughts are directed inwardly.  Whilst this might have some benefits, especially if we are prone to over-rumination, we might be losing out on valuable reflection, on boredom and on the creativity that these states bring.

I have certainly noticed a tendency in myself to be always listening. If I’m cooking, ironing, cleaning, whatever, I’m listening to a podcast, or to a radio drama. Willingham claims that our use of internet technologies has not cut down on our reading of fiction, but it certainly has with me.   Anyway, more fuel for the argument that we should be self-regulating the amount of time we spend online. Also, must read some Daniel T. Willingham.  (Via

GCSE results: headteacher attacks Michael Gove over marking butchery | Education | The Guardian

GCSE results: headteacher attacks Michael Gove over marking butchery | Education | The Guardian.


Grade boundaries can change from exam series to exam series. Decisions on grade boundaries are made after the assessments have been taken, based on all the available evidence. In the summer, more information was available about performance across the qualification than in January. Exam boards considered this and made decisions accordingly, to make sure that the final qualification grades were comparable with last year’s” – OFQUAL statement. 

This seems to fly in the face of natural justice – a mark of X% should get the same grade in January or July, and this certainly shouldn’t change simply so that the secretary of state can swing his balls about at his Autumn conference.

T S Eliot and Modernism

This week being the holidays I have some time to sit and think (a little). As ever in these moments, when lack of work forces me to try to remember what I’m interested in, I turn to Radio 4. I’d pay three times the Licence Fee just to keep listening to Radio 4.

Two highlights this week were on modernism in literature. The first found me, the second I searched for.

The first was a reading of the Wasteland by Eileen Atkins and Jeremy Irons –

The second was
a discussion on In Our Time about the same poem.

They’re both cracking listens. In looking for them (I think the first is no longer available) I’ve found a third, which is, and which you can find at –

UPDATE:  This podcast in the In Our Time archive is very revealing – in particular about the Modernists’ attitude towards the masses and the bourgeois .

The right to chase someone into the street and beat them?

Look, I’ve never been in this position, and I don’t know how I would react if this happened to me, but I’m damn sure that I don’t want to live in a country where people can be chased into the street and beaten by members of the public, no matter what those people have done.

Reasonable force seems to cover it for me.  Perhaps there may be circumstances in which it would be reasonable to beat someone to a pulp in the street after chasing them from your home.  Perhaps that person kept coming back, and perhaps you found yourself living in a hobbes-like state of nature, or perhaps the police were too busy hassling some Italian art student to come and help you fend off this deranged nutter who kept breaking into your house and threatening your children.  There’s quite a few perhapses in there though.   If those perhapses came true then ‘reasonable force’ would cover you.

Judges and magistrates are pretty conservative types, if they can’t shoehorn your actions into ‘reasonable force’ then you have probably strayed quite a long way from that which should be sanctioned in a country where the rule of law applies.

Of course if the hang n flog brigade want to live in a place where one is sanctioned to shoot people who come to your door, whether looking for directions or the family silver, then there are many places around the world where you could try.

I remember when all this was chariot racing…

Whilst reclining in a very hot (and very well deserved) bath, reading A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century I came across the following (slightly edited by me)

“As soon as wealth came to be a mark of distinction and an easy way to renown […] virtue began to decline.  Poverty was now looked on as a disgrace and a blameless life as a sign of ill-nature.  Riches made the younger generation a prey to luxury, avarice and pride […].  Honour and modesty, all laws divine and human, were alike disregarded in a spirit of recklessness and intemperance.”

(From Sallust, Catiline 10.6)

You could have lifted that from last year’s reviews of the year.

Happiness is… drafting in mechanical pencil

A warm fuzzy feeling. Reaching the end of the writing of the first complete draft of the lit. review of second Warwick assessment. Another couple of hours and I’ll get to work on the references. I’m starting to fall into a pattern, typing in the morning the stuff I’ve scribbled the night before. Gives me a chance to revise and a chance to increase my word count whilst Iris and Maddy squabble over their breakfast!!

Leadership, that was that… what have I learned? Part One – managing the OCR Nationals in ICT.

I have been a head of department for the last 6 months, following on from being a second in the history department and, before that, running a small but very successful team of General Studies teachers.

I’m reading a lot about leadership online at the moment, and about reflection (working on second assessment for the MA I’ve started at Warwick). In the spirit of reflection I will therefore try to set down what it is that I have learned about leading, teaching and learning ICT in schools and myself during the really quite challenging time that has just passed.


The first thing is that the OCR Nationals in ICT are not the breeze that they might seem to be on paper, and they don’t offer an easy route to two C grade passes at GCSE that school leadership teams might think they do.  The Nationals are a challenging qualification and, especially in order to access the higher grades, require teaching, learning and understanding on the part of teachers and students.  Students cannot simply work their way through a tick sheet or to-do list in order to achieve the pass.  Three part lessons, schemes of work, homework, ideas, discussion, activities should all be part of a department’s planning.

Marking OCR Nationals work needs to be done little and often – maintenance of student portfolios and checking of progress is difficult, time consuming and vital, especially for the lower attaining students.


External moderation of OCR Nationals marking is thorough and valid.  This means that internal moderation processes must also be thorough and valid.  At LHS we’ve been working on a 6 week process – which includes two weeks to moderate, followed by two weeks to correct before entries are made.

The process of entering folders for moderation is a b****r.  Flipping forms after forms, hundreds of initials, hundreds of grades… sigh.  Three Four things follow from this:

The first is moderate as you go along – make sure that students know that they’ll be entered for unit x and y by a strict deadline.  Don’t be tempted to keep large numbers of students working on units because they might get a distinction.  You’ll run out of time for working on later units, and you’ll end up entering too many units at once – increasing the likelihood of clerical error and putting all your moderation eggs in one, overfilled basket.

The second:  Devise a checking system.  Gather entries from teachers, get them to check your list before entering the data on a form.  Get them to check again before you internally moderate.  Get someone else to check the form.  Check the form against the entries again.  Make sure your staff know that when they check their entries they’re really helping you ensure that the right students have been entered for the right units at the right grade.

The third: After the moderation is done, check the return from the board.  You might have missed a student or a unit, they might have lost a CRF – students might be entered with mis-spelled names.  All three of these will happen during the two years you run the course, don’t get caught out.

The fourth:  Have a late backstop moderation, a basket into which you can put the stragglers, the administrative errors and the cock-ups.

Keeping your pecker up and trusting your team.

There were times in the last 6 months when things looked a bit bleak.  Trusting the professionalism of the team of great teachers working with me helped us pull things out of the fire.  Being honest with students, teachers and parents helped get everyone behind the project of resurrecting their ICT qualifications.  I was amazed at how hard the teachers in the ICT department worked, and pleased when ‘project phoenix’ paid off at the last moderation.