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Sometimes you don’t need a visual

There was a really interesting campaign by Swiss Life who deal in Finance – e.g. Pensions etc.

They could have created the very traditional shot of an elderly couple and saving for the future.  But they chose not to.  They went with no visual and just copy to convey their message that things change, and life changes so why shouldn’t your plans.

A really great campaign that deserved sharing

Copy switch

Will Google+ bring down Facebook?

Unless you’ve been stuck in a cave over the last 48-72hrs you’ll know that Google has launched its Google+ project.  This is widely being seen as the real Facebook killer with its Circles and Huddles functionality.  If you’ve not seen or heard much about it, here is a short video explaining the project.

In ‘response’, Facebook has, only a few short hours ago, announced their joint partnership with Skype which has added video capabilities to its service.  Click here to see a video of it.

I’ve not actually tried either service but my first impressions are that Circles is a HUGE plus to the whole social interactions.  It is how people compartmentalise their friends and connections and now Google is offering that ability online.  I also think the Huddles functionality seems a lot better than Facebook’s.

Saying that though, I’m not actually sure that this will be the thing that sees the demise of Facebook.  With c. 600m there is bound to be some attrition but I think Facebook has more fundamental issues to take care of, namely:

  • Privacy – how secure is your data?  Why can’t you delete your account rather than de-activate it?
  • Boredom – people have been living with it for 4-5 yrs and the world has moved on, much like it did for MySpace
  • Displeasure – Facebook has done things slightly underhand, they’ve changed layouts, added new functionality which has changed the site from its original inception (selling rather than interacting)
The one thing it has going for it is that people are used to that ‘space’ for communicating, more so than they are for Google.  Also, more people have FB accounts than Gmail accounts, so they will need to create new profiles, learn new interfaces and ways of communicating.

I will be joining G+.  I would love to relinquish Facebook (with or without the advent of G+) but unfortunately the rest of my friends are Facebookers and use it to organise get togethers so, for my sins, I am still there.  But my activity is virtually zero.

I don’t think it will be the death of Facebook.  They will be impacted quite badly, but they will be around (and making lots of money) for years to come. However, they need to truly understand how people want to interact with others and their part in that process.

School’s out

So Dream School has finished.  The experience is over and the kids now have to go back to their old lives.  But how many have been changed?  How many have grabbed the opportunity presented to them?

From the show it appears quite a few have been inspired to do something with their lives, which is great for them and hopefully that will continue (though a ‘visit’ in 12 months’ time would be interesting).  But really what is the legacy of the programme?

From watching the series I got very little that I wouldn’t have done before:

  • teachers have the power to make lessons great or crap
  • teachers need to make sessions more interactive and relevant to today’s youth and not be handed down strict curriculums
  • disruptive kids ruin it for everyone
  • there is no sense of discipline or respect between students and from students to teachers
  • the kids are expecting to be spoon-fed everything

However the one lasting memory I will have is not a positive one. I feel the programme failed to teach these kids about responsibility & consequence – twice the teachers had the opportunity to make examples out of student who didn’t follow the rules and twice they went back on the rules they had set.  Lesson: do as you please and all will be forgiven. No consequences.

The overall problem with Dream School is that it is a bubble and didn’t tackle the issues of why they were disenchanted in the first place.  Whilst it was an extremely noble cause, we cannot build 4000 Dream School and hire ‘celebrities’ to teach at every single one.

I would’ve loved to have seen experiments as to how to make schools more effective at teaching and facilitating learning – much more along the lines of The Classroom Experiment which the BBC ran last year.  That showed how to teaching standards and traditional classroom dynamics have an effect on what kids get out of it.

Below is the final episode and also some of the Twitter chatter/buzz around the programme – good and bad.

I think the cause was great, but the execution was a bit superficial.

https://twitter.com/#!/jennitonic80/status/58279686123429888

https://twitter.com/#!/emmaday/status/58280927448678402

https://twitter.com/#!/GemmaCasey/status/58287795684380672

https://twitter.com/#!/Razor61289/status/58298015324184576

https://twitter.com/#!/khbelizaire/status/58305051118157825

https://twitter.com/#!/Nightmaaaare/status/58309136126976000

Just show me how it works

So Jamie’s Dream School is into Week 5.  And what did we learn this week?  That theoretical classes are dull and that practical lessons actually get kids engaged.  That if you give them parameters and tasks they will seek to do them.  If you become too prescriptive they’ll switch off.

Now I’ve been fairly disparaging about students in previous weeks. Like Charlie Sheen, the reason I wrote those things is because I care.  I care about how education and educators will work when my children have to go through it and I see certain holes and need filling.

And the hole I picked up on this week is that the GNVQ, vocational and apprenticeship programmes have an image problem.  They are seen as inferior, but that is not the case.  The previous government was all about ensuring everyone went to university.  What happened was that a lot of people did, some did well some didn’t and the end result is that the value of a degree has (to an extent) decreased.  It also meant that the government spent a fair amount of money on people who only went because they were unsure of what they wanted to do.  And that’s not a bad thing, but it had consequences. I went to Uni with a view to do a degree around business and marketing but not knowing specifically what element.

Vocational programmes play a useful role in that they give kids practical work experience, skills, reduce unemployment figures and increase the longevity of certain more manual jobs – such as electricians, car mechanics, plumbers, etc.  Again, these play a really important role to society as a whole, but get miscast as a lower status profession and therefore numbers are going down.  Yet they pay well and scarcity will only lead prices up.

So we need to get kids to stop seeing a future after schools of college/uni or benefits.  There are options, valid options that will give them a sense of pride and worth.

Here is the latest episode for your perusal

Education and discipline – who’s responsible?

If you read my post yesterday then you will know Jamie Oliver is now trying to tackle education as a whole, after having tried to tackle school meals.

The 2nd programme of the series aired on Wed night and it got me thinking about something else in the lives of our younger generation.  Discipline.

As I see it, in the UK, there has been a gradual decline in discipline in school (and outside it) for young kids.  I believe the reason this is so is that Government policies have created a divide between academic education and social education.

The distinction being that academic education is all about subjects and social education is about how people interact with others.

This division has meant that teachers are only expected to do the academic side, whilst the social side is left to the parents.

The issue this creates is that kids spend more time at school than they do at home , so they get little social education.  And, because the teachers have lost a lot of the power they used to have in enforcing the social education, they cannot play that role and be the role models they were.

Like it or not, one of the best ways of ensuring people understood and learnt how to behave socially was through discipline, but now you can’t do that.  And kids know it too, so they keep playing up disrupting the class and generally not learning and not allowing others to learn.

When I watch the below, I’m astounded by three things:

  • they way they behave – or the fact that they don’t know how to behave in social situation
  • they way they talk – again they don’t seem to understand when the appropriate times to use certain language is
  • their sense of entitlement – to ‘respect’; to being treated ‘as equals’.  Sorry but you’re a kid and a student.  Never, in any school, should you be a teacher’s equal

When I was a kid if you misbehaved, you would be screamed at or something would be thrown at you.  It hurt like buggery but it was never done out of malice, it was done with a purpose of teaching right and wrong and that is how it should be.

Like my view with other public roles (police etc), in order to do their job properly they need to be given the rights to do it.  No point in bitching about ineffective teaching and policing if they’re not empowered to be so.

Anyway, rant over.  Watch the series!

Is a Dream School the solution?

A new series has recently started here in the UK – Jamie’s Dream School. It documents a project by Jamie Oliver.  His project is about trying to ‘save’ some disaffected youths by getting them interested in their education once again. His plan is to do this by using some ‘stellar’ names such as David Starkey, Alistair Campbell and Ellen McArthur.

The first episode aired a few days ago and the full episode is posted below.

I think this is an extremely noble undertaking by Jamie.  Regular readers of the blog will know that I have a ‘thing’ for education – I fell it is one of the pillars of our upbringing and therefore wider society.  And the current system isn’t working.

And whilst the programme makes for good TV and I will no doubt be watching the rest of the series I am left wondering – what exactly will this prove?

Will it show that schools should look to hire professionals rather than teachers? That schools should provide an endless array of disciplines for students to pick and choose from?

There are many challenges for the current system to overcome – lack of quality/passionate teachers; lack of discipline and power given to teachers; too much focus on targets; not enough support for individual needs.  Some of these could be answered by legislation, stronger headteachers and partnerships with private sector (where part time apprenticeships could replace lessons on particular subjects).

Will Jamie’s series go on to answer these?  I don’t know, but in the meantime it is well worth a watch and I will keep posting the episodes (assuming they are good and have a subject matter worth discussing!).

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