29 September 2011
At last I have returned from, Europe where I have been taking in the sights, warming in the sun and ogling at the marvels of old and gracious civilisation.
Northern Italy to be precise and it was a grand holiday.
Some little reflections rather than the photographs.
- So much of the education I received all that time ago prepared me to live in Europe far more adequately than it did prepare me for living in my home country. So it was a daily joy to make connection with something that had previously been brought to life by a teacher or a book in a different and more authentic setting. Of course learning in classrooms is authentic but in a different way. Marco Polo, Garibaldi, Verdi, and a whole lot more famous figures were recollected in context
- I thought I would be able to keep up with the RWC but I must report coverage is virtually non-existent. Even the Italian team seemed to receive scant attention. The English-speaking press focussed on reports about the European teams and the four Home Counties. The English-language International Herald Tribune (the international version of the New York Times gave it all one paragraph when the “government of New Zealand stepped in over elected Mayor Brown when etc etc…”
- Travelling with only an iPad as the device of choice was a dream. Wi-Fi is easily and effectively available and the range of iApps for travellers is so excellent that finding information or places or times was a breeze. This is the first time I have been out of New Zealand with only an iPad.
- Talking about the internet, one wonders if the travel industry isn’t pulling the wool over someone’s eyes when they talk-up the dangers of making bookings over the internet. Well, we did everything over the internet – travel bookings, hotel bookings, restaurant reviews and a whole plethora of information about places. Most useful were the interactive maps that identified where you were, where you wanted to go to and so on. Anyone with moderate internet skills would be most capable of doing the same and that includes I would guess most of the people we teach.
- Using the internet would allow people to be free of those groups – the brolly followers – that disgorge from cruise ships and gather seemingly always in the baking sun to listen to all the information about what they are standing in front of and wish they could jolly well get inside and out of the sun.
Was there much talk of education on the trip? Well not by us. The newspapers occasionally covered items and again, being unable to read Italian with any accuracy, these were most easily found in English-language international news. It is interesting what gets covered in this way.
- A full report was given of the marked increase in China of induced births as parents worked hard to deliver the infant into the world in such a timely manner before 1 August so that they were able to be delivered into school on 1 August so many appropriate years later at the earliest possible age. Thank goodness our little ones turn up when they are five – it is one of the treasures of education in New Zealand.
- There was quite a lot of coverage of school testing of students in the USA and not all of it supportive. One article was a thoughtful consideration of the extent to which testing was distorted when while purporting to be the testing of an individual student was subsequently used to measure the effectiveness of schools, the quality of the curriculum and the skill of the teacher.
- No wonder then that, as reported in another article, the testing services in the USA were reported to be increasingly uneasy about the amount of cheating that went on. No, not cheating by students, cheating by schools. It was reported that around half of the schools in Washington – it did not make clear whether this was state or DC – had been found to have cheated by altering schools on the test. This is evidenced by the “erasure” of incorrect answers which are replaced by correct answers. Oh dear. I wondered whether there was a chance that a student had rethought an answer and had wisely changed their mind. Apparently this was ruled out!
Finally I have to say what a pleasure it was to stop on the train at Reggio Emilia, the town which gave expression to a philosophy of early childhood education thought up by Loris Malaguzzi after the Second World War, which changed thinking about how little ones could be developed and how they could take responsibility for their learning. I thought of all my early childhood colleagues at that moment. Apart from that it looked pretty much like any other town in the region – from anywhere great ideas can spring.
It’s good to be home. We could well be the privileged generation, able to afford to travel while there is still sufficient fuel to take us and where a huge part of the earth’s surface remains friendly and welcoming. It is something to be treasured.