Monday, February 25, 2008

Célestin Freinet : Too progressive to be remembered ?

80 years ago the French pedagogue and educational reformer Célestin Freinet moved to Saint-Paul-de-Vence with his wife Elise where they both worked as teachers.

At that time C. Freinet had already developed most of his major teaching principles which he called techniques (in opposition to methods which he associated with a top down approach). Each of his techniques were meant to connect learning in school to real life outside school and to encourage students to be productive, explorative, critical and collaborative while learning.

Freinet's students regularly left the school building to join their teacher in exploratory walks during which they gathered impressions and interesting information about their natural and social environment. Back to their classroom the students composed their own "free texts" which they discussed with their classmates and used a printing press to publish their "authentic" and most of the time collaborative work in newspapers. Gradually these newspapers were used as meaningful and rooted learning material instead of the preestablished curricula schoolbooks and they were exchanged with those of other schools.
These exchanges of "culture packages" between the Freinet's and René Daniel's students marked the beginning of interschool networks which became one of the characteristics of the Modern School Movement.

Besides the printing press Freinet's students used other instruments like photography, slide shows or audio-tape recorders. The instruments and techniques established a different relationship between students and teachers, between students and school as an institution, and most important between students and knowledge.

Freinet's efforts to establish collaborative teaching through interschool network was also motivated by the strong conviction that collaborative reflective teaching is essential to any serious school development and a necessary ground for reaching beyond rigid top down curricula and the latest teaching tricks, methods or ceremonials in fashion.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nobel Prize in Education

I would like to award my personal Nobel Prize in Education to some outstanding educators that really have made major contributions to my personal professional development.
What I really learned through their work is how to teach through listening to children's voices and thinking.
It is not that by their attitude or method they perform a switch from overt authority which is exercised directly and explicitly to anonymous authority which manipulates the learner, citizen or consumer by persuasion and suggestion, like Erich Fromm formulates it.
What differentiates these people from most of the teachers is their natural curiosity in how children are capable of contributing to finding answers to real questions to which teachers themselves don't know the answers to.
Two of the most fascinating educators I can think of are Jacques Duez which I unfortunately haven't met yet and Vivian Gussin Paley who I had the pleasure to meet in Luxembourg in 1997.
Who are your personal favorite educators ? (Nobel medal image from

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The cathedral and the bazaar in Luxembourgish education

In his book "The Cathedral & The Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary" Eric Raymond writes about the rise of the Linux operating system and of open source software but his metaphor can easily be applied to education in general and also to ICT in education. What I observe in education in Luxembourg for example are several attempts to enforce or construct educational change following a centralized, more or less coordinated top down approach. Intended is the building of controlled innovative hot-spots (cathedrals) that could, if successful, serve as transferable models, lightning the path for the rest of the educational community.
Surprisingly - and maybe not surprisingly after all - the same stakeholders that argue in favour of fundamental educational change persistently ignoring emergent creative efforts in the bazaar and giving disproportionate weight to the innovation they think they are controlling.
To me there is a significant mismatch between what is said to be intended and what is happening real-time in school. I'll come back to this subject in short ...
If you have comments on this I would be glad to hear from you ...

Some Reading Milestones

  • Towards reflexive method in archaeology : the example at Çatalhöyük (edited by Ian Hodder) 2000

  • The Book of Learning and Forgetting (Frank Smith) 1998

  • Points of Viewing Children's Thinking: A Digital Ethnographer's Journey (Ricki Goldman-Segall) 1997

  • Verstehen lehren (Martin Wagenschein) 1997

  • Computer im Schreibatelier (Gérard Gretsch) 1992

  • The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter. Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom (Vivian Gussin Paley) 1991

  • La cause des adolescents (Françoise Dolto) 1988

  • Scuola di Barbiana. Die Schülerschule. Brief an eine Lehrerin. (Edition of 1980) / read in German 1982
    Letter to Teacher by the Schoolboys of Barbiana (1970)
    Lettre à une maîtresse de'école, par les enfants de Barbiana (1968)
    Lettera à una professoressa (Original Edition) 1967

  • Vers une pédagogie institutionnelle (Aïda Vasquez, Fernand Oury) 1967

Documentary Films on Education

  • Eine Schule, die gelingt (by Reinhard Kahl) 2008

  • Les temps des enfants (Jacques Duez) 2007

  • Klassenleben (by Bernd Friedmann und Hubertus Siegert) 2006

  • Lernen - Die Entdeckung des Selbstverständlichen
    (Ein Vortrag von Manfred Spitzer) 2006

  • Die Entdeckung der frühen Jahre
    Die Initiative "McKinsey bildet" zur frühkindlichen Bildung (by Reinhard Kahl) 2006

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft - Wie in Deutschland Schulen gelingen (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft / Incubators of the future / Les serres de l'avenir; International Edition (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Journal de classe, 1ères audaces (1), Les échappés (2), Sexe, amour et vidéo (3), L'enfant nomade (4), Remue-méninges (5) (by Wilbur Leguebe, Jacques Duez, Agnès Lejeune) 2004

  • Spitze - Schulen am Wendekreis der Pädagogik (by Reinhard Kahl) 2003

  • Journal de classe, (by Wilbur Leguebe and Agnès Lejeune; Jacques Duez) 2002

  • Etre et Avoir (by Nicolas Philibert) 2002

  • The Stolen Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2002

  • The Angry Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2001

  • A l'école de la providence (by Gérard Preszow) 2000

  • Blue-Eyed (by Jane Elliott) 1996

  • A Class Divided (by Jane Elliott) 1984

  • Eye of The Storm (with Jane Elliott) 1970

Past quotes of the day

For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong. Henry Louis Mencken

Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
Antonio Machado

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Immanuel Kant

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Albert Einstein

To paraphrase a famous quotation, all that is necessary for the triumph of damaging educational policies is that good educators keep silent. Alfie Kohn

We used to have lots of questions to which there were no answers. Now, with the computer, there are lots of answers to which we haven't thought up the questions. Peter Ustinov

I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers. Woody Allen

A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep. W. H. Auden

When I was an inspector of schools I visited one classroom and looked at a boys book. He'd written, 'Yesterday, Yesterday, Yesterday, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Love, Love, Love.' I said, 'That's a lovely poem.' He said, 'Those are my spelling corrections.' Gervase Phinn

Real thinking never starts until the learner fails. Roger Schank

If what is wanted is a reexamination of schooling in terms of purpose, structure and process, then testing programmes are the wrong vehicle (...) Caroline V. Gipps

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein

Act always so as to increase the number of choices. Heinz von Foerster

Another way of avoiding teaching is by relying exclusively on a textbook, workbooks, and other commercially packaged learning materials. Teaching is reduced to administering a set curriculum without giving any thought to the substance of what the students area learning or to their particular needs. H. Kohl

The right to ignore anything that doesn't make sense is a crucial element of any child's learning - and the first right children are likely to lose when they get to the controlled learning environment of school. F. Smith

Learning is the human activity which least needs manipulation by others. Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful activity. - Ivan Illich

Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. - Roger Lewin

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain