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How The Gruffalo is helping both reading and science

The award winning author of the books about ‘The Gruffalo’ recently expressed her concern over children’s lack of knowledge of even some of the commonest aspects of the natural world. In a recent article Julia Donaldson said how sad it was that schools have little time to encourage nature study because so much of the curriculum was focussed on pushing reading writing and maths and the rigours of testing. From what she sees in schools – and she says that she’s visited more than Michael Gove ever did – and despite what many of the brilliant teachers she meets are trying to do, nature is no longer a priority. And although other subjects are important, it is an understanding of and connection with nature that will preserve it and ultimately the planet. Michael Rosen, an award winning children’s author himself and former children’s laureate like Julia, also spoke recently in a letter to Ms Morgan the current education minister, about how the focus on testing creates neglect
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What will e-learning look like in the future?

E-learning is a concept which excites some and concerns others. But regardless of whether we embrace it with open arms or regard it with a sceptical eye, e-learning is already well and truly upon us and growing larger every day. From MOOCs (massive open online courses) to augmented reality technology, which places students in various roles from astronaut to a historical figure; the world of learning is becoming less and less about massive text books and more about innovative technology. And in British universities, recorded lectures have become so prevalent that some students can barely find a reason to leave their houses anymore, opting instead to watch their lectures in bed after a lie-in, with the wonderful ability to pause their lecturer. And, if students do attend their lectures, the lecture halls are likely to be filled with the clatter of laptop keyboards rather than the scribbling of pen on paper. It has also become common to enrol on a distance learning course instead of phys
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Gardening for astronauts – and education!

There’s an intriguing experiment being conducted at the moment by the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency and they hoping children will be able to help them. Research is being conducted into growing plants in space and British astronaut Tim Peake has asked children to help him. He’s asking for help with the experiment to grow seeds which have been with him in orbit to see how they differ from the growth of seeds which have not left the earth. Although this is aimed at schools, for your home educated child the experiment raises many fascinating questions for consideration and discussion. The complicated question; ‘which way is up?’ among them. And also raises important issues which surround the growth of our food and its connection to environment and planet. The experiment is part of a study to see how we might be able to grow plants without the conditions the earth provides that we know plants need; not only conditions like soil, light and air, but also gravity
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How the PREVENT Scheme and CTS Bill will affect your children

I recently wrote an article for Media Diversified on the Counter-Extremism questionnaire that is being widely circulated on social media. The questionnaire was given to children of Buxton Primary School in East London, but has also been trialled by other schools in the area. The questionnaire was revealed to be part of a project named BRIT (Building Resilience through Integration & Trust), which is being promoted by Waltham Forest Council and funded by the European Commission. The survey, as I mention in my article, consists of undeniably loaded questions aimed at discerning the religious, ethical and even patriotic beliefs of the children taking part . Moreover, it is my opinion that the  survey is undoubtedly intended for Muslim children primarily, who will continue to undergo interrogation of this kind as part of the new legal obligations upheld by educational institutions, consisting of monitoring potential ‘extremists’, as dictated by the Counter-Terrorism and Securit
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What Does The New Tory Government Mean For Us?

The new conservative government will preside over us for the next five years, bringing new laws into practice, while scrapping other (important) ones in the process. Britain, now fully in the hands of the Tories (besides Scotland who, thankfully have an SNP majority), will change drastically, and while a handful of us have the privilege of remaining relatively impartial to such transformations, the majority of us will feel the consequences. For those of you who are unsure what the next five years under a conservative government will mean for you, I ve compiled a brief list of the issues and policies that should be at the forefront of our post-election political analysis: Restrictions on our freedom of speech   Through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill  in particular, which passed this February as part of the national witch-hunt against British Muslims, both universities and schools have become target-sites for government crackdowns on radicalisation . Such crackdowns have
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Private tutoring: independent views on its pros and cons

As you and I are both interested in education, and as you’re reading this article on an online education website, you may reasonably expect a natural bias towards the benefits of private tutoring for children. I know that it has its advocates and detractors, which is why it was interesting for me (and hopefully for you) to report on a country-wide debate held recently on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme on 5th May, 2015 . During the 45-minute phone-in and discussion parents, teachers and privately-tutored school-age children up and down the UK were invited to call, e-mail or text their opinions on the merits and pitfalls of private tutoring. The preamble told us that the private tuition market in the UK is currently estimated at £6bn annually, with almost one in four children tutored at some point in their school career. Later in the programme we learned that this further breaks down as 17% of children from poorer backgrounds and 29% from richer backgrounds: so not neces
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Applying to Graduate School in America: What to do before you apply

So you ve decided to apply to graduate school, and better yet graduate schools in the US! The prospect of applying to graduate courses in America can be both exciting and daunting, particularly if this is your first time applying for graduate school altogether. Rest assured, there are thousands of overseas applicants in your position, and plenty of help available to make applying in the US easier, simpler and less daunting. This post is part of a three-post series I ve designed to help you tackle applying to graduate school in America for either MA or PhD programmes. To make this easier, I ve divided the posts into three important stages: before applying, applying and post-application. Each post will contain easy step-by-step guides for each stage of applying to graduate school, which will include tips for getting good references, tackling the GRE and writing your statement of purpose. As part one in this series, this post will focus on what you need to do before you begin apply
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Is Graduate School Still Elitist?

The last few years have been a painful process of realising that the Academy is still very much an elitist institution. It functions to let certain people in, and keep certain people out, striving to allow only a certain privileged demographic to contribute to knowledge production, namely: the white, cisgender, male upper and middle classes. This article covers a brief summary of the ways in which graduate schools in the UK (and in the US) actively uphold discriminative practices and structures that maintain their elitism and inaccessibility. Before applying This elitism exists most explicitly (and insidiously) in the graduate schools of universities. The elitism entrenched in graduate schools starts before admission it begins with the admission process, including the run up to applying. Rising tuition fees, sometimes rocketing to over £20,000 a year, deters applicants from poorer socio-economic backgrounds from considering postgraduate education. As a result, universities
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Does class size matter?

When my mother (now 92 years old) started teaching, it was just after the Second World War. Some of the first classes she faced in north London had 50 pupils. She found it very difficult to keep discipline, and very difficult to keep the attention of every student. The reason the classes were so big was that school buildings were bombed out and teachers in short supply, both because of wartime losses. With reports suggesting that an extra 250,000 primary school places will be needed this year, and with budgets cut and inner city land costs escalating, it is possible that we will be approaching a similar sort of crisis soon. The same thing happened when there was a boom in numbers during the 1990s. And we can’t blame it on the war. Labour Leader Ed Miliband has chosen to make pursuing small classes part of his election platform, and that feels like a good idea. The amount of money he has promised to deal with it probably won’t scratch the surface, however. Most classrooms are desig
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Developing education through the Arts subjects

It can be hard for parents to value the place of arts subjects. Especially when much of the curriculum focus in schools is on the need to improve basics. A recent article in the press discussed a report which suggested that poor skills in literacy and numeracy were partly to blame for inhibiting the economy. And poor practices and policies in schools have driven the economic depression as much the financial crisis. My worry, when reading reports like this, is that both parents and politics can become obsessively focussed on those subjects and neglect others that are equally important like Sciences and Arts. The Sciences are generally recognised as valuable, even if not as much as literacy and numeracy. But at the bottom of the subject hierarchy lie the Arts. What parents and politicians, and even some in the education profession, fail to acknowledge is that Art subjects contribute to a general standard of intelligence and achievement as much as any other subjects, because a broad and
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Home education for dyslexic children

Home education can be a very successful choice for those children with Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a confusing difficulty with much controversy surrounding it, identifying itself in a multitude of symptoms. It particularly affects the way in which children read and process words and symbols. In a class setting, with much of the work revolving around written words and reading early, children’s learning progress can be severely inhibited if they have Dyslexia. It has been largely assumed that Dyslexia was linked to eyesight and vision differences and these partially caused reading problems. But a recent study which examined the link to vision has found that this is not the case, even though many dyslexics report that coloured overlays and lenses were a help when looking at print. Understanding and research about dyslexia are constantly developing. It’s an emotive subject and parents are understandably concerned when children don’t develop their reading skills in line with their contem
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Coping with exam failure – and believing in yourself

Hi all, it s been a while since I ve revisited this topic, but I ve been receiving hundreds of comments on the original post entitled How to cope with exam failure since it was published a few years ago, and I feel like it s necessary and important to revisit this painful and sensitive topic. Many of you, like me when I wrote that article in 2012, are wrangling with exam failure or the possibility of failing your exams. The difficulty in providing advice for failure is that it is incredibly hard to unlearn a lot of the rhetoric we have been taught that subconsciously encourages us to define ourselves by our exam results. Throughout our lives, we re told that we re worth less if we don t do well in school. We re told that everything we amount to is based on a 1 hour paper in an exam hall. We re never given the opportunity or the language to articulate otherwise, or to challenge this narrative. Your value is more than just an exam paper or an essay assignment: you re the sum of all
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4 ways to keep your privacy online in a surveillance-happy state

Privacy? What privacy? As many of you know, we live in a country where our government is rather Surveillance-happy (the UK and US both), and its power to spy on us is ever increasing. Trends of increasing surveillance is worrisome, especially if you have children who are active online. So, what can we do to retain at least a thread of the privacy we should have? While this list doesn t include ways to swiftly Matrix-move past surveillance cameras on the streets, it will, hopefully, give you some control over your online privacy: Use social media platforms that don t sell your information to third parties Facebook, amongst other leading social media platforms and websites, have been embroiled in quite a few scandals over their sharing of user data to third parties (mostly, to advertisers). It doesn t sit well with many people that their data, including private information, can be sold without their knowing, but luckily, there are safer, more private social media platforms out there
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Schools Need to Stop Sexually Shaming Girls

Looking back, my school days were often bittersweet, if not completely sour. There are particular things that strike a nerve with me to this day that I know are still happening in schools across the country. The things I m referring to aren t unique to my own school experience; they re systematic issues to do with the ways in which schools interact with their pupils and uphold dangerous patriarchal structures that harm school children, particularly girls. This is distressing enough on its own, but consider this: why are so many schools so invested in spending time policing and shaming their female students, rather than focusing on improving the quality of teaching? I pose this question because I ve been through the school system in the UK ( I went to one of the worst schools, in fact), I ve been told by teachers that my body and my clothes are provocative , I ve watched teachers let boys sexually harass me and other female students, and I ve been failed by the education system repea
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Ten Anthropology books you should read

If you re thinking about taking up anthropology at degree level, or you re simply curious about the discipline, it can feel quite intimidating to figure out where to start reading. Anthropology is a vast subject, encompassing elements of other disciplines in its methodologies and analyses, and as a result, there are thousands of books and journals available to read. But, where to start? As an anthropology graduate, I ve enjoyed reading many anthropological texts, some of which have been salient in my personal development both as an individual, and as an academic. Here, I ve compiled some of my favourite anthropological reads, as well as some fundamental books you should get acquainted with if you want to pursue anthropology at degree-level: P.s. I ve tried to find as many online free copies for the books I ve mentioned in this post as possible (education should be FREE): Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber  I was privileged enough to be taught by Graeber himself in the secon
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The magnificent seven: tips for exam preparation

So it s that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, everyone wants to be out and about doing nice things … but, of course, thousands of students have to study frantically in preparation for their exams. (Why, oh why, don’t we change the academic year so we take exams in the winter?!) Regrettably, but somewhat inevitably, there is significant pressure on students to achieve high grades. The NSPCC has reported a 200% increase in the number of students requesting counselling for exam-related stress. Some students are turning to alcohol and illegal drugs in attempts to cope with their nerves. However, it is possible to minimise the feelings of anxiety and boost the chances of success without taking these drastic measures. 1. Create a study timetable Many students are daunted by the amount of revision required for exam success. However, you can coral the tasks and overcome your initial feelings of dread by breaking the work down into manageable chunks. It’s wo
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Parents: what you should avoid saying to teenagers taking exams!

Don’t mention the E-word (exam). Don’t mention the R- word (revision). Don’t ever, ever mention the J-word (job), the U-word (university) and definitely not the C-word (comparison with siblings or friends). In fact, dear parents, it’s probably wise you stick simply to “What would you like for your tea today?” and “Can I get you more chocolate?” because just about everything else you say will be wrong. Irritating, critical, nosey, useless, patronising, stupid and WRONG. Even if you acknowledge you haven’t necessarily said the right thing and you apologise, that’ll be wrong, too. Oh, the early summer is such good fun in households with teenagers taking exams… The supportive comments Just try your best, love, that s all we ask.” Arggh! You may as well light the blue touch-paper and head to the neighbours’ house for cover. (“Of course I’ll do my best, what the hell else do you think I’m going to do after I’ve been stuck in a boring classroom for years on
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Why I Went On Job Seekers Allowance After I Graduated

After graduating, I spent most of the following months absorbed in applying to graduate schools in both the US and UK, not leaving much time for job-hunting. Once my applications were out of the way and I was nervously anticipating decisions from the universities I d applied to, I decided to give more thought to job-hunting. Living at home after moving from my student house in London to my parent s home up North, it was time for me to look for work so that I could save up and help fund my graduate education in the next academic year. Whether you re taking the year out between studying, like I am, or looking for a graduate job that ll lead you into a career, the stress of being unemployed and searching for work can be onerous and anxiety-inducing. At the time, I was helping out on a research project on-and-off, but not being paid, and needed to find a small source of income while searching for part-time work. Like many other graduates searching for work, I wasn t aware that Job Seeker
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Cheeky Nandos – The Best Explanations

I m sure most of you have seen the memes and heard the jokes about Americans just not understanding what a cheeky Nandos is. There have been some absolutely hilarious explanations floating around, using the most laddy language possible, leaving people from outside the UK confused and probably a little worried. It s weird because, even though I KNOW what a cheeky Nandos is, it s just really difficult to explain it in writing without feeling like I ve written a whole load of nothing: You re out with your friends, not doing much, probably just finished school or uni for the day, and then suddenly You all look at each other, and you know, deep down, that it s time for a cheeky Nandos. It s cheeky because it s a bit spontaneous and impulsive, but you re super hungry and ready for that chicken. Did I get that right? I m not sure. On a more serious note As you can tell, this is a bit of a light-hearted post intended to give you all a little break from the turbulence of exams, revision and st
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Support Bahar Mustafa: Maintaining Safe Spaces for Marginalised Students

Image taken from the Independent article: As a white man, I m surprised more women aren t tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
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Should kids be allowed to take mobile phones into school?

Some parents and teachers claim the use of mobiles is quite acceptable in our technologically focused world. Others say mobile phones are an unnecessary and unwanted distraction in the classroom. A recent report by Common Sense Media revealed that 29% of children start using mobile phones before they are able to talk; 70% of children have a complete understanding of how to use mobile phones by the time they arrive at primary school. Mobile phones are replacing more traditional forms of entertainment and playing an increasingly important role in children s modern development. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty and argument around the merit of mobile phone use in schools. School policy The rules regarding mobile phone use are typically set out in school policies. They outline the different forms of discipline that children can expect if found using their mobile phones in class. Many teachers are unwilling to tolerate the use of mobile phones during lessons. However, they face
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The A, B, C of the start-up

When you start a business, you take a giant leap into the unknown. Some of the questions you will be asking include whether there is a market for what you want to offer, how much are people willing to pay, what technology is required. It s a thankless task one thing you can be sure of is that most of how you think you know about the market, technology and your business will be incorrect. Worrying isn t it? As someone who has been through this process, what tips would I pass on to budding entrepreneurs starting their adventure into start-up land? My advice falls neatly into A, B and C. It s not based on a 2
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