Category Archives: Education

Exam Results – Are They All In The Genes?

Despite all the talk about school performance league tables, declining exam results and investing in education, it would seem that how well you or your children do at school can actually have more to do with genetics than it does the right teacher.

Recent research looked at results from over 11,000 teenagers who had recently sat their GCSEs, and found that for the core subjects at least, genetics affected their results by almost 60 per cent. Results in English, maths and science were 58% affected by genetics, whereas artist and musical ability seems to be less affected by genetics, with only 42% genetic factors involved.

Testing to see how genes affected exam results involved looking at the GCSE scores of identical and non-identical twins, who would share the same environment and either 50 or 100 per cent of their genes.

Comparing the scores of different types of twins gave the scientists a way to find out how much of the variation in exam results was down to their environment, and how much could be attributed to genetic make-up. It meant that if identical twins got different scores in the same subject but were in different classes, the difference could be put down to their learning environment – classmates or teacher, rather than genetic ability in that subject.

The study showed that although a child’s DNA influences academic ability to a great extent, it’s not the only factor involved, and it’s still very possible for one identical twin to excel at a subject their twin doesn’t do as well at. However, on average, over half the variations could be put down to genetics. A child’s upbringing, home and learning environment accounted for 36% of the variation across all subjects. Details of the study appear in the journal, Plos One.

So, why do genetics have such a big effect on our academic ability? The reason that the researchers gave for genetics being such a major influence on exam scores is that the education system places a lot of importance on giving every child the same opportunities and education. It follows that if the school, teaching and other factors are equal, genetic similarities (or differences) will show up more.

Michael Reiss, professor of science education at the Institute of Education in London, was unimpressed by the findings, saying that while he could accept that genetics played a part in a child’s academic performance, knowing this might not actually be of much use.

He added that in the last decade, plenty of programmes had been created to help children who were falling behind in any area of their education, such as reading programmes for children who were struggling. These programmes don’t take genetics into account at all, they just focus on helping the individual child get to grips with whatever they are struggling with, and bring them up to the same level as other students.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching maths or the trombone.” Reiss said, “A good teacher is sensitive to the needs of the learner, and I don’t think that genetics is going to help very much with that.”

Even so, it’s certainly an interesting debate and brings the whole question of ‘nature –v- nurture’ back into the spotlight.

Written by Kerry Jones, a teaching assistant and GCSE exam marker.

What to Do When You Hate Your Job

Did you know that only 38% of U.S. workers are satisfied with their job? During the recession, workers were holding onto their jobs even if they hated it because there were not enough jobs to go around. However, now that the government is working its way back up, more people are questioning their job and career choices. If you are one of the many people that hate their jobs, keep reading, for this article will tell you what you should do if you feel miserable in the workplace.

1. SELF ASSESSMENT – Start asking yourself important questions about you job such as,

  • Why do you hate your job?
  • Have you always hated your job, or is this something that has started recently?
  • Do you like the people that you work with?
  • Do you like your work duties?
  • Do you know, or like anything about the company where you work?

Make a list of the pros and cons of your job to see what the comparison is. That way, maybe you will change your mind after you see the things that you dolike about your job.

2. IS IT YOU OR THE JOB? – Many people make the mistake of taking their life issues and stress out on their job. Truth is, it may not be the job that is making you feel miserable. Having a full time job with multiple responsibilities on top of having other stresses in life such as children, marriage or a relationship that is clouding your mind, bills; you get the idea, is very stressful. If you decide to leave your job because you think it is causing too much stress, it is possible that the same thing would happen with the next job that you get. The stress will not go away unless you actually analyze what is causing the stress. If your life is making you unhappy at work, you may need to get help outside from the office.

3. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR BOSS – Maybe your job is the reason why you feel miserable. Maybe the hours are too pressuring for you, or maybe you feel like you are not paid enough money. Maybe you are not interested in the projects assigned to you. Whatever the reason may be, you should always communicate with your boss. Tell him or her exactly how you feel about the situation that is driving you crazy, it might be much easier than you think! Whatever you do, definitely do not quit immediately. You should always land a secure job before quitting your present job.

4. SET YOUR CAREER GOALS – Where do you want to be in 5 years? How do you plan to do this? If you are not happy with your current career status, figure out exactly what you should do so that you are happy with your status. Make a list of what you need to do, and try to follow it starting with number 1. Try not to think too far ahead, you may get overwhelmed!

5. STAY POSITIVE – Do not let your bad moods affect your work. I know that is easier said than done; however, you should never let your emotions show while you are at work. Think of it this way, if you cause your manager to fire you, you will have a much harder time finding a new job after you quit your current one.

6. STAY PROFESSIONAL – You should always stay professional and keep doing your job well even if you are planning on quitting. If you start slacking off, you may leave your job employees and your boss with a bad taste in their mouths, along with a bad recommendation.

Author Text:

Adam Smith’s keen appreciation about what motivates people to learn and engage lies at the core of his experience. He is a highly sought after educational consultant having immense experience in this field. He moved into educational consultancy driven by the mission to enable people from whichever background to gain knowledge and develop study skills, attitudes and habits that empower them to achieve their full potential. Adam has written a number of educational articles and online-materials for various websites. For his latest publication you can visit The Intern Group.

How Can New Technology Revolutionize Learning?

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Not too long ago, the mere idea of a computer within a school was criticized by many. But since the very first desktop computer made its way into an educational institution, the idea of using technology to assist learning has developed into a full-blown revolution.

Old-fashioned views on it ‘never catching on’ are long since dead and buried, and schools and colleges are now embracing the fresh possibilities that technology presents every single day. iPads in the classroom are currently extremely in vogue, prompting eagerness and enthusiasm among students who may have been feeling uninspired by old-fashioned text books.

But it’s not all about the tablet: there are other exciting projects already underway that signal the start of an even more exciting era in technology-assisted learning.

School in the cloud

A professor at Newcastle University, Sugata Mitra, has conceived the idea of a ‘school in the cloud’. His innovative idea won him this year’s million-dollar TED prize, and is built around enquiry-based learning.

The idea will be tested in a physical building in India, where cloud-based self-directed learning will be developed and made available to young people in the most remote areas of the country.

With an online moderator present to oversee activity, students will be able to log in and organise their learning independently. The idea is to spark their curiosity, ask the right questions and then allow them to find their own way to the answers.

It’s an idea that was born from Dr Mitra’s own ‘hole in the wall’ computer experiment. He installed a computer within a wall, behind a plastic shield in a New Delhi slum. He fully expected it to have been trashed by the time he returned, but instead he came back eight hours later to find these young, disadvantaged children browsing the internet. What’s more, they were reading pages in English:  a language they couldn’t even speak.

Dr Mitra’s technological experiments and ideas are truly ground-breaking, and they bring a wealth of opportunity to children for whom access to a physical classroom just isn’t a possibility.

BYOD

After OFSTED reports across 167 schools showed that a worrying number of 14-16 year olds had woeful IT skills (Source: TheInformationDaily.com), teaching establishments across the country were forced to reassess their ICT teaching programmes.

One institution, the independently-run boys’ City of London School, has since embraced the idea of Bring Your Own Device, setting up a sophisticated wireless network that connects their older students, teachers and any visitors who link up to the network.

Whether the device is personally owned or part of school property, learners can join securely without compromising the network’s security.

Joe Matthews, the assistant IT manager, joined the school almost a decade ago, where the technological offerings of the school were limited to say the least. “We had limited access points from day one when I first came in but they didn’t perform well,” he said. “They were just not up to scratch for 20 or so boys to log on simultaneously back in 2003.” (Source: ComputerWeekly.com)

So the IT team at the school decided to test drive a new initiative, and use the more mature students to pioneer the idea. Using Xirrus access points and network access control to reduce the amount of support the team would have to deliver, they created a seamless solution that provided coverage to almost 100% of the school’s premises, without the need for constant assistance.

Since the network was set up in early 2012, the success of the project has been so noticeable that the school is now looking at spreading it across all grades at the school, even making it appropriately available to younger learners.

Endless possibilities

This is just a couple of the initiatives currently being brewed in a bid to boost the amount of technology employed in learning.

It’s certainly encouraging to see that traditional learning establishments are initiating new technological ideas and that fresh thinking is being brought to even the most disadvantaged corners of the world.

It’s further proof (if it were needed) that technology has the capacity to spark fresh enthusiasm for learning in students of all ages, capabilities and backgrounds.

Written by James Sheehan, a technology blogger interested in the use of technology in education.