“Machine learning and human intelligence. The future of education for the 21st-century.”

The title of this review is the title of Rose Luckin’s latest book and Rose is delivering our Presidential lecture on July 8 at SML College on this topic. Her chair at UCL Institute of Education is in Learner Centred Design. It’s in that capacity that we have worked together in the past and in her latest book she does make reference to research that she did with our students in SML College. So I can’t suggest that this review is a totally independent and unbiased piece. We have both been totally committed to the notion of learner centred design […]

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A Spanish reaction to SML College

My name is Esther Russo and I work as a Vocational and Education Training teacher in the CIFP (El Centro Integrado de Formación Profesional) of Lorca in Murcia, Spain. In recent years my interest on new approaches to learning has grown, especially seeing the results that we have in our classrooms: lack of motivation, problems with managing time and goals, stress, abandonment of the courses, lack of social skills. I can see those even among my students, who are over 16 years old and many times over 18 or 20, are supposed to be really engaged, as they have chosen […]

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A discussion about education with comedian Mark Watson

I went to see the comedian Mark Watson doing a stand-up gig at a local club. One thing he likes is interacting with his audience. This time he left cards on tables for us to write on it any opinions we had individually that were seen as odd. I wrote that schooling should be abolished – this was a comedy gig and did need something controversial, even though I don’t hold to this in it’s extreme. Mark comes on stage and picks out cards to read and one of these was mine. He asked who had written this and why […]

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Education, work and learning

It was common in my school, and I believe still is, for teachers to chide pupils who were not working. Working meant working at a prescribed task from the teacher. Also in modern parlance, there is reference to having pupils ‘on task’. If you are not working at a prescribed problem or task, then it is assumed that you were not learning. Recently a parent asked me what we would do if a student is not working. I indicated that we may do nothing since it’s not apparent that it’s a problem. Often when I was criticised in school for […]

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Self Managed League Gaming

An idea came to mind when Louis and I were chatting in the kitchen about game development. In the past couple of years I’ve gotten into ‘modding’ for a few games I play, and for five years Louis has been the go-to tutor for everything programming, with much of that time spent helping several of the children with creating their own games in Unity and Scratch. I asked if he thought it would be possible to bump all our heads together and try to create a finished game as a group and he was very hopeful. We have such a […]

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Touch typing – persistence and patience

Touch typing is the ability to type without looking at the keyboard, and requires a lot of persistence and patience to learn. As someone who was taught touch typing at a young age, and having been terrible at it at the time, I know very well how difficult a skill it is. Many people end up finding their own way to get the job done, but with increasing pressure on competency with technology; it is absolutely vital to know how to do it the most efficient way. Even in education we are seeing change. Those with learning difficulties are allowed […]

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SML College is exactly what “teaching” should be

As a trainee teacher in mainstream education, I found teaching the subject I love, very difficult. The essence of learning is curiosity, expressiveness and freedom and unfortunately, the Science curriculum is being taught at young people instead of being engaged with, in an exciting and critical way.  At SML, young people have the freedom to explore and inquire into a world where a lot of mystery is still to be revealed.  I have the opportunity to help tutor students who want to study GCSE Science, coupled with providing fun workshops that cover a broader range of knowledge than the national curriculum does […]

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Empowerment – from a presentation at the International Democratic Education Conference in Bangalore India

At the end of November I attended the International Democratic Education Conference in Bangalore India. As part of the presentation that I made I explored the notion of empowerment. I used the model shown below which summarises the way in which we think about empowerment in Self Managed Learning College. It uses the idea of traffic lights to highlight the difference between non-negotiable, negotiable and empowered activity. Like any organisation we have some non-negotiable elements. These include that we start the day with our community meeting. However what people say in the community meetings is up to the individual. They […]

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A positive and uplifting community

Earlier this year, I conducted my 8 week block placement at SMLC, whose purpose was two-fold, firstly, I aspired to support the organisation’s work in the role of a volunteer and secondly, I was required to undertake a research project. My researcher role required me to observe and interact with learning advisors (LA) and learning group advisors to create an in-depth understanding of what they do and my role as a volunteer resulted in me helping students and LA’s on a daily basis with activities and workshops. Looking back and writing this, I disgustingly remember counting down days where my placement would be over. […]

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Thoughts from India

I am in Bangalore to attend and run a session at, this year’s International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC). I used the opportunity to arrive early to talk with some teachers and especially to gain insights into the current situation here from Amukta Mahaptra, who runs SchoolScape based in Bangalore. (Amukta is also the convenor of this Conference and is well known in India for her work.) Overall the picture here is very similar to what is happening all over the world. State-run schools are very traditional, classroom-based and totally teacher led. There is minimal room for young people to have […]

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