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The case of Pedro Bravo, who has been accused of kidnapping and strangling his friend from the University of Florida, raises much more than meets the eye.

In short, what we think is private, is in fact just another part of our digital footprint, a digital footprint which can be tracked and, as in this case, investigated and used as evidence in a court of law.

Bravo’s iPhone is being used as evidence against him in a court case in which he is being tried for the murder of fellow student Christian Aguilar.

Records identified on Bravo’s iPhone indicate

When asked “I need to hide my roommate”, iPhone’s Siri answered: “What kind of place are you looking for? Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps.”

As reported on News.com.au on August 14

That the torch on Bravo’s iPhone was activated 11 times on the night of Aguilar’s disappearance, was additional evidence presented in this ongoing court case.

Beyond determining Bravo’s guilt or innocence on these charges, an overriding issue to me is that of privacy.   Clearly what we think is private simply isn’t.

Each time we use our smartphone, we are in fact adding to the enormous amount of data that comprises our digital footprint.  How many of us or students in our classrooms stop to think about this fact.  Not many, I suspect.

Your thoughts?

Want to explore Melbourne of the 1800’s?

Download this new app which has been put together by the State Library of Victoria.   While taking a stroll through the city of Melbourne it’s fascinating to explore the rich history and look behind some of the old architecture.  Using your location to show nearby buildings, users can view up to 300 photographs of street views and aerial photographs as well as stories of each location from as early as 1840.

SLV app

 

After watching this graphic illustration of the dangers of plastic to our environment and most especially to our oceans, I will never look at plastic the same way again.

Apart from being a brilliant graphical explanation, the facts are frightening.

I read a nice article in The Age yesterday: Robots remind dementia sufferers to lead a fuller life.

As part of the PaPeRo family of robots developed by NEC in Japan, the robots – Charles, Sophie, Betty, Lucy, Matilda and Jack – can make phone calls and remind people about a range of events in their lives.  The photo included in the hard copy newspaper report showed a clearly enamoured elderly person engaging with one of the members of this family.  A media release by La Trobe University expresses support for the program noting:

‘The assistive robots, improved the emotional well-being and augmented good memories of people with dementia and made them feel more productive and useful. The robots also provided respite to carers and partners. They supported caregivers in residential care facilities in effective ways,’ Professor Khosla said.”

It seems that robots are able to step into the lives of far more people than dementia sufferers though.   JIBO, touted as the world’s first family robot, certainly looks great!

I wouldn’t mind having JIBO assist me in my day-to-day life.   He/She may well assist me in getting that little bit more organized and at the same time be great company!

A Facebook friend shared a fabulous ad which appeared a few weeks ago in The Age – My Career section:

Job Ad

It’s a classic – no?

Apart from making me chuckle, this ad made me pause to consider the role of teachers: what it is we aim to achieve in our role and why we decide to go into teaching in the first place.

While passion and a love of kids are essential ingredients to being a successful educator, the role of a teacher is complex and demanding.  Most often, the full complexity of the job is not understood until working in the field.  Learning, mastering and perfecting a myriad of skills and techniques becomes a lifelong pursuit for all who work in the education sector.

Following the results of a recent OECD survey of 106,000 teachers from 34 countries in which 2059 Australian lower secondary school teachers and 116 principals participated, it was somewhat dismaying to learn that only 39% of Australian teachers included in this survey believed that society valued the teaching profession.

In a press release of The Teaching and Learning International Survey  which was conducted last year, it was stated that “Most teachers enjoy their job, despite feeling unsupported and unrecognised in schools and undervalued by society at large…”

The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) finds that more than nine out of ten teachers are satisfied with their jobs and nearly eight in ten would choose the teaching profession again. But fewer than one in three teachers believe teaching is a valued profession in society. Importantly, those countries where teachers feel valued tend to perform better in PISA.”

It’s  encouraging to read that “teachers who engage in collaborative learning have higher job satisfaction and confidence in their abilities” a fact that lends support to my belief about the incredible benefit to teachers of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

Teacher feedback on the value of formal appraisal programs however, may well come as a surprise to the many schools who are implementing stringent programs.  While around 80% of teachers get feedback following classroom observation and 64% from student feedback, it seems appraisals are not necessarily translating into valued recognition of teachers’ skills.

But formal appraisals have little impact on career advancement or financial recognition, according to most teachers. Annual pay rises are awarded regardless of performance in four-fifths (78%) of schools and 44% of teachers work in schools where formal appraisals have no impact on career advancement.

Around half of teachers also report feeling that most appraisals are carried out merely as administrative exercises and 43% say they are not strongly related to how they teach in the classroom.”

It is interesting that this comment was echoed in a feature article published in the Education Age a few weeks prior to the OECD press release.  The article “A tick of respect keeps good teachers teaching” written by Emily Frawley, a Melbourne based secondary English teacher, reflects on the significant amount of time given over to teacher appraisal:

A lot of my time at the moment is being taken up with filling in performance development plans, documenting course outlines, having students fill out surveys on me, going over the data from my VCE student’s exam marks, having other staff observe and provide feedback on my practice, visiting and critiquing my colleagues, and attending meetings to discuss how to standardise the way I teach, assess and provide feedback to my students.”

Underlining this requirement to be accountable, Frawley states that it is the lack of respect shown to teachers as a profession which undermines the societal value of the teaching profession.  Her article is hard hitting and impassioned – well worth a read.

My awareness of the OECD report came from a recent article in The Age by Michael Preiss “Australian teachers feel undervalued: OECD report” (June 25, 2014).  Rather than highlight the valuable role of teachers in society, this article instead focuses heavily on the amount of time teachers spend disciplining students who interrupt.

Reading the OECD report itself, or its press release gives a far better picture of today’s teacher.   Better still, this video sums up the report’s findings well:

George Dantzig, born in 1914,  was an American mathematical scientist who made important contributions to operations research, computer science, economics, and statistics.  Just recently, my husband related to me a famous story about Dantzig:

Arriving late for a class with Professor Jerzy Neyman, Dantzig noticed two statistic problems on the blackboard.  Assuming they were a homework assignment, he copied them down and worked on them even though they “seemed a little harder than usual”.  A few days later he handed in the completed solutions to the two problems.

Six weeks later, an excited Professor Nayman visited Dantzig to tell him that the problems he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics!

An amazing achievement – no?

Isn’t it incredible what we can achieve when we don’t know the difficulty level of something or alternately when dogged determination is applied to either reach a conclusion or master a skill?

I found myself reflecting on the ‘I can’ attitude I regularly share with both students or teachers with whom I am working.  Having an ‘I can’ attitude to tackling the new – be it a skill or concept – creates a mental set for successful achievement.

I firmly believe that an “I can” attitude is a key ingredient to us being able to achieve almost anything.

Adhering to this approach has helped me tackle a myriad of life experiences in both my personal and professional life which I’m sure I’d never have broached if I hadn’t developed that “I can” attitude.

Instilling a belief in ourselves that we can accomplish, we can learn, we can master a new skill or concept is an essential ingredient in both teaching and learning!

 

It’s a few weeks since I saw this video excerpt from a TED talk from Frans de Waal.

If you’ve ever pondered the importance of morality, fairness and equality in education, this video exemplifies it perfectly!

Rewarding students fairly, goes to the very essence of education.  The “carrot and stick” approach has been used in our schools for time immemorial:

do your homework –> get good grades
study hard –> pass exams
do well in school –> get a good job

I guess that’s fine, but …. somehow it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

Not so long ago, I had a heated debate with a work colleague about this very topic.  Completing essays and worksheets, spurting forth facts previously learned by rote and learning how to complete exams so as to get high scores was not, I contended, a great education.   Instead,  I insisted, we need to excite in our students a love of learning and to give them a scaffolding of how to learn so that long after they leave our schools their desire to continue learning will never end.

Sadly – I didn’t win the argument.

It is with much anguish that I see teacher education follow the same path.  Rewards for learning are often overlooked.   Rarely do overworked, tired teachers get the opportunity or take the opportunity to learn just for the ‘hell of it’.

How sad.   What kind of role models are we to our students.   Surely there needs to be more to our professional learning than completing sufficient hours to ensure we maintain our teaching accreditation.

Kindling and then maintaining the flame of desire to learn within ourselves is the only way we can inspire a love of learning in our students.

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