14 June 2017

Module 4 focus on literacy in a changing world
When we think of «literacy skills» one thinks of basic skills to read and write.
In the 15th century very few could read or write, and only with the invention of Gutenberg, books were more easily replicated with the printing press. The Bible was the first book to be printed and therefore became the basic book for learning to read.
Since Gutenberg printing advanced enormously, making books accessible to the masses, as well as magazines and newspapers. Other inventions in communication took place and in the 20th century we face a major revolution in information and communication technologies: telephone, radio, TV, tape-recorders, cameras, computers, tablets, etc. The impact has been tremendous om data storage, on videoconferencing, on smartphones, space and time changed with technology, we get the news of what happens in the world at practically the same time they are happenning, our relationships expanded worlwide, the world is shrinking as a global village. There has been an acceleration of globalization.
Globalisation refers to the different ways of thinking and imagining the world as a single place. In an historical approach it passed through different stages: 1) the age of exploration, with the european discoveries of past centuries, becoming aware of a large world, traders moving around; 2) the age of colonization; 3) the age of nation-states as wars of independence took place. At present, many similarities across the world result from a common knowledge, a certain «homogenization». The multinationals influenced a certain business model, which in a depreciative way was called «cocacolonization» or «McDonaldization» – since they are spread all over the world and they control the product as a standard. The world has been populated with «non-places», which are anywhere and everywhere, such as: airports, highways, shopping malls, etc that look alike around the world.

Globalization – – is analysed as driving division and gaps that grow, as «polarization», growing inequalities in wealth and poverty, contrary to former expectations that opening the world would provide more opportunities and access to the poor. Instead deep gaps are visible to the accumulation of wealth in a few and basic needs, such as food, water, sanitation supply, healthcare, education, housing, etc lacking to a large population. Lending agencies impose to poor countries austerity measures incompatible with the development and basic services to the populations. The practices of large corporations exploiting the cheap labour in these countries, agribusinesses displacing peasant farms.
World divisions are seen as the West versus the Rest, another cultural division is about the McWorld (McDonalds and MacIntosh), symbols of a consumer culture and communication technology, threatening the local identity and distinctiveness. More recently, a new division emerged – Jihad, the nationalist and religious fundamentalists that react to globalization and standardization, taking to extreme acts of terrorism – .

Other divisions within the communities are taking place, where i.e. elites in S. Paulo in Brazil feel more close to other metropolis’ elites, in values and beliefs, than to their  own community.
This reality impacts in education when we compare to high achievers and low achievers, rich students and disadvantaged students, which is seen in OECD international testing performance.
But globalization also shows another face on mingling, mixing and fusing, where global communications lead to a sharing knowledge on each other. Hip Hop music became globalized but it expresses local social concerns. This is one side of «hybridisation», which is not new, we have seen in the past the emerging of new languages like creole, result of mixing two languages, or crossing animals to breed a new animal (horse+donkey= mule). ICT has facilitated the sharing of many tech solutions, and in the research area, e-commerce has developed and made new businesses appear. In Education this interconnected world has made its impact, in sharing ideas and knowledge. We may question «what it is to be literate today».

Societies are becoming more multicultural on account of migration, moving around the world became more accessible. To be literate has changed from the traditional reading writing and and counting to a multi literacy that comprises other dimensions, such as technological literacy, intercultural literacy. With all information technology available one must be critical and analytical of the information and be able to distinguish credible sources.
To the fast changes we are witnessing, it’s hard to imagine the future in 30 or 40 years time and people must be prepared to think for themselves and to get updated during their lifetime to face those unpredictable changes. A critical literacy is fundamental as we are invaded by information from the media and Internet.

Other major shifts of change turn around climate change end environmental issues. Human activity has been responsible for these changes. For a science teacher these issues are relevant. Society and nature live together, should we divide these subjects in education?
Ecological literacy needs to be part of the curriculum and publicly debated, i.e as dams construction, mining, biotechnologies, OGMs, STEM cells, alternative energy sources and climate change. Science has social impacts and a teacher cannot only teach about facts of science but also about their social and nature consequences. Scientists who have worked on nuclear research in the 40’s, later on revealed their regret for the consequences of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So a basic scientific literacy is also required for students –

Resources Module 4

11 June 2017

Module 3 addresses the curriculum, the contents of education, a path through subject matter. The curriculum refers to a programme of studies, way of progressing from basic to advanced levels of learning, ways a subject is delivered, is prescriptive, which differs from the syllabus, an outline of the studies, a list of topics. Therefore, the curriculum is often at stake in major debates over education. Many interests revolve around education, politicians, the industry, policy-makers, religious groups, communities, families, etc. The curriculum is a compromise among all these interests. It changes also on account of changes in society, in culture and in knowledge with the advances of science and technology.
What means «I know»? Most of our knowledge comes from experience, our own daily interactions, our observation, from media, through schooling. Science developed enormously in the last two centuries. How confident can we be in the knowledge we possess? Knowledge in certain areas change faster. The scientific method tends to generalise from a few observations but can never exclude the possibility of exceptions, so it deals with probability. A small change can alter a whole system, like the example of the «butterfly effect».
With the industrial revolution and high concentration of population in big cities a need for order was instilled in the schooling, through a curriculum of restraint, namely for the children of the poor, to save them from the evil influences. So craft, hygiene and religious instruction was a way to restrain children. In further schooling classical greek and latin, english literature and mathematics, eventually science, were taught. A civilized person should be self-restraint.
This discipline of poor children was part of the idea of building the nation, creating the cultural identity, with a shared language and a shared history, a common colective. Schooling was vital to shape the concept of belonging to a nation. Geography located the nation in space, with borders with other nations.
The standard curriculum leaves behing a group of students who fail. The hidden curriculum refers to the social learning that occurs within the education system and which is not an official part of the curriculum. Traditional schools are organized hierarchically, teachers are authority figures and students are expected to obey, getting higher grades if they conform to the system. In this traditional setting students have no control of what they are studying or the way they do the studying. This way they experience very little satisfaction. Most of the learning is based on textbooks, encouraged to memorize and repeat. The traditional education system produces passive students, who don’t question, preparing them for jobs that don’t require initiative but routine work, obeying orders, that don’t give personal gratification but guarantee a wage to survive. This traditional schooling reproduced social hierarchy. The children of working class parents would give continuation to the status quo. This conflicts with other aspirations people may have.
The dominant curriculum is based on certain subjects, namely English, History, Geography, Science and Math, taught in a rather abstract way, with a lot of textbook learning, reading chapters and answering questions. For middle class students this provides satisfactory results, because their families’contexts provide them with an average culture and academic background. For poor class children this type of schooling has poor results.
A counter current of this traditional vision of education defends that it can make a difference if it meets the aspirations of disadvantaged students, being more related to their life experiences. In this approach the curriculum has been reworked in order to become more relevant for all students, that is, a progressive curriculum, as Dewey defended, practical solving problems, real world applications.
However, a conservative view considers that some values are getting lost with the modernization and updating of the curriculum.

Resources Module 3

7 June 2017

School change from mid-20th century

I found this curious article by school reporters on school change since the 40’s in UK – and I recall (being a senior) how some of the practices mentioned still prevailed in my school of the 60’s.
At my time, schools practiced gender separation, throughout compulsory school till highschool I always attended female schools, a mainstream reality, it only changed after the revolution of 1974. In primary schools, teachers could punish the students physically, making mistakes or disturbing the class could result in beating the hands with a ruler. I bahaved well so during my primary school I may have be beaten 6 times.
Kids with disabilities didn’t attend mainstream schools. I have always enrolled in public regular schools and don’t recall to have a schoolfellow with a visible disability.
The curriculum was quite static, I recall I have learned by my brother’s schoolbooks, 9 years older than me. I had exams at the end of primary school and another exam to enter secondary school (liceu), a stupid duplication. At the time, there were two big options, enrol in a technical school (industrial or commerce schools) or to a general school to proceed to HE. Then we had more exams at the end of lower secondary (9th grade) and at the end of upper secondary (11th grade). Nowadays, upper secondary includes a 12th grade.
The english article also mentions the heavy bureaucracy that schools face nowadays, which is also a general complaint in our portuguese schools. Every department demanding data and reports. The paranoya of school forms and plans leaves little time for teachers to really work on the teaching and guidance of students.

6 June 2017

Module 2 focused on the changing concept of childhood and adolescency  over times and societies.
The rituals of initiation to adulthood takes different aspects in traditional cultures.
In western cultures the transition into adulthood was made since the 19th century through schooling, transition to work, get married, having a family.
Stanle Hall published a book in 1905 about childhood and adolescence that would influence the establishment of compulsory schooling later on.

In the Middle Ages, the concept of childhood didn’t exist as today. Children would start working as early as 7 or 8 as aprentices in all sorts of activites and would enter the world of adulthood very precociously. This reality lasted till the 17th and 18th centuries when the concept of the innocence and vulnerability of the child started to emerge. By the 19th century some laws restricted child labour in certain conditions.
Young people would be sentenced as adults up till the 19th century.

Nowadays, the UN considers that adolescence last as long as 28 years old.

There are changes in the labour market with more part time work, precarious work, which raises uncertainty to plan for the future. As work is volatile young people occupy themselves in further studying and mor qualifications for reasons of market competition. As a consequence, young people are mixing working and studying over a longer period of time.
Other changes in interpersonal relationsihips are taking place, changes in patterns of intimacy, changes between gender, young people grow intimacy, co-inhabitting before getting a commitment. Marriage will arrive at a later stage. Another change in western societies is the housing issue and affordability which may postpone young people independent life.

Playtime is associated to childhood, though it will remain into adulthood as a source of pleasure as nostalgia for climbing trees, playing with others, playing with toys and games or hanging around with friends. But one may experience also negative realities in childhood such as bullying. Play is an important part of childhood development, games develop fine motor skills, encourage colaborative activity and creativity. But as one gets older time to play shrinks and loses value alongside other types of learning. Growing up becomes synonym of getting serious.

Concerns about young people growing up too fast, getting involved in sex and drugs at a young age, being naive and gullible, putting themselves into dangerous situations without being aware of it.

Often young people are reagarded as a threat, as indisciplined and immoral, alarmed by news of youth gangs and wild parties.

One of the main tasks of schooling is to guide young people through the transition into adulthood as well adjusted persons.

In the 19th century young people were viewed as vulnerable to exploitation and on the other side as wild and delinquent and if no intervention was done than society would turn into decline. In the context of industrial revolution and acceleration into modern times. Crime and prostitution were rising. alcoholism was common. So some control and order had to be implemented and compulsory school system ideas started to emerge addressed to working class children. Schools, orphanages, reformatory institutions were referred to as «character factories», to produce obedient, with good work ethic, with virtues of temprance and chastity. These were the characteristics desirable for a normal good citizen and worker at the time.

The model for the «normal student» in our world today. The literature on the subject speaks of certain values of «respect», «responsibility», «relationsihps and «rigor». Some sociologists analyse the ways schools are organized according to time and space. The school year is organized into terms and timetables with lessons. There’s a distinct time in the school and outside the school. The space is organized according to function: classrooms, science lab, library, canteen, playground, etc, each one with a purpose. The organization of the classroom itself tells about the shaping of student. All school spaces are controlled. Through the organization of school time and school space students learn where they’re expected to be, what they are expected to be doing at each moment, to be on time on task and make productive use of time. Within this order, the qualities of character of students are: expected to be task oriented, self disciplined and self directed, resourceful and proficient. In this «normal student» approach there’s no room for the ones who fail or are gifted.

The student who doesn’t fit the «normal/average one», is excluded or falls behind.

Resources Topic 2

31 May 2017

In the first topic some approaches to the aims of Education were mentioned, such as:

Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction – – is

seen in the context of class inequalities and educational attainment and of class reproduction in capitalist societies. The theory of cultural reproduction is concerned with the link of original class and ultimate class membership, mediated by the education system. For Bourdieu the education system of industrialized societies  tends to legitimate class inequalities.

John Dewey’s progressive education had a pragmatic approach, considering that the curriculum should be linked to life experience. He believed in democracy and the pillars of education and civil society.

«Dewey continually argues that education and learning are social and interactive processes, and thus the school itself is a social institution through which social reform can and should take place. In addition, he believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning.» –

Paulo Freire socio-cultural transformation

«Paulo Freire was born in Recife in northeastern Brazil, where his ideas about education developed in response to military dictatorship, enormous social inequality, and widespread adult illiteracy. As a result, his primary pedagogical goal was to provide the world’s poor and oppressed with educational experiences that make it possible for them to take control over their own lives. Freire (1970; 1995) shared Dewey’s desire to stimulate students to become “agents of curiosity” in a “quest for…the ‘why’ of things,” and his belief that education provides possibility and hope for the future of society. But he believes that these can only be achieved when students are engaged in explicitly critiquing social injustice and actively organizing to challenge oppression.

1.10 For Freire, education is a process of continuous group discussion (dialogue) that enables people to acquire collective knowledge they can use to change society. The role of the teacher includes asking questions that help students identify problems facing their community (problem posing), working with students to discover ideas or create symbols (representations) that explain their life experiences (codification), and encouraging analysis of prior experiences and of society as the basis for new academic understanding and social action (conscientization) »

«In terms of pedagogy, Freire is best known for his attack on what he called the “banking” concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. He notes that “it transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power.” The basic critique was not new — Rousseau‘s conception of the child as an active learner was already a step away from tabula rasa (which is basically the same as the “banking concept”).  In addition, thinkers like John Dewey were strongly critical of the transmission of mere facts as the goal of education. Dewey often described education as a mechanism for social change, explaining that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction”  Freire’s work, however, updated the concept and placed it in context with current theories and practices of education, laying the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy

Resources Topic 1


30 May 2017

«Education in a Changing World» MOOC was launched in 29th May 2017 in the Open Universities Austrália platform –


  • What it means to refer to education as a social institution and the roles it plays in society.
  • The major positions in debates over the aims of education, including:
  • Securing social integration
  • Providing a skilled workforce
  • Promoting freedom
  • Redressing social inequalities
  • How cultural understandings of the transition from childhood to adulthood have changed over time, and how education has been shaped by and helped shape these understandings.
  • How and why the curriculum has historically changed, and the current state of curriculum debates.
  • The way the concept of literacy is having to be rethought as a result of changes that include:


  • The information and communications revolution
  • Globalization
  • Climate change