Category Archives: education

Software Programming Languages for Education

Software programming languages for education range from drag and drop graphical software like Scratch to Small Basic and Python. This page lists programming software geared towards students as young as kindergarten (Turtle Art) on up. Many are visual programming environments where kids can combine blocks to create software. Others, like Codea, allow you to actually code, in that case with Lua. Still other languages, like Code Spell, Run Marco!, The Foos, and World of Codecraft, teach programming skills while kids are engaged in an online game.

The main difference between “block” languages and “real” languages? Block languages let kids create things without having to learn syntax and other details. They can graduate to languages with syntax more easily when they understand basic programming concepts.

Also note these languages work for parents who want to learn and play with their kids, as well as kids who want to learn at their own speed.


Alice teaches programming concepts as kids create animated movies with its friendly interface and storytelling.

All Can Code (Run Marco!)

Teaches programming in a fun adventure game. An original story with beautiful artwork, designed for 6 to 12 y.o. kids by a team of experts in computer programming, game design, and teaching technology in schools. Translated into 13 languages. Works on tablet, phone, web.!/id919554969

App Inventor

This software programming language for education to build Android applications with a drag and drop visual environment.

Beta the Robot



Made with the Codea iPad application, a game to teach programming concepts.

Codea (iPad)

Code Combat

Codeletics NEW

Code with Bolt

Bolt is a complete language that runs entirely (and safely) in the browser. It’s a language explicitly designed for kids, and comes with worked examples that map to the UK curriculum for KS 2/3 and beyond.

Daisy the Dinosaur

An iPad app from the people who bring you Hopscotch.

Erase All Kittens (E.A.K.)

An amusing story makes it easy for kids to learn about HTML and the coding process.

Gamemaker Studio

Requires a little more effort but this is a more professional game development system.

GameStar Mechanic

Teaches computer science concepts around coding.

Hakitsu Elite

This iPad application teaches JavaScript through a robot game.

Hopscotch (iPad)


An educational iPad game providing a kid friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving to kids 5 and up.


From Microsoft, this visual programming language works on the PC and XBox.

LearnToMod NEW

Light Bot

Light-bot is an engaging puzzle game that lets players gain a practical understanding of basic control-flow concepts like procedures, loops, and conditionals, just by guiding a robot with commands to light up tiles and solve levels.


From 1960s, a language geared towards children and serious adult computing. Ideas are incorporated into Scratch, Move the Turtle, and other languages.


A small team of educators and programmers in the US and Finland make it easy for kids to build and learn with Minecraft.

Move the Turtle

This iPad application teaches programming concepts and coding in a highly visual way.

Pocket Code

Create your own games, apps, and music videos with this Android app.

Project Spark!

On Microsoft Windows and XBox, kids can play and create using tools provided by Project Spark. Active community and lots of guides and tutorials.


RAPTOR is a flowchart-based programming environment, designed specifically to help students visualize their algorithms.

Robo Logic

This iPad application uses blocks coded with logic to let kids control a robot.


Kids learn logic, computer science, and robotics by building a robot.

Ruby for Kids


Small Basic

From Microsoft, a cut down version of Basic to teach programming to kids and adults. Includes lots of tutorials. For Windows computers.


A port of Scratch, from the University of California at Berkeley.


Programming language for Sphero robots, which are also fun.


Uses a visual programming language to create cross-platform applications for almost any platform. Stencyl software works on Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu/Linux.

The Foos

Kids can play and have fun while learning the basics of coding plus problem solving, critical thinking, and other skills.

Try Ruby

Toon Talk


Microsoft’s really easy to learn and use software for teaching kids how to program and create software. Great for hackathons and coding in large groups.

Turtle Art

Geared towards the wee ones, little kids, who can create really neat artwork and other fun stuff.

Turtle Academy


This software programming language for education is a hosted drag and drop programming tailored towards classroom teaching of programming and computer science. Also have an iPad version of their curriculum.


Waterbear is a toolkit for making programming more accessible and fun.

World of Codecraft

Coming soon, Wired did a piece on this project from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Top image nicked from Hopscotch website.



The History Of Blended Learning

The History Of Blended Learning

The Blended Learning History

In order to create a successful blended learning strategy, it’s wise to learn as much as possible about its key ideas and values. To understand these, however, you must first know how it all got started and the historical highlights that shaped its core principles along the way. So, let’s hop into the miniature time machines in our minds and travel back to the beginning of blended learning.

  • 1840’s: First Distance Course.
    Sir Isaac Pitman launches the first distance education course. Though there were other variations on the concept prior to Pitman’s, his was to resemble distance learning as we know it today. His course centered on shorthand. Pitman sent shorthand texts to his students via mailed postcards and they were required to send them back to be graded and corrected. Even though computers and mobile devices weren’t involved, and wouldn’t even be invented for roughly a century, effective feedback and assessments were still an integral part of the process.
  • 1960’s & 1970’s: Mainframe Computer-Based Training.
    Modern computer-based training can be traced back to the mini-computer and mainframe training of the 60’s and 70’s. It was the first time that training could be deployed to countless workers within an organization without having to rely on printed materials and face-to-face instruction. Employees could simply login to their character-based terminals to access the information. One of the most notable systems was Plato, which was developed by Control Data and the University of Illinois back in 1963. In fact, Plato is still around today.
  • 1970’s to 1980’s: TV-Based Technology to Support Live Training.
    At this stage in the blended learning timeline, companies began using video networks to train their employees. The instructor no longer had to be physically on-site in order to onboard new hires or broaden the skill sets of existing staff members. This made the training experience more interactive and engaging. Learners were able to communicate with their peers, watch the instructor on TV, and even address any questions or concerns sending them by mail. Think of it as the predecessor towebinars and video conferencing. One of the most successful satellite-based training case studies is the Stanford University Interactive TV network. Stanford devoted resources to their video network in the 70’s and 80’s so that professors could hold classes in multiple locations throughout SF at once, and it is still running to this day. Instead of having to send assignments to the professor by mail or courier, learners can now submit their work for review online.
  • 1980’s & 1990’s: CD-ROM Training and Rise of LMS.
    As technology evolved, so did blended training strategies and applications. Schools and organizations began using CD-ROMs to deliver more interactive learning experiences, such as those that features video and sound. This delivery format could hold larger quantities of information, which made them ideally suited for distance learning. For the first time in eLearning history, computer-based courses were now able to offer a rich and comprehensive learning experience. In some cases, it even took the place of face-to-face instruction. This is also when the first learning management systems (LMS) were introduced, though they didn’t offer the same functionality as the solutions available today. Organizations wanted to be able to track learner progress and improve online training courses, and these systems helped to monitor eLearning course completion, enrollment data, and user performance within the CD-ROM network.
  • 1998: First Generation of Web-Based Instruction.
    Blended learning, and eLearning as a whole, has seen rapid change in the past two decades, beginning in 1998 with the first generation of web-based instruction. Computers were no longer just for organizations and the wealthy few, but for the masses. More and more households began purchasing personal computers for their families to enjoy, while companies made PCs readily available for every employee. Then computers started to offer greater interactivity. Graphics, sound, and video became more immersive, while browsers increased connection speeds and gave virtually everyone access to internet learning resources.  Rather than having to distribute CD-ROMs to learners, organizations could simply upload material, eLearning assessments, and assignments via the web, and learners could access them with a click of a mouse button. At first, many CD-ROM developers tried to simply publish their eLearning courses to the internet without making any modifications. However, they quickly learned that their existing online content, such as large video files that took minutes to download, would need to be finely tuned to meet the needs of web-based learners.
  • 2000 until today: Blended Learning Integration.
    We currently find ourselves in an exciting time for blended learning. Technology is rapidly changing and an increasing number of organizations and private learning institutions are beginning to see the benefits of ablended learning approach. From interactive scenarios in the classroom to webinars and online tutorials, learners now have a wide range of tech tools and applications at their disposal. Companies have the opportunity to train their employees anywhere at any time, while online learners can participate in online communities and interactive eLearning courses from anywhere in the world. Gradually, the union between face-to-face instruction and technology-based learning is producing new and creative ways to enrich the educational experience and make learning fun, exciting, and even more beneficial.

Blended learning has a proven track record of bringing traditional classrooms into the tech-friendly 21st century. Now that you know the history of blended learning, why not use it to transform your curriculum into an interactive and engaging learning experience.


40 maps that explain the internet

The internet increasingly pervades our lives, delivering information to us no matter where we are. It takes a complex system of cables, servers, towers, and other infrastructure, developed over decades, to allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family so effortlessly. Here are 40 maps that will help you better understand the internet — where it came from, how it works, and how it’s used by people around the world.

How the internet was created

Before the internet, there was the ARPANET
ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet, was an academic research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, a branch of the military known for funding ambitious research projects without immediate commercial or military applications. Initially, the network only connected the University of Utah with three research centers in California. ARPANET was a test of a then-novel technology called packet-switching, which breaks data into small “packets” so they can be transmitted efficiently across the network. It also had a more practical goal: allowing more efficient use of expensive computing resources. Computer scientists sometimes used ARPA money to buy computers, and the agency hoped that ARPANET would allow universities to share these expensive resources more efficiently. One of the first ARPANET applications was Telnet, which allowed a researcher at one ARPANET site to log into a computer at another site.

Read more at:

6 Myths of Digital Technology

I cannot take credit for these 6 myths of digital technology – I’m lifting them straight from what I thought was a well known and received investigation in to the impact of digital technology on education. It would appear that a lot of the research however is not well known and in an attempt to do for others as I do for my students in terms of making the implicit explicit; this marks the first of a series of posts which will look in to the evidence behind digital technology and its links to learning. In this post I will be looking at an investigation undertaken by Professor Steven Higgins, ZhiMin Xiao and Maria Katsipataki from the School of Education at Durham University, published for the Education Endowment Foundation.

To summarise their findings, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not about technology, it’s about pedagogy. They also state very clearly that  “the use of technology needs to be informed by context and research“. Hear hear.

They state: “it is clear technology alone does not make a difference to learning. Rather, how well the technology is used to support teaching and learning is the key determinant of its impact. There is no doubt that technology engages and motivates young people. However, this benefit is only an advantage for learning if the activity is effectively aligned with clear learning objectives.

This is absolutely true and why shouldn’t it be? Technology isn’t a panacea for everything, is it? Do you think it is?

Not to take anything away from the summary – it is excellent. Like a York notes of great advice for technology projects. Read it.


So getting back to the title and the excellent postscript of the executive summary on this report; the six myths:

Myth 1: New technologies are being developed all the time, the past history of the impact of technology is irrelevant to what we have now or will be available tomorrow. After more than fifty years of digital technology use in education this argument is now wearing a bit thin. We need a clear rationale for why we think the introduction of (yet another) new technology will be more effective than the last one. The introduction of technology has consistently been shown to improve learning, the trouble is most things improve learning in schools when they are introduced, and technology is consistently just a little bit less effective than the average intervention.

“The introduction of technology has consistently been shown to improve learning” – hasn’t it just! However, as they correctly highlight – tech introduction is consistently just that little bit less effective than the average intervention. What can we do therefore to ensure that the intervention and use of technology can improve learning more than other interventions?

Myth 2: Today’s children are digital natives and the ‘net’ generation – they learn differently from older people. There are two issues with this myth. First, there is no evidence the human brain has evolved in the last 50 years, so our learning capacity remains as it was before digital technologies became so prevalent. It may be that young people have learned to focus their attention differently, but their cognitive capabilities are fundamentally the same as 30 years ago. Second, just because young people have grown up with technology it does not mean they are experts in its use for their own learning. Being an expert at playing Halo 5 requires different skills and knowledge from having an active Facebook account. Most young people are fluent in their use of some technologies, but none are expert at all of them.

Just like any thing – gaining mastery of it takes time, effort, grit and determination. How else do you think oldies like me are able to do the things we do? Was I born with this ability? No! Time needs to be given to the training of staff, young people and where required, their parents/carers in the systems we put in place to support their learning and progress.

Myth 3: Learning has changed now we have access to knowledge through the internet, today’s children don’t need to know stuff, they just need to know where to find it. The web has certainly changed access to information, but it this only becomes knowledge when it is used for a purpose. When this requires understanding and judgement, information alone is insufficient. Googling is great for answers to a pub quiz, but would you trust your doctor if she was only using Wikipedia? To be an expert in a field you also need experience of using the information and knowledge, so that you understand where to focus your attention and where new information will help you in making decisions and judgements. It is important to recognise the relevance or importance of different pieces of information. Easy access to information can help, but it is no substitute for experience, understanding and expertise.

Absolutely. I think Ian Gilbert’s book – “Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google” has some relevant commentary here!

Myth 4: Students are motivated by technology so they must learn better when they use it. It is certainly true that most young people do enjoy using technology in schools to support their learning. However, the assumption that any increased motivation and engagement will automatically lead to better learning is false. It is possible that increased engagement or motivation may help increase the time learners spend on learning activities, or the intensity with which they concentrate or their commitment and determination to complete a task. However, it is only when this engagement can be harnessed for learning that there will be any academic benefit. There is another caveat here as the motivation in school may be partly because using technology is either novel in school, or simply a change from what they usually experience. It may not be the case that this motivation will be sustained over time.

There’s nothing quite like a sweeping generalisation, is there? As with the other myths there is sound advice here to take on board too.

Myth 5: The Everest Fallacy: we must use technology because it is there! We should use some of the wide range of digital technologies that are available to us to support learning and teaching in schools, but this should be where they improve aspects of teaching and learning and help to prepare children and young people for their lives after school. The curriculum and the way in which pupils work and are assessed should reflect the society and culture they are preparing pupils to be a part of when they leave formal education. However the challenge is knowing which technology is the best to choose for use in schools and for what purposes and learning outcomes they should be employed.

Absolutely not. That is why I believe so vehemently in using frameworks such as SAMR and TPACK to ensure the best use of technology in the classroom so that it best supports the learning going on; so that use can be transformational, not substitutional. The trick with all of it though is as the summary says, “knowing which technology is the best to choose”, and this often comes down to a cost vs benefit analysis and if you’re making decisions about technology on that basis – perhaps you should be looking at other interventions?

Myth 6: The “More is Better” Fallacy. Enthusiasts assume that if a little technology is a good thing then a lot will be much better. The evidence does not support this assumption, for two reasons. First, large-scale international studies indicated very high use of technology – e.g. pupils using the internet more than four hours per day – is not linked with better learning. Second, the effect of technology and length of interventions indicate that more is clearly not always better. This suggests that there is an optimum level of technology which can support learning, too little and you don’t see the benefit, too much and the gains decline. A better notion might be the Goldilocks effect: it is about getting the amount of technology, and learners’ access to it “just right”“.

The ability to hit the ‘break-even’ point or having Goldilocks-ability is a hard thing to get right. I doubt I ever have got it just right. Like anything in my classroom, I try and mix and match a healthy dose of analogue and digital so that students get a balance of it all. As we move forward in time though, are we more or less likely to see more of our resource, more of our learning, more of our activity move in to online spaces? Not if Myth 5 is to be believed…

As with all of these things and the research we see everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and should be tempered next to your knowledge and understanding of your pupils, in your local area, with your teachers, in your school.

For the FULL picture, please read the FULL report with all references, links and research in the appendices. It’s well worth an hour of your time having a read!


These are the first finalists for the new World Video Game Hall of Fame

Ladies and gentlemen, your finalists.

For all of the game industry’s myriad “game of the year” lists and “official” awards from various bodies, as well as ephemeral “best ever” lists from various media outlets, there have been precious few organized attempts to establish a permanent, concrete gaming “canon,” comprised of titles that truly represent the medium. That’s set to change soon, as the Strong National Museum of Play (which also houses the International Center for the History of Electronic Games) has announced the first 15 finalists for induction into its new World Video Game Hall of Fame.

Those nominees are:

  • Angry Birds
  • DOOM
  • FIFA
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Minecraft
  • The Oregon Trail
  • Pac-Man
  • Pokémon
  • Pong
  • The Sims
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Space Invaders
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Tetris
  • World of Warcraft

The finalists were chosen from among thousands of public nominations by an internal advisory committee at the museum. That committee looked for games that met four criteria: “icon-status” (i.e., wide recognition), longevity (“more than a passing fad”), geographical reach, and overall influence (on games, entertainment, pop culture, etc.). A game with great influence could get into the Hall of Fame even if it didn’t meet the other three criteria, the Strong said.

Looking over the first list of nominees, it’s hard to find ones that don’t deserve Hall of Fame recognition based on those criteria. FIFA may seem an odd inclusion to an American audience, but the game’s huge success in the rest of the world meets the “geographical reach” requirement and then some. And while Minecraft and Angry Birds are arguably new enough that they haven’t been proven to stand the test of time, but their overwhelming influence is undeniable even at this point. “While [Angry Birds] is a simple game with a relatively short existence, it’s had major global impact on video game play and, in a sense, turned hundreds of millions of people into ‘gamers’ that might never have considered themselves that before,” Strong spokesperson Shane Rhinewald told Ars.

Not all 15 games will necessarily make it into the new Hall of Fame this year. A committee of about two dozen international “journalists, scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in society” will vote on the final inductees, the Strong said in a statement. Committee members will be able to vote on their top five choice for final placement, though Rhinewald said he suspects “five to seven” will be chosen by the time the selections are announced June 4. Games that don’t make the cut will be eligible for renomination next year, and a minimum of 12 games will be nominated each year.

For now, though, the public can place their own votes on which game is most deserving in an online poll. The Sims is currently winning that vote by a large margin, but I’m confident Super Mario Bros. fans will correct that injustice shortly.


The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education’

As edX CEO Anant Agarwal puts it, “It is pathetic that the education system has not changed in hundreds of years.” The Clayton Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn and Meg Evan argue something similar: “a factory model for schools no longer works.” “How to Break Free of Our 19th-Century Factory-Model Education System,” advises Joel Rose, the co-founder of the New Classrooms Innovation Partners. Education Next’s Joanne Jacobs points us “Beyond the Factory Model.” “The single best idea for reforming K–12 education,” writes Forbes contributor Steve Denning, ending the “factory model of management.” “There’s Nothing Especially Educational About Factory-Style Management,” according to the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess.

I’d like to add: there’s nothing especially historical about these diagnoses either.

Blame the Prussians

The “factory model of education” is invoked as shorthand for the flaws in today’s schools – flaws that can be addressed by new technologies or by new policies, depending on who’s telling the story. The “factory model” is also shorthand for the history of public education itself – the development of and change in the school system (or – purportedly – the lack thereof).

Here’s one version of events offered by Khan Academy’s Sal Khan along with Forbes’ writer Michael Noer – “the history of education”:

Khan’s story bears many of the markers of the invented history of the “factory model of education” – buckets, assembly lines, age-based cohorts, whole class instruction, standardization, Prussia, Horace Mann, and a system that has not changed in 120 years.

There are several errors and omissions in Khan’s history. (In his defense, it’s only eleven and a half minutes long.) There were laws on the books in Colonial America, for example, demanding children be educated (although not that schools be established). There was free public education in the US too prior to Horace Mann’s introduction of the “Prussian model” – the so-called “charity schools.” There were other, competing models for arranging classrooms and instruction as well, notably the “monitorial system” (more on that below). Textbook companies were already thriving before Horace Mann or the Committee of Ten came along to decide what should be part of the curriculum. One of the side-effects of the efforts of Mann and others to create a public education system, unmentioned by Khan, was the establishment of “normal schools” where teachers were trained. Another was the requirement that, in order to demonstrate accountability, schools maintain records on attendance, salaries, and other expenditures. Despite Khan’s assertions about the triumph of standardization, control of public schools in the US have, unlike in Prussia, remained largely decentralized – in the hands of states and local districts rather than the federal government.

The standardization of public education into a “factory model” – hell, the whole history of education itself – was nowhere as smooth or coherent as Khan’s simple timeline would suggest. There were vast differences between public education in Mann’s home state of Massachusetts and in the rest of the country – in the South before and after the Civil War no doubt, as in the expanding West. And there have always been objections from multiple quarters, particularly from religious groups, to the shape that schooling has taken.

Arguments over what public education should look like and what purpose public education should serve – God, country, community, the economy, the self – are not new. These battles have persisted – frequently with handwringing about education’s ongoing failures – and as such, they have shaped and yes changed, what happens in schools.

The Industrial Era School

Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of “the factory of model of education” that posits the United States adopted Prussia’s school system in order to create a compliant populace. It’s a story cited by homeschoolers and by libertarians. It’s a story featured in one of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talks. It’s a story told by John Taylor Gatto in his 2009 book Weapons of Mass Instruction. It’s a story echoed by The New York Times’ David Brooks. Here he is in 2012: “The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.”

For what it’s worth, Prussia was not highly industrialized when Frederick the Great formalized its education system in the late 1700s. (Very few places in the world were back then.) Training future factory workers, docile or not, was not really the point.

Nevertheless industrialization is often touted as both the model and the rationale for the public education system past and present. And by extension, it’s part of a narrative that now contends that schools are no longer equipped to address the needs of a post-industrial world.

Image credits

Perhaps the best known and most influential example of this argument comes from Alvin Toffler who decried the “Industrial Era School” in his 1970 book Future Shock:

Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinately complex. How to pre-adapt children for a new world – a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock.
The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure, simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Even today it retains throw-back elements from pre-industrial society. Yet the whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce changes of time.
The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, a perfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticized features of education today – the regimentation, lack of individualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher – are precisely those that made mass public education so effective an instrument of adaptation for its place and time.

Despite these accounts offered by Toffler, Brooks, Khan, Gatto, and others, the history of schools doesn’t map so neatly onto the history of factories (and visa versa). As education historian Sherman Dorn has argued, “it makes no sense to talk about either ‘the industrial era’ or the development of public school systems as a single, coherent phase of national history.”

If you think industrialization is the shift of large portions of working people to wage-labor, or the division of labor (away from master-craft production), then the early nineteenth century is your era of early industrialization, associated closely with extensive urbanization (in both towns and large cities) and such high-expectations transportation projects as the Erie Canal or the Cumberland Road project (as well as other more mundane and local transportation improvements). That is the era of tremendous experimentation in the forms of schools, from legacy one-room village schools in the hinterlands to giant monitorial schools in cities to academies and normal schools and colleges and the earliest high schools in various places. It is the era of charity schools in cities and the earliest (and incomplete) state subsidies to education, a period when many states had subsidies to what we would call private or parochial schools. It is also the start of the common-school reform era, the era when both workers and common-school reformers began to talk about schooling as a right attached to citizenship, and the era when primary schooling in the North became coeducational almost everywhere. It was an era of mass-produced textbooks. It was an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same. And, yes, the first compulsory-school law was passed before the Civil War… but it was not enforced.
Maybe you think industrialization is the development of railroads, monopolies, national general strikes, metastasizing metropolises, and mechanized production. Then you mean the second half of the nineteenth century, and that is the era where the structural dreams of common-school reformers largely came to pass with tuition-free schooling spreading in the North, the slow victory of high schools over academies, more (unenforced) compulsory school laws, a pan-Protestant flavor to schooling without official religious education, the initial development of a parallel Catholic parochial school system when Catholic leaders became convinced the public schools were hostile to their interests, the first research-oriented universities, a broad diversity of languages of instruction through the Midwest and south to Texas, the development of extensive age-graded self-contained elementary classrooms in urban school systems, the bureaucratization of many such systems, the (contentious) development of public schooling in the South, and the era when segregation laws were written at the tail end of the 19th century. It was also an era of mass-produced textbooks, and an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same.
Or maybe you think industrialization was assembly-line factories, private-worker unionization supported by federal law, the maturation of marketing techniques and the growth of a consumer economy, major economic crises, the introduction of cars and trucks, the mechanization of agriculture, and brutal, mechanized wars. Then you’re talking about the first half of the twentieth century. That was an era of rural-school consolidation forced by states, continued racial segregation, efforts to Americanize immigrant children and force them to speak English only in schools, the first legal successes in undermining segregation, the growth of (mostly small) high schools across the U.S. and tracking within those schools, the growth of standardized testing for local administrative purposes (including tracking), the evolution of normal schools into teachers colleges, and the slow separation of higher education into secondary and tertiary levels. It was the era when several regions of the country first experienced a majority of teenagers graduating from high school. It was also an era of mass-produced textbooks, and an era when rote learning was highly valued in school, despite arguments against the same. It was an era when compulsory school laws were finally enforced at selective ages, when child-labor opponents first failed and then succeeded at efforts to limit child labor by legislation… aided significantly by the Great Depression and the mechanization of agriculture, as teenagers found fewer opportunities for full-time work.

Image credits

As Dorn notes, phrases like “the industrial model of education,” “the factory model of education,” and “the Prussian model of education” are used as a “rhetorical foil” in order make a particular political point – not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future.

What Do Factories Look Like?

It’s tempting to say that those who argue that today’s schools are fashioned on nineteenth century factories have never read much about the Industrial Revolution. (Frederick Engels’ The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 is in the public domain and available via Project Gutenberg, for what it’s worth.) Schools might feel highly de-personalized institutions; they might routinely demand compliance and frequently squelch creativity. But they don’t really look like and they really don’t work like factories.

Image credits

In fact, the “Prussian model” superseded an education system that actually did look like a factory. The monitorial system and its variants the Lancaster, the Bell, and the Madras systems, involved schools that were housed in large warehouses – larger often than many of the nascent factories at the time – with hundreds of students in one massive classroom with one teacher. Students were grouped (30 or so together) not by age but by reading proficiency, with more advanced students – “monitors” – assigned to tutor and train the others.

Khan argues in his “History of Education” video that the Prussian model was the only way to provide a free public education, but as the widespread popularity of the monitorial system in the same period demonstrates, it was really just one way. Due to labor costs alone, the monitorial system was actually far cheaper. (After all, the major innovation of the Prussian model was in levying a tax to fund compulsory schooling, not in establishing a method for instruction.)

In his book A Voyage to India (1820), James Cordiner explains the functioning of the Madras system following his visit to the Military Male Orphan Asylum in India where this model originated:

From the perpetual agency of this system, idleness cannot exist. On entering the school, you can discover no individual unemployed, no boy looking vacantly round him: the whole is a beautiful picture of the most animated industry, and resembles the various machinery of a cloth or thread manufactory, completely executing their different offices, and all set in motion by one active engine.

In other words, the monitorial system expressly operated like a factory. “Industry” here isn’t simply a reference to manufacturing or production; “industry” is the opposite of “idleness.” To counter idleness, students must be taught to work – and the functioning of the classroom should be like a machine.

Image credits

As Mike Caulfield points out, the monitorial system quite arguably provided a certain amount of “personalization” – at least as that word is often used today – insofar as students could move at their own pace, one of the shortcomings so often indentified in the “factory model of education.” Caulfield cites Andrew Bell’s guide to the monitorial system Mutual Tuition and Moral Discipline (1823):

The Madras System consists in conducting a school, by a single Master, THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE SCHOLARS THEMSELVES, by an uniform and almost insensibly progressive course of study, whereby the mind of the child is often exercised in anticipating and dictating for himself his successive lessons, by which the memory is improved, the understanding cultivated, and knowledge uniformly increased – a course in which reading and writing are carried on in the same act, with a law of classification by which every scholar finds his level, is happily, busily, and profitably employed every moment, is necessarily made perfectly acquainted with every lesson as he goes along, and without the use or the need of corporeal infliction, acquires habits of method, order, and good conduct, and is advanced in his learning, according to the full measure of his capacity.

But as Frederick John Gladman’s manual on education School Work (1886) suggests, despite its widespread adoption throughout the UK and US, the Lancaster system fell out of favor, in part because this “personalized” model of education did not stimulate sufficient intellectual curiosity in its students:

Failure occurred, as it always will, when masters were slaves to “the system,” when they were satisfied with mechanical arrangements and routine work or when they did not study their pupils, and get down to the Principles of Education.

According to Gladman, the Lancaster system was replaced by the Glasgow system, developed by David Stow, which emphasized the training of teachers so as to “cultivate the whole nature of the child, instead of the mere head – the affections and habits, as well as the intellect.” Training of teachers was necessary, Gladman contended, as “it is useless to have the machinery without the skilled workman, or the well-trained workman without the suitable premises.”

Similarly, the Prussian model was based on the training of teachers. As Victor Cousin wrote in his Report on the State of Education in Prussia (1837) – a report commissioned by the French government but, once translated into English, with great influence in the US:

Our principal aim, in each kind of instruction, is to induce the young men to think and judge for themselves. We are opposed to all mechanical study and servile transcripts. The masters of our primary schools must possess intelligence themselves, in order to be able to awaken it in their pupils; otherwise, the state would doubtless prefer the less expensive schools of Bell and Lancaster.

Caulfield concludes, “That is those nasty sounding Prussians agreeing with the somewhat less nasty sounding Glasweegians that education must be reformed because it works too much like a factory. And the way to make it less like a factory is to bring in the expertise of a craftsman, in this case, the trained teachers that were the heart of the Mannian, Glasgow, and Prussian systems.”

The Coming [Industrial] Revolution in Education

Many education reformers today denounce the “factory model of education” with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. That argument is now and has been for a century the rationale for education technology. As Sidney Pressey, one of the inventors of the earliest “teaching machines” wrote in 1932 predicting “The Coming Industrial Revolution in Education,”

Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods. This does not mean, in any unfortunate sense, the mechanization of education. It does mean freeing the teacher from the drudgeries of her work so that she may do more real teaching, giving the pupil more adequate guidance in his learning. There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.

Pressey, much like Sal Khan and other education technologists today, believed that teaching machines could personalize and “revolutionize” education by allowing students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. The automation of the menial tasks of instruction would enable education to scale, Pressey – presaging MOOC proponents – asserted.

Image credits

We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization – the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.

And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market.

Continue reading The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education’

Sir Ken Robinson On What Makes An Effective School

Sir Ken Robinson, an English author and adviser to governments on education, spoke with CBS on Tuesday about how schools can be more effective for students.

“If you engage children’s imaginations, their curiosity, you get them working on teams, you get them doing practical work — it’s a very different dynamic in schools,” Robinson said.

Robinson has been working in education for three decades in the United Kingdom and United States. He gave a TED Talk in 2006 titled “How Schools Kill Creativity” which has been viewed more than 32 million times. A book he wrote with Lou Aronica, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, on the innovative ways schools are handling lessons, was published this year.

“The culture of education literally is all about standardizing,” Robinson told CBS. “It’s alienating teachers, it’s alienating kids, and it’s not doing the job.”

Schools need to make education more personalized, Robinson said. Because everyone is different, they learn in ways that need to be individually addressed. He said there are ways to do this, even in large classrooms, by motivating students creatively.

Robinson pointed to the Boston Arts Academy, which he discusses further in his book, an inner-city school that has been successful while focusing on music, theater and dance. Two factors that lead to this success are a broad curriculum and flexibility in teaching. Both encourage students with a variety of learning techniques.

“Teachers are there to engage and motivate and inspire people,” Robinson said. “Great teachers do that.”


The Evolution of Classroom Technology

Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started.

We’ve certainly come a long way but some things seem hauntingly similar to many years ago. For example, Thomas Edison said in 1925 that “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” I’m pretty sure this is exactly what people are saying these days about the iPad.

Also in 1925, there were “schools of the air” that delivered lessons to millions of students simultaneously. Scroll down to find out how that worked (hint: it wasn’t by using the Internet!)

Here’s a brief look at the evolution of classroom technology. Do you have a piece of technology that you think should be included? Tweet @edudemic or let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to add it to the timeline! Updated to include items suggested in the comments! Videotapes, Pens, Copiers, and more!

c. 1650 – The Horn-Book


Wooden paddles with printed lessons were popular in the colonial era. Perhaps this is where fraternities got the idea? On the paper there was usually the alphabet and a religious verse which children would copy to help them learn how to write.

c. 1850 – 1870 – Ferule


This is a pointer and also a corporal punishment device. Seems like both this and the Horn-Book had dual purposes in terms of ‘educating’ the youths of that era.

1870 – Magic Lantern


The precursor to a slide projector, the ‘magic lantern’ projected images printed on glass plates and showed them in darkened rooms to students. By the end of World War I, Chicago’s public school system had roughly 8,000 lantern slides.

c. 1890 – School Slate


Used throughout the 19th century in nearly all classrooms, a Boston school superintendent in 1870 described the slate as being “if the result of the work should, at any time, be found infelicitous, a sponge will readily banish from the slate all disheartening recollections, and leave it free for new attempts.’

c. 1890 – Chalkboard


Still going strong to this day, the chalkboard is one of the biggest inventions in terms of educational technology.

c. 1900 – Pencil


Just like the chalkboard, the pencil is also found in basically all classrooms in the U.S. In the late 19th century, mass-produced paper and pencils became more readily available and pencils eventually replaced the school slate.

c. 1905 – Stereoscope


At the turn of the century, the Keystone View Company began to market stereoscopes which are basically three-dimensional viewing tools that were popular in homes as a source of entertainment. Keystone View Company marketed these stereoscopes to schools and created hundreds of images that were meant to be used to illustrate points made during lectures.

c. 1925 – Film Projector


Similar to the motion-picture projector, Thomas Edison predicted that, thanks to the invention of projected images, “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.”

c. 1925 – Radio


New York City’s Board of Education was actually the first organization to send lessons to schools through a radio station. Over the next couple of decades, “schools of the air” began broadcasting programs to millions of American students.

c. 1930 – Overhead Projector


Initially used by the U.S. military for training purposes in World War II, overhead projectors quickly spread to schools and other organizations around the country.

c. 1940 – Ballpoint Pen


While it was originally invented in 1888, it was not until 1940 that the ballpoint pen started to gain worldwide recognition as being a useful tool in the classroom and life in general. The first ballpoint pens went on sale at Gimbels department store in New York City on 29 October 1945 for US$9.75 each. This pen was widely known as the rocket in the U.S. into the late 1950s.

c. 1940 – Mimeograph


Surviving into the Xerox age, the mimeograph made copies by being hand-cranked. Makes you appreciate your current copier at least a little bit now, huh?

c. 1950 – Headphones


Thanks to theories that students could learn lessons through repeated drills and repetition (and repeated repetition) schools began to install listening stations that used headphones and audio tapes. Most were used in what were dubbed ‘language labs’ and this practice is still in use today, except now computers are used instead of audio tapes.

c. 1950 – Slide Rule

Slide rule and case

William Oughtred and others developed the slide rule in the 17th century based on the emerging work on logarithms by John Napier. Before the advent of the pocket calculator, it was the most commonly used calculation tool in science and engineering. The use of slide rules continued to grow through the 1950s and 1960s even as digital computing devices were being gradually introduced; but around 1974 the electronic scientific calculator made it largely obsolete and most suppliers left the business.

1951 – Videotapes


What would school be without videotapes? (Thanks to Jaume in the comments for reminding me about this one!) The electronics division of entertainer Bing Crosby’s production company, Bing Crosby Enterprises (BCE), gave the world’s first demonstration of a videotape recording in Los Angeles on November 11, 1951. Developed by John T. Mullin and Wayne R. Johnson since 1950, the device gave what were described as “blurred and indistinct” images, using a modified Ampex 200 tape recorder and standard quarter-inch (0.6 cm) audio tape moving at 360 inches (9.1 m) per second. A year later, an improved version, using one-inch (2.6 cm) magnetic tape, was shown to the press, who reportedly expressed amazement at the quality of the images, although they had a “persistent grainy quality that looked like a worn motion picture”.

c. 1957 – Reading Accelerator


With an adjustable metal bar that helped students tamp down a page, the reading accelerator was a simple device designed to help students read more efficiently. Personally, this looks like a torture device and is probably the least portable thing to bring along with a book. Is turning the page of a book or holding a book really that difficult?

c. 1957 – Skinner Teaching Machine


B. F. Skinner, a behavioral scientist, developed a series of devices that allowed a student to proceed at his or her own pace through a regimented program of instruction.

c. 1958 – Educational Television


By the early sixties, there were more than 50 channels of TV which included educational programming that aired across the country.

1959 – Photocopier


Xerographic office photocopying was introduced by Xerox in 1959, and it gradually replaced copies made by Verifax, Photostat, carbon paper, mimeograph machines, and other duplicating machines. The prevalence of its use is one of the factors that prevented the development of the paperless office heralded early in the digital revolution[citation needed].Photocopying is widely used in business, education, and government. There have been many predictions that photocopiers will eventually become obsolete as information workers continue to increase their digital document creation and distribution, and rely less on distributing actual pieces of paper.

c. 1960 – Liquid Paper


A secretary made this white liquid in her kitchen and sold the company to Gillette for about $50 million. The rest is (redacted) history!

1965 – Filmstrip Viewer


A precursor to the iPad perhaps, this filmstrip viewer is a simple way to allow individual students watch filmstrips at their own pace.

c. 1970 – The Hand-Held Calculator


The predecessor of the much-loved and much-used TI-83, this calculator paved the way for the calculators used today. There were initial concerns however as teachers were slow to adopt them for fear they would undermine the learning of basic skills.

1972 – Scantron


The Scantron Corporation removed the need for grading multiple-choice exams. The Scantron machines were free to use but the company made money by charging for their proprietary grading forms. Sneaky stuff.

1980 – Plato Computer


Public schools in the U.S. averaged about one computer for every 92 students in 1984. The Plato was one of the most-used early computers to gain a foothold in the education market. Currently, there is about one computer for every 4 students.

1985 – CD-ROM Drive


A single CD could store an entire encyclopedia plus video and audio. The CD-ROM and eventually the CD-RW paved the way for flash drives and easy personal storage.

1985 – Hand-Held Graphing Calculator


The successor to the hand-held calculator (see above), the graphing calculator made far more advanced math much easier as it let you plot out points, do long equations, and play ‘Snake’ as a game when you got bored in class.

c. 1999 – Interactive Whiteboard


The chalkboard got a facelift with the whiteboard. That got turned into a more interactive system that uses a touch-sensitive white screen, a projector, and a computer. Still getting slowly rolled out to classrooms right now, betcha didn’t know they were first around in 1999! (I didn’t know that, at least)

2005 – iClicker


There are many similar tools available now, but iClicker was one of the first to allow teachers to be able to quickly poll students and get results in real time.

2006 – XO Laptop


The ‘One Laptop Per Child’ computer was built so it was durable and cheap enough to sell or donate to developing countries. It’s an incredible machine that works well in sunlight, is waterproof, and much more. Learn more.

2010 – Apple iPad


Just like the original school slate, could the iPad bring Thomas Edison’s statement to life? Could the iPad make it so “scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” Only time will tell.


Tablets in schools: coding, creativity and the importance of teachers

From September, coding will be part of the primary and secondary education curriculum in the UK, as part of wider changes designed to boost computer literacy alongside reading, writing and maths skills for British children.

Some independent schools are already providing a glimpse at the potential. Which is why I recently found myself in Cambridge, watching a classroom of Year 5 girls – 9-10 year-olds – practising their programming skills on iPad apps like Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Kodable. Continue reading Tablets in schools: coding, creativity and the importance of teachers

Coding in the Classroom: A Long-Overdue Inclusion

One need not look to superstars such as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates to justify reasons for using code and programming logic in the classroom. There’s plenty of literature that illustrates its positive learning outcomes. Coding in the classroom is linked to improved problem solving and analytical reasoning, and students who develop a mastery of coding have a “natural ability and drive to construct, hypothesize, explore, experiment, evaluate, and draw conclusions.”

But there are other compelling reasons for integrating code in the classroom. Continue reading Coding in the Classroom: A Long-Overdue Inclusion

A weblog about programming, educational technology and running.

Mr Honner

Math Appreciation

5ο Γενικό Λύκειο Ηρακλείου

Εκπαιδεύοντας το αύριο


Συζήτηση για την Στρατιωτική Ισχύ, υπό την ευρεία της έννοια, από την οπτική σκοπιά της Ελλάδος

Independent Thoughts

Ανεξάρτητες σκέψεις

Academic Computing

Essays and arguments about computing education

Nancy Clark RD

Sports Nutritionist


To Discover What is New in Sport Sciences

Little eLit

Young Children, New Media & Libraries

Εκπαιδευτική Ρομποτική - STEM | Εκπαιδευτικη Ρομποτικη

Εκπαιδευτική Ρομποτική - STEM ( Εκπαιδευτικη Ρομποτικη | WRO | robotikh | robotiki | robothkh | robothki ) με Lego Mindstorms ( NXT, EV3 )

running in systems

Biological, psychological, and social systems affect our development of speed, power and endurance. Let's discuss them candidly.

Design, Inclusion, +/- Tech

Όμιλος Φιλάθλων Ηρακλείου (ΟΦΗ)

Τμήμα Κλασικού Αθλητισμού

Stpapadakis's Weblog

A weblog about programming, educational technology and running.

One for all, all for green

An Erasmus+ project site!!!!

Computing Education Research Blog

How do people understand computing, and how can we improve that understanding?

App Inventor Blog

Learn it. Teach in. Build Apps

%d bloggers like this: