Thursday, July 30, 2009

Models, anyone?

"From 1790 until 1870, U.S. patent law required inventors to submit actual physical models of their novel machines along with their drawings and descriptions." From WIRED

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mud Art

Environmentally friendly pavement art. Try some at school!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox

The stop-motion animation film of Roald Dahl's book, directed by Wes Anderson, is scheduled for release in the US in November. Mr Fox is voiced by George Clooney, with Michael Gambon, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody and Anjelica Huston providing some of the other voices.

Two screen shots here. The trailer is out!

Apollo 11

Anyone doing the Apollo 11 anniversary?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last night I watched Kes, the Ken Loach film from 1969. It is still a great film, even after 40 years and I have been thinking about it today. It is number seven in the British Film Institute's top ten British films of all time.

The way it portrays schools in the 1960s is really interesting. It looks far-fetched now, but I remember teachers and incidents not too dissimilar from my own schooling around the same time. It shows how far we have come even if you could argue that it's not far enough. The cruelty in the name of discipline is amazing. As is the lack of empathy and connection with the students. I think children learnt despite how we were taught, rather than because of it. I also wonder what was in it for the teachers?

In 1970 Colin Welland won a BAFTA for his role in the film. He is portrayed as the sympathetic teacher and at the time what he did might have seemed extra-ordinary, but 40 years later it is no more than we would expect from any teacher.

Get it out on DVD and show it at a staff-meeting.

Another film I watched during the holidays was The Class. It is an interesting contrast, showing life in a French secondary school today. The Class gives a subtle and deep insight into life in schools and classrooms and it shows how far we have come but also how far we have to go. It won the Palme d'Or for best film at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Recommended for intelligent teachers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Benign neglect

Nigel Latta outlines how to be a "bad parent" in this week's Listener. Mostly I agree with his thesis that we currently over-parent our children and that we perceive risks where there are few, and that risk-taking might be life-enhancing rather than life-endangering.

I've always said that benign neglect is the best form of parenting. "Go outside and play" is a phrase we don't hear enough. The best learning I did as a child was when I was outside playing. And there were risks, and not everything I did was good, or good for me, but all the experiences taught me something I couldn't learn at home, or from my parents.

We must give those with responsibility for children more freedom to allow children to take reasonable risks with the understanding that getting hurt is a part of growing up. This has always been part of wise parenting, but it is wisdom we've lost.

Today while I was at Riverside Pool a number of parents were taking their toddlers swimming, and good on them. I worry about the intensity of the interactions though, which seem one-sided, and the anxiety. We all need to relax a bit.

I also liked what Latta said about how the local school did him no harm and that his parents just assumed that was where he would go and that they spent no time even thinking about it. Parent's school anxiety is such a waste of effort, and money. Sometimes choice can be a very bad thing. We don't need to control everything, in fact it is not good for us or our children.