It has been a while since the last English Breakfast. And I have got to admit that the world has not become better in the meanwhile. Sure, Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election in France and took office a few days ago. But there is still an unreasonable president in the United States called Donald Trump. And in Austria, we are heading towards premature elections this fall. What are the consequences for the educational system in particular?
For the educational system, Donald Trumps victory was one of the worst things that could have happened. After a few months in office, things do not get any better, as far as I am concerned. The latest proof for that was Sean Spicer’s lack of historical perspectives. To compare Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler is one thing, to call concentration camps <<holocaust centers>> another. No matter how far right the government in any European country is, such a statement would be off limits. The fact that Sean Spicer did not lose his job immediately, tells a lot about the lack of historical knowledge within that administration. Where are we heading towards to?
Working in education and writing about a lot of innovative approaches to teaching, I often meet the ones who always find excuses rather than ways to implement innovation. The so-called naysayers. You will find a lot of them, especially in Austria. Being frustrated with the educational system or the funding of it, they will always be reluctant to find ways to implement innovation in the classroom. And it is almost always the same excuse: money. Granted, things are tough at times and a lot of innovative approaches could be implemented easier with enough funding. But a good teacher cannot be stopped by that.
Last week, it has been 60 years. 60 years since the first founding contracts of the European Union had been signed in Rome. 60 years of peace followed and a process of integration started that has not finished yet. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that this Europe we live in, this European Union, is not ordinary. Yes, it has hiccups due to its structure. But like my president said, it takes 60 years to build something like the EU but it takes just a few minutes - or a referendum - to destroy it. Luckily, there are those other people in Europe that cannot be blinded by populism. Hofer lost, Geert Wilders lost and let’s wait and see what is going to happen in France.
In many ways, a country’s health care says a lot about the society of the respective country. One can even argue that principles of the health care directly translate to the educational system. If that is true, the USA are losing it. They are losing it all - at least from a European perspective. Republicans fired at the <<Affordable Care Act>>, also known as Obamacare. Under Donald Trump, it is going to be replaced by the <<American Health Care Act>>. The consequences are going to be severe and those, who can afford it, will be covered. But by no means those who need it the most.
Working in education, we are bound to see the potential rather than what could go wrong. We see room for improvements and not the political battles to get there. We do not understand why anything that could enhance the pedagogical interaction would be too pricy. In a word, we are idealists as we should be. And idealism is needed more than anything right now. Especially in education. There are a lot of trends and new features which could and should be integrated in class and every respectable teacher is going to do so. Hopefully!
The latest developments concerning the relations between Germany and Turkey raise the question whether the concept of democratic rights is fully understood. Because democracy is not solely defined by the citizens’ vote but by basic rights that apply to everyone. For instance, the separation of power or the human rights. Talking about the separation of power, a free and healthy press is an essential part of it. Two powerful politicians seem to ignore that and either call respectable press members <<fake news>> or arrest journalists writing critically about the regime. There is one thing Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have in common: They both benefit from their voters who seem to misunderstand the basic concept of democracy.
A major challenge in education is the proper assessment of students. What do we assess and how? Do we focus on the students’ strengths or faults? Should we focus on motivation or weaknesses? Isn’t it funny: When a student gets the results back from a test, he or she seldom hears the teacher saying <<Congrats, you have 16 answers correct!>>. The teacher probably might be saying something like <<What a shame, you have four answers wrong!>> We are so focussed on weaknesses that we forget to teach the students that they are great individuals.
Talking about the classroom of the future, people tend to think that technology is the most important part of it. I thought that this time, I am going to take a moment to talk about the pedagogical idea behind the classroom of the future and why I think that technology is not as important as one may believe. The most important part of the classroom of the future is the pedagogical concept behind it. The concept itself derives from the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels. The European Schoolnet put together the findings of a number of European projects tackling pedagogical concepts of the future.
The more I listen to Donald Trump, the more I shake my head in anger and disbelief. Often, I write about politicians confusing facts and trying to reach better results in elections due to their behavior made of lies. The current Trump administration is taking that to a whole other level and it is not going to get better any time soon. In school, we teach the children to reach the facts right, to criticize every information available and scrutinize it. Now, we are told to just believe someone who is not willing to accept facts if he does not like them? We should believe someone who defines what is fake and what is real news? And old saying says: <<Believe the one who is searching for the truth, not the one who found it.>>
When talking about the digitalization in school, the voices of the skeptics are the loudest. Quite often, I bump into an article, a post or a personal conversation in which the voices of the doubters are very loud and the level of disbelief that technology is able to elevate education is high. To elevate the quality of education to be exact. They say, technology did not help at all in previous decades. Why is that and under which circumstances could technological evolutions succeed? A short comment ...
Every new technology led to the belief that the paradigm of education would shift entirely. Be it the radio, the television, recording material (e.g. video cassettes or the CD) and now the raise of ICT and the internet. But interestingly enough, educational approaches did not change as expected. Today, I would like to talk about the reasons for that and under which circumstances technical innovation could change education altogether.
January, 20th 2017. Washington D.C.! Donald J. Trump is on the verge of becoming the 45th president of the United States of America. Barack H. Obama is standing behind him while President Trump is giving his inauguration speech. God knows what is going through Obama’s mind at this time. Eight years of work and either, Donald Trump is going to reap the fruits of the work the Obama administration has done under the most difficult of circumstances, or, the reforms are going to go out of the window because Trump is going to undo what Obama had implemented. I cannot speak for the American people and I believe that every democracy has its own right to elect the leaders it wants. But speaking as a European, that inauguration was different - very different indeed.
As I promised, in this week’s English Breakfast, I am going to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of Google’s Android operating system. Is it suitable for educational purposes? Last week, I wrote an article about iOS from Apple. With Android offering much more affordable alternatives, is it suitable to run in an educational environment? Android is an open source platform provided by Google. So, by definition, it should be more suitable for educational purposes, right? Today, I am going to reflect on why opting for Android might be a real consideration for students.
In this week’s English Breakfast, I am going to focus on something more technical. I will be discussing if any device running iOS is suitable for the pedagogical setting. Lately, Android is offering much cheaper alternatives and the price is always a valid point when it comes to education. Also, offering an open platform might be the key argument going forward. Today, I am going to reflect on iOS and why I think that it is the better choice. To be fair, I am going to write the same kind of article about Android.
2017 ought to be different. There is a president elect in the USA and in Austria, which means, no more campaigns. Just work! 2017 will be about being reasonable. The Innovationsschule is mainly about education and being reasonable has got a lot to do with education. I often write about new pedagogical concepts and right now, some of them are being tested. The Future Classroom Lab is just the tip of the iceberg. Also, when it comes to technology, there is is a lot going on. Technology translates to education.
Back to the roots? Why do we feel that we have to escape technology from time to time? Let’s be honest! We all were flirting with going back to a vintage cell phone. Just calling, SMS tops. No eMails, no Facebook, no Twitter. Going on vacation without having access to the internet is more than an attractive option. But why do we feel that way? Is technology taking over and dictating our way of life?
How do we inspire young people to get into science? While its importance increases permanently, the popularity of science is still low. Mainly, due to the unawareness, young people do not know about the career opportunities in science. Science still has that geeky image that appeals to nerds most of the time. The societal role of science is immense as it provides answers to question we raise all the time. Every little invention, every great product we use, goes back to scientific discoveries. And on top of that, the trend clearly shows that people are going to work together in an interdisciplinary way. And that is where school could mirror the labor market in terms of bringing together various school subjects.
By now, it is over. The election race ended and the excitement has subsided. Surprisingly, Donald Trump is the president elect. Not Hillary Clinton. <<We should make sure that he feels welcomed, because his success is our success,>> they say. Really? Did I miss something? Has he shown any respect or did he welcome the diversity a Western country - especially the United States of America - should be proud of? This is a European take on the events during the last week.
It seems that the same dilemma occurs in pretty much every democracy at some point. People get tired of voting. They are tired to vote the lesser of the (in many cases) two evils. Because in the end, the choice they make, is still evil. Comparing the USA to Austria, there are some parallels that stick out. In both countries people often do not know whom to vote. Yes, I often tell them that it is a democratic duty to vote, not just a constitutional right. But still. I often understand their resentments. In the following piece I am going to discuss the options we have and why I still think that it is better to vote than not to. Maybe, there is a solution but it is going to take constitutional changes to get there.
CETA is resolved, finally. Representatives of Canada and the European Union signed a treaty that has been negotiated for five years and has been finalized in late 2014, yesterday. Wallonia gave up its initial resentment in order for Belgium to agree to the part of trade of CETA. However, some resentments are stille there and they are louder than ever. But what is it exactly that the opposition of CETA is concerned about?
Often, we discuss that our children are going to need a different set of competences. Different to what we used to learn in school or at university. The digitalization might bring us to the post industrial era. How so? In the following article I am going to take a few minutes and to try explain. But the source of all changes are the modernization and the digitalization …
Remember that crazy Austrian daredevil who jumped out of a high tech balloon at 38.969,8 meters of altitude? Four years ago that -main jump- took place. At the time, it was spectacular. Baumgartner made a sporting event out of that adventure. The longest base jump so to speak. Last week, a grammar school close to Vienna reproduced that jump. This time, no human being jumped out of the weather ballon, but the results were just as staggering. Students of the 4D class realized a project that they called -StratosvierD-. But how did it work?
First of all, this article does not aim to criticize teachers. They do the best they can in educating our children. But people who work in education relate to this dilemma! We work our behinds off and try to make a positive impact on the students’ lives, yet we all feel that there is something missing. Fundamentally. We do not know what it is, but it seems like that the society we live in is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep up. For political decision makers, for parents, for teacher and - most importantly - for the students. I actively choose to rest my mind. Pursuing my hobbies, sports and photography most of all, and I try to observe the way we interact with one another, during work, my leisure time or even while sitting on a park bench. So these are just my thoughts I collected during those times but they are backed up by some developments we observe in school.
The first debate between the two presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is over. I am not going to go through the debate step by step and analyze a freak show second to none. In any other country, those two would not have a chance in a presidential run. Even in the United States, they are facing the only person they could possibly beat. I am going to reflect on something that has been mentioned numerous times during their campaigns. Character and temper. From an outside perspective, I am not an American, it seems that those two aspects are more important than anything else.
When talking about improvements of our educational system, there are a lot things to consider. To my mind, it all comes down to the learning environment we create for our students. And I do not mean that strictly architecturally. More than anything, creating a learning environment is a pedagogical question. There are many different types of learning spaces. But the most important thing is the focus on the result, the pedagogical outcome. I could not care less about the name of any given type of school, these questions are normally answered on a political level. All we should care about are the effects on our students. Basically, schools need to get closer to the real life. But what does that mean?
It was and still is a collective trauma. We all remember exactly what we were doing that day, that moment. Of course, we were frightened. For the first time, the tensions in the Middle East reached us. That was also when we were confronted with the consequences of our actions in the Middle East for the first time. We became victims of cruel terrorism and to that very day we still are. What happened that 9/11/01 still sticks with everyone of us and changed our life significantly. But after 15 years, it is time to reflect on the aftermath of that day. How are we coping with the challenges before us?
They are considered to be the oil of the 21st century. The tons of data that we voluntarily give big data corporations for free. Google or Facebook have access to personal data that even dictatorships tend to get jealous of. If data is indeed the oil of the 21st century, then privacy regulations are like laws for environmental protection. We all know that there is a huge discrepancy between big data and privacy. In the following piece I would like to reflect on basic terms and the current situation in the European Union. Maybe, we need to start all over again an rethink data usage.
A week from now, pupils will be sitting in school and trying to listen to the teacher whilst thinking about their summer memories. Some students went to the beach, others discovered new cities they did not know before or enjoyed their vacation at home because let’s be honest: We do not know if foreign places are safe these days. But anyway, batteries should be recharged, the stress level should be at its low point and everyone should be ready. And speaking of being ready, there are a lot of cool approaches to teaching to be used in school. And that is where the teacher comes in …
Nowadays, political protest results in better election results for right wing parties and the voices of political protest. Often I hear people say that the current system and the current leaders are weak, corrupt and disconnected to the general public. But the question is, whether political protest is addressed the right way when political parties gain power and still, do not care a lot about what is really necessary for any country. After all, let’s not forget that they are part of the system that they are claiming to fight …
Trevor Noah finally called him a stand up comedian. If you listen to his speeches and close your eyes, you could believe being in a comedy club and not listening to a presidential candidate. Donald Trump is a phenomenon, and not in a good way. He insults people, behaves like a true racist, changes his mind depending on his mood and lately, he threatens Hilary Clinton. President Obama was right about one thing: Outside of the United States, no-one really understands what is going on in this election. Outside the United States, a man like Donald Trump would not be taken seriously, he would be booed off the stage. In this week’s English Breakfast I am going to take a few minutes and reflect on someone who really is a joke, but a dangerous one.
In the last 18 months or so, the term patriotism has been used a lot. Often, it was used by nationalists who declare a monopoly on patriotism, just to cover up their nationalism and - let’s call it what it is - racism. The term patriotism got misused. The love for my country and my heritage has got nothing to do with my attitude towards other countries, people or cultures. In this week’s English Breakfast, I am going to reflect on the term patriotism.
We are witnesses of a historic development. After the unsuccessful coup of the military to sustainably change the political system in Turkey, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going through a worrying phase of „strengthening“ his power. In this week’s edition of the English Breakfast I would like to take a moment and reflect on what is happening before our very eyes. Of course, this is from my perspective and resonating my beliefs. But as a European citizen, I have the right to think about these developments out loud.
From a European perspective, the election campaigns for the presidential elections this coming fall seem to be a little bit ridiculous. Both, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are probably running against the only candidate they could beat. In any other election race, the eMail-affair would be the end to Hilary’s ambition and Donald Trump would not even be taken seriously given his intellectual approach to pretty much anything. Are the American people dealing with a decision for the lesser of two evils’?
Have you ever wondered what Europe is exactly? Henry Kissinger once said, „When I call Europe, I don’t know whom to call.“ Critics may say that the same applies to the European Union. Populist and far right parties across Europe seem to bury the concept of the European idea. Being the top of the iceberg, the Brexit vote in Great Britain shows a trend of political movements believing that countries are better off on their own. But are they really and under which circumstances does a united Europe make more sense?
After numerous requests, I decided to put out an English article once a week. It makes sense to bring international topics to a wider audience. I am going to call this new series of articles English Breakfast and I hope you will enjoy them. Of course, this week is all about the police shootings in the United States of America and the vigilantism that followed those frightening developments. The real problem about the developments that happened over the course of the last two years is the missing trust in a justice system that ought to treat everyone the same way. Therefore vigilantism seems to take over. But how did it come so far?