Is education about teaching or learning?

Above is a site that anyone interested in education should view and rejoice in. It is a lecture by Eric Mazur, a Harvard Professor of Physics, entitled Confessions of a Converted Lecturer. He observes what many of us have noted – that, although printing has been around for four centuries, teaching is still based on the practice of a time when oral transmission from teacher to pupil was the only method of passing the knowledge and culture of a community from generation to generation. Continue reading

Intellectual property and the internet

I’ve been reading a very interesting article describing some experimental work in Australia by teachers improving the literacy of their pupils through the new technology of computers. *

No doubt, since 1998 many other teachers everywhere in the world have embraced the new technology, especially younger teachers who themselves grew up with computers. Because I recognise that the future must lie with these amazing new tools, I took advantage of the success of the book form of The Language of Ideas to rewrite it as an interactive computer course (

My decision to make the Breakthrough to Learning courses available online has already borne fruit: this week a secondary school has contacted me for ways of implementing it throughout their school. Continue reading

Experts can be wrong

Another wonderful book:

Jonah Lehrer: Proust was a Neuroscientist.

The author considers the work of  five avant garde writers (Walt Whitman, George Eliot, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf), an artist (Paul Cezanne), a composer (Igor Stravinsky) and a chef (Auguste Escoffier).

He relates the ground-breaking achievement of each of them to the scientific ideas of the time and shows how, by being true to their experience of life, they anticipated the scientific insights of modern neuroscience. This meant that they found themselves in conflict with the scientific pundits of the time. Continue reading

Literacy and schooling

Another mind-opening read:

Jenny Cook-Gumperz: Literacy and Schooling: an unchanging equation in ed.  Cook-Gumperz: The Social Construction of Literacy, 1986, CUP

The author questions the assumption in Western societies that there is a necessary connection between literacy and schooling. In other times and places the mass of the people have been literate without going to school. (The Vai people in Liberia were literate in Vai and Arabic before going to school to become literate in English, for example.) Continue reading