“Something better change” – Simon Finch (@simfin) #pelc12


In his diverse role Simon has worked in over 1000 schools at every level, and this has left him with a lasting impression “something better change”.

Simon began by reflecting on the question asked to many potential trainee teachers ‘who was the teacher sho inspired you?’. For him, none did. He started teaching in Thatcher’s Britain working with learners from backgrounds of second and third generation unemployment. Despite the hope of the past 25 years we are right back in that situation; something which fills him with anger.

Looking back across his career Simon breated the fact that teachers are always looking for the next piece of technology that is going to transform teaching. To him that implies that all teaching before that technology was rubbish.


Bringing a mock class onstage, Simon demonstrated an excercise using travel brochures to collaboratively find a holiday, and develop criticality of the brochures in the process. He compared this with trip advisor, where crowd sourced reviews introduce a different kind of criticality- sorting out the reviews concerning the facilities, and thos concering the spiritual harmony of a place… So now they can create blogs about the holiday, and produce their own brochures, but that doesn’t make the previous ways of teaching any less valuable.

“Teaching is a bit like weighing a Giraffe- you have to make the best of the tools you have got.”


Using the example of juggling, Simon showed the way we usually teach such things in schools- a long piece of text. The way it needs to be taught is by doing, that is good teaching, but it can be extended by allowing learners to film such difficult things on their phones to access as they need.

Simon blasted the current approaches to technology as inconsistent. His dog gets confused when someone lets it go on the sofa, it knows it isn’t usually allowed. For many learners they experience vast differences in approaches to, and allowing of, technology use by their teachers.

We have as much to do with teaching adults and teachers how to behave online as we do with young people, as this example shows.


This is the challenge faced by our society, yet Simon says we have education ministers who know nothing about learning pushing our curriculum back to a place we do not want it to be. He sees it as akin to someone thinking they are qualified to be a brain surgeon simply because they have spent some time in a hospital… ie any of us.

Simon played Gove’s statement on BBC news on new measures to sack teachers with classes who are not making progress. He said ministers should come to conferences such as this and speak to teachers who are trying to do the best for young people; such measures do nothing but make them as angry and disillusioned as he is.

The areas the should be concentrating on reforming, he says, is the assessment system. He shared examples of exam questions and text book problems used in school completely lacking in relevance, and a million miles from the subtlety of the good teaching that is happening.

“Being creative and relevant is the key to effective teaching.”

Simon characterised technophobic teachers not as scared, but as the one who have stopped trying to improve their craft. How to we nurture these teachers? He suggests the digital divide extends to teachers; the language being used by both sides is a barrier.

“So long as we talk about digital literacies we are alienating our colleagues.”

“Digital literacy is just a part of literacy”

What Simon says we really need are creative, empathetic teachers, and we don’t engage the majority of the profession with the language the ‘Ed tech’ or ‘e learning’ crowd are using.

However, he sung the praises of online professional communities such as twitter, the blogosphere and #edchat; not because they inform people about the latest technology movements, but because they get people excited and creative about their work.

Simon finished on discussing the current strikes over pensions and working hours, describing the fact we will get no sympathy by being so introspecitve. What he says we should be marching for is the conditions for our learners, and the freedom to be creative and persue the excitement that is needed for great teaching.

He ended by involving the audience in a standing chant: “Something better change”.


Related posts:

Towards the future-building education institution - Professor Keri Facer (@kerileef) #pelc12
Open Scholarship and Connected Learning - Alec Couros (@courosa) #pelc12
100 word challenge- Creative writing for young people - Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice) #pelc12

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Coding across the curriculum - Miles Berry @mberryNicky Morgan: Technology key to reducing teacher workloadFlexible learning space opening at Westfield Junior SchoolLearning to swim - Eylan Ezekiel #wherenext @EylanEzekiel Creating a sustainable education system - Stephen Heppell @stephenheppell #eduict2013Tim Rylands - Back to their future #bett2013

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Oliver Quinlan: Learning, teaching, technology by Oliver Quinlan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.oliverquinlan.com.Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog