Is teaching obsolete?

Another topic for discussion — this article from the Guardian on teaching, its role and its future.

At a recent British Council debate, Is teaching obsolete?, executive headteacher Pamela Wright, called for caution around technology inteaching. Here is a transcript of her argument.

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I am a passionate believer in the teaching profession.

Teachers do not simply impart information and knowledge; teaching is not merely about systems, facts, figures and certainly does not exist to promote insularity and lack of social interaction.

If any of these elements were true, then my argument would fall down immediately. It is because the teaching profession is the complete antithesis to all of these ideas, that my argument is strong and compelling.

So where do I stand as an educator, as a leader in education? The centre point of my passion is a philosophy that I instil into my staff, into the school and into every school I support. It is the child – first and foremost.

The question I ask every day is what does the child need and what is the best way to ensure that every one of that child’s needs are met? After all, a young person only gets one chance at a good education.

Our goal as teachers fundamentally is to encourage independent thought, independent enquiry and ultimately independent learning. It has been argued that new means of learning will be the way to facilitate this in the future. I say resoundingly no.

Aristotle said «man is a political animal» – central to that idea was mankind’s innate desire to interact with one another and learn from one another, socialise with one another. Some may say that social media does this – but does it really?

Put at its simplest, if future models of learning means encouraging young people to spend prolonged periods in front of faceless computer screens, exposed to largely unregulated material in an inherently unsafe environment, then that is clearly not the way forward.

Education is much more complex than that. It is about the trust and bond between a teacher and young person (and parents) that creates the environment where learning can occur and grow. Virtual learning simply cannot do that. I would argue that in a world now where young people are retreating more and more into virtual unreality, the teaching profession is more important than it ever was. It is teaching that keeps it real – teaching that keeps young people alive. In short, teachers and the profession will never die.

In almost 40 years as an educator, I cannot think of one single occasion when someone has stopped me to recall fondly about an inspirational and influential piece of computer software. And yet I get letters from former students eulogising over a teacher who changed the direction of their lives and without whom they would not be in the position they are today. That is the result of trust, about a relationship between the teacher and the child.

Now if all these elements could be packaged into a new technology – a new learning model then I would hold my hands up now and concede the debate. It can’t. And that is the essence of my argument.

Teachers don’t simply teach concepts and skills. Any new technology can do that.

Good teachers inspire our young people to be lifelong learners, creating a culture of independent enquiry with their enthusiasm and passion. I know this because I see it every day. Good teachers have the skills to know exactly how to get the best out of each and every young person in their care:

No ‘new models of learning’ can ever compromise or threaten the essence of what a teacher is, always has been and always will be.

Teachers want the best for their young people and use new technologies in their lessons. But the delivery of this new technology and learning models is just as important – if not more important than the technology itself. I know it is.

That said, technology can only do so much. It can be transient and can become obsolete very quickly. What is a constant though, is the teacher in the classroom who across the world at this very moment and tomorrow morning will be putting the needs of their young people first, finding the best fit to ensure that everyone achieves more than they ever dreamed possible.

Transcript from the ‘Is teaching obsolete?’ debate at Salford University on 4 June. Organised by Going Global, the British Council’s conference for leaders of higher education and the Qatar Foundation’s World Innovation Summit for Education, as part of Qatar UK 2013 year of culture. The video of the speech and the whole debate is available here.

Pamela Wright, OBE, is executive headteacher at Wade Deacon High School.

Russia’s anti-internet piracy law faces backlash

It’s championed by some as a new weapon to defend content-makers, decried by others as a blunt tool that could extend censorship of the net.

One thing’s for sure — Russia’s new anti-piracy law is proving controversial.

«Access to online content should be free and global, because it is people’s right to freely receive and distribute information, as well as it is their right to consume art,» says Natalia Malysheva, of the Russian Pirate Party.

On Sunday, the party held a protest in central Moscow against the law, now active, which allows sites to be blocked if they do not tackle complaints that they are aiding copyright infringement within three days of being notified.

About 300 people, waving black pirate flags, attended the peaceful event.

«We respect the rights of those who produce films, music and books, but the rights of copyright holders should be secondary after the rights of society,» said Ms Malysheva.

‘Any film just a click away’

Online piracy is rampant in Russia.

In local internet cafes and at home, teenagers log onto VKontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, to copy and share music and videos despite the company’s protestation that it removes files if it receives «legitimate complaints from copyright holders».

As he comes home after a long day in the office, 41-year old Pavel tells the BBC that his favourite way to relax in the evening is to watch an action movie on his computer — and any film, he says, is just a click away.

VKontakteRussia’s VKontakte social network is used by some to share copyrighted media files

He says that he doesn’t support piracy but has no time to go and buy a DVD.

Russia’s legal online film services have either «ridiculously high prices per movie or very limited selection — or both», he says.

«I am willing to pay money to find good films easily and quickly, but at the moment in Russia it’s just not possible.»

Russia is high up on the US’s list of theworld’s worst copyright infringers. In May Washington raised concern that Russian police resources devoted to the problem had «sharply declined over the past two years».

However, it added that it was «encouraged» by the new legislative efforts to combat the problem — something both it and American media companies had long lobbied for.

‘Financial return’

The new law promises to protect movie and television rights holders facing online piracy by targeting websites that facilitate access to pirated video content.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor will be responsible for making sure it is enforced.

«The law will help develop legal video online market, will help create new, legal ways of sharing quality video content, including free content with adverts,» Roskomnadzor’s spokesman told BBC News.

Russian e-readerA recent study suggested that most ebook downloads in Russia are pirated

«Moreover, film developers will finally start receiving satisfactory financial return on investment, which will have a positive effect on the amount and quality of films — something that is in the interest of millions of viewers.»

Copyright holders can go to Roskomnadzor and flag up websites that either host pirated content, or simply provide links to sites that do.

Once the agency has notified the site’s owner, the offending website has 72 hours to remove content and links — or risk having its entire domain blocked, pending a formal court ruling.

But it’s not just films and music that Russian internet users get for nothing.

Electronic books are also a problem. According to the Russian Association of Online Publishers, about 70% of all Russians who read books use ebooks. However, few pay.

One recent study suggested that 92% of Russian ebook readers had downloaded titles from the net without paying, and 36% had copied files from their friends.

If the new law works, the publishing industry is also expected to ask that books and music be covered as well.

Protected for 70 years

The move is unpopular with some and there are efforts to replicate US protesters’ success at killing the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) of 2012.

«This law still needs more work,» says Ms Malysheva. «It reserves the copyright for 70 years after the rights holder’s death.

«Five, 10 or 15 years would be understandable and we would support it, but not 70.

«We think that this law is a political tool for controlling people. It is turning millions of Russians into potential criminals.»

Wikimedia Russia — the local manager of Wikipedia — has also raised concern the site could be blocked in the country if there are complaints about some of the links in its articles.

Pavel RassudovThe Russian Pirate Party’s leader, Pavel Rassudov, has organised protests against the new law

Yandex, Russia’s most popular search engine,says the measures are «directed not at fighting pirates, but at the internet itself — and it’s almost like permanently closing down a highway where one accident occurred.»

An online petition has also clocked up more than 141,000 signatures calling for the law’s repeal, while one local intellectual property lawyer has warned it could give rise to «commercial censorship» if big companiesabuse the complaints process to shut down smaller competitors.

Thousands of Russian websites have pledged to temporarily go offline as part of a nationwide «web strike», displaying the word «blackout» on their front page. Some web users have also replaced their avatars, the images they display on social networks, with a black square.

But the Russian Association of Film and Television Producers argues that action was needed.

«The adopted law will not answer all questions concerning copyright infringement, but it will, to a significant extent, protect copyright holders,» it said.

By Katia Moskvitch
Technology reporter, Moscow
for BBC

News in Levels: тексты для чтения для разных уровней

Недавно в море ресурсов всемирной паутины, посвященных английскому языку, нам попалась очередная жемчужина — по крайней мере, материалы сайта, о котором пойдет речь ниже, представляются нам весьма полезными изучающим и преподающим язык.

Итак, сайт называется News in Levels — Новости по уровням — и название говорит само за себя: здесь собраны новостные заметки по разным темам (спорт, природа, история, юмор и другим), текст каждой из которых представлен в трех вариантах: для начинающих, для среднего уровня и для продвинутых.

News in English - Main Page

Тексты на первом уровне написаны простым языком с использованием коротких и несложных предложений. Слова повторяются по несколько раз, что способствует их лучшему запоминанию (целевая лексика также повторяется из текста в текст — забыть ее будет уже сложнее).  Текст сопровождает его же аудиозапись — диктор читает его в медленном темпе, тщательно проговаривая каждое слово.

Тексты второго уровня уже немного сложнее, лексика — разнообразнее, а темп записанной речи — немного выше.

Третий уровень — это уже неадаптированный текст, подобный встречающимся в английской прессе. Сложные грамматические конструкции, фразовые глаголы, идиомы, сленг — здесь вы найдете уже все это.

Тексты третьего и второго уровней часто сопровождаются видеороликами.

Создатели сайта предлагают различные варианты работы с текстами: читать, переводя новые слова, и затем слушать до тех пор, пока все не станет ясно различимым и понятным. Или — прочеть сначала текст первого уровня, понять, разобраться с лексикой и прослушать. Затем начать работать с той же новостью на втором уровне — будет уже сложнее, но, так как общий смысл уже известен, текст будет понятен. И затем перейти к самой сложной версии.

News in English - audio

Преподаватели же, надо думать, придумают и другие способы применения этих материалов в своей практике, благо создатели сайта не накладывают ограничений на их использование в обучении — по крайней мере, о первом и втором уровне это сказано. Единственное ограничение — не продавайте эти материалы за деньги, но, думаем, такие идеи придут не каждому Остапу Бендеру 🙂

Отметим, что News in Levels вряд ли подойдет для изучения английского с нуля — все же для понимания текстов любого уровня требуются какие-то знания по грамматике языка. Но увеличить словарный запас и, таким образом, достичь большого прогресса в знании языка сайт, конечно, поможет.

Материалов по английскому как по самому популярному языку в мире, естественно, больше, чем по остальным (хотя, если мы ошибаемся — будем рады доказательствам 🙂 ), но кое-какие сайты, подобные News in Levels, посвященные другим языкам,  все же существуют.

Для изучающих испанский:

Новости на медленном испанском — интерфейс здесь на английском, а большое количество материалов доступно только при условии оплаты.

Centro Virtual Cervantes — здесь уже все на испанском — истории для различных уровней и бесплатно.

Практика испанского — вновь тексты новостей, разбитые по уровням, сопровождаемые аудиозаписями, вопросами на их понимание и объяснениями грамматических правил. Единственное отличие от News in Levels — темы текстов для каждого из уровней разные.

Для изучающих французский:

Новости на медленном французском — все то же, что и с испанским.

Мои языки — французский — кое-что есть и здесь.

Языковой гид — тексты для разных уровней с озвучкой.

Для изучающих немецкий:

Tranparent.com — статьи на немецком с переводом на английский.

Немецкий онлайн легко — здесь тексты с аудиозаписями, не разбитые, к сожалению, по уровням — но зато много другого: грамматика, упражнения, видеоуроки…

Параллельные тексты: английский язык — «В Audi A3 теперь можно пользоваться связью в стандарте LTE»

Audi Unveils In-Car 4G LTE Wireless Broadband at 2013 CES Audi демонстрирует на выставке 2013 CES технологию In-Car 4G LTE Wireless Broadband (широкополосный беспроводной доступ по технологии 4G LTE в автомобиле
Audi AG  unveiled the 2013 Audi A3 with 4G LTE wireless connectivity powered by the second generation Gobi™ multi-mode 3G/4G LTE chipset, the MDM9215, by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Audi продемонстрировала  на выставке  Consumer Electronics Show в Лас Вегасе  свою модель 2013 Audi A3, оборудованную системой беспроводного доступа по технологии 4G LTE на базе мультимодового чипсета второго поколения  MDM9215  (ТМ Gobi™) для стандартов 3G/4G LTE компании   Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.,  дочерней компании Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM)
With peak data rates approaching 100 megabits per second, the enhanced “Audi connect” services in the A3 are expected to transform the user experience and provide enhanced features such as an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Internet radio, Web services and an augmented navigation system that presents street level visual imagery streamed to the vehicle. Ожидается. что улучшенная услуга «Audi connect» в модели А3, обеспечивающая передачу данных с пиковой скоростью около 100 МБит/сек, кардинально изменит пользовательский опыт, предоставив владельцам машины такие новые услуги, как точка доступа WiFi в прямо в машине, интернет-радио, различные Web-услуги, а также усовершенствованная навигационная система, обладающая способностью выводить на экран перед водителем визуальную обстановку на дороге.