Education is constantly evolving. Billed as one of the fastest growing tech markets in the UK, our schools collectively spend more than £900 million a year on education technology, or edtech as it’s commonly dubbed. Neither does the sector show any sign of slowing down.
Curriculums change through the years, and with them the means of presenting their educational content to school pupils. We’ve already seen chalkboards exchanged for interactive whiteboards and projectors, and textbooks largely swapped out for laptops and computers. We’re all familiar with these developments, but ground-breaking progress continues to be made.
On October 16th, 2018, the BBC published a report on a parliamentary meeting that served as a landmark event for technology in education. Based at Middlesex University, a robot named Pepper sat down with MP’s to discuss the impact that robotics and artificial intelligence have had on education, and how things could move forward in the future. While all the questions and answers were predetermined, the main thrust of the conversation with Pepper was to encourage a blend of technology and human oversight, rather than replacing one with the other.
This merger focuses on viewing technology as something that is of service to teachers and pupils rather than something to be subservient to. An LSE study has already proven that banning smartphones in schools significantly improved results, but the question worth asking is; can technology be repurposed for education’s sake?
Though robotics and AI are being introduced to the learning environment, for now they largely handle the more administrative tasks in the schooling arena. For example, they’ll record test results or manage student data. That said, the robot Pepper facilitated duties in front line learning too, such as aiding special needs children with their numeracy development. Clearly, this edtech is all of enormous help to teachers, who have been notoriously overworked for years, resigning and even falling ill from the stress of their exploited roles.
An App called Kahoot! has also made waves amongst school pupils both in the UK and the US. It allows teachers to create their own digital games that their pupils can access through the app, enhancing their learning through a fun use of technology. The app had a recorded 50 million monthly users in June 2017, which shows just how quickly edtech can gain traction in popularity. Under teacher supervision, apps enable the learning experience to become exciting and interactive in a way that textbooks, unfortunately, can’t be.
To some degree, edtech allows children to have a more prominent hand in their education. It gives them greater agency in terms of not only what they learn, but how they learn it. Technology is something that young people are very familiar with, and that same familiarity can spur their engagement in the classroom. Edtech use means that learning becomes a less passive experience; pupils can now get involved using their screens, instead of listening to teachers monologue in ways they can’t fully comprehend.
Research conducted in 2014 questioned if school pupils absorb information better when they’re taught under specific learning styles and techniques. In 2019, perhaps surprisingly, this topic of which method is best remains a hotbed for contention and controversy.
It’s well known that pupils can excel in certain subjects and may struggle to master others, and of course there’s no shame in finding anything difficult. It has rightly remained the principle of education in good schools to nurture a child’s desire to learn, rather than to relentlessly push them into acquiring top-end grades to the detriment of their wellbeing. Learning is an organic and diverse process and it suffers when enforced under superficial measures.
This said, an array of questions come into play here; can pupils decipher the information they need from blocks of text, or are more practical study methods their forte? Will they improve from class group work, or can they thrive using an online course at home? Do they need images to tackle a subject, or a teacher issuing instructions at every step?
Each learning method in the VAK model aims to ensure that every child has an access point into learning, breaking down the barriers that prevent them from fully understanding any given topic. A child who prefers visual means can, theoretically, stick to the books and videos while avoiding any physical or listening-based activity. But does it make sense to make the act of learning so linear?
Complications arise when it comes to taking each method and making them applicable to every subject. Can a visual learner use images to really understand playing sport in physical education? Can an auditory learner excel in a silent reading period of an English class? Will their future workplace cater to that singular method alone? When a pupil is confined to a singular way of learning, it may have the potential to create a paradoxical classroom culture and restrict the kinds of information they can absorb in the future too.
Moreover, a research paper in 2004 recorded as many as 71 different learning styles, but the scholars themselves cited that their endeavours were “extensive, opaque, contradictory and controversial” after accumulating their data. Again, this state of argument appears to have changed little to date. While some children did indeed find their studies to be worthwhile under a personally tailored regimen, others criticised the lack of diversity. Do we ignore the things we’re not good at, or do we work to hone our skills?
Children need to know that learning is undoubtedly for them. When it comes to getting started or exam revision, something like VAK is undoubtedly a plus. It’s okay to have favoured ways of doing things, but then again, school is about being flexible and engaging with a never-ending canvas of ideas. There should be a constant circulation of learning styles for children to acquaint themselves with – not only so they can play to their strengths, but also to improve on methods of learning that they’re not so well versed in as well.
In 2018 the BBC reported that over the last three years the number of children who are being homeschooled in the UK has risen by around 40%. It’s not hard to see why; for parents, ensuring their child’s schooling is top quality is vital, and home schooling is definitely worth consideration as the new school year starts. Whether you’re considering homeschooling for your little ones or terrible teens, choosing to self-teach offers the perfect method for many parents who seek a more hands-on approach in their children’s education. In the UK, as a parent you must ensure your child receives a full-time education from the age of 5, moving through Key Stages 1-3 and on to GCSE and potentially A-Level education.
So is homeschooling right for you? Whatever the age or abilities of your child(ren), learning from home presents many benefits. Let’s look at a few of these advantages, which may help you decide.
Two of the main reasons influencing UK parents’ decision to choose homeschooling include protecting their children’s mental health and the ability to avoid exclusion. Being in a large classroom environment can present a number of challenges for children, including exposure to bullies, feelings of inadequacy from being around superior-performing peers and being singled out for being ‘different’ from other children. Many children may feel as if they simply don’t ‘fit in’. Home schooling offers a solution to avoid these situations and protect your children’s mental health and wellbeing.
The chance to learn one-to-one rather than one-to-many offers many children the chance to feel fully involved and immersed in their own learning. This increases their chances of remaining engaged and interested in their studies. This also allows you, as a parent, to build a stronger bond with your child; to be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and work with them on these. It is attention that they may not get in a large classroom environment.
Homeschooling allows your child to proceed through their education at their own pace rather than that of scheduled class. Every child is unique, with their own abilities, and these abilities may vary from subject to subject. If your child needs more help with Mathematics and less so with English, you can adjust their learning schedule accordingly.
This means more healthy sleeping patterns and time to study – you have the time to flex your child’s learning timetable around your lifestyle and circumstances. You can take holidays when you want, too. A definite win-win.
Homeschooling offers many benefits over more traditional school classroom study. It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of both options before making a decision to homeschool of course, and there are plenty of resources to do this, including the UK Government’s website, which can provide further advice.
Grigori Rasputin was born into a peasant family in a village in Siberia, Russia, in approximately 1869. At that time life in Siberia was hard. The area was virtually untouched by the rise in technology that was sweeping much of Europe during Industrial Revolution. As a result of his poor upbringing, Rasputin received little schooling and it is believed that he never learnt to read or write.
Accounts of Rasputin’s early years claim that he possessed supernatural powers, while others cite examples of extreme cruelty. It was this dubious, frightening reputation that was and has remained associated with Rasputin, and earned him the nickname, “the Mad Monk.”
In fact, although Rasputin entered the Verkhoture Monastery in Russia at the age of 19, with the intention of becoming a monk, he left shortly after to marry Proskovia Fyodorovna, with whom he had 3 children; only one of which survived. However, by his early 20’s he’d returned to what he considered his calling, and took on the life of a wandering holy man, or strannik, who lived off the goodwill and gifts from peasant communities he visited. It was on these travels, which took him as far afield as Greece and the Middle East, that Rasputin gained a reputation as a healer.
In 1903, Rasputin’s wanderings brought him to St. Petersburg. Such was his fame as a mystic and faith healer at this point, that by 1905 he was introduced to Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna. Desperate for help for their son Alexis, who suffered from haemophilia, they invited him to court. Rasputin was able to convince the Tsarina, falsely, that he could cure the boy, with the royal family firmly believing in his reputation as a starets; a Russian holy man.
In the following years Rasputin grew in influence. Then, in October 1912 Alexis became seriously ill. The Tsarina sent a telegram to Rasputin who replied that Alexis would live. He was proved correct. So it was that when the boy recovered, the Tsar and Tsarina’s faith in him was confirmed. But this success and rise to prominence would lead to his eventual downfall. Between 1906 and 1914, his association grew with the Royal family to the extent that he began to undermine the dynasty’s credibility by the press. His predictions also now took a darker tone. On the eve of World War One, he was saying that calamity would befall the country; A concerned Tsar Nicholas II took command of the Russian Army, with Tsarina Alexandra assuming responsibility for domestic policy. She dismissed ministers who warned her of Rasputin’s undue influence.
It was around this time, June 1914, when a woman named Khioniya Guseva stabbed but failed to kill Rasputin. It is believed that the woman, who’d been disguised as a beggar, stabbed him at the behest of a political rival. The stab wound was severe and led to Rasputin spending weeks in recovery after surgery. It would not be the last time such an attempt was made.
As the wandering monk’s influence over the Tsarina grew, the country’s officials became more worried about his power. It sealed his fate, as Prince Felix Yusupov, another member of the Russian royal family, finally decided that the murder of Rasputin was essential.
On 29th December a group of conspirators, including the Tsar’s first cousin, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and Prince Yusupov, invited Rasputin to Yusupov’s palace and fed him wine and cakes laced with cyanide. However, though Rasputin became rather drunk, the poison had no effect. Amazed that Rasputin had survived, the prince and his helpers then lured Rasputin to a party early in the morning of 30th December 1916. This time they made no mistake, as Prince Yusupov shot him. The murderers wrapped the body in a carpet and threw it into the Neva River. When Rasputin’s body was found three days later, three bullet wounds covered his body. He was buried on 3rd January 1917.
Yet even after his death, Rasputin’s strange reputation for prophecy did not fade. Just prior, he had predicted that if he were to be murdered by government officials, the entire imperial family would be killed by the Russian people. It came true 15 months later, when the Tsar, his wife and all of their children were murdered by assassins amidst the Russian Revolution.
A week ago, the InSight spacecraft was successfully landed on the surface of Mars by NASA scientists. It was the culmination of a seven month mission to get InSight safely in place before it begins a two year mission, to explore the crust of Mars. Talking to USA Today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the atmosphere at NASA was “… intense, and you could feel the emotion…” as InSight finally found its target after what is being called “seven minutes of terror.”
These last few moments of the landing mission were make or break for NASA. As the spacecraft took its final plunge to the planet’s surface, its heat shield had to cope with temperatures that rose to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, as the parachute designed to slow InSight’s decent at supersonic speed was released, a dozen retro-rockets deployed three shock-absorbing legs so that InSight could settle onto Mars’ surface. At any time in these final stages, one or more of the mechanisms could have failed, ending what was a billion dollar mission there and then. As the Popular Science website explains, “Mars has just enough atmosphere to set an incoming object on fire, and not enough to really slow it down. Landing anything there requires the utmost precision, planning, and an understanding of that pesky thing called physics. But the years of planning paid off.”
InSight will be the first spacecraft to concentrate on investigating what goes on beneath the surface of Mars. Despite previous investigations into the planet, scientists don’t yet know how big Mars’ core is, what it is made of, or if even if the planet is still active. NASA hopes that InSight will provide information to explain all of these things. To keep itself powered up, InSight, once the dust it disturbed on landing has settled, will need to deploy solar arrays to collect Martian sunlight, and so keep itself charged for the duration of the project. Once it has acquired sufficient power, the craft’s robotic arm will be activated and used to operate a number of scientific instruments. Amongst many tasks, these instruments will take the planet’s temperature and measure the extent of Mars’ slight wobble as it orbits.
InSight is also equipped with a seismometer, which will use the waves created by Mars-quakes and meteorite strikes to build a 3-D picture of the planet’s interior. Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s lead scientist, told USA Today, “That is the goal of the InSight mission, to actually map out the inside of Mars in three dimensions so that we understand the inside of Mars as well as we have come to understand the surface of Mars.”
The ultimate aim of InSight’s adventure is to provide an understanding of how planets such as Mars and Earth first evolved within our solar system. As Banerdt explains, “When we look at the crust of Mars, that’s a snapshot into the past, of what the crust of the Earth might have looked like 4.5 billion years ago…”
Too often we are inundated with stories of successful people’s morning routines, such as getting up at 5am to practice yoga, replying to emails and ticking off half a to-do list before even starting the working day. However, while this idea of always creating a productive morning may be inspiring to some, it may not sound remotely achievable – or appealing – to you and many others.
Oxford academic Dr Paul Kelley believes that our body’s natural rhythms are not set for such early morning starts. He called for a shift in the standard 9-to-5 work pattern of employees, claiming that the natural body clock is not accustomed to it: workers end up sleep deprived, affecting performance and output levels. Dr Kelley proposes that a more efficient starting time of 10am would suit us better during our working years, leading to lower levels of exhaustion and better gene function.
Similarly, Dr Kelley believes that children should not be expected to start school until 10am either. It is an idea that has been put to the test by a groundbreaking Oxford University experiment, and its results appear to support him. Grades increased significantly and rates of illness more than halved over a two-year period, illustrating the positive impact that better sleeping hours can have on teenagers’ performance in school. According to Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School, schoolchildren in Britain take sixth position as the most sleep-deprived in the world. Losing 10 hours of sleep a week is a direct result of students being forced to get up too early since the adolescent biological rhythm is ready for sleep at midnight, as Dr Kelley points out.
As these findings and beliefs demonstrate, it is absolutely fine to not follow the standard daily work pattern imposed on us by society when it comes to our own study time. Some of us naturally work better in the evenings and into the night, meaning our mornings start off a little later than those of early-risers; others prefer to sacrifice a few hours of sleep in the morning for an earlier bedtime. Part of the journey through Higher Education is finding out what study rhythm works best for us individually and utilising it accordingly. There’s no sense in starting weekend study sessions at the crack of dawn if you know your brain won’t be buzzing with motivation until a few hours later. Likewise, if the thought of staying in the library past dinner time fills you with dread, adjust your routine to suit when your mind feels most active.
One of the things to battle with is the guilt resulting from later starts to the day, with longer hours spent in bed synonymous with attributes of laziness and lack of direction. However, as science shows, biological factors have a lot to do with how our bodies respond to traditional work patterns. It’s time for a societal change and a better understanding of our natural body rhythms.
The prospects for geography students at university certainly hold promise for their future employability; a study of graduate unemployment rates six months after graduation by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit charity showed that geography, along with psychology graduates, were least likely to be unemployed.
Studying geography equips young people with a wide range of transferable skills which employers are keen to see: skills in numeracy, teamwork and project work gained through field trips, applied analytical and research skills and the ability to use a variety of computing applications. In an economically and environmentally challenged world, the diverse disciplines of ‘soft’ social sciences of human geography blend with the ‘hard’ sciences of physical geography, to give students a unique overview of the complexities facing our planet and its inhabitants. The subject brings an awareness of how to navigate socio-cultural differences required to address global issues and gain an understanding of natural disasters and their possible prevention.
This also means we require increased private and public sector investment in geographical science research and application; the creation of jobs which will improve the future for our planet and its inhabitants. If we consider natural disasters alone, specifically studies on storm and flood disasters, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the amount of incidents have risen by 7.4 percent annually in recent decades.
Not that we need to be reminded, of course. In 2014, the UK suffered its worst rainfall in at least 248 years. Thousands of homes across the country were flooded, culminating in an estimated more than £1.1bn of damage. This could be the start of things to come – with the Met Office predicting that global warming could mean heavy summer downpours are five times more likely by the end of the century. Perhaps now, more than ever, our planet pleads – invest in geography.
In 1957, Russia sent Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into space. America’s response was a promise to send a man to the moon. It was the then President Kennedy who made this risky claim, but it was met in 1969 when, on 20th July, Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle lunar module on the Moon.
Eventually the Cold War ended, and the USA and USSR decided to work together. Since then, although space exploration has continued remotely, the race for physical discovery in Outer Space appears to have subsided. Or has it? In recent weeks, a film celebrating the life of Buzz Aldrin, First Man, hit the big screen. Its reflection on an original ‘Man on the Moon’ comes as a new space race is gathering pace. Rather than government bodies such as NASA running the race however, it is the billionaires of America who have their hands on the controls.
The Falcon Heavy car, made by one such billionaire Elon Musk’s (above, right) Tesla company, was produced so that he could start exploring the possibility of carrying tourists on “slingshot” trips around the moon. As The Economist reports, ‘Mr Musk’s ambition is to propel humanity beyond its home planet…. In the days of the space race between America and the Soviet Union, the heavens were a front in the cold war between two competing ideologies. Since then, power has not merely shifted between countries. It has also shifted between governments and individuals.’ For his part, when speaking to The Guardian, Musk underlined the assertion with enthusiasm: “We want a new space race,” he said, “Races are exciting.”
Musk is not the only one to have taken over from space agencies like NASA and their main contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos beat Musk to landing a reusable rocket through his own company, Blue Origin, and the UK billionaire Richard Branson and a slew of other entrepreneurs have followed with lighter-lift rockets.
Phil Larson, a senior science adviser in Barack Obama’s White House and a former SpaceX official, explains, “There are many new rockets being developed, some light, some super-heavy, some in between.” There are some inevitable concerns. NASA has strict safety requirements for human spaceflight, but there are fears the new breed of explorers won’t always adhere to them in their race to be the first to reach the next popular goal.
NASA is preparing for a return of American astronauts to the moon, and last year China deemed an expanse of desert in the country’s north-west to be sufficiently Martian to be reserved as a training ground for Mars-bound “taikonauts”. China is not working alone in this, though. For the first time, Pakistan appears to be entering a space race, this time with rivals India. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that, “Pakistan will send a human to space for the first time in 2022, with China’s help.”
Meanwhile, India is promoting itself as a low-cost provider of rocket launch services for overseas satellite projects. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is no stranger to space exploration. The ISRO has already sent remote exploratory missions to Mars and intends to be the first to reach the Moon’s south pole in 2019. They also plan, in 2022, to send a crew of three astronauts on a seven-day orbit of Earth. As The Economist reports, “If the mission is successful, India will become only the fourth country in the world to independently develop a manned space flight, following in the footsteps of the former Soviet Union, US and China.”
While the race to reach the Moon has already been won, there is much still to learn. Mars features high on the wish list of the space explorers of the modern age. But who’ll win the next race? The established space agencies or a rich billionaire who has always dreamt of walking amongst the stars?
I am a complete book worm. I love reading, delving into new worlds, learning new things and improving my vocabulary. In my opinion, you should too! Here are some reasons why…
In my first years of studying I took an English course to improve my language skills. It was a nice surprise then, when I found out two of the books we had to read were already on my own ‘to read’ list! I thought this was wonderful because not only was I able to study and understand the language of these books, but got to enjoy the course in many more ways. It didn’t feel like work, which is always the dream!
So, what are the benefits of reading, and can I convince more of you to do it?
I have a rule that every night I do my best to read a few chapters before going to bed. Since doing so I have had much longer and deeper sleep and find I am more productive throughout the day. Reading helps you forget your worries as you focus on the story. After a few chapters, things will seem much less stressful than they did before. The article linked below adds more to the case.
I have just finished reading Deborah Harkness’ vampire trilogy and could not believe how many facts and so much history one author packed into such them! It’s amazing what you can discover when you pick up a book and start reading. You could even find an interest in something you’d never heard of before.
One of the best things about reading is it can improve your memory no matter what your age. It has also been linked to longevity, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s and just keeping your memory sharper than it would be without. So why wouldn’t you want to read? The link below has more about this.
Sometimes you can feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with a particular essay. This may mean you need a break, but rather than watching some TV, I find that picking up a book unrelated to your course can give your mind a better chance to relax and think more clearly. It’s a great way to press pause and will often help us to go back and break that wall.
Ever been sat on the sofa or propped up in bed with a good book, glanced over at the clock and realised a few hours have passed since you sat down? Well that is a sure sign your focus is working and a great indication that you’re relaxing too. When reading you are focusing on all the words, the story, turning pages and thinking ahead, which is a lot of multitasking, meaning your focus is automatically improved!
The next time you’re undecided whether to pick something off the shelf to read, then, I recommend you don’t hesitate!
The celebrated explorer, navigator and cartographer James Cook was born on October 27th, 1728 in the village of Marton, near Middlesbrough. He was from a large farming family, and helped out at home until he was 16. He then took an apprenticeship with a shopkeeper, but never settled, and soon swapped to another apprenticeship, this time working on coal ships. James loved the work, and in 1752 he passed the exams which would eventually enable him to help command a ship.
The Mariner’s Museum records how Cook, “…completed his three-year apprenticeship in April 1750, then went on to volunteer for the Royal Navy. He would soon have the opportunity to explore and learn more about seafaring. He was assigned to serve on the HMS Eagle where he was quickly promoted to the position of captain’s mate due to his experience and skills. In 1757, he was transferred to the Pembroke and sent to Nova Scotia, Canada, to fight in the Seven Years’ War.” During this war, Cook’s skills as a surveyor and cartographer were put to great use and led him to plan many attacks.
In 1760, Cook helped map the entire coast of Newfoundland. Once again, his exceptional mapping skills brought him attention, particularly that of the Royal Society and Admiralty, who would use his maps for voyages for the next 200 years.
On 30th July, 1768, Cook set off on his first great expedition, aboard the Endeavour, with a crew of 84. Amongst them were several scientists, their mission being to record the journey on new maps and explore as many unknown lands as possible.
In 1769 the Endeavour reached South America. Proceeding further, the crew set up a research base in Tahiti, which they named Fort Venus. One of Cook’s most renowned achievements occurred on June 3rd that year, when the transit of that planet was observed and recorded.
They left Tahiti in August, and sailed blindly for several weeks. It wasn’t until October 6th that land was sighted again, when Endeavour reached the country we now know as New Zealand. Cook named its first feature Poverty Bay. On all his travels, Cook tried to mix with the local populations and collect plant and animal life. In Poverty Bay, however, the native population was unfriendly, so he decided to sail south along the coast. As he did so, Cook noted many of the separate islands that cluster around New Zealand, and he named most; from Bare Island to Cape Turnagain. When the Endeavour turned around to reface the northernmost tip of the island, Cook realised that New Zealand itself was made up of two large separate islands.
In April 1770, Cook spotted the coastline of Australia. He landed in Botany Bay near modern day Sydney, before exploring the area. Then began the long journey back to England, via Batavia in Indonesia, before they finally returned to London in July 1771. A full chart of this first expedition is pictured above.
In 1772, Cook was promoted to full Captain and given command of two ships, the Resolution and Adventure, tasked to look for the Southern Continent. His explorations continued until he was 50, when his interest in the lives of native populations led to his downfall.
Captain Cook’s final voyage took place on board the HMS Resolution, and now he became the first sailor to land a ship on the Hawaiian Islands. This visit was initially successful, and Cook left the island with much information, before heading to America. A few months later he returned to Hawaii – but he’d outstayed his welcome. The local population had tired of him interfering in their way of life and at Kealakekua Bay, while trying to negotiate repairs to his boats, on 14th February, 1779, a fight broke out and he was killed.
James Cook is the first British ship commander to circumnavigate the globe in a lone ship. He is also the first British commander to prevent the outbreak of scurvy by regulating his crew’s diet, by serving them citrus fruit. He charted many regions and recorded many European islands and coastlines for the first time. Cook also provided new information about the Pacific Ocean and its islands. Further, he met with and recorded information about their various peoples. Again, none were previously known at the time.
While his methods would be seen as intrusive today, Cook was a man of his time, and his skill at surveying unexplored lands and seas can’t be denied. The long term importance of Captain Cook’s discoveries, coupled with his fearlessness to do so, have meant that we continue to commemorate his achievements today. A NASA space shuttle is even named Endeavour, after his first ship.