Helping Your Child Cheat at School (A Guide to Helping Kids Succeed*)


You're right, kids these days get far too much homework. It's especially bad now that they're teenagers. They're always in their rooms doing their homework. And they've developed this nervous habit of hiding their phones under their books whenever you walk in unexpectedly. They're surly and always tired from so much homework. It seems all you can do is let them go to parties all weekend to unwind.

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Why I Hate The Education System: A Student Speaks Out

Do the top achieving students hate the education system? It seems unlikely – paradoxical almost. But I am convinced that most of them do. And you would think that they wouldn't. You would think it would be those who struggle with school, and to a degree, you would be right. But in my experience there is no single group who despises school more than those who seem to have mastered it. But they don't loathe being there and they don't resent learning – their contempt is for the outdated psychological and pedagogical systems which underpin education.

By the end of their schooling, these gifted students think about school like they do a squashed bus ride: something to be endured stoically, and gotten over as soon as possible so that they can step out into the fresh air, stretch their arms and breathe.

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What’s That Stink? (A Review of Microsoft’s Word, Excel & PowerPoint Apps for the iPad)


I don't generally do app reviews, but then a ripe reek wafted my way from the iPad App Store. And it came from the top of the free apps section. Let me put it to you this way: I cannot believe that Word, PowerPoint and Excel are at the top of the charts. Microsoft should perhaps have waited another four years before releasing these apps. Perhaps then they would have rotted away altogether instead of being the festering, rancid things they are. The MS Office app suite for the iPad stinks and it stinks very badly.

Do get me wrong, I am a huge Microsoft fan (overlooking Windows Vista and Windows 8, of course), and I've been hoping for four years now that MS would release their Office suite as a set of apps. In the meantime, I've gotten very used to the iWorks suite for the iPad. Pages, Numbers and Keynote are awesome to use. They've become old friends, but I've always thought I would ditch them and jump over to Microsoft as soon as they entered the App Store with a sexy suite of apps. But now that they have, I'm afraid I'm going to have to let go of that little dream.

The Office Suite for iPad sucks REALLY badly. You just have to browse through the reviews to figure out why. But for your convenience, here's a summary:


Why Microsoft's Office Apps for iPad Stink:

You cannot edit or save without an annual subscription to Office 365 to the tune of $99.00. That's $99.00. Per year. And if you already have one for your laptop, you need another one for the iPad! Sheesh! Pure, unmitigated greed.

We're used to bulky software from Microsoft, and that's okay on a desktop with a large hard drive. But on an iPad? Not so much.

Did I mention that you cannot edit and save? You also can't print.

There's no option to connect to Google Drive, or Dropbox, or, well, anything.

Did I mention that you can't edit and save. You can only view without a subscription. And when you do view, there are massive problems with graphics.


Get Over It

Part of my job is to get teachers comfortable with using their iPads. I know a lot of them who use MS Office on their desktops will be rushing to download these apps. As difficult as it might be for them, I'll be recommending that they don't. I'd rather spend my time teaching them to use Pages, Numbers and Keynote – they're far cheaper, beautifully intuitive, highly connectable and extremely good looking. And they're free with new iPads. And even if you have to buy them, you're paying about $30 for all of them…. once off… Including all future updates. No subscription required.

I have no doubt that Microsoft will fix the myriad of other little issues and glitches many users have noted – things like the inability to open older MS documents, the inability to open embedded sound and video, unwanted changes to spreadsheet formats, lack of support for password-protected files and all of those things. But I do not think they're going to acknowledge the utter stupidity of Office 365 any time soon.

Perhaps Apple should consider removing these apps from the App Store. They have to be in violation of a number of Apple's policies. No doubt, there will be a lot of hissing and fur flying. But once that's all done, things will smell a lot better in the App Store.

Because right now it stinks to high heaven.

Sheesh. (Hand flapping furiously in front of nose.)




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40 More Things Students Don’t Say

You have got to love Twitter. It's often a swarming sea of insignificance – but just as often, a wriggling marlin of a post breaks the surface. Here's what I reeled in this morning:


Ah, Blunt Educator, you said it so well. But you didn't say enough. Here are a few more

Things Students Don't Say:

        • Standardized tests really allow me to demonstrate my learning in a personalized way.
        • The curriculum really is more important than I am. No really, it is!
        • School is definitely about how well I do in the exams.
        • My education is preparing me for life.
        • I don't feel like I am just a number.
        • I agree that technology is too distracting to be used in lessons.
        • I love not having a say in what I learn.
        • Who needs to be taught how to think better when I get to learn facts by heart?
        • It's incredible how relevant most of my learning is.
        • There is no need to establish connections between what I learn in different subjects.
        • I hate working independently.
        • School allows me to discover and develop my own interests.
        • I can see myself having a life-long love affair with learning.
        • The degree to which I can collaborate and exchange ideas with my classmates is awesome.
        • At school, I get to learn to solve problems creatively.
        • School makes me feel like I can change the world for the better.
        • Thinking critically about the information which comes my way is something I do every day at my school.
        • I know how meaningless it is to cut and paste information from the internet.
        • Homework really helps me to practice and apply the concepts I've learnt in class meaningfully.
        • Struggling with homework has played a huge role in developing my character.
        • Yes, a 'B' symbol accurately summarizes who I am as a person.
        • My heavy school bag makes my back stronger.
        • I have ample time to think and reflect at school.
        • Being compared to others really motivates me.
        • I love my teacher's decades-old notes and worksheets.
        • Who needs digital textbooks?
        • It's good to learn from a young age not to question authority.
        • I will give my teachers respect even if they don't give me any.
        • There really is only one way to learn.
        • I love it when my teacher writes on the board and we have to copy it down.
        • As a boy, I really feel that school is designed to capture my attention by making me sit still.
        • As a girl, being socialized into being compliant will stand me in good stead for an independent future.
        • I love that I get to learn something by failing.
        • As an introvert, I love hearing about how 'coming out of my shell' will be good for me one day.
        • Yes, I think the STEM subjects are more important than the arts and humanities.
        • There is absolutely no need for teachers to update their skills.
        • My teachers set the example by modeling curiosity and the ongoing quest for knowledge.
        • I would hate to have to see what kids in other classes around the world are doing.
        • I love having an input into the syllabus and how it is taught.
        • Words like 'rigor' and 'academics' and 'tradition' inspire me.
        • Wow! Academic awards ceremonies are the highlight of my year.
        • There is no need for any kind of enrichment which goes beyond the syllabus.
        • It's wonderful how students who struggle are made to feel inferior at my school.
        Any to add?


        Be good.




        Posted in Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Vitriol | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

        iPads in Teaching – What Are They For?

        This picture was drawn in response to a post called 'Drawing On A Napkin: Is This How iPads Function In A Traditional Classroom?' by the esteemed Terry Heick.

        Mine was not drawn on a napkin, but on Notability. And, to answer that snarky Johannesburg based iPad trainer who cannot believe I can do what I do using the iPad, yes I did create it myself!

        This is what I think iPads are 'for' in education. Let me know what you think.


        Have a groovy day, baby.



        Posted in EDUCATION, iPad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

        What About the Girls?

        I have been a strong advocate of teaching boys and girls differently for a few years now. My reasons for pushing gender-based learning are neurological and cognitive – boys' and girls' brains just work differently. And we have begun to realize that, because of the way traditional schools work, boys are getting a raw deal. They are more likely to fail a year, far more likely to be diagnosed with a learning problem, more likely to suffer from low self-esteem because of their underachievement and less likely to go on to university. This is a world-wide crisis which has been well documented.

        At my school this year, we have separated boys and girls in Grade 9 and the results so far have been amazing. The boys' class I teach is a revelation: filled with newly confident and engaged young men.

        And then a gently revolutionary colleague named Colleen Walls planted this thought: 'In telling girls they are more compliant and easier to manage, are we not reinforcing the stereotype that women in general need to be this way?' That is, when we teach girls, most of us note how much more diligent, compliant and measured they are. They study better, are less disruptive and can manage their work and time better.

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        Posted in Activism, EDUCATION | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

        Homework is a Slimy, Smelly, Nasty Troll That Eats the Souls of Children

        (Image credit:


        Homework is evil. Truly, wickedly, horridly evil. Homework is a slimy, smelly, nasty troll which eats the souls of children. And these unfortunate souls are shoveled into homework’s gaping, slobbering maws by its devoted minions.

        We call these unthinking, complicit minions ‘teachers’.

        Or, if you prefer your prose less purple and more straight-forward: bad teachers are giving students bad homework for bad reasons. This is bad for learning and bad for children.

        Just bad. Continue reading

        Posted in EDUCATION, Vitriol | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

        Debbies, Dillons and DNA

        Have you ever noticed how sporty boys are a bit slow in class? Or how all girls named Debbie are always a little shallow? Or how the Dillons you teach are always a bit naughty? Or how Asian kids tend to be so good at Math?

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        Yes, Wikipedia is a Reliable Source. Stop Saying It Isn’t.


        On the Wisdom of Crowds Versus Knowledge Elitism

        I've written about this first bit before, but it bears repeating:

        It used to be that knowledge was a scarce commodity. It was carefully collected, preserved and protected by the church and by the state. Teachers of various kinds used to be the ones charged with disseminating this knowledge to the general public in carefully measured amounts.

        Although many, many people still believe that knowledge is a rare and arcane commodity, to be handled only by the berobed few, the world has changed. The rise of the internet, coupled with falling connection charges, increased data speeds and the ubiquitous spread of internet-capable devices, amounts to the single greatest revolution mankind has ever witnessed. But it is a somewhat slow revolution and one which has not yet reached its full culmination. And this is most likely why the masses have not yet recognized it for what it is: the ultimate means of democratizing knowledge. As such, it also means power relationships are steadily changing: those who have knowledge no longer wield as much power over those who do not.

        And it goes a step further: not only do the majority of people now have access to knowledge, but they can also contribute their own. And this is what worries the former gatekeepers of knowledge more than anything. Now the final battle is being fought over who gets to generate knowledge: the specialists or the masses. And the central battleground for this final showdown is Wikipedia.

        In his brilliant treatise 'On The Wisdom of Crowds' (subtitled Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations) James Surowiecki argues against the fact that the collective generation of knowledge necessarily equates to 'madness' or a mob mentality. Turning conventional (gatekeeper) wisdom on its head, Surowieki argues that crowd-sourced knowledge can often be more insightful, more accurate and more useful than than traditional, specialist-driven knowledge. However, there are a few conditions:

        1. The group must be large and the backgrounds and ideas of the group must be diverse enough to ensure a great deal of heterogeneity.
        2. There should be a mechanism through which all voices and ideas can be expressed.
        3. There should be limited communication between members of the group so as to prevent the consolidation / revision of diverse ideas.
        4. People should be able to choose the areas to which they would like to contribute

        If these conditions are met the 'herd' very often makes better decisions than any particular member thereof. What's more, they often make better, more useful contributions than the experts.

        And all of this is exactly what makes the internet in general, and Wikipedia in particular so absolutely, wonderfully great.

        Why Wikipedia is the Best Thing on the Internet

        I used to love reading through my encyclopedias. I still have a full collection of Brittanicas in my library. And then I got hold of the digital versions of Grollier and Britannica and Encarta. Now even those do not exist any more. And they don't exist because of Wikipedia. Do a search on anything in Google, and Wikipedia is invariably amongst the first results. It has become to the lay person and their quest to know what Google is to search engines.

        Yet many people – especially snooty 'I know best' teachers – say that Wikipedia is unreliable. The reason these Luddites don't get why Wikipedia is one of the best sources out there (outside of peer-reviewed academic articles) is that, as they put it, 'anyone can edit a Wikipedia article'.

        My response to this foolish objection is always this: 'If it's so easy to vandalize Wikipedia, why don't you go and do it yourself?'

        Predictably, the ignorant objectors will have no idea where to start. And the truth is, there are number of hoops potential editors need to jump through, as well as a great number of failsafes – including protected pages, monitors and the like. No doubt, there are errors – but, as any serendipitous Wikipedia surfer knows – these are quite rare and easy to spot. And in a number of studies Wikipedia comes out close to tied for number of (small) inaccuracies when compared its 'more respected' counterparts.

        Says Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales:

        “One of the big misconceptions about Wikipedia, people imagine that it‘s something like one million people each adding one sentence each and somehow miraculously it becomes something useful. But in fact what actually makes it work is the community. There‘s a really strong community of people behind the site and they are in constant communication by email and IRC chat rooms and things like this. And so they are monitoring every change that goes to the site – there are people who are looking at it and vetting it and trying to see if it‘s good or not.”

        A number of dedicated editors and watchers keep Wikipedia safe, and specialized software monitors changes. On the whole then, Wikipedia is extremely reliable. Thousands of statements are continually being refined and are almost all referenced. And where there is vandalism, it is repaired relatively quickly.

        But what makes Wikipedia truly awesome is that they encourage bold edits and anyone is free to contribute. Wikipedia articles are thus the ultimate expression of the wisdom of crowds and of the democratization of knowledge.

        Like anything you come across on the internet, you do need to approach Wikipedia with a skeptical eye, but to say it is 'unreliable' smacks of either elitism or ignorance. And if educators are going to insist on demonizing Wikipedia, let them at least encourage their students to use it as a diving off point – it's a great way to get an overview of a topic, and most often an incredible source of links to further 'more reliable' reading.

        And, of course, those naysayers can always begin contributing to Wikipedia themselves.

        Then watch if they say it's unreliable.



        Further reading:


        Look me up on Twitter


        Posted in Advice, Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Self-edification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

        The Little Book of iPad Safety

        Posted in Advice, Apps, EDUCATION, iPad | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

        Why Birthdays Are Humbug (Except for Cheeseburgers & Granadilla Cakes)

        Let's get right to it:

        Don't you hate those office whip-arounds and teas where everyone donates money and best wishes for a mom-to-be as she departs on maternity leave? You always feel compelled to give something because everyone else is doing so. Even if you plan on never having children of your own. The secret behind this stupid ritual is the thought that one day it will be your turn and you'll get your own windfall. A bit like a community savings scheme or what we call a stokvel in South Africa.

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        Posted in Life, Vitriol | Tagged , , , ,

        The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: A Short Guide to the Best (& Worst) Documentary Channels for Kids

        Kids should watch more TV. Specifically, they should watch good quality documentaries – as often as possible. This is because teachers and books and parents are no longer the fount of all knowledge. If kids can learn and supplement their knowledge from television and the internet, they will develop a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the world around them. And that can only be a good thing…

        Except, that is, if they are exposed to the outright rot masquerading as educational 'documentaries' on many of our channels.

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        Posted in Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Intelligence, Self-edification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

        Why It’s Time for Machines to Take Over Marking High-Stakes Tests

        Improving What You Hate While You're Stuck With It

        I hate standardized assessments. There is simply no way that one-size-fits-all batch assessments can ever allow for an individual student's strengths to shine through.

        At the same time, examinations and tests are so ubiquitous and so entrenched that it may take a long time for us to outgrow them. But while we are still mired in the era of standardized testing, surely we need to find ways to make them work better?

        Specifically, it is my contention that we need the eliminate marker bias, inconsistency and gross incompetence that so often goes along with these assessments – particularly in the realm of school-leaving examinations.

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        Why Declining National Assessment Standards Hurts Kids


        You would think that lowering the standards of final national exams in South Africa would be good news for kids. Easier exams mean more of them pass more easily. And top students can clean up.

        You would be wrong.

        Easier examinations always equates to an imbalance between higher and lower order questions – with the latter dominating, and the former being heavily watered down. Kids are less likely to be asked to showcase their ability to think and assess and analyse, and more likely to be asked to regurgitate what they remember.

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        Posted in Activism, Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, South Africa, Vitriol | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

        Fear Itself

        We're addicted to fear. Even in the age of science and reason, we love a good scare. Who hasn't pulled the covers up a little higher after watching a particularly frightening horror movie – or tucked their legs up just a little bit higher after a chapter or two of Stephen King bedtime reading? Give our minds just a little prick and even intelligent people begin to imagine all manner of supernatural horrors: The shadows in the moonlight become looming monsters, a strange sound becomes a deranged killer, a gust of wind becomes a ghost and even the drain becomes something we don't want to look at too long.

        We are so titillated by being scared that we find ways to make ourselves afraid. And it isn't just with imaginary ghost and demons. We love roller coasters and racing and sky-diving. It's the exhilaration of a controlled near-miss. We secretly enjoy jumping when the thunder cracks, and we love thinking about the exotic things that could kill us, no matter how small the odds. Shark attacks, the Y2K bug, American fiscal policy, asteroids, commercial flights, communism, dirty toilets, the Mayan calendar, dentists, atheists, killer bees and the like have all featured on millions of people's list of secret fears. And has been the fodder of bad journalists and other fear-mongerers for decades.

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        Posted in Advice, Atheism, EDUCATION, Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

        How to Use Your iPad: A Checklist of Skills

        iPad ChecklistWant to go from iPad noob to iPad ninja in just a few days? Use this checklist to guide your development, grasshopper.

        Click here to download the PDF version: iPad Skills Checklist or click 'Read More' below to access the full sized image.

        Please also see these pages on iPads in education:

        1) Getting The Most Out of Your iPad

        2) iTeaching

        3) Apps for Teaching Earth Sciences

        4) The Best Apps for Teachers

        5) Apps for Learning Chess

        6) Apps for Creative Teachers And Students

        Drop me a reply or a tweet to let me know how you're getting on or if you need any advice.

        Suggestions as to omissions are also most welcome.

        Have fun!

        iPad for cats

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        Posted in iPad | Tagged | 3 Comments

        And In The Darkness Bind Them: The Biggest Education Myth Of All


        On Medieval Elitism, The Mythological Underworld and Magical Fellowships

        Wading Through the Fog

        There is a thick layer of myths in education. We are surrounded by things that sound as if they should be true, but are not. Despairingly, most of these untruths are perpetuated by well-meaning teachers, who get hold of a flawed study, a bad analogy, a cherry-picked anecdote or some piece of pseudoscience and take it as truth. Add a noxious mixture of confirmation bias, wishful thinking and fallacious appeals to authority, and these myths become entrenched.

        Some of the more prevalent myths in education include the following:

        Homework is like a practicing sports, or like a musician rehearsing: the more you do it, the better you get.

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        Posted in Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Intelligence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

        My Playlist of Animated Shorts to Teach Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Controversial Issues

        Hope you can use them. Please give me a shout if
        you think there are any I should add…

        Pay me a visit on Twitter:

        Posted in Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

        Waze of Learning: On Crowd-Sourced Education

        Have you come across Waze yet? I use it all the time – even during the short trip to work and back, when I don’t need help navigating. And when I need to go further afield my wife-like girlfriend insists on coming along as a navigator so that she can earn Waze points.

        In essence Waze is a simple mapping and navigation app. But it’s so much more. Just by introducing rewards and a social aspect, Waze makes commuting interesting and fun. Whoever thought the daily drudge to work and back could be an enjoyable experience?

        Because I’m always thinking about learning, I see in Waze a powerful metaphor for what education should be.

        Waze makes driving a game. You earn points, badges, rewards and progress through levels as you drive and interact more. As conflicted as I am about ‘gamification’ in the classroom, done properly, it works – and it works well.

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        Posted in EDUCATION, iPad, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

        Create magical experiences using these 3 lessons from Harry Potter

        Sean Hampton-Cole:

        David Theriault talks uses magical metaphors from Harry Potter to reveal the amazing potential of apps in education…

        Originally posted on : the readiness is all:

        Harry Potter succeeds as a story because it powerfully mixes magic and love: these two words when combined with the latest technology tools (Padlet, ThingLink, IFTTT) can easily create a magical and memorable experience for you, your friends, students, audience… anyone.

        Poor Harry Potter, stuck in a world of Muggles. Most teachers who don’t use the latest technology live like young Harry Potter. They have no clue what powers they have trapped within them. Luckily for Harry, Hagrid shows up to save the day. The first time we see some purposeful magic is when Hagrid lights a soothing fire. There’s nothing astounding about the fire, except that it’s the right magic at the right time.

        The second time we see magic is when Hagrid gives Dudley Dursley a pig’s tail. Once again the magic isn’t all that special, but there’s an element of fun and a lesson learned.

        But for…

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        Posted in EDUCATION