“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it!”

As you are perhaps aware, 2015 is most famous for being ‘The Future’ in the Back to the Future movies, well it’s February and not much has happened yet….but the scene above is from the first movie, where Marty McFly, in 1955, returns to his parents’ school for the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ dance and plays Johnny B Goode (not to be released until 1958!)

Watching the movies with my children the other night – a vital part of a young person’s education in my opinion!- got me to thinking…what would Marty notice was different from 1955 to 1985 and into 2015 in schools?

OK, so crucially, teachers can’t hit you with a belt, which is…well, nice.  Much else has changed socially and culturally that has permeated into schooling, sex education exists, girls are allowed to do technical subjects etc.  What has changed pedagogically though?  Is the way we teach any different?

Confession time, I’m a Mathematics teacher, and I collect (well I actually just rescue them from the bin!) old Maths textbooks, as the archaic language is fun, and the way in which problem solving questions are posed is actually really great – complete with imperial units to add a frisson of excitement…and confusion – sorry US readers!  Here is one:


Generally speaking, our pedagogy has not changed that much, in my opinion.  Especially in a subject like Maths, it’s quite difficult to change the way you teach 2000 year old theorems I guess…or is it?

We are very keen wheel reinvention experts as teachers, we tweak and tweak pedagogy, like a game of ‘chinese whispers’ (please let me know if this is an unintentional racial gaffe, I will edit it I promise!) until the original model is unrecognisable.  Then we tweak it back again until we return to the beginning!  I must attest here though to the good intentions of teachers that do the tweaking, we are just trying to get it right.

This raises, for me, two important points.

1.  We need, as a profession, to develop a more critically evaluative mindset…in keeping with the movie theme, a balance should be struck somewhere between Clint Eastwood and Austin Powers.  This has been discussed here already.  We need to be able to get it right, but with direction and with evidence as our guide.

2.  Teaching facts or the translation of information cannot really be changed much…it’s what you do with it that counts


What is great is that we are starting, with the aid of some clever tech, to do something with ‘it’.  Lessons are being taught via videos and podcasts, freeing up time for more focussed, personalised pedagogy in class.  Students are submitting work online, allowing for auto/quick marking…again, freeing up time in class.  We are even allowing mobile technology in class (Great Scot!!) to gain insight into the learning of our students on a more personal level.  Change is most certainly afoot…

Maybe there has been not much change in many aspects of education, but in 2015 we are no longer tinkering around with a Ford Capri in the garage…we are building the Delorean!  We just need to keep it at 88mph!



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